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

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: 3:00am MDT

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 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: 3:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT