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Why Is It so Hard for Marketing Firms to Market Themselves?

Why Experts Forget to Apply Their Expertise to Themselves

Every expert is familiar with the cobbler’s children — how they have no shoes because the cobbler is too busy making shoes for other people — because that’s the fable they cling to when accounting for why their own knowledge is so rarely applied to themselves. But the truth is that our common objections and excuses for why we can’t do for ourselves what we so eagerly (and effectively do for others) are rarely that good. The bottom line is that we need to make the time (not find it) and start now (not later) and keep doing it (because it’s going to take longer than you want it to).

In this episode of Expert Marketing Matters, Mark interviews Angi Krueger, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Core Creative. Angi has learned the hard way that developing new business relationships is a long game which requires discipline and consistency.

You can listen to the episode using the player embedded above, or you can read a full transcript below.

Episode Transcript

Mark O’Brien: Hello. And welcome to Expert Marketing Matters. My name is Mark O’Brien. I’m the CEO of Newfangled. And today I am joined by Angi Krueger of Core Creative out of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Hello, Angi. Welcome.

Angi Krueger: Hey, Mark. Nice to be here.

Mark O’Brien: So as everyone can guess, we don’t actually just jump in cold to these things. And we had to cut each other off, so we didn’t spend the entire hour-

Angi Krueger: Right. Talking basketball, talking Carolina Tar Heels and Duke Blue Devils. That’s all good stuff for me to talk about.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. We could go on for a while. We could go on for a while. But it’s great to have you here. And in the interest of full disclosure, when we at Newfangled decided to start on this interview based model as an addition to the podcast, Angi and Ward were the first people we actually had on the podcast in terms of the interviews, the first one we recorded. But-

Angi Krueger: Technical difficulties.

Mark O’Brien: I think we had three or four different starts and stops. And I thought I got everything, I didn’t get everything. And so full circle, now nine months later, we are rerecording, and Angi’s very gracious to join us again. I appreciate that.

Angi Krueger: No problem.

Mark O’Brien: And we’re both back better than ever because now you also have your own podcast studio. Right?

Angi Krueger: We do. Yes, you guys inspired us. And I’m a very religious Newfangled podcast listener, so it’ll be really weird to hear myself.

Mark O’Brien: Yes, soon.

Angi Krueger: At some point, but yes.

Mark O’Brien: Some point very soon. Okay. So let’s start hearing about Core. Can you just tell us the story about how it came to be, who you are today, what your involvement has been over the years?

Angi Krueger: Sure. So Core’s been in business almost 25 years. In fact, our 25th anniversary is coming up at the end of this year, so we’re really looking forward to that. But I personally have been part of Core for almost all of those years. I mean, I joined 21 years ago, actually this next month. And so I’ve kind of been along for the entire ride, except for when Core started. Our agency was started by three original owners. They worked for another firm for several years together, then decided to go off on their own. And here in Milwaukee, there’s a lot of great firms. So for us to be in business and going this strong, and continuing to grow as we are 25 years later, is just amazing.

Mark O’Brien: That is amazing.

Angi Krueger: So Core started out, in Milwaukee, there’s a lot of manufacturing, B to B, so it was really a lot of B to B. They worked a large account that was wireless communications. And one of the partners ended up actually leaving the firm and working for that wireless communications firm from a PR perspective. So we had a lot of services under our roof, from PR to design and advertising. But we started small, and it was very much everyone wore lots of hats. Basically, you came into it as your practice area of what you’re really good at, and then you served the clients as they came in. There really was not any major new business effort because there was only four partners at the time, and that was it.

Angi Krueger: But yeah, as the agency evolved, we landed a piece of healthcare business, actually, back in the day, one of the largest health systems now in Southeastern Wisconsin, really all of Wisconsin. But at the time, it was still growing. And as that piece of business started to grow, that’s when they actually hired me. So my background is graphic design, so I was hired to really help two of the partners, who were art directors by trade, help that piece of business because they just couldn’t keep up with the pace. And then it just started to snowball from there. So 21 years later, I kind of within the business, worked up through being kind of a production artist, and then an art director, and then I managed our creative department, a whole creative services team, and managed workloads within that, and then had my own accounts.

Angi Krueger: And then about five or six years ago, I transitioned into the role of really truly doing marketing for our business because we had finally turned a corner of, we can’t have all hands on deck with prospects. And we have to be more selective. And so I was really ready for a change. And I was really ready for a new challenge. And so I had to eventually start to let go of my own clients, which was honestly really, really hard.

Mark O’Brien: Well, not only letting go of your clients, but letting go of that kind of work.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. I mean, it’s all about the billable hour. Right? So I was like, “Wait a minute. I’m not billable.” You know?

Mark O’Brien: Right, yeah.

Angi Krueger: I’m starting to move into this role of I need to work on the business as opposed to in the business. And I think overall, we shifted as a leadership team to mature as an agency enough to do that. And we were successful enough at the time to be able to do that, which was good. We took a time out and said, “Hey. We need to really think about what we’re doing, and we need to be the best at the business of creative, not just being a creative agency.” So that’s how I kind of evolved into this role over time. And then within the last, I would say five years, is really when we’ve poured on the gas now and really started to come full circle.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. I think that story right there is just incredibly interesting, the idea that you came up in the creative space, and that’s your background, your education, everything, what you’re known for, what your ego is really tied to. Right?

