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Driving Leads and Traffic to Your Agency Using Clutch.co with Ryan Stevens (Part 1 of 2)

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Getting found online with credible reviews isn’t just for local businesses – it’s also critical for your agency or consulting business. In part one of this episode, I’m joined by Ryan Stevens, Senior Business Manager of Clutch.co. The online database connects service providers with customers through listings of verified reviews, case studies, and background. Ryan’s here to share with us how to get leads and make the most of your Clutch listing.

Up next…

Check out the four sales fundamentals every top performer masters, how to use value-based selling to increase your leverage, and how to improve your remote selling skills as the world becomes more virtual. 

While most businesses turn to Adwords, there are emerging and effective methods to drive more clients to your agency. Platforms like Clutch help clients make well-informed decisions on who to hire for their next big project.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  1. How Clutch.co reduces risk & uncertainty

  2. How to position your business on Clutch to land projects

  3. Clutch’s transparency of service providers through their unique research process

Searching for prospective clients online can be a time-consuming process. You may not find everything you were looking for on the client to ensure they are the right fit. Fortunately, Clutch takes the long hours of research away and gives full clarity on the client’s background, reducing uncertainty and risk.

Just as your position matters in a Google search, the same goes for Clutch. Optimizing your position ensures you’ll have a better chance of not only landing a project, but also collecting more reviews to boost your profile’s spot on the list.

Mentioned in this episode:

Apply for a strategy session with Liston
Clutch.co

Clutch.co Resources

For more information on remote selling and a complete list of links mentioned in this podcast, visit this remote selling article on our website.


Driving Leads and Traffic to Your Agency Using Clutch.co with Ryan Stevens (Part 1 of 2)

Full Transcript

Liston Witherill:
Welcome to Modern Sales, a podcast for entrepreneurs, business owners, and salespeople looking to have more and better conversations with your perfect clients. You’ll get a healthy scoop of psychology, behavioral economics and sales studies to help you create win-win relationships. I’m your host, Liston Witherill, and I’m pleased to welcome you to Modern Sales.

Liston Witherill:
On today’s episode, I’m really excited to have Ryan Stevens, who’s with Clutch.co, which is an online database of all of the best agencies, best consultancies, in the world. We’re going to have a conversation about what clutch does to help their clients bring in more business and match customers, buyers of those services, find the best service providers.

Liston Witherill:
Before we get into that conversation, though, if you’re looking to scale up sales at your agency, at your business, I’d love to help you out. And that all starts with a phone call. You can apply for a strategy session with me.

Liston Witherill:
All you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy, where I’ll ask you a few quick questions, I’ll take a look at your application. If there’s a potential fit for us to work together, I’ll send you my calendar booking link.

Liston Witherill:
You’ll get a little bit of taste of automation, and how I start scaling my own sales, through that process. Once again, that URL, liste.io/strategy. And now, Ryan Stevens, my friend, how are you today?

Ryan Stevens:
I’m doing well, Liston. Thanks for having me.

Liston Witherill:
Totally, man. It’s my pleasure. Is it weird to hear me go through that whole thing, while you sit there, and just kind of listen like you’re not there?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, it’s great, but I look down at my keyboard, and let you have it.

Liston Witherill:
Cool. All right, well, don’t hold it against me.

Ryan Stevens:
Absolutely not.

Liston Witherill:
So, Ryan, I’m looking on LinkedIn right now. Your title has a lot of words in it.

Ryan Stevens:
Oh, yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Senior manager, operations strategy and partnerships. You must touch a lot of different parts of Clutch.co. Tell me a little bit about your role there, and maybe about Clutch generally. What is it?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, sure. So my role here, at pretty much number two, you have, in that title, a lot of words, as you mentioned. It’s a little bit of a mixture of some internal titles that we use and some of the things that I actually actively manage. So my role, pretty much, lead operations, which is going to be covering most of our content development on our research side.

Ryan Stevens:
I’m trying to go and decide which industries, which cities, which geographies we’re approaching, that we’re trying to build out, that we try to engage service providers in, and ultimately, markets that we want to try to better serve. We’re a ratings and review platform, all online. What’s really going to differentiate us is that our content is all free, so you don’t typically see that in a research model. Working to, basically, in the small and medium-sized business space, provide information out there to perspective buyers, through a variety of different ways.

Ryan Stevens:
The biggest one, for us, is to ultimately verify reviews, so our team is working directly with service providers, and their clients, and speaking with those clients. Every review on our site is seen by at least two people, so two real people, which, in this space, is a big perk for agencies.

