In this episode of Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, we’re talking with Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20, who shares the importance of developing your own unique intellectual property.

Since I began hosting the podcast a year ago, I noticed a major difference in how big agencies market themselves compared to smaller agencies.

Larger agencies almost always have unique intellectual property to differentiate themselves from the competition. This could be a trademarked process or model they follow to produce consistent results or books they’ve published laying out their methodology. Smaller agencies tend to focus exclusively on the generic service itself.

Your agency needs to develop intellectual property in order to stand out from the crowd (PODCAST) Click To Tweet

Paul gives dozens of talks a year around the country, published two books, and his agency developed proprietary Marketing Score software (now they are even getting into AI). Today we dive into why it’s so important to develop intellectual property, how they managed to build this portfolio of IP, and the results it has driven for his agency.

If you’re struggling to stand out from the crowd, this is the episode for you.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Paul: Get it right here.

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Key Takeaways

The value of a proprietary process [20:00 – 28:00]

While your team has talented and creative people, at the end of the day there are other talented and creative agencies out there. Niching down is one way to differentiate yourself, but another way is having your own unique process that you follow to get results for your clients.

This process is called the “Game Plan” in the PR 20/20 book The Marketing Performance Blueprint. It operates on the idea that too many organizations don’t recognize the weaknesses in their foundation, so they can’t accurately project their potential for success. To help assess success probability, they developed the Marketing Score software.

A lot of the things they’ve trademarked or copyrighted were spur-of-the-moment ideas, where the team came up with a different way to describe and approach a problem. Over time, this IP has been a strong differentiator for PR 20/20.

Your IP needs to evolve if you want to remain a leader [28:00 – 31:30]

Once you’ve developed your software or unique process to deliver better results for your clients (which should be the ultimate goal), you can’t just rest on your laurels. As you work through the process over and over again, you should look for ways to make it more efficient and effective.

For the most part, this will be an iterative improvement on the original model. You’ll make some tweaks, and add or remove a step based on your experience, but the framework will stay the same.

Keeping your processes updated is important, but if you really want to cement your position as the leader in a market, you need to make more transformative improvements that require new models altogether. At PR 20/20, that means looking into the role of artificial intelligence in marketing. For your agency, it could mean staying on top of new trends in the market.

You can maintain work/life balance while running an agency [40:00 – 45:00]

Paul doesn’t measure his agency’s success on headcount or even revenue. The reason Paul wants to grow his agency is to keep the incredibly talented people that they have and provide for their families. Paul’s personal goal is to go home to his kids at night without worrying about work, and the same goes for the weekend.

A few of my guests have gone from running an agency to building up a solo consultancy because they want the work/life balance that comes from that, but Paul demonstrates that you can have a balance even at an agency. You just need to build it right.

Transcript:

Andy Baldacci:Paul, thanks for coming on the show today.
Paul Roetzer:Thanks for having me.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, so I’m curious, how do you go from starting college as a pre med major to family one of the preeminent inbound agencies?
Paul Roetzer:You don’t go to your pre med classes at 8am freshman year, fall quarter. Nah, I was pretty set on being doctor. From the time I was five I promised my mom I would find a cure for cancer after we lost a family friend and so that was my mission in life and then I got to school and realized

that you had to take a bunch of science classes that I wasn’t necessarily that motivated at the time to take

[00:01:00]

I just didn’t really go to class much. It was an 8am class, 4 days a week plus a lab, all quarter freshman year at a school that had a lot of parties and so 4 weeks in, after a 10 week quarter, I realized that, “Wow, I am not going to pass this class,” and so I finished it up, it was bios 170, finished up the class. I failed it, had to retake it to get rid of that grade, and at that point just started looking for the next thing and I ended up realizing Ohio University had an incredible journalism school and there happened to be a PR major within it, and I didn’t necessarily know what that was at the time. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be to get into the journalism school, but that’s what I set out to do. A couple years later I got accepted into the journalism school and got an internship at a PR agency in Cleveland and rest is history, I guess.
Andy Baldacci:I guess so and so once you once you got that job at the PR agency, how did things go for you? Was it something, did you immediately know like, “alright, I’m going to go out on my own and build something,” or were you just kind of going with it?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:02:00]

No, I never intended to start my own agency. It was not something I went into the industry thinking about at all. I just started at a small firm and had the opportunity to do a ton of really cool stuff pretty early in my career because it was five or six people maybe when I started so I got exposed to a ton of stuff and at a very early age had a lot of responsibility and was working on business development and starting to try and help shape some of the growth opportunities for the agency.
In the process just started realizing there was a whole lot of things about the traditional agency model that didn’t make a ton of sense to me like the pricing model for example and performance reporting, or the lack of performance reporting. So I just started screwing around with this idea of PR 20/20 which was a paper I started writing about a different vision for how the industry could evolve. From that spun off of nights and weekends hobby of trying to build a different kind of model like running financial models and what would services look like, starting to weave that stuff into the new business proposals I was doing for the agency just trying to approach new business differently.
[00:03:00]It just sort of got to the point where I realized if I was going to see this concept through, I probably needed to leave. I couldn’t do it there so I actually decided on a Wednesday I was leaving. That Sunday I got a twenty-five thousand dollar loan and I handed them my resignation the next Wednesday. So it all kind of happened over about a seven day period where I literally decided I was going to become an entrepreneur and go do it.
Andy Baldacci:Were you single at the time?
Paul Roetzer:No, I was married. We got married at school but we didn’t have any kids and my wife was an artist so we had started an art business for her. So I had all the flexibility in the world to do the work and my wife was understanding and supportive of the hours and so no, it was the perfect time. I was 27 when I did it and didn’t really have any obligations so it worked out well.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:04:00]

Yeah, I guess when you quit your job, you get the loan to get started, is it from day one, did you have the vision of … I know you knew what you wanted to build in terms of the system and why it’d be different, but did you have the end in mind of how big of an agency and all that type of thing?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:05:00]

I had a business plan on paper that the business world tells you you need to have with a five year model of how many employees and revenue and profits and all that stuff that as anyone has ever built one knows is totally useless, other than forcing you to go through the process which is helpful. The projections are absurd like to think anybody can project out five years is crazy and especially at that time period because five years, think of this. I wrote the business plan in 2004, 2005. Twitter didn’t exist. Facebook didn’t exist publicly yet. Google was five years old. The iPhone didn’t exist. So to think I could look out five years from that time period and think I knew what was going to happen is insane to look back now on to think how quickly things transform now.
I had visions of it being a big agency that we did it the way I intended we could grow it pretty quickly, but it was originally designed as a small business agency to make agencies, services affordable and accessible to small businesses and then we pivoted within the first two months because of demand from larger companies as [sauce 00:05:32] as an alternative.
Andy Baldacci:What would the services that attracted those larger companies to you guys or to you I guess at that point?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:06:00]

We offered, we actually published as far as I know the first standard service and pricing guide the industry had ever seen. We took 19 service categories, 105 services with three tiers for each service and had set prices for every service so it was meant to actually become an e-commerce and at some point where you could go build your own plan, so that was different. There was everything from … it was anything a business would need to do to grow: brand marketing and advertising and direct mail and PR and social wasn’t one yet.
Andy Baldacci:Was it you handling all of that?
Paul Roetzer:In theory, yeah. We had some partnerships in place with designers and developers where I’d negotiated rates on anything that required that stuff but otherwise it was theoretically going to be us. So yeah basically the difference was my personal network was with larger enterprises and middle-market companies, and I tried to stay very under the radar, but the local business pub cranes got wind of it and actually wrote about it and then word just kind of spread that we sort of built this different model and so people started calling and just asking if it would work for their business. Just kind of started growing.
[00:07:00]

Andy Baldacci:

I’m guessing for people who might not be familiar with what the sort of PR agency world was like at that point, like I’m assuming this but it’s basically not clear what exactly the services are. The pricing is very, unclear either. Things weren’t as transparent and so is that why when you came in with that transparency, it just shook things up a bit?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:08:00]

Yeah, basically that’s the premises. People pay hourly rates and they don’t really know what the value is that they get. There’s soft metrics like impressions and [adequately 00:07:28] and PR value that don’t really connect the bottom-line results and there’s just a basic uncertainty around what exactly it is that they’re getting so my feeling was make it … The original concept behind the hybrid was a retail service from hybrid where buying a service was as logical as buying a product off of a shelf that you knew you had a need to grow. You could look at the à la carte menu and assume you could build your own strategy. You could actually go through and say, “Okay, I need three of these and four of those and five of these,” and you could in theory build your entire marketing program and see what it cost as you were doing it.
The what ended up happening is we needed to be the ones building the strategies so we started cutting, but again we used that standardized guide. Think about processes, we used that standardized guide to creative economies of scale in the production delivery of services so we could build proposals faster. We could build strategic plans faster. We could do everything faster because we had a template to work off of.
Andy Baldacci:So it wasn’t like people were coming to you and ordering from the menu. They still needed some strategy guidance. They still needed some help and you saying, “This is what you need,” but then at that point, you could point to, “This is what it’ll cost. This is what you’ll get,” and be very clear and upfront about what was involved.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:09:00]
So when did you go from offering this hundred plus list of services to focusing more on inbound marketing because at that time, inbound marketing wasn’t a thing, HubSpot didn’t exist.
Paul Roetzer:Right, probably somewhere around 2007, 2008. So what happened there is we had a couple calls with HubSpot in late 2007, so they were about a year old at the time. I ended up subscribing or purchasing HubSpot largely for access to their methodology so I could use it to train our staff on blogging and social media on email marketing and so we were paying, it was at the time 50 a month, for a license and we didn’t even install the JavaScript on our site for like four months honestly. We weren’t using the software. We were just using the methodology and then as soon as we installed the JavaScript in probably January, February of 08, I started seeing the potential to take our model of like the standardized services and apply it to HubSpot.
[00:10:00]So in 2008, we were it. We were their first partner, so they started sending all their clients that didn’t want to do the work themselves, to us and so we grew a hundred percent in 2008 and it was largely because of referrals coming in from HubSpot, so we bundled our services into service packages, and so for a thousand month or two thousand a month or three thousand a month, you could get this standard list of services that we had prepackaged. That was our first, as far as I can recall, that was our first effort to actually create service packages.
If you go to our website today, you can see it’s broken up and the service packages. This is like version 5 so the original was this one we created and rolled out in 2008 when we started selling HubSpot licenses to our customers.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:11:00]

Interesting. So at that point, you were the first agency partner, you’re the first guys to kind of go in there and execute on this and deliver it to the people who know, who are kind of aware of the trend and want to do the work themselves but I’m guessing there were other agencies coming in. Did they see what you were doing? You published, it was the Agency Blueprint. When was that? When did that come out?
Paul Roetzer:I wrote that in 2011.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
Paul Roetzer:

[00:12:00]

Yeah, starting in 2008, what ended up happening is Pete [Caputo 00:11:18] was at HubSpot and still is at HubSpot, but he kind of started getting a vision for how they could build a partner program and grow through this bar network so I went to Boston in December 2008, right after the first inbound marketing summit which became inbound now and I met with Brian [Halligan 00:11:37] and [Dharmesh 00:11:38] and Pete and we just talked about where the agency ecosystem could go and the vision for what agencies could become and how they could help sell HubSpot and how HubSpot could help grow agencies and so from that conversation, we started to share a little bit more like did webinars with HubSpot and things like that but for a couple years, Pete pushed me to really open up and share what we were doing and what we were learning and I hesitated.

[00:13:00]

Then in December of 2010, I had a change of heart and I just decided to, like there was nothing we were doing that people couldn’t eventually figure out and I worried initially that we would share too much competitive information. Then I realized that most agencies we would never compete with and most of them were just good people who wanted to build businesses and control their own, create their own freedoms and so I thought, “Well we don’t have all the answers but we’ve learned a ton in these five years and we can share a lot of what we learned and what I think is possible and I think that can help accelerate other people’s development as organizations, as agencies and if we you lose some competitive edge in the process, fine. It’ll force us to continue to innovate in different ways,” so that’s what led to the book. I agreed to do the book in 2011, wrote it and it came out like I think December of 2011.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, so it wasn’t like you had this whole content marketing funnel built out where the book was a way to get agencies to come in and to get coaching and all these other services. It was, at those stages that wasn’t the main consideration. It was almost as a way of sharing and of getting back and kind of growing the overall community.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah, someone needed to write the book and we were in the position to do it. I felt it was important for the industry that it was written. It was never truly a monetization play for us. We to this day don’t offer services to other agencies. I do speaking and I’ll do some educational things around it. We did do a webinar series around it, but other than that, no we don’t sell services to agencies.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:14:00]

Right, it’s not like your lead magnet to get people in and get these high ticket sales and all that, so how did the industry change after that? HubSpot’s blowing up, you’ve kind of put out this book that gives basically the blueprint, the game plan. What happened after that?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:15:00]

The industry started advancing for sure. Obviously technology kept changing so that drives a huge part of it, and consumer behavior has changed dramatically and continues to change the way people communicate and look for information, make buying decisions. All that keeps evolving, so I think that those factors on their own, which I refer to as change velocity was in the book. It’s just accelerated and as a result of that, you see diversification within the agency ecosystem, so more opportunities for people to split off and focus and video or social media obviously continues to be an essential piece. People look for these niches, but I think more and more agencies have obviously gone into marketing automation or that whole space, what HubSpot does,Marketo , call those players and they’ve started building services around that which enables agencies to actually become more performance driven, which was lacking before 2010, 2011. Agencies weren’t really doing that.

[00:16:00]

I think we’ve seen a lot of that. Hubspot alone has probably eighteen, nineteen thousand customers now. When we started with them, I don’t know what number we were, but I think we were in the early hundreds, like low hundred. I think they have twenty-nine hundred certified partners worldwide instead of one so a lot has changed and I think agencies continue to evolve and for me it’s, a pretty cool part of it is there’s a lot of agencies doing things that I thought were theoretically possible way better than we do them now. They’ve just specialized in certain areas or taken pieces of their own ideas or mixed in some of our thoughts and they’ve built really good agencies and many of them are larger than ours. That’s great. That was part of the deal. I know people would take it, in some cases, do our own ideas better than we were doing them.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:17:00]

After that, I mean it is crazy seeing how you identified early on, this was one of the main things, one of the main kind of tenants of your PR 20/20 sort of manifesto is that there wasn’t the performance kind of reporting at all. It wasn’t one of the factors and then HubSpot came along, made that more possible and people started picking that up. Your thesis was proven with how quickly businesses kind of flock to that and appreciated it and understood it. You guys, you published another book. It was The Marketing Performance Blueprint and that’s where you kind of laid out how you approach marketing rather than the agency side is how you approach marketing, right?
Paul Roetzer:Yeah, the second book was written for marketers, execs, entrepreneurs, more of our audience, the people we would sell services to and that one came out of, in the years following, the first book, outside of running the agency I started spending a lot of time exploring how to take a leap forward from a technology standpoint both for our agency and for the industry and it led me down some interesting paths and started building some software and doing some different things, but what I kept coming back to is every study we would read talked about the demand for marketers to prove ROI like never before, but that marketers were largely underprepared and underperforming and it didn’t matter if it was Adobe or Accenture, IBM or Gartner. Every report was basically saying the same thing.
[00:18:00]So I started looking and saying, “Well, why?” It’s just a cause-and-effect thing. What is the reason or reasons why marketers are struggling to achieve performance potential and I ended up boiling it down to three gaps. There’s talent, tech and strategy gaps. So if you don’t have the right people trained in the right way, if you don’t have the right technology or if you have all the right technology but they’re not integrated, then you can’t build an optimal strategy to achieve performance goals. If you’re missing any of those pieces, if you’re missing the right people, missing the right tech, then you’re not building the correct strategies and you’re never going to hit what you’re capable of doing from an ROI perspective.
So that’s how the book is structured. It’s broken up into three sections of talent, tech and strategy all leading up to the performance gap being the largest gap and so that’s, in theory what the book does is it kind of walks you through how do you build an organization so that you can achieve performance potential?
[00:19:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). That’s crucial. You’re right. If you’re missing those things, it almost doesn’t matter what else you do because you’re not going to be able to display performance at least anywhere near as effectively as you could.
Paul Roetzer:A good example for the agency world is let’s say, and this goes back to us, someone five years ago comes to me and says, “Hey, we have $15,000 a month. Can you guys help us get 100 new leads a month?” Well, hell yeah. Sure. “Here’s the proposal. Let’s go,” and then three months in you realize, “Wait a second. They don’t even have a marketing automation system or they don’t have anything to manage their social and no one on their staff knows how to do anything and we didn’t even account for having to write all their content and they don’t have any copywriters.”

[00:20:00]

You start realizing all these gaps within that organization that’s going to prevent you and it doesn’t matter if they’re giving you five, ten, twenty, fifty thousand dollars a month. If they have fundamental flaws in their foundation, their marketing foundation, you can’t fix those things and drive performance simultaneously without the right resources. That’s an example of, if you don’t have the right pieces even if you bring an agency in, they can’t just mask all that.
Andy Baldacci:Right and they can’t fully … I mean, I guess a certain skill but they can’t be fully come in and augment and just change the client’s organization. There’s only so much that they can influence without and with those fundamental pieces missing, there’s no chance. It doesn’t matter. It’s not a dollars issue at that point. Later you guys layout kind of the game plan model and that’s something I want to talk about because I think, there’s two reasons.

[00:21:00]

One, I think the model itself is interesting but two, I think, one of the main things I noticed when talking to somebody [inaudible 00:20:42] and just being kind of in the spaces that while many agencies of all sizes, all scales talk about similar things, about similar results, about similar processes, they don’t always talk about an actual model, an actual blueprint, an actual process that they follow to get those results, but the bigger agencies I’ve seen not only display that out front, but a lot of times it’s kind of like a trademark branded type thing where it’s like they own it. This is unique to them. So I want to talk about that as well. I guess to unpack that question a little bit, first is can you talk about what the game plan model is?
Paul Roetzer:Yeah, so the game plan originated from around 2009 or 2010 when we had been pushing the inbound marketing agency concept forward and we had defined our own internal game plan. At the time, it was actually a little different. We published in an ebook called How To Build An Inbound Marketing Game Plan and it walked people through basically stages of the funnel and how to think about building a marketing strategy and we used the game plan with a capital G, capital P.

[00:22:00]

Like you’re saying, it was just kind of a unique differentiator versus an inbound marketing strategy which everybody could build, so part of it was that but then we played that out visually as a football field and we tied in actually game planning and all that stuff. The one that’s in the Performance Blueprint is an evolved version of that concept. It was this idea that too many organizations don’t recognize that the weaknesses in their foundation, and therefore they can’t accurately project their potential for success and what I mean by that is again, let’s take that same example.
Someone comes to me and says, “We want a hundred new leads a month,” and I say, “Okay. Well, how many are you getting now?” “Ten.” “Well, okay, that’s a pretty significant jump. Are you increasing your budget?” “No.” “Are you adding to your team to make that possible?” “No.” “Are you getting new tech to do it?” “No.” “Okay. Well, then that’s not actually a realistic goal. Nothing else is changing,” so the start of it is that evaluate phase. It’s like we have to take a true assessment of where we’re at today and what our potential for success really is and the probability of us getting there.
[00:23:00]That’s where we built the marketing score software. It was trying to take that process and put a scientific method to assessing probabilities of success so marketing scores, the software we built, the free online assessment, we’ve had about three thousand companies use it or so. We have all kinds of fascinating data about how organizations rate themselves. At the time, it was a big data play because my theory was if we get enough data and have enough organizations look at themselves subjectively and we marry that with objective data, we could actually start predicting success.
Andy Baldacci:You said at the time, that was what it is. What has it turned into now? How do you see that as changing over time?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:24:00]

We just keep trying to make the process as a whole, more efficient and more effective, I guess, so even in the book which I wrote in 2014, there’s fifteen steps. In 2015 at the inbound conference we introduced something called the marketing growth hackathon which takes six steps from the middle of that process and condenses the planning process into, in some cases, one hour. So rather than spending thirty days planning, which is what we used to do with clients, they would come to us, pay the first month invoice and we would spend a month in planning, we’ll now run that as a workshop in one day or we’ll run quick one hour versions of it internally.
What we’re trying to do is focus on a single goal and come out with actionable solutions that can be executed in thirty days to ninety days. We keep iterating on the model ourselves, so even the one in the book is still relevant if you want to do like, if you’re starting a business and you need to think through your whole marketing program, you would go through all fifteen of those steps. You truly want to think about all of it. If you’re just running a business and you’ve got goals to hit in Q4, then the marketing growth hackathon is what was built to try and like, “Okay, let’s really focus our energy here and build a quick plan and go.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:25:00]

Interesting, so it’s a living process. It’s not something you publish it in the book and it’s never changing. It’s always the same. It’s something that you’re adapting constantly. One because the technology, everything else that you’re working with changes, but two, you learn.
Paul Roetzer:And the principle’s still stay, like the fifteen steps are still relevant. It’s just how you execute them and how quickly you can execute them that changes.
Andy Baldacci:Right, so what I want to dig into now is sort of what made you think of it as capital G, capital P game plan instead of just “Make Your Marketing Game Plan”? Why did you want to brand it so strongly and make it like its own sort of tangible thing?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:26:00]

Differentiation. Again you can look around, everybody has a marketing plan or a marketing strategy, but we wanted to really differentiate the concept and sort of put a stake in the ground of like, “This is a unique approach,” and because it was tied to inbound marketing at the time, the inbound marketing Game Plan is different than you’ve looked at your marketing strategy before and then there was just from our standpoint and drafting the e-book there was this obvious visual connection to what we were trying to explain and moving along the field and the goals along the way. It just kind of fit. A lot of what we do, a lot of the things we’ve trademarked or put copyrights on were just you’re in it and you kind of spur of the moment come up with a different way to describe it. It helps you just differentiate what you do as an organization.
Andy Baldacci:Right. That’s the thing. When you look at some agencies that want to build themselves as a full-service agency, they do anything and everything. In inbound marketing agency is a bit narrower than that but there’s still so many inbound agencies. Hubspot partners with almost two thousand of them so having this kind of this IP, this differentiator makes you stand out even narrower amongst that crowd.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah.
[00:27:00]

Andy Baldacci:

How does it fit in with your marketing? I guess a better question is how do you market your agency currently? I’m guessing not a hundred percent of your clients anymore are coming from HubSpot. I’m sure there is more channels, but can you describe kind of where the clients are coming from now?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:28:00]

In almost 11 years now, we’ve never actually gone after a piece of business, so we continue to grow a hundred percent organically and through referrals so it’s all inbound and referrals. We have the benefit of having written a couple of books and have a lot of premium content that’s done very well so we just get a lot of opportunities through the things we’ve done. I do probably two or three dozen public speaking engagements a year at different conferences. Those lead to opportunities for sure and then marketing score, although we don’t aggressively use it as a lead gen tool, it brings in fifty to sixty leads a month which with data that most people would kill to have because people go through it and they tell us we have twenty-seven profile fields and a hundred and thirty-two factors that they rate zero to ten.
We can run some pretty sophisticated modeling to predict which of those people would be ideal clients for us, so most people if they’re lucky on a lead form get name, email address, industry, title maybe. Maybe you’ll get a couple other things. We have a hundred and fifty-nine fields that people give us.
Andy Baldacci:Right, so not only do you know if it’s a qualified lead, but you also have the insights to know what their issues are and be able to start doing some diagnosis on it.
Paul Roetzer:Yes, there’s some things that we don’t really publicly talk about that we can do with it, but we can use predictive modeling. Yeah. There’s some pretty advanced things we can do with it.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:29:00]

That’s actually one thing I said before the call that I was talking with Eric Baum from BluLeadz and one thing he mentioned was that he just kept saying, “Paul is all about the metrics,” and just kept saying, “He knows metrics like nobody else.” Is there any part of it, we don’t need to get into your secret sauce but can you speak a little to what he might’ve been talking about?
Paul Roetzer:That’s just our big thing, the data-driven performance driven with the second book was obviously the angle we really went at. It was just being able to tie what you do to outcomes and so we have a lot of processes internally to do that for clients. We’ve built some proprietary ways to do it. We’ve also for the last year plus been using artificial intelligence to assist in it, and there aren’t very many agencies doing that yet.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:30:00]

Is that something, do you think, because I wouldn’t have known from … I didn’t spend hours and hours digesting your website, but I wouldn’t have immediately known about the AI angle. Do you see that could be another differentiator that you could market more or is it just purely internal like you don’t want it to be like [that 00:30:03]?
Paul Roetzer:I would say we have been doing a semi-public beta test of the concept so in our pricing page you can see there’s like monthly and weekly analytic reports and if you roll over it, it’ll tell you beta. That’s it. That’s the AI.
Andy Baldacci:Interesting.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah, there are definitely some things we’re working on now that will probably be more public in the next month or two that will be preparing to take a leap forward on the AI front, I would say.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:31:00]

Interesting. Yeah, because that’s something that I haven’t heard anybody talking about. I haven’t heard, I’m sure there might be a few working on similar things but yeah, it’s something I haven’t seen anyone talking about other than talking about the potential for it but actually acting on it is what needs to be done so I’m going to be excited to see what you guys are doing.
Paul Roetzer:The talks I’m doing this fall are content marketing in the machine age and then at inbound and Marketing Profs I’ll be doing marketing in the machine age talks that will be sort of debuting a lot of what is currently possible and theoretically possible using artificial intelligence to transform marketing.
Andy Baldacci:I’m excited for that. I’m really excited for that. I’ll keep an eye out. One thing I want to talk about, why you mentioned the pricing page. This is something that I’ve seen before, but it’s not an uncommon, the point pricing. It’s transparent but do … and you have a page that explains point pricing. Is that something that … How much explanation through kind of a new client who might be little green needs to go into explaining what the point pricing is and how it works?
[00:32:00]

Paul Roetzer:

It’s simple, but it’s abstract. Very little and mainly because the way I present it is it’s a fixed unit of value. Everyone’s used to paying an hour for an hour or they’re used to paying a fixed fee and so all we do is give them an example like if you’re writing three blog posts, each blog post is four points. It doesn’t matter how many hours we spend on it, that’s a fixed value and it’s the same every time we do it.
What we do is we’ll show them different models of points being applied and we’ll show them a sample of one hundred point campaign. Here’s your e-book. It was fifty-five points. Here’s your landing page. Here’s your three emails. Here’s your social shares, and there’s a chart that shows how many points per and so it’s a very … When you see it, it’s like, “Oh, well that’s pretty [easy 00:32:41] to understand.”
Andy Baldacci:Oh, okay.
Paul Roetzer:We do on the website, obviously some basics of it. There’s some things with point pricing we’ll most likely be debuting in the next month or two as well that’ll go to the next level with it.
[00:33:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Right, because you have … There’s a few different models. You have on one end of the spectrum, the Alan Weiss of consulting who says, “Never discuss a price up front. Never do all these things. Be very obscure about your pricing or what they’re getting, what deliverables and all of that.” Then you have on the other end, kind of almost your original menu of services, what they’re going to get, what they’re going to cost. This seems like it’s … I like what you did because what it does is it focuses them on the value.
You’re moving kind of … You in the back, there’s still some kind of time cost element going involved in home many points things are worth but that’s not the focus. The focus on what they’re going to get and what that’ll do for their business rather than, “You’re going to pay us X dollars an hour.” Is that roughly what you were thinking about with this?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:34:00]

Yes, there is a psychology element to it. When you think about what makes a point different in an hour, a point different in a dollar, like why don’t I just say a hundred dollars? Well, the reason is because marketing is viewed as an expensive. If I’m spending dollars, if I know that I get X amount for this dollar amount, I’m thinking of the money I’m spending to do it. A point is an increment of progress so when I think about points, I’m thinking about actually moving towards a goal, so it was meant to have a number of elements. One was just the simplicity of a single value metric that remains fixed. The other was the psychological element of them actually thinking about progress and moving forward when I think of a point.
Andy Baldacci:Also I’m assuming as clients get deeper into their lifecycle with you, the way the points are allocated is going to change based on their needs. It’s not like they just buy one package, they get the same exact thing every month. You’re going to kind of reassess what’s needed, right?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:35:00]

Exactly. Yeah, the points can be allocated however we want so we use performance to determine how the points will be allocated in future months. Let’s say we start with a lead gen campaign one and it’s a hundred and fifty points over three months, that hundred and fifty points will be broken up into all the different projects within that campaign and then the next quarter, they may have lead gen campaign two and we may do a bunch of different things. The only thing that remains constant is the number of points they get. How those are allocated, it is based on performance.
Andy Baldacci:Interesting. I think that’s super smart. I’m just digging through the website. I had so many questions [inaudible 00:35:26] and other things, I’m like, “How did they do them?” Looking at the services, you list your process, campaigns, workshop, speaking, consulting. How do you balance all of those? I know you got … How many people do you have in your agency?
Paul Roetzer:Seventeen.
Andy Baldacci:Right, because you know, in terms of headcount, this massive agency that can just throw people at any problem. How are you able to you, you personally, but also as an organization kind of balance so many things and handle all of your client work?
[00:36:00]

Paul Roetzer:

The majority of our services are still service packages. It still clients that are paying for campaign services. The workshops, the consulting and the speaking, that stuff is really a spinoff of the books and the thought leadership stuff we do so most of the workshops and speaking, consulting would fall under my workload. I don’t do client work. On average, I probably do less than five hours a month of client work.
I sit in client strategy sessions internally and I sit in client services workshops and I’m more working with our director of client services on the overall administration of client services and the performance of them, but I’m not doing client work.
Andy Baldacci:Do you help with the sales process or where … Is it really just those kind of strategy meetings? Where are you involved in those steps of the process with clients?
Paul Roetzer:Right now I am the primary salesperson.
Andy Baldacci:Okay.
[00:37:00]

Paul Roetzer:

For about three years, I was not and then last year I took it back over and it’s been a very positive thing because it’s given me ability to fine tune the type of clients we want to work with and fine-tune the way we position the agencies. I probably will not stay in that role for the long-term, but for right now it’s helped me transform a lot of the things we were doing and the things we’re going to do by being a kind of the frontline and being able to have all these conversations. When a lead comes in, it’s me that they’re talking to right now.
Andy Baldacci:Before that, was it a salesperson that they were talking to?
Paul Roetzer:No, we’ve never had a salesperson. It’s different consultants who they’re basically honeymooning as a salesperson.
Andy Baldacci:I see.
Paul Roetzer:Their primary responsibility is running accounts and being a consultant and an account manager, and then we would allocate a percentage of their time each month to process leads as they came in and conduct calls and proposals.
[00:38:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Was the reason why you took things over, was it because you thought one person should own that, or were there other reasons?
Paul Roetzer:We had one person owning it for a few years. We had two different people that worked in it. Mine was one of necessity, the guy that was, we were starting to develop and to maybe evolving him into a dedicated role. He took a position in a corporation, in a tech startup so there was part necessity. When I looked at it, I was like, “Okay. Well, I could shift this person or this person into this role or I can just assume it,” and at the time there was from a performance standpoint, there were some things I thought we could do better and so I felt that if I did it, I could better assess what was going on and maybe evolve what we were doing.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:39:00]
You also said you don’t see yourself always having that role. Would it go back to the old model where it was kind of someone moonlighting, honeymooning in that position or where do you think you’ll go once you kind of phase yourself out?
Paul Roetzer:It would probably depend on the scale of the agency. I have no intention of hiring a salesperson. It’s not on my radar now, but I would never say I wouldn’t ever do it.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Paul Roetzer:But as of right now, I don’t have any plans for it and partially because our growth is significant without that person and the reason I’ve always avoided it is because a salesperson by nature sells and they’re compensated to sell. There are times when I don’t want to sell, when I want to stabilize what we have and I want to focus our growth in non-service areas, and so that person I may have to come to them and say, “Hey, don’t bring me a new account for the next three months.” That’s a weird thing to tell a salesperson.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:40:00]

