Interview Transcript (Draft)
Mike Zipursky: Hi, everyone! It’s Michael Zipursky here from Consulting Success and today’s consulting interview is with Craig Rosenberg.
Craig is co-founder of TOPO, a research, advisory and consulting firm that focuses on driving revenue and conversions. Before TOPO, Craig was VP Sales & Marketing at Focus.com and VP Marketing at Tippit that was acquired by Ziff Davis B2B. Craig also writes at the popular Funnelholic blog.
I’ve been looking forward to this call. So Craig, a big welcome!
Craig Rosenberg: Thanks, Michael. I’m excited too. I’ve been thinking about , and openly and very excitedly anticipating this interview so I can’t wait to do it.
Mike Zipursky: Right on. Well let’s start by having you tell us a bit more about your company and what you’re up to these days.
Craig Rosenberg: Thanks for mentioning it.
TOPO, we’ve been around for probably 6 months but it’s a core group of guys that I’ve worked with. It’s part of the founding team from Tippit and one of the other partners I had done consulting before and before Tippit when I was a consultant in Silicon Valley with a boutique consulting firm called Sales Ramp where we worked with high-tech startups to help build their inside sales __[01:39] and sales processes. It’s a group of guys that I’ve worked with over the years.
Basically, we have this belief that today’s organization can create scalable, efficient and repeatable sales and marketing processes – what we call a ‘revenue machine’ and that’s part of the core belief. The second part of the core belief, the sort of core principle behind that is to develop a deep understanding of the buyer and develop what we call a buying process map that allows you to understand how your buyers make decisions and then from there as a foundation, you can layer all your sort of sales and marketing processes on top of that to create a truly effective sales and marketing machine.
It’s cool to go out to market with a dream right in the methodology. That seems to be working. We’ve developed a number of great logos over the last 5 months and frankly, we weren’t sure we were going to get into consulting but we started to have fun, and we started to really have a sort of fervent belief in what we were doing and that led us to say ‘You know what? Let’s put together Topo and let’s go help some people.’ That’s kind of been the guiding principle and it’s been a lot of fun.
Mike Zipursky: Craig, did you just mention that you’ve created logos?
Craig Rosenberg: Oh, I apologize. Logo is a idea of customers. I’m sorry. No, we’re not in the printing business or design business. Yeah, that’s a good one. Logo as in we’ve got a number of great clients that we’ve developed over the last 5 months and we’re really happy about that.
Mike Zipursky: Right on. So you’re focusing heavily on buyer profiles, and driving revenue, and kind of the whole sales process and not designing logos. I just want to make sure on that one.
Craig Rosenberg: Well, we can talk about designing logos. I’m not sure how great that would be for your listeners.
Mike Zipursky: I want to come back to Topo in a little bit. But before we do that, in my intro I mentioned that you ran Focus.com which was acquired. I’m interested to hear from you a little bit about that experience and what it was like building a company and then selling it.
Craig Rosenberg: It’s obviously every entrepreneur that their goal’s not necessarily to sell it, but it have to at least be successful enough to have some type of compelling event rather it’s going public or being bought. The end result was really exciting.
The process along the way was I had kind of gone through life. I’ve done consulting, and sort of worked as an employee at a lot of companies and being able to start a company, watch it from zero and being in a – we were in a small conference room that we borrowed from one of our friends when we started the company and building that over the course of 5 ½ years into a $30 million company, that was an amazing ride.
The value of just kind of really owning the growth and really owning the challenges along the way is obviously tiring and it’s hard, but it was just a rewarding experience which is one of the reasons why I’ve sort of kind of gone down the road again of going out there and going and build something really exciting again with Topo.
But getting back to it, when we built Tippit, there was a couple things that I had mentioned was one: you learn that there’s these like very important pivots along the way. Very rarely do you see that a company sort of take soft and run start to finish with whatever business plan that they started with. And really, if you look at kind of a lot of companies, there’s these sort of really key pivots that allowed them to build a company like Eloqua who everyone’s familiar with was, I believe, like an auto-dialer to start with. And Instagram was originally a micro-blogging service and that sort of key pivot. You might do two or three along the way is kind of the key there.
