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Can you identify some services that might be holding your agency back? Maybe it’s time to consider getting back to the basics. Phil Blackmore and his agency Create Health are really passionate about bringing back something the world of health marketing was really lacking: creativity. Recently the pandemic helped him reflect on the agency’s true core and what they should be focusing on. This is how the agency recently re-launched with the motto “creativity is the cure”. Phil joins the podcast today to talk about how that move reenergized the team and made running an agency much easier.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Getting back to the basics. We tend to fall into the trap of going after what’s novel and trying to come up with something cool that hasn’t been done before. That can get you a bit of exposure, but it’s not the backbone of your business. Phil explains that the pandemic gave him a chance to really reflect on what it is that his agency was really good at. To think about what they enjoyed doing for their clients.
  2. Get rid of what may be holding you back. It became clear that his agency shined the most when it came to bringing creativity to the health care sector. And so, they made the decision to shed other services, like tech, to focus on what really mattered to them, and what they were best at. The entire process took about six months, but Phil says it was definitely worth it. They could now focus on what they were better at. Clients were delighted at the results and the team seemed happier.
  3. Fewer HR headaches. According to our guest, another advantage of having a very clear focus for your agency is that it makes some things much easier. It has allowed the agency to change culturally and clearly identify the opportunities for growth in the future. Also, this simplifies the task of knowing exactly what sort of talent to look for to make that happen.

Sponsors and Resources

Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.


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Getting Back To The Basics And Figuring Out The Backbone of Your Agency

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited for another episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass. Now, before we get into it, I want you to do me a favor. If you're listening, obviously you’re listening to the podcast, take a screenshot. Upload it to your favorite social media channel and tag us, so I can give you a shout-out for listening to the show.

Today we're going to talk to an amazing agency owner across the pond over in London. Um, because that’s the only city I actually know over there. He said he was outside of it and he was trying to explain it to me. But we're going to talk about getting back to the basics and a lot of things that we're ignoring and we're not doing for ourselves, but we're doing it for our clients. So let's get it to the episode.

Hey, Phil. How's it going?

Phil: [00:00:54] Really good. Thanks, Jason. How are you?

Jason: [00:00:55] Hey, man. Awesome. Well, I'm excited to have you on, uh, so briefly tell us who you are and what do you do?

Phil: [00:01:03] Yeah, so my name is Phil Blackmore and I'm one of the agency owners of Create Health, which is a specialist advertising agency that, uh, yeah, by the name, as you can probably guess, does everything in health care.

Jason: [00:01:14] Awesome. And so in, in kind of pre-show we were talking about really, you know, getting back to the basics. And so what, what have you found in scaling your agency? You guys have been doing it for a while, um, and... You were telling me a little bit beforehand about when COVID happened, it kind of made me rethink something.

So what happened? Tell us that story.

Phil: [00:01:41] Absolutely. So, I mean, we obviously spoke, I think, about 14 months ago. And, um, I think we felt we were doing pretty well as a business. But obviously COVID, I think is certainly the most, testing period of time I've ever been through as an agency owner. And, you know, as I'm sure anyone listening to this can empathize. You know, a lot of things, I didn't think I'd have to face I have. With regards to decisions on staff, services, all kinds of things.

But I suppose, through all the darkness, there was a real opportunity to actually reflect on what it is I'm trying to build and what it is we're trying to do as an agency. And I think one of the things I found really interesting was I've always believed that we're really good at what we do. Um, but actually we were probably guilty of hiding that by trying to come up with a clever way of explaining that to potential clients and prospects.

So yeah. The, the pandemic and the last 12 months has given me a real opportunity, I suppose, to reflect back on what is it we like doing? What is it we're respected for? And how on earth do we just kind of simplify the story and get that back out to existing clients to expand them? But also to new clients we want to work with?

Jason: [00:02:48] Yeah, I think we all kind of fall into that trap. Especially the ones of us that have been doing it for a while, right? Like it's, you know, we just get reactionary to everything. And then, uh, you know, I remember doing this when we were building an e-commerce platform back in 2001. You know, like, clients would call and we'd be like, okay, like they're paying the bill, let's take our foot off this.

Or when we were developing a CMS system in 2002, like I was like… Go on.

Phil: [00:03:22] Absolutely. And I think the really funny thing, if anything is, in some ways you… I don’t know, I think you'd get so obsessed with the novel, trying to come up with something new and cool that hasn't been done before. And actually as much as that's wicked, that can get you a bit of exposure. It's not the backbone of your business.

It's good for that awareness, but actually it's not what you're going to be bought for. Um, you know, people want a good solid foundation and want to know that you've got the goods to back it up.

Jason: [00:03:48] You know, one of, one of my favorite movies is Moneyball. Now I'm not a huge baseball fan. Um, but I love, you know, sports stories and, like, what you just explained is kind of like us getting up to bat and trying to hit a grand slam every time. And what's going to happen is we're going to strike out more than we're going to score. And what you know, why I loved Moneyball was they were like, we just need to get the right players that can get on base.

I don't care if they get hit and they get on base or if they get walked or whatever it is. I just want them to get on base. And I think agencies really need to focus about how can we just get on base? Like stop over-complicating it. So what were some of the things that you did to make it not as complicated?

Phil: [00:04:42] So I think, um, we fundamentally went back and looked at, firstly, what is it that are, why did I set the business up in the first place? In terms of why did I and my partner Bill, why we started and it was because we believe that in our sector creativity was massively underrepresented. Um, in the healthcare space, it's a very safe, conservative kind of sector as you'd expect because of the subject matter.

But it's also the most, uh, emotionally rich from, I suppose, a story perspective, you know, health touches us all. And what I thought was interesting was that, looking back at all the pitches we'd won. Looking back at kind of the business, historically, the one thing clients kept saying about us is that they love was just how creative we were. And how we were bringing, I suppose, broader thinking into a sector that they hadn't seen before.

So we went back to basics and was like, well, you know, what's wrong with this sector? And then came up with this kind of, I suppose, positioning that I'm very pleased with, which is creativity is the cure within healthcare. And we then, having got that basic kind of sentiment, went out and found scientists who specialize in behavioral psychology and other such areas to really help back up our belief that creativity is the cure.

So yeah, we have this really lovely line, but then we made sure it was grounded in the science. And yeah, we stripped back our services. Um, actually got rid of certain departments so that we could focus and invest more on, I suppose, the creative and the planning side of things, which is really resonating with, with our clients. And the team and the energy is just so much better now.

Jason: [00:06:16] Oh, and you probably do things a lot more efficiently too, if you started stripping away some of the things. And a lot of times I find agency owners have a hard time of getting rid of some services. Um, so what was kind of the step or like, especially if you're doing some services for legacy clients, did you just say, hey, we're not doing this anymore? Or did you just stop marketing it for new ones coming?

Phil: [00:06:42] Yeah. So I think one of the biggest, I suppose, shocks was we turned off building tech internally. So we used to have a department that, that built the apps and the websites, the CMS is all this sort of stuff. And we made really good money off it, historically. But we got to that juncture where it's like, you're either going to be a tech agency or you're going to be a creative agency.

You can't really be both and didn't have the, I suppose, capital to, to try and do both properly. Um, so as I said, we realized that we preferred creative more, that we were better at it. So we turned off those services for tech. We still think digitally and techno, technology, but we've partnered with agencies that are really good in that space.

So they do the build and the maintenance and all the stuff that we quite frankly, weren't that good at. We have the upfront strategy and ideas. Um, and yeah, and that's for the clients that we had on board. Uh, and we went to great lengths to make sure that we handed them off to partners that we, we felt had the same values as us.

So they didn't feel like we'd, we'd kind of left them high and dry. We'd done the right thing. And we sell, felt immensely kind of cleansed and relieved that we had one less thing to focus on. Um, as I said, creative is what we're good at. And it's what clients… what's lovely when you talk to procurement, you know, you go in with a really niche offering of, this is what we do, and this is why we're great at it. This means, again, you, you get rather than being a generalist, being that specialist really does get you higher up the list.

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And when you do that too, I mean, you can demand so much bigger on prices. It's kind of like if you just go see a general, your general doctor and they're checking the oil and checking your temperature, they get paid so much. But if you need to have brain surgery, you know, they're going to be getting paid so much more than, uh, someone that's a generalist.

Um, so when you started peeling back some of the services and getting rid of those, how, how quick? Cause a lot of people listening are like, well, how quick did you start to see a change and growth and profit and also revenue?

Phil: [00:10:05] Yeah. So, I mean, it was obviously a frightening to have to turn things off. Because as I said, we've made historically good money. But then when you start to turn off all the other things that you don't need to have suddenly, you know, all the different platforms, the hosting. Everything else that actually was, unbeknownst to us costing us tons of money behind the scenes. In terms of, and not necessarily being recharged back as it should be.

There were a lot of clients that we weren't charging the hosting. On to, you know, silly little things that I think a pandemic certainly sharpens your eye on. Um, but yeah, I mean, in terms of a change, it's certainly taken about six months for it to kind of wash through.

Um, but yeah, the last sort of six months have been tremendously good in comparison to the others. Because, yeah, we've, we've just had more time to focus on the stuff that we enjoy doing. And because we enjoy it, we do it better.

Jason: [00:10:51] Yeah. Yeah. I almost look at it as you're climbing a mountain and you realize the trek to the summit is really like… you could die by going this one path. But if you backtrack, you can get on an easier path.

And then you can get up there, um, you know, eventually without little risk. I, I kind of look at it as like, that's kind of what you've done is like, all right, this is the risky pass is going up there. And then when you start again you’re like, man, this is really pretty easy, a lot easier, you know? And now you probably see a lot faster growth too.

Phil: [00:11:30] Well, I think it also just makes it so much easier for us thinking about staff in terms of who you're hiring. Um, having that clarity of focus has meant that we've been able to change culturally in our kind of our processes. You know, creativity is very much at the heart of everything we do. Um, we're really clear on where the opportunities are and things like CGI now and other areas to amplify what we do creatively.

So yeah. Uh, in some ways it's just made it really, really simple for us. It's also meant, I mean, we're, we're based in Bristol. It's a big tech city. So we were always competing against people who could outbid us for the best talent anyway. So yeah, in some ways it's, it's nice not to have those kinds of HR headaches either.

Jason: [00:12:10] Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, when, when I'm talking with our mastermind, we're always talking about recruiting, right? Because we're at levels. You know, everyone in the mastermind is at a level where they're getting tons of business. But it's, it's harder to keep up. And they're trying to get out of the day-to-day operations and really build the leadership team and really transform from an owner to a CEO. And it really comes down to talent.

But now if you've stripped back a lot of the services you know exactly what you need. Because a lot of times I find agencies hiring people to do things that they have no clue about because they want to add more services. And I actually think that's actually a mistake in most cases. Because how can you measure someone on something you've never done?

Like you're going to be a horrible manager rather than look, I've done millions of websites. I can measure. And I know if someone is BS'ing me in the interview or BSing me for the first six months. Um, you know, it'd be like, you're gone in the first week.

Phil: [00:13:19] Yeah, absolutely. And as you said, it's, it just, I’d say, I think that the thing I struggled with is probably the biggest shift in terms of becoming a, an owner is the, your time is, it's so precious. And you can end up doing tasks, which, you know, are not really reflective of the, of the value that you have on the business.

So, yeah, the more you can do to, as I say, get back to basics. Strip away the things that you think are doing you favors... But really aren't and actually just, just focus on, on, on the bits that you enjoy. The business is going to do so much better.

Jason: [00:13:50] Yeah, exactly. Well, this has all been amazing, Phil. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Phil: [00:14:01] I think, uh, the key thing would be whatever your point of difference or proposition is, just make sure that it's something that really runs through the core of the business. Not something that just sounds nice on a flyer or a website. As I said, creativity is something I'm very passionate on. And so, you know, having that as a driving force for the business means that it's infectious. And others pick up on it because it's coming from the top down.

Um, and I think the key thing then is to nurture it. Uh, and just make sure that it then comes back up towards you in more interesting ways as well. That's, that's how the business will grow through the, the great people that we hire.

Jason: [00:14:34] Well, I think, you know, the reason why it's worked for you so well is you have such passion and the belief in it. Versus choosing it based on, well, I think we can do this to make more money.

I think the make more money as a byproduct, right? I think when people start just focusing on the money, I think they start making bad decisions. Um, and, uh, it gets a little bit more challenging. So, awesome, uh, what's the website people go and check out the agency?

Phil: [00:15:03] Uh, is

Jason: [00:15:06] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out.

Thank you so much, Phil, for coming on the podcast. It was a lot of fun and yeah, we just got to go back to the basics. And if you guys want to be able to really kind of see the things you might not be able to see in front of you and you want to be surrounded by the best talent. Uh, from all the agency owners all over the world, I want to invite all of you to go to

This is our exclusive mastermind just for agency owners that are going through a rapid scaling of their agency. And they want to get to a point where they have the opportunity to sell it one day or to exit in the things that they don't want to do anymore. And have that freedom that we all really wanted.

So make sure you go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Every agency owner needs solid negotiation skills to feel more confident when dealing with clients. Mori Taheripour is an executive and award-winning educator who focused her career on negotiations. She currently teaches at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and works privately with entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations, and universities. She wants to make negotiations more accessible and help people realize it's a skill we all have and are better at than we realize. In this episode, she discusses why negotiations make people anxious and how you can get better results by being prepared and understanding motivations and your values. Mori also explains why you should be curious and avoid just wanting to be right, plus her new book, and much more.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Making negotiations accessible. Most people get really anxious about negotiating and think about it as a mere transaction. Somebody wins, somebody loses and that’s it. Mori believes that is just a small slice of the pie. Negotiations are more than that. People maybe link them to negative experiences or think they are not combative enough to be a good negotiator, but we actually negotiate every day. It’s a skill that we all have and could get better at if we change our perspective. And the first step is to be prepared and understand yourself, your motivations, and your values.
  2. Be curious. The fact that most people think about negotiations as a win or lose scenario means they’re not thinking about long-term solutions that focus more on the relationship. Think about a divorce or a separation from your business partner. Those negotiations don’t necessarily have to become a conflict. You need to be able to clearly explain your why’s and be curious about theirs. Don’t assume that you have all the answers. Don’t come to the negotiation just expecting to be right. Especially if listening can lead to a solution that benefits both parties and preserving a relationship.
  3. Not all about prices. If negotiations were just discussions about pricing, Mori says she wouldn't be teaching it. It's not fun, it's dreadful. It should be about educating your client about what you can offer them and why you do what you do. Tell them how passionate you are about your mission. Make it a conversation so you can also get to know their motivations and their whys. At the end of this, now it's time to discuss pricing, and by then your value and the benefits they will get from contracting your services should be very clear to them. If it's not, it doesn't mean you should now start lowering your prices. It's ok to not want to negotiate that point.

Sponsors and Resources

HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial.


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Learn to Negotiate Successfully and Never Have to Lower Your Prices

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, agency owners? I'm excited to have you back for another episode. I have an amazing guest and we're going to talk about negotiating, which is always a fun topic, and I'm really excited to get into it. So let's go ahead and start the episode.

Hey, welcome to the show.

Mori: [00:00:25] Hey, Jason. How are you? Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:27] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Mori: [00:00:32] Um, so Mori Taheripour. I teach at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, uh, for part of my life. I teach in legal studies and business ethics department, and largely I focus on negotiations.

So, um, apart from Wharton, which is where I do most of my teaching, um, I've worked with entrepreneurs and, um, corporations and foundations and universities. And spend most of my time focused on teaching people how to negotiate successfully, um, and, and doing so from a very different perspective than most negotiation classes.

So that's, that's really the focus of my work. I do some work in sports. I'm also focused on teaching, um, working with athletes and, and helping them as they think about transitioning out of the sport. And some diversity and inclusion work.

Jason: [00:01:22] Very cool. Awesome. Let's talk about negotiating and kind of, you know, everyone listening is obviously done negotiating, you know, their whole career.

Um, so talk about kind of the first step in negotiating. How can you set up where you're positioned better?

Mori: [00:01:41] So let me go back just a little bit. I think it was funny when I heard the intro and you said we're going to talk about something fun: negotiating. Most people don't think about negotiations and think it's fun.

Um, in fact, a lot of people are very anxious about it. And that's because, um, they have bad experiences. They think about that one negotiation that they had, that they thought they did really poorly in. Or a divorce or whatever negative experience that they've had around negotiations. And oftentimes they think about it as such, because they, they think about negotiations as being a mere transaction.

Somebody wins, somebody loses. Black and white, that's all it is. And so people who, a lot of people are this way, they're not very combative, right? They don't really want to argue and bicker. So they think, oh, I don't want to negotiate, right? Whatever they can do to avoid it, get an attorney, whatever it is. Um, but the truth is that that's really not what negotiations is.

I mean, it's a small slice of the pie. But negotiations is something we do all the time. And each and every person who's listening to this, or, you know, parents, um, daughters, sons, uh, teachers, right? These are individuals, all of us who negotiate from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we get to sleep at night, right?

So the reason I want to start there is because I want people to understand that this isn't a skill that they're not familiar with, or they have a bad memory of. It's a skill that they use daily that they're probably a whole lot better at that they even think they are, right? But they don't think of those conversations as being negotiations.

And so what, you know what, I just wrote this book that I terribly launched, um, right at the beginning of the pandemic. So not the best time to release a book. But putting that aside, um, the, the reason I decided to write this book was really sort of at the heart of this conversation was to make negotiations something that's really accessible and, and a lot of people are really good at. And so they're using this opportunity to just become better, um, and, and doing so by better understanding themselves.

So long answer to your question. Fundamentals are important. One of them is preparation. And, um, most people who learned about negotiations, read a book, see an article, listen to a podcast are taught, you know, that you are best when you prepare really well.

That's absolutely true. What we often don't talk about, though, is the sort of the earliest step in preparation, which is the better understanding of yourself. Taking some time before every negotiation. And thinking about things like your values, things that you don't want to compromise. The things that are really important to you that if you did so then there is not doing well because you've sort of left on a table the very things that are really important to you, your convictions, right?

Um, and, and to create those sort of personal boundaries. And remember how is it that, you want people to remember you after this conversation, right? What's, what's most important to you beyond just an outcome that you want? I feel like because a lot of people don't talk about that in preparation, I'd love for your listeners to understand that it's actually, the very first step is a very personal step. And everything after that is so like, what I'm sure most people have learned.

What do you want to get out of the deal? What do you want the deal structure to be? And all those things are really important and there's ways to do it and do it well. I just wanted to sort of drop that in there because it's a part of the conversation that a lot of people leave behind. And I think it's fundamentally one of the most important parts.

Jason: [00:05:20] Yeah. I totally agree with that. And I, and I, um, I love that you pointed that out. You know, I've always looked at negotiating is it's in most, I, I think maybe a little bit different and maybe not all the time. But as I got later in my years, I started realizing that both parties need to win. It's not a winner or a loser, right?

I think if you go into it that way, then it's even harder to negotiate. Um, you know, like case in point. I remember when I was building my house in Colorado. If I just kept beating them up, literally they're not going to want to work with me and they're just going to watch it and just get it. Versus I want you to make money and I want to get a good deal and I want to get a good end result, you know? And, uh, do you see a lot of people look at it that way?

Mori: [00:06:09] Well, I see a lot of people who think about it and that sort of win-loss scenario, right? Because again, it's transactional for a lot of people. But, but the, I mean, that's a perfect example that you just gave because you want to incentivize your counterpart, right?

So if it's a house that you're building, um, a project that needs to be completed by a certain date. So it’s the negotiations with your employees or contractors, um, negotiations with your client. Because, you know, if, if you don't take it away to account that this is more, uh, sort of a collaboration or a partnership, then you stop thinking about the value of this particular client or business relationship in the long-term.

So I think about it from a long game, right? I think about every interaction being part of something that becomes more of a journey than just like the sprint to the end. Because, you know, people like doing business with people that they like, right? They don't pick a business, they pick people that they like.

So, you know, I think that the less we focus on the end game. That the, you know, whether you win or lose a focus more on the process, then I think there's a natural extension of this relationship. That's based on collaboration, problem-solving, um, creation of values as opposed to extracting values.

So we don't use the term winning in my class too much, because it almost gives us a sense of competition, that's not necessary. Because it's not about competition. You're really only competing with yourself, right? To maybe get the better deal than you did the last time. Or what can we do better? But to think of your, your counterpart, as competition eliminates the opportunity for you to come up with sort of innovative, um, long-term deals that’s focus on anymore our relationship.

Jason: [00:07:57] What are you… And maybe, um, I want to ask you this cause there's a lot of people this way. Um, and even with, with me, and I want to know if I'm missing out. Um, so when someone comes to me and they go, Jason, I want to join the mastermind. And, uh, and I tell them, hey, this is the investment. And they go, and then they try to negotiate with me.

And I say, the price is the price. Like if I didn't give you enough value then, you know, and then I try to tell them. And, and at the end of the day, if it's not right, it's not right. Like I never negotiate on the price. Am I missing out with that? Like…

Mori: [00:08:40] I don't think so. Um, because part of that is to understand your own value, right? And, and to know that in some ways, when people negotiate, things like that. And this is sort of, I'm going to take this somewhere I wasn't planning, but I see it a lot in people that sort of enroll in courses, athletes, whoever like these self-development self, um, sort of help type of courses.

They don't always sort of jump in with that investment. And it's so strange to me because it's an investment in yourself, right? We're quick to buy a car to buy a house, but this is sort of where you can reap the rewards of this journey for years on end, right? And so part of what you are doing with mastermind is to create an opportunity for, for people to sort of make the investment, but they reap the rewards of that investment in perpetuity, right?

So what's that worth to people? That's usually the question, right? First of all, why are you here? Right. So what was your why? And if your, why is his success evolution development, then what's that worth? And I would, I would like to think a lot, right?

So I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I think that that part of where people go wrong is that they want to go right to the price point. They want to know somebody's budget, which I inherently disagree with. Um, or they want to list out their pricing. And the truth is that that immediately makes it a transaction.

The sort of the piece before that. There's like four steps to the negotiations process. So it was like the preparation then when we call information exchange, which is when you first get to know somebody, right. That building rapport. Understanding more about them. They get to know you better. You're building sort of affiliation or connections.

And it's during that time where you want to understand their why, right? So why are they even here in the first place? What are their long-term needs? Well beyond just the transaction, right? And you want to sort of explain to them your why, right? The reason why you do what you do and why you think you've been successful.

And so to move it away from a black and white sort of somewhat superficial, visual, transactional conversation. And it's also during that time where you talk about your value, right? Why you were so to the people listening and like their agency is, is better positioned to, um, you know, help this client than their competitors.

And, and these are what we offer, and this is why we stand by our product and, and here's some of our success stories. But you've not yet talked to anything about pricing, right? So this is this sort of long educational process. That's demanding sort of connectivity and really human connection, human connections. It brings, it brings humanity into the conversation.

So by the time you're done with this piece, when you arrive at that next stage, which is the bargaining that transaction, right? Then you're your client, your counterpart is, is far more educated at this point, right? They, there shouldn't be any surprises. Usually, if you do this well, an opening offer is not like, oh my God, how did we get there?

Because you've spent the whole time sort of educating them and vice versa. And so I would just say that, that it's important to put off the money conversation as long as possible. It's the most painful part of the process anyway, but you put that aside and then you educate and then you educate and then you answer questions. And you get them on the same page as you, and you better understand their wants and needs.

So going back to, or are you doing something wrong? I don't think so at all, because I would, I wouldn't assume that by the time somebody gets to you in that point. Where they’re wanting to sort of enroll and be a part of, they've learned so much about it. Uh, but, and so at that point, you're not taking that piece for granted. You just feel like you've done enough to, you know, sort of explain and express your value.

It is no longer your job at that point to undercut yourself, right. Because if they haven't understood what this can do for them, then it's the reeducation as opposed to the okay let me drop my pricing. Why, right? So I think that there's a lot to discussions that are far more enjoyable to end the pain of talking about pricing.

If that's what negotiations was, there was no way I'd be teaching it, right? Because it's, it's dreadful. It's, it's not fun. It's uncomfortable. Right? So you just put it off as long as you possibly can.

Jason: [00:13:22] What's the fourth step? Is that the decision?

Mori: [00:13:25] No, that's when you come basically to a deal, right? So either you come to a deal or you don't, right?

That's sort of the commitment and implementation of the contract with deal. Or if there's no deal at all, then that's really sort of that decision point. And then, you know, for a really great, um, negotiations that end up being something long-term, then that end become sort of very fluid. Because every time you go back to the table, you're thinking about how do we make this better?

How do we enhance this opportunity for one another? Let's revisit it. We're both in a better position now. And so if the first three steps go rally well, now that end is no longer the sort of as hard end. It's sort of this very fluid ever evolving opportunity.

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Love it. Um, let's switch gears a little bit and let's talk about… Let's say you're in, you're in bed with this person and you really can't get out of it. And you need to try to go, well, it needs to be this way because, you know, hey, you're paying us for, to being the expert, but they want to do it their way.

How can both parties win or like, and these guys are stuck. You can't just, sometimes you can't fire them. Like it could be, it could… Well, let, let's, let's use it as this example. Cause I think, let me, let me switch this. You have a business partner, right? In your agency and you guys are not seeing eye-to-eye anymore because the agency has grown at a different pace.

What steps would you take? And let's say their lives are not matching anymore. What steps would you take in order to fix that?

Mori: [00:16:23] Um, so I've never been married, but the one divorce I've had is one from my business partner. So I, I get that example really well. Um, and I think that… First of all, you have to have the courage to look at yourself and figure out why it's not working anymore, right?

Is it that you are, you know, not looking at growth and they are? Your long-term goals have changed, or you have to understand your own why first, right? And, and because these decisions are not easy. And worse yet, they're sort of like become, you know, little knicks, but you keep sort of pulling out and then now it's a scar and it's really bad and you can't get rid of it, right?

So you sort of want to just confront the situation the earlier the better. And you want to know very clearly what it is that's not doing for you anymore, right? Because if you're not happy, and I think we undervalue personal happiness and gratification, especially in business, right? There's a lot easier ways to make money than to be an entrepreneur.

So, so for the blood, sweat, tears, the work that you put in, the no vacations, the no sick days, right? What is it that you want to get out of it? And sometimes we realize that we've gotten into, out of touch with the things that we have wanted originally. Maybe even burnt out. Maybe there could be a variety of reasons, right?

Or I don't see eye-to-eye with this person anymore. And what seemed like, um, a real match just doesn't really work anymore, right? We're so going into very different directions. The point behind why people, and I include myself in that, why comes up to this head that it doesn't need to get there. Is that people A put out the conversation and they keep putting it off.

And then in that case, it comes out some other way, right? There's anger, there's animosity, there's disrespect, whatever it is. So you don't want that because, I would assume, unless your partner is a horrible person, right? They’re, they’re dishonest or whatever it is. You don't want to blow up this relationship. And you kind of want to avoid all the lawsuits and all that kind of stuff, right?

So the earlier you start having these conversations the better. You may find that they're exactly the same place and that now the negotiation becomes how to untangle this relationship? So that nobody's losing and in fact, you are now both well on your way to finding your own fulfillment and happiness, you've outgrown this.

But when people don't talk or they avoid the conversation, in the long run it builds resentment. Resentment in yourself because you didn't have the conversation and resentment of your counterpart, who you are now blaming for everything.

And I, I just, I just think that because there's such a depth of relationship involved. The worst thing you can do is actually to not have a conversation. And it doesn't have to be one conversation. Generally, it won't be. If you've been in business for a long time, you could be friends. You could be family members, you could be, I mean, there's so many other aspects to consider that this isn't like, okay, I'm going to build up the courage to go happen to one conversation.

No, it's, it's sort of a process that has to be revisited over and over again. I feel like there's a great opportunity actually in untangling these relationships in a way that could be beneficial to both parties. When it doesn't ends up that way, it's because there's A sort of ethics issues become involved. Or B that people have put off the conversation and now there's anger.

So there's less emotionality when you treat it as, you know, we've been around the block a few times. I want to go a different direction. How do…? I sense maybe you're not happy either. Can we talk about this? Maybe, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's something else, but this is sort of what I've been getting from you. So let's talk.

And I think that's, it really, really simplifies a very complicated issue. But because I've gone through it, I know that it would have been far less complicated had I had the courage to actually talk about what was bothering me a whole lot earlier than I did.

Jason: [00:20:55] Yeah. I, I've, I've found over the years I've done it sometimes good. Sometimes very bad. Um, whenever you push, I think we're just like, if I'm pushing on you, your human nature is to push back. And then it's just a constant battle. Unless you can do something like you were talking about kind of pull them along a little bit. And then there's not that friction or that angst.

Um, but what do you do if you're at a point where, hey, you're pretty tangled up. I mean, it is a ton of knots and, uh, there's not much like… Is there certain things you can do to try to untangle? Like if you've gotten, just, let's say you, you do want to work it out. But like, you've both been building up. You both hate each other right now.

Is there a way to kind of come out the other side and both people win.

Mori: [00:21:49] So you can always get an attorney, but I never think that people when they get attorneys, but it just sort of escalates everything. Especially if there's a relationship. Um, we can kind of talk about this. We call it going to the balcony, which means that sort of you know, you almost…

Jason: [00:20:55] Push one person off.

Mori: [00:21:49] Yeah exactly. No, not quite. But you do create a third person, right? You get sort of this imaginary third person. And all it means is that when we’re on the heat of debate and conversation our egos don't allow us to be curious anymore, right. We're sort of drive hard. And then when they disagree, we drive harder and then harder.

And we want to be right and we can't really hear the other person. And so you have to allow yourself to stop and be like, well, like… This is, not only is this not getting better, but what are we doing? Right. So why is it that we can no longer even have a conversation? And what they mean by going to the balcony is that you actually have to sort of lift yourself out of this conversation and become almost like a third party that's saying, okay, let's start again.

And you go back to the why's, right? Why are we here? What is it that you want? What is it that I want? Let's press reset. This is becoming only harder if we doubt. And if you can do that, then what it means is that you're now, first of all, you can hear each other, right? You're not sort of talking over each other.

But that level of curiosity can allow you to see somebody's perspective that you've been so blind to, right? You know, a lot of studies show that, that, first of all, being curious as is not an easy thing for a lot of people, right. We want to come into conversations without minds already made up.

When we know people really well, we’re even less curious, right? We're sort of filling in the blanks when they talk. I know them so well, I don't have to ask. This is what they want. Truth is people grow, people change. So if you can then change that mindset from I'm right, they're wrong. To that's not getting us anywhere.

But maybe turning it to how about we just, we engage in this discussion from the place of… What if we started from zero? What if we just better understood each other? Because in that situation that you mentioned, you're not changing somebody's mind, right?

This isn't like I'm right, so let me make you understand how right I am. It’s neither of us is frankly trying to be right. We're just trying to untangle, which requires understanding. And we're not getting there because we're too far into this from an emotionality perspective, right.

Taking breaks in those conversations is so important. Um, it doesn't always have to be done. And like I said, these conversations aren't normally addressed and fixed in like three hours, right? It's over time. It's many times. When things get heated, you take a break. Um, because if you don't, again, then I would say you need that other party, that's going to keep you sort of, um, level-headed and less emotional.

But now you've removed the very thing that made you business partners in the first place, which was your relationship.

Jason: [00:25:07] Yeah. I love that. And I, I want to point out kind of the, what you said on curiosity. I think if we do have curiosity on what that other, how that other person sees it. And kind of almost like a lot of times too, because emotion just clouds judgment. And it's very hard for me. I get very, very emotional when people come after me, um, to a point where I'm like death to you all, right?

And so, I'm talking mainly about my HOA. Maybe you get me, right. Um, but you know, if I think if you kind of step back and go, if I was going to give this advice, to my friend that was going through the same situation, what would you give? And I, and I always felt like you can kind of take emotion out of that.

And especially too, if you're curious about what's their point of view. And then look at it kind of like what you were saying is like, how can both, all parties win and we just come out. Versus…

Mori: [00:26:09] Right. It's hard, by the way. It's really, to be curious, it's not easy, right? Because we want to be right. And so to have the humility, have the confidence to say, I'm very prepared for this conversation.

I know what I want, but the humility that says, but I can't know everything. There's no way that I know every part of what's going to sort of fix this, this issue. And I don't want anybody to think like, oh, she's just saying, oh, she makes it sound so easy. It is the last thing from easy, right?

Starting at what would appear to be easy, which is just being curious because you have to take your ego out of it. I will tell you something about emotions though. I'm not that person who thinks there's no room for emotions in negotiations. We're human beings, right? Not robots and emotions inform us, right?

They can, they can tell us what's important. What's worth fighting for? What makes us unhappy should be addressed? What makes us happy should be embraced, right? Emotions go wrong when they get ahead of you. Right. And so, again, don't disconnect, just be super aware so that you know, what's happening.

And like you said, when you get angry, you can just say, hold on a minute. Okay. I just need a little break. Let's, let's just let me go walk around the block for a minute and, um, and I'll be back or it let's just move this to Friday. Cooler heads prevail. We'll come back to this. And so I think just to understand that, that you don't want to shun emotion because they inform you. You just don't want your emotions to get the best of you.

Jason: [00:27:49] I love it. Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Mori: [00:27:58] I think that, um, and you know, I talked about my book, um, the, another reason why I decided to write a book in the midst of a million other negotiations books that are out there is that I didn't want to write something that was prescriptive. I don't want to say, do this, do this. And you're guaranteed a good outcome because that's not how things work.

And I don't want people to memorize formulas. How to say a certain thing. Um, I think that, that the, the best outcomes come when you're completely authentic. Both to yourself, as well as your presence in that conversation. And whether it's a client or a relationship, um, when, when you really have worked on showing up as the best of you, right?

Who you are and you honor that, then there's no reason to memorize how to’s, right? The only thing that you have to navigate is, first to be really prepared and that sort of one the most important things. But also all you really have to do then is first of all, show up as you want to be remembered, right?

And as you want to be treated so with kindness and dignity and respect. But also to know that in order to be really, um, true to, to your presence as well as theirs, to kind of disconnect from the outside world. Get rid of all the distractions and just be really present in this conversation.

Because you'll get emotional cues, you'll get information about your counterpart. You'll better know how to answer questions, right? So in a world that we're distracted all the time, this is even harder and yet more important. So I would say to people sort of celebrate yourself, right? Be confident in who you are and what you do.

Nobody does it better than you. Nobody knows it better than you, right. So to come in with that level of confidence. Have the humility to be competent, to be curious, engage in a way that is humane, right? Is, is, is, is empathetic and kind and open. Then, you know, I don't see anything but success at the other end of it. Because even if that one deal doesn't work out, you so enjoy process and maybe they have as well that this will be a relationship that they can go back to when they do get more money or when the economy changes.

So you leave an indelible mark on people and it could be good or it could be bad. And so your value proposition comes when it's really, really good.

Jason: [00:30:28] Awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. What's the name of the book again and where can they go to get it?

Mori: [00:30:35] Let me show you so that you can see. It's called “Bring yourself: How to Harness The Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly.” Do you see that?

Jason: [00:30:42] Yup, we do.

Mori: [00:30:44] Not your ordinary negotiations book title. But yeah, it's on Amazon. It's on every online retailer. But it's, it's all about stories. It's like an autobiography, actually. So it's not academic. It's just, about human connections.

Jason: [00:30:57] Very cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Mori: [00:30:59] Thank you so much for having me.

Jason: [00:31:00] Exactly. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners who can help you navigate through emotion and make sure you're prepared and really set you on a path for scaling your agency faster, I'd love to invite all of you to go apply at the

So, go there. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

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

Having your own agency and the responsibility for people’s livelihoods can be an isolating experience. Darren Fox says he fell into the agency world unexpectedly. After a while of offering freelance web design services, it became clear he could not continue solopreneur. So, Darren founded Idea Marketing Group. and started building a team. Even though he loves building relationships with his team, as the agency grew, he had to separate himself to maintain his leadership role. “You definitely feel like you’re on an island,” Darren says. In this episode, Darren is candid about the loneliness of agency ownership. He also talks about ways to overcome isolation in order to grow a successful agency.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. It can be very isolating. Something that is not discussed much but agency owners should be prepared for is just how isolating it can be at the top. As your agency grows, so will your team. You may find that, as the leader, it’s better for you to put some distance to maintain respect and avoid favoritism. You can’t be everyone’s best friend because you may be in the position of firing them at some point. It’s difficult and it will leave you excluded from fun lunch outings with everyone, but Darren agrees it’s for the best.
  2. Turn to people that can relate. Darren and many other mastermind members have agreed that one of the best remedies for the loneliness of agency ownership is sharing in a group of people who relate and offer advice. As an agency owner, you can feel burdened with the pressure of being responsible for people’s livelihoods and the future of your business, which you can’t really discuss with your team. However, other agency owners will understand those concerns and offer new perspectives.
  3. Find the right pace. We’re all impatient about the success we want to see for our company. We want to scale fast and take on every project we can get. But, that kind of thinking can lead to burnout for you and your team. You don’t have to take on every client. Learning to say no is an important part of the process. Our guest recommends talking with your team to be sure that they can handle the workload. Set expectations for each project and be realistic about deadlines. After all, you’re counting on them and they have to know that you've got their back.

Sponsors and Resources

Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.


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Learn to Deal With the Isolation of Agency Life and Find the Right Pace to Grow

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. And I have an amazing guest coming on the masterclass to talk about the doom and gloom of owning an agency. The things that not many people really talk about that you need to be aware of and to make sure that, you know, look, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. So we're definitely going to have a lot of fun.

Um, but let's go ahead and jump into it.

Alright, Darren. What's going on, man?

Darren: [00:00:33] Hey, thanks for having me. It's awesome to be here.

Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. I was, I had Drew on last week and he was one of the other ones on top of the mountain with us. That was in the intro. So you're the second guest on the intro. Tell us, uh, before we jump in and talk about, you know, all this amazing stuff that we wish we knew about, tell us who you are and what you do?

Darren: [00:00:58] Sure. So, uh, Darren Fox, president and founder of Idea Marketing Group. Uh, we're a full-service agency that is known for custom web development.

So that's been our core focus and we work with all types of industries, but we've really been, you know, narrowing that down to food and beverage within the last year or so.

Jason: [00:01:19] Awesome. Well, I'm excited to have you on, so let's, um, let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about what are some of the things that you didn't expect, you know, creating an agency. Because a lot of times we come in and we think, you know, creating an agency there's low barrier to entry and we're going to have all this freedom, uh, you know, to do whatever we want and have all this money.

So let's, let's talk about what did you not expect?

Darren: [00:01:45] Oh, yeah. So, I mean, I guess a lot of it is time initially of like how much time it really takes. Everybody thinks that, you know, because you have your own business, that you're just going to be, you know, going out, doing whatever you want, getting the work done.

And I feel like when I first started, I was probably working almost double the hours that I was previously for like a fraction of the price. Probably like my first job, like pushing shopping carts at a retail store is essentially what I was making, but working so much harder and longer.

And, you know, I kind of fell into the agency role unexpected. I was really just going to kind of do it as like this freelance thing and do it on the side. And it all just kind of happened. Then, you know, it started to snowball and I was getting bigger and I was like, I can't do this by myself. I need to start hiring. And, you know, just learning about the challenges of hiring and trying to bring on the right people.

And I think, you know, I obviously learned some mistakes early on that the best thing to do is, you know, spend that money and hire the best talent that you can early on. Um, so that was probably like one of the biggest mistakes out of the gate is I was just trying to hire like what I could kind of afford. And just learning early on that, you know, that's not the right type of mentality that you need to have to make the agency successful.

Jason: [00:03:14] Yeah. I, um, I see a lot of times, and I even did this as well. Like in the very beginning when you're hiring someone, you're hiring them to do something that you don't know how to do. That you're really trying to sell them on working with you versus the opposite. And I look at it now looking back and I think you do too of going, if I could go back again, I would actually hire someone to do something that I already know how to do really well.

So then I know how to manage them and they're actually doing the things that I don't need to be doing anymore. So I can go on to the next.

Darren: [00:03:51] Right. Yeah, because I mean, every agency owner should constantly challenge themselves to, you know, do professional development and just keep growing. Because as soon as you stop, you die. Like, yeah, this is just kind of the nature of the beast, especially in this industry with how fast everything changes.

Jason: [00:04:10] Yeah. What about like, when things go wrong? Like, what's your, what's your thoughts of, uh… You know, can you go to your team? Can you go to your employees? Like, I mean, it's pretty, I remember it was pretty isolating.

Darren: [00:04:25] Yeah. Yeah. You definitely feel like you're on an island. Like, you know, you want to share these things with people. But at the same time, they're putting their trust and faith in you as a leader.

And you don't want to jeopardize that either, because then they start to question what you're doing. So, yeah, it's an extremely lonely position to be in. And it's tough too, because I'm the type of person like I like to develop like really solid relationships with my staff. And then there's also that fine line too, of like, well, you still have to be the boss.

You can't be somebody's best friend because you may be put in that position to where you'd have to fire them. And I've had to do that and, you know, it's, it's a hard position to be in. So I think just kind of knowing that fine line of like, wanting to bring on people that fit from a culture standpoint, because they share the same values as you do. But you also have to kind of, you know, keep that line in between of not becoming friends.

I mean, you can be, but it's like, it's a different type of friendship.

Jason: [00:05:32] Yeah. How have you gotten around that? Because, you know, I've, I've struggled with that in the past. And even on this go around, you know, it's, it's really, it might, like with Stacy and her team, like they're, they're like family now. Um, and I know what you're saying about like, you know, if you get to a point where you have to fire someone because they're not doing something, it makes it that much harder.

But I guess elaborate a little bit more about, because most people don't realize this and it does get very, very difficult.

Darren: [00:06:11] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when you say family, you look at it and the people that you work with are probably the people that you see more often than your actual family. So in essence, they are your family because, yeah, you're around them so much.

And, you also, like, as you've grown, you add staff, I remember, or a smaller, we would do everything. It was like a, a tight little group too. We would do like launch outings and everything. But then as you get bigger yeah, it's like, oh, we can't really just bring everybody out to lunch or we can't do this.

And then you have to start to be selective of like, well, if I go out to lunch with this person, is it going to piss off the other person? And people start to see that you're playing like favoritism. Um, so that's also hard too. So, you know, a lot of times like the team would go out on lunch outings and I'd be like, yeah, I'm going to sit this one out because you guys will be able to bond more without me there and present.

So those are some of the challenging things too, is just pulling back and sometimes it puts you or paints that picture of like, oh, you're this guy that, you know, doesn't want to be around the staff when really you do, you just have to like… Yeah, it's, it's hard to say. It's like, yeah, you've got to kind of just separate yourself.

You can't do after hour get-togethers or those types of things.

Jason: [00:07:33] Yeah. I remember when I had, I think we're about eight people at the time and a lot of the people at this level, um, I remember having them over at my house, like a bonfire behind and I just treated them as like friends. And then I remember the culture really started shifting a little bit in the wrong way, um, for like listening to us.

It was kind of like, they didn't look at you as the leader anymore, but like, oh, I can do whatever. I remember having to get rid of a lot of those people. And I remember coming back at it going I can't do that anymore. And it's like, one of my favorite movies is miracle right there about the 1980 hockey team.

If any of you have watched or hasn't watched it, you got to go watch it. It's really pretty amazing. And, uh, Herb, I think it was Herb Green was that w was that the coach's name at the time? And the whole, this whole committee wanted to put all these a, a, you know, all these, a, um, star people on the team. He was like, no, I want the right people on the right position.

Um, it's not, they're not the best player, but the best player for the team. And I remember him separating himself from his team. Like… and I remember the doctor and his assistant coach was like, has he ever done this? It's like, no, never, but there's always a reason. And, uh, it is, you know, it is pretty lonely at the top.

Um, what are some things that you've done to kind of make you sane because you are on an island?

Darren: [00:09:15] Yeah. Um, so actually probably the best thing was joining the mastermind group too. And just being around other agency owners and just being able to share with them directly. Because those are the stories that we haven't been able to share internally.

And then you have somebody that's in the same boat as you, that you can be like, all right, I get it. Like, let's just talk through this. So I think that's really valuable too, because, yeah, I see it with every agency owner where they start to have second thoughts of like, do I get rid of the agency? Do I keep going? Is this the right thing for me?

Um, so yeah, I mean, we all battled depression too, which is an unfortunate thing as a business owner, but, it's something that everybody should be aware of.

Jason: [00:10:03] Well, I think, I think the depression comes because we do feel like everything's on our shoulders. And there's, you know, there's, it's like these people are going to eat or they're going to die, you know, with us.

And that's, I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. You know, I've always joked about, I've always been fired from every position I've ever had, other than the ones I create. Um, and it's always been the best thing, right? So I can go on to the next, and I could eventually find this. And I look at, look, even if you make a wrong decision as an agency owner. That's okay.

Like you get a reset, even if it does take down and you have to lay people off. That's okay. People are going to be fine. They're resilient. They'll actually go do it. So it's not a life and death situation. Um, yeah. And you know, I hear so many stories, kind of like yours. I was many points in my agency where I just wanted to throw in the towel.

I was, uh, I was looking through some of the stories and old emails, um, to kind of look at some of the successes that our clients have had over the years. And, you know Jack well, and I remember Jack, he sent me an email many years ago. He goes, should I shut down the agency or push on? And like there's so many times, and I remember sending him an email. I was like, uh, no, you should push on.

And I said, whenever you feel it you're at the max kind of the Navy Seals have this motto that you're only at 40%, you still have 60% to go. I'm so glad he continued, cause now is a multimillion-dollar agency, uh, you know, owner. And he's picking and choosing doing what he wants, but it's just like, sometimes you have to disconnect and get the emotion.

Like how do you… in your agency, I think a lot of times I would, even in my company now, uh, you make emotional decisions. So how do you take emotion out of it when you're making a decision?

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Darren: [00:12:04] That's the hardest thing, because I feel like I make a lot of decisions based on emotion too. So I think the best thing to do in that case is don't decide right at the moment. Like, digest it, take, uh, take time.

Um, like I think another thing that agency owners fail to do is they don't take vacations. Like, especially early on too. And that was something that I started to do, because just as you said, it's kind of like a reset to get away and be like, all right, recharge, think about it. And really just like reflect on where you're going, what you're doing and think about it. Because I've had those moments too, too, where it's like, all right, what do I do?

And sometimes that is it's like, you just need to get away.

Jason: [00:13:01] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and back in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help.

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And for a limited time, my Smart Agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit when you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo.


I love that you said take a vacation, get away, because especially for the first couple of years, or decade for some people… You work around the clock because you're like, this is my time I got to grab as much as I possibly can. But it's almost kind of like, you know, my son, um, he runs the mile at track and a lot of kids take off just sprint the first two, and then they die at the last two. You got to pace yourself.

And I find, I found, you know, especially in doing this business… You know, I, I felt like I wanted to get all the market share, but I knew I was like, well, why, why, why do I need that? And I said, I need to have some time to self-reflect to do my own thing. That's why I only work Monday through Thursday, you know, from a certain time to a certain time.

And that's the firm's goal of each quarter is around my time goal. And that's a rule. I don't break it. I think so many others, if they did that, then they enjoyed a lot more. And yeah, you might not grow as quick but who cares if you grow a thousand times, you know, every, every year, if it's going to get you a shitty life?

Darren: [00:15:22] Exactly. Yeah. I mean, if it's consistent and you're still seeing that growth, even if it's small, I would much rather have that than… You know, early on we did some significant growth and scaled up, probably too quickly, and had it take some time back and just like, all right, we, we need to work on process. We have to do this, get this set up.

So yeah, I think that's the other thing too. Everybody's always so impatient to like, just as you said, cover everything. And it's like, you don't have to.

Jason: [00:15:56] Yeah. What, um… one of the things like, how did you kind of change the impatientness, uh, of kind of giving yourself more time, because I see so many agencies they rush.

Like how did you know…? Because everything in your company is designed to break, I look at right? Like think about, uh, marketing should break sales. Sales should break operations, right? And so how did you know what's the right pace for you to grow? I think not many people really talk about that.

We just talk about 10X, 20X, 2X, whatever it is. Like, how do you find the right pace for your growth in order for it to work for you?

Darren: [00:16:42] Um, really, it was the ability to learn, to say no, which is like one of the hardest things too. Because you can look like, just, as you said, you had access to production schedules, like, you know what's happening.

You could easily take another job on top of it and kill your staff or you can say, all right, you've identified this, you, you mentioned a couple of red flags and it's probably not the right fit. So even though you have the money and you're ready to go, we're not going to take on the project. So that's been like the biggest thing to like slow it down. And just make sure that, you know, selecting the right type of work.

That took me years to figure it out. Um…

Jason: [00:17:30] Was it because of process, process of elimination? Or why do you think it took you many years? It took me many years as well.

Darren: [00:17:40] Yeah. It's really, it's just, um, saying no to the money, because just as you said, early on, it's like everything's on our shoulders to make sure that we're paying salaries. We're making sure that we're providing.

So when you have the money there and you see it and like, okay, this is going to help everybody out. But at the same time, you start to look at it, is it really going to help everybody out or is it going to put them in a different type of mental state that you don't want them in?

Um, so yeah, it was challenging because yeah, when we first started, we were taking on any project that we could get because it was just a project to put in the queue. Um, so I think that was probably one of the biggest things and it's hard to learn and to, you know, say no.

Jason: [00:18:25] How… last thing I want to ask you, um, is your team is always going to say you're maxed out or they're maxed out.

So, and I don't think many people talk about this either of going, how do you really truly tell if your team is maxed out or not in order to figure out when to say no? Like I know you're saying when to say no to the wrong client, or when you can say I need to bring on someone else to help. Because that's a, I think that's an, that takes, you know, years and years to figure that out too.

Like, cause I remember my team going. Man, we're, we're maxed out. We can't take on any more work.

Darren: [00:19:08] Yeah. Now you hear that a lot. And, you know, there's things like time tracking that you can look at and everything, but really the best way is just to sit down with your team one-on-one and just ask them outright.

Like, how are you feeling like you want to go through it together? Like, let's talk about it. Because the other big thing too is like, you know, we're in the agency life, we're not in the ER. Like we have projects that, you know, sure they may have a deadline, but it doesn't mean that somebody is going to die because we can't get it done on that day.

Like, so that's the other thing too, is like just setting expectations and going through that. I think that's, you know, another hard lesson for agency owners is, you know, they do one project at this time and then figure that's what it's going to take for every other project. But every client's different, you don't know what it's going to like, be like to work with them.

Um, so really setting those expectations and letting your staff know that you've got their back and be like, all right, here's the deadline? What can we do to hit it? Can we pull in other team members? Or is this even a realistic deadline? Do we have to stretch it? So yeah. It's just really that transparency and just, you know, talking to your staff, like they're humans, because really they are the most important piece of the agency.

Jason: [00:20:31] Too it's, it's relying on them, right? Like I always tell everybody it's like delegate the outcomes you want, not the tasks. And a lot of times too, you can delegate the problems to them. Um, without divulging that you don't have a clue about it, right? So if you went to your staff going, uh, I don't know how to grow this damn company, can you guys help me out? They're all going to do, they're all going to jump ship.

But if you can kind of go, hey, what do you guys think? I want to get your input on, you know, what do you guys think we need to do in order to get to this point? They're going to be like, wow. You know, Darren's asking me for my input. So I feel significant. I can contribute. I can be a part of something bigger than myself. It's just about reframing that.

So just, and the other thing too, and I think you've realized this, you know because look running an agency's tough and you're going to have a lot of days where you wanting to quit. How you come into the office, if you guys have an office or how you show up, when you chat with your team, directly impacts them and their mood.

I remember when I would show up to the office, if a client screwed us or whatever happened, uh, or if I was mad at a business partner. If I showed up pissed or in a bad mood, it, it rained down.

Did you see that as well?

Darren: [00:21:56] Yeah. Yeah, because my team knows me well enough that they can tell as well too. And I'm the type that likes to do shenanigans and pranks at the office to keep everything light. And cause really it is… it's like, we're all supposed to have fun. Like, just take it easy and just do good work and rely on each other.

I mean, it's just simple rules.

Jason: [00:22:22] And Darren really means that like he showed up at the digital agency experience with, uh, what was a balloon launcher? Um, he was the first one when we found that creepy tunnel in the old mines. I was like, I pulled like literally guys, we found this old mine when we were on these ATVs and it wasn't locked.

And I opened this and I look at Darren, I go, you want to go in? And before I knew it, he was in and we kept one person out in case we all died, like an avalanche happened, but, uh, it was so much fun.

Darren: [00:22:54] Yeah, exactly. I mean, we only get one shot, so just make it count.

Jason: [00:22:58] That's right. Well, awesome. Darren, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the people listening in?

Darren: [00:23:06] Um, I would just say just, if you start to doubt yourself, just you know, talk to family and talk to loved ones, take a break. Um, because you're going to be able to push through it. Like, don't feel like it's all on you that you do have a support line that's out there

Jason: [00:23:24] And what's the website people can go and check, uh, check the agency out?

Darren: [00:23:28] Yeah. So it's an Idea Marketing Group. And then, then it's

Jason: [00:23:36] Awesome. Everyone go check it out. And if you guys liked this episode, you'll make tape. Make sure you take a screenshot. Shut us out on Instagram saying, hey, got a lot of value from it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

We'll give you a shout-out back as well.

And uh, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners like Darren and come to, uh, the mountain to have an amazing time and just be able to talk about the stuff you can't talk about with your crew. Um, I'd love to invite you guys together to and see if we're the right fit for you and if you're the right fit us.

So make sure to go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: 01_How_to_Overcome_Isolation_as_an_Agency_Owner_So_You_Can_Grow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Ever wondered if you could make money on performance-based pricing? Kyle Sulerud was a Google ads expert with many years of experience in the space. He even had a training program teaching others his Google ads methodology. That was until he was presented with the challenge of running YouTube ads. Today he runs AdLeg, an agency specialized in this niche. Kyle joins the podcast to talk about his experience with the pay-per-performance model, how it has worked for him, how he refined his criteria to work with clients that he could ensure success, and the hurdles he has found in his learning experience.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. An unbelievable model. The pay-per-performance model may not be for everyone, but it has worked for our guest, whose model has evolved to charging a percentage of the profit. Clients jump at the chance of getting the service and paying only if the ads work and bring the expected results. They may not be as eager once they start sending the payments, but Kyle trusts his model and is confident that it gets the best results.
  2. Refine your criteria. At first, this agency didn’t necessarily know what the criteria for working in this niche had to be. They thought that working with companies that showed promise was good enough to ensure success. But with time and experience they have adjusted that to working with companies that have a certain monthly revenue from the product that they want them to advertise and have a sales team. Now clients practically audition to work with them and not the other way around.
  3. Maintain communication. Each client thinks about things a little differently and some may not understand why it’s better for them to pay an agency an amount that they would gladly pay to Google. To address this, Kyle and his team realized the importance of maintaining communication with them to present the progress they had made and how they stay on top of things. Hence, the email-only communication with clients turned into monthly or bimonthly meetings.

Sponsors and Resources

HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial.


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Refine Your Client Criteria and Profit With Pay-Per-Performance Pricing

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing episode for you. An amazing guest coming up, he’s in the mastermind, Kyle. And his agency is all based on pay for performance, you know. And we're going to talk about how you can do it. What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages?

And let's go ahead and get into it.

Hey, Kyle. Welcome to the show.

Kyle: [00:00:29] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, man. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Kyle: [00:00:37] Yeah, so, uh, the names Kyle Sulerud and I live in the great sunny state of North Dakota. Um, and I run an agency called AdLeg. We, uh, did Google ads for a long time. About seven and a half years, um, in the space.

But for the past couple of years, I've really been focused on YouTube ads. And, as you mentioned in the intro, we focus on pay for performance, meaning we only get paid when our clients get paid. And, um, it's been a great model. I've been able to grow the team pretty quickly with that model. So I'm excited to talk about that today.

Jason: [00:01:15] Yeah. So tell us kind of… How did you discover this model? Or why did you choose this model? Because there's a lot of different models that, you know, you could have done, you know. What was… What attracted you to the performance model?

Kyle: [00:01:33] So, when we were just doing Google ads, it was all retainer-based. And I'd kind of always wanted to do performance-based. I've heard Dean Jackson talk about thinking about if you only got paid for results, what would you get paid for?

And I've always thought about my agency that way, but when you're running Google ads for roofing companies, that's, that's pretty hard to do. Um, obviously there's certain pay-per-lead models that can work for that, but. Um, it just never really worked out. Once I got into YouTube ads, I found that it, it could work out. For starters, because I didn't know what the results were going to be.

And I really didn't want to get paid for my first couple of clients unless I was bringing them results. So they knew that, they knew that I was, I was fresh with YouTube ads and they were willing to give me a shot. Um, especially since they weren't going to have to pay me if it didn't work. They just had to pay for their ads.

So we worked out a percentage of profit and because they are selling digital products, that was easy to track. And, um, from there it worked, the profit was there. My percentage was there. Everyone was happy. And that's the model that I've stuck with.

Jason: [00:02:51] That’s awesome. Tell us kind of a couple of scenarios to watch out for, like, if you had to go back, right? And take on some clients.

Cause I've, I've seen it work extremely well, and I've also seen it blow up in people's face. But it's blown up there in their face because of certain criteria. So can you talk a little bit more about that?

Kyle: [00:03:10] Absolutely. We really refined the criteria. And that has been extremely important. And at first we didn't necessarily know what the, what that criteria had to be. So we would take on clients that looked really promising. It looked like they had a product that was going to sell well through YouTube ads. And if we just sent traffic to that, then it would be profitable. And it didn't work for, for a number of reasons, either their product wasn't quite ironed out or they were in the middle of pivoting to something new, or they didn't have the sales team in place to handle the leads.

