Update for July 11
As we used to say in the Navy, NSTR (Nothing Significant To Report) this week for my half of the Agency Challenge. I’ve been taking the week off spending time with the family on the beach. I get back to work Monday — so next week’s update should be filled with a fair amount of new material.
Update for July 18
This week at Mineral.io, we continued to focus internally on our concierge MVP. I think we’ve finally got it dialed in enough so that next week we can turn to marketing.
I’ll follow Trent’s lead and give you a quick overview before diving into each item:
- Process improvement
- Implemented Teamwork
- Recruited three more paid search contractors
- Rewrote our landing page to make more Shopify specific
- Spoke to several writers
Why do I keep harping on process improvement? Because as I stated in a previous update, in order to effectively serve lower-end clients at scale, we need to have our processes dialed. There simply isn’t much wiggle room for improvisation when a client is paying us $500/month.
A little extra time to configure something or take a client call and we’ve blown through our margin for the month. So this week we spent Monday and Tuesday in an all-day session to review our processes.
When we began our agency, we were very improvisational. I basically brought on a bunch of paid search specialists who I had used before, and I assigned each one a client. Then each specialist was off to the races — doing whatever they needed to do for that particular client.
In those early days, we had no central repository of knowledge, and no common approach to how we managed paid search. If a client wanted growth, one of our contractors might approach it by expanding ad groups and keywords — another would approach it by increasing bids.
After a couple months of running the agency this way, we realized that this improvisational wouldn’t cut the mustard at scale. First, we needed to deliver a similar experience across account optimization, bidding, channel management, etc. Second, that experience had to be best-of-breed and include ‘best practices’ from the world of paid search.
So I spent about a month interviewing our contractors and other paid search experts to come up with our baseline standard approach. That approach involves checklists for onboarding, maintenance, and reporting that we execute on a regular basis (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually). Monday and Tuesday of this week we further refined the lists getting them into our project management software and assigning specific contractors to each list.
Now when we take on a new client we can say that they will indeed receive ‘best practice’ paid search management.
Up until this week, we had been running our nine-client MVP on Trello. But Trello was bursting at the seams — it really was built more for brainstorming and simple task management, not for delivering a consistent set of service processes to 20, 30, 100 clients.
After testing out everything from Jira to Maventools, we opted for Teamwork. It has most of the functionality we desired: the ability to set recurring tasks, the ability to monitor the hours worked by our army of contractors, and the ability to run reports quickly on what is due and when.
We spent a few days moving all our tasks into Teamwork and on Wednesday moved all our contractors over to it. Two and a half days in it seems to be doing OK — every one of our contractors (we have around ten) get tasks assigned to them regularly, and they can report back on what they are seeing on the client level.
Of course, these systems never live up to their billing, but for now we feel a lot more confident that we are getting work done on time for each client.
Recruited three more paid search contractors
We currently work with about four ‘expert’ paid search contractors and about another three ‘novice’ ones. The novices — who have a lower hourly rate — perform a lot of the onboarding and routine maintenance tasks while the ‘experts’ set strategy and direction.
I need a deeper bench. By my back-of-the envelope calculations, in order for us to beat Trent and pass $20K in recurring revenue, we will need to service 20-30 clients. Right now we are at nine. So we need more staff to service more clients. Plus there’s also the reduced risk that comes with having several people able to execute the same tasks — our agency won’t grind to a halt if someone gets sick or goes on vacation.
So this week we added three more contractors into our system for limited duration tests. Each will take on some client work and give us daily feedback on what they did so that we can assess their progress and determine whether they are a good fit.
Rewrote our landing page to make more Shopify specific
Our current paid search landing page is dated. First, it’s a bit generic. Based on what we’ve learned from our concierge MVP, our new ideal customer is a Shopify store owner (easier to market to, easier to service), and the current page targets just any ecommerce store owner. Second, the pricing is off — we’ve moved that around. And third, the services are off — we’ve changed up what customers receive when they sign up, primarily removing a regular phone call and replacing that with enhanced reporting.
So this Thursday I put on my copywriter cap and drafted a new landing page that features the new service and pricing. I really took an empathetic approach with the page in an effort to get inside the head of the average small business Shopify store owner.
I like the results, but it does look much more like a long form sales letter than the current minimal design. Is this good or bad? I’ve no idea, but I think I want to launch with it to see what happens. Shortly after launching, I will develop a “B” page that is more like the current page for testing.
Our goal was to get the page up Friday, but we ran into an unanticipated development challenge with our pricing table that forced us to roll it until next week sometime. So stay tuned.
Spoke to several writers
With the new landing page ready and company processes dialed in, it’s time to turn to marketing!
This is the moment I know I’ve been waiting for, the time to finally try to scale up a bit so that Trent can feel the heat. Next week I plan to kick off our initial marketing efforts, so I’ll save an overview of what we are doing for that update. But content marketing will be part of it, and as such I need to find a decent writer (and no I can’t afford Trent’s services yet). This past week I interviewed a few.
That’s all this week. My family and I continue to hit the beach every weekend (Friday – Monday, specifically) which always makes it a challenge to execute on the work front during the week. I often think back to my single days when I lived in SF’s Mission District — it seemed much easier to launch my previous business when I was working 24-7! That said I’m not complaining because I love my family time, and swimming in the surf really helps me chill out.
So until next week —