Running a Boutique Digital Marketing Strategy Service

Find out what Nigel Stevens has to say about running a boutique digital marketing strategy service.

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Greg Heilers

Greg

— intro at some point. There we go. So yeah, Nigel, man, as you know, I’m a fan of yours. So that’s why I wanted to reach out to you. And the background makes sense to me now. Like, you’ve just always impressed me with your content skill, I would say.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

I’m blushing, Greg, I’m blushing. But yeah, thanks for having me.

Greg Heilers

Greg

No, my pleasure. So yeah, Nigel, we interacted because you were heading up that up the content strategy at Atrium where, you know, you’ve done that before then, since then I mean, your agency, OGM, you’ve got some of the biggest names in their niches that you are supporting their growth. I just wanted to connect today to learn from you and hopefully, our audience can learn from you. So I appreciate it.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Cool. Hopefully, I have something useful to say.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah, I’m certain you do. Since, you know, we did launch in. 

Nigel, if I could let you introduce yourself, where you’re at today and, you know, like you said, we don’t always know what’s next and that’s okay. but I’m just curious to hear from you.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Cool, yeah. So I run OGM, which stands for Organic Growth Marketing. And we work with a lot of SaaS companies, mostly B2B, but also some non-B2B. And it’s funny, you mention Atrium, because that’s not the normal model even that I worked. 

Usually what we do, and you know, you sort of have to find product market fit with whatever you’re doing. And you try something, try other things. I’m sure you’ve had the same experience. 

But what I found is that our sweet spot is working with companies that either already got content started, and they have a foundation, but they haven’t quite figured out how do we scale the inbound organic traffic and lead generation for this, or companies that have started a little bit and they’re really looking to scale up. 

And they, you know, have raised some money, they have product market fit, and they’re just looking to do something cool. With Atrium, they wanted someone to run the content. 

And it was just such a cool opportunity because they had all these well-known investors. Like, I interviewed Ashton Kutcher, you know, it was sort of a “just do this and see what happens.” I mean, if I had an opportunity to do that again in a situation like that, I think I would. 

But now our product-market fit is settling into, “Okay. We’re working with the company that knows how to produce good content. We’ll help them do more of that, but also scale the inbound. So that’s like the summary there.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah, awesome. I mean, I think later if we had time, we might dive into, you know, your guys’ approach as an agency. 

But the reason I wanted to reach out to you is I’m not sure how familiar you are with my history. We tried Jolly for two years as a content agency, but we lacked the strategy. Right? 

So, I mean, that’s the end game of, in my opinion, content is the inbound. And yet, we couldn’t execute that. 

We couldn’t even attempt to orchestrate it, right? There’s the promotion angle, there’s co-marketing. There’s all kinds of things that are part of that, and we lacked it, quite frankly. 

So I guess I wanted to start off with kind of: What is it that your clients think of when they think of engaging you? 

Are they coming at you like, “Look guys, we need to hit this target of traffic, this target of revenue, profitability.” It depends on the client in my experience, so I’m curious what happens with you all.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. So I mean, I talk to people at a variety of different sizes of companies and stages of growth, and I’ve learned to sort of suss out, again, what is our product market fit? Where are we going to have the biggest impact? 

And what I found is it’s in our interest to be very selective about who we work with because, ultimately, I’m lazy. I don’t really do marketing. I don’t do anything. 

Like, my website isn’t descriptive. We’ve done work that has worked for people, and then we get leads as a result of that. And it’s like a product is your marketing sort of thing. 

And we don’t work with that many companies. So if I take on something and it doesn’t work out well, then it’s almost like I failed at marketing in the future sort of thing. 

So what I found is it’s really important to work with companies where there’s a big potential. So is there actually a big potential with inbound here, especially when it comes to SEO? Because some spaces, they just don’t have it as much or when you model out the unit economics, if we look at how much traffic is in the space and what your LTV is, is this a big opportunity? 

And a big opportunities varies, but you know, we work with companies like Intercom, Mirro, ProfitWell, where there’s a bigger opportunity. And then there’s companies where there’s something to be done there, but for our sake and our model, it just wouldn’t be as much of a slam dunk. 

So usually, we come in where it’s like there’s a gigantic business opportunity. And there’s a whole bunch of byproducts of doing STO and content well, but the main thing is: Will this pay for itself in a couple years? And then really improve our CACTA LTV in the long run.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Interesting, okay. So you’re already considering for the client their CACTA LTV. That makes sense. That’s a whole other layer. You know, there was some projects I was able to work with you under, and they were so sophisticated and you could tell. 

Obviously, this was not a short-term play at all. So I really liked that. What about when you get a new client, it sounds like, I think I know the answer to this question, is it a fully custom solution each time? 

What I love about your website, and you’ve tried to coach me on this for years is minimalist. You don’t —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

I don’t know if you want to be taking advice from me, but —

Greg Heilers

Greg

Dude, I wanted to have a Jolly background. So I would definitely follow your lead there. I think, you know, what I’m hitting at is: Do you have a one size fits all, “Look, this is our service, this is our product?” 

It’s obviously not that extreme. Or is it all the way at the other end, fully custom? How does that work for you all?

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. So I think, like most things, it’s somewhere in the middle. Because if we had something that was fully custom, it would mean that we didn’t have any processes or procedures —

Greg Heilers

Greg

Thanks.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

— or regular things that we did. And then it would assume that each website is so unique that nothing we’ve ever done could apply, which I don’t think is the case. 

But then, the other extreme is almost just as absurd. And that’s, actually, where I think a lot of service providers — actually, one way we try to distinguish ourselves where there’s different aspects of SEO, right? 

There’s people that go in and they optimize stuff. There’s people who focus on tech stuff. There’s people who focus on off-site. And when you do one of those more, you’re incentivized to tell everybody that that’s the lever that they need. 

And what I’ve learned to do over time is talk to companies and say, “Look, I don’t even think we’re the best fit for you. 

You just need someone who can help you, I don’t know, sort of help you do straight content marketing really well. 

And maybe the SEO opportunity isn’t as big there, and your money spent on us isn’t going to be the best thing there.” Sorry. I forgot, what was even the question at the beginning?

Greg Heilers

Greg

Well, you were getting into how you’d disqualify yourself, which I love.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah.

Greg Heilers

Greg

I do that all the time on sales calls, right? I’m like, “These are the red flags. These are the red flags, you should consider these,” or try to suggest alternatives.

But I was curious, if you just can’t shake them, if someone really wants to work with you guys, you managed to make that sell, and the inbound, as you said, that’s what you do, what is your approach for onboarding at that point?

It sounds almost like your team is multiskilled. It sounds like you’re not honing in on a certain niche, you’re looking more holistically.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. So the main thing we’re looking for, again, there’s different types of off-site, there’s different types of on-site. And I think one of the mistakes that people make with SEO or content or whatever, is they go immediately into the weeds and the bottoms down approach. 

Which is okay, like, “Here’s how their competitors are doing. We’re going to copy that. Here’s the keywords you already — search console or whatever.” Instead of looking at, like, what does this business do? What makes sense? What have you learned from pay channels? What have you learned from referral channels? And our process, over time, it’s more from prescriptum. 

Because I think when you start you think, “I know what I’m doing. I can help you. What we do is really good.” And then what I’ve learned over time is to do our jobs really well, we have to spend the first part listening and getting information. 

So then saying, for example, for advising them on what to do for off-site. There’s companies that do really well — they have a really strong domain. 

They already rank for some stuff without trying, so we think that’s less of a lever. It’s more sort of a, “Okay, that can help you. It’s like insurance.” And then there’s other companies where we say — if it’s a CRM, like I talked to a company that was doing CRM stuff. “If you want to compete with HubSpot, you realize there has been hundreds of millions of dollars spent in this niche. 

You basically need to commit to brand-building for the next three years to even have a remote possibility.” So it’s about looking up front: What are the levers? And then doubling down on what we think will work. So in that way, it’s custom, but the way that we come to those solutions is operationalized.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah, that makes so much sense. You scratched off a question I had for you. I’m curious, then, how much of the client’s existing team factors into your plans for them? Are you saying like, “Look, they’ve got a good social team for instance. As long as we can get their buy-in, know they’re going to help promote the content we helped create.” 

Or, for example, they’ve already got a really solid content team, maybe, like you said, we’re not even a good fit. 

Or maybe we can help them with the technical side as long as they’re going to execute what we suggest. I mean, what kind of interaction do you all have? Is it, “We operate over here. The client operates over here. 

And hopefully, we get the” — because it’s difficult with client expectations sometimes. And you really need buy-in from the internal stakeholders, I feel.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. And that’s why, one thing I’ve learned, so much of this stuff comes down to the expectations are set up front and where you come in. So, for example, if you come in at sort of, like, manager level where they say, “Hey, we need this one thing done.” 

Then you’re going to be able to do that one thing and anything outside of that one thing is going to be difficult. When you come in at, like, either a CMO, or if it’s a bigger company, senior director, but preferably as high as possible. 

Then you’re coming in with the expectation of, “Hey. We want to grow the hell out of this. And we’re sort of signing up for this holistic view of the world.” You still have to convince people. 

And companies have really smart people on their teams, and if you just say something stupid, they’re going to call you out on it. So coming in at first and recognizing what people are doing well. And then another big thing is just getting quick wins. 

One thing we focus on is: What are the things that are close to popping, that within the first two, three, four weeks, we can get a visible win? So they will say, “Oh, wow. That’s really cool. 

Maybe these people actually know what they’re doing.” And then when you set the expectation upfront about, “Here’s how we imagine working with you.” And you basically tell them, “Honestly, look. We want to support you and help you make your goals, and look smart.” Instead of, “We’re the SEO people, do what we say.” 

That’s never going to work. And again, I think for this stuff to be effective and holistic, you have to understand what different people across the board are doing.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yes. What then does the interaction look like? I know it probably varies, right, if you’re dealing with CMO versus marketing manager. 

I mean, how many team members of yours and theirs would be interfacing? And what’s the cadence or the frequency? 

I mean, are you — it sounds like to me, where you’re operating, it’s not so much, “Look, we’ve got some briefs, we’re going to deliver obviously.” Right?

 It’s more you’re finding those easy, quick wins, but you’re thinking way long term for the client as well. It almost sounds like at least multiple times per week you guys are interacting and working things out together iteratively.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. So I mean, I think, we definitely come in often with CMOs. I think it’s a red flag if we have to be interactive with the CMO constantly. They don’t want that. And if they do, then it means that this is a problem and it probably isn’t going to go anywhere. 

So what we usually — and there’s been projects where I think there’s potential, but I said it’s not a good fit because they don’t have the people in place. 

So one thing I think everyone needs, that we work with, is sort of an editor and content manager. And then someone who can be a project manager internally. 

Because I think when you work with external people, it doesn’t work if you don’t have someone internally to drive it forward, who has lunch with people, or Zoom coffees or whatever in 2021. 

So basically, do you have people internally to drive stuff forward? And then what we usually do is have one key stakeholder, they’re the connective tissue. 

And if we need to talk to engineering or design, then they’ll refer us to them. 

But overall, we have our one person who is more of a source of truth. But then we get intros and work with people on a one-off basis as needed, but try to streamline it. So it’s not just — if you’re talking to a whole bunch of people, that means nobody really owns the success and then there’s a problem.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah. You’re looking for just a giant quagmire where you’re handcuffed, basically, you can’t deliver and they’re increasingly frustrated. Right? That sounds awful.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah, totally.

Greg Heilers

Greg

You know, we kind of blew through that, and I think it’s partially because of my ignorance. I’m curious, on the level of delivering the level of service you do, is there anything I missed that I could have asked? 

Because every time we get to speak, I learn something from you. So I don’t know what you can do with a question like that. But I’m just curious if there’s something you thought, “I wonder why he wouldn’t even touch on that.”

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Greg, you’re too kind. You’re too kind. But I think one thing that we try to do is — and it’s something I talk about with potential clients when I’m talking to them is what often happens with external vendors is you either have people that are too sort of in the weeds or too high level. 

And I think the high level is just — okay, what people often ask for is an audit. They say, “Okay. We want to do SEO. When you do SEO, you need an audit. Give us an audit.” Now, we don’t do that in a vacuum. 

Because I’ve found very few instances of SEO audits actually doing anything. 

Because what happens is if you’re an agency and you’re doing an audit, your job is to look smart. So then you just put together this big ass document with all of these —

Greg Heilers

Greg

11 pages —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

— pages and table of — oh my God, I’ve seen ridiculously big ones. And then no one knows what to do with it. “Okay, we have this big document” —

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah, what the fuck are you going to do with that?

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

— most of it isn’t going to do anything. They’re incentivized to say, like, “Oh, write a million meta description and changes these” — yes, should you do that? Maybe, sure. Maybe even not. 

But it’s not even going to move the needle. So it’s a combination of getting the buy-in for the bigger vision, but then actually pushing stuff over the finish line. So one thing we do, you asked how we work, we’ll sort of work with people to iterate on projects. 

And get with them in the weeds to help get it over the finish line. 

Because what we’re doing up front is saying, “Hey. We’re going to co-own the success of this program. And the success of this program isn’t predicated on handing over stuff and then hoping you do it. We’ll work with you to do it, which is why you need to have resources.” 

But then we actually work with people, so we usually work with someone on the content team. And our objective, our incentives, we don’t do hourly pricing or anything, is to put them in a position where they can sort of get better, and better, and better, and learn how we’re doing things so that we need to spend less time with them. 

And then if we do a new project, we spend more time helping get it over the finish line, and then we have a process part. 

So, I think, to answer your open-ended question, it’s a combination of sort of getting high-level strategy and vision set, and then actually working through the details to get stuff done. So you don’t just say, “Hey, look. We gave you this document and you didn’t do anything, so tough luck.”

Greg Heilers

Greg

Exactly, yeah. It’s interesting because a lot of people look at the DWY as having a negative connotation, right, like, “Oh, they’re going to slip in some more margin and offload some of the work.” 

You’re empowering them actually. And I say that not having a DWY offering. And I’m sure you wouldn’t even call it that, right? But I just —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

I don’t even know what that means. You’re out-acronyming me right now.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Just done with you.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Oh, got it.

Greg Heilers

Greg

It just seems like you are setting their team up for success, as you said, and there to support them when they need that push. You know, we could dive into your own agency’s strategy for yourselves. I also think we could save it for another time if you’re interested —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

I don’t know if there’s much strategy to go over, Greg. It might be an open and shut case, but yeah, whatever you want to talk about.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Okay. Well then, since I have you here, for all the agency owners, let’s say, if we could throw them in a bucket, what is your logic behind — and you’ve shown me several other examples, like the one-page website. Right? 

Like, not the traditional we do, you need a service page that tries to spell it out with some sales copy and a CTA, and a book here, and a — you know, what’s your thinking? 

If you all navigated to Nigel’s site today, I think it’s OGMarketing.com is that right?

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Greg Heilers

Greg

Marketing OG, oh my goodness. Got to get the —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Whatever, you don’t have to know it.

Greg Heilers

Greg

You don’t have to know it, you say. So for you, are you not worried about it? Like, you’re not worried about the inbound to your website or how does that play out for you?

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. So it’s really like, the current website and everything, what it does is it matches to current business model, which is again, I’m not looking to land, like, three clients a week, or even a month, or not even necessarily a quarter. 

So it’s a means to an end, and that’s just to show people that we’re legit, that we’ve worked with good companies, that people have good things to say about us. And it’s generally not a form of discovery. 

And the few people that have discovered it that way, it hasn’t gone anywhere. And it’s all depending on business model. If you have a higher volume, lower friction business model, then I think my approach would be completely idiotic and your business wouldn’t work. 

Because it’s run so much on referrals and, like, very trusted referrals, it’s more about the website being a means to and end of, again, showing that we’re credible and here’s the companies we’ve worked with. And if you think that you want to be among them, then talk to us. 

But again, that doesn’t even mean that it’s necessarily the best option. For all I know, it’s bleeding leads or opportunity. 

But it’s just worked so far. Like, all you know is you do something, the overall thing works, and you just hope that, like, the different parts are supporting it. And you can tell yourself a story either way.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Completely agree. You would solve a lot of our issues on the brand side in terms of dwelling over these minutiae. The point is, maybe you shouldn’t even be thinking about those things is what I’m getting.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah. I mean, maybe, maybe not, I don’t know. Again, I don’t know how good advice that is for different people. But I think the question to ask yourself is: How do people find you and what’s important for them? 

So if you have a model where it’s more high volume, low touch and it’s people finding you, then you probably want your website to answer questions. The whole CRO is a high impact field for a reason. 

But there’s also things where your website doesn’t matter as much for someone who requires a personal connection. And they need to be talked through how it works, and the understanding, and it’s not going to be a small dollar amount or whatever. 

So I think it all depends on the business model. Again, maybe I’ll have reason to change my mind in six months and do something different.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Okay. Well, that is the best segue possible for my last question for you. If you were to move into an adjacent field, let’s call it, you know, OGM is doing great. There’s no need — I’m not saying to scrap it. In a hypothetical situation where you were opening up shop in an adjacent field, what would it be for you?

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Good question. So I guess, it’s something I think about every once in a while. I’ll give two answers. One is it’s less adjacent, but we’re actually building some internal tools. 

And what’s exciting about that is the initial thought is just, “Okay. Build cool stuff and have an excuse to do it because it’s fun and in a nerdy way.” And who knows what’ll come of it, maybe that’ll help us change our business model because we’ll automate some of the things that are tough. Maybe that’ll become self-serve. 

Who knows what’ll happen with that. So I think any sort of parallel business that is more, like, involved software, that’s answer number one. And I think answer number two would be something along the lines of reviews. 

Every once in a while I think about problems in the world that annoy me. I don’t know if I have solutions, but there’s just problems. 

And I was just looking for — excuse me — an accountant, like a tax person. And it’s just such an awful, awful experience. I’m like, “Why — there’s no reason this has to be so bad.” 

And even when it comes to products, I work in SEO, so I know when I look up something, “Oh, look, these are all the affiliate websites. This is the review of the product. “In our product, this review,” whatever. 

And so something to make that a more human, less horrific experience. I don’t have an answer. If I did, I would stop doing this and I would focus on that and, you know, raise $100 million or something. But that’s —

Greg Heilers

Greg

I’m right there with you.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

That’s something that annoys me.

Greg Heilers

Greg

It’s just a horrible feeling to work in the industry and know — I’m looking for a basketball hoop for my son, right? And it’s like, which of the one stars are authentic? Which of the five stars are real? Who knows anymore. 

You can fake anything. You can buy it, destroy the product, list the one star. You can do whatever you want, right? If you solve it, I’ll be using your platform for sure.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Yeah.

Greg Heilers

Greg

I’m begging to join your team, basically. Cool. Nigel, thank you so much, man. I really appreciate you coming on this. It’s a fledgling Jolly podcast. We don’t have the neon sign, but I really appreciate it, man. And —

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

I don’t think neon signs are a prerequisite to have a dope show. But yeah, thanks for having me on, this has been fun.

Greg Heilers

Greg

Yeah, absolutely. Well, let’s catch up again soon.

Nigel Stevens

Nigel

Cool.

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