Connecting with your ideal customers is the goal of every company, but it’s not so easy to do, especially when you are online. Thousands of followers and likes are not equal to thousands of clients or even interest in buying your product.This week we talked with Andi Graham, CEO and Managing Partner of Big Sea, a digital marketing agency founded in 2005 and based in Florida (United States). In the interview below we touch on subjects like initial communication with the client, common mistakes that companies make, content creation, social media strategies and more.
There’s an interesting quote in your website, “we develop marketing that makes people feel seen, heard and hopeful”. What makes your approach different from other agencies?
When people come to us, we take a more thoughtful and strategic approach than most other agencies. Many times, a client comes to us asking to build a website or do their email marketing or SEO without clear objectives in mind. They really don’t understand their audience.We have an in-depth strategic phase before we do any work for clients, where we can get to know who their audience is, so that we can write messaging specifically for them. We find that the best clients are willing to do a deep work and look inwardly at themselves, which sometimes triggers some ideas of how they design their services or business in a way it doesn’t fit the customers they are trying to attract.
Please walk us through the first steps you take with clients that reach you to hire your services.
The first step is a kickoff call. It does not dig into content; we just talk about the tools and processes we use and the expectations of the following timeline. Usually, we do qualitative and quantitative research such as competitive audits, content audits, performance audits on existing website and marketing materials, analytics and CRM data check. We also do surveys with users, customers and clients, and internally with other stakeholders.We take all that data and compile in a one to two-day workshop, where we dive deeply into messaging and content strategy, creative strategy, keyword audit and how those things align with empathy mapping and journey mapping with buyers, so that we can build marketing materials. Someone might come to us for email marketing but we might find out the website conversion is low and must be worked before, for instance.After the workshop, we come back and take all that qualitative information and ideas into our quantitative information and our strategists tie them together to point out a good direction. We put together a 90-day plan for you in case of marketing. When building a website, on the other hand, we put together a site map and information architecture, content modeling and UX to present the build we want to do.The client has a very clear idea of our campaign strategy, our content strategy, our marketing strategy and all different tactics that will undergo for 90 days, so that they can sign on for that.
Big Sea recently acquired another agency and video production studio. The pivot to video is a well-known strategy. What opportunities do those acquisitions present?
For us, it was a way to scale growth in a faster way than we were doing. When we look at marketing agencies, we take two steps forward and one back, so we could have gone aggressive on sales or through acquisition to build our agency. We found that team that was really aligned with us from the values and talent perspective, and really complement a lot of our lack and vice-versa. When we found this team, we just saw a winning combination of the people we have and of the clients.From a video perspective, they have a very high-level video production company and the type of video we do for clients is not as polished. So, we ended up parting ways with the video production studio and kept some video producers, who work more on social media, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, which support our marketing campaigns, but not the big, flashy brand videos. We are looking at a series of 15-seconds shorts, which are more aligned to our strategy and service offerings.
What do you believe are the biggest mistakes large and small companies make in their websites?
They don’t focus on the content. They come and think they just need a shiny, beautiful website and don’t think about the words filling that space. We have to start with the messaging strategy because the design should follow that strategy: who are we writing for? What is going to convince them? What’s interesting and persuasive?Your job is to delight and then persuade people. When we don’t think about that first, we end up with a template of a website with boxes to fill. Many small businesses and companies in general focus on thinking about websites as a holler or a soapbox, but it should be a conversation – your first conversation with the company.
Social media is more and more important for businesses of all sizes and industries…
… It depends. It is great for brand-building, it’s not a great conversion path for many of our clients.
Well, how to properly integrate social media with a website and create great leads?
If there’s a client wanting to invest on social media and they have great people doing it or they have hired us or somebody else to do it, then the social media profiles should be backed to their website in some capacity. Otherwise, we don’t integrate.There’s nothing worse than going to someone’s Facebook page and seeing they have not updated it in 8 months or even 8 weeks. If we don’t have a client that is investing in that brand, then it’s not going to be integrated in any way into the website.
Do you recommend social media for some companies?
It depends on how you are going to use it and on who your clients and customers are. TikTok is where things are now. Snapchat is still doing really well but Facebook is wound down, unless you are targeting boomers. We do get conversion from Facebook for some e-Commerce clients but, for the most part, organic Facebook is dead for most brands. Unless you have a serious visual brand or are willing to invest in somebody who can make your brand visual, Instagram is a really hard one as well. Very few people are doing very outstanding things on social media without heavy investment.
What are Big Sea’s plans for the next 3 to 5 years?
We are focusing heavily on the strategy side and we are finding that there are dozens of millions of people who can execute on marketing really well, especially those who find social media of their niche or email marketing, but very few clients can pull it all together and build a cohesive brand strategy across multichannel.We do really well when looking at that omnichannel approach and where we should be or could be, things we could be doing differently. We invested in some very talented phD-level people who can come in and do the research that needs to be done to make smart decisions about how to use marketing budgets, such as how much should go to paid media versus organic media versus everything else.
Miguel Amado has written articles about tech, sports, management, culture, music, and much more. As a website owner, he knows how much good hosting matters, especially after he had to sweat it out to find the best VPS available.