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The Podcast for Agency Leaders

Join Kelly Campbell twice a month as she goes deep into what it means to lead a creative agency, with interviews discussing leadership, culture, mindset, and more.

Kelly Campbell

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EP 54:The Evolution of Technology + Impact, with Dave Ho

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly connects with York & Chapel’s CTO, Dave Ho, to talk about how agencies are using technology to solve human problems… and by natural extension developing a stronger internal culture. Dave shares his story, some examples, and what it means to him to lead an agency that’s doing good work in the world.  

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 54: The Evolution of Technology + Impact

Duration: 16:42

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we are covering a topic that's really interesting and near and dear to my heart, which is the evolution of technology and impact. And my guest is Dave Ho, the founder and CTO of York & Chapel. Welcome to the show Dave. I am so excited to have you here today.

 

Dave: Thank you Kelly. Great to be here.

 

Kelly: So York & Chapel, your team is about 40 plus people between offices across the U. S. and Canada. And I know from previous conversations that one of your great pride points is the charitable and volunteer work that you do; shelters, food banks, things along those lines. How has that impacted team building and employee engagement at your agency?

 

Dave: Well, I think it all starts from the top where our senior management team and the founders have all been very much involved in their local communities and that has translated to us hiring and bring on board the type of employees that really value this kind of civic engagement. So we've done things from a company standpoint as in volunteer for food banks. We did work for the Salvation Army one year where the entire staff went out in our Vancouver office and just ran holiday feast for the community and we've done that at various offices including here in our corporate headquarters in Connecticut. One of the local food banks where we started that recently this past year.

 

Kelly: Yeah, that's great. So because you're sort of focusing, it sounds like a lot in the charitable efforts on food banks and things like that. Is it important to you and your team like how did you decide that feeding people was one of your sort of core values? Where did that come from?

 

Dave: I don't think it's only working with the food banks. I think that became something that was easy for our team to go out and do on a volunteer basis but we also work with charitable organization on a pro bono basis. So we've done work for the National Down Syndrome Society, the Millennium Promise Institute, which is part of the United Nations Millennium Promise to help eliminate the extreme poverty around the world, and a number of different organizations over the years. We've sort of have an unspoken mandate where we try to help one organization a year where we select an organization that we think is doing some really great work and they obviously have some marketing or technology needs that we can help fulfill. And we’ve either actively gone out and asked to see if they need help or sometimes we're fortunate for them to have heard about us and what we've done for other organization they've come to us.

 

Kelly: Yeah, that's great. And so, you take that singular pro bono client on one every year. You've been doing that since the inception of the agency from what I understand and right now you're working with an organization called spirituality for kids, which of course resonates with me on a personal level. So can you talk a little bit about their own evolutionary needs and how you’re helping them specifically?

 

Dave: Well, this is a great organization that’s started by a single founder years ago and she really wanted to bring a level of emotional learning for children to match with the intellectual learning that they have in school. So what he did over the years has been fantastic, reaching out to thousands and thousands of kids around the world. There are global organizations but eventually the materials that she used became dated and she needed infusion of kind new thinking, new technology to help teach the lessons so we got hooked up with her from a mutual contact who actually he went through the program when he was a kid.

 

Kelly: Oh wow.

 

Dave: And now he's a consultant in New York and came to us and we work with him on a number of different projects in the past and he said, I have this great organization that's in need of help from a kind of branding and marketing perspective but also the technology perspective. They want to be able to reach kids with modern technology, to teach them using modern technology. So it's been a great opportunity to really help this organization make a difference for what they do.

 

Kelly: Yeah. And so you mentioned technology and obviously as the founder and CTO, I want to talk about that a little bit. So one third of your team and one third of the projects that you have are technology focused or technology based. How important would you say experimentation is to evolution?

 

Dave: I mean part of what is built into our DNA is a sense of looking for the newest both technology and methodologies to help evolve what we do as a marketing firm. So we have set schedules of going to conferences, ongoing teaching, and learning opportunities for our staff, especially in the technology realm so we're very active in going to conferences and participating in technology and kind of academic activities so right now we’re actually trying to push into publishing some articles, technology-based articles. We contribute our code to various open source projects. So we're really active in the community. So that's just built into the DNA of technology firm so we are as much a technology firm as we are a marketing company.

 

Kelly: Right. And you actually created a proprietary technology at York & Chapel called photoland, which is basically an RFID tracking system for events. Where is the tech headed as you look to update that?

 

Dave: That's been a very successful system for us and we've deployed it for a number of clients ranging from entertainment companies and we've used photoland in movie openings. We've also done it for hi-end events. We did an Hermes event for one of their launches of new flagship store in Miami. What we're moving from is away from RFID, which is great tech when we invented it about three years ago and we're moving towards facial recognition. So instead of tracking event goers using an RFID chip and a token of some sort, we're actually using just computer screens, cameras already built into everything from displays to phones so that we can keep track of people as they move throughout an event and take pictures and take videos. So that at the end of the event, you can walk away from something with a personalized web page of your evening's activities. So it's like a momento. It furthers engagement with a brand or with an event post the actual live portion of it.  So companies really love using technology to help extend their reach and do it in a fun and unobtrusive way.

 

Kelly: Right. I would also imagine that from an ROI standpoint with the clients that are using it. They're getting such a tremendous amount of content from that, whether it be like you said through video or maybe even social content, static photos, things like that so that's really interesting as well.

 

Dave: Absolutely. I mean, it's just right for social sharing. So video clips, still photos. We make it so that it's very easy with just a single button click to upload it to your Facebook or Instagram feed. So that's been where a lot of that technology is heading.

 

Kelly: Yeah. So just transitioning back for a moment to the cross-section of technology and social good. Are there any projects that you're working on now that you can share that kind of have that cross-section that we're talking about?

 

Dave: One of the most interesting projects right now is that we're using virtual reality and that's been a hot topic and growing. Obviously over the last couple of years, there's been recently a big VR event where a lot of new technology was launched and of course that technology is evolving very quickly. And VR has been the fastest adopted technology in the history of kind these new revolutions. So right now we're working with a company to develop a virtual reality therapeutic device to help autism patients. So York & Chapel had a long history helping autism organizations in the past. So number of years ago, we helped an organization in New York City called Felicity House, which is geared towards helping women with autism, which is a very underserved community. And through another contact we're now working with a major pharmaceutical and technology company to help launch a therapeutic device centered around helping autism patients adjust to social situations. So one of the areas where people on the autism spectrum have difficulty in is social interaction. So what we're doing is we're creating social interaction using VR and that allows autism patients to practice in different social situations, they can develop different skills, and repeat them so that they can go out into the real world and put these skills to test to use in different social situations.

 

Kelly: Yeah. And it's such an interesting application or use case for virtual reality. Obviously, we can have games, we can have entertainment, those types of aspects of VR but when you take that and you apply that to impacting someone's life in a way where they're in a situation where they're in a safe environment but they are really getting that real life interaction and the practice of that. And like you said even learning life skills. That's incredible. That really is such a great use case for technology. I love that example.

 

Dave: Well, we were trying to push the envelope around this. We're trying to make it as realistic as possible and in future editions we're introducing speech AI speech so that they can interact with avatars in real time in conversations and so teach additional skills, conversational skills. So this virtual reality world is basically limitless and we're also including a lot of gamification. You mentioned video games being part of the VR. That’s an aspect where patients really respond to. So gaming is very big in the autism community

 

Kelly: I would imagine.

 

Dave: Yeah, Minecraft has been noted as a real area where a lot of autism patients love to have that control of the world around them. So we've introduced gamification technology and techniques into it. Scorekeeping, progress bars, leaderboards, things like that to help reinforce the entire aspect of what they're doing.

 

Kelly: Yeah, so I do have to ask, I mean, you're changing so many people's lives with this cross-section of social good whether it be through the volunteer efforts or through the technology that you're blending with those really purpose-centric clients and projects. It's got to be pretty rewarding. Can you talk a little bit about your own fulfillment as an agency leader and how that impacts your mindset when you go to work everyday?

 

Dave: Well, it really makes it easy to go to work, right? What we're doing on a day to day basis really not only fulfills you on an emotional standpoint but also the entire staff. So it's been great to see the entire company get behind. Some of these social good and technology and how it impacts lives and we talk about it all the time. It's become infectious across the company and we see people really gear up for these assignments and really be vested in not only doing great work but for the good that it does for society as a whole.

 

Kelly: Yeah. Just out of curiosity, do you see that as a way to retain talent, attract a certain like mindedness in terms of new talent and also in terms of client acquisition? Do you feel that core value attracts clients and talent?

 

Dave: Definitely, talent side. I think that certainly on the retention side, when employees have a sense of what they're doing is important to the world and it fulfills an emotional need as well as an intellectual need, it helps our staff feel really connected with the work. We never used what we do as a tool for recruiting new clients. We feel like the work speaks for itself. And so, clients that have come across our work sometimes seek us out and that's been fantastic.

 

Kelly: That's great. Well, I love the story. I love the authenticity of what you're doing at York & Chapel and thank you for everything that you're doing and thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

 

Dave: It’s my pleasure. Thank you.

 

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EP 53:Soul Purpose for the C-Suite, with Kirk Souder

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly connects with enso co-founder Kirk Souder on how our reality is our beliefs (and how to let go of limiting beliefs). We wax poetic about how leaders can find what sparks their soul, creates profit, and impacts the world in a positive way.  

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 53: Soul Purpose for the C-Suite

Duration: 20:30

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Get ready for a very timely and very purposeful conversation today. My guest is Kirk Souder, co-founder and leadership coach at Enso, Leadership for Impact. Kirk and I are, let’s call it kindred spirits and that he coaches high impact creative leaders to find their greatest possibilities in authentic leadership, purpose and impact. Kirk welcome to the show. I literally could not be more excited for this conversation.

 

Kirk: Thanks Kelly. It's really great to be here and from our talks previously, you're right, we're very kindred, kindred spirits and souls. It’s going to be a lot of fun I think.

 

Kelly: So I do absolutely want to talk about the Soul Purpose Conference that's coming up later this month but I really want to start with your journey. We have very similar journeys and in the book that I'm writing we’ll kind of delve into how many people have a similar journey but I want to talk about your journey from the perspective of how that led you to leave your role from president and chief creative officer to pursue what felt truly authentic to you?

 

Kirk: Absolutely. In a very quick nutshell, I started as a creative in the business, startup in New York and moved out to Los Angeles. I started a company called Ground Zero. It was a very creatively accolated agency that we need to expand into the industry, eventually became President and CCO of Riney Publicist in San Francisco. It was one of those moments where you seemingly arrive where you always wanted to arrive at and yet kind of like finding this beautifully wrapped gift package you always wanted to get and you open it up and there's really not a lot inside. I spent two years in that role and finally became aware of it. As I was going to work I was experiencing dread.

First time in my life, instead of feeling excitement about what was going to happen that day, I was feeling dread and the one thing that lit me up in my whole week whenever I was at work was I would get two or three phone calls coz I'm a cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at the age of eighteen with what was then a terminal prognosis of sarcoma and managed to get through that and the big gift from that, got many gifts from that but one of them is I am on call to many hospitals and so on when a new patient comes in. These calls with these patients were so powerful coz I got to be a part of uplifting their consciousness about what was happening and I said maybe the dread I'm feeling with the traditional spaces is because I’m meant to do something else.

And because of my cancer experience, because I was very intimately aware of the finiteness of this existence wherein I resigned from my role and went back to grad school in a very experiential program, a masters in spiritual psychology. And it became way more for me than just becoming a counselor or something. It was a life-changing experience, an awakening to who I really am and what was really possible in life. And so, as I was nearing the time to leave that, I found myself in that my soul really said it's about going out and being of service and purpose, and my brain was saying but we have to make a living. You got a couple kids, they’re going to college in the future. This kind of polarity which was stopping me and through the experiential part of this program that I was in, I became aware that, that was just an idea I had. That wasn’t real. That was a notion.

 

Kelly: Right. And I wanna read the quote that actually was in the email for when you actually announced Soul Purpose, you said you have to make a choice, what brings you alive or what keeps you alive, you can't have both. You have your work that keeps you in your family fed and you have your doing good at stuff is on the other side that lights you up. It's not possible to bring them together. So what I would love to ask is tell us how you really dismantled that line of thinking coz that polarity is very strong and there is a reality to both parts, right? So how did you dismantle that?

 

Kirk: Well, I became aware because of the training I was. The difference between what is my personal thinking and what is my true wisdom, my soul’s wisdom. And when I would go into my soul’s wisdom, it was like who said that, like that's not, there’s not some Rosetta stone in the universe that’s like chiseled into. It’s made up. The reality is flexible, flexible as our belief systems are. So there is this wonderful work by an ecstatic poet, The Soul of Rumi, our words become the house we live in. And what he's saying is our reality is our beliefs.

So when I saw that, when I gave awareness to that thought, that it was just a thought, and I really accepted a world where I could do something that really brings me alive, that had purpose to it. And, make a good living at it. And within two days I got a call from a company in Washington DC I had never heard of called GMMB. It was kind of an agency PR company, a little company but all they did was positive impact projects and progressive politics and by the way, he said were the lead agency for a bummer for America, we’d love him to come in and be our partner and creative director and it was like popped up the moment I accepted the possibility of that as a belief.

So to make a long story short, being able to work on that campaign made then president elect Obama inspired me to come back to California and my family went to come back in California and started Enso, a company that is half agency, half innovation consultancy. We call ourselves an impact agency. We create big initiatives for big brands to make the world better.

And what I do is lead our leadership for impact group which is to actually work one on one with the consciousness of leaders with coaching of leaders to have them be able to make the same mark I did so they can bring innovation and purpose and whatever comes forward for them into their business platforms that they’re working in. It's the most amazing work in the world to see a leader who is over a sizeable global platform have their own awakening and then want to see that in the products and services of their brand and create a meaningful profit while they're doing it. That's what sustains it. That's what sustains the good works.

They’re not opposites. They’re complimentary.

 

Kelly: You are speaking my language. I love the fact that you really emphasized and, because I think and, the and culture, it's like when we’re having a conversation with someone and we're affirming of them, we say yes and, and then we build on it, right? So that's sort of what you're doing when you talk about this. In terms of the coaching, can you share an example from the leadership coaching perspective of maybe a client that you work with where you actually saw the impact of your work, how the inner work with them impacted the outer world? I think that would be a great example to share .

 

Kirk: Sure. When we did our very first Soul Purpose, a woman came who I had met a couple times casually. Her name’s Kim Culmone. She is the Senior Vice President and Global Product Design at Mattel. When she came to Soul Purpose, she had started to think about purpose in her life and in her business. And was honestly on the fence at that time of whether she was to stay with the company or to go and start her own kind of nonprofit. She identified through Soul Purpose that her inner thing is to really empower the disenfranchised of the world somehow and girls around the world give them empowerment.

And so, through work at Soul Purpose, she came to be understanding that why would I go out into the world to start something new to do that when I am sitting on one of the biggest global platforms that exist, that is touching the lives of millions of girls every day. And what she had already starting to put into works but what she really then brought out into the world was a whole new different line of Barbies. She really revolutionized Barbie as a doll in that she had already been working on a diversity line of Barbies of different colors, different races, different ethnicities, new body shapes and body sizes. Later, when we started, after Soul Purpose she asked me to become her coach and we start to coach together and one by one we were able to let go of any limiting believe she had around her ability to bring these ideas forth in this company and that they would be accepted, not rejected.

She had limiting beliefs going on about like would it be objected, would it not work, if I fail, doing all purpose oriented projects and so on. So through our work together, she's able to let all that go and provide a space for greater flow of these purpose oriented products moving out into the world so that more and more girls could see themselves as part of the cultural story and know that as they were, they were okay. And even late in the last six months, Kim has released a disabled line of Barbies; Barbie in a wheelchair, Barbie with a prosthetic limb, which are also, all of these things had become major business drivers for the brand and creates this spiritual cycle of purpose and profit that’s so important.

 

Kelly: Yeah. I love it. I was getting goosebumps as you're talking about that because I think the real impact is it's not for the business. It is not really even for Kim. It's for the legacy and for the empowerment of these girls who have never seen anything other in their lifetime other than this perfect Barbie, that airbrushed Photoshop magazine covers and now they realize Barbie has always been beautiful. Now there are Barbie’s that look just like me and they're just as beautiful and that narrative is what really what we need to be sharing in the world so I love it.

 

Kirk: And that came from really, I want to empathize what that came from was yes Kim wanting to do something purposeful impact in the world. But there was one step before that which is Kim, think who she really is, as this being having this human experience and it's from that place that these ideas and energy flow so really great. Very up to date dispatch about this is two weekends ago I took Kim to a prison workshop that I do two or three times a year and the women's present are helping the inmates of this prison do the same thing kind of let go of their judgments.

Most of them have been sexually abused and physically abused, kind of what brought them into the life of crime. And I brought Kim there to be the miracle of when we do this work even with this in maximum security prison with lifer inmates how the same process can happen and it is such a joy to see Kim’s facilitation of these women. And these women like waking up and realizing that they do were not there conditioning their behaviors. But these incredible beings who could go out and not repeat their crimes. It was a beautiful part to this and seeing Kim be able to become part of that.

Kelly: Yeah, absolutely. So to that end, why do you think most people believe that that outer experience influences their inner reality? Like where do you think that that comes from and maybe even how can we start to change those narratives?

 

Kirk: Yeah, so it's simple enough how it happens, which is people, they engage in this human experience something happens and instead of just observing it for what it is, we have this construct in ourselves, in our brains called the ego and its job is to kind of categorize and protect and so on. So when something happens that is in our preference, the ego says that's bad and that creates fear and worry and we feel sad. Instead, that there's another way of doing it which is to say that is not something that's bad or good. That's just something that's happening. How do I use it for my upliftment? And as a result when we get the things that are inside, then all of a sudden, our outside changes because all the outside is a reflection of what our current beliefs and thoughts are. And so the more we shift what's inside, the more the outside will shift and that enables us to break the illusion that we're a victim of what's happening on the outside. Not, it’s a projection of ours.

 

Kelly: Right. Absolutely. And it's such an important conversation because these things, these programming, the past experiences, whatever these conditions are, we keep telling ourselves the same thing over and over again and we're basically just being tested to see how and when we're actually gonna break the cycle. Because breaking the cycle is what it's all about. Changing the whole narrative and that's where the real work is, that's where the redefining what success means to us. That's where we can kind of come into our own purpose and still be profitable.

 

Kirk: That's the big proof Kelly what you just said which is when we begin to notice patterns in our life, well why is that pattern happening? The pattern is happening because we keep creating a situation like again inner reality, creating out of experience. We keep creating that same situation until we respond to it differently. The Albert Einstein quote that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When we change our response to that pattern, then everything else changes like what you’re describing. That is kind of proof of what we're talking about.

 

Kelly: Absolutely. So as we start to wrap up this conversation which I wish we could have the show for three more hours, but as we start to wrap up, I would love for you to share some details about Soul Purpose coming out later this month and just share a little bit more about that, how people can learn about it, what they can expect, all sorts of things like that.

 

Kirk: Absolutely. So what sole purpose really is, is kind of like a 2 and a half day boot camp for high impact leaders to come together from around the world. Right now we have them coming from Berlin, Rome, London, Latin America, all over America to come and literally experience this far from where they are now to fully and absolutely seeing who they are and what's available to them in terms of purpose and meaning. And then how to actualize it in their current business platforms or beyond. So it's over the last ten years of my work with leaders on that, it is like let's bring it out to a lot of people at the same time and that's the format of Soul Purpose.

As a result, you have leaders who are going back to their teens and really redefining how they're going to bring new products and services be in that profit model. I use Kim again as an example. Kim went back and did an entire Soul Purpose, for the entire design division of Mattel to have everyone be able to think this way in terms of possibilities, not in strengths of the ego. So that's what happens in Soul Purpose. Leaders lead with not just the plan for kind of actualizing what brings them alive within their platform, but a core group of collaborators from the workshop as kind of an accountability and support group so that they're staying in touch with that energy that they were part of and it helps them maintain that going out into the world.

 

Kelly: And dates, times, location?

 

Kirk: Right. So we decided to have this one right smack in the belly of the business universe, which is in the financial World Trade Center district of New York City. We’re having at The New York Academy of Sciences, which is 49 floors above the World Trade Center area and the dates are September 20, 21st, and 22nd.

 

Kelly: Great. And so you can find out a little bit more about that at soulpurposenow.com and I will definitely put that in the show notes for everyone as well as a link to your website Kirk. Thank you so much for this conversation. It's near and dear to my heart but I'm really hoping that other people are getting as much out of it as you and I have and just can't thank you enough for your time today.

 

Kirk: Well, I can't thank you enough Kelly for actually courageously bringing this work out to this industry which for me is so right to use it to make big change in the world. You are the most abled to do it as communicators.

 

Kelly: Thank you.

 

Kirk: Thanks.

 

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EP 52:Retain Clients with Speed to Lead, with Robin Alex

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly cuts to the chase with Robin Alex about what clients want: qualified leads provided to their own business developers in the shortest possible amount of time. They talk about the gap between what marketing agencies do and the wants, impacts and needs of their clients—and how to bridge that in order to increase the longevity of those ...

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 52: Retain Clients with Speed to Lead

Duration: 17:40

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we're cutting right to the chase. Clients need leads faster and we have to be able to deliver them. My guest today is Robin Alex, CEO of Innovate Fast, basically a sales and marketing consultancy based in Dallas, Texas really focusing on the education and the medical sectors as well as partnering with agencies but we'll get into a little bit of that in a bit. Alex, it's great to see you again. Thanks so much for joining me on the show today.

 

Alex: Thank you for having me on.

 

Kelly: So you are, I guess, what we would call a self-describe entrepreneur and intrepreneur. You sold your first business when you're 19, which is amazing. Give us a little bit of a flavor for your background and how that led you to creating Innovate Fast.

 

Alex: Ever since at a young age, I've been that person of how can I figure out a way to make more money to be able to do bigger things in life and even at a young age, the kid that was trying to sell candy bars in school trying to get onto the next thing and so on, so forth. So at the age of 16, I actually figured out that online gaming was a big thing. Back then it was like Counter Strike, Battlefield 1942, and things like that. Basically, bought that computer, hosted some servers for couple of friends and they ended up paying me and I realize that hey, there might be opportunity here to sell this service around the world. Three years later, I was able to sell that for decent amount of money to a larger organization, which actually I just found out was purchased by Rackspace who is a publicly traded company. So it's kind of in hindsight.

 

Kelly: Wow! You should have kept it a little longer.

 

Alex: Yeah, exactly. But I think things turned out for the better in the long run. I took that money, went to school, went to Texas A&M. And then, actually went into, work for a company who is owned by SAP and we actually built a piece of software and I was a part of that team. And that software that we built actually we were sued for one billion dollars by Oracle. And so if you actually look up an email address, you'll see my name associated to that. I was just kind of working and we built this really cool software and Oracle didn't like it. But from there, I had gained so much experience and how larger Fortune 50, just huge companies work and it's a whole different mindset versus just kind of small business. And so, I was always able to translate that into helping other businesses along the way in the I. T. space as well as marketing.

And what I learned was a lot of business owners really don't know sales and marketing. They usually outsource that to other people and hope for the best. Because they're the best at what they do, they’re business owner or whatever. And so, there was this huge gap because back when I T. was a huge capital expense, it's been hundreds of thousands of dollars incorporate that into their business and they would do the same thing with marketing and over time those became blended. And I just remember talking to one business owner that I was working with. They received a proposal for a hundred thousand dollars website. And really it was just a basic website along the way and I really didn't understand what the value justification was because it was literally a two week engagement.

Obviously there wasn't a lot of meat behind that. And so, through those conversations, I started taking on those projects and started building up just websites and getting into databases and CRM. And that was kind of the first business in marketing that I started out. But what I realize was it was a feast and famine. Win one client, you deliver and then that was it. And what I wanted to do was figure out how I can be more tangible to a business and getting as close as I can to the revenue line. And that's where we shifted and we were rebranded to Innovate Fast and that's where we actually turned into being more of a sales and marketing agency who focuses on how can we help a business grow. We start with the consulting side and usually the deliverables end up being the sales and marketing aspects behind it.

 

Kelly: And really what I want to focus on today is this idea that as agencies, we have to stop pushing these vanity metrics. This was a discussion you and I had not that long ago. Why do you think that we’re at this inflection point with regard to direct impact being so important to these clients?

 

Alex: I think overtime business owners are the best at what they do. And before like marketing agencies were really good at being brand specific or putting out content on behalf of clients but that's what all that they were really good at. It wasn't about the results and they would really push it back to the client to say, “Alright, we did all our work. You can take over here and see all of our work.” We got millions of impressions. We got a couple of clicks along the way and things like that. We don't know your business. So business owner good luck. And I think overtime businesses are becoming very hybrid centric. A lot of business owners are building teams in house and try to figure it out themselves and so just naturally marketing agencies, just agencies, any type of agency really needs to focus on what value they're providing to a business down to the bottom line of the business. And that's where I think focusing more on the leads and how many of those leads turn into appointments and those appointments turning into dollars that actually translates to the business? The meaty metrics that businesses need to focus on.

Kelly: Yeah. And that was going to be one of my other questions. It's almost like there's such a disconnect between, "Hey, we're putting all this content out. We're getting the impressions. We're getting the clicks. All of that is great." But if we don't understand things like, what is your sales process? Do you have to do some type of discovery call with your prospect? What does that look like? All of these different things. Obviously, what makes the most highly qualified prospect for you? Are there little things, little trends or patterns or treats that we can pull out that we can really pinpoint? This would be a hotter lead than this one, which is a little bit warmer versus this one, which is a little bit cooler. Those types of things, those nuances are the most important thing because those are what are going to lead to sales. And I feel like you're right. As agencies, we do focus or we have historically focused, I should say, on these vanity metrics. I think it's just a really important conversation to have.

 

Alex: Yeah. The other thing that I think that the gap between what marketing agencies do versus what the business owners know, that's closing, right?

 

Kelly: Which is a good thing. It's great.

 

Alex: Yeah, it really is. But before marketing agencies could sell these vanity metrics and tell the business, "Hey, this is super important." Whether or not you understand any of this, this is super important. Now, business owners are becoming smarter with social media and even traditional media that they understand that, "Hey, any dollar that I spend, you need to make X amount of dollars on the back end or it just doesn't make sense." It’s not only about branding or authority or anything like that. There's other factors that we have to take into consideration. And so, I think marketing agencies just need to up their game in some form or fashion just to be able to keep up with business owners because the business owners are getting smarter.

 

Kelly: Right. Absolutely. I mentioned at the top of the show that your agency Innovate Fast partners with other agencies, right?

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Kelly: And I want to jump into that a little bit. Because last year, you let me know that your team created the Go HighLevel platform, right?

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Kelly: And so, I want to learn a little bit more about that and talk about how that automates the communication process between the prospects and the companies from the moment that that prospect engages. Just kind of give us a little bit of flavor for what that's all about. And I know you mentioned earlier that your background is kind of identifying these gaps in the market and then building software for it. I think this is a perfect segue for that.

 

Alex: Yeah. Last year, with the marketing agency, we're always trying to figure out ways to deliver results. And it was very high level in the sense of just generating leads. And it’s a little bit better than the vanity metrics. But we're passing on contacts. And we say, "Hey, business owner. Good luck with these contacts. If you call them, you'll have a high chance of closing them or getting on a discovery call that we mentioned earlier." What we found, though, was that a lot of business owners were very nervous and uncomfortable calling and following up with leads because it's not a warm referral. It's not someone walking into their building or to their office, or just picking up the phone and calling them and say, "I want your service. You don't have to sell me. Just close the deal."

When you have to do a little bit of calling a lead, it's a different proposition. Because on a scale of 0 to 10, they're probably on an interest level of 0, 1, 2 maybe 3. And so, you have to build that education to get them sold. We were trying to figure out a way to close that. And we came up with a process where for our agency or for our clients, anytime that we were able to generate a lead, our system would actually automatically call the front office of our client. They would get a phone call that says, "Hey. You have a new lead from, say, Google or Facebook. Press one and we'll connect you. Press one, and it will call the lead.” And at that point, there's a statistic from I believe MIT that says you have 22 times better chance of closing a lead, if you can contact them within the first five minutes.

 

Kelly: Correct. Yeah.

 

Alex: That's a huge statistic, right? We're forcing that call. Whether or not the business likes it, we're calling them. Now, they have the ability to hang up. But it's a little bit different when you just kind of hand an email to them and say, "Call it your leisure." Even though you put it there. But if you're kind of forcing the call, they take a little bit more seriously. Well, this call will call the lead. If the lead answers, it's just natural conversation. And our system actually records that call for quality assurance and everything. From our consulting side, we learned, we need to listen in on the calls and help improve it. Because sometimes it's tonality, sometimes it's just the verbiage. Sometimes you just hear that the messaging in the ads are just completely off because they're asking the wrong questions.

Now, if the lead doesn't answer, our system will hang the call up and call that lead again and leave a ringless voicemail in their inbox. So there are two touches. And then from there, we can email automatically, and text message. We ask open-ended questions saying, "Hey. We saw that you were interested in this. Can we schedule an appointment with you?" And if you leave open-ended questions, it just offers engagement, and then you could start two-way texting, emailing, or whatever. And so, we built up this whole system that created that communication gap that wasn't in the market already. And it blew up like wildfire. We ended up using it on our clients and they started telling their friends. And so we picked up a lot of clients along the way.

But being deep in the agency scene, everyone kind of knows each other and people are finding out about this software. And so people are just asking hey can we get access to it? And so we actually pivoted a little bit with the software and now we offer it to other agencies. We don't really want to offer it direct to consumers without an agency because business owners don't understand automation. They obviously don't have a lot of follow up processes in place so we need agency partners to really buy into our software, understand it, and really be the partner there and they would deliver it to their clients.

 

Kelly: Yeah, it's a great relationship and what I thought was so interesting about the platform aside from the functionality was actually the way that you structure the pricing for agencies. So you actually don't charge based on the number of clients or the leads that flow through the system. So, give us a little bit of background with the pricing and how you arrived at that.

 

Alex: Yes, so we were actually going through couple different pricing models when we’re figuring it out. And really the biggest complaint looking at like HubSpot and Infusionsoft and all that are licensing fees.  And it just gets real costly and you may be able to justify it to customers, it’s always just a pain point they always have to deal with cause you have this huge bill coming. So what we wanted to do was really just be that agency partner and just really have a long term product that we can become the backbone of any agency. So basically, we released it at $297 a month and its unlimited sub-accounts and it gives you the ability to white label. And you can use our high level app, right out the gate. Now we offer a premium version of it for an additional 4.97 a month. Gives you a custom mobile app with your company name on it and just from a cache perspective, like check out our app in the app store. And then we integrate with Zapier and so you can actually get your own white label zap in the marketplace as well.

 

Kelly: Yeah, that’s great and there will be, just for Thrive listeners and viewers, there will be a landing page specifically for you guys at innovatefast.com/thrive and I’ll definitely put that in the show notes as well. So I guess as we’re starting to wrap up a little bit, what are some of the lessons or some of the takeaways that, having gone through your background, your experience, and even pivoting in your agency, filling these gaps is really critical, sales and marketing gaps. What are some of the lessons and takeaways that you’ve kind of discovered along the way even, more recently?

 

Alex: Yeah, I would say that making sure that you focus on what success looks like for not only your business but like what your clients business really means. I think that ultimately relates to retention. Without retention you’re going to always be struggling and it’s always going to be like chasing, chasing, chasing. So one of the biggest thing that we did with our agency was stop focusing on just picking up a client, delivering them the basics and then dropping off, because you didn’t build that value. You didn’t figure out what those gaps were, you didn’t plug any gaps, you’re just a provider and that’s it. Once we switch to figuring out what those gap were, that’s where we figured out where retention was really the biggest key for our business because they become a client for life. And then you can focus on getting your next client knowing that you had this other client. That’s becoming your biggest loud piece, right? They’re talking about you, they’re happy with everything so they’re referring and it just grows naturally from there.

 

Kelly: Yeah, yeah. And also just from the standpoint of referrals and life time value of clients, there’s really such a low or zero cost per acquisition, right? So, if you just keep that relationship going and continue to deliver those leads, deliver those sales, help the business owner through or even if it’s not a business owner, maybe it’s a marketing department at a larger organization, helping them to really look like rockstars in their roles and really understanding the flow of the business and what’s going to help those people and help the business grow. I know we say that a lot but I don’t think we walk it. And so, a tool like this, in my opinion, would help us really walk that path.

 

Alex: Yeah. And I think just walking on that path, it just builds that stickiness, right? Like because you bring in so much value to the table, they don’t want to walk away because you have such an awesome platform, your process, your customer service and everything. You walk away from being not a provider but now a partner. And so, that’s a huge transition that everyone needs to make.

 

Kelly: Yeah and that’s a big deal from the standpoint of how we look at our relationships with our clients. Everyone says we don’t want to be considered a vendor, like the bad viewer. We want to be a partner. So this is a really good way. I mean there are multiple ways to do that and it’s very nuance, right? It’s how we communicate with them, how we handle conflict with them because conflict will always arise, right? But its things like this also from a tactical standpoint, things that are a little bit innovative that we can bring to the table and say, “Hey, have you heard of this? This is something that we have access to.” And it’s something that we can add a ton of value and really close that sales gap for you guys. It just makes the agency look great. So, thank you for creating it.

 

Alex: Yeah.

 

Kelly: Well, Alex, thank you so much. It has been a great conversation, as I knew it would be. Thanks for joining me on the show today. It’s been great.

 

Alex: Thank you for having me on.

 

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EP 51:What Makes a Relationship?, with Joe Apfelbaum

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly and Joe Apfelbaum of Ajax Union talk about the components of developing relationships that ultimately lead to new business. They dissect what’s important to each party, how to add real value in order to develop trust, and the role that authenticity plays in the process.  

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 51: What Makes a Relationship?

Duration: 22:33

 

Kelly: Welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we're talking about what makes a relationship. Really, really interesting topic. And my guest and good friend is Joe Apfelbaum and, Founder and CEO of Ajax Union, which is a B2B sales firm focused mostly on LinkedIn strategies. He’s authored several books. He's also a passionate rapper, always puts a smile on my face. Joe welcome to the show. I'm so excited to have you here today.

 

Joe: Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited today. On LinkedIn I posted a photo of me eight years ago when I went to my first networking event ever.

 

Kelly: That's great. It's so great to look back at those things, right?

 

Joe: Yeah and Facebook reminds me, it's really easy, but so I posted a picture of me and Elmo. If you were like, "What is this picture this fat guy and Elmo?" I was like listen I was 265 pounds. I didn't know I was a fat guy at the time. But I definitely had no idea how to network at that point, and it's just insane how far I've come in terms of going from being a transactional person to being a relationship-based person. So I’m so glad that I'm here to discuss that.

 

Kelly: Yeah and so that's a great segue for what I wanted to start with, which is actually a little bit about your background, how you grew up and how those experiences sort of led you to growing what you call a transactional agency, a hundred-and-fifty employees, eleven-hundred clients, and then where you are today which is completely different.

 

Joe: Yes, so when I started my company I wasn't a business person. I was kind of like a tech guy. I built websites I was an SEO guy. My mother used to call me Touchy-Touch because I like to touch everything. I just like to like to reverse engineer and tinker and tear apart the computer and build it back together. And I just love the process of doing that. I didn't really ever really do it for the money. Of course I want to make money. I didn't come from a financially wealthy or abundant family. So I was always trying to figure out- okay how can I hustle, how can I buy stuff on Craigslist, sell it on eBay, how can I just find ways to make money, and what I found was people used to say, "If you build it, they will come." Ever heard of that saying, "If you build it, they will come"?

 

Kelly: Yeah. It’s not true. 

 

Joe: It’s not true. They don’t come when you build it. You can build it but time will come you have to learn how to market it. So I built a lot of websites for people, and then they said okay do SEO. And when I found this idea called recurring revenue, whereas just building a website, a few thousand bucks but then if you can do SEO for them they pay you a few thousand bucks a month. So I said you know what? I want to help small business owners. I did some research. I found that there are 34 million businesses in the United States and I said, I want all of them as customers." When I started, "I was like I want all of them, every single one, even the grumpy ones. I will change them. I will change the world."

 

Kelly: I think I've heard this story before.

 

Joe: Anyway, so I set out and I said okay in the first year, we're gonna hit a thousand clients. I did not hit a thousand clients in the first year. I got five clients when I started out but then after that when we were getting ten clients a month, then twenty clients a month, and eventually we built up a team to be able to close 50 new deals a month. The problem was that we were also losing 50 clients a month.

So we were having this churn, I think it was like an eight month average and we were trying to figure out okay what's going on, why are people not staying with us? Is it because our service is not great? But over ninety percent of people loved our service. So the question is what are we doing wrong? And the answer was we were targeting the wrong people because the average business will go out of business within three years.

Most businesses will go out of business in 3 years, so we had that demographic, people that were super hungry, super ready to go, and they wanted SEO to build a long-term business, a long term strategy for a long term business, but they were thinking, how can I get rich quick in my business and they weren't profitable, they weren't successful, they weren’t strategic, they weren’t process-oriented, they weren't developed. And as a result, they would go out of business and try the next shiny thing. The average entrepreneur has a seven year itch, these people had the seven minute itch.

And so, they kept doing it over and over and over, and so I had to really look at myself, look back at myself, and ask myself okay what am I even doing here? What am I doing, am I going to spin my wheels forever, do I want to get to the next level? We were on the Inc 5000. We’re number 178, 2012. We did half a million, two million, four million, we grew very quickly but then at some point growing really quickly was kind of like my weight.

I was gaining ten pounds every single year. I became a balloon at 265 pounds. It's not sustainable. I can't just eat whatever I want and so I had to learn how to create systems and processes in a business, how to figure out, okay, what do I even want for myself, what do I want to create, why am I in business to begin with, am in business to get the ten million in revenue and lose a million dollars a year like some of my clients were? Or do I want to be able to feed my family, make a really good living and live a life of purpose?

So I had to hire coaches, consultants, mentors. I joined Entrepreneurs’ Organization. I joined Vistage. I joined a bunch of other groups and I started learning from the CEOs that they were moving a lot slower. They were moving a lot slower, and what I realize is that long term slow and steady wins the race. And my used to say it to me but I'm a fast talker. I'm a New Yorker. I like moving fast, fast, fast, fast, fast, like fast food. Let's get it all done fast, fast, fast, come on, come on, before they even serve the food, I ate it already. So that's the idea.

So what I want to do is I got to slow down, and so when you're slowing down, you can't move too slow because then you're just stuck, you become a rock. You got to consistently move but you got to have the balance between the ying and the yang of quality and quantity. And the same thing with my network, having the balance between quality and quantity. And now, I have a transformational relationship with my employees. I used to not like my employees. I love my employees. I used to not like my clients. I love my clients. I used to not like my business in my life. I love my business and I love my life so it's a whole different ballgame waking up in the morning now.

 

Kelly: Right. And how amazing is that, how good does that feel to even just say that out loud, like I love my business, I love what I do for a living and I love my life. Those are really powerful words.

 

Joe: It's very powerful. Not only is it powerful, it's freeing, emotionally freeing, because I used to feel stuck. I used to believe in my business and not in myself.

 

Kelly: That rings a bell.

 

Joe: And now, I believe in my business because I believe in myself.

 

Kelly: Right.

 

Joe: It’s a whole different ballgame.

 

Kelly: Whole different mindset. Absolutely.

 

Joe: So I feel like right now I'm in a growth mindset, in an abundance mindset. I give a lot of clients to a lot of the people around me, even some of them that might think they're competitors. There are no competitors because my competitive advantage is me. You cannot have- Like the competitive advantage is me, and the processes that I create the systems that I create, the reputation, that we have that no one else has.

Like the client, I used to think, let me tell you something crazy. I used to think that if somebody would look at my LinkedIn contacts, they would steal all of them. And I thought if somebody would look at my CRM, they would steal all my clients and I wouldn't be able, and all my prospects and it wouldn’t be enough for me. Now I'm like these are my clients, these are my prospects. Tell me who you need, tell me who you want to speak to. If a client wants to leave because you're better than me, then you deserve the client.

 

Kelly: Right. Well it's also the mindset about giving and supporting other people as the first priority, and then you know it will come back to you. I mean I think when you have that competitive fear-based mindset, it's like army cadets when they're sitting at the mess hall and they are like guarding their plate because they don't want anybody to touch their food, right? That's like that's a different mindset than I'm willing to share and eventually people will remember that I shared and they'll come in to share with me all the time.

 

Joe: Yeah. And I used to think that energy comes from food. Energy doesn't come from food. I thought successful businesses have to have lots and lots of revenue. No. Success in full businesses have to have a lot of profit and a lot of cash, a lot of profit and a lot of cash, not a lot of revenue. You don't have to have hundreds of millions of dollars to make millions of dollars in profit. You just have to be smart about it. So that's the idea.

 

Kelly: So talking about relationships specifically, why do we need to create deeper, more meaningful relationships with those that we engage with, whether it's in business or even in life, because I know you talk about both very fluently?

 

Joe: Yes, so if you think about relationships in general like what's the purpose of a relationship, like why do we even need relationships? We are social creatures by nature. That's what human beings are and we need to connect. And ultimate fulfillment comes from contributing to others. That is the ultimate fulfillment. So you can have achievement from today to tomorrow, you could be a billionaire on your sixteenth wife, I don't care, or on your sixteen husband, I don't care.

But if your life sucks and you hate the people around you and you hate yourself, I don't care how much money you have, I don't care what you've achieved in your life, that's not a life worth living. And each one of us eventually is going to die so the question is what really matters in our life is the quality and the quantity, the depth of the relationships that we have, that we make.

Everything that I do in my life I do it for my relationships. I do it for my kids. I do it for my parents, for my siblings, for my community. I do it for my employees. I do it for my clients. If all the people didn't exist then I was alone in an island I wouldn’t have to do anything. I would just eat coconuts and rap. That's what I would do. Instead of eating coconuts, I go crazy for coconuts, crazy for coco puffs. I think maybe that's something to say, crazy for coconut.

Anyway so the bottom line is what you have to do is realize that if relationships are important to you, and they're important to your business, and they’re important to your emotional wellbeing. And by the way I spoke to a neurosurgeon and he said that one of the ways to avoid dementia or to push dementia is to be social and have meaningful relationships besides learning a new language like I'm learning Chinese, ni hao. So that's the idea. The idea was learning and creating and building and being social.

And here's another thing that’s super powerful that a lot of people don't think about, self-expression. This whole idea of self-expression that a lot of people are afraid to express themselves because they might get pushed away, they might get rejected, they might not get love by the relationships. When you have meaningful relationships that you love and they love you, you can be like your best friend and be fully expressed, like me and you Kelly we're best friends, and we don't know each other for many, many years.

 

Kelly: Yeah.

 

Joe: But I am able to be so open, so raw, so vulnerable, so connected with you, and you see that, and that's why you love being with me. And that's why you love spending time with me, and that's what makes money, by adding value to other people and connecting that way people get to know you, people get to trust you, and then people get to like you because they are like you because they're mirroring you. That's the power.

 

Kelly: Man, I'm not even kidding. I'm sitting here and I literally have goosebumps. That was so spot on. I couldn't have said that better myself.

 

Joe: Thank you.

 

Kelly: So being at Ajax Union, you focus on LinkedIn strategies, but it's really about connecting and creating these relationships. So can you talk a little bit about how you do that? I know you have sort of a framework for three different qualifiers from a networking perspective, and I love to kind of talk about that because I think it's really interesting how you pare down and drill down and sort of funnel the quality versus the quantity in your network on LinkedIn.

 

Joe: The average CEO has 930 connections on LinkedIn. There are 610 million people. The max amount of connections you could have on LinkedIn 30,000 but you can't have 30,000 relationships. So how do you identify the hundred people, the two-hundred people, the five-hundred people that you want have deep meaningful mutually beneficial win-win relationship?

So I say take all your relationships that you have right now and analyze them. Most people don't create awareness. They're busy doing things. They are busy executing but they don't have strategy. But before strategy, you got to have awareness. So awareness means recognize who do you know? So I say recognize, strategize, then prioritize. So recognize is step number one, who do you know, which names do you even recognize. Because if you don't recognize the name, you don't have a relationship with the person.

Just because you're connected to somebody and you've been herding connections, stop hoarding connections, stop herding and hoarding connections. Instead, start building relationships with the people you already know first. So step number one is who do you know. So go through all the names and identify who you recognize as a content, have you met them, have you spoken to them, do you have a mutual contact, how well do you know them. So step number one is recognize.

Step number two is strategize, do I want to get to know this person, do they seem like they’d be interesting to you, could they be a client, could they be a referral, could they be a partner, could they be an affiliate, could they be a lover, could this person be somebody that could be meaningful to you in your life that could love your content, that you want to get to know in a deeper way. So do you want to get to know this person, are they strategic for your life and for your business and most of the time the answer's gonna be no.

Out of the 610 million people, most of, millions, hundreds of millions are gonna be no. Let’s say 50 million people in the UK or in France that don't even speak English, look, that's not gonna help you because you can't even communicate with them, unless of course you're from France and you speak French. So identifying your target market is really important, strategizing is the second. So being strategic about your relationships.

And the third step is, is this person real, is this person real. When you send a message to somebody, are they real, are they a fan of your content, do they engage with you in some way, are they the type of person that's just real. So for you, a real person is the same as what it is for me, but for somebody else a real person might be a person that separates business and pleasure.

They might say business is business and I don't want to deal with the person that says business is business because that means that person is trying to make an excuse to treat me badly in the name of business and I don't want that. I want business to be personal and I want you to connect with me deeply and that's the type of relationship that I want. I want real relationships that I can go deep with, that I can be myself with.

So is this a real relationship, is this my type of relationship, is this a value-based relationship, is this the person that I would want to have lunch with, have drinks with, is this the person I want to go out to dinner with. So what is the priority that this person plays in my life based on their communication level, based on who they are, based on what their likes are, their interests and whether or not I would resonate with them.

So if you take the recognize, strategize and prioritize process, the 3 step process of awareness, strategy and then execution, or then accountability, then you're gonna know how to be able to segment your list and prioritize the contacts that will actually help you be able to create a greater contribution in your network and ultimately get more referrals, get more clients, have more fun.

Can you imagine if you had all your contacts that you prioritize to go out with and have fun with and connect with? They were all your best friends. They were all people that you want to spend endless amounts of time, that you wanted to be on their podcast, that you wanted a love on, that life would be heaven, instead of having a bunch of trolls hanging around cramping on you, like I did with the clients that I had in the past.

Now my clients I love, I love, love, love, love, love, I love my referral partners. There was once a guy who was a terrible client and he got so angry. He is like Joe, I’m never gonna refer business to you. And I got so depressed, so sad. And I was like oh, my heart started hurting so much. I can't believe he's going to make me fail. This guy's gonna make me fail. Then a coach tells me, he’s like, Joe why does it hurt you so much? I was like, "cause I want to succeed." He’s like if this guy referred business to you, people refer business that are like them.

 

Kelly: Lesser than them.

 

Joe: Right. So you're going to get a crappier client from the crappiest client like thank the guy, send him a thank you gift for not sending your referrals.

 

Kelly: Oh that's a good one. I like that.

 

Joe: So that was like mind-blowing for me because now I'm like wow. And you know what’s a red flag for me? When somebody says if you give me a discount I'll send you referrals. That's the biggest red flag ever. I pull out the big red flag and I started waving, I'm like, do not take this client on.

 

Kelly: I love it. I love it. So would you say that there's one sort of keystone takeaway that you have for other agency leaders that are watching or listening, just that they should strive to impart in their own lives, businesses, or just the way that they approach relationships or networking?

 

Joe: If you want to be successful, you got to be tracking. You can’t just be attacking and you might say Joe cut me some slack in this room and I'll just say boom. You know why? Because you need to have a process. You need to know your process. So agency owner, listen to me. What is your step-by-step process for building relationships? For me, it's recognize, strategize, and prioritize.

How often do you touch base with the people that love you and that you love? How many people do you actually have that you know, that you trust, and that you like and that they know you, they trust you, and they like you? Break it down, review your contacts. You're moving too fast. No matter how fast you're chewing, you're chewing too fast.

So put your forking fork down, chill out for a minute, take a deep breath, drink some water because a five percent drop in hydration to thirty percent drop in energy, take a chill pill, take a deep breath and realize that you have the rest of your life to live. So connect deeply, love on your relationships.

I often tell people there are three ways to connect with someone and to get a meeting, greeting, feeding, and then meeting. Most people go straight to meeting and get rejected. First start with greeting. "Hi, thank you. Nice to meet you. So good to get to know you. Happy spring!" Whatever. Start with a greeting, then get into feeding. "Kelly, you're such a marvelous incredible agency coach. You've been able to help so many people. I'm so impressed by your profile on LinkedIn. I'm so impressed that you sold your agency. I'm so impressed that you made a difference for other people." Feed, feed, feed, feed, feed, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, appreciate, appreciate, and then go for the meeting then get on the podcast, then have lunch, dinner, breakfast, drinks then go to the Caribbean islands and go crazy.

 

Kelly: Well, it's a process. It's like courting right? Like you wouldn't go on a first date and propose and that's kind of the analogy that I always us, that relationships and deep meaningful relationships take time and like you said before it's about slowing down, it's not about how many LinkedIn connections can I have. I've been on LinkedIn since the very beginning, and I think I only have maybe like two-thousand connections, other connections they have twenty five thousand, thirty thousand and I'm like, "what does that really say, what does that really mean? Is it just to be able to say that I'm like this rock star connector?" But are you really connecting when you have that many “relationships” because they're not relationships and we have to be honest with ourselves about that. 

 

Joe: They're just connections. And let me tell you some sales statistics just you know. 48% of sales people never follow up with the prospect, and this is even in networking. Most people don't follow up. I go to a lot of networking events. Most people never follow up. 25% of sales people make a second contact and then stop. 12% of salespeople only make three contacts and then stop.

So that means that means that over 80 or 90 percent of people are not making more than three contacts. I would say only ten percent of sale people are making more than three contacts. And the same thing with networking but only two percent of sales are made on the first contact, three percent of sales are made on the second contact, and eighty percent of sales are made on the fifth to the twelfth contact. Eighty percent of your referrals are going to come from the network that you've been in touch with a dozen or two dozen times and you built meaningful relationships.

I know this because I've done this. The deals that I get that are ten-thousand a month retainers, that are twenty-thousand dollar a month retainers, for lead generation, for sales enablement, for the stuff that we do for the B2B companies, they come from people that I've known for five years, for six years, for seven years, and that I’ve had lunch with every single year like multiple times that know me, that trust me, that see me over and over. They come from random places.

That is the reality of it. Somebody said that networking doesn't work. I said how many introductions have you made in the past six months? He said I made three introduction. I said I made a thousand introductions. It's not that networking doesn't work. You don't work. So he's like holy crap. I don't work.

 

Kelly: Coz you're not giving, you're not giving.

 

Joe: Put it out there.

 

Kelly: You’re doing the number one thing which is a priority. So I said it at the top of the show, I have to ask, are you gonna do a little rap for us today?

 

Joe: Of course I'm gonna do a little rap for you today. My name is Joe and I'm the social selling pro. I teach LinkedIn so you make dough. This is how we go. This is how we flow. Let's start the show so you can grow. Now bye to the lurkers, hi to the workers, ride like a surfer, click on the cursor, you open an account then you don't know what to do, you’re looking through your feet then you're looking for your crew, where is Kelly, where is Gilbert, where are my peeps?

But you haven't been connecting to all those connections that you have been collecting to all those fears, that you have been protecting to all those results that you have been expecting. Let me be direct. Learn how to connect instead of expect. It's a networking affect. The value that you add to this guy named Brad to your sister's dad It'll make you glad. Going viral is a fad. Instead introduce them to your pad. You won't be mad. You won't be sad but you didn't do the work. You're acting like a clerk in the post office, like an order taker you wanna be a mover, you want to be a shaker, start to learn how to be a rain-maker, listen to Thrive and start to be alive because Kelly is the bomb. Can I get a boom in the comments? Give me a boom. Boom!

 

Kelly: Boom Joe. Thank you so much. You make my day every single time we talk, every time I hear you rap, it lights up every part of me. So thank you for being on the show today. I appreciate your time and you have a great day.

 

Joe: Thank you so much. Boom!

 

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EP 50: Exploring an Agency's Harmonic Triangle, with Mike Belasco

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly asks Mike Belasco of Inflow about the Harmonic Triangle approach he recently implemented at his e-commerce marketing agency. They talk about why he felt the need to make a dramatic shift, what he’s gained from being authentic, and how the frameworks actually works.     

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 50: Exploring an Agency's Harmonic Triangle

Duration: 19:28

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. This week, my guest is Mike Belasco, founder of the Inflow, which is essentially an e-commerce marketing agency out of Denver, Colorado. Mike and I met a couple years back at SearchCon in Breckenridge and it was actually at this year's conference that we got into a conversation, we reconnected, and he started telling me about this brand new approach that he's taking at his agency that he sort of internally named the Harmonic Triangle. And of course, I was very interested and thought we have got to have them on the show. So Mike thank you so much for making this happen today.

 

Mike: Thank you Kelly. It's great to be here.

 

Kelly: So let's kind of start with why you felt like you needed to make a change with the agency, how you looked at where you were going, how you felt about whether you were living your core purpose or not, give me the perfect storm of what created all this in your mind.

 

Mike: Yes so for a while we were on this trajectory to really high growth agencies. We were on Inc. 5000 list 3 years in a row. We were on the Denver’s fastest growing private company list 5 years in a row. And things generally were going pretty well from a business perspective. As we continue to get better and bigger and bigger they didn't feel right.

We were starting to make hires a lot quicker because we needed staff to fulfill the work that we were selling. We were taking on more and more clients, because we have this really aggressive big very audacious goal that was based only on revenue, and so we were taking on clients that maybe weren’t the best people to work with.

Just our different team members didn't feel great about. I was starting to see like in some of the engagement surveys that we do with their staff every quarter, that people were like, "Seems like we're just growing for growth’s sake. Like we know the goals, X. Y. Z,  X amount of dollars, but like why?" Even though we had a core purpose, a strategic vision, quarterly objectives, and all that stuff.

 

Kelly: Oh your okay hours, yeah?

 

Mike: Okay hours yeah. It just wasn’t connecting to the team and they were kind of just floating out there without real purpose or vision. And so, I just really started to reassess things personally and think about what I wanted as a business owner, why I had even started this in the first place.

 

Kelly: Right. So the team was feeling sort of unmotivated, there wasn't a clear direction as to where you are all growing, some of the stuff was stuck in your head, and they also felt like there was no real purpose behind it. Is that kind of encapsulating?

 

Mike: Yeah and that again even for me personally, I knew where the revenue goal came from like mathematically but at the same time that's not the only reason I created Inflow. I created it because I wanted to have a great place to go to work every day, and I know that sounds cliché.

 

Kelly: No, it doesn’t.

 

Mike: No? Ok. Well good. What I've learned over the years is that to create that great place for me, it needs to be a great place for everyone else that works here. I started to try and figure out what my team needed, and again that's kind of the roots of where a lot of these came from.

 

Kelly: Right. So where did the concept of the Harmonic Triangle actually come from and how does that framework work when it comes to how you restructure or envision the trajectory of Inflow?

 

Mike: Yes, so where it came from was at first looking at the stakeholders that were represented by our goals and our vision. And again coming from simply a revenue based big, very audacious goal, the only stakeholder that was really being considered was the company or the investors, which is me. And that didn't make a lot of sense when I really started to look at it in hindsight.

Like how can our other, we have three main stakeholders. We have, certainly the company, the investors, and me. We have our team and we have our clients. Those are the three main stakeholders and so those were three points, which of course, it is a triangle so that is where the actual triangle came from. And then it was the concept of like we need to start this team first because if we can make sure that the team is happy then in turn they will get great results and offer great service to our clients.

And in turn, those clients will continue to expand their relationships with us to send us referrals, which of course makes a company and the investors happy to achieve a certain profit margin coz at the end of the day, revenue doesn't matter. I mean it's not money in the bank if you will. And of course then that profit margin and that revenue enables the company to continue taking care of the team in a lot of ways for them to be taken care of. So that's the general flow around. As you see our team is represented at the top and that is conscious and it starts with us taking care of the team and kind of flows around the triangle from there.

 

Kelly: Right. And so, when you look at this triangle, and you look at where the different stakeholders are positioned, it almost seems to me like the only real difference if we break it down really simplistically is we used to have revenue and profit margin at the top, clients were the ones we were servicing and we thought about the team sort of last. So if clients are still in that number two spot if you will, all we're doing is we're essentially replacing or swapping the team. You are focusing on our people who will then take care of the clients and the clients will then feed into revenue and profitability so it's really just kind of swapping number one and number three and client sort of stay number two. Is that fair?

 

Mike: Yeah.

 

Kelly: And I know there's more to it than that. I am just trying to break it down.

 

Mike: Like make a specific order. I mean it does take a flow.

 

Kelly: It is a flow.

 

Mike: Yeah it's a flow and then you have to look at the interrelationships like what are the things that are going to make the team happy. So if we are putting them at the top of the triangle, let’s just say, one of the things that are gonna make the team happy? Well, certainly they need to get paid well, have good benefits, have a nice place to work and all that kind of stuff, but more importantly you need to have a great team members to work with.

So if we we're rushing through our hiring process or we are kind of waiving some red flags for someone and leading that into our triangle, into our ecosystem, that really affects the day to day lives of a lot of people that work here and their overall happiness. Same thing with clients, we're taking on clients because it represents opportunity for us to increase our revenue, maybe our profit, but we are not really, I guess I mean it's hard with clients obviously because you don't want to prejudge someone just on few conversations in the sales process but…

 

Kelly: But you are still to qualify them, right?

 

Mike: You are still to qualify them, specializes you mention e-commerce so a lot of clients are still e-commerce clients and all that, but sometimes like the motives didn't align or we didn’t make sure that for example even though the person that we're talking to was able to make a decision on hiring us or not, there were other stakeholders that we needed to get on board before we all agreed to move forward and work together. And so we weren't taking those steps to making sure that the kind of clients that definitely affect, I don't want anyone dreading coming to work on any given day because they have to work for some client. Unfortunately that was happening, and that doesn't work, that disrupts the entire flow, it doesn't make the team happy and therefore the triangle fall us apart.

 

Kelly: Alright so you told me, it's not just an order it's the nuances and actually what is in between sort of, if you're looking at that flow, that chart that we're gonna have on screen, it's the connection between what comes first second third or how that all the interdependence or the interrelationship of those things.

 

Mike: Exactly.

 

Kelly: So you actually have just started implementing this not that long ago and you've been getting some pretty early feedback that’s been positive. Can you share sort of one of those stories or one of the anecdotes from your team?

 

Mike: Sure. I mean I guess the first thing that comes to mind is just where we had to make some tough decisions and tell clients you know what, this isn't working out. I mean it's not that we just gave up. I mean we did our due diligence. We said look here's what's going on, here's how we see things, here’s what we'll need to do to continue moving forward coz we need this to work not only for you guys but for us as well and either we can get on the same page and move forward and things will be better or we should just part ways. And so we have parted ways with some clients.

 

Kelly: Has that been amicable?

 

Mike: It's been amicable. There is no hard feelings or anything like that.

 

Kelly: Do they understand why, or they just thinking oh these guys don’t want to work with us anymore.

 

Mike: I mean, it's hard to say. I mean we're not in their heads. I think some of them definitely understand. It really is dependent on the situation. What I can tell you though is that the staff sees it and they say wow, they really mean what they're saying with the leaders of Inflow. They are taking huge risks in some cases that they are having really tough conversations. One of my managers when we were talking about a potential client that we needed to kind of have a little bit of talk with the client to try to work it out.

 

Kelly: Come to Jesus moment?

 

Mike: Yeah exactly. I love that you let us do this. I don’t let you do it. I require you to do it. Coz if we don’t do it, the whole thing’s not going to work.

 

Kelly: Yeah, it's great. So along those lines with the team, how important is the mindset shift, and how do you measure those things? Because those are sort of the things that are the warm and fuzzies and sometimes the more emotional or more, I don't know, just things that are hard to quantify so how do you measure those things?

 

Mike: Well, I alluded earlier to the fact that we do quarterly engagement surveys. We cover a wide variety of topics in that with our staff, and we have a lot of historical data and results so that is the best way that we can quantify these things. We can really see trends there.

Now what I will tell you is again we're about 35 people or so, so going purely based on the numbers and the metrics can kind of be tough. Like we’ve seen trends where if you just look at the overall average score if you will, like it honestly hasn't changed that much over the lifetime of doing these engagement surveys no matter what we do, which is fine coz it is a good score, but at the same time it's not helpful feedback. There is no actionable feedback there.

So the best thing that we have is the comments that come in as part of the survey so rather than the numbers looking into what people really writing in their pre-formed answers, that's one way that we can do this like collectively across the whole company. But you have to understand, we also have a lot of other things to facilitate good communication and feedback, which is a core value of ours.

So for example, we do weekly one on ones with every team member every week. We use fifteen-five and every team member submits and has a fifteen-five report reviewed every week. We are very big on open honest frequent communication so that we can all continue to work together to improve and that's something that's really important. So if you can't get on board with that, or be a good communicator like you are calling that a good fit at Inflow

 

Kelly: So the last time that we talked we started going into authenticity and vulnerability and all of these things right? As an agency owner, it takes a lot of courage to be this authentic and to say even though we're hitting our financial goals something doesn't feel right. Those are the words that you used earlier on the show.

So to say like something is broken and it doesn't feel right and it has to do with my people and the way that they feel even though I'm meeting my performance goals and my own revenue, all of those things as a private company. There's a lot of uncertainty and there's a lot of risk and emotional exposure in kind of going down this path. So I'm curious to know what were some of the results or some of the outcomes of you showing your own vulnerability in this?

 

Mike: Well, I mean number one for me it felt good. It just feels good to connect, to really live.  What I feel is the right thing to do for the right reasons and to continue to improve my own personal environment with again the clients that we have here and the staff that we have here. As you mentioned, it is still really early for specific results like growth or even more culture surveys and things like that. That's all still developing.

But what I can tell you is again through those conversations, through the communication, through the feedback I'm getting that my managers are getting, our team members are giving, it seems to be catching on and going well. And it makes sense. When you study the stuff, for example, the book, Culture Code, it’s a really big influence and is an important read, that says look you got to have this purpose, you got to have this safety; otherwise you are never going to achieve that good positive culture that you want to get.

So I think the thing that I've also kept in mind is the obstacle is the way. And so, while some things maybe tough, and some things maybe uncomfortable or put me in vulnerable situation, those difficulties will lead to better things down the road. And so it's just part of the journey. And I believe in it and so I am very confident that we will see results in terms of, number one, just our general happiness at our jobs in Inflow, which again I think will influence everything else from profit margins to client results to pretty much anything else out there you can think of.

 

Kelly: Right. Well, I'll definitely put a link to Culture Code in the show notes for sure. And as we are starting to wrap up what would you say is your biggest takeaway from a growth perspective up until this point?

 

Mike: Well, number one high growth is not for everyone. I mean I think like folks start up a business and it's like  grow, grow, grow, grow, grow. And then all of a sudden, you're just kind of looking at dollar signs and that to me, that's just not for me. Maybe for something else but it is not for me. So I think it's to really understand what you want and what's going to make you happy as an individual agency owner, business owner, and then try to craft your vision mission for that agency around that.

I suppose if it's really high growth and you’re just, that's something you are really passionate about that's great, but understand that there are costs to that. And there are compromises, I think, that sometimes need to be made that, some people may be totally fine with but others are just aren’t. My mission is really to achieve harmony among these three stakeholders at Inflow.

And I'm really looking forward to seeing what the results of those are but I would say to an aspiring business owner or agency owner, you really have to look at that spectrum of high growth lifestyle, really understand it and not just kind of brush it off like, "Oh yeah, it is hard to scale or you have to hire quick and all that kind of stuff." I think you really have to think hard and fast about it. Because again you have to be very, very careful on the clients and employees that you let in the door because ultimately those are the main influencers.

 

Kelly: That’s the agency.

 

Mike: Yeah, that’s the agency.

 

Kelly: Well I think achieving harmony amongst clients and your team and your bottom line, that sounds like a pretty worthwhile mission, so congratulations on everything you're doing with Inflow and I'm just super excited that you're able to join me today, so thanks again Mike.

 

Mike: Hey, I'm just glad someone's interested in hearing about this, thank you.

 

Kelly: Very, very interested.

 

 

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EP 49: How to Optimize Conversions Before Go-Live, with Nitzan Shaer

  On this episode of THRIVE—now sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly chats with Nitzan Shaer of WEVO about the myriad issues with post-launch conversion optimization of websites, micro-sites, landing pages, videos and more. They talk about why merely adhering to best practices in web design is no longer enough.    

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 49: How to Optimize Conversions Before Go-Live

Duration: 20:02

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we're going to delve into optimizing conversions but with a little bit of a different spin. My guess is Nitzan Shaer, Co-founder and CEO of WEVO, a digital marketing firm that enables website optimization but pre-live, a term that they've coined internally. Welcome to the show, Nitzan. I'm really excited to have you today.

 

Nitzan: Kelly, great to be on the show. Thanks for having us.

 

Kelly: So let's kind of just go right with the problem. We love to set up a problem. What's the problem with launching a website without a really thorough understanding of pre-optimization and also how has the technology changed to kind of address those issues?

 

Nitzan: So Kelly, marketers and agencies spend quite a bit of time these days optimizing websites. The conversion rate they are trying to reach of visitors arriving at the website turning into customers is an important KPI for them. Until now, most of that work has been done after a website goes live. There is AB testing. There is usertesting.com. There are many tools out there right now that optimize a website after you have gone live and there's a few challenges with that, that agencies and digital marketers find on a regular basis.

First and foremost, there is a lot of effort that's put into designing, coming up with new ideas of what to fix and what's actually going wrong with the website. Waiting for statistical significance. Are you launching a website having these two test run in parallel and waiting for enough people to convert on each one to know which one is the winner.

This process all in all can take weeks, sometimes months for a single AB test. And what we've seen from research is that many of these AB tests actually don't even yield an improvement in conversion. You can have even up to seven out of eight tests that don't yield more than a quarter percent, a half a percent of improving the conversion. So it's a very time consuming labor intensive kind of problems out there today.

 

Kelly: Yeah and you're talking about sometimes these projects that are in the hundreds of thousands even millions of dollars where there's a lot riding on it so getting it right is critical.

 

Nitzan: Absolutely. We've had customers approach us and tell us some horror stories.

 

Kelly: I’m sure you have a lot in your back pocket.

 

Nitzan: Working really hard sometimes for a period of months to launch a new website for a new product or a new campaign or just a rebranding effort. And then after all of that work is put in, after all the stakeholders of being interviewed, after the designers have done their best and the copywriters and intense fighting about what word is going to be where, with great pompous, this website is launched and what they have seen is a decrease in conversion after all of that effort.

And then there's this egg on the face of the of the CMO of the digital marketer, of the agency sometimes that backed the site. And then a lot of finger pointing starts like no the agency didn't listen to what we said, you didn't listen to what we said. And then this very long process of trying to optimize the process from there on.

 

Kelly: Right. And you mentioned AB testing a little while ago. When we talked a little bit earlier today, there's sort of this dirty little secret in the industry about AB testing. Can you sort of uncover that secret?

 

Nitzan: Yeah, I think so again we speak to a lot of digital marketers and agencies on a regular basis here, and what we’ve heard usually after the first or second beer as the stars come out, the ones people don't share when you meet at a conference and talk about how successful we are.

The stories many times are about the very long process that goes into AB testing. The fact that they don't do half as much of AB testing as they would like to do and the amount of time that elapses until they get the answer back from each one of these AB tests so if it's Google or Facebook, they do AB testing in split seconds, and big retailers same thing, but for most companies out there that don't have millions of visitors hitting the same exact web page, this can be a real problem.

On any statistical significant test, depending on the test and the volume and so on and the difference you're aiming for, you can even have potentially tens of thousands of visitors and that isn't the purview of every company out there to have that. By the way we work with some very large companies, even if a company may have millions of visitors in aggregate, they don't have millions of visitors visiting each one of…

 

Kelly: Particular page. Yeah, and you also mentioned usertesting.com, which is a tool that we absolutely use at my agency probably four five maybe six years ago and talking about statistical significance, what's really the issue with using something like that and relying on that data if you're an agency, a web development agency or digital marketing firm that touches website development and landing page development, what's really the issue with relying on that small subset of data?

 

Nitzan: Usertesting.com is a wonderful tool as long as you use it for what it was intended for. And what usertesting.com is intended for is similar to surveys or focus group. It's really about getting qualitative information when you know you're in a very structured environment and knowing that the answers you're getting are what 1, 5, 10 people may think about your product knowing that they are on the spot being interviewed by you.

There's no statistical significance to that. You can hear three out of the ten people that you interviewed at usertesting.com say, "I hate this button, why are you asking me to click now." Right and it has absolutely no meaning because it's three people, it's not thirty, happens to be thirty percent of your audience but it's three people.

That thirty percent is completely misleading because it's not statistically significant. I had many people tell me that they implemented results from user testing or findings from usertesting.com and it took them in the completely wrong direction. It's very dangerous to trust those results if you're trying to get statistical significance and actionable results out of that.

 

Kelly: Right. So for agencies, we have a mandate from our clients to increase conversion obviously every single client comes to us with different KPIs or a different sense of what success is in terms of measurement but we do have a mandate to increase conversion, whether that's informational, requesting information or if it's e-commerce, whatever it is, we want more people to get in touch with us as the client.

You say that most agencies when they go through this entire website design and development process, they are really praying at the end of the day that when they hit that button to go live and they make the DNS switch, they're really praying and so how does your company, how does WEVO actually solve that issue for that reality?

 

Nitzan: You touched on an important word there which is pray. I've had a number of agency friends of mine confide like after all is said and done, after we invested all this time launching in designing a new website and coding it and cajoling the customer to believe what it is you say is going to happen just before we hit that go button we do a little pray each one to their own god but they do that little session of praying that this is going to work well. The truth is they don’t know and they can’t. They are humans. There isn't a tool out there currently that that tells them this is going to do better or not.

And that was the context for creating WEVO.  So we got together a few years ago. I was coming out of the Skype- I joined Skype early on- and we were seeing this pattern again and again of the challenges we just described here that praying before you launch not understanding what the root causes are. And what we did with the number of people we put together this concept around, we all said, there must be a better way.

There must be a way to test these things before you go live, what we call here pre-live testing. And what we do at a high level is fairly simple, we bring an audience to the page itself, and this could be a design of a page or a coded page so we were just fine with the design of the page even before you encode it. And we ask them a series of questions that enables us to build a model of the page, a digital model. This is very similar to what Pandora or Spotify do with the song.

First thing you do with the song after it’s released they create a digital footprint off that song, well, the Music Genome Project as well at Pandora and they know if it is fast, it is slow, what genre, sub-genre so on. We do the same thing for a website. We know if the website is clear or if it's not clear, if it's appealing or not appealing, and to what degree. We know to what degree it's credible and people believe that the website will actually deliver on its promise, to what extent it's relevant to the target audience, and to what extent is experience driving them to take action.

 

Kelly: And these are all just through a survey or a questionnaire?

 

Nitzan: Yeah, this is done predominantly through a questionnaire that we put out to the specific target audience. So we have access to about 30 million people around the world, 15 million of those are in the United States. And we have this questionnaire, this experience that we go out to them. They fill out these answers to these questions, and then we sprinkle in the secret sauce and the secret sauce is calibrating those answers to what happens in the real world.

So just asking people. People are terrible at predicting what they're going to do. If you ask somebody in January how many times they are going to go to the gym next year per week, you may hear, "I'm gonna go to gym five times a week." And we kind of like know that's not really going to happen because we have enough experience and we've heard enough people say that, maybe even about ourselves.

So what WEVO does to calibrate those answers is, we take and we ingest to our machine learning algorithm a large number of historic AB tests and these historic AB tests basically calibrate our system and say no back to my example, if somebody says that they're going to go to the gym five times we know that they're going to go to the gym three times a week.

And thus we know to provide that reduction of the rate so we don't ask our audience to say, are they going to buy this product, are they going to convert or not, they don't know that answer. You can't ask them that question. What we do is we ask them a whole lot of other questions that together we know to correlate those to actual conversion.

 

Kelly: And give me a sense of what those questions could look like.

 

Nitzan: So it's questions that are related to clarity. It's the questions that are related to appeal of the product. It’s the questions that are related to relevancy to them specifically. There are some quantitative questions. We were asking questions on a scale of one to seven. There's some association questions that we're asking, so we're pulling out both emotional and rational decision-making. You are probably familiar with the Daniel Kahneman think fast, think slow, about two parts of the brain there.

So we're trying to pull that out as well in all of the elements that come together to then drive action in the future. That's the model that we built. It’s a behavioral model. There are two other really important elements that we pull out of this and that is geographic analysis of the page so we can highlight which areas on the page are holding them back from converting so we literally highlight those areas on the page for the digital marketing and say this is an area you want to improve.

 

Kelly: So is that similar to like heat mapping technology?

 

Nitzan: Yeah. It takes from heat mapping technology but heat mapping technology has a big challenge. Heat mapping technology shows you where people clicked on the web. Is that good or bad they clicked there? I don’t know. What we do is something very different. It looks like a heat map but is generated in very different way and this is actually the areas that are hindering conversion versus the areas that are accelerating conversion. And that helps you actually take actionable insights from that.

And the third thing that we do so beyond that driver analysis, beyond the geographic analysis, is give you a clear map on the gap between expectations that people had coming to this website and how will that website actually fulfill their expectation. So if they're looking to purchase a credit card, they want to know that the rates so low, the rewards are high. They want to look if this is a reliable institution, and that they're going to get good service if they call up. And we show you to what extent the website actually meet those.

All these things come together in order to enable WEVO to predict for you, this is a simulation with a fairly high degree of accuracy that we've created over time to predict if you have multiple designs, we will tell you which one is actually going to do better. So when you do launch it, you know that with a very high probability this one is going to do better than what is out there right now or better amongst your ideas. It also changes the conversation with your customers as an agency to say hey, here are three ideas, it's not you choose which one is better. It is three ideas. This is what is predicted to do best and why it is predicted to do best, now choose which one do you want to go with.

 

Kelly: And that's kind of interesting because then on some level the blame game that you were talking about earlier could literally be, we ran this this process and this is the predicted pre-live and this has the highest degree from a probability standpoint of being the most successful but still it's your choice. You could use the one that's the most probably successful or the middle of the road or the least and if your CEO still prefers the look and feel and the aesthetic of the one that is predicted to be the least successful, that's your decision.

So is that part of it like that you're enabling the agencies and the clients to be able to make those decisions they're still empowered to make those decisions but now they have this other predicted and probability information behind them?

 

Nitzan: Kelly, that's exactly right. We're not here, we think that, those relationships in advance, they are all we hear are providing a tool for the decision makers to make a more intelligent decision that is based on more data, on testing pre-testing before you go live. If the CEO or the executive team or the CMO still says for these strategic reasons I want this option, even though it's predicted to do less because we're going to change customer opinions or because this is what our investors want or this is where the market, whatever the reason maybe, that's legitimate.

And it's their decision to make, but at least they have the understanding of which one is predicted to do better and why. And maybe they just want to tweak something in that option that'll make it better. So that optionality I believe five years from now we will be looking back at twenty-nineteen and saying we're in the dark ages, always at that we launch things without knowing if they're going to be successful. I need to build a bridge. Let me go three bridges and I will test them to see which ones can survive the next hurricane. It is like insane.

 

Kelly: Well that’s what drew me to WEVO was the fact that it just makes so much sense. It's very logical and you're right I don't really understand how we've been doing things the way that we've been doing them, but it's great that you saw that gap and realize that. So as we start to conclude, why are we even having this conversation? And by that I mean how has web design change from the standpoint of the fact that best practices are just not enough anymore?

 

Nitzan: I think you're highlighting an excellent point there Kelly. So I think in the first generation of internet websites it was having a site, that was good enough. Next generation, we saw that there's a slew of best practices that if you fill those best practices you're probably good enough. And the agency would sweep in and say you're missing point one five and seventeen. If we fix those things, it will be better and therefore right.

I think now what we're entering 2019 and probably the past couple of years for more advanced industries, best practices don't cut it anymore. It's not good enough. We're entering an area of personalization. We’re entering an area that we have to understand the needs and expectations of our customers in a better way. And just winging it, just eyeballing it, just doesn't cut it anymore. And that's why we're seeing the phenomena that many AB test don't result in better conversion rates because eyeballing and guessing what will work better just doesn't work anymore.

 

Kelly: Yeah. You could be having not- I won't say poor design or poor copy- but you could be having ineffective designer, ineffective copy against ineffective design, an ineffective copy and you're just kind of choosing or allowing the customers to choose maybe the lesser of the two evils. Right?

 

Nitzan: Right, that's exactly right. And this isn't to say we have bad designers or bad copywriters.

 

Kelly: No I didn’t mean that.

 

Nitzan: Excellent copywriter, excellent designer but they need now more sophisticated tools. It’s like you need a measuring stick that's more refined than it used to be in the past. Understand what are the needs of their customers and how does the specific sub, sub, sub segment at this age group and this income level and this education industry I repeat and so on and so forth. How are they going to respond to my pages, and that's something that it is very hard to uncover that and marketers and agencies are looking for tools these days that will help them find out the answer.

 

Kelly: Yeah, well this has been a really interesting spin on the conversion optimization conversation and I'm a total geek about it so I really love it and I just want to thank you so much again, Nitzan for coming on the show with me today. 

 

Nitzan: Thank you for taking the time. I really enjoyed the conversation.

 

Kelly: I did as well.

 

Nitzan: Thank you.

 

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EP 48:The Evolution of Facebook Advertising, with Kim Barrett

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly talks with Kim Barrett from down under about the ever-evolving landscape of Facebook ads. They theorize about why 80% of businesses fail at effective paid media, as well as the most common mistakes made by agencies and in-house teams.  

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 48: The Evolution of Facebook Advertising

Duration: 16:08

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we are talking all about Facebook advertising. My guest is Kim Barrett, founder of Your Social Voice, the digital agency based in Perth, Australia. He's a world renowned marketing strategist focusing specifically on Facebook, so I thought he'd be a great guest today. Welcome to the show Kim.

 

Kim: Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

 

Kelly: And I appreciate you stayed up in Perth for me tonight. So you've been working specifically in Facebook since 2015 when you started your agency. Give us a sense of what you've seen from an evolutionary perspective over those last 4 or 5 years.

 

Kim: One of the biggest things probably is that it's gotten way more expensive, that's been the biggest evolution, but I think it's always interesting to see, I would say, the sophistication of the marketplace but also people. I remember when we used to just be able to put up a picture and it had like a nice pretty yellow border on it and it didn't really matter what the picture was or anything like that. People would click it. We would get leads. We would get sales. It was all kind of happy days. But I think now that consumers are probably more educated and they've been seeing ads for so long in that marketplace and scope.

The way in which you need to connect with people, I think it's definitely changed big time. And that’s the biggest one I think, where it's much more connection-based, and you really need to be, like real and to really think about who your customer is, a lot more than before where you could just really kind of almost chuck up anything, and it would work, even if you didn't really know who your audience was that well. And now I think it's like you've really got to know even more. Like whoever knows the customer the best is I think the one who wins these days.

 

Kelly: Yeah, so your focus at your agency is really lead generation, sales development from social media. So why do you think it is that about eighty percent of businesses fail at marketing effectively online through digital means?

 

Kim: Most of the time, for lack of a better word, is because they suck. And looking at it, not in a bad way that we all suck at some point in time. But what I mean by that is normally there is three things that I look for and this is applicable not only on Facebook but really any platform, which is the niche, the offer, and the copy. It is like who you are targeting, what you're presenting to them, and the way that you write it.

Most of the time if you're a good business, you probably have one of those three things wrong. If you are flying by the seat of your pants, you probably got all three, and look it doesn't really matter if you have all three wrong or one wrong. But that's what I find most of the time that business owners have wrong is that they don't have a good offer, they don't know who they are positioning it to, and because they don't know those three things they can’t articulate it and write it in sales copy or any copy to encourage people to take action. 

Because they don't know who they're talking to. So they are trying to use words they’ve read a book about copywriting, or watch a copywriting webinar, or something like that but they can’t actually get people to do anything, because they don't know who they're talking to and what they're trying to give them.

 

Kelly: Right. And also I would imagine when you're using that copy or writing that copy, you really have to identify what the pain points are. If it's something that is a solution-based product offering or service offering, so understanding those pain points is really important.

 

Kim: Yeah, I mean really for anything, it's we all go towards pleasure away from pain, and so you've got to be able to articulate that in some way shape or form and what I find most the time is that people are just get that wrong. And when do you ask them enough questions- like one of the big things that we do for most of our clients is just asking questions- they know who they are eventually, but they don't really put in the work to think about it.

And I think another reason that is that sometimes people treat digital, they don't treat it with the respect that it needs. And when I say respect if you're going to run a TV ad or a radio ad, most of the time you spend a lot of time, energy and effort making sure that was gonna be picture perfect. However, most the time, your digital strategist is going to be more effective than your TV or radio, but you’re like oh I‘ll just chuck it up. I will just put it up and say what happens. And it's like, why don’t you give it the same, give advertising to your business, why don’t you give it the same level of data or research and analysis, creative that you would TV or radio or billboard or whatever it might be?

 

Kelly: Yeah, well that's actually a really interesting point because I think when you have let's say a TV spot you're putting so much time and money into that whereas digital it's so much more flexible, so much more nimble. So it's like let's just throw something up, see how it does. If it doesn't work we can just change it out quickly, but your point is really well taken that if you apply the same rationale and the same logic to what you're doing digitally, it would be much more effective, and those three things that you mentioned before are spot on.

 

Kim: Yeah. And I don't know, and because I think it is so easy to tweak and adjust. Look, I am guilty myself as well, like even tonight I've been sitting back and I was like oh, I'm launching YouTube ads, and I was just putting things up and I was like well, I'm going to probably talk about this tonight so I’d probably listen to my own advice. Because it is that easy. You are just like oh, I’ll test this, I’ll test that. It is so easy to pass over the whole research component as well.

 

Kelly: Yeah so before we were talking about how businesses themselves, if they’re handling their own Facebook advertising, most of them don't do it effectively, and we would imagine as digital agency owners or advertising agency owners that we do it the right way. But the reality is that we don't really do it the right way either. We might do it better than the businesses for sure, but what are the most common mistakes that you see other digital agencies or even in house creative teams making on behalf of their clients when it comes to running paid campaigns?

 

Kim: One of the big ones that I find is that most people don't go for- you ever heard the saying that you need to go for low hanging fruit?

 

Kelly: Yeah.

 

Kim: Like I always say, people will always forget the jam, like the fruit that's falling off the tree and has been kind of trod on a little bit and it's that you literally scoop it up. Most of time I find that #1, they don’t test. #2, they don’t really go for what is sitting there in front of them. And it's shocking to me sometimes, like we took  over an account just recently, that a couple of agencies had a go and this guys like, "I had never been able get a sale for this product."

And as I looked at it, I was like, it's a pretty good product- sells LinkedIn stuff, how to get like tens of thousands of views on there, and I was like this page where he promotes a lot of that stuff, I'm just gonna literally do one retargeting ad. He’s like no one has ever done to get me the sale. If you can give me a sale, I would think you are the best in the world.

One retargeting ad, set it up, turned on, next day there was a sale. Like did anyone do retargeting? Did they all try and create the sophisticated funnels and long form sales copy and all this sort of stuff. It was just really easy retargeting ad, because I think a lot of the time we get like the curse of knowledge, where it’s like we know so much as digital agencies, as marketers and things like that, like oh I've got to do something so sophisticated to show my client that they're also getting the value that they pay for because obviously a lot of time.

A lot of agencies will charge reasonable investments and we feel we got to go that next level but I think that sometimes, the simplicity though of what you can do with social media whether it be retargeting Facebook, we do a lot of testing with the lead ads before we the build funnels. And I think because it's so simple a lot of my clients think I'm doing something so simple that they could do it themselves. I want to go a little sophisticated.

But at the end of the day, it is whatever gets them results, like you could set up a lead ad but if the client wants those leads, and they make sales from those leads, they don’t mind. They care about what was going to get them the result, not necessarily how complex the system is. So I think that is a big mistake that a lot of people make. Sometimes simple is actually going to be better because it's what you need to get a fast result for the client so that they’re happy, then you can layer in other things as well.

 

Kelly: Yeah. And I just wanna build on that for a second, because I think we as agency leaders, or even the people who work in our agencies, is what we think is simplistic is not necessarily what the client thinks as simplistic. I mean you just mentioned retargeting. Well ask a client to go ahead and try to set that up. Even if they're familiar with the concept of retargeting, they're not gonna be able to execute that, and they may not have thought of it. So again it's all about value, not necessarily just thinking, oh well that's too simple. Let me not start with that. So I really love that. That's a great answer.

 

Kim: Yeah, I do see that all the time I think we can all do that like what are the wins that are there for the client to be had, and then use that as your building ground for everything else.

 

Kelly: Yeah, so you are obviously world renowned marketing strategist. I’m curious to know what are the steps that you take in your own process to determine the right marketing strategy for a brand or service-based company?

 

Kim: Generally speaking, most the time when I'm looking out like this, the strategy that's going to work, I kind of look across three areas and some kind of full in and out of marketing depending on who you speak to. So the kind of the key areas that I look at, I'm gonna call it like a marketing, like how healthy it is, health check if you will.

So we've got lead generation, we’ve got the housing conversion side, and the follow up side. And if you imagine like a beautiful Venn diagram with the cross over. They are kind of what I look at for, first of all to see what is going to be, what a client actually needs first of all, and then what's gonna be the best strategies and tactics to really do that.

Because I always think, sometimes- it's funny someone asked me, "Like how do you define, like what is a marketing strategy?" And I was like, "That's the thing. It is provocative. No one knows, just gets the people going!" It's funny because if you are someone to define it as like a marketing strategy, it is actually pretty hard. Even if you're a marketing person to define it, and the way that I always explain it to people, a mentor of mine actually told me: that strategy is anything that you do that's above the shoulders, tactics is anything that you do that's below the shoulders.

Like for example setting up a Facebook ad is tactical. Even just using Facebook as a whole is tactical, thinking about what you're going to do before you even go in there is strategy. That’s strategic. That is what you need to be thinking about. So I think the biggest thing is that assessment and research part is really what forms then what you actually going to do. But a lot of people, again, it is like "We're just gonna run some Facebook ads."

But what if the constraint in their business from start to finish, when we're looking at it from marketing and sales, is actually not leads. What if they are getting enough leads but a) they are not converting them, or maybe the quality is not right, or that they're not following up on them. We've had clients before, they’re like all we need two hundred leads a week and I am like, no, you don't cause you’re only converting ten of those. What about the other 190? Like yes, you can just get more leads, but that's not actually the solution to the problem right now. The solution is how do you get the most out of those 200?

 

Kelly: And what's preventing you, what the road block that is pushing you in the direction that you're not converting those other 190, let's look at that.

 

Kim: Exactly. And then you suddenly find out, there is always holes in their CRM or they are just targeting the entire world, and they can only service the US or Australia, or whatever it might be. And then I'll say, oh all these holes, that's actually what's holding you back. Sometimes it's just a few small tweaks, but you need to be able to look at the hole. I say like that the ecosystem from kind of, and this is just the first part but from like the front-facing and the full client-facing like when you first touch your customer or first interact with them to where the sale happened, which again, is only one part of business. But you need to be able to kind of identify.

And that's why I think- sometimes it frustrates me a little bit these days with everyone, well not everyone, but a lot of people being able to pull like a facial marketing to get out of a box of cereal and they own a digital agency whether it be website, Facebook funnels, whatever, but they don’t actually understand the flow of business and a lot of the times they're like, "We need funnels, we need this." Maybe you don't. You need to be able to assess that process, I think, to start off with.

 

Kelly: Yeah, no, that's great. So as we start to wrap up, I know that you speak all over the world and you train a lot of different business owners and other people who are interested in Facebook advertising. What's the best piece of advice that you'd give leaders of other agencies who are struggling to achieve that consistent ROI on Facebook in particular?

 

Kim: I would say that the first one and it sounds silly but is to only go for one niche. And look, this is something again I will say that I didn't do at the beginning but that's what made my journey probably way harder than it needed to be. Because I was figuring out campaigns across, most of the time, at least ten different industries, which really forced me to become a very fast critical and strategic thinker. However, if I can go back I would not do that because it was so stressful from a monetary standpoint, from that standpoint and everything like that.

Because you can nail one niche and you just do that, as entrepreneurs and business people we all go, oh but I want something new, I want something fresh, I want to try to test this new thing out. But not for clients like they want predictable results every single time so if you can find a client that you can actually copy and- a niche of client but you can just copy and paste campaigns, you've got to going, it is effective, it's predictable and then you can slowly scale, scale, scale, I think that is the big thing and I only know because I did that completely wrong, as to why I would give that advice now.

 

Kelly: Yeah, well what you're talking about is really positioning, and you are absolutely speaking my love language when you talk about positioning. I did the same thing in my agency. We didn't start out with one defined niche and then by the time we sold, I sold the company, we were really just focused on nonprofits, foundations, and C. S. R. initiatives, and I wish I had figured that out sooner. So love that answer.

 

Kim: Yeah, I think it's the one that we all need yeah but it's also like the hardest, like, "Oh, but I want to work with that person," but oh no, it is just nightmares and pains ahead.

 

Kelly: Yeah, for sure. Well I'll certainly add links to your agency site and your personal site and all of your social media handles in the show notes today, so everybody can get in touch with you if they have additional questions. Just want to thank you again for staying up with me. I know it's about 9 or 9:30 in Perth, PM so thank you for joining me on the show today Kim. I really appreciate it.

 

Kim: My pleasure again. Thank you for having me.

 

Kelly: Alright, take care.

 

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EP 47:Assessing Our Happiness as Agency Owners, with Becky Wang

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly has a heart to heart with Becky Wang of Crossbeat in NYC. They discuss how we define happiness and the metrics we use to assess it for ourselves as agency leaders.  

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 47: Assessing Our Happiness as Agency Owners

Duration: 22:40

 

Kelly: So welcome back to Thrive, your agency resource. This week we're gonna get really deep really fast. We're gonna talk about how we as agency owners assess our own happiness. It is a really interesting discussion. My guest and friend is Becky Wang, founder of Crossbeat in New York City. And as a side note, Becky is actually gonna be featured in the new book that I'm writing. So we'll talk about that another time but Becky thank you so much for being on the show today.

 

Becky: Kelly, it’s such a pleasure. Thank you.

 

Kelly: So I think the easiest way to start this pretty broad conversation is through literal assessment especially because you're a science and data nerd just like I am. So let's kind of go with metrics first and talk about things like wanting more money year-over-year and number of employees and all of that kind of stuff.

 

Becky: Yeah, of course. I think whatever metrics you have for success, they’re tied to a goal. And it often starts with what was your goal of going into business for yourself, or the goal may have been I want to do more great work. And whatever that goal is can obviously change over time. So it is important to just be clear on why.

And some of those are to make more money than you're making as a creative director or head of strategy or you felt like you weren't raising the ranks fast enough, then money is absolutely a sort of external tangible metric to see how you're doing. If it was, I want to work with more teams, it might be the number of projects or the diversity of projects instead of being on a single Verizon account or just large brand account. A lot of those external metrics too can be how many days of vacation did I get to take or how many employees I have.

I think we have metrics that are thrust upon us by external expectations or when we say to someone, oh I have an agency that has thirty-five employees, that's meaningful to other people. I know for myself it was in the early days it was yeah we've only been around x number of weeks and we already have twelve employees. Like that was meaningful. It meant scale right away. Whereas now, I'm actually very proud of the fact that we keep pure people on staff, have a strong set of partners, but I have more blue chip or Fortune 500 companies to say that are my clients. It is different.

 

Kelly: Right, right. Yeah. And we're talking about external, right? But then we also have to bring in the internal factors of how we assess our own happiness, but your contention from our previous conversations is that you really need to have both, and you need to acknowledge both. So why is that so important?

 

Becky: Yeah, what an awesome question.

 

Kelly:  You came up with it.

 

Becky: I think as entrepreneurs and as agency owners, why did we choose it, whether it's creative services or communication services, it says something about us, whether we go against the grain or we are leaders in our field or we’re incredibly independent. The reason I think internal factors matter, internal metrics is because if you don't have them, sometimes it's difficult to allow yourself to evolve and change.

So your internal metric may be, "Wow, the day went really quickly and I feel great at the end of the day. I just feel like I've worked really hard and I feel a sense of satisfaction." Or even, "Today, I got to mentor someone and they saw the world, this person here she saw the world just a little bit differently." I think those internal metrics are important because it allows you to get closer to the things you value but you can say this thing, this external thing making lots of money doesn't yield the same.

If you just stick with the external metric by all mean, by all sort of logical reasons, you should still feel great. The more money you make but so many of us can reach that point and realize actually reaching ten million dollars is incredibly satisfying, reaching twenty million dollars was less satisfying because of… And I think it could be how much more time you had to spend or maybe you didn't strand yourself with. The team that you wanted…

 

Kelly: More money, more problems.

 

Becky: Absolutely. So I think that is why I think it is important.

 

Kelly: Yeah. And when we last spoke, you brought up a great point that agency leaders need to really be asking themselves, do you want to be managing people or do you want to actually be doing the work? So what's been your evolution in answering that on that particular question?

 

Becky: Yeah. For me in the early days, doing creative work that could be attributed to my name was much more important and what I realized was that, it was never attributed to me. Every time I ran a team there was always, there was a technical director or art director or UX strategist or designer who contributed to it. And what I realized was, I thought I was one thing, I thought I wanted to be an individual contributor and yet in the framework of leading teams, not even starting a business but leading teams first and then starting a business realizing that, actually no, I really enjoyed that process and I could never really attribute it to my name.

Though I could attribute it to Crossbeat and say yeah Crossbeat made this, but that I really love the sort of partnership feel to it. And so, of course it was never going to be just individual contribution. That's not true for everyone. A lot of people can be individual contributors and be the best creative director or best technical, creative technologist and not have to be the one that was leading it.

What I discovered in the process was I was putting these teams together, it was actually more interesting for me to run the business. Because I think when you run a business, you start to think about things, as- well does this really work? And what I mean by work, is, did it make more money but did it work as a thing that inspired conversation or something that inspired beauty.

