As Siege Media moves into being more than 7 1/2 years old, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients, and build a team of amazing people.
With that, we’ve recently hit a unique milestone that could only happen through a ton of hard work, a little luck, and a group of amazing people working toward the goal. In this video, I share some stories from our path to that milestone and a few things we’ve learned along the way.
So I’m getting old, getting up there. Mid-30s. Siege is getting old, we’re getting up there, seven years old. It’s been a while, but we hit an exciting milestone that I wanted to share, and share some of the lessons that came from it.
As of this recording, we have hit a monthly recurring revenue run rate that if realized for 12 months, will bring us to $10 million in yearly revenue.
Pretty exciting, pretty crazy. I remember a time where I didn’t even think we’d hit a million. We’ve come a long way and we’ll definitely keep grinding it out. But enough about that, and more about how these lessons can be helpful for you, whether it’s with your content marketing team internally or externally in your own agency.
1. Location Matters
So, one of the first lessons I’ve realized over time is that location matters. I mean, I hear people say in the industry, especially in our digital world that you can have an agency in Iowa and be huge. And maybe that’s true, but if you want to take this seriously, if you want to be a real business, location it’s integral, especially when you get to mid to large-sized businesses, for multiple reasons, it matters.
One, it’s hard for an enterprise company to take you seriously with an office in Montana. Sorry for anyone who’s in Montana. For multiple reasons, it’s not just that you’re in Montana. One, you’re not near them. Two, if you’re an agency of any kind of scale in Montana, I’m sorry to keep throwing out Montana, Idaho. Sorry Northwest, but these locations are unlikely to support the talent required to be competitive at those scales.
So the efficiencies are lost in these locations without significance. So by leaning into the areas where two things can can occur and be important: One, a location that’s good for recruiting. Two, locations where your clients are. And ideally at the intersection of those two points, you will have success.
So we’ve slowly been moving towards this model. San Diego has been amazing for recruiting, but it hasn’t been as amazing for clients because there are not a lot of our clients here. I realized this in moving to our second location in Austin. It has been good for recruiting, but there are also a lot of potential clients there.
We realized as many clients in a very short time frame as we realized in like five years in San Diego in our Austin location. And that’s not coincidence. It’s because our clients are there.
If you’re trying to build an agency of value, I think a lot of people kind of half-ass it, to be honest. They’ll start maybe after they quit their job, or something went wrong. So they just start getting some clients on the side, and say, “Hey, I’m an agency now,” but they’re in the middle of nowhere. They’re not in a big city. These things can maybe putt along, they can do okay, but that’s not how you get to any size of scale.
Location is something that matters. For this reason, we just opened a New York City office to support our growing client base there, attract talent and expand our reach.
2. Video Needs to be Local
Number two is something we’ve learned over time. We made a bullish bet on video as a department in the last couple years. So we’ve continued to build that department, and I’m still bullish on it in general. But I think something I didn’t realize that maybe could be a lesson for other people is it is kind of hard to execute video on a national level for most clients.
There is a reason why a lot of local agencies do a lot of these services for companies, because oftentimes, efficiencies are built going in office for those people, and also having the equipment locally for those shoots. It’s expensive to move high-quality video equipment across country, as well as get in office for those clients. In general, meeting the client also is going to have some benefits.
A lot of videos make sense to be on site. Therefore, there are efficiencies that are lost if you aren’t. Even if you’re hopefully a high-quality content agency, actually executing it probably needs to be more local more often.
So we’ve realized that over time that it has been hard to execute and get buy-in for video, because it is still at the end of the day pretty expensive even though it is worth it if done well. So we have gotten a lot of clients locally from that perspective and think that will only continue to expand, and I expect it to expand in our other locations as well.
We’ll still execute video services, especially ones that don’t require being on site for those clients as we grow. I just think, in general, in my initial thought process, we would be doing this for our clients all across the United States. And unfortunately, that just has not been the case because of that.
3. Retainers are More Optimal for Clients
Another thing I’ve realized over time is that we generally operate off a deliverable model with content. A lot of people do do this, and I think there are scales to it. We do deliverables based on time and also output, so clients know what the general expectation is in terms of links, rankings, and traffic.
Other people will just say, “We’re doing a blog post per week for $200 per blog post.” That’s something I really hate, but something I’m moving towards and learning from. So I feel like the retainer is the more optimal model for our clients. This is for a few reasons.
One, the link market for every single business is different, especially in resource page, win page type markets. There are often hundreds and hundreds of people you can reach out to. Therefore, you don’t want to shift gears from that single asset you’ve made to another asset and just do 40 of those per month. Because you want to keep milking that one post that did well. And those situations being versatile in terms of the content you go against, instead just lean on the outcome instead of just simply thinking we have to get four posts per month.
