How to Manage a Successful Digital Marketing Agency – Interview with Bill Sebald
Bill Sebald, currently the managing partner, founded Greenlane after 15 years of E-commerce and SEO experience which included leading the first group of SEOs at GSI Commerce as well as working with clients like Toys R Us, PetSmart, Calvin Klein and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Since 2005 he has been offering consultive services through the name Greenlane and in 2012 he launched Greenlane Search Marketing, LLC.
On days, when he is not leading any team, writing or speaking about digital marketing, he is happy to be in his 80’s shrine watching some bad monster movie or listening to hair metal.
Given below is a recent Q & A session we had with Bill Sebald. He was kind and co-operative enough to answer all the 20 odd questions for us. Read these at your own leisure.
1. Tell us who you are and what you do?
My name is Bill Sebald. I run Greenlane Search Marketing in the Philadelphia, PA area. We’re a boutique inbound marketing and analytics company. In addition to managing some accounts, my role is to keep the agency cutting edge and fully educated on all things related to our services. I also handle business development.
2. What came first, the team or the work?
The company started as my sole proprietorship in 2005, but restarted with my partner in 2012. It was a different story then, but today we make it a point to staff up before we take on new work. The agency scramble is a dance we’ve never enjoyed. We try to have the skills and bandwidth in place before we sign the clients. We feel this gives our newest clients the best experience possible, and keeps things calm internally.
3. How many employees are with you (Internal and External)?
4 – What is your agency forte?
SEO with a heavy focus on analytics. We think of ourselves as data-first strategic partners.
5 – How much do you typically spend to acquire a lead?
Outside of the design costs of a few brochures, virtually no cost. We’ve been successful to this date winning business on referrals, word of mouth, and our previous network in big agencies.
6 – What is the typical lead to conversion closing time and your average closing ratio?
A month is our average. We close a very high percentage of the kind of clients we’re looking for. We’re very aligned with some, and very different for others. To those we’re aligned with, we typically close upwards of 80%.
7 – How many customers so far and how many in counting?
We have 25 regular recurring clients and several projects at this time.
8 – What is the average length of time a client sticks with you?
If they are a project client, they stay until the project is over. If they are a recurring client, the majority are still with us today.
9 – What is your client retention strategy?
Elite work! Being iterative with strategies, being partners who ultimately understand company KPIs, and being experienced enough to handle everything thrown at us. Our client retention strategy is making sure we’re doing the best work.
10 – What % of work you outsource?
11 – What tools/software do you use and for what purpose?
We tried to pick the best tools for each task. From SEMrush, to Screaming Frog, to Cognitive, to all the backlink data providers, we want to have the best tool for the job.
12 – How do you report Progress to your clients?
Plenty of ad hoc communication, dynamic reporting, and routine meetings.
13 – What is your minimum service cost?
$5,000 per month or per project.
14 – What is you billing method to clients?
Monthly invoicing for retainer or project costs.
15 – Who was/is your best customer and was/is your worst so far.
Our best client is one who lets us work with their internal team and other marketing vendors, is interested in being part of the process and strategies (instead of wanting us to simply throw deliverables over the fence), and those who are very interested in the long-play. It is SEO, after all.
Our worst client is one who either lives in the past of SEO tactics (and is unwilling to update themselves), or is not responsive to communication. With the (luckily only a few) clients we’ve lost, they have all been short term clients where we simply weren’t aligned. We’ve also let clients go when we weren’t aligned. Some relationships are simply meant to be.
16 – Have you learnt a trick or two to identify bad customers?
We can usually determine with a list of questions on prospect calls who fits us (and vice-versa). We’re trying to be a different vendor, and we know we’re not a fit for everyone. We had a prospect once say (paraphrasing), “If you get me results in 3 months, you’re in. If not, you’re fired.” There are very few companies where three month’s worth of SEO work will create sustaining results, so we don’t align ourselves with unrealistic expectations. Needless to say we didn’t continue conversations with that prospect.
17 – How often do you interact with a client and what is your typical mode of communication?
We try to interact several to many times a month. We encourage weekly verbal communication, but sometimes the client can’t do that. In that case, email is our second best form of communication.
18 – What service activities take most priority and time for you and your team?
Strategy development. We do it every month for every client.
19 – What is your go to strategy to achieve clients results and hearts?
We believe education, experience, and building a solid relationship is the key to long-standing relationships. It’s also the key to being a fantastic consultant.
20 – What’s your company’s annual revenue turnover?
Over $1 million.
1– Which industry does your agency love to work?
We haven’t met an industry we don’t like, except for those that have heavy spam proliferation.
2- Which is your agency’s favorite marketing tool?
Creativity! Hopefully that counts.
3- Which company’s marketing campaign impresses you always?
The NFL has always been my favorite corporation to watch. It’s interesting to see the marketing plays on passion.
4- Who are the must follow people in Social Media?
I don’t really know. Outside of SEO, I tend to follow all social media marketers who have good ideas. There’s a few that seem to say the same thing, but there’s some that back it up with data. I like them the most.
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