Mike Lieberman, Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist of Square 2 Marketing, grew his company’s revenue from $2.6m in 2013 to $4.9m in 2016, a 89% increase, and now they are on track to hit $6m in 2018.
Square 2 Marketing is a full service digital growth agency specializing in helping companies build effective relationships and drive revenue with their prospects and customers.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Mike shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Practicing what they preach, mostly inbound marketing that generates for their own company 400 leads, 30 prospects and 4 to 6 new clients each month.
- Focusing on the biggest impact opportunities that take the least time and effort to execute, such as improving their closing rates.
- Striving to partner with clients, rather than simply being their vendor. value
: Malcolm Lui here. Welcome to Eversprint.com. Today we're speaking with Michael Lieberman, the Co-Founder CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist of Square 2 Marketing, a fast growing full service digital growth agency specializing in helping companies build effective relationships and drive revenue with their prospects and customers. Michael grew his company's revenue from $2.6m in 2013 to $4.9 million in 2016,an 89% increase. And now they're on track to hit $6 million this year. Welcome to the call Mike.
: Thanks for having me. Happy to be here.
: So Mike how did you do it? How did you grow your company sales so fast?
: Well It certainly wasn't easy and basically threw a lot of kind of perseverance and constant iteration primarily. So we are constantly looking at our sales process. We're constantly looking at the marketing that we're doing. We're constantly applying the same skills the same methodology the same tools that we apply for our clients. One of our core values is practice what you preach so we try to do everything that we're recommending our clients do for our own business. And it's nice when we can show steady revenue growth like you described it kind of validates what we're doing actually works
: Did you grow your business by doing more business with your current clients or did you grow it by finding new clients to help.
: I would say primarily it was through finding new clients to work with. I mean we typically have a pretty consistent relationship with our current client. So we work with them we kind of get them set up and then we either continue to work with them in kind of more of like a maintenance mode or they attempt to bring the program in-house so even if we've done a good job they tend to like to try to do some of it on their own. Sometimes that works and there are good and more times than not they come back and say hey we realize we still kind of need your help. So we have kind of like really intensive relations with our clients out of the gate. Maybe that's a year or two some percentage of our clients continue on like that and we might work with them for four five six or even longer years and then another percentage of them kind of attempt to kind of take it in-house and do it on their own. What that means is the reason I'm telling you that is we need a steady flow of new clients so primarily where we grew the business was getting better at our own marketing and getting better at our own sales and increasing the flow of new clients.
: Can you share who your ideal clients are and what the best results you are able to deliver to them.
: Yeah absolutely. So a lot of people ask me that. What is your best client look like and I think what they're looking for is you know a certain industry or a certain size in terms of number of employees or revenue and that's not really how we answer that question. So typically our best client is someone that has a really successful business who is really good at what that business does but recognizes that you know how to market that business and how to you know tune and optimize the sales. Part of that business is very very important worth investing in but not their core competency. And they come to us and say hey I want you guys to tell me what to do in this area. I am going to trust you to do it. We're going to agree on what success looks like and I'm going to put the ball in your hands and say Go ahead make that happen. So you know that could be a five million dollar company that could be a 50 million dollar company that could be a 500 million dollar company. It really doesn't matter. It's more about the psychographic profile of the leaders who say marketing and sales is really important. I know what we've done in the past is not working anymore. I want to try something new. I'm comfortable trying something new. And I trust you guys to to tell us what to do and carry the heavy do the heavy lifting where where we can that's who is going to be extremely successful.
: For those sort of clients the ones that are open minded and know that they need help and are willing to have your team help them what are the best results that you're able to deliver for them.
: I mean the results are really very we have a handful of success stories where the companies have have accident and they've sold their businesses and we've been part of that journey with them we position them. We built the revenue generation machine they needed to justify a high valuation. And those companies were sold. So you know obviously that's one set of results. A more traditional set of results are increases in visitors to their website increases in leads into the sales process. Increased sales opportunities increasing close rate shortened sales cycle increased revenue growth average revenue per client growth. So there were a lot of very specific sales and marketing and revenue related metrics that we track for our clients that we have been able to show up and to the right for them as a result of the work we've done
: Can you share how you are able to find your best clients the ones that have that psychographic profile that you're looking for.
: Yes so like I said earlier one of our core values is practice what you preach and we basically run the same marketing and sales playbook that we would recommend our clients run. And the result of that is we get roughly 400 or so leads a month from our own marketing and we will also a lot of speaking and and we have a book that's coming out so you know we publish a lot of content and we we amplify our content in the marketplace and that generally produces another hundred or so leads at the top of our revenue cycle. And my sales team sifts through those leads looking for people who kind of match the psychographic and demographic I talked about a few minutes ago the result of that is generally you know four to six new clients a month and that is the the metric that we need in order to hit our revenue goals
: For the 400 leads a month that are coming from your own marketing. Can you share some details on what your marketing is. And you also mentioned how your sales seem to sift through them. So can you talk a little bit about the the wide range of leads that you're getting.
: Yeah. So Because of the marketing that we do it's very content having it's very educational. You're basically attracting a group of people who are at all stages of the buyer journey. So they could be very early in their Bayor journey in which case they don't want to talk to a sales rep. Or they could be deep in the buyer journey in which they do want to talk to somebody in sales. So when I say sifting through that's kind of what the sales people are trying to decide where are these people in their buyer journey. And we're having the sales people focus on those people who are really deep in it who have decided this is a priority. Have money allocated for it are starting to look at their options and they want someone to help them make a good safe decision around who to work with. So the sales team is kind of looking for people at the back end of the buyer journey who are really serious about doing something in the next 30 days space. You may end up taking more like 60 days but generally they're looking for someone to work with and they're looking to kind of get started pretty quickly.
: The rest of us. Let me just finish the rest of you because that's you know if you think about the traditional funnel which I actually don't think is a model we should be looking at any more. You know a lot of people the top and a little people with the less people at the bottom. So in our case it's the same most of the people are early in their buyer journey. And what we do is we continue to nurture them through our own marketing without needing sales to participate in that. So if they download something from our website we continue to email them additional pieces of content and additional educational opportunities in a hope that we can proactively pull them through their Bayor journey by giving them more educational information and helping them feel more comfortable what they're trying to do to the point where they're feeling empowered and ready to talk to a salesperson. So that's the kind of marketing and sales playbooks we
: Ok. Now how does your sales team assess that the leads that are coming through are deep in their buyer journey and they're ready or are really keen and getting something done in the next 30 days.
: Right. So it's a very good question. So our sales process which takes over when the buyer journey moves into a sales stage is designed to continue that same kind of educational experience so we will talk to anyone who wants to talk to us regardless of their size and and their their stage of buyer journey. So when they're ready to talk to us we make ourselves available we feel like we're helpful and going to be a good guide for them in their journey. Then we'll be the one that's positioned appropriately to help them when they're ready to buy. And if they're not a good fit for us we have various options for which we can offramp them to either a smaller agency if they have smaller budgets or maybe we would recommend they buy our book or maybe we can have them come to some workshop programs that we might offer in different cities. So we have kind of a variety of offers that we will get to them and their budget and their buyer journey and their business needs. But but primarily we have a 30 to 45 minute call which we call a discovery call and in that call we're asking them all the questions we need to understand where they are like how how big a priority is this for you and have you.
: Have you created a budget for it yet. And if not we'll let's talk about that and we'll see if we can help you come up with a budget. And what are your goals for your sales and marketing program so we're asking them all the important questions we need to to be able to help them. But those are also qualification questions to know how far along that journey they are if they're far enough along we'll take them to our next part of our sales process which is a diagnostic call kind of like when you go to the doctor we will ask them even more questions about their sales and marketing to actually run some tests on their current sales and marketing and diagnose where we think their weaknesses and give them some recommendations that they can either take and execute on their own or we're hoping that they would ask us to help them with that and if they're not ready for that then we have like I said we have other things that they can get involved with until they're ready
: Right. So does their sales seem reach out to every one of the 400 leads to figure out where they are. Or does the 400 raise their own hand and then your sales team gets in
: Touch with
: Right. So the 400 leads are people who are kind of identifying themself to us but the sales team really only engages with the people that ask to speak to us. So you know like you know I would say probably three hundred and fifty of those are you know not ready to talk to us. Obviously selles is not engaging with them but the 50 or so or maybe that's a little high the 30 or so that do ask to talk to us. That's when selles is getting involved and having that initial conversation with them and you know we're trying to decide if they're right for us. We're also helping them decide whether we're right for them. So it's like a joint conversation about whether there's a good fit there whether we're talking to the right person whether they actually have acute pain. We can help them.
: Some consulting firms when they do the discovery call and the diagnostic call they charge for those. Does that does your firm charge for them as well to help
: Don't we don't charge and you're right some some people do that. We feel like it's our mission to help people understand you know what the changes are going on in the sales and marketing space and in the revenue generation space in general and we want to share that knowledge with them. So that's just a mission that we're on as a company. And because of that we we will talk to anybody who wants to talk to us and we're willing to invest the 30 to 45 minutes with them to help them get a little bit smarter about what they're going to do and you know like I said if it's not a fit that's great you know hopefully we made a friend. Lots of times some people come back to us six months or you know two years later and say look I talk to you guys a while ago my company was too small but you really treated me respectfully and I really liked what you had to say. And now you've got a little bit bigger and I feel like I'm I'm I'm more appropriate for you guys in terms of working together so nothing makes us happier than when something like that happens and that's what we don't charge for that
: Right. So how are you keeping in touch with the people who you talk to. But then they decide that it's not the right time to work to either
: Yes so we have a lot of active nurture campaigns that run kind of in the background. We're a big HubSpot partner so we were on HubSpot for marketing and sales automation and we run we put people on you know in campaigns and we we tag them based on what they're interested in and then we nurture them at a reasonable pace so that doesn't mean they get something from us every day. That doesn't mean they get something from us every week but maybe they might get something from us once a month. You know they can also set their own preferences and decide how frequently they want to hear from us. And the point there is just to kind of continue to educate them and continue to give them advice and guidance around the things that they're trying to do to the point when we are ready. They already are comfortable with us. They already know us they already have been getting good high quality content from us and they reengage and we can now talk to them about potentially helping them in a more direct way. So those nurture campaigns kind of run in the background. Are kind of prospect specific and issue specific and are our tools help us do that in a very scalable way.
: Right. What about on the outbound marketing side. What are you eating there.
: Yeah it's a really good question today. You know marketing is is a little bit of a blend of inbound and outbound and it really comes down to the requirements of our clients. So in our case we don't do a ton of outbound now like I said we do do a lot of kind of public speaking. We do speak at events so you know I kind of consider there that inbound. I consider that just a different form content publication but I guess you could maybe make an argument that because we're seeking out these speaking opportunities that we're you know putting our message out in front of people that maybe aren't necessarily looking for us so that might be an outbound ish tactic that we're doing but we don't make cold calls we don't send cold e-mails we don't do a lot of advertising. We may run a LinkedIn paid campaign from time to time to promote a web and all we're doing. We might do some Google paid campaigns from time to time to promote some content that we might think is interesting. But generally our marketing efforts are probably 90 percent inbound.
: Now I know that you appreciate practicing what you preach using your own methodologies to do business for your own company but outbound typically has been approached to grow one's business fast because he can scale it up. Is there any particular reason why you haven't chosen why you chose not to be more aggressive on the app on site.
: Yeah I am not sure I agree with outbound being like the perfect scalable growth machine. I think that you know outbound is right in certain scenarios and from our perspective generally outbound works well when you know who your customers are. So you know if a customer if a client came to us like well I want to go after the fire from the largest hospitals in the United States I would say great. That is a you are a candidate for an outbound marketing campaign because we know who these people are. We can target them. We can identify their contact information. We can create very specific messages for them and we can go and get make sure our messages get in front of them right. In our case I don't really know who my customers are and there's so many of them potentially out there that I'm not sure an outbound campaign would be the most of. I know it would not be the most efficient way to spend our money. There's so many people searching there's so many people looking for what we do that our money is and our marketing energies are best spent being there when they're looking for us. So I find that to be much more scalable approach than you know trying to make cold calls or trying to interrupt people or trying to get in front of people who aren't already looking for us. I don't think that's that's the way to go about it. And again that's the same kind of recommendations our clients get. I think if you want to Alpe out you have to have a really big budget to do that and you have to be comfortable with a lot of waste in your campaigns. And generally I don't think that's the right advice. In a lot of scenarios
: So regardless scalability of inbound campaigns. Can you share how for example say you wanted to double the leads of getting each month from 400 a month to 800 a month. How would you do that.
: I would be much more aggressive from a content publication perspective. I would be much more aggressive from a influencer marketing perspective. I would be much more aggressive from a content syndication perspective. So I would really try to amplify and increase the amount of thought leadership and interesting content that we're publishing in order to get a awat cast a wider net and the resulting net would produce a larger number of leads. Again that would produce a larger number of cells all of that leads to the back end of the revenue cycle.
: So what's your thinking behind not doing exactly what you just outlined now. Why not totally ramp it up to the max
: Well I mean some of it has to do with budget you know and what we can afford to do. You know we're a marketing and sales shop and lots of times our limits are directly related to what we're doing for clients right like we do execute a pretty robust marketing campaign. But if I were to double that I would have to likely hire another person or draw additional resources that are currently taking care of clients so it's a balance that we have to strike between you know what we're investing in marketing and what we're getting and what the resources we need to take care of our clients. So
: I think that if I wanted to do what you're suggesting it's not about getting double the amount of leads it's about doubling our close rate. So what we're doing to do exactly what you're talking about is focusing on the back end of the revenue cycle and producing a far superior sales process that gives our prospects a superior experience with us. Well they're working with our sales team so that we double our close rate and that we even increase the amount of sales qualified leads that become sales opportunities that actually get recommendations from us and that close. I would like to see an 80 percent close rate on recommendations submitted and that's how I'm going to double the amount of customers I get as opposed to filling up the top of the funnel with just more Lute's.
: Right. So are you saying right now than since you said you'd like to see 80 percent close rate that right now you're getting 40 percent when you provide recommendations.
: We're doing a little better than that. But yeah you're exactly right. There's improvement there. The space that we're in is highly competitive and and basically oversaturated. So it's difficult for prospects to tell the difference between one agency and another
: And that is producing some downward pressure on pricing. We've been spending a lot of time this year trying to differentiate RHC and I think we're now in a position to the end of this year and into next year to do that and that will improve our close rate. It will be obvious why you want to hire us versus some other agencies and that in addition to the sales process work we've been doing should produce that higher close rate that talking about
: For that for the people who are listening to this interview now what's the one thing that you would suggest that they try to improve their sales and marketing results.
: Well I mean that's a difficult question to answer because you know sales and marketing is such a complex set of executables. You know you're talking about getting found on Google all the way through the recommendations or the proposal that you give a prospect right. So that's a really long and complex set of interactions that you're talking about. So what I would say to somebody is look at that spectrum and try to find where the low hanging fruit is. Lots of times people think well if I just got more leads we would do better from a revenue perspective and that is probably accurate but that might not be the best thing you could do at the time what we like to do with clients is look at a prioritization methodology which is typically what is going to have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort. And if I apply that filter to all of those things that I could do lots of times you end up focusing on something like our close rate. So let's look at the close rate. If you're closer it is 20 percent. If I can move that to 40 percent I can double your revenue without generating more leads for you.
: And all I might have to do is look at the proposal or the recommendations or the contract or the agreement or the interaction between you and your highly qualified about Duclos prospect and say what's going on there how can we tune that in a little bit and reduce some friction to take you from 20 to 40 percent and I might be able to do that in a month as opposed to if I look at generating additional leads. You know it might take me six months to get you found on google for key search terms it might take me two months to redo your website. So sometimes it's about looking at that entire spectrum of activities and focusing on that thing that's going to have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort and then starting there. It's not to say I'm still not interested in higher rankings on Google. I'm still not I still might be interested in a redesigned website that gives visitors a better experience some might be interested in publishing more content for you. That will convert more visitors into leads and leads into sales opportunities. But I'm going to get to that after I double your close rate
: Right. That makes sense. Can you recap again who your ideal clients are and also suggest the best way for them to contact your team.
: Sure. Absolutely so. Our best prospects are businesses that are looking for grow growth businesses that understand that the way they're executing around revenue and marketing sales and it could be customer service to just to kind of stretch the conversation a little bit. Today advocacy is huge. From a sales and marketing perspective we need customers that are going to say yes this company is great we need success stories we need video testimonials we need reviews we need that advocacy for sales and marketing to spin faster. If your customers are not in a position to do that that should probably be something that we're talking about why aren't they willing to say great things about you publicly and how do we help you fix that. So it's really marketing sales and service. So I'm looking for people to get that I'm looking for people that want help with that I'm looking for people that want a revenue generation engine installed in their already successful company to get them to the next level and that they're willing to invest in it and they're willing to be patient about getting that system built. And they're willing to trust us to do what we do every single day here as part of their team.
: We're not we don't do vendor well we're partners with our clients and if that sounds like a scenario that really to as a leader or as a company then you're going to be a perfect client for us and we're going to have a very successful engagement and the best way to get in touch with me. You know I respond to almost every e-mail. So you could e-mail me like get Square 2 Marketing dot com you can follow me at Mike to marketing on Twitter I post you know a couple times a day you can visit our Web site. WW that Square 2 Marketing dot com. There's a ton of educational material on our website where you can start to hear a little bit of what we do and our methodology and the stories we tell. There's a lot of success stories on the Web site so you can kind of hear what we've done for other clients that might be similar to to your listeners businesses and it's very easy to get in touch with us on our website
: Thanks for joining us today Mike in sharing how you grow your company so fast.
: Malcolm thank you it's been a real pleasure and I appreciate you having me.
: We've been speaking with Mike Lieberman, the Co-Founder, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist of Square 2 Marketing about his company's growth. For interviews with other fast growing companies, or to learn how we can increase your firm's high ticket sales through automation, visit eversprint.com.