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

Steve Pockross has been the CEO of Verblio for nearly five years. As CEO, he applies leading marketplace and SaaS principles to create an industry-leading content creation platform with 3,000 U.S.-based writers supporting the creation of premium content at scale in every niche. Verblio has grown over 400% in the last four years. So, Steve is sharing his insight on why it's important to lead by putting people first and how that contributes to your agency's growth as a whole.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Exhibit your agency's values. Don't just say what your values are but actually exhibit them. Lead by example and personify the company culture you wish to set.
  2. The key to finding great talent is marketing to them. Treat your recruitment like you would a client. Write a unique job description that appeals to the right person and then market to them. Attract agency talent the way you would attract customers for your clients.
  3. Three keys to putting people first: (1) willingness to sacrifice other areas, (2) constantly seek feedback, (3) reward people who identify holes in the culture.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

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Leading Your Agency Team By Putting People First

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up beautiful agency owners! I'm excited. I have another amazing podcast guest who actually has been back several times. I don't know why we keep inviting you back. No, I'm just kidding. He's a good friend of mine and, uh, we'll provide lots of value. And we're going to talk about leading with people first for your agency.

Now, before we jump into the show, I want you to do something. I want you to take a screenshot off your phone, listening to the podcast, upload it to Instagram, tag us. And give us a shout-out on Instagram. And then I can shout you back and say, Hey, thanks for listening to the show. So let's go ahead and get an episode.

Hey Steve, welcome to the show.

Steve:: [00:00:40] Hey Jason. Good to be back.

Jason: [00:00:42] Yeah. I don't know. Like I said, I keep inviting you back, I guess you do well each time. So now we'll welcome back for the people that have not checked out the other episodes and we'll link those. Into the show notes of the episodes to make sure you guys go to JasonSwenk.com and check those out.

Tell us who you are and what do you do?

Steve:: [00:00:58] So I'm Steve. I am the CEO of Verblio. Oh, we are a Denver-based marketplace, content creation platform. So we have a network of highly curated, fantastic writers that we put together with our unique business model and put it on our platform so that we can do high quality content at scale for any niche. And we work primarily for agencies.

Jason: [00:01:19] Awesome. Well, welcome back. And let's kind of jump into it, right? So, Let's talk about what does it mean to lead with people first and a growing company? I mean, you guys are, I think, 30 plus employees on your team. And I think a lot of agencies will relate to this.

Steve:: [00:01:37] We've been fortunate to have some really high power growth in the last. So I took over as CEO four and a half years ago, and we were talking about what are some of the lessons that we could really pass on to agencies to help them with their growth as well, that can relate between the type of business that we do and the type of work that agencies do.

And so one of those big strategies is putting people first. And that might sound like the most cliche strategy of all time. Going back to "Good to Great." Put the right people on the bus first. I think we took a really, well, we think about it and brought it to every aspect of our business. And so I think bringing it to life is really interesting.

And hopefully, some of these nuggets that helped us can really help others. And has helped us grow 400% over four and a half years as a bootstrap startup. So with no investment in order to fund that growth, all being organic growth. And it's also helped us grow when I first started, we were 11 people for the first three years.

And over the last two years, we've gone from 11 to 30. So how do you accelerate that growth with the right people strategy? And then also, how do you ensure that it continues to build, even as you're expanding rapidly?

Jason: [00:02:38] Yeah. A lot of times I see kind of people, they get to certain stages of climbing the mountain, and they kind of backtrack.

Right? And like, I'm looking at growing any business or really growing an agency. And it kind of like six phases, right? Like you got staging base camp, the climb, the crux, the crest, and then obviously the summit. And each one of them you're focused on different things.

Like at the very beginning, you're focused on how do I build this company and then like, what do I need to focus on? How do I get further ahead, all that kind of stuff.

So when you came in and you guys were 11 people, what was the main thing that you were focused on? And what was the big challenge that you were trying to overcome?

Steve:: [00:03:18] Well, it's hard to boil it down to just one, considering anybody who's ever taken over a company or a division knows that you're kind of moving into somebody else's house.

It's kind of like this: I'm very grateful to have this house. It's really beautiful. I'm excited to live here. And then you question every single choice made about that house. Why are the carpets on the floor? Why are their sconces all over the place? And so I think a lot of those decisions are really frequent to that.

So number one is to keep an keep in mind that a lot of people put in a big deal in order for you to get there. And the second is to question everything.

So the first thing that was most important to me was instilling my values in the company and then making them not like imposing them, but creating an, "our values."

So I knew that whatever I started with, there are things that are just deal breakers for me, like follow up on what you say. If you commit to it, you're going to do it, or you're going to create a natural distrust throughout your organization. And so the very first thing I said at the meeting when people ask me: What would new leadership be like? We started creating those values.

And the most important thing was less to say what they were, but really to exhibit them. That I follow up on everything that I'm standing for. That I bring enthusiasm and excitement to my meetings and my projects. That I plan them out.

And my very first hire was Paul, who, you know, very well. Whereas partially 'cause I knew he was an amazing marketer, but we really invested very little in marketing at the beginning because we wanted to focus too much on the product. And the most important piece was that Paul exhibited all the values to every other new member of the team. This is what good looks like.

The CEO can be there all the time and having members of your team that just emulate those values for you and can start bringing them to life is critical. So that was my first big investment.

Jason: [00:04:55] Well, I think you just brought him on because he looked like Will Ferrell.

Well, you said a couple of really cool things and a lot of us, I think, you said question everything. And this was for you coming in from an outsider with no emotion coming into it. Now, most people that are listening to the show, they've created it from the ground up.

And a lot of times, kind of, what I want you guys to unpack is: you should question everything that you've made the decision to get here. And question everybody on your team as well on an ongoing basis. I mean, I almost think it's kind of quarterly. Like, I live and die by 90 days rather than the year. Sure. We have yearly goals, but I'd rather be able to adjust quicker and, you know, I try to question everything as well. I think that's really good.

And then the other thing I love that you mentioned was, you know, marketing. That's one of the first things I tell people is like, you gotta bring in marketing, you know, in the early stages, in order to really build that pipeline. And then, you know, marketing should break sales and sales should break operations and blah, blah, blah, and so on and so on.

So I love it. What are some surprising things that happened to you about, you know, building this culture?

Steve:: [00:06:13] I think one of the most surprising things was that the values that I, that I set out to create took their own form. They really bonded with the people that we brought on board. So I always talk about my management style as being, I want to run my company like  run my ultimate Frisbee team, so I want it to be incredibly, it's funny cause the ultimate Frisbee teams are the maximum size of 30 people and I just hit 30. So I don't know what I'm going to say now. But it's being super collaborative. It's rooting on for people. It's focusing when you're in your huddles and you're down 12 to 2, you get into the huddle and you talk about how much fun we're going to have and how much enjoyable this is gonna be. And cheer for each other. As opposed to going around and talking about all of the different processes you're going to create  to win the game. It just brings everybody down.

And so I really wanted to call it the spirit of the game value and the rest of my team. Uh, there are almost no athletes and they all refer to it these sports is "sports ball," so they captured it. And they basically said that even we, we played like can ultimate Frisbee team, even though 73% of our company doesn't know what a sport is. And then kind of wrote it up in our own really distinct way.

It's really interesting how culture is not you. Culture is how all of you make it together. And then when, before we leave the 90 day feedback thing, I think you said something really important. One of my favorite, most important concepts to me of 90 days is every new person, especially if you're an agency owner. You started this place, you're going to have a very distorted view of your reality, because this is yours. This is your baby.

And so 90 days is such a great time. Every new hire that comes onto your company, to ask them a really explicit. What happened to the company that wasn't what you expected to happen? How was the setup for you ahead of time? How are we not living up to the things we talk about? Cause I can't see these things. So the question that I asked my teammates and every one on one. And I talked to, I have a one-on-one with everyone in the company, at least quarterly is what are the things that you're seeing that you think I would want to know?

Jason: [00:07:59] I love that. Well, you know, I talk with someone recently and we talked about everyone says they have an open door policy. But most of your team members are not going to step through that door. You actually have to go out after them and ask those direct questions like you just did. Be like, what are you seeing that I'm not? Because they're going to see things differently than management and leadership.

Talk a little bit about, you know, especially coming in from the outside and having a team of 30. Are you more the mentality now, like when you came in, were you focused on kind of like the what and the, how? Or were you focused on the who? Like, who do I bring in? I know you mentioned bringing in, you know, Will Ferrell.

Literally. I wish I had a little overlay right now. I could pop side by side. Like everyone would like, yeah. He's Will Ferrell. I really don't think he looks that much like Will Ferrell, but..

Steve:: [00:08:52] I know you're the only one that doesn't.

Jason: [00:08:54] Could we do a vote on your podcast to have people write in.

We should, we should. We we'd literally.

What we'll do is we'll put a picture of a, him and Will on the very bottom. And then, uh, or maybe we'll put it on Facebook when we post it up. I think that's what we'll do.

Steve:: [00:09:12] So back to your actual question. Yes. So you get the what, the how. A lot of people refer to that in another business framework for the exact same question is, do you focus first on the people, the product or the processes?

Because these are the three ways you can address all problems. To me, you have to focus on the people first because they decide the processes. They decide the product. They're the ones who are going to be taking your vision 10 levels down and making every decision to bring it to life. And so hiring became our absolute priority of making sure we were bringing on the right people and not making mistakes.

And then our second became making sure we kept these people. So our churn levels are just ridiculously low. We waste very few cycles. They say that every person churned might be worth double the amount of their salary in lost time. And the third benefit of having a great culture is you get incredible amounts of productivity and excitement out of it.

So we definitely focused on the who first.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Jason: [00:10:04] Very cool. Which leads me to kind of the next question is, how do you find really good people? And how do you know when you find really good people? I think that's what a lot of people, you know, in the agency, world struggle.

Steve:: [00:10:19] So our hiring strategy and a couple of the things that have that I think have been keys to access.

And a lot of these were learning and iterative as we went along. Uh, one of the things that's really important to me that I think everybody can do. And it's all in your power, is to write the most unique killer job description that just attracts the type of people you're looking for. Our job descriptions are fun.

I want to read them. I want to laugh at least three times is what I tell my people as they're running them. But I also really want to feel what the job is. So we write killer job descriptions and they'll stand out. How many people actually put that in. That's a big part of your marketing. You are marketing to talent.

Most people only market to the roles and responsibilities and the experience. That's a huge way to stand out. The second is to create the criteria of what you're looking for. And if you can be very specific on it and also make it different from what others are looking for. So the hardest way to get talent is to hire, been there, done that.

Those are the most expensive, they're most of the competitive. You're going to be fighting in a red ocean for the exact same people. All the other agencies are looking for. Are there qualities that you like in people? For us it's curiosity, creativity, and passionate about something that is not their work.

So my number one question in an interview is, if you're ever interviewing with me is what's a class that you took an undergrad that you didn't think you'd be excited about, that you became unbelievably passionate about and why? And somebody who can be passionate about something that's not the job function to me shows distinct curiosity.

And I think that's particularly important to marketers out there. So there was a study like most of the skills in marketing in the last three years are different than they were the five years before. Which means you need people who are going to constantly looking for how to improve their skillset. And to me, curiosity is that way to get there.

How do you find somebody who just wants to do it and be passionate? So find your unique skill set that other people looking for, make yourself unique, market to them, and then have those as your criteria when you're interviewing.

Jason: [00:12:14] Yeah, I would have failed that question. I'd been like, Steve, I hated every class I ever had.

Steve:: [00:12:20] That's not true. I refuse to believe

Jason: [00:12:23] it's pretty true. But then again, I tell people, I still want to get this shirt going "I'm retired because I'm unemployable." I'm retiredfrom working for someone else. So that would be a good t-shirt. Now that Verblio is 30 plus people. What are some things that you're doing to maintain?

You know, the environment, maintain the culture? Because it starts to get out of control.

Steve:: [00:12:49] It gets completely out of control. So it's interesting there. Um, so startups like agencies, I mean,  we're all kind of at the same ilk, which is that we start at a certain size and we go through these growth phases, which you coach a lot of your agencies on.

So there's the right amount of process for each phase. And someone told me that when you're, uh, when you're a startup, it's like wearing the wrong size clothing all over your body all the time. You either have too much or too little at all times. And so we're working on our people in culture processes really diligently.

We brought in a couple of much more process driven people who are much better at this than I am to focus on how do we bring it to life? And we're focused on a few areas. One is we just had to have a platform it's all consolidated in one area. We found an ingenious, one called Leapsome. If anybody's looking for one that brings together so many of these disparate HR platforms. As everybody only seems to be able to do one thing on an HR platform, which I don't know why.

One of the most critical factors was be really clear about reviews. What we're looking for are. Creating a much better goal setting platform. So everything rolls up in our OKR style, to very top five goals of the company. So everyone knows what their role is. They update them quarterly basis. It's really process driven and it's way outside my sweet spot.

It's not what I like to do. And the last is it has cultural surveys. Every month we send out 10 questions that takes less than 10 minutes to get the feedback from our team. We started this there was no one more than two levels below me. And now there are people five levels below me.

How am I going to get that information? How are we going to make rational decisions about what we think is our culture? What we think our communicating, conveying versus what people are actually feeling at different levels of the company. And the last for me is those one-on-one meetings, which is I meet with everyone at least quarterly. But we do probably more one-on-ones at Verblio than anywhere I've ever been.

It's a huge investment in time. It means that you're putting people first. This is really key to how we bring this to life. We could be spending that time doing more sales calls. We could be spending that time doing more platform, but we're making sure that we're empathizing with our team or understanding where they're at and we're really communicating.

So we're, so we're all working more coherently together. And I think that's an investment that pays off.

Jason: [00:14:55] Yeah. You know, it's kind of like when you start having a bigger team or as you start to grow that team, you're all thinking about like, how do I build the right team? And then once you build that right team, you're kind of like, how do I become that leader to them?

And then, you know, the next is, is like, how can I actually grow the leaders? Especially when you have that many different layers of going well, I need to make the decision-making spread out. So it's not all flowing to us, you know, and then I'm the toll booth or even my leaders. It's like, how do I create many layers of decision-making power and freedom?

And, you know, I was chatting with one agency, and, uh, he was the biggest bottleneck on the operations for a while. And he said, for many years, it was a big struggle on it because on himself, on his family, even on the agency. And then finally, he just got to a point where it was like, I'm going to document 50% of what I know.

And then the team could use that as a foundation to build upon and then innovate from that. And it changed everything for him. Uh, and now they're well in the eight-figure mark and just flying to wherever they actually want to go. So, love it.

What are some three tips for the listeners who want to make a decision to focus on culture and really kind of catapult them to the next level?

Steve:: [00:16:21] I'll see if, I'm going to start talking and see if it ends up being three. So the first tip is what are you sacrificing when you say you want to put culture first? You're going to have to deprioritize something. We invested in an executive coach. When I'm investing in people. And I'm basically trying to find junior talent that has never done it before.

What's the one area they're not, they're going to lack is that level of executive coaching. So I sacrificed the salesperson. We didn't bring on a professional salesperson until last year, after growing 300% before we did. So then we focused on an executive coach first. Cause I thought that was more important.

That's a big call. That's a hard thing to tell, if you're the owner, then it's a hard thing to tell yourself. And if you have a board like I do, it's a hard thing to argue to them. So how much time is it going to take and work backwards? It's really easy to say, this is my number one priority. It's not easy to say this is my number one priority, and I'm not going to do these three things because of it. So that's my number one.

My number two is to get constant feedback. It's really similar to your 90 days, like check in, do surveys. How do you keep yourself honest so you don't believe it? Come up with the right set of questions of celebration.

And then number three is every opportunity you can. One of my favorite podcast guests recently, he was telling me about the hardest thing to be a CEO is to not just say one thing once. You have to say it a hundred times and keep repeating yourself until you're bored, is to keep repeating your values. This is an example of why this reflects my values, reward the people publicly. If somebody comes to you with criticism about your culture, where you're not living up to your own values. And you worked really hard to ask people, to give you a feedback, call out that person at the all hands, give them a reward and say, thank you. You are right.

You're going to get a better culture, a more curious and critical thinking culture. And you're going to get less yes-people in your company.

Jason: [00:18:10] Yeah. I mean, you said it. You got to kind of stand by your values. You know, just literally a little while ago, I was chatting with one of our team members and we, unfortunately, had to ask one of the mastermind members to leave.

A new member over two months, there's just too many red flags, just didn't mesh. And we just didn't want it to pollute the rest of the culture. And so it hurts to say no to reoccurring revenue, but at the end of the day, you gotta know you're gonna stand on your values and not sacrifice that. And be kind of a whore for sacrificing it, which a lot of people, you know, do.

Steve:: [00:18:53] There could be very few things that are more powerful to a company than fire a client that's been abusive to your people. I think one of the things I've gotten the most positive feedback on is when there was a client that was kvetching about my, uh, some of my people while they were in the room. And I just told him that was absolutely unacceptable on the call.

And I think it really, like everyone on the team felt supported. Like they could do whatever they wanted and I'd have their back. But it's hard. I feel that in the moment, especially when somebody is paying your bills and you really need them.

Jason: [00:19:21] Oh, yeah. But you know, you get to the kind of the next stage where you're like, I'm not going to sacrifice us.

We'll figure it out. And it's just going to be that much better because yeah. Your people are everything. And if you don't have their backs, well, then they're not going to have yours. Like literally they'll hang on until they find the BBD, right? The bigger and better deal.

Steve:: [00:19:46] So we've talked about kind of hiring as a people strategy, investing in people and bringing culture to life.

And I think the last piece is thinking of, uh, thinking of all of the people related to your company, as your stakeholders, as your clients. For me, it's my writers. We need to treat them special. And like, I want them to have the best writing gigs in the industry so that they feel like this is the place they want to be..

Cause the more excited they are about their job, better the writing and the product will be for our clients. And all around. And so if you it's a virtuous cycle, you bring on the good people who are empathetic and excited and creative and passionate. And they start feeling all the other stakeholders in your business the same way.

Jason: [00:20:22] Love it. I love it, steve. Where can people check out more about Verblio? Especially if, uh, if they need some help around content writing, which I highly recommend you guys. You guys rock and are awesome and use you guys for so many years.

Steve:: [00:20:36] Cool. Thank you so much. So you can find us at Verblio.com.

And you can find my podcast, the Yes and Marketing Podcast, about 54 episodes, which is a broader marketing leadership and people who bring creativity into marketing. And then we have a special offer for jason Swenk listeners out there: get 50% off your first month at Verblio.com/smartagency telling me you heard about this on the Jason's Swenk show, and we'll give you two months of free onboarding as well to help you out.

And which we hope is an easy process, but we know that's a big lift for some of you.

Jason: [00:21:09] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Steve. And thanks for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you comment below. Make sure you subscribe, so you don't miss out a new episode and make sure you actually take Verblio up on that offer.

I mean, that's killer, they're giving you 50% off the first couple of months, so it's amazing. Thanks so much for doing that. And if you guys want to leave a comment or review, that will help us out to reach more people, especially if you listen to the whole way through. And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Laura Tolhoek is the owner of Essential HR, the business she started three years ago in order to provide HR relief to small businesses. Her company provides an ultra-flexible way of managing HR so businesses can focus on their core operation and growing their business. Laura shares the best practices and tips on how to hire and fire digital agency employees. She covers everything from creating your employer brand to the details of the offer letter and how to protect yourself when letting someone go.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Building an employer brand is as important as your agency brand. The employer brand is the reputation your agency has as a workplace. It defines the experience you're giving your employees before they even come on board.
  2. An interview guide helps guide your internal process. An effective interview guide maintains consistency throughout the interview process as well as helps narrow down who and what you're looking for in the position.
  3. A well-written offer letter is essential. The offer letter outlines policies, sets expectations, and even lays out how the end will go. This protects your agency from any potential misunderstanding or potential liability down the road.

