2017 – Year In Review

automation agency 2017 review

It’s 2018! It’s a new year, a new day, and time for another Year In Review post (see last year’s here!)

As business owners, I believe it’s important for us to not only look forward, but also look back at what we’ve achieved, what we’ve learned, and what we’re proud of. So, like last year, I’ve broken this post down into 4 main sections:

  1. Growth – The wins/growth we experienced this year.
  2. Challenges – The lessons learned during 2017.
  3. Highlights – Things of interest and/or we’re proud of!
  4. Future – What we’re focusing on as we look ahead into 2018.

If you’re a client who’s been with us for a while, thank you for being on this journey with us!

If you’ve recently joined Automation Agency, thank you for trusting us and giving us the opportunity to help you expand your business. This post is a sneak peek into where we’ve come from to be able to serve you today.

And if you aren’t yet a client of our services, I hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes snapshot of 2017 in our business.

Is Automation Agency the right fit for you? Take this quick quiz to find out!

Growth

48% Increase In Requests

In 2016, Automation Agency handled a total of 16,600 requests. In 2017, we handled 24,600.

This growth came from newer clients, as well as existing clients finding their regular rhythm of tasks throughout the year.

42% Growth in Clients

In 2016, we closed the doors to taking on new clients due to various challenges. In 2017, we opened the doors again – but we didn’t make them wide open. We kept our Waiting List process in place, allowing for a steady increase in clients without overwhelming our ability to deliver (mostly… I’ll refer to that in the challenges.)

31% Growth in Team

2017 saw our team size grow an additional 10 new members. (We actually hired 12, but 2 team members moved on to pursue other things, while the others were welcomed home and into the family.)

We put a lot of focus on hiring additional graphic designers in 2017. This was due to an unexpected increase and swing to clients utilizing our Design tasks more than any other task type.

2018 has already kicked off with recruitment efforts in full swing.

Finally Launched Our Client Portal

Automation Agency - Client Portal - Screenshot - 2017 Year In Review

Wow! This was a big one. One of the biggest challenges of 2016 was the development of our Client Portal, but 2017 saw us make great progress and finally launch to all our clients.

The portal constantly gets great reviews and feedback from our clients who love its simplicity and feel.

Not only did we launch the portal, but over the year we pushed various updates and tweaks that made the client side that even better. We also did some major rework in the backend (that only our team uses) which meant big improvements in our efficiencies and certain operations that used to be manual.

Challenges

Wrong Fit Clients Eagerly Signing Up

One of the greatest things about what we do is that so many clients who love us, happily rave about us – to their friends, their own clients, and almost anyone who will listen.

However, in 2017 – and in one particular month – this caused some major challenges.

One referral partner referred 20 new clients in one month. This in itself is awesome and not an issue, but what was an issue is that many of these referred clients were so sold on the referrer’s word alone, they didn’t bother to read any of our sales material. They just signed up without fully understanding our model, how we work, or what we do.

Unfortunately for us, the new clients, and our existing clients, it caused some mayhem internally. We were receiving tasks that were actually projects and tasks that required 15 emails back & forth to answer/ask questions before we even knew what the task was that they needed from us.

Ultimately, this overwhelmed the team and slowed down almost all tasks 🙁 But it was also a good wake up call for me and the customer success team. We realized that we needed to address this problem directly. So, to minimize the chance of this happening again we did three things:

  1. We introduced our Right Fit Quiz. Before we open a spot to a new client, we check to see if they’ve completed the Right Fit Quiz. This allows us to better filter out those we know will get great value from us and those who won’t.
  2. We introduced our Demo Video. This video better demonstrates to potential clients how we work BEFORE they sign up. It’s not the best video in the world, but it’s doing an ok job for now.
  3. We started re-evaluating our entire New Client Onboarding process and educational information. We have so much material on our Knowledge Base, but we found that many clients weren’t reading it and/or were ignoring the onboarding emails we send with tips.

The Quiz and Demo have definitely helped – they aren’t perfect, but they’ve made a noticeable difference. The new onboarding process is still a work in progress and is slated for Q1 of 2018 as a priority project.

Trying To Be Everything To Everyone

We all know that if you try to be everything to everyone, you become nothing to no one. Well, even though we knew this we were still guilty of going down this path.

2017 brought a higher influx of inquiries and prospects who loved the concept of our service. However, a number of them were looking for the speed and communication levels they would expect from an internal team member.

For months, myself and the leadership team brainstormed different ways we could try to deliver this. If there was a demand I didn’t want to ignore it, especially because some clients cancel after deciding to hire their own internal staff.

I thought if I could provide a solution, it would be great for clients and great for us.

Luckily – after some distracted months – we wised up and we decided to stay focused on who we best serve. We realized if a client reaches the point where they’re ready to hire, manage, and train their own internal team of Designers, Developers, Webmasters and Automation experts, then we’ve done a great job of serving their needs and they’ve graduated on from our services.

Selling A Service I Didn’t Want To Sell

This is connected to the trying to be everything to everyone. Until recently we offered a PRO plan – a plan that, when I designed it, I never really wanted anyone to buy. And when clients did buy it, it created a panic situation because it was complicated to deliver and caused more issues than the income was worth.

Fortunately, around the time we made the decision to focus on the clients we could best serve, I also realized that our PRO plan needed an overhaul to better fill the gap between PLUS and hiring your own full-time team.

PRO is now focused on increasing quality and minimizing the back & forth for those who have recurring web, design, and automation work. This allows them to be a bit more hands off than those on SOLO & PLUS are with their tasks.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to sell and improve a product/service that you ACTUALLY want to sell and that you know clearly solves a problem for yourself and the client.

Clients Who Run Out Of Future

One of the biggest challenges any subscription business faces is churn (the percent of people who cancel).

Luckily, we have a pretty low churn rate, but 2017 did see a higher increase than I personally would like.

There are three main reasons clients cancel from our Concierge Services:

  1. They’re having financial difficulties,
  2. They’re no longer a fit for our model and they’re looking for speeds & communication that only a full-time internal team could give them, or
  3. They’ve run out of task ideas & don’t value our security services.

The biggest area I think we can work on is number three – those who run out of task ideas but don’t value the ongoing security protection we provide their websites, even when they have no tasks.

We could do a better job of communicating the value of the security work we do each month, as many companies charge more than our concierge services just for protecting their websites. And if you look it like that, that means any tasks we do are essentially free bonuses! However, most clients only consider the tasks we’ve completed and when they run out, they don’t see why they should continue with the service.

We can also do a better job of detecting clients who haven’t submitted a task recently. We can pro-actively reach out to try to assist and suggest ways we can help them with their current business challenges.

This will be a big focus for 2018 to determine how we can best address this cause of cancelations in particular.

Highlights & Interesting Facts

  • We officially launched our first Kickstart Kit product, for people who need a Membership Site built.
  • This year 498 Priority Passes were purchased, compared to 590 in 2016.
  • We had our 3rd Annual Philippines Conference and also did a whirlwind 3-day European Conference with our EU team.
  • Client satisfaction continued to stay strong with 91% Awesome and only 1% Not Good task ratings. We can work harder to improve our Just OK (neutral) ratings in 2018.
    2017 - Task Satisfaction Ratings

The Future

So, now that we’ve looked back at 2017, we can look towards the future of what 2018 (and beyond!) will bring.

I’m genuinely excited about where we are headed. I know that the projects we’re already working on and the others we have planned are going to make some big improvements to our clients lives 🙂

Maximize Results

As I touched on in clients running out of future, 2018 has a strong focus on ensuring we’re helping our clients get the most out of their membership with us. This includes better tracking engagement and being there to assist with more resources, as well as helping clients understand when it’s the right time to upgrade to the next level as their business needs grow and change.

Kickstart Expansion

With the success of our Membership Site Kickstart Kit’s, we’ll be expanding our kickstart kit products. These will focus on projects that many of our clients regularly need but are challenging to complete through tasks due to the cross team specialty tasks involved.

We already have two additional types of kickstart kits in development and, after initial testing, we hope to release them later this year.

Continually Listening To Feedback

One of the things we’ll continue to do this year is listen very closely to feedback we receive – both positive and negative. We know we can’t please everyone and we are more focused than ever on who we best serve and who we want to serve with our services, but that doesn’t mean we’ll always get it right or there isn’t room for improvement.

2018 will see us continuing to listen to the feedback we receive as well as reaching out to solicit feedback more proactively.

Additional Growth Services

We know that our Concierge Services only cover a small part of what businesses need to succeed with their online marketing. So, in 2018 we’ll endeavor to bring our clients access to services that can help them grow their business further through partnerships with other companies, as well as develop some of our own additional services.

Artificial Intelligence Trial Run

In late 2017 we started dabbling with AI. We’ve been training an AI engine to understand the tasks that clients email us and determine if they are a Design task, a Web task, an Automation Task, or something else. Our goal is to speed up the dispatch process that currently occurs manually when a task is submitted to us via email, which can slow down the task being seen and worked on by a Hero.

It’s been an interesting process so far and it’s really helping us better understand how AI works and where else in our business we can use it to assist our clients or increase our efficiencies.

While it may ultimately become a failed project, it’s setting a solid foundation for us to understand the technology of the future.

A Final Word

As I said in last year’s post…

We all know business is business and there are always going to be challenges, but it’s a good day when the challenge you face is a new one and not the same one slapping you in the face yet again.

2018 is bound to bring with it unexpected challenges. I can’t promise that we’ll always get everything right, however, I CAN promise that we’ll constantly learn and improve and that any issues that come up won’t be left unaddressed for long.

Thank you to everyone who supports us at Automation Agency. It’s a pleasure to serve you.

If you haven’t yet tried us out, then I encourage you to take our Right Fit Quiz to see if we may be a good match for your needs, and consider giving us a try at some point this year 🙂

About The Author

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor is the Founder & CEO of Automation Agency. For the past 10 years Carl has been building businesses and marketing them online through the use of Sales Funnels, Email Marketing Automation, Landing Pages, and Wordpress Websites. Carl is also a #1 author and highly sought after speaker and consultant whose work has impacted thousands of businesses across various industries worldwide.