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

Are you self-sabotaging your agency's sales? Do you lack trust or confidence in your team to deliver results? Worried they aren't going to live up to expectations and make you look bad? You probably have felt this way at one time or another. You might even be causing the problem and not realize it! Your agency is a reflection of you and it's natural to have these concerns. Once you're super honest and self-aware you can get out of your own way to grow your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How niching down builds trust.
  • Avoiding 2 major pitfalls of growing an agency team.
  • 2 questions the guest has for Jason when she puts Swenk on the Spot

Today I chatted with Cat Howell, founder, and CEO of Eight Loop Social, a successful Facebook ads agency.  Cat faced some serious lows in the beginning and shares with us what she learned and how she overcame them to become a six-figure per month agency. Growing an agency can be hard, but you can make it even harder if you are self-sabotaging your agency sales... and you might not even realize you are doing it. As agency owners, we are all guilty of wanting or feeling that we need to "do it all". Cat tells us how to overcome that "do it all" mentality so you can learn to trust your team and grow your agency.

How Niching Down Builds Trust

When you are an agency that is trying to serve all types of clients, you aren't serving any type of client well. (The jack-of-all-trades is the master of none.) Trying to do everything means your agency team is constantly on a learning curve to a specific industry or service.

That constant learning curve can cost your agency:

  • Money
  • Resources
  • Accounts
  • Greatness

When you hone in on your agency's strengths it allows your team the ability to FOCUS. Pinpointing a niche - whether vertical, horizontal or both - provides the opportunity to save time, money, resources as well as gain clients and become great at one thing.

Once you pinpoint a niche, create SOP's around that particular funnel and get systemized so your agency team can be more efficient and effective. When you see your team running like a well-oiled machine, you'll gain trust and they'll feel empowered to do work that will grow the agency.

Avoiding 2 Major Pitfalls Of Growing an Agency Team

#1. DON'T borrow money to build your team.

It can be a vicious cycle... You're trying to win new business, but you don't have the money to hire staff. But then clients don't want to commit without you having enough staff in place. You might want to (or already have) taken out a large loan to build your team.

Here's how you can avoid this pitfall:

  • Have lead generation processes in place and be able to onboard new clients effectively.
  • Understand how to win clients and bring clients in under the right pricing.
  • Have a system for onboarding and training your team.
    • Minimize the amount of training that requires your time, personally.
    • While you're personally training, you're neglecting other important agency growth tasks.
    • This can lead to resentment and stunt agency's growth.

Don't expect new team members to just figure it out - that's a recipe for disaster.

#2. DON'T neglect your team during agency growth.

In times of fast growth, we tend to shift focus to onboarding clients quickly and lose sight of internal processes and systems such as properly training the agency team. This is a sure way to set them (and you) up for failure. Talk about self-sabotaging! Instead, here's what you can do:

  • Have a non-negotiable structure which includes proper training and processes in place so you can trust your team.
  • If you find yourself in a situation of too much, too fast and things are slipping through the cracks take a step back. Look at what's standing in the team's way of success.
    • Then STOP. Stop the funnel. No more calls. Focus on your team and train them.
    • Reset everyone on the right path in order to rebuild trust and confidence in your team.

Your team is your greatest asset. You need to trust your team and put them first. New agency business and growth can only follow when there is confidence in your team to deliver results on the services you're promising. When you lose confidence in your agency team it is natural to start pulling back and that is self-sabotaging agency sales while negatively impacting growth.

Swenk On The Spot

Today I tried something new on the podcast and let my guest, Cat, ask me two questions. It could be anything she wants, within appropriate reason (ha!) and I answered them on the spot.

1- Do you run background checks on contractors and full-time staff?

I run background checks, dig into social accounts, and check references on employees but not on contractors. I'm totally transparent about this policy with job candidates and I've found it filters out the shady ones.

2- What do you do if a client asks you for a grace period on your invoice?

No. Don't do it. You have to start by setting up expectations from the beginning of the client relationship. Clients start to get nervous if they don't see results as big or fast as they want to, and they want to put on the brakes. If this happens, remind them they hired you to achieve specific results and you will do it when allowed the proper time. In the meantime, they're still responsible for paying you on time.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.

For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.


Direct download: Are_You_Self-Sabotaging_Your_Agencys_Sales__Growth_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT

Looking for ways to generate more new agency business? Tired of watching your competition grow and want to set your agency apart from the pack? Now is the time to be a front runner with the cutting edge technology of chatbots. You can use chatbots to generate new business and as an add-on service for your clients. It's easier than you might think to build and use a chatbot. Chatbot technology helps you engage with your ideal prospects and keep the conversation going in order to convert them into a client.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why chatbots are better than other methods of prospecting.
  • #1 mistake agencies make using chatbots.
  • Should you add chatbot building as a service?
  • 2 easy steps to get start using chatbots.

Today I talked with Andrew Warner, Founder and CEO of Mixergy, a development resource for entrepreneurs. He's also the founder of Bot Academy. Andrew built his first company to over $30 million in sales and sold it. He started Mixergy to help business owners, by interviewing successful entrepreneurs and learning how they built their businesses. After learning about chatbots and eventually becoming an angel investor, he immediately knew chatbots were going to change the way we do business. He shares the potential that comes from using chatbots to generate new agency business.

Why Chatbots Are Better Than Other Methods of Prospecting

Email isn't working like it used to. Inboxes are flooded and we are learning that people love instant messaging or chats instead. People like to engage with communication apps.

Chatbots are the ideal tool to educate, build trust, and nurture a relationship from prospect-stage to client-stage.

For example....

Think about your Contact Page. People can come to it and ask a question... they want to know if you can help them. Then they have to wait for a response and that is it. That's the end of it. With a chatbot, there is potential for further engagement. A potential customer can ask questions while the chatbot is also garnering information. After the chatbot interaction, your agency can also followup and engage. A relationship is formed and can be nurtured over time.

The change can be as simple as moving from a form, which is transactional in nature, to a chatbot that is more of a relationship-builder.

A chatbot allows businesses to connect with their customers. Right now very few agencies are using chatbots, and even fewer are offering chatbot building as a service. Your agency can get in on this early-on.

#1 Mistake Agencies Make Using Chatbots

Don't try to have your chatbot do too much!

While it can be exciting to jump out of the gate with new ideas, remember chatbots are still relatively new to the receiver and you don't want too overwhelm them.

You can test my 'bot here. You'll see I only use the it to qualify the prospect and determine who I'm talking to by asking 2-3 questions. Then a live person jumps in to keep the conversation going.

Should You Add Chatbot Building As A Service?

In addition to using chatbots to generate new agency business, you might consider adding it as a service. Chatbot building might be a service to consider for bringing value-added to your clients.

Andrew says a basic chatbot takes just minutes to make. He suggesting building one to present to your clients and let them play with it.

Start by approaching your agency clients who already do email marketing well and show them how their current content would work with a 'bot. Be sure to do it in person or via video conference, so you can get real-time reactions. Since chatbots are in the early stages, creating this add-on for clients might set your agency apart from the competition.

2 Easy Steps To Get Started Using Chatbots

  1. Test out different chatbots.
    • You wouldn't start building a website without doing some research, so approach chatbot building the same way.
    • Check out the chatbot built specifically for this podcast, here.
  2. Create a fake chatbot and go from there.
    • Visit to find a list of software for chatbot building.
    • Play with different tools to see what works for your agency and it's chatbot purposes.

If you build your chatbot right, your agency will be able to know exactly where the audience is coming from.

Generate leads for your agency by checking out Builtwith, to find out who's using chatbots. Then use an email service, like Mailshake to send out mass emails (that don't actually look like mass emails) as well as follow-ups, to start a chatbot conversation.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits and great service to take care of your team.

For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.


Direct download: 2_Ways_Chatbots_Can_Grow_Your_Digital_Agency_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT

When is the right time to bring on freelancers or contractors? How can you stop doing everything yourself so you can grow your agency? If you're overwhelmed at the thought of building your agency team and nervous about how to find the right people, check this out. Great freelancers are out there. You can find and onboard them easier than you think! Learn some suggestions and easy tips to make freelancers work for you, so you can build your team and grow your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 reasons to bring on freelancers.
  • How to find & onboard freelancers.
  • #1 biggest mistake to avoid when using freelancers.
  • Why it's time to pay attention to the gig economy.


Today I chatted with Nathan Hirsch, founder and CEO of, an optimized freelance marketplace. vets and trains all potential candidates, so you don't have to. After running a successful e-commerce business, Nathan quickly felt the frustration of trying to find and hire reliable freelancers. He realized the need for a better way to source freelance help and from there, was born. On the show today, he shares his expertise on how to hire and onboard freelancers faster in order to ensure mutual success.

 2 Reasons To Bring On Freelancers

It is very simple. If your agency work is taking up so much time that every other aspect of your life is suffering... it's probably time to outsource. Here's 2 reasons to look for freelancers:

  1. Hire to get your hours back
    • Make a list. Figure out everything you are doing for your agency on a daily, weekly or monthly schedule.
    • Hand over the easiest stuff that doesn't have to be done by you.
  2. Turn your weaknesses into strengths.
    • Have a yearly review for yourself and figure out what you are not very good at.
    • Hire a freelancer who is an expert at it. Bring on freelancers who bring something to the table, that you may be lacking.

If you haven't yet, it's time to become self aware of where your hours are spent, and where your skill set lies. You'll see more rapid agency growth when you get really clear on where you're at and where your agency is headed.

How To Find & Onboard Reliable Freelancers

Finding freelancers can be a crap shoot. There are dozens of different platforms out there.

Your agency can try out Nathan's company and receive a $50 credit to try it out.

Nathan recommends creating a living training document... whether it's a video with screen share or step-by-step Word doc. It just need to be something your agency's freelancers can sit within the beginning to learn and ask questions. Be clear on processes and procedures, as well as expectations.

Sure, paying a freelancer for training time will cost your agency some non-billable hours but there are major benefits:

  • A training document takes less time away from you and your agency leadership team.
  • Questions will be answered before they are asked or before issues arise.
  • After training is complete, you can ask the freelancer questions and make sure they will be a good fit.
  • Any follow-up, one-on-one training will be easier and quicker, since the freelancer has already read through the training document.

Nathan's training document has grown to over 80 pages, but your agency just needs to start out with a one to two page outline. Appoint someone responsible for updating the document, with input from people in other roles. This will also make adding or replacing people much easier because everything will be living in the document.

#1 Biggest Mistake to Avoid When Using Freelancers

The biggest mistake Nathan sees agencies make is not setting expectations.

Spend the time up-front going through the specifics. Don't assume a project will take a certain amount of time - confirm it. Make sure you're clear on a due date and time (especially when working across different time zones!)

Make sure everything is in writing, so there are no misunderstandings. Follow-up and follow-through is key. So for example, your agency does remote meetings via phone call, then make sure to follow-up with an email reiterating what was discussed as assigning responsibilities. Your agency and your freelancers need to be 100% on the same page.

Here's the other BIG MISTAKES to avoid when working with freelancers.

It's Time To Pay Attention To The Gig Economy

The gig economy is growing fast! Did your know that in the next ten years, it's expected that over 50% of the workforce will be remote? So it's definitely time to start figuring out how your agency can incorporate the remote workforce.

You can get started by checking out a special offer from Nathan and He's offering my listeners a $50 credit when they create an account. Why not check out what has to offer? Check out:

Direct download: How_To_Find__Onboard_Reliable_Freelancers_for_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT

Want to grow your agency to 8-figure revenue? Thinking of growing your team but worried about the overhead? Hoping for a moment of clarity, where it'll all come together? Then it's time to put your foot on the gas and push through. Acquiring quick agency growth is achievable when you're focused. Find out how one agency owner got to $1 million in under 6 months and 8-figures in under 5 years!

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • A different agency structure.
  • 2 attributes for quick agency growth.
  • #1 thing to achieve constant agency growth.
  • The 8-figure revenue a-ha moment.
  • Overcoming the small agency hump.

Today I talked with Jake Baadsgaard, founder and CEO of Disruptive Advertising, an agency built on results-based relationships. Jake grew his agency to the $1 million mark, run-rate, in six months and was able to exceed 8-figure revenue in under five years. Today, Disruptive Advertising boasts over 100 employees and continues to grow. He shares some thoughts on agency growth, pivotal moments for his company and advice on how your agency can overcome that plateau and accelerate growth.

A Different Agency Structure

Jake's agency has an interesting structure. Disruptive separate out the account management from the execution. He brings in employee and continues the face-time with the client, to ensure the agency is moving in the right strategic direction for the client. He then provides a list of what needs to get done. This develops into the employee taking over the face-time and owning the relationship as well as the execution.

2 Attributes for Quick Agency Growth

Always be in a hurry. Jake always felt a need to be in a hurry and get things done. He attributes their quick agency growth to two things:

  1. Cash
    • Having a physical software that he could sell, Jake started with no debt.
    • Keeping his monthly expenses low, he didn't have to worry about making money the first two years.
    • Having cash on the table allows your agency to focus on growing.
    • Cash on hand can shave 2-3 years off what typical agencies will go through to achieve growth.
  2. Hustle
    • Network and get good at bringing in business and selling.
    • Build relationships to help build your agency and attract top talent.

#1 Thing To Achieve Constant Agency Growth

Don't give up ~ push through!

There are always bumps in the road. Jake thought about quitting all the time in the first couple of years, but he didn't. After successfully navigating some difficult relationships and figuring out the direction of the agency, he chose to push through.

There is no magic bullet. Don't quit today, quit tomorrow.

The 8-Figure Revenue "A-Ha Moment"?

There were different things that pointed Jake in the right direction, but his true "a-ha moment" came when he realized he was trying to make decisions before he needed to. This approach creates a lot of unnecessary pressure.

It comes down to this:  What is your agency's end game? Do you ultimately want to sell your agency?

Once you establish this decision, then you can build something exciting to come to work on everyday. It's all about clarity, vision and communicating direction.

--> See related articles to sell your agency.

How To Overcome the Small Agency Hump

It can be scary to bring on more overhead, knowing that it will cut into revenue. If your agency has multiple partners, that brings the challenge of keeping everyone satisfied while still having room left to grow the financials.

Here's the thing. Sometimes you have to take a hit on your bottom line, by investing in sales and marketing, to feed the pipeline and encourage growth.

It's important to recognize when it's time to move past founder-based selling. To do that, carve out a percentage of revenue to invest in a sales team and marketing team. That's the best way to grow.

Always be building your agency pipeline... and, don't take your foot off the gas.

Don't forget the value that comes from collaboration with other agencies. Strategic partners can be lead to major growth.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits and great service to take care of your team.

For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

Direct download: How_to_Grow_Your_Agency_to_an_8-Figure_Revenue_in_Under_5_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT

Are you looking for better ways grow your agency? Tired of the status quo? Missing easy targets and low hanging fruit opportunities? Then take some lessons from an agency owner who's doubled revenue every year for five consecutive years and growing at a crazy fast rate!

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Finding your agency's share of the market.
  • What to expect in your agency's first year.
  • 4 simple actions to grow your agency.
  • 3 easy ways to maintain agency growth.

Today I chatted with Tony Delmercado, co-founder and CEO of Hawke Media. With only five years in business, Hawke Media has grown from a 5 person team to 100+ employees and has doubled it's revenue every year, looking to hit the $18 million mark this year. With that kind of success, I couldn't wait to pick Tony's brain on how he was able to start and maintain growth of his agency. From his start to present day, Tony walks us through some simple tips and strategies he found successful.

Finding Your Agency's Share of the Market

Tony says you need to find a hole in the market and respond to demand.

The catalyst for starting a company, whether you want to grow a brand or do marketing well, you need to either:

  • Build a team in-house
    • Multitude of challenges
  • Work with an agency
    • cost prohibitive - straight up expensive

Unfortunately there isn't a good intermediate option. So Tony and his business partner turned to qualified friends that checked off necessary boxes. As their clients wanted more things, they built their agency's internal competency and hired more people with the necessary talents and skill sets.

What To Expect Your Agency's First Year

Work, work, work...and more work. Lots of hours and hard work. In the beginning, your agency says "yes" to everything whether it's speaking engagements, meetings, committees, public appearances, anything and everything to get your agency name and brand out there.

Hawke Media, didn't take on investors or debt, they simply bootstrapped on the cash coming in. In that first year, because of this model, they were very judicious with their spending.

Tony says his personal mantra is three-fold:

  1. Get shit done.
  2. Learn quickly.
  3. Be cool.

He and his partner hustled hard that first year, living this mantra every single day. That's why it was easy to realize these needed to be their agency's core values. Since then, they have hired their team around these values.

Your agency NEEDS to nail down and define core values and build a company culture.

One of the best things about being an entrepreneur, is that you get to pick who you want to work with. Your agency needs to make sure that it picks well, that it gets the right people, good people, to keep a good cultural vibe.

As an agency owner, Tony says, "it will never all be done". Your agency to-do list will always and continuously grow. Stop worrying about checking off the last box, instead start prioritizing and allocate  time to the important stuff.

Your agency, but also you, will need to learn how to say "no" to those things that aren't necessary or can be better managed by a team member. Get rid of time-sucks, like recurring meetings that aren't necessary.

4 Simple Actions To Grow Your Agency

Growth might not be easy, but it can be made simpler when you model after someone who's doing it the right way....

  1. Use a CRM and some form of follow-up or reminder.
    • You don't have to use an expensive service
    • There are cheap options out there.
  2. Create some basic email automation
    • Have a form to capture information.
    • Develop a system to drop prospects into funnels for your agency.
  3. Use Google retargeting or GDN
    • Don't underestimate the abilities of this service.
    • This is still a powerful tool when done correctly.
  4. Pick up the phone.
    • A call back or follow-up phone call, keeps lines of communication open.
    • Build solid personal relationships while your competition is automating everything.

PRO TIP: Don't forget about the low-hanging fruit. These are old or stale leads right at your fingertips. Create a system for routinely checking those out, too!

3 Easy Ways To Maintain Agency Growth

  1. Don't become complacent.
  2. Always look to do better and to improve.
  3. Be aggressive in marketing your agency.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits and great service to take care of your team.

For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.


Direct download: How_One_Agency_Doubled_Revenue_Every_Year_for_5_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT