How to Create the Agency You’d Like to Hire with Whitney Mitchell

Listen to this episode of Agency Journey as Gray MacKenzie talks with Whitney Mitchell, the Founder and CEO of Beacon Digital Marketing, about the vision behind her agency. Whitney explains how narrowing Beacon Digital Marketing’s focus increased its efficiency and why intention matters when building your workplace culture. She also reveals her tips for creating the agency you’d like to hire.
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Whitney Mitchell is the CEO and Founder of Beacon Digital Marketing. She founded Beacon Digital Marketing to help B2B companies generate high-quality leads, raise awareness among target audiences, and boost their marketing efficiency. In the last five years, the agency has grown from a team of five to 35 employees and 50 clients.

Whitney is a global marketing leader with over 15 years of experience in marketing strategy, brand development, digital advertising, and more. She is known for her ability to bring teams together in various sectors, from global corporations to tech startups.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Whitney Mitchell’s original vision for Beacon Digital Marketing
  • How focusing on a particular audience increased Beacon Digital Marketing’s efficiency
  • Why you should be intentional about the culture of your team
  • The impact of positivity in the workplace
  • Whitney explains why benefits matter when attracting and retaining top talent
  • What does the future hold for Beacon Digital Marketing?

In this episode…

The perfect job: do you find it or create it? Whitney Mitchell would say that you create it.

As a global marketing leader with over 15 years of experience, Whitney founded Beacon Digital Marketing to be the agency partner she always wished she had. While her goal to be the go-to marketing team for B2B companies may seem lofty, the agency’s last five years of growth show she’s well on her way. So, what are Whitney’s secrets for building a high-growth agency and talented team?

Listen to this episode of Agency Journey as Gray MacKenzie talks with Whitney Mitchell, the Founder and CEO of Beacon Digital Marketing, about the vision behind her agency. Whitney explains how narrowing Beacon Digital Marketing’s focus increased its efficiency and why intention matters when building your workplace culture. She also reveals her tips for creating the agency you’d like to hire.

Sponsor for this episode…

Oribi:

This episode of Agency Journey is brought to you by Oribi, an all-in-one marketing analytics tool. Say goodbye to Google Analytics.

To start your free trial, visit oribi.io/agencyjourney. Use the coupon code agencyjourney and get 20% off any plan.

ZenPilot:

And be sure to check out ZenPilot, where we help agencies optimize their operations using our proven systems and processes.

ZenPilot knows that you are tired of wasting time on trial-and-error — that’s why we provide tried-and-true solutions that will help you grow and scale quickly and sustainably.

So, what are you waiting for?

Go to zenpilot.com to learn more.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Episode Transcript:

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the agency journey podcast where we connect with agency leaders to uncover the hidden systems and processes that drive their success. Now let's dive into today's show.

Gray MacKenzie  0:17  

As we're diving into today's episode of agency journey, let me tell you real quickly about our sponsor Oribi. Oribi is a super cool on one marketing analytics tool. They've got Google Analytics squarely in their sights right now. And I can remember setting up Google Analytics as a sophomore in college and thinking this was just the coolest platform. And as it's matured, it's still super powerful, but it's become so complex to deal with. And Oribi has a value prop totally aside from this. But what I absolutely love about my experience plugging Oribi into Impala is I didn't have to mess around with setting up what events I wanted to capture and tracking all my changes. And if I missed the view, then it would, it would delete all the data that I had. I just plugged it in it crawled it captured all our all of our events made it super easy to see our funnel. And it just works a little bit. You'll see for example, how many people read the Definitive Guide to click up for agencies a blog post that I wrote, I don't know six months ago, see where those folks come from how that influences the buying process, the funnel the way that it works out. So super excited to have Oribi as a sponsor, you check it out, go to Oribi.io slash agency journey, it's all one word. If you spin up a free trial there, use the coupon code agency journey, same thing all one word that'll give you 20% off any plan, which is super generous of them. Remember, they can track all of our conversions. So check them out. That's a read that I Oh, we appreciate their sponsorship. And let's get on with the episode. All right, welcome into another episode of agency journey. I'm Gray McKenzie. I am one of Co-founders is  ZenPilot. And I have the special privilege of bringing on Whitney Mitchell from Beacon Digital Marketing today. Whitney, welcome to the podcast. Hi, Gray, how you doing? I'm excited for this one, I'm doing great because we're gonna get a quick profile of kind of what is beacon digital marketing, where you have an agency, and then I would say to talk about a couple different things, but specifically focusing on theme culture in the way that you built the team today. So start with the background, you give me a little bit of the story solo founder, but we're trying to start with other people. And so give us the kind of quick overview of beacon where it came from where you guys are, and then we'll dive in.

Whitney Mitchell  2:20  

Sure. So I started speaking digital, almost five years ago, just a couple months shy of our five year anniversary, after spending about 20 years in various firms, on marketing teams leading marketing teams, mostly on the digital side of things. Both b2b companies, b2c companies, tech startup University, kind of you name a lot of different types of businesses that I had played a role in marketing for. And for quite a while I had wanted to start my own agency, and have been looking around for someone to do that with and couldn't really find anyone ready to take that leap. So I just decided to do it on my own. And yeah, so back in fall of 2016, I decided to put out some feelers see if there were some initial clients, I could get on board that were replaced my income, basically, to kind of get me started. But I knew my overall vision was really to grow a business in the Hudson Valley where I lived, so I wouldn't be commuting every day, two hours each way into the city. And the Hudson Valley is a really just a great place to have a business you can walk to work like to work, it just have a great quality of life. And I knew there were others up in the Hudson Valley, though, probably shared that vision and would love a creative agency to work at in the Hudson Valley as well. So it turned out I made a very good bet on that. I had a couple clients that were willing to sign on to some past engagements and past companies that I'd worked with. And once word got out that I was on my own and started up an agency phone started to ring I guess, or the text started to come in the emails, etc. So within the first year, we had five employees. By the next year, we had 10, currently around about 35 employees, and we have nearly 50 clients. So we've really scaled very quickly. We've gotten really fast and I think that's a testament to a couple of the markets that we've really focused on my background, just prior to starting the agency was in risk management, compliance and cybersecurity, which are some pretty complex areas to be doing marketing in but also very hot when it comes to the business landscape right now. So that's really where our agency focuses. We work primarily with businesses and cybersecurity financial technology firms, and broadly b2b SaaS technology, but really, that's the core of our business. And yeah, so the demand there is really high. Um, that's really sustained a lot of our growth throughout the pandemic and into 2021. So that's where we're at today.

Gray MacKenzie  5:07  

That's awesome. Do you remember what was the, obviously you remember, what was the job title that you left when you were starting beacon.

Whitney Mitchell  5:16  

Um, I think of it was, like global Director of Digital Marketing and strategy for Kroll, which the global management firm.

Gray MacKenzie  5:28  

So, I remember. So we worked together last fall, end of last summer into the fall, and going to the site for the first time, you know, like, this is a cool niche to be in, but a ton of, I mean, everyone says you should be in a niche. But if you go look at the average lead that comes to the website, most of these agencies are not in a specific niche. So was that native out in the first in v1 of beacon? Like having a focus here? Or did that kind of come out? You realized they actually probably plant my flag somewhere? And get one?

Whitney Mitchell  6:03  

That's a really good question. I think it kind of came about naturally. But I think for every probably agency owner at the start, you are trying to kind of get a feel for what you're going to do well at and maybe we already do fit best in. And I think we did try out some clients and other areas, you know, took on some, you know, even like a local couple local clients, a hotel, restaurant and, and things like that. And I think we've very quickly found that, like, we really did need to focus because just for efficiency sake, you can really do a lot more for your clients, if you have a better understanding of their industry, you have a better understanding of software and technology tools that clients in that industry are typically working in. And so when you can really focus, I just found that the team was just much more efficient and could prioritize a little bit easier. But you know, it's already hard enough, I think, going from client to client to client, you know, when in the midst of a work day, but when they're also in wildly different industries. It's very hard to flip between all of those different. Yeah, yeah, kind of modes of marketing. So that really emerged, I think, quickly, but you know, it wasn't explicit. I don't find it the get go that that's how we were going to do it.

Gray MacKenzie  7:22  

That makes sense. And then I know we were just saying, you don't want to be pigeon holed into being a HubSpot partner. You just need to bring that up. Anyways. Did you were you familiar with HubSpot? Before begin? Was that a quick join to the partner program? Or did that come about after started?

Whitney Mitchell  7:36  

That came about after starting? Surprisingly enough, I had had experience with a lot of different marketing automation and CRM platforms prior to starting beacon digital from eliquid Peridot. Salesforce i'd implemented across the global enterprise at a CRO over the course of many years. Very familiar with that. I knew of HubSpot. But I'd actually never used it prior to starting beacon digital. But the first two clients I took on are both HubSpot clients. And so I got to know it very quickly and intimately with those first two clients, and really fell in love with it. I was just like, Why hadn't I heard of this before or hadn't implemented it before? Because it was, yeah, just so much easier to use, and really found it to be quite delightful in comparison to tools like ours. And I actually thought that out in terms of in terms of becoming a partner because I was really enjoyed working in the platform and wanted to recommend it to others.

Gray MacKenzie  8:36  

Yep, that makes sense. So working with the beacon digital team, from my perspective, and as we were wrapping up together, there's a little bit of transition with Andrew, my co founder, taking over as we were running into having baby number four show up right at the end. But the thing that stuck out to me in the internet and talking about internally was kind of the path you've got different agencies, ultras, obviously, with anything that you work with. And there's, most of the agencies that we work with have people who are problem solvers. But there's certainly teams that you run into that are problem finders and the people who can kind of point out, hey, there's a problem here, versus the themes who are like, Hey, here's the problem, I put this idea for fixing it, or I think it'd be a way to get around it. And we're both just having a really, we really enjoyed working with the beacon digital team, because it was a lot of I didn't even think about this intentionally about our culture until recently, as we were recruiting for a couple positions. And it was kind of the person that we'd intentionally said positivity is a trait that we're looking for. We want people who see a problem and jump in and won't just complain about it as a trait that stuck out in the beacon digital team. And so that was kind of in my mind. And recently, I was just thinking back to that. After you guys reached the diamond tier with HubSpot, and so When we start with any agency that we're working with, we put them through a team survey, we benchmark those results against other agencies that we've worked with. It's over 500 agencies in the database right now. And the beacon digital team scored super highly on the questions that are kind of geared around the relationship to the leadership team in the team culture internally, so things around, do we have healthy communication habits? Or is the company leadership, fair and open to my feedback? Would I recommend this workplace to my friend, those types of questions? So that's a long winded way of saying, Where did did you all I'm going to ask us a couple different parts? Did you always have a desire to grow a big team, or to grow? like to continue growing the agency at a pretty healthy clip really to go from in five years to go from you to 35 people today?

Whitney Mitchell  10:52  

Yeah, I am a really good question. And I am really proud of the fact I think that our team does have a really great work culture, I think everybody really genuinely does enjoy spending time together. And spending time together outside of work as well. We started as a remote first companies, we didn't have an office when we started. So the first, you know, probably five or six employees, you know, we never really came to an office together, we met in a co working space once a week or so for half a day, just to check in with each other and enjoy some time. But after that, we did get an office and I'm currently sitting in a new office that we signed a lease on right before COVID. So great timing on that decision. But we've always put a lot of intentionality. And I personally put a lot of intentionality behind the culture of our team, because for any agency, any consulting business, all you have is the people. That's all we're selling for selling our minds, we're selling our ability to solve problems, problems that probably haven't been solved by anyone else on your team or any other agency than Papa for. So the people really are the core of the business of who we are, as a company and for any person to be productive and happy and do their best work. But that takes a lot of intentionality with the work, that culture that you provide, I think we've all been in work, places where we didn't feel particularly valued. We didn't, we felt under utilize, we felt like our manager probably didn't care, we were smarter than our manager and you know, all sorts of situations that, you know, we've been in that were, you know, kind of distracting to us doing our best work or feeling like we wanted to put that forward. And so that's always been at the front and center of like, how do we intentionally do this month after month, and sometimes we're forget, we'll make mistakes, you know, like, sometimes we will make mistakes will make hire, maybe that doesn't fit that culture. But we do really try to be intentional about that when we interview people positivity, positive attitude. attitude is like 90% of everything I would gladly have a person with a positive attitude is ready to solve a problem, the team versus someone who's super smart, but kind of a jerk. And I think we've all read that talk about, you know, about kind of those hiring choices, right? You see that play out over and over again, the positivity really matters.

Gray MacKenzie  13:28  

What are the intentional, what are the habits that you have in terms of? He's working with the team? Right? So some specific examples like these? Does your team have weekly one on ones or bi weekly? one on ones? Are you doing quarterly performance reviews? or How are people knowing how they progress to the company? Or what are the main channels of communication from an individual contributor level to manager or leadership level?

Whitney Mitchell  13:56  

Yeah. Well, as you grow all of this changes very quickly, you know, at the get go, when you have five employees or two employees, it can be a whole lot more, one on one, and, and also organic in terms of how, you know you're working with someone, and they're getting a lot of personal one on one time with, you know, with you as the founder of company when you're, you know, two to three people. But as you grow, you can really do that less and less, you know, I don't spend one on one time, unfortunately, with every single person on our team anymore. And that's kind of sad. I wish I could, that would be a great day. But what we do try to do is, you know, continue to scale what we can, you know, so it's doing, you know, one on one meetings every week with our direct reports. And it's not about necessarily getting the work done. It's about checking in with people. How are you doing, particularly over the course of last year and a half, making sure that we had time for those conversations of How are you doing, really and what can we do to help And I really made a commitment over the course of the last year. And really actually all throughout our company that, you know, as soon as we can offer benefits to people, as soon as we can make better contributions to benefits or perks or vacation time or things like that, we're 100% going to do it. Because it's the people that matter, we have to retain and make happy, really this team that we've brought together. And we would hate to lose anybody over a small thing that we could have done to keep them. So, you know, I think being really proactive about what we can do from a benefits reward standpoint has been important. So as soon as we could offer healthcare, we did it. As soon as we could offer parental leave policies, we did it and pretty generous for companies our size from other agencies I've talked to, for better or worse. We just actually announced that we were going to do another week off of vacation starting next year, for the Fourth of July, which HubSpot announced the week prior we're like, that's a great idea. We're gonna plan for that too. And, and extend that to the team. You know, and I think that was really well received. Right? Because we're just looking for those opportunities all

Gray MacKenzie  16:16  

the time. We don't, I don't know if I've had any conversations with my guests intentionally about what the benefits are. So do you mind sharing any specifics on benefits? Yeah, my specific semi. And so when you say about another week off? Do you take the week around Christmas? Well,

Whitney Mitchell  16:33  

as we do it, we take the week between Christmas and New Year's is off for everybody. So that's a given. But you also get three weeks on top of that. And then we just added another week off. So really, everybody's getting five weeks of paid vacation.

Gray MacKenzie  16:48  

That's a lot of agency space.

Whitney Mitchell  16:50  

Yeah, it is. But like I said, it's about the unlimited vacation. Yes, other than the unlimited vacation policies, which I sort of have a love hate with. I think a lot of people feel like that's a good idea. And there's probably good ways to implement it. The downside that we often hear is, but then people don't use it, because they feel shamed into like, not doing it sometimes. So I really want people to use a vacation, I do not want people to get burned out. So it is use it or lose it. But you better use it.

Gray MacKenzie  17:24  

And then when you said parental leave policy, if you're open to sharing what that looks like, I'd love to hear it.

Whitney Mitchell  17:30  

Yeah, so this was, I think, a challenging one. But when that was really important to us, because a lot of the folks in initially that we were hiring actually specifically requested that, like they knew they wanted to have children within the first couple years and was like, what, I'm not going to come here unless you have a parental leave policy. So and that was important enough that we were like, Okay, well, let's, let's figure out how to do that. So we took a look around and you know, compared what options were kind of what, what the requirements are, of course, which are very minimal, and the United States in terms of what's actually required. And decided that, you know, as a company that really is trying to attract and employ top talent, a lot of whom are women, a lot of them are going to be in their 20s and 30s. Right, that's just kind of the demographic of who a lot of our top candidates are, that we wanted that to be an important part of our program. So I don't want to say anything incorrectly. But I leave, I believe, actually, right now, we've made some slight modifications to it. But it is a very generous policy, I think it's six weeks right now of paid time off. And then also with the option of flex time on, you know, the back end of that. And there's always extending what you know, there's extenuating circumstances that come with anything that can that can come up. So we've always been a very flexible and understanding workforce. So whatever folks need, we'll figure out how to accommodate. But that is an expensive endeavor. When you have employees in 10 states. You're not paying an Disability Insurance unnecessarily, you know, all those places, because you're not required to but but it does pose some challenges, then when you have you know, employees need to take advantage of that parental leave policy, but they're not necessarily in your home state of New York.

Gray MacKenzie  19:36  

Right. That makes sense. I think if there's anything else I bumped into, I would imagine at some point, obviously, working with European agencies, that's just a given a there's no way to whatever and that's all covered. But

Whitney Mitchell  19:48  

yeah, it's quite challenging. Like when we, you know, talk to our European clients, mostly, like we don't necessarily work with as many like, agency partners abroad. But yeah, it's interesting to compare like what we do Got a year off? You mean you're getting here?

Gray MacKenzie  20:04  

It's like, I remember my first when we were we built a software product, a project management tool for agencies called do inbound way back in 13. And that winter, is we're selling it and we're talking to people in Australia or wherever. Like, this is a great call, you know, talking in middle of December, something like this is a great call. Let's follow up in a month. You mean like, beginning of January after Christmas? And like no, actually a full month? Because Yeah, we're just off for the first summer selling the European holiday. Oh, great. So you've been on for a week? No, no, it's a month. Very different. And we hear you've probably heard this too, from folks. But I've had multiple people ask, so are the stereo two types true? Like we you Americans live to work and we work to live is different? different mindset? No,

Whitney Mitchell  20:57  

it does. Yeah, we have our head of web production is actually based in Austria. She's American, but yeah, moved to Austria with her husband. And that's actually just been interesting to you know, just trying to align like, calendar is like her holiday schedule, like with the Austrian, you know, holiday calendar is my holiday is when we get to us. So how do we make this equal? Yeah, so that's actually fun to balance out.

Gray MacKenzie  21:29  

So a couple of things. One, you're and obviously when this goes live, which would be a couple weeks out from when we're recording it, but you're hiring presumably for positions, you'll continue hiring or but hiring for account managers primarily right now. roles? Okay, cool. folks who are interested in potentially working at beacon not specifically for six weeks of parental leave another main driver? What do you is it jobs that beacon digital marketing.com careers, or what's the word people go to apply?

Whitney Mitchell  22:07  

Probably be conditional marketing, comm slash careers. That's our careers page. Yeah, you'll find all of our wonderful listings there. We've, I mentioned to you earlier, we've hired 10 people already this year. So it's been a productive start to the year but you know, demand continues. And we're looking to add some additional capacity to take on a few more clients for the end of the year. So looking for some really awesome folks that want to manage those relationships and help people solve their digital marketing challenges as a lead account manager. So it's a fun role. It's one of the most critical roles on the team. And I think also most, to me, it's most rewarding. I, you know, did a lot of this and still do a lot of the account management that our team from

Unknown Speaker  22:58  

oversight, but

Gray MacKenzie  23:00  

I just double checked, it is slash careers. So one other piece I wanted to, I wanted to ask you about because you're mentioning to me, so strategically direction. So over the next year, in terms of where you take the agency, obviously, there's going to be some growth, team clients, all the normal agency stuff. But in terms of where you go from a focus perspective, and positioning perspective, what are you looking at there as you're looking forward into the future for beacon digital?

Whitney Mitchell  23:33  

Yeah, I think that's a really interesting question, and probably one that agency owners are asking themselves all the time. And I think for our vision, and what I really see as a need in the market, what I would like to really try to solve for is a need to have really a unified go to market team for b2b companies. And there's a lot of bifurcation in the different teams and agencies that clients have to bring on and manage how they all work together, oftentimes with very little internal resources. So for example, a typical client that we might work with ringside not only a digital agency to help with the lead generation pipeline and content production. Standing up a tool like HubSpot, sending out email marketing, and running your ad campaigns. But then they also bring on a PR agency to help them with it, sort of top of the funnel awareness generation brand creation positioning messaging strategies around their company. And then they'll also bring on sometimes a b2b appointment setting, market research firm or lead development agency that's actually qualifying booking meetings for their for their sales teams, or whoever is taking actual sales calls and giving demos or taking those platforms. And I'd really like to bring that all together for our clients and give them sort of a Single go to market a company that they can go to that is effective and accountable and can take them not only from the strategy, from the business strategy, aside of what are all the pieces, we need to really go to market effectively, but we can do all the execution along with it and tie it together.

Gray MacKenzie  25:20

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. The model of saying we're,we can do, we can be more of in your growing into the size to where you can do like be more of the One Stop Shop type of firm, or a specific vertical. And I think what's cool about your journey, this goes back to one of the principles that Andrew and I have had for a long time, which is like earned the right where you weren't doing everything out of the gate, and it's growing and evolving kind of as you go, but you kind of earned the right to say, Hey, we got good at this, we can add on the next service, we can add on the next service and layer. And so that's been that's been cool to see as part of the journey as well.

Whitney Mitchell  26:02  

Yeah, absolutely. And I think, you know, we're, we're also nimble and responsive to what we're hearing from clients. And so part of the reason for that trajectory really is coming from what I hear and what I problems I'm trying to solve for for our clients, because because they're struggling with like, Where do I put this budget? Where do I put that budget, managing all these different contracts and relationships, coordinating meetings between different agencies that need to be talking to each other? And ultimately, you know, when I was thinking about starting, you can digital and really, you know, at first trying to like carve out what services do I want to offer? Really, it was around trying to be an agency that I wish I would have, would have could have had when I was an in house marketer, and that was always my visions, like what, what agency? Would I have wanted to hire or come to the table? How would I have wanted them to pitch themselves and present themselves what value propositions would have made sense to me my leadership at the time, and I think that's been a good lens to look at it through.

Gray MacKenzie  27:03  

That makes a lot of sense. Awesome. Well, I'm gonna let other places I can go but this is great for round one. So Beacon Digital Marketing dot com is a site anywhere else. You don't appoint people from here. Whitney.

Whitney Mitchell  27:17  

has a really great question that wasn't prepared for that was right. Our Instagram channels amazing. Great pictures of beacons. So I've go there.

Gray MacKenzie  27:26  

I'm not cool enough for Instagram. listening in. So I'm the one one loan. Awesome. Cool. Well, we'll put both those links in the show notes. What do you Thanks for coming on? This is a blast. Thanks for joining.

Outro 27:39  

Awesome. Thanks so much for having me. Great. Thanks for listening to the agency journey podcast. Visit agency journey insiders that have to join the podcast community and be sure to subscribe for future episodes.

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