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Sep 23, 2016    Burn Book

The Dangers of Complacency


I’ve learned more this year running Rock Candy Media than I did in the previous two combined. We’ve experienced explosive growth, but with growth comes growing pains. We’re continually doing not only more work in terms of volume, but also better work in terms of quality at every level (both operational and with clientele). The challenge for me is making sure that we don’t let success go to our heads. I’m constantly on my team to one-up themselves and do better. Here’s what I’ve been telling my team, and I think it applies to any organization that’s growing, understands reputation is everything, and wants to continue producing top-level work.

It’s Not Enough That The Client Loves You

I don’t do easy, and, in fact, I’m highly suspicious of easy. When we sign a new client, the first few months are such a flurry of badass deliverables that they can’t help but be smitten. Once you learn what the client likes, it’s easy to give it to them and coast. My digital marketing firm isn’t about that. We want our clients to love our work, but we also want to challenge them. Once we find what they like, I tell my team to keep pushing and expanding and going deeper. For example, the “why” part of when a creative asset isn’t approved is more important to me than the “great job” declarations. Before prospects become clients, they’ve been told by me that, “If something doesn’t make them nervous it’s not going to work.”

If you think that sounds crazy, consider this. Sometimes the sales cycle for new RCM clients is two years or longer. As RCM’s business development arm (yes, I’m the only one), I understand how much effort goes into landing a new client. I am the CEO and I am biz dev. And yes, that makes me value client retention more, or differently, than other entrepreneurs. You start learning over time who you want to make a time investment in.

Every year we have a different set of standards to vet clients, and every year it should change if you’re a company that’s growing. I need to back clients that have as strong a work ethic as we do, or else there isn’t a tool in the world that can fix that. I understand the sweat equity that goes into starting your own business AND I understand what CEOs need to give their sales team in terms of letting them get their foot in the door faster.

Getting comfortable is my biggest fear. The second everyone’s comfortable is the second I know we need to pivot, create a new industry or geographic vertical, create a new unforgettable campaign, and test the user experience on a client’s site we built two years ago, for example. These are just a few things I think of when I feel like my team has even the slightest bit of complacency. The “but our client is so happy” statement doesn’t resonate with me, and it actually is scary to hear. Loyalty is built when the client isn’t happy. Loyalty is built when you listen to the “why” of why a client isn’t happy.

Clients Come To Us Make Their Ideas Better

We are not task monkeys at RCM. Everything we do is rooted in long-term strategy and growth. When a client sends us an idea or a task, we don’t just shrug our shoulders and execute it. We analyze the idea and see how it fits into our overall strategy. Oftentimes, we take the idea in a totally new direction, far beyond what the client envisioned. Sometimes, we’ll even straight up tell them, “This is a bad idea, here’s why, and here’s a better idea.”

This propensity for finding new ways to tackle operations for clients has caused our offering scope to expand over the past year. For many clients, we’ve taken on a consulting role, helping them through the business development and growth process. We’ll actually be rolling out a specialty service in this vein called RCM Focus very soon.

My Team Isn’t Generic and My Clients Shouldn’t Be Either

I only target businesses and business owners that I believe we can grow. It’s not hard to convince a dumb person that you’re smart and get them to buy into your idea. And when it’s easy to do, I am automatically skeptical. When you know the team you’ve built is composed of creative strategists that act more as creative and sales consultants, you want to be selective about where you’re going to send your brain trust.

I could sign on a lot of clients right now that would be OK with generic, but how would they grow that way? They wouldn’t. So I’m seeking clients that are comfortable with risk in every way. I tell prospects in our meetings that I will push them outside of their normal boundaries and I consider it a failure if we don’t.  
Think you’re up for the challenge of a marketing team that wants to scare you? Request a positioning analysis and we’ll see if you’re a fit for Rock Candy Media.

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