Growth doesn’t happen by accident. Last year I began a journey. A journey to transform my side business into an agency. While I have been in the online #marketing sphere since 2009, I never really gave it my all and just let business happen. 2015 brought a lot of change for me both personally and professionally. These changes forced a new level of potential out of me and as a result we more than doubled. This year, well, that’s a whole new story.
While we saw over 100% growth in 2015, there was one big thing we did not accomplish – landing a Hubspot Inbound retainer. I had put in the hard the work, created persona-focused content and promoted the heck out of it. To be honest, I was frustrated. To make things worse I had 3 “sure thing deals” slip away at the end. This year, I was determined to change that stat. The groundwork had been laid and the time for action was now.
I began 2016 by emerging myself in Seth Godin’s altMBA. This 4 week intensive program was life changing to say the least. Having to juggle a growing agency and growing family was already a lot and when it came time to begin altMBA I was unsure if I could handle it. Instead of crushing me, the added commitment helped me to prioritize my time and only focus on things that actually mattered. It’s so easy to get caught up in daily tasks that seem important but really are just time suckers. I also learned not only how to write down my goals, but how to achieve them. I learned how to leverage constraints, let others speak into my work, challenge my lizard brain and the power of finding my why. Coming out of this experience I had a plan to improve upon what I had already started building just 12 months before.
Do you know why you are doing what you are doing? This is a much harder question to answer than it seems on the surface. Finding your “why” is essential if you want to create a business, product or agency that impacts your industry. Just look at all of the great brands, they got there because they had a strong “why.” Figuring out why I wanted to grow and who I wanted to reach was a must if I was going to get to where I wanted to go.
While these questions alone wouldn’t give me the answer, they did steer me in the right direction. So are you wondering what my “why” is? We exist to connect people with businesses in a more personal, human and authentic way. Everything we do, from web design to #SEO, is driven by this why. We are driven by why we do it and not what we do. This makes work feel like, well not work.
When it comes to generating traffic and leads I feel like I have a good idea of what I am doing. #Sales on the other hand, scares the junk out of me. I think the root of it comes from the fear of “no.” When I talk to other agency owners I get the feeling that many of them struggle with this as well. Inbound is great and the process works, but in order to sell you have to eventually pick up the phone and ask. For months I was sitting back, driving leads and hoping they would call and beg for my services. Guess what, this never happened. Never.
Since January we have generated an average of 60 leads a months. Here’s the kicker though, what good are these leads if they just come once, get some free content and never return? If we exist to connect in a more personal way, we need to be developing relationships and trust. This can only be done authentically through human interaction.
If I was going to be able to turn some of these leads into partnerships I had to push past my fear of no. I had to pick up the phone or send a personal email to encourage the next step. Without having a conversation, I would never be able to share my why and sell my solutions. This wasn’t something that just clicked. It is still very much in the works, but I can say that we have closed 4 inbound retainers and have 2 more in the works. Not to mention the more than 15 websites and new SEO clients. Learning to sell is a process. It take patience, consistency and perseverance. One day I hope to be decent at it.
As a long time soloprenuer I had become accustom to doing everything on my own. I was suffering from what Chris Ducker calls “ Superhero Syndrome.” I believed I had to do it all – the books, the websites, the SEO, all the inbound… everything. What I hadn’t realized was that trying to do it all was bottle-necking my growth.
During the altMBA I set a goal to build and empower a team around me to take my agency to the next level. Since I had never really “hired” anyone, this was terrifying. Thankfully I was exposed to two great companies to help me get started. The first was eaHelp. This company helps you find and hire the right US based virtual assistant. Not only did they find me a great assistant, Rhonda has now become a very important piece to the growth of our agency.
The second position I needed was a developer. For years I was designing, building, launching and marketing sites all on my own. I needed help. To find a good developer, that I could afford, I used Virtual Staff Finder. Their team interviewed multiple candidates and narrowed it down to the top 3 for me to do a final round of interviews with. While this process was a little more work for me, I was able to hire I very good developer that fit my budget.
By handing off things others can do for me, I was now free to do the things no one else could. I can now focus on marketing our “why” and prospecting new clients.
“Building smart processes to streamline the workflow can make the work easier and the results more reliable, which keeps my head above water and my clients happy.”
Without clear processes you are just finding things to do that make you feel productive. The key to actually achieving your why is a clear plan that everyone on your team understands. Now, I am not even going to try to claim that I have this down pat, because I don’t. But I am learning and willing to put in the work to get it right.
When developing your processes, don’t do it alone. You will end creating them for you and will have to go back and explain yourself to your team. This defeats the whole purpose of planning it out. Having your processes laid out will give your team members a gameplan to carry out the work they are assigned to do. So make sure they get it. Involve them in the process, let them ask questions and challenge you when something seems off. This helps make your processes more accurate and helps build your team’s trust in you and your vision.
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