Hello BrightIdeas.co readers!
I hope everybody enjoyed their long weekend here in the States. By way of background, my name is Drew and I am building a recurring revenue paid search agency at Mineral.io with two goals: 1) reinventing paid search for online retailers, and 2) beating Groove Digital Marketing on the Quest for $20K so that I can receive the grand prize, a large bag of Idaho potatoes.
As for my weekly update, this was a short week, and we continue to focus most of our efforts on our internal processes as opposed to on attracting new clients. I realize this is a marketing automation blog, but before I can get to marketing I need to focus my agency on operations automation. This is vital because 1) we have chosen a lower average price point of $500 – $1000/month that 2) requires that we develop scalable client service processes.
With nine clients in our concierge MVP, we have chosen to hit the pause button on customer acquisition for a few weeks — we want to see what we can do to serve them all better with fewer human hours.
When looking at our business, we see it as broken down into five process areas. I’ll walk through each below:
- Client onboarding. This is the process we use to integrate a client into our workflow. It’s proven to be a massive time-sink for us because of all the account information we need: Google Adwords logins and access, Analytics access, Google Merchant Center (for Shopping feeds), Facebook logins, shopping cart access (so we can generate shopping feeds), etc. There’s a lot of back-and-forth with the client, a ton of education, and if we hit a roadblock — a shopping cart we’ve never worked on before, for example — onboarding could stretch out to a month’s worth of time. Although onboarding is a beast, I believe it’s a major reason why these clients aren’t taking on paid search in house, so it’s important for us to develop a standard approach here.
- Paid search maintenance. This is the meat of what we do — manage and optimize client paid search programs. We had been doing it for a while with an army of great paid search contractors, but we quickly realized that each contractor had his or her own approach: how often they would check a budget, update bids, create A/B ad copy, and so on. It’s important for us to check all the boxes for all the clients, so we need strong checklists here for our team.
- Reporting. These are the processes around letting the client know how we are doing. One one level, it’s about demonstrating to the client a return on their ad spend (ROAS). But on a deeper level it’s also about justifying our existence, showing them what we are working on behind the scenes week to week. We want to keep the client from asking the question: “So what am I paying these guys for again?”
- Client feedback. This is an important process that should separate us from the massive pack of paid search agencies in the long run: collecting and acting on client feedback. Not enough agencies do it, and we want to do it well. I have confidence that if we do, in a year our business will look very different than I could possibly imagine today and we will have carved out a real competitive advantage.
- Client customer service. This final process is one I know well from my days running customer service at my online retailer. It’s such a pain point (for customers and for businesses) and can really rack up the costs if we don’t handle it well. At the same time, our concierge MVP is telling us that this process is critical to a client’s sense of satisfaction (often more so than ROAS), so we have to nail service.
Given these five core processes, what did we focus on this week? To some extent each one:
1) Implemented a new project management system. We are currently on our third, Teamwork, and we hope this one sticks. Given all the process areas above, we had a strong need to create recurring tasks that we could assign out to a subcontractor and regenerate with each new client.
- Onboarding steps.
- Adwords negative keyword management steps.
- Bidding checks.
It took us about two weeks of playing with Teamwork before we made the switch for the entire team. I’m even hoping to begin syncing this with our contractor invoicing as it should make the internal profitability analysis much easier.
2) Created the draft “paid search maintenance” process. This was a big, necessary step as alluded to above. I spent hours this week on the phone with our top PPC contractors collecting their paid search best practices, and I broke them into regular task checklists by time period (daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.). We then took these checklists and added them into Teamwork so that they would generate automatically for each client. Now each client is receiving standardized (awesome) paid search management — bids are updated on schedule, ROAS is checked regularly, etc. Given this approach I’m pretty sure our client ceiling just moved from about 20 to about 80-100.
3) Investigated reporting options. Given our new processes, we decided the next logical step was to tell our clients about what we are doing and why we are doing it. We suspect exporting data from Teamwork, massaging it, and delivering it to the client is the way to go. That way the client will get a regular update (daily, weekly, not sure yet) on what we did and why we did it. I spent a fair amount of time this week figuring out how to get data from Teamwork into one of several client messaging systems.
4) Client calls and feedback. Finally, I was on the phone with many of our clients this week in an effort to collect more feedback on what they want. As anyone who has ever done customer development knows, it’s a slow painstaking process but a necessary one. My heart sinks when I look at my calendar and see back-to-back-to-back client calls every afternoon, especially when we aren’t really making any money (yet), but I do always come away with some key insights. And I did this week.
So that wraps up our short week. My family and I are off to the Hamptons for a week. I’m guessing that for readers outside of NYC that conjures up images of, I don’t know, Paris Hilton and insane exclusive parties on the beach. Nothing could be further from our beach experience — we do a lot of grilling, connecting with friends, and swimming. Although I love it, I am beginning to have that super-excited “startup feeling” about Mineral and kinda wish I could spend a few weeks solid just moving the ball forward. The next week will be a bit of an operational challenge to me to see what I can get done without being in the office.