The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast with John Jantsch
In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interviewed Corey Quinn, former CMO of Scorpion and now a dedicated agency coach, Corey specializes in guiding agency founders to scale with vertical market specialization. At Scorpion, he played a pivotal role in growing the agency’s revenue 8x in 5 years to a remarkable $150M. Corey is also the author of ‘Anyone, Not Everyone,’ a comprehensive guide for agency founders looking to move beyond founder-led sales. He is currently on a mission to empower 1,000 agencies to become vertical-market specialists, leveraging his extensive experience and insights.
In this episode Corey provides a comprehensive blueprint for agency founders looking to transition from being generalists to specialists in their field, paving the way for vertical market domination and sustained growth.
Corey Quinn underscores the significance of vertical market specialization in transitioning from founder-led sales to scalable growth for agencies. By honing in on a specific vertical, founders can position themselves as experts, differentiate their services, and attract ideal clients. Corey outlines actionable steps for identifying the right market, validating its potential, and building relationships with key influencers. With a focus on long-term success, agencies can leverage vertical market specialization to achieve sustainable growth and dominance within their niche.
Questions I ask Corey Quinn:
[00:57] Explain the concept of anyone, not everyone
[02:52] What is vertical market specialization and how is it different from picking a niche and getting specialized?
[05:45] How does one position themselves as the go-to agency for a specific market?
[10:00] Tell us about the strategic gifting outbound approach
[12:58] What are your favorite platforms or tools for building the ultimate list of who to target?
[15:57] How important is it to network with big names in the target industry and how is it done?
[19:24] Is it advisable to repeat the approach with other markets or stick to one?
[20:37] Where can people connect with you and grab a copy of your book
More About Corey Quinn:
- Connect with Corey on LinkedIn
- Visit his website
- Check out his Youtube
- Get notified for the book launch of Anyone, Not Everyone
Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!
Connect with John Jantsch on LinkedIn
This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by ActiveCampaign
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John (00:08): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Corey Quinn. He’s a former CEO of Scorpion and now a dedicated agency coach. He specializes in guiding agency founders to scale with vertical market specialization. At Scorpion, he played a pivotal role in growing the agency’s revenue eight x in five years to a remarkable $150 million. He’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, anyone, not everyone, A comprehensive guide for agency founders looking to move beyond founder-led sales. So Corey, welcome to the show.
Corey (00:47): John, it is a real treat to be here.
John (00:51): So let’s start with the title. I find myself always doing that because authors picked every word of a title so carefully. What’s the big picture you’re trying to imply with this idea of anyone? Not everyone.
Corey (01:03): So the big promise or the transformation that I wrote the bill to really help agency founders with is this idea of escaping founder-led sales, which is a challenge that many agency founders will go through in the sort of the lifecycle of their agency. And the way that I’ve personally seen this happen, both in the work that I do as well as in dozens of other agency owners I’ve interviewed, is one way to become sort of independent of sales and also to help scale your agency is to get really clear on who you’re targeting. Not only just get clear but specialized in serving a specific vertical market. And the funny thing is that title did not come day one. It was a much different title, and it wasn’t until I was working back and forth with my editor and I was saying we were using the term, it’s like something around you could do anything but not everything type of thing. And that’s where it was born from.
John (02:07): Well, if you don’t nail this getting out of founder led sales, I mean you’ll never be able to sell the business. I mean, to me, that’s kind of job number one, isn’t it?
Corey (02:16): Correct, absolutely. And there’s a saying that I love somewhere that I think is super interesting, which is that you want to build a business that everyone wants to buy that you don’t want to sell, right? And that’s a business that probably creates the freedoms in your life as a business owners that you want to have. So a hundred percent if an acquirer is looking at your agency and you are instrumental to the growth of it, that is not as interesting of a value proposition versus otherwise.
John (02:48): So I know you go very deep into this idea of you actually, I think I read it in your vertical market specialization. How is that different from the sort of well-worn advice of pick a niche and get specialized?
