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Mark O’Brien: All right. Welcome to Newfangled’s webinar on the three growth stages of committing to marketing. My name is Mark O’Brien. I’m the least attractive guy you see on your screen right now over on the right. I’m the CEO of Newfangled. I am joined by three wonderful people. I’m so honored that you guys were willing to donate your time here today. I’m so excited for the conversation we’re about to have together. We’ve got Scott Woods, the President of West Arete. We’ve got Matthew Munoz, the CEO of New Kind. We have JP Lacroix, the President of Shikatani Lacroix, sld.com. We are going to have a great conversation here, wide open conversation.
Just talking about the reality, the experience that these people and their firms have gone through in that three different stages here as I mentioned. Scott is really just beginning on his journey of really committing to marketing. I want to be clear about the stages I’m talking about. I’m not talking about necessarily the stages of working with Newfangled. Although full disclosure, everyone here is a client. Really, the stages of really just diving in and making marketing a top priority for the firm. Matt and his firm, they’ve been marketing in this manner now. They embarked on this a little over a year ago. Their site’s been live for about seven months now. JP has a very long, interesting story.
Really started taking this serious about 10 years ago. Has been working with us for the past three. His site, sld.com has been live for the past 18 months. We’re going to get a chance to hear everybody individually. What I really want to get to, not to rush but I’m excited to get to is the open conversation and the dialog that we can have here sharing all these brilliant insights from these brilliant people. Of course, we’re going to leave time for Q&A because I’m sure with this webinar, especially this webinar, there’ll be lots of questions that you all will have for these great guys. In terms of the format, this is really about the discussion. There’s not going to be a whole lot to look at.
We talked about doing video but with four people in four different areas including Scott who’s calling in from France today, thank you, Scott for doing that. We decided it’d be a little bit too tricky from an EV perspective. I didn’t want to distract. We do have basically some basic screens but the content of this webinar is really about the conversation. Don’t worry about being glued to your screen. Do pay attention to all the words coming out of everyone’s mouths because that’s what we’re here for today. Guys, I just wanted to thank you all. The three of you for again, being willing to join us here. Let’s get into it. What I’d like to do to start is have each person starting with Scott and then Matt and then JP.
Have each of you just give a bit of a background about yourselves and about your firm. Talk about marketing in general and then how you approach marketing and what stage you think you’re in, in your marketing journey. Scott, we’ll kick off with you coming in from Fontainebleau in France. Right?
Scott Woods: That’s right. Yeah. Lucky enough to be on vacation at the moment. Who wouldn’t want to miss the webinar? This is epic.
Mark O’Brien: Thanks, man.
Scott Woods: Yeah. Some background for me. West Arete is my firm. We’re about 13 years in business. We’re a custom software development company. I think one of the things that as we try and work more on this discipline, one of the things that we realize is that we’re not coming from any kind of design or marketing background at all. It’s all software and programming for us. That’s really been our lifeblood for the last decade. For the type of work that we do, it’s all custom. For us, our positioning is mission critical custom software for higher education. That’s the recent positioning. I’m sure we’ll get into that at some point. It hasn’t always been that focused. We needed a good amount of help to get us there.
Mark O’Brien: How did you arrive at that? What made you decide? Because that’s a key point right there. Positioning is the first step on this journey if it’s going to be a special journey. Most firms don’t even get to that step.
Scott Woods: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: Just right there is real proof that you’re actually committed to this because it takes a lot of courage. It’s a scary leap. Many, many principles have gotten to the edge of making that leap but have stepped back from that edge.
Scott Woods: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: How did you get there? What made you take the leap?
Scott Woods: It’s funny. For a marketing professional like yourself, the first step is the positioning. That’s after you already know what the entire process is really going to look like. For the beginners like us, there’s such a long, multi-year period of discovering before you even gain the level of sophistication of realizing how important positioning is. A lot of the journey for us the last several years was really thinking that you’re trying to do a good job at marketing. Because the problems that we experience, any creative firm that you want to get more diverse clients. You want to do a better job for recruiting. You want to be able to have more control over who you say yes to as a client.
Those are really the things that drove it. I would say we went through a long period before we were even ready for the positioning. I think of marketing, when I look at it, it’s this multi-cylinder engine. It’s like unless all the cylinders are firing, you’re not really going to get anywhere. You can do as good of a job as you want to on content. Unless you have strategy around that, it’s a little over a year, you’re not going to get anywhere. Same with the positioning. We had years and years and years of false starts. It’s funny because you were mentioning in the intro. People who were finally starting to take marketing seriously and work on it, it’s true. The sad news is, we really thought that we were taking it seriously two years ago.
We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t know how badly we were missing the mark on doing it well. Not only was it taking it seriously but also gaining enough conscious incompetence. To the point where it’s like, you need to start out an unconscious incompetence. You’re screwing things up but you don’t even really know how badly you’re screwing them up. You think you’re doing a good job getting emails out there of new people. There’s no strategies. It’s just complete scatter shot When you’re sending out newsletters, you know it’s supposed to focus content. People aren’t really going to care about that. It was a long journey.
Really understanding positioning came about reading. I think first was reading through David Baker’s writing. I had a friend who ran a design firm. I originally mentioned years ago David’s work. That I read this article. I was like, “Okay. This is primarily from marketing firms, but it’s still creative services.” The software firm, 80% of it is still applicable.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Scott Woods: Because it’s all about creating things as you find it. That was really where the concept of positioning came in. We had no idea what our positioning should be. We thought we were fairly well-positioned and then we self-positioned. We went from custom software development services and focusing on quality. We would talk about how good we are interacting with the customer. We talk about what good quality our software was. David’s like, “You know more better.” That was positioning.
