Why Did We Build Evolutly?

The Story

In all of my 6+ years as an entrepreneur I’ve always enjoyed helping people solve specific problems.

For me maybe this was talking to an expert on a podcast to help my audience, creating a video course to share my own knowledge or even writing a Kindle book. Of all the ways I have helped others over the years I had never created a software solution.

I remember in 2013 I interviewed Shane Melaugh about his email marketing tool Hybrid Connect. During our conversation I remember he told me that he simply creates software to solve problems he has faced in his own business.

Hybrid Connect was a Wordpress plugin that was one of the best opt-in forms available at the time. Shane added a lot of capabilities to customize your opt-in forms with templates and integrations that most tools available at the time didn’t have.

He then went on to form the company Thrive Themes which now provides various solutions for lead generation, landing pages, opt-in forms, sales funnels, quizzes, count down timers and tons more awesome functionality for marketing your online business.

I liked that Shane was always on the lookout for creating awesome solutions that solved major pain points in the online marketing space.

Despite being in a very competitive space, he really made a mark creating these tools that compete with some of the big players today such as Leadpages or Deadline Funnel to name a couple.

Working With Local Businesses

Throughout 2014 and 2015 I started dabbling in the local business space by building some websites for local businesses. I made some decent money doing this, but certainly not enough to quit my day job over.

I then went on to start bringing on a couple clients doing SEO to help businesses rank in the Google ‘Map Pack’. As this started to pick up I had hit or miss luck with clients all the while trying to figure out how to really scale this business model.

I ended up getting laid off from my full time job and spent 2 months trying to bring on some clients which more or less backfired on me.

I came across an opportunity to come work for a digital marketing agency as an account manager. I figured this would be a good opportunity to learn how an actual agency was running things and working with a lot of clients all at once.

I was in charge of all the communication with about 20 clients, I also very quickly became the ‘go to’ guy for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) work at the company.

This means I had to not only communicate with the clients over phone and email on a regular basis but I had to take on a huge portion of the work that involved getting them results on Google.

Tackling Project Management

We used a platform called Teamwork which was a general project management solution designed for anyone and everyone.

I quickly realized as much as the platform did a good job catering to project management, it didn’t really fulfill the needs of what I really wanted when working with this many tasks and 20+ clients.

-I had no real way to track where a specific client’s progress was at during any given moment, either stuff was done or not and I had to manually look into each client’s dashboard to determine what was worked on

-The reporting features were not quick and designed for the type of work we did

-The task system allowed for templates and sub-tasks but I quickly discovered when working with this many clients I really didn’t like seeing completed work fall off my radar and disappear.

-The solution was very expensive, for 50+ projects (clients in our world) the cost came in to over $200+ per month

With all this being said I decided to explore other solutions and found myself trying out Trello. I really liked how the Trello system worked.

I made ‘boards’ for all of my clients and then proceeded to create ‘lists’ sorting tasks by month 1, month 2 etc. Within each list I’d have a ‘card’ for every major task, each card would have it’s own checklist.

After building out an in-depth ‘plan’ for tackling SEO for our clients using Trello I had the owner almost convinced to make the switch.

-The major problem was Trello really lacked a good reporting system (no PDF exports)

-From an overhead view of all the client ‘boards’ you had no way of knowing the progress being made with each client. This was really important for me as I had no idea how far certain clients were in terms of the tasks that had been completed without really digging into their boards.

-I also realized that for what Trello was, the way it was being used was not really specifically designed for the needs of an agency like ours

Because of this I couldn’t convince the owner to switch to Trello but I decided to continue using it for my own tracking of clients tasks.

The problem was being called into meetings and being asked about what work was going on for ‘such and such client’ I found myself in arguments over using Teamwork vs. Trello.

Struggling To Build a Step By Step Plan

Another huge problem in the digital marketing industry is there is no real ‘specific way’ to do some of these tasks.

You could ask 10 different ‘Adwords Experts’ how they setup campaigns and It’s likely you will get different answers from all of them about all the different strategies they are utilizing.

This was an ongoing battle for us over our approach to Local SEO, which is exactly why I created a ‘plan’ within Trello for us to follow with all of our clients.

I found another big pain point in digital marketing to be that we were constantly trying to create ‘templates’ or ‘plans’ for how we were going to approach something and often times we were simply taking our absolute best guess at what we should be doing to get our clients results.

Training New & Existing Employees

When working on these tasks I also realized maybe 1 other person at the company knew how to actually do them without being taught 1 on 1. This was another big issue I found myself in with SEO, instead of spending more time working on clients tasks I’d be training other employees how to do things that they didn’t know anything about.

I later went on to create a 1 hour+ training course designed for new and existing employees which we ended up hosting over on a Thinkific school. The course turned out pretty good but didn’t really dive into some of the specifics that we had in our ‘SEO plan’.

This was an area I knew could be improved upon. One of the girls who had been hired after me had prior agency experience and also had a college degree with a marketing background. Despite this she really didn't know all that much about SEO or Adwords beyond some of the very basics. 

This is where I saw a need for a better way to incorporate task management and training at the same time. 

Onboarding & Finding Client Passwords

Another big issue I remember we had was the onboarding process for new clients. We used a word document with a ton of questions on it. Typically the account manager would go through a ‘kickoff call’ that involved manually filling in all the questions by asking the client over a phone call.

I’d later go on to look for these documents for older clients and they were nowhere to be found, I also constantly found myself searching for passwords and information from clients that I simply couldn’t find in Teamwork or in a mess of random Google Drive documents.

Going Down My Own Path

In August 2016 I parted ways with the agency and decided to start working with my own clients, but I also realized there was still a major issue if I was going to tackle this the right way and stay organized.

Remember Shane? 

Well I thought a lot about what he said way back in 2013 in that interview. I realized there was a big pain point when it came to task management and onboarding for SEO agencies.

I had been successfully launching SEO courses and doing webinars with my partner Paul James since October so I decided why not run the idea of building a solution by him.

Building Evolutly

Paul had previously launched software tools and had an audience that was very much interested in the local marketing space so I immediately started mocking up a plan to implement this software with his development team.

This is how Evolutly got started. I simply took my own experiences of dealing with pains I faced working with big project management solutions and created my own solution from the ground up.

Ultimately we targeted two specific areas that we knew were a problem - Task management and onboarding.

Here is how I solved the issues I faced:

-Onboarding: Implementing forms allowed us to create embedded forms we could use for asking clients any questions we wanted. Once a client filled out the form the information would be safely stored in their client area.

-Reporting: I added the ability to export entire campaigns into a PDF document using a company branded logo

-Status of client campaigns: I added the ability to quickly get a solid idea of how far a long a campaign is for the client based on what tasks were completed usage a percentage meter

-Video implementation for training: I added the ability to link training videos within each task being worked on after realizing training was a big part of this industry.

I additionally focused on lots of other features such as:

-A unique point and priority system for tasks

-Allowing unlimited usage for clients and employees

-Getting exclusive vendor discounts with various SEO outsource providers

-A comprehensive video course showing brand new consultants how to get started with their SEO business

Future plans for Evolutly include:

-Built out templates for various topics such as setting up Adwords campaigns, Local SEO plans and much more.

-Tracking costs and revenue for each client based on what’s being spent

-Better reporting

-Better communication within the software

Have any feedback for Evolutly?

I'd be happy to jump on a 1 on 1 call with you to do a live demo. Schedule with me here. 

You can also leave a comment with any thoughts or suggestions you have on the challenges you currently face with project management. 

About Author: John Shea

John is the co-founder of Evolutly and spends most of his time working with his digital marketing clients and building online courses to help others become successful online.

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