There’s a popular saying that states the Cobbler’s children have no shoes. I actually wrote a blog post on this way back in the day when my blog was mainly read by myself and my immediate family.
“The cobbler’s children have no shoes” refers to the phenomena where people who are successful at doing something but don’t demonstrate that in their own personal lives. One of our biggest selling points in the early days was our attention to our own marketing and our desire to eat our own dog food, drink our own champagne, stroke our own egos or whatever you want to call it.
Seven years later, our content approach continues to set us apart from the pack. If you check out any of my competitors you will find that the vast majority do little to no content marketing, the rest do just enough to get by.
What it takes
At LeadMD, we try to release a new blog post everyday, we succeed in putting out 5 – 6 new pieces of high value content each week and I’m incredibly proud of our team for never compromising quality for the sake of quantity.
If an agency is going to tout best practices and not perform those same actions, you have to understand that hypocrisy in recommending something that is good enough for your client but apparently not for your own use.”
There is a plethora of excuses you’ll hear when these “consultants” are confronted with this fact, rest assured they are all B.S. I don’t have time to write every day, but I make it happen. When someone asks me what it takes to create a successful blog, with five-digit subscribership my answer is always, “more than you’re comfortable with.”
And it’s true, no one wants to believe it takes writing blogs at 4am or proofing an article at midnight but if you ask anyone who’s doing it, we write outside of normal biz hours most of the time.
Why? Because we get paid to do other things and if your reading someone who isn’t getting paid to implement the fodder they dole out on their blog, it’s time to find a new blog.
The above was working out great but something was always eating at me back in the deep inner recesses of my mind. We were walking the walk but we were doing it outside of the structure we advertised to clients as best practice. We did not manage our internal team under any sort of retainer structure. Day in and day out, my team speaks to prospects and customers and a fundamental part of that discussion deals with the ideal structure in which to run a marketing team.
We believe that outsourcing management of marketing automation, in our world Marketo, is a best practice mode with which to ensure consistency and apply best practices that someone who hasn’t seen thousands of Marketo instances simply can’t bring. We were a bad example of our own advice.
In January of 2016, we made a sweeping radical change
I released my internal marketing team to our consulting division and I contracted with my own organization for 400 hours of support each month, 300 to be delivered by our internal W2 team and an additional 100 hours would be delivered by 1099 contractors that we use for overflow work.
It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do – it was also the biggest up-tick the business has seen in years.
Most of marketing is project management. I’d never had an internal project manager before. By operating under our own retainer structure, I was able to leverage not only a project manager but I had a better framework for using our project management solution: Clarizen. Time reporting was previously used loosely on our internal work because frankly when all of your time is used toward one project and you are a dedicated employee, really, what’s the use?
Retainer changed all of that as it engulfed my previously fragmented process in a warm blanket of structure. In addition to this I found that my own organization also flourished. Rather than counting on an FTE to “figure it out” with a brief handoff and a motivational speech, I really had to buckle down and document requirements, often with the help of my team. We knew that if we weren’t stringent upfront the project would suffer and time would be wasted. Simple, highly obvious stuff – that for some reason just never resonated with the FTE structure.
Beyond all of this, however, the most sweeping change was quality of work. There is literally nothing directly that I can point to that caused this, other than to say it was a combination of all things and some intangibles. I should note that we don’t pay our consultants like contractors, we pay them as W2 FTEs so nothing changed from the compensation side with the shirt. This was something altogether less tangible. Output improved simply because of perception. With the implement of project-based mentality, projects simply got done more quickly and with better results because that’s what we expect from vendors. The exact message we had been preaching to clients for years.
One area of unexpected fallout happened was the perception of the rest of the organization. I hold a 300-hour retainer with LeadMD. Our average client holds a 120-hour retainer.
When we thought of retained services there was always the permeating thought of “staff augmentation.”
But here, for the first time we saw that augmentation in action, performing so well that 300 hours was literally replacing what had been 640 hours of FTE dedication previously. It was a great example to show our teams about how by applying a structure of efficiency and project management huge things are possible.
We still insist on eating our own dog food, even more so now that we are a LeadMD customer
Last month, we produced 26 pieces (I counted) of new unique and compelling content and socialized, engaged and campaigned with the literal best of them. We also won a Stevie Award for Marketing Department of the Year. And we did it all in half the time and effort of before. What could you be doing with better talent and process? What could you do with twice the time in the day?
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Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.