Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl. She writes tons of guest posts and tackles the “meta” job of marketing the marketing agency. Fractl itself is a content marketing and growth marketing agency. In 2019, it was named one of the Top Content Marketing agencies by Clutch.
Amanda also hosts a podcast, called Cashing in on Content Marketing. Its tagline is “Get the buy-in and budget you deserve.” It’s all about proving the ROI of your content marketing work, a skill every content marketer needs to get and keep clients, or to get what they need to create the kinds of content that perform.
Today, though, she and Garrett get into the nuts and bolts of her daily job, which is marketing the marketing agency.
Often, marketing agencies let their own marketing fall by the wayside while spending all their time servicing clients. Fractl is a rare agency that has a dedicated person devoted to making sure their name continues to get out there.
So tune in! You’ll walk away with some insights about how to keep your own agency in the spotlight.
- [1:15] Amanda’s role at Fractl.
- [3:06] Amanda’s approach to content marketing for her agency.
- [5:25] Where to focus agency marketing efforts.
- [6:31] Prioritizing and scheduling tasks.
- [10:03] Integrating marketing with sales.
- [14:42] Maturing content to appeal to the right leads.
- [16:33] How Covid impacted client relationships at Fractl.
- [18:47] Predictions about the future of content.
- [21:28] Amanda’s cause.
Amanda's Role at Fractl
Amanda’s career path offers new marketers some tantalizing glimpses of what a marketing career on an upward trajectory might look like.
“I’ve been with Fractl for six and a half years. I’ve done a lot of different things there. I was hired initially to do copywriting and copyediting. Then I was doing the projects themselves. We call that creative strategy at Fractl, which are basically the people putting these content packages together. They oversee the creative direction. I was doing that, mixed with a little project management. Then I was doing account strategy. I was basically the point of contact for our clients managing overall engagements.”
“Now I have the meta job of marketing a marketing agency, which is just as fun. It’s separate from the client work, but it’s actually getting to talk about all the other stuff at Fractl I know so well and explain how it can be valuable to businesses. I’ve been in this role for two years, all those guest posts are part of that, and it’s been a blast.”
Amanda's Approach to Content Marketing for Her Agency
As mentioned (and as known, sheepishly, by agencies everywhere), agencies in general struggle to market themselves. Amanda has an approach that works, however.
One part of that approach is to avoid over-planning.
“Sometimes we have these grand plans like: we’re going to plan out the year! It never goes that way.”
Amanda says you should expect to have to recalibrate every few months.
Other than that, you have to do the same things for your agency that you do for your clients.
“We create, for our clients, these data journalism and content projects, then pitching those through digital PR to the media. We do the same thing for Fractl. I’ve been involved with initiatives like that while dabbling in these authoritative ways to continue.
That’s an authoritative play as well, link building projects, the podcasting, the guest posting on Moz and TechCrunch. People just see your brand being mentioned. We dabble in a lot of different things, and then over time, we measure. You have to have different goals for everything, and not expect conversions every time an episode goes live.”
Where to Focus Agency Marketing Efforts
Amanda says she really focuses on the top of the funnel.
“We really focus on inbound. We’re really just honing: okay, what is really helpful for people, what’s working, what’s getting them engaged, what’s the next thing we can provide to help them?”
She says this year she’s been focusing on on-site content.
“We hadn’t put a lot of time on it in the past. We’ve had some great things in the past, but it’s not as optimized as it could be, it’s not as updated as it could be. That’s been really fun to focus on.”
Amanda says she enjoys watching the leads come in. She likes seeing what kinds of questions the clients are asking so she can create new content pieces that answer those questions.
Prioritizing and Scheduling Tasks
“I’m getting a little more involved in sales. I’m really excited about that because I think we’re all aware of how tied [sales and marketing] are. Now that I’m taking these initial calls and vetting leads, I’m hearing people explain why they reached out and what their problems are.”This lets her know more about their ideal clients, how sales help them through those initial conversations, and how those conversations can continue to align, as well as the ways they can continue to use them in more of their marketing.
“Then there’s maintenance things, like the podcast, which goes live once a week. We have to have guests on our roster, do the interviews, and have all that lined up. That’s always a slot of my week. Then guest posting for Moz I tend to do once a month. TechCrunch I’ve slowed down on, I was able to do that once or twice a month.”She says she often tries to work with her creative flows, rather than against them.
“I’m in a writing mood, so today I’m going to sit down. I’m going to write a blog post. I’m going to write a guest post. That’s just what I’m going to do today. I haven’t been as strict with my scheduling. Some days, I write just because I don’t have the capacity to sit down and do something I scheduled for myself a week ago.”Amanda also spends time pitching to speak at conferences, or building the decks to speak in conferences.
