One Secret to Unlock Quick Wins with New Clients
Rick Whittington is a self-identified night owl who starts his mornings at midnight, as well as a certified inbound marketing and HubSpot expert and the founder and president of Whittington Consulting.
After his day job left him “unfulfilled,” Whittington started blogging and freelancing, eventually landing a $150,000 insurance contract that enabled him to quit his job and start his own agency in April of 2007. He brought on his first employee (a web designer) in 2010 and has been growing ever since.
He says he is “just not cut out for the high-growth kind of stuff,” but he has grown his agency steadily at 20 to 40 percent per year, building from $120,000 in revenue in his first year to being on track to pass the $1 million mark this year.
In this episode, Whittington discusses his favorite tools (including YouCanBook.me, Hashtagify.me, Wunderlist, and Screaming Frog) as well as his criteria for accepting new clients, his strategies for keeping them happy, and his plans for training and retaining effective employees.
Taking On New Clients
- Focus on a few key industries (elective medical procedures, manufacturing, tech, professional services), but… “It’s not really an industry focus; it’s a focus on the company’s culture.” – Whittington
- The clients you don’t take on are as important as the ones you do.
- Reject prospective clients if their billings would be below the firm’s average retainer, especially if the retainer would be a significant expense for the client. They’ll want the “white glove treatment” to justify their investment, while the firm will want to spend as little time as possible on them.
- As average retainer grows, let go of clients who fall short.
- “If we can’t take those relationships to the next level, we’ll probably end up leaving them behind… to make way for better clients.” – Whittington
- Average retainer projected to be $5,000 to $5,500 by year’s end.
- Whittington provides prospective clients with an approximately 20-page e-book letting them know what to expect from the agency.
- Eight-week onboarding process with a deliverable dealing with a different aspect of strategy each week. At the end of eight weeks, Whittington collects the deliverables into a “campaign roadmap” for the client.
- Offers a three-tiered system of pricing and services, running from around $4,000 per month to around $8,000 per month.
- “We don’t want to be shy about what we charge. We don’t want to be shy about how we do what we do.” – Whittington
- Emphasizes optimization in tandem with content creation in early stages of relationship in order to provide early wins and build trust. Once took a company’s website from six leads in the first month to 76 leads in the third month.
- “Everyone at the agency needs to be in sales.” – Whittington
- Train account managers to identify opportunities, interact well, and build trust with clients.
- Encourage more senior employees to get more HubSpot certifications.
- Currently overhauling employeeonboarding and training processes. Hiring an HR consultant to help with employee onboarding.
- Provide career paths for everyone. It’s hard to retain employees who feel like they have no upward mobility.
- Maintain manageable pace of growth to keep clients and employees happy. “We want to make sure we deliver and we deliver really, really well so we retain not only the client, but they employee too… We want them to really enjoy coming to work every day.” – Whittington
So, are you looking for tips on how to start an online marketing agency? Check out this great thread on Inbound.org. The #1 take away is the urgency to create content for your agency. If you’re going to grow an agency in this space, you need to practice what you preach!