Digital Marketing Strategy: Chris Handy on How He Built a $400K 2-person Agency in 24 months

If you’re a marketing agency owner who’s struggling to get traction, how would you like to hear from an agency owner who was very successful early along? Chris Handy built a $400,000 two-person agency in just 24 months, and he has generously agreed to share what worked with the BrightIdeas audience. (For more agency Bright Ideas, check out our other posts that are especially relevant to marketing agencies.)

Chris has excellent strategies for lead generation, LinkedIn and other social promotion, lead nurturing and more. In addition to the ThinkHandy digital marketing strategy, Chris shares ideas on how to select a profitable niche.

Listen now and you’ll also hear Chris and I talk about:

  • (5:00) Introductions
  • (8:50) His background with eBay
  • (12:30) How his exposure to process has molded his thinking
  • (14:50) Overview of #1 lead generation
  • (15:30) Overview of how he’s using LinkedIn
  • (19:50) Overview of how they are blogging for leads
  • (24:20) Criteria for selecting a profitable niche
  • (26:30) Overview of lead nurturing
  • (31:00) Overview of retained income and how assessments lead to it
  • (40:00) Overview of how they systematize the deliverables
  • (43:30) How they are using client interviews to create blog posts
  • (45:00) Overview of deliverables given for retainer
  • (51:00) Overview of social promotion strategy
  • (56:00) Advice on how to get started at content marketing
  • (58:20) His biggest mistake and lessons learned

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

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Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas

Podcast. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast

for marketing agencies, marketing consultants and entrepreneurs

who want to discover how to use content marketing and marketing

automation to massively boost their business without massively

boosting the number of hours that you have to work every week.

As a matter of fact, the goal is to help you reduce the number

of hours you have to work every week. The way that we do that is

we bring proven experts onto the show to share with us what’s

working for them. When I say a proven expert I don’t mean a guru

or a theorist, I mean someone who’s actually using this stuff in

their business and they’re getting significant results by doing

so.My guest on the show today is a guy by the name of Chris Handy,

and he is the Founder of a marketing agency by the name of He and his wife are actually the two people that

are behind that agency. He launched that in the beginning of

2011 and here we are just not even two years later he’s at

$20,000 a month in recurring revenue from retainer business.

They’re on track to do $400,000 in revenue this year and as you

can imagine with no overhead and only he and his wife as being

the two key employees that also translates into a very

profitable business venture.In this interview I get Chris to share all sorts of stuff with

us in great detail. For example, I want him to, or get him,

rather, to explain how he’s using LinkedIn to generate leads and

he does something that’s very unique and interesting. It’s

different than what I do and I’ll go so far as to say it’s

smarter and better than what I am doing so of course I need to

adjust my action as a result. You’re going to hear that at

roughly the seven to nine-minute mark and then after that we

start talking about his criteria for selecting which niches that

he pursues and that is a real key part of his business strategy

is choosing those niches correctly because as he points out not

all niches are created equal. Some are going to be a whole lot

more profitable for you than others.Then we walk through his four-step process for taking a lead

that goes through the funnel and requests an assessment then

there’s four steps that he does to convert them to a client and

it was very interesting as he shared the details on that because

the one thing that he doesn’t do is he doesn’t ever go and meet

them face to face. The really wonderful thing about this is no

matter what town you’re in or where you live you can get clients

that are anywhere if you listen to this interview and you

replicate the process that Chris explains.His background involved a lot of work with process improvement

and process automation and that really shines through in the

systems that he’s using to run his agency. We talk about that as

well. When a client says yes, how efficient you are or aren’t in

delivering the work that you’ve promised to them is going to

make all the difference between whether you build an agency with

lots of revenue and no profit or you build an agency with lots

of revenue and lots of profit. You really need to get good at

this whole systematizing and process management and in this

interview Chris shares a whole lot about that.Finally, towards the end of the interview he shares one of the

biggest mistakes that he made early on and the lessons that he

learned as a result of that. Do make sure that you stay tuned to

the very end and check that out.We’re going to welcome Chris to the show in just a second, but

before we get to that I want to very briefly tell you about a

new book that I’m working on and how you can get an advance look

at it, some free chapters and a discount when it comes out if

you go to all of the information will be

there and this is going to be a book that covers extensively

everything that I’ve ever learned plus everything I’ve learned

from all the guests that have been on the show about two really

important topics, content marketing and marketing automation.Why are those topics so important? Because in this day and age

that’s the magic sauce that gets you all the business and all

the clients and the growth and the profits. I didn’t really have

a name for the book yet but if you go to

you’ll see there a landing page that I created and you’ll be

able to opt in and get all the things that the landing page

says. With that said, please join me in welcoming Chris to the

show. Hey Chris. Welcome to the show.Chris: Thank you, Trent. Great to be here.Trent: It is a thrill to have you on. Just from what we were talking

about before we hit the record button we have a very good

interview coming your way so for the listeners who have not

heard of you please take a moment, introduce yourself, who you

are and what you do.Chris: Sure. My name is Chris Handy. I’m in Fort Worth, Texas, and I

operate a company called Think Handy and we’ve really decided

against putting anything as a definer on the end of that name

because we were kind of in marketing sales and operations and

we’re a consultancy in helping people streamline those and get

more out of their marketing dollars, but also integrating sales

and service into that.Trent: In the last, so you started this firm at the beginning of 2000,

and we’re going to get into your background and everything in a

minute, but I want people to know the results that you’ve

achieved in a pretty short period of time. You started in the

beginning of 2011, correct?Chris: Yes.Trent: Here we are, 2013 now. Middle, I guess fall and in the last, so

you started off from zero. Nothing. Right?Chris: Started off from zero. I took a few freelance web design

