Why I decided to take such a massive topic as a development Agency, and regional. First, because I believe that sharing with partners and competitors the information is correct and useful. In fact, the advertising market we were born, before saturation for many decades. Constantly introducing new technologies, opening up new niches, and the mentality of many agencies and clients still shovels.
Laziness, greed and stupidity were hindering the development of business and hinder the prosperity of the market as a whole. In my opinion, the more open we will be to each other, the faster we will grow yourself, and develop your new customers will create clear and beneficial for all the rules of the game. And if some Moscow Agency is already actively consolidating the efforts in regions with very hard.
And secondly, like we manage to build a decent Agency without dad, mom and loans. I hope that at least part of what we do will be useful to others. Not to rant, here is our dynamics since we started selling context.
First, a little history about how we got into this business. There was 2009. I happily earn online poker. Not supernova, but without much straining. At some point a colleague in the shop — a much more successful poker player — he offered me 500 thousand rubles with the words.
“On, washed down with something. If it works, will share the profit”. I immediately took it and started to think, what to think. To do was afraid, so first thing I went to all your friends with a proposal to organize something for these funds together.
To my surprise, only one person agreed. Now this is my equal partner and General Director Anatoly Sobolev CubeLine Agency. Further, if my memory serves me, were a week or two discussed options, what kind of business to run, and eventually decided to create a design Studio (the benefit of the Felts were three friends of the student-designer). We rented a modest “cellar”, made all repairs, which ruined almost 20% from starting capital, and began to do business.
As far as I remember, we were going to do a graphic design type of otkrytochku, wordstrips and the like, but on the second week we got an order to develop the site — so we became cool web-Studio. For the first two or three years in the life of the web-Studio was not anything particularly interesting. We are actively versed in the technologies, approaches and market in General. From bright moments remembered only flowing on the walls of the streams of cat urine (above us lived a crazy old lady with 40 cats) and the first major order for the “Energomashbank”.
Our business was growing at a snails steps, firstly, because neither I nor Toli had no experience and no mentors. Secondly, because I was able to participate only partially, as he continued to play poker, Roofing and objectively could not fulfill all the roles at once. And General, and accountant, and head of production, and the sales, and account and so on.
In late 2010 we decided that one of us little hemorrhoids, you need to hook up the second. So was launched “Panda” is one of the first deliveries of Chinese food in boxes. In catering, we understand, to put it mildly, in any way, so our new business looked something like the following. The best website in the industry, an expensive, but not normally implemented automation, additional custom-written software. What a complete terror in the kitchen.
In the end we took off in the first six months and then larger competitors with pending processes, albeit shitty, but, more importantly, cheap product, began to sink us. We have suffered another year and a half and eventually closed in March 2013 with huge debts for us at that time. But it was a new beginning.
We were tired, without any money, half-dead web Studio (because it was sponsored by “Panda”), but with the clear understanding that we cant give up. While working on the “Panda” from scratch I understood the context, Roofing gained form in web development, we realized that web Studio is not going to be. CubeLine reborn in an advertising Agency and, more precisely, in digital Agency.
Perhaps, only in 2013, we began to think about what and how you sell. If we talk about development, we never wanted to do the conveyor and to sell cheaply. But it is also expensive to sell we could not. In the end, we were aiming in the “middle segment” where it seems to have needs to think about quality and to understand that at the same time well, quickly and cheaply does not happen.
However, the “middle segment” in St. Petersburg turned out to be too low-margin and strength to the capture of Moscow until it was. In the end, we decided that focus on promotional products for medium businesses, and development will dorogovat after we show the client a cool result in the context. The hardest part was to put the bottom bar to log on to a client budget and learn to refuse to those who fails.
Average St. Petersburg budget context there were about 15-20 thousand. Considering the economy of the Agency, it became clear that taking clients with budgets of less than 50 thousand unprofitable. However, six months weve been stepping on the same rake and take “perspective” clients with budgets of 30-40 thousand. We definitely did the right thing and would highly recommend all small and medium — sized agencies began charging fees for “Yandex.Direct” once, when she still did not take no one, at least in St. Petersburg.
Moreover, while our strap on has risen to 150 thousand, we took not only the monthly 10% of the budget in the “Direct” and 30% one-off fee for preparing and running. Undoubtedly, this has reduced us to the potential clients, but those who signed up, received the best results for himself, but for us became a stable and profitable partners. From 2013 to date, we lost not more than five clients. And its not just a reason for pride, it is the Foundation of business.
From 2013 to summer 2014, in addition to the development of sites and context, we tried to build the SEO Department, but never found responsible and intelligent professionals that meet our quality requirements. In the end, it was decided to cease to provide this service because we could not guarantee the same level as other products. Although we knew that the marginality of SEO services, especially in the long run, interrupting the context, and developing together.
Analytics we sold immediately. I dont understand how and, more importantly, why to work differently. Yes, we have free three to five hours Analytics that we provide to clients to run their advertising campaigns. But all other work must be paid for separately and cost adequately.
If you will not profit from Analytics, youll never be able to afford good experts, therefore give good results to clients. I understand that in regions difficult to sell an hour for 2.5-3 thousand, but to give it away for free is not exactly an option — to appreciate, and most importantly, do not use the results. Try to explain to clients the need to pay through labor times of a 1C or mechanics on a HUNDRED. And last, but perhaps most important is the personal relation to the services and products.
Until you begin to demand from ourselves and our colleagues the best results, you will not be able to give. And mediocrity is futile. To date, our “internal” marketing is one of the coolest on the market.
And so says not only my mother but also many colleagues on the shop floor. Although we are still doing no more than 30% from what you really want. Even to this we were good two years. And this path was not easy.
Let me remind you that in that moment, when we are a digital Agency, the money was squeezed by subsidies in a recently closed business “Panda”. So we know firsthand what “no money” on marketing. Theses will tell you that we did. Marketing at first was not at all as had no money and time.
It was positioning and detuning — and then, rather in your head. To make marketing without money is possible, you just need to use your time and internal resources. Therefore, we have focused on your own website and have created a quality portfolio. For some reason we stubbornly not giving the presentation of the Agency and any materials that can be sent to the client.
Undoubtedly, its our mistake, but we believed that in a static PDF document, the client will not be able to appreciate our strength. As soon as there was any money, we hired the first PR specialista. It was total control from the Felts and rigid standards of quality. Strategy development, highlighting CA, plan activities the first time did more to CEO than a specialist.
But it immediately allowed us to obtain results above market. Momentum grew, but we never even thought to get something. The next step was the investment in the brand. Presentations, publications, ratings — generating flow of incoming leads.
Now the emphasis is placed on the blog, Facebook, remarketing. Until recently, the accounting and the more sales we have focused, to put it mildly, not enough time.
In my opinion, this principle is the weakest point of our Agency. But since the beginning of summer of this year we began to actively work with them, and soon everything will be fine. If you have a complex and subterritory product and not Assembly-line production of sample sites and advertising campaigns on a check-list, to build a clear sales — it is not a trivial task, especially if you dont entertain the idea that “vtyuhivat” all where you can get profit.
We had ekologiczny experience of a dedicated sales Department, but during that time we could only find one expert who was willing to understand the product and offered customers what they really can generate additional income. In General, we cannot say that our sales were bad. During the year we managed to involve forging some large (by St. Petersburg standards) clients, in addition to a number of low and medium size.
The sale process was crazy simple and was no different from other agencies. We chose a niche, has audited the top 6-10 in the context of preparing the preliminary report, contacted a potential client and presented to him the data requested accesses to systems analysts and current RK, did more detailed audit and proposed test RK with us. In General, the results of the test campaigns, 95% of advertisers stay with us. A little over a year ago we disbanded the sales Department and handling incoming leads.
At that time we could not afford it, as reputation and working on our own brand was already a steady stream of qualified incoming calls. However, in the near future we plan to start the division again with an huge amount of internal resources aimed primarily at training products. In summary, I believe that for young agencies, the sales Department is rather useful but need to lay time, energy and nerves on the selection of appropriate people, their education and training materials.
Accounting — as many in this word. For many medium and large agencies this is the main product. Cant say its bad. Customer satisfaction is important.
