By admin on September 5, 2022
38 minute reads

B2B Growth Marketer: Hiring an Agency, Advice From The Expert With John Bertino

Hiring a new agency can be intimidating. In this episode, John Bertino the founder of The Agency Guide (TAG), discusses why he went into the business of pairing companies with the perfect agency.

He shares why it’s important to have that perfect match, some overrated qualities that people look for when hiring an agency, red & green flags to look for, and why agencies need to be consistent.

Episode Show Notes

John Bertino is the founder of The Agency Guide (TAG), a collective of seasoned marketing execs built to help brands source reliable marketing partners that produce extraordinary results.

As a University professor, SCORE business mentor, and 15+ year marketing consultant, John has helped brands of all sizes, across all verticals source agencies for SEO, content marketing, branding, PR, and more.

You can learn more about how John and his team can help your brand hire the right marketing agency by visiting

PC Tom Hunt Podcast Waave (2)

Alex Meade, Beacons Point, VP of Sales & Marketing

Alex is the VP of Sales & Marketing at Beacons Point, a leader of HubSpot User Groups, the host of the B2B Growth Marketer Podcast, and a collector of Kurt Vonnegut books and San Diego craft beer.

Connect with Alex on LinkedIn

John Bertino, Founder of The Agency Guide

John Bertino is the founder of The Agency Guide (TAG), a collective of seasoned marketing execs built to help brands source reliable marketing partners that produce extraordinary results.

Connect with John on LinkedIn


00:05 Introductions

00:23 What John Bertino does at The Agency Guide

02:01 Why did John create a company to help paid people with agencies

05:54 Does size matter when it comes to an agency? How so?

08:16 Pros and cons of working with a smaller agency

14:48 What are some green or red flags when looking to hire an agency?

18:49 Agencies need to be consistent

19:42 Don’t make guarantees that you can’t guarantee, be transparent

23:34 Overrated qualities that people look for while hiring an agency


29:06 Keyword research tools

32:09 How important it is to maintain a good relationship with your clients as an agency?


Alex Meade 0:05


Welcome to the b2b growth Marketer Podcast. My name is Alex and today we are talking with John Martino, the CEO and founder of the agency guide. And, John, talk to us a little bit about, about you about what what what is the agency guide? And who are you working with?

John Bertino 0:23

Yeah, sure thing and First things first, Thanks for having me, Alex, I appreciate it great to be on the show. So the agency guide, or we often go by tag is, is a unique marketing consultancy and granted a unique business model. And so we and my 14 members are out in the field collecting, cultivating relationships with brands. And then when given the opportunity, providing pro bono, that means free consulting, in an effort to advise on, you know, what marketing channels we would be investing in, if we were in their shoes, if we were in their business, what realistic and objective investments in those marketing channels could and should look like. And then what realistic expectations to have as a result of those investments. And then if and when we in the brand are aligned on what they should do, why they should do it, and roughly what it’s going to cost. It’s at that point that we look to matchmaker them with one of our roughly 200 different marketing agency and consultant partners. So we represent these 200 or so vetted marketing teams, and again, kind of matchmaking them to the ideal brand projects and brand needs based on that initial kind of strategy outlay that I mentioned, can we do this all at no cost, because we make our revenue through the marketing agencies and consultants we represent, but only if that brand actually hires them. And more so if they stay with them. So that creates a very real incentive for us to be connecting brands with agencies that are truly going to love hire and stay with.


Alex Meade 2:01

Yeah, yeah, I think with your background. And, you know, we met a couple of years ago in San Diego, when you were still located here in San Diego. And I always thought that was such an interesting model. And so I wanted to talk with you today, because of this experience. You know, a lot of the people in you know, all of our listeners are in house marketers, marketing managers, coordinators, directors, some VPs in their and hiring agencies, you know, they either have a lot of experience, or maybe they’re about to start it for the first time. And, you know, from an agency, I can go and say, here’s the pros and cons, but I’m an agency. So, of course, people are gonna think my, my answers are a little skewed towards working with an agency. You know, I think our philosophy and your philosophy line up well, and if we’re not the right fit, we’re not the right fit. But I think I wanted to talk today from like your perspective. What should companies be looking for? What should they be thinking about? You know, what makes what makes the right partner, you know, fit in what, what are some of the matchmaker qualities you look for? So I’m excited about the conversation today. So maybe just let’s start off with maybe like, Why? Why did How do you exist? Like, why? Why do you exist in this like ecosystem? And is there was there something broken between agencies and brands just trying to matchmake themselves? Or like, how do you? Where did you see like this need? Sure, come in? Sure. So

John Bertino 3:35

TAG has been around for actually eight years now. Eight years, we’ve been doing this and, you know, the situation I saw in the first place, and the hypothesis I had to fix it was that the marketing agency, especially digital marketing agency, landscape had become extremely cluttered, right. For better or worse, the barriers to entry to open and call yourself a marketing agency are next to nothing. At least at first, right to just get your store your air quotes store up and start calling yourself a marketing agency. There’s no real formal certification that validates that, unlike regulated industries, is what I mean. It’s unregulated. And, you know, with the advent of like the wicks and Squarespace’s of the world, it’s become really easy to have a good looking website too. And so the couple that with the fact that it’s such a lifestyle business, or can be a lifestyle business, at least when you have a small agency, and so there was just there was and still is a flood of new entrants constantly and that creates a problem for the brands right? I mean, it’s one thing if you’re a large brand with a large budget, okay, that’s a different kind of swimming pool if you will. But for your small to even mid-size brands dealing with more boutique small to mid size agencies. There are So, so many. And you know, again, it’s not hard to call yourself an agency. And so when I launched tag eight years ago, at that point, I had already had a solid decade of digital and brand marketing experience behind me. And I said, you know, wait a minute, I think that we can do something about this, I think that we can help provide value on both sides of the equation, that is help the agencies, the real agencies, the good agencies, get the right clients, which is actually a real grind for them as well. And I think I felt like and the hypothesis that needed to be tested was, I think we can add tremendous value to the brands and their ability to either expedite the process of finding the right agency partner, or just do it with more certainty and less risk. And I’m happy to say that eight years later, that seems to be the case.


Alex Meade 5:54

Yeah, I feel like you have described our lifecycle stage as an agency, fairly well. And, you know, we started about 10 years ago. And, you know, I’m always pretty transparent and open as we opened is like, anybody who said they needed something digital, we said yes to we were that agency, I think early on because you’re trying to get a foothold in what we’re doing. And we’ve certainly matured, you know, a lot in the last 10 years, and aren’t that way anymore. And I say you’re right, there’s so many out there. So when you talk about just to like, let’s define what is a, what does a boutique agency? What’s like a medium agency and what’s like a large agency?

John Bertino 6:40

Yeah, sure. And I want to just quickly go back to what you said and say, you know, kudos to you for your like candor, transparency, your clarity, right to acknowledge that I think there’s no shame in that. That’s how most agencies start. And then you go through that process, I think, and I think if you’re if you have the right mindset, as an agency owner, you try to, I hesitate to say niche down, but just get more narrow and pointed in where you want to focus service wise and or industry wise. And clearly, you guys have successfully made that pivot. Yeah. And so you know, you I love your question, actually, because part of where our message and and our mantra our mission can get skewed is on this. Well, what the hell is an agency anyway. And that goes back to what I was kind of saying about the landscape, you know, air quotes, agencies, for those that are on audio only come in all different shapes and sizes, right? Arguably, one person could come in, and do call themselves an agency, plenty a husband, wife, teams, you’ve got the small teams backed by the slew of freelancers, and or just like third party partners they work with, then you’ve got the emerging more midsize agencies that are trying to bring more and more of an in house. And then you’ve got the really large conglomerates that are kind of a mix of all those things, and regularly in flux and what their actual model is based on the economy and the amount of opportunities they’re getting. But yeah, did I answer your question?


Alex Meade 8:16

Yeah, just because, you know, one of the things in our sales opportunities, you know, I’m having conversations, sometimes us being, you know, I guess we would be more boutique, we’d be at work for 10 or 11 employees, full-time size. And so sometimes we are disqualified because we’re too small. Sometimes that’s what they want, because they feel like they’re not getting, you know, there’s not going to be like nine different account managers that are going to shift through their account. And curious, here’s to know, for, you know, when people are evaluating agencies are thinking about, are there pros and cons to both, you know, forget that you’re talking to me, who is an agency have about a 10 or 11? Like, just think of it like, broadly speaking? What are the pros of a smaller, you know, let’s say, let’s say like, like, 10 to 20 versus something that’s like, I don’t know, 20 to 60, I would say is like the next category of agencies.

