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Optimizing Your Clutch.co Listing with Ryan Stevens (Part 2 of 2)

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Welcome back to The liston.io Show! As promised, today I’m sharing part 2 of my interview with Ryan Stevens of Clutch.co. In part 1 of this episode, we shared how to drive leads and traffic to your agency. A big piece of the lead generation puzzle is your position.

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. 

Optimizing your Clutch listing is the missing piece to landing the client or project you’ve been searching for, and Ryan teaches us how to do just that.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  1. Why listing less services will bring you more leads

  2. What the most successful profiles of Clutch are doing, and how you can do it, too

  3. How Clutch can keep you local, or branch out remotely

You’ve heard it before that less is more. It may not seem to be the case for advertising online, but Clutch actually wants you to list less of your services. While your agency may have 10+ services, focusing on your 5 strongest offerings will help clients find you to be the right match, without the information overload other profiles may give.

What does it take to be in the top 1% of all the listings on Clutch? Be a highly engaged vendor. Utilizing Clutch’s service and support system can positively impact your agency’s position on the platform, ranking you higher on the list.

You can advertise to just about any city on Google, but sometimes, clients prefer to work with someone locally as they find proximity to be valuable. Clutch works to keep local vendors connected with local clients, but if you are interested in working remotely with clients around the globe, you can utilize the platform for that, too.

Mentioned in this episode:

Apply for a strategy session with Liston
Clutch.co

Platform Revolution by Geoffrey Parker, Marshall Van Alstyne, and Sangeet Paul Choudary

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


Optimizing Your Clutch.co Listing with Ryan Stevens (Part 2 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:
In today’s episode, I have part two of my interview with Ryan Stevens from clutch.co. If you didn’t listen to part one, go back to yesterday’s episode, listen to that first, we’ll be here waiting for you for part two where we’re going to talk about, and Ryan’s going to divulge all of Clutch’s deepest, darkest secrets about how their highest performing clients win business through the platform.

Liston Witherill:
Now, before I get to that, I do want to invite you, if you’re looking to scale up sales or win more business at your company, I’d love to chat with you. All you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy where you can apply for a strategy session with me. It’s totally free. I promise to give you at least three insights that you can have for free, whether you decide to pay me a penny or not. All you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy.

Liston Witherill:
Ryan, welcome back for part two.

Ryan Stevens:
Ah, I’m happy to be back.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome, man. The way we left it, I really want to talk about the people who have a listing on clutch.co, right, because that’s who’s listening to this right now. They want to know, “If I go take the time to go to clutch.co and tell all my clients to leave me a review and then they have to work with the little monsters at Clutch and give their review and have it verified and everything else that happens, all of that effort, what do they get out of it?” So, if I’m not listed on clutch.co, how would I think about the advantage of being on there?

Ryan Stevens:
So, I think that in the small and medium size business space, you really can think of Clutch as a free marketing opportunity. There is this cost of probably an hour of one of your teammates times and 15 minutes of one of your clients. But for Clutch, we benefit and we gain value from having a more inclusive platform and so prospective businesses that want to join Clutch have two clear and free benefits.

Ryan Stevens:
First is a verified review. Our reviews really resemble case studies and for a small shop that may not have a built out marketing department could save quite a bit of manpower for not having to build out that case study, or multiple case studies if you have multiple references that are willing to speak with our team.

Ryan Stevens:
Second is this online reputation management side of things. We know, and the listeners know based on how their purchasing decision process goes that some 60 plus percent of decisions or purchasing decisions happen on the web and reviews, and specifically if you see it in the business consumer because of product reviews, but it’s becoming more of a thing in the business to business side. So having strong reviews out there and improving your online reputation may help to seal the deal with prospective clients that already have you as an agency in their short list.

Liston Witherill:
I know that I need reviews if I’m going to list on clutch. Well first of all, I don’t think it’s a requirement that I have reviews to list myself. Is that right?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, that’s right. So it’s not a requirement, right, but Clutch is all driven or predominantly driven organically and the visibility on Clutch is driven by the presence of reviews.

Liston Witherill:
So it makes sense that I have reviews and I guess my question is, if I’m looking at listing myself on clutch, what’s kind of the minimum number of reviews I should probably want to pursue in order to make this worthwhile?

