Tellef Lundevall, CEO of Accelerated Digital Media joins the podcast for the second time to talk all things growth, culture, and retention. Tellef talks about the explosive growth his agency has experienced and how he’s created a culture of growth and retention amidst the roster increases. We also touch on internal marketing for agencies, the “flywheel of business” and much more.
You can learn more about Tellef at https://www.linkedin.com/in/tellef-lundevall-ceo-of-adm/ and more about Accelerated Digital Media at https://accelerateddigitalmedia.com/
How does a digital marketing company (like ADM) deal with internal marketing as an agency? And how do ads fit in?
We want to position ourselves as an expert firm. The major priority is your content strategy. How are you going to exude that type of expertise and really express your thought leadership in and through a content strategy that represents your brand and entices individuals companies.
In the digital space which is our and my expertise there’s a multitude of seemingly infinite options of how you can get your content out there!
For instance, if you were a target client of mine, I could reach you on Instagram or get a list of people who are really interested in a relevant context, like bookkeeping people interested in growth marketing. The question is, is this the right context and you want to ensure you are getting the right information in front of the right people. So I would find the right platform to express myself and my company as a thought leader.
B2B companies can get really creative with their ads to incite action. LinkedIn lead forms are a great example of this because they provide the right context and content while also making it easy for individuals to fill out a form and give their information. This way, you can follow up with them and continue the conversation.
Sales process is different for us than our clients!
Our sales process usually takes 4-12 weeks, but it can sometimes be even longer. To keep our brand visible and top-of-mind, we run ads on more visual platforms like Instagram. We also use this opportunity to show our logo and share some interesting facts about the channels we manage. There are lots of opportunities out there, but our approach is definitely different from what we recommend for our clients.
Have you found that difficult personally to build out the marketing and the sales portion for ADM? Is that a problem that you see in agencies?
Yes! I’m thinking back to a podcast that my advisor was putting on. It was all agency owners I believe or maybe a group of leadership personnel from agencies. He pulled the crowd like what is your biggest challenge right now? Overwhelmingly the most common response was lead generation.
It’s ironic that a lot of marketing agencies have trouble generating leads. Sales cures all woes in business, and there’s no question you need sales!
An example of this would be if we built a tool that attracted new customers but then our sales decreased, meaning we have to work a bit harder to bring in new business. [The term “flywheel” is often used in business and it represents the continuous forward momentum needed to keep a company growing.]
What are the challenges for your agency with 25 employees? And what is the process to expand and grow so quickly?
Every poker player remembers their biggest losses, but they don’t remember the wins that they got. I thought I knew more than anyone when it came to google ads management when I started this company and I was so happy to find out that I knew nothing compared to some of the real experts out there.
Finding those people along the way and watching the value of the positive contributions that they create for our clients and the knowledge that they have of this platform (not just from reading about it but from using it) and discovering it themselves, added to this team and have become core to the ADM family. This has really stood out to me.
On a serious note, when you’re talking about accounts receivable, there have been bumps in the road where people have tried to not pay invoices. You get in business, you partner with the wrong people, there’s someone or their company that you didn’t vet appropriately in your diagnostic process of the sale or even the account management. And then you learn about the importance of your legal contracts and the language within those contracts.
It’s better to invest five grand and have a lawyer write your contracts or spend a couple 100 bucks and have a lawyer review every contract before you send it out to ensure that you don’t put your team and your company in a compromising position if someone ends up being untrustable.
I think a lot about the flywheel in business and the different components that really need to revolve around each other to be able to scale effectively. For the first 3.5 years of this company we were able to put one foot in front of the other. We got a new client, I will work overtime for a little bit, we can handle this. Let’s start recruiting for the next person! Once we get that person, they will bring in the next client and we’ve graduated for 1.5 – 2 years beyond that phase And so for us making sure we have that flywheel of new business coming is the right leads. We can count on leads that we can close recruiting, hiring and training. If one of those pieces breaks the entire flywheel breaks. So, understanding all of those components has been probably the most interesting challenge to solve.
Learn about company culture
Q: How do you see retention and company culture from working at Google?
I ripped the title “Director of People” from Google. Google’s HR is called People Operations. One area of my job that I loved and wasn’t my core role, and when I was at Google, I ended up running this culture team with 3 other women.
We had about a $50,000 budget, we would go around with a drink car, buy gear, swags, and put on events. Working at Google teaches you about culture but also being a part of the community and facilitating the community was an incredibly powerful experience.
One of the values in our company now is “people first” and this way, we value our culture in a lot of ways around ideology. We prioritize our people in terms of where we make our investments, we are focused on how we get better benefits and make this a better place to work.
We ensure that you have work-life balance and not everybody wants that. There is no question that we are clear about communicating. In our recruiting process, if you are someone who wants to be better than yourself, and you want to invest in your career, in your mind, this is a place for you to work.
My advisor, which I have to give him credit for, says it’s not a goal unless you have a budget behind it. You can talk and talk and talk about all you want. Unless you’re putting money behind those things.
Your people are your investments
You should prioritize your people in terms of investment, you make it a fun place to work. We started to hire people outside of Chicago and we have a semi remote workforce. We put a budget towards bringing everyone together at least twice a year. We are now looking to make that a quarterly schedule next year.
We have a monthly culture event sponsoring an individual team to get together and do a wine tasting. Usually it’s our whole company getting together. When you have 30 people on a zoom call, it gets a bit complicated.
Are there any other painful lessons that you have come across as an agency owner, whether it was culture related, people related or anything else?
The majority of the people we’ve hired in the past have worked out great, with only a few exceptions. Whenever something goes wrong, we always ask ourselves “what could we have done better?”.
This could be in the form of writing contracts more effectively or making sure that the person had a positive experience working with us. It’s important to remember that not everything is always within our control and that there is always something to learn from any situation – no matter what the outcome may be.
People are unpredictable
At the end of the day, there are going to be times when people behave in a way that you have no explanation for. That’s one of the beautiful things about people – they’re not always predictable. Everyone is unique and has their own way of doing things, so you’re not always going to understand it. But I think it’s important to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Things that we are passionate about
Do you have something that’s been on your mind lately that you’re really passionate about in your industry, or is there something you’ve seen that you can’t stop thinking about?
Our recent decision to support growth marketing for digital health brands directly for consumers is a very healthy transition for our business. The main reason we did this is because we now have access to far more relatable companies, and the fact that they are direct to consumers is a huge benefit. Oftentimes, this could benefit people like you or me, and that is something I am very excited about. And you have companies that are trying to grow aggressively. This is super captivating.
I think like the beauty of digital health brands is there’s a lot of positive externalities that come from them. One of our clients’ companies called Neurex, which recently merged with telemedicine, Neurex has become the largest women’s telemedicine company in the United States. Their primary offering at least over the last five years has been birth control.
I think digital health brands are great because they have a lot of positive externalities. Our client company Neurex recently merged with a telemedicine company and has become the largest women’s telemedicine company in the US. They’ve been offering birth control for the last five years and it’s been their main product.
At the surface level, you might think that birth control is just a medical necessity that people want and need. And while that is true, there are also a lot of people in this country who can’t get access to it. So by working with companies that are not only interesting and have a positive impact on our country, but also provide birth control, we can make a real difference in people’s lives.