Interview – Amanda C Watts
Amanda is the founder of TwentyTwo Agency – a marketing agency for professional service firms. She is a mentor for Virgin Start-up, an Amazon bestseller and creator of The Traffic Light Method, a methodology that generates leads and acquires more clients.
Transcript (Click To Open)
Pieter: Hi there and welcome back. We’ve had a hiatus for a few weeks, but we are back with a few interviews lined up. My first interview today is with Amanda C. Watts. Amanda is the founder of 22 agency, a marketing agency for professional service firms. She’s a mentor for Virgin startup, an Amazon bestseller and creator of the traffic light method, a methodology that generates leads and acquires more clients. Really had a good chat with Amanda, and we’ll get into some details on mistakes people make in their marketing running their businesses, and how they can sort those out, getting the message right to the right market.
So enjoy this episode. I give you Amanda C. Watts.
Well, Amanda, thank you so much for joining me. How are you?
Amanda: Thanks for having me. I’m really good. Thank you ever so much.
Pieter: That’s great. So just before we start, I’m not entirely sure how much you know about the podcast we’ve got. It’s really just a means for me to try and help people to build better businesses. There’s an awful lot of focus on building bigger businesses and faster businesses, but lots of people fall by the wayside in actually structuring it in a helpful, and healthy, and sustainable way. So if you can maybe just tell us a bit more about your business, and how you go about things, and what you actually do, and who things are going.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. So I’ve been in business since 2009. Just like you say, I did not structure my business in any specific way. It was going out there. There was no methodology behind it. There was no method in the actions I took to market the business, no method in how I did my accounts, so that once a year I phoned up my mum and panicked, and was like, “Come and help me.” That kind of thing. My dad’s a tax man, so that makes more sense if people realise that.
But yeah, there was no structure. And what I soon realised is the only way to scale and have success, and enjoy business was to have systems in place, have methods in place. Actually, the service that we delivered needed to have method behind it so that we could measure it and tweak it and make sure that it worked. Everything actually came down to … I’m a big believer in boxes. So everything I do, whether I map it out and draw it out, it goes in a box, or it goes in circles or something like that. I very much like to be able to get it out of my head on paper. If I can make it out on paper, it’s a system. Then I implement that system in my business.
So I start a business in 2009. Around 2012, 2013, I actually went from hobby business to real business, which was amazing and stressful, and exhausting all at the same time, but financially rewarding. Yeah, and then in the past year or so, we have relaunched the business. I was very much a consultancy firm teaching people how to do marketing, and got highly frustrated that we weren’t taking any action. So we went back to being an agency business as well, so that we could implement more professional services.
People are very short on time. Like you say, they don’t have the business that is necessarily systemized. They don’t attack it with methodology because they’re busy being technicians doing what they’re good at. So we take away all of the pain of the word marketing where they can burry their head in the sand and do it for them through our digital agency.
Pieter: Okay, that sounds good. The bit about implementing for people, I think is really important. It’s our greatest strength and our Achilles’ heel as far as entrepreneurs are concerned where we feel we need to, not just understand everything, but we need to be able to do everything.
I always use the analogy, if your heating system broke down at home, your initial response is not to go to Amazon, order a couple of books on heating systems, get yourself gas safe registered, and then sort out the hot water.
Amanda: I love that. I’m going to have to steal that [crosstalk 00:04:21]. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, you don’t. So why do people think they can do what we do? Leave it to the experts. It’s very true actually. A little bit of knowledge is great so that you know that it’s the right expert and it’s going to be the right thing. But you don’t need to learn how to do it all, so I totally agree with that.
Pieter: Yeah, sticking with the plumbing analogy, I think it’s important to know an overview of what is safe practise, what is not. Is the hot water coming out of the tap or not? Is my house warm, or not? Do I have leads coming through the ceiling. But beyond that, that’s just a skillset that you don’t need. It’s never going to be your highest level skillset. You’re not going to perform at your highest level if you try and do everything.
Amanda: Exactly, exactly, and I think that what happens is you have the startup businesses that can’t afford to outsource it, or they believe that they can’t afford it. So then they have to do it. They end up working in their business instead of on their business. Then they never change that habit. It actually limits their growth. The best thing to do is outsource as quickly as you can.
Pieter: We’ve got one client, she’s actually a role model for us to assert and extend. She doesn’t really know it, but she runs a business that she has never worked in, and has never been able to deliver the service. She started it simply because she saw that could be a good business, went with the idea. But at no point did she try to train herself to deliver the service. It allowed her to grow quite quickly. She’s now opening two more outlets and everything. It’s going really well, but she can’t step in for any of her staff, which for most business owners, I think they would think, “Well, that’s just a nightmare. I can’t imagine being like that.” But it’s actually the best position to be in.
