“We close 40% of the proposals we send. And for the 60% who didn’t close … I’ll tell you what, we didn’t close what is called the ‘Knowledge Gap’”
“We are ok with spending up to $2,800 for acquiring a customer”
“Networking is a great revenue source but it is not scalable and if you are planning to scale up your company, networking is not going to do it.”
What does it take to run a successful marketing agency? Are you pre-qualifying and filtering your leads before spending too much time on them? Are you educating your customers? How do you deal with clients that are not the right fit. Get answers to these and a lot more in an insightful conversation we had with Darrell Evans, the co-founder of a Las Vegas based marketing agency called Yokel Local.
Listen to the full interview: (transcript and summary available as well)
If you wish to hear this interview on the go, here is the audio version.
Key snippets and takeaways:
- Not all customers are the same. So stop taking a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing and start segmenting your customers into smaller groups. Segmenting and customizing your messaging is key.
- Fill the Knowledge Gap. Don’t expect customers to understand your jargon. Dumb down your presentation to a level that the customer understands. The customer needs to be educated about how things work before he can be pitched on what exactly you’ll be doing for him. And speak in his language, not yours.
- Networking alone won’t help scale your agency business. Networking can help get you to a certain extent but after a point in time, you do need to start practising what you do for your clients – paid advertising, content marketing and other strategic marketing activities. You need to have a continuous pipeline of leads to work with for a long-term sustainable business.
- Pre-Qualify your Leads before you Pitch. Yokel Local has a criteria where they’ll only work with companies that have revenues between one and ten million and have been in existence for a minimum of 5 years. Having a set criteria does limit the amount of time you could potentially otherwise waste on unqualified clients who could never afford your services or be the right fit for the kind of work you do.
- Reporting can be simple – clients don’t care about the nitty-gritties. Show them the value they’re getting, the leads, sales, traffic numbers. They might not really care about other technical aspects, those are good to have but most critical data can be shared through Webmaster Tools, Google Analytics and a few other third-party toolsets.
- The good customers are the ones who are coachable. You are always going to have some good and bad customers. Identify them early. Good customers are the ones who have a certain level of trust in your expertise and are open to learning about how the industry works. They don’t have fixed preconceived notions that Facebook doesn’t work for them, etc. Bad customers are the ones who don’t listen, are not coachable, stick to legacy tactics and are not acceptable to changes.
- Keep your billing model simple and straight. Always take the first month in advance. Stop accepting checks and invoicing through mailers. Have strict guidelines and say it doesn’t work if customers don’t have a recurring debit on the credit card, or ACH transfer set up.
About Darrell Evans
He is an entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist who helps businesses leverage the digital medium with a speciality in lead generation, sales conversion and improving ROI. He has been an entrepreneur for over 20 years, with a background of success in multiple industries in sales and marketing.
He is the Co-Founder for YokelLocal.com which is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He helps his clients in the areas of online lead generation and conversion. His passion is helping small and medium-sized businesses grow their revenues by 100%-300%.
Bala – Thank you very much Darrell for joining with us in this show with Mondovo. Our Readers are going to love this show. Pretty much sure.
Tell us who you are and what you do?
Darrell – Thanks, I appreciate that. My name is Darrell Evens. I am the co-Founder of Digital Marketing Agency here in Las Vegas, NV – USA called Yokel Local Internet Marketing. We recently trade-marketed and changed some branding so we are now known as just Yokel Local. We started in 2011. I got background in Marketing that dates back to before the internet. I know you can’t tell that by the young looks. I’m not that old, but I’m 46 this year.
I started digital marketing off-line before the digital marketing thing ever took off and so it was very easy to transition on line around 2004. I owned a different company that time. I have been an entrepreneur for the better part of 20 years and saw the early trend in 2004 2005 and I took my company in that time online and when the market transition happened in 2008 and 2009, I saw that there is a great opportunity to pivot in my career and jump into this space. I have been passionate about marketing even though I own two or three other companies.
The marketing size of the business and the growth model of the businesses always been my real passion so I saw opportunity with my business partner to change gears and started working with one-on-one with business owners to help them grow. Of course at that time the economy was terrible so our model is more of a partnership type of a model and not service providing model while business were so. Hopefully that answers your question.
Bala – Fantastic! Yokel Local is a very interesting name. People will know that if they have do local SEO that these are the folks we have to get in touch with. So, where it all is started. You said 2011. What came first, Work or the Team?
Darrell – Yes, 2011 we got started. Initially the funny thing is we started as a Local SEO company which all my business in the past were local service based business. Professional service, so the draw was to duplicate what we have done in own businesses and my partner and I bring that into other local business. So, that was the core how we got started.
Of course, as you know Bala, the internet changes a mile a minute and you have to able to adapt to be flexible with the changes, so the local SEO we found in 2012 just a year we were into it, may be by 2013, that local SEO would not stand on its own as a isolated services. You wouldn’t be able to deliver the value to the business and we couldn’t be end up becoming commoditized of a job. I think unless you are that 5% of the company you really going to struggle to really make a long term income cause you’re costing is going to chase your next project.
Local SEO we found that to be the case in 2012, we started moving into the content marketing aspect, full on SEO. We also got into the web design business and a have full time production studio. I’m sitting at the formal production studio. In fact you go google Yokel Local, you can look at our current page, we still have a picture of a 360 Degree office showing our video studio.
Bala – Yes, I did see that.
Darrell – We made an exit from the video business along with a number of business sides in December. But today we are full on digital marketing agency that handles inbound marketing. We handle it from the start to finish all the way from design all the way to content development through buyer persona identification. We build the sales funnels for marketing automation.
We really started moving that way in 2013 and to be quite frank we tried to piece together bunch of tools to do it. We sort of avoided the decision we made in last December which is to become a Hubspot partner, looking at the price difference. Finally we made a decision last summer to make the transition in our company holistically and we are doing Okay!
Bala – Fantastic! So, how many employees now in Yokel-local?
Darrell – We are at 8 right now and we are actually hiring. We were 12 at one point with our old model where we had Video, we had web design, and we were Google Business Partners when it first came out. We pulled those lines back and we went down to 6. I guess we are up to 9 now and we are hiring now we would be 10 by next month.
Bala – That’s Cool. That not bad. 20013 to 2016 here in the mid and you are managing about 10 members and growing gradually with the right changes. This is pretty interesting.
Bala – Let’s talk about the business side of yours. What is your business forte? How are you differentiating with your competitors?
Darrell – I think it is a great question. What we decided is, even though we started as a local business space, we stayed true to that. Today 90% of our customers are local service professionals. Let me re-define that so that your audience will get what I mean.
It’s funny, when I say to people that we don’t work with Restaurants, Uni-saloon, tiny stores. We don’t even work with fitness facilities. What we like about inbound is the three stages of the buying cycle. So, when I was in the Mortgage industry years and years ago. I had all these different types of buyers who want to buy a house. So, there were first hand buyers or I had an investors or someone who is retiring and looking from let’s say Chicago to Las Vegas. All these types of buyers ultimately needed a mortgage but they all had different way to go about shopping in and they all had different educational levels.
So, back in those days, when I send direct mails or off-line advertising in newspapers and magazines, I understood how to segment my buyers through direct response marketing and I knew how to target my messaging to reach each audience. So, this online marketing has grown and what we have done is we have gone out for looking professional service business and have what we call longer than sales cycles and so when am speaking of a state planning attorney for example or a divorce lawyer or a Lasik Eye Surgeon or a cosmetic or some medical service provider or orthodontic surgeon even and other types of businesses where there may be a nice long time cycle on buying or an auto service centre that has repeat customer database where you hope the car doesn’t breaks down every week or every month but over time you build up a trust and build a database that person is going to comeback see that business over and over.
So, we like to work with companies that have a three part defined business cycle. Awareness, Consideration and Decision. We used to call that as Research, Comparison and Purchase. It doesn’t matter how you label it but, we want the sales cycle typically to be 60 days to a year.
Darrell – Another good example, even though it’s kind of not B2C, we like technology space, we like the IT space because the IT purchases don’t happen overnight. So, it is typically a longer sales cycle. And what this allows us to do is, it allows us to fully integrate content marketing, social media marketing as well as Paid advertising in a cohesive program. This allows us to sell a entire program to a business.
The way we differentiate is we are an outsource marketing agency that is looking for companies that are a little too small for the big giant agency but they are also bigger than considering and investing in independent quote on quote marketing consultant or solopreneur marketer. We are looking for business that is grown through start-up and they want to go after the big competitors in their space. And when I say space, it is locally and not nationally.
Although we do couple of ecommerce companies as well that are more targeting to national spotlight. So, that kind of what we have done.
People don’t come to us and hire us for SEO or Local SEO or Social Media Marketing anymore. What really is, we are looking for very defined type of business in that professional service umbrella and we have have defined a very good model that has been serving them very well.
Bala – Fantastic! It’s very nice to understand on how you have classified your audience and how you want to be approaching them.
So, how do you acquire new leads? And how much you spend to get them?