Sponsors and Resources

Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency

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47 Laura Talhoek

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with an HR agency about what's the importance about building your employer brand? What's the importance of the offer letter and how it can actually protect your agency later on. And also making sure you follow a process in your interview process, which, I just said process a couple of times, but that's okay.

I think you're really going to like this episode, especially if you're in a growth phase and you're bringing on more team members. So let's get into it.

Hey, Laura, welcome to the show.

Laura: [00:00:36] Thank you so much for having me.

Jason: [00:00:37] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Laura: [00:00:42] Yeah, so my name is Laura Tolhoek. I am the owner of EssentialHR and EssentialHR is a business that was created to help small business owners with their HR systems and structures.

So a lot of times when you're growing a business, You would really benefit from the help of a professional person who understands the legal, the risk side of things, as well as best practices. But you often don't need somebody who's there full time. So we come in and we help small business owners with those small retainers and HR projects where they could use an HR professional but don't want to have one on their team full-time.

Jason: [00:01:15] Awesome. What's your theory of wind to bring someone in full-time? What's the employee count?

Laura: [00:01:22] You know what I would say about 50, you could use somebody, you know, at a moderate level. I don't think you need, you know, the, the pinnacle director of HR. But you could use somebody, certainly, because at that point you already have someone in admin doing a lot of your recruitment things.

You probably have somebody in admin doing payroll. And if you bring all of those things together to one, one system, it might be a little bit easier.

Jason: [00:01:48] I always looked at a lot of our HR people also did recruiting as well. Not just, you know what I used to think when I would go back and I'd be like, oh, HR is just making sure I don't get sued.

Making sure people don't get hurt. Like I didn't really look at it as making sure employee retention's there, you know, recruiting new talents. So I don't have to interview all these people and just try to keep up with the amount of business coming to us. So do you feel the same way, like HR is more than just pushing paperwork?

Laura: [00:02:20] Well, of course, yeah. I'm actually not a huge fan of the paperwork side of things. And automation is a big part of what I like to implement, but there's so many facets of HR. You know, you have the benefits side, the compensation side. Are we paying our people appropriately? Is there other things we could do, you know, for a smaller boutique operation, you know, maybe the top salary isn't what's there.

What else can we provide in order to build that culture? So we're not competing on price alone? Recruitment, obviously health and safety onboarding, and bringing on new team members. And just the general upkeep of employee engagement is a lot of what we do with our clients and what I did previously in my former life within operations.

Jason: [00:03:03] I gotcha. Why is it important for employers to kind of build their employer brand before they go into, you know, kind of scaling their agency?

Laura: [00:03:13] So employer brand, we obviously all know what branding is and we put a lot of effort and a lot of time into making sure our branding is on, on par, and on spot.

But what sometimes we don't think about is what is our employer brand? So if you think of those big companies, you know, the Targets, the McDonald's, the Southwest Airlines, and you kind of think immediately, you know what their brand is. You know, what to expect as a customer and so on and so forth, but then when you think about your, like, what do you think about when you think about Target as an employer?

Or what about McDonald's as an employer and those are the employer brands. So what is the employee experience or what do you think of when you think of them as an employer?

So you may think, well, I'm just eight people. Why do I need to worry about my employer brand compared to McDonald's and target? Let me tell you, you are competing for the same talent.

So just because you're eight people and they may be 800 at one site doesn't mean that you can't compete for that same talent. So I'll, I'll give you an example. I have a client and they were competing for a fresh out of university graduate. And the things that made the difference at the end of the day, because she offered her the job and the young lady said, I just, I have one other interview I want to take.

And she's like, it just won't feel right unless I, you know, follow through and take this other interview. And that was on a Monday and by Monday afternoon, right after lunch, she emailed, she's like, I'm accepting the job going through the other interview only solidified what I thought was the right decision, which is going with you guys.

And that comes from the employer brand, which is the experience that you're giving clients as customers and your employees before they even start coming on board. So there's a lot of things that go into employer brand. It could be just first understanding who you are as an employer. If you can put into words who you are as an employer, you can start explaining that in your copy and you can start standing firm in that when you advertise your job postings.

So that's why I say level one, you got to know who you are as an employer.

Jason: [00:05:18] One of the exercises we make people do in our Agency Playbook is be like, how do you want your internal team to view the brand? It's not all about outside. I even remember too, like even in our interview process, we would make it kind of, I think at first started, it was just fun for me.

Um, but then I think it was the conversational starter. So a lot of times when they would have the first interview with me, I would walk into like with my full race gear, from the race caron. I had a tutu on over jeans, one time seeing if like, would they want to take pictures with me? Are they going to share it socially?

Like just to see how people react or are they just going to ignore it? And like if they just ignore it and don't mention like the big elephant in the room, like there's no way I want them working for me.

Laura: [00:06:10] Well, and that goes into your culture of candor, you know. Do you want people to talk or do you want them to just say, Nope, this is the way we're going. We're going forward. No questions asked. And a lot of that works right into who you are as an employer.

Jason: [00:06:28] Is it important to have like an interview guide? Like I see a lot of times people are all over the place in interviews. So what are you talking about? Like with an interview guide?

Laura: [00:06:39] Right. So let's go back to the elephant, you know, the tutu over top of the race car gear. So if that is something that's important to you to understand how people are going to react in unusual situations, we need to make that consistent within how you're hiring. Because if you do that for one person, but don't do it for all three that you're interviewing all of a sudden, you have a disjointed view of your candidates.

So the first thing that the interview guide helps with obviously is consistency. The second thing is going to help you with is really narrow down what it is that you're looking for in your role. So if you're looking to hire flexible and adaptable people, or perhaps you're looking for a part-time role.

So for example, we only hire part-time as part of our culture and our practices. And the reason for that is I believe very strongly and having a workforce that is passionate on, on a multitude of levels. So whether that be family, whether that be, you know, rescuing animals, whether that be building your side business.

We want to make sure that that time is available for our team. So when we hire and we're looking for that adaptability and that flexibility, there are certain questions that we ask. Because what we don't want is somebody to come on board who actually wants a full-time job, but it's just taking the part-time work until they can get there.

And that's, in all honesty, it's happened before. And I'm sure anybody who's looked at that has seen that happen as well. All of a sudden, you know, four weeks in and the full-time gig shows up and the person who apparently only wanted part-time has gone. So how do we really dig into those questions?

And, that all comes from the interview guide.

Jason: [00:08:16] Gotcha. Very cool. And what's, let's say they pass the test. They tweeted about the tutu. You know, they ask questions, all this what's important about an offer letter?

Laura: [00:08:28] So gone are the days where you can shake somebody's hand and. Hire them and move forward.

And it's unfortunate because a lot of people build that environment of trust and they build that, you know, idea of just a very informal atmosphere and they don't want the heavy paperwork. But as an employer, you have the responsibility to protect your business. And you also have the responsibility to be clear and upfront with the person you're hiring.

And that offer letter is going to do both. It's going to explain the vacation, the salary, the hours of work. You know, what, if it wasn't clear that, you know, you have a 48-hour workweek and they thought it was 35, that's going to be a big misunderstanding upfront.

The most important thing that an offer letter's going to do for you is, though you're in the romance stage of your relationship. And though this person could do no wrong ever, or perhaps your business is in such a good place you could never foresee the opportunity that where you might need to let somebody go. There is going to be a time where that relationship needs to come to an end. And that offer letter is going to outline how the end is going to go.

And that as an employer is the single most important part of the offer letter.

Jason: [00:09:41] Gotcha. Let's say we hired someone they've been working for us for four months and we realized this cat's not the right person for us. And, you know, we need to send them on their way. What's the best way for us to do that without putting our agency in danger.

Laura: [00:10:01] The single best way is to make sure that you have a solid offer letter four months before. That's going to be, you know, whether it's by a seasoned professional, whether it's by a lawyer providing you with that information. That's very, you know, each state probably has certain things that needs to be included. That needs to be required on the offer letter.

But that offer letter is what's going to make that four-month termination go a lot easier.

Jason: [00:10:24] Gotcha. Okay. I see a lot of times people are just like, Hey, you're gone. And they don't have, you know, whenever we were, terminating a relationship, we would always have to make sure that we had multiple people in the room. Uh, so it wasn't like, Oh, you know, well, you did this. And they're like, no, that didn't happen.

Laura: [00:10:47] We just had that last week, actually with the client who, you know, they wanted to terminate the person early, cause they always came in early. So before I even got there, cool, that works.

But I said, make sure you have someone else in the room. Well, who? Nobody's here. And I said, well, just, just make sure that there's somebody, it's all glass walls. I said just, you know, outside the office, even. And lo and behold, we did not expect this person to turn. And it was like, Oh, thank goodness somebody else was there.

You know, as just a frame of reference to say, Nope, this is exactly what went down. So yeah, definitely having that second person is important and providing the person with paperwork as well. So when they go away, they're not interpreting what you said, but they actually have it written down.

Jason: [00:11:30] Yeah. We've had people go kicking and screaming, like literally like the most calm people that you would never expect it. It was almost like going up to like this little baby Chihuahua and then this Chihuahua turning into like this Wolf, trying to like kill you. Like, literally I'm like, I did not see that one coming.

Laura: [00:11:50] And then the ones that you think in your all prepped for and, you know, perhaps even on, you know, very rare occasions, we've, you know, had the police on speed dial in case need be. Those ones are like, all right, we'll see ya.

Jason: [00:12:02] I think those are the ones that they're just used to it.

Like I've been fired from every job I've ever held. Like okay. Yep. Sign this. Okay. Here you go. I'm good. Cool. Awesome. Well, this has all been great. Um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Laura: [00:12:25] You know what I think at the end of the day, understanding who you are as an employer and making sure you're hiring for that, building yourself an interview guide, that's actually going to dig deep for that, and then making sure that you're protecting your business with that offer letter.

Those are the three most important things you can do as you build your team.

Jason: [00:12:43] Awesome. And, uh, where can people reach out to you guys?

Laura: [00:12:47] So you can find me at www.essentialhr.ca and then if you go essentialhr.ca/swenk, we have a great little five steps to finding and aligning your employer brand with your HR systems. So people can grab that there.

Jason: [00:13:03] You don't look old enough to use www that's only for old people.

Laura: [00:13:08] Well, I appreciate that. And so would the person who sells me my skincare.

Jason: [00:13:14] I always laugh when people are like www. I'm like really? Usually, my 70-year-olds always say that I'm like, no, no, no, no.

Laura: [00:13:23] Yeah. So I was talking to a friend, who's building a business and I said, well, make sure you start building your email list. And she's like, I don't check my email. I was like, and there's the generational gap.

Jason: [00:13:33] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys liked this episode and you want to know even more systems for really being able to truly scale your agency. I'm not talking about growing your agency because growing is just growing your revenue.

But if you want to know how to truly scale and what are the right systems you need to put in place, make sure you get a JasonSwenk.com/playbook. And that will show you all the systems that you need.

So then you can have that freedom in your agency that you always wanted rather than be that prisoner and be that toll booth owner for everyone coming to you.

So go to jasonswenk.com/playbook. Until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: Whats_the_Best_Way_to_Hire_and_Fire_Digital_Agency_Employees_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Lacie Edgeman is a Partner and VP of Finance at PrograMetrix. She has extensive experience in finance within the marketing and creative industry. Lacie prides herself in helping hold her agency to high standards while keeping their projects on budget without sacrificing vision or quality. She is on the show to share the importance of niching down in order to scale. She also explains the difference between growing and scaling and why both are important.

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3 Golden Nuggets

  1.  Grow your profit margins with a niche. Lacie says without a niche, you're looking at 10% margins, but with a niche, it's 25%. With a specialization, revenue increases becoming more efficient, yielding a net profit increase.
  2. There is a difference between growing and scaling your agency. It's important to know the difference and know when it's time for each. Growing requires the investment of time and resources. Scaling means bringing in more revenue without additional expenses.
  3. Use your right project management tool to its full capability. It's one of the fastest and easiest ways to scale. Rather than just using your PM software for task management, you can automate things for efficiency. That provides true scale.

Sponsors and Resources

Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with an agency owner about the difference between growing your agency and scaling. And there's a big difference. And I think all of you will really like this. She comes from a finance background, she's a co-owner at an amazing agency. And so she gives us a really good perspective of what you need to do in order to scale your agency. So, enjoy.

Hey, welcome to the show.

Lacie: [00:00:30] Hi, nice to be here.

Jason: [00:00:00] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on and tell your guys' story. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Yeah, so we are PrograMetrix.

Lacie: [00:00:30] We are a PrograMetrix media buying agency and programmatic is such one of those terms that is a little bit confusing to people, but it's really just simply the automated buying of ad space.

So think about Hulu. The commercials you see on Hulu or Spotify, or even those display ads you see on forbes.com. And I am a partner here at the agency and I have a background in finance and operations. And I know we're going to be talking about niching today, which is very important. And my career path has been a little bit of a niche as well.

So I started out in a traditional creative shop. Moved into a B2B agency, then finally made my way to digital and then niched a little bit further into programmatic, which I'm very excited about. I really do feel like it's the future of advertising.

Jason: [00:01:31] Awesome. So tell us, how did you get started in the first agency?

Lacie: [00:01:35] What was that story? Yeah. So somebody took a chance on me. I think, uh, probably a lot of the viewers have nonlinear paths into marketing or were into advertising and mine was very similar. So I was actually in the construction industry and was getting my degree in finance and wanted to move to Austin, Texas, and had an agency that kind of just rolled the dice on me with my finance background and, uh, started working there.

And I just love, I love agency world. I think people either love it or hate it. And I just absolutely love it. Fast-paced, exciting, never a dull moment.

Jason: [00:02:14] That's awesome. So let's kind of jump into it a little bit about specialization. You know, a lot of people struggle with this because they feel that they're going to miss out. But you know, how did you guys go about specializing? And not per se, just picking programmatic, but how did you guys have the confidence, and what were, kind of, some of the steps that you guys went down in order to specialize?

Lacie: [00:02:37] Yeah. And I know this I'm probably preaching to the choir here. The specialization is so important. So one of the things we looked at when we specialized is, you know, what were the advantages and disadvantages. And we just felt like we weren't going to be able to scale the business. So there is a difference between growing and scaling and, I want to talk about that a little bit later.

But that's one of the reasons we really looked at it and programmatic specifically because it is at the forefront of advertising. And really what we feel like as the future of advertising. We also, our co-founders kind of grew up in the ad tech space. So it was kind of a natural fit, but I think there was a year there where we kind of experimented with the whole full service and it just wasn't working out.

So what we found is that it is very counterintuitive that people think, Oh, I want to capture this revenue going out the door and I don't want to let it go. But what they don't realize is it really hurts their business. You can not deliver at a high level to your clients. So you're, you're hurting your reputation by taking on work that you're just not specialized for.

Jason: [00:03:44] Yeah, I totally agree. What's the difference in your eyes about growing and scaling? Because it is a pretty big leap between the two. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

Lacie: [00:03:56] Yeah, of course. Growing and scaling. I think a lot of agencies don't really understand how big of a difference it is. Right?

So growing is where you add revenue at the same rate as you're adding expenses. And so what happens again? He'd been in finances there's less leftover at the end of the day. If you can scale, if you can be efficient, if you can put in those processes, you can scale meaning that you're adding more revenue with less expenses.

And you're really making that amount at the bottom, that kind of you're left with, a little bit bigger at the end of the day.

Jason: [00:04:31] Yeah. There's so many people and me, and I've gone through it in the past where, you know, we kept growing and I was like, oh my gosh. And agencies are notorious for this.

Be like, Oh, we're, you know, so-and-so millions in revenue. And everybody's like, Oh, that'd be nice. But. Can you look at, you know, oh man, I'm actually making less this year and we grew. Rather than figure out those efficiencies and those systems.

So what were some of, I presume you guys probably learned this the hard way, is that true? Or did you guys just pop right out and be like, we figured it all out.

Lacie: [00:05:07] Well, I think there was, like I said, about a year of us experimenting, but it was pretty, we like figured it out pretty soon. It was like, okay, we know what we're good at. We know what we're not good at. And. If we just realized we were using a lot of extra time to do those things we weren't good at. And it just wasn't sustainable for long term.

Jason: [00:05:27] For the people listening, because a lot of them are in a growing phase, but not a scaling phase. Or a lot of them say, I don't want my agency to be any bigger because they really haven't figured out the growing part or the scaling part. Right. So was there steps that you guys took that made this process easier that they could be like, Oh, let me look here.

Lacie: [00:05:51] Yeah. So I think first of all, you need to identify what you're really good at, right? And what you can do at a high level, deliver great results. Where you can be the best in the industry, go with that and then create partnerships. So one of the things we've done and we do believe in true partnerships, both on the client-side and the vendor side, create those partnerships where you vet those companies.

And you can feel very confident that if you don't do that, you're not good at it. That you have a partner that can do it. Our clients love that. Right? When we commit to doing something, we're going to do it very well. And if we can't, we're going to let them know, Hey, that's not something we specialize in, but here we can actually help facilitate that process for you. Make it easy for you.

Again, I think that the hardest thing is that fear. That fear of that revenue going to another person. But, you just get more if you are collaborative and have those partnerships. So that would be one of the first things; a partnership level.

The other thing that's really important is that process, right? And I know we actually use the Agency Playbook and so looking at those processes. So a lot of the things we do is we have daily huddles. So we're always on the same page. We have weekly meetings and then we use a project management tool. It's very important. We have, um, I know you talk a lot about having those automated systems in place. We do as well.

We have intake forms. Where somebody fills out a form and then all of the tasks are created in the project management tool. So that's very important for that scaling as well, instead of just growing.

Jason: [00:07:24] Yeah, no, I, I love that. I mean, it's, it's the little things that you do. A lot of us, you know, as we're trying to scale agency, we just look at kind of the shiny red objects and we think.

Well, the cure or the end all, be all is to just get more revenue in the door and sell more. But it's, if you don't have the right foundation, you know. Kind of like when you guys probably jumped in the Playbook, you know, you got a video from being like, hey, focus on the first three systems. These are the most important.

And then you can go on to all the other ones. Cause we all jumped to prospecting and sales and think that's it. Or, we don't even think about kind of the delivery part.

What were some of the other efficiencies that, or processes that you guys put in place to make you guys more efficient?

Lacie: [00:08:14] Yeah, so kind of going back to that form. So one great example is the project management tool, right? And, and I think people don't utilize that. First of all, some people don't even have a project management tool.

Jason: [00:08:26] Yeah. It's more like task management.

Lacie: [00:08:27] Yeah, right. So using, using that to its full capacity is one of the best things I can recommend.

And there's a lot of really great tools out there, but the tool we use, we can actually have our clients submit a request form. Um, again, it automatically schedules all of the tasks for us. So there's, there's no question about when something's due, how we go about it. And then we're able to actually organize all of the internal stuff as well.

All of those internal projects we have. And, I think prioritizing those internal projects, um, to your point, you know, spending that time on those first three sections of the book is really important. Like people don't think about that. They're worried about everything else, but, um, until you do that, you will not have that, that scaling capacity.

Jason: [00:09:15] So I'm not very good at finance at all. So I love talking with people and surrounding myself that are really good at finance and having that kind of background. Because like you start putting spreadsheets.  I'm sure you probably love spreadsheets. Like I look at them and I feel kind of a little dizzy, you know, looking at them, but it's awesome.

And I think all of you guys compliment each other from, you know, the other owner and owners that you guys have. So what are the things on, um, a weekly or quarterly basis that you're looking at from finance to make sure that they didn't cease going in the direction that you guys want it to go?

Lacie: [00:09:52] Yeah. So we do have like executive meetings, bi-weekly executive meetings, which again, I think it's important to get that time. But one of the things that I keep a pretty close eye on, is the revenue, right? I think that's, that's one of the things that you have to keep an eye on. And we have like a revenue forecast sheet and I created that.

