A good agency partner is often hard to find, and if you want to make your client-agency partnership work, you need to look for expertise and professionalism. But it's not only about the quality of work; it's also about the client-agency experience.
In this episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast, our host Daniel Weiner welcomes Tori Barlow, the VP of marketing at Allbound. They chat about the four critical aspects of a good agency, the importance of personalization, and why specialized agencies are better than full-service agencies.
💡 Name: Tori Barlow VP of Marketing at Allbound
💡 Noteworthy: Allbound is a partner relationship management software. If you manage reseller referrals, your partners can come in and log into the portal, register deals, and read about updates.
💡 Where to find Tori: LinkedIn
⚡Google is not the only place to find an agency partner. Despite popular belief, Google is not the only way to find a good agency partner. Tori shares some of her suggestions for finding a good agency. She says, "I don't know if I've ever Googled for an agency partner. Here's where I would go if I wasn't using you — now, you're my first go-to — but I'm a part of this community that you're also a part of called Pavilion, and it has a lot of other like-minded marketers; so, I find a lot of goodies there. If you're not in Pavilion, I'm sure there are a ton of other Facebook Groups, networking events, or groups that can help here. But luckily, I also have a good number of marketing mentors. I think if someone were to refer an agency that they were unhappy with; I just don't know anyone who would do that. So, I really take their word for it."
⚡The four key aspects of a good agency partner. Many factors go into a successful client-agency partnership. Tori shares her top four. She says, "I think the name of the game for agencies when we are looking for one are a few things. One is accountability. I think we count on you as the agency to deliver a certain standard of work that we've talked about within the process. And so, accountability is definitely one of those things. The second thing is proactivity. So I think this goes hand-in-hand with us as the client; we have a million different things going on. We hired you to help us with staying one step ahead — whether that's our competition or me reporting to the CEO on what he's looking for — helping us stay proactive with whatever we're working on together. The third thing is organization. [...] And then the fourth, and I think one of the most important things, is being an advisor to us."
⚡ It's not just about the work; it's also about the experience. A successful client-agency collaboration depends on the overall experience, not just the quality of work. Tori explains, "I think it really comes down to if you miss your deadline. That's the first thing that pops into my head. Here's why. We hire you as the agency to — I've said this so many times — be our partner, but then also, we have to meet deadlines. We have to say what we're going to do. We have to stay accountable. If you miss your deadline, I think it's a really simple thing, but it makes a world of difference because, on the client side, I'm telling my CEO, my board of directors, 'Hey, we're going to get this campaign launched. This is how much money we're putting behind it. This is going to go great.' And if it's late or subpar performance, it throws everything else off in our world."
[00:00:00] Tori Barlow: Having that room, maybe it's once a month or biweekly for the lead person on the client side and the lead person on the agency side to just meet and just have almost like a therapy session. Like, "Hey, on the client side, are we doing okay? What could we be doing better?" And then on the agency side, same, you know, reciprocation, I think like everyone wants to be heard.
[00:00:21] And if you want a true partnership with an agency, like you have to give them the floor, too, because no one's perfect.
[00:01:06] Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast. I am Daniel Weiner, and this podcast is brought to you by myself, as well as YouShouldTalkTo. YouShouldTalkTo pairs brands and marketers, for free, with vetted agencies and or freelancers for pretty much any marketing or technique, because finding great agencies is an enormous pain in the ass.
[00:01:25] I am joined today by Tori Barlow, VP of Marketing at Allbound. Tori, thank you so much for joining.
[00:01:31] Tori Barlow: I am pumped to be here today, Daniel.
[00:01:34] Daniel Weiner: That's what I like to hear. Hopefully, you can still hear me. We had
[00:01:36] a little audio gaff at the beginning. I thought you were on mute. Now we're back. And we met for the first time in person actually, after knowing each other through, uh, the interwebs for four years, uh, a couple weeks ago.
[00:01:48] Tori Barlow: Yeah, that was really fun. Yeah, it's been really nice getting to know you, and you're just a wealth of knowledge throughout the entire, you know, marketing sphere. So this is gonna be a, a great conversation today. I can feel it.
[00:02:01] Daniel Weiner: Thank you. Pe people are gonna think I paid you
[00:02:02] to say that. It's unbelievable. And you got your first off of marketing, you got your first CAVA experience, if I remember correctly, when we grabbed lunch. Is that accurate?
[00:02:09] Tori Barlow: Yes. We need to go back there. That was...
[00:02:11] Daniel Weiner: I was gonna say this is not brought you by CAVA, but maybe they're my first sponsor. Who knows?
[00:02:16] Tori Barlow: I would buy into that.
[00:02:18] Daniel Weiner: Good. Um, well, we're gonna dive right in with a little controversy. What is your most unpopular marketing opinion or hot take of any sort?
[00:02:28] Tori Barlow: Yeah. I don't know if, if I have any unpopular opinion.
[00:02:31] I guess I'm a rule follower at the end of the day.
[00:02:33] Daniel Weiner: I was gonna say, are you, you only have popular opinions.
[00:02:36] Tori Barlow: Well, here's what I think. I think I am a huge believer as a marketer in laying down the foundation at any first gig, whether that's like,
[00:02:46] coming into, you know, a company and you're the head of marketing, or you're really just like responsible for creating a new program at a company. On the flip side, from the agency side, laying the foundation with a client, I think, is utmost importance. And what I mean by this is, looking at tracking, I think we all know as marketers, like, you're gonna be on the chopping block if you can't prove what you're doing, or, or track.
[00:03:11] So is your GA, you know, GTM, whatever your source of truth is, is that all buttoned up and firing correctly? And then what's your, you know, SEO like? This is just from a digital marketing perspective, from, from my background specifically. But what's your technical SEO like? So not really like the big fluffy content stuff, like can Google actually find you?
[00:03:34] And then the other piece is like, what are your paid search campaigns like? I think that might be an interesting, controversial question. I think some marketers like paid search, some marketers don't. I'm a huge advocate of paid search. But is that set up correctly, and are you really, you know, aligned with your overall marketing goals there?
[00:03:50] Tori Barlow: So, not unpopular, but I think pretty basic coming in and laying the, the, charge there.
[00:03:56] Daniel Weiner: I was actually always taught, which I have found is sometimes an unpopular opinion, but I think I'm on your side as, you have to get paid search right before you can get any other paid channels right. And a lot of marketers I speak with oftentimes don't agree with that necessarily. And they're looking to scale paid social or anything like that before getting the foundational elements of paid search, uh, down.
[00:04:17] Is that your opinion or experience or?
[00:04:19] Yeah, it's actually funny. I, uh, so my background is in paid search. I, I, um, used to manage that at a, at a previous agency, and I've always wanted to do an on-off test because I think you hear from execs like, "Oh, paid search doesn't do anything," or you know, "Why are we spending money in paid search?"
[00:04:36] Tori Barlow: And we actually accidentally had that happen to us at Allbound where all of a sudden, our adverts account like was not firing. We weren't showing up. And Daniel, all of our leads from every channel went down that week, and it was because our paid search ads weren't running. So that was the worst on-off test I've ever run, but at least I was able to do it in my career.
[00:04:58] And so, yes.
[00:05:00] Daniel Weiner: Un, an unintentional...
[00:05:01] Tori Barlow: Unintentional on-off test.
[00:05:02] Daniel Weiner: If that's what you're looking for.
[00:05:02] Tori Barlow: But you got to have that structure right. You got to hire, I think, the right hands to do that. We hire an agency for that, but what is the architecture for it? And can they actually talk the lingo? It's very important.
[00:05:16] Daniel Weiner: We're gonna get to the negative agency experiences, but I'm curious, did, did, did they mean to do the, like how did that even happen?
[00:05:22] Tori Barlow: No, it wasn't anyone's fault. It was, it was...
[00:05:25] Daniel Weiner: I thought you might know they didn't mean to do that. I'm like, "Well, that's not good."
[00:05:27] Tori Barlow: No, it was, we were all hands on deck. It was really a Google update or something, I don't even remember, but it wasn't anyone's fault, so that was the good news.
[00:05:36] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. And for everybody who has not heard of Allbound, tell us a little about it.
[00:05:41] Tori Barlow: Yeah. Allbound is partner relationship management software. So think of it as like a CRM, but for your partners. If you manage resellers, referrals, your partners can come in and log into the portal, register deals, and read about, you know, any updates from your company.
[00:05:57] Daniel Weiner: Gotcha. And who are you typically targeting? What types of companies?
[00:06:00] Tori Barlow: Yeah, anyone really who has a partner program, so if you're running into an issue of, you know, proving partner ROI or indirect revenue or really just like, you know, getting partner engagement in a good spot where you're, where you go to.
[00:06:17] Daniel Weiner: Awesome. You have the perfect experience for what I typically wanna talk about on this podcast coming from agency side and having switched to brand side. Do you think that that experience, uh, I'm sure it gives you very interesting perspective, do you think it's made you more sympathetic towards working with agencies and the woes and, and perils that agencies go through, or being a better partner to agencies having worked with them?
[00:06:37] Or do you think you have higher standards or, you know, some sort of, uh, both camps?
[00:06:43] Tori Barlow: That's interesting.
[00:06:44] I have always said working at an agency is one of the hardest jobs out there. I think people who have never been on the agency side, who manage multiple vendors in their organization, you know, sometimes don't understand the hard work it is to actually be a subject matter expert or an SME. I always give advice to folks that are starting out in their career or even confused in their marketing career of what to do, but I always recommend go work at an agency because you really get to understand
[00:07:16] how to pull levers, how to, you know, talk to clients and really understand multiple business aspects versus just like the one product you might be working for. But you know what? It's not all like Mad Man. Like I think we have this, you know, image in our heads of like, agencies are so cool and like you just, you know, party all day.
[00:07:35] Daniel Weiner: Smoke cigarettes and drink all day, yeah.
[00:07:36] Tori Barlow: And like look at, you know, drawings and it's like, it's hard work and a lot of times, like clients have demanding expectations and so I think from our end, what we've done, you know, for our agencies or at least have tried to do is, is, to your point, we do have high expectations for an agency, but we also look to them as a true partner.
[00:07:56] So they're not just like a one-off vendor. They actually are a part of our team. They listen to our sales calls, they talk to other stakeholders in the organization, and they're a contributing member of, of the team. And so I think, when it comes down to it, it's, you do have really hard work in front of you as an agency person, but you know, the client also looks to you as that like partner and go-to an advisor.
[00:08:20] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think those are typically the ideal scenarios. I wish age, my, my agency experience having worked at one for seven years was not like Mad Man in any capacity. It was mostly running around like a Mad Man and sending a thousand emails and dealing with grumpy clients at different points in my life and eventually making them happy.
[00:08:37] But, um, yeah, not very, uh, no, no cigarettes and, uh, very little alcohol, I would say.
[00:08:42] Tori Barlow: Yeah. And I think like, you know, from the agency side, I used to really just grow close to my clients, whether they thought of that or not. But I really had their best interest. And I know if you work for an agency, you know, and it's a good one, you really do have the client's best interest in heart, and you know, sometimes the client doesn't realize that or see that, but they definitely do.
[00:09:06] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, it's a big part of the reason why I do my best to, at least for now only work with independently owned and operate agencies because I think it's hard if you are, if you have investors to always have the best interest of your client at heart because you also have investors to, uh, you know, be beholden to as well, which is a, a whole other conversation.
[00:09:25] But, do you foresee ever going back to agency side? Do you think brand side is more for you?
[00:09:31] Tori Barlow: Yeah, I've thought about that. 'Cause I've literally ping-ponged so much. I started my first job at an agency. Oh, get this too. I was in the library my senior year of college applying for jobs, and I was like, "Oh, there's a PPC job out there.
[00:09:48] Like what is PPC?" And like, had no idea what it was. And then landed on this agency, learned everything, from SEO to paid search, and then went in-house and liked it. And then somehow managed back into the agency world. And now I'm back in, in-house. So I don't know, maybe it is next I go to an agency just seeing how my career has ping ponged. We'll see.
[00:10:13] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. Most marketers that I deal with, uh, who have the same title or similar to you, are getting hit up basically every single day, multiple times a day on multiple different channels, LinkedIn, email, sometimes text, phone call by vendors, agencies, technology providers, basically anybody trying to sell to the, um, you know, the top of the mountain, the marketing leader at an organization. Is that the same for you?
[00:10:35] Are you getting hit up like 10 times a day by various, uh, solutions providers?
[00:10:39] Tori Barlow: Yes. Email, LinkedIn. I get phone calls, voicemails, all, you name it.
[00:10:46] I think I get it.
[00:10:47] Daniel Weiner: Is there any, have you ever bought cold from something like that, or no, not not necessarily?
[00:10:54] Tori Barlow: Here's what I respond to. I respond to not personalization because I think that is so...
[00:11:02] Daniel Weiner: Interesting. Everybody's head just exploded when they are listening to this.
[00:11:04] Tori Barlow: But here, pseudo personalization. So, I think if you can target me and, and be kind of sneaky with how you talk to me... And here's an example. There was a company that I won't name, but they did an amazing job at targeting me, and I said I wasn't ready. I said, you know, "But I'm not the only person involved in this decision-making process.
[00:11:26] Here's the other person that is." And the next email I got from that SDR included that person that I had mentioned. So now there was visibility amongst other people in my organization that I told them about. And so I had to like, clue that person in, and it ended up going down a buying cycle. We didn't buy from them for other various reasons, but not for what the SDR did.
[00:11:50] And then, you know, from the a, that was a software cell. From the agency side, what I really think is interesting is, giving me a snippet of where I'm falling short. I think I've all, I've seen too many subject lines of like, "Rank number one an SEO." And it's like, I, like, "I know what you're trying to like, I get it, but like, where am I falling short,
[00:12:08] Tori Barlow: and you can quickly run that in like some rush or whatever. And then I'll listen to those once."
[00:12:13] Daniel Weiner: It's so funny to say that, and this is not a knock on that by any means. My overall, I get, you know, this is the 11th or 12th episode I think I've recorded, and I've gotten the opposite of that answer several times because it's like basically telling you your baby is ugly. You know, like, "Hey, here's where you're
[00:12:28] sucking and falling short." So it's interesting to hear that because I think my overall thesis of all of this stuff is like, knowing your audience
[00:12:34] is more important than anything. Whereas you want that and other people do not. So, yeah, I don't know how you know that off of the bat, but it's just interesting to hear the dichotomy of like, "I want somebody to tell me where I'm falling short."
[00:12:45] And other people are like, "I don't want you to tell me where I'm falling short. Like, don't tell me where I'm, I'm lacking," and stuff like that in a, in a cold outreach.
[00:12:51] Tori Barlow: I don't know. I think it's, so, like that's where the personalization piece, I feel like is key, is it takes two seconds to plug allbound.com into Semrush and see where my competitors are ranking versus me.
[00:13:02] And obviously, I wanna rank higher than my competitors, so I respond to that. If you tell me like, "Hey, your, you know, design on your website sucks," like, yeah, I don't, I don't know if I'll like that, but if it's data-driven, I am very into it.
[00:13:17] Daniel Weiner: Sure, and you have an even more unique perspective. You own the SDR function at Allbound, right?
[00:13:22] Tori Barlow: That's right. Yeah. The SDRs, the outbound SDRs roll up under marketing, which I know is only like 24% of organizations do that, but it, it works for us. They're crushing it. That is another hard job at any organization is outbound SDR. So my hat goes out to them every single day.
[00:13:41] Daniel Weiner: And what are you like? I think it's interesting to hear what is your overall like, you are getting hit up and inundated by things that you don't want to see more than you do. What are you advising them, or how are you advising them, I guess, to like break through the inbox essentially?
[00:13:57] Tori Barlow: Yeah, it's interesting. They are masters of their own cadences, and they A/B test constantly. Something that worked really well for us, and one of our SDRs, Peter created, was a Spotify playlist. And it was a, we're a PRM, partner relationship management software. And it was a, an outbound cold Spotify playlist for prospects.
[00:14:20] And every song had to, it was literally like a cadence in a playlist. It was so creative that got so many replies and, and I think meetings booked. But, uh, yeah. It was...
[00:14:32] Daniel Weiner: Shout-out Peter for, uh, Peter at Allbound. Yeah, I was gonna say.
[00:14:35] But it's just a, I think it's a, a numbers game too. At the end of the day, I think every marketer knows, you know, who's your ICP, who are the titles that are influencing that.
[00:14:44] Tori Barlow: And I mean, we need to get better at that, too, as marketers and SDR folks. Like, you know, we still are lacking data, but I think it all comes down to who are you targeting and, and actually what is their pain point that you're helping them realize. Like, if you're outbounding someone, they don't know that they're missing this technology or missing this extra agency as a partner.
[00:15:05] Like how do you have that person go to their boss and say, "We need this because I'll get this much more revenue," or whatever the pain point is.
[00:15:13] Like that's what we're working on right now.
[00:15:16] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. Do you follow any Will of, uh, Will Allred's content on LinkedIn? I think he is particularly interesting, the whole narrative around like, your prospect is not thinking about you, which I think is important and like you have to realize that. So it's interesting to hear that version from you as well.
[00:15:30] Tori Barlow: Yeah. He, he's amazing. He really, I feel like, came out of nowhere and is this driving force in the SDR world.
[00:15:37] So yeah, he's a great
[00:15:38] Tori Barlow: thought leader.
[00:15:39] Daniel Weiner: I called Will yesterday. He didn't answer or call me back. So hopefully, by the time this airs, Will's given me a, a callback.
[00:15:44] Tori Barlow: We'll tag him in a LinkedIn post after this.
[00:15:46] Daniel Weiner: I was gonna say. You've used my service several times and hired a few agencies through me, which of course
[00:15:51] you'll never go elsewhere, ever again, when you need an agency. But, prior to finding me, when you did need to outsource, what was typically like the spot where you started your search?
[00:16:00] Was it existing relationships? Colleagues?
[00:16:03] You're a big search proponent, Google?
[00:16:05] Tori Barlow: You know, I, I don't know if I've ever googled for an agency partner.
[00:16:10] Here's where I would go if I wasn't using you, which I know you're my first go-to, but I'm, a part of this community that you're a part of called Pavilion, and it's a lot of other like-minded marketers, so I find a lot of goodies there. I think if you're not in Pavilion, I'm sure there's a ton of other Facebook groups networking events, or groups that can help here.
[00:16:31] But I also have luckily built a good amount of marketing mentors, and they, I think if someone were to like, refer an agency that they were unhappy with, I just don't know anyone who would do that. So I really take their word for it of, "Hey, we use this agency, and you know, this is where, how we use them. So here's an intro."
[00:16:51] Those are the two main sources I would use.
[00:16:55] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. I get that comment a lot. I talk through it a good bit. The thing I think that's interesting, I, I hope no one would, uh, refer to me they thought was bad. The thing I find from marketer to marketer and company to company is, it's just such a different dynamic, even if you're the same size company, same, you know, type of marketing engine and stuff like that.
[00:17:13] What I've seen is kinda like the tagline I've been using a lot lately on my website and in different outbound copy of, uh, finding an agency is easy, finding the right agency is hard. So what I find in like communities and especially LinkedIn, when people like ask for agencies like to crowdsource via comment,
[00:17:28] the thing I find that's interesting is no one asks a single question, you know? Like somebody will say, "Hey, I need an agency for X." And nobody, everybody's like, "Oh, work with this one or work with this one." And I'm like, "How, like, I know I'm, you know, uh, I come at it from a different perspective where I wanna know a million more data points."
[00:17:44] But I think it's interesting that no one asks, you know, "Well, what's your budget? Like, what are you looking for? What is the techno, you know, anything like that?
[00:17:49] Tori Barlow: Oh, I see. Like, what's your goal with hiring? 'Cause you can hire an agency and like they could do an amalgam of things for that one subject. So yeah, I see your point. Like, what's your goal with hiring this
[00:18:00] type of agency?
[00:18:02] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, typically. That's a, a good segue into my next question for you. When you do get to your shortlist, like in general, I know it probably depends per service, but what are you looking for from an agency or vendor? Like what can they do to say you've narrowed it down to, you know, three different potential partners, what can somebody do to stand out like during that either pitch process or scoping or, anything like that?
[00:18:24] Tori Barlow: Yeah. You know, we've learned a lot here at Allbound, and you know, for those of you who don't know, we're a startup.
[00:18:31] So we have about a hundred employees, and I think your agency needs, differ as you grow and, and change as an organization. So, right now, what we've thought and learned is, first of all, managing agencies or looking for different agencies is like having a few different kids. Like no kid is ever the same, and you're always like, I think you can have a baseline for what you look for and what works for you.
[00:18:56] But at the end of the day, you know you're gonna have to adapt to what you need from this agency because can't get the same thing from everyone. So, in short, I think the name of the game for agencies when we are looking for one, few things. One is accountability. I think we count on you as the agency to deliver, and deliver a certain standard of work that we've talked about within the process.
[00:19:22] And so, you know, accountability is definitely one of those things. The second thing is proactivity. So I think this goes hand in hand with like, you know, us as the client, we have a million different things going on. We hired you to help us with staying one step ahead of whether that's our competition or me reporting into the CEO what he's looking for, helping us stay proactive with whatever we're working on together.
[00:19:48] The third thing is organization. We have had a few poor experiences with staying organized. And that can just be as simple as like, "Let's use Asana or let's use, you know, Basecamp." Whatever works for the agency, works for us. We're pretty agnostic to the project management tool, but like we need to have organization.
[00:20:10] And then the fourth, and I think one of the most important things is being an advisor to us. So we're not hiring you, at least from the Allbound side, to just execute and do work. If we were to do that, we'd hire like up worker or a freelancer, something, a kid in college, we're hiring you as the agency to be our advisor and like tell us the direction from an SME perspective of like, "Hey, this is the goal strategically as the company. Here's what we need to do on the execution side, and we need that hand-holding." Yeah, I think, like a lot of folks on the client side, I know I've been guilty of this, have, you know, we block the agency strategy. I think like we can get so tied up in like our corporate strategy that it's like we're handicapping the agency from actually like shepherding us and helping us get to our goal.
[00:21:02] So I, I think that's a big like, balance thing too.
[00:21:07] Daniel Weiner: There's a big trust that goes into it. That's why like a lot of times, the biggest negatives or negative experiences I see is typically because I think at the very beginning, which is why I encourage such ridiculous amount of transparency and communication is 'cause agency and client are approaching things
[00:21:22] from two very different angles. And when I see the biggest thing is like, in an ideal perfect world, folks like you who are, you know, managing a budget and stuff like that, they want all the things you just said. And they want an inherent level of flexibility. You know, the market changes, your company changes, your goals change, all that sort of stuff.
[00:21:37] And you want to be able to meander through a change in budget or a change in scope or moving things around with some level of ease. And based on just the model of agencies, typically, in an ideal world, your scope would not change. Your budget would only go up. Everybody would devote the same amount of time and energy on a week-by-week basis 'cause it's harder for them to meander and shift and stuff like that.
