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

Do you want to get free exposure from podcasts, influencer videos, and TV stations? Want to generate leads at no cost? Are you ready to start building your personal brand? Growing a digital agency is all about attention. You want to get in as many people's faces as possible. And you want them to think of you as an authority figure while they're watching. To do that, you need to step up your PR game.

  • How to create a killer agency PR pitch.
  • #1 branding mistake your digital agency is making.
  • Why you need to be the face of your agency.
  • 3 ways to up your content game.

Today, I talked with Christina Nicholson, founder of Media Maven — a media relations and PR agency. Christina worked as a reporter and TV anchor for over 10 years before she decided to "transition to the other side" (a.k.a, she jumped ship and created her own PR agency.) Today, Christina has a team of 7 people, and she pumps out an incredible amount of content ranging from podcasts to blog posts and YouTube videos. She's one of those agency owners than transcends their digital agency. And she didn't get there by accident.

How to Create a Killer PR Pitch

Whether you want to get on the news, on an influencer's YouTube channel, or on a podcast, you need a public relations pitch. Drop those old-school press releases in the trash can and draw up 6 or 7 sentences answering the following questions:

  • What do you have to say?
  • Why should anyone listen?
  • What can you give the audience?
  • Why is it relevant?
  • Why is it important?

Try to make it topical. You may own a trash pickup service, but if you have some killer advice that is relevant to digital agency owners, you better believe I'll have you on my podcast. It's all about positioning. How can you take your experience, product, or service and apply them to a specific situation?

Look, if that trash pickup service owner tells me he understands how to sell his services to people, I'm not going to have him on the podcast. It just doesn't resonate with my audience (that's you!). But if he tells me he has tips on how to win clients with amazing on-the-spot pitches, regardless of the target audience, then he's in! It may be the same information, but positioning, phrasing, and application of that information are totally different.

#1 Branding Mistake Your Digital Agency is Making

Most agency owners spend a ton of time branding. But are you branding... YOU? Personal branding is massive in today's agency ecosystem. People like Gary Vee, Neil Patel, and Seth Godin have become more than their agency. They've become full-blown brands. And that's what your clients expect.

Christina says you have to practice what you preach. You have to have the authority, social proof, and credibility to get clients to trust you and your agency. People want to work with people, not nameless agencies.

How do you self brand?

Treat yourself as a client. Take time out of your busy schedule to brand yourself. Start a podcast, pump out some videos, or start making incredible blog posts.

Having a personal brand breeds trust with clients and your team. Leverage your talents and make an identity for yourself. What happens when you Google your name? Does your bland LinkedIn profile popup? If so, you've got some work to do!

Why You Need To Be the Face of Your Agency

Once you start mastering personal branding, people are going to turn to you first. When prospects look at your agency, they're going to have you in mind. So what happens when every client starts asking to work with you directly? It's just not possible! You need to be the face of your agency. But you should never be the voice.

Let clients know you have an incredible team to help them. And, your team is their touchpoint. Also, let them know you take a personal interest in every account. You get the emails forwarded to you, and you're working on the backend to make stuff happen. But you simply can't be there to field their questions or touch base with them. Set those expectations early. Honestly, your clients will be ok with it.

The best example of this is Gary Vaynerchuk and VaynerMedia. Gary Vee isn't going to personally oversee your account. He is the face of the agency and his clients know they aren't going to work directly with him. Your clients secretly know that too. Just make sure you set those expectations early.

3 Ways to Up Your Content Game

Christina says you need tons of content in order to build your personal brand. But putting out tons of content is time-consuming, expensive, and difficult, right? So how do you do it?

  1. Use other people's content. You don't have to create and share your own content. When Christina knows this podcast is live, you better believe she's going to share it on social media. Why? Because it brands her! It's ok to share other people's content. It's even better if you were involved. This goes back to PR pitches. If you can get on those podcasts and social channels, you can share that content to brand yourself.
  2. Recycle your content. It's not a sin to share the same piece of content 2, 3, or 20 times. We're in a content-stuffed world. Think about how many pieces of content pop up on your social feeds and how many YouTube videos get recommended to you every day. Your audience is going to miss some of your content. So, as long as it's still relevant, share it again! And keep sharing the same content year-after-year. You may have new people in your audience, or you may have people who missed it the first time around.
  3. Multiply your content. Did you create your first YouTube video? Sweet! You have 4 pieces of content now. How? You can multiply the content to make... more content. Check it out. With one long-form video, you can:
    • slice up a few promos from the video to share on Instagram and LinkedIn.
    • embed the long-form video on your site.
    • upload the long-form video to Facebook and IGTV.
    • create a blog post from the video.

You can stretch your content creation efforts by creating multiple pieces of content at once. Do more with less!

Would You Like More Leads for Your Agency?

If you want to get more leads with an 80% open rate and 25% click-through rate, you need to check out ManyChat. Engage prospects and build relationships with simple personalized experiences using the #1 bot platform for Facebook Messenger.

I've been using ManyChat for 3 years for connecting with prospects and converting leads. ManyChat bots are ideal for marketing, e-commerce, and support; making it easy to have automated conversations with prospects and customers. To connect with the 1.3 billion daily Facebook Messenger users, head to ManyChat.com and enter code: SwenkPro for a free one-month trial.

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

Is it just me or can agency life really suck sometimes? Ever wish you could just hit the reset button? Or get a do-over? It’s like we’re always working for our clients, improving their business, and adopting their purpose instead of having our own. In turn, we struggle to grow our agency business because can’t see the forest for the trees. It happens to all of us from time to time. But a turnaround might be easier than you think.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • How can your digital agency inspire happiness?
  • 5 things your agency can do to be more successful.

This is a banner episode for me, guys. It’s my first three-peat guest, Jeff Hilimire. That’s right, he’s been on the show twice before talking about agency growth strategies and mistakes to avoid. He founded and sold his first agency and is now in his sixth year as founder of his agency, Dragon Army. He has also founded a web development non-profit called 48 in 48 and sits on the board for a variety of other 501(c)(3)’s.

Jeff has been in the industry for over 20 years and he’s seen it all. In fact, that’s exactly why he literally wrote the book on how entrepreneurs can change their mindset in order to get out of their own way and turnaround their business.

How Can Your Digital Agency Inspire Happiness?

Jeff founded Dragon Army in 2013 as a gaming startup, after selling his first agency. After one year of chasing success in the game realm, Jeff says he realized his agency did not have a purpose. Jeff’s revelation: agencies are always working for other people and adapting their clients’ purposes. At that moment, he decided to develop a purpose and pivot his agency to carry it out.

Today, Dragon Army focuses on web, mobile, and brand marketing. Their purpose is to inspire happiness with positive relationships. I know what you’re thinking… how in the heck?! But it’s actually really basic. Jeff says they execute this in two ways: creating impactful work and doing good. And what’s even more basic -- they start internally with inspiring happiness among the team.

Think about it this way. When you create a desireable agency culture and actually live your core values, you end up inspiring your team. That inspiration flows over into their work -- and everyone wins.

This purpose-driven business model has won Dragon Army clients like Coca-Cola, Lyft, and Chick-Fil-A, to name a few.

Jeff’s advice to all agency owners is to consider how you can inspire happiness in a way that has a profound effect on your team.

5 Things Your Agency Can Do To Hit the Reset Button

In such a competitive space, it’s natural for agency owners to be constantly focused on the bottom line. But, Jeff says that is exactly what’s causing agencies to bottom-out. Reflecting on his 20+ years of experience as an entrepreneur and agency leader, Jeff considered 5 lessons or core principles that can help other businesses change their mindset and create transformative growth.

In The Five-Day Turnaround, Jeff authored a narrative about a business who adopts these 5 principles to turn around their business amid five client meetings:

  1. Adopt a do or die mindset. A lot of businesses get complacent and lose this “do or die mentality.” But when there’s no Plan B, you’re forced to solve problems or find a fix.
  2. Find your purpose, vision, tenents, and values. While successful already agencies employ this, it’s important that teams actually do too. Consider your team as your startup and develop team purpose, vision, tenents, and values.
  3. Get the right people on the bus. Understanding and defining how to get the right people working with you and building trust among the team.
  4. Move at the speed of a startup. Embracing the MVP “minimum viable product” and learning to take action without hesitation.
  5. Reward failure. Try new things, embrace failure, and celebrate losses. Get over the threat of “messing up.”

Would You Like More Leads for Your Agency?

If you want to get more leads with an 80% open rate and 25% click-through rate, you need to check out ManyChat. Engage prospects and build relationships with simple personalized experiences using the #1 bot platform for Facebook Messenger.

I've been using ManyChat for 3 years for connecting with prospects and converting leads. ManyChat bots are ideal for marketing, e-commerce, and support; making it easy to have automated conversations with prospects and customers. To connect with the 1.3 billion daily Facebook Messenger users, head to ManyChat.com and enter code: SwenkPro for a free one-month trial.

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

Not sure when you should add to your agency team? Wonder who the first hire should be, and when? Growing an agency can be difficult and lonely. But when you have the right kind of support, the right people, and identify the right clients you'll grow leaps and bounds.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How to know it’s time to add to your agency team.
  • #1 thing to grow your agency beyond 6-figures.

On this week’s podcast, we are hearing from Drew Schulthess, owner of Catchfire Creative. Drew’s agency has been working in the consumer packaged goods and lifestyle brands space since 2011. He’s on the show today talking about the steps he took to get over to the million-mark and beyond in revenue.

How to Know It’s Time to Add to Your Agency Team

Drew’s first hire was a mere four months into starting his agency. That’s super quick, right? He said that at the time, a resume came across his desk that was just good to pass up. The person was multi-faceted and seemed to have experience in many different areas that Drew wanted to grow. So even though it was a stretch on the budget, he took the leap to bring the person on board… and eight years later, he’s still with the agency!

Of course, Drew says his first hire has been amazing and able to adapt and evolve as the agency changes and grows.

Here’s the thing about hiring. When you’re just starting out, you might feel like you need to “sell” the agency to the candidate and convince them to want to work with you. (I remember thinking, “why would someone want to do this with me?”) But remember -- it’s supposed to be the other way around, of course! Make the candidate sell themselves to you. And hire for culture fit first, over skillset.

#1 Thing to Grow Your Agency Beyond 6-Figures

Here’s why I really dig Drew… he listens to me :) Drew credits a nugget of advice he picked up in one of my videos about setting prospect qualification criteria. He says taking the time to do that made the difference for his agency and helped them sky-rocket to the million mark and beyond.

Once you have a framework for who your ideal clients are, you can stop saying yes to everything. (Like you can quit taking on the clients with unreasonable deadlines and outrageous requests, like this one.) It might seem counterintuitive to turn down work, but when you start saying no to the wrong work, it frees you up to only saying yes to the right stuff.

Drew says that creating the criteria and actually putting it on paper was an important exercise for his agency. It gave him the clarity he had been missing and was the turning point in the agency’s growth.

Related:  https://jasonswenk.com/nbat/

Would You Like More Leads for Your Agency?

If you want to get more leads with an 80% open rate and 25% click-through rate, you need to check out ManyChat. Engage prospects and build relationships with simple personalized experiences using the #1 bot platform for Facebook Messenger.

I've been using ManyChat for 3 years for connecting with prospects and converting leads. ManyChat bots are ideal for marketing, e-commerce, and support; making it easy to have automated conversations with prospects and customers. To connect with the 1.3 billion daily Facebook Messenger users, head to ManyChat.com and enter code: SwenkPro for a free one-month trial.

Direct download: How_to_Quickly_Grow_Your_Agency_Beyond_6-Figures.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Is your agency struggling to convert leads? Are you looking for a new service that can deliver more leads to your clients? It's all about delivering personalized attention. And, everyone's attention is currently on Facebook Messenger. Your agency and your clients can convert more leads when you connect and engage in the right place at the right time. With billions of users and plenty of engagement, Facebook Messenger is one of the best ways to get in front of your prospects.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why your digital agency should be using Facebook Messenger.
  • How to use a bot to vet agency clients.
  • #1 way to convert more leads with Facebook Messenger.

Today, I talked with Mike Yan, Co-founder of ManyChat.com — a chat marketing automation company. Mike's journey to Manychat was simple. He identified a gap in the market, saw an opportunity, and pounced on it. Facebook Messenger is one of the highest converting marketing tools on the planet right now. And being able to automate workflows in Messenger is a no-brainer. Here's how Mike's tool is helping agencies create some seriously cool campaigns.

Why Your Digital Agency Should Be Using Facebook Messenger

Want some kick-you-in-the-pants statistic to get you going? Facebook Messenger's open rates are around 80%. CTRs climb as high as 60%. And it has billions of users.

If your agency hasn't jumped on the Messenger bandwagon yet, you should. You're sitting on a pile of gold. Just look down. And being an early adopter of a tool like Manychat in order to automate your Messenger conversations is going to help you dominate down the road.

Because here's the thing — your agency needs automation to win clients. You can have a team of salespeople that could sell ice in Alaska and an ops team with a bottle of growth serum. But if you can't actually reach your clients — you're going to run into a brick wall. Automation is the secret to reaching your ideal clients at scale.

How to Use Bots to Vet Agency Clients

I'm a huge fan of chatbots. I use a slick Don Draper bot to vet agency owners. And, I've talked a ton about the value of chatbots across digital channels. But when it comes to Messenger, you NEED to have a bot. After you've drawn up an incredible buyer's journey and target audience, you need to figure out which leads are high-value and which aren't. The key to effectively using a chatbot is to limit it to STARTING a conversation. It's not intended to BUILD a relationship. Use a bot to filter or categorize prospects but you need a human to continue the relationship... and that is what will set you apart from other automated agencies

With chatbots, you can run prospects through the gambit without having to lift a finger. Your chatbot can determine if they're just tire kickers or serious prospects. If they're in the former category, you can add them to your list and hit them with your barrage of top-funnel strategies without wasting real resources. But if they're in the latter category, you can instantly connect them to a real person and leverage your salespeople.

#1 Way to Convert with Facebook Messenger

What's the #1 problem with bots? People know they're bots! Stop thinking about chatbots as salespeople and start thinking about them as a digital concierge. Once prospects reveal their intentions, you can send the high-intent ones personalized video or audio messages.

This works doubly well if it comes from you instead of your team. This way your prospect goes from talking to a chatbot to getting a one-of-a-kind messaging from the person in charge. That switch from automation to personalization can help you win big by distinguishing your agency from the rest who are bot-ifying everything!

In a world that is fully automated, set your agency apart with custom and personal contact.

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

Want a peek into Gary Vaynerchuk's and VaynerX's agency growth strategy? What can you learn about agency structure and growth from VaynerMedia? What does it take to become a "visionary" like Gary Vee? Great questions! And the President of The Sasha Group (a VaynerX agency) is here to share all this and more. Check out how you can apply some very Gary principles to your digital agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • What does an agency COO do?
  • 3 things that make a good agency visionary.
  • 4 ways to create a successful offshoot agency.
  • The biggest piece of marketing advice from The Sasha Group president.

Today, I talked with James Orsini, the President of The Sasha Group — an agency under the VaynerX banner that services $1 million and $100 million companies. James was also the former COO of VaynerMedia — and he's responsible for helping align and execute on Gary Vaynerchuck's visions. So, how did James go from COO of VaynerMedia to President of The Sasha Group? And how does The Sasha Group help VaynerMedia funnel smaller clients into their agency? Let's find out!

What Does an Agency COO Do?

James was the COO of VaynerMedia before he took on the President position at The Sasha Group. Why is it important to have a COO and what role do they play within the agency?

The Agency COO helps facilitate responsibilities and set strategies.

James explains it like this:

Gary sets the vision. James sets the strategy. And the senior leadership executes that vision using those strategies to create tangible results.

Every agency does the Tango with those three primary pillars (i.e., vision, strategy, and execution.) But it can be tough to do all of it alone. Typically, the visionary type isn't the best strategy person. And that strategy person may or may not be good at execution. You don't want one person trying to do all three things.

And that's a major problem for some agency owners. We love to do everything. Not only do you not have to set strategies and execute those strategies, you probably shouldn't. Hire for your weaknesses, and hire an A-team that can help facilitate your visions.

3 Things That Make a Good Agency Visionary

We all know Gary Vee is a visionary. He's in the all-star category with Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, Neil Patel, and all of the other marketers who are the brand of their agency. Gary has an insanely popular YouTube channel, tons of clout in the industry, and a massive agency to back it up.

But what makes someone a good visionary? Is it an inherent trait? Or something you can learn?

Is it when their image transcends their agency? Is it their ability to lead, inspire, and innovate broadly? Or maybe visionaries are freak occurrences that just happen. Maybe it's just in their DNA. Maybe we're born visionaries...

I believe anyone can be a visionary. You just have to focus on three things:

  1. The Big Picture: You can't get emotionally attached to projects, and you can't sweat the small technical details. Visionaries see and communicate the big picture and trust their team to carry it out.
  2. Leadership: Gary calls himself the "moldable dictator." He's the main man but he's also willing to pivot ideas and adjust plays when necessary. Hold the reigns to your agency. But be willing to listen to the ideas of those smart people you've hired.
  3. Find the Attention: Find what the people want — not what you want them to want. Gary Vee understands consumer attention is focused on social platforms. So, he is present on all social platforms and he started a social media agency. Steve Jobs understood what people wanted (i.e., gorgeous devices that are simple and contained.) So, he focused on well-designed devices that existed in a closed-source ecosystem. Focus on what the marketplace wants and demands.

4 Ways to Create a Successful Offshoot Agency

When your agency starts to grow, you have to start saying no. But, every time you say it, a little piece of you dies inside. After all, someone is sitting cash on the table in front of you, but you have to tell them no because you'retrying to stay focused on the right projects and clients to grow your agency.

So, why not make an offshoot agency? Whether is SaaS or a complementary service, your smaller agency can handle some of the smaller clients, and you get to keep the revenue. It's a win-win... right? Maybe. But here's the problem — offshoot agencies have a bad habit of failing.

But The Sasha Group is far from failing. And, with their mission statement of "we'll help you outgrow us into VaynerMedia," they're setting the stage for Vayner to funnel small businesses to them. So what makes them different?

  1. They don't use main agency resources: You can't use the same resources for your offshoot agency as you do for your main one. Why wouldn't they just go to your main agency at that point? They need to be separate entities with different day-to-day leadership and execution teams.
  2. They don't just take "low budget" clients: James says big clients with small budgets aren't "small budget," they're cheap. The Sasha Group only takes small businesses with revenue between $1 million and $100 million. That's it! And they vet each one first. You need to carefully define your ideal client before you launch your offshoot.
  3. They lean in as a consultant first: The Sasha Group's main goal is to scale businesses and be a feeder for VaynerMedia. So, they always start by being consultants first and creatives later.
  4. They bring an A team to small businesses: When small businesses look for agencies, they usually have to deal with small agencies and B-team offshoots. If you line your offshoot with A-level talent, you'll already be a step ahead.

A Golden Nugget On Agency Growth

What does the President of The Sasha Group say is the most important piece of advice for new agency owners?

Great marketing can't sell a shit product.

We've talked about saying no to clients due to their aggressive requirements, low budgets, or overbearing needs before. But what about when their product just... sucks? Here's the thing — if you don't believe in their product, how in the world are you going to effectively market it?

An agency's success is measured by specific KPI's. You can create the best marketing ever, but if the product sucks, no one is going to buy it and your work will be measured accordingly. And, at the end of the day, that's going to reflect on your agency.

Would You Like More Leads for Your Agency?

If you want to get more leads with an 80% open rate and 25% click-through rate, you need to check out ManyChat. Engage prospects and build relationships with simple personalized experiences using the #1 bot platform for Facebook Messenger.

I've been using ManyChat for 3 years for connecting with prospects and converting leads. ManyChat bots are ideal for marketing, e-commerce, and support; making it easy to have automated conversations with prospects and customers. To connect with the 1.3 billion daily Facebook Messenger users, head to ManyChat.com and enter code: SwenkPro for a free one-month trial.

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

How much time should you spend on client work vs. actually growing your agency? Figuring out how to grow early isn't easy. You're not sure where to start and what to focus on. Chances are, you're spending too much time on client work and way too much time trying to land the next big contract. But is it worth it?

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 way to grow your agency fast.
  • 3 ways to determine your agency's niche.
  • Why you might need to say no to big projects.
  • Should you spend time on neutral tasks?

Today, I talked with Jordan Scheltgen, co-founder of Cave Social — a social media agency based out of Canada. Jordan has been hustling for brands before he was self-aware of it. His pre-agency blog, CaveMag, had a story about having season tickets to Florida Panthers games. It blew up and went viral, with tons of social shares and exposure. And he quickly realized he could do this... for money! Since then, his agency has rocketed to three locations already! So how did he grow so fast, and what did he focus on first?

#1 Way to Grow Your Agency Fast

You have to niche! Seriously! If I sound repetitive, it's because it's super important. Niching separates you from the pack and keeps the lights on. But Jordan's agency didn't just niche to find more clients. They niched to create repeatable processes, which is another benefit of niching down.

Let's say your agency niches into plumbing. Are plumbers in LA really that different from plumbers in Nebraska? No - not at all. So, this gives you the ability to create a process you can use again and again for clients, in order to grow rapidly and become an authority. When you niche, you become an authority in a specific market. You can speak their language and get really familiar with their common challenges and pain points. When prospects realize you "get" them, it makes them want to work you with.

But what if you can't figure out what your niche should be?

3 Ways to Determine Your Agency's Niche

If you want to find the perfect niche for your agency, you need to answer these three questions.

  1. What am I passionate about?
  2. What do I have knowledge about?
  3. What's a problem I can solve?

If you can find a niche that answers all three questions, you're golden. But even if you can only answer one or two questions, that's fine! You can become passionate. You can gain knowledge. And you can always find a problem to solve. But having at least one of those questions answered can help your agency focus on a niche (either vertical or horizontal -- or both) that will help you grow faster.

