Welcome to the Marketing Lego Thought Leader Interview. Today, we will speak with Ran Mullins, CEO of Relequint, about his journey and how he came up with his digital marketing agency. We will also discuss valuable insights on marketing automation, inbound marketing, content marketing, and more.
Hi everyone. My name is Harshit, and I’m the Director of Business Alliances of two brilliant marketing SaaS tools, RankWatch and WebSignals. I welcome you all to today’s Marketing Lego’s Thought Leader Interview. We have Ran with us today. He’s the CEO of a marketing agency, Relequint, and CMO of an IT company named Kinetics. He’s also a co-founder and member of the board of directors of a translation app called Globally. Ran, welcome to the show. I’m so happy to have you today.
Perfect. Ran, your journey has been so fascinating. You have so many years of experience. You started back in 1989, if I’m right. I wouldn’t have been born back then. Ren, please tell us about your journey. You’re sharing years of experience with you. Please tell us more about your professional career and how you got to where you are today. And a little about who all you have in your family, please.
I had taught myself HTML and some PHP, and I’m not a programmer by any means, but I could get in and make things work and put together e-commerce websites between ’97 and 2,000 quite a bit. But when I started Metaphor, one of the things that I recognized was that many of our clients were coming to us from the website and then asking us to do a lot of work. I taught myself more about digital design, which was still in its infancy at the time, Cork Express, and programs like that. But I started hiring as well. The first person I hired was an account manager and then a designer. I was doing sales primarily and working on the business. I built that out within this year, able to have six employees in the first year, and made it through the dot com bust by being able to pivot. Going from just web or technology, which is how we had been seen, into branding, interactive, and advertising. I was having that full breadth of time
It would be best if you found people, your clients, and basically, Canco website development. Anyways, by the end of the project, they need marketing help; they need branding help. That is something that is naturally required.
Learning from that, I developed a brand mantra workshop and the alignment you can get among the leaders within a company to make creative decisions. We focus on the essence, the character, the identity of the brand, and getting down to one word for each so that there’s a three-word mantra. It’s been effective every time. I’ve done over 100 of these now. I’ve done them in the middle of the Maasai Mara in Kenya. I’ve done them in Switzerland and all over the US. But it’s been an enjoyable process and getting behind the curtain with leaders and getting them to be vulnerable with you, and then also, trying to think, showing their teams what they’re thinking. There’s always some epiphany that happens during that process. So with Metaphor, I ran that for 12 years and built it up to eight million in capitalized billings. And really, that company was from advertising to interactive to brand identity and PR. We were doing everything, and I had directors in each area. I’ve worked with several Fortune 500 clients, and it was a good agency. I sold that agency in 2009 to Leapfrog Interactive, now Leap out of Louisville, Kentucky.
They were a more prominent agency, and they were looking to come into the Cincinnati market. Then I worked on my own. After working with them for a year, I worked independently for three years as an allegory. I was working primarily as a consultant, not doing the execution. I had an assistant, so I did many workshops around personas and scenarios, the brand mantra workshop, and then following through with the execution and consulting with clients. And that led to quite a bit of travel. And let’s see, during that time, one of my clients had approached me about running one of their companies. I had no interest in becoming an employee, but I did come on as CEO and a company partner. I was able to, with a great team there, grow that 500 % in 18 months. It went from losing money when I came on to being very much from a positive standpoint. I call that company… What’s that?
Please share the name of the company.
I left Cleriti in 2015. There’s a falling out with my business partner, but at any rate, I started Reliquint that year, and I vetted Marketo and Pardot. I was looking at several other software in 2015, and I decided that HubSpot had the most integrated marketing automation tool. I didn’t have to go out and find a separate blogging tool or use WordPress for the blog, or I didn’t have to go out and connect up the analytics from a separate piece. The CRM was built right in.
There were so many things when I vetted them against Marketo and Pardot that it seemed obvious that HubSpot was a tool that we were going to use. In the last six, almost seven years now with Reliquint, we’ve built up in the verticals of technology, healthcare, and manufacturing and built growing clients. They have 20-30 times ROI by using… I start with our core Growth Catalyst. And I don’t know if you have any questions about that. But ultimately, that has evolved from my work in the past, looking at, Okay, there are all these activities we can do. Which ones make an impact? And there are some that you maintain because of the visibility, the thought leadership, and the brand presence, even if you need to get the conversions.
There is little B2B conversion out of social media in general. We can do more ABM work within LinkedIn, but that’s ABM. It’s not social that’s happening there. That’s really where the Growth Catalyst Framework came from. It’s identifying that there is a hub and spoke. We focus a quarterly campaign around a particular pain point for a person and develop advanced content, which means that there’s got to be a call to action, the landing page, the thank you page, all of that tied into that package. It is setting up the workflows for the lead nurturing emails and then making sure that you’re continuing to touch that prospect over time. And then the blogging for that quarter is focused around that particular pain point so that you maintain a focus.
This is not only for the prospect’s purpose, but it’s also for Google. Google sees that your company is focused on a particular issue and providing real information to solve that problem.
You start to see- You’re the topic, mainly. You’ll be the page concept and the second-party page concept.
Totally fine. Yeah. The client will still be happy because they deliver it more toward the point of the leads or less traffic. Traffic is a second-degree matrix when it comes to leads. It’s a little focused on the lead parts.
It’s quite fascinating. Are there any other frameworks that you’ve worked on over a period? What are the general service offerings of your agents? Let’s talk a bit more about that.
It’s about making sure that the right story is being told in the right place, so getting their narrative inserted, but also positioning them as the experts so that they become the go-to. That involves even reaching out to journalists. It involves several PR tactics. I don’t consider ourselves a PR agency. However, from a content creation perspective and an inbound perspective, in the thought leadership piece, we understand how to increase the digital footprint for the client with a funnel structure behind it. So then setting up as much automation as possible for sales enablement and connecting up each level of the funnel. I used to lead with this, but now, with a lot of the clients that we have, they have separate agencies to do their branding, but we still do brand messaging for our B2B clients and help them to develop a brand platform if they don’t have one yet. A lot of them need to have their messages distilled down into digestible language. The exercises that we take them through are, of course, my brand mantra workshop. In addition, we build a brand manual that speaks on who we are, how we think, what we do, how we do it, who we do it for, and what we sell.
I do that again with a team of leaders and get them aligned around the language so that we’re all speaking the same language and listening for the voice of the customer; what language are they using when they’re searching? Because if we get down to that, the SEO is often correct. We’re using industry terms, but we’re not using people terms. And so when they search in Google, they’re going to use their real language as opposed to what the formal corporate speak may be around because they’re in the trenches. They’re the ones doing the work, and they need help. So when they go to look for information about it, they want the information to be at the level that they’re working at, whatever that means.
Yeah, yeah. So, formalized language is usually different from how they’re typing into Google for the most part. Yeah. That brand messaging is so important, and developing a platform around that. Sometimes, we have to help with guidelines because we will be producing all of the writing. We will be producing the design and production of the white papers and guides and ebooks and whatever the case may be. We have to be aligned with them regarding not only their design standards but all of the language as well.
It’s brilliant. Please tell us a bit more about the typical client journey in your agency, a few of the processes you have in place, and what exactly your team hierarchy looks like.
Then, ultimately, how is that all being expressed in everything that you are putting out there, from the website to any PDFs that are floating out there, whether there might be a trade show or maybe you’re putting on a virtual event or all of that coming to life? How do we bring it to life? So all of those things provide an opportunity for an impression to a stranger that we don’t know, but we have to have the message as clear and concise as possible to make sure that we’re hitting them. When they become a suspect, I put a suspect in before a prospect, which is when they’re more in the marketing qualified leads. They are in MQL because they heard a message, and they responded to it in a way that we can track. We saw that the PR message attracted certain people and their marketing-qualified leads. We have yet to determine whether they’re sales-qualified leads, but we know they’re marketing-qualified leads because something about the message reached them. Again, events are paid media; this is a lot of the way that we use Google ads and some of the LinkedIn advertising.
That is that marketing message reaching the right audience, and are we drawing in the right community of people that we want?
Also, a very quick way to validate your message as well. Suppose your target audience is engaging with your ads; that qualifies. This is something that will work, and you can scale it. Yes.
We have to watch the behaviors and see what they’re doing and see if it connects to a sale or a sales opportunity. Because for us, we then move from being a prospect to being an opportunity. Is there an opportunity there? We know we’ve got the right person, and we base that on whether this is the right size company. Is this person a decision-maker that we’re talking to? What size opportunity is coming through? Can we qualify these things so that we know that it’s a fit for our client? That’s a big piece of it. In that opportunity stage, we get to come in with sales enablement and make sure that as they show interest, we are providing materials at each stage of interest and that we have automated emails that can go out. We move them from one stage of the sales process to the next, and we get down to that defined opportunity. Something I should say for those who aren’t necessarily HubSpot educated is that we always look at the sales funnel regarding awareness, consideration, and decision. So, at the awareness stage, they teach themselves about their problem.
They still need to get a name for it. So they’re all about information that can educate them. That’s where white papers and guides come in handy at the top of the funnel. At the consideration stage, now they’ve taught themselves, or they already knew when they came in, you don’t know exactly where someone will enter, but they are considering how to solve their problem. Now that they have a name for their problem, they’re considering the ways that they could solve their problem. They’re researching to figure out the ways that they could solve their problem. Maybe they already have somebody doing something, and they’re having much pain around it. The industry may have moved on from how they’ve been solving their problem. They have to go, and they have to educate themselves as to the ways that they could solve their problem. We want to provide good information at that stage. Webinars work well at that middle stage where they’re trying to educate themselves. They want to go to where an expert is talking about things. But case studies work well there.
They’re trying to compare things. When they get to the bottom of the funnel, they’re ready to make a decision. They’ve decided how they want to solve their problem. They’re looking to compare you against your competitors in terms of Who do I want to work with to solve this problem now? Which approach do I like? Which people do I like? Which tools do I like that they created to solve this problem? At that point, they’re typically ready to talk to someone. Anything that you can give them, whether it’s a 30-minute consultation, a product demo, a tour, whatever the case may be, that you can interact with them, they’re ready for that, and they show that they’re ready for that. And a lot of what we find is that you always need to find out where the prospect is in their journey when they first arrive—so having the ability for them to fill out a form means that they have less pressure from a salesperson contacting them. They can talk via email. Having an 800 number, okay, I want to talk to somebody right now. I got a bunch of questions or a live chat. So, through live chat, they could get a quick answer to a question that will help them decide whether they want to meet with you or not.
So having all of those available options is going to reach the broader audience because you don’t know what their psychological state is, you don’t know where they are in the journey, you don’t know what question they need to ask, that thing. So give them every option, whichever one feels comfortable where they are.
Please, Ryan, tell us a bit more about… Since you have companies with automation as well, there might be tons of businesses that you stumble across that still need to be ready or have adopted a CRM or automation for their business. How do you help them with which program they should ideally invest in, and what exactly does your process look like?
But they understand all aspects of how big their sales team is; how much experience do they have? Are they more hunters and gatherers? Does the relationship hold? Are they going to sit back a little more? I’m thinking that through, but I understand what experience they have with content marketing. Are they experienced at all about this? Do they understand the difference between a blog we will write and an industry-level paper that might be submitted to a scientific journal? Very different things, right? The content we’re trying to create is to get the attention of the purchaser on the other side, not the scientist on the other side. So very different. And so if we can gauge who that purchaser is and understand what their needs are enough to get the two connected, then we can bring the scientists from our side to talk to the scientists on their side. But it’s for that company to understand that the level of content that needs to be created doesn’t all have to be journal-worthy. Published content is very important as well. It all has to be correct. One of the best compliments that we get is when someone says, I’m learning things about our industry from our blog.
And that’s great because that means that our writers are doing their research, they’re staying ahead of the curve, they’re teaching something to the industry, which is wonderful. That’s true.
I’ve been compared to the discipline of SEO and marketing automation, which is new. You are one of the early doctors of marketing automation, but eventually, it broadly falls under quantum marketing and inbound marketing. How exactly do you integrate both of these more effectively?
When you’ve got transactions that are 100,000 to three million on average for companies, the account-based approach is working best. A lot of the personalization that comes with account-based marketing is the client list that you want, or you’re working with one division within that client, and you want to work with all of the divisions. Personalizing that outreach rather than just setting up Robo, direct mails, or that thing makes a lot more sense because you’re not just casting a wide net and hoping for what’s coming and who you want to add to your roster. Using account-based marketing makes a ton of sense in that case. But still having a structure to your inbound and having the sales funnel structured on your website so that as they come in, they have a place to go, and you can track where they went from that initial outreach. SEO plays a massive role in everything we do, and we’re writing for it in many cases, but we never write content that is just keyword-laden. We’re writing real responses to real problems.
One of the main things is that you go to something you utilize more.
I got you. And that used measures basically on how you improve the marketing content. Just like you mentioned, personalization is something that is the very key to success. How exactly do you measure? And I can share a few pointers on how you improve the marketing content.
Good, too. Let’s share more. One of your most successful case studies when it comes to growth marketing altogether and a few matrices on how you measured it based on what you say that this is the successful campaign.
We could see what the cursor was doing the entire session. Then they went to live chat, and they started asking a couple of questions on live chat, and that then moved them over to call the 800 number because they just wanted to have a conversation. Enough of the initial questions that they had were getting answered. They kept checking boxes, and then it brought them on. And that was five million. And this is another one of those cases. So this specifically was an MBA class that was doing a project for a client that ended up they were working on a project for the end client, and that brought the two together. Because that content was there, it brought them to the… I am curious to know how they were in the right place. But it was a perfect example of how all the vehicles were at play. If you pull any one of those out of there, then it could have either slowed down the momentum to them, or it could have allowed them to go to somebody else’s website and click on that following link down and search.
Yeah. Anyways, when you get visitors from the ads, the span duration for which they stay is low. So you have to do your best within a few seconds. You have to be very clever with the landing page.
They were coming in. They already had their needs established, and it was just order-taking.
I got you. Interesting. Since Ran, you have built two agencies from scratch; I’m sure you must have another story to share with our viewers. Any client gone bad or any relationship because maybe they were unhappy with the services or any other reason? I would love to know your story.
After that, in 3-4 months, when the traffic starts to uptick, in months 4-6, we want to see very qualified leads coming in. In months 6-9, we want to know that you have brand new proposals and estimates that you still need this content. By month 9, I will ask for a renewal of our next year’s contract because we want to work on the next quarter, the first quarter of the following year. We want to be working on that.
Because many B2B marketers need help with two things: meeting clients’ branding goals and then taking those revenue targets. How do you deal with situations like these?
Modeling the services is very clever. You have multiple touchpoints and multiple engines running at the same time. That one thing needs to be fixed and may be slightly sloppy-based. There is something other than increasing the budget or advertising.
I don’t need to meet the revenue tax.
That’s it. we’re coming to an end here. Please share your final thoughts with our viewers. What do you think about the overall… Is there any final message you want to share with our investors?
Absolutely. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, man, for all the valuable tips and all the information that you shared with us today. I appreciate it all the time. Thank you.