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

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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
Zendes
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 2 of 2):

Full Transcript

Liston:
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:
Today I am continuing my interview with Chris Martinez of DUDEAgency. This is part 2 of 2, so if you didn’t listen to part 1, go back to yesterday’s episode, give that a listen. We’ll be here when you’re ready to come back. Before we get into the discussion with Chris today where he’ll be talking about how he thinks about outsourcing and how to do it effectively, I did want to let you know that if you are looking to scale up sales at your agency or your professional services business, I’d love to talk to you. Just go to liston.io/strategy, you can apply for a strategy session with me, takes less than two minutes. And if you do apply for one and there is a fit for us to potentially work together, I’d love to chat with you and I promise to give you three actionable insights during that call whether you decide to pay me a dollar or not. So all you have to do is go to liston.io/strategy. Now, Chris, how you doing man?

Chris:
Doing great. I am excited.

Liston:
Excellent. I love it. Where we left off with yesterday’s episode was you were about to start talking about how you think about outsourcing. One of the things that really stood out to me that you said in our pre-call was that you’ve outsourced to all kinds of different countries. You’ve seen time zone issues, you’ve seen all kinds of things. So maybe just as a primer, if someone was thinking about outsourcing, maybe even one role within their company, what are some things that you’ve learned that they should think about immediately?

Chris:
The first thing that I would say when you’re considering outsourcing is make sure that you have good systems and processes in place so that these people that you hire, you can make the most of them. So efficiency, I’m like obsessed with efficiency. So systems and processes will absolutely make or break your projects and help you add profitability to all your projects.

Chris:
So the second thing is I’ve outsourced everywhere and I know the challenges and you’re probably well aware of this as well. So the Philippines, the challenges that you have there, all these people are great. First of all, I’ll premise it with that. All of these people are great, you just have some innate challenges with certain areas. So the Philippines, it’s the time zone, right? Because I’m on the West Coast, so they’re 15 hours ahead. So every night when I was starting my agency, I was up till one o’clock in the morning, basically dealing with the Philippines and in checking communication.

Chris:
And the challenge comes when they do something, you’re asleep, you wake up, you get it. And if it’s wrong, they’re asleep. So you’ll lose a day. Inefficiency right there. And then also the power goes out all the time. So when the power goes out, then they lose internet. So your team can be offline for two weeks. That happened to us one time, because the Philippines it’s like the most monsoon riddled country in the whole entire world. So that power goes out all the time.

Chris:
And then India and like Bangladesh, Pakistan, it’s communication. It’s like unbelievable. You say something, they agree that they understand but they really don’t understand. And then you just have this cycle of, “Why can’t you understand me?” And they’re like, “We do understand you.” And I’m like, “No you don’t because it’s wrong.”

Chris:
So inefficiencies there. Then I’ve gone to South America, they were talented and they were closer to US time zones. But the problem that I had with them is that they can’t hit deadlines. It’s just like unbelievable.

Chris:
And then Eastern Europe, a lot of people go to Eastern Europe; Croatia, Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine. And the challenge that we had there was customer service. I mean it’s like if you’ve ever traveled in that region, you’ve heard of this thing called the communist hangover and it’s basically like they just don’t care. It’s like you should be so honored that you are doing business with me. Which when communism was there and there was one bread shop in town, what motivation did they have to give good customer service, because you didn’t have another choice. So like you kind of get some of that hangover when you’re dealing with the outsourcing solutions in that region.

Chris:
And then like we talked about yesterday, the States, great work, but sometimes you do get attitudes and of course there’s the cost. I know some people that I look at their payroll and I’m like, Oh my God. I can’t believe that you are spending that much on your payroll. That’s why Mexico was just the perfect option for us.

Liston:
Yeah. It’s interesting because I’ve experienced everything you’re saying. I hired an American assistant this year and one of the things I didn’t want to deal with anymore was the time zone differences. It is a lot better. There’s no two ways about it because I can get a response on the same day without having to stay up until one in the morning, which unlike you, I was not willing to do that. So I guess you had a stomach for it longer than I did. I’ve also experienced the power outages. I’ve also experienced the slow internet in various places through the world, which can be a real challenge for let’s say, downloading and uploading video.

Chris:
A hundred percent.

Liston:
Yeah, that’s a big issue because it’s not a factor of two or three. It’s a factor of 10 or even 100 difference in terms of upload and download speeds. So that can make a big, big, big difference. I’m wondering, you talked about having good systems and so how do you think about creating those systems and what sort of tech tools or tech stack do you recommend in putting those together?

Chris:
Yeah, this is like the least sexy part of running an agency by the way, like nobody likes to do this stuff.

Liston:
Let me just interject there, because I totally agree with you. However, this is what keeps the wheels turning so that the outward part of it that is sexy can become sexier and sexier over time. I totally agree with you, but this is how the sausage is made. So I think it’s really valuable for you to talk about it.

Chris:
Yeah, I have a saying that sales is actually the easy part, you make or lose all of your money on the operations. So just documenting processes. Being super, super granular. When we were building our websites on the agency side, we basically broke our projects down into four steps. So we had our introduction phase and that was basically where we were sending the client a welcome packet. We were scheduling the onboarding call, we were conducting the onboarding call, we were posting all the information from the onboarding call. Then we go into our design phase. That’s where we basically send everything over to a designer and she takes the information from the onboarding call and creates a mock-up. Now the onboarding call, in my opinion, the onboarding call is the absolute most important step of any project.

Chris:
Because if you screw that up, you are going to create a ton of bottlenecks for yourself as you move further into the project. The client is never going to be more excited to talk to you and to give you information than the day that they sign up. And every single day after that they’re interest in communicating with you goes down.

Liston:
Yes.

Chris:
So it’s day 45 in a project and you’re saying, Hey, Mr. Customer, I actually need this from you. They’re like, “Dude, stop calling me. Like, why can’t you just do your job? We’ve already talked about this a hundred times already.” That’s their mindset. Even though in many cases it’s the client who didn’t do what you asked them to do. So conducting that onboarding call the same way and the right way every single time at the very beginning of the project is unbelievably important.

Chris:
So because you do it the same way and you get all the information, now your designer has an easier job of doing mock-ups. And then you send those back to the client, you’ve got your QC checklist, the clients eventually will approve it and then it goes into development. That’s our third phase. So then you have all the new set of quality control and processes and the checklist essentially. Send it back to the client, get more revisions, and then eventually that project goes live. And that’s our fourth phase, go live. And that’s where you have your final things. You got to install Google analytics, set up certain plugins. We would do the mobile optimization at the very end, so that sort of thing.

Chris:
And then the projects basically live. And then after that we would use a ticketing support software. We actually started out with Zendesk. Now we use Freshdesk, we love Freshdesk, and that’s how we would coordinate the communication between the clients and us. So we would never use email.

Chris:
You’ve got to get out of your inbox for communication, for support stuff, in my opinion. And so that’s what we would use for that. And we have standards like canned responses. We have what we call SLA. So like how long is each particular task supposed to take? We have all that basically we’ve created that. And so you try and get it down to a well oiled machine as closely as possible. There’s going to be hiccups, there’s going to be like outlier problems that you haven’t anticipated. But basically those are opportunities where you can create a new process so that we won’t have issue again.

Chris:
And that’s basically how you do it. You just got to grind through it. And the best thing is that if you have a mentor or somebody who’s created these systems and processes before you, then you don’t have to go and reinvent the wheel.

Liston:
Yeah. And is there a particular project management system or software that powers all this behind the scenes other than Freshdesk?

Chris:
Yeah, so for the websites that we were doing with the agency, we haven’t taken on an agency client and like since we basically launched DUDE, but we were using Asana. We love Asana, I’m not super technical, it was really easy for me to use. I could go in and basically review a project and see where every step of every project was at, who was assigned to what, what dates where everything was sent over. And we built out, that four step process, we had that built out in Asana.

Chris:
And then now actually when a client signs up with us, we give them our Asana project management template so they can just reuse that if they don’t have one. Or if they have one, they can take the best practices that we have that are applicable to them and then use those in their process. We also give them our onboarding system as well. So we created a whole onboarding process for websites, for funnels, for SEO for PPC. So we give that to our clients as well.

Liston:
Oh, interesting. And so you’re doing PPC on your client’s behalf as well?

Chris:
No, no, no, no, no. This is back when I was running my agency, yeah.

Liston:
I see.

Chris:
We internally developed all these systems and processes and so we want to give them to our agencies to help them be more efficient. Because if they’re more efficient than we can be more efficient. Everybody wins, everybody’s more efficient. The clients are also happier because stuffs get done faster.

Liston:
Do you have your team in Mexico also leading the kind of project management and account management functions?

Chris:
Yes and no. When we bring on an agency, they get assigned to a team and they share that team with anywhere from 15 to 20 other agencies. So most of the agencies that we work with, they have a dedicated project manager to organize everything that’s going on on their side. We do do calls with each of our agencies when they need, sometimes just a quick 15 minute call, get everybody on the same page, go over timelines and that sort of thing. We do do that with our clients. So in some ways we are helping them with project management, but we don’t directly consider ourselves to be doing project management for our agencies. Because we don’t interface with their clients. So there’s always got to be somebody in between the client and us that’s giving directions.

Liston:
I see. So the agencies themselves are acting as project managers to your team basically.

Chris:
Yeah, of course.

Liston:
Interesting. Okay. And so do you see that there’s a limit to how much you can outsource or what types of things you can outsource? What’s been your experience with that?

Chris:
I’m going to answer that with a question. So in your opinion, what is the most valuable thing that an agency does? What’s the biggest value that they bring to the table?

Liston:
Well, the strategic direction.