When you’re starting out, you sort of build your plan, and then you start to work with customers and then you start to realize either what you’re going to deliver is something that someone would buy or there’s something more compelling out there. Sometimes a lot of entrepreneurs never find that key pivot.
At Tippit, we evolved very quickly in the first year and a half. We generated revenue sort of right away and we landed a customer, I think, before we even sort of built the product, and they kind of worked with us as we built the product and then we had these sort of important pivots that happened over the first year and a half. Frankly, from then on out, we stayed true to the business model after year and a half but there were two or three pivots along the way. That’s the key learning for me.
Now that I have that feasibility, I watch as these other entrepreneurs go through these really important pivots as they’re building their companies.
Mike Zipursky: So Craig, let me ask you. I did misspeak [07:35] actually because I mentioned that it was Focus.com that was acquired, but it was Tippit.
Craig Rosenberg: And Focus was, too, but Focus was an offshoot out of Tippit. Tippit was kind of the core – that was the one that was bought by Ziff Davis B2B.
Mike Zipursky: Right. Okay, so now you’re building Topo and you mentioned when we spoke earlier that the one challenge which you’re talking about right now is kind of getting that product market fit right, and pivoting, changing your business model and approach to really find the right kind of solution and problem that you can address, and how you can put your services to the right companies and find those ideal clients.
Previously, it was more kind of product-focused business and kind of the typical startup type of image I’m seeing here. And again, it’s a very well-known concept for startups these days; the whole product market fit, and the minimal viable product, and lean startup and so on, but how are you thinking about this now as a consultancy? Because Topo is a services business and a consulting firm. How are you applying the whole product market fit to now as a consultant and running a consulting business?
Craig Rosenberg: First of all, I would describe that as the current challenge for us. We’ve been able to generate customers and we believe we’re creating happy customers. We’ve got – for my years of being a blogger – we have inbound marketing presence and we’re building the one on Topo right now. There’s almost a brand. It’s an individual brand that allows us to not just get into conversations, but during conversations, people – there’s an indelible record of work out there that people can see before we talk. So a lot of the things that you have to build when you’re building a consulting business, a lot of those pieces are actually sort of on their way. They help us already; the things that you kind of have to build when you’re building a business.
Where we are now is focusing on really finding the product market fit. And for us it’s what is that sort of repeatable product that we can sell over and over? Just to put it crudely. We’re not sort of like an outsourced part of your environment. It’s not like we’re sales and marketing consultants that say ‘Hey, what do you need? We can give you this amount of hours.’
Our goal is to provide sort of really strategic products that we can build a real company on because that’s really, for us, we’re not doing Topo for fun or as a stop-gap or ‘Hey, let’s just consult until we figure things out.’ We actually believe we can build a big company here.
And so for us, we’re still sort of gelling our product market fit and the way we do it is we just basically – we believe, number one, if you ask someone “Would you buy this?” you still don’t know because a lot of times, someone would say “Yeah” but when you really sort of enter into sales cycles then you really find out kind of whether they would buy it or not.
So for us, we basically instead of ‘Hey, what do you need?’ we take products to market, so to speak, and in this case, it’s the services product, and we go and we try to sell it. We pitch it. We enter into sales cycles and see kind of whether it’ll close or not. We’ve closed business. But again, that doesn’t mean we believe that that’s a product that can be sold over and over. We’re just trying to find that product that can reach a sizeable market that every one of them will need that we can easily explain to people, and deliver over and over.
And kind of our benchmark for product market fit is – you mentioned all the sort of cloud internet companies. For them, sort of their first benchmark is whether someone will either download it right or register for it on the internet. And obviously in the services business, that’s different.
