Too many clients report negative experiences with external agencies. And whether that's because of communication hurdles or poor quality of work, agencies often get a bad reputation. But do all of them deserve to get a bad reputation?
In this episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast, our host Daniel Weiner welcomes Ashley Remstad, the VP of Marketing at Homebot. They discuss the benefits of working with agencies, explain why trust is necessary, and share tips on creating authentic relationships.
💡 Name: Ashley Remstad, VP of Marketing at Homebot
💡 Noteworthy: Homebot is a client engagement and retention portal that maximizes repeat and referral business for lenders and real estate agents by empowering consumers to build wealth through homeownership.
💡 Where to find Ashley: LinkedIn
⚡Agencies prepare you for the unknown. The future is unknown, but it's always good to have expert professionals on your team. That's why agencies are a great way to prepare for the unknown. Ashley says, "I think that agencies prep you for the unknown. You're balancing a lot. You're working with a lot of different companies of all different sizes, depending on where you're at, and it makes you flexible. So, if I'm honest, the transition was pretty easy. I had worked with a lot of companies that were the size of my company at that time. I knew exactly what they needed. I knew exactly how I could add value. So it was pretty seamless, I will say."
⚡Agencies get a bad reputation. Agencies have a terrible reputation for being unreliable or unprofessional. But not every agency is the same. Some agencies don't deserve the bad rep they get. Ashley explains, "I think agencies do get a bad rap probably because there are a lot of bad agencies out there. Intentional or not, there are a lot of agencies that are not acting as partners, that are spreading themselves too thin, that are doing a poor job with hiring, that are not good business planners. Honestly, they haven't created a good business, and because of that, in an already crowded space, I would say there are a lot of bad agencies, and so agencies do get a bad rep. If you've been burned once, that's all it takes."
⚡The best outreach strategy is to create value and build trust. The best way to a client's heart is to provide value. Value creates trust, and trust creates strong relationships. Ashley explains, "I had a very long sales process with someone that relentlessly reached out to me, and all he did honestly was provide value. 'Hey, what can I do for you? Is there anything that I can help your team? I noticed that your team is using this tool. Hey, I've done research here. I wanted to send you this. I thought you'd be interested in this.' And he kept me connected and engaged for, I don't know, six months or something, and it worked. So you established trust that way and authority, and people want to be in a collaborative space and feel like you can add value."
YouShouldTalkTo - Ashley Remstad
[00:00:00] Ashely Remstad: A really good PM can navigate any situation, find the information that you need, and get the right people in front of you pretty quickly, and if they can't, they're communicating with you well along the way. You can have really good services and a bad PM, and it can completely ruin their experience.
[00:00:17] Daniel Weiner: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the YouShouldTalkTo podcast. I am Daniel Weiner, your host. This podcast is currently brought to you by myself, as well as YouShoulTalkTo.
[00:01:06] YouShouldTalkTo pairs brands and marketers, for free, with vetted agencies and or freelancers for marketing and technology needs because finding great agencies and freelancers is a giant pain in the ass. Super excited today to be joined by Ashley Remstad, who is VP of Marketing at Homebot. Ashley, thank you for joining, how are you today?
[00:01:26] Ashely Remstad: I'm doing very well. I'm happy to be here.
[00:01:28] Daniel Weiner: Awesome. Before we even dive in, what is Homebot? How do you describe it? I work with you and I don't know, I couldn't tell you exactly how to describe it in, like, one to two sentences or less.
[00:01:40] Ashely Remstad: Yes. Here's my, uh, kind of ten-second explanation. We're a client engagement and retention portal, and we really aim to drive, repeat, and referral business for loan officers and real estate agents. That's the simplest way to put it. We are Credit Karma for the mortgage and real estate industry.
[00:01:59] Daniel Weiner: I do like that, you did that significantly more eloquently than I could have if you had asked me the same question, so I'm glad I have that now. Let's dive right. You are in a, uh, brand-side marketing role now, you're at agency for a while. What is an unpopular opinion you have in general in the marketing world or a hot take of sorts? The more controversy, the better.
[00:02:20] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I'm not sure how hot of a take this is, but I think, you know, it was kind of an ongoing joke of marketers are obsessed with best practices and templates and playbooks, and the truth is there's no right way to do anything, you know, I think that it's really easy to get really caught up in staying up to date and being the most advanced and following best practice.
[00:02:48] And the truth is, whatever works for you, whatever is driving pipeline and revenue and value for your business is the best playbook. The second thing is that, you know, we're kind of in this really, this market moment, which is really difficult for people, and I think that it could be one of the best things that happens to the industry is, you know, we've sort of had thought this massive pivotal growth and now everybody is forced to sort of spend,
[00:03:18] and what happens in a reception is that you get a lot more creative, and because you're poor, too, unfortunately, and there's less spend in the market, there's less noise. So, I think that, you know, when we kind of rise from the ashes, we will all be or the better.
[00:03:37] Daniel Weiner: YouShouldTalkTo You should talk to was born in, uh, September of 2020 during, uh, technically
[00:03:43] Ashely Remstad: There you go.
[00:03:44] Daniel Weiner: recession then, but a, uh, a fucked up time in, uh, the world and the economy, pardon my French, but, no, I totally agree, I do think marketers oftentimes, once they get, I would say to your level, VP and higher, are obsessed with playbooks because they're scared to do something different,
[00:03:59] and they want somebody in their network or somebody they know and admire and trust to tell them, "Here's the thing I did that worked and just do this, and I promise you that it will work," which is, we'll talk about it a little with agencies, I think that's oftentimes what people get wrong with agencies, too, is, "Oh, shit, let's hire an agency, they'll figure it out, they know what to."
[00:04:19] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, and the truth is, too, once a playbook is written, once a best practice is out there, it's likely outdated anyway, and there's probably thousands of other people try to copy exactly that same thing. So, you're behind the curve, so why even try to copy? Of course, stay informed, but whatever is working for you, it's the best plan, okay, I truly believe that.
[00:04:42] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, the most common hot take I get from folks lately, which I'll, I'll ask you about, I'm curious, is that marketers have just become so insanely obsessed with measurement, which I've thought for a while coming from agency side, like, everything has to be measured and has attribution and all that sort of stuff, which in my opinion, hinders creativity.
[00:05:01] I totally get it, now more than ever, especially when economy is messed up, like, everything needs to have revenue in mind, but what do you think of the obsession with attribution?
[00:05:11] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I mean, I think, that is certainly being spoken about a lot right now. I think it's just a natural shift from a perspective of gen to demand gen and not being able to track everything, you know, it's, I think it's so weird, especially coming from an agency space, like, you know, maybe, I don't know how old this is, but maybe 20, 30 years ago, like, billboards used to be massive advert,
[00:05:36] that type of advertising used to be huge, which you really can't track. And then, as marketers, we sort of grew out of that and we're like, "Ugh," we now have digital, and we now can track everything, and we be, became very obsessed with tracking every single metric that you can, and the truth is, is like, when you're looking at metrics that way, you're almost never seeing the full picture.
[00:06:00] And it's also not how people buy anymore, you have a very, very complicated buying process. So, I think, I think, yeah, the, the move towards not being so obsessed with attribution software is the right move. I think, you know, the best thing that you can do right now in terms of attribution is self-reported, and that'll usually give you the best bang for your buck is just someone filling out a farm and telling you how they heard of you.
[00:06:26] Daniel Weiner: I think so, too. If I try to get a sponsor of some attribution software now, they're not gonna give me sponsorship dollars based on that, that comment, now I'm gonna have to go elsewhere now, so, to get a better, a better, a better sponsor in the technology space. But, uh, you mentioned, you know, most of your career agency side,
[00:06:44] you've now transitioned into brand side as a marketing leader. Talk a little bit about that transition and kind of what that change has been like, how your mindset has shifted, I presume a little bit?
[00:06:54] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, you know, think agencies and, you know, I'll definitely wanna get into this more, but I think that agencies prep you for the unknown. You're balancing a lot, you're working with a lot of different companies, of all different sizes, depending on where you're at, and it makes you flexible.
[00:07:12] So, if I'm honest, a transition was pretty easy. I had worked with a lot of companies that are, were the sides of my company at that time, I knew exactly what they needed, I knew exactly how I could add value. And so, it was pretty seamless, I will say, in terms of transitioning my role, there was definitely a learning curve in terms of being more willing to fail, I think as working at an agency, people are paying you as consultants, and they don't want you to fail on their dollar,
[00:07:46] so even if it's testing, it has to be incredibly prescriptive and precise and time-bound, and while that's very valuable, it also can sometimes lock you into a creative block because you're afraid of failing, and nobody wants to go back to a client and say, "Yeah, we were kind of bold with the decision and, and it didn't really pay out." So, I think
[00:08:09] Daniel Weiner: You get yelled at by different people now, your, your, your, uh, your C-suite or, uh, boss or something, where's the client,
[00:08:15] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, exactly, exactly.
[00:08:15] Daniel Weiner: so a, a different kind of yelling.
[00:08:18] Ashely Remstad: It is, and it is, but truthfully, it did make some getting used to, like, oh, okay, like, some of these walls are sort of coming down, it's, it's a different motion, I will say. And so, yeah, it's been a really good experience though, overall.
[00:08:32] Daniel Weiner: And what do you think the biggest, like, uh, I know you said, I totally agree, like, coming from agency and working directly with brand, you presumably have more brain space to focus on specific things versus having 10 clients and stuff like that. But what's been the biggest, kinda like, the biggest difference just from going to agency, and like, go, go, go on behalf of clients versus focusing on one brand?
[00:08:54] Ashely Remstad: Well, there's definitely a bunch of different problems now that I'm faced with, I think, you know, we've changed a lot in the past two years and, you know, we're in the, the mortgage and real estate business, so that in and of itself, just being stopped of the economy has been a challenge from a messaging perspective, from a branding perspective, positioning perspective.
[00:09:14] And so, focusing things on long-term wins and really starting to have more foresight into the market longer-term plays, I think has probably been the, a bigger challenge and, and something a little bit different of going in-house.
[00:09:31] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. To that end, you touched on the economy, like, with it in flux and discretionary spending for a lot, potentially low, and layoffs and a lot of doom and gloom, what's your advice to other marketing leaders out there in your space or beyond?
[00:09:46] But I would say, you know, you're particularly well suited to talk about a space that is getting hit, technology and mortgage and home industry and stuff like that. Can you talk a little bit about that? What's your advice to other VPs and CMOs out there?
[00:10:00] Ashely Remstad: Yeah. I think running a tight ship is really important, and what I mean by that is, you know, it's honestly a lot easier to be more flexible with spend when you have more funds and making sure that you're really close with how to finance and that you understand your financial plan intimately,
[00:10:18] it's really important. I also think that translates to your team and their OKRs should be associated with that financial plan, not even so leaning into and laugh into. And then, lastly, I think, this is definitely a hard time for marketers, but I also think marketers excel and are incredibly creative when during these types of times.
[00:10:43] I think focusing more on all funnel or campaigns instead of driving inbound and top of funnel, you know, how can you accelerate pipeline velocity? How can you shift your focus more on customer marketing retention? What does churn look like? How can you drive upgrades and expansion opportunities?
[00:11:03] How are you working with customer success and support? What's your product marketing play? Get close to your products and features, have a bigger impacts there. I think that those are easier wins, and marketing is uniquely positioned to be able to work with all of the different departments and make an impact there.
[00:11:21] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, it's funny, since I asked you about attribution, I hear from a lot of marketers that now, like, is the time where they're leaning into attribution because, like, they want to be able to have that relationship with their CFO to say, like, "Hey, look what we did, here's all this stuff
[00:11:34] that marketing didn't actually tie to revenue to make sure that their budgets are either remaining," or, you know, that they're able to get in, increase in budget that they're looking for to do different things. So, no, that's, the tie to the CFO is very good advice, uh, buy, buy your CFO's coffees and lunches as much as possible out there.
[00:11:51] Ashely Remstad: I do so often, yeah, lots of beers had between us.
[00:11:56] Daniel Weiner: That's great. I'm curious, your overall opinion on agencies, especially spending your, the brunt of your career so far at agencies, they get a bad rep, even though I work with, you know, 150 of them, love 'em, hate 'em, what do you think of them?
[00:12:09] Ashely Remstad: I love them. They're, you know, it's my ruth, how can I not? I think agencies do get a bad rap, probably because there's a lot of bad agencies out there, intentional or not. There's a lot of agencies that are not acting as partners, that are spreading themselves too thin, that are doing a poor job with hiring, that are not good business planners,
[00:12:30] honestly, they haven't created a good business, and because of that, you know, in an already crowded space, I would say there's, there's a lot of bad agencies. And so, agencies do get a bad rep, they need a, you've been burned once, that's all it takes, right? And
[00:12:45] Daniel Weiner: Every, everybody's been burned once, I
[00:12:47] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, yeah, and any agency, any person on the sales side at an agency always is hearing war stories about working with the previously bad agent, agency is just part of the gig. So, yeah, of course, I, they, I think they definitely get a bad rep, and I think agencies need to do, the really good agency is doing a good job of positioning themselves as partners, an extension of your team,
[00:13:14] and they usually give you more than what you're asking for. And so, yeah, I love the agencies, I think that they're incredibly valuable, I think they're a necessary component a lot of the times, especially in a high-growth space, and agencies are my roots, I always tell everybody that if you wanna make a good hire, hire someone from an agency because they have a lot of skills and they're hungry and usually pretty gritty and want to get the job done, so.
[00:13:40] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I think part of the, I agree with everything you just, in general, I'd say, I think a lot of the problem I see is, A, there's, like, 90,000 companies that identify as agencies in the US alone, which is a lot, you know, some of those are one person working from home who call themselves an agency, that's a whole other story.
[00:13:58] But I find, too, with, or the biggest thing I've kind of learned from doing what I do and working in between brands and agencies is, in general, folks in your role, when they're looking for an agency will talk to, call three to five agencies, and the vast majority of the time, those three to five are not bad agencies or intentionally doing something wrong,
[00:14:18] they're just wrong for that particular brand and that particular scenario, and the marketer just settles oftentimes, you know, or how are you supposed to identify the right agencies out of 90,000 to have a couple conversations with. I think that's the biggest thing. I find so many times where an agency will be like, "Oh, we were talking to these three, and none of them felt right."
[00:14:38] And I'm like, "Great, who are they, like, let me know." And they'll tell me, I'm like, yeah, I could have told you that, like, they weren't right or they were gonna be outta your budget or, you know, all that sort of stuff. So, it is hard, I would say the tagline I use is
[00:14:50] finding an agency is easy, finding the right agency is really, really, really hard. So, I feel for the marketer, it's tough getting inundated with, uh, agency requests all day long, and how do you weed out the BS?
[00:15:02] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I very much agree with that, you gotta find the right working rhythm, for sure.
[00:15:07] Daniel Weiner: We talked a little bit about this prior to pressing record, and you just got back from a, uh, an event where you had talked about vendors re, respectfully, uh, following up or nudging you that they had
[00:15:19] been trying to get in touch with you, but in general, I'm curious, like, how often are you getting hit up? Because everybody I speak to in your role, it's roughly every 12 seconds, whether it's text, email, LinkedIn, the whole shebang.
[00:15:31] Ashely Remstad: It's relentless, yeah, I mean, it's a lot, as you mentioned, I was just at, at a conference, and while I thought it was mostly gonna be industry professionals networking, kind of learning from each other, there were vendors there, and some of them were, you know, drafting me down, and it can be overwhelming, for sure.
[00:15:53] It's an incredibly crowded base, I mean, if you have a problem or a perceived problem, there's tech out there that claims to solve it, and what I think is good right now is that, you know, as I mentioned earlier, because of where we're at right now, budget's being cut, um, the economy, how it, sales and, and marketing is having to get a lot more creative.
[00:16:17] And while there's a lot of lazy salespeople out there that are just blasting you with emails and cold calls all the time,you know, I don't even answer my phone anymore, but, but there's also a lot of pressure to get creative and the people that are utilizing that as an opportunity,
[00:16:37] there's some cool stuff coming out there, and it breaks through the noise, you know? The people that I reply to are usually the people with the, the most creative outreach, the best messaging, the best video, something that makes me laugh, something that is useful in that moment. So, I do think that that is kind of because there's so much competition that that is something cool that it has come out of this.
[00:17:02] Daniel Weiner: I'm curious, you said the key phrase, in the moment, I'm curious, if you're not in buying mode, like, if you don't need something, you know, is there anything somebody can do? Maybe it makes you laugh, but is there anything somebody do can, that genuinely gets you to reply and take a call or anything, at least on the agency side?
[00:17:20] Ashely Remstad: Providing value, I think, genuinely, even if I'm not ready to buy, just staying connected and displaying how you can be a partner, which is long term, like, just being a good human sometimes, it sounds so silly, but it's like, just being a good partner. I'd had a very long sales process with somebody that relentlessly reached out to me, and all he did, honestly, was provide value.
[00:17:51] "Hey, what can I do for you? is there anything that I can help your team? I noticed that your team is using this tool." "Hey, I've done research here. I wanted to send you this. I thought you'd be interested in this."
[00:18:04] And he kept me connected and engaged for, I don't know, six months or something, um, and it worked. So, you establish trust that way and authority, and people wanna be in a collaborative space, and, and feel like you can add value.
[00:18:19] Daniel Weiner: It's funny you bring that up, I, uh, I think it was a record even for me, I, uh, recently got introduced to a brand, late, or not that recent, at this point, late last year, and it took 14 emails to get to the first call and the deal ultimately closed, and their final email was, "I really appreciate you bearing with me."
[00:18:36] I don't know how much value I provided throughout, but respectful follow-up since they had, I joke, if you tell me you want to talk, I'm gonna follow up until I die, until you tell, until you tell me that you don't want to talk, and then I won't bother you. So, once somebody has told me that they want to chat and they need something,
[00:18:53] I'm following up, I find it, that's some of my favorites 'cause I'm just so stubborn, I'm like, "Then tell me no, you already told me you wanted to chat, so."
[00:19:01] Ashely Remstad: Absolutely.
[00:19:01] Daniel Weiner: It's interesting to, uh, hear that. I had mentioned prior to recording that I hosted a dinner last week with some CMOs and VPs of marketing for myself. We had talked, agencies came up naturally, I didn't bring it up intentionally, and it was funny, like, one of the bigger takeaways
[00:19:16] when people were talking about positives and also a lot of negatives with agencies, never the work, like, the biggest positives were around, like, commiserating with, like, the shit they're dealing with as a CMO currently, and how they're all worried they're gonna get fired in 15 to 18 months,
[00:19:33] people who make their lives easier, you know, people who, like, I know everybody says they want to be partner, not a vendor and stuff, but like, who actually, like, do it and don't just, like, put it in a slide as it, you know, in their deck as a slide, essentially, and nobody, like, really, there was only really one person who brought up, like, actual work,
[00:19:51] like, this agency did this thing, and this campaign, and it was incredible because of X, Y, and Z. Everything else was like, I want to go have a beer with them, like I, you know, like, it's stuff like that, which, uh, I think is not like a groundbreaking thought, but I think a lot of agencies miss the mark on the rapport part.
[00:20:09] Ashely Remstad: I 100% agree, I mean, I think that comes a lot with just running a good business, I mean, usually people, agencies are hourly, and they're hiring people on a needs basis depending on what niche they're in, depending on how many services they have, and sometimes that comes at a cost with, people are so busy.
[00:20:31] I've been there, I had 40 clients when I left my last agency, and it was, like, back-to-back meetings all day long, everything I can do to stay on top of all of the deliverables, and sometimes that's at the sacrifice of having real human connection because they're, they're a checkbox. And so, I think you're absolutely right,
[00:20:53] like, it sounds so silly and so obvious, but the best agency is, it, it's a feeling, it's like a, it's a rapport, it's a connection, it's, it's a, how are they going to feel like an extension on my team? How are they gonna work with me? How are they gonna get ahead of some of my problems and offer value, anticipate issues? Like, that's really where a lot of the value comes in.
[00:21:16] Daniel Weiner: I talked to countless marketers, I probably said this to you, we'll talk about your agency search here in a sec, but like, whether it's my agencies or not, it could be the, let's assume it's the worst decision you ever make, you hire them, and like, everything goes awry, and it's horrific, they ruin your life. On the front end, before signing the contract or when you're signing the contract,
[00:21:37] you should be so excited, all the Warman Fuzzies, the promise of what it could be, yeah, a hundred percent it could turn out to be the worst decision you've ever made professionally, but like, before you start doing that and all the bad things occur, like, you should be really excited. And I think oftentimes, back to that point of like, there's 90,000 agencies, you're probably gonna talk to three or four when you're looking for something,
[00:21:56] unless you're maybe, like, you know, Coke or massive, huge brand who may talk to 30 before picking one or something like that. You should be really excited, and if you're not, you need to keep talking, you need to have more conversations until you get to that spot, I think oftentimes it's so fast, it's,
[00:22:12] "Oh, we decided we need this thing, let's talk to a couple and, eh, like, whatever, we'll give the money to these people and hope it works out," and stuff like that versus maybe having a couple more conversations and reaching that, uh, like, oh, my god, like, we're really excited to work with these people.
[00:22:28] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I fully agree. Establishing that rapport upfront, commiserating, understanding the issues that I'm trying to solve, trying to anticipate that, that is value, for sure.
[00:22:40] Daniel Weiner: Yeah. In general, I know I currently, I think you're still, uh, evaluating agency partners on the website side.
[00:22:45] Ashely Remstad: I am, yeah.
[00:22:47] Daniel Weiner: During that process and, you know, beyond, now that you're in the brand side, like, what are you looking for? I know we just talked about it a little bit, but what are you looking for specifically from an agency, you know, when you're going through that process, and they're talking about, in this case, a website, like, what makes an agency stand out during that process?
[00:23:05] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I think everything we just mentioned, you know, definitely, you, you are definitely looking at their backlog of, of proof, for sure, but that's kind of just table stakes, right, like, everybody can do the work.
[00:23:20] Daniel Weiner: You think, you think your agency experience, though, has made, made you uniquely capable of spotting BS? I, I joked,
[00:23:27] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I mean, so what I
[00:23:28] Daniel Weiner: to your point, every, every agent, like, even with me when I talk to, like, everything they say, I'm like, yeah, it all sounds great, like, you know, like, but let, let's keep going, you know, a little further, like.
[00:23:38] Ashely Remstad: Yes, absolutely. And, and I say that to vendors all the time, I'm like, "Before we get started, I just want you to know, like, I've sat in your seat, and that makes this both a good thing for you, and a bad thing for you.
[00:23:49] Good thing because I understand where you're coming from, I can empathize with you. Bad because I'm gonna cut through the bullshit really fast, like, let's just have a table stakes, normal conversation." I almost always set the stage like that, I think
[00:24:01] Daniel Weiner: Has any, has anybody ever just been like, "Shit, we're out, we're just on."
[00:24:06] Ashely Remstad: I think sometimes, honestly, I think sometimes people are like, "Oh, great." You know, like, "Awesome." But I also think, in the sales process, a lot of agencies make the mistake of not having a person in seat and that understands the problems that the prospect is trying to solve.
[00:24:26] So, have a marketing person on the call, as much as you can, if you're selling to a marketer, have a marketing person on the call. And yeah, that sort of commiserating, understanding where we're coming from is so important, and yeah, getting back to your original question, what am I looking for?
[00:24:44] I'm, I'm looking for somebody with process, like, established process, I will say that's, like, a pretty big red flag for me. And you can usually cut through things pretty quickly in terms of, like, if they're sort of that, like, 10-person shop, but they're selling themselves, that's the 30, 40-person shop that can do a lot.
[00:25:03] That's usually a pretty good, cutting through the BS, it's like, okay, walk me through what the process looked like, how would you approach this project? What thesis do you have established? How do you manage the engagement? What should I expect from you in terms of a relationship?
[00:25:20] That's usually the types of questions that I'm asking. And then, outside of that, it really is just a, a feeling and a, establishing a relationship within that first and second touch point.
[00:25:32] Daniel Weiner: It's a popularity contest first, I'm, I fully believe, you know?
[00:25:36] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, it's not in science, I mean, I do have a spreadsheet, and I fill it out, I fill it out meticulously, a vendor spreadsheet, but it really is more of an art, and to your point, it comes down to feeling good about who you're about to work with and...
[00:25:50] Daniel Weiner: That's why I, like a lot of people, I think, that I work with presume or assume that, like, all the agencies I choose to work with, they think that I think are, like, the best agencies on the planet, and I say, like, I would never introduce agencies that I didn't think were wildly capable at what they do.
[00:26:07] To your point, that's the price of admission, there's a ton of agencies who can do, you know, good or great work and stuff like that. When you think of it that way, it's people in process, to your point, like, that's why I kind of like, I don't shut down a hundred percent, but when I talk to a new agency to vet them, and like, they jump out of the gate with how different they are, I'm like, well, you know, and it's funny, I took a call, when was that?
[00:26:31] Yesterday, sometime this week, and they said, you know, they brought up how they were different because they treat their clients like partners, not just a vendor, and I would, they, they told me that was, like, the differentiator, I was like, respectfully, that is in a hundred percent of decks
[00:26:45] that I see, a hun, like 98% of websites, like it's not you saying it, and they were, like, kind of taken back, like, "Other people are saying that?" I'm like, "Everybody is saying that, you know?"
[00:26:55] It's the people who, again, they could be, like, even if they're terrible at what they do, you'll still win business, if your people in your process are good, you'll eventually get fired, of course,
[00:27:04] but to me that's the differentiator of when you do it apples-to-apples, like, if you look at huge, massive holding company agencies and then you buck it and call it, like, more of the agencies I work with, like mid-sized, independent agencies,
[00:27:18] yeah, like, there's plenty of agencies who could build you a great website, but who are the people you want to work with, and who's the process that's gonna make your life easier?
[00:27:26] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, a hundred percent. And, you know, I have an agency partner, I had to have a tough conversation with them recently, and one of the things I mentioned was like, "Being a good partner means saying no, it means being brutally honest, it means being completely authentic, it," you know, the sales process is like that first conversation, the second conversation,
[00:27:50] and then you gotta get really real, you have to, like, get in the dirt, and like, you know, understand exactly where people are coming from and have an authentic relationship with them, and I think agencies, a lot of the, the, maybe the, the younger kind of inexperienced agencies make the mistake of offering everything and being a yes man.
[00:28:13] And that usually comes with the result of shitty work, and you can't say yes to everything, sometimes clients are gonna make outlandish requests and expect you to do it in a tight and shorter timeframe, and sometimes it's just not possible, and you should say that it's not.
[00:28:29] Daniel Weiner: I think it's really, I think it's really hard, I totally agree. And I think the best agencies I work with are the ones who tell me no even when I call with certain opportunities to be like, "Hey, what do you think of this?" And they're like, "Mm, probably not."
[00:28:39] Coming from my old agency background, like, we, in my opinion, were best at web design and development. We would do something great on the web design development side, and the client would ask like, "Oh, can you do this as well?"
[00:28:51] And we may say no, like, once, and the client would be like, "Ah, come on, like," you know, and they're basically, like, sometimes begging to give you money, and we would often then be like, "All right, like, we'll give it a try," and it would suck,
[00:29:00] like, we didn't have the process around that service and the people around it and stuff like that. So, I think it's definitely an issue, and I appreciate when agencies tell me no or even if they take a call, like that rarely happens, but there are times where, like, I'll make an introduction, and I'm confident it's a great fit, and then, like, because of X, Y, and Z, which changed on the call or something like that, an agency will bow out.
[00:29:22] I get resoundingly positive feedback from the brand a hundred percent of the time, like, "Oh, they actually told us because of this thing that we didn't tell you." They're not a good fit and stuff, and that usually gains an incredible amount of social currency as well.
[00:29:36] Ashely Remstad: It really, really does, yeah, I think niching out, being really, really good at one of three things is the best bet, and standing by that. There's nothing worse, I've been in that position, too, where a salesperson doesn't think it's that big of a deal and, and will sell some kind of oversell.
[00:29:56] And then, as an agency, you have to figure it out, you have to just deliver. And sometimes that means hiring externally, sometimes that means just figuring it out, and that's not a good place to be at.
[00:30:09] Daniel Weiner: Yeah, I have, uh, done that many times in my former life and made me physically ill, truthfully, like selling stuff that I didn't think we could do.
[00:30:16] Ashely Remstad: It's exhausting.
[00:30:17] Daniel Weiner: It's interesting you talked about, you know, when an agency gets on the phone, like, having an expert on the call who has experience with your problem, you had mentioned, like, if it's a marketing problem, have a marketing expert and stuff like that.
[00:30:29] It's interesting to hear that, I ask that question to basically everybody, this is episode 25, I believe when it airs. Everybody wants something different, like, there are plenty of people who are like, "I don't want a team" on a first call,
[00:30:41] like, "I want one person, I want to just have, like, a vibe check of sorts, like, I just wanna understand a little bit more." There are other people who are like, "Oh, I really appreciated that this agency brought all of their leadership onto the first call." You know, like it's so all over the place, which my general, like, I don't even have a takeaway and I keep track of all this stuff.
[00:30:59] The takeaway is, like, know your audience and ask a bunch of questions of what they want and what their expectations are, which I feel a lot of agencies miss the mark on of like, they forget they can ask questions, "Hey, like, we're gonna have this intro call, normally we treat them like X, Y, and Z, is that your expectation for what this call will be?" And stuff like that, and knowing your audience is all that matters.
[00:31:20] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, absolutely. I think the worst thing that you can do is, especially as a salesperson, if you don't know a lot, like, you, you know, the, the kind of surface, and you're selling on a lot of different things, but you don't know in depth a lot of the, the solutions that your team is capable of
[00:31:40] potentially, the worst thing is like trying to bullshit through it. SEO is a big thing with agencies, especially if you're building websites, and there is nothing worse than having to listen to a salesperson trying to bullshit their way through SEO, I mean, my God, it is awful, and it's embarrassing.
[00:31:57] And so, why try? Why not just say, "Hey, you know what? I can't answer that question, and we do have an in-house e, expert, and I'd love to connect you with them."
[00:32:06] Daniel Weiner: Gain more, gain more, gain more credibility.
[00:32:08] Ashely Remstad: And if not, have 'em on the call. Yeah, exactly.
[00:32:11] Daniel Weiner: I'm having, I'm having, like, PTSD of wondering, like, I think I'm reasonably knowledge on SEO, not like technical, I couldn't tell you the, you know, ins and outs of it, I'm like, do I sound like I'm talking about bullshit when I talk about SEO So, now? So.
[00:32:22] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, well, there, especially at, you know, as you're growing through, like, a website redesign process, there's always like, sometimes like a big in layered, like, SEO package and you're like, once you start to kinda look underneath the hood, you're like, what is this really? What are you actually doing? And usually, when you start pecking, yeah, that's when you get into those kind of ugly conversations.
[00:32:46] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. You had brought up specialization, which is a perfect segue into the next question. I've seen a big shift, especially since COVID, which it sounds like you agree with, of brands in general, a lot of larger brands though, in particular moving towards smaller independent agencies, specialized in one to two services, like, when you're looking for something specific, are you turned off by full service or not necessarily?
[00:33:08] Ashely Remstad: Not necessarily, I mean, I think it really, that, that's when things get really difficult to vet, and it's incredibly important,as someone vetting the agencies to know what you want, like, before even talking to anybody, create a list of a bullet point of exactly what you're looking for.
[00:33:29] So, even if they are offering those other services, it might be a nice-to-have, but it's not a need-to-have, that's really important. But yeah, I mean, agencies make an issue, like I said, it's part of that yes man mentality, like, okay, we need to grow this, we, we don't, we don't want,
[00:33:46] don't wanna lose this client to another agency because it's the competition, it's so fierce that you end up saying yes to a lot and you kind of build these, these weird lines of business and you end up not being good at anything or continuing to be good at one, three things, but still selling six to eight things, and that's not great.
[00:34:06] Daniel Weiner: That's a, that's a, one of my, like, things when I talk to, quote-unquote, full-service agencies that I can usually tell if I'm interested in working with 'em or not when I say, when they're like, "Oh, we're full service." I'm like, "Cool, what are you best at?" And if they reel off, like, more than two things or three things,
[00:34:22] I'm like, mm, that's, I don't know about, like, can't just be best at everything. Even when I'm recommending full-service agencies to someone like you, I'm like, "Hey, here's a full-service agency, I think they're best at A, B, and C, they may sell you some other stuff, I don't know them for those things." Like, I'm not telling you to not buy those things from them, but like, here's my, uh, honest opinion of what they're best at when they do say that they're full service.
[00:34:46] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, I agree with that.
[00:34:49] Daniel Weiner: What's something that you think agencies oftentimes get wrong, or what's something you wish more agencies, quote-unquote, got when talking to somebody in your position?
[00:34:59] Ashely Remstad: Honestly, yeah, I think just going back to saying no, like, knowing your bandwidth, being super, super transparent and authentic, it's that rocket science, but again, I, I do think that there's a lot of pressure to say yes and to be good at a lot, and you're the consultant, I'm paying you,
[00:35:18] there's sort of that relationship maintain, like, "I'm paying you for service, you're the consultant, like, you know, go deliver." And that doesn't always end up well, and I think saying no and being honest about the capabilities and the relationship and the working style, and if it makes sense, is what a lot of agencies get wrong.
[00:35:43] I also think there is, you know, nothing that can replace a really good project manager. Some people kind of make a mistake, too, of hiring more junior people as PMs, and that's a big, big, big mistake. A really good PM can navigate any situation, find the information that you need, and get the right people in front of you pretty quickly.
[00:36:08] And if they can't, they're communicating with you well along the way, you can have really good services and a bad PM and it can completely ruin their experience.
[00:36:16] Daniel Weiner: Being on the sales side at an agency, that was the equivalent of me buying a beer for the CFO in your shoes, was me treating the PMs well to make sure that my clients got what they needed when they were supposed to and stuff like that. So, I totally agree. You'll prob, we'll, we'll see what sort of outreach you get after this podcast.
[00:36:33] I hear from most people in the coming weeks after, people, like, are referencing things that you want, and like, so you're gonna get a bunch that are like, "I promise I'm transparent, and that we will say, no, like, please take a call with us."
[00:36:44] Ashely Remstad: Authenticity, yeah.
[00:36:44] Daniel Weiner: We shall see, you're gonna have just an entire page of authenticity in some of these decks, but, um,
[00:36:49] Ashely Remstad: I'll let you know.
[00:36:51] Daniel Weiner: What are you most bullish on in the marketing space in general? We've got artificial intelligence, which is taking over as a, uh, taking over the world potentially, but taking over just in terms of, like, a buzzword and buzz industry and stuff like that. We've got NFTs still floating around, we've got Metaverse, in-person events are back. What are you most excited about?
[00:37:11] Ashely Remstad: Honestly, you mentioned AI, I'm gonna be honest, I'm totally out on that train, I think it is rep,
[00:37:18] Daniel Weiner: You are, or not? You are?
[00:37:19] Ashely Remstad: I am, I am, I think it is revolutionary, for marketers specifically, and salespeople, too, I mean, the people that are not adopting that quickly will regret it. Just AI and automation in general, I think's incredibly smart,
[00:37:35] especially with budgets where they're at, especially when, you know, not being able to hire the same way that we were, not having as big of a budget, like, that forces you into creating efficiencies, and what better way to create efficiency than automation and AI. Hey, God, it, it bleeds into so much,
[00:37:53] I could talk about this for another hour, um, but the way that I've been empowering my team, specifically, starting off is just how to integrate it into their own working rhythm, like, what are things that you are doing that are taking time, that could be automated or that could get you 70% of the way there and then you
[00:38:14] finish out the rest, and it's breeded some fun creativity from a content perspective, from just a, like a collaborative working environment, it's, we're just beginning to scratch the surface right now and really start to create, you know, sort of playbooks, if you will, around how to work and integrate AI.
[00:38:35] And later, next quarter, I'll be releasing playbooks to the entire sales team as well about, like, how to incorporate AI and automation into outreach. And, you know, the truth of the matter is, is like, most people are not good at writing, and you can get better writing and get even better messaging that is on-brand because that's the piece that you're editing and, and changing, like, you know, why not?
[00:39:03] So, that's sort of where we're at right now, we, we also have been, you know, we decided in January, well, at the end of last year, really, that we did a lot of restructuring surrounding our go-to-partner approach, and some of that meant automating a lot of what a BDR does and putting BDRs in a different seat. We are incorporating Chili Piper, we're all inbound, you don't need people to schedule meetings anymore.
[00:39:30] Daniel Weiner: Sponsor me, sponsor me, Chili Piper, it's free, free, free press, pay off.
[00:39:34] Ashely Remstad: I'm a massive fan of Chili Piper.
[00:39:38] Daniel Weiner: Not, not sponsored yet, not an ad.
[00:39:42] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, and even, you know, in the support space, like, I'm sure you've seen Intercom is, it's integrating with, uh, ChatGPT and what that can do to unlock a, a support team, people are fearful of it, and they're, they're like, "Hey, like, AI is coming for my job." I don't think about it that way,
[00:40:02] I think about it, like, how could we be more, less reactive as a support team, you know? So, yeah, I think AI it's gonna, it's changing everything that we're doing, and it's so exciting, I'm completely on that bandwagon.
[00:40:18] Daniel Weiner: I agree, I, I've used it, I've posted literally, like, close to every single day for three years on LinkedIn, and eventually you start losing, uh, your mojo of like, what the hell am I gonna talk about? And I've used ChatGPT for, like, to get, like, thought starters and stuff like that, which give me, like, essentially a prompt.
[00:40:34] I give a prompt, and it gives me back a prompt that I can write about just to, like, instead of staring at a blank screen. The biggest thing that I, I just can't, like, wrap my head around, I guess, on the content front, like, if we're all giving it the same, like, if everybody starts using that for content, doesn't all the content start looking the exact same?
[00:40:51] Like, that's what I can't, that's why, like, when I hear people freak out about like, "Oh, like, it's gonna take away writers." I'm like, I don't think so, I think writers should, like, embrace it to a certain degree, I don't think it's a scary, at least currently, like, maybe in five or ten years, like, we're all out of work and robots have taken over, but yeah, I can't wrap my head around that on the content side, currently.
[00:41:12] Ashely Remstad: I mean, here's the thing. Right now, if you, you're scrolling through LinkedIn, there's really not a lot of authentic content out there anyway, I mean, even if we're from the best of the best, the reason why the really good thought leaders out there are standing out is because they're creating cont, content that isn't out there already.
[00:41:30] And I think consumers of that content are gonna force the LinkedIns of the world and Googles of the world to change their algorithms to present more authentic and original content because that's what we wanna read. Nobody wants to read the top 10 tips that have been posted a million times before, right?
[00:41:50] And I think AI is actually going to help foster creativity because of that reason. It gets you 70% of the way there, and if you left it just as that, it would probably turn out and to read as like, kind of, like, tech bro content, if you will, I don't know if you've tried to generate like a blog post, but that's...
[00:42:12] Daniel Weiner: That's why I haven't gone viral yet, I can't do the tech, I hope people don't think I write like a tech bro, I just can't write the, like, I don't know, I've tried to do, I can't bring myself to do it.
[00:42:23] Ashely Remstad: That's the general, like, tone and voice of like, a lot of these AI tools is like the tech growing, you know, it's not great. So, you need a really, really good edit, writer, and someone who's really good at brand to take that and to utilize it, to generate ideas,
[00:42:41] to your point, or utilize it to get them 70% of the way there, and then instill that creativity back in, that tone of voice, the messaging that is closer to your brand. I think that will always be there and probably become more prevalent because of AI.
[00:42:59] Daniel Weiner: Sure. What keeps you up at night from a marketing or business standpoint?
[00:43:03] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, well, being a night owl, I stay up the, I stay up late.
[00:43:08] Daniel Weiner: What time do you go to, what time do you go to sleep?
[00:43:10] Ashely Remstad: I can, gosh, um, I'm embarrassed to say this, but, uh, usually, like, midnight sometimes later, it's, it's...
[00:43:19] Daniel Weiner: I thought you were gonna say, like, 2:00 AM. What time do you, what time do you wake up? What time do you wake up though?
[00:43:25] Ashely Remstad: Honestly, usually seven o'clock on the dot. So, even if I'm up until two, I'm up, I'm working around seven, or, you know, going, something else, yeah, I've always been that way.
[00:43:35] Daniel Weiner: Ky, Kyle, Kyle Lacy, a couple interviews ago, who's CMO at a Jellyfish, uh, he wakes up at 4:30 in the morning every morning, he's the, the current winner of the morning, uh, wake up award.
[00:43:46] Ashely Remstad: Does he go to bed at, like, 7:00 PM or something? I would not be able to do that.
[00:43:51] Daniel Weiner: I can't, I can't remember when I, if I asked him when he goes to sleep or not, I'll have to, I'll have, go, go listen to the podcast so I can get another view on that, uh, on that episode, I can't remember if he told me when he goes to sleep.
[00:44:03] Ashely Remstad: I gotta admit, I am wildly jealous of people that are able to wake up early, early in the morning, and accomplish so much before anybody else even wakes up. I wish I was that way.
[00:44:14] Daniel Weiner: I've tried, I'm like, a 6:30 or 7:00 person and have found to accomplish everything I need to at that time, but I've tried, I used to, many, many years ago, I was working out at, like, say five in the morning for, like a month, and I don't love it, I like to break my day up with that,
[00:44:31] I'm like a three or four o'clock workout person when I'm able to. So, yeah, I, props to Kyle, it's, it's impressive, I wish I had that, uh, that bone in my body.
[00:44:40] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, same. But going down to your question, what keeps me up at night? It's a lot of things, I mean, it can be something, nothing, you know, to out there, but like, specific programs that I want to perform, what am I missing? What can I see? That's usually a lot of it, like, what aren't you looking at right now?
[00:45:02] What, where should you be? Um, what aren't you measuring, unfortunately? Another really big thing, though, is, uh, just team performance and happiness, I really am very intentional about creating a collaborative, empowering, and inclusive work environment, and I think that it, it truly is, like, the foundation to a successful marketing team. So, that's usually the top few things that keep me up at night.
[00:45:29] Daniel Weiner: That's fair. We'll do a couple fun ones to wrap up here. What was your very, very, very first job?
[00:45:34] Ashely Remstad: So, I'm from Michigan, I don't know if they hadn't been in, um, other places of the country, but, uh, I was a server at Ruby Tuesday's.
[00:45:42] Daniel Weiner: We've got Ruby Tuesday's, we've got Ruby Tuesday's.
[00:45:45] Ashely Remstad: Okay, I didn't even know if it still existed, but, I
[00:45:48] Daniel Weiner: It's a sa, great sa, great salad bar.
[00:45:51] Ashely Remstad: Really great salad bar. I'm a lot of wonderful stories from that job, but I, yeah, I think everybody needs to, at some point in their lives, be in some sort of service industry job because it's just, it fills character, you stay humble, it's, yeah, so that's my first job.
[00:46:10] Daniel Weiner: Was a food expeditor at an Italian restaurant, uh, for my very first, my very first legal job, I worked illegally at a car wash when I was like, 13 or something, so, uh, yeah, I agree about the service industry.
[00:46:20] Ashely Remstad: Man, I've done X though, too, yeah, stop.
[00:46:23] Daniel Weiner: What would be your final meal? Maybe Ruby Tuesday's, get back to your roots?
[00:46:28] Ashely Remstad: Have some good desserts, um, yeah, I am, uh, I love desserts. Honestly, my final meal would probably be like, a cinnamon roll or something, like, something just like decadently, ridiculously
[00:46:43] Daniel Weiner: You don't even wanna, you don't even want a meal first?
[00:46:43] Ashely Remstad: sweet, I don't even want a meal, I want something like absurdly sweet, I don't know, like an ice cream tower or something like that.
[00:46:52] Daniel Weiner: Love it. Perfect. And then my final question for you, who is somebody who inspires you either personally or professionally, or both?
[00:46:59] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, God, there's so many areas of influence, I think, I'm always really inspired by female leaders in the space, and usually those people are also really good at, you know, establishing their own brand and fueling their own brand, definitely on places like LinkedIn. A few that come to mind are, you know, the CMO at Cognizant, uh, Alice, CMO at 6sense, uh,
[00:47:24] Daniel Weiner: Latane?
[00:47:25] Ashely Remstad: Latane, yeah, Latane, she's super great, so passionate about what she does, she is just a thought leader and always open to having conversations, too, those types of people that are, you know, willing to have a call with you for 15 minutes to just chat, I think are also really awesome, staying whole and gracious and yeah.
[00:47:48] Daniel Weiner: That's awesome, hopefully, that stays the same, and AI isn't taking those general networking calls for people in the future.
[00:47:54] Ashely Remstad: Yeah, seriously.
[00:47:56] Daniel Weiner: But no, this was awesome. Thank you so much for joining. Um, if anybody is interested, I'm guessing they can find you on LinkedIn, and then URL's what, homebot.ai, correct?
[00:48:04] Ashely Remstad: It is, it is.
[00:48:07] Daniel Weiner: Awesome, everybody go, uh, give some traffic to the site before a new one launches.
[00:48:10] Ashely Remstad: Yes, please do, thank you so much for the time today, it's been fun.
[00:48:15] Daniel Weiner: Yep. I will talk to you soon.