If you prefer a tl;DR, here it is:

  • Credo’s growing up, and with it we’ve rolled out a new platform to facilitate the end-to-end of digital marketing projects;
  • We’re able to give clients guarantees that no one else in the industry can;
  • Our project volume has grown by over 89% 2019 year to date over 2018, 
  • The Credo network is also open to new firms/consultants. You can learn more about the network Pro plan as well as the new Sales Accelerator plan here.
  • We are closing down the public facing full directory on October 15th. All projects on Credo will go through the Credo Platform as of that time. In that move, we are moving from a semi-advertising model to the marketplace model, which we affectionately call “platform-as-a-service” (even though that term is used for something else in tech).

Six years ago, a friend came to me and confided in me that his business was struggling. He ran a company focused on the New York City market in the architecture space, and while 2011 and 2012 had been great his 2013 was looking dismal.

I asked for Analytics access, and within two minutes (90 seconds of which was spent logging into Google) I saw the issue:

His organic traffic was down 70% year on year.

I asked him what was going on there, and he told me that he had hired an “SEO agency” to “build backlinks”. The drop off a cliff in traffic was about 2 months after that firm started their work, so I dug in and found a mess of bad backlinks (porn, pills, poker, you name it) and a manual penalty in Search Console (at the time, Webmaster Tools) to boot.

After helping him out as best I could at the time, I set out with a side project called HireGun to solve that problem – the problem of a great business hiring a firm (whether an agency or consultant) who couldn’t deliver the results or work they promised.

HireGun ticked along as a side project, but in September 2015 I lost my job and had only a few months of runway to scramble to pay my half of my family’s San Francisco-level bills.

Almost 4 years on, we’re called Credo and have generated $75M+ in projects and helped 3,000+ companies begin their journey towards a better experience of finding and hiring the right digital marketing firm (agency or consultant) for their specific needs and specifications.

But we’re just getting started, and today is the day that we finally unveil what we’ve been working on for almost the last year:

The Credo Platform

Hiring a firm in the digital marketing industry is broken, and we’re fixing that

The digital marketing industry has a bad reputation, and for good reason.

“Internet marketers” have long sold a bill of goods that they have not been able to deliver on. This has left a lot of jaded companies and entrepreneurs in its wake.

We’re hit all the time on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and email offering us things like “backlinks” and “Facebook ads strategies” and the like “for just 3 easy payments of $99!”

It’s the internet version of informercials, and they’re terrible.

Too many people buy these and don’t see results, but there’s no accountability for the people hawking these wares. In fact, usually you can’t even find them a year later because the SEO gurus have become the Facebook ads gurus and then become the cryptocurrency gurus.

It’s maddening and it hurts businesses.

And we’re so tired of it that we’re doing something about it.

Clients hire badly and get burned

Every day we speak with companies who tell us that they’re speaking with us because they hired yet another agency or consultant who failed to deliver.

Sometimes that is the provider’s fault because they were unqualified to deliver the project or sold something that they couldn’t deliver. This usually happens when the client’s expectations are misaligned with the reality of the project, but the firm felt that they needed to close the project instead of walking away or taking more time to set expectations properly.

And sometimes it’s the client’s fault. Sometimes what they hired for isn’t what they actually needed. Often we’ll speak with someone who hired a “freelancer” to do “SEO”, and that person they hired only gives them strategy or files JIRA tickets. What the client expected was for the person to jump in and do things, while the freelancer styled themselves as a strategist.

But regardless of whose fault it is, too many projects end up sideways and both sides leave frustrated and jaded.

Firms are not held to a standard

While part of the beauty of the internet is that there is a low barrier to entry, this also leads to a whole host of new problems.

In the digital marketing world itself, there are a lot of people either unqualified to deliver work or who don’t deliver what they promise.

That is a big problem.

Since the beginning of Credo, we’ve prided ourselves on our vetting of the network of providers. In recent years we’ve further refined and tightened this vetting process down to three key areas (and multiple checks within each of those):

  • Culture – are they trustworthy, good with clients, and would we want to work with them?
  • Professionalism – is their website professional? Do they make it clear who they do the best work for? Do they have professional social media profiles?
  • Results – for the marketing channels for which they’d like to receive new clients, do they have proven results and would their clients recommend them?

This vetting has helped us stand out above the crowd, but it hasn’t been enough. We need to take things a few steps further.

Why this problem still exists

We’re in the middle of the shift from Internet 2.0 to Internet 3.0, and more specifically from Marketplace 2.0 to Marketplace 3.0.

We’re seeing the rise of niche marketplaces in various industries, such as RVshare (rent an RV directly from an owner), Turo (car sharing marketplace), Wag (dog walking and sitting), and more.

But there’s nothing like it in the digital marketing space, and we think that’s both a shame and an opportunity.

In the digital marketing space, there are a LOT of directories. That’s all well and good, and those directories definitely serve a need for those:

  • At the very beginning of their search just trying to understand pricing and who’s out there in the market who might be good;
  • Needing to put together a shortlist of agencies to whom they can send an RFP;
  • Creating a list of potential firms to present to their boss/VP/whoever is the decision maker;
  • Who are a digital marketing firm themself and are looking for a way to stack their own branded search results with positive reviews.

The reality is though that the firms who can afford to pay the most are usually sorted the highest because a directory model is inherently incentivized to sell placements against their audience. The directory is then dis-incentivized to get real reviews, because then those willing to pay the most may not pay and thus the directory suffers as a business.

Directories serve a need to be sure, but they don’t go far enough.

This is bad for clients, which is why we’ve never let people pay to be sorted higher in our list of firms. But, we’ve also been pigeonholed into “just another directory” when that’s never the game we wanted or needed to play.

I’ve always been taught that if you don’t like the conversation, you should change it.

So that’s what we’re doing.

How we’re solving it differently

At Credo we’ve never really claimed to be a directory, though we have historically had the full network public-facing for anyone and everyone to browse. This has had its pros and cons over time.

With the launch of the Credo platform, we are officially moving from being a lead generation service and directory to being a full platform as a service (PaaS) company with some extra service layers on top.

Clients use the Platform to find and hire the right firm:

Then the project is funded via the client’s choice:

Then the work is delivered through Credo:

What this means for clients

In essence, on the client (companies looking to hire) side Credo has become a white glove end-to-end solution to finding, hiring, paying, and receiving work from the right vetted digital marketing firm or consultant.

In short, Credo helps businesses find and hire digital marketing firms.

Credo helps businesses find and hire digital marketing firms.

What does this look like practically?

Practically, Credo facilitates the following for clients:

  1. Matching each client to two (2) vetted providers from the Credo network who meet the project’s qualifications, especially:
    1. Services needed;
    2. Available budget;
    3. Personality fit;
    4. Size (based on previous experience and success/failure).
  2. Facilitating the discovery/sales process to allow clients to schedule calls, receive proposals, and ultimately sign with a pro from Credo’s network;
  3. Clients paying their pro through Credo’s reserve (“escrow”) system which protects them from paying for something that was not delivered on time and to scope.

With all of this in place, we are able to facilitate projects between clients and pros while giving both protections that have never existed in our industry before.

This is very exciting.

What this means for marketing providers

Marketing providers should now think about Credo as being what is has been plus a lot more.

Since late 2015 we’ve invested a lot of time, money, and effort into building a website and company that ranks and converts to bring clients looking to hire a digital marketing firm/consultant in the front door.

Since that September, we’ve generated:

  • Almost 600,000 visitor sessions;
  • 460,000+ unique users;
  • 3,500+ projects;
  • Over $75,000,000 in digital marketing prospects.

Credo has also been featured in essentially every major SEO industry publication, as well as broader tech publications such as GoDaddy, Shopify, Entrepreneur, The Next Web, TrustPilot, RD.com, HubSpot, Huffington Post, The Drum, and many more.

With our current prospect volume of 100+ qualified prospects coming through our doors every month (and we’ve grown 89%+ in 2019 over 2018), we feel it is the right time to make this huge change within our company because it’s the right move for the industry.

It’s time to unveil the Credo Platform for signing and delivering work, and being guaranteed payment since Credo holds it in escrow.

For marketing firms and consultants, we help you get introduced to new prospects, close them through the sales process that we’ve tuned over the last few years that closes work at much higher rates than industry average, and then we take care of invoicing and provide our project delivery platform for you to deliver work to your clients.

Credo helps marketing firms grow their business through great prospective clients, a rock-solid sales process, invoicing and receiving payment, and a platform for delivering work.

We just rolled out our new Pro plans which you can see here and the network is once again open for applications.

You can also see that we’ve added in a Sales Accelerator program, which is a 6 week program meant to help agencies improve their lead generation and sales processes so they need fewer “leads” in order to continue growing their company.

I am personally incredibly excited to have this out in the wild. We’ve been working on the Credo Platform since December 2018, and are already paying out tens of thousands of dollars per month and growing quickly.

I welcome all questions, and look forward to continuing to work towards helping great clients and digital marketing firms grow their businesses!