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

Do you feel stuck in a rut? Overwhelmed or uncertain? You are not alone! A lot of agency owners feel the same way. If you need help finding clarity or getting focused, check out this episode. This is the perfect time of year to look at where you’re at and where you’re headed. Get re-energized and meet your goals in the new year.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 3 characteristics you need to build a successful agency.
  • Finding clarity in your agency life.
  • How to find and keep your focus.
  • #1 thing holding you back.

Today’s guest is Aaron Walker, successful businessman and life coach at the third business he’s built, View from the Top. Through his mastermind, Iron Sharpens Iron, Aaron helps people be their best selves and how to carry that into their professional lives. Aaron’s passion in coaching and today he shares with us some advice and nuggets of knowledge on how to take that first step towards clarity and success.

3 Characteristics Necessary To Build A Successful Agency

Lots of us who are out there trying to build our agency and make a name for ourselves are creators/developers, not maintainers/managers.

This can be where the problem is: you can’t get clarity.

Today we have more opportunities than ever before. It paralyzes us and clouds our judgement. The overwhelm can even cause a leadership crash.

That is why you need to have:

  1. Determination, Tenacity, Grit to persevere.
  2. Be Organized and Intentional to lead.
  3. Most importantly, you need FOCUS.

With that focus you also need consistency. If you aren’t willing to devote two years to your venture, don’t even start it.

Stay focused on the long game and do what you set out to do. Every. Single. Day.

Aaron shares a little phrase his mom used to say to him, that he hated, but now is part of his mantra: “Can’t couldn’t do it, and Could did it all.

You know, inspiration isn’t forever, it’s really about finding your purpose -- that thing that gets you out of bed every morning. That’s what is going to keep you going.

How To Find Clarity In Your Agency Life

For entrepreneurs, a lot of our clarity is muddled by constantly looking over our shoulder, wondering if we should have done that other thing instead. Stop worrying if the grass is greener on the other side and realize the grass is greener where you water it.

Realize that you will never get to a point where you will feel a sense of security, so stop looking for that. Instead, fill yourself with confidence.

The first step is -- you gotta launch. Whatever it is - just do it. As my friend Ian says, “Version done is better than version none.” He’s so right!

You need to realize that it’s never going to be perfect, so just take that first step and go from there. You will figure it out.

Once you find your purpose, it will help bring you clarity. Your purpose will become the thing that really drives you, steers your ship and it’s guides your decision-making. When you start doing this, then you will find your significance.

How to Find and Keep Your Focus

First, if your focus is on making money, then it’s not going to keep you focused long-term. You need a purpose for that! Sure, there’s definitely a portion of our focus that is tied to money. If it weren’t of any importance, we’d be giving everything away for free.

It’s not wrong to want to make money, just make sure you own your money and your money doesn’t own you.

You can, however, use money and finances as a measurement tool, not based on how much you make, but on the fact that if people are paying for the products/services you provide, then you’re helping people and are providing a valuable resource. Besides, if you gave your stuff away for free, nobody would pay attention to you.

It’s the same thing if you underprice yourself. By underpricing, you will cause people to undervalue what you provide; thinking what you have to offer isn’t very good because it’s too cheap.

 

Direct download: How_to_Find_Your_Focus_and_Clarity_to_Grow_A_Successful_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Having a hard time scaling your agency? Finding it difficult to stop doing it all, all by yourself? Thinking of building an agency team but don’t know where to begin? Learn how to find and hire the right people for your agency and how to set them up for immediate success.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to avoid common pitfalls of a virtual agency team.
  • How to find top agency talent that fits with your core values.
  • What to look for when hiring and building your team.

Today I was excited to talk to Ralph Burns, founder and CEO of Antares Enterprises, Inc. As one of the premier Facebook direct response marketers in the industry, he has built an agency around an interesting business model. Ralph’s agency team is entirely virtual, and everyone is certified in his agency’s processes before they even start on the job! Learning things the hard way, or the long way, Ralph shares how he overcame challenges by building and leading a successful team.

How to Overcome Common Pitfalls of a Virtual Agency Team

The biggest challenge, and one where it’s easy to get stuck, is getting past the "1-man model" and allowing yourself be OK not doing everything yourself.

Once you get someone on board with you and you’re able to realize that you both bring unique abilities to grow the agency in different directions, from there you can begin the talent search.

The hardest part about bringing on virtual talent is:

  • Teaching them the ways of your agency.
  • Building systems and documenting processes.
  • Passing on the knowledge so someone can duplicate what you’ve been doing.

Once you get through that, you will be able to scale up from there. 1-on-1 Method - personally train the new employee, be in daily contact, coaching and mentoring them. While this can be effective, it also takes a long time and can be inefficient. Mentorship - utilize your current staff to build out documents such as Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to utilize moving forward with future new hires. SOPs are so important and should really become the basis for everything you do.

Documenting can be painful, but it’s the first step you have to take.

Listen, without SOPs -- you’re SOL :)

A Unique Method for Discovering Agency Talent

It is important to have an educational platform on what you do in the agency...

Ralph actually took it a step further and decided to use his agency’s certification program as a pool for finding ideal candidates to hire as his agency grows. Get this...

Their rigorous 5-day training course is a stand alone program for individuals who want to get certified in Facebook Ads, with a practical test at the end. With access to the test results, this gives Ralph and his team a way to identify the best of the best and has opened up a new avenue for potential agency talent candidates.

Essentially, these people are trained on the agency’s processes and SOP, which eliminates a lot of the learning curve of a typical new hire, which could take another 3-5 months. Now, candidates are ready to roll and can get acclimated much faster to working with actual paying customers.

The beauty of this unique recruitment system is that they know people's intentions because they are paying for the training and know how to do things, right when they start!

Plus as an agency, you owe it to your clients to have people who not only know how to run Facebook ads (whatever your speciality), but also know how to do it the way you do it - within your systems, inside your agency. Because ultimately, your clients are paying you for your expertise, including those systems you’ve developed.

What’s the #1 Account Manager Dilemma?

We all know this story... you have a great account manager on a large account and something happens that takes them out of commission, which means you and your clients are screwed.

The solution? Large accounts, those that are unwieldy or have a lot of moving parts can be co-managed. You have a lead account manager and a secondary account manager.

Another solution is to create smaller teams within your account management department. Have these teams meet once a week, even if they’re virtual, and talk through issues going on with their accounts. That way, if an account only has one manager, there are still two or three other managers familiar with that client.

What to Look for When Hiring Agency Talent

When you are in the process of recruiting agency talent people, don’t just go after the folks that are the best with a technical skill.

Consider your agency’s culture and core values. Then think of some key characteristics that are important to have. Technical skill can be taught, but culture and value is either there or not.

Things to consider in your recruitment efforts:

  • Able to collaborate and innovate
    • Collaboration is huge, especially if virtual.
  • Be solution-oriented
    • Hire people to solve problems for your clients.
    • Problems are ok, but need to also work on solutions.
  • Hungry and humble
    • Have the drive to get better and improve without a cocky attitude.

ALSO: Consider creating your own agency manifesto as a vision to guide your decisions and get you through the tough times. It takes time to create, but it will become your compass and worth the investment of time.

 

Direct download: How_to_Build_an_Effective_Agency_Virtual_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you feel like your agency sales needs to grow beyond you, the owner? Are you having a hard time recruiting and training successful salespeople? Then it’s time to start putting the right systems in place in order to build a scalable agency sales team.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 2 things to be aware of before a sales hire.
  • Is it the right time to hire for agency sales?
  • Key traits to look for when hiring a salesperson.
  • How long until a new salesperson is successful?
  • Top 7 take away tips.

Today I got to talk with Wayne Herring, owner of Herring Coach, where he specializes in coaching and consulting business owners who are looking to scale their agency sales team. Wayne is the guy who teaches business owners to hire, train, hold accountable, and basically build their sales team. Today he’s giving us tips on how you can do the same for your agency.

2 Important Things To Be Aware Of Before You Hire

  1. Owner’s advantage. Even if you aren’t stating it when you’re selling, if you’re the owner and you’re selling - you have an advantage. Remember that your salespeople will not have this advantage.
  2. There are very few superhero salespeople. It is unrealistic to think you’re going to hire someone who is going to come in and kill it, right off the bat. Don’t look for it, you may never find it.

Is It The Right Time To Hire?

It’s hard to know when it’s the right time to hire for agency sales, as all agencies are in different situations.

But, I can tell you when not to:

DON’T hire your first sales rep if you’re already overwhelmed. If you can’t spend time with a new sales hire and you’re not prepared to invest a significant amount of time into their on-boarding, coaching, role playing, etc. then you aren’t ready to hire.

DON’T hire a sales rep if you don’t have systems in place. If you're not prepared to hire, train and retain good salespeople you're setting up for failure.

What You Need In Place If It Is The Right Time To Hire:

You need to have a strong foundation, including a definition of who you are as an agency and where you are going. You need to know this so you can give direction and keep everyone on the same page.

Have a set audience for them to sell to. Every business is not your ideal customer, define this for your new salesperson and set them up for success.

Start small... Give them one thing, one goal, to focus on. Don’t overwhelm by throwing the whole shebang at them.

Getting someone oriented and quickly on-boarding them to sell a small first step (such as your foot in the door offer) does a couple of things:

  • It helps to prove if this person is going to make it within your agency.
  • It helps them feel successful quickly and give them a win to start off.

Traits to Look for When Hiring for Agency Sales

Again, don’t go looking for a sales superhero. Instead, help them grow into one.

Another trip-up can be hiring based on gut, without really defining the type of person you are looking for. Think ahead about qualities you need, and don’t completely focus on likability and personality, this can get you stuck.

Pay attention to how they interview. Are they running the show? Are they asking a lot of questions? A good salesperson will do both these things! A lot of times we feel like we need to sell our agency to the candidate by telling them how wonderful it is. This is where there needs to be a shift in mindset...

Treat yourself and the interview process as a prospect you would want them to go after. Let them run the conversation, see how they lead and if they follow-up. Let the process demonstrate how they would work with a prospective client. Then decide if there's a fit and a future.

Salesperson recruiting is a marketing activity. It is something that deserves serious attention.

How Long Until a New Salesperson is Successful?

Everyone needs a little time to prove their worth, but for agency sales it usually depends on two things:

  1. The length of your sales cycle.
  2. Past experience and observations.

If you have a long sales cycle then you might benefit from creating “ramp up" report, which breaks down the early steps of the sales process, (contacts, meetings, audits, etc.) and charts them in a grid format and plots progress over time. With this data, eventually you’ll discover that salesperson’s “ramp up curve” which indicates whether they’re following a path you know is going to lead to long term success.

Measuring activity can tell you a lot. If they don’t start off coming out the gate fast and hard, it’s a tell tale sign they’re going to struggle.

Be sure to avoid “happy ears” or overly optimistic situations. I’ve been guilty of hanging on to someone because of all the big deals they have “in the works” but never actually come to fruition. See things for what they are and measure the activity.

Ask your salespeople the questions: who, what, where why, and when… “What’s the next step?” or “When’s that going to happen?” When you’re consistently coaching it will become abundantly clear whether they’re going to be successful.

Top 7 Take Aways

When you’re going to start building a sales team:

  1. Remember owner’s advantage and there are no sales superheroes.
  2. Clearly define work that needs to be done.
  3. Clearly define the role, key accountabilities.
  4. Be willing to work hard through the entire hiring phase and have a process for phone calls, interviews, assessment, etc.
  5. Be prepared to spend time to onboard intentionally, track the activity/progress, and help sell the smallest engagement first.
  6. Using a CRM isn’t optional.
  7. Understand the importance of coaching and role playing, even if it’s uncomfortable.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Wayne_Herring.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Ever had a client that just didn’t feel like a good fit right off the bat? Ever taken on the wrong agency projects out of desperation to pay bills and meet payroll? If it doesn’t feel right or there are some red flags, pay attention and go with your gut. Listen to the hard lesson this 25 year agency owner learned, how it knocked him down, and how he got back up again.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to avoid the wrong agency projects or clients.
  • Setting up a successful agency structure.
  • Tips on improving your search for inbound leads.

Today I got to talk with Jim Stewart, industry pioneer and CEO of StewArt Media and SEO/Digital Marketing Evangelist on his YouTube channel, Jimboot. With more than 25 years experience, Jim has good insight into both the struggles on the business side as well as great information on maximizing search.

Avoiding the Wrong Agency Projects or Clients

Jim’s biggest piece of advice is: Trust your gut instincts!

If something doesn’t feel right or there are some red flags, pay attention, listen to your gut. If your gut says run - then run!

And if you're white labeling or on the receiving end of an outsourcing situation, beware:

  • Being white labeled is tough and you get little to no credit for your work.
  • You don’t get direct interaction with the client and receive information through a third party.
  • You’re being sourced for your processes, yet the larger agencies don’t want to follow your processes.
  • Getting the work done on time can be challenging when your agency isn’t the main point of contact.
  • Determining how to charge isn’t clear cut when white labeling.

Using this type of structure in the beginning for small agencies is not uncommon, I did it. Just make it work for you by:

  • Letting the big agency know up front that you will credit them as a client name.
  • You will have direct contact with the client.

Sometimes in these situations, the big agency will start failing on the project and the client could start approaching your agency directly. Don’t burn any bridges. Being up front with the big agency is key, but you will find that sometimes, they are aware of their shortcomings and tell you to just go ahead and help the client with what’s needed. This can be a great opportunity to build your client base.

Creating a Successful Structure

You can’t change your first hire but if you could, would you? I sure would. Bringing someone into the fold that has the skill set to handle all the stuff you can’t, or aren’t very good at, is key... So, who should you hire first?

It really starts with self awareness. What are you good at? What do you like doing? Where do you want to  take the agency? Take all that info and hiring accordingly. Then...

  • Invest in those people.
  • Train those people.
  • Educate those people.

As the agency CEO it is important to know your five roles - and daily operations isn't one of them.

And, if you have you been thinking of yourself more as an owner than a CEO, it might be time to transition from Owner to CEO.

Be the leader. Communicate the plan. Make sure everyone knows the direction the agency is headed. Set goals and clearly outline them. This provides the team the freedom to work within their goal structures and figure out the best tools to utilize to achieve those goals. Even though ours can be a transient industry, we still have to invest in good people.

With the client, clearly outline the plan for them as well. Many clients have been burned before which is why outlining and communicating goals is crucial. Tell them what you’re going to do, when they can expect it and follow through.

Improving Search for Inbound Agency New Business

There is one major factor in Search: Trust

The way to build trust is by having a strong brand. The best thing you can do for search and your overall business is: Build That Brand.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to building your brand. It takes hard work and consistency. You need to be putting out valuable content that either educates or entertains. This content creates an impression of you and your brand; it is what your brand becomes.

The ultimate goal is to get people to associate your content, or brand, with keywords in your category and viewed as the authority in the industry.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Jim_Stewart.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Are you avoiding video? Afraid you’re not interesting enough or don’t have enough content to produce? Does it look too hard or are you worrying about production quality? Find out how to build your digital communication with a video presence. It’s more accessible and approachable than you think!

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Understanding the importance of vlogging.
  • Finding a style that works for you and/or your client.
  • How to avoid getting discouraged.
  • How to turn viewers into subscribers.

Today I’m chatting with Amy Schmittauer, a media triple threat as a successful YouTuber, with her channel Savvy Sexy Social, best selling author of Vlog Like A Boss and keynote speaker. If anyone understands the power and importance of video in digital communication it’s Amy. She's looked to as the authority in the how-to vlogging space and actually one of the influencers of my vlog, SwenkToday.

Understanding the Importance of Vlogging

Digital communications is becoming a big need for businesses, both large and small. This need started with social media but is now moving towards video. It is difficult to survive online communications or digital marketing without some form of video.

Understanding the way people are consuming content is going to decide your digital communication. People are trying to find the better, faster way of what they want… video accommodates that need.

Video and vlogs are growing because they make the host seem approachable. The platforms, such as YouTube, Instagram Stories, Snapchat, etc. are growing and video is becoming more accessible. Because of this, it’s time to step outside your box and start asking, “How can we, as an agency, better consider what our customer wants when it comes to video?” Sit down and have a conversation with clients because using the visual of video is going to make a much deeper connection. This will help your agency make more money and serve your clients better, because this is a necessity in business today.

Finding a Style That Works for You

People can get caught up in feeling uninteresting, but that is the beauty of video… you can make ANYTHING look and sound interesting with video, IF you think about what it’s like for the end user!

So when you think about your video style you need to ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. What is the Brand of You?

How do you want people to be talking about you? Get creative. Stay consistent so your audience can get to know you and care about you.

2. Who are You Talking To?

Know your audience. Know what your audience wants. This will make you more interesting and keep them watching!

3. What is Your Audience Size and Loyalty Level?

If you are new to vlogging and have little or no audience, you have a lot of work to do to earn trust and interest. This will help you build a solid base audience, which can allow you to take things to another level and take some liberties with your content.

If you are more concerned with the number of views than the quality of viewer… you’re in trouble.

How to Build a Solid Video Presence

Don’t get discouraged! I get it, entrepreneurs are impatient (myself included!).

Remember: It’s not about the number of views or number of people you reach, because it just takes one person -- the perfect customer. Don’t lose focus on who that person is.

It’s tough, vanity metrics on Facebook can make it hard to choose a platform. Facebook feels like your content is getting more views, but in reality, the context of that view is not as valuable as on, say, YouTube.

Facebook pushes content into a newsfeed, can come without audio, and is logged as a view if it's watched for 3 seconds or more. So of course, views can look higher on Facebook.

YouTube viewers are more intentional. They come looking for the content you are providing and a view isn’t ticked off until 30 seconds is viewed. Every platform has a different algorithm to make more money and keep people happy. But remember, you are working with the same algorithm as top YouTubers. If you get that one person, that perfect customer to watch you and can build a connection through advising them on something that will help them in a positive way… that’s all that matters.

Keep ‘Em Coming Back

The BEST thing to do to get people to come back is: Ask them.

  • DO ask for them to subscribe - the ask makes them more likely to do it.
  • DON'T assume if they watch your video they will subscribe.
  • DON'T assume if you put a visual, without actually calling it out, they’ll subscribe.

Technology is always trying to get better for the viewer and also the vlogger, but sometimes they conflict.

You have to be explicit. Lead off with it, but make it short. You don’t want to spend too much time or you will lose them.

You want to keep your viewer until the end. If you get them to watch your video all the way to the end, you are considered their thought leader. So tell them what to do next, whatever the natural next step might be (i.e. subscribe, opt-in with email, or visit your site). Say it. You have to say it.

Use visuals and create features that make for a nice user experience. This also encourages more action.

Related: Want to get better at producing video? Check out this episode: https://jasonswenk.com/video-marketing/

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: How_to_Amp_Up_Your_Agency_or_Client_s_Video_Presence.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EST

Is your agency using the Foot in the Door strategy? Are you keeping all the clients you want to? Learn the three core parts of a proven sales process that is working to renew client contracts and improve recurring revenue.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • The 3 core parts to every agency sales process.
  • How to create a successful renewal process.
  • How to get out of your agency so it can be a successful agency.

Today my guests are Rob Murray and Paul Demarco, cofounders of Intrigue Media, a full-service digital agency servicing B2C clients. In the 11 years they have been working together, they’ve grown their agency from a $50 project fee to $3 million in revenue this year. They credit their growth to a proven sales process and to always sticking with the process.

3 Core Parts of a Proven Sales Process

1- The Sales Process Itself

The key to this part is how you interact with people, i.e. your client or customer. There are two main philosophies to consider:

  • Two ears, one mouth, use accordingly. Listening to your clients, let them do the majority of the talking. Ask lots of questions, your client wants to be understood.
  • Avoid writing a prescription without a diagnosis; that is malpractice. You cannot properly pitch them a successful idea without understanding them.

Be mindful and open to needing help. Your sales is what drives agency growth. Rob and Paul realized early on that they couldn’t afford not to get help. If you are in the same boat, then check out my Agency Sales Makeover.

2- Financial Commitment for Proposals

Traditionally, Intrigue’s proposals or plans had been provided up front for free, or virtually free. However, this is where you want to implement the Foot in the Door strategy, and create a fee-based proposal that is clearly outlined. This is the first step in the direction of a long-lasting client relationship.

Proposals require work, outlining this work with your fee is totally acceptable. Intrigue's Marketing Action Plan (MAP) includes the research and education necessary to understand what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it will be done and creating a plan around that.

Thinking the proposal “seals the deal” is looking at it the wrong way. Charging a low, set fee will:

  • Help you win the deal faster.
  • Make the deal less risky.
  • Provide you incentive and enjoyment through the process.
  • Help make it an easier decision for the client to trust you.
  • Can be a qualifier on your merit.

Using the Foot in the Door strategy will also help define the type of clients you want to be working with. If the partnership doesn’t feel right, you can walk away with little loss, rather than taking on a large retainer and becoming stuck.

3- Provide a Plan that Defines Expectations

You need to develop a crystal clear plan that defines crystal clear expectations. Something like:

  • "This is exactly what we are promising you."
  • "This is exactly how we will go do it."

This plan needs to be shared with your CLIENT as well as your TEAM so that it can be properly executed. With this thinking, you need to make sure that the team you intend on doing the work is the team you are having scope the work up front. This can prove to be a huge win.

Creating a Successful Renewal Process

Keeping your clients satisfied can be achieved with making sure they are delighted on a regular basis. They implemented “delightful client moments,” where they get to know their clients better. It’s those soft touches that make the business relationship more personal.

Taking a binary look at satisfaction creates a more black & white answer:

  • If they don’t renew they aren’t satisfied.
  • If they do renew they are satisfied.

Everyone can say your stuff is great, but if they pay you for it, then you know it is great.

Using the Foot in the Door method is a stepping stone towards a 1-year retainer. A month or two before the retainer is up, bring the client back in for a renewal. This is when you go for the longer term because you have built up a relationship of trust.

How to Get Out of Your Agency So It Can Be a Successful Agency

Consider a successful business being a business that can run without you. Leave the details to the team who specialize in the details. Success is all about:

  • The focus you provide for the team.
  • The focus you put on the team.

Bring consistency in what they do everyday:

  • Create structure inside the organization.
  • Put your priorities in focus.
  • Get those priorities accomplished.
  • Do updates frequently so everyone is in the know.

Providing clarity and context to team members ensures that everyone knows what is going on and can roll in the same direction... sticking to the process and growing your client base.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: 3_Elements_of_a_Proven_Agency_Sales_Process.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Is your agency stuck in a "best practices" rut? Are you following so-called industry best practices without seeing results? If you’re in a place where excitement and momentum have puttered out and you think your agency has plateaued, you’ve hit what my guest calls your “crapping point” :) It's time to start asking the right questions and creating your own best practices.

In this episode we’ll cover:

  • Understanding your context and its three components.
  • How to create your own formula for best practices.
  • How to not fall into the best practices trap.

Today’s guest is Jay Acunzo, is Sorry for Marketing and shares it all as a keynote speaker, blogger and host of the podcast, Unthinkable. Jay has an impressive background in the tech world and with start-ups, including a career at Google and Hubspot. He also did investing in start-ups for a firm, so his experience and insight comes from both sides of the aisle.

Jay understands the importance of asking a lot of questions, the right questions, and turning away from conventional thinking. Today he is in a fight with best practices because “it has never been easier to be average.”

If you aren’t seeing the results you expected and your agency has “Crapped Out,” Jay is here to give us some tips on how to better find your best practices by asking the right questions so you can stand out, rather than blend in.

Understanding Your Agency’s Context

Your context consists of three things:

  1. Those doing the work - yourself, your agency, your team
  2. Those receiving the work - your audience, the customer or client
  3. Your resources - the means to make things a reality

If you find yourself asking “Why isn’t this working?” don’t forget to start adding the word “us” to the equation…. Such as: “Why isn’t this working… for us?” The best practices that might work for one company, may not for yours because your context is different.

“Success leaves clues.” ~ Tony Robbins

Success might leave clues, but it doesn’t leave answers. Best practices are simply a possibility that still need to be put through the filter, that is your context and then add your details to, and find, a best practice that will work for you.

It is time to start thinking for yourself and not just following a list. You are the expert of your agency’s context.

How To Create Your Own Formula for Best Practices

One word: INTUITION

We aren’t talking about the gut feeling you get from emotion and running with it. We are talking about the defined word, Intuition, which has roots in Latin that mean: Knowledge from within

In other words, this circles back to knowing your stuff -- knowing your context

The best way to know your context is to make sure you are asking the right questions for the three things that make up your context, listed above, Yourself, Your Audience and Your Resources.

Visualize your intuition as a thing or tool that is on par with a list article. Understand that Intuition is that compounding return you experience from, constantly asking questions and understanding your context, and making the right call.

Trust your INTUITION.

How To Avoid the Best Practices Trap

It all starts with a shift from the desire of knowing the answer, to caring more about how to find answers. This mindshift begins with asking the right questions of your context points. Each component has two questions and we can look at it like a funnel...

The TOP Level is where all the confusion and all the excessive information is found.

Sublevel 1 - YOU

  1. What is my aspirational anchor? Meaning, your intent for the future and hunger for today.
  2. What is my unfair advantage? Do an audit on your team to determine strengths and figure out how to best utilize them.

Sublevel 2 - YOUR AUDIENCE

  1. What is my first principle insight? Understanding your clients needs/wants and knowing what you can bring to the table to help them achieve those.
  2. Who are my true believers? These are the people (even if just a few) who are passionate about what you're doing. Find your super fans.

Sublevel 3 - RESOURCES

  1. What are my constraints? Is it money, size, time? Understanding these constraints will help you innovate within them.
  2. How can I expand? Think big, but understand that you have to start small. Putting a lot of boxes on a field will still cover the field and can build something big

The BOTTOM Point is where you find your CLARITY.

Be the exception. By identifying and acknowledging your specific context you are in a category of ONE!

Related: Creating content that speaks to an audience of one.

Direct download: How_to_Overcome__Best_Practices__Overload_for_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

How does your agency fit into your life? Are you being very honest and clear on what it is that you want and what success means to you? If you feel like a prisoner to your business or you're struggling with passion for your agency, it might be a time to look within.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 3 simple questions to gut check whether your agency is working for you.
  • How to reinvent your agency.
  • How to understand your recurring revenue needs.

Today I talk with Pia Silva, Founder and Brand Strategist at WorstofAll Designs, speaker, Forbes contributor and author of BadAss Your Brand. Pia and her partner (who also happens to be her husband) had their lightbulb moment over 6 years ago when they’d fallen into a huge funk and some serious business debt. She’s here to share with us how to avoid those same mistakes while being true to yourself and your business goals.

It was then they realized their agency model wasn’t working and that they were trying to front an agency model and be something they weren’t and have now come to realize they have had so much more success just embracing what they did have that was different.

3 simple questions could change everything

Do a gut check with these three simple questions:

  1. Is it UNIQUE?
  2. Do you ENJOY IT?
  3. Is it PROFITABLE?

Does your current business model work for you?

Pia uses these three questions as a foundational point of helping other small business owners with their branding issues. She believes your business should really be “the intersection of what you love and what’s most profitable.” It’s that outside-of-the-box thinking that will set you apart and put you on the path of a business model that will work.

Is it time to reinvent your business?

If you’re gonna spend all your time on this, you better LOVE it!” ~ Pia Silva

If the answers to any of those 3 questions are ‘no’ then it’s time to reinvent yourself. You need to attack this and look at it going: “This is us. This is what we want to do. This is what we enjoy doing. This is what we’re going to do”...and then figure out how to do it.

For Pia and her partner, it meant letting go of employees and redefining their measure of success.

Now, instead of being a traditional agency trying to play hardball with the big guys it’s just the two of them. By their choice. Instead of taking on lengthy projects and retainer clients their agency runs intense full day workshops with one client at a time where they “badass their brand” through a BrandUp session.

How to Reinvent your Agency

First, go back to the basics.

Look within. You can’t compete with the big guys if you think the same as the big guys. Instead, think:

  • What makes us unique?
  • What do we want to do?

Next break it down, step-by-step to go after it.

If you look backwards, then you are just reacting to the market. Instead be proactive and break down your business growth into smaller decisions. Drill down by determining answers to these:

  • How can I buy an ideal client?
    • How can I buy a pitch?
      • How can I get their attention?
        • Who do I want to go after?
          • Understand yourself and your core service

Understanding Your Recurring Revenue Needs

Honesty is key. Ask yourself why you're in this and possibly, what your end game looks like.

Are you comfortable with a lifestyle business? Are you looking for enough revenue to live your life and afford you extra time to do other things you enjoy? Or, are you looking to catapult your business or eventually sell it? What do you want? What does success mean to you?

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Related: A $3 Million Agency with a Unique Business Model

Direct download: How_to_Fit_Your_Agency_into_Your_Life__Not_Vice-Versa.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

How can you create an agency culture that continually inspires your team? After all your team is your #1 asset, so keeping them energized and motivated is key. Agency culture and brand are two sides of the same coin. So, it all starts with defining your on core values. Easier said than done, right?

In this week’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Who to hire first at your agency.
  • How to create a desirable agency culture.
  • One example of core values that set the tone for amazing agency culture.

Today’s guest on the show is Brad Flowers, founder of Bullhorn Creative. Like many others, Brad and his partner “accidentally” founded their agency. What was just the two of them and some freelancers in 2008 has grown to 2 offices and 14 employees. They learned fast and hard in order to grow, and Brad is on the show to share his tips on creating a desirable agency culture.

Who to Hire First at Your Agency

Their first hire was a Project Manager which is ideal, because PM's:

  • Pay attention to details and follow-up/follow-through.
  • Create and implement agency systems and processes.
  • Keep track of projects, keeping them on time and in budget.

All this frees up the owner(s) for higher level, business growth activities. Things like: identifying your ideal clients and proactively going after the business you want in order to grow.

How To Create a Desirable Agency Culture

It clicked for Brad when he read a line in Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness.

Our belief is that a company’s culture and a company’s brand are just two sides of the same coin. The brand is just a lagging indicator of the culture.” ~ Tony Hsieh

Meaning, culture is the outside world’s perception of the people within your agency. And since the people on your team are a reflection of your agency’s core values you need to hire the right people in order to have the culture you want. So, it all starts with  setting core values. Here's how:

  1. Do honest inward reflection to determine your (and your partner’s) personal core values.
  2. Write your core values and live them by example every day.
  3. Begin hiring based on core values in order to mesh them into your culture.
  4. Consider incentives or awards in line with the core values.

For more on Zappos' highly acclaimed company culture and core values check out: How to Define Your Agency’s Core Values and Set Up Your Team for Success Like Zappos.

Core Values that Set the Tone for Agency Culture

Bullhorn has 3 pairs of core values they bring to life in their agency’s culture. Like Zappos, these aren’t just a motto to aspire toward, they’re a way of life.

1. Empathy & Honesty

  • Understand where someone else is coming from but be honest enough to keep things on track.
  • Relevant both internally among the team and externally with clients.
  • Empathy is a unique way of demonstrating authority to your prospects and clients.

2. Dissatisfaction & Improvement

  • It’s OK to be unhappy but also important to help be part of the solution.
  • Always look for ways to make things better.

3. Creativity & Decisiveness

  • Agency teams are presumably creative, but creativity is encouraged and celebrated in every role - including bookkeeping, business development etc.
  • Indecisiveness is the enemy of good work.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Desirable_Agency_Culture.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Do you want to grow your digital agency with amazing talent, but worried you can’t pay top dollar? This unique “reverse recruitment model” for finding, training and keeping incredible talent might make it more doable than you think.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why and how to implement a reverse recruitment model.
  • How to develop agency talent with an entry level team.
  • 2 big benefits to reverse recruitment.

Today’s guest is Morgan Lopes, CEO of Polar Notion, the web and mobile app development agency he co-founded 5 years ago. Like so many of us, he’s an accidental agency owner who shares with us some valuable advice about hiring a team to grow your agency. He has created and implemented a new recruitment model that’s netting fantastic results.

Why Hiring Entry-Level People Can Grow Your Agency

Morgan had an amazing mentor when he was young and new to the industry. He developed his craft through the generosity of an older, more experienced person who would not accept payment for his time. Instead, he asked Morgan to pay it forward. Years later, the solution is Polar Notion’s reverse recruitment model.

How the Reverse Recruitment Model Works:

  • Skills are teachable, personality is inherent.
  • Hire entry level candidates, typically right out of school.
  • Hiring process focused on personality and character instead of skill level.
    • Character traits to look for: teachable, curious, thoughtful, actionable
    • Skills are teachable, character is not.
  • Train skills and develop the craft in people who are already a culture fit.

How to Develop Agency Talent from the Ground Up

  • At first Polar Notion had no process and it was messier than it should’ve been.
  • Now there’s a process and curriculum in place.
  • New hires are onboarded and trained based on specific guidelines.
  • Employees follow process/steps and their appointed mentor makes daunting tasks more bearable.
  • Expectations for new hires and existing team are clear so the program is more successful.

2 Big Benefits of Reverse Recruitment

1. A Company Mission Transitions to a Way of Life

This isn’t a “thing” Morgan wants to talk about all the time or force his team do. They’re starting to create habits of mentoring and teaching each other - which is the ultimate goal. Instead of mentorship just being a company mission he aims for it to be something that is naturally ingrained in their culture and lived out.

2. A Super Low Employee Turnover Rate

Morgan's agency has only ever let one person go. Ever. When you’re hiring based on personality and character everything clicks and people stick. Also, if/when issues arise the team is more apt to talk to leadership and work through a solution.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: Why_Hiring_Entry_Level_People_Can_Grow_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you thought about productizing your SaaS idea or tech solution? Is a SaaS company the way to go? It might be! As agencies, we provide solutions and create tools for clients every single day. So, why not monetize them? But first, learn the right way to build a profitable SaaS company.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to create a profitable SaaS product.
  • What agencies are doing wrong when it comes to productizing.
  • How to avoid common mistakes creating your SaaS product.

This week’s guest is Dan Martell, a former agency owner and current coach to SaaS companies. His passion has always been in the tech space and he’s here to share insights on how you can get your incredible SaaS idea off the ground and be profitable at it.

How to Create a Profitable SaaS Product

Successful SaaS creates a technology solution for:

  • customers, so they can do something themselves.
  • the industry, so they can do something easier.

B2B SaaS is the most tried and true type.

There are 5 categories:

  1. Alerting or monitoring tools
  2. Reporting tools
  3. Workflow tools
  4. Collaboration
  5. CRM (customer relationship management)

4 Steps to getting your SaaS idea off the ground (without going broke!)

Step 1: Create a clickable prototype - create a spec model, no coding necessary in order to test your idea.

Step 2: Identify early adopters - techies crave innovation and like to be first to jump into new using new solutions and tools.

Step 3: Accept pre-orders - take advance orders from the early adopters by offering an amazing deal (like 50% off) if they order and pay in advance.

Step 4: Build your team - usually once you have taken the first three steps, the team falls into place.

3 Mistakes Agencies Are Making with SaaS

A lot of agency owners stumble into the business accidentally. When they are struggling or unhappy they often think the “grass is greener on the other side” and want to develop a SaaS product. If that’s the case for you, that’s OK. But remember: the grass is greener on the side you water.

1- Product: Make sure the idea is something you can get behind. The best products are at the intersection of what people will buy + something you’re passionate about + your area of expertise. So the goal is to find a sweet spot between all three elements.

Mistake to Avoid: Don’t spin your wheels on something you don’t love or don’t know enough about.


2- People: A lot of agencies decide to productize a solution so they start using their existing team to develop it. This is a bad idea because that same team is also responsible for working on billable projects. Given the choice, billable work will always take priority over the new SaaS project causing a major stall.

Mistake to Avoid: As tempting as it is, keep the teams separate. And, find the right person to be in charge of it. Use what you know as a springboard but bring on the right person to actually push the boulder up the hill.


3- Profit: With little to no resources to start, agencies tend to pull funds from the existing business in order to get the SaaS up and running. While focusing on SaaS they neglect the growth of the agency. The end result, is two struggling businesses.

Mistake to Avoid: Keep agency and SaaS funds in separate silos. Follow the steps for launching SaaS to the early adopters in order to fund the project.

Related:  The Ins and Outs of Going from Agency to SaaS Company

Software Idea for Agencies?

If you would like to talk to me about your software you are developing for your agency or the software idea, click here and fill out the form.

Direct download: How_to_Get_Your_SaaS_Idea_Off_the_Ground_Without_Going_Broke.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am EST

So what can you do when a client refuses to pay? I mean, absolutely refuses! That’s the dilemma this new agency owner has with a nightmare client who owes him almost $10K. Listen to his story plus my advice on how to get through it and the processes he needs in order to prevent it from happening again.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why you need a prospect qualification process.
  • What information to get in an initial client meeting.
  • 2 ways to get the client’s budget every time.
  • How to protect your agency against slow pay or no pay clients.

Today’s guest is Mike Volkin, a long time freelancer turned agency owner when he founded 800lb Marketing in early 2017. Mike’s agency specializes in fractional CMO services for startups that don’t have marketing leadership. He was about 8 months into the business when I interviewed him. He caught my attention with a post in our Digital Agency Owners Facebook group about a client who wouldn’t pay. In this episode, Mike candidly shares his story about a client who stiffed him on almost $10K while I give him advice to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

How a Good Client Turns Bad

So here’s the gist of Mike’s horror story... His agency was working with a new client who was investor-funded. They assured him there was plenty of funding - they were even turning investors away. So money wasn't going to be a problem. The deal was going to be 800lb Marketing’s second largest contract with multiple-thousands of dollars in recurring revenue.

Well, fast forward several months and now the client refuses to pay. Their reason for nonpayment is because they didn’t receive investor funding. And they didn’t get investor funding because ~ get this~ because, the agency didn’t meet their traffic goals. But wait… WHAT TRAFFIC GOALS? The agency was never given traffic goals yet their success and payment are tied to them?

[clickToTweet tweet="There’s no such thing as a bag agency client. Just a bad prospect or a bad process" quote="There’s no such thing as a bag agency client. Just a bad prospect or a bad process"]

Why You Need a Qualification Process

You might have a similar story. Sooner or later, every agency owner has at least one nightmare client story. In hindsight, usually you look back and realize the signs were always there... Agency owners have to understand they have the right and duty to screen prospective clients. It’s not a one-sided process. Agencies need to ask the right questions and really dig deep to understand if the client is the right fit for them, and not just the other way around.

Since Mike works with startups, he typically asks about the source of funds -- whether self-funded or investor-funded but rarely… hardly ever... will they give him a budget.

In most cases he doesn’t budget info until the second meeting, after he presents a proposal. Mike says typically, in the first meeting, prospects ask him to create a plan and they’ll “find” the budget... Sound familiar?

What Info Do You Need in the Initial Meeting?

I always advise my clients to think of N.B.A.T. before engaging in a new project conversation with a new prospect.

N- Need. Find out what the client’s desired goals are. What do they believe is the specific need in order to achieve the goal? What they think they need might not be what they actually do need. How does this goal tie into the company’s vision? And how will success be measured?

B- Budget. 99% of your prospects know their budget but rarely will they share it. They don’t understand it makes a huge difference in knowing whether you can help them reach their goals or not. Below are my 2 strategies to get the budget from clients who aren’t forthcoming with the information. And the 1% who don’t know the budget? Those are usually the really big clients who have the money to spend -- you’ll know who they are :)

A- Authority. Who’s involved in the decision-making? Make sure you’re working with that person or group of people. You don’t want to spin your wheel with people who don’t have the authority to give approvals or make decisions.

T- Timing. What is the timeframe for this project and how soon does the client expect results? Is the time frame realistic? Can you achieve the desired results in the period of time they’re allowing?

2 Ways To Get the Client’s Budget Every Time

In order to get the client’s budget I like to have a little fun… it depends on your personality as to which one of these strategies work best. You could even use:

  1. Jokester:  If a prospect tells you there is no budget, you can respond with a little sarcasm. Like, “No budget? That’s great! I love working with client’s who don’t have limits on what they can spend. Then we can do a bunch of testing and see what works!” Of course, there is a budget and they’ll soon end up giving you a ballpark of it. If not, you can try #2.

  2. Reverse Auctioneer:  Start with an obscenely high number and just keep dropping it until you land on a number they’re comfortable committing to. Say something like, “What’s the budget? $100,000? $50,000? $40,000?…” Just pause for a brief second between throwing out numbers until you can get them to lock in a range.

How to CYA Against Clients Who Are Slow Or No Pay

Mike says he’s going to binding arbitration to try and recoup the loss. I think he should chalk it up to a lesson learned. It’s just not worth investing his time and energy. Learn from it and spend that time building processing to make sure it can’t happen again. This will protect the agency from future potential issues and improve cash flow.

Get paid in advance.

Literally you should have the cash in hand before you start a project. Either 100% paid in full or, depending on the size of the project, at least 50% upfront. Your salesperson will probably want you to start as soon as there’s ink on the contract. Don’t do it! Cash first is the way to go.

Change payment terms.

A lot of agencies like to do 50% upfront and 50% on completion. That’s not the best idea because if the client drags out the project, you’re stuck. Instead, get the client’s credit card on file and let them know you’ll be billing on certain dates over the course of the project. Also, put language in your contract about a penalty for charge-backs (and of course, consult your attorney about your contract.)

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: SAM_164___How_to_Handle_Nightmare_Clients_Who_Don_t_Pay.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Looking for a new way to monetize your agency’s content marketing? Check out how you can use interactive content to personalize the user experience, engage with your prospects and gain trust by making the content more relevant. Learn what interactive content is all about and how you can use it to acquire new agency business.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is interactive content?
  • How can agencies use interactive content?
  • What types of interactive content works best for agencies?

Today’s guest is Randy Reyess, cofounder of Outgrow, a growth marketing platform that enables marketers to build interactive content that increase customer engagement. He’s on the show to share strategies on how you can create interactive content that captures more leads and helps convert them into clients.

What is Interactive Content?

You know those clever quizzes on Facebook that test your movie knowledge? Or calculators you find online to recommend what type of mortgage loan you need? That’s interactive content. It content that requires the participants' active engagement -- more than simply reading a blog post or watching a video. It helps the creator gather information about the user and move them along within the funnel.

How Can Agencies Use Interactive Content?

Randy says agencies should reflect on all the common questions their sales and support teams always seem to get. The best interactive content usually answers those types of questions. They are the questions that take a lot of explanation, rely on several variables and could not be easily explained in something as simple as a blog post. These are the types of things agencies can handle with a quiz or calculator.

[clickToTweet tweet="Everyone is unique but they have common criteria. Use interactive content to understand them quicker." quote="'Everyone is unique but they have common criteria. Use interactive content to understand them quicker.'"]

When you offer all your options to prospects it can be overwhelming and confusing. And when you confuse - you lose. Interactive content helps you build a solution and make the recommendation that best suits a prospect’s specific needs.

What Type of Interactive Content Works for Agencies?

Agencies and SaaS companies are loving interactive content for capturing leads and acquiring new clients. Here’s how they’re using them:

  • Calculators: ROI is huge for your prospects and clients. They want to see what kind of bang they’re going to get for their buck. Agencies can use ROI calculators to help clients determine where and how to spend their budgets. Calculators provide useful information and build authority by not only providing a result but also explaining it.
  • Quiz: Agency prospects often think they need one thing, but in reality actually need something completely different. A short quiz can help them (and you) understand their goals and determine how to meet them. It eliminates the confusion and guesswork while also keeping the focus on the client and their needs. At the conclusion of the quiz, you can make a recommendation on which product or service they need based on quiz results.

Mistakes to Avoid When Creating Interactive Content

  1. Not having a promotion strategy. Some marketers create calculators without any plan for getting it to it's users. Your interactive content can't generate leads if there's no plan for distributing the content.
  2. Not fully experimenting enough. If you want your content to be a lead generator it's important to test the effectiveness of the lead gen form. Run testing on having different numbers of fields on the form, as well as where, when and how much information you require from the user.
  3. Not understanding where the user is in the buyer's journey. Understand what type of person you're targeting and where they are in the funnel. Randy suggests starting with your end goal in mind and then determine your target and whether you want to be educational (calculator strategy) or entertaining (quiz strategy).

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency 3X Faster?

Are you overwhelmed by all the information out there on various ways to grow your agency? Do you want direction on how you can grow your agency faster and easier?

Then you’re in luck! I created an innovative mentorship called Agency University.

Agency University is a program which provides the 1-on-1 mentorship and ongoing support that is crucial to the success of your agency. Click here to see if it’s the right fit for you.

Direct download: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Outgrow_Co.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Wondering how you can get the attention of your ideal clients? It's a noisy marketing world out there, but you can break through the noise. Learn how one digital agency owner is growing a social community with tens of thousands of prospects. In this episode, learn the ins and outs of creating a Facebook group that provides value and connects people so you can beat out your competition and stay top of mind.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 2 benefits to building a Facebook community.
  • Tips on creating and managing an engaging group.
  • How to avoid common pitfalls when creating a Facebook group.

Today’s guest is Arne Giske, a digital agency owner whose business sky rocketed after creating a Facebook community has over 29,000 members in just one year (and still growing!). He’s here to share tips on creating and managing an engaged group plus pitfalls to avoid so you can generate new agency business.

2 Big Benefits to Building a Facebook Community

It took Arne 6 months to take his Facebook group from 0 to 1,000 members but just another 6 months to jump from 1,000 to 18,000! (It's called Millenial Entrepreneur Community - check it out here.)

It’s better than an email list because people choose to see and engage with their Facebook communities every day.

1- Eliminate Your Competition

Creating a community and helping to connect and serve others. In a very busy, digital world your prospects want to feel seen and heard. You can help them by creating a community of like minded individuals where they can ask questions and idea-share. The best way to break through the noise and clutter of your competition is to help, not hype. Doing this will make you stand out from the “me too” agencies.

2- Member Development Builds Revenue

As your community grows it’s members are more likely to work with you. Members become aware of you and your brand. As an active member of the group you’ll be building trust and authority with your comments, answers and helpful posts. When you provide value first, it will come back to you.

Tips on Creating an Engaging Group

So, there are millions of Facebook groups out there. What can you do to make sure yours is different? The key is making sure people want to join and engage in the group. You can’t even begin to monetize your group until you have active members participating in it.

First, set the mission for the group. What is the intention for bringing these people together? Why would someone want to join this group? Arne says he has started some other groups that flopped entirely. Looking back, it’s because his other groups were self-serving. People could see through his motives and chose not to be involved a sales platform.

Also, understand the basics of Facebook’s algorithms and use it to your advantage. Facebook groups grow because of engagement. Every like, share, comment and post counts! The more engagement, the more Facebook suggests your group to non-members. It becomes very cyclical: member growth = more engagement = more growth = more engagement, and so on.

Naming is important, so take your time. The first three words in the group name will determine whether people want to join or not. Arne suggests making the group name keyword heavy. People will join groups that are relevant to their life, so reach your target audience by identifying them in the group name. (This is another reason why your agency must have a niche!)

How to Manage a Successful Facebook Community

Arnes says the best way to manage a Facebook community to to give the members freedom while providing them structure. Here’s how:

  • Be selective. Consider your criteria for membership. Facebook allows you to ask new members a few screening questions before they’re allowed to join. Determine how you’ll screen group members in order to keep the integrity and intentions of the group.
  • Set guidelines. Set rules and make sure you or community manager enforces them. For example, you want to keep your group spam-free. So set a rule about no self-promotion and then make sure there’s a system in place for enforcing it. Decide what kind of penalty rule breakers will receive and then follow through: Will you delete their post? Will you block them from the group?
  • Pin important posts. A pinned post is the one that stays on the top of the group discussion at all times. It can only be pinned or unpinned by an group administrator. You can use pinned posts to explain rules and guidelines, draw attention to Facebook Lives, make special announcements, or provide special member offers, such as affiliate links.

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls

Low membership: Some groups just never take off and membership doesn’t grow beyond a couple hundred. That’s because the creator is relying on organic growth. Instead, Arne says to update backlinks from your other social channels and point people toward the group through other media. Help grow membership by promoting it.

Branding the group: You are connecting and serving like-minded people. Remember, Arne learned the hard way that people will see through selfish motives. So it’s ok to stick branded, content in the group so long as it’s relevant and helpful. But you can’t push your services or brand on the members. And most definitely do not make your brand name part of the group name. People will get to know you within the group after they click the “join” button.

Misunderstanding the platform: There’s a misconception on how different messaging works on different platforms. A Facebook group is not for sales or marketing. It’s simply a place to start a conversation or a place where people can raise their hand to indicate interest in learning more. When it’s times for marketing and sales, your job is to lead them off that platform and take them somewhere else (like your website) to learn more.

Direct download: SAM_162__Arnie.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Being an agency owner can feel isolating and lonely. But it can be a whole lot better when you hear from others in the same boat.  So, check out the stories of not one but two super successful agency owners as we cover everything from overcoming their biggest challenges, to increasing prices and growing their teams.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Overcoming the pipeline problem.
  • 4 tips on increasing prices.
  • What agency role to hire for first.
  • What to do about a weak link on your team.


I could not be more excited to share this episode with you because it’s my first three-way! :) Today’s show guests are two digital agency owners Zach Williams, of Venveo, and Todd Earwood, of Money Path Marketing. These guys have been super successful - Todd’s agency doubled their business in 4 months and Zach’s did 4X revenue in one year, so listen close! They’re here to talk about the similarities and differences in their journeys as agency owners, as well as share some golden nuggets of wisdom and inspiration.

Overcoming the Pipeline Problem

One of the biggest challenges as an agency owner is continuing to find new clients and sell, while serving your existing clients. Both guys agree, it like it’s a vicious cycle! You’re a marketing agency, but there’s never enough time to practice what you preach…

You work hard on your own marketing to attract new clients, then you get busy with them and end up neglecting your own marketing, so when those projects dry up you end up scrambling to procure new clients again… and the cycle repeat itself over and over.

The solution? Todd and Zach both say defining a specialization and positioning the agency to a specific audience greatly helped their pipeline problems. Todd said it made a major impact on business when he identified and communicated: who they are, the market they serve, and what they stand for.

4 Tips on Increasing Prices

Are you charging enough? Zach says he didn’t fully understand the value his agency was providing to their clients… in some cases it was up to 100X! They were under valuing services  by not charging enough.

1- Measure and quantify value

Chances are, you’re not charging enough! Clients should see a 10X return on their investment working with you. So, the key is to work backwards to determine the value of your work and divide by 10.

One of the best ways to determine value is to understand their 3 I’s - issue, impact and importance. Once you know what a project is worth the client, you can better estimate it’s value.

2- Ask the right questions upfront.

As Todd said, there’s nothing worse that estimating a project at $50,000 only to find out the client was prepared to spend triple. So you’ve got to ask all the right questions to qualify your client, scope the project and determine what the outcome is worth to them.

 

You can’t fully understand the scope of a project without all the right information. You have to gather as much information as possible from your client so you can fully understand what they need or rather, what they think they need and how you can help. Here are some of the questions you should ask new clients to determine value.

3- Sell outcomes and ROI.

A lot of agencies try to sell based on their portfolio and what they’ve done for others. Zach adds says past work can very subjective but outcomes and ROI are concrete evidence of value. It’s so much easier to sell on black and white facts.

4- Report and remind often.

Clients usually have short term memory, right? They tend to forget where they started and have a hard time remembering or realizing the value your agency provided.  Todd says it’s super important to report results to clients regularly. Help them remember where they were and where they are now so they can realize your value. Do this often and in person, rather than just via email. Data reporting can be your secret weapon to growing your revenue.

When to Hire (and Fire) for Your Growing Agency

What Role to Hire for First?

In the early stages of agency growth, it’s hard to know when and who to hire first. Most owners want to get out of the account management and project management work… how did Zach and Todd do it?

Zach says he’s horrible with process and he knows it. Know your strengths and He knew right away that he needed to hire someone who was process driven and his first hire was a Project Manager. Todd agrees, and says it’s important for the owner to know their own skillset then hire what’s missing. His first hires were specialists and he learned the hard way that he needed people to own the accounts.

It’s hard to give up that control but when you do it can be oddly refreshing. As Todd put it, “there’s pleasure in knowing people pay our firm money and I don’t have to personally work with them.”

Recognizing a Weak Link on Your Team

Hiring is hard - firing is even harder. That’s why they say: hire slow, fire fast.

Growing from 0-5 employees is different than 5-10 and 10-20… When your team is small each person needs to be nimble. As your agency grows, the people who got on board early have to adapt to the changing environment.

As an owner you have to recognize the employees who cannot make the future journey and grow with you. There are ones who will be dead weight, so you’ve got to make decisions about them quickly. Todd says, in those cases he sees two choices:  confront the issue and coach up -or- coach out.


Have you ever considered closing your agency because you feel like you’re failing? Cash flow problems, employee issues, bad clients… the struggle is real! You don’t have to throw in the towel. Just check out what this agency owner did to turn things around to become profitable and happy again.

 

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How an agency goes from good to bad.
  • 6 Steps to turning around a struggling agency.
  • One regret from an agency owner.

 

Our guest today is Jack Jostes, President and CEO of Ramblin Jackson, the SEO agency he started in 2009. In his video The Good, The Bad and The Ugly he talks about his eight year journey as an agency owner and the valuable lessons he learned in order to go from almost close to thriving. Jack’s on the show to talk about the steps he took to turn around his agency so he and his team could enjoy it again.

How Does an Agency Go from Good to Bad?

Like many entrepreneurs, Jack fell into the business by accident. He was working in sales and started to learn SEO as a trade from someone in the business. He decided to start a digital agency to marry those two skills but he admits he had no idea what he was getting into.

The Good

At first, things were great and it was super fun taking on new clients, challenging new project and hiring contractors to help with all the new work. After a couple years, though, he decided to bring on a partner with 20 years experience in the agency business. It turned out to be a great decision because they grew 50% for several years after forming the partnership.

The Bad & The Ugly

Jack says it was fun and growth at great at first. But then things got bad - and ugly. Cash flow was terrible. Jack and his partner went months without getting paid and vendors were paid late. The team morale was low and clients were getting frustrated. Jack got to the point where he considered closing. That’s when he reached out to me the first time and told him not to give up!

 

I told Jack about the Navy Seal’s 40% rule which is, when your mind thinks you’re done, you’re really only 40% done. And that was Jack’s turning point.

6 Steps to Turning Around a Struggling Agency

So how did Jack turn things around? Here are the six steps he took.

 

1- Get really clear about company vision.

Jack was unhappy and ready to throw in the towel. I get it. I considered closing my agency when we were struggling too. When things are hard and it’s not fun it seems like giving up is the answer.

 

However, Jack said he took a step back and got really clear about what he wanted and didn’t want for the agency. Then he had an honest, respectful conversation with his partner where they realized they wanted different things. That’s when they made the mutual decision to part ways. Jack bought his partner out and since it was an amicable split, they still work on some projects together.

 

2- Understand and be transparent about financials.

Jack says part of the reason they had such bad cash flow was because he was embarrassed of the state of the financials and kept it a secret. He used to feel as President, the accounts receivables and collections were his responsibility. No one was aware or incentivized to help achieve better cash flow.

 

After going through my Agency Playbook he discovered ways to incentive his team. Now there are key employees are get bonuses based on accounts receivables and attaining agency financial goals.

 

3- Change payment terms.

Like most agencies, Ramblin Jackson’s payment terms were 50% to start and 50% upon completion. However, the problem with this payment structure is when the client stalls on a project the final amount can’t get billed. That means the agency is stuck holding the bag while the client drags their feet on providing information, feedback or approvals.

 

Now, they require full payment up front for smaller projects or use my date driven payment terms for larger engagements. As a result they’re they’ve reduced project cycles since prepaid clients are motivated to receive the value they’ve already paid for.  

 

4- Hire slow. Fire fast.

It’s imperative to have a A players on your team - even in roles that might not seem integral to the outward success of the agency. In Jack’s case, it was the bookkeeper who was awful and incompetent. He was always slow to send invoices and didn’t have a pulse on agency finances.

 

Once Jack fired the bookkeeper and hired a new one things turned around quickly. In fact, the new bookkeeper found over $10,000 of unsent invoices! She has also streamlined bookkeeping and created systems to make it easy.

 

5- Tie others to the same bomb.

By holding everyone accountable to the same goals, there is more cohesiveness among the internal departments. For example, Sales doesn’t get commission until the client pays the invoice. With common goals everyone is motivated to work together to achieve them.

 

6- Invest in mentors.

Agency ownership can be lonely! Jack says he has worked with some incredible coaches over the years who each specialize in different aspects of business. He had worked with a sales coach (at different job) and now pays that coach to help his sales team at Ramblin Jackson. He also works with a sales management coach and an executive coach to help him hone his skills in those areas.


Jack also says it’s been key finding a coach who has owned and sold a successful agency. (Hint: it’s me)  The Agency Playbook and our Agency University have been invaluable resources for the mentorship from someone who’s been there and done it.

Direct download: Should_You_Give_Up_and_Close_Your_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

As Agency CEO one of your 5 roles is to be the face of the company. A great way to do that is to use speaking engagements and presentations to build your brand and grab the attention of your ideal clients. Here are 9 tricks to keep the audience engaged and leave them with an unforgettable first impression.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What makes the best presentations?
  • 9 Tips to a unforgettable speech

Today’s guest is Mike Pacchione, one of the public speaking experts at Duarte. As Mike puts it, he gives “workshops on giving workshops” and “talks on talks.”:)  No matter how you explain it though, Mike is the pro on giving memorable speeches. He knows what to do to keep your audience engaged so you can use your presentations to build your agency business. Mike shares his experience and advice on making the most of your speaking opportunities.

What Makes the Best Presentations?

Two things. It might seem obvious but most importantly you need to start with a good idea. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering but it does need to be somewhat thought provoking and worth sharing.

 

Next, you have to understand your audience. Like, really understand them. Why are they interested in your topic? How can they relate to or use the information you’re presenting? You also have to be relatable, like not to using technical language to a non-technical audience.

9 Tips to an Unforgettable Speech

 

1- Grab attention with a strong first line. Mike says you want to say something that makes them put down their phone and pay attention. A great technique is to start by dropping them in the middle of a story and then frame the rest of your presentation around filling in the blanks.

 

How NOT to start:

  • Don’t start with your name and the title of your presentation. Super boring! Besides, they already know who you are and why you’re talking.
  • Don’t start with “I’m really nervous”. Your audience will focus on your jitters the entire time and could undermine your authority.

 

2- Be a little vulnerable. You can share personal experience or say something like “I used to think this but now I realize that’s wrong because of that.” Just insert something that shows the audience you’re human and not perfect. This creates empathy between you and your audience, which can have a major impact on how they react to your talk.

 

3- Build evidence based authority. Too many people give advice based on what worked for them. Everybody is not everybody and not everything works for everyone. Avoid anything that sounds like: “Here’s what I did and you should too...” Instead add data or case study evidence to back the advice/strategy in your presentation.

 

4- Share anecdotes and stories. The best, most memorable presentations are those told in story form. You can use personal, real life stories or even industry case studies. Did you know the most viewed TED Talk is Sir Ken Robinson “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” with over 42 MILLION views? His talk is simply a collection of stories strung together to make a point.

 

However, don’t just tell a story for the sake of storytelling. Use it to demonstrate transformation or change mindset.

 

5- Craft short and long term calls-to-action. Most presentations end with a closing statement and a CTA, such as: “Text 123456 to receive my PDF of XYZ,” but that’s such a finite ending. Mike suggests adding an additional long term goal or CTA which leaves the discussion more open ended. Challenge the audience to be doing “X” by next week or give them a 90 days to achieve “Y”. You want to have two CTAs to leave a longer lasting impression.

 

6- Warn the audience about traps. No one wants to fall victim to a trap but everyone loves a good story about it. Point out potential pitfalls, mistakes or traps to create a little tension in your talk. Pointing these out and explaining the resolution can be another way to build your credibility. Saying things like, “you might be tempted to X, but here’s why you shouldn’t…” or “one of my clients did Y and here’s why that didn’t work.”

 

7- Develop an impactful closing statement. A lot of people end their talks with Q&A. This is great for credibility but you can’t control the final question which means the last thing the audience hears may not be on point. Mike says to craft a closing statement that leaves a lasting impression. Then, deliver the closing statement before and after the Q&A

 

8- Have fun. Your audience will mirror your emotions when you’re on stage. Your demeanor will set the tone for the entire time you’re up there. If you’re nervous, fidgety, distracted, etc. it will transfer to your audience. So just have fun and they will too! (There’s a difference between fun and funny. Only be funny, if you are a funny person. Forced humor is not fun or funny.)

 

9- Rehearse until it becomes part of you. Some people practice until they get it right. I think you should practice until you can’t get it wrong. You want your speech to become second nature and flow easily. When it does you’ll notice you’re far less nervous and you can adjust your presentation to fit your crowd. The more times you give a certain talk, then better it becomes.

Direct download: michael.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

How can you turn your agency into a highly sought-after brand? Today’s guest knows how because he’s done it for the OxiClean and the George Foreman Grill. In this episode, learn the 5 key strategies to build a brand that gets clients beating down your door.

 

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How the right positioning can drastically change your business.
  • 5 things you can implement right now to build a successful brand.

Today’s guest on the show is Rick Cesari of Cesari Media, the agency he founded over 20 years ago. They specialize in building brands that sell products direct to the consumer. Over his career, Rick has worked some amazing brands such as OxiClean, George Foreman Grill, Rug Doctor, and Sonicare to name a few. He’s here to share the secrets to building these amazing brands so you can apply them and grow your agency.

 

“Figure out a good way to position so you’re different than everyone else.” ~ Rick Cesari

Why You Might Need to Reframe Your Brand Positioning

Have  you ever heard of The Fajita Express? No, you haven’t. But I’ll bet you have heard of the George Foreman Grill.

 

When Rick was first approached to help with branding it was for grilling product called The Fajita Express. It was a slanted grill so the meat could slide right into taco shells. It didn’t sound too groundbreaking to Rick but with his help repositioning, that grill became the George Foreman Grill. As you probably know, it is marketed for its ability to drain grease away from the meat. They’ve sold over 30 million grills since then!

5 Keys to Building a Better Brand

With over two decades in the direct response business Rick has discovered some consistent themes to building brands. These are easily adaptable from product to service-based agency business.

 

1- Develop a Unique Selling Proposition

A USP is the foundation of building a better brand. It’s the single most important factor clients use when deciding to work with you over your competition. The best type of USP for an agency is a niche or specialization that helps you stand out. When you show expertise in a specific area you develop a reputation for being the best. You will become “the choice” rather than just “a choice.”

 

2- Position to Stand Out

Rick says he tells his clients to sell benefits or results rather than features. In the agency industry that means you should be marketing the ways your agency can serve your clients. Show clients what you can do for them and how you are the trusted advisor who helps achieve their desired results.

 

3- Deliver More Value

When you are laser focused on particular niche you can drill down and really understand the intricacies of that industry. Then use that understanding to exceed expectations. For example, when Rick’s agency was helping OxiClean he says they always sent a larger container than what the customer expected and included free samples of other products. This is a great strategy for growing revenue from your existing client base.

 

4- Always Listen to Your Clients

Speak to satisfied clients - the people who have already had success working with you - and see what they liked and disliked. Use the positive feedback when crafting your marketing messages, in your new business proposals, etc. When you get input from existing clients you can use that information to understand and then market toward the benefits of working with you.

 

5- Procure and Use Authentic Testimonials

Today’s decision makers want to hear from others in their same boat. Talk to your clients that are getting great results and ask them to share their story as a testimonial. Social proof such as testimonials (particularly video testimonials) will go a long way with your prospects. It’s a very powerful message when existing happy clients share their story of success.

 

Above all else, Rick’s best advice is to be unique. You can’t be everything to everybody so focus on an industry or segment of the population that you help best.

Direct download: rick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EST

If you know a ton about your agency but aren’t winning all the clients you think you should be, you might be plagued with the curse of knowledge. In this episode, you will learn how you can clarify your message and use it as a competitive advantage. Win more clients when you communicate in a way that makes clients feel educated and helped.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is the curse of knowledge?
  • How to break the curse of knowledge.
  • How to use explanation to separate your agency from the competition.

Today’s guest on the show is Lee Lefever founder of Common Craft and Explainer Academy and author of The Art of Explanation. His businesses and his book center around the idea of making explanation a business growth strategy. He’s on the show to share ways to clarify your agency’s message so you can win more clients... because when you confuse, you lose.

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” ~ Albert Einstein

What is the Curse of Knowledge?

Ever wonder why no one “gets” what you do? Do you get puzzled looks when you describe your agency work in detail? That’s the curse of knowledge. It’s the theory that the more you know about something the harder it is to understand what it’s like not knowing.

You spend all day engrossed in the technical side of the industry, surrounded by people speaking a language very specific to your agency’s skill set. However, outside of the agency setting you might continue to use technical jargon that makes other people (like prospective clients) feel confused, overwhelmed, or inferior. It’s not intentional but it happens!

Lee compares it talking to a mechanic when you have car trouble. They use technical phrasing to explain the problem but you don’t understand most of what they say. You don’t want to look stupid by asking questions so you smile and nod... Then, you either trust them and agree to the repairs or shop around to find someone you can understand. That’s what your prospective clients are doing when you don’t clearly explain how your agency can help them.

Working this way might makes you (and your agency) feel and sound smart but creates a set of problems:

  1. It makes clients feel inferior when you talk above their level of understanding.
  2. When you water it or simplify too much, it sounds condescending.
  3. Your client doesn’t want to ask questions for fear of sounding stupid.

How Can You Break the Curse?

The goal is to explain in a such a way that it makes your client feel a sense of familiarity. You can adjust your assumptions on what you think people might know about your business. Lee says you have to avoid getting stuck in a loop where your client doesn’t understand and is afraid to ask questions, so you continue to use language they don’t understand and they continue to be confused.

What you can do is start using phrases like: “I don’t know how much you already know about XYZ…” before you simplify an explanation. Framing the conversation this way allows you to “dumb down” the explanation without sounding condescending.

How to Use Explanation as a Competitive Advantage

There’s a difference between “understanding” and “convincing.” Understanding is a higher level concept and it’s not the same as convincing someone they need your service. Your agency’s job is to help your prospects/clients think conceptually and understand why. When they understand how you can help they are more apt to want to buy.

For example, if you’re an SEO agency… clients might not care about SEO but they do care about what SEO can do for them.

If you have the curse of knowledge it seems obvious to you why someone should work with you. However, when you have a shift in mindset and break the curse you will win more clients. Take a step back and think about what questions you can answer for your clients before they even ask them. Things like: “Why is this relevant to me?” or “How will this affect me?” Consider the struggles and pain points your clients have, then explain how you can help ease them. People don’t buy what they don’t understand - so help them understand!

You will stand out from your competition when your agency tackles the WHY for more directly. Win more clients when you help them understand why your agency’s work is important instead of just convincing them it’s something they need.

3 Questions Your Agency Website Must Answer

Your website is the central hub of everything you do. Your homepage is where your prospects go first and how they’ll compare you against other agencies. STOP worrying about what other agencies sites look like and make sure yours answers these 3 questions:

  1. Who do you help?
  2. What do you offer?
  3. How do you help?

Too many agency websites skip answering #1 and assume their services are for everyone. Be a specialist and announce it on your website. Use language that is familiar to your clients and phrases that are specific to their industry. You will win more business when your prospects realize you “get” them and the nuances of their industry.

Save time & win more work!

Replace your proposals, quotes and presentations with interactive + mobile-friendly webpages that plug into your systems and are as easy to build and reuse as they are beautiful. Check out Qwilr or head to JasonSwenk.com/proposalsoftware. Sign up now for FREE and get 50% your first three months using the code smart agency while upgrading.

 

Direct download: Lee.mp3
Category:business -- posted at: 6:00am EST

Are you trying to land bigger clients for your agency? It’s hard to communicate value when a lot your agency work invisible to clients. In this episode, discover how you can build better relationships and win bigger agency clients by stepping up your communication game.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 4 Ways to communicate to win bigger clients.
  • How to avoid feeling like an imposter when you land big clients.

Dylan Baskind is today’s guest on the show. He’s here to share ways agencies can step up their game to land bigger clients. Dylan is the CEO and Co-founder of Qwilr, a software solution for for creating attractive proposals and sales documents. He's on the show to share ways to notch up your client services and win bigger agency clients.

Dylan spent 8 years in the digital consultancy space growing his business from small, local clients to larger, multinational ones. He found the one consistent pain point was always the time suck of creating impressive proposals. So he created Qwilr as a solution for replacing aggrevating, time consuming cut and paste PDF or Word doc proposals/presentations with interactive and trackable web pages.

4 Ways to Use Communication to Win Bigger Agency Clients

It all comes down to better communication with your existing clients. Dylan says when you put more effort into your existing clients you will start getting noticed by bigger ones. Disclaimer: you cannot rely solely on referrals because they aren’t scalable! However, if you’re giving excellent service to existing clients you will build a reputation… and sometimes small fish know dolphins, and some dolphins know whales.

1. Communicate beyond expectations. Be concise, prompt and polite. When a client asks 3 questions in an email, respond to all 3. Don’t sit on emails too long, be prompt by replying in a timely manner. And keep a friendly but professional tone in all communication.

2. Consider the client’s user experience. Digital agencies spend so much time considering their clients’ customers UX that they sometimes forget about their own users... the client. Little things can really wow your clients in big ways. For example, I’ve seen amazing results just by sending my new new clients a personalized video (using a tool like Covideo).

3. Demonstrate value. A lot of agency work is invisible to the client. However, if you outline the invisible tasks and correlate them to results, the client can connect the dots and have a better appreciation for your work.

4. Eliminate the mystery. Clients tend to view agency’s as a magic box where they put money in, wait awhile and hopefully, eventually get results. Use reporting tools to communicate analytics regularly. Clients can get a better understanding of what and why you do what you do when the see regular updates of the results.

How to Avoid Feeling Like an Imposter

It’s totally normal to feel like an imposter the first time you take on bigger project or bigger client than you’re accustomed to. You feel like you’ve got to fake it until you make it and just pray no one figures you out.

If you’re at the point where you’re ready to jump a rung on the ladder it’s time to step up the quality your communications. You can and bigger clients and increase your agency’s perceived value. Your agency’s reputation rests on your confidence and ability - you DO NOT need to fake it :) Avoid feeling like an imposter by leading conversations and presentations in a more professional manner. Consider your prospects experience and knock it out of the park from day one.

Save time & win more work

Replace your proposals, quotes and presentations with interactive + mobile-friendly webpages that plug into your systems and are as easy to build and reuse as they are beautiful. Check out Qwilr or head to JasonSwenk.com/proposalsoftware. Sign up now for FREE and get 50% your first three months using the code smartagency while upgrading.

Grow as a Business

I hope you found this information helpful in finding the best ways to land those bigger agency clients and achieve the business growth you aspire to.

If you are looking for advice on what you need to do as an agency owner or learn how to fast track growth for your agency, I can help.

On my website, I have a bank of tips, tricks and insights that as an agency owner, you might find helpful. Head on over to the blog section of my website where you can find everything you need covering a wide variety of topics. If videos are more your thing and you find the more beneficial, you can check out the videos on my Youtube channel!