What we believe is we’ve seen a lot of consulting companies sort of struggle with building sales organizations and I think that comes from the fact that a lot of times, consulting is people-based and sort of really caught a lot of ad hoc or one-off types of __[12:34], which by the way, I’m not against. I’m in favor of, but what we want to do is our benchmark is could a salesperson take this product, and be able to sell it and at least have something that they can latch onto that they can clearly articulate that they could get in the sales cycles with.
Mike Zipursky: So Craig, I just want to jump in for a second because I think for a lot of people listening right now to this, you’re talking a lot about product, and usually, consultants refer to their offerings as services but there’s definitely a lot of value in packaging your services into a product.
Can you just speak to in your case and kind of with your vision what it means? When you say product, what are you actually doing? I mean, is it a bunch of services that you’re trying to build a methodology around so that you can really roll it out so that anyone can follow it? It’s almost like a system or when you say product, how are you thinking about that in relation to a consulting company?
Craig Rosenberg: Yeah, I agree. There’s probably a terminology thing we should clarify here. I still believe consultants sell products. In this case, it’s just services. There are some consultants that sell hours. That’s your product. There’s analyst consulting companies like serious decisions that sell a subscription, and it’s this price and here’s what you get. That’s a product.
So even though the way it’s delivered is in a service fashion, that’s still a product. Like for us, we have essentially a set of what we would call ‘products’ like Product #1 is building the buyer persona map. There’s a series of steps and deliverables that a customer would get as part of that process, right? So we’re going to interview internal folks like salespeople, customer-facing people, executives, we’ll interview buyers and they will come back with a set of sort of target personas that we want to focus in on and then we’ll translate that into the series of steps that the buyer makes along the way to their purchase and the questions that they’re asking, the ways that they like to consume content, the reasons they fall out just to give you a couple examples and kind of what’s happening to them each step of the way.
And so that the resulting sort of deliverable is this map that tells customers ‘Here’s what your buyer is doing along the entire buying cycle.’ That’s a product. To us, that’s priced. It has defined deliverables. It can be described to a client. There’s obviously a scope. Some people will want more personas. Some people will have a global customer base and that might change scope. But at the end of the day, that is a defined product.
For us, that’s our goal; is to come to that sort of set of services that can be packaged into a product that can be easily described by a salesperson that they can go out, and take to market and sell to as many people in the target market as they can.
Mike Zipursky: And so when you’re been going out into the marketplace as a consulting company and as consultants that you package these products, and you’re focusing on revenue, and conversions, and increasing sales and so on, are you then only approaching companies that you are going to offer your products to; these kinds of services and packages that you’ve put together that are a product? And will you take on any other business that’s not, let’s say, wouldn’t use those products?
Often consultants they call themselves, let’s say, a marketing consultant and they help companies with all kinds of marketing. But a lot of consultants don’t spend the time to really think through what they’re providing and look at how they can package it into products that they can, as you’re saying, kind of systematize and then offer to clients in a way that can be repeatable.
So I’m wondering, are you guys open to taking on other kind of business that might be connected to what you’re doing but it wouldn’t use one of your products or would that not be a focus of what you’re doing? Like, how do you choose your approach? If that makes sense.
Craig Rosenberg: Part of product market fit is, for us, determining who is going to buy our product and that’s been part of our process. We’ve pitched these products, sets of services to a variety of different types of companies and what we try to land on is just like we would do for our customer, who’s the target buyer persona and kind of how do they buy. If you have hundreds of people selling, you can afford to waste time. Well actually, that’s not true either. That’s a crude example, but it just becomes even more important when you want to make the most out of the resources you have.
So part of product market fit is not just developing the product but figuring out who’s going to buy it, and creating these products so that that target market, it resonates with them.
Mike Zipursky: So that’s the kind of process you’re working through right now is what you’re saying is that you’re still kind of learning and figuring out who your ideal clients are and what are the best ways to get in front of them, what type of product or offerings would resonate best with them so that it makes it easier for you to sell it and you guys can really focus around that.
