Today I sat down with Ben Magnuson from Hive Growth Partners, a performance marketing agency which mixes things up by charging clients a commission or per lead fee vs. high monthly retainers. We talk about the benefits of incorporating such a model and the challenges he faces as well with the model, and as a relatively newer built agency.

Ben’s Bio:

Ben Magnuson is the founder of Hive Growth Partners, which kicked off at the start of 2022. He has 5 years of sales experience in an agency setting and translated this into a unique, B2B model for scaling businesses across North America. Hive is a performance-based business development firm that executes sales and sourcing for companies looking to scale while minimizing financial risk.

You can learn more about Ben at https://www.hivegrowthpartners.com

       

Transcript:

Jason Yormark: Hello, and welcome to another episode of anti-agency stories, stories of doing business differently. I am excited about our guest today. I’ve worked with him over the past couple years. I’d like to welcome Ben Magnuson from Hive growth partners. Ben, welcome to the show.

Ben Magnuson: Thanks, Jason. Yeah, it’s great to be here. Looking forward to chatting.

Jason Yormark: Awesome. Well, let’s just get started. Tell the folks a little bit about yourself, your history, and what that led you to what you’re doing right now.

Ben Magnuson: For sure. Yeah. So, background science nerd, all through kind of high school university did a bachelor’s degree in biology. Transition there, I didn’t know much about business, did a Master of Management at UBC. Always lived in British Columbia here and then, yeah, I got on with a digital marketing agency from there built out kind of like a you know, business development, sales-based skill set.

And then yeah. Recently transitioned to launching Hive growth partners at the start of 2022. So, we’re about six months in right now. And yeah, it’s a performance-based business development model. We help companies, agencies, all different Types of companies that are B2B specifically find ways to generate leads and then help them facilitate in closing those leads.

Jason Yormark: Gotcha. So, you’ve recently taken the leap from kind of like traditional job nine to five or working for somebody else to kind of start Hive. So, I’m, what I’m really curious about in terms of kicking off the conversation is what made you decide to take that leap?

Ben Magnuson: That’s a good question. I don’t really think it was like one thing necessarily. My wife and I were moving to Boston, so that was kind of an opportunity to say, okay, I can use this, you know, we’re down here for five months. I can use this to build out a remote model kind of take that leap, see how it goes. And if after five months the risk, you know, didn’t really pay off, then maybe come back to BC, assess my network, see what companies I want to work for. And then jump into something. Thankfully, it’s been a successful start here and so far, so good. So, we’re rolling with hive and things are going well there.

Jason Yormark: Okay. So was it something, so it sounds like maybe it was driven a little bit more about kind of wanting to travel a little bit, when you were kind of, you know, with me, I always felt like, I mean, in my situation’s much more longer, like I always felt like I wanted to do my own thing for many, many years, but just, you know, the stars didn’t align until, you know, four or five years ago. So, I mean, did you, have you always felt like you were kind of wired to kind of be your own boss, do your own thing, or was it like, Hey, this, you know, let’s give this a shall like, I’m just kind of curious about, you know, how wired you felt you were as an entrepreneur, or is it more just driven by other life things that you wanted to do that align more closely to kind of being your own boss?

Ben Magnuson: For sure. Yeah. I think there is always this, for me there’s always been this lingering feeling of like, I would like to endeavor down the path of trying my own thing and see how it goes. So, you know, I’ve got a phone list of notes with like five to 10 business ideas and oftentimes wake up at two in the morning. I’m like, that’s an idea. I need to write that down. And that’s kind of my focus period, but yeah, so there’s always that lingering feeling. And then this was kind of a business, you know, whenever I have an idea, I’ll usually run it past like 5 or 10 people I trust kind of get their take on it. You know, there’s always mixed reviews and, and I love critical feedback, and this was one that had kind of just sat with me longer.

Usually, you know, I’ll have an idea and then two to three weeks later I’ll kind of be like, yeah, I just don’t think that’s the one. This one sat with me for a little bit longer. I’m passionate about taking the risk away from clients and doing purpose driven work. And so that’s kind of why I chose to jump into this model specifically. But yeah, I think, you know, I don’t necessarily consider myself an entrepreneur, but I guess this makes me one. So, I’m excited to kind of be on this journey. And I think if I was, you know, 40 years old in a set career, looking back 15 years later, I probably would’ve regretted not trying my own thing at this age. And you know, the timing worked out with, like I said, the move to Boston and all the other things that we have going on in our life right now.