Chris:
Absolutely. I agree. You 1000%. Now that is the agencies, in my opinion though, like their IP. Now, that’s their biggest thing. Outsource everything else. Outsource everything that’s not associated with their signature system, their strategy. Basically you can outsource that and limit your liability as an agency owner so that you don’t have huge overhead. You can outsource everything else other than the strategy.

Liston:
I think some people would say, I don’t know if you’ve heard of David C. Baker. Do you know who that is?

Chris:
I don’t.

Liston:
I think he’s called the expert’s expert. He helps creative agencies essentially be able to charge more and build themselves without having to scale up in terms of head count. And I think one thing David might say, I’ll try not to put words in his mouth, but David and people like him would say, “Well, just get out of the delivery business entirely. If your key highest value deliverable is the strategic thinking, why deliver any work at all?”

Liston:
So I’ll give you an example. There’s a company called Newfangled and they do content strategy work and their retainers are just the strategy. You don’t get any delivery. You’re expected to make all the content yourself. I’m curious from you, why should an agency continue to do delivery if they’re so good at strategy in the first place?

Chris:
If you can do that and you can build a great life for yourself just doing that, then do that. But the clients are going to need somebody to get that done. And so we have agencies who like, initially I just wanted to do the strategy, but the clients keep asking me over and over and over, can you help me implement it? Can you help me implement it. And just charge enough so that it becomes worth your while. So you don’t really have to do anything. Like if you create a strategy and you know that it’s going to take 50 grand to get it implemented, don’t charge 20, charge them 75.

Chris:
I think that’s part of the problem is that people do the strategy and then they’re like, “Well, for the client to be able to afford it, for me to do it, I’m going to have to charge way less.” Then don’t charge. Then don’t charge that amount. Charge what you’re worth. And this is the thing is that like people are always going to want you to do the work if you’re providing the strategy. So just charge enough so that it makes it worth your while.

Liston:
I’m curious, what kind of agency would you say is a perfect fit to work with you and to work with DUDE?

Chris:
Yeah, absolutely. So we have digital agencies basically who have some sort of system that includes a website, funnel, ad campaign, and some sort of lead generation component. Those are absolutely our clients that love working with us because they have recurring clients, they have recurring needs and we can productize and systematize basically everything that they’re doing. So like the super custom guys who they’re taking on huge projects typically and every project is different. That’s usually not a great fit for us.

Liston:
Oh, I see.

Chris:
And it’s like impossible to scale that.

Liston:
Yeah, no, you can’t scale it. I think that looks more a boutique management consulting firm if everything is different every time you take on a project.

Chris:
Yeah. But some of those guys would put up huge numbers and then I look at them on the operations side and I’m like, this is just an inefficient nightmare. Like you’re basically throwing away 25% of your profit margin because you guys are trying to reinvent the wheel every time.

Liston:
Totally. I want to come back to something you said about the money in the business being made or broken in operations, but sales is the easy part.

Chris:
Yeah.

Liston:
Tell me what are you doing on the sales side? How are you acquiring clients and why do you think it’s coming so easy?

Chris:
Our value proposition is amazing in my opinion. My humble opinion. We’re able to get in front of our ideal client and we speak their language. I’m all about niching out and so I know exactly the challenges that agency owners face with getting work done. I know every single thing. It’s just much easier for us to have that conversation with the agency owners. So we’ve gotten the business this far by referrals basically, and strategic partners and then live events. And we’re starting to run our Facebook ad campaign and we’re also starting cold calling. So we’re starting to plug in different lead generation sources. Eventually we’ll get everything down.

Chris:
But like I said, our focus this past year has been on the operation side and making sure that we can deliver an amazing experience to our clients. So now that we’ve got that pretty much dialed in, now we can basically hit the gas and start bringing on a lot more clients.

Liston:
Love it. Well Chris, you’ve shared a lot about outsourcing. You’ve shared a lot about how you’ve built your business. I really appreciate it. I know that anybody listening to this appreciates it and I’m guessing that some of them will want to follow up with you. So what’s the best way for them to find you and contact you?

Chris:
Yeah, they can just go to our website, dudeagency.io. We do offer a 14 day trial. So if there is an agency that is looking to bring on more clients and just needs the team and the processes to be able to do so, they can go to the site and sign up for a 14 day trial and they can basically kick the tires. What we do is we assign them to a team and so they get to experience basically exactly what life would be like if they were assigned to one of our pods, is what we call them. So we walk them through. We basically handhold them through every single one of their requests for that 14 days. And then at the end, if they feel like it’s a great fit and we can help grow their agency, then we get them enrolled. That’s the best way. Or you can look us up on the Instagrams or the Facebooks too. DUDEAgency.

Liston:
Love that. And I’ll link to your website in the show notes as well. Chris, thank you so much. You’ve been super generous with your time and with everything you’ve shared. Really appreciate you being here.

Chris:
Awesome, man. Thanks so much. Great chatting with you.

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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.

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