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Agency Insights: How Julian Stubbs Built a $3M Virtual Global Agency

Julian Stubbs is a brand strategist, writer, and presenter who has developed brand strategies and identities for a wide range of organisations and places – from Hollywood movie company Technicolor, to the Nobel Peace Prize Concert, to the Swedish city of Stockholm.

Julian was formerly owner and CEO of Dowell//Stubbs Brand Communications, but sold the company to GyroHSR Group in June 2007, where he took on the role of Global Head of Branding. He resigned from GyroHSR in June 2010 to found UP THERE, EVERYWHERE with his long time business partner, American Eric Dowell. As Julian’s wife is also American, he thinks God, if he is UP there somewhere, is possibly trying to tell him something, and one day he will possibly have to move stateside to live and see what all the fuss is about.

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Our Chat Today

  • How did you come up with the name?
  • How much revenue are you doing?
  • How did you start your company?
  • How did you get your first few clients?
  • What types of leads are you getting?
  • What types of lead magnets are you using?
  • What types of customers do you work with?
  • Do your referrals play a role?
  • What do you mean by “you don’t pitch”?
  • How are you attracting your team members?
  • Why do your clients care about your global model?
  • Do you use offers of any kind?
  • What types of tools are you using for communication?
  • How do you manage finance and admin?
rebecca geier

How Focusing on One Niche Helped Trew Marketing to Achieve Extraordinary Results

rebecca geier virtual agency interview

Are you trying to decide if you should focus on a niche market? Are you considering starting a virtual agency?

Today we interview Rebecca Geier, the CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing headquartered in Austin, TX. Trew Marketing is a full-service marketing agency serving engineering, science, and technology companies. Learn why they selected this niche and how it has helped their company grow.

Listen now and you’ll hear Rebecca and I talk about:

  • (01:00)  Introductions
  • (04:10)  Why is your agency virtual?
  • (09:00)  What is your background?
  • (10:20)  How did you get your agency started?
  • (18:20)  What happened when your sales pipeline went dry?
  • (26:40)  What were some of the prospecting tactics that you used back then?
  • (32:30)  Why did you say ” No to grow “?
  • (37:20)  Why is niche focus so important? How should you pick one?

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.

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Transcript

Trent:
Hey there bright idea hunters. Welcome back to episode number 152 of the Bright Ideas Podcast, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs to discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions and profits well you’re in the right place. So how do I make good on that promise? Well, each episode I bring on an expert guest to share with me exactly the strategies and tactics that they used to become successful and many of my guests are entrepreneurs just like you. So it’s really a fantastic opportunity to be able to“look over the shoulder” of another successful entrepreneur so that you can model what they did in an effort to achieve very similar results.

On this episode my guest is a woman by the name of Rebecca Geier; she is a co-founder of a very successful marketing agency called Trew Marketing based down there in Austin, Texas. In this interview Rebecca and I are going to talk about the very beginning of the agency, how they made the transition from being employees of a corporation to running their own company. We’re going to talk about what they did when their sales pipeline went dry, very early on, which was as you can imagine a pretty scary experience.

We’re going to talk about how much of a pay cut she took and how long it took her to regain the level of her salary and of course how much beyond that she has now gone thanks to taking the plunge and running her own business. We’re going to talk about why they focused on a niche, what that niche is and how incredibly beneficial focusing on a single niche has been to their organisation and so much more. This is really a wonderful interview and I think that you are going to get a lot out of it.

Before we get to that, quick announcement; I get a lot of emails from people asking me for recommendations for typically software to use in their business, for landing pages, or video hosting or split testing, you name it. I have a list of all of the tools that I use and you can get to it at GrabTrentsBonus.com. The reason for that funny URL is that many of the links on that page are affiliate links, so if you use those links to make a purchase, I get paid a little bit of money.

My way of expressing my appreciation to you for using the Bright Ideas affiliate link and there is instructions at Grab Trents Bonus on how to do this, but basically you send in your receipt and then I give you a choice of a couple of my paid products and you can choose one of them, which I will then give to you as a free bonus as a thank you for using the affiliate link.
So with that said please join me in welcoming Rebecca to the show. Hey Rebecca, welcome to the show.

Rebecca:
Thanks Trent

Trent:
It’s a pleasure to have you here.

Rebecca:
Yeah, I’m excited.

Trent:
So we’re going to dive into the story of how you have built your agency into the success that it is today. But, before we get into all the details of what it is that you have done, and how you got there I’d love my audience to know who they are listening to so please take a moment and just introduce yourself.

Rebecca:
Ok, my name is Rebecca Geier, and I am CEO and co-founder of Trew Marketing, a marketing agency headquartered here in Austin, Texas, but we actually have a team of people all over the country.

Trent:
So you are a virtual agency, everybody works from home?

Rebecca:
We are, we’re home office and virtual with people in Boston, Denver, Portland, and LA as well as Austin.

Trent:
I’m going to take a sidebar here totally of the scripted questions, do you ever have clients that are concerned about that? You and I both know that it doesn’t make a hell of a difference and I think most clients do, today?

Rebecca:
Yeah

Trent:
Has that ever cost you a deal?

Rebecca:
Never, and in fact it is interesting because a lot of our clients, as we will get into our story more and you will see they’re very conservative people and they’re intrigued by it. They actually think it is cool, so no; it has never hurt us at all.

Trent:
So lesson number one for any would be consultants in the office: don’t ever worry about the fact that you work from home. On the show I have interviewed countless, very successful agencies, all doing 7 figures, many of whom are entirely virtual, don’t have an office and never will.

Rebecca:
Cool, that is good to know. It is reassuring. It was a leap for us when we started because we came from a big corporation but being in Austin, it’s interesting because one of the earlier doctors have virtual settings of all people, of all companies as IBM, and they’ve been doing it for years. If I would say it is an advantage, certainly on the expense line as well as inner coolness.

Trent:
Yeah, and in my own experience with one of the people that I hired, at my agency recently which is also virtual like yours, was able to get someone very talented, that I probably couldn’t have afforded, if I said you have to drive and she doesn’t even live in the town we live in. If she did, which would have made it harder to find someone of this particular skill set and experience, she would have wanted more money. She says: ‘I place a massive value on being able to get the work done when my schedule allows for it to be done”.

Rebecca:
Yeah, we have found that it is a significant appeal for certain people who have a long commute, who maybe are looking for more balance, who want that flexibility in their lives. Being virtual does not withstand being very professional and I think people sometimes think well if you are virtual or you’re home office in some ways there is a risk there of seeming not professional.

We take it very seriously, our audio mic’s, all the logistics, to make sure that we sound clear on the phone, that we’re professional in all that we do so that we still give that perception and create that value around professional working. That would be one thing that I would say is that you can’t skimp on a good headset, good internet access and making sure you have all the right infrastructure. That would be one cavy I would say.

Trent:
The other thing too, I think you can make the case for being virtual requires that you be even more organised and have better systems and processes, and that should give a client comfort, and the great thing about doing what we do is that what we do for ourselves is ironically we’re doing the same thing for our clients that we do for ourselves so when we show them all of our internal processes and checklists and they are interested to see it we’re going to say, “Hey this is the same stuff that we’re going to be using to manage a relationship with you.” I think that goes a long way to giving people comfort like, “Wow, these people are really organised.”

Rebecca:
Yeah, what I like to say at Trew, we try to model good marketing behaviour and so we do the same thing using ourselves a lot.

Trent:
Alright, rabbit hole number one, and who knows how many more there will be. So, Trew Marketing, where are you at today, just so that the audience has some idea of how big or little your company really is?

Rebecca:
We are on our path to 7 digits, that’s our goal this year. We are a team of about 20, a mix of partner and employee and like I said we’re all over the country with our team and we have a very unique niche. At Trew Marketing we are a full service marketing agency, very specifically working with a very narrow market of scientists and engineers and companies who are targeting very technical audiences, so that’s a little bit about Trew.

Trent:
Let’s talk a little about your background because I’m sure that there are some people listening to this, who might be a marketer at a corporation and thinking: “Man, I would really like to go to it on my own” and then there are obviously some others who are consultants, I know I have a fair number of consultants and independent freelancers etc. that listen to the show. So, what did you do before and let’s talk a little bit about the transition, because it’s a really scary part, for especially for people who have never been an entrepreneur, that going out on their own kind of thing for many of them it’s just too much and sadly they never end up doing it. So, a little bit about your background and the transition.

Rebecca:
I can totally relate, I’m so risk averse, so the fear is huge for me, but to backtrack; I came out of college, had a few different jobs at Start-up at actually one of the large ad agencies here in Austin and then I got into a position at one of America’s best companies, a company headquartered her in Austin, called National Instruments. I worked there for 14 years in a variety of different roles from product positioning and go to market strategies, building campaigns around technical products both software and hardware as well as on the communications side, from corporate communications and executive level to Wall street and even internally with employees; a wide variety of marketing roles.

We had a phenomenal team internally and they still do today and they did almost all of the marketing internally, so even though I was more focused on the communications and the product launching side of the business, I was sitting around the table day in and day out with the people heading up events and the web and content and design, so I was in direct marketing etc. I was exposed to all of integrated marketing which was a huge benefit for me, a real blessing.

