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

How do you make decisions when there are multiple agency partners? Can you truly grow without second-guessing the big decisions? How do you grow an agency with multiple partners? Should you build from within or use acquisition as a growth strategy? When there are many decision-makers at an agency it can be a challenge to agree on the best way to grow. But with mutual respect and a yin-yang of strengths, it can work.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Can things really work with multiple agency partners?
  • Using acquisition as an agency growth strategy.
  • Deciding on when and which agency to acquire.
  • How to get through an economic recession.

I chatted with Peter Bishop, Partner and Director at ZGM Marketing Partners in Canada. He has been in digital marketing for over 20+ years and, as it turns out, we share a ton of old-school experience on the evolution of design software. But, now as a partner at ZGM, he is on the show to share what he’s learned about sharing partnership with four others as well as how they use acquisition as a growth strategy.

Can Things Really Work with Multiple Agency Partners?

Having one owner can be great or it can be awful. We all have biases but when it comes to agencies, they are led by creative souls and that is usually the backbone of an agency. As Peter points out, creatives aren’t usually awesome at finance or other business skills. Having a partnership that balances each other out is usually beneficial.

Peter’s agency partnerships include a creative person, financial person, an accounts person... so everyone brings something different to the table. There are rarely problems among them, but when there is a problem it’s a big problem.

How To Get Through Partner Disagreements

Peter says the agency partnership is like any relationship. When there’s mutual respect you can get through anything. Although ZGM has five partners, there is one partner who has stepped away from day-to-day involvement and is more like a silent investor.

The partners involve him in the bigger decisions and Peter says, he’s become like the wise grandfather figure. He is more objective and also calls bullshit on them when necessary. Every partnership needs this type of unbiased person, board of advisors, or even a mastermind who is looking out for the best interest of the agency.

We can’t do it all by ourselves, so having others helping and guiding is the best way to build and grow. Holding things close to your chest is no longer the way to do business. When we all share, we all develop and grow. Providing advice to others can also provide clarity for yourself.

Using Acquisition as an Agency Growth Strategy

ZGM has used acquisition as a growth strategy and Peter attributes much of their growth to this decision. They've acquired three agencies so far, and each time there’s an acquisition he feels significant growth in clients and staff, as well as in top-line revenue.

Culture is key and it’s one of the first things ZGM looks at before considering an acquisition. It sounds cliche it’s true - culture is everything. Agencies can’t pay top dollar for talent but culture is where they compete. Top talent can be drawn to the right culture. And, your agency co-workers usually become like a second family. So a culture that fits is key in making sure the family functions. So when merging or acquiring another agency, culture fit is one of the most important aspects.

How to Decide When and What Agency to Acquire

ZGM has been very strategic about its acquisitions. They have found that when they want to go into a new direction -- more product-based accounts, for example -- doing it organically isn’t realistic. So their growth strategy has been focused on acquisitions that can help them break barriers that afford them growth in new areas.

Getting Through the Current Economic Recession

Now more than ever, our clients are leaning on us to be creative and solve their business problems. Peter and partners have told their team, instead of looking for bigger spends or more money, ask how can you help clients get through this crisis. We need to help clients figure out ways to pivot their business and survive the economic recession.

Bottom line, money isn’t everything. Now is the time to be human.

Direct download: How_Do_5_Partners_Lead_a_Successful_Digital_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you struggling to find your purpose in the marketing agency world? Do you find yourself doing all the work, taking all the risks, and feeling like you should have all of the early rewards as well? Are the clients you're taking on reflecting the vision you have for your agency? There is a lot of joy to be found in owning your own marketing agency, and it is most often found when values are aligned.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why being prepared and reinvesting are important.
  • Identifying your marketing agency's purpose.
  • Three ways to find joy in your agency again.

I talked to Sean DallasKidd, Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Demonstrate, a boutique agency that provides public relations and creative content. At just over one-year-old, Demonstrate has two offices and close to 20 people on its team. Sean talks about the ways he was able to find such quick success with his agency while continuing to enjoy the work and the atmosphere he has created.

Why Being Prepared and Reinvesting Are Important

While Sean and his partners only started Demonstrate a year ago, they were hardly newcomers to the agency industry. Sean worked for a number of agencies and in the marketing departments of large companies before taking on the endeavor. "We got lucky by being prepared, willing to invest in the business, and not letting greed get in the way." He adds that other components he and his partners brought to Demonstrate were a strong network, good momentum,

Often, new agency owners find themselves doing the bulk of the work and making the bulk of the investment. So, it is not uncommon for an owner to decide he or she should keep all of the early rewards. This is often a mistake, as it gets in the way of investments that should be made in order to help the business grow. Further, if the single focus of the business is to make money, it prevents an agency owner from building the team and attracting the clients that will help your agency succeed and grow.

Identifying Your Marketing Agency's Purpose

Sean and his partners spend a lot of time helping their clients identify the purpose of their brand. In order to do this effectively, the team at Demonstrate had to identify its own brand purpose. Sean says, in order to do this, they started by asking themselves two questions:

  1. What would you like to do every day?
  2. What do you never want to do?

"On your slowest week," Sean says, "You're going to be focused on your work at least five-sevenths of the time. If you don't like your work, you won't enjoy your life."

Three Ways to Find Joy in Your Agency Again

How do you make your agency something you enjoy, rather than something that merely pays the bills? Sean offers the following tips.

  1. Is your team on board? Use the same filter when choosing team members as you do when choosing clients. For Demonstrate, that filter is whether the individual or company's beliefs and desires align well with the vision they have for the agency.
  2. Who is in control? Sean says there is a decision to make: You can choose to define your agency by selecting the type of work you want to do and the clients you want to work for. Or, you can let your clients define what type of agency you are. Staying in control of who and what you're willing to take on is an important part of enjoying the work you do.
  3. Don't get stagnant. Losing passion for your work is a quick way to lose your grip on the agency culture you're trying to create. Sean believes that continuing to grow, learn, and develop relationships with your team and clients is the way to create a more dynamic business.

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_Defining_Purpose_Propels_Digital_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you have the right systems and processes the will allow you to work only with your ideal agency clients? Have you identified your ideal agency clients and niched down enough for them? Are you concerned about turning away clients that aren't the right fit? Being the best in the business requires discipline, but it also helps you determine whether a client is right for you.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why determining your niche helps you land ideal clients.
  • How discipline is crucial to your agency's success.
  • Why it's important to put people over profit.

I talked to Lindsey Groepper, President of Blast Media, a B2B SaaS PR agency she and her two business partners started 15 years ago. Lindsey and partners decided the agency's goal is enriching people's lives. From there, they set out to determine a niche to achieve that goal. Lindsey is here to talk about the discipline needed to grow a successful niche agency. She also shares how your niche can be used as a tool to develop a well-rounded and resilient client list.

Why Determining Your Niche Helps You Find Better Clients

While many agencies struggle to determine their niche, Lindsey says that Blast Media knew early that they wanted to provide PR for tech companies. However, over the fifteen years in business, Blast Media has distilled its client offerings down to just one specialty. This began five years ago when they realized offering a little bit of everything was not as successful a path as providing one service extremely well. 

Refining their focus required some tough decisions. It meant the partners had to say goodbye to some clients they enjoyed working with, as well as the revenue from the clients that no longer fit their model. On the other hand, though, it led to the creation of a 30-day onboarding process all

Blast Media's clients are required to undergo. During this process, the client learns about how the agency works and the entire team learns all about the company before they begin doing work.

The theory, Lindsey says, is "you come to us with a goal and we can tell you how to get there. But the client can't do both. If you want to tell us how then you will have to have a different goal." Clients who can't stick to the process are not the right clients.

Why Processes and Discipline Are Crucial to Success

The client onboarding process is required for all clients, with no exceptions. The result of that process helped the agency find and land ideal agency clients. It also helped that agency retain amazing team members. Last year, Blast Media had zero turnover. Team retention "really goes back to staying disciplined with the clients you're bringing on," Lindsey says. "If your main goal is profit, then your culture suffers because you're too busy scaling to champion the culture that brought your team to you in the first place."

Discipline means not making decisions based on short-term situations. Your policy for determining which clients to work with should not have any exceptions. If you're worried about losing a client, remember what Lindsey tells her team: "Every client will someday no longer be a client. That is the life of an agency. As long as they didn't leave because of a failure on our part, we are OK because we have a pipeline of clients to bring in to replace them."

Why It's Important to Put People Over Profit

Knowing when to say no to a prospect doesn't mean you can help in other ways. Lindsey says Blast Media regularly refers prospective clients to other agencies who are better able to meet their specific needs. The ability to place people over profit helps build relationships. It helps another agency and a client to find each other. That good karma always comes back around. By developing a relationship with other agencies, you will find they will reciprocate.

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

Does owning your agency give you a sense of significance? Do you ever wonder or worry about what an acquisition might feel like? Will you know when it's the right time to sell your agency? The marketing agency industry is always evolving. Selling your digital agency doesn't mean your journey is over; it might just be another step in a longer journey.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Leveraging your strengths in an agency acquisition.
  • Are you learning and growing with your agency?
  • One major key to working with contractors.

I talked to Adam Weil, Partner and Creative Director for White Rabbit Group, based out of Seattle. Adam started his own agency several years ago. He eventually sold it to White Rabbit. Adam is here to discuss the communication and mindset necessary to deal with dramatic changes that often occur by having your agency acquired, obtaining a new partner, or deciding when to outsource work to a third party.

Leveraging Your Strengths When You Sell Your Agency

Adam started an agency focused on designing websites and mobile sites for clients. It was very much an opportunity he grew into, as he journeyed from simply wanting to own his own online business to knocking on the doors of potential clients and learning new ways to connect with them. Over the course of several years, he surrounded himself with people who were smarter in various aspects of the business than he was and learning as much as he can about the industry.

When it came time for Adam's agency to be acquired by White Rabbit, a development agency that was servicing a number of creative agencies and bringing their designs to life, he brought those years of experience and learning to the table. "One important lesson I learned is that you really have to play to your strengths," he said. He realized what he is good at and likes to do was intersecting with the opportunity to grow something much bigger than himself.

Adam knew the acquisition was the right opportunity for growth because it would take the agency he started to the next level. As he began to deal with the emotional aspect of no longer having his own agency, Adam avoided letting those emotions derail the deal. Rather than looking at his agency's acquisition as the end, "I just kept thinking about future opportunities," he says. "I viewed it as the next step in my career."

Are You Learning and Growing With Your Agency?

One crucial piece of agency growth is liking what you do. If you enjoy the work, you will look for ways to improve your skills and continually improve your service offerings. Liking what you do offers a second benefit, as well: The ability to learn from those around you.

"Agencies are unique because they are such good vessels of growth. You get to try so many new things, and you will never know it all. You have to connect with people who are way ahead of you and smarter than you," Adam says. "There is so much competition and such an opportunity of growth that you have to stay on the cutting edge."

One Major Key to Working With Contractors

Even if you aren't planning a merger or acquisition, the marketing agency industry is one that never stops evolving. While this evolution is the key to future opportunities, it is also the catalyst that requires many agencies to outsource work. Working with contractors is also a step forward in the progression of an agency, Adam explains, and one that should be entered just as cautiously.

Check at least three references for any contractors you are considering working with, and also check their work. "Don't just take their word for it," Adam warns. "Make sure you actually look at their portfolio and make sure it's pixel perfect." He stresses it is also important to be sure the contractor you're considering is strong in the area of communication and they have the tools necessary to do the work.

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: When_Is_the_Right_Time_to_Sell_Your_Digital_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you ever wonder what the big guys with over 100 agency employees are doing to be successful? Wonder what it takes to truly be a full-service agency? In order to have a successful agency, do you have to live in a large city like New York or LA? Careful planning and an understanding of your clients' needs is vital to building an agency and a large team able to provide a variety of different services.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Having a long-term plan for your agency.
  • Mentoring your agency team.
  • Why technology is more important than physical location.

I talked to Reid Carr, the CEO of Red Door Interactive, a full-service agency headquartered in San Diego that works with a number of well-known clients. Eighteen years ago, Reid decided he hadn't found a place where he wanted to be, so he created one. Since then, he learned a thing or two about growing a successful agency of 100 employees. Here are some steps he learned from the experience of providing full-service in an age of rapidly evolving technology.

Step One: Have a Long-Term Plan

According to Reid, the most important thing he did for Red Door happened before the business even began. He took a business plan writing class and developed a business plan workbook. And the plan wasn't just what he was going to do in the time immediately after starting the business. It was a 10-year plan, and while it did address revenue and how many team members he planned to have, it focused on other aspects of the business:

  • Ensuring that the team members who were hired to work for the agency were properly trained and given the freedom to excel in the service area where they were hired. Also ensuring resiliency in each service team by cross-training.  This makes recovering from a team member leaving easier for those who remain.
  • Creating value for clients by integrating services and hiring experts in each service area. This broadens out the overall strategy for each unique client through an emphasis on communication between the service teams.
  • Develop a portfolio of work to show prospective clients. Reid said this is often difficult for an agency just starting out because they have to get jobs to show work. In the early years, Red Door did a lot of pro-bono work for non-profit organizations as a way to develop a portfolio of work.

Step Two: Mentor Your Team

"I love having a bigger team," says Reid. "Foundationally, with a bigger team, there are a lot of people helping each other out, as long as that is the culture you have developed."

Reid says developing a culture of teamwork and success is a matter of hiring smart people and giving them reasons to want to stay, as well as helping them to progress to each new structural level. A lot of individuals who work in the marketing agency industry tend to be young and often show great leadership skills but little managerial experience. "So you're working with managers," he says. "And you're managing managers and you're managing managers who are managing people." 

So what is the secret? "The relationship you have with your managers is the relationship you have with your company," says Reid.

Step Three: Technology Matters More Than Location

There's an old adage in the real estate industry: Location, location, location. That adage is often heard in the marketing agency industry, as well. Reid believes many clients are hesitant to work with agencies located in other markets. Small town agencies are particularly at a disadvantage. Likewise, there are many agency owners who believe they can't offer all services or attract large clients because they're not in a big market. 

"Location doesn't make you more valuable," Reid says. "It doesn't offer any value other than exposure and access to certain things. Specializing and being the best is what makes you valuable." There is also a lot of value in people living and working where they feel most comfortable. The technological evolution provides the opportunity to offer more services, as well as the opportunity to be successful from anywhere. This means you can hire amazing remote talent to work from anywhere and service clients from all around the world.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

Direct download: Three_Steps_to_Building_a_Successful_Agency_of_100_Employees.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Should you start an agency or buy an existing one? Do you have the right skill set for owning a successful agency? This isn't really a clear path on the right way to start an agency. Sometimes you just have to do what today's guest did and jump right in.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Leveraging your skillset when you acquire a marketing agency.
  • 3 ways to invest in your agency's talent.
  • Why agencies must educate clients on value.

Today I had a really interesting conversation with Joycelyn David, owner of AV Communication, a multicultural digital agency based out of Toronto. Joycelyn recently purchased a 7-figure agency after spending over 10 years as that agency's client. She is sharing what's worked, what didn't, and why she decided to take the leap to acquire an agency instead of starting from scratch.

Leveraging Your Skill Set for a Successful Agency

Joycelyn, like many of us, didn't plan to own an agency, she just kind of fell into it. But when she was presented with the opportunity to acquire one, she decided to dive in. And, like most of us, she says, if she could do it all again, she'd do it in a heartbeat.  So what gave her the confidence to know she had what it takes? An understanding of her basic skill sets.

Running an agency is very much skills-based. And it's using those skills to produce results for clients. Before you think "I don't have enough experience to run my own agency," take some time to look at the skills you already have. For Joycelyn, she had spent over a decade on the client-side of the agency space and built solid relationships. She also had a degree in multicultural communications which ultimately helps her understand the needs of her clients better.

Recognize what you have to offer. Surround yourself with a team that believes in your vision. When you do, you'll find owning an agency isn't as overwhelming as it seems.

3 Ways to Invest in Your Agency's Talent

Joycelyn says the most important part of her agency is the people who work there. But soon after she acquired AV Communications, she realized there were legacy employees who had been there since the beginning and then a revolving door of new employees. So what did she do? She spent time developing a better culture for the agency. Her tips:

  1. Invest your time: Joycelyn says she spends 45-60 minutes with each team member every week to check in and work on employee development. She has observed that something that may come natural or seem obvious to her may actually be a challenge for a newer member of the team.
  2. Mentorship: One of the great things about investing in your team is providing them with the skills and the confidence to pass on to junior team members. When you create this culture from the top, learning becomes organic.
  3. Formal skills development: This includes guest speakers, hands-on workshops, and even travel opportunities. There are some skill sets that can come only from engaging with other clients and getting out in the field.

Why Agencies Must Educate Clients on Value

AV Communications works with a very unique niche. They work with brands to understand and connect with multicultural audiences. So what does it mean to fight for your niche? You have to understand your value. For Joycelyn, this means helping companies understand one out of every three Canadians has a multicultural background. By ignoring this, they are missing out on a big share of the market. What unique value does your agency bring to the table?

Start with a question. Do you want to grow your market? Do you want to miss out on this opportunity? When you start with a question, you turn the focus on your client and make it about them, instead of you.

Your job, as an agency, is to offer a solution to your client. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to using your specific skills and your team to deliver. Invest in the basics and surround yourself with like-minded people. When you do this, the rest becomes so much easier.

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: Should_You_Start_Your_Own_Digital_Agency_or_Acquire_an_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you struggled to find the best way to find and hire new agency employees? Are you overwhelmed by the thought of growing your team? Do you want to make sure the people you work with are devoted to the success of your agency? It can be really hard to find the right fit for your agency. But when you take the time to make thoroughly vet new hires and streamline processes, you'll set everyone up for success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 tips to help your agency perform strong from the start.
  • Why streamlined processes helps your team succeed.
  • The 5-step process for hiring the right agency employees.

Today I sat down with Ray Sinlao, founder of Standard Conversions, a conversion rate optimization agency. Thanks to his background as a developer, Ray was able to develop in-house processes and even his own software, Buyer Tool, to help his agency surpass the six-figure mark in less than one year. He's here to talk about the innovative hiring process that helped his agency grow to 7-figures.

2 Tips to Help Your Agency Perform Strong From the Start

It's not unheard of to reach the 1-million mark in under a year as an agency — but it's not exactly an everyday occurrence. So what tips does Ray have to help you find similar success?

  1. Performance-based pricing: Ray says performance-based deals helped him scale his agency at a rapid rate from the get-go. But it wasn't without a few hiccups. The key, he says, is always working with clients you trust. If there is even 1% hesitation, walk away.
  2. Hire a team early on: In the beginning, Ray was working 16-hour days and was quickly burning out. But then he realized the whole reason he started his agency was to be able to spend more time with his family and have more control over his life. When you bring in the right people to support you, you'll find you have more time to devote to the things that matter the most.

How Streamlined Processes Can Help Your Team Succeed

It's one thing to be able to scale an ad account. It's even better if you can scale a team to scale the ad accounts for you. But as agency owners, there's often a reluctance to give up some of the control. This is normal, but it can easily hinder growth. Once Ray decided to grow his team, he set himself up early to make sure he was bringing on the right people and that they had the tools to succeed.

As a former developer, Ray started documenting processes from the beginning. This way, everything is repeatable. When a new person joins the team, they have a playbook filled with processes and a knowledge bank to help them deliver results. The more you can document what your agency does and why then the easier it will be for your new hires (and existing team) to deliver the results you expect.

5 Steps Process for Hiring the Right Agency Employees

It's not unusual for agencies to experience a high level of turnover. Early on, Ray developed a process that helped him turn inexperienced media buyers into devoted, long-term employees.

  1. Selection: Ray says about 10% of people who apply to work at his agency actually make it through the end. And most of them drop out at the first step. Why? The initial application requires applicants to read a 200+ page book and write a 2,000-word copy. While Ray says the actual assignment doesn't really apply that much, it lets him know how much work someone is willing to do to get the job.
  2. Observation: Here the potential new hire gets teamed up with an experienced media buyer. They're not ready to do any work on their own, but they get to see what it takes to do the job day in and day out.
  3. Hands-on experience: Ray considers this a minimal risk step. Here the potential employee gets to do some work (uploading projects), but they don't have any account management responsibility.
  4. More independence: At this point, the new employee essentially has the job. They are given more freedom and can manage one campaign under an account manager's supervision.
  5. Full immersion: Here, the new hire finally gets to do the job they initially applied for. While some people may think this process is a little much, Ray says the people who make it to the end are the ones that stick around long-term.

Your success as an agency largely comes down to the groundwork you lay at the beginning. If you take time to develop processes and carefully vet your team, your agency is more likely to find long-term success.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

If you really want to scale your agency's media buying power, check out BuyerTool. This is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

Direct download: The_5-Step_Hiring_Process_That_Helped_an_Agency_Grow_to_7-Figures.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

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

Are you making the right hires for your agency team? Do you feel like your best agency employees don't stick around long enough? Most of your agency's success comes down to the people you surround yourself with. Hiring a team that supports your vision and grows with the agency is the key to success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Does your agency foster career growth?
  • 3 strategies to help your agency succeed early.
  • How to find the right team members that will stick around.

Today I sat down with Tom Yawney, director of business development at The Influence Agency, a digital marketing, and creative agency. After realizing there was no longer room for growth in his previous agency, Tom and his partners decided to start an agency of their own. He's here to talk about why he left his previous agency, what he's doing differently, and key strategies he has learned along the way.

Does Your Agency Foster Career Growth?

Have you ever spent time and money building a team, only to watch them one by one walk away? Are you struggling to understand why your top-performing team members don't seem to stick around? Tom says he never dreamed of being an agency owner, but he reached a point where there was no longer room for growth.

As an agency owner, you need to provide opportunities for your team to bring new ideas and value to the agency. Your team should never feel like they are, as Tom felt, "stuck in a dead-end job."

Too many agency owners have this hierarchy where they feel they know everything and just assign tasks. If you have ever uttered the phrase, "This is how we've always done it," it's probably time to make a change. Good employees get bored if they aren't given opportunities to challenge their evolving skills. If you hire the right people, it's your job to make sure you don't demotivate them.

3 Strategies to Help Your Agency Succeed Early

Starting an agency is hard and those who don't know what they are doing can quickly fail. Tom says his agency's success is part strategic, part circumstantial. So what went right?

  1. Knowledge in sales: Obviously sales are important to agency growth. At The Influence Agency, all four founders had a background in sales. It is possible to succeed without a background in sales, however, and most of the time an owner's passion is enough to create the sales hustle necessary for success.
  2. Complementary skills: Tom and his partners quickly learned they had skills that would complement each other. This meant they could take care of a lot of the work themselves instead of contracting out. This allowed the agency to save money and start some financial momentum.
  3. The right team: Your first few hires are one of the most important decisions you will make when you are first starting out. It's easy to get enamored by unique skills or an impressive resume, but Tom says you should hire for culture first. Is the person supportive? Do they bring good energy? Are they the right fit? When you bring on the right people, they can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders.

How to Find the Right People for Your Team

So how do you know if someone is a good fit? The most important thing to look at is character. This can be a little tricky, especially at the interview stage where the goal is to impress. At this stage, you want to look at thought-process, mindset, and attitude. Ask questions that will give you insight into someone's character:

  • Tell me about a manager you enjoyed working for; what worked?
  • How would you handle certain situations?
  • What do you like to do for fun? (I like to start with this one because it helps the person feel more relaxed).

It's important to find a fit that is good for the agency and for the employee. This means you need to be transparent about the position the person will be entering as well.

Culture and growth can have a big impact on the happiness of your team and your agency's success. When your team members feel valued and are given opportunities, they'll be more motivated to help your agency grow.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

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

Do you feel like your agency has reached a plateau? Do you want to speed up your agency's growth but not sure how? Are your clients looking for more? An acquisition can be a great way to diversify your agency's offerings and bring new life into the business.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Ways a merger or acquisition can help you grow your agency faster.
  • #1 component of a successful merger or acquisition.
  • Why your partners should always agree on an exit strategy.

Today I talked to Jim Hawker, co-founder and head of sales and marketing at Threepipe, a digital marketing agency based out of the UK. Early on, Jim realized the value of mergers and acquisitions to not only grow his agency but also streamline internal processes. He's here to talk about what's worked (and what hasn't) along the way.

2 Ways a Merger or Acquisition Can Help You Grow Your Agency Faster

It's hard to grow a successful agency without reaching a point where you hit a plateau. A place where it seems like no matter what you do, your agency's growth is just kind of stagnant. A merger or acquisition is a great way to give your agency a kick start and mix things up. But just how exactly does this work?

  • Streamlined hiring: Jim says it has always been a part of his agency's strategy to go out and acquire talent. While you can find success when you hire and train, this process can take a long time and you'll often end up spending more money in the end. When  you merge your team with another existing one, you expedite the process.
  • Greater reach: Jim says he was finally able to expand his agency's service offerings after he went through his first merger. When he connected with like-minded owner-managers who complemented his service offerings, his agency was able to attract and land clients quicker than they had before.

#1 Component of a Successful Merger or Acquisition

Jim says ultimately he chose the right agencies to work with along the way. That said, it took three or four years for the two newly merged agencies to learn how to work with each other. The number one mistake Jim says his agency made was forcing people to work together and figure it out on their own.

I've talked about it before and I'll talk about it again — when you merge with another agency, you have to consider whether it's a culture fit. Take some time to get to know the other agency, what their vision is, and if they align with your own core values. Skip this step and you're going to have a hard time finding success.

Want to truly get to know who you will be partnering with? Spend time in the office and see if their team is happy. Or as Jim puts it, "Go on a few dates before you pop the question."

Why Your Partners Should Always Agree on an Exit Strategy

You never want to enter a partnership without having a plan for how it will end. What happens if one of the partners wants to leave the agency? What if there is death or illness? How will you determine the value of the business? An unexpected dissolution can destroy an agency if there isn't a plan in place. If you agree to all the details ahead of time, you'll have a legal document to go back to in the event the partnership ends.

You can't build a successful agency without taking risks. Sometimes the right risk is merging with another agency. Remember why you started your agency and don't be afraid to keep taking chances that can help your agency grow.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

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

Have you ever felt embarrassed by the size of your agency? Do you think success is wrongfully tied to the size of your team? Have you been worried about how the current economy is affecting your business and your clients? Change is a painful part of growing, but it's one of the best teachers when you're looking to build a great agency, not just a big agency.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to move forward during an economic crisis.
  • Why your ego could be holding your agency back.
  • Why fast growth isn't the best solution.

I talked to Mark DiMassimo, Chief Creative at DiMassimo Goldstein, an agency he founded in New York in 1996. In the early years of the agency, Mark hit the ground running. By 1997, DiMassimo Goldstein was the fasted growing agency around. Within a couple of years, the agency had offices in San Francisco, and New York, and Mark was featured on the cover of a magazine. And then the dot com bust hit, forcing him to take his staff down from a peak of 114 to 30. Mark shares the way he learned that a big agency team doesn't always correlate to the agency's level of success.

How to Move Forward During Economic Crisis

"One of the most important things I learned is what a pleasure and an honor it is to do this business. What a pleasure and an honor it is to be able to think, dream, learn from great business leaders, daydream, write, have visions, have a chance to get visions produced to work," Mark said. Even though the industry pain points of deadlines, uncertainty, competition, he still feels a little sheepish calling it work.

Mark has had the unfortunate experience of letting dozens of good employees go and yet he says those difficult times are all the more reason to do what needs to be done to help the business survive them. You loved the agency when you started it and when you started to grow it. The challenge is continuing to love it and carrying over that sense of pride you have even during the dark times.

Why Your Ego Could Be Holding Your Agency Back

Have you noticed that agencies are judged by the size of their team? But judging success level by size isn't accurate. After the dot com bust, Mark found himself in therapy and learning to meditate. He learned to leverage his skills to take advantage of any skill he could use to help ally the vision he had of his agency with where he was. One of the lessons he learned during this phase of his life and his agency was his ego only really matters to him.

"People don't really care. They care about you as a person, but they don't care if you grew and sold your agency. They don't care if you didn't."  Letting go of your ego and the need to feed your ego by growing your agency whether you need to or not helps you gain freedom. And that freedom allows you to make your agency into what you want it to be.

Letting go of your ego is also important during your agency's tough times. Having the ability to reach out to others for advice, without worrying about what they might think another tool for achieving your vision.

Why Fast Growth Isn't the Best Solution

Change is what makes us necessary, Mark says. Dealing with the way change impacts clients is probably one of the reasons you started an agency. Mark says it is equally important to be upfront with your clients when you're dealing with changes within your agency. Because your clients are in the world of business, they understand the need to be lean and focused. While creating a solution to whatever problem your agency is struggling with, communication and transparency go a long way in building goodwill with your clients.

The best solutions generally have one main ingredient: time. Mark learned the hard lesson that fast growth is not good growth. No business can really be successful running on high speed forever. If you're growing too fast, you likely haven't come up with contingencies if the industry inevitably changes. And if you're currently in the midst of a changing industry and only now trying to chart a path to the future, you will not have it perfectly figured out right away. But you can certainly have fun while you figure it out.

Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams?

Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform. SharpSpring helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue.

For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies.

Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.

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

Are you really fostering your client relationships? Are you going beyond the transaction and getting personal? People prefer doing business with people they know, like, and trust. Connections not only help you find and retain clients but place a greater value on the services you provide.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • The most important ingredient in your hustle.
  • Why is branded content so effective?
  • Why client relationships are so important.

Richie Kulchar is the Co-founder, Producer, and Director of a branded film content agency called Junk Films. Richie and his partner actually met in 2014 while they were both undergoing substance abuse treatment at a rehab in the Los Angeles area. The two finished their treatment and ultimately began an agency together in 2017. Among their first clients were substance abuse treatment centers. These businesses, as Richie explains, had a mission of hope but "their marketing materials were trash." Junk Films now boast a client list that includes some of the biggest brands in the nation. Richie is on the show to share how he turned his life around and built an amazing agency.

The Most Important Ingredient in Your Hustle

"The idea behind Junk Films is that you're dealing with ex-junkies," Richie says. "We have been hustlers in our lives. We're used to hustling to get what we want." He and his partner's substance abuse is something they're both very transparent about. They use their backgrounds and their stories to help tell the stories of other people.

The leap from local substance abuse treatment center clients to well-known brands like Adidas "was lucky but it was also a hustle," Richie says. He had a friend with an agency who had done work for Adidas' original YouTube channel. The friend reached out to Junk Films for video content for the client, and Richie was able to use the work he did for that company to attract more clients, both through the quality of work as well as word-of-mouth. Starting with very little capital, Richie and his partner brokered deals in which the advertiser paid for their costs -- such as rented camera equipment -- and would, in turn, receive a high-quality video. After some time and successes, Junk Films began finding clients who were able to pay a standard rate.

Why Is Branded Content So Effective?

The industry of film advertising has changed, Richie says. In the past, a company would hire someone to shoot a commercial and then pay for media spots, whether they were the right audience for that product or not. Data analytics tools and targeted advertising online has changed the game for the better. Brands choose the demographics they want the ads to be displayed to while also measuring the impact of their advertising reach.

By reaching the targeted audience, brands are better able to connect to those who would be most impacted by their products. "Branded content is so important because there is no quicker way to tell your story," Richie says. The vast majority of online content these days is, in fact, video content. For people who don't like to read, he explains, video content is a way to grab the attention of the consumer and provide them with a balance of information and emotion.

One of the challenges conducting video interviews is many of the interviewees do not have experience on camera. This is where Richie is again able to use his own personal story to connect with them. He helps them feel comfortable telling their own stories. There are also a number of camera techniques, including the use of a longer lens so the videographer is at a greater distance from the interview subject.

Why Client Relationships Are So Important

Relationships are key when it comes to agency growth. When client-side contacts change jobs, they often go to another well-known brand. They take their connections with them, including their connection to Junk Films and the ability to obtain quality video content. This results in an opportunity to work with new brands and showcase their work in new ways.

In an industry saturated with agencies, providing film content helps your clients connect more with you and with their customers. But it all begins with the ability to share your own story and let your clients connect with you.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

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

Are you losing clients and talent to other agencies? Are you wondering what the secret recipe is to keeping happy clients and a happy team? Are you looking for that one thing to make both clients and talent want to stay? The loyalty you are seeking from your clients and team members is directly related to the value you place on them.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to build client trust
  • How to build employee trust and morale
  • 3 questions every agency owner needs to answer

I talked with Tom Johnson -- Partner, COO, and CFO of Southport Marketing, an experiential marketing agency based in California but with clients across the country. Tom and his two partners began the agency just as the 2008 financial crisis was coming down the pike. Since then, the partners have put a lot of sweat equity into the success of their venture. Tom is sharing the strategies he has used to maintain many of his original clients and team members all these years.

How to Build Client Trust

When asked what attracts clients such as Chevy dealers, Alaska Airlines, USC, and the Los Angeles Rams, Tom says his answer might seem a little cliche. "People come to us because of our customer service. Because we care about our clients and we want them to succeed. We hire people with a lot of passion for our clients and we have earned the right to say we provide very good customer service. We go the extra mile. We pick up the phone."

Tom believes customer service is often regarded these days as "old school." The big agencies often lose the personal touch they offered when they were new agencies. Everyone seems to place more importance on other facets of success beyond simply doing the best you can for your client. "The client is the one who is paying your bills," Tom says. "Agencies often forget that."

How to Build Employee Trust and Morale

You want agency team members who are passionate about your clients, and who -- ideally -- look forward to coming to work each day. Tom said his team members tend to stay for years because they know they are valued. Some of the ways Southport Marketing communicates significance to the team:

  • A diversified training model allowing the opportunity to grow in the agency as well as the industry.
  • An investment in training and development programs.
  • A decent pay rate that is competitive in the industry.
  • Other perks, such as annual retreats, Costco cards, and holiday parties.
  • An open-door policy for employees to provide feedback and share their innovative ideas.

3 Questions Every Agency Owner Needs to Answer

While valuing your clients and your talent seems simple, a lot of thought must be given to ensuring that you communicate that value to them through your actions and developing new ways to do that. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. Are you proactive when dealing with clients or are you reactive? Tom suggests being a bit of both. Being proactive means hiring people who are able to put out high quality work on a short deadline. Quick turnaround is sometimes part of the agency business. Hiring people with that ability means you are better able to meet those short deadlines because you have anticipated them.
  2. Would you want a job at your agency? Look at the perks you offer your employees. If you were being offered a job for your agency, would those perks be enough to keep you from looking elsewhere? Would they make you feel valued as a new hire?
  3. Would you want to hire your agency to work for you? Just as you need to put yourself in your employees' shoes, also put yourself in the shoes of your client. What do you bring to the table that no other agency offers? Is your agency a fun, cool, and interactive place? Are you able to inspire client's trust by meeting their needs?

Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams?

Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform that helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue.

For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies.

Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.

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

Have you reached a point where you're not sure what comes next for your agency? Are you looking for new ways to grow or afraid your agency is growing too fast? Hitting a crossroads is normal, but when you set yourself up with a solid base, you'll find it easy to choose the right path for your agency to take.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 ways to set your agency up with a solid foundation.
  • 2 key performance indicators your agency needs to watch.
  • Why running an agency becomes easier as you scale.

Today I sat down to talk with Mae Karwowski, founder, and CEO of Obviously, an influencer marketing agency. As a young social media manager, Mae quickly saw the value for brands when it comes to using influencers to promote a product. Since then, the agency has surpassed the 8-figure mark and works with some of the biggest brands across the globe. Mae's here to discuss some of the decisions she's made to get her agency to where it is now and what she looks forward to as her agency continues to grow.

2 Ways to Set Your Agency Up With a Solid Foundation

A successful agency is built on a culmination of decisions. Everything from what you offer, how you price it, and the people you bring onto your team can affect the longevity and the profitability of your agency. So what can you do to help set your agency up for success?

  1. Be thoughtful about your first hires: One of the most exciting milestones for an agency is when you need to make your first hire. A strategic hire can add value to your agency and allow you to continue to grow. Think about what skill sets your agency needs to retain your current clients and expand your reach. Now is a great time to bring on individuals who are good at team building, operations, and hiring.
  2. Know your worth: From the very beginning, Mae knew she wanted to be a full-service agency who provided a premium product. This meant charging a premium price. Don't be afraid to charge what you are worth. When you do, you'll find you're more likely to attract the type of clients you want to work with and you're less likely to burn out.

2 Key Performance Indicators Your Agency Needs to Watch

Key performance indicators tell you how your agency is doing and where your agency is headed. And while various industries may weigh different KPIs more important than others, Mae thinks there are two main KPIs agencies need to monitor:

  1. Retention: The first few contracts are great, but if you can't keep your clients happy and keep them around, you're going to see a lot of turnover. In the beginning, return clients (and subsequent referrals) are critical to your agency's success. If you've noticed your retention rate isn't where it should be, dig deeper and find out why. Take a look at the contracts, your services, and don't be afraid to ask your clients how you can improve.
  2. Revenue streams: Do you offer complementary services? Is your team prepared to upsell or cross-sell? Do your clients even know about these services? Look for opportunities to build packages for your clients and sell them as solutions. Take a close look at where your profits are coming from and where you should invest.

Why Running an Agency Becomes Easier as You Scale

A lot of agency owners come to me and say, "But Jason, I don't want to grow anymore. I can barely keep up as it is. "It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you scale, the easier it becomes. Why? By establishing a regular client base and growing your team, you have more people and resources to get things done. And the bigger you become, the more you can delegate, which in turn allows you to brainstorm, create, and focus on ways to expand your agency's vision and reach.

When you figure out who your clients are, what they want, and what you're worth, the possibilities are endless. It may not be easy, but most of the time it's worth it.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard and allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

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

Are you looking for a way to keep your clients around longer? Are you ready to focus more on client retention? Do you struggle for clients to see the value of your work? Client retention is one of the most important parts of finding success, but it's often one of the things agencies struggle with the most.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 ways to drive up client retention.
  • Why it's important to benchmark client progress.
  • Does your team understand agency pricing and value?

Today I sat down for an informative chat with John Horn, CEO of Stub Group Advertising, a digital advertising agency out of Fort Worth, Texas. John was one of the agency's first hires, and as such has really seen what works and what doesn't when it comes to growing a pay-per-click agency. He's here to talk about why it's so critical for your clients to understand exactly what they are getting.

2 Ways to Drive Up Client Retention

It's no secret — in the agency realm, there is a lot of client turnover. And while you may be able to bring in new clients to replace some of the ones you've lost, if you constantly have a revolving door of clients, you're going to experience excess costs and a lot of instability. One of the best ways to grow an agency is to not just bring on new clients but to keep the ones you already have. How?

  1. Start out with realistic expectations: Every client will come in with a list of what they want for their company. It's your job to help them understand what is attainable and what just isn't. Sit down with your client and discuss what they want and compare it to market realities. When you do this from the start, your client is less likely to be disappointed.
  2. Help your client measure success: What should your client see when a campaign is working? Will there be more traffic? Higher revenue? Less spend? Understand how the client will measure the success and be able to report on what you are delivering.

Why It's Important to Benchmark Client Progress

Clients are fickle. And there will always be other agencies trying to lure your clients away. So how do you make sure your clients are happy with the services you provide? Benchmarks.

Clients will always forget what you did for them yesterday. That's why it's important to regularly sit down and say, "This is where you were then and this is where you are now." This helps your client understand the value of your services and will help them justify a continued relationship.

This is also a good time to look at what's working and what's not. Look at the data. Are things getting better or worse? Benchmarks can help you and your client decide when it may be time to mix things up.

Does Your Team Understand Agency Pricing and Value?

Stub Group Advertising has gone through a lot of different pricing models to figure out what works. But one thing that remains the same is the need to understand value and worth. If you don't understand why you're pricing your services at a certain point, your clients won't either. If you are an expert in the field, don't be afraid to charge those premium prices. Sure, you'll attract new clients with lower pricing, but generally, it won't be the type of clients that will help you build your agency. Use pricing as a qualifier for the type of client you want to bring in.

Keeping clients happy isn't rocket science, but it does take work. The more your clients understand what they are actually getting and the value of your services, the more likely they are to stick around.

Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams?

Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform that helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue.

For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies.

Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.

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

Do you struggle with client retention? Are you worried you aren't providing what your client needs? Client retention is a problem many agencies deal with. But think about it, how well do you really know your digital agency clients? For most agencies, they just need to get back to the basics.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 mistake new agencies make.
  • 2 simple tips to increase client retention.
  • How to better understand your client's needs.

Today I sat down for a really informative chat with John Florey, president of Sama Labs, a digital marketing agency based out of Boca Raton, Florida. John comes in with a little bit of a different experience than many of the other guests on our show. While he runs a successful digital agency, he also has several brands of his own. He's here to share what he has learned about what it means to run a successful agency, from the perspective of an executive, as well as a client.

#1 Mistake New Agencies Make

When you're running an agency, it can be difficult to recognize what you're doing wrong. So I asked John where he saw agencies failing from the client perspective. John says the number one thing agencies fail to do is understand the infrastructure.

What does this mean? Too many agencies don't take the time to understand the basics of the brand they are working with. How does the business run? Does a particular type of marketing make sense? Why are you doing what you are doing?

This is one of the main reasons I tell my clients you need to niche down. If you understand the market better than your client, only then can you provide the right type of guidance. If you go after everyone, you might be able to get a few shiny retainers, but how long will those clients stick around?

2 Simple Tips to Increase Client Retention

When I talk about client retention, I always think about the words of Joey Coleman — What you do in the first 100 days can increase client retention. Think about it, if your client isn't happy in the first 100 days, chances are slim you're going to successfully turn things around. John says there are 2 things he does to focus on clients during this time.

  1. Know what type of clients are right for your agency. It's not just about making sure you are right for the client, it's about making sure the client is right for your agency. What type of client will help your agency grow? Focus on the relationships that are mutually beneficial and stop wasting your time on the rest.
  2. Keep the client excited. If you've got a good sales team, they've already done their job and got the client excited to work with your agency. But the momentum can't stop here. The fulfillment team has to keep up this same level of energy. If you sign a client on and they quickly realize they are getting the same level of attention and excitement they were expecting, any mistake you make along the way (because we're not perfect) will stick out like a sore thumb.

How to Better Understand Your Client's Needs

We often look at the big picture and skip over the more granular things. This is a mistake. If you don't know what makes a brand tick or where they are spending their money, you're going to have a hard time finding success.

Take expenses for example. If your client's expenses are really high and their ad budget is really low, chances of profitability are probably going to be really low as well.

Ask a lot of questions. The more insight you have, the better chance both you and your client will have at success.

Client retention is all about relationships and relationships are built on getting to know each other. The more effort you put in and the more time you take to learn what your client needs, the better off you both will be.

Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying?

Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard and allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish.

If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.

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

Are you looking for a way to grow your agency through strategic partnerships? Do you struggle to understand what type of partnership might be right for you? There are so many ways you can build and grow your agency — the trick is creating a partnership that aligns with your prospective clients' needs.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Technology agencies use to grow revenue.
  • 2 ways to be a successful strategic partner.
  • Understanding where your agency's value truly lies.
  • Can a digital agency be good at SaaS?

Today I sat down with Rick Carlson, President of SharpSpring. As a marketing automation software company, SharpSpring works with hundreds of agencies, building strategic partnerships that build on the strengths of all parties involved. He's here to talk about how agencies can grow revenue by finding and being a good strategic partner.

New Technology Agencies Use to Grow Revenue

As a marketing automation expert, Rick has seen the evolution of the various platforms out there. He says there has been a major shift in the way marketing automation has developed over the years. Instead of just traditional email marketing and landing pages, it now integrates with the full sales cycle. He refers to SharpSpring as not just marketing automation but rather a "revenue growth platform."

Rick says there has been a lag between the innovation of marketing automation platforms and agencies' adoption of the full scope of the platform. No longer just limited to email automation, SharpSpring includes intelligent forms, CRM, social post scheduling, and even a chatbot tool. When agencies harness the full potential of a tool like SharpSpring it becomes a true "black box" and can exponentially escalate the agency's value to their client. As Rick says, agencies are only limited by their imagination -- the capabilities are there and ready to deploy.

2 Ways to Be a Successful Strategic Partner

I always tell my clients there are three sales channels you need to focus on in order to grow: inbound, outbound, and strategic partnerships. Strategic partnerships is the one that is often neglected or misunderstood. It is not just a referral partner (those are great too, but not reliable for growth). To align with the right strategic partner, figure out which technologies make are natural companions with your core service. Then, leverage that partnership to help your agency grow.

Once you find the right partners, there are two main ways Rick sees agencies become successful with those  relationships:

  1. The cookie-cutter approach: Agencies who utilize the cookie-cutter approach typically spend a lot of time perfecting one strategy. However, they are then able to replicate the same model over and over again. This method is highly efficient and highly profitable, focusing on volume over contracts.
  2. Personalization: With this approach, the agency looks at the unique needs of the client. This approach requires more strategy and often more time commitment. However, the trade-off is typically a bigger retainer and longer engagement.

Understanding Where Your Agency's Value Truly Lies

One of the problems with strategic partnerships is agencies find it easy to pass on their partners' work as their own. The main issue with this is it can cause the client to overlook the value your agency actually provides, which is strategy.

Look at it this way, when you get your taxes done, the accountant doesn't expect you to believe they developed QuickBooks. When you go to a tax professional, you expect them to review your finances, find tax breaks, and file your taxes.

The same holds true for digital agency clients and the tools you use to be great at the results you provide. Remember, most of the time technology is nothing more than a tool if it is not placed in capable hands. Make it clear where your agency's value truly lies.

Can a Digital Agency Be Good at SaaS?

Have you developed a technology you think would help others? Maybe you want to create another profit stream. There's nothing wrong with branching out, but once you start marketing a new SaaS tool, you become a software developer and not just an agency. Sure, you can do both, but if you choose this route, you need to separate the two. Trying to do both will become a distraction and one of your ventures will suffer. If you're going to create tech, you need a clear separation — different teams, different presidents, etc.

Strategic partnerships are meant to benefit all parties involved. They should not be a one-way street. Focus on what you can provide and what your agency really needs. When you find the right match, you'll find more time to devote to other areas to help your agency grow.

Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams?

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

Are you a female agency owner struggling to grow? Ever wonder if a friendship can survive the daily struggles of agency life? Women are underrepresented in agency ownership and management, yet producing a lot of the work agencies are doing. The industry can use more female-owned digital agencies, don't you agree?

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 basic foundations of a successful agency.
  • Can friendship survive agency partnership?
  • 3 tips for succeeding as a woman-owned digital agency

Erika Waters is a Founding Partner for Bright Spot Creative, a marketing strategy and creative agency in Texas, which she started with her best friend nine years ago. The two met while working as the only in-house employees at a 30-year-old boutique agency. Initially, Erika and her partner were set to acquire the small agency but when that deal fell through, they decided to start their own.

2 Basic Foundations of a Successful Agency

"The first thing we were focused on was putting foundations and processes in place," Erika says of Bright Spot Creative's beginnings. One of the first tasks on the list was hiring a good accountant. "We knew we didn't want to do our own books, but we wanted to know enough to be able to talk about them if someone asked."

Next, the two women needed to figure out what type of agency they wanted and the type of services they wanted to provide. While they recruited some old clients to the new agency, Erika says they tried to be intentional and truly focus on the type of clients they wanted to attract.

Can Friendship Survive Agency Partnership?

Erika and her business partner don't just work together. They are best friends outside of work. Their children are friends and their families spend time together. Through the first several months of the agency, they worked with a business coach. His advice was to focus on more than just the legal aspects of setting up their partnership. What did they want the agency's legacy to be? What is their vision for the future? The answer they always came up with -- no matter what happens to the agency, they always want to remain friends.

Vision is crucial to your agency's and your partnership's success; when conflict arises, both individuals must be able to work together for solutions that retain their original vision. Erika and her partner determined they're more comfortable working with a collaborative business model in which they do not manage a lot of in-house employees, but instead have a group of trusted experts they rely on to provide services for their clients. They learned the type of clients they wanted to work with. "We are nice, friendly people," Erika explains. "We want to work for nice, friendly people."

3 Tips for Succeeding as a Female-Owned Agency

The segment of female agency owners isn't as big as it should be, Erika says. When you think about it, so much of the productivity on the client-side is done by women yet the CMO's and agency owners aren't email. She offers the following three tips for those who wish to start a successful agency:

  1. Embrace being female. Erika started an agency not only as a female but a young woman in her mid-twenties. She says she got a lot of pats on the head in the early days, and she says it used to really get under her skin. But she decided to claim it. To lean into it. You are a woman who owns an agency, and that is something a lot of clients will see as a benefit.
  2. If it's not a yes, it's a no. This is advice that Erika received early on from her business coach. It's something she reminds herself of even to this day. If you are speaking with a client and your gut feels like the fit is not quite right, trust it. Back up and do what does feel right, because having the wrong kind of clients can take your agency down.
  3. Don't forget your passion. Erika says she loves the work of the agency -- the gritty, business aspect of it. She never wants to get to the point where the team is doing all the work and she is merely managing. However, while she still holds special products and clients close. She prices her time higher. This way the client demands do not take away from the time she needs for other responsibilities.

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

Agency life has always been very dynamic but now more than ever. Today's agency employees have different needs in order to have a work-life balance. Many don't want or need traditional office hours and prefer to work as contractors. Have you ever wondered how to adapt your agency to fit those changing needs? Are you interested in strategies to transform your team? A team full of contractors is a great way to decrease overhead and increase your profits.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • What is the "upside-down" approach to recruiting agency talent?
  • Can an agency be successful with a team full of contractors?
  • How you can keep your employees focused.

Today I chatted with Scott Gillum, the founder of Carbon Design, a marketing services organization. He is also its sole employee. Carbon Design has adapted its agency's services to meet the changing needs of today's economy and today's professionals in a way that provides them with efficiency and positive growth. He's here to share the way his employment strategy reduces overhead, improves function, and leads to greater degrees of team loyalty.

What is the "Upside Down" Approach to Recruiting Agency Talent?

Scott is proud of the "upside-down" approach he has had for finding potential employees. He started by looking for the top talent and hiring them, then built his agency and service offering around their skillset. Instead of filling a specific role at the agency, he hired the right person and then created the job for them.

He when he started, he wasn't just looking for traditional employees.

When Scott's wife was looking to re-enter the workforce, they discovered major challenges--and she wasn't the only one struggling. Today, many people are eager to be stay-at-home workers. They're freelancers. They're people with small children or people working as caregivers for elderly parents. These employees want and need a place to work, but they can't work in a traditional setting.

Carbon Design makes it possible for them to have it all. By providing flexibility, the agency also provides purpose and meaning, allowing people to live their lives while still maintaining a fulfilling career. They set their hours. They choose the projects they can accept. And it works.

Can an Agency Be Successful Without Permanent Employees?

Scott is the only full-time employee at Carbon Design. He has team members. He has a person who runs his operations and two individuals who are taking over specific lines of business. Those team members are responsible for pricing, delivering, and putting teams together. However, all those roles are filled by contractors.

This strategy offers several advantages. First and foremost, the agency carries little overhead. Scott doesn't have countless employees he needs to keep busy. A traditional agency has to "make it up somewhere" when business is slow. Eventually, that means a client will take on some of those costs. At Carbon Design, however, that's not the case. Instead, the team gets paid based on the work they complete: a solid, deliverable model.

The average tenure of people on the Carbon Design team is around 15 years. They're trusted partners. They deliver on time, know the client's business, and have earned the right to represent the company. They're team members--and more importantly, they want to be there.

How You Can Keep Employees Focused

When dealing with contractors, it's important to keep them focused on the agency.  "I worry about it every day," says Scott. He knows his contractors are definitely working with other organizations. Keeping mindshare and building culture is incredibly important. They want to work with the agency, not for them. As a result, it's critical to keep people engaged. What he's doing, however, works. "You're more likely to not have the same people there when you're dealing with an agency than you are dealing with our people," he shares. His team doesn't want to go back to a full-time agency unless they have to. "Our people don't leave because this is the lifestyle they want," Scott points out.

At Carbon Design, they offer mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Reinforcing those factors for the team is critical. They are also well-compensated for the effort they put in. On average, if these contractors were working as full-time employees, they'd be making an average of $200K. They also don't have to feel as though they are in competition with each other. Carbon Design builds projects and teams: the teams who have the right skills to complete the projects and deliver on the clients' expectations.

It's a unique model--but it's also one that is becoming increasingly common. Can your agency grow with this model? There is an increasing number of employees going remote or looking for ways to connect with the office without returning to a traditional work environment.

Looking for a Content Creation Solution?

Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.

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

Have you ever wondered what steps you should take to keep your finger on the pulse of your agency? Are you concerned with finding employees who can help fill open roles and keep your agency running smoothly, all while adapting? Finding, hiring, and retaining agency employees doesn't have to be as hard it as it may seem.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Characteristics to look for when growing your agency team.
  • How to motivate your agency employees with more than money.
  • How to measure the pulse of the agency.

Melissa Shaw is one of the three partners at ARC Media, which has a very niche market in communications and legislative relations for electric utilities, specifically in rural America. A military spouse herself, she has been through multiple military moves, added three children, and even adopted another dog while helping to grow and scale the ARC Media organization.

Characteristics to Look For When Growing Your Agency Team

The ARC Media headquarters is located in a small town in rural America: a less-than-ideal location for recruiting team members who have the skills and talent needed to help grow and scale the organization. The three partners found themselves wondering how they could find the top talent they needed to fill those vital roles in the business. They wanted employees who were content to relocate to small-town America and who were willing to go the extra mile with the team.

The answer? Military spouses.

Melissa herself is an active duty military spouse. She had just moved back to the United States after being stationed in Germany, and noticed it was difficult to find clients. As a result, she was very aware of that need, and she knew military spouses would help fill those roles.

Employing military spouses offers a number of advantages to the organization.

When you're trying to grow an agency, you need people who are able to adapt to change. They need to be self-starters, to be able to juggle all those tasks. They can handle the challenges at home and get work done at the same time. Military spouses are the ideal solution.

They know change. They're used to functioning in a range of conditions. Their spouse may deploy or have to go on training, but they have to keep going, even when it's not ideal. In a growing agency, you're constantly changing and restructuring. It may look like changing the way teams work or developing new and more competitive products. You're always sharpening your sword. That means you may need to modify positions over time and find ways to use their skillsets differently.

Military spouses are ideally positioned to adapt and grow. For ARC Media, this is one of the keys to success: hiring employees who already have those vital adaptive skills.

How to Motivate Your Agency Employees with More than Money

Retaining employees is a challenge for any organization. One big question many employers have: If we can't offer them more money, what can we offer them? Whether it's a new experience or advancing their skill set, these priceless opportunities often mean more than a raise or a bonus.

You have to identify what your employees are looking for and what's important to them. One key strategy for identifying those needs? Keeping your finger on the pulse of the agency.

How Do You Measure the Pulse of the Agency?

Communication is critical. Agency life is often very fast-paced. It's easy, Melissa says, to decide it's not worth the time to jump on the phone and have a conversation. Those little things, however, can make a big difference.

She also uses Google Hangouts to routinely connect with her employees. They have weekly meetings set up, broken down by the two key subgroups at ARC Media. One key? Team members don't have to dress up. Baseball cap and a hoodie? Cool. Got you sick kid at home? It's fine, as long as you're getting your work done. The hour a week taken to meet with each team, however, can make a big difference.

She also encourages employees to work together and communicate through their regular platforms to address any problems they might have.

Finally, she has a digital open-door policy. "I always invite employees to connect with me one-on-one and schedule those meetings whenever they need to. I keep my calendar open and visible to them," Melissa shares.

A combination of these strategies--hiring the right employees, listening to them, and offering solutions that work for them are the best way to grow your digital agency.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

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

Think skillsets are all that matter? Need help building a team aligned around your mission? Skills and experience are important, but it's your culture that will really make or break your agency. It's that culture and your attention to healthy cash flow that can make or break your agency's growth.

In this episode we'll cover:

  • Why your digital agency's culture is so important.
  • What to consider when hiring new team members.
  • How to create a healthy cash flow for your digital agency.

Today I had the chance to talk with Jim Flint of Local Search Group, a Houston-based marketing agency in the automotive industry. Jim began his career working with agencies from the corporate side at brands like Nike and Toyota, before ultimately deciding he wanted to help clients through an agency of his own. He shared what he's learned along the way so you can create a successful agency culture and increase your cash flow.

Why Your Digital Agency's Culture is So Important

Before Jim realized the value of culture, he was hiring smart and capable people who weren't necessarily aligned with him in important areas. This created challenges within his agency, and he quickly learned the importance of building a team of people who are on the same page and headed in the same direction.

"It's not about the company and the person—it's about the company and the person and the client and the job," Jim says. If the fit doesn't go both ways, and if an employee isn't passionate about the purpose of the agency, you'll end up holding each other back.

Poor fits can lead to toxicity, which can take longer to undo than it takes to start. When toxicity takes hold at a company, the good employees will end up leaving, making it even harder to turn the ship around.

What to Consider When Hiring Agency Talent

Creating culture starts with your team, and your team starts with the hiring process. Instead of only looking at a resume, try to learn who the candidate is as a person. Learn what they do outside of work and get a sense of where they are in life. Does it align with where your agency is headed?

Another consideration is whether a candidate has a side-hustle. Side-hustles used to be considered a red flag. However, Jim views them as indicators of ambition and initiative. They also tell you what a candidate is truly passionate about—and, if it's an area related to your marketing agency, it's a good sign they may be a great fit.

How to Create a Healthy Cash Flow

While culture may be the more overlooked aspect of agency success, it's not the only piece of the puzzle. Another important component of digital agency growth? Capital.

Your cash flow is the lifeblood of your agency, and when it's running low your forward momentum can grind to a halt. What are a few ways to boost your agency's cash flow?

  • Change payment terms, so clients pay you pre-month instead of post-month.
  • Beware of "scope creep" on your deliverables.
  • Make sure you're charging enough for what you're providing.
  • Be diligent about getting paid on time.

Another way to benefit your cash flow is to get rid of the high-maintenance clients. They cost you more than you know — and beware of bringing on those clients from the outset. "A high-maintenance skinny deal is a really poor vanity play," Jim says, "and it hurts the company in ways you don't really understand until you come to actually experience it."

By cutting those clients loose, you'll free up your resources for more of the clients that are actually helping your agency turn a profit.

Looking for a Content Creation Solution?

Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.

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

Want an 8-figure agency? Tired of the hassle and cost of managing employees? Want an entirely new, innovative business model? The answer for one agency owner was in the cloud.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • What is the no-employee model?
  • Why not freelancers?
  • A unique way to compensate your team

Today I talked with Julian Stubbs, co-founder and CEO of Up There, Everywhere. Since our last conversation in 2015, the cloud-based marketing agency has continued to grow and is now approaching 8 figures in revenue.

What is the No-Employee Model?

The problem Julian had with the traditional agency business model is that you can never downsize or upsize as quickly as you need, so you are either missing opportunities or wasting resources. Combined with the high overhead of offices and employees, he knew there had to be a better way.

He and his business partner decided to take advantage of cloud-based tools to build a truly global agency. Instead of employees, they now have a network of members in 20 countries around the world. Members work on projects remotely for clients, and all their work is backed up online.

Why Not Freelancers?

Often, when an agency chooses to go lean, they have a slate of freelancers they work with instead. As Julian says, though, freelancers don't scale and they aren't a long-term solution. Up There, Everywhere needs professionals who work consistently, which is why they opt for the member model.

To make sure it's a good match for both sides, potential members go through a series of interviews before joining the agency and learning how to work with their particular tools and clients. Because it's such a unique model, the agency isn't for everyone—and members need to be able to deliver.

Members don't pay to be a part of the agency, but they do donate their time to the community based on their skills, such as writing for the agency's blog. In addition to the pay they get from projects, members also have a reward system based on their earnings, their engagement, and other charitable endeavors the agency encourages. As with employees, keeping members engaged and motivated is crucial for the agency's success.

While they are free to pursue other work as well, Julian works hard to make sure the agency's projects are the most interesting—preferring members to choose their work rather than forcing it on them.

A Unique Way to Compensate Your Agency Team

One of the most applicable takeaways from Up There, Everywhere's model is its fixed-rate structure. Instead of billing hourly and paying its members per hour of work, it has fixed rates for its clients and its members. Julian points out that when people are working on their own time, they're much more productive—a lesson for any agency owner. Consider how you can structure your team's pay around deliverables rather than time spent.

Other stats from the cloud-based agency's continued success?

  • Networking accounts for approximately 50% of sales, while content marketing brings in the other 50%
  • Churn rate among members is under 5%, while at Julian's previous traditional agency that number was between 10-15%

As in any agency, having a plan and direction is paramount. The various teams get together on a weekly call to talk about clients, members, and the agency. Think about your own agency and what you can do regularly to check-in across your team and make sure you stay aligned on the same goals, whether you're in the same office or fully remote.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

Direct download: How_to_Build_an_8-Figure_Agency_with_Zero_Employees.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you ever wondered if the grass is greener for big agencies? Or is it easier to be a small agency that is more nimble? Are you struggling with prioritizing growth strategies? Does size matter when it comes to growth trajectory? It all comes down to perspective. Size only matters in relation to your vision of growing your agency.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • What are the big agencies missing?
  • Hurdles to overcome when growing an agency.
  • 3 ways a small agency can grow faster.

I talked to Steve McCall, a partner in a branded digital strategy agency called Carbon. Formerly, Steve was the general manager of a large agency in Boston. However, as he explains, life happened a few years ago. The death of a loved one gave him clarity on his career goals. So Steve took a risk by partnering with two former colleagues who had already begun Carbon. Steve is here to share the differences between big agencies and small agencies and how Carbon provides the best client experience, best product, and best work-life balance.

What Are the Big Agencies Missing?

"There is a lot to like about big agencies," Steve explains, adding that the benefits of a big agency include:

  • The high level of brands that look to large agencies to deliver their services.
  • The ability to grow your skillsets across different client categories and disciplines.

However, Steve and his partners realized something was missing from their experiences with big agencies. Focus is placed on making sure the client experience is equal to the output, even if it cuts into profitability. "We are not always profit-focused," he says. "It's more about ensuring a great product and developing a relationship with the client. In a larger holding company model, that is challenging to do."

Hurdles to Overcome When Growing An Agency

Growing an agency that offers a work-life balance and is devoted to delivering quality products and client experiences isn't easy. The primary challenge was finding out where their product and level of service needed to be in order to be successful. Other challenges included:

  • Profitability without sacrificing service. "There are a lot of investments you have to make when you start an agency." Even while the agency was determining what products to offer and how to satisfy clients, they also had to learn how to be profitable.
  • Creating forward momentum. Growth takes momentum and it's easy to become complacent or get bogged down in the trenches. Carbon built momentum through providing as many in-house services as possible.

3 Ways a Small Agency Can Grow Faster

Carbon places emphasis well-roundedness and Steve attributes their rapid growth to these 3 tactics:

  1. Cross-train. Steve said the ability to provide multiple services in-house with a small team requires each member of the team to have a base level skill set on as many tools as possible. This eliminates the bottleneck when only one person has the ability to perform a certain task.
  2. Use your client's data. Data will not only manage expectations but also help identify additional services to meet specific needs the client might not even know they have. This provides new revenue opportunities for you but also new business opportunities for them.
  3. Keep exploring what is possible. Just as you analyze your client's data, analyze your own data. Develop a grounded path forward in the firm understanding of where you are now as well as what it will take to get where you want to be.

Looking for a Content Creation Solution?

Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.

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

Are you feeling overwhelmed by client demands? Struggling to choose the ideal clients who are right for your agency? Have you lost a major client and you don't understand why? There are a lot of factors involved in growing your digital agency. But the most important factor is how well you serve your clients.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why determining and communicating agency focus is important.
  • Setting goals and making sure your agency is on the right track.
  • 3 ways to use communication as a catalyst for growing your agency.

On this episode, I talked to Tyler Dolph, the President, and Partner at the Wisconsin-based digital advertising and marketing agency, Rocket Clicks. Tyler joined the agency in a business development role about 6 years ago, after a chance meeting with the agency owner on an airplane flight. Shortly after joining the team there, the President of the agency resigned and Tyler stepped into the role. Since then, the agency has grown from a team of 12 to 39, and the client list has grown from about 15 to 85. Tyler is here to offer some insights about the emphasis his agency places on client services, and how it has helped them grow.

Why Determining and Communicating Agency Focus is Important

"We're not a full-service agency, we're not everything to everyone," Tyler says of Rocket Clicks. Once the agency was financially stable, they discovered it was OK not to take on every client. Instead, they learned to focus the agency's service offering and narrow down to what they're best at.

Another important part of this process is determining who the right client is. The best way to accomplish this is identifying your ideal clients' service needs and the necessary budget. By establishing these parameters, you can target potential clients and quickly detect the ones that aren't right for you.

Developing the agency's focus is only part of the challenge, however. The other part was in letting everyone -- including the clients and the team -- know what that focus is. Tyler compared this to navigating a boat. When you communicate the focus it allows others to decide if they want to stay in the boat, jump off, or alter the course of the boat just a little bit and still reach the destination.

Setting Goals and Making Sure Your Agency Is on the Right Track

Once you've developed the focus of your agency and distilled your offerings down to a few specialties that you do really well, it is important to set goals to ensure you are keeping focus. This isn't a one-shot deal. Goals should be set and revisited on a frequent basis. Each goal needs to be measurable. Rocket Clicks uses software that enables the process of setting these goals and gathering data needed to measure progress efficiently and with little effort required.

3 Ways to Use Communication as a Catalyst for Growing Your Agency

The key is communication in order to provide superior client service. Tyler recommends the following steps in using communication as a catalyst for agency growth:

  1. Avoid FOMO, fear of missing out. Many agency owners are honestly afraid of saying no to a client because they don't want to miss out on the opportunity and the profit the client has to offer. Unfortunately, this often provides the hard lesson of taking on a client you can't handle and subsequently losing that client. By clearly communicating with potential clients what services you are able to offer rather than approaching the relationship thinking about what you can get from the client, you build stronger relationships.
  2. Remember clients are people too. "At the end of the day, clients just want to feel like they matter. They want to know they're being taken care of." Rocket Clicks enforces this realization by eliminating the client services management role. Instead, the team member doing the work are the ones to communicate with the client.
  3. Empower your team from day one. Tyler prefers hiring new employees from other agencies. Every new hire undergoes a two-month training period. During this time they learn the Rocket Clicks way. However, right from the start, they're encouraged to question everything. Feedback on processes and suggesting new methods are encouraged. This not only allows team members to play an important role but it gives the whole agency an opportunity to learn and grow from their experience.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

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

Are you searching for more ways to attract new agency clients? Have you considered starting a podcast for your agency? Are you searching for new ways to spread the word about the services you offer? Are you wondering how to encourage your own team to be thought leaders? Now more than every, content creation options are endless. Take advantage of them all by asking for help so you can focus on growing your agency.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How content marketing is changing with the times.
  • When should content be written vs spoken?
  • 3 things to turn your team into thought leaders.

I talked with Steve Pockross, the CEO of the content creation marketplace, Verblio. Verblio currently has 3,000 writers who create 70,000 pieces of unique content each year, with a focus on delivering content to more than 500 digital agencies who count on the company to supply content for their clients. Steve is here to talk about how content creation is changing with the times and how agencies can keep up with these changes. Today, Verblio's writers need to go beyond writing simple blog posts to transforming audio and video content into written work and refreshing old content into something new.

How Content Marketing Is Changing With the Times

At the beginning of 2020, Steve noted the trend in content creation was long-form content creation. Clients were seeking content that was 1,000 words long or more. Additionally, clients were beginning to ask for written content created from video. However, when the pandemic hit in March, the requests for content changed again. "Since the pandemic, we have seen a move toward instant impact content," Steve says. "We are getting requests for content refreshers. We are re-purposing audio content as written content." Additionally, Steve adds, there is a micro content trend in which larger pieces of content are broken up into smaller pieces that provide a quick, easy read for the client's audience.

With all of the changes experienced through technological advances and world events, one thing Steve has noticed is clients are going bigger. Verblio has experienced a 25% increase in content requests since April.

When Should Content Be Written vs Spoken?

Digital agencies are looking for a way to reach their clients in a world that offers many different channels and platforms. Steve says to use them all. "Podcasts are a DVR for audio," he says. "They're so accessible, you can listen anytime you want." He adds that there is a natural viral aspect to podcasts: they're interactive, they're engaging, and they are a way to build your audience.

On the flip side, though, Steve stresses making a podcast involves preparation. You can't ask every guest the same questions, and with 800,000 podcasts available, it's important to know what you're trying to create and who you're trying to reach. As effective as a podcast can be in reaching your clients, "many people still love to read," Steve said. Providing your podcast content in written form is a more complete way to present the content and reach different listeners as well as readers.

Writing is time-consuming and not everyone is confident in their ability to do it. Steve encourages agency owners to perform the work they're strong in seek help from outside sources or others on your team in order to provide content in other formats to reach a larger audience.

3 Things to Turn Your Team Into Thought Leaders

Being a thought leader is difficult to manage when you still have a day job, Steve notes. This is one of the reasons that encouraging your team to be thought leaders can provide you with advantages. Some of the things you can do to encourage this thought leadership in your team include:

  1. If you do a podcast, include your team. One way to start this process is to ask team members what questions they are repeatedly asked by clients. Then create a podcast around those commonly asked questions. This extends to everyone from operations to creatives to the account team. Getting the team involved not only takes the burden off of you in creating all of your agency's content but also opens the doors to their own ideas on how to create fresh content. "Great content isn't written, it's assembled," Steve says.
  2. Commit to the process. If you want to offer a company blog, commit to a schedule that allows you to create blog posts. If you aren't a writer, commit to finding a writer who will work with you. Instead of stressing about creating 100% of the content for your agency, have someone else create 80%.
  3. Be clear with your expectations. Commit to sharing your thoughts about content creation and getting feedback in return. Remember, your thoughts are not going to telepathically transfer to your team or to your outside content creator. They have to be clearly communicated.

Looking for a Content Creation Solution?

Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendors we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.

AND... if you want to provide input about what works and what doesn't take a minute to participate in Verblio's agency survey.

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

Do you feel like you've made so many mistakes at your agency you may never be successful? Do you find yourself trying to be someone else for your clients? Are you willing to accept any client and any project out of desperation for cash flow? Truth is, you can learn from your mistakes and grow your agency because of those experiences.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why bigger clients aren't always better clients.
  • How relationship-building helps retain clients.
  • 3 tips for healthy agency growth.

I talked to Theo Fanning, the Executive Creative Director and President of Traction, a digital marketing agency in San Francisco. Traction was started in the ruins of the dot com bomb of 2001. At that time, faced with few opportunities, Theo and three friends decided to start an agency of their own. "It was blind fury," he recalls. "We had no idea what we were doing. Many of us had not had management or operational roles. We just assumed everything would come our way and we made a lot of mistakes. We are an agency built on failure, but we're always failing up." Theo shares some of those mistakes and lessons learned so he could grow his agency to a team of 50.

Why Bigger Clients Aren't Always Better Clients

Traction was built on a freelance-based model, "because we had a lot of friends who were freelancers," Theo explained. However, this business model led to some of the agency's earliest mistakes: "Freelancers are flaky and you can't build a business off the backs of friends."

What followed were several years of a truly organic agency experience that began without operational tools and timesheets. Along the way, however, the agency managed to break even and the team began to grow. In 2005, after having just relocated to new office space and with a team of 12-15, Traction lucked into the opportunity to pitch Apple. "We sort of jumped into it with no true strategy," Theo explained. "All we had was grit and good nature, and some good relationships that we had built."

Theo points out that landing this first big client taught the team something very important. "When you're the smallest agency working for the largest client, you really don't get to run your business the way you'd like." He said the experience with Apple helped them learn to focus on clients of all sizes. Traction still works with Apple 15 years later but has a greater appreciation for fostering relationships with decision-makers of all-sized clients.

How Relationship-Building Helps Retain Clients

One of the most important things an agency can do is build relationships. Traction's relationships with the business owners they work with has taught the team to better articulate their value. Gaining the trust of the client through the relationship opens the door to offering additional services to help the client succeed. Traction prides itself on being able to show clients "new ways to do old things," -- which can include the adoption of new technologies as well as new ways to look at their business.

Theo says the relationships you build with your team also go a long way. The agency started by friends focused on doing quality work and providing the ability for staff to have a good quality of life, as well. What they got in return was a team that is both strong as well as loyal.

3 Tips for Healthy Agency Growth

Theo embraces the learning process that comes from making mistakes. Some of the tips he offers to other agencies who are struggling to find their place in a competitive industry include:

  1. Stop trying to be what you're not. In the beginning, Theo notes, Traction tried to position itself as a full-service agency. "We wanted to play with the big kids," he says. What happened instead was the team couldn't compete. While they looked like they were able to provide the same level of service as larger agencies, they did not have the resources to back it up.
  2. Let go of the fluff. Standard agency models offer a lot of unnecessary things, such as customer journey maps and the development of an overall strategy for every potential client. A better way to operate is to distill your offerings into something the client can actually use.
  3. Use being small to your advantage. One of the benefits of being a small agency is the opportunity to develop relationships with your clients. This establishes trust and authority as well as nurtures forgiveness for the mistakes you make along the way.
Direct download: The_Key_to_Growing_Your_Agency_in_Spite_of_Mistakes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

What will it take for your agency to be successful? Do you think it's landing one big, game-changing client? Are you impatiently waiting for your big-break that's going to put your agency on the map? It's hard to be patient, but understanding the importance of planning and focusing on the basics lead to success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • What's the key to longevity for your agency?
  • Does your agency have a business plan for success?
  • 3 basic industry principles you need.

I talked to Tom Sullivan, the president and co-owner of Lead Marketing Agency. Tom and his partner started Lead about twelve years ago. At the time, they were both working for another agency, and they were the two guys who were a bit more data and media-oriented than the rest of the agency. So they decided to start their own agency, originally focused on certain aspects of the business. Twelve years later, they have a full-service agency that employs a team of 20 people. Tom is on the show to talk about the importance of being patient while growing your agency.

