Why We Made Ourselves Our Own Best Client

October 7th, 2016

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Image via Unsplash

“We eat our own dog food.”

Have you ever heard a marketing agency say this? Or have you been the one actually telling this to a client? The truth of this scenario is that, despite what they say, most agencies have not actually practiced what they’re preaching—at least not to the extent that they should.

This is a common issue with marketers: We have the best of intentions to follow the same advice we give to clients within our own walls, but working on our business always ends up taking a backseat to client work. So we find ourselves recommending tactics to clients that we haven’t tried ourselves, essentially using them as guinea pigs for new tools and techniques that we hope will pan out.

Is it just me, or does this sound like an absolutely terrible idea? And yet this exact situation is perpetuated across countless agencies.

About a year ago, I decided this wasn’t good enough. When my agency and I started immersing ourselves in HubSpot, we noticed that our clients were asking how we were using the system personally. We realized we had a golden opportunity to see ourselves through our clients’ eyes, improve the value we provide to them, and upgrade our own internal marketing efforts at the same time.

So, we hired ourselves and became our own best client. 

I started by holding a company meeting and telling everyone, “We just closed our largest client ever!” Once my team members were sufficiently intrigued, I did the big reveal. “That client is us.”

There was some disappointment at first, along with some confusion. But once I explained that we were going to actually become our own client and function exactly as a real client would, the vision started to click for everyone. We began by determining a budget and assigning ourselves an account person. We held meetings as we would with our actual clients, and the team had to present their ideas so I could sign off on every marketing expense. When we had internal meetings about our clients, StringCan was on the list.

We’ve been our own client for about a year now, and the results have been astounding. Here are the three reasons every agency (and business, period) must become its own client.

Re-Prioritizing Your Time

We used to think we were making our own marketing efforts a priority. But this was a farce. When time got tight or our clients had urgent needs, our own plans were delayed (sometimes indefinitely). Being a real client meant that we had to put in the time to hold meetings, discuss strategy, and execute on it. We also put a real scope and project plan in place, so our entire mindset shifted. Instead of having vague objectives we hoped to check off our lists, we had a clear roadmap to follow. Now, we simply can’t postpone our own goals because our team knows that at the end of each month, they’ll be reporting to me about what tactics they’ve implemented, what they’ve spent, and what results they’ve achieved.

Financial Accountability

We always were careful with our clients’ pocketbooks in the past, but once we brought ourselves on as a client, our perspective on budgets completely changed. We began to feel firsthand how scary it could be to invest funds into a new marketing tool or approach without having a guarantee about its ROI. This forced us to become even smarter about our use of clients’ money and to work in an agile fashion.

Instead of testing initiatives on our clients, we began using ourselves as the experiment. If something works successfully, we feel good about suggesting it to our clients. If it’s a bust (as some of the tactics we’ve tried have been), then we know we should focus our clients’ time and money elsewhere.

Think of it like working in a lab. You’re constantly monitoring what’s going well and what should be nixed or altered or optimized. As a result, we’ve truly grasped firsthand the value of a dollar, because we’re spending ours, too. This keeps us financially accountable internally, and helps us hold ourselves to a much higher standard when it comes to making recommendations to clients.

Experiencing Our Own Brand

The last, but perhaps most important, lesson we’ve learned through our time as our own best client is how the experience of working with our brand feels. You might think you have great customer service, are responsive and accountable, but do you know that’s true? Seeing your company as your clients do is extremely eye-opening. You’ll be able to clearly see what you do well and what needs to be improved. You’ll also upgrade your relationship with your clients, since you’ll better relate to their experiences.

Since becoming our own client, we’ve shared this journey with our other clients. They not only seem fascinated by this concept, but they also love to hear what marketing tactics have personally worked for us and what we’ve found to be ineffective. Knowing we’ve been down the same road and tested everything ourselves first goes a long way in instilling a feeling of comfort for our clients and making us even more credible in their eyes.

For example, we’re a Gold Certified Agency Partner with HubSpot and at the start of this year, we signed up for a HubSpot account for our own agency, so we could truly practice what we’re preaching to clients. Since then, we’ve seen a 1,250 percent increase in leads. But we’ve also come to learn that a few inbound tactics haven’t been worth their while. Without going through the process ourselves, we wouldn’t have had the same level of personal insight into our clients’ issues and opportunities.

Considering the incredible results we’ve seen, the next question is, how long will we remain at the top of our client roster? The answer is forever! StringCan will be StringCan’s largest client moving forward indefinitely. This will help us to push ourselves, better identify with our clients’ goals, and continually improve.

Whether you’re an agency owner, a solopreneur, or a leader of a different type of company entirely, what’s holding you back from signing on the dotted line and engaging with yourself in the context of a true client-vendor relationship? Maybe you can’t devote a full-scale budget to yourself, but there’s surely some way you can go through this process—repeatedly—to up your game and create positive results for your clients and your own business.

It’s time to stop saying (and thinking) that you eat your own dog food. It’s time to get on the ground and try every single flavor, over and over again. This is the only way you can be truly accountable to everyone who is counting on you.

Have you ever benefited from something like this? Comment below or connect with me and share your story!

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