However, we always stood and will stand in the first place profit customer. Unfortunately, the happiness of the Manager from the customer side and the companys earnings often go different ways. For a long time we in the Agency accounting was divided between specialists and area managers, me and my partner. Now we are gradually building a system where the client has a dedicated project team, which includes account specialist context, targeting and Analytics.
For large projects, you receive additional a project Manager who oversees the other specialists. We believe that this is the most workable model that allows us to maintain the high quality of our work and to talk with the client in one language, while preserving transparency and focus on a common goal. The most difficult part for us was (partly, and has still) to prescribe standards, regulations, to build a clear structure of interaction between users and specialists, motivating the development of, and training myself and clients.
One financial motivation is a little less than enough, we need a system and the overall “spirit” of the company for creating a great product. In the beginning we communicated quite a bit with the environment. Or rather, anyone except customers and we havent talked.
There were two reasons. First, we the fuck there was no need, and secondly, we do not yet understand with whom and about what to communicate. However, the desire to create a cool product in itself forced us to find new friends. Thirst for knowledge gave rise to the need to ask questions, get the answers inside, it was not possible because of lack of experience.
In the winter of 2013 I came across a site with a strange domain 40-02. There I found a link to the group and the profile of the author of the site — a certain Maxim Uvarov (Director for development and research of automation system of contextual advertising “K50”]. Ed.). Due to the openness and responsiveness of max, I was able to get answers to pressing issues, but the group in Facebook, the number of social ties increased exponentially.
For small zamkadnoy Agency that gave the crazy growth of knowledge and competence. Moreover, at the time the context was created including myself. Another important point is the communication with the sites. If in Moscow the interaction between them and the agencies is well established (for many years they all go to each other in guests, carry out various official and not-so activities), in St. Petersburg, until recently, was very sad.
It is worth noting that now the situation is actively changing for the better. Communication between courts and agencies, and between agencies is becoming more positive, open and frequent. It is clear that all the actions in Moscow, and in Petersburg even there is no office of Google. But positive human relationships with the sites can be constructed from any city, the main thing — to want.
I therefore appeal to the regional Agency not to forget that the Manager on the side of the court is first person (for some this will sound weird, you know). And if you, in addition to production issues, periodically ask how he was doing, then sooner or later he give up and tell the truth. After that, work with each other you will be much more pleasant and effective. Im sure a large part of our results is a consequence of the positive relationship with Nastya and Misha, Artem, Sasha, Pasha, valley, Alyona, Alex, Masha, Sasha, Ira, and many other wonderful people with whom we constantly communicate.
Another important part of a healthy Agency business it partners. Under partners, I mean both the services that we use and offer to our clients, and direct competitors. From the point of view of communications where the Council is the same as that on the sites. Always remember that you are communicating with real people.
Although I pronounced introvert and people do not love, I am very glad that my life is connected with the it sector and digital market. Indeed, in our surrounded by so many smart and interesting people. That is why I recommend you to be as open to dialogue not only with services but also with other agencies. Even if you are direct competitors, can still be useful to each other.
Because the sores are all similar, but someone better decides to, say, build processes, and someone building a team. However, in any business partnership, in addition to simply have communication, there must be benefit for the company. So if you are a small regional Agency with local clients, do not worry that the friendly company with whom you have great relationships, not partners invite you to some client event.
It is logical for you or us to choose an Agency from the top 5 simply because it is more profitable at the moment. Nothing personal, just business. Dont forget to tell your partners about your strengths. Perhaps in your region you can collect much more interesting customer audience than the same iContext, can effectively choose a venue, organize the event itself and so on.
Dont forget to communicate with the companies of your level, and not only with market leaders. Together much easier to develop, jointly addressing common challenges. I have already partially touched upon the subject of recruitment and team building. But since people are the main thing in our Agency, tell you more about it.
Since the inception of the company my partner and I naturally planted the idea of perfectionism. We sincerely strive to give clients the coolest possible way you can. So, it is necessary to develop and to overcome yourself. Therefore, applicants that are satisfied with their current results and achievements, usually eliminated at the preliminary stage of a telephone conversation.
