How to grow a seven figure digital agency

How To Grow 7 Figure Agency In 1 Year – Interview with Monique Rice

Stuart Trier Interview, Marketing Strategy, Sales Techniques Leave a Comment

Stuart Trier: Hey guys welcome to SEO Cheat Guides, thanks for joining us today. Today I have Monique Rice on from She’s going to share her journey, how her and two partners went from zero to seven figures in less than 12 months. New to the industry, she’s going to share a ton of good stuff. Stayed tuned, Monique, thanks for joining us here on the show today. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be a digital marketer.

Monique Rice: Thank you, thank you for having me. My husband, our partner and I all have an extensive advertising background. I started back not too long ago when I was 19, buying advertising so I came from a little bit of a different industry. I bought yellow pages, newspaper, radio, all that type of stuff for a home improvement company and ended up doing a lot of co-op advertising. Ended up billing out about $2 million a year. I was buying about $2 million a year in advertising back then. Then moved back home to start my family or start with my family. Home as in my home state, not back in with my parents.

Ended up in the yellow page industry for 16 years. That’s where I met my husband and my partner which was a good industry back in the day. Then from there my husband ended up being an executive vice president all over the US and I was a district manager handling hundreds of sales reps, 14 sales managers and our partner was a top sales rep. We just kept saying we’d know when the market was ready for internet and then early 2009 we just saw the writing on the wall for Yellow Pages, so that like, okay, this is time to go. Reps were coming in and saying that clients were taking their money and putting it into internet marketing and the yellow page companies were all trying to force their internet directories which were supposed to be state of the art and their videos on the clients that had no value, there was no R line. They had invested millions and millions of dollars into that, they were just too late.

Google was already a household name and so backstory on that was that we ran into somebody that knew the tech side of getting somebody on the first page of Google and so we were like, okay, so maybe you could do the tech side and we do the sales side. We went out and we sold our first two clients very first day we were out that we pitched to. We all at that point, we all quit our jobs the same day we walked out. We all worked for the same company and walked out the same day which we were walking away from a lot of money.

Stuart Trier: Especially in your house. Both incomes.

Monique Rice: Yeah, that was scary. Really scary. We had twin girls at home and teenagers aren’t cheap. It was really scary and we had no insurance, no anything. But there’s no greater money motivator than having no income.

Stuart Trier: At least you came from the sales background and eat what you kill was in your blood, so to speak. You at least had that going for you.

Monique Rice: I was a little worried from that aspect ’cause I’d been a manager for quite a while and hadn’t really been directly physically going out and selling. That was, oh my gosh, can I still do this? Or whatever. But I didn’t want to be left behind. It was like, nope, we’re all in. All in, here we go. My husband and I had saved a little bit money over the years so luckily we were good as far as that goes.

Stuart Trier: Perfect.

Monique Rice: When we ran up into that guy that could do all the tech side and everything it was like, okay, here we go. Like I said, that was no greater motivator than zero income but that was short lived though actually. I didn’t tell you this story, it wasn’t all roses. 60 days …

Stuart Trier: I’m not at all surprised.

Monique Rice: 60 days into starting the business, sales were going great. Our very first month we had $150,000 in sales. Sales were going great but our tech partner started making excuses and he tried to extort money from us. And so we were forced to dissolve the partnership and figure it out from the tech side. We only knew sales so that was a challenge. We didn’t know anyone in the industry. Our motto was we wanted to just fly under the radar. Those early days and finding the right employees and everything was a little rough when you don’t know what you’re talking about.

Stuart Trier: $150,000 in sales and you don’t know what you’re talking about, that’s pretty good.

Monique Rice: You know what? True story. Went into to see a client or a potential client and he was like, “Well I know where I’m getting all my traffic and all that.” And he proceed to show me Google analytics and I was like, “Whoa, what’s that?” I’d never seen that. It was horrible. It was the tech person wasn’t even telling us things ’cause he wanted to keep it all secret. It was like, wow, I didn’t know you could tell where you’re getting all your traffic. Oh my gosh.

Stuart Trier: Nice. In the beginning, obviously you guys has a sales background and you knew how to approach businesses. What was the go to market strategy? I’m sure everybody’s mouth has dropped when you say your first month in sales was $150,000. Tell us some of the early day tricks. You’ve been in the business now for a while but I’m curious to see what the go to market strategy was when you guys first started.

Monique Rice: First of all, with our overall philosophy and focus was sales so our motto was sales cures all things. We’ll figure everything else out but if we have the sales and we can afford to pay whoever we need to pay and do whatever we need to do. As far as getting business, the immediate thing that we did, the first two people that we sold, my husband had actually set my appointment and my partner had set his own, I’m not really very good on the phone. We were like, well, let’s hire an appointment setter. Those were our first two people that we hired. That’s what we did was just all they did was set up appointments all day. 10 to 15 appointments for each of us every week. That worked really, really well. When I did that and for me, a lot of network meetings because my comfort zone wasn’t necessarily going door to door. My partner was so we have different strengths. It worked for both of us. That’s what we did as far as from a marketing standpoint, those were our main areas.

Stuart Trier: Cool. You mentioned you brought in two appointment setters. At what point, this trajectory of growth is bigger than most would experience so at what point did you bring in other people to start to shore up the team? Specifically either technical or support on sales, support on marketing.

Monique Rice: The sales we brought several people in from a sales aspect right away and quickly found out that not everybody can sell what we do. Being that they were on straight commission, a lot of them faded out pretty fast too. We had to clean up the type of sales that they were selling so that didn’t end up being too fun in a lot of those cases. But a few stuck. It wasn’t until after 60 days that we actually started hiring anybody as far as technical. For the first 60 days we really, the core was we had the three of us, we had two other sales people that were with us for years til they decided to retire, basically. Also were in the yellow page industry. We had the two appointment setters and then we started building our technical team. And interesting enough as far as that goes, that first client that I sold the very first day is still a client today.

Stuart Trier: Nice.

Monique Rice: Yeah. That’s mainly what we did for the first 60 days and then after that we started hiring people. We had to get somebody that could do onsite and build websites and things like that. We weren’t comfortable doing outsource. We didn’t know about groups and we wanted to fly under the radar and figure it all out ourselves which I would say was probably not the best move but it worked. I want you to imagine this. We’re sitting, we have, we decided to actually post an ad on Craigslist after we decided we were going to part ways with our tech partner. We didn’t know what we were talking about. I found some ads on Craigslist with all the technical skills people were looking for from competitors in different areas and stuff and posted that and then started doing interviews. One of our partners and I sat down to interview people and at least I had, do you know how to do this? Do you know how to that?

But I didn’t know what the real answers were. If they told that they knew how to do it, I wouldn’t know how to be able to check them. It was an interesting time. As we hired people, we sat right next to them and learned everything that they were doing and we learned to be able to create our own SOPs and checklists and things like that. That’s was lots of good times.

Stuart Trier: Nice. It goes to show you, like you said, sales cures a lot of problems.

Monique Rice: Yeah, it does.

Stuart Trier: Right?

Monique Rice: Sales and customer service. That’s the other thing that we’ve really learned over time is just to really take care of your clients. I personally, you and I were talking about number of clients, I probably have about 75 clients that I service. Just my own not including the overall company’s. I don’t have a lot of whole lot of customer service issues and that has a lot to do with the way that I actually sell my clients. Explaining everything up front and prefacing everything and stuff like that. If you got the bottom feeders that’s what I find is that people that are selling really low or if you sell them really low, they end up bugging you to death. If you take care of them, they’re with you for a long time. We probably have one of the highest retention rates in the industry, to be honest.

Stuart Trier: Nice. What would be some tips or tricks that you would suggest for newbie people coming in? In terms of setting up sales to win for long term relationships? Obviously you’ve cracked that holy grail and curious to see what you would recommend for people that are just starting that journey.

Monique Rice: As far as how …

Stuart Trier: Setting up for a win.

Monique Rice: Setting up what?

Stuart Trier: Setting up a sales call so that you’re setting proper expectations and that ultimately you’re ending up with a customer who’s going to be happy with the service that you’re going to provide.