What's the Key to Longevity for Your Agency?

You likely share the dream of nearly every agency owner: landing the big deal which allows you the freedom to do whatever you want with your agency. However -- while it is entirely possible you will do that -- Tom says there is an importance to being patient. "Everyone wants to hurry up and get there," he tells me. "We are so impatient as a society. Be patient. Owning a business sounds cool, but there is going to be failure. Impatience makes it difficult to get through the hard times."

These days, Facebook gives us everyone's highlight reel of their best moments. It's easy to compare your success to someone else's, but it isn't fair to you. It's easy to get caught up in these advertisements for marketers, promising to show you the secret to earning six-figures in ten days. Those offerings are not rooted in the reality of the industry though. The reality, as Tom explains, is time gives you the opportunity to focus on the fundamentals of your business, hire a team, and learn enough to know you don't know everything. There is always more to learn.

Does Your Agency Have a Business Plan?

Another thing patience buys you is the opportunity to create a business plan, and to develop actionable goals to help you enact that plan. Additionally, Tom encourages, you should develop ways to measure yourself in order to determine if you're following the path you've set for yourself. Then you can decide how you need to adjust your plan to fit your vision. "Understand the percentage you want and why you picked that percentage," Tom says. Figure out how many inquiries it will take to generate the leads that will convert to sales and enable you to accomplish your goal.

Tom warns, however, to watch out for the pitfalls of working in a service-related industry. A lot of times, marketing agencies get so caught up in taking orders and servicing people it gets wrapped up in the business plan. This causes the agency to become order-takers and blurs the line between serving and succeeding.

3 Basic Agency Business Principles You Need

While you're being patient and learning more about the industry, Tom encourages new digital agency owners to also remember the basics of business: Work hard, and do what you can to improve a little bit each day. Some of the suggestions he offers include:

  • Hire the right people. Lead Marketing Agency is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- a place that Tom describes as less than a Mecca of creative talent. However, when it came time to hire a team, Tom and his partner looked for people who had experience from marketing agencies in big cities such as New York. They wanted people to bring to the agency experiences that they, themselves, did not have.
  • Don't represent yourself to clients as bigger than you are. Remember there are things many clients prefer about working for a smaller agency. If your digital agency is small, use it to your advantage rather than blindly pursuing clients whose needs are larger than your ability.
  • Keep learning and keep focusing on your own path, which is unlikely to be exactly like anyone else's. And it's okay to be different. The agency world is filled with niches and specialties and there is no one true path to reaching success. There's only hard work, time, and the ability to trust your skillset. Tom and his team have a motto that keeps them focused and inspired: "Be good, don't suck. Every day."

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

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

How do you find your ideal clients that are a good fit for your agency? How do you avoid taking on clients who aren't a good fit? Often times we take on the wrong clients because we're too eager for the work or because we didn't screen them thoroughly enough. Learn how to avoid these mistakes and the questions you need to ask before you even begin working with a new client.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How do you keep your agency the right size for you?
  • 3 questions to ask prospective agency clients.
  • How do you deal with clients who just don't fit?

On today's show, I talked to Erin Bailey, partner at the digital marketing agency, Matrixx. Erin has spent the past eleven years at Matrixx, first as part of the team and later as a partner. She has seen the agency evolve from a team of three people designing MySpace pages for clients to one that works with common household brands such as Coleman, Zest, and Hefty. While other agencies have a vision of becoming the biggest and most well-known, the Matrixx partners choose to stay the size they are. Erin is here to share why and how they made this decision.

How Do You Keep Your Agency the Right Size for You?

Erin says, in order to keep your agency at its current size, you have to be selective about who you choose to work with. Some agencies want to grow and add to their team. But if you're happy where you're at you need to know your team's bandwidth and then be more selective about what clients you choose to work with. "Everyone makes mistakes," she explains, and usually one of the biggest is taking on the wrong clients out of desperation. When you have a clear vision for your agency and you understand what clients want from you, you'll find the right balance between size and success. The best way to accomplish this is:

  • Be honesty with yourself about the capacity you and your team have to take on new work.
  • Have a clear understanding from the clients about the type and amount of work they need.
  • Honesty with yourself about your ability to meet the client's expectations.

Erin encourages agencies not to rush into large contracts with new clients. Instead, agree to work on a specific project for the client. This gives you and the client the opportunity to each evaluate the fit before entering into a contract for additional services. "There is a fine line between making sure you keep the business healthy and spreading yourself too thin," she says.

3 Questions to Ask Prospective Agency Clients

So, if you are being selective about the clients you take, what are the questions you should ask them? These questions are an important part of the qualification process at Matrixx:

  1. What's your goal? This is the first question to ask, as the client may be seeking services beyond your normal scope of business.
  2. What's your timing? Does the client have a deadline that will pull your team away from the work for other clients? Is it feasible with your current workload?
  3. What's your budget? Erin says this is often the most difficult question for clients to answer. If the client claims they don't have a budget, usually providing a range will get them thinking. You can also try this tactic for getting the client's budget in order to make sure they can afford the solutions you offer.

How Do You Deal with Clients Who Just Don't Fit?

As Erin says, mistakes happen when selecting clients. Sometimes it's overeagerness, and sometimes it's being afraid to say no. And yet, in other cases, the person you were working with leaves the company, and their replacement doesn't have the same vision. "Don't be afraid to say no to a client," she says. "There are other companies out there that you can work with." If you find yourself in a contract with a client that isn't a good fit, Erin suggests:

  • Ride out the contract, but don't pitch a new contract. The loss initial loss of revenue might be hit but reframe your thinking and remember the loss also frees you up to work with more of the right clients. It's OK to fire a client -- it can be very freeing.
  • Continue being honest and transparent; and encourage the same from your clients. Erin explains when the fit isn't good, usually, both parties know. If you're communicating often and identify it early on it's easier to work through.
  • Use your time and energy wisely. Don't target small businesses with the notion that smaller clients mean less work. A lot of times the small clients with small budgets often have big expectations and demands.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

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

Uncertain on choosing a niche for your agency? Have you ever considered specializing in multicultural marketing? Are your clients losing customers by omitting multicultural messaging? Multicultural marketing is rapidly becoming an important growth strategy for businesses. It might be time you consider specializing in this marketing area in order to grow your agency.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • The importance of multicultural marketing.
  • How can you learn more about your clients' audiences?
  • Are your agency clients drowning in data?

I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Diaz and Natasha Pongonis, partners at Nativa. Their agency specializes in multicultural digital marketing agency and works with brands like Charmin, Castrol Motor Oil, and Arizona State University. Several years ago, Eric and Natasha noticed a lack of ads targeted to Hispanic audiences. Realizing these advertisers were missing out on a substantial demographic, they set out to not only help clients expand their reach but to help make the world of marketing a more inclusive one, as well.

How Important is Multicultural Marketing?

According to Eric and Natasha, the growth of the Hispanic population is just one example of the importance of multicultural marketing. In addition to Hispanic and Asian consumers in the U.S., multicultural marketing targets other growing demographics, like African-Americans, Native Americans, and others who fall outside of the mainstream marketing reach, including the LGBTQ community.

Natasha also points out, as the country becomes more diverse, the numbers of individuals in the Millennial and Gen Z generations who identify with more than one ethnicity are also increasing. We have growing numbers of young consumers in this country whose buyer preferences are impacted by more than one culture. Failing to reach this growing group of consumers means leaving their money and their business on the table for one of the bigger companies to grab.

How Can You Learn More About Your Clients' Audiences?

How do agencies know what a certain demographic will want? The answers are in the data, Eric explains. Determining the data to identify potential consumers by cultural identity takes some digging, however. Many years ago Nativa developed a website that gathered data in a spreadsheet on what Hispanic buying habits, trends, and attitudes. Unfortunately, the data they gained only identified Hispanics based on whether they spoke Spanish. Thing is, many Hispanics don't speak Spanish fluently but still consider themselves of Hispanic descent.

The team had to discover new ways of learning about Hispanic consumers by studying their profiles for information to indicate a Hispanic ethnicity. They looked at names, the commonality of products the purchased, and geographic information.

Eventually, Nativa turned this site in a more valuable and all-encompassing SaaS tool that helps their prospects and clients learn more about all their multicultural consumers. This solution has proved to be invaluable to prospects and clients alike.

Are Your Agency Clients Drowning In Data?

Most brands have the data, but what sets Nativa apart is how they analyze and interpret the data. How can a company organically reach multicultural audiences by being part of their conversations? The best way is to just be quiet and listen. Learn what is driving those conversations, where are they taking place, and what are is the ethnicity of the users. Watch strategic partnerships of competitors and learn how different ethnicity's use different products.

Our society is overwhelmed with data. We are drowning in data, but we're starving in knowledge. If you can interpret the data that is a superpower. And today, with machine learning Nativa is even testing out AI usage to predict behaviors of multicultural audiences.

Eric made reference to Walmart and their 25-year relationship with their multicultural agency. The multicultural niche isn't going anywhere in fact, it's evergreen as the market continues to evolve. Natasha says it's not necessarily about the native language anymore. It's more about cultural awareness. It's about communicating in a very cultural and appropriate way to the demographic you're trying to reach, whether Hispanic, Asian, African-American, or others.

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: Do_Your_Agency_Clients_Need_Multicultural_Marketing_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you a new digital agency wondering how to attract the best agency talent? Or an established agency afraid your amazing team might fall apart? The best way to keep your team engaged and happy is to embrace who they are outside of the workplace.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why millennial side-hustles can work in your favor.
  • 6 ways to keep your team engaged and happy.

I had the opportunity to talk with Andrew Au, Co-founder and President of Intercept Group, the marketing agency that he and his wife started 13 years ago. Andrew had started his marketing career at Pepsi, but quickly learned that he was on the wrong side of the business. Today, he has an agency team of 30 and is earning over 8-figures while working with clients such as Microsoft, FedEx, and Intuit. Andrew is here to share the ways he keeps his team engaged and happy as they continue to produce amazing, creative work.

Why Millennial Side-Hustles Can Work In Your Favor

If you're building a team, in all likelihood you will be interviewing and hiring Millennials between the ages of 19 and 39. "Millennials are the largest single cohort in the workplace and they're driving a lot of change," Andrew says. But there is something else you should know about the millennial generation: They're entrepreneurial. Around 40% of Millennials who are working have a "side-hustle". While many marketing agency owners would discourage side-hustles, Andrew says he actually looks for employees with a business on the side. 

"It gives them a maturity that you can't get from school or from working in another place," Andrew explains. He says employees are going to be pursuing these side-ventures whether you know about them or not, so "find ways to bring it into the business."

Also, when your team feels like you support their outside endeavors they're likely to share with others. And in my experience, being an awesome place to work is the kind of reputation you want in order to keep attracting more amazing talent.

6 Ways to Keep Your Team Engaged and Happy

Encouraging and supporting your team's individual side hustles is one way to invest in your employees and to keep them engaged and happy. Here are 6 more ways to help retain your agency team:

  1. Incentivize the team to learn things outside of work. Andrew's digital agency has a learning fund that provides $500 for each full-time employee to use learning something new. The catch: the money must be spent on learning something that is not work-related.
  2. Create perks that extend beyond the workplace. Andrew bought a cottage outside the city as a place where his team can clear their minds and be creatively inspired. He also provides smaller perks like free car washes and other things they would not buy themselves.  Andrew says, most perks are just nice things the team wouldn't necessarily spend their own money on, but would happily take advantage of when provided by the agency.
  3. Don't skip the one-on-ones. You should be meeting personally with each member of your team at least on a quarterly basis. Standardizing that process and making the time to ensure it happens is crucial.
  4. Celebrate behaviors, not outcomes. Your team could be working hard and still the project could lose money or the client could walk away. It is important to learn from any mistakes and take time to celebrate all the things your team did right.
  5. Be transparent with your team. Communicate the agency's goals and plans to meet those goals. Employees who feel they are part of the plan will be more engaged. And employees who are more engaged are more creative.
  6. Prioritize your team. Always remember that your clients come second. Your team comes first. In a race to win talent, the right culture is more important than any productivity-boosting tool you can buy. If you treat employees right, they will do right by your clients.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.

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

Does your agency location determine its growth potential? How important is the location of your digital marketing agency? Do location and culture impact the talent you're trying to attract for your team? Can your clients expect better service if you're "local"?

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why clients like a local agency.
  • Why culture matters to your agency team.
  • Tips for relocating your agency.

The explosion of digital options has clearly changed the world, taking in everything from how you get your news to where you buy your products. However, in spite of all of the changes from digitizing the world, some things remain the same. One of those things is the old adage about location, location, location. I sat down to talk to Kaushal Kakadia, Partner and CTO of Birmingham-based marketing agency, SociallyIn, about the importance of your agency's location, for your clients as well as your team.

3 Reasons Why Clients Like Having a Local Agency

SociallyIn started in a small Mississippi town, Kaushal explained. However, they decided moving to a larger area still in the same geographical region helped attract better clients. Some of the additional benefits clients receive from having a local agency include:

  1. Focus on the local market. We live in an era where brands can choose to work with agencies anywhere in the world, but in some cases, the local digital agency is going to better understand the local market and how to reach it.
  2. Building a network with local talent and vendors. One thing SociallyIn did once they relocated to Birmingham was to begin an annual conference called the Southern Social Summit. The conference attracts local talent and builds a network between marketing agencies and creative freelancers. It also provides networking for others involved in the equation, such as advertisers and vendors.
  3.  Avoiding time zone issues. There are times where a client needs to contact its marketing agency immediately and needs a quick response. This can be difficult if their agency is several time zones away.

Why Culture Matters to Your Agency Team

Culture is real and it is important, particularly if you're growing an in-person team. Providing a positive work culture for your team not only keeps your team members happy but inspires them to work harder. While there are many virtual agencies with fully remote teams, if you want to create an office-based team, it's important to establish roots in a location where you can find amazing agency talent.

In addition to culture, Kaushal says there are other benefits to having an in-person team versus having a remote team, such as:

  • Faster communication. Time zone communication doesn't only affect clients. It is generally easier to reach your team if they're in the same space than if they're in a different state or country.
  • Reducing burnout. Work-from-home employees are at higher risk of "over-working" since there isn't a start and stop time. In an office, there are established hours and break times that keep creative minds fresh and allow them the ability to step away. This helps your team be more productive during their work time.
  • Increased flexibility. Office workers can go remote easier than a remote team can go to an office. Your in-office team will consider it a benefit to have the option to work from home on an as-needed basis.

Tips for Relocating Your Agency

So, if you're planning to set down roots for your agency in a new city, what are some considerations that need to be made? Kaushal offers a few tips:

  • Be transparent with your team, particularly if your relocation is going to result in the need for them to move themselves and their family. Plan the move in phases so that everyone has the time to make arrangements necessary for a smooth transition.
  • If you're looking to grow your team in your new location, be sure to take the time to learn about the local creative talent pool.
  • Once you get to your desired location, be careful not to scale too quickly. It is OK to say no to a prospective client who needs more than you are able to give. Scaling slow and steady is better than going too fast and falling on your face.

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: Why_Location_Matters_to_Your_Agency_Clients__Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you questioning whether you should choose a niche? Do you know your why and your passion? Have you gotten some great agency advice but rather go with your gut? Sometimes you just have to disregard the advice in front of you and answer to your true purpose in order to succeed. Even if it means ignoring your agency advisor.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How can an agency survive an owner's personal tragedy?
  • When is ignoring your agency advisor OK to do?
  • Is it time for an agency rebrand?
  • Does your agency have Clark Griswold complex?

This week, I had the opportunity to chat with Brantley Payne, Partner/Creative Director at Uncommon a rebranded version of the agency where he started his career in 1999. Over time and a series of life-altering events, Brantley’s role at the agency evolved from art director to copywriter to creative director and eventually owner. He’s on the show to share what he’s learned about finding the agency’s North Star and why he chose to totally ignore his agency advisor’s advice. (Don’t worry, the advisor wasn’t me!)

How Can an Agency Survive an Owner's Personal Tragedy?

In 2010, after 11 years at the (then) Glass Agency, Brantley was doing well in his creative positions but then thrown into something completely different and unique. The agency owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness and part of his legacy plans. Do you have a plan in place for serious injury, illness, or death?

At the onset of his illness, the owner set a plan in motion for the agency to put into a trust and become an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). The heads of Media, Accounts, and Creative (that’s Brantley) were to lead the daily operations of the agency. So they had all the responsibility, but just equal share of the rewards.

How did the agency survive and thrive during this time?

  1. Preserve what’s already in place. Brantley said their first goal was simply not letting the agency collapse. This meant continuing the same quality of work and meeting with all their clients to explain the situation and assure them of their future. Their first goal was to stabilize and maintain.
  2. Define what the future looks like. What will they stand for? What do they believe in? How will they grow? What does the growth trajectory look like? Above and beyond maintaining, they needed to think about how to achieve next-level growth.

After 5 years running the agency as an ESOP, Brantley and his now partners decided to start buying out the employee ownership. Brantley and his two partners haven’t looked back.

When Is Ignoring Your Agency Advisor OK?

After making the agency their own, Brantley and his partners hired an agency advisor to help them grow their business. Nope - it wasn’t me but I won’t hold it against him :)

Ultimately, the main piece of advice they received -- one I don’t disagree -- is to choose a niche. How many times have you heard me say it, right? But ultimately, Brantley and his partners decided to ignore it. That was 4 years ago and Uncommon is killing it everything from retail to safety to transit and more.

What they learned was their niche wasn’t a specific industry, it’s simply the underdogs who need their help. But, the real lesson was the exercise of going through the process. They learned who they are and who they aren’t. They discovered their passion -- and having passion is the only way to succeed.

Now when taking on new clients, they asked themselves these questions:

  • Is this something we want?
  • Can we actually help?
  • Will we treated as partners by this client?
  • Are we passionate about this?

Is It Time for an Agency Rebrand?

Agencies are great at helping their clients with rebrands. But when it comes to helping ourselves with one it’s really hard!

In 2016 Brantley and partners decided it was time for a fresh start for the agency in order to reflect their passion. They changed the business name to Uncommon and created a video to explain what they’re about and what drives them forward. It inspires their work, their team, and even their clients.

A rebrand can be really hard to do for yourself. In fact, all inward reflection can be, right? It’s like my analogy with the frozen chicken and NASA. Sometimes you’re just too close to see what is holding you back. However, when you take a step back and look through a different lens you will make some amazing discoveries.

Does Your Agency Have Clark Griswold Complex?

I love this last piece of advice from Brantley. He referenced the scene in the movie Christmas Vacation when Chevy Chase’s character Clark Griswold has high expectations for his light display with a drumroll only to be disappointed when the lights don’t work and deflated when his family isn’t impressed by his hard work (watch the scene here).

Brantley says that’s what agencies tend to do with their clients. And we let ourselves get disappointed or deflated when the client isn’t as excited or impressed. (Like Clark’s family when the lights aren’t impressive.)

Instead, agencies need to do “reverse Christmas.” Don’t try to surprise and impress your clients. Have conversations and involve them all the way through. While some of your presentation can have an element of surprise, it should not be a total shock to them. You’ll get better buy-in when they feel they’ve been part of the process from start to finish.

Remember, it’s not about you and your creative genius. It’s about them, the client. Ease their pain points, solve their problem, bring them customers and they’ll love you forever. They don’t care about your massive Christmas light display.

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

Are you worried you can't grow a successful agency without a large team? Are you looking for a way to provide a better, more efficient experience for your clients? When it comes to running an agency, bigger isn't always better.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Does agency team size matter?
  • How to grow profits without growing your team.
  • Why project-based agencies shouldn't take retainers.

Today I sat down with Jon Paley, owner of The Vault, an ad agency/production company based out of New York City. Jon's agency runs off a fairly small team (10 people), yet manages to bring in 8-figures. He's here to discuss why he chooses to keep a smaller team and how he has used it to his advantage.

Does Agency Team Size Matter?

When I talk to agency owners, there are usually two metrics they use to measure success — profits and the number of people on their team. There's a common misconception that as you grow, you need to increase the size of your team. But if you've been listening to me for a while, you've probably heard me talk about the way a small team can work to your advantage.

When Jon created his agency, he had one thing in mind, to remove the typical agency bureaucracy. With larger agencies, it often feels like you have to go through layer after layer just to talk to the right person. Jon knew if he hired the right people, his agency could do a lot more with less. Without all the layers and red tape, Jon can quickly determine if a client is a good fit, and if his team has what it takes to take a project on. In the end, the team is more productive, the clients are happier, and Jon can be confident his agency delivers what the client expects.

How to Grow Profits without Growing Your Team

I hear you, "but what if my client needs something my team can't do?" This is when it makes sense to work with freelancers. In most cases, the quality of work is great and you aren't stuck with the overhead of a permanent employee. So how can you make freelancers work for you?

  • Determine who's essential on your team. Your account managers and team executives should be full-time employees. These are the people who know your brand, understand your vision, and help you build important client relationships.
  • Build a database of preferred freelancers. Just because a person's not on your payroll, doesn't mean you can't work with them frequently. Create a database of freelancers who consistently knock it out of the park so you'll know where to turn first when you have a specific need.

Why Project-Based Agencies Shouldn't Take Retainers

Jon says he's noticed some agencies claim they are a project-based firm but structure their relationships based on a retainer. When you do this, you're not operating from a place of success. These relationships have very different demands.

Many agencies move to a retainer structure because they want more predictability. But if you focus on building the pipeline full of projects, you'll find you can have the same type of success. Plus, you'll find many of your clients are referrals from previous project clients.

You don't always need to focus on building a bigger team to find continued growth. Much of the time, it's not about how many people are on your team, but rather who is on your team. When you focus on quality instead of quantity, everything else will fall into place.

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_Be_an_8-Figure_Agency_Without_a_Huge_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you know what brands want from an agency? What do they look for when deciding to work with an agency? Are you looking for a way to stand out in a world of "me too" agencies? Often, the best way to get noticed is to embrace who you are.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • The biggest disconnect between brands and agencies.
  • #1 reason brands prefer working with niche agencies.
  • 3 ways your agency can stand out.

Today I sat down for an enlightening conversation with Robby Berthume, CEO of Bull & Beard, an agency collective based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Robby works with agencies and brands to help them come together to find the perfect fit. He's here to discuss what brands are looking for in an agency, and what you can do to win brand contracts.

The Biggest Disconnect Between Brands and Agencies

There's a lot of disconnect between brands and agencies. While the end game is the same, typically, there is a lot of disagreement about how to get there. Robby says, one of the biggest disconnects he sees is in the area of pricing.

When a brand comes in with a set budget, agencies tend to just accept it as is. If we push back and say we need a little more or the budget is unrealistic, the brand may choose to go somewhere else. But what if you look at it from a different vantage point?

Robby says pricing can help you gain credibility and earn a brand's respect. Sure you can tell a client you can come in at a certain price point, but you're not doing yourself any favors. When you're straightforward about the cost of a project and what your services are worth, you'll earn the client's trust.

#1 Reason Brands Prefer Working With Niche Agencies

We've talked about declaring a niche endlessly. I'm a strong believer in declaring a niche in order to separate your agency from generalists. And Robby says has found the clients agree. Yes, there are some brands that like to work with full-service agencies, but Robby says the split is about 80-20 in favor of niche agencies.

Think about it this way. When you hire someone, you want to know they are the best at their job. You don't want a jack of all trades. When you build a home, you want a contractor, not a handyman. Brands invest a lot into agencies. That's why they prefer to choose experts over generalists.

3 Ways to Your Agency Can Stand Out

There's no getting around it — brands have a lot of choices. If you're not careful, you can become just another "me too" agency. So what can you do to make sure you get noticed?

  • Put in the work: If you're lazy, it's going to show. Before you talk to a client, do your research. Audit their website, look at their pain points, and be prepared with a plan.
  • Let your personality show: By reviewing Bull & Beard's website you'll notice is it doesn't look like your typical agency website. From the colors to the typeface and even word choice, everything about the site lets you know who Bull & Beard is. When you let your personality show, clients are more likely to remember you when it comes time to choose an agency.
  • Become a trusted advisor: Let's be honest, there are a lot of agencies out there that offer the same services you do. That's why you don't want to sell yourself as just a doer, you want to be the expert resource. Ask questions, figure out the client's problem, and provide a strategy for resolving it. This is your number one differentiator.

The ultimate goal is to pick and choose who you work with. But often, we work with clients who aren't a good fit when we feel we have no other choice. When you put in the work to separate yourself and gain trust as an agency, that's when you'll discover you have true creative freedom.

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

Do you have a plan to protect your agency and team in the event of illness, injury, or death?? What would you do if your partner died? What if you were hurt or sick and unable to work? How much of your agency is dependent upon you for the day-to-day operations? As agency owners, we often think about our exit plan, but it's also important to plan for the unexpected.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 things to protect your agency from the unexpected.
  • The key to protecting your agency's acquisition.

Today I sat down for an interesting chat with Eric Meyers, former CEO of a $40 million digital marketing agency. Back then, Eric found himself trying to navigate a pending merger as well as a transfer of ownership after the sudden death of his agency's founder. He's here to talk about what he learned through the process and what you can do to protect your agency from the unexpected.

2 Things to Protect Your Agency from the Unexpected

Take a minute to think about what your agency's future looks like. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years? Is that future still possible in the event of a sudden illness or injury of an agency leader? What about the death of your business partner? These things aren't fun to think about, but the truth is when you own a business you have to consider and plan for the unexpected.

When Eric took the role of CEO at an agency, he never expected the founder would be involved in a tragic accident after only three months on the job, but that's what happened. As a result, the owner's family took control of the agency. From there, a pending merger fell apart and the agency went up for sale within six months. So how can you protect your agency from unforeseen changes?

  1. Create a Buy/Sell Agreement. If you have a partner, a solid Buy/Sell Agreement is critical. It protects both partners' interests and keeps things simple during times of uncertainty. You signed up to work with your business partner, not his or her family. A Buy/Sell Agreement helps ensure you have the funds to buy out your partner's family so you retain control over your agency.
  2. Purchase disability insurance. Would your agency survive if you had to take a sudden leave of absence due to an injury? Would you be able to pay your own bills? This one may seem obvious but it's often overlooked. It's a low-cost way to protect your business and your family.

The Key to Protecting Your Agency's Acquisition

One of the major problems at Eric's agency is the acquisition fell through at the last minute. This could have been prevented by a rock-solid Letter of Intent. A Letter of Intent helps all parties understand what they are getting out of the purchase of the agency. Eric says you shouldn't assume you can do it on your own. You need someone guiding the process and helping you navigate the unknown. It's even a good idea to make sure you have legal representation to look over paperwork and contracts.

Another way to protect yourself is to set up an escrow account with the Letter of Intent. The amount in escrow depends on the amount of the sale. Then, if everything before the Letter of Intent turns out to be true and one of the parties backs out, the other party receives financial compensation.

Don't forget, an agency sale is not the time to slow down. You need to keep your foot on the gas. You need to excel servicing existing clients and continue to fill your pipeline. That way, in the event the sale falls through, your agency is in a good position to thrive.

Nobody likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but as a business owner, you have no choice. When you take the time to make sure you have the necessary precautions in place, you're investing in your agency's future.

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: Is_Your_Agency_Prepared_for_Illness_Injury_or_Death_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you ever stopped to really think about what is really driving growth? What inspires you to keep doing what you do? Do you know your agency's purpose?  Are you driven by something more than just profit? Research shows businesses with a purpose often fair better than those that don't. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to determine your agency's purpose. 
  • The value of authenticity. 
  • 2 tips to become a trusted partner.

Today I talked with Brian Powell, managing partner at Matchfire, a brand design and digital agency. Matchfire focuses on purpose-driven marketing and helping brands embrace who they are. Brian's here today to discuss why all agencies should have a purpose and how your agency can find its own. 

How to Determine Your Agency's Purpose

Open up a book or turn on the TV and chances are, you'll find something about purpose. There's a growing movement to do everything with intention and create with meaning. From an agency standpoint, having a purpose doesn't just help your clients understand who you are, it helps you and your team be better at what you do. When you understand the why, it's easier to come up with the how. 

For me, my purpose to create a resource I wish I had when I was running an agency. If you don't know your agency's purpose, consider these questions:

  • Why do you want to make money?
  • Why do you want to create your product or provide your service?
  • What makes you different? 
  • What kind of void would there be if your product didn't exist?

Talk to your partners and stakeholders and really dig deep. Why do you do what you do? When you can answer this, a whole new world will open up.

The Value of Authenticity

For some, the word authentic may come across as hippy-dippy as the word purpose. But trust me, consumers can spot phony a mile away. When you choose your agency's purpose, it has to be authentic. Authentic, purpose-driven marketing can drive business and social impact. 

Along the lines of authenticity, it's important to know what you're good at. When you know your areas of strength, you can specialize and be the best at one thing. Specializing doesn't have to mean exclusivity but allows you the ability to say no. You can't be all things to all people

When you take a step back and say, "This isn't where I excel," or "Let me recommend you to someone who can help," referrals, goodwill, and word of mouth will come back to you tenfold. Don't try to pretend you're something you're not just to win over a client. When you're honest, you'll earn the client's trust and they'll be more likely to call you when something else comes up.

2 Tips to Become a Trusted Partner

As an agency, the worst thing you can be is an order taker. You don't want to be treated like a commodity. The ultimate goal is for clients to view you as a trusted authority and an expert in your field. Purpose and authenticity will take you a long way in earning a client's trust, but there are two things to really focus on if you want to be a go-to resource:

  1. Have an opinion: There's a misconception that marketing is the business of ideas. When in fact, what we do is give people our opinions. Clients want to hear what they should do and why they should do it based on your experience and market knowledge. 
  2. Ask questions: What is your client's purpose? Why do they do what they do? From the very beginning you need to ask your client questions like: what do you want to do, what do you want to accomplish, and what are the challenges getting in the way? Finally, end with: how can I help you get there?

What is it that separates you from everyone else? Why should clients see you as more than just a "me too" agency? Answer these questions and be true to who you are and both you and your clients will reap the benefits. 

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

Are you looking for an efficient way to attract more leads? Do you want to get to a place where you can pick and choose your clients? Content is a great way to generate leads with your ideal clients. When you generate the right content you will find the perfect prospects seek you out.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 way to increase organic traffic.
  • How to get over your content creation fears.
  • How to create more content right now.

Today I sat down for a really fun chat with Jason Sirotin, co-founder of Brain Bytes Creative, a digital marketing agency. Jason spends a lot of his time creating fun, highly-opinionated content. He's here to discuss the value of content for digital agencies and how you can use content to see results right away.

#1 Way to Increase Organic Traffic

As agency owners, we all hope to get to a point where we can pick and choose who we work with. Work becomes more enjoyable when you do what you love for the people and brands you actually want to work with. But often, we limit ourselves to take on projects and clients that aren't necessarily a good fit because we need to make payroll or pay rent. What if you had more options?

Content is a quick and easy way to increase organic traffic and generate more leads. Plus it helps establish you as a thought leader and trusted authority. It doesn't matter what type of content you create. You can write blog posts, start a podcast, or create videos on YouTube. The number one thing you need to do is let go of your fear of failure. Sometimes your content will resonate, sometimes it won't. The key is to just produce.

How to Get Over Your Content Creation Fears

One of the reasons people hesitate to put out content is their fear of judgment by the audience. But Jason says you need to forget about the haters. In fact, he relishes in the negative comments because they promote more conversation. Think of it this way, each comment counts as fresh content. This keeps your page relevant which is good for SEO. So don't turn off the comments and don't be afraid to put your opinion out there. Your words and wisdom will resonate with the right clients.

How to Create More Right Now

Sure, there is such a thing as bad content. But we all have to start somewhere. The more you put out there, the better you will get. The number one goal is progress.

Jason says, right now, it's all about speed. You have to be reactive. If there is a current trend or a popular news topic, get your content out there and provide guidance or an opinion. So what if someone doesn't agree with what you have to say, maybe they'll learn something new or see things from a different perspective.

When you create agency content, don't forget about SEO, but more importantly, don't forget to think (and write) like a human. Google is designed to give users the best results for their queries. You can help users (i.e. your potential prospects) make a decision by showing them you're an expert in what you do. And when you find the keyword that resonates with your audience, you'll see the leads come flooding in.

There is no way to overstate the importance of content, especially in today's climate. The more you put out there, the more your audience will have the opportunity to view you as an authority. Let down your guard, brush aside the fear, and start creating.

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: Why_You_Need_to_Generate_Content_to_Generate_Leads.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Looking for a creative way to rapidly grow your agency? Wondering how to structure an agency acquisition without getting screwed on the other side? Whether you want to grow your agency through acquisition or are considering selling to lessen your risk liability, acquisition is one of the best strategies. And that’s exactly how one agency soared to $15 Million in under one year.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • 3 myths about agency acquisition.
  • What motivates an agency owner to sell?
  • 7 criteria of a good agency acquisition.
  • How to avoid getting burned on an earnout.
  • How to structure the best agency acquisition.

On today’s show, you’ll get to hear from one of my business partners, Thomas LeMaguer CEO of Republics which is the agency we started about 10 months ago. The goal of the agency is to be the leading platform for growth as a service. In that short time, we’ve worked to rapidly grow the agency to $15 million through acquisition. He’s here to talk about how you can grow your agency through acquisitions, or set yourself up for a fair and profitable sale of your own agency.

3 Myths About Agency Acquisitions

1. You Need a Ton of Cash to Buy Another Agency

Nope! Thomas says you don’t need money in order to buy another business, you just need some creativity. Also, banks are more willing to loan money to agencies that are in the $1 Million to $5 Million EBITDA range. Bigger agencies with higher EBITDA are a riskier investment for them because often those businesses are too reliant on their owner.

2. Small Agencies Cannot Afford to Buy a Bigger Agency

Not true! As Thomas put it, a minnow can swallow the whale. The whale is easier because it’s stronger. Again, this is where creativity comes into play. The smaller agency is actually more nimble and can adapt to the processes and systems of the bigger one.

3. The Best Acquisition is a Failing Agency That You Can Turn Around

Wrong again! You don’t need (nor should you want) to buy a failing business and try to fix it. That usually turns into way more work and headaches. The way we grew our agency was by acquiring profitable agencies with monthly recurring revenue, solid profit, and strong leadership.

What Motivates an Agency Owner to Sell?

Usually, the owners of solid, profitable agencies want to sell for one of two reasons. Either they no longer enjoy what they’re doing and feel like their only way to eliminate what they hate is by getting out of the business entirely. Or, they want to reduce their personal risk and feel like a more secure, stable “job” is better than the liability of ownership.

Thomas says in either case, true wealth is built by a series of transactions. An acquisition can alleviate agency owner risk and help them get back to just doing what they love.

7 Criteria of a Good Agency Acquisition

First and foremost, the only way for an acquisition to work is if both agencies are aligned core values. If the foundation is there, then we look at 7 specific criteria:

  1. Does the agency offer complementary services that we can scale?
  2. Are they at $1 Million+ in EBITDA?
  3. Is there a strong leadership team that will remain in place?
  4. Are they physically located in an area we would like to be?
  5. Does the agency have good financial controls?
  6. Is there 60% in monthly recurring revenue?
  7. Are they motivated and ready to sell?

How to Avoid Getting Burned on an Earnout

I used to advise agencies to avoid an earnout as part of their acquisition structure. But, I’ve learned an earnout isn't bad as long as it’s structured in a way benefits both buyer and seller.

Thomas and I agree the best agency acquisition is one where everybody wins. A fair and honest deal beneficial to both parties is the best way to work an acquisition. And, it’s the way we’ve structured five acquisitions in ten months in order to grow from $0 to $15 Million.

Learn from my mistake. When I sold my agency, I got burned on my earnout. It was tied to profitability within a specific time period. When time ran out (and the agency sold a second time) I got screwed out of the earnout. That’s why we don’t like to structure earnouts the same way.

Instead, the earnout is theirs to gain at their own pace. When the agency hits its goals, we both win. The seller with their earnout and us with a more profitable agency. Of course, they’re motivated to earn it sooner rather than later which is great. Win-win!

How to Structure the Best Agency Acquisition Deal

If you’re considering selling -- or considering buying one -- but you feel the agency’s value is going to be greater in the future, you can still sell now without screwing your future self. There’s a smart way to structure your acquisition -- here’s how we’ve been doing it:

The initial payout is half cash upfront and the owner stays on with us. They hold 20-30% of their own stock for future payout. Over the course of time, we grow the business together and they cash out their stock in the future at a 10X return.

For example, if you have a $2 Million agency, you’re getting $1 Million in cash in the present and pull $10 Million in the future. We help each other grow and fulfill the agency’s full potential.

As Thomas quoted an old proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Are You Considering Selling Your Agency?

If you’re interested in learning more about the acquisition process and/or interested in possibly selling your agency check out: JasonSwenk.com/sellagency

Direct download: How_an_Agency_Went_0_to_15_Million_in_Under_One_Year.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you a small agency worried your size might be holding you back? Afraid you might not have what it takes to compete with the big agencies? The more you put yourself out there, the sooner you'll realize it's not the size of your agency that makes a difference, but rather, what you bring to the table.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 reason you should hire people smarter than you. 
  • How to turn your agency's weakness into its strength. 
  • Why agencies need to build authentic relationships.

Today I sat down with Valerie Moizel, executive creative director and co-founder at The Woo, a digital marketing agency. Valerie started her agency almost 23 years ago with a little bit of naivety and a whole lot of drive. Today she's here to discuss key connections she made to make her agency successful and the number one thing her agency has done to see continued growth.

#1 Reason You Should Hire People Smarter Than You

There's a certain level of confidence required to start an agency. A lot of us get into the agency business because we can do something not everyone can. So it can feel kind of counterintuitive to actively seek out people who are smarter than you. But it's one of the best things you can do, especially when you are first starting out. 

It's important to recognize there are some things you are good at, and some things you are not. When Valerie first started out, she had a lot of drive and passion, but not a lot of experience. So her first hire was someone very established within the industry. She says it was the combination of her naiveness and fearlessness and her partner's experience that really propelled the agency forward. Surround yourself with people who are the best at what they do. 

How to Turn Your Agency's Weakness Into Its Strength

As agency owners, we somehow got it in our heads that the bigger the team, the more successful the agency. So it's easy to feel a disadvantage as a smaller agency. But that's not always the case. 

Valerie says time after time, she is able to use her agency's size to their advantage. In fact, her partner would even make the pitch, "Sure, you can hear from all these big agencies, but don't you want to see what a boutique agency can do?" Even if a client didn't choose them as the agency of record, often they would still get the call to work on special projects because clients loved their passion. In most cases, smaller agencies can pivot quicker and be more flexible than the big guys. That's an advantage every client needs!

Whether you're big, small, niche, or full-service, embrace what makes you special. Often what you view as your weakness, your prospects will see as a strength. 

Why Agencies Need to Build Authentic Relationships

Curious about how Valerie named her agency? Valerie says she scoured the dictionary looking for the perfect name for her agency. When she got to the end of the book, she came across the word "woo." Woo means "to seek favor and affection." And at the end of the day, Valerie says that's what our job as marketers is. 

Look at the advertisements you see on TV. Think about the ones you connect with. Today, people don't want companies who beat their chests and say "look at me." They want to support brands with shared passions and values. When you look at your campaign through the lens of the customer and not through the client, that's when you're more likely to build connections. 

If your goal is to create an agency, the only person who can limit you is you. When you surround yourself with the right people, embrace your strengths, and build meaningful relationships, everything else will come easier. 

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_Build_Relationships_to_Grow_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you find that no matter how hard you work, you're just not profitable? Are you spending too much time on the wrong things? If you want to be successful, you need to evaluate your priorities and get rid of the stuff that's dragging you down. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Lessons on reinvesting agency profits. 
  • Why investing in the right team is the key to growth.
  • Why your agency must embrace change. 

Today I sat down for a really informative chat with Mark Bower, managing director of Woven, a brand engagement agency. After 20 years in the industry, Mark recently had to close shop on the agency he started. Now, with a new agency, he's here to share what he's learned and what he would have done differently to put his last agency in a better position. 

2 Lessons on Reinvesting Agency Profits

When you're in the thick of building an agency, it's far too easy to become fixated on growth, growth, growth. You get so consumed with getting bigger and more successful you justify putting everything back in the agency to promote even greater growth. But if you're not careful, this approach can land you right where Mark was. He had a few really good clients, but nothing to show for it. So how do you avoid this?

  • Know where your profit is coming from: Sounds simple, right? The mistake Mark made was taking the profit from the larger, more successful clients, and reinvesting it into the ones that weren't doing so well. Watch out for this. Do an audit. If you're losing money because you're spending too much on clients that will never be profitable, know when to let them go. 
  • Give yourself a rainy day fund: Mark says he took everything he earned and put it right back into the agency. When the agency began to fail, he had no way to bail them out. Take some of your profits and put it aside, whether it be in property, equity, or even the bank. And, I often tell my clients to take a line of credit when you don't need it. That way it's available when you do.

Why Investing in the Right Team is the Key to Growth

It's tempting to try to fix something that doesn't work. As humans, we're natural people pleasers. Letting go of a client, or team member can feel like a failure and cause awkward confrontation. But when you invest too much time forcing a relationship that isn't the right fit, you lose more than just money

Mark says a lot of his agency business was project-based. There's nothing wrong with that. However, the team never had enough time to fill the pipeline. When your team devotes most of their time to putting out fires, they're unable to build relationships and generate more business. On the other hand, if you focus on what does work, you can invest in the right people who can help build and grow your agency. 

Why Your Agency Must Embrace Change

Have you ever heard this phrase: "That's just the way we've always done it."? If those words have come out of your mouth, eliminate them from your vocabulary now. 

As an agency owner, it's important to have clarity. But you also have to be willing to change directions. Decide what you want to achieve and how you want to achieve it. Then, be willing to change your strategy completely in order to do so.  

The market is constantly resetting. If you don't reset, your agency might become irrelevant. Embrace opportunities to reinvent yourself and surround yourself with people who will do the same. Not everyone will stick around when things change. And that's okay. Those that leave will be happy somewhere else. 

It's important to put back into your agency, but it's even more important to do it right. When you take the time to focus on what works and what doesn't, you'll find it easier for your agency to grow. 

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

Is an acquisition in your agency's future but you're not sure how to find a potential buyer? Does your agency have incredible strategic partnerships? Sometimes, the best merger and acquisition deals come out of existing relationships with partners and businesses that offer complementary services. The key is to structure a beneficial and fair deal for both parties while avoiding the biggest acquisition pitfall.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why agencies need to lead with data.
  • Agency acquisition mistake to avoid.
  • How to structure an agency owner's buyout.

Today I sat down for a discussion with Tim Curtis, President, and CEO of CohereOne, a direct-to-consumer marketing agency. Tim recently sold his agency to a strategic partner and took a little different approach. He's here to discuss what he did and why this option was the best choice for his agency.

Why Agencies Need to Lead with Data

We all have biases. It's human nature. So, of course, you think your agency provides the best solutions and services.  But while it's great to take pride in your work, when you are trying to sell (whether it's to a client or another agency), you want to put the data first.

As a data-driven agency, Tim knows the value of numbers. Numbers don't lie. So, if you want to sell the value of your service or communicate the results your agency can achieve, let the numbers do the talking. Once you provide the data, then you can explain why you're the best. Tim says, if you want to take advantage of opportunities, you have to understand the data, and then the context. In that order.

#1 Mistake in an Agency Acquisition

One mistake many agency owners make when there's a merger or acquisition deal on the table is letting their foot off the gas. They focus on the value of the sale instead of keeping the agency profitable.  Of course, it's more fun to think about the dollar signs, what you want to buy, and how much money you are going to make from a buyout. When this happens, people tend to relax, put in a little less effort, and look at the acquisition as a done deal. This is a mistake.

Regardless of your role in the agency, everyone needs to be all in until the deal is in ink. Continue to hustle, bring on new clients, and build new income. What happens when you start to take the foot off the gas? Best case scenario, you sour the relationship between you and the buyer. Worst case scenario, you lose the deal.

How to Structure an Agency Owner's Buyout

There are many ways to structure an acquisition. You can have more cash upfront and less earnout. Or you can have less cash, but retain a big piece of equity. Tim says, when it came to structuring his acquisition, he went with a hybrid approach.

Generally, when we consider earnout, we look at EBIDTA. Often, this is where sellers get the best deal. But Tim says, instead of EBIDTA, his earnout is based on gross sales. In addition, they've also agreed to guaranteed payments based on this amount. With this approach, there's more incentive for everyone to focus on the growth of the business, rather than bleed it for profits. This way, the agency continues to grow momentum. Tim says, the industry as a whole is beginning to see more of a shift towards smaller percentages upfront. As such, it's important to look for the best way to get the most out of your deal.

Whether making a deal with a strategic partner or putting out feelers to merge with another agency, it all comes down to your approach. When you focus on what makes you valuable and keep your foot on the gas, you won't have to work as hard for a buyer to recognize your agency's value.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

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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: 1_Mistake_to_Avoid_in_an_Agency_Acquisition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you tired of working for an agency? Do you feel like you could do things better yourself? Are you ready to start your own digital agency but afraid of the unknowns? You can spend all your time worrying about the uncertainty or you can get busy turning your dreams into reality.  

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 things to set your agency up for success. 
  • 3 things to know about landing new agency clients. 
  • Can starting an agency be a side-hustle?

Today I sat down for a fun talk with George Ippolito, President, and Creative Director of IMA, a B2B digital agency. Unlike many agency owners, George didn't become an accident agency owner, he walked away from his job as an employee and made the conscious decision to branch out on his own. He's here to talk about why he made the jump and what he's learned along the way. 

2 Things to Set Your Agency Up for Success

Whether you fell into the agency world or have over 20 years in the business like Greg, starting out can be a challenge. Unless you have an established client base, it can feel like a mad scramble to bring in enough clients to be profitable. For Greg, things were even more challenging because he had a Non-Disclosure Agreement that prevented him from recruiting potential clients. So how do you make sure you get off to a good start?

  1. Give yourself a cushio: You're not going to make good decisions if you feel like you are already starting in the hole. Before Greg made the decision to start his agency, he made sure he had 6 months of expenses in the bank. The way he put it, with as much experience as he had, if he couldn't win new clients of his own within that time, he didn't deserve to own his own agency. 
  2. Consider what you have to offer: Because Greg signed an NDA with his last agency, his options were limited when it came to attracting new clients. This meant he had to take a close look at his strengths and how he could position his agency to attract clients.

3 Things to Know About Landing New Agency Clients

Let's be honest, clients are everything. You need clients to have a successful agency. But how do you find these clients if you don't already have established connections?

  1. Create multiple touchpoints: In the beginning, IMA used dimensional mailers, phone calls, emails — pretty much anything to get the prospect's attention. When you create multiple touchpoints, you increase the likelihood your prospects will pay attention to you. That said, it is possible to bug someone so much they never want to work with you. If you don't hear from a cold prospect within 5-6 contacts, it's time to let them go.
  2. Focus on how you can help: Prospects aren't interested in helping you make money; they're looking for someone who can fix their problems. Get your foot in the door and have those open and honest conversations. Listen to what your clients need and communicate a plan on how you can ease their pain points or solve their challenges. 
  3. Know when a client is not a good fit: You may be anxious to sign on as many clients as you can, but you want to make sure they are the right clients. If you can't provide what the client needs or they aren't the right fit for your agency, don't force it. 

Can Starting an Agency be a Side-Hustle?

The short answer is no. It may be tempting to try to start an agency on the side while working your full-time job. The logic here is, you always have a steady income stream while you try to make it on your own. While this might work for some people, 99% of the time it's a bad idea. 

You can't run a business part-time. Your growing marketing agency needs your focus, your ideas, and your time. If you are working two jobs at once, they will both suffer. And then there's you. You'll quickly discover you have no time to just "shut it off." You have to get in the mindset that even a full-time job does not provide job security. It may feel safer to keep your job, but sometimes, the risk is worth the reward. 

Starting an agency is an exciting time, but it comes with a very steep learning curve. The more you prepare and the bigger buffer you give yourself, the happier you'll wind up in the long run. 

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

Do you struggle to get clients to view you as an authority? Do you have a difficult time communicating value to your prospects and clients? Are you concerned about losing work to machine learning or AI? When you position your agency in the context of strategy, you bring value to clients and outlast computer intelligence.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to grow your agency team the right way. 
  • 3 ways to set your agency apart from AI.
  • Do your clients view your agency as a trusted advisor?

Today I sat down for an interesting talk with Dan Golden, co-founder and president of BFO, a digital marketing agency with over 60 employees globally. Over the past 10 years, Dan and his partner have grown their agency across the globe and learned what it takes to be successful in today's changing market. He's here to talk about what he's learned about growing a team and evolving his agency with changing technology over the past decade.  

How to Grow Your Agency Team the Right Way

When you're first starting an agency, it's easy to focus on rapid growth. What can I do to get more clients, make more money, and grow my team? It's a natural instinct. We all want to find success and we can be impatient waiting for it to come organically. But if you're not careful, you may find the growth of your team no longer supports the work you bring in. 

So how do you avoid this and make sure you don't have to make some painful cuts?

  • Focus on "right-sizing": As you're building your teams, don't simply be reactive to the work that comes in. Be intentional with the type and size of team you create. 
  • Resist the urge to overbuild management: It may seem like a natural progression to promote your early employees to managers as the agency begins to grow. But just because someone has been there the longest, doesn't mean they should be a manager. Put the right people in the right places and don't create a position you don't need. 

3 Ways to Set Your Agency Apart from AI

If you're not paying attention to AI, you should. AI is changing the industry and forcing many agencies to take a hard look at the way they do things. And the hard truth is, there are many agencies vulnerable to losing business to AI. The trick is to position yourself so you work with AI, not against it. This means:

  • Refocus on where you add value: A machine can compile spreadsheets and discover trends, but what about strategy? You may need to shift how you do business. However, if you restructure some of the engagement to strategy instead of execution, you will still end up with a valuable partnership. 
  • Embrace the change: AI isn't all bad. Automation can make your life easier and add value to your clients. Focus on how you can use this technology and act as a shepherd to guide clients through this new world. 
  • Up your skills: AI can have a steep learning curve. Be the best in class in understanding how to manipulate machine learning algorithms and do something not many other people can.  

Do Your Clients View Your Agency as a Trusted Advisor?

"Most agencies give away their secret sauce and then charge for cooking." As agencies, we tell our clients exactly what we do and why we do it. The problem is, eventually, you'll have clients who think they can do it on their own. But you can prevent this. 

  • Know the value of your services: One of the main reasons clients don't understand the value of strategy is because you don't understand the value of strategy. If you're not charging strategy as a separate line item, do it now. 
  • Be flexible: Things are changing. There are more resources available on the client's side than ever before. Some clients may not need you for everything. And that's okay. 
  • Ask the right questions: The client may think they have a better strategy, but what are they risking? Lay it out to them — How many leads are they getting? What is a lead worth? What type of traffic are they getting from these leads? When faced with hard facts, many clients will see the benefit of working with an expert. 

Now, more than ever, it's important to highlight what you bring to the table. When you position yourself as a trusted advisor instead of an executioner, your clients are going to have a harder time walking away. 

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_Strategy_Wins_and_Retains_More_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you thinking about selling your agency, but aren't sure where to start? Are you going through an acquisition and want to make sure you get it right? Selling an agency can seem overwhelming to someone who has never done it, but the more you know, the easier it will be. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you need to enter an acquisition with a clear vision. 
  • 2 things to include in agency valuation. 
  • #1 reason to take your time during your acquisition.

Today I sat down for an enlightening chat with Jack Burris, CEO of 54 Brands. After over 20 years in the business, Jack recently closed on an acquisition. He's here to talk about what the process looked like and how he made sure the whole process went seamlessly. 

Why You Need to Enter An Acquisition with a Clear Vision

If you're thinking about selling your agency, it's easy to become distracted. Far too often we spend so much time worrying about the money, we forget about why we got in the business in the first place. But when you evaluate your priorities, you're more likely to be satisfied with the end results. 

Jack is less than a year out of his agency acquisition. And so far, he has no regrets. One of the main reasons is he went into the process with a clear vision of what was important to him — the evolution of the agency and the clients. Knowing the new owners were on the same page in both regards, Jack says the acquisition went better than anticipated. 

2 Things to Include in Agency Valuation 

Price is a sticking point during any negotiation. You've put your blood, sweat, and tear into your agency. You want to make sure you get a fair price. But this is more than just a multiple of EBITDA. If you have a non-conventional agency or unique traits that make it special, it's important to make it's included in your valuation. What does this mean?

  • Client relationships: At the time of the acquisition, 54 Brands didn't have a lot of recurring revenue. But one thing they did have was long-term relationships. Some of their clients had been with the agency for more than 15 years. These relationships are important and add value to the agency. 
  • The agency structure: The agency had fewer full-time employees and more contractors. Jack believes their team structure was a big selling point because it allowed for more control over profit. 

#1 Reason to Take Your Time During Your Acquisition

Let's be honest. As entrepreneurs, we can be inpatient. During an acquisition, it's easy to think, "Why is this taking so long?" But Jack explains it's important to take your time. Not rushing the process allows for two things. Not only do you have more time to make sure you get the numbers right, but you also have time to process your emotions. Giving up control of your agency is a big deal. Allow yourself enough time to process the transition so you don't immediately second guess your decision immediately following the acquisition. 

When you're going through an acquisition, it's important to look at the big picture. It's about more than just the money, it's about where you want to see the agency in the future. When you take your time and set clear priorities, you're more likely to be happy with the end result. 

 

 

Would you like to know what your agency is worth if you wanted to sell it today?

Click here for my Agency Valuation Chart

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

Have you struggled to build relationships and connections for your agency? Are you looking for a way to increase your agency's authority and become a leader in your niche? A podcast is a great tool to get your agency voice out there and strike up meaningful and productive conversations.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 reasons your agency should start a podcast.
  • 2 mistakes to avoid when you start a podcast.
  • #1 Way to grow your agency.

Today I sat down with Jeremy Weisz, co-founder of Rise 25, a B2B podcast consulting agency. Jeremy is a strong believer podcasts are the number one thing you should do to grow your agency. In his role, he works with agencies to help them see a return on investment from their podcast. He's here to share a few tips on how to leverage your podcast to gain referrals and create greater connections in your marketing space.

2 Reasons Your Agency Should Start a Podcast

You've heard me say it over and over again — if you run an agency, you need to have a podcast. It's the number one thing I've done that has helped my business grow. Jeremy follows the same line of thought. He says there are a number of benefits to starting your own podcast:

  1. Greater authority. Creating a podcast gives you a platform. You have the opportunity to have thought leadership conversations and create your own message. When you bring on guests in your niche you build trust with your audience and increase your authority.
  2. A chance to build connections. Your podcast isn't just for your listeners, it can serve as a resource for you. When you invite guests on your show, you have the opportunity to share something valuable and exchange ideas. Worst case scenario, you've learned something new and have created engaging content. Best case scenario, you've built a relationship where this person may end up as a resource, or even a client, later down the road.

2 Mistakes to Avoid When You Start a Podcast

Jeremy's literally in the business of creating podcasts and making sure agencies get the best return on their investment. Because of this, he's got an inside look at some of the most common mistakes agencies make. Here are a few things Jeremy says you need to avoid:

  1. Vanity metrics. One of the first things people do when they start a podcast is focus on the numbers. How many downloads did I get? How can I get more subscribers? Don't. Quit focusing on things that don't matter. At the end of the day, it's about connecting with the right people. Instead, think about what you can give back to your guests and how you can give them a platform to talk about what they're doing.
  2. Wasting too much time. Are you trying to do everything? Are you creating the podcast, editing, and writing up the show notes? Don't try to take on all the pieces yourself. Your job is to focus on connecting to your best referral partners and clients. It's okay to bring in someone else to do the rest.

#1 Way to Grow Your Agency Right Now

As agency owners, it's all about the relationships we create. Without our clients, our partners, and our contacts, we wouldn't be able to do what we do. The number one thing you can do to help your agency grow is focus on your relationships. This means less automation and more personal connections.

Jeremy says he sets aside time every week to connect with his clients. It could be a 45-minute phone call or a quick text just checking in. Find out how your connections like to communicate. You can even create a quick video and send it through a message.

Want to do something right now and see an immediate return? Sit down and make a list of 10, 20, or 50 people who already like you or have already been referred to you. Now send them a note or give them a call. Take the time to show them you appreciate them. Jeremy says most times people will respond with a thank you, or better yet, a referral.

Creating a podcast is a fun, simple way to broaden your reach and increase your authority. Don't wait. It's okay to jump right in. I guarantee you'll get more out of it than you expect.

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

Is pride standing your way of growing your agency? It's easy to get in your own way sometimes as an entrepreneur. I had something in my personal life that made me step back and reflect on this lesson. In this video, I'll talk about progress vs. pride.

Sometimes pride holds us back. Whether it's our desire to be right or just a matter of principles, we lead with our pride and sometimes do things that prevent growth. As I think back over the 12 years I owned my agency, I remember many occasions where this was true (even though I didn't realize it at the time).

Choose progress over pride. It's easier said than done, right? But here's the secret and something I tell my agency-owner clients all the time... remove emotion from the decision. Don't lead with your feelings on a certain matter but instead eliminate those emotions and make a level-headed decision. When you take away the emotion you're left with facts and that will lead you to progress.

Is pride standing in your way? If not pride, what IS standing in your way of growing? Comment below and maybe I can help.

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Thanks for watching. I hope you keep up with the daily videos I post on my channel. Make sure you subscribe and share your learnings with others. Your comments are why I do this, so please take a second and say hello. 

JASON SWENK IS AN AGENCY ADVISOR THAT GUIDES MARKETING AGENCIES THROUGH A PROVEN FRAMEWORK FOR GROWING THEIR AGENCY FASTER & EASIER.

Fresh out of college Jason was off to work for Arthur Anderson, one of the big 5 consulting firms. He quickly realized that he could never work for anyone other than himself. He decided to change direction, launch a digital agency that quickly grew to a multi-million dollar operation working with brands such as AT&T, Hitachi and Lotus Cars. After 12 years of steady growth, the agency caught the attention of bigger agencies and Jason sold it in 2012.

Now, Jason leads http://JasonSwenk.com, a unique media company & consultancy helping marketing agencies grow & scale their agencies faster by applying the framework that he used to grow, scale and eventually sell his agency. Jason has helped over 10,000 agencies in 23 countries meet or exceed their business goals.

Jason currently hosts two shows that are available for download…

The Smart Agency Master Class Podcast, dedicated to providing tactics and strategies to agency owners and decision-makers that cut through the BS, focus on exactly what works and what doesn’t; and SwenkToday a vlog that documents the entrepreneur journey of building another multimillion-dollar business, where he shares the latest strategies, and answers the most burning questions entrepreneurs have. 

SCHEDULE

TUES & THUR VLOG #SwenkToday

Q&A from my digital agency audience

Ask me A Question

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or

http://smartagencymasterclass.com

 

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Direct download: AGENCY_OWNER_PROGRESS_OVER_PRIDE.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:15pm EST

Does your current agency business strategy support long term sustainability? Are you looking for some simple strategies to be a more effective leader? It probably comes as no surprise the two issues often go hand-in-hand.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 elements to any successful agency.
  • What is the key to agency client retention?
  • How to be a more effective agency leader.

Today I had an informative talk with Ryan Cote, digital services director at Ballentine, a direct mail and digital marketing agency founded by his great-uncle over 50 years ago. Ryan's here to share how his family's agency has sustained success for over five decades, and how he has become a better leader.

3 Elements to Any Successful Agency

If you want to know the secret to success, there's no better place to start than with an agency that's been around since the mid-1960s. During a time in which many agencies have started and failed, Ballentine has not only survived, they've thrived.

I asked Ryan why he thinks his family's agency has been so successful. His answer — it all begins with the basics:

  1. Always look for sales. As agency owners, we have a tendency to back off from bringing in new sales when business is good. But we often experience lulls where we have to catch up to find new clients and replace some that have left. Constantly sell and bring on new clients.
  2. Keep your current clients happy. Ryan says his team is always revising their onboarding strategy to make sure clients get the attention they need. In order to retain clients, make sure you're giving them the attention they deserve.
  3. Start with leadership. As your agency begins to grow, the way you treat your team can make a big difference. For some people, leadership comes naturally. For others, it doesn't. Take the time to make sure you have the right leaders in the right places.

What is the Key to Agency Client Retention?

Many agency owners make the mistake of thinking converting leads is the secret to rapid growth. The truth is, you have to focus on your current clients first. It's far easier and cheaper to retain existing clients than to keep finding new ones. The number one key to client retention is communication.

There's no quicker way to lose a client than to make them feel neglected. Make time to show your current clients you're still invested. For Ryan, this means bi-weekly phone calls and quarterly check-ins. For you, this could be something different. Establish a procedure that prioritizes communication and keeps the client involved every step of the way. Take nothing for granted.

Speaking of communication, make sure you communicate successes and what you're doing behind the scenes. As another podcast guest said, "If we didn't communicate it, it never got done." Give your clients a way to track metrics and provide benchmarks to show how far they've come.

How to be a More Effective Agency Leader

Ryan says having a team made him take a look at his own ability to be a leader. This, in turn, pushed him to focus on personal development. Despite what you're lead to believe, leadership doesn't come out of a book and it's not something that you really can teach. Successful leadership comes from within.

I end my day answering "What did I learn? What did I accomplish? Am I ready for tomorrow?" This simple ritual allows me to visualize the day ahead and get a good night's sleep. Ryan, on the other hand, focuses on a morning routine.  His regimen includes meditation, exercise, and morning journaling. Whatever you choose, take some time to focus on what went well and how you can improve. Being aware and continuous learning are two attributes of a good leader.

So much of your success as an agency will come down to your values. When you invest in your clients and your team, you're more likely to see your agency grow.

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_a_Three-Generation_Agency_Has_Grown_for_50_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you struggling in a partnership that is no longer working? Are you anxious about sitting down and have that conversation? As agency owners, we often get into partnerships because we want someone to bounce ideas off of and take on some of the burden of leadership. But sometimes, a partnership is just not a good fit.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Is your partnership holding you back?
  • The #1 discussion any agency owner should have before bringing on a partner.
  • Why the important conversations should always include risk.

Today I sat down with David Valentine, CEO of Avadel, a Facebook advertising agency. In 2017, David made the difficult decision to step away from his partner and run the agency they had started together, on his own. He's here to discuss what brought him to this decision and what he would do differently if he could go back.

Is Your Partnership is Holding You Back?

As humans, we tend to avoid confrontation at all costs. Who wants to have a difficult conversation when we can just ignore it and hope it all goes away? David knew there were problems at his agency about a year and a half in. The main problem — David wanted to be more aggressive and go all in and his partner, well he wanted to go hiking. The two simply had different goals and ideas about the amount of work they wanted to put into the agency.

If you're working with a partner, you may have noticed things that could be red flags:

  • Do you have different ideas about how you measure success?
  • Do you have different thoughts about how you want to approach the big decisions?
  • Is one partner putting in a lot more work than the other?

In a partnership, you want someone who will complement your weaknesses, but in the end, your core values need to align. If things just aren't meshing, it may be time to have the difficult conversation.

The #1 Discussion Any Agency Owner Should Have Before Bringing on a Partner

David didn't expect his partnership to fail. After all, he had started his agency with his best friend. But looking back, there are a few things he would change. Whenever you are working with a partner or going in a new direction there is one important conversation you have to have.

Before you talk about revenue or staffing or any other major decisions, sit down and talk about your perfect day. What does your perfect workday look like at your agency? What about the perfect week? The perfect month? The perfect quarter. For me, I know I want to work 9-3, Monday through Thursday, with summers off. If I were to ever bring on a partner in the future, these values would have to align. When you think about time and what you're doing first, you'll never sacrifice revenue. When you prioritize revenue, you'll always sacrifice time.

Why the Important Conversations Should Always Include Risk

So you've sat down and decided to talk about what your ideal future looks like. Beyond your basic expectations, you can't forget to talk about risk. How much risk are you willing to take? This will play a big role in the direction of your agency and your overall investment.

David says he felt like he could not fulfill his potential in the early stages of his agency. If you are working with a partner, you have to make sure it is someone who has the same goals, not someone who will hold you back.

A partnership is a great way to bring in new ideas and bring on someone that will have your back. But the reality is, many partnerships don't work out. And that's okay. When you go in with a clear expectation of what you expect and are prepared to have those tough conversations, you're more likely to see success.

Ready to Outsource Your Content Creation?

Do you want to try out Verblio's services and learn how you can simplify your agency's content creation? Verblio has a team of over 3,000 writers plus an amazing staff that helps manage your writing projects and make it even easier to provide quality content for you and your clients.

Right now, Verblio is offering two free months of account management services to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. This offer includes content creation, SEO optimization, and your own personal account manager. For more information, head over to Verblio.com/Easy to learn how your agency's content creation can be easier than ever.

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

Does it feel like no matter how hard you work, you just keep running around in circles? Are you ignoring all the signs that your agency's crying out for help? When you get to a point where it seems like your agency is out of your control, often, the best solution is a simple change of perspective.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 signs your agency needs more attention.
  • 2 steps get a stalled agency back on track.
  • Do you have your priorities all wrong?

Today I sat down for an engaging chat with Brad Martineau, repeat podcast guest and owner of Sixth Division, a digital marketing agency. Like so many of us, Brad saw success early on but quickly stalled out. He's here to talk about why he found himself in this position and how he scaled back to scale up.

3 Signs Your Agency Needs More Attention

As agency owners, we have a tendency to set our sights high. We go into the business with a lofty goal in mind and won't stop until we get there. When this happens, it's easy to gloss over (or even purposely ignore) signs you're in trouble. Brad says to ask yourself these 3 questions to find out when your agency needs your attention:

  1. Is your team excited? One of the first signs something is wrong is team morale. Brad says there's a difference between a disappointed employed and a disgruntled employee. If your team's unhappy or constantly overworked, it's time to slow down.
  2. Are your clients pumped? Your clients should be excited about your work and see the value your agency delivers. If your client response is lackluster or worse, you're losing clients, do something now.
  3. Is revenue shrinking? A sure-fire sign you need to make a change is less money coming in. If you're not as profitable as you once were, you're either spending too much or you're losing clients.

2 Steps to Get a Stalled Agency Back on Track

Brad says he spent 1.5 years ignoring all the signs something was wrong. If you're not careful, success will tell you you can do no wrong. But ignoring the problem can cause a lot of unnecessary pain and anxiety, as Brad will attest. So what can you do to get your agency back on track?

  1. Acknowledge the problem. This one's hard. As humans, we'd rather ignore a problem than confront it. Pay attention to the signs and get good at recognizing problems from the beginning. The longer you wait, the harder it is to fix.
  2. Set aside your ego. Brad says this meant coming to terms with the fact he might not be a $3 million agency. Put aside your preconceptions of how it should be and focus on the fix. For Brad, when he finally faced the issue head-on he was able to cut over $100,000 from his monthly budget.

Do You Have Your Priorities All Wrong?

How do you create goals for your agency? For most of us, it's easy to set monetary or other tangible goals. And for the longest time, I was just like everyone else. My goals were always revenue, projects, time, in that order. There's this bad mindset we get in where we tell ourselves, if I just make this amount of money, my family will be happy, and then I'll have everything I want. But in the end, that goal just keeps getting bigger and bigger and you never catch up.

If you really want to grow, you have to flip the switch. Brad says we need to get away from focusing on monetary profit and prioritize time and emotional profit. When you do this, you'll find you're happier and more fulfilled. And bonus, when you slow down, you free up your headspace to be more creative, which ironically may help increase profits after all.

Don't get too consumed with that bottom line that you forget to enjoy the ride. When you slow down and focus on what's important, then you'll truly be able to enjoy your success.

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: Does_Your_Agency_Need_to_Scale_Back_to_Scale_Up_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you starting an agency and debating whether you need a partner? Is your agency growing, but you're not sure where to go from here? It doesn't matter what kind of work you produce or how motivated you are if you don't have everything aligned behind the scenes.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why do so many agency partnerships fail?
  • 2 key stages of growing a successful agency.
  • Why your agency should always invest in culture first.

Today I had an engaging talk with Francisco Serrano, president and CEO of 121, a digital implementation agency. In the last 16 years, Francisco has grown his agency to a team of 90 employees and just recently hired a COO. He's here to talk about the stages his agency went through to get to where they're at and why you should always put your agency employees first.

Why Do So Many Agency Partnerships Fail?

I've talked to many agency owners over the years who have started with a partner and eventually dissolved the partnership. It isn't because either partner is bad or not putting enough work; most of the time, it's just not the right fit. And as the agency grows, it's perfectly natural to outgrow one of your partners.

Francisco joins a long list of owners who realized they were better off on their own (including myself). If you're thinking about taking on a partner or are currently working with someone, the question is, how can you determine whether a partnership is going to work? The answer comes down to open communication.

But before you say, "Great, we've already got that covered," understand there's a difference between being able to talk to your partner and really being honest about what you hope to get out of your agency. The number one reason most partnerships fail is because partners don't have the same vision for the direction of the agency.

Before you begin to talk about strategy or revenue or anything else, talk about your focus and your passion. If you don't agree on what you want to stand for, how much work you want to put in, and what you're willing to risk, it's probably not going to work.

2 Key Stages of Growing a Successful Agency

So you've begun to see some growth and are getting more clients — great! But if you stay with the same strategy and don't switch it up, eventually, you're bound to hit a plateau. Francisco says there are 2 main stages his agency went through in order to see continued growth:

  1. Team building. When you're building a team, usually you're the one that does all the hiring. After all, who better to find the right people for growing your team than you? But as you continue to grow, you'll realize you just don't have enough time to handpick every new member of your team. Francisco says the first big step was hiring an HR professional to recruit and hire new team members, as well as keep the existing ones happy.
  2. Execution. Francisco recently brought on a COO to take care of the day-to-day execution. With a team of 90, he wants to focus on building relationships and working on the business, which will ultimately help the agency grow.

Why Your Agency Should Always Invest in Culture First

When we're first starting out, many of us fail to recognize the importance of agency culture. Francisco makes an interesting analogy between running an agency and osteoporosis. He says, if you don't focus on what's on the inside and what holds everything together, the bones will crumble.

A lot of building a solid culture comes down to communicating with your team and understanding what motivates them (no it's not money). Figure out what they're good at, what they want to do, and what just doesn't make them happy. When you do this, you'll find your team is happier, more successful, and devoted to the agency as a whole.

You'll never find true success as an agency unless you master the fundamentals. If you have talent, culture, and you can execute, the rest is fun and games.

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 ebooks 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_Have_Good_Bones_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you looking for a way to scale up without adding new employees? Do you want to get back to enjoying what you do? When you try providing everything to everyone, you're likely to get burnt out fast. But when you find what you're good at and focus just on that, you'll find freedom and enjoyment in owning your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 pitfall of full-service agencies.
  • 2 steps to grow your agency without bringing on excess staff.
  • The only 5 roles you should fill as an agency CEO.

Today I sat down with Chris Kneeland, CEO of Cult Ideas, a digital marketing agency. Just over 7 years ago, Chris made the jump from a large, publicly-traded US agency to a smaller firm based out of Canada. He's here to discuss what he's learned from the transition and how you can get to a point where you can do what you love.

#1 Pitfall of Full Service Agencies

It's no secret, I'm not a fan of full-service agencies. In fact, you'll find this to be a common feeling among many agency owners. Why? After working for a very large, publicly-traded agency, Chris says there is one thing that stood out. The agency was constantly over-leveraged with staff. It got to a point where Chris began to wonder, "When did my job become keeping our bloated staff billable?"

When you try to provide everything for everyone, you tend to hire a bunch of different people to fill all those roles. But if you're not getting the business to support your staff, you'll end up working just to pay your team.

2 Steps to Grow Your Agency Without Bringing on Excess Staff

"But Jason, don't I need to expand my team if I expect to grow?" Not at all. Chris uses a strategy that's similar to the one I would use if I could do things differently. He says there are two steps to growing your agency without bringing on a ton of new employees:

  1. Figure out what you're good at. Chris says, think of it this way: If you were called on to deliver a TED Talk tomorrow, what would you be able to talk about? Better yet, what would you want to talk about?  Only do that. Niche down and you're naturally able to reduce the number of people you need. Then you will be able to really leverage the people you choose to keep around.
  2. Only staff what you have work for. Having a larger team makes you feel like a big agency, but it eats into your profits when they aren't fully utilized. Focus on the essentials and outsource the rest. If I were to do it over, my key leadership, PM, and account managers would be the only full-time employees.

When you keep a full staff, you put yourself in a position where you have to focus on payroll. You'll end up taking on a bad client or billing out something your client doesn't actually need. This is not a fun way to work. When you focus on being properly sized, not only will you improve your finances, but you'll also see an improvement in your quality of life.

The Only 5 Roles You Should Fill as an Agency CEO

Think about why you originally started your agency. If you're like me, it wasn't to see how fast you could grow it was about having the freedom to do what you love. Unfortunately, far too often we manage to get lost somewhere along the way. If you want to get to a point where you love your job and enjoy what you do, there are only 5 roles you should be responsible for as an agency CEO:

  1. Set the vision and communicate it to the team.
  2. Be the face of the organization.
  3. Understand the financials.
  4. Coach and mentor the team.
  5. Assist with sales.

Don't worry, your agency and team still need you! When you focus on these 5 roles and let key leadership take care of the rest, your agency won't need you for what you used to do, they'll need you for what only you can do.

It's never a good idea to focus on growth over doing what you love. When you narrow in on what you want to do and surround yourself with people who support you, you'll begin to have the freedom to pick and choose what you love.

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_Your_Agency_Without_Hiring_More_Employees.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you looking for a way to connect with potential new agency clients? Do you want to quit selling and have clients come to you? Case studies are a great way to demonstrate value and put the client first.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 elements of a perfect case study.
  • How to use case studies like a launch.
  • #1 benefit of detailed case studies.

