Episode 54

podcast photo thumbnail
1x
-15
+60

00:00

00:00

Andrew Dymski is a co-founder of DoInbound, a process and project management platform for inbound marketing agencies and GuavaBox, an inbound marketing agency. He is a lacrosse coach on the side and loves doing almost anything outside. He is also the co-host of Inbound Agency Journey, a weekly podcast for agency pros.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • How Andrew and his business partner Gray MacKenzie started their agency while they were still in college and the transformation that GuavaBox has overwent since then
  • How Michael Gerber’s “The E Myth” transformed how Andrew’s agency was ran
  • Using blogging as a method for separating yourself
  • Why clients will leave if communication is poor — even when you’re doing great work
  • DoInbound: a tool for creating templates that power the delivery of services just for inbound marketing agencies
  • How creating DoInbound has helped the way Andrew works with his clients
  • Why you need to figure out your vision and share that with your core team
  • Listing and pruning your agency’s list of deliverables
  • How to create processes with your employees and get them to actually follow the processes created
  • How many processes are too many processes?
  • Why you need multiple iterations of processes
  • What meetings about processes with your employees should look like
  • What you can do right now to put some of the ideas from this episode in place without freaking out your team

 

The Golden Nugget:

“If the top doesn’t follow a top-down decision, why should the bottom?” – @AndrewJDymski Click To Tweet

 

Subscribe to Build A Better Agency!

Itunes Logo          Stitcher button

Ways to Contact Andrew Dymski:

We’re proud to announce that Hubspot is now the presenting sponsor of the Build A Better Agency podcast! Many thanks to them for their support!

Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Build a Better Agency, where we show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees, and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of expertise as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here. Welcome to another episode of Build a Better Agency, glad to have you back if you are a regular listener, and also glad to have you here for the first time. I think this is a great podcast to get started on.

So let me tell you a little bit about our guest. We’re going to talk today about systems, processes, inbound. Lots of great information that you’re going to be able to take back to your shop and implement. So my guest today is Andrew Dymski, and Andrew is the cofounder of GuavaBox, which is an agency. And there, he serves as the VP of inbound. So he runs point on the marketing and sales initiatives that they have. And they really help their clients obviously reach new customers through content and inbound marketing, which I know a lot of you are wrapping your arms around, or have been knee deep in for a while. But he and his business partner also created DoInbound, which is aimed at agencies, and it is a mix of an… Andrew, correct me if I’m wrong. But it’s a mix of an inbound project management platform, some best practices and teachings around all things inbound, and in some cases if you want it, actual coaching on how to create, launch, and maintain an inbound strategy inside your shop. Did I get it right?

Andrew Dymski:

You got it, Drew. You got it.

Drew McLellan:

All right. So when he’s not running those two businesses, Andrew is a lacrosse coach on the side and likes hanging out outside. He is also a goalie when he plays. Oh, and you coach goalies?

Andrew Dymski:

Both.

Drew McLellan:

Okay, you are a goalie and goalie coach. Right. And this is a little quirk about Andrew, he actually gets whooped up about and excited about buyer personas. So you are clearly an agency geek. Welcome to the podcast.

Andrew Dymski:

Drew, thank you so much for that introduction. I don’t know if we’ve ever covered that variety of topics in an intro, but I’m fired up to be here. Thanks for the opportunity.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, I’m glad to have you here. I think you’re going to have a lot to share that people are going to be sort of scrambling to take notes on. So let’s start with the agency, because as I understand it, the agency came first, and out of the agency came DoInbound, because you had a need that you couldn’t, you had sort of an itch you couldn’t scratch right?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, definitely. My business partner Gray MacKenzie and I, we started our agency GuavaBox back while we were both seniors out of Grove City College, which if you haven’t heard that name before, it is a little school out in western Pennsylvania. But we met up there, found out… like we were friends the whole time through, knew we wanted to go into business together but had no idea what that business would look like. And then going into our senior year, we took the school’s very first version of internet content marketing. We went through Get Content. Or Have Customers, Get Content? It’s Joe Pulizzi’s book.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Andrew Dymski:

It was awesome.

Drew McLellan:

All his books are awesome, yep.

Andrew Dymski:

Oh, yeah. The adjunct professor that led that class, his name was Tim [Sweed 00:03:22]. He was a thought leader at that space in that time. And I mean, he was giving us assignments of reading the HubSpot blog for our freaking college class, so we were loving it. We soaked it up. And when we were getting ready to graduate, we said oh, we don’t want to leave without moving something forward. So we laid the groundwork for GuavaBox, started off as a website design agency, did some basic social media strategy, but we basically started right away. Gray, when we graduated he started full-time. I went to work for a PR agency for about a year after graduating, and then came onto GuavaBox full-time. But we really just hit the ground running, kind of learning as we go.

Went through a lot of bumps and bruises along the way, found out that selling projects and projects only was a really, really hard way to make a living, especially for two young families. So that’s when we found HubSpot, became a value added reseller in their program. And they just offer a ton of training and coaching to help businesses, or agencies become businesses essentially. So we just kind of soaked up a lot of information from them, and became kind of a more retainer model agency in the inbound space, because we always loved the idea of content, right? The idea of, if you just focus on solving people’s problems, they’ll come to you when they’re ready to do business. That kind of fits the world that Gray and I grew up in, and it just seems to make a lot of business sense.

And we were able to validate that pretty early on in the market, that there were businesses out there that could fall in line with this idea. And even though that we were young guys, kind of trusted us, because young guys get tech. And so we led with that. And then as we grew and we learned, we became more and more astute at our inbound skills, and really focused in on the need for buyer personas and having a personalized driven marketing campaign. So that kind of characterized the nature of GuavaBox. We help B2B companies really implement inbound marketing strategies, build inbound focused websites. And we’ve been able to work with folks in all kinds of industries, so that’s been a cool five years so far.

Drew McLellan:

And today, what does your agency look like?

Andrew Dymski:

Today, it is scaled down a good bit from what it was. GuavaBox is still there. We focus on really just, really, really good fit clients right now. Specifically folks who are on HubSpot’s COS platform. If you’re not familiar with that, HubSpot is, they’re a marketing automation tool, but they also have a very, very well built and getting better every day website builder, called, it was called the COS. I’m not even sure if they’re branding it like that anymore, but building websites on HubSpot’s platform is our focus. Our niche now is kind of helping folks who are on HubSpot do HubSpot better.

Drew McLellan:

Got it. Okay. And so at what point in the evolution of your agency did DoInbound come to be, and how and why?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. It came about two and a half years into the journey, and really came out of a pain, kind of multi-faced. Like I said, we were in college, came right out into starting the business, and really didn’t have any idea how to structure the operational side of things, how to really understand all of the systems that need to be put in place in order to get a business up and running. I mean, one of the things that kind of characterized our journey as entrepreneurs is constantly learning, constantly soaking up as much information as we could. So one of the first business books I read out of college was The E-Myth by Michael Gerber.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely.

Andrew Dymski:

Love that book. It is so simple, yet so insightful.

Drew McLellan:

And so hard to do.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen. The little pie shop, it’s such a cute example, but-

Drew McLellan:

Well, and when you’re reading it you’re like, “Yes. This is what I’m going to do. I need to stop baking the pies.” And then you go back to your office and your agency and you look and you go, “I have no idea how to stop baking the pies.”

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly. And if I see someone else baking a pie I’m like, “I wouldn’t do it like that. I’d roll out the dough a little bit thinner.”

Drew McLellan:

Right, right, right, right. Yeah, they’re not primping the crust the same way I would.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly. Exactly. So how did DoInbound come about was really out of our pain. We had no idea what we were going to do. We were so focused on selling new accounts, because we had no… when you come to inbound, a lot of agencies that do it, they’ve got some sort of history. They’ve got a client, a current book of business, or they’ve got past customers that they can go back to. But two guys just coming out of school, we really had no book of business to go back to, so we first needed to become our best case study. And that’s really where we kind of sharpened our stick in terms of becoming really good inbound marketers, was just blogging like crazy on the GuavaBox blog.

And so when we were, there were three of us. It was Brandon Jones, Gray MacKenzie, and myself, getting GuavaBox up and running, and we would have blogging batch days. Once a week, we would spend five hours just blogging for GuavaBox, and scheduling out those posts. We’d have one post going out per day. And that really separated us, that really got us up in the Google rankings around folks who were looking for inbound marketing. We were really, we wanted to be those niche experts, those folks who could help clients who already knew they needed help with inbound. We didn’t have a specific vertical focus, we couldn’t just speak to industrial manufacturers or just speak to insurance companies. We wanted to speak to the folks who wanted inbound. So that was a big part of our focus, was just marketing and selling.

And then once we actually sold clients and we had them on there, they were excited about inbound. But as I’m sure, if you’re listening to this, you’ve been in a similar situation before. You get them on, they’re all excited, and then things kind of start to peter out. The client kind of loses a little bit of their enthusiasm, communication begins to fall off. And for us, this went on until that point of renewal nine months in, we’re on 12 month contracts, trying to get that client to renew for the next contract was a pain. And we were really confused, because we were delivering results. We were delivering leads, and their search engine rankings were improving. But for some reason, our first couple accounts were not renewing.

And we found out that it was because they didn’t know what was going on. Our communication was all off. We had no process for managing client communication, and we had no process for really organizing all the different types of activities that went into an inbound strategy, putting those in a simple, repeatable format. We were kind of just flying by the seat of our pants, to be honest. We weren’t operating off of a tight scope, we were just out there creating stuff that we knew that they should be doing, but there’s no structure or order to it all.

Drew McLellan:

And so you went looking for something that would help you do that?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, and through this whole experience, and if you’re an agency owner, let’s be honest for a second. How many project management software trials have you started in your life? I think I’m at 50.

Drew McLellan:

Right, right. Absolutely.

Andrew Dymski:

I was looking for that pixie dust in a platform, and just couldn’t find it at all. I mean, we tried so many different things out. And now looking back I can see I was looking for an operating system for my agency, and what I was buying was just a blank whiteboard. We need a system on a whiteboard so that we know what to follow as agencies. And it was a painful period, to be honest with you. It was very frustrating to lose revenue and to disappoint those clients, because I take that personally. If a client leaves and they’re not happy with me, that’s a personal touch for me. I want to make those people happy, I want to make those businesses succeed. And if they leave with a bad taste in their mouth, that’s not a good place to be.

So we wanted to fix that problem. We knew that another software tool wouldn’t do it, so we decided to build DoInbound, which would be focused just for inbound marketing agencies like GuavaBox. We were going to try to scratch our own itch there, and we were going to focus simply on the templates that powered the delivery of services, and how can we create documented processes for each step of a client journey and put it into a simple, easy to use platform, so that folks not only get a software that has all the bells and whistles they need, but it’s got the templates in there that kind of outlines the ideal workflow, and gives them the ability to customize them. That’s what set us on the journey. We started out just by talking to other agencies to validate, “Hey, are you guys feeling the same pain I am?” And that was a great way for us to start. And it’s been over two years now, a lot of iterations, a lot of changes, a lot of pivots, but it’s been a cool journey so far and we’ve learned a ton along the way.

Drew McLellan:

And along the way, I’m assuming you were sort of your own guinea pig, right? You kept tweaking and testing. So how has DoInbound changed the way you worked with clients, and what has that done to your retention?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, it has helped it in a huge way, just by focusing on first taking a step back and looking at our agency, and trying to decide okay, what’s the typical flow of a client through our journey? What are the different steps in the process? Because if I’m on a podcast every week and I’m preaching that you should be documenting your processes as an agency, and I’m not doing it myself, that’s pretty hypocritical. So just kind of building the platform and coaching people through the platform has helped us just kind of go over exaggerated in terms of what we document, and how we power the agency. And so creating documents and processes for easily onboarding new clients, for running them through a website project in a very efficient way, kind of defining each step of that journey, putting those assets in place.

Like we have, we call it a marketing inventory form, and it’s just a static form on our website that every new client we bring on, we send them that form and they fill out all of their contact information, we get all of their social media links, they upload all of the kind of the content offers that they have already, whether they’re sales brochures or they’re trade show presentations, whatever it might be. But it’s systematized. I’ve got a standard process now for gathering information from a client when they come on.

It’s also helped us really implement a solid kind of discovery meeting process, and having several structured meetings at the beginning of a client’s journey, to get in with the organization, get to know not only the contact in the marketing department, but the contact in the sales department, the service department, engineering, the CEO, the CFO. Getting all those people in the room and building a persona centered strategy, and showing each of them in the room, how does inbound relate to you? How is this going to make your job better instead of just talking to that marketer? Because that’s one big lesson that we learned along the way, and that we heard from other users of DoInbound, is how do I get out, get into the other stakeholders and show them that this is valuable for them? So helping us implement that process, first at GuavaBox, testing it out there, and then sharing that with DoInbound and that community has really helped us along the way.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s step away from your platform now, because I’m sure there are some best practices. You and I were talking before we hit the record button about, everybody is looking for, as you said, the platform with pixie dust. Everybody is looking for the magic nirvana, where if we have this platform, everything will be on time, on budget, on scope, and we’ll all know what’s going on. And the reality is, it’s very often a garbage in, garbage out sort of a thing. So what are some things, as you were putting together your specific tool, what are some more generic best practices or observations, as you think about agencies who want to systemize or create more process? What are some things that get in the way of them doing that well?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah, the software’s the easy thing. It’s easy to sign up for a free software and see the tools in there. The hard work is to take a step back and say, what are we trying to build? What’s the five year vision for our agency? What’s the three year vision for our agency? What’s the one year vision for our agency? And the owner needs to come to terms with that first. But then he needs to be able to meet with the core team and get them to share that vision, or understand what is the vision that we share together? Because if your core team’s vision does not align with your vision, then there’s conflict. So we need to kind of bring some harmony to that equation before we even think about software. We need to know where we’re going to go.

Then the next step that I see is, we need to figure out what do we want to be known for as an agency? What are the key deliverables that we want to create to help our clients reach their goals? And just start, get that core team around the table and a whiteboard and a marker, and just write down all the deliverables that the agency’s created in the past six months. Get them up there on that board, and then filter through it and say okay, which of these should we not be doing? Because we’ve found at GuavaBox, there were things that we were doing that we should not be doing. Video is a beautiful thing out there, it’s a phenomenal way to market. We are not a video production agency, why should we be doing video? Leave that to someone who does it well. So kind of listing and pruning the number of deliverables that you offer as an agency.

And that sounds like an easy task, but that’s a multiple hour meeting right there, just to kind of have those conversations and figure out what is that basic list of deliverables that we’re going to create as an agency? What do we want to be known for? Because the more focus we get, the more profitable we get, whether it’s focused within a niche or it’s focused within the types of services. The more niche you are, the more profitable you can be.

Drew McLellan:

And again, that doesn’t mean that you can’t help your clients do great video, it just means you don’t do it in house.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

It may mean that you have a great strategic partner. I think for some agencies, that’s a short term versus long-term sort of decision, where it’s hard to say, I’m not going to keep that revenue. I don’t want that money that’s on the table for the video. Instead, I’m going to give most of it to a strategic partner, and maybe I’m going to take a little cut or maybe I’m not, but it’s certainly not going to feed my family. But the reality is that if you can’t do something really well and sustain both a level of excellence and a consistency in staff… so I think one of the challenges for small agencies is, let’s say they want to do video. But the truth is, that means they have a video guy, or woman. And every time they lose their video guy who has all of the client knowledge, all of the subject matter knowledge, they basically all of a sudden don’t have a video department, so they have to reinvent.

I’m seeing this a lot for agencies who are doing web dev, or they are doing… it could be inbound or it could be something else. But the truth is they’re not deep enough in it, because it’s sort of a sideline part of what they offer, that they don’t really have… they can’t scale, because they have a person or two people, and that puts them at great risk.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. I think it comes from that, the natural inclination to be a digital yes man, or to be an agency yes man and say yes, we’ll do it, and okay, I’ll figure out how to do it once I’m off this call.

Drew McLellan:

And oftentimes we’re reluctant to come to the answer of, the way I can do this best for the client is for us not to do it, and for me to help them find somebody who’s great at it.

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. And we had Marcus Sheridan on our podcast a few months ago, and one thing that Marcus and the team at The Sales Lion do really well is he just, he sets on his website what is the type of agency they are, and are you a good fit or not, and being very open and honest about that through the sales process. You don’t need to be a great fit for everybody, because if you are, you’re going to be running a madhouse in house to try to deliver on all those promises, and your clients aren’t going to be happy, because they’re not going to get what they thought they were going to get. So really, creating that list of deliverables before you even think about software. What do we want to be known for? Creating that full list, deciding on it, agreement on the core team.

That’s a huge step, and the next step after that is figure out within each of those deliverables, what are the tasks that happen every time that deliverable is created? Regardless of the client, what are the key five, six, seven, 10 tasks that have to happen? And you can do all this on a whiteboard, on a spreadsheet. You do not need a specific software tool to do this. But having those conversations, bringing in the people that are doing the work, and just getting everyone on the same page. Because you could be delivering blog posts for five different clients with two different team members, and each of them are following a completely different process.

Drew McLellan:

Right. And also recognizing that no matter how diligent you are, you’re probably going to miss a step or two until you test the process.

Andrew Dymski:

Amen.

Drew McLellan:

And then you go, “Oh, I forgot about proofreading,” or whatever it is right?

Andrew Dymski:

Yeah. Yeah, you want to be constantly improving on this thing. It’s not something where you need to turn the agency off for a month and say, “Okay, we’ve got to retool, and then we’re going to roll out, and we’re going to be the latest Corvette.” This is an overtime kind of thing, constant improvement is a big mindset to have. And that’s where meeting regularly with your core team on the operational side of things, and reviewing those templates that power your agency is a really, really important process to add kind of to your workflow. And in the client servicing space, it’s always easy to say there’s too much client work. You have to put it a firm date on the calendar, when you’re going to step back, pop the hood, and look at the agency and the way it’s running.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and I want to push on something you just said. So I think one of the places where agencies get paralyzed when they are trying to create process is, they try and create a single process for all situations, including the weird exceptions. How did you avoid that?

Andrew Dymski:

I like to follow the 80/20 rule whenever I possibly can. So if it’s a template, I want that template to kind of cover 80% of the use cases, and get the 20% customized. At the same time, that means I’m not going to template out everything that we do as an agency. There’s going to be those wacko things that come in. And we still want to solve them to make the client happy, because that’s how we continue to learn as well. As long as we find that that whatever it is that we’re doing falls within the scope of the service that we’re offering, it’s okay to do something that you haven’t processed out before. Just once you do it, come back to it and say, okay, what was the process for that? Document that, kind of extract it out of your mind, and continue to build that log of templates over time.

And that way if you come across it again, you at least have that template as a point of reference, whether it’s a Google doc or it’s a saved project in Basecamp, whatever it is. You have some sort of a framework to go back to, so that you’re not… you’re becoming more profitable there, because you’ll spend less time researching, less time going out and testing different things, and you at least have kind of a pivot point to work off of, to crack that new challenge that that client project’s presenting. Does that answer the question?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Well, and I think it’s much easier to modify a process 10 or 15 or 20% of the time than it is to reinvent the wheel every time.

Andrew Dymski:

Exactly, yep.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Okay, so let’s s