And again, in the efficiency lens, you can pivot all of the data. So it makes it very easy to see what's going on. What are we doing next month? Where do we need to fill the gap? We have it split out by, you know, revenue that's under contract, revenue that we expect to get, and then revenue, that's kind of up in the air so that we can, um, go after that.

And that's very similar to your process, right? That, you know, kind of keeping those in sections and then focusing there so we can very easily see just with a glance. Okay, we need to go get some more new business. Or we need to double down on what we think we should expect, get those contracts signed. So from a finance perspective, where we look at that a lot, we know that revenue isn't the important number.

And I know you would agree with that as well. Right? The net profit is the important part, but it does start somewhere. We've got to make sure you've got that coming through. So we look at that. We also look at our client roster, right? We want to make sure that we're not too heavy on one client versus another client.

We're very lucky here that we have a very diverse portfolio, but I have worked for other agencies where you have that one big client and it's just, it can be very detrimental to the agency. For the staff and for the management, I think everybody's constantly looking over their shoulder saying, okay, I hope the client's happy.

And, um, it also gives us a lot of flexibility to be honest with our clients, which is really important to us. I don't think a lot of agencies get that opportunity because they're worried about that revenue, you know, going out the door and I can't speak honestly. And, and that's really important to us so that, that we actually have that flexibility is nice.

Jason: [00:11:49] There's so many people that they do, their budgeting kind of looking at their bank account. But with, you know, when you guys do kind of the proforma or projections. You know, can get a really good snapshot of, you know, like you were saying. Like when the bad times are going to come and usually if you have six months to plan for it, I think that's more than enough time. Sometimes even a quarter to plan for that.

Cause I always found that what we do today actually affects us three, four months down the road. So if like, if you're looking at your pipeline and it dried up. You know, the next quarter is going to be hard to start.

Lacie: [00:12:28] Yeah. I think that's a great point and something that we, you know, do very well is keeping an eye on that.

And what I always say is because I know there's a lot of philosophies out there and people really care about cash, which you need to be concerned about cash don't get me wrong. But I always say that your P&L or your proforma is the canary in the coal mine. Right? It's going to tell you what is happening.

And, and so, you know, cash is important, but it's the end of the day, your P&L and what you're forecasting is going to tell you what's going to happen with cash. So we do focus most of our energy there in the forecasting piece. And I will say, you know, when the pandemic hit, I think a lot of agencies had a hard time and we were able to pivot very quickly and we kind of knew what was coming down the line.

We were able to make some changes, communicate those changes to our team. And we came out even better, I think after that because we had that battle scar. I think everybody has, uh, has those battle scars now?

Jason: [00:13:26] Yeah, I think I, I saw, um, a huge step for a month, like in March for everybody where it was just.

It was so new. Everybody was panicking. Everybody was stopping their marketing, which I always loved that quote by Henry Ford. He was like, stopping your marketing is, like stopping your watch to save time. And then people were like, Oh, well, stopping marketing is the dumbest thing because especially digital marketing because we need to reach our people, but we're not.

We're not able to right now. And so I've seen so many agencies like yourself have such huge growth through such a hard time. Um, you know, for certain businesses, because, you know, we offer a unique solution. They're kind of the frontline people for business. You know, I'm not taking anything away from the doctors and nurses are, the first responders and that.

But, you know, for business, like all agencies are really kind of that first responder. So it's, um, it's exciting to see what people are able to do and really create.

If an agency's listening right now, you know, since you've worked with a number of different agencies and you own, you know, part-owner of this agency, what's a good margin that you guys are shooting for, or that you think people should shoot for in the agency space?

Lacie: [00:14:47] Yeah, that's a great question. What I would say is it kind of depends on what you're focusing on, right? If you're a creative shop, I think your margins are going to be a little bit lower. If you're just doing digital advertising, specifically social and Google. I think your margins are going to be a little bit lower because again, that tends to be more commoditized.

And you have to try a lot harder to be kind of out in front of the pack. Um, but if you are able to niche again, this is the whole part about niching. If you're able to really niche, you should be able to get those margins close to 25 at a minimum 25% is what I would say. But if you're not niching, you're probably at the 10% range, that's the importance of niching.

So I think, you know, you have to stop looking at the revenue, going out the door, and think about the ability to really, to get those net profits up.

Jason: [00:15:38] Yeah. I mean, when you have that specialization, you know, like, this weekend, my poor son was playing flag football and uh, snapped his shoulder. And so, you know, we're not going to go to a generalist.

Right? Like literally, and it's, it's the same thing. Like we're going to go to a specialist that he's literally right there right now, going to a specialist to figure out what we need to do. And they make a ton of money because they are the specialists because they know that one craft better than everyone else who's like, oh yeah, your temperature's high. Take this and call me in the morning. And that's what I tell agencies all the time. And they fight it for so long. And then once they make that decision, they're like, why did I wait so long? But I think it's a process that you have to go through and it takes some people a decade. Sometimes longer, sometimes years, months. You never know.

So let's switch focus and kind of wrap up a little bit about, and I love to interview women on the show. Especially women owners, because there's far fewer than men. Why do you think that is?

Lacie: [00:16:49] You know, that's a great question. I don't know the answer to that question.

What I know is that it seems to be getting better. That's what I know. I know there's a 3% conference that happens every year and that I think has brought some attention to the problem. I am also a part of a group called Together Digital, which is a women's group for digital specifically. So there are some new avenues for us.

Um, and there's a lot of agency owners there. I don't know the answer to that question. All I know is that I feel like women, in general, are working on it. Right. We're trying to figure out why we're trying to create the solutions to be more present in the space.

Jason: [00:17:32] And I, I see a shift coming and I get real excited because more and more, the people that we interview are women.

And I'm like, this is awesome. And so, that's always really good. So I'm happy for that.

Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Lacie: [00:17:48] You know, I, I think we did a really great job today. Just covering off on just that, that niching and I know again, you and I think very similarly, I just wish I could encourage everybody out there to really take a look, even if you're just want to take a piece of your business and try to niche there and see how it goes.

But it's so powerful and you can be doing so much more with your agency. If you could take a lane, stick to it, and you will see those revenues go up. Well, you'll see the bottom line go up really. And that's the most important part.

Jason: [00:18:21] Yeah, I just had to commit to it for a while. And I always tell people, but I'm like, look, as soon as you pick a specialization or a niche, whichever you want, you'll still get work outside of that.

It's just, you're marketing to that particular audience and you know them better than they know themselves. So they're going to listen to you and, and then you really stop being that commodity or that "me too" agency, I always tell everybody about. They have a problem, they come to you to solve it.

It's kinda like that Vanilla Ice song. You got a problem. Yo, I'll solve it.

Awesome. So you guys don't want to hear me say, obviously. What's the website address that everybody can go and check the agency out?

Lacie: [00:19:05] Yeah, it's a PrograMetrix.com and, um, definitely check us out on LinkedIn. We have a ton of marketing content out there. Even some things that you can use to learn and, and even go back to your clients with too.

Jason: [00:19:19] Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, where they can see the things that you might not be able to see, that can challenge you to hold you accountable, have fun with, I want to invite all of you to go to DigitalAgencyElite.com.

This is our exclusive mastermind for agency owners that really want to grow and scale faster, and they want to do it with a group that understands and empathizes with them and likes to have fun. So go to DigitalAgencyElite.com. And until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: How_Can_You_Scale_Your_Agency_and_Grow_Net_Profit_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Jacque Spitzer is the CEO of Raindrop, the direct-to-consumer marketing agency he founded in 2014. He's committed to bringing fresh, new creative to his agency and their clients. Jacque's been involved in some of the most creative and entertaining videos on the internet. And he's sharing some of the lessons learned and insider secrets on making great videos for your agency brand. Generate more leads when your video ads don't suck!

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Test your video creative to figure out what messaging resonates. These are solution statements that typically come from the sales or customer service team. Don't assume the target audience already knows something. Instead, test out four or five statements to see which ones stick.
  2. Make sure you have the right creative talent. We all think we're funny. But if you're trying to go for humor in videos, copywriters need a comedian's help. There's comedic timing and delivery to consider.
  3. Be authentic, be yourself. Don't worry too much about appearing goofy. In order for your video to be entertaining, be less concerned with the perception of silliness and more concerned with energy and animation. The camera adds 10 pounds. and also take away 20% of your energy.

Sponsors and Resources

Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with an agency that's been a part of some of the funniest videos on the internet from like Dr. Squash to you, name it. And we talk about how do you not make your video ads suck? How do you really take your videos and make them entertaining? It's a lot of fun in this episode and I hope you enjoy.

Hey, welcome to the show.

Jacque: [00:00:28] Thanks for having me. It's an honor.

Jason: [00:00:29] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?

Jacque: [00:00:34] So my name is Jacque Spencer. I'm CEO of Raindrop. I started the agency pretty young, about decade in now and, we are D to C focused, about 80% DTC. We do about 20% B to C. So very consumer brand-focused agency.

And where we really kind of come into being known nationally is for our top of funnel, social creative. So we created ads for brands like Dr. Squatch and. Crossrope, Omigo, Shady Rays.

Jason: [00:01:05] Wait, you did the Dr. Squatch one?

Jacque: [00:01:07] Dr. Squash, yeah. We had been on a tremendous journey with these DTC clients over the last three years or so.

And it's a thrill. It's amazing to see these companies grow by 10 times, 20 times, 30 times their revenues, and being part of a creative engine behind it.

Jason: [00:01:24] That's awesome. Well, let's go back a decade. How'd you get started?

Jacque: [00:01:29] Well, I was working at NBC,  as a journalist and, um, one of my colleagues now, my wife,  asked me if I would help shoot a video for her personal trainer.

And I started shooting videos for him. And one thing led to the next, I started getting referrals and I didn't have a plan to own an agency. I didn't, I'd never worked at an agency before. I didn't know anything about marketing per se, but I just followed my instincts for storytelling into problem-solving for businesses.

And yeah, I was 24 at the time. I had a bunch of roommates and so I was fortunate to not have a lot of life responsibility and I just went for it and it started slow. To say the least. And, um, you know, this year we're at about 50 employees and I've grown tremendously and have had a lot of fun along the way.

Jason: [00:02:19] Well, take me back to the point when, cause there's a lot of different things that we go through from accidental agency owner, like we are right. To you know, actually bringing on a team to growing, thinking that growing is the better option versus scaling. So walk us through some of the phases that you went back.

If you can remember, like, I know, I remember when, if I was interviewing myself like about like the first agency interview, I'd be like, I don't remember anything.

Jacque: [00:02:49] Yeah. I mean, you know, it's interesting how much, like, just how much self-reflection is involved. Because I think about the fact all the time that I started an agency, well, I started a business, I shouldn't say I started an agency. I started a business. It became an agency.

And I didn't have any direct background in the agency world, or life. And in this type of structure, I've never had managed anyone directly. And now I'm partially responsible in some way for all these people. And so for me, there was different like milestones where I was like I remember the first one was when we started having actual overhead.

So like an office and health insurance, and starting to realize like, Oh, this is why you can't charge $50 an hour for your time all the time.

Jason: [00:03:32] Like what year was that?

Jacque: [00:03:35] For me? That was like year three. Yeah. So, I mean really the first couple of years, and it was enough to feed myself and then, um, you know, a couple of subcontractors and then our first employees were year three and the hockey stick growth has come in the last three years or so.

Jason: [00:03:52] And what was the mindset shift? Because there's a lot of people listening that they go, well, I'm kind of doing everything from three years and below of like, I'm kind of doing everything myself. I'm using contractors, that kind of stuff. What was the shift of going, Hey, let me get an office, let me start hiring people. And then like, how did that go?

Jacque: [00:04:13] I was really fortunate. I have a business partner named Madame Wagner and Adam had worked for two other very large agencies at the time. And so it was kind of a nice mix of my creative storytelling and just passion and hard work and desire. And his ability to see what was missing in terms of structure, even in the way we contracted things. Introducing service lines, that weren't just project-based.

And we still do a lot of video, photo, and web work, but it was just so many project based things. So every year we started at zero. And so that was a big aha. Um, and he was like, I can help you get there if we work together. And so we made an agreement that at a certain revenue number, we would form a partnership and we were able to do that.

And so once we had some annual contracts in place that were a little bit more steady, we felt better about making the leap to taking on some of the overhead.

Jason: [00:05:06] Awesome. Let's talk about video, you know, many years ago even before I started this podcast, I wanted to do video because there were so many people out there just putting out blog posts.

Right. You remember years ago? Yeah. There are so many people outsourcing it. Like you never knew what, like, what were their tone? What was their personality? And I was like, look, I just, I don't care how bad I look on camera, whatever it is. I think my first video I was trying to be serious at first.

And, we'll link up in the show notes or you go on YouTube. It's like one of the first videos. I remember seeing, cause this was in '14. So you remember, like, the Dollar Shave Club video?

Jacque: [00:05:47] Of course.

Jason: [00:05:48] You guys didn't do that, did you?

Jacque: [00:05:50]  No, but like, if we were creating our own barbecue sauce, that was like a main ingredient of the barbecue sauce. Like, no, you need what they have.

Jason: [00:05:57] Yeah. So I was recording this video, trying to be serious about like, hey, you know, my strategies work and that kind of stuff, but my cat kept coming up and bugging me. So finally I was just, I picked up my cat. I was like, my tips are effing. Awesome.

And, and literally it was like a parody off this one and it was got really successful. So let's talk about how agencies listening. How they can use video. And then I also definitely want to get into the Dr. Squatch video. Cause I watched that all the time. Cause I just, I think it's hilarious.

Jacque: [00:06:29] No, I appreciate your enjoyment of it.

We enjoy making them just as much as people enjoy watching them. So the question is more so the idea around video for agencies?

Jason: [00:06:39] How can agencies really use video and really get to the next level. Right. So yeah, people are just using video and whatever it is, or just putting like these awful ads together. So like how can we step it up?

Yeah, I think

Jacque: [00:06:53] one of the kind of secret starting point tips that I would give to people when it comes to video storytelling is to, and you mentioned earlier, like, not to take themselves too seriously, because when you think about the different mediums where you're consuming the video, cause you can't just think about video in a vacuum. It's like, where are you actually watching it? You're probably watching it on either Facebook, LinkedIn, maybe even Tik Tok these days, Instagram.

And so it's like the other competing videos in that space that you're watching are usually a dog that is really well-trained and bouncing a bone on its nose, or some girl talking about her political affiliations while she does her makeup, or, you know, it's like the, the world that you are swimming in is a world of entertainment.

It's not a world of information. And so when I think about making video, it's truly table stakes to be entertaining when you tell your story via video, then that's what you were talking about with your cat. I mean, you experienced it firsthand and you're like, oh my gosh, of course like, cause this is what I would want to watch if I were on the other end.

As much as we all want to sound like we have some kind of PhD in brand or something. People want to see the guy with the cat that says, you know what, or in some cases, the guy with the Tesla or whatever it is on YouTube where these videos start and people have these fancy cars.

Bottom line is when it comes to video storytelling, uh, for anyone, but particularly for service line businesses like an agency or anything else is you have to be entertaining and otherwise it's like, why exist on the internet?

If you want them to have your own coursework or something, that's like, you know then, okay.  Be serious all day. But if you want to keep people's attention and grab people's attention, you have to be interesting.

Jason: [00:08:32] So it's easier said than done. So let's say you're an agency. Cause I always tell agency as I'm like, look, just start off doing it.

Like you're going to suck in the very beginning at video. And if it's just like telling someone how to do something, do that. And then like, how can they go from just educational content to more entertaining content? Like what's that process that you walk your clients through in order to create the Dr. Squatch video?

That's a

Jacque: [00:09:05] great question. I will, here's what I will do. I will go macro to the micro. So the macro is that certain people think in a way where they understand attention and entertainment and what will connect. So our business, we work with five full-time comedians and we pair them with our writers internally as well.

And the reason is, is that we see people who are on one extreme or the other. So sometimes people make something really, really funny that doesn't sell. Right. And like people will watch, but it's like at the end of the day, maybe the product seems like a joke or the service seems like a joke. It doesn't, it's not structured right.

But then if you have all these people that understand the structure of how to tell a story, but not how to hold people's attention. So we pair our comedian with our internal writers. Our internal writers are fantastic. Like, I don't know that they could probably write one of these types of scripts on their own, but that added spice of having someone who's professionally entertaining, it does make a difference.

And we learned that. We learned at firsthand by what happened was we watched the Dollar Shave Club video and studied it, some of the very early Harmon brothers stuff. And, you know, I literally made a recipe out of it. I was like, what is going into this? That seems to work. And we'll tweak it from there.

The first video we did, did not do well. It was a dud and we tried to write it all internally. It was like half my jokes. Like it just wasn't that good. And when I went back, I learned that the owner of the Dollar Shave Club, who, the guy who stars in the video. He was an improv comedian. And he talks about in one of his articles, he talks about that being like the most underrated component, but like people are like, you have to understand comedy in order to pull off the timing, in order to make a video work.

And that's what led us to, uh, finding James Schrader, who is a star of the Dr. Squatch videos, that he was a local comedian. And he was doing all right, but we saw him and we were like, that guy is perfect. It was actually our senior videographers bachelor party that we were at. And so  we tracked him down and the rest is history in terms of that.

But that's, that's where it all started, where we realized if you want to make professionally entertaining content, you should probably talk to professionally entertaining people and not just try to be something that you're not. And to your point earlier, when we were talking offline about putting people who are smarter and more creative around you.

Well, that's a great example. People that are in front of people every night, they know the pulse of America. What people are laughing at, they're touring America. They're great. So our comedians are definitely a big part of what we do.

Jason: [00:11:44] What other ingredients, like when you were deconstructing the Dollar Shave Club video, which is so instrumental to so many different things, what other ingredients did you find?  You know, obviously one of them's use a freaking professional comedian that will help. So what were some of them?

Jacque: [00:12:01] I think one of the things that, um, what's fascinating to me about like, again, going back to the micro is. I actually don't see Dollar Shave Club as the beginning of this. What I see Dollar Shave Club is the first to do on the internet. But what I went back and we've really realized, especially in working with a company like Worx power tools, we've made like eight or 10 videos this year just for works.

They got their start in direct to consumer power tools through infomercials. And what I realized is that, you know, Jason, you and I grew up watching infomercials and they keep our attention for 30 minutes on television. Even though we didn't want the ad, we knew it was an ad. And we're like, well, why?  Why are we spending 30 minutes of our life watching an ad for something we'd probably never buy, especially as like a 14 year old? Like, why am I watching this like toaster oven that can do it all or Oxiclean, like why am I watching this? And so for me, I look at it like the attention has shifted online, but the overarching human interest in something like an infomercial  always existed and it exists now. And these three minute type videos that we make is the infomercial of the internet age. I mean, so for me, it's like, when you talk about those specific ingredients, it's like the numbers of call to actions.

The ability to remain entertaining, but not make a joke of the actual product. But I think is the biggest rookie mistake we see, is that people, you can make jokes around the product, but the product itself is not a joke. Right? You want people to buy it and you want them to take it seriously in some capacity.

And so I would say that's, if you were to look at infomercials, they are the predecessor of the online, they call them, uh, you know, anchor videos or, or hero videos. And then from there, I mean, like, I would say that like anything, the structure's there and then the rest of it is freestyle. And sometimes something just really resonates with people.

Jason: [00:13:56] How many call to actions? You mentioned like how many call to actions. So what have you seen works the best?

Jacque: [00:14:02] You know,, we do about three to four throughout. And then we usually end out with making sure that we're like, okay, you've spent three minutes with us, you gotta click the, like, you gotta go. Like you gotta check out the site. And the beauty of these longer videos, like I think about.

You know, if you're paying for an impression, I'm gonna get a little, little, little agency meta on you here. But if you're paying for an impression, it's like, okay, I'm paying a couple cents for an impression. And let's say someone watches your video and they watch 90 seconds or two minutes of it. They go from, I've never heard of this product or service to I now I'm pretty educated on it.

And not only am I do I know about it. I know enough to potentially refer someone else who might actually need it. Like maybe I'm not the target audience. So in other words, I watch a video on a gasless leaf blower, and maybe I have a gardener and I don't need it. But I see my neighbor with the gas leaf blower and they're like, oh there's an ordinance and you have to have electric leaf blowers now, which is really happening in my city. I can be like, oh, you should check out the Worx leaf jet, it's I saw a commercial for.  It's it's electric. Oh, Hey, thanks neighbor. I mean, that's the power of actually understanding the product or service and spending time with it.

And it costs the same to reach someone for three minutes as it does for 15 seconds. And so at scale, it really works well.

Jason: [00:15:25] What's the best way to start off these videos to capture their attention. Right? Like I, I look at it as the first couple of seconds are literally going to engage you. You're going to be like skip next or whatever it is. So what have you seen works the best?

Jacque: [00:15:43] Yes. Great question. So, the answer to that is partially, you don't know, which is why we create multiple openings and we test them on YouTube unlisted to find the winner. Because statistically, they can be very, very different. Um, in terms of the openings, typically we're doing something that grabs people visually and, or challenges their own perception of the reality. Like I love the original Dr. Squatch where we  say the soap you're showering with is shit and then we go into, you're probably using the same bar your mommy bought for you.

Well, if you are, in fact, someone who's using the same bar soap you've been using for 10 to 15 years, like you have my attention because you're like you called me out about something I didn't even know I was doing.

And so we try to create those types of moments where like for instance, we made a video for, We Ship Floors and I didn't realize until we started getting into their video, like how gross carpeting is like, it's disgusting. Like when you realize like how much stuff gets trapped in carpet, like you'll never, you'll never enjoy carpet the same way ever again.

Jason: [00:16:50] That's why my wife, uh, when we built our house, she was like, no carpet, all hardwoods.

Jacque: [00:16:55] I know it's the way to go. So, and specifically We Ship Floors because they're water resistant, no just kidding, but a little random plug. But yeah, no, I mean, that's, that's what we see.

It's like challenging people's perception of the reality and giving them something entertaining. I mean, look, if you can make a video better than the video that we're about to watch. They'll stick around.

Jason: [00:17:15] Yeah. You know, I like calling them out on something. I know one of the videos that was really popular for us is like, Hey, are you, do you constantly keep sending proposals only to have people go completely silent on you?

And they're like, yeah. Or like you think of that guy on Instagram. I think it's like, I think he's in New York, but like he never says anything. He just holds up signs. Signs of shit we think of but never say. And I think those always work, you know, the best because it's like, Oh, finally someone said it, but you had the freedom to call it out.

Jacque: [00:17:50] What's funny is I remember your ad. Like, I didn't realize it was your ad, but when you just said that, I was like, Oh my gosh, I've seen this guy before. Was that on YouTube? Where'd you run those?

Jason: [00:18:00] On Facebook. Yeah. But you got to call someone out on it and then, you know, and then I think too, it's what suspense, so it's kind of, what, what are some other other elements I see is, is like going well, here's probably what you're doing now.

And then here's what you could be doing. And it's a little suspense about like, Oh man. Like you were saying, it's a story. It's like, they want a happy ending to all kinds of funny stuff on that one. They want a happy ending, but they don't know how to get there. So they're going to keep watching or listening to what's going on.

Jacque: [00:18:37] So I think. We use them as like, we call it like problem solution statements and going all the way back to our predecessor, the infomercial. One of the things that they do so well is they'll say, Oh, like you can do these three obvious things. Right. But then here's 10 things you've never thought to do with this thing.

And all of a sudden you're like, Okay. Like, I can see myself getting some Oxiclean because I could, I don't own a boat, but like I could wash it if I had one. Like, you know, it's like, you're just, it's crazy. But like, if they do it and it's like, Oh, you can cut through this and that. And like, watch me cut through a shoe when you're like, why are you cutting through a shoe? But if I needed to, I can cut through a shoe.

And so it's like a, to your point that suspense and that like, It's an art and think about like, when you go to a fair and there's someone doing a live demonstration, same idea, right? Like they just suck you in. They're just so good. I feel like I should go to the local fair and get some of those people, man. That can make some great videos.

Jason: [00:19:30] Oh yeah. I mean, like this summer I got a boat for the family and I was going to buy a Boston Whaler and I was talking to the salesperson and he goes, well, you could cut the boat in half and it's still gonna float. I'm like, that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. And they literally have a video of them cutting a boat in half and still working.

And I'm like, all right. As I started watching, I'm like, wow, they're going to cut this boat in half? Like, I want to know what happens, but it's just talking about like, you know, no one's ever going to do it. Well, I'm sure people like you will do it demonstrating this.

Jacque: [00:20:08] I think that's brilliant because it's like taking safety to an extremity and you're like, you're not going to sink in this boat. It's like, let me prove it. And I've had it in half. It's pretty good.

Jason: [00:20:18] Yeah. Or, calling out something that really gets their attention. Like I love if I can remember right on the Dr. Squatch video, it's like you're using the same ingredients as like dishwasher or something like that. Like I'm like, oh, that's gross.

Jacque: [00:20:33] Yeah, no, I mean, it's, uh, we've played with so many different like intros and hooks and what matters to people and to your point, those, like, I never thought of that type of moment where it's like, it's, it's the same ingredients inside your dish soap. And you're like, oh, yeah, you're right. Like it happens to be Old Spice and it's called like tropical breezes or something, but it is the same type of formulation.

Again, it's like challenging people's perception of their own reality. And you can't unhear that. Right? It's like, I never knew that, but then I can't unhear it.

Jason: [00:21:07] Yeah. I'm just trying to think, like how could we help people really kind of position this more like, like when I'm working with someone and I asked them, I'm like, hey, walk me through the process of how you're pitching to people.

And then I kind of go, well, this is how we did it. Like, we did a lot of web design back in the day and I would say, just to get the person to really compare everyone else to us, I would say, well, you probably get asked the question all the time. What websites do you like? And they're like, yeah, it'd be like, do you want to know why? They're like, yeah, this is because they're going to copy someone else's work because they're freaking unoriginal.

And that's probably why your whole industry looks the same. And then they're like, Oh, that makes sense. I'm just trying to like break down a little bit more of what we can give everyone listening. Like how can they come up with moments like that to really kind of stop someone in the tracks. And then they can kind of go or, or what do you see like, I don't want to obviously stop the creator in these people too. Right? Like they think I have to start off with the dollar shave club video, or I can't release it, or I can't start off with, you know, the Dr. Squatch video. Like I need to come up with something that good and then they never release anything.

Jacque: [00:22:24] That's a great point because with all of these brands, I would say with half the brands we work with, we don't start with an anchor video because what we're trying to figure out is, what kind of messaging are people resonating with? So I call them doors to knock on, like, we're trying to figure out like these four to five doors even early on, we talked about when you said, well, what openings work?

And I'm like, honestly, I have my guesses. And then I'm always surprised by what does and doesn't work and we call them doors. And so those doors are usually created by really looking at those problems, solution statements. So some of those best statements can come from people's either their salespeople or their customer service team, or even just combing through reviews and seeing how people talk about the product. Because people will give you like, oh, I expected this, but this is what I got. And that was even better.

Or, you know, it's right there. Right. And so. We find it more challenging for people that are more startups because they don't, they haven't narrowed their number of doors. They haven't gotten that feedback. So people have been doing this it's more so they just take it for granted, like the thing that makes them give them that moment.

It's just so obvious to them or they don't even see it anymore. Right. It's like, Oh yeah, of course. People know that. And I was like, no, they don't, you know, like if you're a, a do it yourself installation thing, and you're like, oh, we've already made 15 videos about how to install it. Why do I need to show it in this one?

It's like, because fundamentally your brand. Like you'd have to show people that easy to install and they're like, Oh, I see what you mean. Because like, we're assuming that people saw our ad before. I'm like, correct. And so it's like creating those problem statements, like for instance, for, soap. It's not the fact that like, the reason that Dr Squatch is reaching the scale and the meteoric levels that they are isn't because it's an all natural soap. It is all-natural soap, but like if we had gone into this like it can cure psoriasis and in all seriousness, like some of the early messaging was posed that way, you know, it was very like almost clinical and like it's going to cause you cancer if you don't. Like that kind of stuff, it's like, okay, look like, I think we can all appreciate that.

Like we deserve better than laundry detergent out of our bodies. And so just trying to find a way to really like take this more clinical thing, but put it in a way that people can appreciate. But ultimately I hope I've answered the question, but it's really to create these doors and you never know which one's going to open.

And I think that's important. Cause I feel like people are trying to like their mindset sometimes is, I have to pick the perfect door and then, then they get stuck to your point. It's like, no pick five and like, see which one's open. And if none of them open, then figure out why didn't they open? Like, why are people not resonating with this?

Jason: [00:25:12] So let's use me as an example to kind of wrap up. So. I agree with the multiple doors, but like a lot of times, like we're just having a challenge. And I think you're talking about with doors for maybe the opening of the video. So how do you guys test it out? Like a lot of times, like how I test out and just put it out there, but how can I put the same kind of five of the same videos out in order to see how it works at the same time? Or like, how are you guys testing that?

Jacque: [00:25:43] Well, okay, so. I'll give the more complicated answer and the more simple answers. So the more complicated answer is most of the brands we're working with are spending tens of thousands, if not millions of dollars a month on social ads. And so they're very, very savvy.

And so they can, they can find out in 48 hours, which one of these are going to be statistically relevant or different. And so we're talking about like, at that scale, at that production level, like. It's kinda like they say ball don't lie. Like the numbers don't lie, but for more, what you're kind of, I think where you're coming from, which is like, look, someone's just trying to get started.

And they're just trying to put content out there. There's an interesting, I don't know if you've ever seen this show. Uh, what is it? It's like Master Chef or something.

Jason: [00:26:27] Yeah. And you know you're old when you start watching the home and garden, right?

Jacque: [00:26:31] Yeah. I know they have, um, the food network. They have this show well, the whole time what's my POV? What's my POV? What's my POV? Because I realize that like, at the end of the day, you can't be everything to everyone. So like, what's the thing that you're going to like to hang your hat on and not give up after like one or two, but like, to your point, like plug away and have like, chart a course on what it is that you think you can provide the most value on, of course.

And when it comes to capturing people's attention, being like, what is authentically me, but I think also don't be afraid to take some risks. What I mean by that is it's like, I think people feel goofy or silly or, dumb, like being animated and like being like to your point, grabbing their cat and saying something they wouldn't normally say.

And it's like, that's okay, because people are expecting to see something extraordinary, not something ordinary like they're expecting to see something that is different than what everyone would do with the same energy. And so don't feel bad about getting deep about performing, because I think people are like, oh, it's inauthentic.

And it's like, you can be authentic all day, but if people don't want to watch like you're not helping them. So, you know, it's okay to ramp up your energy a little bit and give yourself permission to do that. But I learned that back to my news days because they say that the camera adds 10 pounds and it takes, takes away about 20% of your energy it's lost, in the vapor.

So it's like you have to ramp yourself up at least 25%. And that would be something that would, I would pass on to anyone making a video.

Jason: [00:28:06] Yeah. I heard that about the camera adds 10 pounds and then I would go to people. I'm like, how many cameras are on me? Take them off. Give me half a camera, so I look half as fat.

Oh, awesome. Well, this has all been great. Is there anything I did not ask you that you think would help out the listeners?

Jacque: [00:28:24] Oh man. I could talk about it for hours, but also I'm like, I don't know.

No, no problem. You already put a bunch of bombs on them. So the biggest thing everybody is is you got to go do it.

You got to start somewhere. Remember everything big starts off small. So go back to some of our original videos and, you know, we look like a hostage from Iran. You know, it was really, really bad, but. They worked. They, they did what they needed to do in order to get us to the level we are now, which is still very low, but it will keep going up.

Jason: [00:28:56] What's the agency website, people go and check you guys out? Raindropmarketing.com and you can also find me on LinkedIn, pretty active there.

Jacque: [00:29:05] Awesome. Well, everybody go check that out. And if you enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners that can really push you along, see the stuff that you might not be able to see, really understand what you're going through.

Jason: [00:29:19] I want to invite all of you to go to DigitalAgencyElite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind where we get together on a regular basis, have a lot of fun. Grow and scale our agencies and just not have to go through all the pain, even though you will go through pain. That's inevitable. There's no silver bullet, but go to DigitalAgencyElite.com and until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: How_to_Make_Agency_Video_Ads_That_Dont_Suck.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Building Your Agency Brand Is Easier Than You Think

Juju Hook was a corporate brand strategist for over 30 years, both on the client-side, as well as agency-side. She built a successful boutique agency from scratch in 2000. Her agency developed a reputation for smart, creative work with solid results working with big brands in the banking and auto industries. Today Juju shares lessons on the dangers of letting clients negotiate prices and how you can stop it. She also shares how to be more strategic and get paid for strategy rather than allowing clients to treat your agency like a commodity, and why branding your agency based on your values will help land the best clients.

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3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Be invaluable to clients and stop being an order-taker. When you understand the client's financials and goals you move from offering project management to being paid for strategy.
  2. Sharing your personal brand helps you align with the right clients. The best branding is built based on values. What do you stand for? What do you believe in? What do you lend your voice for? You already have a brand. It's not a matter of creating it; it's a matter of sharing what already exists.
  3. Stop letting clients negotiate prices. You're worth what you're worth based on experience and the value you provide. The only prospects trying to negotiate agency prices are the ones who are not the right fit anyway.

Sponsors and Resources

Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

 

 

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, we talk about how you get more strategic rather than being an order taker? And how can you build your brand around what you stand for? A lot of us struggle with, how do we start, even though we actually do this for clients, but it's a really interesting conversation. And  I think you'll really love it.

Hey Juju, welcome to the show.

Juju: [00:00:28] Thank you. I'm happy to be here.

Jason: [00:00:29] I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Juju: [00:00:33] So I am Juju Hook. I've been a brand strategist for 30 some years. I started out on the corporate side and financial industry and then opened my own agency in 2000. And in 2015, I closed my agency and made a move toward helping women in midlife build theirs.

Jason: [00:00:52] Awesome. And so how did you get started in 2000? Like I, I started our agency in '99, so it was kind of like the wild wild west.

Juju: [00:01:01] So I worked in the financial industry for some years. And then I became a marketing director for Jacuzzi and ran their brands worldwide, 63 countries.

And that was a wild ride. I started in banking and automotive. So yeah. And was raised with car dealers, but hot tub dealers was a whole other deal. That was just a completely different perspective on branding. And then I got pregnant and I had an international job. I was flying all over. It was really, it was just the kind of thing where I knew I was going to either need to take time off work or make a switch on what I was doing.

And so I decided to become a free agent and ended up working for Jacuzzi as a consultant and launched an agency. When my son was an infant.

Jason: [00:01:50] Oh, that's cool. So Jacuzzi was your first client?

Juju: [00:01:53] Jacuzzi was my last job and my first client. Yeah.

Jason: [00:01:56] Oh yeah, I've done that a lot. Like they don't want to lose you. They're like, well, just you're a consultant for us.

Juju: [00:02:03] And strategy is a funny thing, right? Because if you're the one that's been writing the plan, oftentimes that's what they'll ask you to come back for. Right. It's a plan and somebody else can implement it. And I've always been keen on that. Anyway, I've always been more interested in the 30,000-foot view than, than the minutia.

So, which I think helps an agency owner.

Jason: [00:02:21] Yeah. And that really separates a lot of people. You know, my background was kind of the complete opposite. Like we started the agency basically from doing websites and it was very hard and I find it very hard for people once they're the doers and they're getting paid to do something it's hard to go to the strategy.

They're just like all project-based, even if they do recurring, they're still basically just trading time for money, but they're not really getting that intellectual property. So, for those people listening. How do you think they can be more strategic rather than kind of the order takers?

Juju: [00:02:57] First of all. I think that kind of thinking, to be honest is something that you're, you have a proclivity for. So I think interestingly enough, the first time I took the strengths finders, strategy was my number one strength. And it said, this is something you're born with. Right. So I think, I think we all have a proclivity towards certain ways of thinking.

So if you can take the time to understand your client's financial statements and the financial goals and struggles that your clients have, it'll put you in a more strategic role. It's not about managing the project. It's about how does the project contribute to whatever their overall goals are. And I don't know that that is a comfortable position for everybody who works, especially on the creative side of the agency world.

But it is the difference between, you know, rising up through the ranks and staying where you're at in project management.

Jason: [00:03:47] Yeah. I was thinking about it. It's about asking the right questions in order to figure out the end outcome. That's kind of how I got out of that, that mindset of going damn. How do I get Lotus cars to come to us and be like, this is the problem I have other than go design me this micro-site or this website or this.

Juju: [00:04:09] Yeah, I think, you know, tactics are, we pulled together tactics to employ a strategy. And if you don't understand what the strategy is, right, and the strategy is not really driven by goals that you understand, then you're always going to be separated from where the action really is. And I think our value in terms of being able to implement the strategies that our clients want is directly related to how long we get to serve them.

Jason: [00:04:33] Awesome. Take us through kind of the 15 year journey in the agency. And then, you know, tell us about, you know, at the end kind of, why did you close up?

Juju: [00:04:44] So I started with a virtual sort of organization before things were really virtual. And I had a ton of agency exposure, had hired a lot of agencies.

And so I knew a lot of super-sharp creative people. And initially, I teamed up with folks I had worked with before and started to produce for. The two industries that I knew best, which were banking and automotive, which is a pretty dry, it's a pretty dry slate, but it worked for me.

Jason: [00:05:11] We tried to break into banking. So I don't know how you did it.

Juju: [00:05:14] It's rough. And I'll tell you, it's so interesting because the disclosure side of that in terms of having to, you know, disclose and validate and be transparent about everything you do is as difficult as. The strategy side, right? Like the artists, the designers used to go crazy that you'd have, you know, these amazing pieces.

Right. And half of it would be disclosure at the time. I was very heavy in direct mail and in merchandising. So we spent a lot of time on things that folks don't do much anymore, but, and I guess 15 years, you know, it doesn't seem like that long ago, but it was, and, and I worked my way up to the point where I employed a staff.

Pulled people in. I had a professional photographer on board. I had a full-time designer. We still subbed out a number of different things. I had a media buyer who was working full time and then 2008, 2009, the recession hit. We had a lot of clients in-home development at that point as well in banking, automotive, and home development.

And so it was a real quick slide over a period of time from about 2008, until about 2010. I treated all of the folks who were working for the agency and went to a full virtual model and like I said, stayed with it until about 2015. At that point, my biggest client was Auto Nation.. We were running their, they had a concierge program that went hand-in-hand with the financial industry. And so they were working with insurance companies and credit unions and all different kinds of, of companies to provide this sort of white label concierge product that we just syndicated again and again and again and again the branding for. And they took that model into their showrooms.

And so we could see about six months before it was going to happen. Okay, we're going to, we're going to lose this book of business because they're going to take this model under their showrooms. And, um, at that point I just knew I had been in the game long enough and I was, I didn't want to do it anymore.

I didn't want to go into any more boardrooms and, and fight for any more business that I think the agency businesses, it takes a toll on you. And so I decided to shift my, my work toward women in mid-life, which I was. I was struggling with a lot of the questions that midlife women have around getting older and, and your value and your worth and your level of contribution.

And so I decided to sort of shut it down as projects closed and, and help the team move on. And that's what I did. And now I have, um, an immersion program where I help 15 women a year build their own personal brands and, and get out in front of what often our agency type businesses.

Jason: [00:07:59] Very cool. And so, let's talk a little bit about kind of building a brand.

One of the things I tell agency owners is one of the key roles out of the five roles that when you transition to being the CEO, rather than the owner of doing everything is being the face of the organization. And you really have to build a brand around you rather than being a faceless company. And it's kind of funny too, right?

Like if you think about it, like these agencies do this for other people, but they have a hard time doing it for themselves. So what can they actually do in order to build their brand or what are some things?

Juju: [00:08:35] So, first of all, I think we have all have a hard time doing it for ourselves because it's, it requires a fair amount of chutzpah and it feels in your face.

It's unnatural for a lot of people to do this. I think there are a couple of ways that we can emerge. Number one is we have to really get in touch with our essence. And a lot of times I meet people who will say, Oh, I don't really have anything to brand. I don't have a differentiator. There's nothing different about me.

But everybody is literally imbued with an essence, right? With whatever's your sort of concentrated flavor, concentrated scent. And if you can get down to that, it's all about attraction, right? Attraction as a singular thing, I'm attracted to a person, a person's attracted back to me, same thing with an organization, but an organization can't really make a decision about you and about your agency unless they can see you completely.

Otherwise, they're making a decision on some kind of watered-down version of you, right. Or some piece of you they can't see. And so I really, really encourage people to go out and get in touch with what is it that you're about, right? What's that combination of strength and skill and personality and, you know, tendencies and all those things that make you who you are.

And I think when you then attach that to your values, which is becoming more and more common in terms of branding and, and really being a values-based brand, people really have a chance to connect. And that that connection happens in a very real way.

That builds long-term relationships.

Jason: [00:10:01] Yeah. You know, I totally agree with that. When I first started doing this business or really even going back to the agency business, I really didn't put my personal brand out there. Not at all. It wasn't a thing, right? Like until Gary Vaynerchuk came along and I was like hustle, hustle, hustle, which I'm like work hard and show up, you don't have to work all the time.

And then after I sold the agency, I really was like, okay, let me start doing videos like Gary. And it just wasn't clicking. And it was only up to maybe a couple of years ago, I started just putting out a little bits and pieces about my journey or what I love doing like mountain biking, or we started, you know, we built our dream home in Colorado and I started documenting that a little bit.

Not like the checkout, our Ferrari's or yeah. And so, but we started attracting people that loved the outdoors. They love the adventure and all of that. And it's just like, when we've been growing the mastermind, it's like, it's all these amazing people. And then I think back at what we started putting out, I was like, that's why, yeah.

Juju: [00:11:07] That's what you attracted. Yes. And you know, it's interesting because early on when I was building brand strategies for organizations, everybody talked about mission and vision, right. It was very common to do these mission and vision and values. Sort of, you know, seminars or weekend sessions for these big corporations, but there was never any question about whether the agency that was leading them or, I shared those values.

Right. That just wasn't the kind of thing that anybody talked about. And then as the internet made things more and more transparent, and everybody came to want to know who is it that I'm doing business with things really shifted. And you can see that now from big agency to small agency, I'm watching it happen in the arena of social justice right now.

You can see agencies really clamoring to get a handle on how do we deal with this? How do we guide our clients through this? Right? And on all different sides of the spectrum in terms of what you believe. But that connection is more important than ever. And, you know, we marry people who believe what we believe.

We hang out with them, we date them. We, we vacation with them. Right. We follow them, we've read them and it's just become, you know, to, to some extent, I suppose it creates an echo chamber. Right. But on the other side, it creates really strong relationships that allow your clients to talk out loud about the things they want to talk out loud about knowing that you're invested in the outcome.

I would never be invested in the outcome of my client's businesses early on. Right. That wasn't part of it. Now I show up and I'm in it with the client. And so it's a very different world. I think agency-wise than it used to be.

Jason: [00:12:43] Well, it's, it's hard, like looking back at some of the clients that we worked with if I was doing a campaign for women's purses, I couldn't get behind it. Cause, cause I don't have it. But if we were doing a campaign for Lotus cars, you know, I'm like, yeah, I totally, I totally get it. So it makes a huge difference. You've got to, you know, I was watching a video and probably everybody has. I think it's from Simon Sinek on like, start with why. He talks about like, you, never hire, or you work with people that are your identical twin, but you, you surround yourself with people that believe in similar things.

And it allows you to really build that brand. Because when I got into this business, you know, helping agencies. I saw everybody just doing blog posts and it had no personality. And I was like, I'm gonna do video. I'm gonna do a podcast just so people can hear the tone or the joking around or whatever, the, whatever it is.

And then, you know, when they meet you, they're like, I know you. Which is kind of freaky.

Juju: [00:13:44] Yeah. And what you stand for. I think standing for something, you know, the world has shifted in, in so many ways in America, right. And, and business and life are so intertwined now and all of the money and the influence, it's things have just taken on a different shape.

And I think people are much more inclined now to speak out loud about what they stand for. And I also think at a certain point in life contribution takes on a different meaning. And I see this happen to a lot of people as they get older. And it definitely happened to me as I started to push 50. The kind of contribution that I wanted to have in the world was different.

And it wasn't enough for me to just help corporations stuff, dollar bills into their pocket. Right. And support my lifestyle. I wanted to feel at the end of the day that I had made a difference in someone's life. And that caused me to step forward and say, okay, these are the things I believe in. These are the topics I'm willing to give voice to.

Right. This is what I stand for now. How do I find clients who stand for the same thing so I can help move them forward? And I think not to say that that doesn't happen for young people, I think it does, but I think there's a point in our lives where it, it happens for everybody. You start to really rethink things.

And that definitely happened for me in midlife.

Jason: [00:15:01] Oh yeah. I mean, you know, when you're in your twenties, all you're thinking about is what you don't have.

Juju: [00:15:07] Yeah. And how are you going to survive? How are you going to make it? And what's your trajectory going to look like? And, you know, we all start out with this idea of, this is what my life's going to look like.

I'm going to go to school here. I'm going to do this. I'm going to create this. I'm going to marry this person. I'm going to build a family. We don't have a lot of discussion around what happens after I do all that. Right. What happens when I'm 50, I've checked off all those boxes. Now, do I start again? Do I, how do I pivot?

And I think those of us that are in branding and advertising and messaging and marketing, there's a way to sort of pivot that mastery to something new and midlife. That allows you to stay in the game and contribute on a different level. And a lot of that is very values-based stuff

Jason: [00:15:51] Yeah, I realized after I sold the agency, I was like, I was craving that significance again. And I was like, well, how can I contribute rather than, you know, it felt like before then I was just a taker.

Juju: [00:16:06] Yeah. And well, and I think that's part of the game, right? I mean, that's the way it's all set up is you, you gotta sort of, you gotta make your way, you gotta figure it out.

And I think when we're young, we're not as, yeah geared toward, how can I be useful? As we are toward -- and, you know, maybe it's not fair to say it's old and young. Maybe that's not really the way it breaks out, but I know when I was younger, I was much more interested in what it would take for me to get where I needed to go than I was in, how do I be of service? Right?

And I think that's one of the things that happens the longer you've been in the game. You realize that it's really, it's really the service side and the purpose side that keeps you in it. Right. That's what gets you to wake up every day and go, okay, I'm going to show up and I'm going to do this, the money side and the significant side.

It lasts so long, but it feels a little hollow after a while. And I think that's, I noticed that search trajectory for a lot of folks.

Jason: [00:17:02] What are some things. You know, let's say there's, a lot of people listening right now that are in the middle of their career, they're just kind of getting by. What are some of the things that they can do and building the brand and getting to a place where, you know, it means a lot more to them?

Because, you know, I talk to so many people all day long. They're just like I did this agency. I'm ready to get out because there's no real meaning behind it.

Juju: [00:17:27] Yeah. So I would start with manifesto work. I do manifest it work with tons of people and I'm not talking about just around, you know, making something pretty that you say out loud, but really understanding what are the things that you want to feel on a daily basis.

Right? How do you want to feel, how do you imagine the perfect life being, you know, for you and for other people? What do you believe in? What are you willing to stand for? I very often ask my women clients, what are the issues that you're willing to give your voice to? And what are the issues that you would never give your voice to?

Or what are the things that you stand against? And then go find clients that are making inroads in those areas. Go find clients with the money and the clout and the push to ride. What matters to you because that's going to change the nature of the work. It's not about completing a project and getting paid, while that happens, it's about completing a project and changing the world or moving things forward. And I think when we're surrounded by like-minded people who are in a fight that we're in everything shifts and in my mind that really starts with manifesto work.

Jason: [00:18:35] Yeah. I love kind of the, you know, just that simple concept that you mentioned of kind of like build your brand for what you stand for.

Because, like you were saying in the beginning, a lot of people are like, well, how do I build a brand? Like, well, you've already have a brand.

Juju: [00:18:47] Of course. You live it every day.

Jason: [00:18:49] I'm like, it's just about communicating it and figuring it out. And I always like to tell people, it's not just with the written word, like, please do a podcast or a video.

Juju: [00:19:00] Yeah. It's who you are. And we get this idea that we're creating it. We're building a brand, we're creating a brand. We're not creating it. We're showing it. Right. This is what it is. How do I show it? How do I show people who I am, what I'm about, what I'm worth, what I stand for, what I want and all of that can be really polarizing.

It doesn't have to be. Right? But it can be. And we're also afraid of that, right? If I show myself completely, there'll be people who don't like me, but there will also be people who love you. People who get you, people who want to be next to you. People who want you to fight for them. And it's much easier to maintain longer, big money, intricate relationships if people love you. Right? Then if there are lukewarm around about.

Jason: [00:19:44] It eliminates the bad clients later on and like you going, man, I, you know, I took this client on because,  you know, I was a little strapped for cash, but now it's a complete nightmare and blowing up in my face, which is making it even more miserable. Versus, you know, maybe I didn't win as much business, but at the end of the day, you're going to win way more business and have a lot more fun working with the people that are in the similar boat.

Juju: [00:20:11] And you're going to be able to stand up for yourself, you know, that, but the biggest emotion for me that was a killer in my agency curve is resentment. Because it would have these clients who would come at me and the very first thing they want to do is negotiate. And they wanted to negotiate on my value as a human.

Right? So it's, well, I don't want to pay you this. I'll pay you this. And in early on in my career, I would negotiate that, I would talk about that. It was only when I got to a point where I did the head work around, this is what I'm worth. This is what I stand for. I don't want to take that. Right? I don't offer bad marketing.

Oftentimes, I would have clients who say, well, you know, we don't want to do this and we don't want to do the strategy work. We just want to do this. And when I finally got to the point where I would say I did it, and I don't offer that as a service, like, I don't know, offer quick and dirty marketing. I'm sure there are people who do I don't sell that. That everything started to shift for me and that resentment, as soon as we sign on to a client or a relationship where we haven't properly set boundaries we are in this resentful position until the relationship ends.

And I watch agency owners do that over and over and over again. And they feel out of alignment with themselves all day long in order to take the money. And it's, it's just a practice learning not to do it.

Jason: [00:21:25] Yeah, I have people all the time they're like, we'll give you this amount for your online program. I'm like, no, it's this or the other day I just was skimming through emails and this one person was like, I read it. Like, I just want to give you $500 cause you helped me out. Like we get that all the time. And then a couple of days later, he was like, I haven't got access to the Agency Playbook.

I'm like, so I go back to the email and read it. Yeah. Skimming it. Right? Like my ADD is kicking in and it was like, I'll give you $500 right now, and you do the Playbook. And I was like, sorry, I read it wrong. I'm refunding your $500. You know? And then he was like, well, really, like, you don't have to do anything.

I was like, but you're not going to value it. Like you're already devaluing it.

Juju: [00:22:08] Exactly. And I didn't offer you that, right. That's not for sale at that price. And I think, you know, back to that original question we talked about around, how can I be more strategic? How can I be a person with creative skills or project management skills who's more strategic?

When you invest your time in that, like, I had to force myself to go to MBA school and I wasn't great at MBA school. It was not a natural state for me, but I did it right. I really had to go. I am fully driven by intuition. Right. So data-driven exercises are work for me, but I did the work.

And when you make that shift, when you really can lay that strategic piece over top, it eliminates some of the discounting that people do about the creative side of things that they don't understand. This is very easy for people to discount. That creative side of the work. Right. And that messaging side and all of that understanding of human psychology people don't value it.

And so when you can lay that strategic piece over top, I think you eliminate some of that, or you put yourself in a position where you can push back harder.

Jason: [00:23:13] Yeah. I mean, once you start negotiating, um, and lowering your prices, you're never going to get out of that because they're always going to think you're coming out high.

I mean, even when I was buying a car, I remember I went in, I did not want to buy a Jeep a couple of years ago. And I went in and I just low-balled the crap out of them for this new Jeep. And they said, yes, I'm like, crap. I should have said lower. Like, I didn't feel like I got the right deal.

Juju: [00:23:37] Yeah. And you know, here's the thing never, ever, ever negotiate on your own hourly rate.

I'll work less hours for you. Right. And if we work less hours, this is the work product you're going to get, but I'm not going to work the same number of hours for less money because it's, this is my business. Right? This is my business. This is what I do.

Jason: [00:23:57] Yeah. And what people don't understand and especially what they'll do is they'll come back and be like, well, so-and-so over there on Upwork can do it for $20 an hour where, and I'm like, well, you don't value your time as much as I thought you did. And they're like, what do you mean?

I'm like, well, sure you can go to them, but you're gonna probably spend four times amount of time managing this person in order to get what you want. And there it's still a 50/ 50 shot on this versus going our way. And you probably get there 90% of the time and you'll have to require this amount of time.

Juju: [00:24:35] And I don't know for that service. So I don't offer a service for clients cycled through the internet and randomly choose me with no ramp-up and no relationship and no understanding of their product or their goals or their financial statements, so that I can do a four-hour job.

I don't, I don't have that service. I can see if you want to buy that, but that's not what we sell here. Right. And I think that that tie back to this is the relationship. This is why we're working together. This is what we're in together. This is what we're trying to accomplish. That's what an agency does.

An agency doesn't present itself on the web and, you know, blind of any relationship deliver creative product, Willy nilly. That's a different business model.

Jason: [00:25:17] Well, I even think like, even if you go back to the, kind of the origin of an agency, like they're the, they were the middlemen. I remember I was doing a video a long time ago about you're in the car industry. Right? So remember, well we know no one remembers when cars first came out,

I was like, put my, you know, my foot and be like, you remember this? So when they actually came out with cars, they couldn't go direct. They had to create car dealers. So they were the middlemen. But even now the car dealers are probably going to start suffering because of the manufacturers can go direct.

Same thing with, you know, Facebook, when they came out with advertising, they went to agencies. You know, Facebook is more going directly in there. And so the whole point of being the agency, it's about not just being that middleman, but being strategic and building that relationship with those people, like you were saying, and that's really how you can be strategic and then they can never really leave you until you say buzz off.

Juju: [00:26:17] And understanding how the industry works. You know, for a very long time, I made the lion's share of my personal money, negotiating advertising for people, right. This is how this works. This is the space you're going to get. This is how many people are going to see it. This is how we're going to use it. This is, you know, who's gonna see it. Right. And those were all negotiations that our agency made on behalf of the clients. And for that, we got paid, we didn't get paid by the client. We got paid by the media company because we were professionals who understood the industry and understood those demographics and understood that region.

So I think since all of the freelancing has started. And all of this sort of talent inside an agency have been broken off. Clients have lost sight of the value of having someone stand in between what I'm trying to accomplish as a corporation, or, you know, as a business, as a person and what this creative person is supposed to deliver.

There's a translation there that happens in a real agency model. And without that, that relationship suffers. You got a different relationship.

Jason: [00:27:25] Awesome. This has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Juju: [00:27:31] I think there's some benefit around understanding the way creative people work for agency owners for people who are listening, right?

Like you said, you came up, you know, from, from that project management side or down in the project. I think one of the things that makes a really amazing and profitable agency is understanding that creatives are constantly and always giving a piece of themselves.

Right. Every, every job that a creative professional does, whether I'm a writer or a photographer or a designer or whatever is an extension itself, that at least the folks who are good, right. Every time they're putting on a piece of themselves. And that's really difficult, it's a tender process to manage.

And when CEOs or business owners go direct to the creatives oftentimes that process ends in resentment as well. And so that's a piece of leadership, I think in the agency world that gets, sometimes get kicked to the curb. And, and I think there's a real sweet spot in there. There's a real understanding, of human potential there that separates one agency from the next.

Jason: [00:28:45] Awesome. Since you only work with women in their midlife, if you're a woman in your midlife, where can they go?

Juju: [00:28:52] So you can find me at jujuhook.com. I have a download always at free.primetimejuju.com that helps with personal branding, always with personal branding out in front. And I have a, I have a group of 15 women every year who I take through a nine-month immersion branding program called The Cut.

Jason: [00:29:12] Awesome. Well, everybody go check that out and thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where we can really build that relationship with you and see the things that you may not be able to say and help catapult and grow your agency to where you want it to go, rather than where it's going to dictate you to go.

I want to invite all of you to go to the DigitalAgencyElite.com that's DigitalAgencyElite.com. And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Manuel Suarez is the Founder and CEO of AGM. Founded in 2015, AGM is a full-service, social media marketing agency that focuses on helping brands acquire the most valuable commodity today: attention. Manuel is sharing how he rapidly grew his agency over $3 Million in the first five years. He attributes a lot of his success to being the face of his agency and exporting his knowledge both to build authority and to train his client.

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3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Provide value aggressively. Earn trust and build authority by providing through social media, podcasting, speaking publicly.
  2. Successful agency owners are the face of the agency. That means you do not service accounts or work on deliverables. You are vision and strategy. You are the "what" but not the "how." Think Gary Vaynerchuk, who is CEO and the face of VaynerMedia but is not working with clients.
  3. Your #1 job is to continually learning and training. Stay on top of your game and export all your knowledge to your team. Surround yourself with the right people and put them in the right seats while also making sure they have access to the right training

Sponsors and Resources

Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency

 

 

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with an agency owner. Who's grown over 3 million in revenue in three years, and we talk about. What you need to do as an agency owner in order to really have rapid growth and how you need to get and be that front face for your agency. I know a lot of you want to sit and back, but what his strategy is and why he has people knocking down his doors.

So it's a really good episode. Yeah. I hope you enjoy it.

Hey, Daniel, welcome to the show.

Manuel: [00:00:33] It was great to be here, Jason. Thanks for having me, man.

Jason: [00:00:35] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?

Manuel: [00:00:39] All right. My name is Manuel Suarez. I'm the CEO of a marketing agency called AGM Marketing stands for Attention Grabbing Media. And I've been doing marketing for probably about seven years now, accidental like many of us agency owners over the last four years. That led me to, I had a lot of success with a couple of businesses, uh, and that led me to create an agency.

When I got bored with the ones that I was having success with and said, you know what, maybe it's time to explore disability and help some other companies out there.

Jason: [00:01:08] Awesome. So how did you get started? Like what were your first couple of businesses and walk us through that story.

Manuel: [00:01:15] First business, I come from a pretty dark background of no career, no path, no future, no potential, a small little Island in Puerto Rico, a lot of criminality, drugs.

That was my environment. I got lucky along the way. And I discovered opportunities. Um, I, I think that like all of us, we have a lot of, uh, stories. Uh, in my case I was a part of the subprime mortgage market in the U.S. So in 2007, bought my first property somewhere around the peak of the markets.

Lost the house and, um, had three children already. So I had to figure something out that led me to try and try and try things out, fail, fail, fail. Uh, and at one point, somebody talked to me about my first ever business was my brother-in-law coming to me and telling me, you know, there's this thing called FBA fulfilled by Amazon.

And you can sell your own products on Amazon. And that was like a big wake-up moment for me. And, my first official business was launched in 2013. Uh, so that was seven years ago as of the time of this recording. And that particular business became a really, big powerhouse that, um, it's a great story for a lot of people that I can summarize in just a few sentences.

I saw the opportunity on Amazon. I looked at, uh, one of the guys that work with me, uh, on my 9 to 5, and I saw him that he was selling bedsheets on the road, on the weekend. A brand called Clara Clark. I said, let me look at your bedsheets. I opened them up. I saw no labels attached to the bedsheet and I said, perfect.

We're going to create our own brand. I created an idea of a brand it's called Cosy House Collections, c-o-s-y. And I printed a horrible design, which we're still using today on the bedsheet. And, um, I started selling my own private label and within 18 months, a lot of work, a lot of obligation. We were doing $6 million a year and it became a big wake-up call that, Oh, wait a second. I have potential in marketing.

And at the same time, I started helping my father, which is basically my it's a big part of the story is, the special side of my story that I worked on making my father a social media massive influencer, and one of the biggest ones in the world of Latin America.

So those two things were happened concurrently, uh, along the way.

Jason: [00:03:41] Awesome. And so then people started asking you to do this for their business and that's how kind of the agency?

Manuel: [00:03:49] Yeah. So from 2014 or so. Uh, until 2017, I took my dad from complete unawareness of the health industry world to generating 50 million views a month across social media channels.

Uh, we took a brand called Natural Slim, which my dad and I are partners in. And we turned that into from a small little, um, business in Puerto Rico doing a few hundred thousand dollars a year to now, um, do other in '20, we're probably going to break $50 million a year. Um, so somewhere around 2017, that was already rolling.

It was established. Uh, my dad had a YouTube channel with, we had just crossed, I think at that point, a million subscribers, uh, Facebook millions of followers that were doing great. And people were asking me questions and I was invited on a few stages to talk about what I had done with the bedsheets brand, with my dad.

And that led me to, okay, I got people that want to get some help. I don't know anything. I know there's something called an agency, which means that I'm supposed to service people and show them how this thing is done. I seem to have a marketing mind. I know how to position a company and create a strategy and okay, let's do that.

Let's open up the doors. And I got together with two, two of my family members, friends. My brother-in-law who's the one who presented to me the Amazon opportunity to begin with and another friend of mine. And we said, let's build an agency. Let's go. And that's how we started.

Jason: [00:05:15] What were the steps, because as we're recording this right now, you guys around 65 people in a three-year period, is that right?

Manuel: [00:05:24] Yeah. We officially got structured beginning of 2017. So we got we're on our fourth year right now.

Jason: [00:05:31] So if someone's listening now, because, you know, obviously we just kind of jump into the fire and we just start servicing people, but we're not really being proactive, we're being more reactive. So what were some of the things that you did that made a difference that you may think some other agency owners are not even seeing?

Manuel: [00:05:52] I think the most important thing, Jason, that, uh, I don't, I don't think it's clear enough, even though it's obvious and we all talk about it. Uh, it's what you do. It's what I do. We are out there communicating all the time and we're out there positioning ourselves. In my case, I delivered seminars and webinars nonstop.

I just gave value. Aggressively. If you look at my agency right now, I have a lot of, um, I have a lot of clients, we're at 70 staff as the time of this recording right now, and we're growing fast. I'm still looking for more talent, always adding more talent to the team. And also we have an ever-growing list of clients.

I have celebrities, I have social media influencers, I have e-commerce brands, I have Amazon brands. We have all kinds of different clients around different niches, but I can tell you that if I wouldn't have done what I have done of getting on all these stages. I will be like a lot of different clients, a lot of different agencies, which are struggling, trying to find clients. And, I believe, and this is something that I'm really, really adamant about. Jason.

I insist the difference between a successful agency and a failing one or one that has a tough time finding clients, being able to scale and get new accounts is that the successful agency has a leader. That's out there putting themselves in front of the world as much as possible. In my case, I do a lot of content.

I am in social media and I have been in social media, for several years now. I created a personal brand out during the world of social media. I call myself the Facebook marketing Ninja. I have a podcast around that subject. I have, um, getting deep into the world of social media advertising and I teach people and I have a group of people and students, and this is basically what I'm known for.

So whenever people think about, okay, I think I need an agency now to help me, we have that positioning. So I think the main thing that everybody has to if you're trying to build an agency, you got to let people know that you're an expert. That you do want to push forward and helping people first, just giving value, that at some point, if they need to get services, you're the first one that they think about.

Jason: [00:08:02] What do you think holds some agencies back that, that you see? Because obviously, you know, like many agency owners, we always chat with other agencies and we're like trying to figure out what's working. And I know when I'm talking to agency owners on a consistent basis, a lot of them are like, I don't want to be the face.

Right? Like, I like the behind-the-scenes because I don't want everybody always coming to me and then I won't be able to sell my agency and I go, have you ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? And they're like, yeah. And they're like, do you think he actually does people's social media posting and all of that?

I'm like, no, I was like, he's built this brand. And you know, it's just following their methodology.

Manuel: [00:08:42] Right. It's built on his own name, but he has nothing to do. Like he says, Gary says himself that he's still the CEO. And I believe that because I have a similar way of operating my organization. The last time Jason, we have a social media advertising agency.

We do a lot more than that. We do a lot of strategy and do many different things like Google advertising, etc... But the last time that I created a campaign myself. Myself. Like I went into the Facebook business manager and I clicked on create and I selected an audience and an ad easily two and a half years ago, Jason.

I stopped doing that quite a while ago, but you know, if, if you don't want to do that route, if you feel uncomfortable with, uh, putting yourself on camera and talking to the world, you got to figure out your marketing strategy because my marketing strategy, it's not the only one. It's a successful one.

It's the quickest path to expansion and social media has presented that opportunity. Having a podcast. It's another opportunity because you get a chance to position yourself like back in the year, 1997 or whatever, you didn't have the ability to communicate to the world for free. And now we do, like with these platforms.

So it is a marketing strategy. It's not the only one, the example of something that's not an agency. My father he's, his name is Frank Suarez. We have a YouTube channel and a Facebook page called MetabolismoTV. His content is what drives the engine. If I take it away, then I have to get really smart about coming out with a new marketing strategy.

It's not the only strategy it's the quickest path to expansion. That's all it is right now. So if you don't feel comfortable doing that, then you got to find something that makes you feel comfortable, but you got to know that it's going to be a struggle more than in my case. Like if I look around my agency, uh, and the staff that I have going on in my day to day operations of my clients, I am servicing people that are my followers that are my fans.

Whenever I jump on a call, they're doing a zoom call, like a strategy session or whatever. And I jumped on it. I see their excitement and their emotion because they're actually in my world because they follow me. That's the road. If you don't go down that road, if you don't present yourself as an expert, then many times you're met with skepticism.

Like, people don't know if you're for real, because they haven't traveled a journey with you. -People that are at my agency. They traveled the journey. So they're there and they trust me and it's pressure on me because they have a certain expectation, but they went through a series of steps before they presented themselves in my organization.

And they gave us a big fat paycheck that included retainers and set up fees and all those things because they trusted me. If you don't have that in place, you're going to be met with skepticism or the best-case scenario, uh, when it comes to, uh, building an agency, if you'd done a job really well done it for a couple of accounts, then those accounts like old school, traditional word of mouth is successful.

And you, you can get other people that say, Hey, I went with X, Y, Z agency, and these guys were awesome. And they helped me out a lot when they come, you're not met with the same skepticism. So that's the challenge. So you either go the traditional route, doing a high-quality product for a couple of clients that allows them to start spreading the word about you.

Or you go down building your own brand with a podcast, with social media, with a YouTube channel that is going to leave people to, Hey, can you guys help me with my marketing? And that's an important positioning right there because people will trust you more.

Jason: [00:12:27] I love it. Now let's kind of go back toward. Maybe a couple of months into it, because if you haven't like, if you've been around for three years and two and a half years, you've stopped doing the, who were the first couple of people. Cause there is a lot of people are going like, all right, what do we need to do?

Like, what's kind of the structure. What was, kind of, the steps that allowed you to get to the point where all your job is really is the vision, creating content, being the face of the organization, and probably a couple of other little things.

Manuel: [00:12:56] Well, I don't another not-that-little thing, Jason will be training.

One of the main things that I've done. I have a weekly training of my staff and I haven't dropped back for one single week. For years, every single week I keep them trained. So even though I am not creating campaigns myself, I know exactly what's going on. And I'm always clicking around sometimes, I get surprised as social media platforms change so fast that I'm training something.

I'm like, well, they changed it on me this morning. Oh no, they changed it four months ago. Oh, wait a second. You know, so that happens quite a bit, but if I had to, I could probably go back and break down the most successful things because I can tell you, Jason, I've probably done more unsuccessful things than successful ones.

So it's an interesting thing to go back and figure that out because, um, it's been a lot of random disorder. Like, give me, let me give you an example. So when I started, I had a team of virtual assistants that were on my previous brand, uh, that I was selling bedsheets on Amazon. Uh, I sold that company in 2017, and that's the money that I used to start creating this agency.

But you don't really need much to build an agency. In all honesty. You don't really need a lot of money in this world. You need an internet signal. Uh, you need a lot of knowledge, intellectual properties, like the number one most important thing. But I actually use that money to bring in some talent. And, um, some of the first things that I did was that I brought this team of like six virtual assistants and I brought them with me and I said, you guys are coming with me.

And I started just getting going with like, the accounts that I had, that I had, what I had, I had my dad's account, which was my business. And then I had also another big influencer reach out to me because of my dad's recommendation. And that's, this guy is still a powerhouse. He's one of the biggest influencers on the subject of the ketogenic diet, which is Dr. Eric Berg, four million subscribers on YouTube, a big powerhouse.

So he came in shortly after I formed the agency. It was six of us back then. And now it's 70 of us and we're grown with him step-by-step. The major thing that I had that was different. I didn't really have a connected team, Jason, like we will not meet consistently and everybody was operating on their own.

One thing that I implemented along the way was daily staff meetings. So every day it's 9:20 AM. as I'm recording this right now. At 9:30 AM we have a staff meeting every single day. And, uh, we have a lot of people that are local, about 25 of us right now. And then we have the rest of them that are all over the world.

Many of them in the United States, many of them overseas, the Philippines, uh, Europe, etc. And then we all get together at 9:30 AM. So it's almost like getting everybody on the same page every day. One of the challenges of building a remote team in this new environment, especially in the COVID-19 world is the fact that you have to make sure that everybody is connected as if they were operating in the same building.

You try to replicate the feeling of having people next to you, desk by desk. So you can have an eye over their desk or their computer. So you know what they're doing. So systems like that are very important to build within your organization. So you can monitor the activity at all times and not let people run their own show.

Because that's not what you're trying to do, because if you own an agency, let people run their own show, it's going to just stain in your brand because people are going to want to think that they have freedom to create whatever the heck they want. Instead of you, as the leader, as the founder, you are guiding the strategy and you're telling them what to do, what not to do.

And what is the correct sequential steps to take on a particular account for them to have success? There are many things that we've done wrong Jason, but I can tell you definitely there are a few key points and that's one of them is training staff, for sure. Very important. Keeping them trained and yourself trained, never thinking that, uh, you're already extremely proficient in the world of advertising or whatever, because that attitude is going to lead towards a decline.

So just stay in yourself at top of the game, but then export that knowledge into these people.  So they can also themselves increase their own skill along the way. Awesome. And what are some other things that help catapult you outside of training, staff meetings, that kind of stuff. So, so I've never done lead generation ads for agency clients.

Uh, what I can tell you that I have done is that I have done a lot of lead generation for my own personal brand and education. Of these people in my own world. So what I have been doing over the years is that for example, I have a series of mini-courses, mini trainings on subjects that are important.

I have a mini-course on building your business with Facebook ads and also finding your ideal audience on Facebook and Messenger marketing, uh, which is another big deal. Which is my agency just won the award for the top-performing agency for ManyChat 2020. So this is something that we have gone really deep into, uh, over the last few years.

So I take very specific training, let's say four or five lessons, and I say, I'm going to show you about this. This is an opportunity, and I'm going to detail you the roadmap to be able to have success. With ManyChat, for example, with Messenger marketing, with chat marketing, or whatever the case may be. So I do ads to promote that.

So Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Instagram ads, whatever to bring them into my world. And once they come into my world, uh, Jason, I, I have a sequence of nurturing and, uh, I just keep on presenting the opportunity and I keep on enlightening people along the way. And this helps me create, uh, people interested in what I have to offer and many times how a lot of these people are not qualified as you, as you probably know, Jason, I would say that I'm out of a hundred leads that I have potentially I get one or two people that are qualified to be an agency client. And that's okay. Because the qualification process is very, very important for your organization.

There are, I think you're the one that says something as there's not. No such thing as a bad client?

Jason: [00:19:10] No, there's only a bad prospect or a bad process.

Manuel: [00:19:13] Exactly. Right? So that's 100% a fact, guys. It's a, it's true because if you have a good process in place, you can make sure that these people are not coming into your lines.

And that happens on the way. So you're, you're desperate at first as an agency and you taking everything like I started with no contracts and that's okay. Hey, I'm going to, you're going to call me, you're going to get results the first month. Overselling yourself, like crazy, which is absolutely a mistake.

Uh, if you ask me, Jason, what is the, what is one of the biggest mistakes that I've made in my career as an agency owner is overselling, over-promising people, over-promising. Now I go in the opposite direction and if they don't like it, I shake hands. And I say, I wish you, well, go ahead and kill it you're not in my agency.

Currently, we're at a really good level right now. We are really profitable as an organization. We do great. So I can actually be more selective as to what comes in and what doesn't come in. But right now we have a six-month agreement. So somebody has to be willing to agree to six months.

Now I want to get rid of that and I want to go towards a year. As, as you do that, but I'm not that, that ready yet, Jason, because that really scares people off. Like a year, especially if you're not ready, but you know, it's pros and cons, right? Cause you want to have people scare off like, as an agency owner, you want to have people that are with you.

And if you have people that are too tight that if they give you a few thousand dollars a month in my make or break them, and they might not be able to feed their families. You want to try to skip that and just hold on tight because otherwise the branding nightmare that can occur for your organization and the effects that it can cause, go way beyond that cycle.

So one of the biggest lessons that I've learned. And I, and I apply that one, 100%. I sometimes I get on a call and I said, are you sure you want to do this? It's you gotta be willing to grab the money and put it in the garbage bin. All right. Because marketing is, is an ever-growing landscape. It changes fast.

And I wish I could tell you that I will always succeed, but I don't always succeed. If you're coming into this game, we are both sacrificing. And  I'm putting myself on the line. You're putting yourself and we're going to add this. You have to be willing to shake my hand and say, okay, it didn't work out, and walk away.

If you're willing to do that sign. If not, let's walk away from each other.

Jason: [00:21:30] Yeah. I always love when people ask for the guarantee and I always tell them a couple of things. I go, well, I can guarantee you if you keep doing the same thing, the same way you're going to get the same results. But I can guarantee you I'll give you our best effort and that's all I can promise you.

And I like, you gotta be willing to throw in the garbage. I always felt uncomfortable because it is always, it's not a guarantee. Like if I'm working with someone that this is their last dollar, it's just too much pressure on me because then I start making decisions based on money and it's just too stressful.

And then you kind of, kind of screw it up. But you, you unpacked a lot of amazing things in there. You know, the other thing too, like. You know, when we were, I think you were speaking in New York when I was doing the same thing and I remember asking everybody there, I was like, how many of you agencies have a podcast?

And it was like 850 people in the room. And there was like 10. And I think you were one of them that raised the hand and it's like, we have a podcast. And you know, I look at the amount of value that people podcasting put out. Like even when I look at the numbers of our podcasts, we're filling a stadium every month, a stadium.

Just to let that sink in. Like, I keep like holy cow, that many people are listening?! And then like you were saying, then you have a waiting list or people they like and trust you. Now here's something I'm going to tell you, Manuel, how you can get the year contracts.

If you actually structure the deal where you have like a foot in the door, like some easy service to build trust, they go into a project, and then you'll see how, like, if you like working with them and then commit them to a 12-month deal.

It would change everything if you do that, we'll talk offline on that.

Manuel: [00:23:10] I could, I could probably steal that. I like your guarantee also. I will, I will probably steal that, Jason, and won't give you any credit.

Jason: [00:23:17] There you go. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Manuel: [00:23:22] I think that, um, one important question is. Uh, what does it really take to succeed as an agency owner? And that's a pretty deep question. And, because I, I believe Jason, therefore for every. I dunno if you have better numbers than me, but I have seen a lot more people fail at it than succeed. And when I look at the ones that have made it, that's the ones that succeeded.

They work aggressively on building a process and a system. And they were, uh, building a team around them that they can export their abilities to. If you stay too concentrated on you doing every single task yourself and not training your staff along the way, then you can't grow, you can't scale. So that's one thing.

What, what does it take? It's determination. It's uh, persistence it's working hard. You know, if you, if you wake up every day and you put the energy on it, and even though you fail and you stand up and you keep going, I mean, that's the way to go. Like eventually you will be able to breakthrough. It's not always pretty.

There's a lot of downs. There's some ups. And downs and that's all part of the game and its part of the business. But at this stage, you get to a point that you can experience freedom. And I have a lot more freedom. I have a lot more staff now and, they run the show. And at this point where I'm at right now, I'm the visionary.

I call them and I get them to execute a vision. And as simple as that, I'm not doing the micro details of my day-to-day operations, but it wasn't always like that. So it takes a lot of hard work. You know, every successful entrepreneur will tell you, but staying yourself on top of the game and pushing hard and, building a team around you and, uh, exporting your own abilities with training.

That's what it's all about.

Jason: [00:25:03] Yeah. I saw a stat. There was, I think somewhere at 9% of agencies survive six years.

Manuel: [00:25:10] Wow. 9%

Jason: [00:25:12] That people just go call it quits. And like you were saying, it's all about the systems that they put in place and making sure that they're communicating that vision and putting the right people in the right seat is everything.

So that's awesome. What's the agency website people can go and check out?

Manuel: [00:25:29] AGMagency.com. AGM stands for Attention Grabbing Media so you guys can check it out.

Jason: [00:25:35] Awesome. I love it. Everybody go check that out. And if you guys liked this episode and you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, that can show you their systems and be able to show you or see the things that you might not be able to see within your agency.

I want to invite you guys to go check out the DigitalAgencyElite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind where we have tons of fun. There is no egos in the door. These agency owners have all become my really close friends and have grown at a rapid pace because they've put in the right systems and they have a support network to help us through all the crying that we do as agency owners.

So go to DigitalAgencyElite.com and until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: Why_You_Need_to_Export_All_Your_Knowledge_to_Grow_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

Nick Norris is a former United States Navy SEAL, now the CEO and co-founder of Protekt Products. He is a graduate of both the United States Naval Academy and Basic Underwater Demolition / SEAL (BUD/S) Class 247. Upon completion of SEAL training in 2004, Nick assumed progressively higher positions of leadership within Naval Special Warfare. Nick is sharing how his leadership training in the SEALs can help entrepreneurs excel in business.

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3 Golden Nuggets

  1. We are only limited by our minds. Most of what stands in our way is head trash and it just takes a shift in mindset in order to push yourself and succeed.

  2. Have humility and be humble enough to know you're not the expert in all things. This gives you the insight necessary to put the right people in the right seats and trust them to do their job effectively in order to grow your business.
  3. Preparedness is the key to conquering stress. Training scenarios and mission planning are at the core of what Navy SEALs do so they aren't caught off-guard by any situation thrown at them. Entrepreneurs should tackle business the same way in order to be successful.

Sponsors and Resources

Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

Show Transcripts

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with him former Navy SEAL, Nick, who goes through how they would make decisions, how they apply that to the civilian world, how you can be a better leader and get out of stressful situations. It's a really amazing episode. I'm so honored to have Nick on the show and you guys are going to really love it.

Hey Nick, welcome to the show.

NIck: [00:00:29] Well, thank you for having me, Jason.

Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?

NIck: [00:00:35] Oh, my name is Nick Norris, I guess I would be known as a former SEAL by a lot of people, right? That's why I've connected with people, but I currently am an entrepreneur.

Uh, I have a company called Protekt Products and, and we are in the wellness space, producing supplements and sun care products. And our supplements are geared toward improving people's hydration and helping them sleep better.

Jason: [00:01:04] Awesome. Fantastic. Well, first off, thanks for your service, especially for all the people that I've ever served.

So thank you very much, but what made you decide to be a Navy SEAL?

NIck: [00:01:15] Uh, so I wanted to do something difficult, you know, when people ask me that question and I've thought a little bit about it now because the question comes up often, I always was looking for something that was personally challenging. I wasn't the most naturally talented person athletically growing up, I had to really work hard and I wanted to find something that I could apply myself to that required a tremendous amount of personal discipline and that commitment and personal discipline would be.

The thing that would drive success, not necessarily innate athletic ability or just innate talent. So I gravitated towards the SEAL teams because it was really difficult. I knew I could apply myself diligently in a disciplined way and get results. And that happened, I kind of fixated on it early in life or right around seventh grade.

When a friend of mine had told me about the community and how difficult it was to enter that community specifically. Did someone tell you if you can never do it, is that what pushed you to do it? So my, the initial friend, a guy named Mike Hurley, who's a police officer in Chicago. He's the one that brought it up to me.

He was a big fan of the Marine Corps. He wanted to be in the military and he mentioned the Seal teams and he was always super positive. But the second that I latched onto that concept and I was actually pretty vocal about it, you know, growing up seventh, eighth-grade high school. But I, I definitely had people close to me that told me.

Dude, you're crazy. There's no way you're going to do that. And if it added fuel to the fire, right, that's typically what happens, right. People that are very driven get told that they can't do something and then you want to prove them wrong and improve that you're capable of controlling your own destiny.

Jason: [00:03:02] Yeah. I remember, uh, I came back from college one time and my dad used to run all the time and we used to run this like one and a half-mile loop. And he was like, Hey, can you with me? I was like, yeah, I'll run with you. And literally, we passed right in the very beginning, we pass this old guy just walking.

And when we got back around this loop, my dad was way ahead of me. And I was so embarrassed. I remember walking by the old guy and the old guy was like, well, you better get them next time or something. And then. I saw something where people were doing this triathlon. And I told my dad, I said, I'm going to do a triathlon.

Or maybe I told him I was going to do an iron man or something. And, uh, and he was like, Oh, you can't do that. And literally it fueled me and I was like, I just finished under the cut.

NIck: [00:03:49] Yeah. Yeah, it's good. Right? That, that external motivation is, is motivation and powerful motivation on the left. Yeah.

Jason: [00:03:57] So I heard something, I guess you guys have, or maybe it's a rule it's like a 70/30 or something where you feel like your body's like completely shot, but you still have a ton to go. Is that true? Or is it there's a 70/30 rule?

NIck: [00:04:13] So I, I haven't heard of it specifically like that, but it definitely makes sense. I mean, generally speaking, we're limited by our mind, not by our body and you know, I, I've gone through a bunch of stuff in my personal life that has shown me that, I mean, growing up as an athlete and not being as talented as everybody else and knowing that I could dig deep and that my, you know, my mind wanted to tell me to stop.

And, and to keep going and then going into buds was another very pointed example of that, that whole program, you know, the SEALs, selection and training program, which is called BUD/S., Basic Underwater Demolition SEAL training is structured to break every single person down to a point where you are not physically capable of doing it on your own, and you're not physically capable of just crushing it the entire time.

It gets you to a point where you have to dig deeper, you have to face kind of those mental barriers and then draw, I passed them. And in doing so you find out that. You are capable of doing so much more than your mind is telling you you're capable or your body's capable of, uh, so much more than your mind thinks it is.

Jason: [00:05:32] I can only imagine that's gotta be a humbling experience because I would think obviously I was not in the military and it's a regret I've had, but I can only imagine. The people that go through BUD/S, they're probably at the top of their game, on the physical ability. And then just to be broken down and to have to depend on other people, I guess that's the whole design of it.

So that's, um, it's really pretty cool.

We had to, I mean, a huge amount of people that were tremendous athletes, I mean, very talented, like Olympic caliber athletes that faltered, when things got really tough. You know, and, and not necessarily the, on the physical side of things, but immersion in cold water is something that's a big part of our pipeline, our selection pipeline.

And, you know, there's really nothing you can do. It's like physically, yeah, you might be a bigger guy and you might be more insulated than, than the guy that's, you know, 130 pounds next to you. But both of you will get to a point where you're going to get cold. And that's where like you really have to dig deep.

I mean, that's where kind of that mental toughness and kind of that ability to kind of drive past discomfort and push yourself beyond where you think you can go, uh, comes in. So I saw guys that were tremendous athletes, you know, falter in that regard. And then I, you know, the counterpoint to that is I saw guys that you would have bet everything they would have failed because they just were not.

You know the most impressive physical specimens and they were the toughest guys that I went through training with and the polar opposite of what you would imagine a SEAL candidate to look like. You know, they were maybe 15, 20 pounds overweight, not athletic, you know, struggled in most of the physical evolutions, but could just crush it when things got extremely tough.

That's awesome. So let's talk about high pressure situations because obviously, running an agency is very different than being in the military and you guys have gone through a lot of high pressure situations, being a SEAL and a lot of agency and entrepreneurs that think they're in high pressure situations for their business.

And I've always found when there's emotion or a lot of stress, or I guess stress creates emotion, which emotion creates bad decisions. How did you guys learn how to deal with that and to get that under control in order to make the right decision?

NIck: [00:07:56] Yeah. I mean, so just dealing with stress, right? I mean, stress is stress regardless of where the origin of that stress is coming from, you know, whether it be high-risk financial decisions as an agency owner or an element leader in a SEAL platoon in combat.

I mean, you're still going to be exposed to stress and in our community, you know, we, we train a lot. We train significantly more than the time that we actually spend in direct combat operations. Um, I mean there's guys pre 9/11 that didn't really get to see any combat and spent 20, 30 years in training, basically preparing for that opportunity to excel in kind of the high-stress kind of game-day scenario.

And I would say that that extreme level of preparation or commitment to preparation, uh, becomes a stress inoculator. The training that I went through and I've referred to this example several times and it, and I will continue to refer to it. Jocko Willink, who is a very well-known SEAL owns Echelon Front, which is a consultancy here in the States.

Jocko was my sister troop commander. He also put me through training when I was a platoon commander and he was running our training detachment on the West coast. And I specifically remember multiple times during my training where I felt significantly more stress because I knew I was being critiqued by someone that I respect.

And I was being critiqued by my peers in that kind of a high-performance training scenario. I felt more stressed there than I did an actual combat operations. And I have memories of being in uh, direct engagement with the enemy, you know, receiving incoming enemy fire and making calls and making decisions on the battlefield and feeling more comfortable and more confident because of the training that high stakes, high level, high stress training that I went through.

So, you know, it's a testament to the fact that you know, preparation breeds inoculation distress. And will allow you to control those emotions that seem to overwhelm people that are ill-prepared.

Jason: [00:10:16] Yeah. Whenever I think about the points in my life, when was the most stressful, it was really, it came down to being prepared or not being prepared.

Like I just was like, ah, kind of wing it. I'll be good at that pitch. And then I would go in and be like, Holy cow, but then if I look at situations where I felt totally relaxed, it was, I've done this a thousand times. Like you were saying that repetition and I was just prepared and I was just like, No.

Now I can get on, like, I look at getting on stage because a lot of people fear getting on stage. And I remember when I ran the agency, I would get on stage and I would talk about stuff I really didn't know about just to get on stage.  But then now I get on stage and talking about, you know, running an agency I'm like, ask me anything.

Like, I feel totally prepared. Like there you can't throw me any curveballs. That is so true.

NIck: [00:11:09] There is no easy solution. Right? You got to put the work in, you have to be well-prepared and it was evident in every single thing that we did in the SEAL teams. You know, whether it was the training scenarios, uh, whether it was our mission planning and kind of the preparation prior to going out on an actual real-world operation, you know, we prepared diligently.

Uh, we exhausted every scenario that we possibly could think through in order to contingency plan, plan, and really try to have, have the answers before the tests. You know, we, we tried to go through everything and come up with theoretical problems and solutions and did it in a manner where everybody on the team understood what those scenarios could be and how we would potentially address them.

And 99% of the time, we never even had to address those contingencies on the actual operation. The operation, typically it would just be easy, right. But it's that 1% opportunity where something bad goes wrong and you have to deal with it. And if you know what you are going to do ahead of time, because you've already talked through it with your team.

Emotion doesn't even play into it. You go into autopilot and you just start addressing the issues and taking care of business.

Jason: [00:12:35] Other than just putting your team through repetition, repetition, and let's think about it on, on a business front, right? Because a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of leaders, you know, they hear that, you know, they hear you talking about them and they're like, well, it's a life-death situation.

Like they have to do it all. But a lot of business leaders and including me sometimes, and I'm actually going to think about the way I do it is like, we don't have time to plan for every single result. We'll just go. We'll react and then we'll react to however happens, which is probably the wrong way.

Cause if you told people like, Hey, your life depends on this. Don't you want to think of every result? Like what do you say to those people?

NIck: [00:13:17] Yeah, I mean, but I mean, even as a, as a business leader, you have the opportunity to put systems in place, right? I mean, you know, let's say on the sales front, you know, you can put together your targets, you can talk about how you approach those targets, the way that you're going to pitch certain people.

Cause it's different. Every single time you're going to bring different people on your team to certain pitches because they're going to be received better by certain demographics that you're pitching to. And. You can plan all of that stuff. And it's not a waste of time and energy to do that. I mean, you're going to know your team better by doing that by digging in and understanding what strengths each and every person on your team has.

You're going to be able to tap into those strengths easier. Uh, more fluidly and be able to apply those strengths from your team appropriately in the right pitches. And then, you know, the, the actual pitch itself, it becomes pretty robotic and pretty structured. You know, it's not like there's a tremendous amount of variance in kind of pitching to a new client.

You can really lay that stuff out well, and, and even, you know, you should be practicing that you should huddle as a team. You should have people practicing their pitch, the way that they converse with you as the way they converse with the client. So, you know, I know people may say, yeah, you know, we, we just read and react and, uh, and we don't have the time to do this, but I don't think you have time not to do that because if you get in front of somebody, That's a decision-maker.

I mean, that's life and death, financially. I mean, people will downplay it and say, Oh yeah, well you're in combat. Yeah. It is life and death. Yeah. True. You know, you're not going to die in a pitch if you lose, but you know, if you lose a big pitch and you're in financial dire straits, I can say this. I said this before we started our call, I would be more stressed.

And I probably would allow that to impact me more emotionally if I was in a situation where I, I felt out of control and  I lost my financial security and I couldn't take care of my family. That still produces an extremely high level of stress. So I think it all, it's all relative.

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Jason: [00:15:29] Yeah, I totally agree.

And I remember one time we, we over-prepared for this one pitch going in and I remember just going in there, like yeah, we'll decide with you. I'm like, but I was thinking in my mind, we were so prepared. You need to ask us this question so we can like it. Wasn't waiting for time. It wasn't wasted. We made us that much better for the next pitch, the next campaign, the next, you know, initiative that we needed to do.

Let's change, focus a little bit around building your team and being a good leader. How did you guys select who you wanted on your team and really kind of get them to the next level where everybody was in sync, because it's the same within business. Like you have to get the right people in the right seat, all that believe in that certain vision or mission ahead of you.

NIck: [00:16:17] Well, so in the SEAL team, it's actually easier because we all go through the same selection process. For the most part, you get a tremendous product. On the backend of that selection process, and you get sent to a SEAL team and you get put into a platoon and there's really, you don't want people in the, in the background picking these people out, like handpicking them, you just get a bunch of SEALs.

You get like you get a rough cut SEAL that has made it through the same selection process that every other SEAL has made it through. So you know what you have to start with. So as a leader, you know, that's easier for me, you know, I think it's actually the leadership in the SEAL teams was easy because of that, you know, as opposed to being in the civilian world where you don't necessarily get that high-level selection process, you know, you get to interview somebody, maybe put them on as an intern and get to see them perform for a period of time, but you don't get to vet them for a year, a year and a half.

And, uh, for us, the leadership really. I mean, leadership is always important, but it became critically important in the way that you grew your people, you leverage their strengths and their weaknesses, and you slotted them into the right role with the right responsibilities as part of that team. So. I didn't have a choice as to who I got, but I did have a choice as to where I put those people on my team.

Jason: [00:17:48] Man, maybe I need to create BUD/S for agency employees.

NIck: [00:17:54] Put them through like a six-month just grinder and just like every like high stress all day. But, but you know what, from a leadership standpoint, to give you more of a granular answer, you know, we trust and respect are two big things. As far as leadership is concerned, successful leadership in the, in any team and also humility as a leader. So being humble enough to know that you don't have all the answers. And even if you're in a position of leadership where you are accountable, you still. Should never say I need to be the end all be all.

I need to know everything. I mean, it's great. You should tap in and try to learn as much as you can, but be humble enough to know that you're not the expert. You got people on your team that are absolute experts in the role that they're there to execute. And in the SEAL teams, you know, we had people that breached doors, we had people that were snipers.

We had people that were communicators. We had people that conducted all of our medical training and, and cared for our unit from a medical standpoint. And, you know, as a leader, I wanted to know the capabilities that each of those people brought to the team, but they were the expert and I needed to be trusting enough.

And confident enough in their ability to perform and to be experts in their field to allow them to do their job effectively, let them lead in their own right in their lane. And then be able to apply those strengths at the appropriate times in order to put together a successful operation.

Jason: [00:19:31] Yeah. I think the perception too, and I learned this the hard way, and I guess a lot of people listening, you know, they think of Navy SEALs, all alphas, right.

And you probably alphas in your own realm, but I think you mentioned the keyword humility and being humble to know that they don't know everything because I remember. I was looking for this graphic designer many years ago. And I remember coming across, they were the most amazing designer I've ever, ever seen on this one particular thing, but they were the cockiest son of a bitch I've ever met.

And I was like, I cannot put this poison in this company, even though they're the best. They're not the best for the team, you know, going forward. Now I heard a story. Now this is not around me, but I want to understand how you guys make decisions as a team. As well, as, as a leader, I was listening to a podcast and Scott Kelly on the, you know, the astronauts lived in space for a year.

And I think they had some problems with the heat shield and NASA was like, Hey, you know, it's your decision. And he said, I could have asked everyone in a group setting, you know, what do you guys think we should do? Should we go out and do a spacewalk fix it? Or should we just, which could actually damage it more?

Or should we just come down? And he said, he goes, we actually, um, I went to everyone individually and asked them rather than having committee make the decision. What were kind of like your decision process when you were leading your team?

NIck: [00:20:58] So I'll refer back to kinda my Afghan deployment, my last active duty deployment as a SEAL, you know, I went into a platoon that had some leadership issues.

And I was replacing a, another officer that had been removed from the platoon. So kind of a broken scenario, a lot of distrust, a lot of, uh, internal conflict. And I was showing up from a different theater. I came from Iraq and I was going into Afghanistan and. What I did initially just sit back and listen.

I mean, I think it's important when you have the time when you're not in the high-stress scenario is get to know the people that are in your team. Listen to them. Don't just talk, right? The more you can shut your mouth and listen, you learn a tremendous amount. And what I learned in listening is who are the trusted experts, who are the people that really have a finger on the pulse and know how other people in the team are feeling.

And, you know, I, I was able to gauge the level of credibility of each individual that I listened to. And by doing that, I basically formed. This, uh, abstract advisory board within my team where when things were, I guess, getting more high pressure and we needed to make some serious decisions and decisions that were going to be high stakes, you know, we're going into a dangerous area, or we were going to do a certain type of operation.

I could always go back and I could talk to some of these critical leaders within my element. Because I've already vetted them. And I knew who I could go to, uh, who was credible and who was capable of giving me sound advice. And I think in doing that, I was able to confidently make decisions because ultimately as the leader, the top person in a unit, I'm accountable for the decision.

So as much as I want to take the advice of everybody else and the council. When it comes down to it, I need to be confident in making the decision. And I gotta be the one that falls on the sword, if things go wrong, uh, because I'm definitely the one that's getting the credit when things go right. You know, so I need to be willing to accept that level of accountability and stand on my own two feet.

Jason: [00:23:17] What were some of the questions that you would ask when you were coming in in order to get them? Just because a lot of times I would think, you know, as a leader comes into an organization that has a little, little fun going on, some people are going to be a little standoffish or be like, what are you going to do for me? What were some of the questions that kind of disarmed that?

NIck: [00:23:38] Well, I think empowering people, right? So like giving people the opportunity to say, Hey, like what have you seen go, right? What have you seen go wrong? What are things that you would  change or what changes would you enact? Uh, if you were given the opportunity to do that, and then not just kind of hypothetically talking about it, but actually empowering people and letting them make decisions. As the leader, you don't always have to be the one that's making kind of you're accountable for the final call, but you don't have to be the one that makes that final call.

There was a lot of the times that I mean, I say typically our mission planning process was allowing each individual kind of unit or element within the bigger element to actually run the planning process and make decisions as to where they're going to place themselves, how they're going to execute a micro portion of the plan.

And they actually go through brief that. And they would brief all the contingencies associated with that micro portion of the bigger plan. So in essence, I'm allowing them, I'm empowering them as leaders in their own right. To make decisions, to build confidence. So they already are like, Hey, you know what?

I'm not only the leader. Isn't, uh, you know, the, the high-level leader, isn't just asking me for my opinion, that leader is actually allowing me to make decisions and trust me to make decisions that he's cool with, he's ready to execute on. So I think that's important. It's like, don't just be talk, don't just be kind of, don't give people the warm and fuzzy actually trust people, show that you are confident in their ability to make decisions and execute on things.

Jason: [00:25:17] Yeah. I love that. What was the major decision for really kind of leaving the SEALs and going kind of the corporate, the civilian route.

NIck: [00:25:29] Uh, so, so I have a bit of an unconventional transition, I guess I came off my last deployment and I think two things for me happened that really changed the dynamic as a SEAL officer.

I knew that I was 100% committed to my job to be in a combat leader, leading men well in combat and making sure that I make sound decisions that are going to put them first and bring them home safe. And. My wife got pregnant with our first child, our daughter. And that was, it was a big deal. And not necessarily the.

The linchpin catalyst that led to my decision to leave, but it definitely weighed in. And the second major event in my life was my younger brother. My middle brother, Chris was killed in an inbounds avalanche in Winter Park, Colorado. So my little brother left behind a wife and two young kids. And, you know, they were the first ones to know that my wife was pregnant with our first.

And it really was a perspective shift for me. You know, I got to see what my brother's family went through in losing him and knowing that I was about to become a father, you know, it was much easier for me to visualize the very real possibility of, of me. You know, being killed or just frankly being taken from my family for long periods of time and training, um, with the, the level of commitment that I owed to the SEAL team.

So it was a perspective shift there that led to me saying, okay, I'm going to get out. I want to focus on my family. I want to be there for my family and other loved ones in my life. And at that point I said, I, you know, I wanted to reinvent myself. I wanted to prove people wrong. I wanted to prove that I could do something besides being a combat leader.

I wanted to prove that I could actually be successful in a career outside of the military with direct kind of gun toting skills that I was coming to the table with.

Jason: [00:27:39] I totally get that. You know, I, I used to race cars and, you know, I started seeing some of our, our friends that I would know would get injured.

And I was just, you know, right when I had my second son, I was like, I was like you, I was like, if I get hurt, I get hurt, but it's going to affect my family going forward. And so that's kind of why I kind of hung up the race suit.

NIck: [00:28:01] It's always a good exercise to step back and kind of evaluate your priorities at any point in life.

And I think the more frequent you can do that exercise the better off you are, because it makes sure that you're staying on track. Right? I mean, if you don't do that exercise. From time to time, you're going to slowly but surely deviate from course to a point where if too much time elapses, you know, you may find yourself in a pretty bad place.

And, uh, You know, and I, I wouldn't say I am immune to that because I have, I have spoke very openly and very freely about my own personal struggles and kind of losing course post-transition and it kind of losing focus on the priorities that led me to transitioning from the SEAL teams in the first.

Jason: [00:28:51] No, that's great. Last question I forgot to ask was around, have you ever had to replace a teammate?

NIck: [00:28:58] Well, so yeah, I mean, in my, on that last. Deployment to Afghanistan. I replaced a teammate that was removed relinquished from a leadership role over in Afghanistan. And that was the biggest learning experience for me as a leader, to be able to step into a broken scenario and have to figure it out, right.

Have to win people over that don't necessarily know you very well. And, and kind of when that confidence and that trust, you know, in a short period of time. Well, when you came into that environment though, was there anybody that you had to replace, you know, going in or make that hard decision to be like that person on the team is not the right fit?

Yeah. So let me think about it. I, so in that scenario, I was not the one that had to pull the trigger and, and replace that person. We did replace, uh, people in previous platoons and it's never easy. Right? I mean, it's you know, I think the things that we did, right, and we often did this because it was protocol in the SEAL teams is we brought the issue up early and often it was never a surprise for the person.

If it was a surprise, it actually tied our hands in our ability to remove that individual from a position, regardless of whether it's a leadership position, a high level leadership position, or just a, a position within a, uh, a SEAL platoon, you know, we, we executed counseling multiple times and everything was recorded.

And the person was very clear as to what our expectations were, where they were falling short, because if you don't give people clear expectations and you don't give them defined objectives for them to hit that, our metrics of their performance, how can you hold them accountable? How can you -- I think you are failing as a leader if you're not clear and you're not giving them those well-defined objectives.

You know, you should be looking at replacing yourself or counseling yourself if you're not doing that. So if ever if you're pulling somebody into your, office to tell them that you're going to let them go, and that person is surprised or has his hearing those things for the first time, it's absolutely the wrong way to approach that scenario.

Jason: [00:31:11] Yeah, looking back, I've done that so many times in the very early years and I'm like, man, why did I have to surprise them? Like if I just kind of let them know my expectation, the whole way and kind of just seed it the right way, it could have turned out totally different.

NIck: [00:31:27] Yeah. It's always tough. Right? To be direct.

Communication is scary for a lot of people. People don't like confrontation in the outside world. It's difficult to sit face to face with somebody. And tell somebody that they're failing at something, you know, or that, you know, you're disappointed in them. It's easy to tell them when they're, you know, they're... hey there, you're doing a great job and you're exceeded expectations, but people just, they shy away from confrontation and conflict.

And, you know, I've noticed, and I've learned this myself because it's tougher on the outside because I, I am dealing with people that I did not. Have go through a selection process, right? So, you know, sometimes I'm bringing people in and I think they're going to be the best person ever to fill that role.

And three months later, I'm finding out that they are inadequate, you know, might not have had the skillset that they, they came into it saying they did. And they might even have personality traits that are cancerous within the unit. And, direct communication. The times that I've been direct and very clear with my expectations and kind of clear in their critique of their execution in their role, it's been so much easier than those times where I've shied away from it and they don't know, they can't read your mind.

They don't hear the conversations that you're having with your business partners about how you're disappointed in somebody. And it's like, you got to tell people, or they're never going to be able to fix it.

Jason: [00:32:57] Well, I think as, as leaders, if I think back at kind of the early years, I think it was, comes down to a couple, I think two things it's comes down to, you don't know the solution that they actually need to go do to fix it.

Or you feel like a, a bad leader because you don't know the solution for them. And then just this resentment builds up and then it just pops one day and then you surprise them and then it's just, it's not good for anyone. So it's yeah. It's crazy. Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the listeners?

Oh, I mean, I, it's tough. There's so much to talk about. I mean, we could, we could talk leadership and, uh, in various scenarios all day long, so I'm happy to do it anytime, brother.

Awesome. I appreciate it. If anybody ever wants to reach out to you or go to your business or charity, where can they go?

NIck: [00:33:51] Yeah. I mean, so for me personally, I'm on Instagram, pretty easy to find there.

I think I'm @Nick_Norris1981, and my business is protekt.com protect with a K. And we're @protektlife on Instagram. And then for the charity, I would say the C4 Foundation. It's a charity that I am intimately involved with. I am currently filling the executive director role in combination with my, my efforts as an entrepreneur.

And, uh, so I have a little bit going on, but a C4 foundation was named after Charles Humphrey Keating IV. Who was a friend of mine that was killed in combat in the SEAL teams, uh, about four years ago in Northern Iraq. And, the foundation is building a 560-acre ranch about an hour and a half outside of San Diego in order to be a sanctuary for Navy SEAL families to kind of grow connection within their individual family unit.

And grow connection amongst kind of other families to kind of build that organic support mechanism for guys and, and their families as they go through their deployments on active duty. And then when they finally leave active duty, they have people that they can lean on. So C4foundation.org is a phenomenal organization that I'm involved with.

And, uh, if you want to check it out, there's some really cool videos on the website.

Jason: [00:35:19] Awesome. Well, everybody go there. If you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to support the great cause that they do, please go there. That'd be great. Thanks Nick. For everything that you've done and you're doing currently and giving us your most valuable asset your time. And if you guys liked this episode, make sure you guys subscribe.

Make sure you guys give it a good rating. And until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: Digital_Agency_Leadership_Lessons_from_a_Navy_SEAL.mp3
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Iris Shoor is the founder and CEO of Oribi, a web analytics tool. After two successful startups, she is growing her third startup. Oribi, an AI-based web analytics tool dedicated to making analytics easy for everyone, without the help from analysts and developers. (And, no code needed!) Iris is passionate about simple products, creative marketing, great UX, building a unique culture, and most of all—people. She's on the show talking about how she helps her team aspire to reach their goals with personal development. She also shares how your digital agency can show clients success on their funnels and campaigns by using a new analytics tool.

 

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3 Golden Nuggets

  1. The best way to inspire your team is by understanding their personal needs for professional development. Understand their career goals and meet them there to encourage growth. Perks like free food and amenities are nice, ultimately not what retains really great team members.
  2.  Clients don't benefit from reports on their funnels and campaigns. They need to understand where the customers are coming from and why. This helps your clients
  3. It's important to set goals with your clients for what success looks like, then measure and benchmark results throughout so clients understand the value you're bringing to the table.

Sponsors and Resources

Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency

Show Transcripts

Jason: [00:00:00] On this episode, I talk with an amazing entrepreneur that's in her third business. She's a rockstar. She talks about personal development of your employees, how to keep them. But most importantly, we talk about how to prove your value. To your clients, so you can actually charge more. I think all of us need to do that. We're always constantly wondering how do we prove our value to our clients? Well, this is the episode for you and it will prove your worth. Hey, Iris. Welcome to the show.

Iris: [00:00:40] Hey Jason.

Jason: [00:00:41] I'm excited to have you on and, so tell us who you are and what do you do? Iris:: [00:00:46] Okay. So I'm CEO for Oribi. I'm a serial entrepreneur. This is my third startup for the other two companies that have been leading the product and marketing. Um, I love marketing and I was always amazed that with how difficult it is to measure marketing. And that's why I started the Oribi and we raised 27 million dollars today. And worked with thousands of customers around the world. And we were doing marketing under the tech set, hopefully, better than other tools.

Jason: [00:01:19] Oh, it's awesome. Yeah. Definitely check out the tool and it was very cool. But before we get into the tool, I wanted to ask you because a lot of agency owners, obviously everyone listening, we're hiring people, we're always hiring people. And I read a blog post that you had on your blog. And I was like, Oh, that's interesting. Tell us a little bit about, you know, just giving people pizza and feeding them is not really what will keep them.

Iris: [00:01:43] Yeah. I feel it's something like I find that baby ironic about this is that we want to hire the best people, the smartest vehicles, the most innovative people and treat them like a small children. And you need to be very cautious with them and you need to give them beer and pizza. And do you want the smartest people? And they usually want to, to lead interesting innovations, they want to grow. They want to learn new things. And for some reason, most of the work environment are mostly about just conquering people and their employees. And it's something that you really trying to do at Oribi, is to focus more on the personal development and giving them more independence. And. The way I see my role as a manager is to really let people shine. And to find their unique voice and to help them do it rather than having like lots of Ben and Jerry's and the kitchen. So, yeah, that's how I see it.

Jason: [00:02:48] Yeah. For many years, you know, I thought it was like, Hey, you know, we'll, we'll, we'll bring in lines, you know, like the Googles of the world, right? Like, especially that one movie of the internship with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson right there, like I can have five bananas it's free. And I think. That will draw in the wrong people. Sometimes it won't keep them.

Iris: [00:03:10] Yeah. Also we can like, um, it's all standard. So it's not that you have like a free pizza and ice cream and everybody will stay because of it. So, yeah, I agree with like, we have nice food over here, but this is not the main thing that we do. And they see that people are looking for something more personal and more deep.

Jason: [00:03:32] Yup. Let's talk about a little bit about personal development, right? Since we're on the topic of keeping our employees, right? Like we're attracting the right ones. How do you guys help out with personal development? Because I feel, you know, when people come in, if you're just expecting them just to do their job, right. They're going to be like, okay, like, they're going to be excited for a little while. Like I remember when I sold my agency, I was very motivated. To help out with the new company. And then when the dream squashers came in and started, you know, squashing our dreams, I started getting de-motivated and I was an, A- player. And I literally went to like an F- player. I'm like, you know, you better sell this company or I'm going to be the worst employee ever. And I find a lot of people are like that. So what's some things that you can help out employees with on personal development?

Iris: [00:04:24] Yeah. So, so that's a very interesting question. It seems like for me, the main thing that I benefit from being a certain type of entrepreneur and going fast was a rollercoaster every day is that I feel that it really challenged me with, learning new stuff all the time, inventing staff being creative, and they really feel that a huge part of my personal development is, me being forced to learning, uh, sales and marketing and different types of marketing and then managing and firing people. And I really wanted to give this experience to my employees. So instead of thinking of it as a funnel for rollercoaster also, it's something that they can step up using this platform. And an interesting story is that when it started at Oribi a few years ago, we actually had the budget for each employee for personal development. And I asked each one of them, what do you want to work on? If it's like a writing, public speaking, learning how to design. And then I have a list of like 50 things that they want to learn. And I was amazed to see that like half of their flow is new, what they want to work on, but we didn't have a clue. So they said, okay, so as a developer and not interested in public speaking or writing or anything else. So funny that they did learn is that most people don't really understand what they want to work on, but they do want the encouragement and the platform. When something arrives to, to really go in-depth . So tell me to do this change, how this program and receive the results have been really worked out well. And today it's more about working with employees on their personal challenges. Yes. Within the professional environment, what do they find challenging? How do they want to work on it? And sometimes we, we do help with them with top coaching. Is there internal or external? And, but the main thing is just about seeing them. Like for me, it's about things that unique voice of each one of the employees, and really try to encourage them to speak in this voice rather than being part of the company and where we are within the same box.

Jason: [00:06:34] Awesome. Great. Let's kind of change, focus. And let's talk about, because I know a lot of agencies because I chat with them all day long. A lot of times they have a hard time showing their clients results. And I think that's, if you look at it like a stoplight, that's a red light. That's something that you really need to work on because if you can't show your clients results, then they don't know the value, which means you're going to lose them. And you're just literally trying to hold onto them rather than going. This is what's working. This is not what's working. So talk to me a little bit about how did you come up with the current company now of really making it very easy for agencies to see what's currently working. Like, you know, when I was going through the tool and going through the funnel, I was like, that's pretty cool. Like, I could literally go, hey, here's the starting page and here's the page I want them to get to. What's my percentage and all that. So talk a little bit about that.

Iris: [00:07:34] Yeah. So, yeah, I do agree. This is like the main challenge. So today about 30% of our customers are agencies and probably most of the other 70% of the customers are working with agencies. So we hear those from agencies that they're unable to communicate their amazing work to the customers. And we also hear a lot from customers of agencies. If they're, they don't trust the agency, they don't really understand what they're doing and in my opinion, the main, the main challenge is how big can the agency go ? Cause something that happens a lot is agencies want to deliver the best results, but in many cases, they really stay up the funnel. So they drive traffic or they drive sign-ups and they're sure they're doing like amazing work. That's e-commerce show up or the companies that don't see an increase in sales. And the immediate result is a distrust. And they don't understand what they're doing. And they said it's the key thing for, for both parties to work well together, to understand which results they're measuring. And in most cases, it will be the sales-qualified leads. And in most cases, it's not very easy to track it. So the dimension that we're doing it really different things than other tools. It's creating a very simple solution. For defining all the different events. So instead of using code, you can easily understand what is the qualifying lead, how many people requested a demo? How many of them paid later? How many of them churn? How many of those approaches, which product, how many of them returned? And they say that once the agency can then create a high-level picture and can go into the entire funnel, the entire flow, understand all the different metrics. The communication is much better. They can understand what's working well. Does there, like an example I can give you is like two years ago where I was working with an agency and they manage my Facebook ads, I've been on maternity leave. So I haven't used the results for like months. And they told me it's doing amazingly well. They managed to reduce the cost by 50%. Then I entered the numbers and I saw that the sign-ups are actually. The cost per signup is much lower but that, hardly no one converts and it's so that they use like ads of like kittens. Everybody clicks sign up it very simple, but nobody really converted. And if they could have seen like the entire funnel easily to understand what's converting, who isn't, and compare it with other time periods, they would have been able to understand what they're doing wrong. So it's mostly about creating like a very solid ground for communication and for seeing all the important KPIs.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Jason: [00:10:23] Yeah. I totally agree with you. It's you know, if I was an agency right now, You know, a lot of times you need to test out the waters with your prospects. And I remember this and I see this all the time. I would take on the wrong clients and the client would tell me one thing. They'd be like, oh, we're driving, you know, this much traffic and we're converting at this. Like, we can get them to this page. They're going to convert. And if it was me, what I would do now, And I guess you can sort of do it through Google tag manager, but that's very, it's kind of like, you have to be a mad scientist. I feel like they'll make that work. Uh, like I don't understand. I'm like, wow. Like I throw up in my hands, but I haven't been in the weeds in a while, but like, if you could set up the tracking and the measuring ahead of time and you do like a test project with the client, like don't even do anything other than just set up analytic tracking and the dashboard and then go back to them and go, here's our recommendation based on the past 30 days, then I think you could blow your competition out of the water. You both probably have a lot happier clients, because you're only taking on the right ones rather than taking on the living, breathing ones for now. Right. There'll be dead later.

Iris: [00:11:44] Yeah, definitely. So yeah, I really like setting up the goals and mutual goals is super important and how to measure them. And now to see that they feel that it's doing this injustice for both parties is attribution and which became much more challenging from one year to another. And then in many cases like the agency and things, they're doing amazing work, how are they in the conversions, the agencies, so that, okay, everybody we're exposed to your brand from Facebook ads and, that they both met her via direct as a company says that the hard content in convert and coming from Facebook ads over here as well, I've seen that, um, there's many companies or agencies. They try to really like try to attribute to every single conversion it's really, really hard today. So, and when you facing the numbers coming from Facebook and Google, it's becoming even more challenging. So it's more about understanding the trends. If you're doing like a massive change, even if you can attribute everything, you can see how impacted, if you're working with different channels, you can understand the correlation between them.

Jason: [00:12:56] Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about like, when someone can dive deeper into the analytics and amazes me too, or maybe it's just because it's been complex up until this point with really. Kind of diving into the analytics, like why do you feel that more agencies don't really dive into that to really understand it, to deliver the best value? Because I truly believe that people want to deliver their best stuff, but sometimes they just, they don't.

Iris: [00:13:26] Yeah, I think it's mainly because it's a, it's a lot of work.. And as I told you before, like the, the main goal for me with Oribi is to help companies answer is the very trivial questions in a simple way. So it always amaze me that I try to answer questions, like where do my best customers come from and how is campaigns really doing. So the other, like exactly the same question that every company asks and today it's still lots of work. So you need developers to define events and every time it changed the website, you need to change it into maintaining and, um, So I seen it today. It's mostly about if the process is pretty complex, we need developers, as it takes time. I don't believe it's because people don't want to see the full picture or the people don't want to be data-driven. I say that today, something that we really see that even marketers, that they're not really into numbers and they love writing content and be more on the creative side, they really want to understand what is the impact of the work and to measure it and to understand what to do home.

Jason: [00:14:38] So tell us a little bit more about why people need to check this tool out? Cause I checked it out. It was really pretty amazing. I was like, Oh, I didn't know I needed to change this and that. And it gave me some insights that weren't available to me before.

Iris: [00:14:55] Yeah. So today, I guess it's most of the listeners are using Google analytics. It's always fascinated me that with Google analytics, we choose the market and there are other like very high end tools, that are very, very extensive require local integrations. And you can find some tools that are more around like max or just like landing pages, but there isn't like a good solution for marketing. And what they're doing at Oribi is creating marketing analytics that doesn't require developers, so he can define all the events without using code. You can do it yourself. You can get to more interesting events that we can create different rules for different rules, and then you can easily create finance and correlations and to analyze a user behavior and to do everything yourself, it's very simple. And also to export this data, to Facebook ads or to Google ads and to email automation, so you can create better audiences. And yeah, our main goal is to really give the power to the marketing team. And two they're very dependent on developers. If you're a part of a small company, usually we don't have developers. If you're part of a larger company, usually you need to wait like two months until they have time to, and the new event or, or change something. And is it for me, like the inspiration or company, like Shopify for where you can build your own e-commerce store, to change it, and to do the same for, analytics.

Jason: [00:16:32] Awesome. Is there a special offer that you have for our audience listening in if they want to check you guys out, which I highly recommend everyone go do.

Iris: [00:16:41] Yeah, definitely. So can enter Oribi.io then sign up for the free trial. The installation is super simple. If you're using like Wordpress or Shopify, it's just plug-in. If not, you can edit scripts, you can enjoy a free trial. When you decide to purchase Oribi, you can enjoy a 20% off discount for the first three months. And just write us on chat or email that you arrived via this podcast, and we'll be happy to provide a discount.

Jason: [00:17:08] Awesome. Well, great. Well, everyone go check that out. Iris, is there anything I did not ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Iris: [00:17:15] I would say that something that I find pretty amazing is that most people will put tons of time in creating like the best content and videos and a stunning website. And we'll hardly measure it.. So I think there is much to do with like funnel optimization and website optimization. Okay. And let's say for example, that you invest a lot in writing content for SEO and getting direct traffic, and you probably can find out with two weeks of fare, changing the website, making some AB tests and changing the messaging and the call to action. You will be able to increase the conversion rate by 70%, by 50%. So I would say that most people's they're really into the content itself and the efforts themselves. And don't put enough time in optimizing the funnel, like the conversion. So there are a lot of low-hanging fruits over there and lots of opportunities to get you to great results.

Jason: [00:18:19] Awesome. Well, Iris, thanks so much for coming on the show and everybody listening. If you guys want to check out Oribi, go to Oribi.io and check it out, do the free trial. And then, uh, if you guys want to take it on, uh, even more, make sure you reach out to them and say, Hey, I heard of you guys from the Smart Agency Master Class, and they'll give you 20% off for the first three months. And, uh, until next time have a Swenk day. Thanks, Iris. Thank you.

Direct download: How_to_Retain_Agency_Clients_By_Showing_Them_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00pm EST

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