Right, especially if they’re a commission salesperson. They’re going to say, “Well,” again, that’s just not the way it works. You clearly seem very deliberate about, not just your growth in general, but the way you manage the growth and how you grow because I’m sure if you wanted to have a big organization, you could. If you wanted more headcount, if you wanted more clients, if you wanted things like that, you could go that direction, so what is kind of the vision you work with or even the framework that has got your agency to the point of where it is? Where do you see, not the end goal, but what are you working towards with the agency? I’m guessing it’s not a purely headcount thing.
Paul Roetzer:

[00:41:00]

I would stay at the headcount we’re at for the next ten years if I could. Headcount means nothing to me. None of my success, none of the things I would consider success tie to headcount and for that matter, I don’t even really put a ton of weight in revenue. You need to grow, but we grow to keep the people we have, so we have incredibly talented people who have in some cases spent their whole careers here and my growth goal is to grow enough to keep those people, to provide for them and their families for as long as they’re able and willing to stay here.
My goal, as odd as it sounds to many entrepreneurs, is to go home to my kids at night and to create an environment where other people can do that too. I worked the seventy hour weeks for seven years when I started the agency and then we had our first kid and I haven’t worked a night or weekend since she was born four and a half years ago and I won’t. There’s things, there’s strategic decisions we’ve made that could have grown this agency and spin off businesses to order of magnitudes that I can barely fathom and I didn’t do them because I would’ve given up my kid’s childhood, like seeing it.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Paul Roetzer:
[00:42:00]
So everything we do is to build an organization that can provide financially to the employees, however many that may be, drive success and performance for our clients but more importantly not wait till the end game to actually enjoy it. It’s like, “Let’s work hard. Let’s grow.”
Andy Baldacci:But enjoy the ride.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah. It’s just a journey and let’s have fun along the way and if we stop having fun then we need to change directions.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:43:00]

That’s something that some people strive for, not just in the agency world, but in any world and should is a work, life balance and not even just that, not even just being able to go home but to actually be proud of the work you’re doing while you’re there. It’s clear that you get that, PR 20/20 gets that, your employees obviously are on board, but at the same time, I feel like there are other ways you could achieve that that might not … You could sell the agency and spend more time at home without having to run an agency with seventeen people. Are there other … I feel like you wouldn’t be investing in … I’m just kind of trying to wrap my head around everything. It’s something where like, if that was really all the motivation is, like it could be AI and all these other things, is it just true that you’re driven just to see what you guys do and really just to get the best [inaudible 00:43:18] clients and that’s it.
Paul Roetzer:No, that’s a valid point. I guess there’s two elements to it. One is just the personal side, it’s just what I want out of life. The other is there hasn’t been a morning in ten and a half years that I haven’t got out of bed, anxious to get to the office because the things we do every day, the client work that can seem mundane at times, is what frees us or gives us the ability to explore what’s possible. The only reason I built marketing score is because after seven years, we saw this massive need in the marketplace at least within our own agency.
[00:44:00]Then I wrote the first book for the same reason, in the agency world and the second book for the same reason and stuff we’re doing with artificial intelligence now is because I’m obsessed and I’ve been obsessed for four years that this change was coming, and now I see it in front of us. I get out of bed every day wanting to spend ten hours working on what’s going to happen and how do we help drive that instead of waiting and watching it go by? So I’m highly motivated from a career perspective. I just try and turn that motivation off and flip my mind when I get home at five o’clock or five thirty and enjoy the three, four hours with my kids and then flip it back on when I get out of bed in the morning.
It’s hard work. It’s hard to shut off. It was hard to stop working on Saturdays after my daughter was born. I loved my Saturdays. That was when I innovated. It was when my mind was free and I could do things and it’s taken four years to kind of train my mind to be able to still think in that way, but not let it consume me.
[00:45:00]

Andy Baldacci:

It was funny. When I was doing research for the show, when I was checking on your Twitter and I did see a few mentions about AI. I had a note written down like, “He really likes AI,” but then … Because one of the things with AI that shook me up, I was like, “Ah, there’s so much potential in it,” but then when I saw how scared of AI Elon Musk is, I was like, “Oh, alright. I guess we’ve got to be a little careful,” so hopefully you can kind of contain the creativity and not unleash this beast that we have to escape to Mars to get away from.
Paul Roetzer:Yeah, it’s funny. When I give the talk, it’s inevitable. Someone will ask the question about singularity and what happens when computers are super intelligent. The way I tend to explain it is, “It’ll happen and they just don’t know if it’s going to happen in fifty years or in five days because there’s literally ways you could take these massive leaps forward that could have it.” IBM just made a significant announcement yesterday about replicating the performance of the human brain.
[00:46:00]There are things that are happening. I am not an expert on that stuff. I have no idea how it’s going to happen, or when. I’ve read the books on it and I could sit around and probably have an interesting conversation with people about it. The way I look at it is, there are technologies that exist today, hundreds of them, companies that exist using artificial intelligence in fascinating ways that can drive your business efficiency and performance right now. That’s the stuff I live in. It’s like this tech is here and it is elementary compared to what’s coming in the next three to five years.

[00:47:00]

You need to be aware of what already is happening, like natural language generation for one. Think about what Facebook is doing with deep learning, and IBM with Watson, all that stuff is there for you to use already and be prepared because this is child’s play compared to what’s going to happen. It will change everything and so that’s … For four years I’ve been sort of studying it and writing about it sometimes and speaking about it a little bit and now I’m just like, “Okay, we can’t hold back anymore. We have to push forward with an initiative around this because it’s coming.”
Andy Baldacci:

[00:48:00]

It is crazy because you see … At the beginning of the talk, we were talking about how from when you kind of wrote the PR 20/20 essay to when the early days of the agency. Just so much of the landscape has changed, like your five-year plan, didn’t know about social networks beyond maybe Friendster. I don’t even know if that was around then, so it’s like in those compared to what some of the changes that will be coming that, at some point, you don’t know when, but they’re out there. It’s exciting to think about those and I can see, I can hear the excitement in your voice talking about it and the fact that you’ve built a company that not only lets you pursue that, but let’s seventeen people do some of the things that still deliver client work and get clients great results but it also just lets you work in an exciting environment. I think that’s amazing.
Paul Roetzer:Thanks. Yeah, I wouldn’t be doing it still if we didn’t have the chance to do these things and I’ve always said, like after the first book, I said, “I’m never doing that again.” I remember the day I finished it, after an eighty-seven day marathon of writing, I walked out and I was like, “I’m never doing that again.” That was so mentally taxing and then like a week later, I was like, “alright, what’s next?” It’s almost like an adrenaline rush, I guess, where you have to be working on something significant and the hard part is sometimes it takes years and you feel like days, weeks, months go by where you haven’t achieved anything but I’ve learned over time that often that’s the most important time I can spend is when those days where it feels like I didn’t actually get anywhere.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:49:00]

Yeah, you need that. Without that, yeah. I fully agree with what you’re saying. To bring things back a little bit, two more questions and we’ll wrap up, so the first question, I like asking everyone this is what do you think right now day-to-day do you spend too much time doing?
Paul Roetzer:Email. Email and meetings. I just can’t stand either of them.
Andy Baldacci:What do you think you don’t spend enough time on? If you got that time back, if there was no email, what would you be doing?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:50:00]

One thing and what I mean by that is literally like any one thing, because as entrepreneurs, as agency people, you’re trying to do two, three, five, ten things at once and my flaw and it might be just personality flaw or the flaw of the role I’m in, I can’t just pick one thing and do it and if I could … Like when I’ve written the two books, it was three months that that was the one thing I did and I locked myself in an office for ten hours every day and I wrote. That was amazing. The process of beginning focus on one thing was amazing. So if I could just pick that one thing and just do it, I’d be happy.
Andy Baldacci:I’m guessing, have you read the book by Gary Keller, The One Thing?
Paul Roetzer:No.
Andy Baldacci:You haven’t?
Paul Roetzer:No.
Andy Baldacci:It’s basically about this concept and about how the focus, everything, when you’re just doing one big thing, like other things come up and this and that, but when you’re driving force, when you’re just working towards one major thing, that’s when you’re going to get the most extraordinary results.
Paul Roetzer:I should read it.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, I might have to send that over. So Paul, it’s been great chatting with you. I’m sure … We kind of jumped all over the place with this one but that’s what I like doing and that’s okay, so I hope the listeners don’t mind my indulgence with that but if the listeners do want to hear more about what you’re up to, what you’re doing at PR 20/20 and just what you’re up to in general, where should they go to hear more, to learn more and to follow you?
Paul Roetzer:

[00:51:00]

PR2020.com, the main place but as you found with Twitter, if you want to know what’s top of mind for me now, it’s just @PaulRoetzer on Twitter and I do, I don’t tweet a ton but what you’ll find is I’m working on speaking gigs for this fall and I’m living and breathing artificial intelligence right now, so 80% of the things I tweet are probably related to that.
Andy Baldacci:When I was going through, I was like, “Wow. This is going to be interesting. This is great.” What are the … I have in the show notes, but I just want to make sure I get it here. What are those upcoming talks you’re going to be giving in the fall?
Paul Roetzer:At Content Marketing World in September in Cleveland. I’m doing Marketing Growth Hackathon’s agency addition, that’s a workshop and I’m also doing Content Marketing In The Machine Age. Then Marketing Prof’s B2B forum in October in Boston is Origins of The Marketing Intelligence Engine which is an AI talk and then that same talk or variation of it at Inbound in November in Boston.
Andy Baldacci:Also, I’ll make sure to get all that linked up and Paul, before you say goodbye, I just want to say thank you so much again for coming on the show. I really appreciate it.
[00:52:00]

Paul Roetzer:

I appreciate the time and the invite.

Want to learn more?

If you want to see how the art and science of marketing collide, check out PR 20/20’s blog or follow Paul on Twitter.

Paul has a busy speaking schedule this fall. You can catch him at Content Marketing World in September, Marketing Prof’s B2B forum in October, and Hubspot’s Inbound in November.

Resources mentioned

The Marketing Agency Blueprint
The Marketing Performance Blueprint
Hubspot
Marketo
Peter Caputa
Brian Halligan
Dharmesh Shah
Alan Weiss

Thanks for listening!