Interview: Growing your agency’s email list to 10,000+ subscribers

Interview: Growing your agency's email list to 10,000+ subscribers
Written by: Karl Sakas

How Andy Crestodina gets consistent agency sales leads via his book, speaking, and dedicated marketing

Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media

Andy Crestodina shares how he gets leads for Orbit Media through consistent marketing

I’m interviewing marketing industry leaders to share their advice and stories. Next up is Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder & Strategic Director at Orbit Media in Chicago. His fast-growing agency regularly ranks in the Inc. 5000. Orbit grew 50% over the past three years and currently has 30-some employees.

Andy is the author of Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. He speaks regularly and founded the Content Jam conference. By partnering with complementary firms, his agency’s Chicago Cause program has donated $275,000 in free marketing services to non-profits.

Be sure to follow Andy on Twitter at @crestodina and @orbiteers.

Interview summary: My top 5 takeaways

  1. Agency self-marketing isn’t optional. When you disappear, you stop getting sales leads.
  2. Andy uses a specific process to grow his agency’s email list via public speaking. See below for exclusive access to his event-followup template!
  3. Writing a book was expensive and time-consuming, but the business benefits made it all worth it.
  4. Andy invests a lot of time into educating prospects about what they’re buying.
  5. Orbit is consistent in its marketing—the work all fits together, and Andy prioritizes making it happen.

Read on for the details from my interview with Andy Crestodina. Editor’s note: I’ve added bolding in the interview to highlight key points.

On Writing a Book

Q: How has writing Content Chemistry benefited you and Orbit Media? Having just finished a book, I know it’s quite a process!

The book strategy is twofold…

  • Being an author makes it easier to get speaking engagements and press, which lead to the social media and search engine benefits that eventually drive leads. Authors are more likely to be considered thought leaders, which means more press, more mentions and eventually, higher rankings.
  • The book is the proverbial “12 dollar business card” which is very useful in a sales support role. If three companies meet with a prospect and one of them leaves behind a comprehensive handbook on how to make money on the internet, that company will have an edge in the sales process. It demonstrates expertise.

So the book helps at the very top of the funnel (indirectly helping to drive traffic) and at the very bottom of the funnel (when talking directly to a specific sales prospect). It was a lot of work and a big expense, but totally worth it.

On Public Speaking

Q: How does public speaking fit into your agency growth strategy? What’s your advice on maximizing follow-on business without making the talk a sales pitch?

Being a presenter has the same benefits of being an attendee, but times 1,000. It’s face-to-face communication, which is the highest value way to interact, but it’s far more efficient. Rather than meeting people one at a time, demonstrating a bit of expertise, you’re in front of everyone, demonstrating a lot of expertise.

It leads to website traffic, social media connections, email subscribers and can also lead directly to leads. To maximize the opportunity, it helps to end the presentation with a gentle call to action. You start by saying this as you wrap up…

“If you found this information useful, I’d be happy to share these slides along with links to the articles I mentioned with anyone who is interested. Just come up and leave a business card on the table here and I’ll include you in a follow up email.”

Stand to the side of the table, so you can talk to people who want to chat without blocking people who just want to drop off a card.

Next, the follow up email. Here’s my standard draft, which I’ve never shared before!

Thanks for coming to the XXXXXXX presentation on XXXXX. As promised, here’s a quick follow up with a few links and tools.

  • First here are the slides. Feel free to share them with anyone [Note: this is not an attachment. It’s a link to the presentation on SlideShare, which is a social network where they can follow you]
  • Next, here are the article I mentioned [Add the links to articles on your website]
  • Finally, here’s the book! Content Chemistry: The Illustrated Guide to Content Marketing. It includes the step-by-step instructions for all of my favorite tactics. Hopefully, reading this will make you a better marketer.

Assuming that you’re interested in digital marketing, I’m going to add you to our bi-weekly newsletter. But please, if you’re not interested, just reply to this and let me know. Or just unsubscribe when it comes XXXXXXX.

Thanks again for attending. Of course, you’re welcome to connect with me on any of the social networks!

Notice how I add them to the newsletter by default, but give them every chance to unsubscribe. This approach has led to hundreds of signups and given me huge email and lead generation benefits over the long run!

So make sure to end every presentation with a call to action for contact info, and then use that to get people on your list. This is the best way to get a long term benefit from any speaking engagement.

On Giving Back

Q: From your Chicago Cause experience, what’s your advice to agencies that want to give back?

Get your team involved. If it’s a top-down decision, it really isn’t as much fun. Empower your people to decide who to give to and how.

Next, collaborate with other organizations. You’ll give more value and have more fun if you work with like minded groups. Pull together several, non-competitive companies and have everyone give away their services as in-kind donations.

Finally, if there is an application process or promotional page, make sure it’s on your site. Don’t build a separate website for the effort. If the program is on your site, then any press (i.e. links) that it attracts will give your main site—and all of your blog posts—the search engine benefit!

On Agency Self-Marketing

Q: Your email newsletter has more than 10,000 subscribers (congrats!), and you and your team blog regularly. How do you make time for Orbit’s own self-marketing, to avoid the “shoemaker’s kids” problem?

Dedication. You’ve got to make it a priority. It’s not optional. No content means no subscribers, followers or links. That means no rankings and traffic. And that means no leads. We’re in a very competitive industry, so we have to work very hard to stay visible. We don’t take it for granted.

Get the work done. It’s as important as anything else you do in your business. No excuses.

On Business Surprises

Q: Since quitting your job in 2000 and then co-founding Orbit Media in 2001, what’s surprised you most about running an agency?

The biggest surprise is just how much time and energy it takes to make sure your buyers are informed. People only build their website every three to five years, so they don’t really know the right questions to ask.

  • Do they have a support team? Choosing a web design firm means choosing a partner for ongoing support.
  • Do they understand SEO and usability? Some design firms really understand lead generation, others don’t.
  • Do they know Analytics? Ideally, the web firm knows how to measure results and suggest improvements.

Yes, creative design is important. But web design is about more than creativity; it’s strategic. It’s about more than opinion; it’s about evidence. It’s about more than the site itself; it’s about ongoing support.

I didn’t realize it when we started, but I’ve learned that one of the most difficult and important expenditures of time and energy is in educating prospects so they know what they’re buying and how to make a good decision. That’s key.

Question: What’s your top takeaway from Andy’s advice

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