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

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.

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

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