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

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 — 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: 3:00am MDT

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 and enter code: SwenkPro for a free one-month trial.

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

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.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

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

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

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

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 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: 3:00am MDT

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 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: 11:34am MDT