Darrell – It’s a great question. Here is the thing. We started our business right here in Las Vegas. And of course, being a founder yourself, when you start a company, you need business today right. So we did the normal thing, we hit the ground running. We joined the chamber of commerce, we joined every networking group we could find. We got our name out there and we started bringing in business.
Of course we started with our old model. In our old model, we were doing isolated local SEO and eventually web design and some local services. So, we made our full transition from 2014 to coming 2015, we realized that the old model obviously wasn’t scalable.
Networking is a great revenue source but it is not scalable and if you are planning to scale up your company, networking is not going to do it. Because the minute you take yourself out of the environment and put a sales rep in that environment consider that is a challenge and it is a different story. So, we began looking at, believe it or not, 3 years in I guess, we begin looking at our own online marketing and saying – Hey! When are we going to take that seriously? You know like, we are doing it for our clients, like we are the cobblers of their shoes, right for succeeding our client but we wouldn’t take time out of the day to do it for ourselves and to be quite frank, we started that last year and started seeing some success.
But, looking at your question, Offline, from the stand point of cost per lead, is probably.. if you look at I and my partner’s time on the ground doing networking, you may have to take a multiple of our hourly rate or whatever, so I don’t have a great answer to that but our closing ratio is really high in that world.
Online, I can say you that after I read your question and looked into what we have spent on advertisement last year is was not much. I think in our Facebook account, we have spent may be total of $10,000 in the last year. So, not a lot of money. We acquired 1 customer from social media paid advertisement. But the problem with cost per acquisition with our model is we are generally not one touch close, we are not a ecommerce play.
We got 7000 fans in Facebook, not a lot. 7000 followers in Twitter, again not a lot. But we are doing a lot of active engaging so closing on a content, we are curating and we are touching a lot of people and people are making a lot to our website but of course with cookies and all other crazy stuff and even with close loop marketing you lose on the attribution on where they found you. So, I don’t have a great example, but I will tell you, with the budget we are planning for the second half this year, we are hoping to acquire new customer for $2,800.
That is what our goal is, we started our new marketing campaign and it is in the second half of the year.
Darrell – I don’t have a clue if that is going to work but I got to come up with a number somewhere right.
Bala – How long does it take Darrell to close? You got an inbound lead, you stat conversing and you send a proposal and then they coming back is very minimal. What is your lead conversion time?
Darrell – Well, yes. I’m going to give you two things. You are right about that. We experienced it and we did something to change that last year and I’ll tell you about that. But, I’ll tell you about the number I definitely know is, we do close 40% of proposals. That was 2015. We obviously pre – qualify pretty hard and the funny thing is, even though we close 40% of the proposals we still thought that the number is too low. Because, we wouldn’t send proposals to everybody. We have a very strong filtering process. We literally only felt like we should send a proposal to someone who we already thought that we are going to do the business. So, we didn’t want to do the excessive of creating a bunch of proposals all the time, we just don’t have time to do that.
Darrell – But to your question more importantly, yes, it is extremely frustrating with the lead time on a proposal or prospecting process. You know the kind of the discovery to fact binding to finding the pain points and discovering the solutions and putting them in proposals, in the past up till 2015, that process could be quick as 60 days but it was very few of those but more commonly it was 4 to 6 months.
We began to study that problem early last year as we tailed into the last half of the year and as we become a Hubspot partner, er really looked at on what was going to be our new process now. Because now we are going to talking almost about some level of services that we never provided although we know how to do it and we decided to change our entire sales approach.
So, the typical sales approach in my mind kind of goes like this, someone enquirers or you find someone that wants to talk more about and you have your discovery call or discovery meeting which might be 15 mins to an hour from there you kind of go back and you say, let me evaluate where you are at and come up with some ideas, we will get back again on another week from now, we will present to you some data and some findings and how our solutions could help.. We will send you a proposal, and you get to would with your people and figure out when it is going to come together…. and then it becomes a game of chase.
I have been in sales for a long time and I am flat out hating chase. I just want an answer. Give me a Yes, give me a No… Tell me something… I can’t be chasing you forever. I’m that sales guy who hates chasing people and I hate being chased, so I rather tell you right now, we are not going to do business right now or call me back in 8 months and we will pick up the conversation, am just that kind of a guy.
Darrell – We decided to evaluate why that 60% of our proposals dint close?
Bala – My next question was that. Yes, so what you found in that.
Darrell – Okay, I’m going to simplify the way we tell our customers today. We believe that 60% didn’t close and if you can go with what I said before which is, we didn’t want to send a proposal to someone whom we did think that was qualified and they did have the interest, so we are putting our proposal we should be an 100% in my mind. That’s just the way we do.
So, we spend time on 60% who didn’t close and I’ll tell you what I think I simplify it down to, Bala is, We didn’t close what is called the Knowledge Gap. Let me say it this way. I’m paraphrasing a way somebody else said it but it made perfect sense to us. We are an expert in what we do and you are an expert in what you do. We are sitting at a level 10 right now. Of course we have a conversation with our peers we might be a 4 compared to other people in our space but our world to our customer we were 10 and they are always at 1 maybe a 0, maybe they have no clue what is internet marketing, online marketing, inbound marketing.
They don’t even care, I always say this when I give presentation, there is not one business owner that works with us that wakes up in the middle of the night who had a dream about being on the first page of google, and he is like … God… I can’t wait to call the internet marketing company in the morning.
Bala – It almost never happens. It is always like, we want money, from where we are going to get it from? That’s it.
Darrell – So we got this customer in 0 or may be 1, we are over here at 10, and we think when we do our presentations, we are dumbing it down to a level they can understand. We revised our proposal framework, probably not less than a dozen times over last 4/5 years.
And we still never get their results. What this gentleman said was: “We dumb it down may be to a 7/8 and the customer unfortunately still at 1 or a 2”. But what he said was this, “If you can get them to a four and bring your presentation down to a four, you’re going to close the business without question. So, if I had to answer your question without getting in to the nitty-gritty, we really worked hard at dumping down our presentation to a four and them getting up to a four.
So this year, even though we change our model, we are not aggressively seeking a whole bunch of new clients at the moment because we are on-boarding this new process and we are also growing with new staffs, so we don’t want to over promise on the delivery. So we are being careful about client acquisition right now.
Our new model sells basically a planning process on the front end. That’s supposed to selling a retainer, which might be 40, 50 or 80 thousand dollars, we are not selling retainer anymore. So we dumbed it down to a, what we called, “A Marketing Game plan Product”, where, it’s easy for them to understand what’s going to happen and break down all what they need.
Because lot of times, these businesses comes to us and says – “Hey I need you to help me with SEO” / “I need you to help me with Facebook” / “I need you to help me with Pay Per Click” and the reality is, none of those work independent. They don’t all work in silos they all work together. So that really what we’ve done. So we believe we work hard on simplifying our presentation and we have removed all of the complexity about SEO. They don’t give a rip about h1 tags, title tags, and keyword research and all these stuffs that we used to say that we are going to do it for them. It was just like (funny sound) to them. We started paying attention to that and really speaking to the needs of what they need. At the end of the day, the business owner wants one thing.
Well, they want a couple of things. They know they want to improve their online presence, they know their website needs to get some traffic, they get that idea, they are not getting any right now. They know they want customer inquiries and that was another word. So, in our business, we always used the word “leads”, “captured leads”, “get traffic”, “conversions”. But, these guys want “Patient”, they want “clients”, they want “customers”, they don’t want “leads”, “conversions”.
So we removed all that dialogue out of ours. If you look into our homepage of our website, this is get customers online without wasting money. So you can grow your business with confidence. That’ become our tagline. Because it’s all they want. They want customers. They know they weren’t online, they know they are wasting money so we want to say – “let’s not waste any money”. They really just want to feel confident because most of the clients we worked with have had bad experiences with other agencies. So, we are trying to position that.
We are going to give you the confidence that your business is going to grow again. That’s what we did. That’s a long way of story of how we simplify our messaging but that what we talked about now when we’re prospecting in when we are going to our product presentation for our retainer.
Bala – Very well said. Setting the expectation as the no.1 priority when it comes to customers and I think you’re doing the perfect thing over there. How many customers do you have right now?
Darrell – In total, we are in excess of 200. Given the product work, the project work we used to do with websites. We have on and off Facebook campaigns, solve our own legacy clients are still on local SEO packages. I’d like to give you a more prominent number which is our retainer business today, because it’s what we are gauging our growth by right now.
So under our brand new model, we have about eight brand new retainer clients that I want to kind of separate the two conversations on wide matter so much. Because our old model had a retainer value of about $1400 a month, so that is the average with all the business. By the way, I’m extracting the project work for websites and google business views and videos and stuff like that. But our old retainer model was a $1400 a month retainer. Today, we are grown up to $5000
And so, for us, we are bringing in the right clients, who have the right mind-set and they also have the right capital to expand to grow their business to the next level which is why we’ve set our market demographic for this type of company we are looking for. So, that’s been a big shift in the last 6/7 months. But, this year, our goal is to get our new retainer booked. I think we could easily do it without breaking our system.
