Sometimes, you just need to take a good hard look in the mirror

Oh boy, here we go, another self-help article, right? Well, yes and no. This is a comeback story of a little digital agency in Houston, TX called Edgewater Digital.

Hi. My name is Sean Rieger, and I’m CMO of said agency. I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts on how we turned things around and grew our client base so quickly in such a short time.

What kind of growth and what kind of timeframe? Well, in the last year, we’ve grown our retainer client-base by 300%, our agency revenue by 400%, and made our client onboarding process about 75% more efficient. How? We took a good hard look in the mirror and decided it was time to do what we do best and stop doing what we don’t do so well. Yeah… it’s really that simple. So, let’s look at what that means.

I was brought onboard as a partner in Edgewater in August of 2018. At the time, it was Edgewater Multimedia and was primarily a support team to the Edgewater Music Group. Wait… what? Yeah, that’s right. Edgewater Music Group and Edgewater Studios is a business built around the music industry.

As you may know, the music industry has gone incredibly digital and frankly, is very reliant on digital marketing in order to be successful. Edgewater Music Group is in the business of helping their artists become successful, so it made perfect sense to start offering digital marketing services to them. That’s how Edgewater Multimedia was born.

Here’s the thing, though. Most people who make music in bands also have a day job. So it should be no surprise that as things built on the music side, Edgewater Multimedia found itself with a small number of other businesses as well. Some B2C and others B2B. So the partners thought that maybe it was time to grow things. That’s where I come onboard. The thought behind having me take over the digital agency was to grow it by pulling on more retainer clients and more B2B as well as B2C customers.

Great, so day one, I looked over our portfolio of clients, the services we offer, as well as several other things and quickly realized that we had mostly the wrong services, the wrong clients, and the wrong approach to pulling on new business. Ruh-roh… Yeah, not something anyone wants to discover when walking into a new job, right?

Well, it was time to take a hard look in the mirror. If we’re spending a lot of time on tasks that are time consuming but not profitable, we need to change that. There’s no point in looking back and pointing the finger of blame. There’s no need to get upset that some things didn’t work out. There’s absolutely a need to identify the issue and change it though. Which is funny because that is a philosophy that I share with one of our best support partners: Semify. They have this process called "Autopsy without blame" that I think is a great example of how organizations improve. It is what it sounds like. A long hard look in the mirror, but without blame. Identify, understand, and correct. So, we did just that internally and realized that it was time to make a change. We simply couldn’t continue to put efforts into mostly the wrong things.

Mostly? Yeah, some of the services we had made perfect sense. Semify, of course, being one of them. I was introduced to Semify because they are our partner on the SEO/Content side of things. See, we’re small. "Boutique," if you will. We only have seven people in total, and let’s face it, we don’t have a network of thousands of websites and blogs at our fingertips, nor the time to manage those relationships. So working with Semify as a partner makes perfect sense. It was the one service at the time that we decided to double down on. We could scale it without driving ourselves crazy or hiring a massive team and dealing with the overhead.

"But you said you were already working with them. What changed?" Excellent point. We were, but how we integrated them into our services and how we pitched those services needed to change. At the time we were fully white labeling their services, and that works well for some people, but for us, we decided to be more transparent. Why?

Because the challenge most of us face in the digital marketing world is credibility. It’s sad to say, but there are simply a lot of scams and snake-oil salespeople out there. So when you are small, and you talk about a content network of thousands of sites, people start to ask how do YOU do all of that? For us, dancing around that question didn’t make sense, so our answer became, "WE don’t. We’re small, but we partner with the best in the industry. One of those partners is a company called Semify who maintains a massive content network, a talented team of writers, creators, and project managers, and who keeps good relationships with blogs and sites across a wide variety of topical genres. WE don’t have time or patience for that, so we’ve been relying on Semify for years, and they do a great job."

We then follow up quickly with, "So yeah, we’re small, but we’re seasoned leaders and know when to turn to partners for help, and which partners provide results. So we’re highly scalable, and that’s the kind of team you want working for you." I can’t tell you how many sales meetings I have been in where people relax at that point and stop being so suspicious. Why? It’s logical, and it’s transparent. And a company who isn’t afraid to be transparent is typically a company you can trust.

So people started trusting us, and that’s what brought us a ton of business? That’s the secret? Well, no. That’s just part of it. The biggest "AHA! Moment" for us was realizing that there was a much larger need for many of our clients that Semify was already helping us with, but we weren’t taking full advantage of. You see, we also build websites, offer full marketing automation, and run full scale marketing campaigns for our clients. I can tell you from experience that nine times out of 10, when a website is taking longer to launch than expected, when a marketing automation platform is failing to convert, or when a digital campaign is just not getting the results expected, it comes down to lack of CONTENT.

That’s when it hit us. At the very core of what Semify does to get great results in SEO is content. Tons and tons of content written by their team daily. So why were we just using that for SEO purposes for our clients?

Suddenly, every website sales pitch included the question, "Okay great, so who on your team is writing the content for the site? Do you need us to do that?" Every marketing automation platform pitch contains, "We’ll need blog articles to send out through the automation, and whitepapers, and graphics etc… Will that be provided by your team or would you like us to help you with that?" Every email campaign, every PPC campaign, every landing page… That is what changed things for us. We suddenly started looking at integrating everything with great content at the heart of it, and guess what happened?

We started showing amazing results to our existing clients. We started getting more referrals, and the conversations with new leads showed them that we aren’t a, "We’ll just do what we’re told" agency for hire. We’re a seasoned group of digital marketers who will guide our clients through best practices to get results, and when that started coming across in our sales presentations, well… let’s just say that we had to close down our sales pipeline for a little while this past summer because we were "at capacity" in the client department. We’re still small, but we’re also still growing, and I can tell you that our relationship with Semify continues to grow as well, and we’re better for it.