That gave me the background to be able to go out and have a good understanding of integrated marketing as we started the full service agency. We made a very specific decision, a very intentional decision, to not start an agency that is just PR or just content or just web. We really believe holistically in integrated marketing and so we like to say we channel diagnostics starting with business schools of an organisation trying to understand; what are they trying to accomplish, who do they want and need to be in their market, what does the competition look like and then how can marketing serve those goals, and then picking the channels and the right mix that make sense in an integrated way, to achieve those goals.

Trent:
Tell me a little bit about the transition, what was it that gave you sort of the courage to jump off the ship, so to speak and go into the rubber dingy?

Rebecca:
It was definitely a really, really tall ship and a vast ocean with I would even say a life preserver. I had been at the company, at National Instruments for 14 years, and I could easily have been there 14 more and have a wonderful career, but for me personally, I was looking for a challenge.

I really want to have a challenge, I want to be adding value and I also got to a point; and this isn’t uncommon in larger organisations, I became much more focused in my day to day and in my time, and managing other people in hoping to clear paths for people to be successful, in being in a lot of meetings, slow moving decision making and again not to any large company; it’s just that is how it needs to be the right decisions come out that way.

But I had really moved away from the craft of marketing and I really love and I’m very very passionate about marketing and it was such a phenomenal company that I was at, and my business partner Wendy, the thought of going to another company was really big shoes that they had to fill to entice me to come over, so we just started talking over long lunchtime workouts and late night happy hours and just started talking about it. She’s more open to risk than I am so we’re a good mix in that way in our business, even today. We really just balance each other out, but we kind of went back and forth between: “Ok we’re ready to do this,” and mostly me taking a step back; “I’m not sure.”

In the end it was a matter of just getting an Excel spreadsheet out, trying to crunch some numbers on what we’ll need compared to our existing salaries, what our families could withstand for a year or two in a greatly reduced income. Just the hard facts, the hard discussions with our spouses of moving out of the really comfortable safe corporate job to the scary world of business ownership.

I decided in the end, and this may be helpful for people listening: ok, I know I’m a smart person, I have been successful in marketing so far and it’s not that I’m new to marketing and so I had the foundation to build on. My husband and I sat down and we decided, “Ok, I’m going to do this for a year, if it fails, that is ok; I will have learned a lot, I will have spread my wings, I will have had a great challenge.”

I knew there might be an opportunity for me to go back to the company that I had come from, or I may decide to spread my wings, small business didn’t work out, I know I could go and do something else. I took the pressure off myself of; I have to build a successful company and instead I’d try to break it down into a smaller chunk and say:

“I’m going to take a year off from what I’m doing and I’m going to try something really scary and really exciting for a year,” and if I don’t like it or if it doesn’t work out financially, or I wasn’t at good at marketing as I thought I was, for whatever reason; that’s ok. Then I’m going to give it a year and I’m going to do something else, or may, like I said, go back to the company.

Taking that pressure off myself of a long-term salary that I have to start bringing in, and just trying to think of it as a pilot for a year, I had the benefit of being able to do that, that really helped.

Trent:
How much of a pay cut did you end up taking in that first twelve months?

Rebecca:
My business partner stayed at the company about four to six more months after I left, so we split her salary. I had a couple of customers that were more aligned to my service area, so I left first and we were able to start bringing in some income and then we started to look at the pipeline. Then Wendy ended up leaving and joining me, so then we lost her salary, I would say a good 75% pay cut.

Trent:
How about in year two?

Rebecca:
Year two was the year after Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy and everything want to hell in a hand basket economically so probably again 75%, maybe 50% towards the end of that year.

Trent:
How about now?

Rebecca:
Probably 50% greater.

Trent:
Yeah, I knew there had to be a role model there somewhere.

Rebecca:
I was back to salary in probably in year three, in year four I was passed it and now we’re 50% more and probably will double.

Trent:
Early on and I asked you about this in the pre-interview, your first six customers came from the corporate role at ex, people that you knew and then your pipeline went completely dry and you kind of had a really big A-ha. I think it was after a mentor or competitor asked you a question. What was that question?

Rebecca:
This was another agency here in Austin, a very good friend of mine, Austin has a very entrepreneurial collaborative business environment, we’re all very friendly and supportive of each other and he invited me down to his office and said: “Ok Rebecca, you’ve been in this about six to nine months, who are the next three customers that you’re going after, that you want in your portfolio?”

I had absolutely no answer to that question, and it was at that moment that I realised; and as I went back and told my business partner: “Do you know the answer to this question?”That we realised that we had been very reactive.

Again it was a blessing, we came out and had some great opportunities and we reacted to those and we’re executing on those. We didn’t have our eyes ahead and we were not being pro-active and intentional about who we wanted as customers, as first as who we could get and that was very transformational for us.

Trent:
What did you do to solve that problem?

Rebecca:
We took a real hard look in the mirror at what is our unique value-add. There’s wonderful marketing agencies out there in Austin and all across the country, what can we uniquely do that compliments what they do? Not necessarily better, but what do we uniquely bring to the table that other people just can’t bring?

When we had that hard reflection in the mirror and with each other, we realized that what we’re passionate about is marketing, but more specifically we’re very passionate about working with engineers and scientists. The people who are literally improving health, improving life, improving safety, doing phenomenal work in services and in products in our country and certainly across the world.

When we started thinking in that way then we said; “Ok, who were the companies that we want to have working, that we want to work for, that we want to help that we know we can uniquely add value to,” and we started to carve out those companies and an event that they were going to be at and put up a plan together of how to go after them.

Trent:
Do you have a piece of advice for; let’s say that there’s another young agency or young consultant listening to this episode, and maybe they are good at marketing, but maybe they don’t have the experience with science or engineers that you have, and they are listening to this and they are going: “You know, that’s a good idea but I don’t know how to figure out the answer to that question.” Is there any advice that you would give them?

Rebecca:
I would just go back to that very first question which is: “Who are the next three customers that, if you had the choice you would have?” It could be a size of company, it could be a geographic location, it could be a particular marketing need that they have or it could be very specifically related to skill set that you have.

Maybe here the first thing you would do is make a list of twenty and then you start to prioritize and maybe even number them on to twenty and then sit back, and try not to think about why, just number them; gut feel. Once you numbered them then sit back and say: “Ok, why is that one company, why are they number one or why are the top five, why are they top and why are the fifteen to twenty ending up down there?”
What is it about, and try to extrapolate out the why; of why some companies seem more appealing to you than others?

You might start to be able to deduce what that unique interest or capability or attribute of those companies are that might be a good guide post for you, to try and find more like them, maybe you can get those ones or others like them, it starts to give you a base of criteria.

Trent:
At this point for the audience’s benefit, I would like to interject a book that I’ve read and it’s called: The Ultimate Sales Machine by a guy by the name of Chad Holmes and for those of you that have been following my posts on building Groove, you’ve heard me talk about the term Target 100, and I learned that from Chad. I would really encourage anyone who wants more meat on this particular point, to grab a copy of Chad’s book, read it, learn about the Target 100, learn about a thing called: The Core Story and you’ll find immense value in that part.

There’s only a couple of chapters of the book which really is the most salient, so it won’t take you long to read at all. I can’t underscore the importance enough of having that core group of people whether it be ten or twenty or fifty or whatever, but it’s not 500.

Rebecca:
Trent, what’s the name of the book again?

Trent:
The Ultimate Sales Machine, and one of the central points; I’ll hijack here a little bit, one of the central points of the book is this thing called The Stadium Pitch. If you think about it, if you were on stage and there was a 1000 people in the audience, you could say: “Who here is in the market for a car right now?” About 3%, according to Chad’s research, about 3% of the room is going to put up their hand. Who is looking for a house? Who is looking for a dentist? Who is looking for a plumber? There is always about 3% of a given audience that knows they have a problem and are actively looking for a solution.

There is about another 7% that are open to the idea of making a change or buying something new. The other 90% of the audience really is not open at that point in time, so to try and sell them is a waste of your breath. Part of the idea of having a core story is that instead of having a sales pitch that’s about features and benefits etc. you want to use education based marketing.

Chad wrote this book quite a while ago; I do not know what the exact published date was but well before this whole content marketing buzz word thing became so very, very popular and if you educate rather than sell, you’re going to appeal to a much larger percentage of the stadium and have a greater opportunity.

So if you combine two key concepts of having this list; he calls it the Target 100, that you’re pursuing on a ongoing basis and instead of saying sell, sell, sell, you are educate, educate, educate you are much, much more likely to get some of that commodity that is so incredibly difficult to get to their attention. Of course, once you have their attention, conversations increase, engagement and relationships and obviously the ball starts rolling in the direction that you need it to.

Rebecca:
That’s super; I’m definitely going to read that.

Trent:
We talked as well in our pre-interview about some prospecting tactics, do you remember that part?

Rebecca:
I do.

Trent:
I want you to talk a little bit about the prospecting tactics that you used, and I, sadly in my notes I don’t remember whether you did this for a certain phase of time in the beginning or whether you still do this, I can’t recall.

