Let’s Play a Marketing Game: Heads You Win, Tails We Try Again
When you are starting a new business, designing a logo is not exactly the first thing you do—not unless you are a marketer.
When I started Marketing Impact in mid-April this year, I was in a bit of a helter-skelter for a few weeks. I had to buy a new domain, build a website, create the social media pages, and—of course—come up with a new logo for the marketing agency.
Since launching Marketing Impact, I have talked to at least a dozen agency owners to get their advice on how to grow the business. A common theme that stands out in all the useful advice I get is that new agencies should focus on getting clients instead of worrying about the nice-to-haves.
And yet, here I was—too eager to window-dress my business even before I had any sighting of a new client. It was a force of habit I couldn’t shake off. I would like to believe that I had good reasons to do it.
As a marketer, I believe that marketing a new business starts from day one. Getting a website up or brainstorming a new logo are as important business functions as reaching out to prospects.
Thankfully, I also had a few clients already in my pipeline from my recent freelancing gig. Looking back, it was the reason why I wasn’t desperate to find new ones when I decided to open my own shop.
I also wanted to signal my clients that I was no longer a lone wolf. I wanted them to know that I was expanding my one-person freelancing business to a full-scale agency so that they could keep me us on their radar if they needed help on the marketing front. I couldn’t have made that impression without having a website or a logo to show them.
In all honesty, I was eager to do all of those things as a first-time founder—although that’s an identity I’m yet to get used to. After all, imposter syndrome is a mean mistress who bruises your ego every time you try to make a bold move. But back to the topic, I certainly was a little carried away with the little joys of setting up a new business—and everything else that comes with it.
Do I have a flattering story on how I pulled off some great trick by prioritizing the marketing tasks ahead of other business initiatives? Far from it. If anything, Marketing Impact is still a largely one-man show—a glorified version of my one-person freelancing business.
But I have certainly learned a thing or two in the last three months which I think are worth ruminating and sharing. One of them is the story behind Marketing Impact’s brand new logo.
Stay till the end to enjoy the logo reveal party.
The Universe Conspires for Your Success
Cheesy, I know.
Marketing Impact is only a five-figure agency with a couple of table scraps in the name of projects. I am, however, blown by the amount of serendipity that followed when I made a LinkedIn post about launching the agency.
Right after I wrote that post—I received a flurry of DMs that led me to a few gigs, warm intros, and contracts.
One of my old clients reached out to me after seeing the post because she had moved to a senior role in a different company. Another client—an agency owner—emailed me to discuss the possibility of hiring my agency on a subcontract basis. Thanks to the LinkedIn post, I scheduled calls with three new potential clients who DMed me after seeing my posts. I converted one of them and signed a contract as a retainer.
I also had a few no-show clients who showed initial interest in what the agency had to offer but vanished entirely later.
Most interesting of all—at least two of my clients who I had worked with last year came back with new project offers, although they were oblivious about the launch of Marketing Impact.
I think the post made some noise because it was luck’s way of favoring the bold. Maybe writing it was a step in creating my new reality by projecting the possibilities of what lay ahead. Perhaps that’s why the idealism school of thought wants us to believe that whatever we set our intention to will manifest.
People Will Appreciate You
The beauty of social media is that you attract the right kind of people and repeal the ones who don’t like what you do.
When I made that post, like-minded people came out to voice their support for me even if some of them were not in a position to offer tangible help. Friends and well-wishers congratulated me, strangers reached out for possible partnerships, and third-degree connections wanted to know the services we offered.
I plan to live long enough to see Marketing Impact grow big enough to be recognized as “the best agency award” in its service niche. And why not—I’m already getting pitches from Silicon Valley award committees who nominated Marketing Impact for "50 Best Companies to Watch 2021."
When that happens, I will owe it to many friends and well-wishers for lending their support and believing in me when I was swimming in the sea of self-doubt. Until then, this is my moment in the sun to thank everyone who had nothing but nice things to say to me when I started Marketing Impact.
Here’s my chance to thank the people who came out to support me in my new endeavor.
My long-time bud and confidante Yaag for his unwavering support and making intros in his network.
Scott Marker for lending his ears and giving me invaluable advice on how and where to find my target market.
Rashi Shrivastav for designing the kickass logo and showing the eagerness to collaborate together.
@Sai Teja Natha for offering his honest marketing opinions on Facebook and Google.
The amazing Carson Spike for sharing valuable knowledge on PR and outreach.
David Turner and Joe Petite for giving me great advice on growing the agency while offering new gigs.
Zach Weismann for taking me in as a partner in MAG Collective and making important intros.
Dinesh Akuthota for sharing his knowledge as a former agency owner to avoid the pitfalls in the agency journey.
And the Twitter marketing bros—the ones who schedule tweets on Hypefury—for getting my blood pumping to do something exciting. The platitude accounts are mostly over-exaggerating. Nevertheless, their self-praising tweets are quite motivating when you are driven towards a goal.
It might look like I’m celebrating too early, but every small word of encouragement counts when you are daring greatly and aiming to do something you have never done in your life. The upshot of all these people coming to rally for you is that now I’m more accountable to grow the agency.
Your Mindset Shifts
Until 2019, my browser history would have told you that my top searches on Google were how to nail a job interview. Or if a certain company was hiring for a marketing position. That’s the extent of entrepreneurial exercise I was doing—not realizing the hedonistic treadmill I was running on.
Now, my Google searches—and the conversations I have with more knowledgeable people in my network—are very specific to growing Marketing Impact:
“How to grow a business?”
“How to find new customers?”
“How to hire people?”
“How to say no to this opportunity?”
“How to price this project?”
"How to follow up with a prospect after the fourth try?"
I realized this when I found myself juggling between too many things soon after the agency launch. I have zero experience as an agency owner or a business development expert. But sales and networking are a natural extension to entrepreneurship and you can’t afford to not do them.
After I switched to become a full-time freelancer in 2019, I used to take pride in going through the whole week without any meeting. Networking never came naturally to me and I still shy away from talking to people in person or virtually.
Now, I have anywhere between 4–6 calls scheduled every week because I’m trying to get more clients and outsource a few things that are beyond my bandwidth. I also have to force myself to treat my time as money and carve out time to study the tricks of the trade every day. All of this, on top of the usual personal chores and responsibilities of a family man.
I’m learning new things on the fly because being a new business owner apparently isn’t as easy as I thought. It’s like being pulled in all directions while trying to walk on a tightrope.
Our New Logo Reflects Our Take on Marketing
One thing I have learned in the past two years of my freelancing career is that it’s much easier to work with clients who understand the stakes involved in marketing. It’s the reason why I prefer to work with clients—preferably marketing teams—who either don’t have the internal bandwidth or need expert help on top of the things they are already doing.
I also work with clients from the non-marketing background—like solopreneurs and tech founders who are just starting out. But I don’t commit to a relationship unless I see compatibility—which usually boils down to a fair understanding of marketing.
That’s because marketing is a toss-up game—and that’s the message I wanted to bring out in Marketing Impact’s new logo.
Credit: Rashi Srivastav
Here’s a quick story about how I came up with the logo’s concept.
I spent a good part of the home quarantine (in April 2021) playing Ludo with my wife and daughter. Every day after lunch or every time we got bored, we would pull out our smartphones and sit for a round of Ludo King to break the monotony.
Then one day—a couple of days after the agency’s launch—it hit me. Just like Ludo, or any other game that involves luck, marketing is all about taking bets.
When I get on a call with a new prospect for the first time, I remind them that they are taking good bets by investing in marketing. I tell them, “We might exceed your expectations—but know that sometimes it goes north.”
In that sense, marketing is just like gambling. You don’t go to the casino thinking you will lose. You make small bets assuming you will win. The odds are not always in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you should not play. If anything—you should keep playing.
It’s like the maxim that says—assume success, but prepare for failure.
When I am onboarding a new client, I always insist they first hire us for a test project to see if there’s a match. It’s a win-win arrangement because it allows the clients to back out of the project if they don’t like our work. It also shows the confidence in the quality of work we do and most clients end up extending the project after the trial run.
But some clients expect to see early wins with marketing. That’s not how things work. Such clients—mostly from the non-marketing background—look at marketing as if it were a vending machine. They put a few Benjamins into the machine and expect the results to pop out like a bag of Lay’s.
Little do they know that marketing is like playing slot machines. Your odds of winning are 1 in 5000.
Many business owners know this in the back of their heads, which is why they refuse to take any bets at all. They hesitate to invest in marketing because they think—what’s the point of playing a game that’s set up for failure? That’s a comfortable bubble to be in, but it eventually wears out.
When you market your product and services, there is a good chance it will fail or won’t give you the results you expect. But not marketing your services is even more dangerous because now it’s GUARANTEED that you won’t get any results.
The risk of not getting new clients and not growing your business is worse than not investing in marketing at all.
This brings me to the final point about having a long-term strategy. Strategy is a big part of the marketing process. Having a good strategy means you will overlook the first few losses—because they teach you what doesn’t work.
You have to let a strategy marinade for some time while testing all the possibilities. If you follow and stick to it for long enough—it will reward you handsomely. Just one round of win will give you back your investment and then some.
But what if it indeed doesn’t work? Well, change it. Just like how you can’t control the outcome of a game in a casino, you can’t do much about a failed strategy except for learning from it. What you can control is your response to it.
And that’s another thing about marketing—most teams get overly attached to their plans and strategy. Just like how a compulsive gambler is in constant denial of his/her losses, many marketers think that it’s just a matter of time before they will hit the jackpot.
Honestly, the trickiest part of marketing is to know when to change your tack. Testing your campaigns is an objective way to detach yourself from your emotional biases. The data will tell you if your ship is heading in the direction of an iceberg or a treasure island.
Personally, I believe you should change your plans if you are not hitting your baseline targets for more than 2–3 months.
Educating the benefits of marketing to your clients is as much a part of your job as a marketer as marketing itself. And I wish all the marketers had the time and patience to do that. When resources are scarce—it’s better to let go of those opportunities than getting into a thankless relationship.
A good rule of thumb to partner with clients who don’t have marketing know-how is to ask them to be open-minded and patient about the entire process. They should trust the process and know that luck and randomness play a huge role in marketing—and gambling.
Here’s a universal example to drive this point home. Suppose you have a marketing strategy in place and you start pushing out good content for weeks and months—but nothing happens. One fine day, suddenly a content piece that you didn’t expect much from takes off wild and starts bringing traffic to all other pages buried in your website.
This is a topic that I enjoyed discussing with @Riley Haas during our Lunchclub meeting a couple of months back. Frankly, that’s how content marketing mostly works—unless you already have a good audience following and a great distribution plan to boot.
And still, platform algorithms are a big part of the marketing game. Over the recent years, I have come to realize that SEO is a fun game that no one can master. It's worth building an email list rather than playing whack-a-mole with an algorithm update that changes every other full moon day.
Deep thinkers like Naval Ravikant and David Perell have been warning us against leaning too much on Twitter and LinkedIn to grow our audience also because these platforms are notorious for pulling the plug on your distribution strategy.
Just look at how some social media platforms like Twitter suspended Jack Butcher and deplatformed Parler—for example.
In one fell sweep–the FAANG mafia club can take it all away from you.
If you are smart about it, your brand will build an email list that will keep you relatively safe from a black swan event. But again, what about the increasing clampdown on data privacy laws like GDPR and Apple iOS that stop marketers from tracking user behavior and make it extremely difficult to expand their reach?
And what about whimsical updates from Google—the most sought-after distribution platform for a majority of brands? Again, all of this is parallel to gambling in a casino because—no matter what, the house always wins.
At the end of the day, you can only do things that are in your control. And producing good marketing content and helping your customers solve their real-life problems are two things that will put you in front of your customers no matter what.
The bottom line, when you mix your bets with a good strategy—your marketing will be on fire.
Wanna Roll the Dice with Us?
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