Wed, 28 July 2021
Vasa Martinez is the founder and CEO of Growthbuster, a remote marketing agency that has helped food and beverage brands reach new heights with community, creative, and innovation. After years of CPG experience working with many brands, Vasa started building his own company focused on the outsourced marketing department. Today he joins us to talk about his experience with brands, how he positioned his agency as the solution clients need, and why you need to follow your north star.
3 Golden Nuggets
Follow Your North Star and Position Your Agency as a Solution
Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? Jason Swenk here, and I'm excited to have another really good episode, a really amazing guest. He's going to talk about how did they position their agency as an outside marketing solution for companies coming in.
So let's go ahead and jump into the show.
All right, Vasa. What's going on, man?
Vasa: [00:00:25] What's up. What's up? How are you?
Jason: [00:00:27] I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?
Vasa: [00:00:30] My name it's Vasa Martinez. I'm the founder and CEO of Growthbuster, an outsourced marketing department. I'm also the CMO of Outer Aisle, which is a food brand that creates cauliflower sandwiches and pizza crust.
Jason: [00:00:43] Very cool. And so with the agency, how'd you get your start? Why did you guys jump into this world?
Vasa: [00:00:48] Well, I found that I had some ideas that I wanted to see brought to life, and working as an employee wasn't the best way to do that. So in the back half of 2017, I started consulting rather than being a full-time employee.
And that turns into, uh, you know. At the beginning of 2018, I incorporated what became Growthbuster and started building from there.
Jason: [00:01:06] Awesome. And talk about kind of, why did you choose to kind of position? Or why are you guys going after the outsource marketing department?
Vasa: [00:01:17] For me, it's, it's nice to have a group of specialists and a group of generalists all on the same team when we work with different brands.
I’m typically running point on, on the account. So we never pass it off to an account manager that's just out of college or anything like that. So having that team behind you, that support, is the most helpful. You know, having the graphic designer or having, you know, an email marketer or a copywriter, uh, rather than just focusing on being a paid agency or a social media marketing agency.
It just wasn't enough for me and part of it was, you know, I treat GB as a CPG company. We work mostly with CPG companies, food and beverage, and I was listening to a lot of our potential clients, what they wanted. And wherever we could, we solely tacked on, you know, those, those resources.
Jason: [00:02:00] So, how do you position yourself different than all the other agencies out there?
Vasa: [00:02:04] Well, I don't really look at too many other agencies, to be honest. I, I focus on what we do and what we do best. Um, you know what my background is at Quest Nutrition and creative and community was one of our main focuses in the marketing department. We also, you know, as my first stint in marketing, I left a previous industry. Really enjoyed it, and we had our own creative department as well.
So we never worked with any agencies. So I've kind of learned like the project management systems, you know, all the copywriting, everything as a generalist at first. And I went into content marketing for one of the arms. That's kind of why we went in that direction, is simply because it's what I started with. It was nice to have and I love it.
Jason: [00:02:40] Very cool. And so what are some things that really you guys do really well that you've figured out over the past couple of years of running the agency?
Vasa: [00:02:50] So we've always been known for our creative. Uh, we work with a couple awesome brands like Magic Spoon.
In the past, we've worked with just some of the coolest CPG challenger brands out there. So we're definitely known for our creative. But early on we used to be known for how quickly we can escalate social growth. We don't buy followers, we don't use bots. We don't do anything shady like that. So we would literally have bets with new clients that we would double their social within the first four months, one month onboarding three-month execution.
And we won a lot of bets that way. Since then, you know, everything's always changing on IG and Facebook. So we've really made adjustments and evolved along the way. So, um, back then, community and creative, 100% we were known for, we still are, but since the pandemic, we really dove into our innovation department.
What that is, is basically acquisition and retention with an emphasis on SMS.
Jason: [00:03:37] So when you would go to your clients and you would bet them, hey, we can double this. What were some of the things that you did that would help get more engagement, double their, you know, numbers and all that?
Vasa: [00:03:50] I can think of one good example. And we're still currently with them three years later and that's Outer Aisle. They have 18,000 followers when we first started and 93% of them were in Rio de Janeiro. Interesting part there, is that Outer Aisle doesn’t ship to Rio de Janeiro. And we really had to displace those followers that cannot be buyers and bring in a lot of folks who could be buyers.
So what we did was run our playbook on the content marketing, identifying what the RTBs are, our reasons to believe. For Outer Aisle that’s low-carb, gluten-free, grain-free bread that's delicious. And easy. So, and it's virtually of pretty much anything.
So the goal of ours was trial. Our influencer funnel, we work on just constant trial. We call it targeted trial. And from there, we bring them down the funnel to five different ways to win. That's, you know, sentiment. What do they think about the product? They hate it. Hey, thanks. We'll see you later. They love it. Well, what else can we do together? Can we send you more? Um, do you want to be an affiliate? You want to be activated for our next paid campaign and retail rollout? Uh, do you want to be an ambassador?
Things like that. So the trial, like product in mouth, was 100% a main focus for us. Um, really honing in on what the messaging was at that time. It was a little bit different. We did a rebrand in 2019 and the messaging at that point, was always focused on low carb, grain-free gluten-free. That's what people care about.
And we focus our influencer efforts there. People started seeing it. We started attracting the social proof using that on the back end, using that in ads.
The other component of that was, um, brand partnerships. We worked with a lot of different low carb keto brands, grain-free brands. And what we did was by, I think it was, was actually like two months that we doubled out their following from 18 to 36K. And when we looked at the displacement where the original was 93%. It was now closer to 40, 50%. And at this point today it's 93% US for the 142,000 followers.
Jason: [00:05:38] Oh, wow. Yeah. You know, not too long ago or maybe, maybe this? I don't know. I keep losing track of time.
Two years ago, I had Facebook reach out and was like, hey, we're reaching out to influencers in this space that we want to grow your account. I was like, sure, you can grow it. And the next thing I knew, I had like 40,000 more whatever likes on Facebook. And then I started looking at the names and I'm like, what is going on?
It was all like, I couldn't even pronounce the names and I couldn't believe Facebook would do something like that. And so, yeah, that kind of perked me. I really like your, your strategy of how, uh, how you've grown it.
Vasa: [00:06:18] Yeah. The tough part about that too, is what stakeholders don't realize. And we don't work with brands that buy followers or have bought followers.
We've done it in the past. We've literally switched their accounts and started fresh. What they don't realize is that what to them is a vanity metric like, oh, investors need to see a hundred thousand followers or my peers need to see a hundred thousand followers and know I'm legit. When you start passing your accounts off to a paid agency and they, they believe that these are real. There's not much for them to work with.
But on top of that, let's just say that they’re, they make it look like audience for engagers and you just bought engagement. They're making it look like audience of people that are ghosts that just don't exist. So, um, that's one thing that people don't realize when you, when you tell them, hey, you're wasting money and this is why then they're like, oh, buying followers isn’t that cool.
Jason: [00:07:05] Oh, yeah, definitely. Well, I'm still trying to, I'm so complexed at what Facebook did. I'm sure they probably outsourced it to someone to do that, but I kind of laugh. I kind of leave it because everybody kind of uses me as the lookalike audience. I'm like, oh, you're going to target to the wrong people, suckers!
Vasa: [00:07:22] Yeah. That's very true.
Jason: [00:07:25] Awesome. Well, what's your guys' North Star? Like what, what really kind of drives the agency for, uh, you know, getting to the next step?
Vasa: [00:07:33] Yeah. So our north star is being human first business, business second. Always has been, always will be.
