Data driven lead generation & sales funnels with Brent Weaver

Brent Weaver built his first website at 15, and created his first web-design business at 17. That company grew into a successful, 14-person web agency that was acquired in 2012. Since then has helped thousands of other web professionals master business skills through UGURUS.com, his business school for digital agencies. He creates educational programs that help agency owners work on their business to drive additional revenues, increase profits, and create freedom in their life.

In this episode of Data Beats Opinion, Brent and Keith discuss:

  • Understanding what data to look at, interpreting it correctly and following what the data tells you you should do, even when it feels uncomfortable
  • How to decide when a marketing campaign isn’t working
  • What your weekly scorecard should look like and why it’s important to have this data
  • Drilling your goals down to one simple idea that your team can rally behind
  • Using data to help clients decide on where to focus their energy first
  • Risk tolerance, monthly spend threshold and deciding when to move on what the data is telling you
  • The most important info to know to improve lead generation

You can find Brent at:

Transcript:

Keith:

Hello, this is Keith, and welcome again to another episode of Data Beats Opinion. I’m here with Brent Weaver from UGURUS. If you don’t know who UGURUS is, they are a business school for digital agencies. They have helped, what, over 1,000 agencies learn how to gain leads, be a better agency, and to grow. Brent, thank you so much for joining us today.

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. Thanks, Keith. Really excited to be on your program.

Keith:

Yeah. I’ve been on yours twice I think at this point. [crosstalk 00:00:38]

Brent Weaver:

I have some catching up to do, apparently.

Keith:

But I always enjoy talking with you and you bring a wealth of expertise to this space, which is working with agencies and being an agency. You had your own agency for 14 years?

Brent Weaver:

Just over 13 years.

Keith:

Just over 13.

Brent Weaver:

From 1999 to 2012.

Keith:

Wow. And now you are teaching other people to do what you did.

Brent Weaver:

Yeah, I mean, that was the initial premise. I think since then I’ve really understood that growing a coaching and training business is dramatically different than actually the business of running an agency. So some of it is teaching people how we ran our business, but also really staying on top of the types of models and frameworks that agencies can use to grow their business through marketing, sales, fulfillment operations, and all that good stuff.

Keith:

And do you feel that it’s changed? I mean, since 1999, that’s almost a lifetime ago as far as the internet’s concerned, right?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. I mean, at that time, the digital agency business model, I think, was pretty incomplete. I think businesses realized they needed to have websites and there were people that knew how to build the websites, but in terms of where does the website fit … is it in the IT department, is it the marketing department, is it in the engineering or software I think … So it depends. By that time, it was very much like the IT department did the website kind of thing. Nowadays it’s become more of a tool of marketers within businesses and understanding how to do all the lead gen and funnels and it’s become more of a business thing than … When I was really doing it, it was kind of a geeky tech thing of, “Oh, you know how to program, therefor you can make websites,” versus … I think it’s really evolved into more of a robust marketing platform with social media, with content, all that good stuff.

Keith:

Yeah, I remember … because ’99 is about when I started web design and web development as well. And I remember it was just a designer would come up with something nice and then the coder built it and then that was pretty much it. It’s like, we just need a business card to say that we exist on this internet web thing because no one knew how to monetize it and it was very difficult for everyone.

Brent Weaver:

It was the days of people getting paid $50 grand for a five-page website, which doesn’t happen as often anymore.

Keith:

Yeah. Now you just sign up for Leadpages or something and get a five-page website. It’s interesting, even five, six years ago, some of the tools that we were building is now something I pay $10 a month for and just anyone can use it. It’s wonderful, but it really changes the landscape as far as the talent and the skillset you need to be able to build it, right? But then that opens up a whole other world of now you have marketers, now you have agency owners being able to effectively touch and deal with this part of their business, where before they really had very little control over it.

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. I mean, you even look at … I mean, how much work would go into building a homepage or a couple of pages 10 years ago. Yes, you can build pages with $10 tools, but now you’re creating lots of different versions of the same page and you’re creating a lot more throwaway stuff. So it’s like, yes, it’s gotten easier, but it’s also simultaneously gotten way more difficult all at the same time. So it’s interesting that … I know a few years ago, people thought all these DIY tools, we’re going to really make web designers …

Keith:

Obsolete. But yeah.

Brent Weaver:

… obsolete. But really, it just meant that now we’re creating way more content, way more pages, and you still have to have marketers and web designers and all that good stuff.

Keith:

Right. It’s kind of like the promise of, I guess, work hours as well. It’s like, all this technology is going to make us work less because we can be more effective. Well, we’re much more effective but we’re working more because we’re always connected. I remember the days when if you wanted approval on something, you sent out mail. You sent out a physical package. It was going to be a week before you got approval on that or not. Now you need approval in, like, an hour because that’s what the clients have come to expect.

Keith:

But this has changed the way that we’re able to not only build websites and to build our marketing, but also to understand our marketing. That’s something that you have a lot of experience with and I think that you teach a lot in UGURUS, which is how do you then score and understand what your marketing is doing and how people are coming down that lead generation funnel?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. I mean, I think looking at what … I know this whole podcast is about data, so we can maybe use that word.

Keith:

You may or may not know this. I like geeking out on data, so …

Brent Weaver:

I think that it’s kind of like what you can track so many things these days, but what do you track? What is important? And also, how do you read that? I know from a personal story that a few years ago, I was having a really hard time figuring out why our business wasn’t profitable, and my first inclination was to look at where we were spending money and figure out if we can cut the spend or cut expenses, and looking at ad spend and thinking like, “Oh man, we’re spending too much money on ads.” Then we cut our ad budget and then it was like a month goes by and our revenue starts declining, and two months goes by and not only are we doing less revenue, but now we’re actually way less profitable because we’re not spending on something that actually was the solution.

Brent Weaver:

I remember coming to my business partner at the time and I said, “Oh my gosh, dude. We cut our ad spend to be more profitable. We should have tripled our ad spend.” And he kind of looked at me like, “What? Why would we spend more money?” And it just comes down to understanding the numbers in your business. Our gross profit margin required us to spend more. We needed to be bringing in more clients because of our gross profit margin, our fixed expenses, and some of these things. And so you can even take a number like ads and think that that’s an expense and we can save money by cutting that number, but if you really gather the data, you realize, “Oh, we should be tripling the spend, not cutting it in half.” Which I think a lot of people can be uncomfortable with, because the data tells you this is what you should do, but people have risk tolerance and what should you really be doing.

Brent Weaver:

I know I’ve told a story to other agency owners and even helped people with that where they go … I’m like, “Oh, you know what you need to do here. You need to spend eight times as much on advertising,” and they go, “What? What?” Because I’m like, “Well yeah, you’re using ads and you’re getting a client every six months through ads because you’re just not spending enough. If you guys want a client every month, you need to just … If that’s what you want, then you’ve got to put the fuel in, you’ve got to make it happen.”

Keith:

And that’s where that cost per acquisition … Because especially with an agency … and even with a SaaS, with anything … you have a lot of costs that you have to spend every month, whether or not you get a client, and a lot of those costs you can’t remove. You can’t remove your server cost, you can’t remove a lot of your tool cost, you can’t remove your employee cost without scaling down. So people look at an easy-to-cut number, which is those ads, and they cut that because it’s easy to cut. But it’s the lifeblood, it’s the engine that’s bringing in new customers.

Brent Weaver:

I think, too, also having an unrealistic expectation on how much it costs. I mean, if we’re just talking like a marketing side, or how much does it cost to acquire a customer, I’ve met agency owners who think that they should spend $300 on Google to earn a client. And I’m like, “Well, how much is that client worth to you?” They’re like, “Well … Yeah, a lifetime, $50,000.” I’m like, “Okay. In what world can you take $300, insert into a vending machine, and get $50 grand in return,” right? And so sometimes it’s just knowing what numbers to look at but also setting realistic expectations for ourselves.

Brent Weaver:

I personally think in terms of if I’m experimenting with a new marketing funnel, I’m typically going to experiment … I’ve got to set my threshold, but I’m usually willing to experiment with about 30% of the first 12 months of revenue. For us, just being a services business, and so before I start to say, “Well, this is probably not working how I want it to and I should probably make some changes.” But ultimately, I want to get to a 10% type of … only 10% of my revenues. In terms of customer acquisition costs, that number kind of feels good to me.

Keith:

Yeah. I think that, looking at E-commerce and the people who post about Facebook ads and Google ads and stuff, I think that skewed expectations because a lot of E-commerce places are like, “Oh, we get leads for $5.” And so even agencies or SaaS companies are like, “Well, why aren’t I getting a lead for $5?” It’s like, “Well, you’re not selling a $10 product.” But it does skew it, because I look at my own numbers and I’m like, “Why is it costing me $300 to get a lead?” Is that good? Is that bad? I don’t know. Until you know you return on ad spend, that number is really meaningless because you don’t know … especially at the beginning … what you should be getting your leads for.

Brent Weaver:

One of my clients came to me and said … He kind of had a similar situation. They were earning clients on using Facebook ads in particular for about $500. He was like, “Oh, this is working, so what else can I do to market my business? We’re getting about a client every month or every other month and we’re spending about $500 to $1,000 a month.” I was like, “Well, yeah, if you go do some other marketing, can you just increase your spending by 10 times?”

Keith:

This seems to work.

Brent Weaver:

Right. Yeah, “This seems to work. Can you just do more of this?” And I think sometimes that we think that that’s not a question that’s being asked. I have a blog post from years ago on my personal blog that’s, “Try to find the ceiling.” That’s something that we’ve done with our marketing funnel by running the marketing funnel by the numbers, saying, “Okay, generally speaking, we’re earning a client for $1,000 and we’re spending $20,000 a month on ads. Can we spend $40,000 a month on ads and maintain that $1,000 a month customer acquisition cost?” And then actually doing that and seeing what happens, and sometimes it has worked for us, sometimes it hasn’t worked for us. But having that very much run-by-the-numbers kind of mindset of, what do you need to hit to achieve your goals and then work backwards from there.

Keith:

And then how do you decide when something isn’t working? I mean, I think it’s easier to see when something is working, “Oh man, I need to triple this or quadruple this.” But especially at those early days, how do you then say, “Hey, these numbers just aren’t going to work out,” forecasting three, six months down the line?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. I mean, we had a program that we were selling. It was kind of a 10-week accelerator, and we were in that situation. We were earning a client for about $1,000 a client. We had two sales reps on the phone. We were pushing about $25K per month in ad spend. We hired a second rep and I think the assumption was, if we’re going to double everything, we’re going to have to double the ad spend. And we doubled the ad spend and we saw our customer acquisition cost go from about $1,000 to about $1,500 then to about $1,600, and then eventually we were spending about $2,000 to acquire a customer. And so for us, it came down to the numbers, like what was our gross profit per client. And for that specific program, our gross profit per client was about $1,500 per 10-week bootcamp. And so when the customer acquisition cost started to …

Keith:

Get up to that [crosstalk 00:13:17]

Brent Weaver:

… get up to a point where we were like, “Hey, we’re selling this thing but we’re not actually making any money on it …” I mean, I think that that’s … You have to take a really hard look at that. So you either have to come up with a new product or service to sell on the back end of that, or not. So I think that … I mean, it’s just what’s your risk tolerance, I guess. Some people when I say, “Hey, we spent $50K a month promoting our business on Facebook,” they kind of feel like that’s … They’re like, “Oh my gosh, I could never imagine spending that much.” But it’s like, “Well yeah, but when you’re signing 50 clients a month, it works.” Until it doesn’t.

Keith:

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. But yeah, you’re exactly right. You got to look at that long-term return on ad spend over that without looking at the 20 day, 30 day, but actually that long-term lifetime value of how much each of these leads are going to be worth. It’s interesting. WP Engine had … I think Jason Cohen? I hope I’m getting his name right.

Brent Weaver:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Keith:

But he was giving a talk about Facebook ads, and he said he had to scale back his Facebook ads because he had it so dialed in that his support was the bottleneck. He couldn’t have good enough support with more ad spend. He was at the limit of how he could support these people, but he knew for every dollar he put in, he was going to get X dollars back. He had it that dialed in, but the breaking point was not the conversion, it was being able to support all the new customers he’d be bringing in. Which I always thought was interesting, that there can be kind of third-tier issues that then play into that.

Brent Weaver:

I mean, yeah. When we first started increasing our ad spend, I could literally open up my salesperson’s calendar and I would start seeing appointments getting booked out two and three weeks out into the future. Three weeks from somebody being on a webinar to talking to a salesperson. We could immediately say, “Well, that’s probably a bad situation to be in where you aren’t having sales …” Somebody was all hot to move, they’re like, “Oh, this is great,” and then-

Keith:

You got to wait a month.

Brent Weaver:

You got to wait a month, right? That’s not good. Then you can … all of a sudden you try to solve that problem by doubling your sales capacity, and then you don’t realize that, at least for us, that second salesperson for us … We didn’t have enough capacity for two reps. We had enough demand for, like, 1.2 reps. So we brought a second person on and all of a sudden now we cut one of our salesperson’s commissions by 60% because now we’re … And then it was like, “Okay, now we got to rebalance this out.” Then even our staffing, the capacity, if we sold too many of our service, the team could not support it. So all of a sudden, we started to enroll people … not for this bootcamp, but for next month’s bootcamp … then it was like two months from now, then it was like three months from now. So you can definitely create new problems by trying to pursue growth, right?

Keith:

Yeah. And they always say, that’s a good problem to have, but it’s still a problem that you have to solve, so …

Brent Weaver:

Yeah, I mean, look. If you’ve ever had to refund tens of thousands of dollars because you’ve oversold something … I mean, I don’t know if I’d call that a good problem. So I mean, I think you can easily create bad problems, but yeah, it’s probably a better problem, having revenue flowing through your business, and at least having an opportunity to serve the company versus literally looking around and going, “I don’t have any customers.” I mean, “I don’t have any leads, I don’t know where to start.” At least you can kind of … you can figure out how to solve fulfillment problems maybe a little easier than a general marketing problem.

Keith:

Yeah, exactly, exactly. So shifting gears a little bit, you talk a lot about scorecards and why that’s important for businesses. Can you dive a little bit into that?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. If you’re talking about your weekly scorecards … so something that you can, as the leader of the business, look at and say, “Is there something going on? Is my business working for me? Is it not working for me, or is it not working for the company?” I think a lot of people get scorecards wrong and they think a scorecard is some kind of dashboard that is tracking everything in your business. I tell our clients that a scorecard should work just about the same as your dashboard in your car. There’s basically three or four numbers that tell you, more or less, everything’s heading in the right direction. Now yes, you can pull over and run the diagnostics on your car. You can take it to the shop, they plug in something and then they get a … They deep dive, right?

Brent Weaver:

But if you’re driving along and all of a sudden you’ve got your foot on the gas, you hear the engine revving, but you’re not moving. Your revs are going up, but the car’s not actually moving, that probably tells you, oh, maybe the car’s not in reverse or it’s not in drive.” If you then put it in drive and you rev and it’s like … but it’s not moving, that’s probably a problem that’s above my … Is the parking brake on? Right?

Keith:

Right.

Brent Weaver:

So if you look at those top-level things and you’re still not able to figure it out, then yeah, maybe you need to go and pop the hood, look at the deep dive, look at numbers in detail, pulling up Google analytics or pulling up your funnel analytics or pulling up wherever you track numbers in your business, going deeper on stuff. But every business owner should have that kind of car dashboard level scorecard that tells them one or two numbers around marketing, one or two numbers around sales, one or two numbers around fulfillment and delivery, one or two numbers around finance. So if you go look at your engine, you have about five or so … You’ve got your gas, you’ve got your RPMs, you’ve got your speed, you’ve got your temperature. And really, beyond that, it’s like-

Keith:

Everything else is superfluous unless there’s [crosstalk 00:19:29]

Brent Weaver:

I’m not a car guy, so anything beyond that I’m going to go …

Keith:

Take it to the shop then.