Ryan Stevens:
Absolutely. So depending on your geography, it’s going to vary. If you’re located in a large city or any sort of competitive market, that number’s going to be higher. If you’re located in, no offense Oklahoma City, a smaller city where the number of service providers are few, not as many, but each of our markets are different globally really. And so based on sort of the segment that you’re hoping to perform well in, that’s going to be a factor on how many references or reviews you’re going to want to have. Initially we just doing one. We know that it’s tough to convince your clients to speak with us, but we’re confident in our teams, a white glove service and professionalism, and have only really been complimented. We work to do everything on the client’s timeline, so our team really works to be a soft touch and guiding in making their experience leaving a review, seamless.

Liston Witherill:
So let’s say I have my listing, I go and get my reviews. How do I try to start to optimize my listing so that I get more clicks, and not just more clicks but more of the right ones?

Ryan Stevens:
Great question. So one of the things that being transparent is Clutch is a really hard platform to optimize for a dozen services. We know that agencies often can offer a dozen plus services, but on our platform we highly recommend somewhere around the five key service lines that you’re interested in. This is for a couple of reasons. We want you to perform well in the segments that you want to perform well in. But we also want prospective clients to find the right vendors.

Ryan Stevens:
It’s often a hard thing to communicate to agencies that they have to pick just a handful. But remember that, if you look at it as a marketing platform, you’re going to want to find how to best market yourself to the people that are looking for that service. Saying that you only do have a little bit of focus on one given service line is less enticing than saying that’s what our whole company focuses on. And so we recognize that it’s not the best solution for this agency offering, but at the end of the day we think it’s a pretty great solution for matching perspective clients with businesses that really want to deliver on or really deliver well on a few key service lines.

Liston Witherill:
Okay. So just to translate that, there’s a type of agency that I call the “do everything agency” and so they’re the ones who say, “Oh, you have digital marketing problems. I can do SEO, web design, email marketing, marketing automation, graphic design, collateral,” and they just start listing a laundry list of things. And so if I understand you correctly, you’d much more favor someone who was specialized in one, two, three of those things than someone who lists all of them.

Ryan Stevens:
Exactly. So the key thing there is that if you say you do any of those services, there’s other agencies out there that probably are able to provide them as well. But how do you want to differentiate yourself within your 10, 15 person agency? Are you actually true graphic designers that have some experience in SEO but trying to… You see SEO as a more profitable solution or service so you’re trying to market that. And you’re taking this approach where you’re going to list the 10 different services that your agency does is one way to go about being found in more directories on our site, but at less visibility, if that makes sense. So segmenting, sort of, the piece of the pie on what services you provide may have you found across four more directories but less visible.

Liston Witherill:
So one thing that you said about the listings in the way the organic traffic works that got me really nervous about my own business is that I work with people remotely. You and I aren’t in the same place when we’re recording this podcast. I can conduct business and my content creation pretty much everything that I deliver remotely. And so it sounds like Clutch is more catered to not brick and mortar, but businesses that cater to their own local market rather than businesses that can work with anyone anywhere.

Ryan Stevens:
So we work to be both, honestly. And it’s hard because prospective clients value finding local results and local providers, while vendors want to be found and service providers want to be found across the globe to whoever may be the best fit. So it is a little bit of a struggle to find the right fit because where we’re different from Google AdWords is that we keep our advertisements to local providers.

Ryan Stevens:
So for example, I’m located here in Washington DC and I wanted to sell my service on AdWords for people in Chicago. I could advertise on relevant key terms and relevant segments in Chicago. Even though I’m located at NTC. And you see that a ton in this B2B small and medium sized space, is that you end up thinking you’re going to be working with a service provider that is local and they’re actually an outsourced agency that has a sales rep in your city and not something that right now we work to address against because, at least from a local perspective, we still feel that we’re doing best by the searchers, by the prospective users or buyers by providing something that is more local and tailored to them.

