This article is the continuation of a series. Make sure you read the article before this one.
There is a cap to how much you can do, per client, on your own.
This exists because there are only so many hours in a day. You only have so much energy.
Such is the case for any business, but particularly a marketing firm.
The reason why is branding. What I’ve had to learn about what branding works to actually make money in the industry.
The Bitter Truth About Branding In The Marketing Industry
There was once a client that I worked with: a marketing startup from Italy. The CEO became a friend of mine for a time, but his ego got in the way of his success.
He didn’t want to be a leader; he wanted to be a business owner. To be hands-off, with everything scaled.
Delegation is critical to good leadership, but he had gone about it backwards.
He needed to be the front man of this specific business, but he was at the backend. This meant being in charge of sales and conversions.
Before anything else, a CEO’s first duty is to bring in cash for the business. They can accomplish this in one of two ways, while delegating the other:
- Working on the business (what I call “macro.”)
- Working for the business (what I call “micro.”)
In this context, macro work would be developing the website. Developing content, and the strategic vision of the company.
Micro work would be working to meet the desires of clients themselves.
It’s almost impossible to do both in an effective manner on your own. Not only because each one requires its own time and effort. But, also because of the natural weaknesses of the CEO.
The CEO is human. Some may have extroverted personalities; others may have introverted.
- Extroverts are likely better suited to work micro.
- Introverts are likely better suited to work macro.
If we had been in a different industry, he could have focused only in macro. That would have been fine.
But we weren’t in a different industry; we were in marketing. And marketers have a terrible international reputation for being full of fluff.
Thus, clients need to see who you are, in this industry.
Think: How do world-famous marketers like Neil Patel, Derek Halpern, and Alex Becker market themselves? They’re all up in the camera. Yet, with the exception of Patel’s, their businesses aren’t themselves. They do have teams, with scaling, going on.
They’re just delegating in the reverse way that my Italian client, at the time, wanted to do it.
Why? Because that’s the nature of our industry. Because that’s what the customers want. It’s never about what we want; it’s always about what the customer wants.
The Best Way To Brand A Marketing Agency
So, for a marketing firm, it doesn’t matter what kind of personality type you have. If you want the best shots at conversions, you’ve got to put a real face at the front of your company.
This has been a huge challenge for me as an extreme introvert. I’ve tried several times to be at the helm with video content, but I fail to remain consistent with it.
This is because I haven’t mastered the ability to step that far out of my comfort zone. Not all introverts are the same. It’s a spectrum, and I’m at the extreme end. Thus, I write.
Clients want to know that the life savings they’re investing in their business are going into the right hands. Trustworthy hands.
They don’t want to speak to an avatar; they want to speak to a human.
Starting off as a freelancer on Upwork.com taught me this. I expelled enough mental energy to put up a decent intro video to my landing page.
This, combined with great copywriting, my formal education, and reviews, has worked. But they did need to see my face. They needed to see my picture, both in the profile and in the video.
Here was the video. Ignore the “Stratagem” branding. That was before we rebranded our marketing firm to OMI:
If I had hid my face with the OMI Firm mask logo only, I would have had a much harder time up until this point.
My friend, the CEO of the Italian firm, didn’t want to hear that, though. He didn’t want to be the face of his business, because that would mean speaking to clients.
If he had to speak to clients, then he was likely to have to work for them.
If he had to work for them, that all meant that he would be trading his time for money. This, to him, was not good business leadership.
I tried to explain to him the micro/macro concept. That he could work micro but delegate everything macro. But, he didn’t want hear that, either.
He wanted both macro and micro delegated, under an avatar that wasn’t even that personable.
The Unwillingness To Be Uncomfortable
Flash forward several weeks later. We’ve brought in zero sales.
Because he didn’t want to do any work himself, he burned through his resources. Imagine burning several thousand dollars on a simple brochure.
He did do some basic macro stuff, such as creating a basic strategy template. But, that was about it.
Then, I came up with an idea: Each of his key marketing strategists (including me) could represent the brand!
…but he didn’t like that, either. Because it wouldn’t be his brand that people would convert for. It’d be the individual strategists.
In that case, why would the marketing strategist pay him for the client? That didn’t make any sense.
Well, it would have if he tracked all traffic coming through the website. Then, if he gave us each a quota, he could fire us if we didn’t bring in enough clients.
This way, even if we did cheat him, he would always have a bottom line met.
But, I did see his point.
The Only Way Forward
I told him that the only realistic way forward was for him to step up and be the face of the company.
It was the only way.
But, then came his insecurities. He thought that because he was Italian, people wouldn’t take him seriously.
Well, I responded, “Sir, I’m black and I get clients. Technically, you’re a client of mine. You found me. You didn’t mind that I was black. Hired me, anyway. Italians have a better international reputation in the business world than blacks do. If there’s anyone who should be having trouble with conversions, it’s me, not you. And if you do have trouble with conversions, you should still be doing better than me.”
…by that logic, anyhow.
But, he still didn’t want to hear it.
So, what happened? We decided to do an a/b split test.
We set up two landing pages.
For one, I was the leading face; for the other, he was.
Guess what happened? Guess who got more conversions?
…well, I did.
But not because he was Italian. It was because of my branding accolades.
I had real reviews people could track. A real education people could verify.
I had a real Upwork account that people could trust, because of third-party hour and wage tracking. An actual portfolio that people could download and sift through.
In other words, I could prove that I had true experience. I could prove that I had spent genuine time in trenches. With (at the time) nearly 50 successful businesses under my belt.
So, what I had proven was that it was, indeed, a matter of branding. Not the idea itself.
People do want help; they just want help they can trust. They want someone real.
Not a robot. No one wants to feel like they’re going through a drivethrough, treated as a nonentity.
In the end, he went bankrupt, because he simply refused to get out of his comfort zone. Or, at least, evolve to what he could of his strengths, considering his weaknesses. Which is what I’m doing.
I don’t produce video content as easily or as often as I do written, because I’m not good in front of the camera. But, at least, this is really me you’re reading words from.
I wrote this. My name is on it. You can background check me.
That’s what he didn’t get. Or, rather, he did understand, but just chose not to take that path.
How I’m Branding
So, how I’m branding is first with the development of my name on the Internet. That’s what this blog exists for.
People can get to know me, the real me, with this blog. They can read the work of a man who is willing to get his hands dirty.
Even though I’m introverted, I’m tripling down on my strengths: writing, at the very least.
I may not produce a video as often, but at least it’s something. And I’m the one who actually speaks to clients when they message or call. They speak directly to me. No middleman.
Meanwhile, I am delegating as a good leader would: in macro tasks.
I’ll split my energy into 10% macro, 90% micro.
I’ve worked hard to build a team that can create other content that I can trust for the brand. I set goals with deadlines, and then step the hell out of their way.
Mike Norton is an American award-winning Internet marketing strategist with a BA in Internet marketing from Full Sail University.
He’s also a writer, entrepreneur, and a quantum physicist studying part-time at the University of York. He is the bestselling independent author of Fighting for Redemption, and a veteran of the United States military who is a 7-time winner of the USS Dwight Eisenhower award for essays of world peace and respect.
As a mostly self-educated vagabond, he gains inspiration from a myriad of experiences wrought from the adventures of his nomadic lifestyle. He prolifically writes and journals where ever he goes in the world, from one country to the next.