Why You Might Need to Say No to Big Projects

Turning down a massive deal is really difficult. So most of end up saying yes, and then live to regret it. But don't be fooled by the numbers — figure out if it's actually worth the money. For example, you may get offered a one-off project worth $50k. But if your long-term clients are paying you $10k per month, the big one-off client may not be worth the time. It's all about opportunity cost. Remember, when you say yes to one thing, it means saying no to something else. Make smart choices about the value of your time, and remember bigger projects don't always mean better projects.

And it's about more than just basic math. If the client is going to cause you headaches or disrupt your agency culture, learn to say no! There are more reasons to turn a client down than there are to accept one.

Should You Spend Time on Neutral Tasks?

Are you wondering how much time to focus on systems and how much time to focus on clients? Try this trick: create a list.

Grab a piece of paper and make three columns. In column one, list all of the value positive tasks you have. In column two, list all of the value negative tasks you have. And in column three, list all of the neutral tasks you have (those tasks that aren't really positive or negative.) Then, take everything in the latter two columns, and delegate or automate it.

As owner, you should only be focused on positive value tasks. Most of the time, you'll find there's not much client work on the list. The bigger you grow, the faster you may need to start moving towards business-side tasks.

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

Wondering if an agency merger is right for you? Curious how do those new partnerships work? And what do you do if they don't? Taking the leap with another agency can be a strategic move. Maybe you want to grow faster or combine skillsets. Whatever the reason is, here's everything you need to know about agency mergers.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Should your agency leverage the gig economy?
  • How to know if an agency merger is right for you.
  • #1 way to make agency partnerships work.
  • How to cope with agency partner problems.
  • How one small change can impact agency culture.

 

Today, I talked with Adam Williams, CEO of Magneti — a branding and digital agency out of Colorado. Over the years, Adam has founded a variety of startups ranging from publishing to construction companies. When Adam decided to take the leap into the agency space, he was well-prepared for the business side, but he needed scale and some extra creatives on his side. He's here to share the story of why he decided to merge with another small agency to tackle some bigger clients.

Should Your Agency Leverage the Gig Economy?

The rise of the gig economy is massive for agencies. Are you worried your agency doesn't have the creative scale to capture big clients? You can leverage the gig economy to deliver those creatives. Are you worried onboarding costs are going to sink your agency? The gig economy can help you deliver at a fraction of the price.

The secret is creating processes for external contractors to follow. Once you have the processes down, you can scale-at-will. Want to deliver a massive project for a new client? No problem! You can scale up with freelancers quickly and easily.

Hiring freelancers is a no-brainer for most agencies. Just make sure you're hiring the right one!

How to Know if an Agency Merger is Right for You

There are a million reasons to merge your agency with another. You may be experiencing a growth spike that's forcing your business into new roles you need help developing. You could have a big client you need a little help with. You may want to grow super fast. Or you may even want to fulfill some agency responsibilities you're, well, not good at (like taxes, billing, or even HR.)

The only way to know if a merger is right for you is to ask yourself some questions, like:

  • Does this agency offer services my clients need?
  • Do the owners have skillsets I don't have?
  • Does the agency have scalable processes we can adopt?
  • What does the agency's book of business look like?

When you start answering those hard-hitting questions, the merger answer will smack you in the face.

#1 Way to Make Agency Partnership Work

If you do decide to merge, it could mean bringing on a few new partners. And this can be a serious pain if you're not ready. How do you make it work? And how do you prevent bad partnerships from tearing your agency apart? Here's the secret — it's all about empathy.

You have to care about the person on the other side of the table. When you're making agency decisions, think, "how would this impact my partner's family?" Make it personal. Because let's be honest. Sometimes, we get angry at our business partners. It's natural. But you always have to dig deep and remember who they are as a person and why you ventured into business together, to begin with.

You can get mad at each other -- but you have to respect one another enough to be empathetic. But, what do you do if it just really isn't going to work?

How to Cope With Agency Partner Problems

Is your partnership just not going to work out? It's ok! You don't have to explain. But you do have to break up with them.

At this point, the only question you have to ask is, "who's buying out whom?" If you want to remain in the driver's seat, you have to execute a successful buyout. Here's the thing. If you were empathetic during your entire partnership, this part is probably going to be easier than you think. Make sure everyone walks away happy, don't let it impact your day-to-day work, and smile when you're done.

How One Small Change Can Impact Agency Culture

Sometimes, having agency rules can disorient workers. Your team needs guidance and structure, but not a list of rules to follow. If you have a giant paper filled with rules hanging in your break area, it may be time to rethink your strategy. Your agency culture should create rules without having to write them down.

Check this out -- Adam's agency only has 3 rules:

  1. Over-communicate.
  2. Nail the details.
  3. Have fun!

Those three simple things capture so many different little things. They're easy for team members to remember, and they're rules that have scale.

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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

Have you been using the same set of processes for years? When's the last time you updated your SOP's? Old, tired processes could be hindering agency growth. If you're feeling stuck it could be an Operations issue. Sales and marketing can get you clients, but stellar operations is what sets you apart - or not. Don't focus on leads; focus on processes. That's the secret to rapid growth.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to scale with better agency operations.
  • How to level-up your agency every year.
  • Stop being scared to scale your agency.

Today, I talked with Clint Cobia who is the COO of 98 Buck Social — a social media management agency. Clint is an ops man at his core. Over the past few years, his agency has exploded due to his focus on creating the right processes and breeding superior Ops practices. He's on the show to share ways to do better with Ops so you can grow your agency.

How to Scale With Better Agency Operations

Scaling up is all about hiring, firing, and processes. Those processes define your agency. If you can't produce repeatable work, you're working 10x as hard for half the return.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do my employees know what do to every day when they get to work?
  • Do I use time as a measure of success or processes?
  • Does everybody in the agency know their roles in the bigger scheme?
  • Is my creative side and sales side systematic?

Clint says if the answer to any of those is no, you have a problem! So, hire an Ops Manager or start developing some in-house processes. Use your Ops to create an unfair advantage over the competition because it's not going to create itself.

How to Level-Up Your Agency Every Year

Having an agency with 10 employees is vastly different than having one with 20. Agencies have levels. These levels aren't set in stone, but you can pretty much guarantee that if you're growing at a healthy pace, you're going to level up at least once a year. You can't use the same processes with a team of 20 that you used with 10 employees.

The key is to completely strip everything down and reinvent your processes annually. It may sound like a pain, but it saves time and stress in the long run.

Stop Being Scared to Scale Your Agency

Agency owners are notoriously hungry. We want to grow bigger, faster and more aggressively. But we're also notoriously scared of growth. Don't believe me? Let me ask you a question — do you know what's holding you back? Clint believes most of us do.

Chances are, you do too. You know you need to hire a salesperson. You realize you need better processes. And, you aware you should definitely drop that problem client. Whatever it is — you know it but you haven't done it yet, have you?

Why? Because you're scared of growth!

Whether it's because you're too comfortable right now or you're scared growing because the next level is too complicated and risky, something is holding you back. But you shouldn't be scared...

Growth is really just another word for agency evolution. If you're doing things right, it's bound to happen.

I believe growth is a conscious choice. And it is. But so is sitting in limbo. You probably know what needs to be done. You just haven't done it yet.

Here's my challenge for all of you today. Get up and go do the thing you know is holding you back. Hire that salesperson, get an Ops Manager, or fire that client. Whatever it is that you've been putting off — go do it.

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

Direct download: Are_Your_Agency_Operations_Hindering_Growth_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:34pm EST

Do you feel like growing and scaling is always a struggle? Need to differentiate yourself from other agencies? Finding success as an agency owner isn't easy. But with the right mindset, you can hit the 8-figure mark and even power through an eventual agency acquisition. Whether you want to grow your agency fast or plan on growing it to sell, you need to hear from the one and only Mitch Joel, who's done it all.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 steps to an 8-figure agency.
  • How to power through an agency acquisition.
  • #1 way to differentiate your agency.

Today, I talked with Mitch Joel, co-founder of Mirum and founder of Six Pixels Group. Joel is a marketing superstar. He was one of Canada's Top 40 under 40, does keynotes for top brands, and has a best-selling book, Six Pixels of Separation. Mitch also sold his agency Mirum to WPP (a.k.a the world's largest ad agency). And he's on the show to talk about how he was able to grow, sell, and move on from his agency.

3 Steps to an 8-Figure Agency

For many agencies, the 8-figure mark is the "we made it!" moment. But how do you get there? Honestly, everyone's path is a little different. That being said, here are 3 universal steps you'll probably need to make.

  1. Take on the right partner: There are two things that make a partner great. They need to have the same goals, and they need to compliment your weaknesses. If you're a master salesperson and you're looking for an agency partner, don't look for a salesperson. Find someone who is amazing at the things you're really bad at. Otherwise, you may both end up trying to play to the same tune. And that can lead to a nasty breakup.

  2. Get a marquee client: Landing your first big client can completely reshape your agency. You can go from pennies to dollars overnight. It only takes on business with a few friends to grow your agency fast. There's a misconception that you have to have tons of clients to grow. That's not true. You just need a couple of good ones. And they don't even have to big per se! But they do need to be able to pay your agency what you're worth.

  3. Have the right philosophy: You need to be scale-focused. What does that mean? It means that your processes need to be capable of handling scale. Think about your ability to support large-scale projects with big clients. If you feel like your foundation is weak, you need to build it up before you take on any big clients. Don't just chase big fish without a big hook. You'll get pulled overboard.

How to Power Through An Agency Acquisition

There's another way to "make it" without hitting 8-figures. Getting your agency acquired is the dream for many of you. It happened to me, and it happened to Mitch. But what do you do when it actually happens?

Your first instinct may be to go out and spend the cash. Don't do that! You have to wait until the acquisition is 100% finalized before you celebrate. The entire process will take a while. And you need to be focused on continuing to grow your agency AND focusing on your new "biggest client" — the company acquiring your agency.

Force yourself to wait to celebrate. Afterward, you have to get used to not calling the shots. It's tough. You can always do what I did; go start a podcast. It gives you back some of the control you're used to. Plus, you get to help people out. It's a win-win!

#1 Way to Differentiate Your Agency

Are you tired of being a "me too" agency? Then change your philosophy. STOP trying to be like your competition and you do you.

Don't be like everyone else, but instead figure where you stand on these four things that set  you apart from every other agency:

  1. Trust
  2. Empathy
  3. Chemistry
  4. Authority

How can you create a differentiate using these four pillars to stand apart? First, create trust with your clients by showing tons of empathy. Develop amazing internal chemistry that is evident in the way you carry out your core values. And display the level of authority that conveys domination in your area of expertise. Then, use your messaging (website, social posts, etc.) to display this differentiation to your prospects.

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

Direct download: How_to_Grow_and_Sell_an_8-Figure_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Considering a merger or acquisition to scale your agency? Wondering what's involved in selling, but overwhelmed at the thought of it all? Relax! The processes can be stressful, but it's totally manageable and can also be a great growth strategy. Whether you want to stay in control and grow your agency with an acquisition, or you want to exit your business with a massive payday, here's everything you need to know about agency mergers and acquisitions.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 things agency acquirers are looking for.
  • The best way to cure agency growing pains.
  • Can you really grow through mergers and acquisitions?

Today, I talked with Jose Lozano CEO of 9thWonder — a full-service digital marketing agency with offices around the globe. Jose didn't start off with a massive agency, and he didn't grow one... he bought one! After selling his company to a massive organization, he led a group to acquire an agency to scale up. Jose shares why and how to scale your business by acquiring another agency.

3 Things Agency Acquirers Are Looking For

Selling your agency is an important decision. Are you really ready to sell? What will you do after you sell? Will you merge agencies and stay on, or get acquired and move on? The answers to all of these questions matter. But, before you can even start thinking about them, you have to ask the big question — is your agency sellable?

When CMOs and big organizations look at agencies, they aren't just looking at profitability. They're looking for opportunities. Jose has done internal M&A polling, and I've talked to thousands of agency owners on this subject. Here are 3 things that make your agency sellable.

  1. Having Processes: You can be crazy-successful but still look like a bad investment. Having success is one thing — having a repeatable formula for success is a whole different ballgame. When you have the right processes in place it lets investors know you're successful and that you've broken your success down into a repeatable formula.
  2. Being Independent: If you created your agency with the sole purpose of selling it, you're at a disadvantage. It's like when people buy a house just to flip it, they treat it differently because it's not their home and never will be. The same thing happens with agencies. Being an independent owner who has hustled and bled for their agency is huge. It lets people know you're personally invested in your business.
  3. Niching Out: You have to have an unfair advantage. Why should an acquirer buy you? There are plenty of agencies out there but, if you do something better than everyone else — you're worth top dollar. Dominating a specific niche not only makes your agency more valuable to investors, but it is one of the best ways to be viewed as an industry leader.

The Best Way to Cure Agency Growing Pains

Your agency's size is not relative when it comes to stress. I've met agency owners with 3 part-time team members that were as stressed as owners with 30.

It's all about how you handle key areas of your business. What's causing the stress? Is it ops? Or are you having trouble handling team members? Whatever it is you have to pinpoint it and either hire it out or partner up with someone who gets it. Deciding to grow is a conscious choice. And it can be impossible to make that choice when you're busy managing your stress level.

Chances are, you know what's causing your stress. Maybe you're overwhelmed with finances and KPI's, or maybe you dragging your feet on hiring or firing. That's ok! If you feel like you're not cut out for the role of CEO the solution might be getting acquired or merging with an agency.

Don't be afraid to give away some of your equity to reduce your stress. Which would you rather have? Full ownership of a stressful, chaotic agency, or 80% ownership of a well-managed one?

Can You Really Grow Through Mergers and Acquisitions?

Yes, you really can! Giving away equity can put you on the growth fast track. And acquiring another agency can also be one of the smartest moves you ever make if you do it right. I know what you're thinking! How do you know what your agency (or another agency) is truly worth? You can check out this video on agency valuation. Bottom line, the answer really depends: How profitable are they? What kind of niche are they in? What's their profit margin?

Check out my post on how to double your growth with an acquisition. 

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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

Are you struggling to find the right clients? Wish your agency was working with bigger clients? Finding the right clients isn't easy — especially if you're trying to grow from freelance to agency owner. The secret is having the right qualification process and knowing who to say yes (and no) to.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to go from freelancer to digital agency owner.
  • 3 reasons you might steer clear of big agency clients.
  • #1 way to choose the right agency clients.

Today's interview is with Jesse Witham, the Co-Founder and CMO of Search Marketing Agency. Jesse has been doing SEO since he was young (like 14!), way back when keyword stuffing and digital directories were "SEO" so he knows the complicated evolution of the field. Jesse went from freelancing to owning an agency handling over $300 million in client SEO spend. He's here to share his story about agency growth and finding the right clients.

How to Go From Freelancer to Agency Owner

Going from freelancer to digital agency owner is natural. As a freelancer, you already have some clients— you just need to scale. So, why not start a business, hire a few people, and start serving more clients, right? While everyone has unique reasons for making the jump, they all share one thing in common — they're ready to go big or go home.

So how do you actually do make the leap? The biggest thing is making the first hire. Sure, setting up an LLC, creating a brand and logo are all important steps. But, the symbolic moment for the transition from "freelancer" to "agency owner" is that first hire. That's when you know you've gone from being solo to being a team.

And that's a lot of responsibility — suddenly you have someone relying on you. That's the magic line you cross when you go from freelancer to agency.

Your first hire doesn't have to be another creative or a salesperson. You should always hire for your weakness. You don't want a clone of yourself, you want someone who can fill the gaps you leave. Like the ying to your yang :)

Jesse's first hire was someone who could keep him organized; I usually suggest a first hire be a project manager.

3 Reasons You Should Steer Clear of Big Agency Clients

Big clients with their big budgets always seem appealing. Don't be fooled!  Here's the problem with big clients — they can make or break your agency.

Whether you're a new agency owner or have decades of experience under your belt, one thing never gets easier — turning down big budgets. Sure, big clients have tons to spend on marketing. But that doesn't mean those big clients are the best way to scale your agency.

There are 3 issues with big clients.

  1. Inhibited growth: Having 5 huge clients can mean major revenue, but at what cost? When you have 5 clients that absorb all your time, it's tough to grow. You can't test new concepts on a multi-million dollar account. With smaller clients, you can more easily research, test, and develop new strategies and tactics. It's much harder with clients that are make-or-break accounts.
  2. Lack of diversity: The bigger they are, the harder they fall. And when they fall, it can really impact your agency (but not necessarily a bad thing!). Having a few key clients is stressful. You're constantly in fear of losing them.
  3. Big egos: When clients know they're your biggest, they may act like it. This leaves the client with the upper hand, and you without leverage. Big clients can also come with big egos. As an agency owner, your team expects you to handle those egos. That's tough to do when losing a single client can tank the agency. Having a bunch of similar sized clients allows you to be more selective.

#1 Way to Choose the Right Clients

It's important to know when to say no to clients, but the real question is — when do you say yes? The easiest way is to create some criteria. If they fit it, they're in. If they don't, they're gone. Easier said than done, I know. But letting a few rotten apples slip through can spoil the whole bunch. You have to create crystal clear criteria and stick to it.

What does this mean? It means saying no more often than you're comfortable with at first. But in the long run, you'll only be working with the ideal clients who you can really help be successful. That's a WIN!

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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

Would you like to master inbound marketing with killer content? Would you like your agency to generate more leads without working harder to find them? Generating more traffic and engagement is the key. And it's doing better is easier than you think when you address the right two audiences. With some strategy you can win at the content game and land your digital agency more inbound leads an ever.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Two audiences every digital agency needs to create content for.
  • Why the agency owner should be the face of the agency.
  • How your digital agency can increase blog site traffic.

Today, I talked with Kieran Flanagan — VP of Marketing for HubSpot. Not only did Kieran help HubSpot grow into an international marketing goliath, but he's also partially responsible for growing their freemium business. We all know HubSpot is a big deal in marketing but, did you know 100% of HubSpot's customers come from the demand created by the marketing team? Kieran's on the show today to share with us the two audiences his team focuses on and why your agency should too.

Two Audiences Every Digital Agency Needs to Create Content For

How do you satisfy the mental cravings of clients and forge emotional connections with them? HubSpot breaks their marketing department into two teams — Mind and Heart.

So, the Mind team is responsible for tactical content such as blog posts. The team figures out what people are searching and creates content around questions, concerns, and keywords based on SEO demand.

The Heart team is responsible for emotional creative, like videos and audio content. You know, the stuff that pulls at entertains or creates connections. This type of content makes people feel that working with your business will solve their problem or ease their pain point.

Here's what's great:  Each team has its own content calendar, and they act independently. This way, both types of content gets full focus, and HubSpot knows it's churning out both types of content regularly.

Why the Agency Owner Should Be the Face of the Agency

What do VaynerMedia, Apple, and Microsoft all have in common? They all have an owner who represents the brand! You need to be the face of your agency. Now, I know that can be scary sounding. Many agency owners feel being the face of their agency is too time-consuming, but it doesn't have to be! You set the methodology. Yes - you be a leader. And no, you don't have to hustle 24/7.

It can be as simple or as complicated as you want. As always, stop doing the things you suck at and nail your strengths. As an Agency CEO, you have 5 roles in the agency and being the front-face of the company is #1.

How Your Digital Agency Can Increase Blog Site Traffic

As most everyone knows, HubSpot has some fantastic blogging tips. They do pillar and cluster model for their posts, including marketing funnel diagrams and spend tons of time and resources on the HubSpot blog. So, obviously they have some phenomenal blogging tips, right?

Here it is... drumroll please... you have to have a reason to write blogs. Wait! Before you roll your eyes, think about it. Does your agency really have a reason to create your blogs? Are you just writing "10 Reasons to Hire a Digital Marketing Agency" style blog posts (which are so clearly just cushy soft sales pitches)? Your prospects aren't stupid - they see right through that stuff. Your blog posts don't capture the heart or the mind of your prospects.

When HubSpot writes "Best Marketing Hacks of 2019" their content isn't just ranking. They're accomplishing their mission, too. They sell marketing software and their mission is to help marketers with solutions to make their jobs easier. That blog post both ranks and it furthers their mission and it caters to a specific audience with a beneficial outcome.

So -- If you sell agency services to lawyers, don't write "10 reasons you need a digital marketing agency." Instead, write a post titled "10 Ways to Get Quality Law Leads for your Law Practice" and see what difference it makes.

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

We've all seen tech companies explode in popularity and valuation. How can your digital agency get a piece a sweet tech venture? Check out how one agency owner is out there successfully building technology and simultaneously running a digital marketing agency -- and crushing it at both.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to build technology at your digital agency.
  • One unique method to create tons of internal content.
  • #1 growth tip for new agency owners.

Today, I talked with Bhanuka Harischandra, Founder and CEO of Surge.Global — a digital marketing and tech agency in Sri Lanka. Bhanuka's agency does everything from video to mobile to content and even SEO... but they also build tech. So, while half of Surge Global is helping businesses scale with marketing, the other half is scaling tech projects and creating tech companies. Bhanuka is here to tell us how to build tech at your agency and use it to grow and scale your business.

How to Successfully Build Technology at Your Digital Agency

Tech revenue is tempting, am I right? We see these tech startups with 5 employees that scale to $500 million in a few years and it's mind-blowing. So, as an entrepreneur, you may be trying to balance your desire to chase tech with your love for agency work. Guess what? You don't have to decide between them. Instead, you can build tech and build your agency at the same time.

It's all about keeping a balance. Bhanuka's advice is to hire two separate teams. Your agency team should not develop tech projects. You need a separate R&D team to help build external and internal tech projects.

You can even create an incubator. Hire some developers to work on different projects, see which ones take off, and then scale the winners up. Bhanuka transitions R&D teams with great products into their own business and his agency remains a shareholder. It helps keep everyone focused on their unique task.

One Unique Method to Create Tons of Internal Content

Creating internal content can be a serious pain for agency owners. Here's the thing — it's super necessary to have internal content for your team to rally around. You probably have access to some great content creators; they just need a little motivation.

Bhanuka got his team to produce over 700 pieces of content in 30 days by gamifying content creation. He built an app and made a contest out of creating content. The team member who created the most content within a month would win $500. Second and third places were promised monetary prizes, too. And he compared everyone on a leaderboard to the team could view results in real-time.

In the end, Surge only paid out $800 for 700 pieces of content. That's what I call a bargain!

Here's what's awesome — Surge now has the app they developed out for other clients to use. (You can check out the app at Rallied.io)

#1 Growth Tip for New Agency Owners

It's been nearly unanimous from my podcast guests. The #1 piece of advice is learning to say no. But, it's about more than just saying no... It's knowing how to prioritize and say no to the wrong things so you can say yes to the right things. Even Bhanuka admits his agency almost went under by saying yes to the wrong things. He says always vet your prospects before they become clients and determine:

  • Are they a good fit for your niche?
  • Can you and your team get along with them?
  • Are they a culture match with your agency?
  • Will payment be received on time?
  • Are they reliable and responsive?
  • And, most of all, do they have realistic expectations (remember NBAT!)?

If the answer to any of these is no, then you need to say no to working with this prospect.

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

Every agency wants its team to work smarter and hustle harder. But, the smart agencies know the best way to get results is with the right incentive program. On today's show, we're featuring an employee incentive model that may change the way you think about salaries and bonuses, as well as culture.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 5 reasons to share 50% of agency profits.
  • Why agencies should only hire specialists
  • One big employee compensation secret
  • How to implement profit-sharing

Today, I talked with Tom Murray, Managing Director of Jump450 — a full-service marketing agency in Soho, NY. Tom's agency does something a little crazy... they give 50% of profits to its employees. He's on the show to share why and how this crazy strategy is actually growing the agency faster than ever.

5 Reasons to Share 50% of Agency Profits

Giving away 50% of your profits may sound more like a nightmare than a strategy but the thing is — it can work. Better yet, the agency is also paying employees a competitive base salary! Sounds crazy right? Maybe. But, it has a bunch of benefits you're probably not even thinking about:

  1. You'll get the best-of-the-best. Incentivizing your team with bonuses on 50% of the profit gives them insane salary potential. The best talent in the industry will flock to your agency for one simple reason — you pay more.
  2. Goodbye retention issues. Let's be honest. Your team isn't going to find better earning potential anywhere else if you're offering them a huge cut of revenue.
  3. You can cut the fluff. The amount of motivation that profit-sharing programs give employees is mind-boggling. Some of the roles you're currently utilizing (like project managers) may be able to be cut. This helps the agency stay lean and allows a cushion to share 50% of topline revenue.
  4. Everyone will be an ambassador. Giving your employees a direct stake in the agency will hype them up. It makes natural brand ambassadors for your agency.
  5. Clients know the team is motivated. Clients understand offering 50% to your team will get (and keep) them motivated. And that means clients rest assured the team is doing a great job at all times.

Why Agencies Must Only Hire Specialists

When you need someone to do SEO work, don't just hire "someone" - hire an SEO expert. This may sound obvious, but most agencies aren't following this rule. Tons of agencies just hire generalists and train for the skill. Try it the other way around.

If you pack your agency with people who are really good at one thing, everyone is going to be the best at their jobs. You can probably hire fewer people. And, best of all, your clients will get the best possible help.

Struggling to convince talent to come onboard? Consider filling in the holes with hyper-specialized freelancers.

One Big Employee Compensation Secret

Are you ready for the big secret? For most employees, it's not all about the money. Your team has to show up every day for work. In fact, half their life is basically going to be spent there. So having the right atmosphere and breeding a good agency culture is crucial when it comes to motivating, inspiring, and engaging employees. Believe it or not, amazing culture is another way to compensate your team.

So, you can bonus your team or offer a profit-sharing incentive, but if your culture is garbage, the team is not going to engage. When you start thinking about salary, think culture first. You can make your team happy by providing an amazing place to work (first) and then think about the compensation model and any bonus structure.

How to Implement Profit-Sharing

For smaller agencies, changing the salary structure is a breeze. But, if your agency has over 10 team members, it can be difficult to make a wide-reaching change. If you're just now considering a profit-sharing model, you'll need to spend time forecasting. The key is to build out data models and track cash flow before implementing a profit-sharing model, so you can be sure the agency can support it.

In other words... it's tough but, it's definitely doable. Because -- your salary structure could be the one thing holding back your agency's success.

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

Having trouble getting your agency to the next level? Want to increase agency revenue but can't get beyond a plateau? Then it might be time to get a little uncomfortable and take some risks. If you really want to level-up your agency check out the big risk one agency took which yielded 4X revenue in just two years.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 hacks to help your agency level up and increase revenue.
  • Why outbound will make your digital agency revenue soar.
  • How to hire the right agency sales team.

Today, I talked with Chris Brencans, CMO at OnTheMap — a full-service digital marketing agency. Chris's agency does something that may sound a little strange. Half of the agency's team are salespeople. That's right! 50% of the approximately 70 people at the agency are involved in sales, and business is booming. OnTheMap's revenue has grown from $1 Million to $4 Million in the last 2 years by investing in its salespeople and taking some risks. Chris is on the show to share some tips with us.

3 Hacks Help Your Agency Level Up

  1. Lean on your processes. If you don't have processes, you're driving the highway without cruise control, constantly speeding up and slowing down. Why make it harder on yourself? Once you build-out the right processes, you can take your foot off the gas and start working on other areas of your business. You shouldn't be spending a ton of your time on client work. Instead, build processes so you can work on the business rather than in it.
  2. Find the glaring problems. Here's the big secret — you already know what your biggest problems are. Chances are, everyone in your agency knows what they are. Ask your employees and be honest with yourself as you reflect on them. They may be hard to fix. But ignoring them is causing them to be bigger than necessary. Tackle your agency's problems because they are a roadblock to your growth.
  3. Take some risks! If you have processes in place (#1) and you don't have any big problems (#2), then you're not taking enough risks. And, your reservations are what's holding back your agency's growth. Take a leap - bet on your agency! Organic growth still requires money, time, and resources. Be willing to spend them. (Like Chris's agency -- their big leap was betting on their sales team and poof! 4x growth in 2 years.)

Why Outbound Will Make Your Digital Agency Revenue Soar

Inbound marketing keeps you successful. But it's outbound marketing which makes you successful.

Chris's agency is 50% salespeople. They bet big on outbound, and it grew them from $1m to $4m. This isn't a one-off tactic. Neil Patel uses outbound to grow his agency, and I had one agency on the podcast who has grown to $6m in 2 years tackling outbound.

Outbound just works. You can execute it on a lean budget. There are tons of killer strategies to follow. And it's easy to get started. You don't need half of your team in sales, like Chris. It just depends on your specific processes. But you definitely need one person, or a few, dedicated to sales.

How to Hire the Right Agency Sales Team

Attracting salespeople is all about salary, benefits, and culture. Selecting the right candidate(s) is all about these 3 things.

  • Look for initiative. You want to give your salespeople some formal training, sure. But you should be able to hand them processes and let them run with it. This team is going to be handling valuable leads. Make sure you give them some room to prove themselves. I believe salespeople prove their worth in their first 60 days. If they aren't cutting it.... you know what you have to do.
  • Find the right soft skills. They say good salespeople aren't made; they're born. That's sort of true. Amazing salespeople need the right soft skills. Look for empathy, leadership, and resolve. You want a team of great communicators. Always hire for soft skills first. You can train the rest of the skill sets but personality either works with your culture or it doesn't.
  • Seek an eagerness to constantly improve. You want a team that's always looking to do better than last month. Do they set their own goals? Do they take constructive feedback? Make sure their hungry and eager to be successful.
Direct download: How_One_Agency_Increased_Revenue_by_4X_in_2_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you struggling to capture those big fish clients? Does it feel like your agency is constantly battling for every account? We've all been there! You've still got some growing pains. But, what if you could skip those growing pains and go right to be big leagues? Here's how one agency owner made his first client Kobe Bryant.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to score big agency clients.
  • 3 reasons your agency should hire some freelancers.
  • #1 way for digital agencies to stay competitive.

Today, I talked with David Brickley, CEO of STN Digital and Host of The Business Of Social podcast. We all have our own unique origin story but, David's story is downright crazy. Not only did he score one of the biggest names in sports (Kobe Bryant!) as his very first client — he continues to work with some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment. James Harden, Shaq, Amazon, UFC, the Olympics, and even movie stars are his bread-and-butter. David's here to share his story about how you can grow your agency event while you're a small or mid-sized shop.

How to Score Big Agency Clients

What if I told you that David convinced Kobe Bryant to be his first client through a cold email? It's true! And, there's a lot we can all learn from that...

Scoring your first big client is all about taking chances. Get out there and chase them - because why couldn't it be you?

Forget about sticking to inbound and waiting for them to knock on your door. If there's something you want bad enough, get out there and chase it. And you know as well as I do — it only takes one big client to completely change the course of your agency.

Once you have a big name or a big brand, you can leverage them to get other big clients. It's the domino effect. And, winning with outbound doesn't require a big budget - it's all about the grind.

3 Reasons Your Agency Should Hire Some Freelancers

Don't worry - you don't need a huge team to serve big clients, you may just need to add some freelancers. The gig economy is in full swing. You can talented and highly skilled freelancers to work on a project basis. And here's why:

  1. Freelancers give you tons of flexibility. You don't have to worry about onboarding for each unique client need. If your next client needs a little camera work done, you don't have to go out and hire someone for the one job. You can pay someone by-the-hour, and you never have to make a commitment.
  2. Freelancers give you scale. What happens once you get your first big client? Do you have a team ready to handle their projects? If not, you've got an unlimited number of freelancers ready to tackle that project.
  3. Freelancers are cost-effective. Does it really make sense to hire a full-time writer for 40 hrs a week to create a few blog posts? Do you really need a full-time animator? Freelancers allow the flexibility to pay-as-you-go on a project basis, without the overhead of full-time employees.

#1 Way For Digital Agencies to Stay Competitive

Every year, hundreds of agencies close their doors for good... and for most of them it's not intentional, but rather the result of lacking one basic thing. They didn't adapt.

The algorithms keep changing and what worked last week or last month or last year isn't cutting it. For example, EO isn't the same this year as last year. And, it could be wildly different next year. Digital agencies have to be flexible and they need to be constantly innovating.

If you aren't creating bigger, better, and more interesting things, you're headed down a dangerous road. You can't keep performing the same old tricks; you must keep things new and evolve to the needs of your audience.

Client retention isn't all about wooing them (although the right gifts don't hurt!) It's about providing them value with innovative solutions they can't find with anyone else.

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

Creating video content is hard, right? It's got to be perfect lighting, sound, and of course relevant subject matter. Don't let all that overwhelm stands in your way of getting started. Video content is one of the hottest ways to attract new agency business. And, anyone can make incredible videos without a ton of experience - you just need to get out of your own way in order to get started.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to start making video content for your agency.
  • 3 easy video types to help get you started.
  • #1 tip for creating engaging video content.

Today, I talked with Chris Deblasio, actor, producer, and CEO of Agency850, the entertainment marketing company he founded. Chris's agency shoots Hollywood-quality videos and does product placement for movies and TV. Chris went from selling yellow page ads to running a successful video agency. And, he's learned a few tricks along the way. From being comfy in front of her camera to winning with video creatives, Chris explains how video marketing can add value to your agency's services.

How to Start Making Video Content

Chris makes high-quality videos at his agency but he's the first to admit you don't need fancy equipment to get the attention of your prospects. You don't need an expensive camera and a sound crew to produce outstanding videos -- just need your phone and a vision.

Want to know the big secret to making great video content? Just start!

The sooner you start, the sooner it will become second nature to you. Sure, you'll make some crappy videos in the beginning. But, you're never going to make really killer ones until you a few under your belt. No one is going to judge you by one or two stinky videos. Prospects will be looking at your entire body of content, not a few rough ones.

The sooner you start, the sooner you can find your voice. And the sooner you can cash in on video marketing – which isn't going away anytime soon.

3 Easy Video Types to Help You Get Started

Here are 3 super-easy video content types to get you started. All you'll need is a camera and a smile.

  1. Q&A Show: A simple question/answer show is an easy way to throw your hat in the video content ring. All you have to do is sit in front of a camera and answer some questions. It will help you get comfortable being yourself in front of the camera, plus it will position you as a thought leader. Don't have any questions to answer? Research some in online communities like Quora. I did that when I first started Swenk Today!
  2. Live Content: Facebook Live and other live social platforms make it almost too easy. No one expects live videos to be filled with high production quality. That gives you a good excuse to play around a little if you don't know what you're doing. Give people a tour of your office or host a live Q&A with your clients and team.
  3. PodcastYes, all agencies should have a podcast! Your podcasts can be video podcasts. And, it's low risk. Most people are watching for the audio. So, if you have poor production and lighting skills, no one is going to notice. Even better, if you keep the podcast going, you'll be able to look back on your first episode and see how far you've come! Want a good laugh? Check out my first one which we now fondly refer to as my hostage video.

#1 Tip for Creating Engaging Video Content

The number one tip for making videos is... drumroll, please... be yourself!

Yes! I know it's corny but it's true. Viewers want you to be genuine; this is easily the most important thing you can do to be successful with video content. Besides, no one can replicate you or your personality.

It's totally normal. Most people tend to get a little nervous when in front of a camera. When I first got in front of the camera, I looked like an Oompa Loompa :)

Take off the mask. A fake persona is obvious and copying someone else -- like Gary Vee or Casey Neistat is disingenuous. Go ahead and be yourself and give people a chance to like you for you.

 

Direct download: How_to_Make_Video_Content_To_Attract_New_Agency_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:42am EST

Looking for a low-risk, high-result way to scale your agency? Want the flexibility to grow and scale at will? Freelancers are a great way to grab top talent in this gig economy. Using freelancers can help scale your agency faster and easier than bringing on permanent employees and the overhead that goes with them. But, the real key is knowing which roles to hand to freelancers and which roles you should not outsource. But, how about using freelancers as a core component of your workforce? I talk to an agency owner that uses both in-house employees and freelancers on almost every project. And it's helped him grow at the speed-of-light.

  • How to win with freelancers
  • Which roles you should never outsource.
  • What not to do with agency freelancers.
  • 3 reasons smaller agencies win big.

Today, I talked with David Freund, Partner at Junto — a web design and content agency. David's agency doesn't just use freelancers on occasion... freelancers are a core component of his agency's growth strategy, with over 25 on his team. Vetting freelancers and leaning on them to deliver cost-effective results helps Junto stay competitive in the commoditized market. And, David's here to give us some tips on when and how to use freelancers the right way in order to grow your digital agency.

How to Win With Freelancers

Blending an in-house team with freelancers has a ton of benefits. Hiring a load of freelancers can help your agency go remote. And, it can definitely help you save on costs and onboarding headaches. But, the secret benefit is that it gives you insane flexibility to scale.

With a core team of employees in place, you can hire and let-go freelancers at will. As your growth has ebbs and flows, your hybrid team of employees and freelancers has the flexibility to ebb and flow, as well.

Need a new website designer? Hire a freelancer. Need fewer SEO specialists? Eliminate a few. With freelancers, you can grow and shrink at will. And, you don't have to worry about all of the junk that goes into hiring and firing. This gives you a huge advantage over your competitors who are stuck with less flexibility.

Which Roles You Should Never Outsource

As agency owners, the thought of outsourcing talent can be terrifying. Finding and vetting freelancers can be overwhelming. And, some freelancers can be unreliable or unpredictable unless. If you've been burned before you might be scared to work with others in the future. But, here's the secret — Dave says you have to outsource the right roles.

For starters, keep strategy and project/account managers in-house. Keeping these roles strictly for permanent employees gives you the quality control that is necessary to grow your business.

The last thing you want is to lose your agency's standard or sacrifice its reputation. Having a key team of managers within your walls is the secret to keeping a high standard and reaping the benefits of the gig economy.

Your account managers act as a liaison between the agency and the client. You can structure your agency to have account managers work with the freelancers. That leaves you in charge of the big picture. But, you don't have to manage ALL of these freelancers and in-house team members at the same time.

What Not To Do With Agency Freelancers

It can be tempting to hire some freelancers, send them work, and then you deliver the end product to the client. Basically, your agency is just playing the middleman and reaping the rewards. Sounds like a win-win, right? Nope! Your agency needs to hold the reigns. You must have the systems in place to facilitate freelancers success and deliver consistent results to your clients. If the end product is a representation of your agency's work you have to have control over it from start to finish.

Your job is to provide your freelancers with the systems they need in order to succeed. And, you or someone within your agency needs to have the skillset to understand and oversee the work you're outsourcing to a freelancer. So for example, if you don't know anything about web design, don't just hire freelancers and hand over a finished website to the client. At the very least, your account manager should have an understanding of web design and work hand-in-hand with the freelancer.

3 Reasons Smaller Agencies Win Big

Size doesn't matter - no, really! :) There's never been a better time to be a small or mid-sized agency. You can be nimble and agile with your clients, and you can be far more flexible than the bigger agencies. If or when prospects question your agency's size, use these benefits to spin the story in your favor:

  1. Small agencies can leverage freelancers. Using freelancers for skilled roles helps cut costs and compete for big projects. Sure, big agencies could hire freelancers but, they usually don't. They have a huge in-house team. And, they're going to lean on that team to get jobs done in order to justify salaries. But, that additional overhead puts them at a pricing disadvantage. Your agency can do the job cheaper and deliver better value. You have access to an entire global network of talented professionals because you're not restricted to just a specific few employees.
  2. They're still flexible. The best thing about being a small agency is that you can flip-the-script at-will. Want to start adding new services? Go for it by bringing on a freelancer with that skill set. Thinking about some new processes or strategies? Sure! You can try out all your ideas without disrupting a massive ecosystem
  3. Despite size, small agencies can compete in a changing world. Smaller means you're not stuck. You have plenty of maneuverability to start adjusting to the new trends in marketing. There are plenty of new and interesting avenues to explore... chatbotsartificial intelligence and a bunch of other emerging technologies exist in sparse markets. And, you can start jumping into those markets immediately!
Direct download: How_to_Use_Freelancers_as_a_Low-Risk_Way_to_Scale_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Struggling to win new agency business in order to supercharge growth? Stuck working in the business and unable to step back in order to work on the business? Your role as an agency leader is always evolving as the agency grows. But your #1 job is being an amazing leader and giving your team the guidance and support they need.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to win new agency business by building relationships.
  • #1 way to supercharge digital agency growth.
  • 3 tips for being an amazing digital agency leader.

Today, I talked with Steve Weiss, Co-founder of MuteSix — a Facebook ad agency. Steve moved to Los Angeles, CA to do standup comedy and instead ended up creating a digital agency. Four years later and he is now running an 8-figure agency with over 130 employees! So, how does a comedian transition to a massively successful agency owner....?  "Did you ever hear the one about the wildly successful agency owner?" No? Then stick around as Steve shares his story of growth, including his top 3 tips for being a better agency leader :)

How to Win New Agency Business By Building Relationships

As agency owners, we always want to win the pitch and land new business. You get in the room with the prospect and you want to tell them you can handle anything. You're willing to do anything and be anything in order to win a pitch. But that never ends well, does it? In Steve's case, he uses humor (remember, he's a former standup comedian!) to his benefit...

It's ok to tell a prospect you don't know how to do something. Be the authority in a specific niche - horizontal and/or vertical.  When they ask for something outside of your skillset, be honest or use humor like Steve. For example, he tells prospects that SEO is like "black magic" to him, but what he's really good at it Facebook ads. And, he tells them his agency crushes Facebook ads; there's no one better at Facebook ads. His honesty and a bit of humor builds trust and creates the foundation for a relationship.

In fact, it can be the secret to winning the pitch. If you're candid with them, they're going to respect you more for it. We can all smell a sales pitch from a mile away. So can your prospects. When you start bragging, they know you're desperate for the sale. Be truthful, honest, and win business with ideal clients who appreciate who you are.

They'll believe you when you tell them what you're actually good at. So, instead of trying to convince clients you're "full service" even though you aren't, think about flipping the script. Be honest with them. And, use that honesty to form a great relationship.

#1 Way to Supercharge Digital Agency Growth

Want to know the secret to accelerate digital agency growth? You can't do it alone ~ you need a team :) Empowering your team is one of the easiest ways to achieve fast growth. If you hired right, your team is filled with skill and talent. You want is to be the smartest person in the room. Hire people who are smarter and better than you are and reap the benefits of supercharging your agency's growth.

Believe me, if I would have been the smartest person at my digital agency, we would have never gotten anywhere!

Steve says to give your team some room to grow and dominate projects on their own. And, always put your team ahead of revenue. Clients come-and-go. Good team members don't. It's hard to find people who fit into your culture, understand your vision, and have the passion to create results on their own. Your team is your biggest asset so treat them as such.

Being a leader isn't all about you, your agency, and your vision... It's about providing opportunity and a pathway for growth and fulfillment. When you're a great leader that alone can be fulfilling for you. It's a win-win.

3 Tips for Being an Amazing Digital Agency Leader

1. Lead by example.

Don't tell your team how to win, show them how. As a digital agency owner, all eyes are on you. Yes, it can be stressful, but leading by example is a good way to empower your team. Recognize your team's strengths and make sure you're continually developing those, rather than focusing on their weaknesses. Let your team shine by showing them how to become even better.

2. Don't try to please everyone.

Don't be the people pleaser. You have to know when to say no. And you should always be willing to bring up issues with your team. Try to be friendly and have fun with your team, for sure. But, at the end of the day, you still have to be respected as the leader and not just another guy or gal on the team.

3. Learn how to fire.

You should never have to motivate an employee. It's ok to inspire them, but motivation needs to come from within. Share the vision with them to inspire. Show them how they're part of something bigger and how their role creates a residual effect on clients and your clients' clients.  That's inspiring! But if you've got someone who needs constant motivation, then it's probably time to fire them. It's not as hard as it sounds and eliminating dead weight will actually benefit the rest of the team and the overall culture.

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

Experts are sensing a downturn in the economy... But is your agency recession proof? So many variables go into a healthy agency. Maybe you should look at raising agency prices? Maybe your agency really needs to hire (or fire) to make yourself indispensable to clients? If the economy takes a hit, you have to know who to hire, who to fire, and the right way to price your services in order to survive.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to grow in a recession.
  • When should you raise your prices?
  • 3 reasons clients love project managers.
  • Is your agency business partner still the right fit?

 

I had a great conversation with Scarlett Rosier, Co-founder of Rhyme and Reason Design. Scarlett is one of those "unicorns" who actually went to college and got a Masters in Advertising. (So many of us are accidental agency owners who just fell into the business!) Scarlett is put her skills to work as the Director of Operations at her agency for the past 10 years. She's here to talk about growing in a down economy, nailing your pricing, and the value in project managers.

How to Recession Proof Your Agency

Worried about a potentially volatile economy? Don't be! When the market goes down, your agency has an opportunity to go up. Here's the big secret — in-house marketing teams are usually the first cut.

Cutting the in-house team, therefore, justifies agency costs for your clients. Brands still need marketing in a recession. But, they can usually save money by getting more help externally.

Don't fear a recession; embrace it. If you survive the recession, you'll have a bunch of new clients and a reason to raise prices. And you need to raise prices in order to be profitable.

When Should You Raise Your Prices?

The simplest answer is this — whenever you can! You have to be able to justify a price increase with value. So, if your value has gone up over the past year, your prices should too.

Let's say you've hired two new people, learned a ton of tips and tricks, and you're even better at helping clients this year than you were last year. Your prices should reflect those improvements because your clients are benefitting from them.

I recommend reviewing and raising prices at least once a year. You should constantly be improving, building better processes, learning new techniques and strategies. And that means you're giving clients more value year-over-year.

Adjust your proposals to match the increased value. Plus, you probably give your employees a yearly raise based on performance, right? Your clients should be giving you one too!

Think about it this way... If you have a heart attack, are you going to use the best surgeon or the cheapest one? Price your agency services to match your skill and you'll attract the ideal clients instead of the ones who just want a bargain.

A price increase is the fastest and easiest way to grow your agency business.

3 Ways Project Managers Help Retain Clients

Want to know what clients really want? They want relationships and regular communication. They want to feel assured they've made the right decision to work with your agency. And that's where a great PM helps retain clients.

  1. They're the client's trusted advisor. Your clients need someone to touch base with so they don't feel like they're in the dark. Clients have questions, ideas and business goals they want to talk about. A PM is their agency contact for listening, sharing, and connecting.

  2. They are a single point of contact. No client wants to have to go through a new person every time they need something, and frankly allowing them to do that would cause massive problems anyhow. Project managers build client relationships, which brings tangible value to your agency. It's easier to make existing clients happy than constantly bringing on new ones, right? Happy clients make agencies giant.

  3. Project managers attack pain points. Hiring an agency requires a leap of faith on the client's part. They don't know if they're going to get results, and they're spending money on potential value. Project managers can help ease those fears and avoid buyers remorse. A good PM will anticipate the client's fears and talk through them.

Is Your Agency Business Partner Still the Right Fit?

Business partner relationships can be like a marriage. You rely on each other, and you know the day-to-day struggles the other faces. But, what happens when your marriage evolves or changes?

But also like marriage, business partner "divorce" isn't easy. And the realization of its necessity something many owners grapple with.

I have a saying — "You either know the bad partner or you are the bad partner." Sure, sometimes partnerships are successful, but oftentimes I see the partners outgrow each other.

So how do you know when it's time to part ways with a business partner? It's all about communication and goals...

Scarlett says to look at how the person argues as an indicator of their communication. Are they articulate? Can they stand their ground intelligently? You don't need to agree all the time, but being able to disagree effectively is what makes a great partnership.

Rhyme and Reason was initially founded by three partners, but there came a time where one of them had different goals. That's when Scarlett realized there needed to be a shift in the agency's leadership. If a partner has career goals that don't align with yours and with the agency, it may be time to part ways.

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

Do you want to hire the right salespeople? Not sure what measures to take to set them up for success? Curious about the best way to compensate your sales team? Sales is a critical part of your agency's success. Sales drives conversions, captures clients, and helps relieve some major the burden from the owner. Hiring an amazing sales team and setting them up for success if the key to longterm agency growth.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 way to set up a successful agency sales team.
  • 2 things every salesperson needs to do.
  • How do you separate your services from a commodity?
  • Should you pay based on commission or salary?

Today, I talked with Alex Chernyak, Director of Business Development at Martino Flynn, a digital agency in New York. Alex has over 15 years of sales and digital marketing experience, and he's owned his own agency, too. With a start in radio, Alex was drawn into the agency space by the allure of freedom. And, since then he's been helping agencies build killer sales teams and sales systems. Over the years, he's learned how to find, hire, and train salespeople that accelerate agency growth.

#1 Way to Set Your Sales Team Up for Success

Are you thinking about hiring for sales? Hiring isn't easy. But, hiring sales is one of the trickiest in the agency space.

Sure, hiring for core values and culture is important. And, you should always have a vetting process in place to weed out poor applicants. But, that's only going to get the right person in the door. How do you set them up to win accounts?

The answer:  agencies must have an existing sales system in place to facilitate sales success.

Salespeople aren't plug-and-play. And even if your sales hire has experience in another agency, there are nuances to every agency business that just can't be handed off. You can't give your new salesperson a phone and expect them to start setting appointments or landing deals. It doesn't matter how great of a salesperson they are or what agency they worked at before; they need support and an existing sales system.

Sales rockstars are built — not born.

2 Things Every Salesperson Needs to Do

1. Build a sales list. List out 200 - 300 prospects. These are the prospects your sales team is going to target with drip campaigns, paid content, etc. And, they should be constantly rotating this list based on interest. Here's a great tip from Alex — keep a separate list of your top 10 - 20 prospects. The sales team should have extra resources (e.g., audits, outreach support, etc.) for these prospects.

2. Find ways to communicate value. Your agency sales team can help you break free of being viewed as a commodity. Sales needs to diagnose problems, build rapport, and justify the price with value. Always sell solutions (not features) and talk value over cost... always!

How Do You Separate Your Services from a Commodity?

Here's the hard truth. There are people who are offering the same services as your agency for a fraction of the price. Where some prospects are concerned, if price is all that matters, you already lost.

So, flip the script. It's not about price — it's about quantifying value. Sure, that web developer in another country can build a site for $500. But how good is it at converting leads? This is where your sales team comes into play. When a prospect starts talking price, change the subject to value. Here's an analogy:

A prospect comes to you and asks you to build a killer WordPress site. You quote them $25k. They come back the next day and say, "This freelancer overseas said he can do it for $2,000. Why should I pick you?"

If you've given your sales team the right playbook, this one should be easy... Why is it only $2,000? Can they build it as fast as you can? Do they have the level of experience you have? Do you offer a unique branding style that no one can mimic? Don't sell them a service. Sell them a key to unlock the treasure chest with solutions to their greatest challenge.

This isn't always easy! A lot of the work we do is invisible to clients. And an effective Account Manager can continue to communicate results so your agency is never viewed as a commodity. However, if you hired the right salesperson, they can communicate it with confidence and head it off early and communicate value before it becomes a question with the prospect.

Should You Pay Based on Commission or Salary?

In short - both!

Straight commission sales compensation isn't low-risk high-reward — it's low-risk low-reward. It leads to higher turnover. Plus, your salespeople don't have any incentives to be an evangelist for your brand. They don't care how good the prospect is or how well they fit with your culture. They need to make ends meet, so they can't afford to be selective with who they sell to and why.

On the flip side, straight salary is for marketers. Salespeople need incentives to go above and beyond in order to land the bigger, better clients. They are driven by the challenge of earning their commission and need you to dangle the carrot.

Salespeople should wear a marketers hat and a sales bandana. Give them a commission and a base-salary. I always suggest the base be something they can just barely live on. But the commission structure should help them live the lifestyle they choose. That's why a tiered commission approach works well. Ask your salesperson how much they want to earn for a year, and then help them develop a plan using your base salary + commission structure in order to earn that level.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

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

Not sure how to determine agency prices? How can you stay competitive while separating your agency the competition? The first step is to stop copying them! Quit focusing on the competition because it always results in you becoming a copycat agency. If you want to grow, you have to dare to be different.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • The best way to determine your agency pricing structure.
  • Why agency meetings may be costing you too much.
  • How to separate your agency in a crowded market.

Today, I talked with Nick Eubanks, CEO and Founder of From the Future. Nick got his start by spamming cold emails and working real estate. But, once he started his agency, he grew fast! In just 5 years, Nick's agency was worth millions. He's sharing his story so you can grow quicker, and also avoid some of his mistakes.

The Best Way to Determine Your Agency Pricing Structure

Many agencies determine their pricing structure by looking at their competitors and matching or competitively pricing themselves in the market. Let's be honest — a lot of you probably started out by picking a fair-sounding price point. Am I right?

Price your agency's services intentionally. Sure, you can do what your competitors are doing. But, at that point, you've already lost. Instead, try this — price your services based on your value and desired margins.

The average net margin for a services company in the U.S. is 32% - so make that should be your goal.

To figure out how much you should charge clients, add up your agency expenses and labor expenses, then figure in the value of your services. Then charge clients at least 32% above the cost of your expenses. But, remember, you're selling a solution — not just a product. You can charge as high as 50% or more over margin and still attract clients.

Bear in mind, you need to factor in all of the miscellaneous business costs into this model. For example, have you ever considered how the expense associated with internal meetings?

Why Your Meetings May Be Costing You Too Much

Internal meetings are a great way to build company culture, create rapport among the team, and of course, brainstorm. But Nick says they're more expensive than we realize.

Let's say you have 4 team members attend an hour-long meeting. If you're billing their time at $200 an hour, that meeting is costing you $800.

Not only is that meeting costing you billable hours, but those four employees aren't directly servicing clients during that time. So, the meeting expense is actually more than you think.

The lesson here is not to cut out meetings - team meetings are a great way to keep your team working cohesively. But, you need to be aware of how much meetings cost. And, build those costs into your price structure.

How to Separate Your Agency in a Crowded Market

Nick's agency started using technical SEO strategies combined with a design/UX team to stand out. But, it's about more than just services. Being unique requires some critical thinking.

What are your competitors doing? Whatever it is, think about doing the opposite. That's how to fast track your growth. For example, if everyone is approaching SEO the same way, add a twist and do technical SEO.

Look for opportunities in your niche. And, when you find one — latch onto it. Sure, you should definitely compete for clients. And, you don't have to just go after clients no one else is taking on. But, you should always be looking for under-serviced prospects within a market.

In other words, don't watch your competitors and just copy what they're doing. Figure out what they're doing and do something entirely different. Identify your strengths and what you do better than anyone else.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

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

Looking for an innovative way to inspire your team? One agency has broken the mold on bonuses and profit-sharing. Instead, they're inspiring their team with 50% of top-line revenue. If you want your already amazing team to be inspired enough to hustle harder, check out this incentive program that has an agency team out-earning the leadership team.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 ways to identify bad clients.
  • A unique and inspiring employee profit sharing model.

Today's podcast guest is Shaun Sheikh, CEO and Co-founder of Jump 450 Media. Shaun has been on Forbes 30 under 30 list, and his agency has blown up tot he tune of 8 figures in just a few years. Like most young agency owners, Shaun has introduced some creative strategies and innovative operations processes into his agency. Today, we talk about a few of those including an exciting employee compensation model that he calls his secret sauce of success.

3 Ways to Identify Bad Agency Clients

Learning to say no to bad clients is one of the major pillars of agency growth. When you start out, you want (and need) to take what any and every client you can land. That's fine! You should be taking on all clients and discovering who your agency really is. Who you can help and who you can't. What you're good at and what you're not. What you love to do and what you don't. But, once you get established and learn the hard lessons, it's time to get really focused so you are only working with ideal clients that pay what you're worth.

So, where do you start? How do you figure out which clients are good and which ones you need to "swipe left"?

1. Start with culture.

Before you even think about cash, think about culture. If a prospect isn't a good fit with your agency's culture, you'll know. A good pre-qualification process is the key to identifying them. Remember, there's no such thing as a bad client ~ only a bad prospect or bad process. There's no strategy involved here. Trust me; you'll just know. Get rid of these prospects/clients ASAP. They're a terrible fit, and you will almost certainly run into issues with them in the future.

2. Analyze client spend.

Does the client's time-to-value ratio make sense? Some clients may be valued at big bucks, but they end up taking up too many agency resources. When agencies first start, naturally they want to land high ticket clients. A $50k client may seem like a dream-come-true. But, if you can service seven $10k clients with the same amount of effort, that $50k pain-in-the-a$$ client no longer makes sense, right?

3. Map out future potential.

This is the hidden client statistic no one ever talks about. What does their future potential look like as far as upsells, future campaigns? Is this client adapting to their changing environment? Are they innovating in their industry? Does their potential look as though it will support your goals? If not, then don't spin your wheels.

A Unique and Inspiring Employee Profit Sharing Model

There are several schools of thought on employee profit share programs. And, I know a lot of agencies who swear by this type of monetary incentive. However, Shaun has a pretty interesting and unique profit sharing model you're going to love.

Jump 450 gives its agency employees 50% of the top-line revenue!

That seems like... a lot, right?

Here's the catch... Employees can only earn that incentive if they outperform their own salary. They have to hit their salary goals first. Then, they start earning additional revenue based on performance.

And, he does this on a monthly basis!

This bonus structure helps agency employees feel as though they co-run the company. They get involved with every client and try to outperform themselves. Some of Jump 450's employees out-earn the leadership team... Crazy, right?!

Keep in mind, to get qualify for the bonus the team has to perform like crazy. And, all of that extra performance means better profit margins profits for the agency. In reality, the team is getting 50% of the profit they hustle for. This is the above and beyond stuff they aren't expected to do. Late nights, next-level pitch prep, and after-hours client meetings, etc.

And, when the employees earn big, so does the agency. It's literally a WIN-WIN.

Will this work for every agency? Maybe not. But, if this kind of incentive program fits into your existing business model, it can be a great way to get to the next level.

Direct download: Why_an_8-Figure_Agency_Bonuses_the_Team_With_50_of_Revenue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you ever wondered how agency culture effects business growth? If you think they're two separate things, think again! Your culture speaks volumes about your agency. When your culture is a defining factor of your agency, you will experience amazing growth. Simply put, the foundation of every great brand is a great culture. So spend time developing an amazing culture and you will create brand ambassadors to move the needle on your agency's business.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How it's important to niche horizontally or vertically.
  • How agency culture develops brand ambassadors.
  • #1 way to cultivate amazing agency culture.

 

Today, I talked with Brandy Obvinseva the co-founder of Gallant Culture. Brandy has a degree in international studies and intended to be a political ambassador. Instead, she helps companies find their brand ambassadors. After a stint at Texaco and a few other oil & gas companies, she co-founded her agency, Gallant. Since then, her agency has changed a few times but it's always been driven by culture. She has unique views on niching and culture that have helped her agency explode.

Why It's Important to Niche Horizontally or Vertically

Selecting and marketing to a specific niche is a significant growth pillar for agencies. It gives you purpose, drive, and a defined process to use to score clients and drive profits. It just works.

But what is a niche?

Is it the industry you choose to work in? Is it the services you offer? Maybe. It can be. But, you don't have to niche vertically into an industry. You can niche horizontally based on a specific skill set or expertise in a specific technology.

If your agency helps plumbers build websites. Then plumber websites is your vertical niche.

If your agency helps anyone build a Joomla (software) websites using a specific set of processes, then Joomla websites is your horizontal niche.

Ready to have your mind blow? You can really drill down and have BOTH a horizontal and vertical niche.

Here's the secret — a niche is anything that helps you understand your clients better and motivates you to accomplish their goals effectively. Selecting a niche doesn't mean saying "no" to clients outside of your audience. It just means identifying with and understanding a specific audience, ultimately giving your agency an advantage over others.

Want to figure out your niche? Try this!

Write down three of your clients biggest challenges every day for 30 days. At the end, map out what their issues are. And, think about how you can pivot your agency to solve those problems. That's your niche! You could even have multiple niches but focus on building one niche at a time.

How Agency Culture Develops Brand Ambassadors

As Brandy says, "If you want to have a group of people that are going to wave your flag, they need to know what flag they're waiving."

Your culture is the unspoken rules of your agency. It impacts how your employees pitch to clients, communicate with them, and (most importantly) converts them. Always lead with culture, hire with culture, and even choose clients who are a good culture fit.

But, here's where it gets interesting...

Brandy says you don't have to specifically "define culture." It's naturally going to be interpreted uniquely by each team member. One of your employees may be perky and bubbly, while another may be methodical and quiet. That's fine! There's room both within the same agency culture.

For example, if one of your core values is honesty, both can find ways to allow honesty to shine through in their work. The important thing is that your culture drives them. They should be your brand ambassadors. To that end, they need to understand your culture and live it.

So, if you're still trying to find your niche, start with your culture. What kinds of clients fit your agency's culture? Which of your team members and clients can be your agency's brand ambassadors?

#1 Way to Cultivate Amazing Agency Culture

How do you nurture and grow your culture? By being adaptable.

Your agency culture will evolve and change over time. As your team gets bigger and new employees enter the scene things will change. The rules of your business will change too, and you'll probably pivot a couple of times along the way. That's normal and completely natural as part of the growth process. But, you have to be willing to constantly develop and improve upon your culture as the agency environment changes.

Let your team members, clients, and industry guide you. In the beginning, a minimalist culture which promotes enthusiasm and hustling may work out great. But, 5 years down the road could be another story. You will have new clients and employees who are going in another direction.

The culture of today will not match the culture of the future ~ adaptability is a must.

Direct download: How_to_Create_Brand_Ambassadors_to_Grow_Your_Agency_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Considering buying or selling your digital agency? Acquiring another agency is an excellent growth strategy and it’s might be easier and less expensive than you might think. An acquisition can help improve profit margins, expand your client base, and inherit a skilled team while eliminating the competition. An agency acquisition is worth exploring if you're interested in rapid growth.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Do you need to be a big agency in order to buy one?
  • Do you need a lot of cash to buy another agency?
  • How to structure an agency acquisition.
  • The 4 criteria of a good agency to acquire.

Today’s podcast guest is Brook Schaaf, co-founder, and CEO of FMTC, an agency dedicated to helping advertisers and merchants develop discount and affiliate program with curated data and management. Prior to going the entrepreneur route, Brook got his start at Zappos where he developed his passion for affiliate marketing. Since then, he started his own firm and is on the fast track to major growing by acquiring other agencies and/or their books of business.

Do You Need To Be a Big Agency In Order to Buy One?

Nope! At the time he acquired his first agency, Brook’s firm had just 10 remote employees. The first agency he bought was PartnerCentric, which was of equal size to his agency. The existing owner was burnout and looking for an exit strategy. He said the process was long (it took two years!) and sometimes frustrating, but totally worth it in the end.

Do You Need A lot of Cash to Buy Another Agency?

Nope! According to Brook, an agency is generally worth 50% of its topline revenue excluding media revenue (since that can fluctuate). The problem is most sellers want to build retirement cash into negotiations and therefore expects to get more than it’s worth.

However, once you reach an agreement on the valuation you don’t need all that in upfront cash.

How do you know what your agency actually worth? My formula differs from Brooks somewhat because I factor in a multiple of EBITDA. You can check out my valuation chart here. But it all boils down to this…

Your agency’s value is the amount your willing to sell and which a buyer is willing to buy.

But you don’t need to have a ton of cash laying around in order to buy an agency. Standard funding includes a cash downpayment of between 10-20% with the remainder delivered in one of four ways:

  1. Cash upfront (which is difficult for most people).
  2. SBA Loan from a bank (which involves a lot of paperwork and hoops to jump through).
  3. Third-party funding (which may involve giving away equity).
  4. Seller-held note that is payable over a few years.

Brook’s acquisition was funded with a cash downpayment and a seller-held note payable over the course of two years. It’s risky for both parties, but it’s the best way to move forward without needing anyone else’s permission.

How to Structure an Agency Acquisition

Advice from both of us who have bought and sold agencies -- involve lawyers in as little as possible. The bulk of negotiations can be done without racking up attorney’s fees.

Determine whether it’s an asset sale or equity/stock sale.

  • An asset purchase is buying the agency’s book of business, including client contracts, trade name, payables, and receivables.
  • An equity/stock sale is buying out the owner(s) interest in the business.

Brook says an asset sale is much clearer and easier to manage. It also creates a cleaner exit strategy for the seller so he/she can move on.

The 4 Criteria of a Good Agency to Acquire?

1- Readiness. The seller needs to be genuinely ready to sell. A lot of times people put feelers out and then hesitate when it gets real. If you sense any mixed feelings, walk away.

2- Culture. Remember, in most cases, you’re inheriting a team too. (There will be technical stuff about firing and immediately rehiring them, but most sellers will want to make sure their team is taken care of.) So make sure their team’s vibe will gel with yours. After having acquired multiple agencies, Brooks says the team is typically thrilled for the new vibrancy.

3- Numbers. How stable is this agency? How profitable are their accounts? It should go without saying, but you need to make sure they’re running healthy books.

4- Skillset. Are you confident that the acquired agency and its team can work the way your existing agency works? If you’re acquiring an agency to expand your foothold in the market then skillset is key. If you’re buying to add a service then it’s less important that they match your agency's skill set instead you want theirs to compliment yours.

Considering selling or buying an agency? Check out more details about the process here.

 

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

Do you feel like your agency is stuck with subpar employees? Think maybe you have all the wrong people but too afraid to clean house? Firing employees is never easy. But, underperforming or toxic team members will kill your agency's growth. Check out the story of how one agency fired his entire team twice, the aftermath of the experience, and what learned by rebuilding.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why your agency needs a financial model.
  • Creating a culture of personal ownership.
  • 2 mistakes that led to firing all employees.

Today, I talked with Aaron Edwards, co-founder of The Charles NYC. Aaron quit his job, moved from London to NYC, and created a digital marketing agency. Since then, Aaron's agency has grown into a multi-million dollar phenomenon. Success didn't come without hard work and many lessons along the way. In fact, he's had to fire ALL his employees twice. Talk about "cleaning house."  Aaron shares some great growth tips, including how to inspire culture, and which two mistakes led him to fire his entire team.

Why Your Agency Needs a Financial Model

Aaron worked in finance before he started his agency. And, his biggest financial tip is this — have a financial model. This means pulling out spreadsheets and diving into some math (which is something us creatives aren't usually in to). But, having a financial model can save you a ton of time and headaches in the long run.

Here's a great way to get started. Think about the revenue goal you want to reach. Then, work the math backward to figure out how to get there. And, use those insights to create the right financial model. In most cases, you either need more clients or you need to charge more.

You also need to figure out how to build up cash reserves to make it through some lean times (think 3 - 6 months of salaries and expenses). Plus, you should obtain a line of credit for the small emergencies. Ideally, secure the line of credit when you don't need it, so it's already available for when you do! And, cut your margins down as slim as possible. Remember, putting profit first can growth hack your agency.

Creating a Culture of Personal Ownership

Want to know what kills agency culture faster than anything? Egos!

If your employees are taking failures too personally — they won't last long. Every agency has failures, but the difference is how you recover from them. Teach your team to treat failures as learning opportunities. Every employee has to be able to take ownership within their role without worrying that a mistake or misstep will threaten their credibility.

To achieve this, you need an open culture. Employees should be able to talk to their leadership team about bad experiences. And, agency management should offer coaching/mentorship sessions to help fix issues. Don't let failures drag an individual or entire team down. Create an open culture where mistakes and failures are embraced.

2 Mistakes Which Led to Firing All Employees

Aaron had to fire his entire team twice and rebuild the agency. Looking back, he says two big mistakes led to the massive house-cleaning:

  1. Not providing enough opportunity. You have to give your employees the opportunity to grow and communicate what that growth looks like. This means providing a clear roadmap to success at every step. It's not enough to tell them they can advance within the agency — they need to see it what that looks like. Aaron says his mistake was not providing showing his employees how to grow within the agency. When you don't do this, the good ones look for opportunities elsewhere. Or worse; productivity decreases as they get complacent.

  2. Not hiring for culture. You can teach someone skills; you can't teach them culture. Always think about how a new hire is going to fit into your company. If you don't, you may end up with a mishmash of different personalities and a bunch of cliques. If you see one of your employees isn't participating and they don't seem like a good fit, its ok to get rid of them. One bad apple spoils the bunch. And, when your entire team has a poor culture, firing them all may be your only option.

Direct download: 2_Mistakes_That_Led_an_Agency_to_Fire_All_Their_Employees_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Not sure how to find and hire the right digital agency talent to help you grow? Here's the 8-steps one agency owner uses to build his business. He is also diving into reasons why niching down has was a good decision and the most important focus of agency sales pitches.

  • 3 reasons your agency must niche down.
  • The only kind of profit that matters.
  • 8 steps to hiring culture-fit digital agency talent.

Today, I talked with Chris Martinez Co-founder of DUDE! — an agency that provides unlimited web designing for other agencies. Chris has been through the ropes as an agency owner. And he's worked hard to figure out how to nail pitches, niche down, and hire that perfect prospect. Plus, he wears a wrestling mask sometimes. What's not to love?

3 Reasons Your Agency Must Niche Down

Chris said the single best decision he made in order to help his agency grow was to select a niche. And if you haven't yet, you need to niche down, too! Here are 3 reasons:

  1. Clients will come to you. Niching down accelerates word-of-mouth. Now, I don't want you to rely on referrals to grow your business but when you are able to generate a buzz as a specialist within an industry or a specific skill set that establishes authority in your niche.
  2. You don't have to re-invent the wheel. If you're taking on any and every client, it can be tough to build processes. When you choose a niche, you know exactly what you have to do. You can build simple, effective systems and processes to become efficient.
  3. Targeting clients is easier. Building a buyer's persona gets 100x easier when you identify a niche. You know exactly who you're going after, where they're at, and how to speak their language.

Related:  How Your Agency Can Pick a Niche and Dominate It

Besides, your clients really only are about 2 things:

  1. What do you do better than your competitors?
  2. What results can you give them?

That's it! So why not start thinking high-level. Be specific in who you serve and create processes that give you an edge over your competitors. Use your successes and case stories to win even more business in the same category.

The Only Kind of Profit that Matters

Everyone wants the big clients, right? But bigger clients aren't the key driver to agency growth. It's profitability. For example, when your first big client comes in with a $50k contract, you're going to want to say YES! But, how much of that $50k is really hitting your bottom line?

You might be a 7-figure agency but if your margins are single digits then gross revenue doesn't mean squat. Conversely, you might be a $300,000 agency who's really learned how to tighten your belt and coming home with 40% profit, then you're doing really well for yourself.

If your bottom line isn't where it should be, you need to pivot. Carve out your niche, determine where your expenses have gone askew, and then go lean and/or raise your prices. Do whatever it takes to put you where you want to be. Sure, you may be taking some losses when you first startup. But, if your agency is established and you're margins aren't at 30% or better, it's time to change courses.

And that change may start with learning how to say NO!

8-Steps to Hiring Culture-Fit Digital Agency Talent

Hiring someone who has the skill set to do a job is easy. Hiring someone who wants to do a job in the environment and with the team you've created can be a bit tougher. Chris says to hire people for their culture-fit, not their technical-fit. You can teach someone a skillset but you can't make them change who they are.

Chris has an amazing culture-first hiring process inspired by the way they do things at Zappos.com.

Here's his agency's 8-step hiring process

  1. Post the position publicly. (Obviously.)
  2. Identify candidates' soft skills and hard skills from their resume and application. Chris always puts more value on soft skills. You want to see who a person is — not just what they can do.
  3. Send the best candidates a questionnaire. You can find out a lot more than just their answers to the questions... like, how fast do they respond? Do they pay attention to details? Can they meet the deadline? Do they follow direction? Are they going above and beyond expectations? If you ask them to send you 5 examples, did they only send 4?
  4. Schedule a phone interview. Talking to someone can help weed out applicants early. Are they polite or rude? Authentic or fake? Aggressive or grumpy?
  5. Send a technical skills test. Do they actually have the basic skill set they're hiring for?
  6. Send a psychometric test. This helps you figure out who they really are deep down. These aren't perfect, but they can help you get rid of a bad fit fairly early on.
  7. Schedule an in-person interview. Chris has a round-robin interview style with 4 - 5 people. Each person talks to the potential hire. Then, they meet afterward and see if all parties are in agreement for hiring them. They ask each other:  "Would you work with them?" and "Would you work for this person?" Everyone must answer in the affirmative or they pass on the candidate.
  8. Give the candidate a final job-related task. Make sure they know how to perform and can do so on deadline. For Chris's agency this is particularly important because they're hiring developers and designers.
Direct download: 8-Steps_to_Hiring_Amazing_Digital_Agency_Talent.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Curious how to stand out and win more clients in the crowded agency space? Wondering how the big agencies got so big? For starters, stop being a "me too" agency trying to do what everyone else is doing. Stop trying to be what everyone is...  you do you. We are always working on our weaknesses, instead of focusing on our strengths. Instead, we should focus on our strengths, leverage the weaknesses, and be a little bit of a freak in order to stand out.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why your agency needs to be a reflection of you.
  • What is your agency's freak factor?
  • 3 reasons you should embrace your weaknesses.

Today, I talked with David Rendall — professional speaker, author, entrepreneur, and freak-enthusiast. David is incredibly passionate about the big-picture agency stuff. He shares what he calls the Freak Factor and his recipe for entrepreneurial success. This week alone David has traveled around the globe -- Dublin, Paris, London, and Egypt talking to businesses and entrepreneurs about one thing -- winning through uniqueness.

Why Your Agency Needs To Be a Reflection of You

As digital agency owners, we're prone to looking around for the best way to do things. It's part of our DNA. We like to be on top of the latest technologies and hottest trends in digital. But, when it comes to your agency's culture, outside is the last place you need to look.

David says your agency needs to be a reflection of who you are. We throw the word "culture" around a lot but, culture isn't a hidden mystery; it just takes a solid look in the mirror. Virgin Mobile started off zany because Richard Branson is definitely zany! Walmart is all about logistics, inventory, and pricing — it's super practical because Sam Walton was super practical.

Leverage your personality traits to create an agency you would want to work at and that alone will attract the right people. The culture will practically create itself once the vision and tone is set by you.

Don't just create another "cool agency" — create something that helps you surround yourself with a like-minded team who will be an asset is carrying out your vision.

What Is Your Agency's Freak Factor?

Too many agency owners want to be like the big kids. They think they need to copy the big agencies in order to be as successful as one.

Listen, Snapchat didn't just create a mirror copy of Instagram. They decided to do something new. Instagram is for showcasing images, so Snapchat took a different angle and made those images disappear. If the crowd is going one direction don't follow them. You'll find more success if you let them lead you toward your own, unique solution.

David's advice is to find the gap in the market and then attack it. Don't just offer another solution like everyone else. Put your own twist on it, and offer a unique strategy for getting your clients the results they desire.

3 Reasons You Should Embrace Your Weaknesses

If you walk away from this podcast with one lesson, it should be this: work on your strengths, not your weaknesses.

  1. Fixing your weaknesses may destroy your strengths. It's true! David likes to use the Walmart and Target analogy. Walmart is known for cheap prices and crappy service. Target has great service and a little higher pricing. If Walmart improves its customer service with added training and increased employee pay, it cuts into their margins and costs go up. Ditto for Target. They both eliminate their strength if they focus on improving their weakness.

  2. Your weaknesses might be your strengths. Is your agency small? That's not a weakness! That's a poorly positioned strength. You're not small; you're personal, nimble and agile. You can tell clients, "Yes, we're small and that means you can talk directly to me and won't get lost or forgotten." Think about your weak points and figure out how to leverage them as strong points.

  3. Strengths can get even stronger. Even if you can't find a way to turn your weaknesses into strengths, don't worry - you don't need to. Disregard your weaknesses and instead, focus on improving the things you're great at. Hone your craft and be the best damn {fill in the blank} the market has ever seen.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

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

Have you ever considered running a fully remote digital agency? Wondering the pros and cons of leading a virtual team? Like anything else, there are pluses and minuses -- and it can be hard to know if it's the right choice for you. One agency owner decided to ditch the office space in favor of running a remote business and she's not one bit sorry.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Working on the agency vs. working in it.
  • 3 reasons to ditch your office space.
  • #1 way to inspire remote agency teams.

Today, I talked with Jordan Lacenski — Chief Innovation Officer and the main boss at BrandBoss Creative. Jordan is also the Co-Founder of SheWolf Collaborative, an online association for high-achieving women. Here's the crazy thing... she just recently ditched her office space to work from her home and she hasn't looked back.

Working On the Agency vs. Working In It

Being an agency owner can feel like a circus. You have to juggle clients' brands and marketing as well as your agency brand and marketing. So, how much time should you devote to your clients and how much should you devote to your agency?

If you're the founder, almost all of your time should be spent on your agency. Here's why...

You can hire people to handle the projects and clients. You can find someone to do taxes and finances. And, you can even have someone build killer processes for delivery. But, what you can't hire for is someone to define your brand. As CEO, you should spend your time working on your agency and not in it. In fact, you have 5 specific roles as CEO and setting the vision is #1 on the list!

3 Reasons to Ditch Your Office Space

Jordan has jumped the growing trend of agencies who are ditching the office space for an entirely remote agency. It may sound crazy but, it can work. While it's not for everyone and there are circumstances where it won't work, there's never been an easier time to work remotely.

I had office space for my agency, which housed over 100 employees. But if I had to do it over again, I'd do a hybrid model with office space and work-from-home opportunities to offer my team a better work/life balance.

Jordan gave us 3 reasons she ditched her office space:

  1. No more rent. Why add to your overhead by paying rent?  You can help your profits margin by ditching your rent payment. This is especially helpful in cities like NYC where rent and the cost of living is astronomical. If your entire team works from home, you'll save on the fixed costs associated with having an office. And your employes will probably thank you for it :)
  2. Avoid traffic. In some cities, getting to work is its own nightmare. It can swallow up a few hours of your day. Those are hours you or your team could be working. Going remote means more billable hours in the day for you and your team.
  3. Hire anyone. Having a physical location limits who you can hire to a specific geographic area. You are constrained by hiring local or someone willing to relocate. With a remote team, you can hire anyone from anywhere, which gives you a huge advantage over brick-and-mortar agencies.

It can be really, really great but, there's one massive con...

Interaction among remote teams is very limited. This can lead to issues with agency culture, team bonding, and even branding. Plus, it can make agency team management a little more tricky.

#1 Way to Inspire Remote Agency Teams

Finding ways to inspire a remote team can be tough, right? Regular video chat meetings are a must, but it really isn't the same as having them in the office. Daily engagement with one another builds camaraderie ...video chats are great for getting the work done, but most people are multitasking or focused on other things. What can you do?

Have a few in-person meetings every year ~ quarterly or even semi-quarterly. But, you should try to get your entire team gathered into a physical location. This will help the team bond, spread some of your culture around, and create a better remote culture.

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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

Do you have one mega client that would cripple your agency if you lost them? If you have a client that represents more than 40% or 50% of your total revenue, don't let them hold you hostage. Check out how one agency knew it was time to say goodbye and took a leap that helped build the agency he always wanted.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why walk again from a $750k mega client?
  • What does productization look like for agencies?
  • The biggest mistake an agency can make.

I’m talking to an agency owner who lost a mega-client and lived to tell about it. Jeff Conlon is the CEO of Ideas, Money, Art (IMA) the video marketing agency he started in 2004. He shares his story of actually walking away from a client that was over 50% of the agency’s revenue, and how that decision has helped him grow the business into what he’s always wanted.

Why Walk Away from a $750,000 Agency Client?

Do you have a big but difficult client you’re afraid to get rid?

It happens to the best of us, right? We work hard to land and keep amazing clients, but sometimes we get backed into a corner where we need them more than they need us. That’s what *almost* happened with Jeff’s agency.

Early on, IMA did a small project for a huge home services business worth over $100 million. That small project turned into a little SEO retainer and opened the door for them to work with 30+ franchises…. Well eventually, IMA was grossing $750K per year from this client. The agency always had other work, but this one remained more than 50% of their revenue stream.

So, why would Jeff walk away from that kind of revenue? Over the years, there had been too much turnaround on the client side. After many years with one VP of Marketing, he retired and the position has been a revolving door ever since. The synergy was gone and could not be recaptured. Working with that client was more stressful than it was worth.

When their contract came up for renewal, Jeff decided to walk away. The move was big, bold, and scary. But the agency has come out the other side and Jeff says it has been a huge relief.

Of course, the downside was letting go of the account team dedicated to that client. But on the flip side, it forced IMA to work on their own business. They created their own lead generation system and developed a way to productize their agency services.

And the new rule is… no one client can represent more than 20% of the agency’s revenue.

What Does Productization Look Like for Agencies?

With their newfound clarity and not wanting to be lumped together with all the other “full-service video agencies” (AKA “me too agencies”), Jeff and his team took a long look at their differentiating factor. That’s how they developed the Digital Marketing Quadrant.

Instead of selling multiple services, IMA offers their Digital Marketing Quadrant as a strategy which paves the pathway for clients to achieve their revenue goals. Instead of offering tactics (SEO, PPC, etc.) the Digital Marketing Quadrant starts with a small engagement and then advances toward larger projects that lead the client toward their goals.

Remember, your clients don’t care what you do, just as long as you get the results they want.

Related: https://jasonswenk.com/seth-godin/

The Biggest Mistake an Agency Can Mistake

With over fifteen years in the business, Jeff says he’s made every mistake in the book. The biggest, though, was not understanding the value his agency provides and not going after clients who understand it.

This caused major strife… despite the fact that the agency had been growing rapidly for 3 years, profitability was in the single-digits. (This gives me nightmares, btw!)

At the time IMA was at nearly $2 million in gross revenue, yet Jeff’s income had flatlined and the agency’s margins were dipping. Why? The agency was in a growth phase, so of course, they were adding staff and paying out benefit but otherwise spending unwisely...

That experience, of single-digit margins, totally cured him! Jeff’s sights are set on 20% profit -- which is still way too low, but at least he’s aiming for double-digits :)

 

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

Are you having trouble handling your day-to-day agency operations while also growing your digital agency? Looking for an easy solution to management issues? It might be time to hire a CEO. Wait. What? That's right - hiring the right support as part of your leadership team can actually help transform an owner's role enough to grow the agency easier and faster.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why it might be time to hire a CEO.
  • Why your agency needs a social media funnel.
  • 4 steps to creating a killer social funnel.

[smart_track_player url="http://traffic.libsyn.com/jasonswenk/Smart_Agency_Master_Class_Podcast_-_Audra_Brehm.mp3" ]

Today, I talked with Audra Brehm founder and CEO of Brehm Media — a social media agency with a focus on health and beauty brands. Audra is also a member of my Digital Agency Elite Mastermind and she's here to share some tips and strategies she has used to realize some amazing growth at her agency. She's one of the few agency owners who actually hired leadership a CEO for her agency. She's also a guru at social media and gives us some golden nuggets on using social channels to find agency new business prospects.

Is It Time to Hire a CEO?

Being an agency owner is tough...  And, it's all much tougher when you're trying to handle everything yourself. The entrepreneur mindset attracts hustlers, movers, and shakers. We often think we can handle everything ourselves. But, the really smart ones hire and outsource for the things they don't enjoy or are not good at.

That's what makes Audra such a smart cookie. She didn't love handling the day-to-day employee stuff, setting the culture, putting out fires, etc. Admittedly, it's just not her thing. As I like to say, "whatever you suck at - eliminate, delegate or automate." So Audra hired a CEO to handle all that stuff she doesn't enjoy and it's been a breath of fresh air. Now she can focus on things she enjoys and is really good at.

Instead of constantly tending to crises, managing the team, or monitoring financials she has the space to grow the agency and take the business in the direction she wants, on her terms.

Just because you're capable of doing certain things within your agency doesn't mean you should be doing them. There are ways you might be spending your time that could be spent more effectively, or more enjoyably. Celebrate your strengths and stop worrying about your weaknesses.

The lesson here is to get out of your own way,  leverage your strengths, and hire for your weaknesses.

Why Your Agency Needs a Social Media Strategy

One of the biggest issues with social media is that too many marketers approach it without a plan. Audra says social media is actually more of a funnel. We should be developing a strategy with our social media that takes our prospects through the stages of the funnel.

You have to plan ahead, develop a strategy, and constantly monitor results.

Have a plan but also be patient and let the funnel do its job.

4 Steps to Creating a Killer Social Funnel

Audra shared her 4 steps towards creating a lean, mean, conversion-machine social funnel.

  1. Know your mission, vision & why. Whether you're creating social campaigns for you or your clients, you have to know who you (or they) are. What's the purpose of your brand? Don't just copycat other people's social campaigns. You have to create campaigns that reflect your brand and your purpose. From the tone, voice, imagery, and colors — your social content should reflect who you (or your clients) are and what you (they) stand for.
  2. Have a strategy. Meaning, benchmark your goals so you can measure your progress. Consider how many sales do I want in 6 months? What about in one year? How many new clients? How much in revenue? This helps you develop the social media funnel and tweak if you aren't hitting those benchmarks.
  3. Execute. It's so important not to just throw stuff out there on social media without any sort of call-to-action or next step. Are you driving to landing pages? Are you retargeting effectively? Retargeting is key and it's often a missed step or executed poorly. Remember who you're going after and why. Continue to speak their language even in your retargeting efforts.
  4. Analyze. Analyze. Analyze.  Are your campaigns working? Look at your numbers regularly and figure out what's working, what's not working. Numbers don't lie. If your analytics are in the red or flatlined that means people don't know, like, and trust you as much as you think. So it's time to change things up. If you're constantly in the green that's great but are those numbers consistent with your new business? Is your growing social popularity translating into sales?

We all know a lot of this, but we don't do it for ourselves as much as we do it for our clients. Treat your agency as well as you treat your clients :) Don't just execute without a strategy.

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

Wish you could eliminate the growing pains of running a digital agency? Wonder what pitfalls you could avoid if you knew in advance? With 3 big lessons from starting, growing, scaling, and exiting multiple agencies today’s guest shares a ton of knowledge on everything from business partners to building a team to merging with a bigger agency.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Merging with a bigger agency.
  • Building an agency team based on culture.
  • 3 misconceptions on bringing in a business partner.

Today’s interview is with a four-time agency owner, William Harper who’s the CEO of WM Harper, and former owner of three other agencies which he has successfully grown and exited. It’s been a hell of a ride for William, so I’ve brought him on the show to share the lessons he’s learned along the way.

Lesson #1 - Merging with a Bigger Agency

The grass isn’t greener, but William says he and his partner learned this lesson the hard way. They took grew their agency (William’s first of four), Underground, lean and mean. They started winning industry awards and getting noticed. They were landing more and bigger clients, which got them noticed by other agencies. Eventually, an offer came from a 100-person agency, Eisner Communications and William's agency, Underground, merged with Eisner.

On the outside, it appears that a merger will open new doors to resources and technology not otherwise available to a smaller agency. However, William and his partner quickly learned those big corporate resources come with a price.

Underground lost the ability to be nimble with their clients and projects. Their processes were quickly changed, existing clients prices were increased, and the agency was forced to fit into a corporate mold.

