Content Marketing for B2B and SAAS Companies - Tips From Ryan Stewart

I recently chatted with my friend, Ryan Stewart, about his journey and his outstanding success with content marketing for B2B and SAAS businesses.

Ryan is one of the best SEOs in the game.  He's built and sold a number of businesses that run 100 percent on organic traffic including his SEO agency, “WEBRIS,” which he scaled to seven figures inside of 18 months, and his SAAS business; The Blueprint Training. WEBRIS was successfully acquired last year and he's now a partner at From The Future agency and The Blueprint Training.  

In this interview, Ryan was good enough to share some of his secret sauce, process and tips with tangible examples for how you can generate bottom-line business results with great content, marketing and measurement.

Table of Contents:

  1. Ryan’s Journey / Background

  2. Keys to Scaling a B2B Service Business

  3. How to Generate Organic Leads With Content Marketing

  4. The Difference Between B2B, SAAS and eCommerce Marketing Strategy

  5. The Best Ways to use Data for Business Results

  6. Advice for Marketing Clients - How to get the Most out of Your Agency

  7. Advice for Agencies - How to Get the Most Out of Your Clients

  8. What’s Next for Ryan


Can you tell us about your journey - where you're at today and some background about how you got there? 

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RYAN:        For sure.  I don't have a starving entrepreneur story, like a lot of people do.  I'm normal, went to college, played football there, majored in business, graduated in -- I was super lucky because I graduated in 2009 when the economy was terrible.  But through the network from my school, I was able to get a job in consulting -- a really good company, Deloitte. I did that for a few years, moved to Washington D.C. from Boston, originally.  And then when I was in D.C., they moved me down to Miami. That's how I ended up in Miami. And then shortly after that, I quit. 

I was doing a lot of data analytics software consulting for really big organizations.  But during that time, I hated it. You know what I’m saying? I didn't like being told when to show up.  I didn't like having to wear a suit every day. I didn't like any of that. 


So I was in a coffee shop one day and I was working on some side hustles at that time -- this was probably 2010-2011 -- and I overheard some guy talking about SEO.  And that was when I was first introduced to it.

I just fell in love with it [SEO] and realized that through that, I could take my life into my own hands. If you can control the internet, you can control traffic.  You can basically build a business off the back of that, and that's really what I did. 

So after a few partially failed ventures, I started a very early Instagram influencer marketing platform that was just way too early.  This was before Instagram was bought by Facebook. But through that and learning and failing and going out and forced myself in uncomfortable situations -- I'm just a painful introvert.  But forcing myself to go out to like meet-ups and networking events, just a lot of growth happened, a lot of amazing things happened. You put yourself in the position to succeed. And if you just keep pushing and pushing and pushing through these little failures, it's cliché, but you do eventually end up at a much higher level and much better spot. 

I actually then started an SEO agency with this kid that I met through a meet-up.  He ended up screwing me over. I lost a lot of money on it. But again kept pushing through that.  This is in like 2013. That was when I started the original version of WEBRIS which was basically just a blog. 

At that time, I also went back and became a contractor at SapientNitro which is a huge, huge marketing agency and learned a lot about how marketing agency should function, project management, account management, communications, how to email, how to have fluent conversations with clients, how to manage angry clients.  All those types of things that you run into. It's tough to learn when you're kind of on your own without that grooming going through an agency. 

So I took that knowledge and then that's when I started WEBRIS.  Originally, we were just a link building agency because I was doing a lot of guest blogging.  I got a lot of leads that way. I launched our link building training and that did really well.  And then that just pushed us into being more of a full service SEO agency. We grew really fast -- Hit about 1.1 in revenue in about 18 months as you alluded to.  Got up to about 11 employees locally. And then we were merged, acquired with From The Future agency at Philadelphia in late 2017 or early 2018. 

