Amazon has been a behemoth for years, and businesses require Amazon accelerator experts to navigate brand management and scale. That’s what Andrew Morgans has been doing in the past seven years with Marknology; he leaves no stone unturned when it comes to getting your brand noticed on this gigantic platform.
In this episode, Andrew shares how he bootstrapped his Amazon accelerator agency to become a global team. He divulges his tips and secrets for newbies who desire to build a full-service business. For him, building trust has been the most significant contributor to his marketing success. He also discusses the strategies and factors keeping his agency thriving amidst the ever-changing Amazon accelerator environment.
Tune in to this episode to find out all the ingredients of building a successful Amazon accelerator agency!
Click here to read transcript
[02:38] So for the folks who aren’t yet familiar with who you are and what you do, let’s start there.
- Okay, well, my name is Andrew Morgans. I’m the founder of Marknology. Amongst other things, I’m a brother, a son, fisherman, traveler, show-goer, artist. I like a lot of different things. I had a wild upbringing growing up as a missionary kid and traveling. So I have a lot of passions. I think I’ve just introduced a lot of things. But I like fixing problems. I like creating things. And that’s how I found the Amazon world and why I started Marknology. I saw a problem that I think needed a solution or need some help, people need help solving for it.
I started Marknology almost seven years ago. We had our seventh birthday in August. So I guess seven years and some change. Team of 24, on the cusp of 25. I built it with my sisters that joined me a few years in and just having fun, trying to figure out this eCommerce space as it evolves and build brands and help brands evolve and do the best they can in the eCommerce marketplace.
[03:53] Your primary business model is that of an Amazon brand management agency, right?
- Correct. I’ve been in the Amazon space for 10 years myself, started out in corporate, then went to a startup, then back to corporate, and then went out on my own. Everything in those jobs had a little bit of Amazon involved in it. So I was just picking up some knowledge and really was looking for a side hustle in addition to my eCommerce job and started on Upwork and Elance at the time. This was maybe eight, nine years ago. I got a few jobs and I was like, “Wow, this is a great side hustle,” and just pursued that. Within 12 months I was making as much money off Upwork or with clients as I was in my day job and left to do that full-time and haven’t looked back.
So it’s been a journey. But helping brands just navigate what good storytelling on Amazon look like? What do I do with the data that I’m getting on Amazon? What data am I not getting on Amazon? How do I understand fees and profitability, and how do I scale? So just helping brands with all types of problems, some from just traditional marketing sense, to some of them, almost like Amazon’s its own business model in some ways, and so navigating some of those as well.
[05:18] So I have a lot of agency owners and aspiring entrepreneurs that listen to my show. For those of them that are not currently in the Amazon brand management space, let’s just hang out there for a minute. What do you like about that business model? And why do you think that an agency that’s maybe not offering that service might want to consider it? Or if someone’s looking to start a business, why, of all the things they could do with digital marketing, why should they pick Amazon brand management?
- Well, the reasons I got into it and why someone might get into it now are different, I would say. For me, it was an interest. My curiosity was piqued. I honestly feel like whenever I got into this space, Amazon management or Amazon agency was not even said out loud. It wasn’t even a thought really. I don’t think people were thinking about that. I don’t come from the agency background either.
So I stumbled across it really, and then just kind of figured out that this was something I wanted to model after traditional agency and built what I built. I worked on a client, Adidas, actually off of Upwork. And they were working with a big traditional agency. So I was kind of white-labeled under them. But yet, Adidas knew it was me as a freelancer. And I just outperformed them when it came to Amazon, whether it was advertising, that I was carrying eight plus pages for a brand that Adidas just acquired.
[06:56] So hang on, let me interrupt you, and I’m sorry to do this. But I want people to understand what is compelling about this business model versus all the other things an agency could do.
- I think for me, email marketing, web development, affiliate marketing, blogging, that stuff was already taken. There’s already experts. There’s already people 10 years my senior, 20 years my senior that knew all about marketing and creatives. And that wasn’t my strength. While I consider myself an artist or creator, those things like taking the best photos of the best graphic design or… Those things weren’t my forte, wasn’t my skill set.
And what I found was a platform that I could draw a straight line to—sales. So it wasn’t like posting on Instagram and a year later, really seeing the value of building a social media platform or something. It was I’m running an ad or I create a listing, and I see sales. And I know that was my work. As someone trying to freelance it was like, whenever I worked on these Amazon projects, I could clearly show, draw a straight line to the money I was making them versus what they’re paying me to do. I like that, that transparency between…
[08:15] How does the economic model work? Because in traditional agencies, oftentimes, people will start on hourly billing, which is like the worst way ever to build because it puts your interests in conflict. Agencies will do retainers. You pay us $10,000 a month, we’ll do this, that, and the other thing. In the Amazon brand management business model, most of the folks that I run across, are doing it for a percentage of sales.
So they’re disconnecting their time labor, their costs from their income source. Because, for example, in my business, I know that we’ve had accounts where it was a lot of heavy lifting in the beginning. But now, because we did a great job in the beginning, it’s kind of on autopilot. So our margins are crazy compelling.
- As someone who’s been doing the agency stuff for seven years, one, I didn’t come with an agency background. So I didn’t have models, really, that other people were doing other than when I was trying to read and consume as fast as possible as I started building this thing. I was honestly trying to get out of debt. And then after I was trying to get out of debt, I was trying to help my family get stable, honestly. So for me, I was bootstrapped. I didn’t have investors. I didn’t have agency background. I was kind of really figuring this stuff out in the raw, and I tried all different types of models.
People are more inclined to do the percentage of sale now if they’re already stable as a business owner. If they’ve already got products moving, they’re like, “I will take a risk with this brand and just charge a percentage because we think it’s going to do well, and we don’t really need this to survive,” right? So that’s kind of a different model that I think comes from stability. You’re willing to take those chances on some of those brands. Or being able to research and really feel like this brand is going to bring this amount of revenue, and we can bet on this number.
On the retainer side, I agree with you that I felt like billing hourly was a conflict for me to give the best advice I wanted to give or the work I thought needed to be done. I didn’t want to have to say, “I can’t do that for you. It’s outside of scope of work or you’re past your hours. I’m sorry. The last 10 days of the month, you just aren’t going to get managed.” I’m gonna do the work anyway. That’s who I am as a person.
So I struggled with that model. And I also don’t like that model because it ties us to that kind of belief that you should get paid for hours logged in, not for the results. And I’m more a meritocracy kind of person. I’ve always got done in an hour, what it takes someone to take four. Just give me enough time to figure out how to optimize that hour, so to speak.
I was trying to build a business that worked for me. But the problem was, I was super early. I was ahead of the market, I think, when I was trying to get clients on retainer and pay for what we do. I was managing some accounts, like 250 bucks a month on tons of work, like it was just like off Upwork. “Okay, yeah, I’ll manage it.” I set ‘em up and be like “Yeah man, I’ll do it for a couple of hundred bucks a month.” It was just like… And I wasn’t doing all that we do now, not even from a strategy standpoint. But I just mean there was no one saying what this type of service was worth.
The only real people out there doing it are either doing it for themselves behind the scenes, the people that were doing it as a service for others, there just wasn’t a lot of it out there. There’s some stuff on Upwork. How I got top 10 in the world on Upwork was doing lots of jobs cheap and getting great reviews. So, I know we got a little bit around that question. But really just because it was like for me versus what I would do in a perfect world, it’s not the same. If I was doing it now versus when I did it when I started, I think I would come at things differently.
[12:09] What advice would you give someone now who’s not yet doing any Amazon brand management?
- I would say there’s a lot of crossover. I would say the Amazon brand management is harder than you think. Whatever you think it is, if you haven’t done it, it’s harder than that. I think too many people think it’s, “Oh, it’s got to be like Shopify, or it’s got to be like Magento, or it’s got to be like this, or it’s got to be like Walmart.” It’s not. It’s its own thing. It’s its own beast. It’s changed the way the world thinks about eCommerce. Two days shipping and those kinds of things were unheard of. And it’s changed the way we do everything.
It’s a massive beast; you fall in line. There’s not someone that says, “Here’s the line.” You have to figure that out on your own. And that just takes time. So to the agencies thinking about “Should I add this to my traditional agency?” I would say yes. I would just say don’t underestimate it. Make sure you get a quality person that’s either going to be able to be a self-starter and just jump in and teach themselves, and give them a lot of time to do it. Or go and try to get a small team that’s already very qualified and bring them in. Every brand needs it. I don’t know. That’s a hard question for me to answer, Trent. I’ll be honest with you because it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
[13:39] For the folks in the audience who are maybe waiting for an answer because I have interviewed quite a number of other brand management agencies on the show, I will tell you that the typical billing model is some combination of minimum monthly fee plus percentage of sales, or maybe percentage of profits, or the hybrid model.
This is what we do. We’re not actually billing them anything. We make money on reselling the product. Actually, while it is more capital-intensive because you have to buy the inventory to be able to resell it, one of the things that I like about that is, then you’re only ever sending your client/supplier a check instead of an invoice.
- And you don’t have to deal with all the account calls and account management that goes into that of partnering and collaborating.
[14:30] People love cashing checks. People hate paying invoices. So anytime you’re sending an invoice, you’re making them think, “Is this worth it? What has he done for me lately?” And if you can convert that to, “Oh, he sent us a check for 65,000 this month. Awesome. Cash that check.” They’re gonna think about how much money, how much profit you’re generating off of their brand. They’re gonna think about that a lot less.