So, that’s part of this year’s problem is growing without breaking and I think we can get 25 to 30 new retainer clients under this new model so I think we can triple or quadruple wherever we are right now till the last quarter of this year.
Bala – That’s pretty interesting. How long does this retainer model works? How long do they stick with you? 2 years 3 years? Or it has been forever?
Darrell – We’ve been very fortunate. My partner and I. we share this belief that, noting matters if they are not happening. It doesn’t matter how much. We don’t do any contracts. So, let me say that way, we brought that trend, we basically say that you won’t hire an employee and guarantee them a year salary. So, we want to be treated as if we have to earn to be right with you for a long period of time.
We’ve got clients to be with us since 2011 when we started, we’ve got a couple. But 20 months is about the average I had to check, before we got here. We are at 20 months right now and given that were in our fifth year. So we’re getting close to 2 years on average.
Bala – That’s pretty impressive. Very good.
Darrel – And there’s no 12 months commitment. So, it’s month by month by month. So your other question that you asked me was what’s your retention strategy? And I’ll tell you that our retention strategy is we care about their goals, and I know that sounds really simple but that is what it is. So, we care about their goals and we typically care about them. Otherwise we don’t like working with them, like we want to like them as “people”.
And more importantly, we are measuring results, like it’s going out of style. And now we are having the communication with them, the value of those results.
One example I will give you. We have a Lasik eye centre that we’ve built a very good success story with. Although our numbers were off the charts, he had a sales problem. So he had an internal sales problem. So, because we track these numbers, we track traffic leads from every resource, conversions from Facebook and everything you can think of and by the way, he was getting 30 to 40 leads a month from the web when we met, and he’s up consistently now.
We are on third year with him now. He’s been 2 years with us this February, so we are into the 3rd year. He’s up around to 240 leads a month consistently. And it is from the local market.
Bala – Darrell, also please take me through the process, how you got that 240 leads per month, quickly and briefly.
Darrel – I can tell you that the biggest thing we did for him. First, he did with another company, so there were some data that was already there. And Bala, you know as an SEO guy, your data can give you opportunities to win, right from the get go. I like to look at it this way, I used to coach football. I used to play football and baseball growing up and then I coach football. When I grew playing football, if I had to wait to look back at the game field, from the preview of this game, I can find out what went right, I can find out what went wrong, and I can prepare for the next week. So I can get better.
So, the fact that the customer had a lot of data of traffic, we were able to spot right away. We took that number in 90 like in the first couple of months. We didn’t do anything different. We were just getting started with the SEO strategy but all we did was fix his conversion funnel. I want to say I went one step further, everything we do has to surround the buyer.
So, it sounds crazy but before we get into the tactics, and get into strategies and get into the SEO and PPC and sales funnels and e-mail automation, we bring it all the way back to “Who is your customer?” and “How many different types of customers do you have?” So, that we can put the messaging in appropriate alignment with their journey.
That’s really what we did at the beginning and as the time has gone on, we were of course, implemented content marketing and Facebook. I don’t think we handle his paid ads, I’m trying to think we handle paid ads may be we do that I can’t remember. But we brought all together over in that year and into the second year. And so his SEO traffic’s gone straight up, his Facebook conversions, he actually get a better conversions out of Facebook on percentage basis than that he does out of his search engine optimization. Of course the traffic is quite high on search.
Bala – Quickly here, as I understand that 290 leads today if he’s getting, what is the percentage of amount he’s actually spending for each leads? Trying to understand what’s the number behind that?
Darrel – I can tell you and give you the holistic number, because I don’t have more right in front of me but on a yearly basis, last two years, he’s acquired and we’ve got a lead value for everything that comes to the door. He’s got three buckets of leads. I’m sorry I can’t put my fingers up but he’s got a 1, 2, 3. He’s got three buckets of leads. He’s got top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel. Each lead bucket has an assigned dollar amount.
Let me just give you an idea what he, and obviously, you probably imagine the surgery is about $4000 on average. He goes up for a financing program so he may collect some of that over time. But every year, the last 2 years, he’s got an excessive $550,000 in lead value. He pays us a tenth of that.
Bala – Brilliant, that’s a pretty good job I should say.
Darrell – I have been in his office in witness in doing 16 surgeries in a day. So, if you going to run some math, he does surgery five days a week. So I don’t know, it’s not all attributed to us, let’s be clear. The problem that we are managing last summer was his sales team, we found they were cherry picking the leads. So they couldn’t keep up and they never told us.