projects in 2010 and really proof of concept is, we were just

trying to see if we could get clients and found out that we

could so in 2011 went ahead and took the plunge and got started

and it was a slow ramp up. We’ve grown quite a bit in revenue

and in recurring revenue specifically so this year we are on

track to do about, hopefully about 400,000 by the end of the

year.Trent: In the last six months you said, off air you said you’d done

200.Chris: That’s correct.Trent: That’s pretty good. Your recurring revenue is at how much per

month now?Chris: We’re at about $20,000 in retainer relationships for each

month.Trent: That’s pretty fantastic. It makes, when you run a lean business

like you do with virtually no overhead, then 20,000 a month

coming in on the first day of every month makes for not a whole

lot of stress of, ‘Hey, where’s our next meal coming from.’Chris: It’s definitely improved our quality of life a little bit. Not

having to worry but we’re investing a lot back into the business

and in our marketing. Really we’ve spent a lot of time figuring

out where we go. We can obviously grow now so which way do we

grow? That’s very important to me. I want to make sure that when

we do make that next hire, who’s it going to be? What’s that

role going to be for and how can we make the most of our future?Trent: I have a lot of people who listen to my show based upon the

emails and so forth that I get that are solopreneurs. A lot of

marketing consultants, [freelance] web designers and I think I

speak for the when I say they all want to grow up. They want to

get, they want to make their firms bigger. They want to get more

recurring revenue. They want to be able to hire some more

employees and they want to use some more resources. They want to

grow like every other entrepreneur on the planet.I really want to make this episode for them so let’s, I want, I

really want to walk through kind of how you made that transition

from that first freelance client and I know there’s a lot of

people who listen to my show as well who maybe aren’t even in

business yet and you talked earlier how you kind of did a little

project with some freelance work to see if you could even get

clients. I want to talk about that.Before we get into both of those things I want you to tell a

little bit about your background because you have this rather

unusual background, this eBay consignment thing. You want to

talk a little bit about that so we have context?Chris: Sure. A lot of people bring up the 40 year old virgin when I

bring that up because you’ve seen that movie. The girl that

Steve Carell was going after, she managed an eBay store and what

an eBay store is is where you walk in and you hand the item to

the person at the counter and say, ‘I’d like to see this on

eBay.’ What they do is they take the item back and list it on

eBay or another online sales channel and basically sell it on

consignment so they’re going to take a commission and give you

the rest. Email you a link to the auction so you can see

everything that’s going. I was in that business which was

definitely interesting and that business has kind of, that whole

industry’s changed a lot in the last few years obviously.Started off in a small shop and then was recruited to the big

boys of the eBay consignment world, and I found myself managing

a distribution center that we routed trucks and went out and

picked up items from different people’s homes. We had five

stores in the Dallas Fort Worth area, that’s where we’re located

so all over the Metroplex. It’s a really large area so we had a

lot of ground to cover.I found myself routing all these trucks, managing the creative

team. Working on marketing these items. Actually getting them

listed onto eBay, working with software, working with people.

Managing a lot of people, customer service. Really just

everything that you could possibly think of with that business.

I was the operations director but that just included all these

different things. I learned a lot from the upper management

there. A lot of the people that were in management there were

former executives at Radio Shack and they had some great

processes. That was one of the things I really picked up during

that, what I called boot camp for sales and marketing and

operations.I was taught there that you don’t have to manage people as long

as you can manage the process and that was the most important

thing that I learned. We would create detailed process books for

everything. Now when I say everything I mean this is what you

say when you answer the phone. Scripts are easy to identify but

we encourage people to riff on those, obviously but also this is

what happens when an item comes in. Let’s say we get an item

from a person who wants us to sell something for them. This is

exactly where it goes, this is the process here, here, here.All the steps are detailed on an online document that everyone

can see. What we found was if ever there was a situation where

the, where something went wrong, rather than saying, ‘How, why

did you mess up or how did this happen,’ you simply say, ‘Well

did you follow the process?’ Either yes or no. If they did

follow the process, well, then you change the process. You don’t

have to do anything with the person because it’s not their

problem. That if they follow the, or if they didn’t follow the

process then it becomes a situation where, ‘Hey, here’s our

process book.’ You point to the book and you don’t have to

really do any disciplining of any kind. It’s just letting the

process manage the business for you so manage your team.Trent: Now being a guy that runs a marketing agency, how did all that

exposure to the importance of processes, how has that influenced

how you’re building and running your business, right, the way

from, and we’re going to go into detail on all these things but

just kind of at the high level right the way from lead

generation all the way to delivering your service. How has that

influenced you?Chris: Well it’s kept me, kept my eye on the prize of duplicating

myself and making sure that I don’t have to be the one pushing

all the buttons and following all these processes. If I work to

build these processes as we grow our agency then it won’t be

very difficult at all to manage people and every agency owner

wants to grow. Every agency owner wants to have a team of X

number of people. We have our own growth goals and I want to

make sure that we’re ready when we get there and that we have

detailed processes in place.We use a lot of online tools to get there so you have to kind of

come up with a process before you build the tool. That’s been

really important in our marketing process and then everything

that we do as far as client service.Trent: Where do you store all these processes?Chris: Well we use a project management system called Podio, but many

of them can do similar things. I found that this one works for

us because we can customize certain things with regards to

marketing campaigns specifically we can trigger actions based on

creating an item. We have a very detailed process on how we run

campaigns so if we have a client we know that we need to create

a downloadable offer for that client and we know we need to

create some blog posts to promote those downloadable offers.Every time we come up with a marketing persona to market to we

know we need at least one marketing offer and at least eight

blog posts to promote that marketing offer. As soon as we create

that persona, all these other tasks are created automatically so

it helps manage me. I’m extremely ADD. I don’t know what’s going

on.Trent: Join the club.Chris: If I don’t have it written down or if I don’t have somebody

bugging me to do it then I’m going to forget. There’s no

question. I built the software and built it on top of the

software basically just to keep me in line.Trent: My wife does that for me along with software. Let’s go back to