Monique Rice: Obviously if you have anything to prove, you have proven results that that really helps to show a client that you know what you’re talking about and then to really talk about what that process is and what they should expect in that process so that there’s not any surprises. Then by doing that you are also really telling them how much work is involved. If they start to trying to compare other people and stuff like that, it’s like, well you know, you’re not going to get a steak, a rib eye steak, for the price of a hamburger. That’s at the end of the day, that’s really helped a lot. Prove your results, prove that you know what you’re talking about and that they need to trust an expert that has a proven track record.

Stuart Trier: Okay. You guys have had this success, you’re at 300 plus clients, when you first started out I know you weren’t niching down, were you in a geography that you were focused on? Did you focus on your local area and that became your where you wanted to cultivate clients from?

Monique Rice: Yeah, we really focused on the Pacific northwest area. We’re just right over the border from Portland Oregon. We focused there and in the Phoenix area we have somebody that’s actually working down there too. That was our main focus. But now we’ve expanded in certain niches all over the US.

Stuart Trier: Okay, perfect. What would be your current go to market strategy for you guys now that you have obviously overwhelming success in terms of client case studies that you can point to where you’ve delivered huge value, people have been with you for eight, nine years. What is your attraction strategy today to bring in new clients? Are you still taking, I’m assuming you’re still growing and taking in new clients?

Monique Rice: Yeah, we are taking new clients. I’m comfortable now as long as we continue to maintain. We still use appointment setters. They’re a lot less effective than what they used to be. The thing is, is that from day one we’ve never just done one thing. It’s just like what you were talking about earlier when we were talking about a multi prong approach for the businesses out there. There isn’t one thing that, there’s that silver bullet. For us, we use appointment setters yes, but that’s only one portion. We do paid advertising, we do our own SEO obviously. I’m a big proponent of network groups because I can talk to a lot of people at the same time and if I have one client in that group then it just, that’s what my referral base is. We don’t use one thing.

Recently I had some really good success, I’ve got a $14,000 contract I’m expecting in any time and I got it from Craigslist of all places which I didn’t think, it was my first time even trying Craigslist. And I thought, all I’m going to get a whole bunch of people just tire kicking and it’s going to be a waste of time. I spent $180 for two weeks of Craigslist ghost ads or whatever they call it. We’re always trying different things. There isn’t one way. We run classes. I do classes down at the Chamber ’cause we’re Chamber members. We’ve done free marketing classes. Just things that they need to look out for. Top five things that they need to do to their website in order improve it from an SEO standpoint. And then the people who get overwhelmed and they’ll go, “Can you do it for me?” Things like that. They work great. There’s not one way. When I get bored with way because it’s like, I just want to try something different. We probably have 15 different ways to get clients in the door all the time.

Stuart Trier: Awesome. If your business got wiped out tomorrow and you had to start from scratch, what would you say is easiest thing that would be for newbies to get going? You’ve listed off a ton. Appointment setters, you listed of Craigslist, you listed off Chamber of Commerce, networking events. You’ve given a lot but I’m curious to see for somebody starting anew today, is there one that has a high efficacy and one that you would say would be the one that you would start with?

Monique Rice: Wow, that’s a good one. The networking has really worked well for me but it wasn’t every single group. Between that and I would say the Chamber and just going out and shaking hands and kissing babies, as they say. My partner does wonderful still walking in doors all day long because people put a face with a name. That’s just a lot more effort than I really like to do. I’d rather be …

Stuart Trier: That’s why you have a partner.

Monique Rice: He just created that. I just am like, okay, well if I go to a network meeting and there’s 50 people there then I have great odds of being able to talk to several people and whatnot. I haven’t felt that every single one of those are really good. I like the exclusive ones. I mentioned that we’re members of the Chamber but I feel like we get lost in the Chamber. I have a group that I’ve been with for eight years and now I have six or seven clients out of that group. They didn’t all come right away and it took some of them a long time to come around and actually end up buying because eventually whoever they were using for SEO was doing really bad and they tanked and couldn’t be found on the internet anymore. And then they’re like, “Monique help me. I paid this guy $300 a month and now I’m nowhere to be found. I need help.”

I would find, I try to network groups and I stick to the exclusive groups. I find one that fits from a time perspective ’cause I want to burn a lot of daylight hours during business hours on those groups so I’ll do 7:30 in the morning to 8:30, something like that, not something’s that’s smack dab in the middle of the day when I can actually be doing cold email campaigns or calling people or running appointments that my appointment setters set. I would still use the appointment setters but I would probably would outsource it rather than hiring people internally with expectations.

I would do the Chamber on terms of doing the free marketing classes. Because of our Chamber membership, they allow us to use their conference room and we don’t have a conference room in our office. We’ve got desks in every spot that we possibly can, that’s why I work out of home now ’cause I don’t have, we have two offices now and I don’t have any space there to have my own desk. That’s what I would say is the networks groups, doing the free marketing classes because I always get one or two clients out of that, always.

Stuart Trier: Awesome, awesome. You mentioned cold email too. You’re dropping all kinds of ways that people can generate new business.

Monique Rice: The local courthouse. I know at least in the US you can go down to the local courthouse and get a new business list and that’s free. And all those people are probably, some of them may have spent all their money, some of them may not have any money but some of them may not have got a website yet or found the right partner for their marketing.

Stuart Trier: There’s definitely a percentage of them that are serial entrepreneurs, they’re starting up their second, third, fourth venture and definitely are not doing it with empty pockets.

Monique Rice: Right, right, right. Or that, a lot of times that they’re actually trying to get any type of, there’s some banks that require them to show a marketing budget for them to loan them money. They have to show that they’re actually spending at 5% of their overall money on, that they’re getting a loan on it for marketing. Literally I’ve done websites for armored trucks and things like that. Because the bank has required them. I’m like, well I don’t know how to market an armored truck but I can do a website.

Stuart Trier: I’ll figure it out. I’ll sell it first and then there’s always a solution.

Monique Rice: That’s the great thing about the groups now. We flew under the radar for a couple of years that’s a great thing about all of these Facebook groups and stuff is that in the past if I started getting involved, I could’ve figured it out a lot faster by reaching out to and learning from people like you.

Stuart Trier: Crowdsourcing is definitely a fun thing. Now that you’re above the radar, so to speak, what are some things that you’re reading or how have you found to stay on top of either running a business ’cause you’re business has gone through quite the growth trajectory. Your first year you were over seven figures but then you’ve continued to grow since then. Your job has somewhat changed. Obviously you had some experience managing teams based on the Yellow Pages but I’m sure it’s a little bit different running your own show and I’m sure there was some challenges there. What do you guys currently read or where do you look to in terms of getting that knowledge now.

Monique Rice: The knowledge overall, I probably myself read probably 25 to 30 different blogs, I follow different people on the internet and just we don’t do knee jerk reactions when it comes to the industry stuff. We do a lot of reading and experiments and things like that of our own. But being in the groups, like local client takeover, [inaudible 00:23:26] groups, all of those. I listen, ask questions, read a lot and see what other people are recommending or what other people have ran into as far as problems or whatever ’cause you’re always going to have that unique thing. I probably spend most of time, other than sales, doing that.

Stuart Trier: Cool. In terms of your, you’ve got a history now in the industry. Is there anything that you’re seeing that you’re starting to sell more of? When you’re go in to sell I assume back eight, nine years ago when you were starting, websites were still really big. Are they still really big for or is it now when you come in you come in as a multi pronged approach where whatever needs to be done for marketing, you’re taking on? SEO, PPC, Facebook ads, content creation, are you doing the whole gamut or are you more focused on certain aspects?

Monique Rice: We found pretty early on that we needed to do everything. We didn’t lean towards anything other than SEO but we needed to provide everything. A web design, whether it be hosting, emails, repetition management is big for us. The paid advertising but we just … One of the things that we found is is that if we don’t provide it, they’re going to find somebody else to provide it. If they find somebody else for one area, that quickly can lead into the other aspects that you’re handling. We just felt that it was necessary for us to handle it all. Be a one stop shop for our clients.

Stuart Trier: Perfect. What are three lessons you can share? If you think to yourself going back to the younger version of yourself starting out, what are three lessons you wish you knew or three lessons you can impart on people that are just starting their journey obviously hoping to replicate your success and follow your trajectory? Just some experience sharing that would make that journey a little bit more pleasant.

Monique Rice: We stayed away from doing the paid advertising ad words and all of that for a long time ’cause we so against it. I probably wouldn’t have done that quite so much because it is necessary for clients to have and that’s a pretty easy income overall. I probably would’ve not done that ’cause even though we may not have necessarily have known how to do everything that we know how to do today from paid advertising, you can always outsource. That wouldn’t scare me. With all the groups and everything else, you can find some people to be able to outsource until you learn how to get the best results.

The second thing that I would do is focus more on some particular niches. Have five or six that are just like for instance I really do well on the towing industry and probably wouldn’t have thought that.

Stuart Trier: What industry?

Monique Rice: Towing.

Stuart Trier: Sewing.

Monique Rice: Towing.

Stuart Trier: Oh, towing.

Monique Rice: Tow trucks.

Stuart Trier: Tow trucks, got it. Got it. Sorry, I thought you said sewing industry. I’m like, how do you make money in the sewing industry?

Monique Rice: No, I don’t know how to sew a stitch. The towing industry has been really good for me. I have a client that’s been with me for the last eight years and he actually has a mastermind group where they go around from office to office all across the US and these different tow truck companies. One time, we’ve had a great relationship over the years and he actually has eight different businesses that we now handle.

One time he called me out of the blue, it was probably 11, 11:30 in the morning on a Friday, and I actually had decided that I was going to work in my garden that day. I had all the material and everything ready to go and decided I was going to, I usually work 60 hours a week so this was pretty rare for me. I was determined I was actually going to do but it started raining and so it got muddy pretty quickly. I come in the house, and I’m like okay, I’m going to warm up and I’m going to clean up and I’m going to really just wait until tomorrow when it’ll clear up because this is no fun.

And my client calls me and he goes, “Hey, what are you doing?” I’m like, “Not much, just tending to a few things.” He goes, “Can you be here in a half an hour?” “Sure, well it might be a little bit longer than a half an hour, what’s up?” He goes, “I have my mastermind group here today, there’s 20 of them and I’m not doing a very good job of explaining what is that you guys do for us. And just do a little impromptu tell them what you do and how you might be able to help them.” That’s how I started specializing in the towing industry.

Stuart Trier: Fantastic.

Monique Rice: I have clients all across the US as far as that goes. I would definitely do the five or six special niches. Certainly you can do all the other industries but man, I tell you, it makes a whole lot easier when you can talk their language. You know all the search terms that you need to go after. You know what verticals actually work well and which ones don’t. That just makes life a whole lot easier.

Stuart Trier: 100%.

Monique Rice: And then the third thing I’d probably would say is just like I mentioned before, is just getting involved, talking to other marketing companies. I went to the LCT Vegas deal here back in May and that was the first one that I’d ever gone to. Never gone to any time of event whatsoever so that was fun and interesting.

Stuart Trier: I just messaged him, I asked him if he’s going to put it together again in 2018. He tells me he’s going to.

Monique Rice: I saw that. I saw that. Our eyes got really big when we heard them, I can’t remember who it was talking about paper lead as far as very first speaker. And I was like …

Stuart Trier: Karen Perkey.

Monique Rice: I was like, okay, all right, gotta figure that out. That’s on my radar right now.

Stuart Trier: Absolutely.

Monique Rice: I would definitely say that that was a really big mistake of ours was not learning. Being too worried about sharing with other people and not going, hey this will be a great learning experience for myself and obviously if I’m going to learn from others then I have to share too. ‘Cause that’s just the way it works. There’s enough business out there for everybody at the end of the day.

Stuart Trier: 100%. Cool. Now that your doing this, other than gardening, how do you spend your time? How do you divide your time in terms of managing your business?

Monique Rice: After my $800 bill last month I don’t think I’m going to doing any gardening anymore. I tried to do it the easy way ’cause I was short on time so I put a sprinkler on automatically for an hour and that was way too much. We’re just continuing to focus on growing just in different ways. I divide time up really right now, I’m going to say 70% of my time is in sales still. It wasn’t that way, actually we’re having a huge growth year because for the last two and half years prior to the beginning of this year, I was purely running operations. Now I train my daughter to do that.

Stuart Trier: One of the twins that are now grown up?

Monique Rice: One of the twins is now grown up. You’re going to give away my age, stop.

Stuart Trier: She’s a prodigy child. She’s 12.

Monique Rice: That’s been able to allow me a lot time in the sales aspect, in customer service. I would say 70% of my time is really doing sales. The rest of my time is really divided up in between customer service and handling my accounts. I don’t have a lot of issues because of the way that I frame things. I would say probably 15% of that time really is actually trying new things. Market research, testing different avenues that we can actually make money on like paper leads. I just sold my first paper lead client. Now I’m trying to figure out all the ropes on that and how that’s all going to work and everything. That’s really the way that I divide my time. Sales cures all things. That’s our motto. Sales and customer service. If you’ve got those two things, you can figure everything else out. You’ve got plenty of people within these groups to outsource to until you get it figured out.

Stuart Trier: 100%. That’s the perfect segue, I know that you pulled something together for us. Want to show us a little bit of what you have for the group so they can download it? I’ll make sure to pop the link up on the screen so they have it to click. Six ways to grow our agency to seven figures is that what the document is called.

Monique Rice: I put together just real quick, the six main ways that we’ve actually grew our agency within the first year to seven figures. Just a little backstory about ourselves and then just a little more detail on each one of those segments of how we’ve done it. How to go out, how we went out and door knocked and presented ourselves or how we used appointment setting and all that type of stuff. Hopefully it’ll help a few people. That’s really the goal. Then I also put on there my Skype information and that they could reach out to me Facebook messenger as well. If they tried those things and it’s still not working, I’ll help as much as I can.

Stuart Trier: Perfect. Really appreciate you pulling that together. Off the topic of marketing, what’s one thing you’ve spent $100 on that you’re enjoying in the last couple of months?

Monique Rice: Off marketing?

Stuart Trier: It could be marketing related, it doesn’t have to be marketing related. Something that you’ve spent money on that you’re enjoying.

Monique Rice: Oh gosh. For just $100.

Stuart Trier: There about. There about.

Monique Rice: Okay, you can’t buy much for $100, come on now.

Stuart Trier: You can go up to a thousand if you’d like.

Monique Rice: Let’s see. My travel agent pretty much doesn’t cost me anything extra so I guess you could count that. Now we’re actually, we’re going to be, I’m going with that because that’s my goal is, I really wanted to grow our agency but there was a point in time to where it’s like, I’m making really good money, I don’t want to constantly be working. I need to have some down time and also to be able to do things with my husband and family and stuff. We’re going to New York for the first time. We booked some Broadway plays and some things like that. Going to be there in time for Christmas displays. Working on using that same travel agent to book Costa Rica and Belize next year. Those are the main focus. And the travel agent doesn’t cost anything ’cause she gets kickback from the airlines and all that. So there, it’s under $100.

Stuart Trier: Awesome, perfect. That sounds like a nice trip. New York in Fall/early Winter. I’m sure you’ll have a good time. It may cost more than $100 once you factor in presents, I’m sure.

Monique Rice: Yeah, I’m not thinking I’m going to get away with the t-shirts that says that my parents went to New York.

Stuart Trier: Awesome. Thanks a lot for joining us here. Guys if you’re still watching, definitely give us a thumbs up. Hit the subscribe if you want to hear more entrepreneurs like this, we’ve got a ton of value today. I hope that you enjoyed the interview. If you have any questions or comments, definitely drop them below, we’ll make sure to answer them here on the channel and thank you so much for taking the time to join us here on the show.

Monique Rice: Thank you.

Stuart Trier: Perfect.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *