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

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: 3:00am MDT

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.

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 for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

Direct download: 4_Phases_of_Creating_an_Autonomous_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am MDT

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 for more information.

Direct download: Why_Employee_Engagement_Is_Important_to_Your_Agencys_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT

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 for more information.

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

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: US Center for Disease Control: SUBSCRIBE NOW to follow my entrepreneurial journey. ======================================================= 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, 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 Podcast Monday & Wednesday: (Digital Agency Interviews) or Follow me here: Website:  Podcast:  Facebook:    Twitter:   Instagram:   Linkedin:   Medium:  Soundcloud: Music by

Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am MDT

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 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: 3:00am MDT

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 for more information.

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

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: 5:00am MDT

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: 3:00am MDT