Matthew Stibbe – Marketing is like Dating

Aug 29, 2022

Season 3 / Episode #82 : Matthew Stibbe

by Work @ Home RockStar Podcast

The Back-Story

Matthew studied history at Pembroke College, Oxford, before starting Intelligent Games, a computer games company, and sold it ten years later, in 2000. He started writing for magazines including Wired, Popular Science, and Director.

The writing bug led him to Articulate Marketing, where he is currently CEO. He also launched Turbine, an online app that simplifies routine business paperwork such as purchase orders.

He started flying in 1999 and has an EASA private pilot license and an FAA commercial license with about 800 hours in his logbook. He passed his WSET Wine and Spirits Diploma in 2019 and blogging about wine, aviation, and management in his spare time.

Show Notes

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In This Episode:
[0:00] Intro
[0:20] A story of success in Matthew’s life
[10:28] What’s something that didn’t go as Matthew planned?
[19:04] How to get a good home office set up?
[20:51] Anik Malenfant, the founder of Mastering Ascension, shares her wonderful experience with Tim Melanson
[24:25] On getting noticed for the work he does
[28:21] How does Matthew keep the cash flowing?
[36:23] What’s exciting in Matthew’s business?
[43:16] Outro

Transcript

Read Transcript

Tim Melanson: Hello, and welcome to today’s episode of the work at home rockstar podcast.

Excited for today’s guest. He is the CEO of articulate marketing, and what they do is they help companies differentiate and reach new customers. Very excited to be rocking up today with Matthew stiffer. Hey Matthew, you ready to rock?

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, absolutely nice to be here, Tim. Awesome.

Tim Melanson: So we always start off here on a good note.

So tell me a story of success in your business or your life that we can be inspired by.

Matthew Stibbe: Well, I was thinking when, when I about this and I remembered a moment in my life where I was exceptionally happy. So in July, 2000, almost to the day 22 years ago, I signed the papers to sell my then business. I had built up and was running a computer games company called intelligent games, and I sold it to my management team and I was walking away from that business after about 10, 11 years of running it.

And. You know, it had got to the point where it got quite big and I wasn’t having a lot of fun making games anymore. I was talking to lawyers and bank managers and accountants and doing sales and, you know, not, not, not the fun thing I’d signed up for anyway. So I was leaving that. And the moment that I remembered was I signed all the papers, which shook hands.

I walked downstairs out of what had been my office for, you know, many years got in my car and I sat down in my car and I went, what am I gonna do? And that suddenly I had, I had not given any thought to the future, to my future at all. Other than this very narrow tunnel vision, focus on selling the business, getting the deal done, leaving.

And suddenly I sat in that car and the whole sort of world opened up for me. I, it wasn’t so much that I felt like I could do anything, but it, I felt like I was. Locked in and tied down. And that moment of freedom was terribly exciting. And here’s the other thing that I thought when I sat in that car, um, uh, is very germane.

I think, to your, your listeners. I promised myself. Two things. I promised myself, I would never have another employee. Well, that failed I’m 17 now. So I didn’t keep that promise. Although I kept, I kept it for about 10 years and the second promise I made was I will never have another office. And I have kept that I’ve worked from home for the last 22 years.

And, and I’ve never regretted that for a minute. Um, when I, when I sold that business, we were spending in the order of 250,000 pounds a year on rent. Local taxes, security, receptionist, cleaning, just keeping the thing going that’s that money just went out to a landlord. I mean, I I’ve got no, I mean, we got an office, but I’ve got no real benefit from it.

So that’s my happy memory. And, and uh, that little moment of freedom is something to hang onto. I think if you’re starting a business, Love

it. So you are a real veteran of working from home. it’s been a long time, you know, back before working from home was cool. Right.

right. As, as I sometimes say back before it was fashionable.

Yeah. Um, but there, I dunno about you, but there’s still a sort of. Rump of people who, who think if you don’t have an office, you are faking it somehow that you are not a real business. And we had this there, an email rather snotty email back from somebody who we’d reached out to. And he said, well, I, I like your email.

I like your website, but I couldn’t find an office address. And I don’t want to deal with you if you don’t have an office. And, and, and to be honest, You know, have maybe he was in a bunker for the last two years and didn’t notice the world getting on without offices, but also, um, these days, if you want an off an office address, you know, you can go down to the, you know, I don’t know, WeWork or something, and sign up for a, you know, post restaurant post address and sign up for an office that you use once a fortnight.

Put it on your website and it looks like you’ve got an office. So, you know, it’s such a shallow demonstration of, of, of reliability competence solidity. In, in many ways, I, I would trust a business that didn’t have an office more because I think I not wasting 300,000 pounds of my money and customers money on bricks and mortar, but yeah.

Yeah. Well,

Tim Melanson: mileage may vary. That’s just it. Yeah. With, with, with less overhead, they can pass on those savings to, to the customer. Yeah.

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. Or, or, or pocket them with, you know, higher margins and do better quality service. I mean, there’s or attract better people or, you know, the big benefit for articulate marketing.

Now I, I think has, has never really been about cost saving actually. Um, it allows us to recruit the best people wherever they are. So I am based in, if you can tell from my accent, I’m based in London, England. Um, I have colleagues up in Scotland. I have colleagues in the north of England. I have colleagues in Wales.

I have colleagues, basically. We are pretty. Distributed across the whole of the UK, as you can see from the, uh, clocks on the wall. I don’t have any colleagues in New York, but I had a colleague in book arrest until quite recently, I’ve got colleagues in Vienna and Valencia, you know, that’s where they want to be fine.

I don’t care. Where you live, if you are good and I can hire you when I had intelligent games and we had this expensive office in London, we could only hire people who could commute there within about an hour. And not only that, but we had to ask them to commute for an hour every day. What two hours, because you know, central London.

So it was insane. Um, it, the cost of an office is so high and the benefit is so modest. I just don’t understand why people would be upset if you didn’t have one. I,

Tim Melanson: I agree. And, and, uh, it’s, it’s, uh, it’s frustrating from the perspective of someone who’s been working from home for so long, because what I’ve been able to find out over the years is that, uh, you know, I think a lot of employers are reluctant to.

Uh, to build teams of people that I work from home, cuz I think they have a lack of trust in people’s work ethic. And the irony of it is that people who work from home tend to have better work ethic. right. So, you know, I, I get, I guess I, I get it. If you are looking for someone who’s never worked from home before, well, you are taking a risk cuz they may not be the type that has the motivation and the, uh, I guess, uh, the ability to, to really, you know, block out all the distractions and work from home.

But if you can find somebody who’s been working from home, then you will find somebody who’s very productive. Right?

Matthew Stibbe: Right. And, and working from home can be the measure or the, the liberator of a good employee. It is also the measure of a good or bad manager. I think bad managers find it very hard to manage people if they can’t sort of eyeball them and check that they’re sat at their desk, but actually bad managers get bad employees and get bad practices.

So, you know, I, I, I, I, I think good managers ought to, and indeed good managers do embrace remote and flexible working because then they get better people. They get more productive people and you have to then make some adjustments to the way you run the business and the way you manage people. Um, for example, as I said, we don’t necessarily save money by being remote working.

We spend it on, we have a chief happiness. Right. So her job is to morale well, welfare, you know, like organizing events for the, you know, building a community and an PRI decor in the business that costs us money that we would have spent on rent. We have before COVID we used to fly everybody in regularly and have, you know, two, three day company meetings and pay for travel and hotels, and then put on events and have.

You know, activities together. So, you know, and one of the things that we found about five, six years ago was if you start measuring and tracking output rather than measuring and tracking input. So measuring, for example, for us as marketing agency, the. Quality and quantity of the copywriting or the design work, or how quickly we got websites built or whatever, whatever, whatever, rather than how many hours you sat in the office, cuz that’s just a vanity metric.

It doesn’t mean you’re doing good work or bad work. It just means you’re sat in the office. So we, we switching the way that you, you know, the analytics and metrics and performance management is really important. And frankly, if a bad employee is a bad employee, they’re gonna be bad in an office. They’re gonna be bad and remote working, but you have to step up your game as a manager to, to spot it, to coach people, to give development, encouragement, have those difficult conversations.

And yes, sometimes you have to say, it’s not gonna work. You, you know, remote, working’s not for you. This company’s not for you. We’ve tried everything together, but thanks. Yeah. And you know, I think, I think offices are a way sort of allow people. Fudge over some of those difficult conversations. Yeah.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, no, I, I agree.

And, and, you know, back when I was an employee working in a cubicle, I, I found it frustrating because I did work much faster than my colleagues did. And it was, it was very difficult because I, you know, I’d look at the output that I’m doing, the production that I’m doing versus the protection that my colleagues were doing.

And I, you know, I would get more done in an hour than they did all day. And that to me was not, it just, it wasn’t computing. , you know, I was like, what am I doing? Why am I, why am I putting, you know, eight days worth of worth of work in one day when, uh, you know, I could be getting paid for production, which is what you do.

Typically when you work from home, you’re not sitting in an office, right? You’re you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re getting measured by what you do rather than for how much time you sit there.

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, I, I, I think it’s it, you know, I say this as an employer, I have employees who I pay by the day, the week and the month.

But fundamentally, if you are focusing on delivering outcomes and results and output as a business, as a person, um, that’s a much happier, much more sort of satisfactory place to be than just being paid for your presence for your, you know, your. Existence. Um, anyway, so that’s quite a philosophical point.

yeah,

Tim Melanson: you might as well. You know what, if you want, if you wanna get paid for that, why don’t I just take a picture? You could put it at a desk. you could go look at it every day. I’ll be there all the time now. Okay. So with the good news notes, you know, there’s gonna be some bad notes along, along the way, too.

So I’m wondering, can you share with me something that did not go as planned and how we can either avoid it or recover from it? If it

Matthew Stibbe: happens. Yeah, I, I wanted to tell a little story about something that had gone very painfully wrong for me when I was. After I’d sold my business, but I was working as a, as a solopreneur as a, a effectively, a freelance copywriter.

And I was working. I mean, I did work for some very well known multinational companies. Um, and I was working for one of them. On one project. I’d done a lot for the company before, and I did a lot afterwards, but this project was absorbing all of my energy from one month and then, then another month and then another month.

And I was working for somebody there who I don’t think maliciously, but accidentally was a real. Pain in the ass. I a really difficult, difficult person to work for very demanding and constantly wanting more and more and more, um, with all the power of being, you know, big multinational and used to getting their way.

Right. I went, I’m not, I’m being very careful not to name the names and in the end it got too much and I just went, ah, I don’t wanna do this anymore. Piss off. And, um, I, I, I, I, I think what the, that that’s, that’s what happened. And what I wanted to share is sort of some of the lessons from this is fundamentally the lesson of perspective and time, because when I.

When I quit and I stopped working on that project. My, in my feeling at the time was that I was a failure because I had failed to work hard enough and make the client happy. And it, I, it was my failure that, that stressed me out so much that I couldn’t continue. And I, I persisted in that for a little while, feeling like that.

That was my. And with a a year or two’s reflection and distance, I thought my failure was not quitting sooner. So I was really feeling like I should have got out of that. That was a terrible situation. If I just only packed it in after a couple of months, instead of laboring away at it for six months and burning myself out.

So, you know, oh, I’m a. And now at a 10 year distance and with some more wisdom, I hope and more experience and time I realize, I think that the real failure, the real failure was not going to her month in and going. Nicola. This is not working for me. You are being really unreasonable. You’ve either got to back off on these demands or pay me more money or give me more time.

One of these variables has to change because knowing what I know about how these relationships work, at some point you are going to be disappointed, or I am going to. And then nobody is happy cuz you don’t get your work. You don’t get the thing you need or I don’t get the livelihood and the living and the work that I want to do.

And actually we all want this to succeed. So how do we, how do we negotiate that out? And I, I, I, I say this now it’s easy to say with hindsight, it’s very hard to go to, you know, a senior marketing manager in a multinational on whom you are largely dependent for your income and say. Back the hell off, but I should have done it.

And about six months ago we had a, a, a very different context. Now I, you know, I run a, a sort of smallish 1820 person marketing agency, and we have a little bit more resource and, and skill, and I have a bit more experience, but we had a very demanding client, very challenging, very difficult to work with.

Um, I had a I in the end, I had a. Frank honest conversation with him. And I said, this is not gonna end well, you know, if you keep being difficult and demanding like you are, and this is how it plays to us, you are not gonna get the results you want and we’re gonna quit. And that’s not happy for either of us.

So we need. And do you know what I’ve. Had that conversation expecting to be shouted at and fired and it reset the relationship. And we have a very, very happy, positive relationship with them, which for me, validates, if I’d gone to her 10 years ago and had an early, honest Frank scary conversation. It would’ve gone much better.

I

Tim Melanson: love it. I love it. And I think this is one of those situations that we’re, we all get into at some point with demanding customers and you’re, uh, you’re right. I mean, there, there are other times when you just try to stick it through and it’s not gonna work, you’re gonna, you’re gonna burn yourself out.

You can’t, you can’t do it because there’s no way to make them happy. They’re always gonna keep on pushing it. And you know, my guess is that that’s probably. A motto of theirs is like, let’s see how far I can push this. You know,

Matthew Stibbe: you know, I, I, I think I, there are do, can I swear a bit, there are, there are naughty people.

There are naughty people out there, there is a small, like 1% of the population. It’s probably a little bit larger in the population of owner, man of owner managers or bosses in big companies that there’s a little bit more narcissism, a little bit more sociopathy prevalent in that population. Do I say it myself, but it’s a small portion of people who will just push it for the sake of pushing it or because they think they can get away with it or because they think they will get more from you by gas lighting.

You. Okay. There are a small P there’s a larger population. If that’s 1%, there’s probably 10 to 15% who are unconsciously incompetent as managers or commissioners of work. Yeah. They are not doing it deliberately. They probably don’t know that they’re doing it. And it it’s, it’s hard to accept this. Nobody likes confrontation.

Nobody likes to take a risk in a business relationship, but it’s part of your professional responsibility as a supplier when they are doing that to just go this isn’t how I want to work and set some boundaries. Yeah. Well, and, and if, if, if, then if they’re nasty, nasty, so, and so. They’re gonna react by firing you or walking away in which case you’ve escaped a bad situation.

Yes. If they’re, if they are unconsciously incompetent and you call them on it and they change their behavior. You’re a winner solve the problem. And I think most

Tim Melanson: of them are unconsciously, uh, doing it it, and, and it’s probably because it works at first, you know, it, it does work. I mean, if, if you push, you do usually get something, it’s just, if you continue to push, eventually you push them away.

Yes. But, but in the beginning, that’s the thing is that, is that they get this positive reaction from it and it ends up being a habit that they continue to use over and over again.

Matthew Stibbe: And there is a difference in my opinion, between people who push you for their own selfish or incompetently selfish reasons.

And they can that you need to know your boundaries with them. And then there are people in life who push you for POS for your benefit. And it’s important to make that distinction, you know, there’s yes. If, if it sometimes, I mean, you know, in Buddhas and there’s this idea that your enemy is your best teacher, and sometimes people are hard on you.

You can learn from them. And sometimes you need to be, you know, you are unconsciously incompetent need to learn. Um, the teacher at school who was hard on you and made you study is probably the one that you remember fondly rather than the teacher that let you get away with rotten behavior. Yeah, because they were bad teacher.

That person, that mentor, that coach, that champion of your, that that’s, they’re there to be embraced, but the, the, the way, you know, who’s, who’s in which camp that the, the, the, the champion, the, the mentor, they’re gonna give you feedback that makes you better. Yeah. Not feedback that makes you do more work for free.

Tim Melanson: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, in, in those circumstances, you know, you might wanna take a look, take a look at yourself. First, take a look in the mirror, say, okay, is this something that I should be doing anyway? And if it is then great, it’s, it’s a learning experience. If it’s not, then it’s time to have a conversation.

That’s gonna be really awkward.

Matthew Stibbe: yeah. And I’ve had lovely in my li my career as a, a writer, I’ve had lovely editors. Who’ve, who’ve been really, you know, sending things back two or three times. You know, and they’ve made me better and I, I really, I really respect and value that. So I, I don’t think you need to go through life just assuming everyone’s out to get you.

Oh,

Tim Melanson: I, yes, exactly. So now, uh, you’re you are a veteran work from home, so you’ve probably had many jam rooms in many home offices over the years. so, you know, tell me your perspective on how to, you know, how to get it right. How to, how to get a good place to

Matthew Stibbe: be working. Mm, I, I have a few things that I think are really fundamental.

And I’ve thought about this a lot as you can imagine. Two important things, peace and quiet and a door. Okay. Sounds obvious. But you kind of need to build a and I, I think I, you know, I’m very conscious of, of, for my colleagues. Some of them are, you know, relatively young, first jobs. Aren’t in the happy, lucky position yet of owning their own home or having a spare room.

So even if you can make a bit of quiet and adore by making a little bit of a cubicle for yourself, or, you know, a little Fort in the corner of the kitchen or something, mm-hmm I think, I think that space is quite important. Um, I, I’m a big believer in a good chair. Um, I, I think you can, you can buy, you can buy average chairs for in the UK on 150 quid, it’s worth spending the extra to get one that’s ergonomic.

You’re gonna be sat in it quite a lot. Um, I recently bought, um, uh, one of these up and down desks, which does this. cool. Um, and I’m, I’m standing up now cause I’m in, sat on my ass all day doing work. Um, that is a real plus, um, I would say a good coffee machine, if you like coffee or a good kettle and good qu the quality of the ingredients is important, right?

The quality of the machine. And, and I think these days, probably not an espresso, but, you know, make your grind your own coffee and do it, do it the old fashioned way. Um, Hi, my name is I’m from mastering Ascension, and I’ve been working with Tim Melanson and the creative crew agency for a number of years.

Now, Tim is my go-to guy for all things technology and his team have helped me to really create the platform that I need that represents my brand my message, and connects me directly to my ideal clients. What I particularly love about Tim is before he starts to dive into the technology, he always makes sure that he understands what your global view is, what your ultimate goals are.

So then that way you’re not wasting a lot of time back and forth switching around technology or platforms. He creates something from the get go that is scalable, which is highly, highly, um, beneficial for any business. What I’ve experienced from Tim and this team is they’re highly responsive. They are a wealth of inform.

and they’re gonna offer you the tools that you need to really make the mark that you wanna make in the world. So that’s my recommendation for Tim. He’s awesome. You’re gonna love every minute. You won’t regret it. I would like to make two more points. I know I’m giving you a lot of stuff here, but yeah. Um, I think it’s very important to be surrounded by things you love and you can see in my office I’ve, I’ve got kind of like it’s, I’m trying to simulate a zoom background, you know, it’s very plain nice there’s books to make me look clever.

That’s that’s what you see if you are talking to me on a video call, but let me just move my camera a little bit. So over here, I have my Lego collect. Right. And I, when I was making computer games, I used to design computer games for Lego. So I I’m, this is a lifelong, uh, professional, joyous habit and hobby of Lego.

And then over here, um, I have my vintage computer collection. Oh, I got my apple Mac plus and my Newton and my Sinclair XX 81 and all of this stuff. Um, and these are the things in my life that have been, you know, I’m not in computer games anymore. I’m I don’t make Lego except as you know, Sort of to relax and for a bit of fun, but they’ve been a big part of my life in, in the past.

So I’m, I’m this, this is a cocooning safe place for me. And it makes me very happy when I, uh, when I’m not looking at the camera. Um, last thing is a bit counterintuitive. It’s important to get out of the office a bit. And I actually have been making a real conscious effort to spend a day a week somewhere else.

So I’ve got a little bit of, you know, other things coming in and other environments and a little bit of peace and quiet somewhere else. And I, I find I do different kinds of work. I have, I, I, I go to a local shared workspace and I sit in a corner quietly. I do different work there on my laptop than I do here on my big desktop.

I.

Tim Melanson: Love it love it. Yeah. That’s a really great idea. And I, I like coffee shops myself. , you know, you get the hustle and bustle of people in there and you know, you you’re right. I mean, sitting in a, in your own cubicle, in your own office all the time can get kind of lonely. It’s nice to be able to go, you know, interact with some other people every once in a

Matthew Stibbe: while.

Yeah. Well, I, I, I, I, since my wife started working from home, I’m, I’m, I’m a lot less in, I used to sit here all day. Like, didn’t talk to anybody until my, my, my ex-wife used to come home and, and now I have a cat, my second wife, my lovely, lovely wife. And it’s, I, I actually I’m feel like there’s more, um, life in the house now than there was before COVID and, and I, I find that get a.

If you like cats, cats are great. Homework and competi.

Tim Melanson: awesome. So now what about the fans? What about getting, uh, you know, eyeballs on your, on your work and Hey, this is a good topic for you as well, you know, being in marketing, but what’s your, what’s your approach to, to doing

Matthew Stibbe: that? What, what worked for me at the start of articulate marketing?

When I was just on my own and I was on my own for about 10 years. Because I, I did two things. One, I was an early blogger, so I I’m obviously I’m a writer by, uh, vacation. So I would be writing a blog post every day and I got, you know, quite a big audience. Um, we still have an audience, but that blog has now become part of the articulate marketing side.

Um, so I think if you can start the magazine of you, right. It’s it’s about things, you know, your obvious is your talent. But be out there sharing what you learn, sharing what you observe. I think that’s really important and it can be the magazine of you if you want, if you want to write blogs, or if you want to share things on LinkedIn, it can be.

Uh, the radio of you, if you want to do podcasts, I, I, I’m not completely convinced about social media influencing, but that’s probably cause I’m too old and I’m a bit of a Luddite. Um, I think podcasts are fascinating. I think stuff on LinkedIn can be really interesting, but get out, get the word out there.

And if you’ve got something interesting to say, people will gravitate to it, but the secret is two secrets. Really one, try to think about what your audience. Of hopefully potential customers might be interested in and talk to them about their issues, their needs, their problems, their goals, their lives in their language, but based on your experience and your knowledge and knowhow.

Um, but don’t talk about you yourself, your products, or you know, how great you are until you are, you know, until you are in that co that, that stage of that conversation. Yeah. Yeah. I mentioned I, that I had got divorced and remarried, uh, about eight years ago. It’s our wedding anniversary in a couple of days.

Um, and, but for a little while I was dating for the first time, since I was a teenager and, um, I realized in dating. If you go out on a date and you just talk at the other person about how great you are and how wonderful, however, that is a very boring experience for your date. And it’s very unlikely to make them trust you or be interested in your find you attractive, right?

