Welcome to Modern Sales

Using Trade Shows to Acquire Clients and Scale Up an Agency with Chris Martinez (Part 1 of 2)

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Executing your work is tough, and outsourcing it is tempting…but most people get it wrong. Chris Martinez, Founder and CEO of DUDE Agency, built his entire business on outsourcing and he’s here to teach you what he’s learned.

Mentioned in this episode:

Book a strategy call with Liston
Dude Agency
Design Pickle
Traffic and Conversion Summit][4]
Zendesk
Freshdesk
Asana

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


Using Trade Shows to Acquire Clients and Scale Up an Agency with Chris Martinez (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. Today I have, like I said, Chris Martinez. Chris, welcome to the podcast.

Chris Martinez:
Thank you so much. Great to be on your show, man.

Liston Witherill:
It’s great to have you. Now, I was a little disappointed when you showed up to the preview without your wrestling mask.

Chris Martinez:
I know, I’m sorry. I could have grabbed it in the other room, but it is a Friday too, so I shouldn’t be wearing it.

Liston Witherill:
No worries. So, Chris, you run Dude Agency. I think we met in a Facebook group maybe a week or two ago, and so this was like a lightning fast booking that you’re here on the podcast. If you could just take a minute and tell me, tell the listeners a little bit about you and a little bit about Dude Agency.

Chris Martinez:
Yeah, absolutely. I started an agency back in 2012, and my team was based in the Philippines and that was good. It was working while we were getting started. Then Eventually we had 50 active clients, everybody’s on retainer, and the time change and the power outages were really starting to hurt our customer service. And so I went and I tried basically everywhere across the globe. I tried India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, central Europe, and then I went down to South America, and then we also had people in the States, and nothing was working. Every place had their challenges, which I’m sure we’ll talk about later. And so I was living in San Diego at the time and I decide, “You know what? I’m going to come across the border to Tijuana and I’m going to see if I can build a team here.” And it was amazing.

Chris Martinez:
We found great designers, great developers, and just total game changer for our agency. And so we ended up scaling our agency. We had over 200 clients on retainer. It was great. I was managing the whole thing with just a team of five people here in Mexico. I was commuting across the border almost every single day to our office down here, and life was really good. Then in 2017 I had this idea and I was actually listening to a podcast of Russ Perry who started Design Pickle. I think you’ve heard of the Design Pickle before. They do unlimited graphic design. So, I’m listening to a podcast of Russ and he’s talking about how he got started with Design Pickle, and I was like, “Oh my God, I can totally do this for web development using our team and TJ and we can service agencies,” because I know that agencies have a problem with finding great people.

Chris Martinez:
And so we launched Dude and basically we started running Facebook ads to prove the concept. We started getting clients, and then in February of this year, 2017, we went to the Traffic and Conversion Conference in San Diego. We got a booth. It was a big risk for us because we were still kind of figuring things out. We invested the money, we got the booth, and it was just amazing automatically, and people started signing up and everybody wanted to get on board with Dude. Everybody needed a dude. That was the trigger. And so we had five people when we started in February, and then right now we just hired number 23, and we’ll probably be around 25, 26 by the end of the year. Then by next year we’ll be at like 100 people here in TJ, which is amazing, and the best part is we’re able to give agencies what I like to call the perfect outsourcing solution.

Chris Martinez:
Most agencies who come to us, most agencies in general, they’re really good at selling, they’re really good at strategy, and they know that they could take on more clients if they just had the right people and also the right processes in place to be able to get there and be able to grow. You probably see this as a consultant. And so what we do is we basically give them the team and then we also give them processes and systems so that they can scale their agents. So, I think that’s what’s really helped us to be successful.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah. And in then in part two of the interview, we’ll dive into the outsourcing piece a little bit, but I’d like to go back to Traffic and Conversion Conference. So, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a pretty large conference put on by Digital Marketer, right?

Chris Martinez:
Yep, absolutely.