I'm a partner there now.  I handle the marketing for that company. I'm remote down here in Miami.  We still have an office around here in Miami, but most of my time now is spent with The Blueprint Training which is an agency training platform and then developing some software and some other fun things as well.


I'd love to get a little bit of insight into some of the keys to your success as a B2B service provider.  Was there any secret sauce that led to scaling WEBRIS so quickly, and at the same time delivering a top-notch service to your clients? 


RYAN:        Number one is focusing on the quality of your service.  Your service is your product. And as you grow then your people are your product.  Where we're at with the agency now, From The Future, we have about 40 employees. 


We actually had a conversation today about the marketing because we're redoing our branding.  And one of our visual designers put in illustrations and I said;


“Our brand is our people.  We need to show photorealistic. I want to show our people and all of our stuff.” That's ultimately what we're selling.  We're selling our time. We're selling our people. That's our product.

 
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But when you're first getting started, it’s just you -- your services, your product and focusing on how you can fine-tune that to be -- to deliver the upmost quality of work is something that a lot of people get into -- especially five, six, seven years ago and SEO is really easy, they just got into it because you could make money.  But I didn't see it that way. I saw it as a point of pride, especially with the link building stuff. 

I started learning more process development -- how to turn your service into a process so it's streamlined, how to reduce errors in your service -- all those types of things.  Taking what's almost like an assembly line approach, and managing your service that way through processes, through really amazing training for your people. Again, focusing on the quality of your service. 

And then after you get to a certain point and a certain level of growth and you have employees then it's about having them maintain the quality of that service, the quality of those processes, continuing to build and iterate on those processes.  But then your job as the owner, as the manager, is to make sure that those people are as happy as possible. And then all the other things that go into running a traditional business too; marketing sales, operations, HR, finance, all those things. 

But really getting started, it's about the quality of your service and the results that you can ultimately drive for your clients.  That's really what it comes down to. If you can do that, you can make a million dollars. It's not overly difficult.

You've had some great success in generating and converting B2B leads for your own companies, using SEO, organic traffic and content marketing.  I’d love it if you could give a little bit of insight into the type of content strategies that have gotten great results for you, in terms of lead generation.

RYAN:        Yeah, absolutely.  You know when I was first getting started, it was all about blogging back in 2012.  It's all about blogging now. That's where we've come.  But any time it's all about something, it's a little bit too late. The market is just saturated with blogging.  It’s really, really hard to get right back in 2012-2013 from just written content. It's still an important part of it but there's a lot more to it. 

And a perfect example is this, I was talking to my business partner, Nick, about this a couple of weeks.  So he published a blog post and he was like; “Man, I usually get a lot more comments, a lot more engagement.” I was like, “People are becoming blind.” You know what I'm saying? We’re driven by newsfeeds, we’re saturated, we're inundated with information.  You've got to be looking for a white space when it comes to content marketing, right? 

So back when I first got started, it was about blogging.  It was about documenting things that I was doing that were working.  Detailed case studies, things like that. But now, especially with the state of where we are with SEO in particular where there's just no more secrets, there's no more hacks, like we all know how to do it now, right?  To me, now, it's more about executing and doing that responsibly and scaling it. 

Now my content strategy is much moving more just away from written word.  Written word is still an important part of it from an SEO point of view. But video, social media, understanding how your content needs to mold and mesh to different networks. 

Another example is Twitter.  Somebody who is managing our agency's account just keeps on tweeting links.  And I'm like;

“Twitter is not a promotion platform. Twitter is a conversational platform.” 

If you want to have success on Twitter, you have to be actively finding like a -- if there's a conference, (SearchLove just happened), just hit that hashtag and just talking to people, engaging with people.  That's how you build engagement on a platform like that. So, to me, content has gotten much more platform-specific. It's gotten medium-specific. 

You have to be willing to invest money into it now, too.  I mean advertising is a huge part of it. But even with advertising, understanding the type of content that you should be advertising. 

I just got off a call. A friend of mine owns a series of gyms down here in Miami and he wanted me to talk to his advertising agency about what they're doing and I told, basically, “Just talk to the advertising agency.  The success isn't on you. It's actually on him. The lack of success isn't on them as the advertising agency. It’s on the client because he's not giving you the type of content you need. He's giving you one hyped-up video that they're trying to run over and over and over again.  That's not enough, man.

You need new content almost every day that you should be cycling through your ads.”

You know what I mean?  So to me, if you want to do content the right way, you have to take a multi-channel approach, a multi-medium approach.  And then also your promotional strategy; you have to invest in it even if there's no ROI to it. Like I look at advertising for a lot of what I'm doing for myself as a sunk cost.  That, to me, is a cost of doing business now.

Like I won't even start promoting a product or like the Blueprint. I was advertising videos with no call to action for six months, just to get the market used to my face, having a little bit of trust and having a little bit awareness.  Just videos of content, of value, adding short five to 10-minute videos discussing different marketing things and different tips and agency tricks and stuff like that and building video views as a remarketing tool, based as an email list within Facebook. 

Once I went through that process and invested, I don't know, like $15,000 at least in those ads, then when I launched the Blueprint.  I have to look at that as an investment in the business. That's a sunk cost that I'm pushing into an investment to the business. Once you have that done, then it's a lot easier to start advertising and driving more sales messages with your stuff.  Content is everything. 

If you want to do marketing well right now, it's simple.  It's two things. It's content and promotion. But within those two things, it's a whole universe of things; understanding the type of content, not just coming up with the right topics, but understanding how you're going to communicate it.  Are you educating? Are you informing? Are you entertaining? Are you funny? All these different things. Your content should have its own personality.  And then you have to promote it and get in front of your audience consistently over and over and over again or people forget about you.

Would you say the strategy is much different for a business-to-business or high-ticket SAAS compared to say an e-commerce business?  And if so, what are the more effective strategies ?

RYAN:        Yes, absolutely.  I can give you tangible examples.  It’s a few years ago now but I had a e-commerce store called Laces Out, we sold shoelaces.  And my content strategy for that, especially because -- so there's just a million things that go into it, right?  But number one was understanding, again, that content is an investment. It's not just like, “Hey, let me write some blog post.  It's free.” It's not. 

So understand that selling a $6 product, I have to understand how much I can invest in my content.  It's got to be much more of a viral content strategy, something that is going to reach a lot of people.  I'm going to get a lot more value out of that content, right? Also understand the audience -- the people who are buying shoelaces and how it’s positioning as a sneaker shoelace.  I was able to do that. 

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So the content that I was focusing on was a lot more like roundup style videos, sneaker release date, stuff like that, that people would want to share, that people would help promote for me with a little bit of spend.  And it also didn't cost that much for me to get that content created and get it out there. And that varies obviously based on what you're selling. But understanding what it is that you can and should be spending on your content for e-commerce, also understanding that it's not a direct one-to-one ROI.  Like content is also a brand investment. There's a whole bunch of things that go into it.


But when it comes to B2B on the completely opposite side of the coin.  Like what we're doing now From The Future, I'm actually very hands-on. I just took on the role of CMO for the agency so I'm just managing all the marketing now.  In that positioning, we only work with what we call -- so we actually sat down as management and on a whiteboard, we're like, “Who are we as an agency and who do we want to sell to” and we came up with certain words that personified the agency and the type of clients and the type of accounts that we want.

So, one of the big words is “Enterprise.”  We are an enterprise marketing agency because enterprise to me and to the market, tells you that we position ourselves as a large enterprise organization.  We want to work with bigger accounts. So everything that we're doing within that scope of content creation has to be for enterprise organizations. 

 
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And again, getting our people involved, too.  We're not selling ourselves anymore. When I first got started and we’re working with more business owners, I was speaking more to business owners because I was selling to them.  But now, we're getting our people, giving them the spotlight. I'm architecting and being the puppeteer to get them in the right position. 

I'm making sure that it speaks towards that audience -- so on my website now in webris.org, which is much more for small business SEO, I have an article about content audits.  That was actually written more for kind of like do-it-yourself type. You know; “Here's a template for you.” But this version of a content audit is much more data-driven.  It's much more analytics-driven, it’s much more talking a lot more technical API stuff. 

And even the words that I'm using in that, it's like understanding how to do this for large enterprise legacy websites.  Like listing out the different types of CMS's, like how to handle data for when you have a spreadsheet row over a hundred thousand URLs -- stuff like that.  Just like little positioning within the content. And we're speaking to a much smaller audience. 

And then when I go out and promote that, the advertising video that I'm going to shoot to talk about that is going to like the question that I'm going to open with.  It’s going to be something like, “Are you having trouble collecting all the URLs on your website to audit?” Or when you have a 20-year old website, you collect a lot of cruft on your website.  You have to go through and audit these pages.

So I'm speaking more to that audience.  And then also on top of that, understanding that I'm speaking to internal marketing managers and internal marketing teams.  I'm not speaking to business owners. So I'm not speaking in terms of ROI. I'm not speaking in terms of keyword rankings. I'm speaking in terms of like; “We can help you get this done because I know that you're overloaded.”

So not only from a strategy point of view but like, “you should unload some of your workload.  We can basically be your outsourced team to work with you from a strategic point of view and help you to get this content audit done.”  So again, like just speaking in that language. Like, understanding what their pain points are as internal marketing teams. 

We’re having a blog post written now that talks about how to sell SEO to your senior executives.  Because a lot of times I know that those internal marketing teams, it's a tough -- A $20,000 a month SEO contract is a tough sell.  So I'm going out and I'm building a blog post and a video that's going to give them the ammunition to have that conversation. The amount of people that are going to see that video is a lot less but the impact that that video and that content is going to have is going to be much more. 

Again, it's understanding that like if I'm doing something for Laces Out, I’d do an unboxing video of sneakers.  That might get a million views. That's awesome. But the amount of sales it’s going to drive is probably minimal off that because it's a small pivot to go from unboxing sneakers and selling sneaker shoelaces. 

When I'm doing specific high ticket B2B sales, I need to know exactly who the audience is and understand that it's probably not going to get those same vanity metrics in terms of views, shares, engagement.  But, if I can just connect with one of those people and resonate with them, they send that to their team, we've got a half-million-dollar contract on our hands. it’s more of a long game. 

It’s knowing who your audience is.  It's knowing how to properly communicate that.  Speak to their language. Speak to their pain points. 

And it's the same thing if you're doing that for a cheap e-commerce product.  Again, understanding just like the differences and the performances and what you should be looking at.  It's a completely different ballgame. Same overall strategic approach but it's a different ballgame in terms of how you execute it.

JUSTIN:      Absolutely -  So, you're catering to a buyer journey, but it's a much different sale cycle.  In your case - understanding that enterprise client, knowing their pain-points, delivering the right content and marketing channels for that user, and aligning your messaging for them.


I know you and David Krevitt, who's your partner in The Blueprint Training, are big on using data to drive business results.  In your experience, what would you say are the most important things to know in order to make good use of data as an agency or SAAS marketer? 

RYAN:        Yeah, great question.  I think it’s understanding the context.  So what I was talking about before too, is like data is all around us.  And data could be interpreted in different ways. But if I'm talking about content, like understanding the right data to mind, that's driving towards my business goals. 

I do a lot of YouTube marketing.  And of course, it's easy for me to fall into that vanity metric of looking out like how many views each video gets.  I could pander to that, per se, by creating more viral topics. I know certain video topics that I'll do that will get a lot more views.  But that's not necessarily the data that's going to drive my business forward. 

