In episode 2 of Designing Growth, Sam shares the top 3 marketing lessons he’s learned, talks about how he plans to use them at Motion.io, and provides takeaways for applying these same lessons to an agency marketing strategy.
Sam’s Top 3 Marketing Lessons
The marketing lessons covered in this episode include:
1. The most effective marketing is born from a deep understanding of your customers
2. Relationships are one of the most powerful pathways to marketing success
3. You can’t fix what you can’t measure
But smooth seas don’t make for strong sailors, and Sam gives honest examples of mistakes he’s made along the way that helped him learn each lesson.
[Intro Music Plays]
[Sam starts speaking, hosting episode 2 solo]
What is up everyone? Hope you are all having a phenomenal week. My name is Sam Chlebowski and welcome back to the Designing Growth podcast. On the first episode of the show, I shared information about our founding team’s background. The biggest problem we faced delivering over 20,000 design projects to clients and talked about how at Motion.io, we’re building a software solution to keep projects moving by improving client communication and collaboration.
If you’d like to learn more about what you’ll be able to do with motion.io and hear a detailed explanation of the features that this platform will have when it launches I highly, highly recommend you go back and listen to that episode. This week, however, we’re gonna be shifting away from talking about the product of motion.io itself and focus on a topic that is probably nearest and dearest to my heart.
And that is marketing. During this episode, I’m gonna share with you the top three lessons I’ve learned throughout my time in marketing, which I’m using in our approach at motion dot. I’m gonna talk about how I learned these lessons and hopefully provide takeaways for implementing parts of them within your own business.
Before we jump into the episode, I do want to mention two quick things. The first is the relationship between sales and marketing. So regardless of whether you have a formal sales team or you’re handling the entirety of both sales and marketing for your business, these two components of growth are so closely related.
These days, that many marketers, you know, myself being one of them often look at them as totally inseparable. In this episode, we are gonna be dipping our toes into the sales water a little bit, providing a high level strategy for generating more inquiries and getting. Prospects to actually hop on that first consultation or discovery call with you, but we’re largely gonna be leaving.
What happens after that? Like sending proposals and getting contracts signed for a later episode, that leads perfectly into my next point, which is, these are just my top three tips. And this list is in no way, comprehensive of a full marketing strategy. I just wanted to share the things. Really have come to mind as we’ve been building the brand and starting marketing initiatives [email protected], that said I would love to share more in subsequent episodes and even answer marketing related questions sent in from anyone in the audience.
So to start. Want to give a little background on who I am as a marketer to give you a peek inside my marketing brain. Talk about how I approach things and add a little flavor leading up to my role as co-founder and VP of marketing at motion dot, I I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to work both internally and externally with a wide range of businesses from solo entrepreneurs, launching a business for the first time to small businesses, with five to 10 people to organizations with 50 plus employees, and even up to a now publicly traded company.
Well, these opportunities have provided me with nearly eight years of marketing experience. I, by no means consider myself as someone who has all the answers. for every marketing initiative that I’ve led that has absolutely crushed it.
I’ll be totally honest that I can point to another two that have underperformed and even a handful that have fallen completely on their faces. Because of this. What I strive to do is learn more each day, reading, listening, learning from other people who I think are smarter than I am to try and uncover new strategies and then bring those strategies to life through testing, trial and error.
So even though I don’t have all of the answers, what I do feel. I have, at this point in my career, a solid understanding of the marketing landscape that allows me to reflect on the various approaches that businesses I’ve worked either in or with took to marketing. So I can then grab the things that work best and apply those to different types of businesses, different types of services, products, industries.
That said the focus of this show is all about providing agency owners with tactics and strategies to supercharge their growth. And I’ll be trying to frame the lessons, ideas and tips covered in this episode to be more specific to things like marketing agencies, advertising agencies, website design, graphic design businesses who are looking to expand their reach and bring in more clients.
So let’s get into it.
Lesson number one is that the most effective marketing is born from a deep understanding of your customers out of the three lessons I’m gonna share today.
I’m leading off with this one for a very specific reason.
It’s my view that not only your understanding, but your level of understanding about your customers does and should influence nearly every aspect of not just your business, but more specifically your marketing without first understanding your customers. I truly believe that attracting new clients even more so attracting the right clients is so much harder.
I think there’s a general tendency for business owners. Especially marketers to assume they understand their clients in a really holistic way. This is definitely a trap that I’ve fallen into time and time again. My advice is to try and pull yourself out of that while some of the time that these assumptions might even be pretty spot on.
I think that there is tremendous benefit to a truly deep level of understanding that comes from. Assuming that, you know, nothing asking questions until you can point back to solid data, anecdotes, quotes, reviews, things that you can tie back to prove your understanding. And this is something that is central to the philosophy of marketing I’m taking into our process of building motion.io.
Well, the value of this kind of customer knowledge only came into view for me. Once I had left Brighter Vision and it had grown from providing services from 500 customers to nearly 5,000, the foundation for this understanding was actually laid during my time early on in sales.
Shortly after joining brighter vision as a WordPress developer in 2015, and sometime before I’d go on to lead both the sales and marketing departments at brighter vision, I took on the role as our only salesperson. I originally planned to move into a marketing role at Brighter Vision. Perry was actually in the process of pitching me this new marketing position that they were creating.
And during that time, our only salesperson actually left Brighter Vision. And he basically came to me and said, Hey, I know I just mentioned this marketing role to you, but what we really need desperately right now is a salesperson. Would you be interested in giving it a try? It was early in my career and I was hungry for any opportunity that I could get.
And I said, sure, let me try out sales. Let’s see what this is all. So right off the bat, it was overwhelmingly fast, paced, exciting and rewarding. I was speaking to every single customer that came in and every single person that scheduled a call to learn about our services. I was sometimes taking as many as 20 scheduled appointments in a day.
A lot of times this was from the lobby of whatever hotel was hosting the conference we were attending. And because we were a small team, I was often looped in to help with support requests or resolve a customer’s problem to prevent them from canceling their account. All of this combined to give me a ton of valuable insights and information that I didn’t know how valuable it was at that time.
But when it did come time for me to move into a marketing role, this knowledge proved invaluable, allowing us to launch free webinars that would attract hundreds of potential customers, collect thousands of emails by offering free marketing guides and help craft the language on our landing pages to generate countless inquiries and initial sales.
And all of this came from simply speaking with customers and getting that deep level of understanding that you don’t always get through an email or a support ticket, or even a customer survey. So that story aside, what do I actually mean when I refer to having a deep level of understanding of your customers? More still, how are you? Do it? I will say first that I don’t think that this is something that you can ever fully check off as done. And I’m of the opinion that you should always be seeking to understand your customers, especially as your business grows and changes over time.
However, I do have a basic checklist that helps me say I know what I need to know to avoid getting caught up on the spinning hamster wheel and never actually getting any marketing initiatives out there into the world.
One: you’re able to effectively explain your services and the problem you solve, making potential clients say, this is exactly what I need. For me personally, that means being able to give a high level explanation of your services in a single sentence. And then quickly highlight key points of what you do after that.
At brighter vision, our single sentence was marketing made simple. Custom websites and marketing solutions for therapists. It was quick. It was easy to understand people got it right away. What followed that sentence was that clients who worked with us would be able to collaborate directly with a design team who did the work for them. That they can edit the website on their own or have our team do it for them. Thanks to unlimited support. And we would also help market the site for them through included SEO as well as an add on option that included a social media automation tool to put out content across social platforms for them.
Two. You know what competitors your potential clients might be looking at and how to communicate your unique value and or level of expertise you provide. This is important in your marketing language, as well as the language you’re using for selling customers.
But it can also be hugely beneficial to using paid advertising like Google ads or Facebook ads. One of my favorite strategies to take advantage of this knowledge is to create a dedicated landing page that highlights how you’re different from competitors, whether it be included, support pricing, or even the fact that you’re a local business.
And target people who are searching for your competitors. It’s a really good way in a solid time proven strategy that will prevent you from wasting money on Google ads and attracting the right people. Three. You know, where your customers go to research a solution to their problem.
This is a big one for me, because it really determines where you are spending your time and what marketing channels you’re ultimately adopting. First, knowing where your customers are looking to help solve their problems. It makes creating and executing marketing initiatives that will get them to land on your website or landing page much, much easier.
For example, if you are a marketing agency and you focus on home remodel businesses. A side note for myself, we should do an episode on why I think having a niche is important. But if you do have a niche and you’re able to distill that niche down into something that can be easily searchable.
You can do a simple search for things like marketing tips for home remodeling businesses. And see what comes up. a lot of times, especially in the case with B2B agencies, businesses are looking for ways to do these things themselves before actually hiring out.
With that there’s typically going to be some really good results that you’re able to find by doing this background research. My suggestion is to identify two to three channels like social media platforms or online communities. As well as two to three companies that you may be able to partner with to leverage their existing audiences.
So that really sums it up for less than one. And this lesson for me is a focal point of all my marketing efforts and things from there, kind of branch out and get a little bit more specific. With that. It’s time to move on to lesson number two.
Lesson number two relationships are one of the most powerful paths to growth partnerships, client referrals, affiliate relationships have all been a crucial aspect of nearly every marketing strategy on every team. I’ve either let have been a part of whether it’s previous clients telling a colleague about your services, whether it’s another company singing your praises as a trusted provider, or whether it’s a brand partner mentioning you in their newsletter.
The starting point for all of these marketing initiatives begins with relationships.
So for lesson number two, I want to break it down into my three key beliefs that I feel have helped me build mutually beneficial and meaningful relationships that also do a tremendous job driving business growth
Belief number one, people do business with those they know like, and trust. This was something I saw firsthand at brighter vision because people would see me on live webinars.
They would speak with me at a conference, or they would simply read my name on an email course. They signed up for having a face or faces for your brand immediately helps someone you were talking to for the first time.
Feel like they. Not only does this start the conversation on a great note, because they’re excited to talk about their specific project and their specific needs with someone they already regard as an expert, but it helps them get that much closer to officially signing up right off the bat another thing that I’ve found specific to agencies who work directly with clients is that it’s especially impactful for clients to hear the story of your business and understand how you got to where you are, by learning about this sort of origin story.
It was always ringing out throughout the office that Perry had built a website for his mother-in-law’s practice in Florida and had saw that there were no good options for therapists to build a high quality website in an affordable way.
And people really wanted to know it. It wasn’t like we were telling people on our team, Hey, you have to say this on a call. But it was something that kept coming up. What I learned from this is that being able to tell a story of your business in a easy to explain way is not only great for helping potential clients know you and trust you, but it’s a really great thing to lead off a call with. And it’s also a really great response to that question that potential clients will sometimes ask of anything else I should know.
A final point on people doing business with those they know like, and trust and that in marketing, it’s your responsibility to help make this happen? One thing I highly recommend doing is if you have additional staff, make sure you feature them on your website. Make sure they have a quick bio. what you can even do is encourage members of your team, especially those in client facing roles to post on their personal LinkedIns, new content, business updates, or samples of completed projects direct from the person that a potential client might be working with is a hugely powerful tool to help give potential clients this sense of already understanding who they’ll be working with before they sign on the dotted line or their project officially kicks off.
Moving on to number two, my second belief within this idea that relationships are one of the most powerful paths to growth is that referrals are often one of the quickest and easiest ways to generate new business. I think referrals are the greatest. Not only do they become clients really quickly, but the client who is providing the referral likely already fits the profile of your ideal client. And it means that this friend, colleague, family member they’re sending to you probably does as well
that said, I think if you’re simply expecting referrals to come in without developing a real strategy for generating them, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. One of my favorite examples of a solid referral strategy comes from a previous company I worked at where we offered a full month free to any customer whose referral signed up for a paid account with us.
While the strategy of incentivizing referrals is nothing new. The interesting part about this strategy is that we created a form that automatically got sent to clients. After their project was completed with this form. The only thing that client had to do to refer their friend, family member or colleague was just enter the email address of that person.
Once they click send the system would automatically send out a personalized email to this referral along with more information, a link to speak with us, as well as a coupon code and an option to sign up directly. This system ultimately generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in new business and required little more than an afternoon of upfront work on our end
well, I’m by no means recommending this same process for everyone. You know, there’s a lot of different business structures out there. If you’re doing custom quotes, if you have complicated billing, you might not be able to offer things like coupon codes. But my point is that you can’t just expect referrals.
You need to ask for them and even more. So you need to incentivize them and make the process of giving a referral reliable and easy.
Another way to get referrals more organically and leverage the positive experience of your customers is through review websites that said reviews don’t come out of thin air.
And most companies who are well reviewed are actively asking for those reviews. Now I’m not saying that you should be paying for reviews. In fact, I don’t think that you should be, but if you’re not asking for them, you’re not gonna get them.
One final note about reviews is that there are a huge number of options out there. Yelp Angie’s list, G2 trust pilot, just to name a few. My recommendation is to pick two to three review sites where you know your ideal clients are looking for reviews and use those to focus your efforts better yet.
Target just one review site that you know is going to be the best option for you.
So my third and final point within this lesson is that a giver’s gain mentality is the key to forming successful partnerships.
I think partnerships are instrumental in giving your products exposure to a new market, a market that you might not be focusing on but are spending your time on. And these partnerships can sometimes provide a new source of clients from places you might not expect. I’ve been a part of dozens of partnership campaigns throughout my time in marketing.
But one of my favorite examples of how partnerships can come from these unexpected places was a story that one of my co-founders actually shared recently. So when he was looking to grow his business focused on providing websites for funeral homes, they were looking for new ways to attract clients specifically through partnerships.
What they did was conduct industry research on all of the various aspects that go into running a funeral home business. Everything from refrigeration to cosmetics, to the software that was used, what they found through this process is that there was really only one big supplier of, and this is a little bit morbid.
The embalming chemicals, funeral homes needed to operate the customers that the chemical company referred to had a high level of trust in any recommendation that they made these factors combined to generate countless customers and better get these customers practically sold themselves.
For me, this example highlights the importance of not only understanding your customers. Like I mentioned in my first lesson within this podcast, but also doing proper research about the industry they are in
That said, when you’re in the growth phase of your business, it can be tough to approach organizations larger than you about a potential partnership. And self-doubt that you have the credibility to make it work. Can sometimes creep in. This was something I’ve experienced a few times. So I wanted to share my tips for overcoming it.
My suggestion, and the way that I approach things is to lead into the conversation by telling them about what you can do for them versus what you can do together. This might seem a bit backwards, but I’ve found that starting on this note kicks off partnership conversations in a really positive way
A final note on partnerships is that there’s a surprising channel that you might not expect that does an amazing job for kicking off partnership conversations. And that is what you’re listening to right now, a podcast, Bringing on people who are in a similar industry, thought leaders and by having them as guests, you’re able to have a candid conversation where you can kind of determine, Hey, would this be a good fit for a partnership when you circle back and approach this person or this company later on, you already have that relationship in place.
They know they like they trust you and you’re able to get the logistics of that partnership. Worked out a lot quicker.
If you do decide to implement this strategy in your business and start a podcast, don’t ask for partnerships right off the bat. It makes the person you’re talking to feel slimy. They were expecting to come onto a podcast and then you’re immediately changing the conversation.
Let those conversations happen naturally and evolve over time. Don’t rush them.
Now that I’ve covered the importance of understanding your customers and the power of relationships within business growth and marketing initiatives, it’s onto my third and final lesson.
Get ready to strap in. This is gonna be a big one. Lesson number three simply said is that you can’t fix what you can’t measure.
What I think can be confusing, especially in the case of agencies, is deciphering the key metrics that are most important to be tracking.
I’m gonna start by first describing generally what these data points tell you. And then I’m gonna talk about what I call them. One quick caveat is there are additional metrics that can be important to track, but these are the two I see are most important for B to B agencies. you need to know what led potential clients and paying customers to express initial interest in your services.
In other words, you need to be tracking the lead source. In my mind tracking lead sources is the first key piece to taming the marketing data. Bucking Bronco. By giving you information about what specific search engines, social media platform, website, partner, or initiative led a client to you and knowing the lead source of each inquiry, you’re able to evaluate long term marketing success as well as short term success of specific initiatives while tracking lead source might sound complicated.
It doesn’t necessarily have to utilize a complex CRM or some source attribution tracking software.
One of the easiest ways to track how clients or leads got to you. And one that’s actually gaining popularity as privacy laws roll out and become more restrictive is simply asking how clients found you on a form This is something that is especially useful. If you have free downloadable content or live events, you can simply add a field to forms on your website when somebody is, you know, entering their email to get that information.
But aside from that, you can also just ask your clients on first calls or sales calls, how they found you.
If you do decide to add a, how did you hear about us field on top of just asking this question in your calls, you do of course have the ability to make this optional.
However, there are many marketers, myself being one of them that believe, if someone is willing to give you their email, they’re also gonna be willing to let you know how they heard about you and somebody who doesn’t want to provide that information. Probably isn’t ready to become a client or speak with you anyways.
To wrap that first data point up, track your lead sources, know how clients got to, you know, what generated that initial inquiry. It’s gonna be fundamental in determining how successful your marketing initiatives are. And without it, I don’t think you can take advantage of the second most important metric that I think every B2B agency should be tracking, which is conversion. In other words, you need to understand what lead sources create the most paying customers.
Generally speaking, I refer to conversion rate or conversion percentage as the number of initial inquiries that became customers on a per source basis.
The reason I rely on per source conversion rate so much is that it provides a level of detail into things like specific partnerships, advertising campaigns, and any other marketing initiative to confidently make decisions on where to double down in order to generate more inquiries or on the flip side, what initiatives are no longer worth my time.
And I should maybe consider killing off for the real world. Example of why conversion rates are so important to me. I once worked on a consulting project where the company I was working with was running Google ads to a page where users could try a service for free for a certain number of days.
While Google analytics was tracking the number of page views and was tracking the number of trial signups. It wasn’t tracking the number of those trial signups that converted into paying customers. After setting up a way to properly analyze the conversion rates of this campaign. We found that despite a few hundred people signing up over the past couple None of them had actually turned into customers. This meant that tens of thousands of dollars had been more or less entirely wasted with that in mind, the best way to track the number of inquiries that turn into customers. In other words, the conversion rate on a per source basis is almost always going to be through your CRM
Because what that is going to allow you to do is update sources. If you hear something different after speaking with somebody, it’s also going to provide a central database for all of that information that you can quickly analyze. Another great reason to have a CRM that relates specifically to conversion is that a CRM can help automate parts of the sales process. That’s going to drive up your conversion rates, helping you to respond to new inquiries promptly and sending automatic follow ups so my third and final point within this lesson is don’t ignore Google analytics, but don’t rely on it either. There may be some people who would disagree with me on this, particularly, I think anyone who has a, B to C business where they’re selling either direct to consumers or they’re in the retail space, might not like this idea. So keep in mind that this is specifically for B to B agencies.
With this in mind, Google analytics, at least for me, was once mission critical to what I did in marketing. Now, in my view, Google analytics is just kind of important and it’s useful for some things and not as useful for others.
The way that I’m approaching Google analytics, as we ramp up our marketing [email protected] is I’m using it to supplement data from other channels. Whether it be our social media accounts, our email marketing software, our CRM, or other internal reporting tools.
I’ll be using Google analytics to pull reports on page views, traffic, and additional specific insights like top landing page, and most popular blog posts to help understand what pages I should be focusing on optimizing and what insights can be used to help shape things like our paid advertising campaigns.
So that does it. That is my third and final lesson.
Thanks for hanging in there with me. This has been a really fun episode to put together. It’s required me to dig deep and think back on a lot of fun experiences and some that may not have been so fun as a final reminder, before we head out the motion.io launch list is officially live on our website and we’d love for you to join in and become a part of both the product and the community we’re building in case you missed it.
The platform we’re building is what our three co-founders wish we had prior to delivering over 20,000 design projects to clients, motion dot iOS, communication collaboration hub will make it easy for you to get what you need from clients to key projects moving while delighting them at every step of the process.
By joining the launch list, you’ll get weekly emails with all of the agency growth content we’re putting out alongside development, updates and opportunities to unlock early access and exclusive benefits by becoming a founding customer. Of motion.io to sign up for the launch list. Simply head to motion.io/launch and enter your email.
Once again, that is motion.io/launch. Enter your email and you’ll be able to join our launch list there. Thanks again for tuning in and see you next Thursday, everyone.