Aderson Oliveira: I've spoken with Rob Thomas about outsourcing marketing automation about the fact that most businesses spend a lot of time selecting the right tool, the right marketing automation platform, and not enough time creating campaigns, developing content, and planning. He has also provided quite a few suggestions on how businesses can go about selecting the right outsourcing marketing automation partner. He also highlighted the importance of whenever a business is thinking about marketing automation, they should bring together all these stakeholders like sales, marketing, customer service together and have them on the same page.
Hello, hello, Aderson Oliveira here. This is another interview for the OuchSourcing Podcast where we talk to experts about their experience with outsourcing, and sometimes being an outsourcing provider as well. Today, I have with me Rob Thomas. He is the CEO of WSI-eMarketing, and he is a marketing automation expert. Rob, welcome.
Rob Thomas: Thank you very much. I saw the last podcast you did with Justin, and he was very modest saying you've called him an expert. I wouldn't call myself an expert. I just probably know a little bit more about marketing automation than the person next to me. But, we've been involved in it with a few years, yeah.
Aderson: Perfect. So, how about we start right there? Before we get to the outsourcing side of the topic, how about we start with what is marketing automation?
Rob: That's a very good question, because personally, I hate the word "automation", because if people don't understand what the various softwares can do that fall under that bracket, marketing automation, they can sometimes believe it's a means by which you can automate the spamming of people. I mean, to be fair, some organizations do use the software very badly, and effectively spam people, but that's not the purpose of it.
The purpose of marketing automation is to do, really, what marketing consultancies and businesses that have marketing functions have wanted to do for 20, 30, 40 years, and that is deliver the right message at the right time to the right person so that you're having a one-to-one conversation.
20-odd years ago, I worked for a very big bank here in the UK, WSI -- sorry, WSI, that's who I work for now. Lloyds TSB, I should have said. They used to talk about the paradigm of getting one-to-one marketing, and they spent millions of pounds trying to do just that, building their own software, and they didn't even come close to the software you can buy off the shelf today for a few hundred dollars.
To be specific, marketing automation is a suite of tools that can do a number of things. First of all, it's a place to have the database of your existing customers, but it's more than a simple CRM system. Forgive me if I use lots of three-letter acronyms. There's tons of those and I try and slap myself every time I let one slip in there. So, it's more than just customer relationship management. It allows you to manage, effectively, those people who aren't yet customers: suspects, as I would call them, as in people who don't even know about your brand through to prospects, so those are people who now know a little bit about your brand, but they don't really yet know exactly what you do, how you do it, or how good you are.
It allows salespeople and the marketing teams to work effectively together to get some of those suspects into the top of the funnel, if I can use that analogy, and then the marketing automation software allows you to nurture them from the awareness phase to the consideration phase. What it allows you to do is track exactly what they're looking at on your web properties. So, what pages are they looking at, what videos have they watched, what e-books have they downloaded, if that's relevant, even what webpages have they visited, but anonymously. Because, once you know who that suspect or prospect is, and you do need to get them to give you a little bit of information so that you can track them as an individual. So, typically, first name and email address is all you need. But, of course, the first day they arrive on your website, you don't know who they are. So, you need to give them something that might encourage them to share that data with you.
It's a value exchange, so if you've got a very -- e-book on there, for example, 10 top tips. We're a marketing consultancy, so we've just put an e-book out there, which is 30 Top Tips on How to Generate Leads Using Digital Marketing. It's a quite nice little thing being put together. But, what it means is somebody's willing to give us their email address in exchange for that value.
Once you got that, because you are able to use the software to track their IP address, and that might be right down to the device they're using. It's not just a laptop. It could be a desktop, it could be a mobile phone. Once you've got that IP address, even when they come back later anonymously, because you've tracked that IP back to their email address, you can see everything that they do.
Now, I realize that may sound a bit big-brother'ish. But, that's not the purpose. It's not to spy on people; it's quite the opposite. It's to make sure that you tailor your offering and the information you're going to give them to them. Because, too much marketing is old-fashioned advertising. It's just blast marketing. It doesn't matter 10 different people with 10 different needs will end up getting the same marketing bump. So, by profiling what they're doing on your website, you can use things like some softwares call it performance scoring. But, certainly what you can do is you can track exactly what people are doing and put a score to it so that you can work out who's a really hot prospect, who's lukewarm, and who's cold.
But, actually more than that, specific behaviors can trigger things to happen. So, for example, if somebody has downloaded a size price guide, if you're a self-storage facility, for example, that's a pretty big buying signal that somebody's downloaded it. So, at that point in time, it might be appropriate to get onboard with live chat, or maybe pick up the phone to say -- and see that you downloaded the guide, "Maybe, there's something I can help you with."