Um, for the most part, it came down to, to newer products. People that didn't really have something that was proven out fully. So our criteria now is you have to really be proven out. You have to have, um, we have a pretty high threshold for monthly revenue from the product that you want us to advertise. That doesn't mean from your whole business, but from the specific product that you want us to send traffic to, you need a certain amount of monthly revenue coming in.

Um, you need a sales team in place. If you're, if you're selling something with sales calls and we've found that that's pretty reliable. Because it's at that point and you have a machine. It's well-oiled and we just need to send more traffic to it and we'll make you more profitable. And then we can, we can actually take our cut.

Jason: [00:04:46] I love it. What is the, what's the typical kind of you think of a good percentage to have, or do you have a sliding scale? Cause a lot of people are like, well, how much should I ask? And I think sometimes people ask for too little.

Kyle: [00:05:03] Yeah. Um, that's something else that that's evolved. Um, the, the very first client got a really sweetheart deal.

Um, and since then I've learned the value that my agency can really bring and… It varies, but it goes as high as 25% right now. And maybe, maybe that can go higher, but I don't know. I think 25% is a pretty high number. Not everyone is on that level. It kind of depends on the client. Um, but yeah, anywhere from 20 to 25% is pretty reasonable for, for this. Especially with the types of clients we have, where they already have everything going on, all we need to do is send more traffic to something that's already working.

So it's pure profit for the client at that point.

Jason: [00:05:52] Yeah. And, and I would, I would gather and especially, you know, from, from hearing from you in the mastermind talk about it. It it's more like they're auditioning for you rather than you auditioning for them. Is that true?

Kyle: [00:06:07] Yeah, it, it really is. Um, we don't even talk to about 90% of people who apply to work with us. And, uh, once we talk to them, that's really just our way of verifying the numbers of going really deep and making sure that it's something that we think will work with our model and that it's something that we want to work on.

So yeah, we, we reject far, far more people than we accept it. It really is them applying to work with us.

Jason: [00:06:41] Yeah, it's, it's just an unbelievable model, you know? Cause a lot of times we're all, you know, the thing about… There's a lot of people listening that are at a point where they're like, and I came to this realization a little while ago of going, I remember chatting with…

There was like maybe three agency owners I chatted with in a row and they all were like, I resent my clients. And I'm like, I was like, well, you're in the wrong business. Like, why do you resent your clients? And they couldn't really tell me. They were just like, well, they always ask for these dumb requests, all this kind of stuff.

And I, and then I, the last person I said, you know, actually you probably have a lead, um, a lead generation problem. Because you resent your clients because you depend too much on them. And I said, if you had a ton to come in and you could pick and choose from them, that basically eliminates that. Then you're only working with the ones that you truly want.

And they're like, yeah, that kind of makes sense. And I love that you discovered that through this. Um, tell us the story about, I'm sure you probably had… where there's a client that they probably keep sending you checks and you're like crap. They're, they're probably like they start looking and going, how much money am I sending to Kyle?

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Kyle: [00:07:55] Yeah. So the, the pay for, pay for performance model sounds really great to a client before they send you any money. You know, this, this sounds amazing. Um, this agency they're putting their money where their mouth is and, um, great. I'll sign up. I'll pay them a percentage of profits.

Where that starts getting questioned is when is when a client is paying you 20 times more than they paid someone to run ads for them before, you know? Because yeah, people are out there willing to, to run ads for whatever, whatever kind of business you have.

That's not really what we do. We don't run ads. We partner with you. We're, we're in this as much as you are to try to make it as profitable as possible. Um, so yeah, once, once they start sending those, those bigger checks, five figures, multiple five figures a month. Now they're thinking, hey, I used to pay my Facebook ad guy $2,000 a month. Um, maybe I can find someone to do it for that.

So, yeah, it, uh, I can think of a specific situation where that happened. And the client was actually very transparent with us. They said, you know, we're, we feel like we're paying you a lot. And we're actually testing out a different agency right now who's just willing to charge us on a flat retainer. And, you know, we said okay.

I'd seen that happen before where, uh, a different agency came in and results just weren't there. And you know, that's not to brag, but I've, I have a really great system here and we're able to bring in results for YouTube ads like no other agency I've seen. So in this case they were testing this other agency.

Uh, they were about a month in with them. It, it wasn't profitable with them. Uh, they were told they just need some more time, you know, need more time to optimize. That's always the story. Um, even though we had been profitable in month one. They got a couple of months in and it still wasn't profitable. And with the retainer they were paying the agency, they were losing money.

And, um, finally they, they said, all right, you know, we're getting rid of this other agency. We're just going to go with you. Um, we get it now. And that's… think, they have to think about it like it they're paying the money somewhere, right? A lot of people don't think twice about doubling their ad spend and paying Google twice as much money.

But what we can do is actually save a client that money that they're paying Google. We get some of it, they get the rest of the savings and, overall, they just are way more profitable. And once they realize that they're happy to stay with us. So it's very, very rare that we lose a client.

Jason: [00:11:01] Hey there. Quick question for you. Is your agency paying a fortune for software? Do you have to stack multiple softwares together to deliver success for your clients? You know, if so, there's a new platform called HighLevel that you should really check out. HighLevel is an all-in-one marketing platform for agencies that has an insane amount of features and really replaces tools like ClickFunnels active campaign, Infusionsoft, Calendly, Kajabi, CallRail, and a lot more.

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I think too, like, it's about the client not realizing that the time, time is more valuable, you know, especially going to a new agency. Now I want to know, and I, I hope you did, but you're too nice of a guy, so I don't think you did. Um, did you charge them a pain in the ass fee for coming back?

Kyle: [00:12:32] No. No, they're actually, you know, they're good clients. And like I said, they were, they were up front with us. They, they told us. They asked for a discount. Um, we, we stuck to what we were charging, you know? Um, yeah, well, I guess I'm too nice of a guy.

Jason: [00:12:50] I already knew the answer.

Kyle: [00:12:52] They’re still getting the same rate they were.

Jason: [00:12:54] I know I was like, I’d been like, all right, well it's 30% now. Um, suckers. What, uh, what have you learned from them leaving that you would have been like now that you have in your head, would you recall this story to them and saying, hey, you can go try them. But look, you're more than comfortable paying Google, but why not us? Like it's a cer… it's a percentage, like we never make over this percentage.

Kyle: [00:13:21] Yeah. There's different ways to frame that. And I think each client kind of thinks about it a little differently. One thing we've really learned is to be just really involved in communication. Um, for a while we were rarely meeting with clients. Uh, we mostly communicate by email.

Now we're meeting with clients once a month or once every couple months, at least just to talk about, okay here's where you were. Here's what we've done. Here's where you are now. Here's the plan going forward? Uh, here are some new changes that Google, um, that from Google, you know, that we're on top of, don't worry, we're taking care of this kind of stuff.

And just kind of over-communicating so that they know that we're, we're on top of it. We’re their partner, and it would be almost silly for them to look elsewhere.

Jason: [00:14:17] What about…? I know some people are listening in are going… All right so you set up this great system on YouTube. I presume this is under your account that you control or is that under theirs?

Kyle: [00:14:30] Yeah, it's, it's under our account that we control and we do get some pushback on that. Uh, we've lost some clients, um, who probably would have started working with us if that wasn't the case.

But it's been really important for me. Um, partially to just preserve our system. I don't want an outside party, even if it's a client having access to see everything that we do. Um, and then partially just because a lot of it is in the setup, I'm sure someone could take a campaign that we've set up and that we've been running for a few months and run with it and it would do fine for a while.

So we need to really just preserve our work. Uh, we don't require contracts, so that's just one way that we ensure that our work is protected.

Jason: [00:15:23] Yeah. I love it. Cause I know a lot of people are thinking, well, we'll set up everything on the client side and they have access to everything. And then like, like you were saying, a lot of the work is upfront.

And then, and I like how you overcame that objection to them as well of going I don't want you guys going in there and messing it up. Like we got to protect what we're doing. Rather than saying, if you leave, then you can run with it too. It's like how you, how you frame that. Well, this has all…

Kyle: [00:15:50] Actually, we invested some money in, in building out a portal that clients have access to so they can see some data in real time.

They can see how their ads are performing in real time. It's linked directly into the Google ads account. It's software that I hired developers to build for me. Um, so they can see the, the data, the performance data. They just can't see how everything is set up and how everything's being run.

Jason: [00:16:17] I love it. I love it. Kyle, this has all been great. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Kyle: [00:16:25] Uh, no, I think we pretty much covered it. I think pay for, for performance is great. If you can work it out, there's huge upside. It'll probably take you a wild and some downside to kind of figure out who you want to work with, who you don't want to work with, how much you needed to charge.

Um, but it's, it's been great for me. I'm definitely not going to be changing it anytime soon.

Jason: [00:16:50] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kyle. Um, oh, before I forget, what's the website people can go and check you guys out?

Kyle: [00:16:58] Yeah, it's That's A D L E You can also find me on YouTube. I have a pretty active channel. Just search my name on YouTube and that'll come up for you.

Jason: [00:17:10] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kyle, for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you take a screenshot, upload it to Instagram, tag us and say, hey, I really. The episode. Thanks so much. And we'll give you a shout out back.

Also, too if you want to be around other amazing agency owners on a consistent basis, I'd love to invite all of you to go check out the Digital Agency Elite. This is our exclusive mastermind where we're constantly ascending all of our members up to the top of the summit so they can get to a point where they can exit, whether it's sell their agency or exit of doing all this stuff that they hate doing.

So make sure you go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: 01_Can_a_Pay-Per-Performance_Pricing_Model_Work_for_Your_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have the crystal clear vision needed to take your agency to the next level? John Quinton-Barber describes himself as a visionary and accidental entrepreneur. He had 30 years of experience in the media and communications industry when he decided he wanted to set up his own business. After eight years, Social is now a top 20 UK agency. He joins Jason to talk about how he remained focused on the future and the crystal clear vision needed to continue growing your agency, some of the hurdles he has found along the way, and the importance of investing in leadership to focus on the key aspects of your agency’s past, present, and future.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Invest in the right people. The first years of a digital agency are about survival. John focused on keeping the agency running but, after hitting one million pounds, he realized it was no longer necessary or efficient that he took care of every aspect of the business. He started to invest in people to take care of yesterday (the processes, HR, IT, legal), someone to take care of today (making sure the agency creating great quality campaigns, working with clients, giving them the best service), and then focused on taking care of the future, which is about strategy, vision, and where you want to go.
  2. Crystal clear vision. After deciding that he was not running a lifestyle business and getting serious about making something really special, John said he never looked back and never experienced doubts. A crystal clear vision will help your business thrive in hard times. If you don’t have that vision, you won’t get to the next stage. John admits he made many mistakes and that, by year four of his agency, he was barely making any profit and plowing every penny back into the business. But now, in year eight, he is reaping the rewards of investing in his dream.
  3. Build up leadership. Finding the right people was key to keep the business running, but empowering them was crucial to keep the business growing. John’s mantra is “if you weren’t in the business for three months, would it run? And would it grow?” Recruiting can become difficult when you’re searching for leaders that can make this mantra happen, so John focused on building leaders within his organization. He makes sure that every director completes a year-long leadership course and has the tools to succeed as a leader. He no longer is the only one focusing on the future, on the vision, and that is the key to continue growing.

Sponsors and Resources

Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.


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Trust Your Crystal Clear Vision Begin Investing in Leadership

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited to bring you another episode of the Smart agency Masterclass. I have an amazing guest all the way across the pond in the UK. And he's going to talk about how he's been scaling his agency over the past eight years and some of the trials and tribulations.

Now, before we jump into the episode, I want you guys to take a screenshot, tag us on Instagram. And we'll give you a shout out, um, when the episode, uh, when, when you actually do that. So we can, uh, recognize you. So let's go ahead and get into the show.

Hey,  John. Welcome to the show.

John: [00:00:42] Jason, pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Jason: [00:00:44] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

John: [00:00:49] My name is John Quinton-Barber. It's quite a posh name. It's a UK name, John Quinton-Barber. And I'm the founder and chief executive of a marketing digital agency called Social, here in the UK.

Jason: [00:01:00] Awesome. And so how did you get started?

John: [00:01:04] Well, I've always… I’m 50 years of age. So about 30 years in media and communications and PR. And when I hit about 43 years of age I had this urge that I wanted to set my own business up. And probably quite a few of the listeners will be relating to this quite now. I had this urge but in the back of my mind I felt, I can't do it. I can't do it. And I just took the leap and did it.

So eight years ago I set up Social. Um, and what I wanted to do was just bring a different type of agency to the UK market. Because the agency world had gotten a little bit stale. It was offering PR, but it wasn't offering much else. Social was just about social media was just about emerging as the next big thing, next best thing.

So I took the plunge and set up the agency, um, with not, not, not a lot of money in my pocket, to be honest. Um, but a whole scope of confidence. And yeah, eight years on, we've gone from what I said about, talking about the dollars, about $10,000. To now about $5.5 million dollars after eight years.

So it’s been one journey from two people to 48 people right now. And there's a whole host of learnings.

Jason: [00:02:11] Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, it's… I remember kind of doing that jump, uh, you know, and there's many stages that you go through. Uh, if you think about it. And I always look at it as kind of like the stages of like climbing a mountain. Like at first you’re kind of like surveying of like, do I really want to climb that mountain? Or, you know, which mountain do I want to climb?

Um, what were, what were the stages that you went through over the past eight years that, um… were a point where you were like. I mean, were you ever at a point where you just was like, nah, this is not for me? Like, I want out. Or what… like describe some of the hard parts and how'd you get through them?

John: [00:02:51] I’ve never had that. Never, never had that moment, Jason, where this is not for me. It's always, I've always felt it's for me. It's quite, almost like a mission, really a zeal within me to make this work. Um, the pain points. So as we know, when you set an agency up, it's about survival. You know, I've got family, I've got two young children. They were two young children at the time.

It’s about survival. I need to bring the income in. And you find yourself doing everything, you know, planning the business, servicing the clients, uh, wiring the, uh, the IT of the desk, sorting out the HR and the finance. So, um, in the first two years, that's what life was like. And we hit a million, a million pounds, so about $1.5 million, in about a year three.

And that's when, for me, um, not the fun… Well, it was no longer, it wasn't fun anymore. But it was just like, oh my God. When it was about 10 people in the agency and we're bumping along about 1 million, life was good. You know, we could, we could, we all knew each other. We all knew each others’ strengths. We could work together.

But as soon as we hit that million-pound mark, that was it. We then had to refocus on actually, this is a business. And I had to make some decisions. Because I decided then it wasn't a lifestyle business. I was plowing back every bit of penny, every penny, back into the business. And taking a very modest salary. Because I had this vision that we can make this business into something really big and really special.

And that’s something I carry within me all the, all the while. And I’ll keep all the while until the end until the big events at the end.

Jason: [00:04:19] Well, I think… Yeah, no, I, I think you're, you really hit something I want to point out. You had a crystal clear vision.

A lot of us, when we get started in the agency, it's kind of accidental and we really don't know where we're going. We're just reacting to all the work coming to us.

And, but when you… and then I remember going through a pivotal point too, like you did of going all right, wow. It's like, you make this certain threshold and you're like, man, it's kind of not fun right now. Because the whole business has changed. But if I, if you don't have that vision of where you're going, you can't make it to the next part.

It's kind of like, if I want to reach the summit and you kind of get up to like what I call, like, you know, the, the crux, right? That's kind of like in the middle, right? You're in the climb and you're like, well, I kinda liked it back at base camp. Like that's where the party was.

But, uh, you know, talk about, you know, when you're at kind of that crux and you're going to like, Brett the million and a half, or, um, dollar mark. What did you have to do? Was it about building the team or…?

John: [00:05:31] It was, I mean, my, my kind of like epiphany came when who is my chairman now, and he's in his sixties, late sixties. And he's not a PR man. He’s a, he's a financer. And he said to me, he said, John, you created something special here. And you could, you could actually float this in years to come.

And I was like float with it? I mean, I had to Google float it. What’s that? Float it? You know, man, I'm trying to survive here. And that probably sowed the seed for actually the ambition I got. The belief I got in myself. So what I decided to do was okay, we, we, we’re hitting the million mark. I'm now going to have to invest in a team around me to do the HR, to do the finance, to do the day-to-day.

And I describe it like this, Jason, it's a… It’s my, I always, when people say to me, I want to set up a business I say, okay, you need somebody to look after yesterday. You need someone to look after today. And you look after tomorrow. And what I was doing, I was doing yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

What do I mean by that? Yesterday is basically someone that can sweep up after you. So basically all the kind of processes and the HR, the IT, and all the legals that on a business side becomes all consuming. Find somebody to look after yesterday. The today is about ensuring you're creating great quality campaigns, working with clients, giving them the best service, and ensuring that clients are happy. Clients are alright.

And the tomorrow is about strategy. It's about a vision. It's about where you want to go. And I just, again, as I said by year three, when this hit me and my God between a million and probably 2 million, the pain hit me. It hit me where it doesn't hurt. I mean, made loads of mistakes, loads of mistakes.

We’re in the UK, I’m in Manchester, which is in the north of England. And you know, the, the eye on the prize was let’s open a London office. You know, why? But, you know, we, we, we need to open a London office. And we opened a London office in year four and we shut it down in year five because we got it all wrong. We got the wrong people. We didn't have the right business strategy… We just approached it completely wrong.

Delighted to say today in 2021, we now have another London office and it's doing really well. So we live in those lessons.

Jason: [00:07:40] Yeah. I, I look at it as if you look at kind of three lines that an agency can be on, right? The first line… especially, you know, it happened what lasts last March, right?

A lot of people panicked and they kind of went into, you know, a fear-based mentality. And I look at those businesses. They're barely surviving. Like they've just gone straight down. And then I look at other agencies, and I've been in this spot in the agency world for a couple of years of running the agency.

You're kind of on this unfocused line and it's kind of the rollercoaster line…  Let's call it the rollercoaster line, right? And these are the preppers, uh, you know, these are the preppers of like saving up all the money and all that kind of stuff. And then you have, and I'm glad you mentioned focused on the strategy to the tomorrow. Let's call that the strategy line.

These are the people that are in kind of positioning mode of going, like, how do we, um, how do we take over, uh, you know, more market share? How do we, um, acquire more talent? How do we acquire, which we've talked about in the pre-show acquire more agencies, right? And you’re really kind of taking up another level.

So I want everyone listening or watching to go, what line or have you been on and what line do you want to be on? And hopefully you guys want to be on the strategy line, but you may be like, you have to be honest with yourself of going, are we on the rollercoaster line? Because the only difference you said was leadership.

John: [00:09:17] Yeah, no, we all, Jason, we're all on that. We all, we're all, you know, we all default back to those positions. You know, it's not, it's not all rosy and that's a model world, but I have to, you know, you have to dig deep. You have to dig deep in, in three things, in confidence, in your reserves, so your own health and wellbeing, because it’s a big journey. But then you have to dig deep into your pockets and you'll have to invest in people, the right people.

And I, you know, my, if you looked at my business about four years ago, you'd go, John, you know, you're barely making a profit. You're growing quickly. You're making it. You're spending quite a lot of money on the setting, so, business development team, finance, team, HR at a really quality number two guy. But you know, is costing me, uh, you know, it's a decent salary.

Um, but that was that investment is now starting to pay off. We have got in our business now, eight PNLs. So we've had to really bolt on PNL's and you know, we're now starting to see the world.

