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TribalVision Managing Partner, Chris Ciunci Gives Interview on Why Outsourced Marketing Works

TribalVision’s Founder & Managing Partner, Chris Ciunci recently spoke with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui to discuss TribalVision’s Outsourced Marketing Model that has yielded significant results since TribalVision’s inception in 2009.

To listen to the interview transcribed below, you can visit https://eversprint.com/tribalvision-interview/.

December 1, 2018

Q: Malcolm Lui
Malcolm Lui here, welcome to Eversprint.com. Today we’re speaking with Chris Ciunci, the Founder and Managing Partner of TribalVision, a fast growing outsourced marketing firm that provides a flexible cost effective alternative to traditional marketing solutions. Welcome to the call Chris.

 

A: Chris Ciunci
Thanks Malcolm. Thanks for having me on the call.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Chris, you grew your company’s revenue from $2.5 million in 2014 to $6.1 million in 2017 and now you’re on track to hit $6.8 million in 2018. To achieve this rapid growth, what was your number one sales or marketing objective, and what challenges did you overcome to get there?

A: Chris Ciunci
Hi Malcolm. I would say what my real objective was – it was interesting – I never had a target in mind and this might sound crazy coming from a marketing firm, but it’s not as if I said back in 2013 or 2014 “we’re going to grow from 2.5 to 10 million,” or “to 7 million and this is exactly how we’re gonna get there.” I really had much more of a bit of a narrow focus of an obsession – to be frank – with when I was at 2.5 million a few years ago it was “OK, what can I be doing to just completely wow the customers that I have so that I can ultimately then gain their trust for them to then be advocates for me for future opportunities whether it be with it within their own organizations or that I can leverage to find others.” So myself and my partner, Damien Cabral – all the two of us – just set out to make sure that we had really amazing experiences with our clients that they could feel and then from there if we earn their trust we could then ask them for references and ask them for testimonials that we could then be using to try and find new business.

 

And so that was really the focus that we had, and it worked. I mean if you take a look at our website we now have close to 20 clients on video talking about the work that we’ve done. We have close to 30, 5-star client testimonials on Google between our two offices and that’s really the reality that we wanted to create during those years. And I then just couple that with digital marketing channels that we refer to our other clients and set up for other clients to get that word out, whether that be through email, whether that be through LinkedIn, whether that be through the landing pages of our paid search efforts. We really made sure that we could deliver that message in the most cost effective ways with the channels that we were leveraging. And that was also a good story because we could then tell his clients and prospects “look this is what we’re doing for ourselves, how we’re growing our own business, and we can do the same for you.” So it’s really always been our strategy, and so far it’s served us well.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Yeah. You always have to kind of think twice when you see a marketing company that doesn’t use their own tools and services to market themselves.

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah absolutely, and so I actually would agree. And I oftentimes even during my own pitch to a client or customer and would just say “O.K. well if you’re obsessed about the client experience as you say then you’ve got to make sure that you’re partnering with a marketing firm that is actually walking the walk and doing it themselves, because if they say they can do it for you but they’re not creating exceptional experiences for their clients, then how can you expect them to do that for you or how can you expect them to grow your company, when ultimately they’re still at 10 employees and they’ve been at 10 employees for the last three years.” And so they might have good reason to stay at 10 employees, but it’s still something to be thinking about as a business owner.

 

Q: Malcolm Lui
Right. Definitely agree with you on that point. Can you share how many clients you had back in 2014 and how many you have today?

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah good question. I would have to guess a little bit here, but I would say in 2014 we were most likely at around 25 clients, and now we’re at 75 clients. So we’ve basically tripled. I mean we might have been at 30 clients, again don’t quote me, but around 25 to 30 clients in 2014 and we’ve probably tripled since then in terms of our client base.

Q: Malcolm Lui
And how many of the 25 to 30 in 2014 are still with you today?

A: Chris Ciunci
Great question. I would say realistically half are still with us today. And so those half – I really have sort of two types of clients where we really add value, one is a client that is smaller – on the smaller end maybe with a few million in revenue annually to 10 million in revenue and they bring us in for a projects like a six month engagement where they say “OK why don’t you put together a really comprehensive marketing strategy for us which we don’t have. And then stay around for several months to implement that strategy.” So oftentimes it’s putting lead generation digital marketing channels in place for them – SEO, PPC, email retargeting etc.; get their house in order and then from there hand the keys back over to an internal point person. So for those types of clients – those are usually about half of our clients – ultimately, we’re not going to stick around for three or four years. We know that upfront and then for the larger clients that we have that’s maybe the other 50 percent where we’re working either with a publicly traded company or someone that could be doing over 50 million or so – or not even, maybe over 30 million in revenue a year – they can afford us where they they want us to really either act as their team on a full time basis – not on a project basis – or compliment their existing internal marketing team with what feels like a perpetuity of marketing projects that really on stopping after a few months. So short short answer for you is probably half are still with us. And the other half we’ve completed our project work with

Q: Malcolm Lui
So the ones who moved on are generally the ones that had more well-defined projects or were smaller and really couldn’t keep you on board as their marketing team on an ongoing basis?

