A west coast transplant from Minnesota, Mike made his bones optimizing search campaigns & delivering social analytics reports for WDCW, a full service agency based in Seattle. The clients Mike supported included Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Epson, Western Digital, uSamp, Qliance, Phoenix Children’s Hospital & more.
Since then, Mike’s interests have piqued by display media planning & buying along with heavy doses of campaign analytics to help decipher how customers consume brands’ offerings.
I met Mike a few years ago when he interviewed me for his blog at the time – I felt it was time for me to return the favor. I am very, very impressed with what Mike has done in such a short amount of time. It’s important to note that Mike is profitable and has taken no outside funding.
What you will learn in this podcast:
- Exactly what Mike did to close his first client
- What questions to ask when qualifying client leads
- The sales process when closing deals
- How Mike transitioned from a corporate job to the startup lifestyle
Tell me about yourself and your business
Mike is the founder of MKG Media Group where he focuses on converting users, analyzing the users, and then nurturing the users into customers that will be repeat purchasers of a product.
Why would someone bring you and your team in instead of using an in-house advertising team?
As an agency, Mike helps clients plan, execute, and analyze an advertising strategy from start to finish. Mike uses technologies such as Google Adwords or Retargeter for many client campaigns. Think of Mike as the brain and the technology partners as his arms and legs.
How did you get your first client?
Mike went to a conference in San Francisco and was introduced by a friend to a group of professionals that would later turn out to be his first clients. The connection itself wasn’t meant to become a sale; instead, the introduction was made just on a friendly note. As Mike spoke with the professionals over a beer, he got to learn about his business and teach them about advertising and what he specializes in. They hit it off and they turned out to be his first clients.
What was the transition from the corporate job to the startup like?
It was terrifying.
The transition was something that he had to do; he was happy with his corporate job, but he felt like he had so much more potential and needed the opportunity to use his skills and his ambition on his own terms.
He gave his boss a 3 month notice.
At that point he had 6 months worth of savings because he stopped going on trips, eating out, and buckled down on his finances in preparation for his departure.
From the moment he quit, it took him 6 weeks to get his first client.
What did you do during those 6 weeks to get your first client
Mike failed faster than he ever thought he could. He tried cold calling, LinkedIn premium messaging, but nothing seemed to be working. It was 6 of the most frustrating weeks of his life.
He stopped cold calling because he learned it just didn’t work.
He focused on connecting and creating a map of what a potential client looks like. Once he created that profile, he went out and sought companies that fit that profile.
What would you do differently during the initial 6 weeks knowing what you know now
Mike would go to more events and conferences.
He also would have asked more people to coffee. He should have interacted with more people because he needed someone to buy him. Instead of selling his company, he should have been selling himself.
How did you land Box.net?
Mike’s business partner formally worked with the Presiden of Solution Set, an interactive agency that needed media help when they signed Box.net. When she moved to the Bay area, she reached out to the President and asked to meet up for coffee.
Instead of coffee, the President wanted to talk to her about the client they just signed. Because she had that established relationship, they landed the client deal.
How do you convince a company that you’re better than the in-house advertising team?
When they don’t have an internal team, it’s an easy sale.
If they do have an internal marketing team, then Mike sells himself as a team that will work alongside the internal team – not replace the team. Because there are so many things to work on, Mike’s expertise can help the company deal with complex analytics and big data that most internal teams do not have the resources to do.
How do you prepare for the pitch and what do you do to close the deal?
The initial meeting is all about asking the right questions.
Once Mike understands the problems, then he can come back and show how he can introduce the issues that the company has. It’s very important to listen and to let the potential client talk.
After that, he’ll come back with something more concrete and some examples of what he can do for them.
The “close” meeting will be face-to-face with exact pricing and campaign milestones.
What are the probing questions that you ask?
“What worked last year for you?”
“What didn’t work last year?” – and not just advertising as a whole, but for the whole company. This allows the potential client to talk a lot and you can learn a whole lot from listening.
“If we could improve X by X% in X time, what will keep you from switching?” – this will tell you if they love their current ad agency or if they’re ready for a new agency if you can hit your numbers.
How do you schedule your next meeting?
If it’s a face-to-face meeting, then he’ll always schedule the next meeting while he has their attention. He understands that professionals are very busy, and it’s important to schedule the meeting now or else they’ll push it back and never address it.
If he’s not going to schedule the meeting, then he’ll at least give it a time frame: “Is it ok if we revisit this conversation in 2 weeks. How about I come back in 2 Mondays.”
It’s all about putting a timestamp on it.
What do you say when the potential client says, “Lets not schedule the meeting now. We’ll get back to you.”
He receives it as a “maybe”.
There are 3 answers coming out of a meeting: Yes, No, and Maybe. ”Maybe” is the worst thing on planet earth.
Mike will respond with, “That sounds great, take all the time you need. Just so that I know because I’m going to be traveling next month, will you be ready in 1 week, 2 weeks? It’s important so that I can schedule it into my work flow.”
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