Angi Krueger: Right.

Mark O’Brien: You are a creative.

Angi Krueger: I am, yes.

Mark O’Brien: Right? And to just drop that and decide, okay, I’m a bus-dev marketing person now. Those are completely different mindsets.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. It’s very much a different mindset. Of course, I always take that angle of the creative side of things too, everything.

Mark O’Brien: Of course, yeah. You’ve got it with you. Yeah.

Angi Krueger: And it definitely helps. I mean, our agency’s big enough now, so we’re almost … Well, we are at 70 employees, which is crazy.

Mark O’Brien: Wow. That is.

Angi Krueger: If you would’ve asked me that five years ago, even I wouldn’t said, “You’re nuts.”

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, sure. Yeah.

Angi Krueger: But we’ve just been on a really explosive growth pattern over the last few years, so it’s just been really exciting to see. But I wasn’t really … I didn’t go to school to be in marketing and bus-dev.

Mark O’Brien: Sure. Right, right, right.

Angi Krueger: I went to school to be an art director, and that was really where my passion was. But we were talking with our leadership team of how we needed to really change our mindset and focus on the business, as opposed to being in the business. That was the thing I was passionate about though. It became a little personally, less for me of producing the most amazing, creative product for our client, to actually making sure this agency was growing and successful. To me, that was, I’ve been here so long, this is not technically my agency by any means. But it’s very much ingrained in me because I’ve been here so long.

Mark O’Brien: You treat it like your own, right. Sure.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. Exactly. So for me, that was the next evolution for us. I knew we needed to do that to really take the agency to the next level, so I really willing to jump in with two feet. But a lot had to do with really becoming educated in this space. And that’s really how I found you guys too, is just really trying to learn. What are the best practices of all these agencies out there? If I’m going to be in this role, I want to do it really well.

Mark O’Brien: Right. Right. Sure.

Angi Krueger: So how can I learn from everybody else? So that was really the first step that I took.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. And I personally don’t mention the two [inaudible] podcast much on this format. And the Newfangled podcast comes up a lot in the other. But one thing they said recently that I completely agreed with and have long held to be true myself is that one of the most creative acts somebody can engage in is the act of molding a firm.

Angi Krueger: Right.

Mark O’Brien: Right? And so that’s exactly what you just said, that you are still doing incredibly creative work. It’s just that your work is the actual business. And that’s the thing you’re helping to create, not by yourself, of course.

Angi Krueger: Oh, no.

Mark O’Brien: It takes a company to create a company.

Angi Krueger: Right. Exactly.

Mark O’Brien: But the fact that you look at that as a creative exercise, I think is really important and also incredibly accurate. That’s the truth of it, if it’s done well, it is an incredibly creative act, and difficult because you’re dealing with the real world and the change of pace that exists now, and this is constantly reacting to things and measuring how things are going and how everything you’re putting into market is being received. It’s just endless. It’s a constantly creative act. And I see that too, and I also value that.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. It’s definitely challenging if someone that’s responsible for doing our marketing well and bus-dev well, when you are in a marketing business.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Angi Krueger: I mean, that, I think is the biggest challenge that I personally had to overcome too is: How do I present this back to our company in a way that I can engage people to help build it too? Because we’ve got a lot of marketing experts here. I am not the marketing expert. What I can tell everyone, though, is I may not be the marketing expert, but I know enough from what the best practices are from all the agencies out there, and I can tell you guys that that’s what I think we need to be doing for us, and help me get there. And I think that’s been the biggest challenge and opportunity at the same time because, like I said, right now, I mean, it’s taken me in this role at least five years for us to get to this point of where we finally have the well oiled machine of a team that’s really dedicated. Not just me, it’s a team, dedicated to driving our goals from marketing business development.

Mark O’Brien: And that is no small feat.

Angi Krueger: Yeah.

Mark O’Brien: Right? As you mentioned you are a marketing organization, and so the bar is even higher for you. But the fact is, as you and I both know, and the rest of the world knows, marketing organizations are predictably challenged at marketing themselves. I was going to say bad. [inaudible 00:09:43]. They’re challenged. It’s exceptionally hard.

Angi Krueger: It is.

Mark O’Brien: Uniquely hard, maybe for that one reason that, oh, we do this, we have to be really good at it for ourselves, ended up deer in the headlights thing. Maybe that’s the reason why. I’m actually incredibly interested in this topic. What keeps marketers from marketing? I think there’s more to talk about at a later point about that. That’s an area of knowledge I need to pursue. And there’s a certain way you can pursue deep areas of knowledge. But anyway, that’s a real thing, and you experienced that. But you are in this rare space where you’ve overcome it, and you have transformed the culture of Core into an incredibly effective marketing organization, and things are better than they’ve ever been. You’re at 70 people now. When I first met you, I think it was probably 35 maybe.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, if that.

Mark O’Brien: If that, I was going to say 30.

Angi Krueger: Definitely.

