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Meet Third Marble Marketing President Chris Fawcett-Building an Efficient Digital Agency During the Pandemic

Today we have selected Chris Fawcett to take his Interview. He is the President  Of Third Marble Marketing.

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

I think we transitioned better than most companies with respect to our internal capabilities.  We are 100% in the cloud and worked from home 2-3 days a week before the crisis.  We’re still 100% at home today.  We encourage collaboration, so I think that’s probably the biggest hit to our company.  Collaboration and team effort are part of our culture and it’s been difficult to maintain the same levels we had before.  I think most of us struggled at some point to feel like we were part of something bigger than just our home office.  It’s been an adjustment for sure.
From a revenue standpoint, we took a big hit in the first few months of the pandemic. We had about 25% of our clients either pause or cancel our services.  By about the beginning of September, we were back to the prior year’s levels though.  Several clients restarted and several small businesses that used to rely on networking events and face-to-face sales started to learn that they really needed a stronger digital marketing effort, so we benefited from several new clients.  We are very fortunate to have been able to keep all of our talented teammates as a result, and even hire a few more.  We have a few new employees that haven’t even met the rest of the team, yet.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company.

I started my career as an industrial engineer but quickly pivoted to database marketing when I landed an internship with a direct marketing/catalog marketing company startup while I was in grad school in 1992.  That turned into a full-time job after college.  This was before eCommerce had really taken off.  I helped start their first eCommerce website.  I like to tell people this was before Amazon sold their first book.  After that, I had a few VP and C-level jobs with eCommerce companies until 2009, when I started Third Marble Marketing.
The idea was really born from hearing how much small businesses were paying for internet marketing.  I recognized that there was a disconnect between what most digital agencies were charging and what the 4 million+ small businesses in the USA really needed.  The question really became – “How can I make this more affordable?”
The answer came from my industrial engineering background, really.
1 – The Pareto principle – ie the 80/20 rule – only 20% of the marketing efforts really generate 80% of the results. So we focused on what worked – Google Ads (then called “AdWords”).
2 – Efficiency.   How can we make processes so efficient that we can charge far less than everyone else?
Modeling after companies like Jiffy Lube, we wanted to do one thing and do it very well.  This simplifies the business, which reduces overhead and increases the focus.
Of course, as our clients’ need for more customers continued to grow, we had to start to offer additional services beyond just Google Ads.  After numerous requests from our clients, we started an SEO division focusing on small businesses in 2014.  The same process-oriented principles were applied to that division as well.  This also gave our employee.
Third Marble Group Fun Logo

How does your company innovate?

Process improvement. Our innovations are all around getting the same result (or better), but doing it in an incredibly efficient manner.  I like to model our business after Henry Ford.  Henry Ford didn’t invent the car, he simply invented a better way to build the car.  The result was a quality car that was affordable for most people.
With Google Ads, there are numerous tasks that can be broken down into repeatable series of tasks – just like an assembly line in Henry Ford’s process.  This also creates a better way to hire and train people.  Instead of training someone on every aspect of Google Ads Management, we can onboard a new employee, train them on how to do one or two things, and they’re productive in a matter of days.  Once they master that skill, then train them on the next.  So we’ve not only created a simplified process for managing the Google Ads accounts, but we also have an efficient way to train employees for maximum productivity.
Eliminating unnecessary steps and minimizing waste is how we plan to provide maximum value to our clients.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

Yes – we’ve broken a few eggs to make this omelet.  The best lesson I think I’ve learned is to hire people for their personality, not their skills.  Skills can be trained, personality cannot.  We are a process-driven company that relies on teamwork, so employees that aren’t reliable or can’t work with others need to go.  The assembly line gets jammed up when one person isn’t doing their job.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

It’s difficult to remain efficient when working at home.  I think the difficult choices have been made by the individuals that work here. Many have had to deal with family issues and the challenge of maintaining their mental health while being so isolated.  Others find it difficult to stay focused when working in a home environment

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

Since most of us were working at home before, we had everything in place that we needed to transition to the home office.  The biggest challenge was to our sales team.  We relied heavily on in-person networking, which basically vaporized.  We pushed our budgets to other online strategies, which helped.  Our sales team has found that LinkedIn works pretty well, but we’ve also started using BuzzBoard for company research and Blitzr for a person to person networking.  We’ve not yet been able to replace the power of in-person networking though.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

The pandemic has certainly created a ton of new competitors in the digital marketing space. Many people that lost their jobs are now starting their own website design business to try to replace their job.  As they grow and begin to hire people, I think they’ll find what we did 10 years ago – you can no longer remain competitive on quality and price if you’re inefficient.
We plan to stay in the game by continuing to innovate and improve our quality.  Our best defense is to create the best results for the lowest price.  If we can do that, our customers will never want to leave us, and they’ll continue to refer us to other business owners they know.

Your final thoughts

I think we all just want to get back to “normal” again.

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