Smart Agency Podcast: The #1 Digital Agency Podcast for Social Media, SEO, PPC & Creative Agencies

You aren't alone if you've considered transitioning into a SaaS company; or launching a separate company to sell SaaS. The challenge is educating your team, your clients and yourself on how to go about it.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Reasons why you might want to develop a SaaS product.
  • 4 steps to developing and launching a SaaS company.
  • How to roll out your SaaS product and transition your agency.

If you’re thinking about developing or selling a SaaS product, this is the episode for you. My guest is Ethan Denney, founder and CEO of ConvertFlow. Ethan took his company from a service-oriented digital agency to a product-focused SaaS company. He shares the story of his agency’s transition including the steps he took to get there.

Why develop a SaaS product?

As a digital agency, Ethan’s company was focused on driving site traffic and lead generation. However, they found many clients needed site redesigns and lot of other, deeper services were more involved. These issues often decreased profitability and increased the sales cycle. (Not to mention that it created a major time suck.) Clients were not seeing results right away and Ethan’s agency was having difficulty proving their value right away.

In order to solve this issue they created a product that would provide more immediate value and shorten their sales cycle. It would also deliver faster results and more ROI to their clients. This cleared the way for ConvertFlow to charge on value and increase their profits.

Transitioning from digital agency to SaaS company

Often times the logistics of a product business sound much more appealing than a service business, am I right? Product companies have fixed costs, shorter engagement periods, and higher profit margins. But the grass is not always greener on the other side.

“The grass is greener on the side you water.”

Cashing in your digital agency and replacing with a productized company is not for everyone. In order to do be successful, it’s got to be done right. Ethan cautions us - it didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy.

4 BIG steps to developing a SaaS company:

1- Determine your agency’s core service. Then figure out what’s keeping you from doing it. What obstacles do you face? For Ethan’s agency it was cumbersome site redesigns that were keeping them from driving traffic and generating leads for their clients.

2- Develop a solution. Once you’ve identified what’s keeping you from doing what you love doing, play around with possible solutions. Look at it from all angles. What solution can you create to will solve these issues for you or eliminate the obstacles?

3- Decide on the goal for your tool. Will you keep this solution in your arsenal and have it be your competitive advantage? Or will you sell this tool as a stand alone product? There isn’t a right answer - in fact, it’s a very individual decision.

4- Strategically launch your solution. In Ethan’s case, they chose to rollout a product-based solution to their clients that would be a shorter engagement and allow clients to see more immediate value. This included a multi-step launch to their existing digital agency clients.

Rolling out SaaS for your Digital Agency

As Ethan’s agency developed more of the productize business they were able to use it as a low-end “icebreaker” service. They discovered that charging $1,500 - $2,000, they were earning steady recurring revenue. Other benefits are a shorter sales cycle and shorter engagement period with new clients.

Transitioning bigger, long term clients took a little longer and a bit more thoughtful strategy. Digital agency service clients were first transitioned to a productized service where the product was introduced to the client but managed by the agency. Eventually, they transitioned those clients from a productized service to a product they could manage themselves.

Overall, Ethan is thrilled with the entire transition. Now, ConvertFlow is able to concentrate on doing what they love, without getting weighed down by doing the necessary stuff they don’t love.

Analytics Software to Boost Your Business

Klipfolio is a tool that is helping agencies continuously monitor and report analytics. Define KPI’s based on your preferences and filters in this cloud-based software. With 50+ built-in marketing metrics, you can create a dashboard for yourself and your clients which can be viewed on desktop, mobile or old-fashioned PDF.

For a limited time, Klipfolio has a special deal for my listeners. Get a FREE TRIAL and an amazing offer just for The Smart Agency Master Class listeners at Klipfolio.com/SmartAgency.

Are You Ready to Learn More?

If you are looking for advice with your current agency or learning how to start your own digital agency, I can help.

Find lots of tips, tricks and insights by reading my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics. And if videos are more your thing, you can check out the videos on my Youtube channel!

 

Direct download: The_Ins_and_Outs_of_Going_from_Agency_to_SaaS_Company_1.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

How to fire yourself from a key role in the business and transition from Agency Owner to Agency CEO. You built your business on skill and passion. You're the best at a certain aspect of it and giving that up can be really difficult. I can totally relate!  Here's how to  say 'yes' to the right things and 'no' to the wrong things so you can scale.

Lisa asked: "In the Agency Playbook, I watched the video on leadership where you outline the roles of an agency owner. Creative direction was not on that list.

Here's the thing -- and I'm not being arrogant -- but my company has grown because I'm best at being creative. I've experimented with backing off on smaller projects. But it's obvious the projects I work on are more creative and innovative than the ones I don't touch.

My question is, how do I successfully back out of the Creative Director role and shift into the (boring but important) role of a CEO? Or should I stay in the Creative Director role since my agency relies on my talent for it's success?"

I relate to this question as in the beginning, I was always the most creative person. It's challenging for a client to tell you what they want until they see it but this isn't scalable. To fix this, you need to set up a process and document the process from the beginning of a project for your team to follow along.

You should figure out a system if you are going to continue in your role or if not, find the next person you feel will suit the role and find what suits you best.

Did You Enjoy This Week’s Episode on How to Become an Agency CEO?

Find more of my Ask Swenk series by clicking here or why not visit my Youtube channel for more of the series and lots more videos that can help you as an agency owner improve your business.


If you're struggling to build the agency or creating the agency vision that you want or having issues taking it to the next level, it could be a lack of clarity.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • #1 Struggle of building an agency team
  • How to create and communicate your agency vision
  • An on boarding process that sets expectations from day one.

Today’s guest on the show is Danny Gonzalez, co-founder of Perception, the digital agency he and his partner built over the past fifteen years. Danny talks about how they communicate their vision in order to attract and keep top agency talent.

You’ve probably seen some of Perception’s work if you’ve watched Iron Man 2 or Batman vs. Superman. They’re the team responsible for the fictitious technology your favorite superheroes use. They also develop real-world tech solutions (for us non-superhero types), such as UX and UI designs for automotive and technology companies. Pretty cool, right?

#1 Struggle of Building a Team

The most difficult thing about building a team is getting your established clients to trust them. When you operate solo or as a partnership for a long time, your clients are accustomed to leaning on you. Although when you’re growing it becomes necessary to hire. The challenge is getting your existing clients to transfer their trust in you to your new team.

"Hiring the right people frees you up to concentrate on building the business instead of spending time in the weeds."

The key is to start slow. It takes time to educate your current clients and have them accept a reorganization. Be sure display complete confidence in your new hires and over time your clients will feel it too.

With new clients, it’s much easier. Get your team involved from the start. Let go of your need to be involved. Assure the client that you are available if there’s an urgent need or large scale issue but their day-to-day contact is super capable of handling everything.

How to Create and Communicate Agency Vision

For the first few years, it was just Danny and his partner. But as they started growing and hiring, they began making notes about what they wanted for their company - expectations, culture, values and goals. With an agency name of “Perception”, for them it is all about internal and external perception and the senses.

Eventually these bullet point notes of expectations, values and vision turned into a handbook. The handbook is given to new hire candidates before they're even hired. It includes “rules” things like:

  • We don’t bullsh*t each other.
  • We don’t shoot down each other’s ideas.

As well as the lifecycle of a project with a variety of scenarios that lead to different actions: “If this happens, then do X. If that happens, then do Y.”

This is definitely something that has evolved over time and it’s only one part of Perception’s on boarding process.

In my interview with a Zappos executive, she described their process for communicating Zappos Core Values. As a result, Zappos has increased productivity and creativity, reduced turnover and sick time and has topped many Best Workplaces Lists for several years.

On Boarding Process That Sets Expectations from Day 1

In addition to receiving the handbook, the partners give new hires their “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” presentation. They walk through past projects, clients and situation to go over what went right, what went wrong, what was learned and why sometimes you just have to walk away (that's the ugly stuff :) )

Other aspects of on boarding include communicating very role-specific expectations. Setting very clear expectations from the start also sets your team up for success.

Analytics Software to Boost Your Business

Klipfolio is a tool that is helping agencies continuously monitor and report analytics. Define KPI’s based on your preferences and filters in this cloud-based software. With 50+ built-in marketing metrics, you can create a dashboard for yourself and your clients which can be viewed on desktop, mobile or old-fashioned PDF.

For a limited time, Klipfolio has a special deal for my listeners. Get a FREE TRIAL and an amazing offer just for The Smart Agency Master Class listeners at Klipfolio.com/SmartAgency.

Creating the Best Agency Possible With Your Agency Vision

Creating the agency vision you aspire to will allow you to create the best agency possible moving forward. To maintain this high level of authority and your reputation as an agency owner, you should review if there are other weaknesses within your agency that are causing challenges that need to be resolved.

Don’t worry, i’m here for all the advice you need.

From my own experience running my own digital agency as well as helping other digital agency owners, I can provide advice on many topics. It can be anything from changes you want to make within your established agency or if you are a new agency, you might be unsure of what the different phases of growth will look like. These are just a few topics I can give guidance on.

If it's not the agency itself but your agency team, don't worry as I have you covered. Growing your agency team, I can show you how to recognise when to expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing as well as keeping big clients happy.

Ready to create something cool and want more advice? Learn about my career and different experiences as well as tips, tricks and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics. Or if videos are more your thing, visit my Youtube channel!

Direct download: Creating_an_Agency_Vision_and_Culture_to_Attract_Top_Talent.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Today I'm answering some great questions about taking a one-man, or very small agency to the next level. Here's some great advice for building your business and agency scaling to a sustainable level and creating the role you want to be in.

Agency Scaling: From One-Man to Next Level

{0:22} Jeff asked: "I'm currently offering: site design, development and support, SEO, hosting/domain management, digital marketing, social media management, email marketing and some video production. First, I know that's a LOT to offer as a one man shop. Most of this has grown organically from WP website clients who asked for additional services. What advice do you have for me as one person who is building this business and doing all the work?

  • Is partnering with white labels a good move? If so, how have you done that?
  • Is outsourcing a better move? If so, how did you get started with outsourcing?
  • Given that I'm on a tight budget, is there ONE software platform I should buy for marketing and running my own business? Something you just can't do without?"

Software/tools mentioned in the video include: Infusionsoft, Freshbooks and Wave.

Tired of Being Restricted in the Career Path You’re On?

Are you the owner of a small agency under $300,000? Or a freelancer, marketing professional or agency employee who thinks you can run your own agency better?

Jump Start My Agency is a program that covers everything you need to start a profitable agency and land high paying clients of over $20,000.

This 4 week course is designed to help you find the ideal clients, charge what you’re worth and learn how to build a team.

There are clients waiting to work with you! Let me help you by requesting an invitation to the program.

Growing Your Digital Agency

If you found this video helpful but are searching for more advice especially looking to get your business to that next level, I can help.

You can find lots of tips, tricks and insights by checking out our insightful blogs that cover a wide variety of topics or if videos are more your thing, visit my videos on my Youtube channel!


Increase Business: How One Digital Agency Doubled Business in 4 Months

If you're trying to grow an agency, you know you're going to need a foot in a door strategy to increase business and get you to the next level of success. The trouble is, you're selling the wrong service first.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • #1 strategy to increase business with new clients for your agency.
  • Why you need a Foot in the Door offer.
  • What makes a great Foot in the Door offer?

My guest on the show today is represents every reason why I love my work. Todd Earwood is the founder and CEO of MoneyPath Marketing. We first met when Todd attended one of my two-day workshops. A few months later he called me to share the success story on how his business doubled in just 4 months. Todd shares with us the #1 reason his agency was able to increase business so drastically and how he’s on track to do 3X business within 6 months of the workshop!

MoneyPath Marketing targets SaaS companies and like many agencies they have a hard time getting their foot in the door. Todd attended my workshop hoping to glean a little useful knowledge that he could implement right away. Ask and you shall receive...

#1 Strategy to Increase Agency New Business

Todd wanted more opportunities to get his foot in the door with prospects and that’s exactly what he got on Day #1 of the workshop. We discussed the principle behind the Foot in the Door offer and how one agency did $252K at a tradeshow using this strategy.

(A Foot in the Door offer is a slice off your core services. It is something a prospective will find informative and valuable, but does not solve a problem or involve a large investment.)

Todd found so much value in the Foot in the Door lesson that he implemented it right there during the workshop. That day, he jumped on a call with his salesman and a new business prospect. He offered the prospect a paid discovery (instead of going right away for a full scale project). They landed the paid discovery and nailed it, which lead to another project and eventually retainer business allowing him to increase business overall for his agency.

Why You Need a Foot in the Door Offer:

1- It offers a low cost point of entry. When you are pitching a prospect for a project that is $20K or $50K it’s a huge commitment. And although you are fully committed to being successful, the price tag can make it a tough sell. A Foot in the Door offer is just the bottom rung on your offer ladder. You’ll find you actually make more money when you start small and have your clients stairstep their way up.

2- It’s the courtship before the marriage. I get it - you want the bigger paid projects and retainers. But going for those higher price tags first is like proposing marriage on the first date. A Foot in the Door offer is a great way to get to know each other. You can build your authority and gain more trust, as well as get a glimpse of client’s work style.

3- It helps to determine what the client really wants. Let’s be honest. What the client thinks they need and what they actually need are often two completely different things. That’s why a blueprint or discovery is so valuable. It allows you to dig into the current situation to see what’s missing and provide insight as to how you can help.

4- It pre-qualifies your prospects. Think about it this way. If you have a prospect who balks at spending $2,500 for a paid discovery, how do you think a full scale project proposal will play out? Maybe something like this? By selling a Foot in the Door first, you’ll get the opportunity to qualify your prospects. You can find out if they have the budget to work with you. In addition you can determine in advance if you can help them.

5- It speeds up the sales cycle. When you have a lower price point of entry it’s much easier for your prospects to make the decision to work with you. After you fulfill delivery on the Foot in the Door and wow them with your expertise you’ll find subsequent sales decisions and are made much faster. Why is that? Because once a client buys from you they are 20X more likely to buy again in the future because they already know, like and trust you.

What Makes a Great Foot in the Door Offer?

First and foremost, it needs to be super simple. Make sure you are managing expectations as to what your prospect is getting from the Foot in the Door offer. Call it a discovery, blueprint, consultation or whatever you want... Just be sure it’s something you can explain pretty easily.

The process for proposing and delivering a Foot in the Door offer should be pretty turnkey. No fancy, lengthy proposal necessary. Todd says his agency sells theirs in a two page PDF that documents the timeline, process, deliverables and price.

Don’t over deliver. This was something Todd learned the hard way. He said he was used to doing free consultations, so the first time they did a paid discovery they felt the need to give an abundance of information so he could justify charging for it. He says the prospect actually told him it was too much information and needed a couple days to think about it. That’s not the goal. The goal of a Foot in the Door offer is to provide value and give just enough information that leaves the client wanting to do more.

Your goal is not to make a money on your Foot in the Door offer. Instead you’ll see exponential growth, revenue and profits by the increased business it brings in. Your goal is to build relationships, increase business and move prospects through your offering ladder.

How to Be Viewed as an Expert

Todd says another big takeaway from my workshop was the importance of standing out and not being a “Me Too” Agency. Another contributor to his agency's success is the declaration of a specialization. Although it's counter intuitive, marketing to a specific audience will make a real impact on your business.

When you have a specialization, you are able to create better content that speaks to a specific audience. When you niche down, you are able to use language specific to that particular industry. Focused marketing campaigns show prospects that you understand their problems, issues and challenges. And you will be viewed a subject matter expert.

Don’t be afraid to choose a niche and focus your energy there. This doesn’t mean turning away business. It just means targeting a specific group and saying: “I only help guys like you, I know what I’m doing and I know we can be successful.”

Give it a try... because the only thing worse than not trying is the regret you’ll feel if you don’t :)

Have You Hit a Plateau With Growing Your Agency?

Do you feel that you don't have what it takes to really scale and grow your agency? As you may have noticed, the agency world is definitely going through some changes. If you would like to attend the same workshop that Todd attended and talked about in this article, click here.

Analytics Software to Boost Your Business

Klipfolio is a tool that is helping agencies continuously monitor and report analytics. Define KPI’s based on your preferences and filters in this cloud-based software. With 50+ built-in marketing metrics, you can create a dashboard for yourself and your clients which can be viewed on desktop, mobile or old-fashioned PDF.

For a limited time, Klipfolio has a special deal for my listeners. Get a FREE TRIAL and an amazing offer just for The Smart Agency Master Class listeners at Klipfolio.com/SmartAgency.

Discover the best Digital Agency Strategies today. Get Online Training to help you setup the right systems and strategies to help you grow faster.

Next Level Digital Agency

Now that you have heard from Todd, are you ready to increase business for your agency and take it to the next level?

In order to build as an agency owner and grow your agency to the next level, especially when you are looking to increase business, you need to be able to recognise other issues within your agency that needs your attention.

Look for weak spots in your business and then think of how you can fix them. No matter what challenge your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can offer guidance from the different phases of growth you will experience to how you can build authority for your agency.

Growing your agency can be a major struggle for any agency owner and I can show from knowing when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team, creating a process for performance based pricing which can be the best pricing strategy for your business and learning how to keep your big name clients happy.

Are you ready to create something cool and want more advice? Learn about my career and different experiences as well as tips, tricks and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

Check out more from my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my Youtube channel. There you will find advice from myself and other agency experts.

 

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Doubled_Their_Business_in_4_Months_1.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 9:00am EST

What to Consider in Your Hiring Practices

What do you do when during a phase when you are hiring new team members, you discover they hope to eventually own their own agency?

In this week's episode, I cover some important questions about hiring practices. Should you hire someone who tells you in the interview that they hope to someday run their own agency? If they're otherwise qualified, should that be a deal breaker? Also, if you find a great new hire but they don't live close, should you pay for relocation?

{0:30} Jack asked:  "Say you're interviewing candidates for a sales position at your agency. When asked what they want to be doing in five years, the candidate says they want to run their own agency some day. Is this a deal breaker? We both know how hard running an agency is! Chances are, they won't be. But even if they did -- should that be an issue? I'm thinking it's kind of inevitable in our industry and I'm leaning towards being OK with it but I'm curious about your perspective."

{3:13} Aaron asked: "Would you suggest paying relocation costs for new hires? If so, under what circumstances would you offer it... Junior level or only Mid/Senior level? Would you stipulate they had to be a certain distance away in order to pay for a move? And would you reimburse certain kinds of moving expenses or just do it as a lump sum signing bonus?"

Growing Your Agency Brand

If you found this helpful but are searching for more advice especially looking to get your business to that next level, I can help.

You can find lots of tips, tricks and insights by checking out these helpful blogs that cover a wide variety of topics or if videos are more your thing, visit my videos on my Youtube channel!


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