[00:00:00] Corey: Today I'm joined by David Poteet. Welcome David.
[00:00:22] David: Thank you. It's good to be with you. Corey,
[00:00:24] Corey: could you share a little bit more about, you and your background with the listening audience?
[00:00:28] David: Sure. so [00:00:30] I started a business called New City. It's a digital agency. we used to be based in Virginia. Now we're sort of, spread around the country and remote.
And one team member in Poland, started the business. cuz I couldn't find the job doing what I wanted to do really, uh, back in 1995. And, my personal kind of area of expertise is more in user experience, human-centered design, content strategy and that sort of thing. but these days my job is primarily just, you know, leading the team and helping to keep us pointed in the right direction.
[00:00:59] Corey: What [00:01:00] could you share for, the listeners, any context about New City with regard to, the size of the company, the number of em Sure. employees, clients, revenue, anything you're comfortable sharing?
[00:01:10] David: Yeah, absolutely. we're right around 32 people right now. and, Work primarily in the higher education sector.
That's our main vertical that we serve. Started out as a generalist firm really for about the first 10 years, then began to, really see higher education as a strong fit for us. and we are team are [00:01:30] organized into like, you know, we have different disciplines. and then we have project managers who run projects, and so we use kind of a matrix management model, we've got our user experience team, And then we've got design, kind of the front end and UI design, development course front and back end development. I mean, we do a lot of big enterprise web, projects. some digital agencies are gonna focus more on the digital marketing side of things.
We do some digital marketing, but we really are strong in the research strategy, design and development of big. Complex websites [00:02:00] with lots of audiences and, usually quite complex stakeholder mix, within a, university, for example. and then, so we've got project management team and of course business development.
And we've, our newest team is enrollment strategy, that we've added, in the last year. So we're really excited to be offering that as part of our overall service to our, the universities and colleges that we support.
[00:02:20] Corey: Awesome. I
wanna dig into that. You shared some of the background there, in our pre-interview, and I think there's some, there's some interesting nuggets there.
But before we do, you mentioned [00:02:30] that you started off as a generalist agency in about 10 years. Yeah. In, you made a shift to specialize in higher education. first off, what was it like, what were you doing the first 10 years? Was it similar type of work, the web development, UX research, all those things?
Or was it different type of work and how did that
[00:02:46] David: evolve? Well, we started out, you know, just, we were doing web design. we, as you know, of course, euphemism for me at the beginning. my wife was helping me some, and I had a couple of friends that were doing some freelance work with us and, you know, we were working out of our, our [00:03:00] second bedroom, where we live in Blacksburg, Virginia.
We had. Really early access to broadband in some of the apartment complexes in town. So we're,
[00:03:07] Corey: isn't that where AOL is kind of in that, that generality,
[00:03:11] David: uh, they're in Northern Virginia. Yes. Yeah, that's right. They were, they were. yeah, I was on AOL before I even knew the internet existed. and, but I was working at Radford University before I started New City.
And as a designer, you just as a, print designer. but I had a, friend, a biology professor who, introduced me to. FTP and Gopher and [00:03:30] some of these really cool web technologies, or excuse me, internet technologies that existed before the web. And then, in 1993, of course, the first web browser comes out.
I get excited about it, start lobbying my boss hey, the university needs a web website. At that point, there's probably less than 40. Universities that had any kind of web presence, you know, Stanford of course being one of them. and finally convinced them to let me have a go at it.
So I got about four months to, you know, learn html. I had some programming background before, so learned, you know, how to build a [00:04:00] website and, uh, did the university's first website. So in some sense we we're kind of full circle now because we're focused in higher education. But in that first 10 years, Corey, we were.
You know, it's just you're grabbing any kind of work you can anybody. So it was everything from, you know, exterminators to real estate companies and what have you. we were really helped by a relationship with the regional newspaper in the area called the Rooke Times. they needed somebody to help teach, html, to some of the people in their newsroom and [00:04:30] on their kind of production team.
And Radford connected me to them. So I started doing some training, that led to, me being their sort of, or new city being their outsourced, you know, web partner for any of their advertising clients that came to them looking for websites. So, we just grew up as a generalist. firms serving a regional market of, businesses and some nonprofits in southwest Virginia that needed websites.
But there was some great work that we got to do in those days. I mean, I, I really enjoyed, you know, working with [00:05:00] like, Carter Machinery is one of my favorite clients from that period, and they're a Caterpillar equipment dealer, so I had to learn, I knew nothing about how people buy and sell skid steer loaders and bulldozers and things like that.
My grandfather owned a. Bulldozing, um, earth Moving company, but I had no clue. So I had to learn, you know, and it's one of the things I think a lot of us that work in this business enjoy is learning about someone else's business model and understanding how the communication engagement needs to work.
So we did, you know, we did, did all that sort of thing. but you're only gonna grow [00:05:30] so much I think, in a regional setting. So, we had some opportunities. You asked about like, were we doing the same things? We, I got turned on to human-centered design in the late nineties through a, presentation that I got to attend from Jared Spool and, and it, it is appealed to the sort of artist and scientist side sides of my brain, and it helped me connect some dots that I think just hadn't been sitting quite right for me in, in the whole.
You know, everything that was going on in digital at the time. so we [00:06:00] started learning and training our team and learning these practices and things like that. But it's hard to get your local, you know, real estate company to pay for user research as part of, of their project. At least it was in the early two thousands.
Mm-hmm. And so to some degree, higher ed actually offered us an avenue where we could start to apply. some of the principles that we thought were really the right way to do things, but we, which in, you know, included research, trying to understand your [00:06:30] users and then organizing and kind of aligning your digital experiences around their goals so that you, you win and they win.
but that takes a bigger budget, right? I mean, it's not just like, let's design some home screen, a homepage and some secondary templates and build you a web WordPress site. So higher ed was the place where we started to get traction, you know, for that. and then I think we found after the first two or three institutions that we worked with that we're also pretty good at, what's, you know, a lot of times in corporate [00:07:00] setting you can have a more executive style of leadership.
It's kind of, it's a little bit more top down or, you know, if the CMO says, here's how we're gonna do things, then obviously they need to be a good leader and have built good teams, but, They don't have to win people over in this, I shouldn't say that cuz you do have to win people over, but they don't have to win people over in the same way that you do in a, a university setting.
People describe that as more of a legislative style of leadership. You've gotta build coalitions, you gotta build allies, that sort of [00:07:30] thing. Cuz we, we jokingly refer to universities as they're like a feudal system. I mean, you've kind of got the king and the Dukes and Earls and the baronesses and everyone's got their own little center of power, you know?
So you have to, to learn how to work well in that, in that environment.
[00:07:45] Corey: Let me, let me back up just a little bit. So, you mentioned that you were exposed to this concept of human-centered design. It really kind of aligned the. Yeah, the stars when it came to what you understood as, you know, good design.
And so, sounded like the higher [00:08:00] education was more receptive to this. What, what were the conditions that made them, value human-centered design or, you know, user research, at an early date when these other sort of businesses didn't really have
[00:08:13] David: an appetite for it? Well, I think two things were key for that.
One is, When we pitched our first big, opportunity in higher education was with Virginia Tech, which is actually my alma mater. But I don't think that helped us when, in particularly, but, they had not, and to our [00:08:30] knowledge, we couldn't find any examples of universities that were using.
In the in depth user research as part of their planning process. yet, so we said, Hey, you're a research university. Wouldn't it be cool if we used research to plan this, this work? Great. Um, and that, that appealed to them. But I think one of the things that they, that resonated at first and then proved to be really valuable in the process is that in a university setting, you've got a lot of very smart people, have a lot of very strongly held views about things.
but a lot of [00:09:00] times, you know, they have strong opinions about how something should work and how people probably do things on the internet, but having research data about user behavior and goals and needs really, diffused a lot of what could have been, you know, a lot of controversy or just arguments and unnecessary kind of, you know, debates that, that we were able to.
kind of cut through and really build those coalitions and bring people on board because they saw, here's why we're doing this, here's what the tests we've done have [00:09:30] shown, here's the research and here's here's what we've learned from the research. So I think it just gave us a lot more credibility with an academic audience.
academic stakeholders, I should say. Not not, mm-hmm. Not our target audience so much as, as the people that are, that can either, um, Help a project succeed or, shoot it in the back if I, you know how that can, how that can go if, people are paying lip service to you up front, but as soon as you walk out of the room, they're, they're saying how, how stupid they think the whole thing is.
[00:09:57] Corey: yes. so this is super interesting. [00:10:00] So it seems like you had an, interest in an intellectual sort of, interest in mm-hmm. This concept of human centered design and doing research. Yeah. And you found a client eventually in market that also really valued that, and that's kind of mm-hmm.
Where you naturally where you went just because that, that, that's right. Was an audience that was receptive to the value that you were
seeking to create for them.
[00:10:22] David: That's really true. Um, we, so we did the Virginia Tech site. Um, we launched it, the fall of 2006.[00:10:30] and it was really well received. it was, Virginia Tech had record enrollment growth in the next year. So we All right. It wasn't just us, but we felt like we were doing something right.
Okay. Um, But it also was noticed by some of the leadership at Imperial College of London across the pond in England. And Imperial is one of the top five, STEM institutions in the world. So, Hmm. They invited us to come and pitch for a project to work with them, and, we won. So that followed hard on the heels of Virginia [00:11:00] Tech.
we spent a bunch of time working in the uk. I gotta take my kids over to, London to work for a week once, you know, when they were really young and it was exciting. Higher education is one of those markets where everyone wants to know that you've already done something in that space because that tells them that you understand the politics and the priorities and the different audiences and that kind of thing.
So, um, once we had those two institutions, In our portfolio, it was a whole lot easier to convince. I mean, no, no one questioned that we knew what we were [00:11:30] doing in this space. but you can't just take that for granted, obviously. But it's always, it's easier to sell downhill or to, than it is to sell uphill.
Um, and uh, so it was a lot easier for us to, you know, to go and talk to other institutions. And the second sale
[00:11:43] Corey: is always the, you know, much easier than, yeah, exactly.
So you mentioned this concept, um, of politics. I, have to dig in just a little bit here what comes along with serving this specific market is this concept of politics and not only being familiar with it, but being able to navigate it in a [00:12:00] meaningful way that you could ultimately create the value that they're hiring you to create in the first place.
Yes. how did you learn about those politics and how did, how did that evolve?
[00:12:08] David: that's a good question. I, you know, we certainly listened to people who had worked in that environment a lot and could kind of advise us and, and give us some guidance. you know, my Myers-Briggs profile or whatever is, is more of the diplomat.
Uh, type, um, as a, as an E N F P. and I have brought people onto my team who share some of [00:12:30] those kinds of, the sort of, people that are curious, have a degree of humility and just, you know, are willing to ask a lot of questions and listen and try to understand. and so we found, you know, just by really paying attention and not taking anyone's.
Goals for granted, because you could say, well, your goals must be the organization's goals. Okay. Yeah. And everyone's got their own priorities that aren't always the same thing as the institution. Um, so, part of our process has always been digging in, talking to people [00:13:00] one-on-one, taking time to understand their world, what success for project means to them in their, in their world, and then helping to look out for places where there is alignment or sometimes.
You know, competing priorities that we have to navigate. So, We just learned it through experience, you know, working with those groups. But we certainly took time to reflect, I think, within our own team and say, what are we learning about this and how can we do this better? Cuz we've, we've gotten better and better at it [00:13:30] by learning from mistakes and, you know, stepping on landmines and, you know, having somebody come in midstream and derail a project.
I mean, you're always at the mercy of even just in the last two, three years, we've had some pretty interesting surprises, you know, with, with client teams, covid teams that you know. Yeah, yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely. Covid. Yeah. So,
[00:13:52] Corey: So, back, going back, for a minute here, back to the point where you were transitioning, now you had the Virginia Tech, project and that worked really well and that, that [00:14:00] led to more exposure, more opportunities.
Mm-hmm. at the same time, Did you do like sort of a wholesale stop in selling anything? any type of projects outside of secondary education or was it sort of more of a slow sort of movement into the specialization? Like how did that look at the time?
[00:14:18] David: It was more of an evolution, but I think over time we've gotten more comfortable with just owning it, owning this vertical and saying, this is who we are. We've seen other, so, you know, obviously we didn't, [00:14:30] we at first, we were doing maybe. Two or three big university redesign projects in a year. kind of, it was typical.
we were big enough that we needed to fill out, you know, our work with, many other things. and we weren't really backing off of any other verticals, but, but more and more just the traction that you gain in that space and the resonance that your ability to, be persuasive. in a proposal or what have you just get stronger and stronger as you build up all this expertise in that vertical.
I know that's one of your, one of your, your big points.[00:15:00] yeah, and we certainly saw that being the case. but I think there was a while that we were sort of like, well, maybe we shouldn't need to hedge our bets. And we, I don't know if it's a good idea for us to be this specialized in this vertical.
We should be developing some other markets that, that we do, and we do, we still do serve, you know, some, some other things. But I think it's really been in the last, I don't know, I would say three or four years that we just said, like, we're really good at this. We click, well, our personalities, work well in that political, you know Yeah.
[00:15:30] Multistakeholder kind of environment. And we have a process that works in that space and so let's own it. and I think we talked about, you know, kind of this decision point. yeah, I was curious. I wanted to ask
[00:15:38] Corey: that we came to Yeah, yeah. Like there was a, there was a point you were sharing with me, before we, before we started recording, which was, and correct me if I'm mischaracterizing this, but it is that you at some point
given, the sort of the changes in the.
economy for, secondary businesses caused you to take a moment and consider [00:16:00] potentially pivoting or focusing in different areas. Tell us what would led to that, that moment and what were the conditions that, that you were looking
[00:16:07] David: at? Yeah. Well, higher education ha is, is facing a lot of challenges.
These are not unforeseen challenges. they've been, evident. All you had to do is look at census data for the last 10, 15 years and you could see the demographic shifts that were going to push, you know, higher education to evolve and innovate. But also, you've seen schools close or merge in the last three or four years, [00:16:30] and that was predicted and it's happened, culturally there's, you know, a lot, there's, more people are questioning the value of higher education, you know, now than, than they used to.
so. Given all of that, we were looking, and as I said, it's like maybe we need to have a another market that we, that we really open up. When we started looking at government contracting as an area for that, we went through the whole process to get our GSA schedule. Which allows us to serve, I mean, it's a contract vehicle that lets you work with government, but it also lets you work with state.
and a lot of our clients [00:17:00] are state public entities. So it's, it's been useful from that standpoint. Yeah. But we started building relationships with, with some other, federal contractors, to see if we could open up opportunities for us to be a subcontractor and work on some different projects.
Cuz we'd had, we'd had some government work and we'd had some success with it and enjoyed it, and what we are good at in human-centered design, And with working with these kind of complex stakeholder environments with a lot of politics, well turns out those are useful skills in the government
[00:17:26] Corey: as well.
I was thinking the same thing. It's like probably a lot of synergies with
[00:17:29] David: [00:17:30] that skillset there. There are. but one of the things that we found, this wasn't necessarily a deal breaker, but one of the things we found is that like the way that the, the contracting model for most government contractors is really different than the way that most companies have evolved to serve.
Private entities or like commercial, you know, businesses or who serve, you know, even institutions, um, you know, you have more of the deal where you've got full-time peop a person who's on a contract, you're putting a person on this project, they're gonna be on that [00:18:00] project for the next three years, like a hundred percent of their time.
And we don't, you know, we work on smaller engagements, smaller, I mean, three or $4,000 engagements, but they're, mm-hmm. You know, they're not multi-year. I'm not putting somebody a hundred percent on, on one client. Um, and there was just some other aspects that were just culturally it was just not, you know, not fitting that well.
And in the pandemic, you know, we got, we got some help from the p p P funds, of course, like a lot of small businesses and really tried to use that to keep [00:18:30] jobs and what have you. but as we were kind of looking at, in 2021, we'd been putting a lot of effort towards the government. And as, as 2021 came to a close, it's like, you know, I've got enough, I've got some cash reserve here.
Thanks. In part to the P P P I could make one bet in 2022. Do we wanna kind of push harder on this government direction, which hasn't really borne fruit yet, but could maybe. And I, I got some advice from a friend who actually runs a, firm that's does a hundred percent government contracting. It's [00:19:00] like, David, it could take you 10 years.
To build up enough of a business in that space and the expertise that you need and everything else to be really a strong player there, you are already there in higher education, you've got so much momentum. I think, you know, if you're going to make one bet, I think you should stay in your, in your core market.
And, and the bet that, that I knew I, we wanted to make is, was to, I. Expand the, what we can do in terms of value for our clients beyond just, kind of their web presence to [00:19:30] really, integrate their whole strategy with, between their web presence, which is usually run by the marketing folks and what they're doing on the enrollment side.
and one of those silos in higher education, that we often see is a division between what the enrollment folks are doing and what the marketing communication folks are doing. And we, we've got some really standout examples of institutions that are. working well together there, but we just, we saw a huge need.
And then we also, of course, you don't have to have a crystal ball to see how much enrollment pressure [00:20:00] the organizations right now market under Yep. Big needs. So, um, so for us that was, you know, rather than being concerned about. I mean, yes, the market we serve is going through a lot of turbulence and a lot of change right now, but it's the perfect time for us to be.
Leaning into that market and building out our expertise so that, we can help them exactly in the ways that theyneed the help. Um, so we hired, we took about six months, but um, but brought on a, director of enrollment strategy Robin [00:20:30] Lofton, who had, spent the last 26 years of her career as an enrollment leader, with a number of different institutions, mostly on the West coast.
But, Robin's been amazing and, you know, has brought a perspective to everything that we're doing. Cause we didn't wanna just like, oh, let's just add an enrollment service. We wanted that thinking and that, that experience to transform the way we do everything else too.
Right. And the way that we approach our, web right and digital strategy work. Great. and we've just seen a tremendous response from clients in the last, 12 [00:21:00] months or so. I mean, it's, it's, we're we're coming up on a year since Robin started with us. but it's already just like I can point to, a million and a half or $2 million worth of work we sold where people specifically pointed to this, Mindset and expertise as part of their decision to choose New City.
So, and we, I think I told you this before, but we doubled our sales last year. I was gonna, I
[00:21:21] Corey: was gonna say that was a pretty interesting stat that, that, so happened to align with this decision to, lean, as you said, lean [00:21:30] into this existing market and your momentum. Mm-hmm. And your, mm-hmm. And your brand, let's say equity, let's say, and you decided to, solve what I would call adjacent problems to the current problem that you're solving.
Yes. Yeah, and I think what's interesting part of that is that. You saw an opportunity to sort of, resolve in a, inefficiency, let's say, between the marketing and the enrollment teams. Mm-hmm. You saw a way to, to be able to tell that story and, be able to provide that solution. [00:22:00] Um, yes. Yeah. Which I think is another, just a way that, gosh, I mean, it is such an expensive problem right now for, I imagine for secondary businesses or secondary, education institutions.
That have someone come in and say, Hey, we can help, we can help you to think about this differently and potentially solve this for you. Mm-hmm. I think that's really, really smart.
[00:22:19] David: Yes. And yeah, and of course they're not so, You know, they've got a lot of folks coming to them knocking on their doors today with Sure point solutions.
I've got a, I've got a magic bean and if you take my magic [00:22:30] bean and plant it, it will grow Beanstalk and And it will solve all of your enrollment problems. And most enrollment leaders, they, they're skeptical and they know that's not, that's not gonna work for them.
So they really are looking for a partner that can come alongside and help them think and look at where the gaps are in their approach and that kind of thing.
I was gonna say it's early days for us. Yeah. I, I would, I would just say like, It is still, even though, I mean Robin's been with us for a year.
We're still at the very beginning stages of offering, you know, new services and that kind
[00:22:54] Corey: of thing.
[00:23:00] [00:23:30] Have you been primarily focusing that new capability, on your [00:24:00] current existing clients or previous clients, or is that part of your sort of go-to market message for acquiring new customers or clients?
[00:24:06] David: It's definitely been part of our go-to market for acquiring new customers, but we are introducing, you know, capability to our current customer base and. That's been another big part of our growth in this vertical has been building up long-term relationships with a number of, of institutions, um, where
We're an approved vendor, like a preferred vendor, approved vendor within a certain, CYS campus or university system, so Texas a and M's, one of our biggest [00:24:30] clients. So we can mm-hmm. We work with lots of different organizations kind of under that, Texas a and m umbrella, or Rutgers University or something like that.
[00:24:37] Corey: how would, a company such as yours who maybe not been, approved as a, or pre-approved vendor, how does one become one? How does that, what's that process look
[00:24:45] David: like? most of the schools will run a competitive, RFP process every four or five years to refresh their approved vendor list.
you have to look out, watch out for those RFPs to come out. the RFPs are, those [00:25:00] are those vendor list RFPs are not, um, you're not bidding on a specific project. You're just saying, here's our portfolio, here's our capabilities, here's our pricing. Put us on your list.
I just got shot.
[00:25:11] Corey: You know, you used the word rfp. Ugh. I just, yeah, I got that. I know.
[00:25:16] David: Haven't done those too long, too many years. Yes. Oh yeah. And then working in higher education, we've had to, you know, we, we have a love hate relationship with them, I'm sure. Um, yeah. I said no to one recently where they were, this is a [00:25:30] prestigious school, but they were asking for us to do free work as part of the response.
I'm like, no, no, no. It's not happening. Yeah. And it was already one of those level 10, difficulty level responses.
[00:25:41] Corey: So there's a, belief or maybe a strategy that exists out there, which is that, if you, you know, you don't respond to RFPs or I guess mm-hmm. That, the RFP is more of just a window dressing that the company has already decided on the vendor.
They just need to go through the hoops. Like what is your, yeah.
[00:25:58] David: What is your perspective on that? [00:26:00] Well, and I've heard, you know, I've, I've listened to some of those talks and I know that some of the people that, that espouse, that, that view, and I think it's more true in the commercial sector cuz if you're a private business, or a publicly traded company, there's no state regulation that's requiring you to go through a certain purchasing process.
So you can absolutely shortcut that process or just, you know, but in the public sector it's just the reality. they can get burned by trying to work around it. So you have to learn to play that game by the [00:26:30] rules. now sometimes we'll flip the script and do things with our response that really challenge the way they're thinking about their project.
Absolutely. Yeah. but you, we just have to, we've had to learn how, how to play the game. Yeah. That's
[00:26:41] Corey: super interesting. I get it. It makes sense. as it relates to generating new business today, you've, you've been in business now for, you know, since 1995, and you've focused since the last, you know, 10 years later, I guess 2005 till today, you 18 years, I guess it is.
Mm-hmm. Um, you've been focusing on this higher [00:27:00] education market, primarily. how do you get New clients, you mentioned that you have these preferred vendor lists as one channel. Mm-hmm. What are some other ways that you're seeking and building new client relationships?
[00:27:12] David: Yeah, so, certainly when we are part of the preferred vendor list, those opportunities that come in come to us from a campus that we already have that relationship aren't RFPs typically. Mm-hmm. They might get two or three bids, but, but we don't have to go through the same formal process. So that's really nice. And we still have to think about kind of marketing to and selling [00:27:30] within that community because, you know, they don't all know about us necessarily otherwise.
it's, you know, and it's about 35% of our business every year is new, like new account relationships. that's, you know, certainly word of mouth referrals. Like a lot of agencies, people hear about us and invite us to, give a proposal. It's rare that we get an opportunity that's a new account that doesn't have an RFP connected to it.
In the higher ed sector, they almost all work that way, but if you're invited and it's a [00:28:00] warm invitation and they, and what, as much as we can, we try to have conversations with people. we will go to conferences. There are just a few key conferences that we attend every year where you're gonna see a lot of the customers that are gonna be there.
So, of course that stopped during covid, but, we've been back out for the last, well, last fall was our first kind of return to the conference season. Mm-hmm. Um, so you're, you're speaking, you're right. You're doing content marketing, you're trying to get things out, that share your expertise.
We've just tried to take a very [00:28:30] open approach to, trying to share the things that we're learning along the way and not being proprietary about it. and that's, that plays well, that people respond well to that in the higher education community. One of the nice things about the community is they don't feel super competitive with each other.
They certainly see each other as competitors, but there's a more, more of a collegial sense of openness, so, so that kind of thing. You know, our, a lot of our marketing is focused on just making sure that we are in your mind when, when it's time for you to send out that rfp. [00:29:00] Yeah. Um, now increasingly with enrollment marketing, a lot of enrollment marketing services are not purchased through rfp.
So, You know, as we look at doing more enrollment strategy, enrollment, marketing work, I think there's gonna gonna be more opportunities for us to work with schools without having to start with, a 50 page RFP and a $400,000, you know, proposal engagement or something. That's
[00:29:21] Corey: interesting.
is there a faster speed to results with the enrollment based work that you do? Than maybe a web design
[00:29:29] David: project. [00:29:30] Yeah. I think it's too early to say for me, from, from our experience, it's a little bit early to say enrollment has a seasonality to it. Mm-hmm. That our web work doesn't always have where people, because it, it moves with the campaign season and, most enrollment leaders have got their partners selected and ready to go by the time they hit sort of the.
July, August, timeframe. So if they're gonna think about working with somebody new in some capacity, you know, it's typically gonna be happening in the spring as their [00:30:00] campaigns are wrapping up. Mm-hmm. Um, and they're evaluating how well each of their partners have done to kind of help them. but the consulting piece, I think can fit like the, like the enrollment strategy and consulting part of what we do.
People, you know, you end up working with people at, any time of the year.
How big is
[00:30:17] Corey: the secondary education market? with regard to like, as far as how many businesses are there that could potentially hire you
[00:30:25] David: to help them? You mean how many universities are there? Sure, yeah. Someone like your, [00:30:30] whoevers in your ISV or entities.
Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. Um, I should know the answer to that question and I don't, I forget like how many total the population of universities in the, in the, in colleges in the United States, I've seen that number many times. I don't have it in my head. so right now we have active account relationships with 40.
colleges and universities around the country and within those individual units, kind of underneath a particular umbrella, would, that would be about 80 clients that we work with, spec. So it [00:31:00] might be two or three different groups within Texas a and m, for example.
[00:31:04] Corey: Yeah. How competitive is this space that you operate in specifically for specialists of your experience and sort of makeup of your business?
[00:31:13] David: competitive? Yeah, there are. Five or six firms that we see again and again. And then there's a bunch that we just, like, I've never heard of this company before, and they're on the finalist list. You know? Um, a lot of times you do find out who the kind of down select, group is. Sure. Um, that are on the list.
[00:31:30] so yeah, there's always new people entering the market and some folks that have done, you know, We see great work. it feels very competitive. but yeah, there are some firms, and of course we have huge respect for them. They do great work. Um, that, that we, that we will see, you know, repeatedly.
And they have, there's some different strengths. we've learn some things about what people, why people might turn to New City versus, you know, one of our, one of our friendly competitors, we, Chris, we all go to the same conferences too, so we get to know each other, go out for beers and stuff.
[00:31:59] Corey: [00:32:00] Um, you mentioned that you had hired a specialist in the area of enrollment to help with that new, product set, that new capability.
how important is it for you, let's say, for the core business or the previous core business for New City with regard to how important is it to hire someone with an education background to be able to, be on your team? Mm. And when did you start? Did, when did you start? Considering that or hiring people with that
[00:32:24] David: background?
Yes, of course. I started my career working inside a university, so that helped me [00:32:30] kind of have some understanding out of the gate for the landscape that you're often gonna find. and we've, I, I, gosh, I, I need to add up the percentage, but, I think more than half of our team have worked inside a university or college setting before coming to New City, so, Hmm.
I don't think it's not absolutely necessary, but that degree of empathy for what, our clients are experiencing has been tremendously valuable. we know that clients choose us because we have sat in their seats and we understand what they're [00:33:00] dealing with. it doesn't make it essential that we only hire people who've worked in education, but it, but having a healthy number of us coming with that background has, been really valuable.
[00:33:09] Corey: Which roles, in the org make the biggest impact to have that background for your
[00:33:13] David: clients? our project managers, that's been a, had a big impact. developers, Yeah. And I would say even, I mean, we just brought on a new person on the business development and client strategy team. Well, I should say we just, she starts in a couple of weeks.
[00:33:30] who has, like Robin, our director of enrollment strategy, of course, of course, Robin's role was a must. Right. I just, you just can't sell Yeah.
[00:33:37] Corey: Into that space without having, couldn't Yeah. Spend the time to figure out how to do that Well. You know, no, you, you hired that expertise. Yeah.
[00:33:44] David: Yes. Um, but we've, we're bringing someone on who, onto the client strategy team, who has spent her most of her career in higher education as well.
I mean, she started as a programmer at Jet Propulsion Labs, and then she went into enrollment and she's done web and digital marketing, everything. [00:34:00] but yeah, it's those. Especially cause we've had some people at the kind of more of the, um, you know, building and doing kind of level developers and, content strategists.
Several of our content people are, have higher ed experience and project managers. But, um, I think now bringing on a couple of people who've had vice president, you know, cabinet level positions or have had, um, you know, avp, Director level positions within organizations are helping us elevate the conversation that we're able to have with our [00:34:30] clients, as well.
Cuz people, you know, people like to talk to their peers.
[00:34:34] Corey: Mm-hmm. That's beautiful. Okay, we're gonna wrap this up here with just a couple more questions for you. This has been really, really interesting and helpful, I think, for the audience. reflecting back now on, you know, new City and everything that you've built and,
the journey along the way, what are the positive aspects to verticalizing, a business such as yours
[00:34:53] David: personally? I like being, the sought after expert on something rather than having to go and like bang on doors and try to [00:35:00] persuade people that they should listen to me about something. and when, when I'm at a conference and I'm talking running into people, and I'm wonder, we never do a hard sell, right?
I mean, it's always just. coming with curiosity, wanting to get to know people. I always want people to feel like every conversation they have with someone at New City is valuable to them, you know, in any context. so, just having that sense of like, I know this market I have a lot more to learn, so I'm not a, I haven't arrived, but I really do understand it.
And that's just, um, [00:35:30] It. Yeah, it's just, it feels good. I have to make sure I keep feeding my curiosity cuz you can also get bored in that setting. And I, and we have a lot of people at New City that are like me, kind of, you know, you always want to find something new or something interesting, a new challenge.
So I don't like just solving the same challenge over and over again. But I, but yeah, to answer your question, what, what I've really found positive is just the, the sense of, growing mastery and having people seek you out for your expertise is really, um, I love that. It's a lot easier to be in [00:36:00] business this way.
[00:36:00] Corey: what are the negatives
[00:36:01] David: you rise and fall with the market that you serve? You know, that can be a, a problem. every market has its vulnerabilities, you know, whatever business you're in. So you have to be aware of that. I think that higher education in particular tends to lag a little bit behind, the, commercial sector and B2B e-commerce and different areas in terms of their sophistication with technology and digital marketing and some of those things.
So, um, we have to. [00:36:30] If we, I, I'm, I think if we were only doing higher education and didn't do anything else outside of it, we'd be a little bit at risk of being, you know, behind.so trying to be state of the art and focus on a market that tends to be conservative and a little, little bit slow to adopt new things, can be a negative.
[00:36:50] Corey: yep. So what would you say to someone maybe listening to this podcast and. Is maybe operating with more of a generalist go to [00:37:00] market. They're serving businesses of all shapes and sizes and they're thinking about verticalizing. What advice would you have for them, as they're considering this?
[00:37:07] David: Well, for us, my advice is to look for the threads where you can start to tell a connected story across multiple clients.
Cuz you, might be surprised where that vertical comes from. where there's, if there's some area that you start to realize, oh, there's this thing. We've done this two or three times, I can tell a story here. Right? And that's all you need is a story you can tell. [00:37:30] To start selling more clients with a similar problem.
not every vertical is like higher education vertical. I mean, there's other kinds of verticals and specializations that cut across industries that have different, you know, we, we know folks that just specialize in certain content management systems or certain pieces of the technology stack, you know, and they do quite well that way.
so it's just looking for that thread and it's gotta be something that gets the people on your team excited. You know, if you don't have a. Interest and a passion for it, you're not gonna get anywhere with it. You're not [00:38:00] gonna have the experience years.
Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
[00:38:04] Corey: Awesome. Last question. What's your motivation? Well,
[00:38:09] David: my, my motivation has shifted in the last, you know, 10 years or so, and I'd say really even in the last five years. I love human-centered design, and I really do like, being in a project, working with a client, facilitating, helping them understand their customers users and having, creating a shared vision for what [00:38:30] success looks like for, you know, for their, their customers and, and their organization.
but I'm. I'm transitioning to be more, you know, the coach and kind of supporting the team and helping to put the, you know, team together and helping the rest of the, the company, do that well. And, I'm finding, more satisfaction or equal satisfaction, I should say in motivation and kind of making that move from being the strong individual contributor to being a, you know, more of the.
The one who, supports and enables the team to be able to do those things. So [00:39:00] I, I have to get sort of, vicarious joy from, you know, talking to my team members and hearing about a really awesome thing that they did on one of their projects, you know? Oh, that's satisfying to me too. To, yeah. To experience secondhand what you're, what you're going, but it's a big shift.
[00:39:17] Corey: Yeah, good shift. That's beautiful. Where can people reach out to you if they have more questions or they wanted to get in touch with you?
[00:39:23] David: Yeah, so our website is, inside new city.com. that's not the name of our company. It was just the URL that we [00:39:30] chose. So, you can find, find me there pretty easily on our team page.
and, All my, all my contact information is there. I'm, I'm at David Poteet on Twitter, although very rarely, active on Twitter these days. but yeah, that's the best way to reach me. Beautiful. Thank you
[00:39:45] Corey: so much, David. It's been a great conversation.
[00:39:47] David: Thanks, Corey. Those are great questions and it's really, it was good to kind of reflect on what we've been learning.
[00:39:53] Corey: Yeah, it was fun.