NXT: How did you get started with Directive Consulting? How did your clientele change over the years?
Directive Consulting’s very first client was a local store that I scored by handing out flyers from my moped. I worked with them for 30 days, and when I went on the 31st to collect my check, the store was boarded up!
I grew the company by helping local businesses rank locally in search. We scaled up pretty quickly with 30-40 accounts at $300-400 per month. We used clients as case studies to get larger clients, and now our clients include Allstate, SentinelOne, etc.
To continue growing, we focused on content and partnerships. We became partners with Moz, Unbounce, and wrote blogs to contribute in any way possible. Focusing on thought leadership, we built credibility even though we didn’t have the portfolio of our competitors.
NXT: How do you become a thought leader? What tactics do you use?
I actually wrote a detailed post on how to do that on our blog, you could check it out here. A simple way to get your foot in the door is to figure out who has a mid-level reputation within your industry, write to them, then leverage that connection to target bigger players in the industry.
Let’s say you want to establish yourself as a thought leader in the manufacturing industry. Find out where your audience gets their news and whom they respect. Reach out and guest-post on their blog. Then leverage these posts to reach out to bigger influencers.
It takes time but it’s totally worth it if you want to build your brand and attract larger clients.
NXT: How do you know what platforms (publications, conferences, etc.) to target?
Ask your clients! For example, I asked my clients which conference I should sponsor.
I’m a much better digital networker than in-person, so I make sure I am active on social media (engage prospects and conference organizers on Twitter first), I email questions to industry leaders, and build connections that way. After creating a mini impact, I then ask these people to meet up if we are going to the same conference or events.
NXT: You’re growing sales so fast, what’s working for you?
I actually still have 30 accounts, the same number that I had a few years ago. But the average account size went from $300 to $8,000. Don’t be afraid to charge more, and tier your pricing so you don’t lose your lower-end customers. The main reason for charging more is NOT to boost your profit (though it’s a great side-benefit). It’s more so you can retain the best talent and deliver quality results so you can keep getting bigger and better clients.
NXT: So your account sizes got bigger… are these existing or new clients?
These are all new accounts. You can’t expect to increase rates on existing customers by too much, maybe you can push them up 1.5-2x. For example, if someone is already paying you $4,000, the maximum amount that they will pay is $8,000.
You have to constantly swim upstream, improve your design and branding to get newer and larger customers. Nobody in B2B gives design and branding the credit it deserves. Perception is reality… your services are judged by their appearance.
NXT: How did your tactics change when you were trying to land smaller clients vs. larger clients?
New clients come from outbound email (cold email), and in order to close a deal you need great assets.
We usually include case studies in email signatures that prospects can directly click and download. Well-designed case studies that tell a compelling story are almost just as – if not more – important as the numbers.
Same thing goes for eBooks and Whitepapers. You need to lay out the stories and visualization. Having a designer is something that people tend to forget, but they can actually make or break your business image.
NXT: Most people have no luck with cold emailing, how do you do it right?
We personalize the headline, for example, “Hi Mike, hope this can help” and keep each email fewer than 250 words. There’s no magic formula!
People read books like “Predictable Revenue” and assume you can apply the same rules to everything, but you’re just sending the same emails as everybody else.
I also learned that hyper-personalized emails didn’t work for me. When I send 50 personalized emails vs automated emails, the response rate is the same 2%. I thought I would get a 10% response rate if I personalized the emails, but I was wrong.
So, instead of wasting time crafting personalized emails, we scaled up our cold emailing strategy by using automation.
NXT: People say that you should add value in an email, do you agree?
No – forget about “adding value”… what does that even mean? If you’re the right fit, and your timing is right, your prospects will respond. People get caught up about their emails not having enough value and in turn get frustrated, but the reality is that their timing is just off. Personally, I tend to send emails to prospects almost every month.
NXT: You’re an advocate of top-funnel marketing… why is that?
Branding is so important, and we never give it enough credit. People will only convert AFTER they have been exposed to your brand. We want every single channel to generate leads and ROI, but some channels are just not meant for that. As a result, we devalue the channels that don’t generate leads, creating opportunities
NXT: What sort of trends do you see coming along in the industry?
Couple things I see coming up include B2B eCommerce, I think this will take over the B2B landscape. Self-onboarding is becoming more popular, and I see enterprise type deals getting closed without any sales interaction. Positioning ourselves for these trends is going to be very important.
NXT: How can enterprise level deals close without any sales interaction?
By having impressive content and sophisticated funnels that aren’t based on a one-page lander. On the website, there will be full demos, onboarding, and free trial set-ups all done by the customer themselves.
The reason why I see this trend coming along is because of the next generation of buyers. They’re not going to be people who had to learn technology; they’re going to be the ones who grew up with technology.
They want less information and are more experiential. It’s going to go from sharing company information to experiencing the company’s products and services.
NXT: What is something that companies are not doing enough of?
Companies should invest more on site speed. We recommend 75% of our clients to get on a CDN to increase their site speed (It’s very low cost). Sometimes, there’s resistance because clients want to see the ROI for improving site speed. There’s this weird idea that it’s not important, but I think a lack of attention for the website’s technical structure and brand value are the biggest problems in B2B.
Clients will also put the website design on the backburner because they get most of their customers through trade shows and referrals. But they’re missing the point that the perception and quality of your product/service is driven by your brand experience and design. In other words, what your website looks like is going to tell me (a potential buyer) what your product or service is going to be like.
A huge thanks to Garrett Mehrguth, the CEO and Co-Founder of Directive Consulting. He founded the company in 2014, and has since become partners with Google, Bing, Unbounce and Moz. He has spoken at Digital Summit, MozCon Ignite, General Assembly to name a few, and published in Moz, Kissmetrics, Crazy Egg, to also name a few.