This is my first attempt at writing a blog ... To be honest, I never really thought I had enough interesting things to say to fill a screen, but knew this story had to be told.
While I’m big on written brevity and beg for bulleted emails, this somehow turned into a 2,000 word piece. So, if you just want to know how Seer navigated the roller-coaster ride of 2020, click here and we will take you to the meat of this article or use the links below to jump to the section of your choice:
- How Quickly Life Can Change
- Building A Lead Generation Model In 3 Months
- Pausing Business Because It Was the Right Thing To Do
- How Giving Up $3MM Became an Easy Decision
If you’re more of a romanticist, who would enjoy a heartfelt saga of personal/professional triumph and failure during a pandemic year (some real Jerry Maguire stuff), then scroll down and enjoy the ride.
How Quickly Life Can Change
Friday, February 28th, 2020
I left work thinking I'd be back after another weekend of putting together baby furniture and trying to figure out what the hell my wife and I would be naming our son.
Monday, March 2, 2020 (12:30AM)
My wife’s water broke… and my son was here 3 hours later. Paternity leave commences.
The first week with a newborn is the most insane 7 days of your life: no sleep, constantly on edge that you are going to harm them in some way, always checking in on your partner’s recovery, relatives you didn’t even know you had reaching out to see when they can visit the baby. It’s a lot.
Then the 15 minutes I got to myself, I spent it watching the news about this pandemic thing that is starting to become a big deal…
Wednesday, March 11, 2020
Our country shut down.
No one is to leave their homes.
Scientists are not really sure how it spreads.
Supply chains start breaking down.
Hospitalizations are ramping up.
I spent the rest of the week ensuring my immediate and extended family were safe and secure. Then it was time to check-in on my colleagues at Seer.
And much of what I was seeing in the news, was unfortunately happening to us as well:
- Clients freezing budgets
- Sales essentially coming to a halt
- Fortune 100 companies not having a clue what to do next
It was an extremely scary time to be responsible for a new life in this world AND an extremely scary time to be responsible for helping to ensure the well being of my nearly 200 colleagues and our clients.
Thursday, March 19, 2020
I am fortunate enough to work with some of the most skilled sales and client relationship professionals on the planet, but I didn’t feel right watching our company going through such hardship while sitting on the sidelines.
So I decided on March 19th that paternity leave was over -- time to jump back in.
That night I didn’t sleep at all - and not because of the 2 week old.
I WAS ABOUT TO WALK BACK INTO WHAT WOULD TRULY BE THE SCARIEST DAY OF MY PROFESSIONAL CAREER.
I, like many folks at Seer, take my role extremely seriously and did not want to let anyone down.
- How were we going to work through all this?
- How would we prevent anyone from losing their job?
- How could we ensure that one mortgage payment, one daycare bill, one health insurance invoice would not be missed?
These thoughts just continued to spin around in my head over and over… and then my [newborn son] alarm went off around 6AM.
Friday, March 20, 2020
I got out of bed and was really just quiet (this never happens, ask anyone). I got ready, played with my son for a bit, grabbed a cup of coffee and turned on my computer. I’m not sure if the automatic updates on my computer were finished before I was already hearing from teammates:
“We’re in this together” “We have your back”
All day long there were calls, emails, video chats.
The debilitating fear that had been haunting me for a number of days was gone and survival mode kicked in.
90% of Our Business had Been Inbound
For the past 20 years, we’ve been lucky enough that Seer’s lead generation has primarily come inbound through Client Referrals, Wil and the team speaking at conferences, our website’s thought leadership, our alumni, and more.
We are extremely fortunate to receive 500+ leads a year.
Our natural state is to have 2 to 3 brands come through our lead form daily.
THIS ESSENTIALLY TURNED OFF.
Oh yeah... And no one can travel anywhere, no conferences are occurring, no one is buying anything, contracts are frozen, and the whole world doesn’t know what’s next.
Building a Lead Generation Model in 3 Months
Companies will work for 10+ years to build out their lead generation model… we gave ourselves 3 months.
We went all in on trying everything:
- Our recruiting team sourced 4,781 new business development prospects
- Practitioners built out 314 consultative videos with custom landing pages for prospects
- We quadrupled email marketing, sending 9 segmentations each month
- Launched a Client Referral Program
- Published 275 pieces of content
- Ran 12 Webinars
- Developed a new organic selling strategy for current clients
- Re-planned Seerfest from an in-person to virtual event
- Onboarded HubSpot as our Marketing Automation tool
We did it all and we did it together. Nearly 200 team members with all hands on deck.
We learned a ton… we got it wrong more than we got it right, but it taught us an invaluable lesson:
As a team, we will never let this happen again. A diversified approach to lead generation will be a core part of Seer from this moment forward.
What Worked for Us
Our Team Our team’s resolve to exhaust all options. Every person at Seer pitched in someway or another -- from enthusiastically diving into client relationships to ensure we could help them make those tough decisions, to identifying inefficient ad spend in any account across our portfolio and communicating immediately to clients and prospects, to telling the industry everything we learned along the way.
The Basics From a tactical perspective, honestly, it was really just getting back to the basics. Connecting with people, asking how they’re doing, what their biggest challenge was...The business will come. Right now with the time we had on our hands, we wanted to see how many people we could help.
Helping People We created 100’s of consultative videos for potential future prospects - those had real, actionable insights about their business.
We made it 100% about them, nothing about us.
CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT Education is everything. Ensuring we had a resource built out to help folks navigate their new world was crucial to helping our community.
Newsletters Leading with timely knowledge… not sales pitches. We stayed top of mind for people, so when the lights turned back on… Seer was there.
How it shook out...
Our pace to sales goals tanked for 3 months, started to tick up after another 3 months, then exploded in September 2020. All those efforts started paying off.
We rounded out the year on a wave of business we weren’t expecting until 2023.
Q4 Retention of current clients was 10% higher than forecasted.
Current clients fueling organic growth… the greatest testament to your team.
Everybody was on top of the world. Or at least we thought we should be…
First a quick update on the most interesting content in this article 🙂
March 11, 2021
One year to the day from when our country shut down...
I’m [virtually] standing in front of my colleagues, telling them we are going to shut down everything for the next 60 days.
- No new business.
- Major slow to existing client growth.
- Halt all new internal initiatives.
- A decision to turn away $3MM+ in revenue
So what the hell happened?
The Growth We couldn’t have foreseen this level of growth.
The events of the last 12 months have put our industry on a growth trajectory no one could have predicted -- Digital Transformation is real, as much as I hate the buzz term. Hiring for digital marketing roles grew nearly 33% year-over-year. We talk to our peers often and those agencies that made it through 2020 are experiencing unprecedented growth rates.
- 6 months of record breaking sales.
- Client retention figures north of 90%.
The Recruiting Industry Shifted Our commitment to maintain and grow talent has intensified. Our team is getting approached by the biggest brands in the world as everyone can pretty much work from anywhere today -- counteroffers are through the roof, team members are getting offered titles 3 levels above where they are, etc, etc.
Seer served as one of the safest companies to be with throughout COVID, which led to extremely low people churn in 2020.
However, as things have stabilized in the US, our churn has begun to catch up with us and we’re seeing higher levels than anticipated.
It has been the perfect storm of unprecedented growth, strong client retention, our people churn normalized and we could not fill roles quick enough.
How Giving Up $3MM Became an Easy Decision
Our executive team met for countless hours discussing a myriad of options: recruiting partners, better automation, augmenting forecasts, serious fixes to our operational system, hiring blitzes, new tools, talking to peers… the works. We tried everything to fix this growth challenge, but we should have stuck with our guts from the beginning:
We needed to shut it down.
As the person overseeing growth, it pains me more than you will ever know to pen this piece of the blog. It went against everything I had ever been taught in business. We had such momentum and in today’s world, you literally have no clue what tomorrow is going to bring.
But this was honestly the easiest decision we ever made because of our ethos:
- WE WILL NOT compromise the happiness of our people
- WE WILL NOT compromise the integrity of our product in the marketplace
- WE WILL NOT compromise the quality of the talent we attract to Seer
And after all -- these are the people that brought on this boom of business from the efforts during 2020. This is their business, their pipeline. The thanks we owe for this growth is 100% on them, how would anyone ever think to then compromise that commitment to their team?
After making that announcement to the company to pause everything, I thought I would be on edge for weeks... But I wasn’t. I actually slept better than I had in years. I’m talking 17-year old Jeff on a Saturday with literally nothing to do kind of sleep.
- We made the decision to put our people first.
- We made the decision to not compromise the brand we have spent 20 years building.
- We made the decision to go back to the basics of what got us here … our clients and our people.
It’s Been a Long Year
And one that we got through together. So from the bottom of my heart, Seer Team - Thank you.
This last year has shaken every person at their core at one point or another. I thought my professional experience had prepared me for just about anything I would see in the business world, but guess what - I wasn’t even close.
I learned that it’s not about having all the answers.
It’s about surrounding yourself with the people who immediately have your back the minute you don’t know the next step.
I learned it’s okay to admit you’re scared or aren’t sure what’s next. Vulnerability is one of the most powerful weapons we all have. Because at the most vulnerable times, you truly find out who somebody is.
And I was lucky enough to find out that there are 200 people spread across Philadelphia, San Diego, and now all over the world that will be there for me in a second’s notice.
Stay tuned… I’ll let you know how it all turns out: