The Google Elevator Program Will Help MKG Serve Our Customers Better (September 2017)
By Mike Krass
For those who haven’t heard Google’s Partner team has been running their Elevator Program for the past few years.
Every year Google selects up to 250 high growth/high performance agency partners in North America and Europe to participate in a day of peer-led learning exercises.
The outcome Google wants to achieve is to help agency partners deliver better work products to their clients.
When we were invited to the Elevator Program event in Austin I was a bit skeptical: Was this going to be a “drink the Google kool aid” style event? Taking an entire day to attend an off-site in Austin, Texas, where I was spoonfed Googleisms for 9 hours wasn’t my idea of a good use of time.
The feeling only got worse when I navigated to google.com and searched for “Google elevator program”. Immediately I noticed past announcements of agencies that were entered into this exclusive program - in fact the first few SERP’s were almost exclusively loaded up with websites ranking for the title “We were selected! Yay us!”
While MKG is certainly excited to add this to our list of accolades and accomplishments, publishing a “yay look at us!” blog post wasn’t how we wanted to spend an entire day of my time.
So why did I end up attending? Because our Google strategist provided testimonials from previous sessions that showed the agency partners were given Google systems, products and processes to use to serve their clients better.
It was all about improving the agency and client relationship. And that was more than enough to get me on a plane to Austin on September 11, 2017.
So: What was the agenda for the day?
Google sent out this agenda to us a few weeks before the event.
- Now that we’ve gone through the Elevator training I’m able to translate these breakout sessions into plain English: Introduction: Alex Langshur of Cardinal Path told us the origin story of how Cardinal Path came to be (the tl;dr - they merged with 2 other agencies to create one singular consulting firm) and laid out the ground rules for the day: ++ Be open to the process of learning ++ There are no stupid questions ++ Have fun!
- Real World Strategic Planning: This lecture and accompanying group exercise helped us learn how to more effectively build strategy alongside on behalf of our customers. How can we more efficiently “click in” with our customers to provide them more value? What have clients told Google (as well as Cardinal Path) that they want more of? Less of?
- Pricing Strategies: An in-depth look at how different pricing models and structures allow agencies and their clients to receive the maximum amount of value from each other in the business partnership.
- Sales and Negotiating: Not every agency owner is a sales guru. These two sessions walked us through the process of identifying what clients really need, articulating that in an easy-to-read way and powering through the sales and negotiation process so that agencies can begin delivering value to their customers as soon as possible in their engagement.
Last but not least: Alex asked us to finish the day with one to three actions that we, the agency owner, could take immediately that would help ourselves and our customers be more successful.
Our two key takeaways from the Elevator session
Become a more disciplined business from day #1 Identify our position on Grenier’s Growth Curve and prepare for the next phases
Business Discipline is a Huge Area of Opportunity
Our team loves to exceed the expectations of our customers. But one thing I learned that I’m guilty of is not setting crystal clear expectations with our customers at the contract stage of the relationship.
From the top-on-down I learned HR, operations and sales proposal processes as well as a few handy exercises to do a better job of being disciplined in setting expectations with our customers from day one.
Once those expectations have been established it’s critical that we communicate amongst our team internally so that everyone is aware of them and feels empowered to stick to our guns.
MKG at Phase 4 in the Grenier Curve
Grenier’s Curve helps identify, anticipate and understand the root cause of problems for a fast-growing business (source).
Walking through the Grenier Curve was helpful because it showed the phases we have successfully grown through:
- Phase 1: Creativity and the need for strong leadership
- Phase 2: Grown through the phase where everyone needs direction. We mostly skipped this stage based on the level of experience we hire into the MKG team (nobody needs their hand held).
- Phase 3: Grown through the delegation phase. We have tools, process and people that help everyone delegate work projects to the best stakeholder on the MKG team.
Currently I see MKG at phase 4 company on the Grenier Curve: Our current “crisis” (Grenier’s words - not mine) that we are growing through is reducing red tape wherever possible in our workflow.
Now that we’ve identified our current phase on the Curve it’s up to us to speak transparently to work through that phase of growth.
The Ultimate Question: Would you do it again?
I’d give it a resounding YES!
Alex was an amazing mentor to lead the all-day session. As someone who has led day-long cohorts I know how difficult it is to “drive the boat”, so to speak, while making sure everyone walks away with a truckload of value from their time investment.
As fantastic as Alex was the fellow agency partners were even better. During the breakout sessions I learned just as much (if not more!) about how they charge for their services, the types of clients (and volume) they are equipped to take on as well as their future growth plans. Frankly there could have been an entire “speed dating” session where we discussed the agency’s future vision that partners would have gotten a lot of value from.
Last and most importantly: Every partner walked out of the Elevator session with systems, tools and processes that can have an immediate positive impact on their agency/client relationship. Investing a single day of my time in exchange for those tools as well as training us up on how to use them was a fantastic decision on our part.