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Hey there Inbound! I’m Mackenzie Fogelson, but most people call me Mack. You can, too.I started Mack Web Solutions 10 years ago. Back then, I was fleeing my job as a middle school teacher - yes, really - and trying to figure out what to do with my MA in English. “Online Marketing CEO” wasn’t really on my mind, but fortunately for me, I picked up some coding skills in grad school from a kindly professor who liked to teach tech. (His son is interning for me this summer, so I’m paying it forward). Over the years, Mack Web Solutions has morphed from a web design and SEO firm to a full blown digital marketing company with a knack for bettering businesses by building community. I’m extremely passionate about growing a remarkable company, finding the right people to work on our team, and making a noticeable difference in the businesses we serve.I also have two really great kids, a growing team of employees (like work kids, but way less likely to need their noses wiped) and an unconditionally supportive husband (I lucked out on that one). I used to be a ballerina but I gave that up after I had kids and now I’m addicted to yoga.All that being said, go ahead and ask me anything. I’ll be available today and checking for your questions between 830 and 530 MST.
I've always been a fan of the content that you write - especially the stuff you did on Moz a while back that focused around social media management processes and planning. My question is more about content in general and how you, at Mack Web Solutions, have scaled content marketing to run alongside the SEO and social media campaigns that you run for clients...What advice would you give for smaller agencies looking to scale their content marketing (for clients) and what would you recommend they avoid doing? I have found that within our business, due to the fact that we have been rapidly expanding, we have a lot of clients that we took on in our early days that we clearly have under-priced for the kind of content work they we carry out for them (mainly around SEO), so what have you done to tackle this in the past?
Ok so here's some things we've figured out with scaling content and also bringing grandfathered clients up to the rate you actually deserve (seems like that's what you're asking). We still are struggling with that right now, but we're slowly getting there.
First of all, when we started to evolve from offering services silo-ed (just SEO) to the full-on integrated package (SEO, content, social, email marketing, etc) we lost most of our clients. At that point, we had been in business for more than 8 years and I was ready to work with companies who we didn't have to fight with to do what we felt was necessary in order to get results. So, we communicated with our existing clients where we were going and that we'd love for them to come with us, but if that wasn't what they were looking for, we had some trusted companies who we referred them to.
We then started saying no.
If a client just wanted on-page SEO, we sent them elsewhere. We had been through it all: only doing on-page, only doing strategy (client implementing), only doing social. We could not get the results we needed to make a difference in their businesses and have anything to show for it (case studies to acquire new business from companies we wanted to be working with).
It took some time to recover from not having the smaller bits of revenue from the short-term stuff (we incurred some debt to do it), but it has made THE biggest difference in our growth. Now we can focus our resources on the long term relationships where we actually see results. That means our sales cycles are longer, but that's ok with me.
We have two clients who have been with us through our evolution and we are still working on bringing their rates up. That's really a matter of being able to demonstrate value and being honest and transparent about the change we've made in our business and that we'd love for them to make it with us.
As for scaling content, we have a full-time content strategist. We're maxing her out right now so we're looking into pulling together a solid group of contract content writers.
That was a great response, Mack - really appreciate it. Has given me some food for thought because I think that we are going to need to make some big decisions soon!
I hear you. We make them every day :)
Hi Mack. thanks for doing an AMA.
Given how much great content you create for Moz, your own site and in conference presentations what % of your time would you say you commit to sharing knowledge externally? Likewise how do you balance this with the needs of the business to ensure your time isn't split to extremes?
Hi Mike. Thanks for your question.
Right now, my role at Mack Web is focused on growing the company, and one way I do that is by writing and speaking (both of which I love). I would say I spend at least 50% of my time sharing knowledge. Obviously that percentage goes up when I'm sharing knowledge internally with the team.
Balance is a loaded word. I really work to keep my focus on what's best for the business so when we're hiring or I have bids to work on, I have to push writing and speaking tasks off as those don't take as much priority as those other pieces of the business. It's always a juggling act :)
Thanks Mack, that's a great answer and I love how you class knowledge sharing as growing the business, whereas a lot of CEO's would (wrongly) see that sharing as somewhat of a distraction to growth. I totally think it works as well and certainly can see the benefit it has had in your case. One of the benefits of working in the industry is definitely that we can apply things like that to our own businesses and ensure they aren't the "cobblers children" so to speak.
I cannot tell you how much knowledge has contributed to the growth of our business. It is the number one value in our company and I continually push the team to find time in their routine to learn. We want to be a remarkable company so we need to be seeking knowledge that informs where we're going next which means we all have to be reading all the time.
Mack Web spends a lot of time on stuff that you could classify as "non-billable." I've wrestled with that and I'm over it. These things like reading, blogging, speaking, etc are integral and they will always be a priority in our company.
"Inbound marketing" and "SEO" cover such a wide range of skills today. What would you say are the most effective skills to focus on when you're just getting started in the industry?
That's a great question Emily. We're hiring right now so this one has been top of mind (and I'm working on a post to address this exact question).
Not that this is the end-all-be-all of stuff you should know, but as we hire, we are looking for people who have an insatiable thirst for knowledge in all areas of digital marketing (we've posted some thoughts here: http://www.mackwebsolutions.com/join-the-team/stuff-you-should-know).
If you're just getting started in the industry, make sure that you learn everything you can about, well, everything. Understand why SEO is important (I'd recommend reading the Moz Beginner's Guide to SEO: http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo, reading Paddy Moogan's Link Building Book: http://www.linkbuildingbook.com/, and enrolling in DistilledU:http://www.distilled.net/u/). Then read everything you can about social and content and email marketing and PR and....you get the point. I'd also recommend reading Marty Weintraub's book: http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Social-Media-Community-Managers/dp/1118466853.
The thing is that you've got to be really well-rounded to work at the top of this industry, so think about what you can do to help businesses make a difference and then investigate the tools you may be able to use to get them there.
Thanks, Mack! I look forward to your post to discuss this further. Please pass on the link once you post! I have recently gotten involved in the industry as an In-House and, like many of us, I am looking for the best starting blocks for my company which previously had very little marketing initiative. Eventually I want us to do it all, but I often look for the 80/20 principal when starting out - what are 20% of the skills that get me 80% of the results? That's usually my best way to show enough progress to get Executives on board, too :)It sounds like my adventures in Inbound will be a little less clear-cut, though, so I look forward to exposing myself to everything and anything that can help. The blogs you list on your "Stuff you should know" post will surely keep me busy for quite some time!Thanks again for such an in-depth response to my question and the others here as well!
Is community building a tough sell for the clients you work with? If so, what are the main sticking points, areas of reluctance they retreat to when parsing the topic? If not, what do you see as tipping the balance in favor of community building when exploring the topic with prospects and clients?
We've been doing our diligence to attract companies who see the value in community building, so those that are reluctant to come along with us on that journey really are not a fit for us. Our client on-boarding process is as much an intensive interview and qualification process for us as it is for our clients. We are very careful to select companies who we can make a difference with and who aren't going to resist the entire way.
That being said, we still need to work to educate on the value as it isn't an overnight solution and proving ROI is not something that can be done just in Google Analytics. So, we are working on developing a set of social and community building KPIs (due out in the next few weeks) that we have been using to prove value.
Clearly our challenge is always to show proof. Isn't that what everyone wants? Results will be different for every company, so we very much try to figure out what their biggest challenge is and how we can help solve it. For that, we just ask and then we work to provide the proof they need. A few weeks ago I developed a 3 page PDF that illustrated exactly what we do and how that has worked for a few of the companies we've helped. This has been leveraged with several companies since.
So really my answer is to customize resources that help convince clients based on the stuff they are really struggling with. All you need to do is ask.
As a big advocate of community how would you advise clients that need to encourage team members who are not in "traditional customer facing" roles to pull their weight as it were :)
Hey Chris. Sounds like you're asking how you get the internal team to play a part in building community. Something we've used lately that has worked really well is having the entire internal team contribute to the knowledge that is being shared in the community. That way, it doesn't matter if they are client facing or not. They can work toward achieving goals.
We've been using this spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/a/mackwebsolutions.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjSGbARtTCQNdGRlRkRNMGxmUDJjU1AtSVV4UjZELXc#gid=2
We then hold a meeting with the key people on the internal team and explain to them how important it is to have their involvement so that their voice in what is important for their customers to know is reaching the outside world. It's really all about making buy-in a part of your routine at every stage.
It's also a good idea to show them how their efforts have helped. So pick some metrics that will help them understand the reach they've helped with.
If I got your question wrong you can all me lame and ask again :)
Do you convince your clients that they need to have something worth linking to if they expect to compete in today's SEO world? If so, how do you convince them?
Content is the foundation that we use to help our clients build their businesses. Certainly we're helping them figure out who they are, what they do, who their audience is, what their goals are, and the strategy that's going to get them where they want to go, but in order to accomplish any of that, we need content.