For some people, that's a little bit too in-your-face. It's too early in the buying cycle, and I would certainly not recommend picking up the phone at that moment in time because it's a bit scary. But, if they have gone on to your "Contact Us" page, maybe they visited your "Directions" page, but they haven't yet booked online, I think it might be appropriate, at that point in time, to come on live chat, at least, and go, "We've noticed that you've looked at that. Is there anything else you need at this moment in time?" Do you want to look what our T's and C's are? Do you want to have a look at whether there's discounts for booking early, etcetera.
Aderson: Can I just interrupt you for a second there?
Aderson: It's more about building a long-lasting relationship with that individual even before he gets to purchase from you, correct?
Rob: Yeah. I mean, I guess I've dived right into how do you convert a prospect into a customer. But, that's really only one type of person you're communicating with. Because, organizations communicate with many different personas, and some of them may never become customers. They might be influencers, or they might be third parties who could be associates or even suppliers, for that matter.
Actually, marketing automation, once you know which persona the person in your contact database is, then you communicate to them. Because, you don't want to sell to somebody who's actually never going to buy from you, but could well influence and bring others to you. I think that's the vital thing. Marketing departments, these days, have limited budgets. They only have so much time to do lots. Often, when we meet clients for the first time, the biggest complaint they have is, "The CEO wants me to do more with less," and I've got to get more leads into the sales team, and the sales team are going, "The marketing team never give us decent leads. They're always throwing suspect at us. We want warm prospects."
What marketing automation done well can do is keep the CEO happy, because the marketing team only needs three or four people to do the work of, maybe, 10 from a couple or three years ago. Also, make the marketing team be the heroes they've always wanted to be to the sales team because they're delivering quality leads and passing over lots of data. When we talk to salespeople and they see what's available with this lead, it's not just, "Here's the name of a man with his telephone number. Give him a call." It's, "This is everything he's done in the last three months." These are all the things he's looked at. This is what he already knows about us. In fact, for some, it's, "This is the product he's interested in." It's almost the epitome of the perfect lead for a salesperson. It's almost as good as an inbounding query.
Aderson: Because it's pre-qualified? You're qualifying that lead, that individual, all through the process, correct?
Rob: Correct, correct. Indeed, HubSpot, who is one of the biggest platform providers, they termed the phrase "Inbound Marketing". They even have a massive event every year called INBOUND, and if the people listening to this haven't heard it, I'll be very surprised because INBOUND is massive.
Obviously, marketing automation done very well does mean that you start to get a trickle, and then hopefully, a flood of inbounding queries. Because, let's face it. When the telephone rings off the hook with inbounding queries, hey everyone thinks this is fantastic. Now, the truth of the matter is that doesn't happen overnight. On day 1, you've got to get campaigns together. That means that when somebody does visit your site and you start to prioritize them as a detailed persona, if you haven't built a campaign with materials that can deliver stuff of value, then you don't end up with any inbounding queries because they've not been nurtured.
Aderson: Let me ask a little bit about that, because one of the points that I found interesting that when I first invited you to do this interview is that you mentioned that companies out there, they spent a lot of time picking the tool that they're going to be implementing marketing automation, but they don't put enough time aside to actually prepare and plan that campaign. So, talk a little bit about the softer side -- let's first talk a little bit about the softer sides. There are too many, I think, in my opinion, options out there, and sometimes they are easy, sometimes they are complex. But, let's start with the two sides. What is the two sets for marketing automation?
Rob: Well, first of all, some of the names of the providers out there, these are the, almost, household names you've got: Microsoft Dynamics, you've got Marketo, Eloqua has been around for a long time, HubSpot. Who else have we got? Influitive. We've got Act-On, Oracle, Marketing Cloud, Salesforce, of course. Marketing Cloud and Salesforce Pardot, and then you've got SharpSpring.
I've just mentioned, probably, a dozen names there, and often when clients come to us for the first time, they're mind-boggled. They go, "There's all these choices. Which is the right one for us?" What a person or business needs to do first is work out exactly how are they going to use the tool, how many users are they going to need. Are they just going to need a couple of marketing people and a couple of salespeople, or are they going to outsource some of this work to third parties?
Let's face it. If you've got a good campaign, you're going to need lots of copy. That means blog posts, that means putting stuff together like e-books. You need videos. Therefore, you do need to pick the platform that allows you to work collaboratively with those third parties.
Now, sometimes an organization has all of those resources in-house, so they just pick anyone. To be honest, sometimes you look at them and you go, "You can have the Lamborghini, you can have the Porsche, you can have the Mercedes, or you can have the Ford." Forgive me. I drive a Ford, so I can say that. But, when you look at those, often, the Lamborghini, actually, will get you from A to B, and so will the Porsche, and so will the Mercedes. So, you don't always have to pay the top dollar to get a very good software. The reality is whatever budget you have, I think you should spend no more than 10% of it on the software, and sometimes that leads you to choose the one that fits your budget, because you want 90% of your budget left to create the campaign and to manage them. Sometimes, people, they spend too much on the software, and then they say, at the end of the six months wall, "Why isn't this thing working?" Well, you haven't got any content. "Ah, well we didn't have any budget for that."
