Agency Growth: 8 Strategies Alex Berman Used to Grow His Business to $2.5M in ‘Closed Sales’

Header image for podcast about agency growth

Background

In this episode I’m talking with Alex Berman of experiment27, an agency marketing company that helps agency owners get more high-value leads. In this episode he shares the strategies he uses to get his clients new business.

Alex is the former director of marketing at the 60-person design and development studio, Dom & Tom. In that role he developed, tested, and refined strategies that ultimately led to $2.5 million dollars in closed business. Not $2.5 million dollars of pipeline or some other vague metric, but $2.5 million dollars in the bank.

Originally I had a list of questions for Alex covering a few different areas of his business and expertise. But he went so deep on each of these 8 strategies that there wasn’t time for anything else. I’m glad it worked out this way because this episode turned into one of the most actionable ones I’ve done.

We talk about strategies ranging from cold calling to podcasting, to in-person events. And best of all, these aren’t things Alex thinks work; they’re strategies he’s tested and used to get more leads for his agencies, month after month.

This episode is not just for new agency owners. It’s for everyone. No matter how sophisticated your agency’s new business efforts are, I guarantee you will learn something today that will help you get more clients.

Grab the transcript of my interview with Alex.

Key Takeaways

8 Strategies for Agency Growth

1. Enterprise Outreach (3:00 – 5:00)

Alex suggests reaching out directly to companies you would like to work with through cold calling and emailing. The secret is to never take a standardized approach. Too many outreach attempts fail due to bad, generic cold calls and emails.

Pay attention to the the company’s recent projects and pitch them an idea. Start a conversation. And don’t be afraid to cold call. Cold emailing is effective, but a lot of agencies ignore emails, so calling may be the only way to get in touch.

2. Agency Partnerships (5:00 – 11:00)

Alex makes the case that reaching out directly to a large company that you’d like to work with is the wrong approach.

Most large companies have a standing contract with a large agency and aren’t going to break it for the sake of a good startup. Instead, reach out directly to the agency your target company works with. Odds are they have overflow work. If you offer the right services for the right price, you can become a trusted partner of larger agencies and build your client base off their side projects.

Again, the secret here is cold calling. Plenty of larger agencies are willing to sit down and discuss projects with you even if they don’t know you. Just make sure you come in with a customized approach and offer to take some of the work off their hands.

3. Directories and Sponsorships (11:00 – 19:00)

Alex suggests that the best way to get noticed through online searches is to tap into a resource you’ve probably already utilized: online directories.

Find out which services people are using to find you (Behance or Dribble) and figure out how to get highly listed on those sites. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but most directories give you an account manager when you sign up. If you don’t know how to move your customer up the ranks, ask your account manager. Improving your standing is literally their job.

Once you’ve seen some results from a particular directory, the next step is to sponsor them, pushing you even further up the ranks.

4. Meetups, Networking, and In-Person Events (17:00 – 29:30)

According to Alex, Meetups, networking, and in-person events are invaluable. Set up a regular Meetup for people in your field in your area. The trick here is to be persistent. Meetup will promote your event for you if you make it a regular occurrence, and that will attract more people.

Once you have some people attending, introduce yourself to people, find out what they do, explain what you do, and try to find a way to make yourself attractive to them. Alex emphasizes making contact as soon as possible after a Meetup. Set a meeting with interested parties to discuss what you touched on at the Meetup. Otherwise you’re throwing business away.

The other side of this coin is paid speaking events. Alex stresses the merits of charging for your event, even if it’s only five dollars per person. For one, it makes you money. Plus, people who pay to play are going to show up, and they are going to be interested in your topic.

Finally, go as in-depth as possible about your expertise. By getting into the nitty gritty details, listeners will recognize you as a leader in the field and want to seek out your help to meet their needs.

5. Podcasts (27:30 – 35:30)

Alex argues that podcasts are a powerful tool to generate sales, but only by taking a focused approach. Businesses should always be angling to get on the most respected podcasts in their field, but first they have to work through smaller podcasts to build interest.

Again, cold emailing and calling are techniques that pay great dividends. More importantly, going on a podcast for 45 minutes might seem like a waste of time, but it’s a more concise method than writing guest posts or creating other forms of content.

6. Paid Acquisition (34:00 – 39:30)

Pay-per-click is the gold standard for ROI, but the price can be prohibitively high for startup businesses without much capital to spare. Alex suggests focusing on retargeting advertising to start. The initial investment is much lower and still generates excellent return.

7. Managed Content and Social Media (39:30 – 44:00)

As far as social media and content production goes, Alex argues that having a consistent content presence is less about using that content to reach an audience. Instead, an active social media presence reassures customers that your company hasn’t gone dark.

8. PR (44:00 – 47:00)

Alex points out that quality in content matters more than quantity. You can pay someone to upvote your content on Reddit, but it won’t matter if you’re not producing something people actually want to read.

Again, leverage your expertise. Be so exhaustive that people don’t want to go out and do your process themselves. Instead, make them want to come to you to make sure it gets done right.

How to choose what’s right for your agency (47:00 – 49:30)

While some large agencies use all eight of these channels to actively grow their business, for most agencies, picking a smaller number of channels to put their efforts behind makes the most sense.

To help agencies make these decisions, Alex and his team start by identifying the goals for the agency. They then work backwards to see what has to happen to reach those goals.

The channels listed above are ordered in terms of how quickly they turn around leads. For agencies looking for quick wins, enterprise outreach, directories, and agency partnerships are the best options. But as an agency’s goals get bigger, they need to start planning for the long term. That’s where the other channels come into play.

One point Alex makes is that regardless of your goal, you need to make sure you have a web presence that looks alive. If you haven’t updated your blog in months, clients aren’t going to take that as a good sign. Make sure your own house is in order before ramping up your sales efforts.

How Alex grows his own agency (49:30 – 51:30)

Anyone who tells you cold email doesn’t work is wrong. It has been the largest lead generator for Alex and the x27 team.

In this Reddit post, he talks about how they quickly scaled to $400k ARR on the back of cold email. In addition to their enterprise outreach, they have seen great results from content and PR, especially appearing on podcasts. While they’ve been able to quickly build a real agency from scratch with these tactics, Alex knows there is always more that can be done.

Since he is a full time nomad, it’s difficult to make local events and meetups work, but he thinks there is a lot of potential with PPC. That being said, through his own experience with the channel, he isn’t comfortable venturing into that without $30,000 set aside for testing, and they aren’t quite there yet.

Interesting Tip

Alex says that cold emailing is almost completely illegal in Australia and never really works in China or Japan.

