One of the challenges that faces our clients is getting that first call with their prospects. Joe Pope is with Hinge Marketing, an in-house marketing company with about 40 full-time employees. When Hinge realized that their inbound pipeline was only around 26%, they changed the messaging and content they put out so that they could strengthen that lead pipeline.
In this episode, Susan talks with Joe about the different ways that marketing agencies can improve their content so that they can grow sustainably and reliably. Marketing agencies that connect their overall marketing to their business development technique are able to use the metrics from both sides of these departments to fuel their growth. Joe shares some ideas for how agencies can find their ideal clients, and differentiate themselves from every other marketing agency out there.
- Being able to speak to what your client needs is important, but figuring out the correct marketing platform and using the right network will set you above the bots.
- If you don’t or can’t explain the benefit of your content, then your message is just another drop in the sea of content that your customers are swimming in.
- Marketing agencies who get their sales and marketing teams on the same page will see an increase in their lead closings.
- Stacking your marketing tools can improve your leads pipeline, and Joe offers his advice on how he likes to choose which tools to stack together.
Susan Tatum 0:00
Hello and welcome to stop the noise. I’m Susan Tatum. And recently I had the pleasure of talking with Joe Pope, Director of Business Development at Hinge marketing, Hinge is the company that I think does a remarkable job of content marketing. I’ve watched them for years and my clients and I’ve benefited from the research and the reports that they publish regularly. So I was looking forward to talking, and Joe didn’t disappoint. In fact, this call wasn’t intended to be the actual podcast, but the insight coming from Joe was too good to resist. So let’s join the call where I’ve just asked him what advice he has that can help experts and business owners do a better job of business development.
Hey, everybody, and welcome to stop the noise. This is where we get to hear from some of the most interesting and experienced minds offering us advice and some great ideas about why and how to stop wasting money looking and sounding like everybody else. You know, in business, being the same won’t keep you safe, it will make you easy to replace, and even easier to ignore. I’m your host, Susan Tatum. Let’s get started.
I really appreciate your talking. So I noticed that you and I are both connected to Logan Lyle, do you use Sweet Fish? Do you guys have…
Joe Pope 1:25
We do not we have had conversations with Logan and their team about potential partnerships. Nothing is truly materialized. But we have a lot of similar connections and audiences and I would anticipate at some point in the future, we will might find something that makes more sense. I know they were recently launching their podcast series that focused on various industries, and then trying to bring in guest hosts for various industries depending on what the expertise was. And so we had some discussions about how Hinge might be able to contribute in a few of those, but nothing majorly materialized. Now. We’re both regulars in each other’s thought leadership. So we’ve got content on LinkedIn, he comments on my stuff, I comment on his. And we have a few mutual connections as well,
Susan Tatum 2:05
they’re actually quite good. I use them when we when we started up our podcast. And they just made it so easy. They just had a lot of good hand holding without feeling like they were, you know, bothering you or whatever. And I wanted to use them with some clients because we try to get our clients to do podcast if it makes sense. They’re a little bit pricey for the kinds of companies that we work with. But but they are good. So I appreciate you, you taking the time to talk to me, I’ve have watched Hinge marketing, for the longest time all the research has really been very, very helpful. And you have so much experience in that area that I thought it so.. the podcast is called Stop The Noise. And what I wanted to focus on with business development people is that I’m realizing the professional services industries, what our work is getting our clients that first call with their prospects. And I see them struggle, they struggle with filling their pipelines. And then even when their pipelines are full, they struggle a bit with moving them through, because they’re not professional salespeople, for the most part. So I thought, well, what can we in our in our listeners are primarily small to mid sized business owners. So what do you got that could help these folks do a better job of business development?
Joe Pope 3:22
Yeah, that’s a great question. And thank you for the kind words about the research as well. And I’ll tell you that research is what guides most of what we suggest and what we do, and also what I do just from my day to day, so as the Director of Business Development Hinge, I’m primarily focused on growing and maintaining Hinge’s pipeline. So bringing in new business through a variety of techniques. Now the nice thing about Hinge’s we’re not a marketing agency that just says things but doesn’t do them. So when we talk about things like improving your website’s domain authority, and increasing your link strength and growing your email list, all of those different great techniques that a marketing agency should be focused on trying to help their clients do we do the same thing. So the nice thing about that is when you build a pipeline that is balanced by inbound and outbound activities, you can have sustainable growth and more reliable metrics that you can test against and you can build off of So for us, you know, we’ve actually gotten to the point now, where about 90% of our business is inbound, where we are relying on the content system and pipeline that we’ve facilitated and grown to provide us with a steady stream of leads and we now test against those leads to try to improve upon them. So for example, one initiative that we focused on a few years ago was trying to improve the qualified percentage because we were getting tons of people just saying, Hinge, we love your content, how much does it cost to work with you? Oh, wait nope that does not work for me. And as somebody who unofficial Hinge rule is we talk to everyone, large or small. If you reach out to us, you’re going to get a conversation. Now, having 40 conversations that aren’t going anywhere, though, can be a time consuming aspects. So we’ve put a lot of focus into just refining the messages that will lead us to the better types of currency, believe us to better types of clients in the future. So for us, a balanced pipeline that is built on strategy and research and understanding your buying behavior of your target audience is key. And the connection between that marketing technique and the business development team needs to be like locked and synced. So I meet regularly with Hinges director of marketing, and we talk about the results of the campaigns that we run and the techniques that we’re utilizing, and how that is, in turn, resulting in the types of leads and opportunities and negotiations and proposals. So each step of that funnel is connected, and we religiously check the metrics to make sure that we’re making changes when appropriate. And also so we’re tracking and better able to forecast what the next month or next quarter will look like.
Susan Tatum 5:47
So, you know, I talked to a lot of companies that do rely on inbound, I hear things like, oh, only 10% of the leads are qualified, or 80% of them are a waste of time. And you guys have been in business for a long, you’ve been doing this for a long time. So you’ve been drinking it all along, I’m sure. What do you see that other people are not doing that makes your pipeline so see your inbound pipeline so strong.
Joe Pope 6:10
So I’ll be honest with you, three years ago, our inbound pipeline qualified lead percentage was right around 26 27%. So not great, the major changes that we did was specifically in messaging and the types of content we put out. And we’ve been able to split, we’ve been able to flip that to about 55 60% qualified without losing the number. So we weren’t, we were just reducing the types of bad leads we’re getting and increasing the good types. And a lot of that is exactly the things I was talking about, which was connecting your overall marketing strategy to your business development techniques, and making sure that when you create an offer, it is targeted towards the issues and topics that your clients care about. And ideally, you learn that through some level of research or understanding, but at least due diligence into their behaviors, and then translating that throughout the system. And that’s that’s where you start to see more success on the inbound side. Now, if you’re not messaging and targeting the right people, then of course, you’re not going to get the right types of people who are going to reach out to you now even if you improve your SEO, and you get more paid traffic, and you have a system that allows you to capture names, you know, you’re leveraging apartheid, or marchetto, or anything along those lines. But you want to be able to tie back those results, those keywords, those issues that they care about. And if you have them targeted correctly, you’ll start to see the benefits from that.
Susan Tatum 7:32
So you’re using the content to filter out people that wouldn’t be qualified for you. And and also attracting the right people speaking,
Joe Pope 7:41
exactly that is exactly correct. And that exact type of content is the types of things you can use on the outbound side as well, if written correctly, so when we strategically target industries or marketplaces, and we recommend this for our clients to reading with content is so imperative because in this world where I get 15, LinkedIn messages, not unlike your own, but just asking me to do something. But without explaining to me What benefit or knowledge is behind it, then what’s the point? Like why would I I get 15 other these messages. So for me what you were very open and saying, well, this is what I have, I’m interested in Hinge I you know, I’ve read your stuff, it’s great, that type of message will resonate, if there’s an offer behind it, that it doesn’t waste their time. And it shows that you’ve specifically understood who the person you are that you’re reaching out to.
Susan Tatum 8:27
I think that’s so key Joe it’s letting whether it’s email or LinkedIn, or if you’re using a phone or something is letting people know that you’re a human being and you know that you know who they that you know who they are.
Joe Pope 8:37
Susan Tatum 8:38
and talk about noise. And and so, you know, one of the things that I would like to discourage business owners from doing is using I am a big fan of automation when it’s used correctly, but when it’s used to try to fake a conversation, like these third party apps that I have been flooding LinkedIn over the past couple of years,
Joe Pope 9:00
really badly now.
