Episode 107

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Luke Summerfield wakes up each morning excited to discover, experience, and share moments of inspirations. He does this at HubSpot, advising startups, writing, and speaking.

He founded the Growth-Driven Design movement which is transforming the world of web design. In the first twelve months, they grew from 0 -> 940 agencies in 50 countries offering GDD services to clients. Previous to HubSpot, Luke helped grow a digital marketing agency until it was acquired in 2014.

Outside of work, he trains Mixed Martial Arts / Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and rough houses with his pug puppy, Mac.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Growth-driven design: what this “smarter way to do web design” is all about
  • Why the platform you use for your website doesn’t matter with growth-driven design
  • How growth-driven design was born out of the pain both agencies and clients felt around web development and why this system is so much better than previous ways of doing web dev
  • Step 1: getting an empathetic understanding of your client’s audience’s world
  • Step 2: building a “launch pad” website — something that looks and performs better than what the client already has but is not the final product
  • Step 3: continually improving websites
  • How to sell and price growth-driven design to clients
  • Why you should always sell at least 15 hours a month of growth-driven design and why you need at least a six month engagement from a client
  • The stats that prove that growth-driven design gets more leads than traditional design
  • Why growth-driven design still works great when you outsource the coding piece of web design
  • All the assets Luke has on his website

The Golden Nugget:

“Good web dev starts with getting an empathetic understanding of your client’s audience’s world.” – @savvyluke Click To Tweet

 

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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 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+ years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thanks for coming back or thanks for joining us for the first time if this is your first episode. If this is your first episode, you picked a good one.

We are going to talk about a topic that many agency owners and leaders scratch their head around, and that’s the whole idea of actually making money with web dev. And so, today, my guest has quite a depth of expertise in this category, in this area. And so I’m going to pick his brain as best I can to get as much thought-provoking content and ideas and new ways for you to think about things as I can in the hour that we have.

So let me tell you a little bit about him. So, Luke Summerfield works at HubSpot. He’s been there a few years. He actually leads an internal startup at HubSpot called Growth-Driven Design. And that startup is focused on really transforming the way that web design and the web design industry builds and optimizes websites.

So they are built on the model that you would expect, very much like a lean startup and with a lot of experimentation. But they have grown to serving over 940 agencies in the first 12 months of service. And those agencies are in 50 countries that are now offering Growth-Driven Design to their clients.

Prior to joining HubSpot, Luke was with a digital marketing agency, and it was acquired in 2014. And so then he moved over to HubSpot. So, Luke, welcome to the podcast.

Luke Summerfield:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me.

Drew McLellan:

So let’s start right off because people are I’m sure going, “Okay. What is Growth-Driven Design?” So let’s start just right off the bat by defining that for folks.

Luke Summerfield:

Yeah. Growth-Driven Design is essentially a smarter approach to web design. I think a lot of it will get into the story of where it came from and the story will sound pretty similar to a lot of you that are listening today.

All of you are my people, my agency folks are my people, so I’m glad to be on here. So we’ll talk about the story. But essentially, what Growth-Driven Design is, is a smarter approach to web design that minimizes all of the risks, all of the headaches, all the frustrations, not only for your clients, but also for you as an agency owner.

It is a smarter approach to web design that continuously improves using data and experimentation to inform how to improve the site over time. And it’s a smarter approach to web design that informs other parts of the business.

So as you’re learning about your users, as you’re collecting that data and making decisions on how to improve the website, how does that impact what you’re doing on the sales side of things? When you’re helping their sales teams, how is that impacting what’s going on with the marketing? And vice versa.

As their product team, as their customer service team, as you’re learning on the marketing team, how do those other things that you’re learning help impact what you build on the website?

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And so is this tool-agnostic? Does it matter what I’m building the website in?

Luke Summerfield:

It is tool-agnostic. So it’s just a methodology and a process. And for many of you, it’s probably nothing… You’re probably doing bits and pieces of this. I invented nothing new. I just pulled a lot of different ideas from the startup world, how startups scale and grow, and where they focus.

I pulled a bunch of ideas from the conversion rate optimization and user experience world. And I pulled some ideas from what our internal product growth teams are doing. So what we’re doing to try and build our software, and what a lot of the product growth teams in Silicon Valley are doing.

And really pulled all those ideas together into something that allows you to be able to execute with your team, but is also in a very packaged way to easily educate and sell to prospects and easily execute on the services side.

Again, it’s tool-agnostic. It’s just a process, it’s just a methodology. And again, you may already be doing bits and pieces. Hopefully, something that you can easily jump into.

Drew McLellan:

So you were at HubSpot and you were doing a more mainstream job. How did you move into leading an internal company inside the company?

Luke Summerfield:

I would say I actually started in a non-traditional role because I actually didn’t have a role. Previous to HubSpot, as you mentioned, I was working for an agency. And happy to chat about that. That’s where the original idea of Growth-Driven Design came in.

And when I got hired by HubSpot, they essentially hired me without a position and just said, “We know you’ll find some way to provide value and help our agencies grow.” I said, “Okay, cool.” And that’s pretty cool, but that also is a little bit daunting not to have-

Drew McLellan:

A little bit of pressure. Right.

Luke Summerfield:

No defined guidelines or roles. It was just, “Figure it out.” And so they gave me two company-wide metrics that I was focused on trying to improve, and then that was about it. They said, “Go figure it out.”

And so I thought back to my agency days and the things that we struggled with as an agency, and some of the problems that we were trying to solve. And one of those problems, I tried maybe 10 different experiments, and the one experiment at HubSpot that I tried with agencies that really started building traction quickly was this idea of Growth-Driven Design.

Really, what it was, was trying to solve the things that many of you listening are probably experiencing, unprofitable web projects that are going over budget, getting delivered late.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Out of scope.

Luke Summerfield:

Out of scope, right? Scope creep never happens, right?

Drew McLellan:

No.

Luke Summerfield:

Everyone, every single project. To give you a little background on the agency when I worked there, we were a three-person dev shop. Specifically, when we started, it was Joomla 1.0. So for anyone in the Joomla world, you can remember back to Joomla 1.0 days.

And we grew. We became HubSpot partners in over about three and a half years. We were gold partners with them on the marketing side. But that was still only 25% of our revenue. 75% of our revenue was coming from web design. And so what ended up happening is we were growing 40% revenue year-over-year.

And Gabe, the owner, was really smart. And he said, basically, if we keep growing like this, the train’s going to come off the tracks.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right.

Luke Summerfield:

We’re going to really start to implode, growing from three to 15 in three years and just the revenue side of things as well. And so we took a step back. And what my role at that point was during that year is we said we only want to grow 10%.

We want to fire our worst clients, and we want to really be picky on who we bring on. And then we really want to focus on our processes and our operations to make sure that we can become profitable and really build this machine for scaling past 15.

And when we looked at that, one of the biggest problems we ran into was the 75%, which was our web design revenue. Inevitably, they always, again, went out of scope. The scope creep happened, went out of scope, which that time has to come from somewhere.

In some cases, we could go back to clients and say, “Look, this is a whole new feature, something we didn’t talk about. We’re happy to build it, but we have to expand the size of the engagement and do an addendum onto the contract.” But most of the time, it creeps up on you. It’s like a scope creep, they call it that for a reason.

You’ll have 20 minutes here, an hour extra there, 35 minutes here, just little things that, over the course of a six-month-long project, really add up to a good chunk of time. And inevitably, your agency usually eats that time. And that means that your profit margins tank, and you essentially…

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

We had projects that we worked on for four months and we looked back and we actually lost money. We paid to work for the last four months with our developers.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. That’s a painful thing is to realize you’re actually paying for the privilege of doing the work. Yep.

Luke Summerfield:

Well, believe it or not, we’re all businesses, as passionate as we are and as much as we love doing this stuff. And we probably would do it for free. We are businesses and we have teams that we have to pay.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Yeah, not a great plan. Yep.

Luke Summerfield:

And we all have goals that we’re trying to get to in terms of where we’re growing our businesses. That was a big blow. So really what we looked at is, the other thing with the web design clients, if they were not in a marketing engagement with us, we were essentially building the website and having a pretty tight-knit relationship with them over three to six months.

And then we would basically say, “All right, we’ll talk to you later.” And we really wouldn’t talk to them until they needed another website a year and a half to two years later. And we knew that we were not doing the best for getting our clients to their goals by just leaving them hanging. But also, we were leaving money on the table.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

And so when we looked at the inbound marketing side of our business, which was a retainer-based business model where you signed up for 12 months or six months and you had a specific amount each month, and we just continued working with you and growing over time, that type of not only business model, but the value that our clients were able to get from that model of continuously improving, continuously working, continuously bringing value, made a lot more sense.