the thing, I want to talk about lead generation here because I

think a lot of people really struggle with it. Can you tell us

what you’re doing? What’s your number one method of generating

leads?Chris: Number one method of generating leads has got to be creating

content. I’ve had the website for two or three years now and so

I’ve done a lot of, before I really got into inbound marketing I

did a lot of SEO work, so I spent time making sure I was getting

found for some local stuff here in Fort Worth. That really

doesn’t bring me any business to be honest.Now our focus has been to get global and to not worry about

local because our best clients are not anywhere close to us so

we got away from that and really started getting active in

social networks. I think LinkedIn is the best place to promote

our content that we’re creating. [inaudible 15:45]Trent: How do you promote your content on LinkedIn? I want to see if

it’s similar to what I do.Chris: Gotcha. We’re writing blog posts that promote offers. That are

behind a form so that we’re gathering leads that way. I’ll look

for conversations where information we’ve written about is

applicable. I’ll go and I’ll say, ‘Hey we wrote this. Maybe this

can help you out.’ I’m a member of a lot of different groups. We

do have some verticals that we target and we’re always looking

to figure out what the best verticals are going to be for us to

go after. We’re still defining that.We’ve done a lot of construction marketing and home contractor

marketing which is interesting. It just kind of found us. We’re

testing out a new market right now and I’m involved in some of

those groups and I’m starting to kind of get in on those

conversations and help people. I think that’s the number one way

is helping people. Eventually they’re going to either need your

help or need more of your professional help or they’re going to

refer you to someone who does.Trent: How much of your time do you spend going into, how many groups,

first of all how many groups are you a member of?Chris: I think I’m a member of 45 right now. I had to delete myself

from some groups that I just wasn’t all that active in in order

to pursue some other ones in the verticals I want to see.Trent: Define specifically your activity in these groups. When you

produce a blog post on your blog, like when we do, we can put a

check mark in every group and say Add to group and it puts a

link to your post and your little intro. It’s not really like

one on one discussions. How do you do it?Chris: Sure. We use HubSpot for marketing automation. It does the same

thing and I think that’s the number one mistake people make when

they go in and they see this fancy social media tool, and they

can just check all the group boxes and then they end up spamming

everyone in their LinkedIn feed. That’s not good for anyone

because everyone sees that you just posted in 15 different

groups and that really doesn’t add any personal value.I really do spend time watching the groups and figuring out who

the influencers are there. Then when a conversation is heating

up and someone actually has something that I can add to, so

there’s a question about marketing in that particular instance

and I have something that’s of value to them I’ll add it into

the conversation manually. I will go ahead and automate some of

the posts, like when I do a new post on the blog. We’ll put that

out there to everyone on LinkedIn but I’m not spamming it into

groups. I really do consider it spam if you just add it to

everyone’s group. That’s how we do it. Even though it’s

marketing automation I think you really need a very human touch.Trent: I agree. I don’t think the way that we’ve been doing it is

ideal. It was, I had a past guest on the show was a LinkedIn

expert author of a book and that’s what she told us to do and so

we’ve been doing it since.Chris: That’s how you do it. I’m sorry.

Trent: No. I don’t mind. This is how we get better, we see what other

people are doing. How much time per day do you spend on LinkedIn

monitoring these conversations? Because with 45 groups, I mean

dude, you could spend like four hours.

Chris: You have to pick your battles. I’m not active in 45 groups. I’m

a member of 45 groups right now. Some of them are professional

groups. Some of them are places we’re targeting so maybe four or

five different groups really right now I’m active in and

actually helping people, and I spend maybe an hour throughout

the day monitoring LinkedIn. It’s one of the first things I look

at when I get up in the morning just to see because I get the

emails of what was going on yesterday, the hottest

conversations, that kind of thing.

Trent: So you . . .

Chris: I just look for anything that I might be able to help add value


Trent: Do you subscribe to a daily email for every group that you’re a

member of?

Chris: Some of them. Yes.

Trent: Some. You wake up in the morning and you check and see what

people are talking about and say, ‘Can I add value to that


Chris: Correct.

Trent: That’s a good way to do it. I should probably do that too. What

other things are you doing for lead generation?

Chris: Aside from LinkedIn, just creating content around those

personas. We do a lot of keyword research. Now we’re trying to

actively solve problems. I prescribe to the Marcus Sheridan

school of blog topics. Marcus Sheridan made his pool business

grow by answering his customers’ questions online. I know that

you’ve interviewed him before.

Very much inspired by his process. Let’s just figure out what

questions our customers are asking and each one of those is

going to be a blog post. I look for questions that have not been

answered in the industries that I’m targeting and I answer those

questions. Simple as that.

Trent: Is that working well for you yet?

Chris: It is. Absolutely. I’ve got a few blog articles that are just

machines. They’re bringing in more leads than I need. A lot of

them we have to qualify throughout with some nurturing sequences

and stuff like that because it’s bringing in more than I

probably need to but you need to kind of cast a wide net at the

top of the funnel and then figure out who’s going to be a fit.

Trent: Absolutely. What types of lead magnets do you find are working

really, because you’ve got your blog posts and people are

getting there via either LinkedIn or search? They’re reading the

article. Are you using one lead magnet across all your posts or

using ten different lead magnets? How many do you use?

Chris: We rotate them out. I’ve got a few. I’ve got one that’s Inbound

Marketing 101 that is a really nice go to for the top of the

funnel and for some of our more basic blog posts. We categorize

our blog posts by three levels, introductory, intermediate and

advanced. I try to make sure that people that are visiting see

that, ‘Hey, they’re on an intermediate article, or they’re on an

advanced article.’ I’ll have it even suggest introductory

articles to folks who found us on an advanced just in case it’s

above their heads because this is an education game.

People need to understand when we’re talking about marketing

automation or even sales process improvement they need to

understand a little bit more about how we work so we’ll always

suggest a previous post to try to educate them along the way.

To answer your question I’ve got probably 15 different offers

that we’ve got and we use five or six of them more than all the

others. We kind of refined those fringe ones every once in a

while and repost it every once in a while.

Trent: What would you say is your number one lead magnet for top of

the funnel?

Chris: I’ve done this really interesting thing. If you’re familiar

with Facebook marketing you’ll have a cover photo at the top of

your Facebook page. I found myself always going and Googling the

dimensions to create a custom Facebook cover photo for my

clients and for me. We create a new one all the time. I found

there wasn’t any great place to find it, so what I did is I

created a Facebook page that is called Facebook Cover Photo Size


In fact, if you Google Facebook Cover Photo Size it’s like

second or third result. What it does, it puts the actual cover

photo shows all the pixels on it so you can see exactly how to

build a perfect cover photo for you. Then I link to, I

constantly post some of our articles, and I link to a landing

page where you can download an even bigger guide on how to build

Facebook cover photos.

Trent: What’s the, I just did that search criteria. What is the URL

for your particular?

Chris: It’s

Trent: Yeah, okay, number two.

Chris: Right behind Facebook’s Help article.

Trent: Smart, smart, smart. Look at that, 9,643 likes.

Chris: And growing.

Trent: That’s a smart idea. I might even have to call that one a gold


Chris: Sure. It brings us 15, 20 leads every single day.

Trent: How many of those, because not every lead, not all leads are

created equally of course. Do you, how many of those leads are

converting to customers?

Chris: I’d say we’ve gotten two or three referrals off of that.

Trent: You mentioned earlier that you are targeting a few different

niches. Can you talk a little bit about the criteria that you

use to analyze the viability of a niche?

Chris: Sure, Trent. I think that, especially when you’re talking about

a retainer relationship, now we really shy away from projects

but every once in a while we’ll take a project, if it’s a

referral that we think is going to help an existing relationship

we’ll do a project. That is different criteria but if we’re

going to go after someone that we think can be a pretty sizable

monthly retainer with a multi-year agreement or 12-month

agreement, we’re looking for something that is a large decision

purchase so it’s a business that has to do a lot of education

before a sale can be made. Maybe something that has really long

sales cycles.

I would not go, we found ourselves doing some construction

marketing and home contractor marketing. That’s just kind of how

we grew. That’s some of the first projects I took on so I keep

getting them, but I would not, today target those industries

because they are kind of one time and the need for recurring

services is not there. I want something like a big software

purchase or a managed IT company, something like that that

targets maybe huge facilities. Just an example of something that

is really a big decision and they need to have a lot of

expertise in any particular field.

Trent: Interesting that you mention managed IT. That was the industry

that I was in before and I’d never want to deal with those guys.

Once you get your leads into the funnel I’d like you to talk

about how you are segmenting them and if you’re using mid-funnel

lead magnets. Because where I’m going here is, as I said before,

not all leads are created equal. There are, and even if they

have the same need they’re at different phases in the buying

cycle. Some people are early. Some people are ready to buy. How

do you handle all of that using automation?

Chris: Sure. Everyone that signs up for any one of our offers is

automatically subscribed to our blog. I’ve had people give me

different feelings on that, whether or not you should just put

everyone on your blog but I find that it really works because we

get a lot of social shares. That’s something that immediately,

they’ll see everything that comes in every week. [inaudible


Trent: I’m sorry to interrupt you. Do they get an email for every post

that you publish?

Chris: I choose to have it go out once a week.

Trent: A weekly summary?

Chris: Sure. Weekly summary. We’ll do three or four or five blog posts

every week. In a perfect world we’d have one for every day or

two but right now we’re producing about three or four every


Trent: They get those on Sunday morning.

Chris: Mm-hmm. I find we get the best open rate then. I’m sure once

this thing goes live if you have enough listers that now

everyone’s going to be coming through on Sunday morning and

we’ll need to change it to another day. There’s no hard and fast

rule I’ve found. People will tell you it’s Tuesday at noon.

Well, it really is just when your audience is getting up. I find

early in the morning is great for me. No matter which day.

Trent: What type of, what are some, how are you segmenting? Just kind

of walk us through that. I opt into your funnel. What happens?

Chris: Now you’re signed up for the blog and if you click on any of

the links in those blogs I can identify that you’re somewhat

interested. That’s the only criteria I have to go into an

automated list. I’ve segmented that list off then I will segment

off the agencies because there are a lot of other agencies that

read our content. Then I narrow it down further and I look and

see where people came from. I’ve got some other smart lists that

tell me where they came from. If someone came from that Facebook

cover photo size helper and they’re not an agency then I send

them more introductory content on basic marketing and I look at

that as a way to get more social shares, more cheerleaders out

there because not everyone that comes through there is going to

be a fit for large scale retainer services.

Once I kind of siphoned off all of those other folks, I look at

everyone by industry and I’ll try and send something very

specific. We’ll create new landing pages all the time with

webinars because I can write a webinar. If I see that I’ve got

five different, for instance, managed IT companies that have

come in and filled out forms I might decide to try out a

webinar. I’ll say, ‘We’re going to do a sales and marketing

alignment webinar specifically for the managed IT companies.’

I’ll send them all an email and if somebody signs up, I do the

webinar. If somebody doesn’t sign up, I don’t.

It’s just something else out there a lot of times that we do, we

do end up getting that. I’ve got a real quick process on

launching new targeted landing pages and so we do that all the


Trent: Define all the time. How often would you say you do it?

Chris: Once every week. Probably creating a new vertical just checking

it out seeing what comes up and then it’s another page out there

on Google to be found. Especially, we do have a field on all of

our forms that’s biggest marketing challenge. I think I saw that

on several different marketing automation software original

forms and so I started doing it. It’s kind of my gauge on what

questions to ask folks.

