Transcript46 minutes to read
Hello. I'm Kerry Guard, CEO of MKG Marketing, and welcome to this Live Round Table where we're going to discuss the challenges of the Great Resignation, also known as the Great RE-evaluation. People are assessing their careers, job, and company and deciding what’s not working for them, and leaving in for a new career, a new company, a new opportunity. And while I'm immensely proud of these people because they should absolutely love what they do, it is a creative challenge over here in the marketing world and in multiple industries, but definitely in ours as well. And so today, we are going to talk to some marketing leaders. We got Christina and Ruth with us, and we're waiting for Lisa. She'll be on when she can, and I can't wait to add her. She'll be a great addition to the conversation.
We're going to talk today about how the Great RE-evaluation has affected us and what, most importantly, we're doing about it. Because both Ruth, Christina, and Lisa have all worked across the agency and brand side, we thought this would be a great opportunity to lean into a little bit of that relationship, given we all need each other right now. Times are tough. And so, having each other on both the brand and agency side and making sure that that's a strong partnership is crucial right now more than ever. So that's what we're going to dig into. I'm excited for the conversation needs to be awesome—a little bit of housekeeping and a little bit of time to give Lisa. So, hop on here!
Before I launch into introductions and questions, I just want to make some promises to you as the audience or listeners that we will keep the discussion on the topic. It’s why you’re here and what we’ll honor. This isn’t about our companies or selling. This is an honest, authentic conversation with real experts who are living and breathing this challenge and how we can learn from them in applying it to our own brands.
For those listening, please engage in the comments. We have AnDrae’ Jones and Mike Krass hanging with you all. They’ll be there to field your comments over to me for our guests to answer at the end. We'll make sure to leave time because we want to hear from you too. They’re great. Thanks, AnDrae’ and Mike!
Kerry Guard: Are you ready?
Christina Kay: I think so. Let's go!
Kerry Guard: Alright! I always want to start off with a question during the introduction. So a chance for you guys to say your name, what you do, but also your journey. You know, let's give some background to how you went from agency to brand or brand to agency or back and forth. So what's your name? What do you do, and what's been your experience? I'll start with you, Christina.
Christina Kay: Perfect. Hi, y'all. I'm Christina Kay, VP of Marketing at Reseller Ratings. We're a startup. So it's kind of like the agency world in the sense that you do so many different things. I run operations for our CS Sales and Marketing, as well as all of our campaigns for marketing, and am just the head of our Tech Stack. And then I ping pong between the agency and marketing. My whole entire career, I started out in an agency. Then, I went to an international agency and then came to the States. I did brand, and then I just basically was a ping pong ball until now I'm back on the brand side, and I love it. And yeah, that's about me.
Kerry Guard: Alright, Ruth.
Ruth Wisniewski: Awesome! My name is Ruth Wisniewski. I am a Customer Success Team Manager here over at BrightEdge. We are a software as a service. We specialize in SEO. I, too, have gone back and forth between both brands and agency life. I actually started on the brand side and was curious. I wanted to explore my options and work at the agency side, and that's where I got pulled into the digital side of agency life. So that is where my expertise lies, the digital aspect of that agency life and brand side. My career path was a little bit interesting. In that, I got my healthcare master's at one point, because I worked at the Cleveland Clinic in their Marketing Department. And somehow, I've been able to leverage that here at BrightEdge, having a book of business that I supported for a while before becoming a manager where it was very healthcare-oriented. But I love both sides. And I can't wait to get into this discussion. So, Kerry, I don't know if we want to start questions.
Kerry Guard: Yeah, we'll kick it off when Lisa hops soon. I'll be sure to take a minute to have her introduce herself and then have her join in. But I think we can keep on, keeping re-live. This is a re-live, right? Awesome. So I want to kick off with the idea of the Great Resignation, or I love how somebody put it as the Great Re-evaluation. I thought that was so cool. I saw that on LinkedIn. What does that mean to you both? I mean, we all sort of have different experiences and different points of view on this. So Ruth, what does the Great RE-evaluation mean, in your opinion?
Ruth Wisniewski: Right. I think this stems from people, during the pandemic, having a little more downtime to be thoughtful. We weren't traveling, we weren't commuting, we were in our homes, and we were kind of evaluating what matters to us. And your career is such a big part of your life, and getting joy and happiness from what you do is so important. I think that it definitely was what steemed it. So what it meant to me was, you know, seeing colleagues that I loved, and deciding to take flight and explore new challenges and opportunities, and being able to support them, but also, at the same time, having a new point of view to join our organization, and new blood and new enthusiasm, like this refresh comes in. And so it's been a celebration, for sure, across the board, it's had its challenges. I think that having those brands and agency life has helped with that. We need to pull in the agency to act as an overflow or expansion of resources and a way to tap into expertise. And at the same time, you know, on the brand side, being able to understand where we need to pull people in, do some recruiting, and really speak to what matters to them. Oh, Lisa's here!
Kerry Guard: Lisa, welcome.
Lisa McDermott: Hello! Funny story. Andrae and I were hanging out in a different room. I mean, we were having our own little party, but it wasn't this party. Hello!
Kerry Guard: Hello, welcome to this party. We're excited that you were able to hop over. I'm so sorry, that's technology!
Lisa McDermott: Happy to be here. Nice to see you ladies.
