How to Sell on Retainer – @jillianvorce
Podcast: Play in new window | Download
It’s not only what you do to help a customer – but how you help them – that can make all the difference, not only for them but for your business’s success. It’s not always about just giving them what they ask for. Although it can mean a little more legwork, digging deeper to find out what they’re really in need of – which isn’t always what they initially ask for – and doing it in a transparent way that earns their trust, is the key to success for both your customers and your own business.
Jillian Vorce shares her unique formula for relationship development – and pivoting into a retainer model that’s more value based based than commodity based – that has allowed her to earn the trust and confidence of her clients, while also getting a deeper understanding of what her ideal customers really want.
Rich: For over a decade, Jillian Vorce has been helping professionals make connections to attain their business goals. An expert at networking and relationship development she has the ability to open doors and create opportunity. Jillian’s trustworthiness and high positive energy has inspired senior level executives and business owners across the nation. In 2003 she founded The Jillian Group, where she and her team provide idea generation, digital marketing and strategic relationship development services.
Her previous work includes her first book, 20/20 Mind Sight: Refocus, Reignite and Reinvent Your LIfe From The Inside Out, The TedX Talk, The Lense Of Connectivity, and 9 Steps To Increase Your Professional Network ebook. Jillian, welcome to the show.
Jillian: Thanks for having me, Rich.
Rich: Jillian and I go back a little while, we end up at events like Social Media Marketing World, and we always end up having these great conversations. A few months ago Jillian and I got on the phone and it was just supposed to be a friendly catch up meeting, and instead she starts laying out some of her business thoughts and it was so good. You don’t usually take notes when your friends are talking to you about business – or about anything – but I just found myself grabbing a notepad and scribbling down thoughts as quickly as they came, because the stuff that she was sharing was so good.
So this is probably going to be a slightly different type of show I think today, because we’re not going to be talking about a specific platform or anything like that, we’re going to be talking about business. Because the purpose of the Agents Of Change podcast is all about helping you reach more of your ideal customers through search, social and mobile marketing. But sometimes it’s in how do we work with those clients, and also, were in business so how do we make money while doing service for these people.
So that’s kind of what I’m trying to get at with Jillian. I’m really trying to catch lightning in a jar for the second time. So Jillian, are you ready for this experiment?
Jillian: Let’s go for it, Rich.
Rich: Alright. So why don’t you share with us a little of your backstory and how you got to where you are today.
Jillian: That’s a great question. So for me in a nutshell, I’ve been an entrepreneur for about 20 years now. So there have been several iterations of what I do, how I show up, and how clients can work with me, basically. So really things took a pretty significant turn for the better a couple of years ago when I suddenly started to actually focus on my own business. I’ve done a lot of things, I’ve travelled, I’ve done a significant amount of philanthropic and nonprofit work, etc. But a few years ago I decided it was time to focus on my own business, so consequently at that time I started receiving more and more inbound referrals and whatnot.
So I started to realize that people were calling me time and again because they trusted me. So I started to just listen to what it was that they were looking for and be very direct with them and to build upon that trust. So one client led to another, led to another, and so here we are years later and still to this day 100% of my business comes from referrals and relationships. It’s all inbound and it’s all based on trust.
And so that’s kind of the somewhat unorthodox process, but there’s been a lot of ups and downs along the way. I’ve learned a tremendous amount and so I’m thrilled to have the chance to talk with you, Rich, and hopefully share some things that can be helpful to somebody else and maybe help them grow their business faster or reduce the pain that they might be enduring at the moment and just make for a more healthy business overall. Hopefully I can do that today.
Rich: I’m sure you can. We had a great conversation a few weeks ago about this very topic, and one of the things that I noticed about you is you have a real system in place for attracting the right type of clients. Now you mentioned that almost all of your business is referral. Not all of us can claim the same, some of us have to market our business, go to networking events, and kind of break through to get some of this business. How can we be sure that the person sitting across the room from us who we’re talking to is a good future client for us? What are some red flags or what are the systems that you have in place where you know that this is going to be a good fit, I’m going to be able to provide value, and this is going to be a longterm relationship for my company?