I’ll go and create content around that and make sure it’s in the

weekly email coming up. Even if it’s not a direct, ‘Hey,’ I’m

targeting this person,’ it is something that I can answer and

I’ll find that, let’s say managed IT, I’ve got ‘How do I build a

workflow for marketing automation with a managed IT company?

I’ll build that blog article. I’ll make sure it’s in the next

week’s weekly RSS email that gets sent out. Oftentimes those

folks click on those and then they go straight to an assessment.

Our bottom of the funnel’s always that request a free


Trent: That was going to be my next question. What’s the main call to

action? You mentioned that you’ve been particularly successful

to the tune of $20,000 a month in generating clients that pay

your retainer. How long did it take you to get from zero to

20,000 a month?

Chris: Actually only about four months. We had all the pieces of the

puzzle we just hadn’t put it together really until early this

year. I read a book called the, god. Is it “The Agency

Manifesto”? I think it’s, “The Marketing Agency Manifesto.” I’ll

make sure that you can have a link to this but it’s basically a

quick read but it has 12 proclamations. Unfortunately, I’m

unable to think of the author’s name right name but basically

one of them is, ‘We will specialize.’ One of them is, ‘We will

charge for our services.’ I just really was inspired by that and

a lot of different things that is said in there is how can we

charge more for our expertise?

We really don’t accept projects anymore unless, like I said

earlier it was a referral or it’s something that we think will

further our business. We’re just very steadfast on that. I’m not

sending out proposals. I will flat out tell you I’m not in the

proposal writing business because I don’t want to spend my days

writing proposals. We are right now a two man shop and we can’t

do that. We really want to do business. Make the verbal

agreement that we’re going to go forward at that time a contract

will be signed and we’ve eliminated the proposal process

entirely. I think that’s allowed us to spend most of our sales

time on getting quality clients and then weeding out those that

must present a proposal to a board and all those extraneous

steps that end up getting in the way.

Trent: What is the average size of your retainer right now?

Chris: Right now it’s about $5,000, $6,000.

Trent: You’re talking roughly four clients that you have on retainer.

Do these clients all go through your funnel and do the call to

action for the assessment that’s at the bottom of your funnel?

Chris: They all filled out the assessment. Some of them were referred

straight to the website and one of them just called me actually

but in equality I guess he requested an assessment. But two of

them came all the way through the top of the funnel.

Trent: When you do this assessment, so I want to make sure that we,

the listeners and myself understand what this assessment is. Is

that them filling out a form on the website with lots of

questions or is that you on Skype with them asking them a bunch

of questions? What is the assessment?

Chris: Sure. I’m really just wanting their information with that form

and then it’s a 20 to 30 minute conversation. We run a

consultative sales process. It’s very defined. I’ve got four

steps basically in the process. Starts with the assessment. I’m

going to identify what your goals are, ask questions. That’s

really a question and answer session. Sometimes if we need to do

a little coaxing to actually do the assessment once we get on

the phone after they fill out the form we’ll set an appointment

for this assessment. The way it’s positioned is that we’re going

to give you some tips on things you can do online, things you

can do in your sales process to improve. No obligation.

It’s just an opportunity for me to give them a few things that

they could change right now and either get more visits to the

website or drastically improve things and it’s an opportunity

for me to really interview the client and understand if it’s the

right fit. Start to identify some of the questions I’ll ask in

the next call.

Trent: All of this stuff is done on the call? You don’t get face to

face with your clients to do this?

Chris: I try not to, even here in town because what it does is it

takes another hour out of my day to go and drive across town and

get in front of someone and it’s just a big waste of everyone’s

time especially with that first call. I really refuse to even

have people out to my office for that first call because I just

want to get a feel for what they’re after. If the first question

they ask is how much does it cost, I know that that’s going to

be a big factor in the whole relationship and it might not work.

Trent: Do you do these calls with video like you and I are doing right

now where you can see each other?

Chris: Typically, what we’ll do is we’ll use Go to Meeting, and I’ll

have their website or lack thereof up on the screen and we’ll do

a screen share.

Trent: If that’s step one. What’s step two?

Chris: Step two, after we have an assessment we’ve identified their

goals, we’ve identified that there is a need and they’ve

identified that they would like to continue talking with us. We

go to a goal setting call where I send them homework beforehand.

They’re going to fill out a lot of different questions. Here’s

where they fill out a lot of questions and it’s basically just a

spreadsheet that asks them the frequency of marketing and

different channels. How often are they blogging? How often are

they performing these X marketing activities and it’s designed

to do a few things to give us an end result of an arbitrary

score, sort of holistic score based on their entries.

Also the process of that prospect filling out this form and

saying, ‘No, I’m not doing any of this stuff,’ it’s a

psychological trigger and it’s sort of an “aha” moment. ‘Oh my

gosh, I’m not doing any of this.’ That’s been really effective.

Trent: Is there any chance that you would share that spreadsheet that

we can make as a downloadable from this episode?

Chris: I can give you a PDF copy of it, yes.

Trent: That would be wonderful. Thank you. For my show notes, what am

I going to call that?

Chris: Let’s call that an assessment questionnaire. This will be

homework between my assessment call and my goal setting call.

Trent: Very helpful. Thank you for that. That’s very generous of you.

What’s number three after that goal call?

Chris: After the goal setting call we get on the phone and we’ve

identified, ‘Hey, we want to increase revenue by $1 million next

year and it’s going to take us three big projects to do it.’

We’ve kind of gone through the process of, ‘Well how many visits

do you have to your website right now? How many more are you

going to need to get? How many leads are being generated by your

website?’ We can reverse engineer a number of visitors that we

need to bring to the website so we’ll have to put together a

plan. That plan will vary based on how effective their website

is right now, how many calls to action we need to add. Are they

doing anything or do they have any offers? Do we need to create

some? That will all kind of go into the last call [inaudible


Trent: What do you call this third call?