Mark O’Brien: But yeah, right. So things have been going well, not that we use head count as a measure of success, but I know that you stick firmly to all the [inaudible] principles. That’s a healthy 70. That’s not a flimsy 70.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. Definitely. And a little bit more about Core in the sense that just so everyone kind of understands, the marketing and business development isn’t the main reason that we’re at 70 people now. One of the main reasons we’re at 70 people now is because we do have one large client that continues to grow. And it’s exponentially our teams doing an amazing job with them, and we’ve really become a marketing arm that that company. And so literally, of the 70 people we have here, we have two floors, one floor is almost solely dedicated to one client. And it’s almost a different business unit amongst itself. And as a leadership team, we track it almost with two different PNLs too, just so we understand that it is a different piece of business. And it does continue to grow, but it’s not like we’re going out and getting new business in that area.

Angi Krueger: In fact, that client is not at all where we’re going from a marketing and business development standpoint to grow our business. We’re not trying to get more of those kind of clients. We’re actually trying to get more clients in a completely different space.

Mark O’Brien: Let’s talk about that because that’s something that we run into all the time when we’re speaking with agencies about their intended market, that kind of thing. Oftentimes, they’ve got a client, or two, or three in a space. And they feel that if they focus the marketing a different space, that client is going to be offended.

Angi Krueger: Right.

Mark O’Brien: And they run the risk of losing that client because the client’s going to go to the website and say, “Hey, we’re not in healthcare. Why are you talking so much about healthcare? That’s not us. We don’t want to work with you because we don’t want to work with a healthcare agency.” Tell me about that.

Angi Krueger: Honestly, that’s been one of our biggest challenges when it comes to the topic of positioning for a long time. We went through the exercise. We definitely got alignment and agreement, I would say five years ago, four years ago. In fact, when we started working with you guys, we still didn’t have that figured out yet, and kind of went back to the table. And we tried to develop personas for the three markets that we serve, which is B to B, B to C, and healthcare. Right?

Mark O’Brien: Right. Everything.

Angi Krueger: Which most agencies probably do. Right? Everything. We weren’t ready to go to that next step yet, so it was like, okay, crawl, walk, run. Right? Let’s just start doing the things. Let’s start getting in the practice of creating content, knowing who our target audiences could be in these markets, at least just to build infrastructure, I guess. That was my goal initially because I knew the positioning topic was a whole nother thing. Long story short, we finally landed on a position and got alignment, and it’s really in the healthcare space. And that’s really where we’re focusing our expertise and our marketing efforts. So I guess then the challenge was, okay, now that we have the positioning, I mean, we’re still it’s an evolution of positioning. Right?

Mark O’Brien: Endless.

Angi Krueger: We still have to narrow our focus within healthcare. We’re not just a healthcare agency. But even focusing within that is a challenge yet too. But again, once we said, “Okay. We’re going to stake our ground in this healthcare space, we understand, Angi, that you’re going to want to drive all of our marketing efforts around healthcare. We can’t ignore all this other work we have.” Right?

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Angi Krueger: And so we were just really clear with our strategy, not only within our leadership team, but to the agency as whole, and really just communicating that, hey, you guys are going to start to see a lot more thought leadership, content marketing, anything we’re putting out there along the lines of healthcare. But we aren’t going to 100% ignore everyone else. Our other clients are still very, very important to this business. And we’d still have experts in this area that support that part of the business. It’s just not who we’re marketing too. And so that was really the first step, just let’s get our own alignment internally, having everyone understand what we’re trying to do.

Angi Krueger: So then beyond that, we had a website. Well, we actually still do have a website where we do focus in those three different areas, B to B, to B to C, and healthcare, because again, we didn’t want to ignore the other clients. We’re still putting case studies up of our most recent work of other clients that are non healthcare. But our content marketing started to shift, definitely. So the site was definitely very generalist, I would say, in nature. But the content marketing started to become much more healthcare focused. Well, then about a year ago, we acquired a digital firm because that was a big area of opportunity for us. And we put that out there as a goal for our leadership team. We need to fix, improve our digital presence, not only just for Core, but for our clients. So we acquired this firm. Well, I was so excited when that happened because I was like, “Oh, I finally have a team that can be 100% dedicated building me a new website for Core.” Right?

Mark O’Brien: Right, yeah.

Angi Krueger: So that was actually one of the first tasks in place. So not only did we get a really talented digital team, but we also started to hire just kind of a different level of employees in the sense that we hired someone that actually had been at that previous firm in research and strategy. We told her about our healthcare position and direction, and she was really passionate about it. And having someone come in that worked at not only another agency, but several other agencies before, to come in and see our positioning and our vision for where we wanted to go, I had her help build. I said, “Let’s really flesh this out now. We need to be super specific about this and what we’re trying to do.”

Angi Krueger: So to have someone kind of on the outside come in and hear what we’re trying to do from an outside perspective, and then put clarity to our key messaging and just everything, that really helped crystallize things and put it into function. I think a lot of people, like you said, have this challenge of: How do I not ignore all my other clients? We created, actually, a whole new website that’s dedicated just for healthcare. We started what we’re calling a specialized marketing practice within Core Creative called Core Health. So Core Health is our specialized marketing practice, and we have a whole site dedicated, 100% content, thought leadership, podcasts, articles, you name it, all the right stuff that we should be doing, it lives there. Now we still have, which does say B to B, B to C, and healthcare because it is who we are.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah, that’s true. Yeah.

Angi Krueger: And There’s a little crossover content too. We’re still trying to figure out that, of how we’re going to maximize that and not shoot ourselves in the foot at the same time. But we’re still present for them, and at the end of the day, realistically, if we have prospects come in off that site, which we still do have a lot of local type prospects, if they’re a good fit for us, we’re not at the point yet where we can turn business away. If it’s a good fit, and we’ve got people that are in that space, yeah, we’re going to do it.

Mark O’Brien: Sure.

Angi Krueger: So that was kind of our solution, at least right now, of how we’re addressing not ignoring the other clients, but yet putting 90% of our marketing efforts and business development efforts into healthcare.

Mark O’Brien: I think that’s a very graceful way of doing it. And having had a ringside seat to really the play by play of it, it really shows great growth, and where you are today in terms of your marketing compared to where you were five years ago in terms of your marketing, it’s a completely different world.

Angi Krueger: Yeah.

Mark O’Brien: And this gets to a point that we talk about all the time, which is the difference between the work you do and the work you pursue. And with a lot of firms struggling with direction, we talk about that. For me, it’s always about what’s the truth. And you just outlined the truth. The truth is we actually do have expertise in the B to B area, B to C area, and healthcare. And that’s honest. That’s just the reality of things. And so you’ve got the Core Creative site to outline that and to speak directly to that. Super wide net, there’s nothing that would come in that you couldn’t fit into one of those three sectors. And you do that work when it comes in, it’s a good opportunity. And why not?

Mark O’Brien: Okay. Great. But you do also believe in growing the healthcare side of the business, and you’re putting all of your marketing and investment into that side in a dedicated standalone website for that, that you’re really funneling all of your energy and time and resources into. That makes perfect sense. What we’ve really kind of warned against for some firms is that they want to market both. And it would be really hard for firms to market the generalist side and the specialist side at the same time.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. It’s really hard. We have employees here at Core that serve clients that are non healthcare.

Mark O’Brien: Of course.

Angi Krueger: We have the big client that we have that we aren’t marketing anything around really, because quite frankly, there’s kind of a conflict of interest.

Mark O’Brien: You can’t.

Angi Krueger: They don’t want us to, honestly, and that’s fine. They’re growing on their own. But our non health clients is kind of that other bucket. And like I said, we have a lot of people here that work on non health clients. And at the same time, yeah, you don’t want to ignore them or make them think they’re less important because it’s not the case at all. And I think a lot of it really starts with, again, just over communicating internally on what we’re trying to do, and having everyone understand that, yeah, we do have a vetting process too when new business comes in. We’re really looking at right fit clients, right size fit clients, not necessarily taking them because we think, “Well, maybe this’ll turn into something.” You know what, maybe we do that more on the healthcare side, little more leniency, because again, the first question we ask. Is this in our area of specialty? And it’s a yes or no answer.

Mark O’Brien: Clearly, yeah.

Angi Krueger: Right there, you’re already saying, “Well, you can maybe have a little more leniency on one side of the desk, but if it’s on the other side, probably not worth pursuing.”

Mark O’Brien: It’s got to be perfect.

Angi Krueger: Right. So we’re finally at that stage where we have the ability to do that. And trust me, I know when things aren’t going well in business development, you do say yes to that stuff.

Mark O’Brien: Sure.

Angi Krueger: And it doesn’t really get you anywhere at the end of the day. We look at the numbers all the time and say, “Well, see. We shouldn’t have said yes to this.” But you do what you do, and it is case by case, as long as you do have some sort of vetting system, and you’re looking at it in the right way with the end game in mind, that’s I think what’s most important.

Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. So let’s talk in detail about on the healthcare side. How is that marketing working? One, what are you doing? And how is it evolved over the years? And two, what have the results been?

Angi Krueger: We’ve been very blessed and fortunate this past year, actually, this past three months, honestly. We’ve landed more new business in the past three months. It’s a record sales year for us already.

Mark O’Brien: Congratulations.

Angi Krueger: We’ve exceeded our new business goal for the year, and it’s still July.

Mark O’Brien: Wow. That feels good.

Angi Krueger: So we’re really excited about that. But it’s certainly not 100% from marketing and business development efforts, but it definitely has helped us tremendously.

Mark O’Brien: The way you partially measure that is: Okay, if you take that away, you just pull out the entire marketing arm, than what would’ve happened?

Angi Krueger: Right. There’s definitely clients that would not have come through. At the end of the year, I do a report of: Where are all our new business leads coming in? And I 100% have everything tracked within Salesforce, so I can tell you where everything came in, if it was an employee referral, if it was from our website, if it was from being at the trade show, or whatever. Sometimes it’s multiple reasons of where the lead came from.

Mark O’Brien: I would guess that usually it is.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, it is. And so that’s why I say I can’t sit here and say, “Oh, well because I’m doing my job really well, this is why we have [crosstalk 00:21:21].” I mean, that’s not the case. It’s definitely a team effort with everything that we do. But it definitely has played a part. Our new site just went live in May, so clearly that wasn’t the only thing. But a year up until then, we were really driving the content marketing and the healthcare space for sure, and really putting our foot in the ground of saying, “This is where we want to go.” So we definitely had that out there, and we were doing actually a lot of internal training too within the healthcare space, so just really getting our employees to go to conferences, and go to industry leading events, just trying to get everyone on board with that too. And that helped as well. But it is several touchpoints within. It’s building those relationships. Over time, it’s finally paid off. We finally got some of these bigger ones, where again, it was multiple touchpoints.

Angi Krueger: I can’t say it was only our website, or only going to a conference. But it was building relationships with these individuals, that word of mouth. And then, oh yeah, then they do check out the website, or oh, they are a thought leaders. They are putting stuff out there. It just reaffirms. We’ve had cases where we’ve had a consultant out there that recommends us a lot in the healthcare space, and then we have to still prove ourselves. So they may recommend us, but they’ll come to our site, or see what we’re trying to do, then oh, okay. They work with these guys, and oh, this is what they’re saying about this topic or that topic. So it’s definitely helped.

Mark O’Brien: And what we see with our clients is that when you have a system and an option for ongoing education, when someone shows up to your site, they heard of you from who knows where, it might’ve been a bunch of different places, but they finally get to the site, and they see that white paper, or they see that webinar, or the podcast, or the newsletter, and they sign up for something. And that one steady drip of content just kind of keeps you in the back of their mind for the days, months, weeks, and years that it takes for them to finally graduate into a real prospect, based on their own need.

Mark O’Brien: If you don’t have that, one, proof, yes, we’re thinking about these things. But two, just a little gentle reminder, like hey, we’re here. We’re on the scene. We’re still around. We’re still current and thinking about things you care about and discussing things you care about. The fact that that exists is such a necessary conduit for relationship maintenance.

Angi Krueger: Right. That’s the thing too, even just internally with our own employees, leadership included. I mean, it’s just explaining to everyone how sales and business development works in our space is, I think, very different than a lot of other industries.

Mark O’Brien: Definitely.

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Angi Krueger: The sales cycle can be relatively long in that you’re building relationships with these people. It’s really more about that than selling to them. So I think that’s always the challenge to get over of: Well, are we selling this or that? It’s like, no, that’s not the point. We’re just here to help. And we’re here to be a conference or whatever to connect people. And maybe it’s not even to our business. Maybe it’s connecting them to another business, but they’ll still remember us. It’ll come back around at some point. And we’ve proven the fact that this year that, that really happens.

Mark O’Brien: Yeah. And that’s one of those things you hear all the time. It’s not about today’s sales. It’s about the long-term relationship and that kind of thing. It’s so ubiquitous, it goes unnoticed, that concept, because so many firms are so often concerned about sales. And they need to close something kind of now, or this quarter, or by the end of this year. And they are so focused on that, that they do forget that this is the long game of long games. And if you play to that and understand that, then things do work out really well. But it’s the firms who are erratic, who only market when there’s an emergency. Right?

Angi Krueger: Yeah. I know from experience that that doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. And you feel like, oh well, I did it. And then but it’s like, well, but it’s not consistent. I mean, you really have to be consistent. And you really have to have someone at your firm. That’s the priority. Back to our leadership and how we’ve changed over the years, we use traction too. I know you’re a big fan of that. But our leadership team, when we moved to that a couple years ago, there’s clear roles of accountability. And sales and marketing is one of those clear accountability funnels. So it really helped make sense of: How are we measuring this? And it’s not just about going out and getting that sale right then and there. But it’s about looking at our numbers every month and saying, “You know what, our pipeline looks a little light. What do we need to do to fill the pipeline?” And then you do look at the closed sales too. It’s a lot easier to talk about the long-term and the big picture and the relationship building when you have closed a few significant sales.

Mark O’Brien: Of course.

Angi Krueger: But we’ve definitely shifted gears. And we’ve done things sometimes to try and get a faster sale in if we needed to, within the short-term.

Mark O’Brien: Of course.

Angi Krueger: And those are other tactics. That’s not necessarily marketing driving that. It could be: What kind of offer can we give this type of prospect to get them started on something? There’s different ways that you can tackle that too. But again, that’s not the best way to do it. But sometimes you have to.

Mark O’Brien: Right. We all do what we have to do. And you’ve touched on a lot of different examples of that. Okay. We might take in some business that’s outside of the core focus of our marketing, that kind of thing. Sure, you do what you need to do. But at the same time, you’re working towards a bigger goal, a bigger picture, a better future. You’re really intentionally working towards that. And I don’t know, there’s something to me about the long game that has rung more and more and more true as I’ve evolved as a bus-dev person. I’m kind of similar to you, of the side, I came in on the tech side, which seems ridiculous now, but I did. And I loved it, I really loved it. And eventually, due to a slightly meandering road, I ended up on the bus-dev side, and then the leadership side. And it’s obviously what I’m meant to do. That’s my unique ability, and I really enjoy it. But as I’ve grown in that role, I just realize it’s really not about today.

Angi Krueger: No. Right.

Mark O’Brien: It’s just not about today. Every conversation I’m going to have, every email that goes out, whatever it might be, every event I consider attending, it’s not about today. It’s just about showing up, having something interesting to say, making sure that your thoughts are on the leading edge of things based on the experience you have. And that’s really where positioning does come in. And for us, we’ve realized that the more focused we are on a specific objective, the more we know and the more we have to say. And that sounds obvious too, but it’s just true, and it becomes more and more and more true the more positioned you get.

Mark O’Brien: But Blair talks about, everyone’s going to buy, it’s just a matter of when. And when I first heard him say that many years ago, I thought it was a joke. Oh, well, that’s an arrogant, jokey thing to say. That fits his brand because he’s good at putting out these giant proclamations. But as the time goes on, it’s like, no, that is 100% true. And prospects feel that too. If they’re speaking to you, and you want that deal now, they feel it.

Angi Krueger: Oh, yeah.

Mark O’Brien: But if you don’t, you’re not being dismissive. You’re genuinely enjoying the conversation. You’re providing as much value as possible in that conversation just for the benefit of providing value, and that’s it, knowing that some day you are probably going to hire us. But it’s probably not going to be now, and that’s totally fine.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. And that’s really the approach you have to take, otherwise you’d drive yourself nuts.

Mark O’Brien: And everybody else too.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, exactly. It’s just communicating even just within your own agency among yourselves. You have to remind people that that’s part of the process. It’s not overnight.

Mark O’Brien: Right. Exactly. Okay. So you invested a lot in the bus-dev. You have a separate site. You’ve gone through a lot of work on the positioning side. And now what is your makeup in terms of your content strategy?

Angi Krueger: One of my colleagues here, that’s his job for our clients, is helping develop content strategy. And I really partnered with him to say, “Look, here’s what we’re trying to do. Help me do this because I need you to help me drive this within our organization.” Once we had our key messaging really figured out, because I think that’s super important, one of the first steps [inaudible] is until we have this key messaging figured out, we can have all the strategy in the world, but we need to know what we’re saying and to who. So we really focused on that, got that buttoned up.

Angi Krueger: But then we really want to organize our content development into these different strategic buckets around industry expertise, which is I would say probably 40% of it, so it’s sharing our expertise, insights, leadership, in the healthcare marketing space. And then it’s really market insight, which would be another 30% of it, so really leading our target audiences by developing and using insightful case studies in the healthcare market space. So not necessarily our own, but even other examples to illustrate a point. So again, that’s 70% right there, that’s just all in the healthcare space.

Angi Krueger: But then 20% of it is probably around demonstrating expertise by refocusing case studies around category related results, so data strategy, creative media, basically the whole paid owner. We really want to prove and talk about those category, meaning in our space, healthcare, specific business results and how you get there. It’s not about the services we provide. It’s about how we can impact business results within the healthcare space. And then 10% of our content’s really about our values and who we are as an agency. That’s kind of last, but at the same time, our motto is say it, live it, within Core, which is really brand alignment, internal [inaudible 00:31:27]. So we have to practice what we preach at our firm. And we’re strong believers in that.

Angi Krueger: And so how our values end up impacting our work and our clients is really important to us too. Maybe you won’t see that in our thought leadership on our blog as much, but you’ll definitely see it in other channels, whether it’s social media, or events that we’re at even locally. We do talk about our culture and stuff too, but obviously that doesn’t really result in business development. But it’s important.

Mark O’Brien: It is, for sure. What a lot of firms do is that is the content strategy, and that doesn’t work.

Angi Krueger: No, that won’t work.

Mark O’Brien: But having it be a facet, 10% sounds about right.

Angi Krueger: Yeah.

Mark O’Brien: Now how about the platforms? Over the past five years, as you’ve really worked so hard to make your marketing as efficient as possible, what channels are you using to document and distribute this content?

Angi Krueger: There’s quite a few, definitely. Obviously, the number one is just starting with the website. That’s the central point of everything. But beyond that-

Mark O’Brien: What platform on the website? What kind of housing on the website? Is it a blog? Is it webinars, white papers?

Angi Krueger: Content types within, and we’re actually evolving that too. We’ve done a lot of blogs, per se, our content strategist gets mad at me when I say blogs. I have to say articles. So one, articles on our website. And that’s been the primary generator. But one of the goals for this year is like, guys, this is great, but we don’t have enough gated content. We were publishing so much great content. We were on a great cadence, had a good infrastructure, great machine built. I’m like, “This is great. But I don’t know who’s on our website,” because I have no gated content capturing information, so that’s really a major focus now that we have our new site up. We’re really trying to produce more gated content, not a ton, but I’d say one a quarter at least, so that would be a piece of gated content that would drive to a landing page where you would have to submit some sort of form. And we are getting back on a cadence of webinars because we hadn’t done them for so long. So that will be coming soon.

Angi Krueger: But podcast has really been a thing we started at the end of last year, I would say. And we have become really disciplined in doing them every two weeks. Now I haven’t been able to necessarily track the result of that just yet, but I can definitely say it’s been at least internally a success because it’s something for us to now easily almost do. And we do them on a regular basis, and our own agency learns from them, which is great. And then at the same time, it’s something else for us to talk about. Say we’re at a trade show or conference, and at the end of the day, if they’re not ready for you, or are already using another firm, or whatever, say, “Hey, listen to our podcast.” Hand them a form and say, “This is just for healthcare marketers. You may find this interesting.” And it’s something, it’s a conversation piece just to get them engaged and involved.

Angi Krueger: We are really excited about it, and this will be launching in the fall, but we invested in producing our own proprietary research within the healthcare space. One of my colleagues, who is the director of research and insights, she’s really into research and really loves the fact that we’re focusing in this healthcare space. So she was willing to grab that one and say, “I got that. I really want for us to produce some proprietary research,” so we used another outside firm. And we actually invested quite a bit of money in that. And she’s dissecting it now. In fact, we’re going to be producing a whole campaign in a series around this research in this third quarter here, which will be really exciting. So it’s really generating a ton of content that’s truly ours and unique, that’s going to be dissected into articles, a white paper, a webinar, video. There’s just a lot of things that we’re going to be able to do with this, so we’re super excited about that.

Mark O’Brien: Great.

Angi Krueger: We’re dabbling a little bit in some paid social. We’ll start doing that too, just getting people to the website, seeing the content we’re producing. We haven’t been ready for that yet until this site’s been up. It wouldn’t have been worth the money. Now that we’re going to have something to really go out there with, I’m really excited to see what will happen with that.

Mark O’Brien: Great.

Angi Krueger: Speaking engagements, we’ve definitely been trying to do a lot more of that, being in those places, a lot more industry focused trade shows. We’re try to do more of that. Obviously, you have to pick and choose. I mean, we can’t go to everything. But we’re definitely trying to have a more focused effort in that space. Every year, we kind of go through all the different buckets and the channels of where we want to be. Over the last couple of years, we’re just really trying to kind of play around to figure out where we need to be and how we need to be present. And what do we want to budget for this? Where do we want to put our marketing efforts? And any outside expenses into, where do we want to invest? So we’re kind of always playing around with that to see what’s going to hit. But it’s a different area of focus, I would say, every year we kind of mix it up a little bit. But we’re always consistently developing the content and thought leadership. We’re excited to kind of see that come to fruition.

Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. And what you just laid out is such a rich canvas of marketing. It’s so deep, and it touches so many different media. It’s just incredible.

Angi Krueger: We’re excited about it. And like I said, it’s really a team. One of the biggest challenges that I dealt with when I moved into this role was: How do I get this all done? Because I could kind of do some of it myself, but then again, we’re a marketing agency. They’re going to look at me and say, “Well, you’re not doing that right. You need to be doing this.” We’ve invested in really treating Core marketing as a client. I’ve got individual jobs opened, budgets for everything, time estimated for our staff. And until we really seriously did that, it was hard. It was really hard because there was always an excuse.

Mark O’Brien: Of course.

Angi Krueger: There was always an excuse not to get to thought leadership. There was always an excuse until we had a project manager, an estimate, and a timeline for a job, it wasn’t getting done, at least to my satisfaction. It just wasn’t getting done, so we did that and it really made a difference. So I would definitely suggest treating yourself like a client. At least have a couple people that can give some time to it, and put them on a deadline just like it would be for a real client, because otherwise, it just doesn’t get done.

Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. What you just laid out I think would be the dream for any firm wanting to really become an excellent marketing organization, a self marketing organization. But listening to everything you’ve put out there in the past 40 minutes is intimidating. Wow. Okay, for many firms, starting from where they are, which is really not marketing at all, to doing what you are doing today, it just seems like an insurmountable task. Right? And I know that you’ve changed an extraordinary amount over the years, in that you started from the same place they are right now. So to who Core was, say, six years ago, what advice would you give to you six years ago when you’re standing at the base of the mountain looking up? What’s the first best step to take? How do you start?

Angi Krueger: Well, the first step goes back to the analogy of crawl, walk, run. Right? I mean, you’re not going to be able to run in the beginning, even though you want to, and you want to be amazing at it. And even for smaller firms, it’s certainly not realistic because you don’t have as many resources. That’s always the biggest challenge. So get someone dedicated to that’s their focus. That’s their goal. That’s their objective. And they need to prove something at the end of the year of what they’ve done. So just start somewhere. Write a basic marketing plan. It’s not rocket science. Just have a basic plan. What’s the one thing, two things, that you need to do? And figure it out.

Angi Krueger: But you have to know your target audience. You’ve got to know who you’re marketing to because if you don’t know that, it’s all pointless. The first step is knowing who you’re marketing to and what you’re going to do, and then start doing something, and do it consistently. What’s the one thing you can do consistently? Just start there and figure that out. For me, too, the other part of that foundation was just building the infrastructure. I built it myself. Salesforce, Act-On, using your help, that’s what I needed to do to build that infrastructure. It was frustrating the heck out of me in the beginning because I had built somewhat of an infrastructure, but we couldn’t use it. Our positioning wasn’t figured out and all that.

Angi Krueger: But now we’re at that stage, but I’m so glad I took the time and effort. Someone at your firm’s got to figure that out, and have a system, and have a process around it. Sounds lame, all this [inaudible] process and creative, but it’s just having something there, so if you get hit by a bus, the next person knows what you’re doing.

Mark O’Brien: Right. And to hold yourself accountable as well.

Angi Krueger: That too.

Mark O’Brien: Even if there’s no bus involved.

Angi Krueger: Yeah, exactly.

Mark O’Brien: I’m glad you mentioned that because you are in such a position of strength and power now really because of what you’ve earned and how the firm has grown and everything else. It’s okay. They’re 70 people. They have their own internal dev team, and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Most firms don’t have that.

Angi Krueger: No.

Mark O’Brien: And you didn’t have that at the beginning of this. You had none of that.

Angi Krueger: No, no, no, no. Not at all. You’ve just got to figure out a way to get it done. And honestly, no one’s going to do it for you. You’ve got to do it yourself.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Angi Krueger: The challenge is trying to do it without making everyone else at your agency wondering what the heck you’re doing, or make them angry, just communicating what you’re doing, and really setting that vision out and understanding. And getting buy in from everybody to say, “We need to practice what we preach, and help me do that.” That first step is just getting the infrastructure built and then getting some buy in for people to help dedicate some time within their workweek, some time. So you have to start small. So our person that oversees all of our client engagement group, I said, “Who can I have? Who can I have to work with on this? Here’s who I need, and this much time.”

Angi Krueger: So that’s where I started. And then it’s just starting to move into that area of just keep doing some stuff to get into a momentum and get into a groove. And then once you do that, again, it’s every year, I’m rewriting a marketing plan. Summing up at the end of the year, here’s what we did. Here’s what worked. Here’s what didn’t. Here’s what we could do better. Here’s and opportunity for us. Okay, let’s focus on this next year. So it’s just building it over time. It’s not done overnight by any means.

Angi Krueger: And you know what, we’re still not even at the run stage. In my opinion, you think we’re doing a lot, and we are doing a lot. There’s still so much work to be done as far as really perfecting the whole marketing automation, content generation, lead nurturing part. I mean, just now I’m finally at the stage of consistently e-marketing. I was doing it before, wasn’t doing it consistently. It’s crawl, walk, run. Just have a plan and have a vision. And I think that alone will help you create the machine you need to build to keep your business growing.

Mark O’Brien: Okay. So you talked a lot about the investment here and how you’ve really quite organically, but intentionally evolved the positioning. And now you have a dedicated healthcare marketing website. What are the results of this? Has it been worth it to actually go through all this and go to the effort of creating a standalone website with standalone content marketing, and really focusing that on the healthcare space, and your speaking gigs and everything else? What’s the outcome?

Angi Krueger: I mentioned earlier that this year, the last few months, have been record breaking for our firm, for business development in particular. But what’s really exciting about it to me is that of the new business we’ve won, the majority of that has been in the healthcare space. There has been a couple that are non healthcare, but those were also significant. But the ones that we’ve won within healthcare are exactly who we’re targeting. It’s that exact persona. And the really exciting thing about one of the healthcare leads we received, it wasn’t just even a healthcare provider, it was a B to B healthcare organization that’s rather large, and happens to be in our backyard.

Angi Krueger: But after talking with them, they said, “Well, we came to you.” The lead came from our website. It actually came from the site before the Core Health site was particularly up. It was when we were already doing all the healthcare content marketing.

Mark O’Brien: Got it.

Angi Krueger: And they said, “Well, we came to you because you were a healthcare agency in this space.” And we’ve heard that on several … I’m on all the vetting calls to make sure they’re a good fit. Nine times out of 10, when it’s a website lead, because I always ask, “How did you find us?” Yeah, you came in through the website. But how did you know if us? And they say, “Well, we know you’re in the healthcare space.” That is just music to my ears when I hear that on a phone call because I was like, “Oh, yes. Awesome. It’s working.” So that’s just really refreshing. And that one client that came in through our website particularly, our team has done an amazing job to organically grow them. What was a medium sized sale, I would say in the beginning, has just exponentially grown. And it’s because our team’s just doing a killer job. They get a lot of the credit too because they’re organically making it work for that client. And it’s just so exciting to see it when it comes into full picture and works.

Mark O’Brien: I love it. Thank you so much, Angi.

Angi Krueger: Yeah. No problem. Always fun to talk with you.

Mark O’Brien: You’ve got such a wonderful catalog of wisdom around this. It’s really a pleasure to listen to.

Angi Krueger: Thanks. Yeah, no, it’s fun. I love listening to your podcast. I love hearing the challenges of other people in our roles have because it really is a unique role.

Mark O’Brien: It is.

Angi Krueger: Within a lot of agencies. Some people, like you said, aren’t there yet. They’ve got to wear a lot of different hats. I am very fortunate, the fact that we are at a point where this is my role.

Mark O’Brien: Right.

Angi Krueger: And I’m not the only salesperson either. Ward, our president is more sales. I’m more marketing. He’s more sales. But we work together, so that’s how it works.

Mark O’Brien: Of course. And that’s one last important point that I do want to note for the firms listening. You don’t need to have an Angi. You don’t need to have a dedicated person.

Angi Krueger: No.

Mark O’Brien: You’ve got to make do with what you’ve got, and for many firms, it’s okay, I’m going to devote half of my time to this, and a quarter of a few other people’s time, whatever that composition might be. The first step doesn’t have to be, let’s hire a marketing person, or let’s hire a bus-dev person. In fact, that’s usually a really bad first step.

Angi Krueger: Yeah.

Mark O’Brien: It’s about making do with the resources you’ve got. And like you said, have a plan, set the goals and measure against outcomes.

Angi Krueger: Exactly.

Mark O’Brien: Start there, and if you keep on doing that, you’re going to end up in a very good place.

Angi Krueger: For sure.

Mark O’Brien: Well, I really appreciate your time. This went a little longer than the average podcast. But it was just chock full of such great information thanks to you.

Angi Krueger: That’s great. I talk too much. I don’t know anything.

Mark O’Brien: No.

Angi Krueger: I’m really passionate about it, but yeah.

Mark O’Brien: It shows. I really appreciate you contributing all of this great knowledge to the podcast.

Angi Krueger: No problem. It was fun.

Mark O’Brien: Well, thanks, Angi. I look forward to next time we get together.

Angi Krueger: All right. Thank you.