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

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: 4:00am MDT

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: 5:00am MDT

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: 5:00am MDT