Navigating the Common Marketing, Sales, and Delivery Pitfalls
- Articles, Blog

Navigating the Common Marketing, Sales, and Delivery Pitfalls


– You already know what it is, and in this edition of Agency Unfiltered, we have Pete Nicholls, director of HubDo. HubDo is a Platinum HubSpot Partner that runs the SILVERPEAK Challenge, in which Pete and the HubDo
team work with agencies globally to help them scale and grow. In the SILVERPEAK Challenge, Pete helps agencies build
marketing campaigns, develop a pipeline of opportunities, and then nail their
processes for delivery, and if that sounds of interest, Pete joins us to consolidate
the big takeaways from the most recent SILVERPEAK Challenge. Pete shares what he sees as
the most common roadblocks for agencies looking to grow and provides tactics to help
them overcome those roadblocks. Whether you’re looking to
improve your ability to market, sell, deliver, or grow, this discussion with Pete provides some
helpful, enlightening tips. Let’s do it. (rock music) Pete, welcome. – Thank you.
– Hello there. I know you work with a ton of agencies, help them nail their processes,
help them scale and grow. Talk to me about, from your experience, what seems to be the biggest roadblock, or the most frictional part
of their attempts to grow, if that makes sense? – Well, we’ve discovered
this by seeing a lot of agencies come up against
different challenges. I’d say number one is
overcoming a syndrome, which has a name. It’s called Cobbler’s Children. So, ages-old term. The cobbler’s children
are the last ones shod, and that’s basically saying
if you’re a marketer, it’s probably your own marketing that gets the least amount of attention, and that’s really important, ’cause we’ve also found that
that has had the biggest impact on growth is to get your
own marketing right. You gotta do a ton of
other things perfectly to overcome your own marketing
not being up to scratch. – I would say, it’s not
just client acquisition, but, or, okay, starting a new business or finding new leads, prospects, to try and acquire new clients, but if you’re able to successfully
bring on a new client, God forbid you lose them. Who are you gonna backfill
that business with, right, and there’s some risks associated with having no marketing plan. – Yeah, absolutely. It’s like a blood supply. There’s a whole lot of situations that you can’t solve easily if
your marketing’s not working. So, we run a program where the analogy is like a mountain climber, okay, and we use Everest as the
analogy because it’s stages. In running an agency,
you’ve got stages of selling and delivering and all of that. So we use that, and
the difficulty you find along the way, we call
falling into a crevasse. If you fall into a
crevasse with the clients, you might be in there with
either good-fit clients, where it’s a difficulty
around the relationship, or you’re in the crevasse
with bad-fit clients, and how you get out of that is marketing. You’ve gotta have good-fit
clients comin’ in, ’cause there’s no way
you’re ever gonna fix bein’ in there with bad-fit clients. – Yeah. Marketing for my agency. Okay, I understand it’s important. How would I get started? Where would you make your priorities, or where should I start my focus if I’m starting from net
zero marketing my agency? – Yeah, so, agencies, and
certainly the ones we help, generally fall into either an
existing successful business that is becoming an inbound agency. Typical examples would be a
content marketing company, content writers, video production. There’s a range of businesses where the clients wanna see the ROI, and so, becoming more of a
full-service agency is a way to show how the content
turns into dollars. So, that’s one journey. The other journey is, hey,
I’m starting an agency. I’ve maybe come out of
a corporate background. Where do I begin? So those two journeys, although
they sound really different, they’re a little similar in, well, what does creating an
inbound agency look like? So the roadmap of where
you even begin is tricky, and the part that tends
to get skipped over, as we’ve found, is the initial focus. Deciding what am I going to focus on? HubSpot would generally talk
about an industry alignment. Are you gonna focus on medical, or what’s it associated with? It’s not always about industry. It can be that our focus
may be geographical. We’re gonna focus on
small, medium businesses in the Detroit area. So that’s the part that, in
terms of getting started, is to focus, and if you don’t know what you’re gonna focus on first, at least decide what you’re not gonna do, ’cause until you reach
the point of saying, you know what, although there’s
a customer who would like to so business with
us, we’re gonna say no, that’s a really brave
thing to say as an agency, but until you say no, you have no focus. – Well, I would say, a
lot of agencies would say, I don’t have the luxury of saying no, right?