Kerry Guard: Lisa, if you could just give us a little bit of where you are right now in terms of who you're working for and your title, as well as, we were talking about the agency and brand life, so you've lived both. What's your journey there?
Lisa McDermott: Sure. So right now, I'm at a company called Acqueon Technologies, or Acqueon for short. I'm the Vice President of Marketing, and I'm new there, I just celebrated my one month. So it's been quite a month. It's been an adventure, but a really good one. Acqueon is in the contact center and like kind of a customer experience space there and AI-powered integration that clips in with all the major enterprise contact center platform providers that you probably know about, like Cisco, Avaya, five9, ANICINCOM, AWS connect, and so forth. And so they power really advanced, sophisticated outbound campaign management and, you know, conversational engagement. We're just transforming the landscape of customer engagement. So that's where I am now. And I'm, like, obviously, on the client-side of the world right now. Prior to Acqueon I was with a company called CoreDial that just got acquired. I was there for about four years as the Vice President of Marketing and also on the client-side, but then prior to CoreDial I was on the agency side of the world for almost a decade now probably eight years, working at an agency called Stratus Interactive right in the West Chester, Pennsylvania area, which is near Philadelphia, which I'm sure you know, Kerry, and we were like a full-service digital agency like full service integrated digital. We were HubSpot Platinum Partner. So totally different world than what I'm living in now but kind of the path that I took was, I was on the agency side. We had a client, many clients, but CoreDial was one of them. And CoreDial just kind of, I think, had really tried the agency model for many years and never quite found what they were looking for like they tried to build an in-house marketing department and hadn't quite worked. But that's really what they wanted. And so they just kept trying to see, you know, maybe if there was an appetite for some of the Stratus agency folks to come inside, and well, eventually we did. And so I transitioned over from working at the agency to coming full time into CoreDial. That's kind of how I made the switch, and I'm very happy on the client-side of the world right now.
Kerry Guard: Awesome. We were just talking about the Great Resignation, also known as the Great RE-evaluation, and Ruth, thank you for giving your point of view and what it means to you. Christina, what does it mean to you this new turn of events?
Christina Kay: Yeah, so a lot of the points Ruth hit on our 1,000% spot on what I feel with this as well. And the thing that we say a lot at Reseller Ratings is finding the right people for the right seat, because you can find the best marketer, best salesperson, but maybe might not be the seat that you're in at the company, things like that.
Everybody is a different personality, and things work out ways that they do but with the Great Resignation and just with a pandemic, I feel like people have really, this is gonna sound very Lovey Dovey, I guess, but they found like themselves, self-awareness, many things, and they found things that are right for them. So for us, that's super good when we are like interviewing or have positions open, because we can really find that person that's authentic, not saying everybody's not, but I'm just saying in this aspect of like interviewing people really do like, show their true self because of the pandemic or like , part of me, I want to be fully remote, like, I need these benefits, because we're still in it. At the beginning of it, if you live alone, you don't know really what's going on in a sense. And so you really do have to, like find that love of being with yourself. And I think that's translated in the workplace to really show passionate people that they love working for great leaders, as long as maybe that's like ‘’Hey, I want to work for myself, and I'm gonna leave’’ And that's a huge thing that I've seen. And then on like, the side of finding work, or I mean, finding work, finding people, but finding like agencies, I've seen it both ways, like being on a waiting list for an agency. Like that's not a thing I've ever heard of really, but that also one shows agency, that they respect their employee saying ‘’Hey, they already have too much to do’’ Because in my day at some agencies, not MKG, but some agencies, it was just so much like another client, like ‘’What?’’ you know, so I feel like the great resignation has helped transform people's mindset of business, and it's not just all about money. It's about people's like well-being and happiness, and that translates. If you are on the client-side, it really translates to that CS side because then you're going to be happier talking to your clients. And you're gonna have that more authentic approach.
I feel in every aspect, it's almost a good thing and but it's stressful because especially if you have to be the copywriter, but also designing things and doing marketing automation. Like yes, that's a lie. But that's where maybe you go to like Upwork or something like that, to find that person just to kind of be there until you find that person that's perfect for that seat in your company.
Kerry Guard: Not a hat, the hats. Lisa what has the Great RE-evaluation meant to you?