Liston Witherill:
And the focus of that conference, not surprisingly, is traffic and conversion. So, getting traffic to your website, converting that traffic, basically it’s a digital marketing conference that’s really big and really notable. And I’m curious, why did you pick that event and why do you think it was so successful for you?

Chris Martinez:
I had been an attendee for the past, I don’t know, four or five years, and they created an agency track. So, if you were an agency, you would get a little fancy agency badge and then you would get allowed entry into specific trainings for agency owners. So, I knew that agencies were going to be there obviously because I was there. Then prior to actually signing the contract to attend the events as a sponsor and get a booth, which was going to be… we ended up spending about 10,000 bucks on that event. So, prior to that, Digital Marketer had an event, they ended up only doing it one time. They called it Digital Agency Growth Summit and it was an Austin, Texas in December of last year. So, I was like, “You know what? I’ll get the ticket.” It was cheap. It was like $250, paid for the flight, and then my buddy lives in Austin, so I just crashed with him and attended the conference, and it was all agency owners.

Chris Martinez:
So then I got to really talk to the agency owners who would also be attending Traffic and Conversion, and just see what would their interest be in Dude, and everybody was super interested. So, I was like, “Great.” And there was about 250 people at that event. It was a smaller event. So I was like, “Great. This gives me the courage now to write that check to do the booth at the Traffic and Conversion Conference.” And because I’m in San Diego, there was no real travel cost. That was basically the proof that we needed to invest in that conference, and it was amazing. We ended up putting in, like I said, when it was all said and done, it was about 10 grand, and we ended up doing at least a little more than a quarter million from the show. So, pretty good ROI.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah, I would say so. What was the plan? So, you go there, you have the booth, obviously you want to talk to people. Did you make an offer? Did you capture their information? What did the followup look like? Walk me through that.

Chris Martinez:
There was a lot of planning that went into this, and because I had been an attendee, I kind of knew what everybody else had been doing. And so you saw the mask on the website, so I’m kind of different. Proudly I like to say that I’m different, and I like to capture attention, and we love to have a lot of fun. And so one thing is that we were just going to totally play up the whole Mexico thing, and with Mexico, nobody knows that there are talented designers and developers here. I’m literally the first one down here, and definitely the only one who’s targeting digital agency owners. So, instead of hiding from them, because let’s be honest, there are a lot of things about Mexico and specifically Tijuana that people don’t have a positive association with this area.

Chris Martinez:
So, instead of hiding from the fact that we’re in Mexico, let’s play that up, man. So, I was dressed up in the Luchador outfit. I had the whole mask and the cape and everything and the wrestling boots. We had Mexican candy, we were giving away shot glasses. I wanted to give away tequila shots, but they wouldn’t allow me to do that at the hotel.

Liston Witherill:
I bet not.

Chris Martinez:
But not, we were just straight up just fun. I mean, we were giving away beer koozies, so we were capturing leads. People would come to the booth. We had a spinny wheel, and then our actual booth display, at the very top it said, “The perfect outsourcing solution for digital agencies.” So, that alone, just people would stop and read that and then they would want to talk to us. And then of course when I’m dressed up like a crazy Luchador, they’re curious. People would come by, we would ask them if they wanted to scan the booth or everybody would walk away with some sort of Mexican candy. A lot of people would come back because it’s so delicious. So, they would spin the wheel, we would capture their information, and then of course we had a special at the event. And so those things combined, I think in the three days that we were there, we captured over 125 agency leads. It was really, really good, by far exceeded our expectations.

Liston Witherill:
I see. And by a special offer, you mean you had some sort of package or discount offer for attendees?

Chris Martinez:
Yeah, absolutely. So, if you were there and you signed up at the show, you got a pretty good discount.

Liston Witherill:
So, I’m guessing you’re going to do this again?

Chris Martinez:
Absolutely. Actually, this coming year we’re getting two booths.

Liston Witherill:
Okay.

Chris Martinez:
We went to another event after that, I’m like, “We got to do all the events that we possibly can.” Any place that digital agency owners are at, I want to be there. So, we did another event, and that time, this particular event they didn’t have as many sponsors, but they gave you a bigger space and they wanted you to be super creative. And so I was like, “All right, sweet. What can we do?” So we went out and we bought a custom built wrestling ring. So now we have a six by six wrestling ring, and I’m in there standing on the top rope in my Luchador costume. So, we’re absolutely bringing that to this year’s Traffic and Conversion, and then I’m going probably going to hire a real Luchador to be in the ring.

Liston Witherill:
Well, that’s what I was going to say. You have to have people in there wrestling.

Chris Martinez:
Oh, yeah. People, they love to be in… everybody loves to come and take a picture in the ring. So, we’ll do some fun stuff. Yeah. We’re definitely going to blow it out. And that’s the thing is, well, I was talking about before how I had gone to the conferences and a lot of people, they’re fun but they’re not over the top fun. And I’ve been to conferences where it’s like fireworks and drinking and partying the whole time and it’s fun. So, I wanted to bring some of that energy to our booth space because, I mean, that’s kind of who we are. We are fun. Let’s have a good time, and that’s how our clients are as well, and it worked out really, really well.

Liston Witherill:
So, the Traffic and Conversion was a huge success. You’re looking at more events, and I would guess that this is really beginning some new problems. Your first problem was can we get enough clients and really test out is there enough interest in this to be a business and how big does that business look? And now you’ve proven that and you’re probably having some scaling issues. I don’t want to say problems because I don’t know. Can you talk a little bit about how you’re managing this quick growth? Because you probably have issues both on the delivery side and the need for acquisition as you hire more and more people.

Chris Martinez:
Yeah. First of all, every problem is an opportunity in disguise. I love that, but the reality is that because we were doing such high volume on our agency side, we were able to transition a lot of those systems and processes to Dude, and so there wasn’t a very steep learning curve on how to get stuff done. What we learned was that actually a lot of the agencies that we were working with didn’t have the systems and processes to be able to delegate work and to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively. What we learned is that, “Hey, we got to educate our agencies on how best to work with us.” So, selling has always been easy for us. The value proposition is huge. Everybody works U.S time zone, everybody speaks English, everybody understands marketing. We get stuff done super fast and a low flat rate for unlimited design and development. I mean, it’s like a no brainer.

Chris Martinez:
So, selling has always been easy. So, what we’ve been focusing on since February is the internal processes that we have that we didn’t anticipate, so like making tweaks and changes so that things are even easier for our clients. So like upgrading our ticketing platform, we’ve like created a portal now, creating checklists so that if client wants a mockup, these are the five things that we need for that. And if you want to send us just the PSD and you want us to build it up, these are the seven things that we need for that. So, creating all these little things that we didn’t anticipate has been kind of our focus up to that point or this point, I should say. So, we’ve got that dialed in. It’s solid. And so right now it’s just some small minor tweaks on the management side, so getting our management infrastructure super dialed in, and it’s basically right there.

Chris Martinez:
So, in 2019 we basically are just going to blow it out. Now, in terms of hiring, we’ve got a really, really good hiring process, and the other thing is we pay at the top of our pay scale and we offer amazing benefits down here in TJ. So, they have a retirement program, they have a short term savings program that we offer where it’s matching, we get lunch like every day, we do all kinds of fun events, and then our management style is completely different than most other companies here. We’re getting between five and 10 resumes a day, and our hiring process is very dialed in so we know exactly the type of person that we’re looking for.

Chris Martinez:
We actually, what’s more important to us, and especially because we have a specific company culture, is we’re looking for amazing people. There’s lots of talented designers and developers out there, but we need amazing people who have a strong innate desire to serve other people, which is not as easy to find in centers and developers. We’ve got a good solid amount of people coming through. And so now we’re actually also looking at hiring people from other parts of Mexico, because most of the people that we’ve hired have all been from this region. So, that’s another challenge that we’re coming up with.

Chris Martinez:
Honestly, we haven’t had a ton of big challenges. It’s like a lot of little things that just pop up out of nowhere. So, just the other day, migrating websites, so taking a site live, what we’ve decided is that, “You know what? That particular process we need to find like an IT specific person who can handle all of that and make it even better and faster for the clients.” It’s still very quick, but what are the little things that we can do? Like if we hire one person and they’re able to help take a project that takes 48 hours down to 12, that’s amazing and it delivers a better experience for our clients. So, it’s all those little tweaks and changes that we’re looking at right now that just continually help us to improve and do better for our clients.

Liston Witherill:
One thing that I loved that you said about hiring and building your team is that you’re looking for people who really want to serve other people to be in service, and that’s something that I emphasize in sales a lot and I think most people get wrong about sales. They think it’s about manipulation, but really should be thought of as how can I help this person? How can I serve them best? Even if it means I can’t sell them anything. And that’s totally fine. How do you find that? When you’re interviewing people, how do you seek out those people and sniff out whether or not they really have a service focus mentality?

Chris Martinez:
At least for me, and this has always kind of gone against the grain of my personality, it’s a feeling, right? A lot of it is a feeling thing, like trusting your gut about a particular person. Our interview process is very, very thorough. I’ll walk you through basically what we do to find great people. We put up our job posts and we get resumes come in, we analyze those resumes. That’s when they’d be hiring and the interview process basically starts. So, if there’s typos on the resume or it’s very unprofessional or obviously if they don’t have the skills, then we disregard that person. If we think it’s a potential candidate, we’ll send them an email, and they have a list of questions as well as some things that they need to do. So, for a developer, we ask them to send over three websites that they’ve done that they’re proud of. If they send over two, see you later.

Liston Witherill:
Right. Can’t follow directions.

Chris Martinez:
Well, yeah, they have to follow directions. The best that somebody’s ever going to act or perform is in the interview process. So, if they screw up the interview process, automatically you got to disregard them. For that particular one, if they take a week to get back to us, not somebody that we’re going to hire. So, if they pass that, then we’ll do a quick 15 minute phone interview with that particular person. If that goes well and we get a good sense for the person because they don’t sound like a freak on the phone and they’re able to communicate, talk like a normal good human being, then we’ll invite them to do an online test where we test particular skills, how are they at development skills, HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript. If they pass that, then we bring them in for an in person interview, and then for the in person interview, they have to interview with at least four people, and then all four of us have to agree that this is a great person for the team, for our company.

Chris Martinez:
If any one of us doesn’t feel like this is a great fit, then we disregarded the person. Actually, two days ago, there was a candidate who came in, had great scores, did well on the phone interview, the two people that he interviewed with, they loved him, and then he got to me, I asked him some other questions and I just knew that it wasn’t going to be a good fit, so we had to disregard that candidate. But on paper up to that point, he seemed like he would have been a good fit, but at the end of the day it wasn’t. So then if they get the approval from all the four people who interview, then we have them do a practical test like building out a page on a website or something like that. That’s timed, so they have two days typically to complete that. If they miss that deadline by one minute, we don’t hire that person. And then of course the quality of the work isn’t great, then we don’t hire that person. But then if they do pass all of those tests, then we’ve typically got a very, very good person. In the first 90 days it’s a trial period as well. So, luckily we’ve never had to let anybody go within the first 90 days, so our system seems to be working.

Liston Witherill:
That’s amazing. You also mentioned that you pay at the top of the pay scale and you give great benefits.

Chris Martinez:
Correct.

Liston Witherill:
Now, I’m guessing that’s maybe not made possible, but at least made easier by the fact that it sounds like most of your clients are American, but your staff is in Mexico. Is that right?