John Bertino 9:16

Yeah, I’m more or less agree with your tears, although, I have to preface this by saying there’s plenty of pitfalls with with kind of sizing an agency up based on their W-2 full-time headcount, for the reasons that I kind of was mentioning earlier, which is just because you have, you know, there’s plenty of agencies out there saying they’re 1015 people when actually they’re three w two and 10, freelance contract, and then you’ve got, let’s say they’re 1015, but they’re all w two, but they’re actually backed by another 1520 freelancers. And then, you know, those that are 1015 w two, but then have like a slew of agency partners they patch in as needed. So in a lot of ways sizing an agency up based on w two headcount is kind of flawed to begin with. Having said that, I think your question was essentially, you know, what are the pros and cons if we’re going to be working with a smaller agency versus a larger one, right? Yeah, yeah. And those do exist. So so so generally speaking, I mentioned we represent about 200 different teams, the vast majority of them are in that 10 To 2010 to 25. Agency size. So that’s why I interjected and said, I love that size of 11. That is, in my humble, but professional opinion, kind of the magic range. Because with and that and that, and again, that’s not to say every brand out there should only work with agencies 10 to 20 people, but you can get a lot of really quality output from a great team of seasoned marketers at about that size. Yeah, you know, some of the best branding agencies we represent. And something about branding in particular seems to lend itself well to smaller teams, some of the absolute best we represent that work with some of the biggest brands on the planet are like 20 people, you know, yeah, so yeah, so yeah, and then on so on the larger side. And it’s so it’s so hard to paint with such a broad brush, you know, this, I think the question, probably a little bit tongue in cheek, right. But a lot of the larger larger agencies suffer from, you know, like poor account management syndrome. And I think that’s the rap on them, right? Like a lot of brands will be like, we don’t really want a large agency, because we don’t want to slip through the cracks. And I think like, like any generalization, there’s a lot of truth in that. However, if I were to throw a bone to the somewhat larger agencies will define largest what 6580 Plus maybe something like that. And of course, then you’ve got the hundreds. Yeah, I think I think to be a brand should be wary of any agency that calls themselves full service that doesn’t have at least set call it 7580 people because in truth, if we’re honest about it, yeah, can’t really be anything close to what could truly be called Full service, unless you have quite a few employees to do all of those tasks to do them. Well. So something’s arrived, if someone’s calling themselves full service, and they’re like, Well, how big is your team? Oh, 25 people? Well, something’s not adding up there. So I could I could riff on this for a while. But

Alex Meade 12:35

yeah, and I’m sure I’m sure the type of agency of the services they provide, also depends on like, how big they need to be to do the work that they needed. Indeed, if you’ve got like an ERP, like a paid media agency, they don’t need 30 people unless they have a ton of accounts, you know, creative, I brandy and I also see them being I agree with you that the smaller ones tend to be do great work, or can do great work without sacrificing scale. And I think there’s certain, you know, that require more full service. You’re right, we used to do that. So stop calling us out, John. You just keep like hitting all of the all of our all of our past demons are coming out. But that’s kind of, you know, you talked about, like, agencies starting to narrow and that’s what we did is we said, Okay, we’re gonna do inbound content, then it turned into inbound, inbound HubSpot, then it turned it in about half. So I’ve video and that’s, that alone is a lot. But we are not a full service. We’re not going to do everything. I think it’s just like that. Masters of none kind of argument where you’re okay at a bunch of things, but you’re not great at anything. Unless you have that team, like you’re talking about 80 or so. Yeah, I would tend, let’s, let’s talk about. So we’ve kind of talked about the different sizes and benefits, and you know, what you think is kind of a sweet spot. But that’s not necessarily means that’s the only option. If, if you were to tell, if you were to tell a marketing director out there who’s about to hire an agency, maybe for the first time they’re gonna, that’s, that’s more than like, hey, we need someone to design something. It’s more, they’re gonna be doing ongoing services, maybe they’re gonna do SEO paid ads, maybe they’re gonna do creative. What are what are some of the things you would give them to look out for? Maybe some red flags? What are some of the things you know? Do you have any, like core tenants that agencies must mess show for them to be? You know, like, how can you tell a good agency from a knock at agency, I guess, and what advice would you have for people?


John Bertino 14:48

Sure, a lot of meat on the bone in there. Let me start with kind of the red flags thing. So a few kind of simpler and more straightforward ones. I’m a big proponent of, of not talking over people’s heads, especially intentionally, and therefore, I see it as a big red flag when agency personnel guy likes to go real deep in the jargon and try to impress a prospective client base with a lot of jargon and marketing speak now, look, as a fellow marketer, I get it, you know, if you speak, talk the talk really well and fluently, it’s natural to incorporate some of the jargon and, you know, use that as a way to demonstrate competency and expertise and just comfort a comfort level with the subject matter. But here, I would say and there’s there’s a few problems with that. And I would say the big one is that, if I were to say the one of the most important things in a successful client agency relationship is expectations and expectations setting, and how are you going to set good, honest expectations if you’re spending so much time talking over their head. So what’s much more important, I would argue than sounding like a stud, a marketing stud is making sure that the person on the other end of the phone that you’re selling to understands what the hell they’re getting. Because you know, all that flexing is only going to come back to bite you if they were just going a Ha ha ha, because they didn’t want to sound dumb, or that they didn’t get it. And then when push comes to shove, and it’s time to review the work that was done, they go, Well, wait a minute, well, what about this? Well, what about that, or I didn’t know you were gonna do this, or I didn’t know I was paying for that. And a lot of that comes back to the very simple point of too much too much inflated sales speak in jargon. Yeah. So similar to that a slightly different take on that kind of next point, is I would look for an agency that really wants you to understand what you’re buying, right takes the time to say, does that make sense? Or what you know, an agency that kind of pushes back on you, as the buyer to say, like, you know, what do you think of our approach there, does that resonate with you, that wants to have a two way conversation about what they’re selling you and what that engagement is going to look like so so again, like not a one way conversation, where they’re just talking and flexing and telling you what they’re gonna do, but a two way conversation, I think is really important, and sets a precedent for the what, how the communication is going to flow in the relationship. And then next point, again, kind of similar, but building on that. And this goes back to our full service discussion, is the agency you’re speaking to very clear, honest and straightforward about where their strengths are. So you said it perfectly. You just demonstrated this, right? Like, and I know this from past conversations with you, that, you know, you guys are super clear on what you do and what you do well, and you’re not afraid to say, we’re not currently offering that service, I’m sure you’d say, but we know a guy that can help you or we have partners that do that. But this whole like, and we do that too. Oh, and oh, we’ve got that covered, that almost always backfires. You know, I do know some teams that seem to know how to navigate that minefield quite well. But generally speaking, I don’t think they should be trying to navigate minefields. You know, it generally pays much better to just be real candid and straightforward about strengths and weaknesses. And so last things last, if you’re the buyer, look for an agency that is willing to tell you what they don’t do well.

Alex Meade 18:39

Yeah. So is that from a marketer? Is that is that just asking them? What do you do really well? And what don’t you do? Well, or like, is that just a flat out?


John Bertino 18:49

That’s what asked, that’s one way to approach it, look at their website, too. And there’s a lot of agencies out there with that comment that are groaning, or might struck a chord. Because, look, the natural tendency, I think, is to with the website, especially, be somewhat broad, so as to not turn anybody away from reaching out to you. But I think, you know, push comes to shove, you want an agency that’s consistent. And so what they say on the phone is consistent with what it says on the website, right? That’s kind of marketing 101. When we talk about like driving somebody from an ad to your site, there needs to be that consistency. Same thing. The site should echo the strengths and weaknesses that are explained on the phone and through email, so on and so forth.


Alex Meade 19:42

What about promises and guarantees? Is that ever a red flag I mean, I’m in marketing, and if I ever promised someone we’re going to get XYZ I’m almost certain only, like making that up? Like I never say that we never say that. But is that is, is that something that we should be people should be worried about? Or is that in some agencies some in some types of marketing? Is that fine? Is that? Is that like a common thing? To offer that? Because I know it’s tempting, right? You see a guarantee, you see a promise, it’s like helps ease the nerves in risk as a marketer,

John Bertino 20:28

sure. That one’s kind of loaded. So I think everything you just said is true. And you gave both sides of it. So like, in short, if I had to answer in like a few words, I would say yes, be wary of promises and guarantees. Having said that, depending on the service, as you alluded to, and the way this service is being executed, there are ways to guarantee certain things, the first example that comes to mind is PR. And boy, this is this is such a rabbit hole, and I hesitate to go all the way down it and for your listeners benefit, I think I won’t. But like that’s a good example of if you want true earned media emphasis on the true and the earned. Generally speaking, that can’t be guaranteed, other than and then here’s where the caveats come in. Right? Other than if that PR agency has very specific, you know, deep basically friend or personal relationship to the few key sites, they can basically guarantee some of the first couple placements. And then you know, PR is one of these areas where the Internet has invented or gave way to all kinds of new ways to fulfill air quotes PR. And now you’ve got things that might not quite be true in earned media, but Boy, they sure look like they’re earned. And they sure look like they happened organically. And maybe that’s just as good. And if that’s if that’s what the brand’s looking for, if it’s less about the traffic, and it’s more about the social proof, well, maybe it can be guaranteed. And so put the long the broader point. And the real answer to your question is it does depend on the service, there are ways to guarantee certain things. But the guarantee should always be a little bit of an eyebrow raiser to start.

Alex Meade 22:21

Yeah. And I want to I want to like maybe give a caveat to my own comment, guaranteeing or promising results. So we have some guarantees and promises. But it’s not it’s more transparency. It’s more you know, what we’re going to provide, like how we work. So I think those are obviously fine. But any we always we learned a lot of time ago if you promise a guarantee a certain number of leads traffic’s Sure, yeah, whatever it is, like that’s, it’s always a slippery slope.

John Bertino 22:53

Yeah. So the irony, just quickly, the irony, and to turn it on its head a little bit. Now speaking to the agencies, it’s almost like the more things you can guarantee kind of the better. But it shouldn’t be the things that shouldn’t be guaranteed like you’re just saying like leads rankings. But if you can go look, I can’t guarantee you X number of leads, I can’t guarantee you X certain rankings, but I can guarantee you, oh, I don’t know I’m shooting from the hip here. You know, that you always have a 30-day out, I can guarantee you X number of calls per week, the more things you can guarantee, like, you know, from a sales perspective, it works. Yeah, it works.


Alex Meade 23:34

Yeah. Let’s switch. Let’s go to, you know, I have a feeling, you know, marketers talk, there’s groups out there. What are some of what are some of the myths? What are some of the overrated things people are looking for? In in agencies? Yeah, when hired and I

John Bertino 23:52

love that question, and I’m gonna give you some real contrarian kind of viewpoints here. Maybe even somewhat controversial in the agency space. And we got to shore like, you know, here’s where, Mike, here’s the opportunity for comments below, right. But I’ll give you a few things that like a lot of brands will think of or default to that tend to be kind of either overrated or just don’t work. And so the first thing is, I think, first of all, this is this notion of kind of a good and bad agency to begin with, is in some ways, overblown. Now, don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty of really bad agencies out there that frankly, that’s why I exist. But there are plenty of times where I’ve talked to a brand and then I’d be like, Well, we had to fire so and so they were terrible. But a lot of times, it wasn’t necessarily that the agency was terrible, as much as it was, they might just not have been a good fit based on Yes, you know, sighs maybe the agency was too small and had no business taking on that client or the other way around the didn’t see was too big, too busy nonneedy and the client was needy and expected the red carpets just not going to happen. So these types of like size and maturity discrepancies that go both ways, really cause for bad relationships, when in reality, both sides might be, you know, realistic or feasible and what they’re looking for. But even but they just weren’t a good fit just like any relationship, frankly. All right, a couple others. The relevant experience is an interesting one. Because I so and I can talk this both ways, right? On one hand relevant experience can be super important. And a lot of times admittedly, we’re trying to bring agencies to the table with relevant experience. But 70% of the reason why we do that is because we know the brands like it, we’re only 30% Maybe doing it because we feel it’s critical. So that relevant extend it depends on the marketing service. But that relevant experience can help shorten some initial learning curves and maybe save some time initially. But really, there’s so and I think a lot of brands don’t realize this, there’s so much that like, let’s talk SEO and content marketing. We I in You, I think you do a lot in content marketing, and SEO too, right? How much can you learn about an industry with like, an hour, or twos worth of keyword research, right? Like you can, you can come to the table having never worked in the industry ever before. And after an hour or two, a keyword research go? Okay, so we know that these are the most important search terms, we know that, you know, people that search this are further down the funnel, a lot can be gleaned and deduced with some keyword research tools. And so this is an argument essentially against being too biased towards picking an agency because maybe they’ve worked with a client or two in your space before because a lot can be gleaned without it. Different Marketing Service branding. I’ve seen it go both ways. On one hand, a branding agency can again shorten the learning curve and come to the table with some insights on your industry, because they’ve worked in it before. But on the other hand, there’s that old expression, I love this one, you can’t read the label when you’re inside the jar. Sometimes the best branding output I like that’s a great one. Sometimes the best branding output comes from the branding agencies that have never worked in the space. They’re bringing fresh, clean new ideas and perspective. So yeah, in short, I’m wary of putting too much weight or emphasis or the brand should be wary, strictly because someone has experienced in the space, but you know what, it’s it really doesn’t matter that I’m saying this, they’re gonna do it anyway.

Alex Meade 27:40

Yeah, yeah. We, we just, we just started a new client. And the requirement was, it was the nail in the coffin to say, yes, we have experience in enterprise software. And that’s what was important to them. We have another, you know, we ended up not working with them because we have a client in the same space and they didn’t want that. They didn’t want it. They in so it’s a kind of a, you know, snitched down into a specific industry. But then some people like it, some people don’t like it. And so I think it’s going to come down to preference of the buyer every time. Even if it may not be I agree with you. It’s doesn’t matter it for us. We can walk into any industry, any company that wants us to work with them, and we can build them a strategy and it’s gonna

John Bertino 28:26

work. That’s right. It doesn’t matter, which is a little bit surprised marketing. It’s

Alex Meade 28:30

not the company. Yeah,

John Bertino 28:31

the brands listening probably don’t believe us. Right. But it’s actually the truth.

Alex Meade 28:36

How often do you hear this, but ours is different? Right? Our process is different. Yeah, but we’re very unusual. I feel like I hear that every day. And I’m like, Yeah, you’re really it’s really not you’re just it’s, it’s the same, it’s the same across the board. You might call it different things. You know, like how you run your marketing or sales, your customer buying experience? It’s, it’s hilarious. Well, how everybody just thinks they’re unique.


John Bertino 29:06

Sorry, just to go back to the SEO content side of this, which is I think often where we’re coming from with this, even if the brand is a little different, right? Okay, so it takes five minutes to understand the persona that they’re servicing that their competitors aren’t. And then you take that audience persona, you punch in the types of things they would search for in a keyword research tool. And the sophistication of these tools gives you, you know, tremendous amounts of insights and research immediately at your fingertips about okay, how, yeah, this is the content I need to create in order to solve that. That super unique persona’s needs. Yeah. Do we have time for one or two more?

Alex Meade 29:47

Yeah, and I have another question after this, too.

John Bertino 29:50

Because I can talk about this all day. I want to give you one more. And this is that maybe just comes back to my background in SEO because that’s where I started. And that is the idea that you Want to hire an SEO agency that ranks? Okay? Like I said, contrarian, I can hear the boos, right from all the SEO agencies out there that rank. But I’ve got news for you. ranking as an SEO agency, generally speaking, produces the worst clients, the worst, and I’m sorry, clients that Google their way to an SEO agency. But the more sophisticated clients don’t Google SEO firm Illinois, right, they go through word of mouth referral, they look at the substance and depth of the content that’s being put out, or some other way. All, it’s almost exclusively small businesses with really tight budgets that go to Google and say, SEO Agency, Philadelphia, right. And so that’s not a that’s not intended to be a knock one way or the other. But here’s the thing, the really sophisticated SEO agencies have generally figured this out. And because SEO can be is hyper-competitive, and tends to be extremely expensive, when it’s hyper-competitive, they’ve chosen to allocate their marketing dollars elsewhere, which is extremely ironic, right? Let me just say that, again, the best SEO agencies on the planet are often allocating their marketing dollars elsewhere. Right. And so they’re where they’re tending to put it is into like, again, deep, long form content. And so they maybe want to rank for like, you know, head terms, the real, if they’re really good, and they real, and they got the budget to put into SEO, they’re going after things like, you know, oh, I don’t know, how to topic model content or or how to do backlink acquisition in XYZ industry. They’re not trying to rank Mr. and Mr. prospective customer, they’re not trying to rank for SEO agency, Delaware, because they are getting the wrong leads. And they had to put a ton of time and money into that. And it’s just not right. So unfortunately, here’s the net net, as a buyer, you can’t judge your SEO agency, or you really shouldn’t buy what they rank for, at least on your local market. It’s not really important. Yeah.


Alex Meade 32:09

Yep. I mean, that yeah, that it is it is a funny comparison, when you think about it, but you’re you’re right. And the people, the talented agencies, the ones that are maybe more niche doing higher quality work, maybe cost more, they’re still finding their audience. I mean, I could go back and forth on buyer personas, but they know who they’re selling to, and they’re not selling to the people that are searching, top, top SEO near me, you know. So I like that one. Let’s do let’s do one more question. And I think I think you’re gonna have a great answer for this, just because I think you’ve kind of built your company around this. We have heard from some of our best clients, you know, why, you know, why do Why did you work with us, you know, part of case studies, and if there’s a commonality of relationships, and they built relationships with with me through the sales process, and then they carry that relationships into our team. We are small, you know, I said, we’re 10 or 11. That is big for us. That’s like one of, you know, how we keep clients and retention. And but how important is that for everybody? Like, that’s, that’s not for everybody. People don’t need their best friend to be their agency, you know, customer service rep or digital strategist, like talk about relationships in this process? And are they really important? Are they not? Do they have to be? Tell me talk to you about that?

John Bertino 33:35

Yeah. So I mean, obviously, this is this is right, my sweet spot is a guy that’s a marketing agency matchmaker. And so make sense, you’d want to end on this. So you made an interesting point there about you don’t need an agency, that’s going to be their best friend. And I think if it were possible to strip all the emotion out of it, that is very much true. The problem is as humans, that’s not usually the way it actually unfolds, right? You can’t strip out the you can’t strip the oceans out of it. I mean, where people having conversations, relationships, there’s often a lot of money on the line. And so the relationship is ends up being extremely important. The synergy you know, it’s funny, quick detour. And then I’ll answer the question very directly. I’m working a very juicy opportunity right now. And I introduced it’s in the web three space, it’s in the gaming split space blockchain played earn all this stuff. Trust me, I’m getting back to your point. And the I introduced them first to a very web very seasoned web three marketing agency. But this the personality synergy wasn’t there. And they immediately dismissed them. And it was much to my dismay, because I think that they would be great together. So then I went to very gaming focused agency that happens to know web three blockchain stuff and that was better that was an improvement because they had the deep gaming experience, but it still was isn’t a slam dunk. And so as a third and final introduction, I don’t usually do three introductions, but this situation warranted it. I brought them somebody that I just thought they’d get along with, who probably is the worst of the three, I think, like, like maybe to actually deliver. And it seems all roads point to, that’s where they’re gonna go with, because they just the relationship is is more important than it then you would ever understand. People want to do business with who they work with. So having said that, two takeaways to answer your question very directly. First, I always recommend to brands to try to get the person on the phone that they’re going to work with every day. So maybe you’re working with a salesperson, maybe you’re working with the owner conversations are going great, you’re feeling really good. Before you sign that contract, ask to speak to the person you’re going to be dealing with daily, they don’t have to be your best friend, as you said, but you should feel as though they’re competent and can communicate. And, you know, a lot of times the person you deal with daily is a little lower in terms of the tenure than the person you were on the phone with. And you know, some of the younger folks flowing through the agency space right now don’t have the best communication skills. So I think that it’s really important to vet that out. Because what you might end up with is an agency that really knows what they’re doing. But a person that’s frustrating to communicate with, and that’s almost going to blow up every time. And to the agency owners make sure you’re hiring people that can communicate not just through text, like so, so overrated. And then second and final point, kind of flipping that on its head, let’s say during the sales process, you’re dealing with a sales rep, or even somebody that you’re going to work with. And this is usually for the larger agencies, I say always Google the owner of the agency, and see if you can get a little bit of a taste for that individual. He or she, what they’re like the way they talk if they resonate with you personally, because I feel that a lot of an organizational culture and the type of people they hire, you is kind of emblematic of the owner themselves. And so you can get a real good feel, I think for what it’s like to work with an agency based on some YouTube footage of the owner. So

Alex Meade 37:26

yeah. Would you say, I wish I wish we had some of our younger team members, what’s the opposite of a red flag, like, like a like a bonus, something that you might want to look for? Is, is having a the person who you’re going to work with or even like an equivalence, you know, if it hasn’t been assigned, yet, maybe they have multiple success managers or account managers, whatever they’re calling them involved in the sales process. If that is organically if the agency’s like, Hey, we’re this is progressing, what I want to do is get our strategist and our account manager on the phone, let’s have a discussion about the strategy and where we’re going or like, you know, whatever the topic is, is that a is that something people should be looking for? Is that like a bonus?

John Bertino 38:11

Yeah, in my professional opinion, and I match people to agencies for a living. I like when the agency is very forthright and doesn’t even proactive, they don’t need to be asked to put the personnel on the phone that not only who the client would be working with, but the other team members around them. I think that’s awesome. Yeah. Now, you know, again, seeing it both ways from the agency side, that can be a real drain on resources to bring all the those people to the table through a sales process that may turn into nothing. But you know, I think it’s a great it’s a great look and a great benefit to to kind of give the look behind the scenes, especially in this virtual field that we’re in where that client might never actually make it to the office to give them a taste of the people behind the scenes I think is awesome. Yeah,

Alex Meade 39:03

I agree. Well, this has been a great conversation, John, I really I really appreciate it. You know, it’s funny, we’ve we met many I don’t know, I don’t know how long ago will say four or five years ago in San Diego and kind of reconnected. I think it might have been longer. But yeah, it’s it’s been a great conversation. I really appreciate you joining, joining in and giving your insights. I think there’s there’s a lot of articles out there of how to choose an agency. They just seem to be from agencies. So I think this is a great perspective. That is more of a you know, someone who’s doing it daily, and matchmaking and figuring out what’s the right solution. So I thought, I’m happy you could join.

John Bertino 39:43

Yeah, thanks. Thanks again for having me. Hopefully, I wanted to bring you to your latter point about what’s online. I wanted to bring you some stuff above and beyond like, you know, the classic awards, certifications, referrals, case studies, testament, all these things are good, but I wanted to give you some of that more behind the scenes stuff. And hopefully we accomplish that today. So thanks again for having me. It’s great to be Yeah,

Alex Meade 40:04

it was great. And for people that want to connect with you or find more information, maybe they do, I’m sure you have stuff on your website of how to choose or find the right agencies, maybe where can people find you?

John Bertino 40:16

Sure. So we’re all over social as any marketing entity tends to be. So we’re on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, I think LinkedIn is probably the best place to engage our site dub dub dub the agency We were the agency guy for many years, we rebranded to guide and there’s a Contact Us form if you want to get in touch with us.

Alex Meade 40:41

You know, I thought I was going crazy. I was telling story on our team. I was like, oh, yeah, John from the agency guy. And then I looked it up. I was like, guide. Have I been saying it wrong? Like do I have a miss died like a memory that got confused or mixed up in there? So that makes me feel a lot better?

John Bertino 40:57

Yeah. Yeah. We loved the old the agency guy moniker, but I guess had to evolve with the times a little bit and also better represent some of the expansion and growth we’ve gone through as a company.

Alex Meade 41:08

Yeah, yeah. No, it’s great. It’s perfect. All right, John, thank you so much.

John Bertino 41:11

Thank you have a good one, Alex.


Published by admin September 5, 2022

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