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

Do you feel like your agency spends more time being an order taker than providing insight and value to your clients? If so - listen up. It’s time to show your clients how much value you bring their business. You can increase revenue by measuring your client's success and finding new opportunities for them. Data reporting done right can be your secret weapon to growing your agency.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How agencies can retain their clients.
  • What KPI’s agencies should measure in their data reporting for clients.
  • How to use data reporting to grow agency business.
  • Steps to acquiring and growing retainers.

Today’s guest is Peter Caputa CEO at Databox, a SaaS tool to simplifying analytics and reporting for agencies. He joined Databox after serving as the VP of Sales at Hubspot, so in this interview he brings us a ton of knowledge on retaining and growing clients.

How Agencies Can Retain Clients

It’s all about reporting. And we’re not talking about just going through the motions of reporting. More like, actual face time with the client to present them with an analysis of metrics and provide insightful value.

Most agencies start out a new client relationship by going over their analytics reports but after a few months it turns into a mundane task, the client loses interest and no one pays much attention to it... That’s where agencies are losing out!

Pete says it’s super important to start every client relationship by selecting the metrics that are important to the client and show them a return on their investment. He suggests agencies also benchmark where the client is at the beginning of the engagement and measure changes that are resulting from your work. That’s how you’ll prove your agency’s worth and value.

Data Reporting: The KPI’s Agencies Should Measure for Clients

Most agencies are pulling data from several sources. Then, they do a cut and paste of data into their own slides or template, which is a major time suck. (And a big reason why most agencies just “go through the motions” when it comes to reporting!) Databox offers a unique solution to that problem by integrating with CRMs and marketing automation tools to pull and format data from several sources all into one place. KPI’s most agencies are pulling for clients are: traffic, leads, customer counts, revenue, and CRM stages.

How Can You Use Data to Up-Sell Existing Clients?

Don’t just pull the data - analyze it. Good agencies pull and present data every month. Really great agencies go a level deeper and show the impact of their activity on the data. Report the effectiveness of blog and social posts, Adwords and landing pages to set your agency apart from others. The key is to analyze the data, find holes or areas for growth. Use that information as a springboard to pitch areas for improvement. Turn monthly reporting from a chore into an up-sell opportunity.

Pete says you do have to be comfortable having the “it didn’t work” conversation. Don’t be afraid of it - agencies don’t get fired for campaigns that don’t work; they get fired for not catching it or not owning up to it.

It happens. Sometimes email campaigns don’t get any clicks, blog posts don’t rank high, etc. An agency should always have a pulse on what’s happening and know about issues before the client. Be truthful and have integrity. If the report isn’t good, the client probably already knows it and just needs to hear it from you. Glossing over bad news only makes matters worse in the long run. It’s your job to report the good and the bad, the innovate a solution to overcome the bad.

[clickToTweet tweet="Don’t just sit idle with blog or social posts for your clients. Use innovative technology to add value!" quote="Don’t just sit idle with blog or social posts for your clients. Use innovative technology to add value!"]

How to Prove Your Agency’s Value to a Client

Too many agencies don’t know the results they’re achieving because they aren’t benchmarking from the beginning. Clients care about one thing - their bottom line. So, the agency has the burden of proof and must to tie activity to results. Pete says agencies need to ask the tough questions from the start, such as:

  • “How much is a lead worth?”
  • “What’s the average deal size?”
  • “How many deals are you getting per month?”
  • “What are you trying to achieve? Why?”

To skirt around some the tough questions, you can use an inbound marketing calculator. But it’s SO important to get a baseline at the beginning of an engagement so you can document improvements. Equally important is frequent conversations with the client about results. Agencies are good at selling visions but not always good at revisiting the topic. Prove your agency’s value by showing them a direct correlation to their ROI.

Steps to Acquiring and Growing Retainers

  1. At the beginning of an engagement, meet with the client and agree on the key metrics to measure and monitor success.
  2. Get a benchmark on the key data from the beginning and measure success against it.
  3. Meet with the client regularly to present changes in key metrics and suggest areas of opportunity.
  4. Introduce new ways to improve client metrics and stand out among the “me too” agencies….

Marketing technology has come a long way in a very short period of time. It is incredibly sophisticated and as an agency, you can become indispensable black box agency by deploying your knowledge and use of information. Using software like Databox to pull, analyze and interpret data is a step in that direction of improving the data reporting of your agency.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

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

What can you do to stand out from your competition? How can you avoid costly business mistakes that make it harder to grow and scale your agency? In this episode, you’ll get some great advice on this and more from an amazing pro who’s owned three successful agencies over the past two decades.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How the agency space has evolved over time.
  • How to avoid costly business mistakes in your agency.
  • Why specializing is more profitable for agencies.
  • What is 48in48? So get this!

Today’s guest is Jeff Hilimire who also happened to be my guest on episode #2 of The Smart Agency Master Class more than three years ago! With nearly 20 years of experience owning 3 different agencies, he says his worst mistakes were made over the past 3 years. He’s back on the show this time to tell us how you can avoid those mistakes to successfully grow, scale and enjoy your agency.

Jeff started his first agency in 1998 and sold it 10 years later. He stayed with the acquiring agency until it sold again another 5 years later. In 2014 Jeff started Dragon Army, a mobile gaming and app studio. A couple years later, he added an agency component to it. Today, Jeff and his team of 25 employees work with some amazing brands such as Coca-Cola, Red Bull and The Home Depot.

How Has the Agency Space Changed Over the Years?

There’s been an evolution in the industry. Full service agencies just aren’t a thing anymore (except the really huge ones who truly can offer a full range of services). Due to differing client needs and new technologies, there’s a larger demand for specialty shops. Most brands are moving away from having one agency manage everything.

The real opportunity lies innovation. I always tell my clients to make decisions based on the future, not just what’s happening today. That means always trying new things and not being afraid of making a mistake.

As Wayne Gretzky put it... “skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.”

How to Avoid Costly Business Mistakes

Jeff has made plenty of mistakes over the years, but the 3 biggest came within the last 3 years owning Dragon Army. It all boils down to clarity and having a long term vision for your agency… In hindsight, that’s what was lacking and lead to these big business mistakes:

Mistake #1 - Upon entering a new industry, Jeff didn’t do enough research. If he could do it all over again he would have started the agency side at the same time as the studio. His prior experience is with the agency model and he knows how to operate and scale an agency. Jeff estimates this decision set Dragon Army back about 2 years.

Mistake #2 - Dragon Army took on a project (a new mobile game) that took 3X longer than he expected. This means all their resources were tied into one huge engagement. Looking back, Jeff realizes he didn’t do his due diligence on what would be involved in completing the project and how much it would tie up his team.

Mistake #3 - Jeff acquired a partner agency as a means to grow but didn’t dig enough into their financial and operational systems. He says he trusted his gut without the purchase with a business mindset.

What's the common theme here? It's lack of clarity and vision. Jeff's advice - take your time to and look at decisions from all angles. Entrepreneurs can be impulsive (i.e. like chasing the next shiny red object!) but it’s important to hold back a little, research a ton and understand the impact your big decisions have on the long term vision and goals.

And, once you have a vision the values, principles and beliefs fall right into place - consider Zappos.com. They operationalize their core values and use them to set company culture.

Why Specializing is More Profitable

Dragon Army is super specialized and it’s working. Jeff says the best way to separate yourself from the other “me too” agencies is to be the very best at one thing. Know your strength and only sell that service. A lot of agencies are so afraid of turning off potential clients or turning down a potential sale they end up saying yes to things that aren’t in their wheelhouse.

If you’re saying ‘yes’ to the wrong things, you won’t have time for the right ones. And if you don’t have time for the right things - you can’t grow or scale your agency.

Can you use your professional skills to do good for the community?

In addition to his agency, Jeff is also the co-founder of 48in48. The premise of the organization is building 48 non-profit websites in 48 hours in a hack-athon style event. In 2015 the team of volunteers built 48 sites in 48 hours in Atlanta. In 2017 it’s grown to 4 U.S. cities and by 2018 it’ll be an international event! And, the ultimate goal is to eventually growing to 48 cities worldwide, 48 websites in 48 hours.

It literally takes thousands of designers, developers, content writers and other marketing professionals. If you’re interested in learning more, sponsoring or volunteering check out 48in48.org.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

Become a Better Agency Owner

Business mistakes can be costly to not only your profits but your reputation. I hope this insight into Jeff's experience as well as my own helps you avoid making these business mistakes within your agency moving forward. However, you should also be evaluating other areas of weakness within your agency. No matter what challenges your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can give advice on from what to do when you want to speed up sales processes, ways to increase your business profit, or how you can build authority for your agency.

Growing your agency can be a major struggle for any agency owner and I can show you the different phases of growth you will experience, how placing a process for performance-based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Want more? 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.


Are you overwhelmed with tasks that keep you in the weeds instead of working on growing your agency? Are you paying salaried team to do things an hourly assistant could accomplish? STOP IT! Learn how you can increase productivity and save boatloads of time and resources. Plus, learn how to help your sales team be more effective so you can grow.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Ways to save time and increase productivity.
  • How to help your sales team be more effective.
  • How to get unstuck from doing everything yourself.

Today’s guest on the show is Jeff J. Hunter, founder, and Chief Freedom Officer at VA Staffer, the outsourcing agency he created to help businesses build virtual teams. With a background in IT and virtual project management he knows the ins and outs of getting projects done virtually. He’s here to give us strategies on saving time and ways to help salespeople be more effective.

How to Save Time and Increase Productivity

Agencies are always trying to land more clients, right? However, there always comes a point where they can’t take on more new business because they’re too busy servicing the clients they already have.

Jeff’s a big proponent of “don’t hire until it hurts” so his advice is to make more time for servicing clients and growing your business by understanding what you do and how it impacts your business. He compared it to Pareto’s 80/20 Principle from 1865 ~ the trivial many 80% and the vital few 20%.

However 150 years later, in a technology age, Jeff believes it’s more of a 90/10 split. He advises his clients to list out all the tasks and activities they do. Then decide which are the trivial many and which are the vital few. The vital few are the ones making the most impact on the business. For most entrepreneurs, Jeff finds  90% of what they do can be delegated while they focus on the 10% which impacts their business.

Similarly, I tell my clients to make a list of everything they do and then rank each item as to how much it impacts the agency - low, medium, or high impact. This is how you can find the major time sucks (check out my productivity worksheet here). and then work on becoming more productive with daily tasks and increase productivity overall. I find that most will usually tackle the low-impact items first because they offer immediate gratification and make us feel good in the short term.

The hard stuff usually seems to get procrastinated, yet that’s the stuff that makes the most impact on business growth.

How to Make Your Sales Team More Effective

A solid outbound strategy is one of the three sales channels you need to grow your agency. (The other two are inbound sales and strategic partnerships, by the way.) But are your or your sales team spinning their wheels on mining the information and making connections? That’s a major waste of time and resources. Why spend your own time or pay the sales team top dollar to do the leg work, when you could use a $7-$8 per hour VA?

Instead, let a VA do the mining. They can do the research, make contact and set up introductions. This frees you or your team up for setting sales strategies and building relationships.

Jeff says knowing what not to outsource is just as important as knowing what you should outsource. And relationship building is definitely not something you can farm out.

How to Get Unstuck from Doing Everything

Stop doing the things you suck at by eliminating, delegating or automating. Try doing the 90/10 exercise above outline above or check out Jeff’s webinar at 9010Life.com. Jeff says he guarantees you’ll find that 10% of what you do is actually the stuff you should focus on.

Also, a lot of the things you’re stuck doing because you’re the only one who knows how. So, start documenting what you do and how you do it. Use a tool like Screencast or TinyTake to record the what and how you do things. Because, the first step in delegating what you do is teaching others how to do it.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

Improving as a Digital Agency Owner

When you increase productivity, you will be surprised at what you can achieve for your digital agency and it will help you improve as an agency owner. Is this the only struggle you are facing at the minute? No matter what challenges your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance on whether you are an established agency facing struggles to new agencies unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

Growing your agency team can also 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 to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance-based pricing and 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_to_Get_Unstuck_from_Doing_Everything_Yourself.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Hopefully you already know your agency employees are your biggest asset. But, is your agency “employee-centric”? Do you have the right people in place to find, lead and retain an awesome team? In this episode we’ll hear from a 15-year agency owner about why and how he brought in an HR Director and an agency President to accelerate agency growth.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to know when it’s time to hire an HR Director.
  • Why you might want to bring on an Agency President.
  • When and how to get help growing your agency.

Today we have our first ever three-peat guest on the show! Founder and CEO of BrightWave Marketing, Simms Jenkins is making his third appearance and this time he’s sharing the strategies he has used to make sure his team remains his #1 most valuable asset. (You can find his first and second interviews here.)

Since the first couple times he was on the show in 2014, Simms says BrightWave has continued to innovate in the email marketing arena. His agency business has doubled and he’s authored two books on the subject. Today, BrightWave is working with huge brands like Chick-Fil-A, Panera Bread, CarMax and Mattress Firm. He’s the first to admit their success is largely due to having and keeping the right people on his team, plus adding a few key people in his executive team.

When to Hire an HR Director

Simms says the real key to his agency’s success is the team and company culture. Those were the driving forces behind bringing in someone dedicated to attracting, engaging, and retaining agency talent. He hired for an HR position when his team reached about 25 and it’s been a great investment. In my case, I hired an HR person when my agency got to 50 employees but in hindsight, we’d have done better to have one as we reached 15 employees.

“We hired at a key turning point in the business. We needed to position [our agency] as an employer and make it a great workplace.” ~ Simms Jenkins

Most agencies are completely client-focused as they climb the growth ladder. However, they forget their biggest asset is their human capital. An HR position is particularly important when your agency is in a growth phase. In most cases, human resource functions fall onto the owner and/or office manager which is time suck. And aside from saving the agency owner’s time and energy, having a dedicated HR person creates a better experience for candidates and new hires, leaving a favorable impression and smoother transition.

Besides, as an agency grows it’s important to have a process for finding, hiring, engaging with, and retaining talent. Even though it’s a non-billable position, this role is huge for agency growth.

Why Hire an Agency President?

Simms didn’t set out looking to add an agency president, it just sort of made sense. He had hired a consultant to counterbalance some of his own leadership weaknesses. After 6 months of consultancy, it was a natural fit with the team and culture, so Simms brought him on permanently.

Simms remains the CEO, focused on external factors such as: developing strategy, positioning and sales. His agency president is focused on internal processes like delivery, operations and creative. He says they collaborate very well together and having clear, defined roles helps the team understand the individual roles.

The Main Roles of an Agency CEO

CEO Simms says his role as CEO is threefold:

  1. Set the strategic vision for the agency. Also, communicate the vision, goals and values to the team.
  2. Provide resources to execute the vision. This includes providing the necessary leadership, skills sets and tools to get the job done.
  3. Understand agency financials. Provide a stable business environment by understanding where they’re at and where they’re headed financially, as well as identify potential obstacles in achieving financial goals.

I couldn’t agree more! In fact, I’ve found there are actually just 5 roles for an agency owner to transition into an agency CEO.

Simms' final piece of advice for all agency owners is to know what you don’t know. He says it’s important to have some sort of trusted advisor to help you make decisions and get your agency to the next level. Whether it’s a Board of Directors, business coach, or mastermind group he stresses that every agency owner needs help knowing how to get where they’re going. And, if you need help, I might know a guy :)

Ready to Discover the Best Agency Strategies Working Today?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

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

How can you protect yourself and your clients from brand copycats? I recently had some major issues with a copycat and had to take action FAST in order to protect my business and brand. In this episode, learn what you can do to proactively defend your agency and clients’ intellectual property.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is and what isn’t intellectual property?
  • Why register your agency’s brand assets?
  • Tools and tips to keep your assets protected.

Today’s guest is Cheryl Hodgson, founder of Hodgson Legal and BrandAide.com. She’s an attorney, advisor, author and expert on everything related to brand protection. Cheryl specializes in intellectual property and brand assets. And, she shares advice protecting your and your clients' brand assets. Cheryl touches on everything from copyrights and trademarks to goods/service names and domain names.

What Is and What Isn’t Intellectual Property?

Cheryl says often the term “Intellectual Property” is misunderstood. Legally, this term only applies to assets in five specific areas:

  1. Brand Names: This is one of the most important assets a business owns. It’s a unique identifier with a long life and requires protection. Cheryl says most businesses don’t put enough time into developing names. They settle on it with little thought. But Cheryl advises seeing what’s already out there to avoid conflicts before you settle on a brand or business name.
  2. Copyright: Any artistic expression of an idea is copyright protectable and includes things such as programs and content. Without the registering you have rights but no remedy.
  3. Patents: Things like inventions and software are patentable. Patents are exclusive rights granted for a product or a process that provides a new way of doing something or offers a new technical solution to a problem.
  4. Confidential Information: Any private or classified business information can be intellectual property - things like lists, non-disclosure agreements, confidentiality agreements, etc. that should not be shared without your permission.
  5. Domain Names: In most cases, a web address is more important than a physical address. Domain names are a business asset and need protection.

Why Register Your Agency’s Brand Assets?

The biggest reason to register is because it adds value to your agency. No matter whether you’re considering selling in the near future or the long distant future, owning your intellectual property increases your agency’s value. That’s what buyers care about most - sales, revenue and assets.

Another great reason to register is to protect your turf. Cheryl shared a story about a former client who failed to register his brand and lost out big time! He started AmazonNetworks.com back in the early 90’s on the cusp of the internet boom. A short time later, a business named Amazon Book Sellers was founded. Initially there was no conflict but as Amazon Book Sellers grew they decided to register their brand. As you can imagine, eventually AmazonNetworks.com was sued and forced out of business.

[clickToTweet tweet="Why register your brand and services? Without a trademark, your brand identity becomes diluted." quote="Why register your brand and services? Without a trademark, your brand identity becomes diluted."]

Tools and Tips to Protect Your Agency

Your brand assets and intellectual property are your unique identifiers. When it becomes popular the value becomes diluted and it no longer distinguishes your goods or services from others. Registering and monitoring use of your brand names protects your brand’s identity. When naming goods or services, do your due diligence to see what else is already out there:

If you discover a copycat (like I did) of your registered assets, there’s a few different courses of action you can consider:

  • Simple, careless plagiarism can start with a direct phone call or email to the offender.
  • Handle blatantly egregious or fraudulent activity with a letter from an attorney.

Can You Force Someone to Release a Domain Name?

This is always a tricky topic. Cheryl says a domain name on it’s own is just like your street address... You can't do about anything if someone is just parked on it. However if someone is using a name you own for commercial use, you do have rights and protection. Likewise if you have a successful product or service, competitors or related businesses will try to duplicate what you’re doing by using a similar domain name with a different extension (.net, .org, etc.)

A Domain Dispute Resolution is a cost effective way to recapture your rights and avoid expensive court proceedings. Cheryl suggests speaking to a law professional or checking out the National Arbitration Forum or WIPO.

#1 Biggest Branding Mistake Agencies Are Making

There’s one major mistake Cheryl sees over and over -  a lot of marketing agencies and brands do not use trademarks correctly in their marketing materials. In fact, Cheryl says it's so common that she has created a PDF guide to help you. You can grab Cheryl's Marketing Professionals Guide to Brand Use, her Brand Protection Assessment and a FREE chapter of her book by clicking here.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

Building Your Digital Agency Better

Protecting your intellectual property is just one important aspect of creating the best business possible, you need to look at your agency in the bigger picture to find your strong areas as well as weak spots and then think of how you can fix them. No matter what challenges your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance on whether you are an established agency facing struggles to new agencies unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

Growing your agency team can also 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 to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance-based pricing and 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_to_Protect_Your_Agency_s_Brand_Assets__Intellectual_Property.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Leadership is seriously hard work. There’s a ton of pressure, juggling and personal sacrifice. Don’t let burnout get the best of you! Learn the signs of a major leadership crash before it happens and how to be a better agency leader by knowing how to stop self-sabotaging.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is a leadership crash?
  • How to identify the signs of an impending leadership crash.
  • How to be the leader your agency needs.

Today’s guest is Stephen Mansfield, a leadership consultant to CEO's, celebrities and politicians in crisis. He is also a speaker and author; and his specialty is helping with the recovery of leadership crashes. After years of handling things like major corporation CEO’s affairs and politician’s misuse of power, he has identified 10 signs of a pending leadership crash that will help us stop self-sabotaging traits. Stephen’s on the show to describe some of these signs in a proactive attempt to help us identify and avoid our own leadership crash.

What is a leadership crash?

A leadership crash, in Stephen’s words, is a high profile mistake - an affair, embezzlement, misuse of authority or credentials, etc. - that sabotages the career and life of someone in a leadership role.

Stop Self-Sabotaging: What are signs of a leadership crash?

  1. Being out of season. A “season” is a predetermined, self-imposed period of time. Continuing to work in the same capacity outside of your season sets you up for a crash. Stephen’s examples of a season include: a retirement age, a political term, a period of time living abroad, etc. He says to abide by your commitment to your season.

  2. Choosing isolation. Friends know you best, so right before a major crash people tend to isolate themselves and avoid the issue. Isolation may be due to shame, insecurity, or embarrassment. If you find you’re starting to isolate, figure out why and prevent your own crash.

  3. Harboring an unresolved episode of bitterness. We all have issues from our past that have shaped who we are today. However, harboring unresolved issues with intense bitterness can lead to a serious crash. Holding onto issues only breeds resentment and anger, so Stephen’s advice is to reconcile it and learn how to move beyond it.

  4. Forgetting fun. The pressures of leadership can be soul crushing and mind numbing. It’s important to sprinkle some fun within your intense, hectic schedule. Stephen says boredom causes most crashes (particularly by men). So make time for vacations, adventures, sports or activities you love in order to build in some fun.

  5. Evading confrontation. Those who do not engage in low level confrontations end usually primed for a huge blow out in the form of a leadership crash. According to Stephen, many crashes are a result of no one speaking up when early signs indicate an issue.

  6. Serving artificial images. Social media can play a big role in your perceived image. All it takes is one exaggerated social post or embellished article and the bar gets set so high, you can’t live up to it. The result is tons of pressure that lead to disastrous decisions causing a leadership crash.

  7. Loss of poetry. Leadership starts as a vision but usually turns into being about processes. The loss of vision, passion and poetry is what leads to a crash. An uninspired leader cannot inspire his/her team. Stephen’s advice is to stay engaged in your business; remember your passion and your “why”.

Read more about the 10 Signs of a Leadership Crash in Stephen’s ebook for on Amazon (it's just $4).

How To Be the Best Agency Leader

Great leadership is a connection between vision and possibilities with the practical processes to see those possibilities fulfilled.” ~ Stephen Mansfield

Your main job as your agency’s leader is to inspire your team. There’s a big difference between inspiring and motivating...  An inspired team doesn’t need motivation :) Stephen's best example of a great leader is Winston Churchill in WWII. During the war, Churchill first rallied his troops around his vision for winning it and then showed them how it could be done by embodying the vision and enabling them to achieve it.

Inspiring your team and communicating vision is one of the 5 roles of an agency CEO. The key is not to inadvertently de-inspire them. One bad decision can destroy years of building inspiration.

[clickToTweet tweet="A leader is someone who is not only showing what can be done but inspiring and enabling people to do it." quote="A leader is someone who is not only showing what can be done but inspiring and enabling people to do it. ~ Stephen Mansfield"]

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

Growing Your Business When You Stop Self-Sabotaging

When you can identify the signs of a leadership crash, you will be able to stop self-sabotaging behavior and improve as a digital agency owner. In order to build as an agency owner and grow your business, you need to be able to recognize 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 challenges 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_to_Stop_Self-Sabotaging_and_Become_a_Better_Agency_Leader.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you know what you need to do to stay relevant and significant to your clients? Let’s face it, marketing is an ever-changing industry. And in the agency world, it’s survival of the fittest. So we must adapt or die! Here’s a great story about how one agency transitioned their business model in order to continue to thrive. Think about Blockbuster video - they didn’t adapt to the needs of the industry and are now extinct. Don’t be the next Blockbuster -adapt or die.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why it’s important to adapt in the agency space.
  • 3 Keys to an agency transformation strategy.
  • Why and how you can use vlogging to generate leads.

Elizabeth Sosnow is Managing Partner at Bliss Integrated Communications, a 50 person agency in New York City. She’s on the show today to tell us how Bliss transitioned from PR to an Integrated Marketing agency in order to stay relevant in a changing industry. Plus, she shares some great tips on vlogging.

Why It’s Adapt or Die in the Agency Space

Bliss was founded over 40 years ago as a PR agency with a specialization in health care, financial and professional services. Elizabeth says, though, in recent years they faced challenges during the collapse of the traditional news media industry. They quickly released it they needed to make a change in order to adapt to the needs of the industry. That’s when Bliss reinvented themselves from traditional PR to Integrated Marketing.

Their game plan was to use their in-depth knowledge and insights in their niche to pivot the agency. If they’d been generalists, they’d never have the expertise to fall back on. Consider this just another reason why your agency should have a niche :)

3 Keys to an Agency Transformation:

It’s hard to change - especially when you’re already an expert at what you do. But, along with the decision to transition the agency from PR to Integrated Marketing, came the realization that Bliss was entering a new playing field.

Elizabeth says the theme of the transition was “know what you don’t know.” Meaning, they weren’t going to bulls*t themselves, their clients/prospects, or competitors into thinking they could do things they couldn’t do. Instead, she says agency leaders did these 3 things:

  1. Hired an outside source to educate their team on everything from operations to pricing.
  2. Worked hard and put in additional non-revenue generating hours for agency growth.
  3. Understand their limitations and concentrate on keeping control of the top level marketing.

How a Vlog Can Be an Agency Growth Strategy

People don’t want to read anymore. That’s why I’ve had a lot of guests on the show talking about the importance of video marketing and live streaming videos. But what about vlogging? It’s a smart content vehicle that isn’t being used much. I just started my vlog - you can check it out here. Elizabeth recently started one too, so she and I chatted about why and how.

Why vlog? Well, people like to consume information in multiple ways, all at once. Think about it - do you usually watch TV while also on your tablet or smartphone? So we have to reach and garner awareness when and how we can, right? This interview alone can be watched in video form, listened to in podcast form or read as a blog post so we are able to reach people in a variety of formats.

The goal of a vlog is to give your audience a authentic and genuine glimpse into your world. Elizabeth compares it to a lesson she learned as a high school actor. She says actors are translators for the audience trying aiming to tell a story and garner a reaction. The same is true of a vlog - if it’s done well you’ll get attention or a reaction from your audience.

How to Structure an Agency Vlog

Very few agencies are vlogging. In fact, the only one I know of who’s doing it right is Gary Vaynerchuck and his show, DailyVee. Gary vlogs to promote his personal brand as a growth strategy for his agency, VaynerMedia.

If you’re working on building your personal brand, it might mean footage of your daily activities and what makes you, you. Like my new vlog here. If you’re using a vlog strictly to promote your business, it might mean more of a candid and unrehearsed snippet full of business tips, like the one Elizabeth does for Bliss. Her vlog, Marketing Espresso Shots, is a 90-second bi-weekly, “quick jolt” of integrated marketing tips.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

What's Next for Your Digital Agency?

No matter what your agency specializes in or the services you offer, you must have the ability to adapt as the industry and technology change.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance on whether you are an established agency facing struggles to new agencies unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show you how to recognize when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfect your business strategy by creating a process for performance-based pricing and 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: Why_Your_Agency_Must_Adapt..._or_Die.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

If you’re looking for a unique, innovative and low-cost lead gen strategy check out this story. Live events can go far but one agency is using Meetup to find new prospects and turn them into leads while building the know-like-trust factor. Best part is, it’s totally FREE.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is Meetup and how does it work?
  • 6 Steps to creating your own Meetups for lead gen.
  • Using Meetup to capture the attention of big brands.

Our guest today is Ali Salman, co-founder of Rapid Boost, a lead gen agency in western Canada. He’s here to share a unique lead generation strategy that generated over $165K in just a few months and continues to keep their pipeline full with new prospects.

What is Meetup and Why Use It?

Meetup is a social network that facilitates in-person group meetings in various locations worldwide. It’s primarily used to connect people with common interests so they can idea-share, network and help one another. Meetup groups get together in their specific geographic location for social gatherings as well as educational and workshop-style events.

Meetup members join for free and find groups that align with their personal areas of interest, spanning everything from politics to pets to careers. By entering their postal code the Meetup system suggests events and groups and helps find place/time to meet.

There are a bunch of benefits to using Meetup but the biggest one is that you’re it’s an innovative way to build your list. As members join your group(s) you’re essentially creating a list of warm prospects who have an interest in or need for the services you provide.

[clickToTweet tweet="With Meetup, you can build relationships with people who are already interested in your topic." quote="With Meetup, you can build relationships with people who are already interested in your topic."]

6 Steps to Using Meetup for Lead Gen

1- Create a regional group. First, determine what type of group you want to create (this is an example of why niching is so important!). You’ll also have to decide on the purpose your group - is it a mastermind, workshop, etc.?

2- Name your group. Start by researching what groups already exist in your city. The group name should be creative but also specific to your target audience. Think about what type of group they’ll search for and what types of events they’ll attend.

3- Join groups and attend events. Ali suggests getting a feel for what’s out there by attending some local events. Get your toes wet first before jumping in! Look at groups and events both in and outside of your niche.

4- Plan and schedule your first event. Consider the topic(s) that will be of most interest to the attendees. Ali says he gets 30-40 people to attend his events, of those 4-5 have serious potential. The key is to provide value at the event. Try different styles to see what works for your group - presentations, workshops, partners/guest speakers, casual mingling, or a mix of any/all styles.

5- Promote your events. Use social media channels to promote your events in advance. You can also promote your event for free using Eventbrite and creating a Facebook event. Post photos from the event during/after for added emphasis and to gain interest in future events.

6- Be patient while your group gains momentum. Ali says it takes patience and lots of practice. But, it does take awhile to build momentum and he cautions us to stay patient and focused. Like anything else, consistency is crucial to success. The whole point is that you’re putting yourself out there and it takes time to get it right.

7- Work smarter, not harder. You can do the same presentation in multiple cities. This will help your lead gen efforts grow exponentially.

Don’t Start by Pitching!

Ali says he’s hosted dozens of Meetup events and learns a little more each time. The #1 most important lesson is not to sell right off the bat. The people who are in attendance are not there for your agency’s infomercial. Ali suggests preparing a couple of different presentations that provide value to your target audience by helping them with a common problem. Whether they’re interested right away or not, you are building a relationship.

Instead of pitching - what you can do is follow up after the Meetup by pulling the group member list. You can send an email with more information - like a cheat sheet or other takeaways from the event. Or, you can introduce a Foot in the Door offer to this select target.

You Can Target Big Brands Using Meetup

Ali says often times younger Marketing Coordinators or similar will join Meetup groups and attend events looking for the next big thing to show their boss. They want to learn new strategies and innovative ways to solve their problems. That’s where you come in and save the day! Remember, big brands aren’t just a logo - they’re people too. Be specific in who you’re targeting, and be authentic and genuine at the event. Provide enormous value without selling or pitching. Then you will stand out against the “me too” agencies and land bigger brands.

Ready to Discover the Best Agency Strategies Working Today?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

Keep Improving

Creating a strategy for lead gen for your agency can bring in more clients, particularly big brand clients and bring your digital agency to a whole new level but this can be a recipe for disaster if you don't work on the other challenges you have within your business. Don't worry, I can help you get through all of it.

I can give you advice on recognising new client opportunities to different ways of building authority to improve your agency.

If you are having issues with growing your agency, I’ve the different phases of growth within your agency and how performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business as well as the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Learn all about my career and different experiences as well as lots of 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_Generated_165K_Revenue_Using_Meetup.com.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Top 5 Tips to Accelerate Agency Growth

If you have your sights set on your agency breaking 8-figures this episode is a must. Do you want to know how you can accelerate agency growth? Today's guest is an agency owner who's gone from $0 to over 8-figures and he shares his top 5 tips so you can grow too.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why you must niche down to accelerate agency growth.
  • How to reward key employees without giving them ownership.
  • Ways to stop doing all the agency stuff you hate.

Our guest today is Chris Spears, co-founder of Arke Systems the agency he started in 2006. Eleven years into the business he's seeing steady growth, has 80+ employees and loves his job! Chris and I go way back to my digital agency days when we were working as strategic partners. His agency has crushed the 8-figured ceiling and he’s on the show to share how you can do it too.

1- The More Niched, the Faster the Growth

Chris attributes a lot of his agency’s growth to an early appreciation of niching down. If he could do it all again, he’d specialize even sooner. Once Arke became #1 in a specific technology and marketed themselves as the pros in that arena, they had a full pipeline with tons of inbound prospects.

A lot of agency owners are afraid to become too specialized because there’s a fear of “losing” clients or “turning off” prospects. However, Chris believes buyers are much more sophisticated than we give them credit for. They won’t be your guinea pig for a project you’ve never done - they want an agency that's proficient in a specific skill or experts in an industry.

2- Get the Right People in the Right Seats

Surround yourself with people smarter than you and you will grow. Most entrepreneurs don’t think any one can do it (whatever “it” might be) any better so they end up being control freaks about everything. But when you get the right people in the right positions their skills and experience will help your agency grow beyond what you could do alone. When you have key people in the right roles, you can stop doing the things you suck at and spend time on your business, instead of in it.

Equally important to having the right people, is empowering them to do their good job. First, make sure they understand their role within the agency. Next, make sure they’re educated on all facets of the business so there are no missed opportunities for up selling, cross selling or obtaining referrals.

3- Keep Your Team Motivated

Once you’re surrounded by all the right people it’s important to keep them motivated. Chris says it goes beyond just having fun together at happy hour. An engaging culture plays a big part in keeping a team motivated. And a motivated team produces efficient, effective work yielding faster agency growth.

In terms of employee incentives, Arke Systems has a Stock Appreciation Rights Program. This program protects both the agency and the employee with built in contingencies if either party terminates the relationship. It’s also a great way to publicly recognize stellar employees without offering regular equity in the agency. (That’s a BIG no no!)

4- Stop Doing Things You Hate

How many hours do you spend doing things you hate? Invoicing, chasing payments, scheduling meetings, etc. Whatever those things are - eliminate them by delegating to your team or outsourcing. And if it’s something you can automate, even better! Chris also says not to build things from scratch if they already exist. Don’t make more work creating a solution for a problem if a solution already exists elsewhere. Things like this are a distraction and derails your focus from the important things. You can’t grow your agency when you’re spending time reinventing the wheel.

5- Know Your Exit Plan

Getting focused and staying focused is important. What does your end game looks like? If you know your long term goals and avoid distractions while trying to achieve them, you can grow your agency much faster. I like to tell my clients: build your business to sell, but treat it like you never will.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

What Happens After You Accelerate Agency Growth?

With these tips, you should be able to make changes and accelerate agency growth for your business. However with this increase in growth, unless you are prepared it can cause more issues for your agency. This is why reviewing your agency consistently for areas of weakness or improvement will allow you to become a better agency owner and run a better business.

During my time in the industry, I have had my own experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners so there are many topics where I can offer guidance. Whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like, I've got you covered.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show how to recognise when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing and 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: Top_5_Tips_to_Accelerate_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Facebook Live is one of the hottest ways to generate new agency business. You can spend tons of time and resources sending a hundred emails to your perfect prospects but you’ll earn more trust in just one live video than all those emails combined. Live streaming video is where it’s at... and your competition is not doing it yet, so you will stand out from all the “me too” agencies. So what are you waiting for?

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why you need to be on Facebook Live.
  • 6 Steps for starting live video.
  • Tips to set you up for successful live videos.

Today’s guest is THE expert on Facebook marketing, Amy Porterfield - an entrepreneur, bestselling author, and social media marketing trainer. Following an amazing career at Harley-Davidson and working with Tony Robbins, Amy decided to give it a try on her own. After overcoming tons of obstacles, she’s become one of the most well-respected Facebook marketers today. She’s on the show to tell us all about why Facebook Live is one of the hottest new ways to generate new agency business.

Why You Need to Be on Facebook Live

When you put yourself out there in video format, you build trust with your clients so much faster than with the written word. You’ll get more traction with 1 video than in 100 emails or blog posts.

But recorded video can be overwhelming, stressful - the equipment, scripting, lighting, editing. Ugh! The difference with live streaming video is most of the overwhelm and stress is eliminated. It is what it is - no script, no editing. And your viewers get to know the real you. Sure, it opens you up to vulnerability and criticism but the more you practice the better you get.

There aren’t many people who love seeing themselves on video but still, Amy says you’ve got to embrace it. Social media channels like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, Facebook Live, etc. are not going away anytime soon!

And, your competition isn’t there yet so now’s the time to jump in and build your following!

The best part is, Facebook prefers video right now. Your live videos will jump to the top of your prospect’s news feed and you’ll be seen far more than regular social posts by your competition.

BONUS - When you are doing Facebook Live videos, you’re also creating amazing audiences for Facebook retargeting. You can segment your audience based on the percentage of videos watched and then market to them accordingly. There is a super low barrier to entry and the rewards are huge!

6 Steps to Starting Live Video:

  1. Go live from your business page, not your personal profile. (A typical rookie mistake!) That’s where your prospects will be watching you and where you want the videos to live forever.
  2. Do some prep work in advance by creating a rough outline of what you’re going to talk about. This will prevent you from losing your train of thought or rambling :)
  3. Give the post a descriptive title so your audience knows why they need to watch. Name it something like: “How to Do {something cool} Without Doing {something that sucks}
  4. Take your time. Facebook seems to prefer longer videos, like 20-30 mins. It might seem long, but it’s easy to do if you prepare in advance. Just share a few nuggets of advice, a story and answer questions/comments. If questions aren't posted by viewers, just ask and answer typical ones yourself!
  5. Be patient while you build an audience. Don’t worry about the number of people who are watching the live stream… just act like people are watching and eventually they will.
  6. Go live on a predictable schedule and at least weekly. Promote your live videos in advance with social posts so people know when to tune in. Going live regularly will help create a watching habit for your audience.

Tips to Set You Up for Live Video Success

Facebook Live is for everyone - no fancy software or equipment is necessary! Here are Amy’s tips for success:

  • Go live from your desktop through your web browser, instead of your smartphone.
  • Use your smartphone or tablet to read questions/comments that pop up during your live video.
  • Have someone on your team give you a signal (like text or PM a thumbs up) when the audio and video is up.
  • Use a window for natural lighting instead of messing with artificial light.
  • Technology glitches are going to happen. Keep your emotions in check and handle it with grace. Don’t let tech issues hold you back from trying again.
  • When you’re ready to go pro - Amy uses a Logitech webcam and subscribes to Wirecast screen sharing software.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

 

How Can You Improve Your Agency Further?

So using Facebook Live for your agency is now ticked off your list of promoting your business on social media buy what's next? How can you improve further to take it to the next level?

Take a step back, look for weak spots in your business and then think of how you can fix them. No matter what challenges your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

From my experience in the industry, 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: Why_Your_Agency_Needs_to_be_on_Facebook_Live.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

We have all gotten them. The bad cold email that makes you feel better about yourself :)

Here's a fun interview I did with a buddy of mine from Proposify about the WORST and the BEST email he has ever received when it comes to lead generation.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Mistakes to avoid making in your cold sales emails.
  • How to write an amazing cold email.
  • 4 Tips to crafting an effective cold email.

Today’s guest is Kyle Racki co-founder of Provposify, a SaaS product for helping agencies streamline proposal writing, get approvals faster and close deals quickly. He tells us how to improve the effectiveness of cold emails in order to keep the conversation alive.

Mistakes to Avoid in Cold Sales Emails

We’ve all been on the receiving end of some pretty terrible sales emails, right? Whether in your inbox, LinkedIn mail, or similar space they tend put us off. Here’s one from Julie, which Kyle shared as a typical bad sales example…

This is one of the WORST cold emails because:

  • It’s too vague. The email says they were referred by a digital agency but doesn’t mention which one. It says it’s from a tech company but doesn’t mention which one. It also says doing business together could “...create a significant revenue stream…” but what’s the measure of “significant”? This email contains too much generic information with no regard to the intended recipient.
  • It’s irrelevant. Kyle received this email and he runs a SaaS company for agencies, yet the email mentions the company’s positioning with attorneys and schools. This information is immaterial and has no bearing on the sales decision.
  • It’s too presumptuous. The closing in this email assumes the recipient has learned enough and is interested in a phone call. It’s a giant leap to go from introduction to a phone meeting in one email. The purpose of a cold email is to see if there’s a fit, not close a deal. Making assumptions like that can be a real turn off.

How to Write an Amazing Cold Email

Here’s another example Kyle shared in comparison. This one has all the attributes of a great cold sales email….

This is one of the BEST cold emails because:

  • It’s direct. There’s no guesswork - you know exactly who sent the email and what they want you to do. The next steps are clear and there’s a specific call-to-action. (It’s the opposite of vague!)
  • It’s personalized. The sender did their research and . The email is not only targeted but Notice the thumbnail of the video? That’s Proposify’s site embedded into the customized video.
  • It’s short and to the point. Just four sentences is all FullStory needed. This email says in just 30 words what the other one takes 102 words to say.

4 Tips to Crafting an Effective Cold Emails

  1. Know who you’re targeting. Be narrow and specific instead of broad and generic. You’ll get more traction by sending custom emails to 10 solid leads rather than form letters to 100 cold leads.

  2. Do your homework to pull data and research on your target. You can use tools such as Rapportive to determine a business’ size, revenue, etc. and then import it into your CRM.

  3. Create an intriguing email or lead magnet provides unique or innovative information. What clients really want is for you to bring something new to the table. So, create a custom report or branded email. (Hint: you can use Proposify templates to do this!

  4. Use your CRM to monitor your leads’ engagement with your email. Then circle back to follow-up based on their level of interest and/or to handle objections.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

How Can I Help You Grow Your Digital Agency?

If you have more questions about how you can improve your agency, I have covered topics including how to start an agency from scratch to reasons you should sell your agency.

Have other topics you want advice on? Check out all my tips, tricks, and everything you need to know in my blogs. I have covered a wide variety of topics as well as answered your questions in more from my AskSwenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  You can check out my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my YouTube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

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

Are you worried that defining a niche will limit your agency’s potential? Don’t be. Check out one agency’s story about how they grew past 7 figures in a very specific horizontal and vertical niche. Think: if you got paid on performance alone, what’s the ONE THING you do best to get you paid the most?

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why your agency needs a vertical or horizontal niche, or both.
  • When and how to expand your niche.
  • How to get bigger clients and retainers.

 

Today’s guest is Chris Dreyer, founder of Rankings.io (formerly Attorney Rankings). He’s a client of mine who did a private, full day workshop with me. We were able to supercharge his agency business and since then he’s had amazing growth! Agency leads have increased to 50-60 per day and they broke the 7-figure mark! Chris shares some of the strategies that helped his agency grow easier and faster.

Why Choose a Vertical and Horizontal Niche?

Chris is a school teacher by trade and was doing some SEO on the side. After a couple years of side jobs helping small businesses with SEO he quit teaching. He says it was an easy decision to choose a specific vertical niche because he knew he already had success stories, would build authority quicker, and stand out from the competition. To Chris, it seemed like an easy and logical decision.

Focusing on a horizontal was a more difficult decision. Chris says they are awesome at SEO and their happy clients would requests other services, like social media, PPC, email marketing, etc. He says they were “OK” at these types of projects and were profitable. However they made the difficult decision to focus only on their core service of SEO - and it paid off! Zeroing in on a horizontal makes you super searchable, and your ideal clients can find you right when they need you.

[clickToTweet tweet="When you make the decision to be the best at one thing, other decisions become easier to make." quote="When you make the decision to be the best at one thing, other decisions become easier to make."]

When and How to Expand Your Agency’s Niche

It was their goal to provide the best SEO for law practices - staying true to the goal was key. It wasn’t easy though. Naturally, law firms have relationships with a lot of medical providers. So, Chris’s agency’s satisfied law clients would often refer physicians to them. As tempting as it was, he often turned down those projects because he was so committed to the original goal in his vertical niche.

In fact, it wasn’t until just recently that Chris’s agency, formerly AttorneyRankings.io, rebranded to Rankings.io in order to draw a broader client base. The rebrand comes after 3.5 years of establishing their vertical niche. They’ve found a lot of their strategies easily transferred from legal to medical practices. However, 90% of their business still comes from attorneys.

How to Get Bigger Clients and Retainers

Not to pat myself on the back… but I’m gonna :) Chris said he attributes a lot of their success to implementing my Foot in the Door strategy. That’s when they saw conversion rates explode! Once they started offering a $995 SEO audit, it became so much easier for clients to commit to bigger projects.

The Foot in the Door allows Rankings.io to showcase their knowledge and educate their clients based on research and fact. It also allows the agency to qualify their prospects by working on a smaller project before signing on for a higher value, long term project. It serves as a vetting process and helps avoid potential headaches. (Translation: weed out the bad prospects before they become bad clients!)

From One Agency Owner to Another

Chris is a big fan of educating yourself and always trying to improve. His best advice to any agency owner no matter what stage they’re in, is to take action. Learning means nothing if you don’t put it into action.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

How Can You Improve Further?

Do you still have more questions to improve your business? I can help.

It doesn’t matter if you have been an agency owner for a while now or have just taken the leap and started a new agency, I have covered topics from the struggles you may face within your agency to leveraging YouTube in your marketing for your agency marketing strategy.

Learn more about me or you can check out all my tips, tricks, and everything you need to know in my blogs. I have covered a wide variety of topics as well as answering your questions and more from my Ask Swenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  Don’t worry! You can check out my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my YouTube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

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

Growing your agency means hiring great people to help you get there. And hiring top talent shouldn’t be limited by geographic boundaries. On today's show, one agency owner tells us why his agency's increased productivity and sales are the result of having a remote team.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Is it time to get an office for your agency?
  • How to be productive with a remote team.
  • Must-have technology for a remote team.
  • Balancing a remote team business model.
  • How to hire remote employees.

Tim Cameron-Kitchen is the founder and Head Ninja at Exposure Ninja, the UK-based digital agency he started four years ago. In addition to growing an amazing business in a very short time, Tim has also written four bestselling books on digital marketing. Today, Tim’s here to tell us why his agency’s office space has been vacant for three years and how that has increased productivity and helped him scale his agency.

Is It Time to Get Office Space?

Starting as a freelancer and occasionally farming out work to other freelancers, it was a no-brainer for Tim to work 100% at home. However, as he grew to a network for 15+ he was getting nudged by others into working from a “real office.” So he signed a 5 year lease and started commuting to it every day. The result was disastrous…

Tim hated his commute, he hated interruptions, and he hated being pulled into office politics. In addition, he had hired some local talent which turned out to be convenient but not awesome in terms of skill-level and effectiveness. Creativity, productivity, and sales were all down which Tim attributes to the new mandate of working in the office.

So naturally, Tim chucked the office… after only 6 months. As a result, productivity increased in the first month and sales increased the next.

How to Be Productive with a Remote Team

When you’re working remotely you can work around your lifestyle, which ultimately optimizes productivity. More work gets done in less time when there are fewer interruptions and distractions. It means working smarter, not harder. (It doesn’t necessarily mean you’re laying on a beach working… but you could :) )

Thanks to technology, we can work collaboratively without being in the same physical location. Advanced technology allows us to work differently now than just 5 years ago. The software tools Tim and his team love to use are:

  • Hubstaff - time tracking and accountability
  • Teamwork - project management software
  • Slack - communications, messaging and archiving software
  • Email ticket system - filters, organizes and assigns tasks based on incoming emails

Even weekly department meetings are held remotely. Tim says internal meetings are done via Skype audio and meeting notes are posted to Slack. They’ve found it to be the most efficient way to keep each department on the same page.

Creating Culture with a Remote Team

It’s not an easy thing to create culture among a group of people who’ve never met. But, Exposure Ninja has a pretty strong culture, nonetheless. It can get lonely working from home full time, so they’ve found ways to alleviate that problem. Tim explained how they turned typical “water cooler talk” about TV shows, hobbies and pets into Slack channels. Co-workers can get more personal by sharing and communicating in group-chats on topics that interest them. They also do an annual holiday party or meet-up in order to socialize in person.

Balancing a Remote Team Business Model

Some love it, some hate it. There are people who thrive from working on their own terms and there are some who just can’t do it. Typically introverts like to work in solitude. Those with different personality types usually miss interacting with others during their work day, or aren’t self-motivated enough to work independently. This work style doesn’t suit everyone.

I actually once interview another agency that offered a hybrid of the traditional office/remote business model. The team has the option of work remotely or working in one of their multiple, global “creative spaces." Using this business model, this other agency grew to $3 Million Agency with NO Employees.

Conversely, the remote business model doesn't work for all clients, either. Some can’t handle having a remote agency. They want face-to-face meetings and personal contact. The remote business model can become an issue. But, if/when that’s the case then they weren’t the right client anyway.

Hiring a Remote Team

People are amazed that Tim has hired people he’s never met or even talked to… But their hiring process works and maintains productivity.

The formula for a successful remote employee = self-motivated + organized + think independently + work with very little management

So when it’s time to hire Tim doesn’t waste a bunch of time on rounds of interviews. Instead, they assign candidates an open-ended demo task. This helps filter out people who don’t fit the criteria, which is usually about 95%. There are lots of people who cannot demonstrate the necessary criteria, don’t handle the task as expected, don’t communicate as required, etc. Once they have it narrowed down then they’ll talk specifics on hiring.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

Building Your Digital Agency 

When you are in the early stages of working with a remote team, you may be concerned with the levels of productivity but there are many benefits from remote teams and it's also good to ensure a high level of productivity overall.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance on whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show you how to recognize when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy by creating a process for performance-based pricing and 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_to_Increase_Agency_Productivity_with_a_Remote_Team.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

A Full Pipeline Isn’t All You Need to Grow Your Agency

Scaling and growth is not just about filling your pipeline. New business won’t mean a thing if you don’t have the right systems in place to support it. Check out the advice from a white label agency that literally exists to help other agencies scale.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why you need more than a full pipeline to grow.
  • 2 crucial systems necessary for scaling.
  • One mistake agencies make trying to scale.
  • How to make decisions for agency longevity.

My guest today is here to share with us a few big secrets about scaling. Ryan Meo founded his agency, Scale Squad, nine years ago. His agency white labels in order to help digital agencies scale. So that pretty much makes him the authority on scaling. He tells us what processes and systems are absolutely crucial for growing and how they are more than just having a full pipeline when looking to scale your agency.

2 Crucial Systems Necessary for Agency Scaling

If Ryan could travel back in time, he says the one piece of advice he’d give his former self is to have the right systems before trying to scale.

  1. A solid foundation for the Operational System. Meaning, you have to have a good grasp on your service offering as well as boundaries for them. What do you do? What don’t you do? It’s also important to know how to guide your clients into your offering without overcomplicating it.

  2. A methodic Sales System. It’s imperative to have a process for finding, winning and keeping the right clients. Without a repetitive system for prospecting, it’s feast or famine with new agency business. Agencies find themselves on a roller coaster instead of a steady stream of work and cash flow.

One Mistake Agencies Make Trying to Scale

A lot of agency websites are too vague, leaving it unclear what they do and who they help. Why is that?

For one thing, they painting broad strokes in the hopes of capturing the attention of more clients. They’re afraid to turn off potential clients by being too descriptive when in fact, the opposite is true. Being too general is the turn off!

The solution is selecting a niche. It’s critical to know who your best customers are and gear your marketing toward them. The misconception about declaring a niche is that it means turning away anyone outside your niche. But you’re not… Declaring a niche is really just a marketing strategy. You are just concentrating your market on a particular niche but you can still work with anyone. And don’t worry - there’s plenty of business for everyone!

Another common reason for vague websites in the scarcity mentality. Agencies are worried that if they get too specific about a specialty they’ll run out of potential clients. There’s so much more business out there than we realize. We aren’t confined to the local geographic area anymore. So whatever your niche - there’s tons of potential out there.

How to Make Decisions for Agency Longevity

Forecasting is everything. It’s important for keeping tabs on agency resources as well as goal tracking.

Without forecasting, we end up making dumb decisions (working with the wrong clients, taking on the wrong projects, letting go of the wrong people) in order to save cash flow. Don’t let a cash crunch force you into making the wrong decisions.

When you forecast sales and monitoring agency’s KPI’s you can get a better understanding of agency revenue and profitability. (And you want to know profitability because top line revenue doesn’t mean sh*t if you’re not profitable:) ) If you’re using a CRM it can be super easy to also use it for cash flow projections - here's how.

Need Guidance and Support to Grow Your Agency Faster?

Most agency owners struggle to scale. We’ve developed an amazing mastermind to guide you through the journey of implementing the right systems so you can scale your agency — instead of feeling overwhelmed by it.

We do this by bringing together successful agency leaders to share strategies, offer advice, and reveal what’s working (and what’s not working) in their agency. The truth is, whatever you want to accomplish in life, nothing will help you go further, faster than getting the right adviser in the context of motivated peers. If you want to GROW fast and smart, Digital Agency Elite mastermind will help.

Taking Your Digital Agency to the Next Level

So I have now shown you why a full pipeline isn't all you need to grow your agency so what do you need? Are there weaknesses within your agency that are causing everything to break down?

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

I have been in the industry for a long time and I have had my own experience running my own digital agency as well as helping other digital agency owners so there are many topics where I can offer guidance. Whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like, I’ve got you covered.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show you how to recognize when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy by creating a process for performance-based pricing and 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. Or if videos are more your thing, visit my Youtube channel!

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

8 Figures in 8 Years: Achieve Agency Growth from 0 to 8 Figures

Wonder what it takes to get to your agency to 7- or 8- figures? Today’s guest tells us all about how his agency has grown to 8 figures in 8 years, plus the challenges he’s faced and how he got over them in order to succeed and grow.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • The challenges/solutions of growing to 7- and 8 figures.
  • Healthy agency profit margin ranges.
  • Challenges of  managing at the 20+ employee level.
  • How to stay relevant as your agency grows.

My guest on the show this time is Matt Bertulli, owner of Demac Media, in Canada. Over the last eight years his agency has grown to 95 full-time employees and just crested the 8 figures mark. In Matt’s interview, he was very candid about the struggles and challenges they faced getting to various milestones of growth and how he pushed past them in order to success.

What Does Healthy Growth Look Like?

Right off the bat, Matt knew in order to cut through the noise his agency needed to specialize. He took the leap of faith and did it. Rather than competing for a piece of the pie, Matt (an engineer by trade) took a more strategic approach to growth and capitalized on a niche right away. That meant in their early years, Demac Media grew an aggressive 45-50% each year. Today their growth is in the 25-30% range.

Going from Startup to $1 Million Revenue

CHALLENGE: Matt says the getting to the one million mark was super challenging. In the early days of owning his agency he felt like he was faking confidence and stability in order to win clients... His favorite line from back then: “We’re a real agency!” He had a lot of doubts and it was a very unsettling time period. Crossing over that $1 million in revenue was shocking and amazing.

SOLUTION: We’re in a golden age of agencies and there’s never been a better time to to build and grow one. Small and mid-sized agencies can compete with the big guys. We’re capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for… The struggle to grow to $1 million is not external - it’s the head game you play with yourself.

When you take a step back and look at who you’re working with and what you’re charging, is it getting you closer to your financial goals? Early on, agencies tend to fall into a trap of spinning their wheels on a pain in the ass client spending $10K on a project. That client sends referrals for similar work at similar budget levels.

[clickToTweet tweet="You can’t grow by acquiring business at the same levels ~ scaling requires you to do more and better." quote="You can’t grow by acquiring business at the same levels ~ scaling requires you to do more and better."]

Increasing from $1 Million to Multiple Millions

CHALLENGE: According to Matt the journey from $1 to $5 million actually wasn’t too hard. It was much more difficult to break the ceiling into the $1+ million than to leap from $1 to $5 million. The hardest part was his own resistance to adopting processes and systems. Despite his background as an engineer, Matt didn’t understand how systems would leverage his agency’s ability to scale.

SOLUTION: First, it’s important to create systems that can help you acquire the clients you want to work with - and you don’t need to wait until you’re at the $1-$5 million mark. Processes and systems will expedite growth regardless of where you’re at now. And, know your numbers. As I like to tell my clients, it just takes some backwards math to figure out your goal and then work backwards using the number of clients and pricing you’ll need to reach the goal. An especially important figure is your agency’s profitability.

What’s a Good Target for Profitability?

In a service business, profitability can be really good but you have to work at it and focus on it. As they were reaching the $5 million revenue milestone, Demac Media’s profit margin was anywhere between 35-40%. Few realize it, but that’s exactly where it should be!

Profitability within this range means:

  • Pricing is right where it should be.
  • The agency is working efficiently.
  • The agency is not over-delivering or allow scope creep.
  • The right people are in key roles at the agency.

Profitability is the best measure of financial success. Top line revenue doesn’t matter if your profit margins aren’t healthy.

Hiring as Your Agency Grows

I have had a lot of agency owners tell me they don’t want to grow too big because they having upwards of 20+ employees creates more work. And Matt says that is partially true… but probably not for the reasons you think.

From the beginning, Matt had his mind set on not having an org chart. He felt like defined lines of responsibility would stifle creativity. So he just had everyone report to him. (Uh, oh! If that’s your approach then sure, having more than 20+ employees definitely will be a nightmare.) Matt explained that when he realized the need for agency management and structure, growing the team was much less of a burden.

As you grow it’s imperative to hire a management team. Now at 95 employees Matt only has 5 direct reports, which is the leadership team. He says having the right people in place has freed him up to spend time where he wants and work on what he enjoys.

Cresting the 8 Figures Revenue Mark

CHALLENGE: The road from $5 to $10+ million is the toughest; Matt even calls it Death Valley. It can be lonely and isolating - it was a really challenging time for my agency too. At that level, you feel sort of stuck and might even want out. The demands for your time lessens and your inbox shrinks. You’ve grown your team with all the right people and they can run things without you, which can be really depressing!

SOLUTION: This is the time to redefine your role within the agency. It takes clarity and self-awareness to find your new role. You aren’t needed for the daily operations, it’s more about creating and communicating the vision to support your team as well as these other four roles of a Founder/CEO. When you do an awesome job of communicating the agency vision you will earn your employees buy-in. When they believe in it, your clients will too. And when employees and clients all believe in the agency vision the financial success follows.

Another great solution is to find peer groups or a mastermind. I might even know a good one you can check out :) In a group setting you can problem solve and idea share with like-minded entrepreneurs. You can make connections, receive input and advice from people who’ve been (or are) in your shoes.

Matt’s final piece of advice is to keep trying new things and taking risks. He says no matter what growth level you reach, it’s key to stay a little uncomfortable. Getting too comfortable makes us complacent and complacency causes insignificance.

Don’t be the next the Blockbuster… adapt, change, and innovate - especially when it’s a little scary - in order to avoid becoming irrelevant.

Avoid getting left in the dust! Check out the Agency Playbook, the online video training to help you acquire your ideal clients, increase your profit, and grow your agency.

Build Your Agency

Now you know how to build your agency and go from zero to 8 figures, you need to look at your agency in the bigger picture to find your strong areas as well as weak spots 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.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance whether you are an established agency facing struggles to new agencies unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

Growing your agency team can also 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 to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing and 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_Grew_to_8-Figures_in_8_Years.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

If you’re not using video in your own agency marketing, or if you aren’t getting any traction from your videos check out this episode. Today’s guest tells us why video is one of the best lead generators out there - and how to set yourself up for successful video marketing campaigns.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 4 benefits of using video in your agency marketing.
  • #1 mistake agencies make in video marketing.
  • The equipment and pre-planning you need for making great videos.

My guest today is Dee Dee deKenessey, Agency Partner Program Manager at Wistia. If you don’t already know about Wistia - it’s time to get out from under that rock. Wistia provides professional video hosting with amazing viewer analytics to help you achieve your video marketing goals. Dee Dee tells us how you can set yourself up for success by weaving video into your marketing.

In just one year, Wistia’s Agency Partner Program has grown to 700 agencies with varying levels of experience, from beginner to seasoned veteran. Dee Dee also manages a private partner online community where everyone can collaborate, idea-share, and help one another.

4 Big Benefits of Using Video Marketing

  1. There’s an over saturation of emails, blogs, and social posts. Your prospects are on information overload. Video breaks through the rest of the noise.
  2. Video is easier to consume and digest. A lot of people prefer watching over reading because it’s usually faster and simpler.
  3. Viewers feel like they can relate to you in video. It’s more authentic than written content, and it allows your personality to come through.
  4. Every video is unique and hard to duplicate. Your video content is all yours - blog posts can be stolen but no one can imitate you on camera.

Not convinced yet? There’s tons of other reasons you should be using rich media in your agency marketing.

#1 Mistake in Video Marketing

Sure there’s rookie mistakes like lighting, scripting, etc. but those issues are easily solved over time and with experience. But no matter what the level of experience, Dee Dee says there’s one huge mistake people make in their video marketing, and it’s totally preventable. The biggest mistake is jumping right into production without a plan or goal in mind.

[clickToTweet tweet="Make sure you have a single goal in mind; then determine how video can help achieve the goal." quote="Make sure you have a single goal in mind; then determine how video can help achieve the goal."]

How to Set Yourself Up for Successful Video Marketing

Before you film anything, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who is watching this video? Where are they within the sales funnel?
  • What’s the context around the video?
  • How will the viewer engage with the video?
  • What is the next step or call-to-action?
  • Where will the video live - and why?

Then based on your goals for the video, decide where it will live. House your video…

  • On Facebook... if you goal is to promote your brand or entertain without sending traffic back to your site.
  • On YouTube... if your goal is to make the video searchable, or if your video solves a problem.
  • On your website... if your goal is to educate or increase sales.
  • In an email... if your goal is to drive traffic or promote a service.

INSIDER TIP: You don’t need fancy equipment to produce great videos. I do all mine on my iPhone or iPad, and I have one O-ring light. Check out Wistia’s resource library for more tips.

Plus, if you use Wistia’s hosting you receive analytics that show you how each video is performing. You’ll be able to find out who’s been watching your videos, how much they’ve watched and which videos are providing the most value.

What's Next for Your Agency?

After generating leads using video marketing for your agency, you need to ensure you have strong processes in place. This will allow you to provide high quality work, save time on projects and build your authority as an agency. Take a step back and look at other processes that need attention. No matter what challenge your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can give advice on from what to do when you want to speed up sales processes 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 you the different phases of growth you will experience, how placing a process for performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Want more? 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: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Dee_Dee_de_Kenessey_Chapman.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you finding you agency growth moving to fast that you are worried of it burning out or do you think it's moving too slow? In an ever-changing agency environment, does sustainable growth really exist? One of the main questions should be if should agencies concentrate on growing as much and as fast as possible, dealing with the fallout as it occurs?

In this episode of Ask Swenk, I take a closer look into what you need to do to achieve and maintain sustainable agency growth and cover all your questions to give you a peace of mind and more...

Christian asked:

"Do you think there is such a thing as sustainable growth, or should you just aim for as much/fast growth as possible and deal with the new business/onboarding of staff?​"​ ​

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

What Do You Need to Know to Maintain a Sustainable Business?

I hope you found this installment of Ask Swenk beneficial and it helps you with any of your business worries.

As well as ensuring that you create a sustainable business, as your agency grows, you may come across challenges and knowing how to adapt will ensure a successful agency. From who you should hire for your agency or how to bring your agency to the next level, I can help. I hope you found this helpful and can put it into action.

Have other topics you want advice on? You can check out all my tips, tricks and insights in my blog covering a wide variety of topics as well as answering your questions in more from my Ask Swenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  You can check out my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my Youtube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

Direct download: Is_Sustainable_Agency_Growth_Possible_...._AskSwenk_ep_64.mp3
Category:#AskSwenk Show -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Today’s episode is packed with tips and advice on solving some of the most common obstacles in agency new business sales. My guest, Tim Sanders, covers everything from getting in front of the right prospects to establishing authority, speeding up your sales cycle and getting the contract signed.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to improve agency sales.
  • How to increase your close rate by 300%.
  • The 4 stages to every agency new business sale.

With over two decades in the marketing arena today’s guest, Tim Sanders, is here to share of TON of information about agency new business sales. Tim is considered a technology-pioneer, as well as a speaker, author and the founder of Deeper Media. Tim draws on his extensive experience - working with Mark Cuban in internet TV, working as a top Yahoo executive, and as an agency owner himself - to bring some great insight on agency new business sales.

How to Improve Agency Sales

Tim says Sales is a lot like Creative Design. That’s why agencies are (or should be) absolutely crushing it with their new business sales.

He describes Design as “the constant act of problem-solving.” In Design, you keep trying until you get it right. The same is true for Sales. When you’re selling to a prospect, you are problem-solving for them. And, you keep at it until you get it right. (Remember, the goal of sales is NOT getting them to buy what you sell. Instead, sell them the SOLUTION needed for their existing problem.)

In the agency space, the greatest competitive advantage is rapid problem-solving. So, when you rethink your approach to sales using Tim’s definition, your agency wins.

How to Get a Contract Signed & Increase Your Close Rate by 300%

In Tim’s fifth and most recent book, Dealstorming, he covers the importance of collaboration across the various agency disciplines. It’s no longer just the salesperson that closes a deal. You can increase your new business close rate by 300% when you involve different types of people with different areas of experience and expertise.

Tim says it’s “the myth of the expert” that kills a sale. The old mentality of “leave it to me - you don’t know what you’re talking about” does not promote rapid problem solving.

We must champion the thought that great ideas can come from anywhere.” ~ Tim Sanders

The problem with going solo at sales is that problem solving is limited to just that person’s experience. Tim says everyone has their own series of constraints (things that won’t work) and their set of greatest hits (things that always work). When you bring 3 different perspectives together, problems are solved 3X quicker. So when creative, sales and finance collaborate, the result is rapid problem solving and a speedier close rate.

The other benefit -- no one goes down alone! No lone wolves. When your team collaborates, everyone owns the successes and the failures.

3 Sales Personas to Overcome Obstacles

Generally speaking, every sale goes through the same four stages. Each stage comes with it’s own problems and issues. The key is understanding how to work through the issues and come out on top by getting a contract signed. The best way to handle those issues is by wearing the hat or playing the right role.

Tim has identified 3 personas that every sales team needs:

  • The Hacker - someone who uses unique tricks or clever solution (aka “a hack”) in order to get the desired result.
  • The Chef - someone who acquires the right ingredients and knows how to use them to create a successful finish.
  • The Artist - someone who displays or demonstrates a solution to accomplish a specific outcome.

The 4 Stages to Every Sale

1- Make contact with the right people.

It’s important to know who you’re targeting and I can’t emphasize it enough - specialization is KEY! No more spray and pray method. No more buying call lists. Be specific in what you do and who you help. Then use that knowledge to create a list of the top 100 companies you want to pursue. This is when you use the Hacker persona and use a hack to get noticed. Bring something innovative to the table by calling their attention to a new technology they’re not using.

2- Gather information and conceive the deal.

This is where a lot of agencies get stuck. You need to define what the ideal relationship will look like with a specific client. Do you want to be the agency of record? Want to handle a specific piece of their marketing? Execute one idea, roll out one product, etc.?

A lot of agencies just want to sell off the shelf, making them nearsighted. They have one thing they’re trying to sell and work hard on trying to get the client to buy into it. Usually this is because they don’t have enough strategic insight on what the client is trying to achieve. With the end in mind, use the Chef persona to discover the ingredients for success.

It’s twice as easy to make an unprofitable service profitable than it is to wedge your existing service into the client.” ~ Tim Sanders

3- Convince the client to make a change and to work with you.

According to Tim, your biggest competitor is status quo. What this means is that most clients are either solving their problem on their own or working with another agency. When they don’t choose you, it’s because they’re satisfied with status quo. The best way to get beyond this obstacle is by using the Artist persona and developing creative device that paints the picture. Tim says people can argue facts and figures, but they’re drawn into stories.

If you arm your salesperson with a device - some sort of analogy, metaphor, illustration - it goes so much farther than simply spouting off facts and figures. Finding a simple way to showcase your services is much more impactful.

4- Get the contract signed.

There can be a variety of obstacles when it comes time to ink the deal when getting a contract signed. It comes down to fundamentals… it’s the difference between how you do business versus how they do business. The best way to overcome these type of contract-related obstacles is to figure out where you’re getting stuck and then come up with a work-around for it. Use the Hacker, Chef or Artist mentality to come up with a creative solution for getting any contract signed.

If you love all this information from Tim Sanders, you can get a FREE chapter of his book. Check out Dealstorming.com/free to download the chapter titled “Sales Genius is a Team Sport.”

Need to up your staffing game?

Agency workflow is constantly in flux, making it a real gamble to bring on full-time staff. And, freelancers can often be difficult to manage. That’s why Agency Boon has simplified the process and cost of building a great creative team.

Check out Agency Boon as an amazing alternative to full-time or freelance staff. The Agency Boon team will integrate as members of your team and you’ll love their commitment to making you look good in your clients’ eyes.


If your agency’s workload is constantly in flux you may have considered agency outsourcing... but, giving up control on a piece of a project can be a little scary. Today’s podcast guest is here to explain some of the best practices for managing partnerships and ensuring success for everyone.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 4 tips to successful agency outsourcing.
  • Managing difficult agency partner relationships.
  • When to call it quits with an agency partner.

My guest today is Tim Barsness, founder and President of Fjorge Digital. Tim got his start as freelancer and from there turned his business into an outsourcing agency with a giant network of partners. He on the show to share outsourcing best practices to ensure solid and profitable relationships.

Tim’s agency has handled development for dozens of creative agencies. Over the years, he’s learned what works (and what doesn’t work) in successful agency partnerships.

4 Tips to Successful Outsourcing

  1. Communicate early and often. It’s important to treat an outsourcing agency like a true partner, in every sense of the word. Loop them in on the project right from the start. According to Tim, a lot of agencies don’t involve their outsourcing partner early enough in the process which results in misunderstandings right off the bat. You can avoid this by involving them on client meeting and emails throughout the life of the project.

  2.  Have a plan and stick to it. As you identify the client’s main goal and develop a plan for achieving it, it’s super important to stay on track - especially when there’s multiple parties involved in the process. Tim says there’s huge margin for error and frustration when a project moves from creative to development and there are changes midstream.

  3. Clearly define your terms. Details are everything. Having a clearly defined Statement of Work prior to the start of a project can alleviate potential issues. A great SOW includes everything from timelines and sign offs to number of rounds and revisions. Set up a successful partnership by having everything spelled out in advance. This will benefit both agency partners as well as the client.

  4. Don’t over promise. Make sure everyone on the team knows the value in the statement: “let me get back to you.”. When you’re outsourcing you should defer to the partner when there are questions or issues which involve their area of expertise. Tim says in an effort to the please the client, sometimes an agency will make a promise about something technical and it ends up causing issues for everyone. Instead, say to the client “let me get back to you” and then get info straight from the source to avoid confusion or frustration.

Managing Difficult Partner Relationships

It happens. You’re working with a vendor or partner and all of the sudden they become difficult or unresponsive. If this is the case, Tim advises stepping into their shoes to figure out why. Some people just shut down in order to avoid conflict. So think about what reasons they might have for going dark… Are they unclear on what you’re asking? Have they over-promised or under-delivered? If you can get to the root of the problem you’ll be able to put them at ease and work through a solution.

But what if there is NO solution?

Sometimes a partner relationship goes too far south and you’d love to call it quits but you feel trapped because you’re in too deep. When this happens, you feel like you have no choice but deal with a crappy situation. According to Tim, doesn’t have to be that way…

Asses the overall risk of severing ties. Ask yourself things like: How much is their work negatively impacting the project? Is the client aware there’s an issue? If so, does the client think they’re part of your team? Who’s managing the project/process? Is there a breakdown in communication between the two teams because the PM or AM doesn’t speak in tech terms?

Using clear and direction communication you can usually diffuse a situation before it gets to the point where you’re backed into a corner.

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies.

Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker. Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

Transforming Your Business

Using the best practices possible from outsourcing to other aspects of your agency will help you transform your business but this may only be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to improvements that are needed. Why not take the time to take a step back and look at other processes that need attention? No matter what challenge your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can give advice on from what to do when you want to speed up sales processes, ways to increase your business profit or how you can build authority for your agency.

Growing your agency can be a major struggle for any agency owner and I can show you the different phases of growth you will experience, how placing a process for performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Want more? 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: Best_Practices_for_Successful_Agency_Outsourcing.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do You Have a Bad Agency Prospect?

Have you ever ignored that little voice telling you to turn away a bad agency prospect? It's hard to walk away, even when you know they're going to be a really bad client. Do you struggle with knowing when or how to say 'no'? All that and more is covered in this episode...

Phil asked:

"Today I took on a client I know will be a bad one. I have struggled with knowing when to say: I don't think we're a good fit for you.

When a client is motivated and wanting to do business with you, but you know they aren't your ideal client - how, when and what do you say to get out of it without sounding like a schmuck? I'll take this guy on, but I've got to get a grip on how to get out of a bad deal."

Advice For Your Agency

I hope this episode of Ask Swenk was helpful and brings you clarity to any potential bad agency prospects your agency is currently dealing with. If you want to know how to improve your digital agency, you may come across challenges and knowing how to adapt will make you a better agency owner. I cover all topics from the struggles you may face in your agency to creating the best agency proposals and more. I hope you found this helpful and can put it into action.

Have other topics you want advice on? You can check out all my tips, tricks and insights in my blog covering a wide variety of topics as well as answering your questions in more from my Ask Swenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  You can check out my Ask Swenk series and more of my videos on my Youtube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

Direct download: How_to_Say_No_to_the_Bad_Agency_Prospects._AskSwenk_63.mp3
Category:#AskSwenk Show -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Tired of relying on referrals? Teaming with right strategic partners is an effective way to scale your agency. The trick is knowing how to find, leverage and maintain the right strategic partnerships.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How agency owners can get out of their own way of agency growth.
  • Finding, approaching and maintaining beneficial strategic partnerships.

As a serial entrepreneur, Vincent D’Eletto has learned all about rapidly scaling startup businesses. He owns multiple revenue-generating websites, as well as WordAgents.com, a content and ghostwriting agency. Vincent shares the best ways to find, leverage and maintain highly beneficial strategic partners. And, I know what you’re thinking but I’m not talking about just having other businesses refer you out. Real strategic partners are much more than just referrals. When strategic partnerships are done right, both partners can generate some serious revenue!

Systems & Processes Win (Again)

Hands down, the fastest way to grow and scale is having the right systems and processes in place. This is especially true in businesses where there is a lot of repetitiveness. Vincent and I both agree; your business will grow when you take advantage of efficiencies and systemize routine tasks.

Yet, despite having the right systems and processes, a lot of agency owners stand in their own way of growth.

Vincent says the common theme among his businesses is his constant struggle to give up control. He is afraid to hire employees or hand things off for fear they’ll “mess up” what he’s built. This is actually pretty common for most entrepreneurs. A lot of agency owners think they’re the best, and it’s that mindset which holds them back from real growth. What most of us need to remember is: you’re not the best, you’re just the best you have right now.

Over time, Vincent has come to realize the solution to this struggle is having the right systems and processes in place. Training people in your systems and processes leaves very little margin for error and significantly lowers the possibility that they’ll “mess up”.

Identifying Strategic Partners

You’ll get the most traction from a strategic partnership if your agency has a specialization or niche. When you are known for helping a specific audience you’ll be more attractive to other businesses who are targeting the same.

There are 3 categories where you’ll find strategic partners to align with:

  • industry leaders
  • agencies with complementary offerings
  • industry-specific technology tools or SaaS products

Approaching a Strategic Partner

After identifying a few partners, the best way to get them to notice you is to just be helpful. Follow them on social media, share and retweet them. Comment on their posts and tag them on relevant posts. Develop a relationship where there is mutual value... Whatever you’re hoping for from them, do it first. Make a deposit before you make a withdrawal.

Vincent says once he has built a rapport over social media, then he’ll reach out with a direct message or email. He’ll usually offer free content or provide a solution to a particular challenge of theirs. Depending on your comfort level, you can also try a direct approach and tell them exactly what you want and why. I find that being direct eliminates suspicions like wondering, “what’s the catch?”. Tell them why you’re doing what you’re doing… explain what’s in it for you.

Maintaining Strategic Partnerships

It takes time to establish and grow these relationships. You have to be committed to the long game. Once you do, it’s an amazing way to get in front of new people within your target audience. Vincent’s best advice about maintaining strategic partnerships is to be a friend. “Keep giving and it will come back to you.”

Need to up your staffing game?

Agency workflow is constantly in flux, making it a real gamble to bring on full-time staff. And, freelancers can often be difficult to manage. That's why Agency Boon has simplified the process and cost of building a great creative team.

Check out Agency Boon as an amazing alternative to full-time or freelance staff. The Agency Boon team will integrate as members of your team and you'll love their commitment to making you look good in your client's' eyes.

Transform Your Agency

I hope you now know how strategic partnerships could take your agency to a new level. However, if there are other struggles you are experiencing in your agency, I can help you get through all of it.

I can give you advice on recognising new client opportunities to different ways of building authority to improve your agency.

If you are having issues with growing your agency, I’ve the different phases of growth within your agency and how performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business as well as the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Learn all about my career and different experiences as well as lots of 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_to_Scale_with_Strategic_Partnerships.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Frustrated by Agency Prospects?

Are you sick and tired of agency prospects blowing you off after presenting a proposal? Frustrated when they string you along or send mixed signals? Wondering what you could do differently? You are not alone and this is a hurdle that many digital agency owners face when it comes to new clients and potential agency prospects.

I have put together a video with advice on how to deal with getting proposals blown off by agency prospects, excuses clients can make and how to make it stop happening.

Here's exactly how to handle it next time...

Shannon asked: “I need help finding a better way to close a deal!

...I had a great first call with a prospect who said he was ready to go. I put together the proposal and set up another call to present it. After I went through the entire proposal, the prospect said he wouldn't be ready to do anything for another 3 weeks. So I scheduled the next call for 3 weeks out and again he says he's not ready to pull the trigger. This is the third time in a row this has happened. It's frustrating to say the least!

My questions are: Why do these prospects act like their ready to go when they're not? Why can't they just be up front about their timing? What can I do or say to get them to start now?"

Are You Ready to Learn More?

I hope you found this helpful and it opened your mind to improving your agency life. 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: Stop_getting_blown-off_by_agency_prospects..._AskSwenk_ep_62.mp3
Category:#AskSwenk Show -- posted at: 7:00am EST

If you’re looking for new ideas to generate new agency business and attract new clients, you might want to hear what today’s guest tells us about branded web TV and influencer marketing.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to use branded web TV for agency new business.
  • 4 Steps to positioning your agency or client as an influencer.

Mark Fidelman founder and CEO of Fanatics Media is here to tell us -- branded web TV is the next big thing. According to Mark, video content is heading away from one-offs in favor of series or episodes. As an agency you can use this influencer marketing strategy for building new agency business, and as an innovative idea for your clients.

Why Branded Web TV?

At Mark’s agency they’re seeing an upswing in the popularity of branded web TV series. You might be familiar with Celebrities in Cars Getting Coffee or YouTube’s First We Feast. These are examples of branded series’ where viewers get a small dose of entertaining content while also being marketed to… and that’s where Fanatics Media has found their niche. They’re matching influencers and celebrities with brands to create a series of branded episodes.

In fact, Marriott has started using this marketing strategy. They have Bill Rancic (winner of season 1 on "The Apprentice") as their celebrity influencer on Open Invitation. This series of episodes entertain and inform while Bill and his celebrity wife, Julianna, tour a vacation destination. However the series is obviously branded by Marriott as he engages in property amenities.

You can use branded web TV for your agency as an inbound strategy by creating a series or episodes of valuable, helpful videos. You can bring idea to your clients who look to your agency for unique, innovative solutions and develop business building ideas. Even if video isn’t your thing, by providing a new lightbulb idea your agency will be valued and respected as an advisor rather than just a commodity.

4 Steps to Position Yourself or Client as an Influencer

1- Have laser focus. Know exactly who you can help and get very specific with who you will target. Afraid to specialize and turn-off potential clients? Don’t be! When you niche down you aren’t eliminating or turning away business. You’re just aiming it in a particular direction. You can’t influence on what you don’t know but when you concentrate on what you do know, you’ll find confidence and success.

2- Know your customer’s platform. It’s super important to know where your prospects are congregating and become a servant to that community. Don’t go broad by smattering your content everyone, but instead concentrate it and talk to an audience of one.

3- Create relevant video content. Determine what your audience needs or wants to know. What are common questions or challenges they have? Produce a series of content to answer their questions and aid in their challenges. To maximize effectiveness, create a reliable and predictable content schedule.

4- Get out of your own way. Most of us hate how we look on camera or can’t stand our own voice. It’s OK and you’ll learn to get over it. The key is to just start. Mark says he recorded 1-2 mins every day for 30 days to get over his hang ups. And me? I look like an orange Oompa Loompa in my early videos. Even pros like Gary Vee and Casey Neistat started somewhere. Just practice - you’ll find your voice and comfort zone.

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies.

Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker. Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

Improve Your Business

With this blog, I hope it has given you an insight into the world of influencer marketing as well as how it could benefit your business. However, if there are other struggles you are experiencing in your agency, I can help you get through all of it.

I can give you advice on how to recognise new client opportunities to the different ways of building authority to improve your agency.

If you are having issues with growing your agency, I’ve the different phases of growth within your agency and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more of your digital agency services.

Learn all about my career and different experiences as well as lots of 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: Using_Influencer_Marketing_to_Win_New_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

If you want to grow your agency like some of the big guys but you’re not sure how to get there, you’ll want to check out this episode. Our guest has grown four (almost five!) 8-figure businesses. He shares ways to increase your profitability so you can grow and scale too with the best growth model for your agency.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 2 tips to building an 8-figure agency.
  • The right way to create a growth model after the big agencies.
  • 2 ways to increase profitability and eliminate scope creep.

Today’s guest is on in the process of building his 5th eight-figure business. Vinnie Fisher is the authority on profitability and growth. He’s an attorney by trade but left his law career to fulfill his dreams as an entrepreneur. Currently, he is the founder and CEO of Fully Accountable, a back office accounting and HR solution for service-based businesses. Vinnie shares the two big secrets he attributes to his 8-figure success with the right growth model, plus how an agency can become more profitable.

2 Tips to Building an 8-Figure Agency

1. Invest in developing people.

Vinnie says through out growing five different businesses he’s come to notice that the company flourishes when he doesn’t trap himself in a primary role. He spends time nurturing his team and trusts them to take the company to the next level.

2. Understand the marketplace.

We have an innate desire to be all things to everybody. However, defining an area expertise is imperative to growing your business. When you dive deeper into a specific target market, you can really zero in and get a comprehensive understanding of it. There is often resistance to specialize because owners are afraid of trapping themselves in their business. But those who don’t specialize end up wasting time and money.

How to Create a Growth Model Like Bigger Agencies

Naturally, if you’ve got a growth mindset you want to model what the big agencies are doing. And that’s a great idea, but you have to make sure you’re looking at the right season of that business. The big agencies didn’t always start with a broad business. Look at their early years and notice how they grew.

With his law background, Vinnie compared it law practices. He says all the successful law offices have specialize in a particular type of law: Family Law, Class Actions, Mergers & Acquisitions, etc. He says general practitioners can build a nice business but the big, well-known firms are the ones with an expertise.

[HOMEWORK] When you’re looking at a bigger agency to model, I challenge you to do this exercise as homework:

  • Select a couple big agencies you’d like to replicate and check them out on The Wayback Machine. Notice the evolution of their site and note the changes.

  • Create a timeline of changes to their site and what might have been going on in the industry, technology, financial market, politics. See if you can draw connections between their online presence, their business growth and the outside influences.

  • Don’t actually replicate what they’ve done - remember, they made mistakes along the way, too. Instead, use this exercise as your inspiration and an agent of change.

Target Profitability Rate for Agencies

In the debate over growth vs. profitability, Vinnie and I agree. Growth doesn’t mean sh*t if you’re not profitable. As a general rule for businesses that operate strictly with a service model (for example, agencies without any productized business), the magic target is 33% profit. Vinnie quoted this statistic from US Census data. Generally, agencies should see their revenue equally split in these three buckets: ⅓ Overhead, ⅓ Expenses and ⅓ Profit.

Remember, 33% is just a target for service businesses. You can micro-analyze your profit margin based on your agency’s uniqueness. However, Vinnie says no agency in a growth phase should be at less than 20% profitability.

How to Increase Profitability

Believe it or not, there’s a good chance you’re guilty of sabotaging your own profitability. If you are under charging, over delivering or doing too many “quick little favors” for free that is scope creep. It is absolutely the #1 agency profit killer.

Vinnie advises us to understand fair market value for the services we provide. Sometimes that means raising your prices. However, you may be priced just right but giving away work or doing extra work that goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

One of the best ways to prevent scope creep, is to understand why it’s happening in the first place. Sometimes the client asks for “favors” to get more value than what they’re paying for. The agency complies because they are trying to create goodwill and build the relationship. Other times, agencies are going above and beyond on technical components of a project, which goes unnoticed and unappreciated.

2 Ways to Minimize Profit Leaks

1- The $0 Change Order.

Document all changes you make on a Change Order Form. This is especially helpful for those "favors" and out of scope requests that you do for free. Make sure the form indicates the value of the work, then zero out the amount and have the client sign it. This shows the client what their “favor” is worth and serves as a reminder later when they ask for more. Once you assign a value to it, the client will be reluctant to ask for many more changes or favors in the future.

2- Communicate with the client.

If you’re going above and beyond, make sure you explain it them. Clients don’t know exactly what their agencies are doing behind the scenes. However, when you involve them they’re able to appreciate the extra energy you’re putting into their projects.

FREE Agency Accounting & HR Resources:

Vinnie and his team at Fully Accountable has a gift for our podcast listeners. Check out FullyAccountable.com/smartagency for an ebook, HR resources and more.

Need to up your staffing game?

Agency workflow is constantly in flux, making it a real gamble to bring on full-time staff. And, freelancers can often be difficult to manage. That's why Agency Boon has simplified the process and cost of building a great creative team.

Check out Agency Boon as an amazing alternative to full-time or freelance staff. The Agency Boon team will integrate as members of your team and you'll love their commitment to making you look good in your clients' eyes.

What Happens After Your New Growth Model?

Creating the best model growth strategy for your business can elevate your agency to the next level but you need to be prepared for a potential influx of business this growth model can create. By evaluating other areas of weakness within your agency. No matter what challenge your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can give advice on from what to do when you want to speed up sales processes, ways to increase your business profit or how you can build authority for your agency.

Growing your agency can be a major struggle for any agency owner and I can show you the different phases of growth you will experience, how placing a process for performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Want more? 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: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Vinnie_Fisher.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Profiling Ideal Clients to Attract New Agency Business

If you are pulling generic data and basing your entire client persona off of it, you’ve got to catch this interview. To attract and qualify new agency business you need to be profiling ideal clients. This episode is all about how you can really zero in on how to start profiling ideal clients and your client’s clients.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What “attitudinal segmentation” is and why you need to be doing it.
  • 2 problems with the way agencies are strategizing now.
  • 3 ways of profiling ideal clients and getting better data on your prospects.

Our guest today is Susan Baier, founder of AudienceAudit.com has spent 30 years in the marketing space. She’s worked both agency-side and client-side as a strategist until eight years ago when she founded her agency specializing in attitudinal segmentation and research. Susan tells us all about using custom research and data to avoid being a “me too” agency.

Profiling Ideal Clients: The Key Factors

WTF is "Attitudinal Segmentation"? (And why should your agency care?)

Since the dawn of time, agencies have been using research and data to hone in on their clients needs, and using the same for their client's clients. However, as things change we need to start considering more than just geographic and demographic information. Attitudinal segmentation is a fancy way of using customers preconceived notions and attitude in order to market to them better. With this type of research and data, marketers can tailor their campaigns with regard to customers’ attitude toward an industry, business or product. Marketers can also learn more customers’ thoughts and feelings about a particular industry, product, service, brand etc. by using this type of data. The result is more efficient and effective marketing that provides the service and value their prospects desire most.

2 Problems with Status Quo

Susan says agencies and clients think they understand what their customers want. However, without considering attitude and emotion, we’re not getting the whole picture. Gone are the days of marketing to a particular demographic (i.e. white females 25-40, on Pinterest), so most small and mid-sized agencies are doing a combination of going with their gut and buying packaged data. The problem is:

1. The data is irrelevant. Agencies and client execs spend hours upon hours developing their customer persona based on what they “believe” is going on in the marketplace. They are using their own personal experiences, underlying beliefs and anecdotal information to make assumptions about their customers.

2. The research is unhelpful. Generally, pre-packaged data is pretty accessible to everyone and doesn't identify anyone in particular. It is only industry specific, but not customer or brand specific. The data is vague and only gives insight into a type of person (based on age, race, interests, etc.) but nothing specific.

3 Ways to Get Better Data

1. Surveys

Surveys can help you understand what content is more relevant and valuable to the people visiting your site. For the past year, I have been using a Progressive Profiling Page for my lead magnet opt-ins and it is getting a 94% response rate. Progressive profiling is a series of 3-4 questions that helps me understand who is visiting my site as well as helps me qualify and tag them into the right automated marketing campaign. You can also survey your existing customer base to gather and interpret the data on why or how they feel about your business, offerings, industry, etc.

Pro: People are programmed to answer questions when asked. When you require a few answers before delivering on your lead magnet promise, you’ll get a really good picture of who’s visiting your site and why.

Con: Identifying the right questions to ask can be tricky. There are still some assumptions involved and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact questions to ask in order to get a the data you desire.

2. Personal Outreach

It might seem old fashioned, but talking to your existing clients can give you keen insights. This means picking up the phone and actually speaking to someone - no hiding behind email. Ask all your questions and get honest feedback to use in your marketing strategies.

Pro: One on one conversations can be highly effective and beneficial for gaining an understanding of your clients thoughts, attitudes and emotions.

Con: This type of research is not statistically valid. While you can gain information and insight, personal conversations cannot be used as mathematical data. It’s also really hard to reach a large sampling when making personal calls, therefore you can’t drive all your marketing strategy based on conversations with a handful of people.

3. Statistical Study

This is the best and most valuable way of securing data full of with attitudes, thought and feelings. A statistical study involves a large sampling with custom filters for demographics as well as specific questions about habits, opinion, mood and mindset of a distinct group of people.

Pro: This approach yields the best results and gives a very clear picture of what’s really going on. You can use it to obtain custom information and create a very clear persona for your content and marketing strategy.

Con: Fear of the results… it’s not really a “con” but some are afraid of getting super specific research because it might make results may show that your marketing strategy isn’t working. Don’t be afraid of results. Do a good job of selling in the need for research and the benefits of it’s accuracy. Then use it to learn what is and is not working. Don’t shy away from accountability. Instead use it to your advantage. You can analyze data and make it work in your and your clients’ favor.

With good data and research your “good” work will be even better. Clarity on who you’re talking to and what’s important and valuable to them means getting it right, right away. Less testing and tweaking means more efficiency and faster results.

[clickToTweet tweet="Marketing is a one-to-one conversation. Having good data gets you closer to a one-on-one, a lot quicker." quote="Ultimately, marketing is a one-to-one conversation. Having good data gets you closer to a one-on-one, a lot quicker."]

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies. Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker.

Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the "How Did You Hear About Us?" section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

Building Authority for your Agency

When profiling ideal clients for your agency, you could be at the beginning of increasing the workflow for your team and increasing revenue. However, what happens if this happens and there are weaknesses within your agency that causes everything to breakdown? Don't worry, i'm here for all the advice you need.

I have been in the industry for a long time and I have had my own experience running my own digital agency as well as helping other digital agency owners so there are many topics where I can offer guidance. Whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like, I've got you covered.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show how to recognise when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing and 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

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

Solutions for Staffing Issues

Are you trying to grow your agency while keep a tight lid on staffing? Busy chasing freelancers, all the while worrying they might go rogue or MIA? Over and understaffing can cause a ton of stress, but so can relying too heavily on freelancers. Today’s podcast guest has a solution for those staffing issues and more.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Solutions to common agency owner struggles and staffing issues.
  • #1 staffing mistake agency owners make.
  • One service that makes agency owners’ lives easier.

Today’s guest is Ryan Crozier, founder of Agency Boon - an agency that provides creative agency talent to U.S. agencies. In other words, it's the agency that helps agencies.

Like many agency owners Ryan stumbled into the agency business. However, Ryan’s story has a different twist. He was a U.S. missionary in Romania where he started a nonprofit. He discovered his team’s creative talents and started farming out those talents to make ends meet for the nonprofit. They began assisting U.S. agencies on a project-basis and used all their profits for their charity work.

That was three years ago... today Agency Boon is a team of 20 with a variety of talents. One thing that has not changed over time is Ryan’s vision for the agency. They’re still in existence for nonprofits and they reinvesting all the agency profits back into Romanian charities.

Common Agency Owner Struggles

Ryan says his goal has always been to add value and serve his clients. The problem is that he has ZERO agency experience. There’s been a massive learning curve and a lot of second guessing himself, like:

  • Feeling isolated. Running an agency can be very lonely. Prior to founding the agency, Ryan worked at a church and managed volunteers. Being an American leading an international agency has a completely different set of challenges. Mixing cultures with different work styles and work ethics can be really difficult.

  • Growing a team. Under and overstaffing is a concern of every growing agency. You want to keep people busy enough but not too busy or overworked. Ryan says he has tried to grow smart. Starting out with a small team of 1-2 is one thing but knowing when, how and which people to add is always a difficult decision.

  • Growing the agency. Finding new business can be challenging. Finding new business in the States when you’re in Romania is a completely different set of challenges. Since outsourcing to international companies has a certain stigma and a reputation for delivering shoddy work, . Overcoming these preconceived notions about his Romanian-based agency has been a major struggle.

Overcoming Agency Owner Struggles

1- Engaging in communities. Online communities and networking organizations can be a great resource. Ryan says advice and guidance from other agency owners is a huge help in solving some of his agency’s issues. It’s also reassuring to hear that other agency owners are experiencing similar struggles and facing the same challenges. If you’re a digital agency owner, you can request membership in our Facebook community with over 2,000 other agency owners.

2- Adding structure with systems and processes. There are resources and programs like our Agency Playbook that can provide a framework for running your agency. Ryan says he learned that having systems in place to streamline his business left him with time to concentrate on growing it rather than dealing with the day-to-day stuff.

#1 Staffing Mistake Agency Owners Make

You know there’s a saying about putting all your eggs in one basket. The same is true for relying too heavily on freelancers.

There are benefits to using freelancers - no employee overhead, schedule flexibility, etc. However there are staffing issues and also risk involved. There’s not much accountability. And, if you’ve got a lot of work tied to them and then you can’t track them down, it’s a nightmare. Every agency owner has or knows a “freelancer disappearance” story, right?. It happens. You can’t scale and grow an agency under those circumstances.

It’s also really difficult to juggle multiple freelancers. Managing projects gets really pretty tough when you’re bouncing work between a couple different freelancers with different skill sets. That alone can create major issues.

Working with Agency Boon is the best of both worlds. They make agency owners’ lives easier without the commitment of a permanent employee. Agency partners that work with Agency Boon find the experience an improvement over working with freelancers. Their Project Managers work with the talent, oversee projects, and can even integrate into the client’s PM software (Asana, Slack, etc.) Plus, since they’re in Romania, they’re working while the U.S. market is sleeping, so turnaround is often less than 24 hours. BONUS!

Check them out at AgencyBoon.com or hit up Ryan on Twitter @RyanCrozier and tell him you're a friend of mine :)

Becoming a Better Agency Owner

I hope this has provided you solutions to your staffing issues as well as any other struggles you are experiencing. Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance whether you are experiencing challenges as an established agency or a new agency unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

As you continue to grow your agency team, I can show how to recognise when it’s time to hire a sales manager or expand your sales team to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing and 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: Solving_Sucky_Staffing_Issues.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

What Do You Need to Do to Quit Losing Clients

Have you ever lost a client even though you’ve done great work for them? Puzzled as to why your “bad client” is so bad? This episode is all about what clients really want, from the woman who literally wrote the book. Learn all about maintaining good client relationships, how to quit losing clients, plus managing and training an amazing account service team that helps grow agency business.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why great work isn’t enough to keep clients happy.
  • What clients actually want from their agency.
  • 3 ways to make agency clients’ lives easier.
  • Hiring and managing a team that grows your agency.

There’s no such thing as a bad agency client... only a bad prospect or a bad process. In this episode my guest, Chantell Glenville, goes in depth on the bad agency processes that are killing your business. Chantell spent a number of years working both the client side and agency side of the business. She’s the author of best-selling book “What Clients Really Want (And the Sh*t that Drives Them Crazy), the first of it’s kind written from the client's perspective.

Why Great Work Isn’t Enough

Chantell says over the span of her career on both sides of the business in agencies of varying size and specialties she witnessed lots of breakdown in communication between agency team and clients. There seemed to be a common thread among them. A breakdown in client relationships is what gets an agency fired - even when they’re killing in with great work. So how do you quit losing clients and maintain good relationships?

So, What *DO* Clients Want?

Of course they want great creative, innovation and the expertise of the agency. But here’s the part no one tells us… Clients want their agency to make their lives easier and to not make their lives harder.

[clickToTweet tweet="Agency Acct Service Golden Rule: Make your clients lives easier. Do not make your clients lives harder. " quote="Agency Account Service Golden Rule: Make your clients lives easier. Do not make your clients lives harder. "]

The problem is, agencies usually make the assumption that a new client starts at level zero on the unhappiness scale. We assume the client’s life is already relatively easy, when in fact they might already be at a -3 or -4 on the scale. Then we end up inadvertently doing things that tip the scale and make their lives even harder.

3 Ways Agencies Can Make Clients’ Lives Easier

1- Understand the client’s work life. What pressures are they under? Who do they report to and what is their supervisor’s work style? What is the structure of their day? If possible, go to their office and shadow them for a day to see what they “normal” looks like. Then adjust your style in a way that makes all things easier.

You might be surprised at what you learn when you get a glimpse into their world. (Especially if you’ve never worked client-side.) For example, if a large part of the client’s day is spent in meetings, it explains why you don’t get a quick reply to your “urgent” emails. So ask them if it’s OK to text them first when you’re sending something urgent. Figure out what makes the client’s life easier - without making it harder.

2- Pay attention to detail. If your client is often pressed for time but feels like you aren’t good at details that just creates extra work for them. Double and triple checking your work piles more on their to-do list. And, it is the exact opposite of making their life easier! If you’re client feels like they’re always catching your mistakes and needs to inspect every aspect of your work it adds an unnecessary amount of suckiness in their day.

For example, if your client has to send your work for a round of revisions based on things the agency missed, it negatively affects the agency by eating hours. However, think about it from the client’s point of view. It also adds another round of proofing for them, which eats hours into their day and… makes their life harder!

3- Ask them. Be direct and ask how you can make their life easier. Then alter your work style to accommodate their needs - if you're more of an email person and they're more of a phone call person, adjust accordingly to service their needs. Find out the easiest and preferred method of communication by asking them. Ask how much advance notice they need for approvals and sign-offs. Who else needs to sign off? Should you include that person on your emails, as well? Who else gives input on projects? How can you help simplify that process so your client isn't chasing their own internal approvals?

Another tip - consider using automation to on-board for new clients, then follow-up with human contact. Use automated emails to set expectations and establish workflow. However, always be sure there is a human for your client to connect with.

How to Hire & Manage a Team that Grows Your Agency

Chantell says the best AM’s are not only creative and organized but they also have a vast amount of empathy. Really amazing account people can put themselves in the client’s shoes and then adapt accordingly.

At my agency, I liked to say Account Managers are “client ambassadors”. They should consider themselves an extension of the client’s team; always thinking and acting in the best interest of the client. Account Managers should know and understand their client’s business and financial goals and objectives. They should know their clients problems and challenges in order to offer solutions.

In order to nurture client relationships and grow agency business, it’s up the account manager to communicate with the agency team. It can be hard for the rest of the team to know what’s going outside of a specific project. Meet regularly with your account managers to look at the broad scope of the client’s business and collaborate on big picture ideas.

Last, make sure your Account Managers feel empowered to present ideas to clients. Not just ideas that serve the agency, but any ideas that show care and passion for the client’s business. AM’s should know their client’s better than they know themselves. They should have a pulse on the industry and the competition. Set up Google alerts and be aware of what’s trending in their business even before they are… be client ambassador in every sense.

Quit Losing Clients: Defining Team Roles That Keep Clients Happy

Sales Team vs. Account Manager

Chantell says the best flow, in favor of the client, is to keep everyone involved but within their specific silo. That means the Salesperson doesn’t just “hand off” a client to an Account Manager. It’s a risky decision and makes the client feel like a commodity. Instead, have Sales involve the AM in strategy and planning meetings right off the bat. Let them gain trust and credibility, then gradually amp up the account person’s involvement while backing off the Sales involvement and quit losing clients.

Account Manager vs. Project Manager

Chantell also says it’s not a good idea to overlap duties and have the same person act as Account Manager and Project Manager. When you mix the roles it’s easy to miss opportunities for growth and added value. Typically, someone who’s good at one role is not good at the other. PM’s are task-oriented and like to feel accomplished. They’re in it for the short term. They are super organized and like to see a project from start to finish, which is good for the agency but not necessarily good for finding new business opportunities. AM’s are best at nurturing and growing relationships. They’re best at the long-haul and the big picture.

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies. Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker.

Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the "How Did You Hear About Us?" section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

More Advice to Build the Best Agency

Now that you know how to quit losing clients, what are you other hurdles within your agency? When trying to grow or make the best decisions for your business, it can be challenging and I hope you found this advice beneficial and it helps you with any of your concerns.

No matter if you are considering selling your digital agency or you want to grow your agency to the next level,  knowing how to adapt will make you a better agency owner. I cover all topics from how to increasing traffic to your agency website to who you should hire to grow your agency team and more to help you kick your team into action.

You can check out all my tips, tricks and insights in my blog covering a wide variety of topics including more about client relationships, tips on what to avoid to quit losing clients as well as answering your questions in more from my Ask Swenk series.

Are videos more your thing?  You can check out more of my videos on my Youtube channel for advice from myself and other agency experts.

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

Legal Protection: Which Areas of Your Agency Need It?

It’s not a matter of if but when a legal issue arises for your agency, are you prepared? My guest today is an Intellectual Property attorney who focuses on helping marketing agencies with their legal protection to ensure all aspects of their agency stays protected.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • What legal mistakes to avoid.
  • Which areas of your agency need legal protection.
  • 3 contract loopholes you need to watch for.

Your agency’s biggest asset (other than your team, of course) is your intellectual property. This episode features Sharon Toerek, attorney at Toerek Law and founder of Legal+Creative. Sharon shares the processes to have in place in order to cover your ASS(ets). :) As an attorney specializing in marketing agency law, Sharon tells us exactly what mistakes to avoid and how to plan for potential sticky situations.

2 Big Mistakes to Avoid

According to Sharon, one the biggest mistakes she sees from marketing agencies is not understanding, undervaluing and not protecting their intellectual property. Everything your agency touches, does or creates is intellectual property. This is the product you’re selling. It’s absolutely imperative to adequately protect it.

The other common mistake is not having a process in place for the occasion when (not “if”) a legal situation arises. Issues such as: freelancer management, client contracts, brand protection and copywriting/social media content compliance can cause friction. The absence of a process for these things can make it even worse.

Areas that Need Legal Protection

Legal protection for your agency is so important and Sharon has identified 6 legal silos every agency should be concerned with; she covers 3 of them for us:

New Business: Whether you do a lot of pitches or not, at some point you must show your hand in order to land new clients. Agencies need to know how to protect themselves from the potential of a client taking their ideas to a competitor or in-house.

Solution: Avoid having your work stolen by having a non-disclosure agreement in place, or intellectual property and copyright notices in your proposal.


Contracts: Somewhere along the way, the word “contract” got a bad rap. People don’t like the stigma around contracts because they fear breaking them or wanting out. Sharon says a contract is simply a written set of promises both parties agree upon. Contracts are a MUST.  Run away from any client who doesn’t want to sign one.

Solution: Have a contract template, non-disclosure agreement, MSA or statement of work. Even if you end up using the client’s contract forms, having your own and knowing it’s contents will make you a smarter negotiator in the end.


Freelancers: With the ebbs and flows of agency workflow there’s often the need for freelancers. Managing the relationships and expectations with your freelancers is an area that can require special attention.

Solution: Be sure you have a strong independent contractor agreement in place that protect both parties, as well as a non-disclosure agreement.

3 Client Contract Loopholes to Close

In the event that a client requires you to sign their contract (instead of them signing yours), it’s super important to make sure it’s mutually beneficial. After reviewing hundreds of client-generated contracts, Sharon has identified some common areas to watch for:

1. Intellectual Property Provisions

These assets are your biggest form of capital but often times client-generated contracts provide for ownership by the client upon creation. Sharon tells agencies to protect themselves by allowing your intellectual property to transfer ownership to the client upon approval and payment. When you legally turnover assets before receiving payment, you’re essentially giving way your leverage for payment.

2. Liability and Indemnification Provisions

In most client’s contracts, they hold the agency responsible and liable for all outcomes. However, sometimes the outcome is reliant on information provided by the client. The agency should only be held liable for what they do, make and create. Even better, hold the agency only liable for gross negligence or purposeful wrongdoing and cap limits to the amount the client paid or to the amount of your insurance policy.

And speaking of insurance… Errors and Omissions coverage is necessary, no matter how small your agency may be. It’s typically very reasonable to add this coverage and can save you tons of headaches down the road.

3. Payment terms

First of all, make sure you have the right payment terms. (Hint: it's not 50% upfront and 50% upon completion!) Next, make sure phrasing in the contract protects your agency and gets you paid in a timely manner. Sharon has reviewed contracts which promise payment after the invoice is approved. This means you could be waiting months for someone to approve an invoice. No way! Check that contracts clear and fair payment terms.

Protect your agency from the liability of missed deadlines. Be sure there is language in the contract that allows for charging rush fees and passing along costs associated with delays caused by the client’s inaction.

Being aware of these areas will make you a better negotiator. It will also help you resolve an issue more smoothly when (not “if”) one arises. Having the right documents and processes is the only way to do it. You can check out the agency documents I used here.

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution. FreshBooks makes ridiculously easy­ to ­use cloud accounting software for agencies. Using it will help you work smarter, become more organized, and most importantly, get you paid quicker.

Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the "How Did You Hear About Us?" section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

Next Level Digital Agency

Ensuring you have legal protection for every aspect of your digital agency not only protects you as the owner and your team but also prevents stress and financial issues in the future.

To create the best business possible, you need to look at your agency in the bigger picture to find your strong areas as well as weak spots 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.

Through my experience running my own digital agency and helping other digital agency owners, there are many topics I can offer guidance whether you are an established agency facing struggles to new agencies unsure of what the different phases of growth you will experience will look like.

Growing your agency team can also 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 to perfecting your business strategy with creating a process for performance based pricing and 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: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Sharon_Toerek.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Budget and time. In any digital agency or even business for that matter, these are a couple of aspects you need to always keep in the forefront of your priorities both internally and with clients. So here's a question for you. Does your team understand the budget and it's limitations that you set on a project?
 
Do you have a hard time getting your team to stick to the client's budget and timing?
In this episode of Ask Swenk, I take you through a couple of key points of thing to do to get your team on board of maintaining budget limits that have been set. And most of all, ensure your agency can save time and make more money while doing so.
 
{0:21} Matthew asked:  "We have trouble with the creative people on our production team staying within budget on projects. Any ideas on how to keep them accountable for budgets and timelines? I have tried everything I can think of with no luck."
 
Pricing Correctly From the Very Beginning.
This can doom the project from the beginning if done incorrectly and this can be improved with looking at the time it will take to complete the project. By adding buffers to your time, it gives you that space to provide a better service and achieve it under budget.
 
Bad Processes
If you don't have the correct processes and systems set in place with your different teams can cost the project for a client. Without clear communication systems between the client, the project manager and the team, this will add on time and cause you to go over budget.
 
Incentives
By providing the different teams and project managers within your agency a set goal of completing a project under time and under budget with the incentive of a percentage of that project profit or a salary bonus, this will encourage them to work within their limits and get the job done.
 
 
By using these points, your team will adapt how they work moving forward ultimately benefitting your agency.

Another one of my episodes in this series that relates to the topic of this of agency teams and finance can be found here.

You can also find more of my Ask Swenk series as well as my other videos by checking out my Youtube channel!

 
Direct download: Team_Not_Staying_Within_Budget..._AskSwenk_ep_60.mp3
Category:#AskSwenk Show -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Stop Doing Things You Suck At & Improve Your Team Leading Skills

Want to improve your team leading skills? Just can't stop doing the things you're no good at? If you’re looking to break through the plateau of running a solo agency, this episode is for you.

Today’s guest is Pia Larson is the Chief Imagination Officer of Fingerprint Marketing, the digital agency she founded ten years ago. Pia shares stories and lessons learned about successfully building and leading her team.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Solutions to 3 challenges every agency owner faces.
  • The difference between being a leader and being a boss.
  • How to stop doing the things you suck at.

3 Challenges Every Agency Owner Faces + Their Solution

  1. Are you constantly chasing clients? The agency business is about relationships. And Pia says her company vision included long term clients. However she felt like she was always chasing the next client, which left her no time to build relationships with existing ones. When you can’t focus on current clients and make them feel special, they have no sense of loyalty.

  2. Do you try to do everything yourself? As an entrepreneur we’re wired to wear many hats - even if something you don’t know or haven’t learned. One of Pia’s big challenges was the time of suck of educating herself in areas she didn’t know, like SEO or copywriting. (She’s a designer by trade.)


  3. Do you find yourself doing things you hate or suck at? Lots of business owners end up doing things outside their wheelhouse because they don’t think anyone else can do it better. That’s a pretty common mindset but truthfully you’re standing in your own way.

The solution to ALL these challenges is to add to your team. If you’re a one-person show, you really can’t grow and scale without hiring. When you ignore your gut and hold off on hiring, you’re actually sabotaging your potential for growth. You’re at max capacity - it’s time to bring in some help.

Pia says she dragged her feet for a year on hiring, but when she resigned to it and hired two people she saw results within a week. She admits there’s huge risk when you hire… What if they don’t work out? What if you can’t keep them busy? What if clients don’t like them? What if you can’t pay them? BUT, the payoff is so much greater than the risks.

Team Leading: How to Be a Leader, Not Just a Boss

Once you commit to hiring, you’ll will discover a shift in your role and focus. But you’ll also have a new role as a leader.

Being a leader is not the same as being a boss. I like to tell my clients, if you’re their biggest cheerleader your team is more likely to walk out on a limb for you, even if they’re afraid it will break, because they know you’ll catch them. Team leading is different to leading a business.

Pia has experienced the same over the last decade running her agency. Rather than dictate decisions and responsibilities, she likes to find the special talents and gifts within her staff and nurture it. She has had great results by asking people what they want to do, versus telling them what they have to do. This management style gets a great response and can be very motivating.

How to Stop Doing Things You Suck At

It starts with self-awareness. You need to have an ‘ah ha’ moment when you realize what you DO want and DO NOT want to be doing. It means taking a good, hard look at your skill set and being honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing.

Then, make a “No List” and tell yourself these are the things you aren’t going to do anymore. Next: eliminate, delegate or automate tasks on the No List.

Whatever you suck at - eliminate, delegate or automate.

Pia took it a step further by asking her mom and childhood friends to tell her the attributes and characteristics they remember about her as a child. She says she got some really great insight into her strengths by taking this approach, then applied it to her role in the agency.

#1 Tip For Dealing with Bad Clients

First of all, there are no bad clients - just bad prospects or bad processes.

But every once in awhile a bad one does sneak in. Usually bad clients are just bullies with a budget. If you’re being treated poorly, it’s not worth it - cut them loose.

Pia is competitive by nature. However, when she let her guard down and accepted that there’s plenty of new business out there for every agency it opened her agency up to a ton of new opportunities.

Being able to turn down business is a major milestone. In addition to your formal qualification process, you should also interview prospective clients. Prospects aren’t the only people who should be asking questions in an initial meeting :)

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution. FreshBooks makes ridiculously easy­ to ­use cloud accounting software for agencies that will help you work smarter, become more organized, and most importantly, get you paid quickly.

Check out FreshBooks.com/SmartAgency and enter SMARTAGENCY in the "How Did You Hear About Us?" section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

Build Your Agency Authority

I hope this has given you an insight into improving your team leading skills, how to face challenges that may come your way and how to stop doing things you suck at. Have you taken the time to see what other challenges you are facing within your agency? Now is also a great time to step back and look at other processes that need attention. No matter what challenge your agency is facing, I can help you get through all of it.

There are many topics I can give advice on from what to do when you want to speed up sales processes 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 you the different phases of growth you will experience, how placing a process for performance based pricing can be the best pricing strategy for your business and the three questions you need to ask yourself to sell more!

Want more? 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: Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Pia_Larson.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you have a hard time marketing your marketing agency because you're too close to it? Do you question your own branding and creative, even though you do a killer job of it for your clients? You're not alone.

Here's how you can step outside of your business, market to the right clients and really crush it in sales!

{1:07) Rob asked: "I'm really struggling with marketing my own agency. We are crushing it with clients but when it comes to marketing my company we get smashed in the face by a huge wall.

I've started the process again looking to re-design my website, create e-books and automate emails but then I get to a point where I've got a finished design and I start to doubt everything before finally hating it.

I'm now considering outsourcing it to a close friend with their own agency in another town... Any thoughts on overcoming this?"

Marketing Your Own Marketing Agency

First and foremost, don't create e-books.

It's hard to look at your agency outside the box of your marketing agency but one step that can help you with promoting your business it to take a good, hard look at your audience. Knowing your audience and understanding what they want, you can create a list of what they want, what problems they are facing and then think of what they want most/biggest challenge makes them feel.

Don't position yourself as the star in someone else's story in your marketing because if your visitor feels like a sidekick to your Batman, they aren't going to feel important. Always position your client as the star and turn the focus on them.

Demonstrate your methodology to your audience and how you will walk them through it. It shows your prospect that you have a plan on how you can give them what they want and to provide a solution to their problems. This will help take your agency to the next level.

You 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.

Direct download: askswenk_59.mp3
Category:#AskSwenk Show -- posted at: 7:00am EST

How DigitalMarketer Increased Traffic by 1125%

Do you think your content strategy is the obstacle in brining increased traffic to your agency's website?

If your agency’s content marketing strategy is blogging - and just blogging - you’ve got to catch this episode. My guest is Russ Henneberry, Editorial Director at DigitalMarketer and he’s here to tell us how he has increased traffic on their front end by 1125%. That’s not a typo - you read it right - 1125%!!!

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How you can enjoy increased traffic with a content strategy.
  • The 3 elements to a successful content marketing funnel.
  • How to uncover your marketing agency’s black box.

Russ is All-Pro at the content marketing game. Prior to working at DigitalMarketer, he was on the content team at Salesforce.com. He  also launched a blog for a well-known marketing SaaS where he grew visitors from 0 to 120,000/month in under a year.

Content is where it’s at in digital marketing. The problem is too many people think content just means random blogging. Russ says the solution to is to create your content with purpose and strategy behind it. A successful content funnel will carry your prospect through the various stages of their buying decision. There are three levels to an effective content funnel: Awareness on top, Evaluation at middle, Conversion on bottom.

Content that Raises Awareness

According the Russ, the very first step in a great content marketing strategy begins with prospect awareness. They must become aware there’s a problem. Then they need to be aware that your agency’s service offering is the solution. To create content that raises awareness and increased traffic, ask yourself:

  • What do I need prospects to believe or what doubts do they have?
  • What do my prospects need to understand, learn or know before they’ll work us?
  • What objections might the prospects have to working with us?
  • What are my prospects researching prior to hiring an agency?

When you figure all this out you can create all your content around the answers. And remember to be specific - speak to your niche using industry-specific words and phrases. Successful content marketing makes the reader/viewer feel as though it was created specifically for them. Therefore, speak to an audience of one to really nail it.

Content that raises awareness should educate, entertain and inspire so vehicles for this type of content include: blog posts, social media updates, infographics, photos, e-books, podcasts.

Content for Evaluation

This type of content is a level down from Awareness content and is useful for helping a prospect decide between their options. When a prospect is considering working with your agency, this type of content helps facilitate the decision. Prospects have choices and your obligation is to educate on the pros and cons of those choices. Evaluation content should answer things like:

  • How does your agency stack up against the competition?
  • What are the consequences if the prospect chooses not to solve the problem at all?
  • How will working with your agency differ from solving the problem in-house?

Your responsibility with this type of content is to weigh the options and help facilitate a decision. It’s important to be honest and fair with these content pieces because they aren't smarmy sales content. You can use a lead magnet or opt-in, or even retargeting to drive back to your site. The goal is to give your prospect the opportunity to re-evaluate your process compared to their other options. Another effective strategy for Evaluation content is a testimonial where someone walks through the before, during and after process of working with your agency.

Some great vehicles for this type of content is lead magnets such as: educational resources (case study, white paper, etc), useful resources (swipe file, checklist, templates, etc.), webinars and live events.

Content that Converts

So now it’s sale time. What do you need to do or say to tip the scale in your favor? Content that Converts is the final piece. It’s all about making them feel good about signing with your agency. Things like customer stories with results, webinars, live events, mini classes and a great Foot in the Door offer all make great Conversion content.

To create this type of content, you’ll need to ask yourself: “what’s missing?”. Russ says every business has a Black Box that causes mystery or confusion. Creating content that solves the mystery is the final element in a successful content marketing strategy. The key is uncovering our your agency’s black box and eliminating the problem.

How to Uncover Your Agency’s Black Box

You’re too close to identify it right away but it’s there, and mystery and confusion are the #1 things that hinder conversion. When a prospect leaves your site with questions or confusion that is a lost opportunity. They will ultimately go to a competitor, do the work in-house or do nothing. So ask yourself: “what’s missing?” then create content that fills that hole.

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Need More Advice?

So we’ve taken a closer look at ways of improving your content strategy for increased traffic to gain that exposure and lead building for your business but what other advice do you need right now?

To improve your agency, you should take a step back and really look struggles you need to focus on to improve your business. I have all you need to get through these obstacles.

I have advice to share with you from gaining agency exposure in the news, how to build authority for your agency or even ways to use facebook marketing strategies to expand your brand awareness. If growth is your focus, I’ve discussed the four phases of growth within your agency and how website issues could be holding your business back from reach your potential.

You can learn more about my life and my experience as well as lots of tips, tricks and insights by reading my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics.

If videos are more your thing, did you know I have a Youtube channel?

You can 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_DigitalMarketer_Increased_Traffic_by_1125.mp3
Category:#PODCAST -- posted at: 7:00am EST

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