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The Numbers – What Successful Lead Development Looks Like

Chris Butler: Hello and welcome to the Newfangled Agency Marketing Matters podcast, I’m Chris Butler.

Chris Creech: And I’m Chris Creech.

Mark O’Brien: And I’m Mark O’Brien.

Chris Butler: And this is episode six of season two. We’ve gathered together to talk a little bit more about marketing automation, which we started last time. Chris, second time on the podcast. Feeling good?

Chris Creech: Thanks for letting me come back again.

Chris Butler: We actually are recording these two in a batch so, it was about five minutes ago that we finished the last one.

Chris Creech: Well, thanks for not kicking me out.

Chris Butler: So, let’s get started just by sharing something that’s going on that we are excited about. What do you got, Chris?

Chris Creech: Yeah, well I will start. We are actually working with several of our clients simultaneously on using Zapier. Which, they are a third party tool that we really haven’t worked with much in the past. Which is a little bit of a surprise, given how many integrations that we’ve done. We’ve either built ourselves, or taken advantage of other APIs. But Zapier is a really neat tool that allows us to connect any different apps that our clients are using that have an API. They’ve built all these different connections and really allow you to customize what happens. So, for example, we are using it with a couple clients now. One, because it’s a healthcare system, we are using Cognito Forms, which is a HIPAA compliant form builder. We are integrating that with a market automation system, like Act-On. And there’s a Zapier zap for that.

Likewise, we are integrating the eCommerce, we are using the WooCommerce WordPress plugin and we are using a Zap to pass that information to Salesforce. So we can take these separate tools that are all tied into the website and get them speaking to each other really simply and basically without a developer. We are able to do that in a user interface that’s really great and it’s a pretty affordable app. I’ve really enjoyed being able to work on it and see how we can push it and what we can connect.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, having played a little bit of a role in the stuff with the HIPAA compliance issues, which was such a tangled nest of concern for a little while. Seeing how it’s turned out and the elegance of the system that has been put together and how happy the client is and how user-friendly it is. It’s just a huge weight off of all our shoulders and I think just an awesome solution that preserves what they want to do on both sides. It preserves what they want to collect for patient purposes, it preserves what they want to do with marketing purposes, and everyone is playing nice with each other and no one’s breaking the law which is fantastic.

Chris Butler: A side note on that, we really incidentally put it to the test last week when the Amazon web server was down. Which is what a lot of these apps use. Zapier was fairly hamstrung by that and I was concerned that, well, we can’t really rely on this tool if it goes down. Especially from an eCommerce standpoint. These things aren’t being pushed through to Salesforce or QuickBooks. But when it came back up, they separately store all of the attempted zaps and then you can auto re-run them once it can establish a connection. Which was just really confirming and nice to see that that happened.

Mark O’Brien: My thing I’d like to share is congratulating APartnership on their whole system launch and so their website is And they specialize in marketing to the Asian American audience. So they are quite sharply positioned there. They have a lot of great case studies, et cetera and they worked with us on their content strategy, their website strategy automation and CRM. They are once again, wonderful clients out of Manhattan we were pretty excited about their website implementation. Chris, you worked with them on that, right?

Chris Creech: I did, yes, well the major outcome of that for me anyway is that I’m using them as an example on almost all of my audits now which is fantastic. I think what I’m starting to see more and more are agencies taking our recommendations that come out of their initial website audit, but really making them their own. It feels true to their design sensibility but it doesn’t feel like there are any compromises. I think that if you were to read any of our material about, what are the key templates that play a role in a site’s design at this point? That see the recommendations for them and then look at their site in parallel, you would see nothing dropped off. They took everything and just did it their own way. Which I think is really excellent.

It makes a huge difference because I think what I encounter over and over again is that when I first propose recommendations, I think the first concern that agencies have is well, “We don’t want to take this literally, we don’t want our site to look like every other agency website.” Of course, of course you wouldn’t. But I think that we’re starting to see some examples where they don’t look the same, they look completely unique. But if you look at what’s being recommended, if you look at the five or six things that we recommend per template, they’re there. And that makes their system tight.

Chris Butler: That’s beautiful.

Chris Butler: Speaking of agencies and stats that sort of thing, you guys had put together a significant survey to our agency clientele to pull some stats for this year to see what’s normal and what’s great and what’s working and what’s not. Where do you guys want to start with that?

Chris Creech: Just to sort of lay the groundwork, this is something we started doing I guess, three years ago. This is the third time, I believe the third time we have pulled these numbers and it has really grown and morphed from there. What we do, the foundation of pulling this information is, we’re looking at, who are the clients that we’ve worked with from our client base that we are seeing succeed? And by succeed we mean these systems are creating qualified, good opportunities for them. And then we trace that back, we say, “Okay, of all the ones that are succeeding, what are they doing, what do they have in common?”

We have a lot of benchmarks that we recommend, but it’s nice to get validation and see, okay of the agencies that are doing this well, what are the pieces and how do they fall in place? We’ve added to that and changed some of the stats that we pull each year. But at the core, what it is, is to see, are the recommendations that we are making and the benchmarks we’re setting for our clients and saying, “You need to produce this amount of content, you need to have this many names on your list, you need to email this often, your conversion rates should be this.” What are those numbers based on? And this really gives us something to base that on because these are the agencies that are doing it right and succeeding and so we use that to trace back and recommend to any of our clients we work with.

Mark O’Brien: It’s an exciting thing to do at the beginning of each year because it keeps us honest and accurate, right? And it’s really quite rewarding to go through all of the numbers and to see what’s working. The biggest thing that always impresses on me is the interdependence of all these stats. The agencies who are really good in one area but completely ignoring another. For example, maybe got a great content strategy, they really take that seriously but they’re not touching the outbound. They’re not doing what they need to on the outbound side. Their chance of seeing results are very, very, very low.

And what we see repeatedly year after year after year, even though the numbers do change slightly from year to year is that the ones who are succeeding are employing everything. They’ve got a strong outbound, they’ve got a strong inbound through the content. They are doing the proper things on the website, their treating their CTAs the right way. They’ve got the right volume of contacts on the list. They are positioned. When all those things line up, good things happen. But you take any one of those things out and it becomes a very, very serious uphill battle.

Chris Butler: Yeah, it’s funny I was actually thinking about this the other day because one of our older clients I was talking to them and they asked, “What’s the most important thing?” And I said, “Well, it’s all the most important thing.” And I said, “Look, if you bake a cake and you forget the yeast, the yeast is the most important activator, right?” But in this condition, it’s all yeast. Right, everyone of these individual things this an activator in some way and if you pull it out, the entire system does not yield what it’s meant to yield.

And so, I think it’s a different way for people to think. They want to organize this thing and think about how they can scale back when they run into trouble. What’s going to be my highest priority issue? But there really is no plan for that. You have to have all of these levels in the right place for it to work.

Chris Creech: Each different piece there all builds on itself too, so it’s not just like, oh you need all of these pieces but each piece kind of enables the next piece. So, a lot of agencies, they’re either hitting pretty much all the numbers or pretty much none of the numbers. Because they are so interdependent.

Chris Butler: That being said, so when you were looking at the data this year, were there any surprises? Was there anything you didn’t expect to see that came out?

Chris Creech: You know, not really to be honest. I like doing this because it does, as Mark mentioned, it keeps us honest. But, it’s nice to see and it’s confirming to get the validation that a lot of the recommendations we’re making, the agencies that are succeeding, are hitting those recommendations. It was nice to not be surprised. I guess I would say. That a lot of these numbers are numbers that are near or a little higher, little lower than what we’re already recommending. So it enables us to fine tune those recommendations and give some context to it. But I would say, no, there was nothing that really came out of left field this time around.

Chris Butler: So for people listening who number one aren’t acquainted with our past content that has covered these surveys or don’t even know what our recommendations are … what is the recipe? Sticking with that metaphor. How much content, how many contacts, what type of out band, if you could go through and just generally say what are we recommending there?

Chris Creech: Sure, and I’ve got a pull-up in front of me to help keep me honest while we’re talking here. And actually, I’ll go ahead and plug this, I was going to mention it later in the podcast. But, what I’ve got in front of me right now is actually the current draft of our white paper we’re working on where we really get into this in more detail. We’ve got all the numbers charted out, a little bit of our thoughts on what those numbers mean, what we saw while pulling these numbers. So, it’s a really, really strong piece of content. We’re just trying to make sure we have everything accurate and get it all buttoned up to post on the site here soon (Access it here).

Just to reference some of that, we’ve broken it out into a few different sections primarily with the content side. We’ve always been recommending that people are publishing at least 3000 words of content, indexable, unique indexable content per month. And what we saw is these agencies that were really nailing it, their average was 3900. So, right just shy of 4000 for the agencies that are really killing it.

And they are doing that through about five new posts per month. So they are posting a little bit more than one per week. And their content teams are usually three to five people. We’re not talking about huge teams. We’re working with agencies of all different sizes and they’re all able to do this. And in this top tier, there was no consistency on agency size. It was small agencies of just a couple people up to really big agencies of several hundred people. On average, it is three to five consistent contributors to that content.

I will roll on down my page here. This content was just kind of the starting point but then from there we look at email, how are they promoting that content? And we’re seeing they’re sending on average three emails per month. So they’re posting every week, they’re sending an email almost every week. And that’s not always a blast to their entire list every week. It’s going to be more targeted blasts.

Using market automation to follow up with specific groups of people but, sending to a list of at least 50 people is really the minimum to be considered an email blast and they are sending at least three of those per month. And getting good engagement with those. We’re averaging over 30 percent open rates. And this one was actually a good bit higher than our recommendation was, the click through rate. We tell people, three to five percent is a really good click through rate.

These agencies that are posting this much content and emailing this frequently, who you would think might have a lower click through rate, their average was over seven percent on the emails they’re sending.
Chris Butler: Let me ask you a question about that, I know that it’s common with agencies who we begin to work with, when they hear how often we recommend that they email out. Some people get squeamish about that, they say that it seems like a lot of email. Are we going to be considered spam? And they don’t want to go that route. What do we see when people actually take that recommendation? Do they get a lot of spam complaints? Do they see a lot of attrition in their list?

Chris Creech: Couple thoughts on that, no, in terms of complaints. If you’re sending good, valuable content, that resonates with this audience that’s well targeted, we see really low spam rates. I think your opt-out rate is, average on these agencies is .4 percent. So really low opt-out rate. And spam complaints are negligible, like .01 is what we typically see. We didn’t even include that in the numbers because it’s so low.

If you’re sending this regularly, you’re constantly culling through that list and you’re removing people that haven’t engaged in an extended period of time. So you are always talking to a list of people that have opened an email in the past six or 12 months. They have been to your website. So you are building that relationship and they start to expect those emails. I think that’s part of it, it kind of steers itself. Instead of turning people off, the more that you’re sending, the more they come to expect it and the more they value that content.

Chris Butler: So, I’m not sure if it’s the next thing on your list but in terms of the number of people on the email list, can you talk a little bit about lists and about contacts. What we recommend there in terms of minimum viable contact number and how to increase that number.
Chris Creech: Right, and I’m sure Mark will have something to say here as well. We look at, you are wanting to send out to at least three to five thousand people on your list. These agencies, I don’t have that specific number in front of me on what their average list size is but I can speak from having worked with a lot of these agencies, that the ones that are seeing results here are over that 3000 number. How you get there, there’s a lot of ways to do that.

One of which is obviously having a strong website that’s provided a good value proposition in getting new people to sign up at a higher rate than you have people unsubscribing. But a lot of agencies that start at a lower number, they can look at that and see it’s going to take years to get up to that level. So we do oftentimes where it’s appropriate advocate purchasing a well targeted list that is your target demographic that you know this content will speak to.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah that seems to be one of the things that we transform agencies on a most regular basis. Their perspective on email in general. About how to buy lists, can they buy lists, should they buy lists? The ethics around that. Looking at how effective that can be and then we mentioned earlier how often they should be emailing these people and all of it is quite counter intuitive.

As we have seen with so many of these different elements we consult on, what seems like the logical, responsible, typical answer is oftentimes the exact wrong answer based on the facts. And dealing with email and list size and frequency just wouldn’t expect that this would be the way to do it but we see time and time and time again, it absolutely is. And this is what’s required as long as everything else is in line, if the positioning in content aren’t there then it doesn’t matter what you’re doing with your email, its not going to work.
Chris Creech: It’s a good booster shot, it ups the list size. And that said, these numbers that we’re looking at when I’m talking about those high open and click through rates, those are accumulative. So that’s not going from zero people who subscribed and adding 5000 you purchased. You’re not going to see these numbers overnight. You need people also opting in so it’s a combined strategy.

Because what we often see, if you isolate just those purchased names, is really numbers that are about half this. And whereas those who have organically opted in, you’re going to see higher numbers. So the average there, and most of these agencies have done some sort of list purchase at some point in time or built their list through using LinkedIn,, and so the combined average is that 30 percent open rates and upwards of seven percent clicks.

Mark O’Brien: And a lot of agencies at the outset will use the stat you just mentioned as an argument against purchasing lists. Well the numbers are so low on it … But when you look at buying thousands of names, even with half the conversion rate, you’re still getting great performance. And that list also warms up over time. As those people get more familiar with you and your content, they are going to respond to those emails they get. How long would you say does it takes for the average agency to warm up a cold list that’s been purchased?

Chris Creech: If they’re sending regularly so looking at what our recommendation is here and what we’ve seen, if you’re sending three times a month to that list. Really, it takes a few months. And so, we typically recommend with our clients that if you’ve purchased a list, you’re going to see both sides of that. So you mentioned the side where the people who were starting to engage, start to engage more and become more active.

But you also have, part of that list that is never going to engage. So it’s part of nurturing the portion of the list that really is active and being willing to let go and stop emailing if they’re just never engaging.

So then you end up with a smaller list than you originally purchased, but you have a very valuable list of the people that have engaged and are going to become good subscribers over time.

Chris Butler: Right, it’s still a net gain.

Chris Creech: Oh, absolutely.

Chris Butler: That’s amazing. Actually I can never forget the story that really made it click for me. Because I was squeamish about, when we first bought a list. It just seemed weird and it was uncharted territory, it just didn’t seem like something we would normally do.

A few years later, at our first seminar, I was waiting in a small line at our first night’s buffet and I was talking to one of the guests and I said, “So how did you find out about the seminar?” And he said, “Oh, you guys bought me.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” And he explained, he was like, “I was a name in your purchased list and I got one of your emails and I got a second email and it was about the seminar.”

You know, I just found that amazing because number one, he was kind of excited to have been bought. It didn’t bother him at all. And since then, my mind is also sort of solidified on that by, based on the number of times that I have received emails from people I’ve never heard about before where I was clearly bought. But it was interesting to me and relevant and I’ve stuck with them.

So I think there is something to this, it’s not cold-emailing, it’s really, it’s something other than that because there’s a decent amount of technology behind making sure that those names are relevant to you. And they are within the sort of set of, these people are going to be wanting to hear about this information, they are going to be the right decision makers. So, being on the other side of that has really helped too.

Chris Creech: That’s exactly what I was going to say, as long as they’re well-targeted it works. If you start getting emails from something that you have no interest in, it is really frustrating. So, working with a reputable list provider and really focusing on targeting that list is definitely important.

Chris Butler: Is there anyone that we would want to recommend right now?

Mark O’Brien: Sure, yeah, we love Windmo, all things being equal.

Chris Creech: Formerly The List.

Mark O’Brien: Formerly The List, yes. And it’s And what we always recommend is for people to just go and ask for a one day trial, where you can’t download the names but you can do all the searches and experience their search interface which is awesome. Because they don’t have everybody, they don’t have all industries but if they do have your industry, they are definitely the cleanest data source we know of. The price is competitive, all these suppliers pretty much charge about the same price, between a dollar and a dollar fifty per name.

Yeah, they’re really strong and they are happy to give day trials and, most people who do the day trial do end up purchasing a one year subscription to Windmo. Which is around five or six thousand dollars I believe.
Chris Butler: So what else, are there any other stats that you would like to mention?

Chris Creech: Yeah, with this report, when we pull these stats each year, we’re pulling a pretty deep database of numbers. So I don’t want to bore everyone talking through every number that we pulled here. As I mentioned earlier, we have put together a white paper that we will be publishing any day now. Likely by the time you’re hearing this, it’s on the site and I’m sure we’ll have a CTA nearby here to go download that white paper.

To tease that a little bit, the other stats that we’ve pulled are going to be things around CRM usage, website stats around unique visitors, conversion rates on the form. Use of CTA’s and then we really get into how many new leads are these clients generating per month? And what percentage of those are coming from the web? What can you really expect to get out of the system? So that’s your bread/cake analogy, this is the icing. This is what comes out of all that other hard work. These last numbers that we get to don’t happen without all of those other pieces.

Chris Butler: Awesome. All right, well we can wrap there, lets give somebody something to read. You got a recommendation from the site?

Chris Creech: I already spoiled what my recommendation is going to be, but definitely check out the white paper!

Chris Butler: That’s pretty good, how about you, Mark?

Mark O’Brien: For me it’s not something on the site, but it’s our annual event, the third annual Newfangled Seminar which will be May third through fifth in Chapel Hill. It’s a two day immersion on lead development, digital lead development for agencies specifically. We have about two dozen people who come from all over North America to join us to dig into a lot of the nice and fun details of this agency marketing model which comprises the website automation strategy, market automation strategy, the CRM, the content strategy and the contact strategy.

It’s always a lot of fun, we get together for two days and two nights at the Relais Chateaux Resort here and do a lot of work but also have a lot of fun. If you’re interested in that, check it out,

Chris Butler: Awesome, we’re really looking forward to that. So, until next time, this has been the Agency Marketing Matters podcast, and we’ll check you out in a couple of weeks. And don’t forget to look us up on iTunes, and if you can rate us, give us four stars. That’ll spread the word and we really appreciate it. So, we’ll see you next time.