EP 52: Retain Clients with Speed to Lead
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?
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?
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.
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.