Chris Ciunci, Founder & Managing Partner of TribalVision, grew his company’s revenue from $2.5m in 2014 to $6.1m in 2017, a 144% increase, and now they are on track to hit $6.8m this year.
TribalVision provides a flexible cost effective alternative to traditional marketing solutions.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Chris shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Wowing their clients with exceptional service to generate referrals, references, reviews and testimonials.
- Happily eating their own cooking. The multi-channel marketing services they provide and offer to clients and prospects are they same ones they use to grow their own business (and land the #1 search result position on Google for the keyword “outsourced marketing firm”).
- Continuously refining and improving their current marketing channels (such as paid search, SEO, retargeting to name a few) and adding new ones (such as 1-1 personalized marketing for their top 100 client target list).
Malcolm Lui: Malcolm Lui here welcome to Eversprint.com. Today we're speaking with Chris Ciunci, the Founder and Managing Partner of TribalVision a fast growing outsourced marketing firm that provides a flexible cost effective alternative to traditional marketing solutions. Welcome to the call Chris.
Chris Ciunci: Thanks Malcolm. Thanks for having me on the call.
Malcolm Lui: Chris you grew your company's revenue from 2.5 million in 2014 to six point one million in 2017 and now you're on track to hit six point eight million in 2018 to achieve this rapid growth. What was your number one sales or marketing objective and what challenges did you overcome to get there.
How they grew fast initially: extreme focus on providing clients with an amazing experience to generate referrals, references, reviews, and testimonials.
Chris Ciunci: Hi Malcolm. I would say that the what my real objective was it was interesting it wasn't really just two. I never had a target in mind and this might sound crazy coming from a marketing firm but it's not as if I said back in 2000 13 or 14 we're going to grow from 2.5 to 10 million let's say are to 7 million and this is exactly how we're gonna get there. I really had much more of a bit of a narrow focus of an obsession to be frank with when I was at 2.5 million a few years ago it was OK. What can I be doing to just like completely wow the customers that I have so that I can ultimately then gain their trust for them to then be advocates for me for future opportunities whether it be with it within their own organizations or that I can leverage to find others so myself and I have a partner Damien Gerber all the two of us just set out to make sure that we had really amazing experiences with our clients that they could feel and then from there we could if we earn their trust we could then ask them for references and ask them for testimonials that we could then be using to try and find new business.
They eat their own cooking: they grow their own business the same way the grow their clients' business.
Chris Ciunci: And so that was really the focus that we had and it worked. I mean if you take a look at our Web site we now have close to 20 clients on video talking about the work that we've done we have close thirty five star client video gives me client testimonials on Google between our two offices and that's really the the reality that we wanted to create during those years. And I then just couple that with digital marketing channels that we refer to our other clients and set up for other clients to get that word out right whether that be through email or whether that be through LinkedIn whether that be through the landing pages of our paid search efforts. We we really made sure then that we could deliver that message in the most cost effective ways with the with the channels that we were leveraging and that was also a good story right because we could then tell his clients and prospects look this is what we're doing for ourselves how we're growing our own business and we can do the same for you. So it's really always been our strategy and so far it's served this well
Malcolm Lui: Yeah. You always have to kind of think twice when you see a marketing company that
Chris Ciunci: Well
Malcolm Lui: Doesn't use their own tools and services to market themselves.
Chris Ciunci: Yeah absolutely and so I I actually would agree and I oftentimes even during my own pitch to a client customer would just say OK well you're obsessed about the client experience as you say then you've got to make sure that you're partnering with a marketing firm that is actually walking the walk and doing it themselves because if they say they can do it for you but they're not creating exceptional experiences for their clients then how can you expect them to do that for you or how can you expect them to grow your company when when ultimately they're still at you know 10 employees and they've been at 10 employees for the last three years. And so they might have good reason to stay at 10 employees but it's still something to be thinking about as a business owner.
Malcolm Lui: Right. Definitely groups agree with you on that point. Can you share how many clients you had back in 2014 and how many you have today
Chris Ciunci: Yeah good question. I would have to guess a little bit here but I would say 2014 we were most likely at around 25 clients and now we're at 75 clients. So we've basically tripled. I mean we might have been at 30 clients again don't quote me but around 25 to 30 clients in 2014 and we've really probably tripled since then in terms of our client base
Malcolm Lui: And how many of the 25 to 30 in 2014 are still with you today
Chris Ciunci: Great question. I would say realistically half are still with us today.
Malcolm Lui: Okay.
The clients they've retained are bigger companies with ongoing marketing needs who can afford their services. The ones they don't retain typically are smaller businesses with a limited marketing budget who hire them for short term projects.
Chris Ciunci: And so those half know I really have sort of two types of clients where we really add value one is a client that is smaller on the smaller end maybe with a few million in revenue annually to 10 million in revenue and they bring us into for a projects like a six month engagement where they say OK why don't you put together a really comprehensive marketing strategy for us which we don't have. And then stay around for several months to implement that strategy. So oftentimes it's putting lead generation digital marketing channels in place for them right SEO PPC email retargeting etc. get their house in order and then from there in the keys back over to an internal point person. So for those types of clients those are usually about half of our clients. You know ultimately we're not going to stick around for three or four years. We know that upfront and then for the larger clients that we have that's maybe the other 50 percent where we're working either with a publicly traded company or someone that you know could be doing over 50 million or so we're not even maybe over 30 million in revenue a year they can afford us where they they want us to really either act as their team on a full time basis not on a project basis or compliment their existing internal marketing team with a feels like a perpetuity of marketing projects that you know that really on stopping after a few months. So short short answer for you is probably half are still with us. And the other half again we've we've completed our project work with
Malcolm Lui: so the ones who moved onward and Germany the ones that had more well-defined projects or were smaller and really couldn't keep you on board as their marketing team on an ongoing basis
Chris Ciunci: You know sometimes they have a marketing coordinator internally and they know that the marketing coordinator at 30 40 50 thousand dollars a year they can't drive the marketing bus they wouldn't want them to drive the bus that would be dangerous. But at the same time they can certainly follow direction and execute on what's been put together. And so that's oftentimes what happens is we we drive the bus for seven months get them where they need to be and then in the baton back over to that internal coordinator for them to to run west
Malcolm Lui: So for the. So essentially you found. So you had 12 that were returning roughly. So you found about 15 to never. Yeah about 15 clients who have been with you since 2014 so you found about 60 new clients over the past four years. Now did those all come from referrals or do you have other means of finding them.
Two-thirds of their past new clients came from their own marketing channels (PPC, retargeting, drip emails), one-third from referrals. Now starting to add account based marketing to their platform, targeting their top 100 ideal clients.
Chris Ciunci: You know some came from referrals Absolutely. So that's really you know what we're going for every day is a referral but we've got to be careful because we certainly don't want to be aggressive with our clients always asking for referrals so we just sort of let that happen naturally. And then I'd say a large percentage of those 60. I mean if I had to guess I'd probably say 40 of the 60 have come from the marketing channels that we've put in place for ourselves right. So we're like I said back to Google paid search campaigns to retargeting campaigns to drip email marketing campaigns or you know we're really leveraging right now Malcolm account based marketing tactics for our firm right where ultimately we're identifying you know let's just say a top one hundredth you know potential client base that we'd love to work with and we think that's perfectly within our niche. And then we then deploy multi-channel digital campaigns to them to create awareness and hopefully conversion where we can eventually have a one on one meeting with them. So a lot of our our lead flow are from those from those tactics
Malcolm Lui: Can you give a bit more details on how you're targeting your top 100 are you doing i.e. are you targeting in aggregate as a whole. Or you focus on them
Chris Ciunci: Now
Malcolm Lui: One at a time.
