This report is updated quarterly to show the inner workings of our business and help our clients and prospective clients better understand who we are and what we go through as a company. It’s not always peachy, and we aren’t going to pretend like it is. Here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly. Any client information that has been exposed in our reports have been approved by our client(s).
Please note: Revenue is, of course, not our only goal, or even our main goal. In fact retention is our top priority, but we do choose to report on revenue because people tend to like to see that sort of thing.
2018 Goal: $87,000 Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) by December. (which puts us on track for $1mil annually)
Current MRR: $27,050 (February 2018)
Good luck us!
Yet another tough quarter, where we grew in a lot of different ways, but revenue wasn’t one of them:
Early on in the quarter we lost a couple of key clients.
The first one simply needed to downsize due to financial reasons, despite us being able to generate strong tracked revenue. There was also a problem with our arrangement being white-label as opposed to direct.
The second one, the client decided to bring the team in-house and we were able to make a smooth transition to hand over to their in-house team, which I think is a fine result.
And then, unfortunately, we lost a very large account at the end of the year, despite all internal client team members really vying for us to stay on board.
What I’ve learned is that you have to be thick-skinned and you are going to be treated as disposable by the client, even if you are providing an invaluable service.
Also, no matter how good of a job we do, we can’t solve all of the client’s problems.
And really, the truth is, client’s expect a $3,000/month investment to churn some sort of $30,000/month profit return, which is just extremely unlikely.
So, I’m a bit discouraged as to our numbers, but we are going to continue building the agency, while transitioning over to having our own eCommerce businesses that we manage as part of our own portfolio.
Notable activities from Q4 2017:
- Growth Marketing Conference 2017 was a blast and we got great exposure. I got to interview Oli Gardner
- We partnered with Growth Marketing Conference to launch the “Growth Marketing Community.” The Community has been in a private beta, and is set to go live in Feb 2018.
- We launched an entry level offer of “Free retargeting for a month,” which we now believe to be a little bit of a downsell and not a source of solid customer acquisition.
- We’ve successfully revamped our blog and have been consistently pushing out new posts.
- We saw $25,000/month in proposals fall through…
Looking back on it, we’ve more than doubled our agency in the last 12 months and we really shouldn’t have anything to be ashamed of. Perhaps this is the problem with big goals and dreams… You never really feel accomplished.
This has been a very up and down quarter…
Since bringing in 4 clients in July, we had to turn off sales and focus on onboarding and keeping our existing clients.
That being said, we’ve found our clients have problems of their own and we’ve lost a few of them due to issues outside of our control.
One client wanted to cut back on costs during the slow season, another is bringing social media in-house.
Overall as we progress as an agency, we are finding it more and more important to find the right long-term fits and be very picky about who we work with.
This quarter we got significantly better at growing the product side of the business – hiring, scaling services, onboarding. While our revenue results don’t speak much to it, we’ve got a lot of “fishing poles in the pond” and a lot of key partnerships that are setup to drive success and scalability.
Q4 will be about improving our own marketing and sales efforts, and testing a new offer – website retargeting.
In other big news, we are in talks with someone to bring in as a potential partner to the business. We aren’t sure what is going to happen as of yet, but it could be some much needed help in sales and business dev in general.
Total Employees: 8
Total Clients (September): 14
Lost Clients: 0 (we had one client – 2 accounts – cancel at the end of September, which will be reflected in October)
We’ve finally got our finances in order, so I will be releasing the first couple of lines of our PnL statement here for the first time:
Note: Our PnLs reflect how revenue hits our account, not actually what we bill our clients every month, hence the discrepency. While I’m not showing the rest of the statement, assume that costs were nearly as equal to revenue, as we didn’t make much money…
I’m fairly confident we aren’t going to make it to the $100,000 mark, but I’m not necessarily disappointed with where we are. This journey is hard. Really hard.
At this point, you might be thinking that I suck, or I should give up. And trust me, I’ve thought about it.
But there is a lot of unrealized value in our efforts, and I wake up every day better than the day before, and with a clearer vision of how we hit our goals.
For that reason, I am not done.
The end of the year MRR will be a determining point as to what we do with the company for the 2018 – sell it, dissolve it, or the one we are all hoping for, scale it into what we want it to be – the backbone agency for our own E-commerce and SaaS products.
If we have our way, we’d want the company to be the digital agency and fulfillment center for our own other businesses.
As we go about working on client’s businesses, it gives us unique insight into market opportunities that are perfect for pouncing on. Right now, we are being forced to pass by those opportunities due to our size and limited resources.
The real goal is to build a healthy business, stabilize it, and launch other companies underneath the umbrella.
But before I get there, let’s focus on getting through Q4. Good luck us!
This was a rough quarter for us. We dipped in revenue and continued to learn more about who to work with, and who not to. We also did a lot of hiring, training, and scaling – from an internal process standpoint. While Q2 itself did not end strong, by the end of June we were in talks with or closing 4 new clients – making our July extremely big for us, while simultaneously presenting a problem of growing too fast in one month.
We have made significant improvements in communication and retention with our clients. What’s funny is that I thought we were a social media marketing agency, but nearly our whole job falls under the word “agency” and is focused on communication, reporting, and analytics. After improving our communication skills, and integrating Data Studio dashboards into our reporting, we saw huge increases in client satisfaction and retention.
We aren’t a large, experienced, corporate agency – we have our flaws – but we also have our strengths: social media, branding, and community building. And as we continue to grow and mature, hopefully we can take the best from the big players in the market, and combine them with the tenacity and creativity that has helped our business get to where it is.
In May, we parted ways with one of our social media assistants, and then in June we lost the other. Since we were also lower on revenue, this tended to match up with the demand of workload, so it worked out. More importantly, it allowed us to take what we’d learned with our assistants, and ensure we really hire the right fit replacements. Both of our previous assistants were great in their own rite, but we now know that a social media assistant needs to be specialized in a few things that we weren’t previously keen on: organization, copywriting, self-sustaining, and being able to work full-time.
At the end of Q2, we brought in Krystal Reynoso to be a full-time social media assistant, and Shana made an intensive training program for all new assistants. We are planning on bringing in one more social media assistant and one more virtual assistant in July. We also changed Keith’s position from part-time to full-time salaried.
We haven’t yet completed any case studies, but we are in talks with Queue to produce a lead magnet together, and will eventually get around to creating case studies on some of our recent big wins.
Non-Profit / Partnerships
We picked up Veteran Entrepreneur Summit as a partner-sponsor client of ours and look forward to helping them launch their event.
I’ve volunteered as the head of marketing for SDInbound’s HUG18 – San Diego’s largest inbound marketing event.
We will continue to work with SDX as a partner-sponsor for next year’s Interactive Day.
We’ve decided to part ways with San Diego Startup Week – we love them and the startup community, but from a business standpoint, they are no longer an ideal partnership.
We’ve made a half dozen or so other smaller partnerships with Martech, agencies, and events companies.
Total Employees: 7
Total Clients (June): 8, and 3 partnership clients
Total Clients (July): 10, and
With July (est.):
After getting a stronger baseline on growth and some of the limitations of scaling a services company, I’ve made adjustments to our goals and projections:
We still believe there is a chance we make it to $100k MRR by December, but we’ve also seen good reasons not to scale too fast and want to make sure we have an upper and lower bound goal established. If we are below $50k MRR in December, we will strongly consider shutting down or passing off the company. We’d like to see ourselves at $37.5k MRR by end of Q3. And we’d like to see 100% retention with our existing clients, as we are now working with only our most ideal clients.
In April, Instagress and Mass Planner got shut down, which had an interesting impact on all of our Instagram client accounts, I discuss the shutdown here:
We also completed a detailed blog post on our pricing:
New Clients: 1
We added one small client in April, as a favor to the client. They wanted to start growing an Instagram following, but had a very limited budget. In all honesty, we should have said no. Instead we said yes, and it ended up being mostly a waste of funds. While we did grow the account steadily, and get decent engagement, there was a lack of coherent strategy that tied our activities back to value metrics, which ultimately led to the shutdown of the project at the end of May.
Lost Clients: 1
We closed out a consulting project – a social media giveaway we helped put together – in April, resulting in what you could call a “lost” client.
Early May brought us to New York for Growth Marketing Conference NY. It was a great experience and we ended up meeting two prospects there, and we closed both by the end of June. Overall, marketing events is still our strongest traction channel and we are continuing to put resources into them. We will eventually focus more on our own inbound funnel and advertising opportunities, but events are by far the best.
We also were a sponsor-partner of San Diego Interactive Day, and I got to interview Rand Fishkin (!!!) on 360 video:
New Clients: 1
We picked up a social media giveaway consulting project with Tiny But Mighty Foods and (throughout June and July) were able to get them over 80,000 video views and a significant amount of new leads for their popcorn products:
Clients Lost: 1
Concetta Antico is a phenomenal artist and was a great personal brand to work with. We had many complications with her account that led to us parting ways. This was the first social media client in which we failed to get significant follower growth from. Now it wasn’t really our “fault” that the accounts didn’t grow, we were actually getting hundreds of new followers every month, but the account saw significant churn and was losing existing followers fast, likely due to a change in the brand and/or a significant amount of her followers being fake. We wish Concetta the best and know that she will have continued success. One of our lessons learned is that we should not work with solo founders or CEO’s; we have to work with marketing managers or CMOs.
June was one of those “bang your head against the wall” month’s. We had San Diego Startup Week, which our agency was a partner-sponsor, and I was running the marketing and sales track for. But it ended up taking a lot of our time and distracting us from growing our business.
Flashback to day 1 of #SDSW where @derrichaynie gave a packed ballroom the truth about #entrepreneurshit. It might have come as a harsh warning to some, but the reality is that most #startups fail, and there are a lot of people out there peddling hope to #founders. . Moral of the story? Founders beware of hyped up online courses, conferences and books filled with charismatic aspirational / inspirational bullshit aimed at telling you that they can make you a millionaire… All you have to do is believe and have faith, and follow their “proven system.” . While there is a lot of great info out there, there is no way to “make it” if you don’t put in the hard work. And even then, you still may not survive. . Always proceed with skepticism at the forefront, and don’t forget to question everything. You probably know more than you think 😉 . #RealTalk #MktgSD #StartupLife
Shana and I got featured in a podcast:
We also got to sponsor and host Growth Marketing Conference B2B in San Francisco:
New Clients: We technically closed 4 clients in June, but we are going to say 0, because none of them really started until July.
Lost Clients: 2
We stopped working with our small Instagram growth client, Professly, due to their business being not ready and their market not being defined enough. And this is why we will no longer take clients in that stage of their business – we want long-lasting partnerships with established and growing brands.
At the end of June we had a surprise quit by one of our most successful clients. They never gave us a reason, and treated us quite poorly upon closing the account – they locked us out of social as if they couldn’t trust us, preventing a final report, and essentially refused to communicate with us throughout the offboarding process. It was honestly a bit childish. It’s been one of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced in my business, but it’s taught me two things: you never know who you are really dealing with, and our business is solely built on trust – and when there is low or no trust, it falls apart fast.
What a start to the year. Right out the gate we were being overwhelmed with work and it took the entire quarter to start to get things under control. This happens when you are rebranding your company, hiring, and trying to grow faster than most people think is possible for a services company…
New Clients: 4
In January, we onboarded Concetta Antico, a world-renowned artist, tetrachromat, and color consultant. We onboarded a white-label client, which is a bike company. And we got the ball rolling with 2 white label clients that are a law firm and law consultancy practice. We also did some consultant work for a biotech company.
Clients Lost: 1
We also lost a client. We still had a legacy client who we were doing AdWords for, and he lost a major client of his that caused marketing cutbacks across the board. Now I believe his son is handling their AdWords account, which is kind of scary because the first thing he asked me was “where are the campaigns?” and I had to tell him to go to the “All Campaigns” tab…
Total Clients (month ending): 10 (1 pro bono)
Total Revenue: $13,651
Revenue Goal: $12,000 (+$1,651)
In February we started looking for a new hire, a social media manager. Our workload was overfilling and we needed to hire and train quick, but it was also a very crucial hire for the company, so we needed to make sure we made the right choice. It took the whole month, but we eventually hired our newest team member, Keith Richardson, to join the team.
We helped run HUG17, an inbound marketing conference in San Diego, and were a partner-sponsor for the event. We were able to get them trending on Twitter and got to meet a lot of great people.
New Clients: 1
We picked up a consulting job at the end of the month with MealEnders, who told us they were about to be on Shark Tank. We created a social contest around their airing and helped launch and run the campaign through March.
Clients Lost: 2
We tried everything for one of our clients to help generate lead flow through organic social media, but at the end of it all, social just isn’t their channel. We grew their Twitter and did a lot of innovative outreach, but they had to prioritize budget. We completely understand, as we call social media “the last optimization.” We look forward to getting them back after they’ve established their business some more.
We also lost a large client unexpectedly, when they failed to make payment. This was rather unfortunate for us, and their internal team. We hope to get them back after they get their finances squared away.
Total Clients: 9 (1 pro bono, moving backwards)
Total Revenue: $13,083
Revenue Goal: $15,000 (-$1,917)
In March, we brought in a new partner-client, who is now handling all of our financials and squaring away our payroll, bookkeeping, accounting, etc. This has been a huge weak spot of mine, and the partnership will really help us prepare for massive growth. Also, our partner, Richtr Financial Studio, happens to serve agencies and tech companies, making them a very great referral partner opportunity as well.
We also attended Social Media Marketing World and sponsored and spoke at Small Business Digital Marketing Summit. Sporting our “Make Social Media Great Again” shirts! It was awesome:
New Clients: 3
With our white-label bike brand, we added another brand to the roster, now managing two accounts under the same client, which is awesome.
We started with a mattress company called PlushBeds. We are doing a slightly different onboarding experience with them, as they have a “viral video” that we are looking to launch, and we identified some strategies for retargeting that we thought they should hit full force. This is delaying the “traditional” onboarding experience a little bit while we push to get some of these larger initiatives under way.
We added our partner-client, Richtr Financial Studio, who really has a huge opportunity to position themselves as a content producer in a relatively antiquated business space: accounting, financials, and bookkeeping. We’re looking forward to helping them on their quest for thought leadership.
Clients Lost: 1
Our consulting term with the biotech company ended and we won’t be continuing work with the client.
Total Clients: 11 (1 pro bono, 1 services swap)
Total Revenue: $15,447
Revenue Goal: $20,000 (-$4,653)
Rebrand and Website
Throughout the quarter we had been working on our rebrand, and had an awesome party March 1st to announce our goals and successes. The website has been continuously delayed in favor of never ending client services, but we will be launching it very soon. From there we will restart content marketing, Live video, and advertising initiatives that will carry us through Q2 and Q3.
We aren’t yet hitting our growth goals, but believe that it will really be the last 3 months of the year that we expand the fastest, while these early months are spent putting the pieces and processes together. In Q2, we are making a massive initiative to create documentation for our referral agencies and partners, and are compiling case studies to boot. From there it will just be about following up with them and empowering them to find us the right clients.
This quarter, we will be bringing all of our clients into Google Data Studio and from there we will be able to report to you about the total social following that is under our control, and some other cool data.
We’ve still got a lot to learn and a long ways to go. Don’t get me wrong, we’re good at what we do, and are certainly domain experts… But running, and growing a company, is a lot trickier than I originally expected. Who would have thought. 😀
This year will be where we sort out some of our kinks, learn how to hire and train better, and really find our zone, preparing us for even bigger things moving forward.