GOING AGILE OUR JOURNEY TOWARDS SOLVING THE INBOUND RETAINER ONBOARDING DILEMMA

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1 GOING AGILE OUR JOURNEY TOWARDS SOLVING THE INBOUND RETAINER ONBOARDING DILEMMA

2 Christina Hooper COO & INBOUND MARKETING CHooperSpark sparkitive.com

3 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 1998 DAVID (my husband) STARTED DOING COMPUTER REPAIR WORK 2005 I WAS DOING WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT & DESIGN WORK AS A FREELANCER AROUND MY DAY JOB AS A MECHANICAL DRAFTER 2010 WE MET & HAD INSTANT SYNERGY PERSONALLY AND PROFESSIONALLY 2011 WE CREATED ABSOLUTE SYNERGY SQUAD WITH A FOCUS ON WORKING WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES BECAUSE COMPUTER REPAIR IS HARD TO DO REMOTELY In the beginning we couldn t even give a website away. We joined some of the local networking groups and started to really grow our business as people in the community got to know us and really appreciated our hands-on approach.

4 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 2012 WE STOPPED USING CONTRACTORS AND HIRED OUR FIRST EMPLOYEE Our average price for a website at this point was around $1k WE EXPANDED OUR OFFICE FROM 300ft2 TO 1,000ft2 AND HIRED 3 MORE EMPLOYEES Our average price for a website at this point was around $2k WE MOVED TO A NEW OFFICE WITH BETTER ACCESSIBILITY Our growth was pretty steady at this point, but we wanted more specifically retainers. We were hesitant to dive into doing marketing for people. Everything seemed to just be a huge waste of money, and we didn t want to do that to our customers. But we wanted to grow and stop the up and down cycle of getting work and doing the work that comes with doing projectbased work vs retainers.

5 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 2014 IN OCTOBER WE BECAME A HUBSPOT PARTNER AGENCY Brian Bresee finally convinced me to take a serious look at HubSpot and I fell in love with Inbound Marketing and the whole mindset behind it. This seemed like the answer to our growth problem we would get big retainers and seriously grow our company. Brian helped me set goals, and we were determined to go from doing roughly $120k a year to a million dollar a year company by the end of 2019 just 5 years. We went all in rebuilt our website, made ourselves our first client, blogged every single day, and passed all of the HubSpot Certifications before the year was out.

6 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 2015 A YEAR FULL OF BIG CHANGES FOR US We signed our first two inbound retainers in February at $2k and $3k a month. One was a brand new client and one was a previous client we upsold on letting us market his biz. Then we ran into the same problem so many agencies hit the clients weren t seeing results they wanted to see. We thought we might be doing something wrong but all of their numbers looked good, and our HubSpot team was telling us it was all good and those accounts just needed more time to really kick off. So we put in extra time to make it work faster & hurt our bottom line doing it. We couldn t get them to pay more when it wasn t showing the results they wanted, but it wasn t working as fast as they wanted because we weren t getting paid enough to move it faster. So we were trapped in this endless cycle for both 12-month retainers.

7 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 2015 WE WENT TO INBOUND 2015 & EVERYTHING CHANGED FOR US Inbound a real eye-opener for us. We met so many other agencies that were open to letting us ask them questions. We saw Luke s presentation on Growth Driven Design. In short we were inspired. So we came back and we totally reinvented ourselves. We changed our name to Sparkitive so we could change perception of our company and be known as a marketing agency instead of a web & repair shop. We talked with Kula Partners, PR 20/20, and other smaller agencies that were growing fast and we learned a few things.

8 OUR TRANSFORMATION OVER TIME 2015 WE KEPT CHASING LEARNING WITH THE CONNECTIONS WITH MADE AT INBOUND Kula Partners showed us how they went to Scrum and a value-based pricing model built on the concept of Story Points and how that helped them communicate with their clients and control scope creep while helping measure internal profitability. Several smaller agencies that were growing crazy fast showed us how they took their small SEO or Social Media retainers and grew those into larger inbound retainers without having to sacrifice profit to do it. Luke showed us how growing a website over time works to make life easier on the client and the agency and shows value and results along the way.

9 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN WE APPLIED GROWTH-DRIVEN DESIGN TO THE CLIENT AS A WHOLE I don t even think Luke envisioned his brain-child going this direction. He intended GDD to apply to the website development process but we saw it as a way to handle client expectations realistically over time while keeping a reasonable workload on us. The gist you break down everything into goals with priorities assigned, move quickly to get the initial goals done by the end of the first or second month, and then move forward based on real feedback from our client and their customers. Instead of limiting them to the usual inbound services, we gave them access to all of our services graphic design, web development, copywriting, social marketing, marketing, SEO, etc. This let them use this one retainer to help them reach all of their goals without renegotiating additional services like you would normally have to do.

10 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN WE USED STORY POINTS TO CONTROL SCOPE CREEP & TRACK OUR BOTTOM LINE Internally a Story Point roughly equals 1 hour of work for us. We bill the client $100 for 1 point, so we average $100 an hour. At a 75% utilization rate each team member should turn in 30 story points of work a week. So we can track tasks to billable hours without having to have them clock time on each client s contract by looking at the number of points completed on each project/client. We use Jira Agile and Planning Poker to allow our team to quickly look at a stack of goals/tasks and assign a point value to them. This lets us show our clients see a list of goals and the cost to accomplish them so they can assist in prioritizing them within their budget or make a choice to invest more to complete them faster. Jira Agile: Poker: and

11 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN WE USED STORY POINTS TO ALLOW THE CLIENT TO CONTROL THEIR BUDGET Clients set their budget at the beginning of the contract on average, most are starting at $500, or 5 points, per month. Our contracts are month-to-month with a 45-day cancellation notice policy to remove the barrier of signing a scary long contract. They can always buy extra points as needed too. We typically build the Launch Pad version of a website for points. So they either invest in extra points initially to get it done faster, or it takes 2-3 months. We streamline the Launch Pad so that it can fit in points. We remove anything that isn t necessary and the client agrees to this process since they understand that including more features in the Launch Pad means it either takes more budget or more time before it launches. They are able to talk with us more intelligently and be involved in the decisions more, so they tend to really respond well to this method of doing it.

12 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN WE COMMUNICATE IN GOALS NOT TASKS This was a huge switch from the typical inbound contracts we saw. Most of them focus on things like 2 blog posts, 2 social media posts, etc. Essentially they focused on tasks that our clients didn t really care about instead of the goals that they understood. So if a client says I want to make my booth at the expo look amazing, then we break that down internally into things like: designing and ordering rack cards, biz cards, banners, etc., etc. We let the client know that to achieve that goal, we re looking at 20 points total. Then we show them how those points will break down 2 for rack cards, 1 for biz cards, etc. So if they want to reduce their spend, they can choose which things to take out and the math is easy to do. Note: we don t allow points to be used for tangibles, only services. So printing is billed separately, but design work can be purchased with points.

13 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN WE INCLUDE FREQUENT COMMUNICATION & BUDGET TRANSPARENCY We use white-labeled a tool called Cyfe so that we can give clients access to a real-time dashboard that shows their goals, a transaction log of where their points were spent, and a running total of how many points are remaining in their account along with a ton of other useful information. We call it Spark Stats. They get a log in to it, and we set it up to send a weekly snapshot of their main stats screen to their each week just in case they don t log in. We make sure each client gets a face-to-face or phone call AT LEAST once a month to specifically to address goals and priority. We talk to them via and phone about individuals tasks throughout the month as we re working on them.

14 SPARK STATS PRIMARY DASHBOARD

15 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN SMALL BUDGETS WORK BECAUSE WE CONTROL TIME WITH POINTS The biggest advantage to the points is that they allow us to work with almost any budget. How much time we put into each retainer is very visible to the client and it s easy for them to understand that if they want more done in a faster timeline then they need more points. If they just want to accelerate one goal, then they can buy extra points just for that. If they constantly find themselves moving slower than they like, then they can increase their monthly budget so that they have more points in their account each month to work with.

16 THE AGILE EVOLUTION PLAN IS BORN UPSELLING IS EASY BECAUSE STORY POINTS SHOW VALUE INSTEAD OF TIME Story Points help us communicate the value of our time as it relates to their goals, so upselling is really easy to do. If they have a budget of 5 points a month, and they have goals that they want for that month that will take 10 points to complete, then they have a choice they can understand. They either need to buy an additional 5 points, or they need to reprioritize their goals so that they fit in their 5 point budget and move some to next month. We can also talk about taking away pieces of a goal to stage it out over several months so that it doesn t hit their budget as hard each month. If they consistently run out of points then we can talk about increasing their base monthly budget so that it doesn t keep happening.

17 WHERE WE ARE NOW THE AGILE PLAN HAS TRANSFORMED OUR BUSINESS Since we implemented it in Oct 2015 we have signed 17 accounts and we re currently about to close on several more. Even the two unhappy inbound retainers migrated to this plan instead of firing us at the end of their contracts. We ve hired two new employees to help manage the increased workload. We went from no retainers (since the 2 inbound were planning to cancel their contracts) to 17 totaling about $9k a month in revenue in 6 months not including the extra points that get purchased each month beyond their contracted retainers.

18 WHERE WE ARE NOW THE AGILE PLAN HAS TRANSFORMED OUR BUSINESS Selling inbound retainers took on average 4-6 meetings before they would close, and in a year we were only able to sell 2 out of the 20 or so that we tried to sell. Agile retainers typically close in 1-2 meetings. If it takes two, then the second is generally just done to sign the contract because they didn t sign in the first meeting. We literally haven t had anyone not sign on once we ve met with them. So our close rate is currently 100%.

19 A WORD OF CAUTION IT SOUNDS FABULOUS BUT THE SWITCH TOOK A LOT OF HARD WORK It was not an easy switch. We literally reinvented our company to make it work. We switched to Scrum and Agile methodology for managing our team and projects. Which was an investment in software and time spent setting it up and training our team on how to use it. It was an uphill battle, but now everyone loves it so much that if I get too busy and don t do a sprint planning session one week, my whole team fusses at me. We had to invest time and money into Cyfe to streamline our reporting process to our clients. Without it, reporting alone for 10 clients took a whole day each week. The transparency is crucial to this working though, so it was a necessary investment. In short we have to GDD ourselves and constantly make ourselves more efficient.

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