In this agency success interview, I chat with Jonathan Bannister from Cornerstone Marketing Solutions. Jonathan works in the HVAC and plumbing space—and is a rising star in the industry.

Jonathan has transformed Cornerstone Marketing Solutions into a seven-figure agency and isn’t stopping there. In fact, he has increased his fees recently, charging clients more than $5,000 per month for his services. How did he do it?

Jonathan will talk about his digital marketing journey and what it’s taken for him to scale his business. He goes beyond Xs and Os as he talks about growing Cornerstone Marketing Solutions. He covers the mental and tactical changes that he had to make to unlock success. His veteran perspective offers invaluable insights into the world of marketing, especially for new members.

This is an interview that you won’t want to miss.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:12] Who Jonathan is and what he does
  • [4:21] Learn more about Cornerstone Marketing
  • [9:04] What Cornerstone Marketing does for its clients
  • [18:24] How Jonathan got his first niche-specific clients
  • [27:43] The results of “going bigger” with clients
  • [32:45] Why you want to work with the top 20%
  • [36:57] How Jonathan sets up joint ventures with manufacturers
  • [40:26] The team infrastructure for Cornerstone Marketing
  • [52:22] How to remove yourself from the sales role
  • [56:50] Listener Q&A with Jonathan
  • [1:02:30] Get back to the basics and nail down processes

What Cornerstone Marketing does for its clients

Cornerstone Marketing has three different programs that encompass building the website, doing SEO, and bells and whistles like email marketing, automation, etc. They start by building a content strategy for their clients. How many cities do they want to focus on? 4 or 6 pieces of content a month? He needs to know the forecasted number of calls that they’re expecting to get from SEO. If a client’s goal is to go from $2 million to $4 million, they reverse engineer the numbers. If he needs to get 30–50% of leads from SEO, 2 pieces of content a month won’t do it. When they do the onboarding call, the first 90 minutes is with the content manager getting all of the information they need to write content.

Secondly, they dive into a spreadsheet with the client where they plug in some numbers. What is their average service ticket? What is their average replacement on a new system? What do they want for total revenue? What is their net profit? Overhead costs? The spreadsheet will spit out a number that tells them how many booked leads they need each month (lead-flow is different from month to month in a seasonal industry like HVAC). To hit the company’s goals, they calculate what it will take for monthly ad spend (i.e. $2,000 a month on Facebook ads).

They charge $4,000 a month to do the website, SEO, six pieces of content a month, posting daily on GMB, email marketing, database reactivation, provide a dedicated account manager, and more. Once they figure the ad spend it will take, that’s an added cost per month. They charge 20% as an ad spend management cost. They also listen to and analyze every call that comes in and listen for if the call will convert. If they miss revenue tracks and lead goals month over month, catching up will be difficult. The south only has a few-month window to generate 90% of their business for the year.

Why Jonathan chose this direction for Cornerstone

What pushed Jonathan in this direction? Cornerstone is the exclusive marketing company for York Factory Direct. Jonathan would speak at their events across the country and in his presentation deck, he shared a lot about a client. This client had been with him for two years and had gotten the best SEO results of any of his clients. Then they lost the client. At first, it wasn’t even losing the money that aggravated him, it was having to redo all of his decks!

But he decided to call the client to find out what happened. The client told him they’d grown his business for two years in a row. Year one they grew $250,000. Year two they grew $500,000. So what was the problem? Their goals were to grow $750,000 in the first year and $1.5 million in the second. The growth they wanted didn’t happen, so they left to take a different direction.

As Jonathan looked back through his notes, he realized that the client had told Jonathan the projections they wanted. But at the time, Jonathan didn’t fully understand how to get there. That’s why they started working backward and reverse engineered the process based on their client’s goals.

What are the results of all of this? Listen to learn more!

Do you want to work with the top 20%?

Jonathan used to focus on 4–6 million-dollar companies. But in the beginning, they didn’t have the right process and resources to go after those clients. They’ve worked with smaller dealers that do under $1 million who are still paying them the $2,000–$4,000 a month. Why? Because they have goals. It’s all about their numbers. If you look at what they’re offering and reverse-engineer the numbers, you can tell them what you think they need to spend. You set the expectations. If they only want to spend $1,000 a month, you can easily tell them they won’t hit their goals. If they’re okay with that, you move forward.

How Jonathan sets up joint ventures with manufacturers

Jonathan notes when you’re forming joint ventures with manufacturers, it helps to know people in the industry. But secondly, they’ve formed these partnerships by building relationships with sales reps. As you start picking up clients in the regions where the manufacturers are, you have something worth talking about. If you’re working with six of their clients, it can open the door to a conversation. If you can get to sales meetings with a rep and pitch it to them, the domino effect takes off.

But where do you start? If you’re finding success with clients, get as much information from them as you can. Who do they buy equipment from? They will likely put in a good word for you with the manufacturer—especially if the revenue you’re helping the business generate means they’re buying more from their manufacturer. It all stems from getting results. What makes it worth it for the manufacturer to work with Cornerstone? Listen to the whole episode to find out!

How does the team infrastructure work at Cornerstone Marketing? How do they manage a team based in the Philippines and the US? Listen to the whole episode to learn more!

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