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How Advoc8 Handles Events for SXSW & CNN with a CRM

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Author photo: Grace Lau

Grace Lau

Ever wonder who the masterminds are behind the amazing and creative displays and booths at huge events like SXSW? Well, Advoc8, a creative agency based in Washington D.C., is the mastermind behind a lot of them!

A brand experience agency based out of Washington DC, Advoc8 specializes in experiential events and branded content and merchandise for nonprofits, advocacy groups, and a few major brands you might have heard of (like Google and CNN).

They experience many of the common agency challenges, from managing a huge range of contacts to making sure that their finance team has the organizational tools to handle the vast amounts of bills that go through the agency. And yes, they do it all with Copper.

Although Advoc8 has always been using Copper (since its inception in 2016), its team members are no strangers to different CRM tools. Josh, Managing Director of Growth (and a relatively new addition to the team), has always been deep in the sales trenches, and has tried his share of CRMs. “I’ve used many different CRMs throughout my career, and Copper is by far the easiest to use, the most functional, and the most applicable to a salesperson’s day-to-day work.”

On the other hand, Advoc8’s COO and co-founder Jeremy chose Copper for one main reason: Google.

“We’re very based in the Google ecosystem, and the fact that Copper is built into G Suite natively was a big selling point for us. Not to mention Google’s one of our biggest clients, so we also like that,” says Jeremy. “Plus I’ve used Copper before and really enjoyed working with it.”

Agency challenge #1: countless contacts, countless venues.

As an agency that produces events across the United States (like at SXSW in Austin), Advoc8 has not only a wealth of contacts and partners, but also an entire database of venues that it uses to plan future events.

“For example, we create records in Copper for every SXSW venue with tags so we can easily pull up ‘Austin venues.’ And any sales materials—menus, prices—are all uploaded as attached files to those venues’ company records. All the past communications with those venues are synced to their company records too, which is fantastic.”

Other than managing a database of contacts, the Advoc8 team also uses Copper as a sales tool to supercharge their processes. From identifying a client in the very beginning, to nurturing that relationship, to identifying opportunities, to signing a deal, to executing that project, to post-project conversations, Copper plays a central role throughout every phase.

Team members across the entire agency use Copper to log meetings, take notes, record calls, and add contacts and records. Business development, reporting, sales—no two tasks are the same.

“We’re so much more organized with Copper,” says Jeremy, “And we’re using it for way more than sales—it correlates, collects, and connects everything in our records. Copper’s been a huge tool and resource for us.”

True collaboration > pseudo-collaboration.

One thing that Josh has learned from past experience is what good teamwork looks like. Instead of focusing on what most people think collaboration is, he looks at what actually makes the team work more smoothly. “True collaboration can only happen if all the relevant contact information, institutional knowledge, and notes are transparent and in one place,” he describes. “That’s when real collaboration on projects can start happening. There shouldn’t be the need to ask something in Slack and repeat the same conversation a dozen times.”

“With Copper, we actually reduce friction and noise—which, funny enough, includes a lot of what people normally think of as collaborative work. Unnecessary conversations are just busywork. Real collaboration happens when you have a single source of truth.”

Because Advoc8 is now so organized, its team is also having an easier time maintaining relationships with venues and gaining referrals. These turn into leads, then opportunities in the sales pipeline. “All of a sudden, we have a new client and new account,” says Jeremy. “In Copper, everything blends together perfectly.”

Slaying the CRM dragon: adoption.

One of the hardest things for a team to do is to adopt new tools. This is especially true for CRMs, which are notorious for low adoption rates. Advoc8 however, has never had this problem.

For Josh, who only recently stepped into a business development role at Advoc8, having all of the agency’s knowledge in one place made it easy to catch up on understanding the business operations. A non-existent learning curve for this new tool didn’t hurt either.

“It wouldn’t be possible for everyone to be using Copper as our core tool if it weren’t so seamless and easy to use. The Gmail and Chrome plugins just sit where we’re already doing our work!”

Jeremy, who’s more interested in teamwide adoption, noted that the rest of his team had almost universally picked up Copper just as quickly. Anyone in the agency could quickly add contacts or company records without burdening otherwise busy members of the operational team with additional demands.

“It’s great because every user, depending on their function or needs, can use Copper the way they want without a barrier to entry. No additional steps to their workflows. Utilization is almost 100% across the board at this point.”

Today, everyone on the team of 30 uses Copper, both as a sales tool and also as an operational tool for all their day-to-day management of vendors, venues, and contacts.

“The team on the whole is saving 5% to 10% of their time, easily, every week because of Copper.”

All custom everything.

Every business is unique with different requirements, and Advoc8 has handily customized Copper to fit its needs. As an agency, its sales cycle contrasts sharply with the tech space—instead of cold-calling leads in volume and then knocking on doors to get sales, Advoc8’s sales process is relationship-based and consultative. That’s why Copper was the perfect fit: it wasn’t built for just sales team, it was built for relationship teams.

Advoc8 is also an extremely multifaceted business with a variety of business lines, selling event management, creative, design, and video production services in addition to A/V rentals, branded merchandise, and swag. There are different margins and different ways of recognizing revenue on the calendar.

“The ability for us to add custom fields and build out opportunities and pipelines has been a huge help. Everyone uses Copper because it matches our workflow and because we get the data in the way that we need for planning and decision-making. The flexibility has been amazing.”

Even the finance team loves it.

Like most agencies, Advoc8’s business isn’t based on a monthly retainer model. It’s a project-by-project basis, which can make it difficult to predict a set amount of monthly revenue. Because of this, accurate sales forecasts are extremely important, especially as the team is growing quickly and making key decisions that impact the future of the business.

“Our entire finance team uses Copper—the forecasts, weighted values, and the sales forecast reports,” says Jeremy. “It’s great because the Google Data Studio integration pulls in data for our custom dashboards, which are crucial for reporting.”

Because Advoc8 works with both clients and vendors, there are also numerous invoices and bills to keep track of. The finance team relies on Copper heavily to keep track of it all. Jeremy especially likes that the team doesn’t have to Slack each other to find out which bills belong to which vendors. “They can easily pull it up in Copper, see who on the team last spoke with them, and get their answer. That’s incredibly helpful and really helps our team stay productive.”

A CRM that actually alleviates the pain of micromanaging.

For managers like Jeremy, having Copper also gives visibility into what his team is doing, which minimizes the need for him to constantly ask what they’re up to and if things are getting done.

“That’s a huge value,” says Jeremy. “Instead of badgering my team, I can just pull up the record in Copper and check on their outreach. It takes a quick second to do but it saves five minutes of emailing back and forth for a progress update, and no one looks like they’re micromanaging or not trusting a teammate to follow through.”

Now in its third year, Advoc8 has grown from 12 people to just over 30, and its revenue has tripled. It’s also been named one of Event Marketer’s Top 100 Event Agencies of 2018. Where will Advoc8 go from here? We look forward to seeing what’s next!

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