So some combination into this… I like to call it a hybrid agency because you can absolutely take the reseller approach, which is what we focused on for the reasons I just explained, and if you lack the working capital to be able to fund that, which is a real issue for many people, then I would suggest that they focus on some type of retainer combination that includes a percentage of sales. If the brand is young, they’re more risk to you because they don’t have a lot of sales. Make sure you’ve got your costs covered in the retainer.
And so you’ve got your upside covered with a percentage of sales. If you’re able to lock into a relationship with a more established brand, you may not need a retainer at all because it’s already proven that they’re selling like crazy. And you’re simply replacing either a person that was on their staff or maybe another brand management company that they’re just not happy with anymore, for whatever reason, and you’re going to be the new player that they’re going to work with.
- That’s exactly right. And honestly, that’s the model we have now. It just went through so many iterations to end up at retainer plus commission. And usually what that happens is when the commission hits a certain level, then the retainer falls off. And then, it’s just straight container or straight commission. But that’s been something that’s been like, it’s just evolved. I’d like to just share the real raw that was like, I was trying to take care of my family in a big way and do a lot of things like that.
The retainer was something that I could build around and count on month over month and plan for as I’m hiring staff, as I’m trying to scale, as I’m trying to say, “Okay, we can bring this person onboard or do this thing.” Knowing that retainer and knowing that these clients would be here for a certain amount of time was important for me as someone bootstrapping.
Any business, any small business has cash flow issues. During those times, there wasn’t a chance in hell we could have on boarded a new brand that was profit-sharing only knowing as it might take them six to nine months before we’re really moving anything. It was kind of sink or swim. But it’s been awesome. And honestly, I love the competition. I love the new agencies coming to the space. I like the growth of this industry.
Because as someone who has been here, it feels like when it was too early, it’s now bringing some professionalism to the space. It’s now bringing respect for what we charge for what we do. It’s bringing knowledge to this space, as other agencies bring what they know, maybe more on the creative side, or some of the off-Amazon stuff to our Amazon space. It’s bringing some of that advancement in tech. So I just love watching it grow and seeing the model change quite a bit.
[17:49] Being as we’re North Americans, we typically think a lot about amazon.com. But that’s just one of many of the marketplaces that Amazon has around the world. In the last year, in particular, people here in the States are thinking a lot more about selling in the international markets. Have you found that to be a good conversation starter? A good way to get your foot in the door? Are you selling in any of those international markets right now on behalf of your clients or helping them sell into those markets, I guess is the better way to describe that?
- Yes, all of the above. Yes, it’s a great foot-in-the-door conversation. People like to know that we’re an agency that can handle that. We’re in 13 different Amazon marketplaces around the world. So we’re actually in quite a few and have been solving for that for quite a while. Some of my biggest wins early on with brands was getting them into Canada or getting them into a market that wasn’t as saturated. And then, we saw a lot of growth together. Then, we built our relationship seeing some of those results. Huge, huge opportunity. And I would say that it’s helped.
One of the reasons we found that is I’ve always just leaned into whatever Amazon’s pushing and really tried to obsess about that, really tried to learn that.
[19:06] and they’re pushing it like crazy.
- and they’re pushing it like crazy. Just like they push video, just like they push attribution, just like they push lots of things down the pipe. Even if it’s not something you buy completely into. Like for me, sponsored display, for the longest time, was not something I like messing with. I wasn’t getting the results. I didn’t like that we couldn’t control it. I still wanted to know everything about it and leaned into it. You need to lean into the different things.
That’s the thing about the Amazon platform. Just pay attention to what Amazon’s focusing on, and you can find some wins there. So international expansion, big, big focus for, and it’s a great way to upsell your current clients when you feel like you’ve kind of maxed what you can do for them on a retainer basis. If you’re on that model, add a couple marketplaces to that, you’ll find plenty more work to do. And it’s a great way to say to continue to bring value is like, “Hey, we’re looking into a new market. Are you interested in checking that out with us?”
[20:02] People love it when you’re always bringing good ideas and presenting them to them. Because that means you’re the proactive person, you’re turning over stones. You’re not sitting back on your laurels, just kind of getting a free ride. And that’s how you endear your clients for the long term.
Let’s talk about client attraction. So there’s lots of different ways to find clients. What are some of the ways that are working for you? For example, there’s content marketing to drive inbound leads; there’s advertising; there’s outbound marketing; there’s partnerships. What do you do?
- I would say, for me, our bread and butter, remember that we’re bootstraps. So a lot of our angles come from that, would be content marketing and partnerships. I’ve done some outbound very, very little. If you looked at my marketing budget, I guess, as far as on ad spend or something, it’s dismal. But it’s because I haven’t needed it. Partnerships are very strong. And content marketing is very strong. I’ve done everything from create a YouTube channel to help build trust. I’m on the Startup Hustle podcast. I’m on that weekly. That’s a trust. Sure, it’s bizdev in some ways. But it’s really trust-building from our blogs to speaking events.
