How can you use marketing automation to deliver better leads to your sales reps AND boost trial-to-customer close rates for a SaaS business?
This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Accelo Head of Marketing Juan Parra talks about how his team used HubSpot to automate the bottom of the sales funnel and dramatically increase the number of free trial users who converted to paying customers on the Accelo platform.
Listen to the podcast to get details on Juan's email workflow and insights you can use to automate the bottom of your own funnel.
Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. My name's Kathleen Booth and I'm your host. This week my guest is Juan Parra who is the Head of Marketing at Accelo. Welcome, Juan.
Juan: Hi everybody. My name is Juan Para. I'm the Head of Marketing at Accelo and I'm very excited to be here.
Juan and Kathleen recording this episode
Juan: If you haven't heard about Accelo, we're a service operations automation platform. That's a very fancy way of saying that we put all of the operational tools that you're using today in your AUT, in your law firm, it doesn't matter what type of service business it is, we put them under one roof. We were talking about your claim database, that's CRM, we're talking about sales, project management, customer service, retainer management, time tracking.
Literally all of the components you're using today to do the operational part of your business, we put under one roof so you can have data first hand, in front of you and have a full view of what's happening.
But more importantly, the main thing we look to help with is getting you organized and putting as much of your company on rails, so you can get back to doing the work you love. The reason we say that is because nobody gets into the business of becoming a creative agency to be handling invoices and billing. We do it because we're creative people and we like to do entertaining and creative stuff.
After a while, it feels like you're doing more busy work and more admin work than the actual creative work that you wanted to do, and that's where Accelo comes in to actually help you organize, put everything in one place and help you be more profitable and ultimately grow your business.
Kathleen: That's awesome, because I have worked in many a creative agency and one of the biggest pain points we've always had is what we use to call "tool proliferation" where we're jumping between all these software programs.
Whenever you're in any business where you're essentially selling your time, every minute you spend on that is a minute that is losing you money, basically.
Juan: Absolutely. One of the things that we like to say is, if you're an agency, you're inventory is time, and time is literally the most perishable inventory on earth. There's no way to get it back. Every minute that you lose is a minute that you're not billing for, it's a minute that you are literally losing money as an agency on your day-to-day work.
Where Accelo comes in is let's get rid of, on average, you spending 5-7 minutes on 20 emails when half of those, or maybe more than that, can be automated because you're just notifying a client that "We moved on to the next step" or "We're almost ready to ship." Stuff like that.
Technology exists to be able to solve that for you, and that's where we come in. That's where we can help you become more productive and ultimately make more profits.
Kathleen: I'm curious. I'm familiar with Accelo because obviously I work in a marketing agency, and there it's a platform that's really tailor made in many respects for agencies, but you've mentioned some other industries.
I think you mentioned law firms. Are there other service industries that you serve, or is it really any business that is selling time is a good fit for you?
Juan: Any business that is selling time is a very good fit for us. The reason why we have an affinity towards digital agencies and digital marketing companies is because we were an agency ourselves. Like many agencies out there, we started building our own in-house platform to start fixing things.
At one point we realized, there is an avenue and there is a space for this to grow. More than a product back then, we set ourselves to say "Why is it that there's no technology being created for us? There are great task management tools, there are great CRMs for sale, there great tools for a lot of different things that we did individually, but for us as a business, as an agency, there's nothing that exists out there, unless I have a hundred or two hundred thousand dollars to spend on a bunch of API integrations between a lot of platforms, or I can by SAP, or Oracle. I would never do that kind of thing."
That's where we came in, and that's why we developed a platform for agencies.
We have a lot of clients around the world that are, for example in the IT consulting arena, or managed service providers. We also work with a lot of business consulting as a whole.
One trend that's very exciting for us that we've seen is that, normally it's not correlated to excitements it is on the accounting role. The accounting role is moving to this cloud global space that through technology they're now being able to service ... for example we have clients that are in New Zealand, but they serve clients in Australia, UK, and South Africa, and they can do that thanks to cloud software like Accelo that can help you have everything - it doesn't matter where in the world you are - you can have everything in one place.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's great. I feel like there are so many industries that that applies to. Even within the marketing agency world where we're becoming very much virtual companies.
