To say January was a challenging month is a bit of an understatement.
Both personally and in business it’s been about as stressful as I’ve had in all my years, but hey… that’s what you sign up for running a business, selling your home, renovating a house and planning a wedding!
At the end of 2020, I read ‘Compound Marketing’ by Dan Norris. In it he spoke about how he used to write progress reports as he grew (and sometimes failed to grow) his companies.
The idea of sharing the journey, warts and all, struck a nerve with me. It sounded fun.
So, I did what any marketer would do – I asked my audience on Facebook, Twitter etc. if they’d be interested in me sharing my journey each month.
It was an overwhelming yes – so here we are: Progress Report #1.
Each month, I’m going to write a report on the things we tried, the things that worked and the things that didn’t. I hope by following these, you’ll get a real insight into our growth as a marketing agency but also some insights as I bashfully grow as an entrepreneur.
Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
2021 – A Year Of Change
Before we get stuck into January, I need to talk about some huge changes in the business.
If you don’t know already, over the last few years, we’ve had three main offerings/streams of income:
- Done for you cipf-es.org Facebook advertising services (including funnel builds)
- Done with you coaching & consulting
- Do it yourself courses & membership
2020 was a great year for the business. Despite COVID, we hit our best ever revenue and had 2 of our best sales months ever.
But as we neared the end of the year, I knew I had to make some big changes…
Like most, I like to use the end of the year to plan the upcoming year. But in December, I had to go a little bit deeper. I knew something wasn’t right.
For the first time in a long time, I thought deeply about what I wanted to achieve over the next 5-10+ years (and not just the upcoming year).
That meant sitting down with pen & paper and getting really deep. What do I actually want?
You see… If you had asked me that question a few years ago, I’d have told you I wanted to be the best and biggest marketer in the world. But that has changed…
I don’t want to be a marketing “influencer”.
I love marketing. But it’s not where my true passion lies. The thing I LOVE doing more than anything is building the business.
And the ultimate goal for my business is to exit.
Then to go into other businesses (by starting new ones or acquiring) with the team I’ve built.
So – in this report, it’s less about goals and moreso about the changes we’re making and why.
(I hope you’ll join me on the journey of building the business, exiting it and building others! I’m excited!)
January Goals & Decisions:
#1: Stop Doing All Coaching, Consulting & Training
Okay, this is meaty.
For the past 3 years, I’ve been solving the wrong problem.
I first launched my agency 6 or so years ago. Quite quickly after launching I remember thinking two things:
- Client work sucks
- Agencies aren’t scalable
And with those two trains of thoughts, I started thinking about how to generate scalable revenue where I didn’t have to deal with clients…
That’s when I discovered the world of online courses.
The dream was that course sales would trump agency revenue and I’d have a scalable business, so I went full steam ahead on creating an epic Facebook ads course.
And over the last 4 or so years, I’ve been simultaneously running the agency whilst selling online products.
Now that I look back, it’s clear that wasn’t the best route to go down.
Client work doesn’t suck. I just had the wrong clients.
And agencies ARE scaleable. I just didn’t have a scaleable model.
Now I know that, I’ve made the incredibly tough decision to stop all coaching and consulting. My courses will still be available to buy, but they won’t be supported. This equates to about 40% revenue just now, so that’ll be a big loss. But it’s one we need to do.
#2: Build To Sell
One of the books I read at the tail-end of last year was “Built to Sell”. Holy smokes. That is an incredible book.
In it, it discusses the steps you need to take in order to build and exit a company.
It was actually one of the main reasons I decided to stop all coaching, consulting etc.
My ultimate goal for the agency is to exit.
In order for me to do that, or at least enter new businesses, I want the agency to get to ~1-2 million annual recurring revenue (ARR).
And the reality is, hitting that size isn’t a big deal.
There are thousands of people who have run multi-million dollar agencies. I don’t need to do all of the coaching, consulting etc. to hit that size. It’s all just a distraction.
In Built to Sell, John Warrilow outlines the main steps to selling a business:
- Create a standardised service offering
- Create a process for delivering that service
- Build a team of people who can operate the process
I’m quite lucky in that we already have a standardised service offering: Facebook ads + landing page builds. We’re not a full service agency, for example.
But despite that, I’ve never created a branded process around that offering.
And so I’ve worked hard on creating one.
I’ve loved doing this. Taking a design way of thinking to how we can make our client experience the best it can be, every single step of the way.
And I’ve laid it all out in a nice process. We’ve come up with nice names for each stage of the client journey, too. I can’t share this with you yet… as it’s part of the branding workshop, but I will in February!