But the, the mindset for that is, you know, is sacrifice. You have to make the sacrifice. It's almost like when I hit year four, it felt like year one again, because I was having to kind of on this cycle of sacrifice. And now I'm on year eight and I am reaping the rewards. And so my, my message to anyone listening is if you've got a growth journey and growth plan, just go for it.

Get the right talent. No, not the talent, not necessarily gonna deliver, you know, the, the, for the clients. The talent that is going to deliver for you sitting by your side to help you grow and scale your business.

Jason: [00:10:50] Yeah. I love that. You said kind of invest in your company. And, and a lot of times people will misunderstand me a lot of times when I say, hey, the only thing that matters in your agency is your profit margin. And are you making money?

That matters when you get closer to having an exit or, you know, liquidity event later on. But in the middle or in the beginning, I'm like, invest as much as you possibly can because you totally control everything. Like you can put money in the stock market, and I encourage you guys to do that as well, but that's you don't control any of it.

It's like literally bet on red bet on black, you know, it's, I mean, it's a little more calculated. But with your agency, you can totally control the situation way better than anything else. So if you're listening, make sure you're investing heavily. You don't have to have 32% profit margins year over year.

I know a lot of people reach out and they're like, I'm worried I'm at 15. Like, well, you're not even close to selling, so don't worry about it.Online Training for Digital Agencies

John: [00:11:56] Awesome. No, it's true. It's true. And it's, um, you know, I, I do a lot of reading, obviously around some of the most successful companies. And you know, the successful companies didn't make a profit until, I said, you know, two years for listing or, or selling.

And profit isn't really important if you… and I keep telling colleagues if you want to makes it grow. But you know, my, my mindset when I, it's interesting, my, my pits, some peer agencies in the UK that I… I would have a drink with and we chat too.

And, um, sometimes I look at them through real kind of like, uh, envious glasses because you know, they're out having holidays four or five times a year, pre-COVID and… And that’s great, you know, I'm all for that. I'm all for the lifestyle business. I think that's fantastic. You made a decision. But for me, it's just, as I said before, Jason, is quite a mission with me.

I've got a mission and I'm going to make it, it's going to happen. I will scale this business and I'll take it to the UK A market. Uh, because I believe with that we've got a great proposition for investors. The one thing that, um, Jason, again, you'll be, you'll be so familiar with this is that culture of people.

So while this is all happening with today, tomorrow and yesterday and invest in the center, um… we ha, I had to make sure that that Social probably has to be one of the best agencies to work for. Um, to say we invested a lot in the culture is wrong. It sounds like it's forced. We nurtured the culture that we were creating and we've got fantastic culture now.

And I know every business owner says that and that, you know, generally have. And we continue to invest in that now with our people. Um, so the pandemic, uh, for, for us, didn't really hit us. You know, we, we grew through the pandemic, both financially… and we added nine new people during the pandemic year. So, but kind of how I think the… all that, all that groundwork in the first five years helped us through this tricky year.

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Why I know some people, like, you know, they're on the strategy line and usually you can accelerate your growth in a time like this. And they're literally, like, we don't want this to end because we're like, we're just reaping the benefits, uh, you know, for it. So let's talk about kind of like the transition from building the right team, right?

So I look at that as kind of when you're building the right team, you're, you're in the crux. But then, kind of the next level up, I look at the crest and you're starting to build the leadership team. So let's talk about that because not many people do. Um, what are you, what… what does your leadership team look like?

And, and how did you go about building it? Like what was, and would you go in the right order? The same order? So a lot of times people go marketing sales or do sales and marketing, you know, operations, that kind of stuff.

John: [00:16:03] Well, for me, the first, the first kind of… the first again Eureka moment or epiphany moment for me was, uh, the operations side of it. Um, and so I brought in who is my number two now, Rob, managing all of the operations side of operations side of the business. And that was the, the first kind of key hire in this space. We are now a leadership team of nine across the business, um, head solve and directors.

Um, and you know, that that team has taken time to build. And that team is, you know, we're a trusting team. Um, we work well together. We also get friction, which is, which is healthy I see. Uh, and I believe in, but yeah, the, for me, it was very much about operations, operations, you know, the business had to operate, um, and had to operate effectively.

So bring that person in. I had a mantra about, and this is a really good test for anyone who's listening, the mantra is if you weren’t in the business for three months, would it run? And would it grow? B. And obviously your priority is it has to run, so get it right. Make sure. And it's a good exercise to do is visualize.

But just don't be happy with it running, it’s got to grow. So what do you need to make it grow? So to make it run, I brought the right people in and then to make it grow, I've empowered the people in the business. They need to make it grow. Not just me.

Um, and again, I'm off after next week for a whole month now. I'm taking a sabbatical. My phone is off. My everything's off. They can’t get ahold of me unless it’s burning down and that's the first time in eight years.

But again, um, and again, I really want to reach out to anyone who's listening who's in that, in that probably two, three, four year phase. Just stick at it, because you get the right people and the right counsel and advice as any business, you can make it.

Jason: [00:17:55] Yeah, I look at it as… And, um, and I'm actually showing a lot of our mastermind around this now of going, what are the things, if you audit your calendar for the past couple of weeks… What are the things that totally drain you? Which are the things that give you energy? And then when you look at the ones that drain you, because that's the things that like, you have too many of those that's when you're like, screw it. I'm outta here.

Like, I don't want to do it anymore. All right. Or let me sell for this low valuation. I'm just, I'm done. Um, which you benefit from when buying. You know, you're like, oh, you've got low energy? I'll buy you, right? So if you guys are in the UK, obviously, go check them out. Um, but what I tell people is look at the low energy and then outsource or delegate or hire for that stuff.

Like, I, I don't know why we always hire for things we don't have any clue on… like on. It doesn't make any sense. I mean, I've been guilty of this. I'll be like, I know nothing about pay-per-click. Let me go hire someone to do pay-per-click. Rather than like, I know everything about UX so let me hire UX, because I can manage that. And then figure out a process like it's just, it's just goofy.

Um, what are some things… switching focus a little bit, what do you do in order to build your leaders within the organization? Because you know, at our top level masterminds, we're always talking about that.

And also recruiting, recruiting is a really big thing. Like we cannot find enough people, it seems like. So how are you building leaders and then is recruiting your biggest issue too?

John: [00:19:34] Uh, on building the leaders. It's, uh, it's important that we've got the program. So if you there's a few ways, we went with an external provider who does a year-long leadership course and I send…

I, I want to say congratulation to my leaders that I'm dead proud of them. Uh, got the card here… the cards are there.  Um, so I went through it, I went through it, uh, three years. And now quite a lot of my, well, all my leads will be going through it. Um, and that's a day, month commitment for them.

And they have, you know, they, they, they, all the topics are from culture to finance, to leadership, to behaviors. Um, I make people go through that process and I see them during the year just grow and blossom which is fantastic. And then I encourage them individually to find a mentor that's not me, someone that I can confide in probably about me, you know.

If you want to moan and groan about me and they need someone external so they can have that. Again, we have identified a person for them in their life. Um, and you know, the, the company pays for that, it, it's a paid thing. So that you can never get enough, all the external kind of like counsel.

Myself, I have a mentor, I’ve had one for five, six years. I belong to a board, the top of the alternative board, which when I was in America, I sit on the alternative board every month. And I just sit there and cry about people and money, cause that's always come up.

But, um, but yeah, so leadership for me is I want to just, you know, embrace that. I said to my, one of my colleagues today, my strategy here is to get you working less and your reward going up every year. And that's what we've got to get through as a leader. And if you're working less in the business, then you know, you're, you're winning for me.

Jason: [00:21:24] Yep. And then what about recruiting? Is that a, a big challenge for you guys like finding enough talent?

John: [00:21:30] Absolutely. It really is. It's a, you know, to the point where it depends on the, it depends on the, on the area you’re recruiting. So imagine digital social that's really, really sought after for obvious reasons. And that's challenging to recruit in them areas. So we want to, we want to do a blend of three things.

We want to grow our own, um, so grow our people that we've already got into business. Because, you know the’re very valuable to us, not just in monetary terms, but, just in, in their futures. We want to, I think mentioned before we were looking to acquire an agency. So we're looking, you know, where we can’t, where we can't build a team because the talent pool, looking for jobs or employment isn't there.

We're looking now just to, to hire, to, to acquire a boutique agency, particularly in the digital space. Um, and the third, the third area is looking at apprenticeships. So we're looking at bringing kids out of school and instead of kids going to, we call it school, university straight to us and we'll run a program with them.

So that's something we're looking at for the next, for the next eighteen months. I I'm glad to hear, or we shouldn't be really glad to hear, that it's the same in America. But the talent is just strange. We’re going through a strange time.

Jason: [00:22:45] Well, uh, what we found, you know, in our agency and, and all the other agencies in the mastermind is when you get to a certain level… And it's around about 3 million you're you're cause you've, you've built an amazing team, you're building the leadership team.

But it's hard to continue to find really, really good people. And it takes them a while in order to adapt to all the processes that you have. And so a lot of times what we'll do is we'll say like, kind of like, we’ll bring someone in on the junior program and show them a couple of tracks.

You can go kind of the skilled track, or you can go the manager track and then show them the different layers or levels that they can go up, you know. And it makes a huge difference because you know, like I'm thinking of, of Zach's agency now, like to train their account strategist, it usually takes about two years.

Right? Like, so you got to start thinking two years prior, like how do we get all these people up? And it makes a really big difference. So, yeah. It's, I always love when I chat with people all around the world. And they're like, yeah, it's very different over here. I'm like we get all the same issues.

John: [00:24:02] Good to know. Yeah, it is, I imagine. And it’s about to how much, I mean, one of the things is obviously pay reward is very important. Isn't it? Of course, but actually culture again, progression L&D. If I'm honest, you know, our lead in development is just catching up, you know, we've, we've got, we've made huge strides in the area.

We've got so much more. So we working on that, so we're just, we are catching up the, this the, you know, the, the high growth of the last eight years, um, to make sure we've got all that in place.

Jason: [00:24:30] Awesome. Well, great. Well, um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

John: [00:24:37] Um, I think, I think for me it's about looking after yourself, you know, and I think again, just, just it's really part resilience is really, really key.

And nothing more has been mentioned, so I, what's been mentioned a lot more of the last 12 months is wellbeing. Um, second is acknowledging that, you know, you are human. Acknowledging that you are… You know, you haven't got all the answers. Acknowledging that it’s lonely then, and obviously you've got a mastermind course, which is fantastic, Jason. And, and again, if, if you can find something like that, or find something where you can find a buddy or a mentor for yourself, absolutely take it on.

Because it, you know, you've got to have that in your, I think, in your life, if you want to grow, grow big, because it is a challenge.

Jason: [00:25:24] Yep. Well, John, where can people, uh, what's the website address people can go? Especially if you're in the UK and you're going, hey, I want to, I want to be a big, bigger part of a team and you can buy me, John.

So where can they go?

John: [00:25:36] Oh, knock yourselves out, if you will. Um, well it's very simple. It's

Jason: [00:25:41] That's great. That's awesome. I mean, that's a very easy URL. I've had some guests on that literally they spell it out like five times and you still wouldn't even get it. So congrats on getting that. And thanks so much for coming on the show.

And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you're in the UK and you want to possibly sell, go check them out. And know this is sponsored, uh, but he did drop a lot of amazing bombs. So go check that out.

And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing people on a consistent basis, I would love to invite all of you to go to This is for agencies all over the world. Where we share the strategies that are currently working and little shrink moments, right? Like we can like cry on each other's shoulders to get us through.

But go there and until next time, have a Swenk day.

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Grew_to_5.5_Million__By_Investing_in_Leadership.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

After the life of digital nomad led to the failure of his first company, Dean Dutro started Worth eCommerce. Since then, found the Digital Agency Elite mastermind, learned the importance of having a mission and values, and grew an amazingly successful agency that helps eCommerce stores drive new and repeat sales with email & SMS marketing.  He recently sold that company and today he’s here to talk about how his early failure led to having a strong belief in the agency’s values and mission, the process of getting ready for an opportunity to sell your agency, and what he advises everyone to do in order to enjoy a successful agency acquisition.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. It can be lonely at the top. One of the things mastermind members learn is the importance of having a mission and values, in order to surround yourself with people that you want to work with. This a foundational step to elevating your business. You can succeed with a self-centered business, but it can get lonely at the top. It’s better if you’re thinking about elevating your team and having an end goal with your mission.
  2. Prepare yourself for acquisition. The end goal for every agency owner should be to exit at some point. If you’re thinking about selling your agency, Dean shares some key parts of the process, including how he discovered some accounting and business terms that were key to the process and he had never even heard of before. He mentions that the two most important pieces that buyers look for is EBITDA and the age of the company.
  3. Get a Broker. With so many things to consider and prepare before even being ready for buyers, Dean recommends a broker. It may seem expensive, but they will get better deals and find good fits. A good, broker, lawyer, and accountant working as a team will get you through this process successfully.

Sponsors and Resources

HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial.


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How to Prepare for the Opportunity to Sell and Enjoy a Successful Agency Acquisition

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up agency owners? I'm excited to have another great episode. I have a good buddy and a Mastermind member, Dean, who just recently sold his agency. And we're going to talk about the process of how to get there, how to get to a point where you have the opportunity to sell. And then also, what is the process like and what is life like after?

Uh, so let's go ahead and get into the episode.

Hey, Dean. Welcome back to the show.

Dean: [00:00:36] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:38] Yeah. Well, for the people that haven't checked out the first episode, uh, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Dean: [00:00:44] Yeah. Um, my name's Dean and I am the CEO of Worth eCommerce, which is an email marketing and SMS marketing agency for e-commerce companies.

Jason: [00:00:56] Awesome. And let's kind of jump into it because I was so excited for you. You know what… You know, I know we were chatting for a long time about the opportunity to sell and the process there. Let's talk about kind of getting to that point. What do you feel…? What's the level you are? What are were the things that you had to do in order to get you to the point where people wanted to buy you?

Dean: [00:01:22] Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's a lot that, that went into it. And a lot that's happened over time and, you know, kind of going all the way back to the start of my agency career. You know, the first agency that I started in and kind of co-founded with my current business partner, um, was a UX design agency.

And we had this idea that we were going to be like digital nomads travel worlds. Go to Thailand and Australia and Asia and all these places and make a lot of money and live on beaches and drink beer. Uh, and we did that for like a year, but then we ended up just essentially broke and in debt. And both of us ended up living at our parents, or in my case, my grandparents' house for about six months to a year, um, on and off afterwards, cause we just failed.

And at that point that's actually when I discovered you guys, the Jason Swenk masterclass. I ended up stopped, stopped doing business with Ryan who's my co-founder and went on my own path. And one of the things that you guys taught was you got to have a mission and values, right? To get people to join you in order to work with the people that you want to work with.

And that, to me, it was like the first foundational step. You know, before it was like very selfish and self-centered, and there was no sense of like community anywhere I went. So when I moved back to Oregon and kind of decided like, hey, I want to build something where I can have a team around me. I have a mission, there's people I want to impact.

And my mission was very personal. It came from, uh, you know, my family, like my parents and grandparents were both small business owners and entrepreneurs. Uh, my grandma had a kitchen design business and ended up selling it when she retired. And my mom had a, a vintage clothing business before Shopify, like when Etsy was blowing up. But that didn't go well for her in 2008 hit and, you know, kinda hit them hard.

But, so I kind of had this vision of, I wanted to do something where I could help small and medium-sized businesses grow. And I want to do that with a group of people that I loved hanging out with that I thought were superstars and wanted to do it locally at first. Um, and just kind of grew that over time

Uh, fast forward. That company is called Instant Email Copy, which is what it was called when I joined you. And Ryan approached me and he was doing e-commerce himself. He was actually building stores and I was doing email for e-commerce. He's like, hey, like, why don't we join forces and use our skills to like grow again?

And by that time, like our skills have leveled out where, when I first joined, he had all the digital experience and I, I was doing like enterprise sales. So we kind of felt like a power balance and we went and created Worth eCommerce. And we did like two weeks in my hometown of Bend, Oregon. Uh, where we just like, figure out, like, what are our values, like who we want to be?

What kind of people do we want to bring on? What type of people we want to work with? And setting that was like the first step for us, um, to, to continue to grow over these last few years. Two years actually.

Jason: [00:04:24] Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, I love that. Uh, I love that story and I love that, you know, there's so many people that talk about being a digital nomad and doing agencies. And I'm like, Yeah, that's good to kind of start and I'm sure that was a lot of fun.

Dean: [00:04:41] Oh yeah.

Jason: [00:04:42] But it's like you said, it's just centered around you rather than like… When you start realizing, and I think what you guys realized was how can I elevate my team? Which will, right? Like you get to the top of the mountain, but it's kinda lonely at the very top. Like it's more, I actually had more significance of growing our team than actually growing the agency.

And you have to have a purpose, like you were saying behind that. A lot of times it takes people a while to figure that out. Um, because you're just like, well, what am I good at? Like, what do I like? What, what do I believe in? And how do I surround myself with those, those people? What were some of the other things, now that you had a purpose and you were building the right team, um, you know, that you felt that you had to do in order to get to the point where you had the opportunity to sell it?

Dean: [00:05:36] Yeah. So I think it was really important, and one of the things I figured out was that at least in my space, in e-commerce, you know, I started working in a vertical niche, both from a service perspective, a client perspective, and software perspective. And it's a little bit of a risk from the software side, but basically I chose a software company that I loved working with. Who had great customer service, great customer experience.

They weren't the best at what they did at the time, but they had a similar vision of wanting to help similar types of customers and clients. That company is called Klaviyo and I joined them when they had like 400 customers. Um, now they have like 60,000. And so we got to really ride that wave, uh, and become experts in that specific skillset, that specific software, helping specific companies.

Uh, which led us to be able to charge a premium, uh, created better processes systems. We’re kind of like first, first, maybe not first to do email marketing, but like first to market using Klaviyo. And now we're, we're a platinum partner. We're on the advisory board. We're connecting with their leadership, learning about email, learning about SMS.

Like it's this very like positive relationship. They send us clients, they help us with marketing. And that itself has been a huge boost, uh, in terms of sales and revenue. Um, it all started with a simple system, like I built a basic system that worked. And over time it's, it's like, whenever I bring on new employees, I'll show them, hey, here's the first original document from Worth… for Instant Email Copy of like what we use to serve clients.

And then it's like, here's what it is now. And it's like, holy shit. Like it's crazy. How much it evolved.

Jason: [00:07:24] Pretty big difference.

Dean: [00:07:26] Pretty big difference. Yeah. Um, but what's really cool about it is as like, going back to building the team, is like most of the changes to the document weren’t done by me. They were done by people on the team who started to become better at what they do or, or more experienced in, and kind of committed to that.

Which is, which has been really cool to see.

Jason: [00:07:46] Yeah. Over the past couple of years in the mastermind, I've seen you really kind of transition from the owner to the CEO. Um, and you know, I talk a lot about that to all the agencies, right? Like, because ultimately the end goal of every agency is the exit in some way. Whether it be like you selling the agency or like, you know, other members that exit their current role, right? They exit to a chairman so they can go do other things. That kind of stuff.

Um, what, and it's sometimes difficult when people actually on your team start getting better than you. And you feel really done, right? Like, and the goal I tell everybody the goal is for you to be the dumbest person in the room, um, for your team.

Did, was that a challenge for you? Um, I'm not saying you're dumb obviously. But, uh, you, you, you sold for a lot of money, so obviously laugh, laugh on me if I'm calling you dumb. But I remember going through that going, oh my God, the agency doesn't need me anymore. Because everyone else is better, that the things I used to do. Did you struggle with that at all?

Dean: [00:08:58] Yeah, I think, I think initially, you know, like I had positioned myself as like the email marketing guy, right? Like people would come to work with me. People would come, clients would call me. Like everyone would, would want to work with me, right? And I got, it just wasn't, I even built like a course or like I was like advertising email marketing, and I was the main face.

And that was great. Um, but it didn't allow other people to flourish. And so when we, when I ended up merging what happened, and this is actually feedback I got from my team was like, Dean, we feel your presence too much. Like you're in here, like throwing curve balls to like a process we're trying to build.

And it's kind of messing things up cause we feel like we have to listen to you. And I remember like taking that feedback and being like, well, this is like, like, is this like what ideas better? You know, is it better to do it this way or the way they want to do it? And there's times where it's like, I have the experience. And I kind of like, as a business owner, like, you know, I don't know if that's going to work, um, because I've tried it before versus like, hey, I think you should just do it this way.

There's like a, like a, a difference there. Uh, like a, a fine line to kind of cross where you're giving advice versus like commanding. Um, and something you don't know about. Uh, and so I always tell people, and I even tell my leadership team, like, there's a point where you go from like, becoming the email marketing expert or the XYZ expert to, like you said, the CEO or to a leader and your responsibilities and roles change.

And that's something I learned from you and from the Mastermind group, different agencies and something I'm teaching to my leadership team as they're going from like copywriters or designers or, you know, admin, even to leadership role. It's like, hey, like your main job isn’t to always do email, like you gotta grow and help build the team, just like you've grown and built. And, um, totally different skillset.

Jason: [00:10:50] Oh yeah, definitely. And some people can't do it. Um, you know, it's a, so I applaud you for being able to do that. So let's talk about, now that we've kind of talked about getting there and, and that, uh… Let's talk about what was it like when people started coming to you, offering you money for the agency?

Dean: [00:11:10] Yeah, it was, um, it was interesting. Like it was a long process and my mindset on it was I just kind of want to know what the market's like, see what's out there. And see, like, what are people purchasing for? Like who is selling? Why are they styling? Like, I, I kinda wanted to soak that knowledge up. So we actually ended up working with a broker and, uh, I think you referred him, Todd Tasky, uh, over in DC.

And, you know, when I first connected with him, we were, we were still pretty small. You know, my main fear was, hey, like, are we too early to do this? And he was like, no, like just like, get to know people, get to know what's going on. And you know, you'll kind of figure out what you want. Are you still there?

Jason: [00:11:57] Oh yeah. Yeah. I just put you on solo. I was featuring you.

Dean: [00:12:04] Featuring, ok. And, and so, you know, we started the process early and started connect with companies and, and usually it was like, hey, you guys are too young. You're less than two years old. Like, we don't feel comfortable with it. It was a lot of nos. Right. Um, but a lot of like, hey, come back to us in a year or two, because we see your growth curve. We see the potential.

E-commerce, you know, blew up during COVID. It's still blowing up. So a lot of people saw it, but we are just a little bit too early, right? But by being too early, we kind of learned, okay, what are they actually looking? Right? Because every company before they would do like a letter of intent or anything like that, they would send like a list of items they wanted to know about.

So over time I built up this list. And by that point we were ready and our EBITDA was high enough and people were more interested, uh, I had everything ready, right? And EBITDA is obviously one of the most important pieces. Um, the age of the company is important.

So that was a hurdle for us because we'd started worth in 2019. And we had to justify our experience, you know, before that was built. Um, and at that time, it was just a matter of like, okay, these guys are growing. It's very clear.

And my, my worry was still, hey, we're a little too early. Like if we wait six months, maybe we'll get a lot more. So that became kind of a part of the negotiation piece was just like, just look at the growth curve and tendency of things and, you know, we'll get to a number that makes sense.

Um, so I feel like I'm missing your original question.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Jason: [00:13:30] No, th that was perfect. Um, what were, what were some of the important things that people were asking for outside of EBITDA?

Dean: [00:13:39] Yeah, they, they wanted to know like our forecast and budget and model and like what that looked like.

Um, they wanted to know our, uh, like our leadership team. It's like, who's in place and who's at the helm. And like, what's their experience. That was super important. Um, they wanted to know our plans if we were going to expand in any other market sets or stay niche. Uh, so that was an interesting one.

And we started doing SMS marketing, which helped with a lot of things. Um, and they wanted to know like, was our shipping order. Like, did we have valid contracts? A big piece we learned about was like, if you have contracts with customers, are they transferable or not? Right? Because if they're not, that kind of changes the entire setup of the deal structure and takes a ton of time.

So we get to like a hundred customers or partners or clients, and it's, non-transferable like you're in for a lot of extra work. It kind of things like that. Like our employment agreements, they want to kind of look at some of those things. But the biggest one that they always focused on was EBITDA and age of the company.

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Yeah. No, it's, those are all real important. And especially, you know, like I always tell you in the mastermind members. When you signed clients and in your agreement, make sure they are transferable. Um, or because a lot of times when agencies are bought, most people don't know this is it's an asset purchase.

So they're buying your contracts. And if you, you know, I've seen some master my members in the past where they've actually had to go back to their key clients and go, hey, and they have to share their hands saying, hey, I'm about to be bought. I need you to sign this. So it allows you to transfer the agreement over to the new agency.

And then if the new, if you, if the client doesn't sign it, the deal may not be done. Like it's literally so many loops. Which if you could just throw that in the agreement saying, hey, I can transfer this clause just with written notice to you.

Dean: [00:16:52] Yeah. And to be honest, I think we just got lucky. Like we just happened to have that in the beginning and we didn't have to worry about it.

I don't think I would have ever thought about that before.

Jason: [00:17:03] No, no one does. No one does until someone tells you, so it's crazy. Well, let's talk about, um, let's say after you get the letter of intent. What was that like? What did you go through and how long was that process?

Dean: [00:17:20] Um, man. So get just getting the letter of intent was pretty, pretty tough. From like… another thing they wanted to know is like your market position and what are sort of the areas where you feel you're weak? Because they really want to know where they can add value, right? So they want to know, like they don't want to find something that's broken.

They want to find something that's working, that they could put fuel on and create a bigger fire, right? That's kind of the mentality. So they would ask these questions where I felt very exposed. And like very naked in the business. Like I, like, I don't know these things or, you know, we don't really do that much marketing. It's more outbound sales.

And so they're like, oh, we're a marketing agency. We can help there. So they're really like, they're not picking you apart, but they're trying to like identify, is this a worthwhile time investment? Because once you get the, the LOI, something comes in called schedules and it's like, it's hell.

Uh, for us, they were ready to close quick. They were ready to make a deal. So it took about 45 days or 50 days, actually. Usually take, can take anywhere from three to six months. But what schedules are is this document you get from lawyers, that's like 50 questions, right?

But it's not just 50 questions. It's like, give me every single contract you've ever signed with every client, right? And pull it up and list any that are missing. Um, give me every single employment agreement you've signed with every client, with every employee you've ever had. Give me every single complaint any employees ever made against you.

Give me any single complaint any former client has made against you. All your, your liabilities and insurance documents. Give me your financials, you know, for the last five years and all of your tax returns. Um, it's just like... It's hell.

And then they want to know your, your projected forecast, right? For the next year. So you have to build a budgeting model, which I'd never done before. Um, and I ended up hiring a CFO. Who was referred by someone in the mastermind, Matt food truck, who had built out this budgeting model.

But then every, every week they'd want an update. It's like, oh, where'd you hit this week? And you're like, Jesus, like, I don't do this till the end of the month. You want to know every single like hour? And then the lawyers get involved, right? And they're battling stuff back and forth and like, is it an asset sale or a stock sale? Where do you want to be incorporated? Are you registered in every state that you hire correctly? Which we weren't.

Um, so we had to like go back and do all this stuff. And negotiating, you know, price points. Um, you know, the LOI they give you what the, what they want the offer to be. So a lot of the cash sort of conversations happen, pre LOI. Then they give you the LOI.

And then all the legal negotiations, which I had no idea what most of it meant, right? Like what is an asset sale? I had no idea. Um, how are you going to set it up so you can get taxed, you know, like a crazy amount? Uh, and they have to battle that back and forth. So it was, it was hell it was like a second job. Um, to be honest, it really took my eye off the ball of growing the agency, um, in retrospect.

Because most of my day was focused on gathering this information. Like living a double life of like, I'm not ready to tell employees I'm not ready to tell clients. I'm stressed out of my mind and no one knows why. Uh, you know, and, uh, keeping it under wraps was, was kind of strange. But, uh, yeah, it was like, you gotta be prepared to basically work another 20 hours a week, just gathering information.

Um, and then phone calls after phone calls with your broker and your lawyer. And, uh, being ready to invest in a lawyer who's good. Who can...

Jason: [00:21:00] Yeah, you mentioned two really big things. One, don't tell anybody, right? Like, if it gets out, people jump ship. People don't like change. They’ll like change after they kind of witnessed it.

And a lot of times when you're looking for the right person to buy you as you're evaluating, you got to make sure the culture fits there. And is it right for the team as well, right? Cause you know, they're the ones that got you here. You wouldn't be here without them.

Um, the other thing is, is you mentioned is you kind of took your eye off the ball. So a lot of times what I've found is, I mean, this happened to Justin, one of our members. He took his eye off the ball, he was going through an acquisition. Uh, they pulled out the last minute and almost went under.

Because they were like, oh, I'm going to get all these millions of dollars. I don't have to do anything. It'll be your problem in six months, who gives a shit? Right? Because everything we do is a li you know, a lag of a quarter or six months out. And then the deal doesn't go through. Or, and I think too, I think when agencies go and buy other agencies, I think they do this on purpose to be like, then they can change the deal at the last minute.

And be like, I gotcha.

Dean: [00:22:22] Yeah. That was my big concern and cause right... So the deal was supposed to close on a Friday. Didn't close. There's some legal issue that the lawyers were battling about and everyone was getting deal fatigue, like on both sides. Everyone was like, fuck, I'm tired. Excuse my language.

Like, sorry, I'm tired of talking about this deal. It's been, you know, 45 days of this every day. Um, and so I always felt like at any point the deal would be done and I just wasted, you know, 45 days. At the same time, I felt like I got a masters of business, you know, in 45 days. Because, like the private equity guys…

And I think what was really nice about this deal is like the, just like you said, the culture fit was huge. Like we just got along so well that even with the deal fatigue and the stress and like the money at stake. Like we can get off, like we could have a private conversation with no lawyers, no one else present and it was like, like we were in this together.

That was a super important to me. And, uh, those guys are, are, are awesome, but they taught me all these things about accounting. For example, a lot of larger companies, they use gap accounting, uh, which I never even heard that term ever in any sort of business article I've ever read.

And, uh, and none of my bookkeepers ever told me about gap accounting. And it's a pain in the ass, like it sucks to do, and it takes a lot of time, but it's really important to see like, you know, an accrual method versus a cash method and how that affects the deal, especially when you sell.

Um, cause there's things called. Uh, deferral. Revenue deferral, right? It's like, if you get paid up front, this is another huge learning lesson for me, which is like, so hard to get around. If you get paid up front for work, in gap accounting that's not counted as revenue until you do the work, right?

So all of a sudden, you think you have all this cash in your bank, you go to sell. They're actually like, no, you actually are less. Uh, and you're like, what the hell? Like, I don't understand this at all. Uh, so the lawyers and the broker had to in the PE guys had to walk me through. Like, I'm not actually being screwed, it just feels like it. Um,

Jason: [00:24:28] Yeah, and usually, and that's a good point. I'm glad you brought that up because that happened to us as well.

Um, because I mean, hell I always tell the story on the podcast of one client that, you know, we, we changed our payment terms. And one client came to us eight years later. But we… and we're like, hey, I'm ready. But they paid up front, right? Like, you know, so, you know, we all think of agencies getting paid upfront is awesome. And it is, and you should continue to do that, um, as much as you possibly can.

But when you do go to sell, there is going to be a reckoning and you're going to be like, whoa. And that, and usually they do that right at the end. They know it's coming. The bastards know it's coming and they do it at the end and go, oh no.

And then you're like, fuck it.

Awesome. Um, well, Dean, man, I'm so happy and proud to see how, how have you've grown over the, the past couple of years. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? If they're thinking about doing something like you've done.

Dean: [00:25:42] Yeah, I would say, definitely get a broker. You know, it feels expensive, but they get better deals and they find good fits. You know, and, and Todd, to his credit, like we probably spoke with 10 or 15 companies and most of them were not the right fit.

And, you know, he told me early on that, like, we're gonna, we're going to talk to a lot of people. It's gonna be a lot of time and you get a lot of like deal ideas. And then all of a sudden you'll be presented with the deal and your gut will tell you if it's right or not.

And that's kind of exactly what happened was, you know, there, there are always companies I was like, this is not the right fit. I don’t like these guys. There's something off for they're too huge and I don't want to be like just a cog. And with this one, it was like, met them, got the offer, felt good, felt good to my partner and we went with it.

Um, to get a broker and get a good lawyer and a good accountant. Hopefully they're all a team together. And they've worked together. Uh, I couldn't imagine doing it without, you know, acquisitions experience.

Jason: [00:26:40] Yeah, I know having a good broker is key and all the other assets as well. And if you guys want to know more about Todd, just hit me up and I'll do an introduction for you guys.

Uh, well, Dean, I'm so happy for you, man. Um, and this has all been great. And for everyone listening, if you guys want to be in a point where you can scale your agency to a point where you have the opportunity to exit. And have a number of different agency owners, including me, you know, helping you get to there and, and advising you to get to the next level.

Hopefully, that next level is to sell for the number that you actually want. I'd love to invite all of you to go apply for the Digital Agency Elite.

Go to This is the mastermind that as Dean has been in for the past couple of years and is still in, make sure you go do that now.

And until next time, have a Swenk day.

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

Would you consider having a laser focus niche in a way that you create such a demand you have a waiting list? This agency did just that and has grown more than they ever imagined. When Ryan Redding and his agency DP Marketing.Services built a website for a plumber who suggested that he should only work with other plumbers, he could have never guessed how that would change his business. Today he joins the podcast to talk about how having a laser focus agency makes everything else easier. Ryan also shares why he has felt bad about turning away business and the customer loyalty that has helped him grow his agency.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Laser focus. Once Ryan’s company found its niche thanks to a client’s suggestion that they focus solely on plumbers, they’ve only become more and more focused on this particular side of the industry. Ryan even mentions that a lot of his fellow agency owners freak out at that level of exclusivity. However, in his opinion, that very streamlined laser-focus, even with the way they do referrals, absolutely makes everything else easier.
  2. Benefits of saying no. When it comes to being niched the way this agency is, you’ll probably end up turning down companies that want to work with you but don’t fit into the model of business you’ve committed to. How to say no? Ryan explains that taking those clients at this point would break the agency’s process and momentum. He’s never found that turning away business is bad and argues that it actually gives him the clarity to maximize that momentum moving forward.
  3. Taking care of clients. Exclusivity has become a very important part of his agency’s model. The agency only works with one contractor per service area. This has created a waiting list of people wanting to work with them. In many cases, they have to reject candidates and they cite their clients’ interest as the reason. This creates a sense of respect for the way they do business and loyalty from their clients, who get notified when a competitor in their service area contacted the agency and reassured that the agency will not work with them. This has resulted in more referrals for them.

Sponsors and Resources

Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.


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Improve Client Loyalty With a Laser Focus Niche and Exclusivity

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? I have another amazing episode coming your way. We're going to talk about how one agency owner had a pivotal moment where a client actually told them something changed everything for him. Where, you know, he was kind of figuring out no one's opening up my emails. But now everyone's calling them, which is pretty cool. We all want that.

So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.

Hey, Ryan. How's it going?

Ryan: [00:00:33] Hey, man. It’s going good. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:35] Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show. So, uh, tell us who you are in. What do you do?

Ryan: [00:00:42] Dude, I am Ryan Redding. Most people probably don't know or care, uh, but I, uh, have founded and run DP Marketing.Services. We are a full service digital agency that specializes, uh, for home services companies.

Jason: [00:00:56] Awesome. And so take us back about how did you start the agency and why did you jump into running an agency?

Ryan: [00:01:04] Yeah, it was entirely not on purpose. So I, uh, I have a background working at a big boutique advertising agency in St. Louis. Did that for a while and learned a lot of experience, but kind of got out of the marketing world for almost a decade.

Um, it was just kind of out of sight, out of mind and moved on to a different life. Got more into business consulting and in the process started realizing that all these guys were like main street, small businesses. And so think of any main street USA, you know, bakers and chiropractors and whatever. They all had really crappy websites. They were like awful.

And some of them just didn't have the knowledge. Some of them didn't have the budget. So originally it was, hey, we'll just do websites that don't look crappy for a really affordable price for these guys. And so it started off doing web design, um, and trying to do like super, super low, low dollars.

And frankly, I'm embarrassed to say it out loud. Like, our, our, we still have some of these guys in the book at a hundred dollars a month to get…

Jason: [00:02:07] For, for hosting or for maintenance.

Ryan: [00:02:09] For, well, there's not really much maintenance cause these are guys are gonna like set and forget. So it essentially becomes hosting and nothing?

Um, but yeah, a hundred bucks a month and these guys got a website that didn't look awful and just really basic, but it's something for them. Um, so yeah, for a while, that's all we did.

Jason: [00:02:31] And so how did it, how'd you kind of pivot and, and start doing more and more outside of websites. You know, because, you know, that was kind of my start.

Like I started designing websites and then we started adding on other services.

Ryan: [00:02:45] Yeah. So, this is kind of crazy and it's actually, it kind of dovetails into how and why we're niched like we are. So, uh, we early on did any main street small business. So literally think about bakers and chiropractors and self-storage places, and…

We, to this day, have a lot of those guys still on our books paying a hundred bucks a month. One of the guys who picked up in this time was a plumber. There was nothing special about him. He was just another one of these guys. But in a matter of about six months, um, he went from a guy working out of his garage, making 150 a year to the first page of Google in his target market.

Um, I think right now he's got 16 trucks on the road. He spends his time golfing and on his boat with his, uh, on the lake with the boat, with his family. And he doesn't work anymore. And he, he was literally the first one to say, uh, Bro. you only need to work with people like me because we don't know what we're doing. We're comfortable paying for it.

Uh, you can obviously do what you say you're gonna do. You should totally do it. And he kind of lumped in HVAC. But the crazy part is, is as he grew, he literally started paying me more money without me asking for it. So we start off with a hundred bucks a month and then he's like, bro, I made whatever I made $80,000 off you this month here, here's 300.

And I'm like, well, crap, here's 300 bucks. What am I going to do for 300 bucks? And then it turned into here's 1,000 and it turned into here's 2,000 and just kept paying me more. Without asking for more. And so as he kind of raised his voluntary contribution for the impact it made on his business, I started having figured out ways to add value to the services that we were doing.

So then it came into like real SEO, real social, real reputation. Like all the things you think of like a full stack digital agency would. So that kind of became the way that we… Well, I started building out our services that we do now.

Jason: [00:04:57] How long did it take you to, because there's a lot of us that struggle with, well, I don't want to turn down all this other work. You know, if I'm just going to dedicate it to this particular, you know, market. Um, how long did you struggle with it and what were some of the things that allowed you to kind of make that decision and go all in?

Ryan: [00:05:20] So I, yeah, there's a couple of layers on that. Because early on when, when this plumber was like, bro, just work with plumbers… It it's not a, you know, I keep saying it, it, it wasn't sexy. It wasn't appealing. It was like, who wants to walk around being like, yeah, I do marketing for plumbers. Um, and it, it maybe took three months of me just kind of wrestling with is he crazy or is he onto something?

Um, once he, once I kind of swallowed the pillow. Okay. I think he's onto something. It was kind of all in. So we kind of rebranded. We started like building out collateral for that specific niche. Um, and then that made it where it was much easier for him to refer plumber number two.

Because when plumber number two came and visited our website, guess what? All he sees is language that he identifies with. Um, when he sees our social and our reputation, all he sees are guys like him, like sharing their own personal experiences.

And so it, it really quickly came from, and I say quickly, maybe within six months came from something where we're trying to talk to anybody who wants a website on Main Street, right? You get crappy ones and you get the weird ones and you get the crazy ones and whatever. And guys who think a hundred bucks a month is too much for their budget.To in most markets in the US we have guys on our waiting list, because we work with one contractor per service area.

So we've got guys wanting to work with us who we can't, cause we've already got someone there. And they come to us, we don't go to them. So it's, it's kind of in a really fundamental shift. But to, to answer the question about like, how do you say no?

If we, at any point would have said, hey, we're going to start taking on this chiropractor or whatever in a meaningful way to build it out. It would absolutely break our processes. It would break our, our strategy for actually attracting new clients. It would be a significant, um, it, it would disrupt the momentum that we have in a really difficult to describe way.

I've never found that turning away business is bad. In fact, I feel like it gives you the clarity to maximize that momentum moving forward.

Jason: [00:07:36] Yeah. And talk about the waiting list. What I found is when we've created waiting lists, it literally makes them want you even more. And they're constantly, always like, hey, you guys, you got any opening? Got any opening. Hey, I want in, I want in. So, and obviously it's, it's real too, right? Like you can't fake it.

You know, a lot of people are like, oh, I'll just fake that part. But, um, talk a little bit about how do you do that? How do you remember that? Because a lot of agencies will be like. Oh, yeah, who reached out to me in this particular marketthat now we have an opening?

Ryan: [00:08:13] Yeah. So it starts with like scarcity and exclusivity, right? Because we have really big competitors who will work with anybody. They don't really care. So you can pay someone $3,000 a month and you're like, man, this is amazing. And then you realize, well, they're working with the guy right across the street. And then the guy two buildings down. And it takes, it makes a lot of friction for these guys because they feel like who's getting the best efforts?

What we've learned about this particular niche is these guys are very jealous and very territorial. Um, so, okay, cool. So when we say, hey, we're going to protect their service area. We're only going to work with one contractor per service area,  that gets us a lot of loyalty from them.

When guys in their market reach out to us. We notify the guys we're already working with, hey, so-and-so reached out. Don't worry about it. We're not going to talk to them. We just want to let you know, you're getting noticed that creates a sense of loyalty with the guys we're already working with, which strangely results in more referrals to other markets and all these trade groups.

But the guys who would say, hey, we can't work with you. And they're like, well, what if he did this, this and this. Sorry, we, we really want to protect our client's interests. We hope you understand. I know it's not fun to say, but that's the reality. It absolutely creates a sense of respect and integrity with these guys coming in that everywhere, everyone else feels like second place, right?

Cause they don't really have that sort of value in the client. So we I'm, I'm a digital hoarder. So I literally track all this in just Gmail. So when someone comes in, it gets logged into our system. But when I talk to them, I note that the email record that has all the chat, the lead information, and I say, hey, waiting lists for whatever the city is.

And so I just kind of can search my Gmail archive pretty quickly to find whatever's there. It's. And it just goes back to me being a digital hoarder.

Jason: [00:10:11] Now a lot of people may be thinking to be like, well, Ryan, why don't you set up a separate brand? You know, in order to do the others, what do you say to them?

Ryan: [00:10:22] Uh, that's a good question. And it's something that we've actually are actively debating doing. Probably what we would do, uh, is not a separate brand. Just to kind of do the same model, but just with a different logo and design and whatnot. We'd probably subdivide our niche even further. So, uh, into like an enterprise level or somebody that actually is a franchise. That now we're going to have different rules because we do have to cross markets.

So we've had like alpha tests in the work of how do we actually structure it, where we can cross markets? Uh, we’d probably work without the appearance of conflict. Um, but part of it comes up to even, how do we structure our teams? Like how do we let her SEO guys be separate and not share practices or insights?How do we let our PPC guys be separate and not share insights on who's doing what?

Um, yeah, but it's, it's a legit fair question that we're trying to figure out how to do.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

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You know what we talk about in the mastermind that you're part of too, that you may want to look at, or people listening in. If you get this exclusivity and you have this, this opportunity is find strategic partners that can help with these people. And so you refer them, the business, since you have exclusivity, but you also get a commission from it.

So you're not losing anything. So let's say, you know, like, uh, Chris in the mastermind, he'll refer out. He'll get 20% and he's like this is awesome. Like, and he just any refers it to, you know, let's say three people. And, you know, he always would talk about it,he'd be like, hey, we don't want to refer it just to one. Because if they have a bad experience, then it's on them because you referred them.

But if you refer to them more than one, you know, more than one, well, it's their choice. If they picked the wrong one, well, they can't really blame you because you gave them options. So I always thought that was pretty neat when some of the members were going through that strategy. You may want to, you may want to steal that too.

Ryan: [00:13:39] Yeah, we do that to a certain degree. Just not quite, uh, it's more selective. It's like the ones that we refer, we, we really believe like, hey, these are really great clients that we want the people referring to have good success with. Uh, the ones that were like, this is a problem client, like nobody wants them. We really don't pass those on.

Jason: [00:14:00] Yeah. Oh yeah. Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. I remember when, uh, when we got to a point where we couldn't take on some calls. I would always just be like, look, here's what to look for. Well, we even came up with a packet that we were like, here's all the questions to ask people that we're referring to.

So then when we would, you know, um, you know, whenever they kind of made it upscale and they would come back to us, then we would crush it. Uh, cause they were always like their goal was to get back to us.

Ryan: [00:14:30] Yeah. Interesting.

Jason: [00:14:31] Kind of like what you, what you set up because you're like you elevate them so high.

Ryan: [00:14:37] Yeah. It's, um, it really is crazy how I know a lot of other agency guys, when I talk to them, are they freak out at the exclusivity. They freak out over like being very niche into it. You know, when we say, hey, we're home service. It’s like, okay. But we go, yeah. But right now we don't do landscape. We don't do pest control.

We literally do plumbing, HVAC, we have a handful of electrical. But usually the electrical is part of plumbing. To have that sort of like very narrow, very streamlined laser-focus um, even with the way you do referrals, like it absolutely makes everything else easier.

Jason: [00:15:15] And you can charge a lot more too with exclusivity. I mean, you could charge really whatever you want. Do you find that sometimes, um, people come to you and then you're just like, oh man… Like this happened to me one time, we were doing, what was the client? I won't say the name, but they did the buses to the airport. So they would re restructure all the buses, you know, like with the TVs and all the things.

And we were working this with this one client, I think they were paying us like 5K a month. And I remember the big competitor came along and was like, hey, uh, we want to work with you. So then they were like, we'll pay you 10K and we want this. So what we did was we went to our original client, said, hey, if we can grow your account to 10K and we'll do this, this and this, we'd like to help you.

Um, but if not, we're going to have to cancel and go this way. And we were able to kind of keep elevating, you know, doing that, you know, over and over. Um, which was always a, you always had a backup, right?

Ryan: [00:16:25] Right. Yeah, and that's something that we're, we're also trying to figure out how to do. Even like, uh, like one of the weird complications too to that point is, as these companies grow, these are not literally all the time, but their service area businesses, right?

So they have a physical brick and mortar, and then they have a service area that they do their work. If we do our job well, their service area expands, right? It gets bigger and bigger. So if they're in Denver and they get bigger and bigger and they go, you know what, let's go up to Fort Collins. And they start another division of the company, or they go down to Colorado Springs.

So their territory, it keeps expanding too. And it's creating weird logistical things of guys growing into our competitors, right?Of guys we already work with, but now they're competing. Yeah, so we're trying to figure out, like, how do we even start threading that needle?

Jason: [00:17:14] It's good, it's a good problem to have.

Ryan: [00:17:17] It's a good problem.

Jason: [00:17:17] Right? Like, you know, a lot of times I find that the different stages of where people are in their agency. It's like in the very beginning, it's like, how can I work on lead gen and close as much business as possible? But then it starts switching to, you know, kind of like operations, like, how do we deliver? You know, how do you know, how do we pick and choose? How do we get selective?

And all of that, which is a, a testament of, uh, scaling and growing in the right way. Well, this has all been great, Ryan. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in?

Ryan: [00:17:52] No, other than… this sounds really dumb. I'm, I'm really old school with like the value of exceptional experience with the clients. Because I would say, I think in 2020, 92% of our growth came from our clients referring us to other people. Like, so it's just kind of nuts sort of thing of… Yes, we charge a lot. Yes, we're proud of what we do. But taking care of our clients to the degree at which they feel like they want to help us in return.It's, it's pretty crazy.

Like the amount of social proof that's available for us anywhere these guys look. I mean, it's, it's a lot of fun. Um, yeah. Yeah. But I think this is a really cool opportunity for me beyond here. So thank you for the invite.

Jason: [00:18:42] Oh no, I'm thrilled you came on. Um, well, uh, what's the website people can go and check the agency out?

Ryan: [00:18:50] Yep.

Jason: [00:18:52] Awesome. Well pretty easy. Well, everyone go there and check it out. And if you liked this episode, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to do a couple of things. I want you to take a screenshot of it, upload it to Instagram or any of your favorite social media.

And just tag us and say, what you liked about that episode is what we'll give you a shout-out back and thank you for listening. And then other thing is, is if you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners like Ryan and so many other mastermind members, I'd love for you guys to go to

Request an invite. And, uh, we'll, we'll put you through the paces, make sure you're the right member that we're looking for and that we can actually help you out.

So go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Shaun Clark is the co-founder and CEO of HighLevel, a company that offers an all-in-one sales and marketing platform for agencies and marketers. HighLevel gives the tools, support and resources marketing agencies need to succeed all in one place. Today, he joins the podcast to talk about how marketing agencies can reduce churn rate by becoming an all-in-one solution. And, how the future for agencies will be to tack on software to the services they already offer.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Tack on software to what you’re already doing. If you’re an agency working with small businesses, no matter how great of a job you do, your clients will often have a problem with the price point. Working in this space, Shaun has found that there’s a massive opportunity for agencies to tack on software to they’re already doing. That way, you can add to your revenue and also reduce your churn rate. Because what if they decide to fire you? Now they have to find someone that can implement what they need using your software. So it’s incredibly sticky.
  2. Offer an all-in-one solution. Think about it. Your clients are looking for you to solve a problem and make their lives easier. Not to learn how to use their tools. As an expert, you can come in and say, I can solve your problem, and these are the tools that I use for that. What if you could say that you can offer all the services your clients need in one spot? No need to go outside your agency.
  3. The future for agencies. Our guest believes that agencies are the ones who should be offering this technology because the agency can not only provide the expertise they need on that software, but they also can provide all those other services that client truly needs. So now you can have a price point for the services and a price point for the software.


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Tack on Software to Your Solutions and Reduce Churn Rate

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up agency owners? Jason Swenk here. I have another amazing guest today, where we're going to talk about how can you add more revenue to your agency as well as improve the churn rate of your clients? Because, look, if we lose clients, you know, it's going to be harder to scale your agency. But it’s going to be a lot of fun episode. Let's go ahead and get into it.

Hey, Sean, welcome to the show.

Shaun: [00:00:34] Hey, thanks for having me, Jason. It's great to be here.

Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what you do?

Shaun: [00:00:40] Yeah, absolutely. So I'm Shaun, I'm a co-founder and CEO of a company called HighLevel. Um, so we work with over 10,000 marketing agencies and we have a software platform that's sort of a combination of marketing automation, CRM, uh, calendaring. Pretty much every, uh, sort of, if you're stitching together six or seven different apps for your agency, we kind of bring them all together into one platform.

So that's, that's kind of what we do.

Jason: [00:01:03] Nice. Awesome. Well, let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about how can agencies and implove…? Implove? Did I make up a new word? I think I made up a new word. How can… It's been a long day. How can they improve their churn rate?

Shaun: [00:01:21] Yeah. So, um, I think that we've, you know, working with so many agencies now, what we've discovered is churn is often a function of, uh, of, of price point.

You know, if you're working with a lot of small businesses and you're trying to run on a retainer model, for example, and you're charging thousands of dollars, every month. What we find is no matter how great of a job you do, oftentimes the client just can't get over this perceptional problem of, hey, wait a second, two or $3,000 a month is a lot of money to us.

And so what we did at HighLevel is that we looked at all of the different companies that are out there serving the same space. And we looked at it from a software angle, cause that’s the kind of people we are. What we realized is there's this massive opportunity out there for agencies to tack on software, to what they're already doing.

What I mean by this is if you think about the types of tools that exist out there. And it could be, there's like the Podiums of the world, the Bird Eyes of the world. These are functions like reputation management, two-way text messaging, all of this stuff. Imagine that you tomorrow could add a $300 a month software-only product to what you're doing.

And you would, you would very quickly find that as an agency, you're going to be able to sell this into your existing client base. So if, and when they decide that they're no longer going to be using your services because they're, they can't get over that price point issue, you're not going to lose them as a customer. And then you're going to add a $300 a month recurring software product to your revenue stream. And the effect is really simple.

Let's say I'm running Facebook ads for you as the dentist office, and I'm running the software and I've got the Facebook ad service. And I decided, you know, those Facebook ads, I'm not sure they're kind of expensive. Let's quote unquote, pause them, right?

In the past that means like, sorry, Jason. You're a nice guy, but we're going to have to fire you. That’s what that means. But now with the software, the software is incredibly sticky. So what it turns out is that the Facebook ads still get turned off.

But then two months later that when they realize how silly they were doing that, and they watch all their leads fly out the door and vanish, they'll go. They'll just call you back up and turn it back on. Because they didn't let you go as a vendor, they don't have to feel so bad coming back to you. So it's an incredibly good way to add revenue to the agency and reduce churn kind of all in one step.

Jason: [00:03:31] What um…? When we were running our agency, we created our own CMS system. Long time ago before, uh, WordPress and all of these. And one of our selling propositions back then was, hey, you can manage your own website on our unique platform because there's no one really doing it. And it really did create such a stickiness where even if they wanted someone else to design the website, they would lose that functionality.

And it was just such a huge, like, like we would hardly lose any clients because they knew they were going to lose that functionality. And they'd have to pay thousands of dollars to some other agency to manage all the changes that they're actually doing. Um, and so it just made it really sticky. And I found, you know, over the years, too, of looking at some of our clients of our mastermind members. When they're able to find tools and software and case it into their offering, a lot of times I tell them don't like, especially if they're white labeling and I think what you guys do, I'm like…

Siri: [00:04:41] I’m not sure about that.

Jason: [00:04:44] Siri is talking to me. I don't know. It’s not, Siri. I can't say her name from Jeff Visa's company, but weird. But, uh, she actually agrees with me. But, um, what, uh, what I've found is just like, don't tell them who you're using and it just creates a really sticky and be like, hey, if you leave...

Shaun: [00:05:07] Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I really think this is the future of agencies.

So if you think about it from a practical sense, you know, if you're the dentist, the doctor, the whatever, you, you want somebody to help you market and grow your business, right? And if we're realistic about it that means that there's going to be services that need to come in and help with that. But there also needs to be technology.

And today, if you think about how this is offered, that small business owner has to kind of like go find you as an agency or you have to find them. Then they have to go off and find software and they have to try to glue it all together. It's a real pain in the neck and all this time, they're also trying to like run a business, right?

And oftentimes operate that business because they tend to be the people doing the thing, whatever that may be. So as an agency, imagine tomorrow you could walk in and say, hey, listen, we have all the services you need. We have all the technology you need all in one spot. So you don't need anything else outside of my agency, right?

And you have, you have a price point on the software side and you have a price point on the services side. I think you're going to find that those small business owners breathe a big sigh of relief and are thankful that you're there. Because now they don't have to go off and figure this all out for themselves, which what they already weren't doing very well.

And it's only getting harder every day. As we know technology on the marketing side only continues to expand and get bigger.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Jason: [00:06:17] Yeah. There's I mean, there's the easier that you can make it for your customer and your clients the better. Because that's what they're really coming to you for. Look, I think all clients can figure out what you're doing, right?

Like you figured it out, so they should be able to figure out. But it's just saving them time and saving them the hassle. So if you can make it really easy to be like, look, I got you covered here, here, and here. They’d be like, great. Cause a lot of agents like, like you were saying, they come in and saying, uh, you know, hey, you need this tool, this tool, this tool go here, go here, go here.

And then it, and then it's just so it's like, I'm overwhelmed, man. Like you've lost me.

Shaun: [00:06:58] Well, totally. And in fact, this is how we got started. You know, when we first started working with agencies, um, and we see this still everyday today, it's hey, what are you currently using your agency? Well, I'm using this over here for calendaring and this over here to build a funnel and this over here for my CRM and this over here for my analytics.

And it's like, okay, great. Well, what if we gave you an app that it took all of those functions and put them on one spot? So that was kind of where we got started and that's how we got to 10,000 agencies. They're like, oh my gosh, that'd be amazing. I could see it through Zapier. It's all in one spot.

And then what we realized is, wait a second. If we, if we look at the agency's customer, they have that exact same issue, right? It's like, oh, well, uh, I have, you know, I have this text messaging platform and I have the CRM platform and I have this website over here. And now you're coming in as an agency to help me. And I need you to learn all this stuff as well.

Um, and it's like, wait a second. What if the agency could come in and say, look, we have an end-to-end solution. And these are for things that every business needs, like, think about it two way, text messaging, Google my business messaging, web chat, um, you know, reputation management, text to pay. Like these are the types of technologies every small business will have.

It will be table stakes five years from now. And my position is the agency is the best person to come in and provide that solution. Not some venture-backed software startup calling, you know, calling their phone day and night, trying to get them on a demo. It should be the agency, because the agency can not only provide the expertise they need on that software, but they also can provide all those other services that the actual small business owner truly needs.

If we're talking about a 360-degree view on what they need to grow and market their business.

Jason: [00:08:26] Yeah. And the, and the more that you control the strategy and the software and the implementation, you just really surrounding that account. Um, and especially if you're going after small business. Because like, if you're going after enterprise-level like I understand like it's, it's totally different.

Or if you're going after bigger clients, totally different. But if you're going after small business, they want a very simple. They want one bill. They really want to just be like, hey, I want more leads or I want more sales. Like, can you help me with that? Like, yeah, we can do it all.

Shaun: [00:09:02] Exactly. And that, and that is the idea, you know, and you, and honestly, as an agency, you need that, right?

So like, where we got started with HighLevel is we're working all these people generating leads and they're putting them on spreadsheets. They're handing it to their customers and their customers are like, what the heck is this? These aren't, this isn't what I wanted. I wanted more business. I wanted more people buying.

Well, turns out the problem is clients don't follow up with leads. So HighLevel automated the entire lead follow-up process. And that is what really fundamentally changed the game for anybody running Facebook ads or Google ads. And so this is what your clients need, right? They need a system where they can bring it in. It does everything they need end to end.

And the great thing is that they have a problem or a question or an issue they can lean back on you as the agency, as the expert, right? Because a lot of these questions, aren't just technical. They're also strategic and you're the best person to answer those question questions. You're the best person to help them with those issues.

So I think being the one-stop-shop, you get more revenue and you, you gain a lot of expertise dominance, and they're like, oh great. Why would I ever get rid of this person? They're amazing. They provide all the tools I need and all the service I need in one spot.

Jason: [00:10:08] Yeah. That's awesome. Well, this has all been amazing, Shaun, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience for increasing their, uh, or decreasing their churn rate? We don't want to increase it.

Shaun: [00:10:22] Well, I think that just trying to find ways to create these, to put systems in place for your customers and make it really slimline and easy and scalable for you as an agency. Those are the ways that you're going to win because you don't, you don't want to be running all around all over the place, learning six or seven different tools.

Trying to learn your clients tools. You need to come in as an expert and say, hey, listen, we solve the problem you need solved. And these are the tools we do, we use on the job. Um, so that's why you're hiring us. You're not hiring us to learn your tools that you're hiring us to solve a problem. And that's what we do.

Jason: [00:10:54] Awesome. Tell us a little bit more about HighLevel. You know, briefly about, you know, how you guys take, you know, kind of an all-in-one solution and how it works for agencies and then tell us the special URL and, um…

Shaun: [00:11:08] yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, so HighLevel is awesome because we only sell to marketing agencies. That's the only people we sell to.

So as a result, it's all white label out of the get-go. So you get your own URL, you get your own, you know, all of your own branding. Um, we even have custom white-label, mobile apps. So all of a sudden, imagine tomorrow as an agency, you could be like, oh yeah. And just pull out your iPhone there and go to the app market and you can download our mobile app and you can do two-way texting with your clients and contact management and CRM.

It's a pretty powerful offering. Um, and then, so, um, and then as I wanted to put out a special offer here, if you go to You will find that you get a special offer for signing up by listening to this podcast. Um, and so definitely go check that out. It's

Jason: [00:11:54] Awesome. Well, everybody go check it out. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Um, but you know, it is, you know, if you can combine technology with the strategy and the limitation, it really connects that small business market to you. And it really can't go anywhere, which is always pretty nice. And that's how you can decrease your churn and really keep and grow those accounts.

And then if you ever do get to a point where you do have the opportunity to sell your agency, you can be like, hey, we don't lose that many clients. So…

Shaun: [00:12:26] And you’ll have that revenue stream that just grows every month instead of coming up, going up and down so much.

Jason: [00:12:31] Exactly. So go to a and until next time…

Shaun: [00:12:36]

Jason: [00:12:39] And until next time, Have a Swenk day.

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

How can agencies prove value to their clients and eventually charge more? That's the solution Paul Deraval offers in this episode about founding NinjaCat. After entering the agency world later in his career as a software developer and finding the competition was everywhere, Paul shifted his focus. As Paul says: Who makes money in a gold rush? It's the guy selling the pickax." So he decided to offer his unique data reporting technology to agencies and created Ninja Cat in 2014. They are a digital marketing performance management platform built for agencies, media companies, and brands and help agencies create a . He joins the podcast today to talk about how agencies can prove their value to retain customers and the benefits of having automated reporting.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. The crack in the fortress. Paul found that many agencies were using big black box algorithm platforms for reporting capability that was very limited in scope. Not really designed for that use. And paying a ton of money for it. He decided to focus his business on solving this problem and be the best in the world at helping agencies prove their value to clients by knocking their client reports out of the park.
  2. Deliver a story. Know your clients and know their appetite for data. More data isn’t always better. So, before delivering an 80-page report that they may not even read, ask what they would like to know and then deliver to them on a silver platter a data story that says here's what we did for you, here's the impact that had on your business. And don’t forget to be clear on the point “here’s why you should continue to do business with us.”
  3. Focus on the meaningful. What do agencies get from using Ninja Cat for their client reports? They get to focus on the meaningful instead of the monotonous. Instead of data chaos and data wrangling and client reporting they automate that process and spend more time actually optimizing campaigns and building client relationships.


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Using Data Reporting to Tell the Story of Your Agency's Value

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Got another great, amazing podcast interview coming right up. This guest has a really interesting story and we're going to talk about how can you really prove your value, prove your worth, your ROI? So you can actually charge more and hold onto your clients better. Because a lot of times, if you don't know the value your clients don't know the value and you're probably not going to hold onto them.

So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.

Hey, Paul. Welcome back to the show.

Paul: [00:00:36] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:37] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So, uh, tell us who you are and, uh, tell us a little bit about your background.

Paul: [00:00:45] Yeah, sure. Uh, my name is Paul Deraval. Um, currently I'm the CEO and co-founder of a company called Ninja Cat. We help, uh, large scale agencies and media companies prove value to their customers through, um, automated and highly effective, um, data stories as we call it dashboards as well as, uh, automated PowerPoints and PDFs that really help you as an agency prove value to your customers.

Jason: [00:01:11] Awesome. Very cool. And so tell us, how did you come about starting this? And, you know, I know it's an interesting story.

Paul: [00:01:21] Yeah. So, long story short. Um, my background is a software entrepreneur. Prior to this, built a SAS company called uh, Easy Facility, an all-in-one platform for health and fitness clubs, like a YMCA or yoga studio. The one tool you needed to get all your different jobs done from member payments to personal trainers, scheduling, mobile apps. Everything. Very big product.

Um, was fortunate enough in, did that from 2003 to 2009, uh, when we got acquired, and that, enabled me to do some angel investing. And, uh, one of the investments I made through a, a referral from a, a family friend was, uh, to two brothers starting, um, a digital marketing agency primarily focused on auto dealers.

Uh, I'm a software entrepreneur and was looking to make software investments. I was like, ah, you know, I don't understand the agency business. Um, you know, really shouldn't invest in what you don't know, but, I'll take the meeting.

Um, but what caught my eye during the meeting was, uh, a digital marketing agency focused on auto dealers, but had their own unique selling proposition, which was two parts. One was an ad creation technology that would scrape an auto dealer’s website, find out what inventory they had in real-time. Take that 2010 Honda civic and create a Google ad for it and take it down when the, when the, um, car was removed from the site.

I thought that was pretty nifty. Um, and another component of some technology that they built to help them differentiate was, uh, some really nice reporting dashboards. Uh, that basically offered transparency to these auto dealers. Showing them exactly here's where your dollars are going and here is here's the impact it's having, right?

Here's how many map views it’s driving, how many phone calls it's driving. Um, so that got me excited to the point where I said, all right, I don't understand the agency business, but, um, I'll make a small bet. Um, from there, the agency for about two years, uh, they grew, it was a boutique agency with, with a handful of clients and just run, run by two brothers.

Um, the things that we learned in that journey of those first two years was a couple of things. Some of the challenges we faced, uh, was one the segment we were serving, um, back then around at that time that the 2011, 2012 was, you know, customer education. Working with auto dealers in the Northeast who were, you know, more traditional used to advertising in print and, uh, you know, radio and TV.

And convincing them they should be putting dollars into Google and Facebook, uh, was one thing. Then the harder problem was convincing them to do it again, right? Retain, expand, and spend more on these digital marketing channels.

So, um, we, we were making progress, and definitely, our unique technology helped us. Uh, but another challenge we faced was, um, that was pulling us back it's just how competitive, um, we, we found ourselves in the markets that we were in. And so many agencies out there, right? From, you’ve got your enterprise agencies, your mid-market. And then you have your solopreneurs out there, you know, slinging, PPC, SEO services, some very qualified and some very unqualified.

And we were battling all of them and would just go walk into a dealer or for cheaper clicks. The dealers wouldn't know what that meant. And then there was a battle to like, retain that customer. So it was okay. It just wasn't going, it didn't seem like it was on a trajectory to scale into anything, um, meaningful of an agency.

Thankfully, um, around the end of 2013, a competitive agency actually was trying to push one of our auto dealer clients. And, uh, our clients show them the dashboards that we were providing to them. Um, and that agency, uh, actually came to our team and said, hey, would you ever consider white labeling those dashboards? Um, I've seen them, you know, I'm in the business, but have you ever thought about that?

The team came to me and said Paul, what do you think? And that was really, uh, one of those true light bulb moments for me. It was like kind of everything going on at once. Like what's our challenges here, right? One of our biggest challenges is, um, that the agency space is, is so competitive, right. And we're fighting with, with everybody out there and the thought was all right, well, we have this unique technology, this reporting ad creation.

Who makes money in a gold rush, right? It's it's the gal or the guy selling the pickax. So instead of fighting with everybody, what if we became the arms dealer, right? And sold our unique technology to the agencies out there, giving them a chance to, to compete, uh, and thrive.

So, um, I got really excited about that thesis, went home, uh, executed a textbook execution of a lean market validation experiment. Created an Unbounce landing page. I just tested the reporting first, automated reporting from the ad creation. While it was cool, it really wasn't delivering on all the promises of some of that, um, you know, automated ad creation. So I wanted to test out the value prop of, you know, automating report improved value to your customers.

One week I came up with a ridiculous name. Created the Unbounce page, uh, got the leads. And then I just did a bunch of discovery calls and found out where the market was being underserved. And what I kept hearing was like, the Acquisios, the Marins, these big black box algorithm platforms helped automate. But the biggest challenge I kept hearing was they were using those platforms for the reporting capability.

You know, they weren't so much delivering on some of the promises of campaign automation optimization. But they were not… they were still paying for those tools, using it for reporting capability that was super limited in scope, not really designed for that use case. And paying a ton of money for it, like a large percentage of their media spend.

So I was like, wow, there's, there's an exciting opportunity here. There's a crack in the fortress, right? For somebody to come in here and focus on a specific problem, be the best in the world at helping agencies prove their value, uh, to, to clients by just knocking client report out of the park. And then from there, there's a grander vision of helping them take over some of the other jobs from reporting to monitoring, to contribution and such.

And we've grown since, but that's, uh, I just made a long story longer. But that's, uh, that's our founding story of Ninja Cat. So we've been at it since 2014. Uh, we pivoted, I came on as CEO. After that experiment, we, we sold off some of those customers and have been, uh, just running, running for that sense.

Jason: [00:07:37] So I, I love that story. And I do believe that, you know, proving your worth is showing your clients reports. Now, one of the challenges I've seen over in, in the past is, you know, you're… You know, we've all had these clients, like you're giving them amazing results and then they come to you and they're like, I'm switching. And you're like, what the heck?

Right? And you're like, I've been sending you reports. And they're like, well, and what I've seen is they'll check out the report for the first week and then they'll ignore the rest. So what's the best way that you've seen agencies present the reports? Or how do you, how do they, how does, how does the client understand the reports and the first off?

Cause a lot of times I've seen I've, I've seen reports from a lot of different tools and I'm like, man, I'm confused. So, what have you seen work for agencies? You know, that are using your platform for really kind of showing the client the value and then really taking it up a notch?

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Paul: [00:08:46] Sure. So some general things, uh, we've seen and we've done to help our customers elevate their client reporting so that they can achieve the objective of a better proving value. So they can retain and expand within those customers. I'd say the ingredients, the key ingredients is like… First and foremost, I would say, know your audience, right? Um, know their appetite for data, right?

Uh, and then deliver it to them on a silver platter a data story that says here's what we did for you. Here's the impact that had on your business. And here's why you should not only continue doing business with us. But here's why you should do more business with us.

Look at all these opportunities. High-performing campaigns limited by budget, whatever it might be. So it is not a one size fits all solution, but I think those ingredients of like knowing your audience and their appetite for data and delivering on a silver platter.

And if I, if I break that down, what does that actually translate into from like best practices is. You know, um, everyone thinks dashboards first for client reporting because we're data geeks, right? We love dashboards. They’re sexy. They're cool. I can access them on my mobile phones, whatever. We've been doing this since 2014 and we have stunning dashboards. Like you can recreate any dashboard on our product.

One of our first finding than we thought we were screwed as a company, cause we started off dashboard-only, was like, oh my God, less than 10% of clients ever logged into these dashboards on a given month. We're screwed. We can't sell this, right? We're selling snake oil. You shouldn’t be doing reporting dashboards.

So I think that's a reality. I think even Google is this data studio blog post published something similar. Like, you know, 10% of clients or something, uh, on average, uh, ever log into dashboards, right?

So, one, it's a mix dashboards are critical and kind of table stakes. They offer a sense of comfort and transparency that I can access my data whenever I want and see where my dollars are going and you're not doing anything shady.

But the reality is while you might be able to win them with a dashboard. With the transparency and building that trust that's so essential to any client relationship. To truly then retain and expand it's that deliver on a silver platter, right? It’s push methodology versus a pull methodology. Which means a push report, some form of a PDF or PowerPoint or web presentation that is less dashboardy, right?

Dashboardy is more kind of exploratory. Like data vomit, as I call it, meters and gauges and stick your clients into that and they'll probably misinterpret that data, which I think is one of the big problems. So you give them a dashboard with meters, gauges, data vomit, leave it up to them, to interpret the data for you. To say that you're doing a good job for them. And, you know, probably at least eight times out of 10, they're going to misinterpret that data, uh, in that data vomit. And it's not doing you any, any justice.

So it's finding that balance of a dashboard that gives comfort and transparency mixed with on a silver platter, a data story that covers those bullet points. As I said earlier, here's what we did and why you should continue doing business with us and more.

And it looks different, right? As an agency, you got to figure it out. You might have different, um, sizes of clients. We have some agencies and media companies that have thousands of very small span clients. And you've got to invest the appropriate amount of time to your client reporting for that segment versus your, your high spend, you know, uh, enterprise clients, right?

And what we've seen is you need to automate on the low end, right? But make it feel high touch. If it's just a dashboard and expect them to log in, that doesn't feel as high touch as I can log into a dashboard. Oh, and I also get this beautiful weekly, monthly PDF or PowerPoint with a very digestible story.

And then at the high end, right? Walk your customers through it. Or at a bare minimum, don't just send a report. Like in Ninja Cat, and I'm sure you do this and other products, we have workflows that is either set it and forget it, fully automated. Or set up a don't forget it, where the teams can come in at the agency, look at the data and then add their insights, their recommendations, and next actions. And then send it to the client.

So those are just some of the best practices. Don't lean… My first biggest suggestion, be aware of data vomit, right? Uh, to be aware of dashboards as your primary, medium of communicating value to your customers. When statistics just over overwhelmingly show that, you know, they hired an agency because they want it to be white glove full service.

Don't make them go find the data and expect them to tell you why they should continue doing business with you. You need to be the one telling your customers why they should be continuing to do business with you.

Jason: [00:13:09] Yeah. Yeah. I love that you said you got to know your audience too, right? Like really read them and be like, is this person really analytical? Is this person visual? Does this person just be like, I just care about the results. I don't care about how you do it. Just go do it. Or like, you know, do they want to know all the details?

Like I think that's so important. A lot of people skip that. And you should really concentrate on that, on the onboarding process of your clients.

Like, because I had a, we have our digital agency experience, which is at our house in Durango where our mastermind members come in. And I had, um, a keynote speaker come in, Joey Coleman and he talks about how the first hundred days is the most important if you're going to keep this client for a long time or not.

And if you could put that in your onboarding process and really figure out that, like, do you want to know all the intimate details that we're doing? Do you just want to know the results? Like how do you want me to show you that we're working for you? And I think if you just do that, then you could use a cool tool, like Ninja Cat, where. You know, if they want just a basic report, automate the crap out of it, or if they want to meet every week. Okay. Do that. You know, whatever it is.

I think that's so important that I think too many of us miss. We have a huge tool.

Paul: [00:14:29] One hundred percent. Yeah. That's that's, it's like a report should have, yeah, layers to it, like an executive layer, more strategic layer than a more tactical. And if you're excited about that tactical, but your, your audience isn't, you show up to a meeting and you start overwhelming them with the details. You know, and, and they are like CML or somebody that's high level that doesn't care. They're not actually paying attention to the thing they cared about the most.

Why did I spend time on that executive-level first page thing when I should have spent time on the first page? Did I sell more cars? Yes or no? Uh, should I continue doing this? Yes or no. Don't spend an hour talking about negative keywords with me if I don't care about that, right?

So, uh, more data isn't always better, and it really…  Just ask the customer, what is the best way? What, what level of detail do you want? Uh, and then just, you know, deliver that to them.

Jason: [00:15:13] Yeah. Well, I think we covered a lot of the mistakes. Did we miss any mistakes that agencies do with reporting and upselling and growing those accounts or keeping them?

Paul: [00:15:25] No, and just… you know, aggregation. Um, it's a really important thing, right? Is, uh, looking at things, making sure you aggregate. I know it's hard, uh, when you have so many different channels. But making sure you really nail that, um, executive layer of a report, that should be the, the answer to the question that they're, they're seeking. The so what. And then backed up by the, the details under it.

But, um, we've seen that too common and it's like, wait, you're giving your client this 80-page report?

Jason: [00:15:49] Oh, my God. Oh, that hurts my head just thinking about it.

Paul: [00:15:52] Really, really. I, I, no. We, we've had a hundred plus, uh, and some of our clients today still do it. But you know what? They're actually, to your earlier point, my earlier point, there are some audiences that need and want the hundred-plus page report, right?

Because they need to see the data broken out. Hospital system by department, by all these different things. If that's what they need, that's what you should deliver to them. So it's not a don't ever give a hundred page report. It's, it's know your audience, but, uh, tell that holistic the holistic story, right?

I think when you, you can't fill in the blanks and you show up to a call. And you can't connect, you know how all these different channels are impacting other channels. It's not as good as if you can, clearly. So do your best, find tools, solutions that can really allow you to tell that holistic story and show how every channel impacts, um, each other, even channels that you might not manage, right?

Like, why am I ads not performing? Well, look at your reviews, like your reviews on Google. If people saw your reviews, they people probably aren't clicking on your ads. So what impact are your reviews having on your, on your adwords performance?

Jason: [00:16:50] That's awesome. Well, Paul, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience before we tell them about where to go?

Paul: [00:17:00] Uh, geez. Good question. Um, that you didn't ask. No, I mean, that's… I think that's, uh, uh, I think we covered at least what we're most used to helping agencies, right? There's lots of jobs to be done. But, you know, the thing where we've focused on being the best in the world that is helping prove value through your client report.

And I think we hit a, at least the, the cliff notes and hopefully there's a couple of actionable takeaways that everyone got out of this.

Jason: [00:17:27] Awesome. Uh, where can people go to learn more about Ninja Cat?

Paul: [00:17:32] Yeah. So, uh, we have a dedicated landing page for, for this podcast. Uh, you can go to

Jason: [00:17:42] Awesome. And, uh, and tell us, what's the number one thing agencies love once they switch over to you guys?

Paul: [00:17:52] Uh, that they can focus on the meaningful instead of the monotonous, right? So, instead of data chaos and data wrangling and client reporting. When you can automate that at an effective level then that's meaningful. Really, let's spend more time actually optimizing campaigns and building client relationships.

But when you don't have automated reporting and you spend 60 to 70% of your time, which we've seen is common, right? On client reporting because you need to do it. Well, what if you can automate that? What then will you do with that time shifted from, from the monotonous to the meaningful and, and see what impact that has?

Jason: [00:18:32] Awesome. Well, Paul, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. We really do enjoy. And, uh, for all of you guys that want to really improve the value that you're doing and really streamline the reporting and just be able to run a better agency. I want you guys to all go to Go do that now.

And until next time, have a Swenk day.

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