My advice is, do not merge with a bigger agency. If you do, keep your eyes wide open to what it will look like. The grass is not greener. If you’re looking for an exit strategy - just sell, don’t merge.

Lesson #2 - Building an Agency Team

When William went on to build another agency, he took with him the knowledge of the former and decided to grow his team based on culture. Instead of hiring talent, he viewed it as curating people.

Talent and skill are important, but he says his interview questions would also include things like:

  • Why do you love this business?
  • What do you want to achieve next on your career path?
  • What are your overall goals?
  • Do you want to lead? Create? Work independently?

We agree that hiring based on culture fit is more important than hiring based on talent. Specific skills are teachable, but matches of personality, values, and beliefs must be present from the start. William quoted a statistic that something like a mere 13% of people are engaged in their job. You need your agency team to reflect the 13%, not the remaining 87%.

Lesson #3 - Bringing on an Agency Business Partner

I often advise people against bringing in a partner. As I say, “you either know the bad partner or you are the bad partner.” After about one year, I brought in a partner to my digital agency. And, over the years, William says he’s had great partners along the way in each of his agencies. But he too advises against it now that he’s been through a variety of scenarios.

There are a few misconceptions about bringing on a business partner:

1- You need a partner in order to convince clients to work with you.

FALSE. A partner does not provide instant credibility. You can be an authority on your own. Build your team based on values and you can count on the culture to provide checks and balances.

2- You need a partner to fill in your own gaps.

FALSE. Surround yourself with people smarter than you in certain areas without giving up ownership. It is possible to get that yin and yang flow in your agency without a partner.

3- You need a partner to call BS when necessary.

FALSE. A lot of agency owners wish they had a sounding board for making decisions. Instead of giving up a piece of ownership to a partner you can hire a mentor, join a mastermind, or create your own board of advisors.

While it might seem like a good idea to bring in a partner, oftentimes issues arise when the partners need different things out of the company for different reasons.

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

Are you looking for a creative way to reward your agency team? Ever considered giving your key employees a stock option? This can be a great way to incentivize and reward your loyal and hardworking team. The real key is to do it the right way so you don't lose ownership or control.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How profit-sharing can boost your agency's value.
  • What is an ESOP and why have one?
  • Should you be offering free services to gain new business?

Today, I talked with Matt Fickin, Sales Partner at Techwood Consulting, an SEO and paid ads agency. I love having salespeople on my podcast. They can help give agency owners a unique perspective. Matt's agency's culture is all about value. So, when it comes to providing employee value, he decided to set up a profit-sharing model. The more success employees achieve, the more money goes into their wallets. He's on the show to explain the benefits of using profit sharing to incentive your agency's team.

How Profit-Sharing Can Boost Your Value

Here's the question — why should you think about profit-sharing? Let me ask you this: how do you currently motivate your employees? Is it your culture? Or, are you offering promotion incentives? Maybe bonuses? Hey! Those are all great! But, what if you could directly reward employees based on your entire agency's success? That means employees aren't getting rewarded based solely on their projects — the whole agency needs to succeed.

That is baking success into your agency's DNA! It's a great way to get all your team members collaborative and accountable while spreading responsibility throughout the agency... when everyone succeeds, everyone wins.

I'm not saying this will work for every agency model. And, you can definitely find ways to bake value into your agency without giving your employees a financial stake. But, it can help boost the team as a whole and incentive your key players.

What is an ESOP and Why Have One?

Matt set up an employee profit-sharing based on the ESOP model. ESOP stands for "employee stock ownership plan." Basically, it means giving employees stock as an incentive. So, the better the agency performs, the more money the team makes! When your agency's value increases, their wallets get fatter!

Usually, an ESOP involves a vesting period. So, employees may not be able to cash out their shares until they've worked for you for at least 3 - 5 years. This means your most loyal employees are going to be benefiting the most. If an employee leaves, your agency simply purchases their stocks. It's cash for agency-wide wins. Matt also says that you can fast-track executive staff or key employees. In fact, you can even give execs partial ownership using the same methods — which I advise against.

Even better, an ESOP comes with some pretty hefty tax benefits. You should definitely talk with your tax person first — these are going to vary by business, state, etc.

Should You Be Offering Free Audits?

Of course, I couldn't have a salesperson on the show and not ask about the sales pipeline. Matt says one of the best ways to get clients in the door is to offer up free audits. Sure, some of your prospects take your audit and do the fixes in-house or with another agency. But, by and large, most prospects are going to stick with you once you give them a free audit. If you establish trust up front and prove your authority with audit itself, there's no reason they'd need to look elsewhere.

Audits are a great way to impress your prospects and help you get your foot-in-the-door. Now, a caveat here -- Matt admits that he doesn't offer free audits when clients want complex circumstances. But, you can figure out when and where a free audit would be appropriate.

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 Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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

Are you having trouble filling roles in your agency with the right people? Is your team having trouble building relationships with the client and each other? Building the right team isn't easy! Don't let your agency business suffer because of making the wrong hiring choices. Building a successful agency team might be easier than you might think.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 4 ways to empower your team.
  • #1 best candidate to hire for growing your agency.
  • Why you need to always be hiring

Today, I talked with Brett Sirianni — surfer, agency owner, graphic design enthusiast, and relationship builder extraordinaire. Brett and his partner own Social Supply Co. What originally started as a means to hit the beach when the surf was just right, developed into an agency that specializes in content, SEO, social and high-fives (+193,000.) Brett has built his successful agency team on the basis of effective communication, and he's here to share some insight so you can do the same.

4 Ways to Empower Your Team

Want to know how to create a team that develops robust client relationships? We all want to keep clients around longer and the best way is with solid communication. That's what builds relationships! People do business with people - so empower your team to be great communicators and you'll retain clients longer.

  1. Hire the right staff. I know you know, but it's worth repeating. Get the right people in the right seats first. If you want to find staff that understands how to build solid relationships, bake relationship-building into your hiring process - it's a skill that you need to assess very early on.
  2. Build a personable team. Make sure your staff has the natural abilities to handle clients. That means hiring people who handle stress well, have a little charm, and have the right amount of extroversion. You can teach skills, but a great personality cannot be learned.
  3. Create a culture of employee success. Want your team to care about the agency's success? Care about theirs! If your employees feel like your agency is "just another stepping stone in their career" they aren't going to care about the business's success. They will make decisions based on what's best for them. But by breeding a culture of success everyone wins.
  4. Get involved in the introduction. When you first introduce new team members to clients, do it right. Give your team the ability to own the room. Position them as a rockstar. Make them the experts very early and give them the freedom to really dominate the relationship.
  5. Emphasize person-to-person communication. Give your team the freedom to know clients on a personal basis. Encourage genuine and honest relationships. Let them be personable and real - clients want to do business with people, not businesses.

#1 Best Candidate to Hire for Growing Your Agency

Who works for free, wants to prove themselves, and tries extra hard to succeed? Interns!

Here's a tip for hiring interns, though. Don't think of them as "free work." Instead, think of them as try-before-you-buy team members. You can see whether or not they have what it takes up close and personal.

If you're looking to start an intern program, try local college campuses which are filled with quality candidates. These students are eager to learn and hungry for real-world experience. Talk to a department chair or administrator and let them know you want to help them with their programs. Then, follow through and actually provide a meaningful experience for the student while also making the relationship beneficial for you, too.

Take it from me - intern programs can produce some of the savviest, hardest-working team members. Plus, you don't have to deal with team management logistics with interns :)

Why You Need to Always Be Hiring

Here's a question. Are you hiring? Better yet, does your website say your hiring? Tons of agencies think they actually need to be hiring before they add it to their homepage. You don't! Putting up a "we're hiring" banner on your website (next to your logo works best) does two things...

  1. Helps attract great talent. Sure, you may not need them right away. But, when it does come time to hire, you're going to have a list of candidates right at your fingertips.
  2. Helps attract and reassure clients. If your prospects think you're hiring, it helps them think you're in high demand and very busy. It also gives your existing clients a sense of security and adds some peace of mind that you probably didn't even know they needed.
Direct download: The_Secret_to_Growing_a_Successful_Agency_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you wish you could future-proof your agency? Want to land more agency clients and retain them longer? The agency industry is ever-changing but you can create an evergreen marketing agency by going back to the basics. Some of the best practices from the Mad Men era still apply today! Check out these strategies from an agency founder who's been in the business since the 1980's.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you should focus on the client's internal storytelling.
  • 2 ways to land big accounts and retain them longer.
  • The best way to future-proof your marketing agency.

Today, I talked with Peter Cimoroni — Founder and CEO of Razor Marketing with 3 offices across the country. Peter has been in the agency space for over 4 decades! It was a completely different world back then. So, how did Peter keep growing and scaling year-after-year? How does an old-school marketer survive the digital age? With strategy and persistence, of course...

Why You Should Focus on the Client's Internal Storytelling

As an agency, you're a storyteller. We do that for our clients' brands all the time. Whether you do video, paid ads, or SEO or whatever the case may be; you're trying to tell the story of the brand. But, what about the client's internal story? All of those ads and SEO tricks help tell prospects a brand's story. But, who is telling their employees the story?

Peter believes that not only does adding internal storytelling boost your deliverables, but it can be a huge boost for businesses.

How can you package those video services to make them valuable internally? Sure, you shoot paid ad videos, but what about shooting internal team-building videos for your clients? If you can find a way to offer brands internal and external storytelling, you'll be able to service two of their needs and boost your bottom-line. That's a win-win!

2 Ways to Land Big Accounts and Retain Them Longer

Peter's agency has 8 full time people and they don't hustle looking for new clients all the time. How? They have landed and retained some big clients that provide consistent revenue. Here are Peter's two biggest tips to score big clients and keep them:

  1. Have processes. The best way to keep cash flowing and retain big clients is to develop killer processes. Developing strategies can help you automate some of your client acquisition. If you have step-by-step methods for dealing with certain deliverables, you don't have to waste brain space on each client. Make it a no-brainer when it comes to deliverables so your team can focus on the areas they really need to -- such as retaining those big clients. Plus, with automations and systems you'll be able to offer predictability and consistency.

  2. Help other entrepreneurs. As strange as it sounds, being helpful to other entrepreneurs can pay off. Not only does it build long-lasting relationships that could potentially flourish into partnerships, but it gives you a sense of self-worth or fulfillment you can't get elsewhere. Here's the best thing, helping entrepreneurs can build relationships and open doorways that may not be open otherwise.

The Best Way to Future-Proof Your Agency

Peter and I started our agencies in different eras of marketing but we both found ways to future-proof the business. So, how do you keep an agency growing strong for ten or event twenty years in the future? Persistence! I know, it sounds a little corny but, there are tons of strategies out there helping you become forward-thinking.

The truth is, you don't know what's around the corner. You have to be willing to fail and keep going.

Peter said he has learned more from his 6 startup failures than his 3 successes. The only real way to WIN is to keep at it. Sure, there may be times where throwing in the towel makes sense. But, if you can be persistent, you'll win eventually.

Additionally, Peter says to re-evaluate your processes on an annual basis. Don't settle for the "this is the way we've always done it" mantra. Instead, check-on and improve upon your systems and processes every year. Chances are, as technology and team members change your processes will need updated as well. There's always a better, faster, easier way of doing things -- and that itself is a great way to future-proof your agency.

Want to know where the agency industry is head? Check out our Future Outlook of Marketing Agencies in 2019

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.

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

Are you struggling to compete with other agencies in your niche? Are you tired of losing new business to your competition? You can stand out if you learn how to disrupt status quo. You just need to get a little scrappy and start thinking outside-of-the-box.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why your agency needs to think differently.
  • #1 way to achieve agency growth fast!
  • How data can close more agency new business.

Today, I talked with Jay Samit — serial entrepreneur, former VP of Sony, Vice Chairman of Deloitte, and best selling author. Oh! And he grew an agency from 0 in revenue to $200 million is 18 months. He's basically a superstar. And Jay's new book "Disrupt You! Master Personal Transformation, Seize Opportunity, and Thrive in the Era of Endless Innovation" is all about how you can create agency growth by being a little different.

Why Your Agency Needs to Think Differently

Jay talked about his experience coming into a marketing agency that had $0 in revenue and transforming it into a $200 million opportunity. How? He pivoted. The agency had a great idea, but they didn't know how to execute it properly. They had the framework of value exchange merchandising but didn't know what to do with it.

Jay's idea was to offering value exchange merchandise for brands around the world. So for example, instead of paying for your in-game app currency, you could just watch an ad instead. Here's the crazy part. Within one year, the agency was charging advertisers $1,000 CPM!

Maybe your agency has a great idea. And, maybe you're awesome at what you do. But, if you're not succeeding, it may be time to pivot. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Think about how you can apply those same services and skills to a broader or more nuanced user base.

How can you utilize what you already have in a different way?

No way to do things differently? Try adding some unique services that set you apart!

The Best Way to Achieve Agency Growth Fast!

I've talked about niching in the past, but what about niching into an unknown space? If you can find a way to be the only agency offering services to a particular group of people, you're in the golden zone. Jay told a story about an agency owner going from homeless to $70k in his first month — and $1 million by the end of his first year.

How did he do it? He found a market no one else was serving. Sure, niching can be a great way to get hyper-specialized. But, if you can offer services to a market no one is paying attention to, you'll have a huge advantage.

Here's a tip... Research a couple niches you're passionate about and see if anyone else is serving them. Start searching for those unexplored opportunities. You never know what you might find.

How Data Can Close More New Business

Are you having trouble pitching? Can you get your foot-in-the-door, but you seem to have issues closing? Try putting data to work. You can tell a prospect anything. But, if you can show them substance, they're going to be interested.

You may have a killer strategy and a great idea that will help that prospect rake in customers. But if you can back it up with solid data, you're more likely to win the pitch.

Data doesn't lie. Think you can triple their ROI on Facebook? I believe you, but your prospects need more than just your word on it. Explain the plan, then show them how you can do it by sharing a case story and reporting data that backs up your claim.

The better the data, the better your chances.

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.

 

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

Are you putting out tons of material but your conversion rates are poor? Do you wish that you could stay a step ahead of the competition? How do you even begin competing in a saturated market like SEO? Don't worry! These questions are normal! Are you putting out tons of material but your conversion rates are poor? Do you wish that you could stay a step ahead of the competition? How do you even begin competing in a saturated market like SEO? Don't worry! These questions are normal!


In this episode, we'll cover:
* How to dominate by niching.

* 3 of the best conversion tools.

* #1 way to boost your agency's profile.


Today, I talked with Chris Ching CEO and Founder of ElectricEnjin (https://electricenjin.com/) — an eCommerce website design and SEO agency. Chris is a long-time fan of the podcast, and he's here to share some tips on how he catapulted his agency into adulthood. I love hearing from fans of the show, especially when they come on and share some killer strategies with me. Chris is insanely talented, and he has a few tips that will definitely help new and old agencies alike.


HOW TO DOMINATE BY NICHING
Chris is definitely a hustling agency owner. He went through 3 iterations of his business before he found a winner. We've all pivoted before. But, his best tip on staying competitive in a dense market is this — niche down. I've talked about niching plenty on this podcast. But, this is a reminder — niching brings success (https://jasonswenk.com/niche/) .


There are a plethora of agencies that are going to be competing with you. You need to find what makes you different. Figure out what you're really just good at and use it. Don't focus on your weaknesses! Focus on your strengths! You cannot be the best at everything. So pick one and dominate it. Plus, when you're great in one industry or one skillset, you're more likely to get hired for your expertise.
Think about it. Would you want to hire an agency that's good at digital marketing or amazing at SEO? It's a no-brainer.


3 OF THE BEST CONVERSION TOOLS
One of the toughest parts of starting an agency is figuring out what kind of content converts. Do you start throwing up LinkedIn ads? Should you put out white papers? According to Chris, these are three of the best conversion tools in today's atmosphere.
* #1 Lead Magnets: Chris's agency offers a free site audit as their lead magnet and they're totally crushing it with converting those free audits into paid clients. * # 2 Chatbots: I'm a big believer in chatbots (https://www.facebook.com/jasonswenk/videos/facebook-messenger-bot-best-practice-a-strategy-that-generated-250k-revenue/1045222472312264/) . In fact, I have one! Chatbots are 24/7 sales machines that grab leads, convert, and engage with minimal investment. It's silly not to have one at this point. * # 3 Personalized videos: I send personalized videos to ALL of my clients. They form a connection quick. Chris started using personalized videos on his free website audits. He said they made a huge difference. In fact, he says his audit conversion rate is 50%!


#1 WAY TO BOOST YOUR AGENCY'S PROFILE
If your agency website is not converting the way you'd like, you can change that by making sure your content is ranking for the people who're searching for it. Run a content audit on your own website. Develop a customer avatar (or several of them) and make sure your content is directed to those avatars. Take a hard look at the value you're providing compared to your competitors. Write the content your prospects are actually looking for and maybe even delete old stuff that's cluttering up your site (https://jasonswenk.com/increase-website-traffic/) .


Chris and I talked about one of the most common problem areas for agencies — not branding an experience well. It's not enough to tell people you do x,y, and z. You have to form an emotional connection with your clients. Chris gave a great example. Clif Bars logo has the guy hiking up a mountain with a nature backdrop. They're chunky, unique, and rugged. PowerBars tell you what's in them. It's entirely functional.


Sure, PowerBars still sell. But, Clif bars were able to jump into a market and beat out the Goliaths by transforming themselves into more than the product. They're an experience.
Same thing with Apple and Microsoft. Both of them have done tons of branding. But, one offers an experience, the other offers function. Both can succeed. The difference is this — Apple was able to outsell Microsoft and enter a saturated market. How? They branded an experience. 

Direct download: The_3_Best_Conversion_Tools_for_Digital_Agencies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Want some killer tips to help you scale and score more new deals? Check out how one digital agency owner jumped from landing an $18K project to a $500K project by having the right framework in place. And by learning the systems you, too, can attract ideal clients who can pay what you're really worth. It just takes the right mindset and a solid growth strategy. It's all about doing more with less, hiring smart, knowing what to say 'no' to and attracting the right clients.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Getting clients to pay what you're worth.
  • 3 ways to make your agency more marketable.
  • How to grab those first clients.

Today, I talked with Dean LaGrange founder of LaGrange Digital the Facebook ad agency he grew from the ground up. Dean bought the Agency Playbook and he's been absolutely killing it with his agency. Dean actually applied the strategies in the Agency Playbook and shared this story with me about going from an $18k project to a $500k project. I knew I had to get him on the podcast to share this same story with my listeners so you know what's working.

#1 Person to Hire First

For new agency owners, trying to decide on your first hire can be scary. Don't worry! It's easier than you think. Here's the secret. Hire someone who is good at either:

  • Something you're not good at.
  • Something you don't like doing.
  • Something that's taking up too much of your time.

To figure out what that something is, you need to do a self-audit. Really look at yourself as an agency owner and figure out what you're good at and what you need a little help with. Then, hire the person that's going to give you that help. It could be sales, another marketer, someone who's good with finances, or anyone else.

Getting Clients to Pay What You're Worth

I'm not going to lie -- there's a plug here -- but NO, I did not put Dean up to it :) He says he knew he had good processes in place, but also was self-aware enough to know what he doesn't know. The agency was "making it" but he realized what was missing what a mentor or adviser with the experience and knowledge to do what he was trying to do. That's when Dean decided to invest in my Agency Playbook so he could learn how to find clients, what to charge, how to position the agency, and most importantly how to determine the value of the agency's services.

After going through the Playbook, Dean took a proposal that he was going to charge at $18,000 and increased it to $500,000 because he better understood his agency's value. And, BOOM! And folks, that was within 3 days of purchasing the Agency Playbook.

The real lesson was that Dean learned clients are willing to pay a premium when you can demonstrate the value of your services. He just didn't know exactly how to connect the dots for them - until now.

3 Ways to Make Your Agency More Marketable

New agencies are prone to the infamous client drought. You don't have the testimonials or street cred to back yourself up yet. So, how do you make your agency appealing to new prospects?

  1. Niche.  I've said it a million times, and yet there's still resistance. Finding a niche is an easy way to separate yourself from the pack. Figure out what granular value you can offer to clients. Do you have experience in healthcare? Are you really good at AdWords? Find out what makes you unique -- either a horizontal or a vertical -- and use it as the pillar for agency growth.
  2. Have the right processes. You don't need a portfolio to start attracting the right clients. But, you do need the right systems. Tell your potential clients what you do better than your competitors. And, give them the framework for how you can help them. Make sure you walk them through the plan of what you do and how you will get them their desired results.
  3. Work for free. If you're hurting for clients, start offering your services for free. It can help you build up testimonials and case stories. Plus, it gives you some experience for the paid gigs.

How to Grab Those First Agency Clients

If you looked at that last section and thought "I get it, but where do I actually find clients?" I've got news for you. They're everywhere! Dean walked around the business district of a neighboring town and asked business owners door-to-door if they needed help. I've heard for owners who have sent emails, talked to family friends, gone door-to-door, and even some that pick up the phone.

TIP  --> When you're looking for those first few clients, you need to do outbound. Inbound marketing will be your bread-and-butter once your agency is steady. But, outbound marketing can scale... fast! Even better, a advise a three-fold system of inbound, outbound, and strategic partnerships to make sure your pipeline stays constant.

 

Direct download: How_One_Digital_Agency_Jumped_from_18K_to_500K_Projects.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you trying to grow your agency by offering anything and everything your clients could want, yet still feel like it's not enough? The solution starts with knowing what you do well and what you don't. You could actually grow easier and faster if you are self-aware and start cutting back agency services. It seems counterintuitive but it's a strategy that is working right now.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to decide who to hire first.
  • 3 phases of agency growth.
  • Why cutting back services helps agency growth.

Today, I talked with Bryan Phelps, CEO of Big Leap — the SEO agency he founded in 2008. Bryan started off building websites for paintball gear as a teenager and slowly grew from a one-man startup to an SEO agency with a team of 70.  Bryan is here to tell us how he grew his team and why cutting back on service offerings actually helped his agency soar.

How to Decide Who to Hire First

Do you handle the entire day-to-day of your agency? Are you the Ops, Sales, and Dev team? If so, stop! I know it can be difficult to let go of the reigns. You feel like hiring employees will make your life harder - there are people to manage and payroll to meet. But trust me it doesn't have to be that way. Not only are employees able to handle some of those tasks, but they can bring skill sets that you don't have.

Outsourcing and hiring are one of the first steps towards successful agency ownership. Real growth begins when you are self-aware enough to know your strengths and hire or outsource for your weaknesses.

Here's a great question: who should you hire first? A salesperson that can help you fill your pipeline? A project manager who can manage the details of your clients and projects? Or, maybe another creative to help you push out assets? Here's the answer: it could be any of the above. You need to figure out which role will help you the most and then move on it.

We all have weaknesses. Bryan and I agree that you have to identify yours and hire someone who can help you in that weak area. I was always great at sales, but I wasn't the best project manager. So, I hired one - it's that simple.

Side note: a lot of agencies I work with seem to have issues with agency salespeople. It can be difficult trying to find an agency salesperson who has the skills to both curate prospects and close deals. Guess what? (Shameless plug coming...) My partner and I developed  SalesPipelineAccelerator.com so you can outsource the finding, hiring, and training agency salespeople.

The 3 Phases of Agency Growth

Bryan says his agency went through three major phases (so far) in their growth trajectory. Here are the milestones he identified:

1- Doing It All -  Starting out is tough. When you first start your agency, you're handling everything yourself. This is the headache stage. You have to handle sales, ops, creatives, etc. You're working a ton of hours and wearing many hats. It's hard but necessary.

2- Having Enough Help - This is the stage when you are at about 10 employees. You have enough team members that you can finally start to hand over things over, but you're still pretty well involved in the daily operations. You're still working on projects and handling clients, but you've got enough help that it feels more manageable. 

3- Changing Operations - With a solid team in place, you can really put the business under a microscope. You can look at internal things like company culture and get really focused on core values. But you can also look at your service offering and figure out which areas of business are crushing it and which ones aren't. When you do that, you might start cutting some of your service offerings.

Why Cutting Back Services Helps Agency Growth

Why would you cut back service offerings in order to grow? Here's the thing - you can't be awesome at all the things. If you're new, you may be trying to do everything. You want to be the one-stop-shop for every clients' needs. That's okay. You can try to do that -- at first. But, if you've noticed that you've started to slow down in your growth, it may be time to choose one thing and get really laser-focused on being the best.

Specializing or niching can be a great way to boost your growth fast. For example, Bryan's agency grew 20% in two months after he stopped providing PPC ads. Why? Because he could hyper-focus on SEO. Specialized surgeons bring home the bacon for a reason. People want to work with the best in a given category. Be the best in your category.

You may want to develop strategic partnerships with another agency as Bryan did. He sent them his PPC business, and they sent him SEO business. That way, both agencies benefit from the partnership.

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

Get ready for some amazing insight from Seth Godin, the father of permission marketing. He dives deep into branding your agency, determining value, niching down, and so much more! There’s a ton of value here to help you grow, scale, and enjoy your marketing agency.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • The future of marketing agencies.
  • How to stand apart from agency competition.
  • What’s the difference between a logo and a brand?
  • 2 steps for agencies to determine value.
  • Why agencies need to select a niche.
  • What clients really want from agencies.
  • How to leverage your strengths to win clients.

It is my distinct honor and privilege to interview Seth Godin on the show. Like so many in the industry, I’m a huge fan of everything Seth had written and I’m so inspired by his wisdom. I think just about everyone knows him, but in case you’re the one person who doesn’t… :) Seth Godin is an author, speaker, entrepreneur and most of all, a teacher. He has written 18 best-selling books, including This is Marketing and Purple Cow. Seth has also founded two companies, Squidoo and Yoyodyne (acquired by Yahoo!). He’s motivated and inspired entrepreneurs and marketers around the world.

What’s the Future of Marketing Agencies?

There’s an old school definition of an agency where they bought the ads for brands and created the ads they’d place. These agencies earned a percentage of the ad spend and charge a fee for the creative elements. But, Seth says, twenty years ago that agency model started to shift.

At the early stages of the internet boom, brands no longer needed agencies to buy ads or create them. Beginning then and even truer today, Seth believes agencies need to be advisors to brands. Clients need you to help make their products or services better.

Agencies have the ear of the CEO. Therefore, the future of agencies lies in building that relationship and being the liaison between the CEO, the other departments of the business - like engineers and other creators, and the consumers themselves.

Related: The Future Outlook for Marketing Agencies in 2019

Using Pricing As A Differentiating Factor

A lot of agencies tell me they watch their competition and then charge slightly less, and that’s their strategy for staying ahead of the competition. My advice is always: don’t make lower prices be your differentiating quality.

Seth agrees and shared a story about his 1995 business venture “Get Rich Click.” While Yahoo! was selling clicks for $2.00, Seth was selling them for 50-cents. He says he knew he was only going to be successful until someone else started selling them for 49-cents. You know what happened? Yahoo! bought them and eliminated the competition.

Friends, you cannot grow your agency if you’re racing to the bottom!

What’s the Difference Between a Logo and a Brand?

Are you building a brand, or is your agency just a logo? Seth talked about the difference between a brand and a logo using his example of Nike and Hyatt. He asked if Nike started a hotel chain, could you envision it? Yes, of course. But if the inverse were true, and Hyatt created an athletic shoe, could you envision it? Not so much.

The difference is, Nike has built a brand. Consumers know what they stand for and believe in. So anything and everything Nike does, their customers know what to expect. Hyatt has built a chain of hotels, but their name and logo may as well be interchangeable with others in the industry. They don’t represent or stand for anything specific.

So - while growing your agency, be clear on what you stand for and convey that message to your audience. This is what will build your brand and help your agency stand out.

2 Steps for Agencies to Determine Value

Seth says we have to get away from the “more and better” mentality. Meaning, stop thinking about getting more clients as your way of being better than the competition. If all you want are more clients, then your worth is tied to how busy you are but if you really want to be better then there are two questions to answer when determining worth:

  1. How much do you cost compared to the alternative?
  2. How much is what you do worth to your target market?

Seth says you have to be the one and only… if you’re no better than the alternative, then you’re not worth more than them. It's that simple.

Why Agencies Need to Select a Niche

Selecting a niche does not mean serving a small audience, it means serving a specific audience. Seth believes it’s super important and here’s why... The web is not mass media. We think it is and we treat it like it is, but it’s not and users aren’t using that way. We act like there are infinite possibilities when marketing on the internet, but that’s just not true because people are online searching for very specific information. If your message is too broad you can’t and won’t be found.

As I like to tell agencies, marketing toward one niche does not mean turning down work from clients outside your niche. It just means you’re laser focused in one specific niche and aiming all your marketing toward them.

Let’s be clear -- you will not miss out on any business if you become a leader in your niche.

Truth is, you’re already missing out. Seth says “you have to figure out how to be missed when you’re gone by the smallest group that can support you.” That’s when you’ll have clients knocking on your door and they’ll bring their friends.

What Clients Really Want from Agencies

A large part of the reason people make purchase decisions has to do with status. Seth believes decisions are based on preserving or improving status. So, what your clients want from their agency provides some version of status.

Change doesn’t happen without tension” ~ Seth Godin

Therefore, your content marketing needs to create tension in order to inspire change. Seth believes we need to create content that grabs attention, builds trust, and turns on permission marketing. The trap many fall into is making it all free, all the time. The key is giving just enough free content to make them realize you know your stuff!

Related: How to Quit Losing Clients by Knowing What They Really Want

Leverage Your Strengths to Win Clients

Agencies can use the network effect to create change. Essentially, the network effect occurs when an increased number of people improve the value of a product or service. Seth believes marketing agencies are in the perfect position to create a network effect through their relationships with brand CEOs.

He says the system that built our economy and our culture is changing forever. You must invest the time to understand the system and learn what’s necessary to create a product or service that spreads. That’s how your agency will be successful and significant.

Seth references a sign he saw when he was speaking at a Walmart event many years ago. The banner read: You Can’t Out-Amazon Amazon Walmart knows its strength is low prices. They know Amazon’s strengths too. And they know they can’t compete with Amazon. So instead of trying to “out-Amazon” the competition, they’re continuing to do what they know they do well.

Know your strengths. Know your weaknesses. Recognize what they are, what they aren’t, and what they can’t be. Stop working on your weaknesses - just go be the best in the world at what you do well.

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

Looking for a way to add tons of value and increase services to your agency clients? Have you considered adding video as a service but not sure where to begin? Adding video can seem overwhelming but it doesn't have to be. With the right processes and systems, you can dive headfirst into offering video services to your clients with minimal investment. Learn how to seamlessly transition to a video offering so you can help your clients share their case stories. When they sell more and you sell more - it's a win-win.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to build better relationships.
  • Video marketing doesn't require a huge upfront investment.
  • 3 video marketing strategy tips.
  • #1 way to convince clients to buy your videos.

 

Today, I talked with my good friend Ian Garlic. Ian runs a successful video marketing agency, authenticWEB, hosts his podcast, The Garlic Marketing Show, and consults on video shoots — now there's a trifecta! :) Ian has worked with big names, big businesses, and traveled internationally on shoots. Ian is on the show to tell us how existing marketing agencies can easily offer video marketing as a service. He's sharing the ins and outs, as well as tips and strategies to make sure you're successful right out of the gate.

Video Can Help Build Better Relationships

We ALL want better client relationships. When you welcome an awesome new you create a killer campaign, and then... what? They walk out the door and never come back. Or they move onto another agency that can do more of what they need. Offering a complementary service, like video, is a way to keep those clients around longer.

Here's the great thing about video content. It's permanent. Facebook strategies shift, Google's algorithm changes, and those CRO strategies go out-the-door when the next big buzzword hits the scene. But, all videos — they aren't going anywhere. You can shove that video content into any other strategy, and it's universally understood. Clients love video content because it's evergreen.

When you start pitching video content, you really have to understand your clients. What's their story? Why are they here? Once you sit down with them for a strategy session and really get to know them, they're going to stick around because you get them. They won't run off to the next agency that shoves a cooler, better strategy in their face because video is video.

Why Video Service Doesn't Require Huge Upfront Investment

I know what you're thinking. You don't have the time, resources, or people to start offering video. You're wrong. It's a lot easier than you think! Ian says you really only need one videographer and a solid strategy. The rest of the stuff - copywriting, editing, etc. - you can outsource. When Ian started, he didn't hire a team for video production; he hired a videographer and outsourced the rest.

How did he do it?

He had a process! You have to have a system in place that tells people what they need to get done. Without a system or even the right checklists, you'll likely be scrambling to get everything done, and you'll unknowingly let things slip through the cracks.

3 Video Marketing Strategy Tips

  1. Determine your low-hanging fruit. Make a list of which of your current or past clients could work well with video. Don't think you have to go out and capture new leads to sell your video service. You don't. Think about who, among your existing network, could benefit from video and pitch them a strategy utilizing your video service.

  2. Nail the strategy session. Strategy sessions are a great way to get to know your clients. But, they're also an excellent way to build your process. During the sessions, you'll figure out what the client needs, which is going to tell you what you need to do, step-by-step.

  3. Map it out to a successful end result. Now that you know what the client wants, start figuring out how you're going to do it. Get the sale first! Then, come up with a plan of how to execute the strategy you just made with your client. Don't worry about building a team. Just make sure you give the client a clear understanding of the plan and regularly communicate the goals.

How to Sell Video to Your Existing Clients

How do you actually get those clients to pull-the-trigger on your new video service? Put everything in perspective. Ask them this: "How much is one lead worth to you?"

Flip their mindset from looking at video as a cost to looking at it as an investment. If they're a service-based business, one lead may be worth a thousand dollars... up to ten thousand. Once they think about the ROI for a second, they're going want 20 videos. If those videos only score them a few leads, they're still going to come out on top.

The same thing works for non-service clients too. Have them think about the entire process in terms of ROI. They're going to see video as an expense. However, you need to sell it is as an investment by pointing out the benefits of this evergreen, multi-use content.

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

Are you trying to figure out how to scale your agency? Do you want some killer agency growth tips? Finding clients can be tough, especially if you don't yet have a salesperson or team in place to land more clients. But, if you play your cards right, you can skip some of the typical growing pains in order to grow and scale faster.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 ways to reel in more new agency clients
  • How to know when to hire a salesperson.
  • #1 way to capture clients in the beginning.

Today, I talked with Kirk Deis, co-owner of Treehouse 51 and creator of proprietary software Bugsquasher. Kirk started off building Tumblr sites, ghostwriting, and grinding in the freelance world. Three years ago he finally decided to make the jump from freelancer and started his own agency. Like all new agencies, he learned some tricks along the way, and he credits is business for mentoring him along the way. Today, he shares a ton of great tips for breaking those first barriers.

3 Ways to Reel in More New Agency Clients

Wondering the best ways to build trust and authority in the market? Capturing prospects' attention can be tough in the beginning. Here's how you can reel in your ideal clients by building trust and authority.

  1. Be a student. Too many new agency owners fall into the trap of trying to leverage themselves as experts. Don't be afraid to ask for help! Connect with mentors, interview experts, retweet or share social posts by others. You don't need to have all the answers, you just need to know where to find them and how to connect to them. All these things help build instant credibility and maybe even score some clients.

  2. Connect on social media. Everyone is on social media - use it to find and talk to them! Connect with other agency owners or marketing experts and create some deep, meaningful connections. Find out who's doing it better than you and connect with them. Help first rather than asking for help. These relationships can lead to tons of new opportunities that would not be possible without social media connections.

  3. Do free stuff. Don't be afraid to do your first few jobs for free! It's a great way to capture the attention of prospects in your niche and build authority. You will build up a portfolio and be able to ask for testimonials. It's that sort of priceless social proof that lands clients more easily than any paid ad campaign ever could.

How to Know When to Hire a Salesperson

I get this question a ton. When do you hire your first salesperson? Kirk hired his first salesperson at the $500k mark. But, honestly, it's not about when you hire your salesperson, but how. Most agency owners think they can be the sole salesperson, and there are some that can (like Kirk, for example). But, having a dedicated salesperson is the best way to truly scale as well as fill your pipeline.

If you're the founder and owner then it's hard for you to focus solely on sales. That means when you are focused on sales, then sales are great. But when you're pulled into other areas, such as delivery, then sales suffer. If your agency is suffering from big ebbs and flows of sales and the owner is the one handling sales, then it's probably time to hire a salesperson dedicated to that role.

Here's the thing. Don't just hire a salesperson and then tell them they have to sell your way. Give them the freedom to sell their way. Here's the trick. Define the outcomes, not the strategy. Maybe start them off with just selling your foot-in-the-door offer, then you could assist with selling the next project. The key is to assist, not dominate the whole process. If you start trying to force salespeople to work within your parameters, you'll end up with a terrible experience.

#1 Way to Capture Client's in the Beginning

It's less about what you've done and more about how you do it. So don't worry about a solid portfolio, just nail down a great process. You don't have to show off your previous work; you need to explain what sets you apart. Sit your prospect down and tell them why your process is better than your competitors. Do you make websites? What's your process? How is it better than your competitors? Why do your sites convert better than other agencies? If you don't know, figure it out and then point it out to your prospects!

Clients want to know why they should choose you. They don't want your secret sauce ~ they just want to know you have one :)

That great looking portfolio may get your foot in the door, but your process will convert! Here's the thing about your process, it must be fluid. There's always a better way to do things. Your agency should be that better way. If it is, your prospects will notice, and they will definitely be interested.

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

Would you like to win more clients without the pressure of selling to them? Would you like to know how to improve relationships and build authority? Stop wasting time, energy, and resources by networking. Instead, leverage media to help you win more agency business without constantly selling. Learn some great growth hacks through the art of preselling.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you should start interviewing others.
  • Why you should start being interviewed by others.
  • #1 hack for selling more to your ideal clients.

Today, I talked with Steve Gordon, Founder of Unstoppable CEO. Steve works with professional services firms to help them convert more prospects through the art of preselling. Steve hates the traditional networking grind (so do I!) So, Steve is a big fan of prospecting for clients through mediums like podcasts and video. Here's here to share some valuable advice on building relationships and authority so you can land more business without selling.

Why You Should Start Interviewing Others

Do you want to build authority fast? Start interviewing prospects to help you grow your community of followers. Steve is a big proponent of recorded client interviews. What's a recorded interview? Well, podcasts are for one! Why is sitting down with an expert guest so valuable?

  1. Build your content library: Not only are you getting your prospect in a room with you, but you're also creating value-added content for everyone in your network.
  2. Grow your reach: Whether you're using a podcast, YouTube, or webinars, sitting down with a guest is a surefire way to increase your reach. Think your guest won't share that interview with his whole network? Think again. Most guests want to promote your show because you've set them up as an expert. They're as proud of the interview as you are!
  3. Low-cost point of entry: You don't have to spend a ton on equipment in order to interview guests on a video show or podcast. In fact, starting a podcast is easier than you think.
  4. Eliminate the sales game:  Your prospects are consuming your content on their own terms. Some will binge watch/listen. No matter where or when they're listening you're establishing a relationship with many while talking to one.

Why You Should Start Being Interviewed by Others

Think interviewing clients is the only way to build credibility and scale your network? Nope. It works both ways. Get yourself booked on other shows where your ideal clients are listening. Not only does this get you out in front of a new crowd of potential prospects, but you're also building relationships with the interviewers. That's a double whammy. Being a guest on a podcast is easy! Just offer their viewers valuable content by speaking on topics that solve one of their pain points.

If you have value to share, there are podcasts out there looking for you. Try the reciprocating tactic where you have a guest on your show and then ask to be on theirs. Everyone is always looking for new content - all you need to do is be relevant.

#1 Hack For Selling More to Your Ideal Clients

If you want to stay a step ahead of the competition, you have to build a relationship with your clients. They need to know you're the real deal. So, how do you do that?

Let them get to know you. Be genuine. Whether it's smart, funny, charming, blunt, thoughtful, sarcastic... you be you.

It doesn't have to be interviews, or videos, or podcasts — it can be whatever medium you want! Just make sure you're sending it to your prospects and putting it on the platforms where your prospects congregate. My YouTube channel and podcast have built relationships with my subscribers. They feel like they know me even when I've never met most of them.

Think about it this way. When you listen to your favorite business podcast or video, is it because you view them as an authority? Of course! They're the king of the castle because they have the keys to the front door. With media (think webinars, YouTube, podcasts, etc.) you can position yourself however you want. Plus, when clients watch or listen to your content they get a feel for who you are and you've got a better chance of resonating with them.

 

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

Are you struggling to keep your agency employees? Tired of spending time training team members who leave too soon? Employee retention is one of the hardest parts of running an agency, and one of the most important parts of growing. Learn how you can keep your employees happy, fulfilled, and ready to grow right along with you.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why your agency must dominate employee retention.
  • 9 ways your agency can boost its retention rate.
  • 4 steps to creating a team development map.

On today's show, I talked with Tommy Chenoweth the Senior Director of Team Development at January Digital — a full-funnel marketing agency. Tommy spends his time focusing on the talent pipeline, which includes retention practices. Tommy's been with January Digital for many years, but as the agency has grown his role has become critical for their future success. As they've gotten bigger and hired more employees, Tommy's onboarding and retention practices has helped them gain serious momentum.

Why Your Agency Must Dominate Employee Retention

Employee turnover is a major pain, right? Onboarding and training are expensive and time-consuming. But, beyond the hassle, employee attrition has some serious agency-wide consequences.

First, when someone leaves your agency it may make pique the curiosity of your other employees. They will wonder why they're leaving... Are they getting paid more? Working on better projects or clients? Getting better benefits? Those are all the questions your employees are asking themselves when others leave.

Second, it's nearly impossible to sustain growth when agency employees are always jumping ship. When the focus is on constantly training new employees, responsibilities get shifted and client relationships suffer.

Finally, and this is the big one, your clients are going to notice. When an employee leaves the team, the client starts to wonder why. Even worse, when a new employee joins the team, no matter how well you onboard and train interally, the client feels like they're starting all over.

9 Ways Your Agency Can Boost Retention

  1. Provide a clear path: Let your employees know how they can evolve with your agency. Make sure there's a path of progression for getting promoted and building personal authority within the agency. (More on this below.)
  2. Hire the right people: Hire employees that match your core values. You can teach skills but culture and personality either fits or it doesn't. Check out this 10-step hiring process.
  3. Fire fast: It's true when they say "hire slow, fire fast." Don't be afraid to get rid of employees who are creating or contributing to a negative atmosphere. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch!
  4. Find purpose: Don't be an accidental agency owner. Make sure your agency has a vision and share it with your team. People want to believe in and contribute toward a common goal.
  5. Provide mentoring: Make sure the leadership team is sitting down with employees at least once a month to build give guidance and direction. Pro tip: when you do "reviews" don't call them that! Instead, call them coaching sessions or mentorship meetings. Find a term that emphasizes the positives of the meeting.
  6. Develop a flowing culture: Make sure your culture is embedded deep in your agency. If employees are deeply rooted in your company culture, they're more likely to stay longer.
  7. Promote based on value: Don't give promotion based on tenure. Instead, consider the value the employee brings to the agency and promote when it's deserved and needed for agency growth.
  8. Designate outcomes: Don't assign tasks; assign them outcomes. Your employees are your single greatest resource. Allow them the freedom to express their creativity. You'll win more clients, keep more employees, and see some great results.
  9. Allow employees space: Tommy calls this a "bridge concept." Give your employees the ability to prove they're ready for the next level by bridging their current role and the next level. Let them take on some managerial tasks if they want to be a manager. Allowing them this latitude will give you a better idea of their capabilities to handle higher level responsibilities.

5 Steps to Creating an Employee Development Map

Tommy has created a development map to ensure each employee has a clear path for progression.

Here's how you can, too:

  1. Find all of the top performers at your agency and figured out what core traits set them apart.
  2. Have all of your employees list things they do that are unique to them in their job role. These things add value to the agency but only one individual is doing them.
  3. Categorize those skills into 4 core buckets: digital acumen, client service & strategy, management, and contribution to culture.
  4. Map out a linear progression of skills required for promotion within the agency. This way your employees know exactly what skills they need in order to advance!
Direct download: How_To_Dominate_Agency_Employee_Retention.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you have a qualification process for agency prospects? Do you know when to turn away a bad prospect?  How do you know if a client is a good fit for your agency? Turning away clients isn't easy, but turning down a bad prospect may just save you time, energy, and your sanity!

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • When should your agency swipe left on bad prospects?
  • 5 big client mistakes to avoid.
  • One great example of a bad agency client.

Today, I talked with BJ Enoch, VP of Enterprise Accounts at SocialSEO. BJ knows a thing or two about turning clients down because he’s learned the hard way. SocialSEO has 100+ employees and manages a ton of clients. So, BJ is the perfect person to give us all some client rejection insights. He's a 6-year SEO agency veteran with a knack for spotting bad clients. From early mistakes to time travelers, BJ gives us real, practical advice for avoiding bad agency prospects.

When Should Your Agency “Swipe Left”?

So honestly, I had no idea what “swiping left” meant until a few weeks ago (because I’m happily married!) So, for those who don't know, swiping left is when you decide to “reject" an uhhmm... "prospect" on the dating app Tinder. The app gives users different profiles photos and you can swipe left to get rid of the profiles you think are a bad match.

We've all dealt with bad clients a time or two but you know you don't have to! In fact, telling a prospect NO may be one of the best ways to grow your agency. If your agency is newer and you’re in need of the cash flow, you're probably going to take every job that comes your way. It gives you tons of experience and allows you the opportunity to make some mistakes. But, if you've been in the industry a while and you know exactly who help, then it's time to start saying "no" to the wrong projects and prospects.

BJ says to ask yourself some questions before you take on a new project. If the answer to any of the questions below is no, run away! Ask yourself:

  • Can we deliver this project?
  • Can we deliver this project at a high enough quality for the client?
  • Is the project reasonable?
  • Is the timeline reasonable?
  • Do we WANT to deliver the project?
  • Can we successfully communicate with the client?

5 Big Client Mistakes to Avoid

  1. You can't always be the expert at everything: We're all really good at something. But, we're also all really bad at something. Don't tell the client you can create their website if you only do video production! If you're not equipped to deliver high-quality content, let the client know. Trying to work outside of your expertise is going to cause all kinds of issues. And, you'll probably lose the client because of your inability to deliver as promised.
  2. The client isn't the expert: Speaking of being the expert, remember that it's you! If a client tries to set a bunch of parameters during the meeting, be wary. Don't be an order-taker — be an advisor. Make sure to establish this role upfront so your agency is not treated like a commodity.
  3. Don't oversell - set accurate expectations: You don't have to constantly let the client know how amazing you are. Seriously. Don't tell them you're going to deliver 25% more than they wanted. Sure, you always want to impress but you should let your service and results speak for themselves.
  4. Avoid pricing issues: Your price is X, not Y. "But Jason, the client said they could get the services from my competitor for that price!" Then tell them to work with your competitor! "But Jason, the client said they would pay me once my services start boosting their revenue!" No way José! They'll most likely jump ship to the next more expensive agency and try to cut them down on price.
  5. Don't play the short game. Agency growth is all about the long game... lifetime value is key! Focus on client retention, not just on acquisition. This means you should be vetting clients and making sure you're both on-the-same-page before you work with them.

BJ left us with one great example of a bad agency prospect when he decided to “swipe left” on a prospect who wanted a website built for time travel business (?!?).

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.

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

Want to fast track your agency's growth trajectory? Are you looking to push your agency to the next level? Start thinking ahead and planning in advance for anticipated growth. Dig into your financials, loop your team in and get there faster when everyone's on board.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to get into the growth mindset.
  • How much cash reserves should your agency keep?
  • What's a healthy agency profit margin?
  • #1 way to make sure your vision is being implemented.

Today, I talked with Ted Kohnen, he is the non-founder president of Retina — a global full-service agency with a deep technical foundation. The agency brought Ted in as their President as part of their growth strategy, which makes him the perfect person to talk growth! He's here to share growth tactics and strategies that you can apply in your agency right now.

How to Get into the Growth Mindset

When you're looking to grow, start by looking at your balance sheet. Most agency owners come from the creative side or the account side, not from the financial perspective. Usually, agency owners hire a CFO and get right back to being creatives. Stop! If you really want growth, you need to understand your financials. Ted says you can get your hands dirty by paying attention to two main factors.

1. The near-term... This is your receivables, expenses, and cash flow. Understanding your near-term financials will help you manage your agency tighter. You know when and where you need to cut back and which business processes you need to find a way to automate or outsource. If you can see the bulk of your expenses, you can really start to dig into what your financial pain points are.

2. The long-term... This is your future expenses such as expansion, opportunity, and headcount. These are things you should be planning out when you're looking closely at those near-term financials. The sooner you start creating a financial strategy, the sooner you can start growing your agency when the time comes.

Pro Tip: Let your CFO know your long-term plans. If they don't know, how can they help you get there? CFO insight and buy-in is key to getting where you want to go.

How Much Cash Reserves Should Your Agency Keep?

Every agency needs to have some cash in the reserves, but how much is often a point of contention. Luckily, Ted's here to save the day. Ted recommends keeping 6 months in the bank. To do this, you need a deep understanding of your pipeline. Just like you need to learn your agency's financials, you need to be hyper-vigilant in learning what your pipeline looks like.

Now, some of you may be saying, "We're fine! We have like 7 months worth of cash flow in media spend!" Stop right there! Don't mix your operating expenses with your float! Make sure you're storing them in different accounts. If you rely on media spend for operating expenses, you're going to get burned.

What's a Healthy Agency Profit Margin?

Ted said (that's fun to say) a healthy profit margin is around 20%. Now, you may remember my podcast with Mark Asquith who quit his agency at a 50% margin! But, that's not typical. Anywhere from 15% to 20% is a healthy margin. If you're over 20%, you may be neglecting research and development (employee education, culture, tech stacks, etc.) If you're under 20%, you need to start crunching those number! Remember, it's your responsibility to understand your financials, don't rely on your CFO.

If you're within 10%, you may be fine. But, if you're operating at a 5 - 10% margin, you need to pivot!

#1 Way to Make Sure Your Vision is Being Implemented

One of the hardest parts of running an agency is trying to make sure your employees are on board with your vision. Ted says he took Sheryl Sandburg's advice from her 2013 book, "Lean In." And that advice is to make sure you take time to walk around and talk to your team (high-level to entry level.) Engaging your team in casual and easy conversation can ease their concerns and lets you know share your vision. This isn't a formal "town hall meeting" nor is it schedule or have an agenda. He says to get to know your people on a personal level; which gets increasingly more challenging as your staff size increases.

Make sure to foster those relationships outside of the office as well. Get your team involved with a charity and let them volunteer during paid work hours, or take everyone to a sporting event. Ted plays bubble soccer with his team! Whatever works for you, your team, and your company culture. Just be sure to engage with your employees and make sure you're all carrying your vision forward. If you notice a particular employee doesn't seem to share your vision, don't put off the inevitable.

Be Purposeful with Your Time

Ted left us all a tip before he hopped off the podcast — look at requests for your time through a sharply focused lens.

Don't just take every meeting that comes your way. If someone wants your time but it's not related to growth, employee culture, or client delivery, don't give it to them! Do you know the 5 roles of an Agency CEO? Spending time getting to know your employees is way more valuable than that meeting about a new CRM that you don't need!

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

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

Do you struggle to find the right employees? Would you like to retain the amazing employees you have? What about the R&D tax credit that got one agency $150K? Employee retention and acquisition doesn't have to be a headache. And, agency expansion concerns don't need to keep you awake at night. With the right culture and the proper hiring methods, you can find those hassle-free employees and keep them around. Plus, when you train and develop their skills, you could be eligible for a major tax credit.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • The 3 biggest employee onboarding red flags.
  • #1 most important employee retention tool.
  • Does your agency qualify for a big R&D tax credit?

Today, I talked with Dobbin Buck, who's living the dream at his agency GetUWired. Not only is Dobbin a super passionate agency owner, but he also gets to spend his days working from a cabin-turned-agency nestled at the foothills of Blue Ridge Mountain in Georgia, USA. Dobbin has over 40 team members now, and he shares his experiences with hiring and retaining those employees — as well as how his agency landed a whopping $150,000+ tax credit.

3 Biggest Employee Onboarding Red Flags

Finding, hiring and onboarding employees is tough! I've talked to tons of agency owners who don't want to grow due to concerns of hiring and managing a large team. Increasing your headcount doesn't have to be super stressful if you pay attention to the warning signs and you can filter out those potential trouble employees.

Here are 3 signs that someone may not belong at your agency:

1. They don't jive with your culture: This is huge! Your agency's culture defines the business. If you have a cultural misfit, it may be time to have a talk. Things like this are fairly obvious right away, and it might be an easy fix either with a conversation or by cutting someone loose. It's way easier to change someone's skill-set than it is to change their personality or comfort level

2. They chase the carrot too hard: Having an employee that goes the extra mile is great! Who doesn't want that? But, if you're interviewing someone who seems to only care about the hustle, you might want to reconsider. They're going to get burnt out faster, and they may be too focused on work to really get to know your business and your culture. Remember, employees need some time off work to build critical relationships.

3. They don't think outside-the-box: Dobbin said he includes a problem in his hiring process that isn't solvable without outside research. If the employee comes back and complains that they didn't receive enough material, it's an immediate red flag. Make sure you're hiring people who can take the reigns when they need to. Here's a link to his 10-step hiring process mentioned in the interview.

#1 Most Important Employee Retention Tool

Company culture is everything.

Your culture is the gas in the tank. When you offer an amazing agency culture, your employees will stick with you. In addition to culture, avoid those red flags above and a build a team who shares your vision, which will help keep them around. In today's climate, team members have so many options. There are thousands of agencies hunting for great talent, so it's key to use your culture as a #1 driving motivator. Your company is the one major differentiator you have against other their other options.

Pay is great, but when team members know they are part of a bigger plan and they work with people who share that vision, they're going to stick around.

Does Your Agency Qualify for a Big R&D Tax Credit?

Dobbin talked about how he got a tax credit recently for a whopping $157,619! Now that's a tax credit! The R&D tax credit — officially "the Credit for Increasing Research Activities" — is for experimenting with technology with a qualified purpose. Most agencies qualify, so if you're not trying to capture that R&D tax credit, you're missing out! Dobbin said he hesitated for a long time before finally making the jump and working with a tax firm to apply for it... It looks like it paid off! If you want to know more about the tax credit, I did a podcast with a tax specialist - check it out here.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

Direct download: Does_Your_Agency_Qualify_for_a_150K_RD_Tax_Credit_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Feel like your agency is stuck or reached a plateau? It happens, whether you're just starting out or in business for many years. Don't get frustrated or settle for the status quo. Instead, it might be time to get back to the basics, get scrappy and get creative. With the right strategy, mindset, and persistence you can make some tweaks that help you jump that next hurdle and reach a new level for your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How working for free can really pay off.
  • How to execute outbound sales.
  • #1 most important agency growth tip.
  • Why you should re-think your billing.

Today, I talked with Colton Bollinger founder of JumperMedia.co, an Instagram marketing agency. Colton started out in 2016 providing free Instagram marketing services to some buddies and golf instructors. What started out two years ago as a solopreneur-venture has grown now to include two partners and a team of  44 employees!

How Working for Free Can Really Pay Off

Colton got really scrappy in the beginning, which meant bootstrapping his business and executing unconventional ideas. One of those ideas was to work for free and develop case stories.

Sometimes giving away your services for free can actually help you grow. It seems counterintuitive, but that's exactly what Colton did and he says it was a major key to his early growth. He started by offering his Instagram marketing services totally free. Instead of making his clients pay, he asked them for video testimonials. These videos performed better than just a written testimonial and served as organic, value-adding references. He says his "clients" were more than happy to record testimonials to help him grow and succeed since he'd delivered them great results for free.

How to Execute Outbound Sales

Beyond his inbound leads, Colton knew he had to execute on outbound sales too. He started out by cold calling and sending super specific direct messages to prospects. (Kinda like Joey Gilkey suggested with his LinkedIn outbound strategy.) I always recommend a 3-pronged approach to prospecting -- inbound, outbound and strategic partnerships. That way when one channel dries up you can still scale and grow with the other two.

Hyper-specific, highly targeted messages are critical. Don't be generic with a copy/paste message. Be unique, different and personal. Do your homework and point out what they're doing right and where they could use improvement. The more personalized you can make your outreach efforts the more of a payoff you'll see from them.

Related:  How to Find and Train an Agency Sales Rockstar

#1 Most Important Agency Growth Tip

Go back to the basics!

Here's the interesting thing about agency owners, we're all pretty similar in skill and knowledge. Most of us are just hustling to grow and scale their business the best way they can. But, if what you're doing is not yielding the results you want then it might just require one minor tweak.

It's like a pro golfer (Colton was one!) or tennis pro (I was one!) who knows all the intricate moves and complex strategies of the game. But sometimes they just need to go back to tweaking their swing and BOOM!

Seriously! Find little areas for improvement or small things that you can do differently. Those micrometer differences may be exactly what you're missing. It's almost never some giant thing that needs fixing -- it's usually a small tweak.

Why You Should Re-Think Your Billing

Cash flow is king... Don't settle for the old "the check's in the mail" excuse!  Colton said automating their billing and setting up recurring billing was one of the most important things his agency has done. Think about the way you're billing customers and look at ways you can improve cash flow such as:

  • changing payment terms
  • accepting credit cards
  • charging a month or more in advance

There are so many tools out there, Colton likes Moonclerk and Stripe recurring. Instead of waiting for the check to come in the mail, you can spend that money on client acquisition and grow at accelerated speeds. Reconsidering your billing options may give your agency the growth boost it needs.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

 

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Got_Scrappy_and_Grew_to_6_Million_in_2_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you hate writing client content? Or struggle to find writers who can match tone, style and use industry-specific language for your clients? Do you never have time to create agency content because you're so busy with client work? There's a better way! Creating content doesn't have to be difficult and finding the right writers for your agency doesn't have to suck. If you avoid the biggest content creation pitfalls and figure out how to hire the right writers, you'll be creating rankable content in no time.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 biggest content creation pitfalls.
  • How to set-up your writers for success.
  • 5 types of content that own SEO.

Today, I talked with Paul Zalewski, VP of Marketing at Verblio — a content creation platform specifically for agencies. Paul experience spans from phone marketing to SEO and everything in between. Soon after taking the leap to digital marketing he was ranking #1 on Google for "stop junk mail" and helping businesses get high SERP. Today, he's working with Verblio to bring content to agencies around the world and he's here today to share strategies for ramping up your agency's content creation.

3 Biggest Content Creation Pitfalls

Over time, Paul's seen some common pitfalls in content creation when agencies make while working with clients.

1. Not doing your homework. Make sure you pour through their existing content and really define their tone, style, and the types of buzzwords their niche uses. There's a big difference between a tech(y) blog that's informative and filled with block-style paragraphs and a quick-burst super casual tone, like mine. Make sure you hone in on the way your client wants their content structured.

2. Set expectations. This is huge! Content creation is an ongoing process. Your clients are going to have to be involved sometimes, and they need to understand how content ranking works - we know you don't jump to the #1 Google spot overnight, but do they know that? Education is huge.

3. Set up long-term success. Align your agency's goals with the client's goals. What does success look like to both parties? Everyone needs to know what the process looks like from start-to-end. This means you may have to explain some SEO functions to your clients and you have to make sure you're both using the same metrics to define success.

How to Set-Up Your Writers for Success

Whether your agency handles content in-house or outsources it, finding a way to communicate your goals to the writer can be tough.

At Verblio, all of Paul's writers are required to do a ton of research before they tackle client projects. Any time you're hiring in-house or outsourcing your content creation needs, make sure that your working with someone who is willing to put in the time and energy.

Writers need to be able to really think about the skeleton of the work they're creating (intent, CTA, tone, style, etc.) and being able to communicate those goals to the writer will set you up for success.

Paul has hired over 3,000 writers in his career, and his most important qualifier is: writers need to be able to write for digital. You want to know that your writer has some skill, can make boring content engaging, and has some expertise in your subject matter.

Is it easier to teach a writer to be a marketer or a marketer to be a writer? Neither! Hire one that knows both.

5 Types of Content That Own SEO

We know you might already know this... but what's ranking best these days.

  1. Long form content or even a book. Don't expect everyone to read the entire thing, but pillar content is ranking right now.
  2. Video creatives — especially if you're leveraging social media! Don't just post a video, but add an SEO-rich description.
  3. Audio content (like our podcast) — again, don't just throw audio out there, but instead, add something like these show notes :)
  4. Recycled content! Do you have any old posts sitting around that were killer content pieces for you in the past? Revamp them into some new fresh content - here's a strategy to follow.

With that said, you can ignore #1-4 if you've already found the high ranking content that works best for you and/or your clients. Make content that works for you. Don't stress over following all these lists of "Top Tips" or you just might end up with best practices overload!

Direct download: How_to_Avoid_the_3_Biggest_Content_Creation_Pitfalls.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Is your agency profit where it should be? (Hint: net profit should be at least 30%) Are you constantly struggling with cash flow? Do you always pay yourself last, or not at all? Solve all these problems and actually enjoy running your business again when you apply the principle of Profit First.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • What agencies are doing wrong with their cash flow.
  • Why businesses should put profit first.
  • 3 basic steps of putting profit first.

We've got a repeat guest today, Mike Michalowicz who is an entrepreneur and the author of six business growth books. I had him on the show previously talking about his book Clockwork: Design Your Business to Run Itself. Then recently, we used his Profit First theory as a workshop in our Agency Mastermind and I knew I had to get him on the show again.

Mike got his start as an entrepreneur who was very successful very early in his career. His early success led him to other investment opportunities which left him feeling unstoppable and invincible. He had multiple homes and expensive vehicles... but, in hindsight, his own ego and arrogance got in the way.

He says he never had a real pulse on his business finances and little care to know any details his accountant shared with him. So, in 2008 he had no idea his businesses were failing until his accountant called to tell him it was time to declare bankruptcy. Within a month he and his family if five lost their cars and homes. After a couple years of feeling sad, sorry, and insignificant Mike decided to become an author writing about his experienced with a new goal to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty.

What Agencies Are Doing Wrong With Their Cashflow

Typically, agencies (and for that matter, all businesses) are doing a bank balance accounting method. Your accountant tells you to look at income statements, P&L statements, balance sheets, etc. which can get mind-numbingly boring. And all you care about is the bottom line, right?

That's because we're trained to think:   Sales (minus) Expenses = Profit

And that "bottom line" is your profit. So that's where your attention is focused because that's what matters most.

But Mike challenges us by asking, why is the thing we care most about falling to the bottom of the list. Think about it. Don't we always put the most important items at the top of our list? It's backward and wrong that profit is just considered "what's leftover" after everything else.

Why Businesses Should Put Profit First

Mike's formula for putting profit first is important because it means you are making money. It's human nature that the goals we put first are the ones we get done. That's why so many people work out in the morning. What comes first is what gets done.

Look, as a society, we are always asking other business owners "How big is your business?" and that's because we care most about revenue. But, you can have a huge business and not be profitable at all. What we should be asking is, "How healthy is your business?"

So many agencies are living check to check. They're most concerned with top-line revenue instead of profitability. But when you get into a situation where you can't pay vendors or worse, can't pay your employees does topline revenue even matter? No.

Putting profit first flips the formula:   Sales (minus) Profit = Expenses

3 Basic Steps of Putting Profit First

I know what you're thinking and it's a little more than just pulling profit out first.

1. Stop making excuses and give it a shot.

We know it's difficult to get on board with trying something new. We're all are used to handling our business accounting the way we've always done it. And so Mike says there are 3 general excuses people give for why they can't implement Profit First.

  • "My business isn't profitable so this will never work." ~ Yes, it's not profitable because you're using the old method. You can do this and you can be profitable if you get rid of your own head trash.
  • "My bank will charge me fees for opening 5 different accounts." ~ Look, your bank is your vendor and they should want to help you do what you need to do to be profitable. Explain what you're doing and why. If they are adamant about charging fees, then change banks. Yes, it's a real pain to do that and it will take 1/2-day of your time making the switch. But in the end, it's your profitability worth it?
  • "My accountant won't go for it." ~ A lot of accountants are set in their ways, but you're the client. Explain why you want to do things this way. If they can't get on board, ask them what percentage of their clients are profitable using the old-school accounting method :) If you really can't get your accountant onboard, check out Mike's resource of Profit First trained accountants.

2. Open multiple bank accounts and segment your money.

Most business owners are habitual bank balance checkers. Admit it, you're checking at least daily, maybe even hourly. So in Mike's book, he spells out his process which includes opening 5 different accounts all dedicated to different things (profit, taxes, etc.) That way, when you're checking the balance you're looking at money that is earmarked for a specific use and not looking at one lump sum.

3. Start slow and ease yourself into the discipline of profit first.

It's hard to undo the way we've always looked at business accounting. So, don't expect that you'll be able to pull out 30% profit right off the bat. At first, the goal is to break old habits so start by pulling 1-2% profit from every check that comes in. It's like someone who decides to run a marathon, they train by starting slow and building up to the marathon.

For example, if you receive a $1,000 payment and you put 1% of that into a separate account for profit, that's just $10. If you can pay your expenses and run your business on $1,000 surely you can run it on $990 and you won't even miss that $10. Start slow and build that "profit muscle."

 

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

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