Chad DeBolt is the personality behind and founder of Surchability. He’s been heavily involved with online marketing, specifically SEO, for 16 years.
I began my online marketing journey around 15 years ago, and Surchability was launched around 12+ years ago (first as DeBolt Interactive).
In an effort to not make you read a long “docu-drama” of how we got from then to now, I will give you the “Cliff’s Notes” and cover the parts that you probably care about, like:
So, let’s get this point out of the way…
You Can’t Acquire a Client If They Don’t Trust You
We only work with a few specific industries and niches.
At first glance, it might seem like they are all unrelated (predominantly in the health and finance industries), but when you drill down – the core of what these industries share is the need to establish trust with THEIR potential clients. Quickly and in the most genuine way possible.
I mean, think about it – would you send a loved one to a facility to help them overcome addiction if you didn’t fully trust that company? Would you let someone shoot lasers into your eyes to help you see better if you didn’t trust them? Would you trust some random person with your retirement strategy? Of course not.
How We Became the Non-Agency Agency and Why That’s Great For You
When I got started in online marketing 15 years ago, there wasn’t any sort of college degree for SEO (still isn’t). I also didn’t have any connections to anyone in the traditional agency world.
I was, in fact, a head hunter. Also known as a technical recruiter. Working a 100% commission job, making 100+ phone calls a day.
As luck would have it, I happened to work for a company that started to fill online marketing positions for companies.
I became obsessed with SEO and how Google worked. I taught myself SEO late at night in my basement (with a baby on the way) – for 2 years.
But this is the most important part of the Surchability “Origin Story”…
Why should that matter to you?
If you aren’t familiar with what affiliate marketing is – it’s where marketers spend their own money in order to market and sell other people’s stuff (products and services).
They don’t care about fluff metrics, they only care about making money online. They don’t have the luxury of burning through marketing budgets at will.
It wasn’t until we had grown enough to work with clients who hire an agency for each marketing channel (a PPC agency, a Branding agency, a Web Dev shop, etc.) that I realized that we were different…VERY different.
I began attending client calls and meetings with these other agencies, and my mind was blown.
These types of questions quickly turned into a crusade to be different, to show companies that there IS an alternative to working with traditional agencies, that it’s OK to go against the grain, and it’s OK to have a mercenary mindset when it comes to your marketing.
I became angry at these agencies for taking advantage of our clients but I was more sad and disheartened for the agencies because they didn’t know any better.
(And Why We Hate Them)
From our experience, there are 8 main reasons why most agencies fail to squeeze every last ounce of ROI out of your marketing budget.
They Work With Any Client That Can Afford Them, Regardless of Niche
The most memorable part of the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…”. That is an incredible message for a country that is known as the world’s melting pot.
Sadly, most agencies operate under the same premise when it comes to taking on clients. They will take on any client that can pay their fees – regardless of niche, size, objectives, and needs.
The result is working with an agency that will need to spend potentially months to “learn your business” (on your dime) and is unable to contribute any additional insight based on prior experience in your niche.
Full-Service Agencies Brag About Being a One-Stop Shop – While Hiring Us To Actually Do The Work …Awkward 😬
Most full-service agencies pitch their ability to be a “one-stop shop” for their clients as a positive thing. What they don’t tell you is that the online marketing world is a blood bath.
Between Google and social media, the competition for eyeballs and attention is insane. You are not only fighting against your competitors (direct and indirect) but also algorithm updates and terms of service updates from every major online platform.
Agencies that “do all things” are typically mediocre at best and oftentimes terrible at each marketing discipline. They don’t have the ability to keep up with the ever-changing aspects of SEO, lead nurturing, cold email, content marketing, etc. Each one of those disciplines requires full teams just living and breathing that skill set each and every day.
They Are Old, Boring, and Have Failed to Keep Up With the Times
Let’s play a word association game real quick…I’m going to mention two brands – what generally comes to mind when you think of them?
Chances are you either didn’t think anything about IBM at all, or you thought something along the lines of “vanilla, boring, do they even still exist?” etc.
Now, when you think of Tesla, you probably think, “Elon Musk is weird but interesting, why does the new Tesla truck look so strange, how many rockets has SpaceX launched?” etc.
The difference is one brand is always doing new and interesting things and the other brand is a dinosaur of the past who failed to keep up with the times and push the envelope.
Since most agencies are so big and, as mentioned above, they work with everyone – they aren’t able to test and try new marketing initiatives. They aren’t able to actually dig deep within an industry and help their clients become a “niche of one” and truly stand out from their competitors.
Spending Each Month Trying To Justify Their Existence To You
Since most agencies work off of antiquated checklists that don’t really produce any meaningful results, they are forced to focus on deliverables and busy work.
They try to get you excited because they “created 10 blogs for you this month” – who cares that those 10 blogs will do zero for your bottom line and aren’t a part of a larger marketing system. Hey, they did something to justify what you pay them for each month.
They also are always looking for reasons to “hop on a quick call” or go over a new report deck. They spend most of their month trying to figure out how they can justify their fees.
Pretending To Be Subject Matter Experts But Are Just Glorified Customer Service Reps
Living in Orlando, I am lucky enough to visit Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Universal Orlando quite frequently. One of the interesting things you will see at both parks are building facades. Fake buildings that look real. They are often glorified wood panels and nothing more…but they look real.
Most agencies claim to be subject matter experts in every service they offer, but in reality they have like one actual SEO person on staff (at best) – but that’s not who you speak with every month when going over SEO initiatives. It’s the same with every marketing discipline that these agencies claim to be experts in.
A frequent answer to your questions will usually be something like “I’ll have to check with the team about that” or “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” It’s because they are just glorified customer service reps.