Content for us isn't just blog posts or info-graphics or the typical things that people build and want people to link to. We're really trying to get our clients to think of content as an entire experience. Content is their website. Content is their social. Content is their in-person efforts. Anything they do really is content and yes, it's got to be worth linking to.
What I'm trying to say is that businesses need to be focused on the experience that they're providing. They need to be focused on the brand that they're building. And yes, content is integral to all of that. So I'd encourage businesses to stop thinking of all of this good stuff as SEO or content or any other tools they'd use to get some traction. I'd encourage them to focus on building their business and in order to do that, they've got to be thinking about the experience.
Thanks Mack. Amazing answer!
I really like the idea of 'Innovation Friday' and your Strat-Ops sessions (as seen on your blog) - they seem like great ways to get perspective on what you're trying to achieve and keep you focused.
Are these sessions something you wish you'd been doing since you first started Mack Web Solutions?
Thanks Mack :)
You're now Community Manager for Inbound.org.
Your challenges are to grow the communities influence, the quality of the homepage articles and host great discussions.
You have to balance this against the expectations of the community, your peers and founders/funders Rand and Dharmesh who are both busy building bigger things, but still have big expectations.
Assuming you can't touch the product (an arbitrary constraint), and you have no extra budget except for you and your sweat, what would you do?
So what you're saying is, you have this friend (wink, wink) who needs to build their community and you want to know how you can help them do it.
I'm totally on to you :)
So, you could a)...
First off, let's focus on GOALS. What do you want to build? Get clear on this. Write it down. Get down to the details. Not just "we want to grow our community's influence." What does that mean? What is your big vision for this? Again, what do you want to build? Since you've got bosses (some mean ones) you need to continually work on getting their buy-in (even when you think you have it). So present those goals to them (3-5). Unless I hear differently, these are the goals we are going to work toward at Inbound.org to grow our community's influence.
Once you've got that figured out, now you're going to also present a set of KPIs that you and your bosses can agree on. Again, they are busy, so you present what KPIs would be important to track and show progress on in order to prove that you're actually working toward said goals. Discuss these KPIs with Rand and Dharmesh. Make sure you all have similar expectations.
Now develop a (creative) STRATEGY. How can you do some clever things in order to get where you want to go? Maybe you involve a few of your team members in a creative session to flush out ideas (everyone comes to the meeting with some creative ideas to discuss). From your creative, you're also going to select the tools you need to be using: which social outlets, SEO and/or PPC, content, email marketing, PR, etc. Out of high-level strategy (what you're thinking you will be working on for the next 12-months) comes a more detailed plan for 2-3 months at a time. Get the details mapped out so that you have something to follow day-to-day and you don't get sidetracked.
Now do it. EXECUTE. Go for your first 2-3 month campaign. Measure stuff. Keep an eye on things. Work hard. Stay focused. Report each month to Rand and Dharmesh with metrics that mean something to them. Take their feedback. Apply it. Keep going.
ANALYZE what you did. What have the last 2-3 months done for your organization? How have your efforts made a difference? What can you change? What can be done better? Different? Then start over with revisiting your goals and creating your strategy for the next 2-3 months gives what you know from the last 2-3.
And the fun never ends.
hire Mack Web :)
Nice. Thank Mack! Yes, that was exactly what I meant... ;)
If you want more specifics Ed, I'm happy to talk through those with you offline. Anytime.
Awesome answer, Mack. I wanted to ask you about community building metrics, and this answer and your answer to Ronell's question above provide some great insights. Specifically, I'm curious how you tackle the pressure to report some initial quick wins and how you make sure you're aligning daily goals/stats with larger strategic goals.
For a lot of the companies we work with (early growth stage software), selling long-term commitments to initiatives that may take years to truly develop and payoff can be challenging when so much of the focus is on growing revenue this year/this quarter. It can also lead to limiting the vision of community building goals and success to "here's how many new followers/shares we got this week." Any suggestions for metrics that can show initial progress but keep everyone focused on the long game and the real payoff down the road?
In terms of the first part of your question:
How to tackle the pressure to report initial quick wins and how we make sure we're aligning with daily goals/stats with larger strategic goals...
For us, having and communicating a plan has really helped. In other words, when you're working toward things that are going to take a long time, but you know the client is going to be anxious about what the wins will be in the short-term, make sure that you've created some sort of execution plan where they can see actual goals aligned with KPIs, deliverables, and the actions taken to deliver them. Then at month's end, use your "reporting" to communicate this short-term value. Show what you have been up to and what has been responsible for the lift (all the sources). Sometimes this isn't enough to prove value at the end of a month, but hopefully you've established the proper expectations beforehand. If you've had the discussion of goals and KPIs and strategy and they have had buy-in at each of those stages, they may just need a reminder that you're only a 5K into your marathon.
Remember that with community building even the smallest of changes in numbers is a big accomplishment that should be celebrated. It's easier to communicate this when you have a year of data, but when you're in the first quarter, it's definitely very tiny victories.
As for this one:
Any suggestions for metrics that can show initial progress but keep
everyone focused on the long game and the real payoff down the road?
That is the question of the century :)
The answer is definitely YES and Mack Web has been tackling this question for several months. We have been getting this question a lot so we're putting something together an answer and should have it up on our blog within the next 30 days.
What I can tell you is that I wholeheartedly agree with Avinash where he talks about how you have to give your clients what they want to hear (follower metrics) but then you need to accompany that with the metrics that really matter (engagement, sentiment, conversation, etc): http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/analytics-tips-improve-search-social-compound-metrics/.
It's a continual education/buy-in process.
Thank you, Mack! Really appreciate all these thoughtful responses and thanks for the link to Avinash's post, too. Looking forward to the blog post!
My pleasure Jonathan. We just want to be able to give a concrete answer to this challenge so we're going to be putting together some social and community building KPIs to share with others trying to prove value as well.
Let's say the goal is to increase the quality of posts on the home page (one Ed mentioned), and the KPIs you're using to measure are upvotes, traffic, unique submitters, comments. What are some specific tactics you would suggest for him to work on? What would you actually do to help with this goal? How does "community" come into play here?
Hi Jen. Some specific tactics. Sure thing.
I would start with figuring out *who* exactly to connect with (people and companies). In other words, Followerwonk the key
influencers and bloggers who Inbound could leverage to not only contribute these quality posts to the home page of Inbound, but also to help attract more people from *their* communities to the Inbound audience/community.
This also can be supplemented with some community building outreach outside of Inbound.org. So once these key influencers have been identified, Ed could find places to engage with these people and their content outside of Inbound. This is key that the community building takes place *both* inside and outside of Inbound. Ideally, you're working to finding people and communities that relate to the type of content you'd like to see on Inbound and lead them to your community.
Maybe Inbound is already doing this, but if they could nail down this type of strategy, it could be a win-win. The bloggers/authors get the traffic, recognition, and credit to their site while Inbound.org continues to be a site where the content is valuable.
Does that help? I'm happy to elaborate further.
We're definitely going down the influencer strategy in time - heck, I've got a big list in Trello. I'd like to be able to give new kinds of marketers a place to 'host' an audience so they're "sheltered" from the rest of the site and can foster discussions of their own.
If Avinash could bring his analytics buddies down onto inbound.org/analytics or Kristina Halvorson could pull Content Strategy posts (with help) onto inbound.org/content-strategy and people could subscribe to those especially, we might be onto something. (The homepage would still be a curation of the most popular content at any one time). This is all in the product roadmap (see the engagement column): https://trello.com/b/LdsfceP2/inbound-org-public-product-roadmap
At the moment, it would be like lighting a match in the wake of a jet engine - it would get drowned out by SEO and maybe some content marketing related submissions and discussions. What we'd be trying to do is start and engage discussions in multiple different areas where there will only be overlaps between certain types of people. We'd need to let people filter submissions appropriately beforehand.
I see that a necessary condition before going really heavy (i.e. more than AMAs and occasional banter elsewhere) with influencer outreach. Or call me a wimp and yell "get on with it"... ;) Maybe go heavy engaging content marketing/SEO types now?
What do you reckon?
I say create a strategy and prioritize. It's ok not to want to light a match and have a fire ensue. That's why goals and a strategy is so important because every day you're going to have pressure coming from somewhere or someone that is pushing you off track. If you do your visioning, set your goals, KPIs, and create a road map with a strategy, then you will know exactly what you're tackling and when. And sure things will come up and you may need to jump track. But if you don't have a plan, you're kind of screwed from the start.
I am more than willing to help you work something out. Start by sketching out some of the stuff I mentioned in my first answer and then you and I can figure out the specific tactics based on the priority of your goals. You want to be successful so if you have limited resources you don't want to start too many things and not be able to see them through. The pyramid that I took you through above (also explained in this post: http://moz.com/blog/the-fundamentals-of-building-and-managing-your-community) will give you a framework or a process to apply to anything you want to accomplish with Inbound.