Here’s the full transcript

Andy Baldacci:Alex, thanks for coming on the show today.
Alex Berman:Thanks for having me, Andy.
Andy Baldacci:At Experiment 27, you help get more leads for digital agencies. How do you do that?
Alex Berman:

[00:00:30]

[00:01:00]

There are actually eight channels, which we can cover in more detail in a while, but basically, we come in and we act as their outsourced chief marketing officer. So a lot of digital agencies, probably a lot of your listeners, as they’re growing, a lot of agencies can grow to really big sizes on just referrals, so I’m talking up to $20 million in revenue, just on referrals alone. What we do is … Although, when that happens though, a lot of the times they’ll forget about marketing or marketing will just go to the side, so we come in and we are the outsourced chief marketing officer meaning, we allow agency founders to spend less than an hour a week, sometimes even less on marketing. Then our team handles everything from outreach to directory management, meet ups, podcasts, pay-per-click, social media promotion. Literally everything they need to grow the agency. We do it with a strong ROI focus. Our goal is to get a 10x return on any marketing spent.
Andy Baldacci:Interesting. We’ll get into those specifics later, because I know you mentioned the eight channels and it’s not something that the agency has to come to you and basically tell you they want this, this, and that. As an outsourced CMO, you’re going to make all those decisions for them, right? You’ll work with them, but you’re going to handle the nitty gritty details. Is that right?
[00:01:30]

Alex Berman:

Yeah, and I found actually a lot of what agencies think works has not been proven to work. At least in my experience. A little bit about my background, I was director of marketing at an agency called Dom & Tom. We grew them, me and the [ex 00:01:42] 27 team grew them from, first it was 14 leads a month to 40 leads a month within 30 days, and then we took them to over 150 leads a month and this was a 50% agency, another an 80% agency.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:

[00:02:00]

Tom said we added over $1 million in closed business the first year and then the second year, we’re over $2.5 million.
Andy Baldacci:Closed business.
Alex Berman:Yeah that’s literal money in their pocket. That’s not BS.
Andy Baldacci:Right because a lot of times you’ll hear about pipeline value add and all these kind of vague numbers that don’t actually translate to real dollars, but-
Alex Berman:Andy, I hate those [crosstalk 00:02:12] so much. I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you how much I hate it.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:02:30]

Let’s go deeper into that. Before we had got on the call, the email you were talking about how, in your mind, a lot of success for agencies comes from executing the basics like SEO, PPC, cold email, but a lot of assumptions that many agency owners have when they approach those channels are wrong, so where are they going wrong with those channels?
Alex Berman:

[00:03:00]

Sure. The eight channels that we found work are, one is enterprise outreach, so cold emails and cold calls directly to clients. Second one is, agency partnerships, so reaching out to other agencies to both pass off your work, and then get more work from them. Directories, Meetups and events, podcasts, pay-per-clicks/re-targeting, content and social, and then promotion PR. For enterprise outreach, the main thing people get wrong, is they approach enterprise outreach the same as they would an inbound lead. So they approach it as, “Hey, we’re x, y, z agency, we do iOS development and Android development”. Where we found, especially if you’re going after the Fortune 500, we just did a cold calling experiment and booked six meetings in six days with Fortune 500 companies.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:

[00:03:30]

The thing that worked there is, coming with an actual idea. So looking through each company’s goals for 2017 and actually guessing on an idea. For instance Coca-Cola recently published this article where they were talking about how they’re trying to motivate their employees more. One of the ideas that we would have pitched there would be something related to employee perks, or maybe an idea-board for employees. That where people get most enterprise outreach wrong. You’ve got to approach it as like a consultant.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:04:00]

You’re not basically sending out thousands of template-based cold emails. I’m sure you have a general template you use, but you’re really customizing it to the specific leads and to their needs.
Alex Berman:For enterprise outreach, yes. For the next thing, there is a template, which we can talk about in a second.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:For enterprise outreach, yeah, the customization is what’s going to set you apart from all the other agencies, because the problem that I’ve found with agency outreach is, there’s a lot of companies that do really bad cold emails, and it turns off most of these decision makers from even opening cold emails.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah.
[00:04:30]

Alex Berman:

If you don’t focus on actually customizing it and looking into their goals, they’re not even going to respond. I’ve also found that email is so blocked for enterprise outreach, that without a cold-calling component, you’ll almost always book zero meetings. So cold calling’s really important when it comes to the first channel, which is enterprise outreach.
Andy Baldacci:Interesting. Yeah, so let’s jump to the next channel. I’ll probably circle back with a few questions on that one later.
Alex Berman:

[00:05:00]

Sure, yeah, this is about to get super dense, hope you’re ready. The next one’s agency partnerships. The reason why we handle this for agencies is, there’s a lot of the Fortune 500 and larger companies that are exclusive to big agencies.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:

[00:05:30]

For instance, the car company Ford, they have an exclusive deal with WPP, which is one of the top five largest agencies in the world, a couple billion dollars in revenue. If you want to work with Ford, you are out of luck, right? You can’t just cold email Ford and they’ll work with you, because they have to work with WPP. However, WPP has a bunch of smaller agencies that, if you cold email them, will get a meeting with you, will talk to you and will send you overflow work, some of that could be from Ford. We’ve had one client work with this company called Team Detroit, which is WPP’s arm in Detroit, that has Ford as a client, and actually goes out and finds local agencies. So agency partnerships is a pretty simple way to get in with enterprise clients that normally wouldn’t work with you. That one can be a lot more templated.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:06:00]

Okay, and for that one, you don’t need … I see on the site, it says, “Optional, add cold calling”, for that, I’m sure it will help, but it’s not as necessary to have that additional touchpoint?
Alex Berman:Oh yeah, for this one, we found that a lot of agencies are willing to meet, at least for an initial meeting with other agencies, whether there’s any business or not. So we’re able to get 10, 12 meetings a month fairly simply for agency partnerships.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:

[00:06:30]

Yeah. The secret here is, finding the right type of agencies to reach out to. For agency partnerships, it’s not really about customization, it’s not really about offering the right services. It’s about sending an email that’s about five sentences long and maybe we can link to a script I’ve given in the past for this.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah. Absolutely. I’ll make sure to get that linked up in the show notes.
Alex Berman:

[00:07:00]

Cool, cool. It’s sending that short email and then making sure you’re targeting the right agencies. I always go by agency size, so for instance … Well, agency size and then the hourly rate, if you can find it. For instance, if you’re an agency that’s like two people, you probably shouldn’t be reaching out to WPP, 500,000 people, however big they are as a company, some gigantic company. You probably should be reaching out to companies about 10 times the size of you, so maybe 50 people, maybe even 25 people who have overflow work for you. If you’re a bigger agency, like Dom and Tom was, or is, 50 to 80 people, then you can start going after those larger contracts and you’re more like to get them. We did get them for Dom and Tom. We ended up with projects from Pfizer and from BCG, because of these partnerships.
[00:07:30]

Andy Baldacci:

I’m curious, for these types of partnerships, are you reaching out nationally, internationally, or are you looking specifically in a local market? How do you define how wide of a net you’re going to cast for your clients?
Alex Berman:

[00:08:00]

It depends on the individual clients. We’ve got one client in New York that wanted to just move into Los Angeles and London, so we reached out to a bunch of agencies in LA and London to try to find ones that had clients there, and then lined up a bunch of meetings when they came into the office. We also have a few clients, three clients right now, in South America, that really want to move into the United States. All three of them, I don’t know why, but all three of them want to target New York City, so we just target New York City there. We can also go national. We can go international, as well. Some countries have issues with cold emails. For instance, cold emailing is almost completely illegal in Australia and doesn’t really work too much in China or Japan. Yeah, we’ve done it everywhere.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:08:30]

If I say I’m running a small digital agency, somewhere based in the US, but a lot of our team is remote, and we don’t always meet physically with our clients … Most of these partnerships, are they looking for an agency who is going to have more of a physical presence? Or is that not as important to them?
Alex Berman:

[00:09:00]

It’s not as important. The most important thing is, will your agency be able to deliver the same quality of work as the main agency? And will they be able to do it for a cheaper price? That’s the entire goal of a partnership. Think about it from a large agency. A large agency, let’s say they get 150 leads a month, they probably get more, but let’s say they’re Dom and Tom. They get 150 leads a month and maybe they can only service like 20 of those, because they’re real high quality projects, like $50,000 to $100,00 projects, and then the rest of them, the vast majority of them, are going to be small projects, like maybe under 10k, under 20k, or outside of the expertise of the agency. A good partner will be someone that they can just send that project to and then take a certain percentage. Dom and Tom, we always went for 50% margin.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
[00:09:30]

Alex Berman:

If we sold something for 20k, we could sell it to another agency, another agency would do it for 10k, but that margin could be whatever you want. That’s the main benefit. As long as your agency can fulfill the obligations of the bigger agency and do it for cheaper, you’re going to find a lot of success with partnerships.
Andy Baldacci:I’m guessing, also, that those bigger agencies probably are more skilled, on average, at getting more value out of each contract. They’re going to not have as much-
Alex Berman:Yeah, the prices are much higher.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
[00:10:00]

Alex Berman:

For instance, Dom and Tom, some of the deals I was selling … I was a salesman out there before I was director of marketing, my biggest deal I sold was $500,000, and then one of the clients I got on was initially a $200,000 deal, and now they’re like $2 million in business. The bigger agencies are really good at driving those contract values up. Actually, one of those companies, I can’t mention the exact name, but that company is providing a lot of fodder for them to send to other agency partners now.
[00:10:30]

Andy Baldacci:

It’s funny, because I’m sure a lot of agency owners originally thought, 50% margin, that’s crazy, I won’t be able to work for anything, but when these bigger agencies are working on such larger contracts, it’s probably not going to be a pay cut for you, if you position this correctly.
Alex Berman:

[00:11:00]

Yeah, the mobile app … Knowing what I know about the mobile industry now, the mobile app we sold to this original company for about $150,000, most agencies in the US could have been able to build it for about $40,000. Yeah, taking half the pay and getting $75,000 would be more than they normally get.
Andy Baldacci:No, so not a bad deal. The next one is actually one that I’m really curious about, and that’s directories and sponsorships, can you talk about that a little bit?
Alex Berman:

[00:11:30]

[00:12:00]

Yeah, sure. Directories are the easiest way to get on the first page of Google. You don’t have to invest a bunch of money in SEO. Basically, with Dom and Tom … The reason I use Dom and Tom as the example a lot of the times is because that’s where I learned these eight channels. That was where I figured out all of this stuff. Basically, when you search, mobile app developers, New York City, or, mobile app developers anywhere, a bunch of sites are going to pop up. Maybe half of them are going to be agencies, but the other half are going to be directories, so sites like “10 Best Design”, or, “Agency Spotter”, or “Clutch.com”, ane of the things that we do at Ex-27 is help our clients rank on those directors. So, for instance, we got Dom and Tom up to the top spot … Well, it was number three before they started paying, so number three top spot on Clutch, and that’s what actually started driving about 75 to 100 leads a month. The reason why that is, is because Clutch.com, if you search top agencies, or best agencies, is it’s number one on most of those key words. So, they got a lot of traffic-
Andy Baldacci:Nice.
Alex Berman:The agency that’s the number one on those directories is going to get a lot of traffic because of that.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:12:30]

Interesting. Yeah, when I first read about this, I was originally thinking of the sort of old school, spam-y, SEO tactic of just get a ton of directory links and it’s going to shoot your rankings up. This is not necessarily trying to get in the directories because of the link value, it’s because the directories themselves already rank so well, that just being listed and having a high listing there is going to just drive more business to you.
Alex Berman:

[00:13:00]

Yeah. I actually didn’t think about … Maybe I should put that into the marketing a little bit. I didn’t think about the old school SEO tactic there. Yeah, it’s about finding what directories people are actually looking for. Actually, a lot of the times, we start with an initial review of the agencies, and we look through all their Google analytics to find where qualified leads are coming from, and then optimizing for those spots. For instance, one of our agencies was getting a bunch of leads from Behance, but they weren’t ranked too highly there. Their team was focusing almost 100% on Dribble, but they were getting more leads from Behance than they were from Dribble. So we shifted that, and the directory that we were optimizing for, for them, is Behance, instead. The analytics inform a lot of what directories to go for. Theymakeapps is big for one of our clients, and then Clutch, like five or six of our clients are on the first page of Clutch right now.
[00:13:30]

Andy Baldacci:

Interesting. How much is there to the optimization? Is it something where it’s as … I’m guessing it’s not as complex as complete SEO, but is there a lot to it to depend on the rankings? Is it just a pay to play thing? Or how does that work?
Alex Berman:

[00:14:00]

Some of it’s pay to play, which is why I always recommend at least two to $3,000 a month in sponsorship spend on top of what we charge, but a lot of it actually is just the time spent building a relationship with the directory owner. When you sign up for Clutch, they’ll give you an account manager, Agency Spotter, 10 Best, they’ll all give you an account manager. What most agencies do is, ignore these people, so they never talk to the account manager at all. What got Dom and Tom to rank so highly is getting on a call every single week with Josh, who was our account manager for DNT over there, and just literally asking him, point blank, what we could do to improve, and then making those improvements.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:14:30]

Its funny because, there are so many where people, especially in the marketing world, where you’re just immune to those reaching out emails. When you sign up for an account and you get an email from someone, you just delete it. You’re like, “I’ll figure this out”, and that’s it, but there’s usually a real person on the other end of the line, and if you can just reach out to them and say, “Hey, I’m trying to work on this. What do you think I can do to help improve my performance?” They’re usually going to have some good insights because that’s kind of their job.
Alex Berman:
[00:15:00]
Yeah, exactly. A lot of the directories, I found, at least a lot of the smaller ones, aren’t based 100% on whatever the computer says, so it’s not computerized ranking, there’s a lot of power your account managers have. Especially if you say things like, “Hey, I really am looking at the sponsorship, super interested, but would love to see some organic results first.” You’ll be surprised at how your rankings will move.
Andy Baldacci:What kind of volume is someone who isn’t really experienced looking into these directories, what kind of volume, in terms of leads, can this drive to an agency?
Alex Berman:The main thing to expect when it comes to directories is, you’re going to get a lot more leads, but you’re going to get a lot more spam, too.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
[00:15:30]

Alex Berman:

So you’ve just got to be ready for that. I’ve seen anywhere from hundreds of leads extra a month to … Some directories only drive like one or two extra leads a month, but almost all directories have some traffic.
Andy Baldacci:Okay. For the sponsorships, is that purely just an ROI decision? You can see that this is throwing off enough organic traffic that if we put in some money to this, it’ll pay dividends?
Alex Berman:

[00:16:00]

That’s usually how I look at it, yeah. You go through the analytics, you figure out which of the directories is already sending you the most and highest quality traffic, and then you sponsor those.
Andy Baldacci:What does that typically look like? When your sponsored, is it just, if someone clicks on a link for mobile app agencies, New York City, I got to Clutch.com, are you at the top and a highlighted thing? Is it just that simple?
Alex Berman:

[00:16:30]

Yeah, for most of them, it puts you up closer to the top, but if you optimize your profile … If you do a sponsorship and your profile’s not optimized, it’s not really going to do anything. If you go through and you actually get as high as you possible can organically and then you sponsor, the ROI can be incredible.
Andy Baldacci:Interesting. All right. That’s something that I’m going to go do a ton of research on my own, because this is marveling me, it’s something I didn’t even think about at all, so I’m excited for that. I was just like, is this just submitted to all these different directories? You’re like, no, this is pretty cool. So thanks for that tip.
Alex Berman:Yeah, for sure. If you check out my YouTube channel, there’s a bunch of stuff on directories, too.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:17:00]

All right. I’ll get some of those linked up in the show and [inaudible 00:16:57] people, as well. I’m sure I’m going to continue saying this a lot this episode, so definitely check out the show notes, because Alex seems to be dumping a ton of great resources on us. If you don’t want to miss out on those, check out the show notes and I’ll make sure to get all of those linked up.
So Alex, the next one is, Meetups, networking, and in-person events. Can you expand on that?
Alex Berman:

[00:17:30]

Sure. I ran this Meetup … When I was a sales guy at Dom and Tom, before I started doing marketing, I ran this Meetup in New York called Drinks for Brand and Marketing Managers, and then there was also another tech Meetup. They were two Meetups merged together, they had about 2,500 people in them. We did one event a month and we got about 90 people at each of those events. It was drinks at this bar, basically I would just walk around talking to almost everybody at the bar, everyone I could, and trying to pitch Dom and Tom. We would pretty regularly get about 50 to 100k per month in leads, not in closed business, but in leads from this.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:

[00:18:00]

Yeah, a lot of cool people came to the event. People from Google, a guy from Dow Jones, a guy from Amex, a bunch of big … A lot of funded startups came to the event, too. The coolest thing about … I always recommend starting a Meetup, that’s one side of it. The other side’s paid events, so the first side’s Meetup. I always recommend starting a Meetup, that’s one benefit, is the ROI. The other benefit is, Meetup will basically grow your event for you. I didn’t do any marketing at all for this, Drinks for Brand and Marketing Managers. Literally, the only thing-
Andy Baldacci:[inaudible 00:18:22]
Alex Berman:What?
Andy Baldacci:

[00:18:30]

That’s what I was going to ask is, is it as simple as going to Meetup.com, creating an event, and people show up? Or do you need to do more than that?
Alex Berman:

[00:19:00]

In your local area, if you search tech events in city, you can submit your event to all those places, it really is that simple as just having a Meetup and actually going to it. The hardest thing, that I found, is the first few Meetups, it’s similar to what we were talking about before we started recording and what we’ll probably get to about podcasts and content. The first few Meetups, no one’s going to show up. The hardest thing is going to be taking your time, which I’m sure is worth $300, $400 an hour, whatever you value it at, super highly, an just sitting at this bar where nobody is, just on the off chance someone will show up. How it worked with my Meetup was, the very first Meetup, nobody showed up. Second Meetup, nobody showed up, maybe like eight people showed up. Then the third Meetup, 60 people. [crosstalk 00:19:18]
Andy Baldacci:Wow. What was the tipping point?
Alex Berman:
[00:19:30]
It was, Meetup blasted it out to their list. After a month or two, they blasted it out to everyone in New York that was interested in tech, and the group jumped a lot. It jumped from like 100 members to like 1,000 members.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:Basically overnight, or over a week or two.
Andy Baldacci:Is it basically just because they’re kind of making sure that you’re serious about this and you’re going to keep putting on events, rather than just throwing one and then leaving?
Alex Berman:I think that’s what it is, yeah. I had a recurring event, so that psychologically I’d be forced to go. I was actually super surprised. Even when it started showing ROI, I had the hardest time getting even the other salesmen at Dom and Tom to come to the event.
Andy Baldacci:Why was that?
[00:20:00]

Alex Berman:

I guess they thought that their other work was more important. I don’t know. I was the top salesman at Dom and Tom, I was a new hire and I became the top salesman in the first year. I even beat the founders.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:Mostly because of the Meetup.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:20:30]
Interesting. At this Meetups you say, once you’ve got to that critical mass of people, where there were enough showing up that it was having a positive ROI, how are you introducing yourself? Are you just sort of going around saying, “Hi, this is what I do”? Or what is your process like for that?
Alex Berman:

[00:21:00]

Yeah, I would wait for the group to kind of gather, and then I would go from group to group, say, “Hey, I’m Alex”, and then ask them what they did. People would almost always ask what I did, and I would say, “Hey, I do mobile app developments for companies like Priceline, or Scholastic, and Tyson.” Then I would just go back and ask them what they do. Almost always, some kind of app project would come up with almost every single person. Then yeah, it’s just a matter of talking, getting their business card. The most important thing that I found with the actual Meetups is aggressively pitching yourself and trying to get an actual meeting on the calendar.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:

[00:21:30]

For instance, I was talking to this one guy, I think his name was [Cathic 00:21:15], and he had a legal insurance company in New Jersey, and we were talking about web design. Basically, he was talking to me, and he had some questions about his website, I answered the questions, and then at the end of it, he was like, “Hey, this is a project we’re thinking about”. I guess most people don’t do this, but what I did was, I said, “Okay, yeah, give me your card and I’ll email you”, and I actually emailed him the next day and we booked a meeting. Most people, they’ll get your card, and I’m sure you’ve done this, you get somebody’s card and then you just never email them again. Even if there’s potential business there.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:22:00]
Yeah. What happens is, usually you’re busy, things come up, and then a few days go by, like a week goes by, and you’re like, “Oh, I don’t even know if this person’s going to remember me”, then you just never do it.
Alex Berman:Yeah, so what I would literally do is, at the end of every Meetup, I would have a big pocket full of business cards, and the next day I’d come into work, usually I’d be hung over because I was drinking at the Meetup, and I’d just plop it down on the desk and email every single one of them.
Andy Baldacci:I’m looking at the site, you almost mention about having two in-depth presentations per month, what are those?
Alex Berman:Okay, so this is paid events.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah.
Alex Berman:

[00:22:30]

[00:23:00]

Paid events are super important. The reason why I say “paid events” versus speaking events is because when you ask people to pay, even like $5, almost 100% of the people will show up. Versus if you do a free speaking even like, “Here are the five Agile mistakes people get wrong”, if you do something like that, 30 to 40% of people will show up. So I always try to charge at least $5. Paid events, what we’ve done in the past is, we did this one at WeWork, this was actually for Inspire Beats, for my old company, we talked about the secrets that we learned sending 1 million cold emails. It was $20 a ticket, we sold about 100 of them, WeWork gave us the space for free, so we made about $2,000 there. We had me in the front giving the presentation and a sales guy in the back trying to book as many meetings as possible, doing the same thing I just talked about for the Meetup, but super aggressively. We ended up selling … It was like 8 to 10 retainers at $1,000 a month each.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:Yeah. Those events can be super helpful, because won’t come unless they’re interested.
[00:23:30]

Andy Baldacci:

Right. With that, I’m guessing you have to do more work than you do with the free Meetup, so how are you promoting this? How are you getting people there, willing to hand over some money?
Alex Berman:

[00:24:00]

Okay. So I how I promoted it in New York and in Austin, and actually in San Francisco, the way I drove people to all three of those events was Googling around for tech events in New York, and the directory strategy actually works the exact same way here. So in New York, there [Ally 00:23:59] NYC that publishes a list of events, Startup Grind has a list of events, Gary’s Guide, and it’s just submitted … It literally is as simple as just submitting your events to all of these directories. I found that, yeah, the first couple weeks, nothing happens, and then as soon as the deadline, like on the day of or the day right before, we almost always sold out. It wasn’t cold email outreach to anyone, it wasn’t anything like that. It was all directory.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:24:30]

Wow. That’s the thing, I had never realize that these type of directories, they’re actually high quality directory. I mean, obviously I’m familiar with Dribble, with some of the bigger ones, but I just didn’t realize how many people actually went to those, to find events, to find agencies, to find all that.
Alex Berman:Well think about your own user experience, right? Like when you want to find an event-
Andy Baldacci:Yep.
Alex Berman:Let’s say you want to find a sales event in your city, what do you do?
Andy Baldacci:

[00:25:00]

Right. That’s the thing, I was looking … Even outside of the business realm, but if I’m looking to do something, like right now I’m in Tampa, so I’d be like, all right, things to do in Tampa this weekend, and it’ll be some sort of, I’m not going to say [aggregated 00:24:59], but yeah, I guess it’ll be a directory of different events in the area. There has to be a way to get on these directories and you found it, and you’re right, it works.
Alex Berman:The way to get on those directories is almost always as simple as pressing submit event, and it’s free to get on there.
Andy Baldacci:Wow. For this types of presentations, what kind of stuff are you presenting? I’m guessing it’s not just a hard pitch the entire time. What type of material are you presenting?
[00:25:30]

Alex Berman:

I’m a big fan of giving as much as value as humanly possible. When I did the event for Inspire Beats, the one that I ended up selling a bunch, it was, What We Learned Sending 1 Million Cold Emails. I literally told them everything we learned, so what subject lines to use, how to send the emails, how to find the leads, how to do everything yourself. What I found is, at the end, I could tell, the same way I sell for Experiment 27, it’s the same way I sold at Inspire Beats, I literally tell everyone exactly what I’m doing, and I bank on the fact that most of them aren’t going to do it.
[00:26:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Right, but when you share so much, when you go so deep, they’re going to understand that this guy actually really knows his stuff, all these things make sense, I have no time to do this myself, let me talk to him about having him help me with this.
Alex Berman:

[00:26:30]

Yeah, exactly. That works so much better than a hard sales pitch. It’s the same with agencies. One of our best recruiting tools at Dom and Tom was this event we did at [Sack 00:26:20] Overflow, and it was all about how to use Sketch for your design projects. We went really in depth, we actually ended up getting a feature on Sketch’s blog because of it. That was really useful for recruiting. Anything related to smart tech will pull CTOs. One of the first events that Dom and Tom did when they were starting their agency was for CTOs, right around when mobile apps came out, and it was a two day seminar on, “Come to this seminar and you’ll have an app built by the end of it”.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:
[00:27:00]
Any sort of promises like that, that you can figure out, are good. I know Alexa’s big, voice commands are big, Internet of Things is big, drones are big, so anything like that where a Fortune 500 or a Fortune 5,000 client can come and it’s something that they’re thinking of already and it’s only $20 to get in, that’s the type of thing that they’ll go to.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:27:30]

I think this is really related to the next channel, and that’s Podcasts, because when you’re going on these Podcasts, you’re giving very similar … I mean, this is a perfect case study of it, is you’re going as deep as possible into what it is that you do. How do you help clients get those similar results using Podcasts?
Alex Berman:Sure. The easiest way to get on Podcast is cold email, also. Right now, I’ve got a guy on our team, Reynaldo, he’s amazing, he actually hosts his own Podcast called Explain Like I’m 20, that has like 10,000 listeners a month.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Alex Berman:
[00:28:00]
Which is decent sized. Basically, what we do is, make a list of Podcasts in a niche, usually we go off new and noteworthy in the business section, or we go off lists of the top podcasts. Either me or Reynaldo, or whoever’s reaching out, will listen to either an episode or part of an episode, and then come up with five or six custom bullet points based on that. Pitch the host on having us on the episode, and then have the custom bullet points. That’s almost always enough to get on. Those emails have between a 30 and 50% response rate, at scale. We were talking about this before the interview, I’ve been over 100 podcasts in the last year.
[00:28:30]

Andy Baldacci:

Yeah, I was saying, you’ve been on more podcasts than I’ve hosted. All right, I should be getting some tips from Alex on these. One of the other things you mentioned was that a lot of times, if someone goes on a podcast, the first few times they don’t really get results, why is that?
Alex Berman:

[00:29:00]

It’s the same with all content. Even when I was starting my YouTube channel, for the first two or three months I didn’t see any feedback or traction. You’ve probably seen that, or your clients have seen that, with their content on their blog. Like you’re just posting and it seems like you’re publishing into a void, even if you’re promoting, you’re not getting any traction. I think part of it is, it takes a while to find that unique thing that makes the content work for you. It takes a while for your shield to come down, a lot of people will just talk in hyperbole, or they’ll talk and they’ll tell, not stories, but they’ll tell things they read in books versus things that actually happened to them.
Andy Baldacci:I see.
Alex Berman:

[00:29:30]

Things like that. It takes a little while to actually get that original edge that gets people to buy in. The third thing is, it takes some time to get on the top podcasts. It took me maybe six months to get on Entrepreneur on Fire. Luckily, someone was able to pull some strings and I got on Rocketship.FM pretty quick. I was on the top with Nathan Latka, that was an intro. These intros take some time to build up.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Alex Berman:You can get on the smaller podcasts almost always with a good cold email, and even some of the bigger podcasts, but the real leads come from the five or six podcasts at the top of your niche, and it takes a while to get onto those.
[00:30:00]

Andy Baldacci:

When you’re working with clients, is that the long term approach you’re taking? Is you’re saying, all right, we’ll figure out your message, we’ll build a little base, some experience for you, with a smaller podcast, but the goal is to get on these top ones? Sort of the 80/20 approach that are going to drive the vast majority of qualified leads?
Alex Berman:
[00:30:30]
Yeah, because the goal is ROI, right? I don’t want our KPI to be 10 podcasts a month, because there’s no money tied to that. I want our ROI to be, you’re at $3 million in sales and we took you to $6 million. If I’m putting on podcasts that aren’t generating leads, that’s got nothing … There’s no benefit for either of us there.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Alex Berman:So yeah, you start on the smaller podcasts, you build up the positioning, we figure out what exactly is going to work with these larger podcasts, and then yeah, the goal is to get you on the bigger podcasts in your niche.
Andy Baldacci:How long do you usually find that that will take for a client to get to that point where they’re really seeing results with podcasting?
[00:31:00]

Alex Berman:

It’s only about three months, it’s not really that long. It also depends on how much time the found wants to commit. I found that most founders, the reason why we have to do marketing for them and they haven’t done it themselves is because they don’t have time. That goes back to what we were talking about. For podcasting especially, like this show, this is like 45 minutes of my time. If I didn’t value podcasting as a channel, I would be doing something else with this time.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Alex Berman:Right. That’s something that a lot of founders have to fight with initially, even for the first few months.
[00:31:30]

Andy Baldacci:

Yeah. The thing is, the way I often look at it is that, if you’re spending any time guest blogging, other things like that, podcasting is usually a faster way to do that. It still is a commitment, and 45 minutes of time from a busy person is still a big ask, but it’s going to be less time, and more personal, than a lot of other content approaches.
Alex Berman:Yeah, I agree. The only other downside with podcasting is it almost always has to be the founder.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah.
[00:32:00]

Alex Berman:

Otherwise, your conversion rate’s going to go down tremendously if you just have a marketing person on there, unless they’re super well trained.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:32:30]

I see. Yeah, it’ll be like, unless you’re … I also do a startup podcast, and it’ll be like if I’m talking with a major company, or you’ll even see some companies where the CMO or head of growth, or whatever startup-y position they’ve come up with, has kind of their own following. In those instances, I’ve seen some results, but I’m guessing for most agencies, you’re not going to be able to have an account manager or an account executive, or whoever, go on the podcast, it does need to be the founder doing that.
Alex Berman:I don’t know if that has to do with training at the company, but yeah, most employees just don’t know how to talk about their company in the right way. Unless you have somebody specifically for that role.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Alex Berman:
[00:33:00]
Like at Inspire Beats, I was kind of that. I wasn’t the founder, but I was the chief marketing sumo, so literally my job was to talk on behalf of the company. I became pretty good at actually answering questions and delivering value, rather than just speaking as salesman.
Andy Baldacci:Right, I would hope so. If that was the role they were hiring for it, it seems like they did a good job of finding you for that then.
Alex Berman:

[00:33:30]

Yeah, exactly. That’s actually a good case of a founder that didn’t want to go into the limelight himself. He didn’t want to commit the time to doing all this stuff, so yeah, he went out and found somebody that would be good at it. With me, we have Reynaldo, he’s hosted a podcast, so I know worst case scenario, I could have him go on and talk about Ex-27. Personally, I like it, I like doing the YouTube stuff also, but you know, I could have him doing interviews at the exact same time as me. It’s all about finding the right people that’ll be able to do it, if you want to hire internally for someone like that.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:34:00]

This, I think, is a good transition into the next channel, which is paid user acquisition, because with podcasting, where you try to find podcasts with audiences that have a strong overlap with your target clients, but you’re not super targeting, you just can’t be. With paid user acquisition, with PPC, with re-targeting, with all that, it’s much more laser targeted, but it’s still, I know a ton of agencies struggle to make this work. How are you guys making paid ads work?
Alex Berman:

[00:34:30]

The easiest way to get paid ads to work is … Retargeting’s the quickest way. If you get over 3,000 hits a month to your site, and you’re not running re-targeting, you’re basically throwing leads away. Industry average conversion rate for an agency website is 3%, so that means 97% of the people that are coming to your site are just disappearing and never coming back. I found re-targeting you can get leads for about $50 to $60 each. Sometimes even less, depending on how well the ads are written. The other side, cold traffic, pay-per-click, I’ve found this works in two ways. One, you can get pretty cheap clicks to re-target by running ads for content.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:

[00:35:00]

Which is more of like the hub spot technique, which is fine. It’s not as direct. The direct way to do it, you can actually just advertise your agency. The cost per click on that is going to be a lot higher. We found, actually, cost per lead when doing this is about $600 to $700 a lead, which most agencies are fine with because the projects are over $10,000.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:35:30]
Right. That’s the thing, I think a lot of people get, especially small but growing digital agency owners, will get sticker shock when they do see the cost per click, when they do see, even, just the cost per lead. If your projects are high enough value, if your margins are good enough, then it still can be a very profitable channel.
Alex Berman:It can be hugely profitable. Yeah, even myself, as a business owner at Experiment 27, I don’t think we’re in a good enough spot to be doing pay-per-click for ourselves yet. Maybe some light pay-per-click on content, but not really for us. I think you need to have at least 10 to 20k a month to invest in ads before really going into it.
[00:36:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Interesting. For you, it’s not so much that you don’t believe your processes and your funnel and all that is good, it’s that you think to make it a success, you need to be able to commit that sort of money to really get it to work.
Alex Berman:Yeah. It’s, we literally can’t afford it right now. We would need $10,000 … Right now, where we are as a company, it makes more sense to hire a sales guy to do more cold emailing.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:

[00:36:30]

Or another marketing person, or somebody like Reynaldo. It makes more sense to do that, because the organic channels are working so well, before we spin up PPC for ourselves.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:37:00]

I think that’s a brutally honest, but a good point, because when you have cost per clicks so high, when the ultimate cost per lead is so high, especially with PPC, with how competitive it is, you’re not going to fire up your first campaign and just start printing money. It takes a lot of time to get it finely tuned and to have a positive ROI. If you’re not willing to invest, I think that’s good advice to push it down the road a bit.
Alex Berman:Yeah, even when you say a lot of time, every single one of these channels could be spun up within 90 days. Like could be spun up and delivering ROI, but yeah, for PPC specifically, you need to be throwing $10,00 into the trashcan for 30, 60 days before the ads start delivering value.
Andy Baldacci:For that, it’s not even so much about the time, it’s really just about the resources, the cash, that it takes to get there.
Alex Berman:Yeah, exactly.
Andy Baldacci:They’re a lower hanging fruit when there’s more organic approaches, I definitely see what you’re saying is, focus on those first before going after that.
[00:37:30]

Alex Berman:

Yeah. Retargeting can be cheap, though, that’s why I always recommend re-targeting as the one to start with.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:38:00]

Okay. Awesome. For content, in social media, this is something I’ve had some people on the podcast to talk about social media, to talk about content, but it’s something that I think a lot of agencies struggle with, especially on the social media side. They can write decent blogs, they can get some traffic there, maybe get some leads if they’re really doing it right and have a good funnel in place, but for the social media, how are you using that to help drive leads?
Alex Berman:Social media, I’ve found, isn’t 100% effective for actually driving leads. It’s better for promoting content, and then also as a social signal that you guys are around.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:

[00:38:30]

One of the first things people do when … Let’s say they want to look up Hub Staff, they’ll search Hub Staff and they’ll look on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and they’ll see how many likes you have or if you’ve tweeted recently. What I almost always look at is Twitter to see if they’ve tweeted recently, to see if they’re still alive or not. That’s the main thing with social media, it’s just to kind of show that you’re alive. For Instagram, I’ve gotten leads off Instagram, so Instagram’s one where you can basically automate, as well. If you guys want a free tool … I actually don’t think it’s free, I think it’s like $10 a month, Instagress is what I’ve been using for Instagram. I went from 100 followers, now I’m up to, I think, over 600 in two weeks, using this Instagress bot.
[00:39:00]

[00:39:30]

Yeah, otherwise, if they’re already doing strong content, there’s nothing really you can gain from this content/social one. If you’re not doing strong content, the biggest thing that I’ve found works is delivering intense value and actually telling stories. You don’t want to be another one of these … This is another reason why I hate HubSpot so much. You don’t want to be another one of these companies that’s just saying the same bullet points in your blog post as everyone else. You want to actually have a story to back up every bullet point. Even if it’s the same BS bullet points as everyone else, you want those stories to be more specific to your actual company and your actual clients.
Andy Baldacci:Right. There’s so many “Seven Tips on How To Do X, Y, and Z”, and nothing new is said, you’re not relating any of your personal experiences, you’re not doing anything unique that while you’re checking the box of content, you’re not getting results because no one cares about that stuff.
Alex Berman:
[00:40:00]
Yeah, exactly. One of our most, actually, our most successful piece of content at Experiment 27 was this video that I posted onto … Actually, Reynaldo posted this under Reddit, and it was How We Got Our First 400k in ARR, Annual Recurring Revenue, with Cold Email. Literally, in this video, I broke down how I found the leads, I walked through the exact process. I walked through the Excel doc that we used to send out the emails. I showed the actual email script. I showed how to actually send the emails, how to do the followups. Literally, everything was broken down step-by-step, and that’s in the all time greatest posts on /r/Startups now.
Andy Baldacci:Wow. Wow.
[00:40:30]

Alex Berman:

That’s the type of content that resonates.
Andy Baldacci:Exactly. We’ve seen the same thing at Hub Staff, is where, when we write posts from our experiences, and when we have screenshots of like, I have a post coming out soon. I’m launching a podcast, getting guests. I’ll talk about the exact emails I send, how I do my research, all of those things, those posts do well, because they know we’re coming from a position of expertise, they know we’re sharing our unique take on it, and we see results from that.
[00:41:00]

Alex Berman:

Yeah. I always like to think whenever I’m writing a piece of content, I always want to be hesitant in thinking, maybe I should be charging for this. Isn’t this stuff that should be going in a paid course?
Andy Baldacci:Yeah.
Alex Berman:If I’m not thinking that, I’m not delivering enough value in the actual content.
Andy Baldacci:Hearing you say that, that’s exactly right, and it’s something that’s so simple, but that’s what people need to be thinking of when they’re writing content, is that, if this is something that no one would ever consider paying for, you shouldn’t be publishing it, it’s not doing you any good.
[00:41:30]

Alex Berman:

Yeah. I’ve bought some pretty high end courses from Ramit Sethi, and I try to craft my content around the stuff that he publishes, not on his blog, but actually in his courses.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Alex Berman:In his courses, he’ll go and he’ll do a full email script, and he’ll do a whole breakdown of a strategy, like all this stuff that people pay like two, $3,000 for, and I’m deliver that stuff for free to my viewers.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:42:00]
Then this ties in perfectly to the last channel, and that’s content promotion, because it’s not as simple as just writing great content and then everyone’s going to come flocking to it. So, do you want to talk about this one?
Alex Berman:

[00:42:30]

[00:43:00]

Sure. Content promotion, it’s very similar to directories, as well. High level, it’s basically finding out where your people are, where your target market is, and then getting your content there. Whether that’s blogs or whether that’s sites like Reddit, Growth Hacker, that sort of thing, that’s at the very high level what it is. For us, the way that we do content promotion is, we go out, and at first it starts with that analytic review that I talked about before, we’ll dig into all the agencies’ analytics and figure out what sites have sent leads to them in the past. For Dom and Tom, one of the first things we found was Quora was an underutilized channel, because it was sending like two leads a month. So we went in and we rewrote a bunch of Quora questions, we wrote a bunch of answers for Quora, and we got that up from two a month to about 40 a month from Quora, before Quora kind of died as a channel. That’s one way to do it. For Reddit, we’ve done that lot for Experiment 27. Going in, being active on Reddit, looking at the type of sub-Reddits where your people would hang out, for us. I thought it would be like /r/Business or /r/Entrepreneurship, almost 100% of the time for us it’s been /r/Startups. For agencies, if you’re trying to recruit, there’s a bunch of UX/UI design sub-Reddits.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:A lot of people live on those. It’s actually fairly easy to rank if you have good content. I don’t know how much I should say about this, but you can pay to get to the top of Reddit, as well.
Andy Baldacci:How so?
Alex Berman:You hire somebody on Fiverr, you-
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Alex Berman:Or you pay somebody to up-vote the content for you.
[00:43:30]

Andy Baldacci:

[00:44:00]

That’s the thing is, Reddit is something where the people are there, but I know it’s so hard for outsiders who aren’t familiar with it, to crack the codes, so to say. I think a lot of it comes back to what you said is, find the sub-Reddits that actually are relevant to you and then create really good content for them. If you do that, you could pay someone to promote shitty content, and it’s not going to go anywhere, or you just can get flamed really, really hard. If you actually do the research and do the work to create good content, find the right audience for it, you can actually get results there.
Alex Berman:

[00:44:30]

[00:45:00]

Oh yeah, for all of this, your content needs to be good or it’s going to fall flat. For the way I try to approach all these channels is, I try to think, what would the biggest companies do? Or what are the biggest companies doing? For Reddit, it’s paying to get 100 up-votes so the that the rest of it gets going organically. For YouTube, it’s paying to get on the trending tab, I haven’t messed too much with that yet. Think about what the biggest companies are doing and then think about how you can reverse engineer it. That’s promotion. For PR, it’s basically guest blogging, using a similar email to the one you used to get on podcasts, but customizing the post, basically, for each blog. It’s the same stuff everyone talks about in all these other … Literally, every guest that comes on any of these podcasts and talks, they’re always right, almost all the time they’re right, it’s implementing where people fail.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:45:30]

It seems like that’s why people are coming to you, is because, while you did go super deep on each of these, and I’m sure everyone learned something from each about how to approach each of these channels, at the end of the day, they knew these were things that roughly they should be doing a lot of these things, but they’re not. So that’s why you guys have succeed, and it’s because understand what they’re supposed to be doing, but you can actually say, “Hey, give us an hour a month of your time, we’ll handle it for you”, and it seems like that’s a pitch that seems to resonate with a lot of agency owners.
Alex Berman:Yeah, it’s resonating really well. Marketing’s super boring, especially the marketing that works for a lot of people, because it’s a lot of doing the same tasks over and over again.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:46:00]
I’m curious, because this is something where, as we dove into each of the eight channels, when clients come to you, they’re not doing all of these, like you’re not saying, do every single one of these. That would be an insane amount of work, I’m sure, it’d be super expensive, and that would be so hard for anyone to manage that in-house. So when someone comes to you, how are you working with them to decide what channels work for their agency?
Alex Berman:

[00:46:30]

We work backwards based on their goals. There’s one agency I’m working with out in Boston who wants to go from $3 million a year to $6 million a year. So we’re figuring out, what do we have to do, what services do we have to do, based on what this agency’s done well in the past, to actually hit that goal. Actually, some agencies do engage with us for all of our services, but they’re almost always like the gigantic agencies who have the cash to burn on it.
Andy Baldacci:Do you have a sort of hierarchy of how you look at these things? It sounds like for the social media management, it sounds like that’s sort of a something that most agencies should have something in place, just to begin with, just to make sure that people know that, like you said, they’re still alive.
Alex Berman:Yeah.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:47:00]

But from there, how are you looking at some of the other channels? Like, all right, how are you evaluating which is the low hanging fruit, which is the reach channels, things like that.
Alex Berman:It’s actually in a good order for how soon they’ll generate ROI. Enterprise outreach, most of the time, you’ll get meetings within the first couple weeks. Agency partnerships, the same way. Directories, you’ll start getting leads within 30 days. Meetups and events is about 60 days. Podcasts is about 90. PPC re-targeting’s about 90. Content’s like 90 to 120, and then promotion works with content, so about 90 to-
Andy Baldacci:Interesting.
[00:47:30]

Alex Berman:

That’s the way I kind of stack it out. Some agencies, they really just want to get that quick win, so we’ll only do like enterprise outreach and directories. Some agencies want to do the quick win and invest in the longer term stuff, and that’s when we’ll start using some of this other stuff. Then some agencies want to do everything or have a big budget to spend on pay-per-click or real content promotion and PR strategy, so we’ll do that.
Andy Baldacci:What does this look like for Ex-27 right now? What channels are you focused on?
[00:48:00]

Alex Berman:

[00:48:30]

Right now, our biggest lead generator is cold email, so enterprise outreach is the one we use the most. We have a few partners going. The other thing that we’re really using is podcasts and then, our content and our promo PR are really strong. So where we could get better, if I wasn’t a full nomad, I’d do more Meetups and events, but our whole team’s nomadic. Directories could also be a good one, although we haven’t found any related to just marketing companies for agencies, so it might actually be sponsorships on podcasts or sponsorships on directories that agencies go to, that’s going to be the winner there. Then yeah, PPC, which I’m saving up for right now. I need about 30k in the bank.
Andy Baldacci:Okay, before you know you’re comfortable giving it a go and going all in with that?
Alex Berman:Yeah, exactly.
Andy Baldacci:Where are you right now?
Alex Berman:I’m in Wichita, right now. Wichita, Kansas.
Andy Baldacci:Are you from there or just visiting?
Alex Berman:I’ve been here for like two months. Before this, I was in Austin, and before that, I was actually near you, I was in Melbourne outside of Orlando.
Andy Baldacci:Oh, nice. Nice. What does the year look like for you in terms of travel?
[00:49:00]

Alex Berman:

I’m probably getting out of Wichita at the end of this month. I don’t know. I want to hit Paris, and it was so funny because one of your other guests invested in a brewery, I also invested in a brewery, but it’s in Vegas, so I’m going to go out to Vegas probably in March.
Andy Baldacci:Nice. So you typically will … Do you set up like a base for few months at a time?
Alex Berman:Yeah, I used to do one month at a time, but it leads to burnout, so now I do about three months at a time. I just find an apartment that does a short term lease.
[00:49:30]

Andy Baldacci:

That’s cool. I mean, honestly, this whole talk I’ve been like, wow, I wish I had four hours to talk with Alex about this because I had a bunch of questions, and then as we dove into each of the channels, I’m like, this is really good stuff, I want to go deep with this, and then I was kind of getting nervous. I’m like, I need to put together show notes for so much stuff now.
[00:50:00]To wrap things up now, Alex, and as a way to say thank you/I’m kind of angry at you for making me do so much work on the show notes part of it, what I’ll do is, I like to ask my guests a few rapid fire questions. They’ll be quick, but your responses don’t need to be, so the first one is, right now, what are you spending too much time on?
Alex Berman:

[00:50:30]

I’m spending too much time, actually, worrying. I wish I was spending less time, but we just hired 10 people, nine people, so now we’re at 11 people as an agency, so I’m worrying now because I’m dealing with the fact that I’m not doing a lot of the work now anymore. I’m waiting for deals to close and stuff, and it’s so hard not to just hop on the calls and stuff. That’s my main thing that I’m focusing on right now, that I don’t need to be doing.
Andy Baldacci:What should you be spending more time doing?
Alex Berman:

[00:51:00]

What should I be spending more time doing? I think just creating content. Like right now, I should take advantage of the fact that I’m not needing to work all the time, that my team’s doing most of the work, to read more books and listen to more podcasts, which I’ve been trying to do more of. Then, just strategy, but there’s only so much of that you can do. I’m in probably the same situation as that other guest that I was talking about before.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, because that’s the thing is, is strategy, learning all of that is great, and you need to make sure you’re doing enough of that, but at a certain point, it can almost just get to like daydreaming, where you’re just planning things out on paper and not really making progress towards them.
Alex Berman:

[00:51:30]

Yeah. We’re in a really interesting situation because we’re hitting our numbers, we’ve got a team that is almost all the way onboarded, I’m very confident in the entire team, that they’re going to perform. Basically, if the whole team performs, then me and my co-founder are going to be doing like zero work.
Andy Baldacci:Yep. Yep. The other guest that Alex is talking about now is Casey Cobb-
Alex Berman:Yep.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:52:00]

Casey runs multiple businesses and has a very active family life, has a very active hobby, it’s like all of this, and he spends maybe about 40 hours a week doing all of it. It’s funny because he … It’s very difficult, when you build a properly structured business, you’re going to run into exactly what you’re doing right now where you’re like, wait, there’s nothing I need to do right now, things are just working. It’s very easy to fall in the trap of finding things to do so you can feel good about, “I’m staying busy, I’m doing this”, but if you can just accept that, the goal is to build a business that can run without you, then you have a lot of different options going forward.
Alex Berman:
[00:52:30]
Yeah. What I focused on last month was hiring, so I found the majority of these 11 people just last month because I had so much down time because I hired a sales team, and I was focusing so much on just cold emailing before that. I’ve recruited some pretty good people, I was poaching from top agencies and stuff like that. I literally can’t keep hiring. If I keep hiring, the company’s probably just going to implode.
Andy Baldacci:Right. I’m curious, this segues good into the last question I have for you, and it’s, what are your long term plans for Ex-27? Is it something you want to just scale super big, remove yourself and just travel the world? Or what does that vision look like for you?
[00:53:00]

Alex Berman:

I mean, short term, short term meaning like the next two to three years, I want to change the way that agencies market. I don’t think there’s enough being put on it from agency founders, like enough value being put on it. If I could make it so that whenever McDonald’s is looking for a client, that 10 out of 10 of those are Experiment 27 clients, that would be pretty awesome. Then in terms of company growth, yeah, I’d like to see us keep growing and just get super big.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:53:30]

Is the ultimate goal to really, like you were saying, to remove yourself full from the business and you just focus on big picture things?
Alex Berman:Yeah. I think we’re closer to that than I thought was possible this soon into running the business.
Andy Baldacci:Was there anything that you think helped you get there? Was there like a book you read that really got you on the right path? I know there’s not like one magic secret, but what do you attribute that quick success, not quick success, but what do you attribute getting there faster than you anticipated?
[00:54:00]

Alex Berman:

[00:54:30]

Learning from other people’s mistakes. So Tom, at Dom and Tom, one of his biggest things was, he’s been trying to sell the company for like three years, and because nothing was really productized and there wasn’t really a recurring revenue strategy, that’s been very hard for him. So a lot of agencies have done that better, my agency is almost build 100% on recurring revenue because of that. My other founder, the other person I worked for, Wilson at Inspire Beats, his biggest issue and the reason his business failed, was because he was the choke-point for everyone. So, he ended up in the hospital, for a month or two, and because of that, the entire business ground to a halt. Those are the two things I’ve been focusing on not doing, right? Getting MRR as high as possible, and then making sure that everyone’s talking to each other and not to me. Also, Four Disciplines of Execution is a really good book on management.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:55:00]

Awesome. Alex, I want to thank you for that. Before we say goodbye though, where can listeners go to learn more about Ex-27, to hear more from you, and just to see what you’re up to?
Alex Berman:There’s a bunch of free content on B2BSalesTraining.org that goes to my YouTube channel. Then, our company site is Experiment27.com, which goes through all of our services and how to work together.
Andy Baldacci:Awesome. I’m going to make sure to get all of that linked up in the show notes. Alex, I just want to say thanks again so much for coming on the show, it was a lot of fun chatting.
[00:55:30]

Alex Berman:

Andy, it’s been awesome.

Resources mentioned

Learn more from Alex

There’s a bunch of free content on B2BSalesTraining.org that goes to x27’s YouTube channel. Their company site is Experiment27.com and it goes through all of their services.

  • Austin Benton

    Good episode!

  • Thank you Andy for having me! Appreciate you for creating a platform for those who are looking to take their agencies to the next level. Hopefully, many found value in this episode as well. It’s been a blast chatting with you. 🙂