#21: How to Run Your Own Marketing Agency with Clara Baldwin
Welcome to The Creator's Adventure where we interview creators from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business.
Today we are talking with Clara Baldwin about how to run a marketing agency, acquire and manage clients, and get out of your comfort zone.
Learn More about Clara Baldwin: https://linktr.ee/clarabaldwin
Bryan McAnulty: Welcome to the Creator's Adventure, where we interview Creator's from around the world, hearing their stories about growing a business. My name is Bryan McAnulty. I'm the founder of Heights Platform. And today I'm talking with Clara Baldwin about how to run a marketing agency, acquire and manage clients and getting out of your comfort zone.
Hey everyone. We're here today with Clara Baldwin. She's an entrepreneur from Kansas city and the founder of two marketing agencies, cure medical marketing, and ground plan studio marketing, a national digital agency that serves clients all over the United States. Providing SEO graphic design, business strategy, launching growth, lead generation and development in online presence.
She also launched a nonprofit for domestic abuse survivors called peace over pieces. Clara has won many business awards, including being the winner of the top 100 small business awards and was a finalist for business woman of the year, 2022 by woman business awards, Clara, welcome to the show.
Clara Baldwin: Hi Bryan.
Thank you for having me.
Bryan McAnulty: So my first question for you is if you could tell us a little bit about yourself and how your career as an entrepreneur started.
Clara Baldwin: Yeah, absolutely. So, yes, you mentioned I am from Kansas city. I'm a big Midwest girl, even though everyone I work with is not from the Midwest. But I was raised in a family of five and my mom is from Thailand.
I'm a first generation American you know, was raised. Two hours away from where I live in Columbia, Missouri. I had lost sports growing up, mainly tennis and went to college for that as well at Westminster in Fulton, Missouri, which is next door to my hometown. But yeah, I honestly faced a lot of adversity growing up.
I didn't have money. As an abusive household. So that's why it led to my nonprofit as well. And I know that's like jumping into darkness already, but it kind of sets up like who I am my personality and like why I am entrepreneurial, because it kind of led me to start my first business when I was 16 years old.
I had a drop shipping company back when the industry wasn't so saturated and that kind of, it bloomed my my business side essentially. So yeah. I left the house at 18, went to college for computer science and marketing, and then started my two businesses, my junior year of college, and then my second marketing agency a year after graduation.
So it's been a pretty wild ride.
Bryan McAnulty: Awesome. Cool. That's a, a great introduction. Now you have these two marketing agencies, ground plan studio, and cure medical marketing. Can you explain what the kind of services you provide with these C.
Clara Baldwin: Yeah, absolutely. So I started with ground plan studio and I thought I wanted to do website development as everyone in the market industry when they first start and then you quickly find out every single person alive has a website and it's not needed thing anymore.
It was back in the early two thousands. That was like the gold mine. So I quickly was like, okay, I have to find different needs in the marketing industry. So. Honestly provides so many things at this point, but it started with like social media and then it grew to mainly an ad agency. And then we provide things like, you know, PR SEO graphic design, like leads, funnels, everything you could really imagine.
And I kind of give a guarantee to my client. Like if I can't provide it, then I'm gonna go find someone to. Cool.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Actually in my research. So the way that we do this is we have a a writer who she's putting together most of the questions and research for me, but mm-hmm before this interview I went and was taking a look at your site.
And I think I noticed somewhere, you mentioned about how, like, nowadays, like you have to continuously like be educated and, and keep learning about everything, cuz it's changing so rapidly. Yes, it's definitely, really is like that. Cuz I started my business as a web design studio back in 2009. Oh awesome.
At that time it was like where you would do a web design. It meant like you were going to make something in Photoshop. And then the web developer was going to cut up a bunch of images from it and all of that. And it just changed so rapidly. Even, even like during the time we were going through that myself personally, I started that right out of high school.
I didn't go to college and I felt like, gotcha. If I went to college, by the time I got out, like it, whatever I have learned it would've already been different. Cuz by that time it even switched to like, okay, well we're not gonna use father shop anymore. You're gonna, you can just design in the browser and use the CSS.
So the web designer now has to know how to be a web developer. And yeah, everything changes really quickly. So it is an interesting field all the time.
Clara Baldwin: Definitely. No, I'm, I'm a big believer in like every day, everything changes and it can be overwhelming, especially in digital marketing. And there's a lot of theories out there, which is the worst part because you're kind of alone as an entrepreneur.
And then there's like a million different opinions and questions from clients. And you honestly like. Doing this for going on 10 years now, I'm just like, you have to go with your gut and also just test a lot of things, cuz everyone's going to be a different experiment essentially. So there's not one formula for anyone and you're honestly not gonna know at first, like exactly what to do for them, but the key is just test a lot, get a lot of data and that will lead you.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Cool. So yeah. Could you actually expand on that even more and say like in terms of mindset, like what would you say it takes to be a entrepreneur and really start from the ground?
Clara Baldwin: Yeah. Yeah, it's a good question. Honestly, when I first started, I was so scared of everything. I was scared of rejection.
I was scared of getting on phone calls. So I guess the number one thing would be just. Just face rejection, like head on, like, just know like inevitably you're going to face rejection and it's gonna be scary. But you, once you get over that hump, you can do a lot and reach all of your accomplishments.
That, and also being resourceful. I feel like cuz. You're not gonna know 90% of the things you run across in the beginning. So you have to constantly teach yourself, look up resources, just sharpen your skills and get better at everything in your field. Because if you roll over when you don't know something and you panic because you given a task and you know, again, you're not sure what to do.
You can quickly sink in the industry. So I would say. Yeah, just have confidence in yourself and know that every business owner is gonna go through the same thing and also constantly research.
Bryan McAnulty: That's a great tip. Yeah. I think in, in your industry, especially it, it happens even more so for business owners or Creator's out there in other industries, definitely.
Don't be afraid to try out. Working on something, even if you haven't done it before. Cuz again, I can relate to that in like the web design world and everything, what we were doing that a client comes to you and they, they want to use some kind of different technology or whatever it is. And you're not super familiar with that.
Mm-hmm but you have to find a way that like, well, how can I hire someone or have somebody else help that is, and we can learn it and then know it going forward. So there's definitely so much of that. Think in your age. Cool. So both of your companies are marketing agencies and the services that you offer, it looks like through both of them are pretty similar.
So can you explain what was the reason that you created this second more targeted company for the medical industry?
Clara Baldwin: Okay. Yeah. So I took a bunch of courses eventually after being self-taught I had this thing in my mind, I was like, I have to go through courses to make sure what I'm doing is right.
And to see what other people are doing. So it was essentially a marketing agency owners. Academy. So, you know, paid a loan, lump sum of money to go to that. Just to say, you know what? I have no self doubt anymore. Not that you need that after going through it. I don't think you need it at all. Anyways, I went through it and they really honed in on me saying, you need a niche.
Like you need to do one niche and really. Really Excel in it and it will help your revenues and it will help your businesses. And I quickly found out that's not true. So I don't know for me, I, I just wanted to start that agency to say, like I told you so, but I personally like. like all niches. I love waking up every day and I have a new client and a new industry to research and work with and just learn about what they do.
So, you know, some people it's like they start a new niche. Mine was medical. I just wanted to go with that to see if it excelled. And it did. It's like, it's kind of the same. Same thing, like you said, same services just honing in on medical clients. But I hope that's not discouraging. It's just kind of a way of me saying like, okay, I told you, so I tried your niche theory and I think that doing what I wanna do and what I'm passionate for was the ultimate in case for me.
So I'm actually probably veering back to ground plan studio only full-time, but I kind of went that path just to test different things.
Bryan McAnulty: Mm. Got it. Well, I think that's interesting. And I think that's a good point, especially with the prevalence of everyone nowadays saying you need a niche and it's gotta be a, you gotta pick a niche.
Yeah. We say it ourselves even. So it's interesting to address because myself, when I started my company as a web design company we were similar to yourself that there was no niche. It was just like, we can help you. We can do all these things. And we offered even like video services and other things at the time as well.
I guess with that, eventually we did niche down a little bit more and eventually that transformed as the industry transformed, where we moved from like websites to web applications. And now that led us to building our, our course creation software that we have today. But I also enjoyed really when we, we didn't have a specific target being able to work with that variety of customers and yeah, definitely.
So think that that is a good point to make that if you're a creator or a business owner out there and you feel that you enjoy working with all different kinds of people and you, you, you feel that you can go that route and you don't need a niche. Then I think you don't have to pick one. If you're worried about what to do.
You don't have any kind of special specialization then I think the niche can help you in making basically your marketing, your service being tailored to a specific kind of client. But if you feel that you have the experience and you feel that you can serve different kind of people and that's what you wanna do then, then definitely.
I think that's a, that's a fine approach as well.
Clara Baldwin: 100%. I totally agree. And you know, sometimes niches are easy because you can almost duplicate and you master your craft in one area. But for me, I just really have a passion for like all industries. So there's really no wrong way. It's just your needs, honestly.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. All right. So back to your business career on top of the marketing agencies, you also founded a nonprofit organization to protect the victims of domestic abuse called peace over pieces. Can you go into a little bit more detail of like, what inspired you to found this nonprofit?
Clara Baldwin: Yeah, of course. Obviously as I did this, you know, developed this nonprofit, I became more comfortable with the reason why.
And that was, like I said, in the beginning, I was raised with a lot of adversity growing up. My father was extremely abusive to my mom and the kids, like every day of our life for all 18 years of my existence. So. It took a toll on me severely as a person. Like the person I am today is a completely opposite person of who I was in high school, middle school elementary.
I was honestly a very. Just scarred, really dark person, mysterious. Like I, I had a lot going on at home, so I was, you know, bullied and I was really sensitive and it was just like, everything was stacking on my emotional being and like how to get out of this trap. And I think that domestic abuse is something that's like, it's just not talked about.
I mean, in case like the recent years it's really been. UN surfaced. But back when I was younger, there were no resources for me. There was hotlines, but of course, people in that situation you're really scared. Like you don't, you have, you never have an opportunity to call a hotline when you live with someone that's, you're constantly in danger and being looked at.
So I, you know, my dream was like, I'm gonna get myself and my mom outta the situation and my siblings and my dream one day is to use the money from a business to really create something that is like a support system for children, women, men, anyone going through abuse. Because I feel like, yeah, there's shelters, but again, you can't really escape.
That's the whole problem. It's like, you don't have. Financial resources. You don't, you're not, you know, brave enough cuz you can't relate to anyone. You have no one to look at. So what piece over piece is, is like I have a podcast and I bring on, you know, previous survivors of abuse and we just go from zero to.
Their whole story of like how the abuse started and we uncover why and like how that affected them and how they deal with trauma and how they escaped the situation. That way. It's like, I would've given anything to hear podcasts when I was younger like that, because it would've made me feel less alone.
It would've given me insight on how to get out of those situations. So the main part is just to make people feel normalized and that they're not alone. In these podcasts. And I also released an anthology book and it has like 14 stories, including my own at the end of like just various people and their stories.
And yeah, so everything I do in that organization is a hundred percent donation and it goes to transitioning people out of their abusive situations.
Bryan McAnulty: Oh, yeah, that's great. Yeah. I think from what I can tell from what I know about you so far, I, I feel like I'm getting the impression that you've figured out kind of the things that you wanna go after and what you wanna create as a business for yourself, ideally, and then you're, you're going and doing that.
And I think that's great. And I think it's a good example to other Creator's who. Getting started and thinking, okay, well, like I kind of wanna do do these things in the future. But why, why not just go and work on all them now? And that seems like that's what you're doing, so that's awesome.
Definitely. Thank you. So I guess in, in that line, what would you suggest to somebody who wants to start their own marketing agency?
Clara Baldwin: Ooh, I would say just, you know, get your ducks lined up. Sit down. Think about what exactly are your goals? In the beginning, even if it's one client, two clients a month and obviously you have to just keep teaching yourself skills.
You're probably gonna run into mistakes a lot in the beginning, and you're not going to know what you're doing. You're gonna be lost, but if you just realize that mistakes are needed and you're gonna learn from them and constantly improve your systems and also make your life easier, I would say study a lot of softwares.
You're going to run across a new software every day with a client. And also you need, you know, certain softwares to make your processes easier because ultimately you're one person you can't take on a million things a day. You're going to quickly fizzle out in that aspect. Because when I first started, I didn't have employees.
I try to take every single thing on from the designs, the writing, you know, and I get that a lot of people, they are against agencies, but you can still be a front man to your business and make blueprints and like have the creatives and be the only stream of contact. But also you can realize, like you don't have to put everything on your shoulders.
Like you do, mainly all the blueprints in my opinion. And then you figure out ways to make it easier. That way you can grow fast. So if I was, you know, looking at myself when I first started, I would definitely say that and not. Get lost in the stress either. Just take it day by day and forget about the bed day, cuz I would just hold on to the rejection and the emotions in it.
And you just can't get lost in that. You have to stay strong.
Bryan McAnulty: Got it. So for somebody listening who, who might say like, okay, well that sounds that sounds great, but like I still don't understand like how, how do I get from starting to like where you are today? So. Can you explain a little bit of like, I guess briefly, I know it's, it is a long story probably, but like how you went from like, starting, just being yourself doing the marketing agency and then turning that into something where now you have a team like what did that look like for you?
Like when did you start to outsource something? How, how did you figure out how to do that?
Clara Baldwin: Okay. So I guess in short, How I started was figuring out different dreams to get clients. So you have to look at everything from social media outreach to. You know, Upwork freelancer, lot of many people start there.
So you have to start and get a really good proposal. Even if you don't have a big portfolio, you have to have a really strong application as any job. So really work on making it, you know, refined and like super professional and tell them what you're gonna do for them. They don't want to know. They don't wanna know, like the basic, oh, I, I can run, you know, applications.
I can post, I can design. They wanna know like, how are you gonna better their business? So when I went into a proposal, I would customize every single proposal cuz normally they hook their website on it, their company on it, I would do a personal free presentation for every single client that was personalized.
I put their logo on the. Slide. And I would go deep dive into every single thing. Do I have time for that today? No, but I still do it because I'm like, it really makes you stand out. Like, that's one of my secrets of getting so many clients is just like go above and beyond. Don't just do the normal application.
So once I started doing that and I refined a really good proposal, they were pouring in and then I started, you know, needing to outsource more work because I was getting overwhelmed and the tasks were building up every day. I think I was work working like 50, 60 hours a week. But so when you get to that point, I would say, I, I personally love Asana, so it's a free application.
You can do your, you can delegate task in there to employees and you know, set due dates very easily. It it's just so user friendly. So training is really intimidating to people, but I honestly use Upwork to outsource all my employees. It's the best platform ever. I put a post up. I say, I need a graphic designer.
Boom. They categorize people from top rated to lowest rated. I go straight to the top rated and I interview the top five super easy send 'em a couple messages, and then you choose and you're like, all right, let's get on a quick phone call. And you. Delegate. That's all you have to do, honestly, with outsourcing.
It's not as intimidating as you think. You just have to get on it, cuz people put it off. And so I try to make point to you know, keep hiring people. So you don't just put on one person either like you spread out, you know, I do like five hours a week for all my employees and just keep hiring. So they enjoy their job.
They're getting paid well, you know, for what they're doing, which is not much. And and they're eager to work. So those are, I guess my outsourcing secrets.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Yeah. That's definitely helpful. So has your like role day to day changed in any way from like when you started to now as far as like what you do in the company?
Clara Baldwin: Yeah. I mean, I still have weeks where I work a lot. But my ultimate goal obviously is like, I just wanna be the person who does the blueprints and the communication and the vision, and then kind of outsource it. So, and of course I'm monitoring constantly, but yeah, from the beginning, when I was working 50, 60 hours and I was tied down to my computer and phone, like twenty four seven, I could never go back to that.
Now I have a very healthy relationship with my business. My employees, my time management, I travel like more than three fourths of the year, basically. And I'm doing all the things that I dreamt of doing, because I took the steps to outsource and get here. So yes, it's completely different. And it was a journey, but I love it.
Bryan McAnulty: So with your marketing agency's clients, how often would you say you run into a situation where like you have to educate the client and what do you do to like communicate the importance of something like that? Especially since in marketing, it can be hard to show an immediate ROI.
Clara Baldwin: Oh, that is a good question.
That is the, the biggest problem with a lot of marketing agency owners is we work with older generations. They barely even know how to work a phone sometimes. So when they're like, Hey. When can you make me go viral? When can you gimme 10,000 followers? Like give me a day. And it's just so frustrating, cuz it's like, we're concentrating on the wrong things and I get that.
They don't understand, but you really just have to take your time to explain to them. And I've learned over time. Like I have a whole folder of documents of like explanations of my processes because it got really exhausting trying to explain things over email and phone. So I actually have a big folder of.
If they were to ask, you know, what's an algorithm or what's SEO, how are you improving my SEO? Like I basically write down every single step in process that way I can copy it over. And it's very easy and less stressful. And I also just like, Send frequent updates. And every time I do something, I explain it in an email or a text, or I call them just like, have them learn beside you because one problem in the industry is that clients go dark.
They just go like rogue and don't talk. And then suddenly. Bad. So I learned quickly, like I can't let them not talk. I have to like pull them out of the dark and say, what do you like about what I'm doing? What do you wanna see from me? Because if you don't do that, I would say their retention rates around like one to two months, one to three months, if you're constantly checking in on them and teaching them, you can get that retention rate to up to long term, like six months to years.
So my ultimate goal right now is to keep my retention rate up. And it is a process I'm still.
Bryan McAnulty: Well, yeah. You're you're giving me flashbacks to when I was doing the, the design agency but yeah, I think, oh, I'm sure. I think as an agency, you really have to like an agency owner, like a lot of your job is really as like a communicator and kind of a translator between like the client and your team.
So you have to explain to right. The client. What you understand what they want and you have to explain to them, they, they might have heard some of these technical terms, but they're not really connecting it. And so then you have to take their vision and then communicate it to your team so they can actually create that for them.
Exactly. Exactly. Cool. So with the team that you're working with does your team actually help you get new clients? If not, what is your preferred way of acquiring clients today?
Clara Baldwin: Okay. A little thing that. I found, I don't know if I invented this, but I called a growth clerk. It's a virtual assistant, essentially.
Cuz I was, you know, it gets tiring to go on websites like Upwork and freelancer and just depend on that. And you also never wanna depend on one stream for your clients cuz of what happens if that goes out, you're completely done. So I actually like hired. Like four or five growth clerks. And essentially there are people who work for me, full-time around the clock and send messages to get leads.
So based on the target audience they'll probably target like business owners. Obviously I make a message for them. To send out and like with my calendar. And then I did not invent this by the way, with that, this happens all the time. But back when I found this, I thought I did. So I, I really hone in on the personal aspect.
So they'll send a message with my calendar. That's short. Sweet, maybe a question then I follow up with voice note. I've found that that works really well with people, or at least it gives you the time of day to jump on a quick call with them. Because everyone's getting spam nowadays. So I do that, obviously I still open up streams like freelancer, Upwork, fiber.
I just wanna come in at all angles. So I just have them constantly coming in and I just continue to.
Bryan McAnulty: So like this cold outreach, is it like typically through like a single channel? Is it through all the channels? Like, is it like LinkedIn Facebook messenger emails?
Clara Baldwin: Yes. It's LinkedIn and Instagram DMS.
And Instagram's actually really the number one reaction I've seen because I tell them to follow them like their top five picks comments on their picks and also comment I messaged. So they go looking for like the spam in case it goes there. And yeah, I feel like when you pay extra attention to 'em, rather than just sending a random bot message through like this bot account really works.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a good point because yeah, definitely there there's a lot of people. I think kind of abusing the, the systems and, and automation possibilities in, in this kind of cold outreach. Yeah. So when you're a business that has this genuine interest to help a specific client, and when you can show that and, and add that personalization it can really make all the difference.
Clara Baldwin: Absolutely.
Bryan McAnulty: Yeah. I. Awesome. So one of the things we like to do on this show is have each of our guests ask a question to our audience. So if there was anything you could ask our audience, what would that be?
Clara Baldwin: Okay. My question is when is the last time you got out of your comfort zone? Because. I feel like that's the key to just loving life and improving yourself in business and personal is get out of your comfort zone at least once a day.
Like that is my motto. And it will just help your confidence in your experiences and your opportunities. They just open up if you really, you know, get out of your skin every once in a while. So yeah, that would be my question. Ask yourself once a day, how am I gonna get outta my comfort zone and just do it, pull the plug.
Bryan McAnulty: All right. Well, great. Thank you, Clara. So this was all the questions I had, but before we get going where else can people find you online?
Clara Baldwin: Yeah, so all of my social media, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook it's Clara Baldwin. So just search that up and add me if you want. And then ground plan studio piece over pieces is my nonprofit.
You can look all of those up and they will be available. All right. Awesome. Thanks. All right. Thank you for having me.
Bryan McAnulty: If you enjoyed this interview and want the chance to ask questions to our guests live tune in on Tuesdays. When new episodes premiere on the Heights Platform, Facebook page, to learn more about the show and get notified when new episodes released, check out the Creator's Adventure dot com until then keep learning and I'll see you in the next episode.