And more importantly, I realized that I actually liked working with the same people or I like the fact that I could see how different people added to the team could change the outcome. And I think it is about running a business. And running a business, it is about optimizing. It's about saying, "Okay, there's a market, I sell to those people. I market to those people. I serve those people but I also have to take care of my employees and make sure they stay, and understand the true cost and value of their labor." And that's very different than coming up with awesome tag lines, right?

 

Kelly: Yeah.

 

Becky: And I think you really have to like that process. And the moment I realized that my business could actually impact the community was when I was sold on it, when I was like yeah, I have this merry band of misfits and we can like do things together and we can donate a portion of our profits to a charity or- That piece is what I think I most enjoy.

 

Kelly: Right. So there was a social good or some kind of give back initiative, a CSR initiative associated with the business that helps you to define success and therefore happiness?

 

Becky: Yeah. For sure. And also just taking care of people, not just clients.

 

Kelly: Yeah I felt the same way in my agency. I felt like my… I've said this before, my employees were my kids. I don't have children but I felt very responsible for them. They were paying mortgages and having babies and there was something that from the egoistic side, I was like wow I'm able to help them to fulfill their own personal goals and dreams but I definitely felt a sense of happiness that I was, just able to impact their lives in that way.

So yeah it's just a great discussion about what happiness means to each of us, and I think we all have very different definitions. So let's talk about the role that purpose plays in happiness and what is your thought on that.

 

Becky: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that, well, there have been so many scientific studies that say a sense of purpose and autonomy and independence are the critical factors of I think true happiness. For me, purpose can function on multiple levels. I realized one day, actually not so long ago, that I was fulfilling my larger purpose, even if on a smaller scale I sometimes felt like, "Oh I'm spending too much time doing accounting," or things like that.

And I think the intersection of all of those small and big circles of purpose and when I talk about those bigger and smaller intersections of purpose that help me sort of assess how I- it helped me understand the things that I can do to maintain happiness. So to answer the question more directly, I think that when you feel- so I think purpose is sort of that, in many of our brand architectures, our brand purpose sets below vision and mission.

And the purpose is that thing that we do every day and it doesn't have a metric per se involved the way like maybe a mission would and it's about a future vision of the world the way vision might be. And what I really like about that if we're going to assign those roles to those words, a lot of people say no, a purpose is more like a vision, or so just if we agree on that’s the idea of what purpose is. What I like about it is that it's an everyday thing.

I've recently become obsessed with this idea of like you know I have so many people especially brilliant strategists younger than me coming through either working on projects or interested in working on projects that Crossbeat is leading, every single one of them has sort of the same sort of affliction I did and still struggle with, which is we want to be thinking deep grand thoughts all the time that change the world.

We write them in ways that people are like, "Oh my god, mind blown!" right? And we want to be that all the time, because that's what we're good at, and we think that that's our purpose. And I always have to tell these young bucks, that actually the time scale's much smaller, that when they feel like they're like not getting it or that striving to like encapsulate and capturing the moment. You actually need to move everything down to the time scale of in the moment.

The beautiful thing about these strategies that we write is that it feels like this moment where everything gets pulled into focus, and we're like, "Oh that’s the thing." But if you can't operationalize it or make it a thing that you do every day or put in on time scale or in a way that people can have success with whatever that grand vision is every day then it's forever in the future and you're gonna start looking at it like, "I'm never going to achieve it, so then why bother." So to me the way you structure your purpose statement is really important and the time scale is can I achieve portions of it every day.

 

Kelly: It’s a practice like anything else.

 

Becky: Yeah. Exactly. And so if our purpose is to be happy and help other people yeah I can do that every day. If our purpose is to communicate whatever for the benefit, communicate a brand story to help that company make more money but to also resonate in customers lives. That's wonderful. Are you doing that every day, in some way? Are you doing it for friends, your family etcetera? And I think when we can go to bed at night and say like yeah I did my thing today. That's I think what makes us happy.

 

Kelly: And I also think that it's bigger than what we do for a living. It's bigger than our livelihood. It has to be because when people die they don't talk about hey so and so worked for thirty years at this company. They don't even mention what they did for a living. They mention their family, their friends, what they did in their community, volunteer efforts. They talk about who they were.

And so I tend to think of purpose a little bit differently maybe not differently. I just think of it as bigger and almost potentially pulled apart from the work that we do or our careers. I think our careers can be part of that for sure. They can be a portion of it. They can be a part of the puzzle that all fits together with purpose, but I look at purpose as if I'm not being driven every single day, like you just said, toward this thing that makes me happy on a really deep soul level like what am I doing. So it makes me question a lot.

 

Becky: I really love that and I think that that's when, this is a strategist in me speaking. So when you talk about what's that thing that I'm achieving every day and to what end, I think vision becomes really important. Can you and then- some of these metrics come in, which is, I have a state in mind for the things outside of me that I want to achieve, and what are the ways that I can do with all of me? So how do you treat your interpersonal relationships or like how do you take care of your mind, body and spirit?

Like there's, I mean, what I'm saying is I hundred percent agree with you, and as agency owners, I think we often think, "Oh it's all in the context of work, and it's all in context of the business. But I think when we think about it in the way you're describing, those employees you have could decide that in their purpose they need to leave, but that doesn't, if you don't say goodbye or allow them to fulfill their purpose and understand that their purpose for now is taking them away from you, if you're able to meet it with I think this is like open sense, they could come back. That's actually one thing I learned in Droga5. People would always come back to Droga and I'd be like that's so fascinating, like how is that he was able to achieve that and I think part of it is because his purpose was deeper than make Droga5 the biggest agency in the world. I think he really wanted to work and nurture creative talent.

 

Kelly: So as we start to wrap up a little bit, I'm actually wondering about the thing on my mind is, does geography play any part in happiness or assessing our own happiness. I mean you and I are both New Yorkers. I wonder would this be a little bit of a different conversation if you were living in San Diego or Denver or just somewhere other than New York.

 

Becky: Yeah I mean I think it depends, obviously it depends on every individual, what the answer to that is. I think for me personally if I lived on the west coast, I wouldn't probably, it would imply that I had different priorities for myself but that's not true of everybody who lives on the west coast. So I should be super clear like some place and in that place. I mean I love the hustle and bustle of New York. There is this forever stream of cultural and intellectual activities, really oceans of experiences to plug into. I really like that. I get burned out on it sometimes and think I really need a place upstate.

 

Kelly: Come on over.

 

Becky: Yeah, right. So yeah and I think that we in New York bounce off each other on what success looks like, to bring it back to what our original circle, our original conversation. And what I found having now been here more than ten years is there's a sub-community of successful entrepreneurs where they have forgone the cost of infrastructure, of supporting many, many employees because they recognize that people that they really want to work with don't operate on paycheck system anymore. They work on an entrepreneurial system and want to have the flexibility to go in and out.

 

Kelly: Maybe that is part of happiness also. Just in terms of creating a different livelihood, a different approach to how you bring in money. You need to bring in money to live, we all do right? But yeah I think that they're just creative, more creative solutions. I was watching MasterChef Junior the other night and the little boy said I either want to open up a restaurant or I want to be a food blogger and go around the world and be a food blogger.

And I thought to myself this eight-year-old kid, that’s amazing. In his mind he doesn't have to be a doctor, a lawyer, a firefighter, all those traditional path or the things that we thought of when we were young. Now this eight year old kid says happiness to me would be going around the world, tasting food, talking to people, writing about it and sharing it with others. And like I don't know, it just hit me in a way that it's just interesting how we have such creative solutions to how we live and how we really live our purpose.

 

Becky: Yeah absolutely, and what I love about the way you said that too was it was something he did, not a label. You know what I mean? He wasn’t a chef guy. He was like I want to do this thing. And there are many shapes for it. Exactly. So I’m totally agreeing with that, using the language of like what's the shape or what's the thing that makes the shape.

 

Kelly: Yeah, well Becky, I'm so grateful for our conversation today. I think this will really resonate with a lot of people who are maybe starting to question these things in their own lives as agency owners. So thank you so much for taking the time to talk.

 

Becky: Thank you. Always a pleasure. Hope to see you soon.

 

Kelly: Okay.

 

 

 

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EP 46:How to Pivot Toward Market Opportunity, with David Title

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly chats with David Title of Bravo Media. In a world focused on “data versus delight”, opportunity might mean creating market demand instead of responding to it.  

 

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 46: How to Pivot Toward Market Opportunity

Duration: 22:48

 

Kelly: Welcome to Thrive, your agency resource. Today, we’re talking about pivoting toward market opportunity. We might want to call it pivoting toward humanity in a way. I have my friend David Title here. He’s a Chief Engagement Officer at Bravo Media, an experiential agency in New York City. They have found a ton of success in staying nimble. There's probably no other way to put it. So, David, I'm really excited to finally have you on the show. I know we've been talking about it for a while.

 

David: Yeah, it's great to be here Kelly. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited.

 

Kelly: Of course! So let's just jump right into it. Maybe start out by talking about how, what Bravo media originated as and then what the evolution of the service offerings and all of that has been over the course of its time that you've been a partner.

 

David: Sure. So it's definitely been, I guess, a nontraditional path in terms of when you think about agencies and how they come about. We really came from the production side of the street and the entire operation grew up around a single sound stage in Midtown Manhattan, very small little green screen stage, that at the time in the early 2000s, were sort of too small for film, not doing great. The two original founding partners took over the space, cleaned it up.

And when I started hanging out there, starting around 2007, 2006, we had gotten the place up and running. And there had been this sort of amazing technology evolution that had happened where we'd gone from a place where almost all kind of commercial media was still being produced on film and it was mostly destined for television.

And all of a sudden we got to a place where digital video was a legitimate format that looked great. And then YouTube and streaming video happened in December of '05 and all of a sudden you have this mass democratization of one of the most powerful marketing tools in the world.

And we happened to be nicely positioned to service this brand new marketplace of essentially small to medium size businesses that had not traditionally been able to use the power of video and animation as part of their sales and marketing collateral because it's just too expensive to make and to distribute. And the traditional commercial production companies and commercial agencies weren't looking to get into the $10,000 home page video business. Didn’t even know that was a business.

 But we saw an opportunity to build out a kind of all-in-one facility to help produce these explainer videos, and thought-leadership material, and home page videos, and YouTube channel build-outs, all these brand-new content formats that hadn't existed twelve months before. And again we thought of it really going into it as a production job. We make these things. We have our animators, and we have our shooters, and we have our editors. But we realized through processes, we’ll also helping to develop all that creative because we were working direct with those clients. There was no creative agency partner.

 

Kelly: No middle man. Nothing.

 

David: Nope. And so, we were helping to develop both the creative side of that to whatever degree the client needed it, but we're also physically producing it, editing it, delivering it, distributing it in many cases. And that really gave us an interesting perspective on that emerging business area and got us thinking a lot about what is the nature of this content, and what its purpose, and how does it work, and how does it affect people. And how do we make it more effective, because that means more people will come and wanna buy it from us.

 

Kelly: Make sense.

 

David: It made perfect sense, and we were also able to build sort of a production pipeline. Immediately when we- I had come from a very traditional large commercial production called Crossroad Films and 89 editorial, and we had avid suites in plain systems and all this really expensive stuff and these very expensive people that did those things.

We’re like, you know what? There's Final Cut, there’s After Effects, there's top-rated off-the-shelf Macs. We can literally set up a production studio for a few thousand dollars. And we are able to really tap into this emerging workforce of younger, creative folks that- Our lead animator when we first started out learned After Effects by using a cracked copy that he had gotten from a pirate page starting when he was in the seventh grade.

You are never going to get someone that learn that way. And so it’s always been this sort of bottom up, use what's available kind of thing to get the job done. And at the same time figure out how to make it good and-what was cool about doing it in that space is there was no one telling you what was wrong. Coz no one had done it before. You can’t tell me my home page video is wrong. You've never made one before.

 

Kelly: So that was like 2006, 2007.

 

David: Right. Through that, and because of the nature as we all know in this world, pharma and financial services like to have budgets, and they liked what we were doing because we were helping them looking feel cool in a way that the big agencies were helping in Adidas or Coca-Cola feel cool. And so we got to get involved in their conferences and trade shows. And that's really, that was our first big evolution and that's what brought us into what now I think of as the beginning of us entering into experiential. Which again is one of those terms I think may go away. Experiential marketing reminds me of new media.

 

Kelly: Or digital marketing.

 

David: Yeah, I think it’s maybe it's only just marketing.

 

Kelly: Yeah. Or some other word that no one’s using.

 

David: Yeah. But we started doing things like projection mapping, and large form ad animations and graphics. And then also seeing a desire for more interactive experiences especially on the trade show side, got us to bring in our personal developers that we could start building that stuff in house. It never occurred to us just to come up with idea. We were always like well we have to know how to make it. And so, I think we've always been a good combination of proactive, in terms of hey this is a cool thing, let's try to do it. And reactive in terms of seeing what our clients are interested in.

And trying to understand how to provide that and then how do we get ahead of that to some degree. And so we were doing these really cool things for really uncool places. So like I'll never forget my five days at digestive disease week in Chicago Illinois. But you can learn so much about experiential, walking around a Pharma trade show and see all the missed opportunity because we’d like to think about this special audiences, we are all just people like those doctors are just people, they are just like you and me. They just happen to do some very gross things that I'll never un-see in that trade show floor.

How do you make engagement there?  How do you make it interesting? How do you make it compelling? And again it was a great environment because nobody there was going to tell us we were wrong. Nobody was telling them to do anything but keep putting up posters. And so through that we really got a lot of on the ground experience and some very difficult environments with some very uncool products and messages that we had to make fun, engaging and dynamic.

So that when we finally started beginning to meet a few people on the traditional agency side, which was really our only way to get entree into consumer brands. Especially five six years ago, very few brands were looking outside of our agencies for a whole lot of consumer-facing anything. And that is softening for sure now. But they started to come to us because this bubbling up of what this experiential thing that everyone sort of wanted. But agencies have been making commercials for fifty years and they are great at it.

But that's very different than creating an experience, whatever that is, an activation. And if your activation isn't just handing out product, what is it? And so we began to take what we were learning in that sort of weird offshoot world of trade shows and conferences, and begin to apply that to more consumer-facing. That let us play in some bigger arenas and begin, one for us is an education around kind of the agency side. Nobody at Bravo have spent the day working for a major agency.

 

Kelly: Yeah, that was going to be one of my questions.

 

David: We come from a sort of diverse group of backgrounds whether it was theater or traditional print production, the art world.

 

Kelly: Your background is in video production?

 

David: Well originally my formal degrees are only in theater.

 

Kelly: Okay.

 

David: And directing, that was my prior life.

 

Kelly: That doesn’t surprise me.

 

David: No, it fits in there somehow. And that was always, directing is the combination of thinking and making so it does all mesh together.

 

Kelly: Yeah, so my question is always going to be somehow I'm gonna get positioning into the conversation as you know.

 

David: Yeah, let’s do it.

 

Kelly: You know me. So your positioning statement for a while now has been- and you say the straight up on your website right on the hero image is we make wow, which to me it’s a memory maker. It's definitely something that has stuck and it is very true, but it's not really a positioning statement.

And so my question is: as Bravo has evolved and you are seeing these different market opportunities, and you're being nimble, and you're following, and it's all working, how has that led to this sort of what you call like a primary challenge, maybe one of your only challenges at Bravo, which is the positioning statement, or the positioning itself. I mean a lot of people have said to you, "Why haven't you just chosen one vertical, why don't you just- you're great a projection mapping. You did the Sistine Chapel for Steven Colvera. Why don't you just do that because you're great at that? And what is your response typically?

 

David: Well for us like projection mapping was just another means to an end. Because we started really around content and video animation so we're like well now we need to make this bigger. What are things that make this bigger? Oh projection. So let's learn how to do that, so that we can make it bigger. And oh people want things to be able to play with them, so we have make them interactive. Let's learn how to do that and make that part of it.

We've always struggled, one with the finding ourselves as a production company or an agency. We know we're not a consultancy. That is really clear on. Just because, if we're not doing, if we are not making, then it feels sort of like spinning my wheels. It doesn't mean we won't help ideate and conceptualize and do all that kind of creative thinking, but we like there to be a real point to it, like to be engaged in that part of it. But where we, I think our biggest positioning challenge is that production versus creative. And I don't know to me it seems like an unnatural split that you have those happening in completely separate functionary worlds. Because why you do something and how you do something are so intrinsically connected. So internally in our minds we don't have a positioning problem. Public facing…

 

Kelly: It’s everybody else's problem.

 

David: In my mind it makes perfect sense, but we try to say the sentence, even alone in the shower, it's just garbage. So it is definitely a challenge but we do our latest sort of evolution into the world of what we're considering kind of long-term display in creating experiences that are going to exist for months or years.

 

Kelly: Whether they're interactive or not, doesn’t matter.

 

David: Responsive or just a living breathing part of the environment in some way. That's in this whole new world for us where we're bringing this service that one kind of like you're doing back in '06, '07, the service nobody wanted or needed a couple of years ago or thought about.

 

Kelly: But now they see it and they want it.

 

David: And there's this growing, just like in the corporate office world and the corporate lobby world, there's this incredible competition going on that's driven by ego, which is not a bad thing when it comes to getting people excited to do stuff. But people want their offices to be an experience. They want their lobbies to being experience, and that's a brand new thing.

But there's a whole world of businesses and services, AV integrators and building operations managers and architects and designers that we've never worked with before that now we're coming into that world. And then we're like, "So who are you, and what's your place in this? And they're like, "Hmm, we're gonna have to get back to you on exactly how we are doing that, but let me find out what you do! Okay. We don't step on your toes. I can tell you that. We're not gonna supply hardware, we're not architects so okay we can do it by elimination a little bit..." But this is our new positioning challenge.

 

Kelly: Right. So it's really navigating who you're partnering with. You know that ultimately the service or the product, I guess is a better word for you guys. The product is something that they never knew that they wanted before, now they wanted and they actually believe that they need it so it's like plugging that in. It's just really interesting because so much of what you're saying honestly goes against like the facets or the foundation of positioning. So it's a fascinating conversation to me because it shows me that there are many different sides to this and many different ways to find success, whatever you measure success as and that kind of brings me to what we talked about a little earlier, which is- Bravo media, it's a private self-funded firm. What are sort of the pros and cons from that standpoint when it comes to being this nimble and sort of pivoting towards market opportunity.

 

David: Well, obviously because we do self-finance the whole thing, I don't have an extra, sort of side pot of money to try to ramp something up super-fast as these opportunities are popping up more and more in the sort of long term display. Would I like to unleash a twenty-person sales force on to the world? Maybe, that might be interesting. The ability to sort if give these rapid scalings around some of these opportunities is more challenging. But at the same time not having to be beholden to outside investors, not having to carry debt means that we can make our own decisions without any feeling of either creating conflict or creating disappointments and that has really helped us I think grow but it also makes it really physically responsible.

 We keep way fewer people. I mean one of the number one things people often will say when they visit the studio after they get them looking and saying how cool everything looks which it does, it's like, "Is this everybody? Yeah, pretty much this is it. Like you make all of this with just these people?"

"Yeah," We say completely seriously, "We've been receptionist-free since 2004." Because anybody, someone go up the elevator say hello and ask what they want. You don't necessarily, I understand you get to a certain type of scope and you need someone there to crowd control but I'm not a Disney world here. We don't have a receptionist, and little things like that that seem weird or crazy.

 

Kelly: Anti-agency?

 

David: We work with a lot of these companies that are either start-ups or get purchased by a WPP or whoever and get this huge influx of money, and the first thing they do is they start hiring people and like, what are they gonna do with all those people, what are they gonna do all day. And so it creates a different mindset internally. I think our culture whatever that is.

We haven't given that a whole lot of extra thought either. We don't do retreats. We don't do group bonding exercises but everyone from the founder to the intern sits at one big table, which is still a luxury for us that we  will outgrow but it does engender a certain mindset that we're all in this together in these moments together and we all have a voice. We also need to contribute and some of the best ideas come from the junior developer that's like, "Oh you know what would be cool if we did..."

 

Kelly: Yeah, well what's interesting about that is you say you don't do team building exercises or bonding exercise and whatever, it's kind of interesting that you have this almost like an anti-agency model like you don't even use the word agency a lot of times but it's almost like you don't need that extra external force of going and doing these things and creating these experiences for your team because every single day what you're working on automatically does that because of the way that you're sitting and the way that you're allowing everyone to have their voice and you don't have separate rooms for each. It is just interesting that you don't really need that external stuff because you kind of live that every day. So that's also super intriguing to me.

So as we wrap up here, what's your bumper sticker takeaway for other agency leaders who are really struggling with, or are just trying to figure out like what is the market opportunity, what's next for our agency, how do we even figure out how to get there or what it is?

 

David: Sure, well one constant sort of refrain here, sort of a topic of a lot of discussion both internally and with a lot of the other folks that I work with, is internally we talk a lot about this notion of data versus delight. And in the experiential world especially where we are in a time where you can collect so much data. And get so much feedback and information and metrics and KPIs and all these numbers, and data is really seductive and it feels like it's giving answers and solutions and all this great stuff.

And you can point out and say, "See!" But there's not enough focus on the light and experiential is the light, like it's the experience and all the data in the world will never, Disney didn't create his stories based on data and I think it's easy to get lost in all the data and letting data drive a lot of your thinking and a lot of your decisions and not trusting your own basic kind of gut humanity around what do people want to experience?

 

Kelly: Right, like you said before, when we spoke earlier about the fact that you have to ask some of your own clients like would you actually enjoy that?

 

David: Yes, "Do you want to stand in line in the hot sun for your turn to do that?" And they're like "I would never do that!" You are not different than your consumer. Again, it's back like our trade show flow with the doctors. They are just guys that go home at night and watch TV or play Xbox or hang out with their kids or whatever like we're not, just because you're on this side, we have access to all these data and all this information, don't lose sight of the importance of delight.

 

Kelly: Yeah, yeah.

 

David: That's my driver.

 

Kelly: Well I love it. I think we should make a, "Delight versus Data" bumper stickers like tomorrow.

 

David: I love it.

 

Kelly: It will probably be interactive and holograms and whatever if we love Bravo do it but…

 

David: Absolutely.

 

Kelly: Awesome. So thank you so much David. This is really a great conversation. I knew it would be and I really appreciate you coming on the show today.

 

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EP 45:Training Your Digital Project Managers, with Ben Aston

On this episode of THRIVE—sponsored by Workamajig—Kelly covers the importance of training your project managers with Ben Aston. They discuss the courses, resources and thought leadership articles for DPMs who are involved in waterfall, agile or hybrid methodologies at digital agencies.   The Digital Project Manager:https://thedigitalprojectmanager.com/ DPM ...

TRANSCRIPT

 EP 45: Training Your Digital Project Managers

Duration: 13:43

 

Kelly: So today, we’re covering a topic that is really on the minds of a lot of digital agency owners in particular. How can I ensure that my project managers are best supported, best trained, so that my agency can run and fire on all cylinders.

So my guest today is Ben Aston, founder of The Digital Project Manager platform for thought leadership, training, jobs and more. So he is going to go in all of that. But welcome Ben, it is such a pleasure to have you on the show today.

 

Ben: Thanks for having me.

 

Kelly: So you founded the The Digital Project Manager in 2011, right? What was the inspiration or the impetus that led you to recognize that there was a gap in the market and then actually create a solution for it.

 

Ben: Well, you know what? I think back in 2011, I had been in the industry for 7 years or so, and I think in the early parts of my career, I’d realize that there weren’t any resources online that I could draw from, to try and find out how to do my job better. What was the best practice and what could I learn from other people?

I could learn by the people in my agency, but it didn’t really feel like I was learning from the wisdom across the board. So I started this project, which really the idea started as an eBook and I blogged around it. I never finished the eBook. But the platform The Digital Project Manager exists. And it was based on that idea that I wanted to help people, prevent people from going through that pain that I experienced early on in my career where having I guess impostor syndrome or not feeling like confident in what I was doing. So there that was the goal really.

 

Kelly: And your background was you started out and became an actual scrum master, so you are very, very involved in digital project management and agile methodology and all of that.

 

Ben: Yeah, at the beginning of my career, actually I started in above the line ad agencies, and I’d say prior to that, I was a developer myself. But I started in account management and then realized that yeah, based on technical background that I had actually lent itself quite well to begin to lead teams of people trying to deliver digital projects. So yeah along the way, I picked up some letters after my name as well, but really it is that kind of experience of having a love for technical and having a love for leading teams of making things happen that kind of gets me excited about leading projects in the digital world.

 

Kelly: Yeah, so talk a little bit about the platform itself. And what it actually offers for the PMs at digital agencies.

 

Ben: Yes, it’s becoming a quite popular platform, so we get more than a quarter a million views every month. And people are really interested in the how-to guides that we provide, so each month we’re trying to teach people how to do something, whether or not that's how to write a great communication plan, how to kick off meetings properly, how to kick off projects properly, how to create a project plan.

And also just beginning to unpick, I think some of the antagonism between traditional project management and digital agencies. And the reality is the world that we live in, the digital agency we kind of describe it as the digital wild west, because lots of these traditional project management methodology seems like- hey that’s way too heavy and way too much for a digital agency.

So what we try and do is try to show actually that there is a lot synergy there. We kind of learn a lot from the traditional project management approaches. And yes agile is exciting and everyone’s excited about running agile projects. But what we try and do is show actually have some of the traditional PMBOK best practice, PRINCE2 best practice. Yes, which is traditionally waterfall but a lot of that we can apply to projects to help deliver better, more successful projects.

 

Kelly: Right, and it is not just about projects. I mean, that even crosses over into retainers and ongoing work that the PMs are overseeing.

 

Ben: Yeah definitely. And yeah I think that's what yeah one of the challenges in the agency world. We’re dealing almost with products, like if you think of a retainer as a product where there's a backlog of things that the client wants to have priorities, they're all priorities, how do you manage the conflicting priorities, and help them, guide them through that process of making the best decisions about what they spend their retainers on.

I said that they get value at the end of it and I think that's why the kind of agile side of things come into it like how are we delivering value, and delivering value incrementally, so that we don't just do these huge big projects by the way incrementally delivering value to our clients.

 

Kelly: And I know I mean you touched upon some of the topics and some of the things that you cover but I know that you actually author and oversee some of the content itself on the site. So can you talk a little bit about the breadth of topics that are available for PMs in the form of the articles and some of the other, you mentioned how-to guides but specifically maybe with the articles. What's the gamut of that kind of things that people are learning?

 

Ben: Yes, so we could try and position things across the entire project life cycle. So from project initiation, project planning, which is a really key part of this. I think there's a lot of mistrust of project planning especially within an agile world but project planning is really important. And then managing and controlling projects- so in that middle stage where things go wrong all the time how we how we deal with that and then closing projects as well.

So the complete project life cycle and there's things in that, everything from how to run projects using a hybrid agile waterfall methodology right through to kind of softer things around leadership. And actually we just published something on mental health and burn-out so if anything, it is content really that's applicable for anyone who's leading projects in a digital world whether or not they’re called a project manager or whether not they’re just by de facto project lead who hasn’t got that title, that one when this kind of picks up the slack so yeah it's for people who are managing projects.

 

Kelly: It's funny that you touched upon mental health and balance wellbeing and things like that. Are you starting to find that that's becoming more of what the audiences actually asking for? Are we talking more about emotional intelligence and those softer things that you're talking about? Because I'm seeing that in my world as well.

 

Ben: Yeah, I think that I mean obviously it's vogue right now but I think also there's, if we kind of yeah think about that progression through our careers, I think at the beginning you'll just focus on trying to get your job done and I guess Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in terms of hey, I just need to know what I'm supposed to do and then I think through that process you can get burned out and that’s why this kind of yeah…

 

Kelly: The human side.

 

Ben: The human side becomes more important and we actually run a webinar on how to run projects with emotional intelligence and that was massively popular. We got some great feedback on it and I think if people are having this realization that actually it's not just about getting the job done but how we do it is important as well.

 

Kelly: Yeah, I love that. So for the agency leaders that are considering sending their PM's to some type of professional development or training, can you share a little bit about the DPM school in particular?

 

Ben: Yes, like we've been talking about, we published a whole bunch of content, but what we kept hearing time and time again was actually people just want to learn, okay, what is the best practice and to learn in a short amount of time, and to kind of get up-skills and give them confidence in their ability in the way that they’re leading and managing projects.

So yeah last year, we launched the Digital Project Manager School. And our first course on that is called mastering digital project management and it's a seven week course that covers the whole project life cycle. Like I was saying before it is right from, actually we talked about methodologies and how we approach agile and waterfall and this kind of minefield that it seems to be currently with- clients want agile, but does it really work in the native environment? So we tackle that.

We tackle how to kick off projects with clients and your teams. Then we go through the project planning process, creating timelines, estimates, and statements of work and then we talk about managing, controlling projects and what happens when they go off the rails…

 

Kelly: How we get them back on.

 

Ben: How we get them back on, how we approach these difficult conversations. And then finally in week seven we talk all about project leadership. And really I think that's kind of fundamental of what I'm passionate about, which is leading not just ourselves but our teams and being not just project administrators.

But I think the role of the project manager, the digital project manager, is changing to be more of a strategic role in steering this ship of the project, which is all about thinking about how am I delivering value, how am I delivering that for my agency, for my team, obviously the clients, but thinking about the end user as well. And so, there's a UX focus to this as we think about, okay, what does project leadership mean, and how do I lead myself and my team through that so that we get to that place where we’re delivering projects well.

 

Kelly: Right. And I think it's so important to talk about this, because I think the role of a digital project manager is one of the most important roles at an agency. I mean it's almost like a central hub, or like if you think about it in a restaurant term it's like the expediter. You have to make sure that your cooks in the kitchen know exactly what they need to prepare, you need to get that out in a timely manner, you need to make sure that the clients are happy or the customers are happy.

It really is such a critical role, and I feel like there is not enough emphasis put on the training, which is why I was super excited to connect with you. And just bring this to more people, because they don't think that a lot of agencies understand how important it is and the fact that there are these resources like yours out there. So just appreciate that. And as we're wrapping up, I know you also have a DPM podcast and I’d love to hear a little bit more about that, where can we find it, what kind of things are covered in that?

 

Ben: Yes, so if you go to the digitalprojectmanager.com, it's just the primary. We unpacked different things. So we often talk about the articles that we've published. So in the podcast we kind of get the story behind the story. I talk to the authors to find out about what lead them to say what they said and trying challenge them a bit to get different perspectives on that.

We've also started a video class recently as well. We have two and a half thousand people in our slack community and what we try and do is tackle some of the tricky questions the people in the community are asking us. So it's kind of just tackling some of those thorny issues or questions that kind of remain a bit unanswered. So we're trying to provide a resource to the community and this community is growing really fast.

We’re growing probably like ten percent month on month so our growth is really quick and it's just interesting as more people are becoming, I mean, they might not be called digital project managers by job title, but effectively that’s what they’re doing and they’re looking for guidance on how to do that well. And I think with the pressure on budgets, clients are constantly trying to get things done. But how do we manage projects in that kind of environment, while still having integrity to ourselves and helping the people around us I think is really key.

Kelly: Well said. So I will definitely post the digitalprojectmanager.com in the show notes and is the webinar that you mentioned earlier, is that also available online somewhere?

 

Ben: It is online. We have a YouTube channel and you can check it out on there.

 

Kelly: Okay. I'll post a link to that YouTube channel as well, because I think that would be a really great resource to add into the show notes as well.

 

Ben: Yeah.

 

Kelly: Yeah.

 

Ben: Awesome.

 

Kelly: Thank you so much Ben. I really, really appreciate your time. Very grateful for it.

 

Ben: Oh, thanks for having me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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