Get that fundamental stuff figured out and then shoot me an email. We'll get you headed in the right direction.
From when you formed in 2003 to present (10 years!) what have been your biggest challenges in growing as a company, from: a) market-place (competitors), b) client and c) staff perspectives?
How long did you wait until hiring your 1st employee and did you outsource any services you provided when starting out?
Thanks in advance for taking the time to answer :)
I've answered a little bit of this in the above reply to Matthew Bardy, but here's some more for ya:
a) market-place (competitors): we're really working to be industry leaders in the community building space. We will always have competitors and be challenged by other companies whether they package their services as "community building" or not. I really work to keep my focus on us and what we can be doing to provide the most value for our clients and make the biggest difference in their businesses. I don't want to be blind to what other companies are doing, but I really do believe that there is enough work out there for all of us and we will attract the companies who are the best fit for us.
b) clients: being willing to say no to companies who want to work with us who are not a fit (turning down revenue to stay true to our culture and values). Remembering that we're all just people and that no client is going to be perfect. We all have moments where we blow it. We just always need to make sure that we're working with the right clients and we're doing everything we can to make a difference. If we're not making a difference in their business, we both need to move on.
c) staff: we're really focused on growing our company and our team right now. We've added some truly stellar talent in the last few months and all of that has been the result of working hard BEFORE we hire.
As with our clients, we are very selective about who we bring on our team. I have been lucky enough to have the guidance of Duncan from Distilled as we've been recruiting. We very much idolize how Distilled has built their company and lucky for me, Duncan is a mentor of mine. The biggest lesson he has taught me to look for characteristics vs. skills.
Thanks for such a comprehensive answer Mack :)
My pleasure. Hope it helps :)
Let's talk about business models. Why did you start as a web dev company and why did you make the pivot into full-blown online marketing, as you say? And how did you make this transition with existing clients?
Mack Web started as a web dev company because I had a Master's degree and couldn't get a job. When I got out of grad school Colorado was in one of the worst tech recessions and no one was hiring. I couldn't find work so when I had some local small businesses approach me to do freelance web design, I agreed. One thing led to another and I created a web design company.
It was just me for a lot of years. I discovered my knack for project management and was able to manage a good amount of volume with some great partners (like Rocket Jones: http://rocketjones.com/). Once I decided I was going to have kids, I knew it couldn't just be me anymore so I started hiring people to join my team.
Long story short, we went along for a couple years with an in-house team of three doing web design and development. I received an email from Distilled about LinkLove in Boston and something told me I needed to go to that conference. When I got back, it was on. We started making the transition (much of what I have described in my comment to Matthew Barby above).
Really, our transition from web dev to full-blown online marketing is just serendipitous. But it's also some seriously hard work. Because Mack Web used to be a *good* company. We always had great service, good products, communicated, hit our budgets and deadlines. We had the systems and processes for web design/dev down to a T. And I was bored.
The minute we found this journey I found something that I have never experienced before in my life. I live, eat, and breathe this business. We're working on being a remarkable company and that means SO MUCH WORK but it also means tremendous rewards.
Let me know if my comments above help with the transition with exisitng clients question. I'd be happy to elaborate.
Would you rather-
Would you rather see Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z in concert OR attend a Moz conference?
front row at the concert, mind you.
That's just cruel :)
I've gotta go with JT & Jay-Z with a Moz conference on the side :)
How about JT and Jay Z (no hyphen!) AT a Moz conference? cc Rand Fishkin
So... Mozcon moves to Brooklyn? Or JT/Hova fly to Seattle?
My bad. No hyphen!
Hi Mack, great to see you on here. I saw you on #maximpact a while back (alongside Lauren Hall-Stigerts talking about SEO consulting) and found it really useful. Thanks also for recommending The Pumpkin Plan - great book!
Anyway, my question...
If you're willing to share and divulge, what's your biggest client case study / success story in terms of community building?
Hi Steve. Nice to see you again and glad to hear you're getting some value out of all of this stuff I talk about :)
That's a great question and something that we're working through right now as a company (for potential clients) but also to share with the industry (that's what I'll be speaking about at SearchLove San Diego: http://www.distilled.net/events/searchlove-sandiego/)
The amount of impact we've had on the companies we've been working with is all based on the goals we set together and what they wanted to get out of this whole community building thing. Certainly every company we work with is going to need to justify the cost, but our work isn't just affecting sales, it's affecting their brand and how they build their company (and their community) from the inside out.
Mack Web is probably the most amazing case study we've had (I think year-over-year we're at over 800% increase in traffic plus obviously some remarkable milestones that happened just 10 months in). But our clients are seeing great results as well. The one I'm going to talk about at SearchLove is in a "boring" industry with some pretty big hurdles (so they're a worst-case-scenario) and they've seen 60% increase in traffic along with a remarkable difference in qualified lead sources, how their brand is being received both externally and internally, and the connections we've helped them build (via Twitter and LinkedIn). Now that they've been experiencing the traction, they want to do more things (that we'd qualify as RCS like building online resources, collaborating with other companies, etc). It's pretty great to see.
We have a few newer clients in the tech space that we cannot wait to have more data on. They are going to be amazing case studies. Stay tuned :)
Amazing answer, thanks - I like forward to seeing the SearchLove slides/video! :-)
What is the best way to communicate SEO reporting to clients? Is the devil in the details or should talk strictly traffic and sales? I've had big wig clients roll their eyes when i get into the nitty gritty and SME's wanting to know every detail, should you alternate depending on client or would you suggest a more structured approach?
That's a question I'd recommend asking each of your clients. We very much customize our reporting to what the client needs in order to understand the value we're providing and how we've been making a difference in their business.
We operate on the unless I hear differently concept so I'd recommend that you iterate with a report that you feel is valuable and then ask for feedback. Ask them if the metrics that you are providing are helping them to better understand their business and the efforts that you're making to change it for the better.
Be careful with reporting being something that you're just checking off the list. Anything you spend your time on has to provide value. If it's not, do something different.
Thanks Mackenzie, the way i report, is an open debate between me and the MD's.
I often work on the approach that a client will not see the value in something they do not understand. Beyond traffic and sales, the majority of our clients don't know basic metrics.
I'm more for giving them a simple snapshot, asking if the reports are helpful and then giving them more information should they need it. The MD's want me to give a full report on every molecular detail for each client....which is time consuming to say the least!
I'm sure it is. So I would push back on the value that it brings them. It's their prerogative to ask for proof. It's your job to help them understand what's making a difference in their business. Otherwise it's just a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper.
Hi Mack, do you think there are any types of businesses/niches that would be better off not spending their time/money trying to build a community?
That's a really good question Anthony. Of course I'm biased and think that every company needs to be working on building community, but that's because of how I view community building.
Similar to my content/link building answer above with Chris Courtney, community building is building an experience. It's building your brand. It's building your company. So for me, I can't see why a company wouldn't want to do this. Yes it's a TON of work, but we've seen first-hand what the results are like (and were giving our all) so as a small company, I would say it's really, really important if you want to grow your business long-term.
Community building is going to look different for every company. Any company is going to want to work on building a community face-to-face as well as online, but If you're a local business who requires foot traffic, you're going to focus on local events and partnering with organizations in your local community. For businesses who are working to attract clients from anywhere (and predominantly online), they are going to want to identify who those people are they are trying to build community with and focus on building relationships with them.
In order to build community, you've got to start from the inside out. You've got to be willing to work on your business (improving products and services) and you also need to be willing to listen to your customers. To me, those are just things that every business should be doing, so why not set some goals and work strategically toward building a better company (which a community will be born out of)?
When you have a client you know will benefit from a community, but doesn't have the bandwidth, what do you recommend to overcome that hurdle? Is it possible for an agency to 100% manage the community, or is it always the sharing of resources? If the latter, what tips do you have for launching a new community program (and getting clients to follow through)?
Well, if a company doesn't have the bandwidth (and consequently probably a budget) then we send them to read all of the stuff I've written on Moz, on our blog, speaking gig stuff, etc and try to educate them that this way. If they have to take it on internally (one person) we sympathize with them so that they know we feel their pain but try to be as helpful in terms of giving them the basics so that they can try to make some progress :)
No, I don't feel it is possible for an agency to manage 100% of the community. This stuff requires a very collaborative and active involvement from the client. What we do is help them to understand (before we get under contract) what their job is and what our job is. Setting these expectations up front really helps.
Our on-boarding process of qualifying new clients is really rigorous. We want to make sure who we're going to be working with actually has the chops to see all the work through as we can't do it alone and if they don't pull their weight, we have nothing to show for it (as you remember, I talked about this at MozCon: http://www.slideshare.net/mackfogelson/build-abetterbusinesswithdigitalmarketingmackfogelson). So I'd recommend that you really do the diligence up front of asking the right questions and setting expectations so that everyone knows what's involved in terms of effort and cost BEFORE you start any work.
We use weekly client standups to keep things on track and also bi-weekly pushes to respectfully nudge them to keep things going, but really it's in that initial on-boarding where some effort spent will help you all to be successful.
Hi Mackenzie,What about your work gets you out of bed in the morning and what keeps you up at night?
What gets me out of bed in the morning?
My kids and the passion I have for what I do (and what we're trying to do).
I am always worried about one of the following:
a) cash flow
b) blowing it with a client
c) getting things done quickly enough as a company to stay ahead
d) waking up to a sick kid (it's no fun to stay home when someone is puking)
Hi Mack! How do you approach working with companies that are operating in silos but need to have a unified voice when building community?
Hey Jen! So good to see you here :)
That's a really great question because we have experienced the silos with every company we've worked with just to differing degrees. What we've found is that the best way to assist a company in breaking down those silos and having a unified voice is educating and earning buy-in on an ongoing basis. And helping everyone understand that they are all on the same team working toward the same goals.
If you feel like you're struggling, I would find a way to understand more about each of the silos and the gap that exists between where they are and where you want them to be. That means maybe taking people to coffee, asking some (maybe tough) questions, earning their trust by helping them with something that is important to them. Somehow you've got to get an understanding of their perspective. That will help you to determine the best way to get them to see *your* perspective and how they can participate and build community for your company.
Not everyone believes in community building. But if it wasn't community building, it would be something else. People just want to be heard and feel like they're important. Often times, it's just something new that they don't understand and so they fear the unknown.
The biggest thing is that you've got to take the time to understand their perspective before pushing your own agenda on them...no matter what it is. If you've done all the work to earn buy-in and you're still not getting it, there may be a definite culture match issue that you're dealing with and that may require some C-suite involvement to get past. Hopefully it won't come to that but it is a lot of ongoing work.
I appreciate you taking time out and feel honored to be among the known faces of the industry. One thing that has been on my mind is scaling (not at the cost of quality of course).
I recently heard about companies such as Audiencebloom and LocalSearchForDentists.com doing 7 figures in revenue and though we haven't reached there yet but would love to how do you grow as an inbound marketing company, what roles do you give to the employees, how much do you outsource.
Also getting clients has been a struggle for us since we don't have access to amazing conferences like LinkLove, Mozcon, SMX etc. How do you bring in more clients if you aren't lucky to be in the Moz recommended companies list :)
We have chosen to grow slowly. I have a very specific vision for this company and I'm ok with us taking our time. Sure, I'd love to be able to hire a bunch of people do some of this faster, but we are building Mack Web one client at a time (we are not VC funded) so we don't hire until we have the work to support a new team member.
Our team is small. We have two Strategists (who manage our clients and delegate the work to be done), a Designer (who is also an amazing hybrid and does email marketing, some coding, internal scheduling, etc), a Content Strategist, and we just hired a dedicated Social & Community Management Strategist (who will be a pivotal role in our company). Our structure continues to morph as we grow. We don't outsource much. Some SEO stuff, some audit stuff, some content stuff, but most of what we do we do in-house.
Being on the Moz recommended list is truly an honor. We also earn our business by working extremely hard to share knowledge and value with people who want to listen. This is how we choose to build our business and our brand and that has worked really well for us. Being on a recommended list is just part of the exposure. We're also working very hard to be worthy of that listing.
Thanks for this AMA.
You & few people were really lucky to make their name in this industry so early. I still remember the days when you were commenting in moz post & soon after that you wrote your own moz post & from there on you are now recognized as one of the reputed people in the industry to whom we tweet for help.
Would appreciate if you can answer my questions.
1. What was the greatest obstacle you find when you were growing/starting your company?
2. How did you overcome that obstacle?
3. Where do you think SEO is heading? What is the future of SEO?
All the best for your company. Would love to see MackWebSolution as one of the great company.
Thanks for your kinds words and for your questions.
Looking back, I don't think we had clear direction, goals, vision, etc. But when I started out, it was just me freelancing and I really didn't have any thought about growing a company. I just wanted to have a paycheck :)
Now that Mack Web is starting to take the training wheels off, it's really knowing how to do the most with the resources that we have. There are no answers for what your organizational structure should look like or who you should hire. It's a very dynamic beast that you have to have a lot of patience and passion for.
I asked people for help. In the last two years I have acquired a team of mentors who have helped me with all of the things that I am challenged with as they come up. Anything from operations and management to financials, cash flow, and direction. What has worked for me is finding people who have strength in the things I don't and ask them if they'd be willing to help me. If you're willing to do the work, I've found that it's really easy to find good mentors. And they don't cost anything.
Seems like it's an integrated world of experiences. Google has been heading there for some time, and I really do feel that digital and inbound marketing is getting there as well. That's more of a Will Critchlow question :)
What is your favorite James Blunt song? Also - What challenges do you have as a company based in Fort Collins that would be less significant if you were somewhere like the bay area, Seattle, or New York? Further, do you think there are benefits (besides New Belgium and Odells) to being in Fort Collins/outside of the well recognized tech locations?
When are you coming back to Fort Collins? The Mack Web crew is so lost without you. Wait, here's your favorite song. Playing it just for you big guy:
To answer your question, it would be nice to be closer to some of our clients who do happen to be in the bay area. But that's really just proximity and we try to get over that with technology (we use G+ a lot). I really feel it's important for us to have face-time not only with our clients but other innovative companies and people outside of our sphere and certainly that would be easier to find in some of the bigger cities. We're really working on reaching out and not making geography a barrier. Boulder is a great tech city as is Denver, so we're trying to make the most of all the greatness we have right here in our home town.
Fort Collins has been voted best place to live (or has been a runner up) several times, so I'm pretty sure that we picked a good city to be located in and not just for beer and tech. I just want to live in a place that provides a safe place to raise my family and lots of opportunity as we grow this company. That may not be directly in Fort Collins all of the time, but social media and technology does make the world smaller.
I'm proud that we're in Fort Collins. Although it would be a whole lot better if Phil Nottingham lived here.
Not sure when we'll be headed back but I can tell you it's not soon enough!
No arguing that FC is a good place to be - just something I've been thinking about. Appreciate your insight.
Woohoo Fort Collins! I went to Colorado State University in FC and lived there for about 10 years.:)
Thanks for doing a Q&A, I think this question will give you some trouble:Who do you think would win in a boxing match, Rand Fishkin or Matt Cutts? and how.
Neither of them strikes me as the boxing type. More like ninjas.
Thanks for doing this AMA. Much appreciated.
I head digital marketing at an Australian creative/web design and publishing firm. As part of a segmented service, we offer siloed SEO (usually proposed after developing their sites). Is it worth the trouble to re-route 360 and offer a fully custom/integrated inbound marketing services rather than SEO alone, considering the "developing" market in AU compared to other countries. Our main issue at the moment is the lack of tier clients that can support this transition. Given the fact that we might lose a handful, if not more clients at the end of the day.
Also,Do you think it will also be beneficial in terms of long term to re-brand towards a full blown marketing agency rather than segmenting each? If you come to think of it,businesses are looking to have their online presence (websites) for profit, among others.
I've seen your story and you've been down this path before (well, sort of). Your enlightenment would be of great help.
Hey Larry. Sounds like you guys have a lot to think about. Without knowing much about your business, it's hard to say what's right. All I can say is that we've found great success in making the evolution from "just SEO" to a fully integrated solution. But it was certainly a painful transition and there's certainly more work ahead.
Something that has really helped me in the last couple years is getting really clear about who we are, what we do, and who we do it for. The minute we realized that we had a passion for community building and the fully integrated solution, it was easy to say no to the other stuff. We were good at the full blown solution and we were willing to take the risk to turn away the companies who didn't want it.
What are you guys really good at? IMHO, you can still focus *just* on SEO if that's what you're the best in the world at, and that's what you love, and that's what you really want to do. Then you just have to figure out how to connect with all of the companies who fit with what you provide and market to them (B2B and B2C).
Maybe it's time for you guys to do some soul searching and think about what you really want to do. Once you figure that out and you have a vision for the company, you can determine how that aligns with the existing clients that you have. Have the talk with them and let them know where you're headed. If they come along, great, if not it may hurt for a little while, but it will open you guys up to serving the audience you were meant to.
Hope that sheds a little light. Best of luck to you.
That makes perfect sense. Thanks a bunch! Best of luck to you too (and your business). Cheers!
Implementing FB Like or Share button in blog? which one will you prefer/advice for an internet marketing company blog? Is implementing both button a good idea.?
Hey Christy, FB likes don't really show up in the newsfeed, FB shares are much more valuable. As far as seo or anything else goes I am not sure how FB likes do.
Hey Mack thanks for the AMA.This is kinda broad but my question is... What would you say are the 3 most important things that a new website should do to market their business. Supposing their business is a guest posting service.