Wendy Lieber | How to Shift From a Boutique Agency Model to a Subscription Model
Smart Business Revolution

Wendy Lieber is the Co-founder of ContentBacon, an inbound marketing company that helps build brands that people know, like, trust, and buy from. She has a passion for helping customers figure out and communicate their “why” that resonates with target audiences.

Wendy also talks to entrepreneurial communities frequently about the power of storytelling. She is a Board Member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and previously served as President of Athena Marketing. She holds an MBA from Nova Southeastern University and a BA in Marketing from Florida State University – College of Business.

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Wendy Lieber, the Co-founder of ContentBacon, about shifting a business’ operations from a boutique agency model to a subscription model. Wendy talks about building her inbound marketing company, the challenges she often faces with changing technology, and the strategies she uses to find and retain good employees. Stay tuned.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • Wendy Lieber talks about her transition from Athena Marketing to ContentBacon
  • How producing regular content impacts a business’ ROI
  • How Wendy decided on the elements of her business’ subscription model 
  • Did Wendy find it difficult to let go and delegate to writers?
  • What Wendy does to ensure her company meets clients’ expectations — and how she finds and manages good team members
  • Wendy explains how she upgrades technology in her company and how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted her business
  • How Wendy handles the emergence of new social media platforms
  • Wendy’s advice on building a leadership team 
  • Wendy talks about the peers she respects and shares her contact details

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk,  and many more.  

The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:01 

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40

All right. Welcome, everyone. John Corcoran here, I’m the host of this show. And every week I get to talk to really smart CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs of all kinds of companies ranging from Netflix, Kinko’s, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where we help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And this week, we’ve got a great guest, her name is Wendy Lieber. She’s a Co-founder of ContentBacon, which is an inbound marketing company. It helps build brands that people know, like, trust, and buy from. She has a passion for helping customers to figure out and communicate their ‘why’ so that it resonates with target audiences. And she talks to entrepreneurial communities frequently about the power of storytelling, and we’re going to talk a bit about shifting your business from more of a curated custom boutique services business into something that is more of a subscription, which is something that a lot of businesses are interested in doing, or would like to do at some point. So we’re gonna dive into that. 

And of course, this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcasts and content marketing. And if you’re listening to this, and you’ve ever thought, ah, should I do a podcast? I’ve been saying for 11 years of doing it, and yes, you should. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. You get to talk to smart people like Wendy every week. So if you want to learn more, go to rise25media.com, and you can learn more there. Alright, Wendy, pleasure to have you here. And you’ve got this backstory where you worked in the corporate world. And then you moved into entrepreneurship with your marketing business called Athena Marketing. But you found it as kind of a boutique strategic marketing company. And it wasn’t something that was as scalable, you hadn’t quite figured out how to scale and so you kind of pivoted and started a new business, which is ContentBacon, much more of a subscription based business. So talk to me a little bit about how you first of all that, that aha moment, was there one aha moment where you’re like, Oh, this is not going to work, I need to start something completely different, a different model.

Wendy Lieber 2:41

Yes. Hey, John, and thanks for having me. So yeah, so I was lucky to be in the EO Accelerator Program, which, you know, is a program for businesses that are looking to grow and scale. And so while I was in that program with Athena Marketing, I was always trying to figure out, you know, how could I 10x 20x that business in a way that it didn’t have me, you know, just working harder and harder. And so, being in that program, you know, has you just constantly thinking and one of the things that I was starting to experiment with, with my current clients that Athena marketing was some of that more fundamental, you know, mundane content that everyone needed, but had a hard time doing on a consistent basis, like a weekly blog, social media, a monthly newsletter, which you know, those things sound pretty basic, but they’re, they’re often you know, kind of the fundamentals that companies need just to stay in touch with their, their prospect or client base and, and also just, like, Look alive online. And so that really started to take off. And the great thing about it was that the clients didn’t need a lot of attention, where what I was doing with Athena marketing was very customized, I had all the processes in my head. So that’s made it challenging to scale. And there were always lots of conversations, you know, on ROI and, you know, just kind of always having to resell every month versus this model was a lot easier for clients to get behind and just check the box, if you will. And so that was the inspiration for ContentBacon to just focus on that and to really build a company where, you know, companies could access high quality content on a consistent basis, but in a way that made good business sense. So it might have been a long winded way of sharing that story, but that’s that’s the impetus for how it

John Corcoran 4:51

makes sense. Yeah. How though, you know, for a founder or a company or something that you know, they’re not producing regular content, blog content they’re not producing a newsletter they know they need to or maybe or maybe they have to be convinced how do you how are they not concerned about ROI if the previous business the previous business clients that you had were so focused on it