So he got a little frustrated with us until we had a meeting then said – “Hey, I don’t quite understand how the leads are coming through and your team just can’t handle” – and he never hired any new sales rep. So, that’s been another problem that we had to address going forward because he’s not the only client we’ve had that problem with or working that problem right now with a auto service centre. Inevitably our success in the campaign over time presents the sales problem from the business that they didn’t anticipate and even we didn’t anticipate.
So now we are moving into the CRM and sales organization side to help them out with right sales automation and follow-up sequences and that’s largely why we choose to go ahead to go with Hubspot down the line because they had everything in one for we can have our sales automation as well as marketing automation, as well as the segmenting, filtering and close loop marketing aspect of it.
So, that’s something we are offering now. That’s pretty new but we found out the hard way because he’d almost fired us. Because, he’s frustrated, that sales weren’t growing, but the leads were, I mean our charts were saying, everything is crushing in what do you mean by leads aren’t growing? What you mean by sales are not growing. So, It took a few meanings to getting back to figure out with the sales problem. So, that’s kind of a model we have but it’s not uncommon for us to be delivering 5 to 10 times a lead value by what the client’s paying us. And of course they usually are selling on their side.
Bala – Perfect, that does make sense. We do have those customers, who, we do everything for them but typically don’t understand what is actually happening and then there’s a miscommunication which happens. In that case, do you have any favourite customers, bad customer experience in that way?
Darrell – I’ll tell you that our favourite customers are the ones, I have a lot of favourite customers that has nothing to do with how much they pay us. It has everything to do with their level of trust with us. Our ideal fit is the client who loves what they do and they just want a team like us to take care of the details. So they can go do more of what they love to do. Our worst customers are the ones that don’t listen, and again say this is some of our legacy business and are not coachable. They think that all they need is local SEO, they think Facebook doesn’t work, and they are just not interested in the advice that we are providing as the market continue to change.
Having said that, the process we use now to sort of get away from getting a bad client as we have 3 or 4 process in beginning, where we’re really looking at who this buyer is, who this customer is. And we are assessing the likability factor of this client and whether or not he is coachable and whether he’s got a mind-set for where he wants his business to go. So, we are identifying really hard. What is this business sort of want to do going forward. Is this just want to try this out? Or is he committed? He doesn’t have to be committed to us, but he has to believe in his whole heart, that the internet is going to take his business to the next level.
We are done trying to convince business owners that the internet is not going away, that Facebook matters. These platforms are where your customers are hanging out. And if by now, we have to convince them of that, those are typically are our worst customers.
Bala – Oh pretty cool. You do have a way to qualify the leads that comes to you too.
Darrel – Yes we’ve developed it, we’ve continued to refine it. I can give you a couple of qualifications for us.
No.1. They have to probably be between at least one million and ten million in revenue already. They going to be beyond that start-up phase, and seen success already.
No.2. We typically find that they’ve already done around 7-10 years or longer in terms of their company’s existence.
No.3. We prefer again that professional service firm that have longer sales cycles.
No.4. We want to see, they spent at least $24,000 a year in marketing and advertising somewhere else in the last year. If they haven’t spent that kind of money, they typically will not understand our conversation.
Bala – Perfect. That’s a pretty nice way to understand and qualify the leads. That’s very important.
Darrell- And then we going to like them. And we going to like them. We have a lot of conversations and literally we are thinking to ourselves do we really like this person?
Look Bala, we don’t have a contract. I going to look at some other intentions, right? You may have all the money in the world but we don’t like you. And this happen in January, where we work with a guy and 3/4 weeks into it and we don’t like him. Let’s not offer him a retainer. Let’s be done with it. We are not going to offer him a retainer and my partner says better than I do, he will say – none of us, either one of us want to be on a bad marriage. Right.
There is friction and if we are not seeing eye to eye, if you don’t understand our model and we don’t understand what you are trying to accomplish, we can’t be on the same page, in a couple of week’s process then this is going to be probably problematic, so we rather – I mean we will work hard to give them a referral, I mean we have no problem.
Bala- Fantastic. Before I get into the next one, I just want to understand one question. Do you have any customer that you tried really hard but it did not work because of some conditions and any lessons on that?
Darrell – Yes, I will tell you the biggest problem that we had were our own failures to qualify the customer before they got here. I don’t think people are bad inherently. I don’t think businesses are bad inherently. It was us not knowing the right questions to ask and we may be out of scarcity in mind-set, didn’t want to lose the deal. We didn’t look at the signs that are right there. That he/she was going to be uncooperative, they weren’t going to be coachable.