Lisa McDermott: I mean, it's meant like things to me personally, just because I have kind of been part of it from a couple of different ends now, like obviously, being a leader through the Great Resignation, having to transition a team during COVID to fully remote work for the first time ever. Hiring, seeing people turn through that, but also being someone who was looking for their next career opportunity through this phase of Great Resignation and RE-evaluation. I've seen it from a couple of different angles and experienced it on multiple levels. And for me personally, what it meant I think in my past life, like in going into other things like career opportunity searches, I prioritized different things and probably wasn't as confident in being vocal or not negotiating about the things that were important to me. And I think just knowing that so many people were reevaluating, and we were becoming more self-aware, like, it just gave me greater confidence to say, "You know what, these are the things that are important to me right now." Like, for example, and I think it's a guy, I don't think my leadership would mind me sharing this. They were trying to build and are trying to build a hub of employees in the Dallas, Texas area, and they asked me if relocation was something I would consider. And they asked me more than once, and more than one person asked me, and for me, that just was like, No! I can't. It's not something I'm going to do at this stage in my life, but being on the side of a job search and really wanting to find your next thing so passionately. I don't know if anyone can relate to this. I've found myself almost second-guessing like, well, it isn't that important to me. Maybe I would be considered a low relocation, and I should chat with my husband after this interview, but no, of course, I am not going to relocate. That's definitely a hard no for me. You know that this is just like an environment where I felt very confident in saying the things that I really meant. So that's kind of how I personally experienced it. But being someone now who's trying to build a team in a new company and being on the recruitment side of the world, I'm just one of several leaders and hiring managers within my company who are trying to build a team right now. And so recruitment really is, like, a collaborative effort. It's hard. There are a lot of awesome jobs out there, and candidates really have their pick of the litter. And no, it's a lot more than just offering a good salary and good benefits and talking about culture being, but I mean, people really are in a position of power right now, which just have been a job search candidate, like I appreciate, and I'm glad that people are in a position of power, but being the hiring manager looking to build a team, I'm like ''Dang! This is hard right now." So there's just a lot going on. But no matter what, no, even though the recruitment process was so labor-intensive, sometimes I feel exhausted, like, I'm so happy that there's been this shift, like more power to all these people out there looking for jobs. And it's making people like me and hiring managers like rising to the occasion and really come through, do what we want to do, or say we're going to do, and give people a reason to say yes to our job, which I think makes us step up to be better leaders, overall. So I mean, pros and cons, but I'd say more pros.
Kerry Guard: Countability, for sure. Leadership 100%. And finally, what are y'all doing about it, Christina? What are some solutions you are looking into? I know that we have and this is pretty new. It started last April, where we started to see the increase of people leaving their jobs. So I'm not saying you guys have your silver bullets in your back pocket, although, you know, if you have, feel free to share, so what have you tried and what's worked and what hasn't?
Christina Kay: So, a couple of things. We really have found luck. Well, I say "we," but our CEO, he like finds gold mines on Upwork, I'm not very good at doing that. He does a very good job at it. So we have a lot of our dev team that we're finding comes in full time from them. Another thing is that not everybody loves this, but me being like the tech automation nerd that I am, I've done a lot of AI stuff that would be in place of a person. A lot of automation and processes I put in place that are in place of people. I'm not saying we're over-engineering or like doing that to get people out, that's not what I mean by any means, but there are some things that can be automated with really great AI solutions. We have a tech tool that is crazy incredible that's helping us prospect and like book demos at a BDR wood, because a BDR you can find when probably is fairly a BDR like entry-level like SDR I guess you can say, salesperson, you can find them, but there's a lot of training involved in it. But if you're already wearing so many hats, that's taking time off from that.
We just have to find out what's going to drive the business for us and what our goals are. So that's why, for us, we're looking in the sense of a lot of that automation AI side, because I love that. And it's the crazy things that you can do with it, not just on the sales side, but also with CS, which we're doing right now. What we're doing as well is, to be honest, we're not posting the jobs that we're really looking for. It's kind of talking to people and seeing, like, if I have friends, I've got a pretty big network. And so I just kind of see what they're doing and I'm like, hey, if they're in the line of work or they've done something similar to what we're looking for, let's have a conversation, and then at that point that you find that perfect person for the seat instead of having people apply. Because when you apply, you're putting on your best face, in a sense, and sometimes you don't realize what you're getting. That sounds bad. But you know what I mean in the nicest way. But when you really go to people and say, "Hey, we have this amazing role, we think you're perfect for it'' or ''I think you're perfect for it. Let's write your job description. " And I'm going to pitch you to my CEO, basically. That's what I've been doing, and it's been working fairly well. There's like one area that we're just struggling with, but there's that's for everybody. I feel this just because it's very competitive in this world. You're on mute.
Kerry Guard: Yeah! It's just melting, so competitive. It's tough out there. Lisa, and Ruth, you guys. Would you have tried reaching out to kick us off? What have you tried lately? What's been working for you or not?
Ruth Wisniewski: It's good! Well, we have recruiters in-house that are definitely helping us. But I think the conversation to Lisa's point earlier about being able to like say ‘’No’’ when she didn't want to move or relocate. That transparency, I think, has been very helpful. I think people being more honest with their wants and needs in a role has allowed us to say okay, this isn't gonna work much faster but also this is a good much faster. So I think that the speed to placement has been helped through honesty, because people are empowered. And when they're empowered to ask the right questions and surface up the right concerns, I can answer them. So for me, that's, that's been something as far as filling seats and rolls during this. I guess I'll throw it over to Lisa. Next.
Lisa McDermott: Kerry, I think you brought up a really good point, in terms of the speed of placement. I've been part of organizations in the past, and I remember when I started my job search a couple of months ago, I was seeing a lot of LinkedIn posts about 6,7,8,9 step interview processes. Luckily, I didn't have to go through anything that intense to land where I am now, and I can appreciate and respect a thorough interview process, but what it's done for me now being in the position where I need to hire and build a team is to be much more purposeful and prepared for every interview I come into because I don't want to have that person go through four or five, or six interviews. I might lose a good candidate if I can't say "yes" by interview number two or three, right? I mean, that's happening. It's just making me much more critical about the questions I'm asking and probably a little bit more direct and candid, like in those initial conversations. I think that's a good thing. The other thing, just to comment on what's working for me personally right now, I mean, LinkedIn has been awesome, and just being proactive with my voice about what I'm looking for and helping my colleagues promote their positions as well—but tapping into my network. I forgot who said that but I think it was you, Christina. I'm tapping in. I've gotten so many awesome resumes from previous colleagues and friends from LinkedIn somewhere who are sending their referrals my way, and I think that's my silver bullet personally. And it's not like about who you know, and it's just like a faster path to feeling good about a person because we're interviewing strangers right when it really comes down to it, and you're right, people are probably putting on their best face as they should during the interview process. And so I have someone who I at least have some established level of acquaintanceship or trust with and they recommend someone to me. I'm so grateful for that. Because it already like establishes, you know, we've gotten to like a second base, or we've gotten half of the way through establishing that initial report just because there is a referral and not a total random resume coming through. So I'm going to continue to do that. Because I feel like that's going to be where I find the most success and the best people for sure, that's been a little weird, though. I mean, it really feels like I'm selling myself constantly on LinkedIn, which is not necessarily my comfort level. But I'm like, you know, "Come, come here! Choose us, look at us, like we're hiring. But I see a lot of other very respected companies and colleagues doing that as well. I feel like you have to do that, right? Otherwise, you're just going to get lost in the shuffle.
Kerry Guard: Let's shift gears a little bit because one of the solutions we talked about and why I brought you guys, specifically you gals, specifically because of your experience of living on both the agency and the client-side. And I feel like one of the things you guys all talked about in the great resignation was leaning on your agency partners a bit more to try to find the right agency fit. Given the tough times, we're in? So have you been doing that? What's been the experience thereof bringing in partnerships for help? I'll start with Ruth.
Ruth Wisniewski: Absolutely! So I would say I am not part of my marketing team, per se. But what I do is help my clients use our internal agency or consulting resources. And so, for my clients, I'm finding that it's super important that they can flex. And when they need additional resources, have someone like myself ask for that additional resource. When they need to pull back as well, like if there are budget cuts, maybe, you know, COVID has hit their industry hard, being able to say, ''Okay, can we get creative here and how we reevaluate things commercially." And so I'm seeing it work for a broadband of industry types and clients, and being creative and flexible, and understanding of where everybody's coming from has been really good for us and has really strengthened our relationships with our clients.
Kerry Guard: Lisa, Christina, anything to add?
Lisa McDermott: Yeah, I'm a big proponent of leaning on agencies. I'm a big fan of hiring them for specific skill sets that I think are especially difficult to hire for or just that I think are best served by an agency. So, like lots of digital, paid search, and SEO, I've always found success in using an agency model for that. And so, stepping into this new role, I knew they had an SEO and like a paid search vendor, but you never know what you're inheriting with the stack of vendors and agency partnerships. I was really pleasantly surprised when the vendor that I stepped into was an awesome one.
I know some people come into a new role, and they want a clean slate, kind of hiring everyone, the way that they want to hire everyone and work with the exact agencies that they're comfortable with. And I take a different approach, like, I think if I'm new to the role, and there's an agency that's been on board with the team in place for longer than I have, then there's probably something I can learn from that. If it doesn't end up being the right fit, we'll figure that out and maybe part ways in the future, but I'm certainly not going to come in and just to clean shop. I personally think that's not the approach that works for me at least. But I think one thing, and this isn't necessarily commenting on the agency side of the world, but as we try to figure out how to build our team, recruit, find the right candidates, like where to plug in agencies and not, I think there's also value in this. It kind of speaks to your point about using AI right to look for resources, to find ways to tap into the current team members that I have not even just in the marketing department, but maybe in, you know, an aquatic team or in the sales team. And, you know, while we are trying to figure out what agents can go with, like, I think we talked about this in our prep call.
I think the best agency relationships work when they're given the ability to succeed by having parameters of good directive. And I think that if we can compile the information we need from not just the marketing team, but like the other. No parallel are aligned departments. We can set agencies up for even better chances for success and that's one thing I'm doing right now, trying to get as much as I can from the team members that are in house to get really good information over to the agencies that are already in place, so that they can fly and flourish. Because I don't want to have to find your agency, I don't want to have to hire if we've got an agency that's already doing a killer job at what they were hired to do. And I just want to make that successful. But agencies are hard to find. Yeah, I think good agencies are hard to find. There are a lot of awesome ones out there, but there's a good chance that they've got a full plant list, right? There might be a waiting list now. So you know, it's a struggle.
Christina Kay: And like one thing that we're doing, we're not looking right now for our agency because we want our foundation set. Before we do that so that we can set them up for success, I'm not saying we don't have some type of foundation, but we're like a 10-year-old startup. Our CEO and CRO bought the company from the parent company about two years ago. So we're still figuring out our identity. We know it fairly well, but we kind of want to go where we want to go, and that foundation set is crucial.
We went through a big migration recently, and a lot of things that we're working through, just like processes, and just our own thinking, if we want to rebrand for different things, there are just a lot of things we want to decide first. And we've even thought about doing kind of a fractional consultant for a little bit. To help with that, just because we really want that foundation set before we have that agency partnership, because I want an agency partnership that we work with for like years because you could really build together. And that's gonna end me being in the agency world, I've been at an agency where they have clients that have for years, and it's a lot. So I feel like I don't want to put that agency in that position. I want to give them almost like, not a plan. But saying things like, "This is what we've done." "This is where we came from," This is where we want to go,'' And like ''Let's do this together.
