How It’s Done #12: Lee Odden from Top Rank Marketing

We spoke to Lee Odden of Top Rank Marketing for episode #12 of How It’s Done.

Lee Odden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing, a content marketing agency that specializes in helping enterprise B2B brands attract and engage new customers through influencer content collaboration, SEO, social media and online advertising. He’s based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s written a book called Optimize, blogged over a million words on and has given over 200 presentations in 17 different countries. He also finds his beard to be “very average”.

1. What does your daily routine look like?

5:00 – 7:00 – Workout

7:00 – 7:45 – Take daughter to school

8:30 – 9:00 – In my office

9:00 – 5:30 or 6:00 – Strategizing, meeting, creating, solving, supporting, rewarding, recognizing, innovating, researching, learning, teaching, promoting, analyzing, communicating, networking, helping, being helped.

7:00 – Home for dinner, family time

8:00 – 9:30 – Reading, trying hard not to do any work

10:00 – Sleep

2. What made you start your agency? Tell us about your journey.

My current partner Susan Misukanis started a public relations firm with a designer friend. At the time I had left a different agency and was working independently. I helped the PR firm market itself, joined as a consultant, then became VP. Then a service I created called TopRank became most of the business. I became CEO and not long after that we changed the name of the company to TopRank Marketing.

3. How did you get your first client?

Personal network. My partner let people know she had launched a new agency and one her contacts hired her.

4. What is the biggest problem that you have faced as an agency owner? How did you overcome it?

Finding talent that fits our culture. It’s not enough to think you’re smart, creative and capable of delivering results. Our clients expect us to prove those capabilities every day. Finding people who are equally intelligent and skilled as they are ambitious and curious to learn and serve clients has been a learning experience. We are getting better and have an amazing team right now. We’ve faced it by continuously evaluating our recruiting, hiring, onboarding and first 90 day review process and reconciled that with our best performers. We listen to our team and then optimize the process.

5. If you could go back in the past and tell one thing to yourself when you started your agency, what would it be?

Go bigger. Take more risks. Have more confidence.

6. What do you look for when acquiring talent for your agency?

We look for people with experience (content, influence, social, SEO, analytics, online advertising, account management), talent and professional maturity that matches our culture. We are a very organized and process driven company but at the same time, creative and fun.

7. How do you manage things like customer churn and employee retention?

We review our client status weekly and have an escalation process in place when needed. We also try to be proactive with solutions which our clients appreciate. Our account managers are incredible communicators and they pay very close attention to client temperature, program progress and program performance.

With new employees we have frequent reviews and touchpoints. With all employees we provide the opportunity to share feedback anonymously and we also have a monthly employee survey. Those survey results are shared with the team so they get feedback we’re listing and making progress.

8. How did you help your agency scale?

We have well-developed processes in place, training and a agile structure that allows for us to focus on areas of opportunity or pull back fairly quickly. We use project management software along with other tools to help operationalize the things that make sense within our services. Finding success patterns in our process helps to duplicate and extend to new situations and that helps us take on more work in a qualitative way.

9. Something on a lighter note – top 5 songs from your work playlist?

I’m into hard rock this week:
Rock You Like a Hurricane – Scorpions
You’ve Got Another Thing Coming – Judas Priest
Seek & Destroy – Metallica
Thunderstruck – AC/DC
Guerrilla Radio – Rage Against the Machine

10. Top 5 marketing books that have helped you get where you are now?

– Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries

– The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott

– Everybody Writes by Ann Handley

– Optimize – How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing (writing this was a BIG learning experience) by Lee Odden

– Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

That’s it for episode #12 of How It’s Done. Join our blog newsletter to receive updates about posts like this one delivered straight to your inbox!

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