That is the wrong motive thinking. It also refocuses your team on the outcome rather than simply deliverables. It’s also very hard to juggle lots of different posts per month. If you focus instead on the outcome, quality is emphasized. The outcome is more likely to come because of that.
So we’re focusing our model as we move forward more to retainer, and I think that’s something that potentially can be useful for you as well.
4. You Can Still Change 10-15% at 75+ People
So another thing we’ve learned, especially as we are getting to this level at 75-plus people, is that not every change can happen quickly. I can send an announcement to our team, and lots of different opinions will happen. If it’s half-baked, people will get upset. That’s not a good idea. I probably shouldn’t send emails half-baked to the team.
So that’s something I’ve learned as we’ve grown, is that you have to be solid in everything you figure out and communicate. But you can still move fast. So one thing we’ve learned and we’re iterating on is like our retainer model, our pricing, how we think about content, how many things people can handle.
We’re incrementally changing things by like 5% over time such that some person might be doing something 5% different than someone else. And that is somewhat the case across our organization, we’re slowly probably getting pretty dramatically different from some models earlier. But because we’re moving incrementally rather than massive sea changes, I mean, we’re still gonna do those occasionally, but you can make considerable impact and iterative changes that don’t disrupt the organization over time.
So we’ve learned that and how I’ve now sold things over time, is by constantly making micro changes that don’t sea-change everybody, and there isn’t panic in the streets because of that. It allows you to operate at scale and still be a big company because of that.
So think about that. Think about literally testing your pricing models, your deliverable models, what you’re charging, your retainers. Like, I’m not dramatically changing the content under that, just a mindset shift within that that potentially could be useful for you as well.
5. Video Can be Your Sales Team
And finally, from the sales standpoint, something I’ve realized that I think can can be useful, is that really at the end of the day for service businesses, what’s more important than a massive team of salespeople doing outbound is quality work.
We’ve grown to our size primarily simply by doing good work. We generate referrals, we come in at clients at a lower monthly retainer, and then we scale with them because of that quality work. And they refer us out again because of that, and that builds a compounding model that people trust us. We get case studies from that that we can then reference in sales collateral and just close people more often. It’s a lot easier when you have more reference points to leverage.
In addition, I think it’s kind of amazing that we’re getting to 10 million, and functionally, I’m basically the sales guy. At this level, I’m getting assistance from our team from doing some proposals and things like that from a strategic standpoint, but it’s really just me today which probably honestly is a quasi-mistake.
But I think there are still some lessons in the fact that it’s just me. One is that we’ve realized video is a hack for sales, especially from a service standpoint. As we’ve grown has been useful for me to have a talented videographer like Cara behind the lens and the rest of our video team to edit these videos, because in a way she’s operating as a member of our sales team.
I can say something, and she can make me look way better than I am and cut this, and we can do this pretty quickly. We shot a series of videos in this sitting in 30 to 45 minutes. Get some help from other people on the team and build powerful sales collateral in a way that scales nicely and will build a compounding effect of brand, and followers of seeds, and things like that that require not another body in a seat to basically send another email cold to hope something comes out of it.
As an agency, as a business, you should be building compounding value that is a snowball effect with everything. Video is a nice way to do that, because you’re building audience. You also save time by using authority and expertise over time that you’ve acquired and your team has helped taught you and your clients have helped taught you as well that have allowed this kind of thing to happen.
So that’s a lesson that I think should be a core piece of any service business today. Really, honestly, from an expertise standpoint, I think video is a beautiful hack that will only continue to compound as social networks want to reward content that lives on site. They’re going to be rewarding video, because that is the highest quality version of that.
So for any agency who’s thinking about this, and also for just any client in B2B, having video enables you to have those time hack shortcuts to show your expertise and enable scale and enable sales at that scale that will allow you to get to a good, great version of the size you’re at.
So those are my five main lessons. Another thing I’ve learned and I’ve realized has been rewarding as we’ve gone along is to talk to other agency owners, learn from them, and grow from that. I’ve been lucky enough to partner with Johnathan Dane of KlientBoost, who’s also reached this similar milestone as of late. He’s on the PPC and CRO side and has a approach to things in a lot different way than I have.
We’ve combined to build a course on how to grow your agency and service business called GrowthComet.
We’d love to see you there, and share some of the lessons and many mistakes we’ve made and I’ve made over the years. But we’re doing okay as of now. Knock on wood. It’s been an incredible journey, but this thing’s not stopping, and you’re gonna keep seeing these videos, so hopefully you don’t get sick of me. But thanks for watching. Give us a thumbs-up if you like this. Subscribe and give me that snowball effect. Thanks!