Kerry Guard: I think that's so key to this conversation around. What sets agencies up for success Lisa and Christina? You both mentioned on the brand side, what you feel like sets agencies up for success, before I flip it in terms of how agencies can ensure their success. Ruth, do you have anything to add from having worked on the brand side of, like, anything we serve? Christina didn't mention that you feel like is critical to setting up an agency to be successful and to be around for lots of years.
Ruth Wisniewski: Just kind of a nuance just like Lisa's talking about coming into a new agency, right? She started a new role, inherited people, giving them the opportunity to see how things are the lay of the land, how things were going, and they seemed to be going really well. So that's awesome. But a nuance of making sure and ensuring that the success continues understands what they can bring to the table and giving them that opportunity whenever there's a new initiative internally shared with the agency, right? We assume we know everything, but that agency is growing at the same time we're growing. So, when we allow them to pitch us a little bit, like bring forth what they can do more frequently, we learn about that. And they already have a relationship there. So they say the expansion is natural. So for me, on the brand side, that's always been something that I've tried to make sure that I'm always receptive to that, and allow that, learn from it, and listen to it. And then the opportunity, like I said, it's just an act, a natural augmentation of hope that we've already got going all that good energy.
Kerry Guard: I love that. Yes! Let's flip it. How can agencies ensure that they have what they need to be successful? What was your experience like? Have you walked into any brand relationships and felt like something was missing? Or do you have a good example of where they set you up for success? What does success look like on the agency side?
Lisa McDermott: I can start at ..I have a pretty opinionated response to that. So I have worked with really good clients, and it was clear that they were professionals that using agencies and knew how to optimize that relationship. And then there were clients who were coming in and expecting that agency to be like the saving grace that figured it all out for them without them putting in the legwork, which is so difficult to deal with on the agency side. And so I think that if you're on the agency side, and you are presented with a client who is just coming in and waving flags, and they're excitable, and they've got all these ideas, but they don't really provide a deeper level insight into what their goals are, why they're excited about these ideas, that's a red flag for me.
Well, it's never fun to squash someone's momentum and excitement. You also have to bring a level of realism and set the table with realistic expectations and ask, I asked a ton of questions, like if I don't understand something, and I've got one hour with this client a week for us to come together. And then I'm supposed to go off with my team and make magic happen. You better believe that I'm walking away from that hour conversation knowing exactly what that person wants, and they're gonna have to breathe a little and answer the questions in a way that shows that they actually do know what they want. And they didn't just like, see the meeting, pop up on their calendar and say, "Oh, I got my agency today." Let me just like, run into that meeting and get everyone excitable and Tasmanian Devil my way in there. And then they leave everyone in a tizzy. When I leave that one-hour call like that, it's not a recipe for success, in my opinion.
Christina Kay: I think on that.. it's like really, in the beginning, having those or if you're walking into a situation, kind of talking about those expectations. Because what someone hears is an expectation, which could be how someone else translates it differently. And you kind of have to, like, spell it out in the sense just because you don't want to get to the QBR, and they're like, "This is not what we talked about." They're like, "Yes, it is," you know like we know. So I feel like really starting from the beginning and kind of having those, if you have it like weekly, monthly, bi-weekly, whatever, just kind of having that checkpoint in the beginning and saying, "This is the strategy for like Q1, and maybe we're going to talk about the goals for like key to going forward" but you kind of want to break it down because, as I've learned too, if you talk just like yearly, it can get overwhelming, or can get you too excited and then you don't really focus on that goal that you're trying to build out for the year because you have to start somewhere to get to that bigger goal, for example, I like freelance and I have a client that is a startup, and they're on HubSpot, and I love HubSpot. I sometimes need to like before they call me "We can do this". We could do this, you know I'm like, basically like a puppy, but I have to set myself back. It's like, Christina, this is our priority. This is what we need to do first, and then you can show them the shiny stuff that you can do with it after, kind of have to like ''I could be that person''. I'm not like, "Yeah, just get excited." But then it's like, okay, let's break it down by also maybe their journey, like a customer journey map, and just say this is a priority for like Q1, Q2, Q3 Q4, but then it could obviously snowball into other things, and you do have to say then, "Hey, this is coming up as it looks like it could be a priority." What should we take off the list, because you can't do everything, and it could be out of scope. And I've been to places that are like, "Oh, just add it," and you're like, "Awesome" or "Great". You that adds like 10 hours to your week may be in that light work-life balance. And then it gets into that bad stigma of what agency life could be, but if an agency is set up to really fulfill people's work-life balance in the way MKG does a great job at, it really shouldn't be a thing. You have to be really transparent both ways. And sometimes it's a hard conversation, but they will respect you more in the long run.
Kerry Guard: I want to touch on something that both Ruth and Christina said. Ruth mentioned that it's from the client's side to go in and to make sure that if you need something, you bring in your existing agencies and let them pitch, which I love. On the foot side, an agency going on foot, Christina says, is like having all these great ideas and wanting to know how to explode from your person all over the clients. Definitely not a good idea. However, do you wait for the client to tell you that they want these ideas, or should you be bringing them ideas? Where's the balance in that?
Christina Kay: What I do with like my freelance clients, I have a golden star doc, like Google Doc. And I just kind of have a shareable document of just all the ideas going through that we can share. Then during our meetings, we can either like redline them or not, even through that, just throughout the week. Whatever we can say, hey, so that at this point, too, it's kind of like a collaborative effort ongoing, and you don't have to like focus on that hour. Because sometimes you can, like, get off on tangents or something. But this, you can also learn how their brain works, how they process stuff, how they comment on things and just having that open dialogue with just like, "You're golden'' or even, like, "You're still Silver Bullet ideas," stuff like that because you don't want to like, obviously, do like a fire hose to them. You don't want that either on the receiving end. So just being like opening on the same, okay, maybe like a wish list, or what's your whatever, make it a fun, cute name, and have it just be a collaborative thing. That's what I've done. And I've definitely seen myself perform better with that, as well as just it's really fun to get to know the client in that sense as well.
Ruth Wisniewski: I love the ongoing list idea, Christina. I'm totally gonna adapt that. Oh, my goodness! I'm losing my voice. Sorry. But I think another thing that I found successful in that partnership and collaboration and ideas and like giving them the ideas, but not overwhelming them on every call. And it's actually like carving out time for that. Like, I think, Christina, you also brought up quarterly business reviews and having goals at a quarterly, like allocating some time during that for like forward-looking idea generation or new services have you thought of and, you know. So carving out time specifically for "what are the new opportunities?" or "how can we help you, here's what we've got on our side'' It shouldn't just be a report out or goal setting. There should be a little bit of brainstorming and collaborative effort, creativity going on. I find that works.
Christina Kay: Because it also builds trust. That completely builds trust and transparency and just a better relationship, in my opinion.
Lisa McDermott: One of the recent agencies that I worked with did it that way, like they built that creative time, that innovation time into their retainer, and we agreed upon it, like I knew that a portion of their monthly bandwidth would be devoted to just like coming up with some out of the box, or maybe not out of the box, but just like more creative ways to do things. But I knew that that innovation and creative time were being spent on things directly aligned with our goals, like that we had already agreed upon. So I was comfortable with that and now granted, like, I needed to make sure that our priorities, deadlines, and deliverables that we had agreed to get completed. And if they weren't, for some reason, then sometimes that, you know, like a cushion of creative time did have to be allocated to that. But more times are not, they were able to come to the table with some fun new things and ideas, which I love because if I could figure it all out myself, I would. Like, otherwise, like I love working with, you know, really smart people to come up with awesome ideas that I haven't thought of myself or didn't have time to focus on myself and just like thinking through this. So like, if I went back to the agency side of the world because I used to be in like business development for our agency, it could be a really cool value outline item to throw in, like if the client wasn't comfortable with devoting a portion of their retainer time to that, like that could be just a value-add, like every month to give you a few hours of time for innovation, like no cost. It's just like how we add additional value. Like, I went back to my contracts and my proposals. I think that would have resonated really well because every hour matters. There is work to get done. So sometimes that's looked at as a luxury, whereas it's a really fundamental and vital part of any agency-client relationship is having that carve out time.
Ruth Wisniewski: And I have..
Christina Kay: Sorry, you can go.
Ruth Wisniewski: I was just gonna say it actually fits into what we know is a good marketing plan, right? There are tactics and channels that are going to continually perform for us. But we should always be testing something small and unique that we haven't done before. And if we don't collaborate and get creative and brainstorm and have that innovation time, like how are we ever going to get those metrics that could be the next superstar in our marketing plan that really generate new revenue. So I feel like diversification of a marketing plan is super important. This actually fits into this. Agencies coming with a book of business across industries can take an idea that works in one cross-pollinates it for you. So I absolutely love all of that.
Christina Kay: Yes. And I was kind of .. to both of you. I feel like when you do those innovation types of conversations, you can't, and you give feedback. You can learn more about your client because you can say what they do or don't want. And obviously, the burn has to be honest back and everything like that. But also, on the cross-pollinating mindset, I think, I've been to a couple of agencies. You're not always working on this brand, but someone from that brand, or a different brand, comes and looks and kind of does an audit of what you're doing. Because if you're in that brand all day, you're going to think like not tunnel vision, but having someone else in your company working with a brand, or maybe a completely different industry comes in and looks at what you guys are doing. They can even also probably spark some ideas, or even if it gets a little stale, they can come in and help you guys out instead of having you lose a client because of that. Maybe someone internally comes in and just audits what you guys are doing, not saying anything's bad, but just kind of sparks that energy again and says, "Hey'' like ''Maybe this is what we're doing. Let's do this,'' And that's maybe an internal meeting, like meeting that account manager have at an agency or even just social teams, like whatever it is, having Slack channels that you can just pop ideas. And hey, like this really worked for X client, like this is what we did. If you want to learn about it, I did a two-minute loom, and then we can go on into your next team member, and you can learn something.
Kerry Guard: I love limb. Sorry all, my internet dropped me. So thank you for keeping on keeping on. I think this brings in a really great question around when you bring an agency and what should an agency own versus what should really be in house? I feel like that's sort of a struggle. So in your experience, you know, what do you need to have in place to bring that agency in? And what are you giving them? What are you holding on to?
Ruth Wisniewski: I would love to answer that. Okay, so I think it depends on the organization that you're in, right? You're going to have a certain amount of talent in your organization that you can absolutely leverage, and you're going to have a certain amount that you need to tap into an agency. You'll look at the current pool of internal resources and say, "Wow, we have a lot of expertise in XY and Z. What we don't really understand yet is paid marketing. So let's talk to an agency about search engine marketing and paid marketing, and let's see what they can bring and evaluate them'' If there's no internal expertise on it, it's not something that I would want to invest dollars and fail. So for me, when I come into the brand side of things, I am always looking at who am I currently working with? What resources and knowledge do they know? I'm not gonna set anyone up for failure when I know that we can tap into an agency.
Christina Kay: You can go, Lisa.
Lisa McDermott: I just think content for me. And I mentioned this, I think to you, ladies, last time when we were chatting. Content is just something I've personally struggled with, like being on the agency side, like ever, just like finding the exact right voice that the client didn't feel the need that they had to revise. And I really feel like if a client's gonna hire an agency, for them to have to revise work, like, yes, it's a natural part of the process, but also like, it would be so nice for them to not have to do that. But it's such a personal thing, the voice and the tone of a brand and the content that you know, maybe like ad copy, really like kind of short-form content, I find like is an easier thing to partner with agencies on but longer-form pieces and pieces that really just like I don't know, exude the brand and the voice of the brand. I like having someone in-house that, and you know, I'm 10 years into this whole agency, and client-side thing, and I stick by that, you know, that's where I've found, and it doesn't have to be a team of content writers. It can be one really solid content writer, or even a really solid subject matter expert who maybe doesn't deem themselves a writer but can write and produce content for them the agency to make look good and polish it up and like as long as there's someone who can produce it long-form content in house. I think an agency is set up for better success.
Christina Kay: I completely agree because content I feel it's the hardest one. Because you basically, when you have an agency do your content, you almost have to do that to go basically new employee. You have to go through everything with them, like what your brand voices are. And yes, you do that obviously with, like, other types of partnerships with agencies, but the content side is hard because you do have to hold one. You have to think about it too. If you work for an agency, that person is going to be writing for a lot of other industries. And so it's almost like a split personality in a sense, where you kind of have to really zone in on one and while you're writing. I feel if you have an internal, you can elevate your brand better, and you can move quicker. If you have switches or products, if you have really anything, having that solid one copywriter, or even if it's someone who's really good at like writing, like paid ads, kind of you see that in them, mold them into that copywriter content person, because then it can kind of go one-on-one with each other.
Ruth Wisniewski: I'm gonna take the opposite stance in situations. I actually thought about this after our internal things. And I was like, "Yes, that makes a lot of sense." Like, you need to be the brand. But I also thought like, you know, the professionalism, adaptability, and flexibility of a content writer from an agency is sometimes unparalleled. So in certain situations, if it's not too technical, if the brand is something that I can describe, and I don't have to take a lifetime to teach someone, and I could see some sample writings, then I would be okay with testing an agency partner to write my content, just because I know that grammatically it's going to be correct, and as I said, we've got samples. I know the voice has been properly absorbed and portrayed in writing, so I see the benefits of having them in the house. But I also see the benefits of working with an agency.
Kerry Guard: I wonder.. Posing a question to y'all. I wonder if an agency makes sense for things that are not super deep technical and a bit more polished and have a high level, almost like product pages. It's probably kind of nice to bring someone in who doesn't speak company and can simplify and make it a bit more human, almost because I find, you know, we get into I worked for a CPG company, and they had an acronym for everything, they had their own language, it was a nightmare. So, you know, bringing in fresh eyes and somebody who can be like, "I don't think people in the real world are going to really know what you're talking about." So it's probably the opportunity there. I'm not saying for everything, but I do think that a fresh perspective could be helpful.
Christina Kay: Yeah, that's a really good point. I definitely spoke both sides of that coin.
Kerry Guard: So yeah! I agree, though, Lisa if you're writing deep, technical, and audible content in-house. What else? Is there anything else that should be in-house, like an email website? Is it really just content, and you can outsource everything else or something else you feel like having in-house is unparalleled?
Christina Kay: So I feel like product development, obviously, I think should be in-house. When it comes to websites, I'm kind of on the content side of that, too. Because without knowing where I'm at right now, I think it'd be difficult to be with an agency, just based on setting them up for success. It's like my mindset of it, but I've seen other agencies like they're killer design web agencies, and I think that's really for certain types of businesses. And a little thing back on what you were mentioning about having some content be like in-house or agency, I feel like those like fluffy blog posts that are like top five reasons why whatever, those could be definitely an agency, you know, and those could just be like, pumped out quickly. And that can help your SEO, and then you can just be more consistent with your writing and posting, but then you have those product updates, definitely, I think, should be in-house. And I mean, we're lucky enough that one of our developers is a really good writer, and he is a good writer in the sense of a people writer. So instead of writing it in the sense of his, like, very technical brain, he writes in that fun brand side. So I feel like that's an anomaly in the situation. But, it's real and he's been there, like forever, with product knowledge. And I think it's because of just the company in a sense like everybody had to kind of like dive in for a lot of things. But I think agency I mean, to be so hard, because I mean, right now I do everything and so I feel I would love like specific HubSpot developer, you know, to crank out some landing pages, email templates, things like that. And that's where I would definitely go the agency route. One because I love HubSpot. But sometimes, like people who don't know it, or who don't know how to develop it, it's different. It's different than WordPress, you know. It's just the coatings are a little different. So you have to have that specific knowledge and I think that's really for a lot of others like Martech Solutions. You do have to find those, like specific experts at it, and then find the expert at what you're looking for, for specific areas or like, channels.
Ruth Wisniewski: Can I layer on to that?
Kerry Guard: Sure!
Ruth Wisniewski: That's a really good point. I'm thinking what needs to be housed versus what needs to be or could be an agency might be just like, Christina was alluding to, like "Can we do it at the moment?" or "Do we need it being done?" Like, when I want to just walk over and tap someone's shoulder, this is something I need to quickly pivot to. That's an in-house resource. That's what I need and what is the time constraints on it, right? Versus when I'm working with an agency, we can schedule things out. We have a pipeline of projects, we have deadlines, and timelines, and projects, and there's a map that they can follow. I would never expect my agency unless I was like the L'Oreal's of the world, I would never expect them to be available at a moment's notice. You have scheduled calls, and there might be an occasional emergency. But for the most part, I want to respect their boundaries, and they want to respect my internal resources. The boundaries are, you know, when they start their day when they end their day, you know, the scope of that job requirement that they were hired on for, or they're evolving to. So for me, it's going to be my individual organization. What do I need to be available to me at anytime? And what can I schedule out? I don't know. To me, that's what my thoughts are really.
Lisa McDermott: It is not really, like, so unique to every organization, and that speaks to, I think, the leadership or, you know, the management and kind of their style of work. But then also, like, at least I'm thinking through my personal experience, like in a more startup world were like, kind of everything's an opportunity, and you're trying things and you're growing fast, like having someone that you can just tap on the shoulder and say, "Let's do this" feels really important versus when I've been with like bigger firms, there's not always such like a fastness to how the company operates. And you do have that luxury of planning and scheduling things out. And I think that's a really, really smart point. It's not necessarily about, like, what the function is. It's just also about your style of work and knows to be true about how your company wants to operate on a day-to-day basis. And I'm just like thinking through my past 10 years, and I'm like, "Yeah, I think you just nailed it." Actually, that was totally spot on.
Kerry Guard: That was awesome! We're wrapping up here. We got one minute left. In terms of the Great Resignation and looking for agency partners, has that changed your perspective at all? Are you leaning harder on agencies? Are you backing off and trying to hire in-house because it's so tricky? What sort of this last moment for you, given where we are and looking at the partnerships you have?
Christina Kay: I mean, for us, like I said a little bit ago, right now we're not looking for really either. Maybe it's like a contractor that quickly needs to work with me on some things that I just need off my plate. But I really want to build a super solid foundation to then work with an agency, most probably like a PPC-based agency, because that's what I don't have time for. So that is what I know what type it should be. I want to set a foundation first, but I also want to set kind of give them like a playbook in a sense, like we say playbooks all the time internally, they are so many different things. But I want to give it to the agency, saying I also like kind of almost like this is where we were, so they can see what didn't work for us. And they can maybe see why, and they're like, "Hey, this is not a...why it didn't work?" But also, let's do this again because this is what you need to do the type of conversation. So for us, we're really looking at that foundational piece because I've been on offense that it was a lot to work with, like a certain brand, or vice versa, like super hard to work with an agency. So I want to lay that foundation down and give them a map for success. And at that point, I feel it'll probably be the end of this year. But again, years go super quickly. I'm excited for that because I love working with agencies, I'm that person who is excited on calls but also like super direct with what we need. So I'm pretty excited for that journey of us even building that foundation because I feel like it's going to humble us. And it's going to also figure out what we really need to like grow our business.
Kerry Guard: Awesome. Hey, any last words as we close out here?
Ruth Wisniewski: I just love this. Kerry, thank you for inviting us like the thought leadership that I hear and the great philosophical ideas and this conversation. The subject was on it. I'm passionate about it, and I'm so glad I was able to join and add my voice to it.
Kerry Guard: Thank you all. It was awesome. I hope I certain gave me some ideas. I have a little list over here. Looking forward to tapping into and I hope our listeners were able to do the same thing. And yeah! Listeners, if you want to get in touch with Christina, Ruth or Lisa, their links are in the notes. Be sure to connect with them as you look to learn more about how you can better the relationship with your agencies when to bring them in, and how to make it all successful. It's this puzzle. So big, giant puzzle, and I appreciate you laying out some pieces for us.
Thank you again for joining us on this Tech Marketing Leader Roundtable. We'll be hosting this once a quarter. Actually, we're going to do it. We're going to do another one later this quarter, and Mike Krass will be hosting it. So stay tuned on that. That's exciting. Be sure to subscribe so you don't miss out. Thank you again.
This roundtable was brought to you by MKG Marketing - the digital marketing agency that helps you get found via transparent, measurable digital marketing. It’s hosted by me, Kerry Guard - CEO and co-founder of MKG Music, mix, and mastering done by Austin Ellis.
If you’d like to be a guest, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to apply.
Thank you all again.