Wendy Lieber 5:16

I think that there was a little bit of the check the box and I still think the ROI conversation was an is part of you know, why invest in content Why am I going to invest in these things? What what’s the result but I think the difference with some of the customized consulting It was a lot bigger projects of you know just a lot more intense where you’re writing a weekly blog posting to your social media sending out a monthly newsletter again if you’re not doing those things then you know you you may just have to have an issue with you know your customers just knowing you exist and so I think the way we we are able to show value is when you are investing in those things you do see your organic traffic rise you do you know you do see and have connection with your database on a consistent basis so it might be a different kind of result that we can track versus how is this dollar going to you know result in in this revenue it’s it’s like you have to have these pieces just to play in the digital world today.

John Corcoran 6:27

Yeah, did it take you a while to figure out all the elements around a subscription model versus you know the custom model that you were doing before including pricing and meal planning projects and staffing all that kind of stuff?

Wendy Lieber 6:45

Yeah, I think I think this model out of the gate was a lot simpler and so I think that you know we we came up initially with what the what we what we call kind of the the grow subscription included which was four blogs per month 36 social media post a monthly newsletter and you know when we started you know we tested different different pricing and you know, we we were developing the processes lesson learned and that we implement it with ContentBacon and right from the get go was to hire people to do all of this and not get sucked into as the founder and I have a partner not get sucked into doing the work and waiting till you think you’re ready before you hire people so that we really you know, hired people from the get-go so that we could continue to focus on building the business building the brand business development and make we made sure we had really talented people internally to execute on the actual content delivery

John Corcoran 7:50

Right now that’s such a hard process because you know, I’m a writer by trade. I’ve been a writer identified as a writer since I was like eight or nine or 10 years old or something like that. And you know, I know a lot of writers and it is so hard for them to let go often you know so for you when you started this business and you’re starting to hire writers and everything was it hard to let go and and to allow them to produce the work without you getting in the hair and you know marketing I was saying like no this is written wrong

Wendy Lieber 8:25

yeah you know, I don’t I don’t think the writing part letting go of the writing part was was hard I think where I was more challenged was on the account management piece or the subscription management because I was so used to you know, always taking such great care of my clients and you know, like wanting them to rely on me for everything you know, hey if you if you’re up at 4am in the morning and you have a you know, call me not that that ever happened but you know, I wanted I wanted that relationship and when I had to start relying on my team to take care of you know, our growing customer base and you know, no one’s ever going to take as good of care as your babies as you but being okay with them not doing it the way I would do it and maybe not always, you know, responding whenever like that was always my mo and a lot of you know entrepreneurs I’m sure can relate to that. But when you’re building out a team well they have lives they don’t want to respond at nine o’clock at night and and so giving up control and being more trusting and really creating processes an expectation was a huge growth for me and I don’t think the first year I did it very well I probably tortured a lot of our early team until I started realizing that I was holding them back and I was holding the company back by needing to be involved in so much. So I look back on that now with, you know, a lot of pride because I have grown so much as a leader and you know, now it’s you know, I don’t. I Try not to bottleneck anything. But that was a struggle initially for sure. For all the reasons that you mentioned.

John Corcoran 10:06

Yeah, yeah, it’s interesting, really how, like, the bottleneck is constantly moving? Have you experienced that where, you know, you know, it’s one part of something that you do you become the bottleneck? And then six months later, it’s something else that you do the bottleneck? Yeah.

Wendy Lieber 10:24

I think, you know, I definitely serve the role of visionary and my company. And so I’m always, you know, like way, way out ahead of where my team is, and I was just having this conversation with one of my forum mates recently that, you know, sometimes when you’re the visionary, you have to, you have to hold back on sharing, you know, always the vision until your team’s ready, because they’re still working on what you implemented last year. And so I think that I, again, I think I’m always learning growing and developing as an entrepreneur, which, you know, again, being part of an organization like EO is so helpful, for those reasons that, you know, I’m able to figure out where I might be holding the company back or creating friction where there shouldn’t be and, and get that resolved. And so it’s, it’s definitely always a moving target. And that’s also the fun of it, that’s what I love is I love solving problems. And I love you know, coming up with new ways to do things. And so I thrive on that a little bit.

John Corcoran 11:32

Right, right. Now, another challenge for any business that is producing something where the end product has some creativity to it, for the client is making sure that it meets the client’s expectations. And it can be highly subjective, right? For any client, they can read it perfectly. You know, what so someone might say is a beautiful piece of writing, another, the client might say, That’s not at all what I intended. So how do you ensure that when you come up with the creative end product that it is meeting those clients? objection? expectations?