To me, these are all about trust-building and expertise in a space where agencies are popping up left and right. Anyone in the marketing space knows that 50% of the marketing people are shady. So that’s like happiness, set yourself above the rest because every single company you’re talking to has been burned by a marketing agency, usually. So it’s like, not only am I trying to get you on Amazon, it’s more so, “Choose us. And here’s why.” I like just creating a lot of content. It comes natural for me to just talk about the thing I’m passionate about. That really works well for us.
But I’ll say one last thing is, I was teaching a class in UMKC, which is a local university here. I got the opportunity to teach the class. It was on business development and entrepreneurship class. I had 21 examples of the ways that I’ve got a client for Marknology, from being in the sauna at the gym, which is a weird one, to a basketball court, or being on a plane. Everything’s an opportunity if you’re in that way. So just the reason being that Amazon is just hot. So just starting conversations on whatever platform that looks like it is a great way to build relationships.
[22:43] So there’s two resources that I do want to mention for folks that are still with us and listening. There are two playbooks that are available in the Flowster platform that are very specific to what we’re talking about. The first one is the Amazon Seller Playbook, which is a diverse collection of the operating procedures that my team developed for our own Amazon hybrid agency. You can learn more about that at flowster.app/asp for Amazon Seller Playbook.
For outbound marketing, we have an outbound marketing playbook that we’ve just published. So it’s a great way to offshore your SDR activities to virtual assistants and get them to do the prospecting for you, which is how we built our agency. That’s right out of our own playbook, right off our own wheelhouse. Those 2 Inc. 5000 plaques on the wall behind me came as a result of that. You can learn more about that at flowster.app/omp for Outbound Marketing Playbook.
So content marketing, I want to make sure that the folks that are listening can have one easy takeaway, so I’m going to offer up an idea. I would love it, if you would tell me, “Hey, I think that would work” or “No, I don’t think that would work.” You said that you like to lean into whatever Amazon is pushing. So Amazon’s continually changing their platform. They’re continually rolling out new things, new methods of advertising, so forth, and so on.
What if I was to create… And maybe you already do this on your YouTube channel because I know a guy that does. So I do know that this works. You simply are then using your YouTube channel to teach back, in your own words, all the new stuff that Amazon’s rolling out. It’s kind of like the commentator approach. Amazon says, “Hey, we got this new thing.” And your job is to say, “Hey, guys, Amazon’s got this new thing. Here’s how it works. Here’s what it means. Here’s some of the caveats. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” And you teach that back in a video, is that a strategy that you use?
- It’s a perfect strategy. And yes, one that we use. For me on YouTube at first, there was all this content for resellers or wholesalers, or there was a lot of content for, I’ll say Facebook. Yeah, private label or Facebook and Instagram coming against Amazon. I just was helping brands in the same way that you help brands just more in a relationship way where we’re working together on their account versus we’re taking over their account just managing without them.
And I wanted to talk about that. I wanted to share that there was ways to win. And there were ways to track attribution. And there were ways to track organic growth, and have SEO, and how to understand map pricing, and how to enforce some of that with reseller agreements. I just wanted to talk about some of the things that I was doing with brands that I didn’t think was out there. And in turn, it ended up being a great way for me to learn how to create very relevant content for people. And a lot of people have responded very well to those.
[25:43] So the thing that I think a lot of people know, but there’s also people that don’t know is that YouTube is pretty much the number one search engine for when people want free training on how to do a thing. There’s lots and lots of brands out there that are relatively young that have a small team that are looking for training on how to do a thing, and they’re going to YouTube, and they’re going to see your videos.
After they’ve seen a great video, then they’re going to go to your channel, they’re going to look at your other videos. As you did an excellent job of pointing out earlier that when you start producing content like that, trust goes up. With trust comes opportunity. Do you know this off the top of your head, and if not, your best guess. Of your inbound activities, what percent of the clients do you think are coming as a result of the YouTube channel?
- Zero. And here’s why. Let me explain. That was a dramatic pause. No, but listen, okay, so for me, the YouTube channel, from what I can attribute, is someone will hear about us. There’s some that come through Google. Those technically could be from YouTube or something. And they just come straight from Google. But most of my stuff is from a partner, partnerships, or a blog, or social media posts, or something. What I hear though, when I’m talking to them on the phone, after they come to my contact form or whatever that might be is, “I feel like I know you. I’ve watched all your videos on YouTube.”
Or they’ve started researching my company because someone told them about us. They searched me on Google, and then my YouTube videos come up because they rank very high in Google. They watch a few of them. I don’t know which ones they watch. They don’t reference exact, but they feel like they know me. And they feel like maybe something that they care about is spoken to in some of those videos. And they reference them a lot. So I’m not sure that they come in from finding me on YouTube. But I know for a fact that YouTube has something to do with me closing the deal a lot of times, if I can put it that way.