Mark O’Brien: Yes. Yes.
Scott Woods: The same thing is absolutely everyone else under the sun except from some reason that we can’t really put a door to do it better. It doesn’t really work.
Mark O’Brien: Let me just stop right there. Because you’ve mentioned some really important things. I think it is critical to the mindset here. Things that honestly, because of where clients bring us into the process and process bring us into the process, I have a bit of a blind spot here. You’ve said two things that I think are just brilliant and spot on. I bet many, many, many people on this webinar can relate to. The first thing is conscious incompetence. Wow. That’s a great phrase. There’s a lot to pull from that one. That’s a greeting. Relating to this, the unconscious incompetence, again you thought you were positioned.
Like, “Yeah. We’re really good at software development. It’s going to be better. We’re going to work harder. Our clients are happier.” All those things were true. You thought that was different in the marketplace. That happens all the time. So many times we hear from prospects. I know David and Blair said the same thing. They think they’re doing the right stuff and they can’t figure out why it’s not working.
Scott Woods: Yeah. It’s so true.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Scott Woods: It’s like that. That’s the tough part. I use that unconscious incompetence to conscious competence to, yeah. It’s a conscious competence. That progression is really important I think in business where there is no rule book. There is no outside playbook. I think we all run into that as principles all the time. For me, the satisfying part, it’s not getting good at something. That’s good but the real spark is when you realize you can identify the thing that you’re bad at that has been holding you back. For me, the transition here, we all start with unconscious incompetence where we don’t know enough to be specific about what we’re failing at.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
Scott Woods: Then you hit that spark or something helps you realize that unconscious incompetence. You read that article that says like, “Oh. There’s a whole world that I’ve been missing the whole time.”
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Scott Woods: “Now I know what im’ bad at.” That’s the most valuable part. Because once you know that, you cold work on it.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Scott Woods: If I know what my problem is, then I can work on it. The reading, the first step I think for the beginner is gaining enough background that you can identify that it’s like, “Okay. This is worth investing in.” The transition for us, the fear for is yes that selection to that positioning saying that we’re going to say no to all these different kinds of work and opportunities that we would have chased down ordinarily. Say, “We’re going to be very, very specific.” Also just making the time commitment, the financial commitment, everything. To really invest heavily on all the different dimensions.
Mark O’Brien: Right. Right.
Scott Woods: If you know it’s what you need, then getting that point I think that’s a pre-requisite.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Yeah. Come to terms of what’s required and what you actually have to do and admitting to yourself that you’ve not been doing it, which could be scary. There’s a sense of responsibility here. Once you realized, “Wow. We’ve been chasing our tails a little bit.” It can be embarrassing even though you’re not the only the who realizes that.
Scott Woods: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: A certain amount of humility that you have just to admit that you need help.
Scott Woods: Yeah. For us, that gut shock and that humility came on an annual review. When I was looking through our mission that we had set out a couple of years before. We had gotten to do some work with really, really world class clients. It was just awesome stuff our dreams of a couple prior years. We had that under our book for a year or so. I looked at our mission. There’s a couple of aspects of our mission that revolve around influence. Being able to have a higher level of influence on our industry, our community. What I realize is missing was that no matter how good a quality of work we were doing, if we didn’t have really world class marketing, there’s no way we’re going to be able to achieve this mission goal of having that end point now. What’s going to happen?
We’re totally failing that. How are we ever going to do it? That’s when I realized, I was like, “We suck at marketing.” It doesn’t matter how hard we’ve been trying. That was the point where I was just like, “All right. We’re obviously not doing this stuff at the right level. What am I going to do that’s dramatically different than what I’ve been doing in the past?”
Mark O’Brien: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Right. Right. Right. That’s wonderful. The first up on your journey once you got to that point was to hire David Baker, right?
Scott Woods: Yeah. I looked at some other parts of mantra and coaching. One of the things that I had told myself that I wasn’t doing is like, “If you want to do really, really well at something in a particular discipline, you need to surround yourself somehow with people who are much, much better at that discipline than you are.” Miles Davis said, “Always sue for being the worst player in the bin.” He said, “What you’re trying to do is get into the band. Don’t take the band toward where you’re automatically in like a lead player.” You want to be part of the band or you’re the worst player of the band. Because those in the band that have really been pushing it.
Mark O’Brien: I’ve been really good at that over the years. It’s good to hear.
Scott Woods: When you’re outside and when you have network of marketing experts and you find the people and you said like, “Well, the beautiful thing is you can get access to these experts. You find the ones that really resonate for us.” It’s like, “I’ve been reading David’s stuff for years.” I like this threshold where it says, “You know what? This is totally worth it. Now, it’s not just having us up to the expertise. Just getting to really understand when you interact with other experts, when you’re concerned about your stuff and it really changes the way you think. It helps to elevate the way you think. It’s not any particular factor strategy. It’s that and also just surrounding yourself with them.
That’s been definitely part of the journey, too. It’s great that in our industry, you can arrange a consulting relationship. Just start there.
Mark O’Brien: Right.
Scott Woods: Find the best experts that you possibly can.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Lots of really good have available, which is such a benefit to everybody in the industry. Okay. I want to switch over to Matt and then Scott, we’ll come back to you in terms of where you are now and what your view of the future is. First, let’s hear about the history of how did you get here from Matt and then JP. Matt, what’s the story, man?