A: Chris Ciunci
You know sometimes they have a marketing coordinator internally and they know that the marketing coordinator at 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars a year – they can’t drive the marketing bus – they wouldn’t want them to drive the bus, that would be dangerous. But at the same time they can certainly follow direction and execute on what’s been put together. And so that’s oftentimes what happens – we drive the bus for several months, get them where they need to be and then hand the baton back over to that internal coordinator for them to to run with.

Q: Malcolm Lui
So you had 12 that were returning roughly. So you found about 15 – yeah about 15 clients who have been with you since 2014, so you found about 60 new clients over the past four years. Now did those all come from referrals or do you have other means of finding them?

A: Chris Ciunci
No so some came from referrals absolutely. So that’s really what we’re going for everyday is a referral, but we’ve got to be careful because we certainly don’t want to be aggressive with our clients always asking for referrals so we just sort of let that happen naturally. And then I’d say a large percentage of those 60 – I mean if I had to guess I’d probably say 40 of the 60 – have come from the marketing channels that we’ve put in place for ourselves. So like I said back to Google paid search campaigns to retargeting campaigns to drip email marketing campaigns or – what we’re really leveraging right now Malcolm is account based marketing tactics for our firm where ultimately we’re identifying – let’s just say a top one hundredth potential client base that we’d love to work with and that we think that’s perfectly within our niche. And then we deploy multi-channel digital campaigns to them to create awareness and hopefully conversion where we can eventually have a one on one meeting with them. So a lot of our our lead flow are from those from those tactics.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Can you give a bit more details on how you’re targeting your top 100? Are you targeting in aggregate as a whole, or you focus on them one at a time?

A: Chris Ciunci
No, we’re focusing on them one at a time. All right, so we feel the power of marketing is not being treated like a number because you’ve received a constant contact or MailChimp Email – you oftentimes feel you’re one of 10,000 and it doesn’t feel that special because you know it’s a templatized approach – to really crafting personalized emails, inmails, campaigns to individual companies and spending the time to find the right influencers at those companies, decision makers at those companies and targeting them specifically. So you know lazy marketing is just blasting a list of 20 thousand names that you bought – which is never really going to work – to you know sort of the other end of the spectrum which is really what we’re doing.

A lot more effort up front but it’s I’d rather quality versus quantity and we say that to our clients as well. And oftentimes you work with niche B2B companies where that works because again it’s not as if they’re selling some type of consumer brand that tens of millions could want; it’s oftentimes – you know you’re selling something they’ve just manufactured for a very specific niche like heat transfer decals, and not too many companies are in need of heat transfer decals. But with our types of approaches we can certainly find them, identify them, and personalize to them.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Right. Now to do the personalized contact for their top 100, it sounds labor intensive.

A: Chris Ciunci
It is a bit labor intensive. But at the same time we have a whole partner team here at TribalVision where we leverage – for that type of role we have marketing associates that we use. We oftentimes have interns that we use also, where they’re doing that lower end work that is really some of the most important work that we do.

Because if you don’t find the right contacts and we’re not personalizing the messaging properly, then the conversion rate is going to be much lower. So yeah it is a bit more labor intensive. I mean don’t get me wrong we also are mixing in more automated marketing as well, right? So we’re certainly using – now we have a partner that we use called Active Campaign where we’re also making sure that we’re sending out emails, for example, to a client and prospect list that we’ve built over the years organically. So don’t get me wrong, that’s not our only marketing effort is personalizing into a top 100 right? We have retargeting campaigns we put together – we have like I said Google paid search; we’re always obsessed with search engine optimization and optimizing our Website. We’re very proud that if you were to Google ‘outsource marketing firm’ wherever you are in the country, TribalVision will now be on the first page, most likely, and we’ve put a lot of sweat and tears into that to make sure that’s happened for us. So you know it’s a multi-channel approach that we’ve used, and over nine years of being in business, we’ve refined and refined, and we’re continuing to refine. But yeah there’s some proven channels that that have certainly worked for us.

Back to eating your own cooking – it’s like you were saying before. I mean that’s a great unique selling proposition to our possible clients is – you know this playbook that we built for us that’s proven — there’s no reason why we couldn’t build that for you as well.

Q: Malcolm Lui
You know I just put your claim to test while you’re just chatting here. I fired up an incognito browser in Chrome and I typed in outsource marketing firm, and you and your company came up number 1 on the list.

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah. There we go. Yeah, so there’s a lot of time and effort right? Oftentimes companies that we work with just think, ‘oh you know we can just get to the top of Google and it’s just going to take a couple of months and what’s the trick to get there?” And there’s no trick, right? It’s just a lot of great content and it’s really putting a strategy in place to make sure that you know there’s content being developed all the time, whether it’s white papers or case studies or video testimonials talking about outsource marketing, to this type of podcast where you introduce me as an outsourced marketing firm, which I’ll transcribe, which would be good for the search engines. You know there’s definitely strategy to what we do. I mean, I haven’t talked much about that but there’s definitely a strategy to what we do that has certainly paid off.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Yeah for sure. Number one rankings on a term like ‘outsource marketing’ is not easy to achieve.

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah. At one point we were on – it was pretty cool, “outsource marketing.” If you went to Wikipedia – it isn’t the case anymore unfortunately, but we were also even listed as a reference by Wikipedia. So that was very exciting for us as a firm as well, so – I mean part of the secret sauce Malcolm – I mean there isn’t really a secret sauce right, but part of the reason for our success is we’ve decided who we are as a firm. We’re not a marketing consulting firm. We’re not an ad agency. We like to position ourselves in a very different way as an outsource marketing firm and then start to tell our story around what that means versus what’s out there with the traditional agency. And I think that also that messaging component has really served us well – and we say the same things to our clients, right? If you’re just like everybody else and you’re not messaging yourselves in ways that really enable you to stand out very quickly in a consumer’s mind, then it’s going to be very difficult to achieve the results that you’re expecting.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Yeah I agree. For the years to come, say in next three years, what are your targets, what are your objectives?

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah interesting, so when I started this nine years ago I was all about clients and I was all about the client comes first and it’s all surrounding how can we get more clients. And what we’ve learned over nine years of doing this, with bumps in the road of course with any business, is it’s really about our team. It’s our team that is most important to us because – it sounds corny but we’ve learned it – that if our team is motivated and happy and being trained and tooled the right way, then the clients will come. And so really we just finished a company retreat just a few days ago, and literally all, just about all of our 50 slides that we put together for that company retreat revolved around our team, revolved around training to make sure they continue to stay on top of their games and they feel motivated that this is the right place for them to continue to learn and to grow and to be engaged. So our emphasis for the next two years is making sure that we’re doing everything we can for our team, and secondly of course, we’re also still building out our own marketing functions.

So we’ve gone from zero to seventy-five or so clients in these years and we want to make sure that now that we have a bit bigger of a battleship right – as the saying goes, we want to make sure now that we can scale our efforts – in a gradual way – but scale our efforts so that the next nine years can take us from seventy five to one hundred and fifty clients, and so the tactics that we’ve put in place – while they’ve been very successful, we’re looking at building around those tactics, building our own marketing team, so it’s not just me and two others at this point to really fuel the next stage of growth, right? So just to answer your question, it’s twofold, it’s making sure we’re hiring and retaining and engaging with our product, which is our people, and making sure that they’re here for years to come because they’re so valuable. Without them we have nothing and at the same time also making sure that we have a clear path for growth to make sure that we have customers that can fuel everything that we want to do because without new customers, we won’t have a business.

Q: Malcolm Lui
Can you talk a bit more about the path to growth in terms of getting more customers, more clients? What your thoughts are on that?

A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah. So what I’m doing at this point is – it’s just up until now it’s really been myself heading the marketing effort and really with two individuals that have helped me build out the digital marketing tactics that I’ve told you we’re using, right – whether it’s SEO or retargeting or paid search or email drip campaigns or LinkedIn outreach. So that’s brought us to where we are today. But secondly what I’m now doing for the future is I’m building out an inside sales function to TribalVision because at a certain point, me being the only one who is really the salesperson and the face of TribalVision can only bring us so far if we want to continue to grow. It’s only so much I can do in a day. So I’m now really prepping an inside sales person to be really overseeing all of the leads that are coming in. Instead of me calling every lead, it’s now going to be this individual who’s making sure they’re qualifying, engaging with the leads and building out his or her own network that they can be selling as well. So at first, they’re just going to be qualifying and helping free up some of my time, but the longer term goal is they’re going to be also selling just like I am and then they’re going to be building out their own department underneath them – of inside and outside sales to help fuel our growth. So up until now we’ve been 100 percent marketing focused and we of course are not going to be abandoning that. We’re just going to be doubling down on those efforts that are working with budget, but we’re also going to be complementing that with some inside sales efforts as well.


Q: Malcolm Lui
Okay. So what challenges do you see in regards to building out your inside sales team?

