The Growth Guide For Your Digital Marketing Agency

An Interview with Jeremy Durant

Welcome to E-Coffee with Experts, an interview series where we discuss all things online marketing with the best minds in the business.

In this episode, Dawood talks to Jeremy Durant, principal at Bop Design. A business development expert, Jeremy shares his insights on how to grow your agency business, how to win at lead gen 101, effective sales strategies and more.

Read this insightful conversation and stay tuned for the next steaming cup of e-coffee.

If you want to be sustainable and build a long-term brand, you have to live up to your promises.

Jeremy Durant, Business Principal
BOP Design
Hello everyone! How is it going? Today we have with us Jeremy Durant, Business Principal at Bop Design. Well it's lovely to have you. I'm excited to talk to you today. Before we start, it would be great if you could explain yourself and your company to the viewers.

Sure thing. So, my name is Jeremy Durant. I’m the co-founder and business principal at Bop Design. We are a B2B marketing agency, headquartered in San Diego, California.

We rely solely on inbound marketing leads for all of our lead generation. So, clients find us from all over the world.

We are a small boutique 14-person agency, but we work with B2B clients from enterprises to startups to mid-market from everywhere, from Israel to New Zealand , Mexico to Canada.

The big thing for us is our B2B focus. We founded Bop Design 11 years ago because we felt that B2B companies were sorely underserved in the marketplace.

Most agencies wanted to work with the Nike(s), the Pepsi(s) and the Sony(s) of the world.

And if you’re a small, mid-market to even enterprise level B2B company, they don’t really have that much time for you.

So, really the first pillar of Bop Design is our B2B focus, the second pillar is about lead generation.

My whole background is sales and I wanted to start an agency that the sales team actually liked because we were helping them do their job more effectively. So, everything we do typically with Bop Design in terms of strategy is to tee-it-up for the sales team.

This gives the sales team the tools to nurture a lead from a general inquiry to a qualified prospect, to a proposal stage and then a committed long-term relationship.

So, you know we want to help sales the sales team generate ideal client leads and give them the tools to nurture that lead along to a closed relationship.

You are a lead gen expert.. For your own agency, you said that you rely on inbound leads, but talking about lead gen strategies, what are the most successful strategies that work or have worked the best for you?

Yeah, so, in general, content marketing, on-page, and off-page SEO strategies are really the best way to generate leads.

It’s a longer-term play than paid search or paid social media, but in general, the most qualified leads that come in are typically organic.

Whether you are first starting out or even if you’re a well-established company, if you haven’t really focused on on-page and off-page SEO efforts, it’s going to take some time. It’s not like you just turn it on, and the leads start flowing in.

But in general, if you’re generating high-quality content that is useful and resonates with your target market and is keyword rich and you’re consistently blogging each month and building backlinks through guest blogging etc. that’ll help you drive in the right types of leads.

So, the number one lead-gen tactic is organic marketing.

That is where the bulk of the leads are coming from.

Jeremy, what are your thoughts on cold calling? Do you see any future for cold calling? A lot of people still rely on it.

That’s interesting. Even we have clients that develop software for cold calling — tools that help with scripting, along with other smart calling features.

There’s still a place for it. It is receding over time. Many people now never answer their phones. It has become a lot about voicemails now.

Cold calling can work, but it needs to be a part of the overall strategy. So typically, what you want to do is use this one tactic along with three to four other tactics.

If you can combine cold calling with email, social media marketing, retargeting, etc., it should work.

And if you’re still going to just leave a voicemail, you should know that 99% of the time, it may get deleted without being listened to.

However, if you’re hitting the right person at the right time when they’re in a buying stage, they may be receptive. They may not commit to something in that cold call, but that cold call with an email or a direct mail piece can lead them to buy from you.

So, it needs to be combined with a couple of other tactics, so it is effective.

Typically, it’s more of a complementary strategy that can not stand on its own and needs to go in a sequence like email-call, direct mail-email-call, direct mail, and so on.

The idea is to keep hitting them in a couple of different ways and get to a yes or no quickly.

I think it also depends on the industry— people dealing with small businesses where data is more easily accessible. I think mainly for businesses and agencies dealing with small businesses, cold calling might still work. But you're right. The combination of email and call is something that I have also seen work.

Yes, definitely! We have B2B clients that essentially are targeting businesses like wineries. Like we have a client that sells software for winemakers.

They really are not going to be in front of a computer that often but they’re going to have their cell phones with them or at least the office phone.

We have B2B clients that target more manufacturing or industrial or farming businesses like that.

Cold calling can again be much more effective for them. So, you raised a really good
point there.

It’s surely going to be more effective for people that are not at a desk six hours a day.

What about email marketing? Do you still use email marketing for your own agency to get more leads?

Basically, we do not do outbound lead-gen at all anymore. We rely solely on inbound, but we do use email as a lead nurturing tool.

So, when we send out a monthly email newsletter about repurposing our blog content, it drives people back to our blog, showcasing new projects.

We send it out once a month, and we get a project every single time. So, I always say, if you’re just doing a regular email newsletter, it’s the least you can do from a lead nurturing standpoint.

It’s a great upsell, cross-sell tactic to stay in front of prospects, current clients, and patsy clients reminding people that you’re there.

That’s what we utilize it for. Now again, email as a lead temple could work, but it has to be part of a full kind of drip campaign strategy, just like a cold call.

If you’re doing an email lead-gen campaign, it must be a part of the whole strategy.

You can pair it with cold calling. So, I would never do cold calling on its own, and I would never do email like that either.

However, together those two can be effective and especially if you start using direct mail. I am a business owner, and I don’t get many direct mails anymore. I think people don’t do it because there’s a perception that either it doesn’t work or it’s super expensive, and it’s a lot
less expensive to call or email.

But, the beauty of direct mail now is that it just doesn’t have much clutter anymore. There’s not that much noise.

So, if you can leverage the potential and you know what you want to do in a direct mail piece, it’s good to go for it.

Design something like a white paper, a guide, or something that’s useful, pair it with a promo marketing item of some sort that’s useful that may tie in the message that you have in that guide or white paper.

Print it, pair it with calling and emailing. It’ll help you in terms of making your whole lead-gen outbound strategy more effective.

That kind of a direct email would also stand out. I recall sitting with one of my clients who had some direct emails which had come in. An agency had sent him a beautiful handwritten letter, which , of course, stood out. He actually read it rather than just thinking of it as a sales pitch.

Exactly! We must remember that any customer or any member of your target audience or any human being, in general, is inherently self-centered, they’re only going to read something if there’s something in it for them.

Or if they feel very tailored to cater to. So, a personalised leather essential or a message that’s very much personalised to that particular person’s situation, pain points, or priorities is going to resonate a lot more than some boilerplate message.

What are your thoughts, or how do you suggest an agency should market during these uncertain times?

It’s really difficult right now because most of our clients rely primarily on outbound. And I’ve got emails, but it’s like nobody’s available because no one is working in their office, and we’re just talking about the United States.

Here, as of right now, most states are in lockdown; you’re not really supposed to be in the office unless you’re an essential worker.

So, it’s a much different time. This is where we have a lot of clients that have actually been relying solely on outbound are all of a sudden pivoting and becoming much more inbound oriented.

Hopefully, this is going to start opening up again and business getting a little bit back to normal, but right now, I wouldn’t focus much on marketing. I hate to be a little less optimistic.

I would not look at short-term wins but at a long-term strategy.

We’re actually bidding out work right now with particular clients, and it’s more about

Hey, let’s work on your page feed with your website. Let’s refresh SEO and other long-term things that need to be done and taken care of.

Actually, our website business is very healthy. The ongoing kind of more tactical marketing is not as healthy as it has been just because that’s more lead-gen focused and immediate lead gen versus websites and rebrands that are a little bit more long-term, but the website part is doing really well.

This is an opportunity where it’s a little slower to focus on those long-term objectives that you may have.

Right now, you should have the time and energy. Hopefully, you have the energy. I know it’s a tiring time right now, but hopefully, you have the time to devote to the right and important areas.

Also, I think for agencies, this is a perfect time to re-evaluate and focus on their own content strategies. What is your process of implementing a successful content strategy?

So, content strategy for Bop Design – the way we do it for ourselves and for our clients is by prioritizing the keyword strategy.

So, what you need to do has already been solidified from the on-page SEO. Typically most clients that are working with us, we designed their website and launched it.

Now they’re going onto an ongoing content strategy. So, one must have that foundational keyword strategy.

Focus on buying terms that you want to generate content for. The backbone of any content strategy obviously is an editorial calendar.

What you need to do is put together an editorial calendar for your blog. Typically we have an infographic even on our website in our proposals. But the centerpiece of the content strategy is the blog and what you’re doing on it.

Repurposing cross-promoting blog content on various channels and platforms to get more mileage and visibility out of it is always a great idea.

So, the editorial calendar is about knowing most of our clients and when and what you are going to do for them.

Like blogging two to four times a month, and what you have is in a month. You have four topics, and you’re going to write about corresponding keywords.

And then essentially interviewing internal subject matter experts about that topic, making sure all the right keywords are there.

First, you have to get it up on the website, promote it smartly.

Secondly, if there are rhyme and reason behind the blogs that you’re creating, you’d want to explore various themes or topics typically with your clients.

Bop Design itself is packaging blog content together and designing a more premium content piece around. So, that could be a guide, a white paper, a case study.

And these pieces we can utilize on our website as conversion and retargeting tools.

So, I always say, studies have shown that typically it takes at least six visits to a website before a B2B decision-maker initially converts. So, when you spend all this time, money, and resources getting people to the website for the first time, you wouldn’t want to be forgotten about.

So, when somebody visits the website and bounces off, you should be retargeting them on various websites.

Retargeting works exponentially more effectively when you’re targeting with content.

For example,

If somebody’s evaluating an accounting firm. They go to this accounting firm’s website, and they bounce off. Then they’re retargeted with a buyer’s guide on selecting the right accounting firm for their industry.

That’s going to help in terms of getting more engagement.

So, to answer your question, the editorial calendar is important, and the blog is the centerpiece.

And repurposing your blog’s content for everything from email marketing to social media to retargeting if something’s newsworthy like a press release can help you get some mileage out of your content, building brand visibility and then in turn hopefully generating more leads through your website.

Absolutely! I think while talking about retargeting and content, you said a very important point, “People need to be shown your content again and again so that they don't forget you. Because they won't buy from you on the first go.” I agree content marketing is the key, but do you think tracking it would add to the value that you're trying to create.?

Exactly! You got a really good point there. Content is the key across all stages of the buying process.

You may have the buyer’s guide, and you may have a case study every level of the funnel. So, you don’t only have your keyword strategy, dictating blog content, but you also want to think of an entire sales and marketing funnel from inquiry to proposal stage to decision.

And then find out what content is going to resonate or what type of content is going to be needed to build that case to credibility.

So, yeah, definitely having that content for all levels of the funnel is critical.

Jeremy, talking about sales again, from your experience, what do you think are the main things that salespeople get wrong from an agency point of view?

So, the number one problem that most salespeople have is that they don’t ask enough questions up front and really truly.

It’s like they just come in and start talking and not listening and not really asking the questions that they need to ask.

The first conversation you have with a prospective client, it needs to be eighty percent the prospect talking, not eighty percent the salesperson talking.

But, usually, salespeople tend to be extroverts who like to talk, and sometimes their biggest weakness is listening.

Even I may be that way. I may not be the best listener, but if you start with questions about objectives, pain points, buying process, etc., that will help you cater to your solution a lot more than coming in with an off-the-shelf solution, to begin with.

And apparently, a lot of salespeople tend to prove themselves too quickly.

I’d rather prove something based on the answers that they might have discovered through that series of questions.

So, I think first of all you must ask enough questions up front. That’s going to help in terms of catering your solution to that particular prospect and allow you to win more and more qualified deals.

You can’t really achieve that with a boilerplate kind of solution for everyone.

A lot of personalisation goes into selling, and before you do that, you must know enough about the prospect. That’s where questions help.

Totally! Also, from an agency point of view, one can observe that a lot of sales people don't set the right expectations when they don't listen to what the client wants and focus on their pitch. What are your thoughts?

Yeah! A lot of sales people are way too concerned about making a commission. It’s okay. They’re making a living out of it. But there’s a lot of over-promising, under-delivering and that may help for some time, but not in the long term.

So, you want to set expectations right. We lose deals at times because we want to manage expectations, and so, we tend to under-promise and over-deliver.

This way, we may lose a few deals for now.

I’m also the business owner, and I’m going to be with Bop Design for the remainder of my career, so I really care about the reputation.

I don’t want to take on a project setting the wrong expectations up front.
This can help us make a quick buck, but the clients may end up leaving a bad review.

If you want to be sustainable and build a long-term brand, you have to live up to your promises.

So, yes, managing expectations is very important from a timeline standpoint to a deliverable standpoint to a pricing standpoint.

The last thing you’d want is your clients to feel baited and switched. So, we make sure nothing like that happens. And we take pride as according to Clutch’s list of professional services marketing agencies, we’re the number one ranked web design agency in the US.

So, I think that’s partly because we’re disciplined with the projects we take on, and we’re disciplined with managing expectations up front.

Right! That’s correct. Also, you talked about you relying on inbound leads and how most of your leads are inbound. So, as a company, how do you handle an inbound lead? What is your sales process?

First of all, you have to balance selling and qualifying.

So, typically with inbound leads your website can help in self-qualifying and self-disqualifying certain prospects, but a lot of times that’s not really the full case. So, before you ever have any sort of sales discussion, there needs to be a process up front to qualify them.

You don’t want the hand up immediately like no get over. You have to balance the negative questions with the positive. So, when we qualify, we do it based on the expectations from a prospect.

– Do they fit our budget?
– Do they have the same expectations in terms of budget as we do?
– Do they have the same expectations in terms of the timeline as we do?
– Are they B2B?
– Do they have the right type of project for us?

At the same time, we also keep building a case of credibility with our content, so we typically qualify them in terms of expectations.

Also, we generally present them with some projects that are very similar to what they’re you know looking to do.

Either our buyer’s guide on selecting the right web design agency or something else that’s relevant.

It’s important as many times, you may have several qualifying questions. And it can turn people off a bit.

So, it’s better to have inclusivity and exclusivity in one conversation.

Then you want to have an intake call where you’re going past the qualifying questions and talking about marketing objectives, target audience, and their lead generation process.

You’re interviewing that prospect as much as they’re interviewing you.

If you’re doing a good job as a salesperson, the first call is going to be eighty percent of you asking questions to that prospect.

And then as you’ve asked the right questions, the follow-up can be a preliminary proposal call with some sort of solution. That’s where you’re talking 80 percent of the time with a catered solution based on the answers in that first call.

But what you want to be doing through that entire process is utilizing thought leadership content all the way to build that case of credibility, so that your prospect has the peace of mind and confidence that you can do the job better than alternatives, competitors, etc.

So, ask the right questions, catering the discussion based on the client’s pain points, objectives, etc.

Also, what are your thoughts on account based marketing? Who should focus on account based marketing?

It’s just a new buzz term. Basically, what you’re trying to do is personalize and cater to a particular account. It’s almost like a mindset where you’re basing your marketing strategy on a specific set of accounts that you want to go after.

So you may have clients that you may want to go after in 2020 and what you want to do is put together a tailored campaign for each one of them.

This campaign will be very much personalized to their particular industry, their particular economic climate.

People have been thinking for a long time that it does help.

The reason I think it’s more in the vernacular now than it used to be is that there’s a lot of software technology platforms that help target those accounts.

We’ve utilized some of those platforms and software with mixed results.

With the B2B side, account based marketing is utilized obviously.

It’s just a mindset of working back from specific target accounts, thinking of what their current situation is, what their industry is, what their financial situation is, who are the buyers, the influencers, etc.?

And from there you can cater your approach. But that’s really what account based marketing is, and it’s been around for a while. Not much different than inbound.

Primarily because Hubspot came up with inbound, but really that’s pull marketing versus push marketing.

Outbound-inbound, pull-push; the same kind of ideas.

I really believe LinkedIn is a solid marketing and lead-gen tool. How do you leverage LinkedIn for your agency?

We primarily use LinkedIn for our accounts. But for sponsored updates, we utilize paid search on Google.

That’s more like a needs-based marketing plan. Where people have a particular need, they’re searching for it, but they may not always fit your ideal component or client profile.

On LinkedIn, it’s very much about people that fit your ideal client profile exactly, but they may not be in a buying stage. They may not even know that they need you yet.

But I love how granular and the niche you can get in terms of going after your prospects. That’s the beauty of LinkedIn. We talk about account-based marketing. You can go after a set of 25-50-100 specific companies that you want to target.

You can get very narrow. We find that it’s better to have smaller and more granular targeting on LinkedIn.

Also, you need to be patient because you’re not going to get a lot of clicks and a lot of visits overnight, but over 30 days or over a 60-day period, you can be very successful.

It’s always better to set up very narrow targeted campaigns on LinkedIn, including decision-makers. These campaigns are better at speaking to specific accounts with specific objectives.

Right! I agree. Well, Jeremy, thank you so much for your time. I know we have limited time, but before you go I have one more question which I would want to ask you. What do you see working best for B2B marketing in 2020?

Now, people are going to be more elusive with outbound than they ever were.

About outbound, we still may have a place out of 2021, but right now, when you look at it, you can’t see enough results. You can’t find these people right now, because they’re not at their offices and who knows when they’re going to be steady at their office.

In the future, it could be six months from now. It could be three months from now. It could be 18 months from now.

So, inbound is going to take a much more prominent role, thus, the trade shows probably aren’t going to be around for a while. In fact, any sort of in-person networking may go on a halt.

Things are going to get a little more digital. I’m curious to see if that’s just going to be over this next phase of 2020.

But I will say for 2020 to answer your question, it’s going to be all on digital marketing.
Your website’s actually going to be more important than ever. It’s your 24/7 sales tool because there’s not going to be as much in-person interaction.

People are going to perform searches, not going to rely as much on their networking.

Even for phone calls, we know how it’s even hard to get people on the phone anymore.

So, it’s going to be much more website, social media marketing, email, anything digital that’s where everything’s going to be going.

Well, thank you so much for your time, Jeremy. It was great talking to you, and I wish you all the best, and hopefully, we'll talk to you again.

Yeah, thank you for the opportunity, and let’s hope that 2020 can be a success.

In spite of everything going on, we can come out of this stronger than ever.

Yes. I hope the same, man! You take care.

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