When you want to have the best talent, your talent is all over. You hire them wherever they are. So, certainly something that I think could be applicable pretty broadly.
Kathleen: You are Head of Marketing for Accelo and you've been there for some time. It's interesting that the company is making this shift from being an agency to being a SaaS company. I'd love it if you could talk a little bit more about your thoughts for how you're going to market the company, and what you're seeing work really well for Accelo.
Side note, as we get into that, there's a huge thunderstorm brewing here where I'm recording from, so if you hear big booms in the background, it's not that we're under attack, it's that there's a thunderstorm and we're just gonna roll with it, 'cause that's how we roll here.
Juan: Absolutely. To address the question and to talk a little bit about the transition, when we first moved from the agency that we were into a SaaS platform years ago, our other name was Affinity Live and that was back when the cloud wasn't called the cloud yet, and Microsoft was doing a pitch on calling the cloud Live and they had everything Live, and Xbox live, and everything live, right?
We made a gamble and added ... the product itself we called it Affinity then we added the word Live next to it so if it did pan out in that sense, we'd be well positioned for it. Now, years later we know that that was not true.
A little over three and a half years ago we rebranded into Accelo. This was a little bit after I came into the company to start doing the marketing aspect of things. Going through the rebrand was a very exciting process for us, because it's a very different ballpark when you're doing branding for other companies, than when you're doing it for yourself.
There are so many intricacies to the process. "How do we come up with a company name that represents us?"
We had these values that we always think about like acceleration, how do we accelerate your business? That's where the beginning of the word Accelo comes from, right? Then how do we make it short enough that it's easily readable and people can understand it very quickly.
From there we got the name ... how do we make it look like what it is? We work a bit in the product management arena, so our logo has five bars that represent the different parts of our products and they have different colors based on that.
They also represent a Gantt chart and how a Gantt chart can move back and forwards.
Lastly, it's also shaped like an arrow to help you move forward.
These are all sentiments that we applied into the brand as a SaaS platform to really move us where we want to be, not just today but years from now as a brand.
We did that and I think that so far it's been working really great. We have had tremendous success in the last couple years in terms of growth, and this is only the beginning for us, so we're very excited for what's to come.
Kathleen: I love hearing those kinds of stories about rebranding because I think as a consumer you only see the end product of it, right? You see the name, you see the logo, most people don't even really give it much thought.
It's funny, before I went into marketing I use to work as a consultant - this is super random - in the water utility space. I did public sector projects dealing with how you bring in private management of a water utility. One of the challenges we always had is that people don't understand why they need to pay for water because they think "Oh, it's raining, water comes out the tap."
But they never think about what happens in between the rain falling and the water coming out the tap.
It's very similar with branding because they just see "There's a name and a logo."
It's fascinating to me to hear the process you went through, the thought process to get to it and the thoughtfulness that went into not just how you named it and what it meant and how it reflected on your core values, but also the actual structure of the logo itself.
Thank you for sharing.
Juan: There's so many stories that go alongside that logo and so many intricacies that I know people never noticed, but us as a brand and me as a marketer did pay attention to it. One example I always use is, if you look at our logo, the A on it, it's a lower case "a", and in the bottom of the A, that little circle that all lower case As have, we made ... it's not a full circle, we made a little indent on the top right side so it feels like the A is almost smiling.
Check out the smiling "a"! ^^
It gives that different look to the word itself.
I can show you later on at another time, the logo before and after we made that little minuscule change and you'll instantly see "Yeah. That makes sense. It actually looks good."
Kathleen: Maybe we can put it in the show notes so people could see it.
Juan: Yeah, absolutely. Those three things that, as marketers, we have to pay attention and make sure that we're always on the right track and doing what is going to take us to a growth path, if that makes sense.
Kathleen: Yeah. You started with a rebranding, which it was funny you used the word "fun" to describe it, and I think it can be fun but I also think rebranding can be terrifying.
You're changing the most fundamental aspects of the company. The name, the logo, all of it. It's almost like starting over.
Having gone through that process and now that that's behind you and you're looking forward, you've had some time to engage in marketing since you've done the rebranding. I'd love to hear what's working well for you, and what are you gonna double down on and what do you see yourself doing more of going forward?
Accelo's Marketing Strategy
Juan: Part of the rebrand, and this is something that we haven't talked about yet, was that as a platform, as a SaaS company, as a software company ... software companies tend to get put into categories.
You have all the different price matching softwares under one category, and all CRMs, and so on and so forth. For our type of software, there wasn't a category where we could fit in. We can fit into a lot of them because of the different parts of our product, but not one that encompassed the entire thing.
As part of the rebrand we were also thinking "We need to come up with a category that makes sense." That's how we came up with service operations automations, or servops, which is what we've been doubling down in terms of evangelizing it and bringing other people to this category to develop software in this category. It's a category meant to service service businesses and agencies, and agencies obviously in front because of our nature, but all types of service businesses.
The idea is "Let's start talking about this. Let's put our foot forward saying we need to develop software that is built with a very specific group in mind that has not been addressed."
When we talk about time tracking, time tracking software is fascinating to me because time tracking is one of those rare softwares that have already done that in some sense.
You have time trackers that are specific to law firms because the law says we need to be tracking up to the millisecond. Then there are other timers built for agencies that don't necessarily need to have those type of features, and so on and so forth.
Let's keep doing that, but on a much larger scale, right?
When it came to the brand, it was almost like two brand exercises at the same time, and how do they go together? But also how do they differentiate themselves, right?
We don't want servops by no means to be a thing that's just about Accelo. There's an ecosystem around it that should encompass a bunch of other companies, and that's where we're doubling down.
When it comes down to the brand itself and have we done what has worked, I think the most important thing that we've done for Accelo as a brand is humanizing it as much as possible, and making Accelo a brand that's about the user and not about the product.
The way that we do that is not only in how we handle ourselves on a day-to-day basis like having our community being part of our roadmap planning, or having a large community that comes in to test at the beta level with any feature but also at the alpha level, so we can understand how are we doing developing things right or how are we developing them wrong?
That's on the internal side. On the external side, like I had mentioned earlier, we have one purpose and that's getting you back to the work you love.
When we enter into any discussion, whether it's through our content which one of our top blogs in this past couple weeks was meditation for project managers, right? That was a fun article for us to write because we do do a little bit of that in the office ourselves. Yeah, it sounds very much like a San Francisco, Kumbaya type of thing, but it actually helps us out on a daily basis. It also helps us reset our minds and helps us get into a work mode where we can actually be productive.
Thinking about those things and not just saying "We're Accelo. We have project management, customer service, and sales and that's it," that's what's really helped us grow the brand and bring back that affinity which I love to say because it use to be our old brand and there's definitely a lot of it in us, towards our clients, towards the people that we service, towards the people that live on a day-to-day basis with the struggles.
Automation can make it easy for you to do that, and because we understand that that's why we've developed time tracking tools within our product to be able to get rid of ultimately having people every Friday having to fill out time sheets. That's just one of the ways that we do it.
Kathleen: First of all, I'm a meditator so it's not just a San Francisco thing. I'm deep in the East coast.
What I love about what you described with that meditation example, is that what you've done is make the content more about the holistic needs of your audience, as opposed to their needs only as regards your product.
I've interviewed a lot of different marketers for this podcast and some of the more compelling stories, I've heard ... I think the first one here talked about this was Stephanie Casstevens, who at the time was working for another company, but funny enough now works at IMPACT.
When I interviewed her she was not working with me, and she talked about a case study of a really successful campaign where they were not able to see success until they stopped talking about what they were selling and talked about other things that their audience felt as pain points that had nothing to do with their product. It was the only way they could start a conversation and build a relationship.
It sounds like that's the direction that you're heading in.
Juan: Absolutely. I can tell you that years ago in our sales process, we also found exactly that. We use to have a sales process that was all about showing the product and demoing the product and saying "this is how this works, and this is how that works."
When we changed it to having discovery in the beginning and saying "What's the problem that you're trying to solve?" - just asking that question, most people often come to us and say "The problem that I'm trying to solve is I need a better project management tool." And then we need to re-ask the same question: what is it that you're actually trying to solve?
"Oh, we're disorganized."