– Mmhmm. – It’s like if they’re
open to working with me, I have to say yes, but it sounds like if you do just say yes, you end up in that crevasse, right? – Yeah, and most of the
folks who we’ve seen fall into the crevasse is that
they just haven’t said no. You’ve got to. It’s part of the formula for success. – So, if I’m stuck in there, let’s say I have a bad-fit client, how do I, I guess, keeping
the mountain analogy, how do I climb myself out of there? – Yeah, so, there’s a nice
way that this ties back to the Cobbler’s Children, because we’ve said that
to get out of the crevasse if you have bad-fit clients, your marketing must be working for you. It has to be bringing you in leads, and so if your marketing’s not working, this is this Cobbler’s Children Syndrome. I’m a marketer, but I’m
not doing my own marketing. So, it’s like trying to
climb a mountain barefoot. So getting your marketing right
is like pulling on the boots with the right crampons, so you can actually dig in and climb, and we’ve seen, all the
agencies that have done that and made the decision to
make their marketing work, they just start to climb
out, some faster than others, but it all begins to come together once the marketing starts to work. – Yeah, makes sense, and then I think, just in a natural segue, if
your marketing is firing, and you are identifying, well, a, I know who is gonna be a
good fit for my services and then acquire leads that
qualify and make those fits, now it’s about the sales. So, from what your experiences
are working with agencies, what do I need to keep in mind when building on a sales process? – Yeah, so the sales is
a really interesting one, because a lot of marketing
agencies love marketing and hate selling. They’re like, I’m not a sales guy, or I just don’t like the sales process, I hate having the sales
conversation, all of this, I’d rather go clean out my
sock drawer than do selling. So, first thing that has really helped marketing agencies overcome
that is to stop thinking of it as sales. So, there’s a great book
called To Sell is Human by Daniel Pink, and that has
helped a number of agencies where it’s changed the mindset. In fact, one guy, Alex, he’s
a great agency in the UK, hated selling, had a
Post-it Note on the side of his monitor saying,
helping not selling. So to change the mindset
to helping, first of all, is to focus on that rather than selling, and that way you’re
selling for the customer if you’re helping. That overcomes that initial
inertia, if you like, of avoiding the sales process, but then there’s a couple of other factors you gotta get right. The sales process that HubSpot
lays out within the training, if you don’t already have a
sales process, just adopt that. – Sure. Don’t reinvent the wheel
if there’s a template, so to speak, already made available. – Yeah, absolutely, and understand why does HubSpot have a connect
call, an exploratory call, a planning call, a demo, and close. Why have that in separate meetings? Why not just do it all in one meeting? There’s a reason for that. Agencies have learned slow
down the sales process. Work out what I want from
that exploratory call of finding true need. There’s another great
agency in Australia, Mark, who has an existing content business, and as he came onto the program working with the rest of the team, really fairly early on he had an epiphany, which was, oh my God, I’ve been talking to customers about what a great job we can do for them, but they didn’t have a problem to solve, and so Mark came up with a phrase, I’ve realized that when a
customer doesn’t have a problem, it’s not my fault, ’cause he’s realized how
much time he has spent doing coffee, presentations, all of this on clients that just don’t
have a problem right now. They love catching up with him, and so that’s saved him from
wasting a terrible amount of time and cost on deals
that aren’t gonna close and focus on, well, where is the problem? So in selling, first you get
comfortable with selling. Second is find the gap. Is there a problem there to solve? How–
– And if not, what, you’d be okay, going
back to your original point, being okay saying no to the business, or what happens if you
can’t identify the need, or what if there is no gap? – Well, you can spend a lot of time with a customer thinking, well, fantastic, we’d love to get you
involved in the business, but it’s highly likely that
that deal is just gonna go die. They’ll reach a point where
it’s time to spend the money, and they won’t be able to
justify signing it off, because, as we’ve also found, if the client has the
option to do nothing, that’s what they’ll do.