Jillian: That’s a great question, I’ve got so much to say I hope I can remember it all as I go here. So first and foremost I wish that I could say there’s some very slick line that I have or some fancy pitch book or something, but the reality is it’s good old fashioned being human and listening and paying attention. And to me, I talk about demonstrating that I care.
So here’s the thing, I personally don’t specialize in a particular industry, I don’t limit myself to a particular vertical. And the reason for that is because I prefer to work with good people who are doing good things. Those are people who also care about their business, they care about their clients, and they also care about their staff and the community. So this is a type of conversation that I have with people right off the bat.
I don’t focus on a commodity, so I don’t talk about myself or my company as being the superb deliverer of marketing strategy, we do the best websites, or anything like that. I instead demonstrate to them our collective expertise by the questions that I’m asking. And that tends to be what captivates them. Because at the end of the day, what we all want as people is to be heard, and we want someone that’s paying attention to us and acts like they give a shit. In all seriousness, this is exactly the way I speak with people.
And for some, it’s surprising, it’s not what they’re used to at all. And so because of that, it often opens them up a little bit more and they see that I’m not trying to sell anything or get them to buy anything, I am simply asking questions. And so this type of very direct and open conversation with them, that’s going to also tell me if this is the kind of person that I want to work with based on how they respond.
So all of the initial conversations are all part of the setup in the qualifying process to find out if this is somebody that I actually like. So I like them, are they a fun or good person to work with, do they care? How is it going to be, because I don’t chase business, I’m not willing to put myself in a position no matter how much somebody is paying that it’s just not worth it. So I need to make sure that we’re going to have a healthy, productive, collaborative relationship. And so that’s really what a part of my system is. So I could jump into examples.
Rich: Before you do that – and I do want you to do that – but I know because I’ve been in a place where you’re coming from either a place of scarcity or a place of plenty. And I would be lying if I didn’t say I have been in both places. And there are times when you’re talking to a client and all you’re seeing is dollar bills, or you know that they’re a bad fit for your company but you just absolutely need to keep your team busy so you take that work, and you always end up cursing yourself later. It’s rare – if ever – that I’ve had a red flag client that turned out to be one of my best clients ever. You almost always know if you’re listening to your gut and you’re being true to yourself.
Jillian: Yes, yes.
Rich: So I don’t know if your examples are going to be some of the things that you say or some of the questions. I’m curious to know what type of questions do you ask, as they always the same 5-10 questions, or is it more conversational to kind of get somebody to open up?
Jillian: I’m going to tell you a very recent example, because I think touching on some of the points, they’re going to illustrate what I’m trying to say here. So I got a call from a very well known law firm, and they were saying he knew me, he’s seen me at events that we’ve produced and he’s not sure what to make of me. Because a quick conversation in person and he said he might have to talk about hiring me one of these days I seem like a straight shooter, I seem to be legit. And I looked at him and I said, “No Tim, I’m full of shit. Don’t listen to what they say.” And so in that moment, he was very shocked. And I don’t mean that I’m just cavalier and swear whenever, I don’t. But for him it was surprising and it made him stand back and he smirked at me and he was totally shocked. And so that was it. So he expected me to follow up with him and I didn’t. So he ended up following up with me a few weeks later and he said, “Jillian, I thought you might call me to talk about business.” And so the fact that I didn’t, well some people would think that was good opportunity, why didn’t you follow up. But I knew for him, he just needed to come to me, so I played a bit of the “alpha” game with him. But he did, so he comes to me and he says he’s ready to talk and told me what he thought he needed. He said he needed a photographer who could follow him around and take pictures of him throughout the day to add to the website. So I said, “Ok, let’s talk a little bit more.” So I scheduled time to have a call with him and I just proceeded to ask him why he wants that to happen and tell me about your website, tell me about what you’ve done, tell me the process. I started asking all of what they do for marketing, do they do email marketing, do they do social, who writes their content, what has been productive, what has not, how do they know.
To a lot of us that are in the business and understand digital tools, and social media and all these analytics. We can expect that clients know the same things as we do, when in fact many times they don’t. So he’s telling me they do email marketing, but sometimes what people mean by email marketing can make you cringe a little. So in any case, I literally just asked him questions about everything that they’re doing so I could figure out what’s working, what’s not, how do they approach things, I want to know does he direct everything or does he have a team, do they work work together or not. I want to know about the other agencies they’ve worked with in the past, what did they like, what did they not. I want to collect as much information as possible so that I know – I want to find out in that one call – if there’s any kind of meat on the bone here, is there anything I can do, do I trust my instinct to see if this is somebody that’s responsive. And also in the call, I make suggestions. I’m looking for a suggestion that might help them today regardless of if they hire me or not.
So I went through this whole process and I asked him about analytics and a bunch of things, and he began to realize I was asking him a lot of stuff. So from that, he invited me in to meet with the partners in the firm, and now the bottom line is we’re talking about doing a longterm contract – a monthly retainer, long term contract – so we can help them fix everything. Because it’s all a gigantic cluster. So off the bat if I had just said, “Oh, you need a photographer? Sure, let me send over a photographer”, I could have done that. But the point is, I never really focus on what it is they’re asking for, because I want to know what that means to them. So a lot of times they think that it means something. So why do they need a website, what is it for? So that really is where the focus is for the business side, and what is the purpose of it.
Over and over and over again, that’s what leads to a stronger relationship that has more context, and then ultimately lands in a longer term relationship as well.
Rich: Alright, let me stop you there for a second. That story has a happy ending. No doubt about it. I assume you get the business and you’re happy and he’s happy and everything else. It also sounded like you spent a hell of a lot of time in that interview process, and you know, we’re not always guaranteed of getting the work. How do you decide if somebody is worth that amount of investment in your initial time as a salesperson? Your time must be very valuable, Jillian, and I know you insanely busy. I’m insanely busy and when I hear your schedule, it kind of makes me freak out a little. So when do you decide, do you have some criteria or some tripwires that tell you that this is someone you want to spend some time with or not?
Jillian: So it depends on where the referral is coming from, how strong the source is, if I had the chance to meet them in person or not. Usually I’ll take a quick look online and see if we have any mutual contacts, kinda see what they’ve been doing, that kind of thing. But for me, I would rather spend that time upfront with them, even if it’s an hour on the phone, or maybe an hour of prep and a meeting on the phone. I would rather spend that because I don’t see it as a transactional situation, I don’t see it as I have to close this business. I see it as I’m going to learn about this person, and usually in that conversation, I’m going to be able to do something that helps them with business. I’m going to be able to make a suggestion about a resource or a tool or an introduction to somebody.
So my goal is that we hang up the call and they feel good about the conversation that we had, they feel like they received something of value. That’s always my goal. It’s not to close the business, I never focus on that, and that might sound counterintuitive. But I also think that they can feel that. So 10 – 1, the more you backpedal, people tend to come to you stronger. So I am very much about that, I’m not focused on doing business, and this has been the case from day one.
The work that I do and the thought process, preparation, and little bit of research. That’s not something that goes down the drain if I don’t get that business. It’s something that I can build upon and can refer to. With the next person it’s all useful, it’s all cumulative. So I feel like it continues to add to who I am and what my team can provide, and that’s it. And it also is only a matter of time, because sometimes you close business because there are other factors going on. So I have a longer term viewpoint in business relationships, I guess that’s my answer.
Rich: Makes a lot of sense. Sometimes when you’re trying to close too quickly, it comes across as desperation. And instead, you seem to be exuding confidence, almost like there’s a line out the door waiting to work with you so you don’t need that business. And the minute – and we all know this from dating – and the minute it looks like you don’t need the other person, the other person becomes 10 x’s more attractive to you.
Jillian: Yeah. And you know what, I am super transparent. One thing I mentioned to you on our previous conversation is I do all of my meetings online with Google Drive, I’m using a Google Doc. So I share that link with them, they see the document, we talk through everything, they see me taking notes live. It’s a very fluid, very organic and super transparent process, so they see that there’s attention to them and we’re paying attention, it’s nothing canned or this is what we do for every client. It’s “this is what I’m hearing you need”, and here are the things we thought of for you. It’s a very personal experience for them, and at the end of the day, business owners crave that, because they’re looking for somebody that will be their confidant or somebody that they can trust. So I build upon that, it’s just a different way to approach it, I guess.
Rich: I think that’s brilliant, I love that Google Doc trick. Or not “trick”, “tactic” perhaps is a better way.
Jillian: Sure. Yes.
Rich: So one of the things that we had talked about before is pricing, and setting up projects, and all that sort of stuff. So walk me through a little bit about – if you’re willing to share this – how you price projects, what kind of work is “up front” work, what kind of work is “retainer” work? I know in my business that retainer work is so sought after, because when you live and work in a feast or famine business – which agency life is like – either you’re too busy or you’re not busy enough. And so retainer kind of takes some of the sting out of that where every month you know you’re going to get this many dollars for this many hours of work to keep your people employed and happy. And on the flip side of that, your client knows exactly what they’re going to have to pay every month and what they’re going to get in return.
So if you could talk a little bit about do retainers play a part of your business, how do you do the work, that sort of stuff, I’d love to hear that.
Jillian: Sure, this one I can speak very directly to. I always used to want to hear people talk about this at all the conferences, but nobody ever did, so hopefully I’m going to pull back the curtain a little bit and be super forthcoming here.
So the reality is, in a short amount of time I had a $60 client ,and then I had a $600 client, and then I had a $60,000 client, all in a very short amount of time. So the reason I bring that up is I was very focused on what I was doing and how to package it so that I could cover my costs and make some money, but also to help the client feel better about what it is that they were buying. So I was super focused on that – as I continued to be – but let me kind of break that down a bit.
So originally the reason I kind of instinctively went with a retainer model is because the first scope of work that I was hired for – it was an insurance agency – the owner came and said, “Jillian, I know that it’s time I need to make a change with my business.” Accustomed to a tremendous amount of success, but she said to me, “I realized what got me to this point today is not going to carry me into the future, but I don’t know where to begin. I’m busy, I’ve got a million things, I don’t know where to go and I trust you. Can I hire you to help me do to? ” And I thought, well sure. Then I thought, where the hell do I start?
So because there are so many moving parts and I wasn’t sure if I knew how to do everything, I knew that I needed more time. So I told her let’s do this as a 90 day contract. So we had 3 months to work through all these different pieces here. So I set my very first contract at that time at $600 a month. And as soon as I did it I thought, I should have done more. But I was just getting my feet wet, this was years ago. So I started with that, and what I realized is she also felt better because she knew what her line item was each month. So that is kind of how the process evolved.
So from there I eventually began to bring in other people to help manage and execute on the different tasks and whatnot. So over time I built a team of more than 30 people who are specialists in their fields or whatever their platforms are. So now what I do is I never quote somebody based on how many hours, ever. I just don’t do that. It sort of reminds me of that great movie Hitch with Will Smith. And he talks about how he’s not changing anything, he’s just getting people to see it the way they need to see it in order to make the decision that’s right for them. So it’s about packaging and presentation. So if we go with an hourly rate, people are going to judge that based on their own – often uninformed – understanding of what the heck that means. They’re going to compare it to themselves and their own industry.
So I don’t go that route. So with clients, I bundle everything as retainer. If it’s a conservative one and I’m not sure if I want to work with them long term, I’ll do a 90 day. Besides that, it’s typically going to be a 6-12 month retainer, and I often build in a guarantee as well. So there will be a 12 month retainer with a 6 month guarantee.
Rich: And what does that mean? A 6 month guarantee, they have a way out if they’re unsatisfied?
Jillian: Correct. So they could back out of the contract at any time, but they’re guaranteed to have to pay 6 months. So I structure it a bunch of different ways but it’s almost always 6-12 months.
Rich: Where do you come up with those initial numbers, besides you’ve just been doing this for a while? The bottom line is, I come to you and I say I need to be all over the NY Times and most important newspapers, and you say that’s going to be $1,000 or $5,000 a month for 12 months. Where did you get that number from?
Jillian: So a lot of it has been through trial and error and just doing a lot of things. It was a little trickier when I was beginning but I paid attention to everything. So using different tools, the project management tool that my team uses is called Teamwork, so we use that and everybody logs their hours. So now for example I’ve got multiple people that do copywriting or graphic design, so now I kind of know when I’m working with a new client or a new perspective client, I start of through my initial calls with them I work on what’s called a pre-proposal.
So in my conversations with them I’m outlining a scope. When I’m on that call with them we’re going over this pre-proposal, I have the document of a list of deliverables, things we could do. So part of it might be strategy, needs assessment, it’s all these different things, it’s research, it’s creating content, it’s building landing pages, it’s producing events, it’s doing LinkedIn audits for their executive team. I mean, there’s a host of things, so whatever seems appropriate for them based on the conversations that we’ve had.
So I start off with this pre-proposal and we go through it right on the phone and we talk it through and I’m taking notes. So they’ll say, “We’ve actually done that before”, or, “We’ve tried events, they don’t work”. And I’ll say, “Great, can you tell me about what the events were and why they didn’t work”, and I’ll take notes right on the screen. So I’m collecting information and presenting information at the same time.
As I’m going through that process, I am finding out – because I’m asking questions about things – so when I ask questions about if something has worked or not, oftentimes they’re going to say, “Oh, we spent a lot of money and that didn’t get us anything in return.” Well, so how much money did you spend? And they’ll say, “Oh, $700.” And I’ll think that’s a red flag because that should have cost $5,000. I’m starting to get a sense of what they think and where do they spend money and what works, so that I am able to take that into consideration as I’m building out the proposal for them. So it doesn’t do me any good to give a client a proposal that’s $50,000 if there budget is $3,500. So I’m going to address that in the pre-proposal process.
And as I’m going through that, I’m also thinking about who on the team would make sense for this client based on the budget, based on the industry, based on the personality, based on the geography, etc. And then what I do is I will often go to those people on my team and say, “Here is the scoop, we’ve got this new prospective client, here’s a quick outline of who they are, that they’re looking for. Tell me what you think.” And so I will source my team and have them provide a proposal to me based on two things.
Number one, what do they think should happen overall, what are the suggestions that they would make. Number two, which pieces would they like to do and what would that entail. So I’m sourcing that from my team and then I put those things together. We often will do a group call where I choose those people to be on the call with this prospect – or typically it’s with a client at this point – and I introduce them. Here’s my team, we interview them, and it starts us on the process. It’s highly efficient, it exposes them to the team, they see that they are being kind of cared for by multiple people, they are the center of attention, and they are feeling the love.
So that process is what helps me to check a bunch of the boxes that you just mentioned. So on the one hand – to state what might be obvious – even though I don’t present hourly rates or anything like that to clients, I go through the whole list and I say, “Is there anything on this list that should be crossed off or anything that I missed that should be added?” So I’m getting their buy-in right away.
Rich: Right, they’re already part of this decision making process.
Jillian: Correct. So they’re on the bus sitting next to me in the driver’s seat with me. I’m driving, but they’re right there with me. But they feel like this is now what they want. So I tell them based on this, it’s looking like this is going to be about 6 months of work. So I’m saying things like that throughout the call to get a sense of where they’re at. By the end of that call, I would say 9 ½ – 10 times we’ve already talked about what the monthly retainer amount is going to be, and then for how many months. So by the time I send the proposal over, it’s just them signing their name and the invoicing goes through and we’re in business and that’s it.
So I do all of that live, I never send a proposal and then wait to hear back. Ever. It’s totally inefficient, I don’t want to be waiting. I want to drive the conversation, I don’t want to expect that they’re going to get to it when they’re sitting at their kid’s ballgame. No, I want to talk them through it and know right away is there anything here that’s wrong, that doesn’t make sense, did I forget anything. And I’m super transparent like that and they appreciate it.
So my point was, even though I only present 3,6,12 month retainer options – with my team – I need to know what their hourly rates are what their retainer is going to be. So some people on my team invoice me weekly based on the amount of hours that they’ve worked, and others it’s a retainer set up depending on the client. Does that make sense?
Rich: It makes sense. So somewhere in the DNA of your retainer is an hourly rate, even though the client is never going to see that or even be able to get a sniff of it.
Jillian: Right, exactly. They’re not going to know that for sure.
Rich: And then you have to be ok with some projects are going to be more or less profitable than others. It’s even possible you might take a bath if you needed to do extra work to keep a client happy.
Jillian: Yes, absolutely correct. And it depends on how much of my work is there, how much of me is there, am I managing things, am I dealing with the client side, am I showing up and shaking hands, what’s my role in it. And then that’s factored into the cost as well.
Rich: You’ve said a lot of amazing things. But I think the most fascinating part for me is that you never send a proposal and wait, because I know that probably half my life is waiting on proposals. So can you just walk me through that process again? This is now the second call that you’re on with them and you’ve got your team there, are you getting them to sign off on that right then? Walk me through that process again please.
Jillian: So the first set up – and I’ve gotten much better at this as I’ve gotten more experience and just more comfortable – so a lot of times it’s in person I’ll meet somebody and be able to cover quite a bit of ground just for the conversation in person. Otherwise they email me and we set up that first call. So usually that first conversation is to get a sense of who they are, what’s the contact point or the referral source, where did they come from and how did they land at my doorstep, and what brings them to the doctor today, what is the thing they they think is what they need, what is it that they’re looking for. And that’s the starting point.
So from there they tell me a little bit about it, I ask them a couple things just to clarify what it is they’re looking for, how were they referred to me, what have they tried, what’s their timeframe, is this something they need tomorrow or is this down the road, have they worked with other agencies in the past. I just ask some of those initial parts, and then I tell them here’s what I need to do. Usually I take notes on every call because I’m always thinking and I’m always building upon things. So I’ll usually say to them at this point, “I’ve taken a bunch of notes, I’ve got several ideas.” And it’s almost a guarantee that I’ll have just read something, heard something, seen something, or know of some business tool or Ted talk or something that makes me feel like they might appreciate. So I tell them, “Hey, have you heard of Simon Sinek, have you checked out his Ted talk?” So I am sharing something right away. So that might seem like what the heck does that have to do with anything. But it just works, it’s sharing something, it’s offering something. So that’s just a little piece that I do as well that’s genuine.
So in any case I tell them, “Here’s what I need, I need to chew on this awhile. I need to work my way through this. I’ve got some ideas, but let me sit on this and put my ideas together into a document. Let’s schedule right now a time for us to talk through a bunch of my ideas, so what does your schedule look like next week?” So we’ll schedule right then and there and I’ll send them an invite and I’ll tell them next week we’re going to talk through my ideas. So next week I give them a call, I’ll send them the Google link 5 minutes before the conversation.
And a lot of times they’ve never done Google Docs before, so that alone – these are the things where in the business they’re like second nature – but in the real world, the business world, a lot of people don’t know about a lot of the tools that we take for granted. So there are opportunities to help them learn something, for them to feel like now they’re hip. Most of my clients are 50-60 year old, typically men, typically executive level, and they haven’t learned a lot of digital tools so they feel like this is cool. Learning Google Docs is an exciting thing for them.
In any case, I talk them through the pre-proposal – and it says right on the top, “pre-proposal” – there’s a couple of my ideas right off the bat and we talk through the whole thing. So at the end of it I almost always, if in the conversation I’m feeling like this is not going to go anywhere, I’m going to make some suggestions. Usually it doesn’t – because I’ve weeded them out already – but if I’m feeling like I’m not so sure, I might pull back a little bit or offer some suggestions that they take to their neighbor or their old agency if they keep bringing that up, and see if maybe they can help you with it.
I am not trying to strongarm them or talk them into anything at all. I only want to work with clients that are excited to work with us. If they’re not and there’s any kind of ambiguity or hesitation, then that’s a red flag for me and I’m going to step back because I’m not going to try to convince them. Because those are the ones that grow up, so I don’t. So in that pre-proposal conversation, we typically have gotten to a good place, we joke about things, it’s a very collaborative, positive conversation. We’re looking at the $5,000/month mark, sometimes I charge an engagement fee up front as well. So we discuss what the structure of the contract will be like and I tell them I’ll get this sent over to them, we’ve already talked about how invoicing works, and we set up when the contract period is. So at that point in the pre-proposal, I am usually already in their Google Analytics, I usually have access to their dashboards, usually I have everything at that point. They trust because we’ve already talked through those pieces there. So now we’re just setting up the schedule and scheduling the next call. So that’s kind of how we set it up. I hope I’ve answered your question.
Rich: I think so. It almost sounds like by this point you are so in deep, you’re not thinking about any of your competitors, you’re not even thinking there’s anybody else talking to them. Your goal is to help them, and you’re in so deep at this point that there’s almost a feeling of I might as well work with her I’ve given her the keys to the castle anyway.
Jillian: Right. And here’s the thing, this is the piece that I think a lot of people miss an opportunity on. Right now I have a client that’s shaping up to be my largest situation ever by probably tenfold at least, and they got referred to me because someone said, “You should talk to Jillian about social media.” What they didn’t tell me is that they’re a several multi million dollar international enterprise. So people are like, “Go talk to Jillian about your Facebook page.” So if I said, “Oh, you need a Facebook page? That’s great. That will be 3 hours of work at $75/hr”, I would have missed an enormous opportunity.
So I think a lot of people who are working in digital or social are very quick and sometimes overly eager to send in a proposal and have this very professional really nice looking pitch deck of all the things that they can do and all these other things, when in fact sometimes a client asking for a Facebook page didn’t even mean Facebook, or they don’t even need Facebook, they don’t even know what they need. So I think of it moreso along the lines of consulting and helping. So it’s a consultative sell as opposed to just providing a commodity type of a business.
Rich: A lot of the things that you have shared with us today, Jillian, have been counterintuitive. If you were to say to that somebody who’s just getting started, a lot of those things sound so wrong and backwards. But you seem to be going out of your way not to get business, and at the same time, you’ve been very successful.
And obviously I’m not saying that these tactics are going to work for everybody, you have a certain confidence about you and I know that you’re a certain kind of person where people are drawn to your confidence, there’s no two ways about it. Not everybody may share that level of confidence, maybe not everybody has the type of experience you have or the networks that you have, but you started basically with that. And those are things you built up over time. And by being counterintuitive, you’ve attracted the right type of clients for you and for your business.
Jillian: Yeah, and confidence helps, but I always will say it’s about caring. My clients know that I care. When I take a new client on it’s all hands on deck, so don’t underestimate that as well. Confidence comes with repetition and success and trusting other people, too. So I think to not underestimate that and think about the business is not about a Facebook page, it’s about trying to grow their business. So the more you can understand who they are and what they need, the more value you have to them as well. So that’s where I try to focus. So that’s where the confidence comes from. I’m confident in how much I care and I know that I will do whatever it takes to help move the needle. And that’s where the confidence comes from.
Rich: And I know that you run an agency and I run an agency, and I hope people who have listened to this episode aren’t saying, “Well that’s great for agency owners, but it won’t work in my business.” I think the things that we’ve been talking about today and what you shared with us today are appropriate for almost any type of business out there, in terms of getting a deeper understanding of what our ideal customers really need, and not just what they happen to be asking for today.
Jillian: Yes. I think that’s an important delineation and I truly believe that if folks kind of reflect on that and are mindful of that in future conversations with prospects, I feel like there’s a very good chance that they’re going to see that there are larger opportunities or more opportunities than they used to identify when they’re just reacting to what somebody asks for.
Rich: Great stuff. Any last business tips you have to share before we close out today’s episode?
Jillian: I do, just a couple quick ones. One piece, just in terms of tools, most of the time when I’m speaking with folks and they know that I have an agency they’ll talk about what platforms do I use and do I love Hubspot or do I use Infusionsoft and all these things. To me, it’s not about any of those tools. To me it’s super basic, I mentioned Teamwork before and it’s a fantastic project management tool that we use that’s excellent that also does great reporting, which is why I can manage budgets and whatnot for multiple clients and large teams.
We use Google Drive, as I mentioned. Freeconferencecall.com is so great, it’s free, obviously it’s great, We use GoToWebinar and Quickbooks. So I’ve built a pretty solid agency with not these super elaborate tools.
The other thing I have, two quick tips that have had significant impact on me in business and my agency. So #1, this one might be very obvious to people, but for me it wasn’t. It’s to hire a bookkeeper or somebody to do the accounting. So I at first was very worried about this, I remember when I first started paying people I was nervous if I could afford it. Paying somebody $25/hr and then $40, I started getting nervous about it. But I pushed back against that and I did it anyways. I brought on a bookkeeper who now handles all of my invoicing, when she first came on she found $15,000 in outstanding invoices. And when I brought her on I was obviously not doing a good job of collecting invoices, I did not want to have the money conversation with clients anymore because it became awkward and it kind of distorted the conversation. So that’s a huge thing, even if you think you can’t afford it, find somebody and afford it because it can be just a huge asset I think.
Rich: I agree. You cannot be helping people if you’re constantly hounding them for money.
Jillian: Yeah, it sets up a very not productive – or even dysfunctional – relationship, and I don’t want to be in that. Theresa is awesome, she has no problems following up with a client, she’s great at it and it’s perfect and it takes it off my plate. And you can get bookkeepers for $30-$40 an hour.
The second thing is, so I once heard that – and this I discovered is true because I worked with clients in an array of industries and professional services – most people don’t ever increase their prices. Most people are very afraid and there’s a struggle with how to price things and they just don’t ever want to increase their prices. And so when I heard that most people don’t ever increase their prices, that was my queue to go ahead and do it. Because if most people are not doing it – this goes back to the counterintuitive thing – if most people are not, then I am going to do that. So that’s what I did. And the way that I think about and articulate that is that we teach people how to treat us. That’s one of my favorite quotes. So if we don’t value ourselves and our most precious commodity – which is time – then nobody else will. So I challenge people to think about increasing prices, and that can be done by pivoting into a retainer model that’s more value based than black and white commodity based.
Rich: Great stuff as always. So for those of us that want to learn more about you online, where can we go?
Jillian: They can check out my company website, thejilliangroup.com. I’m also on Facebook and Twitter, and it turns out that I’m the only one in the world with my name, so it can’t be too difficult to find me. So anywhere that’s convenient for folks, I’ve got a few things going on Instagram, but I would say LinkedIn is probably a good place or check out my website. I feel like I shouldn’t do this, but I’m going to do this and say if anybody has listened and has any questions or anything that I can do to help them, to shoot an email to email@example.com, and just reference this podcast in the subject line and we’ll see if we can set up a time to chat a little bit.
Rich: Sounds good. Alright, Jillian, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.
Jillian: Good to chat with you, Rich, Hopefully it was helpful to somebody.
- You can find out more about Jillian at her website, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
- Check out Jillian’s book, TedX talk and ebook, for more fascinating techniques and advice for fostering client relationships and running a successful business around that.
- Jillian mentioned a few tools that help her keep her business successful and efficient:
- Rich Brooks is the owner of flyte new media, a web design and marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He is also the founder of the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference where lucky attendees get the opportunity to hear some of the most creative and influential minds speak on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing.