#33 Website Agency & Branding Strategies With Amber Vilhauer

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amber-ludwig-200x300Biography:

Amber Vilhauer (formerly Ludwig) is an online business development expert who supports authors, speakers and coaches to establish a powerful, integrated online presence that gets results and empowers them to make a difference in their industry.

Since starting her multi-six-figure company NGNG Enterprises (standing for No Guts No Glory) in 2007, she has spent her career impacting her community and building strong strategic alliances with industry leaders and game-changers across the web. Amber has supported thousands of entrepreneurs on six continents to get results. She is the launch manager behind several #1 bestselling books including those for Mark Victor Hansen, Brendon Burchard, Lisa Nichols and Les Brown.

Working one-on-one with each client, Amber and her teams have created more than 300 WordPress websites. Amber knows how a website needs to function in order to generate sales, build a fan base and attract long-term clientele. She works with clients to build a strong, branded social media presence, coaches each client on which manageable actions will help them achieve their online goals and then walks them through exactly how to do it.

Topics of Conversation:

[0:00:15.0] Intro
[0:00:43.6] Guest profile and background
[0:02:46.6] NGNG clientele
[0:04:17.5] NGNG staffing
[0:06:55.1] Lead generation strategy
[0:09:38.6] Building up the brand
[0:10:50.1] Pricing
[0:13:23.9] Conversion rate
[0:14:36.3] Coaching and mentorship
[0:17:24.0] Blogging
[0:24:52.0] Blogging and writing process
[0:28:26.3] Wrap up

Reach Out To Amber Vilhauer:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ambervilhauer

Website: http://ambervilhauer.com/   

Tweetables:


Transcription:

[00:15] Stephen: Hey guys, Stephen Esketzis here from Marketing on the Move. And I’ve got Amber Vilhauer.

Is that how I pronounced it? You might need to correct me with that, Amber.

Amber: I know everybody has troubles with it, and it’s “Vilhauer.”

Stephen: Vilhauer. Well, Amber Vilhauer is with me today. How are you going, Amber?

Amber: I’m awesome. How are you?

Stephen: Fantastic. So, do you want to give our audience a bit of an introduction in what you do, what your day-to-day life is like?

[00:43] Amber: Sure. Well, I have a company. I named it “NGNG Enterprises,” standing for “No Guts, No Glory.” And it was a phrase that my mom said to me all the time growing up and it just really impacted me. And I thought that’s what I want to stand for.

That’s what I want my clients to stand for. So it’s a cool company name. And what I do specifically is I help entrepreneurs build their business online.

And I usually work most with authors, speakers and coaches. But I’ve been known to dabble outside of that as well. I just love authors, speakers and coaches because they have a message they want to share with the world.

They want to impact the world and that fires me up. So I teach them how to build their business online and it started with websites eight years ago. Since then, we’ve built about 300 WordPress websites for clients around the world.

And as I grew my own business, I had to figure out how to grow successful business. And as I approved different strategies and methodologies, that’s when I would open it, up as a service to my clients. So you’re talking to me now eight years later where I have a team of 11 people that work with me to service our clients.

And we do anything from social media to graphics and branding to e-mail marketing and big launches, and hosting summits, and pretty much anything you can think of when it comes to an online business. We are helping our clients achieve that online.

Stephen: Wow, that’s awesome. So would you consider yourself an agency or is it something more of a small team? How would you describe it?

Amber: Yeah, I’ve never really coined the term “agency” on my website or anything. But definitely, it is more like an agency. But I’m the one that’s in charge of all of the different projects. So I’m the constant. I’m the project manager, the operations manager, the sales person. And then, my team steps in and we all support the clients together.

Stephen: Wow, that’s awesome. So how many clients do you usually work with the ones? Is it usually pretty for long or you sort of manage their workflow and are quite selective?

[02:46] Amber: No, if somebody is ready to move forward and they like what we’re doing, I’ve never turned anybody down. I’ve never put anybody on a waitlist, and because I’m here to help people move their message forward. So I would say right now, we probably have at least 50 to 60 clients that we’re working with.