– They’ll do nothing, right. – That’s what they’ll do. So don’t waste your time. Keep the relationship going, because at some point they’ll need you, or they’ll know somebody
else who needs you, and that’s a far better strategy. Now, if there is a problem to solve, then the third challenge
within sales appears, which is don’t take the cheese. So…
(both laugh) – I feel like that’s gonna be
one thing you’re gonna have to expand on. (laughs) – So, a classic situation, we’re masters at our own craft, right? If an agency is sitting at the table, he’s earned the right
to talk to the customer about what’s needed. The customer says, well, we were thinking of doing Facebook Ads, and there’s this thing
Custom Audiences, right, what’s that all about? And you’re like (fingers snap) bam.
– I know everything about Custom Audiences. – Let me tell you it, yeah.
I’ll get to the whiteboard, and we call that taking the cheese. It’s a customer has said
his, what I need to know, and because we have an
understanding of it, we wanna show that, and Patrick is another
great agency in the U.S. He has a phrase for this. He
says, “You latch onto this, “and then you start throwing
out ideas like ninja stars,” where I’m gonna show you how much I know about Facebook and Custom Audiences. Problem is, this is in
the exploratory meeting where you’re trying to find out does a customer have a problem to solve, and you get so excited talking about this, and then you have a great meeting. Fantastic, yeah, can you
send us a proposal on that? Yeah, sure I’ll send Facebook Ads. You walk away, and you
didn’t discover the gap, you don’t know whether you’re
working on a deal that’s real, you don’t know if they have
the option to do nothing. – You move backwards. – Yeah, absolutely. So that third problem that you
wanna solve is selling value. If you just talk about
running Facebook Ads, you wanna find out what’s
the size of the gap? If that’s, say, a $2
million hole in the business that they need to close, and
you can help them close it, then you know what the gap is, and now you can anchor to
that $2 million of value that you’re going to create. It may be Facebook Ads, it
may be a whole ton of things, and that’s really the sales
process in three main stages. Get comfortable with selling, finding the gap in the business that they definitely wanna solve, and then anchor to that to sell the value of how you would close that gap. Then you have a deal
that’s worth investing in. – Right, so, you’re definitely not leading with tactics, right? That’s you’re taking the cheese, you’re gonna throw your
tactics down like ninja stars. Find the gap, the value
that you can drive, and then you’re framing your tactics and what your solution
can provide around that, is what it sounds like.
– Yeah, yep, absolutely, perfect, ’cause Facebook
on its own is a tactic. You may run it for six months, and you’re thinking, well, this is great. The customer says, I
don’t think it’s so great. Why not? You never established what the goals were in the first place. It’s really frustrating to look back and think, what an idiot. I didn’t define what success looked like if I went after the tactics, and now I’ve lost that retainer. I’ve gotta go find another one. – So, Pete, obviously you’ve
talked about these cohorts or these agencies you work with, they make the mountain climb. What if I’m interested in learning more? Where do I go? How do I learn more about that? – Yeah, so it’s–
– ‘Cause it sounds like you’re helping solve
marketing needs, sales needs. – Yes, the mountain climb, so talking to the great sales trainers within HubSpot, so Dan Tyre, Dave Weinhaus,
the boot camps that they run over six weeks, eight weeks, what we’ve done here for smaller agencies is identify the need to have something that’s longer range to solve multiple challenges, not just the sales and the marketing, but also the delivery
and how to grow an agency and how to hire staff. That’s a bigger journey, so
it is like a mountain climb, and we figured, well, a goal to aim for, it might be nice to
shoot for the first tier of the HubSpot Partner
Program, which is silver, so the name of the
program became SILVERPEAK. So on HubDo’s website, we talk about the SILVERPEAK Challenge, and that is a nine-month program of that climb broken up into five stages, and we tackle each one
of those areas in turn. – That’s great, and so
obviously you’re working with, ’cause you name-dropped a few examples. I think there was one in Detroit maybe, or there was one in Australia, so obviously you have a pretty interesting global perspective. Do you find that agencies
globally have different issues or run into different roadblocks, or I guess, what are the
differences in scaling an agency across the globe? What are the most stark differences? – Yeah, so between Asia-Pacific,
so Australia, New Zealand, through Asia, into India,
then into Europe and the UK, there’s some slight differences there, then into North America
from the U.S. to Canada, it’s all the same. – [Kevin] Really? – It’s all the same. It’s the challenges that
you face as an agency, there are many, you could
think of it as an analogy of raising children. You say, what are the
challenges in raising kids? There’s tons of them, but some days are fantastic
with no challenges, sometimes they’re terrible,
and they all vary. So the nature of the challenges vary, but it’s not really any different between Asia and North America. It’s challenges in sales
or challenges in marketing or challenges in delivery, balancing your resourcing as you grow. In the mountain climb, we use Everest. Mount Everest is a really nice example ’cause you climb it in five stages, and so we’ve broken the
climb up into those five– – The milestones, so to speak. – Yeah, you get to camp,
and we arrive at camp, we spend four weeks there doing more Academy Certifications. They hate me because make them do all these exams
(Kevin laughs) and all the homework. – [Kevin] Yes, that’s great. – Stuff you gotta do, but as
we get to the fourth camp, so they’re ready for stage
five to push to the summit, if you look up information
on Everest online, you’ll see this little
dotted line through Camp IV. That’s called the death zone. – The death zone. – Yep.