[00:22:01] And the best relationships are the ones that figure that out early on. How can we adjust to things going on in the market? How can we, when scope needs to change? How do we address that without, you know, that's why, like you talked about proactivity, which I think is super important. I'll, I'll add an asterisk after that.
[00:22:17] From what I've experienced, it's usually proactivity without a dollar amount associated to every proactive move. So most folks I talk to want agencies to come to them with ideas and, and learnings and different things that not every time they do that is associated with a new dollar amount essentially.
[00:22:35] Tori Barlow: Yeah, no, that's right. It's like you're looking at it as more of like a partnership versus like, you know, "Hey, this is my idea, let me charge for it." And I, I think it, it goes both ways, like, if my agency brings ideas to the table and it warrants like more work, or we take it in in-house and then I'm like, "No, I actually don't have any resources to do this great idea that you had, agency.
[00:23:00] Like, let me pay you to do that." I think that's like a, a better relationship, talking about it versus just like, "Here's my idea and here's how much I'm gonna charge to do it."
[00:23:10] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, absolutely. I've seen a big shift since COVID, especially, of brands moving towards smaller independent agencies that are specialized in like one to two services. What do you think of that? Are you pro that, or are you looking to consolidate services as much as possible, or it really just depends?
[00:23:28] Tori Barlow: Yeah. I think we gravitate towards this as well. It's funny, I'm just reflecting back on my personal agency experience, and I used to work for an agency that quote-unquote did it all. And then I, my second agency I worked for just had, you know, three business units.
[00:23:42] And the second one, no surprise, has just doubled in size, revenue, everything. I think the first one, I'm not really sure where that one is, but I think if, in my opinion, I think if you say as an agency you can do it all or, or the client comes to you and says, "Hey, this is what we want," and you say in the RFP or whatever, like, "Yes, we can do it."
[00:24:00] And then you've never done it before. Like, I think that's setting the agency and yourself up for not the best. I think we look for someone who's so specialized. I know when I come talk to you, I have a need and you know exactly who to point me in the direction too because of the special thing I'm looking for, and it works out.
[00:24:21] Daniel Weiner: No, that makes total sense. To that end, can you think of like a really positive agency experience you've had, while you've been on brand side in the past? And what made it so great?
[00:24:30] Tori Barlow: Yeah. Of lots. I think there's so many great agencies out there. The ones that come to mind are, a few from you, but you know, when I think of them, I have three just popping into my head now that we have used at Allbound, and some have been with since the beginning of my time here at Allbound, and that has been over three and a half years, which I think is a long time for a client-agency relationship if you ask me.
[00:24:54] Daniel Weiner: Not the norm these days by any means.
[00:24:56] Tori Barlow: Yeah, but here's what they're doing really well. I think they listen, which isn't too hard to do. I think the kicker is like active listening. So are you actively listening to what we're saying in each weekly agenda or whatever it is? And then, are you coming to the table with like actual data that supports what we're trying to get to?
[00:25:17] Are you gonna get down and dirty? No quarter, no month is ever perfect. And if you have a really bad quarter, like that's when I think I've seen these agencies we've had good experience with, like all hands are on deck. They're helping us as the partner, and they're doing everything they can to figure it out with us.
[00:25:36] Those are the agencies that make it through the test of time, in my opinion.
[00:25:41] Daniel Weiner: For someone who's maybe coming into like their first marketing leadership role or maybe hiring their first agency or taking over agency relationships, you kind of just touched on some of them, but do you have any tips for being a really good client to agency partners that you've seen be successful?
[00:25:56] Tori Barlow: That's a really good question.
[00:25:59] Daniel Weiner: The only kind of questions we ask here, Tori. Excellent questions.
[00:26:02] Tori Barlow: I know. What if I started every sentence with that? Yeah, I think there's a, I mean, a few things come to mind. I think one is the client. Like I'm a huge advocate of feedback loop meetings. So say, for example, several folks on the client side are always on weekly agenda calls with the vendor side.
[00:26:19] You know, having that room, maybe it's once a month or biweekly for the lead person on the client side and the lead person on the agency side to just meet and just have almost like a therapy session. Like, "Hey, on the client side, are we doing okay? What could we be doing better?" And then on the agency side, same, you know, reciprocation. I think like everyone wants to be heard.
[00:26:42] Tori Barlow: And if you want a true partnership with an agency, company, like you have to give them the floor too because no one's perfect, even though you are paying them. If you really want the best results. I would look at it as more of like a partnership.
[00:26:54] That would be my biggest piece of feedback.
[00:26:57] Daniel Weiner: No, that all makes sense. I'm curious, you know, even in the positive experiences, and I rarely hear it, like you didn't mention one thing, I don't think, unless I, unless I missed it, of, uh, the actual work, you know, which is kind of like my hot take is that the work doesn't matter. And what I mean by that is, of course, the work matters.
[00:27:14] You can't suck at what you do, has to be good work. Cost of admission is doing good work. There's a lot of people who do good work, but you don't get to do any work if you're not good at the relationship stuff or the, um, you know, the presale and process and all of that sort of stuff. And I find typically, like even the negatives, which we'll talk about, it's rarely the work. Like even like negative agency experiences I hear about, or I've been a part of at my old agency,
[00:27:36] it was almost never like, "Oh, this thing that you delivered missed the mark." 'Cause you can correct good work, obviously. Like if you miss the mark, it can be, you know, discussed and all of that sort of stuff. But I typically find close to like a hundred percent of agency breakups are process, relationship, it feeling like people don't give a shit.
[00:27:57] That sort of stuff. Do you, how do you look at the actual physical work product?
[00:28:03] Tori Barlow: Yeah, I mean, I think any, it really does come down to relationship and setting expectations in the beginning. And if, you know, you both can't meet those, then it might not work out. Look, I think the work is, is definitely, like I said, I could hire someone else like a freelancer, someone like my sister.
[00:28:23] I don't have a sister, but if I did have a sister, like I could hire her to do it. And, and you know, but I'm choosing to hire a professional services company. And, and what I expect is, yeah, that relationship and the communication aspect of it, and, you know, not being so reactive with stuff.
[00:28:41] I think like what I don't want is if I see something broken, then I'm like Slacking you, "Hey agency, please fix this. Like, why is it broken?" Like it's like, come on, let's do a little bit better than that. And I think one thing too that really got our wheels turning was like just the standardization of a weekly meeting and everyone coming prepared to those calls. It's a productive call.
[00:29:05] And if we didn't get that from our agency, like that was also a red flag of like everyone coming prepared to the call. So, yeah, you're right. Like long story short, I don't think it really has to do with the, the production of work. Now, if you're like constantly missing on like grammar or spelling, whatever, that's one thing.
[00:29:22] But yeah, it's really like, are we a partnership here or not.
[00:29:26] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. I find typically from, truthfully, I used to say it was more startups, but I find it now, I don't know if it's like the post-COVID world or what, but I find from startup to, you know, enterprise and Fortune 10, basically anything outside of really massive consumer-facing brands, most marketers prioritize, like speed and ease of use over perfection.
[00:29:48] Like, you know, if you get, if you're building a website or anything like production focus where a deliverable is being given, like they want it fast versus like the perfect, perfect thing. And they're willing to iterate on it
[00:30:02] versus like waiting to build something over six months or a year, like I think I saw more so prior to COVID.
[00:30:08] Is that the same for you? Is speed super, super important here?
[00:30:13] Tori Barlow: Two of our internal marketing mantras are, "Fail fast," and, "Just be 1% better today than you were yesterday."
[00:30:21] And I think that goes into our agency relationships too. Like, "Yeah, meet your deadline. Let's get something out. And then let's look at the results, what went wrong, and let's do better next time." I mean, that's all you really can do.
[00:30:33] Daniel Weiner: Allbound's like a professional sports organization with these mantras. I like it.
[00:30:37] Tori Barlow: Go sports. I'm like the least sporty person ever.
[00:30:40] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. Let's talk some shit now. Can you think of a really negative agency experience you've had without shaming anybody? But on that side, like what, talk, talk me through the experience and what made it, you know, the negative experience it was.
[00:30:53] Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think it really comes down to, you know, if you miss your deadlines, that's the first thing that pops into my head.
[00:31:02] Here's why. You know, we hire you as the agency to A, if, I've said this so many times. Be our partner, but then B, those things underneath, we have to meet deadlines. We have to say what we're gonna do. We have to stay accountable, whatever. If you miss your deadline, I think it's a really simple thing, but it makes a world of difference because on the client side, I'm telling my CEO, my board of directors, "Hey, we're gonna get this campaign launched.
[00:31:27] This is how much money we're putting behind it. This is gonna go great." And if it's late or subpar performance, it throws everything else off in our world. And we've had agencies that have not done something like that, that drastic as an example I gave, but consistently missed the mark on a deadline or can't show up to calls prepared.
[00:31:48] And it just sets off the whole thing. So again, to your point, it's not about the work, it's about that like experience that we're having with the agency.
[00:31:59] Daniel Weiner: That's why too, it's like you mentioned one of the agencies you've worked with for like three and a half years is so rare. I think A, because turnover is more rampant than ever, but also because, like, you just get you wear out, you know? It's hard to stay like super, you've, you've brought up proactivity, you've brought up like being prepared.
[00:32:15] It's easy to get comfortable, you know, when things are good to just like, I hate to say half-ass it, but show up calls unprepared and like talk about the weather and stuff like that. So like maintaining our relationship for three and a half years is uh, no small feat by any stretch of it.
[00:32:30] Tori Barlow: Yeah. And the agency that has been with us for three and a half years since I've come on it's paid search agency.
[00:32:37] I won't say the name of who it is, but we've had the exact same account manager since I've been on. That doesn't mean she hasn't got promoted, she hasn't been recognized within the organization. She actually is now transitioning from our account to a different account, but you know how they're handling it?
[00:32:54] It's a three-month transition, so that I, as the client, feel so comfortable with this new person coming on. And I also just talked to the account manager just one-on-one the other day and asked her like, "You know, it seems like this agency attrition that you work for is so low. Like, what's the success for this agency?"
[00:33:12] And, and she says that they just promote people consistently, not within a title perspective all the time, but just they put people first. And I think that's what you have to remember if you're a leader at an agency. Like these people really want that like work-life balance. They wanna feel heard, and like, I think that comes out in the client work too.
[00:33:35] So I thought that was interesting. She shared that, but yet sometimes agencies can have high attrition.
[00:33:41] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. Recognition and money are, uh, two good things for.
[00:33:44] Tori Barlow: ...way, yeah.
[00:33:46] Daniel Weiner: I was gonna say. Once an agency situation or even with any vendor has turned into a negative, do you think it can be salvaged?
[00:33:53] Tori Barlow: Yeah, I think it's like a personal relationship.
[00:33:56] Like, you know, if you both come to the table, if you're direct with what you need, if you hear the other person, so there's that active listening again, and you set expectations, and you set strict boundaries for both sides, like yeah, it can work. And we've definitely salvaged the relationship from that. If you do that and expectations aren't met, I would give yourself a timeline, like, you know, a month or whatever to get back on track.
[00:34:21] Then it might not be a fit, and you might have to go reach back out to you to find another agency. But you know what? Go tell your mom you broke up, cry and, and move on. Like, I think if it's not a fit for you right now like there will be another one down the road.
[00:34:35] Daniel Weiner: That's the spirit. Everybody should come back to You Should Talk To at some point for new agencies. Uh, with, with, you have everything. You have marketing, you have sales. What are you most bullish on from a marketing perspective? There's so much, the internet is just madness. There's new social networks every day.
[00:34:51] There's people talking about the metaverse, NFTs. We've got all sorts of events are back. What are you most excited about?
[00:34:59] Tori Barlow: Well, I am not as cool as any of the stuff you just listed, I guess, but I...
[00:35:02] Daniel Weiner: Totally. You don't, that that's a big thing I talk about.
[00:35:05] Every brand thinks they have to be cool. And I assure a lot of brands like, "You do not have to, to try everything, I assure you."
[00:35:12] Tori Barlow: It's like, I keep hearing about this dark social stuff, but when I look into it more and more like, I think it's nothing revelational like. I think we've been doing it, you know, dark social.
[00:35:23] Daniel Weiner: We just called it something different.
[00:35:25] Tori Barlow: It's, exactly. But...
[00:35:26] Daniel Weiner: So glad to hear you say that. When I read it, I was reading it, like when somebody first coined it and I was like,
[00:35:31] "Am I like...?"
[00:35:33] Tori Barlow: Yeah, we're like, this is, we are already doing this. You know, like this isn't new. But that's a very good marketing tactic, what they did. They created something new of what we was already having.
[00:35:41] But, no, I think, you know, what I am really trying to hone in on and I think what we found initial success with is the community marketing. For us, I think, 'cause I think it has a lot of different takes on it right now, but for us, what it means, as a marketer, identifying your audience first and foremost, but like where do they live?
[00:35:59] Where do they read articles? Who do they talk to? I hate using the word influencer, but like who are the folks in your industry that are actually like moving the needle with what's next in the field? And so we're honing in on where are those communities and how do we gently get in front of our audience.
[00:36:18] And I think what I've learned more from doing that is actually like making genuine friends in these communities. And like, I'm thinking of a few right now like I never wanna lose them ever in my career, but they've also just helped me grow as a marketer, and we're tapping into those communities from that.
[00:36:36] So it's an organic experience as well.
[00:36:39] Daniel Weiner: Kathleen Booth was on a couple episodes ago, the new SVP of Marketing at Pavilion, actually. And you know, one of her, she had a kind of viral post that really resonated with me about community being the new Google and nobody's going to Google to find stuff. They're starting a community and then going to Google.
[00:36:53] But, to your point, I think that's why I see so much, unfortunately, not so great like sales activity from a lot of the agencies is because they think short-term. So like, part of the reason I like to think I've been successful with, you know, I consider us friends now, and we started as not friends, is because I think long-term. Like I'm fortunate where I'm doing this for the long haul and
[00:37:17] I wanna build relationships that come to fruition in 5 years or 10 years, or 3 years or tomorrow, you know? And any of those are good outcomes. And if nothing happens, it's a totally fine outcome as well. And agencies, vendors and stuff, you know, they've got, you've got quotas, you've got all sorts of stuff going on, and it's hard.
[00:37:33] That's why I feel for SDRs and people at agencies too, big opportunities are few and far between, and they have such a huge ramification if they win or lose, unfortunately. But yeah, I think it's just impossible in this world, especially with community to, you just can't force it. I see so many people. I was just talking about this the other day who I joke are like bad at playing the game, you know?
[00:37:57] Like they send one thing of, you, you're like, "Oh, they wanna like have a normal conversation." Then they sell like 10 seconds later. You're like, "Dude, chill out.
[00:38:05] Like, at least wait like a week. Like, give it two weeks, something." You know? So I think some people just can't help themselves because they're being, that's the mandate from leadership, unfortunately.
[00:38:15] Tori Barlow: It's hard to manage stuff like that and to not
[00:38:18] want to do that type of selling, 'cause yeah, everyone wants to make a buck and close a deal. We get it. But I, I think as marketers too, like you really have to engage with your audience and like, almost be one of them, whatever you're trying to sell and like really get down and dirty. I, I learned that a little too late in my game.
[00:38:36] But that's like the number one thing I've been constantly reflecting on is what Kathleen's preaching is just like you have to be a part of the community and you have to know how to like work, work the community, but in a very organic way. 'Cause if it's not organic, you're not gonna listen to it, you know?
[00:38:51] Daniel Weiner: I totally agree, and I think it's something that unfortunately or fortunately for if you're good at it, it can't be taught. I don't think you can like teach somebody to do that. I think you either kind of have it and get it or you don't, unfortunately.
[00:39:03] Tori Barlow: Yeah. I'm curious 'cause I do see that title popping up more and more as a community marketing manager. But like, I'm personally curious how do you teach that, how do you become that. It's really interesting. What is something that keeps you up at night from a
[00:39:16] Daniel Weiner: marketing or business standpoint, when you pop up at three in the morning sweating, thinking of?
[00:39:21] Tori Barlow: Oh, probably, hopefully like, "My kid's still alive." I don't know. That's what I think about.
[00:39:25] Daniel Weiner: That's a positive, but let's talk marketing and... that's, it's good that you said that. Now everybody knows you're a good parent. That's, that's that's the right answer, um, after, after your children and family.
[00:39:34] Tori Barlow: Well, I think, you know, from a marketing perspective, I think I could list like a bunch of metrics and let me be honest like ROI is definitely top of mind screaming at me.
[00:39:44] But I think what would keep me up at night is just making the most of my team. Like, "If is my team okay, are they heard, are they supported?" You know, when I first started at Allbound, it was just myself and Allie, who is now a marketing manager on my team. And now we're a team of 15. And it's a, we wouldn't be as successful today from the marketing outbound side if it weren't for every single person on my team.
[00:40:09] And so they spend 30% of their day here with me and Allbound, so how can I make it great for them so that they keep thriving? I think that's probably the, the thing I think about the most.
[00:40:21] Daniel Weiner: Sure. You, you mentioned something interesting. I know revenue and ROI has to be thought of, but kind of the thing I talked a lot about with marketers is, you know, I do believe to a certain degree. If you obsess too much about ROI and measurement and attribution, you don't get to test or do some of the like newer, cooler things, or not even necessarily cool, just trying new things 'cause it's really hard to attribute everything or tie everything to ROI.
[00:40:48] Uh, are you in that same thinking or how do you think through that when you're like potentially going to experiment with something new, if you can't necessarily tie it to ROI? Is it a tough sell internally?
[00:41:00] Tori Barlow: I think we are lucky enough to have a mindset specifically on the marketing side of, "Okay, you have this amount of money to try this new thing. You know, let's test it. Let's actually track it. If it doesn't work, then we know we're not gonna do it again." But we have to prove that it did or didn't work.
[00:41:18] And you know, I think we have a few safe bets with what we see. We use Salesforce as our CRM. At least in Salesforce of what generates ROI, so we know. I don't think any marketer has like attribution a hundred percent figured out. If they do,
[00:41:32] Tori Barlow: I would love to talk to you. But like that's what we're...
[00:41:35] Daniel Weiner: I thought you're gonna say, if they do, they're lying. 'Cause I don't think anybody has it a 100%.
[00:41:38] Tori Barlow: I don't, yeah, I'd love to talk to that person. But, no, I think it's definitely a matter of like, look, if you're doing the same thing in marketing, like you have to test. You have to try new things. Otherwise, like, you know, you're not changing and evolving.
[00:41:51] Daniel Weiner: No, that makes total sense. That wraps up our, our marketing portion of this call into the fun stuff. What was your very, very first job growing up, either high school, college, before any of the?
[00:42:02] Tori Barlow: My very first job was in high school and
[00:42:05] I was a karate instructor. I used to take...
[00:42:09] Daniel Weiner: You were a karate instructor?
[00:42:10] Tori Barlow: Yeah. I, um, back in the day. I, well, I, I don't practice any, I think if I tried to do a kick, I would like throw my back out. But yeah, I used to be a black belt. So I would teach karate, and that was my first job.
[00:42:24] Daniel Weiner: Uh, Tori, I had no idea.
[00:42:25] I know never to fuck with you now and get a karate child jab or a kick to the skull.
[00:42:30] Tori Barlow: I'm very deceiving with my smile.
[00:42:31] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I gonna say. I, the, the follow-up to that is always did it prepare you for what you're doing now. I'm just curious if everybody at Allbound is in a constant state of fear of uh, of, of, saying the wrong.
[00:42:43] You're like, "Guys, I don't want to have to bring out the black belt but like, just now."
[00:42:47] Tori Barlow: I don't know if anyone actually knows. So this...
[00:42:49] Daniel Weiner: Well, now they do. Yeah.
[00:42:51] Tori Barlow: Know. Yeah.
[00:42:53] Daniel Weiner: What would be your, I've been told it's too morbid to say your death row meal, but what, what would your final meal be if you had to pick?
[00:43:00] Tori Barlow: My final meal... Well, if I were on death row, I think I might be too anxious to eat. I'd be like, "Why am I on death row
[00:43:05] right now? Like, what did I do?" Yeah.
[00:43:07] Daniel Weiner: Karate kid, or something. I don't know.
[00:43:09] Tori Barlow: My husband makes a mean mac and cheese. He makes it from scratch and like does the roof for everything. And oh, he puts cheezits on it.
[00:43:17] Tori Barlow: So that it would be my husband's mac and cheese.
[00:43:20] Daniel Weiner: Wow. You're the first person who's answered with something homemade.
[00:43:24] Tori Barlow: Oh, that's... What do most people say?
[00:43:27] Like sushi from their favorite sushi restaurant.
[00:43:30] Tori Barlow: Oh.
[00:43:30] Daniel Weiner: I've gotten like specific pizzerias.
[00:43:32] ... a, a holiday mashup of everybody's answers to that.
[00:43:36] Uh, my, one of, one of, I know.
[00:43:38] One of my own popular food opinions, in general, is that they reduce fat cheezits are significantly better than the regular cheezits.
[00:43:45] Because they're crunchier and less greasy, in my opinion. So...
[00:43:48] Tori Barlow: All right. I'm a huge cheese eater, so I'll have to try those. I just go for the regular, but I'll give it a try.
[00:43:52] Daniel Weiner: All right. Well, and then the final question I have for you, who is somebody who inspires you either personally or professionally, or both?
[00:43:59] Tori Barlow: Oh, wow. I've been lucky to have a lot of good mentors along the way that I've kind of collected.
[00:44:05] I think people do that throughout their career. So I'd say my mentors, but I think, professionally and personally, you know, someone who I've been able to watch throughout my entire life has been my aunt Mary. She was the first woman in our family to graduate from college. And she now holds a C-level title she has for a while now, but she's the hardest worker I know. And it's been so cool to see her personally and professionally at the same time.
[00:44:31] Tori Barlow: So she's a huge person that inspires me.
[00:44:35] Daniel Weiner: I wish I had like an Oprah situation where I was like, "Mary, come on out."
[00:44:38] Tori Barlow: I'd be like in tears.
[00:44:39] Daniel Weiner: I know. That's what I'm saying. I got to try that next time. I didn't know the answer, so it would've been dif... that would've been brilliant if I was like, "Mary. Surprise."
[00:44:46] Uh, now, this was awesome, Tori. I was gonna say, I'll, I'll see you around the Dojo, but, uh, I don't know. Where's the best spot for..? It's allbound.com, I know that, and then the best spot to find you if anybody wants to send you a pseudo-personalized message would be LinkedIn, I presume. I wouldn't dream of giving out to your email address.
[00:45:01] Tori Barlow: Yeah. Yeah, hit me up on LinkedIn. I love chatting and love talking marketing stuff or really anything, so just hit me up and, and would love to talk.
[00:45:12] Daniel Weiner: All right. If anybody has a hundred percent attribution figured out, hit up Tori on, uh, LinkedIn.
[00:45:16] Tori Barlow: Please tag me in that, and let's get on a, a Zoom call.
[00:45:20] Daniel Weiner: Awesome. Well, thank you very much for joining us. And I will talk to you soon.
[00:45:23] Tori Barlow: Okay. Thanks, Daniel.