And some are taking up more time than others. So I’ve got some clients who were working probably 10 to 20 hours a week on their project ongoing. I have other clients that just hire us for a website and it will take anywhere from two weeks to a year to get that website up depending on the client. And naturally, there are gaps in any project.

They might need support today and then not for a couple of days, and then again. So because of those gaps, I’m able to accommodate so many people. And we just really have our process down.

And I’m actually only working about 40-hour work weeks right now. And that seems to be enough to me and with everything that we’re doing. So just we’re all about working smarter, not harder.

Stephen: Yeah, that’s awesome. I love that mentality. Because you’ve got obviously services, you have got like your development, your graphic design, basically things like that.

How do you choose people to jump on the team? Do you outsource it or do you choose people based in the US or near you? How do you go about organizing that side of things?

[04:17] Amber: Well, I’m very picky about who’s on my time because I have high expectations in my team, and they’re like family. It’s so gooey over here. We love each other. But I have high expectations.

I want them to be thorough. I want them to be good at what they do. My clients have high expectations.

We have a really excellent reputation and I want to keep that moving forward. That means something to me. So when I hire somebody, most of the people are here in the US.

In fact, there’s only two that are overseas and they’re both in Cape Town, South Africa. And those are my graphic designers. And Joanie was the first person I ever hired eight years ago as a graphic designer.

And as we grew, I said, “Joanie, who else do you know that can help us with design?” And her best friend Carol came on board five years ago. And now, they’ve always been the only designers that I’ve worked with. And everybody else is here in the US. And they’re all really good at their craft.

And I’m just so blessed and lucky to know them. And I treat them really well. And I think that that’s part of – it’s just the atmosphere that you create in your business that gets your team and your clients excited to be a part of it.

Stephen: Yeah, and I think that it definitely is built in the top as well. So obviously, you’ve been motivating your own team to keep pushing forward and probably up that reputation.

Amber: Exactly. And I’m all about service, service to our clients, helping people to succeed in whatever it is. And that extends out to my team too. Just today, one of my team members was doing a project for a completely different client, not me, but one of her other clients.

And I helped her with that project even though I didn’t have to do that. But I wanted to because I said we have each other’s backs. So if I can help you grow your business, I want to do that. And that’s a totally different philosophy than I think a lot of other people have.

So I just want them to feel equals. It’s not a numbers company. I mean, it is on paper, but it’s ours. It’s our clients. We share the work together and we share the success together. And recognition is definitely a big part of what I do for them. And it just works.

Stephen: Yeah, definitely. And you’ve got a lot of services out there, you’ve got a lot of clients, when you go to onboard them, you want to capture all these leads. Do you work mainly on referrals like a lot of agencies or do you go through and actively do it like Facebook ads or what’s your lead gen process?

[06:55] Amber: Great question. So I feel like I never really had to market even though I do. But it’s more in service. So for example, being on this podcast, you could look at that as marketing. And I’m here in service to just inspire whomever is listening. And naturally, that’s going to come back to me.

But I don’t seek podcasts out and think, “Ooh, how can I get something out of this?” I just show it more in service and it tends to come back to me. And so we do have a lot of word-of-mouth advertising.

So I calculated just between December and February, 10 of our clients referred people to us. And that results in almost $50,000 worth of sales in those three months. And I didn’t have to do any of those referral. And another part of my model has been strategic partnerships, where I think where does my audience exist? Where are the authors I want to work with?

Well, I know that authors need book editors and book coaches and publishing companies. So how do I create relationships with those companies so that I become their go-to person for building out their author websites? And I started that year one with a publishing company out in California, and regularly over the years, it resulted in $50,000 to $75,000 worth of sales just through that one relationship.

So then I thought, “Well, okay. Let’s see who else I can have that relationship with.” So that’s part of the model too is getting other companies to send people over to me and just treat them like gold and give them commission for that lead. And so now, your word-of-mouth – when I’m doing summits or blogging or whatever, it is a service. But that also does it in turn. Never had to use Facebook ads.

