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For this episode of E-coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Lysa Miller, the Founder and CEO of Ladybugz Interactive, an award-winning web design and digital growth agency based out of Boston. Lysa shares her invaluable insights on digital marketing strategies for B2B enterprises, customer success, and the significance of fostering strong relationships to thrive in the competitive business landscape.
Strap in for an insightful ride!
Being great with clients, being able to build relationships, being able to communicate really well. This is the foundation for being an entrepreneur.
Hi, everyone. This is Ranmay here on your show e-coffee with experts. Today we have a very special guest, Mrs. Lysa Millar, who is the founder and CEO of Ladybugz Interactive, an award-winning web design and digital growth agency based out of Boston. Lysa also runs the MetroWest Women’s Network, an Online Marketing referral group of around 5000 local women with the goal to empower and help other women grow. Welcome to our show Lysa.
Hi. Thanks for having me. Excited to be here.
Before you move forward, I would like you to introduce yourself to the audience and then we can go ahead.
I’m Lysa Miller. I’ve been a web designer for most of my career, working in agencies and freelance. In 2021 I decided to start my agency again, taking all the experiences that I learned over my career and in my past agencies and growing a sort of agency for the future that really embraces what the team members are looking for, what the experts are looking for, and really matching that with the needs of the clients and having a really collaborative process and experience and that’s what we’re doing now.
Great. So, we will start off with your insights about digital marketing and the industry as a whole. Before we do that, a quick one. How did your university officers describe you when you were a student?
I just think that I was always creative and I just always gravitated to that creative side of things. My education is not really in web development. I actually studied design and communications. I think it was a great experience having that kind of work. In school, they had always encouraged us to do freelance work and to do volunteer work. So, that became kind of normal for me to do gig work and that’s a long time ago. I really enjoyed it and I also realized that you can almost make more money doing it that way rather than working. So, I spent a lot of my college days freelancing, and I just got the bug for it super early.
You have already built a couple of agencies and organizations yourself. So, if I were to ask to narrow down the top three skill sets that are needed to be a successful entrepreneur. What would that be?
Yeah. So, I definitely think the number one skill you need is people skills. I mean, I think that is the number one skill, like being great with people, being great with clients, being able to build relationships, and being able to communicate really well. That is the foundation for being an entrepreneur. I think something else that you need to have been experience doing hard work, working hard, and grit, I think grit is really important and then I think having skills, doesn’t really matter what they are but something that’s marketable and something that’s really going to help you sell whatever it is you’re going to sell as an entrepreneur. So, if you’re just a really good speaker and you want to have a speaking business, or if you’re really good at art and even have an art business, there are just so many different things. But you definitely have to have a passion for something and around something, I think. But maybe you don’t. There are lots of people that buy franchises and do stuff like that, but I just think you have to have a passion for something.
That’s quite important, to be passionate about what you do with your life. Then success becomes a byproduct, that’s what I believe. So, in terms of scaling, scaling an agency is not easy, we all know that. So, what helped you scale your agency to seven figures in less than two years? What is the mantra? What is the trick for that?
Yeah. I didn’t have a plan going into it. So, the growth of the agency kind of just happened. It wasn’t anything I planned. It wasn’t anything I had planned. But I did have a lot of ideas in my mind that if I was going to grow it, how it would look like and I just have to say, it was kind of like bringing my friends in. It was like, okay, my first project, my other friend owned a web development company and I was like, hey, do you wanna do this project with me? And then I was working with him. I grabbed another designer from another agency who wasn’t busy and he’s like, I’ll do some projects for you. Then from that I just kind of realized, wow, there’s all these people out there that are high level. I don’t have to train and they can come in and get the job done and I’m also helping them make the money that they want to make because let’s face it, being a freelancer, you’re not always going to make full-time money that you think you’re going to make. Especially if you’re not a marketer or if you’re just a designer or you’re just a tech person, that’s very hard. So, basically, I discovered that like, okay, all these people I know have businesses that need more work and they’re awesome. So, that made the scaling really a lot easier. I brought in these people, they knew what they were doing. We worked really well together and it just kind of grew from there. One funny story about it is, there was this girl that I had met maybe five or four years ago, and I was doing a presentation about SEO or something. I don’t even remember. But she was kind of like my fan, she thought I was a big deal. She was coming to see me and she had her own little agency. Well, now she’s one of my creative directors, and so she still has a great agency and she works for me the other half of the time working with larger clients. The most beautiful thing from all of it is just that the team members and the experts just really have grown. They’ve gotten to do things that they haven’t really gotten to do at other agencies or in their own agency. And I think that that’s really valuable when you’ve been a designer your whole life and that’s what you do. But you don’t really get exposure to other things. So, I feel like everybody here is definitely gotten a lot of exposure, even around entrepreneurship. As we grow the agency just them being a part of that and all that. That’s exciting and we haven’t had anybody leave us with like, we don’t want to work here anymore. So, that’s awesome too.
That is great.
Yeah. They are like, we want to work more and we’re like, What about your other clients? Then they need you too. They’re like, we like working for you better than that.
That’s actually great stories of people wanting to be for you in the longer run, and that speaks volumes about your people management skills. So, talking about the customer side of things, you know, customer experience is very critical. Even after knowing that a lot of companies are selling to delight the customers, even though it is a known thing. So, what do you think are the good components of creating fantastic customer experiences?
I think for us, one of the things that gives customers a fantastic experience is, as we call it, bringing them into the kitchen. So, they come in, they get to be a part of our process and learn how we do things. We get to learn how they do things and I think that’s something different they’ve not experienced before. It’s always been a mystery when you work with an agency. The project manager is coming in and they’re going to do this and that. There has never been a ton of transparency between agencies and clients. You kind of go through these processes, you give the agency an order and they do it. This is like a lot more collaborative. So, I feel like the client is very excited because they know what we did and why and they can explain that to anybody and they’re on board with that and at the end, they just feel really satisfied. They feel like they did it, in a way. There’s a lot of joy around that, especially if you’re like working at a company and you’re doing the same thing there every day and you don’t get exposure to this, I think that that’s definitely part of it. Just having that access to everybody on the team, being able to talk to the designer when they want, being able to talk to the development team when they want it, being able to talk to like the SEO expert and the content expert throughout the process, that is how we’ve created that experience for our clients. But every client experience is not 125%, but 95% are. And that for me is pretty cool. It’s not really about us, it’s about the experience. It’s about having fun on the project. It’s about discovering new things and being excited about the project. A lot of times you’re working on a web project and it’s just so boring. I’ve worked on them myself, like from the clients I’ve been where it’s not that exciting and the team doesn’t get pumped up about it. They’re doing a job, so I think that’s a little bit different here as everybody gets excited about everything we do here.
Right. As they say, the journey is more important than the destination. So, making them a part of the process makes them feel as if they have achieved something, versus just delivering it on their plate. Talking about B2B businesses, they are obviously out of it for their target audience. But, how do we target businesses to ensure that they create content that resonates well with their target audience? What is your take on that?
Yeah. So, I mean, I think that a lot of times in the beginning you don’t know and you’re discovering that throughout the process and figuring all that out as you go. One thing we always say on projects is like the most important person on this project, like, isn’t in the room, especially for a new company because they don’t really know who their people are going to be. So, I think the way to tackle that is through an iterative process. So, definitely tackling it and making sure that you’re speaking to the right audiences and then measuring it, monitoring it, getting feedback on it, and reiterating what you’ve done a few times throughout the year or however long your project is. So, we have lots of clients that come in and we’ll put Google tag manager on a bunch of stuff on the site and be like, well, people aren’t going to this, they’re not clicking on this. And so you can’t really get some of that data until you’re up and running. I guess gathering some of that from the data. The other thing that you can really gather if you’re speaking to your clients the right way, is the type of leads that you’re actually getting. Are you getting the right people coming in? Like for us, we always get great leads and I think it’s because a lot of what we do is around the clients we do it for. So, it resonates with them but it doesn’t resonate with like an enterprise manufacturing business or a mom-and-pop shop. So, if you’re really speaking to your audience the right way, you’re definitely going to get leads for those lookalike clients.
Right. Well, you do follow the Agile process. So how do you think this could help business owners get more work done and how can B2B business owners use an Agile process to improve their marketing efforts in particular?
I mean, you know, we were always told to plan, to have a plan, have a marketing plan. And I’m going to say unplan, and break your marketing up into smaller goals and smaller chunks and follow the data from there rather than saying, Q1, we’re going to do this, Q2, we’re going to do this, Q3, we’re going to do this. Just follow the data that you’re seeing as you go through this iterative process. So, in Q1, if you’re working on your messaging and different stuff like that, then look at the data from that and then plan around that. I mean, obviously, you want to have long-term goals in terms of what you want to achieve, but like how you get there can’t be set in stone. I think once you start to follow the data and follow what you’re doing and see that journey, that’s really where you’re going to see the growth, like being able to be flexible and change and change course. When I started this journey, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do and I had an idea of what I wanted to do. First of all, it was a viable idea. I knew I really wanted to use Agile. I knew I really wanted to have a more collaborative, messy, be-in-the-kitchen process, which most agencies hate. I was like, how am I going to do that? So, you know, you try it, and once you see how it works. You iterate it from there, you improve it there and I think that’s how you have to do things. You can’t get it stuck in your mind like this is how we do things and we’re not going to change because that is a recipe for not succeeding because the world is changing every single day. I mean, with chatGPT now, it’s like, what is that all about and you’ve got to figure out a way to move the way the world is moving or you’re going to get stuck. So, for us, as a Web design agency, we felt like the clients needed more hand-holding, more of a discovery process. They wanted inside of our brains. They didn’t need us to do a task. They wanted to know our professional opinion and, you know, mesh that with their knowledge of their industry. I don’t think I knew that part of it when I was starting out, but I was like, wow, these guys love to have access to a creative director. These guys love to talk to the writer throughout the whole process. They want to know what the writer thinks at the beginning of the design and that does happen where the writer might be on the project in the beginning, kind of helping the designer like I’m thinking this, this, this. I don’t know, it’s just being iterative and not being afraid of change is definitely a way to grow faster. I mean, we all know Agile, there are different schools of thought on it, but before you get too far down the road and have to change, it’s better to just change a little bit at a time, you know? So, I think everybody should have that. It just might not work in every single business, but at least have that in the back of your mind, like don’t go making some big decision and some big change based on one thing, let the factors add up, and let the decisions be smaller along the way.
Very nice put. Tell me about moving the blocks. So, we are in 2023, although we are already in the second month now so it’s been quite some time. I would like to ask how you see the B2B marketing shaping up throughout this year so far.
Yeah. I mean, we’ve seen all different things in the world right now. We’ve seen a lot of SAAS companies laying people off. We’ve seen a lot of biotech companies laying people off. We’re starting to see the construction industry slowdown. These are things that we’re seeing in Boston anyways. But there are other industries that are thriving. So, it just really depends on where you are. In our business, it’s really important to stay in touch with clients and where they are, and what they’re feeling in the industry and give them more value. What kind of value are you giving to another B2B agency or another B2B company or whatever it might be? And the other thing is using and leveraging your relationships more in the B2B field so that you can help your clients a little bit more than adding that extra value. Just today, I was on a call with a client who does financing for four companies across the US, and I was telling them that I was working for another manufacturing company that does early growth, that’s who they’re targeting, like these earlier growth companies. They already have a larger market, but they’re going for these younger companies and they were like, oh wow, they would be a great connection for us. Do they have their own programs to lend and stuff like that? And so just having those connections and understanding all your clients enough that you’re like, Oh, wow, I can help them with an introduction or I have another client that’s a CRO-CEMO and some of my biotech’s are buying that kind of service. So, it’s like trying to help each other in a more relationship-based way. Digital is great. Now, don’t get me wrong, I own a digital agency, but there is so much more to that. There’s trust, just having that trust with people. And when you’re in a B2B industry, like being kind of niche in what you do because then you can help people more because you know more people, you know, what everybody’s doing. So, if you’re an agency and you’re trying to target every single type of business and you’re just doing that, you don’t have as much to offer your clients. So, when we get in with an early growth biotech, we have lots of resources for them. We have partners, we have people they can talk to. We have people who specialize in PR for biotech and so you just come in. We don’t have to do all the work, but we’re here to help them grow. We know what they need and our partners do the same. So, if we have a biotech client that is doing a lot of PR and their website is not cutting it, we’ll have a PR agency be like, Hey, Ladybugz is our partner and we should bring them in. So, that is super, super important, I think.
Before we wrap it up. What is that one big takeaway you want the listeners to get from this particular episode?
Everybody’s different and everybody has a unique gift to the world, whatever that might be. And that unique gift can be a business, right? So, I just think everybody who has that unique and special thing, that’s what you bring to the table. If you’re a B2B company and you guys are really good at certain things, just being able to share that with people in terms of thought leadership and helping other people grow. When you’re a leader, it’s your job to lead and help and mentor and so I think that’s something that everybody kind of needs to do in this day and age especially. We’ve been through a pandemic and we got to help each other, man. There’s enough business out there for everybody. So, just taking some of that and bringing that to your business, your expertise, your gift, like you’re so much more than just a business. You know, you are a gifted person and everybody in your company is a gifted person. We all have gifts we can bring to our clients, whatever those are. So, definitely, that’s important, I think.
Great, it was nice to hear from you Lysa, in terms of your thoughts and insights that you have provided. I’m sure the audience would benefit a lot from all that you’ve shared with us. And I’m sure with that kind of thought process you’re going to get a lot of job applications to post this podcast as well. A lot of people must be in line to work with.
There are a lot of great people to work for in this industry. There are just a lot of people like me out there doing the same thing. So, it’s awesome.
I’m sure. I’m glad that the world is a good space. So, before we finally let you go, we would like to play a quick, rapid-fire with you. Okay. Are you going for it?
Rapid fire. Not my strength, but I’ll try.
Okay. What is your favorite sport?
Oh, my favorite sport. Golf
Oh, nice. What did you do with your first salary?
At this agency? It’s on my wall.
No, in life.
I don’t know. I’ve been working my whole life, so it’s kind of hard. I probably buy candy at the candy store.
But it is nice.
Where is going to be your next vacation? What’s on your mind?
Oh, dear! So, not really a vacation, but going on a four-day tour around four cities to follow Father John Misty. So, New York City, Providence Rhode Island, Northampton Massachusetts, and Portland Maine.
Okay, and where do we find you on a Friday evening?
At home with my kids.
That’s a good one. I stop bothering you anymore but thank you so much for being such a sport in terms of answering the rapid fires. And yeah, thank you so much for taking the time for this podcast. It was really a pleasure having you on our show and I will try and get hold of you for another episode, probably a detailed one sometime down the line.
Yeah, I loved having a conversation with you and I’m going to get you back on that rapid-fire. I’m going to find you an agent, that podcast to be on, and I’m going to tell them to rapid-fire you.
Sure, Thank you, Lysa.
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