The formula for agency growth: Serving 23K+ local business clients at scale

With more than a decade of experience in the digital marketing and technology space and 30+  years of business experience under his belt, the formidable Bruce Tannenholz took up his post as president of in 2019. Tannenholz oversees the marketing, sales, and delivery of digital solutions to more than 23,000 local business clients across the United States.

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In a recent sit-down, Tannenholz shares how he sees the future of the digital marketing world evolving to better meet the needs of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). In this article, we share his vision for the future, growth tactics for agencies looking to expand, and the industry trends he has his focus set on to ensure the success of his organization in the years to come.

Growing the agency to meet demand

When Tannenholz joined in 2019, he recognized the opportunity to support SMBs with their online presence.

“ was growing tremendously at that time and had a very unique customer acquisition model with small and medium-sized businesses, with a minimal amount of products and services we were offering.

“We had a machine right away. We knew how to market. We knew how to acquire. Now we had to figure out: How do we market more? How do we sell more? How do we deliver more? And how do we grow our base?” Tannenholz says.

The need to do better and get better has been a major driver in Tannenholz’s career, so it seemed like a natural fit.

“I always want more. Not just about more money, but more customers, more things to deliver, more products. I saw just an opportunity at PR to use my talents to do that,” explains Tannenholz.

You can’t let technology outpace how you’re serving your customers

Particularly in the past decade, the biggest challenge Tannenholz says he has faced has been staying ahead of the curve when it comes to changes in technology.

“You have to move quickly. By the time you figure out the solution or the process, technology has changed or moved on. That's the scary part.

“Through some really good partnerships, we’ve been able to continue to grow and move at the speed of sound and stay on top of the game,” Tannenholz says.

To maintain this competitive edge, Tannenholz recommends that keeping your cards close to your chest may not in fact be the best strategy.

“We talk to people about what we would do. We're not afraid of somebody stealing our secret sauce. We're bigger than a secret sauce.

“If you're not willing to talk freely and openly with other folks, you're never going to really get to the solution. Everybody's so worried: ‘They're going to steal my idea.’ Yes, that can happen in some cases. I'm not worried about that.

“With the team we've built, with the way we know how to market, the way we know how to sell, it's not stealing unless you steal all of my people,” Tannenholz says.

According to Tannenholz, by surrounding yourself with thinkers, strategists, and specialists who know more than you do, you can fast track the expansion of your own way of thinking to win.

“When I got into the sales world as an individual 30+ years ago, my goal was to sit around people who knew more than I did and be a sponge and learn from them something I didn't know.

“If you ever think you know it all, you're going to lose. You don't. Everyone always knows something else or has another idea or a way of looking at your idea through a different lens and that can give you more clarity on how to get down the road to where you want to go,” explains Tannenholz.

Letting technology take the toil out of scaling your agency

When asked for his top tip to attract and convert prospective new clients, Tannenholz says technology has been fundamental in the efforts of his organization.

“Technology's been a big help. We've managed to use a lot of algorithms that allow us to feed conversion data back into these systems. And by utilizing a lot of that technology, all these platforms, whether it's Google or social media, they've gotten very good at figuring out who people are, better than people know themselves. So we've leveraged a lot of that ability to figure out who the customer is.

“And then when it comes to the customer themselves, it's about educating them. People have very unreal expectations at times. Not their wants or goals, but their expectations. And if you can manage those correctly, it will make your life much easier,” explains Tannenholz.

By taking advantage of the data and focusing on educating prospective buyers, agencies can get themselves much closer to their goals for expansion.

“Leveraging that data, whether it's about sales, marketing, or your payroll, the data's all there. If you don't use it, you'll get nowhere,” Tannenholz remarks.

Keeping the agency running at a profitable margin

As we enter a year of fiscal uncertainty, agencies will need to carefully consider every dollar they spend in order to survive. Transparency with technology partners is the way Tannenholz has managed to maximize his profitability.

“This is where our relationship with Vendasta has gone very well, especially over the past year. We've been very upfront and honest and transparent with what some of our challenges are.

“It's allowed us a lot of opportunity to look back at where we need to get better. But then through that transparency, Vendasta was able to deliver a lot to us to meet our goals and objectives.

“That's the ability with a real partnership, again, to be completely transparent. We send data back and forth, there's nothing to hide. If you can get me better, get me better,” Tannenholz says.

Setting sights on the future of local businesses’ online presence

With around 625,000 new businesses opening each year in the US, approximately 125,000 of these businesses will fail after that first year. It’s a staggering statistic that Tannenholz hopes to make a dent in by supporting more SMBs with their websites in the upcoming years.

“One of the areas that we want to expand into is in the website world. Because we deal primarily with SMBs, they need websites. It is a very big part. It's amazing how many of these companies don't have them.

“Beyond that, I need to be able to offer new things to my customers that they just can't do on their own.

“I have to be able to continue to keep everyone up to date on the newest, latest, and greatest. Everything changes quickly, and if you wait too long to get it in motion, it's already changed again,” he says.

Surrounding yourself with the right people, being transparent with the right partners, and understanding the technology you can leverage to do the job better, those are the cornerstones that Tannenholz leans on to grow his agency.

If you would like to read more about and their success selling digital solutions to local businesses, check out the case study.

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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