Rebecca:
This is something that we primarily did in this transformational time of really narrowing our focus. We still do some of it online, but we found that it works best when you have an established awareness of each other and maybe even a relationship in the past. When we looked at our pipeline and thought about this question of what were the three next customers that you want, we put a list together like I was talking about and many of them were partners of the past company that we had worked for.

They have a large partner network of hundreds of partners but they have a small subset of really well established, sophisticated, growing partners that were right in our niche that were growing in their marketing and needs.

The corporation was interested in seeing them really growing their brands and become more established and sophisticated in their marketing, so it was a good match. We identified those, about twenty companies and between Wendy and I discussed who had the better relationship or history with maybe the owner, or one of the sales people or someone that could introduce us.

We found people, if we didn’t know them personally, we found people that would introduce us to those companies and then we offered to do a scoped audit of their marketing. They had to fill out a questionnaire, so there was some skin in the game for them, they would fill out the questionnaire, we would do some audit of our own, do a cursory audit of our own.

There was an event here in Austin in August where they all were going to be at, so we asked for a one hour consultation with them, where we would share our findings. What we also brought to that meeting was a brief scope of work of what it would cost for to hire us to implement those recommendations. We probably ended up having ten meetings, or so, maybe eight to ten and of those three converted to customers, and two of those three are still customers today, six years later.

Trent:
Very nice. I want to hang onto this one for a minute; think about if you have, because Rebecca have just imparted some incredibly good advice in these last two questions. What a lot of really inexperienced people do is, they just spray and pray and they figure that success is in the numbers so they don’t have this list first of all. If you think about it intuitively, you will look for an event in your town and look at who is going to attend the event and then the great thing about marketing is that you can look at a company’s website and you can look at their marketing.

Rebecca:
Absolutely.

Trent:
You can pretty much figure out if they suck or not. You then make your list of your twenty companies that really aren’t doing very well with their marketing and then you find this event that they are going to be at. You focus yourself on engaging them on social, and sending helpful articles to them and basically just being helpful. Just because who doesn’t want someone to be helpful? Everybody is receptive to good ideas. It’s not going to take long until these people know who you are and you attend this event.

Now they meet you, and maybe your next step is asking for a meeting, or maybe your next step like one of my other guests did when she first started was a webinar. She only got twenty attendees to her first webinar, but three of them converted to clients, so all I’m trying to say is that the power of concentration can be very, very effective when combined with the right education based message.

Rebecca:
This is actually something that we don’t do the audit per se and ask for the consultation, but we have some very targeted trade shows, primarily in the bay area that we’ll take the expense. My business partner heads up more of this Davens Hillside and we will just take the expense, we’ll have some people helping her on the team, we’ll go through the entire exhibitor list.

Exactly what you are saying Trent, we’ll go to the website, we’ll look at their PR, we’ll look at their social accounts, see what they’re doing, when was their last news release. We have a list of just ten or fifteen things that we go through and do just from the information that’s available online. Then we see if anyone from those companies is in our database and then we do a very targeted email to them, we go in LinkedIn and try and find their email address of some person in marketing.

A trick is often you can find the person who has contact information on a news release, so if you actually go in and open a PDF, and often it will say for more information for the media to contact, they will actually have an email or phone number in there. Between that and LinkedIn we will find a person that we can email, and we will email them a very direct custom email just to them.

We will do about twenty of these asking for a meeting, we’re going to be at the show and we would like to stop by for fifteen minutes and introduce ourselves and learn more about your company. Those have been fairly successful for us and I’m not going to lie; there are shows that we spend 750 dollars on hotel and flights and head out there for a day and a half and come back.

In the near term it didn’t looked like anything happened but even then sometimes we’ll get an email back six months later. It takes patience, but that very targeted custom approach has really paid off for us.

Trent:
Absolutely. So at some point in time when you do all of this stuff, you start to get some momentum, and you start to get some clients and you start to get some referrals. You made a decision to, as you said: “Say no to grow”.

Rebecca:
Correct.

Trent:
What does that mean?

Rebecca:
That means that we stayed true to our niche, and we refer business on to other agencies, or other partners that we have, who are a better fit for that organisation. The way that this came about was that we did the audit, we went to the event and in 2009 we had great success coming out of that. At the same time I’m an avid Wall Street Journal reader and they were doing a contest for small businesses to nominate themselves in particular describing how they not only have survived but thrived through the downturn.

You have to remember that this was the fall of 2009 so we were still on the throws of the downward trend line. I decided, on a whim, with about two days to go before the deadline that we would nominate Trew. I had one of our interns who helped me, who did a phenomenal job; we got it in just by the skin of our teeth.

We waited a couple of months and low and behold we were selected as one of the ten most innovative entrepreneurs in America, Wendy and I, my business partner. In that interview with the Wall Street Journal she asked what set us apart and why I think we were selected was I think the irony that in a downturn we turned business away, and that was really intriguing to the Wall Street Journal editorial staff.

The idea was that every time we take an opportunity that is outside of our niche, it’s less reinforcing to the sceptical engineer who doesn’t really believe in marketing, doesn’t understand it, thinks it’s expensive, they are very formulaic and marketing is becoming more and more formulaic but certainly there’s a lot of qualitative intuition to it as well and there’s a lot of best practice and methodology to it.
The more examples that we can show of engineers placing their trust in us, the more that another new engineer will be more open to the idea of working with us.

So if we have a children’s hospital or a non-profit or a municipality or hotel; come to us and they see that on our website, engineers they don’t relate to that, but if they see these are just some of our customers doing Wi-Fi into human implanted medical devices, or they see customers testing the arming on the F35 or they see customers testing dynameters of automobiles, or doing embedded software of highway machinery like massive John Deere tractors, or measuring the vibration of the earth.

They may not necessarily know what all those applications entail, or how to do them, but they understand that we are working with people that are like minded and that was really, really important for us. In that Wall Street Journal interview in our nomination, we said: “We say no to grow” and that has been the key to our growth and success. Absolutely.

Trent:
And to your profit margin too.

Rebecca:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Trent:
Before we wrap up, what haven’t we covered; if you were a brand new agency and you’re listening to this interview, you would have loved to have heard or even just an entrepreneur, not only an agency, an entrepreneur looking for inspiration and for ways to grow their business?

Rebecca:
It’s a great question and I get this question a lot and certainly meet with a lot of people here in town and actually I have a meeting tomorrow with someone in Chicago for the same reason. It really comes back to a saying that the CEO of National Instruments said that was really an inspiration for us and was an inspiration for them and now they’re a multibillion dollar company and it’s this idea of determining what your niche is and then dominating it and then growing from there.

The Target 100 that you talked about Trent or the making the list of twenty, extrapolating out from that what your unique capabilities are or what the unique appeal of those top 5 companies are that your really intentionally want to be working with.

It’s hard, it’s scary to turn down an opportunity and I certainly don’t recommend it when you are first starting; you got to take the opportunities that come to build up your services and your operations and just bring in cash.

That’s just the reality of that, but as you grow and you can really refine what your brand is as an agency and what you want to mean to people and what you don’t want to mean, it’s very powerful. It doesn’t have to be something that you do overnight, you can grow into it, but having that and really taking some time out to think about that vision of who you really want to be, can be very, very rewarding both just professionally but also financially as you mentioned.

Trent:
I want to chime in on this one as well as I do get quite a number of emails from people who are listeners and readers saying: “How do I pick a niche, how do I pick a niche?” I would say you don’t sit down on a weekend when you’re starting out and pick a niche, I think that there’s an immense amount of risk in doing that because if you pick it wrong, you’re going to spent all this time going after a niche where you maybe just don’t get any traction for whatever reason you were unable to predict beforehand. I think, Rebecca, what you just said is right, look at your first year and say first of all we need oxygen so that we do not die and cash flow is oxygen.

The mistake that I think you didn’t make and a lot of people make is at the end of that first year they still haven’t picked their niche and they are still taking anybody and everybody, because they maybe didn’t even just think about the strategy behind their growth, they are just taking client after client; they’re on the treadmill they’re running.

The take away that I hope people get from listening to you is that: once you get enough oxygen that you know the patient is not going to die, take a moment and start thinking about who do we like working with the most, what is the best mesh of our personalities, what type of clients are most profitable, what are the trends that are in the industries that we are dealing with and are those trends headed in the direction that we would need them to be if we are going to be focused on this niche?

Maybe talk to some of those customers and ask a few of them for referrals, just use the feedback that you get from the people who are already dealing with you to assist you in making the decision of what is this niche that you should focus on.

Rebecca:
I think that’s exactly right and Trent, you just hit on something that I think would also be a recommendation that
I would have. One of the things I mentioned early on is I’m totally risk averse, I am the kid that sits in front of the class, turns the homework in a day early. I’m the most risk averse person to start a business.

One of the things I told my business partner is: “You know what, it will make me feel better, I would like to meet with three or four people who own businesses before we start and just ask them a bunch of questions, it will help us as partners, hear from each other and reflect on what they are telling us, it doesn’t even have to be in marketing”.