Ryan Stevens:
So we do have offerings that are a little bit more globally. Those are better fits for vendors that tend to work more remote.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. So I find this fascinating because you guys are an internet based remote company and you’re favoring local results. And one thing that you said that I thought was really interesting was, I’m sure you were generalizing, but generally the client, the buy side looking for vendors, they want local providers but the vendors themselves want to work with people anywhere. Do you find that there’s a little bit of a conflict there where the buyers want something that the vendors don’t want?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah, it’s a struggle because it sometimes, even through our curation efforts, we have companies that slipped through the cracks that were found in a local directory and they actually were one of these post office or sales address type shops. And so it’s always a little bit painful for us because we do put such an effort on this curation. And then on the flip side, we continuously hear from the vendors that they want to advertise on pages that aren’t necessarily local to their geographies. And it’s a balance. We understand that AdWords utilizes this sort of method. But again, I think for us, why we’re valuable to service providers in the first place is because we’re providing high quality leads to them and ultimately that sourced from being honest and trying to be transparent and doing the right thing by those prospective users. Right? And if more and more perspective users were more and more dissatisfied with our results and what we’re putting in front of them, at some point that would deteriorate why vendors would want to work with us.

Liston Witherill:
One thing you guys must be thinking a lot about is the future of buying and selling of professional services, SMB professional services. Give me some insight into your thoughts there because I have lots of thoughts about how that’s changing. But I’m curious, how does Clutch think about the changing nature of the way these services are bought and sold?

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah. I think this space is just behind where the business to consumer spaces really. It’s how can more not only decisions be made online, but from start to finish the transactions carried out online. How do we get to a point where we can provide all of the information that’s required or nearly all of the information that’s required in this purchasing decision? I think we’re taking big steps there and improving sort of our verification process of reviews, of finding more and more data points to provide perspective buyers. I think we’re still a ways off because at the end of the day when you’re spending $50,000, $500,000 it’s very different than 50 or $500 on a dinner or some sort of software solution. So completely moving away from this personal interaction is something that I think is still quite a bit off.

Ryan Stevens:
But I think we’re figuring out ways to help get people closer and closer by providing more and more information, avoiding any sort of content walls on the information that we’re providing so that at the end of the day, when someone visited Clutch, when they’re calling a service provider, they’re 98% sure that they want to work with that service provider. They just want to hear a voice on the other end of the phone call that they potentially trust or feel like they would vibe with. So I think, to answer your question or to sum it up, this market’s moving the same direction that we’ve seen the business to consumer market move to.

Liston Witherill:
So one thing that I think is important that you kind of said at the end there is that what client’s buyers really want is to go collect some information. They’re doing 60% of their research process online, go collect some information and then have a phone call. They’re going to call in or fill out a form and they want to know that there’s a human being there. So it’s crucial that clutch allows you to be there in that moment when someone is looking for a provider like you, but then you have to take it over with your sales process as soon as that contact is made.

Liston Witherill:
Now on that driving awareness side, we talked about focusing your services. Around five is really what you guys want to see. We talked about focusing your geography because of all of the complicated conflicts that that creates for you guys and I totally understand that. What are some other things that successful companies on Clutch are doing and particularly the most successful? Maybe like the top 1%. What are they doing that’s so different than all of the other people who are on there and just not seeing the traction?

Ryan Stevens:
Sure. So I think that the top 1% is this highly engaged vendor. We are, for a lot of these service providers, we are part of their sales process at three, four or five months. We are part of their client’s journey in understanding their internal team’s performance. We have more and more examples of companies that use the client feedback that they receive from Clutch or from the clients that leave reviews on Clutch as measures of some of their internal team’s performance as their company’s performance. So we’re, I mean, so grateful that we’ve built that sort of engagement with some of these companies. But yeah, the most accessible are going to be the ones that are really working to… We provide every company, truly we do this, it will break eventually, but every company on the site with reviews has an actual person that they can speak to here.

Ryan Stevens:
It’s a pretty crazy support and service when you’re counting dozens of thousands companies featured on the site. Those companies though, we’re also at a stage that we have to help to kind of address as well is that we have existed for five years, a little bit over five years. So if you are located in a highly competitive market, it’s going to be tough if you’re a three person shop who was just trying to get started and build a brand in New York City when we have 300 person agencies working with us there as well. So I think, if I’m making one just big generalization and recommendation for how to succeed using Clutch, it’s staying engaged. We work to offer sort of a credit to companies when they have more recent reviews, and that’s a big one. It allows companies that are taking on smaller projects to get credit for the recency of those small projects.