Matthew Muñoz: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thanks for having me. A new kind honor. Scott, what a great way to kick things off. If I’m speaking about my personal roots, roots as a graphic designer and had worked together on this open source enterprise technology company a number of years ago. Had worked with a bunch of really great people on client open source principles and design thinking to building brand and coaching the community. I had been working with my clients at the time. About nine years ago, those clients and those friends we decided to start New Kind. Nine years in, we focused on humanizing tech trends and existing to be the branding agency for those technology companies and other organizations that are inspired by the open source way.
Open and interested in that open collaborative way of working. For us, we deliver that through brand strategy and brand identity as well as some leadership coaching. With all of those elements, from our marketing perspective, we’ve done just like everything else. You’re talking, I heard a lot of our experience as well. We had to focus a lot on organic referrals and we started in our procession in 2008 and 2009. A lot of it was just our heads down, cranking out work trying to deliver on client promises as well as running a business as well as just focusing on doing really high quality work with people we love working with. Over that time, we’ve gone through ups and downs and challenges that paved where our clients come from.
To being too much and trying to just master their growth of a small business like that. Throughout that whole process, we really just decided to take our intentionality to the next level. That’s really when we started diving deeper and applying and testing and practicing digital marketing principles and more content development. We’re about a year in to working with you guys, a little over that. I’d say what’s really just been true about our marketing journey is that in order to even out some of those ups and downs, particularly from a lead generation opportunity perspective, the more our market, the more our lead generation, the more our content development is out there, the more our brand and our leadership and our clients all of our entire body of work.
The more it’s working for us. Not just nine to five. It’s working for us all hours of the day. This new level of intentionality and purpose that we’re in, particularly in 2018 is really about how do we get our thoughts out there? How do we focus on the system-based approach to developing leads and putting on thoughts and our work out there in order to find clients that want to work with us. They share values that fit with our positioning. We’re really in a place now where we have some wins. We’re still learning a lot. We have a long way to go when it comes to developing practices. We had a spot a while back and realize it was not one of these things that we could keep up with.
Partially because we didn’t have the right behavior. It’s one thing to always hear and know intuitively and intellectually that writing and getting your words out there is formed with you. It’s another thing to make up a core competency of a company. Starting with the core competency of the company really means it’s got to be a personal strong suit of myself or my other New Kind lesson. There are a ton of lessons. That’s one journey there. What we have just come to realize and it’s been proven true at this point is that for us to take our organization to the next level, we can write a level of invite and community for our clients for our team members. Embracing the marketing automation mindset. Embracing content development at a whole new level is really what’s going to pay off for us.
Mark O’Brien: A keyword you just mentioned, Matt that I think is really helpful is intentionality. You really take what otherwise Scott described his unconscious incompetence years ago. Now, we talk about you where you’re a plus into this. Its intentionality and you know what you know. You know where you’re going. You know what the plan is. You know who you’re after. You just know. That’s what makes that intentionality possible. You know because you made a lot of really brave disciplined decisions. That was not easy. That knowledge is hard earned knowledge. I imagine that feels good to actually know. You’re not guessing anymore.
Matthew Muñoz: Yeah, absolutely. We had a bunch of mistakes and things. We’ve always done our best to learn from those over the years in marketing content and branding. Just in general of course. What it feels like is that I would say about investing and the style part is like walking up there with a yo-yo. Yo-yo’s always going up and down but you’re always moving up to the right.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Matthew Muñoz: I’d say that intentionality and that knowing that you’re speaking to, we’re really seeing a continued flow of more attention. We’re continuing to get more people. Our website and our brand is working for us new level. While there are ups and downs week to week, we’re walking up the hill. That feels good. As long as we continue to match the intention with the habits or the actions that will get us there, writing a certain number of words, getting our ideas out there. Following up on leads, using the amount of list, things like that. When we do those things, we unequivocally see results. It’s really about us as a small business prioritizing those actions and having faith tweaking them as we go.
Mark O’Brien: Right. Perfect. That makes all the sense in the world. Excellent. Okay. We’re going to get back to you as well with some specific questions here, Matt. Thanks for that basic background or snapshot of today, which is so helpful. Last but not least, JP. How are you, JP?
JP Lacroix: Good. Good. This is exciting. Thank you very much for inviting me. It’s great to listen to my co-speakers. Great insights and definitely new way of framing opportunities.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
JP Lacroix: Yeah. I’m enjoying this as much as I’m sure the audience is. Maybe I’ll just listen instead of talk. We started out from 29 years ago, Shikatani Lacroix. We started actually as a retail design firm with stabling and packaging. Now, we’re in both consumer packaged goods and retail environments, brand environments. We’ve been on this journey for 29 years. I guess we connected Mark four years ago at a recourse session that Dave Baker and Blair Ernst was running. I think you were doing a workshop. What I found and what got me engaged was the fact that we had been doing content marketing for the last, now it’s been 15 years. We were one of the first firms to have a website when people didn’t know what that was and why we would need one.
We always wanted to be at the leading edge of new business. That’s my passion is your business. Obviously again, new opportunities of connecting with clients and growing our business globally. We had been doing this program called design lounge and we’re putting a lot of content every month.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
JP Lacroix: Actually not getting a lot of reaction to the content. We’re spending weeks writing in white papers and blogs and not getting a lot of traction. We came to you because we wanted a level of discipline and focus. Just coming back from a session last week with Blair Ernst with winning without pitching, it just made me realize even though I’ve been in the business for 35 years, that the game is changing. That the competitive set is getting very sophisticated. Clients are getting very sophisticated. How to squeeze every dollar out of a project, which is basically eroding our margins. For us to grow really, we need to be a lot more effective in our new business.
JP Lacroix: I call our business design business so they keep bucket. Because most of us on this call are not on retainers. We’re not advertising agencies. We’re as good as our last project. Often, these projects end. No matter how much a client loves you and you’ve done a great job and their sales are up, it’s done. We need to find a replacement for that client. For me, new business is vital to not just maintaining our status but growing the business. Content and thought leadership is really the new tool entering as Dave Baker would say, maintaining our expert position in the marketplace. Obviously, we’ve embarked on a relationship with your team and you guys were awesome to work with. We’ve seen a dramatic increase in our stickiness of our content. We actually just had our content review meeting this morning.
Plus there are some insights from Dave Baker on positioning content. The insight I have, we launched a new company. Globally, we launched a company called SLD Next. It’s focused on the banking telco industry. We just launched that company eight months ago. From a viability and actually from people registering and putting together proposals, it’s been phenomenal. We’re almost halfway at the same level as SLD, which has been in business for 29 years in eight months. It’s not just about content. It’s about clarity of direction. It’s about clarity of position. That is a journey. It’s not something that people say, “Well, you do your position and you leave it there for 10 years.”
The reality is, the market’s moving so rapidly and changing so dramatically that you constantly have to go back and tweak your position. Make sure it’s relevant.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. That’s a great insight that builds upon what both Scott and Matt were saying is that it’s never over. This is something we’ve seen. We worked with lots of firms over the years. Lots of firms have had a great success for their marketing over the years. A few have rested on their royals and it falls apart. It falls apart. You have to earn it every single day. Now, there’s a ramp up time. I was using JP and as Matt’s now seeing. There’s a ramp up time and that flywheel starts to turn. Keeping it going, it takes less effort, far less effort than to get it to turn over in the first place. It doesn’t go by itself. You still have to apply effort that the bravery, the discipline, everything it took, the guts to commit to a positioning.
To really take your marketing serious in the first place. You better step back up to that plate all the time. Because you just can’t stop. Because the vessel was not stopping.
JP Lacroix: It’s also changing. It’s getting more sophisticated. When we started Design Lounge, we were one of the first to do video webcast. We were doing 12 of them, one a month. Pretty aggressive. In those days, we would get 100 people registering and 75 people viewing. Today, if we’re doing a webcast, we’ll be lucky if we get 25 people. Because there’s so much content out in the marketplace. Companies have downsized their marketing departments. It puts more pressure on us to multitask. We have less time to read and less time to view. It’s the stuff that needs to really resonate with the audience is going to be read. The question really is what’s the future? Because as this evolves so well how we market ourselves.
Mark O’Brien: How do you keep going? Absolutely.
JP Lacroix: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: That’s great. It’s just really impressive. As you mentioned, Design Lounge you launched over a decade ago. You’ve been doing the hard work for a very, very long time. Like a lot of firms, doing hard work as the scholar’s mentioning. It wasn’t as if you’re ignoring this but you weren’t seeing the results. That goes back to so many else Scott mentioned actually which is it takes the combination that there are six things that we perceive that are absolutely required based on the success we see our clients have. The ones that are doing these six things have success. If you got the right positioning and the right contact strategy like content strategy, that’s the strategic foundation. Then you need the right technology to make the most of that strategy.
The website strategy, the marketing automation outbound strategy and then oftentimes, the CRM technology. Star technology in those previous two. The CRM as well to bridge the marketing and the sales reality. Those six things are in proper balance then it’s unlikely that the entire effort’s going to work. You could spend a whole lot of time and money and effort and energy and everything else just doing any one of those things.
JP Lacroix: Absolutely.
Matthew Munoz: This is Matt. I just want to respond to that last point. Because of these six elements, when you think about it, it’s a way of marketing as well as designing at scale. Designing those opportunities and those systems allow us to bring multiple people to process every kind achievement. This also allows us to just recreate that feedback that as Scott and JP were talking about, as Mark, as position needs to change. With an ongoing feedback with based on marketing all those tools and knowing what rates are, what pieces of content are being searched for and what power should I go out. Based on all of that, it allows us to move a lot more fluidly. It’s not requiring the sole attention. It’s not one person’s job.
Matthew Muñoz: The entire company is involved to some degree in all aspects of what we’re doing here. When we think about scale, when we think about these systems, it’s largely what they’ve made possible for us. As far as some of the challenges, getting our heads wrapped around certain elements of the actual tools and the way they interface with each other and others, you’re getting a nice little detail so we can master them is really a big part of it. It’s definitely why we’re still in the middle of it.
Mark O’Brien: Go ahead, JP.
JP Lacroix: I was going to say, one of the other insights that we have. Know the generated value to be a preferred partner versus a vendor is leadership is be an expert. What we found is the exercise of writing content for blogs and our white papers actually forces us to take a deeper look at our client’s needs and priorities and to provide insights on how they solve those. It’s actually educating us internally on being smarter. I’m just scanning our client’s business and the market dynamics. Because in order for you to write those blogs and those white papers and those studies, you actually have to do a lot of research. That research process is actually educating you and providing greater insights on your client’s needs. That positions you effectively as an expert. There’s a byproduct facet of this exercise.
