On this week’s episode of Performance Delivered, our special guest is Angela Hill. She is the CEO at Incitrio, an award-winning, San Diego based full service agency. Chief Brand Strategist, Marketing Visionary, and Professional Speaker, Angela shares Incitrio’s unique approach to tackling marketing challenges and ultimately and unfailingly increasing revenue for her clients.
Angela says, “I like to think of marketing strategies and tactics as a toolbox, so I have a lot of tools at my disposal. If I’m a craftsman, I’m going to choose the right tool, the best tool to solve your problem instead of whatever’s easiest or whatever I think I should push.”
We chat about customizing and personalizing marketing solutions, as well as:
- Recognizing the need to improve quality of life
- Translating feedback into action
- Improving communication and coordination with sales and marketing departments
- Data Tracking and Transparency
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
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.
Today we’re going to talk about generating ROI from marketing. To speak with me about the topic is Angela Hill, who is the CEO at Incitrio, a fully integrated print and online branding agency invested in their clients’ success. Angela is a seasoned branding veteran with over 28 years of experience working with Fortune 500 and SMB companies. Angela, welcome to Performance Delivered.
Angela Hill: Thank you!
Steffen: Angela, before we before we start, I’d love to find out more about you. How did you get started in your career? How did you get started in marketing?
Angela: So I went to Washington University in St. Louis, I started off in the business school focusing on getting a degree in marketing. And then part of the way in, I realized that I really didn’t like business theory. So I thought, Okay, well, I enjoy computers. And I enjoy programming. And I used to program computer games, when I was in middle school and high school. So I thought, well, maybe I’ll be a programmer. So I went to the engineering school. And what I found out is that I really liked computers, but I also like sunshine and people. So I wasn’t meant to be coding in a cave all day in the dark. And so then I thought, well, maybe I’ll go to the English department, because I really like writing. And I had written and published a short story and some poetry in high school. And so I tried that. And then I realized that like writing, but I don’t want to be a writer. And while I was in school, I was working as a commercial photographer. But in those days, you were in a dark room for eight to 10 hours at a time. And I realized that I didn’t want to be a photographer either. So I went to my work-study boss, who was in engineering school, but she had a master of fine arts. And I said, I like business. But I don’t like business theory. I like computers. But I don’t want to be a computer programmer. I like writing, but I don’t want to be a writer. I love photography, but I don’t want to be a photographer. What should I do? And she said, Have you heard of graphic design? And I said, What is it? Will it pay my student loans? And she said, Why don’t you try this class. So I took a class over the summer on an Apple 2C. And it was Photoshop 3, and then Disney Animator on an Amiga, and then Hypercard. And I fell in love. And so I switched majors, and I ended up getting a Bachelor of Fine Arts in graphic design. And then I talked to the Dean of the Business School. And at the time, they only had branding classes for the MBA program. So I convinced him to let me do independent study with marketing and to take the MBA classes for branding. So I have a minor in marketing, with an emphasis in branding. And that’s kind of how I got my start.
Steffen: After you left University, what happened? And did you move right into marketing, graphic design, or did something else lead you to founding your own company.
Angela: So what happened was, as soon as I switched majors, I went out and I got a graphic design internship. And I worked for a medical device company called Mallinckrodt. Medical. And I started off as their intern. And I remember when I went to the interview, I went with my photography portfolio, and my resume. And I remember they said, “Well, you don’t have any graphic design experience.” And I said, I know but I’m going to be a graphic designer. I have my photography portfolio. I’m really good with computers. I will do whatever you want me to do, please, please, please, please, please hire me. And so they gave me a chance.
And probably for the first three months, they gave me the most awful jobs that they could think of to do. They gave me spray mounting for eight hours a day, you know, making presentation boards, and scanning slides. They had me design a 120 page book on an Apple 2C in Quark Express. And they gave me the Quark Express manual. And they said, “Here figure it out.”
And if you have a question that’s not in the manual, then you can ask us for help. And I just did everything with a smile on my face. And so I worked full time while I went to school full time, I ended up getting a full time job there later working as an art director, and then I translated that into some agency positions. So I worked for some big brands, through agencies in St. Louis like Mars Candy, Energizer, Ford, Anheuser Busch, Hallmark, Williams-Sonoma. And then I moved to San Francisco. And I worked for some agencies and big brands there. I worked with Visa, and Sun Microsystems, and Merrill Lynch, and PG&E and Maersk. And then I moved to San Diego in 1998. And I worked for a big agency in town. I did all the Intel product launches for a year and a half. I worked on products, projects from Pepsi and Foster Farms and Sega and Jabra. And then I started my company by 2004. So that was 16 years ago.
Steffen: What made you decide to found your own company, obviously, have spent quite a bit of time at other companies? Was there a desire to own something yourself where there’s certain things when you worked at an agency that you just didn’t like, and you just wanted to change that in your own company?
Angela: Yeah. So when I started my business, I had two kids under two, and I had been working. And in those days, when you were at an agency, it was 8am. Well, it started off 8am to 5pm. And then it was eight to six. And then it was eight to seven. And then it was 8am, to 10pm, Monday through Friday, and sometimes on weekends. And what happened was, I came to a realization that if I wanted to have work-life balance and to be involved in my children’s lives, the only way I could do that was if I started my own agency. So I would say I’m a reluctant entrepreneur, and would have been very happy to work for someone else my whole life. And the only reason I started my company was so that I could have control over my quality of life.
I hear you. I spent my entire life at big global agencies too, and the excessive hours, they kill you, but they also form you, right? When you’re younger, you put a lot of sweat in, in your earlier years, you’ll learn a lot you have a steep learning curve. But at some point, you’re right. I mean, they’re not paying, you bad. But you know, if you can’t, if you can’t go and spend it if you can’t enjoy it with the people around you, what good does it do? Right? So now you have your own company? How do you help companies? What do you do at your company? What kind of companies do you work with? What service do you provide?
At my agency, we’re a full service agency. My role is branding and marketing strategy as well as creative direction. And then I have a team of designers and digital marketers. So we provide print design, like logo design, collateral design, tradeshow, booth, packaging, print advertising. And then we also do web design, like a traditional WordPress website or e-commerce we also do software and mobile development. And then we do digital marketing. So it could be anything from search engine optimization, to AdWords, to email marketing, to social media, video, implementing marketing automation, and setting up lead generation. Really full service in terms of client needs. Okay.
Steffen: I mean, that sounds like a lot of things that you offering. That’s a lot of work.
Angela: Yeah, it is. But we like to service our clients, I guess, probably in a non traditional way, because most agencies will, maybe they’ll focus on one type of marketing or design service, or they’ll package something for the client. Regardless of whether or not that’s appropriate for the client. And what we prefer to do is, we’re very customized and personalized. So I do the branding, analysis and the marketing strategy upfront, to determine what’s the best way to move forward, to position the company correctly to appeal to their target audience to differentiate from their competition. And then we’ll either work with them on a project or retainer basis, and to solve a problem or to act as their outsourced marketing team. And the only way to really appropriately service our clients is by offering all those services as opposed to saying, well, we only do SEO or we only do AdWords and therefore, I’m going to try and convince you that you need those things because that’s the only thing that I sell. I like to think of marketing strategies and tactics as a toolbox. And so I have a lot of tools at my disposal. But if I’m a craftsman, I’m going to choose the right tool, the best tool to solve your problem instead of whatever’s easiest, or whatever I think I should push.
Steffen: So today’s topics, obviously, topic is obviously about how to generate ROI from marketing. The budget season is upon us. You know, that’s a time when marketing and sales departments are typically fighting over how much money each department gets. How do you help company marketing executives to justify the bigger chunk of budget, you know, of that pot that is available?
Angela: Yeah. So I think what it comes down to first is understanding where’s the company now? And where did they want to go? If we can really clearly understand the business objectives in terms of, I want more revenue from new clients, I want more revenue from existing clients, I want to expand my portfolio of products and services, or I want to launch new products and services, I want to dominate locally, or I want to expand nationally or globally. If we can really understand those business objectives up front. And then we can take a look at the financials, just in terms of revenue, by product or service for last year, and this year, and then ideal projections for next year, then what we can do is we can separate that out and say, Okay, what is sales responsibility for that percentage of revenue, and what is marketing’s responsibility for that percentage of revenue?
Once I have that information, and I segment by groups of products or services, then I can work backwards. So if I understand what the average sale for each type of product or services, I can plug that in, and I can break it out across the year and I can then project will how many customers do we need to close in a given month. And then if I work back from that, and I know from sales or from the CRM, or from marketing automation, the percentage close rates, I can work backwards from will find me, let’s say 10 customers, and that takes 20 opportunities. Well how many sales qualified leads? Maybe that takes 40 sales qualified leads. Well, then let’s work backwards, then how many marketing qualified leads? Well, maybe it’s 80, marketing, qualified leads. And then we work backwards from the marketing qualified leads, how does that translate to web traffic? Well, maybe that’s 160 people to the web in order to translate into that final number of clients that we actually need. And so by putting together that type of analysis upfront, and then monitoring the performance of different marketing tactics to see which is performing better than others, in terms of qualified leads that we’re delivering, then we can successfully project not only how marketing is going to perform, we can also do an analysis to determine the ROI of those marketing dollars. And as we go along, as long as we’re assessing on a monthly basis, instead of waiting until the end of the year, we can pivot adapt and change to focus our energy on the marketing tactics that are working right now.
Steffen: That’s interesting. So obviously, there are two kind of key elements. You know, for the marketing part, it’s, it’s the lead, and for the sales part is the sales in the end. What are the main KPIs in in this approach that you just walked walked us through? What are the main KPIs you’re looking at to determine for example, from a marketing perspective, whether you are generating qualified leads or quality leads, compared to just leads?
Angela: So that’s why I really like to integrate marketing automation with the CRM so that we can track the activities. So what number of activities does it take, typically, in terms of awareness, and education, and nurturing to get to a closed sale? That’s one thing, number of activities on a per lead basis. And then the other thing that we really like to look at is real, what is that complexity of where the revenue is coming from? So, for me, it’s important to have diverse performance.
I don’t want to put all of my marketing efforts into one product or service. I want to make sure we’re pushing different things at different levels. I also like to look at what’s the profitability of an average sale for those particular products and services. So maybe there’s a greater focus there. And I like to reverse engineer what ideal clients look like. So a lot of times I’ll have clients give me maybe a list of their top five clients, and then together we reverse engineer, well, why are they a top client? And what combination of products and services did they buy? And what industry did they come from? And what was the job title of the person? Who is the decision-maker? And what activities led to that ideal outcome? And then how do we put together that sales cadence and that customer journey to replicate that ideal scenario for the ideal client? So for me, I’m not looking at, I’m not looking at how many people came to your website, I don’t care. If 100 people came to the website, or a million came to the website, I care about the quality of the 10 leads that were generated from your website. And I measure that, and so it’s quality over quantity, I guess that’s the simplest way to answer the question.
Steffen: That makes a lot of sense. So with the data that you collect on the sales side, from the CRM, which parts are you feeding back up into your media platforms? And which parts of the media buy are you adjusting? Are you adjusting the audiences? Are you adjusting the messaging? Are you adjusting your channels? Or is it a mixture of the three and even something I haven’t said, or have mentioned?
Angela: Yeah, so it’s definitely all three, I really like to put together metrics to determine indications of whether or not someone is more likely to buy. And I like to think about them and the different stages, right? When you first become aware of the brand versus when you’re seeking education and knowledge, you’re going to treat that differently.
The other thing that I do, which is part of my proprietary branding process, is that from the start, I’m building out customer archetypes. And I’m thinking about those people in terms of age, gender, geographic location, job title, level of education. But most importantly, I’m thinking about how they make decisions. Are they an emotional or analytical decision-maker? And then based on that I’m putting together marketing campaigns that are specifically tied with the right, and design and messaging strategies that make it more likely for that particular archetype to convert into a customer.
Steffen: How do you differentiate between whether for example, someone is emotional, or analytical? I mean, I would assume that it’s hard to just divide a huge audience into those two traits, for example, is it is that straightforward?
Angela: It’s, it’s pretty, I mean, when you’ve been doing it, for as long as I have, it’s pretty easy. I would say, think about that person’s motivation for why they purchase from you. Right? So for example, let’s say I’m targeting someone within a company, and their primary concern, is looking good in front of their boss and getting a promotion. Well, that’s a man, an emotional decision-maker, right. And so we are going to appeal to their emotion, and to create peace of mind and trust in the quality of the output of the product or service that they’re buying. But let’s say someone’s in procurement, and their primary job is to make sure they get the best price. Well, there’s no emotion there. It’s purely an analytical conversation. And that’s where you’re going to have charts and graphs and statistics and percentages, and you know, customer testimonials, but also like, ROI and you know, potential savings that you can position just for that audience.
So once you really think about people, and how they think it comes down to psychology, and if you can understand their behavior, then you can understand how to communicate with them. And it’s not for the purposes of manipulating because I only work with companies that are ethical, that do good work, that do take care of their clients, that deliver a good product or service. So it’s not about manipulation. It’s about translating. How do you use design and marketing to translate what that company does in a way that their ideal customer resonates with the message understands and accurately processes information, and then converts into revenue.
Steffen: How do you help marketing departments to prove that the investment that they fought so hard for to get out of that part actually generates an ROI, because, at the end of the day, the marketing department needs to work hand in hand with sales, right? Because they generate leads. And when they generate qualified leads, and they go into the sales part, then the outcome, the end outcome is a sale, both teams work towards maximizing sales not maximizing leads,
Angela: Right. So some of the work that I do when I’m working with clients is that I’ll work with them as a fractional chief marketing officer or fractional CMO. And when I do that, the first thing that I do is I, I analyze the existing marketing infrastructure within a company and I take a look at processes, systems, software, budgets, but I also really look at culture and communication. And what some of the work that I do when I’m working with marketing departments, is that we really take a look at the ego aspect of the marketing team, and their ability to receive and digest and translate feedback into action. So I start by going to the sales team and saying, Hey, we’re in this together, I understand that you may not be satisfied with how the marketing team is currently performing. Tell me everything that you don’t like, this isn’t about hurting my feelings. This isn’t about telling me what I want to hear. This is about my fully understanding what the problems are, so that I can work with the marketing team to fix them. And then I go to the marketing team, and they say, hey, it’s not marketing versus sales, it’s marketing and sales. And when they win, we win. So we need to take a step back and really be honest about what’s working or not working. So that we can analyze, we can refine, we can adjust, and we can deliver what they need. And then I set up weekly meetings between the marketing and sales team. So that sales can say, “Hey, those three leads you got from the webinar were awesome. But the leads that I got from downloading the case study, were horrible.” Okay, great. This isn’t about marketing didn’t do a good job. It’s about well, what can marketing learn? What can we analyze? How can we behave differently and then translate that into how we adjust what we’re doing?
Steffen: It’s about feedback, right? And it’s about communicating between the two teams, at the end of the day, they have to have the same outcome. At the end of the day, they’re working towards the same thing, which is the bottom line, they want to increase the bottom line.
Angela: Exactly. And if marketing’s really listening, and sales says, “Hey, I’m going after the construction industry, and I don’t have anything to target them.” Great. Do you need a datasheet? Do you need a case study? Do you need a white paper? How about an infographic? How about some statistics do you want me to pull some testimonials, I can put together a corporate pitch deck that’s industry-specific. What can marketing do to support you, and when you when you get marketing in the habit of communicating to sales in that way, then sales gets in the habit of providing better quality, more constructive feedback, because they know they’re being heard. And that marketing’s willing to adjust and adapt to help them achieve their goals. And if they know that you’re on their side, then they will happily communicate what’s working or not working, because they know that they’re part of a team.
Steffen: I agree. I agree. The marketing side sort of decided by the media usually is tracking most of the stuff they’re doing right. They’re tracking, you know, what’s the Ctr or the impressions, CTR to click, or where’s the CPC? What’s the overall performance? What’s the conversion rate to lead, etc. Where I quite often, you know, when working with b2b companies, where I quite often see challenges for organizations is that they don’t really look at conversion rates within the sales part of the funnel. So what’s the lead to MQL? What’s the MQL to SQL? What’s SQL to opportunity? And then obviously, opportunity to sale.
First of all, do you see a similar challenge? When when you work with company? And if so, how do you help companies look at those numbers? Because from my experience, again, I have seen that there is a multitude of reasons why there could be a fluctuation between those conversion rates on the sales part of the funnel. And they are sometimes not so clear if you don’t measure them properly.
Angela: Yeah, one, you’re only as good as the information that you get. So that’s the biggest challenge is that if you don’t have transparency, or insight, how do you get more data. And that’s why we implement different types of software to not only track behavior on the website, in a visual representation, but also record behavior on the website into many videos, and to do call tracking, to sit in now and then on different sales calls. Or to actually, you know, when we could go in person, go with the sales person on a sales call, and really listen and watch to see what they’re doing and what’s working or not working or possibly doing focus groups.
So for example, I had a client where I was helping them to position their brand, and they didn’t really know the best way to differentiate or why their customers bought from them. And so I ended up doing a mini focus group with some existing clients, and with some prospects who said no, and within an hour lunch, I was able to pull out all of the information I needed for eight different ways that this company excels and how to position them better. But you have to ask the questions in the right way from the right people in order to get the answers that you need.
Steffen: Well, Angela, thank you so much for joining me on The Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your knowledge on how to generate ROI for marketing. If people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?
Angela: Definitely visit our website at incitrio.com. We’ve got some great articles there on our blog, and you’re welcome to reach out and connect with me directly on LinkedIn.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, 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 @symphonicHQ. Thanks again and see you next time.