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

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: 3:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT

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 (?!?).

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