Chris: Sort of just a deal presentation or a solution presentation. I

won’t write up a 20-page document but what I will do is, I have

a PowerPoint presentation that has some of this stuff in it

already. I will just manipulate that to show what our plan might

look like. It’ll detail out the services that we would perform

on an ongoing basis and it’s really a visual meeting so we’re

screen sharing that and we’re talking about, ‘Hey, this is the

plan that we’ve put together. Based on the things you told me

this is what we think we can do and this is how long it’s going

to take us to get there and here’s the cost.’ Only after they’ve

said, ‘All right, let’s do it’ will I go and actually draw up a


Trent: That’s the fourth call?

Chris: Yes. That would be the fourth step.

Trent: You just review the contract, get them to sign it and send it

back to you?

Chris: That’s right.

Trent: How do you collect payment for retainer? Credit card or direct


Chris: I require a credit card, recurring payment. I found that when

we did not do that they’d come in late, they’d come in early,

they weren’t as reliable. I don’t mind taking a hit on the fee

because it’s peace of mind. There’s no question it’s going to

come in.

Trent: Absolutely. That’s been very interesting and so now you’ve got

to the point, and I promised early in this conversation, at

least I think I did, that we were going to talk about process

automation and how it’s fitting into your business because I

know that having run a service business myself in the past and

now launching another one how efficient you are or aren’t in

your service delivery can make the difference between being

wildly profitable and making no profit whatsoever.

I think a lot of people especially the solopreneurs or even

people who haven’t started yet maybe haven’t had that experience

and they just assume that if I get more revenue I’ll naturally

have more profit. Doesn’t always happen. Can you describe to us

and let’s stay on the thread of a retainer client, so you’ve got

this spreadsheet, you’ve got a solution, you’re going to need to

do all these things, how do you then systematize the delivery of

the deliverables so as to maintain your efficiency?

Chris: During the process of the sales process we’ve already detailed

out exactly what we’re going to do. Typically that’s going to be

creating offers, promoting those offers and then working on lead

generation. I’ve got in my project management system, which they

have access to, I’ve got built in templates for all these things

so once I launch the new marketing persona that we’re going to

craft for this client, let’s say they are managed IT and they’re

performing managed IT services to let’s see, theme parks, right?

You have to solve very specific problems for that theme park IT


We want to create a construct of that person so I said all that

to say once we create that persona we know we need to deliver an

offer for that persona to download on the website. We work

backwards. I don’t start with the blog posts. I start with the

offers; I start with the personas then the offers, the promoting

blog posts.

I’ve built my project management system the same way. When a

persona is created we know an offer needs to be created. When an

offer is created we know a blog post needs to be written, in

fact eight to ten. It’s automatically going to create all those

tasks for me. This helps me keep in line because I’m prone to

forget things and I have to have a system that allows me to go

back and make sure we’re on track.

The number one thing we’ve done is make all this open to our

clients so we have complete visibility. The clients can see what

we’re doing all the time. As we create these offers they can

comment, like. They can add files; they can contribute as we’re

working. This makes our meetings so much more productive because

we’re not having to recap, ‘Hey here’s everything we did this

week.’ They know what we’ve done this week. That’s already been

established. Let’s just talk about our strategy for next week.

Let’s talk about the results so that we don’t have to spend so

much time educating them on what we’re doing.

Trent: You’re using Podio to make all this happen?

Chris: That’s correct.

Trent: Do you speak to your retainer clients? Is there a weekly

meeting with them just as though you’re their director of


Chris: Yes. Weekly or bi-weekly. That’s how often we meet and we

structure our meetings based on the week number so we’ll have a

different style of meeting at the beginning of the month than

from the end of the month. Then during the middle of the month

we’ll have what we call interviews so we are talking about

topics that we’ve identified are going to be good keywords for

them to target. We’ll put an outline out there and just have

them talk about it and we’ll record the session on Go to

Meeting, come back and use that interview content to actually

build the blog post so that each blog post will be in the voice

of that particular business owner or marketing director.

Trent: That is an excellent idea. Did you think that one up or did you

learn that from Marcus?

Chris: Marcus definitely talked about that and we had already been

doing it for a while when I heard him say something about that

and it’s been a great thing. Once I heard him giving it I said,

‘We’re on the right track.’ We implemented processes around

that. Now it makes our meetings a lot more fun, we don’t have to

spend as much time digging up, ‘Oh god, what are we going to

talk about this week’ because I know a lot of agency owners that

have to speak to clients on a regular basis.

You might find yourself struggling to come up with, ‘What are we

going to talk about?’ That was genuinely a problem I used to

have. Not much has changed. We’ve gone up a little bit. This is

really where we thought we were going to be as far as visits,

leads and sales but we have this meeting on the books. Now we

have something to talk about for these meetings and it’s way

more productive and way more fun honestly because people love to

talk about what they do. It makes them happy.

Trent: Let me feed this back because I want to make sure that myself

and the audience has understood this. In these meetings you come

into the meeting with an agenda of keywords that could be

targeted, correct?

Chris: Yes. They’re framed in the form of a question.

Trent: Like give me an example.

Chris: I have a client that is an HVA, commercial HVAC contractor.

People have questions about how to better cool a commercial data

center. ‘How do I keep my data center cool?’ We’ll just come in

with that and have that business owner share their expertise.

Trent: Your team knew that that was a keyword that you should target?

You then do this meeting with them and you ask them that

question, you record the answer so now you have it in his voice.

You transcribe it and edit it and turn it into a post.

Chris: That’s correct.

Trent: For these clients that are paying you the $4,000 to $5,000 per

month, how many posts per month, like what is the deliverable

that they’re getting for the $5,000 a month?

Chris: It depends on the level of retainer, but we don’t suggest

having any less than ten blog posts every month. There are some

graphs that I’ve got in my presentations that show when you get

to 30 blog posts a month, which we’re not even at, but when you

get to that point the leads start coming in like crazy. It’s

just all about having more content out there on Google but we’ll

have anywhere from ten to 20, in some cases 25, blog posts per


Trent: That’s a lot of posts.

Chris: It’s a lot of posts. That’s what it’s all about though is

creating content that is going to get found.

Trent: You’re doing these, so in one of these calls then, if you’re

doing this once per week you must have to have four different

blog posts in mind that you’re interviewing them for, and so

four questions and they’re giving you the answer to those four

questions and those four questions become four different blog


Chris: That’s right.

Trent: Tell me what the process that goes from recorded answers

through to finished blog posts and are subcontractors playing a

role in any of this anywhere?

Chris: In some cases yes, we use a content marketplace to fill out

questions, if we didn’t have a chance to do interviews and we

look for experts. For instance I have a client that is in the

hockey space and we found a contractor who is awesome at writing

about hockey and he just knows hockey better than I do. We’re in

Texas. I don’t know anything about hockey. It may be different

from up north but we’re Cowboys football, Rangers baseball down

here. We have the Starts, but it’s just not as big of a deal so

we really struggle in that area but we’ve been very successful

with the content we’ve been able to create because we found an

expert to help us. We do have a few contractors in different


Trent: Going back to the first part of that question, you’ve got the

recorded answer. You’re not going to use a contractor so do you

then pay a transcription service to transcribe it and then you

or your wife edit that into a post?

Chris: We don’t pay any transcription services. I take a lot of notes

during so I’m bulleting things out and I do this in Podio where

the client can see so as I’m typing they can see all this stuff

go down. Then we have the transcription so that by the end of it

we’ve got a nice bulleted list of maybe 15, 20 bullets of things

that they hit on during the conversation and then we also have

the recording to fall back on. We can go in pretty soon after

that meeting, we like to go ahead and just type it all out. Get

it ready; get it into a finished format.

We might go over one or two passes as an editorial pass and just

clean it up. Make sure we’re matching it up with the right offer

but we’ve typically come up with that offer and matched it up

well before the interview even takes place.

Trent: How long are these posts typically?

Chris: Six hundred to 800 words is our normal rule of thumb.

Trent: If you’re doing, you said ten of these a month or 20 a month

per client?

Chris: Depending on the client it would be minimum ten. I don’t think

we’re doing only ten for anyone but 15 to 25.

Trent: Let’s just use a number of 15. You’ve got, say five clients

doing this. That’s 75 posts per month?

Chris: Yes.

Trent: Written by just you and/or, well not written, edited, crafted

because it’s already there in the transcription.

Chris: Correct.

Trent: That just seems like a boatload of work.

Chris: It’s a lot of work. We’re putting together a growth plan right

now. We don’t envision us doing that forever.

Trent: I was going to say because that doesn’t scale very well is my


Chris: Not for the business owner or the agency owner, for sure, but

what it does it doubles as service. You spend this time client

facing, they’re talking about something they love to talk about.

They’re seeing their ideas realized. They’re seeing the results

they’re getting based on that content. It’s a very positive

experience so that client time spent is actually helping us

produce the content so we’re overlapping a little bit there.

Client service.

With our software being so open they can see everything we’re

doing. We minimize the time on the other side of constantly

struggling to prove your worth. I know that a lot of agency

owners are constantly trying to prove their worth so I’ve tried

to eliminate that step by making everything as transparent as


Trent: I think that’s very smart. That was a big challenge that we had

back when we ran the IT company because if the computer network

didn’t break, why am I paying you $10,000 this month? Well,

because it didn’t break but it was challenging at times. Where

do I want to go next? Yes, so what strategies do you do to

promote all of this content that you’re creating for clients? Is

it purely an SEO strategy or are you going to town on social


Chris: We go to town on social networks. I’ve got very specific

numbers of posts for each client that we’re going to make on

each day. For instance our own, we treat ourselves as a client

so the exact same processes you’ll see for our clients are being

used for us. I’ll interview with my wife. My wife and I co-own

the agency together, we work together so we’ll have interviews

together just to kind of extract this content. We find it’s the

best way but for our business, our Twitter account, we post 20

to 25 times a day. Almost every hour and I found that when we

did that we increased now, month over month, 20 percent every

single month in followers. That same growth in my retweet reach,

so our reach is growing at the same pace. If we drop down to 15,

that growth lessens quite a bit. I found that’s optimal for our


Trent: What tool do you use to schedule Twitter posts and get


Chris: We use HubSpot for pretty much all of our marketing automation.

That’ll be different for each client. Sometimes the client

preference is simply, ‘I don’t want to have that many posts go

out on my Twitter account.’ That’s understandable. We can show

them, ‘Hey, this is how you get results,’ but we can’t always

convince 100 percent.

Now Facebook’s a different story. We found three to five

different posts every day is appropriate for some and then in

some cases it’s only one.

Trent: Are you sharing other people’s content like in your own Twitter

account, are you only tweeting out your own stuff or do you

share other people’s stuff as well?

Chris: We do both and there are a lot of different schools of thought

on this. A lot of people will say, ‘Share 80 percent of other

people’s content and only 20 percent of yours.’ I found honestly

that’s not the way to go. We’ll schedule out 18 to 20 posts of

our 24, of our own content. We’ll spend time interacting with

other people as sort of an alternate to that plan of sharing

everyone’s content. We’ll retweet. We’ll reply to people’s

tweets. We will generally share the love online but tweeting out

other agencies content, we’re not doing that. I generally don’t

want, I’d rather get the leads. I don’t believe that’s selfish.

If somebody writes a really good article that I used, I found,

‘Hey, how do we use this marketing automation tool in this way?’

If I found value in that, absolutely I’m going to retweet that

because I found personal value but typically we’re going to

write about things as we discover them and that’s the content we

want to promote.

Trent: You guys are doing a lot of writing.

Chris: You have to. It’s content marketing, right Trent?

Trent: Absolutely. You know what? Writing’s better than cold calling.

Chris: That’s true.

Trent: I gave a talk here in Boise just last week. I was given zero

notice. Guy calls me up the night before. He had broken his

tooth and he was supposed to speak and I had lunch with him that

day, just met him. He said, ‘Can you go talk for me?’ There was

like 80 small business owners that were in the room, mostly I’m

going to say three person companies and fewer. A lot of

solopreneurs in there.

The beginning of my talk I asked, I said, ‘How many people here

know what content marketing is?’ What would you guess, let’s

just say there was about, about 70 people in the room. How many

hands do you think went up?

Chris: I’m going to say not many, right?

Trent: Like six. Then I said, ‘How many people here are cold calling?’

Three quarters of the room put their hands in the air. I said,

‘How many people here receive cold calls?’ About half of the

room’s hands went up. I said, ‘How many people who receive them

like getting them?’ Nobody’s hands went up. Then I said, ‘Of

those of you who are making them, how many are getting results?’

Nobody’s hands went up. I’m like, ‘Stop. You’re just pissing

people off and you’re not getting results.’

Chris: Exactly. You’ve got to make warm calls, right?

Trent: Absolutely. So much more I could talk about that, but I’m going

to make a blog post actually about that, that talk that I gave.

Folks will be able to get that at Let me look at

my questions here and see where I want to go with this.

For the folks who are listening to this and they’re thinking,

‘This is content marketing and marketing automation thing seems

like it’s a pretty good idea, but man oh man does it ever seem

overwhelming. There’s like so much stuff to do.’ A lot of times

people get overwhelmed, they don’t do anything. What advice

would you give, Chris to someone who wants to get started? Who’s

the cold caller and they want to stop being the cold caller and

become a content marketer.

Chris: Start answering folks’ questions online. I will not shy away

from spreading Marcus Sheridan’s advice there. That’s the big

thing because it solves a few problems, well, it solves your

customer’s problems, right? It also solves the problem of what

do I write about? That’s the biggest challenge that I had at the

beginning. I’d write about what my customers are asking me and

you should do the same. Start writing. Don’t worry about what

domain name you’re going to use. Don’t worry about getting a

logo. Don’t worry about getting business cards. If you’re trying

to start a business don’t let any of that get in your way and

just pick something. Just put something out there. Don’t worry

about the design because Google doesn’t care about the design.

[inaudible 57:16]

Trent: You can host it on

Chris: Sure. Anything. That, ultimately it doesn’t matter because

that’s not what people are going to be typing into Google. If

you’re truly going to attack content marketing you’re going to

be attacking questions people type into Google or phrases people

type into Google. They’re not going to be Googling for your

website address, at least that’s not going to be the effect

content marketing has for you, so start writing. Start answering

questions and pick a vertical. Pick an industry that you want to

target because there are a ton of content marketing agencies, if

we’re talking to agency owners, there are a lot of content

marketing agencies, inbound marketing agencies. It’s becoming a

saturated market. It’s not a differentiator anymore so pick a


Trent: Absolutely. Is there anything that you thought we should have

talked about in this interview which I’ve neglected to ask you

about? Anything that has worked exceptionally well for you or a

big mistake that you made that you learned a lot from? Anything

at all that we’ve missed that you think we should talk about

before we close out?

Chris: Sure. I think that the biggest mistake I made at the very

beginning was relying on marketing automation and not

remembering that each piece of automated action and all that

stuff really requires a human touch. That’s why I spend so much

time on LinkedIn personally answering questions. You can’t just

set it and forget it. A lot of material online would lead you to

believe that. Remember that each person that you’re trying to

get as a lead is also a real person and they’ve got their own

challenges, their own problems that need to be solved. Start

identifying with them.

Speak with these folks, even if they’re someone who’s not

qualified pick up the phone every once in a while and ask them,

‘Hey, how’d you find us? What did you find valuable in the

content that you read and that you downloaded?’ I do some of

that. I like to spend time just speaking with people even if I

know it’s not a good fit, just understand what challenges they

have and really work with them to better understand. That helps

me build out better lead nurturing sequences, helps me send

better emails. It helps me identify better prospects and that’s

what you have to do over time to improve your efficiency is to

spend time with the folks who are going to be a better fit for


Trent: Absolutely. Those are your biggest cheerleaders and with the

80, 20 rule they’re also going to be responsible for 80 percent

of your revenue.

Chris: That’s right.

Trent: Chris, thank you so much for making this time to be on the

Bright Ideas Podcast. It has been a good time to interview you,

rather a lot of fun to interview you. Download [sounds like],

the episode number of this but I’m just going to pull it up and

so I can rattle that off. Actually I’ll put it in the, I’ll do a

recording here just after you and I are finished so again,

thanks so much for being on the show.

Chris: Cool. Thanks man. I really appreciate your time.

Trent: All right, so that wraps it up for this episode. To get to the

show notes where you can download all of the things that Chris

and I talked about, go to It’s just the

number 80. Then the other thing that if you could do is go to, there you will find a prepopulated tweet

and you’ll also find a link that will take you to the iTunes

store where you can leave some feedback for the show.

I would really appreciate it if you take a moment and do that

because the more feedback that the show gets, of course the

higher it goes in the iTunes store and the more exposure that it

gets and the more entrepreneurs that we can help to massively

boost their businesses with all the bright ideas that are shared

by my guests here on the show.

That’s it for this episode. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid. Thank

you so much for being a listener. I’ll see you or hear you or

we’ll see you again in another episode very soon. Take care.

About Chris Handy

ChrisHandyChris Handy is the Founder & CEO of Thinkhandy, a sales and marketing alignment consultancy in Fort Worth, TX.

Clients working with Thinkhandy find a helpful partner dedicated to shortening their sales cycle and generating more qualified leads.

We create a much more efficient business development environment with an aligned marketing and sales strategy.