“It’s definitely a job that involves a lot of juggling things and very quickly being able to bump something up in priority that maybe wasn’t even on your radar the week before.”
Integrating Marketing with Sales
Garrett asked Amanda to talk a little bit more out of what she’s getting out of the sales conversations.
“It’s interesting to see how people come to us. Maybe they’ve gotten 3/4ths of the whole picture, but they need the rest filled in. It’s hard to know exactly. You have this vision of marketing: I’m hoping they read this, then they read this and check out that case study and get all of it.”
But, Amanda asks, how often does everything go according to plan with anyone who is a lead or who is on their site?
“Then you get into the sales call. Now let’s talk about how that fits into your general marketing plan and our philosophy of how all that works to see if we’re a good fit for each other. That’s always the big question with sales when you’re in a good enough position where you’re not just taking all the work you can get.
You’re thinking: am I actually going to be the best agency for this person, for this brand, are we going to be able to help in a way that will make both sides happy. You understand what we do and the value of what we do, and you’re excited about. That’s what we want to work with: long-term partners.”
She says the gap between what the client thinks they want and what they need can be very interesting.
“Maybe in our case, they’ll say: we really want to do link building content. We need links. They talk to us and we’re like: well, cool, but your website doesn’t have a lot of content on it, so you probably need that before building a ton of links to your site.”
Amanda says she hopes that hearing all of these conversations continues to inform her marketing so she can communicate effectively.
She says one thing that is tough is she gets people from different positions that reach out to her company for different reasons.
“An SEO will come to us for very specific reasons, whereas a PR person might come to us with a different lens.”
She says they’ve planned for that, but:
“Even the way that every company is structured is different. I think that’s where a lot of the nuance is. Even just these initial conversations.”
Sometimes their initial contact will put their boss on the phone, which will be good for even more enlightening.
“I could have suspected some of what comes up, kind of guessed that’s what was happening, but now I’m literally hearing straight from their manager: this is what I’m thinking, these are my questions. The nuances of how every brand, their marketing, SEO, content, teams, social teams, all interact differently.”
Maturing Content to Appeal to the Right Leads
Agencies don’t just need leads. They need the right leads. How can marketers ensure their content is reaching those ideal clients? What process can a marketer put together to make this content a better fit for the readers they want?
“I think it always has to be maturing,” says Amanda. “I don’t think you ever know. The industry changes.”
Re-examining, periodically, means having a lot of conversations.
“We talk with our services team. Where have the great fits been? Who is our perfect ideal partner? We are a long-term type of agency. If someone wants one month’s worth of content, we’re like: ehh, we’re not a content vendor, that’s not really what we’re here for.
I think it’s constantly iterative to find out who the best fits are for you based on how things are going in services. It’s something we continuously try to improve, but it’s so important.
You don’t want to set yourself up to fail as an agency because you’re just taking any work that comes at you. That’s not ideal for anyone, really.”
How Covid Impacted Client Relationships at Fractl
Initially many of Fractl’s clients paused when Covid hit, just like clients did at so many other agencies.
“Over time, that rebounded.”
Amanda said she thinks that many clients started to recognize the value of the downtime for long-term SEO plays.
“Paid’s not doing anything for you, nobody’s buying anything, so let’s focus on these other marketing initiatives.”
Amanda says Fractl has had its best Q1 ever this quarter. She attributes this, in part, to people coming to understand that content is an investment, not a commodity.
Predictions About the Future of Content
“I still want entertaining stuff, because my god, I have enough of everything else. And authoritative. Whomever you are, whether it’s a personal brand, an agency, or an internal brand, you need to be proving you know what you’re talking about as soon as possible.”
Amanda predicts it will continue to get harder to get people to trust you, with what’s out there.
“It’s not even the quality. It’s the sheer volume. You just get inundated with stuff. How do you stand above them? It’s not just the flashiness, the growth hacking, and all that. It’s just proving you know what you’re saying.
You build these relationships with different marketing, and publications who trust you, and therefore their audiences trust you. Everybody should be doing that type of work.”
What's your right now cause?
Amanda cares deeply about mental health.
“There’s so much that needs to be done for mental health in the US and other countries because whether you’re thinking of the stigma of it or the infrastructure of needing help, there are so many layers that need improvement.”
Amanda herself tries to be open about having Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Anxiety.
She also points out that the pandemic has created mental health challenges for everyone.
“It’s not something people are very comfortable talking about.”
She then gives a shout-out to an organization called Mental Health First Aid, which is a nonprofit mental health training program that teaches participants how to notice and support co-workers who may be experiencing a mental health crisis.
“We’ve never been taught this stuff. We’re never taught how to have these conversations.”
Amanda has been an instructor for this organization in the past.
She would also like listeners to consider donating to NAMI, the National Alliance of Mental Illness.