Then we had this other business over on the other side of the web development that was bits and pieces. So, way back when, in recognizing this problem, we took that year of slow growth but really firming up the business. We looked at launching a service called Continuous Web Improvement. And it was not the sexiest name, but really, the idea was we’re going to launch a site and then we’re going to improve off of it after that.

And that was the seed that eventually was brought into with Growth-Driven Design. And so we ended up getting acquired shortly after that. And because of that, the idea fizzled out a bit. And when I came to HubSpot, tasked with how do I help our agencies grow? How do we help our different businesses grow? I thought back to the challenges that I ran into and what we were trying to solve for ourself.

And it really was a challenge that we’re all struggling with. It wasn’t just our agency.

Drew McLellan:

Yep. Right.

Luke Summerfield:

It’s an industry-wide problem. And on the flip side, your clients, whether they tell you or not, they hate doing website redesigns. It is a pain in the butt.

Drew McLellan:

Well, they want to do it once and then be done forever. Yeah.

Luke Summerfield:

And because the process is so painful for them.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Right.

Luke Summerfield:

And so all of that really seeded what has now evolved into Growth-Driven Design as it sits today, which as you mentioned, now, a year after launching it officially with our certification, we now have over a thousand agencies in 50 countries servicing their clients with Growth-Driven Design.

And the growth of that really just ties back to the pain that we’re all really feeling, and then the success stories that a lot of them are experiencing.

Drew McLellan:

So I know when I spend some time on growthdrivendesign.com that there are some phases or steps that are the cornerstones of this process. Walk us through those and help us understand how they’re different from what everybody else is doing as they piecemeal together websites.

Luke Summerfield:

Sure. The methodology has essentially three steps. On a high level, the first step is probably what you’re doing today, or a lot of you are doing today, which is the strategy step. And really what the goal of the strategy step is, is to get an empathetic understanding of the world of your client’s audience, right? So who are their personas or who are the people that they’re serving? And to get a view into their world.

And now, what that’s going to allow us to do, so that really leans into a lot of the UX and UX research side of things, so that you can gain that really deep understanding. We use things like the goal-setting of what kind of goal is the client trying to achieve and where does the website fit in? Where does the website act as a lever to try and achieve that goal?

And we also look outside of just generating leads. A lot of times as marketing agencies, that’s what they’re hiring us for.

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Luke Summerfield:

But in reality, they’re hiring us to grow their business. And in some cases, that may be you working on their website to help them with recruitment efforts. It may be trying for them to decrease support tickets, so you’re building a knowledge or a support section onto their website.

It could be building sales-enablement materials into the site. There’s a lot of different aspects the website touches on in the business other than just generating leads. So we really need to flush some of that out in the goal-setting.

Then we go into what we call the jobs-to-be-done framework. That’s a framework that’s being adopted by many of the product teams in Silicon Valley now. And that allows you to figure out what kind of job is the client’s audience hiring your client for. What kind of progress are they trying to make in their life?

And then how do we position and talk about some of the things that are involved in the jobs-to-be-done framework? And we could probably talk all day just about that.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

So we go through jobs-to-be-done, we go through persona development once we have that. Many of you are probably familiar with personas. Then we get into journey mapping and so on and so forth. We really want to get a detailed look at the person’s world.

Because what we want to do is we want to build a website that is woven into that story that person is on, that journey that person is on. Whereas traditionally, we build a site in its own bubble, and then we throw it at them, and hopefully, it sticks at certain points during that journey.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

Versus starting with the journey and then building around that. Now, all of that probably sounds pretty familiar to you, any of you that are doing a bit more UX and a bit more user experience research.

Now, where it gets a bit different is at the end of the strategy, the goal is to come out with what we call a wishlist. And a wishlist is 75 to 200 or more ideas of all of the most impactful, most important things that you can build to help provide value to that end audience, we call them the end-users.

And to, at the same time, allow the business to capture a bit of that value in the sense of lead generation, or if it’s an E-commerce store, a sale. Whatever that is.

Drew McLellan:

So give us some examples of what might show up on a wishlist.

Luke Summerfield:

Sure. It could be, from a very high level, sections that need to be on the site. It could go all the way down to very granular stuff like certain specific integrations that need to happen on the backend. It could be strategic partnerships with other websites.

There’s a very big range from small to high. And that list is going to come from the research that you do when you’re looking at your users and trying to basically problem-solve the problems they’re running into, and then turn that into things you can build on the site to solve those problems. It’s also going to depend on what they have on their existing site. Right?

Drew McLellan:

Sure.

Luke Summerfield:

So they’re going to have things that are on their existing site that are providing value, that are helpful, and you have to figure out how do we adapt and migrate or weave that into the new site.

And then, of course, the business itself probably has goals related to, again, recruiting or HR, or it could be the services team that’s trying to decrease support tickets. Whatever those goals are that are business needs.

And what you need to do as a team is you need to strategically organize that wishlist based off of the impact that those things have on the goals that you’re trying to achieve and the value or problems that the end-users are trying to solve.

Again, could be very high, could be, “We need this whole section,” could be very, very granular where it’s like, on the pricing page, we need to have a chat feature or we need to have some type of way to solve this common question that we always hear that our sales reps are always, always hearing. But we want to address that ahead of time before they talk to a sales rep on the pricing page.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. And so again, I’m guessing the listeners are going, “Yep. Yep. Yep.” In some fashion or form and often not the same way, more than once, we do that. Right? So what does phase two contain?

Luke Summerfield:

So phase two is essentially building what we call a launchpad website. And a launchpad website is a site that looks better than what they have today, it performs better than what they have today, but it’s not the final product. It is not perfect.

Drew McLellan:

When I was looking at the site, I love the sentence, “Quickly build a website.” And I thought, “Okay, how often does that happen?” Right?

Luke Summerfield:

Well, in traditional, it doesn’t because here’s the problem with traditional; the problem with traditional design is that the client feels like every single thing needs to be absolutely perfect. All the features they ever want, need to be in there. All the pages from other folks, all the content needs to be done a hundred percent perfect because once it launches, they’re not going to touch it again.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

That’s just their mentality with traditional. And so that’s been a little bit of an educational process that happens in the sales process that you have to get them to understand that, “Look, that’s not possible.

And there’s no such thing as perfect. And if we chase perfect, you’re going to run into all the frustration. You’re going to run into all the scope creep. You’re going to run into all these problems that you always hit because we’re trying to chase that perfect.”

Drew McLellan:

And even if you get perfect today, by tomorrow, some piece of it will be obsolete.

Luke Summerfield:

Exactly.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Luke Summerfield:

Exactly. And what we consider complete today, they’re always going to be changing, adding not only new things, but also, you can always optimize the existing things.

And so really, that’s what the launchpad website is all about. And there’s multiple ways you can go about building a launchpad website. I think the misconception that everyone jumps to right away is to just cut down all their content, build a small incomplete site.

And that might work for some clients. There may be a startup or there may be someone who already has a small site that they can start with something small. But, of course, you have enterprise-level clients that have large sites; you may not be able to go that route.

And so there’s a number of different routes and a number of different ways that you can… Essentially, the goal is to launch something that looks and performs better, and you launch it quicker than if you did traditional design.

And the reason being is that when we go about building a website, we try to collect as much data as we can, but really, we’re operating within a bubble. The things that we’re building are assumptions of what we think work well. And those assumptions are based off of industry best practices, maybe what worked well in the past, what design trends are. They’re still assumptions.

Just because it worked with one client, does not mean it’s going to work well for that client, even if they’re in the same industry. They could have different audiences.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

And so what we need to do is get out of that bubble and let the users start interacting with the site because once we have that data, once we have that behavioral data, that behavioral data will help guide us in what and how we need to build the site.

So there’s a slight shift in the mentality from a designer-driven process, meaning the designer dictates how and what we build and how to make it look pretty and all that, to the user tells us. Now, they don’t actually “call us up” and tell us, but they’re telling us through the behavior and the actions that they’re doing.

And so that’s where the only way for us to do that, to get that data, is to get something out there. And that’s why we need to try and launch something that, again, looks better, performs better, but is not perfect. And we can always build, and we will build, once we move into the continuous improvement stage.

Drew McLellan:

This obviously requires a very different sales mentality because most agencies are used to selling a website as a finished thing with maybe an SEO package on the backend or something else. But it’s certainly not a, “We will build it and then we will keep tweaking it forever and ever and ever, and we will never be done.”

So talk us through the sales conversation because I’m sure as you are working with agencies and helping them not only learn the methodology, but figure out how to sell this and stay profitable, you’re coaching them on how to talk about web dev in a different way. So what does that look like?

Luke Summerfield:

Yeah. You’re exactly right. It’s kind of funny. This is very much where inbound marketing was eight years ago. When I was at the agency, we had clients that came to us and they said, “Well, we need SEO.” We said, “Okay. Well, why do you need SEO?” And we’d boil it down. And basically, it came down to, they needed leads for their business.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

And so we had to educate them and say, “Look, if you want leads, SEO is an important part, but that’s only one piece of a bigger puzzle. You really need a complete system that’s going to help you get to your goals. And that system is called inbound marketing.”

And so there was this whole education that needed to happen in the sales process six, eight years ago with inbound marketing, which now we’re in a little bit spoiled period where a lot of times, they’ll come to you wanting inbound marketing.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

They already know what it is. They’re already familiar with it. They said, “We need inbound marketing.” And so with Growth-Driven Design, we’re in that kind of period eight years ago where we need to do a lot of that education and get the light bulb to go off in our prospects’ heads because this is a new concept, just like inbound marketing was a number of years ago.

And so the first thing that you need to do is really anchor how important their website is to their business. Ask them a question like, “What would happen to your business if your website disappeared tomorrow?” How impactful would that impact the business?

Really get them to understand how important the website is and how it’s an investment in the growth of their business for the future. And once they understand that, that’s step one, is them putting value on investing in their website.

Then step two is to start talking about how often, now that we’ve established how important your website is, and it’s your number one marketing asset, your number one salesperson working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How often do you make impactful improvements on your website? And what we find is that most people don’t. Like we talked about earlier, they build it and then they move on to other-

Drew McLellan:

They might update some content or a blog or whatever, but other than that, it pretty much stays the same.

Luke Summerfield:

Impactful improvements, things that are going to drive disproportionate outcome to the goals you’re trying to achieve. And it’s not very often.

And so the analogy, what I recommend with a lot of agencies is to find an analogy that works really well for your industry. So let me give you an example, one comes from Shawn Fitzgerald from ThomasNet. They’re one of our diamond partners at HubSpot. They worked exclusively in the manufacturing space.

And so what he’ll do in the prospecting call is he’ll use an analogy and say, “Hey, what’s the goal of your assembly floor line?” He said, “Well, they want to produce widgets as fast as possible. The more efficient we are, the more profit we make.” He says, “Okay, cool. Have you ever bought a new machine for your assembly floor?”

He says, “Yeah. We’ve bought new machines.” And he said, “Oh, do they work out of the box? Do you put them on there and they work out of the box?” He said, “No. We buy a machine, it produces widgets, but we have to put an engineer on there. And the engineer times it, tweaks it, adjusts it. And over the course of a period of a few months, it finally gets really synced up with our specific process.”

And he said, “That’s the exact same thing we have to do with your website.” We’re going to build a website that works, that produces leads, produces better than what you have today. But just like you have to put an engineer on that to tweak that machine and get it really humming, that’s what we’re going to do with your website. And so that analogy helps them click to something that they’re already familiar with.

Drew McLellan:

Right.

Luke Summerfield:

Another analogy, if you are talking to sales folks, you can talk about hiring a new sales rep. When you hire a new sales rep and you put them on the floor to work calls, do they produce at their peak performance? Do they close at their peak close rate? Do they generate enough qualified leads and move them through efficiently? Of course not. You have to coach them and evolve them over time.

And again, it’s very similar when you first put the website out there. If you think of it as your number one salesperson, you don’t just throw your sales rep on the front line and talk to them later. You have to coach them just like you have to coach your website.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Luke Summerfield:

So that analogy is really important in the sales process for them to understand this new concept.

Drew McLellan:

So I want to get into two things. I want to talk a little bit about how pricing changes, and I also want to talk about how this impacts agencies that sell web dev, but they do it through partners. So I want to dive into both of those, but first, let’s take a quick break and then we’ll come right back.

I get that sometimes you just can’t get on a plane and spend a couple of days in a Live workshop. And so, hopefully, our online courses are a solution to that. Lots of video, hours and hours of video, a very dense, detailed participants guide and all kinds of help along the way to make sure that you get the learning that you need and apply it immediately to your agency.

Right now, we’ve got two courses that are available. We have the Agency New Business Blueprint, and we have the AE Bootcamp. So feel free to check those out at agencymanagementinstitute.com/ondemandcourses. Okay. Le