It's just like when you buy Microsoft Word and all of those packages, very few organizations actually invest in their staff training to use them properly. Now, the good thing about marketing automation is that there's lots of help out there. So, there's lots of agencies that are single-product focused. Some will just hitch their wagon to HubSpot because it's the biggest one.
I'll be honest. We did that. We did do that. WSI spent probably about five years trying to work out what would be the right partner for it. They hitched their wagon to HubSpot about four years ago, and we are still global partners with HubSpot. But, what we discovered was for every 10 clients we had, probably only two could afford HubSpot. Maybe, a couple more tried and then had no money left for their marketing, which was daft from my point of view because we're successful, they've had clients that were successful. So, if they just buy the software at the end of the year, they don't have a really good return on investment, then they're going to stop the software.
We've partnered with a number of others, so we can supply the Lamborghini or we can supply the Ford. Sorry, that wasn't meant to be a sales pitch. What I'm saying is that, at the end of the day, there is a marketing automation software that will support just about any size business, even right down to the one-man band.
Aderson: Got it. That will fit any budget. Let me just mention a little bit, and I'm curious about your views on this. My personal contact with marketing automation is and came from Infusionsoft. However, I don't know if this is just about Infusionsoft, or this is a common challenge, I'm going to say, to put it lightly, a common challenge across marketing automation tools that, at least in the case of Infusionsoft, it was a bit of a steep learning curve. There was just so much options, and so many things, and so many flows. To be honest with you, it was quite overwhelming for me. At the beginning, when I was just looking at that and I said, "Hey, I need some help." So, is that a common feeling across whoever comes and looks at a tool like that for the first time? Is that common?
Rob: I think unless you have lined up some support, it can be very, very scary. Now, to be fair, most software tools these days come with very good how-to guides. They've got videos, they've got online instruction, they have all the normal ticketing systems and support. But, the trouble is you and I know that most people, particularly if they're men, give them a piece of technology and they don't want to look at the manual. They want to just dive in there and make it happen. The trouble is because these softwares are very, very comprehensive, I've yet to find something that a client has said, "I want it to do this," that we can't eventually make it do that.
However, often, you have to think through how you're going to program that to happen. Because, the old expression, "Garbage in, garbage out," it's the same with this. If you haven't thought about it, what is the process flow you want. When somebody does this, what do we actually want to happen, how do we create the trigger that recognizes that? Once we've created the trigger, what's the workflow? Who's going to have that lead? What piece of information are they going to have? And if that person doesn't do something, what's going to happen?
Because, quite often, people think about the positive path. They click there, great, they do that, yeah. But, what happens if they drop out of this funnel. Do we forget about them forever or do we introduce them to something else? How do we do that, and how do we do it in such a way that the potential customer or the other persona feels engaged? Forget about the tool itself, for starters.
When we work with the client, the first place we start is just a simple mapping tool. So, we might use MindMup, which is a free mind-mapping tool. I've used about 50 tools over the years, but MindMup, we quite like simply because it works with Google Drive, Google Folders, easy to share, easy to track. And if you're running, say, a GoToMeeting with five or six people in different time zones, you can all share a screen and you can mind map together.
I say forget about the technology first. Let's just work on what the client's end-to-end sales process should look like from the early days of awareness through consideration right through to decision. Then beyond that, what happens when they become a customer? How do we make them become a delighted customer so they start singing about us from the hilltops and introduce new customers. That gets people thinking, "Oh, we need a member. Get a member scheme. How are we going to do that?" Well, marketing automation can handle all of that, but we've got to map it out first. Once we've got a MindMup done, then we'll use something like Draw.io, which is another free tool which is a process flow tool. It's very similar to Visio, but free.
Again, it's a great thing you can do that collaboratively, and that's where when you do have outsourced partners, you can work on that tool together. We work with outsourced partners in about three different time zones, and it's great sometimes because I can set them a challenge, go to bed, and by the time I get up in the office the next morning, it's done for us, which the clients love.
Aderson: I guess that my next question here is all those tools, they come with the promise of give those tools to the marketing department, and they will do the rest. They will be the stars and do the rest. If I may poke you, why do they need an agency or an outsourcing partner, like yourselves, to help them out? Why?
Rob: Well, to be fair, not everybody does. If there's a large organization and they might have 10 to 15 people in their marketing team and they are already doing content marketing. We sometimes come across clients who understand content marketing. In fact, they've been using about half a dozen different tools to try and achieve what they want. So, they might have been using Constant Contact for their email marketing, and they might have been using Hootsuite for their social media marketing, and they might have been using Google Analytics and two or three other tracking tools.
But, what they often have felt challenged by is that they don't have a 100% picture of the customer. Often though, they'll say, "Oh great, we had 500 visitors to our website yesterday, and three application forms." So, what happened to the other 497? And the truth of the matter is all of those tools don't really help you. They don't help you get to that prospect.
When you talk to organizations like that, if they have the skill set internally, often, our job is just to help them choose the right tool and off they'll go. But, I have to say out of every 10 companies, that's probably only one. So, there's probably about another nine who need help in some way, shape, or form, and sometimes it's just they need that help kickstarting them. As you described earlier on, they're keen to get going. They just want somebody to help them show what to do. A great place to start is just take their simple marketing processes and automate them.
So, for example, every website has a "Contact Us" page, and usually what happens is when somebody fills in one of those forms, it gets emailed to somebody, and somebody has to do something with it, and that's quite a manually intensive process from that point. So, if we said, "Okay, well let's just automate that." So, when somebody fills in a form, let's ask them a couple more questions at that point in time, like, "Are they one of these or one of those?"
For example, for us, are you another agency or are you an end client? And if you're another agency, then we will work you in partnership that way and all the information you'll get, we'll relate to that. If they're an end client, we will then send them some information based on whatever they filled in the form, and then we'll ask them a couple more questions. So, are you looking to manage this internally, or are you looking for external help, or are you looking for a blended mix? Very quickly, we can start to prioritize which persona they now fill in. Sorry, fit into, and deliver the information relevant to that.
So, in answering your question, some people just need a bit of hand-holding to get their campaigns going. Others say, "Well, actually we have no intention of employing more people to do the content, so we want an agency to manage that content for us." Now, as you're probably aware, WSI is a global organization, but we work with many, many different partners. My team here is compact to please you, as they say. There are literally now two of us.
At one time, we had many more people, but actually, we prefer to work through outsourced partners, some of which are, if you like, working for us, pretty much 100%, but in different countries. Some are working for us 20, 30 percent of the time in this country, and our job is to take the monkey off the back of our clients. So, instead of them having to manage 10 different suppliers, they just come through us and we manage all those suppliers.
But, there's two or three different ways of doing this. Some organizations do just come to us for the consulting, and they already have copywriters who create the content. So, that whole ecosystem, I think technology has made that ecosystem so possible. I remember my very first conversation was a guy who spoke at one of our conferences back in the UK probably about eight years ago when he used this word "crowdsourcing", and everybody went, "What? Crowd-what?" Of course, now, the world is so different: crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, crowd-everything, and the technology has just enabled the economies of the world to come much closer together, and I love it.
Aderson: Got it, got it. Let's get a little bit in the rabbit hole of the outsourcing side of the business. Let me ask you this. Can you name a few challenges and a few things that you always need to address with a new client that is trying to outsource either 100% of their automation to you or, just partially, and what are some of the challenges that you have to overcome dealing with a new client?
Rob: Well, one of the biggest challenges is to make sure they're both on the same page. I would say documentation is probably the outcome, but actually, the documentation only is a backup for what you've already agreed face-to-face or in one of these meetings. The first thing is to have the discipline to plan it out as much as you can up-front.
For example, if you just take one element, if you're going to have an effective marketing automation campaign, you do need a content plan. Because, one of the things that you need to direct people to is content that's already been produced, but is relevant. For example, a good starting place for an organization that's never done this before is if they don't have a blog, create a blog. Let's have a weekly blog, 52 blog posts. Client goes, "What the hell are we going to write about?"
The first thing you do is have a brainstorming session and say, "Let's get the customer service people in here. Let's brainstorm what are the typical questions that customers ask you when they're a suspect through to a prospect, and they're trying to work out whether you're the right company to do business with or somebody else." What are all the questions that they would ask?
That's one strand of the brainstorm, and by the time you've done 10 minutes on that, you've already got about 25 articles you can write, and some of those articles all turn into e-books, or videos, or podcasts even, and then you go down to three or four other strands, and you've created that content. Now, we've worked with the clients to do that, and they value that input, and then they have some choices. They can either write it themselves, or they can ask us to get somebody to write it, or they can directly bring in copywriters. We're happy to work with them in any which way. Sometimes, we just end up being the person doing the competitive bid for the copywriting. So, we don't actually manage it. We just make sure that the right partner is chosen.
Aderson: Let me just make a side note here, Rob. Sorry for interrupting you. I'm a bit of an interrupter. But, I just find it very relevant. I'm reading a book called -- I think it's called, "They Ask You Answer", and it's about a swimming pool company in the U.S. that their whole strategy was just what you have described there, which is "get content based on what your prospects, your clients, ask you about, and add that to the site, and start rolling that out". Again, I just wanted to open this parenthesis here, but I find it interesting that it's very synced to what you're talking about.
Rob: It's bizarre, really. Often, when we first engage with a company, if they've got a telephone staff member, or maybe two, sometimes a whole call center whose job it is to answer inbound questions, they've got this fantastic Q&A and frequently asked questions database, and yet the website is barren. They've got no new content. It was written two years ago, and I go, "You've got this fantastic tool, because every question that's been asked is a blog post, or an e-book, or a video. In fact, if you do put those on there, not only will you SEO better so people will find their own answers, which is great because it might save you one or two staff on the call, but actually, they will be nurturing themselves through to the point where they're hopefully ready to buy, and you will know that. Because, if you've got marketing automation software, you can see every article they've read, every blog post they've written, etcetera. Sorry, read as well.
That's often a starting point, and most clients, once they've got their head around that, and they go, "Well, actually, I've read about content marketing, but I wasn't sure if it was just some marketing agency spin, because there are some really rubbish blogs out there where they're talking about absolutely nothing in particular. But, equally, I've seen other blogs that are just too salesy. Every blog post is about their product, their service. It should be helping customers solve their own problems.
Aderson: Got it, got it. Let me talk a little bit about a point here, and I hope that you don't shy away from that. Let's see. One of the, I guess, key ways that people and businesses, they learn and they evolve is by having a look at their mistakes, and what went wrong, and tough problems and tough situations. I just want to ask you if you are willing, because I'm sure that you have come through those situations in your over 10 years of experience in this arena. I'm sure that you came across many tough situations before. So, is there any horror story, maybe with a client, or maybe with a provider that you might be able to share with us and your learnings out of that situation?
Rob: Yeah, well I'll share my own horror story, first of all. Because, I did reveal that we partnered with HubSpot, first of all, and sometimes success gives you problems. Because, in the first year, we were very successful, we created lots of content, we shared it through social media. So, we did all the right stuff, which meant that our database of contacts just kept going up month after month after month. On the one hand, very successful; on the other hand, started to get very expensive. Because, the way HubSpot charges is on the size of your database, not how many emails you send or etcetera.
So, the more successful we were, the more the software cost went up. The challenge is, on the one hand, you might say, "You should be focused," or, "We should have been focused on return on investment rather than cost," as is true, and is often the conversation we have with end clients. But, the reality is we were already looking for another software developer, another marketing automation provider who could offer a more affordable solution for some of our other small, medium-sized businesses. Because, probably 50% of our clients are SMBs.
When I came across this other product, which was SharpSpring and saw how reasonably-priced it was, I thought, "Well, I'm going to jump ship for two reasons. One, we now know everything about HubSpot, so we can carry on helping our clients, and I believe you need to have used the software before you can advise a client on it." So, we decided to move everything from HubSpot to SharpSpring.
Now, the horror story is that turned out to be a hell of a lot more difficult than I thought because, actually, HubSpot, they don't insist, but they recommend that all your blogs sit on their platform. The downside is that is its software as a service, because if you stop using their marketing automation, you've got to move your blogs somewhere. So, we put them back on the WordPress blog that they'd been on originally, and of course, we've got a year and a half's worth of extra blogs.
So, it was quite a painful exercise to move. It's a bit like when you buy a CRM system. There's always a better one that comes along 18 months later, and you have to work out, "Do we stay with the one we've got or do we go through the pain of moving?" In the last 11 years since we've been in business, I think we've had four different CRM systems, and each move has been paid for, but usually, when you look back, it was worth it.
Where I'm sat now, looking back, it was worth the move, but we still love HubSpot because they've created a lot of demand for marketing automation, and those people that can't afford HubSpot, we've now got other tools that we can help them with.
Aderson: I have to share something here because it was my horror story with Infusionsoft. Aside from that, I don't have anything against Infusionsoft, but I had such a hard time canceling my account with them that I will never ever be back to their platform. I just want to mention that because I promised myself that any chance that I had to talk about that experience, that bad experience, I will talk about. So, I'm talking to you, I'm making sure that I registered that.
Rob: Well, I have to say, I do have one or two clients on Infusionsoft and Act-On, and they're happy. They've not had to leave, so maybe that's the challenge later. I have to say, though, one of the things that businesses should look at when they're choosing a platform is what's the contract? Are you paying month-by-month, or are you asked to pay a whole year in advance? Because, what is it? That was the thing that made me think twice, because when it came to an annual renewal and you're faced with this big bill that you've got to pay now, it's a bit like your home insurance or your car insurance. It's the thing that makes you look around.
Well, I think the clever marketing automation platforms are the ones now that stand or fall by their delivery. They say, "Look, you just pay us month-by-month, and if you're not happy, you just leave. There's no big penalty." That means inertia means that there has to be a really good reasons for them to leave that one, because there's no big check that the finance director has to sign off.
Aderson: Very true, very true. Rob, I'd like to move our conversation a little bit to ROI on the market automation, because at the end of the day, it's all about ROI. It's all about return on investment of that dollar that is placed there on the automation, on the consultancy that comes to help putting a plank together. So, usually, how does that conversation go about what's the ROI of what I'm doing here? Can you really map out numbers, exact numbers based on -- talk a little bit about that, please.
Rob: To be honest, that's one of the biggest benefits of having visibility of just about everything the client is doing. It's not only about tracking your campaigns that you're using the marketing automation system to manage and to generate, but it also helps you measure things that you're doing elsewhere. So, for example, we've got some clients that spend a lot of money on paid search marketing, and of course, you can see the immediate return if they're buying online. Say, it's an e-commerce, you can see the ones that are bought. What you can't see is the ones that didn't buy on the day they clicked. Did they become a suspect in your database, and maybe buy six months later, nine months later? And if so, what were the things that nurtured them through there? Was it the blog post? Was it the e-books? Was it the social media?
We use this phrase "integrated marketing" very glibly, and that means, in the old days, doing lots of stuff and not being able to measure anything. Often, the marketing agency got patted on the back because they won an award for their TV ad. Well, to me, I'm more of a nuts and bolts person. I want to see where the rubber hits the road, where is the return on investment?
Now, marketing automation does allow you to measure far more accurately, but it does actually also prove that this integrated marketing thing does make it a little bit more difficult to say, specifically, what was the thing. In fact, it often proves that it's not just one thing. There's a number of interactions over 6, 9, 12 months, depending on how long the typical sales cycle is.
Business-to-business, often, looking at when somebody actually lands a deal, and then you look back through the history, as you can do in the marketing automation platform exactly how many contacts that we've had, exactly when did they first come, what was the lead source, who was involved in that process, and right down to, for example, you can track the telephone calls. How well were they handled in between? Because, it's amazing. If you're spending 30,000 a month on paid search marketing, and the telephone inquiry that comes in is handled, "Hello? What you want?" all of a sudden, your paid search campaign isn't performing very well and it's only the marketing automation and the telephone tracking that allows you to find out, "Why?" It's not your keyword focus, it's not your bid patterns. It's actually the people on the phone that need to be changed, or trained, or whatever.
So, marketing automation just gives you visibility of all of that. But, I wouldn't say that it makes it 100% easy to definitely say what the lead was attached to. I know, in Google Analytics, for example, you can do, "Is it the first click attribution or the last click attribution?" We all know the truth is somewhere in the middle. But, at least, with marketing automation, when somebody does land, an actual person lands, you can see every interaction they've done, and at least, over time, improve your gut feel for what is working, and you can take investment away from those things that don't appear to be adding value and spend more of it on those that do.
Aderson: Got it, okay. Rob, I know that your organization, you provide marketing automation and you can become an outsourcing partner for any companies out there. But, I'd like to ask a more broad, in general, question here. For businesses that are looking to have an agency or an outsourcing partner to work with for marketing automation, how do you recommend them to pick one, to select one? How do they choose one that -- is that track record? What is it? How would companies go about selecting the right marketing automation partner?
Rob: That's a very good question. In fact, it's a question that we wrote a blog on fairly recently for that very reason. Because, if people are Googling, "How the hell do I choose an agency for marketing automation platform?" then hopefully, eventually, they will find our article, which isn't a salesy thing. It is very much saying what are the things that you should go through. Some of them relate to costs, so I've mentioned earlier on how long are you going to be stuck in there before you find out whether it's working or not.
Now, that's not to say even if you go for somebody who pays month-by-month, you shouldn't underestimate that because I mentioned, at the outset, that the software costs should only about 10% of the amount of money you're going to need to spend on this. So, in that planning process, they need to work out before they think about buying the software itself are they going to insource, outsource, have a blended mix? Because, once they've done that, then they've got a few criteria to start Googling around and finding some agencies that can handle them. So, finding an agency that can handle multiple platforms is a good place to start, because then if you decide to jump ship later between one platform to another, you don't have to jump ship with your agency.
Secondly, I would say once you've chosen your agency or you've got a short list of agencies, the thing you need to do then is do your due diligence on them: who they worked with, what case studies have they got, how do they work with you. Because, we make a big thing of saying, "Anybody who wants to treat us as a supplier, they're not going to be a client of ours." We need to work in partnership with the clients, and that means understanding their business and them understanding ours, us having a mutual interest in success.
Beating a supplier down on price usually has a negative impact on ROI because the return on investment has two sides. It has revenue and it has costs, and as long as revenue is stripping costs continuously, then the ROI is going to grow and grow and grow. But, we've picked up a couple of clients where, previously, the finance director had been beating up their previous agency on price. So, guess what? The agency stopped being proactive, the agency stopped coming to them with opportunities. Because, they went, "Well, if they're not going to pay us for those because they said they only want 100 hours a month off us, then how can we possibly do that?" So, our belief is that you should be spending the right amount, not necessarily more, not less, but the right amount on measurements, the right amount on management, and then the right amount on the software that allows you to do all of those things.
Aderson: Okay, so just want to stop you there. You said the right amount. Is that a percentage amount of the total budget? I mean, what is the right amount then?
Rob: Well, the right amount should be if an organization has been measuring its return on investment from its current marketing spend, then that's a great benchmark to start with, okay? So, in other words, you should be looking to work with an agency that's going to improve that month-in, month-out going forward. There will eventually come a top amount and it's not possible to get beyond that, and as long as it's a good return on investment, then it should be about a maintenance of that, and bringing in new ideas. Because, let's face it, we don't live in a world without constant variables. So, paid search marketing, for example, continuously, month in, month out, it just gets more and more expensive, and then Google brings in a curveball. They change something, and it's all up in the air, and you've got to - I wouldn't say start again - but you've got to reevaluate is that the right place to be spending your money? And if the answer's yes, you need it managed well and you need it measured well.
Coming back to your question: what's the right amount? Well, if you haven't already got a benchmark, all you can really do is have a look what's out there, what's perceived wisdom. I saw some data at the end of 2016, so it's about four months out of date now, but CEOs and vice presidents of marketing were asked across the United States and Canada, how much, on average, are they budgeting for 2017 on sales and marketing. Now, that's a big bucket. So, that's marketing spend, that's salespeople on the road, it's all of that. The consensus was 11% of turnover. So, whatever your turnover is, take 11% of that, and that's what you should ideally be spending on sales and marketing.
Now, if you're a new business and you're breaking into a new marketplace, then it's going to be considerably more, and if you're a well-established business for 25 years, and you're treating it more as a cash cow, you're not looking to grow your market share, then maybe it's 5%. So, 11% is a good place to start thinking if you haven't already got a benchmark.
Aderson: I would like to shift our conversation a little bit to -- so far, we have been discussing how you and -- not just you, but how to do market automation outsourcing. So, it's clients outsourcing things to you in your organization, and you as a provider. Let's talk a little bit about the other side, because you said that you have a slim organization: it's yourself and a few more people. So, then I'll just assume that you outsource some tasks, some projects, some things as well, correct?
Rob: Absolutely, yes.
Aderson: So, let's talk a little bit about that experience then. Just a little bit. I just want to put aside five minutes to talk about. My first one is any tips and tricks on how to select the right partner to outsource work to? From your point of view, U.S. as the client this time around.
Rob: Sure. Well, obviously, I'm part of WSI, and that's a global franchise organization, and within WSI, we already have authorized partners. So, production centers, and some of those production centers have diversified into providing marketing automation support. So, they might have done SEO, and PPC, and web developments, but they've recognized that marketing automation is where it's at right now, and therefore, they need to upscale. We've got some internally. In addition to that, I'm a bit sneaky. So, those softwares that we want to work with, they restructure often, particularly in growth, and they might perhaps need to consolidate an office somewhere. Sometimes, they let good people go for no other reason other than restructuring.
So, I make a point of keeping an eye out for that, and whenever I do, I make contact with those people directly and offer them work, and we'll start working together. I'll obviously do my due diligence to make sure they're good, because I don't want to be risking my clients on people that aren't, but touch wood. It's fairly straightforward in this day and age using things like LinkedIn and recommendations, referrals, endorsements to find out how good they've been.
That's a straightforward direct approach, and I've recruited some people doing just that. Obviously, there are third-party websites that you can go to, and some of them are, obviously, on your website. I was first introduced to them -- you remember I mentioned about outsourcing, or should I say, crowdsourcing. It was Scott Klososky. I couldn't remember the name of the guy. He was a futurist and he first introduced this to us, and he introduced us to a company called 99designs. I think they're on your website too.
For example, if somebody comes to us and they want to take on marketing automation for the first time, but they need a refresh of their brand, they need to think about their marketing materials, everything from their email templates through to e-books and all the rest of it, 99designs, great, and I'm happy to use any of these because the risk, to me, is small.
If anything, it's taking the risk out of it because, for the same budget in the old days - let's just pluck a number out of the air - say 2,000 pounds to $2,000 to get a new design for a website, etcetera. If you went to a production center, you might get three to five designs for that, and if the client didn't like any of them, I was screwed. I'd spent the budget. Every penny I spent was my profit gone then. Whereas through 99designs, you run a design competition for the same $2,000, I can get 50, and the client is involved in the whole process. I've yet to have an unhappy client using that process because they feel engaged throughout.
Now, obviously, hiring somebody to put a campaign together on marketing automation isn't quite as visible and interactive as 99designs. But, in a way, it is because those subcontractors outsource providers. They all work through me, so they have email addresses that are linked to my domain. I'm honest with my clients. I say, "These aren't direct employees. I'm not paying national insurance and tax and all that. But, when they're on a project, they're working for me, so they're using all our resources.
Aderson: Let me ask you a question, because I came across a client. He got scared when I mentioned, at some point, that, "Okay, by the way, I have people in India, in the Philippines," and he was a bit -- at the end of the day, we didn't close a contract there. Don't you feel that when you disclose -- and again, I'm not saying that you should hide that. I'm just saying that don't you feel that creates another obstacle to overcome with that potential new client when you disclose that you are using, in a sense, outsourcing providers, outsourcing partners?
Rob: I can't honestly say that I've had a problem with that yet. I always try and make it clear that whilst we are not cheap - I would never use that word - we are reasonably-priced, we are competitive, and part of the reason that we are so is that we keep our management structure lean. We don't have a vice president this, a vice president that, etcetera, because we recruit good people and we work with good people, and if anything, it's protecting the client, because the first time a subcontractor lets us down, it's the last time they'll let us down. We've got another one, and we've got another one.
Now, that's not to say that we're fickle. Because, if we find a good subcontractor who does good work for us, then they will work for us for as long as they want to. It's our job to generate the business, it's our job to generate the demand, and then we just keep recruiting to fulfill that demand. But, the trouble is if they were in-house, if they were in the premises I'm in now, and I could have 50 people in here - we've got a big enough premises - the reality is that you get all the management and sub-management overheads, and that adds to the cost, and who has to pay for that? The client. Now, there are some clients who may not get that. Well, they're probably not the right clients for us.
Aderson: I get it. You have to be selective as well. Rob, we're coming towards an end here. Just want to ask if there's anything that we left out that we haven't mentioned that it's not your plug yet. But, anything that you find importance that we hadn't discussed about, anything else?
Rob: Well, I would say just from an end client perspective, it's important that when a client is thinking about marketing automation, they get all the stakeholders involved in it. Because, it's a big decision to invest in something like this. But, if you've got, for example, the sales team as bought into it as much as the marketing team, then the rollout is going to be successful. Because, often, organizations in the past bought a CRM system, they've hoisted it on the sails and said, "Look, you now need to fill in this field, and that field, and that field because the marketing boys need it." Well, I'm sorry. The salespeople are going, "How's this going to help me with my job?" So, they'll just put rubbish in there just to get it off their desk. Therefore, you've invested money and it's not got payback. In fact, often those things end up with tumbleweed a few months later.
Now, I would say, in most marketing automation platforms, if you bring a salesman into the room and just show them the screen where they can see all the things a customer has done, or a potential customer has done, and said, "If we could give you that information as a salesperson, what would you do with that?" Their eyes light up and they go, "How do I get my hands on this thing?" But then, you say, "Well, but we need your help just as much to make sure that we create the content that's relevant that's going to help the marketing team nurture them. Because, they don't come off the press red-hot lead. They have to be fed and nurtured over several weeks and months sometimes.
My one bit of advice is get the sales and the marketing together as an absolute minimum. Ideally, customer service, maybe operations so you can understand. Because sometimes, marketing automation is about just serving your existing customers better. So, sometimes the early return on investment comes not from trying to get new customers, but just serve the existing ones better and more cost-effectively. Because, there's the old expression about opening the jaws, yeah? So, income cost, if you can reduce the cost, even if income stays there, your ROI goes up, and that's really what we've got to concentrate on.
Aderson: I get it. That's precious, that's good. That's very good, very good, Rob. So, if people want to reach out either to get more information to get your two cents on some of the things you have mentioned here, how can people reach out to you?
Rob: Well, the simplest way is our website is WSI-eMarketing.com. That's easy. That's where we share most of our content. We do believe in content marketing, so we're all obviously on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, even Google Plus, Pinterest. We also have a blog where we regularly share hints and tips. We produce monthly videos, infographics. So, lots of free stuff as giveaways. Sometimes, we do ask for a little bit of information so we can feed it into our marketing automation platform. But, that's it. Of course, anybody can pick up the phone to us anytime. We've set up a separate marketing automation-focused website because we have noticed that sometimes when people come into our own website, because we're a full service agency, they look at all the things we do, and they go, "Oh my god, I'm not sure," so it can be a bit complicated. So, those organizations who've already thought, "Actually, marketing automation's for us. We've put a dedicated website together for that." But, I'll include a link of our homepage so people can find that.
Aderson: Got it. And all the links and tools and things that were mentioned here, they will be all listed on the show notes. So, I'm going to ask you, Rob, to send a few of those links back to me. Rob, that's really about it. I really appreciate your time. The knowledge, the experience that you were willing to share with us was very, very invaluable. I really thank you very much. Bye.
Rob: My pleasure. It was great. Bye.