I keep going back to this because, I think that there’s no guarantees in what we do. You know that right? These business owners have to have that mind-set of having had some adversity in the past. If they haven’t been able to fight that adversity to grow their business, they’re never going to understand the various things that can help them with Facebook changing their platform every week, with Google changing algorithms all the time, with twitter popping up and then all of the sudden a new platform like may be periscope comes in. They don’t have an idea of understanding the waves of the internet.
And so for us, I can think of some clients, I can think of one guy who probably our worst client and but it isn’t his fault, it was our fault. He showed signs that he’s going to be a pain in the neck from the get-go. And we ignored it. And that’s our fault. I mean, he’s not a bad dude. I don’t think he’s, I don’t even know the guy. I mean, but, it was our problem. So we look at everything back, we take self-responsibility for every bad scenario that’s happened.
If the client leaves us for some reason, not that they leave for bad reasons they don’t, but we’ve been very fortunate to not lose a lot of clients. And we definitely haven’t lost many under bad terms. I think we’ve had may be just 2/3 under bad terms where the expectations just we didn’t get that expectation on the same page.
But for the most part, we’ve been very fortunate that for client who’d gone it was because …. one company, I remember, fitness company we had earlier on. They were part of franchise, their franchise hired some national company. We worked with a large major internet career that I can’t name here because we have a non-disclosure. But you would know them they run lots of funny commercials that catch people’s attention.
And we left in bad terms because we ended up working with 8 of their offices. And then as we moved in to the project of getting over 150 offices which would have been our biggest client, we just ended up in conflict with corporate side of their company. And we couldn’t reach terms and their 8 offices suffered, because the corporate put out a thing and said, you can’t work with Yokel Local anymore. That was a unfortunate situation when we lost them. We also worked with a major mobile phone career that I can’t name either. And they stole lot of our ideas and moved on.
We were too young to know. We didn’t know. But we dint understand that game. So that’s why we’ve stayed away from sort of that. I’m sure there’s a right way to do that. We just didn’t it right. We got burned. We invest a lot of time and a lot of money. They took all of our strategies and decided to do in-house.
Bala – Perfect. Fantastic. Now, getting into the reporting section, most of the agencies spent a lot of time on reports, telling the customers, educating the customers what’s actually happening and where they are today. So, what is your typical reporting process? How do you report to the customers?
Darrell – That’s probably been one of the most inconsistent things of us doing something that worked well across the board. Because a lot of our legacy clients were doing everything with us. So, the short answer is we need to have constantly tried to pull back and keeping things simple. Remember that knowledge gap thing. So we tried to stick to analytics webmaster tools, and also, we used a third party software, that pulls in data from Facebook and analytics and all the stuff.
So there is that, I can’t thing of the name of top of my head. But we’ve used to use Raven tools and there was a bunch of tools. Today we like to pay attention to what matters like webmasters tools tells us to help with client’s website and you can point out gains or impressions which is helping their presence. We can see click through rates, you know even though we can argue all day about the reporting accuracy, at least if we’re looking at the same all the time or at least seeing accurate information same thing with analytics.
We are, kind of, compiling the rest of the data in this third party tool. I just don’t know the name of it. Our team uses it and it seems to bring in as much information as they need to give to the clients.
Again most of our clients don’t want the nitty-gritty details. So Analytics and the webmaster tools gives us lot more we need to typically. Today, obviously, with our new model, we obviously use our Hubspot reporting, we only have a few clients in that platform.
Bala – Okay. So what typical activity can consumes a lot of time? Is it on the SEO side or preparing, creating for Facebook and things like that? Which is one activity which consumes more?
Darrell – Content creation is obviously our number one time killer. There’s no question about it. Content creation is where we’re right now. We’re either training, offers for the top of the funnel, middle of the funnel and bottom of the funnel, blog post, traffic in order to get SEO rankings. So content is the number one time commitment for us. No question about it.
Bala – Perfect. Fantastic. One last question on the billing side of it. What is your typical billing cycle? How do you do it? Advance or in the mid?
Darrel – We always take the first month in advance. So we’re getting paid for so what where in advance. So we collect for every 30 days. So if the clients’ retainer is $2000 a month, then they are going to get $2000 this month and then every 30 days we’re auto billing their credit cards or auto-debiting their bank account. We don’t do any invoices anymore as far as through the mailer. We refuse to take checks anymore because if you don’t have a recurring debit on the credit card, or ECS checking account, it doesn’t work for us.
Bala – Right. What about any typical work that comes in? Such as Outsource for a particular work. Do you outsource any work in that case?
Darrell – We outsource. I’ll tell what we outsource. We use some of the typical names you’d probably aware. Be where anything from several things on Fiverr like video transcription, audio transcription up to UpWork where we have API Integration sometimes with designers. Every now and then, we make, typically we used to do with Upwork. Typically more of the typical stuff we make over Upwork. This year we are planning on hiring a development team here in-house. We thought about it and we figured it. We’d probably be better off and we have to do with dev team here, that would understand the context of the clients’ projects and marketing.
But right now we are using UpWork and Fiverr for all the typical things you could take up from transcriptions to technical works, which are about the majority. Every now and then have some images and banners created things like that. But nothing if I have to put a percentage on with it, it’s probably less than 10%.
I think we might have more needed that as we continue to grow. Because trying the balance growth and staff is going to be a challenge. So, that’s how the CRM plays though.
Bala – Alright. So what is that revenue for Yokel Local?
Darrell – We’ve crossed a million this year. We’re doing this for the first time and we stalled, we got about 550 credit quickly and then we stalled the last couple of years, trying to figure out who we want to be. It was frustrating but we have to go through it. We actually fell back from 550 to 4 or something last year. But we hadn’t figured who we were going to be, So we hired a strategic adviser who helped us reshape our company. We had staff back then and we had to figure out if they were going to grow with us or grow away from us.
So that was a tough year. 2014 was a tough year. 2015 was a tough year. And, we chose I guess to not acquire new customers aggressively, because we were going through this transitional framework of who are we going to be and are we doing dis-service to people bringing them in when we are not clear about who we want to be. Let’s service our current customers. Let’s take customers as they come. But let’s define who we are going to be the next five years. That’s what we did.
So fortunately we are growing now and I think we’ve added …. right now we just had a meeting this morning. We potentially have 6 new clients pending right at the moment which, for us, a pipeline of 6 new retainer clients is a little scary. Because at any given time, we don’t seem to be… to bring in 6 full on-boarded inbound clients at one time could get a little weird. Because there’s so much work that we have to do. But, our new model’s working and like I said.. I’m excited to see we’re at 12-13 this year because I feel like we will have a significant boost in our second half of the year.
Our model’s working, our new sales’ philosophy is working, and this is just the beginning. Our traffic, our site’s going up, producing a lot more for ourselves. And we are running more ads on Facebook.
So we’re starting a really refined, our own sequence.
Bala – That’s pretty cool. Do you believe that being a Hubspot agency has caught you on edge to get into the next level?
Darrell – I’ll tell you what Hubspot did for us. It solidified our back end software problem.
Hubspot is fantastic with training, with support, their platform is fantastic. They are also acting in a way as an adviser to us. Because their partner program is so well defined and because they care about every partner they bring in. It’s not just lip service. My partner and I, we’ve worked with their platforms that had similar capabilities and you probably been there before about between with your experience you go through a product demo.
Hear all the sizzle and the stake and hears what it does and you get it, you buy it and then it doesn’t do half of what they’d said. Or the support is gone. It’s been 180 degrees with Hubspot.
By the way we started our conversation with Hubspot in 2013. And I’ll tell you this. They told us we weren’t good enough. He told us we cannot become a partner. We were not ready for that. And it hurt my ego so bad. I remember the guy who I talk to. So then when we went back to HubSpot in August, they called us back by the way. It was pretty cool. So they called us last July. And said- “Hey listen, we think you’re ready. Would you like to have a conversation again?”
And we go out to the conference in September. I remember that guy that told me “no you can’t become a partner right now”. I won’t say his name on this camera but I went looking for him in the conference because I said if I find him I’m going to slap the hell out of him.
No, I am joking of course, but he said something that would was profound because he said to me. “We have a way we do things here and your company’s not in the line with that today. So if you keep yourself in alignment with that, then you will be a better fit for us. And it was what we needed it here.” And So, 2013 till last year, as we became a partner and everything we are doing right now is modelled around what we being good at, tied in with the Hubspot model and philosophy and software.
That’s how we are progressing and will be forwarded. The partnership community there has been fantastic. They’d been helping us, not just Hubspot or the partnership in the Hubspot and the community, that we’ve talk to and reached out to us they provided us tremendous model support as well. So we are still doing our thing inside the Hubspot model and adding their flavour to it and the software’s is completely everything they set it.
Bala – That’s pretty standard answer. I pretty much gets from most of the Hubspot agencies I’d talked to. Pretty interesting. Very well said. Thank you very much Darrell for patiently answering all my questions. I’m sorry I took more time than I have requested for.
Darrell – That’s fine, that’s fine.
Bala – It was really really fun talking to you. I really enjoyed that. Looking forward to have many more conversations like this.
Darrell – That’s good. Thanks so much man.
Bala – Alright, thank you very much.
Darrell – Good Bye.
Bala – Good Bye.
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