Fellow CreaCh’ers… err, Distillers-
Welcome to 2019! This year has kicked off as the most challenging and exciting in our history. It’s challenging because we’re investing heavily in a complete revamp of our business, but it’s exciting because of the capable people comprising our team and what our plans will manifest over the course of the year.
This quarter’s leadership planning session included our new director of client success and happiness, Brittany! Britt is already running with oversight of pretty much all of our growth marketing accounts, which is freeing me up to focus on our new sales strategy. This is hugely valuable for me and for Creation Chamber.
A few of us have read the book Start With Why, which illustrates the differences between how the smartest companies position themselves against the competition (For a 5-minute intro to this concept, watch a portion of the author’s TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IPYeCltXpxw). The Why provides a North Star toward which all focus, energy, and meaning flow. It serves as the foundation for everything from our external elevator pitch to our internal core values. This topic was one of the key parts of our planning session.
It’s probably easy to establish your Why when you’re a company like Tesla (to move the world to sustainable energy) or SpaceX (to make our species interplanetary), but when you work in the controversial world of advertising/marketing, putting a meaningful vision behind what is commonly classified as The Art of Mass Manipulation can be challenging. In addition to our credit union focus, we’ve spent the past year spitballing additional ideas such as a focus on education, or on the Purina-referencing “helping businesses that help people lead happier, healthier lives,” but those are very nebulous and we still have work to do to settle on a very limited set of industries. For now, there is a concept, which is industry-agnostic and that has always been part of our agency’s DNA—and I think it’s a pretty unique and significant one within the marketplace:
Marketing a business should be simple and fun. We love showing clients how.
The never-ending coverage of digital trends, tools, and technologies is mostly noise when you remember that marketing a great business really boils down to little more than crafting a compelling story and getting that story in front of the right audience. A simple mix of a few key platforms, proven processes, and smart/fun people, all focused on delivering within the 80/20 rule can deliver the most results, the best experience, and the least complexity.
Resulting purpose statement: We are humans helping humans grow their businesses through approachable simplicity.
This exercise has even resulted in a new core value for our company (this puts us at 9 total core values). I would say it has taken over the spot as my personal favorite (previously DELIGHT) because it’s been such a strong part of our culture since day one, even though it previously operated in the background. Getting its own core value now appropriately propels it to a position representative of the impact it has had, and will continue to have, on the success of our business. Here it is:
Keep It Simple AF (And Fun)
Complexity is the enemy of execution, yet we operate in a field where most businesses create and drive unnecessary complexity habitually. The most successful, however, are wise enough to do the opposite. When Yahoo! was a portal with a million moving parts, Google launched a bare-bones web page with a single search field and stole the market. When the mobile space was dominated by futuristic flip phones and full physical keyboards, Apple launched a device with essentially a single button and changed the category forever. And on the topic of Apple, let’s remember that they were on the verge of collapse in 1997 when Jobs returned to the helm and eliminated 70% of the product line to focus the company on the areas that really mattered. Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
"Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do." - Steve Jobs
In the world of digital marketing, we commonly see our peers pushing too many platforms, leveraging too many tactics, and justifying their efforts (and fees) with way too many spreadsheets full of endless vanity metrics. As the saying goes, “if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” Our team knows there’s a better way—and we walk that path in everything we do:
- We constantly refine our offerings so that only the most effective strategies and tactics comprise our solutions. We follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of the results will come from 20% of the marketing mix. So we eliminate the other 80% of the mix and focus on the most productive 20%.
- We’re continually reducing the number of platforms we include in our day-to-day. The best processes and platforms are the ones people actually use, and by minimizing the number of moving parts, we maximize our utilization and mastery. This applies to our internal work and to the tools and training we provide to our clients. When clients understand what we’re doing, they’re smarter, more appreciative, and better to work with.
- Instead of exporting a sea of data surrounding every possible metric, we customize beautiful, graphical performance dashboards, focused on the KPIs that matter to the client, and available to them on-demand.
- We build MVPs (minimum viable products) through growth-driven website design.
- We constantly refine our industry foci so that we can better leverage subject matter expertise in our campaigns.
- We believe that genius is nothing more than the ability to make the complex seem simple. And because everything evolves toward its simplest form, our mission is to get there first by avoiding the “shiny object syndrome” that lures many into chasing every little marketing trend for FOMO.
- Our very brand is about distilling our product down to the essential, valuable elements, while removing the unnecessary elements and the impurities. Simplicity, and the resulting elegance, permeate every decision we make.
