Sometimes starting your own agency is about being courageous enough to make that first move. In this week’s “From the Ground Up” interview, we chat with Rob Green from FluidRank, an UpCity Certified Premium partner and one of the top digital marketing agencies in the United States. Below we discuss how FluidRank got its start through a courageous leap of faith, how they’ve built their reputation on a relationship-focused approach, and more!
Q: First things first, tell me a bit about how your agency, FluidRank, got its start, who you are, and why you do what you do.
A: I originally worked with digital agencies for a SaaS company, selling them products and software. As I learned about agencies, I began to see a very common trend, which was a lot of over-promising and under-delivering. Selling more than they could handle, talking about results but not achieving them.
For me, that huge break in expectations between digital agencies and their customers was upsetting. I’m passionate about two things: creating unique designs on the Internet and helping other businesses grow. It’s that issue that we’re trying to solve, and that passion has led me to start my agency, FluidRank.
For the first 14 months or so, I was more or less a freelance designer working with smaller businesses. As I became a bit busier, I founded FluidRank as an officially licensed business. We primarily provide web design work, but we also offer SEO management and other services too.
I’m a small business owner myself, so I understand their predicament. When you own your own business, every single dollar you spend matters, which is why I work so hard to provide my clients with real results. With that kind of attention to detail and care, it’s about more than just the results; it’s about bringing each new client into our family. I run a very family-oriented business and believe if you ask any of our customers, they’d tell you that we’re close friends, not just business associates.
That’s the way I always plan to keep FluidRank. There are just certain principles that I’ll never let go.
Q: That type of relationship-driven approach to client management requires a pretty large time investment though, doesn’t it? We’ve heard from other partners that when relationships are your focus, it’s not about finding new business, but finding new clients that will be the right fit. What are some of the things you look for before beginning a new project?
A: The biggest thing for us is expectations; the wrong expectations can tank a project.
We’re primarily a web design agency, so we run into a lot of business owners that think a groundbreaking website design will take them from zero to hero. In reality, there’s so much more involved than that. There have been multiple occasions where I’ve said to a potential client, “Save your money. Your business has other needs right now and jumping right into digital might not be the best fit.” Your website is only valuable if you use it for something. I can’t ethically take their money and build them a website with the knowledge that it likely won’t benefit their business in the long term.
That’s why during the first conversation I always start by getting an understanding of where a business is and where they want to be in a year, two years, or even five years from now. I talk about what strategies they’ve used in the past, how well they performed or didn’t perform. It’s only after we’re both on the same page with where their business is headed that we develop a solid plan to move forward. Sometimes we’ll spend as much as two weeks with a new client getting to understand their business and the people behind it.
I think some people are afraid of turning away potential business because they worry they can’t afford it. At the end of the day, it’s going to cost more money to keep a client happy who isn’t the right fit.
Q: So what kind of strategies or tactics do you use to really get to know a new client? Conversation is key, I’m sure, but how else do you really connect with clients and begin those relationships on a highly personal level?
A: It starts with just showing that we care. Having personalized conversations like, “Tell me about yourself. Why did you start this business? Tell me your story.” People buy into people, not products or services. Most people just want to know that the person doing the work shares their values.
On the flip side, taking the time to understand who THEIR customer is and what they want/need is also important. We spend a lot of time getting customer opinions, so then we can design a website with the right heart and soul.
My team tries to make every single project better than the last, and that’s been a great way to approach our business. You have to take something from every project, positive or negative. If a project doesn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, then we reflect and figure out what we can learn and do better in the future.
Your biggest successes will end up making you the most money, but those little lessons you learn from the negatives along the way are just as valuable.
Q: You mentioned that you bootstrapped the company yourself. Besides the obvious issue of cash flow, what would you say have been your biggest challenges thus far to growing your business?
A: The biggest challenge for us has been our market. Atlanta is a tough market in general with a lot of big name agencies who have been in business a long time. The volume that some of my competitors work on is crazy. That can be really intimidating to a small business like mine and challenging from a sales perspective. Figuring out how we can differentiate ourselves and provide a unique value has been an interesting puzzle to solve.
We recently launched a great Magento project with Blackberry Smoke that was close to a $70,000 win for us that came through UpCity. We were vetted over a two month process and ended up coming out on top against ten other agencies, which, I think, is a huge testament to staying rooted in what we believe. Competing in this market is tough, but building brand awareness is even harder. Having a profile on a site like UpCity has helped us get our name out there and attract those kind of larger projects.
Q: That’s one of the main reasons why we wanted to create the UpCity Marketplace. There are so many small agencies out there who do great work, but just don’t have the ad budget to reach those big potential clients. Differentiating yourself is never easy, but it’s even more difficult for smaller companies. Looking back on your growth, are you surprised you’ve been able to come this far in such a short amount of time and how has UpCity helped you grow?
A: If you were to tell me that we were going to be where we are now a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. Our reputation has really been everything for us. I treat every single customer that comes in as if their my next referral; that’s how I’ve been able to grow my business so well. No matter if we’re a $500,000 or a $5 million company, that won’t ever change. That emphasis coupled with our partnership with UpCity has been huge.
For a small business, like mine that has less than ten employees, what we pay for our Certified Partnership isn’t throwaway change. I’d never continue this investment if it wasn’t working and believe me, I have goal tracking set up (I’m a big Hubspot guy), and I know where my leads are coming from.
Our account representative, Mike Breen, has helped us through any struggle we may have had and I’m happy to say that as long as there is a FluidRank, there will be a relationship with UpCity. I look forward to that growth continuing month over month, year over year with your guys.
Robert Green is the son of a successful businessman and real estate investor. Growing up in a working-class family, Robert watched as his father worked long days to provide for his family. He was taught from a young age that hard work and dedication was important to creating success not only in business but everything that you do in life. Robert was involved in many acts of community service which taught him what it meant to help others. It was during this time that Robert discovered his ability to become a problem solver and overcome them through innovative ideas. Entrepreneurship was instinctive from a young age, always wanting to control his income and utilize his passion for helping people. Robert took all of his passion and desires and channeled them to start FluidRank.
FluidRank have a passion for helping businesses by solving their real-world problems. FluidRank has a dedicated team of talented web designers; brand strategist, and digital marketing gurus. Their team is dedicated to helping businesses grow by solving problems related to their internet marketing campaigns. With the world moving very quickly around your customers, they believe that user experience and innovation are imperative to creating value. Setting yourself apart in today’s competitive digital age is imperative. More than 50 billion devices are predicted to be connected together by 2020, because of this it’s critical to harness this potential and stay connected, in front of and relevant to your target audience. FluidRank will help you market to your community, create action with your customers that evolve your products and services while doing so.