[27:47] Oh, you can absolutely put it that way. Because I’ve had the very same experience. Because I produce a lot of content on YouTube as well. I remember I launched a coaching program about a year ago in this space. I would start the call. So people would go through, and they’d find me some way, somehow, and they’d book a call with me. Instead of it having to be this long drawn out sales pitch, oftentimes, I would say, “How’d you find me?”
“Well, I found you here, and I watched a bunch of your videos on YouTube.” “Oh, well, have you already made the decision to join? Or do you need me to explain it to you?” “No, no, I’m ready to go.” And they just pull their credit card out and sign up because your content already did what traditional salespeople try to do in a short period of time. It established trust, credibility, and authority.
- That’s why I like that’s why I like content. Because I hate salesmen. I know I have to be one to grow my business. I know there’s a level of selling yourself and even in your content. That’s not what I’m getting at. But I hate that hard sell, convincing you to like me or convincing you to want to work with us because we’re better than everyone else. I’d rather let our work speak to it, our expertise or knowledge. People that want to work with the best are gonna find us. That’s what I’m trying to put out there.
So for me, it’s a way that I’ve found to work outside of that hard sell. And I have done outbound marketing and been successful with it. It’s a different conversation on that sales pitch versus one that’s coming in from maybe a referred partner or someone that’s been ingesting your content because it’s kind of new for me. The podcast, for me, the Startup Hustle, being a host on Startup Hustle, started in 2020 toward the beginning of 2020, so a year and some change.
But hearing someone say that they’ve listened to all my episodes or got on the YouTube and watched the YouTube, and then get on the phone with me, and I’m talking to him about references and they’re like telling me no, they don’t need to do that. Or they’ve heard me on Trent’s podcast, and they have been following Trent for three years, and anyone that Trent recommends, they feel great about. That’s happened to me.
So simply creating content either on a podcast, wherever. It’s just more my style of doing things. I think people need to figure out what they enjoy doing or what comes natural to them and the brand they want to build and lean into that.
[30:12] So I want to offer up another idea that folks, I think, would… It’s an easy lift. So you’re taking the content creation on YouTube idea, and you’re marrying it with outbound. So if you, for example, have a VA doing your outbound, which is easy enough done when you have the right processes, and we do have those. If you don’t want to create them yourself, just go to flowster.app/omp.
You could have the simplest email in the world. “Hey, so and so. Amazon has just come out with this new thing, or new method of advertising or whatever. I created a video that explains how it all works. Would you like me to send you a link?” That is the softest sell in the world. And you’re keeping the email gods happy because you’re not putting a link in the outbound email.
More links in an outbound email can have a negative impact on deliverability. What has a great and positive impact on sender score, sender reputation is when you start getting replies to a lot of emails. So if you keep your email really short, and just say, “I got this thing, I think you’ll find it valuable. I can send you a link if you like.” You’re going to get a better response than going for the appointment right away.
- I agree. I would say that I respond to those as well. Like when someone really sells me well, I’m almost like, “I’m gonna call them just because I like their approach.” At least, that’s the sportsman in me. I’m just like, “Wow, this person is a great salesman or woman.” And I’m like, “I would love to just hear the rest of their pitch and see what they have to offer.” I’m that type.
I’ve also recently, maybe in the last year, really added… I’ll add another tip to anyone listening that I’ve added when someone scheduled a meeting with me. That’s more than a day away. It’s not a bizdev. They want Amazon services, or they want marketing services. I send them a follow-up series. It’s not like they’re in my email program.
But it’s more just like, “Hey, I’m gonna investigate your brand before we talk. I’m gonna dig into what I can know ahead of time. And here’s some resources to know about me and my team.” It’s like a link to my blog; it’s a link to my YouTube; it’s a link to maybe my latest podcast episode. It’s like, I’ve got a video in there that’s like three minutes about us and the team and how we work.
So if they want to, if they care about that type of thing, which is who I’m trying to find anyway, I want those types of brands that care about relationship and partner-building and want to create that. So if they’re not interested in that, maybe we’re not a good fit anyway, right? But those things have just been other ways of building relationships kind of passively through content as well.
[32:51] So before we paint this into the picture of “this is the panacea of all businesses, and it’s absolutely flawless,” let’s talk about what’s the hardest part of running your company.
- Outside of cash flow, that’s not really an issue anymore. But if I had to say over the last seven years, what’s been the hard part is cash flow. I think people are the best part and the hardest part, the brands we work with. So that account management side, that relationship building, you have to be able to communicate. You have to be able to get along. You both have to be on the same workflow.
That part and the people inside my team that I’m building, I’m not just a one-man show. I’ve got a team. Learning how to be a leader, how to be a manager, how to get people in the right positions, how to hire and fire effectively, how to partner effectively, how to respond when you lose people to aggregators that are a bigger company than you. All that kind of stuff has been really the challenge for me.
[33:57] And what are some of the things you’re doing to try and combat that challenge?
- I’m partnering with Flowster to help us get some more processes in place. Honestly, I guess I should let you guys know that I’m a user. I’m a new user, but I’m excited about it. I’m partnering with Flowster to get more processes in place, maybe to be able to onboard faster. So if we’re losing people, how do we get someone new up to speed faster and be able to plug them in right away? So having SOPs, having a process is something we’re very focused on.
I’m spending more time doing informational interviews with people, maybe even before we’re ready to hire. So I have a pipeline of good people. That’s been something. I’ve also been creating partnerships with people that do what I do. In case of scale, in case I lose someone, maybe I’m not making as much on that project, but I’m also not dropping the ball. So knowing who I can go to in that way, studying myself on management and leadership as much as possible. So that’s a handful of a few things. But I’m trying to do a little bit of everything to see if we can just improve in a lot of areas.
[35:10] I did a call with an agency owner, and I do research calls with agency owners all the time. I was asking this particular agency owner who’s not in the Amazon space. He’s a full-service agency, and he’s got one VA so far. And I said, “How’s that been working out for you?”
He says, “It’s amazing. I’m continually impressed by the quality of the work that the VA who we’re paying…” They’ve hired through an agency, so they’re paying higher than normal. They’re paying 10 bucks an hour because the agency is obviously making a spread on the labor rate. But we just keep giving them more work. And we just keep giving them more work.
He says, “Now we’re at the point where I am having a serious dialogue with my cofounder about every time we hire a new US worker, that worker gets their own VA so that we have 16 hours of productivity per day for just a tiny little bit more money than we’re paying for that first 8 hours of productivity.” So I guess the question I have for you, because I don’t remember if I asked, how many people on your team are VAs versus North American workers?
- So we have six in Colombia. The rest are here in Kansas City, one in Florida. So 18 in the US. And then we have a small team in India that fluctuates between five or six.
[36:36] The folks that are in India, what type of work do they do for you?
- They do more like research, data, data research for SEO, and things like that. They’re not our writers, but they put a lot of that work together. I was going to India as well for design, and it just was not a great fit. Then, I travel a lot. I had seen a lot of the like in Colombia and some of those places in South… I think Colombia, Romania, I have yet to be there. I know some Romanians, but have yet to visit.
Just their culture, the barbershops, the restaurants, the small businesses, all had amazing branding that you’d pay $20,000 for here in KC. I was just like, when I started doing my search, I wanted to start there. So we found a couple of designers that I’m just absolutely in love with. And it’s on our same time zone. So that’s a big fix as well. That’s a big one for us here as well being in the CST timezone. Just being able to real-talk with our designers. I grew up in Africa. I grew up around the world. I feel like I’m a global citizen. I’m a dual citizen, Canada and US, myself. So I’ve always had that mindset.
I just also believe in building team. And so for the longest time, I kind of had conflicting beliefs between I feel like to run an amazing Amazon team, you need to be collaborative, and be together and be sharing all your ideas, and SEO team’s talking to ad team, and ad team’s talking to creative team about getting custom headline ads. You’re just pulling it all in together and really sharing that.
But I would say more so I’m figuring out how to get VAs to be able to be in supporting roles of the team that I’ve already built in order to scale, and so getting more of a hybrid model every day. Probably here at Marknology, we started all just right here in KC and built our team that way. I’ve been adding VAs probably over the last 18 months. It’s been an awesome move.
[38:34] Have you heard from Mexico yet?
- We have not. I actually tried there. There was a couple of people I had these connections. I had visited Mexico City. So I was talking to some people at the same time as we were interviewing in Colombia. I just ultimately went with a couple of girls in Colombia.
[38:51] So for again, folks that are listening, my EA works in Mexico. She’s from Guadalajara, works in Mexico, lives in Mexico. She’s from Guadalajara. A fellow I interviewed a number of months ago on my show who runs an Amazon brand management agency by the name of Mike Begg, he actually is an American who lives in Guadalajara and his entire staff is in Guadalajara. All his writers, his account interface, front office, back office, the whole team is in Guadalajara. They are substantially less expensive than hiring US workers, and they’re on your same timezone.
- And one might argue that they work harder, but that’s to be decided.
[39:32] Yeah, one could make a good argument for that. So again, I bring this stuff up because there are still people out there who aren’t thinking globally when it comes to sourcing talent. Matter of fact, this is that good conversation I just had before doing this show. When you have really detailed processes, global talent is the best thing ever. Ten years now, we’ve been doing it in the Philippines, and in Mexico, and in India.
Flowster is a perfect example. We have as many employees overseas as we do onshore. The entire development organization is offshore. It all again comes down to having really great processes so that you can work well with people who don’t necessarily have the judgment that comes from a decade of experience because they don’t have the decade of experience.
But the low-hanging fruit to get those folks to do are all the repetitive activities that don’t require judgment that comes from 10 years of experience. You mentioned it earlier, research, like a lot of the mind-numbingly boring stuff that’s very linear, do this, then do this, then do this, then do this. You can give them parameters, and you can give them criteria. You can save a fortune, and you can get so much more work done for every dollar that you spend.
- Especially if you’re bootstrapping and you’re just having to figure out how to get things done with less. It’s a huge opportunity. Now, at the same time, I would urge anyone listening, a lot of mistakes are made around graphic design, and video, and photography, people settling for cheap instead of quality. That’s not what we’re saying here. We’re saying the opposite of that. With certain things, you can get great quality. If you have processes in place and use talent all over the world, that doesn’t just mean get on Fiverr and get graphics made. That’s not what I’m saying.
I think there’s a disconnect, sometimes there between what a VA is or what outsource work is and adding an outsource team member. But I’m super excited about diversifying my team because I’m excited about having, let’s say, a group of Spanish-speaking individuals on my team in-house and offering that level of, or that insight and that perspective of South America or Central America that we’re not going to have here in the same way that they might hire us to localize here in the US. I now have that in my team, and that excites me.
I would love to have French, Spanish, Italian, all as part of my team so that whenever we are helping brands in those international markets, which we’re already going to, I have someone on my team that’s in-house as part of my Marknology family, so to speak, that can kind of speak up if we’re doing something wrong, let’s say, or stepping on a cultural thing we don’t know about, or even proofreading things like that, and just having that in-house I think makes you diverse in the same way we think about having an inclusive and diverse team here in the US, taking that even beyond.
[42:47] Drew, it’s been a pleasure to have you on the show with me today. I hope, folks, that you found good value in what Drew had to say now. Drew, if anyone is listening, and they’d like to interact with you, for whatever reason, what’s the easiest way to get a hold of you?
- I’m on LinkedIn. Andrew Morgans with an S. I think I’m the only one. Or my company Marknology.com. My name is Andrew, not Mark. I like to just preface that. Marknology just being the mixture. I think eCommerce is right in between marketing technology. And so we made a fun word there. Can reach anyone there. I’m also on Instagram, @andrewmorgans on Instagram. Honestly, anywhere you type Andrew Morgans or Marknology will probably show up. I’ve tried to try to get myself out there. So I would love to connect with you on any platform.
[43:33] All right, wonderful. Again, thank you so much for making some time to be on the show.
- Thanks, everyone.
[43:37] Thanks so much for listening. To get to the show notes for today’s episode, go to brightideas.co/380. And if you enjoyed this episode, I have a little small favor to ask you. I would love it if you would take a moment on your favorite podcast-listening app. Just go ahead and like, rate, and review the show to teach the algorithms that this is an episode that they should promote to other folks.
Because it is the best way that our audience grows is when the existing audience tells other people to come and check out an episode or check out the show. So you have my sincere gratitude if you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to do that just now. Thank you so much in advance. It’s been a pleasure to have you here. I look forward to seeing you back in the next episode soon. Take care. Bye-bye.
Thanks very much for listening to The Bright Ideas podcast. Check us out on the web at brightideas.co. All right show’s over, I’m tired.
Andrew Morgans’ Bright Ideas
- Build Trust Before Anything Else
- Treat Everything as an Opportunity
- Veer Away from Hard Selling
- Find and Utilize Talent from Around the Globe
Build Trust Before Anything Else
Marknology is a bootstrapped agency, so Andrew didn’t rely on outbound marketing to get the word out. Their marketing budget, as he describes it, is dismal. That’s because they haven’t needed it. They’ve earned their clients’ trust through content marketing and partnerships.
Here are some of the ways Andrew established their expertise online and on-ground:
- Setting up a YouTube channel
- Starting a podcast
- Writing blogs
- Going on speaking events
- Getting partnerships
There are lots of shady agencies claiming to get results for their clients, but most of them just end up getting burned. By showing how you can help businesses with Amazon accelerator and brand management online, you’re already building trust before even getting on a call.
Treat Everything as an Opportunity
Amazon is all the rage as of the moment. In addition, it’s crucial for businesses to hire qualified people to manage their brand and Amazon accelerator for them. So, it’s not difficult to sell an Amazon-related service right now.
Andrew capitalizes on Amazon’s popularity by treating everything as a marketing opportunity. He has started conversations with people:
- in a sauna,
- on a basketball court, and even
- on a plane!
Veer Away from Hard Selling
Andrew hates hard-selling, and it’s not hard to figure out why. With so many brands vying for customers’ attention, the way to stand out is by letting them find you. “I’d rather let our work speak to it, our expertise or knowledge. People that want to work with the best are going to find us.”
To veer away from hard-selling, Andrew makes content either on their YouTube account or his podcast. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should do the same. Lean into what comes naturally to you, and you’ll find ways to attract the clients you want.
Andrew shares his process for building relationships through email. Here’s what it contains:
- A statement saying that he’ll look into their business ahead of time.
- Links to his blog, YouTube, and podcast.
- A 3-minute video about Marknology and how their team works.
In addition to utilizing his content, he’s also able to screen his clients this way. He finds that the people who respond well to his email are the clients he ends up building a relationship with.
Find and Utilize Talent from Around the Globe
As your business scales, you will need more people to do the work. As Andrew says, “I’m not just a one-man show; I’ve got a team.” Growth for Andrew means learning how to be an excellent leader in managing people.
Andrew admits that building a team is one of his biggest challenges as a leader. Here are some of the things he’s doing to get over this hurdle:
- Partner with Flowster to put SOPs in place and make onboarding new hires easier.
- Conducting informational interviews to always have people in the pipeline.
- Partnering with experts in the same field, in case their team gets short-staffed.
Also, it is essential to have an eye for talent and diversify your team. Marknology has team members from Colombia and India as well. Here are some of the benefits of outsourcing team members from all over the world:
- They perform quality work at a more cost-effective rate.
- Having diversified team members helps your company be aware of not stepping on any cultural beliefs.
What Did We Learn from this Episode?
- Building trust with potential clients and partners is crucial to marketing success.
- Content marketing and partnerships are great ways to establish your expertise and gain the trust of clients.
- You need to figure out what sparks joy to you and apply it to your marketing.
- It’s advantageous to have SOPs in place for onboarding new staff.
- Hiring offshore talent is cost-effective and helps build a more culturally diverse workforce.
[02:35] — Andrew introduces Marknology
- Seven years ago, Andrew founded Marknology, a company that helps brands evolve and compete in the Amazon accelerator.
- He started out freelancing on Upwork and Elance and eventually quit his day job to build his agency. Marknology has grown to a team of 25 through bootstrapping.
[09:05] — What’s the difference between hourly billing and retainer?
- Andrew struggled with hourly billing since it put his interests at odds with his clients’.
- This model also ties you to the belief that you must get paid for the hours you work.
- After many iterations, Marknology ended up with the retainer plus commission model.
- Andrew found it advantageous, as he could count on the retainer to plan for hiring and scaling.
- When the commission hits a certain level, the retainer falls off and from there, it’s just a straight retainer or a straight commission.
[18:25] — Venturing into international markets
- Marknology is now big enough to handle the international market; In fact, they’re already in 13 different Amazon marketplaces around the world.
- One of Andrew’s early wins was getting brands into a less saturated market.
- He advises paying attention to whatever Amazon’s focus is, so you can leverage it and bring more value to your clients.
[20:39] — How to attract clients
- Content marketing and partnerships are Andrew’s bread and butter.
- He’s created a YouTube channel, opened blogs and speaking events, and started a podcast as a trust-building effort to win over clients.
[24:41] — The advantages of creating content
- Explaining Amazon’s new releases from a commentator’s perspective is Andrew’s strategy on YouTube content creation.
- Through that, he helped brands in a more casual rather than formal way.
- He wanted to talk about things that could help companies, such as SEO and tracking organic growth.
- People usually hear about him or watch his videos, leading them to connect with him.
[28:34] — Why Andrew hates hard selling
- Andrew hates the salesman’s approach to selling a product or service.
- He prefers building on his expertise in the field to reflect his credibility rather than convincing someone to hire him.
[33:03] — Challenges and solutions in running Marknology
- Cash flow isn’t an issue for them anymore, although it used to be a significant challenge.
- People are both the best and most challenging element because of the necessity to create relationships, communicate effectively, and be aligned in the workflow.
- Moreover, managing the team and continuously learning to be a leader has also been challenging.
- Partnering with Flowster has helped him overcome those challenges.
- Despite being a new user, Andrew is enthusiastic about working with Flowster to put more processes in place.
[36:18] — Andrew’s diverse team
- Andrew’s workers are distributed between Colombia, Kansas, Florida, and India.
- His workers in India are focused on data researching and SEO.
- Andrew is considering hiring Romanians due to the strong branding of barbershops, eateries, and other enterprises in their country.
- He finds that outsourcing talents from all over the world adds value to his business.
Marknology has worked with over 300+ brands worldwide, achieved partner status with Amazon as an Advertising agency, and currently employs 25+. It is one thing to be good at something, and be a successful freelancer or consultant. It is something else entirely to scale an agency, and build a team. Currently in progress, and writing the rest of my story.