Ryan Stevens:
But then, next to those reviews, we offer a variety of different content. So we have a data team, who is pulling together full length research reports, as well as some, just other, more blog style reports, as well. Not to throw everything at the wall there, because I answered that question for you?

Liston Witherill:
I think so. It’s my job to dig a little bit deeper, so that’s what I’m going to do. So, if I could summarize, Clutch.co is essentially a marketplace. You have a supply side, vendors there who list themselves and their business, their domain, their specialties, what industries they serve, that kind of thing. And then you have people who are looking for providers like that.

Liston Witherill:
So whether it’s software development, or web development, or IT providers, they’re looking on Clutch.co, for who are those providers that are options for them, based on how much they charge, how many reviews they have, their experience,\ on and on and on. Is that fair to say?

Ryan Stevens:
Yup, that’s fair to say, exactly, almost. We have aspirations of being a better marketplace. Right now, we largely engage with one side of that marketplace, the service providers. But again, we know that we have the ability and the insight to also start engaging, more so, with these prospective clients. And so, that is our ultimate hope, is to be a, this marketplace. I think we’re well on our way there.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. So you talked about research. And I want to come back to that in a second, but verified reviews, that seems like the foundational part of Clutch.co. Can you talk a little bit about why Clutch.co was needed in the first place, and what role did verified reviews play in that?

Ryan Stevens:
Sure. So, just a little bit about our path and our journey. So our founder, Mike [Beers 00:00:05:03], he, a long time consultant and worked for a larger corporation, in their marketing department, often responsible for making procurement decisions. So, in a larger organization you can imagine that if you are responsible for making these spending decisions, than it needs to be right.

Ryan Stevens:
So, and some of these bigger organizations, and you hear about it today, it’s just easier to go with the brands you know. So in the IT and digital space, rather than potentially getting some of the small and medium sized businesses a shot, marketing executives, executives of any type, really, it’s easier to go with the IBMs, the Accentures, the Deloittes of the world, because at the end of the day, their brand is carrying them, and if something doesn’t go right, that particular executive or that particular procurement team really isn’t held on the hook for that decision.

Ryan Stevens:
So, we know that there is this whole market under the enterprise level that’ll provide amazing services, often highly catered, very niche, and probably more attentive than what you would have received, by partnering with some of the enterprise level providers. So, basically, Mike realized that he was often receiving a sub-optimal result, with some of these bigger providers, and also realized that the few smaller providers that he had worked with, and had experience with, were sometimes a better fit, seeing that there was just this lack of information on these service providers. He tried to come up with a solution to solve that and fill that gap.

Ryan Stevens:
With that gap, there’s a variety of different ways, thinking about how we would go about filling it. And so, he started focusing on more of the outsourcing market, and foreign markets, would help to give a little bit of a proof of concept. But realizing that, in the world of online reviews, and the growth of Yelp and Angie’s List, and other models out there, how do we go and get this verified review? And it’s a very different space than the business to consumer models that you see with Yelp.

Ryan Stevens:
It’s very different than you see, even with the contractor and home services solutions of Angie’s List. Client relationships are held close to the chest, and convincing a vendor that this third party platform, Clutch, that five years ago, no one heard of, would treat their clients well, and still keep the vendor’s perspective in mind, has been a big struggle for us.

Ryan Stevens:
But I think over the years we’ve been able to build a brand, particularly in certain segments. And so, this verified review, to your point, is truly the sort of, this crux of what we provide, and the core of our service that we offer.

Liston Witherill:
So on the vendor side, the procurement person, like Mike used to be, they’re thinking, “Okay, I could go by the market leader, they’re probably big, they’re probably slow, they’re probably dumb. But I know my boss won’t blame me, because I chose the market leader, and look at all the other dumb people who chose them, too, right?” We can’t be worse than them!

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, yeah.

Liston Witherill:
But Mike knew, also, that there are all of these emerging companies who have to be scrappier, who have to be a little bit more cutting edge, who have to figure something out. But there’s an inherent risk with choosing them. And so, what a lot of companies do to solve that is, they’ll put together case studies.

Liston Witherill:
And they say, “Look at the amazing results we had with Acme Corp., And we got them an XYZ percent ROI, whatever,” right? And so, essentially, the proposition of clutch is to bolster up the amount of credibility that people can have, when they make those claims. Is that right?

Ryan Stevens:
No, that’s exactly right. And I think, another side point there, is that, again, case studies are made by the service provider. So you lose a little bit of the sort of real picture there. And then the flip side of that is, that if you’re a smaller agency, you have maybe a dozen clients or less, if you’re just getting started, really. And so, asking them over and over to serve as a client reference, it can be taxing.

Ryan Stevens:
There are a few people that it wouldn’t really wear on, if you are continuously sending new prospective clients to you, to speak to. So our hope is that, as we build a brand, as that we grow, our verified reviews serve, not only as something that the service providers can leverage as a case study, but as a way to circumvent having to tap their clients over and over and over. So that verified review, we hope to, continues to serve multiple pieces.

Liston Witherill:
So on the review side, essentially what you’re doing, is your reducing the risk of uncertainty on the side of the buyer. Right? You’re saying, “Hey, we’re a third party. We don’t really care about the claims that one of our people on our site make. We want to make sure that they’re legitimate, because we have to protect our reputation.”

Ryan Stevens:
Yup.

Liston Witherill:
Are you finding that that is becoming influential, or landing with shoppers on Clutch? How do they actually perceive the fact that they’re looking at third party objective reviews?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, so we’ve been pretty grateful, that we can start to really see more and more projects that were found on Clutch, and being able to kind of get some feedback there on what users are seeing and what they’re looking at is interesting. I think that it’s hard to speak for all of the users of our site, because it actually takes a little bit of updating around to truly understand what you’re looking at.

Ryan Stevens:
I think that the online buyer is so used to looking at only content that may or may not be 100% factual, it is something that we struggle with. It’s part of this brand building, the verification process that we go through, as well as just a general branding of our reviews in general. So that’s one of the things, that is something that is a to do for us.

Ryan Stevens:
But, in general, I think that, through the sheer length of our reviews, and detail that you’re receiving out of it, it would be hard. I don’t think that people truly would compare it to the typical online review you would see on any other platform.

Liston Witherill:
Well, right. I was going to say, you mentioned Yelp and Angie’s List, and a couple other consumer-oriented review sites, and the big difference that I would see there is, I could go and leave a hateful review on Yelp, at any business, whether I’m there or not, whether I’ve ever bought anything from there or not.

Ryan Stevens:
Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
So I think that that’s a big difference, that Clutch has. I’m curious, do you see any correlation between the number and quality and level of reviews that a company has, and the number of clicks or contact requests they’re getting?

Ryan Stevens:
Absolutely. Actually, yeah. So we’ve run a couple of reports on number of views, and comparisons of click-throughs to surrounding companies, and it’s certainly a correlated. There is a drop off at a certain point, but in this space people are more interested in companies with more reviews, so, absolutely.

Liston Witherill:
When you say they’re more interested, how do you observe that?

Ryan Stevens:
Again, where we use a user click-through rate, basically trying to understand, in any given segment, which firms are being clicked out to more, and there’s obviously some other information that’s taken into account. Budget and project size are often, are going to be an influencer, too, and it’s something that we work to explain to the service providers, that that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be bombarded by perspective clients that don’t have the budget that you’re looking for.

Ryan Stevens:
Sometimes that’s a little bit of a, it seems counterintuitive to service providers, but our best service providers internalize that, and realize that the visibility that they’re receiving, they have an opportunity to better qualify it, by being accurate, and by being truthful in their budgets and what they’re looking for in projects.

Ryan Stevens:
Because there’s other service providers, and it’s another approach, but it’s to try to be the catchall, and take any prospective lead that comes through the pipeline. But I think the service providers that are most happy with us are the ones that recognize that there’s a lot of things they can do with their Clutch profile, that will help better qualify the perspective traffic that they receive through our site.

Liston Witherill:
Okay, I want you to hold on to that. We’re definitely going to come back to that discussion, because I have questions about positioning and differentiation, and how big should your product line be, at least outwardly, in your marketing? And we’ll get to that in a second.

Liston Witherill:
I want to talk about research, though. You said you had up a lot of the research at Clutch, and Clutch puts out quite a bit of research. So the dear listeners of this podcast are owners of businesses, and people who are heading up consulting departments, people responsible for teams, selling, consulting, in service lines of business.

Liston Witherill:
What sort of research have you done, that you think is relevant for them to know? Maybe some of your marquee research at Clutch.

Ryan Stevens:
I don’t lead the content research directly, but our team does a heck of a job on pulling some great information out for small and medium sized businesses. So annually, we run a SMP survey on a variety of different marketing agencies and their key priorities. And then we also run a reverse on the consumers and what they’re looking for.

Ryan Stevens:
So I highly recommend, listeners, clutch.co/resources. We have a variety of different things that really help inform the purchasing decision. We want to, with the prospective clients at the front of our minds, we want to be able to be that resource for them, and all of their questions.

Ryan Stevens:
We can provide listings and directories of service providers, in a variety of segments, but we also can provide insight into what you should be looking for, when making those decisions. So that research is largely being geared to the prospective buyer, but we have some really great stuff out there, if you’re also a service provider that potentially could help you position yourself.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, so, good segue on positioning. Let’s talk about search position. So, lots of great data out there about, this why SEO is such a big business. If you’re not the first for a keyword, you’re going to lose half of the clicks right there. And if you’re not in the top three, you’re going to lose, let’s say, 80 to 90% of the clicks. And if you’re not on the first page, you’re dead.

Liston Witherill:
How does search work, and how do people interact with search on Clutch.co? And I assume part of your revenue model is to help people rank higher?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, so talk about that, please.

Ryan Stevens:
We use an advertising model that we call sponsorship, and that’s going to be on our directory and review listings. To draw a clear line, we use a leader’s matrix, which is going to be our research-based posts in any sort of geography.

Ryan Stevens:
So, to the listeners, we have a directory listing of mobile app developers, and we have a leader’s matrix of mobile app developers. That leader’s matrix is regardless of any sort of sponsorship or advertising, and what we do, and work to do, is make sure that we leverage that as our true findings on how service providers deliver for their clients.

Ryan Stevens:
The directory listing: directory listing’s obviously going to be of interest to potential advertisers. So our sponsorship model is a tiered model. Our business is Freemium, so we benefit from having more companies with reviews on our site. Through those relationships with companies, with reviews, it becomes, we’re able to eventually demonstrate that there’s value in being featured on Clutch for free. And it’s at that point that service providers decide then to advertise with us.

Ryan Stevens:
The model has worked really well for us. We’re pretty proud to say that we haven’t really done any sort of outward sales, and been able to deliver traffic and value to companies in two ways. Obviously, clicks to, through their site, but also, through this online reputation management, through verified reviews.

Ryan Stevens:
So, positioning, what’s specific? I think that we address, one of the things was, do number of reviews influence positioning? It does. So with this tiered model, on Clutch, we, for lack of better words, the companies that performed better in any given tier and receive a better deal. So we keep all of our pricing transparent, and work to, again, encourage service providers to work more closely with us, so that they provide more client reviews, and through more client references and reviews, they provide better, organically, on our site. And through performing better, organically, they then get a better deal in any sort of paid tier.

Ryan Stevens:
That’s been a way that’s been pretty successful for us, and, I think, something that is very different than you see out on other platforms. It’s been so important to us, and it’s been something that I feel very strongly about, is that our pricing is transparent, and it’s clear on what you’re paying for, which you don’t really see on other advertising platforms.

Liston Witherill:
And so, are people bidding for the top tier? And actually, can you take a second to define tier, because I was wondering that. And also, is it a bidding model, or there’s a flat fee, and you only sell to three providers in a given geography?

Ryan Stevens:
so it’s a flat fee. We don’t have a bidding model now. Right now, where we are, I think that would cause stress or on ease with the service providers, on trying to work with us. In general, the tiered model allows for some, it’s obviously not the revenue maximizing the model of bidding, but it tends to still work pretty well for us right now.

Liston Witherill:
And what does tiered mean?

Ryan Stevens:
Tiered, for us, we use a precious metal model, so we have a bronze, silver, gold, diamond, and so we tier it that way. And at each tier, there’s a flat fee, based on your company’s size. And then, if, for example, there are multiple companies in that tier, then, the company that performs best through our ratings and review process, then they get a better deal in that tier.

Liston Witherill:
I see, yeah. So I’m thinking of TrustRadius, or some of these other software review sites. You have the organic search results, and then you’ll also see sponsored results, right in your search query. So is that similar to how the user would experience it?

Ryan Stevens:
We like to think about it similar to AdWords. Again, the better ads in a Google search tend to pay a smaller price per click. Again, that process, what ends up happening, is that Google says, “This is a better ad. The users are clicking on it more, and it appears that it has a lower bounce rate,” or a variety of the things that Google’s looking at.

Liston Witherill:
Sure.

Ryan Stevens:
For us, putting a company that has a better rating and review score higher within that tier, is often a probably a pretty good signal that they may be a better fit for the company that finds them.

Liston Witherill:
So I want to talk to you next about how a company can either list themselves for the first time, or start to optimize their listing, and what are the best ways for them to actually get business from Clutch? But we’re going to leave these listeners, you, dear listener with the cliffhanger.

Liston Witherill:
We’ll talk about that in part two of my interview here with Ryan. So, if you haven’t subscribed, make sure you hit that Subscribe button. Tune in tomorrow, where I’ll pick it up with part two of my interview with Ryan.

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