Ryan Stevens:
Whereas these large agencies, they’re not going to get that. They’re not necessarily nailing down $500,000 projects every two or three months. But for a small agency, they are able to get some of these smaller projects and get more reviews up more quickly. So we try to do some things to help offset the big guys versus the small guys. And for us, we see it as a success that these companies that are 500 people, 500 people plus, want to start working with us because it’s different from where we were. But in general, we put a lot of weight on the reviews and so for companies that want to do well and stay on top of those reviews.

Liston Witherill:
So there’s this interesting conflict that comes up for companies who have wonderful Fortune 100, Fortune 500 clients and that is, those clients often ask you to sign a contract saying, I’ll never talk about the work I’m doing with you. Which, I’m going to use some nasty, horrible language, fucking sucks for the vendor, right? I’m putting so much time and energy in helping this company succeed and they won’t let me talk about it when it would allow me to leverage that work to get other work and build my business. How do you coach some of your Clutch vendors to address this issue?

Ryan Stevens:
It’s probably one of the biggest barriers we have of working with larger service providers because it’s, I mean, there’s so much red tape to getting those things for that client reference. On a high level, and just for the listeners is that we do offer an anonymous attribution. So meaning we know who the client is and we know who they work for, but that brand, that person’s name isn’t featured on the site, but some generic titles are highlighted and overview of what that company may do. So that’s one way that we’ve been successful in helping to allow companies to get reviews up on the site. Others though, and some of the bigger ones have now included us as a part of what the client is expected to do, finishing the review.

Liston Witherill:
So that would be part of their contract.

Ryan Stevens:
Exactly. It’s a part of their contract. And again, that’s a little easier for big guys, bigger agencies to do with other big brands. A little bit tougher for the small guys to do with the… try to strong arm the big brands. So it’s certainly, certainly a thing that we face and it’s something that we try to account for in our other outside research. And so sometimes the client reference can’t speak with us, but they have or are able to, or can’t speak with us or leave a review, but they can speak with us on providing insight into the project so we can try to help make sure that that’s factored into the previous experience that this agency has.

Liston Witherill:
I see. So in the way you would attribute that review would be something like VP of marketing at Fortune 100 manufacturing firms, something like that.

Ryan Stevens:
Yep. Yep. Exactly.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. So now Ryan, some quick questions at the end here. You’ve been so kind with your time with your answers. I’m sure you’re going to get some new people coming onto Clutch and others may be inquiring about advertising there as a result of this interview. I’m curious, one book that you would recommend?

Ryan Stevens:
Something that we really enjoy reading around here is a Platform Revolution. I’m missing the author’s names, but it’s something for us that we really aspire to be from a standpoint of the solution that we want to offer. As mentioned at the beginning, we like to think of ourselves as a marketplace but we know that we have the whole other side of that marketplace to still tap into as well as continue to help the side that we’re largely interact with now. So Platform Revolution is a big one for me.

Liston Witherill:
And one tool that you recommend or use in your business?

Ryan Stevens:
One the thing that we use that has actually bent a way that we structure a lot of how we measure success is this idea of an OKR. I think it was first in Andy Grove’s book, High Output Management, and then followed by kind of the structure that they use internally at Google, but it allows sort of objective and key results, and setting those has been really great for our team and just sort of self evaluation. And so I think they can come in a lot of different ways. We structure them in Google Docs, but having individual and team based objectives and key results has really helped us to build a language on success and what that means.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing everything. I really, really appreciate your being here. Now, if someone wanted to learn more about you, more about Clutch, what should they do?

Ryan Stevens:
You’re welcome to reach out to our team. You can find me, I manage our support system, so that’s hello@clutch.co and you’ll get an answer from me. You’re also welcome to check out our site, clutch.co/get-listed, slash get dash listed, but it’s all the information that is on the web there and our team actively manages all our support channels so you can expect a response from a human.

Liston Witherill:
Awesome. I love that. I was chatting with someone through the chat on my website and she goes, “Is this really Liston?” And I said, “Yes, this is the human Liston. This is the real Liston.” And it’s so amazing, most people expect it to be a bot or something outsourced, and they feel very, almost, refreshed to know that like, “Oh, you’re actually someone who might matter or know something in this business. That’s great.”

Ryan Stevens:
Yeah. We’ve been big on implementing chatbots recently and seeing the conversations that demand most of the time, but not all the time, and so seeing the conversations and how far the bot gets is pretty great.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. Amazing. All right, cool. Ryan, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

Ryan Stevens:
No, absolutely. I really appreciate it as well.

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