Amanda: Absolutely. That’s why, I suppose, when you sell a widget, for example, and you can’t step in and make that widget yourself. You have to have someone that makes it for you. And they are the businesses that are highly profitable rather than the service based businesses where they tend to start off with the service being implemented by the owner/manager. Yeah, I totally agree with that, totally agree with that.
Pieter: So now, I’m listening for the second time to Philip Knight’s memoir, Shoe Dog. It’s that. You hear everything that’s happened to get Nike to be Nike. And he can’t make shoes. He’s never tried to make a show.
Amanda: Yeah, that’s right. He had a vision, and he put it into implementation, didn’t he? D
Amanda: Yeah, no, exactly. It’s like the book, Built to Sell. The only way you can build a business that you ever want to sell is to work yourself out of it, and not actually be a doer in it. Totally agree.
Pieter: Make yourself redundant over time.
Amanda: Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I’m not literally, but you know what I mean.
Pieter: How are you going about doing that?
Amanda: Well, I think that the main reason why we went back to agency is because I wasn’t doing that. I got burnt out. So I actually found myself in bed for four months, unable to move. As a consultant/coach, I was back to back coaching. Because I am really good at marketing, I had marketed myself really well, was fully booked, retired the husband. So he was helping me in the business. We had a small team. But I was still implementing everything. In January of this year, we went, “What do we need to change?” And it was actually, Amanda, you need to come out of the business. You can’t come out of this business, so let’s create another one that you can come out of.
So what we’ve done is look for people who don’t have time to do marketing, who don’t want to do marketing, who don’t like marketing very much, who need help where their industry is suffering. So our predominant ideal client is an accountant. Their industry is changing a lot. We’ve got a couple of options. You can either give up and retire. You can sell your business to somebody else, or you can embrace it and excel, otherwise you’re going to fail.
So what we said was, “Accountants need help. Let’s go and help them.” We have a team of designers, writers, website designers, implementers who can do that for the accountants. It’s my methodology behind it, because that’s my expertise is coming up with, “This is what we need to do at this stage to have the success for them.” That’s being systemized. It’s being documented. We’re recording it in videos. We’re doing training, but the training isn’t to then sell to them so that we can train them. It’s so that my staff can then implement the methodology so that it works every time for these accountants.
Pieter: Yeah, and that’s a key thing that comes up, not just in marketing businesses, but businesses in general, is that documenting and recording of the processes, because most people would say, “Well, my business is either too complex and I can’t create a system for it.” Or, “It’s too simple. It doesn’t need a system.” But I sort of look at it, if … My wife is a doctor, and if she can go through the whole training process of the NHS where she turns up on day one knowing pretty much nothing, and can be trained up to where she’s now a consultant, if the complexities of what she does every day can be taught and systemized, which it is, then there is no business that can say, “No, we’re too complex.”
Amanda: Exactly, exactly. I totally, totally agree with you on that. I think that we give ourselves excuses for not doing something that’s outside our comfort zone. It’s very easy for us to do the tasks ourselves. It’s very easy for us to fall into that, because that’s our natural gift. That’s why we started the business in the first place, but it’s also our biggest downfall if we don’t outsource it, and if we don’t go and get someone to do it for us.
Pieter: Yeah, when you start your business that way, you are the strongest part of the business. But I think you soon become the weakest link, because if you’re not there, nothing happens. If you’re not there to hold the reins, if there isn’t processes. So tell us a bit more about your methodology. How do you work with clients?
Amanda: Okay, so one thing that I have noticed since I’ve been doing digital marketing, I’m preaching to the converted with you. You do very similar to what we do, I think. One thing I’ve noticed is, what used to work in 2010 doesn’t work anymore. We have had to get a lot cleverer and smarter with our marketing. Where you used to be able to send out a few tweets or put a Facebook advert up, or put a LinkedIn message out to someone. That would get you clients, it doesn’t anymore. So I’ve always, always managed to grow my businesses through content marketing. I’m a big believer in content marketing. But what I have noticed is it’s not anymore about content. It’s about the right content, at the right time, in front of the right person.
Our methodology is all around helping the accountants specialise either with a product or service, or specialise in an area. Most people know it as niching. So helping them niche, and then putting together a content and marketing strategy to take their ideal clients from not even having a clue about why they are in pain, all the way through to having a solution at the end of that. We call it the traffic light method. It’s basically three stages as a traffic light is. It’s taking their ideal client from red all the way through to green.
Red is where the buyer is completely frustrated. They don’t know what they’re frustrations about. If you use a restaurant for example, if they’re fully booked, but their profits are low. Their revenue is good. They don’t understand why they’re not making money, and they really need help. They think that the first thing that they need is a business coach to help them. They think they’re seeking for a business coach, but actually their profit is the problem, and their numbers are the problem. So the accountant needs to get in front of them and say, “You don’t have a customer problem. You don’t have a recruitment problem or anything like that, actually your problem is in the numbers.”
He needs to disrupt and shine a light on what the pain is. So, that’s the first thing that they need to do through their content marketing. Okay? So, that’s getting them from red. Then they go to amber. If the restaurateur is amber knowing where that the problem is with their numbers, what we have to do is have to then work out, how do we give them advice on how to overcome this problem? So it’s about educating them. It’s insights. It’s sharing blogs with them. It’s maybe having a free ebook for them, maybe running events for restaurants every quarter or on how to maximise their profit. It really is about staying in touch with them and proving that, as the accountant, that you know more than the restaurateur about their pain. So, that’s when they’re amber.
The accountant has taken them from red where it’s like, “I don’t know what my problem is, but I have a problem.” All the way through to, “Oh, my gosh. Now I know my problem and I know how to overcome it.”
Then what happens is, they’ll either try and overcome it themselves, or they’re going to go, “Who can help me? How can I find someone to help me overcome that problem? That’s when you have to have content out there that is all about positioning yourself in the marketplace. So why you? That’s about having a great pitch. That’s about having proof that you can do what you do. That’s about making sure that you’re priced competitively. So the kind of content you need to do that is things like brochures and case studies, email followups, and also even webinars. You can have webinars to then seal the deal. You can maybe even have events for prospects that are nearly clients.
It’s about thinking cleverly about the buyers’ journey and where your prospect is on that journey. Now what I see too many people do is create generic content that goes out, and is boring and bland. They think writing a 500 word article is going to get them clients. If they attack it with the traffic light methodology and think, “Right, is my client at this stage? Are they red? Are they at amber? Are they at green?” And create content around that, then they can take people on the journey. They then get seen as the trusted advisor and the go to expert that they wat to be seen as.
Pieter: Yeah, to you and I, and I’m sure to many listeners, it makes complete sense, because you are, no matter what business you are in really, you are in the business of building a relationship.
Amanda: Yes, that’s exactly.
Pieter: One to many, but you’re trying to build a relationship. If we think about how relationships are built, having that generic message is a big like walking into a bar and you work on the basis that, okay, I’m a guy. I’d like to marry a woman. There are girls here. On average, girls want to get married. So if I stand on a chair and say, “Does anybody want to marry me?” Surely someone’s going to say, “Yes.”
Amanda: Someone’s going to say yes. [crosstalk 00:15:23].
Pieter: It doesn’t work that way. You have to try and build the relationship and understand where they are. And at least just say, “Does anybody want a drink or a cup of coffee?”
Amanda: Exactly. And they’d like to chat about this a little bit. Let me show you why I’m cool. Let me find out if you’re cool too, kind of thing. [crosstalk 00:15:44].
Pieter: But that’s quite a good point. There’s also an element in that relationship building that is, “Well, why should I work with you? Why should I take you on as a client?” It’s not just a case of, “I need to sell myself to you.” It’s also, “You need to prove that you are the right client for me and my business.”
Amanda: Yeah, and that’s why I say audition your clients, really. That takes away that fear of selling as well. It’s very, very important that … If you just accept every single client, your business … You know how we’re talking about growing the business and taking yourself out of the business. If you’ve got clients that give you a headache, and you just chase the money, your business won’t grow. And it’s frustrating, absolutely.
Pieter: I really like Dan Kennedy’s view on it where he says, “If I wake up three mornings in a row thinking about you, and we’re not sleeping together, you need to go.”
Amanda: Absolutely. I really like that one. I’m going to use that one actually. That’s fab, absolutely fab.
Pieter: If you could share maybe two or three key things you’ve learned in your journey that you wish you knew when you started out in 2009?
Amanda: The biggest one is consistency and persistency, and follow one path until you have success. The number of times I have changed and tweaked and tried a new niche, and gone, “Oh, that looks interesting. Oh, that looks shiny, and I’m going to try that.” Even my son said to me, “Mummy, if you stopped quitting what you started with, you’d be a multimillionaire now.” And I’m just like, “Thank you, my 14 year old darling. I really don’t need to hear that from you.” The young are very, very wise. My biggest thing is focus, really, really focus.
I got very distracted, and I am frustrated about that. But I learned a lot, so I learned a lot of lessons, and I believe that you will excel more through learnings and making mistakes. So yeah, and I can share that with my clients too, although accountants being my ideal client, they’re very, very good at making a decision and sticking to it. They take a long time to make a decision, but once they’ve made that decision, they stick to it. To they don’t have that problem quite as much as I do. That’s the creative side of me.
Pieter: Yeah, and just going back to your traffic light system. I think an objection that might come up, and I’d like to know how you deal with this, it’s not an objection from me. It seems, on the one hand that it’s a lot of work. And on the other hand that it’s a slow process.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. I would agree with both of those. It’s an objection that comes up. I would say, “Thank you. You’re very, very right.” It is a lot of work. It takes maybe 12 months to really implement all of this. We do it in three month cycles. So the first one is we would create 12 blogs. We have three for red, three for amber, three for green. We start building that momentum. It takes time to build trust with people.
Go back to the beginning of this conversation we had, we were talking about relationships. If relationships could be formed that quickly fantastic, we’d all be multimillionaires straightaway. We’re not. It does take time.
Slow process, yes. But quick wins are go to your current clients and get the case studies, and ask for referrals. And still think about the traditional ways of marketing and using the content you are creating to back up those traditional methods. We’re not saying referral marketing is completely dead. We’re not saying, “Don’t go networking.” We’re not saying, “Don’t pick up the phone and make cold calls.” What we’re saying is, “All this content will move people along that funnel quicker. It will build relationships better it will position you as the expert. It will create a great brand for you. And when someone has a question, you’re going to have a blog that you can send them to that just reinforces your message.”
It’s not a quick win. It is a complete system that enables you to scale your business, because you have such great content that answers every question someone asks you.
Pieter: That’s great. I like that. Well we didn’t come here to disagree with each other.
Amanda: No, [crosstalk 00:19:57]. But yeah, one thing is, if you want leads quickly, pay for clicks, great. Pay for clicks is fantastic. But what’s even better is if someone who clicks on your website, and they can then devour your blogs. If they can then sign up to your lead magnet, and if they can then come to a webinar and build that relationship with you before they buy from you. That sale is going to be so much easier.
It will also whittle out most that you’ve paid for with pay for a click and they’re rubbish. It backs up all of your marketing and makes you get a better ROI on everything that you do.
Pieter: Yeah, and I think it also, having the content out there and having staked a position out in the market gives you a lot more, like you say in the sales conversations, people come to you almost pre-sold, because they’ve seen your position, your authority, the fact that you actually know what you’re doing rather than, “Well, if I need an accountant, to be fair, I could ring someone up. Don’t know whether they’re going to be any good or not.”
Amanda: But if you’ve got an accounting firm that specialises. My accountant specialises in digital agencies. So every two months, we go to … There’s 170 odd people, 170 odd agencies. They all get together. We all get to share best practises. We learn from the accountant at the front of the room and the consultant that then is in business with him. We love that accountant because they know our numbers. They know what works, if we’re doing well, if we’re not doing well.
The only reason I knew that is because I went to an event and heard them speak. And went, “Oh, my gosh. You’ve got to be my accountant.” I didn’t know that’s what they did until I went to an even on entrepreneurialism. So it’s interesting. It’s really interesting.
Pieter: That’s great. What are you working on at the moment? What keeps you excited? What’s keeping you busy?
Amanda: My thing that is really keeping me busy is … Have you heard of Grant Cardone?
Amanda: Yes, okay, so he has this saying that you don’t have to be first in space to be first in the space. I wasn’t first in the space. What’s keeping me excited and keeping me busy is I want to be first in the space, okay? So every day I wake up, and it’s about creating more content, getting more speaking gigs, about positioning myself as the go to agency for accountants. First of all, in the UK, then I want to take over the world.
I’ve never had that passion when I’ve worked with other niches, because they’ve been so terribly overcrowded, and everybody is fighting for a piece of that pie. The industry that we’re now working in, because we are content masters, we can get first in that space. S,o that’s what drives me. Another piece of content needs to be done. I spend two hours a day creating content to position our firm. That’s more than anybody else ever does.
I go to networking events. They’re like, “How do you write for two hours a day?” And I was like, “Well, I get up at six o’clock, and I write it before I get out of bed at eight o’clock.” That’s what I do. If you don’t want to do that, then you won’t be first in your space.
Pieter: Yeah, it’s hard work, but that’s why it’s worth doing. I mapped out, yesterday … We’ve got a campaign, and I mapped out yesterday, I have to record 55 videos.
Amanda: Yep, and what amount of time?
Pieter: As in how long are they? Or when do I have to have them done by?
Amanda: When do you have to have 55 done by?
Pieter: Well, the idea for me is to do it all in one day. They’re all short videos. I’ll just block a day out, record all the videos, and be done with that, because then I know that I can move on to the next thing.
Amanda: Absolutely marvellous.
Pieter: I don’t begrudge doing it at all. But I don’t wake up in the morning and think, “I can’t wait to record 55 videos.”
Amanda: No, of course you don’t.
Pieter: What I’m excited about is the impact it will have on the business. And therefore, I’m more than happy to go and do 55 videos.
Amanda: Exactly. That’s right, and actually it will work really well. I did a 30 day blogging challenge, which got me onto this content marketing thing where when I started the 30 day blogging challenge, I didn’t know I wanted to be first in the space. And at day 15, when I started getting all these opportunities, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is really easy. Just keep going. Blog every day. Blog every day. Blog every day.” So yeah, totally, totally get that. We don’t do it because we love it. We do it because it gives us the end result.
Pieter: Yeah, yeah, very much so. Well, you’ve mentioned a couple of authors and a book and everything there. So if you can give me your top three books, that if I haven’t, that I should read next.
Amanda: One is Built to Sell, but I can’t remember who the author is. You’re going to have to forgive me. I’m terrible with names.
Pieter: That’s okay. Amazon will help.
Amanda: Yeah, Amazon will help. The One Thing, [crosstalk 00:24:28] about focus. That is exceptional, and actually the last one I’m going to give you is Goals by Brian Tracy. The reason why I like this is because I’ve just finished it on audio. I then read it on PDF. I’ve been reading it, and I’m going back to audio again. Why do I like it so much? Because if we don’t write it down, it’s not going to happen. And for your listeners today, it is essential to write down your goals. I realise that more and more every day. Is it my favourite book, probably not. Is it a highly valuable book? Yes, it is super valuable for your listeners. So I would like to throw that one in as well.
Pieter: That’s quite an interesting thing that. I’ve been lucky enough. I’ve not made enough use of it over time, but my biggest example of the value of having focus and a concrete goals is my younger brother. He’s a classical pianist. When he was nine … We grew up in South Africa. When he was nine, he wrote to the Royal Associate Board in the UK in the Royal College of Music, and said, “I want to come and study. Can you send me a prospectus?” They were gracious enough to send him one knowing that he’s nine.
Amanda: He’s nine years old. Bless him. How cool.
Pieter: But nine years later, he got a scholarship for the Royal College. He’s now, next year, February I think it is, he’ll get his PhD from Guildhall. That will him achieving the goal he set out on when he was nine. He hasn’t waivered from it in all this time. I wouldn’t ask him to change a light bulb or anything like that. He has got complete focus. But he’s managed to achieve incredible things in that time just by having that very singular focus and chipping away at it, chipping away at it all the time.
Amanda: That’s what it is, isn’t it. How amazing. What a lovely story. Lovely story.
Pieter: So it certainly makes a difference.
Amanda: It really does.
Pieter: Just before we go, how can people reach you? Where do they go to find you?
Amanda: Okay, so the website is 22.agency is our agency website. They can also go to Amanda C. Watts. If they google me, Amanda C. Watts, I take up about the first four pages. So, that’s super easy. I love connecting with people on LinkedIn. That’s my platform of choice. Connect with me on LinkedIn so that you listen to the interview today, and I’d be more than happy to give you a marketing audit and help them with that. That’d be absolutely super.
Pieter: Great. Well, we’ll link to all of that in the show notes as well.
Pieter: That’s great. Well, thank you so much for joining me. It’s been really great.
Amanda: It went super quickly.
Pieter: I’ve seen you out there in the world. It’s the first time we’ve actually spoken, so it’s been very good, and yeah, maybe have you again back on the show sometime.
Amanda: Absolutely. I’ve got lots to share.
Pieter: That’s great. That’s brilliant. Thank you so much for joining me.
Amanda: Thank you, cheers.
Pieter: Cheers, bye.
Author: Pieter K de Villiers
Pieter K de Villiers is slightly obsessed with systems. The systems and process automation he builds for small businesses are transformative, to say the least. Pieter is a Co-Founder of Barefoot Digital and the Amazon best-selling author of “Barefoot Business: 3 key systems to attract more leads, win more sales and delight more customers without your business killing you”.