Lysa Miller, the founder of Ladybugz Interactive Agency, has a reputation. She’s the expert of choice to contact on all areas SEO, social media and web design, as her features on multiple reputable publications like Business Insider and Entrepreneur can attest to. Her wordsmithing skills are second to none; she’s responsible for curating Ladybugz’s fun brand personality, and she regularly writes thoughtful pieces on LinkedIn and guest blogs on Clutch.co and MassVacation.com among others. And she’s all about customer success, relationship building and local events.
So you can imagine how delighted we are to have the opportunity to interview this vibrant personality on Agency Gurus. Strap in for an insightful ride!
Cloudways: Great to have you on, Lysa! So what’s the story of how Ladybugz came to be? What would you say were the biggest challenges to setting up shop?
Lysa: Ladybugz has been a work in the making for a long time. I left the corporate world when I started my family, freelanced under ladybugz.com for many years, and started to really grow the agency about 7 years ago. In 2016 I merged with a web design and support agency to form a full-service B2B digital agency. Ladybugz took a hiatus while I helped grow that business, and in June 2020, Ladybugz was rebirthed! Mostly because of my love of working with B2C clients and creative marketing strategies. So here I am now again, flying on my own as a sole-owner, 100% women-owned digital agency in Boston, Massachusetts. (I hope you like the pun!) On a side note, I’m Canadian and “Flying on her Own” is also a very famous Canadian song.
The biggest challenge setting up shop during a pandemic is that physically you can’t set up shop. So it is a virtual world. I am a big proponent of having a physical space for your team and clients, so that part has been the hardest for me. Plus, I don’t see it happening even for another year just based on the situation.
As for setting up shop all over again, it’s really not like starting over again. Because I’m a relationship builder and business development has been my area for so long, I am not starting from square one for sure. I would say based on my past experiences, I am already on pace with about year 2 or 3 of when I really started growing the agency the first time. Also, I know a lot more this time, so it’s much easier from the get-go.
I’ve built my team with people I trust and people who have done business and worked with me over the years, so finding great talent was also pretty easy.
Another challenge was just starting from scratch with ops. Getting all of my software and automation in place. I’m still working on that every day!
Cloudways: As Creative Director at Ladybugz and outspoken proponent of creativity as a leadership quality, what are the agency management areas under-utilizing creative thinking? How do you use creative leadership to find fresh perspectives in your business?
Lysa: Many people say leadership starts at the top, but I think leadership should start at the bottom. Meaning I think employees are the ones who really know what is going on with clients, in the world and so much more. High-level managers are more out of touch with what the real struggles are with clients; they are busy managing processes and not the clients themselves.
Letting the team lead the vision for the future, letting them expand, be creative and grow the company, might seem backward, but in my opinion that is the mistake, many companies make in general. Leadership is good at running the company, but the team is the ones that really know what is going on in the front lines. Giving them room to create a future vision based on what they see on the front lines I think is a great, forward-thinking strategy.
Cloudways: Ladybugz has a rock-solid reputation for curating fantastic customer experiences, and you’re on record about the necessity of happy customers for success. Given what a natural business sentiment this is, why do you think so many companies struggle to delight their customers? What do you think are the core components of creating a wow experience?
Lysa: Why thank you! Customer success is and always has been our number one goal. I think many companies put a monetary value on how much success costs, not realizing the exponential effect it has on a company. For example, it costs a lot of money to be nice. If a customer is unhappy, sometimes you have to suck it up and let them be right even if they are not. You do it to save face or you at least negotiate something that works in both parties favor.
Many companies make the mistake of hard lining difficult customers, which escalates the failure. Learning to mediate situations and not be so focused on a monetary loss or just for the sake of “being right” is just not worth it. I’m not saying let your customers push you around, I’m saying make every effort to resolve issues, even if it includes professional intervention.
Staying in touch with your customers can also help warrant the kind of success that brings exponential growth. That might mean inviting them to events, checking in once or twice a year, having a customer party or even very customized newsletters can help keep you at top of mind. But if you are a relatively small company your current customers should come first. There are easy ways to manage to stay in touch with customers, or even having someone in the customer success role is a great business development strategy.
One of my favorite ways to keep in touch with customers is by having customer parties or inviting them to industry events organized for them.
It’s really great when you can add value to their lives both professionally and personally. People remember these things. And they cost less than one week of your PPC campaign.
Cloudways: Ladybugz’s range is worth some comment – you’ve done projects for companies across numerous industries, in tourism, manufacturing, law dental healthcare, childcare, technology events, and aviation, to name a few. How do you ascertain and meet the requirements of such a diverse clientele? And how do you optimize SEO and stay on top of search lists across so many industries?
Lysa: I’ve worked in agencies for a very long time, and have worked in many verticals. Most of our digital growth clients tend to be B2C. The more B2C clients we have tend to be more web design only clients. So I would call us more of a B2C (than B2B) digital marketing agency.
Web design is our expertise in a certain price range, and it happens many of those types of businesses hire us for that reason. We’ve done it for so long, we are just great at web design and development for most verticals. We do focus on specific sized companies usually in early growth 1 – 10M in revenue, although we have had a few smaller and a few bigger. But that is our ideally sized growth client. I’ve been referred to as a “generalist” or “jack of all trades.”
Specializing isn’t really what we want to or plan to do. We like being a generalist agency! It gives us lots of options. And the services we do offer, we are experts at.
Cloudways: In what ways has the pandemic changed your digital marketing approach?
Lysa: Many companies have doubled down during this time. They are looking for more guidance and ways to stay relevant to their audiences. Our approach to our agency has not changed for ourselves. We’ve always focused on SEO, social media and relationship building for online leads.
But with that said, the message has changed. During this time, we focused our content on helping clients deal with this new pandemic life. We’ve written and shared content on several agency websites and publications about helping your customers during a pandemic, relationship building during a pandemic, remote networking in a new world, along with other content around SEO, brand building and more. Most of our clients want to be more active on social, so that is a switch we really saw with the pandemic.
We also started creating similar content for our clients, where they are offering advice to get through the pandemic and using collaboration during this time. For example, a moving company we represent wanted to do more in the community, so each week they are posting about community resources and businesses. People want to help each other, that is the bottom line.
Cloudways: Has the shift to remote work altered what goals businesses should set for their social media? What do businesses change about their social media lead generation practices in 2020?
Lysa: Adding value on social media and being present is more important than ever before. People need to know that you are staying relevant during this time and what you are doing to help your clients or just people in general.
Empathy is huge right now, so showing empathy in everything you do is a great way to really connect. It’s a great time for community involvement and sharing that on social media. The people out there helping and creating value, are going to gain loyalty during this time. That is what will matter after.
Cloudways: You’ve talked about how you used your personal brand to build your agency and further its marketing strategy. But there are some risks inherent to personal branding, such as the possibility of pigeonholing yourself as an expert in only a few specific niches. What pitfalls did you come across in your personal branding journey? How did you manage these risks?
Lysa: Building a personal brand is certainly a journey. But like anything, it evolves over time. In the beginning, I built myself up as a social media expert, a web designer and a small business owner. Over the years, I’ve been able to expand that to many other areas including women’s leadership, brand building and in general entrepreneurship.
I think pigeonholing yourself is not a bad thing, you are an expert at what you are an expert at, that is what it is. But you can expand your expertise more by providing leadership around your expertise, like in the community, in your industry and in more general areas that might not be so niched where others are looking for leadership.
Just because you have a niche, does not mean you can’t provide leadership around that or from other experiences in your life.
Find what you love related to your expertise and have fun with it!. Podcasting is a great way to discover more about yourself. Every time I do one, I learn more about myself which enables me to expand my expertise moving forward.
Cloudways: Earlier this year, you were featured on the Cloudways blog on a customer acquisition piece, where you mentioned the importance of getting great reviews. Given that customers are always likelier to post about negative experiences rather than positive, what can businesses do to encourage the latter?
Lysa: Customer success is the foundation of everything. If clients love working with you, they will give you great reviews. Sometimes they need a little nudge, but for me, I offer them value with the review. I’ll promote their review on social media, include them in a newsletter, case study, or even a blog post. I usually don’t ask without offering something like that back in return. Reviews can go a long way for sure and an essential part of building brand trust.
Cloudways: Off the top of your head, what are the projects you’ve most enjoyed working on at Ladybugz Interactive? What did you like about them?
Lysa: I really love SEO. It encompasses so many things and allows me to use my “generalist” craft. It requires not only keyword and research ideas but creativity. People think SEO is just getting a website’s content to rank, which is true, but there is so much around that to make it happen and that’s what I love. So SEO is really everything, content, strategy, planning, social media, off-site content and more! All things we love to make happen.
Currently, we are working with a minority and female-owned construction company, which has been a blast. It’s a great story and an incredible journey with them in this phase of their company’s growth. Another client is a female-owned moving company, who I just convinced to start moving onto Instagram for Business. It’s fun being a part of this process with people.
I love working with business owners and visionaries, it makes my job really fun.
Our thanks to Lysa for sharing her story and insights! Keep up with Agency Gurus, as we continue to interview top agency owners and specialists.
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Arsalan, a Digital Marketer by profession, works as a Startups and Digital Agencies Community Manager at Cloudways. He loves all things entrepreneurial and wakes up every day with the desire to enable the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs through his work!