But those who still goes to our team, remain there for a long time and grow in skill very quickly. Constant growth is what we require primarily from themselves, thus motivating colleagues. I am convinced that without your own example you will never be able to lead the team to the goal.
So, if you want your employees not late, they always arrive on time. Want to read a lot — read read yourself and share with others. If you want them to be the best — strive each day to be better than yourself yesterday. I understand that not everyone wants these things, someone just prefers to go to work, perform tasks and, getting up from the computer and forget about work until the next business day.
I dont think such people are bad or lazy, there is no. Apparently, they are just happy with what they have, and dont want to change her, and even more common future or they are so afraid to leave the comfort zone that its easier for them to accept the current situation than to risk a little bit. To us these are not people on the way. Frankly, we were very lucky with the team.
Those people, who work with us now, cause I have admiration. Without them we would not be who we are, wouldnt reach cool results as fast as we did it. Thanks to max Lepihova, Sasha Pavlov, Sasha Naletova, Beate Sakharova, Ratmir Naumov, Andrei Cherepanov, the stake Myasnikov, earrings Arlowe and many other colleagues for helping us to become better every day. To be cool — its complicated, but cool.
Coming back to earth, I want to warn the leaders of small agencies. Even the strongest and well-trained people make mistakes, get tired, afraid and sometimes even give up. In such moments everything depends on you. If you really believe that, then your job and responsibility to help a colleague to get back to form.
After all, usually only from the inner circle have the experience of UPS and downs, of solving “unsolvable” problems and of resurrection from the ashes that will allow you to find the right words or to open the eyes to what is happening. But if you are not up to it, then most likely, you just dont believe in this person and all will be easier and safer to go separate ways. The main thing is not to delay the moment of parting, do not comfort themselves with the hope that everything will be as before, and not looking for a place under the person, look the person in the place.
The last in this block, but not less important point is not to delay the bureaucratization. We currently know, as it may be difficult to develop and implement regulations, standards, instructions and templates in that moment, when everything seems to be working successfully, but each in different ways. Also, remember that after the development and implementation of all these processes and documents they still need to keep up to date.
I think everyone understands that Finance is important. Money is the lifeblood of a business, so they need to know how to count, monitor and manage. About how to do it, well said Anton Chernokalov, co-owner of the regional Agency E-Promo, which was released successfully at the Federal level. Its publication is CMS magazine.
It is very important that your chief accountant at a sufficient level to understand what services you provide. In many circumstances this is not easy, so be sure to take time for training not only specialists, but accounting in particular. By the way, it would be really great if from the sites was of great help in this matter. Well, briefly about what we use in work.
Due to the fact that we combine under one wing as specialists in online advertising and web Analytics, and specialists in web development, building an effective operational infrastructure is one of the most important issues. Cant say that our solution is most effective, and even more so, we have not invented something new here, but for now it works. Once we had the idea to start to saw their instruments, but thank God we refused it. The cost of development and maintenance of such products is simply enormous, so if you dont, “Coco Group”, I would not recommend you to rely on their own development.
So, at the moment, as task Manager and time tracker we use “Megaplan”. Also he is associated with cloud 1C (without Topalov, which is very important) — this allows it to issue invoices, monitor demeterco and so on. Relationship management with existing customers is also conducted through this service. Yes, and its not just ugly, but works.
Until the customer signed the first contract, the transaction is carried out in PipeDrive. This is a great, simple and easy and tools for sales. I highly recommend.
As cloud storage we use Google Apps. There is a General folder type “Training materials”, “Documentation and Contract”, as well as folders of each direction. We also use Evernote and already the second year trying to implement on a permanent basis filling the Wiki, but has failed. Perhaps one of the most important infrastructural aspects is to remember that the main entity is a customer, and everything must revolve around him.
So during the build all process do not forget that materials on the client should be equally easy and convenient to communicate to the specialist, account, accountant, Manager and so on. And all new reports, banners, and more research should go into a single structured space, it is the same for everyone. As a performance Agency, and if in Russian, advertising Agency, turned end-to-end Analytics with transparent and considered to be the result of their work, we face a number of difficulties that slow down our growth.
First, it is passing by classic media budgets. And the problem here on both sides of the fence. The advertiser is easier to give the budget in classic media or communications Agency, because its so habitual and easy. Metric type of coverage, frequency of contact, and cost per thousand impressions — authentic and simple, why complicate your life.
And on the Agency side I think the catch is how to work and analyze the results of image advertising. Sometimes its really hard to go out of my way of payback last click or at least with the help of assisted conversions within 30 days, and also to select key metrics, the amount of new traffic with good synthetics, conversion, subscription or getting into your own remarketing lists. RF and CPM also has not been canceled.
The good thing is — the auction market intelligent purchasing of media advertising is growing, and YouTube is constantly updated with new tools that contribute to the paradigm shift from “unscrewed it and forget it” to “reviewed, calculated, tested, altered, segmented, unscrewed, analyzed, caught and sold”. Also very important in working with clients is managing expectations. Most clients that come to us, we believe that we are omnipotent, and you just need to press the button “loot”. Yes, we really have one of the strongest expertise on the market, but, unfortunately, not always able to apply it to the client.
Indeed, in most cases, just not enough data, i.e. system analysts are superficial, the traffic is marked only with the context, integration with internal business, financial and warehousing systems no, its just banal CRM system is missing. It all generates large risks at an early stage of the relationship between the Agency and the client. And like obviously, since we are so cool, you should give the result immediately.
And we really cool in the first place, because we know what and how to set that all correctly gathered for further analysis and decision making based on data. And here the problem arises. Even before the first tests to collect the maximum of information, to agree on the potential timing risks on gathering data and to turn this all into a “feeding Breakfast”. All I can suggest as clearly as possible with the client at the pre-project to prescribe, to what purpose are we going, how we plan to achieve, what metrics to measure and what tools to use at the initial stage.
Well, kicking specialists, not delayed deadlines. No doubt, a difficult moment in our work is the constant stress generated by the volume and complexity of tasks, the deadlines, the clients wishes, problems in communication with the client, Playground, in-house team that is constantly changing and evolving Toolkit. Have to learn to benefit from all this endless stream of information that it spawned the drive and passion, rather than fear and stress.
For this it is essential to be able to organize your work, prioritize, dont be afraid to ask questions and learn, but most importantly, always seek a solution, and not to give up and hide from the problem. To help you use Google Calendar, Todoist, equipment blank Inbox and all the power of GTD. Well, a bit of good. Performance projects — its great.
This project team, and therefore different tools and fresh ideas. This large customers and complex problems. This is a closed beta, and respect from colleagues. And most importantly is the self-esteem that appears after you solve the next “impossible” task. Its a pleasure to work with people smarter than yourself.
To conclude his opus with elements of lecture, I want to focus on the obvious for many points that will help small companies from the region or the capital to grow and to occupy a serious place in the advertising and/or it market. Most likely, you havent once thought, so now is a great time to act. First, mobile advertising, especially in the regions.
Request data from sites, look at the statistics LiveInternet. Prepare a visual presentation and go to current and new customers. Mobile versions of websites, mobile apps, advertising on mobile devices is now simple, cheap and nizkokalorina. Secondly, think about your positioning.
Why compete with all major Federal players. Theyll beat you, even if you really do your job better. They win simply because can offer the customer more than you, and in some cases even cheaper than you. Thus they earn considerably more than you.
Focus on what you really good at and what you like to do. Become the best in their field. Show yourself more often to those who can make you evaluate who will be able to understand what value he will receive from cooperation with you. Highlight their unique and not so advantages.
While you are small, you are agile and quick, you can sign a contract and launch an advertising campaign almost to the day. You can ensure a truly individual approach. Use this is a large Agency that cant. But if you can build good processes and automate routine tasks, the forward market small budgets. In Russia it is very decent, and one there eLama not cope.
Finally, pay attention to international markets, especially with current exchange rates. Even if you are a young Agency from Gorno-Altaisk, nothing prevents you from merging traffic from Instagram to your mobile installing the launcher in Brazil. In General, I recommend to pay attention to CPA network, especially overseas. It is likely that it will be much easier to create a stable cash flow, which will help take the business to the next level.