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Race For 20K Agency Challenge

Mineral Update for September 19th

Race For 20K Agency Challenge drip campaign

Hi Bright Ideas readers, Drew again from DrewSanocki.com. As a refresher, I run an agency — Mineral.io — that is competing with Groove in a race for recurring revenue. My agency focuses on delivering services to ecommerce retailers.

I want to share some updates on what we’ve been working on, as well as some open questions I’ve been pondering lately.

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Race for 20K

Mineral Weekly Update for August 8th


Race For 20K Agency Challenge August 8 ab split testingHi Bright Ideas readers, my name is Drew, I blog at drewsanocki.com, and I run an agency — Mineral.io — that is competing with Trent’s Groove agency in the Race to $20K in recurring revenue.

So July was a “zero” month for Mineral: we started the month at $7K recurring, and we ended the month at $7K recurring.

The big reason for this was it’s the summer!

Every summer my family and I hit the beach every Friday – Monday, which typically leaves me only three days in the office. And during those working days I do a fair amount of consulting outside of Mineral, so Mineral definitely took a backseat.

Mineral did, however, relaunch our landing page over the past week. The new one is up at Mineral.io — as you can see it’s a bit of a “long form sales letter”. At the top, you’ll see a lot of empathetic writing meant to draw the reader in. This is followed by a more-or-less clear articulation of our solution, and at the very bottom, is a pricing table.

We also have a “B” version of the page that is more visual and less copy intensive, so I’ll be sure to work that in for some nice AB split testing.  We also are preparing a short autoresponder course to integrate with both pages to improve lead conversions.

The persona we are targeting with the page is the Shopify store owner. We went pretty narrow here because 1) they represent some of the better clients in our current concierge MVP, and 2) I plan on blogging for Shopify over the next month. Hence the focus.

Our plan is to have Shopify store owners read through the page, click through the pricing table, and hit a Recurly checkout. $20K in recurring revenue will result (again, according to plan).

Will it all work? We’ll find out soon — next week we will start driving some traffic to the page, and I’m holding a short webinar for Shopify store owners.  With any luck I’ll have more income to report by next update.

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

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[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

Race For 20K Agency Challenge July 18

Mineral Weekly Update for July 18th

Race For 20K Agency Challenge July 18 process improvement

Hi Bright Ideas readers, my name is Drew, I blog at drewsanocki.com, and I run an agency — Mineral.io — that is competing with Trent’s Groove agency in the Race to $20K in recurring revenue.

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:

  1. Process improvement
  2. Implemented Teamwork
  3. Recruited three more paid search contractors
  4. Rewrote our landing page to make more Shopify specific
  5. Spoke to several writers

Process improvement

 

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.

Implemented Teamwork

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 —

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

 

Race For 20K Agency Challenge July 4

Mineral Weekly Update for July 4

Race For 20K Agency Challenge July 4 operations automation

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.

Weekly Update

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.

Operations Automation

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?”
  4. 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.
  5. customer serviceClient 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.

Happy Fourth,

Drew

Hey, thanks for the info. Now what?

If you need any help with content creation, we have tons of free resources to get you over the hump. Please subscribe to this blog to ensure that you never miss an article.

Have questions or comments? Please contact me.

If you really enjoyed this post, please help us to spread the word by clicking one of the social media sharing buttons.

Thanks so much!

[xyz-ihs snippet=”BuildGroove”]

 

Race For 20K Agency Challenge - Mineral Digital Marketing Agency Intro

Mineral Digital Marketing Agency: An Intro

 

Mineral Digital Marketing Agency Intro

Hello BrightIdeas.co readers!

My name is Drew, and I am Trent’s competition in the “Race for $20K” agency challenge.  I thought I’d focus this week’s update — my first — on who I am and what I am trying to do. That way you all will know who the guy is who is kicking Trent’s ass all over western Idaho after beating him over the head with a sack of potatoes.

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