Some of you may have been wondering, “Where’s Mike? I haven’t seen an article from him in a very long time.” The last article was on August 21.
I have to admit that I never intended to take this much time off.
But, as many of you know, my day job is CEO at Square 2. In fact, I’m one of the few agency coaches and mentors that still runs an active agency.
That means sometimes the agency comes first. I’m sure all of you can understand and appreciate those priorities.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been continuously coaching other agency owners. Actually, it’s the opposite.
Our Mastermind Group is bigger than ever. I have one active agency cohort running and I’ve been doing more one-on-one coaching over the last six months. It seems a lot of you prefer to work with me one on one and I’m fine with that, as long as time allows.
But enough about me.
Square 2 has been wrapping up a very interesting year and we have a number of initiatives planned for 2022 that should continue to help us grow. As always, I’m fully transparent in what we’re doing in the hopes it will help some of you.
We’ve been focusing on just a few important parts of our business.
Profitability – which might be our white whale. Building an agency that does over 20% net profit month over month, every month while maintaining high client satisfaction, retention, and team member happiness is a big challenge.
Marketing – in our hyper-competitive industry, marketing has to constantly evolve for it to be effective. It has to scale and be efficient.
Technology - this has become a critically important part of our agency and for our clients who all have tech stacks that need attention, ongoing support, and optimization.
New products and services – If you want to grow and stay ahead of the competition, you need to continuously be looking at new ways to service your clients. However, you don’t want to chase a market, you want to create a market.
First, we’ve been leaning into profitability. It’s not easy to make money every single month. It’s possible if you run a lean shop, load up your team with clients, and hire younger team members. That is 100% a formula for profit.
However, as I’ve found out, that is also a formula for low client satisfaction, low client retention, and low team member retention. If you can create the systems and processes to deal with those conditions, then you’re good to go.
Instead, we’ve been working on ways to have a profitable agency, high client satisfaction, low involuntary client attrition, and low team member attrition. I think we’ve cracked the code.
2021 has been our best year when it comes to team member retention and team member happiness (two metrics we track monthly along with client retention). We’ve had happier clients, staying with us longer than ever before. over the past year, during the great resignation, we lost just one team member, who was moving on to bigger and better opportunities and we were happy for her.
While 2021 has been a profitable year for us, we think we can do better. Over the past two quarters, we’ve been leaning into some new metrics and some new financial thinking that aligns how we leverage our resources differently. It’s already been paying off and we’re excited to see how that translates into 2022.
In 2021 we made some conscious shifts toward a number of new playbooks. The biggest one is a move from almost 100% written content to 20% written and 80% video/audio content.
We launched a new LIVEcast/Videocast/Podcast called What’s Wrong With Revenue? This show has taught us a ton about content creation and scaling content. While we are only on show 17, we are already adjusting the style of the show.
We’ve been doing a lot more videos with our clients. We found a way to remotely produce client testimonial videos that is affordable and fast. Every few days we get a new client video done and try to do a new one every single month.
Both video and content scale programs have become service offerings for clients and they have loved both approaches. As always, we practice what we preach and almost always use our agency as a lab to work out the details and to make sure it works before we roll it out to clients.
But that’s not all.
We’ve also decided that we need to leap ahead of everyone else and rethink how companies deploy content across all their channels. Taking a page out of the streaming services, we’ve launched Square 2+, a platform for all our video and audio content that looks just like a streaming service site.
It’s 100% free and will remain free but its design and access will help our clients, and when we build these for our client’s customers, they will get better access to video and audio content in a way they are all comfortable accessing.
Your resources section is dead. It’s time for something more in 2022.
HubSpot and Technology
Lately, around 40% of our opportunities have been related to technology projects. Migrate clients from one platform to another. Integrate one system with another. Help clean up and fix their existing tech stack so it works properly. Move their website from one CMS to another.
These types of clients are coming in faster than ever and that means you need the team, the systems, the processes, and the services to support this change in the market dynamics.
The work we used to do, design, content, email, social, website, is all quickly becoming commoditized and difficult to make money on. Software today does a lot of what people used to do and this trend is only going to continue.
But the complex technical work is going to expand. HubSpot in a recent meeting said they were looking for partners who were able to help their larger (enterprise) clients with their complex technical work. That’s work we want to do at Square 2. That’s work we’ve been spending the year doing and getting good at.
There are far fewer agencies capable of doing this work, far fewer agencies who actually do it well and this type of work is much more significant, more profitable and almost always leads to additional work.
That’s on the high end of the market but there is also an opportunity at the low end of the market.
Today people are buying HubSpot, they’re using it on their own and they’re making a mess of it.
We’ve been testing, delivering and now we’re going to be launching HubSpot Services to help clients keep their websites, their portals and their ongoing marketing up to snuff. This is both technical and performance-based guidance along with some actual hands-on support as needed.
There is a market for this type of service that has been ignored by most of the agency community.
New Products and Services
Finally, if you’re going to create a market, instead of chasing one, you’ll have to do something no one else is doing.
In 2021, we leaned into our Accelerator service offing, and today, it's roughly 50% of our business. Clients have an insatiable pain for getting work done quickly and we’re now the only agency offering engagements that deliver six months of work in just 30 days.
We’ve taken MAXG, a software tool that connects to HubSpot and provides AI-powered insights and recommendations for marketers and bundled it into our HubSpot Services Suite.
We are the only agency with an AI-powered insights and recommendations engine for HubSpot.
We’re also going deep on Revenue Operations. We’ve expanded our technical practice to include new RevOps services that align exactly with what our prospects and clients are asking for. This wasn’t easy and took us most of the year to ramp up, staff, and build delivery processes for, but today we are under-promising and over-delivering for clients in this area.
You can’t be competitive with the same me-too set of services. You have to be constantly adding to what you do, how you do it, and make sure your story is dramatically different from what other agencies are saying.
In 2022, I’m going to try and be more attentive to the agency community. I don’t want to promise weekly blog articles and regular videos, but I will be making a concerted effort to stay better connected to all of you.
I am always available to anyone, at any time. I’ve always made it a practice to talk to any agency owner, on any topic. All you have to do is ask, email, chat, or message me. My door is always open to other agency owners.
Have a wonderful New Year! I Hope your 2021 was your best year yet and I hope 2022 is going to be even better for all of you.
Thank you all!