Okay I’m going to give everybody some time to check in here. We’re getting ready to get started for our coaching call. This is our third one in the latest session of the course, the latest cohort. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions, comments and everything so if you do hear me and you do get in, just let me know.
Can you hear, everybody? Let me know. I see some people are popping in there. I know I’ve actually started a little bit early. Just want to make sure that everything was working and that I was audible. That’s the main reason for starting early.
Just a little bit early for this call. Some of you, it’s super late; some of you, it’s very early in the morning. It’s hard to nail down the time here. Hey Ian how’s it going man? Glad you can hear. If you can hear, it means that everything’s going well because we had some troubles last time we were on our call if you remember. Awesome to have you, Ian.
Alright. Just waiting for some more people to come into the room. Yea no problem, Ian. Since you’re the only one on chat and we’re waiting for people to come in, we can talk about that too.
It sorts of runs across the board with people who are doing what you’re doing but those are some good resources. I rank them in order, people that I know would have a lot of connections and everything. Hopefully that helps out and I look forward to seeing what they provide you with.
There’s a great community for analytics in the UK, especially around London. Lots of cool people that I’ve met along the time or I guess you can say along the way. Hopefully they can give you some advice. If they’re so busy, they can hand stuff over. I know that people like Phil Pierce are super busy with gigs so he might have opportunities to hand over stuff if he’s too busy. I’m not sure if that’s common or not, if these consultants are too busy or what. I know that they’re constantly talking about their different clients they have. So hopefully they are.
To anybody who’s jumping on and listening to this, Ian and I had a 1-on-1 chat a couple weeks ago. One of the things he’s looking for is to talk to other agencies and people who are in the local community just to get a lead on who’s available, who has too much work, who doesn’t have enough work… and just sort of understand the landscape in the area and then use that to build up business development skills.
Yea Russell’s a big speaker of the group for sure.
Alright I think it seems a little light on people coming in so far. I don’t know if I should give it a little bit of time or what. Ian we can keep on chatting too. I’m coming at you all from Oregon on the West Coast of the United States. These calls have been all kinds of different times. This one we’re doing, it’s actually noon here. I know it’s late for people in Europe and super early for people in Asia-Pacific area. Just right for the US, which is funny because a lot of people in the course are in the US and they seem to have troubles getting on.
Alright. Looks like we are seeing some more people jump in so that’s good. I’m going to start off with something that I found interesting while people jump into the call. Let me know in the chat window if you think this will be useful.
During our Beta, we ran a survey with all the Beta members to understand different aspects of where they were at, where they stood, how far along their agency was and where it pertained to what we were talking about on the call.
I haven’t been running it with this group just because in the Beta group, it was helpful at first and then people didn’t really fill it out as much. So what I had done on this one was looking for people to respond directly to the invites, saying the answers so I had it handy in email. We could just talk about it. That’s actually trailed off a little bit too and so I’m always looking for ways to get the message out there to get participation up. So let me know in the comments if you think having a survey again would be a good way to get people engaged, or it’d be easier to answer a survey like what you see on the screen – well the results are what are on your screen – or if you’d rather just reply to an email.
Also, we staggered these calls out by every 3 weeks instead of every week because it seems like people just got overwhelmed with the amount of information they were taking in. I’m always about making adjustments as you probably know just from talking to me and being part of my courses. If there are any ways that you think this might be more useful or meaningful, let me know in the chat window.
Anyway, this is from our Beta program. We asked them one, how do they rate the quality of their agency relationships on a scale of 1 to 6, good or bad to good relationships. The average was right in the middle.
So basically many people were saying that they would rate it a 4 or 5 which I would consider to be good but we have room for improvement. If you’re thinking about your own self-assessment and want to put that on the chat as well, how would you rate yourself? Would you say that you are in that point or where are you at with where you are? So something to consider. You can put into the chat window if you think you’re a 4, 5 or 6. I think it’s difficult to have a perfect 6 for relationships but we should all aspire to be as high as we can.
‘Do you consider that your agency has strong relationships with clients?’
It’s more of a yes/no. More majority had said ‘yes’, that they have a strong relationship with their clients. It’s good to hear. I like this one because it helps you understand how well an agency might be able to scale.
‘Who’s in charge of your relationships?’
Many of them were saying owners are the only ones who can handle relationships. Some of you have dedicated Account Managers. Some say everybody. Everyone/All employees – that’s pretty much the same answer. You can see that it’s all across the board.
Now if it’s owners only and you’re just a one-person shop, that’s fine. That means essentially everyone. I would say if you have 10 people in your agency and it’s still owners only, that’s going to be a big problem for growth. It really causes issues with growth if you are the only one in charge of relationships. I’ve seen this first hand because even at my agency, owners want to maintain their key relationships and that’s good.
If you remember from the videos, our longest client relationship is as long as the agency’s been around. 13+ years now. Actually may have made more than that. 14 or 15 years. Same client with a relationship and that’s because an owner manages that relationship but also, can the owner focus on other parts of their business, on growing the business and putting systems in place? Do they always represent that one client whenever it is time to modernize or improve the offerings of the agency, and is that getting in the way?
I would say yes, it does. Only having owners being in charge of this area means you can’t really scale very well and so depending on where you’re at. I know a lot of you are just yourself or jumping into this or a very small agency. It’s okay for the owner to be involved then, but if you’re looking to scale, one of the best things you can do is to decouple yourself from that piece of it. You can still manage relationships. It just doesn’t have to be an exclusive thing where only an owner can touch an account.
But as you can imagine, that’s very much dependent on how big your clients are, what industry you’re in and how you want to scale. If it’s owners only or people who are high level only, and you’re going to stay a one- or two-person shop with your business partner, it’s okay if you’re the only ones doing it but you’re probably going to stay that size. You aren’t going to be able to grow much further unless you delegate that function.
‘Do you know your client budget cycles?’
A lot of people said ‘no’, and ‘yes’. Now just to summarize this piece, from those of you who maybe haven’t a chance to watch the video yet, or have watched it a while ago and just want to get up-to-date. Your client budget cycles, at least in my experience, are pretty interesting in how it affects the way that you gather new business.
A lot of times you’ll get business thrown at you at the end and beginning of the year. So at the end of the year, it’s when they’re trying to start the next year right based on their plans. They have a budget in place and they’re willing to spend it. They’ll say ‘hey I need to bring in somebody that starts on January 1. That’s when our new budget cycle comes in’. Or if they haven’t spent their budget yet, they’ll throw money at you at the end of the quarter or year in order to just spend the budget that they didn’t spend for the year.
I’ve personally noticed a ton of activity in the last 2 or 3 weeks coming in. I don’t know if anybody else has seen this yet but I’m getting a ton of questions. A lot of people are wanting to work with me in the last 1 or 2 weeks. It might have been whenever I started taking in all the outreach emails.
I think I had been sharing with some of you in the Facebook group, some of these outreach pieces that I get and putting them out there. Maybe I’m just more conscious of it and not hitting ‘delete’ overly too quickly or turning things down without cause, but I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the inbound leads lately and I’m getting a ton.
Let me know if that’s the same experience for you right now, if you’re having any issues or if there are things up or down. I’m not sure what the significance is of middle of May that these things are being turned on at this point. I wonder if it’s a search ranking thing.
I think some of it is an outpouring of support after running my promotion or last month on AppSumo. I think that might be a part of it. People are finally finishing that class and then they have questions and are looking to work with somebody. Perhaps it’s stuff that is unrelated to my business development area. It’s just people in their natural cycle are like ‘okay well I learned PPC. I might have gotten Adwords-certified but I still have questions. Who should I talk to? Is it the guy who taught me how to do this?’
That’s something just in general. What I’ve found is that being consultative with how you talk to people, like telling people what they should be experiencing and just adding value to their lives, you are going to get random inquiries coming in all the time from people who are thankful for it.
I don’t know if that fits into your strategies at all. I know this is more about client relationships after they exist, not so much about business development. But think about it, just that piece of advice there. Think about that data point and how much value I’ve gotten from teaching.
I’ve gotten so much value in offers of consulting from the teaching. It’s like you give away your knowledge for free and then people are like ‘well that’s cool they gave this away but I want them to do it for me’. I see this happening all the time in the marketplace. Is that an opportunity for you? Are you doing any meetups or any kind of educating, sharing with people things you’ve learned? Think about that.
‘When do you bring in a majority of your new revenue?’
A lot of people say ‘inconsistently throughout the year’. One person says ‘equally’ so I think that it’s pretty common to get revenue inconsistently throughout the year. One of the systems we want to put in place is a way to get around that. We always have a pipeline going and we’re not inconsistent with revenue. Obviously from the course, you know that if revenue is coming in inconsistently, it makes it difficult to cash flow or makes other things difficult. So how do you handle that piece and get revenue to come in more consistently and spread it out?
Now that’s an interesting thing for me. The inquires that are coming in for me personally happened at a point where I just finished a major project that I was working on. I may or may not have some time open but I was actually looking to keep my schedule open to work on more proactive stuff for myself. And so it’s weird, the timing of getting consulting offers versus when you take on your pet projects or rocks like what we talked about in the course. Just got to think about that. How do you turn it on so that you’re getting these things at the time you want to get inquiries coming in?
That’s really what this whole point about budget cycles really came from. You shouldn’t take on a major project in November/December if you think you’re going to get revenue coming in on January. Those are going to be ‘client times’, like heavy onboarding times and you got to recognize that. Then, maybe you take on big projects during the time where you would have inconsistent revenue coming in. Maybe it’s time to redevelop your website, start writing articles, launch your podcast or whatever you decide to do with your time. I would recommend doing that during the time when revenue’s not coming or when you really need it.
So turn it on during the light times and don’t start anything new or major right when you’re about to hit your busy reason. Some of you probably don’t even know what your busy season is yet and that’s something I can tell you from my experience.
Sometimes it only comes with time but I would say, this time of year in the US market, we have hours of this thing between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s like the unofficial summer in the US and so usually leading up to summer and then right after summers is a busy season for us. Conferences, clients and a lot of different things. This could be part of it. There’s a bunch of gearing up before the summer when things light up. People are just trying to get everything out of the way before they hit the summer because that is a sign of something happening in my local market. You know your market better than I do but just think about how it might pertain to what you’re doing as well.
‘How long does your average client relationship last?’
A lot of people have really long relationships. Some people only do one-off projects. Some of them have 6 months to a year. So obviously this is a double-edged sword to long client relationships. If you have somebody for 5 or more years, there’s a chance that you’re not charging them today’s market rates because you can’t really increase that much. So if you were charging $40/hour 5 years ago, now you’re charging $140 or $400 whatever that is, are you able to get your 5-year relationship to get on board of that?
I’ve always found that to be a difficult conversation to broach. Sometimes you take on these relationships and maintain them at the expense of other ones but also, we’ve talked about business models a lot. Only doing one-off projects is not great either. It’s not ideal. Not only that, but 6 months to a year also means that you’re going to be spending a lot of time onboarding somebody and then the relationship’s over.
So there’s a lot more money in year 2 because your business development and onboarding costs have already been absorbed. You’ll really want to get these people extended to years 1, 2, 3 and so on because those are the ones where you don’t have as much of a business development cost brought in. You don’t have to pay commissions, salespeople or anything else around long-term relationships. You shouldn’t at least.
‘How do you charge?’
Lots of different ways to do it. Projects, retainers, multiple billing methods, sort of across the board. As you can see, a lot of our Beta people, we were hoping that they would transition over 2 retainers. That was really a big goal that we wanted to have, is to transition people over to as many retainers as you can get. Now there’s nothing wrong with project rates and these other ways of doing things, but you do want to get to retainer as much as you can because that’s recurring revenue.
You’ll all find this interesting. It’s not a lot of data points. You can’t assume everything from 7 people but you can see these are the rates people are charging. I know some of you are charging on the lower side of this, less than $75/hour but no, there’s leeway and opportunities there for people to charge more.
‘How much time do you spend working on your agency website?’
A lot of people spend less than an hour a week, which I think is too little. Obviously it’s too little. You can never really get anything done in just an hour or two. You’re not going to make that much progress. I think one day a week is a good way to look at it.
I was listening to a podcast and I’m going to share this with everybody in the course. It was on sales for services and was really fascinating. It was a Tropical MBA episode that was just out last week on Thursday. He said that you should be doing 80/20 business development so 80% business development, 20% execution. Basically, this guy’s thought was if you’re that good at business development, then the execution is something that you can outsource, hire out or systematize so that it just gets done.
That’s not actually the same perspective that I offer or recommend in the course but it doesn’t mean there’re no merits to it. I think that it’s an oversimplification of how things should go.
It’s easy to say 80% business development but that doesn’t understand the industry or take into account the work you’re doing, your reputation, how involved and specialized the work is, what your margins are, whether you’re paying yourself out of debt or reinvesting the money in the business, or if you have investment coming in. It doesn’t take into account on all that but I do agree with the sentiment around it. If you generate enough business, you should be able to afford the best to get the work done, or at least afford the teams and operations people in order to get that done.
But it also depends on what you’re doing. If you’re doing high-touch SEO, analytics and analysis type work, or something that takes a lot of effort and it’s a very specialized person, then it’s really difficult for that person to go out there and do business development.
The other thing is I know that a lot of you are single entrepreneurs so you’re not a 2-person company. A lot of you are just doing it on your own. You could aspire to be really good at business development but I think having either a partner to do operations or at least to have some kind of really trusted person to put that to, it would make a lot of sense.
I’m just thinking out loud on this one. If you’re doing 80% business development and you’re able to bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue, only spending 20% of your time on delivery would be difficult to actually deliver on the work. But it’s a good sentiment. It basically means 80% business development is like a pie-in-the-sky type thing and something to aspire to, but there’s also difficulty in practicableness of that unless you’re working 16 hours a day.
So think about that yourself. I think 80% business development might work if you have a product that you just crank people into and it’s basically no extra work. It’s more automated to do it and then you’re just tweaking in the systems to do it. But in the areas that I know you all work in, it’s more difficult to do them than you’d ever think.
This is all about providing you with perspectives and ideas as to how you might focus in these areas. I think 0 to 1 hour a week is not enough. It should be at least 1 day a week and so I was saying 20% business development essentially or 10-20% business development.
That’s what I say in the course. This guy was saying 80%. Ultimately there’s just more to it than one of those answers being right. There’s way more to it and it all depends on how many business partners and staff you have and what your aspirations are for growing.
For those of you who have been on the 1-on-1 calls with me, which is several of you at this point, when we had our call, remember the first thing I asked you was ‘what do you see this thing being successful’, like ‘what’s the picture in your head of where you want to take this thing? Is it a revenue goal or people? Is it personal and financial freedom? What do you see this thing in 5 or 2 years?’
After answering that question which I asked all of you at the beginning, it made all your other decisions pretty straightforward. Because basically if you want to get to here, we could get to your goals by the end of this year. Some of you, it was really a 5-year plan plus and so that really helped us get to that point.
So again, these are all data points. I want to provide you as many perspectives as I can so you can start to build out your own way of doing things. Like I said, I’ll share my ideas too. I’m not the only one but the 15 years of running an agency did give me quite a few perspectives.
‘How would you rate your agency website?’
This is on a scale of 1 to 10. Most people give about a 5. Yea I’d say that most agency websites are at best a 5. I think many of you would find it the same way. Some of you might not even have websites yet. Then I had the webinar thing and nobody wanted to join that time. I’ve given up on the hot seat thing. I like the way we’re doing it here, with just the chat window and the questions.
Sounds like Peter and Ian are interested in the survey which is great to see. Any questions at this point? I’d love to see questions. I’m going to take a small break, look through the questions and then I’ll get into the responses. Put questions and also your experiences on relationships in the chat window!
Okay. I’m just looking to see if I have all the responses that came in. I don’t see any questions coming in yet. Okay so I’m going to leave this survey up here. Actually I’m going to get back on the camera. That’s what I’ll do.
Peter’s saying that he’s still in start-up mode. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with relationships. That’s okay. It takes time to figure and build it out. In start-up mode, my recommendation is always to get one really good one in place, to get a healthy relationship, to get in good with somebody who trusts you and then to grow up with them, to grow how the business works and to just grow your competencies and everything, to grow a rapport with these people so that you know how they work and operate. You know that revenue’s going to keep on coming in because you absolutely want stability in your anchor client.
Okay so the first one I’m going to look at is Martin. He’s saying ‘what makes a healthy client relationship’. He’s saying ‘a mutual active involvement in the relationship, openness, client who understands that you’re trying to help them, client who listens and is open to the advice given, client who pays their bills on time’.
I would agree with all those. Those are healthy relationships and it is a key point to have a client who is open to new ideas. Some clients look at you as the hired help. ‘We’re hiring you to do this’. They don’t really respect the relationship nearly as much as they should. What they focus on is control, dominance or something around those lines. They’re not open to ideas and don’t really care about what you end up doing. They just care that they’re in control of it.
Those are not healthy relationships. If you find clients who are willing to hear your ideas or to work with them, I have a story about that.
I have a client that started off really small and it keeps on growing as I go along. I never really expected it to do that but every time that something happens, they want to do something new, and so I just let it progress how it goes.
With this client, I was doing something for them. They emailed me and needed a deadline, and it was like ‘put something on our website by this day’. I was travelling and busy. I put it out there and it broke some of the tracking on their website. Since I was just engaged as a consultant, not a full-out retainer or full person on team, I did what I was supposed to do. But I wasn’t really aware of how everything else worked in the company, and basically it broke the tracking on their website for about 2 weeks.
This is something that I recommend against all the time but I’m admitting that it happened with this one because of just the nature of how it worked. The client was like ‘why don’t I have reports?’ I was like ‘have you not logged into your account and verified things?’ Because I verified everything I was doing was working.
Anyways, long story longer, it was basically both my fault and their fault that it broke, and I let him know it. I was like ‘hey I broke this thing. We should have all been checking it but it’s broken.’ When you have those conversations, you think that it’s going to be ‘alright well you’re done. This is over.’ I wouldn’t have minded having it over at this point because it was a small little gig.
And they’re like ‘No! If we fired everybody for all their mistakes, we wouldn’t be able to work with anybody. It’s our mistake too for not checking it. We just need to get a better process in place. We need to work better internally at this thing and have our QA in place.’
So that’s a good result of something that was very unfortunate. They’re not going to get their data back but they at least understand how things work. So that’s an example of a good client to work with. Somebody who’s understanding. These things are not ideal but they happen.
Now a bad example would be somebody who tried to sue you because of lost data or something. That would be not good. As you go through this process, you need to develop the relationships with the ones who would react the way you want them to react if something bad happens. Or you need to build out that relationship and be so tight with your statement of work and what you expect to happen that it’s clear that they’re paying you to do these things.
That’s where we can be difficult. I was just doing basically hourly consulting for these people. I’m not going to get into the reasons why I was doing hourly consulting. It was just a small little thing, and I was like ‘I don’t really want to take this but they were so nice’ that I took it on for them.
I did exactly what they asked me to do and used up all the hours I had for consulting. My job wasn’t after that to go and check on everything and to check back on their analytics everyday. Now if I were doing more of a retainer or something else, then I would build that into the retainer to say ‘this is my job’.
That’s actually the reason why I don’t love hourly consulting. One, it’s inconsistent. Once your hours are done, then you have to sell them a new project in order to get the hours through there. But when you’re on retainer, you’re accountable for that thing for the next several months. You have a reason to go in and login everyday, take a look at it and make sure it’s working properly.
That’s basically the incentive structure, and the work structure is a lot more conducive to what ends up happening in the real world. Some of you probably have questions about ‘well if I’m doing analytics and setting up Google Analytics, how can I charge them for a retainer when this is largely a one-time thing?’
Well I just gave you an example. Even though it seems like it’s one time, there are always tags being added and things being changed. Can you just have some kind of monitoring service where you charge for both doing stuff and then monitoring? Can you build a business model around? ‘We’ll make sure that you’re up-to-date with the latest tracking code as quickly as possible’ or ‘we will adjust Google Tag Manager. We don’t know what’s going to come out in the pipeline from Google but we will give you a retainer for $2000/month. We’ll basically be doing all this research on your behalf, and making sure that within x days of something coming out and being available, we’ll have applied it to your account or given you a good reason why it shouldn’t be applied’.
People would pay for that because they want that peace of mind. So I do think that any type of relationship out there, if it’s a good relationship, it’s a combination of all these things that Martin put into his. It’s also how you feel about working with them and how you can deliver value over time. If you can find a great relationship with a client, and you’re currently doing something like I was doing which is hourly, you might want to try to find a way to transition that to a retainer.
Now I have many reasons why I was not looking for a retainer in this case. If anybody wants to know those reasons, you can ask a question in here as to why I’m preferring a lot of hourly stuff right now. But it’s more of a choice that I’m making in how I want to service these clients.
Basically it has to do with having more time to work on my courses. That’s why the hourly stuff I fill in in between time working on these courses and content for you guys. That’s the easy answer for it. Plus when I’m travelling, I don’t mind doing hourly rate stuff because I’m not going to do phone calls and all that stuff. That normally goes into a monthly retainer client. I just don’t want to be on the hook to have to constantly report back to somebody. That’s the long answer for this.
Let’s see. Number two: what are some pain points in maintaining client relationships?
A couple working ones from R&R, requiring admin access to all web properties. So getting access to the things you need, getting clients on to automatic payment systems versus having them pay via check invoice and then checking on your invoice all the time.
I would agree those are pain points. No doubt about it. Talking to other agency owners, I do see some people doing upfront billing or getting their credit card on file and making that investment for credit cards. Obviously somebody’s using a card of some sort. Even if you do a billing service where they go direct, they’re not sending you checks, PayPals or whatever.
It becomes pretty convenient but it can also take a chunk out of your margins so I would try to find something that doesn’t cost you a lot. Receiving a check from somebody and depositing it into the bank costs you $0 versus using Bill.com. I just got set up. Somebody who’s paying me set me up on Bill.com as a payment system. I was looking at it and it’s really expensive. It’s like $30/month plus a percentage of the bill. I was like ‘just so I can get an online payment from you? That’s ridiculous!’
When we look at the margins of an agency, payment systems and everything, if we’re trying to get a 20% profit margin, in order to achieve that, we incorporate a payment system and that ends up being 5% of our billings. If that’s 5% of the billings for a payment system, that means you’re only going to get 15% net profit. You can’t pay employee bonuses or do any of that stuff.
That’s a rough thing to consider. 3-5% doesn’t sound like much but when you’re in the people business and your margins are already thin, that can be a big difference. It’s a little bit different on other types of services if you have more margin in your product. If it’s just a product that’s physically built for a certain price, then yea, you can absorb that more than paying for agency services.
You also have to look at the other side of it. If you can cash flow more quickly and get your cash in, then you’re not going to have to take out a loan because the loan’s going to have a fee attached to it. You’re not going to have to worry about paying your clients. There are all kinds of different things like negative areas that could end up happening. There are a lot of bad things that could happen without the security of getting paid, just waiting for a check to happen.
There are two sides to it. Obviously there are two sides to everything. You just have to process the information and see what’s best for you. I know some people who have invested in an automatic credit card billing for clients and never looked back.
Ryan wants to know what I’m using for payment gateways and billing.
Right now for clients, I’m mostly just doing checks in the mail. Some people want a wire stuff or to send me through PayPal. I honestly have found that the immediacy of getting paid via PayPal is not worth them taking 3% of the fee. So for consulting services, I almost entirely get paid via checks or a direct wire transfer with low costs because I can wait it out. I can cashflow it. I’m not worried about cash flow for the most part and so I don’t give somebody a cut of it.
Now for these online courses, I have received two payments. One is through Stripe and another one through PayPal. I love them both. I think they’re amazing. They’ve worked really well for me.
It’s funny, my dad who’s a consultant offers credit card payments now for the first time in 20 years through Stripe because it’s so easy and straightforward to use. So he’s actually getting paid via credit card for the first time in 20+ years using Stripe because I had recommended it to him. I told him how easy it was.
So one easy thing you could do, and this is what I do for my consulting calls. If somebody’s paying me for the hour to do like a webinar training type thing where I’m doing custom training for their account, I send them a link to a WooCommerce product that I’ve built into WordPress. It is a little stripe beacon and a Paypal button. They can pay me either way.
So if I’m doing hourly consulting, they have to pay me before I even start working with them, and so I use PayPal and Stripe for that. But for most big agency service type stuff, I just expect a check, wire transfer or direct deposit. Direct deposits are nice as well.
I’ve used Braintree Payments as well. That’s pretty good for web payments. I don’t know if they still do it or not, but they process your first $50,000 for free. That was nice if you’re just getting started, don’t want to pay fees but want to build a process. They basically do that as a way for start-ups to use their service and grow with them. That’s a good one to consider, Braintree, because they’ll give you your first $50,000 for free. Then, the theory is that once you’re past $50,000, you can absorb that into your model.
Good questions. More pain points from Martin. I’m taking extra long in this because I didn’t get a response. I think he might be the only response that I can see in here so if you did send something to me and I missed it, let me know. I’m going to spend some extra time on this one.
So pain points. ‘Getting clients to act on actions required so that you can do your job well. I have a client at the moment who’s a developer. No work for 6 months since he paid his initial payments. He won’t return calls, won’t read your drafts and now they’ve hosted landing pages. The developer is completely blocking us as well, won’t give us access or listen to us to fix a simple task, but he has already proven he cannot perform correctly.’
Yea this is a tough one, just getting people to do what they need to do. I think that some clients didn’t even understand what they were getting into when they signed the contract in the first place. What they think is they’re getting a full service. You know, somebody’s doing everything for them, and what you really are delivering is a better version of what they’ve done on their own.
For example, ‘hey the client could do PPC for themselves or we can manage it for them.’ They think that if they’re paying you $2000/month then that is all in. They don’t have to worry about anything.
There are two ways to approach it. The wrong answer is for them to go into this thing thinking that’s true. It’s on the agency in the end to be clear about what they do, how much commitment there is for the client, and to get them to acknowledge that. Now that doesn’t mean they’re not going to go away if they don’t want to do the work. I mean people get busy. I don’t think it’s a personal thing if somebody hasn’t responded in a long time. I think they’re just busy and waiting for it to be perfect.
So maybe, either find a way to get around them or get in touch with them, and just let them know how little you really need. I think sending emails to somebody who already has too many emails in their inbox is not going to go very well. So how do you find a way to get in front of them? Is it through Facebook, Linkedin or a simple phone call? Do you send them a video? How do you show them how easy it is to do what you need to do?
Unfortunately, if they’re not paying you and you’re not doing work for them, you can’t, in good faith, bill them out if you’re not doing any work. You can’t just keep on collecting the money – I guess you could – if you wrote a great contract. That goes against what we’re trying to do here, which is to create a long-lasting relationship, not trying to charge somebody for something that they’re not utilizing.
It is difficult though. So you can either set the expectation upfront with them and say ‘this is how it’s going to be’ or you can charge more and build on those services on your end as much as you possibly can. You can say ‘okay well we will host landing pages on our own. ‘We will do these things for you on Unbounce and that’s just how it’s going to go’ or something like that.
Now I’ve been in the same situation as you. I couldn’t get access to systems or into Google Analytics. It always works to get on the phone with the people who are being difficult. Instead of accusing them of being difficult or incompetent, even though they probably are, just humanize it because they don’t know who you are. One, the incumbent web developer might be thinking that this is a security threat. They don’t really know. They don’t have context so a phone call goes a long way.
The personal connection goes a lot further. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on a phone call with a web developer who didn’t get something to us for months. Then suddenly when they are the phone with us, it’s the opposite of their tone in email. They’re like ‘oh yea we can get that for you. No problem. We’ll do that right away.’
So you just got to figure out the medium. That’s a big piece of this. It’s not always about whether it’s a good idea or not. The company thinks it’s a good idea. That’s why they hired you, signed a contract with you, and have committed to working with you for 6 months or whatever it is. But it doesn’t mean that your way of communicating is what they’re expecting or the only way that you can communicate to get the job done.
What I’ve always found is that I can’t pay bonuses to people and get my own bonus if I don’t bill. There are a lot of things you can’t do if you don’t bill out the work. A good signed contract is worth nothing if you can’t bill it. If it takes you 6 months to even get your billing going, then you have to change all your budgeting and everything based on that. You got to find a way to do it and make it happen.
Now Martin, I know you’re working through a lot of agencies, not going direct to clients. That’s going to be difficult. You have two layers of telephone you’re going through. You have to go through your client, subcontractors. You never really talk to the client directly. It’s different talking to them directly. That’s just another layer of complexity that you’ll have to navigate, so either bulletproof process to say ‘this is exactly what I need’.
The first thing that I wrote on the agency Sage Blog – I started putting stuff out there since the last call. I basically write once a week about agency stuff – was about the sales process and how to do free work in order to make the sales process easier. That means getting access to the systems before the sale even happens and understanding the systems they have.
So do some free upfront work just to get to know how it goes before you even put a contract in place. Yes, you’re doing free work, you can’t bill it but it’s basically your sales cost anyway. What you’re doing is trying out the client just as well as they’re trying you out. So before you even sign a contract, if you can say ‘hey I want to look at your Adwords account or analytics to make sure that it’s good’. If you can’t even get access to it during that time, if they can’t give it to you, then it’s going to be a long road. You might as well know that now versus signing a contract.
That’s something that comes along with experience and time. You can get excited about somebody’s budget. They say they have a million-dollar budget or whatever the amount of money is to spend on stuff. But if that doesn’t match with what they’re actually doing, or if they’re not willing to show you, then it’s just smoke and mirrors. I’ve been burned enough times where I just ignore that now, and I put my focus more into people who I can truly help.
I’d rather work with fewer people who I can truly help. Generally, if you work with fewer people who you can truly help, you can command your rates too because you’re truly helping them and they’re willing to pay for that. That’s how I look at that piece.
‘Clients want all your time and want you to explain everything in minute detail to them’.
That’s a tough one. I’m all about educating people as I work with them, but also doing everything and getting there. I think part of it is just honestly learning how to deflect that, give them enough to be satisfied but not making it all your time. So finding articles that can explain something or finding another source and just linking them versus being the one that delivers it all the time.
For example, a lot of people will sign up for my courses and use it to train employees. They realized that yes, they could explain that in detail to all their employees but there’s no return on that time. So why not pay for couple hundred dollars for a course that does that? That’s 2 or 3 billable hours for an agency. They’d rather have those 3 billable hours they can work on clients. They can use 20 hours to explain how Adwords works or use my course for $400 or $500. There’s a huge return on investment for that time. They’re getting 20 hours of time back and they spent $500. If they’re billing at $100/hour, that’s potentially $2000. It’s a great ROI to invest in that type of stuff.
I would look at it the same way if a client wants to take all your time. Is there an ROI in sending them something else, like a course, free explanation or Google’s website? Sending them out something else and getting your time back. That’s what I would recommend because they’re still getting their value. You’re just not the one delivering it. That’s something that comes with time as well.
‘Clients want to blame the agency for the failure of their business’.
This is just between all of us. If a company wants marketing to solve their problems, if they’re saying ‘we have a great product but our last-ditch effort to keep this business working and running is to hire an agency to do our marketing for us.’
You can’t fix not having product market fit. So yes, hiring an agency to do anything that’s not already just expanding or amplifying a proven process is not going to solve your problems. That agency doesn’t have any skin in the game, and the incentive model of an agency has nothing to do with what the incentive model is for the company. The company has a lot to gain and benefit from doing great work for somebody but an agency doesn’t.
An agency has a lot to benefit from, just hours and time. So anytime that a company thinks marketing is going to solve all their problems, like outsourced marketing and we’re going to fix our product market fix, it will just never work because of the incentive structures. If you want to run a profitable agency, there’s almost no profit opportunity in your agency if you’re being the full outsourced marketing department for somebody, because that’s just not how it works. You got to be at high margins from doing high-value work, not by being in a staff augmentation.
Now you could be a staff augmentation if you were a consultant or you set up your business that way, but that’s not what we’re advocating in this course. I know it’s hard to say no and turn down stuff. It doesn’t sound right. But I just turned down several things today and it felt great. There’s a certain point where you get so busy and focused that you can just turn down stuff and not feel bad at all.
Actually, for anybody out there, if there’s something that comes in that people are asking me, and you want me to send them your way, just send me your expertise as in the type of client you’d want me to send your way.
For example, if anybody comes in from SEO now, I’m completely doing zero SEO. I haven’t done SEO for years for clients and so what I do is I turn them in one or two directions. If they need education, I turn them to Tommy Griffith’s ClickMinded course. It’s an SEO course. He’s a good guy. We’ve been friends for years.
If they need consulting for SEO, now I’m starting to send them to Dan Shure. Dan Shure’s the guy who I’ve referenced a few times in this course, on the Facebook group and everything. He basically does SEO consulting by the day and charges a flat rate. $1500 and he’ll work with you for a day and then give you his output at the end. You can book him by the day. I actually think it’s so easy to refer somebody to him because I know what it’s going to cost, what he can deliver and what his wheelhouse is. That’s pretty great.
I got somebody who wanted to be a client, who took my PPC course, and he said ‘I want more in-depth help on PPC. Would you offer that or do you know somebody who can offer that to us?’ I mean I have some friends and people who I can refer him to but I didn’t have like a Dan Shure type person to refer them to. So I’m looking to always have a list of people who can take on certain types of projects, because I get approached all the time for analytics, staff augmentation, PPC…
I get a good approach for almost every type of digital marketing activity out there and I only take on a very narrow number of them. It’s just how I want to run my business from a consulting standpoint. And so I’m always looking for people who have narrow perspectives where I can just offer this up as a goodwill piece to somebody else who specializes in an area. So, something to think and reach out to me about if you’re interested in talking about that piece.
Now I like to send it out to people I’ve worked with before. So if you can send me some of your results and everything too, that would be helpful. Results and sales’ something we’ll be getting into more in June, so look forward to talking to you about that.
I’m just looking at the rest of Martin’s area. Get your questions in too if you have them, everybody. Just because I’m reading from this one, doesn’t mean we can’t answer yours next.
Yes this is really good. So Martin is basically saying, in his past life as a consultant project manager working at big companies, he found that poor client relationships was poor communication. Agree. He’s saying that the tricky balance is that, if you’re communicating too much, then there’s no profit in it. There’s a lot of lost profitability. So how do you do this at an agency level when you’re basically talking about good relationships? But now we’re talking about profitability. How do you balance those two things?
What I’ve found is, there are total hands-off approaches where you don’t schedule any calls with your clients, don’t do anything to stay in front of them, and just do free range client management. I don’t think it’s great to do that because they need to have some kind of minimum proactive communication. I’ve seen people who, anytime that a client wants to talk to them, they send them a link to their calendar and then it’s like ‘pick a 30-minute window where you can work with my calendar’.
A lot of consultants and people will do that. I don’t love it. I think it’s starting off the relationship in a poor manner to say ‘I’m so busy that I can’t even fit time or schedule you.’ I think there are merits to doing it. It’s beneficial if you don’t have to have timely communication but I always feel weird when I do those services for other people. I’ve tried it myself but I didn’t stick with it. Maybe I’ll do it again, I’m not sure. That’s another way to do it. It’s to efficiently schedule meetings using software. There’s a million calendar pieces out there that can do that for you. I can’t recommend one because I don’t actually like any of those tools myself.
But another thing we can do, and this is something I’ve found works really well for the courses, is to have everything go into a ticketing system. Even if I’m responding to all the tickets, which I don’t anymore. Actually we have several team members who also respond to support tickets as me right now. I’m working on getting individual mailboxes and figuring all that stuff out, just so they know whether it’s me responding or not. But if you send a request or reply to these emails, it’s actually going to go to the support email first where I can keep track of it.
So it’s all in an inbox of clients or customers. I already know that these are people that get higher priority than just a general inbox. It’s separate so we can see who came in. It actually pulls in your purchase details. I’m using Help Scout which I highly recommend. It’s a beautiful tool – www.helpscout.net. They pull in your order so we know if you’re a customer or not. They pull that from WooCommerce. There’s some kind of integration. They do all kinds of really interesting things. Basically, if you have a question or comment, it can come right into our system and we can keep track of it. People can respond to it so it’s not relied on one person.
That’s really been amazing, to be honest, to implement that. It’s taken our email support and just reduced it so significantly. It has reduced the reliance on me and reduced my stress significantly too, knowing that my team can answer these questions. Also, if I answer the first 10 times, we can build templates where they can use that response themselves if I’m getting the same question over and over again. We can be proactive and answer with the template, and then we can fix our websites to answer that question so we’re not getting it all the time.
So that’s another way to do it. It’s a ticketing system type thing. People just come in through that and then you route it accordingly.
Now, they all have merits to doing them. And then there’s just the traditional email or your inbox does everything. I hate that. I’d get rid of email altogether if I could, even though I like it and I realize the necessity of it. But I would consider a help desk software. HelpScout is amazing. I would recommend that for sure.
So that’s something to do. It’s to have them email that system. You can make it look like yourself. Doesn’t have to be a support email address. Mine’s email@example.com. That’s the support email address even though it looks like me. Sorry if you didn’t know that but of course I answer all your questions directly whenever it requires me to tend to it directly. But that’s the way I’ve been able to find that people get answers quickly and it’s not reliant on one person.
Another thing you can do really well, Martin, to answer your questions, I find myself doing this more and more, is I’ll record a screengrab of me doing something and then I just send it to somebody.
So I got a question from one of you, Neil, around the Agency Course forums or in the private message. Anyway, it was a brilliant set of questions and it would take me a long time to answer these things in details. I just got on the microphone and started recording. It took about 20 minutes so it saved me quite a bit of time It was actually more meaningful for him too because now he could listen to this anytime he wanted to, and it was me describing it with my voice as opposed to written form and so that was nice.
You can do videos with screengrabs. There are all kinds of different ways that I’ve explained how to do things and develop procedures within my company and with clients. I built this WordPress blog for somebody and I showed them exactly how it works. Now whenever somebody in that company changes over or they need to know what’s going on, there’s this video. It saved me and them hours and hours of time. Everybody is happy.
I think the worst form of communication is on-demand/email communication with somebody. Something where it gets you out of your thought mode, out of your stream, and you’re answering stuff ad-hoc whenever it comes up. Anything you can do to time shift that so you can do it during your down cycles or once a day and get them expected response time. Sort of what I do at the forums and a lot of stuff on my courses.
Anything you can do to get to that point, it won’t be noticeable to the client. They’ll be just as happy yet it frees you up and allows you to scale much easier in communication. You can basically use canned responses for the ones that are common, write out the really detailed responses for the ones that only you can answer, and eventually you have a library and repository that you can just use over and over again. That’s a good investment.
I think anything that reduces the time yet adds the value is the way to go. So having a weekly recurring call with somebody is not, in my opinion, the most valuable way to do things because you sort of fill that time trying to talk about something. I don’t think you need to have a lot of calls but you need to stay in front of them.
That’s where the videos and that type of stuff come in, where you can answer on your own time frame. Those of you who do the 1-on-1 coaching calls with me probably all notice that, what we did was we recorded them and I sent you an mp3 right away. So now you have exactly what we talked about.
So that’s the type of investment I’m making in this process. Think about how much more valuable that is. Instead of us taking a one-hour conversation, you can use that over and over again and not having to be on the clock with me. It’s actually less expensive for anybody to utilize that. Also, I’m not charging you all these hours so I can go do other things. Not that I wouldn’t love just talking to everybody on the phone constantly all the time, but my time is valuable too.
So trying to make my time usage not just effective for those people who buy the time. Also, trying to make it effective for my ability to go and do other things, and make that time last even longer. So a one-hour conversation now turns into 20 hours of your own self-study for your own agency. That’s what I’m trying to see the value in trying to expand the way that I do things. We’re here and it’s also something I do with clients too.
Now we’ve spent a lot of time on this part. That’s because I don’t see any other questions coming in. I’m not sure what happened, if it was timing or what on the emails. This is the only email that had significant responses in here and so that’s why we spent so much time on this one. What I’d like to know is do you have any other questions or this is to be the end of this coaching call.
Okay great, Peter. I’m glad it was helpful. Hopefully if you do have questions, you can get them in here. Otherwise I’ll just continue to summarize. That is, margins are created through process, mostly, through good people. They can help you create margins but they’re also going to become more expensive. So having the right people in place ends up eating at your margins at some point because everybody’s going to want a raise over time or to have some kind of progress. But process can save you a lot of time. They can work above and beyond anything you imagine, and it can be a really beneficial way to do things.
If you’re just getting started out, create an email box that uses a help ticket system instead of its traditional inbox. I find that’s a nice little hack that can really make things still look personal but also give you so much more of an idea as to what runs through your business.
I have an inbox that everything goes to. There were all these support requests just in May. I’m looking and I believe I had 250 or 300 support requests that came in. I answered maybe 25% of those. So by using that system, I saved myself from having to write 200 emails. Doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s nice. Emails come in all times of day all around the clock, and so that’s really nice to be able to have that in place.
There are some things that I still need to get better at, like scheduling. Scheduling is always going to be tough. There are calendar systems out there that I don’t love. I might revisit and see if they’ve gotten better at this point. There’s always going to be challenges in life and business. You just got to keep on it.
So hopefully this helps, that something was helpful for a lot of you. I know you don’t have questions. But if you want to know systems or anything that I’m using, or just want to ask a question, then head over to the forums and we’ll get to it. So with that, I’m going to say thank you everybody and have a great rest of your week. Looking forward to talking to you on our next call which is going to be June 20. So I’ll talk to you then.
Okay I’m going to give everybody some time to check in here. We’re getting ready to get started for our coaching call. This is our third one in the latest session of the course, the latest cohort. I’m looking forward to hearing your questions, comments and everything so if you do hear me and you do get in, just let me know.