Brent Weaver:

… “Oh, my carburetor’s blah blah blah.” I’m like, “Okay cool, dude. How much is it going to cost me to fix it?” But I think that your … So I tell clients, look, if you have a scorecard in your team, if you’re multi-person team, then your scorecard really should be this thing where if you’re out of the business and you’re sitting on the beach and you’re watching the waves and you’re on vacation and the waiter comes up to you and hands you … says, “Oh, sir. I have an envelope for you, Keith. Oh, by the way, I see your drink’s a little empty. Would you like to order another drink?” And you open the envelope, it happens to be your scorecard, and really the scorecard should tell you, do I stay at the beach and order the drink, or do I have to go up to my room and start solving problems?

Brent Weaver:

That’s really the binary of the scorecard. Is it telling us that there are either no issues, everything’s running fine, or there is an issue? It doesn’t really have to tell you what the issue is or what’s causing it or why it’s happening, all that kind of stuff. It should just tell you there is a problem that needs further investigation. So one of the most common mistakes I see people make with scorecards is they try to create a scorecard that literally will tell them all the [crosstalk 00:20:50] …

Keith:

Everything.

Brent Weaver:

… in the business and what’s going on, right? So common ones for marketing, it’s like did you get any marketing qualified leads this week? How many did you get? If you got zero and you got zero last week and you got zero the next week …

Keith:

You might have a problem.

Brent Weaver:

… [crosstalk 00:21:06] is empty. You need to see website traffic and clicks and [crosstalk 00:21:10]

Keith:

And bounce rates and …

Brent Weaver:

Yeah, no. It’s like, “Did I get new leads?” If you’re tracking sales, how many … Maybe if you want a leading indicator on sales it would be like, “How many proposals did we present,” and more importantly … You could say, “How many deals did we win?” I like to say, “How much revenue did we close in business this week?” Because number of deals and revenue together create a really nice story. Did we get one deal that was worth $50K, or did we get three deals worth $50K? I mean, that tells a little bit of a different story. And then I think in terms of … Fulfillment is one of the ones that people always get kind of thrown off on, of like, what do we want to look at on a high level? Missed milestones or deadlines is a good one. We’ve been a big fan of implementing traffic lights, so what percentage of your clients are green, yellow, or red, and then fix a definition around that.

Brent Weaver:

You could have for customer service, average client rating after closing a ticket using some kind of either net promoter or happy face, neutral face, sad face. Then, you know, “We had 97% happy faces,” and then define some thresholds around that. Then financials, total revenue generated in the last 30 days, and cash balance. I mean, those are kind of your core six or seven numbers that really matter for the business. Do we have new business coming to the pipeline? Are we closing business? Are we making our customers happy? And do we have cash in the bank?

Keith:

Right. And then, I always find that … So the owner has the top level scorecard, and then kind of what you’re saying, each department is also going to have scorecards for their specific things that they need to monitor. So you have someone who’s at the very top and then you have … for the marketing department, the marketing head has their scorecard, and then they will dive deeper in, but they still need to have that scorecard to say, “Okay, is everything moving in the right direction or not?”

Brent Weaver:

Right. So if you are a company that has teams, then each team … whoever, if you have especially teams and somebody that’s leading each of those teams, then yes, they should have a scorecard. Everybody in the organization should have a number that they’re trying to …

Keith:

Responsible for.

Brent Weaver:

… improve the work on, and together that should be coming up to help the business move forward.

Keith:

Yeah. And this is kind of one of the issues that I see happen a lot, especially we do analytics, we do dashboards. I either see people say, “I only need one number,” or, “I need 800 numbers.” How can you get the balance between those? And especially for things like you’re saying, a scorecard to see how you’re doing, but then also be able to dive in and say, “Okay, this is what’s going wrong, but why is it going wrong and how do we go deeper into that scorecard number, that nonperforming number, to figure out why?”

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. I mean, look, I like to use the beach drink test as a good … For a scorecard in particular, not necessarily a dashboard, but a scorecard, does it tell you that something needs to happen? Is there an issue that needs to go to the score or down to your issues list as a team? And if you don’t need the number, if every week you’re tracking it and you’re going, “Oh, that’s interesting. Oh, that’s interesting,” but you’re not like … Whether the number goes up or the number goes down, dropping issues to it, if it’s not changing your behavior at all, then I would just say, “Hey, we’re not actually doing anything about this number. It’s just kind of a nice to know and it doesn’t need to necessarily be on this document.”

Brent Weaver:

For example, we had a time where profitability was really terrible and we were not maintaining consistent profitability. So part of our solution was to become aware of where we were spending money and what we were spending money on. So we started tracking four or five numbers around our financials and what we were spending money on. Well, we worked on those numbers. We kept dropping issues, we kept dropping issues, and eventually we kind of got the business to where it was actually a healthier, better run business. And after a while, we looked at all these numbers we were reporting on every single week and decided, “Hey, you know what? Maybe we don’t need it. We have our revenue and we have our profitability. Unless this gets out of line again, we don’t need to track all these numbers. They served their purpose. We can remove them off our scorecard. We can track revenue, we can track profitability. If it gets funky again, then we can go back to tracking these things and solving issues for it.”

Keith:

Yeah. Do you find that having too many numbers is more of a distraction?

Brent Weaver:

Well yeah. I mean, it just comes down to like, are you actually going to drop issues based on that number? If you’re just looking at it because you’re like, “Oh, I like to know this stuff,” then I think that too many numbers … You’re also talking to somebody who … I don’t know if you guys know what Kolbe is, but the Kolbe Assessment.

Keith:

Oh.

Brent Weaver:

My fact finder is a 3 out of 10, so I’m a simplify, if that makes sense. That’s all you need to know. I like to know high level. I like to get the summary, whereas my old CTO that used to work for us, he was a 9 on fact finder, so for him, if something was going wrong in the business, he initiated his problem-solving engine through finding the facts and he had to deep dive the numbers. He would probably want 800, whereas I want three. I’m not sure if I can tell you which is right or which is wrong. I can just tell you that if you’re somebody that needs a lot of information to make decisions, then you might want to have more on your scorecard. For me, I’d like to have less information and have more of that core essentials …

Keith:

Get a value from it, yep.

Brent Weaver:

… to make the decisions.

Keith:

Yeah. I haven’t taken the assessment so I don’t know where I fall on it, but I find that too many things that I have to look at kind of makes me ignore all of them. So it’s like if I have to look at revenue and I have to look at this and I have to look at this and I have to look at this and I have to look … I’ll look at the numbers and I’ll say, “Those are some numbers,” and then I’m pretty much done at that point and nothing becomes actionable out of it because I’m trying to monitor too much stuff.

Brent Weaver:

I mean, I think that … So one of the most successful growth campaigns that I ever ran at our business was when I was able to simplify all of our problems down to one number, and that was … We were going from signing … one client was our average per day, and I wanted us to sign two clients per day. And so for me as a leader, it was like, “Can we go from signing one client a day to two clients a day?” And it looks really simple. It’s like, “Oh, on average if you look at the last six months, we’ve been signing about one client a day. How do we go from one to two?” So in my marketing meetings, “How are we going from one to two?” In our sales meetings, “How are we going from one to two? Can we do that? Can we actually have one salesperson selling one …” Their history says, “I’ve been selling about one client per day,” so can we do things to have that one person double their selling effectiveness, or do we actually need to have two salespeople?

Brent Weaver:

And how we fulfill our product and our service offering. Right now if I went to my team and I’m like, “Hey, you guys are onboarding and delivering value for about 20 clients a month, about one client a day. What happens if we double that from 20 to 40?” And so it was like that really simple idea that we could rally the company around and create a T-shirt. Like from one to two. I’m like, “When we hit that and we have a couple of days where we’re selling two a day,” and it’s like you can see the results and you can just see people rally around a really simple idea. So I think if you have things that are cross department and cross team and it’s about the company growing, I think the more people that are involved, the simpler the idea has to be.

Brent Weaver:

So if you guys as a company are trying to move 17 different numbers, it’s really difficult. Now, if you can figure out how to level it up to one idea that’s really simple and then kind of delegate out some smaller chunks of, like, okay, marketing obviously does have to work on two-xing traffic and two-xing lead acquisition and two-xing the amount of appointments that are coming through, they might have five or six numbers that feed up into that goal. But I think as a leader, you probably need to figure out, if you have multiple people, how do you distill this down to some simple … Choose which numbers are going to be important and which ones aren’t and then get people to rally around improving those things.

Keith:

Yeah. Because I mean, you look at just that … Let’s take that one goal, which is go from one to two. As it goes to each department, the number of goals to accomplish that change. We still have that end goal … or increase. Because in marketing, there’s going to be a number of goals. “Okay, let’s increase traffic, let’s make sure that conversion rate increases.” So everyone has multiple things they have to do to accomplish this one goal. But if you start with even just five goals, now everyone has five times as many things that they have to do. At the top level, it seems simple. It’s like, “We’re just doing these three things.” But then each section, there’s so many more things that have to be done for each of those that it becomes unwieldy and no one knows where to concentrate.

Brent Weaver:

And I think that for us, that campaign in particular … I mean, I think the lesson for me as leader, as CEO, was having that simple rallying cry, something that could be distilled down from one to two, which was nice. I remember at the time of setting that goal, there was a lot of friction amongst the teams, like, “Well, we’re not going to be able to do that. That’s not a realistic expectation.” I’m like, “Well, we’re obviously doing one a day. That’s not impossible, so why is two?” And doing one a day is kind of arbitrary. How did we end up there? I don’t know. That was what the business was, [inaudible 00:31:45] Why can we not get to two?

Brent Weaver:

And so I think that having that kind of simple idea … even at a department level, how do you as a leader … in marketing, for example, how do you get what you’re ultimately trying to move the needle on down to one idea? And I think if you focus on those types of measureables for a period of time, like a 90-day kind of focused, “Here’s our strategic plan for the next 90 days. Our whole goal as a company is to move the needle on this one number.” In the past, a couple of numbers that we’ve done similar things to around retention, like a rolling 30 on how are we churning 1% of our customers every 30 days. Or at one point it was like, we had a churning problem. We were churning 5% of our clients every 30 days. It was like, “What? Literally a year from now, we’re going to have almost 100% new clients a year from now, that’s crazy.” How do we solve that problem and go from five to four and then four to three, and then how do you set reasonable goals and just focus on that one thing?

Brent Weaver:

We can solve the retention problem and feel good about that by moving the needle on that number. Then we can then move on to other aspects of the business. And so I think it can be hard to try to want to fix everything all at once, but to also realize that … I think even though people can work hard, they still need those simple ideas to communicate across multiple teams.

Keith:

And when you’re working with agencies, how do you help them decide? Because as agency owners, or any business owner, they’re like, “We have 800 things we have to focus on.” Or even taking one idea, like, “Let’s improve our retention for new customers.” There’s 100 different ways to do it, so how do you help them understand, “This is where you want to focus”?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. So we’ll do a basic assessment around our model, which is attract leads, win deals, delight clients. So think about it as marketing, sales, fulfillment, okay? And so what we usually do is every 90 days have our clients do a self-assessment on those different systems in their business. Which is the burning building right now? And depending on where you are, it kind of rotates and changes at different sizes. You don’t just solve … as a business owner, you don’t solve marketing once and for all. It’s not like, “Oh, we finally built the one funnel we’ll have until we’re done.”

Keith:

“We’re done with this part,” right?

Brent Weaver:

“We’re done, right?” It’s like, you solved that issue and then that’s kind of like … You get to a new level of growth … I mean, hopefully that’s the plan … and then you’re going to have … that same problem’s going to come up in a different way. And so we have people assess on a simple one to five, like, “Hey, how is your business performing in terms of attracting leads?” Are you attracting leads and nurturing those leads into opportunities? And hey, sometimes when the people first come to us, they’re like, “That’s a one or a two.” And then they start working on their marketing systems.

Brent Weaver:

So once we solve the marketing problems, then we have to start looking at sales. Then we have to start looking at fulfillment and say, “Okay, there’s numbers that are involved in all of these.” So usually with our clients, I say, “Okay, look. Focus on one area of the business every 90 days,” in terms of, like, this is the thing that, in terms of working in the business, we’re just going to look at this one thing for … We’re going to put 80% of our time or more into this one area of our business. Because the reality is, if you don’t do that, you kind of pseudo-solve the problems across the business. You’re not really making measured progress on that stuff. What you’re doing is-

Keith:

Right. Marketing feel good, yep.

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. If marketing’s your biggest problem, if you are not generating qualified leads as an agency owner and you kind of do a couple of things … You’re like, “Oh, maybe we’ll post a couple things for our blog,” or whatever, you’re not doing significant projects, then maybe you get a couple of leads, you feel good in the short term, but you’re not really solving that problem long term. Versus you say, “Look guys, we don’t have a marketing engine. We need to build a marketing engine. We need to find a traffic source. We need to invest time and money into that traffic source. We need to generate qualified leads in a systematic way, in a proven way, outside of referrals and word of mouth.” That might take us 90 days. It could take us even two quarters of sustained effort to move the needle on that and go, “Okay, cool. We are now consistently getting leads outside of referrals and word of mouth.”

Brent Weaver:

And then from there, you can say, “Okay, now we have these leads coming into our system and now we can focus on sales.” One of my clients, they had this problem. They didn’t have a marketing engine. They were getting no leads outside of referrals or word of mouth. Took us about six months to build them up an engine. They were using stages as their primary way to build awareness and generate leads. And the number … thinking about simple numbers … was … because they got about five to 10 leads off of a stage. And so it was like, “All right, can you guys be on one stage a month?” So they started thinking about their calendar as a pipeline and they started booking themselves out six months for one stage a month. And they did this, and all of a sudden they were … January in a stage, February in a stage, March in a stage. They kept booking out one month, one month. Each month they’d book out one month.

Brent Weaver:

And all of a sudden they’re getting 10 leads a month and it’s like, they’re getting so much opportunity but they still weren’t making money. Okay, cool. Well, at least we solved the marketing problem.

Keith:

Solved one problem, right.

Brent Weaver:

Now we’ve got this pipeline of leads coming in. Let’s start working on that and let’s look at your offer, let’s look at your sales interactions, let’s look at this kind of stuff and go, “Okay, well, let’s start thinking about how many proposals are we presenting.” That became the next number we looked at, was how many offers. Are you actually getting to offer, or are people disqualifying or whatever? So looking at those different numbers, but really helping them to say, “What’s the most important number to move the needle on in the next 90 days?” And then just kind of ignore everything else and then make some progress on that, then move to the next thing.

Brent Weaver:

This client in particular, they have started to … they worked on the sales component and then all of a sudden they’re having these huge revenue months and now the text messages I’m getting are, “Oh my gosh, dude. We’re so overbooked. We have so much business.”

Keith:

“How do we fulfill this?”

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. So now we’re working on things around delegation, their time, effectiveness, the agency’s capacity, the pipeline. We’re working on more of those fulfillment things, but it’s like we’re not having that conversation again about the marketing. They kind of have an engine, they’re running it, they’re investing in it. But at some point, if they hire three people, then-

Keith:

Right. Then they can start to solve that problem, right.

Brent Weaver:

The Cookie Monster is going to get hungrier and they’re going to need twice as many leads. So it’s a very cyclical process, and I think most entrepreneurs that have been in the game long enough know that it is something that’s … Just because you solve your lead gen problem today, if you guys grow from a six figure to a seven figure, now you have that problem on steroids.

Keith:

Yeah. But having that as an engine makes it much easier to then scale up later because you have a foundation. I think that’s really two parts of it that a lot of people don’t get. One, viewing that whole marketing, that whole system as discrete steps. So you have your lead acquisition, you have your nurturing, you have your closing the deal, and then you have your fulfillment, and viewing it as very discrete steps. People look at the whole thing and say, like, “I’m not getting enough customers,” and they never break it down. And the second one is kind of what you’re saying. If you don’t focus for a quarter on a single project, you’re not going to build an engine. You’re going to try something, and it’s either going to work or not work, and if it’s not going to work you’re like, “Well, that didn’t work. Move on to the next thing,” instead of trying to build this thing and make it repeatable and so that you can go off to the next step and be confident that this first step is going to keep running and keep working.

Brent Weaver:

I mean, you know, Keith, I had … You’re spot on. I literally have just been going through this myself with a new … We get a lot of our leads through webinars and I launched a new webinar. It was an Evergreen webinar, which I don’t do a lot of that stuff. I do a lot of live, and the problem with that is, again, thinking about numbers and pipelining, it’s like if I’m not doing live, then we’re not spending money on ads, which can look good in the short term, but then we know we don’t get clients. So our team sat down and said, “Okay, when you’re not …” I had a big event in fourth quarter, so we were doing our big event and there were weeks going by where I wasn’t doing live webinars, which means my pipeline is just … it’s not getting that injection or whatever.

Brent Weaver:

So we created this Evergreen webinar and we launched it, spent a few thousand dollars in promoting it, and it was like goose egg, like zero … And I was also sharing this with my community in real time. So I was like, “Hey guys, I’m going to teach you everything about generating leads and marketing. I must always get this perfect, or I must always get it right.” And so we were kind of pulling back the curtain, sharing this with the community in real time, and we spent several thousand dollars and got literally zero leads. It was like, “Okay. We’re not going to throw the entire idea out. Let’s look at where things are happening.”

Brent Weaver:

So we looked at it and said, “Okay, we’ve got people registering and we’re spending about $13 per registration on the webinar,” which is comparable to our live. So I was like, “Okay. The offer on the landing page is all things-”

Keith:

Everything’s fine.

Brent Weaver:

“So far everything’s good,” so we’re not screwing with that, right? “But what’s happening once somebody gets to the actual webinar page is” … We started looking at some analytics on there. People weren’t staying on the page. It was a 60-minute webinar. They weren’t staying on the page and they were bouncing off. So we recreated that video as a 20-minute video. It was, “Who knows if this is the right answer,” but we just threw that out there, relaunched the funnel, tried to see if it would work. We found that people now were staying on the page, but they still weren’t applying. So we, “Okay, so what’s going on here?” We found out that our application page was taking way too long to load. It was taking, like, 15 seconds to load. So we’re like, “Okay. We’re driving traffic, we’re getting registrations at the right price. People are now watching the content, but they’re not applying.”

Brent Weaver:

So I had a developer go in there, change [inaudible 00:42:32] around, streamline that page, and now we’re getting applications for … We got our first application … It’s funny. I was out with my wife and we were on a date and I saw a lead come across. I’m like, “I got to check this out. Is this from my paid funnel? I don’t know.” I went in and looked at it and I was like, “Okay, this got attributed to that funnel,” and I was really excited. It was proven. It went from this idea that was … we were in exploration … to now proven. And that’s kind of my first threshold, is like, is something proven? Does it work? The next threshold is, is it repeatable? So then it was like, the next threshold was like, “Will we get a second lead?” And we did. Then it became, “Is it predictable?” Are we getting a lead for about the same number of spent. Then after we got about six leads, it was like, “All right. We’re spending about $300 per lead.” So I can literally watch, and we’re spending $200 a day, so about every day and a half, we get a lead.

Keith:

We’re getting a new lead, yep.

Brent Weaver:

And I’m like, “Okay cool.” So then it’s like, “Okay, is it proven? Is it repeatable? Is it predictable?” Then the final one is, is it scalable? That’s actually the stage with this funnel that we’re in right now is going to my I team and now and going, “Okay, let’s double.” And of this, we’re going to 2x the spend, just all things holding equal, 2x the spend, and does the model hold? Does it keep performing? I think at that point, with any kind of marketing engine, I think things get kind of interesting because we double it and then you’re like, “Okay. I’m still getting $300 a week.”

Keith:

“So let’s double it again.”

Brent Weaver:

Double again, right, until we break it.

Keith:

It’s like roulette. It’s like let it ride, let it ride. “How long can we let it ride?”

Brent Weaver:

Thank you for comparing my marketing strategy to roulette. I’m not feeling better, Keith.

Keith:

No. But it’s true, it isn’t chance. But it’s interesting that when you get to a certain point, you would expect, “Okay, it works at $100. Why is it not working at $200?” And it’s hard to figure out. It’s like, “Okay, all I did was increase the spend. Did I run out of people? Am I targeting the wrong audience?” What was the difference between that $100 to spend and $200 to spend that changed the result so much? That’s always the frustrating part to me, because that’s the one part of the marketing funnel I can’t see. I can see the results, but I don’t … Because the algorithm’s a black box, right? And it’s very difficult to understand why $100 works and $200 doesn’t.

Brent Weaver:

I mean, yeah, it is complicated. Last summer, we were running an Evergreen funnel for a while and one of the things that we found was we were getting really bad performance right out of the gate, but within three weeks, we saw people that came through the funnel through our nurture system … and other things, lead target and whatever. Within three weeks, we found that the numbers looked a lot better. So the initial somebody clicks on an ad, fills out a form, watches a webinar, applies or registers as a lead or buys or whatever … that whole thing, that whole … For us to really settle the data out and figure out, “Is this cohort of people that we’re putting an ad in front of the first time, are they taking action,” took about three weeks.

Brent Weaver:

So when we looked at the reports on a week-by-week basis, we were actually getting really bad insights into whether or not something was working. Because I went back to my team and I’m like, “These numbers look terrible, but I can see the revenue coming in.” We were having all of these banner months for our business. We were having record sales months. But when I looked week by week, I’m like, “This doesn’t make any sense. It looks like we’re paying so much money per application or per registered lead.” And when we looked at it and started cohorting instead of one-week intervals and three-week intervals on ad spend, all of a sudden we started seeing a much different picture, which was interesting.

Brent Weaver:

We said, “Okay, that means if we double ad spend today, we need to be willing to wait three weeks on those dollars that we spend to really figure out are the numbers holding.” Which is just a total … I mean, it messes with your mind around … You’re like, “Oh man. Now I got to wait three weeks,” but at least now I can say, “In three-week intervals, I can make decisions.” And I think that’s probably another important thing on data is just kind of deciding the rules of your roulette game, if you will, like what game are you playing? If it is, “Okay, we’re not going to make a decision on this for three weeks,” then am I okay with spending this amount of money every day for three weeks? Because I’m just going to be watching … I call it the Mark Zuckerberg yacht fund. I mean, we’re talking about Facebook today, the Google guys. It’s all the same. It’s like, are you able to maintain something? Do you have that risk tolerance?

Brent Weaver:

One of my clients told me that … I was sharing numbers about our Facebook funnel. He said, “Brent, you’re acting like you can just throw $1,000 at something and it’s …” He’s like, “If I spent $1,000 on Facebook, my wife would divorce me or something.” Well, okay. When we first got into advertising, our threshold was about $500. We spent $500 one month and then kind of looked to see how things went, then $500 the next month. We could spend $500 every month indefinitely, be a little bit less profitable, but it wasn’t like it was going to take us out of business. Whereas if you’re spending $50K, do you have that? What’s your tolerance? If you screw up at that level, do you have the bandwidth or the war chest to survive something like that? Some people do and some people don’t.

Keith:

And especially in the services business, where you do have a longer time to acquisition, a longer time to getting that revenue back. You have to be very aware of, “I know I can spend $50K in ads and get it back, but it’s going to take me six months to do it.” By the time I get that first $50K back, I’ve already spent … what is that … $300,000. So I have to make a calculation there.

Brent Weaver:

Right. Well, I mean, our lead funnel … just to share our … I mean, we typically … A certain percentage of our leads will come in right off the spend, right off the top, within three weeks of ad spend. To a lead. Typically, average within three weeks, we pretty much know from that initial warm/hot group that we’re actually … that not only signed up for a webinar, but applied or engaged us in our sales process … a good portion of those, we know whether they closed or not within about six weeks. Then there’s all the other people that take longer, and that’s where our organic marketing comes into play. But I mean, we have people that are buying 18 months after initial opt-in or whatever.

Brent Weaver:

So I always try to make our marketing engines work off of the first pass from a dollars and cents perspective, and then we still get that other stuff over time. But we’ve got six weeks. So if I’m not marketing my business and I need revenue yesterday, no matter how hard I kick and scream, it’s going to take me six weeks from ad spend. You take it and say, “Okay, well, what if it takes us another two or three weeks to ramp up and do the creative and do the launch? If it takes us another two months to prove a new campaign ahead of that …” You’re talking about from, “Oh crud, we need some clients,” to signing up consistent number of clients. It could be three, four, five months, right?

Brent Weaver:

And so that’s something that I think is … It’s a hard pill to swallow if we’ve neglected our marketing and we’re not doing this stuff. There’s this idea of pipelining, and when you’re doing activities today, it’s going to benefit you at some point in the future. You can’t just one day wake up, “I need clients today, therefor I’m going to build a marketing engine today and get clients tomorrow.” It’s just not how it works.

Keith:

Yeah. I mean, if that’s what you want, then you need to go into small dollar E-commerce, not into services or SaaS. So …

Brent Weaver:

Right. I mean, maybe. I don’t know.

Keith:

Even then, it’s getting hard. Yeah, you’re exactly right. And it’s something that we saw internally as well where we had ads running and we weren’t seeing return in two weeks and we’re like, “Oh, we’re just going to shut it off.” Then we started getting all this revenue. I’m like, “Hey this is great,” and then exactly three weeks later, they all dry up again and we’re like, “Wait a minute.” Then we tried it again and we see the exact same wave. It was like, “Okay. All right. We see what’s going on here.”

Brent Weaver:

Yeah.

Keith:

Well Brent, thank you so much. If you were to give advice to someone who’s … and I think you’ve given a lot already … but looking to find the first place to dive in and really improve their lead gen as far as on a strategic level, what advice would you give?

Brent Weaver:

I think the most important thing in terms of improving a lead gen is knowing who you’re targeting. I mean, it’s the first question I ask everybody. Some people call that niche or vertical or horizontal or whatever, but I think if you’re not sure of who you’re going after, figuring out where they are is really difficult. If you know who you’re going after, I think figuring out where to look for them becomes way easier, and then from there you can get really specific about, like, what are those channels that you’re going to use to reach them. Is it Facebook, is it Instagram, is it LinkedIn, is it events, is it blogs, is it stages? Or whatever, right? I mean, those answers, I think, become a lot easier to find once we generally know who our ideal customer is with some level of specifics.

Keith:

Yeah. Excellent. Well Brent, thank you so much. Where can people find you on the internet?

Brent Weaver:

Yeah. They can check us out at ugurus.com. That’s U-G-U-R-U-S.com, or if there is somebody that’s listening that is an agency that needs help with anything that I’ve talked about, I mean, feel free to shoot me an email. Brent@ugurus.com. Happy to help out anybody from Keith’s audience or provide any insights I can around these problems. Happy to help.

Keith:

Definitely. And we’ll have those links in the show notes. Thanks again, Brent.

Brent Weaver:

Absolutely. See you, Keith.



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Keith Perhac