Growing a Marketing Agency from 1 to 60 employees

Posted on October 30, 2018

What we cover in Episode 15

 

Growing a company is never easy. There are many decisions you need to get right along the way.

In this weeks episode, we talk to Ross Hudgens about his experience growing Siege Media from one person to over 60 people across two offices.

We cover the importance of hiring the right people, adopting a flexible work environment and we get into some search and content marketing tips.

      

1. Hiring the right people

 

The Bacon Hack

 

Something critical to a founders success is their ability to hire talent. Ross’s experience at Siege Media was no different.

Siege Media require all new job applicants; you need to use bacon somewhere in the subject line.

“We want someone who’s going to be creative and stand out and in the subject line.”

There are many advantages to Siege doing this; one is it’s a quick time hack:

“It’s a time hack; some people won’t even put bacon in the subject line, so you don’t even need to open the application because they don’t have attention to detail.”

Of course, the people who just put bacon in the subject line with nothing else, are also not a great fit. They lack the creativity Ross needs his hires to have.

The people who make it through to the next stage are those who do something creative with the subject line that includes “bacon.”

Hire for What’s Important

 

Ross looks for people who are creative first, and who he can coach to understand search. Their agency is focused on single page assets that acquire a lot of links, so the creative idea and execution matter a lot. They can learn enough about how a search engine works to integrate the fundamentals into their piece.

Like Brian Dean said on EP9, a good SEO makes the content better, and a bad SEO makes content awful. Ross is of the same opinion:

“Some people use tools like MarketMuse and LSI to find the exact words that need to appear in the content. That goes too far, that would kill the content creator.”

The creative idea matters more than the science behind search because it’s going to be the idea that attracts links:

“Maybe you won’t have those LSI keywords, but I’d rather have an asset that generated 20 links to it than one that includes all the required LSI keywords.”.

Build Scalable Hiring Processes

 

Put as much effort into hiring your very first employee as you would your 50th. Building out a hiring process that’s scalable as you add more people will ensure you always have a high-quality bar to who joins the company.

Nothing much as changed from Ross between hiring his first five employees to his last five:

“It’s evolved slightly; we now have a lot more inbound candidates because of our growth. But for the most part, it’s pretty similar, regarding how we qualify candidates, it’s worked pretty well.”

 

2. Adopting Work Flexibility

 

We talked about the benefits of building a remote work culture on EP13. Ross has also developed a remote work culture to help him scale Siege Media:

“It’s evolved over time; we’ve always let people work from home one day a week because it was a benefit that people could take advantage of, especially for people with long commutes. Now we have ten people who are completely remote.”

And Ross plans to expand this further to allow his employees to work from home at least twice a week:

“We’ll likely push the boundary even further to be almost a hybrid work from home, in office agency, which hopefully retains the benefit.

I think that’s’ the ideal scenario to me, people aren’t forced to come in, but they still have the benefit of the in-office interaction, which I do believe is a benefit.”

The reality is there are different flavors to remote work. There is the company who are all remote from day one, they have no real office, like a Zapier or Buffer.

Then some companies start with offices and begin to embrace remote, allowing employees to transition to remote over time.

Each flavor brings its own set of advantages and challenges. For example, Siege Media is a company, like HubSpot, that falls into the second category:

“One of our challenges currently is just the fact that we do have an in-office group and a remote group and I can feel the difference in the people that are remote. They don’t feel as connected.

The hardest part is meetings where near everyone is in the office, and you have a couple of people who are remote, it’s not seamless by any means.

You’ve got to create empathy across your team for the people who are remote. And there are some excellent tips on how you can do that, for example, if one person is remote, then make the entire meeting remote where everyone joins via Zoom or Hangout.”

I’ve written about the struggles of having people in-office and some remote before. It’s hard, but 100% solvable.

3. Mastering Content Marketing & Search

 

Today, to excel in content marketing, it helps to have a real understanding of search because it’s a key distribution channel for most things content.

The challenge for all companies is Google want to answer more and more queries without you having to click away from their search results:

“Google is definitely stealing a lot of our traffic from those quick answers, tools like Ahrefs, in particular, their keyword explorer can now tell us how many clicks we get from search.”

Because of this change, Ross is starting to think a lot more about expected ‘search clicks’ vs. ‘search volume.’ How many people are clicking through on the keyword vs. reading the answer on the search result page?

“What I started to consider was the amount of search clicks a month. This term has 2,000 search clicks a month from organic. Using tools with click-stream data like Ahrefs, which aren’t perfect, but do have a good amount of click-stream data for keywords that have real volume, you can instead say, hey, the keyword “content marketing” has 4000 monthly searches, but only 2000 monthly search clicks.”

Another essential part of doing content marketing and search is recognizing not all your content will be a hit with Google and having processes in place to get rid of that content. The method is called ‘Content Pruning”.

With content pruning, you select some ranking factors to measure the success of content in search and either 301 redirects, or 404 content that doesn’t meet those standards.

“We’ve seen good results cutting the content that only gets a few visits every month and has no links, that’s a basic version of our process. If there is no one visiting it and there are no links, we take a look at it; we look to see if it’s salvageable, if not, we 404 it or 301 to a relevant page.

For example, pages that get less than 50 visits over three months and have no links is a good starting point. You can go into your analytics and look for pages that fit the visit criteria, export those URLs into Ahrefs or Majestic and see what ones also have no links pointing to them.

That’s a good starting point.”

4. The Skills that Make You Successful

 

What are the skills Ross is thankful for, the ones that have helped him to be successful:

“There is value in slowly building a personal brand, and there’s no better time then to start than today. I did that very early in my career, I began rosshudgens.com, I blogged on the side, and it got me, clients. I was passionate about my industry; I used Twitter to share my ideas.

That skill and that momentum became a significant reason why Siege is what it is today is because I put in the grease for years and I recommend that for pretty much anybody in this industry.”

The podcast provides a more in-depth look at these topics, so if you enjoyed reading the above, please do give it a listen.

And until next time,

Happy Growing!

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