We had probably three or four hour dinner meetings with people that we trusted, family, friends, an agency here in town who has been a mentor to me for years and just asked them so many questions; “How much cash did you start with, what would you do differently, what’s the best part, what’s the worst part, if you had it all over again would you do it?”

We had twenty to twenty five questions and we just asked them and we learned so much. You can do that with as you’re thinking about starting your own business with other business owners but I like what you said Trent; think about the customers that you would like to have and pick a few whether they are on your target list or are similar to them or maybe it’s a friend and take them to lunch, use that time to work through your questions. In that period of time also ask people what they think your strengths are, if they know you in a professional capacity.

You can really start to learn a lot about yourself by hearing what your brand means to other people and what they associate you with and start from a position of strength and build on that.

Trent:
Yeah, I could not agree more. Alright Rebecca, let’s wrap it up here. I think that we’ve covered everything that I had hoped to cover in this interview and I would like to thank you very much.
Rebecca:

Thank you.
Trent:
If people would like to get a hold of you is Twitter a good way to do that?

Rebecca:
Sure, Twitter is fine, it’s RebeccaG.

Trent:
Ok, I’ll put that in the show notes. RebeccaG. Ok Rebecca, have yourself a wonderful day and thanks for being on the show.

Rebecca:
You bet. Thank you so much Trent.

Trent:
Alright to get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/152 and if you enjoyed this episode please do me a favour and help me spread the word by going to BrightIdeas.co/love where there is a tweet awaiting the click of your mouse. So that is it for this episode, I am your host Trent Dyrsmid, thank you so very much for tuning in. I look forward to having you back for another episode soon.

Take care, have a wonderful day, bye bye.

About Rebecca Geier

With 20 years of global marketing experience, Rebecca leads the TREW team in building strategic, thoughtful, and sustainable plans for a wide variety of projects, from redesigning an organization’s website and leading in-depth research to defining the positioning and messaging for companies, products and campaigns.

Rebecca and TREW co-founder Wendy Covey were named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the Ten Most Innovative Entrepreneurs in America, and TREW Marketing has been named as a Top B2B Agency multiple years.

FRACHEL COGAR

How to Build a 7 Figure Virtual Inbound Agency with Rachel Cogar

Rachel Cogar is the CEO of Puma Creative, a 7-figure boutique inbound marketing agency and an evangelist for inbound marketing methodology. In addition to running her business, Rachel juggles Mom duties with three children, including a 6-week-old newborn.

Puma Creative is a 100% virtual agency with a team of 13 people all around the world. They focus on small to mid-size businesses around the world that believe in the power of inbound marketing. Their clients are all on retainers of $4000 – $10,000 per month.

Would you like your business to look like that? When you listen to this episode, you will learn exactly how she did it.

Listen now and you’ll hear Rachel and I talk about:

  • (04:45) Introduction
  • (05:30) What types of customers do you most often attract?
  • (08:30) What size retainer do you charge?
  • (10:30) What research do you rely on?
  • (11:40) Which Healthcare sub-niches do are you having success with?
  • (14:30) How did you get traction in healthcare?
  • (19:00) How are you using LinkedIn in your marketing sales?
  • (21:40) Please explain your process to qualify a lead.
  • (25:00) Do you pass your qualified leads to another application?
  • (28:00) How do I automate the sales process?
  • (35:00) Please explain some of your internal procedures & processes.
  • (48:00) Please tell us about your ROWE(Results Only Work Environment).
  • (54:00) What advice would you give to people looking to build a virtual team?

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

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:

Transcript

Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome back to Episode #140 of the Bright Ideas Podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid, and this is the podcast where we help entrepreneurs discover ways to use digital marketing and marketing automation to dramatically increase the growth of their business.

If you’re an entrepreneur looking for proven tactics and strategies to help you increase traffic, conversions, profits,and ultimately attract more customers of course, well guess what, my friends, you are in the right place. This is exactly what we do on this podcast. The way that we do that is I bring on other entrepreneurs who are walking their talk and getting results and then I get them to share with you and me, exactly what it is they’re doing to achieve all the success that they have, and this episode is exactly that.

In this episode, my guest is a woman by the name of Rachel Cogar. Rachel is the owner of an agency, a seven-figure agency, called Puma Creative. She’s also the mother of three with a brand new newborn just six weeks old at the time of this recording, and she, much like myself, is an absolute evangelist for the inbound marketing methodology. Her agency, by the way, is also 100% virtual. She works out of her house and has a team of 13 people spread all around the world and they are serving clients all around the world, and these clients are paying retainers of anywhere from $4,000 to about $10,000 or $12,000 per month.

Just imagine the lifestyle that she has with a business like that. Would you like to have that kind of life? Would you like your business to look like that? When you listen to this episode, you’re going to hear exactly how she did it.

We’re going to talk about the types of customers that she deals with. We’re going to talk about how she creates content and, most importantly, how she’s using LinkedIn to place that content in front of the exact target customer that she wants to have. Then we’re going to talk about the inbound methodology and how her funnel is built, and how she takes leads from being information qualified through to being marketing qualified, and then ultimately sales qualified. We share some ideas back and forth on how automation plays a role in that, both on the marketing and on the sales side.

If you’re using HubSpot now, but you don’t have a CRM system in place to handle a lead once they become sales qualified, you’re going to get some really valuable, golden nuggets on exactly how to do that.

We talked a lot about how she’s using data to support the claims that she’s making to her prospective clients. We name specifically from HubSpot that she’s using to get that data. Man, oh, man. There is just so much good stuff in this.

Then at the very end we talked about what many people call a results-only work environment. We talk about building a virtual and we talk about how we manage that team and some of the tools that we use. It’s that process that allows her and I to run these businesses where we can literally be anywhere in the world that we want to, so long as we have an internet connection, and it’s just business as usual when we’re doing it.

That’s it. No fluff, no puffery, just real stuff and in this episode you are going to get a ton of it. So in just a moment we’re going to welcome Rachel to the show.

Before we do that, my very quick announcement as always is I get a lot of emails from people saying, “Trent, what are the tools that you use to run your business? How do I create landing pages? What should I use for video hosting? Where should I host my WordPress site? What themes should I use? What should I use for email marketing? What should I use for marketing automation? How should I do content marketing?” and on and on it goes.

I have a list of all of the tools that I use. Some of those links on that list are affiliate links which means that if you click them and you buy the other people’s stuff, they’ll send me a little commission for promoting it.

Now as a thank you to for doing that, if you go to GrabTrentsBonus.com, you will see a list of all the tools and my recommendations for them that I use in my business. If you do choose to use any of those affiliate links to buy lead pages or whatever it is that you want to buy, then you send me your receipt afterwards and I have some free stuff for you, my paid products. I will give you a couple of choices on things that you can get for free and that’s just my way of saying thank you for using my affiliate link.

With that said, please join me in welcoming Rachel to the show. Hey, Rachel. Welcome to the show.

Rachel: Hey, Trent. Thanks for having me today.

Trent: No problem. It’s my pleasure to have you on and come and share with my audience the story of how you have built and are building your agency. I’m really keen to get into all the nitty- gritty of all the things that you’ve done to get the results that you’ve got. But so far I think we need to start off with allowing you to introduce yourself so that the audience knows who they’re listening to. We’ll talk about what some of those results are very early on and then, as I mentioned, we’ll get into the nuts and bolt of how you achieved them.

With that said, please take a moment and introduce yourself. Who are you and what do you do?

Rachel: Well, I am Rachel Cogar. I am the CEO of Puma Creative. We are an inbound marketing consultancy, a boutique agency and we help small- to medium-sized businesses across the globe to get their business and their marketing strategies optimized so that they are following best practice, and really just optimizing the processes of their business in order to grow their business, enlighten their clients, and to continue to expand into their marketplaces.

Trent: So when you say small businesses, can you narrow that down for us a little bit? Is there any particular size or niche or some kind of focus that you’ve chosen to target?

Rachel: That’s an interesting question. We’ve actually tried the informal inbound marketing strategy with various businesses in various industries and verticals and various sizes. What I have found that I enjoy most is we enjoy working with companies that have five or six people that they can dedicate to the marketing effort. We enjoy working with people that understand inbound marketing as a belief system, as a philosophy, as a way of life, I guess, as opposed to that it’s just another arrow in the bag of marketing tricks.

As far as verticals and industries, we’ve worked a lot with healthcare, healthcare consulting, IT technology, and we’ve seen some really great results for those industries. Just recently, I guess a year ago, we brought on our first e-commerce retail client and it’s a completely different ballgame than the business-to-business marketing and the healthcare consulting or technology world. We’re learning those ropes. We’re learning how to apply the principles of inbound marketing to e-commerce and retail and the sales funnel is very different there. As far as the size, we like the small- to mid-sized businesses.

The enterprise is something… We’ve worked with one or two enterprise clients. We’ve found that it’s a lengthier process to go through to capture approvals and to devise a plan and to get it implemented and executed. A lot of times with our small business guys or medium-sized businesses we can devise a plan and start to implement next week and start to see results. If we need to monitor and adjust and change direction, we have the approval to do so and the hands-on experience of the team and the client to jump in and do that with us.

Does that answer your question, Trent?

Trent: It does to a certain degree and as always I’ve got some follow- on questions that I want to ask. Now in the pre-interview you mentioned to me because you’re an inbound agency 100% of your income is retainer income. What’s the average size retainer that you are getting from working with the size of clients that you work with?

Rachel: Our retainers are $4,000 monthly up to $12,000 to $15,000 monthly. Well, I just want to point out that that is really diverse to compare one $10,000 month retainer to another, to compare the two customers. They could look very different.

One could be a small business that doesn’t have a marketing department or doesn’t want to bring one on, so they look to us to be an extension of their team, to be their marketing department. For that sized retainer, they’re getting a copywriter, a graphic designer, a web developer, an inbound marketing strategist, a social media expert. They couldn’t get that for that cost if they went to hire all of those people and those experts into their business.

Then we have another client that might have the same retainer size at $10,000 a month, but they’ve got a couple of marketing people and maybe they’re a larger business as far as their revenue goes, but they’re looking for quicker results.

Our retainer fees are based on frequency. A lot of times we lay out for our clients, when they’re choosing how much money to invest in this, we look at some very key research that shows frequency of blogging and number of cumulative blogs on your website and compare that to lead volume and its impact on lead volume. We look at how many landing pages and there are some magic numbers along the way.

We have some clients that opt for a higher retainer so that they can have more frequency and get there quickly and reach critical mass and reach the momentum with their lead generation. Once they’ve reached that point sometimes they’ll scale back and maintain. Sometimes they bump it up and keep on going because they’re getting some results with that.

Trent: Now you mentioned based upon research and I know in our pre- interview we talked about an MIT report that was done in conjunction with HubSpot. Is that the body of research that you’re most often referring to or are there some other items?

Rachel: There are some others. I really like the MIT study. It’s the ROI of inbound marketing and the ROI of using HubSpot for inbound marketing. But some others that I like are “The State of Inbound Marketing” report and HubSpot has put out a couple of reports also, “7,000 Benchmarks for Businesses Using HubSpot and Inbound Marketing.” We refer to those quite often.

The one specifically I was referring to is there’s a graph in “The State of Inbound Marketing” report that shows that your number of cumulative blogs to the number of your median lead volume coming in. When you reach certain benchmarks in certain numbers your lead volume increases exponentially. We try to hit those magic numbers when we’re blogging and building landing pages, so that we can see the lead volume increase.

Trent: Perfect. Now going back to healthcare, healthcare is a huge niche and there are quite a number of sub-niches within it and I’m not even terribly familiar with it to be honest with you. What areas of healthcare are you working with when you say, “We deal with healthcare”?

Rachel: Healthcare it’s a very interesting subject matter right now just because there’s a lot of change happening. There are a lot of upset in the marketplace and there’s a lot of players. You’ve got your physicians. You’ve got your hospitals, your combo care organizations, your insurers. The clients that we worked with in the healthcare field… I neglected to mention there are also the patients, right? All of us.

The ones that we worked with are the business to business in the healthcare industry. It’s a technology company selling quality software to hospitals to keep up with provider data. Or it’s a healthcare consultant, consulting the hospital CEOs on patient safety and patient satisfaction and quality assurance.

We’ve seen that there’s a lot of movement right now and a lot of uncertainty in the healthcare field. What these hospitals and doctor’s offices are doing is they are having to be very efficient in their spending and in their income and how they generate revenue. That really comes directly back to how they market. Not only their operations and how they run their businesses, but how they market themselves. They have an opportunity here to delight existing patients and to keep their current customers and to grow their business.

There are also a lot of mergers and acquisitions going on in the healthcare space right now. We’re seeing a lot of rebranding and re-juggling of who our experts are and where we have experts and on what topics. So there’s really a lot of movement and the sky’s the limit as to what we can do with healthcare right now.

We’re seeing a lot of interesting moves in healthcare marketing that tend to be a little bit more risky, a little bit more transparent of putting yourself out there, whereas five years ago or 10 years ago, it was a little more conservative marketing. So we’re seeing people take some risks just because of the volatility of the space and do some things differently. “Differentiate or die” is the way we could say this from a marketing perspective in healthcare.

Trent: When it comes to the inbound methodology, of course, you’re creating content and making sure that content gets in front of the right people and that it’s written for the right people. How did you get your traction in the healthcare niche because they don’t strike me as the kind of folks who are reading marketing blogs?

Rachel: It’s interesting that when you devise an inbound marketing, when you decide, “I understand inbound marketing and this is the way we’re going to go with our business.” Inbound marketing is more the belief system. It’s more of a way of doing business. We see inbound marketing as not just marketing. We see inbound as a cultural thing, as inbound operations and on sales, inbound delighting of our clients.

Let me just take a second to explain where I’m coming from with that. This is review of you inbound marketers out there, but we know that the way people buy anything has changed. We know that, Trent, if you’re going to buy a car today or next week and you decide you have $30,000 to spend on a car, you’re not going to drive down to the sales lot. You’re going to go online. You’re going to go online first and you’re going to figure out what you can get in that budget and where in your area that you can find some cars on the lot that you can look at. You’re going to read the customer reviews and you’re going to know everything about that car, pull the Carfax before you go down to the lot and talk to the sales guy.

Because we see that consumers are savvy and they have information at their fingertips, apply that to healthcare. Think about “Oh, I have this rash on my arm and it’s itching.” Before I call my doctor, what am I going to do? I’m going to go online. I’m going to Google it. I’m going to research this myself and come to the table as a more educated contributor to my own health.

When we look at healthcare business to business, it’s the same way. We see these CEOs of multi-facility hospitals going on to LinkedIn, and getting in LinkedIn groups for healthcare executive networking and groups like very highly expert groups, asking questions about software, technologies, processes, mergers, and such.

When it comes to inbound marketing, the idea is to create content the people are already searching for. We know the consumer goes online, consumes information, becomes a more educated buyer or patient or whatever they are. What we want to do is create content that’s going to educate and inform when they go looking for information, so that we position ourselves as the expert.

If we’re targeting a healthcare CEO, a hospital CEO to sell our software, we want to be in the LinkedIn group for our healthcare executives’ network and we want to see what the conversations are.

Then we want to create content that we think answers the questions that those CEOs have or the quality directors, or the director of medical staff services or whoever our personas are. We want to create content based on what they’re asking, their questions are.

We have found that in the business-to-business healthcare marketing, LinkedIn groups are frequented by these top level executives searching out answers for how to maintain and sustain in this constantly shifting space in healthcare right now.

I think the key, at least in our opinion, is to go where your customers are. Sometimes inbound marketing is synonymously misplaced with just blogging or with social media. Really it’s, A, who are your personas, B, what questions do they need answered, C, can we solve their problems, and then, D, getting our content in front of our audience. I don’t think it’s enough to necessarily write a blog and publish it on our website and then wait for the masses to come. I think that’s an immature process.

I think the rest of the process is we go and do our research and development first. We frequent those groups and see what people are asking and what they’re looking for and we figure out how we can solve that. Then we write our content. Then when we go back to promote our content, we go to those groups where we see that the potential prospects are.

We have a client in healthcare consulting and they sell a software for credentialing providers. There’s a group on LinkedIn called Credentialing in Healthcare. It’s a direct fit to who they’re trying reach. That’s a great place to promote their blogs or to promote their landing pages and their whitepapers and things that they’re producing. I think it’s a full strategy in order to get in front of these personas and prospects.

Trent: I agree completely. Brilliant answer. I’m glad that you brought up LinkedIn because it’s a tool that I use as well. I don’t consider myself a super expert on it, but I think I do an okay job. I want to dive a little deeper on LinkedIn for a moment. So let’s say that you’re placing your highly relevant content that is high quality and well-written, we’ll just assume that that’s the case because I know that it is, and you’re getting it in front of the right eyeballs.

Do these folks ever comment on it and then do you reach out and make a connection, and then do you send them an email and say, “Hey, thanks for connecting. Would you like to chat?” Or do they just read it, come to your site, download whatever lead magnet report and go through the funnel or is it some combination of both?

Rachel: That’s a great question and what you’re asking really marries in marketing and sales. A good friend of mine, Dan Tyre at HubSpot, calls this smarketing. It’s sales and marketing in the process. The way that this has been the most successful for some of our clients is that they frequent these groups on LinkedIn.

Let me just back up and start with that going into the LinkedIn groups should be perceived like going to a networking event or a cocktail party. When you go, you don’t want to talk about yourself the whole time. You want to talk to other people, ask them what they do, comment on what they’ve got going on, and build some credibility there and build a relationship.

Our clients will go into the LinkedIn groups and see what people are asking and what people are discussing and they’ll jump in. They’ll give their opinion and answer other people’s questions. When other people see that you’re answering their questions, they’re going to jump in and have a conversation with you when you pose a question.

Generally speaking there are opportunities to reference an article that your CEO has written or reference a blog or reference a whitepaper that may help someone who’s struggling with a certain problem. When you reference that and put that link there, we see that a lot of people will click on that link and go back to the website and read the blog.

As best practice, something we always do, is every time we publish a blog on our website, at the very end of it we put a 600 pixel wide by 200 pixel tall call-to-action that goes onto a landing page for some premium content. We view the blog as the appetizer, the teaser, and they read it and it’s compelling enough to make them want more, so they click on that call to action at the end or within the blog.

They go to the landing page and often download the content. At that point we have a process in place, this bridge between marketing and sales, where we’ve got a lifecycle of the lead. We see that they come in and if they fill out a form on our landing page to get a piece of content, they become a lead. But the lead is really just a holding bucket because we know that just because someone fills out a form doesn’t make them a good lead for our business.

Our next step is to qualify them as a marketing qualified lead, an MQL. We generally have a checklist, and we have a marketing designated person at the client’s office that will see the lead come in. They’ll get the notification that so and so has downloaded this whitepaper and they’ll look that person up on LinkedIn or online and they’ll see, “Is this person in our geographic area that we serve? Are they in the industry of our target audience? Are they our persona? Would this be a good customer for us?”

If the answer is no, because it could be your competitor, it could be somebody in Egypt, it could be somebody doing research for their college graduate research paper, we mark them as a subscriber. We let them consume our content all day long.

If they answer’s yes, that they could potentially be a good client for us, we mark them as a marketing qualified lead which just means that they’re qualified for us to continue marketing to them.

At that point, we have some stuff set up behind the scenes for lead nurturing and with marketing automation where because they’ve downloaded this whitepaper, we think the obvious next step would be to watch this webinar or to read this case study. We try to send them emails and try to guide them down the sales funnel to a phone call, basically, with our client.

If the next stage though, after they’re a marketing qualified lead and we continue marketing, we keep our eye on it. If they come back and download other content, we set up some rules and some alerts and notifications to let us know, “Hey, these guys are more interested.”

We also use lead scoring. The more they do on our site. They come back and they read blogs. They share our blogs. They tweet about us. They post something about us on LinkedIn. They’re increasing their score and the sales team is watching this.

We like to get our sales team involved a little bit earlier than normal in the process. What the sales team does is what’s called an outreach call. They might pick up the phone and call this person at some point of engagement and say, “I saw that you’ve downloaded some of our content regarding patient satisfaction. I’m just calling to see if there’s some particular information that you’re looking for or that we could help you with or I could send you.”

It’s more of an outreach call instead of a sales call, but the goal is to find out three things. Does the company have a budget? Do they have an interest or an initiative for what you’re selling? Number three, is that the decision maker or an influencer that you’re talking to? If the answers yes to those, then we mark them from a marketing qualified lead to a sales qualified lead and start the sales process.

That’s the process, I guess, that we put in place. We work with each client individually to define that process, custom it to their business, to their sales team, and the systems that they already have in place. Does that make sense, Trent?

Trent: It makes perfect sense and boy oh boy, audience, I hope you were taking notes because you heard Marketing 101 brilliance just there. That is the exact process that we use in our own agency as well, so well done. Bravo.

Question for you on that. HubSpot is not… You and I are both HubSpot partners so we know the software quite well. It’s not a CRM though and I have a way that I… I’ve made videos and stuff of how I do it, so I won’t dive into that now. I’ll just put a link in the show notes. When someone becomes either marketing or sales qualified, do you pass them from HubSpot to another application of any kind?

Rachel: Generally yes, and it depends on the size of our clients too. Some of them have one or two salespeople and they send their sales team notifications and they manage it in HubSpot with a limited functionality of the CRM. There’s a note field and they keep track of it themselves. Our clients that do want to manage it with a CRM because they’ve got a sales team and a formal process, we generally connect HubSpot to Salesforce or HubSpot to Autotask or something like that. HubSpot has an open API, so as long as the CRM that they’re using also has an open API, we can automate that and push the leads into their system for their sales teams.

Trent: Have you explored did you know that HubSpot gives you 15 free zaps from Zapier?

Rachel: Yes, and we’ve used Zapier for multiple things with HubSpot and having that process seamless really makes a big difference to how well we can execute on the strategy. The other thing HubSpot has is they’ve recently put in integration to Wistia and to GoToWebinar. Now if you’re going to do a webinar for your prospects, you just go into HubSpot. You turn on the GoToWebinar integration, enter your GoToWebinar password, and then when someone registers on your HubSpot form it automatically pushed them to GoToWebinar, which sends them to a unique link for them to join the webinar. There are lots of integrations and Zapier is something we utilize on a regular basis to tie HubSpot to various softwares.

Trent : For me, I use Infusionsoft because it allows me to do all sorts of really cool automation when I pass both my marketing qualified and my sales qualified leads using Zapier over into Infusionsoft. Folks, if you want to see a video on that, at the end of this episode, I’ll give the link to the show notes and there will be a link to that video.

Rachel: That sounds great. Trent, let me ask you a question. When it comes to the process, I feel like we’re talking about a couple of different things here which is great. We’re talking about a marketing process, an inbound marketing process marrying sales and marketing, having this cohesive, seamless process. I can tell from reading your blogs and seeing your videos that you’re really strong in the marketing automation piece of this.

I’m curious to hear maybe what your thoughts are as to how important that marketing automation piece is to the process. You can do the process manually or you can do it in an automated fashion, but how do you foresee the value of that impacting the end result of the email marketing?

Trent: Thank you for the question. If you’ve ever seen the movie Apollo 13 there’s a scene when all hell is breaking loose and Gary Sinise says something to the effect of, “Hey, do we have a process for that?” and that expression permeates my entire organization. We try to never have something that occurs more than once that we don’t have a documented process for. The thing that’s better than a documented process is an automated process.

The reason that I’m such a staunch believer in this is I don’t want things to fall through the cracks. I know that the human memory is prone to failure. Mine sure is. Dealing with turnover and training issues is another area of ROI when you have automation. When you have those systems, the customer experience will be consistent time in and time out, as well as I am very interested in knowing exactly which parts of my marketing and sales are working. That means I need to be collecting data at all times.

Now sometimes I’m able to easily collect data through analytics and clicks and so forth. What happens if there is some type of interaction where the data is not so easy to collect, so I want to also build automation processes? Actually, I recorded a video about this just the other day. I’m actually experimenting with some direct mail as well because I want to get hyper-targeted on some of the people that I’m going after and my content plays a huge role in the direct mail.

I have very carefully selected 100 individuals that I would really love to have as a customer. When they call, as they have been, it very quickly occurred to me I thought, “Man, I’ve got to have a way that when the phone rings and I handle these conversations, I make sure that document what letter was it that caused them to call and what week was it and where did the lead come from?”

With Infusionsoft, and I’m assuming other applications as well, you can build a web forum and I put checkboxes. When someone calls in, of course I’m filling in their name and their email, and putting in the stuff in the right checkboxes. When I click the submit button when I’m done with that inbound call that I’ve received which happened as a result of my marketing, certain things will happen automatically. Certain tags will get applied tasks will automatically be triggered telling me to send a follow-up email.

The goal is if you employ a sales staff, you would ideally like everybody to handle your prospects in exactly the right way so that they go through your process in exactly the right way. I think that the only way to do that is to create a framework of automation. You can customize it of course, on a per person basis. The task says, “Send the templated follow-up email,” but it doesn’t mean that that person can’t go and amend the templated email a little bit and make some personal comments and they should.

What you don’t want to have happen is them forget to send the email, or critical elements of that follow up email don’t get included. Like one of the things that we get on the table right at the get go is how much it costs to work with us. There’s a certain retainer below which we won’t go. We just don’t the customer because the burden of account management is too high relative to the income and it won’t be a profitable customer. I don’t want to find that out at the end. I want them to know right at the very beginning so that we don’t have to waste each other’s time. Does that answer your question?

Rachel: It does and I heard you say so many really cool things that I tried to write down throughout the process, like documented, automated, do we have a process for that, framework. Some of those words I think are key to a successfully implemented inbound marketing strategy. I look at some of the clients that we’ve worked with and a few of our clients maybe worked with another agency or they tried to do it themselves before they came to us and they didn’t have necessarily a process or a framework. I’ve seen people try to do inbound marketing without the framework, without the backbone, without the structure of it.

It seems like when that’s the case these strategies are more, “Let’s write a blog and throw it up on our website and see who comes to visit.” Having that framework not only on the automation, but on the front end of what are we going to write, who are we writing it to, where are we going to place it, how are we going to promote it? I think that framework on the front end is critical, but if you have that framework on the front end, and then you don’t have the automation after the lead is generated, you have a drop off there. You have a big gap in your marketing.

Trent: Huge drop off.

Rachel: Yes. I would say to the listeners today, to our audience, does your inbound marketing strategy have a very secure framework behind it? Just hearing the words that you’re saying, Trent, as you described your automation process, the framework, the process, the documentation, the automation, the structure for turnover, I think that that’s critical.

A lot of marketers, I’m going to say this about myself as well, are right-brained creative people. But putting the structure in place here is a real left-brain task. Making sure that you’re not out there being too creative and forgetting to have your structure in place, I think, is critical to the success of the strategy, to growing your business, to gaining the leads, and closing the leads.

We see people that can generate tons of leads. They can’t close them. We see people that can’t generate the leads, but you put them in front of someone they can close the deal.

I think this is really a marriage of processes and creativity and being on target with knowing who your audience is, knowing what questions they have that need answered, and how you can solve their problems. There are just a lot of pieces to this. I think when the structure is in place, that’s when you set yourself up for success.

Trent: I agree and we’re going to hang on this for a little bit longer. I think you and I can probably compare notes on a few the processes that we’ve developed internally and I suspect that the audience would really love to hear that.

With that said, I know that I do and I’m happy to explain my process, but when it comes to figuring out what content you’re going to create, creating it, making sure that the checklist of items is never missed for every piece of content that is created, optimized, and promoted, we have a system that we use for that. It’s a spreadsheet. It’s got all these columns and then every task is linked to the corresponding page in our wiki and there are training videos for everybody on the team. We’ve really put a lot of effort into having this process. I’m curious how do you do that kind of stuff?

Rachel: Is that an internal process in documentation for your team or do you share that with the client as well?

Trent: It’s internal.

Rachel: Puma Creative was started just about three years ago, and prior to Puma Creative I had the traditional ad agency for six or seven years. With my traditional ad agency we took on any market. We were full service. We took on any marketing project. We were putting billboards in the Panther’s stadium on the Jumbo- Tron. We were designing logos and print collateral and email campaigns. We did it all.

The problem with that, Trent, was that nothing was repeatable. We didn’t have a process because we didn’t repeat the same thing twice. We would sit at the table with our customers and say, “Well, that was nice. We placed that ad in South Park Magazine. Did you get any phone calls this month?” We had no way to measure it, number one, and they would say, “Well, I think we got one phone call from it.” I’d say, “What are we going to do next month?”

We started to see as early as 2008, 2009, and 2010 that this approach just wasn’t working. When I ended up moving on to starting Puma Creative in 2011, the goal was that we were just going to be an inbound marketing consultancy. Only take on inbound marketing clients and stay focused. We’re not going to do traditional outbound marketing unless it’s part of the integrated plan and we’re not going to do project work.

I’m answering your question the long way here, but because we’re three years old as a company we really spent the first two years building our systems and processes and understanding how we do things within our markets and our niches. We spent the first two years figuring it out and then we spent the last year, this past year, really documenting and putting the framework and the process in place. We use Basecamp for our project management and so we’ve set up Basecamp templates.

Trent: We do as well.

Rachel: Do you use that as well?

Trent: We do, yes. For client interaction, work with Basecamp is where it all lives.

Rachel: Yes. We set up these templates for our client. We’ve got a new client coming on May 1st. We’re having our kickoff meeting tomorrow with him. I’ve already set up his Basecamp project, and it has certain sections and certain documents, and it has the processes that we defined for him in place. As far as the blogging and the social media and the content planning and all of that stuff, we’ve got a very distinct process we use for that that’s documented internally and we share that process through our Basecamp project along the topics of our client.

I’ve got this one-sheeter that I’m very happy to share with you. You can put it in the docket it you’d like. It’s an overview of how do a B2B inbound marketing campaign. I think I call it the B2B Inbound Marketing Campaign Asset Sheet. It’s a one-sheeter and it lays out everything you need to implement one campaign. From the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel, bottom of the funnel, all the way down to your landing pages, your content, your headlines, your CTAs, your workflows, your emails for your workflows, your blogs, your social media, everything in one.

We use that as a checklist for the client and we show them this is the big picture, where we’re headed, and these are the content assets that we need and the graphical assets that we need to develop in order to execute this campaign. That matches the Basecamp project that we set up. In Basecamp, we’ve got 10 blogs. We’ll list out a category of blogs and we’ll list out 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, all the way through 10 as placeholders to say, “This is the first month of what this is going to look like that we need to create based on best practice of how to implement this.” I’ll send you that document, Trent, if you want to share it with the group.

Trent: Absolutely. I’d be very happy to do that. It’s a shame. I’d love us to be able to be doing visual right now because I’d love nothing more than to do a screen share and have a look at your Basecamp and compare it to my Basecamp and see how we could both learn from each other and improve. Maybe we’ll have to do that offline and I’ll record it and put it in the show notes as well, if you’re up for it.

Rachel: Absolutely. Like I said, our first two years were figuring out our process and our last year has been documenting it. Sounds like you’re a little bit ahead of us on documenting your internal wiki and all of that, which makes me salivate over what you’ve got in place. Putting those operations in place is critical to growing our business. We’ve gotten a lot of referrals from HubSpot, a lot of referrals from our clients. We’ve got leads that come in, people we’d like to work with, but we have to make sure that operationally we’re set up to handle that. Growing our own business is critical as well, and I think having that framework and process in place for us means that we can help more people.

Trent: Absolutely. You might not know and some of the listeners might not know, on my Bright Ideas blog, each week I publish a post about how I’m building Groove and I go into quite a bit of detail of what we did, what we accomplished that week. A lot of these videos and stuff that I’m referring to I do create and share within my weekly update. If you go Groove and you find… In the categories on the side bar there’s a thing called, I think, the Groove Digital Marketing Project or something like that. If you click that you’ll get to see all of the posts and it’s week by week, everything that we’re doing, lots of detail.

Rachel: I love how you’re so transparent. I’ve read a couple of your blogs on what you’re doing to grow your business and I love the transparency there. That’s something that I’ve really been learning this past year is how valuable the transparency is in not only sharing what you do that works, but in being able to get feedback from other people and enhance the strategies. I commend you for your transparency on that. I think it benefits everybody. Thank you for that, Trent.

Trent: No problem. Those are the most fun posts for me to write. I don’t always have some amazing result to share, but I always have, “Here’s something new that we created,” or, “Here’s a process,” or, “Here’s the results of something that I talked about last week.” The feedback that I get on these posts has been absolutely phenomenal.

My wife was telling me at dinner last night, “None of my family has ever commented on any of your blog posts because I don’t think they read them, until you started to do these weekly updates. Now some of my friends actually send me emails. They actually read your stuff.” People are enjoying it and I enjoy doing it so I will keep on doing that for, well, until I get bored of doing it or until people lose interest, one of the two.

Rachel: I think that what you’re giving there is so valuable to not only how to grow an inbound marketing agency, but how to grow your business in general, how to be entrepreneurial, how to communicate. I love that word. It’s the oldest word, but really what we’re doing with inbound marketing is we are being authentic and real and communicating authenticity to our prospects. I think your blogs are so valuable because you’re letting us see the real deal, the real limitations or problems or successes that you’re having, and that would apply to me growing my inbound marketing agency.

It would apply to a healthcare consultant who’s trying to reach a CEO because you’re giving some very practical hands-on strategies. I think in one of yours that I read you talked about having your VA make a list of the top 100. Here’s how you’re approaching them and here’s what you’re going to do next. It’s very tactical as far as takeaway that I think any of our clients would benefit from as well. I think you’re going to continue to see an upward trend of interest in what you’re doing with that.

Trent: There are some pretty unexpected things that come from this. For example, I’ve had one individual, a fellow by the name of Chris O’Byrne, and gosh, Chris, I wish I could remember your URL off the top of my head, but I will put it in the show notes. He said, “Trent, I really want to help you turn one of your books into a Kindle book and I’ll do it for free. You’ve given me so much value I just want to do this for you.” I said, “Really? Okay.”

My Digital Marketing Handbook is in the process of getting turned into a Kindle book and it’s go onto Amazon. For me, that’s a neat experiment. It’s not something I would have devoted any time or energy to because it wasn’t a priority at this point in time. He said, “I’m really digging that.”

Then Patrick from HubSpot who I’m sure you know quite well, their VP of Sales, he caught wind of these weekly updates that I’m doing and has been all over me on Twitter.

Now he and Greg Fong, our sales guy, we have a three-way call coming up today or tomorrow. He says, “I love what you’re doing. I want to see how I can help you more.”

When you really open the kimono like this, people find it, and then they react in pleasant and unexpected ways. I guess that’s my point in all rambling on like this. It’s go ahead and do stuff like this. Even if you can’t exactly figure out what the immediate benefit will be, trust me, people will find you and they will appreciate you and you will experience benefits that you can’t even predict in advance.

Rachel: I agree with you completely. I go back to I’m working on a book right now that’s supposed to be out in August about the inbound marketing world view about inbound marketing as a belief system, and I think you really are a strong example. You just nailed it on providing value. If you’re providing value, through being real and transparent, you’re showing people the way. You are trying it and then showing people the way to grow their business.

That realness, that being real there is going to get you noticed. Like you said, the benefit of that is growing your business. The benefit of that is beyond growing your business.

I spoke at HubSpot last year at Inbound 2013 and my presentation was called “The $120,000 Close Deck” of how to close a $10,000 a month retainer. I had maybe 150 HubSpot partners in the room and every time I go back to Boston or to any HubSpot event now I have people saying, “Your presentation helped me close my first $10,000 retainer. Thank you for that.”

I had a guy two weeks ago, I was in Boston, and he said, “You’re my hero. You really helped our agency jumpstart.” That’s so rewarding and that’s so fulfilling, but in addition to that, I had a guy in Wilmington from another agency who said to me, “You’ve helped me so much. What can I do to help you? Can I share your content? Can I write a blog for you?”

I think that it makes you feel good of course, and it makes you feel good to know you’re on the right track and that people like you, but it also validates what you’re doing from a marketing perspective. It validates the fact that when you’re being real and authentic and helpful, people need that. People will find that and I think if we apply to that our customers and prospects in the same way and in the same manner, be authentic, be real, be helpful, your prospects will find you too.

I think some people are hesitant with inbound marketing because they want to keep their secrets close to their chest. I think we’re beyond that as a society. We’re beyond that when the consumer knows how to get a move on and find the answers they need in 3.2 seconds. We’re beyond holding your wares into your chest. I think that really hits home with what inbound marketing is. The culture of inbound marketing is giving and sharing and exposing and helping other people.

Trent: Do you have a PDF of the slide deck “How to Close a $10,000 Retainer” that we could also put in the show notes?

Rachel: Oh, I sure do. It was recorded by HubSpot and we’ve got a link to it on their website. I’ll send you that link.

Trent: Awesome. That’d be great. Where are we on time? We’re just about done. One of the things that we haven’t talked about, so we’re going to shift gears here, but I know we did talk about in the pre-interview is what you described as a results-only work environment. Your agency is virtual. My agency is virtual. Many people’s businesses are becoming virtual. I think we would be remiss if we didn’t talk a little bit about how the results-only work environment is working for you. Take it away.

Rachel: Through HubSpot I met these two ladies, Jody and Callie, who’ve written books and they do public speaking engagements about what they call Go ROWE. ROWE stands for results-only work environment. I was very curious, especially the first time I heard them speak. They said that somewhere along the way somebody decided that showing up an office from 8 to 5 equals results. In fact, it does not. The new way of doing business, I guess, is based on, “Did you get the job done? Did we get results from the job that you got done?”

When I started Puma Creative three years ago, I’d had a traditional ad agency before and we had a big office. The name on the walls, we had cubicles and butts in seats, and payroll taxes.

When I exited that business, I was really looking for something more. I spent my entire waking hours at that office and it consumed me. I was really looking for work and life balance or integration of the two. I have small children. I didn’t want to work at that office for the rest of my life.

When we started Puma Creative, I have my home office and started to grow the team and they’re all virtual and we don’t count hours. The rule is “get the job done. Get it done on time. Make the client happy.” Other than that, anything really goes.

I know that for myself I can work from Charlotte, North Carolina, or I can work from India, or I can work from China, Thailand, St. Thomas, or wherever that I want to work, so long as I have my laptop and my cell phone.

I think that that’s how I want to work and my team does as well, so we manage our projects in Basecamp. We use Dropbox to share files. We have entire meetings on GChat and we jump on GoToWebinars with our clients who are spread out all over the world. We get these things done. We make our clients happy. We help them grow their businesses. We have a blast doing it.

Now we’ve evolved through the Go ROWE. We ask ourselves three questions as a business. Number one, are we making an impact? Number two, are we having fun? And number three, are we making money? If the answer is yes to those three, we love what we do. We use that to determine if we’re going to take on a client or not. When we’re interviewing a client or they’re interviewing us, we’re looking too to see, “Hey are we going to make an impact with these people? Are we going to have fun with these people? Are we going to make money with these people?” That’s guided our agency over the past three years, the virtual team and the virtual setting.

One other book, the book “Rework” by Jason Fried from 37signals, the Basecamp developer, was the first introduction I had to the virtual team. He’s extremely profitable with a small team that’s spread out all over the world. That’s what we do and you mentioned that your team is virtual as well.

Trent: Yep, indeed they are. We have two people overseas. We’ve got somebody in northern California who’s just joined our team. She’s our director of operations in the making, starting off with our blog editor. My wife, as many of the people following know, is literally… Well, she’s two day past her due date. We haven’t given birth to our daughter yet, but as you might imagine when that happens, which could be at any moment, her ability to fulfill the role that she’s played will be impaired for a couple of months at least or longer. I really don’t know how long.

We needed to find another individual living in a relatively small town here, Boise, Idaho, the pickings aren’t necessarily exactly as fruitful as what we might have needed. We did try to find someone locally first and couldn’t. Actually we did and we had a false start, so then we just decided… There were certain roles I was very okay with outsourcing and then others where I thought I needed to see faces. After my pre-interview with you, Rachel, I went and I spoke to my wife and I said, “If virtual works for Rachel for key roles, virtual can work for us. Let’s make it happen.”

We had our onboarding interview with Rebecca yesterday and it was my first opportunity actually speaking with her, because Liz generally does the hiring, and I was just absolutely floored at the caliber of talent that we were able to attract to our team. Much like probably many professionals out there, she doesn’t want to work 40 hours a week. She has small kids and wants to be very involved in their lives. She says, “I’ve sure got 30 hours that are available and I have a pretty impressive resume,” which she sure did.

I thought, “Oh, man. What a score,” to be able to have someone who has this level of talent and experience to very affordably add her to the team. The other thing is when you give people the opportunity to work remotely on their own schedule, they’re not nearly so demanding in the salary department.

Rachel: It can be a win/win. It’s really a tradeoff because the value to them is there as well. There’s a lot of research on the productivity and the quality of work you get when you can give these flexibilities. I think that some people aren’t motivated by money as much as they’re motivated by the autonomy or by the freedom or flexibility to be part of their kid’s lives. That’s fantastic. It’s a beautiful relationship when you can find that.

Trent: Let’s close off with this final question then. What tips would you give for people who are looking to attract this type of individual to join their team? How do you do it?

Rachel: Well, that’s a million dollar question, Trent. I think that there are some things that you have to keep in mind. You have to make a list. Maybe start by making a list of what you can live with and what doesn’t matter. For me, personally, the things that matter are, “Is the job done on time to the best of our ability? Is the client happy?” If the answers yes, I don’t care if the person works 10 hours a week or 80 hours a week. Go to the dog park, enjoy the sunshine. See you later, as long as the job is done. We don’t even count hours.

As far as finding those people, we use several resources. Of course we use HubSpot to refer us. People who have experience with inbound marketing, Inbound.org has a new hiring portal on their website. We use oDesk and Freelance.

Although I will say that if we use something like oDesk to find team members, what we like to do is assign them a project and then if it goes well we assign them another project, and we have this trial period.

Our goal in using something like oDesk is to find somebody that can be a permanent part of our team through oDesk, not a one-off outsourced person. We have, let’s see, five or six people through oDesk that we’ve been working with for two years or more and they’re loyal and committed to us for the full term. That’s how we like to work.

My advice would be, A, start with making a list. What do you need? Then when you go to find them, utilize HubSpot, utilize Inbound.org, utilize oDesk, Freelance, LinkedIn, etc. Make sure your offer is motivating from what that person needs as well as what you need. When you can find a win/win, it makes life so much more fun. It makes it fun for both people involved.

Trent: Absolutely. Here’s some irony for you. I’m looking at Amazon as we’re talking about this. One of the little book suggestions along the bottom is a book by an internet friend of mine by the name of Chris Ducker. It’s called “Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business.” You can get that on Amazon for like $9. Props out to you, Chris. I know you probably aren’t going to be listening to this, but if you are, there you go.

Rachel: There you go.

Trent: Well, Rachel, thank you so much for making some time to spend with me here on the show. If people want to get a hold of you, what is the one easiest way to do that?

Rachel: The easiest way to reach me on Twitter @RachelCogar and of course my website is Puma Creative. You can Google me and I’m there. It’s been my pleasure, Trent. Thank you for having me. I’ll send you some documents that we discussed that you can include out to the listeners. If you need me for more conversation or collaboration, please feel free to reach out.

Trent: Oh, I will definitely be doing that. Thank you again so much for making the time today.

Rachel: My pleasure. Have a great week.

Trent: To get to the show notes for this episode go to BrightIdeas.co/140. If you enjoyed this episode, which I sure hope you did because I know I sure did, I’d love it if you help me to spread the word very easily. All you need to do is go to BrightIdeas.co/love where there’s a prepopulated tweet awaiting of your mouse. It couldn’t be easier, could it?

That’s it for this episode. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode. I hope to have you back for another one which will be available in just a day or two. That’s it. Take care. We’ll see you again. Bye-bye.

 

About Rachel Cogar

Rachel Cogar, the Founder and CEO of Puma Creative, a HubSpot Gold Certified International Consultancy, is a progressive-thinking, profit-driven inbound marketer who isn’t afraid to try something new. Always on the cutting edge of innovation and best practice, Rachel is revered as a thought leader AND a doer in the field of business strategy, communications and inbound marketing. Rachel and her team consult and coach clients across the world to perform at optimal levels for lead generation and demand generation marketing. Rachel is the author of The Inbound Marketing Worldview, the up and coming business book that describes the belief system we have about consumerism and how our worldview affects our behavior as marketers.

Rachel’s ambition and her ability to think “bigger” attracts CEOs and marketing teams who can see past tradition and want to be remarkable. Her passion for remarkability is dynamic and infectious, and continues to guide clients and their marketing teams to great success. Rachel believes that *sometimes* the rules truly do not apply – that is, the rules we’ve always known – but have never questioned. Question the rules; question the norm; and always look for ways to be remarkable.

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