A: Chris Ciunci
So I would say that again it’s really our core is marketing – it hasn’t been sales, and it’s really going to be important to make sure that that individual really understands our customer and really understands TribalVision well enough so that they can be as informative and helpful to prospects as possible while they’re going down their decision journey with us. So I would say for me the challenge is to make sure that all the knowledge that I have built up over these years really can be transferred over to the team that I’m building underneath me and soon not to be underneath me but as equals to me. So sure I think there’s subtleties to what TribalVision does that I want to make sure that that inside team understands all the ins and outs – they understand how to overcome all of the abject objections that come with working with an outsource marketing firm. “OK well why would I work with you if we can hire someone internally who can work 50 hour weeks versus 50 hour months?” So there’s a lot to this that to telling our story properly that I don’t want to get lost in the mix.

 

Q: Malcolm Lui
So Chris, you mentioned that you need your salesperson to understand your customers. Can you share a bit about who your ideal customers are? Your ideal clients?


A: Chris Ciunci
Our core client – let me start there – is really either a nonprofit organizations – I say organizations because we work with a lot of nonprofits so I don’t want to just say companies. So I would say organizations that are generating typically between 5 million and 50 million in annual revenue. At that band they’re large enough to be able to afford TribalVision – where we would be either their marketing team or their head of marketing or an important member of their team – so anyone lower really than a few million – three to five million in revenue – you know we’re going to be probably a bit expensive – our average monthly fee runs at around eight thousand dollars a month. And so for a company that – again is just doing a couple of million in sales – that’s gonna be difficult for them. But that’s why I say 5 million is about that threshold, sometimes a little bit less if it’s a venture funded firm – and then all the way to 50 million I would say, Malcolm, because once 50 million – this isn’t of course hard and fast – but oftentimes above 50 million in revenue you know they already have their own marketing teams in place. So yeah our core is five to 50 million. In terms of industries, professional services of course because it’s very easy for me to tell a company – which is the truth – that TribalVision is a professional services firm and this is what we’ve done for TribalVision with our playbook. It’s probably 80 percent of it that’s transferable over to you as a professional services firm. So we can sort of say we’ve been there and done that and are living it every day – which is attractive.

 

Manufacturing has been big for TribalVision over these years. We have great relationships with a lot of manufacturing partnerships and programs and do a lot of education for manufacturers. Manufacturers oftentimes – not always of course but oftentimes they’re a little bit dated with their marketing. Oftentimes the CEO or the Head of Sales don’t have much of a marketing background and realize they really do need marketing but really have never invested in it. So they have the revenue to support TribalVision and they’re usually starting at a lower than usual foundational level which is enjoyable for us right? It’s like “my God we have a blank slate where there’s a manufacturer that’s doing 30 million in sales and they still have a very poor looking website and nothing going on from an outreach perspective.” You know, we sort of salivate at that because we can add a ton of value to that type of firm. So manufacturing I would say – nonprofits also. We have many nonprofits that we work with where ultimately they know they need marketing expertise but they’re tight on budgets as a nonprofit. And so that marketing coordinator that they have might not be doing enough for them to be fundraising the way they need to be fundraising, etc. so they realize the importance of bringing someone like TribalVision in with our expertise, but know that they can’t hire a Chief Marketing Officer with one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year. So we’re a nice alternative for them that’s more flexible and outsourced. So that’s a little bit more about our client base. Recently we were going more upmarket as well so before we wouldn’t really proactively go after larger companies or organizations because they have internal marketing teams, but what we found over the last couple of years is there’s a lot of larger organizations that already have an internal team but we found we can add a lot of value to those teams because they might not have the expertise in a certain sub-segment of digital marketing that we can certainly assist them with on an outsource basis, or they just have a bandwidth problem where it’s tough to hire talent especially a 3 percent unemployment right now. So we can act as their overflow for marketing projects that they just don’t have the resources for internally so – long answer but I say short is our core is five to 50 million but we’re now also finding great success in that we can add value to larger firms as well – just as an extension of their team.


Q: Malcolm Lui
What’s the best way for those folks to get in touch with you? The ones who are your ideal clients.


A: Chris Ciunci
Yeah I would say they can just jump on our website – it’s www.TribalVision.com – one word, TribalVision, and they can fill out a form there with their specific need or they can just call the 800 number that’s on our home page as well as that’s probably the fastest way to get in touch with us.


Malcolm Lui
Thanks for joining us today Chris and sharing how you grew your company so fast.


Chris Ciunci
Thanks so much Malcolm I appreciate it. Hopefully your audience got something out of it today.

Malcolm Lui
We’ve been speaking with Chris Ciunci, the Founder and Managing Partner of TribalVision about his company’s rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing companies or to learn how we can increase your firm’s high ticket sales through automation, visit Eversprint.com.

 

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