Susan Tatum 9:02
Yeah, yeah. I just think it’s not only a waste, it’s a disservice to the recipient, and it can damage the personal brands.
Joe Pope 9:11
Susan Tatum 9:12
So if you’re targeting if you’re when you’re doing outbound, so let’s say you’re, we’re out of business that didn’t have this high level of inbound that had been done, what sort of tips might you have for business owners that need to keep that pipeline full? Many of them have the challenge that they’re also the subject matter experts. So it’s not their full time job to do business development, but but for professional services, what do you see as being really key to outbound business development? Does that caught? You mentioned content?
Joe Pope 9:40
Yeah. And I’m gonna go back to it. It’s specifically understanding the issues and topics. So by understanding the issues and topics of your target audience, basically what keeps your prospect or your client up at night? What’s the thing that bothers them, and then how does your company intersect with it? Being able to speak to that in a variety of manners is key to being able to make proper outreach. Now, the technique and the avenue for doing that varies completely by the audience. Obviously, professional services is heavy in LinkedIn. And that’s exactly why LinkedIn is getting flooded by bots left and right, because, you know, they’re thinking, Okay, well, the audience there, so we should be there. But by leveraging things such as networking and conversations by getting into the conversations and details for folks actively participating in things that show up on your newsfeed, when it’s your target audience, you should be in their inbox, you should be showing yourself in a way, specifically in a visible manner that is valuable to what the topic and conversation is the foot. And so that’s really where I’ve seen a lot of the ABM techniques start to take off the idea of, you know, flipping the funnel, and focusing on groups and tendon tailoring down as opposed to the other way of funnel is measured, being able to tie those things to many at an organization until you can filter that down into the right people, it’s been something that we’ve seen some success with as well being focused and tailored as well as helpful if you do a lot of things for a lot of people, you’re gonna have an extremely hard time, you know, selling so by finding avenues where there is an entry to your services, and then leaving heavy with that, especially when you know that there’s reliability there. And sticking to that how you can tie those issues that these folks have into what that is to what that service area is or what that solution is that you’re providing can be another great way to help get entry into a conversation.
Susan Tatum 11:28
That’s good. Yeah. So in your.. Are you the only business development person there at hand? Or do you have a team
Joe Pope 11:35
I have a small team, I work directly with one of Hinge’s partners, Liz Har, who is a regular on podcast like this and other content, she and I together run the business development, we’ve got a few folks underneath us as well. We work across the entire company, though. So we don’t just do new business Hinge’s business developments focused on all aspects of business. So that’s also account team business. So reoccurring revenue, and as well as Hinge’s Research Institute, which is are something that we’ve had for a while but has just now start to break out as a practice area first, for example. And that group focuses on helping provide the correct kinds of content for our clients challenges. And that can be done right away from licensing content, that Hinge creates that we are consistently developing new content and doing research reports and pumping those things out. And those things can be sliced and diced into many different ways and speak to many different audiences. And that can help out organizations that don’t have the time or resources to spend on, you know, doing primary research, which can get pricey, certainly into the five figures, sometimes even six figures if you’re really getting targeted. And so when you’re desperate now to develop content and create these types of usable materials, to be able to license that from an organization that is specifically, you know, done this research already on your target audience can be beneficial. So we cover the spectrum on the business development side attention.
Susan Tatum 12:52
So how do you stay consistent across? Because I think consistency is key? how do you divide your focus against all these different areas,
Joe Pope 13:03
relying on my tool, so when you have the correct tools in the right places, you can rely on them to keep you on target and tracking. We are a Salesforce pardot company. Now, of course, you can leverage any Mark tech stack to to its efficiency. And I would not recommend Salesforce pardot for a small organization, for example, doesn’t have a built out marketing system. It’s it’s overkill, there’s too much there. Whereas like maybe a lower level HubSpot application and license can be beneficial. Or you can certainly leverage things like Zoho, and constant contact and pack those two things together. So there’s different solutions for different clients. And for us, you know, we’re software agnostic, so we don’t peddle one specific software as a part of our relationships with clients. But for me, in general, and what I would suggest is, is rely on those systems, the way that they’re built, and the way they’ve been built out for your organization. So I’ve got dashboards that I rely on daily, so I can keep track of things like what’s going on our existing accounts, or what’s our new pipeline look like? And what is our negotiation. So when we’re trying to plan out billable goals for the next few quarters, what can we expect based on what our metrics say, as well as what’s our historical revenues? And having all of that data at my fingertips allows me to answer questions that my partner’s asked me as well as when clients have their challenges I can get tapped in and as available resource occasionally, I’ll even do presentations like what we’re talking about right now. And helping to educate these guys to understand what what’s available for them, and how it can make their lives easier.
Susan Tatum 14:27
You know, it amazes me the number of people professional services business owners that I talked to, they’re using spreadsheets.
Joe Pope 14:35
Oh, absolute it’s better than nothing to be fair.
Susan Tatum 14:39
Well, that’s true. Index cards.
Joe Pope 14:41
Yeah, I mean, honestly,
Susan Tatum 14:43
either that or they’re using some poor excuse for CRM that’s inside some industry specific operating system that they have
Joe Pope 14:51
that absolutely a challenge that we’ve seen, I would say specifically for the advisors, so the legal advisors and the accounting financial services advisors There’s so many of these chop shops that just rinse repeat the same system that does not function in a way that allows you to either modify it to what your audience is, or but in general, and then they end up wasting that time and developing a bad taste on what Mark tech stacks are available.
Susan Tatum 15:15
So if you are the owner of a small a new company, at what point would you invest in martec?
Joe Pope 15:21
That is a great question. I would think that regardless, and even if it isn’t a spreadsheet, you need to be looking at your target audiences and your accounts from the minute you turn the lights on. So even if that isn’t a spreadsheet, it needs to be specifically spelled out so you can understand what your pipeline looks like. But I would say honestly, as long as there’s funds then if there’s not funds, I would make those funds available, I would suggest that that is one of the initial things that you should do. And the biggest reason I say that is because if you grow your clients, not your client, if you grow your internal team, to, to learn to love the system and utilize the system to make their lives better, it’s not like pulling teeth later on when somebody shows up and says, Oh, I don’t need to do that, or that’s not helpful or blah, blah, blah, everybody’s rowing in the same boat together. And having that data available allows you to make split second decisions, it should be a non negotiable. And for Hinge like that was a major part of what I did when I came on board was transition us from an older CRM system that had been neglected. Now we were really built out on the automation side, but the data in our CRM wasn’t great three, four plus years ago. And that was the first thing I did, I was just like, Oh, God, come on, we’re missing a giant picture. Giant part of the picture here. And and let’s let’s tie that together and get that figured out.
Susan Tatum 16:35
So Hinge is about how many employees now
Joe Pope 16:37
we’re about 40 ft. And I’d say 90% of it. So w two, the The only exceptions, they are primarily tactical writers. So folks that are freelance writers, and you know, they’ll write for Forbes and other things as well. So they don’t necessarily want to be shooting into just having to work for one company. And the other side is will occasionally leverage specialized development resources. So if we’re doing a portal or something in a website that requires you know, serious integrations and those types of things, we’ll leverage a few partners that we’ve got long standing relationships to do those types of things, but otherwise Hinge’s have we’re an internal shop, we’ve got all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from a larger marketing agency, we kind of fall in that in between for marketing, we’re not a Madison Avenue shop, but we’re we’re definitely not a small boutique shop. So we provide every service that a professional services company could need on the marketing side.
Susan Tatum 17:24
So what’s your biggest challenge?
Joe Pope 17:27
What’s our biggest challenge? Yeah, I mean, what like, like a lot of companies, we want to help everyone in some ways, and sometimes that’s not necessarily the easiest thing to do. So a lot of organizations could really use the types of services that we bring to bear. And we are very detailed and very oriented and spending a lot of time on clients. We don’t just fit out generic strategies, and you know, copy and paste social media posts, or anything along those lines, which a lot of smaller, and even sometimes larger marketing agencies do. So we run into issues that our costs can be sometimes prohibitive to the types of clients that we would really love to work with the ones that, you know, there are leaders in their specific area. And there, they have this great story to tell, and they can really do a great job and delivery, but getting them to understand what’s the value of marketing, and then how we can be beneficial while still beating away all the negative reputation that some marketing agencies have brought to the table. That’s our biggest challenge. I think so. And it’s not fun to just get on a sales call and immediately say, I know you think that marketing is BS and stinks, and I can use any other number of curse words here. But this is really how it should be done. And these are the types of results you can see and all of that because you know, sometimes just a bad taste just won’t go away.
Susan Tatum 18:45
Yeah, yeah, I know exactly what you’re talking about from a prospecting perspective, which I this has been really, really interesting. Thank you.
Joe Pope 18:53
Yeah. Is this the kind of is this the kind of stuff that you want to hear?
Susan Tatum 18:57
Yeah, totally. I actually think we’ve got stuff that I can use into a podcast, but yeah,
Joe Pope 19:02
yeah. And I call it that I figured as much I figured as much. And then that’s, and that’s the I have a few other questions as well. Specifically, I see you referenced, you know, smaller to mid sized owners. And and that’s, that’s wonderful. What would you What would you say kind of revenue wise, would you break that out today?
Susan Tatum 19:18
You know, it’s roughly it’s, it’s kind of a guess, I would say five to 15 million, maybe?
Joe Pope 19:24
Sure. Okay. Yeah, that’s that’s kind of how we look at small to mid size as well, too. And for Hinge, we fall basically in there, but we certainly go larger. And you know, we’ve worked with system integrators of the billions type around. And then honestly, we’ve also worked with some very small startups that the revenue numbers aren’t there yet, but they do have some level of funding funding and they’re looking to get things put together. So we do cover it for me is, as I said a little bit earlier, the area that we really find success is when these guys are they’ve got it. They’ve got a focus and they’re a leader in this space, and they’ve got a message to say and they can deliver but they just don’t know how to get that visibility going, they don’t know how to get themselves out there, they are the best kept secret. And so that’s when we have that type of client on our hands we really that’s where we start to hit our stride.
Susan Tatum 20:11
You can have a lot of fun with that, huh?
Joe Pope 20:12
Yeah, that’s exactly right.
Susan Tatum 20:13
What is so what is like the typical, say monthly, the monthly fee or the buy end for somebody? What would they have to? What would they have to be budgeted for?
Joe Pope 20:23
Yeah, I mean, it depends. It really does. I mean, we’ve got a bunch of guides that spell these types of things out, we’ve got a rebranding Guide, which is our number one piece of content on our website to get 1000s of downloads. And it is that has like a logarithmic scale that we built out based on revenue versus spend. So I think that honestly, might be the single most looked at piece of content, that Hinge has that one page.
Susan Tatum 20:46
Joe Pope 20:47
And we did that based on research. So I mean, we we asked organizations that were going through rebranding processes, what was your budget? What was your span? What did you think worked? Well, what didn’t work? Well, those types of questions. And that’s great. I mean, because research can give you such great content, because it’s, you know, it’s right from the horse’s mouth is the data and information that you ripped off from the people that you’re trying to sell to?
Susan Tatum 21:09
And then you turn it back in, yeah. And give it back to them.
Joe Pope 21:12
And then you give it back to them. But yeah, I mean, it, it can depend, I would tell you for implementation, this is the easiest thing to say, if you’re executing on a correct strategic marketing plan, you can expect to spend what it costs to employ somebody to do it. And with somebody, for example, on the marketing side, so a senior to director level marketer, who will you you could hire internally, that’s about what it costs split out over months to implement on those strategies. And it can go upwards of, you know, 120 150 a year and spend two downwards of 60 70, depending on how intricate your marketing program can be. So obviously, that’s a huge range, but not one size fits all. And so a lot of organizations don’t need as developed a marketing system, because they’re just getting started. So really, what we want to focus on is getting the right messages in place, developing the right types of linking and visibility through, you know, guest publications and a variety of different avenues. And from there, you can build on top of that, because once you have content, you can reuse content, especially when you do larger pieces of content, like executive guides, or even a piece of research, for example, which can be sliced and diced into 50 different types of pieces of content.
Susan Tatum 22:23
So what is the minimum? And we’re going over our time? So just tell me if you need to quit? Because this is, what is the minimum amount of content that you would tell, say, a startup that they needed to have? Is it dependent on the market?
Joe Pope 22:36
Yeah, it does. I think it definitely depends on the market. Now, the minimum is, obviously your website needs to reflect who you are. I mean, our research shows 90 plus percent of folks that have been referred to an organization are going to look at their websites before they even call them. So take a guess how many people are not actually reaching out to you after looking at your website, even if they were referred? And that percentage can be very sobering. I don’t know it right off the top of my head, but I’m pretty sure it’s above 50% 70% month. And when people hear that, and they’re like, well, I rely on referrals. And we’re like, Yeah, well, guess how many you’re not getting? It’s a sobering statistic. And so making sure your website is reflective and can speak accurately to who you are, what your mission is, and what issues you own and those types of things. And you’re not using the stupid tropes that everybody else uses like, I’m a trusted advisor. That’s cool. We one study we did looked into accounting, financial services firms, and the trusted advisor, you see it everywhere, like you see it on every homepage, you can imagine we asked buyers of accounting and financial services, what are the things that they care about? Take a guess what wasn’t found in the top 10?
Susan Tatum 23:41
Joe Pope 23:42
Nobody cared? Not. I mean, like, that’s expected. If I’m working with an organization like that, I’m expecting that that’s not what I’m evaluating what they care about is that that accounting and financial services group have the expertise to solve that problem. So what was the niche that mattered to them? You know, look at COVID right now and PPP like these these organizations, these small businesses that desperately needed those funds to stay in business, they needed their accounting and financial services providers to have that expertise. And if those organizations worked forward with that information, and didn’t have that readily accessible, that was a major myth.
Susan Tatum 24:18
Yeah, that’s a really good point. Good point. Well, Joe, you’re a great podcast guests. You’re a great speaker. Very informative.
Joe Pope 24:25
I appreciate it. Yeah.
Susan Tatum 24:26
Did you have another question?
Joe Pope 24:27
No. Some of my other questions, were just around the lines of how in depth Can I go with talking about Hinge but obviously, I talked quite a bit about Hinge.
Susan Tatum 24:35
I should have I would have asked you what can I ask you that would help you in your business, but we weren’t set up for the podcast so,
Joe Pope 24:42
no, that’s fine. And I’m happy to you know, circle back again, if you after you go through this audio and you want it you obviously if you want to set a more official one, we can definitely do that. Okay. I’ll do that. Yeah, I mean, for us, for us, obviously, anything that a person that Hinge participates in will certainly share it and talk about it. Obviously you’re gonna promote those types of things, because that’s what you’re doing.
Susan Tatum 25:03
Yeah, yeah. So I hope everybody listens to it and, and pays attention.
Joe Pope 25:08
Susan Tatum 25:09
Well, thank you so much for helping me with my mission. I’ll let you know when I know exactly when it’s gonna go live. And thanks again.
Joe Pope 25:17
Yeah, absolutely. And feel free. If there’s some things that you feel like we could touch on. I’m happy to set up another conversation.
Susan Tatum 25:24
I will do that, you know, and if you know any other people that might be good for me to talk to whether, you know, outside of Hinge or in Hinge, that that might be able to contribute to this. That would be great.
Joe Pope 25:35
Yeah, I’ve got two right off the top of my mind. One is a former Hinge who is also one of my best friends. His name’s John Tyreman. He is the Director of Research now at silverback solutions, which is another marketing agency that those jerks came and took them away from us. I can’t I can’t blame them because it was a definite promotion. So he can certainly benefit. He was the co host of Hinge’s podcast, the visible visible expert podcast, he and Kelly Waffle. And Kelly Waffle’s also another good person, obviously, well spoken hosts a podcast himself. He’s great. Those are two I can think of right off the top of my head. I think most of the senior leadership at Hinge are all well spoken as well and have various areas of expertise from you know, Lee, who’s obviously a prolific speaker in his own right. And
Susan Tatum 26:18
He had a great article this this morning, I saw two about the business development and professional services firms.
Joe Pope 26:26
Yeah, absolutely. So But yeah, I would recommend reaching out to John, he’s great. If you say that you talk to Joe and Joe said, talk to John, then
Susan Tatum 26:34
Joe Pope 26:36
Susan Tatum 26:37
I actually spelled it right. All right. Cool. Silverback Solutions. All right. Thanks, Joe. I’ll drop your name.
Joe Pope 26:43
All right. Thanks, Susan. Great chatting with you. Looking forward to reconnecting as well.
Susan Tatum 26:47
Nice to meet you. Take care. Bye.