This 2nd "monthly" update on my life and times as the new leader of Hubspot Agency Partner, Innovative Marketing Resources is a special "combined issue" covering both months 2+3. Why? Because I was out the 2nd half of December and half of January. WHY?! Because I write this post as a new father! That's right. My wife Victoria and I had our first child on Dec 20th. That's the biggest update for me in the days since my last post - and it brings new meaning and motivation to my work.
[Our son Grantham John Sal, born December 20th, 2015]
I still am very committed to getting this monthly update post done. So, I had a little downtime during my final days of paternity leave and I figured I'd get this out there while the house was quiet. So once again, please excuse needing to combine the month 2+3 post and if I use a little short hand here to get this published before I'm called to diaper duty. Now, let's review the highlights from two of the wildest, craziest months of my work life to date....
[This was my outline for this blog post you're reading. Isn't my handwriting GREAT?!]
^^ EXTRA HUBSPOT TRIVIA ^^ - This (above) stationary is the kind available at The Royal Sonesta Hotel in Cambridge - an establishment which every HubSpotter is familar with. This is a pad I picked up during one of the many company meetings that HubSpot has hosted at that hotel over the years.
As it says at the top of my outline pictured above, we just had our monthly team kick off a couple weeks ago so a good time to recap some things we accomplished in December and what we have been working on in January:
[Screenshot of monthly team kick off's google cal agenda - I did my best to design this agenda along the lines of what we found worked well from our HubSpot Academy team meetings, but obviously focused towards the specific needs of a HubSpot Agency Partner and the unique impact areas we wanted to invest time in improving each moth.]
To start the January monthly meeting, we recapped the growth goals I have during my time leading this HubSpot Agency Partner. (see my 'first 30 days' post for more).....
I'm happy to say that, as planned, we now have a draft of our team purpose and principles. We used the framework I had learned from HubSpot Academy to help lead our discussion (See link to Mark Kilens' post on team purposes + also a review of the HubSpot Academy Team Principles we helped draft back in 2013-2014). They are not complete and "ratified" by the team yet so I'm not going to share the specifics here until the team is fully signed off, but I'm happy we started the conversation around WHY we are here and HOW we will go about weighing our big decisions we will make in 2016. We discussed many different things we believe as a team (over 20 items), which I am going to boil down to hopefully 7-10 beliefs. Summarize roughly as....(see doc and recording) ....we intend to continue to refine these throughout February so that by the end of Feb we have something really solid we can rely on. I wish it could be sooner but have to be realistic.
IMR's Processes, Procedures, Playbooks in months 2+3:
- One of the things I learned from my nearly 5 years working at HubSpot is how important it is to document as much as you can about your work in a cental place where everyone in the company can access your content/data/knowledge and collaborate around it. I have been trying to bring that same culture to IMR for the past 3 months.
- The ultimate goal is to have everything we do for ourselves and for our clients to be driven by a playbook/process/procedure that everybody can access, comment on and improve over time. Creating this type of "knowledgebase" supports a culture of learning, communication and transparency. This culture of documentation centered around HubSpot's internal wiki. Mark Kilens and his team at HubSpot Academy (which I was proud to be a part of) took this one step further with HubSpot Projects. Now it's IMR's turn...
- This library really started to take off in months 2+3 of my new role. Our vision is that this will eventually become a "hub" of the agency's public policies that will be available on our website one day. That way, our prospects, our agency partners our clients as well as our team will all be on the same page as to the why/how/what behind everything we do (not to mention cutting down on emails and endless meetings to discuss and explain things already available on our site). This was inspired by the success of the HubSpot Academy Projects initiative that I helped to work on during my last year as a HubSpot employee. Again, another part of my commitment to help make IMR a "mini-HubSpot" when it comes to how we function operationally/culturally.
Leaders rising on the team while I was away:
- One of the great things that came from me being out for 4 weeks across these past 2 months was making space for certain staff members to lead in the areas we started to focus on in November. I was happy to see that the client work continued to happen, the procedures we developed continued to be developed, there was increased communication between the team in order to keep me in the loop remotely (which everybody benefitted from, I think).
- Big big thanks to IMR co-founder Joe Petterossi for stepping up in the leadership role at the firm while I was gone. If you don't know Joe's background already, he's WELL qualified...
- The team wouldn't be where it is right now at the end of month three if it wasn't for Danielle Winkler. She crushed it in months 2+3 and I'm very greatful for her stepping up in leading team meetings, helping with sales, and fully embracing all the new processes and playbooks I brought over from HubSpot. She is setting the tone for the rest of the team and I'm very grateful for her leadership while I was away.
Sales wins, and sales slows in months 2+3....
- We made more sales in December and January (woo hoo!) We started work for 2 new client accounts and are in the late stages of sales pursuit for 3 others.
- We are far from having our sales engine humming perfectly. This is partially due to me being so new to the agency and also due to the agency still figuring out who best fits in what role when it comes to our lead gen and client aquisition strategy. This is also due to the fact that we don't sell widgets, we sell services and two prospects are qualified (nor interested) in exactly the same service. They all don't buy the same and we aren't selling the same to each. As we pursue more opportunities (and learn from our wins and losses), we get smarter and smarter about this.
