Every year thousands of agency owners and their teams make their way to Boston. Some have been coming for years. This was my eighth Inbound. When I first came to Inbound back in 2010 there were 300 attendees in a few rooms at a hotel downtown.
A few of us were remembering how much fun it was to have the entire conference and all the HubSpot people, including Brian Halligan, go from bar to bar on their annual Inbound Bar Crawl. That was a good time.
This year there were so many people that the conference has spilled out of the conference center and into adjacent hotels. Even Partner Day had to be moved to an entirely new facility. It is great to see old friends, new friends, clients, prospects, prospective new partners and all the crew from HubSpot.
But I digress…
What I Saw
The first thing I saw was the massive number of new features and the general R&D HubSpot is pouring into their products. During Partner Day and at Inbound, they introduced a ton of new features especially to the marketing product line.
This has a lot of positives for agency owners, but it also brings with it a lot of challenges. First, you all need to know what those new features are, the value they bring and how to use them for your clients. In most cases, you and your agency represent the power user at your clients.
You should be the ones introducing your clients to those new features and you need to do that in a constructive, value-oriented way.
For example, here is a new feature, here’s what we can do with it for you, and here’s how we recommend we start using it for you.
And, here is where the challenge presents itself. You have to get your team trained on the new features, you have to get operational around those new features and you need services that wrap around any new features that drive you to do extra or new work for your clients.
As an example. Video. HubSpot is adding video (from the Vidyard platform) native into the product. This is a major upgrade and a very positive move for all agencies. If you’re not providing video services you’re missing out on a major lead and new customer generation tool for clients but you’re also missing out on a major trend in our industry.
You should be providing video services for clients on the marketing and on the sales side and now HubSpot is able to support all that work.
It might make sense to assign someone in your agency to stay close to what HubSpot is doing from a product side. They add features to all their products all year long, but only announce it at Inbound. If you want to keep up to date all year long, giving someone the assignment to follow their new product features and enhancements might keep your agency more informed.
What I Heard
As you might imagine, I talk to a lot of agency owners at HubSpot. There were 300 agency owners in my session and I probably talked to another 100 agency owners over the course of the five days I was in Boston. That’s a lot of data points.
What I heard from every single one was that growing their agencies remain the number one concern and number one challenge.
Who do we hire? What do we do in-house vs. out-source? How do we differentiate against other agencies? What structure is right for us? What tools do we need to grow faster? And my favorite, what did you do to grow your agency?
These are all great questions and I answered every single one for any one who asked. If you know me, you know I always talk with agency owners who appreciate our experiences and want to learn from our mistakes. This year’s Inbound was no different.
The agency business is not easy. These are difficult questions to get answers to. The trends are not in our favor. I don’t see it getting easier. I see it getting more challenging. More agencies, more confused clients, more technology, more tactics and more downward pressure on pricing coupled with increased pressure on generating results.
This means you have to be smarter.
My advice to agency owners has been and continues to be very focused. Differentiate your agency as dramatically as possible. At Square 2, we’re giving clients our own software, we’re guaranteeing results for the first time in our history, and we’re leading with a proprietary Revenue Generation Strategy.
If you can find me another agency with a similar story, I’ll pay you $100 cash. You have to build a similarly differentiating story for your agency.
Next you have to invest in your agency, your team and your processes. You have to be excellent at generating results for clients. Whatever those results are, you have to get them to define what they expect, and you have to put skin in the game around delivery.
I know for a fact, most of you are far from being confident about the results you get your clients. You must double down on making sure your team is tops at getting clients results and doing so in a profitable and efficient manner.
Differentiation and delivery should be your two top priorities in 2019.
What I Learned
I had two major takeaways from the conference worth sharing with you. The first is relatively easy, HubSpot’s revised pricing and tiering for their products is a major upgrade. Three levels of product and three different products all resting on top of the free CRM.
It’s simple, it’s clean and most importantly, it’s easy to explain to clients and prospects.
The second major take away came from my session on the final day of the conference.
My session started with me asking the 500 attendees to stand up and remain standing if they found a way to consistently hit their revenue goals.
Everyone stood up and agreed to answer my questions honestly. I actually asked them to raise their right hand and take an honesty oath.
Here is exactly what I asked them:
Remain standing if you hit your revenue goals at the end of 2017.
Remain standing if you hit your revenue goals for the first quarter of 2018.
Remain standing if you hit your revenue goals for the second quarter of 2018.
Finally, remain standing if you think you’ll hit your revenue goals for the third quarter of 2018 (ending this month).
Salesforce.com reports that around 44% of companies are missing their revenue goals consistently.
HubSpot research puts that number at 77%.
But nothing could have shocked me more when I found just 44 people standing at the end of my impromptu survey (and four of them worked for Square 2 Marketing).
Out of the roughly 500 attendees for my INBOUND 2018 session, MORE THAN 90% admitted they are consistently MISSING their revenue goals. It's official: This is an epidemic, and we need to figure out why, what to do about it and start fixing it right now.
Honestly, this shocked me. I was hoping to get half to sit down, I never expected to have 90% sitting when I finished my line of questions. These are supposed to be the best marketers, using the most innovative tools, and driving real results. Clearly NOT the case.
This only further supports my theory that people don’t know what to do to drive real revenue growth and its our job to be that resource. It should be your job as well.
Help Is Available
I had many requests for information related to the agency coaching and consulting I do with HubSpot Partners. So much so that I will be starting a new Cohort in October. Space is limited, I don’t like to have too many agencies in a Cohort, but if you’re looking for help, have similar questions and want to skip over all the mistakes I made growing Square 2, now is the time to get on board with a Cohort.
Start Today Tip – When it comes to running an agency, sometimes it just comes down to focus. Focus on doing one or two things really well and focus on spending time working ON the agency and not IN the agency. I know most of you are doing sales, most of you are doing client service, some might even be doing delivery work. That’s fine, but you’ll never grow if you don’t find at least two to four hours a month to be the CEO, to work on growing the agency, to work ON the agency. If you do nothing else, carve out an hour a week and do high-level strategic work for your agency. You’ll quickly see this time pays off in big value. Its one of the secrets to Square 2. I work ON the business and we grow.
Agencies 2 Inbound – Helping You Grow Your Agency Beyond Your Expectations