Jason Yormark: How long had you been thinking or planning to take this jump or was it kind of a, was it a long runway or was it a relatively short runway? Like when you took the leap, were you kind of starting from ground zero or had you put some things in motion while you were currently still employed to kind of create a little bit of momentum that you’re jumping into?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, so I was senior business development, director of business development at a marketing agency based in Vancouver for four and a half years. Two and a half into that, I launched kind of the Cologna branch, which is where I live. So launched kind of satellite office there. In that transition I also launched a YouTube channel. And so that was kind of my first taste of doing my own thing and trying to monetize a YouTube channel, you know, grow it on social media and it’s in the world of golf. So that was kind of a fun side weekend hobby that I’ve been able to kind of grow on the side. And so that was that initial taste.

And then having those ideas, they definitely started, well, I was still at agency media. I was kind of executing or thinking about these ideas, running them past people. I kind of had a feeling that I would be making a transition. I had you know few different past colleagues and companies approach me about doing business development and sales for them. And then that’s kind of where I started to think, okay, these would be opportunities where maybe it wouldn’t make sense for me to necessarily be a direct partner in their business and working for that one company.

But I could do what I’m doing now for multiple companies and then have a very tight team, a very tight list of clients that we work with very closely. And that was kind of that nudge that I needed to have. Okay. If I was to make this transition, I would have, you know, clients right away that are excited to work with us. So yeah, it was, you know, I would say it was like a six-month runway there and then made the transition at the start of this year.

Jason Yormark: Gotcha. Awesome. So, you talk a little bit about performance marketing, kind of taking that approach to things. I know some people that are listening to problem might know what that is, but just to kind of help position the rest of the conversation, kind of share a little bit about what makes that, what’s different about that versus traditional agencies? What’s the benefit to clients and what does that look like to them versus like a traditional kind of agency relationship?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, for sure. So as a company, we don’t necessarily do digital marketing or advertising. That’s not in our core areas. So, our focus is, you know direct business to business connections, networking, and sales. And so that’s outbound emails, LinkedIn, cold calling. Those are kind of the three core areas where we’re able to generate results. And then the whole model is based around, like you said, performance based. So, it’s essentially commission.

What we do is we have a base retainer to engage with us. And then our primary source of income comes down to lead introduction fees with qualified leads, as well as commission, once those leads close for like the first six months to a year of that new client being brought on board. The reason we do that is it takes risk away from our clients. It allows us to say no to more clients and work with companies we really feel a strong relationship with and feel that they are purpose driven. And yeah, so, you know, it’s kind of like the way I’ll often explain it is, this could be a terrible metaphor, but is you’ve got a realtor they’re finding a buyer and a seller, and we’re, you know, essentially B2B business brokers looking to find a service provider and somebody who has a specific need. And our job is to kind of connect those two.

So, you know, there’s a lot of consulting involved. We’re not doing a direct sale where it’s like, okay, here’s this company targeting this client in many cases, you know, that is the situation. But if we find that a conversation we’re having with it, a client who has a need will be better suited to a different supplier, then we will kind of facilitate that introduction accordingly.

Jason Yormark: Got it. How have you found in terms of business development for yourself has taking that approach? Do you feel like it’s increased your close rate in terms of kind of lowering the barrier, I guess, to clients making the decision to work with you? Have you found it, they find it easier, I guess to say yes to you and taking that on? Do you find that it’s been a little bit more successful in that regard?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, absolutely. I think, you know, for me, the biggest challenge in that area has just been, how do I build out like an effective pricing structure. Right now, everything is strictly just customized based on the client versus doing like tiered packages. But yeah, I mean, it really is a situation where it’s like a company, why would they not work with us? And it’s tough to really find that answer because we’re taking on all of the risk. If we work for three months and, and, you know, don’t close any deals for them, maybe they’re out a couple hundred bucks or a couple thousand dollars. It is, you know, drop in the bucket for most businesses. And yeah, and so, yeah, I think, you know, it makes it very easy for companies to want to work with us and it just puts us in a position where we’re saying no more often than yes, to just ensure we keep that client list very niche.

Jason Yormark: Gotcha. Do you find that there’s particular industries that are more fruitful for you for this sort of business model?

Ben Magnuson: I would say we’re a little bit too early to kind of identify that. Right now, we’ve found a lot of success working with marketing agencies because that’s our background. So, we have, you know, marketing partners onboard where we’re basically, you know, directly promoting them to our network and the target audiences they want that they want to be working with. Obviously within that, if you’re targeting different groups, different geographic areas within Canada, in the US, there’s challenges associated with that when you’re looking at you know, direct sales and networking.

But yeah, I think, you know, I’ve got a background in biology, like I said, at the start and I’m passionate about sustainability. And so, I think that is an industry that I want to start to break into a little bit more. We do have partners in the realm of like video and different things like that, that want to work in that space. So, it’s a good opportunity for us to build our network there as well.

Jason Yormark: When you think about, when you started kind of doing your own thing, was it, did you know that you always wanted it to be kind of a performance marketing model versus a traditional one?

Ben Magnuson: I did know that before starting, because I’m a firm believer that like you really, I really feel that employees and personnel should be bought into the company that they’re working for. And why not have that in a B2B relationship as well. And so, it just gives us the I mean, not only does it help with business development on our side to find the right types of clients, but also it just gives us, you know, a lot of passion for the work that we do and the companies that we are working for.

Jason Yormark: What would you say are some of the biggest challenges that come with doing business in that way that you’ve experienced so far?

Ben Magnuson: Well, I mean, it’s a pretty unique model. I’ve come across one company that has a relatively similar model, but they charge out on retainers for lead bookings. They don’t do performance based. And the biggest challenge is, you know, basically we’re saying, Hey, if you’re an engineering firm targeting government across Canada, or if you’re a marketing agency targeting small restaurants and, you know, villages and small cities across Canada, we can learn your business to the point where we will sell it, you know, as effectively, if not more effectively than your internal team. And there’s challenges that come with that, where there needs to be a lot of research, we need to be embedded into that company and learn how to sell it effectively.

And sometimes it takes a little bit of trial and error there. What types of emails, cause every audience is different? If you’re talking with engineers versus, you know, restaurant owners, you’re probably not going to be using the same lingo or the same scripting or the same email templates. And so, for us, it’s really a lot of like experimentation those first, call it those first three to five weeks where we’re figuring out and trying to kind of find that secret sauce for that individual client.

Jason Yormark: Got it. True or false for you. cause I’ve had some experience working with outfits like yourself in the past with Middling results. I think everybody is a little bit different in terms of whether they’re, they’re good at the thing. So true or false. It sounds like you would work with marketing agencies or agencies, people that are looking to obviously drive leads nicheing down into a specific industry is much more likely to net you successful results with a performance marketing agency like yourself.

Ben Magnuson: I would say true. The challenge with that is we don’t want to be in a position where we’re necessarily, where we’re, you know, working for direct competitors. So, there are overlaps, obviously if we’re working with five different marketing companies that are specified and, you know, socialistic, you guys do social media, if you know, there’s maybe overlapping budgets or different social media companies that come in for like more of a small business, whereas your team is more, you know, of the corporate world enterprise. And so, it’s a matter of finding those specific niches and filling in gaps. So, if we have a full network of partners, some of those are clients, some of those are just partners. How can we niche it to the point where we’re having sales-based consulting calls and then we’ve got a network of partners that can be allocated to that versus having a bunch of random ones where, you know, one conversation is only applicable to one partner, it’s just not going to be as effective?

Jason Yormark: Got it. So, you’ve been at this now for six months, how long have you? Six months. Still relatively new. Anything that you’ve learned, like if you look back over the course of those six months or even before your pre-launch, is there anything that you regret or you wish you had done differently?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, I think like obviously I’m learning a ton throughout this process. I think I probably would have the biggest thing I would’ve done differently is probably just assessed and talked to a few more mentors and businesspeople around like the pricing structure, because there’s been a lot of fluctuation in that for clients, which is never ideal, you know, you want to kind of find something and stick to it. So, I think just figuring that out and it’s still an evolving process where that’s probably where I feel the most lost right now.

And then yeah, I think, you know, if anything probably even, you know, if you look three, four months ago saying no to like one or two more clients and just keeping it very kind of tight and niche to start finding like, you know, expedited success with the clients that we do have on board and then look to kind of scale out, you know, we may have put the car before the horse in some ways.

Jason Yormark: Okay. What I’m just curious kind of asking this to of agency owners really of any business, you know, obviously. And you’re so you’re in Canada now. So obviously I would still imagine you probably are impacted by things that happen in the US, assuming that you probably have some US clients. I know that as an agency, the current landscape of the world and the economy has definitely made things difficult over the past couple months. I think at first, I was kind of getting into my freak out mode, like what’s going on? Why aren’t we getting as many leads? Like why aren’t people, why is it taking longer for people to make decisions? And then when I started to see some chatter from other agency owners, I’m like, oh, everybody’s kind of experiencing this. It’s one of those outside forces that are just kind of, you know, the ebbs and flows of owning an agency. I’m just curious has the state of the world, or what’s going on in the US impacted you think what you are doing in terms of the number of opportunities that have come your way, if you had to kind of really deal with any sort of struggles, I guess, as it pertains to those sorts of things as a newer business.

Ben Magnuson: For sure. Yeah. I think like our, you know, as far as hive clients go and our business development direct to client, I would say it hasn’t left much of an impact there where it has left an impact is obviously the client and partner sourcing that we’re doing for our customers. So, their end customer. When you look at the B2B world and you know, a lot of people are making decisions, you’re taking that kind of extra step to kind of make that final decision. They’re a little bit more cautious right now just with the unpredictability of the markets and things like that. So, I think that obviously plays a role in effectiveness of sales and when we’re helping businesses find new clients that definitely is, you know, has to be taken into consideration and you know, just takes a little bit more patience, I think.

Jason Yormark: Sure. So, when you think of your business, where do you kind of want to take this? Like where do you want to be 6, 12 months, long term. What does that look like to you right now?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, so I think like there’s two, there’s kind of two avenues. First one is to keep it, and this is what I will be prioritizing is to keep it as a very niche consulting agency, where we are helping companies find direct clients and do very effective partnership and you know, related sourcing. And that’s a model where you’ve got three to five, employees people who are, you know, very business savvy, they’ve got great acumen and can kind of help support businesses of all shapes and sizes in different industries.

And then we have you know, tight core group of clients where you call it anywhere from 10 to 20 clients. Don’t really want to extend much beyond that. If you’ve got five employees and then from there, you’ve got a vast partner network of whether it’s kickback or referral partners or whatever that looks like call it, you know, 200 of those.

And that’s kind of the core model. And then there could be, so that in and of itself is not really scalable, you know, you’re working for every deal, you’re working for every introduction where the scalability happens is finding ways to do more automated lead generation. And then you have like a retainer base lead generation service that would be kind of a secondary division to our core division with the direct client stuff.

So those are kind of the two avenues, one being a little bit more consulting based and the other being just, you know, lead generation.

Jason Yormark: Okay. And last thing before we kind of wrap things up, since taking this leap is there anything that stands out in terms of something that has surprised you or, and, or what’s your favorite thing about what you’re currently doing now or what you’re doing right now allows you to be or live?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, so I think that the best part is obviously, you know, you’ve got the flexibility, but you can find jobs. I work from home. You can find jobs that work from home and give you that flexibility. So that in and of itself isn’t enough to like to justify launching your own business. I think for me, it is just the model because it’s performance based allows us to be selective. So, you know, I’m fortunate to consider each one of our clients, you know, a friend now. We’re very specific with who we’re able to work with. Because you know, we’re kind of in the power seat there, we have that choice and that’s, you know, because we’re kind of working for free, it’s performance based. So, if we’re you know, if we’ve got a lineup of companies that want to work with us, it gives us the opportunity to pick and choose which industries and which clients we feel we can be most successful with. And I think that’s, you know, that’s obviously a good position to be in.

Jason Yormark: Awesome. Anything I didn’t ask you that you feel you want to add to the conversation that might be helpful?

Ben Magnuson: No, I think, yeah, that was great. Those were all great questions. I think you know, taking the leaps always a challenge, but I would say it’s one of the better decisions I’ve made in my life. So, if you’re listening to this and your kind of, you know, curious and unsure if you should take that leap or try that, probably go have a few conversations with your friends, run the ideas you have by them assuming they’re not going to steal them and take the leap. I think you’ll probably thank yourself later and if it doesn’t work out, there’s always, you know, other opportunities that are going to pop up that you can have. So that’s kind of my one thing where if I was, you know, telling my six-month-old self, I would be like, good job, Ben. It was a worthwhile decision.

Jason Yormark: No, I agree. Awesome. Where can people learn more about you and Hive?

Ben Magnuson: Yeah, our website www.hivegrowthpartners.com. I’m a big fan of LinkedIn, so definitely shoot me connection, Ben Magnuson on LinkedIn and yeah, shoot me a note and happy to, you know, every conversation is a good conversation, right. So happy to connect.

Jason Yormark: Love it. Ben, thanks so much for being on the show and carving out some time today to kind of talk about your journey.

Ben Magnuson: Thanks, Jason. Thanks for having me and we’ll talk soon.

Jason Yormark: Awesome. And for those of you listening, thank you for listening, like share, subscribe, you know the drill. Check out the multi-agency book, which touches on a lot of the things that we talked about today. Make sure you check out Ben and Hive in the show notes. Thank you for listening. And we’ll see you next episode.

(Visited 22 times, 1 visits today)

About Post Author