Alright let's talk about that a little bit. Why are you disorganized? Is it that you're dealing with a hundred different spreadsheets? Is it that you're working on a task management platform and you're trying to tie in data from another place?
Getting into the actual root of the cause, and having that conversation has led us to a sales process where then it becomes a matter of, "alright, can you do all those things and solve the actual problem that we've now identified?"
Yes you can. Alright, then let's go into negotiation, validation, negotiation process, and ever since we did that, the company has just skyrocketed in terms of sales, in terms of marketing - across the board - just overall growth because of that thoughtfulness towards the clients and the people that we service.
Kathleen: I love what you just said, because I strongly believe, and I've been told by some of the mentors that I respect the most that very often the first answer you get - particularly when you're doing persona research, or audience research - the first answer you get is not the real answer.
Unless you are willing to slow down and ask why, and continue drilling, you don't really get to the right answer.
I think too many marketers don't do that. They just get these answers. They take them at face value and run with them, and unfortunately that leads us to spend a lot of time and effort creating content, creating marketing, that doesn't really resonate.
Juan: Absolutely, and one fascinating thing is we've even seen our sales cycles reduce in time, because that first phone call takes longer, but then the rest of the process, it's actually quite shorter. Then we're going straight into the things that matter to you, and how are you gonna solve them?
What are those "aha moments," KPIs, OKRs, however you want to call them that are actually gonna make an impact today in your business, and then how is it that automation is gonna make an impact today, and six months from now and a year from now, and what does that roadmap look like, right?
Having that conversation then has most definitely turned into having, bringing, onboarding a lot of really, really good clients into Accelo.
Kathleen: It's that old concept of you've gotta slow down to speed up, right?
Juan: Yeah, absolutely.
Automating the Bottom of the Funnel
Kathleen: So, one of the interesting things that you shared with me, that I wanna make sure we talk about, is that you've had a lot of success with what I would term, automating the bottom of the funnel. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Juan: So, I guess to begin with, at Accelo, sales and marketing have always been one entity instead of being two siloed entities. We've always operated, one, together, and second, side-by-side.
Because we were just built that way naturally, we found ourselves using sales updates and our marketing process and then marketing tactics in our sales process, and at some point we realized that we could benefit each other. The way that we do that is, for example, when a client starts a trial at Accelo.com - let's add that app in there - the system recognizes that lead coming in. There is a system in place to see what type of lead that person is, and who the is the right person to work with that lead.
Once that's identified, then there is an entire marketing campaign strategy around that lead to serve them with the content that's necessary for, that we've identified is going to help them through this process.
We, at a very basic level, start with an email sequence that then helps the user book demos with our AEs automatically without even having to jump into a phone call. Through the use of technology, people click on a link and there the calendar of the AE shows up and they can just book a meeting right then and there.
There are two things that we found with that. One is, the AEs love it because they come into the office and their day's already pre-filled with demos they need to make and sales that they need to work.
More importantly, it has helped us reframe that initial conversation.
The moment that the user clicks on that link and books a time in the calendar, that's a meeting that was set up by the user, not by Accelo.
When the conversation actually starts, the user actually feels responsible for that conversation happening, and that sets us as a brand and as a company in a much better place to explain what Accelo is, how it can help you, and ultimately for a much smoother sales process.
Kathleen: So this is all getting kicked off by an interested potential customer who comes to your website and clicks "book a demo," and that's what triggers this process?
Juan: So, they start a trial. We don't have a "book a demo" button, we have a 14 day trial they can start.
They get in, and they start playing with it. While they're playing with it, automatically, in the background, we use HubSpot for most of our workflow automation, plus other plugins.
While the person is playing with it, they get a welcome email from our CEO, bringing them in, asking them, "hey, what is-" even from that first email we start humanizing the process by saying that our CEO is asking them, "how can I help you. What is it that you're actually trying to solve? Let's start that conversation."
Within a couple minutes, they receive an email from the pertinent AE directly, saying, "Hey I'm here to help you out. Let me know how I can assist you. If you're interested in getting into the weeds and having a more in-depth conversation, click here and book a demo."
That all happens automatically. The AE doesn't necessarily do anything on his behalf, other than seeing that it pops up in his Accelo profile, and then from there he can work that lead, do the research, so on and so forth.