There's a lot of times in my history where my career, where ethics, weren't the number one thing that I've come across. So for me, I learned a lot about how to be from learning and watching people and seeing how I don't want to be. So that's how I run the agency.
What our north star is, it's not necessarily growth. Yeah. Growth is nice, you know, to be a $10 million agency instead of one half for 2 million. Yeah. That's great. But at what cost? You know, employee, um, mental health is important to me. Like we worked 40 hour weeks. I never had hit people up on the weekends. My, my signature literally says, hey, I work weird hours. If you see this at the time, when you're not working, just reach out to me when you are working, don't think about responding to it.
So for me, the north star is running a solvent business, working with some really cool brands and not sacrificing employee's health as a result, I can tell you this, I didn't look like this when I first started GB. So I I'm like the first-hand experience of what I don't want my employees to feel like or turn into.
But at the end of the day, you know, another, another north star of ours is, uh, we don't work with brands that don't solve a problem. We've said no to a lot of brands that, yeah, we could have done so much more in revenue. But we love working with brands that are solving a problem for people.
And that really starts, again, going back to my experience at Quest Nutrition, we solved the problem there. Not me personally, but it was solved before I got there. And that was creating a bar that was actually good for you. And we've turned down lucrative offers with brands where they just weren't as… we'll say, just their north start was a bit skewed, you know, there's ingredients in there that, that weren't very good.
So that's our second north star is working with brands, helping brands grow that are really solving a food problem.
Jason: [00:09:18] Did you start off that way? Because a lot of times it's hard to, you know, especially when you're getting, getting started of go or really kind of figure out who you actually want to go after, right? To gain that clarity.
So what were some things that did you just take your past experiences at sound like, and be like, I don't want to do this, this, this, and kind of process of elimination, to figure out the north star?
Vasa: [00:09:40] Well, yeah, so I working with, with a low carb company and… My last role at that company was senior influencer marketing manager. So I had a lot of relationships that influenced the world, brands that were reaching out or, you know. Once I left, um, you know, there was another, vegan low-carb protein bar that reached out. Consulted for them for a little bit, a low-carb vegan chip reached out.
So having the experience with the product, but also the influencers I would reach out to. Couple that with being a one-man show then. And also having just a really focused laser precision on I'll help run, you know, like social and I'll run an influencer, I'll put the content calendar together, um, and we'll grow your social.
Those are the really like the box that I put myself in as a consultant. As we've grown and as I've grown, I'm working more as like the outsourced CMO, whereas my team serves as the department. So, um, how I worked with those brands is just... Again, I, I picked and choose. There was, I think my first two brands were those, no carb, but they were called Dee's naturals back then, K Shake, which is a keto shake. And they were all very second nature to me because I was just working on all of those products at the time I was there.
Jason: [00:10:47] Very cool. And when you started, you know, obviously when you were, when you started, it was just you, so how'd, you decide who to hire as you were growing?
Vasa: [00:10:59] Yeah. So I worked with a couple of freelancers at the time I brought on one of my other closest friends. He was freelancing and just helped me out with influencer, what we call influencer partnerships. Organizing the influencer calendar. His name's Simon.
But the first, first hire hire was my friend, Danny, who I brought on his VP of growth. And he helped Halo Top really hit that next level as a unicorn. And that was a really intentional choice because I needed another me in the field.
He was previously an engineer before he got into marketing. So he has that engineer mind where he can really set the structure of things. And that was important to me because it was very complimentary. But we also had similar skill because we literally sat next to each other at quest. So that was the first hire.
Once that happened, you know, the next thing I brought on was a creative director. Maybe it was a bit early, but we quickly started hiring in 2018. We brought on a, a retail marketing manager in 2019, which is different for an agency, you don't typically see those. But when we start working in our innovations, um, tactics, you know, manufacturing, coupons, digital coupons, those sorts of things that all helps.
So bringing on that one, anchor that could support me was the priority.
Jason: [00:12:06] Yeah. I always tell, uh, all the people I'm coaching of like, hey, well, you got to kind of hire based on the things that you're currently doing now that you don't want to do anymore, rather than hire though things that you have no clue about.
I'm like, no, no, no, you'll do that later on. But in the very beginning, you need to replace yourself. Not your exact twin, but you need to replace kind of those smaller things that you're doing, that we all have to do when we're first starting out.
Vasa: [00:12:37] Yeah, a good place for me to be eventually that I'm working towards is really focusing on the finances personnel, some, some higher-level strategy for similar brands, but fully cognizant.
Eventually, I shouldn't be the, the reason that the business kind of runs and stays afloat, you know?
Jason: [00:12:53] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I always tell people, you know, as you're building the business, you're in it. And then, uh, and you're going like the what and the how, and I'm like, no, no, no, no. All you have to do is be like, this is where we're going. And this is the who who's actually going to go do this. Who do I need to hire?
And then that kind of transitions to, you know, working on the business, which then you have that freedom to do what you want. Because I can promise you this, um, we're not all about hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle.
It's like, hustle, have fun hustle, have fun, right? So, uh, and a little bit more in between. So is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit audience?
Vasa: [00:13:36] Not that I can think of.
Jason: [00:13:38] Perfect. Well, what's a website people can go and check you out?
Vasa: [00:13:41] That’s growthbuster.com, www.growthbuster.com. There's no S at the end. Dan Akroyd and all those guys, aren't part of the team.
Um, so that's Growth Buster, singular one word, .com.
Jason: [00:13:56] Well, I was going to be like, hey, we need to create a really good theme song, you know. Because while I was in the agency I wanted to create an app that eventually turned into an iPhone app called Goldberg. The first name was called Chubby Busters. And we used to, we had a theme song that I would sing.
We'd be like, when you're feeling fat and your pants don't fit. Who are you going to call? Chubby Busters. But then we were like, no, one's ever going to say we're going to be with Chubby Busters.
Vasa: [00:14:22] Yeah. That sounds like, that sounds like an agency I would own right now, too.
Jason: [00:14:27] Awesome. Well, go check out the website and, uh, if you guys liked this episode, so, and you want to hear more of it and make sure you actually subscribe so you don't ever miss out on a new episode that we're pumping out all the time for you guys. So you guys can scale faster.
And also, make sure you guys leave us comments or review the podcast that will help us reach more people. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where we're constantly talking about what's the strategies working.
So you can scale your agency faster and not work all the time and have that freedom that you really want. Make sure you guys go to digitalagencyelite.com. That is our exclusive mastermind go there now.
And until next time have a Swenk day.
Direct download: How_to_Position_Your_Agency_as_the_Solution_Clients_Need.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT
Wed, 21 July 2021
Jason Yormark realized the job stability he always hoped to find behind a desk was waiting for him as an entrepreneur. That's when he decided to take the risk and founded Socialistics, a B2B social media agency. Three and a half years later his agency, based in Seattle, helps tell businesses stories in ways that not only drive audience and engagement; but more importantly, real business results. Today, he joins the podcast to talk about how you should treat your agency, the benefits of long vs. short-term contracts, and more.
3 Golden Nuggets
Don't Forget to Build Your Brand and Treat Yourself Like a Client
Jason Swenk: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? I have another amazing guest coming for you in just a second. We're going to talk about why you should treat your agency as the number one client. As well as we're going to talk about long-term or short-term contracts, the benefits, the disadvantages. We're going to argue back and forth.
This is going to be a really good episode. Now, before we get into chatting with Jason, our guest, I want you to do something. I want you to take a screenshot off your phone of listening to the podcast and upload that to Instagram and tag us because I want to thank you for listening to the show and do a big shout-out to you.
So let's go ahead and get into the episode.
All right, Jason. Welcome to the show.
Jason Yormark: [00:00:44] Thank you for having me.
Jason Swenk: [00:00:45] Yeah, man. I'm excited. So let's start fighting. No, I'm just kidding. No, tell us who you are and what do you do.
Jason Yormark: [00:00:53] My name is Jason Yormark. I'm the owner and founder of Socialistics. We are a B2B social media agency.
Jason Swenk: [00:01:01] That's awesome. And so how did you get started? How'd you fall into this crazy-ass world?
Jason Yormark: [00:01:06] Well, I thought, I mean, I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit my entire life. But, uh, I was always searching for stability in my life professionally, and I always thought that that was, you know, a nine to five or sitting behind a desk with my paycheck and my benefits. All that good stuff.
But, uh, marketing is a pretty volatile career path, I learned. And once I started to kind of see other folks experiencing the same thing I wasn't. So I didn't feel so bad about myself, you know, jumping around job to job, whether by choice or not. So that's stability I was always looking for was right in front of me all the time. Which was doing my own thing, controlling my own fate.
And I just reached a point in my life. You know, I was a little bit later for me, where I could make that leap, take that risk. And get it right. And that happened about, uh, three and a half years ago.
Jason Swenk: [00:01:52] Awesome. I love it. Well, let's talk about long-term contracts and short-term contracts. Tell us kind of how you started, where you're at now and what have you seen work?
Because, you know, I have my own point of view and we'll see is we come together. If not, that's good. That's probably… that builds interests.
Jason Yormark: [00:02:10] I've always been hesitant to admitting this to my other agency, friends. But, and this is going to be a little bit cringy, but, uh, we predominantly up to this point, we've done month to month contracts.
And for me, it was a couple of things out of the gate. Number one, everybody's got a different agency story in terms of how they start and what they have to work with. I, you know, I had nothing, you know, I had to. And a lot of folks, I'm not the only one, a lot of folks, you know, start with nothing. You have to scrap and you have to get, you know, some clients up in the beginning and kind of make some decisions that maybe you otherwise wouldn't later on. But, you know, I just wanted to disrupt, I was always fascinated by companies like Uber, who just disrupted transportation. All they did was create this awesome piece of technology to connect drivers and, and people that need rides.
And all, you know, I can imagine them sitting in a room and thinking like, what, what are the things that people hate about this? And I thought about that from an agency perspective. Like, what do clients really dislike about what they experience with agencies? And I thought, you know, long-term contracts and I knew this would be a way to disrupt.
And I knew it would wait to create some momentum. I knew there'd be some risks with it. You know, the value of an agency is obviously can be dictated by that. But at the time I was like, I didn't care about that point. I just wanted to create something that would allow me to never sit in a car for two and a half hours, three hours every day and sitting behind a desk.
I just wanted to create something with some momentum. So we launched with month to month, and it definitely created some instant momentum for us. We were able to maybe win some, some projects that we otherwise maybe wouldn't get. And my theory, my philosophy with it has always been a couple of things.
Number one, if you do great work, if you treat clients well, if you deliver results, they're going to stick with you. And if they can't, it's going to be for reasons out of your control. And the pandemic was a perfect example, right? Some clients, look, I don't want to be the reason why an agency has to let go of some of their employees.
Like, if they have to press pause on something, then I'm okay with that. So it really worked for us out of the gate to kind of create the momentum that we needed to build a foundation to stick. And to be able to have a business that I could have for the rest of my life. So it worked in the beginning.
Jason Swenk: [00:04:11] I see that point and I really do agree with it because at the end of the day, like, think about it this way. Selling agency services is very different than like coaching someone, right?
So a lot of times when I'm actually going to someone and saying like, well, you got pretty big goals, right? Like over the next year, it's going to take us awhile in order to accomplish that. Because I'm always looking, like I want to be what I call the chasee or the, I want to be the one getting chased, right?
Rather than pushing sales, I want them to be pulling me towards you. And a lot of times what I'll do, and agencies can do this as well. Going, all right, well, we want to make sure you're the right fit for us. And for what you need to do, we believe it's going to take a long time to do, a year. We want to see your commitment level in order to do it.
And so that's why I've always talked about doing longer term, and then it's more predictable, right? But I also agree with you. You know, it's easier to sell something that's out. Because it's less risky, right? You can make a decision. All right, I blow a month, two months here. Okay. But like you were saying, if you deliver amazing work, they're not going to want to leave.
And then if they get in a situation like we just went through with COVID, right? Let's say you're going after the restaurant industry. The whole industry was shut down for months. Are you really going to stick it to them because you have a contract? No, you're going to let them out.
At the end of the day, it's kind of like. You're just trying to figure out, do you really have that commitment level to me? Because I have a commitment level to you and I need to know that. That's the biggest thing I look for.
Jason Yormark: [00:05:54] Yeah. And for us, I just feel like. We're growing, you know what? Even at the time, it's like, look, if somebody doesn't want to pay you, they're not going to pay you.
Like, even, even the best contract language in the world doesn't mean you're going to see that money. And like, you know, in the beginning, especially the first year, like where are we really in a position where we're going to hire somebody, a lawyer and go to court? I’m like, no. If somebody doesn't want to pay you, they're not going to pay you.
And I think in the entire history of our business, one client didn't pay, uh, an invoice. I, you know, I tried going after it and it, we didn't get it. So at the end of the day, it's not, it's just semantics almost. Because, again, if you do great work, they're going to stick with you. And if they can't, then they're probably, they weren't a good fit to begin with.
We've had plenty of clients that would come into a relationship with us and I vetted them out the best I could. I think they've got good potential, but they get in and either they treat my team like crap or they weren't ready. And we didn't know that. And there w it wasn't a good fit. I'd rather grow a scalable business with the clients that makes sense for us then just trying to trap people into long-term contracts. Because even if they do sign a long-term contract and they're not a good fit, I'm just the kind of guy that's going to be like, look, this isn't working and we're going to go our separate ways anyway.
So it really hasn't impacted our agency not having that. And certainly, you know, it's evolved for us, you know. Now we, my, it was funny, an interesting story. My, my team came to me and they were a little bit frustrated because some clients left because they weren't a good fit. And they said, well, what if we, you know, we think maybe we need to reconsider this.
We kind of had a back and forth with the team. And ultimately what we decided is why don't we just create options, right? Let's give them the option of, okay, here's, here's your month-to-month price. And here's a long-term contract price discounted.
It's your choice. We give the client the choice. What do you care about most? And a lot of what's happening a lot is some of them will take us up on the month, a month. And then after a couple of months, oh, these guys are awesome, actually deliver results. I like these guys. Hey, could we switch to a long-term contract? And then we kind of move into that.
So we give them the option. So that has really actually worked really well for us. And now our balance of clients is shifting. Whereas like, you know, a hundred percent of them are month to month. Now that those numbers are changing. It's becoming like 70/30. I expect it to be half and half, which is good for us because, you know, I want an exit strategy.
I'm not ready yet. I'm a couple of years away, but I know by the time I'm ready for that. I think that a good percentage of our clients will be long-term contracts.
Jason Swenk: [00:08:18] We’ll get you there quicker than you think. Or so you have the option. I mean, it's, it's kind of hard to interview, cause I know so much already I'm being in the mastermind.
But that's a great point, Jason, too, of what you were saying about we give the option. Because at the end of the day, you got to think about how can I remove friction from them, making a decision? And then whatever, if, if they're like, hey, I still don't trust you yet. That's kind of why, you know, like in the mastermind and the playbook, we always talk about the offering ladder. Do the foot in the door, then a project.
Show them value, and then they're going to want that retainer, but I like how you have, hey, if you want short-term contract. It's kind of like a SAS model, if you think about it, like on a technology, it's like, it's this, if you pay month to month, it's this. If you pay, you know, if you commit to a year… And I like to hear that a lot of clients are going to that, because that was going to be my next question for you.
For people listening, going well, do you have an exit strategy? Because I know as a buyer of agencies, that's one of the things we look at. Because we need that predictability.
Jason Yormark: [00:09:31] Well, plus, I mean, for me it was, I felt like, well, if they look at the history, if they see. Because honestly I could go back to a good percentage of our clients right now and say, hey, you know, I want, uh, for the, you know, I want to kind of solidify our agency a bit, build the valuation up. You've been on month to month for a year or two. You okay with just sliding into a year-long contract? Most of them are going to say yes.
So I think that it's just building those foundational clients over time. I'm not worried whatsoever that when I start thinking seriously about an exit strategy, that I'll be able to transition a good percentage of the ones that we have. And this new approach that we're taking, you know, we'll get there. But as a, as a young hungry… If you're just starting out and you don't have anything, that's a great way to disrupt because it eliminates a lot of the barriers to saying yes.
And what's interesting is it's almost kind of like a foot-in-the-door offer by itself. Because the whole idea of in my opinion, the foot-in-the-door is to get them to say yes, more easily. Like the commitment’s lower, they get a taste of who you are.
And that month a month approach… I mean the first month is strategy. So they're in essence getting a foot-in-the-door offer in some capacity. But ultimately I'm just trying to get them to yes more easily and more quickly.
Jason Swenk: [00:10:39] Yeah, I love it. Well, I love that strategy and there's so much to take away. So if you guys are listening, we'd love to know your comments on that. You know, because I think all of you should do that offer if, uh, if you're charging month to month now. See about giving them the option at a, I wouldn't say at a discount, I would just say, we're going to charge you more if you're on month a month, right?
Jason Yormark: [00:11:00] Exactly.
Jason Swenk: [00:11:01] Let's change, focus a little. Because I feel a lot of agencies don't dedicate enough time to building their own brand, their own marketing, treating themselves as a client. So what have you found working for yourself?
Jason Yormark: [00:11:14] Yeah. So I, you know, it was interesting. Every agency it starts out and like, you're just, you're so busy with like business development and selling and getting clients.
It's, the first thing to get pushed to the side is your own stuff. And it's very easy to do and most do that. And we did, to a certain extent, we didn't take it serious. We just kind of dabbled, oh we'll put a blog post out. Then, you know, a month later, oh, we probably need to put another blog post out. And it just doesn't work.
I found that. You know, we were… as a startup, I didn't have a tremendous amount of money to just throw out stuff. And I knew I had the luxury of creating a runway. I created the brand when I had another job. You know, I, I knew that it was going to take a couple of years for the name and our website to permeate on the web and kind of start to get some organic reach.
That takes time, you know, it just takes a long time for that to happen. And I just consistently made a commitment to putting know blog posts out and putting content out and putting social media content out. And it gets frustrating because it's like, it's the sum of all that effort over time that really eventually gets you to a good place.
Then, now we're three and a half years in or so, and we're getting about 20 to 30, you know, inbound, organic leads. Just from people searching. And that doesn't happen overnight. You have to treat yourself like a client. You have to prioritize. And the, the minute that we realized that, you know.
I just, you know, I got someone on my team, Socialistics is their client just like anybody else. The accountabilities are there, the expectations are there. We don't let it slide no matter how busy that we get. We do not, you know, we just don't move away from what we need to commit to.
And now that consists of, you know, weekly blog posts, right now, bi-weekly podcast episodes. Certainly social media every day. But it's just, it's just the sum and the consistency of that. Or, I mean, yes, it's got to be strategic and you need to pick keywords and phrases and work that in and, and be smart. But it's just that consistency that you have to kind of stick with it.
And the best advice I can give is, you know, if it's just you, then it's gotta be you. But when you start to build a team, make sure that somebody is responsible and accountability is around your business, as a client.
That's the best thing that you can do if you're serious about, you know, building a pipeline for yourself that doesn't require you shoveling money on paid ads all of the time.
Jason Swenk: [00:13:34] Yeah, I look at it as if it's just you or you're going all right, Jason and Jason. Which, uh, we'll call it the J&J show, I guess. Then we’ll be like, all right, that's all good, but I'm already too damn busy or anything.
And I always go back to my motto. If you're saying you're too busy, you're not charging enough. It's the leading indicator for most challenges. If you can charge enough, then you can start hiring the right people. And most of the time we hire the wrong people. I want you guys to start thinking about you in the center and thinking about all the stuff you do, right now.
The $10 tasks, the $100 tasks, the really cheap tasks. And think about who can you hire to do that stuff, to get some stuff off. And do only like, you know, Jason's talking about like he's doing content development. He can only create that if he's doing the podcast, right?
That's what he should be doing and that's what I want all of you to focus on. Because it has to be like three pillars, inbound, outbound, strategic partnership for building a sales system or a lead generation system for your agency. So hopefully you guys get that.
Jason, this has all been amazing. And I actually agree with you. I was hoping we would disagree. So I guess I hooked people in on the intro, but, um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Jason Yormark: [00:14:58] You know, just based on what we talked about and you kind of touched on it just now. You know, just because when you're doing the content, that doesn't mean that you can't outsource, whether it's somebody internally or whether you hire somebody.
And a perfect example of that is like the podcast, which I love doing podcasts. It's easy. It's easier to me, right? You’re just getting in front of a microphone and blab for 20 to 30 minutes with somebody. Not to mention it's awesome to just to meet other people in that way.
But I don't do the editing. Like I don't do the editing. I don't, you know, I don't want to do any of that technical stuff. I did it at first just to kind of get a feel for it. But you know, a couple hundred bucks a month. There's plenty of resources out there that'll take on all the heavy lifting. So literally all you have to do is put the microphone in front of your face. Talk for 20 minutes, send it to somebody else they'll edit it. They'll publish it.
It's fantastic. You know, it's a really low investment in time. The same thing with blogs. Like if you're a great writer, then write it, then send it to somebody to edit and SEO optimize it and publish it on your website. Like don't spend your time doing all of those extra things that make it feel too heavy.
Like you can outsource a lot of that and really just focus on your expertise and putting it out there. And the minute that we kind of got those systems in place, it becomes a repeatable process and we're able to make it work. Every day, every week.
And it's worked really well.
Jason Swenk: [00:16:07] What's a website people can go check the agency out? And what's the podcast name that they can search to go, uh, listen?
Jason Yormark: [00:16:13] Yeah. Well, our name's unique, so just search for Socialistics. But you can find us at socialistics.com. The podcast is called Socialistics, social media agency stories. And, uh, you know, just type in the name, you'll find us.
Jason Swenk: [00:16:26] Awesome. Well, go check that out. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, I would love for you to do me a favor.
We haven't asked for going to iTunes or whatever platform you have and review it. And then also, if you want to be surrounded by other amazing people, I want to invite you guys to go to our free Facebook group called the Digital Agency Owner Insiders. You can go to jasonswenk.com/insider. So that should direct you right there as you a couple of questions and only agency owners are in there.
So go do that. And until next time, have a Swenk day.
Direct download: Why_You_Shouldnt_Forget_to_Treat_Your_Agency_Like_a_Client.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT
Wed, 14 July 2021
Mike Poznansky was still in college when he started working at Red Bull's college marketing division. Since then, he realized the need for agencies that understand students and deliver at the scale and quality necessary to keep up with large consumer brands. That's why Mike founded Neato and now works alongside the world’s best brands to design and run creative marketing programs that bring new value to both brands and students. He's here to talk about pre-qualifying leads so you can separate the good ones from the ones who are just fishing.
3 Golden Nuggets
How to Qualify Leads and Stop Wasting Time on the Wrong Ones
Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, everybody? Welcome to another great show. The smart agency masterclass. I have a really good episode today coming up with Mike, who's built a really amazing agency and we'll get into that in a second.
Now, before we jump in, I want you guys to take a screenshot of the show. And then I want you to post on Instagram and tag us so then we can give you a shout-out for being a loyal listener.
So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.
Hey Mike, welcome to the show.
Mike: [00:00:33] Hey! Thanks for having me, Jason.
Jason: [00:00:35] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?
Mike: [00:00:39] Yeah, my name is Mike Poznansky. I'm the founder and managing director over at Neato. We're a full-service marketing agency that helps brands connect with young audiences with a focus on gen Z and college students.
Jason: [00:00:51] Awesome. And so how did you get started in doing this and how did you connect to that particular niche?
Mike: [00:00:59] Yeah, I actually was pre-law. When I was in college, I had the, I had every intention of going to law school. I was thinking about being a sports agent or maybe working in intelligence.
And through a strange set of circumstances, I connected with Red Bull. My passion work was in the action sports world and a company I was working with partnered with Red Bull on an event. And the employees over at Red Bull said, we have a job for college students that we think would be perfect for you. So, I was a senior, I became a student brand manager for Red Bull.
At the time, I wasn't a big fan of marketing. I just saw it to be as something that was too disruptive or annoying, you know, kind of pestering. And through my work with Red Bull, even as a student, I discovered that it could be something that actually doesn't take away from your experience, but adds value to your day or to your life.
And I ended up continuing with Red Bull and working for them full time. I spent, uh, over a decade there and eventually was running their college marketing program for North America. While I was at Red Bull, we were one of the first brands to invest in marketing to college students.
We had a, a really large program that was very scaled. It was a well-oiled machine. So a couple of things happened that inspired me to get in the agency space. One, we started saying, how could we utilize this program to not only build the brand, but build the business? We had over 300 really capable well-connected students across the country. So we started experimenting with ways we could utilize them.
And some of the programs we add to drive traffic into retail or pull product off the shelf or support our business in the on-premise. We were really blown away by the results. And then as we scaled, we needed some external help. And just, I realized that there weren't any agencies out there who were focused on the space that understood our business and that had high standards of quality.
So just realized there was this void that I set out to fill with Neato.
Jason: [00:02:56] Yeah, I see that so much where people are looking for something and they have no agency experience. And there was just like, let me just go into it, let me just create it. And a lot of times you don't take that bad baggage with you from some of the bigger agencies.
What has it been like over the years of growing it and scaling it? You know, when it comes to your team or like, have you moved upmarket with your audience? Because agencies are always going through different cycles.
Mike: [00:03:25] Yeah. Yeah, it's tricky because I think we started solely focused on college marketing and it's a very core part of what we do today.
But one of the challenges we found with college marketing, in particular, was that it's very tactical. So a lot of the briefs you would get, there's an existing strategy. There may be even an existing campaign and they're just looking for someone to really execute. And it may be something that you don't think necessarily works for the brand, or even worse, works for the audience.
And one of the big differentiators for us is saying the needs of young people and the needs of brand's ambition don't need to be mutually exclusive. So we believe young people are happy, happy being marketed to as long as it adds value to their lives.
So sometimes when we get these really tactical briefs, we feel like they weren't a great fit for the audience. Or they weren't a good fit for the brand. And we found ourselves in a tricky position. And, of course, then you would naturally say, well, share your point of view and that works. But if you, if you have a tactical brief, and sometimes if you're working with some of the folks at that stage who are just there to execute the program. They aren’t the one setting the strategy.
And they're not the ones who may necessarily be part of those discussions and all that. So for us, I'd say the biggest challenge has been working ourselves, I guess, as you say, kind of upstream a little bit to be a more part of those strategic discussions. And to change some of the perceptions of what college marketing or youth marketing or field marketing could look like.
Jason: [00:05:00] So what are some things that you've done that you've seen work to fix that? Because I saw that a lot and I think a lot of agencies do, where they get this tactical thing in and they need to really move upstream to really talk about strategy. You know, I remember we were working, um, I can't say the name of the brand.
But I can say it's a large beverage company in Atlanta with a red logo. And, uh, so we were doing a campaign for a young urban market. Well, the guy that was making all the decisions was a fat white guy. Old white guy. And he was like, I don't get the campaign. And we're like, we know you're not going to get the campaign.
Like you're not even, you're not, you're so far removed from even relating to them. So what are some strategies that have worked for you in order to going from tactical to more strategic?
Mike: [00:05:51] Yeah. For us, it's tricky because if someone comes to you with this baked brief and strategy, and they aren't even hiring you to be a strategic partner, you're not really in a position to credibly say, we don't believe in this or this won't work.
I mean, most likely, the outcome of that would be you just won't get the business, right? They find someone else who's onboard, especially if it's a new relationship and you don't have that existing credibility. So what has helped us in the past? First of all, saying… look, we have a ton of experience in this space, but I'll call BS on anyone who says I am a, I am an expert in youth culture. I'm an expert on young people.
Because the more you do it, the more you realize it's always evolving. So the first thing we'll always do is we'll talk to the audience. Have conversations with young people about the category, about the initiative, about maybe even the strategy and the campaign.
And then I'm not sitting there in a position going up to anyone on the client-side and just saying, look, this doesn't work. We don't like it. We're saying, hey, you know, we talked to a bunch of young people about what you're setting out to do and here are some of the things we learned along the way. So it's much more credible and it's puts you in a position to be a little bit more of a, of a partner. And someone who's collaborating with them than someone who just has a big ego and a strong point of view that's different from theirs.
So everything we do is really driven by insights and we fundamentally believe that that's a critical part of our process.
Jason: [00:07:24] Yeah. And I also see it as a lot of times, I would walk away from business that if they were just so driven by that. I would actually take it a step further. You know, I interviewed, um, one of the Harmon brothers who does all the funny viral videos or ads on the internet.
And they only take on the ones that they actually believe in the product. So they've done like Squatty Potty. And I was like, you believe in that? They're like we do, right? Like we saw the science, and tested it out. I was like, oh, that's kind of interesting. But they were like, we only do work of products that we know we believe in that we actually can go do and prove, and actually have results.
And I think that's a big departure from a lot of agencies out there that just say, oh, you got a check? Oh, you need to find someone? I remember many times where we would actually walk away from an RFP and be like, look, this is not our process, we're not going to do it that way.
And them coming back and being like, why would this one company, this small company pull out versus, you know, Tribal and DDP and Grey? And all these big agencies are giving us free work. It would make them think in order to, I really get to the next level.
Mike: [00:08:38] Right. Yeah. It could be a little bit more provocative, right? But if it's grounded in truth, I think it works. And it's something we've, I would say, wrestled with a little bit is just how honest and straightforward you are and the initial part of that conversation, right?
Because you have a strong point of view, but it's tricky because you have this incentive. Look, you want to work with them and not just because they're going to pay you. But for us, we could say this is a powerful brand. Like they have some really cool resources and assets, and we think they could bring a lot of value to young people's lives. We think they could have a really positive impact.
So for us, it's just saying, you know what, let's go through a little bit of a journey and figure out if they can and are willing to get there.
Jason: [00:09:25] Yup. Now, do you do that through a small paid engagement or are you doing that on your own dime?
Mike: [00:09:32] That was the first thing that came to my mind, right? Because that's hard work and it's a lot of work. I mean, even if you want to find people, interview them, synthesize those insights, share them. Ideally, we'll do that and we're getting paid. Usually, what happens? This happened recently with an organic foods brand.
We came in, they came to us and they said, listen, we want to market to students. Here's what we're trying to do. Give us ideas, best ideas win and win the program. And, you know, give us the best ideas and you'll become our agency partner. And I said, listen, I could pull a bunch of stuff out of a hat, but I haven't talked to young people about organic foods. I haven't talked to them about your brand. I’ve been having a ton of conversations with them lately, but not about this subject.
So what I would propose is that we go and do that and then we'll put together a scope and we'll get paid to make sure that it's at least worth our while. And it, it helps the client too, because we could say at the end of this all at the very least you will have these insights and you'll have something you could work with, whether it's something you do on your own or something you do with another partner.
So ideally we're, we're getting paid. Earlier on, when someone was coming up with us, uh, to us with a tactical brief, we had to do it for free because we didn't earn their trust and respect yet.
Jason: [00:10:44] Yeah. Yeah. I was talking to a couple agencies a little while ago and literally, I was like, if you're just starting out, you're going to have to do the grunt work.
You're going to have to take it on the chin and do some of the free work. But once you start getting a little bit momentum, then you can actually be more selective and say, no, I'm not going to take it on the chin. We're going to do it this way. Then I'd always tell people, like, treat it this way and say, look, you're going to pay us to develop you a really good strategy.
Here's three outcomes. You'll love the plan and you'll go execute it yourself, which you were just talking about. You'll love the plan you want to work with us, which is the most common. Or third, you don't like the plan. I'll give you your money back. So you really have nothing to lose. And then it literally takes them from like, are they really a qualified prospect or are they really just effing you up, right? Like just trying to get free work.
And I found that by doing that, that separates the fishers or the, uh, the people just fishing from the real buyers. Because I look at it too like, I think it was Dean Jackson that said, uh, you know, 50% of the people will never buy from you, but the other 50% will.
But you have to figure out when. Like, there's a small percentage that will buy right now, which are like 15%. And then the other 35 is like maybe 90 to two years down the road. And you have to kind of figure that out. So like I'm trying to eliminate the non-buyers right away. I love that you get, you're getting paid for it too.
Mike: [00:12:14] Yeah. And I think one of the things that's helped us in that process too, is that I'm not a big fan of, um, you send us a brief, we go away for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, whatever it is. We come back and do this whole dog and pony show with a bunch of ideas. And then in that process, we learn that there's a bunch of other things that have happened since then. Or a bunch of things that were maybe missing from the brief or there's other decision-makers in or departments who weren't a part of writing the brief.
So what we like to do is co-create with our clients and have a bit of a collaborative process and creative development. Because in real-time you're getting that input and that feedback. And like I said, it just, it's, it's impossible for them to capture all that on paper. In that process, you could see what they're really up for, right?
Because we'll have a client that will come to us say we want big ideas “we want huge disruptive ideas.” And we… this happened to us very early on and they came to us and they said, these ideas are too big. Well, you wanted big ideas. That's what you asked for, right? So I think bringing them along in that process, in the creative development process, and turning it into a conversation instead of everybody working in silos could help you feel that out too.
Jason: [00:13:27] Well, they don't want big ideas. They want results, the smart ones. And so I totally agree that you have to do it with them. Yeah. The, the time of what is it like Bewitched? Was it? The show Bewitched, when Darren would pitch the work for Larry, which was his boss, right? Like those days are over, like literally if you're not building with them, because then they have more skin in the game. And you can ask them, be like, what do you think if we did X, Y, and Z?
And if they say no, I think it's a dumb idea. You find out why is it a dumb idea for in their head, especially if you believe in this. And then you get them to a point where they’re like, oh yeah, I like that idea. So then when you present the ideas, they were all there. Like they feel like it was all theirs. And then they're like, man, I really feel like we're connecting.
We're like, well yeah. Like we just did this, this engagement together. And then, you know, we found that they're 20 times more likely to engage with you if they have a good engagement or the first, rather than just going, oh, let me give you a bunch of ideas. Like, oh, I hated that. We got away from that very quick.
Mike: [00:14:32] Yeah, it's full of assumptions, right? I mean, you just, it's a tricky process. And then sometimes you could spend a week or two going down a path. And if you would just learn this one thing, that path may not be viable for them. Or it may be a trigger point for someone who is the decision-maker there because of a bad experience that you just, you don't know those things.
Yeah. And on results, I agree with you. I mean, one of the things we like to do, especially with the people who are paying for it, or running the departments that are part of this program or experience or process. Is just say, okay, let's pretend it's December or it's the middle of the year. We're all sitting in a room and we're looking back on this program and we're celebrating.
What would we be celebrating? What do we really want to get out of this? Because sometimes you'll find that people will bake in all these goals and KPIs and objectives that don't align with the needs and wants of decision-makers.
Jason: [00:15:25] Yeah. I always looked at when a client comes to you, like if you think of kind of the past, the present, the future, when they come to you, it's because they're stuck.
And then, right? That's in the past, they're stuck, they've tried a bunch of things. Then in the present you think about, well, they have a problem. And the future is, they just don't know what they need to do. And so we have to do, as agencies is we really have to kind of look and go, how can we switch their state?
Like get them to a resourceful state rather than a stuck state, right? The past. And then in the present, we really need to pinpoint what is the real issue. Like we need to be urgency detectives. Because the clients like they, sometimes they don't know and they, they're like, they don't really know the problem.
And so really we need to identify what's the actual issue. We need to kind of paint that picture. Then, in the future, it's just. Let's just shrink the scope and let's just make it really simple for them to understand. And when we do all that, now we can take that prospect to, you know, someone actually believing us. Rather than just saying here's all these big ideas, but that's what we've seen work really, really well.
Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I did not ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Mike: [00:16:41] Yeah, it's a good question. The only thing I would say is just how you identify those problems. I think has been a little bit of a learning for me and I, you know, I've just getting ahead of it.
I've just found that the most effective way to do that is through real human conversations with the people on the, on the brand side, on the client-side, to really figure out what they're challenged with. Because it could be something that they haven't even considered.
You know, I think a lot of people can get almost in a little bit of this like automated mindset where they're just they're writing briefs around specific campaigns. Or they have, they have a line item in their budget they're trying to fulfill. And then through conversations with them, you could identify things that they're really struggling with, that you could potentially help on.
And maybe it's not a good fit and you could pass it on to someone else or whatever it may be. But I think, I think those real human natural touchpoints are really important to understand what the needs are of your clients and figuring out if there are ways that you could support them in navigating those issues.
Jason: [00:17:42] Awesome. What's the website that people can go and check you guys out?
Mike: [00:17:47] Yeah. We're at neato.agency, n-e-a-t-o.agency.
Jason: [00:17:51] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, I want to make sure you guys subscribe. It's just so you are always notified when we have an episode.
And then if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, where we get together on an ongoing basis to really work on the business, rather than in the business. And really be able to create that freedom where you can pick and choose and do the things you want to do in your agency, so you can eventually get to a point where you can actually sell it or exit the stuff that you don't like to do anymore.
I want to invite all of you to go to digitalagencyelite.com. That is our exclusive mastermind. And until next time have a Swenk day.
Direct download: How_to_Qualify_Leads_and_Stop_Wasting_Time_On_the_Wrong_Prospects.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT
Wed, 7 July 2021
Kevin Daisey works hard to stay on top of changing trends in digital marketing. He is the founder & CMO of Array Digital, a digital marketing agency specializing in search engine optimization, social media, and digital advertising; and also Rival Digital, a digital agency niched in the HVAC market. Today he joins us to chat about how to create a recurring revenue machine. And also how establishing tight processes will not make you lose clients if they’re the right clients, and how his agency benefitted from eliminating the least profitable services.
3 Golden Nuggets
Secrets to Becoming a Recurring Machine
Jason: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? Jason Swenk here and on today's episode I have an amazing guest from our mastermind who runs a really amazing agency. And we're going to talk about creating a recurring machine, but before we get into it, I want you to do me a favor, take a screenshot of listening to the podcast.
And upload it to Instagram and tag us, because we want to reach out to you and give you a shout-out. So make sure you go do that now and let's get into the episode.
Hey, Kevin. Welcome to the show.
Kevin: [00:00:36] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me.
Jason: [00:00:38] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?
Kevin: [00:00:42] So my name's Kevin Daisey and I run two agencies, one called Array Digital and, Array Digital is a full-service digital marketing agency that primarily focuses on working with law firms. Also, I have another agency that we started in September of 2020, which is niched in the HVAC market. So HVAC contractors, companies around the country, uh, with websites, SEO, social media, and on, on advertising.
Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. I love it. Well, let's go ahead and get into it. How can people listening, how can they create a recurring machine?
Kevin: [00:01:21] Well, let me, uh, I guess start with kinda what led to where we are and obviously where we are is a far cry from where we want to go. But, uh, in order to get there, we had to have recurring revenue.
And so back about a few years, my business partner, Eric J. Olson, who’s actually a member of the mastermind as well. Me and him formed Array Digital together, after both running our own agencies for quite a few years. And we both struggled with one thing, which took us a while to figure out, by the way.
We didn't have predictable recurring revenue, we had lots of projects. Now we have some small services and hosting and maybe some support to some degree. But it was never enough to actually operate the company, pay payroll and things like that. So it was really just kind of a way to supplement and maybe have recurrent customers in the future. But on a monthly basis and cash flow, we didn't really have a lot to stand on.
And so we were really focused on software and mobile apps at one time and we had a lot of software developers that had $100,000 salaries and up. And we just really saw, when we had a slowdown at one point in sales, which was Eric and I at the time, how are we going to have the payroll is massive and how are we going to pay this if we don't have projects this month?
Around the same time, we were meeting with a, an accountant who actually ended up being the worst accountant we've ever had… ever. Like we fired the guy, his, it was a terrible experience. But he did this one life-changing thing, which we sat down with him to plan.
We tried to start having a budget and we were just at a million dollars in revenue and we're like, hey, it's time to kind of get a budget and start to plan out things a little bit better. He asked a question: what are you guys predicting for next month's revenue? And then next quarter's revenue?
And we were just like blank stares. Like, how are we supposed to know that? We don't know that, we have no clue. I guess we can assume if we get these projects to this point, then we should expect to build this much and whatever. But we really had no good answer for him. That just made Eric and I think a lot about that question and how we were going to even grow and scale pay payroll.
Like we're, we're this close to going out of business. Tomorrow. So that kind of really got us thinking. We got, we got serious about it. And he proposed that if we're doing a $100,000 software project, what if we took it and extended it to a 12-month payment plan instead of, you know, $25,000 a month for the next four months? Even though the project would be done in four months, they can pay us 12 months and we collect that revenue.
So this, the concept right there was kind of like, well, how are we going to pay payroll? If we collect $7,000 a month instead of $25,000 a month or whatever. And so we had to take baby steps that ultimately led to us investigating all the services that we offered and which ones were recurring and which ones were not.
Digital marketing, which was at the time a smaller piece of our business, SEO, and website support stood out as the only ones that we had that were recurring and they were very profitable. We have the website done and we're still collecting money every month for support. SEO was an ongoing service, which is in-house. So we didn't have to, there was no cogs, really. So we looked at that and we're like, wow, it's just such a small piece of our business though.
It was like, you know, 10% of our revenue, but it was predictable revenue. So after a lot of thinking, a lot of thoughts or, I mean, a lot of thought on our services and then the challenges with sales on the software side, it ultimately led to us cutting software, cutting mobile app development. And digital marketing was the winner at the end of the day.
And so we put all our focus on that. We up the ante, and we made sure to secure the other services like social media and advertising, which is something we didn't do. We did websites and SEO. So we started hiring in that department. We actually had to let go or our software people, we made sure they got other jobs and had other positions.
And then we started hiring and learning digital marketing more than ever. We grew from… our overall revenue did not change in the year. So we were a million dollars. But we went from, I think, 17% recurring revenue to a 100% in eight months. So where we were having a hundred plus thousand per month on contract that we could predict every single month for services that we were rendering.
So that was kind of the major change. And then any questions about that, but then I can go on to kind of now how we refined and fine-tuned to become more of a machine and a process. That continues to allow us to grow.
Jason: [00:06:34] Well, I love, I mean, there's so many agencies that are in that similar boat, right? And they're, they want that predictability or that peace of mind. Because I remember going through the same thing, you know.
Our out for more predictability was just building a pipeline, but we never even thought back then, because 80% of our business was projects, and it was extremely profitable. But we just created a huge master pipeline, so that was our main focus.
But I like the approach that you guys took because there's a lot of people that are going, I want some predictability. And I'm glad that you had a really good experience with a bad CPA to make you guys change that focus. And I also like, and I don't want to skip over it, because a lot of agencies try to do too much. I like how you audited, what are the most profitable pieces, you know, in your agency? What should we eliminate? What should we actually go all in?
Because too many people just try to do everything. And they think, well, if we want to double in size, we need to do double the amount of services or double amount of the things. And that's actually very incorrect. Like a lot of times in the mastermind we talk about, look, if you can focus, you're going to be so much more successful in that one thing.
So I love that. Now, let's talk about, you talked about how we got there right on the recurring. What did you learn from that? And like, what's changed since then to now?
Kevin: [00:08:10] Sure. Absolutely. I think so that's a big part of it. So, getting there was at first going to our existing clients and trying to convert them into a, more of a monthly plan, um, upselling them on the other services that we did offer and focusing on that.
So we had to convert a lot of clients and of course we signed on new clients with new offerings, so there was a sales effort as well, but we did it pretty quickly and pretty easily. And we didn't expect it to work that fast.
But then we started to look at how do we collect the money? How long does it take to collect the money? What's our expenses out and how do we refine this, this whole process to be very focused? And then, you know, with the least amount of, I guess, manpower as possible. So we're really sort of looking at efficiency. At first, we were mostly paid by check and so we started to realize, okay, well man, 30 days.
Jason: [00:09:05] Checks in the mail! Checks in the mail! Uh, hated to hear that.
Kevin: [00:09:11] Yeah. So, okay. If you have recurrent revenue, that's great. But if you're not collecting it in a timely fashion, it doesn't matter. So next thing you know, your payrolls are on top of each other. You're, you're coming out of pocket for, uh, expenses. So basically you're, you're floating the bill for your clients and you're, you're paying for your staff and all these other things, and then you're expecting them to hopefully pay you back.
So there's another, uh… your mastermind I'm pretty sure is where we got this from is getting that money in the door faster and how important that is. And so, at first, it was like, well, we, you can't build people… expecting to pay in 14 days, but we did it and we tried it and it worked.
And then we had some people saying, well, try that in seven. Well, that's insane. No, one's going to pay net seven. And so what we did is the extreme. We started offering a discount for ACH, or a penalty if you pay another way. We also put in a net seven terms with a late fee if you were later than seven days. If you want to pay by check, that's fine, but here's our rules.
And we have a very swift process for turning clients off, which was never fun to do. It’s not something we want to do. But say, if we have a website for you and you're three weeks late, so the 30 days is not even reached yet, your site goes off, your servers are stopped. Uh, we have a very strict process.
And then when the client calls and says, I can't believe you guys would do this. We have a really solid outreach and communication process for they know, many times over that they're going to be. You know, get late fees or get turned off. And so then we always say, hey, we offer ACH. That's how we run our business. If you don't decide to go that route, you know, you can choose these other methods. But they have their downside.
So how about we get you on ACH? So we avoid this problem completely and, you know, we have predictable invoicing too. Our bill is the same every month. We have what we call all-inclusive service, where we never charge a dollar more, and whether or not, we make more ads or we, we talk to you more or whatever, it's just built into our costs.
So we say, hey, it's ACH, same bill every single month. And then we can continue working for you. We have the ad funds we need all that stuff and we don't have to worry about it.
Jason: [00:11:37] I love it. You know, it's um, you never know what people are going to say until you actually do it. I, I remember many years ago a client, one of our first clients, I think this is probably in like 2000 and they didn't pay their invoice and they just kept giving me the run-around.
And I took down everything and I just literally put unpaid bill, you know, and then I put their contact info. Because what I didn’t want to have happen was that client going well, you took down my whole business. People couldn't reach me, even though the internet was websites were fairly new. But as, as like unpaid bill to your designer, but you can contact them here. So when we actually did, when he did try to, when I did take them to court, they were like, oh, you take down my business. I was like, no, no, all the contact info is right here.
So I don't suggest doing that, but that's what I did when I was a young punk shit. I just didn't care. I was like, well, you can sue me for it, I don't have any money back then.
Kevin: [00:12:42] Oh no. It's, I've been in some situations before. And I think, you know, all those, those moments that you remember make it easier to do some of the things we do now.
But we love our clients. We want to give them the best service possible, and to do so we need to be funded by what they agreed on. Which is in contract in a timely manner, so that nothing goes down, nothing stops. And so it's very easy to say, hey, listen, we love working with you guys, we want to perform for you guys. If this bill is not paid, the performance and results are affected.
So ACH, we give you a discount, we encourage it and it helps us perform better for you. So we have 80 some clients. And it's funny because some of my sales members will be like, we can't do this. Like, this is absurd that we could give them no net terms and that they have to pay upfront for a service like agencies don't do that.
Well, we do. And we have 80 clients that have no problem with it. We rarely have a problem. And if we do have a problem, it's because we signed on the wrong client.
Jason: [00:13:50] You nailed it on the head. Uh, and it's also, it really starts from, I feel, the very beginning. Like traditionally you think of an agency or the salesperson for an agency is they're the chaser, right?
They're chasing that prospect, the chasee. But what you have to do is you have to kind of flip it where you want them to be chasing you. And the only way to do that is by flipping the conversation, asking the right questions and kind of pulling them versus push. Like, I always tell people if I start pushing on you, like, I literally come up to you, Kevin, I start pushing you. What are you going to do? You're going to push back.
And that's what salespeople do versus, you know, if you think about like telling a story of a client that you've had for a lawyer, right. And then, or let's… I only relate to agencies because that's the world I live in. So I was like, I'm not going to make up a lawyer thing and there's no lawyers listening anyway.
Kevin: [00:14:48] That’s right. And if you are, call me.
Jason: [00:14:51] But, uh, like if I was exactly, I hit, hit Array Digital up for him. But, um, if I'm talking to an agency, I'll be like, hey, you know, one of my, um… I was talking to agency the other day and they are basing their whole business on word of mouth and referrals, which just isn't scalable. That's what they told me.
And I'll be like, well, what we do is we show you the exact framework that's working for my agency, other agencies, like with that, and then I ask a question, this is what pulls them in. Does that resonate with you? Does that make sense? Do you have any questions on that? Like I'm pulling them closer rather than pushing, being like, well, let me talk about my service.
And I'm taking breaks between like me throwing up on them. I think too many salespeople do that. Like they don't take those breaks. And when you do then, uh, you can be the chase, you know, or they're chasing you.
Kevin: [00:15:44] No, I love that. It's where we want to be. We don't want to be the cheap option. And we don't want to be the ones that, uh, well, you can pay us whenever you want and don't have any process.
We want them to realize that we have a tight process. We have a plan, we're focused on the results. And in order to do that, this is how we operate. If you want to work with a company like us, that charges maybe more. We have what we call professional services, which is basically an extra fee that weeds out a lot of potential customers or clients and whoever questions that line item, “well, why do I have to pay for this?”
They're probably not going to be a fit and we don't need to jump through hoops on telling them why they need to pay for that every time. So it's clearly stated in that line and that it's really. You want superior service? Communication, unlimited, uh, responses and all the help you're looking for? That's what that line is for.
So yeah, it costs extra to work with us. And we want the client that says, that's what I want. I want a Mercedes, not a Kia. There's a different service level when you, you buy a car like that, that a dealership. So we're not for everybody, but. My biggest fear is honestly signing a lot of little clients at a small amount per month that are, you know, we have some, you know, client can come in for a pretty low amount of with us.
We don't have any kind of like crazy tiers because a lot of them lead to larger business over time. But at the end of the day, my concern is a lot of small clients that, you know, really break operations.
Jason: [00:17:16] Exactly. Well, I love how simple this is to create a recurring machine because a lot of us just try to over-complicate things like it. Literally, the simplicity of it is going, look, we're only going to be in recurring and you have to pay us on these terms.
And if we do this, we're going to have more predictability and we can grow and we can scale and, and, and all of that. So that's fantastic. Is there anything I didn't ask you, Kevin, that you think would benefit the audience?
Kevin: [00:17:45] Yeah. I really think being part of the mastermind. The Digital Agency Elite is, is really allowed us to test these things, ask questions and, uh, being part of a mastermind has been a huge thing for us.
So a lot of these questions and things that we've done, you know, we haven't done them in just. It's like we have someone, a sounding board, hey, we're going to do this. What do you guys think? We might still do it if it's I want to do that, but we at least got some opinions and we can share our thoughts and insight with them.
And it's a great way to get where do you want to go faster. So just think, maybe you have a process for billing and have a process for onboarding, uh, have some rules in place for your clients. And again, if they're the right clients, they're going to have no problems with it.
Jason: [00:18:32] Awesome. And where can people reach out to you guys? What's a website address where people can check both agencies out?
Jason: [00:18:48] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kevin, for coming on and, uh, giving us a really simple strategy that can be a real game-changer.
Because if we have that predictability in our agency, we can bring in the right people, we can have the confidence, we're not making decisions from a scared point of view. And, uh, it's just a, really a great strategy.
And if you guys want to be around other amazing people like Kevin and his partner, where you can have them act as your sounding board and see the things you're not able to see, I want to invite all of you guys to go check out the digitalagencyelite.com.
Now this is not for everyone. So go check it out and until next time have a Swenk day.
Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Recurring_Revenue_Machine_for_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EDT