I never come from a place of desperation like, “How am I going to get clients?” because it’s starting to spread it out. And even something like affiliate marketing is part of the revenue model. Any time that I can promote somebody else’s products, programs or services that I really believe in, that helps as well.

So I guess my theory is that you just put yourself out there and you try these different things and naturally it all adds up to a successful business. I never was in panic mode to get clients or anything.

Stephen: Yeah, and did you start out having, looking to begin agency and build it off your existing brand or what is the other way around? Was it agency first and people knew you through the agency?

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[09:38] Amber: So I set up the company first and I just decided that I would be the face of the brand because nobody knew what NGNG Enterprises was and nobody cared. So it would be easier for them to get to know Amber and get them to me as the face of the company.

So it wasn’t until about five years that I felt like the company was strong enough to stand on its own. So that’s when I started removing myself as the face, and now if you go to the website, insightfuldevelopment.com, you’ll see my picture equal size with everybody else on my team up there in the header.

And so, now we all have equal recognition and we’ve become your go-to support crew instead of just Amber-your-go-to-support-girl. So that’s how I decided to build it and it was really strong.

Stephen: Yeah. Now, that’s great. And especially now that you’ve established that brand. So that’s definitely, I love that idea. So with your pricing, that’s one thing which I think a lot of agencies shy away from. Do you go out there and show upfront we’ve got these prices or do you do it on a quote-by-quote basis? How do you go about offering prices to these clients?

Amber: I love how I do it, just so you know.

Stephen: I’m looking forward to hearing about it.

[10:50] Amber: Yeah, because it is tricky and I really struggled in the beginning where I held back my prices for the bigger packages and then I would have an hour-long call. And then I would have the pressure of unveiling my prices on the call. And then, maybe they’d hire me and maybe they wouldn’t. And it just felt like, “Wow, why am I doing this?”

So I got smarter about it. And what I did is I created what a service menu. And it’s literally this 20-page document that outlines our services in great detail and offers all of our pricing, our payment plans, full disclosure, here it is. So on my website, anywhere, there’s offers to request the service menu. So people send me an e-mail and they say, “Can I have your service menu?”

Now, I have their e-mail address and I don’t abuse that. But what I do is I send them a nice e-mail with a service menu and say, “Hey, let’s have a 30-minute call, if you’d like to connect.” If I haven’t heard back, I’ll follow up in two to three days. If I haven’t heard back, then I let it go and I don’t e-mail them again. Maybe I’ll e-mail them once every six months just to say, “Hey, at one point you requested my service menu.” But I really don’t push it.

If they have replied back and want that call, then it’s awesome because they already know my pricing so there’s no awkwardness in the call. It’s easy to sell because now I know that they’re 90% of the way there and they just want to meet me, answer a few questions and we’re good to go. And so, it just becomes a much easier call.

And also, because I’ve outlined the implementation process in the service menu, I don’t have to repeat myself on every single call. And so I actually got to pare my calls down from an hour down to 30 minutes as that initial discovery call, so I’m saving tremendous time. And it’s like the perfect opportunity for it to weed out the people that aren’t the right set.

So I’m not spending time on calls with people that I shouldn’t be having calls with. So this service menu has been just awesome. It’s been a total game-changer. And we still have this regular flow of leads constantly coming in, no dry spell. So it’s worked very well for us.

Stephen: And what type of conversion rate do you get on that menu. So do you find that you’re getting an X amount of percentage coming in and submitting that on the home page, or do you find that you’ve got X amount of people being closed on the calls? Do you have any sort of numbers behind that?

Amber: How embarrassing, but I really don’t.

Stephen: And the lead it’s going?

[13:29] Amber: Because honestly, this is going to sound really crappy, but honestly I’ve never really had a look at my conversion because we’re always busy. And as soon as I feel like, “Oh my gosh, we’re getting too busy,” I hire somebody else and then we’re good until I hire a new person.

So I haven’t really had to study or fine-tune that. But I would say that just guessing that probably every third or fifth person that requests a service menu will request a call with me. It seems like eight to nine out of 10 people will hire us on that call.

Stephen: At least you’ve got a bit of an idea, so that way you know just roughly how many people are coming, submitting and going through that little sales funnel.