Kathleen: So the AE's are your Account Executives? Is that right?
Juan: Account Executives, sorry, yes.
Kathleen: Okay. What is the frequency of the touch points you're having in this automated sequence?
Juan: So we have email, and the first email from the AE on day one.
From there, depending on how much interaction has been happening, the next email will happen within the next two or three days. The longest period that it will hold will be three days. After day three an email will go out.
Then, after that, we have a cadence that we have, kind of like master for ourselves, it's anywhere between two or three days throughout a 14 day period.
It's definitely a cadence that we have tested and works very well for us, but I also mentor a couple other companies, and while they've implemented this, they've seen that a much different cadence for their audience works better.
When it comes to cadence, it's always in my mind, you start with something basic every two days or every three days, and then from there you start tweaking to see how people respond.
Kathleen: Okay, so cadence depends on audience. It depends on testing. You need to play around with it and see what's right for you.
You mentioned 14 days. Is that the duration of the free trial?
Juan: That is the duration of the free trial.
I think more importantly than the cadence is the content that these emails have, I think it's important for us to realize that not every email we send to our users should be trying to drive a demo. That's something that I see on my inbox every single day; a person that has been trying to get in touch with me and, for some reason I've either not been able to reply or I've put it on my- need to do this a little bit later. I all the sudden have three other emails with the same call to action, "let's book a demo! Let's book a demo! Let's do a call! Let's do a call!"
As part of our cadence, we understand that that's not necessarily the best process for people.
If by email three, that person hasn't booked a demo, most likely that person is not interested in booking a demo, but that doesn't mean that person is not interested in your platform, so let's get them tools to play more in the platform.
At some point, if we know that they spent x amount of time using our software, they're gonna have questions, and most likely they're gonna end up booking a demo at some point. It's about framing those calls to action through that cadence.
The reason why I bring this up is because by the end of the 14 day process where we realize, "alright, clearly this person does not want to have a conversation for x or y reason"- to us, that doesn't necessarily mean that the sale is dead, or that that lead is dead. So, a week after that 14 day process happens, we send yet another email asking them, "Hey, here's a brief survey. Three questions on why did you decide to leave, or why did you decide to not continue with the process or not talk to our team?"
What's fascinating is that people who have not replied, only opened one or two emails - that's the one email that they always end up replying.
They give us a very straight reason, then that for us then informs our sales process. It also informs the content that we were putting in those emails before. It informs the conversations that are happening. It informs the onboarding process.
I can't tell you how many things the response to that particular email has impacted in our sales funnel, in our marketing funnel, and in our product development itself. How do we showcase the best parts of Accelo at the most pertinent time, and so on so forth.
That's why even if that person never buys, that doesn't mean that that person doesn't send data that's relevant to you, and if you can access that then that's gonna make you a better marketer, a better salesperson, and a better company as a whole.
Kathleen: It's interesting you say that that's the email that everyone responds to, because I feel like it's the equivalent of the sales breakup email. I used to be in a sales role at IMPACT, and man, breakup emails are incredibly effective!
I guess for anyone listening, if you don't know what a breakup email is, that's basically when you've tried three, four, however many times and you're not getting a response. You write and say, "This is the last time I'm gonna email you," or "I guess you're not interested," or whatever your message is.
Juan: We do have a breakup email on the 14 day plan. That's the last email where we say, "I know you're not interested, but, by any chance if you still are, click here and you can extend your trial."
That's kind of like the last call to action within that breakup email, and the email that goes out a week later, that's actually an email that comes again from the CEO, so the two emails that are coming from the CEO is the welcome and the "why didn't you want us?" basically.
They always get a good amount of response.
Kathleen: Now, when you send your breakup email, what percentage of recipients opt to extend their trial?
Juan: We're seeing that about ten to fifteen percent of people opt to extend their trial.
What's even more fascinating is that out of those ten to fifteen people that end up extending the trial, a very high number then end up converting or going through an in-depth sales process.
It's a very low number that extends the trial and then nothing happens.
The key here is, it doesn't matter how you do it, invoke action. Invoke action whether it's through booking a demo, through doing more stuff in your platform, through extending the trial. The moment that you invoke at least one action, that's the moment that then you can actually kick off a good sales process.
Kathleen: Yeah, it doesn't surprise me that the people that extend the trials convert at a higher rate, because I know at least myself, I'm busy, my inbox is flooded, and so I will sign up for trials and then forget or run out of time.
You get that last email with the offer to extend, and it's like, "Oh, thank goodness! Time has flown by and I didn't realize my trial was ending." Anybody who's gonna bother to extend at that point, usually I would think would have pretty good intent.
Juan: So we've had this automation sequence for about two years.
In those two years we've run a little bit over three hundred experiments on the emails themselves, whether it's through the subject line, the cadence, the signature, what to put underneath the signature.
One, we've seen obviously a growth in response rates with that sort of experimentation, but we've also seen that people, if you start an email with a suggestion of what to do next, and then put the actual call to action, people are more reactive to that and end up saying, "alright, let me try it, and by the way, I might as well try it with you on the phone so you can tell me if I'm doing things right or wrong."
So, those are the sort of things that have helped that automation really work and really drive more demos and increase our sales.
Kathleen: Have you been able to collect any data - before and after data - as far as how putting this automation sequence in place has impacted your, I guess it's really your trial to customer close rates?
Juan: So, when we first implemented this, what we wanted to improve was our trial to demo rates. What we see was, we almost doubled the amount of demo rates. That's how big the difference was.
The one thing that we can attribute it to is that by no means did it have anything to do with the content that the sales guys were necessarily sending. The quantity of leads that we were bringing in, it was just too much for the sales team that we had back then. It is still today.
For them to manage each one of those sales individually with the amount of care, with the right timing, with all the different factors that come into making an email successful - that's where bridging the gap between marketing and sales becomes important.
I've seen sales teams now that have a team that's dedicated to just doing this, but for small and medium businesses, or start-ups like us that are very much going, but are not quite that big, then we can do that.
We send marketing emails on a daily basis, on a weekly basis, so we're testing. That's our bread and butter, so why not use the same tools that we're using for marketing to help the sales team out?
We did that and it's just been success after success.
Kathleen: Hopefully if you scale and you do really get quite large, what I think is so smart is that you've put a system in place that will completely grow with you. That automation, it can really help you save time, and I would think, my guess at least is that it would make understanding when you need to hire additional AE's a much simpler equation. We call them "BOFU requests" - bottom of the funnel requests- and as you see that number increase, it becomes fairly simple to calculate: this is the number that any given AE can handle, so feed that number with our existing AE's, we've gotta hire another one.
Juan: So, we have on our weekly reporting, we have that and we measure what's the health of each one of the pipelines, obviously, but more, how much is being touched and how much is not being touched for x, y, and z reason, and then based on that we make hiring decisions, not just for the sales team, but also for the marketing team, because as the team grows, it needs more nooks and crannies and the workflow needs to be adapted, and the workflow needs to change, and that requires time, it requires effort, and it requires man power.
It has not only helped us learn what should our hiring numbers be on the sale side, but also on the marketing side.
Kathleen: Yeah, that's great. Well, what I like about this is that it's a fairly straightforward solution that any company can implement. I mean, you obviously need some kind of marketing automation platform. It sounds like you're using HubSpot for this.
Juan: Correct. When we started, we didn't start out with HubSpot. We actually started with another platform called AutoPilot. They're very, very good at doing email workflows, and making visuals so it's easy for you to use. That's another tool that I highly recommend. Autopilot, we started with it, and it was amazing. Like that, there's plenty of other platforms out there that can help you make simple workflows, that can then lead you into this type of process.
The question is, when looking at any tool is, how are you going to be able to connect the data, right? That's where our automation makes it all simple, and easy. When you have an automated platform like Excel, for example, or like HubSpot, all the data's already there so you can tell HubSpot, "Hey. Don't send this email when the sales already interacted with this person."
Those are the little things that are very, very important and that you need to get right. If you send two emails on the same day to one lead, that lead most likely is gonna be dead within a day or two. They're not gonna respond. They're like, "You guys don't have your stuff together." That impacts the reputation of the business obviously.
There's definitely a good amount of tweaking that needs to be done. By no means is this hard. By no means is this overly complicated. It's actually a very simple workflow that can help you grow your sales.
Kathleen: Yeah. I think that's one of the biggest mistakes we as marketers make, is to have a bunch of different workflows running in the background or email automation sequences or whatever you want to call them. To not have a system for tracking and controlling how much email a given recipient is getting within a certain amount of time.
Juan: I absolutely loved that you used the word "system."
I do speaking engagements now. It feels like it's almost weekly. What I tell the audience is, "When you're looking at this organization, where you have a bunch of different tools not speaking to each other, when you have teams not necessarily speaking to each other, what you need to put in place is a system."
That system can be as simple as sitting down and saying, "How does a customer lifecycle actually work and where do all the different nooks and crannies come in? Where everything fits in." Then based on that, start creating workflows for that.
Going in deep in an actual workflow of a project and what are the different things that need to tie into a project? Normally people think, "Well I need a PM, I need the people that are going to be doing the work and that." It's actually more than that. You need a lot of admin work, for example, time tracking.
How do you know that a project is on budget at any given moment? Most companies call their CFO and say, "Hey can you run the numbers?" And a week later they get the numbers but the problem is, that project is already over budget, and most likely they're gonna lose money.
That's why putting systems in place can help us fix that, can help us not go out of budget or not run out of time if you're running on retainers and stuff like that.
Kathleen: I couldn't agree more.
Kathleen: It's easy to get it all mixed up when you've got a million different platforms you're working off of. That is also the business case for somebody to get Accelo - so that they have fewer platforms.
Juan: Absolutely. I ask people, "If you opened your computer right now, how many tabs do you have open in your browser?" I can tell you that, on average, people say 10 out of the top of their head. Most likely it's probably gonna be 15 or 16.
Then I ask them, "Out of those 10 tabs that you have open, how many of those tabs are actually going towards the work that you're doing? How many are going to the tracking process? The operational part of things?" People think about it for a second and say, "I guess, like six of those tabs are just all the tools that I'm using." Then three or four are for the work that they're actually doing.
We can fix that just by decluttering your browser and your working environment. That, by itself, can help you be more efficient. If you're more efficient, you can work more billable hours in the same amount of time.
It's not like I'm saying, "Now because you're more efficient you can work 10 hours a day." Within the same, let's say eight hours of a day, you used to be four hours of actual work and then four hours doing the rest. Well, if I can give you one more hour, that's one more billable hour that you can make money out of.
Kathleen: It's funny, when you said, "How many tabs do you have open?" I immediately looked at my browser. Then I had to laugh 'cause I was like, "Well, I guess the first question should be how many browser windows do you have open?" Because I have two screens and I know some people who have three. It's like, I have X number or tabs times X number of browsers.
It's crazy, it's nuts. No wonder we have trouble focusing and getting stuff done!
Juan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
Kathleen: I want to make sure I ask you my favorite two questions before we wrap up today.
Kathleen's Two Questions
Kathleen: The first one is, you work with a lot of creative agencies and a lot of other different companies and you're speaking at a lot of conferences. I'm sure you're seeing some great examples of marketing. Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well today?
Juan: I think individual, I think both in different scenarios, but individual is ... To me takes the prize. The reason for that is because the adaptability, the pace that they're able to do the experimentation, and the adjustments for any type of campaign, any type of advertising process to actually work and be efficient.
As companies as we grow, because of how the nature of how businesses are, things tend to start slow down a little bit. One example for us, as a brand, while we have by no means slowed down we have always taken the pride of being ahead of the game when it comes to keywords that we're bidding for. Things as simple as that. We normally see the competition coming right after us. That gap is becoming smaller and smaller. That's something, that us as a business need to build in.
That's where automation internally ... The main reason why we are able to stay ahead is, we've already been running on automation for the last couple years. That's how we're being able to beat the competition. Now that the competition's taking automation into all different places, that gap is becoming shorter. That in itself makes us have to combat different things at different times.
As individuals we can focus, we can work faster, we can experiment more, and ultimately be more efficient.
Kathleen: Any specific individual marketers out there who you think are really crushing it these days? Anyone come to mind?
Juan: I have a lot. I have ... It's hard to come up with one individual name.
Kathleen: Is this like asking you to pick your favorite child?
Juan: No, for me it's like asking me to pick my favorite friend. Then I'm gonna get a bunch of emails of friends say, "Hey!"-
Kathleen: How about name three?
Juan: Top of my head I can't come up with names.
Kathleen: All right, all right, I'll give you a pass on this one.
The other question I have is with digital marketing changing so quickly, how do you personally stay educated and up to date? Are there particular sources of information or places where you go when you want to learn?
Juan: Me personally, I have the advantage that I'm at conferences all the time. I'm able to sneak into presentations all the time and see what's being talked about.
Definitely finding good conferences. By conferences I don't mean huge 10,000 HubSpot INBOUND conferences, but conferences like the Digital Summit series that's very specific about the topics that are being talked about in a day and a half conference.
IMPACT live, that talks about very specific topics, when it comes to digital marketing. Those then become really, really, helpful in my learning process.
I'm also an avid reader. I read at least two books every week, week and a half. By books I don't mean 500 page books. I've actually taken a lot of affinity towards reading the Harvard Business Review, and little books that they sell at airports.
Juan: That's a combination of essays. They now have a full marketing series on product marketing, digital marketing, on strategic marketing, on content. I love those because they give me very fast, and very good insights and tricks and tips that I can start putting in practice fast.
The last thing is, like I mentioned a little bit earlier, I do a good amount of mentorship with other businesses, other start-ups that are growing. It is fascinating to hear them out with the crazy ideas they come up with because, most likely, the people who start the start-ups are not marketers. They're just business people that are trying to grow their business.
To me, that type of individual can be just as good or better than traditional marketers. They're forced to think out of the box because they don't have a tool kit to start off of.
I feed off of that energy. Obviously I have my marketing background and my marketing experience that I use first and foremost. That's what gets me started, but then how do I become different? Is by fueling myself with all these conversations with start-ups, with people who are not necessarily marketers but are put in positions that need to work and create campaigns, and so on and so forth.
I tell them, "Hey, you have this landing page. Do you want to experiment like this or like that?" I try, as much as I can, to not tell them exactly what to do but let them figure it out themselves. Then it's amazing to see the work they come up with. Then based on that, then I'm like, "Hmmm, I hadn't thought about that. I can absolutely use that."
Kathleen: Sometimes I think, as marketers, we're our own worst enemies because we are used to following certain playbooks. I totally agree. I have few start-ups that I work with too. It sometimes takes somebody who's not in it everyday to bring that fresh thinking. That's such a great thing to get exposed to.
Juan: Me too, me too, it's the one thing ... I mean, I wake up every morning thinking about Accelo and then, after I'm done with Accelo, the first thing I think is, "All these guys that I'm helping, or girls that I'm helping, develop themselves to being entrepreneurs or that are already entrepreneurs but are trying to solve this new market to attack. And so on and so forth."
I think that, one, it's exciting. Second, it also brings new challenges and different challenges to my day-to-day work. As an ecosystem for myself, I think, one, it works very well and second, it just keeps me refreshed all the time.
Kathleen: Yeah. I couldn't agree more.
How to Get in Touch with Juan
Kathleen: Well, so much good stuff today. If somebody wants to reach out and ask you a question or learn more about what you've talked about. What's the best way for them to find you online?
Kathleen: Oh I love to hear you roll your Rs. I lived for a time in Spain. I speak a little Spanish but I always love hearing that accent.
Juan: Yeah. You know what's funny? I'm from Puerto Rico and I grew up in Puerto Rico and right now I'm saying Puerto Rico instead of Puerto Rico, right?
Kathleen: Puerto Rico.
Juan: A bunch of times, it just happens automatically, I might not roll one R but then roll on the second word or something like that. I stumble myself through rolling the Rs myself.
Kathleen: I love the sound of it.
Juan: I try as much as I can to not do that so ...
Kathleen: No don't try that. Keep in on.
I'm gonna put links to the different contact points you mentioned in the show notes so if anybody does want to reach you check the show notes out. Those will be in there and hopefully I will have a before and after of the Accelo logo to share as well.
Juan: Yeah. I'll get you that.
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