Today I had a chat with David Schloss, founder of Convert ROI, a digital marketing agency. About seven years into running his agency, David discovered the value of case studies and gave his agency new life. He's here to discuss what a great case study looks like and how one simple change will have clients reaching out to you.

3 Elements of a Perfect Case Study

When was the last time a case study stopped you in your tracks and made you think, "Wow, I need to work with that person"? The sad truth is, a good share of case studies we see on a regular basis are throwaways. They're no more than 300 words and are more of a brag, rather than educational information.

David's been doing case studies for over five years and getting major results (like 7 new leads in just one week). So what does he do differently?

  1. Go into detail. You can't really talk about what worked and what didn't in 300 words. If you want your case study to provide value, it needs to be more like 3,000 – 4,000 words. Don't be afraid to really dive into what you did to find success.
  2. Provide examples. What type of ads did you use? What did the tough conversations include? Potential clients want to hear what actually worked and how it applies to them.
  3. Make it client-focused. Do you want to know why the shorter case studies aren't successful? Because they have a tendency to read like an ad. Clients don't want to hear about you and your agency, they want to know what you can do for them.

How to Use Case Studies Like a Launch

David says he doesn't put out case studies regularly, it's more like once a year. But when he does release his past results, he puts out a lot at a time (like 10). In this way, he treats his client's case studies more like a launch. He says, if you release case studies too often, prospects will become blind to it.

If you've tried case studies in the past, try scaling back. Instead of providing one 300-word snippet once a week, try a larger project every six months. This way, your prospects will see your case studies as an educational opportunity rather than another sales gimmick.

Why Do Case Studies Matter?

The more detail you can add to a case study the better. David says he begins with where the client started and what they did to see results. This includes their target audience, what type of ads they used, and even offers and price points.

"But wait, if I give out all this information, what incentive does the prospect have to come to me?" This is a question I get all the time, but it really has no solid basis. Over the years, I've produced hundreds of videos and hundreds of podcasts and I have no problem finding clients.

When you put the information out there, you're providing tangible evidence of the value you provide. Sure someone can go and do the same thing themselves, but in most cases, they're going to come to you to have you replicate the results rather than figuring it out for themselves. The number one benefit of putting it all out there is when a lead comes to you, there's very little selling left to do.

Case studies are a great way to provide value and attract new clients. But you've got to put in the work. When you focus on the client instead of trying to sell your agency, you'll have an easier time seeing results.

Ready to Outsource Your Content Creation?

Do you want to try out Verblio's services and learn how you can simplify your agency's content creation? Verblio has a team of over 3,000 writers plus an amazing staff that helps manage your writing projects and make it even easier to provide quality content for you and your clients.

Right now, Verblio is offering two free months of account management services to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. This offer includes content creation, SEO optimization, and your own personal account manager. For more information, head over to Verblio.com/Easy to learn how your agency's content creation can be easier than ever.

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

Apprehensive to declare a niche? Worried that being a niche agency will limit your growth? Do you own a full-service agency that's in need of restructuring? Declaring a niche is one of the best ways to set your agency apart, but is it possible to find success with multiple niches?

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to demonstrate expertise as a full-service agency.
  • 3 steps to help your agency team adjust to change.
  • Is success possible in more than one niche?

Today I sat down with Jeff Hahn, owner of Hahn Public, a public communications and marketing agency. After purchasing a full-service agency, Jeff made a creative decision to split the agency into four practice areas. He's here to discuss the steps he took to make this change, how it worked, and how he made sure his team was on board.

How to Demonstrate Expertise as a Full-service Agency

You've heard me discuss just how important it is to declare a niche. When a client is looking for an agency, 9 times out of 10 they reach out to someone who is an expert in their niche. If you run a full-service agency, it doesn't matter how good you are, the majority of clients will always see you as a generalist. While this might work for a while, eventually, this model will almost certainly limit your growth.

When Jeff purchased his agency, he knew it was important to establish expertise right off the bat. But rather than choose just one niche, he chose four. Jeff took the existing agency and split it up into four separate practice areas. As separate mini-agencies, each was able to focus on their vertical and target a specific audience. While the agency shared resources and was organized around one central team, the division allowed each practice area to gain and demonstrate expertise.

3 Steps to Help Your Agency Team Adjust to Change

Whether you're splitting up into four different practice areas or bringing in a new CEO, change can be hard. Your team is your most important asset so it's important to approach major transitions with the care they deserve. There are a few things you can do to help your team adjust to change:

  1. Ease into it. Changes are the hardest to accept when they are not communicated well. The best thing you can do for your team is to take it slow. Roll in changes gradually and keep your team informed every step of the way.
  2. Show them how. Part of the reason people don't like change is the fear of the unknown. After you've told your team what you want to do, show them how you plan to achieve it.
  3. Provide an opportunity to opt-in. Look around and see who's excited about the change. Those who aren't can quickly become a cancer to the rest of the team.  When someone's not on board or actively opposed to change, Jeff says he likes to hold a "graduation ceremony" to recognize their contribution and allow that person to move on.

Is Success Possible in More Than One Niche?

Jeff has proven it is possible to break an agency into smaller, more-focused areas and find success. And maybe this approach will work for you. But Jeff says if there is one thing he could do over it would be to commit to one direction or one idea. When you split an agency into separate practice areas, you still have to market, maintain, and build intellectual property for each one. In this way, it's akin to running four separate agencies at the same time. Sure, it may work out, but it's a lot of extra work. That is why I advise agencies to focus on one niche at a time.

Should you run a full-service agency? Should you declare a niche? Ultimately, the decision is up to you. But when you choose your passion and run with it, you'll find you're happier and more likely to find success.

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_an_Agency_Succeed_in_Four_Separate_Niches_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you made a pivot in the past few months to adjust to changing times? Are you looking for a way to help your clients connect with their customers, even through this global pandemic? As today's guest says, "Content was king and then it got promoted." Strategic content marketing helps you stay connected and remain top of mind. If you don't have an effective content strategy, you need to create one, now.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why is content creation on the rise right now?
  • 2 reasons content is more important than ever. 
  • How you can get more out of your podcast. 

Today I sat down with my good friend and repeat podcast guest, Steve Pockross, CEO of Verblio, an online content creation agency. Over the past few months, Steve and his team have seen some interesting trends when it comes to how agencies are responding to the economic crisis. He's here to share some of his findings and shed some light on what agencies can expect in the future. 

Why is Content Creation on the Rise Right Now?

It's an interesting time to run a marketing agency. The world is experiencing an economic crisis like never before. As agency owners we've been in a similar position, but never to this extreme. When it comes to content, Steve says he's witnessed some noticeable changes over the past few months.

Not surprisingly, when the health crisis began, many agencies came to a screeching halt — nearly 20% of Verblio's clients went on pause. But then there was a shift. As agencies began to get their footing and adjust to the market they realized, "Hey, we need to reach out to people," Verblio saw a jump. By the beginning of May, business from larger and mid-size agency clients was up 26%.

With many of the agencies I've worked with, there's been a similar trend. People are home more. They're consuming content like never before. And to be honest, we're all getting a little stir-crazy. As businesses begin to reopen, consumers are searching for you or your clients. 

2 Reasons Content is More Important than Ever

I hear you, "I've tried content before and it just wasn't my thing." Trust me, content is more important than you think, especially now. Why?

  1. The competition has dropped, dramatically. Before the economic crisis, content had to battle with other forms of media for attention. Now that conferences and live events are no longer happening, it's content's time to shine.
  2. More people are paying attention. Think about it — how much time do you spend online? Chances are, it's a lot more than this time last year. People are home more, working, studying, and browsing the internet. If you have an online presence, you have a better chance of getting noticed. 

Tone is important, particularly in this climate. You get to choose how you come across to your audience. One of the best things about content is people can view it at their leisure. While this used to be the bane of marketing professionals in the past, you can now use this to your advantage.

How You Can Get More Out of Your Podcast

You've heard me say it before — podcasts are a great marketing tool for your digital agency. So where does content come in? When you create a blog post or show notes from your podcast, each episode serves a dual purpose. You get traffic from the actual show and the post.

I've used Verblio for my blog posts for several years now. I simply send over a recording of each show and one of their writers takes care of the rest (with some helpful input from my team). You'd be surprised how an external writer can take your podcast and turn it into a keyword-rich thought leadership post with very little work on your end. My audience can listen to the podcast, read the post, or, do both. All this equates to better SEO and higher traffic.

If you haven't invested in content, there's no better time than now. Whether you create it in-house or outsource to an agency like Verblio (I recommend the latter), it's only a matter of time before you see results. 

Ready to Outsource Your Content Creation?

Do you want to try out Verblio's services and learn how you can simplify your agency's content creation? Verblio has a team of over 3,000 writers plus an amazing staff that helps manage your writing projects and make it even easier to provide quality content for you and your clients. 

Right now, Verblio is offering two free months of account management services to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. This offer includes content creation, SEO optimization, and your own personal account manager. For more information, head over to Verblio.com/Easy to learn how your agency's content creation can be easier than ever.

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

Are your current marketing methods not yielding enough agency prospects? Wonder how other agencies are prospecting? What unique methods of outbound marketing are working right now? If your agency's traditional marketing techniques aren't producing the type of results you desire, it may be time to think outside the box.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Can influencers help your agency grow?
  • Should agencies pay attention to client reviews?
  • How a podcast creates added value.

Today I sat down with Luke Peters, owner of Retail Band, a digital agency that helps brands gain greater exposure with major retailers like Amazon and Home Depot. Luke recently started his own agency after several years in the retail world. Today, he's here to talk about how you can grow your agency by creating more client engagement opportunities.

Can Influencers Help Your Agency Grow?

In today's market, influencers are everywhere. Companies use them to help sell everything from shoes to high-end cosmetics. Luke works with retail brands, so it makes sense to use influencers to gain followers and increase exposure. But what about services? Can influencers promote a service their followers can't even see?

In most cases, influencers receive a product from a company and talk about it with their followers through a given social media channel. Whether it's YouTube, Instagram, or Tik Tok, these posts create engagement, promote trust, and ultimately help clients improve SEO results.

The end goal is to get people talking. When it comes to services, consider reaching out to an influencer and providing your services for free. If they like it, there's a good chance they'll talk about it. If influencers just aren't a fit for your agency, you can always use LinkedIn, podcasts, or networking to get people talking.

Should Agencies Pay Attention to Client Reviews?

Remember, you want people talking about you. Luke says you want reviews any place where prospects are checking you out.  Reviews on places like Google, Glassdoor, and Yelp can help you build trust and expand your reach. If you have a podcast, these reviews matter too.  This type of social proof is like currency and the more you have, the better.

It's important to understand not everybody is going to love working with you. Sometimes you will get negative reviews. But if you can build a community that generates a lot more positive reviews, a couple of negative reviews won't matter as much.

How a Podcast Creates Added Value

I'm a huge proponent of podcasts. A large share of my business comes from podcast listeners. As an agency owner, podcasts are a great way to generate new content and help you meet new people. And often, podcasts are just as valuable to the listener as they are to you.

When you create a podcast, it's like you are inviting people to listen in on your conversations. When I created my podcast, my goal was to create a resource I wish I had when I was running my agency. Over the years, I've discovered it's almost impossible to consistently generate unique content. But as you bring on new guests and recycle topics, you'll begin to see recurring themes.

The ultimate trust factor is when you bring on guests who talk about what they have done and how it has worked for them. When you invite listeners into this conversation, you create loyalty and your listeners learn something new — a win-win!

Whether you have an established agency or you're just starting out, it's always important to find new ways to engage and attract potential clients. Don't pigeonhole yourself into your standard marketing approach. Branch out and try new routes and you're bound to see results.

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

Are you wondering whether your agency really needs to niche down? Do you struggle to get prospects to take you seriously? Whether you have declared a niche or are running a full-service agency, the secret is owning what you do.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Should your agency niche down?
  • How to handle sales objections from agency prospects.
  • 3 ways to build relationships.

Today I sat down with Bronwyn Mondoux, owner and creative director at Cinnamon Toast, a creative agency based out of Canada. As a full-service agency, Cinnamon Toast has faced some challenges, but over time has found a way to truly thrive in their space. Bronwyn's here to discuss why she's chosen not to niche down and how she has learned to get out of her own way.

Should Your Agency Niche Down?

I've shared my opinion on the benefits of niching down several times in the past. Declaring a niche helps your agency have a focus and makes it easier for potential clients to understand what you do. That said, that doesn't mean you can't find success as a full-service agency.

Bronwnyn says, one of the reasons why she has chosen not to declare a niche is she's worried her team will become bored.  They enjoy the variety in clients and industries. And that's a valid concern. You have to make sure you enjoy what you do. At the same time, Bronwyn admits, because they are a full-service firm, most of the client base is localized within the Canadian market. Niching down positions your agency as an authority in that field. Prospects are more likely to work with an agency that understands their business and its challenges.

Does your agency have to declare a niche to be successful? No. But it will help you focus on the types of clients you attract. It doesn't mean you can't work with clients outside of that niche. It just means you identify a specific audience to focus on. At the end of the day, it's about what kind of agency you want to run and what makes you and your team happy.

How to Handle Sales Objections from Agency Prospects

We've all faced that challenge where we just can't get certain clients to sign on. They'll tell you that they'd love to work with you, but there's an excuse for why they can't.  Bronwyn says being a youthful, small, and mostly female agency has advantages, but sometimes it's a hard sell.

The best way to overcome these difficulties is to lean in. Embrace who you are. If you're a female-led agency, this may mean targeting female-owned companies and showing them "we get you." Is your team really young? If potential clients are looking to target a younger demographic, you're going to understand their needs a lot better than an agency that has more experience but is not as youthful. Discover what makes you different and leverage it as a strength instead of a weakness.

3 Ways to Build Relationships

Despite what you hear on the podcast and see in my videos, I'm an introvert. I would rather listen than start a conversation. Bronwyn says she's the same way. As an agency, relationships are critical to your success. So what's an introvert to do?

  • Know what you're good at. Clients work with you for a reason. They need you to provide a service and solve a challenge they cannot solve on their own. If you own an agency, chances are, you're good at what you do. When you acknowledge what you're good at and the value you provide, you'll be more confident when selling to prospects.
  • Make it interesting. What got you interested in what you do? What makes your job exciting? When you're proud of the work you provide, your confidence will shine through. Bring in personal stories and things you've learned to make it interesting.
  • Fake it until you make it. Let's be honest, whether you're an introvert or an extrovert, sometimes you're just not feeling it. Remember, it's okay to fake it to push through. Sometimes all you have to do is make that first connection and the rest will come.

As much as anyone can say, "You should do this, or you should do that," there is no right way or wrong way to run an agency. Often focusing on what makes you happy is the best way to find success.

Do Your Clients Need Help with Location-Based Marketing?

Would you like to help your brick-and-mortar clients so you can drive the right foot traffic to their locations? How about gaining insight into visitor trends for stores, chains, or retailers? Our partner, Reveal Mobile is reinventing how agencies use location-based analytics for geotargeting.

They help you bring new insights early in the sales cycle, easily build and deliver location-based audiences with their launch of VISIT Local Free. This is a FREE tool agencies can use to understand their clients' audiences, from foot traffic patterns, store visitors that live and work nearby, frequency of visits, competitive information, and much more. Check out VISIT.RevealMobile.com/Swenk to get your free access to this amazing tool.

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

Do your clients struggle to understand what you actually offer? Do you make time to work on your agency instead of just in it? Sometimes, agencies lose business because they fail to cross-sell or upsell. But when you educate clients on how your agency can solve their challenges, growth is a sure thing. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Does your agency have a marketing strategy?
  • 2 ways to help clients see the value in your services. 
  • How to effectively lead your agency team. 

Today I sat down with Kornel Kurtz, president and CEO of WebTek, a digital creative agency. Recently, Kornel has seen tremendous growth in his agency, and when you find out why, you'll take a closer look at your own agency procedures. He's here to talk about how to prevent clients from choosing other agencies for add-on services and how doing so can make a big difference to your bottom line. 

Does Your Agency Have a Marketing Strategy?

For most of us, marketing is our bread and butter. We can take on a new client and create a marketing campaign that will completely knock it out of the park. We're great at doing this for clients. But when was the last time you looked at your own agency's marketing strategy?

Kornel has been in the agency world for over 20 years. And in that time, he has found a lot of success. But over the last two years, WebTek has seen 50% growth year after year. Why? It all comes down to marketing.

WebTek has always marketed itself as a web development and SEO agency. But they found beyond that, clients were going to other agencies for additional services. Why? Because WebTek's clients didn't know the agency offered anything besides web development and SEO. When Kornel figured out what was going on, he created all-in-one marketing bundles that provide everything clients need in one convenient package.

2 Ways to Help Clients See the Value of Your Services

We've all been to that one restaurant that has so many choices, you skip right to the special. When it comes to marketing, the same concept applies. Clients don't want to have to figure out what they need and make a bunch of choices. That's what you're for. When it comes to showcasing your agency's value, the answer is simple:

  1. Offer solutions, not products. Chances are, your clients don't know what they need, they just want to see results. Help the client understand their problem, then offer the solution. 
  2. Make it measurable. WebTek has an online portal where clients can log in and see a direct connection between a specific marketing campaign and actual results. When clients can easily view and understand the data, and realize ROI, they're more likely to trust your methods. 

How to Effectively Lead Your Agency Team

A lot of us start out as creatives, with no idea how to manage a team. So how do you know when to push and when to pull back? Kornel believes the key is to pick your battles. 

Some people will be harder to manage than others. Pay attention to which employees need guidance and which ones can use a little room. 

The goal is to hire a team that supports your vision and shares your goals. Don't tell them what to do. Tell your team the specific outcomes you are looking for and trust them to handle the rest. Employees love autonomy. At the same time, it's important to create procedures your team can reference and add to when necessary so they have a framework. 

When it comes down to it, no one can sell your services better than you. Make sure your clients know what you offer and can see the value in your services. The results just may surprise you. 

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Grew_By_50_Two_Years_in_a_Row.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Would you like a bigger piece of pie? Do you want a way to serve more clients without generating leads organically? An agency acquisition growth strategy can help you bring in new clients and new talent while rapidly growing your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Should your agency invest in an acquisition?
  • How do you know an agency is right for acquisition and merger?
  • 2 things to consider before you close an acquisition deal.
  • #1 way to integrate agency cultures.

Today I sat down with Mike Maynard, managing director of Napier B2B, a technology agency based in the UK. Mike started his journey in the agency world as a client and has since bought an agency of his own and acquired two more. He's here to tell us when you should consider an agency acquisition and key tips to make sure you get it right.

Should Your Agency Invest in an Acquisition?

Most agency owners I encounter aspire to grow their agency bigger and better. So it comes as no surprise, most owners have considered an acquisition at some point or another. So how do you know an acquisition is the right move for your agency?

Mike said there are two main reasons he chose to acquire an agency rather than opt for alternative growth strategies.:

  1. Client movement was stagnant. The tech industry is known for clients who choose an agency and then sit. There isn't a lot of movement. If you're in an industry where there is a shortage of clients, an acquisition is a great way to acquire new clients who are reluctant to change.
  2. A very small margin for error. We've all had that moment where we knew we were just two phone calls away from shutting down. Mike says his largest client made up 80% of his revenue. In other words, he was just ONE phone call away from losing everything. If you are heavily leveraged in one area, an acquisition can help spread out the risk.

In this case, an acquisition helped reduce risk and create greater diversity. An acquisition shouldn't be a move you make out of desperation, but instead, a proactive way to increase growth and expand your client portfolio.

How Do You Know if an Agency is Right for Acquisition and Merger?

Obviously, you don't want to go out and just acquire any agency. It's important to find a good fit. How do you know you've found the right match? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. A lot of the process comes down to patience and knowing what you want.

Mike has acquired two agencies. The second time around, he knew he was looking for a larger agency. As Mike says, he had to kiss a lot of frogs to find the right fit. Be patient. Know what you want and talk to as many agencies as you can. You'll learn a lot through the process that will ultimately help you be successful.

2 Things to Consider Before You Close an Acquisition Deal

You've found the perfect agency. Now what? Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few things you need to look at:

  1. Cash flow. What is the recurring revenue? Do they have long-term contracts? Are those contracts transferable? You need to make sure the agency you acquire can justify the investment.
  2. How will you fund the acquisition? You should never pay top line when you acquire an agency. Generally, the terms will be a percentage of the top line and some type of earnout. Napier set aside funds early on to put into agency growth. Do you have the means to successfully turn an acquisition?

#1 Way to Integrate Agency Cultures

Culture is an important part of any agency's success. The last thing you want to do is bring on an established agency that completely clashes with your values and beliefs. The number one way to integrate agency cultures is to look for an agency that has similar beliefs and values. A small amount of discord is a good thing and helps generate ideas and movement. But if you bring on an agency that has substantially different core values, you'll have a hard time ever getting the two to mesh.

An agency acquisition is a great way to grow your client base, bring on new talent, and serve new areas. But it's important to make sure it's the right first. Be patient, do your homework, and know how to tell when the deal is right for you.

Direct download: How_to_Use_Acquisition_as_an_Agency_Growth_Strategy_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Do you struggle to find clients that align with your core values? Are you looking for a way to be able to choose who you work with? When you have a clear understanding of your true north and share your vision with others, the perfect clients will find you.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  •  How your true north can help you find your agency's niche. 
  • 3 ways to pick and choose your ideal clients. 
  •  Why your agency needs to put people first. 

Today I sat down with Eric Kiker agency partner at LRXD, a full-service digital agency in the health and happiness sector. Eric has been with the agency for 8 years and considers himself the chief relationship officer. He's here to talk about how you can get to a point where you can choose your own clients and the importance of knowing who you are as an agency.

How Your True North Can Help You Find Your Agency's Niche

Your true north is where you see your agency and how you want your business to grow. While we often think of true north as agency values and culture, your vision should be at the core of determining your agency's niche. 

When we talk about niche, we often think about what type of businesses we want to work with or what services we will provide. But the true question is: "What type of values do you want to align yourself with?" 

LXRD focuses on the health and happiness sector. They choose to work with companies whose goal is to bring health and happiness to the world. If a prospect is just in it for the money, they're not a good fit. Take some time to figure out the types of clients your agency wants to work with, rather than focusing on specific industries. 

3 Ways to Pick and Choose Your Ideal Clients 

Every agency owner wants to get to a point where they can pick and choose who they work with. But often, this is easier said than done. Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective:

  1. Focus on people, not brands. Too often we get caught up in big-name brands or clients who are the most profitable. But at the end of the day, the goal is to enjoy what you do. When you focus on the people and core values, you'll have an easier time finding a match. 
  2. Put your vision out there. As agency owners, we're natural salespeople. We have a habit of telling potential clients what we think they want to hear. Don't be afraid to be proud of your vision and put it out there. Not everyone will like you or believe in your mission and that's okay. The ones that do are the ones you want to work with anyway. 
  3. Be patient You won't get to a place where you can choose who you work with overnight. It took LRXD nearly five years to get to this point. If you focus on people and look for opportunities for growth, the business will take care of itself. 

Why Your Agency Needs to Put People First

People should be at the core of your true north. As an agency CEO, you should be the face of the agency. People have to know what you stand for. It may sound corny, but sometimes you have to lead with your heart before your head. 

Any agency can pull together numbers, provide analytics, or a stellar sales pitch, what makes you unique is your attitude and values. When people know who you are and what you believe, there is no trickery or convincing. There will be plenty of people who dig what you do and those are the people you want to work with. 

Finding the right clients won't happen all at once. But once you begin working with the people you should be working with you're going to be way more profitable, have the freedom to pick and choose, and be able to afford to bring on the right people. 

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

Do your clients struggle to find consistency, working with multiple agencies to create an advertising campaign? Are you looking for a way to add more value to your clients? When you build out and provide more services, your clients are more likely to choose you.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  •  Why clients want your agency to do more.
  •  How branching out can help you find your agency's niche.
  •  3 steps to creating a team that supports your vision.

Today, I sat down with Meny Hoffman, CEO of Ptex Group, a full-service digital marketing agency. Meny started his agency over 18 years ago and has learned a lot about culture, customer satisfaction, and creating a business model that works. He's here to discuss how to find your niche while delivering multiple services and creating a culture of excellence.

Why Clients Want Your Agency to Do More

Over the years, I have talked to a lot of agency owners. And a good deal of them find the one thing they are good at and really knock it out of the park. But imagine what would happen if you were able to provide a team of experts to your client who can address all of their needs? Instead of going to one agency for branding, one for web development, and one for SEO, they can get everything they need under one roof?

Ptex Group has multiple departments that each focus on one component of the marketing strategy. There's a division for branding, one for design, and one for web development — they even have a call center! When you provide a comprehensive service your client will see greater consistency and they won't have to go somewhere else for the next step, a win-win!

How Branching Out Can Help Your Find Your Agency's Niche

I've said it before and I'll say it again, you can't underestimate the value of declaring your niche. The reason Meny's model works is he is not trying to provide all types of services for all types of industries. If you are going to provide a larger range of services, you need to find your niche.

A lot of people are reactive to the market — they're afraid to go all in. The best way to find opportunities (and discover what you're good at) is to get down in the trenches. Go wide and let the market tell you where you are successful.

Remember, your niche won't always be where you have the most clients. You have to find a path that aligns with your vision, passion, and your team's skill set. When you bring your team into the conversation, you're more likely to find success.

3 Steps to Creating a Team That Supports Your Vision

At the end of the day, this model won't work unless you have a solid team to back you up. So how do you find the right people that will support your vision? It all comes down to culture.

It goes without saying, culture is more than ping-pong tables and babysitting (Meny calls these perks). To be successful, you have to create a culture of excellence. Where do you start?

  1. Walk the walk. You can't just put your values up on the wall. You have to live and breathe your core values. Culture is actionable and is what you do and what you say, not something that's written on a poster.
  2. Give room to grow. When you give your team infrastructure and autonomy to make decisions and grow, they're able to shine and add value to the team.
  3. Be open and approachable. Talk to your team. "How's it going?" "What can we do better for you?" "How can you provide more?" Often it's the little conversations to engage employees that make the biggest difference.

At the end of the day, we're here to provide our clients with a quality service. The more you're able to meet your client's needs, the greater the opportunity you'll have to grow.

Do Your Clients Need Help with Location-Based Marketing?

Would you like to help your brick-and-mortar clients so you can drive the right foot traffic to their locations? How about gaining insight into visitor trends for stores, chains, or retailers? Our partner, Reveal Mobile is reinventing how agencies use location-based analytics for geotargeting.

They help you bring new insights early in the sales cycle, easily build and deliver location-based audiences with their launch of VISIT Local Free. This is a FREE tool agencies can use to understand their clients' audiences, from foot traffic patterns, store visitors that live and work nearby, frequency of visits, competitive information, and much more. Check out VISIT.RevealMobile.com/Swenk to get your free access to this amazing tool.

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

Do you struggle to find the right way to motivate your agency team? What's the right balance between sharing too much and not sharing enough? Are you looking for an effective way to incentivize your employees? Your team is your agency's biggest asset. When you create a team that shares the same common goals and who all work hard to get there, everyone wins.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How transparent should you be with your team?
  • 2 Reasons why your agency's bonus structure matters.
  • 3 Ways to create a culture for employee retention.

Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Slocumb, president and founder of Clarity Quest Marketing, a boutique agency dealing solely with biotech and the healthcare space. Chris jumped to the agency world after she realized there was a serious gap in the market when it came to agencies equipped to handle the biotech market. Right off the bat, Chris made it her mission to create a culture where people are the number one focus. Chris shares how she was able to build a rock-solid team and how that team has helped her agency grow. 

How Transparent Should You be with Your Team?

It's a problem agency owners struggle with every day — "How do I make sure my team has enough information, without sharing too much?" What exactly is too much? Chris says, when it comes to running her agency, her goal is to be as transparent as possible. Obviously, she can't share information about everyone's salaries, but everything else is pretty much fair game.

Chris believes, the more information her team has, the better decisions they'll make. She also believes by sharing revenue, profit margins, and timekeeping, everyone on the team has a greater feeling of ownership.

2 Reasons Why Your Agency's Bonus Structure Matters

Do you have a bonus structure in place at your agency?  There are many ways to incentivize your employees, and each has an impact on how hard your team works and how valued they feel. So what does a good bonus structure look like?

At Clarity Quest, Chris uses an annual bonus and quarterly bonuses to motivate her team. The team gets a quarterly bonus when they all come together to meet a specific goal by the end of each quarter. The annual bonuses focus on the roles of each individual. Chris says there are two main reasons why this structure has worked at her agency:

  • Continued motivation. When you spread out bonuses throughout the year, employees have something to look forward to. This, in turn, keeps them engaged and inspired.  When your team has to wait an entire year for a bonus, it can feel too far out of reach. 
  • Cause and effect. There will be some quarters where your agency doesn't meet its goals. It happens. When you use a quarterly bonus system, your team is more likely to remember exactly what mistakes caused them to lose out on their quarterly bonus.   

3 Ways to Create a Culture for Employee Retention

No agency owner wants to put in the hard work of finding an employee, training them, and watching them grow, only to watch that same employee walk out the door a few years down the road. So how do you retain employees and in turn, help your agency succeed? At the end of the day, it all comes down to culture.

At the core, there are a few main things every employee wants — to feel valued, to be happy, and to enjoy what they do. How do you provide a culture where your team is happy and devoted to your agency's success?

  1. Provide opportunities to grow. Nobody wants to feel like they're expected to know too much in a short amount of time. In the same regard, you don't want your team to be bored. Pay attention to what your employees want and create a culture where they can move up and advance on their own terms.
  2. Create training opportunities. Be there to support your employees and make sure they have the tools to succeed. 
  3. Keep stress levels to a minimum. This one sounds easier said than done. But really, if you can find a way to reduce stress and increase job satisfaction, you're all more likely to be happy with your job. 

If you want a great team you have to build and support it. Successful teams don't just happen on their own. When you treat your employees like a cohesive group and not a bunch of individuals, they're more likely to share your goals, and ultimately help your agency grow. 

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

How can you give your brick-and-more clients a bigger ROI? Are you looking for a way to drive more traffic to your retail clients? Location-based marketing, or geotargeting is an effective way to learn about customer behaviors so you can analyze habits and trends to drive new business for your clients. Better results for them means more new business for you.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  •  2 reasons geotargeting is better than traditional marketing.
  •  Should your agency offer location-based marketing?
  •  Is location-based marketing right for your agency clients?

Today I talked to Dan Dillon, VP of Marketing at Reveal Mobile, a location-based marketing and analytics agency. Reveal Mobile helps clients analyze customer behavior and use that information to create effective marketing campaigns. Dan's here to discuss how location-based marketing works and what your agency needs to do to be successful.

2 Reasons Geotargeting Is Better Than Traditional Marketing

In a constantly changing space, it can feel like a never-ending battle to keep up with technology and trends. So what separates geotargeting from all those other trends and makes it stand out as one your agency should invest in?

  1. Greater insight into customer behavior: Imagine what it would be like if you could tell your client not only how many visitors they had, but where those visitors went before and after their visit? Geotargeting allows you to take a deep dive into customer behavior to analyze habits, preferences, and why some customers never return.
  2. Targeted marketing to potential customers. Just because a customer doesn't stop by your client's business, that doesn't mean you can't still get a sale. With geotargeting, you can see customers' buying habits and trends and specifically target to that market.

Should Your Agency Offer Location-Based Marketing?

To put it simply, geotargeting allows you to be more efficient with your marketing dollars. When you can offer potential clients greater insight, they are more likely to see the value of your services. Often, clients don't realize specific characteristics about their customers, and presenting this information can be a real eye-opener.

The benefit of geotargeting means driving more of the right visitors to your client. You can use location-based marketing data to build custom audiences for Google and Facebook ads while really zeroing in on results for your clients. It's a win-win!

Is Location-Based Marketing Right for Your Agency Clients?

If you're like me, the whole concept of geotargeting sounds a little too much like "Minority Report." So how can you make sure location-based marketing is right for you before you dive in?

Dan says it's simple — do your homework. Many services like Google Ads and Facebook Ad Manager already allow customers to use geotargeting on a smaller level to analyze customer behavior. Try this first. While you won't have the level of customization or flexibility that you would with a full-service provider, you can experiment and see what kind of return you get. After you give it a try, the numbers will tell you what to do next.

Location-based marketing provides your clients with valuable information they would not otherwise have access to. Your job is to help your clients figure out what to do with that information. When you're willing to think outside of the box and offer unique services, you're more likely to see big results.

Ready to see what location-based marketing can do for your agency? Reveal Mobile has a special offer just for Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. Head over to Visit.RevealMobile.com/Swenk to learn more and sign up today.

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

Is your agency struggling due to the current economy? Are your clients pulling back? Now is not the time to panic! Learn how your agency can thrive during this economic crisis and how to be prepared for the future.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Things agencies can learn from the current economic crisis.
  • How to start acting like an agency CEO.
  • 3 Steps to preparing for the agency's future.

Today I had a timely and informative chat with Michael White, CEO of Lively Worldwide, a creative agency. Michael got his start in the agency world nearly 20 years ago, but recently made a major pivot when it comes to how he does business. Michael is here to discuss how these changes set him up for the economic crisis, and how you can prepare your agency for any circumstance.

2 Things Agencies Can Learn from the Current Economic Crisis

We don't like to say it, but the current economic crisis has taught us all a few useful lessons. I always look at situations like this as an opportunity for agencies to prove who's got what it takes and weed out the ones who don't.

If you're paying attention, there are a few things you can learn from the current economic climate:

  1. Digital is more important than ever. At a time when people can't go to work, go to school, or even go outside, businesses are turning to digital agencies to help them develop strategies to continue to reach people and do business as usual. As a digital agency, this is not a time when you should be struggling and shutting down. If you are doing business right, this is the perfect climate to thrive.
  2. Those who do best are the ones who don't panic. The economic climate is changing. You may have to develop new strategies or double down on current investments. Now is not the time that panic. People are struggling to survive quite simply because they are freaking out. You need to choose not to participate in the recession.

How to Start Acting Like an Agency CEO

CEO is not just a title, it's a position. You can't just call yourself the CEO, you have to act like one. In most cases, this means letting go of some of the control and thinking about the bigger picture.

Michael said he finally had time to start planning for the future and developing strategies when he started delegating and empowering his team to be more accountable. As agency owners, we have a tendency to throw ourselves all in and try to do everything. Not only is this the quickest way to burn out, but it forces you to be reactive instead of proactive. Listen to me — let go.

3 Steps to Preparing for the Agency's Future

So how do you learn from the current economic crisis and not just survive, but thrive? How do you make it through this challenging time and make sure you're prepared for the next economic downturn? (Because it will happen.)

  1. Do your research. Michael tries to take in as much information as he can. The more you can learn, the more you can prepare. Talk to your colleagues, listen to podcasts, read, read, read. Take it all in and learn.
  2. Have a plan for any and all circumstances. I read a story about how Wimbledon bought pandemic insurance a few years ago. Nobody else saw what was going on. But now that the tournament has been canceled, their foresight and preparedness are paying off.
  3. Reevaluate your business strategy (often). Michael says you shouldn't ever create a business strategy without making changes every couple of years. The world is changing so fast if you don't do a thorough check-up every two or so years, you almost certainly won't be prepared for changes in the economy.

The economic climate is changing and you can count on it changing again. The key is to be prepared so when the next economic downfall happens, you'll be ready to capitalize on the opportunities instead of fighting to survive.

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

Are you struggling to retain agency clients? Having trouble helping them appreciate the value of your service? Do your clients even know all of what do? Communication is the key to retaining agency clients. And you might not be communicating as well as you think. If you don't communicate it, it didn't happen.  

In today's episode, we'll cover

  • How to help your clients see the value of your agency.
  • 3 Ways to increase client communication and retain more clients. 
  • Why you should always err on the side of over-communication.

Today I sat down with Jordan West, founder, co-owner, and COO at Mindful Marketing, a digital marketing agency focusing primarily on e-commerce. Jordan started his career as a small business owner and quickly found, the more he communicated, the more his company grew. With that, he became an accidental agency owner. Jordan's here to discuss what he has learned about effective communication and how it can make all the difference when it comes to your agency's success.

How to Help Your Clients See the Value of Your Agency

Have you ever put your blood, sweat, and tears into a project, only to have your client jump ship and find someone new? If so, you're not alone. I've been there. Jordan's been there. Most agency owners have been there. And 99% of the time, it comes down to one thing — communication. It doesn't matter how hard you work if your client doesn't know what you are doing. Jordan says his agency has a mantra, "If we didn't communicate it, it never got done." In other words, if you don't tell your client about all the work you put in behind the scenes, how are they supposed to know?

The number one way to help your clients see the value in your work is to communicate. Check-in with your clients. Schedule weekly phone calls. Tell them what you are doing. It's great when the work speaks for itself, but that's not enough. 

3 Ways to Increase Client Communication

Communication is important. So how do you make sure there is productive communication going back and forth on a regular basis?

  1. Get your client involved. Sure, your client counts on you to make a lot of the major decisions, but that doesn't mean you can't have them weigh in. Do you have a successful ad campaign that might benefit from a little extra spending? Make sure your team is talking to the client and let them make the choice. 
  2. Create availability and accessibility. Not all clients want to talk on the phone. That's fine. Your project managers need to understand this means they need to go the extra mile to communicate their availability. This means leaving the calendar open for active clients to request a check-in and scaling up communication in other forms like emails and text messages.
  3. Benchmark your client's progress. When you do communicate with your client, make sure you can show them the value of your service. Provide benchmarks that show where they started, where they are now, and future projections. 

Why You Should Always Err on the Side of Over-communication

"But Jason, I'm all over communication. This is one area I don't have to worry about." Really? Do you have a 100% client retention rate? Do your clients understand what you do so well that they literally never ask you any questions? No? There is always room for more communication. 

Take a look at your messages. When was the last time you sent an email to your biggest client? Your smallest client? If it has been more than a week, it's been too long. Communication is vital in everything you do. If you don't communicate enough, you're going to fail. Plus, as an added bonus, the more you communicate and help your clients understand what you do, the more likely they are to send you referrals

If you don't communicate with your clients, you leave them questioning and guessing what you do and how you help. Don't assume your clients know the value of your work. When you take the time to communicate and actually be there for your clients, they're more likely to be loyal to you.

Want to help your e-commerce clients convert increase CRO?

Our partner, Justuno, offers an AI solution that captures leads, personalizes messaging, and gathers audience analytics. Justuno is SaaS that features pop-ups and messaging that can be tailored to your client’s target audience from paid ads, mobile, desktop, and even former customers who haven’t purchased in a while. This helps your agency control ad costs and increase engagement for improved SEO.

With more than 20 years in e-commerce, Justuno is trusted by hundreds of agencies and thousands of businesses around the world. And for a limited time, Justuno is offering FREE unlimited agency accounts to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. Head over to Justuno.com/Jason to get started.

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

Are you looking for a way to attract your ideal client? Have you considered hosting a live event as a prospecting tactic? An event is a great way to gather like-minded individuals and maybe even meet a few potential clients along the way. And yes, we all will be meeting in large groups again one day!

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 Key to hosting a successful event.
  • How to get prospects excited about your event.
  • How to use adversity to build connections.

Today I had an inspiring chat with Jordan Kallman, co-owner of The Social Concierge, an event marketing agency. Jordan has spent many years in the event industry and has created events for some of the world's biggest companies. Today, he's here to talk about a few things you should and shouldn't do in order to host a successful event.

#1 Key to Hosting a Successful Event

One of the biggest mistakes people make when planning an event is diving right in. Regardless of what type of event you have in mind or what type of guests you want to attract, Jordan says there are two things people don't realize about planning an event.

  1. Hosting an event is a lot more expensive than you think it is.
  2. It's harder than you realize to get people to show up.

Because of this, it's extremely important to start with your why or your purpose. Why do you want to host an event? People don't want to go to an event where they feel like you are constantly trying to sell something. They're too busy and don't want to waste their time. When most people go to an event they are looking to learn something new and build connections. The number one way to be successful and attract the right people is to dial in on your messaging and intention.

How to Get Prospects Excited About Your Event

Let's face it — we're all busy and we all have other commitments. If you're like me, the prospect of going to another event is anything but exciting. Jordan says you should always count on a good number of people backing out or simply not showing up. If you want 100 people to attend your event, you need to invite 300. So how do you get people excited about your event and motivate people to show up?

  1. Give attendees an expectation of value. Be clear about what people will get out of attending your event. Will there be a special speaker? Will they learn something new? And if so, what? You have to give your guests a reason to want to be there. Time is valuable.
  2. Promote your event. Now is the time to pick up the phone and talk to your invitees. Tell them how they will benefit from attending your event. Don't stick to just one channel. Promote your event through social, email, and behind the scenes videos. Over-communicate to align with expectations. When you get people excited before the event, they're more likely to share the opportunity with other people.
  3. Build connections before the event. Get personal and connect people before the big day. No one likes to go to an event where they know they won't know anyone there. Introduce a few people before an event and get them talking. People are more likely to show up if they feel like they already connected to other attendees.

How to Use Adversity to Build Connections

The goal of most events is to bring people together. Don't let your guests sit through a boring lecture, counting down the minutes until they can leave. Plan events that allow people to open up and share a common connection. It all starts with being a good host. Greet your guests and let them know why they are there. But beyond that, there are a few basic things you can do to get your guests to open up.

  1. Try a unique approach to introductions. Chances are, if you're holding an event, most of the people will be from the same industry. So instead of asking people who they are and what they do, be creative with your introductions. Ask attendees to talk about their passion or an area they struggle in. This can help people build deeper connections and find common ground.
  2. Don't shy away from adversity. You'd be surprised how much a common struggle brings people together. During my mastermind retreat, we hiked 800 feet up a mountain on the first day. This experience provided a shared sense of accomplishment and a common challenge we all had to overcome. You don't have to climb a mountain at your event; adversity can be as simple as talking about challenges in your field, or common struggles.

Events are a great way to get your ideal clients all in one place. But they take time and planning. When you take the time to carefully craft an event and make sure people show up, you'll be on your way to being able to pick and choose who you work with.

Are you looking for a simple solution to document your agency’s SOP’s?

If you want to keep your team working smarter and not harder, you need to check out what our partners at Trainual have to offer. Trainual is the top-rated software for keeping teams aligned and accountable from anywhere. Their software makes growing your agency easier than ever by keeping all your “how-to’s” and “need-to-know’s” in one place. With dozens of customizable templates, Trainual is an affordable way to increase consistency in the way your team works on repeatable processes.

For a limited time, Trainual is offering our podcast listeners a free the Smart Agency Masterclass Agency Onboarding Template pre-loaded into your account when you signup.

 

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

Are you looking for more predictability in your business model? Do you find your agency is barely treading water and are looking for a way to thrive? No matter what sector you're in or how much experience you have, most people have a competitive advantage — the one trait that sets them apart. The sooner you can recognize yours, the sooner you'll be able to find success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to find your agency's perfect niche.
  • Do you capitalize on your agency's competitive advantage?
  • 3 Ways to win over committees and boards.

Today I sat down with Yareli Esteban, CEO and president of Strategar, a full-service advertising agency. Yareli started her career working with a lot of big-name companies. But after 14 years, she knew she wanted a change. Yareli is here to discuss why she chose the niche she is in and how she discovered what sets her agency apart.

How to Find Your Agency's Perfect Niche

When you start an agency, you have to make a lot of decisions. What do I stand for? Who's going to join me? Where do I want to end up? But one of the most important questions is, "Who do you help?" In other words, what is your niche?

I talk about niche all the time. Declaring a niche sets you apart and makes all the difference in the type of clients you attract. So how do you find the right niche for your agency?

One of the most important things you can do is figure out what type of client you want to work with. For Yareli, she liked the idea of long-term contracts and predictability. She also wanted to break away from the blue-chip industries and focus more on non-profits and smaller corporations. Now she works largely with government agencies.

The more you work with new clients and talk to your network, the more you'll discover how different industries work. Focus on what your priorities and goals are and pay attention to what type of companies and what type of industries will help you get there.

Do You Capitalize on Your Agency's Competitive Advantage?

Everyone has a competitive advantage, whether they recognize it or not. The sooner you capitalize on your competitive advantage, the sooner you will be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd.

Anyone who has ever worked with the government knows they deal solely with RFPs. If you're like me, the simple utterance of RFPs makes you run in the opposite direction. But for Straegar, they've figured out their own system and can hammer out an RFP in no time. The fact that they easily do something many agency owners run away from is their competitive advantage. It not only helps them when they deal with government agencies but similar agencies as well. Find out what you are good at and run with it.

3 Ways to Win Over Committees and Boards

One of the reasons so many of us avoid working with the government is they have a strict and rigid structure. Generally, in order to get something approved, it has to pass through waves of red tape and various departments. The same goes for committees. When you have a board of 5, 10 people, it is a lot harder to get them all on the same page.

Whether you are working with the government, a committee, or a team of executives, there are going to be many times when you have to convince a group of people your agency is the right choice. The key is finding the common denominator.

  1. Active listening. Bring your whole self to every meeting. Pay attention to what prospects are saying and what they are asking.
  2. Context cues. You can tell a lot about what someone is thinking simply by watching their body language. If they are staring at their phone instead of looking at you, you're losing them. Time to switch gears.
  3. Provide 3 simple goals. Humans can process about three things at a time. Come in with an action plan of 3 things you want to do for the client right off the bat. When you have a plan in place and can show your clients the path moving forward, they'll have an easier time getting on the same page.

As an agency owner, you'll quickly find that everyone is fighting for the same thing. Often, it's not about who's the best, it's about who stands out. When you can find your competitive advantage and capitalize on it, you're less likely to get lost in the crowd.

Want to help your e-commerce clients convert increase CRO?

Our partner, Justuno, offers an AI solution that captures leads, personalizes messaging, and gathers audience analytics. Justuno is SaaS that features pop-ups and messaging that can be tailored to your client’s target audience from paid ads, mobile, desktop, and even former customers who haven’t purchased in a while. This helps your agency control ad costs and increase engagement for improved SEO.

With more than 20 years in e-commerce, Justuno is trusted by hundreds of agencies and thousands of businesses around the world. And for a limited time, Justuno is offering FREE unlimited agency accounts to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. Head over to Justuno.com/Jason to get started.

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

Do you know your agency's purpose? Have you established a solid framework? When you know what you do and have a process to follow, both your agency and your client are more likely to find success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Reasons your agency should put purpose before profit.
  • How to set up your agency's framework.
  • How your agency can cut through the clutter.

Today I sat down with Robin Whalen, president of Church and State, an independent marketing agency. Robin has been in the agency world for over two decades, and during that time, she has seen a lot of changes. She's here to discuss how developing a solid framework can make everything else so much easier.

2 Reasons Why Your Agency Should Put Purpose Before Profit

We all got in the agency world to make lots and lots of money, right? No. Just me? Kidding aside, as agency owners, we have a tendency to look at the bottom line and set goals based on those numbers. I hear it all the time — agency owners tell me they want to have 5X margins within a certain number of years, or they'll say, "I want a team of 50 people by the end of next year." It's great to set goals, but if you want to be successful, you need to put purpose before profits. Why?

  1. Your time is important. We all remember staying up until 4 am burning the midnight oil. But as the agency realm shifts, bags under your eyes are no longer a badge of honor. Work/life balance is important for you and your team.
  2. You're able to set clear goals. When you prioritize profits, you lose your focus on what type of agency you want to become. What you really need to be thinking about is what type of services you want to provide, what type of clients you want to work with, and what type of culture you want your agency to have.

How to Set Up Your Agency's Framework

When you have a solid framework, everything else has a way of falling into place. Plus, you'll gain your clients' trust when you have proven processes in place. But how do you develop a successful framework?

It goes back to knowing your purpose. What type of agency do you want to be? What is your guiding force or true north?

Robin says brands are known by three things: what they think, what they do, and what they say. Focus on these areas because when what you think, do, and say don't line up, you have a serious integrity problem. At Church and State, the three leaders all have their own goals and their own distinct specialties. However, they all come together for one solid goal, to create the bridge between content and advertising. Find your goal and what guides you and implement a process that supports it.

How Your Agency Can Cut Through the Clutter

Think about what you are saying to your clients and prospects. How great is your reach? Sure, you spend countless hours creating and developing campaigns for your clients, but what about your agency? You need to cut through the clutter and let everyone know you are here.

This may come in a few different forms. Robin says her agency has written a book, delivers marketing presentations, and recently started a podcast.

You don't have to do all these, but you do need to put yourself out there. If you're just starting out, this can be as simple as consistent social media posts. If you have some experience under your belt, I highly suggest a podcast to gain authority and generate leads.

Focusing on profit will only get you so far. At the end of the day, you have to remember why you started your agency. Start with your purpose, develop a framework, and create a culture that supports your vision.

Are you looking for a simple solution to document your agency’s SOP’s?

If you want to keep your team working smarter and not harder, you need to check out what our partners at Trainual have to offer. Trainual is the top-rated software for keeping teams aligned and accountable from anywhere. Their software makes growing your agency easier than ever by keeping all your “how-to’s” and “need-to-know’s” in one place. With dozens of customizable templates, Trainual is an affordable way to increase consistency in the way your team works on repeatable processes.

For a limited time, Trainual is offering our podcast listeners a free the Smart Agency Masterclass Agency Onboarding Template pre-loaded into your account when you signup.

 

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

Do you have what it takes to be a successful agency owner? Are you afraid you’ve hit the ceiling of your own success? What are the traits and disciplines of successful agency owners?

  • Why your agency might need a fresh perspective.
  • How can agencies survive the economic downturn?
  • 2 disciplines every agency owner needs.
  • Are you built for successful agency ownership?
  • Where are you on the entrepreneurial range?

Today I had the great privilege of talking with Gino Wickman, founder of EOS Worldwide and author of Traction. With 30+ years of entrepreneurial experience, Gino has helped 100,000 entrepreneurs build amazing companies with is systems and training. Today, he’s talking about vision, partners, and knowing whether you have what it takes to be the kind of entrepreneur you want to be.

Why Your Agency Might Need a Fresh Perspective

Almost thirty years ago, at the age of 25, Gino ended up replacing a partner and president at his father’s business and turned it around in what he outlines as a 4 steps process.

  1. Simplify the business. There were 5 subdivisions under the umbrella of the larger company which, over time, Gino spun off so they could get back to the core business. This is why we often talk about being the jack of all trades and the master of none. I preach it all the time, right? Do one thing and do it better than anyone.
  2. Win back every client. Gino says that as the family business took off, they got cocky and lost key clients. Listening to those former clients, learning from mistakes, and growing because of it was a huge step in the rebirth of the business.
  3. Restructure the organization. At the time, there were 50 people at the company. Gino reorganized them all and got the right people int the right seats. Of course, there were firings and layoffs as he stripped the business down its core, too. But simplifying the org chart made a huge difference in accountability.
  4. Sell, sell, sell. The final step Gino took was to pay off the company’s mound of debt. What’s the best way to do that? He says they sold their asses off and just focused on their core service to not over complicate things.

How Can Agencies Survive the Economic Downturn?

A business coach once told Gino that every business runs in 10-year cycles. You have two great years, six good years, and two terrible years that could put you out of business.

The economy has been good for a long time and we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s a downturn right now. (Of course “why” is a different story!) But, don’t be surprised in 10 years when this happens again.

Like me, Gino has run businesses during the dot-bomb, 9/11, and 2008 crash. Economic downturns are cyclical. And while it does suck, it is also an opportunity to get clear and do some ‘weeding.’ It gives you time to reevaluate your business, get back to your core values, figure out what you’re best at, and develop your next 10-year plan.

The best advice right now? Get as close to your clients as possible. Give, help, teach. It’s in these times when market share is gained.

It’s been two months. We’ve had time to settle it. It’s time to get back at it. Sure, the pie has got smaller, but you can still get the larger piece while others are being lazy right now.

And don’t be short-sighted. Don’t react to the market with fear of losing everything. Gino encourages every entrepreneur to think in 10-year targets or 10-year goals. There is light at the end of the tunnel but you have to think long term in addition to short term actions.

2 Disciplines Every Agency Owner Needs

In Gino’s new book, The Entrepreneurial Leap, Gino walks the reader through three parts of what it takes to be a great entrepreneur:

Confirm you are an entrepreneur.
Glimpse, show the light.
Path to greatly increase the odds of success.

As well as 8 disciplines we all need in order to be successful. He covered two of those in detail for our listeners:

1. Determine whether you’re a partner person. Are you a partner person? Not everyone is cut out to have or be a partner. On the other hand, some people need a partner to help with decision making or that has a complementary skill set. Learning whether you’re a partner person will help you succeed.

2. Get feedback from clients early and often. You should know your clients better than they know themselves. The only way your business is going to flourish is if you evolve and change with your niche’s needs. You need to be in a position to see what they need before they see what they need. Like Henry Ford said, “If I listened to everything my customers wanted, I would have given them a faster horse.” When you know them better than they know themselves you’re going to be indispensable.

Are You Built for Successful Agency Ownership?

Gino says 10-year thinking means knowing where you want to land ten years from now. What’s the end goal? Then every decision you make today be thinking out 10 years. Time slows down and you make better decisions and get there faster.

As an entrepreneur, you need to know what you’re built for. Not every agency entrepreneur is built to run a billion-dollar agency. Some should always be a freelancer out on their own. The proverbial “glass ceiling” is not always a true glass ceiling. Sometimes, it’s just the entrepreneur trying to go beyond their capacity of what they should be doing. Certainly, the glass ceiling does exist and that’s when an entrepreneur needs to learn in order to grow bigger.

Know your vision and motivation. There no right or wrong answer, it’s just about knowing yourself.

Where Are You on the Entrepreneurial Range?

The entrepreneurial range is everything from a self-employed freelancer to an entrepreneurial giant like Disney or Oprah. When you are on the larger side of that range, you have 6 essential traits: Visionary, Passionate, Problem Solver, Driven, Risk Taker, Responsible.

If you want to learn where you land on the entrepreneurial range and what it takes to be successful, you can take the Entrepreneurial-Leap quiz. If you are on the range, you are a hard-charging entrepreneur, and knowing where you are on the range can help you drive forward.

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

How is your agency surviving the economic crisis? How can a great agency culture help during a downturn in the economy? As an agency owner, there's nothing more important than knowing your values and surrounding yourself with people who are working toward the same common goal, especially at times like these. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Is your agency prepared for the economic crisis?
  • 2 Reasons you should always start with why.
  • 3 Ways to find the right people for your agency team.

Today, I had the opportunity to sit down with Mark Emond, founder and president of Demand Spring, a revenue marketing agency. Over the past several years, Demand Spring has grown to nearly 20 employees who work in different parts of the world. Mark is here to discuss why it's important to know your agency's vision and how to create a team that supports your vision. 

Is Your Agency Prepared for the Economic Crisis?

I always like to look at recessions and economic changes as a cleansing. Those that are prepared and are good at what they do will succeed. The rest of the agencies who are just winging it and reacting to the economic changes are the ones who really struggle. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are in a good position. 

  • Prepare in advance. It's harder to make the right decisions when you're doing so under pressure or in a panic. 
  • Identify which costs you can cut. Try to avoid cutting manpower. Instead, look at your billing and eliminate any recurring spending that is eating away at your margins. Work with your vendors to see what kind of allowances can be made for pausing or extensions.
  • Know your why. When you can tell your clients why your service matters and what you provide, they will have a hard time letting you go. 

2 Reason Why You Should Always Start with Why

Most of you have heard me talk about knowing your why. Your why is your purpose or reason for doing what you do. It's your driving force that inspires and motivates you. Knowing and understanding your why is key to growing your agency because:

  1. It will make the hiring process easier. Think about the last employee you hired. Were they a good fit? If you don't know what your agency stands for, how are you supposed to hire employees that will help you achieve your goals? 
  2. You'll be able to provide more to your clients. How can your clients understand the value of your services if you don't even understand why you are providing them? When you know your values and the culture you want to create, you will have an easier time providing exceptional customer service at every touchpoint. 

3 Ways to Find the Right People for Your Agency Team

Let's be honest, building a team you love is hard. It takes a lot of work to find people that support your values, support your team, and are actually good at what they do. But the good news is, there's a large pool of candidates out there right now. Your team can quite literally be the difference between success and failure. So how do you find people right for your agency?

  1. Bring in your team to help conduct the interviews. Obviously, the final decision about who you bring on board is yours, but culture-fit is important. When you get the opinions of current employees, you're more likely to find a good fit. 
  2. Dig deep. Don't ask for references. Just don't. Candidates aren't going to hand over a bad reference. Instead, do a little digging. Mark says he usually jumps onto LinkedIn to reach out to second connections. These people are the ones who will truly know a candidate's strengths and weaknesses and will be able to provide greater insight into whether they will fit into your culture. 
  3. Hire for attitude and culture (and be creative with your questions). If part of your culture is being resourceful and scrappy, don't ask a candidate if they are "resourceful and scrappy." Of course, they are going to say yes. Instead, ask them questions that will help you determine their likelihood of fitting in.

Values and culture can help you stand out from a crowd of "me too" agencies. During an economic downturn, this is more important than ever. Start with why and you'll find you'll have an easier time getting the rest to fall into place. 

Want to help your e-commerce clients convert increase CRO?

Our partner, Justuno, offers an AI solution that captures leads, personalizes messaging, and gathers audience analytics. Justuno is SaaS that features pop-ups and messaging that can be tailored to your client’s target audience from paid ads, mobile, desktop, and even former customers who haven’t purchased in a while. This helps your agency control ad costs and increase engagement for improved SEO.

With more than 20 years in e-commerce, Justuno is trusted by hundreds of agencies and thousands of businesses around the world. And for a limited time, Justuno is offering FREE unlimited agency accounts to Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. Head over to Justuno.com/Jason to get started.

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

Do you struggle with pricing? Is your agency getting paid what it's really worth? Are you a victim of scope creep but not sure how to put an end to it? The sooner you can recognize the value of your service and begin charging appropriately, the sooner clients will begin paying you what you deserve.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How relationships play a role in agency pricing.
  • 3 ways to determine what you are worth.
  • #1 way to eliminate scope creep.

Today I sat down with Brian DeMarco, CEO of Draftr Media. If you're a longtime football fan, you might recognize Brian from his time as an NFL offensive lineman. But today, Brian's here to talk business. He's here to talk about a topic many agency owners struggle with — how to start charging what you are worth.

How Relationships Play a Role in Agency Pricing

We've all been there — that internal battle about how much to charge for your services. Brian says one of the things that helps him feel comfortable charging a specific price is the relationships his agency has built with their clients. Brian says he always likes to ask his clients about their family and their lives and actually get to know them as people. It's not just good manners; it's good business.

It seems counterintuitive — you'd think the more you get to know someone, the harder it would be to ask for more money. But the opposite is true. The more you get to know your clients, the more they get to know you. When you build a rapport and gain trust, your clients are more likely to recognize your value instead of questioning your price.

3 Ways to Determine What You Are Worth

Great. You've built the relationships and feel comfortable charging for your services. But how much exactly is that? This is a question many agency owners struggle with and nine times out of ten they err on the side of undercharging instead of overcharging. So how do you determine what you are worth?

  1. Ask other agencies what they are charging. Yes, it's that simple. Talk to your mentors, your partners, and industry leaders. You can get a good idea about what type of pricing is appropriate just by asking.
  2. Know how good you are. Brian says the world will pay you exactly what you think you are worth. So it's extremely important that you know what you are worth. You created an agency because you are good at what you do. Own it.
  3. Be confident. Sometimes you just have to throw out a number and see if the client will bite. You'd be surprised how often they do. If you choose this route, you have to do so with confidence. If you question what you are charging, the client most definitely will.

#1 Way to Eliminate Scope Creep

Ah, scope creep — an agency's worst nightmare. We've all experienced it. The important thing is to recognize scope creep before it happens. The fact of the matter is, most clients don't realize what they are asking for is out of scope. It's up to you to stop it from going too far.

How do you do this? Start at the beginning. Be very clear and specific with clients on what you do and what is included for the price. Explain to them when something they are asking for is out of scope even when you decide not to charge for it. The sooner you recognize scope creep and put a stop to it, the less likely it is to get away from you. Scope creep is a slow killer. The more you let it continue to happen, the more it eats into your profit margin.

You have to know what you are worth and ask for it. When you start doing that, you'll find yourself in the driver's seat instead of your clients.

Are you looking for a simple solution to document your agency’s SOP’s?

If you want to keep your team working smarter and not harder, you need to check out what our partners at Trainual have to offer. Trainual is the top-rated software for keeping teams aligned and accountable from anywhere. Their software makes growing your agency easier than ever by keeping all your “how-to’s” and “need-to-know’s” in one place. With dozens of customizable templates, Trainual is an affordable way to increase consistency in the way your team works on repeatable processes.

For a limited time, Trainual is offering our podcast listeners a free the Smart Agency Masterclass Agency Onboarding Template pre-loaded into your account when you signup.

 

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

Are you an e-commerce agency? Would you like to help your e-commerce clients achieve better results including more upsells and cross-sells? Would you like to help your clients leverage the current health and economic situation? It’s all about having the right tools that help you work smarter, not harder.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • How your agency can adapt in today’s changing market.
  • Is AI taking over for digital agencies?
  • How agencies use AI for e-commerce clients.

On today’s podcast, I’m talking with Mat Bingham, Director of Agency Partners at Justuno, a SaaS tool that is helping e-commerce agencies get better and faster results for their clients using artificial intelligence (AI). He’s sharing some strategies agencies are using right now to make quick changes for their clients who might be shut down, plus ways you can use AI to increase sales for your clients.

How Your Agency Can Adapt in Today’s Changing Market

In the B2C space, there is a need to communicate differently and update more frequently due to delays or changes in the way they’re doing business. With this in mind, a lot of agencies have adapted well to onsite marketing, email marketing, text messaging, and trying different channels to help clients. There’s huge potential for digital agencies right now to help clients pivot their business to meet today’s needs.

What got you to where you are today is not what will get you to the next level. The old set it and forget it tactic will no longer work for growing your agency.

Is AI Taking Over for Digital Agencies?

In short, no. Mat says there is a common misconception that artificial intelligence (AI) will take over for us humans. Mat says this is just not true. Instead, AI brings personalization at scale. When you want to personalize any of your automated client interactions - email, content, ads, site displays - AI is the way to do it. As an agency, it’s not efficient to spend hours building a unique campaign to a unique visitor profile.

AI can help you segment your audience to strategically offer a certain cross-sell or upsell. Mat says humans have to set the strategy and messaging, but the machine uses data to help your strategy come to life as well as executes on your strategy.

How Agencies Use AI for E-Commerce Clients

As a marketer, making decisions based on data is the best way to get results. With AI like Justuno you can create strategies based on data and get results for your clients easier and faster.

Their system injects the client’s product inventory and SKU’s into its AI engine and matches it with customers’ purchase history. It basically builds a profile for every visitor that goes to an e-commerce site. It has predetermined algorithm rules, such as: upsell, cross-sell, most viewed, most purchased, previously viewed. Then you, the marketer, tweak those algorithms to determine what is displayed when and where.

You do the strategies on what works best on for a specific upsell or cross-sell but use the tool to set up the campaign, then test and tweak it as needed.

If you want to add or improve your CRO then on-site experience is the focus. And now there is a technology that allows you to apply CRO tactics to many different channels: paid-ads, email marketing list building, as well as on-site. If you’re interested in learning more about Justuno, check out their FREE Conversion Rate Analyzer tool which provides data on email list building, how to lower cart abandonment rates, and how to increase average order value for any specific URL you provide.

And as a special offer for Smart Agency Masterclass listeners, when you signup for Justuno you’ll receive a free unlimited agency account. Head to Justuno.com/Jason for more information.

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

Do you find yourself repeatedly teaching the same tasks to your team? Is it a challenge to get everyone on the same page? Processes are an important part of employee onboarding, but they also make sure your team is working smarter, not harder. 

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Reasons to have solid agency processes.
  • How to streamline your agency's processes.
  • When should you focus on agency SOPs? 

 

Today I sat down with Chris and Jonathan Ronzio, CEO and CMO of Trainual, a training app that helps business owners establish processes that make their team more effective and productive. Today, they're here to discuss why it's so important to streamline your agency's processes and the best way to make it happen. 

2 Reasons to Have Solid Agency Processes

Take a minute to think about your team. If you gave each member of your team one simple task, would they all know how to get it done? Now, look a little closer. Would they all do it the same way? Creativity is great, but when it comes to basic, repeatable tasks, it's usually a good idea to have a process in place. Why?

  1. Consistency. Your clients expect a certain standard of work. If you have five different team members doing the same task five different ways, your clients are likely to get confused or overwhelmed — not good. 
  2. Time. Think about how much time you and the rest of your team spend trying to figure out how to do something, how to train someone to do something, and how to respond to a client when there's a question. When you have documented processes in place, it's as simple as rinse, wash, repeat. 

How to Streamline Your Agency's Processes

Processes are important, but you don't want to create a process that is so convoluted your team needs a process to understand the process. When you streamline your processes, not only will your team be more successful (and less frustrated), but you'll also find it easier to be more profitable. Why? Because when you have a process in place, it's easier (and quicker) to chose and onboard your ideal clients. So how do you streamline your agency's processes?

  • Recognize what tasks are a time suck. What tasks is your team spending way too much time on? Is there a way to eliminate these tasks? If not, how can you simplify them so they are easily repeatable?
  • Make sure everyone can do the same tasks the same way. As an owner, you want to know your team is actually providing what you expect of your agency. Shadowing your team and watching how they do things takes time. When you have a solid process in place and train everyone to do things right the first time, both you and your clients will be happier. 
  • Hold your team accountable. Your team won't be successful if they don't know what you expect of them. Be clear about your processes, but don't forget to follow up. 

When Should You Focus on Agency SOPs?

You've heard the old saying, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." The best time to focus on your agency's processes is during employee onboarding. Once your employee develops their own routine, it's much harder to get them to change the way they do things. 

If you don't have a solid onboarding process in place, there's no better time to create one than now. But don't worry, you don't have to whip up one from scratch. Trainual is currently offering a special deal to help you document and organize your agency's processes and procedures. Ready to get started? Head over to Trainual.com/smartagency for a free preloaded offer just for Masterclass listeners.

Your agency's processes are a big factor in determining whether your agency fails or succeeds. When you take the time to streamline your processes and make sure everyone is on the same page, your agency will run much more smoothly. 

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

Is your agency tone deaf? I am seeing agencies handle this pandemic and economy crash in one of two ways. They have either stopped selling because they feel it's insensitive or futile. Or, they are tone deaf and not listening to the actual needs of the market. In this video, I am putting the spotlight on Scott Bell, CEO of Bell Media. Right away, Scott changed his agency's messaging to be empathetic and get the attention of his market. This gives your prospects reassurance that you understand what's going on and hear how their needs, challenges, and concerns are changing right now. In times like these, your agency needs to be flexible and have the ability to move swiftly to make changes in how you're gaining clients. What are your current challenges and struggles in surviving and thriving right now? Comment below. ================================================ SUBSCRIBE NOW to follow my entrepreneurial journey. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDvZHFVeqEMq58q6tMoyMK-ufpp0ysoVP

 

 

Music by epidemicsound.com

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

Are you losing too many leads at the top of your funnel? Do you spend too much time qualifying prospects? Do you not qualify clients? While agency owners often focus on servicing the clients they land, it's important to invest in how you bring these clients in. 

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • How to wow potential clients, starting with the first call.
  • #1 Way to qualify leads faster.
  • How to nail the follow-up and land more clients.

In this episode, I interviewed Terry Jessup, President of Box CMO, a subsidiary of Black Bear Design. Prior to his role as president, Terry was the lead in business development. Over his 15 years in biz dev, he created processes that reduce variation, implemented processes to be more effective, and closed the communication gap between the agency side and the client side to ensure a positive experience. He's on the show to share how he hooks prospects from the very beginning and make sure those clients don't lose interest along the way. 

How to Wow Potential Clients, Starting with the First Call

The first call between your agency and a potential client is extremely important. It sets the first impression and helps you get a better understanding of what the client needs and where you fit in. So how do you wow a lead and make them excited to learn more?

  • Understand the client's needs. It sounds obvious, but understanding a client's needs is one thing many agencies take for granted. Terry says, often, what the client says they need and what they actually need are two different things. Take some time to digest what the prospect is saying and what they really want so you can properly set up the call.
  • Educate the client. Once you know more about a client you can begin telling them what you can provide and how much it will cost. Get them invested. Don't give away all the secrets, but make them feel like they are learning something. This will help establish trust which can help promote a relationship.
  • Build a strategy. Now that you know what the potential client needs and they know what you can provide, take a little time to discuss strategy. What direction do the two of you want to move in? How do you plan to get there? This will help create a solid basis to develop a proposal.

#1 Way to Qualify Leads Faster

You don't want to spend too much time qualifying a lead. You need to have a process in place to help determine whether your agency and your prospect will be a good fit. A good process will prevent you from wasting your time and the client's time. Terry says he is able to qualify a prospect within the first 3-4 minutes. But how?

It comes back to understanding your clients. When you know the basic logistics right off the bat you'll have an easier time figuring out how you may be able to help. Knowing the client's industry, size, and what they are looking for should be your first priority. Pay attention to any clues the client drops about the budget. This alone can tell you right away if there's even a possibility of working together in the future. And most importantly, remember, N.B.A.T. — need, budget, timing, authority.  

How to Nail Follow-Ups and Land More Clients

Nobody likes to put in a bunch of work only to have it all amount to nothing. To make sure your prospect doesn't go silent, it comes down to the follow-up. You have to keep the client engaged. 

Before you get off your initial call, set a plan moving forward. If your client understands everything in the initial call and you're both on the same page, it's generally a good idea to follow-up within a day or so. I always say you should set the next meeting while in the meeting. The longer you wait, the more distracted they become. Don't be afraid to plant a little seed on the initial call. Tell them how you can help them out or what you can do to make the proposal better. At the end of the follow-up, set a timeline moving forward. 

You can be the best agency in the world, but if you can't convert leads, there is no work for you to do. Evaluate your onboarding process. Talk to your team and find out what's working and what's not. When you have a process and reduce variation, you're more likely to see those leads turn into actual clients. 

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

How can agencies help clients who are shut down right now during coronavirus? How can agencies pivot to thrive during this downturn economy? This episode is a spotlight on Alyssa Ege, Sail Away Marketing - helping dental practices during the current shutdown.

Takeaways on what Alyssa and other thriving agencies are doing right:

1. Use digital to help prospects and clients make a quick pivot.

2. Help prospects and clients find creative ways to stay in business even when their physical doors are closed. How can digital agencies help clients who are shit down eight now during the coronavirus epidemic?

3. Educate prospects and clients on the possibilities. Many of them aren't tech-savvy or understand digital marketing enough to even know what's possible. Help them get educated.

Follow the lead by Alyssa at Sail Away Media who'd been doing an amazing job!

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

Does your agency business model lack predictability? Are you questioning what the future has in store for your agency 10, 15 years down the road? When you set a path for your agency and plan for more consistency, you're more likely to see your agency grow.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 Tips to allow your vision to grow with your agency.
  • #1 Way to build predictable and stable growth at your agency.
  • When should an agency owner consider their exit plan?

Today I sat down with Greg Henry, president and CEO of Push10, a branding and web design agency. Like many of us, Greg fell into the agency world and has worked his way to success. But believe it or not, Greg is already thinking about his exit plan. Find out how Greg has been able to build an agency that works with a predictable business model and how that strategy has allowed him the comfort to look ahead.

3Tips to Allow Your Vision to Grow With Your Agency

Take a minute to think about when you first started your agency. Did you think you would be where you are today? Now think about the next 5 years. How about 10? Where do you see yourself?

For many agency owners, there's a certain benchmark they have in mind when they create their agency. This number often revolves around revenue or number of employees. Like so many other agencies, Greg always envisioned himself with 10 employees. This nice round number was "manageable." For Greg, anything more just felt like too much.

Now, with 17 employees, 25 is the number that gives Greg apprehension. But rather than panic, he knows growth just means another opportunity to learn. There are three key ways you can get to the point where you embrace growth and feel comfortable where you are:

  1. Consider bringing on a partner or key leadership team member. For Greg, he says he finally felt comfortable when he brought on a partner. His partner focuses on the client-side and building relationships, while he works on the fun stuff like P&L's, revenue forecast, and HR. Now, the stress of managing such a big agency is not all on him.
  2. Make the transition from owner to CEO. In order to see the most growth, you're going to have to let go of some of the control. Build a team of employees who share the same values you do. When you find them, delegate goals (not tasks), and teach them to support your vision.
  3. Hire Slow, fire fast: One lesson Greg wishes he'd learned much earlier on was the benefit of letting go of toxic employees before they damage the morale of the rest of the team. As soon as you know an employee is a culture clash and is not teachable or coachable, go with your gut.

#1 Way to Build Predictable and Stable Growth to Your Agency

Uncertainty can be toxic to an agency. If you don't know how much revenue you are bringing in or how many clients you will have month to month, you're going to have a hard time managing your cash flow. In fact, this is a quick way to end up in the red. The number one way to build predictable and stable growth is to provide a great product.

No, it's not about selling. It's not about pricing. It's about showing your prospects and clients what you have to offer is worth it. If your client doesn't have a big budget, you have to do the best with what you have. While you don't want to rely on selling, you do want your clients to know you are there. Send regular emails letting your prospects and clients know what you are doing. Focus on your SEO so people know how to find you. When you rely on the quality of your goods rather than the quality of your selling, you're more likely to retain clients, and consequently, have a more predictable cash flow.

When Should an Agency Owner Consider Their Exit Plan?

As agency owners, we don't usually start an agency knowing where we will end up. That's something that goes along with falling into this business. But it can help you create a strategy and understand your vision if you take some time to look a few years (or a few decades) ahead. What do you want to happen to your agency? Do you want to sell and make a huge profit? Do you want to merge with another agency and stay on the board? How important is maintaining your vision?

Greg says the time to create your exit plan is not 15 years from now when you're ready to retire, it's now. This will allow you enough time to make sure your agency is set up in a way that will support your plan. It all comes back to predictability. If you're scrambling to make your plan happen at the 11th hour, you're probably not going to be happy.

Your agency doesn't have to be unpredictable. While there are things you may not be able to control, there is plenty you can do to create structure and control. Consider what your goals are for your agency and surround yourself with a team who wants the same thing.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 50 accounts for only $39 per month. That's a savings of over $500/month.

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

Does your agency serve an industry that has been shut down? Are your clients directly impacted by the economic downturn? Of course, many, many industries are feeling it but none more than travel and hospitality. Should you choose a new niche? Make a quick pivot? Weather the storm?

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Should agencies choose a new niche due to the economic recession?
  • How can you still serve clients impacted by shutdowns?
  • How to manage your agency team during challenging times.

On today’s special episode, I’m chatting with Ryan Clarke, Partner and VP Business Development at Wallop, a digital agency in Canada serving luxury hotel and travel brands since 2004. Ryan started his career as a management consultant but didn’t like what he was selling so moved onto something more creative at Wallop. Here’s here to share ways agencies and clients can move forward during the challenging times we’re in.

Should Agencies Choose a New Niche Due to Economic Recession?

Ryan says while many industries are feeling the strain, the travel industry has been the bleeding edge of the recession as a result of this pandemic. Since Wallop has been focused on this space for 13 years, they’re in it for the long haul. Fortunately, Wallop has a tangent niche in the real estate space for high-end residential developers. They’re finding the real estate space isn’t getting hit quite as hard as travel.

The biggest thing is to remember that everything is coming back.

The hardest-hit industries, like travel and restaurants, are just on pause right now. That’s why it’s important for agencies to continue to help them during this time by producing content and helping clients make a pivot so they can come back strong.

So, should you pick a new niche? Actually, no. If you can hang on and stick with your positioning you’ll be better off in the long run. It’s key to pivot real quick without abandoning what you’ve been doing that works. It’s perfectly fine to go into new industries even if you have no experience. You can find a tangent industry where your experience lends well. But don’t abandon what you’ve been doing because it will take a really long time to become an expert in a new industry. Stick it out and be patient.

How Can Agencies Still Serve Clients  Impacted by Shutdowns?

The team at Wallop is leading with empathy. Ryan says they’re constantly reminding themselves that clients are having a lot of bad days with some bright spots sprinkled in here or there. Their job as the agency is to look for ways to help.

For example, the digital strategy team is putting together data and research. They’ll aggregate this information of all the hotels and resorts to look for opportunities and track recovery of the industry.

On the development side, they’re turning around messaging quickly for clients and staying on top of requests as information changes quickly and without warning.

What can your agency do to find opportunities and assist these types of clients right now?

How to Manage Your Agency Team During Challenging Times

It’s hard to know just what to tell your agency team during uncertain times like these. Too much information can worry them, too little information can cause anxiety about their jobs and their future.

First and foremost, Ryan says Steve Saugestad Principal at Wallop is very zen and has remained calm and steady. This sets the tone for the team and goes a long way in crisis mode. Wallop has also communicated that the agency is in a good financial position to weather the storm; helping the team feel secure.

It’s also important to be realistic, though, and make sure it’s clear the agency will look different on the other side of this. But first and foremost keeping calm and giving a sense of security is key.

Is There a Silver Lining to These Challenging Times?

One benefit that Wallop, and many other agencies are seeing, is they were able to quickly and easily transition to a remote team. We are digital agencies -- if anyone can do this, it’s us! :)

In most cases, this has been smooth as the team very easily made the move. There seems to increased camaraderie as people adjust to working from home. Also, due to stay-at-home orders, people get excited to interact with others even if over a web conference.

A lot of good work gets done when people are left alone to work in their own space. On the flip side, there are definitely benefits to sharing office space which breeds collaboration and some spontaneity when collective minds work together in the same place.

As a result of these current working conditions, Ryan and I agree agencies are learning that finding good talent is not limited to geographic location.

I know it’s getting redundant but we are all in this together. No matter your location, no matter your industry - everything, everyone, everywhere is impacted. It’s not isolated to one city or one state -- it’s global and everyone is going through different degrees of the same challenges. Hang on and you’ll come out the other side better and stronger than before.

 

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

Have you considered making a move to a fully remote agency? Do you think your agency team could benefit from more creative freedom? As agency owners, we're always looking for ways to grow a successful team and build a successful brand. What if you found out you can do both, just by providing a rockstar culture?

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How freedom and flexibility increase team productivity. 
  • Why agency culture is so important. 
  • How your agency can survive the battle of the bands.

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with Angel Gonzales, CMO, and co-founder of Snappy Kraken, an automated marketing platform exclusively for financial advisors. Angel's agency consists solely of remote team members and they've created a business model where they don't just survive, they thrive. Angel is on the show to share how and why his agency's virtual office is the key to their success.  

How Freedom and Flexibility Increases Team Productivity

Who doesn't want the option to work from home in their pajamas? Okay, maybe not some of you crazy extroverts. But for many of us in the agency space, one of the main reasons we do what we do is to have a level of freedom and flexibility. 

At Snappy Kraken, every single person who works for the agency does so remotely. There is no office or main hub. Team members are literally scattered throughout the U.S. So how did Angel know a virtual agency was the right choice for his agency? He says it all comes down to their key values, freedom, and flexibility. Angel says freedom is defined by the number of choices you have. It's simple, the number one way to give your agency more freedom is to provide more choices, such as where they work. 

Why Agency Culture is So Important

If you have a traditional office, you may be wondering how you keep everyone connected. Angel says it's quite simple, and it's a component I stress so much in any agency setting. When you build an agency, you have to focus on culture

Even in a virtual environment, a toxic person is like cancer. Culture is the glue that keeps you all together and allows you to stay focused on the same goals. Angel looks at culture as what you as an agency celebrate, and what you stigmatize. This goes beyond your team. Creating the right culture includes choosing the right clients that support your vision. When you all have a common goal, you'll have no problem staying connected. 

Bonus tip: If you find yourself doing a lot of communication through emails or other written applications, consider throwing in a few emojis to make sure your tone comes off the way you intended it. 

How Your Agency Can Beat the Competition

Did I forget to mention before starting his agency, Angel was in a band? Because of this, he says you need to approach projects like you're writing a pop song. What does this mean? Basically — leave your ego at the door.

Think of it as a "Battle of the Bands":  One band is a group of musicians, all trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. They don't work together but instead lead with ego and try to stand out on their own. Another band, however, balances each other out and works to make sure they're making good music together. In the "Battle of the Bands," band number two wins.

The lesson:  when you stop worrying about being the star and come together as a team, you'll win against your ego-focused competition.

Your success as an agency relies on a variety of factors. When you provide choices, create a rockstar culture, and focus on the team, you're bound to find a winning combination. 

Would You Like to Win More Clients Faster?

Our friends at My Web Audit offer a software tool that helps agencies generate leads, save time, and convert more prospects into clients by creating beautiful, actionable, and easy to understand website audits. Get your foot in the door with your ideal clients by starting with an audit first.

For a limited time, My Web Audit is offering our listeners a FREE 7-day trial and 50% off any plan for 3 months. Head to MyWebAudit.com/SmartAgency to get started.

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

Have you found your agency in a place where all you do is execute? Are you looking to change the way you do things and provide more value to your clients? With so many agencies out there, almost anyone can execute. When you put your agency in a position where clients come to you to create a strategy, you're more likely to see more stable growth.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to go from just execution to paid strategy.
  • 2 Ways to choose the right clients to work with.
  • Why you don't always have to declare a niche.

Today, I sat down with Kevin Kelly, president and founder of Big Buzz Marketing Group, a full-service, integrative digital agency based out of New York City. Kevin comes to us with a ton of marketing experience (his agency started before Google). Today he talks about how you can position your agency so clients come to you to create their strategy and when it's okay to be a full-service agency. 

How to Go From Just Execution to Paid Strategy

When it comes to digital agencies, there are a million and one agencies perfectly good at doing what their clients ask. Work on my SEO — sure, no problem. Create a website — done. But when you simply execute, clients view you as a commodity.  When it comes to separating yourself from the pack and putting your agency in a position to grow, it's a good idea to be able to offer clients a service that makes your agency different. 

What does this mean? It means looking at why your clients want something, rather than just doing. The ultimate goal is to have clients come to you with a problem you can solve, rather than a project you can do. So how do you make this transition?

  • Don't be afraid to fail. In the beginning, it might be hard to make the leap to focusing more on strategy. The best thing you can do is just try and keep learning. 
  • Consider expanding your services. One of the easiest ways for clients to see you as a strategist is if you look ahead to see what they need and offer to do it for them. For example, if your client wants you to build a webpage, consider discussing how you can market that website, even if that's a service you don't usually offer. 
  • Look for opportunities to grow. There's always some new technology or tool that can transform what you can provide to your clients. Be on the lookout for ways you can evolve and grow to expand your offerings. 

2 Ways to Choose the Right Client to Work With

Some clients aren't looking for a strategist. And some clients don't know they are looking for a strategist. So how do you find the clients that will help you grow in this new role?

  1. Change the way you approach things. While we'd all like to be the agency of record, the truth is many agencies are jockeying for the exact same position. Many clients work with multiple agencies that handle various aspects of the business. Take a look at what you offer and consider what you can do so your client doesn't need all these agencies. How can you position it so you're the lead agency?
  2. Foster your relationships. Kevin says many of his agency clients actually came out of failed pitches. While it may be instinct to lick your wounds and forget about the prospect who turned down your pitch, it's never a bad idea to build on that relationship. Chances are, you put a lot of time into developing that pitch. There is value in reaching back out to see if they're happy with the results or to pitch new ideas.

Why You Don't Always Have to Declare a Niche

This one may come as a bit of a surprise. You've heard me say so many times, you must declare a niche. But Kevin has found tremendous success as a full-service agency. So what's the secret to his success? It's all about choosing the right clients. If you're a smaller agency, you're not going to be able to compete with the larger agencies who do everything for anyone. So it doesn't make sense to copy their strategies. Know who your target is and what you can provide to them.

Big Buzz works with national and regional companies that have between $2 million and $10 million in revenue. They don't take on just any client. They only work with clients they can guarantee success.  While it's usually a good idea to pick your niche, if you know your target and implement steps to choose the right clients, you just might be able to pull it off. 

If you're running an agency, you should always be looking for opportunities to provide value that is unique to your agency. At the end of the day, it's going to be your point of view that sets you apart. When you can get to a point where clients come to you with problems, rather than a checklist, then you're in a position where your clients are more likely to see the value in your services. 

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 50 accounts for only $39 per month. That's a savings of over $500/month.

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

Are you ready to scale up your agency, but don't know where to start? Are you face-to-face with that metaphorical brick wall, trying to figure out where you will get the funds to allow your agency to continue to grow? As owners, often, our goal is to grow our agency as big as we can. But how do you make sure you scale your agency in a way where you don't fall flat on your face?

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you should always embrace your strengths.  
  • #1 Reason agencies need to ask more questions. 
  • Are you standing in your agency's way? 

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with Nathan McKelvey, founder of Army8, a digital growth consulting firm. Nathan is a former pilot and self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur. After growing and selling a few agencies, Nathan now helps other agencies discover the tools they need to effectively scale their agency. Nathan is here to talk about what he has learned along the way. 

Why You Should Always Embrace Your Strengths

Nathan's story is different than many of ours. In the early 2000s, Nathan was the owner of jets.com, a private jet service. After he grew his company to $40 million in annual revenue, he was forced to sell it after the economic collapse in 2009.  A year later, Nathan started another company, and again, found immediate success. So what did he do and how can you replicate his success?

  • Reach out to your network. When Nathan started his company, he reached out to his professional and private network, you know, people he flew in his private planes. While we don't all have access to a bunch of people with deep pockets, chances are you have a network you can leverage. Talk to your friends, talk to your co-workers, reach out on LinkedIn. Use existing relationships as a foundation for building your agency.
  • Work to your strengths. Nathan didn't just bring in his background as a pilot, he also brought in a strong knowledge of SEO and SEM. He was able to use these skills to market his company and scale it at a rapid rate. Think of the unique skills you bring to the table and use them to scale up your agency. 

#1 Reason Agencies Need to Ask More Questions 

Do you ever stop to ask your clients why they are asking you to do a certain task? Most of the time, when a client is asking you to do something, there's a bigger reason behind the request.

Does your client want to have a bigger presence on Facebook? Why? Do they want you to set up a new campaign? What are they hoping to get out of this strategy? When you take the time to ask questions and understand what your client is hoping to get out of the process, rather than simply completing the task, you'll have a better understanding of the approach you should take to help your client meet their goals. 

Are You Standing in Your Agency's Way?

Agencies today have a big advantage that Nathan and I didn't when we started our agencies — technology. Tasks or projects that used to take months to put together, now come together in no time at all. 

One of the biggest problems more established agencies have when it comes to scaling is getting in their own way. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "But, that's how I've always done it." The hard truth is,  if the competition is coming in and taking advantage of these newer and better tools, you're going to be left behind. There is so much opportunity waiting to be had. Don't be that person who refuses to embrace changing technology. 

Anyone can scale their agency if they take the time to do it right. And if you hit the brick wall, that doesn't mean you have to turn around, it just means you have to push harder. When you have the clarity of who you are going to serve, how you are going to serve them, and why they should care, then you have the right foundation to be able to scale your agency.

Would You Like to Win More Clients Faster?

Our friends at My Web Audit have created a software tool that helps agencies generate leads, save time, and convert more prospects into clients by creating beautiful, actionable, and easy to understand website audits. Get your foot in the door with your ideal clients by starting with an audit first. For a limited time, My Web Audit is offering our listeners a FREE 7-day trial and 50% off any plan for 3 months. Head to MyWebAudit.com/SmartAgency to get started."

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

Have current events left you in a panic, uncertain where your agency will end up? Are you looking for a way to make sure your agency stands out from the crowd? It's hard to plan for the next economic recession. At times where things seem like they're all up in the air, it's important to know what to do to make sure you survive.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 2 Tips to help your agency survive during uncertain times.
  • How can your agency grow despite an economic downturn?
  • 2 Ways to position your agency as an authority.

Today I had an awesome chat with Mike Gadsby, co-founder and chief innovation officer at O3 World, a digital product agency. With over 15 years of experience at O3 World, Mike and his teammates have survived a few economic recessions. Now, with the state of affairs as it is, Mike talks about how you can make sure your agency survives a turbulent economy, and perhaps, even thrives.

2 Tips To Help Your Agency Survive Uncertain Times.

As an agency owner, Mike has been through several changes in the economy. Having survived 9/11 and 2008, Mike's confident his agency can weather practically any storm. But he didn't get to this mindset overnight. It's been a process that has brought Mike to a point where he's comfortable with where he's at. In fact, during the early years, there were a lot of times where Mike will tell you, his agency fell flat on their face. So what has Mike learned along the way?

  1. Evolve, evolve, evolve. The market may be changing, but that doesn't have to mean you are out of a job. Figure out what challenges people are having and what your agency can do to fix those problems. How can your agency change or pivot to meet the changing market?
  2. Take a look at how you approach accounts. When the market is down, some clients may have a hard time signing up with a new agency. And those who do probably won't have a lot of capital to invest. Instead of trying to chase down a bunch of new accounts, look at the ones you already have. Think of creative ways to grow these accounts. If you're successful, you'll create partnerships, not projects.

How Can Your Agency Grow Despite an Economic Downturn?

I like to say when people are freaking out, that's your opportunity. The market has been strong for a long time now. Those agencies who were struggling during a good economy are going to have a really hard time in a bad economy. Now is a good time to focus on influence and authority. There's a good chance there will be fewer clients willing to invest in new services, so it's more important than ever that you establish your agency as the go-to source. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  1. Work from a strategic point of view. Have the changing events increased demand in an area where there wasn't so much before? Anticipate what clients need and be ready to provide it.
  2. Play the long game. Choose clients who have the right mentality and are going to want to work with you, not against you. These are the ones who are going to see the value in your services and stick around.

2 Ways to Position Your Agency as an Authority

This one's important. When the competition is fierce and everyone is fighting for attention, clients want an agency that is an authority in the field. So how do you make sure your agency is that authority?

  1. Figure out how you're reinvesting in your agency. Those who are simply executing are the agencies that are most at risk. You have to constantly reinvest in your agency and make sure you have the resources that make you stand out. This means spending a little extra money on things that give you the competitive advantage.
  2. Embrace change and keep adapting. Change isn't always a bad thing. In fact, often it can make you take a closer look at how you are doing things and force you to implement more effective strategies. Be patient. Be optimistic. And don't obsess over the news.

An economic downturn can be a stressful situation. But it can also be an opportunity. Now's the time to be creative, be efficient, and focus on how you can provide value to your clients.

Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster?

If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 50 accounts for only $39 per month. That's a savings of over $500/month."

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

How can your agency stop charging for hours and switch to value-based pricing? Have you ever thought about naming your services or productizing? Branding is important and it can be what sets you apart in a world full of "me too" agencies.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why naming is so important to your agency's brand.
  • How to match your agency's name with your agency's brand.
  • How to get agency clients more involved.

Today I sat down with Jeremy Miller, founder of Sticky Branding. Jeremy describes himself as an author, a speaker, and of course, an agency owner. While he never intended to enter the agency space, after completing a few branding projects for the family business, he quickly discovered he had found his niche. Jeremy talks about why names are so important to branding and how you can make your agency stand apart from the rest.

Why Naming is So Important to Your Agency's Brand

If you're like most agency owners, this one probably seems like a no-brainer. I can hear the chorus now, "Of course I know how important naming is. Do you know how much blood, sweat, and tears went into choosing my agency's name?" But when we talk about names, we're not just talking about what you name your agency, we're talking about the names of each individual service you provide.

Wait— what? Yes, the products you offer, the services you sell, they all need a name. Take my training program, for example. It's not just, "Here, come join my program. It's the best." What I offer is the agency playbook. The name of the program gives my clients an idea of what to expect as well as its value to them. The word "playbook" indicates a step-by-step guide to achieve your goals. See the difference?

If you simply charge by the hour,  rather than naming your service, what incentive do clients have to choose you over another cookie-cutter agency? When you create a brand you can begin to provide value-based services.

How to Match Your Agency's Name with Your Agency's Brand

It doesn't matter how great your name is or how many click-throughs you get if you have a subpar product. As Jeremy puts it, you can't just put lipstick on a pig. You want your name to align with what you are actually offering. This means you have to think about two things:

  1. Strategy: What you want to provide, how you are going to do it, and what sets you apart.
  2. Execution: Once you choose a niche and create a strategy, actually follow through and provide services that align with your brand.

Odds are, you won't be able to name your services from the outset. You have to have a solid understanding of what your product is and why your clients need it before you can create a brand people will trust. But don't wait too long. Jeremy says, one of the biggest mistakes agencies make when it comes to branding is failing to name their services, or just as bad, failing to name their clients' services.

How to Get Agency Clients More Involved

Jeremy believes many agencies need to get their clients to do more work. What does this mean? Your agency should not resemble an episode of Mad Men. In other words, while you are providing a service for your client, you shouldn't be doing all the work. Think about where you can get your clients more involved.

Does your client provide a service in need of serious branding? Challenge your client to tackle the problem. Create a process where they strategize branding and be there as an advisor. Instead of putting 100 hours of work into a project, you'll get away with far less. When you utilize your clients' team, you're able to take advantage of all your resources instead of increasing your headcount.

Great brands are built on substance. But when you have solid branding, that's when you'll stand out from the rest. Remember, when you can get to a place where you are choosing who you want to work with because clients request you by name, that's when you're going to thrive.

Would You Like to Win More Clients Faster?

Our friends at My Web Audit offer a software tool that helps agencies generate leads, save time, and convert more prospects into clients by creating beautiful, actionable, and easy to understand website audits. Get your foot in the door with your ideal clients by starting with an audit first.

For a limited time, My Web Audit is offering our listeners a FREE 7-day trial and 50% off any plan for 3 months. Head to MyWebAudit.com/SmartAgency to get started.

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

Is your agency wasting time and money on making mistakes? Are you trying to make sense of why your profit margins are so low? If so, it's time to take a hard look at how much money actually goes to covering the cost of internal errors.  Because for many agencies, this number is just too high.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Is your agency losing money on these common errors?
  • What are tiny mistakes actually costing your agency?
  • 3 reasons why it might be time to embrace AI.

Today, I sat down with Eric Vardon, CEO of Morphio. This is Eric's second time on the podcast, and this time he's talking about how artificial intelligence (AI) can reduce the number of costly mistakes your agency makes. Recently, Eric's agency conducted a survey to find out just how much agencies are, quite frankly, throwing away. Eric is here to discuss the results and talk about how Morphio can help.

Is Your Agency Losing Money on These Common Errors?

We've all been there — that bulk email with a glaring typo we notice moments after we hit send. Or, maybe you completely forgot to shut off a campaign and let it run for days (or weeks) longer than it should have. Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, as an agency, these mistakes can be costly.

Eric and his team recently conducted a survey of a variety of agencies. The premise was simple — what type of mistakes has your agency made and how much have these mistakes cost you? Do any of these sound familiar?

  • 60% of agencies said they make at least six digital marketing mistakes per week;
  • One-third of these agencies say just one mistake can cost them between $1,000 and $5,000;
  • 31% of agencies have inadvertently offended a client; and
  • 30% of agencies have published a dead, broken, or incorrect link.

What Are Tiny Mistakes Actually Costing Your Agency?

Ask any agency owner, and they're sure to tell you, "these mistakes don't happen at our agency." But if they were to take a closer look, they'd probably be shocked to see just how much profit is lost on revising and fixing mistakes. These same agency owners are also likely trying to figure out why their margins are so low.

As Eric points out, these mistakes don't just cost you money upfront. They can cost your reputation, major accounts, and even your business. As humans, we make mistakes. So the more you can automate and have an AI take care of certain issues, the less you have to worry about mistakes like these happening.

3 Reasons Why it Might Be Time to Embrace AI

If you're still hesitant to use AI, it's time to be okay with being uncomfortable. AI is here, and it likely won't be going anywhere for a very long time. Machine learning has the capability to take data, crunch it, and make decisions faster. So what does this mean for your agency?

  1. Better client relationships. Typos, broken links, these mistakes can be costly. Instead, you can use AI to run a quality check for you.
  2. Increased employee morale. Why do mistakes happen at such a high frequency? Often,  employees are juggling too many things or moving too swiftly to catch errors. If you can get a machine to ease your team's load a little bit, they'll likely be thankful for the breathing room.
  3. It can save your business. You can only make so many mistakes before they completely destroy your agency. Do a careful audit of your expenses and analyze just how much you are spending in this area.

Occasional mistakes are bound to happen. Humans are not infallible. But when these mistakes happen on a regular basis, your clients will lose faith in your capabilities. When you take the time to identify mistakes and implement tools to streamline your processes, you're more likely to find success.

For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 50 accounts for only $39 per month. That's a savings of over $500/month.

Direct download: How_Much_Do_Internal_Errors_Really_Cost_Your_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

We are in uncertain times right now and so many agencies are facing challenges as a result of the global coronavirus crisis. Agencies are struggling with everything from cash flow and clients canceling to laying off employees. The silver lining is that no matter where your geographic location, we're all in this together. We are all up against the same issues. That's why I brought on a panel agency owners just like you to ask their questions and get real-time answers.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How can you serve agency clients whose businesses are on temporary shut down due to the stay-at-home order?
  • How can you find short term opportunities while also focusing on longterm growth for your agency?
  • What to do if clients ask to cancel or pause their contract.
  • Is it OK to go after outbound sales during this time?
  • What are ways to provide goodwill right now without devaluing your agency's services when things turnaround?
  • How to find opportunities while so many businesses are cutting back and experiencing hardship.
  • Is it wrong to prepare clients for a return to normalcy when we have no idea how long that will take?
  • Should you pivot your agency's marketing if you're targeting people who are now forced to be at home?
  • Should you layoff your team or dip into a line of credit in order to make payroll awhile longer?
  • What should agencies not be doing right now?
  • Should you be running Google ad campaigns right now for your agency's services?
  • How do you respond to clients who want to pull back their marketing during the crisis?

 

Related:

https://jasonswenk.com/thrive-economic-recession/ ‎

 


Are you struggling to get your foot in the door with the right clients? Do you have plenty of leads, but just can't convert? Web audits can help you close more new business deals faster and convert prospects easier than ever.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you should always lead with value.
  • How web audits can help your agency increase conversion rates.
  • What your agency can do to improve on converting leads.

Today I sat down with Clifford Almeida, owner of Hire a Wiz, the digital agency he started 8 years ago. After years of perfecting web audits as their foot-in-the-door strategy, Cliff soon developed a Saas tool for agencies called My Web Audit. Clifford has found a wait to optimize this process to help agency owners grow their agency and convert more leads. In this episode, Clifford shares how audits helped his agency increase its closing rate nearly 40%.

Why You Should Always Lead with Value

If you have listened to the podcast, you've heard me say it before — the number one way to close more deals is to lead with value. When you lead with value, clients are more likely to trust what you have to say and see you as an authority.

So how do you do this? Clifford says you need to show prospects how you can fix their problem. Anyone can talk all day long about how they will increase sales or convert more leads. But when you show a potential client how specific actions will affect their metrics, they'll have a better time visualizing the value of your services.

How Audits Can Help Your Agency Increase Conversion Rates

Early on, Cliff discovered a way to convert more prospects into clients. Instead of selling his core service right away, he presented a web audit with indicators showing the prospect areas of improvement on their site. By pointing out what can be done better and the potential results of making improvements, their prospects became more inclined to work with Cliff's agency. When you provide upfront value at a low cost, you can establish authority, gain trust, and convert more prospects into clients.

The key to a good audit is to make sure you focus on the client. Most audits are built for the agency, with little regard for the client experience. When you do an audit, you want to make sure you keep it short and sweet and address the client's specific pain points. You should be able to present your findings in about 30 minutes. There are a few ways to make sure the audit will be effective:

  • Start with generosity. Don't worry, you're not going to be giving away agency secrets.
  • Provide information, but make sure that information is valuable.
  • Show the client how your agency can solve their problem.

What Your Agency Can Do To Improve on Converting Leads.

Clifford says in the year 2020, there is no shortage of leads. Where the big problem comes is converting those leads into clients. So where do most agencies fail?

  • They pitch to anyone and everyone. You can attract prospects all day long, but unless you can present yourself as an expert or authority, there's nothing to stop a prospect from going somewhere else.
  • They lead with selling. Remember, the number one way to convert more leads is to lead with value. Provide examples, discuss specifics, and educate the client.

It's important to talk to prospects in a way they will understand. Most of the time you will be talking to marketing directors who are trying to show CEO's, Presidents, or Owners the value in their services. Make sure you present your audit in a way that matters to them and makes them look good.

Are you using audits to evaluate leads for your agency? If not, now's a good time to start. Clifford is offering a special deal just for Smart Agency Masterclass listeners. Check out My Web Audit for a FREE 7-day trial and 50% off any plan for 3 months.

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

Do you have the right systems but still struggle to grow? Do you look at the big agencies and wonder how they got to 7- or 8-figures? It's all about having the ability to work with the right clients who can afford to pay what you're worth.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to turn more prospects into clients.
  • 2 Key factors to establish effective pricing.
  • How to get to the point where your agency can pick and choose.

Today I sat down with Eric Vardon, co-founder, and president of Arcane, a Canadian-based digital marketing agency. Eric started his agency in 2011 with a keen focus on analytics and a clear understanding of his business. He's on the show today to talk about how you can get your agency to a point where you're able to pick and choose which clients you want to work with.  

How to Turn More Prospects Into Clients

As a digital marketing agency, it's your job to get clients to see the value of your services. Clients aren't eager to hand over money for a strategy that might work. This is why so many agencies have difficulty finding success — they don't know how to convince clients to take the risk. 

So how do you get a client to see the value in what your agency offers? Make the pitch less subjective. Show potential clients actual figures to show you've run the numbers and care about their bottom line.     

Arcane does their homework and researches the client. Within the first couple of meetings with a potential client, Eric's team is able to understand the business' revenue goals and profitability. Using this information, they build a spreadsheet and proposal outlining the specific metrics needed to achieve results. When your client can actually see the numbers and ROI, they are more likely to take the leap. 

2 Key Factors to Establish Effective Pricing

Pricing is a big part of your agency's growth and success. Set the price too high and you'll have difficulty finding clients. Set it too low and the good clients won't take you seriously.  At the end of the day, your goal is to be profitable.  How much do you need to charge in order to achieve this goal?

  1. Track and monitor everything. Remember those spreadsheets? Eric says there isn't a process or analytic where they don't have some sort of spreadsheet. Take a close look at your transactions. What are your hourly rates? What are your account costs? And what are your expenses?
  2. Look at the big picture. Sometimes you have to look at what you are going to get out of a client in the long run and determine the lifetime value of this client. You may need to do additional work upfront because you know you'll make the margin back over time. 

How Your Agency Can Pick and Choose Clients

In the beginning, most agencies are stuck working with any and every client. However, eventually, we all want to get to the point where we can be more selective about which clients we do and don't want to work with. One of the best ways to do this is to bring on solid leadership and surround them with a good team. 

While Eric is the co-founder and president of Arcane, he brought on a CEO and a COO to focus on the day-to-day tasks. His COO comes from the public accounting industry and has been a critical part of developing the agency's financial strategy. The agency's CEO is a former HR professional. She knows the human side and is able to use her experience to work with clients and foster a successful team. Together, they create the perfect balance. 

Arcane's rapid success comes down to partnership, clarity, and accountability. Eric and his team frequently come together to discuss what they want, what makes them happy, and where they want to go. It's about understanding your agency's vision and communicating it to the team. 

Sometimes it's the simple things that bring the most success. When you understand what it takes to make your agency profitable and create a plan to get there, the rest is yours to pick and choose. 

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Grew_to_15_Million_in_Under_10_Years.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you struggling with spending too much time working in your agency, instead of on your agency? Do you spend a whole lot of time dealing with the stuff you hate and not enough time on the things you love? Agency owners have a tendency to dive right in and engross themselves completely in their work. But when you create a more autonomous agency you will find more freedom in your role.

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • How to move past the desperation stage.
  • #1 Way to separate your agency from everyone else.
  • How your agency can benefit from leading with strategy.
  • What happens when you dominate your niche.

Today I sat down for a fun episode with Max Borges, owner of Max Borges Agency. Over 18 years, Max found the more he worked, the busier he got. He quickly realized his current agency model wasn't sustainable and he had to make a change. He's on the show to share the four phases of creating an autonomous agency.

How to Move Past the Desperation Stage

Phase 1 - Anything for Money

We've all experienced what Max calls stage one of his path to create an autonomous agency — AFM "anything for money." This is the stage where most agency owners start out and accept any and all projects... because they don't know what they like, what they don't like, what they're best at, and what they suck at.

At this point, your agency hasn't yet discovered its niche and may or may not have a few employees. The work in this stage is hard but it is something you have to go through to get to phase two. In phase one, you need to spend time exploring what you are good at. Don't spend all your time trying to be good at things you don't like or you're just naturally bad at. You don't need to be good at everything, but you do need to find something you are better at than anyone else.

#1 Way to Separate Your Agency from Everyone Else

Phase 2 - Revelation

Next up is the revelation phase. This is where agencies begin to discover and develop their path. During phase two, you've finally realized what you are good at and can start spending more time on things you love while leaving things you don't love to someone else. (Related: How to Stop Doings Things You Suck At)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again; the best way to separate yourself from everyone else is to find your niche. When you get to phase two, you know what you like, what you're good at, and what your team is good at. Remember, you're running an agency. This means your vision is important, but you're not the one doing the heavy lifting day in and day out. Your team should be good at what they do and be able to do it without you. Surround yourself with people who share your values and ideas and focus on what they're good at.

How Your Agency Can Benefit By Leading with Strategy

Phase 3 - Strategic Drivers

Once you know what you are good at and have your niche, you still need to develop a strategy to make you the go-to agency in your niche. Unless you have some really obscure, specific niche, you're going to have competition and need to set your agency apart.

You have to provide a unique service or have a process that differentiates you from other agencies.  This may just mean realigning or narrowing your niche's focus. For Max, his agency focuses on media relations for consumer technology companies. While other agencies focus on consumer tech, most of them don't spend enough time on media relations. This is Max's strategic advantage.

What Happens When You Dominate Your Niche

Phase 4 - Niche Dominance

At this stage in the game, you are the accepted leader in your niche. You may find your competition dwindles as other agencies discover you're the best. Getting to stage four is a lot of work, but once you do, you'll find your agency is a lot more autonomous than when you first began.

It's not impossible to focus on what you love and actually enjoy your work. When you create your agency with intention and work diligently through the phases, you'll find success comes easier.

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Direct download: 4_Phases_of_Creating_an_Autonomous_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you struggling to get your team more engaged with their work? Do you find yourself doing work your employees should feel empowered to do? Employee engagement is an often misunderstood and undervalued part of running an agency. But it can make all the difference in your agency's success.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why agency employee engagement is so important.
  • 3 Things to do to raise agency employee engagement.
  • Why and how you can implement servant leadership.

Today I had the chance to chat with Christopher Creel, author of the new book, Adaptive. The book looks at the traditional workplace hierarchy, and questions, "What would happen if we flipped it all on its head?" Christopher uses chatbots for much of his processes, but many of the strategies we discuss can be implemented into everything you do. Read on to find out what Christopher says is the key to increasing employee engagement.

Why Agency Employee Engagement Is So Important

Employee engagement is something many leaders take for granted. But it's something agency owners should pay more attention to. Christopher reviewed employee engagement across the board. The results showed that four out of ten employees are disengaged from the organization they work in.

Why is this important? It's because there is a direct correlation between employee engagement and strategy. When an employee is engaged and feels individually invested in the success of the company, they are more likely to be on board with your strategy and not only share the same goals as you do but also work to help you create strategies to meet those goals. When you have an engaged team, you automatically have a step up on the competition.

3 Things to do to Raise Agency Employee Engagement

So how do you increase employee engagement? We all talk about creating a "team," but the numbers show, a manager's actions don't always represent what they say they want. You have to make an active effort to make your employees feel engaged:

  1. Have a clearly defined strategy. Most employees disengage when they don't see themselves as a part of the agency's story. Create a clear strategy and share that strategy with your team. If they don't know what the action plan is, they can't be engaged.
  2. Focus on culture. Most companies say they prioritize culture, but as Christopher points out, often this is nothing more than putting the company's mission statement on a mouse pad. Culture is what you believe and how you act; and what you put into practice as your agency's values.
  3. Create a culture of empowerment. So many managers have the mindset "this is my turf and I'm not going to let go of it." That's not going to empower anyone. You don't want your employees coming to you with every little task to get your insight. Empowerment is "Hey, here's our strategy. I know you have the tools to help us get there. Do what it takes." It's not delegating, it's trusting your employees.

Why and How You Can Implement Servant Leadership

What is the servant leadership model? Most companies work on the power leadership model, where there is one boss who tells the rest of the team what to do. The model is flipped upside down with servant leadership. The leadership puts the employees first and is there to support them and do what it takes to find success as a team. How do you get there?

  1. 360 Feedback. Your team is not only capable of contributing to your success as an agency, but they can also provide valuable feedback. As a manager, it can be easy to disconnect and not see the whole picture. When you ask your team to provide confidential, anonymous feedback, you're likely to get a better insight regarding your team's strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Actually do something. Christopher says you actually have to "give a damn." If you take in the feedback and then ignore what your team has to say, you're less likely to empower your team and more likely to push them one step closer to the door.

As much as we'd all like to believe we are superheroes that can do it all, the truth is, most of us would be nothing without our team. When your employees are engaged in their work, not only will they be happier, but your agency as a whole will likely find it easier to achieve success.

Want Help Pitching and Winning More New Business?

Imagine a partner who helps you streamline Google Ads, Facebook, and Bing workflows, recommends genius optimizations across platforms, and then brags about the results to your clients for you. What if that partner could also help you grow your agency by making it easier to pitch and take on more clients? In a nutshell, that's what Wordstream will do for your agency.

And in support of the podcast, Wordstream is offering Smart Agency Masterclass listeners a FREE 14-day trial and complimentary sales-tool add-on. Just check out Wordstream.com/smartagency for more information.

Direct download: Why_Employee_Engagement_Is_Important_to_Your_Agencys_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you struggling to let go of some of the control and bring on new team members? Or, when you bring in new talent do you discover they have no idea what to do? A lot of your agency and team's success comes down to process. If you don't have an established process or documented SOPs, your team doesn't have a map to follow.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Does your agency have long-term sustainability?
  • Why and how to document processes for agency team success.
  • 2 secrets to finding great agency talent.

Today I sat down with Damon Burton, founder of SEO National. Damon started his agency 12 years ago when SEO was just becoming a thing. Now, Damon says he has retained many of his original clients and has learned how to build a team he trusts. Damon is on the show to share tips on how you can do the same.

Does Your Agency Have Long-Term Sustainability?

We're in the midst of the, "I want it now" era. People are easily distracted, quickly moving from one thing to another. With social media, it's swipe left, swipe right, like this, and move on. In this fast-paced world, a lot of people are clambering to get attention. And a few do.

But often, those that grab ahold of today's current shiny thing find themselves wondering why they are not seeing any long-term success. Damon says he has a lot of the same clients he had when he first started his agency, and he attributes a lot of this stability to consistency. While SEO sees some changes here and there, overall, it's the same basic principle. As an agency owner, you have to be careful about jumping onto trends or buying into the "next big thing." Stick to your values and principles, and you're more likely to find long-term success.

Why and How to Document Agency Processes

One of the most important things you can to do help your agency grow is to develop a process for everything and stick to it. Processes help reduce variation and are a huge asset when you bring on new employees. Look, without SOPs you're SOL. :)

Damon says many agencies fear bringing on new employees because they feel new people will mess everything up. But if you have bad employees, it all comes back to you. If you have hired competent team members and they are failing, it's because you don't have processes, or you haven't found an appropriate way to document your processes.

There are many ways to document your process. The most important thing is to get it done. Damon spent two hours every other day for a year, writing down his processes. My system for documenting processes was recording videos and screencasts of tasks I wanted to delegate. To avoid spending hours documenting your processes or spending a bunch of money to have someone write up two years worth of work, document as you go.

2 Secrets to Finding New Talent

Delegating is a great way to free up time to allow you to focus on more important tasks. But it's all about having processes in place and hiring competent team members. So how do you find the right people for your team?

  • Find people who are really good at one thing. We all dream of finding the perfect employee who is good at everything. But ultimately, this isn't the best thing for you or your employee. Find people who are not only good at what they do but like what they do.
  • Be creative. Damon says he likes to hide Easter eggs in his job posting to have applicants prove they actually read the whole job description. This helps him narrow the field down to people who pay attention and can follow directions. You don't have to put Easter eggs in your job descriptions, but try a non-conventional approach to finding, qualifying, and interviewing new talent.

Developing a process and learning how to delegate are two of the most important things you can do as an agency owner. Remember, you don't have to do it all, you just need to be able to hire the right people.

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.

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

Have you considered creating a podcast, but don't know where to start? Are you looking for a new way to get clients engaged without coming off "salesy"? Podcasts are a great way to connect with more prospective clients. As an added bonus, they are one of the easiest ways you can generate leads for your agency. 

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • 3 Reasons why podcasts work to connect you with more clients. 
  • Why your agency should consider a podcast.
  • 3 Ways to make your voice shine through. 

Today, I sat down with Mark Lipsky, founder of The Radio Agency. The Radio Agency is a radio-only digital marketing agency. They focus on radio — nothing more, nothing less. Over the past 26 years, Mark has discovered what makes radio great and what makes it stand out from the rest. Mark shares with us what he learned and why you should consider incorporating podcasts into your marketing approach. 

3 Reasons Why Podcasts Work

You may think, "I don't need to start a podcast, my blog is doing just fine." And that may be the case. But podcasts open up new possibilities that may not currently exist for your agency. Podcasts are portable. Consumers can listen to your podcast whenever, wherever. But more importantly:

  1. There's something for everyone: Unlike traditional radio, even those with weird obscure tastes will find something they like. Have a super niche agency? There's a good chance your client is looking for your podcast.
  2. The ability to multitask: As humans, we rarely like to sit still anymore. With podcasts, you can listen to a show in the car, while you run, or while you're sitting at your desk at work. 
  3. You don't have to schedule your time: Listeners aren't required to tune-in at a specific time. All they have to do is download past shows and binge them during free time. 

Why Your Agency Should Consider a Podcast

But isn't a podcast a lot of work? Not at all. There are so many apps where you can create one in just a few minutes on your own. Of course, there are options to make them more technical and expand your reach, but there's nothing complicated about creating a podcast. But why should you invest your time in a podcast?

  1. They're easy. Seriously, it's so much easier than you think. If I can do it, anyone can :)
  2. They're personable. Even the best writers have difficulty getting their true voice and intent to come through. With a podcast, listeners can hear tone, laughs, and inflections, increasing connection with the audience.
  3. Audiences are paying attention. Look at your metrics. How often does someone read the entire blog post? Watch the entire video? Most often, listeners finish most, if not all of the podcast. Because they are so portable and so engaging. 

3 Ways to Make Your Voice Shine Through

Just like anything else, the goal is to stand out. With thousands of podcasts covering a variety of subjects, it's just as easy to be a "me too," podcast as it is a "me too," agency. Voice is what will make you stand out. How do you do this?

  1. Be genuine. Don't try to create a character. Even if your listeners don't catch onto your act, you'll have a hard time sustaining the character long-term. 
  2. Let your personality shine through. Be you. Don't hide your personality. Listeners love authenticity and want to hear what drives you.
  3. Create content designed to help. Never create a podcast with the intent to sell something. Customers can see through this. Give your listeners something of value. If they like your message and enjoy listening to you, you won't have to try to sell — they'll want to work with you.

In marketing, it's important to embrace all forms of media. Podcasts are a great way to share your message, show your voice, and connect with your audience. 

Want Help Pitching and Winning More New Business?

Imagine a partner who helps you streamline Google Ads, Facebook, and Bing workflows, recommends genius optimizations across platforms, and then brags about the results to your clients for you. What if that partner could also help you grow your agency by making it easier to pitch and take on more clients? In a nutshell, that's what Wordstream will do for your agency.

And in support of the podcast, Wordstream is offering Smart Agency Masterclass listeners a FREE 14-day trial and complimentary sales-tool add-on. Just check out Wordstream.com/smartagency for more information.

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

Can you grow your agency during a recession? What should you do to make sure your agency survives a downturn in the economy? How can you flip current conditions to benefit your business? In this video, I'll talk about how you can grow your agency during a threatening economic market. I'm already hearing from agencies saying clients are backing down their spending, some are losing deals in the pipeline... it's partially a result of global panic over the coronavirus outbreak. Now, when I owned my agency for 12 years, we went through many economic threats during the Dot-Bomb Era, September 11, and the 2008 market crash... and we were able to survive, even grow at those times. So here we are again at the threshold of a downturn in the economy. How can your agency not only survive but grow in a recession? In my mastermind group, we did a lot of talking about this exact topic and what these 7-figure agency owners are doing about it. These successful agencies are finding opportunity in the face of challenge... For example, do your clients do a lot of trade shows or conferences? Those events are getting canceled, so show them how to spend more on digital marketing. Think outside the box! What you need to do is get more creative and opportunistic. Spend more when people pull back on spending because your cost per acquisition is going to go down. Don't be afraid to spend when everyone else is afraid because that's when you're going to get the biggest bang for your buck. Bottom line -- don't participate in the recession unless it's to take advantage of it! Where are your opportunities during this health threat and economic recession? Comment below and tell me how you can get creative. Also, if you want accurate and reliable information (without the hype of the new media :) check out: World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/ US Center for Disease Control: https://www.cdc.gov/ SUBSCRIBE NOW to follow my entrepreneurial journey. https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLDvZHFVeqEMq58q6tMoyMK-ufpp0ysoVP ======================================================= Thanks for watching. I hope you keep up with the daily videos I post on my channel. Make sure you subscribe and share your learnings with others. Your comments are why I do this, so please take a second and say hello.  JASON SWENK IS AN AGENCY ADVISOR THAT GUIDES MARKETING AGENCIES THROUGH A PROVEN FRAMEWORK FOR GROWING THEIR AGENCY FASTER & EASIER. Fresh out of college Jason was off to work for Arthur Anderson, one of the big 5 consulting firms. He quickly realized that he could never work for anyone other than himself. He decided to change direction, launch a digital agency that quickly grew to a multi-million dollar operation working with brands such as AT&T, Hitachi, and Lotus Cars. After 12 years of steady growth, the agency caught the attention of bigger agencies and Jason sold it in 2012. Now, Jason leads http://JasonSwenk.com, a unique media company & consultancy helping marketing agencies grow & scale their agencies faster by applying the framework that he used to grow, scale and eventually sell his agency. Jason has helped over 10,000 agencies in 23 countries meet or exceed their business goals. Jason currently hosts two shows that are available for download… The Smart Agency Master Class Podcast, dedicated to providing tactics and strategies to agency owners and decision-makers that cut through the BS, focus on exactly what works and what doesn’t; and SwenkToday a daily VLOG that documents the entrepreneur journey of building another multimillion-dollar business, where he shares the latest strategies and answers the most burning questions entrepreneurs have.  SCHEDULE #SwenkToday Q&A from my digital agency audience Ask me A Question http://jasonswenk.com/askswenk Podcast Monday & Wednesday: (Digital Agency Interviews) https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/smart-agency-masterclass-marketing/id870206013?mt=2&ls=1 or http://smartagencymasterclass.com Follow me here: Website: http://jasonswenk.com  Podcast: http://smartagencymasterclass.com  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/jasonswenk    Twitter: https://twitter.com/jswenk   Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jswenk   Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonswenk   Medium: https://medium.com/@jswenk/  Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jasonswenk Music by epidemicsound.com

Direct download: CAN_YOU_GROW_YOUR_AGENCY_DURING_A_RECESSION_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am EST

Do you struggle to get agency clients to see the value of your agency's work? Does your pricing structure feel like it's completely out of whack? Not sure if your agency is competitively priced? Pricing and process are two areas where clients and agencies often have trouble finding common ground, but it can make all the difference when it comes to your agency's success.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • Do you know your agency's value?
  • How including the client in the process builds trust.
  • #1 Reason you need to lead with strategy.

Today I had the opportunity to chat with Tammy Dahlin, owner of digital marketing agency Element 212, based out of Indiana. Though she has a degree in marketing, like so many of us, Tammy somewhat fell into starting her own agency. As such, she found herself undervaluing her agency's services and struggling to find a balance between the amount of work she puts in and client expectations. When she figured out she needed to implement a process and invite clients into the process, she discovered her place as a strategic agency. Find out what Tammy learned along the way.

Do You Know Your Agency's Value?

Anyone who has been in the agency realm (or any business, for that matter), understands the complexities of pricing. You don't want to price yourself too high where you're not attracting any clients, but you don't want to go so low they don't take you seriously. When Tammy first started her agency, she quickly realized just how much she was undervaluing her work. She says she charged about $600 for her first project where other firms were charging upwards of $15,000. Between working too much and charging too little, Tammy and her team slowly became resentful of the process.

In the beginning, it's hard to accurately balance the client's perception of what they are getting with what they are willing to pay. So Tammy made a change. She upped her prices to be more in line with the work she was actually putting in. But she was still getting pushback. Now the clients thought her rates were too expensive.

How Bringing a Client into the Process Can Build Trust

Naturally, Tammy knew the value of the work her team was providing. Unfortunately, her clients weren't able to see all the research that was going into each project. But then it clicked. Tammy's team was already doing market research with the client and their customers, a process she calls "brand insight." She decided to bring the client into it that process and most importantly, charge for it.

This had a dramatic effect on Element 212's growth. Clients were now able to see what was going on behind the scenes and appreciate the process. By giving the clients an "inside look," Tammy and her team could establish trust and get their clients more involved.

#1 Reason You Need to Lead With Strategy

Everyone can execute, it's the strategy that sets you apart. When you lead with strategy, your client will view you as the authority. When you don't lead with strategy, they will view you as a commodity.

Early on, Tammy decided to market her agency as a strategic agency. Now she has developed a system where she has biannual meetings with her team and her clients to talk strategy. If they want to implement the strategy — great. If not, she gives them tips to make sure they all stay on the same page.

Element 212 is an agency that focuses on strategy at its core. By being transparent about the process with her clients and bringing them into this process, Tammy has finally found a balance between customer expectations and the value of her agency's work.

Pricing and strategy are two of the most complex and difficult parts of running an agency. But it's so important to get a handle on these areas from the start. When you do, you'll find everything else comes so much easier.

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

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

Do you feel like no matter how smart you are about money, you just can't get a good handle on agency cash flow? Are you looking for a way to make sure your agency is prepared for times when there's a downturn in the economy? Cash flow can be a big problem, and it's one that few have a real grasp of. But when you understand the principles of a smart cash flow plan, you'll be ahead of the game.

In today's episode, we cover:

  • 3 Ways to find success as an agency.
  • What does good agency cash flow really look like?
  • How to control your agency's cash flow.

Today I had the pleasure of talking with Steve Buck, co-founder, and president of Black Tie Digital Marketing. Steve's one of the rare ones who actually sought out a role in the agency space. After working for a big company in Rhode Island, Steve and his partner had a crazy idea — "Wouldn't it be fun to do this on our own?" In 2011, Steve and his partner started Black Tie and have learned a lot of lessons along the way. He's on the show to share insight on agency cash flow management.

3 Ways to Find Success as an Agency

There are so many things to learn when you first start an agency. How do you get clients? What do you charge? And most importantly, how do you make a mark? Steve says he's learned a lot along the way, but much of his success comes down to a few basic principles:

  1. Balance. Balance can be hard to find, but it's one of the most important things as a business owner. Steve says he was lucky that he and his partner had personalities that balanced each other out. This helped them make smart decisions along the way.
  2. Luck. Let's be honest — much of business comes down to pure luck. But…
  3. Perseverance can make the difference. You're more likely to be in those lucky situations the more you persevere. If you put yourself in enough places, enough times, eventually you'll find yourself in the right place at the right time.

What Does Good Cash Flow Really Look Like?

Ask anyone in the industry how much money you should have in reserves and you'll get a WIDE range of answers. Steve says he's always been told 12 months is a good mark to strive for. Personally, I feel the number is closer to three months. Anything more than that and you're not investing enough back into your agency.

Reserves are important and one of the basics in finding success as an agency. These reserves will make all the difference when the financial market undoubtedly goes south. Those that have reserves will survive (and thrive), while those that don't have cash reserves will make great employees when you're looking to hire.

How to Control Your Agency's Cash Flow

Cash flow is so important. But why is it so hard? A lot of it comes down to basic management styles and human psychology. How can you avoid cash flow pitfalls?

  1. Be aware of the "people pleaser" tendency. We all want to impress new clients and make them stick around long term. But this mentality often causes financial hardship. Why? Because when we try too hard to please new clients, we often give away too much for free. Over delivery is a common problem - remember balance. It's important.
  2. Understand the scope of the project. Just because you think you understand what your client is asking for, it doesn't mean you actually do. Get a clear understanding of what the client wants and how much work it will take. Don't undersell yourself and don't over-deliver. Reduce or eliminate scope creep.
  3. Track what you spend. Freebies and gimmes are okay, every once in a while. But it's important to track everything, even things you are giving away. Down the road when the client asks for another freebie, you'll have a record of how much you have already given them.
  4. Pay yourself. You'll never have an accurate valuation of your agency if you are paying yourself less than what you would pay someone to do the work that you are doing.

Cash flow is one of the most important, if not THE most important part of running a successful agency. It doesn't matter how good you are at everything else if you can't manage your money. Be smart, think ahead, and make sure you have a plan for when things get hard.

Want Help Pitching and Winning More New Business?

Imagine a partner who helps you streamline Google Ads, Facebook, and Bing workflows, recommends genius optimizations across platforms, and then brags about the results to your clients for you. What if that partner could also help you grow your agency by making it easier to pitch and take on more clients? In a nutshell, that's what Wordstream will do for your agency.

And in support of the podcast, Wordstream is offering Smart Agency Masterclass listeners a FREE 14-day trial and complimentary sales-tool add-on. Just check out Wordstream.com/smartagency for more information.

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

Ever feel like you're not connecting with the right clients? Afraid your agency doesn't stand apart from the others? Times are changing in the agency space, and those who adapt will be the ones who succeed. But how do you develop a growth strategy to do it the right way? Look at things through the lens of your ideal clients.

In today's episode, we cover:

  • How to set yourself apart from other agencies.
  • 2 Things you can achieve when you lead with strategy. 
  • Why you always need to keep your ear to the ground.

Today I had the chance to talk to Damien Cabral, co-founder of Tribal Vision. Damien started his agency about 9 years ago when he became frustrated with the current agency model and thought he could find a new approach. Damien and his partner flipped the switch and looked at an agency's job through the client's eyes. Find out what they learned and how this strategy has helped them find success. 

How to Set Yourself Apart From Other Agencies

It's a great time to be in marketing! The market is hot, clients are hungry, and the value of agency services cannot be understated. The industry is flooded with "me too," agencies who want to be full-service and do everything for everyone. Those agencies are looking to get a piece of the pie, with nothing that really makes them stand out from the crowd. 

If you're a new agency owner or even one who has been around for a while, the battle to stand out from the crowd is stronger than ever. So what's the secret? For Damien, it was all about looking at things from the client's point of view. Damien's agency focuses solely on marketing. Everything else, they outsource to freelancers. What this means is there is no incentive to try to upsell a bigger website or get them to sign a deal that is not in the client's best interest — it's all about the client. Damien says by recognizing potential clients' pain points, Tribal Vision is able to be flexible with what the client needs. 

2 Things You Can Achieve When You Lead With Strategy

When it comes down to running an agency, those who find success have a solid strategy. Anyone can execute any day of the week, it's how you get there that makes you valuable. Damien says there are two reasons he leads with strategy:

  1. Clear communication with the client: You want to be upfront with your client. Strategy allows you to tell your client what you're going to do, what they need to do, and what it's going to cost. 
  2. Better understanding of the client's business: How much do you really know about your client's business? How much do you know about their customers? When you develop a strategy before you get started, it allows you to analyze the competition, understand the most effective channels, and set appropriate goals.

Why You Always Need to Keep Your Ear to the Ground

As an agency owner, you should always be listening — keep your ear to the ground. Talk to your clients, talk to their customers, talk to your employees. And always pay attention to the market. You need to adapt. Take feedback. Be proactive. 

Listen to what the market is telling you. Sure, your idea may be great, but if the market doesn't support it, you're destined to fail. Don't fall too in love with your own ideas.

Check-in with your employees. Talk to the people who are actually working with the clients. Do performance reviews, have regular check-ins and provide or be a mentor. Despite what you're led to believe — your team is not simply here to make money, they want to contribute. 

When you take the time to show people they matter, you value their opinions, and you care, you automatically stand out from the rest. In the words of Gary Vaynerchuck, "As we go more Jetsons, the people that act like the Flintstones are going to win."

Direct download: Why_Understanding_Your_Clients_is_the_Key_to_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Does your agency struggle with an identity crisis? Do you find it challenging to stay up-to-date with current trends? We're in a space that is constantly changing and agencies who adapt and use the tools around them are the ones who survive. 

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • #1 Benefit of adapting to the market.
  • How your agency can stay up-to-date with market trends.
  • Finding the right tools to help your agency be more efficient. 

Today I sat down with John Wolffe, owner of Jennco, a digital ad agency out of Pennsylvania. John has worn a lot of hats throughout his career, and like many of us fell into agency ownership. Though he initially started out as a consultant, he somehow found himself doing work in a field he knew nothing about — pay per click. John leveraged this new skill and launched a successful digital agency. Take a listen to find out what John learned and how he was able to find success by learning to adapt. 

#1 Benefit of Adapting to the Market

We all start our agency with a certain vision in mind — where we see ourselves in the future. This is important and what I like to refer to as your True North — what guides you. But while it's important to have a direction, it's also important to be flexible. Adapting to the market will allow your agency to grow and help you find new opportunities. 

The agency space is constantly changing. John recalled a story where he was at a conference and a speaker referred to a technology "Way back in 2017." Even now, 2017 doesn't seem too far away, but in the agency space, it can make all the difference. It's important to keep up with technology, pay attention to trends, and reinvent yourself if the circumstances call for it. For John, this took him into a realm he never thought he'd end up — PPC.

How Your Agency Can Stay Up-to-date with Market Trends

It's easy to say you need to be able to adapt and stay current with market trends, but how do you actually do it? John says a few things have helped him along the way:

  • Laser focus. You have to stay focused. Keep your ear to the ground. Pay attention and learn. If you're not paying attention, you're going to get left behind. 
  • Go to conferences. How many conference invitations do you get every year? How many times do you actually go? Conferences are not only a great networking opportunity, but they are also a great way to stay up-to-date with what is going on in marketing trends, software, and technology. 

Finding the Right Tools to Help Your Agency be More Efficient

When you run an agency, the best way to grow is finding ways to be efficient. The key is to find the right tools that work for you. John says the one tool that has worked really well for him is WordStream. There are two key functions John has really gotten a lot out of: 

  • The 20-minute work week. The 20-minute work week is a function within WordStream which analyzes all the big tasks at your agency and hones in on the areas you need to focus on. Rather than spending hours mulling over data and strategies, WordStream does the majority of the work and sends you a report with actionable items you can easily digest in 20 minutes. 
  • Keywords: Keywords are everything. But do you know which keywords are most effective? You can spend all day (or all month) tinkering with keywords and then leave out the most important one. WordStream scours through the data and makes sure you're covered on all bases.

It's important to leverage the technology that exists around you. John found that with WordStream, he could scale his agency and drive growth for his clients. A win-win!

The agency space is one of those worlds where if you're not always on your feet, you will get left behind. But when you focus in, stay up-to-day, and use the tools around you, you're only setting yourself up for success. 

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

Would you like your agency to be more profitable? Are you setting goals you just can't seem to achieve? Goal setting is an important part of becoming a successful agency. But if you are not creating the right goals and don't have the right tools, you're never going to get there.

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • How to set achievable goals for your agency.
  • 3 Ways to build a team to help achieve your goals.
  • Why solid leadership is critical to your agency's success.

Today I got to chat with Monica Louie, a Facebook and Instagram strategist who left the corporate world to have more flexibility and spend more time with her family. Since leaving her 9 to 5 job, Monica has blasted through some of the goals she set when she first began and developed a successful three-part business. Find out how Monica paid off over $120,000 of debt in just two years using clear goals and a lot of creativity.

How to Set Achievable Goals for Your Agency

We've talked about it several times, just how important it is to have a goal. Without a goal, it's hard to find your north star. But the type of goal you set is important. As are the tools you use to achieve it. So how can you make sure you don't fall short?

  • Be specific about your goal. For Monica, her goal was to pay off all of her debt, including her mortgage, in 8 years. You need to have a specific goal and you need to have a timeline. If Monica had just said "I want to pay off my debt soon," she probably wouldn't have met that goal because there was no specific timeline to hold her accountable.
  • Create a strategy. How are you going to get there? Monica and her husband had a garage sale and worked a lot of overtime to achieve paying off their debt. When you make a goal at your agency, it's important to have a strategy in mind to help you get there. It's okay to improvise and change things along the way, but you need to give yourself a plan and tools to make it to your goal.
  • What are you willing to sacrifice? In Monica's situation, they sold her husband's car and motorcycle and did a lot of scrimping. For you, sacrifice might mean cutting a service that's putting a financial strain on your budget or finding extra funds. If you have a goal and the motivation to achieve it, you will find the means.

3 Ways to Build a Team to Help Achieve Your Goals

It's futile to set a goal if you don't have a team that shares your vision. Your team will be one of the biggest components of your success. But the hiring process isn't always fun, nor is it easy. And job boards don't usually pan out. So what do you do?

  • Connect with like-minded people: A lot of Monica's first team members came from the personal finance world, a world she was comfortable with and had experience with. Look to people in your field who might be good for your team.
  • Reach out to your connections: There's a good chance you already know someone who would make a good team member, or you know someone who knows someone. Reach out to your connections and tell them you're hiring. For Monica, this meant telling her email list she had a few positions to fill.
  • Know your focus. Again it's all about your vision. If you don't have a clear vision, your team won't either. Communicate your vision and find people who have the same values you do in order to help you reach that vision.

Why Solid Leadership is Critical to Your Agency's Success

Great teams come from great leadership. We've all had that one boss that made going to work a miserable experience. Great leaders have teams who support them and want to work for them. What does this look like?

  • Invest in personal leadership skills. Some people are born a leader. Some are not. Take the time to invest in your leadership skills. Take classes, get feedback, and work on being a better leader.
  • Listen. Listen. Listen. The number one thing your team wants you to do is to listen to them. Listen to what they want, what they need, and give them the tools to do their job well. When you provide the resources and support they need, they're less likely to go somewhere else.

They say anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Make a goal, build a team, and take action to get where you want to go.

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_Setting_Goals_Will_Help_You_Grow_a_Successful_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Have you thought about offering content creation as a service but not sure where to start or how to charge? Content is a huge part of almost everything we do for our clients, but often times its the client themselves that hold up projects by not providing good (or timely) content. When you take control of content creation, your agency can help you be more successful in achieving the clients' goals. It may seem daunting to add content creation as a service,  but it can also be very rewarding in the long run.

In today's episode, we discuss:

  • #1 benefit of offering content creation as a service.
  • How to charge for content.
  • What type of content are agencies creating?

Today I had the opportunity to sit down with my good friends at Verblio, Steve Pockross, CEO, and Paul Zalewski, Vice President of Marketing. Paul and Steve know a lot about content. After all, they run a content agency sourced with over 3,000 copywriters. Recently, Verblio sent out a survey to thousands of agencies to get a better idea of what agencies think about content creation, how they use it, and best practices surrounding content creation. Their findings may come as a surprise, but learning from them can help grow your agency and get better results for your clients.

#1 Benefit of Creating Content

Steve and Paul say that as agencies, we should not expect clients to have the ability to create their own content. Yes, they might be the expert in their industry but they are not always successful at writing about it. According to Verblio's survey, of the agencies who felt their content was successful less than 20% of them curated content from the client. What does that mean? Well, it means that although the client is the industry expert they suck at writing about it! :) Let's be honest, clients are busy and writing is hard. So even though they mean well, they put writing on the backburner because it's a difficult, time-consuming task.

The solution is for you, as an agency, is to take control over the content creation. By either writing in-house or outsourcing it, you can speed up your project cycle by half. For example, in most cases, a website build that would normally take 6 months, can be completed in 3-4 months when the agency is not waiting on the client to write and handover content.

How to Charge for Content Creation Service

Okay. You've decided you're going to start offering content — good! But how much do you charge? Well, according to to Verblio's survey 87% of agencies who felt they have a solid content creation service include the cost for it in their monthly retainer. And the vast majority of those agencies felt as though content was a major profit center for them. This is a key point because, as an agency, it might be easy to think content creation is an area where you can be competitive and price yourself lower than the competition. But when you spend the time and dollars it takes to do a great job you can make money on it. So, why race to the bottom?

Verblio's survey indicated that the average agency is marking up content 200%. Why walk away from that kind of margin but undercutting yourself on pricing?

There are 3 general options when it comes to charging for content:

  1. Build it into your retainer. I find this approach usually works the best. Figure out how much you are going to charge for content and make it part of your retainer agreement.
  2. Charge content as a separate line item. Here, you make content a monthly charge but are transparent about the fee.
  3. Charge a la carte. Charge on a per-piece basis. The downside is, this has a tendency of making content look like an extra instead of a necessity.

Typically, when you make content a part of your service offering and show the benefits of incorporating it, your client will be will see the value.

What Type of Content Are Agencies Creating?

When you offer content creation, you give your clients an unfair advantage by using content to set them apart. It gets you a seat at the table with clients you wouldn't otherwise be seated at the table with. If you use a resource like Verblio it allows you to white label a service to scale your agency because you are relieving a pain point for your clients (and yourself). Consistency is key - stick with it and give it time.

What type of content should you offer? The overwhelming majority of those surveyed said blog posts. So get over the idea that blogging is "So 2006." Blogging helps drive SEO and it still the #1 thing agencies are recommending in content strategies.

Out of blog ideas? Do an audit of existing blog posts. Look for opportunities for a mashup or a refresh of older, outdated posts. Your clients have great ideas for content -- sit down with the Head of Products or the Head of Customer Service. Those are the people with content ideas -- they know the FAQ's.

 

Want to provide input about what works and what doesn't? Got a minute to take Verblio's survey? Want to try Verblio for yourself?

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

Are you looking for a new, creative way to generate leads? Have you thought about offering a course, but don't know where to start? An online course is a great way to attract new clients and create some extra revenue. 

In today's episode, we cover:

  • How an online course can help your agency grow. 
  • 3 Ways to keep your course from becoming a distraction. 
  • How to create a unique course different from everything else.  

Today I had the opportunity to talk to Chase Chappell, the owner of Chase Chappell Marketing. He began his career developing his own Facebook influencer page and quickly discovered he could do social media for other agencies. After going door-to-door to find leads, he leveraged the power of social media. After finding success Chase realized he could help more people by teaching his own processes in an online course. Find out how developing a course can attract more clients and help grow your agency. 

How an Online Course Can Help Your Agency Grow

Creating an online course is a lot of work. So why spend your time developing a new course when you can put your time and focus on other projects? What will you really get out of it? For Chase, the benefits were bigger than he initially realized.

  • Referrals. When Chase started his online course, he immediately discovered the course was generating a lot of referrals. When you provide value and have a genuine interest in helping others, they're likely to refer your agency to others.
  • Conversions. Chase started his course to teach agencies his process. But the agencies that took his course came back to him just a few months later asking him to do the work instead. 
  • Authenticity. Ads will only get you so far. When a client sees your ads and sees you have a course to back up what you are doing, you're more likely to develop trust. 

3 Ways to Keep Your Course from Becoming a Distraction  

Not every agency has what it takes to support a course. If that was the case everyone would create a course to attract new clients. When you choose to develop a course you want to make sure you have the resources to support it. The last thing you want to do is put all your focus on the course and neglect the agency. 

  1. Evaluate your team. When Chase developed his course, he already had an outside agency onboard to manage client relations. Because he knew he had a team that could focus on the agency work, he was able to devote some of his focus to the course. 
  2. Watch your client load.  If you're going to focus your attention on developing a course, it's probably not a good idea to bring on a bunch of new clients at the same time. Make sure you don't overextend your agency — work on growing one piece of business at a time.
  3. Have a process in place. Chase's course focuses on processes his agency uses every day as part of the agency's training program. When you develop a course around existing processes and procedures, it will be easier to put together and less likely to distract you from your agency work.

How to Create a Unique Course Different from Everything Else

If you're on Facebook, you know how saturated the digital course market is. It seems like everybody wants to teach you something about something. In many cases, these courses are simply marketing ploys or click-bait to get a prospect to sign-on with an agency. Online courses are a dime a dozen and most quickly fade into obscurity. So can you make sure your course stands out and continues to attract new clients?

  • Know your target audience. The reason so many courses (and agencies) fail is because they don't know their target audience. If you create a course for everyone, you're going to have a hard time attracting the right clients. Know your audience and market your course directly to them. 
  • Provide value: The number one way to stand out is finding a gap or need in the market. Be unique. If you just regurgitate what everyone else is saying, potential clients have no incentive to stick around. Chase's course shares the same strategies his agency uses on a day to day basis. This proprietary process has proven success stories to back it up. 

An online course is a great way to attract new clients and increase authority. But it's not for everyone. Do your research, evaluate your resources, and make sure you're prepared before you take the jump.

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_Offering_a_Course_Can_Help_Generate_New_Agency_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Are you often doing the same tasks over and over? Are you looking for a way to work smarter and be more efficient? Are you using automation to retain agency clients? Automation can eliminate some of the tedious tasks and help you focus on the things that really matter — your clients.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 Reasons why you need to start automating now.
  • 3 Areas where it just makes sense to automate.
  • How your agency can get the most out of automation.

Today I talked to Joe Shelerud, the co-founder and CEO of Ad Advance. Joe's agency works primarily with medium to large size Amazon shops, helping them use PPC to grow their sales and build a long term profitable business. After starting his agency, Joe quickly realized just how much automation could save time and eliminate some of the grunt work. Find out what areas Joe's team automates and how doing so has changed their agency for the better.

3 Reasons Why You Need to Start Automating — NOW

Have you automated the simple processes in your agency yet? If the answer is no, why not? Joe says automation has changed the way his agency does business and has led to greater client satisfaction. He says if there are tasks you are doing over and over again, every single day, you need to automate them. What can automation do for your agency?

  1. Save time. Think about how much time you spend on the little stuff. Stuff like paperwork and scheduling. How much time could you save if these processes were automated?
  2. Eliminate human error. How many times have you forgotten to send a follow-up email? Who hasn't attached the wrong document or misspelled a client name? Errors happen, but they can be costly. By automating the simple things, you streamline the process and reduce the chance of error in other areas.
  3. Increase client interaction. Every minute you spend on the little things is one less minute you have to focus on the things your agency does well. Why would you want to do the small stuff when you can be making your client happy?

3 Areas Where it Just Makes Sense to Automate

You don't want to automate everything. Not only does it put you out of a job, but it takes out the human element. That personal touch is often what sets your agency apart. But there are many areas most agencies can automate right now.

  1. Onboarding. The onboarding process can become pretty redundant. Inputting information, sending welcome emails, generating projects. These are all things a computer can take care of.
  2. Emails. You can't automate all emails, but you can automate a lot. Do you email reminders to your clients? Do you have monthly newsletters or information that needs to be sent to everyone? There are many programs that can generate and schedule emails so you're not creating one from scratch every time.
  3. Tracking requests. Joe says any time your client asks for something, your agency has failed. When you automate the request process, you can easily track requests and make the necessary changes so future clients won't have to make the same request.

How Your Agency Can Get the Most Out of Automation

When it comes down to it, you're not automating processes just to automate. Automation saves time. But this doesn't mean your team gets to go home early. This means you are able to spend more time on the areas that add value to your clients. Look at where you are wasting time and make a change. Then, use that time to really increase client satisfaction and focus on what sets your agency apart.

Automation can be a big time saver. When you have more time to focus on your clients, you have a better chance of pleasing and retaining those clients. Think of it this way, is it easier to find new clients or just keep the old ones happy?

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 ebooks 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_Automation_Can_Help_Retain_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST

Trying to decide whether your agency really needs to declare a niche? Can a generalist approach equate to more clients? In the marketing agency space, it's all about standing out from the crowd. Whether you can find success as a generalist may depend more on your process than your expertise. 

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 Thing to remember whether you're a generalist agency or declare a niche. 
  • 3 Ways to stand out as a generalist. 
  • 3 Reasons you're better off choosing a niche. 

Today I had the opportunity to talk to Ted Birkhahn, president and part-owner of Hot Paper Lantern. Hot Paper Lantern is an integrative marketing communication agency that focuses on analytics, redefining how clients are targeting their audiences, and improve experiences. With over 19 years in the agency, Ted was able to take an existing customer base and turn it into a successful generalist agency. Find out whether it's really possible to find success as an agency without choosing a niche. 

#1 Thing to Remember Whether You're a Generalist or a Niche Agency

If you have been in the agency world for any period of time, you know there's one thing that holds true — nothing lasts forever. Ted says this is the number one thing he learned over the course of his career. As such, you always need to have a plan for when times get rough. What does this look like?

  • Evaluate your client base. It's never a good idea to put all your focus in one area. As a generalist, don't invest too much in a specific industry. As a niche agency, never saturate too much of your interest in one client or one area. 
  • Grow in smart ways. As an agency owner, the goal is growth. But you have to do it right. If you grow too fast, you may have difficulty keeping up which can make you vulnerable in times of instability. 

3 Ways to Stand Out as a Generalist

You've decided to be a generalist — great. The good news is, this means you have a wider reach, you can relate to a larger range of customers. The bad news is, there's nothing to separate you from all the other "me too" agencies who don't have a specific niche. So how do you stand out without having a niche?

  1. Don't pretend to be all things to all people. Even as a generalist, there will be clients who just aren't the right fit. Clients who require a niche level of expertise or have specific needs may not be right for you. 
  2. Know what makes you different. For Hot Paper Lantern, they set themselves apart from the rest by bringing in specialists from different industries. By providing marketing and consulting services they provide value many similar agencies don't. Even if you don't have a specific area of expertise, you can still be unique.
  3. Leverage your experience. One thing Ted has that many agency owners don't is experience. Ted has two decades in the agency world and has surrounded himself with a team of similar expertise. Experience is an asset. OWN IT. 

3 Reasons You're Better Off Choosing a Niche 

It's important to find out what makes your agency stand out from the crowd. Some agencies are able to do this without choosing a niche. But for many agencies, defining a niche is how they stand out. So how do you know if you're better off choosing a niche?

  1. You don't have an established client base. Ted was lucky. He started his agency with several established clients. This isn't the case for most agency owners. If you don't have an established customer base, you're going to have to find a way to bring in clients. As a generalist, it's going to be hard to stand out. When you niche down, you are able to dedicate your marketing toward a specific client base.
  2. You don't have a lot of revenue. Even if you don't have an established customer base, you can still stand out by bringing in resources or hiring great talent. Without appropriate funds, this will be very hard to do. 
  3. You're just starting out. This one goes with the two points above. If you are just starting out, you likely don't have the client base or the revenue. Additionally, you haven't quite figured out what makes you unique. For smaller agencies, it's usually better to start out with a niche and expand later on if that's what you want.

It's hard to say you can't find success as a generalist because it has been done and it continues to be done. But it takes a certain level of experience and expertise. If you're going to be a generalist, it's important to understand the extra level of investment and risk it entails. By setting realistic expectations, you're more likely to make smart choices and find success. 

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_Important_is_it_to_Declare_a_Niche_for_your_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EST