How to Win Virtual Pitches with Alex Price
The global pandemic has forced a lot of businesses to change their processes and practices. One major drawback of not being able to meet in person is when we pitch new clients or customers, it has to be done digitally. That is a big change from being in the same room as you and your potential clients. Luckily Alex Price, owner of the 93digital WordPress agency, has some great tips for us.
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Joe: Hey, everybody, and welcome to Episode 203 of How I built It. Today’s sponsors are Outgrow, TextExpander and Restrict Content Pro. You’ll hear about them later in the show. Right now I want to bring on my guest. His name is Alex Price. He is the founder and managing director over at 93digital. We’re going to be talking about building a business process to pitch and virtual pitching and a whole bunch of things I need to be better about. Alex, how are you today?
Alex: I’m awesome, Joe. Thank you. Thanks for having me. I’m looking forward to talking.
Joe: My pleasure. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Obviously, this has become a bigger thing in the last year or so with events being canceled. That’s genuinely been my biggest lead generator is I go to conferences, I meet people, I speak, and I network that way. My networking has suffered a little bit. This podcast has certainly helped keep it going. So you reached out to be on the show and you mentioned virtual pitching, and I was all about it. So I’m excited to talk about that. But before we do, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Alex: Yeah, of course. As you said, I’m Alex Price. I’m the founder and MD of 93digital. We are an enterprise WordPress agency based here in London and in UK. We specialize in delivering UX centric design development projects built on WordPress. So we tend to take projects through from start to finish or the kind of discovery definition strategy type work into the UX design development, or the project management. So kind of end to end delivery of WordPress-based projects. And for a bit of a mix of clients.
But we actually have a few sectors and verticals that we specialize in working with. The biggest one for us is probably the b2b technology space. So a lot of b2b tech software SaaS type companies is one of the main verticals that we work with. Actually, I think, when we dive into building new business processes a bit more, I’m really big on that vertical industry specialization as being a really key thing, I think, for agencies and freelancers to get right. So really good to be great at WordPress in itself, and then there’s kind of that extra magic layer that I think sometimes you need on top, which is, you know, we’ve been there and we’ve done it before for clients just like you, which I think can be pretty powerful.
We’re a team of about 25 based in London, obviously, all working remotely at the moment. With everything that’s still going on, our office is closed, but spread across the usual roles of UX design, project managers, developers, digital strategy, some SEO, and that kind of thing. And yeah, the agency has been going for six, seven years.
So grew out of myself freelancing initially. I was kind of a really average developer and average designer and pretty much average of everything. But I did a bit of SEO as well as. I was kind of like this generalist digital marketer, designer, developer, which I think actually has allowed me to grow an agency quite well, because it’s been quite easy to replace myself out of some of those roles. The first developer wasn’t hired because they were probably going to be better than me. So it was particularly challenging. And so yeah, that’s kind of the story in a nutshell. But hopefully, that gives some context to listeners.
Joe: Yeah, for sure. I mean, that’s so important. I’m like this, I imagine a lot of people in the WordPress space are like this is we have the, excuse me, we have the development skill but we’re not particularly good at running a business. We’re good at the development part. I’ve for a long time took the Field of Dreams approach, if you’re familiar with that movie. Like, if you build it, they will come. That’s not really the case. It takes good business chops.
I know that you’re a WordPress agency. As we record this, there is some timely news that I’d like to talk about in the members-only show which is automatic getting into the web design game. Everybody in the WordPress space has an opinion about that I’m sure. So if you are not signed up for the Creator Crew over at buildsomething.club, go ahead and do that, and you can catch Alex and my conversation about that.
But I love what you said about being in different sectors and verticals. I know a lot of my web design business when I was doing that primarily came through word of mouth. I read a book recently called ”Get Rich in the Deep End” by Brent Weaver, which talks about how just terrible word of mouth only business is, because once people stop talking about you and you don’t have a pipeline, that’s not scalable. So you talking about different verticals is fantastic.
On that same note, I suspect that word of mouth is probably tough in the b2b tech space, because I assume a lot of SaaS companies aren’t telling their competitors who built their website is my guess. Is that a fair assessment?
Alex: Yeah, I think that’s pretty fair. It’s interesting. There’s so many agency gurus out there, agency consultants, and agency growth consultants, and everyone’s got a different perspective on how much of your opportunities, your revenue, your leads, whatever you want to call them should come from different things: word of mouth, referral events, inbound digital.
We’ve always been very inbound lead. Our clients have pretty much all come to us and converted through our website pretty much. And that’s been the case kind of from the beginning. When I talk to a lot of agencies, I’m always surprised at how maybe back to front we’ve been on that front. I think a lot of agencies are born out of someone that’s founded agencies worked in a business they’ve left and the business that they’ve been working at, it’s their first customer and then friends that are working.
I started my agency when I was 21. In fact, when I just dropped out of university. I didn’t really have a network. I didn’t have any…one of my friends was still at university. I didn’t really have anyone where I could kind of tap into. My network was pretty much zero, and my experience. So for me, it was kind of just normal to build a website, think about SEO. We quite quickly kind of found ourselves at the top of Google for things relating to WordPress web design. And it works.
I think in the b2b space, we’re a b2b business still, people often think that inbound and SEO are too difficult or not relevant. But there are a lot of people in big businesses and big b2b tech companies who know they need to deliver a new website, and the first thing they do is they sit down in front of Google and they look for whatever they’re looking for, whether that’s CMS specific or not. So some clients coming to us looking for an agency that’s specialist in b2b tech software, SaaS, and we’ve got a landing page optimized on our site just for that, sometimes come into us looking for a WordPress agency first and foremost, and then they discover we’ve got the industry specialism too. So whichever route.
And I think it’s all just about understanding that buyer journey of your potential clients. Like how do they research and find what they’re looking for, ultimately? So yeah, we’ve always been pretty inbound. We now do some of our own events and word of mouth is kind of gathered with time. There’s a few other things that we do and that we run.
We’ve got a podcast too focused on b2b type marketing and all the usual things you would expect. But we’ve never gone out knocking on doors or asking for referrals or doing any kind of outbound cold email type stuff. Everything has kind of come to us over the years.
Joe: That’s fantastic. So you dropped out of university and started your agency at 21. I was a student freelancer most of high school and college.
Joe: Yeah, it was great. It was just like, “People want to pay me to build websites. I have no money, so this is amazing.” What made you drop out to start a business? Because I went all the way through and I got my masters and I was like, “School will give me more time.” But you kind of went the opposite direction. And now you’re running, by most accounts, a very successful agency.
Alex: It’s a weird one. I think from a young age, I’ve always had this real drive for independence. I can’t explain why. I’m sure there’s some deep-rooted childhood issue that a psychologist would discover in me.
Joe: We’d have the same one then.
Alex: But I think I always had this striving ambition to be able to support myself, whatever it is, not to be dependent on even my parents for any kind of financial support, whatever. I think part of that was also that my dad has always worked for himself. And so for me growing up in a family where my dad was self-employed was actually way more normal than getting a job. The idea of going to university and filling our CV and then applying to places was actually…that sounds crazy. It was actually more alien to me than freelancing or working for myself.
Looking back on it now, it was weird, but at the time, it was like that was just normal life. That was almost the route I was gonna follow to some extent. And weirdly, I have a twin brother who’s gone on a very corporate route. So maybe that’s not…I mean, he works actually for Boeing in the aviation space.
Joe: Oh, wow.
Alex: He did engineering at university and stuff and followed a very different route. So yeah, I can’t explain it fully. I kind of say to people I think if I had stuck at university and had the patience to keep studying, I’d probably end up being a doctor or an architect, or I’ve got one of those brains that loves both the creative and the technical side of things in life in general and a strong appreciation for both. But I was just raring to go. I wanted to make some pocket money, basically.
I think I had an argument with my mom who was like, “If you want to go to up to London and see some friends, you need to help me clean the windows” or something stupid like that. And I was like stroppy 15, 16 year old, I was like, “I don’t need to clean any windows. I can support myself.” And I literally signed up for accounts on like… At the time, it was Elance, which I think now is Upwork and People Per Hour and Freelancer job sites. Codable didn’t exist back then. Codable is a freelance WordPress developer job site now. I just started doing bits of work.
I literally started at the very bottom of the ladder. It was like, £7 pounds an hour or 10 bucks an hour doing tiny changes to websites. I’ve kind of stopped on every rung on the ladder on the way up. So we’ve gone from £7 an hour to £200 projects to £2,000 projects, £100,000 projects, and everything in between. I think that’s also been really good for me to experience and to see and to work with every type of client that’s out there, from huge enterprise down to a one-man business.
So yeah, it’s been quite a journey, but not one that I…I did one year of university and I loved the experience, but I just got to the point where I was turning down work and I felt like I had to give it a shot and I had to go in on growing the agency.
Joe: Wow. That’s amazing. Again, I’m similar in that we kind of started young. It sounds like you’re maybe a little bit younger than me. I’m 35, and I started, again, in high school. There weren’t these websites. There was just businesses who needed websites. And they were my friend’s parents and my friend’s parents’ connections. So that’s how I got started.
My dad didn’t go to college. He worked at Verizon for his whole life until he retired, basically. You know, once he was like 18 or whatever. And he discouraged me from starting a business because he took the pension/401k job security route. That said, when I did strike out on my own, even with a wife and kid full time, he was supportive and gave me my first seed money and whatever.
Alex: That’s awesome. I always think like if I tried to do this at a later stage…I turned 28 on the weekend.
Joe: Happy Birthday.
Alex: Thank you very much. I’m at a stage where I have a girlfriend, but that’s pretty much it. And like in terms of dependencies, kids, I have been fortunate to be able to buy a flat and have a small mortgage and stuff. But I’m relatively kind of independent. I always think to myself like if I got to 35, 40 years old having spent my whole career working in corporate, and then tried to take that jump, I think that would be really tough. I don’t even know whether I would have that in me.
I think being able to basically start in my bedroom at 16, 17 years old and just go very slowly, have no expenses, be living at home, be living at university, that was a very easy, gentle way of easing into what can be quite a weird way of life. [unintelligible 00:14:12] anyone, it can be tough. So I have a lot of respect for anyone that goes down that route. I think to some extent we’re leaving more so when they move away from the safety of something that they’ve got, as you say, the 401k and the job security that comes with corporate life.
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Joe: I promise we’ll get into virtual pitching soon. But I think this is important because we have similar paths in that we’re both self-employed, but we had very different approaches. And I was definitely self-employed right after grad school, basically until I was about 26. And I realized I needed health insurance, which is much harder for self-employed folks to have here in the United States.
Then after I got married, I just was generally unhappy in my secure job. Agency life can be demanding depending on the kind of work you’re doing. My first kid, my daughter was born and my wife was super supportive. And also my wife is employed as a nurse, so she had health insurance. So I mean, there’s a lot of things to think about depending on where you live. But having that support system was incredible for me, both my parents and my wife, of course. So yeah, anyway. All right.
So that was the fun, sappy segment. Let’s talk about pitching. Because you also said something else in there, which was most of your leads come from your website and that people Google and they come to optimize landing pages. So the first question I want to ask you is, you called yourself a WordPress agency. I have generally argued that most clients, at least most freelance small business clients don’t even know what WordPress is or don’t genuinely care about the platform. It’s a little bit different on the enterprise side, because maybe you have people doing research and understanding what works into their bigger picture. Do you find a lot of your clients ask for WordPress?
Alex: Yes. Our tagline is literally The London WordPress Agency. It means that there are very few things which aren’t already decided on WordPress. So even if it is a big enterprise client, some of them might be considering a few different things. Like every now and then we’ll get an RFP or a brief that comes in that’s, you know, “We’re considering open source CMS generally with Drupal, or WordPress.” Or they might be looking at Kentico, or some kind of .Net, or other type platform. So some of them are quite open but serious about at least considering WordPress.
Other than that, I’d say, I don’t track it, but over 90% of what comes our way has already decided on WordPress. I think that’s our positioning. It would be almost strange if someone got in touch and didn’t realize that we were so focused on WordPress. So that kind of helps.
I guess you could argue that what are we missing out on higher up the funnel, like other opportunities we’re missing who need persuading that WordPress is the best CMS for them? And my response to that is right now we’re busy enough and growing fast enough with people that already know they want to use WordPress and don’t need persuading the benefits. Why do I want to work two, three times as hard to win an opportunity, trying to persuade them that WordPress is better than Drupal and, you know, usual debates that can be had when plenty of stuff comes our way that is already decided.
I think the pool of businesses that know they want to use WordPress is large enough for that to be a lot of opportunities out there. Even more so if you begin to specialize and delivering WordPress for a certain type of business.
I don’t really believe that generalist WordPress agency is really a thing. I think when you dig into it, there’s always more to it. And yeah, WordPress agency might be the tagline or the h1 on the homepage. But quite quickly, if you look under the hood of any agency, you’ve got some agencies which are super technical, right? Like they’re recognized more for their development and engineering scale. They might not even have a design team. They’re working with product people and CTOs, and it’s all about development.
You’ve got some agencies which are all about the creative and they’re more brand-led, and you could argue that their engineering development skills are not as strong. You’ve got some agencies, which I think we are, which is more kind of marketing focused, at least in terms of outlook. Like I view what we do as delivering marketing results, ultimately. And WordPress is just a way of getting there. Every single person that gets in touch with us is a marketer, VP of marketing, CMO, digital marketing manager. Every single email signature has one of those job titles in it.
So when you zoom out, you are like, hang on, yeah, we’re a WordPress agency, but what are we doing? We’re delivering marketing outcomes for our clients. So I think any WordPress developer or agency needs to think about: where are we best suited to working? Who are the type of clients we’re regularly working with? Where are our case studies strongest?
Because I think when you can elevate the conversation from just “we’re really good at WordPress” to “we’re really good at WordPress for businesses like you and is the evidence to back it up and here are the case studies, and we understand your pain points, and we understand, in our case, the b2b technology buying process, and we build websites that support that process,” you move up from discussions about widgets and features and functionality which are important, but you have a business lead conversation that talks about increasing conversions and increasing lead generation and improving organic search visibility and the things that marketers report on back to their line managers and back to their SEO even.
So, yeah, there’s a lot of different ways of kind of slicing things up. But I don’t think that WordPress agency in itself is really an accurate description for any agency really. Which might be a controversial perspective, but hopefully it makes sense.
Joe: Yeah. I think it’s a good one to have. I mean, because what you mentioned, it kind of reminds me of, like, you go to a restaurant, and you can go to a restaurant and you can order a steak anywhere. But the steak that you get at Applebee’s is not going to be as good as the steak that you get from like Ruth’s Chris or some well known steak joint. And further, they’re not going to tell you the ingredients for how they made their steak. They’re going to be like, “It tastes wonderful. It’s gonna make you full. It’s gonna pay really nicely with your favorite wine.” Those are the things that people care about. They don’t care like, “Oh, yeah, we’re gonna use React.JS to build this block specifically. Developers care about that.
Alex: Yeah, yeah. That is hugely different discussions, different processes. I think that’s the thing. Like some WordPress agencies, they are talking about React to their client. But when I think about agencies like human made, for example, you may have come across, they’re engineering-focused but they solve some really big technical challenges at scale for the publishers.
They might be working with marketers some of the time, but I imagine they’re working with product owners and CTOs and people that care about quality of the React code and stuff. And I’m not saying our clients don’t. But as you point out, they really don’t even know what it means let alone understand why it’s important or the difference between these things.
Joe: Yeah, exactly. I’ve said the same thing to plugin developers. I look at a plugins website and they’re trying to sell plugins, and they’re like, “Built 100%, with React or whatever.” And I’m like, “Are you trying to sell this to other developers?” Because if you’re trying to sell it to regular WordPress users, they don’t know what that means. Tell them the problem it solves.”
Joe: So we’re talking about who you’re talking to. You mentioned positioning. Specifically, I think a lot of WordPress, freelancers, small businesses are afraid to niche down because they think they’re going to exclude people. But what you said is maybe not the opposite, but it’ll have the opposite effect, because you’re telling a specific group of people, “I can solve your problem.”
Alex: Hundred percent. I completely agree. And it took me a while to get comfortable with this, because it feels like completely the wrong thing to do. When you’re an entrepreneur working for yourself, trying to grow a business, you want the pool of people that you work with naturally to be as wide as possible. So narrowing that down so it’s super focused feels completely alien. It feels like a crazy thing to do.
But when you then realize that your conversion rates and the way in which what you do lands with the people you’re talking to so much more effectively, and the cost of the projects, the budgets that you can work with goes up so dramatically with that as well. That having a small percentage of the market, which is still thousands of businesses, like I would challenge any agency freelancer, whatever to pick an industry, pick a location and narrow that down and then narrow it down a bit further and then narrow it down based on size of company based on headcount, or you know, there’s all these tools out there where you can shortlist companies.
No matter how deep you go, you’re going to end up with a company list in the hundreds minimum. I’d feel a lot more comfortable creating all of my blog content, my website, my messaging, my outreach, my…Suddenly once you’ve done that, everything falls into place behind me. You know exactly which events to show up to, you know exactly which podcasts to listen to, which webinars to watch or attend. Your messaging and your outreach just feels so much more on point when you get in touch with these people.
I can’t even explain how much stuff just falls into place when you take that approach, versus sitting down in front of a computer and going, “Okay, so we worked with a charity before, we’ve worked with a lawyer, accountant.” I remember this feeling of just being completely lost. It’s like, “How do I grow this business when I could work with anyone, anywhere?” And it’s an impossible question to answer. So, yeah, it pains me when I see so many small agency websites who are four people, and on the homepage it says…not even WordPress agency. I should say WordPress agency is a step in the right direction.
It’s even worse when it’s full service agency and then they list every service under the sun. And then you go on their team page and it’s like four of them and there’s a profile photo of their dog as well to try and make it five. And you’re like, “You can’t be a full service agency with that many people. It’s just impossible.”
To back this up, when I try and explain this to other agencies or people that I’m talking to, I can tell you now any big agency and I’ll be able to dig into their history and go back to when they first started. There were 10 people, there were 20 people. And I guarantee you nearly always unless they were born out of some huge company and had huge amounts of investment to begin with, their roots will be super, super niche, or niche as you guys say in the US.
There’s one agency here in the UK that sold for like 50 million a couple of years ago, full service digital agency, BMW, you know, every big brand you can imagine on their client roster. And when they started, all they did was content marketing for sports clubs. Like they ran Manchester United’s magazine. How do you go from running a sports magazine to a full service global agency worth 50 million. You do it by building great relationships, by doing great work, by cleverly kind of extending your service offering and pivoting. But you do that over years gradually through acquisitions. And they did acquire some other agencies.
So, nobody wakes up full service agency on day one with a team of three people and can deliver everything. And marketers or whoever your persona is, can see through that. They’ll go on your website, and they’ll say, “God, you do everything and you’re three of you. We need specialists.” And that’s the marketing world at least for us now is working with specialists is more important than ever.
Joe: Yeah, that’s exactly right. And it’s both sides of the coin too. Because if you are offering WordPress and Joomla, and React, and PHP, and everything, that’s more work for you. Because now you have to learn and relearn all these technologies. You work with different clients, which means you have to learn and relearn different businesses.
If you make lawyer websites, you understand what lawyer websites need. But on the other side of the coin, if I want, again, with the restaurant stuff…I just ate lunch. I don’t know why I’m talking about food. But if I want sushi, I’m not going to a burger joint that says they serve sushi. I’m going to be highly suspect of a burger joint that also serves sushi.
Alex: Hundred percent. Actually, when you talk about those efficiencies, this is the biggest saving in efficiency is in the new business space. It is in kind of what we’re talking about and around in terms of the new business process because that is the area in which I think every agency struggles to scale efficiently the most. Like we have tons of proposals to respond to at the moment and we started the new year, it brings in lots of briefs and opportunities, which is exciting.
If I was trying to do proposals for a publisher, and then a charity, and then a tech company, and then a lawyer, that is so much work to try and make that proposal personalized, relevant to the industry demonstrating experience. Whereas if you’ve just got your few sectors that you work with, and we do have a few others beyond b2b tech, and that’s the one we actively focus on, we can deliver almost like 100 slide presentation decks which feel super relevant to the client in kind of 40 hours of work with the deck being maybe like anywhere from 60 to 80% ready to go because we know that those clients are going to come to us with very similar list of requirements, pain points, challenges, and objectives.
Joe: Yeah, testimonials from similar businesses.
Alex: Everything, case studies… Like you can just go on and on it’s ready to go. So that’s why it’s changed the game I think the most for us is the new business process side of things and being able to scale that.
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Joe: All of this talk might have seemed irrelevant to virtual pitching, but it’s all so integral to it because you are building your pitch by niching down. So you should niche to build your pitch. There we go. There’s the tagline for this episode. So let’s get into the title question here. How did you build your virtual pitching process? Because, again, like I said at the top of the show, networking, in-person event is a little bit easier for me. You said most of your leads come through your website. I assume most of your pitches or all of your pitches are now via Zoom or some video conferencing?
Alex: Yeah, definitely. I think new businesses, you’ve probably heard from everything I’ve just said, it’s been definitely a journey of exploration. It’s still improving. Even today I had a call with some of the team about how we can get them more involved in the new business process. So it’s a constant evolution. I’d say that there’s lots of steps to the new business process. We can cover up all the stuff that happens first in terms of making sure that your qualifications are really strong. So I guess this is just pre-pitch.
But I think one of the areas which we used to lose the most amount of time on was just getting really excited when an opportunity came our way and then actually discovering that, you know, we would just meet in the room. And sometimes the expression we use in terms of procurement have picked their…the clients pick the agency they want to work with, but procurement have said, “No, you need to get three quotes.” And client is wasting some agency time. They don’t want to but they have to.
So we ask questions, like, “You know, how many agencies are you inviting to pitch? Do you have a past working relationship with any of those agencies? Do you and any of the stakeholders have a relationship with any of those agencies?” We validate budgets and we look at cultural fit to some extent where we can. Like do we feel like we can have a good working relationship? Are they looking for a partner rather than just a supplier or a vendor? What’s the working relationship gonna be like once it’s underway? So there’s a lot of things that we do there to make sure that before we invest the time, which can be still considerable amounts of time preparing proposals and pitches and stuff, we make sure that we’re focusing on the right things.
But yeah, the pitch itself is, as you said, since March, everything’s been pretty much virtual. We’re lucky that I guess even before that, we’ve worked with clients all over the world, so we’ve done some virtual pitches, and not everything was always in London in the room. So we had a bit of experience of it. But I think there’s a lot of things that you can think about, both in the run up to a virtual pitch and during and after to get things right and to kind of provide a great experience.
That planning process is pretty key. And I’ve got a few different monitors, and I am using an external mic and headphones and some decent kind of audiovisual equipment. My background isn’t the most pretty today. But I think sometimes putting some thought into that. You know, these are basic things. We used to be able to bring clients into a cool, nice central London office, and we can’t do that anymore. So we have to try and get a bit of the feel of us across virtually, which is not always easy to do.
Joe: I actually want to stop there for a minute. First of all, I liked what you said about the pre-pitch, right, weeding out tire kickers, essentially or people who are just trying to fill a quota. But this is something that a lot of people probably don’t think of. They’re more concerned with putting the pitch deck together, and setting up the meeting, and talking to the client. But framing your shot, looking and sounding professional. I just wrote an article about this for GiveWP, where you got to put your best foot forward in every aspect of what you’re doing.
I’ve met with people, potential clients, and without fail, they’ve always commented on how good my picture looks. I have a 4k camera. I don’t think you need a 4k camera. But I’m a YouTuber so I have that benefit. And it always garners a compliment, and it makes me look just a little bit more professional.
Alex: I think it’s hugely important. I think to some extent, we could argue that the formalities of these kind of business discussions have reduced with COVID. I’ve been on calls where we’ve had animals and cats and dogs and kids, and we’re in people’s living rooms, in people’s bedrooms even. That’s pretty personal. So I think fortunately, that’s become a bit easier. Maybe people are a bit more relaxed in general about that kind of thing. But I still think first impressions matter. It’s a cliche but it’s true. So yeah, I think it’s framing the shot, thinking about equipment that you’re using. There’s so many things that you can do to get that right. And they are small details but important to think about.
I think also the delivery of how you deliver the pitch is pretty key. It’s a small thing, but certain. Like if you use Google Meet versus Zoom versus Microsoft Teams, whatever, they will display like people’s video when you’re sharing your screen slightly differently. I like to be able to see people’s faces, for example, so that when I’m going through the pitch…when you’re in a room with someone, you can see if someone’s got a question or body language, whatever. If you’ve only got one monitor and you share your screen, and suddenly everybody else is out of sight, it feels like you’re talking to yourself, you’re kind of on your own at a certain point.
Zoom actually has an overlay so you can still see little faces on top of the screen that you’re sharing. But I tend to have either a couple of screens. I’ve also got an iPad on a stand that I can have my deck on the background. Because another challenge is that if I was going into a client’s office, I might be able to have my notes on my laptop screen, but then the presentation on a separate screen. Whereas when you’re sharing your screen, you don’t have your notes anymore, you don’t have any…your one screen is your one screen, and that’s what the client sees. So there’s all these small things which can throw you off course.
I think fortunately now I tend to pitch without using notes. I kind of just used a lot of the decks and the things that we talked through. But you can get caught off there. I think one of the horror stories I heard was someone sharing their screen and then I think trying to chat with a team through Zoom during the pitch, and accidentally messaging everybody… You know how you can message one person or everyone and they shared a message about the client or something? So not great.
Joe: That’s actually another good thing to think about. If you have a team of people, you’re gonna have backchannel talk. Don’t make the backchannel talk in whatever you’re meeting on. If you’re meeting on Zoom, backchannel with Slack…
Alex: Or WhatsApp or phone or something separate. Ideally, keep it off your screen even. Because even Slack can pop up with a notification. That’s another good tip. Make sure you share ideally just your… I use Google Slides for all of our pitch deck. So share just the browser window, not the whole desktop because then if something does slide in, if your mum gives you a phone call to say hi in the middle of the pitch and doesn’t say, “Mom” with a heart sign in the top right of the screen. All those kinds of embarrassing things that can happen. So, yeah, pretty important to think about.
Joe: If you’re a Mac user, there’s a great app. I think it’s called Pliim. I’ll link to it in the show notes over at howibuilt.it/203. But it’s just you turn it on and it kills your notifications, it changes your background, it hide your icons, and it hides most of the apps, except for the ones you’re actively using. So stuff like that.
So this is interesting because I didn’t think this is where this conversation was going to go. Maybe in the member show we could talk gear real quick, too. But this is all really important stuff, right? I’m going to ask you about tips for listeners, too. I’ll give you an opportunity to kind of wrap up your virtual pitch ideas. But so far, we’ve talked about your messaging and positioning needs to be important to generate leads. And then when you deliver the pitch, put your best foot forward, look as best as you can, and be as professional as you can while not being in the room. And those small details always come through. Whether the client realizes it or not, those small details will leave a better impression in their mind.
Alex: Definitely, yeah, 100%. And I think there are some of our pitches we have some of my team joining to talk through certain parts of the deck. Again, another small thing, which is client experience is like, are you going to switch over mid midway through? Say, like, “Okay, so and so is going to take over the presentation now, and they’re going to share their screen.” Or are they going to say, “Next slide, please,” which is less jarring if someone keep saying, “Next slide” and someone’s moving there. All these small things they do matter. I think if you can show that you’ve thought these things through and that you’ve got some polish there, then it can go a long way.
I’m a big fan of recording pitches, too. I think one of the big benefits of virtual pitching is that you can record the pitch in a way that in a lot of cases you weren’t able to do before. I think that’s interesting because sometimes stakeholders that are on the pitch are not actually the final decision makers a lot of the time, or at least they need to take things back to the rest of the business to say, “This is the agency we want to work with and this is why.” And that can be hard.
So recording a pitch is almost like the ultimate piece of internal sales enablement collateral because you can send them to a link and they can go send their CMO an email, a CEO, or whoever, and go, “We want to work with this agency. Here’s a recording of that pitch if you want to check it out.” Job done in a way that you couldn’t do a lot of the time before.
Joe: That’s fantastic. And you know like with Zoom, or I do a lot of stuff on Ecamm Live, you can cue up a video. So you can switch from you talking to the client. All right. “We’re gonna switch to our pitch now. We’ll take questions after the pitch.” And then just switch to the video. And then kind of talk internally with your team. And once it’s over, reconvene. That’s so great. I love that. Awesome.
We are coming up on time here. Man, we went deep on a lot of things. I like it. Let’s say we’ve convinced the listeners, “okay, I need to be better about virtual pitching, I need to be better about not just relying on word of mouth.” What are a couple of tips for listeners that you would recommend?
Alex: I would say invest in process. I have a strong view that agencies are naturally, intrinsically unscalable businesses. Like to scale an agency is going against a lot of the forces of nature that are people-intensive. And the more people you throw into any mix, the more cross wires confusion there is. If you’re scaling a SaaS business, you can have 10 developers serving 1,000 customers and 12 developers serving 100,000 customers. Like there are these efficiencies that it unlock. Agencies don’t do that.
For every, I don’t know, $5,000 of revenue you want to do, you probably need another human being on the team. And so everything for me around growth is about process, like templating things, investing in checklists, all of that stuff. Which you don’t want to stop people from thinking and engaging their own. You don’t want to stop them from using their own brains to make decisions. That’s important. But you want to find this balance where there’s enough structure and framework for people to move things forwards in a way that’s going to deliver quality and a certain degree of scale.
So, for me, new business is one of those areas. You need to treat new business and pitching and everything related to it like you would treat any other part of an agency, development processes, design processes, project management processes. New business shouldn’t really be any different. So I think investing in the process side of things is probably my big takeaway on the pitching side of things.
Joe: I like that. That’s really important, right? Because you need to document. It’ll make onboarding new employees easier, too
Alex: Exactly. Exactly.
Joe: I think that’s really important. I think that’s as explicit as you need to get. Everybody is gonna have a different process. I will link to Shannon Shaffer’s episode from last year. She talks a bit about her process specifically. But it’s going to be different for everybody. And I’m learning that. I just brought on a virtual assistant.
Joe: So I’m trying to create better processes with her. I have a podcast team that I’ve created a process with that makes this whole thing very efficient for me. So I think that’s really great. As we wrap up here, I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Alex: It’s a good question. I was gonna say that I feel like we’ve kind of covered this to some extent, but I’ll double down on it, which is just that I think specialization beats everything when you’re an agency. So I just think proposition and service offering specialization is just key to absolutely everything. I think it always makes me a little bit sad when I see so many agencies that have great people, great talent, great skills, but they just can’t talk about it. They haven’t wrapped it up in the right way. Their website is poor, marketing message is poor. I think the key to agency growth is really, really nailing that down.
Obviously, you need to have strong delivery and all the other things that matter underneath it. But that first impression of this is what this agency does and they are really good at it as is what it all comes down to for me.
Joe: I think that’s great. I’ll add my own little trade secret here, which is if you are working with b2b tech or anybody who has considerable competitors, if you land one of those people, their competitors will want the same thing. And they’ll probably seek you out to do that as well. So awesome. Alex, this has been fantastic.
Again, we are going to talk about two fun things in the members-only show that’s automatic getting into web design, and maybe a little bit of some of the hardware that you’re using to manage these things. But before we do that and sign off, where can people find you?
Alex: I’m on LinkedIn, Alex Price. If you type in my name, I’m sure it will come up with the link to 93digital. Twitter, I’m at Alex Price, which you can link to because it’s a weird username. But I think @alxprce—missing a few letters. Or feel free to drop me an email. If you’d like, it’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. I always like connecting with other developers and freelancers and agencies and stuff. So, always good to talk with others in that community.
Joe: Awesome. I will link to all of that and more in the show notes, again, over at howibuilt.it/203. Alex, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
Alex: Thanks for having me.
Joe: And thanks so much to our sponsors: Outgrow, Restrict Content Pro, and TextExpander. Thank you for listening. And until next time, get out there and build something.
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