Craig Rosenberg: That’s right. I mean, part of the product market fit process is determining who really wants this. In that case, to answer your question, today, we’re talking to everyone and just running the message through them and seeing what resonates and what doesn’t. We’re starting to land – now that we’ve landed a number of customers – we have an understanding of kind of who we want to sell to. Today it’s primarily B2B. It’s this really interesting mix of sort of larger companies and these emerging cloud companies who are frankly, in many cases, doing really well. I mean, this is about scale for a lot of them. A classic example is the cloud company that’s kind of done really well in a very internet-centric kind of way now needs to approach the enterprises or sell to a different role in the company that’s not going to go download things on the internet is a classic example. Today, that’s kind of where we’re starting to see our fit. That allows us to start to define what the target market is and everything cascades down from there.
Just like we do for our customers now, we defined our buyers. Now we’re going to understand how they buy. Now we’re going to create sales and marketing programs that resonate and are relevant to them. That’s part of product market fit and we’re pretty good now about understanding who we want to sell to.
That being said, you asked another question which is ‘Are you willing to entertain different types of projects?’ In an opportunistic way, yeah. I just kind of defined the sort of B2B large companies and emerging cloud companies. We’ve kind of set ourselves in on that and we’ll focus a lot of the content that we create and any kind of outbound prospecting or outreach around those target markets, but that being said, we’re always exploring for new ideas. And we believe trends – you get a real feel for trends and new product development by having conversations with people that sit outside of your target market. You have to be really careful. You shouldn’t expand too many resources on focusing on trying to reach people outside of your target market. That being said, we’re willing to have conversations with folks and see what comes out from it because if you have enough of those and you understand that, look, this is a product we should definitely consider. You’re only going to get to that when you hear it from buyers.
To the extent that it’s reasonable, we’re willing to explore new things. But the focus of our resources will against the target market, and the buyer that we define in the product market fit stage.
Mike Zipursky: Makes sense. Mentioned pricing a little bit before when we were talking. I’m interested to find out what your approach is to pricing your services. I mean, how do you guys decide what to charge? Do you have kind of an average, like, what an average project look like. Is there a range? How are you going about figuring out what to charge for the products and services that you’re providing?
Craig Rosenberg: Basically, each product has its own price range and the way we developed it was, frankly, we worked backwards from value then that’s defined by what the market tells us but we start with a theory and we sort of take it to market. But for us, that doesn’t mean we lower price. It means that if the value is not evident to the customers then we work on building the value so people can justify kind of the fees that we want to charge.
Mike Zipursky: Craig, can you be a little bit more in detail? Like for example, you said that you start off by kind of looking at the value that you’ll be providing or the value the client will be at and work backwards from that to figure out what to charge. As an example — if you can just make something up that might be realistic — but what type of value could someone potentially expect or receive and then how would you work backwards to figure out how to charge for that?
Craig Rosenberg: For example, we believe that the buyer map is it’s a transformational foundation for all things sales and marketing literally. All the touch points that happen in sales and marketing, if they can be informed by an understanding of the buying process then they’re going to be that much more effective and convert at a much higher level.
And so for us, that’s incredible value. If you just improve the conversion rates of your leads to opportunities 10% depending on the type of company that can be worth tens of millions of dollars.
That’s kind of how we look at things. There’s science which sort of comes from that and then there’s a little bit of gut, at least initially, and then you’re kind of what the market will bear. We look at comparables in the market. We’re on the higher end. We want to be strategic consultants and we’d like to be, frankly, in the highly valuable range of things.
So for us, we look at what effect will what we’ve just provided have on a company. Like I said, a conversion rate of improvement along anywhere in your sales and marketing process can be worth a lot of money to folks. That’s an example of how when we were trying to determine value, we always ask ourselves kind of what will the end result look like and then we start to look at it from what we’ve delivered to our customers and what actually happens then, which typically for a lot of consultants and other companies, that manifests itself in the case studies.
Mike Zipursky: Right. For example, if let’s say, a client would potentially benefit by improving their conversion rate which might generate them an extra million dollars over the next 12 months once everything’s kind of rolled out then would you use any specific formula to figure ‘Okay, if it’s a million dollars, we want to give them a 5x return so we’re going to charge them this amount.’ or so on. Where do you take it from there?
Craig Rosenberg: Well, that’s a really good idea, Michael.
It’s a combination of we have a bit of science in there. We try to shoot for 5-10x return but we also have to combine that with who we’re selling to today and what their perceived overall value is of the project we might do.
There’s a little bit of, like for instance, if we said ‘Our conversion rate’s worth $5 million.’ that doesn’t mean I’m going to charge someone $5 million. It just means that you’ve got something really valuable that someone can justify. For us, we’ve kind of taken the market rates and said ‘Is the value of what we’re providing in line or better than what other they can get today either from the upper market or with kind of what they’re doing internally.’ But when we ultimately land on a price, that typically is rationalized by what the market will bear, and we use comparables, and kind of what people are frankly charging for fees and how they’re modeling their projects in order to come up with a price that will work with people.
Mike Zipursky: It sounds about right the approach that you’re taking. Of course, as you said, it’s important that people understand that just because you might deliver a million dollar in additional profits over 12 months doesn’t mean that you can charge anywhere close that. Obviously, you want to make sure that you’re giving typically a 5-10x return on a client’s investment, but at the same time, it needs to be reasonable and connected to kind of what the market would bear. Well said.
Craig, your blog, Funnelholic, you mentioned really took off when you started writing it. I mention it just to hear from you a little bit as to what you did. I know you mentioned a little bit about guest posting but kind of from starting a blog and then getting a lot of traffic. I don’t know what level of traffic. We didn’t talk about what specific level of traffic you’re getting. But what did you do to build that from nothing into something which, you said, has actually helped you to get some tangible results with regards to speaking opportunities, and clients and so on which is something that every consultant wants? How did you do that?
Craig Rosenberg: First of all, I will just say that if anybody asks me kind of ‘What do I need to do to build my business?’ whether you’re a consulting, a product firm, a restaurant – I don’t care – start writing. That was advice given to me by Matt Heinz from Heinz Marketing. I’d already kind of been doing it but I said “What was your secret to build your business?” He said “I just started writing.” And then another quote that I love was Jon Miller from Marketo, they just went public, they got a $1.4 billion market cap – he’s got a famous quote which is ‘We started blogging before we wrote our first line of code.’
And I think the blog has been one of the best moves that I’ve ever done in my professional career. Quite frankly, I accidentally fell upon it. In 2008 at Tippit, Scott Albert who’s my CEO and partner right now, and has been over the last 3 companies and is today with Topo – pulled me into his office and said “Go start a blog.” And I said “I don’t know what that is.” And he said, “Look, we’re an internet company. We got to eat our dog food. Take all the things in your head and just start putting them on a blog.” And I went to our SEO online marketing guy and he said “Yeah, just go find a URL, download WordPress and start writing.” And I did that.
Just on a funny story, I really wanted the term ‘Funnelnomics’ I thought it was going to be this really sort official, straight sort of professional blog. I couldn’t get that company that __[30:21] had that. I went downstairs to Scott. I was really dejected. And he said “No. You’re not Funnelnomics. You’re edgy, and sort of funny and wacky. You got to come up with something that’s really personal to you like Funnelholic.” And I was in the room. I have my computer, saw that it was open, bought it and we’re on our way.
I just started writing. I just started putting all my thoughts on paper. And frankly, how it took off was I wrote this piece. These guys had gained Wikipedia, and then Wikipedia found out and like an hour later they just taken off the site. I thought that was really funny. And I wrote that – not funny. Well, in many ways, funny. It had a bit of an edge to it so I wrote this piece on it and all these Wikipedia wonks kind of got a hold of it and started passing it around, it started to get shared and the blog started to sort of pick up traffic from there and then what happens once you start getting traffic is when you don’t blog, you start to realize the traffic goes down and so it’s almost like the market forces you to just keep creating content and from there the blog kept going.
