What is the impact of being a customer-centric agency?


Andy Groller, President and CEO of Dragon360, is here to share the first steps brands can take to become customer-centric—and why this yields results.


At B2B digital marketing agency Dragon360, Andy helps brands solve complex marketing challenges and reach new levels of ROI and growth.


In this episode, he’ll cover:

  • What it means to be customer-centric from an agency perspective
  • How to remain customer-centric as you grow in size
  • The benefits of a customer-centric approach
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: This is Performance Delivered, Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success with Steffen Horst and Dave Antil.


Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing success podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. The topic for today’s episode is the impact of being a customer-centric agency. Here to speak with me is Andy Groller, who is the President and CEO of Dragon360, a b2b digital marketing agency. 


Andy is an experienced marketing leader of 15 years. He helps brands solve complex marketing challenges, allowing them to create efficiencies in their efforts and reach new levels of ROI, CAC and growth. In addition to leading Dragon360, Andy is an international speaker and co-host of the Digital Banter podcast. Andy, welcome to the show.


Andy Groller: Thanks, Steffen. Happy to be here.


Steffen: Andy, before we start talking about why someone should have a customer-centric agency or why you should be customer-centric. Tell us a little bit more about yourself. How did you get started in your career and what led you to becoming the CEO of founding Dragon360?


Andy: So the interesting story is I’m actually not a founder of Dragon360. But I worked my way up to being a partner in the business. The short version of my rise, goes back to 2008, where I was actually hired as employee number three at Dragon Search as we were formerly called then, to come in and head up the paid media department. Or as everybody was calling it back then the PPC department. No experience, not sure why I got hired. Clearly somebody saw something in me. But that got my foot in the door, and helped me to grow not in just that area of digital, but through kind of a test and learn kind of dip my toes in the water, and trial by fire mindset. 


It allowed me to open up the areas of opportunity outside of just paid into organic, social UX and creative and ultimately made me into a more well-rounded marketer that allowed me to rise not just in the organization, but in my own skill sets as a marketer, but also as a manager and a leader. So a couple years ago, that’s when I was offered a partnership. And that’s how we are here today as me being the President and CEO of Dragon360.


Steffen: That sounds like a great story. If we now focus on today’s topic, what does it mean to be customer-centric in general, and from an agency perspective?


Andy: Sure. So I think the definition of customer-centric is varied. And it depends on who you’re talking to. A lot of individuals look at it from a tactical or departmental perspective. So you know, customer-centric from a customer service means the customer is always right. Or, hey, I have to listen to the customer and treat them well. On the marketing and sales side, it’s a little bit different, where, you know, how can we be transparent? How can we deliver value to the customer, and how’s that going to lead them to ultimately becoming a customer of ours. 


But I think it’s bigger than that. Customer-centric is got to be something that’s internal, not just in the individual, but in the organization from a cultural perspective. It has to be a living, breathing ethos of the organization. And I think Gartner actually does a really good job of summarizing this, where it meets the demands of the customer, and puts the customer at the focal point of all decisions made, right? 


You know, whether it’s looking at it through the lens of again, marketing, sales, customer service, but also product, right? How are we developing features that really meet our customer’s needs and demands, and help them succeed in their businesses. And it also goes all the way through to HR, not just in hiring new employees at the brand, but how do you onboard them to have that same mentality that brings the organization up a level, and then through again, just through to, you know, sticking out the other major pillar of an organization finance, AP, AR. 


How do you treat your customers? How do you treat your suppliers? So it’s more than just a customer-centric, it’s a people-centric approach that I think makes a difference and adds a level of value that stands out amongst anything else.


Steffen: Now, when you’re a small company, it’s usually easier to control or to kind of implement that because, you know, you have a better oversight. But once you grow, then it becomes more challenging to get that mindset in place. Because you cannot follow every individual and make sure that they exactly, you know, follow the guidelines that you set out. How have you achieved that with Dragon360, that you built a team that is customer-centric, and that follows what you put out there as kind of the way to treat customers, the way to treat, you know, suppliers, et cetera?


Andy: You’re exactly right. I mean, as you grow in size, it becomes more difficult because you have more individuals, greater numbers, and really, it comes back to process for those larger organizations and the cultural, you know, approach that has been built and hopefully cultivated over the course of time. We at Dragon360 we’re a shop of about 20 dragons. So it’s a little bit easier, as you pointed out for us. And it comes down to a couple of things.


It’s about process, in terms of who we hire, what we look for in candidates, not just in their hard skills, but their soft skills, and kind of their approach in talking with customers talking with people, social skills, things like that. Those make a difference. The other aspect of that is obviously our onboarding. How do we bring people into the mix, and I don’t want to say like, teach them the Dragon way, because it’s not what I necessarily mean. But, it’s treating them as people so that way they treat others as they would want to be treated. 


And there’s obviously some leading by example there that starts with me, but also goes down to our department heads, our account managers, and there’s a shadowing process that comes into play and you just kind of see what’s resonating, and you add your own flair to it, but putting the customer always at the center of what you say what you think what you feel. I think that just comes back to kind of what you build as an organization. And you cultivate it. It has to iterate. It has to not just iterate but has to be able to be scalable.


Steffen: Yeah. So why should brands, especially those in b2b be customer-centric?


Andy: I mean, besides the fact that customers are the lifeblood of the business, I mean, I think there’s that flat line there. I mean, the other kind of through line there is, how many studies out there show that the cost of retaining a customer is significantly cheaper than acquiring a new one. So again, I say customer service, account management, all of those kind of lead to stronger LTV, upsells, cross-sells, and just overall retention that are going to be the core foundation to a strong brand. 


But then on the acquisition side, especially when it comes to b2b, look, we’re no longer in a seller’s world. We’re not dictating what a buyer is going to buy, what they want to see. It’s a buyer’s world out there. And I think if we treat a buyer and a prospect in that way, and we’re transparent in our content, we’re transparent in our pricing as much as possible. We’re transparent in, hey, we have this solution that suits your pains and challenges because we recognize empathetically, and emotionally that you are struggling with this, it just goes a long way. 


And look, at the end of the day, things like price, features, all of those are going to be variables that come into a decision. But the value add that gets added on top of that through customer centrism, I think that makes a difference for a buyer. Especially when you’re hopping on phone calls, you’re treating them well, you’re recognizing that they are struggling, and there’s clearly talking to you for a reason. And you’re offering up solutions and value to that to those challenges. It goes a long way.


Steffen: Yeah. Now you already started talking about the impact of being customer-centric, you know, for an organization. Can you elaborate a little bit more on that, please?


Andy: Yeah, the impact comes down to a couple of different metrics, especially when it looks from the business side of things. We’re talking about LTV, right, lifetime value of a customer. We’re talking about retention, lower churn rates, so loss of customers there. We’re talking about upsell opportunities, and cross-sell opportunities. But we’re also talking about kind of the word-of-mouth opportunities that exist out there for acquiring new customers. 


You treat your customers well, they’re going to sell on your behalf. They’re going to become ambassadors, create loyalty, advocacy They’re going to hop on G2 or Capterra. Speak from the mountaintops about your brand. And by treating your customers, right and having that centric approach, you’re ultimately going to be feeding the machine that grows the brand naturally.


Steffen: Now, Andy what are the differences between an agency that is customer-centric, and one that is not?


Andy: I think it comes down to how you’re treated by your clients is a great indicator of whether you’re customer-centric or not. If you treat your customers with their best intentions. And by that, I mean, realizing that they have real goals and objectives both at the brand level, but really at the individual level that they’re trying to achieve. And you’re there to support them in achieving them. And making them look good in the process. I think that goes a long way to creating trust, it goes a long way to creating buy-in. 


And it really sets the stage for partnership over an agency that’s kind of just taking orders. Doing what they’re told, kind of checking the boxes, because that’s what the line items on the scope of work stay. Rather than really focusing on the value that they’re trying to create on behalf of the customers and the clients that they have signed off on, but also the customers and the clients of the end brand. Because it’s about that people first approach. 


It’s not just being customer-centric of who you’re working with, but customer-centric on behalf of the customers that you’re trying to acquire from the brand. So I think it really goes into that separation of vendorship versus partnership, the creation of trust, and how deep you can actually get embedded within the client’s organization.


Steffen: Now, if we take that in, kind of think about an example how to apply that right, prior to jumping on the call we talked a little bit about sales and leads in those kinds of things. How would that approach work when we think about you generating leads? Are you going beyond the lead point, even if the client doesn’t ask for that? How would you guys approach that?


Andy: So I think that’s a great point you bring up and a great example, because an order taking agency is going to stop at the point of a lead being captured. They’re gonna say, hey, we drove 5000 form summits from our Facebook ads, we did awesome. We’re going to have a low cost per acquisition. But guess what, the agency that you’re really creating a partnership with, is going to go an extra mile, if not two miles, asking, okay, we drove 5000 leads, what’s the quality of them? Are they flipping into MQLs, SQLs, opportunities? 


How deep can we get embedded not just in that data, and when I say embedded, you know, we don’t actually get too involved in Salesforce or anything like that, as an agency, we’re really collaborating with our partners on the brand side of things to understand what’s working and what’s not. But it also transcends into how you get involved in other areas of the brand’s business. Talking to the sales team, talking to the product team, the customer service team, creating those qualitative insights that actually needed to fuel the demand gen machine that drives us forward. 


So it is a big, you know, kind of thing there of where do you kind of stop and put your foot in the ground versus where do you continue to really drive value and focus on the real needs of the business rather than some vanity metrics that look good on a report that you’re delivering to the CMO?


Steffen: Yeah, and I have to say, in some instances, from our own experience, the client sometimes doesn’t even know air quotes better, right? They come to you and say, I need leads. And now it’s up to you also to educate them. And that’s also where I believe you can build that relationship with a client where they later on, well, thank you that you not just took their word and said, okay, here are the leads. But no, what are the leads going to do once they hit your, you know, the sales funnel, you know?


Andy: Exactly, I mean, I can deliver, yeah, I can deliver leads to you all day long. Whether they close or not, is actually going to be the difference maker of whether you survive in your own job, and whether the brand survives as a business.


Steffen: Yeah. How do you deal with clients that actually push back? Because not everyone is really open to, yeah, I, you know, here is all the data, have a look into it. Or, you know, we provide feedback, which obviously, as a marketer, is very important, because I always say to clients, or to prospects that look for us lead is a lead. They look the same, it’s a number in our reporting system. We don’t know if lead one, two or three has a higher likelihood of being a sale or not. That’s what we need from you, to tell us, you know, what do you do if the client pushes back on your request for more insights?


Andy: Thankfully, we haven’t really hit that roadblock too much in our history. Because I think it really comes down to what you’re saying is, do you want this program to succeed? Because if you do, we need a collaboration and partnership, as far as those insights are concerned. Whether you give us access, or you’re giving us, you know, weekly reports, or something like that, that give us what we’re hopefully looking for. It all rolls up to whether we’re going to be successful as a team, or we’re not. 


And I think it’s in your best interest speaking to the client, in this case, to share as much as you possibly can, because it’s going to make you look good. It’s going to make us successful as a team. And if you’re not willing to do that, why are you working with us? Why are you spending money with us? Why are you spending money at all, you know, trying to hide behind a veiled curtain of secrecy? It just doesn’t work in today’s game.


Steffen: Yeah. It might also be a situation where the agency has to think about is that really a client I want to work with? Because if this one goes belly up, right, then it will look bad on you, because they might badmouth you, your agency. Whether it was your fault or not, because you clearly said, hey, I want to have more information to help you.


Andy: I think you’re bringing up a good point. And that kind of circles back to what you were asking before, like, what’s the difference between a customer-centric agency and not? And I think one of those things that allows you to be a customer-centric agency is knowing when to say no. Knowing when the fit is right to fit that mold, and when the fit isn’t right for you to really become a partner versus a vendor. So yeah, I mean, I can tell you for a fact that I’ve said no to prospects more over the last two to three years than I ever did before. 


Does that mean I’m just flatly saying no thanks in an email. No. It means that I still have that customer-centric ethos behind me of, hey, I am not, we’re not the best fit for you. Here’s some ideas, whether that’s a reference and a referral to somebody else, or some things to consider, you know, as it relates to your existing campaigns, your strategies, some talking points, etc. I’m always trying to deliver value because I never want to lose sight of that customer-centric ethos.


Steffen: Now, if listeners of this episode, say, hey, you know what, this sounds all good. I don’t want to say they have been all to take us so far. But there’s like, you know what, I think we can be a little bit more focused on the customer. I think we can kind of align ourselves a little more with this thinking. How would you suggest they start? What is a good starting point to implement?


Andy: A good starting point is to benchmark yourself and I think that goes with any kind of marketing activities too. Talk to your customers that are in existence today that you’re working with. Get a pulse for what they see as strengths of what you offer, and some of the areas that you could improve upon, because I think that’ll set the stage on where you need to focus, kind of a lot of things, whether that’s deliverables and production to execution. 


But also going back to strategy and account management, you have to level set yourself, you have to understand where you’re good and where you’re not. But also starts at the top, then as far as leadership is concerned. How do you treat your employees? How do you treat your prospects? 


You know, as I mentioned before you just flatly saying like, no thanks, or are you actively, you know, at least delivering some value to them, even if they’re just not a good fit. And it really starts at the top and leading by example, is a huge component there. But I would say benchmarking yourself as an agency is the first thing.


Steffen: Okay. So we’re done with the benchmarking. What comes next?


Andy: Next comes figuring out and looking at your solutions and your services. So us as a heavy proponent of paid media, it starts with how we approach our strategy development. So we are an audience-up, audience-first approach, so it means we’re channel agnostic. Look, if somebody’s not using Google, why am I going to spend money there as a channel, right? It matters about who we are actively targeting as an audience, who are actively trying to convince to become a buyer of our client’s business. 


And what are the pains, the challenges, the passion points that we can tap into. And all of that research, right, lends itself not just to that specific client, but actually sets in motion a process. A process that is then templated, and applied to other clients. And when you have that many templates and processes going, you start to get the aggregate working in conjunction with itself. You start to develop that as a cultural approach to things. 


So there’s that aspect of things. And I think it also goes towards how do you feed that monster, right? How do you feed that monster in the sense of new employees? And it comes back to what am I hiring for? What am I looking for in an ideal candidate? Yeah, do they check the box as far as technical skills are concerned, great. But if they can walk the walk, they need to be able to also talk the talk and really live up to what we’re trying to achieve as an organization. 


So really defining what those soft skills, those qualitative skills are in the onboarding process, and then setting in motion how you kind of move them into those strategic processes, teach them the way not to sound Mandalorian for any reason here. But like, show them the way, right, because this is the way I think it all kind of works in tandem at that point.


Steffen: Yeah. Now, when when you interview people, can you talk a little bit about what you’re looking for, for someone that is kind of open to adopting, you know, a specific culture, a certain way of working, because that’s what at the end of the day it is, right? There are people out there that come with air quotes, a lot of baggage. They are set in their ways. And it’s quite hard sometimes to kind of make them adopt something that is different to what they have done before. So what are you looking for in a new employee to make sure that they’re fitting in, and that they will follow the path that you laid out?


Andy: Sure, I mean, the resume should hopefully check the boxes of a bunch of the technical skills. Obviously, in an interview, you want to still make sure and confirm that what they wrote is actually correct. But then we move really quickly into, you know, more personal level questions, and situational questions and things like that. You know, for example, tell me about a time that you faced an underperforming campaign and how you kind of reported that up to leadership. 


So it shows them, you know, it shows me I should say, and our team, who is interviewing them, you know, how do they approach difficult situations? Same thing with a similar question around, you know, tell me about a time if they’re coming from an agency, tell me about a time where you had to deal with a difficult customer. And you know, how you went about solving their problems or not, but at least tell me the anecdotal kind of experience there. 


How they describe that, whether it’s a good solution or not, is irrelevant. It’s how you go about problem-solving for that, that lends itself to, you know, how they deal with people, how they approach people. And in that conversation between us and them, are they looking you in the eye? 


Because a lot of our interviews happen over video calls, we’re kind of a remote-first agency at this point. Are they good? Are they able to articulate, kind of all of that? It all just kind of rolls up to those situational questions that, you know, really, there’s no right answer. It’s how you answer them and how you went about answering them in the given situation that makes a difference.


Steffen: It’s about the thought process that the person basically displays to solve the challenge.


Andy: Yeah, because really, look, we can teach technical skills. It’s the soft skills that you bring to the table that are going to make you an ideal candidate or not.


Steffen: With that being said, is it more important for you that someone has the right soft skills or that they have come loaded with all the hard skills, or the technical skills etc, to do the job?


Andy: It kind of depends on the position. But I will say a majority of the time, the soft skills matter a little bit more, because you can always train the hard skills. Now, if it’s an entry-level position, absolutely soft skills are way more important than hard skills. If we’re talking about a senior-level position, it’s probably a shift back towards a good mix between those. And really, when you’re talking about a very senior position, look soft skills matter, right? Hard skills. If you’re doing the grunt work, like we probably have a bigger challenge on our hands than that.


Steffen: When you’re customer-centric, have you seen better results being generated for campaigns? Talk about that a little bit?


Andy: Yes. So on the front end of things by approaching it as a customer-centric, audience-first approach, you’re really focusing on where does your target market community consume. You’re not wasting money on channels where they’re unlikely to not just hang out, but they’re unlikely to consume the information that you want to be putting in front of them. So there’s efficiency gains there. Right, higher click-through rates, lower cost per conversions, look, higher engagement rates, all those kinds of soft metrics on the front end. 


On the back end of things, then, when you’re customer-centric, we go back to that collaboration, the sharing of insights. And really the passing back and forth of those insights from backend metrics. So pipeline, Marketo, Eloqua, Salesforce, name drop, whatever household marketing, automation and CRM system you want in there. And it really fuels the fire of how do we actually enhance those efficiencies by knowing what’s working, what’s not, the types of prospects that are moving through into actually becoming opportunities, and pipeline and rev. 


And all of that just rounds out and creates greater efficiencies over the course of time. Everything we’re talking about does not happen overnight, both as an organization and the creation and enhancement of a customer-centric approach, but also through the results of any digital marketing. It all takes time. You know, yeah, paid media is kind of like a faucet, you turn on turn it off to drive leads. 


But that’s only from a vendorship perspective. As a partnership agency, it’s about what’s working, what’s not, how do we iterate, test, learn and really build up that momentum that generates demand, captures demand, and really drives the business forward?


Steffen: Do you see an impact on how long people stay with you as with Dragon360 by being more people-focused, customer-focused?


Andy: Yes, I think employee wise makes a difference. And on the client side of things, it makes a difference as well. And actually, in our pitch decks, one of there’s two, there’s one slide where we talk about ourselves, like who we are, our certifications, who we work with, etc. And there’s four main KPIs. Two of which are around, you know, how long we’ve been around. And, you know, our expertise as far as media spend is managed. The other two we’re actually most proud of because it’s around that customer-centric focal point. It’s 92% of our clients actually continue with us beyond one year of working together. 


And then our average lifetime duration of working with a client is four-plus years. We actually have clients, there’s at least three to four of them, that are still clients of ours today from when we were first founded in 2007. That speaks volumes against a lot of other agencies out there, big, small, churn and burn versus partnerships. Those are the kinds of metrics that I think speak for themselves when we talk about a customer-centric ethos.


Steffen: That is great. And that’s actually a great, great last word for this podcast episode. Andy, thank you so much for your time, and for joining me on the Performance Delivered podcast and sharing your thoughts on a customer-centric approach. Now, if people want to find out more about you and Dragon360, how can they get in touch?


Andy: Sure, so you can always reach out to me on LinkedIn. I’m just linkedin.com/andygroller, and then Dragon360 is just dragon360.com. Feel free to reach out to me personally on LinkedIn, reach out to us via our contact form, email, whatever the case may be. Happy to chat, happy to just talk through anything, give some free advice, anything.


Steffen: Perfect. Well, as always, we’ll leave the information in the show notes. Thanks, everyone for listening. If you liked the Performance Delivered podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.


Voiceover: Performance Delivered is sponsored by Symphonic Digital. Discover audience-focused and data-driven digital marketing solutions for small and medium businesses at symphonicdigital.com.