Zack Holland is a marketing expert with experience in startups and big companies.
He’s currently the founder and CEO of SelectFew, an innovative marketing solution where companies work with an experienced strategist to plan and organize their marketing, and then utilize SelectFew's vetted freelancer network to work with experts in different services, from Facebook and Google Ads to design and copywriting.
I sat down with Zack to talk about how companies should approach marketing and what he recommends when it comes to marketing processes and best practices to follow.
Tell me about your background, how did you get started in marketing?
Zack went on to say that he grew a couple of startups some of which resulted in successful exits, many of which failed (he is equally as proud of the failures).
He then moved to the venture funded brands side and led marketing departments at rapid-growth companies. He eventually moved into marketing director roles at agencies in New York, but quickly realized that he could create a better marketing model for businesses utilizing transparency, flexibility, and freelancers - at which point he started SelectFew.
Zack says that the way SelectFew works is by matching clients with a strategist who is a full time internal member of their team. The strategist is an experienced marketer who works with clients to develop priorities, build a growth plan, figure out their fundamentals, and then build and manage a team of pre-vetted expert freelancers and boutique agencies to fulfill individual client's needs. For example Facebook ads, SEO, outsourced sales, web design, video production and anything the company needs.
Zack continued with “the whole system is completely transparent, so the client knows exactly who's doing what, there's no white labeling, there's no markups." That allows them to do is use the clients’ marketing budgets to actually add a lean team of professionals that really know what they're doing, so that the rest can go to advertising spend.
Their customers include a wide range of businesses, from venture funded startups in their Seed, Series A and B, to large fortune 500 companies and international nonprofits. A lot of times those companies have internal marketing teams that are overworked, which is why they utilize the help of SelectFew.
Most companies in those stages invest in product and engineering. They usually underspend on marketing and expect a lot from their small team. So what SelectFew does is enable them to develop a marketing team of experts that fill the gaps for their immediate needs needing. All of that with the help of a strategist who is there to guide them with reporting and market research, and then manage the freelancers and boutique agencies day to day.
How does it work when a strategist needs to find an expert for the company?
Zack went on to say that they have a network of experts in different service categories, who have proven to be specialists in their field and consistently get great reviews from all the clients that they work with.
“The great thing about the service is that it’s month to month for each client, so you don't need a $15,000 marketing retainer in an agency on a 6 month contract. Some months you may need to do more creative, photos and writing, then some months you may need to whittle down to just the people running your ads.”
The service allows companies to be flexible for what they actually need that month. In that way it keeps the experts high performing, because if say your Facebook ads expert starts to underperform SelectFew can try to fix it, but if it doesn't work out they can quickly replace them with another Facebook ads expert that will continue to be high performing.
This is a stark contrast to how it would work at a big agency, where the client would have to fire their agency, find a new agency, interview agencies, then try to get all their data and access moved over to another agency, which is a nightmare. So what SelectFew allows clients to do is work with one trusted team, because they will make sure that the system as a whole continues to be high performing.
How does pricing look like when working with strategists and experts?
Zack explained that clients pay $2,500 a month for a strategist, who only work with maximum 3-4 clients. So, in essence, the client pays for a fractional marketing director. A lot of companies aren't going to bring on this role full time, and even if they do have someone full time, that person needs some help. So that $2,500 a month is for the strategist.
The experts afterwards are matched to the client's size and needs. They have experts from a wide range of freelancers that work at really affordable rates, to boutique agencies that are a little more expensive but do amazing work.
They don't work with mid-size and large agencies because that leads into overspend and bloated budgets, a pain point which Zack wants to fix with SelectFew.
Strategists work with clients to build a system that will fit within their budget, and will be the most effective and high impact. “Instead of trying to figure out all of that on your own, you have a strategist to help you do that, and they know the network of experts really well to find the right fit for you.”
Strategists only match clients with experts that work in the client’s industry, for example they are not going to pair up a B2B SaaS company with a direct to consumer e-commerce Facebook ads expert because it’s not relevant for B2B SaaS. This way clients are getting experts that actually do what the client needs, who are within the client’s budget. Then everything goes through SelectFew in a transparent way, so the client knows what they are spending on and on who. Everything bills through Select Few so you don't need to handle billing for freelancers, it's just one bill.
What kind of tools do your strategists and clients usually use for web marketing analytics and testing?
Zack went on to say that different strategists have different tools that they like to use and then different experts also have different too. Some examples include: Google Analytics for general analytics. Then for on-site optimization they really like VWO, they use it for A/B testing and on site-optimization data analysis, and it has great funnel features that shows the user’s journey and conversions at different steps.
They also develop custom dashboards for their clients that pull in a lot more data than just one tool. They use Segment for data unification, it pulls data into the right tools and then helps manage that in the data warehouse. It pulls it through places like VWO and Google Analytics to make sure that all the data is aligned to what you're getting from your Facebook algorithms and your Google algorithms.
When it comes to Google Analytics, what do you think can be improved?
Zack says “There's plenty that's lacking in Google Analytics, as marketers we always look for tools to better understand and visualize what's taking place in our platforms.”
“I think a lot of where Google Analytics falls short is taking the data and actually putting it in useful, actionable and insightful data to use day to day to improve what's going on. The way they have it right now is just ‘here's some dashboards and if you really want to dive in here's a lot of data’, but there's obviously so much room for innovation on how that's actually handled.”
Yeah I agree. Which is one of the main reasons why I’m building AllFactors.
What marketing tactics are the most common in startups to achieve top marketing results?
Zack went on to say that it depends, but oftentimes if it’s early stage before launching then the company should do pre-launch marketing to create awareness and build a list of emails as first beta users.
Zack said that they work through a three phase marketing process:
The first phase is understanding the brand, having the foundations done, doing stakeholders interviews, and then persona development. “So many people just want to jump in and run ads, launch email campaigns, or write content, but if you don't know why you're doing it then things won’t work well.”
Then the second phase is community development, which is so important and oftentimes overlooked. “The community development phase evaluates how the system works and how we're giving real value to our audience through our email system, our social media accounts, and through our blog.”
Zack went on to say “If I was going to launch a brand today I would spend 90% of ad dollars on just building a great email list of people that are really involved and excited about the product, with a viral share component to encourage people to share with others to move up the list for example.”
The third phase is scaled interactions, "that's when you can take that community and brand you built and run ads, buy media, do PR, drive increased traffic to what you built."
Zack mentioned that they work through those three phases with every client, no matter if they're huge, if they're small, or if they’re just starting out.
When do you recommend companies to start doing SEO and content marketing?
Zack went on to say “From day one! I think that other than really great email programs, that's the most overlooked part of marketing, everybody wants to just run Facebook ads. SEO is not the sexy side of marketing but if companies start it on day one working on their content and SEO, in a year they're in a place to have so much more flexibility because they have that foundation of organic traffic, especially if they've been making great content and they've developed thought leadership.
"I think one mistake that companies make is not starting SEO early enough."
Part of SEO is also initial on-site optimization, and as a company continues to spend on ads to get people to the website, it won’t improve click-through-rates and rankings if it’s not optimized. So then the company would be just wasting ad dollars.
This concludes my conversation with Zack. I enjoyed learning about SelectFew and find that it’s a terrific model for companies to get up and running with marketing or to supercharge existing marketing operations.
I learned a lot from Zack’s insights and I’m looking forward to implementing the knowledge in the AllFactors marketing mix, as well as trying out and recommending SelectFew to other startup founders.
Follow Zack and SelectFew on Twitter at: @Zack_Holland and @SelectFewTeam