Sometimes it’s better to view other agencies as your next piece of business rather than as your competition. You never know when a potential collaboration could turn into long-term business relationship.
In this week’s “From the Ground Up” interview, we chat with Lysa Miller from 3 Media Web, an UpCity Certified Premium partner and one of the top digital marketing agencies in the United States. Below we discuss how 3 Media Web got its start through a serendipitous merger and developed their reputation through thought leadership, customer success stories, industry events, and more!
Q: Tell me about 3 Media Web and how it got its start.
A: Our company, 3 Media Web, started as my business partner, Marc’s, company. He was the sole owner and started the business 18 years ago. He ran the company full-time starting out and acquired some big clients, but then when the market became unstable in 2008, went back to the corporate world for a couple of years until things began to stabilize.
During that time he continued to run the agency part-time and kept relationships with many of his clients. In 2014, he decided to go back in full-force again. One of the first things he did was hire a senior web designer to take on projects and a creative director. This allowed 3 Media Web to grow its reputation as a competitive web design and development agency.
Simultaneously, I was starting my own agency. I worked for CBS Interactive, but when I started my family, I left my job to start Ladybugz Interactive Agency. We were one of the first small agencies in Boston doing a significant amount of SEO and social media work, and were often sourced and quoted in publications such as Entrepreneur, Business Insider, and Fortune Online. Our key to success was that we got into the digital marketing industry when it was in its infancy, back before Neil Patel or Moz were regular household names.
As Ladybugz grew, we needed to provide more complex and expanded websites to our clients and didn’t want to build a team around that. At the same time, Marc and 3 Media Web needed help on the digital marketing side of things for his clients. We met on Twitter, worked on a few projects together and our relationship took off from there. That was about five years ago. We started working on projects together and after about a year and a half, we decided to join agencies. We’ve been a full-service web design and digital marketing agency ever since!
Q: What challenges come with merging to grow your company?
A: I think it’s been challenging in a few different ways. First and foremost, there’s the merging of two businesses. You can only have one CEO and in our case we chose Marc. My strengths are on the creative side of things and Marc’s are more technical. We had to figure out how to make the best of our different talents work for the overall good of the company.
Both companies had different management styles and processes, but the one thing we had in common was that we had a great base of clients to work with. We had to figure out what was going to work for us as a newly merged company. Ultimately, we took a very creative business from my end and introduced the processes from Marc’s company to create an effective balance.
Marc and I went back to the drawing board, decided what was scalable and what wasn’t and adjusted our processes accordingly. We also had to look at which clients would be able to scale with us and which ones wouldn’t, what services could scale and which couldn’t. Ultimately, it came down to three core services: web design and development, support and hosting, and digital marketing for medium-sized, and enterprise-level companies.
We can’t be everything to everybody. We’re very specific with the services we offer and the clients that we take on. In a world of “full-service digital agencies,” we are niche in the services that we provide. If you come to us and ask for a custom Magento or Shopify website or application, we don’t do that (but we do have awesome partners that do). We’re very specific with the services we offer and the clients we take on. The biggest challenge coming together was deciding on a plan for scalable growth. Now, we are executing and continuing to tweak and improve our plan.
We’ve set ourselves up to become a larger agency, which you need to be in order to cater to our type of client base. Some companies take a different approach and want to stay small to focus on fewer clients, but we have invested heavily in operations first; this way moving forward we can scale more efficiently without worrying about scaling our team with each growth spurt. Scaling operations is something we’ve written a lot about and provided thought leadership on in the industry.
Q: How important is being recommendable to your company?
A: Customer success is a core piece of our business development model. We know if we mess up with one client and they’re a major manufacturer, they’ll tell another manufacturer, who might tell another, ad infinitum. That’s really bad for business. Our reputation is everything, and I think a lot of businesses take that for granted. It only takes one bad review to convince somebody not to pick your company. As a digital agency, I’d say that at least half of our leads are from word-of-mouth.Our reputation is everything, and I think a lot of businesses take that for granted. It only takes one bad review to convince somebody not to pick your company. Click To Tweet
Q: One thing I’ve noticed about your business and your personal brand, in particular, is how you’ve used thought leadership and speaking opportunities to build your credibility. I think a lot of business owners would love to start speaking at events and contributing content to publications like Forbes and Entrepreneur. Do you have any advice about where to start? What strategies do you use to find new speaking or guest posting opportunities?
A: We’ve built our business on strong relationships and long-term, scalable partnerships. Because of that, I’ve found a large portion of our speaking and guest posting opportunities through existing relationships. For example, we’re a software partner with Accelo. They hosted an event in Boston around agency automation and invited us to speak. The event went so well that we’re hoping to do more with them. We also provide technology thought leadership content for users of the Pantheon.io community.
A lot of our connections are based on mutual thought leadership. I don’t feel like agencies compete; I never look at another agency or another brand as competition, I look at them as a potential partner and customer. I think, “how could I bring value to this partnership and how can they help me?” Our whole philosophy is that the universe will pay us back eventually. That might not be a common philosophy these days: people want numbers, they want analytics, they want results and ROI as soon as possible. We know bringing value to others is one of the best ways to grow your business. We are living proof of that.
Q: It’s all about instant gratification these days. You’re totally right, but what you’re doing seems to be working pretty well!
A: Be patient with your efforts, we have found that business development efforts and strategic moves can take a year or more to show value. If it works, just keep doing it. Don’t fall into the mold of “you have to do it this way” or “you have to do it that way.” Do what you’re comfortable with, do what people know you for, and do it well. That’s the best advice I have for agency owners!
Q: That’s excellent advice. Before we bring the interview to a close, I’d love to get your thoughts on how your partnership with UpCity has benefitted your business thus far and how you plan to grow your partnership in the future.
A: UpCity has been a great partner for 3 Media Web. We’ve gained publicity and authority by providing thought leadership and content through your blog, we’ve gained new clients, and we’ve met a lot of other agencies through your agency network. We hope to continue to work with UpCity and your amazing team of marketers moving forward and for years to come. We are so thankful we have partnered with UpCity!
Lysa is a partner at 3 Media Web, a digital agency that focuses on B2B web development and digital growth. Lysa manages the agency’s social brand, public relations, community relations, and business development programs. In her role, she develops new initiatives for the company’s growth. An avid writer, she focuses her skills on industry thought leadership and having fun with our company culture and brand. She writes consistently on LinkedIn and guests blogs for Clutch.co, MassVacation.com, Pantheon, just to name a few. She is the queen of networking, relationship building and loves to contribute to events and organizations in the local business community. Lysa is also the founder of The MetroWest Women’s Network, an online and event-based organization with over 3000 members.
3 Media Web is an award-winning website design and digital marketing agency. We specialize in designing, developing, and promoting websites on the WordPress platform for growing organizations.