Scott Woods: That’s two really big insights for me in a row. Because first of all, I’m hearing about Matt and thinking about this from the beginner perspective, hearing about the power of your entire company being involved and these marketing efforts. Matt sounds like such a dream. So many of us have principles. You’re practically the only one really pulling the ship. I don’t know a lot of this stuff. Thinking about the entire team being involved and then go one level just thinking about I can totally relate to how writing the white papers and doing the deeper level of research. Then thinking about your entire team, elevating their thinking one level higher. Forcing them to read and research and then put that into words. I can see how powerful that is internally.
Even if you weren’t going to use that, attracting all new business. Just the power of doing that internally and then thinking at a higher level, that would be what I learned there. Thank you. You didn’t expect for me, too.
Mark O’Brien: You do have exponential return there. A few things I think are really interesting. JP, you were talking about the need for content, constant change and improvement. Just becoming smarter and using better technology. Keeping pace with the competition and the growing sophistication of the clients. Matt, your point about you’ve got this platform now. You’re at the stage now where you’ve got all the tools and you’re really working on the mastery of the tools. The thing that’s interesting. Once you have the platform, then you can pretty easily incorporate new things into the platform. For example, you’ve got those six elements I’ve mentioned. You want to start podcasting. Well, you want to start podcasting. It’s a pretty easy entry point there.
Because you’ve already got a way to work through your content strategy. You’ve already got your contact strategy. You’re going to send the podcast out to. You’ve already got a website to post it on. You’ve already got an automation system to run all these things through. It’s simply just a matter of taking this new medium and plugging it into a system that works. The same is true for positioning. JP again one point you made is that you have SLD and then you created another entire brand that’s incredibly focused on the financial industry. You’re able to do that because you’ve got this engine. You could point that engine any direction you want. Now, you have to be disciplined to not be erratic with that. Everyone does. The fact that you’ve got this engine, you can add new technology into it.
You can add new strategy into it. You can fine tune to focus the positioning that drives the whole thing overtime without having to rebuild the engine.
JP Lacroix: Absolutely. Yeah. The other thing is, you put a lot of effort writing white papers and blogs. It’s about optimizing that content. What we’re doing now is we’re converting some of our content into podcasts. Basically, you’re not trying to read that content so that people driving podcasts are great because people are able to listen to the information as they’re commuting in the morning or in the evening. How do you optimize and leverage that content you’ve already written across different channels is now you’ve got the platform.
Mark O’Brien: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. I’m not going to get started on podcasts. I agree with you completely. I’m very much in love with podcasting and I can’t believe the results that it’s have for Newfangled specifically. I’m a big fan. That’s proof that adding it in for us, it has worked for sure. It wasn’t like we’re starting from scratch. I have a question for the three of you. Anyone can answer in any order. What’s been one of the most difficult things about this? This is the entire journey, wherever you are in the journey. What’s been one of the more difficult aspects of it?
JP Lacroix: It’s JP. I would say patience. Anybody that’s not currently doing content marketing or actually doing new business in an organized getaway. Mark talks about the flywheel. It takes a lot of energy and time to get that flywheel going. If you’re looking at doing content marketing and new business or something. You flip a switch and then next week, you’re going to get new business is you’re dreaming. You need to be patient. For us, it really needed an understanding that this is a journey. It’s going to be 18 to 24 months before we truly see the full potential of what the content can provide and the strategy, the new business strategy. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. For me, that was the biggest challenge.
Mark O’Brien: Okay. Before I go on to Matt and Scott, I just want to talk about that. Yeah. That is a very significant challenge. With that comes lots of dedication and discipline. Stay in the course, all the rest. The nice thing about that truth is that very few of your competitors are going to be willing to do the work you’re doing. It does require a lot of patience. That’s both a difficult aspect and a benefit because for the firms who are strong in discipline enough to get there, they’re in pretty rare space.
JP Lacroix: Yeah, I agree. None of my competitors are doing content in their area. It does separate us. We did a study. We had an external consultant interview 25 of our clients. Past clients and existing clients and what was very consistent across was clients were looking for this thought leadership. Providing design it has been commoditized. They’re looking for expertise. Knowing that you have a point of view and provide that expertise on an ongoing basis really separates you from your competitors. We see value in that. They see value in that.
Mark O’Brien: They do. They can discern a true expertise versus what David Baker calls content. David Baker makes a big point of separating out content and insight. Everyone complains. Not many agencies out there use this as an excuse to not get involved in their marketing because there’s too much content out there. There are too many podcasts. Social media’s too crowded. There are too many blogs. The world doesn’t need anymore content, which is true. Insight. Insight that’s hard one through your own discipline, through committing to an expertise and really understanding a specific set of clients problems, that will never be out of style. People never tire of finding that. They’re hungry for it. That hunger is here to stay for sure. JP does this beautifully. One more minute here.
You mentioned that, yeah. It takes 18, 24 months for the full thing to develop. Matt can speak to what happens even a year in. We see it stage up over the six-month to 24-month period. We see a constant increase in results and success. Where you are now, where you’re in a state of full maturity with your own marketing and you guys really have mastered it. What are the results? What are the benefits that someone should expect when they put in the effort you’ve put in?
JP Lacroix: I think we shared you the metrics. We do a yearly review of our new business initiatives across all our social and direct marketing and inbound, outbound. Our largest wins have come from our largest dollar wins. Have come from leads from the website. Our largest dollar wins have come from the website. People contacting us through the website asking for us to come in and do a presentation, the insight there is that they’ve already pre-qualified us. They’re seeking us. We’re not responding to an RFP with 20 other firms. They’ve already narrowed their gaze to either self or maybe a select one or two other firms. We’re already pre-qualified and in a positive expert position in their minds. That’s a huge, huge factor.
Mark O’Brien: 100%. Yeah. Go ahead, sorry.
JP Lacroix: No. Go ahead.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. That right there, the fact that you’re not knocking on their door. They’re knocking on your door. That right there flips a pyrodynamic in the entire sales relationship right out of the gate.
JP Lacroix: Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Yeah. Few things you mentioned the other day and I was really interested in, beyond just wins, which are great. That’s the first thing. What are the wins? You mentioned some impact on your ability to get certain speaking engagements and also, your ability to retain clients as well. That’s been affected by your efforts on the website, which people wouldn’t really assume I think.
JP Lacroix: Yeah. There’s a defensive strategy and an offensive strategy. Defensive strategy, you want to protect the clients you have. Knowing that it’s a very aggressive marketplace out there. Providing thought leadership positions you well as being that expert that they rely on. Be able to socialize that beyond emails and white papers to taking that content to their offices is another very strong benefit. On the offensive side like growing your business, it really is an opportunity to position you as the expert in the marketplace and raising your profile. The reality is, our business is global. Most of the design firms that are on the panel are doing work globally. Our boundaries are not limited to our countries. Content is beautiful because it travels. It travels across borders.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. That’s great. That’s great. We started with this. Asking what’s been most difficult. I’d love to hear from Scott and Matt about your perspective on that.
Matthew Muñoz: Scott, you want to go first?
Scott Woods: Sure. I feel like the most difficult thing, the time period that we’re in now, yes. It’s difficult to make the decision. Yet it’s been difficult to make a couple of the incremental changes, which are big changes. Honestly, I feel like the really hard part was about three, four years prior. There’s so much struggle. Just constant, constant struggle before you can really breakthrough into that client. For us, referral based for your business to ebb and flow. Roller coaster is a lot bigger than you would really want it to be. You’re too dependent on too few clients. You’re trying your own marketing effort. You’re trying to teach yourself to discuss. It’s working I guess in the sense that once in a while, you’re getting clients through these marketing efforts.
You look at the amount of effort that you’re putting in from the marketing effort that really doesn’t make any sense. You’re working so hard to do these things. They’re really not working out. The whole time you’re learning and you’re learning. Maybe you work with a couple other marketing firms who themselves are beginners. Honestly, they don’t really necessarily know what they’re doing. They’re not necessarily going to get you to a whole new level. I think what happens is the whole time, every time you do that, you’re struggling and you’re not seeing results. You’re also gaining experience. You’re learning a lot. You’re gaining that pattern matching. There’s something about marketing not just through theory but through direct experience.
The breakthrough for us is like, “Cool. We had a couple of really good years.” We had enough conscious incompetence or we had enough cash from operation to go and hire David Baker and do a total business review. We hired him for this huge industry level insight, oversight that he had across the entire issue. Like, “Help us figure it out. Where do we fit in? We can’t see that broadly.” You’ve seen it all. Where do we fit? People saw the result to that. They’re like, “Wow. That was transformational.” Now is the cusp that then let us go then to Newfangled. It’s like, “Great. Now, how do we explain one dynamic?” A couple of people are like, “Man, why didn’t you do that years ago?”
Mark O’Brien: Then you slap them.
Scott Woods: Yeah. The truth is, I thought hard about it. It wouldn’t have worked. We wouldn’t have been able to afford it back then. Even if we had, even if we just had the money to do it and the time to invest in it because we weren’t necessarily running around like chickens with their head cut off. Even if we had had that, we wouldn’t have known how to apply it. You need to get yourself to a level where you know how to apply this stuff and really know how to use it. When you do talk to experts, you’re going in with a sense of like, “I know what I’ve tried. I know what I haven’t. I’m here as a student ready to learn.”
Mark O’Brien: Yup.
Scott Woods: That struggle I think was the hardest because it’s years, and years and years of struggle without seeing a whole lot of results. I don’t know if you have a shortcut around that. You’re not going to necessarily just jump in to being able to do that. I like that aspect of Newfangled. At the beginning, you need people who already are pretty well positioned. You need people to know what they are. They need to be expert themselves.
Mark O’Brien: Right. We can have them otherwise, which is why similar clients work with someone like David Baker prior to that. Prior to working with us because yeah. That has to be in place.
Scott Woods: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. One thing you mentioned just now, Scott that I thought made a lot of sense especially with a lot of people is that the roller coaster was just a lot bigger and more dramatic than you really wanted to be when you’re dependent on referrals.
Scott Woods: Yes.
Mark O’Brien: That’s the thing. Eliminating the roller coaster. No more roller coaster because that’s awful. Because you know even when you’re at the tip of that big arc, you know you’re coming down.
Scott Woods: Yeah. That’s true.
Mark O’Brien: We’re growing and now the question is, how do we take best advantage of this? What’s our next move? That becomes a very strategic conversation that’s a fear-based one. That’s great. Also your point about you got to do it on your own for a while. It goes with the hard lessons and banging your head against the wall for a while before you are willing to make the commitment. Because this stuff’s not easy. It’s not cheap.
Scott Woods: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: There’s no shortcut. It’s hard. It’s just hard. Yeah. How about for you, Matt?
Scott Woods: Yeah. Go ahead.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. Matt, what’s most difficult for you? What’s been the harder bits for this?
Matthew Muñoz: Yeah. Just as you were talking about, there’s the challenges. You got your head against the wall for a little bit before you make the call to pursue this type of approach. For us, it’s really coming back to this. Why would we do this in the first place? If we’re talking about the most effective way to grow and position business and to simultaneously hone and refine our methods that simultaneously reach and have conversations and surface clients as well as just stakeholders within our community that believe and want to contribute to ideas or want to debate these ideas or methods. This is a great way to do it. By continuing coming back to why we’re doing this, which is this is effective. It’s a good way to proceed and to generate those business and for all those things I mentioned.
It’s really easy to lose sight of that. When we’re trying to figure out times and moments like, “Okay. Well, we need to write this piece. Who’s done it? How’s that going?” Then there’s client work that gets in the way. There’s just all that back and forth, which is challenging and managing competing priorities. It’s part of doing this. It’s part of what we’ve chosen. Making insight development generation and marketing in this way and organizational priorities so that everybody in the team understands why this is critical. Pick up on one of JP’s points. When you start to think that generating insights and writing is a means to the nesting, testing, surfacing of biases and assumptions of your own ideas, to actually take development as it is.
Doing match them with proof points and to really explore and interrogate them, then all of a sudden, this constant writing or ideas, it’s not just like some other things you do. It’s a primer and nothing is for moving an organization forward and creating value to date your client’s value and future. Generating intellectual property. I think that’s a huge part of it is that having this growth mindset as well as relating to these activities in the most empowering way possible so that writing becomes the exploration of ideas and the documentation. It’s pushing something forward versus something on the side. Using sales force and these CRM tools as a way to try to surface. This is the potential and the future. In fact, it’s a way of understanding your little people that you’re helping and you’re working with.
As well as using marketing automation to focus on listening. To use outbound generation emails as a way of testing in the laboratory and prototyping. Each of us and everybody on this call, prototypes and tests in other areas of business primarily through the work and the projects you’re doing. When you apply that to prototyping the entire business, the way you’re generating growth and the way you’re testing listening, then all of a sudden, these tools and this approach is not just something other but it’s core to actually progressing and evolving. Those individuals as well as in organization. That feels like a really cool thing to say but it’s not always present when you’re doing it and when you spend a lot of time and there’s a whole point.
My wife’s a principal ballerina. She’ll always talk about why she’s practicing. You can’t look good and learn a performance at the same time. There’s only one or the other. There’s a certain amount of practice that’s simply just ugly. There’s effort. It feels like you’re turning your wheels. As long as you’re measuring it by the growth and learning and you’re capturing your potential about that growth then you’ll evolve faster. You’ll look good faster. Your position in the firm more quickly. You’ll be able to generate your expertise. I think that’s definitely the place that we’re in if we continue to see results. It’s a skillset and a mindset that we’re just developing with this regards.
Mark O’Brien: Matt, that was beautifully put.
Matthew Munoz: Yeah.
Mark O’Brien: That was impressive. I’m really glad we have that recorded. Because that’s I think incredible summary and just a great snapshot into the psyche of someone at your stage. That’s such a critical point in the transition. Wow. Thank you for that. What you’re really speaking to is this idea, this virtuous cycle. All three of you are great representation of the entire cycle. You start with Scott and you commit to a positioning. You make that brave step. Then you build up a system around it to make the most of that. Then you create the content around it. To JP’s point, each time you write that content, you’re getting smarter and smarter and smarter. Just the act of creating the content fuses links in your mind that weren’t there before.
You’re going to act differently on the next client meeting, the next sales meeting because the blog post you wrote two days ago is just going to happen. That content’s going to allow you to get a higher caliber of your client in your focused area. That work you do for the client is going to make you smarter, which is going to allow you to create better content, which is going to lead to better clients. That’s the loop. That’s the flywheel. That’s the flywheel. It’s pretty wonderful. It’s a hell of a lot of work. It’s expensive in every way but when it starts to spin, it feels good.
Matthew Munoz: Definitely.
Mark O’Brien: Okay. I think we have a few minutes here. I’d like to do a little bit of Q&A just so we can get some audience participation here. Thank you for all these wonderful thoughts you shared and all of your perspective. I really appreciate the candor. You’re just really being yourselves and telling like it is here. This is really, really helpful. For those listening, there are already some questions piled up here. If you want to add your questions, go in the Q&A panel and drop it in and we’ll get to that as we can. Adel brings up a really great point. Her question is this. Why do you think it’s so hard for the practitioners who actually know how to do content and marketing and branding but they can’t do it for themselves? It’s a question we hear all the time.
Mark O’Brien: These experts in marketing and this is what they do all day long. They do it internationally. They’re extraordinary to do but they cannot turn their expertise in on themselves. Why?
JP Lacroix: We’re too busy helping our clients do it. At the end of the day, we’re a project-driven business. It’s a bit of a fire drill, exercise. You’re so focused on the next project, the next project. You really don’t have time to take that pause and take a look at yourself. It takes either a jolt where you’ve lost a significant client or you go on a holiday and you realize that you’re heading the wrong direction. You’re unhappy. In my case, you’re unhappy with the results you’re getting. That triggers or pivots that need for change. I think that’s the reason. We’re so tied to our client’s business. We can’t see the forest from the trees.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah.
Scott Woods: I think there’s two things. One is that it is that same idea. One of the mindset things we had to get over is and I personally feel this way. Sometimes, I would resort to this. I’d rather do the work with our clients than write about the work with the clients. It’s such a simplistic, this idea and it’s flawed. It’s still a place that I’ve gone to when it comes to, “Okay. We do this work for our clients. How do we do this for ourselves?” I think the second part of that if you get over that mindset is sometimes when you’re developing your own identity, you’re developing your own voice. You’re developing your own content. When you’re trying to turn your skills and your abilities on yourself, it’s like you’re doing it in a cave or in a room by yourself.
Scott Woods: Without outside party to help you be a sounding board, all you’re hearing is the echo of your voice. A million ideas just bouncing off the walls. I think it’s just really hard to do it when you’re just working either within the company walls or especially if it’s just one person doing the work and trying to build that content. The minute you have a team, whether it’s inside your company or your partners outside, the minute you do that, then I think it really short cycles the difficulty. Makes a lot easier to proceed and gain progress.
Mark O’Brien: Okay. Great. That actually tees up another wonderful question from Vern. Vern asks, can you discuss the transition from a CEO being the thought leader to bring the team into content creation?
Matthew Muñoz: Yeah, sure. Within New Kind, we have content discipline. We have research discipline. We have design discipline. We have a relation on the account discipline. When we think about all the types of problems that each of those disciplines and those team members see, there is such a wealth of problems and opportunities and patterns. Scott, you were talking about patterns a second ago. Once we see there’s patterns all over the place, then the people that are closest to them that have something to say, it could be the CEO. It could be the content strategist. It could be the senior designer. It could be anybody that’s working on it. Every single person and especially when you’re a company our size, everybody’s got voice.
Everybody’s got an ability to contribute as well as an expectation. They’re contributing from a content development perspective, they’re contributing far and above what I’m personally doing at the moment, which I don’t mean to say out loud so that the tape can call me out on it. It’s really fine when we get to bring in a bunch of voices and to collaborate on a piece. One has to do it with the remaining blanket that we just released, whether it has to do with a particular based on leadership development. This is not meant to be one person’s voice and one person’s ideas. Yeah. It can’t be. If we’re going to create that, that’s a lie. If we want to take this to the next level, and fulfill a greater purpose for New Kind, then it’s everybody’s contribution that’s going to get us there.
Mark O’Brien: Okay. Great. One last. Am I interrupting?
Scott Woods: I just had one quick point. This is from Scott. We do a lot of apprenticing at West Arete. Where we’re bringing people from beginner to intermediate in particular. One of the things that we noticed is that nobody gets from intermediate without teaching others. A lot of the content development and the thinking about that and being able to expect that ideas to others, regardless of whether it feels like that person is going to be the absolute best person that they’re not incredibly important professional development aspect for within the firm. That’s something that we really noticed. Otherwise, you never get the confidence or the insight.
Mark O’Brien: Yup. That makes perfect sense. Okay. Speed round. Two minutes left. Last question that we can get to. Great question. Speak to how you convince the naysayers, typically the creatives who push back claiming that a really narrow positioning basically is limiting the firm, is going to kill the creative spirit, that kind of thing. How do you reconcile the naysayers who want variety with the benefits of having a sharp marketplace position?
JP Lacroix: You can reinforce job security, I think.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. You’re telling the truth. You’re saying that this is going to make you a stronger firm. Your job’s going to be more secure.
JP Lacroix: You got it. You got it. Listen. It’s always a trade off. Everyday, we set trade offs. There’s an opportunity that comes along that is slightly out of your wheelhouse but you can still do it. It comes with a big dollar sign. At the end of the day, you have to make a business decision. Sometimes, you make a business decision that says yes. That’s a viable option. Sometimes, you say no. It’s going to take us too far away from our path. That’s a juggling. Positioning is rightfully so as much about saying no to things as about saying yes. Sometimes, those no’s when you’re slow or looking for growing your business is very tempting. It’s a balancing act.
Scott Woods: I would just say, David Baker’s name to the leader board. I hope somebody’s keeping a score for how many times this thing has been mentioned. A great other resource to explore. What I want to say to people who are feeling that their creativity will be constrained. We all know as fact that creative constraints open up a broader field of possibility. When we can gain mastery with particular types of clients, particular types of challenges and opportunities and understand that that’s phase and the nuances in those areas, then there’s a next level of opportunity as well as an excitement and mastery that’s available to individuals. It makes seem at first like we’re limiting. We just have to focus on this group.
There’s actually a lot of creativity and a lot of potential in that. That’s a huge thing to explore. I wouldn’t say that I would agree with the premise of that question. No.
Mark O’Brien: Yeah. The premise is flawed but it’s typical. That’s something we get all the time. We get that all the time. Yeah. Those responses are spot on. Okay. It’s the bottom of the hour. Scott, it’s time for you to go get some red wine or something.
Scott Woods: So many good options.
Mark O’Brien: Yes. Yes. Yeah. Thank you, three so much. This was so much fun. I just loved hearing your perspectives on everything. I just can’t thank you enough. I know we got a lot out of this. Really appreciate the effort and your time and all of the great, great, great expertise. Thanks so much, Scott, Matt, JP. Thanks to everyone who joined us. We will be sending out recording of this in the next week or so.
Matthew Muñoz: Sounds good. Thanks, everybody.
Scott Woods: Great. Thank you, Mark.
JP Lacroix: Thanks, guys. Bye.
Scott Woods: Bye.
Matthew Munoz: Bye. Thanks.
Mark O’Brien: Bye.