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How Marketing Agencies Stay Productive: Doug Lacombe of Communicatto

August 17, 2017

This week we feature Doug Lacombe, President of Communicatto. Communicatto is a Canadian digital marketing agency taking digital marketing to new heights.

In this interview, you can read more about his work at Communicatto, favorite marketing tools, productivity tips as well as his advice for budding marketers.

Your location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Your favorite gadget: My Google Pixel phone, though my Google Home is the smartest air freshener I’ve ever known.

You start your day with: Reading the news, then industry reading, then email, then calendar and tasks.

Your favorite time-saving trick: Snoozing emails until I need to deal with them, or avoiding them altogether by using @ mentions in one of our other tools.

Your top 3 blogs you read daily: eMarketer, Marketing Dive, MarTech Advisor plus some crazy number of email newsletters and bulletins and whatever my Pixel says I should be interested in :-)

Doug at his workstation

Describe an average day at Communicatto?

There are no average days at Communicatto! We have such a variety of clients that each hour brings a new challenge and opportunity. The only constant is our deep connection with our clients, which allows us to act something like embedded journalists. Plus I’m such a software junkie that I regularly spring new trials on the poor team, which makes things a little unpredictable from time to time. All good fun, coupled with lots of laughs and even more coffee.

As a founder what are some of your favorite productivity hacks?

Perhaps my best discovery, though hardly revolutionary, is recognizing what I’m not good at (hello accounting!) and getting the help I need from professionals to manage such things efficiently. Otherwise I’m pretty old school — using Asana to prioritize tasks à la the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology, checking my calendar each night to prepare for the next day, scanning Basecamp and Asana lists and digests to get high level project views (versus being copied on every detail), verifying I am working on high importance items as well as high urgency items and, most importantly, flex time for everyone. Work has to fit into life so we all come and go as required, with lots of work at home freedom.

As a person who is well-versed with online marketing/ inbound, I’m sure you rely on a few marketing tools to automate your efforts. What are the top 3–5 tools you use?

We depend on a lot of software to automate processes and keep tabs on things. Tools like Asana, Box, Basecamp, and Slack allow us to communicate and share freely wherever we are. Zapier, Piesync and IFTTT give us ways to sync and integrate all the different SaaS tools. Sprout Social keeps us efficient while managing our own social media accounts and those of our clients. Mailchimp is our newsletter tool.

Your company has a growing community of users. How do you use this treasure trove of customer insight to power your marketing efforts?

We have a very specific persona that we target, typically a mid-career senior marketing woman who needs help with digital. So we aim our content, our following, our ads, and our newsletter towards them and solving their problems. Most of our leads come from referrals, so staying top of mind and relevant to our target audience is most important. The website serves as validation and reassurance, not a lead catcher per se. We monitor the conversations and trends to ensure our content speaks to our current and potential clients. Equally important is how we use these insights to subtly discourage or deflect segments we don’t serve, for example hospitality. We aren’t a good fit for say a restaurant or chain of restaurants, so we’d rather be up front about that than waste everyone’s time.

What is your strategy for getting people to your site and then converting them to a customer?

As a content marketing firm, we lead with targeted content. We use a mix of original and curated content to give back, acknowledge the excellence of others, and demonstrate we know our stuff. Like most agencies, we use a hub and spoke strategy to ensure our content is seen by the right people, then we supply numerous proof points and trust indicators on the website to encourage inquiries. Typically someone who visits our website has either seen one of us speak at a conference, or read our material, or has been referred by an existing client. The conversion is usually in the form of an email or phone call, not our web form. We theorize that’s because most of our inbound “leads” are more personal than other types of services or retail. We continue to “eat our own dog food” and test these hypotheses to optimize our conversion rates. Essentially if we get a chance to have a real conversation with a prospect and uncover their needs, we usually convert at a high rate.

Is there any advice you’d like to give to budding marketers to help them work smart and stay productive?

Be strategic by focusing on outcomes (candidates hired, sales made, votes cast, opinions changed) and not on counting busy work (tweets sent, blog posts written.) Find a mentor and soak up as much as you can. Understand the PESO model (media that is Paid, Earned, Social or Owned) and learn the strengths, weaknesses, ins and outs of each of those media types. Be channel agnostic and do not chase the shiny new channel of the month. “General public” is not a target audience — resist such wishy washy nonsense at all costs. Don’t be afraid to experiment — fail fast and often then learn from those experiences. Make every campaign a controlled experiment so you can isolate successes and failures. Get good with data. Take on volunteer positions to gain campaign experience you might not otherwise have. Be curious. Join a professional association like IABC and learn from others.

How do teams at Communicatto have fun at work/ make work fun?

Even though we are a so-called virtual agency (a small staff with a lot of offsite freelancers and suppliers) we enjoy pizza outings, Friday drinks, memes on Slack (ohhh giphy, you evil time suck you) and, perhaps most of all, the world-famous Calgary Stampede, which, for the uninitiated, is essentially Mardi Gras for cowboys (with fewer beads) each summer. We also like dogs. A lot!

A big thanks to Doug for taking the time out to answer these questions! If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you check out Communicatto.

Managing marketing projects shouldn’t be chaotic —Try Brightpod for free and start focusing on what matters.


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