MBED, a hands-on marketing agency based in San Francisco, is LeadGenius’ digital agency of record. We sat down with principals, Graham Biller and Evan Romano, to discuss maximizing value from the Google Partners program, marketing for marketing agencies, and guiding a client’s overall marketing strategy.
What type of marketing agency is MBED and what kind of services do you provide?
Evan Romano: MBED is a digital media agency focused on digital strategy, paid media, content marketing, and analytics. Beyond that, what makes us unique is our creative partner network. We work very closely with a network of production companies in the Bay Area to produce content on behalf of the client, and we work with them collaboratively on the media strategy side of things.
Who are some of the clients MBED works with in addition to LeadGenius?
Evan Romano: We fortunately have a pretty diverse client roster. We have worked with bigger well-known global brands such as JanSport all the way down to brand-new non-profits that are just getting off the ground. Our clients include JanSport, The Workers Lab, Cordblood Registry, RelayRides, Outdoor Research, and New Relic to name a few. Our ideal kind of relationship is definitely a growing business, who may not have a full in-house media strategy team yet.
What are some of the channels that MBED uses to market its own services? Are you guys doing pay-per-click, speaking at conferences, writing articles, e-mails, relying heavily on referrals?
Graham Biller: We’ve grown just by word of mouth and through the relationships that we have with agencies. We don’t advertise anywhere. I suppose we have some listings, such as the Google Partner Network, for example, but we don’t do any advertising. We’re pretty happy and comfortable at the size that we are. We haven’t tried to rush growth when it comes to our portfolio of clients. We aim to do really outstanding work for the clients that we have and scale as they grow their businesses.
Evan Romano: We’re obviously aware of the channels and opportunities that are out there, and I think when the time is right for us, we will invest in certain channels, but nine times out of ten, new business for us is generated by the partnership that we have with other businesses. So partnerships have been our lifeblood, really.
How does participating in a program like Google Partners add value to your business, if at all?
Graham Biller: First and foremost, it’s just having access to the resources that Google provides, with respect to their products. So there’s a variety of training resources, guides and whatnot, as well as tests that you have to pass in order to become certified as a Google Partner. Resources like that add a lot of value.
Google Partners does at least one webinar every week. Those are useful, because they’re about new product developments and announcements. In terms of our relationship with our clients – and just our business in general – it’s very important that we be on the cutting edge of those developments.
When we talk to a new or prospective client, there is a lot of value in being able to go to them and say “There’s this new development with TrueView,” for example, which is YouTube’s advertising platform, or “Google just rolled out a new Marketing Experiments feature. This is what it means for your business.” Industry expertise is another way that we can provide value. Even if we don’t end up working with that client at that moment, just the fact that we’re informing them about new developments and pointing them in the right direction, can engender word of mouth and make them more likely to say “Oh, guess what Graham from MBED told me about what’s going on with AdWords?”
Are there any individual pieces of Google Partners content, such as the webinars, one-sheeters, or agency decks, that have been of particular value to you guys?
Graham Biller: Google recently put out a study on the consumer journey and the path to purchase that I found very helpful, but I wouldn’t just point to one and say, “this is the one resource that everyone should see.” Collectively these Google resources make up a body of knowledge that anyone in the space should seek out and try to absorb.
The Google Partners tests themselves are a good learning tool. Anybody that is in this space should take the Google Partners tests or at least familiarize themselves with the resources. Tests like these help you internalize information. Google Partners also has search and referral program for agencies, but ultimately the value Google provides to agencies is more about helping them learn the services they sell inside and out.
Evan Romano: Apart from Google Partners, there are many other Google resources that we do find very valuable. For example, Google Insights and Google Trends are also very useful. With Trends, you can search and combine various keywords by region to analyze search volume over time.
To what degree does MBED consult on strategy beyond the click? How important is it for an agency handling digital advertising and paid media to have a consultative function in the overall marketing strategy of a client?
Evan Romano: I think it’s absolutely necessary. I don’t think we would be able to deliver the value we do if contributing to a company’s overall marketing strategy was not an integral part of our offering. It’s central to our approach.
Graham Biller: Digital marketing is fundamentally multidisciplinary. You have to determine who the target audience is and where the target audience is. Then let’s say that you figure that out. You now need to decide where your client should be advertising. Then, you must understand what that audience is expecting and needs to see on a landing page. Determining what else you can do to support a user in that path to purchase or in that path to the action is an iterative process with the client.
Of course, the click is important. You want to find the right people and deliver those clicks at the most cost-efficient value, but you can deliver a ton of traffic with a variety of techniques. If those clicks aren’t becoming new customers, then what value are the ads really bringing and what value are you as an agency really bringing?
This is why MBED puts a heavy focus on analytics. Analytics and tracking ROI is one of our greatest strengths. We’re able to not only deliver and optimize clicks based on the audience with various mechanisms, but we’re also able to refine the quality of that traffic. Using analytics, we dig deeper into consumer behavior and deliver more for our clients, far beyond the click.
How has the near industry-wide adoption marketing of automation platforms such as Marketo, Hubspot, and Pardot changed the nature of your relationship with clients?
Graham Biller: The advent of these platforms has pushed us to learn and evolve. If a client uses HubSpot or Marketo, and we need to integrate into that sales model, then we find a way to do it. Lead generation through HubSpot landing pages, for example, and tracking behavior through it into Salesforce is one of the ways that automation platforms have pushed us to drive more effective and cost-efficient leads.
On the other hand, I just read a blog post by Cordblood’s VP of Marketing, Tia Newcomer, where she made a great point about the importance of a human touch. She’s right. Consumers know there’s automation going on behind the scenes, and marketers need to deliver on opportunities to delight them with wonderful, personal experiences.
MBED works with some pretty sizable clients. Most of these clients likely have a good degree of in-house marketing expertise, maybe even in-house SEO and SEM expertise. How do you ensure that you work smoothly with a client’s internal marketing team?
Graham Biller: We are able to work with clients in a way that makes sense to them. If it’s us going client-direct and they have an internal marketing team, we’re obviously not going to be redundant.
Prior to us ever contracting with a client, we find out what the internal team does well and where they need support. If, for example, there is internal SEM proficiency, we likely wouldn’t get our hands too dirty in their media buying on AdWords or Bing/Yahoo. That being said, we still audit all the various activities that they are doing and figure out where there might be areas to improve. For example, there might be a more efficient way to reach an audience through SEM, or there may be display or video opportunities that they’re missing.
When it comes to establishing metrics, do you look to the client for guidance, or do you take the helm?
Evan Romano: We start every new client conversation with a discussion of their strategic business goals. The client may know that they have an exact target cost for acquisition, or they may not yet have a complete understanding of what exactly they’re looking for. A discussion of business goals at large is a good primer to help get them there. Depending on where that conversation goes, we end up making certain recommendations that, in our experience, would deliver on their goals in the best possible way. We do a ton of research for every client to find opportunities that are going to deliver the results that they’re looking for, so we always have a good idea of what will work going into the conversation.
What do you do when the channels that are working well for a client begin to max out?
Graham Biller: If a particular channel is doing very well, we’ll try to find similar channels from the get-go, regardless of whether it’s tapped out.
On the other hand, as various channels get optimized and businesses grow, goals often change. So for example, let’s say that search acquisition channels are performing well for a particular client. The leads that are coming in are great and they’re converting and the company is growing, but we have reached our keyword volume on Bing and Google. Shifting spend into display or video, would help drive brand awareness and create more organic searches for that client. At that point, those types of opportunities become more appealing for a company that has maxed out its search acquisition channel.
Search is an incredibly powerful tool, but it’s only the beginning.
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