– Okay. – So if you go above
that point of Everest, you need oxygen or you die. – Oh, okay. – So, what’s common for agencies, you could start an agency and
have a great sales process and close a whole lot of deals and maybe go HubSpot
silver, gold really fast, but if you haven’t built the sustenance so you could find yourself
on Everest with no oxygen, and then you just as
quickly go back down again. So, as agencies grow,
each one of those areas that we’ve tackled, the
selling, the marketing, the delivery, hiring staff, all, you’ve gotta do each one in
unison to edge your way up. If you do any one of them too much, and you neglect the
others, you end yourself, you find that you fall back again. – Sure, which makes sense. If you put all this effort, time, work, bandwidth into marketing, and you’re a phenomenal
marketer for an agency, no sales process, you’re not helpful and consultative in your sales process, where are all those leads gonna go? – Yep. So just live through that journey where you’re tackling each challenge
in turn, little by little, knowing that as you get to the death zone, you’ve got enough sustenance that you’re not in fear of,
oh, if I lose one client, I’m not gonna be able to
pay my bills kind of thing. So, yeah, you can avoid
that by just take the time to learn and climb at
a rate you can sustain. – Final question for ya,
didn’t prep you on it. I usually ask to close out
each one what is the strangest, or what’s the weirdest
thing about agency life. Now, what’s the weirdest thing for you working with agencies, right? So usually it’s agencies talkin’ about the agency life themselves. What do you find the most
unique or most interesting or weirdest aspect to
working with other agencies up the mountain climb? – You know what’s really
inspiring, actually, about working with agencies? We thought we were gonna
fail working with agencies to start with because
it was quite difficult to get some commonality of
vision amongst those agencies, and that was the early days where we were supporting everything from HubSpot, to Infusionsoft, to this, to this, to this too. All manner of software
with no common methodology. So, three years ago, we decided on HubSpot with the Academy as the joint answer and to go inbound. So, inbound is a very honest
way of running a business. You’re very open to attract people to you based on who you
are and what you do. What I’ve found is that it
just attracts great people. So the agencies that we work with very quickly become rich friendships. So, that’s kind of the curveball. We always wanted to help agencies, but the–
– You didn’t expect the type of relationships
that have come about to come about, maybe, or? – Yeah, the richness of that openness, ’cause everybody is inbound by nature, so as far as a community, if you wanna be in a
community of great people, hang out with inbound agencies, because they just wanna do what’s right. So, yeah, that’s kind of my curveball, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. – That’s great. Pete, thank
you so much for joining us. – Great, thanks, Kevin.
– Good luck with the next mountain climb, and this
has been Agency Unfiltered. We’ll catch you guys next time. If you like what you watched, make sure to subscribe to our
Agency Unfiltered newsletter, which will remind you when
the next episode drops, as well as send you a
ton of other helpful, strategically curated agency content. You can also subscribe
to our channel on YouTube or podcast on SoundCloud, and if you wanna keep
the conversation going, Tweet me @Kevin_Dunn. Remember, keep it unfiltered, stay weird. I’m Kevin Dunn, and
I’ll see you next time. (rock music)

About Ralph Robinson

Read All Posts By Ralph Robinson

2 thoughts on “Navigating the Common Marketing, Sales, and Delivery Pitfalls

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *