Episode 8

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Douglas Burdett is a B2B marketing agency principle. He is a former artillery officer, and his agency, Artillery, helps agencies get found online, convert website traffic into leads, and nurture leads towards a sale. Douglas authors two marketing blogs, Forward Observer and Fire Support, and he hosts The Marketing Book Podcast.



What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The importance of niche for creating a market
  • How to run a niche blog that acts as lure for your other services
  • Why buying email addresses is a bad idea
  • Why absolute patience is key whenever you are creating content
  • The Marketing Book Podcast
  • How Douglas automates the promotion of his evergreen content
  • Why Douglas only conducts one podcast interview per week
  • Great productivity software Douglas and his team use
  • Tips and resources for getting your own podcast started


The Golden Nugget:

“Blogging takes longer than you think and then suddenly it pays off.” – @ArtilleryMarket Click To Tweet

Click to tweet: Douglas Burdett shares the inside knowledge needed to run an agency on Build a Better Agency!


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Ways to contact Douglas Burdett:

Douglas Burdett’s Blogs and Podcast:

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 (00:00):

Hey, everybody Drew McLellan here. Before we jump into the episode you are about to listen to, I wanted to make sure that you knew that we are doing open mic webinars and they are available to anyone in the world, just head over to the Agency Management Institute.com/ask Drew, and you will see the dates and times for this month and next month. And we’ll talk about anything you want to talk about – agency operations, COVID, whatever it is that is on your mind. I’m happy to answer your questions and everyone else on the call shares as well as asks questions. So it’s really a round-robin of learning for everybody. All right. I’d love to have you there. All you have to do is register. You can attend live, or just get the replay after we record it. Okay. Now here’s that music that you know and love.

Speaker 2 (00:51):

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build A Better Agency podcast presented by HubSpot. We’ll 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 experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Speaker 1 (01:24):

Hey everybody. Drew McLellan her and welcome to another episode of Build A Better Agency.  Today’s topics are going to be about carving out a niche for your agency, about how podcasts can help grow your business, and what it’s like to be an ad agency owner in 2015. Pretty excited about my guest today. Douglas Burdette is a B to B marketing agency principal. He is a former artillery officer. So we’re going to be very careful about what we say to him and a Madison Avenue ad man. His agency, Artillery helps B to B companies get found online, convert website, traffic, data leads, and nurture those leads towards a sale. Douglas authors two marketing blogs and hosts a podcast. His blogs are the Forward Observer, which is sort of basic training for B to B marketers, and Fire Support, which is specifically aimed at defense contractors. And we’re going to dig into that in a little bit. And he also is the host of The Marketing Book podcast, which I highly recommend. Douglas, welcome to the podcast

Speaker 3:

Drew, good to be here.

Speaker 1: First, anything about you that I didn’t share with the gang that you think they need to know about you?

Speaker 3 (02:24):

In lieu of a midlife crisis, I started performing standup comedy.

Speaker 1:

And now do you wish you had the little red convertible or the blonde?

Speaker 3:

Well, I have the blonde and she’s been married to me for 24 years, which, when you’re married to me, it actually seems longer than that. So yeah, it was good. I did that and the other thing I’d always wanted to do was go bear hunting and I did that. So it’s, kind of crosses off the list, you know, how it’s important to have goals.

Speaker 1:

So you’re checking off the bucket list. I like it.

Speaker 3:

That was about it though, those two things.

Speaker 1 (02:57):

So I have to think that in comparison to stand-up comedy, running an agency is a piece of cake.

Speaker 3 (03:02):

Yeah, it’s maybe a little less frightening. I don’t know. I just did it for a while, you know, maybe six months, or a little bit longer, I think, but it was just something that had to be done, like climbing a mountain. I think it’s terrifying for some people, but it was just something I always wanted to do.

Speaker 1 (03:24):

I guess, both of them, there’s sort of a connection between them. You’re sort of hanging out there to dry all on your own and either fake it or make it right?

Speaker 3 (03:33):

And you deal with rejection but I guess it is good training for presenting and it’s also good training for marketing, I think because you really have to think about the people you’re performing for. You have to make an impact quickly and get them to sort of understand the character in the play that you are acting in. So, it was fun and I had gained a great appreciation for what successful standup comedians do as well as the writing.

Speaker 1 (04:07):

Yeah. That’s probably the part people forget about is the prep that it takes to stand up on the stage. Probably like sometimes our clients take for granted that we actually have to do some work before we can come to them with good counsel. So let’s talk a little bit about your agency and we’ll kind of weave the podcast stuff in as well. So, as I understand it, correct me if I’m wrong, but you were more of a generalist B2B agency at some point in your evolution, is that correct?

Speaker 3 (04:36):

Actually, it was very much B2C. So I worked on Madison Avenue for 10 years and in New York and it was, Toys R Us, Listerine, a lot of that kind of thing, very little B2B. Then I moved to Virginia, worked in an agency for four years, again, more of that, and then started my own shop. It was pretty much really traditional advertising. Going after any business, preferably local ones, in Virginia that had big ad budgets. And then we could bolt on anything else that was needed, PR, websites, things like that. And, this is the part that gets into the evolution where, I don’t know, 2005 or actually in 2008, there was the recession started and things were still charging long for me.

Speaker 3 (05:27):

And I remember thinking, boy, there’s a lot of bombs going off, but none of ’em seem to be hitting me. And then time kinda caught up. And it was this thing of I’m noticing that media commissions were shrinking or going away, clients here or there were maybe wanting to hire somebody that’s specialized just in their vertical. They started needing a lot more help with websites, which meant that I had to keep bringing a website guide to all the meetings. And I was just starting to feel marginalized and they were starting to ask about social media and I was feeling more and more like a dinosaur. And I then read a famous article in Fast Company. I was actually five years ago now, called, I think, The Future of Advertising, big article. And in the article, they talked about how the advertising industry is changing, particularly agencies.

Speaker 3 (06:27):

I had been getting sort of a feeling along the way. And I remember looking back now, I remember thinking, Oh, man, this really is changing permanently. And I like to say it was probably like a travel agent might’ve been 20 years ago saying, what’s going on here? Why did the airlines stop giving us commissions? What happened here? That was one of those signposts for me along the way. I was very sad, depressed because I remember thinking this is a business I really loved. I enjoyed it and I didn’t know what to do, too young to retire. Along the way, I discovered our mutual friend, Michael Gass, who is an ad agency, new business consultant, and his website is fuelingnewbusiness.com.

Speaker 3 (07:29):

And if you Google ad agency new business, you’re going to find him on the first page because he’s written about 800 articles about that topic. And as things were going badly, I started reading his blog more and more about how the days of chasing clients and prospecting, those days were starting to sunset. The clients were finding the agencies. And this is all, it’s not specific to just us in the advertising world, although we like to think we’re so unique. The way people and companies were buying was beginning to change. They could go and find the information they wanted. Tom Martin, who owns an agency in New Orleans, has a book called The Invisible Sale, which is a great book. And, I’ve interviewed him recently for the podcast and he talks about that.

Speaker 3 (08:24):

So the more I read Michael’s blog and Michael talks about clients or agencies using inbound marketing and content marketing and doing everything they can to get discovered and building a niche blog away from your existing site, that sort of like throwing a fishing line out in the water. And he talked about how I think Barkley and the agency in Kansas City, Jeff Brahms shop, I think they might’ve had like four of these blogs where they target very specific things. Obviously one of them is millennial marketing and he showed me a client of his in Oklahoma, an agency where they had a casino account and as well as a variety of other local accounts and they wanted more casino accounts. So they built a blog, all about casino marketing. Got a lot of traffic. People are getting real, hiring them for the workshop that type of thing. And what was interesting to me is basically when people would call them, they would say, what’s your calendar look like? Cause they already knew them. They already liked them. They already knew what their offering was. What would it cost?

Speaker 1 (09:32):

They’d already established the expertise. So they didn’t have to do that dog and pony show.

Speaker 3 (09:36):

Yeah. So that was an example of, well, that’s still is an example of things that, Michael talks about and many others. So I finally contacted him and said, what’s your calendar look like? I already know who you are. I know all about you. I want to do that thing you do.

Speaker 1:

Hey, he had done to you what you wanted to do.

Speaker 3:

So we met and as he traditionally did, I guess he may still do something like this, where he spends a day with the agency and he spends the first half sort of, dinosaur training. Explaining probably like Copernicus did 500 years ago that the earth rotates around the sun instead of the sun around the earth and explains it’s an opportunity for him to help the agency people pull their head up out of the sand, take a breath, and say, look, this is what’s going on.

Speaker 3 (10:28):

Like any good consultant would do. And then the second half of the day, he works with you to help you identify a niche, a blog that you could focus on. Basically, he’s, it’s sort of like, you know what fishing lure do you want to throw into the lake. So he’s ingenious about this. I should add is that it’s not like you’re having to change your agency name. It’s not like you have to change your website. You don’t have to get your creative people or your people involved. You set up a WordPress blog and it’s basically about the content.

Speaker 1 (11:05):

Yeah. So let me pause you in the story here for a second. Cause I know a lot of listeners understand that they need to niche, but they’re afraid to niche. How were you feeling about the whole idea of specialization and in essence saying that’s money I’ll take and that’s money that I won’t take. Cause I think that’s a big fear for a lot of agency owners.

Speaker 3 (11:27):

And with good reason. I was very excited to get through the day because I went into it not knowing what my niche blog could be about. But the last thing I understood was the idea of having a blog separate from your website. At that point, I think maybe it was 2011 or something,  said, well, wait a minute, aren’t you supposed to have a blog on your website? And that’s where the traffic’s supposed to come. That shows you how much I knew at the time. And he said, no, no, no, no. You think of your agency website as your fishing boat and the lure you’re throwing off the boat to the fish is this niche blog. It’s just full of great content and a little bit about you in case they want to get in touch or maybe hire you for a workshop. So I think it is terrifying, but this is kinda like having training wheels.

Speaker 1 (12:21):

Yeah. It feels a little safer with you not having to change the whole identity of your, your website and your agency, but it’s a separate standalone entity. And so Michael’s advice, if it doesn’t work, then you just scuttle it and try something different. So how did you, you said at the beginning of the day you had no idea where, or how you would specialize. And so how did you decide that defense contractors were where you needed to throw your bait out into that pond?

Speaker 3 (12:52):

Well, he starts by saying, what have you worked on and what would you like to specialize in? And that is probably where most of the answers come from when he’s dealing with an agency. So, let’s say I was talking to an agency recently that was thinking about hiring him and they wanted to chat with me and I was happy to talk to them. And they were just as an example, they said, well, we’ve got a lot of experience in recruitment advertising, recruitment marketing. And so I said, well, I kind of painted the picture of what this niche blog could look like. And they were like, Oh, of course. Or when he sat down with Park Howell, years ago and said, what should we do this niche blog about Michael? And he said, five minutes in, he already knew the answer. He said, you guys, you’re all about green, environmental, sustainability practices.

Speaker 1 (13:52):

Right, right, right.

Speaker 3 (13:54):

Sort of like you’re in the forest, but you don’t see the trees. So, what he said to me, you know, he says, what do you wanna specialize in? I said, well, I don’t know. You know, I’ve worked on everything from Listerine to, Toys R us and Panasonic and the local community bank and all that. And I just remember saying, not that this is relevant to your listeners, but if I have to work on one more personal injury law firm account, I will blow my brains out.

Speaker 1 (14:21):

Right, right. Right. Well, and everybody probably has that. Right. It’s just like, sometimes we do stuff for money that we’re not that excited about.

Speaker 3 (14:30):

Yes. Yes. So I guess my, my answer was, I’m not too passionate about all the stuff I’ve done in the past, but I was in the military for three years and I live in Virginia, which has, I think, more defense contractors than any other state. I wouldn’t be surprised, even ahead of California. And a lot of my friends who were in the defense industry were always asking me marketing questions. And basically, they were simple, straightforward marketing questions, but, you know, defense contractors, just like ad agencies think, oh, our industry is very unique. And so I said, but you know, I’m really kind of fascinated by that.

Speaker 3 (15:23):

I’m interested in that. And frankly, we got to talk and, and we looked on our laptops and nobody was specializing in it. We must have looked for 15, 30 minutes trying to find something. There was nothing out there. And, he said, well Douglas, look, you were in the service, you have a company called Artillery, which you may have forgotten, and you’re in Virginia. Your dad was an army general. You’re from this army family going back to the revolution. You obviously have the secret handshake with these people. Why don’t you try it? And if, if you don’t get any business from it, he said, I can remember, he said, even if you don’t get any business from it, you will have gone through this journey of teaching yourself about a very big part of modern marketing and what agencies are doing – social media, blogging, content, media analytics, all that type of thing.

Speaker 3 (16:20):

And so I said, all right, I’ll do that. And then it was funny, he said, if you can buy a URL for your blog, that might include some keywords, that doesn’t hurt. And so we talked for a minute and said, well, it’s probably like defense contractor marketing. So I went on GoDaddy and it was available. And he said, Douglas, at that point he had worked with 88 agencies. No agency had been able to buy their keywords as a URL, which didn’t mean I was smart. It just meant that it was there for the taking. Yep. So, I started writing these posts, doing a lot of research. Full admission here, I’d never worked for a defense contractor. I’d never had a defense contractor client, but I was very interested in it. And I would inspire myself occasionally. And knowing that, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but U2, when they started their band, they didn’t actually know how to play instruments. So I said, well, okay, if it worked for them …

Speaker 1 (17:27):

But you had, you know, decades of experience in marketing. And again, as, as you have said, and other guests have said, everyone thinks that their industry is so unique, but the truth is that you can learn an industry. The marketing part is, is the tough part. And you already had that.

Speaker 3 (17:42):

And I think you and your listeners are gonna understand, you’ve got a client, you learn their business pretty quickly. So this wasn’t that much of a stretch. I could find papers from McKinsey or Booz Allen and they would be talking about trends in the defense industry. Or I could find some research study or something that was relevant to them. And then say, here’s what’s going on now. Here’s how they could address some of these things.

Speaker 1 (18:17):

Yeah. Here’s the marketing spin on this.

Speaker 3 (18:20):

Exactly. Just like Michael Gass does and any other kind of bloggers. I think he calls that a curated post.

Speaker 1 (18:27):

Well, you’re grabbing content from something else and then commenting on it.

Speaker 3 (18:31):

As you said, that the best post he’s ever done out of all 800 plus was a,

Speaker 1 (18:36):

his Steve Jobs post, I think.

Speaker 3 (18:38):

Yeah. Like how Steve Jobs presented and as it relates to ad agency new business.

Speaker 1 (18:48):

Yeah. And I think all of that was based on a book review that he read. Because it’s actually, there’s a book and I can’t remember the author now. We’ll find it and stick it in the show notes, but it’s a good book about how Steve Jobs presented and how other folks can sort of adopt his methodology. And the author breaks it down very nicely. And what Michael did was he just took basically what the author did and put an agency spin on it. So you’re right, it is a curated post. Okay. So you launched the blog, you are curating posts. You are starting to talk to defense contractors. What happens next? Cause I know in the fairytale, people come rushing to you with money hanging out of their pockets and you just can’t do all the work that is coming your way. What really happened?

Speaker 3 (19:34):

Yeah. I was going to have to say, get the needle out of your arm there Drew. Well after like five posts, it was on the first page of Google for these keywords. But again, it was just because it was a barren wasteland out there. So I just kept, well, first, you get about 30 posts written, a