I then created SOP’s for each stage, so once the brand is in place, and I build the team, they simply need to follow the process.
I went a bit crazy with this, writing over 50 pages of SOP’s. It’s one of those things I knew I should have done years ago… and adapted them over time, but I didn’t. So I’ve paid the price this month!
Building a team & getting an office
I’ve always favoured the remote way of working.
But after reading BTS, I’m pretty confident that we’ll get an office and start to build out a real team in-person.
My main focus is “what’s going to get us to £1m+ the quickest and easiest way?” Getting an office and building a team face-to-face feels like the best way to do that.
We’re going to be making changes to the team to get leaner, whilst making the right hires in the right places. More on that next month.
#3: Build An Actual Business And Not Just a Personal Brand
Years ago, when I first launched my company, I operated under the name, Blue Cliff Media.
It was a super corporate feeling and I began to dislike it pretty quickly.
A couple of years later, I scrapped that name and operated under my own personal brand.
Which has been great…
We’ve grown a lot, have a great team and manage over $3m in client ad spend per year.
But after a few tough conversations, I realised what got us to here, isn’t going to get us to the next step.
Which is to scale and exit, like I mentioned above.
The problem with operating as a personal brand is:
- You become tied to the work. The clients want YOU not your team
- The company isn’t worth much (if anything) because it’s directly tied to you
- it’s much harder for you as the owner to “let go” as all output is tied to your identity
So I hired a branding agency and we’ve been working together on creating a new brand for the agency.
The process has been super fun. We’ve done personality workshops, tone of voice workshops, a naming workshop and a little bit of visual identity work.
As much as I’d love to share everything with you this month, I can’t. We’re not quite there yet (at the time of writing). I’ll share everything in February’s report!
The branding process has been a lot of fun, but it’s also hurt us. We’ve had natural client churn this month and have done next to no sales or marketing activities to replace what’s gone.
That’s why it’s been such a frustrating month. There’s been no real momentum.
But I’m seeing January as very much a month of “building”. I’ve spent the last few years jumping into things, solving the wrong problems and so now… I’m firmly a “measure twice, cut once” per person.
If I’m doing something, I’m doing it right. Once the brand is complete and out there, we can shift our focus onto sales, marketing and growth.
#4 Content Strategy & Podcast Screw up
I hate to admit this, but I’ve been seriously guilty of posting content for the sake of posting content in the past.
You know… create something without doing much research, post it and then spend next to no time on actually promoting it. That’s been me to a tee.
And so I pretty much stopped all content marketing efforts this month until we sort out a real strategy.
The future of the podcast is uncertain.
This is a little embarrassing because in 2019 I launched the podcast. It was called the “Funnely Enough Show”. I then changed the name to the “Funnily Enough Show”. I then changed the name to the “Funnel Academy Show” and then even more recently I changed it to the “Funnels & Business Growth Show”.
I’ve changed the name FOUR times?! WTF!
And here I am again, embarrassed to say… I might do it again.
Here’s the thing… all of my name changes and decisions like starting the podcast were all done under the context of:
- Having no brand
- Trying to grow my audience for the coaching & consulting
But now we have a brand, we’re clearer on who we work with and I’m no longer promoting coaching/consulting, we may have to pivot again.
We’ve wrapped up the podcast now (as an end of season) and will take some time to decide how we proceed.
At this point, I’m not sure if we’ll scrap the podcast, or simply change the name.
So, that’s been my January! Like I say, very much a month of building.
It’s frustrating when all I want to do is grow, but the foundations for growth have to be in place first. Here’s what I’m planning for February:
Branding Completed – In February we should have the new branding complete. I can’t wait to share that with the world. I feel like it’s going to be a real breath of fresh air.
New Websites Launched – As part of the re-brand, we’re of course launching a new agency site which I’m super excited about! I’m also re-building my personal brand website.
New Client Delivery Model – As part of our “building phase”, I’ve been working hard on creating a brand new agency delivery model (how and what we do for our clients). This is going to revolutionise not just the results we get for clients, but also their customer satisfaction. I’m the first to admit our service isn’t always perfect for our clients, but that’s about to change.
Full On Promo – We’re going to relaunch our funnel. We’ve had a brilliant funnel in the past that has booked my diary up with sales calls but it’s been turned off just now as we complete the branding process and new client operating model. Once those things are done, we’ll begin spending again!
And that’s a wrap!
I’m excited to be sharing these reports with you and as I continue to do this, I hope to bring more nitty-gritty stuff with you. January was a big month of change and so it’s going to be exciting to see how that change impacts growth going forward.
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