“If you can’t explain it to a 6-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” - not Albert Einstein
This concept is so important that we’ve decided to revert to a former brand name: Distill. You may not have noticed, but our site has always been accessible via distillagency.com and we’ve all had email addresses at that domain. We still have our trade name registration with the CO Secretary of State, as well. But most importantly, the name is a fitting label for what we do today. If Creation Chamber was ever a relevant name, it was when we were known for creating Pumpkin Master CD-ROMs, Client/Server Flash Apps for NFL teams, RIAs for restaurants, and plenty of elaborate, Flash-based websites. The recurring, consultative nature of our newer relationships, however, seems like an odd fit for that name. Distill, on the other hand, represents that filtering of everything except the essential (and plays off other aspects of our great culture). So, we’re working on the new logo (yes, we’re all disappointed to leave the new CC concept so quickly) and website so that we can roll them out ASAP.
You've probably noticed that we’re spending a lot of time formalizing our sales strategy. With Amanda and Erin both helping to implement it, we’re building the most professionalized sales engine our agency has ever had. We’re generating leads through LinkedIn (quite possibly through a strategy that we can leverage for some of our clients) and Instagram and will soon be pitching productized service packages that remove 90% of the variability and rework from our current offerings. We’re trying to centralize as much of this as possible in Hubspot, where we can collect the leads, nurture them, create deals, generate quotes, and even get legal e-signatures, so that no other platform is needed within the sales process.
The Hubspot Partner Vision
My/our goal is for us to become the top Hubspot partner agency in the world. If that sounds crazy, good—we love crazy! Remember that we were arguably the top Adobe BC agency in the world, having launched around 400 sites on that platform. I sat/sit on the now pointless Partner Advisory Board, which was created as a group of the top 5 partners worldwide. Before Adobe lost interest in BC, they provided us with direct support access to their engineering team and flew us to San Francisco for multi-day meetings and wine-and-dine events. Can we do the same with Hubspot, considering this experience and how much more productized we’ll be moving forward? Hell ya. Our strategy for getting there starts with building more momentum in the credit union space (and any other industry we test out in the coming months). Once we get a foothold, we should be able to implement these solution packages left and right because we’ll have even more solid results to demonstrate within the industry.
We’ll also be submitting for the Hubspot Impact Awards: https://www.hubspot.com/impact-awards/performance-based
I asked our Hubspot CAM (Jacob) what it would take to reach the status of Top Agency. His available data don’t paint a clear path, but he did provide a little guidance… Another one of his partner agencies won Rookie of the Year in 2017 by doing $18k MRR (monthly recurring revenue) with nothing but base Marketing Pro and CMS deals. That $18k number is, by today’s tiering, just short of Platinum partner level (side note: the final tier is Diamond, which requires ~$50k in MRR. In 2018, 21 partner agencies reached diamond status). We’re currently a Gold partner at $7300 MRR, so we’re already 1/7th of the way there and still growing quickly.
In anticipation of our new flow of business, we’re rapidly evolving our process, too.
- We’re expecting to transition to free helpdesk for all clients within a few weeks. This will remove some internal billing complexities, but more importantly, it will eliminate a component of our ongoing client relationships that they really dislike. Although it has made sense (and cents), they commonly see it as “nickel and dime-ing.”
- We’re expecting to eliminate the client practice of emailing a general support address and instead have clients route requests to their account manager (many of our clients already do this, so it’s mainly a legacy issue). This will give the AM the opportunity to provide outstanding help for free, assign a ticket to a specialist (probably Peter as tier 1), and/or discuss other available programs with the client. In many ways, this may be mostly a mindset shift for us internally, as Peter may be considered the de facto AM for many of those legacy hosting relationships, which means the support process will change very little for him.
- We’re evaluating Click-Up as a replacement for Teamwork because of the enhanced features/integrations and their strong roadmap. We’re even exploring using it for our OKRs so that we can eliminate the costs of 15Five (and to eliminate one more platform from our mix).
- We’re evaluating Hubspot Service Hub as a replacement for Zendesk.
- We’re evaluating an end to our use of Freshbooks and may be moving all billing directly into Stripe. Again, one less platform in the mix.
- We’re officially rolling out the point system across all growth marketing retainers, although it’s now called the Credits System. More to come on this program soon.
All in all, these changes could result in 4 fewer “platforms” in our daily work. Ergo, increased simplicity :)
Aside from the OKRs that we’ve been discussing separately, this pretty much covers the big items for the quarter. As always, please share your thoughts and questions in Slack so that we can discuss. My continued gratitude for the passion all of you bring to our daily progress. It’s truly inspiring for me and I’m very excited to see how far we go in 2019.