(530) 350-8857 services@tacticalma.com
3 Attributes Of An Honest Agency

3 Attributes Of An Honest Agency

The Problem with Marketing Agencies

I have spent the last 5 years in the marketing automation space because I feel that it is a must-have for any company in this day and age. Learn how and what people look at when they visit websites and use the analytics generated from these behaviors to see how your marketing efforts are succeeding.

Recently, I made a career change to a digital marketing agency because I feel that with all of the different technologies out there, marketers really need guidance and coaching. They need to understand not only how to create an email or post on social media, but more importantly, they need to have a strategy and the understanding of what to do with the data they collect.

In the many conversations I have had with my customers I was stunned to hear that after working with marketing agencies for months, they were still struggling with sales not getting enough leads, they didn’t have a strategy in place, and that they had no reporting to measure the success and quality of their efforts. As a marketing software vendor, I knew these were not challenges they should still have.

I realized that agencies are incentivized to keep you ignorant. If you don’t know how to do what they do, it prevents you from holding them accountable. For this reason, many agencies are opaque; they treat strategy like a black box of hidden secrets and they try to automate as little as possible. These dishonest practices ensure you will pay their retainer for years to come.

Many marketers are looking for help with improving their skills with one main goal, revenue impact, this is where the right marketing agency can be a big help.

So what are the tells that your agency might be dishonest? I’m happy you asked. 


What are the tells that your agency might be dishonest? I’m happy you asked.

1. Excessive Hours

Agencies support many types of customers, and some projects take longer than others. Having said this, a good agency can support a full-time marketing effort with a part-time hourly retainer. Why? They should be better at this. When you think about a full-time staff member, they have to attend 1 on 1’s, company meetings, team events, and build relationships with people in the office. SFGate states that employees admit to wasting about 40% of their time at work, this means that replacing the function of one whole team member should, at the max, cost you 100 retainer hours a month (And that’s assuming the agency isn’t able to be more efficient due to expertise and experience, which they definitely should). At Tactical, we aren’t even allowed to sell retainers over 30 hours per month without our CEOs approval because they are so rare.

2. Vanity Metrics

Agencies are supposed to be the best of the best. Agencies know this, they know when your campaign isn’t working, and often, they know whether it will work or not before it even launches. A great agency doesn’t just execute tasks, they help you define goals, prioritize work that contributes to those goals, and measure their success with predefined metrics. If an agency is distracting you with extensive reporting on opens and clicks or website traffic and dodging the question of return on investment, then you’re seeing the sign of neglect, incompetence, or dishonesty.

3. No Results

Not all projects are measured in dollars. Sometimes there is a specific project focus like inbox placement, deliverability, or sales inquiries. A good agency will always have transparent reporting the demonstrates the objective they were hired to reach is being met, and if not – why not. A good agency knows that not all plans work, there are literally millions of variables that can impact the success of a marketing effort. They also know how to overcome these obstacles and actually deliver results. If your agency is better at delivering excuses than results, it’s probably time to start looking for a better partner.

Tactical MA: A Different Kind of Agency

At Tactical Marketing Automation, we work in partnership with marketing teams to increase revenue,  more importantly we take every opportunity to help them understand the logic behind the solutions. Our approach is quite simple, we build trust with regularly scheduled meetings, get to know who we are working with so we can be on the same page as our clients, and we always have the marketers back. Trust, respect, expertise, and communication are the critical ingredients in working with a digital marketing agency. At Tactical, this is how we run our business every day.


Stuart Nessel I VP, Sales and Client Relations
Tactical Marketing Automation
Phone: 847.224.9759


Put The Mayonnaise Away

Put The Mayonnaise Away

I was 15 and I thought I was invincible.

I was the kid who didn’t have to (or thought I didn’t have to) study and could still show up and ace a test.  This is one of those “skills” that does not serve you well in the long run.  School, work, and life inevitably get more and more challenging as you grow.  Going into more challenging situations unprepared as an adult sets you up for failure.

During high school, my mother, who was wheelchair-bound from multiple sclerosis, found out that she had brain cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumor. Despite this, she continued to persevere, raising a child on her own, competing in triathlons, raising dogs for Canine Companions for Independence…you get the idea.

By 15, I had seen both sides of the poverty line.  When I was younger, we lived in someone’s garage that had a bathroom.  My mom slept on the couch and I got the closet.  By the time I was in middle school we moved to Land Park (an upper-middle-class neighborhood in the suburbs of Sacramento).

Why am I telling you my life story in an article on a marketing blog (there isn’t enough internet for my full life story)?  All of the things, good or bad, that I have experienced in my life have brought me to where I am now.  I have done everything from washing dishes to running my own company, and I am not above washing dishes again if that was what was necessary to provide for my family.  Most marketers (or business people in general) know what they need to do, we give free consultations away all the time; the plan is there.  Where people fall short is not having the tenacity to do the right thing, all of the time.

Anyway, I digress.

The vice principal at my high school, Brandon Contreras, once told my mother, “I have never met someone so intelligent who worked so hard at trying to do the wrong thing.” In life’s irony, I reconnected and worked with Brandon 20 years later.

I married twice, made all sorts of foolish decisions, and continued to look for shortcuts.  If there was a paved path to the beach and a rocky cliff next to it, I would always take the rocky path.

Get to the point Jake!

Eventually, I grew tired of making the wrong decisions.  I had the drive to be ridiculously successful, without the toolset to know how to achieve success. It was time to take a page from my mom’s book.

What it all boils down to is HARD WORK.  There are no short cuts in life.  No, really, I am going to say this once more – THERE ARE NOT SHORTCUTS IN LIFE.

I had glimpses of success throughout my life (out of dumb luck and being personable), but it wasn’t until I decided to truly apply myself that I realized that hard work always pays off.  You can sit around and wait to win the lottery, or yell at your roommates to put their shit away, or you can just put the mayonnaise away yourself and it will take one tenth of the time than whining about it does.

Marketing, or any job for that matter, isn’t always about the technical details.  What will make you successful in any environment is outworking, and out-behaving everyone around you.  What will make you even more successful is doing all of this with kindness and love.

Here is what I would like for you to take away from this article:


  • You will never fail by working hard.
  • Don’t take shortcuts.
  • Stay humble.
  • When you are tired and want to throw in the towel remember that someone else always has it harder than you.
  • Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  • Hug your mother.
  • Just put the mayonnaise away.
You don’t know what you don’t know – Run Towards your Fear!

You don’t know what you don’t know – Run Towards your Fear!

It’s estimated that greater than 80% of digital marketers don’t have formal training.  According to IBM’s, “Stepping up to the challenge: CMO insights from the Global C-suite Study,” 82% of Chief Marketing Officers feel underprepared to deal with the explosion of data in the market place.”  Adobe recently reported that only 48%of professionals who consider themselves primarily digital marketers feel highly proficient in digital marketing.

Does this mean that 52% of digital marketers are afraid they aren’t up to par?

So is this fear substantiated; is the “monster in the closet” real?

Unfortunately, it probably is.  The status quo is sub par and technology is changing so fast that tactics from 5 years ago might as well have been 50 years ago.

Nelson Mandela once said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Bravery is a step beyond fearlessness, it is the willingness to run towards the fear. If we are to be counted among the courageous, then we must embrace this  fear in our lives and let it drive us to be better.

In order to succeed, we must see this fear as our inner voice telling us that there is room to improve.  The insecurity tells us that we see weakness in ourselves.  This awareness can be used to drive us to continued education, training, and new methods.  The fear of competition tells us that we have found admirable traits in others that we recognize as valuable. Embrace this fear!  See the excellence modeled that you envy and emulate those traits you desire for yourself.

If the market is changing, then it is time to change with it; its time to read more and learn more.  It’s time to audit your organization’s approach, identify gaps, and prove that you can see better results.

Read your competitors blog and look at their marketing materials.  Find those that are the best at what they do and embrace it.  Identify the new technologies and strategies and take the risk.  Take inspiration and challenge from those who are succeeding where you fear failing and push yourself to improve.

When you realize the monster in your closet is real, don’t hide under the covers –
Run towards your fear; learn and grow.

Inbound vs Outbound: When did the world become Black and White?

Inbound vs Outbound: When did the world become Black and White?

I’m often asked, “Should I use an inbound or an outbound strategy?” Inside my own head I always have the same response: “Seriously?!  What kind of question is that?” This is then followed by the more rational complete response of “If the goal is to Attract the largest audience to your message, why not both?” The BigBlog Advocate will tell you to go Inbound.  To disarm the outbound argument they will tell you that buying a list and sending email to it is illegal.  Then they will point you to a link saying, “Well, sort of.  If you do it illegally its illegal, but you can totally do it legally, but you shouldn’t cause the boogeyman will get you.” The EmailEveryone Advocate will tell you to go Outbound.  To disarm the Inbound argument they will tell you to be aggressive and start sending email; then money will rain from the sky.  Then you’ll go through training and they’ll say, “Well, sort of.  If you Spam everyone you’ll get blacklisted and never get another email through ever.” You see, this isn’t a 1950’s sci-fi flick where the good guys wear white and the bad guys wear black.  It’s the 21st Century, the space is crowded and noisy, and whoever has the most effective marketing wins.  No single tactic is the trump card.  No one product is the clear winner – otherwise there would only be one product. Here are 5 key points to developing a comprehensive digital campaign using Inbound AND Outbound marketing tactics: 1. Understand your audience, including THEIR Buyer’s Journey Most marketing departments have figured out that their content needs to be “buyer oriented.”  We’ve mastered the skill of pitching value, ROI, and benefits for the customer.  This method is excellent, for the BOTTOM of the funnel. However – for true top of funnel content, the buyer has not even begun to consider what options are available, much less which option is best for her.  The key to effective “Attract” campaigns is to forget your value positioning.  At the true Top of the funnel, the Buyer is only aware that they are uncomfortable, in pain, or disrupted. Consider this idea – All humans go through a process when they make a decision – ANY decision.  It looks like this: 2. Categorize your marketing funnel by the Buyer’s Journey So what does this mean for marketers?  It means that if we understand the journey our buyer is on, we can tailor our message to our audience based on the needs and criteria of the stage they are in.  So in understanding our buyer’s journey, we gain the framework for our marketing funnel as seen here: 3. Create “funnel appropriate” Content Now that we have a framework in place, we head back to the white board. In the Top of Funnel content, we ask “What causes someone who will buy my product to need my product?”.  In Middle of Funnel content, we ask “What does someone who needs my product need to know about my product?”.  In Bottom of Funnel content we ask, “Why would they choose my product over their other options.” Answering these questions will give you the topics needed for truly engaging messaging at every stage. 4. Leverage appropriate Media Every content message can be used in multiple media assets.  A great LinkedIn article, for example, would also likely be a good blog post, whitepaper, and landing page.  Media is the container in which we put our content, and broadening the number of potential touch points is key to Attracting, Capturing, and Nurturing an engaged audience. 5. Distribute on “funnel appropriate” Channels Inbound or Outbound?  Nope – Destination Bound.  We distribute content to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, our website, and our blog, and launch banners ads, retargeting campaigns, emails, trade shows, phone calls, and text messages. (Inbound and Outbound) You see, if our content is right, it’s not a decision about Inbound or Outbound.  No one channel will reach our entire potential audience, ever. The key is to make sure that our funnel appropriate content is launched via funnel appropriate channels.  An email to a cold list asking them to “buy” something is a quick way to the Spam folder, and a social media or blog post with a demo invite is a great way to get ignored.  Top of Funnel blog posts are the wrong place for closing messages, and Bottom of Funnel emails are the wrong place for “10 Quick Tips”. All marketing efforts are about getting the right message, to the right person, at the right time, so be selective and deliberate about how you deliver your carefully crafted message. BOOM!  Real digital marketing done right.  No more Inbound vs Outbound BS – Just effective results, sales pipeline, and probably a pay raise. Good Luck! Feel free to reach out with any questions and leave your comments below!
No Content – No Leads: 5 Ways to Jump Start Your Content Engine

No Content – No Leads: 5 Ways to Jump Start Your Content Engine

Lao Tzu teaches that,

“The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.”

So what are you doing to kick-start your customer’s journey?

What’s the goal of most content creators? Usually, some combination of the following:

  • Higher lead conversion
  • Improved SEO
  • Increased traffic to their website
  • Greater credibility
  • A more engaged audience

But the task of creating content is often daunting for the small or medium sized business. The idea of regularly creating unique and engaging content is intimidating for many companies, and in most cases, the work goes undone.

Here are 5 steps you can use to easily create content for your blog, social media, and email campaigns.

1. Brainstorm 

I love whiteboards. Whether by myself or with my team, the exercise of flooding that white space with every crazy idea in my head is my favorite way to start a new project. By the end of my brainstorming sessions, my whiteboard is beautiful chaos! A mess of creativity, genius, idiocy, and redundancy.

This is good. The more ideas you get out for discussion the better!


2. Categorize Your Topics

So the white board is a hot mess. Now that we have dozens of topics to discuss, we need to organize them. Typically, I take a picture with my phone and erase the entire board.

With a clean slate, I begin to categorize and write them in “subject matter” groups (e.g. email marketing, marketing automation, marketing tips, etc.). Next, I label them by intended audience (e.g. CEO, Marketing Manager, Act-On user, Sales, etc.). Finally, I add a label by funnel stages (e.g. Awareness – Pain Points, Interest – Product Info, Consideration – Sales Enablement).

With these aspects defined, I can now begin to visualize how they fit into my larger initiatives, and identify any week spots that I have in my content matrix.


3. Define The Objective Of Your Post

By understanding the subject matter, target audience, and funnel stage, we are now able to recognize what our objective is. Whether initiating it or nurturing our customer’s journey, the objective is key in making sure that the content is relevant and will resonate with our audience. For example, if we are writing a post on the subject of 5 Ways to Jump Start Your Content Engine, we might see the following:

  • Subject Matter Group – Marketing Tips
  • Target Audience – Content Writers, Marketing Managers, SMB Owners
  • Funnel Stage – Top (Awareness/Pain Point)

In this case, my objective is “An educated audience that is able to grow in strategic creation and deployment of content, which is key to improved ROI through Act-On.”


4. Focus On 3 Sub-Points For Each Topic When Writing

Developing a basic outline for your article removes the need to think critically during composition. By knowing your key points prior to sitting down to a keyboard, you are able to focus on choosing the right words to emphasize your point. 

  1. Customers are on a journey that must be initiated with content.
  2. Provide 5 Content Tips.
  3. Reinforce the value of content for demand and lead generation.

Again we use this post. We start first with our pain point, second comes the real meat of the page, and the third point circling back to reinforce the value of the content being offered. 


5. Schedule Your Topics On A Marketing Calendar

Once your topics are defined and categorized, then you can now schedule the deadlines and post dates for your blog, social, and email campaigns. If you have larger marketing initiatives, you will be able to select the most appropriate articles for distribution at those times, and you can use your other topics as filler in between. For example, if you were to define 26 topics and elect to post 1 topic every two weeks, then you will easily fill a 12 month calendar with content across all digital channels!

Using this method, you are able to allocate a small block of time to developing each specific article, without feeling overwhelmed by all the articles that will come later. By creating accountability with a marketing calendar, you will ensure that blog posts are delivered in a timely fashion.


With This Map

In a one hour brain storming session, you have done the hard part of any composition task – knowing what to write! Now, with about 30 minutes a week, you are equipped to regularly add web content, fuel your social media presence, and feed your email audience.

With effective demand and lead generation in place, you will see an influx of interest which can be nurtured and converted to new business, accelerating growth and driving revenue for your company! 

BONUS! If you’re an Act-On customer, integrating your blog with Act-On is easy using Act-On Anywhere, and you can choose any web based blog tool or CMS that you want! Whether you use Google BlogSpot, Blogger, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, or any other, and you gain all the visibility and insight added with Act-On!

Not an Act-On customer – Check them out at www.act-on.com!