If you Google “online marketing agency office” and then look at the image results, you will see pages upon pages of offices with some version of the following:
For many agencies, their office space is a source of great pride. They love bringing clients to have meetings there. They brag about their “Best place to work in whatever city” awards, etc.
There is only one major issue – YOU are paying for that. That stuff doesn’t just show up, someone has to pay for it and that someone is you. I would say conservatively, about half of your monthly spend with an agency goes to their overhead, if not more.
You are also paying for the 15 people that show up to the constant meetings and calls they schedule with you – 14 of whom don’t do anything, except for “take notes” all meeting long on their Mac Book Pros.
Every time their CEO is a keynote speaker at a marketing conference – you paid for that.
Every time they take their 100+ person company away on a “team building retreat” – you paid for that.
Constantly Looking for Ways To Nickel and Dime You
Since most agencies make their profit from delivering the absolute minimum amount of service each month – it short circuits your new grad account manager’s brain when you request any help that could be remotely considered “out of scope.”
I can’t begin to count the amount of times that a client has told us another agency attempted to charge them an obscene amount and gave them an absurd turnaround time for something that literally took us less than 5 minutes that we did at no cost.
Most agencies value every last cent of profit over building a strong, long-lasting partnership with their clients.
You Don’t Even Exist Over the Weekend
Now, there is something to be said about work/life balance, I admit. But there is also something to be said about the lack of confidence you must have knowing that your new grad account manager is only working at their current position to try and work their way up the ladder…so they don’t have to talk to you anymore.
They are the walking equivalent of the 80’s song “Everybody’s working for the weekend.”
Their idea of a good time certainly isn’t reading Google algorithm patents or opting into your competitors’ marketing funnels so they can learn the inner workings of their marketing strategies for you.
They have a job, not a mission.
Immediately Being Able To Jump In and Contribute from Day 1
We exclusively work with clients in what we call High Trust Industries. These are industries that operate in what Google calls “Your Money Your Life” niches. Any niche that can drastically affect someone’s life, positively or negatively.
To us that means the health and finance sectors.
There is a massive difference between selling tennis shoes online and helping people overcome addiction or properly invest their life savings.
Our core strategies revolve around helping you establish trust with your potential clients as fast as possible but in an extremely genuine way.
We Would Rather Be Ridiculously Awesome at the Things That Matter
We would prefer to be absolutely incredible at a few things than be mediocre at a lot of things. We find if we dedicate ourselves to mastering a few skill sets, it allows us to produce more impactful results for our clients. It also allows us to anticipate changing trends or updates well before most agencies.
We Get 4 Hours of Sleep a Night
We have been known to send clients text messages at 2 am on a Saturday because we just dreamt up a new strategy that we were pumped about. We are epic online marketing dorks who live and breathe this stuff.
We are also connected to a global “fraternity of nerds” who live and breathe this stuff. So you are able to leverage an online marketing “hive mind” – when one of us figures something new out, we all benefit…including you.
It’s how we keep 90% of our clients for 5+ years
We aren’t the cheapest, but there is a reason why 90% of our clients come from referrals, and our average client retention rate is over 5 years.
It’s also the reason why one of our biggest referral sources is venture capital and private equity firms. They know that for every $1 they invest with us, they will make $10 back.
We aren’t going to bore you with countless calls and meetings…or even fancy reporting. What we will do is come into your business like a band of hired mercenaries and work tirelessly to help you increase revenue and become as profitable as possible. You may become sick of winning so much.
Our entire company are subject matter experts
Let me put it this way: if the majority of Surchability staff didn’t lack basic social skills, they would all have their own successful agencies. We have no interest in becoming keynote speakers or if anyone even knows who we are, to be honest.
My wife is going to say this is arrogant…but the entire Surchability team’s knowledge and real-world experience can run circles around any other agency out there.
There have been countless instances of our team jumping in to solve issues that other agencies were responsible for.
Nothing worse than the “SEO agency” completely mapping out a client’s PPC funnel for them (and we don’t even do PPC) or having a client email us asking if we can add a new page to their website because the “web dev team” quoted them $500 and said it would take 2 weeks.
In other words, we may not wear skinny jeans or drink craft beer, but man, we can talk your ear off about all things online marketing.
Zero Overhead for Us = More Impact for You
Over the past few years, companies have been forced to operate in a more virtual capacity than ever before. This opened their eyes to something that we have known all along – being virtual has a myriad of advantages over traditional office work.
This means an obscene amount of your monthly investment with us actually goes towards bringing you the results you are looking for.
Even the stuff we haven’t made up yet
Now, I’ve mentioned a few times already about how most agencies just work from an outdated checklist with no thought of working outside the box or straying from “what everyone else does.”
We throw away more ideas in a week than most agencies even consider in the lifespan of their existence.
Are they all going to be good ideas? Absolutely not.
Are some of them going to be counterintuitive to everything you have heard before? Yeah, most likely.
I will tell you what I tell all of our new clients – we are going to bring you every single idea that anyone in our team or our network dream up (and have tested)…it is your job to take us up on that idea or tell us to take a hike.
It doesn’t matter to us, because we will continue to bring up new ideas to all of our clients…all the time
There are a ton of online marketing and SEO agencies out there to choose from. There are cheap ones, and there are expensive ones. Heck, your neighbor’s son who “built a website once” could probably help you.
But if you operate in a High Trust Industry, you can’t afford to leave anything to chance or try and save a few dollars each month, when trust is on the line.
Yes, we are an acquired taste. Yes, we are not cheap.
But, by partnering with us, you will be aligned with some epic online marketing mercenaries that will not sleep until you are the most trustworthy company in your niche, effortlessly generating highly qualified clients month in and month out. And you might actually enjoy marketing again.
Find out your website’s true revenue potential via our in-depth analysis.