Amber: Yeah, but it would be a fun exercise and maybe I’ll do that and get back to you.

Stephen: Yeah, let me know. I’d love to have you back on and then you can deliver the results.

Amber: Part two. Yeah, absolutely.

Stephen: And I had a look on the website as well, and you guys offer – now, I’m not sure, you might even correct me, I don’t know if it’s through NGNG or through yourself, but you do coaching and mentorship as well?

[14:36] Amber: Absolutely. And so that’s always been a part of it. And it’s not necessarily the Amber Vilhauer site, it’s not a different brand. It’s just a place for me to house my interviews and stuff like that.

So really the company is still NGNG. But within that, I am the only coach because I am the one that has the most experience with building business and launches and funnels and all that. So I consider myself an on-call coach. So if you want to hire me, you can hire me for one hour and then that’s it, and then you can come back in six months and hire me for another hour if you want to.

So unlike a lot of traditional coaching programs that force you into a bi-weekly call for a year-long commitment or something like that, I find that the people who are attracted to me, they just need to know “What do I do next?” And then they’ll go off and do it. And then, okay, “What do I need to do next?” And then they’ll go do it.

So I like to just make things easy on parties, myself and the client. And I’ll just be here when they need me.  And it’s worked out really well.

Stephen: Yeah, I like that. I think it would be casual as well and it allows work flexible around you, especially when you’ve got the business as well.

Amber: And the client is saving money because I’ve been in commitment for a coaching program for a year, spending $2,500 a month, and I thought, “Well, what about the months where I don’t fully utilize that?” I could be using that money for something else in my business.

And so, I just feel like it adds all this extra pressure, that I don’t want that. I have the simplest pricing terms and options for my clients to the point where people are like, “Really? You don’t have a retainer? Take my money if you haven’t done the work? What?” It’s like, “No, I’m just going to do whatever is easy and simple, and you save your money.”

Stephen: And that’s a great idea. When you think about it, there are mentors and masterminds out there that charge between $20,000, $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 a year. And then, there’s definitely months and weeks where you’re not involved. So I think like you say, if you use that money, you could put it to two or three different people’s one hour, one-on-one sessions.

And it comes to mind when you think, wasn’t that a lot more valuable having that direct one-on-one session an hour with maybe 50 different people over the course of a year? So it’s definitely a good way at looking at it.

Amber: And people think I’m nuts because I could be monetizing so much more if I did have a retainer process or if I was forcing people into a coaching. But that’s just an integrity with who I am or how I want to show up in business. Money is awesome, I respect money, I love money, but it’s not all about the money for me.

So I just try to make a win-win relationship with the client.

Stephen: Yeah, nice. I love that. And with your website, obviously you’ve been getting a lot of traction, a lot of visitors, how long have you been blogging and putting content for?

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[17:24] Amber: Since day one, that was my strategy from day one, was to blog. And I  really knew that the more I focus on that, the faster I would gain traction in Google which would be the faster, I’d get more traffic, then more people would share my content on social media, which would then increase my traffic and credibility even more, and therefore my conversion rate. It’s incredible what a blog can really do for your business.

So really, from day one, I’ve been putting content out into the world.

Stephen: And how have you seen that affect your business and your brand?

Amber: It’s totally responsible for all of our success, I would say. It’s been the reason that I have been invited to speaking engagements, summits, podcasts, and guest blogs. It’s the reason that I have the authority and the credibility in the industry that I do in a very competitive market. Come one, how many people out there say that they build websites?

Stephen: Yeah, that’s true.

Amber: Or that they do Internet marketing coaching, like billions of people? So I think that by having a steady, consistent content strategy, then you do become the top dog in that industry, or at least one of them. I don’t need to be number one, I just need to put myself out there, so that I’m getting enough traffic to keep me and my team busy, to keep us happy.

Stephen: Yeah, 100%. And with the blog, did you see it sort of begin to spiral, began to see visitors or be asked to come on podcasts after a certain amount of time? How long did it take for that sort of tipping point to occur?

Amber: Good question, I usually tell my clients to get to 100 blog posts as fast as possible, because something really does transition at that 100 mark. I’ve seen it happen much sooner than that, but it really comes down to the industry.

For me, because I have such a competitive industry and especially in this space, especially with blogging, I had produced a lot more content than like if I were a dietician or if I were a dog trainer. There’s just not much competition there.

Stephen: Some of those have fewer niches.

Amber: Yeah, totally. So it depends on the industry. But you have to be in it for the long haul. I never opened up my website and thought I was going to get overnight results, which is why in the meantime, while I was waiting for this blog to take off, that’s why I went outside of the online world into getting strategic partnerships set up, build relationships, what else could I be doing to implement income until I knew this thing was really going to take off?

Stephen: Yeah and how long was that period where you were going out and trying to supplement your income until it took off?

Amber: Probably a year for me. I didn’t have an aggressive plan. I think that some people have a way more aggressive plan than I ever even thought of when I first started. And I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself because I wasn’t an expert when I set up my website.

I wanted to test different strategies and follow different people, and really spend the time to become an expert. And that works really, really well for me and my personality type. So I would say it was about a year before I really started gaining a different kind of traction, and we’ve grown. Every single year, we keep increasing, so never had anything like that?

Stephen: Yeah, that’s awesome. And so it’s really a testament to like all the content, all the effort you’ve put into the website and the blog as well. And you can just sort this. I’m sure that traffic wouldn’t, everything would be the same. It just keeps going up.

Amber: Yeah. And with traffic, I can actually monitor that which is pretty cool. So if I feel like I’m getting too many leads too quickly, I can just ease off blogging for a little bit and then watch my traffic go down, and then I’ll hit it hard if I feel like, “Okay, we’re ready for another surge.”

I really do tend to have control over that once you have that platform built, then you start to get results much faster and you can gauge how much you want to push it or not. But in the beginning, you don’t have that option. In the beginning, it’s hard to get that momentum built. But once it’s built, it’s really easy to control it, I think.

Stephen: Yeah, definitely, 100% agree with that one. And I think especially with what you’ve done now, you’ve got that opportunity like you said, to either go really hard at it and start marketing and really growing it or you’ve got that opportunity to just take a step back and let it go slower and get the team together and weed it out the issues and move forward.

Amber: Yeah, I got to be honest, I really love the size that my company is right now. And we’re profiting and everybody’s happy. My people are getting paid. I love paying my people.

The second an invoice comes in, I pay it immediately. And they’re like, “Wow, you’re so fast.” And I say, “Well, yeah, you deserve it.” It’s awesome.

But we’re in such a good place right now and I feel like if we grew too much, I would start to not know the people on my team as much, because there’s just too many of them. So I don’t know that I’m interested in building this humongous company or anything like that, I’m pretty happy with where we are as long we keep growing and doing smarter things, then I think it’s going to be great.

Stephen: Yeah and how long do you think you’re looking to maintain? Are you looking to grow it in the future or do you think in that league for maybe this year? Or is this something you’re looking to just I guess stay the same for as long as possible and keep it as tight and as well-run as possible?

Amber: Hard to say, man. We’re definitely up 40% already this year over last year. So we’re doing very well this year. And it’s really interesting is that if you have had asked me a year ago even, I was convinced this whole time that the web company was not ultimately what was going to be my true purpose, passion or career.

I figured that the web company was going to be incredible, a great opportunity, learn a ton. Then, I was going to slow down and have a family. And then I was going to ramp back up for my second bigger career in teen mentorship of all things, just something completely different because I have a huge passion for teens and entrepreneurship, so maybe there was something there I could see myself opening up a charity someday.

So I don’t know where it’s all headed. I have to be honest, right now; I’m still in love with my company. I can’t imagine doing anything else. But I’m just really open to continuing to be the best person that I can be, grow the best company I can grow, and groom the best team that I can groom, impact the clients the best that I can.

And the rest, I’m okay either way. I’m cool to just kick back and see where it goes. And that’s really where I’m at.

Stephen: Yeah, that’s awesome. Well, look. We’ll wind it up pretty soon. But I’ve got one question which I know a lot of our audience would love to hear the answer to.

Amber: Sure.

Stephen: And that is, you’ve done now you mentioned over a hundred blog posts, so that’s a lot of posting and a lot of typing, what comes into your mind – sorry, what was that?

Amber: I’ve done hundreds now, its pretty nuts. Yeah.

Stephen: That’s crazy. There you go. Hundreds of blog posts. What comes into your mind when you write one? So do you have a certain template, not like template-template, but a certain model that you use when you put together?

Do you have a certain word count?

Do you use a certain headline?

Give us a little rundown on what goes through your mind when you write a new blog post?

[24:52] Amber: So, the answer is no to most of that. But what I do is I think, “Okay, I need to write my blogpost. What should I write about?” And I start thinking about my main category topics, like branding, website copy, social media launches, then I think, “Okay.

Well, I guess I could do something about launches. That feels inspiring at the moment.” So then I think, “What about launches?” Okay, maybe like this “Six Mistakes to Avoid with Your Summit Launch” or something. And then I think, “Okay, yeah. I could write about that.” So I come up with some creative headline and then I just flow. I just let it come out whatever length it’s supposed to come out, whatever format it’s supposed to come out. And then, I always end with a call to action.

Stephen: That’s good. You need that.

Amber: Yeah, and a few things like formatting-wise that I’m just conditioned to do now is I don’t have big long paragraphs because it’s a snooze fest for somebody to try to get through. So short paragraphs, some paragraphs are a sentence. It’s like just short and I’m very detailed. I’m very thorough, so I get specific because I know that that’s important to people.

And then I try to do lists, bullet points. If I can, I’ll try to break the article up into sections like “Tip Number 1,” and that becomes the headline for that next section. So I think that just from a user standpoint, it’s easy to break up the content and I try to make it easy for my readers.

But other than that, no, some are really long, some are short, some are medium; sometimes I have a video, sometimes I don’t. And I think that’s part of the good thing about blogging is that it can always be different and that keeps it interesting for your readers too.

So I just wing it and it always work. But one last thing I will say, that if I had one thing that I always keep in mind when I do write my blog posts or do anything, videos, social media, is I really think about ‘Heather’, who is my client avatar. And I decide if there is only one person that I could choose to work with for the rest of my life, who would that be? And I created this character and her name is Heather.

So when I sit down to write a blog post, I think about where Heather’s at in her mindset, where she’s at in just her skills with technology or does she know about what a summit even is? Or has she already run one?

And by really focusing in on Heather, I can write an awesome blog post that really speaks to that person. And now, because of that, I am attracting so many people like Heather. And by the way, 50% of my client base is men even though I’m marketing Heather. And so, it’s just your conversion gets so much better when you do that. So if there was one thing I do, it’s always think about Heather when I’m sitting down to write.

Stephen: Love Heather, love that. And it’s really funny because I’m in the office right now, the guy sitting next to me; he does a lot of volume too. And he’s got literally his ideal client plastered on the wall with a photo, and his name is Ben. So I’m sure Ben and Heather certainly meet together and read your blog posts.

Amber: Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s an exercise I do for my clients. And it’s so cool because I’ll ask them dozens of questions.

They’re always different for each client. At the end, we’ve created this character. And they’re always so different.

And every time, it always surprises the client what story comes out. And it’s always very different than who they’d thought they were marketing to before that process. So it’s really interesting.

[28:26] Stephen: Love that. Well, look, Amber, it’s been fantastic having you on today. And I know our audience has had a heap of information. So I think now we’re going to have a lot to go and apply and, look, there are just a lot of golden nuggets.

Amber: I loved it. It felt like rapid fire. I was right in the flow. You’re a great interviewer. So thanks for having me on your show.

Stephen: Awesome. Sounds good, Amber. Well, I’m sure we’ll talk to you soon and take care.

Amber: Thank you.

FEATURED DOWNLOAD: Read and download the full transcription of Episode 33. Let’s talk about Website Agency & Branding Strategies With Amber Vilhauer
(Click Here to Download Transcription)

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