- Some sales fall in our lap after a couple of phone calls, other sales have taken weeks of back and forth.
- One of the big wins on this front (in my eyes) was getting the entire team to record their activites and time invested in pursuing large deals i.e. our cost of customer acquisition (COCA). Really cool to be able to track that (like HubSpot Inc does internally). Helps us think about how to budget for sales pursuit through the rest of the year if we want to go after large, complex deals (and also what to charge to make sure we recover these costs if we win these deal too). What will be REALLY cool is to see our COCA number come down in future deals as we leverage some of the material / team synergy that we formed up from pursuing past deals. We will also know if we are NOT leveraging enough of what we invested in learning/making if future COCA #'s for comparable deals are the same as past deals.
- We can't increase the number of sales opportunities without improving our lead pipeline. We need a funnel strategy and funnel manager/champion (vs. our current "committee" approach of having our team reach out to leads ad hoc). This person would also be responsible for helping us source at least 10 SQLs/week.
- I need to remind myself that there's ALWAYS a good reason on any given day to make time for at least 1-2 hours researching and connecting with new leads.
- Great resource to guide me is the HubSpot Agency Project that I created while at HubSpot Academy, Creating a Targeted Sales Strategy. My goal is to execute this faithfully in Feb.
The four core channels of new biz we started to focus on in months 2+3:
- Our own network of existing relationships and contacts at HubSpot (sales and account managers internally and also HubSpot customers).
- Our agency's own inbound engine (Growing the funnel to produce a minimum of 50 MQLs/month)
- Public speaking and webinars (Getting me out there to flex my ToastMasters skills)
- Referrals and partnerships with other marketing agencies (especially HubSpot Agency Partners)
- Blogging activity is up (please see my first post on the IMR blog: The 5 Reasons I Left HubSpot (Even Though I Loved Working There) + subscribe!
- An increased focus on setting goals and building processes out for increasing our own social media following, database of subscribers and lead gen: (Check out this screenshot of our team's 12/28 Marketing Meeting's follow up notes from Danielle - As you can see there's a LOT more organization across the whole team on marketing vs. last month)
- Not everybody has been on board with the increased amount of meetings, process planning and reporting requirements. There's been some controversy on how best to go about this. I expected this and am doing my best to be patient and work with each team member to include their ideas and address their concerns. We cannot be effective unless we have 100% of the team bought in. I need more time to work with everybody on their roles and accountability in Feb.
- Our own network of contacts:
- HubSpot: Need to visit monthly - next visit date is February 11th and key meetings with our counterparts in HubSpot's Partner Sales & Account Management teams.
- I'm forming up my own list of my top 25 My dream accounts (need to narrow down from a spreadsheet of over 200 potential accounts)
- Public Speaking & webinars:
- Speaking: I am presenting at an MIT conference for start-ups (link to event page). This will be my first speaking engagement as an offical HubSpot Certified Trainer (one of only 25 HubSpot has approved worldwide! Big thanks to Sarah Phillips at HubSpot Academy for taking the lead on this important program.
- I also intend to speak more regularly and vigirously in the year ahead. My idols for this type of speaking schedule are folks like Marcus Sheridan and his team at The Sales Lion!
- Looking for HUGs that would like me to visit and speak to (spoken to multiple ones in the past). I'll speak at your HUG or inbound-related event. 50 people + travel + a room and I'm in!
- We intend to do an encore webinar to the one we did for HubSpot Agency Partners in November: Building a better blueprint for HubSpot Agency Partnerships
- I spoke to the following HubSpot Agency Partners in December and Jan about how we could portentially work together to deliver more value than just working alone: Bristol Strategy, Vieo Design, Media Junction, Market8, Impulse Creative, Tresnic Media, 4th Demention Partners - and I had to reschedule a catch up with HubWerks due to baby demands.
- HubSpot Agency Partners I am VERY eager to catch up and connect with in February in order to explore ways we can help eachother's clients grow: BluLeadz, The Sales Lion, Impact Branding and Design, ThankHandy and New Breed Marketing. There's a bunch more but this post would never end if I listed them all ;)
- One of the biggest "partners" I have been speaking to recently is a former IMR team-mate Max Traylor. Max Traylor was a HUGE part of what made IMR what it was prior to my arrival. Max has been teaming up with us on pursuing deals yet again and I couldn't be more excited to the collaborations we have been working on thus far. The way I see it, Max and I have the potential to generate more value together than either one of us could generate working on our own - the best part is that Max agrees. Stay tuned to see what Max and I can come up with in the weeks ahead...
Client Services in months 2+3:
- The entire team has renewed their HubSpot Certifications. This was a major goal I put out to the team before I left on paternity leave in mid-December. Super super proud of the team for accomplishing that. This is actually a requirement for every official HubSpot Agency Partner but my experience while at HubSpot Academy was that the majority of the employees working at these agencies were not current on their HubSpot certifications (and until last month, we weren't either). Everybody invested time and effort to study and now we are 100% certified on the latest tools/features of the marketing platform that we service our clients with.
- The clients who were up for renewal in December/January are looking to continue. With one exception. The client who is not renewing is not doing so because our champion for the account left the organization and the person who replaced that person is looking to take most of their HubSpot/inbound work in house.
- We still are working on our renewal playbook. For those accounts that are interested in staying with us and renewing next year, we still are working on actually processing those renewal contracts. The work continues in the meantime on a month to month basis. The challenge is that we do not have a straight forward way for our own staff and the accounts we serve to easily come together and agree on a plan to renew our retainer relationships for another year's worth of work. We have the numbers, we have the ideas, the clients are open to our ideas, we are discussing them. However, the renewal contracts for those accounts are yet to be fully drafted to sign. I need to get with my account managers and form detailed plans for these accounts. It's just not that straight forward how best to approach this process (at least not to me - and that's ironic for me to admit considering I helped design the training for agency partners on this topic).
- The only thing that really matters when it comes to success - is demonstrating how we are moving the needle on saving time and money with inbound - is showing we provide the most efficient mode of executing inbound and Hubspot. How do we do that? It's reporting on the following as clearly and consistently as we can:
- Cost (in time and effort) per each new subscriber you acruire
- Cost per Marketing Qualified Lead you generate
- Cost per Sales Qualified Lead the sales team can pursue
- The overall Cost of Customer Aquisition (COCA) across the entire sales and marketing funnel
- Then it's onto Lifetime Value (LTV) Customer Retention Rate.
- You can measure the quality, score or happiness indexes of these segments as well to make sure you are getting quality contacts (which I would interpret through the data and engagement they provide your organization).
- Based on what I am used to coming from HubSpot's inbound operations, we do not track those above metrics as closely and as consistenly as we should (for ourselves and for our clients). We need our clients to trust us and share more data with us in 2016 if we are to help them track this more closely and make a case for increasing investments with us (because we provide the kind of return they are looking for based on the above metrics).
Team culture/fun at IMR in Dec/Jan:
- [We now have a kegorator in the office!. The first keg is Samuel Adams, Boston Lager, of course.]
- I brought in my XBox 360 with Kinect. I am trying to make a habit of playing one of the Kinect games (where you have to stand up and move your body in order to play the game) at least 30 minutes a week.
- Catered team lunches continue to be brought in every Friday. Yum yum!
- Luckily we have a couple other serious gamers on the team. I got a "Game of Thrones" themed-version of RISK! boardgame that I brought in to play as well. We talked in January that we want to organize a couple game tournaments during team lunch in the living room on Fridays next month. I psyched.
[A picture of Ross and Danielle holding up the "artist's proofs" of two new poster designs that were made especially for our agency last month by Mike Powers, who works for IMR's sister company, Innovative Fullfilment Services. They are EPIC, they reflect the creativity along with the tonque-in-cheek humor of the agency and we love them. Thanks, Mike!]
My personal theme for IMR's organization in February: Blueprint All The Things!
- Ratify the first draft of our team's purpose: We are seeking the most efficient and effective way to do inbound.
- Ratify the first list of our team's principles (we brainstormed several principles/beliefs in January's team meeting, but we need to narrow them down and agree on them).
- Accountability: Needing more of it for everybody and better ways to instill it in our team work and dealings with clients.
- Know what we're trying to build in terms of an agency organization and be able to express to other team members what it is so they can help fill the key roles/responsibilities (and help us recruit new team members to fill any gaps).
- For each recurring meeting we have, appointing an appropriate "moderator" who is helps the team prepare, execute, and follow up from each meeting.
- Remember to have a RACI matrix for it all too. Project management is a must.
- Have all of that measured with SMART goals for each aspect.
Doing well at Agency Partner Ship AND Parenthood - my biggest and most important challenge yet!
[My boy Grantham and I doing the first of many fist pounds]
- When I went into the agency offices for the first time since our baby boy was born, it was hard. These last few weeks have been hard has I adjust and balance to two big changes in my life - this new career opportunity and starting a family. I've kindof chosen to be a part of raising two new families - to be a part of establishing two new cultures, growing and defining two new ideas in my world.
- Beverley Jorgensen (pictured in the middle of the above pic) has been a great supporter. As a mother of 5 who helped her husband Kevin (IMR's co-founder) build up the IMR Corp business while raising a family, she has given me a lot of great advice and perspective. The IMR team in general as also stepped up and shown they can lead in key areas while I am away.
- All in all, we are on track. Seriously. My wife and baby are happy. Our staff is stepping up to lead and we are working out the kinks in our whole operation. We are all learning. All growing. That's all I could ask for.
Your turn to share:
Thanks for reading. Now I want to hear from you:
- What was your December/January like? Did things speed up or slow down for you as the holidays came on and the new year took off?
- Are you a parent? How do you work to balance your career goals with your goals as a parent? Any advice?? :)