Corey (03:02): Yeah, I think it’s a good question. The idea of niching down is very common. There’s a great saying, the riches are in the niches, and I think there’s a lot of truth to that. I think the challenge is that it’s today it’s a very vague idea of what does that mean exactly? Does that mean I’m targeting females between 35 and 50, who like donuts or am I targeting flight attendants or what does that exactly mean? It’s very vague. And so what I wanted to do is be much more literal and specific about when you want to scale an agency. One of the great ways to do it, it’s not the only way, but one of the great ways to do it is to specialize in a vertical market. So in a way, vertical specialization is a type of niching down by the way, you can specialize in what you do, like SEO, that’s another type of specialization. But I personally like to help agencies and I’m really obsessed with this idea of taking a vertical market approach and I really care about helping people get there.
John (04:04): So one of the challenges I think is I think a lot of people hear that advice and they’re like, okay, where’s the opportunity lawyers or dentists? And having never worked with those markets, they just charge into ’em. And sometimes it works. Sometimes they realize, I hate working with Dennis. No offense, Dennis, but how do you make sure that you’re making the right sort of decision because it is a decision to send your business down a track
Corey (04:30): A hundred percent John. And there are situations where it makes sense as an agency founder to start down that road on day one, but generally that does not the way it works usually it is an agency owner who opens their doors and does business with their family and their distant family in the local chamber of commerce, and they say yes to a lot of different businesses. And I think that makes a lot of sense. As you’re launching your new business, you want to have revenue and you want to get it off the ground, but it is only until they realize that they can’t get beyond a certain point because they’re serving a wide variety of clients. They’re a jack of all trades, and they lack expertise in any one area, which has a direct impact in their ability to do things like operationally scale, but also their positioning becomes very watered down. The market doesn’t see their true value for what they are. They compete on price and they lose deals to lesser firms. And that all of that results in slow and inconsistent sales and all of those aspects bring the founder right back into sales because when the sales isn’t happening, that’s the founder’s responsibility at the end of the day. Right?
John (05:40): Yeah. So what are some of the key steps? If I’ve decided maybe I’ve been out there, I’ve had some success, I have some ideas about markets that I like, I’ve been able to serve, I’ve been able to add value. What are some of the key steps to really kind of positioning myself as the go-to
Corey (05:55): Absolutely. So in that case of that generalist who’s been around for a while, you have a lot of sets and reps. It’s important as you’re going through this process of verticalizing your agency to look at your current book of business and see who do I like working with? If I was going to fill my business with dentists as your example, what kind of life would I be enjoying at that point? Right? The whole outcome you’re trying to create is you want to fill your practice with a whole bunch of this type of business. And so first thing you want to do is you want to look at your experience. You want to look at, like I said, who you like working with, what problems are you really good at solving for them, and are they willing to pay for those problems? That’s number one. You want to look at your current business.
(06:38): Number two, you want to look at the market because you don’t want to target an audience that is too small or maybe too big. If you’re targeting an audience that says that, let’s say that has a small budget inherently then, and you charge $10,000 a month, and on average the average business owner in that industry makes a hundred thousand dollars a year, you’re going to have a hard time finding clients. And so there’s an aspect of it where number one, you have to feel like you’re good at it and you want to do want to work with these folks. But then number two, that the market that you’re going after is what I call, you have to validate it. You have to validate it’s not only large enough, but that it is a good fit for the kind of business you want to create.
John (07:22): I have people come to me all the time and say that I want to work with X, and I’m like, well, they don’t spend money on marketing at all. That might be a slog for you.
Corey (07:31): Yeah. The number I like to use as sort of a benchmark is when you’re doing the market research, does the average business in this vertical make a million dollars a year? This is specifically in the context of marketing agencies, and the math is if they make a million dollars a year and they spend 10% of that revenue on marketing per year, which is a hundred thousand dollars, you divide that by 12 months, that’s $8,333 per month. And you think about marketing today, you have to have a website, SEO content, PPC book, reputation management, do a podcast. All of a sudden you’re stretching that $8,000 pretty thin. And so depending on the type of service you have and the type of revenue you want to generate per client, a million dollars is a good barometer to make sure that they actually do make enough money for you to justify targeting them.
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(09:32): Now, this offer is limited to new active campaign customers only. So what are you waiting for? Fuel your growth, boost revenue and save precious time by upgrading to active campaign. Today, we have worked for years with various agents or various industries and certain industries, certain verticals are just getting hammered by people that have taken this approach. Remodeling contractors, for example. I mean, get 10 pitches a day from somebody that says they’re an expert in their industry. You have an outbound approach that uses gifting as a kind of unique approach to really stand out, right? They get the 10 emails. How are you different? Yeah, talk about that approach.
Corey (10:13): Yeah, absolutely. So the prerequisite is number one, you have a vertical market that you specialize in, that you position your agency around, and then what you do is you want to, and this is based on my direct experience of working at an agency where we sent literally millions of dollars of cookies to attorneys. Another one of these markets that is oversaturated that you could argue, but the way that I teach my clients, what you do is, number one, you build up a 20% lead list. And what I mean by that is out of all the attorneys in the us, let’s say you are targeting personal injury attorneys, you want to take that list and then you want to qualify it to identify what’s the top 20% of this list that if I can get them on the phone, then I have a very high likelihood that they’re going to be a great fit.
(10:59): They’re going to want to work with us. And so you create that list that becomes your lead list for this gift based outbound. The next thing you want to do is you want to identify a gift that would be unique, it would be striking, and it would leave a positive impression. You don’t want to send a ballpoint pen with your logo on it because that’s too easy to ignore. And as a result of this 20% list, it’s not very much of a spray and pray approach. It’s much more of a quality over quantity. I’ve done things, everything from sending gourmet cookies to sending alcohol to attorneys, to sending flowers to dentist office, you name it, video brochures. We’ve sent books. We’ve written books. Lemme share with you the impact of this. When we sent cookies to attorneys, this is again an industry where there are gatekeepers whose primary job is to prevent me from getting in touch, talking to the attorney.
(11:57): So that’s their job is to weed me out, screen me out. And so what we would do is we would send the cookies into the law firm, and these are again, not generic cookies. These are amazing mouthwatering cookies. They would be put in the FedEx box, sent to the law firm, addressed to the lead attorney. Of course it would go right past the mail room. It’s a FedEx box, it’d go right to the attorney’s desk, it’d be sitting there. The attorney would open it up, be this amazing presentation of cookies which would end up in the break room. And then people would be eating these cookies and everyone’s saying, gosh, who brought these amazing cookies? And it was like, oh, this company’s scorpion. And everyone’s like, well, who’s scorpion? There’s this buzz all of a sudden about this company that sent this amazing gift. By the time a salesperson called, which was right after the gift arrived, the gatekeeper would, the energy would be shifted from who are you and who do you want to talk to? Oh, you’re from Scorpion. Let me put you through, he wants to talk to you.
John (12:51): So this may be a little in the weeds, but your research piece, like the list targeting the top 20, and do you have some favorite kind of go-to list sources or platforms or tools?
Corey (13:04): Bring up a really great point, which is that the list is typically thought of as a check the box, go do Apollo or go to ZoomInfo and download a list or just use their interface. The list is the strategy, meaning you have to spend some additional time on the list than you otherwise would. And so what I recommend doing what I teach people to do is to source a list from these third party list vendors like a ZoomInfo or Apollo download leads into your own software like Excel or Google Sheets, and then you want to qualify those leads even further from what they gave you. You want to look for things like what are some objective signals that I could see that would indicate that these businesses can afford my services, that they actually have the pain point that I saw? And you need to go through these on a very manual basis.
(13:59): Unfortunately, I know we all like to go super fast, but if you’re planning on sending cookies, and by the way, it’s not just sending one gift, it’s sending gifts for three years. It’s not a one and done. It’s an ongoing event. Every quarter you send ’em a gift. So that’s even more reason why you want to just slow way down on the list on list build. So that’s kind of how I do it. Another place where you can find a high quality list is every vertical market has associations. They have conferences. And as you begin to target these folks, you’ll be going to these events and you’ll begin to build lists from those experiences where you tend to get really high quality leads from.
John (14:38): And I tell a lot of people, there are a lot of agencies out there, like 10 more clients, good clients that would move the needle significantly, but they’re trying to a list of 5,000 as opposed to that’s list of a hundred. Let’s spend 500 bucks on each of them as opposed to $5 on spray and pray approach. Approach. And
Corey (14:58): That focus, and I think the focus is kind of the thing that helps you to stand out. The fact that you are sending a thoughtful gift, it can be a personalized gift to them. As I said, it’s not just once. They may ghost you on the first gift and that’s okay, but then the next quarter comes, you send ’em a second one and the next quarter comes, you send ’em another one. Eventually you’ve built up all this reciprocity and they’re going to at some point say, okay, I got to talk to John over there at Duct Tape Marketing, because clearly they want to talk to us and they’re being very persistent in a meaningful way. And we also know that people, every attorney, every dentist, they’re going to shop for a new agency once every three years, let’s just call it that. And that’s why the time horizon behind this strategy is it’s a three year program. By the time that every single person on your list has been gifted over a three year period, all of them had an opportunity to go back to market, and you want to be on that list.
John (15:57): So every industry has key people. Everybody knows maybe their authors, they’re big consultants, they’re advisors or accountants or something in the industry. First off, how important is it to get into some relationships with those folks and then second part of how do you do it?
Corey (16:17): Yeah, great question. So the part of the strategy, once you become a vertical market specialist, the benefit of targeting a vertical or one of the unique benefits is every vertical is kind of like a village and everyone kind of knows everybody else. There’s definitely a gossip train and so on and so forth. And in any one of these type of social circles of a vertical, there are going to be people that Malcolm Gladwell calls Mavens, and these mavens are people that everyone else looks to make a decision on who to hire. And so as a vertical market specialist, as you’re trying to build your reputation and visibility in that market, it makes sense to try and build a direct relationship with these mavens versus just going out to market and talking to anyone. I’ll give you an example. One of my clients was focused on the chain restaurant industry, the industry of restaurants that had multiple chains, and there was a maven in that industry.
(17:15): He’s the editor of a magazine called QSR, and he is prolific on LinkedIn and he’s at the keynoting, the conferences on the stages and whatnot. He’s everywhere. Well, as a result of identifying this person as really a maven that people look to as a tastemaker, we made a decision to try and find ways, genuine ways to build a relationship with that person. Of course, we did that over time, and that resulted in a lot of opportunities for my client. That’s number one. And then number two is what I call influential brands. And influential brands are effectively the same as a Maven, but it is sort of a big brand in that vertical that everyone else looks to. If it’s good enough, if this company’s going to hire this agency, well, they’re probably good enough for us. And I saw this firsthand at my last company when we were getting into the franchise world, multi-location businesses, and we landed the biggest, the most well-respected, multi-location franchise business in the industry as really our first client. It was through a relationship. And as a result of that, that led to a lot of really almost frictionless introductions in the franchise space, which ended up being a big growth engine for us.
John (18:29): It’s funny, over the years, I’ve targeted manufacturers that have distribution networks, and the same thing is bring them something, build a relationship, provide value, and they’re very motivated to help their distributors. And so all of a sudden it’s like you’re the person. And as you mentioned, it’s a layup to get the business because in some cases they even had co-op dollars to give them.
Corey (18:53): Yes, yes, exactly. The reason why these things are important is you need to focus first. Once you get clear on who you’re targeting, marketing becomes a whole lot easier. Which keywords to target, which conferences to go to, what associations to get involved in all these things become super clear. It’s those agencies that haven’t made this decision to narrow their focus on this vertical market that are challenged with this things I said, the water down positioning, the ineffective marketing.
John (19:23): So is it safe to say once you get good at one market, you can actually repeat this approach, or should you just stay narrow?
Corey (19:32): It completely depends on the founder and their ambitions. I’ll give you an example. The last agency I worked with where we ran this play, we started off with attorneys, and then it was home services and then franchise. And I think the way that I coach agencies on how to approach this is, number one, you want to get to about 3% of the total addressable market. So if there are a thousand businesses in this market, once you get to 30, that’s a signal that you probably have enough momentum in that vertical that you as the founder, could lift your head and go find another adjacent vertical. What I mean by adjacent is it’s a business that has the same problem that you’re already solving, or it’s a vertical that has the same problem but is not well-served. So the example, my last company was attorneys, local service businesses, and then home services, local service businesses, both depended on Google for new leads, both needed a great website, reputation management, all of those things. That’s what I mean by adjacent.
John (20:32): Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Well, Corey, it was great having you stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Is there someplace you want to invite people to connect with you and obviously find a copy of anyone? Not everyone.
Corey (20:43): Gosh, John. I appreciate that. So the best place to get plugged into more of this type of content is my book, which is called, as you mentioned, anyone, not everyone. I have the website, anyone, not everyone.com, where you can go and learn more about the book. So I invite you to go there.
John (20:59): Awesome. Well, again, appreciate you taking a few moments, and hopefully we’ll run into you one of these days out there on the road.
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