I wish I could say that Chloeworks started out in grand fashion as one big idea that we executed flawlessly. The idea, design, development and improvement of Chloeworks was messy, followed a few rabbit trails and went through many iterations to get it to where it is today. The journey wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be, but boy the destination has sure proven to be a wonderful place. I’d like to tell you all about it.
In other lives, I’m a small business owner and have been running a marketing agency since 2004. Running a small business has its ups and downs and running a marketing agency has many unique nuances. You don’t necessarily have thousands of customers, you have a small-ish amount of clients that you are providing a service too, at a significant cost to them. There are many deliverables associated with these type of relationships, and those deliverables take time. And you need to track those deliverables and report on them.
With many service agencies, ours included, the resources you have to fill those deliverables are typically people. So you work to get more out of each individual every year. Training and tools are usually how you do that. People tend to be expensive – expensive to find, expensive to train and expensive to keep. So, your goal is to find great people, get them producing profit quickly, make them as efficient as possible and do whatever it takes to create an environment where more work gets done at a higher quality than your competitors at a competitive rate for your clients and to perform above expectations for those clients. You gotta keep them happy.
So with that as the foundation, we can talk about how we developed Chloeworks.
In about 2009, we had several important business issues to deal with:
- During the course of our work for our clients, we contacted a lot of people – websites, bloggers, press etc. We needed to keep track of those conversations, the results of those conversations and who was having them.
- Reporting – we worked with many different sales, fullfillment, analysis, online marketing and other sales type of systems to track, report and pay out on ad spends for our clients and to our clients.
- Productivity – We really needed a way to determine just what activities our team was performing that produced results and which ones didn’t.
- Workflow – We have a way of doing things and we needed to be sure those processes and workflows were easily implemented, tracked and completed.
- Client Management – Our agency needs to track many different data points for all our clients. We needed a way to do this quickly and efficiently.
Those were some of the business issues we had to deal with, I won’t pretend to say those are all of them, but these the the ones that drove the creation of the idea that become Chloeworks.
I had struggled for many months to find the right tool to track our conversations with our clients and with our/their marketing partners. Both to make sure our staff was able to back up the work that we did but also as a CYA. If you have run an agency then you most likely are quite aware of what I’m talking about. We had been using a relatively popular CRM tool that allowed us to record/track these conversations. You may still be using this service. But we found a huge flaw – there was no reporting on that activity at all.
I kept asking myself questions like:
- Are the number of outreaches related to the success of a campaign for a client
- Are certain teams/employees out performing their peers – how and why?
- Is a phone call more important than an email – more important than a facebook message – more important than a snail mail? What form of communication works best for client A or partner B?
- Is my staff actually doing that amount of work that needs to be done? There was no adequate task manager that could tie in.
I really had no idea how efficient we were. I had no way to predict campaign performance based upon the work that we were doing. I had no way to determine what type of activities and outreach our teams did that really made a difference. The data I had was simply anecdotal. There was no real data behind it. And this was incredibly frustrating. As a business owner, how do you allocate resources, train staff and drive success for your clients if you aren’t able to measure, track, report and adjust your inputs. Well, you end up taking guesses and relying too much on preconceptions, old thinking and anecdotes. I didn’t want to rely on that anymore. Efficiency, efficiency, efficiency become the buzzword in my brain.
So, I had been introduced to a programmer, who later become a great and dear friend, sometime in 2008. At the peak of my frustration I called him to stop by the office. My goal was clear – I needed a simple layer built upon the CRM tool we already subscribed too. This reporting layer would tell me all the metrics I needed about the communications we were having on behalf of our clients. A 15 minute meeting turned into several hours. A small reporting layer turned into a multi-module workflow manager, CRM tool, Revenue Reporting engine and more.
I was asked the simple question “what do we do daily”. After answering that, we determined there were several areas ripe for increased efficiency through the use of really great software, which we would build together. Chloeworks was born that day. We intended to increase efficiency through several modules:
- Client and Partner Conversation Management Tool
- Aggregated Sales Reporting Tool
- Process and Workflow Management
- Task Management
- Contact and Outreach tool
- List Management and more
All of this aggregated into one system that can be monitored, measured, tracked and reported on at not only the campaign level, but the agency, client, partner, and employee level. In the end, among a team of ten, we saved over 100 hours a week. You can do your own math, but that saved us considerably in labor costs, allowed us to bring on more clients, do more work AND our campaigns for our clients were more productive since we saw data quicker, more often than before and data we never had access to before. It’s been an amazing win.
In Part II I’ll go into depth into each module, how it came to be and what we hoped to accomplish. Check it out here.