And once the blog kept going, and I started creating valuable content and people started following it then people start to come to you for speaking engagements. Again, I’ll go back to Scott. Scott’s view was initially, take them all. So I’d say ‘Hey, I got to do this.’ he goes “Great. Do it and do great.”
Very early on, it was a mix of events that happened. One was, I started the blog and the marketing automation industry started to really take off and they were craving sort of bloggers and thought leaders. I kind of was right there because I just started to blog about the topic and really blog about the __[32:09]. It makes all sort of pick me up and started to use me in their events and I always said ‘yes’. That was one way I took off was just the blog created this credibility that sort of launched me into the speaking space.
The second thing that I did was – and this was our online marketing consultant – this was 2008 – said just start guest blogging. I started to do anything I could to do pieces like – and I still do it today as evidenced by this interview I’m doing, right? This is me interacting with other audiences. It’s the new way to get yourself out there into the market. You start to find that by guest blogging. The folks that run that blog or run that website are always craving content. There’s demand and then on my side, it just allows me to showcase my thoughts to a completely different audience.
The third thing I will mention is, literally, in 2010 I was talking to a guy who’d been phoning me for a long time he goes “So what do you do?” and what I realized then was that the reason I bring up that point is one of the reasons why the blog did so well was I never talked about my company. I didn’t try to cross-sell. I did everything I could to write to my target role and to be as helpful as possible. And I know you see a lot of that out there on the blogosphere and it’s funny because I don’t want to be typical in what I talk about. But I can say, from a personal experience, that was one of the key ways for me to build a following was to not be promotional and to not use my blog to talk about my company or what I’m selling. It was really focused on how to help people and that really worked.
Those sort of 3 components, the blog just kept building and building, and now, it’s really one of the cornerstones of our marketing process. I get inbound leads on a daily basis of people that say “Hey, I’d really like to connect with you and see if you can help me with ___.” That’s been probably one of the best things I ever did. If someone asks me, I say write for yourself and if you can get a steady cadence of output whether it’s 3-7 posts per week, you got to do it. You’ve got to guest blog. You got to just find time to do this especially if you’re just building your credibility. I don’t want to say this that if you build it, they will come (the speaking opportunities). A good way to do it is to create your own sort of speaking platform like you’ve done here, Michael, is can you do podcast? Can you do webinars on your site even if 10 people come and just sort of showcase that speaking ability? Any kind of proof out there, people will find you and ask you to come speak.
Mike Zipursky: We’ll get thousands of listeners for this, I’m sure. It’s interesting because would you have considered yourself a writer before you started blogging?
Craig Rosenberg: No. I’m still not.
Mike Zipursky: You’re still not. I mean, a lot of people have that concern like ‘Yeah, I don’t know what to write about. I’m not a writer.’ Like ‘My English teacher told me my grammar sucked. I always had spelling mistakes.’ It’s like all these different excuses that come just because they don’t think that they can write, but there’s so many people – yourself, myself, I know many others that probably never considered themselves, and even to a point, I don’t consider myself a professional writer yet. I’ve written books and we have over 700 articles on the site. You do it, and as you’re saying, as you do it you kind of feel like you can write more and more and then it just becomes part of your daily or weekly groove and just one of the things that you do.
Craig Rosenberg: Yeah, like __[36:33] they’ve obviously been to your blog and they know that you don’t consider yourself a writer and what you’ve created is a perfect example, right? I mean, you’re just cranking great content.
I definitely was a verbal guy. But it is interesting. Someone asked me that the other day. I said “You know what, man, literally for the first couple blog posts, you got to sit in a cabin for 3 days until you come up with something. Once you get in to that flow, you will find that – if you have expertise, everyone’s a writer. This is about what’s in your brain and being able to provide that to the market.” Once you start to, as you said, get into that flow, you start to realize ‘Oh my gosh! I can do that.’
I will mention one other thing __[37:28]. Very early on, we had editors at Tippit. We’re a media company. I started doing the blog and I asked the editor “Make sure this thing is completely at the snuff [37:38].” And what he said to me is “Blogs are personal. It’s got to be your voice.” He’s like “Some cases, you don’t use perfect sentences and I wouldn’t have written it that way as a journalist. But for you, it’s part of your personality.” I’d tell people that story all the time. I don’t recommend that they have a number of spelling errors although Mark Cuban who’s a prolific blogger has spelling errors all over his post.
Mike Zipursky: He’s probably writing them all on his BlackBerry or iPhone or sending them when he’s in the sky, in his private jet.
Craig Rosenberg: That’s right. He’s just dumping things in.
What you just said is actually perfect. I would just say ‘yes’. If you have the expertise and you can just start doing this, you will find your rhythm and you will find that you are a writer. And I agree. You hear that “I’m not a writer.” But you are an expert. If you are in consulting, you are an expert in something and if you start to write that, you’re going to find that you can create really valuable content for your audience.
Mike Zipursky: Yeah, and I guess another way just to think about it: do you want more clients? And if you want more clients and if you want more awareness and visibility for yourself and more opportunities, and also just to be seen more as an authority and gain additional credibility then it’s really a no-brainer. It does take some work and it takes diligence but the payoff is so huge.
Craig Rosenberg: Absolutely
Mike Zipursky: Craig, before we wrap up, I want to get into today’s action bite. You just mentioned that you share a little bit about the idea of getting out there, and networking and kind of how you have used that to build your businesses well. Just kind of some insight. You mentioned a name, Dave Brock, so if you could just talk a little bit about that.
Craig Rosenberg: Yeah, I’ve learned a lot on how to sell and market consulting. And when people ask me, I say “Start writing” that’s a sort of new way of marketing.
What I’ve learned from Dave Brock is an old adage which is to build and foster personal relationships with folks. You can only do that by getting out and talking to literally as many people as you can. And I know that’s hard for consultants. Your head’s down. Now that you’ve listened to me and Michael, you’re now writing your blog and doing your consulting.
You have to set tangible goals on how many people you’re going to talk to per week. And as a consultancy, the 3 principles of our group have goals that we set down and say “These are the amount of people that we’re going to talk to.” But it goes further than that. What I learned from Dave Brock is – it was interesting. I’ve known him for years and he had no way of doing business with me, but he was – now maybe – but at the time, he just always reached out to see how I was doing. If I wrote something really nice, he would write a very nice note or he would call me and say “You know what? I really liked what you wrote. How’s it going?” I noticed it. I just thought he was a great guy and he is. But actually, what I learned from him is that’s got to be part of being a consultant because I’ve learned that you just don’t know where your deals are going to come from.
When we first started doing our services business, I sort of took from Dave and said “You know what? I’m going to be way better at keeping in touch with people in my network and I’m going to build the network. But I’m going to build a really personal one where I’m either trying to help people whether it’s a 50-minute phone call to help them solve a challenge that they have or having a conversation with them over lunch and finding out more about them and what they care about personally. That was because I watched Dave do that. When you talk to everyone in the business whether it’s just customers or people at other consultants or people that are at companies that are tangential to his business, they all stay to a T “That guy’s one of my really good friends.” Look, that’s part of kind of who he is.
What I’ve learned is that’s one of the key pieces of advice I would give a consultant which is to build a real personal network of people, and to try to help them as much as you can, and try to ask them how it’s going both personally and professionally, and maintaining that because 50% of my deals come from inbound marketing. The other 50% are from referrals and we’ve only been in business for 6 months. If you’ve been in business for 7 years, it’s a professional referral. But if you’ve been in business for 6 months and you’re getting this kind of business, it’s because you’ve sort of maintained those relationships with folks who say “This is a really great guy. He’s really smart.”
And so the result of that is, I believe, consultants and services business folks – frankly, maybe everyone who’s sort of customer-facing should have a set number of goals of people that they’re going to interact with on a weekly basis.
Mike Zipursky: Craig, if we just kind of break this down for people. You’re saying start off by, pretty much, identify the number of meetings or interactions you want to have with people each week then make sure to figure out who those people are like who you want to go after, who you want to get in front of and then reach out to them; ideally in person, have a meeting and then after that whether it’s a phone call or an email to continually stay in touch with those people. Is that correct? Is that kind of the right process?
Craig Rosenberg: Yeah, absolutely.
Mike Zipursky: And then when you initially approach someone – I’m just kind of thinking, a few might be wondering as they’re listening to us talk about and hearing you explain what you’re doing – so you find someone that you might want to get in front of whether it’s an ideal client or just someone that might be able to refer you or just a good person to know, when you do that for the first time, what do you say to them? So you’ve got them on the phone or an email and you’re trying to set up a meeting. What do you say to get that meeting?
Craig Rosenberg: Well that depends. Since it’s a services audience, we all know that phrase ‘It depends’.
Number one is I always work referrals. LinkedIn is probably the miracle application for everyone in business to business. I’m always starting first with folks that I can get referrals to without a doubt. That’s like the key to everything. It just opens doors in a big way.
The second thing I do is I’ve built this brand in the sales and marketing space. So when I reach out to people, I’m typically trying to identify people that are __[45:05] to me. It’s not a cold call in the sense that ‘Hey, I’d like to figure out kind of what you’re working on.’ and it’s like ‘I’m Craig Rosenberg. You might know me from the Funnelholic where I sort of seen that company out there in a tradeshow or out there in my experience talking to people. I just like to meet you and have you trade stories about kind of what’s working today in sales and marketing. I’m typically looking for folks that I feel we can learn from each other together.’ That’s my approach. Frankly, it’s a soft approach because cold calling doesn’t work, and frankly, if I don’t get any business from them, they enter into my network and they might refer me down the line.
So number one is referrals and number two is identifying people where this idea of spending a half an hour or an hour with me based on the online reputation or offline reputation that I built and the fact that they’re doing some really exciting things is a great way to do a meeting opener. If someone writes a blog, I might write to them and say “That was a great post. I’m a blogger too. I’d love to talk to you about what you wrote.” or I might see something on the open internet that they’re doing and use that as a sort of reference point to tell them “I’d love to talk further about that.” That’s how I do the meeting business. I’m always trying to be in position to be in position.
Frankly, I help people without them prospecting but those are products really sort of true product-centric organizations that have people dedicated to doing that all day. They have a threshold for failure rate.
When you’re also blogging, writing and satisfying your clients, you have to be as efficient as possible in kind of who you build your network with.
And so for me, I’m doing everything I can on the outreach side to leverage something that will allow us to have a connection early on because sending someone an email saying ‘Hey, I do this. I’d love to find out more about what you’re doing and see if it’s a fit’ as a low hit rate whereas building relationships with folks and reaching out to them on some kind of common ground is just way more effective. Obviously with referrals, you have like a 75%-85% meeting rate.
And then with the second sort of outreach program that we would do based on – just trying to identify people that sort of my background would resonate with. You caught a 30%-50% hit rate which is much better than the 1 in 30 people see on just kind of the classic old outreach.
Mike Zipursky: Definitely. Well Craig, these are great, great ideas. Thanks so much. You’ve given people a lot to think about here with regards to blogging, pricing services and now also, how to network more effectively and really make it a part of their weekly business and just one of the kind of core activities that they should be doing.
So lots to think about here. I know we’ve gone a little bit overtime so I appreciate you going to detail and sharing so much. Thanks so much for doing this interview.
Craig Rosenberg: Thanks for having me, Michael.