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

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?

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: 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

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