What Does Good Content Marketing Earn a Firm?
The obvious answer might be opportunity. And while that’s certainly true, what most experts want more than opportunity is control. The ability to say “no” to the kind of work they know isn’t a good fit for them, and the ability to say “yes” to the work they know will have a meaningful and measurable impact on them and their client.
In this episode of Expert Marketing Matters, Mark O’Brien speaks with MJ Legault, a principal with Origin, a leader in marketing for outdoor experiences and products, about her firm’s experience with content marketing, her insight into the energy it requires to do well, and the way she’s measured its success: in their ability to say no.
You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.
Mark O’Brien: Hello, my name is Mark O’Brien. I’m the CEO of Newfangled, and, today, I am joined by MJ Legault, the principal at Origin. Hi, MJ.
MJ Legault: Hi, Mark.
Mark O’Brien: And, I guess I should start by saying, “Are you the principal or one of the principals?”
MJ Legault: I am one of two principals at Origin.
Mark O’Brien: Okay, who is your partner?
MJ Legault: My partner is the world’s most incredible woman. Her name is Danielle Kristmanson and she founded Origin, actually, 20-some years ago in Whistler.
Mark O’Brien: Okay, great, and where are you?
MJ Legault: I am in Montreal.
Mark O’Brien: Okay, great, and how long have you been with the firm?
MJ Legault: Should I give you a little story about Origin, then?
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that’d be great, yeah, yeah.
MJ Legault: All right, that’s gonna be easier for me.
Mark O’Brien: Okay.
MJ Legault: So, Danielle founded Origin in Whistler in the late 1990s. Whistler, for those of you that don’t know is one of the best, I would say, ski resorts in North America, really a mecca for skiers and snowboarders, so, of course, I moved to there as soon as I could, being the ski bum that I am, and she and I met in the late 1990s. So, Origin had been around for several years and was really operated more as a graphic design studio in those days. And, Danielle was looking for … I think my first job there was like a production coordinator or something like that, and quickly brought to the table more of my background, which was marketing strategy, which was what I had studied and had been doing in Montreal for several years.
MJ Legault: So, it was, right away, a meeting of two different skillsets, hers being much more on the creative side of things and mine being more on the marketing/strategy side of things. So, yeah, so, we worked together. I worked as an employee for a couple of years and then moved on to work at several other ad agencies. I worked in London and in the States, and, throughout that period, could never really find another Origin, one where the focus that we had on the outdoors and on working for companies and products that I really believed in and was excited about, it just didn’t exist elsewhere. So, 14 years ago, I made her an offer to become a partner and open an Origin office here in Montreal.
Mark O’Brien: And she said yes.
MJ Legault: She said yes.
Mark O’Brien: So, 14 years later, you introduce her as the greatest woman in the world, still, so that’s interesting and quite atypical that you’d still be going that strong as a tandem, even working on opposite sides of the continent. Over this amount of time, that is unique, and I’m sure you’ve got a pretty strong playbook although you might not be aware of what all the elements of the playbook are as to how to be in a partnership like this.
MJ Legault: Yeah, I don’t have a playbook at all.
Mark O’Brien: You do. You just don’t know it, yeah.
MJ Legault: Yeah, I guess. I would say, though, that the fact that our skillsets are so completely different has definitely made this partnership one where I wouldn’t say that we need each other, but we’re certainly better together, and when we have the opportunity to collaborate on our business, on projects together, we both feel satisfied and we certainly feel like, yeah, we both bring something different. And, I don’t know this for a fact, but I think maybe there’s sometimes competition between partners, which is something that she and I really haven’t felt or haven’t experienced in this 14-year relationship. That sense of competition just isn’t there.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Just to give a little bit of our history, we were in a peer group together for about six years that Danielle was also, of course, a part of, and, seeing how truly close the two of you are over a six-year period: you know, get together in-person a couple times of year, and so, got a lot of exposure, the two of you, and, yeah, just the level of real care and compassion you have for each other while working in some really tough stuff that, given the nature of the peer group was pretty much right on the surface, it was just amazing to see how well you actually worked together in sometimes, the hardest of times. It’s really quite special what the two of you have. So, let’s talk a little bit about the nature of Origin. What do you do and for whom do you do it?
MJ Legault: We really believe that our sweet spot is the intersection of strategy and storytelling, so what we do is usually always founded in the intersection between those two things, and that really translates to a whole bunch of different things, and I’d say the pillars are really around brand and brand strategy and brand creative, and then, content and everything related to content, so, we have a full video department in-house. We create content in multiple forms with our internal team, and then, just the digital realm, digital experiences in general would be sort of that third pillar, and, yeah, all of them are really, in our minds, that intersection of strategy and storytelling, and I think who we do it for is maybe more important than what we do, which has been really clear to us for a really long time, which is the outdoors. We have this mission at Origin to inspire people to play outside. That’s a very simple mission statement, but it’s been with us for a long time and I’d say it’s really at the center of the decisions that we make, certainly, as a business, the decision that we make from a hiring standpoint and, on a daily basis, the decisions that we make about new business.
Mark O’Brien: That’s another thing I’ve observed is that you really … well, as far as I go back in the history, you’ve just known who you were right out of the gate. It was very, very clear what you wanted to do, what industry you wanted to work in, how you wanted to serve that industry, so there was really never any doubt about it, or, again, watching you guys over the many years, any second-guessing it after you did set out on a certain direction. It’s just always been, “Yeah, we do this. We operate in this space.”
MJ Legault: Yeah, and I think part of that came really naturally because of our location in Whistler. It’s a fairly unusual location. It’s not exactly a hot spot for creative and marketing professionals so to speak, but, it became, for us, a confirmation that are in a place that is known for being this outdoor mecca, so I think it really helped us in some ways to start and to be founded in Whistler where the majority of our team is still located.
Mark O’Brien: Right, and, how many people are you, now?
MJ Legault: We are 40 people.
Mark O’Brien: Wow!
MJ Legault: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: I did not realize that.
MJ Legault: Yeah, I know.
Mark O’Brien: Wow, 40, so, that’s as big as you’ve ever been.
MJ Legault: As big as we have ever been, absolutely.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that’s close to triple what I thought you were. That’s really interesting, and that brings me to sort of the top-level point I want to get to, today, which is: you have made it, right? You have achieved this [agency] Nirvana level of success, and it’s a level that a lot of firms inspire to, but, I think, just as many, and, in many cases, probably the same firms aren’t really sure even actually exist. They hear about these firms that really are well-positioned and own their market and have incredible leverage on the biz dev side and the money is where it needs to be. The metrics are where they need to be and you’re growing properly; everything’s kind of working; it’s something that seems very unattainable for a lot of firms, but you have absolutely attained it, but you have absolutely worked for it and it did not come easy. It was not always clear. There was a real path, here, and so, I think I’d like to talk about that. So, in terms of making it, I go … we don’t wanna jinx anything, here.
MJ Legault: Please.
Mark O’Brien: And I’m not trying to build it up too much, but, you feel really good about where you’ve gotten to as an organization, and so, if you could talk a little about, one, why? What makes you feel like you’ve gotten to the level you’ve dreamt of for so long, and you were one of those dreamers for a long time, and then, two, again, well get to this a little bit later on ’cause, number one’s a big question on its own. Two, what were the steps? Looking back, what things led to this? So, first of all, what does the successful current reality look like?
MJ Legault: A couple things, I think. And, I may merge your question one and two together ’cause I do that sometimes, but I think what success looks like for us right now is really getting closer to this ten-year vision that we have set for ourselves, and a vision is something, I’m sure, all agencies have in some way, but, one of the things that we did at Origin that I think has helped us get there is make our vision something that isn’t just written on a business plan or sitting on the corner of a desk somewhere, but something that is actually felt, understood, shared and celebrated across the agency as a whole, so everyone at Origin really knows what we’re trying to do.
MJ Legault: And, I wouldn’t say that we’re there, yet. I think there’s still lots of things, lots of steps for us to be at the vision that we’ve set for ourselves at every level from a revenue level, but also from some of the success indicators that we’ve set for ourselves. So, I think, yeah, having a vision, for one, and making that vision really, really understood across the agency is one of the things that I feel now is something that Origin truly reflects, and that’s a big part of why I feel successful. And, I’ll tell you this small anecdote. I handle new business and marketing for Origin, and I recently had a client that does not fit with our target category, but that fits from a dollar standpoint, so I had this little moment of, “Woo hoo, we’re getting interest, this inbound lead from a major brand who shall rename nameless.”
MJ Legault: And I shared, as I do every Monday morning with the team at Origin, “Here’s what we’re talking about this week. Here’s some of the leads that I’m talking to or proposals that we might put out this week, and I mentioned this non-visionary … this client that doesn’t fit with our vision, and I swear to God, I had five phone calls from five different people, junior people, people brand new at the agency that wanted to question me about, “Why the heck would we be talking with this client?” So, that success for me is that I don’t get to just make bad decisions anymore. I have other people that are making me accountable for staying true to that vision.
Mark O’Brien: That’s amazing.
MJ Legault: And then we turned them down and I think that is, to answer your question, “What does it feel like or why do I feel like this year was so positive?” is the ability to say no, the ability to say no to a client that has money and is coming to us and wants to work with us. The ability to say no is probably my greatest, I think, pride in feeling like we’re there; we made it. We’re able to say no.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that’s a beautiful summary. In fact, that’s going to be the title of this podcast, The Ability to Say No.
MJ Legault: I keep track of this stuff, Mark, and you’ll be proud. We turned away 13 projects in this fiscal year.
Mark O’Brien: Wow, gosh.
MJ Legault: 13 of them based on either their budgets not being aligned with what we were looking for, or, again, like this exam-
MJ Legault: It’s not being aligned with what we were looking for or again, like this example of them not really aligning with our vision. They didn’t support this idea of inspiring people to play outside.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, perfect. Yeah, everyone talks about that. A lot of firms who are positioned well, they say, “Okay, we’re only going to do this kind of work.” Yeah, when the client shows up with money in hand, that’s the real test. The fact that you were able to say no 13 times, which is amazing, just shows that yeah, you’re getting all the work you need and then some from your stated area of focus. That’s it, that is the best testimony of success, I think, because that proves it from a cash perspective. There is enough money coming in from the people that you want to work with that you can actually say, “No.” In a polite, happy, honest way to the ones who don’t fit. That’s amazing, yeah. Well done.
MJ Legault: To be honest with you, we did say no before as well. I remember even in the first year that I started Origin in Montreal where we were frankly, desperate for clients, and money of course. We’re just starting up and needing the cash flow and all that kind of stuff. Still, in those early days I remember saying no, I remember feeling like the only way that we’re going to get to that place is to start now by being really selective. I think those were probably bad decisions because I didn’t pay myself very well in those years, but that philosophy has always been one that I truly, truly believe is the only way to get to where you want to go, is to say no.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, yeah. Well, it’s amazing the discipline to do it when there wasn’t enough money, but now you’re doing it without any regrets. You’re not going to look back and wish you had said yes.
MJ Legault: Correct.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Okay, great. That’s excellent, excellent summary of success. I can’t think of a way of defining it anymore succinctly than that when it comes to business. Yeah, what was the path? This was not always the truth for Origin. How’d you get from there to here?
MJ Legault: It’s been a rocky road, my friend. Yeah, I will say it has definitely been a rocky road. There have been good years, there have been bad years, there have been all kinds of surprises along the way. I can say that we started believing that maybe someone else had figured out a business operating system and that maybe we should try that. We moved onto the traction model three years ago and I really credit that decision to some of the success that we’re feeling today. Traction forced us to elaborate on our vision, have really clear and tangible success indicators, share those with everyone within the agency, set up a path to get to that vision with a year one plan and a year three plan, and set up a leadership team that had accountabilities and helped us as strategic advisors so that Danielle and I weren’t the only two people trying to make all of these big decisions and trying to further the vision. I definitely credit this traction operating system for Origin as one of the things that has just given us a framework, and I guess some of the discipline that we needed, that we couldn’t really figure out in our own way.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: We’d always had a business plan and we’d always had a vision, but we certainly didn’t have a way to check in on that and to make others part of meeting that vision. That’s definitely one of the key things. I’d say the other one is just the people. We have 40 absolutely amazing, incredible people that work with us, like way smarter than I am and way smarter than Danielle is. Yeah, we just have an incredible team and I think that our culture … you know, everyone talks about the importance of culture. I was always scared to have a team of 40 people thinking that there’s no way you can keep an agency culture truly alive with a group that large.
Mark O’Brien: Sure, that’s a lot of people.
MJ Legault: I’ve been proven wrong about that. I think again, some of the traction discipline has forced us to really change the way that we hire, and reward people, more based on our values.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: Based on that notion of cultural fit. I definitely credit as well, the people, the members of our team as leading us to where we are right now.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that’s all really interesting. On the traction front, and I’m sure everyone knows this, but when we’re talking about traction, there’s a book called, Traction by Gino Wickman, but then the actual system is called, The Entrepreneurial Operating System®, or EOS®, which is what firms put in practice. I think something interesting about your journey, if I may speak a little bit on your behalf, my observation of it. You as Origin are just a dyed in the wool creative firm, you’re a deeply, deeply, deeply creative firm. I remember back in the day in our peer group, every other word out of my mouth was traction, well every other word was strategic coach. Danielle specifically was ready to just throw her shoes at me, I remember.
MJ Legault: Totally.
Mark O’Brien: She really bristled at the idea of adhering to this outside system. I think a lot of deeply creative people didn’t want to have everything as antiseptic as that, and as ordered, and structured, and processized as that. You came around. First of all, is my description of how it was and what the perception of traction was accurate? If so, why’d you come around? Why’d you finally say, “Yeah, maybe we can try this thing out.”
MJ Legault: 100% your description is the accurate. I actually remember, I remember myself saying, and I’m not proud of this, but I remember saying to Danielle, “This should be a drinking game.”
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: Where every time Mark says the word, traction, one of us takes the shot.
Speaker 1: You’re listening to Expert Marketing Matters, a podcast about generating ideal new business opportunities by creating and nurturing digital marketing systems and habits that have a measurable impact on your bottom line. This podcast is brought to you by Newfangled, a digital marketing consultancy focused on empowering experts to do better digital marketing. You can learn more about Newfangled’s digital marketing method at newfangled.com.
MJ Legault: If I’m really honest here, I think we believe as entrepreneurs that there’s no way that someone has figured out a system that could work for us. We are so different, and our industry is so unique, and our problems are so, so much just ours, and there’s no way that some book and some system could mold itself to the intricate complexities of our business.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: That’s frankly what held us back for so long.
Mark O’Brien: Sure.
MJ Legault: I think we went to it at the moment where we realized this idea that we were two people, two partners making a whole bunch of decisions, some good, some bad. We really didn’t have a support network to go to. The support network existed within Origin in those years as well, but we would have these one off meetings with certain key people within our team who are now are sitting on our leadership team. I think part of it came from recognizing that we were already needing this support network and these other strategic advisors within the firm and that frankly, what we had been doing for so long just wasn’t working. We weren’t feeling year after year like we were getting anywhere closer to our goal and our vision.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: It was kind of a thing where we just said let’s give it a try, let’s see what happens. In terms of how we actually implemented it, we really followed the rules.
Mark O’Brien: Yes, you did.
MJ Legault: We really did, we did what the book told us to do and we tried not to break the rules. Interestingly now, in our third year we’re breaking or changing a couple of things in order to make them work with Origin and work with our style. For the most part, yeah, I think just accepting that there could be something out there that someone else thought of that could work for us. It was accepting it.
Mark O’Brien: Right, sure.
MJ Legault: I think that was the hardest part.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, no I think that makes a lot of sense. I think there are lots and lots friends out there who can relate to that. Just yeah, how could this system actually work for us given how much of a unicorn we are. It’s true, and you are a unicorn, and every firm is, especially every well positioned firm, but that is the beauty of the system. That it’s applicable through so many different means for so many different firms, which is really exciting. Okay, so traction, EOS, all of that makes a lot of sense. It really allowed you to be the firm you were and allow you to surface all the expertise, and brilliance inside the firm, and give you good system in upper measurement, and for a cultural alignment, et cetera. That makes a lot of sense.
Mark O’Brien: This podcast is called, Expert Marketing Matters so let’s talk about that a little bit. Let’s talk about the biz dev side of things and what the journey’s looked like there. You’ve been the biz dev person for pretty much as long as you’ve been there, right? For most of these 14 years.
MJ Legault: I have, yeah. I’d say we tried and failed several times to hire a biz dev person to represent Origin. I think we tried three or four times, and I know that is successful for several firms, unfortunately it was really not successful for Origin. I say unfortunately because I think it was really hard for me to accept that I actually love it, I love the new business process. I love everything about it, but I was somehow ashamed, I think, to admit that because there’s something slightly dirty or slimy about that, or there was in my opinion.
Mark O’Brien: Sure, yeah.
MJ Legault: It took me sometime to realize that actually, the person whose best position to speak about Origin and to want to make other people want to work with us is me.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: And Danielle, certainly, and some of the other members are a team player role as well, but it is definitely the key role that I play at Origin is leading our new business efforts and our marketing.
Mark O’Brien: You mentioned that you know this works for some other firms. Do you actually know of firms have successfully hired for the biz dev role outside of the leadership?
MJ Legault: I actually don’t.
Mark O’Brien: Okay, I was wondering if you did.
MJ Legault: No, I’m just assuming that some people pull this off but I don’t know.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, you have not met any of them in person.
MJ Legault: No.
Mark O’Brien: Right, right. Got it. What’s the evolution of that look like? I’m hiring biz dev. What has biz dev meant for you? What have you tried and failed at or tried and succeeded at over the years?
MJ Legault: I think the pivotal moment for us was recognizing that the idea of inbound, qualified inbound marketing was not this impossible dream. It was actually something that was possible. Certainly, I have to say working with you, Mark, and Newfangled was part of that realization. Was identifying that if we were taking control of our marketing efforts, and I think marketing and biz dev really need to be part of the same conversation, in my opinion.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, yeah.
MJ Legault: If we were going to take control of our marketing efforts, we were also going to get more control over our new business. In terms of the pivot was this idea that what we were doing was knocking on a lot of doors and trying a lot of times to get our story told.
Mark O’Brien: Through outbound means.
MJ Legault: Through outbound means.
MJ Legault: Story told.
Mark O’Brien: Through outbound means.
MJ Legault: Through outbound means, yeah. Through really, I’ve always had, in these last 14 years, a new client wish list, you know a target list.
Mark O’Brien: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
MJ Legault: And so that was the approach, and it was successful for some times, and it’s still part of our overall strategies.
Mark O’Brien: Sure.
MJ Legault: To have specific targets that, you know really meet our checklist, and our vision, and keep after them. But it wasn’t sustainable.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: As a new business model. So, when we made that shift to really invest in marketing, what that meant for me personally, was to commit. I started at about 20% of my time. I’m one of those like freaks who time tracks, and really looks at my time tracking, so I can tell you, it was initially 20% of my time, really dedicated to marketing. And that has evolved, I’m not much closer to 30 to 40% of my time dedicated to marketing. But just making that first shift, and saying you know what, someone needs to do this, and it’s going to be me. And if I’m going to do it I need to take some time with the idea that the goal was more qualified inbound coming to Origin.
Mark O’Brien: That’s actually a really interesting point. So, when you decided to commit to marketing, and understand you have marketing biz dev same thing, and out bound isn’t scalable. And I agree, for it to always be part of the mix makes a lot of sense, but it can’t be the entire mix. But you started by committing to 20% and it sounds like you’re saying as you’ve gotten more successful you ended up committing more time to it?
MJ Legault: Absolutely, yeah.
Mark O’Brien: I bet that’s the opposite of what a lot of people would imagine. So why? As you got more successful, and this started working more, why did you commit more to it instead of less to it? Couldn’t you just step back?
MJ Legault: Because it’s successful, and I’m seeing it working, so I want it to work even more. I want it to work even better, and I see the direct results between the energy that gets put into biz dev, and marketing for Origin and what I’ve just talked about, our ability to say no, and our ability to be more in control over our business.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: So for me it makes total sense, and frankly if I could spend 70% of my time, on marketing and biz dev, that’s part of what I want to do.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: Also to answer your question in terms of the steps that we took, we really committed to a couple of things. One of them was better showcasing our work, and we worked with you and Newfangled at the time, to help us figure out how to do that, and how to have a web presence that was much more reflective of our positioning and the quality of the work that we do. And the other part of that was actually accepting our role in thought leadership within our industry. We had been doing it for several years in terms of writing for industry publications and, you know speaking as panelists at different industry events and conferences. We’d always been playing that role, but we didn’t really use it as a marketing tool or a positioning tool.
Mark O’Brien: Mm-hmm (affirmative)-
MJ Legault: And when we made that pivot, and really started to see that, again not as a slimy, dirty thing to be doing.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: But just as a way to share Origin’s knowledge with other prospects. Again it was more of a mindset shift than any tool change or anything like that.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: That definitely, we saw the impact of the quality of the inbound leads that were coming to us, just from having made that shift of just introducing ourselves properly, and having a place for people to go to after a speaking engagement, or after they’ve read something from us.
Mark O’Brien: Right, that’s so critical, so first actually being positioned, and developing the expertise associated with that by doing the same kind of work in a repeated fashion. And then, making the decision that yes, marketing’s not slimy, it’s actually like honorable, especially if you go about it this way, and just become really, really, really generous with your expertise and kind of make that the mission. And you did such an excellent job of that from an early point. There are two questions I want to ask, one, I’ve also observed from you over the years and you just mentioned it, you’ve been really good at the public speaking side. And from my prospective, it just seems like public speaking plus a really strong inbound digital foundation, where you’re sharing a lot of content. That’s just the ultimate marriage when it comes to marketing.
Mark O’Brien: So that’s one thing I want to ask about. And two, I want to ask about how long it took, from the time you just said, “okay first of all this is who I am, I am going to be the biz dev person for Origin, that is an honorable thing, and we are going to really share our expertise and pursue inbound.” How long did it take? So first, the relationship between inbound and content creation, that kind of thing and public speaking, and second, how long it takes to start seeing results.
MJ Legault: Mm-hmm (affirmative)- The first part of your question in terms of speaking engagements and the connection to the other aspects of marketing, what we shifted, because I’m sure a lot of agencies do that already. You know, have thought leadership, and they’re already speaking, the piece that was missing for us and that we’ve since changed was just, it would be the same advice that we would give to any of our clients that would invest in doing something like this. It’s about knowing who you’re speaking with, and starting to build a conversation or relationship with them prior to the event happening. Having a bit of a strategy after, or during the event so that they know where to go to for more information. And then having a bit of a follow-up strategy as well, after that engagement takes place. It’s so simple.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: But it’s difficult to do those things without some level of planning. And having some of those tools, whether they’re automated, or not, to kind of help you along that journey.
Mark O’Brien: Sure.
MJ Legault: That was one step for us, definitely, and to this day, we still follow that model of publicizing where we’re going to be speaking to the right people, and then having a place for them to go to download the deck or ask questions, or get engaged with us afterwards. And then just following up with those people to get their feedback on it and see if they had follow-up questions.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
MJ Legault: That for us, led to an immediate increase in the qualified inbound, but it also led to, when I say qualified, when someone hears about your agency for the first time, when they’re sitting in a room with a couple hundred of their peers, it really elevates, this sounds so freaking obvious, but it really elevates, right? The level of conversation, they’re coming to you as an expert. And honestly it made everything else a lot easier afterwards. When we’re talking about time, you know, when we’re able to start on something. When we’re talking about budgets, and how much we charge for what we charge. And also when we’re giving our opinion about a recommendation, which isn’t necessarily what the client initially came to us on, all of those things started to get much easier, and much more transparent when clients had seen us speak or read something that we wrote as the first point of contact.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that element of pursuit is just so critical, and with outbound, means you are pursuing, and with inbound you’re being pursued. And when you are being pursued, then there’s a certain status that’s locked into the buy-sell relationship that you enjoy throughout that entire first engagement, right? And that’s just, you can’t buy that. And that’s only through, you know the act of being pursued which only comes if you are really generous with your expertise. So, yeah that’s beautiful, and there, the relationship you’re talking about between the inbound content generation, all that stuff, and the public speaking, it’s just perfect. And we’ve seen that play out with lots of firms. It’s a very typical approach. And it just works really well, of course the talent of the speaker has a lot to do with it as well. So there’s some nuances here, but it’s obviously worked out really, really well for you.
Mark O’Brien: And so the other thing, you know once you decided that, okay we’re going to do this, we’re going to pursue marketing in this way, how long before you felt like, yeah, this is going to work, this is how we’re going to do biz dev?
MJ Legault: I would say we saw in the very first year, we started seeing a shift in the number of inbound. And it was easy to see the shift, ’cause it went from zero, to a couple more, and a couple more, and a couple more. So I’d say even within that first year, we just started believing in it. I started seeing people reaching out who were really those qualified people within a year. I would say, and I keep track of this again in my very nerdy way, the numbers continue to increase, and when I say numbers increase, I’m talking really about qualified leads coming our way. So, yeah, I’d say that first year towards the end of the year, we started definitely seeing a change. And it’s only continued to increase as the years have gone on.
Mark O’Brien: Yep, and that’s very typical as well, but a year of actually doing it. You’re being live with it, executing it to get the flywheel moving, and you know if you can make it through that year, then you’ve got momentum, and continuing the momentum and maintaining the momentum is much easier to do. But the start up is tough.
MJ Legault: The start up is tough, it’s a major time commitment.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
MJ Legault: And it’s also, I don’t know Mark you might see this sometimes with some of your clients, but I think it’s also about consistency. For us, you know I noticed right away, when we started publishing a newsletter, and we started contributing into these different industry associations. If we’re doing it in a consistent way, the inbound is consistent. If we’re doing it super sporadically, you know which we did in some years where we just got busy or distracted with other things, the results of the inbound are directly related to the energy that we put into the thought leadership pieces.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, and that’s actually an incredibly important part. I’m glad you brought it up. Which is, even with the success you had, after that first year of turning the flywheel, if you let up, it lets up. There is never a point at which you just, you made it and it’s done, and inbound leads will be forever more part of reality. You get what you earn.
MJ Legault: A hundred percent. And I think one of the things I’m excited about this year, is that we have more people at Origin that are contributing to thought leadership than Danielle and I. We have you know, real experts within our team that have the right skillset to be able to do this, to contribute to thought leadership. So that’s been an incredible, I don’t know if it’s just a weight lifted off my shoulders, or it’s a pride as well. To see other people from our team really contributing, but that’s happening, and it’s having the same positive impacts. It’s amazing to watch.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah, and that’s definitely like the 303 level of this ladder of marketing expertise and all the rest. It’s just great when it really becomes part of the culture, it’s just how you do it. And it’s not just you, it’s the team, and everyone gets it, and the right people are bought in the right way. Yeah, it’s beautiful. Well thanks a lot MJ, for sharing all this. As I said I think a lot of firms have an idea that, you know succeeding in this way is possible across the board, but they’re not really sure exactly how to get there. So hearing from you first hand, like about traction, and about how those things came together, and what it really took, and even what you were skeptical of, and the apprehension, and the concern, and everything else. I just really appreciate the candor and just how clear you were about the actual journey you went through. And you are in a different fiscal year than a lot of people. Your year just started, so I wish you all the best. You’ve done all the right things and it’s been thrilling to watch your success. So thanks for being a part of this and thanks for doing what you do out there in the community.
MJ Legault: I appreciate that Mark, thanks for having me.
Mark O’Brien: Sure thing.