If you ask intelligent questions and you are genuinely interested in them, and you try to talk about things, find common ground, that’s a much more effective, much more pleasant dating experience for everybody. It’s a bit like that with marketing, talk about them, their issues, their needs in their language, and that will open up the relationship.

Um, the other, the second secret is, is to try to do that. Conversation that marketing every day, do marketing every day, write a blog post every day. Even if it’s a short little thing, do a podcast, just do something, make it a habit. If you put it off and put it off and put it off and do it once a month.

That’s not really marketing. No. And yeah,

Tim Melanson: you know, you, you’ve gotta kind of, even if it’s something very small, you’re at least staying top of mind, right. With the people that you’re communicating.

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. Well, look at Seth golden who writes a hundred and hundred 50 words a day. I suspect he, I suspect he goes off and sits on a desert island for a weekend and writes, you know, a month’s worth of blogs.

And then he, I, whatever, I, I, the word count is very small. There’s a high level of value in what he is saying. And I think that that’s a very, very attractive way. You know, it doesn’t ha you don’t have to do a lot. You just have to bring yourself, bring your expertise and do it regularly. Love it.

Tim Melanson: So now what about keeping the hat full and keeping the cash flow, moving in the right direction?

Because this is a huge, huge hurdle for at least 50% of the businesses, right? Yeah. Cause, uh, uh, so how do you, how do you sort of make sure that your Moore’s coming and then’s going

Matthew Stibbe: out? Yeah, yeah. It, it, it, it. Cash flow kills businesses, right? Everything else you can, you know, you can make a loss. If you can recover it, you can get through problems, cash, cash flow is my businesses die.

So how do you get the cash to come in? I, I, I have, um, a really big breakthrough that I wanted to share that I occurred to me about four years ago with my business. Um, you know, we were getting. Clients taking a long time to pay us. We were having some bad debts and you know, it was stressful. And that, that that’s.

So, and we discovered a service called go cardless. Now in the UK, we have direct debits in the us. There’s ACH payments. So automated payments. If you can get your client onto a system where you control, when you get paid. Your cash flow. Trans is situation is transformed. So what we say to clients is you from, from the first proposal, every time the small print is, or the large print, we call it, you are going to have a direct debit or ACH relationship.

We are going to invoice you in advance. We’re going to collect payment 28 days later. Therefore you get credit, you get four weeks to check up the paperwork. You get four weeks to see us do the work. And we know we’re getting. So we set that expectation up from the beginning, the clients signs the ACH or direct debit, and we issue the invoices.

And we’re very careful to make sure that they’ve got the invoice and they’re happy. And we have an onboarding form. And who do we send the invoices to? And what this means is we are very confident we’re gonna get paid on. Now, there’s a doubt. There’s a challenge with this. There’s a couple of challenges with this mechanism.

The first thing is clients. Don’t like it accounts finance, people hate it. Right. Um, because they want to have the leverage over you to get you to, you know, we. To gas, you know, whip the crack, the whip and make you do more work, or we’re not happy with that or whatever, or, you know, finance directors sometimes feel like they’re, they’re only succeeding if they’re making people pay, wait 60 days for payment and stuff.

And that little marginal cash flow makes them happy. No, the moment of maximum leverage is when you’re negotiating the contract and they want what you are selling. They’ve conceptually made the decision. We’re hiring this agency. We want what they’re doing, the moment you concede it. You will never get them to sign a direct debit later.

So it has to be clear from the beginning. It has to be part of the contract. It has to be built into that. And you have to be really strong when you get the pushback going, oh, finance director. Doesn’t like that. I’m really sorry. And we go, well, I’m really sorry. We told you from the beginning, it was part of that.

If you don’t want to pay us by direct debit, we’re okay. If you pay us in advance. That’s the other option we’ve got. So you can have the credit, you can have the time, if you want to pay us by, you know, you know, backs, payment or something. Great. Pay us in advance. And we’ll one, we get the money. We’ll start work.

When we run outta the money, we’ll stop work. And they, they go, well, I don’t know. I don’t want that. But that’s your other option, right? Um, the, the other thing that we do with that to make it work is once you’ve got the direct debit in place, I, in our engagement letter, in our contract, the contract says you will maintain a direct debit for the duration of this project.

So that. If they cancel the direct debit because the finance director comes stomping in going, when are gonna fire these people. We don’t like them. Oh, we’re gonna cancel that. You go, you cancel the direct debit. You’re in breacher contract. We’re stopping working and you don’t wait 60 days after the invoice date, when you haven’t been paid to find out that you’re in trouble, you actually know 28 days before you were expecting to be paid, that they’ve canceled the direct debit.

And in the few occasions, when that has happened to us, I have been able to send an email to the client going. I’m sure this was a mistake. Maybe somebody over zealous in the finance department canceled the direct there bit, but you are in our, in breacher contract. So we’ll just stop work until you sought this out.

Is that okay? Y. Within days you get the direct Debbi reinstated. So you’ve put this Canary Canary in the coal mine effect of, of knowing that the client’s going to stiff you or might stiff you long before. You know, the, the, the, the, the credit period you’d normally wait through to get, get that situation occurring.

Um, So direct debits and the, the sort of the conversation and communication and con contracting around that. And here’s one last point about this. Um, if they really, really resist direct debits, you say to them, In our experience, companies that will not sign a direct debit are either used to bullying and manipulating their suppliers, or they are having terrible cash flow problems.

And they are not sure that they’re gonna have the money to pay. What other possible reason could you have cuz we’re giving you credit. You’re seeing the work you’ve got 28 days to pay. Everything’s all tickety. Boo. You can cancel the direct debit at any time, but you are putting yourself in breach your contract.

So we’re not gonna be able to take money out of your bank account after we finish working with you. Yeah. What’s the risk you’re covered by the direct debit guarantee. It’s only cuz you, you fear you won’t have the money to pay us or you want to manipulate and bully us, which is it at which point they go.

No, no, no. We’re nice pairs. We’re nice pairs. When I, I have had one co one deal only. In five years fall through because the com client would not agree to a direct debit. And they, you know, we were talking to the, their marketing team and they really wanted us to work, but they said that our finance people, they had just awful.

They will not agree to it. And they, they used to, you know, they like manipulating people and we, in the end, we didn’t get the deal. We walked away from it. We said, no direct debit is an absolute. Here’s the end of that story. Two years later, we were working for another company and this original company that wouldn’t do a direct debit, bought our client.

And yes, it turns out that their finance department were utter. Nasty people. right. And, and, and, and, and we, you know, we had the hardest time and actually, I think we dodged a bullet, cuz if we’d been working for them, they would’ve, you know, they would’ve stiffed us for the money. Anyway, direct debits, your friend.

Tim Melanson: I, and, and I agree. I, I do, uh, I do automatic payments as well. And the one thing that you said that was really important is, uh, is, is if you have that conversation up front, I’ve had the same situation as you is that you don’t get much pushback. It’s sort of like, there, there, there. And I think you said it right where they’re, they’re interested in you that’s when they’re most interested.

So, you know, whatever you say, , they’re like, oh, that’s how it works. That’s how it works. All right. Let’s do it. Yeah. And they sign on the line. However, the opposite is also happened to be too where I did not do that at first. And I tried to get a client to switch to it. Didn’t happen. Uh, you know, yeah.

Matthew Stibbe: well, if you, you try to do it retrospectively you end up in the position of, well we’ll, we’ll give you a discount.

If you sign up for this better payment terms or something like that, and it, you know, eh, it’s hard work. Oh,

Tim Melanson: yeah, no, I, I, I think that your, uh, your strategy is very good and actually your words are very good too. I like the way that you, uh, that you articulate that, which makes sense from articulate marketing, right?

speaking of which it is time for your guest solo. So tell me what’s exciting in your business.

Matthew Stibbe: Well, articulate is a marketing agency. We, um, are mostly interested in getting new customers for our, our clients, but we are also a little bit geeky and we like technology. And the thing that I’m geeking out about a lot at the moment is HubSpot.

Um, we’ve been a HubSpot partner for more than five years now, and we’ve seen the platform and the technology evolve, and we are now HubSpot diamond partners. So we’re big fans of it. It’s the only marketing technology that we use. So we, we do everything with HubSpot and HubSpot basically is a, a customer relationship management tool, a CRM tool.

It’s a marketing automation tool. It’s a social media tool. It’s a website tool. Um, it’s a customer service tool. So everything is, you know, in one platform with the customer at the heart of it. It’s a customer centric platform, but what’s really interesting for me in the bit. That’s exciting me at the moment.

And I think is relevant for your, your audience is that over time they’ve expanded the portfolio of products, but they’ve also introduced tier levels. So there’s an enterprise level you can spend, you know, we have clients who spend. 50 60, 70,000 pounds a year on HubSpot. But as you go down from enterprise to pro to starter, there’s even a free tier for all of their products, you can go and sign up for HubSpot for nothing and get.

Some CRM capability, some website capability, some marketing automation, email capability, some customer support. It’s not gonna give you all the features you’d get for 50,000, of course, but it’s a, it’s gonna grow with you. And I think, I think having the right tools to support the growth of a small business and be, and have a system that you know, can grow as you grow is, is very exciting.

And I, I, as articulate has grown from just me to 1819 people. HubSpot’s grown with us and we’ve got companies, clients who are hundreds and hundreds of people who use it. So it, yeah, that’s what I’m excited about at the moment. Nice. Well,

Tim Melanson: I’ve yeah, I’ve been looking into HubSpot recently and yeah, it does have a full set of tools.

So tell me what, what does it mean when you say you’re a partner with it? What, what does that

Matthew Stibbe: mean? So being a partner means that we are, uh, We help people get onboarded with HubSpot. So sometimes HubSpot will bring clients to us and, and they’ve bought HubSpot enterprise marketing pro or something like that.

And we help them get set up with it. Um, we are also effectively certified multiple people in the company have HubSpot certifications, which means that we’re demonstrably qualified to use it. To do our marketing. So if we come along and say, we’re going to write customer evidence and blog posts for you, and we’re gonna host them on a HubSpot blog, we know, you know, we can do that or we’re going to do email marketing and we we’re gonna use HubSpot to do that.

Not MailChimp. Okay. Yeah. Fine. I trust you cuz you’ve got the certifications. People buy HubSpot from HubSpot. They don’t buy it from us, but when we are involved in an onboarding project, we can replace HubSpot for that onboarding piece. So there’s, there’s a, there’s a sort of a, a commercial interest. We get a commission from HubSpot for in, you know, when we’re part of the deal.

I get no commission from telling you this now. I mean, you know, yeah. So this is just from my experience and, and, and, and, uh, kind. Good will, but it, it, yeah. Hub. So hub HubSpot part being a HubSpot partner is certifications, qualifications, and a commercial relationship with hubs.

Tim Melanson: So really you’re like a, you help the client to get themselves set up with all the tools that they need and you probably can help them direct them into the tools that they need and, and the, the tier that they need as well.

I imagine. Right?

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah. And, and a, a lot of what we do is, is helping people kind of find the right package because, you know, as between free and enterprise, there’s a lot of combinations and things. And, you know, sometimes people will oversell themselves. They’ll buy too much capability and sometimes we can help.

Kind of right size it. Um, I, I guess our relationship with HubSpot is a little bit like a Microsoft partner. Yeah. Helping somebody use Microsoft technology, Microsoft sells the technology, but the Microsoft partners in there supporting it, implementing it, helping people get up and running, using it to achieve some business outcome.

And that that’s our relationship to hubs. Yeah. And it’s a

Tim Melanson: win-win because you also are helping them with their content on that platform as well, because that’s what you do. Right. So, you know, it, it helps for you to, to know inside and out the platform that they’re using so that you can really seamlessly integrate what you’re doing with what they’re doing, right?

Yeah.

Matthew Stibbe: Yeah, exactly. For us, HubSpot is like a toolkit. So a lot of the things that we say will do for a client. We do it with HubSpot. So sometimes in fact, most cases a client comes to us and they say, you know, we want a thought leadership or customer evidence campaign, or we want a new website, or we want some email marketing and we go.

Fantastic. We’ll do that for you. And here’s what we’re gonna charge you for the services and the, the copywriting and the design, by the way, in order to implement this, we use HubSpot. So we also need you to go buy this. So it’s not a, in most cases for us, it’s not a technology sale. We’re selling marketing services and we’re kind of bringing HubSpot in is the thing that we use to do it.

And a lot of times people are very happy with that. Um, yeah. And part of big part of our business is getting people off, whatever it is they’ve got that isn’t working onto HubSpot. So, you know, we, we do a pretty good business of getting people off Salesforce and onto HubSpot CRM and saving them huge amounts of money in the process.

Um, that’s, that’s a, that’s a common scenario. So

Tim Melanson: Matthew, how do we find

Matthew Stibbe: out more about your business then? So, um, we are@articulatemarketing.com. And there’s a lot of blogs and webinars and things there that are free for app free for everyone to learn about marketing. Um, I also blog for myself on a website called geek boss.com.

And I’m writing there about management and a little bit about remote working and how you manage remote workers. So a little bit of contribution in that space. Um, You’d like to get in touch with me. I’m on LinkedIn. Um, if you, if you linked search LinkedIn for Matthew STBA, I’ve got a very unusual name.

You’ll find me very easily. Or you can go through the contact form on our website. I see those E those incoming contact messages. So, you know, if you, you get in touch that way, I’d love to hear from you. Love it.

Tim Melanson: Thank you so much for rocking out with me today, Matthew, this has been a

Matthew Stibbe: lot of. It’s been my pleasure.

Thank you so much.

Tim Melanson: Great to the listeners fix. Sure. Subscribe rate in comment. We’ll see you next time with a work at home rockstar podcast.

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