 
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But at the same time, also, that data and understanding that data and how that plays into the overall bigger picture of like, “Yeah, it's going to give me more YouTube subscribers which is going to drive more views on future videos, which is going to drive more perceived authority,” so like, understanding how data plays into different parts of your marketing and understanding which parts to pull. 

And again, like understanding which data points matter versus which points don't.  I mean like understanding when you should be looking at ROI versus traffic as a metric, keyword rank -- all these different things.  And we're so inundated and surrounded by so much different data that it's easy to kind of get overwhelmed by it and then also misinterpret it.  But understanding that you need to be looking at data for the right context of what it is that you're looking at. 

I don't look at sales data or leads data from analytics.  I'm looking at just things like, “What are my top landing pages?  What are my top traffic sources,” how has that changed over time? 

And that, again, is something that if you go in there and check it every day, you're going to obsess over it.  You're going to fall into a trap of just wasting time looking at data for the point of it because that also moves super slowly.  And if you're checking it every day, it's like watching paint dry. You know what I’m saying?

You need to give things time to pick up, to collect the right data, to analyze it then make the right decisions off of it. 

I do check Ahrefs almost every day though for keyword rank -- it’s a traffic analysis just to keep me in context.  I'll look at that as -- it's a lot faster for one. But it also gives me more of a pulse. It's also just something I’m low-key kind of addicted to as an SEO, just looking at how my sites are fluctuating up and down, just understanding overall performance.  And then I'll check sales data like for Blueprint.

David is such an amazing partner because he complements my skill set on everything in what he's able to do.  He has one of the most unique skill sets there is. And one of his is automation and data and basically what he calls like the “lazy way of doing things” which is actually the smart way of doing things and the not lazy way of doing things. 

He automated things through Slack.  I'm in Slack all the time. And he automated our sales and our signups through different Zaps into Slack.  So I’ll see every time we get a sale. I'll see a pop up in the Slack. So I actually don't have to check our sales data. 

We'll basically just have like a monthly call where we kind of review our finances, talk about what we want to do with the cash because neither of us are spending any of the cash that we make from the Blueprint.  It's just in the investment portfolio, basically, that will push in other things. But yeah, I don't know if that answered your question. 

There's a million different things that you can do with data and it's easy to get overwhelmed by it.  But it is really important to understand the context of what to look at, when to look at and how to interpret it, too.


JUSTIN:      I think the “Lazy Way” is super important when it comes to data.  Not looking at every metric (because that can cause “analysis paralysis”) but just looking at those key metrics that are actually going to drive what you're doing as a business and change the way that you behave. Knowing what to automate to pull those metrics together easily and visualize them clearly so you can spend time on what has the most value. 

 
 

You mentioned that you and David are working on a software for data automation.  Did you want to chat about that a bit?

RYAN:        Yeah.  I'm always down to plug my stuff.  Thank you. So as you mentioned, within the Blueprint so I met David.  He actually sent me a cold email probably like four years ago. He was like, “Hey, I see you doing a lot of stuff and blogging in the SEO space.  I help marketers leverage data better by automating things. If I can lend my services to you for free, we'll just come up with basically a co-marketing plan.”

And he helped me build the content audit that I was referring to earlier which was basically Google Sheets file that pulls data from Google Analytics, Google Search Console, SEMrush, and then crunches some numbers.  It will basically spit out to you at a URL level like the SEO quality of each page. That's like four or five years ago now which is pretty amazing just to do this piece.


He opened my eyes to all the different things that you can do in Google Sheets.  And why that was so important is because it's Agile. He basically built a piece of software in two days that we were then able to take and communicate and use like an awesome not only marketing tool but we use -- we still to this day -- that eventually evolved into the website quality audit which is a cornerstone of what we do From The Future. 

And we're working with huge clients.  You know what I’m saying? Like all of our clients love that report.  And that's built in Google Sheets which is pretty amazing. 

The problem though is that when you work a lot in Google Sheets and you're doing all these different things and you have all these different ideas, what happens is Google Sheets sets a limit, right?  Google Sheets isn't software. It is software but it's not software. The processing power, it can slow down very quickly. And if you have multiple hands working in it then you have all this data in there then it just creates a lot of frustration. 

So Google has a platform called “BigQuery” which most people don't know about.  In layman's terms, it's a cloud processing engine that allows you to crunch massive amounts of data very quickly.  So again, our website quality audit pulls data from seven different sources. If you’re target.com and you've got 10 million URLs on your website, you can't possibly pull that down in the Sheets.  It'll crash, right? I think the Sheets’ limit is probably 5000 URLs. It’s not that big. 

But in BigQuery, you can bypass using Sheets at all.  You basically just have to use SQL and Python to push that up into BigQuery.  It'll process the engine and then it will spit it out into a different visualization source that you want.  So you can push the sheets afterwards. You can push the Data Studio or Tableau. Whatever you want really, right? 

The problem with BigQuery is that you have to know SQL. It's a major pain in the ass to use. I don't know it. David does. But David basically built a.. call it for lack of a better understanding term, the Zapier for BigQuery.  So basically, we're allowing you to connect to your APIs. 

We're actually reaching out to companies now.  We just got access to DeepCrawl’s API, SEMrush API.  So you don't need to pay for that anymore. Basically, it's like if you want to combine different data from different sources, like if you want Facebook ads data, you want your Salesforce data, we're basically going to help you combine all that into a massive powerful processing engine which is BigQuery and then visualize it in different reports. 

And the cool thing about BigQuery too, is you can also automate it.  So like that monthly report that we have, you have to currently run it in Data Studio.  You have to refresh it. You can set BigQuery to set the date ranges, set the refresh and it will refresh that in the Data Studio automatically. 

Instead of going out and building like a react front-end for like a monthly reporting software -- That's slow.  It's going to stay forever. It's going to be expensive -- we're basically just saying, “We're just going to play the in-between.  We're going to be the data guys that help you basically build your own software through BigQuery and then spitting it out into Data Studio,” which is just really starting to take over the market especially for SEOs for reporting.  It's basically building your own custom software with a massive powerful process unit. 

So that's called “Query Recipes.”  So the website's going to be “query.recipes.”  We're currently just finishing the UX and the UI for the app.  But it's done and it's pretty awesome. And we're hoping to take that to market by like August which would be super exciting.


What's the best piece of advice you could give a business to make sure they’re getting the most value out of their relationship with their agency or marketing service provider? 


RYAN:        Oh that's a good question.  I’ve never actually put myself in that position..


Me and David now have a portfolio of companies.  We're actually launching just a WordPress plugin, too, called Capture & Convert which probably we’ll be launching next week. I hadn't talked about it much because it’s pretty small.  But we've got a portfolio of companies now between the Blueprint, Query Recipes, Capture & Convert and some other stuff that we're investing in. 


And I actually want to either hire like a consultant or -- not a consultant actually because we have the mindset but somebody to help us execute all these different things that we want.  Like email marketing, all these different things. We want kind of a growth marketer. But we're also looking at agencies to help us out. 


So it's funny because I think of it now, from being on the agency side of things and like understanding -- and if any of our clients are watching, I apologize but like understanding like the “pain-in-the-ass client”, like how much of a pain in the ass they are.  I understand it a little bit more now because you do have to -- you have to stay on top of it. You know what I’m saying? 


There's a fine line between harassing your agency and getting the most out of them. And you have to tow that line. But I do think it is appropriate that you make sure that your agency hits deadline.  If the agency is doing everything that they're contracted and promised to do, you can't really fault them.

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You can't be pain in the ass, right?  But if they're not then you should definitely be stepping in and making sure -- like holding them accountable. You know what I mean? I don't think there's anything wrong with that. 

The challenging part for that is that a lot of clients, for lack of a better term, aren't sophisticated enough to know how to do that.  Especially when it comes to something SEO, all they know how to look at, potentially, is like the results. But SEO is a long process. 

And you need somebody internally.  If you want to hire a good agency, you should have somebody internally who can communicate with that agency.  That's not just like, “Hey, where is this? Hey, where are my results? Why isn't this happening?” Like you need somebody who can go along the line and be like, “Okay, keyword research, this is good,” right?  And if there's a problem with that, to have a conversation with the agency to fix it, to do a better whatever. That's really important. 

If you can't do that, I tell these people all the time, then you should hire somebody in-house.  I see the value in agencies because you hire an agency when you either have too much work to do, you need something very specific done, you need short contract work done or you need end-to-end stuff and end-to end knowledge that you don't have in-house.

Before you contract an agency you need to have an internal marketing person. You can get somebody very good for $5000 a month. Let that person grow you, take you to the next level, build your internal kind of like different marketing avenues and then let them decide where you need contractor, consultant or agency support as you continue to grow.  I always think it's a bad idea when a business will come to us, want to pay us $10,000 a month and they don't have anyone internally that can communicate with us and manage this.

From the agency point of view, it's not like we do stuff and we send it to you and it doesn't get done.  Like understanding that an agency is not necessarily going to do it.

There's certain things that you as a client have to do and take upon yourself to get done.  If we send you a list of recommendations that you need to do, you need to do it. If you're the business owner, you're probably not going to get them done and then your campaign is not going to get it to where you want it to be. 

My biggest piece of advice, is honestly; Before you hire an agency, hire somebody who can manage your marketing because marketing is so vast now. 

And it's not enough to just do SEO.  You need to be doing social. You need to be doing email.  You need to be building content. Like, you need to be doing 20 different things, that you could hire an agency to do each one of those for.  You should have somebody internally who can manage the agency to do all these things for you. So before you hire an agency, hire somebody. 

Because if you're the business owner and you’re trying to manage an agency, you're not going to get the results you want.  You're going to spend a lot of money. It’s not going to happen for you.

JUSTIN:      So basically, business should have a dedicated resource, a marketing director or whatever the title is, who can communicate with the agency and who is good at communicating with the agency, and knows how to hold them accountable for the right things.  

RYAN:        Absolutely.

On the other side of the coin, what's your best piece of advice for agencies that want longer, more fruitful relationships with their clients? 

RYAN:        Hire somebody to handle your communications, whether that's an account manager, project manager.  Even when a client is super upset, that doesn't always mean they're ready to fire you, right? Like there's a certain time that you need to step in as a business owner or manager or executive, whatever that may be.  If a client is really pissed or something, the ball got dropped. But most of the time things can be fixed with just good communication. 

Like our account -- we call them AMPMs which is -- no, actually, sorry, we call them “CS,” which is Client Success.  But they're basically AMPM. And we're actually getting ready to break up that role a little bit more and just have dedicated account managers because the level of communication that we need with bigger clients is huge.  Like ongoing communications. You need someone to manage that. It's incredibly important. 

Even if things are going to be late, it's fine.  But you need somebody who's ahead of the game and can communicate that to a client and understand how to talk them off the cliff.  You know what I’m saying? 

Also be like the shield because if all that stuff is filtering up to the CEO or you and the executive, whatever it is, running an agency is not going to be a good business for you.  You need someone who can like take that part of the stress off your plate and let you focus on other things which, as a business owner, as you grow, should be business development and quality of products, right? 

And then also hiring for the quality of your service and product and all that stuff.  But that kind of goes hand-in-hand with like your customer success. So I would say, honestly, like the sooner the better. The biggest question I was going to ask is like, “Who should be my first hire at the agency?”  And it should either be one of two people in my mind. It should either be somebody who's going to manage your service. We're talking about like a handful of clients. So somebody’s going to help you out with service delivery or somebody's going to help you out with communications.  To me, those are the only two first hires. 

Some people will tell you to go hire like a revenue-generating position.  No, you're the business owner. That should be your responsibility. Even if you are terrible salesperson like I am, that's something that you need to develop or get really good at marketing, right, and have the leads come to you.  But communication and client happiness and -- again I can't tell you how many times that a client will get mad in like month two and raise hell. If you don't deal with that the right way, if you don't have somebody to help you deal with that and help you put out fires, an agency is going to be a terrible stressful experience. 

So definitely get either somebody on board who can help you take your service to the next level then help take that stuff off your plate or just handle all the communications.  You know client happiness -- all that stuff.

Is there anything else that's coming down the line for you? What's next? 

RYAN:        Basically, the agency, “From The Future, is growing on my time, actually, more and more.  As we grow and as we take up more market share, me and Nick see that as probably a 5 to 10-year play to keep growing that and building it. 

Nick is the CEO.  He's the majority owner of it.  I support his vision. Basically, his vision is to take that agency, kind of what -- it’s kind of ironic.  He hates Gary Vaynerchuk. I don't. But he hates Gary Vaynerchuk. But they have a similar mindset. Like Gary V. is building his agency to be his own talent pool to then go off and acquire businesses and use his talent to run those businesses, right?  Nick has a very similar strategy with the agency, is to bring these people in. 

We have amazing smart staff now.  And it's like we have all these people, we should be building our own assets.  So we're starting to build our own access at the agency in terms of like software, in terms of different websites. 

So Nick's long term vision for the agency is to build it to -- we want to get like 50 million revenue, build an awesome talent pool and then also spin off our own businesses that we can then sell basically the client book of business, sell the brand and then retain certain seats, certain people that we can then pluck and run our own software, our different products.  So the agency is really growing and that's amazing. 

I'm only a quarter owner in that business.  And while I love it, it's my baby, it's not my full attention.  The Blueprint Training is something that's taken probably the bulk of my time over the last six months.  David Krevitt is my partner in that and we see the Blueprint as -- it’s because it's such a high margin business, its training, the only thing that really goes into it is time and advertising, right? 


And we hired a support guy, too.  Andre is awesome. He’s pretty cheap.  But aside from that, we don't really have any hard cost.  So we're just using that as basically our own fund. So we're continuously building and marketing Blueprint.  We’ll probably never be able to sell it because it runs through us. But just continuously building into the system and continuously adding more content and just getting more smart people like yourself in there who are active and slack that are going to take that community to the next level.  Then using the proceeds from that to then go out and fund. 

Me and David then started a parent LLC called “Coding is for Losers Ventures,” which is basically going to be our venture fund for the software that we build.  So we have Query Recipes. We have Capture & Convert. 

Again, using the Blueprint is almost kind of a think tank where you guys kind of request stuff from us.  We can go out and build it and then ideally take it to market. 

So that is my long-term visions -- continuously pushing more into like the venture, build our own assets and then eventually going out and starting to acquire assets, too.  [00:40:00] I don't really want to build stuff from the ground up anymore.  I'd rather go out and build our own evaluation mechanism where we go out, be like “Damn this ecommerce site is doing like 50k a month but we could get it to 500k a month by using our talents.”  You know what I mean? Then buying that. 

So like half a million dollar businesses, buying that if possible, if we get lucky enough to save that kind of capital, and then running and growing and scaling and selling those as part of our own funds.  So I see that as the long term, like 10-year thing. That’s like my ideal -- my dream life is to just basically build and scale, sell my own assets, turn them over and then go out and buy more. Every time, just like bigger and bigger and bigger caps on all those businesses.

JUSTIN:      Man, that's amazing.  Lots of exciting stuff,  really looking forward to watching this evolve and shape up for you! 

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions today.  I think we’ve got some great insights here, and people are going to get a ton or value off of this interview. 

Thank you again! 

RYAN:        Thanks for having me, Justin.

Justin Thomas