In this post, we reveal what our plan is for growth for our new business model – and in the subsequent posts we will lay out what worked and what failed.
So January started very slowly – at the time of writing, we are on the final week of January 2022, and apart of strategising, writing blog posts and working on all aspects of the business, no one even touched the prospecting engine we created:-)
The team and I are trained on giving demos for the new product – the objective of the demos is to identify the needs of the customer and if she/he is a fit, then invite them to signup.
Following our shared goal for the year, which is quite ambitious – to reach 10,000 paying customers by the end of 2022 – we all agreed that the product, our value and our brand must mean something for all those people to jump in and commit.
I sat with the team in late December (yes, it was BEFORE Christmas) and we brainstormed on how exactly we will do it.
As with every customer before, we spend a lot of time with our heads down, drafting plans and scenarios that include all possible situations and hypotheses for 6, 12 or 24-month goals, strategies and action plans.
So this time, WE are our own customer.
After six hours of brainstorming sessions of GoogleMeet (ok, not in one go for God’s sake, who do you think I am?) with our partners, developers, designer, coders and PPC guys we laid out a plan.
But first an overview of what we have achieved since 2017 when we first started Centis:
- We entered the nutraceuticals industry long before anyone else. As far as we know, we were the only agency globally that exclusively served that industry, just before COVOD hit
- We have customers that love us and we hold the record of having 35 paying clients that none of them left up to now (the average paying client for an agency is 2 years), except when we announced the new product
- We have a team of 32 people, from all over the world, and since 2017 just two people left the business to seek something else – all with very good terms.
- Because of a very diversified team and a lengthy hiring process that I personallydeveloped, our success was higher than any other agency entering the market (that’s why our customers love us, I asked),
- But we also had our fair share of failures, and did a few things wrong. One of these things was focusing on a small industry with few players and little room for growth – and we were too scared to be bold, afraid that we will lose ground. Big mistake.
So our focus for the next twelve months is very simple: to develop, acquire and nurture 10,000 paying customers that use and love Centis.
This is how we plan on doing it.
But First, Strategy
You will hear me talking about setting strategy when you meet me in one of our demos or if we take you as a client (at any package). As I have been educated in an American school, I tend to follow the guy that I studied – this is no other than the legendary Michael Porter and his Textbook on Strategy.
Of course, a few things need to be taken under consideration here. First, things have changed since 1989 when I was at college, and second – if you are a little bit smart, you need to find ways to improve what you have learned so in our case I am also using the Japanese method of Kaizen which teaches continuous improvement.
1. European Leadership
During our years in the nutraceuticals space, we learned a lot about very demanding customers. Customers that made a fuss over a spelling mistake and completely marketing-unaware customers that still live in the 1980s.
This gave us two things – first, experience dealing with difficult and demanding customers, always meeting their needs and aligning with their goals. Second, processes and standardisation, which we adapted for the new business model.
So our focus is to stop marketing aggressively outside of Europe, as we are based in London (and soon will be moving to central Europe), and focus (ok, not exclusively) on all European countries.
Our mission is to become the preeminent resource for small & medium-sized businesses when it comes to marketing.
2. Build the Centis Brand
Let’s face it, business come and go. We believe that our product, our efforts will help small & medium businesses to grow, and we’re focusing on that. Below you will read that, we have plans to provide a huge amount of value to our European and (later) international community. Our mission is to become the preeminent resource for SMBs and startups when it comes to marketing and growth.
3. Rely on Data
Centis was and will always be relying on data to achieve things. Digital marketing gives us this possibility. It is what we teach our clients to do, and it is how we make decisions together with our clients. However, now we do not plan on having just 35 clients. We plan on having 10,000, and it is not difficult to achieve.
Yes, it may sound crazy to you, but we have seen growth in other businesses similar to what we plan.
So using data, we need to have predictability. We need to dig deep into data and know that when we do one action, we will expect this set of results. We can’t depend on luck; this will be the only way to make our growth systematic.
When I was a marketing manager for a toy company back in 2015 in the UK, I came across a book called “Freakonomics”. I will not write about it here, but on the back, there was one paragraph that defined who I am.
“Assume Nothing, Question Everything”
This resonated deeply with me, and in order not to forget I printed this phrase and stuck it in front of me, in every place I was hired.
This is more important than ever, now in this age of digital and data.
The Biggest Bottlenecks We Need To Address
1. Hiring Faster To Accommodate The Needs Of The Many
Up to now, our agency had a very lengthy process of hiring people because we wanted to hire the best for our clients. With the new plan, will we be doing everything that we can to put together the right mix of talent to take Centis to 10,000 clients?
How can we hire the right employees as we grow?
It is not enough to be good marketers anymore. We all need to think like what we do affects the business and everyone’s wellbeing – our own and client’s alike.
2. Working Faster While Keeping The Clients Happy
Our new services do not allow for length processes or meetings. We now have three specific tasks:
- Build a website to clients’ requirements based on our templates;
- Write effective email newsletters for them;
- Manage their paid acquisition to get them leads and sales, exactly as we would do for us.
However, to be able to help more clients we need to be moving faster than we are. To do that, we’ll need to set more regular milestones and timelines that need to be checked weekly, monthly and quarterly. This will keep us focused on the right tasks to progress toward our 12-month goal.
Constantly Improving Our Product
When we entered the world of website development and hosting at the start of 2022, we knew that we opened a door to the unknown.
For starters, any website will be having bugs, plugins will not work at some point and connections between services will be lost. That’s why we are increasing the number of developers and client care specialists – so when anything happens, it will be reported immediately and sent to the developers for fixing within hours. That’s our objective.
At the same time, we think that upon someone signs up on any CORE plans, it is not enough to simply be faced with a website and expect them to just add content. So our plan for the year is to create an onboarding experience with goal setting and free courses with videos on marketing.
How Will Our Goals Be Achieved?
We tend to break our goals into small actionable steps. This is what we always advise our clients to do as well. By breaking our goals to small tasks they become more manageable day by day, week by week, month by month.
Step 1: Increasing Our Blogging Activities
We KNOW for a fact that blogging brought us 100% of all leads in the previous years. I admit that this practice takes time and patience so if someone needs leads and sales NOW, they should resort to paid acquisition.
We’re going to grow our blogging activities by doing:
- Extensive keyword research to validate blog posts subjects
- Write at least one short form (1,000 words blog post) per week and one at least 2,000 blog post (this will be detailing our journey)
- Closely tracking blog metrics and movement of blog visitors through our funnels
- Build up relations with other small & medium business-related bloggers so as to write guests blogs
Step 2: Community Building
Writing blog posts is nice and eventually brings much needed organic traffic, but it is essential to build the Centis’ brand outside of our own web property:
- Developing a data-driven social media strategy (which platforms are best for us?)
- Asking customers permission to write case studies to be published around the web
- Creating a community for entrepreneurs (this is in the works)
- Building the relationships we need to get more high-profile customers using Centis
Step 3: Putting More Efforts On Organic SEO
We never really tried to do anything with SEO. So far, we got the majority of our leads by targeting specific keywords through our blog. From February 2022 we are going to be taking a more strategic approach to organic SEO by:
- Doing keyword research to find out what our prospects are searching for
- Building blog/webinar/video content and targeted landing pages specifically for those interests
Step 4: Affiliates & Partners
A year back, we tried (unsuccessfully) to target the marketing managers of large and medium nutraceutical manufacturers and bring them on as “resellers” to Centis.
Basically, we said to them “Look, you only care about selling your supplements to brand owners, and you do not really care if the brand owner knows how to sell them to their customers. Let us change that. We will install a virtual marketing team to you and you will resell white label marketing to your brand owners, helping them succeed”.
It spectacularly failed.
As our new business model does not allow us to do the above, we can only offer a percentage to people that refer business to us. What we need to do is find out what incentives and programs are out there so that anyone who osigns up as an affiliate will have a good incentive to do so.
Affiliate marketing is something we push to every customer – we set up their affiliate/referral system so as to expand faster, without advertising.
In our case, our first step is to look into our network, our software and whatever we use and ask these people to work with us.
Step 5: Driving Paid Traffic
We have never ever tried paid traffic for Centis before. For starters, our Facebook page has zero Likes, because we never promoted it. Our Twitter sucks, for the same reason.
So now, what we will focus on is:
- Getting our page Liked by 10,000 people by the end of the year through paid ads (we tested doing this only with hashtags and works very very, bery slowly)
- Create lead ads that focus on getting appointmens with qualified prospects that DO NOT have a website (our Full stack offer is too high for Facebook ads)
- Create retargeting campaigns
- Answer as many questions as possible and create ads there
- Focus on getting our Twitter page get the same followers as on Facebook
- In the past, we tried twitter ads for customers, but didn’t work out. We will try to see if it will work for a service-based product.
Native Ads & Adroll:
For native ads, we will explore networks like Outbrain and Taboola, including sponsoring newsletters.
Adroll is working perfectly for all our customers, producing more than 350% ROI.
Google ads are definitely on our top priority list. What we have done for clients is – before anything – we put up a highly converting landing page that has been tested hundreds of times, so we know it will convert. Then all we have to do is run search ads with the pain problem and the solution together in the ad.
Then retarget using Google Display ads.
Step 6: Leads Nurturing
During the years that passed, I personally developed an appetite for email marketing. Through many experiments we came up with a sequence that we install to all customers – the only thing that we change is content.
Selling a service is a bit different, but I have purchased marketing, apps and coaching via email also I know that it works. All we have to do is:
- Implementing drip campaigns for new subscribers that drive them toward signup
- Creating more “middle-of-the-funnel” content for qualified leads
Here is our biggest issue -how to choose the right email service that works. Mailchimp is out of the question, as it is too basic for us.
We have been Klaviyo partners for years with impressive results, and we tried to use it initially on our own site, BUT we have found that leads do not easily enter the CRM and the Klaviyo environment was built for eCommerce, not agencies selling services.
Currently, we experiment with ConvertKit. I will update this post accordingly.
This year is going to be different.
We broke all big strategy items into smaller parts and now each one of us has a clear task to do.
Reporting from the team meeting, everyone feels excited as we have an entire continent to target with no limitations and no fear of alienating our small prospect pool as before. As of today, every small and medium business – with or without a website – is a potential client.
I can’t wait to see what this effort brings.
I do hope that this transparent way of peeking inside our business, has got your business and creative juices flowing.
Of course, feel free to copy any of the ideas above for your own plan. I hope it’s as useful for you as it has been for us.