Chris Ciunci: We're focusing on them one at a time. All right so we feel the power of marketing is not being treated like a number because you've received a constant contact or MailChimp Email you oftentimes feel you're one of 10000 and it doesn't feel that special
Malcolm Lui: Okay
Lazy marketing vs 1-1 approach
Chris Ciunci: Because you know it's a template sized approach to really crafting personalized emails in males. You know you know campaigns to individual companies and you know spending the time to find the right influencers at those companies decision makers at those companies and and targeting them specifically. So you know a lazy marketing is just blasting you know a list of 20 thousand names that you bought just never really going to work to you know sort of the other end of the spectrum which is really what we're doing
Malcolm Lui: Right. So
Chris Ciunci: A lot
Malcolm Lui: It sounds
Chris Ciunci: More a
Malcolm Lui: Really
Quality trumps quantity when it comes to marketing
Chris Ciunci: Lot more effort up front but. But it's also I'd rather quality versus quantity and we say that to our clients as well and oftentimes you work with niche B2B companies where that works because again it's it's not as if they're selling some type of consumer brand that tens of millions could want. It's oftentimes you know you're selling something they've just manufactured for a very specific niche like heat transfer decals and not too many companies are in need of heat transfer decals. But with our types of approaches we can certainly find them identify them and personalize to them.
Malcolm Lui: Right now to do the personalized contact for their top 100 but it sounds labor intensive
Chris Ciunci: It is a bit labor intensive right. But at the same time again you know we have a whole partner team here at TribalVision where we leverage for that type of role we would leverage we have marketing associates that we use. We oftentimes have interns that we use also where at TribalVision where yes they're doing that that lower end work that is actually really some of the most important work that we do
Malcolm Lui: Like
Automated marketing for past prospect lists they've built organically. #1 ranked on Google for "outsourced marketing firm" Continuous refinement of their multi-channel approach.
Chris Ciunci: Because if you don't find the right contacts and we're not personalizing the messaging properly then the conversion rate is going to be much lower. So yeah it is a bit more labor intensive. I mean don't get me wrong we also are mixing in more automated marketing as well. Right. So we we're certainly using now we have a platform called a partner that we use called active campaign where we're also making sure that we're sending out emails for example to a client in prospect list that we've built over the years organically. So don't get me wrong that's not our only marketing effort is personalized into a top 100 right. We have retargeting campaigns we put together you know we have like I said Google paid search we're always obsessed with search engine optimization and optimizing our our Web site. I mean we're very proud that if you were to Google outsource marketing firm wherever you are in the country TribalVision will now be on the first page most likely and we've put a lot of sweat and tears into that to make sure that's happened for us. So you know there's it's a multi-channel approach that we've used in over nine years of being in business we've refined and refined and we're continuing to refine. But yeah there's some proven channels that that have certainly worked for us.
Malcolm Lui: You know
Chris Ciunci: And again
Malcolm Lui: I just
Chris Ciunci: Back to eating your own cooking right it's like you were saying before. Yeah. I mean that's a great value proposition in the sense right to the unique selling proposition to our possible clients is you know this playbook that we built for us that's proven there's no reason why we couldn't build that for you as well.
Malcolm Lui: You know I just put your claim to test while you're just chatting here I fired up a incognito browser and Chrome and I type then outsource marketing firm and you and your company came up. No one on the list
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. There we go.
Malcolm Lui: There
Chris Ciunci: So
Malcolm Lui: You go
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. So there's a lot of time and effort right. Oftentimes companies that we work with just think oh you know we can just get to the top of Google and it's just going to take a couple of months and what's the trick to get there and there's no trick right. It's just a lot of great content and it's really putting a strategy in place to make sure that you know there's content being developed all the time whether it's white papers or case studies or video testimonials talking about outsource marketing to this type of podcast where you introduce me as an outsourced marketing firm which I'll transcribe which would be good for the search engines. You know there's there's definitely a strategy to what we do. I mean I haven't talked much about that but there's definitely a strategy to what we do that that is certainly paid off
Malcolm Lui: Yeah for sure. Number one rankings on a term like outsource marketing is not easy to achieve.
No secret sauce: they've positioned themselves as an outsourced marketing firm, unlike their competitors, so their message stands out in the minds of their market.
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. At one point we were on. It was pretty cool outsource marketing. If you went to Wikipedia on it it isn't the case anymore unfortunately. But we were also even listed as a reference by a Wikipedia. So that was very exciting for us as a firm as well so being part of the secret sauce. Malcolm I mean there isn't really a secret sauce right but part of the reason for our success is we've decided who we are as a firm. We're not a marketing consulting firm. We're not an ad agency. We like to position ourselves in a very different way as an outsource marketing firm and then start to tell our story around what that means versus what's out there with the traditional agency and I think that also that messaging component is really served us well and we say the same things to our clients right. If you're just like everybody else and you're not messaging yourselves in ways that really enable you to stand out very quickly in a consumer's mind then it's going to be very difficult to achieve the results that you're expecting.
Malcolm Lui: Yeah I agree. For the years to come in next three years what are your targets what are your objectives.
First nine years all about the clients, clients come first, getting more clients. Now it's about their team, to keep them happy, motivated, and engaged, and to continue building our their marketing functions.
Chris Ciunci: Yes interesting. So when I started this nine years ago I was all about clients and I was all about the client comes first and it's all surrounding how can we get more clients and what we've learned over nine years of doing this with bumps in the road of course with any business is it's really about our team. It's our team that is most important to us because if it sounds corny but we've learned it that if our team is motivated and happy and being trained and tools the right way then the clients will come. And so really we just finished a company retreat just a few days ago and literally all just about all of our 50 slides that we put together for that company retreat revolved around our team revolved around training to make sure they continue to stay on top of their games and they feel motivated that this is the right place for them to continue to learn and to grow and to be engaged. So our emphasis for the next two years is making sure that you know we're doing everything we can for our team and secondly of course you know we're also still building out our own marketing functions.
Chris Ciunci: So we've gone from zero to seventy so seventy five or so clients in these years and we want to make sure that now that we have a bit bigger of a battleship right and as the saying goes we want to make sure now that we can scale our efforts in a kind of gradual way but scale our efforts so that the next nine years can take us from seventy five to one hundred and fifty clients and so the tactics that we've put in place while they've been very successful we're looking at building around those tactics building our own marketing team. So it's not just me and two others at this point to really fuel the next stage of growth right. So just to answer your question it's twofold it's making sure we're hiring and retaining and engaging with our product which is our people making sure that they're here for years to come because they're so valuable. Without them we have nothing and at the same time also making sure that we have a clear path for growth to make sure that we have customers that can fuel everything that we want to do because without new customers we won't have the business
Malcolm Lui: Skiing you talk a bit more about the path to growth in terms of getting more customers more clients. What your thoughts are
Chris Ciunci: Chores.
Malcolm Lui: On that
Building out their inside sales team to further fuel their growth
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. So right now we have. So what I'm doing at this point is it's just up until now it's really been myself heading the marketing effort and really with two individuals that have helped me build out the digital marketing tactics that I've told you we're using right whether it's SEO or retargeting or paid search or email drip campaigns or Lincoln outreach. So that's brought us to where we are today. But secondly what we're what I'm now doing for the future is I'm I'm building out an inside sales function to TribalVision because at a certain point me being the only one who is really the salesperson in the face of TribalVision can only bring us so far if we want to continue to grow. It's only so much I can do in a day. So I'm now really prepping an inside sales person to be really overseeing all of the leads that are coming in instead of me calling every lead it's now going to be this individual who's making sure they're they're qualifying engaging with the leads and building out his or her own network that they can be selling as well. So at first they're just gonna be qualifying and helping free up some of my time. But the longer term goal is they're going to be also selling just like I am and then they're gonna be building out their own you know department underneath some of inside and outside sales to help you out. GROSS So up until now we've been 100 percent marketing focused and we of course could be abandoning that. We're just gonna be doubling down on those efforts that are working with budget but we're also going to be complementing that with some inside sales efforts as well.
Malcolm Lui: Ok so what challenges do you see in regards to building out your inside sales team.
Biggest challenge is ensuring that the team he's building really understands their customers and how TribalVision can them.
Chris Ciunci: So I would say that again it's really our core is marketing it hasn't been sales and it's really it's really going to be important to make sure that that individual you know really understands our customer and really understands TribalVision well enough so that they can be as informative and helpful to prospects as possible while they're going down their decision journey with us. So I would say for me the challenge is to make sure that all the knowledge that I have built up over these years there really again can be transferred over to the team that I'm building underneath me and soon not to be underneath me but as equals to me. So sure I think there's subtleties to what TribalVision does that I want to make sure that that inside team. Understands all the ins and outs they understand how to overcome all of the abject objections that come with working with an outsource marketing firm right. OK well why would I work with you if we can hire someone internally who can work 50 hour weeks versus 50 hour months. So there's a lot to this that to telling our story properly that I don't want to get make sure it gets lost in the mix.
Malcolm Lui: So Chris you mentioned that you need your salesperson to understand your customers. Can you share a bit about who your ideal customers are your ideal clients.
TribalVision's ideal customers: $5m to $50m in revenue, profit and non-profit companies.
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. All right. Your clients on paper are ideal client. Like I said it's sort of our core client. Let me start there is really either a nonprofit as I say organizations because we work with a lot of nonprofits so I don't want to just say companies. So I would say organizations that are generating typically between 5 million and 50 million in annual revenue at that band they're large enough to be able to afford TribalVision right where we would be either their marketing team or their head of marketing or an important member of their team so anyone lower really than you know a few million three to five million in revenue. You know we're gonna be probably a bit expensive right our average monthly fee runs at around eight thousand dollars a month. And so for a company that again is just doing a couple of million and sales that's gonna be difficult for them. But that's why I say 5 million is about that threshold sometimes a little bit less. If it's you know a venture funded firm and then all the way to 50 million I would say Malcolm because once 50 million this isn't of course hard and fast but oftentimes above 50 million in revenue you know they already have their own marketing teams in place. So yeah our core is five to 50 million.
Industries they helped: professional services, manufacturers, non-profits.
In terms of industries professional services of course because it's very easy for me to tell a company which is the truth that tribal visions of professional services firm and this is what we've done for TribalVision with our playbook.
Chris Ciunci: It's probably 80 percent of it that's transferable over to you as a professional services firm. So like we can sort of say we've been there and done that and are living it every day which is attractive. Manufacturing has been big for TribalVision over these years. We have great relationships with a lot of manufacturing partnerships and programs and do a lot of education for manufacturers manufacturers oftentimes not always of course but oftentimes you're a little bit dated with their marketing right. Oftentimes the CEO or the head of sales don't have much of a marketing background and realize they really do need marketing but really have never invested in it. So they have the revenue to support TribalVision and they're usually starting at a lower than usual foundational level which is enjoyable for us right. It's like my God we have a blank slate where you know there's a manufacturer that's doing 30 mean million and sales they still have a very poor looking website not nothing going on from an outreach perspective. You know we sort of salivate at that because we can add a ton of value to that type of firm. So manufacturing I would say nonprofits also we have many nonprofits that we work with where ultimately they know they need marketing expertise but they're tight on budgets as a nonprofit. And so that marketing coordinator that they have might not be doing enough for them to be fundraising the way they need to be fundraising etc.
Chris Ciunci: So they realize the importance of bringing someone like TribalVision in with our expertise. But you know know that they can't hire a chief marketing officer. One hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. So we're a nice alternative for them that's more flexible and outsourced. So that's that's a little bit more about our client base. Recently we were going more upmarket as well so before we wouldn't really proactively go after larger companies or organizations because they have internal marketing teams but what we found over the last couple of years is there's a lot of larger marketing. Excuse me a lot larger organizations that already have an internal team but we found we can add a lot of value to those teams because they might not have the expertise in a certain subsegment of digital marketing that we can certainly assist them with on an outsource basis or they just have a bandwidth problem where it's tough to hire talent especially a 3 percent unemployment right now. So we can act as their overflow for marketing projects that they just don't have the resources for internally so long answer. But I say short is you know our core is five to 50 million but we're now also finding great success in that we can add value to a larger firms as well just as an extension of their team.
Malcolm Lui: What's the best way for those folks again in touch with you the ones who are your ideal clients.
Chris Ciunci: Yeah I would say they can just jump on our Web site it's w w w dot TribalVision dot com when we're a TribalVision dot com and you know they can fill out a form there with their specific need or they can just call the 800 number that's on our home page as well as that's probably the fastest way to get in touch with us.
Malcolm Lui: Thanks for joining us today Chris and sharing how you grew your company so fast
Chris Ciunci: Yeah. Thanks so much Malcolm I appreciate it. Hopefully your audience got something out of it today.
Malcolm Lui: We've been speaking with Chris Ciuncim the Founder and Managing Partner of TribalVision about his company's rapid 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.
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