Chris Martinez:
100%, yeah.

Liston Witherill:
Yeah.

Chris Martinez:
We work with American agencies. I don’t know if we have any Canadians, actually, but definitely Americans. We do have some outliers, some people in England,, and I know have one guy in New Zealand and then our staff is here in Tijuana, Mexico.

Liston Witherill:
Cool. And do you think that that model can be duplicated for other people, or is outsourcing really the key to be able to pay at the top, give great benefits, and have this great culture in an agency which a lot of agencies are kind of known as race to the bottom, grind employees until they can’t work anymore. Is that one of the reasons you wanted to go to Mexico with your team?

Chris Martinez:
Well, for me, it was cost. We started out in the Philippines because of the cost. We started from nothing. I was not born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I was basically… I started my agency off of a failed business where it left me with literally… I take full responsibility for that, and I lost almost every single penny I had, where I couldn’t take a $20 bill out of the ATM machine. We started our agency from zero, nothing, and so that’s one of the reasons why we went to the Philippines is because of the cost. We came down to Mexico because obviously the labor is less expensive here, but it made up for all the challenges that we were having with India and Philippines and everywhere else. Obviously same time zone, because basically, if you don’t know, if you’ve never seen where Tijuana or I’m going to say TJ, because you know what TJ means, if you never seen where TJ is on a map, it’s like a Stone’s throw away from San Diego. It’s literally right there.

Chris Martinez:
From a distance standpoint, it was great. There’s nothing like having an office with all your staff here, and you can get that synergy and everybody becomes friends and we solve problems together. So, we had our office here. And in terms of talent, super, super talented. Communication was super easy because here in TJ, everybody’s got a family in the U.S. I think almost every single one of my employees has a visa, so they can go back and forth across the U.S without issue. So, you get in a cultural thing where people kind of understand American culture, and that helps a lot. In our business, efficiency is super important. And so when you don’t have to explain things twice, that’s improves efficiency, that saves money and saves time. And so overall it was just an amazing fit for what we were doing at the time.

Chris Martinez:
So, going back to your question though, is it possible to replicate what we do? I would say absolutely. It just depends on your business model. If you wanted to replicate our culture in the States, is it possible? Yes, probably possible. You’d have to be charging a lot more than what we’re charging, of course.

Liston Witherill:
Right.

Chris Martinez:
But it’s possible. I love our staff so much. How hard they work is unbelievable. And not to slam anybody in the States, but I hear all the time from agency owners about hiring developers and designers in the States, and just the attitudes and the prima donnas and the, “You need me more than I need you,” type of attitudes. I never have that down here. Everybody loves working, they love our team, they appreciate all the things that we do for them. It makes things so much easier for me as an owner because I get to focus on the things that I like to do and I don’t have to deal with the babying on the attitudes.

Liston Witherill:
I love that.

Chris Martinez:
Yeah, I love our staff here. They’re fricking amazing. I would highly recommend anybody to look at outsourcing to Mexico, obviously through me, but if you want to try and set up your own team, I think it’s a great experience.

Liston Witherill:
Well, fantastic. I want to get into how you set up your team and some of the traps and things to think about if someone is looking at outsourcing, but we’re going to cover that in the next episode. So, if you are not subscribed to this podcast, hit subscribe now. Tune in tomorrow to listen to part two of my interview with Chris, where he’ll be talking about how to effectively outsource and not make some of the mistakes that he’s made and other people have made. So, we’ll see you then.

Stay In the Loop

Get a daily sales insight sent straight to your inbox – sign up for our newsletter.

Like what you heard? Help us get the word out! Just leave a rating and review on Apple Podcasts. It’ll take you less than a minute and it’ll help us spread the word about Modern Sales.

Subscribe

Get Serve More Weekly, an email newsletter with one article, podcast episode, and stories from around the web. Every Monday.

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.

And check out the SDS method if you want to improve your sales process.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn