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Do you know how you can improve client-agency relationships to scale faster? Joe Koufman has worked in the agency world for over 20 years. He was actually a guest on the podcast during its first year. In 2014, he decided to use his experience in marketing, business development, and management to create Setup, a company that works to connect brands and marketing agencies by helping companies find the right agency to meet their needs at a given time. Today he returned to the podcast to discuss what clients look for in an agency, how does a successful client-agency relationship looks like, why you shouldn't be afraid to challenge your clients, and more.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. What do clients look for in an agency? Setup has set out to really understand client-agency relationships and asked several companies what are some of the things that matter to them in their agency partner. They found that most clients really don't care about things like proximity, size of the agency, or awards. Clients were mostly looking for chemistry, transparency, good communication, and creativity. As to the things they wished agencies knew, they wanted agencies to be more strategic partners. They also wished agencies had a better understanding of their business and that they understood that not all ideas could be executed.
  2. Building better agency-client relationships. It was curious that, when asked about what they wished to improve in the client-agency relationship, both parties seemed to ask for the same things. The reality is that, in order to have a good client-agency relationship, they need to have shared goals, sharing common KPIs. And, of course, there must also be a high level of transparency between client and agency, even some vulnerability in terms of what they are sharing. A big frustration for clients was when agencies claimed to be good at something that they are not. Agencies have to set clear expectations and be completely transparent and candid about what they do well and what they don't do well.
  3. Don’t be afraid of tension. “You’re not looking for harmony,” Joe says, “you’re looking for tension in the relationship.” Don’t strive to be your client’s buddy. You can be buddies with your sales rep, but never buy anything from them. The idea is that you push the client and bring them an insight that's not obvious to them. Get them to agree that there’s an issue in their organization and then present your solution and the best option. Remember that usually, clients don’t hire an agency because they want order takers. They hire an agency because there’s an unmet need. “The byproduct of being a real challenger,” Joe assures, “is relationship.”

Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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The Byproduct of Being a Real Challenger is Better Client-Agency Relationships

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Got another exciting show for you. One of my good friends from Atlanta that was actually back on the podcast the first year we've done this. And we're going to talk about building client relations so you can scale your agency faster. So let's go ahead and get into the show.

Hey, Joe. Welcome back to the show.

Joe: [00:00:27] Hey! Thank you. It's been a long time since I've been on this show.

Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, I mean… seven years? And that back with the intro in the, in the video with the cup. I was like, oh, I'm here.

Joe: [00:00:42] We, uh, we haven't aged a bit in seven years.

Jason: [00:00:45] No, I've, I've just gotten a lot more gray in my beard. Um, a lot more gray. Yeah. No, you've always been kind of peppered. I think…

Joe: [00:00:56] Yeah. Just more so.

Jason: [00:00:57] Exactly. Well, um, tell everybody who you are and tell them a little bit about your, uh, your background of working with the agencies.

Joe: [00:01:05] Sure. So I'm Joe Kaufman, I'm the founder and CEO of Setup and we are marketing matchmakers, meaning that we connect brands and marketing agencies together.

So from an agency perspective, um, what that usually means is that we connect agencies with potential clients. From a client perspective, they look at us as a search consultant or a, an augment of their team to help them find agencies that can fill gaps in either capacity. Like they don't have enough arms and legs to do the work they need to do. Or capability, they're missing some capability that an agency could fill.

Jason: [00:01:43] Very cool. Awesome. Well, let's, let's kinda talk about what people are listening in for is like building better relationships and, you know, and re-engaging. You know their client year after year, you know, because you, you've worked for, you know, many agencies in the past before doing the matchmaking service.

We've had a lot of those guests on from Hill Meyer. It's, uh, you know, uh, Sims and those guys. So I guess let's, let's get into that. How can agencies build better relationships to scale better?

Joe: [00:02:15] We, we think a lot about that agency-client relationship. And to that point, we actually do an annual marketing relationship survey.

Um, Ad Age actually picked it up, uh, earlier this year, which was pretty cool. But basically what we wanted to do is understand what the reasons are that clients look for agencies. Why do they hire agencies? What do they expect out of their agency relationships? And, um, and we also actually did an event earlier this year, where we were calling it group therapy for the agency-client relationship.

And we add a bunch of agency people and a bunch of clients on a Zoom call and we talked through that relationship. Um, you know, as I mentioned before, the clients often look for agency support because of an issue with capacity or an issue with a key capability that they're missing. And, um… That survey that we do annually to understand that relationship, we ask clients, what are some of the things that matter to you in your agency partner? When you're looking for a new agency partner.

And the things we didn't hear, the things that came up really low on the list were things like proximity. You know, I don't care if my agency is down the street. Particularly in the days of a pandemic I really don't care where my agency's located physically. I don't care so much about the size of my agency. Smaller agencies can do amazing work for larger clients.

Um, I don't care so much about what awards they’ve won. Just agencies often… Yeah. Agencies often think awards are important. And for some clients, they really do care, but most don't care about…

Jason: [00:04:00] Well, those clients are idiots. Did I ever tell you that…? Did I ever tell you the story of, um, we were pitching Mellow Mushroom and, uh, they… If you've ever been to their office, it's like in the middle of nowhere and they were joking around about oh, here's a map to find her office. And like, I want you to show you how, how, how I want you to show me how creative you are.

So I showed up at their office in full camping gear. Like they thought I was a homeless person. And like I had like the portfolio in this bag… like, and they were like, we loved it, but we're going with… You mentioned in the pre-show. I won't, I won't bash them now. Um, so I won't bash them on the show.

But they were like, we're going with so-and-so because they won a ton of Addy awards and we want to win an Addy award. And I tell them, I go, I'm never eating your pizza ever again.

Joe: [00:04:56] You don't want to sell pizza. You just want to win awards.

Jason: [00:04:59] Yeah, I've never eaten your pizza.

Joe: [00:05:01] That's right. You, you reminded me of a time that I wore an entire cowstume to the Chick-fil-A headquarters. Um, and my goal was to not smile the entire time. I was just going to be deadpan serious. Everybody would cut off pointing at me when I was walking through the lobby and walking through the… The women that check you in at the front desk did not think I was funny.

Uh, and in fact, the client told me two or three times during the meeting to please keep my utters underneath the table. He said he found them a little bit disturbing.

Jason: [00:05:33] What you should have done is started messing with your utter… utters.

Joe: [00:05:38] I, I may or may not have done that. Maybe that was the reason he said that. But, um, I did think it would have been really fun to get some camelbacks or something and have like chocolate milk come out of one and strawberry milk and vanilla and whatever. But…

Jason: [00:05:53] And then could be like just tap me.

Joe: [00:05:57] Right. But it was an innovative idea for a client. I mean, dispensing cow milk dispensing cow on site. Uh, but anyway, so, uh, we, we found through the survey that, you know, those, those things are less important to clients. The awards, location, size, et cetera. What they really care more about is some of the soft and intangible things that the client can do well.

Like… I'm sorry that the agency can do well. Like, um, they're looking for chemistry and relationship and transparency and, and good communication. And they're looking for, um, you know, creativity, uh, th, there are not… Many of those things are things that are within an agency's control. Um, and you know, we did, I mentioned, we did an event where we asked the questions, what things… What do you wish agencies knew? You know, we ask clients, what do you wish agencies knew?

And they said things like we wish they were more strategic partners for us. We wish that our agency would help us navigate some of the bureaucratic red tape within our organization. Um, we want them to act as an extension of our team. We want them to I understand that not all ideas can be executed. Sometimes agencies come with these big glossy, creative ideas, but there's just not realistic for, for this client.

And they wished that the agency would just understand their business better. Um, we built a series of resources for clients, um, in our resources section of our site.

And, you know, there's a complete guide to finding a marketing agency in there. There's a scorecard in there that... There's two versions of the scorecard. One version is if the client is trying to decide between three or four different agencies, how do you choose in a pitch kind of situation? But the other scorecard is made for agency or for clients to evaluate their agency on an ongoing basis to see if they still are feeling the love.

Jason: [00:08:05] Yeah. And what are some of those…? What are some of those questions that the clients are actually looking at?

Joe: [00:08:12] Yeah. I mean, how, how creative is agency? How, how innovative are they in terms of, you know, finding new ways of doing things? How good is their, their, their communication? How good is their project management, their service?

Um, you know, uh, uh, how are, how tech savvy are they? Even if they're not a technology agency, or, you know, a CRM agency or something like that. You still want to know that they're leveraging the best tools and that kind of thing. Um, and you know, we do it like a scorecard. I mean, they can rate each category and section and then decide is this agency is still the right one for me in the future?

Um, the flip side of that conversation that we had about what, uh, you know, clients wish agencies knew. We asked the agency people what they wish clients knew. And I'm sure some of your listeners will, you know, feel some of these things. They, they wish that the clients would be patient and answer also, but also answer all the questions that you ask.

When, when an agency asks a lot of questions, it's usually to uncover some insights so that they can deliver value for the client. They wish that the client would lean on the agencies for their expertise in a bigger way. They wished that the client would provide all of the crucial information upfront.

I think sometimes there's a hesitancy for a client to open the kimono and give you everything as an agency. But if you truly want your agency to be a partner and not a vendor, then you gotta be really. You know, up front about all of the, the, um, information that might be useful.

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Well, you, you, you know what, like… I'm glad you're going over this part. Because if I had one of my agency clients go to me going, and I wished they could do this, I'm like, well, hey, dumb ass, they could. You're taking on the wrong prospect.

Um, you know, I, I did a video, I think back around when you were back on the show, and I remember it was the worst background. I looked like Oompa Loompa in it. And the title of it was like, there's no such thing as a bad agency client, there's only a bad prospect or a bad process. And if you don't have the right, if you don't have the right qualification to check, if that prospect is legit or going to be a nightmare client, or it was going to be good. Because like, you've been on so many pitches, like I have, right?

Including the cow utter or, or the campaign…

Joe: [00:11:54] That, that was planning for cow appreciation day. So it was very appropriate to wear a cowstume.

Jason: [00:12:00] Of course, of course. I mean, right? So we've been on all these pitches and like, if you can look back at when the guy was offended by your utters, right? It'd be like, you're probably not going to be a really good client for us.

I don't care if your Chick-Fil-A. Uh, like, I need to pick. And then the other point, I think that you mentioned, you know, like kind of like to sum it up is that the end of the day, the agency needs to be the advisor. You can be a really good advisor if you really get laser focused at what you're going after. And having a niche or a specialization rather than a generalist and going after all the big brands.

Like when we did that, it was just challenging. But when we started going after automotive, I could talk to Porsche, I could talk to Lotus, talk to Maserati. Like I was like, hey, I speak your language, guys. I race cars too. Like, I'm one of you. So…

Joe: [00:12:53] Yeah. Super cool. Yeah, we, it is interesting that, um, they both sides of the equation were talking similar language though in terms of what they were looking for when it came to strategy. And I thought that was interesting that clients were saying, I wish my agency were more strategic. And then the agency people were saying things like, I wish my client would let me be more strategic.

So, you know, we, we started that conversation like the old book from the, I guess it was the 80s or something. Men are from Venus & Women are from Mars or whatever it was. And that was sort of like the agencies and clients. But the reality is the best agency-client relationships have shared goals. You know, do you have shared and common KPIs, your key performance indicators that you're trying to achieve.

And, you know, sometimes clients will give their agencies skin in the game and, and tie their compensation to, you know, some metric that is important to the larger business. But at the end of the day, those best agency, client relationships, you know, there's no surprises. There's a high level of transparency between client and agency.

There's some vulnerability there in terms of sharing, more than you maybe should on purpose. Um, and then just being super clear with expectations about, you know, and that goes on both sides. I mean, the agencies setting clear expectations and being completely transparent and candid about what they do well and what they don't do well.

Uh, a big frustration for a lot of clients that we talk to is, you know, my agency says they're good at everything. And I know that they’re not.

Jason: [00:14:35] Yeah. Yeah. They're full of shit. Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, it's even if you have the client that like when… Going back to I wish I could be more strategic and I wish you were more strategic…

Well, it sounds like, you know, if you find the right client, like it's about the communication or the process in order to show them that, rather than going, you should go do this, but then you can't back it up. I'm like…

Joe: [00:14:57] Yeah. There's a, there's a book that I've always loved since I first read it. And I recommend it to a lot of people in The Challenger Sale.

And I think you've probably read it. But the concept of The Challenger Sale, the biggest concept to me is you're looking for tension in the relationship. You're not looking for harmony in the relationship. Or relationship… people think they want to hire a relationship builder as a sales guy or saleswoman.

The reality is a relationship builder. You can be buddies with your sales rep, but never buy anything from them. But those that really challenged… So the idea of the challenger sale in the book is you push the client, you bring them an insight that's not obvious to them. You get them to nod their head that, yes, that same issue happens within my organization.

And then it only, then that they've nodded their head and said, yes, this happens within my organization, you can present your solution as the best. Or maybe the only way to solve that specific challenge or problem. And, um, and I had always been that way with clients where I was constantly, you know, pushing them and looking for tension.

And there's a fun byproduct of being a real challenger and the by-product is relationship. Um, because I think that the clients will appreciate... I don't think clients hire an agency because they want order takers, usually. They hire a client, they hire an agency because there's some unmet need. You know, we talked about capacity or capability need, and they feel that the agency could not only solve that problem, but help them think through the future and, and overcome challenges that they haven't even anticipated yet.

Jason: [00:16:48] Yeah. We, we were talking about this in our mastermind. We were helping a member out. Um, and they just, their close rate just kept going down and down. And everyone, a lot of people were starting to focus on the end. Like what, how are you asking for the close? We're like, let's start at the very beginning and let's, how are you setting up the meeting? Like, how are you starting the meeting?

Are you letting them know…? Like whenever I would do a sales call, I'd be like, hey guys, I'm like, I'm going to build rapport really quick, but I'm not going to be their friend. The friend can come later on, but if they look at me as a friend, they're never going to buy from their friend, they have to, I have to position as an advisor.

And then right after I do that, I'm like, hey, I have this quick little framework I'm going to go through to make sure we stay on time and make sure I can really figure out what your biggest issue is so we can fix that out. Can we, can we stay on track?

And like, if you audit your process, like start from the very beginning a lot of times people get off track there. And then what do we have happen? The prospect just won't shut up for 40 minutes. They tell you this crap story that you don't need right now. Um, I'm being nice. Uh, but among …

Joe: [00:18:00] Yeah. Well, or even go back further. I mean, you know, and to you, you kind of made this point earlier a little bit, which is, are you prospecting the right kind of opportunity?

You know, before you even get to the meeting or the conversation, is it the right person? Uh, back when I was at a small digital shop, when I began, you know, my, my mark, my agency career, I had four criteria to determine if I wanted to pursue an opportunity.

One was, do we want their logo on our logo slide? You know, is it a brand that we just really need, we really want? Number two was, is it a hundred thousand dollars in revenue and profitable for us as an agency in terms of opportunity? Third was does it teach us a new skill that we need to have? We just don't have today. And then fourth was, are there hungry mouths to feed within the agency? And we just, we'll take it even if it doesn't meet those three criteria because the thing that they need is the exact thing that we have some capacity on right now?

Over time, we became part, we were acquired and became part of a kind of medium-size full service agency. We went from 50 people to 250 people.

And that number, that second criteria, which was a hundred thousand dollars, became 200 became 500,000, became a million. And by the time we sold to a massive holding company in 2013. Um, I was… if I didn't see a million dollars in revenue in year one, they were too small. And it wasn't just size, but it was just the commitment of does this client…? Are they committed to marketing and working with us on a larger scale than just, we want to give you a little project here?

And that doesn't mean we would never take on a project if it was a foot in the door that meant, you know… We would get in and get an opportunity to earn the larger piece of business. But we were really careful about that. We wanted to know that there was a path to a million dollars in revenue in year one. Um, and, and I think, you know, setting those parameters upfront, you know, if you're talking about an agency business development standpoint… You need to have your criteria.

I have, an agency we work with that, um, that also has a PITA criteria. Do we think that the client is going to be a pain in the ass? And if the answer is yes, I don't care how many… you know. There are some red flags that sometimes occur upfront. To your point, when you're first having the conversation that the money looks attractive, but maybe you should run away.

Jason: [00:20:43] Yeah. Trust your gut, your gut never lies.

Joe: [00:20:46] And I'll give you one other piece that you probably experienced in your days running an agency. But nothing is motivational to the team in a positive way, in a very positive way than you firing a pita client. Um, you know, if a client truly is abusive or, you know, doesn't treat the agency like a strategic partner and treats the agency like a vendor or something like that, um, it's not worth the revenue. It's just not.

And, and nothing, nothing helps your team be more supportive of the overall mission of the agency than when you say, look, we won't tolerate… You know, a client that's not supportive, not, not, uh, that that's abusive or…

Jason: [00:21:36] Yeah, we. Yeah, I can't agree with you more on that. I mean, we literally, there was a… There was a member in the mastermind, not too long ago, that was doing stuff that we didn't agree that we asked to leave. Um, and then it just rallies the other, the other people. They were like, oh wow, they're not just, just taking for the money. They'll defend me. Um, and, uh, yeah, I think it says a lot about your company and character in that. So…

Well, this has all been amazing, Joe. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Joe: [00:22:13] Um, I would just say that if there's an agency that's interested in growth, um, there are certainly… We can offer some services that help growth. Um, the four primary services can be found at setup.us/four-agencies. And I can send you a link to that.

But essentially the services are around how do you help the agency position itself for growth? How do you, um, really uncover insights about the agency, that'll help you do that. And then we actually do help agencies grow through business development services on our sustainable pipeline.

So we do have some pretty strict criteria about the kinds of agencies that we'll take on to work with. So we're not working with really small agencies. If they've got fewer than say 50 full-time employees, we probably won't we'll work with them on an ongoing… You know, sustainable pipeline basis. But happy to have the conversation with, with anyone that might be interested.

Jason: [00:23:14] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Joe, for coming on the show and everybody go check out their website. If you have more than 50 employees and you need help, go check them out.

And if you want to be around amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where they can see the gaps that you're not able to see. Help you climb that mountain a lot faster, prevent those falls from crashing in the crevasses. Uh, I want you guys to go to a digitalagencyelite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind for experienced agency owners.

And until next time have a Swenk day.

Direct download: How_to_Build_Better_Client-Agency_Relationships_to_Scale_Faster.mp3
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Do you know the importance of focusing on the who, rather than the how, to get your agency to the next level? Dallin Cottle had a degree in political science and was heading to law school when he started working at an agency and discovered a knack and passion for advertising. He quickly felt that he couldn't continue to grow at that company and decided to branch out and start his own business, Roar Media. Now, after scaling his agency and getting through the many difficulties that COVID brought for business owners, he sat down with Jason to talk about how he got his first clients, how getting his agency to the next level meant focusing on the who, rather than the how, and how he realized when it was time to start transitioning from his role of agency owner to being a CEO.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Making the first $100,000 from unqualified leads. Coming from many years in the agency world, Dallin already had some contacts and an idea on how to get his first clients. He reached out to some of his connections in local agencies and asked if they could refer some unqualified leads. “There’s a lot of them and they were just throwing them out like garbage,” he recalls. And that’s how he got the first clients for start building his agency and made his first $100,000 from calling up leads that nobody wanted.
  2. Focusing on the who, rather that the how. When building and starting to grow an agency, many people focus on how to get to the next level and start to work more and more. Dallin believes that the more you learn, the more you’ll realize that you have no idea what you’re doing. “This is a pivotal moment for any agency owner,” he says. It is at that point when you have to look around and realize where the business is at and where you are going and you have to surround yourself with the right people that are going to help get you there at that moment.
  3. Transitioning to the role of CEO.  Agency owners typically have many capabilities. They can wear a lot of different hats and this can result in a failure to recognize when it’s time to look for experts that can help you scale to the next level, as well as the time to transition to the role of CEO. In his case, our guest understood it was now or never and organized a 6-week vacation. Just the thought of leaving for a long period without answering calls or emails forced him to start delegating tasks he would normally do for his team. At this point, part of your role will be setting the vision for the company and coaching and mentoring the leadership team.

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 ninjacat.io/masterclass to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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Focus on The Who To Get Your Agency To The Next Level And Transition To The Role of CEO

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited to have another amazing guest. We're going to talk about the who, not how, which is real important when you're growing and scaling your agency. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.

Hey, Dallin. Welcome to the show.

Dallin: [00:00:21] Thank you. Thank you. Excited to be here.

Jason: [00:00:24] Yeah, me too. Tell us who you are and what do you do?

Dallin: [00:00:27] Yeah, so I'm Dallin Cottle. I own a marketing agency in Salt Lake City, Utah, Roar Media. We specialize in Facebook ads, Google ads for the real estate niche, fitness and personal development spaces primarily. So, yeah, excited to be here.

Jason: [00:00:47] Yeah! Tell us, how did you get started? Like why create an agency? Because, you know, as we all know, it's, it's a hard life for a number of different years.

Dallin: [00:00:54] Yeah. So my story is actually really, you know, unconventional. I actually got a degree in political science and I thought I was heading straight to law school. And, you know, I got, I graduated and I was looking around and I'm like… Man, I don't really actually see the type of job that I was thinking I was going to have right here at the end of the road here.

And looking at a lot of years ahead with law school I'm like, man, I don't know if this is it for me. So I took this job at an agency and, you know, day one, I was like, man, I, I'm home. Like, this is what I love doing. And a lot of parallels from just human psychology and everything I've learned, I learned in political science of how people vote is very similar to how they respond to ads and different things.

So it was kind of a, you know, it's definitely a match for me. And from there I, just about a year later, I realized that I had I've reached my destination at that company. I had… making the six figures. I bought the Beamer. I bought the house. Bought the 4runner. I mean, we had a kid, I felt like, wow, this is, this is a great life, but I'm like, man, I'm tapped out in here. I can't continue to grow.

And so I decided to jump and to branch out on my own and start, start my own thing. It was the dumbest thing I ever did. No, I'm just kidding.

Jason: [00:02:13] Oh no. That was probably the best thing. Yeah. So how did you land your first client?

Dallin: [00:02:19] All right. This is a, this is awesome. So my first clients came from… Being at an agency, I realized there's a lot of unqualified leads. And they were just throwing them out like garbage, right? At least the agencies that I was familiar with here locally.

And so I was just, I mean, I had made really great connections. Even the, you know, the place I previously worked, like I was, you know, all on good terms and everything else.

So I just started reaching out to some of these local agencies and the people that we had partnered with or worked with. And I just said, hey, I'm just kind of doing my own little thing here, freelancing. Would you mind if I just shoot me like 10, like crappy, crappy leads that I could just call and just cut my teeth out on, right?

And that's how I made my first a hundred thousand dollars in like six months, right? It was from calling all the leads that nobody wanted to work, right? And just put in some serious time to learn the ropes and started from there. So…

Jason: [00:03:14] Did you find that the first couple of clients that you got that made the, you know, the first hundred thousand… Do you still have those clients or did you, did the agency outgrow them?

Dallin: [00:03:24] Yeah, that's a great question. So it's really interesting because the first out of my first four clients, the three of them I've had up until this last year, one sold their business. One, unfortunately, had a partner in the business passed away and they actually kind of just shifted gears and decided not to do advertising anymore.

And another one, we stopped working together a couple of years ago, right? And I think that for that person, I think that, yes, that one probably was a little bit of a we've, we've kind of outgrew that modelers the expectation at the beginning of, you know, what you're charging and what you're doing. It's hard for that kind of growth.

But for the most part, there's kind of a little bit of everything there, right? From the ones that we saw kind of continue with us. And then there's the other set kind of fell, fell off. So...

Jason: [00:04:20] Well, let's talk about kind of the who rather than the how. Because a lot of people are always kind of focusing on, well, Jason, how do I get over the million?Or how do I get to the multi-million? Or how do I get to the eight figures? How to get to the next…? And I always tell them, you're kind of focused on the wrong thing.

So tell us a little bit about what that means for you.

Dallin: [00:04:41] Yeah. Well, when you first start out building an agency, there's so many things that you are learning. And there's so many things that you start to realize there's kind of that unconscious competence at first, where you are like the… where you feel like you're kind of there. And you are, you kind of have that ego in you and you're like, yeah, I can do this. Like, I'm good at this, right? And the more you start to learn, the more you start to realize that, wow, I really have no idea what I'm doing, right?

And it's at that point where you realize you actually have no idea what you're doing is, I think, a really pivotal moment for most agency owners. And it's in that moment that I was really grateful that I've had mentors and coaches that, you know, I've spent a lot of money to surround myself with those people.

But in those moments, that was the counsel that I was given, right? The council was, hey, perfect, you recognize that you don't have it all figured out. And what you need to do is start looking around at who's done this before. Cause it's not an impossible task. Like I'm not a surgeon, I'm not, you know, working on someone's brain or whatever it is, where I'm going to have, have, have to know the how of all of this.

I just have to know someone who's actually done it before, or who's done something similar and go and find that person. And that principle is served me, so, so well, and… I mean over the years and when COVID hit, we've had the seriously change the who. Like we had to change a complete who. I had to let go of 12 employees at one point.

And it was like the hardest decision I ever had to make in the business. But, you know, you, you look at where the business is at, where you're going… And you have to surround yourself with the people that are going to help get you there at that moment.

Jason: [00:06:28] Yeah. I always tell everybody kind of what got you to the point you're at right now is not going to get you to the next level.

Like for example, getting to the million mark, you can get there by referrals and marketing. But then, you know, that's not going to get you to the next level, which you really need kind of a system in place where, you know… All right, I put this amount of money in. I know if I can get this amount of people through this. This is how much we're going to, you know, build in the pipeline.

Or even looking at kind of on the sales part, right? A lot of times what got you to a certain point is a person. And that person could be you doing the sales or maybe one salesperson. But you need to build a sales system, a sales team that can operate without just one. And it just goes on and on and a lot of people don't realize that. They go, I've grown really quick to this one point and then they go, well, I'll keep going this way.

I'm like, no, no, no, you got to constantly adapt or you're going to reach a level. And then you're going to constantly go up and down. And when you're going through that roller coaster, which gets you through that is luck and determination. Depending on how many times you go through that, you know, that takes away a lot of energy and sometimes it puts you on a downward spiral or you're like, I'm just tired, man.

And I, I can't tell you how many people I talked to that just like… Can you just by me? I’m like we don’t buy dying businesses.

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Dallin: [00:08:01] Exactly, yeah. No, exactly. Well, and then, you know, what's interesting with, with all of that, I mean… Being an agency owner, most of the time, the agency owner started the agency because they're really good at marketing. And if you're really good at marketing, chances are you're really good at a lot of different things, or you can wear a lot of hats.

And so you're typically good at sales because you know how to write copy for a great ad to get sales, right? You know how to do a webinar. So you're great at presenting things. And so you help do sales presentations, right? And you can kind of do a little bit of everything. So it's one of those things where if you're, you know, if you're selling real estate or you're doing something else there where you're like building a house, like… You may not know how to do all of the, you know, you may not be a good electrician, there's plumbing.

Like there's so many other factors where you're going to have to rely on the who and not, you know, just the how to do all of that. With an agency owner you're kind of in this like really awesome pocket where you have so many capabilities. It's really hard to just be like, you know, I'm not going to do that myself.

I'm going to find an expert that can actually help me scale it to the next level.

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Yeah, and I find a lot of people get to a point where they're okay at everything. That's what I'll put. And they go, well, Jason, I don't want to become a big agency and a big agency to them might be 40, 50 people. They are like, yeah, I already have 10 or 20, and that means I'm going to have double or triple the amount of pressure on me.

Or, and I'm like, no, no, you don't get it. The more people you hire and the more of the right people you hire, the less you have to do. Like one of the things when I'm working with mastermind members or clients, is once they get the right system set up, I tell them, take a month off. And then don't even pick up the phone, don't check, email.

And then come back and what you'll find a lot of times is now you're ready to kind of change your position from an owner to a CEO. Because the CEO role is really going to setting the vision for the agency, communicating that to the team, coaching and mentoring and leadership team. And really being the face of the organization and a couple other ones, but that's really it.

Then you can have all this free time to do, like we were talking pre-show… We were joking around about I'm researching building a teepee and putting on top of the mountain. And then you talked about buying real estate, all kinds of stuff. So, you know, it's like you have time to do other things. So I want you guys to have time to research teepees and go buy your own teepee.

Dallin: [00:11:55] We're going to wait to post this episode, right? So you can get this teepee.

Jason: [00:12:00] I'm going to corner the market. I'm going to corner the market because I'm checking out these websites and they do a piss poor job at marketing. So there might be, if you could be the number one agency in the world for going after the teepee niche.

Dallin: [00:12:16] That’s right. If you learn one thing from this episode today, it's that. Um, no, but to your point, I, this last summer, we've been an agency, route four and a half years now. And so, you know, it's always, it's been a grind, a huge grind. I haven't done a lot of vacationing, okay? But I told my wife that that's the danger it's like next year, next year, right? In a month or so. And then pretty soon I was like, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to force my hand here.

And I said, we are going to go to Hawaii for six weeks this summer. So we left the first part of June and got back the, the end of July, um, this summer. And man, the lessons I learned from that, just exactly what you were saying. It was absolutely insane because the preparation, knowing that you're leaving in a couple of months.

Everybody, at least most people that I know. And I've talked to you about this. When you go to leave on vacation, even if it's for a weekend or a week or whatever, the house is clean. All the, you know, the bills that were on the counter are paid. All the things are kind of cleaned up and you kind of leave… You try to package things as nice as you possibly can cause you're leaving.

And so that same principle, like when I'm thinking, leaving for two months in my business or six weeks like that. Man, I, all these certain things that I would have just normally done, I started handing off. And I couldn't believe the difference that it made in my business. And then just like you said, just stand back and like put my hands up and be like, Hey, it's on you guys. Like, keep it going, right?

I don't want to get that phone call, right? And so that was an awesome experience. And coming back, just like you said, I was able to really shift that direction. It also forced the team to be able to do that. And I think sometimes we don't let the people that are, that could step up and be leaders in the company, we don't really give them an opportunity to step up and be the who. We just focus on them always being the how, right?

And so in that moment, we're like, hey, can you do this while I'm gone? Because if I got hit by a car and I was out for six weeks, they totally would've, right? They would've stepped up in a big way to make sure that things continued on they're on that path.

So it's, uh, it was a huge lesson for me this year. I'm like, man, should've done that a lot sooner. Just planned it out and did it.

Jason: [00:14:31] Yeah, you should never look at like tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. It's like. You know, it's like today living today, don’t live in the past. Don’t live in the future either. I make that mistake.

I, I make that mistake all the time. You know, it's like, we've always done it that way. And then I'm like, I quickly slap myself in the face going that's the kiss of death and… Or I'll say, oh, I'll do that tomorrow. And be like, no. I've always been really good at executing if we have an idea… And my team always laughs.

They're like, oh, Jason has another idea. When's it going to be done? Probably in like two seconds.

Dallin: [00:15:08] That’s right.

Jason: [00:15:10] Like buying the teepee. Uh, I think that's what the title is, how you can grow your agency to afford a teepee. That’s right.

Dallin: [00:15:18] That's all you need, is the teepee.

Jason: [00:15:21] Exactly. Perfect housing, right? That's all you need. Well, this has all been great. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Dallin: [00:15:31] No, I just, I mean, just to kinda summarize that. I think that, you know, you, you look around and like where you want to go, right? Find the people that have that have done it, you know, keep continuing to listen to this podcast and, and see all the, you know, all the different stories and learn from that.

And you’ll find the people that are around you. It's so crazy how close those people really are. If you don't mind, I'd love to share one more thing with you.

Jason: [00:15:58] Go for it.

Dallin: [00:15:59] I recently was watching, um, Undercover Billionaire. I don't know if you've seen that show on the discovery channel. But, uh, man, what an awesome, just like…

Jason: [00:16:08] The second season or first season?

Dallin: [00:16:10] Both. I watched both of them. But I thought they were both amazing in their own kind of way. But yeah, no spoilers, but Grant Cardone in the second season, you know, agency directions, right? And so looking at kind of that whole approach, there's no fear in, well, I don't have money to hire, I don't have money to find the who.

I don't have, like, you know… There's no resources that are like they're building, you know, a million-dollar evaluation business in 90 days... With literally they have no contacts, no resources, no nothing. It's literally just asking people and trying to find out what their passion and their drive is and how they can help contribute to the, you know, a greater vision, right?

So you sell that vision and you build the life and the agency that you want. So I highly recommend plugging that in there. No, I wasn't called to plug that in from the Discovery Channel or anything. But it was a pretty cool, um, you know, kind of looking at it from a, just a straight-up business standpoint. But it's good entertainment too.

Jason: [00:17:13] It was really good. I, I just think, you know, people are like, I remember watching something, um… A Tony Robbins video and Al gore was in the front row. And I guess that beforehand, he was like, if I had the Senate or Congress, I don't, I don't know the, uh, you know, I would've won the presidency. And Tony was like, no, it's never a lack of resources, it's about a lack of resourcefulness.

So I just want to leave everybody with that of going, if you can dream it, you can build it. You just need to figure out the who can actually help you and just build that community, build those relationships and that's really everything.

So what's a website people can go and check the agency out?

Dallin: [00:17:59] Yeah, roarmedia.io, and basically you can find us anywhere on roarmedia.io on social media as well.

Jason: [00:18:08] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you go check out their website. Make sure you subscribe. And if you want to be around amazing agency owners that are constantly challenging you and constantly motivating you to push harder and be more resourceful. I want to invite all of you to go to digitalagencyelite.com.

This is our exclusive community and mastermind for only the experience agency owners that are really wanting to change the game and really take it up a notch and have a lot of fun and share what's working with other amazing people.

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

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

Would you like to land big retainers of $50,000 to $100,000? Spencer Brooks is the founder and principal of Brooks Digital, an agency that empowers health nonprofits to build engaging digital platforms that improve the lives of patients. He has worked to create an agency that brings a new perspective to the nonprofit sector, which is very one-time project-focused, and tries to bring a more agile approach to help them adapt to changes in online health information. With this in mind, Spencer has created a system where the agency looks for opportunities for a longer-term relationship with the clients in 12-month retainers. In his conversation with Jason, he talked about choosing a niche, how he goes about offering retainers, and the point at which the working relationship can lead to bigger retainers.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Choosing a niche. As it tends to happen, this agency stumbled upon its niche after hearing many times that he should choose one. At first, it was just about realizing that 60-70% of their clients were nonprofits and making the move to start focusing on those clients. It was fairly easy because as a niche it was still quite large. Another look at their client roster revealed that most of those nonprofits worked with health issues. The decision to focus on those clients was much harder because it was scary to move into a much smaller niche with about 20,000 nonprofits. However, it was the right move for them and they’ve made it work by bringing a more agile approach to the sector and working with the perspective that their digital presence is a product, not a project.
  2. Landing big retainers. Of course, there are agencies that can get six-figure retainers from day one, but in Spencer’s experience, the agency’s biggest retainers have come from a working relationship with a client that matures to that point. It usually starts with a client that has a very specific project or something that they want to do. Spencer will then evaluate whether there’s an opportunity for a retainer with this client. What are their challenges? What are the organization's goals? It usually goes beyond just building a website. He informs the client that there’s an opportunity for a longer-term retainer with their project and makes sure to have a roadmap for the post-launch of the website.
  3. Timeline to get a retainer. When working on the initial foot in the door project, Spencer and his team are usually looking for ways to craft a winning strategy. After that, he says, it’s usually either simple and takes just a few weeks  or it’ll take months and months and never come to anything. It’s the ones in the middle, the ones that take up to six months that are more complicated because, in his experience, they are always tied to trying to sell the retainer upfront. The idea is that the client can make that decision in a few weeks or on the spot. Because the foot in the door offering is an opportunity to build trust, as well as for the agency to evaluate that client and decide if it’s worth it to commit to them for the long term.

Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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Choosing a Niche and Creating a System to Land Bigger Retainers

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited for another amazing episode. We’re going to talk about how to land bigger retainer. My guest on the masterclass today is going to talk about how he sold 30,000 to 100,000 dollars plus retainers, which all of us want to do. But a lot of times we're doing it the wrong way.

And, uh, so let's go ahead and get into the show.

Hey, Spencer. Welcome to the show.

Spencer: [00:00:32] Hey. What's up, Jason? Glad to be here.

Jason: [00:00:34] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do?

Spencer: [00:00:39] Sure. So, like you said, my name is Spencer Brooks. I run Brooks Digital. We're a digital agency. We do a lot of strategy, like user experience, as well as design and development for nonprofits. Specifically, those nonprofits that focused on a health condition like cancer, diabetes, something like that.

We take the perspective that their digital presence is a product, not a project. Because there's certainly a lot of one-time project-based thinking in the nonprofit sector. So we try to bring a more agile approach to help them adapt to changes in online health information and things like that.

Jason: [00:01:15] Awesome. And so how did you get into doing this and how did you wind up picking this niche?

Spencer: [00:01:21] Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I, I stumbled into it to be honest, I think as many people do, or at least other agency owners I talk with. I started as a, as a freelance web developer. And so over the years, I started hearing about, oh, you need to niche down and you need to choose a good position and things like that.

I began by just honestly examining the clients that I was working with already. I looked at them and I went well that 60 or 70% happened to be nonprofits. And so for a while, I focused just on the nonprofit niche. And I made a decision, hey, this, this is still quite large. There's like a million, you know, there's a million nonprofits that are seven figures plus in revenue, that's still quite large.

So took another look at our client roster and realized we just happened to be doing work with a lot of organizations that focus on health issues. And so that was much scarier to do because that's a, it's, it's a much smaller. You know, you're, you're talking about maybe 50 or 100,000 tops. Uh, you know, more realistically the, the ideal client is somewhere in like that 10,000.

There's probably 10, 20,000 organizations and in that space, so it was a little bit scarier to make that decision, but, uh, I went ahead and did it. And so that's, that's sort of how I ended up in this space today. Really, by just sort of looking back at what clients happened to be working with us, what clients happen to uh, you know, the clients have the highest revenue and making those decisions with a whole lot of courage. And, and, you know, some help along the way to, to get to where I am right now.

Jason: [00:03:09] Awesome. So let's talk about how are you landing such big retainers?

Spencer: [00:03:14] Yeah, that's the mega question, right? I, I think I'll start by saying that the biggest retainers have come, in my experience, from a working relationship with a client that matures to a point of a big retainer.

So it's not necessarily from day one that I'm getting a retainer that's six figures. I'm sure that there are agencies out there that have developed a market position and that, that claim to expertise where they could theoretically do that on day one. But I think much more commonly and certainly in my case, that that develops over a period of time.

So I'll usually start with smaller projects and that's usually the case with clients is that they come and they have a very specific project or something that they want to do. And I evaluate their organization as a whole and say, okay, this is what you want to do right now. But in my head, I'm sort of thinking, is there an opportunity for a retainer here?

Do they have ongoing needs? And so I'll, I'll take that. I might take that small project and do some sort of strategy or examination of, okay, what are your needs? Do a discovery and then pitch them a, a little bit of a larger project. And then telegraph that there's probably a longer term retainer here. And that's just how we work.

So it's a progressive process, but I telegraph that that's usually how we work and then I build the client relationship into that place.

Jason: [00:04:48] Yeah. I mean, I, I totally agree with that just because I see so many people that they're pitching marriage right off the bat. And I don't think it works for either party because it's a big commitment.

Like for example, I remember many years ago, and this happens all the time as well. I had a client that came to me and said, hey, you know, charge $5,000 a month on a retainer. Um, and, uh, it's month to month. I'm like, well, why is it month to month? They're like, well, it's easier to sell. And I was like, well, why wouldn't it be 12 months?

And they're like, well, that's big decision and a lot of risk. I said, well, do you want to kind of eliminate that? So I like kind of what you, you probably do the same thing, kind of start with a strategy and really figure out like a, like you said, kind of figure out where they're wanting to go, what their biggest challenges are.

And then, you know, we put a high-level plan together and then that probably leads to a project, I presume, or a smaller project?

Spencer: [00:05:46] Yeah, exactly. So if… let's say someone, I had a, a lead come in the door and they want to do a website or something like that, right? So I might start to examine, okay, what, like what's the context in which this project happens?

It's usually not just a website. That's like a lot of the work that we do ends up being website-related. But talking to them about what are the organizational goals? What, what is this, what are your challenges? What is this solving for? And then laying out a plan for, okay, maybe a website's part of that, but have you considered all these other things that you might want to be doing, right?

Have you, you want this website, but have you actually even researched your audience at all? Like the people… You're thinking about it this way, but you know, we take the perspective that your website is a product. So are you thinking about this like a one-time project and it's going to be, is it going to be done? And how are you going to then adapt to that over time, right?

And sort of, and take their project and bring our perspective to that. Then that usually… our perspective, of course, being that the website is a product naturally leads into a retainer-based relationship. So then we'll say, okay, we'll build out your, your MVP, you know, this, uh, the, the initial version of the website, and we'll help you do that.

But then here's our roadmap for post-launch for this website. So we'll do the build, but then know that after that, here's what we're trying to do. So here's the retainer that's gonna come along with that. And usually, by the time we get done with the website, I don't think a website project has ever been finished without a phase two wishlist at the end.

And so it's just very natural to just say, all right, like we’ll, I’ll scope control the project by bundling all of the stuff that comes up during the middle of it into retainers. It just, it flows really nicely just through the course of the project and helps me say yes to a lot of the stuff like strategy-wise or helps the project manager say yes to that during, um, you know, during the build-out. But then say, yeah, well, yeah, phase two, yeah, but this is the retainer.

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Yeah, I, um, I like that you kind of start selling the retainer while you're in the first engagement. I find if there are people where they wait until the project's done, then I think it's sometimes too late. Because they're already kind of like checked out, right? Like, do you see that as well?

Spencer: [00:09:33] Yeah, I think it's super hard if you're, if you're acting as if you're just this super project face company agency. And then all of a sudden at the end, you're like, hey, by the way, uh, I am... I'm going to recommend that you spend a hundred thousand dollars a year. They’re like, wh…? You know, it's just like a truck hits them.

Uh, and so I do think that telegraphing, that that's the way that, that we work, that you work as an agency, helps them prepare over time. And I, and I phrase it in a way that says, you, you, if you want to continue working with us, then this is how we work. If you, if you, for whatever reason you don't like this, that the product that we put in.

If you don't like the experience of working with us, then after the project, like you can take it and you can go and you can find someone else to do it. And so that sort of relieves them of this pressure of committing to the, uh, effectively committing to a retainer at the beginning of our project. But also telegraphing to them that this is the conversation that's going to come after the project's done.

And then it just leaves us as the agency in the position to just deliver a great experience. So that, that conversation is easy when the project is done.

Jason: [00:10:51] So what is your close rate percentage or have you been tracking that of when people come to you for all this?

Spencer: [00:11:00] Yeah, no, that's a, it's a, it's a good question. Um, I don't have like a hard number off the top of my head. So I'll give you my, my ballpark guesstimate. It's very high. Usually, like, frankly, if someone, if I get a sense that a prospect is just interested in a project and there's not even an opportunity of a longer-term relationship there, then I'll probably pass.

So I mean that in itself takes my retainer close rate up a notch because I'm not trying to funnel people through that. It's kind of part of my qualifying process. Uh, so like that being said, I I'd say it's at least 50% or 60% uh, that go into a retainer, if not more. And then the folks that don't go into our retainer, they typically stick around, but they're still thinking about the project-based kind of work.

So as a fallback with the, with the clients that just say, no, I'm not going to do a retainer. Then I'll probably do the more standard, you know, account management, follow up every couple months and generate some more projects. But typically those kinds of clients, they know that we work on retainer and if we're not available, we're giving priority to our clients that are on retainer.

And so that, it's kind of a nice way to you prioritize the people who are on retainer and then the clients that don't end up closing on a retainer, like you can sort of nurture them to fill any gaps that you might have in your pipeline.

So that's how I think about it.

Jason: [00:12:31] Yeah. I mean, that's huge. Because I see when people are pitching retainer, run off the bat. They're less than 25% because it's a big commitment, right?

And now you said 50%, but I want everybody to hear this is 50% to a retainer. So they've already gone through strategy and projects and to the retainer. So the close rate for, you know, what I call the foot in the door or a project is going to be skyrocket much faster. And then also what is typically the timeline for closing, for getting that client to pay you right up, like for the first time? And then also what's the trend, like how long is the timeline to get to the retainer average?

Spencer: [00:13:12] Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. So initially, when you're doing like the, I think you mentioned like foot in the door, that initial project. That, that my entire goal with that is like, how, how do I craft a, uh, like some sort of quick wins strategy engagement?

And then we're talking like two weeks, right? It's usually very easy. It's either like they're going to probably pay up within two weeks and sign, or I'm going to chase them for months and never hear back. Um, it's only that middle, you know, when you get like that three-month close or six-month close, where... Those are in my experience, usually always tied to these huge, mega, you're trying to sell the retainer upfront.

You're trying to sell the six-figure seven-figure project right off the bat. And those, of course that takes months and months to close because that's huge. But it's a much smaller… it, the idea is that they can make that decision in a few weeks or on the spot.

Jason: [00:14:05] Exactly.

Spencer: [00:14:06] Then we'll typically go through a process that's about three months. If we're going to do a project like a website build or a relaunch I'm shooting for about three months. There are three or four months. And then after that, I'm looking to close a 12 month retainer on the back of it. So really it it's actually fairly accelerated.

And usually, once we get past that initial project, that the foot in the door and then ladder it into a larger project. Then by that point, they've gone through two projects with us, essentially. There's a lot of momentum behind the relationship… they’re, they're in a position where they're liking what they see.

And so then when you're like, yeah, let's just keep working together. Like we've all these things that we've been talking about, the strategic roadmaps we just need to now do that work. And so it just makes the, the retainer conversation very, very easy.

Jason: [00:15:02] Yeah. Well, I mean, you build trust, you made it an easier decision.

And then you're building trust as you show them little wins, you show them the plan. You know, one of the things I always told people is people chose us because we made it easy for them to choose us. We explained exactly how our process worked rather than hiding or stra… or secret strategy soft… You know, like all this super-secret shit.

And then, you know, we did a little commitment on their end. And we also too, we were evaluating them and we let them know we were evaluating them. Just kind of like you, like, if people are wanting to go right to the retainer. Yes, that's exciting. But it's also should be a red flag. Do you really want to commit to someone for 12 months and be miserable?

You know, you gotta, you know, we, uh, and, and I can't tell you how many members in the mastermind I chat with that, uh. You know, in the very beginning when they join… There's so many clients that they need to get rid of because they're not profitable or they're a pain in the ass and it's an easy... And we walk them through our offering ladder and the foot in the door and all of this.

And it really solves a lot of their pain. It doesn't solve everything, but it solves a good portion of it. Um, well this has all been amazing, Spencer. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Spencer: [00:16:29] No. I think that maybe the one comment that I would add to kind of, to flesh out your point, Jason. Then, um, then I think that's, it, is that yeah, the, the... The foot in the door in the larger offering is absolutely, uh, that chance to evaluate a client. And over the years, that's certainly the thing that I've discovered with retainers is that great, okay, you get awesome at closing retainers that… But if you close a client that you don't really like working with it, then you're stuck with them for at least 12 months.

And then of course, everyone knows, it's really hard to say bye-bye to revenue. Even if there's so much pain associated with that. And so you really got to think about it from that perspective as well is give someone… Just progressively unlock your services to them so that you have that experience, that opportunity and experience with them to just say, no, thanks. I don't think this is going to work out and save yourself a lot of pain.

Jason: [00:17:29] What's the website people can go and check out the agency?

Spencer: [00:17:33] So it's brooks.digital. Not.com, but the fancy new dot it's not new anymore, I guess. But…

Jason: [00:17:47] At least you didn’t do like some of my guests going WWW… I'm like, wow. You just aged yourself.

Spencer: [00:17:50] HTTPS colon forward slash forward.

Jason: [00:17:55] Well, I used to do that for many years and then someone made fun of me and then I'm like, ah, maybe I need to switch that. So, but uh, well, amazing. Uh, thanks so much, Spencer, for coming on the show. Make sure you guys check out his agency’s website.

And if you guys want to know more about really crafting your own foot in the door and really how you can start selling bigger, bigger retainers, faster, closing, more, making it easier, getting paid for the proposal. I want you guys to go to footinthedoorframework.com. This is our exclusive program that I did with my good friend, Ian Garlic aka Sasquatch. He makes a lot of cameo appearances on our videos. Really good friend.

And he's been doing the foot in the door framework for many, many years, and perfected it. And he's been really helping out a lot of mastermind members... In the mastermind walk through this and we just launched this program.

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

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

Are you looking for ways to boost your team’s productivity while also improving your work-life balance? Jason Berkowitz was working as a personal trainer in NYC when he discovered SEO and decided to become a freelancer. He grew his business and started hiring and building his team to create a legit agency, Break The Web. Now that he has a team, he has been implementing a few ways to boost productivity and morale. In this conversation, he talks about the key roles he hired to start growing his agency, why offering unlimited PTO has worked for his team, and how a special summer schedule allows the team longer weekends

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. On growing his agency. Jason found success learning about SEO practices and how to help people implement them in their websites. However, freelancers have to take care of different aspects of the business like admin, selling, project management, execution, client management. Some people are comfortable with that, but he wanted to delegate certain aspects of the business to increase his income. For this, the first strategic hire was an account manager, which was the first step to start building a legit agency. This way, he didn’t have to spend so much time speaking with clients, relaying information, and setting expectations and could focus on other aspects of the growing business.
  2. On unlimited PTO. More and more people are deciding to offer employees unlimited PTO. It is an ongoing debate and, in his particular case, Jason decided to do this at his agency. The main reason has to do with fairness. “If I wanted to take unlimited vacations, it was only fair to allow that as well in the team culture,” he says. But there was also the matter of allowing people to enjoy their time off and see how that affected the way they enjoyed work. There are still rules, it is based on performance, employees have to put in requests for PTO at least 10 business days beforehand, and it can be approved or denied. But it has been a success at his agency.
  3. Boosting his team’s productivity. Other than offering unlimited PTO, another strategy introduced this year at the agency to boost the team’s morale was working half-day Fridays in the month of June. It was a way of letting them enjoy their summer weekends, but it actually ended up improving team productivity from Monday to Thursday. Work was being executed much faster and more efficiently. It also helped Jason maintain a better work-life balance. Overall, it was a success for this team and something that they may continue to do every year.

Sponsors and Resources

Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out Wix.com/Partners to learn more and become a member of the community for free.

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Growing Your Agency, Work-Life Balance, and Boosting Your Team's Productivity

Jason Swenk: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing guest and, uh, his name is Jason. He's also from New York. So don't get confused. He's probably better looking than me, but, uh, we're going to talk about growing his agency, life balance, and a lot of cool stuff. So, uh, I'm excited to have him on. So let's go ahead and get into the episode.

Hey, Jason. Welcome to the show.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:00:29] Hi! Thank you so much for having me, Jason. It's a pleasure and, yeah, best name ever.

Jason Swenk: [00:00:34] I know. I was like, don't get confused. You're the newer and better version of me, I guess. But tell us who you are and what do you do?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:00:42] I am the founder of the search marketing agency Break The Web, and we specialize primarily in SEO and paid search.

We help in-house marketing teams, integrate SEO, which is always nuanced and confusing and annoying, into their existing marketing practices. So it's seamless all around.

Jason Swenk: [00:01:00] Very cool. And so how did you get into this space?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:01:03] It was probably by accident. I used to be a personal trainer, way back when in New York City.

And I was tired of working for a gym and basically working off the leads that they gave me, which were new membership signups. And I had the idea of what if I can get people to come to me? Is there a demand? So of course people are going to Google typing in personal trainer NYC. Saw the acronym, SEO started implementing it on my website at the time.

And then I was like, screw personal training. Uh, this SEO stuff is fun. Of course, SEO was way different back then anyway, but it was kind of a paradigm shift. That's where the journey started. I worked as a freelancer for a while, but that's where it started.

Jason Swenk: [00:01:39] How long ago was that?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:01:42] Around 2009, 2010 is where I started actually getting into the practices of SEO what's involved? What does everything mean? What's the methodology? So about a decade now.

Jason Swenk: [00:01:53] Very cool. I remember when you could get right for any term by just putting that keyword in the background at the same color. So I might be dating myself on that one, but that was a really…

Jason Berkowitz: [00:02:04] The good old days. Oh yeah. One among the many different things that would work really well and really fast back then.

Jason Swenk: [00:02:13] What made you decide to go from a freelancer to hiring people?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:02:18] Yeah, I think I wanted to have a certain income. The problem with being a freelancer is that you're managing everything. When it comes to admin, selling, project management, execution, client management. All these different aspects.

And some people are comfortable with that, but I felt like I needed to delegate certain aspects if I wanted to increase my own personal income. So then I started bringing on VAs to help with some of the smaller things. And then before you know it I'm like, wait, I can let go of this one thing too and not have to worry about it? And I can let go of this one other piece?

Then before you know it, you just look up, you're like, oh shit, we're a boutique agent.

Jason Swenk: [00:02:59] Yeah, it's exciting to let go of the stuff that you don't necessarily want to do anymore or have to do. And then other people actually start doing, you know, a better job. And I'm always curious, who was the first hire?

Not the person's name or well, please list out their social security number. I'm just kidding. What was the role? What was the first role that you hired?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:03:23] The first unofficial, non US-based was a VA in the Philippines. That was to help with link building as one of the big, uh, time-consuming aspects related to SEO. The first US in which we officially, you know, start with like, hey, we're going to be legit and grow a real agency was an account manager.

I found myself just taking a lot of time speaking with clients and trying to relay information, setting expectations. So the account manager was our first hire.

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Jason Swenk: [00:03:51] Awesome. There's always a debate around kind of PTO. Well, there's more and more people now kind of giving unlimited PTO. Why did you go to that?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:04:04] I think if I wanted to take unlimited vacations, if it made sense or just take off when I wanted to take off, it was only fair to allow that as well in the team culture. I think just people are going to enjoy work if they could also enjoy pleasure. And if you restrict them by X amount of time that they have for that pleasure, they may not enjoy work as much.

So if they just needed an extra three or four days on a certification or an extra trip. Or maybe they were capped out throughout the year for the amount of days, that just gives them a bad taste in their mouth. So we'd rather if you're doing great work, if things are looking good and we won't be set back, if you take an extra couple of days off by all means, go for it.

We just care about the output more.

Jason Swenk: [00:04:48] Yeah. Some people are always concerned about can people take advantage of it? Like, have you ever had anybody try to take advantage of it?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:04:55] No. They still have to put in requests for PTO at least 10 business days beforehand. And they still could get approved and denied. I don't believe I can recall offhand recently I have denied someone.

But we do have it in our knowledge base internally and our SLP is that it is based on performance. So yeah, technically, if you want to go ahead and request. One thing we'll be looking at is how much time they've taken off previously, a culmination of hours. But also the performance and the output overall, as well as what things might look like around the time period in which you plan to take off.

But yeah, I don't think I've ever denied someone and no one hasn't taken advantage yet. Surprisingly, I find what might be, if you do have, for example, two weeks or 80 hours of paid time off towards the end of the year, people want it. So then you've got people taking off just for the health taken off and they may just sit on their couch.

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Yeah. You know, we had that in the very beginning of our agency where everyone, like, we would say, hey, it doesn't rollover. You got to use it or lose it. And then they wouldn't use it until the very end. Then literally right when all the clients want all the work they’re like, I'm taking time off. And it really screwed us majorly and it was pretty hard, cause sometimes we had to deny it.

I do like how you have, hey, we have unlimited PTO. But you have to put in like, and you're a lot nicer than I would have been about 10 days. I'd have been like, at least give me a month. Or like, if, if there's emergency, like your parents need you or something or kids or something like that, obviously go.

But if it was like, hey, I forgot to tell you about my Hawaii vacation. I'm gone for two weeks and it's happening next week. I'd be like, well, you might not want to come back.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:07:37] Yeah. You know, I know we were just talking about New Yorkers and whether New Yorkers are mean. And I guess that's, you're in New York attitude right there.

Jason Swenk: [00:07:45] Yeah. Well, I think I was telling people, I was like, and I could say this cause I was like, yeah, cause we're brutally honest and a lot of people do take that as mean. But you definitely know where you stand with the New Yorker. There's no beating around the bush.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:08:02] No sugarcoating. No.

Jason Swenk: [00:08:04] Is there any other interesting things that you guys do around making your team happy? Uh, you know, incentivizing them or anything like.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:08:14] Yeah, we tested out in the month of June as the intro to summer half-day Fridays. And everyone loved it. So it's just half the time you normally would be estimated for that hourly output of the day. I loved it. So I was happy with it. And after interviewing every team member, they loved it too.

And I think it's something we might do recurring every June, maybe even possibly thinking about just doing four-day workweeks, the month of June. Just to see and everyone loved it because they were able to take, they didn't need to put in for PTO or maybe half day PTO on that day. Uh, which was nice. And just having a longer weekend as the summer rolls in, especially after the last year and a half or so. It was nice to boost morale a little bit.

Jason Swenk: [00:08:55] Yeah, I see more and more people doing that. And actually, if you think about it's probably should do it for the rest of the year, honestly, half day on Fridays, or maybe even one a month be like Fridays are completely off. I've seen some of our mastermind members actually do it on Monday because everybody hates Mondays and… right?

And it's a little bit easier, but a lot of times on Friday afternoon, people are just messing around. I remember walking around the office, like they're not getting shit done. Uh, you might as well, hey, here's the benefit. Go home. But, uh, yeah, it's, uh, it's definitely pretty interesting.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:09:31] Yeah. I dunno if I will be able to do Mondays. I feel like Monday is like the first half that they are catching up from what you might've missed over the weekend. But good for them. I appreciate it.

Jason Swenk: [00:09:40] Yeah, well, they were just like, and how I do my schedule now is I don't do any meetings on Monday, even though I'll work Monday. And then I take off Fridays. I never work on Fridays. And just by doing that, it just eases you into that, that week. And it's amazing how much more you get accomplished in the shorter week, rather than just sitting around. Because I remember seeing some employees, they were just sitting around and they like, like looking at the clock.

Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:12] Yeah. Well that's was one of the things we noticed with the half-day Fridays is that productivity during the week, Monday to Thursday was actually up. Deliverables and stuff were executed much earlier.

According to like our time tracker, which I don't know how they gauge productivity, I guess, user movement on the mouse and stuff. Uh, productivity went up and everyone was saying that like, yeah, I was actually getting stuff done quite quicker and sooner and probably more efficiently.

Jason Swenk: [00:10:34] Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Well, Jason, this has been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:42] I don't think offhand. Um, maybe where to find us in case you're curious about learning more about Break The Web, always a shameless promo, uh, breaktheweb.agency.

Jason Swenk: [00:10:50] Awesome. Well, what's a website people can go in and check you guys out?

Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:54] Yeah, breaktheweb.agency or you can just Google "break the web."

Jason Swenk: [00:10:57] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And you guys go check out their website.

If you guys enjoyed this and you want to be around other amazing agency owners that could really help you scale faster and share what's working with you. So, uh, we all can grow together. I want you guys to go to the digitalagencyelite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind. That's only for a select few and not everyone gets in.

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

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

Do you think that growing and scaling your agency means always going for more in every aspect? Will Russell is the founder and CEO of Russell Marketing, an agency focused on product launch marketing, crowdfunding, e-commerce, and Amazon. Through his experience with his agency, he created a five-step launch process meant to enable anyone to validate and pursue an idea in an affordable manner without taking a massive amount of risk. In this episode, he'll talk about how to prepare for the launch, why you should never ask family and friends what they think about your idea, and how he approaches the idea of scaling his agency while staying lean.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Pursuing an idea. There are no guarantees when it comes to ideas. If there were, major brands like Apple wouldn’t launch products that fail. This is why Will’s process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas, but not everyone has the right feedback. Preferably don’t lose time asking your family and friends if your idea is good. You won’t know for sure until you start selling. Sometimes the market will tell you that the idea is not good, Will’s system is all about preparing as much as you can and anticipate some of the possible hurdles.
  2. The five-step process. The mistakes made when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way can be very costly. This five-step system was created to avoid those mistakes. 1. Validation, which is understanding how a product resonates in the market. 2. Build an audience, 3. Engage your audience, a key here will be resolving sales objections by trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the launch, 4. Focus on audience conversion, 5. Scale and optimize.
  3. Not more but better. Something that really describes Will’s philosophy and the direction he wanted to take with his agency is “the goal should not be more, the goal should be better” and how he wanted to continue to scale his business while staying lean. This applies to pretty much everything. From the number of clients you have, the number of employees you need, and the number of hours you’re working to get your agency to the next level. The answer doesn’t always have to be more, more, more. Sometimes we should ask ourselves how we could work better or smarter.

Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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Continue to Scale Your Agency While Staying Lean With this 5-Step Process for a Successful Launch

Jason: [00:00:00] What’s up, agency owners? I'm excited to have another amazing guest in the masterclass. We're going to talk about the five-step launch system that you can follow for yourself or for your clients. We're going to talk about how Will's actually grown and scaled his agency while staying lean. And having a lifestyle that he's always wanted, where you have the freedom to pick and choose to do the things that you love doing rather than being forced to do everything.

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

Hey, Will! Welcome to the show.

Will: [00:00:39] Hey, Jason. Thank you for having me, pleasure.

Jason: [00:00:42] Well, um, thanks for coming on. Uh, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Will: [00:00:48] Absolutely. My name's Will Russell. I'm the founder of a launch marketing agency, Russell Marketing. We specialize in product launches, idea launches, uh, such as crowdfunding, Amazon, e-commerce, and so on.

Essentially we have a five-step system that we, we bring to our clients and help them successfully launch their, their big ideas.

Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. Well, let's go ahead. And, um, you know, before we kind of jump into it, how did you start the agency and why?

Will: [00:01:21] I used to… About six years ago, I, I was working at an organization and the organization relocated. That would have meant a kind of a 19-minute commute, either way for me.

And that was not what I wanted to be doing. You know, my, I created this business and I wanted to always wanted to have a lifestyle or life outside of work. And so three hours every day commuting wasn't my cup of tea. So I decided if there was ever a time to pursue something myself, then, then that was it.

I went ahead, just kicked it off with some freelancing work. So, if, if the business was viable, if I could start bringing in clients like that and. And it was able to, and we successfully just continue taking steps since then really.

Jason: [00:02:07] Very cool. Well, let's go ahead and jump into kind of the five-step launch process.

Uh, tell us a little bit about that and walk us through it.

Will: [00:02:17] Absolutely. So this five-step launch process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas. In my early work as a freelancer, I saw how costly mistakes can be when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way.

And so what I did is I created this five-step system, which if follows like a recipe, uh, should enable anyone to validate and pursue their idea in a, in an affordable manner. Without taking a massive amount of risk. I'm a pretty risk-averse person and my, my processes and my in my business, uh… reflect that.

So the, the system is, as I say, five steps. We start with validation. Validation is short period, which I'm sure many of your listeners know, know well. You know, product market fit. Understanding how this product, how this idea resonates in the market. Steps two and steps three a then a curve between the validation period and the actual launch.

And it's all about acquiring prospective customers and getting them excited. Getting them ready to buy. And essentially a key is resolving sales objections. If you're launching a new product, you're not going to know what those sales objections are until you actually start selling. So this prelaunch period is really about trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the, of the launch.

Step four is once the launch occurs, you build your prospective customer audience. Now you've got to convert them. So we're going to focus on converting them into customers. And step five in this system is scale. So most folks, when they're launching, we'll have a call launch period, and I'll go with our clients is to scale as high as possible as many units sold as much revenue, whatever that goal is… As possible during that, uh, during that footstep scale, during that pre-order period.

So we'll set and done. That, that five-step system can usually take around four or five months. And coming out at the end of it, a client has, uh, early customers, early adopters, uh, engaged communities around their product and knock on wood, they'll be ready for a real ramp up on their e-commerce.

Jason: [00:04:39] That's awesome. I love it. I love how simple it is and I love, um, you know, the step number two, kind of around overcoming objections. Uh, yeah. Like I totally agree with you, you can't overcome objections until you've actually tried to sell and exactly convert people, uh, to figure that out. Cause everybody, like I remember, you know, I, I did many, many companies and came up with many dumb ideas.

And I remember telling people, like, hey, this is idea, what do you think? They're like, we love it. And then you get to, you know, selling it and like no one buys it. I remember doing this one thing. It's when I did a lot of triathlons. And I just thought of like, as gag gift, I was like this beer trainer.

It was like a helmet with a big, uh, little, like, like a wire that hangs a beer out in front of you that you never could reach... it was the dumbest thing.

Will: [00:05:37] Yeah. I mean, it’s little funny, it's funny that… It's obviously, it's impossible to predict. Otherwise, you know, apple and Google wouldn't launch products that fail. You can't predict them.

However, there are a lot of things you can do to really understand, uh, the potential of an idea well before you have to invest. And so a lot of folks do come to me like you might have, have with, with your idea, which was kind of, you know, kind of unusual…

Jason: [00:06:07] You can say it’s stupid.

Will: [00:06:11] And, and… they've been told by their family and friends. Oh yeah, I would definitely buy this. But there's a great book called The Mom Test. I can't remember the author but, you know, you don't ask your family and friends. If your idea is good, you got to get it into the market and got to get that feedback. And sometimes you get told by the market your idea sucks.

And that sucks. Uh, but in my opinion, it's better to find that out before you've invested thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars in pursuing it.

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Yeah, there, there was one situation where a company came to me that was starting out and they're like, hey, we're going to… We want to develop this little, this book and this little elf that sits on the shelf. And, uh, and I was like, no, that's a dumb idea. And then every Christmas I've been doing it.

Will: [00:08:10] Yeah. Elf, exactly. You, you… the strangest things can unexpectedly take off. Uh, so it's an interesting business to be in launches because you do see, you see some products you think a slam dunks face some really big objections and vice versa. So it's all about, it's all about what the data's telling us. Uh, and that's what the system focuses on.

Jason: [00:08:32] Exactly. Well, let's switch focus a little bit. Um, how have you been able to build a lean team and keep scaling the agency?

Will: [00:08:41] Yeah, that was a particular goal of mine in the last couple of years. This year more so. You know, over the… I think most agency owners will they'll grow.

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And the solution to growing is okay, I need to hire more, bring in more team members. So we got to eight or nine and of last year, middle of last year. And I was having spending more time in meetings and check-ins, and I, then I, then I wanted to frankly, and, and, and what I'm… How I'm looking to live ,y life is a key guide of the business.

So I didn't want to live my life in meetings with, with the team. And so I said, okay, no more hiring. What are we going to do this year to grow without hiring? And that, I think a lot of the answers aren’t surprising to people when we talk about productizing your services and making everything as systematic as possible.

Uh, we talk about, uh, avoiding scope creep by really understanding and allocating kind of time allowances or bandwidth allowances for each, each role in the business and which role in the system. Uh, we talk about… Having a great lead pipeline so you can pick and choose the higher value leads that come in.

But as essentially too, I think you, you really set that goal hiring is such an easy solution to increasing revenue. And so while you might know, you know, the key, the key ways to avoid that and to grow while staying lean. When you actually force yourself to enact it, and you really start seeing the details and specificities for your business rather than the generic kind of best practices of doing so.

Jason: [00:10:31] I hit my mute button.

Will: [00:10:32] Yeah. Do you know… I listened to, I listened to Seth Godin's… the podcast you did with him a while back. I listened that recently before this show and he said something that I felt really tied into our philosophy around that. And he said, the goal should not be more, the goal should be better. And he was speaking about that with regards to the type of people you work with I think, the clients.

But I think that applies to pretty much everything. You know what, whether it's the, how many hours we're working a week or the value we're providing. It's not necessarily always do more, do more, do more, but it's how can we do it better? And that's a good, uh, philosophy to work off of when we scaling, uh, leaning too.

Jason: [00:11:17] Well, it's also doing it better and then doing it your way, right? I talk to so many agencies that they have goals of going, you know, like a lot of agencies on our mastermind. They go I want to go from 3 million to over eight figures. I'm like, well, why? And a lot of them have issues with saying that they just go, I don't, it's just a number. It's, it's a goal. Like, well, what if your goal was to do it better, to do it more efficiently where you actually can create more time for yourself, right?

Like in the pre-show we were talking about how you work maybe 20 hours, and then you spend a lot of work on your nonprofit and it's about how can you create the right systems, have the right people- because you have to have people, um, in this business in order to be able to pick and choose and do the things that you love. Like, you know… In this business, you know, the, you have to figure out what is like Dean Jackson says, like you're the cow, all you do is produce the milk.

So what is the milk? I don't need to produce the cheese. I don't need to sell the cheese. Those that's what other people can actually do.

Will: [00:12:34] Yeah, absolutely. That does saying I think applies to, uh, being a generalist versus a specialist, a lot of agencies early, early on, myself included, try to do a lot of things and quickly realize you can't do that well.

So focus on a couple of things that we do really well. And that is limiting when you have people coming to you saying, well, we need SEO help. Uh, we've got a lot of money to spend on SEO. I mean a lot of money sounds, sounds good in the sense that it gives me safety net protection. But we don't do SEO. So, so, and we've got to stick with that and we want to be the best that the launch system we do have.

And so, yeah, I completely agree with that.

Jason: [00:13:19] And I look at it as kind of, when you start out, you have to try everything and you have to figure out what are you really good at? It's kind of like, you know, in sports, you know, you got to try basketball and football and soccer and tennis, swimming, whatever it is. And then by the time you get toward the end of your high school and you're wanting to go to college, well, you have your sport.

Um, that's kind of how it was with me. That's kinda how it's going with our kids. It's like try everything and then see what you really like, what you're good at, what you don't like. Do more of the good stuff.

Will: [00:13:55] Yeah. And from an agency standpoint, I do remember early on one of the... The key things I was looking for is what, what marketing can, uh, or what service offering can quickly show results.

Because there's especially early on, if you have no credibility and no case studies, you can have a hard time with sales. So SEO is a long-term game. It might be a long time before we have that evidence. But paid ads, which are a big piece of our launch system, I can get results tomorrow and I can have a case study tomorrow that shows that results.

So that was a big piece of it. You know, what can we do to build that foundation of credibility as quickly as possible, so that did direct or choose of services.

Jason: [00:14:37] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, this, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Will: [00:14:45] No, I guess the, the main thing I often like to leave people with is, is just to focus on the validation… Is kind of what you pointed out, Jason, why, you know. A lot of people come to me and I'm sure a lot of folks are coming to your listeners with, with ideas, with things to pursue. Uh, but understanding the why and, and validating that is the right thing to pursue saves a lot of heartache money and time in the end.

And it's been a well worthwhile focus for us. So it's always something I lean on others to consider.

Jason: [00:15:18] Awesome. And what's agency website people can go and check you out?

Will: [00:15:22] Sure. russellmarketing.co, russellmarketing.co.

Jason: [00:15:26] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out. Russell,uh, Will, thank you for so much for coming on.

And, uh, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners that can really see the things that you're not able to see and be able to open your eyes to things you may not have heard of. So you can grow and scale faster and really get to the point where you can pick and choose to do the things you love while your agency’s scaling, which is really pretty cool.

I'd love to invite all of you to go to the digitalagencyelite.com. It's our exclusive mastermind for really experienced agency owners that want to be transparent and share what's working Go there now and, uh, and meet the, meet the other members there. There's a great video where the, you can check out the members, but go to digital agencyelite.com.

And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Hollis Carter is an entrepreneur and avid skier who, after founding many companies in his career, recently became the co-founder of the Baby Bathwater Institute, a membership-based community of entrepreneurs with a focus on cultivating natural, mutually beneficial relationships. Since his business relied on many in-person events, it was quite affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. During this time of cancellations and being stuck at home, Hollis thought of a way to add value to the members during this new situation and started to offer a series of services with a performance-based model. This model quickly grew and he ended up selling it before actually having to fully build an agency. In this interview, he talked about the process of building and growing an agency to over $4 million and then selling it, all during a pandemic.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Growing an agency during Covid. Before the pandemic, Hollis was organizing many in-person events. Once they were canceled because of this new situation, he realized he had a perfect opportunity to offer a new service that would offer value to members of his mastermind. There was already a business relationship and he knew their products and believed in them. So he got ready to work under a performance-based model. “It was really very simple,” he says. The offer included podcast interviews, email lists, and content sites. He spent on setting up all the automation and tracking and found someone to handle that. And of course, under this model he was working with clients, not for them.
  2. Simplifying the offer. How can you make things simpler for you? First of all, don’t just take a good deal. This agency had the advantage of having a group of companies whose product they trusted. Even then, our guest says, they took people who were so product-focused that we were going to get the content and the angles they needed. People who knew they needed to be told how to market this product. They also let clients use the work they were creating and focused on the 10% that drove revenue. However, there are some things they would do differently a second time around: setting a flat fee and, instead of complicated spreadsheets just telling the client “here’s the number that came in, this is our cut,” would save a lot of time. Finally, figuring out how to set expectations of timeline, having a written document with a timeline that the client can reread instead of emailing you questions.
  3. Pulling from other industries. Hollis believes in taking knowledge from other industries into your own. He makes sure to have participants from different types of businesses in his masterminds and sustains there's always nuggets that you can pull from other industry practices that might not exist in a niche that you're opening, like what he has learned about hiring from the hotel space. He encourages others to give themselves a chance step outside what they know and learn something new that they can implement in their business from an unexpected source.

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 ninjacat.io/masterclass to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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Growing an Agency Fast to Over $4 Million and Selling Quick

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here. I have another amazing show guest. We're going to talk about how when COVID hit, they formed an agency and ramped it up to over $4 million and sold it, during COVID. So it's a really cool episode and you're going to enjoy my guest. So let's go ahead and get into it.

Hey, Hollis. Welcome to the show.

Hollis: [00:00:29] Hey, man. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:30] Pleasure to have you on. So for the people that have not heard of you or met you at one of your cool events, tell us who you are and what do you guys do?

Hollis: [00:00:39] Yeah. My name is Hollis Carter. Living in Boulder, Colorado, but originally from Georgia, where I kind of got my first start in internet marketing stuff. I was like early in college and built a couple of online businesses and luckily had one that did pretty well and sold that. And then I moved to Colorado and did this skiing thing for a while and, uh, living in the mountains and it was great, but I could only talk about skiing and snowboarding and mountain biking with people.

So, I’m now a front ranger living in Boulder and enjoy it and got back in the mix of things. Our main business is called the Baby Bathwater Institute. You've come out to one of our events that we had at out mountain. And, uh, I started, my other businesses based on the thing that I use to learn… Like no one was really teaching relevant stuff in the late nineties, early two thousands. So to do it, I thought let’s sit at the bar and a lobby at a conference and got most of my nuggets. And so when we had some free time, me and my now business partner who were lobby con buddies for like a decade… We started hosting these events and the whole idea was curating nice people who are in the grow and scale phase and the actual founders of their business.

And in a lot of different industries that we could draw knowledge from different places, less of a kind of echo chamber mastermind of people doing the same thing. Cause there's a lot of value in those, but it's very linear. This was more of organic group meetings to have fun and, um, draw things from other industries and stuff.

But we have agency people, we've got guys from hotels, we've got guys from e comm businesses… I guess I say people, not guys, cause we have plenty of girls too. We’ve been doing it for about eight years and I love it. Compared to the businesses I've done before, it's probably the dumbest business model. Cause it's overhead-intensive, time-intensive, relationship intensive. But I actually like it.

So we're doing it for years and we'll probably do it for a very long time and really enjoy it.

Jason: [00:02:37] Very cool. And COVID hit you guys really hard because your whole thing is about live experiences and that kind of stuff, uh, which are a lot of fun. And so tell us about like… cause we were talking a couple of weeks ago, you were like, man, I couldn't do these live events and that's really what the membership was for.

So we gave all this money back to the members because we couldn't do live events. But I started an agency kind of by accident and it quickly grew. So talk about how did you grow the agency so quick? What did you do? Because a lot of people are looking at going, and I've seen a lot of growth in agencies over during COVID, but yours was really pretty, pretty good.

So tell us a little bit more about that.

Hollis: [00:03:18] I think it was, it was different because much of it was born out just starting that momentum sort of grew versus sitting with a very particular plan. Where Baby Bathwater came less out of need more out of want, this came out of need. And so there… Also, we are locked in our house and I could stay focused on, cause I wasn’t doing… Going to conferences or traveling or doing things.

But I think the main frame was okay, just postpone slash canceled, who knows a handful of events. We basically lost about two and a half million bucks in that decision. Which happened before people in the states even believed that this COVID thing was gonna affect us because our president was in Italy. And so we saw it a little early.

We knew we didn't want to let people go. There was no PPP stuff yet. And me and my partner, Michael, we always knew we could always fall back on our marketing skills, which is kind of what got us to a place to even know what people wanted from a mastermind. So our personal interests has been in the health and wellness sort of space.

We see lots of stuff that's crap. And we see lots of stuff that's good. And we happened to know a few people who have amazing products that are members. But they’re product guys, they're not marketing people at all. And so we kind of went in with the thesis of how do we enhance the people who are already members value and we can't do anything for 'em, but also don't run any risk of screwing up the relationship if we get in bed with them and do something different than what we already have a good relationship with.

So, I mean, it basically started with four products. I knew we had people in the group who had platforms. That love the products, cause they give them out at events. They love them. And I know they have a lot of traffic and I knew these people have great products.

Didn't even know what I'm talking about. Like you should just set up this campaign and get them on the podcast and set up an email. You can track it with affiliate links… And all like, can you just do that for me? Kind of thing. So, I mean, it was actually super, super simple. Essentially, out of a network license for post affiliate pro so that we could track all of the clicks and conversions and build it very slowly, not a lot of overhead. It costed maybe like five grand or something we spent getting set up and all that automation and tracking. We did have a really hard time finding someone to help us run that once it worked. We ended up finding the guy who made the tutorial videos for the original version of it and tracked him down.

And it was the first hire because it was complicated and how he set up the company structure. But the basics of it was we had people get podcast, email lists and content sites. I mean, people have great products that had a unique hook. It couldn't just be like, like we did have a CBD, which is a crowded market with a bunch of people at all look the same. But this had clinical trials, some studies, so I could go get functional medicine doctors to say something unique about it and they could write a real piece of content.

So really we just took the friction out of the middle, which was, it's hard for the product owners to focus on these things that are ancillary. Then buy an ad that are not doing very diligent tasks that can scale these like one-off promotions and managing people is hectic.

Like if I had a brand, I wouldn't want to do stuff we were doing because I know the costliness of managing all these relationships and getting it on the calendar and getting all the stuff they need. But in our unique situation, we had time. We… the money. We wanted to serve the people who we wanted to have back when things came back online.

And so it made sense to keep calling them chatting and working it out and figuring it out. So our deal is that we took... it’s very minimal, it's just an average, about 10% of the revenue for 12 months of the customer.

And we would do a, you know, a multi-tiered campaign where, you know, perhaps the person to get on a podcast and do an interview about the product that was very educational and content-heavy. So it didn't just come out of the blue of this promotion. It was like ease into with good questions and then we’d do an article. And then eventually kind of like an email with a special offer and a landing page just for that person. And like something I've been back in early on was when one big person promotes the rest.

So we usually just go for, you know, one or two people we have a good relationship that have a big audience and then their affiliates would see it happen. And we'd get a few more of those. But we did, because it was so hands-on, mess around with people who could send, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of clicks and had an audience that already trusted them.

So very boutique, very niche, but where it worked, very effective. I'd say the biggest bottleneck was calendars. You could lock in a deal and they might not have three months so they could do it. But we hit a point where we were going to have to start hiring more people, we had a tech guy, an administrative helper in an industry that me and Michael were putting together. Then we hired someone to go start recruiting more promoters, and then we need to start hiring writers and creatives.

At that point, we actually ended up selling the business so that we didn't have to build an agency. The hard part of building an agency, managing the creatives, training, we never really hit that point.

Although it looks like I’ll go back to the trough and do it again. But I mean, really it was about that simple. It was like performance-based so we couldn't mess up relationships. And also we didn't want anyone to ever tell us, hey, you have to do this for me. Uh, it usually mostly came from the merchants with the products.

They'd be like, hey, where are the traffic? And we’re like, hey, we don't, we don't work for you. We’re not on a retainer, but it's coming, it's coming. Then we'll get paid. Well, we only get paid when we make sales. So that helped us not get stress out.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

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Yeah, I see a lot of people going the performance route. You know, one of our mastermind members, David, he was always constantly under the million mark and just trying to figure out how to get over it. And he switched to this model and got a million dollars last year during COVID, just from one client for the performance deal. Kind of like what you guys are doing, or you guys did or about to do again. I guess we can talk about that.

But I liked how, when you're the performance model, they can't tell you what you can and can't do, or a timeline. You're just like, I'm putting a campaign together on our own dime, our own resources. This is what you're agreed to pay. I really like that. But I also like too, that, you know, this is a home run. Like it's a good product.

I want people to not kind of overlook that and just don't go up to anybody and go give me 10% of all your sales. And plus too, you guys had relationships with them so you knew you could trust them. Because it gets really tricky sometimes when you're like, yeah, give me 10% of sales and they could the books however they want.

Hollis: [00:11:54] Yes. So that was an interesting piece of... The one thing that I guess is there is we did have these relationships we've built over almost 20 years now. Which, if you just do it on the street, we couldn't start from scratch with that. So that was like our one… competitively used to do something here, but the book side of things, we actually knew how bad that can get.

So we control that this was a bottleneck and business model, as far as administration and just workload. I kept everything clean, but we were starting to get super risky. So we invoiced the merchant for the payments and wrote to the affiliates. We did everything. So we essentially became a bank taking the money, moving the money versus paying out of their own affiliate program.

It started to get pretty hectic. You get one monthly payment. We're trying to keep the relationships paying on time. We never ran into any issues, but you could see it coming as things got more complex.

Jason: [00:12:52] Well, I'm sure the IRS probably set up red flags of all the money moving around.

Hollis: [00:12:57] Oh, it was crazy that was passing through and yeah… And so like in hindsight, if we do this again, won't do the complicated equation where we have 12 months tail customer. We also calculated a refund risk thing. You know, now it's going to be one time upfront with a small fee for us that continues, but like the calculating the refund piece to try to mitigate risks. Like I think we went into it wanting to be like a no-brainer where it's like, hey, we've taken all the risks where X, Y, and Z, that you won’t have to do anything for.

Our contract is like the nicest thing in the world. If this was the only thing we were doing, and we were focused on it that thing would have sort of bit us in the ass, as it started to grow. But it worked well. It was boutique small. And we only did this from March to October. So it was like a significant period of time, but you can see all the forethought we didn't put into it with, oh man, the amount of time to calculate these things if I would’ve...

There's a bunch of things we do if we really want to scale it simpler. If we do this again, you know.

Jason: [00:14:05] What are some of the other things that you do simpler. Because most people listening here, this is their full-time gig. They weren't just looking at like, well, let's just try this project out, which that's really pretty cool that you guys are able to do that.

Hollis: [00:14:19] Yeah. I think, you know… fed the horse because we had all the relationships and we knew this I'd stayed up drinking wine with every person in the thing all night. I knew we could do well with good products, which you highlighted, is like products that kind of sell themselves.

And then the owner of those products, I think this is the simplest thing is don't just take a good deal. We only took people who were so product-focused that we were going to get the content and the angles we needed. All they cared about is being the best. But they didn't care about was telling us how to market it, that they actually wanted us to tell them. They would use the campaigns to inform all of the rest of their staff.

One thing we did do well and make it easy was, hey, use the work we're creating. We don't need any cut of it. You can take our landing pages, reuse them. If you get your own affiliates, you can run them through your program. You know, just do that. Cause we only focused on that 10% that drove our revenue.

The things we probably would have done different or not such a complicated calculation of the things. I remember when I first started in some of the affiliate stuff, people would hold back a percentage for refunds. There was like a whole equation. But we made everything else so simple for them. We didn't need to go, that… We could have just said here's a flat fee. Here’s a number.

Honestly, it would have saved one employee 40 hours a month in weird stuff. And in places where ambiguity… where also the customer on both sides has to read a spreadsheet that's complicated versus like here's the number that came in and here is the cut… over. I think simplicity would have helped a lot in that sense.

And then other simplicity things, I think just figuring out how to set expectations of timeline. Even though we didn't work for those people, said it on the phone, in the conversations of like, hey, we might get a campaign locked in that’s going to be out this far. But then they get in their own world. Like, where's the stuff?

And I'm like, no, we already told you this. And so, one outline. Here's how this works, one the phone. Before you email me any questions, reread this. This is the rules of engagement and how it works. But that I would say once it worked and had momentum, changing the relationships from I work for you to we work together changed the whole dynamic of it versus, you know, just collecting a flat fee.

Jason: [00:16:49] Yeah. I love that of like we work together rather than you're the dog barking orders to me. And even if you don't do a performance model.

Hollis: [00:16:58] Yeah. It feels like you kind of got to do that sometimes. Cause I feel like that's how we like learned. If you worked in a restaurant going up or we… Whatever, like that’s how it was. When you’re getting paid, you just got to say yes, please, and as you wish.

Which honestly doesn't even serve the client that well. Sometimes you’re doing shit that they don’t even need to get done. They just wanted to show that they tell you to do something. But we're only going to focus on brings in dollars. It doesn't bog down either of our teams.

And that's why we switched the contract that you can leave whenever you want. You know, the psychology there was great because it was like, we're paying equally versus that, you know, walked into some long retainer and some big set up fees and things like that. Obviously you have to have some results for that to be worth it, um, for the relationship to stay.

But if you know you can deliver on it, then it's probably better to be in a, a mutual relationship where either party can leave in 30 days notice versus trying to lock in really long-term deals.

Jason: [00:17:58] Yeah, exactly. Well, awesome. Well, this is amazing, Hollis. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in?

Hollis: [00:18:05] Listen, I mean, it's funny just because it's a friend of mine that just got off a call with one of our members who, who set them up on like a little dinner in the same town. And I forget the book references basically it's about taking knowledge from other industries and bringing them into your own. So what I saw was great was a lot of the product companies who were here like some of them were in retail and other things. They just didn't know how to pull stuff from other areas.

There's always like these levers that you can pull from other industry practices that might not exist in a niche that you're opening that you're trying to mark it as that in. And so I was really, all we did was just start reaching into other tools that there's no way they're ever going to get to this.

So obviously we can take over this part for them and we’re not also dealing with the dynamics. So there's someone in the house already being paid to do this or anything like that. It's pretty clean that way.

But I think we just learned that from sitting in these events from people like, you know, we have some hiring stuff we've learned from guys in the hotel space, which I never would have thought to learn that until I sat into that at one of these events or whatever.

So I've never seen through blinders. Like it's good to be focused and linear, but I think there's just so many cool nuggets in different industries you can pull and bring in that we all just kind of forget to take a glance at.

Jason: [00:19:30] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, what's a website people go and check you guys out?

Hollis: [00:19:35] Just babybathwater.com.

Jason: [00:19:37] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you go to their website. They have really cool events. I went to the one in, in Utah. And it was really pretty amazing.

And if you guys want to really grow and scale your agency faster, what got you here is not going to get you to the next level and you need to do a number of different things. Because probably what got you to this level is from referrals and word of mouth, or maybe you selling, or maybe one salesperson.

The biggest thing that you need is systems in place in order to grow and scale faster and get to the point where you can pick and choose. If you want to do that, I want you guys to check out our agency playbook. Go to jasonswenk.com/playbook and check it out. And it might just be the thing that will get you to the next level.

So go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

Direct download: How_an_Agency_Grew_Fast_to_Over_4_Million_and_Sold_Quick.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you want to know how to land major brands? Bill Durrant had been working for a big agency for years when he decided to leave and work freelance for a while. That's when opportunity knocked and old Nestle client asked him to work on his new account, Clif Bar. This is the client that really started his agency Ex Verus, which helps brands develop a paid media strategy that drives visible sales growth and merchandise those results to leadership. In today's episode, he sits down with Jason to talk about how good timing has as much to do as being good, what is it like to work with major brands like Coca-Cola, why it is so important for him to develop a relationship with clients, and

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. How to get in with the major brands? For Bill, getting a major brand's attention was all about timing and also making a good impression. He had been working at a big agency and worked on the Nestle account. He eventually decided to leave and start working freelance when an old Nestle client called him to handle the marketing for his new account, Clif Bar. What tells people who want to land a major client is that within these same organizations there are many brand managers in charge of growth stage brands that need creative input and are willing to work with smaller agencies that can bring some new and interesting input.
  2. Work on your relationship with clients. When his agency got their first client, they set the goal to start building relationships with as many people within the organization as possible. They also started getting introduced to people from other departments and other products, with the possibility of working with them too. Also, the same people that he worked with during those years eventually went on to other companies and called them to start growing those brands. Good clients will take you everywhere they go. This is why Bill values his relationship with them and even makes it a point to fly out every once in a while and touch base with his most valuable clients.
  3. The three-tier approach. With client relationships being such a core element of business, you have to make sure that clients build this relationship with the agency more so than with a key member of the team. Team members will leave sometimes for different reasons, and the client shouldn’t feel like their communication with the agency will change for the worst because of it. This is why Bill has established a three-tier approach where there’s a senior leadership level, junior planners, and associate planners. In case someone in one of those levels leaves, there’s still two other points of contact that have developed a relationship with the client.

Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.

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Landing Major Brands and How Good Clients Will Take You Everywhere

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. I am excited I have another amazing guest on the show. We're going to talk about the landing big well-known brands. Because a lot of you have been reaching out, how do we get these big brands? Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and all these major brands? Well, on today's episode, we're going to talk about that with this amazing guest. So let's go ahead and get it.

Hey, Bill. Welcome to the show.

Bill: [00:00:34] Hey, thanks so much for having me, Jason.

Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So for the ones that have not heard of you yet tell us who you are and what do you do?

Bill: [00:00:47] Alright, I am Bill Durrant and I'm the president and founder of Ex Verus Media. We're based out in Los Angeles and we are a paid media agency focused in that space, uh, really designed to create culture, creating growth-stage brands. Um, to work with those brands, to build them, to grow them from a media standpoint. Uh, and not just their brands, but also immediate demand as well.

So the performance side of the world as well.

Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. Well, tell us, how, how did you get into this space? I'm always curious and like, what was your first project or deal?

Bill: [00:01:20] Yeah. You know, I think our origin story is a little… You know, it's a little funny. It shows you how important it is to be a lucky and good, not just good.

Um, I had worked for a number of years at a big agency and worked on, uh, the Nestle accounts. I worked with a number of grants from Nestle and, uh, I had decided to leave, um, just start doing some freelance work.

And while I was doing that, I got a phone call from a former Nestle client who said, hey, I'm running a part of the marketing organization at Clif Bar now. And we'd love to know if, uh, you might be able to be a one-person media agency, um, for us. And of course I had no idea how to do that. But found myself saying yes.

And, uh, that turned into an incredible and a very long run with Clif Bar, um, which started the agency. So from very small projects, um, to consolidating all of their media and advertising across the organization and using that as the launchpad for what we are today.

Jason: [00:02:24] Well, shit, dude. You went and straight to the, a huge brand. Um, yes, that was, uh, that was good timing and, uh… I don't know, luck, but I think that was just good timing.

Bill: [00:02:39] Yeah. You know, I, I think so. And, and I think, you know, like I said, it shows you it's important to be good. It's important to be ready when opportunities come up.

But it's also important, you know, at that point in time, Clif Bar was not investing very much money into paid media. So it wasn't a stretch for me to do the work and to bring on one or two team members. Um, the real stretch was I think, in people's imaginations when they understood like wait Clif Bar, I mean, that they've got to be a billion-dollar brand.

And, you know, taking advantage of, you know, essentially the credibility that that gave us. I didn't have to tell anyone, you know, hey, they're not necessarily spending $10 million a year in media. Um, they're not a massive account, at least right now. And being able to do that and to leverage that credibility, um, is ultimately what started to land us our next relationships.

Jason: [00:03:31] Yeah. And I, and I think really kind of… Talk a little bit about, cause a lot of times people think these big brands are so intimidating. Like they get so nervous and I'm like, they're just people like you and me. They just got, but they got to get a thousand different approvals and they make decisions on committees, you know, and all that kind of stuff.

But like, talk a little bit about that. Like I remember when we landed our first big one, I was just naive. And I didn't even, I didn't even know they were big. Like I remember, and I even lost it a really big account cause I didn't even know who they were. Which I always tell on the show Berkshire Hathaway.

I was like, who are you guys?

Bill: [00:04:16] Yeah. It's um, I can't believe you told Warren Buffett to screw off, but that's a, um, that's definitely a story. I, you know, I think you're absolutely right. These are people who put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And particularly if you're a creative agency or an agency where, you know, everything isn't continuously trying to be consolidated, like it is on the media side.

Um, there's a lot of opportunity for them to, you know, really want to stand out and break through just within their organization, let alone to consumers. So, you know, there are folks that are going to be more willing within those organizations to work with an agency of any size, uh, if it brings them the right, the right kind of breakthrough work.

And what we also found is that within those organizations, these large organizations, there's a Coca-Cola and sure everybody would want to work with Coca-Cola or with Sprite, or, you know, even with minute maid or some of the larger brands. But from our standpoint, you know, working with Coca-Cola doesn't necessarily mean working with those massive brands and trying to take on the largest agencies in the world.

Um, there are folks that are brand managers on really interesting growth stage brands. They really need our help and creative thinking. Um, and there's huge opportunities to not only do great work with brands like that, and then have the benefit of saying, you know, I get to work with, with a fortune 100 company.

Um, but to actually get work out of that, that then becomes part of your calling card to future opportunity.

Jason: [00:05:49] Yeah. Yeah. I remember I did an interview, our Four interview. So if you guys want to go check it out, it's jasonswenk.com/four. The number four, it's a pretty long URL. And I interviewed, uh, Del Ross of IHG International Hotel Group. And at the time he was director of... He's not there. So don't hit Del up anymore. And, uh, I asked him, I said, how can smaller agencies that haven't worked with bigger brands get into bed with bigger brands? And he was like, look, just like what you said, be innovative, call me up and tell me something that is new. That's changing.

Don't just say, hey, I take you out to golf or send me a stupid, you know, puzzle that I have to solve in order to get, get his attention. And he's like, look, just say, hey, I was wondering like… And this was as example when Facebook was coming out with his pay-per-click and saying, hey, have you heard of power editor? And the remarketing possibility that you can do in the hospitality space?

I'd love to do a test project for you. And that's, that's what we did with Lotus Cars. And that's what we did with Hitachi Power Tools and a number of different, bigger brands. And once you got in there, I want you to tell us about this too, about, especially with Clif… You know, uh, the Clif Bar.

There are so many different side businesses or divisions in those. So how did you start building relationships in order to grow that account?

Bill: [00:07:18] Well, I think the point that you just made is a really important one. And, uh, you know, I think our success is a testament to this strategy and the strategic approach, because it, it really is a win-win for everyone.

And when you can show that client how they're, they're winning by doing something or learning something that they wouldn't have experienced or been exposed to before, um, your business is going to grow, right? And I think with Clif Bar, you know, we were kind of… It's funny, I came from Nestle where, you know, there's typically one agency group that runs all Nestle brands regardless of where they are in the country. And so portfolio management was very important.

And so we came into the Clif Bar relationship really saying, you know, this is going to be about portfolio management. Even if there's one or two brands that spend the most. And this is going to be about building relationships with as many people within the organization as possible.

Now, an organization like Clif makes that really easy, just great people, uh, all the way through. And what we found was that not only were we, you know, picking up and, and working with additional brands within Clif, which, which ultimately I think helps the bottom line. Um, what we also found was that those folks would then progress in their careers and move outside of the walls of Clif and move to other organizations.

And in fact, that's, that's exactly what happened and we've kind of evolved our relationship. We now work with, uh, Premier Protein and PowerBar and Supreme Protein, which is literally down the street. But as people progressed in their careers and moved to other organizations, um, we then had new startup brands and new opportunities to work with.

So it raised the tide of the boat and it helps us diversify as well away from one kind of main client comprising the bulk of our revenue. And so we saw that strategy paying off, not just right away. Um, hey, could you introduce me to such and such at such and such brand we'd love to chat with them. You know, you're already an insider, so you've already got trust and a reason to be there.

Um, so you're not just a cold call, uh, when you're asking for introductions to the other brand managers. But even when you're not necessarily getting work from them today, you may be getting work from them tomorrow. It's still important to continue to build those relationships

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Yeah, one of our mastermind members, um, does a lot of work with Facebook and some of the key people at Facebook. She was telling us this and some of the other members are like, oh, that means you're going to lose Facebook? And she was like no, no, no. And I was, I knew it was coming. I was like, I'm getting new business from all these other companies.

And it was like, you build relationships with these people, you know, they take you everywhere. We saw that as well, but it's about building that relationship, not just being transactional. And I think so many, like one of our other mastermind members, we always have a digital agency experience in Colorado.

And I remember I'm already talking about we always make it one of the things in the first month we have to go physically, this is pre-COVID… Go visit them and just build rapport and help them out. And always, rather than just sending stupid reports, like, why do agencies just send reports? Like, you know what happens to your report?

It just… They look at it first month. They might ask the question and then all the other ones it goes in the garbage. And then they forget about you.

Bill: [00:11:58] Oh my goodness. That's exactly right. And you're right to talk about how to differentiate yourself and creating that personal communication is, is, is really one of the top ways to do it.

We still have a very limited client base, uh, here in Los Angeles. We still only had one or two clients over the last six years that we could actually drive to. And we made it a point to fly and to be in person with people. So I've had status with Southwest Airlines for 10 years

Because of that, because it's so easy to fly from, from Burbank to Oakland and to be there in person and to continue to cultivate those relationships. And, and to do that with people that I genuinely like and genuinely consider friends now

Jason: [00:12:52] What, um…? Switching focus just a little bit, because you have about 30 people that you were telling me in the pre-show, your people will leave sometimes. They build relationships with your clients.

Um, I know one of the hard things that people have an agency, let's say you have a project manager, account manager leading like a major account, and that person decides to leave. How do you maintain that relationship going forward with that client as a key person left?

Bill: [00:13:26] That's a great question. You know, I think what we do is we try to make it like a three-tiered approach. So you've got folks that are at a senior leadership level. You know, we've got 30 people and, you know, maybe four or five people kind of fit that, fit that descriptor. And that's even a growth from where we were just six months ago.

Uh, so we've got a senior leadership level. We've got, you know, uh, an associate director manager kind of media planner core team. And then you've got your kind of junior planners and associate planners, and that's kind of how our structure works from a client relationship standpoint. We're I think continuously thinking about where's the relationship at all three levels. So that if a person who's core, especially this day where there's been so much turnover just in general across the industry.

You know, there's still going to be someone at the other two levels with whom the client has a strong relationship. And then we know that mission one, once we get a new person in to replace who's left, is for them to build that relationship with the clients. That's just as important as it is for them to build a relationship with the folks internally as well.

Um, we take that very seriously. So the first thing we do is we look at what are these three levels? How can we always have two strong points of contact at different levels? Uh, regardless of who's left, um, because you'll find that sometimes clients just really love a particular associate planner or someone who's at a more entry-level role, because that's the person that's getting them, the information that they're asking for on a daily basis and doing a great job. And not just showing up every week or every month, um, for other things.

Uh, the other thing that we like to do from a relationship standpoint is, again, to prioritize those relationships. And to understand that this really is a relationship business uh, first and foremost, and a results business as a very close second. Um, we always have to be mindful of results and the innovation that we're bringing to clients. But we know that we don't have a business long-term if we're not cultivating relationships and keeping those strong.

So it's very important to us as an organization to hire properly. We're not just going to hire someone who's got the particular skillset that our client is looking for. We're also going to hire someone that we think that they're going to blend well with and to work well with and to enjoy on a personal level.

Um, and somebody who's articulated enough to maintain that level of relationship with them and not just a technical expert. So that's the other big piece that's so important and foundational to everything is that if you're hiring correctly, you're really setting yourself up to be successful in that. Uh, without even necessarily having to have a strategic approach after that.

Jason: [00:16:21] Yeah. I mean, we're in a people relationship business, both hiring, like you were saying, and, and managing those relationships. I love that. And I love that the three points of contact and always having two points. It's kind of like climbing a mountain. You never want just one point of contact. I mean, you know, I watched that free solo in my hand still… you know clam up when I'm thinking of him just holding on with one hand.

I'm like at least two points and you, you're, you're going to make it. Uh, well, depending on which mountain you choose, I guess.

Bill: [00:16:56] That's the perfect analogy I'm going to steal that analogy. Yeah, exactly.

Jason: [00:17:00] Well, we, we love mountains here, right? So that's why I live in the mountains. Well, this has all been amazing. Um, tell us a little bit about the book called Digital Stone Age.

Bill: [00:17:11] Yeah. So Digital Stone Age was a book that was designed to, uh, essentially have a conversation, um, at more of the readers pace that we found ourselves increasingly having with brands over the last couple of years.

And that conversation was really around this idea of… Uh, you know, I'm a growing brand, I may have a decent media budget. Uh, I may not, I may, you know, be kind of bootstrapping, uh, with a smaller budget, at least compared to my peer set. And as a result, everything that I do has to be digital. And we found a lot of brand managers coming in with this mindset or everything that I do has to be social.

And, you know, they weren't necessarily wrong in wanting to be in those places and to utilize those tactics. But what we found is that they weren't being neutral about it, and they weren't truly understanding what is going to truly grow my brand based on where consumers are now. And, you know, essentially the thesis of the book is you have to take care of generating that immediate demand. But you also have to take care of building a brand simultaneously. And as important and critical as digital tactics have been, you know, tactics that were kind of native to the digital space.

Uh, what we also found was that people are still watching TV. People are still viewing… Now post-COVID, hopefully, post-COVID doesn't even make sense. But people are still viewing, um, out-of-home advertising. So we're seeing that grow again in 2021 and then beyond, um, people are still utilizing tactics that might feel old-fashioned to a very modern digital marketer, and they're using them very successfully.

Um, simultaneously you've got folks who are doing the same thing of, uh, you know, I I've always been in TV. I've always been on a radio. I've always been an outdoor. And I would like to just continue with what's worked and we know that that's not what works best either. There truly is a synergistic effect by taking different kinds of media channels and different approaches, um, and using them simultaneously than trying to double down on one particular approach or tactic.

So writing a book about that and essentially laying out the evidence that proves that over studies that have been done by people far more, far more intelligent than I… Over thousands of brands and over the last 10 years, it's really powerful and exciting to see that and to know… Hey, I now have a blueprint or a path forward and a strategic framework on how to be successful in growing a brand in this modern era where even if a particular channel isn't a digital channel. It's still becoming more and more digitized.

And being able to lean into those trends and be modern, but also simultaneously driving, uh, results with your budgets. Uh, that's a very powerful thing to be able to say you can do as a marketer.

Jason: [00:20:15] Well, I lied. Last question. Has the book gotten you a lot of business with some of the brands that you want?

Bill: [00:20:22] You know, I think what it does is two things. Um, number one is it immediately drives credibility that we know what we're talking about. Um, so we don't use it as a lead magnet per se. We use it as a compliment to, uh, our introduction process and our proposal process, um, with clients. And so it's a little bit harder to quantify.

But we know that, um, the book and some of the work that we've done as extensions of that from a PR standpoint, just getting our message out to the press, um, have generated interest and inbound leads. And have generated clients for us. That's, I think, the most satisfying thing to know is we were able to obtain a client by doing things the right way and leaning in on thought leadership. Not just having to rely on referrals of course, which are important, but you can't just rely on them, uh, or other channels or tactics that might've felt less, um, true to who we are.

Jason: [00:21:23] Well, I, you know, we have a lot of mastermind members that have written books and what they'll do is they literally send it out to their top 100 list. And they'll actually have like a bookmark and a special note on the page they want them to read. And it's customized to them, right?

And then they get this book. If they like reading, then it's gold. If they're like me and they're like, ah, kryptonite throw it away, right? So you got to make sure you know your audience. Um, but, uh, yeah, some mastermind members crush it on that. So if you're not doing it, try that part out.

Bill: [00:21:58] I love that. I love that idea. Uh, the idea of shipping out a hundred packages is a little scary. But the, I, the idea of physically getting something into their hands is so powerful. Love it. Yeah.

Jason: [00:22:09] Awesome. Well, cool. Um, what's the website for the agency? And then obviously, you know, the Digital Stone Age, I think you can get on an Amazon Barnes and noble all over. So congrats on that. But what's the website address people will go and check the agency out?

Bill: [00:22:25] Yep. exverus.com. It's just E X V E R U S means from the truth in Latin.

Jason: [00:22:31] Awesome. Glad you spelled that out because I bet a lot of people would have messed that up. But thanks so much for coming on the show, uh, loved having you. Um, and if you guys liked this episode, you'll make sure you get subscribe. Uh, however you're listening to it.

And if you want to be around other amazing agency owners that can really elevate you faster. And these are experienced agency owners that are pushing you and they're growing at a rapid pace. I'd love to have you guys go to digitalagencyelite.com and go apply.

Um, we make everyone go through an application process, interview process just to make sure help you out. And that you're right for the group, but these are the best of the best agency owners sharing what’s working and be able to see the things that you might not be able to see.

So go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

Related: https://jasonswenk.com/work-with-big-brands/

Direct download: 01_How_to_Land_a_Major_Brand_Client_and_Kick_Start_Your_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you thinking about the ways you could use NFTs for your digital agency? After working in nine agencies, Kent Lewis decided to start Anvil Media in 2000, which is nowadays one of the oldest search engine marketing agencies in the Pacific Northwest that specializes in analytics, SEO, paid media, and organic social media strategy. Last year, during the NFT boom, Kent wrote a not so serious press release about this phenomenon and got the attention of companies wanted to learn how to use these one-of-a-kind digital assets. Just like that, he got into the NFT world and is developing some projects around them. Today he joins Jason to talk about what are NFTs, how some companies started using them, the possibilities to further develop their potential, and how can digital agencies get in on the action too.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. What are NFTs? There’s been a lot of talk about non-fungible tokens since their boom last year. In essence, it is is a unit of data stored on a blockchain that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. We’ve seen sold for hundreds of thousands, but how can companies use them? Some early adopters saw success from selling digital items to create brand awareness (Pizza Hut selling digital pizzas, Pringles selling a golden chip). But there’s still much room to continue innovating.
  2. How brands are using them. If the first step was brand engagement the future of NFTs for companies includes brand engagement and brand perception management. In this post-pandemic world of much more remote work and remote communication, it makes sense to add digital products to your offerings. The future of NFTs includes its gamification, meaning tokens, rewards, exclusive access, and more.
  3. How can agencies get in on the action? As we’ve seen, agencies can help their clients jump on the NFT trend to create brand awareness and engagement. But some agencies are themselves starting to use NFTs. Access to exclusive rewards is a good way to create interest in your brand. Some agencies are starting to do this by the tokenization of their time. For example, someone that gets a good deal on one of your agency’s tokens could get a good deal for an hour of your time. Kent also recommends paying close attention to how Gary Vaynerchuk is innovating with NFTs.

Sponsors and Resources

Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out Wix.com/Partners to learn more and become a member of the community for free.

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Using NFTs Like Gary Vee To Create Brand Engagement

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and have another amazing guest for you. We're going to talk about how your agency can use NFTs. That's right. And we're going to tell his story and so you can do that. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.

Hey, Ken. Welcome to the show.

Kent: [00:00:25] Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

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

Kent: [00:00:32] So my name is Kent Lewis. I am based in Portland, Oregon since 95, you know, marketing PR background. But in 96, I got involved in the internet, started optimizing websites before Google was a thing.

And I've been a part of nine agencies, founded two, co-founded two. But when I was fired the second time from an agency that I was a key manager in, I decided I'm probably unemployable. Better do my own thing. So started out in 2000 with Anvil Media, as a consultancy and started bringing in employees in 03. And have been active and keeping it a relatively boutique-sized digital marketing agency since then.

And when I'm not doing the agency thing, you know, I'm trying to get outside. That's the great thing about Portland, we're an hour and a half from the ocean, from the mountains from rivers, you name it.

Jason: [00:01:20] Awesome, so are you a fly fisherman?

Kent: [00:01:23] My first ever fly fishing experience was on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, about three months ago. Gal, one of my friends, she gave me the rod and said Kent, and one just keep throwing it. And I caught a least solid three and a half-inch steelhead. So I didn't eat it. It was probably good for a pizza.

And I guess you could say I was maybe hooked. So I think I might try more of that later, but I'm mostly like bike cycling, snowboarding, skiing, kind of guy.

Jason: [00:01:50] Very cool. We'll get along very well. That's, that's all me. That's why I live in the mountains. But, um, we're not here to talk about the mountains. Let's talk about… I'm curious, because I've been fired from almost every job. Why were you fired from that one agency?

Kent: [00:02:05] Well, so the first time I was fired was an agency I co-founded in 99. And by fall of 2000 we had a disagreement about equity and our role. There were two junior folks. I was like 25, 26 at the time. And there was the founder who used his 401k to fund it and we helped grow it to three and a half million, 35 people in less than two years.

But, you know, we had gone in… much as I should ran of myself, my other young partner who ran the PR side and I ran the internet side. She was like I'm going in to get more equity. Are you in? I was like, I guess, yeah, because I helped build this thing. And he was offended by that and instead of firing just her he fired both of us.

And by the next week, uh, October, 2000, I created Anvil as a, as a placeholder. Interestingly, the name Anvil Media comes from an easy I'd been running for four years. I thought I'll just sell the easy for a million dollars and retire. It's still archived at @anvil-media.com, but I haven't touched it since 06. Not worth a dime now, but that team that I left in late 2000 was acquired by another agency.

And then my boss, who was my mentor and, you know, it was tragic to me that we had a falling out. He died of a massive heart attack at 42. So they needed somebody to run my own team. So this old school agency asked me to take my team back over and I tripled revenue. Then, in the end, my girlfriend decided the Creative Director was more interesting than I was, even though he was married.

And since he was on the board and had been there 20 years, he had a little more juice than I did and canned my ass. And then I decided I better do my own thing. So it was about a girl the second time. Actually, it was about a girl both times. The other was my business partner and she was very amazing and also made a lot of bag mistakes. And I got lumped in when she and I united.

So there's a whole book there somewhere when I have the time, but it was never about my performance. It was never about my abilities. It was always about bad judgment. I'm not innocent in it so much as I picked the wrong horses.

Jason: [00:03:56] Yeah, gotcha. I do want to get to how you tripled revenue later on, but I do want to get into the NFTs. So explain for some people that have… I mean, if you've been living under a rock, what an NFT is and then how can agencies use NFTs to really benefit their agency?

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Kent: [00:04:15] Yeah. So it's actually a great story, but I'll just answer your question directly. If we have time, I'll go into the backstory because it exemplifies the timing in my career. Um, I'm not that smart. I'm just tall male with a short name and I'm not unattractive. And I think that's been as much of my success as hard work and smarts.

So NFTs. So I'd been reading about, you know, what Pizza Hut and Pringles and all these brands were messing around doing these little PR stunts, basically. Creating these little non-fungible tokens, being their little digital assets that you can own.

And, you know, buy, sell, trade. And because they're probably of blockchain, you can have a whole history of that item. So brand we'll get into, you know, why it matters to marketers. But to back then, we're talking March, 2021. I was like, this seems like second life. You remember second life, the virtual world.

I was consulting with HP on that like however many, 14 years ago. And I realized for the first time in career, I could be one word ahead or one sentence ahead in the book. I didn't have to write the book. I didn't have to write the chapter, I just needed to spend a little more time on it and think about it just another 30 minutes longer than my client, and then help guide them through how to create a second life experience.

Same thing with, uh, it's all over again, right? The world repeats. It’s a spiral and a circle, historically speaking, even in tech. I read about these non fungible tokens. You create this asset, like these virtual tacos or virtual pizzas, like Pizza Hut or these Pringle gold chips. And then people get excited because you're an early adopter, even if there's a fairly worthless asset. But it wasn't because people were reselling these on the secondary market.

They got them for free and they were selling them for 10, 20, $30,000. And I was like, this sounds a lot like Bitcoin for brands. And so I wrote a press release April 1st, as I've been doing the last 15, 18 years. I write a fake press release on April every year, and this one was about NFTs and, you know, NFTs, you might know as most famous things, digital watches from Jacobson and Company or digital sneakers.

And so I took the idea of a digital sneaker because we're in the backyard of Adidas America and of course, Nike and I said that these other agencies are building digital sneakers. We're 10 steps ahead where building virtual shoe boxes to story of virtual sneakers to put in a virtual closet and a virtual house that we build you just to store your digital sneakers.

Just totally full of it, right? Totally riffing off of a core concept. And low and behold, a very large social media platform with a blue logo reached out to me and said, hey, we need help. We've got… We're getting a virtual sneaker build for one of their communities. And we can, would, they could tell that we're very serious about it by reading that press release.

So they didn't read the press release that closely, bless their hearts. And that led to another conversation. So basically what I did is I would hopped back a second and I was like, shoot, if they're serious, then I'm serious. So I read up on it. I wrote an article that's on a website called thinknorthwest.org.

It's a big ad networks for the West Coast, Portland, San Francisco. Uh, about what is NFT and why does it matter? And we can talk more about that in a second, but in the end I've been talking to three large brands, including a sneaker brand about how to use NFTs. Including one of the brands that's a big technology company with a black and white logo that basically is trying to use it for B2B.

How do you get into the tech community? And can we use NFTs to incentivize behaviors for deep tech clientele. Even the OEM channel reseller channel, very complicated, convoluted, not theoretically as sexy. And I love the challenge. So I'm talking with them in an hour, then try and see if we can finalize a project.

So long story short, we took this, what was a press release joke into a reality of an offering to clients. And we're having these multiple discussions with larger brands. So in the past, I've evangelized mobile marketing, video marketing, podcasting, voice search, Amazon marketing. And I evangelize it as a, with my PR background, speak about it, write about it, and then develop through my articles, a concept or a structure for a service, and then sell that service.

I've done that for most of my career. And the NFT happened to start out as a joke, skeptical, healthy skepticism, that it was really something. As I did the research, I realized it's extremely powerful. Because it solves… NFTs, non-fungible tokens, unlike Bitcoin, where if there's equal value, one Bitcoin equals one bitcoin. I own one, you own one. It's the same value.

And a non-fungible is a one-off item that you can pay me for with Bitcoin, but it's non-replicable. Non-scalable. And so the idea is you're, you're owning an asset for something. And that's why you can say that's 30 grand to own this. Or the meme of the fire girl, the little girl with the blazing fire out of her house. And she's staring at the camera and they sold…

That gal, now that she's going into college, sold it for half a million dollars and helped fund college and gave some to charity. Just for some rich person to own the digital rights to that, right? Beeple’s $69 million collage. Um, he's arguably not a good artist, but he's a first-mover developed a lot of credibility in the space and had enough of a following that some very wealthy art collector, using the term loosely, decided to get a bidding war and spend crazy money.

But how does that relate to brands? So there's a couple things to keep in mind for NFTs. And that is there's, because it's blockchain, it's trackable, defensible. There's no fraud, theft, or manipulation possible with an NFT, you can create as many copies as you want.

You can sell them, you can give them away. But it allows… In the end, it allows for a few different things for brands. One is just general awareness. So the things that you've seen in the, in the press related to these predominantly quick-service restaurants or manufacturers and retail, lifestyle brands, Pringles, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut… Charmin has an NFT-P as in "TP."

So they're just creating brand awareness. And if you like the brand, you might love them for that, if you're technologically savvy. But what I think is the next phase, because that's really what's happening in the last year. What's happening in the next year is brand engagement brand perception management.

So luxury brands are getting into it. Hoochie, Jacob & Co., like I said, Jacobs & Co. are obviously a very expensive watch brand and sold an NFT watch for $100,000. Again, fairly worthless other than to the buyer, right? So brand engagement. Uh, what I think is really the secret sauce is, and this is where it gets into the B2B world, where it can apply is in the engagement for the customer. And customer retention is using it for gamification and incentives.

So tokens, loyalty reward programs, earn certain tokens. Those tokens can be exchanged for things, art, music, whatever. And so it's just a clever way to up your ante and see, be seen as a forward-looking brand or an agency that creates this stuff for clients.

Because a lot of like the top shot, NBA, virtual trading cards of the top 10, most expensive trading cards of all time up there with Honus Wagner is the Dallas Maverick, right? And his car traded for almost $3 million and it's a digital card. But in my backyard, Damian Lillard with the Portland trailblazers, he's added special access to groups, discussion groups, VIP access to certain events, or just access to him.

So you're getting, you're paying a premium, but you're getting something that's very exclusive. That's really what NFTs are about right now, or now is exclusivity. I think also that the next phase, which will be one plus years out would be the product extensions. Agencies helping brands create products that are natural extension of their current offerings, especially in a post pandemic world.

There's a lot more of this remote work, remote communication. So creating products that are more digital and interactive, it's particularly interesting right now. And then the last component would be the tokenization of time. So as an agency, you could tokenize your time where it can be bought and sold on the secondary market.

Why people might do that? Hard to say. But, uh, there's a Reuben Bramanathan who's with IDEO CoLab Ventures. He's tokenized his time. And one token is equal to one hour of his time and the guy might trade his time. He might, I might have to pay him 500 or a thousand dollars. But if I get a good deal on a token, I might save a ton of money more than likely to pay right now, paying more for a token than it's worth. And then relate to that is just creating that digital ecosystem.

So when I mentioned second life, there's a new version of that. And that is, there are many of them actually, but one of them is popular. It's called Superworld, where you can own the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel tower in a virtual recreation of the world, the planet. Using satellite imagery, you could add things into that world.

You can develop things like second life, but mainly if you want to say I own the Eiffel tower, you can go in Superworld and buy it. If it's not already been purchased since I last looked. The Great Wall, Taj Mahal, etcetera. Those are just some of the ways a brands are using it today.

One that I glossed over that's product extension. A good example is gaming. So you've got Ubisoft has a game called Rabbits. F1 has Delta time. So what, what F1 has done well with their reality show on I think Netflix. And then this, uh, F1, uh, Delta time NFT assets related to kind of gamification of F1 is they're extending out what is a very elite wealthy following.

Most people don't fly to Monaco to watch the race from a yacht, but there are other ways to interact with the brand. And F1 has mastered that. Uh, and then even Microsoft has a fairly ghetto Minecraft-like game called Azure Space Mystery. That is, um, kind of remedial, but it has, it's in the NFT world.

So, um, how that relates is Fortnight, if it stays relevant for another year or two, or other games like it, you could buy and sell armor and weapons and other customizations. That's one way you can buy, sell, and trade your gear within the games would be through NFTs because of the trackability that you need to do the anti-fraud protection. And then brands can obviously create assets and then know that they've protected that asset through NFT.

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Now my head's spinning, which I… with ideas. And I mean, it's just to comprehend all of this is a, a little overwhelming figuring out. But that's, it's really pretty fascinating that's where a lot of the world is actually going. And, uh, those are some great examples, you know, from F1, Microsoft, and even how some of the agencies are selling their time for NFTs. It's crazy.

Kent: [00:16:02] Yeah. For now it is and it will settle down. It's, it's more profound, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk has doubled down. So if you want to figure out how does an agency monetize NFTs just look at what Gary Vaynerchuk has done with NFTs. And I've had the luxury to seen him speak twice. And I thought he was just a grade-A douche bag and nothing better.

And he's far more than. In fact, I firmly believed that it’s, his, his character his act and he really has a huge heart and does a lot of good things. You just wouldn't know it because he has a potty mouth, which I have no problem with. And, uh, just the way he kind of yells and preaches at people. But he has a lot of good things.

I never disagree that he's a smart guy and he's on point, but he's doubling down on NFTs in ways that make me look like a troglodyte. Like I'm, you know, like, I don't get it. And he's built a whole marketplace and a bunch of assets and that's cool. Cause he can do that. Cause you know, he shouldn't even be working anymore, but he's never going to stop.

So look at what he's done. If you want to see what a true agency pioneer that started out just as a small wine dealer has done, it's pretty remarkable.

Jason: [00:17:00] Give us one example of what you really liked that he's doing in his agency using NFTs.

Kent: [00:17:06] Well, I like that he's giving back. So with his NFT agency and I, we're going to apply cause we're doing an NFT mural fundraiser here in Portland, in September. But we can apply once we build the NFT and what do you call mint it, then we can apply. If we put it on the right, uh, marketplace and use the right technology, he can use some of the proceeds and resources he's developed with his NFT company. You know, like it basically an NFT agency to help you build something better, especially if it is for a nonprofit or cause-driven social responsibility sort of thing.

And, and you can get some horsepower. So he's already built giving back into his model, which I really appreciate and admire. Look at what he's doing there. So he's not just riding the money train, he's pivoting that to provide opportunities to do social good in the process.

Jason: [00:17:55] Awesome. Well, this is been very educational and, uh, and really pretty cool to listen to.

What's the website people can go and, uh, check the agency out?

Kent: [00:18:04] Uh, you can go to anvilmediainc.com or just Google Anvil Media. You'll find me with Anvil, Portland, anvil, Kent Lewis, whatever. And then if you just Google Kent, Kent Lewis NFT, or just go to thinknorthwest.org and their blog, you'll find my article, NFT Marketing: How brands can use NFTs to engage consumers and generate revenue. I think that's a great read.

And then just also look at what Gary Vaynerchuk and NFTs looked that up and news and, um, Google search generally, and you'll find a lot of great information.

Jason: [00:18:36] awesome logo. Everyone go check that out and thanks so much, Kent, for coming on the show. If you guys liked this episode, make sure you guys subscribe.

Also, if you want to be around other agency owners who are on the cutting edge and they're sharing the stuff that's working and be able to see the things that you might not be able to see. I'd love to invite all of you to join our exclusive mastermind.

It's called the digital agency elite. So go to digitalagencyelite.com and apply. And then if we feel that you're right for the community and the community is right for you. We'll have a conversation and see if it's, uh, uh, double-check that. And so make sure you go there now.

And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Are you wondering how to go beyond the six or seven-figure mark and continue your agency growth? After graduating college with a Liberal Arts degree and an interest in advertising, Ben Wiener jumped at the opportunity to work at Wongdoody, an advertising agency that specializes in UX, as well as customers experience and employee experience. He continued to work there for 28 years and is now the CEO of the recently sold agency. He sat down to talk with Jason about the importance of the pipeline to keep your agency going beyond the million-dollar mark, how he goes about building the leadership at his agency, how to recalibrate your ambition to keep going after reaching eight figures, and his current role at the company.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Beyond the million. Many agency owners that reach the million-dollar mark have a hard time going beyond that level. In Ben’s experience, this entails a mind shift. It’s a point where you will need your new clients to be as big as your biggest client. Making the decision to stop taking small clients may be difficult and requires a lot of confidence on your next step, but you need to recognize that small clients take as much time as big clients and keep you from reaching that next level. This pipeline piece is key and you need to have a clear vision of what you want your client roster to look like.
  2. Building leaders. Hiring is one of the most important things agency owners do once their agency starts to see a certain level of growth. Once you’ve hired people t start doing the things you used to do you will need to start hiring people that do things you can’t do? How can you ensure they really know what they’re doing? Our guest believes sourcing talent from companies that are ahead of him in the growth curve is the best way to go about it. It provides credibility and, at the very least, they will be well trained. After you hire your leadership and empower them to make decisions, your job will become clearing the path for them to be able to focus on their jobs.
  3. Recalibrating your ambition. Getting to seven figures is the number one goal for many agency owners, and it might be so overwhelming to get there that you just think “I can’t believe I got here”. Ben argues that continuing your growth will require recalibrating your ambition, thinking how do I use eight figures as a platform to get to 10 figures? And what are the next set of changes that we are going to make? Of course, not everyone has eight or nine-figure ambitions and that’s ok. The things you love about your agency at $5 million will definitely not be there at $50 million. You have to be very clear on what you want going forward.

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Building Leaders and Recalibrating Your Ambition Will Help You Continue Your Growth

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and I have an amazing guest on today's show. We're going to talk about what is the milestones that you'd go through in order to build an over $80 million agency. Yes, $80 million. I want you to sink that in because a lot of you are trying to get to the eight-figure mark or the nine-figure mark.

So we're going to talk about the milestones that you go through. And I have an amazing guest who's been in the industry and been with Wongdoody for over 27 years. So let's go ahead and get into the episode.

Hey, Ben. Welcome to the show.

Ben: [00:00:45] Hi, how are you?

Jason: [00:00:47] I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?

Ben: [00:00:52] I am Ben Wiener. I am the CEO of Wongdoody, which is, as you pointed out a 28-year-old at this point, um, former advertising agency that has evolved into a global experience design company.

Jason: [00:01:09] That's incredible. And so we were talking in the pre-show that you were employee number four. So talk about the progression and you know, how did Wongdoody get started? And first off, just tell people how you guys came up with the name. Uh, cause I'm sure people, you know, I was very interested before.

Ben: [00:01:31] Um, it's a really funny name. It's a really boring story. Um, Wongdoody was founded by two people. Mr. Wong and Mr. Doody, otherwise, why would you ever call a company that? And for the most part, you know, we've survived the credibility problem that we start with. But there's still a couple of clients that we've had over the years that have said, you know, there's no way our board of directors is hiring Wongdoody. Can we just call you WD?

And we're like, sure. Whatever it takes for you to get Ben Wiener from Wongdoody employed.

Jason: [00:02:09] That's just so great. Um, well tell us, uh, when you were employee number four, like how did you start? And kind of walk us through your progression through the agency. And then we can jump into kind of the different milestones that you've seen over the years.

Ben: [00:02:25] Uh, in college, I was a big fan of the show Melrose Place. Which dates me and dates anyone who gets that reference.

Jason: [00:02:31] Oh, I loved that. Yeah. I think we’re the same age.

Ben: [00:02:33] I graduated from… I graduated from college with a useless Liberal Arts degree and a short attention span. Um, advertising seemed like a really fun, interesting thing to do. And yeah, through a friend of a friend of a woman who was in book club with my girlfriend's mother, which is how all good things happen.

Uh, I happened to get introduced to this guy, Pat Doody, who had just started this agency. We had lunch, we hit it off and he offered me this amazing opportunity to come work for him for free. So I, I took him up on that. Um, and, uh, you know, 15 years later or so I became CEO of Wongdoody and then three years ago we sold the company. But it was a pretty interesting evolution from, uh, Pat, Tracy, and two other people and me in one room to over a thousand people.

Um, and I guess the biggest evolution is going from doing kind of every job in the agency, which you do as an intern, to having no clue what half of the things we, we do today are. Um, yeah, which I guess is management. So it's really, how do you go from a business where your fingerprints are literally on everything to thinking more about structure, thinking more about strategy, to thinking about how you deploy resources. As opposed to how you just get everything done yourself.

And that's probably the biggest evolution and continuing evolution of a company is it's a gradual process of figuring out what you can let go of. And more importantly, how you can find the people to let go to, because at a certain point you definitely come up against the limits of your own knowledge, intellect, and ability.

Jason: [00:04:16] Yeah, let's talk about kind of the milestones, right? I find a lot of agencies can hit the million mark, but they really can't maintain that. Or they can't figure it out how can we get to the multiple million mark? And that's kind of the first milestone I look at. Um, what, what do you think, what, what's the shift in your mind?

Because I really kind of think it's a mind shift, more than anything else to getting to the two, three, $4 million range.

Ben: [00:04:52] It comes down to I think two things. One is pipeline and the other is people. And both of them require a leap of faith to get to where you want to be. When you're an entrepreneur and you are hustling and you were trying to make payroll and pay the rent every month, revenue is revenue and it's really hard…

All revenue is good revenue. And at a certain point, what you want is more clients that are bigger than your biggest client. Not more clients that the size of your smallest client. What you start to recognize is that the small clients take as much time as the big clients. Um, and what's holding you back from focusing on big clients and bigger clients is confidence or a lack thereof.

And so as entrepreneurs, when you were living with that nightmare of today's the day when my phone rings, all of our clients, fire us, and that never rings again, it's very, very hard to say, you know what? We're not going to talk to local businesses anymore, or we're not going to talk to regional businesses anymore.

Or we're just going to say a hard no to any client below a certain revenue threshold. No matter how nice they are as people, or they don't have any money this year, but man, next year, next year, they're going to budget. There are all these stories we tell ourselves as agency people to rationalize, doing things that we know deep down, we shouldn't be doing. If we want to grow our business.

Jason: [00:06:26] Or they say, give me a discount and I'll refer you to all my other businesses.

Ben: [00:06:32] Who'll also expect a discount. Also don't have enough money to change your business. That’s what you get. Absolutely. Absolutely. So these are, so, I mean, that's the pipeline piece.

It's really, how do you have a clean vision for what you want your client roster to look like. And how are you actively making decisions that shape that roster and how are you making the painful decisions to not pursue things that don't fit that? Uh, so that, and the other thing that you have to recognize is that, you know, clients have aspirations as well.

They look at the other clients on your roster and they say, do I want to be in that club or do I not want to be in that club? And so, you need aspirational clients to find aspirational clients. And by the same token, you know, of all if your clients are discount seeking small scrappy companies… They may be a blast to work for, but they're never going to provide you with the stability and the growth that you need to get to the second point, which is people.

And at some point you got to make that transition from doing things yourself, to sort of doing things by delegating, to doing things by bringing in a next tier of leadership. And that's very, very different. Because I think the first step is you hire people who can do your work for you, or can do the things that you do, but more of it.

And at a certain point, you've got to hire people who know things that you don't, who do things that you can't and need to be empowered to take some responsibility for the business. So it can't all sit on your shoulders for better or worse. Those people are excited. Those people are taking a leap of faith by joining you and those people are going to make you uncomfortable. But you're never ever going to scale your business until you can start to not just delegate, but assigned true leadership responsibilities that people who can build your organization.

Jason: [00:08:28] So I think a lot of people struggle with, I can hire for someone to do my job because I can evaluate them if they can do it. So when you get to that point and you're building your leadership team and you're hiring people that know how to do things you don't, and you're kind of clueless on those. How do you evaluate and how do you make sure they're not blowing smoke up your ass?

Uh, right? Like, I mean, I hear that all the time.

Ben: [00:09:02] Um, it is hard. And, you know, as far as things that create discomfort. Absolutely. Because we've all been sold a bill of goods by people who claim expertise in the emerging realm that you have to be in. You know. We need a, who's going to own our influencer marketing strategy? I don't know that person's seemed to know what YouTube is, perhaps they can.

Um, hiring is the hardest thing that we do. It's the most important thing that we do. There is, um, you know, to me, there's always a value in pedigree, you know, there's that saying no one ever got fired for hiring IBM. So generally if people have come from bigger, better places and have been there for a while, um, at the very least they'd been well-trained.

So, you know, where are you sourcing your talent from? And, you know, we generally look to the places that we want to be, you know, for our talent. Places, you know, companies that are five years ahead of us on the journey that are a few hundred million dollars ahead of us on the growth curve. And so that gives you some element of credibility.

Um, some of it's got… Look, I mean, we all get conned from time to time. But the longer you've done this, the longer you can separate the, okay, you just threw every single jargon word at me, but what have you actually done? And go, where is the work product and where are the references?

And the other thing is, yeah, who have, who have people worked with that you can get to that you know and trust. Or that know and trust someone that, you know, that can give you a real reference. As opposed to the, uh, I fired this person and feeling guilty about it, reference that you'd get some times. You hear great things about a person that you're not sure about.

Jason: [00:10:59] Oh yeah. Well, I, you mentioned one thing, your gut. Usually your gut’s never wrong. Um, you know, because you, you feel it, whether you take on the wrong client and you're like, like my gut just told me to run, but I needed that money. Or, you know, you hired that amazing…

I remember doing this. I, I got so close to hiring this amazing 3D artist. I mean like the most amazing 3D world I've ever seen, he built, but he was the biggest jackass. And my gut was like, do not hire that guy. And, and the rest of my team was like, man, there, he's amazing. Well, we'll put up with any shit. I'm like, no, we're not going to do it.

Ben: [00:11:43] Yeah. So we spend a lot of time rationalizing decisions that go against our gut, whether it's clients or people.

Um, part of that's also a mindset shift, you know, as I think we're all naturally optimistic. As entrepreneurs, you need to be, because the only way you can dust yourself off whenever you have a setback. So what I've found is people… You know, the assumption is every candidate's amazing and every client is perfect.

Versus, yeah, why should we take this client? Why should we really be hiring this person? So if your default is always, they're great until proven otherwise, um, you know, your, your mind overrides your gut more often than it should.

Jason: [00:12:28] Yeah. So let's talk about building leaders, right? Like we talked about, we got to build the right pipeline, so then we can pick and choose, right?

And, and I think. You know, you've got to get to a point where, like, I think when we first start, we're building our business on referrals, really. And then, then it, you're building it on marketing. And then you have to build it on a machine that's producing two sales, and then you talked about your, the people.

So how can we build better leaders? Because what I find is a lot of agencies I chat with, and I remember going through this in our phase as well. We can get to a certain point and then everything kept flowing through me like a tollbooth. And I'm like, no, no. Like we have to build a leadership, the right leaders in order to take over the stuff.

And like my, my goal, and, I’d like… Answer this and then I got a question for you to follow up, to be like, what do you do every day, now that you have a thousand people and a big leadership team? I want people to know like, what, what that looks like too.

Ben: [00:13:33] So, um… In the first phase of the agency, everything I did really boiled down to sales. It doesn't really matter what you're doing on any given day, your focus is driving revenue in the door. I never had sales in my title. I never had business development or new business in my title. But everything I was doing was in service of how do we get more clients and more revenue flowing in this place?

Um, at a certain point that shifts and now I'd say everything I do is HR, which is not in my title. Another thing I've never really formally had a job in, and I've never been trained in. But I spend my day trying to get things out of the way of the leaders that we have hired to drive the business to the next level. So they can do…

I want them to be able to do their jobs. So there are spear that I need to catch. There are obstacles that need to be eliminated. There are sources of confusion that require clarity, and it's really about clearing the path. So there's no glory in it. And some days you feel like you're doing absolutely nothing. Yet what you're doing is the most critical thing. Because it allows the people that you care about and the people that you empowered to drive your business, to do what they need to do to be successful for themselves and for you.

And so all the most unpleasant tasks, uh, are the ones that fall to you and all the really good, fun business building stuff that you used to do falls to them. And that’s a difficult but necessary adjustment.

Jason: [00:15:19] Yeah.

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So when I was, um, when we started really getting traction in the first agency, I started realizing there was kind of like four or five roles, right. One, setting the vision and communicating it to the team. Uh, coaching the leadership team. Understanding the financials, I hated spreadsheets, but I needed to understand like here are the KPIs that we're going after. You know, support sales. Um, and then, you know, be the face of the organization.

Do you find that now, like have those roles changed? Because I bet you probably had those roles or do you still have some of those roles? I know, you know, like me, I'm always trying to like, like you, I'm trying to take away stuff so my guys can have a clear path. But do you find that those roles still fit what you do? Or does that change at a certain level?

Ben: [00:17:26] You've summed it up pretty nicely. Um, what I've found is that the balance changes over the course of decades, but also on a day-to-day basis. Yeah, the financial piece is interesting because somewhere between you, you do sales and you do an HR. The other thing that I've discovered is half it's also accounting.

Um, and it's not just, you know, because how do you recognize revenue? When do you want to recognize revenue? Where are you actually profitable versus where you… where you're earning revenue and where you're actually profitable are very, very different things. There's a whole understanding of the business that you need to have that goes beyond…

Early days, is there money coming in to cover expenses? We got payroll and rent done, uh, is there enough left over that? I can take some money out of the business? Is there enough leftover that we can think about, you know, investing in more senior leadership who could theoretically help us grow the business? Now that's the basics.

And then at a certain point you realize, okay, I'm not sweating the basics anymore. Now, what do I need to know about my business? Because I want to grow the profitable parts, not the unprofitable parts. I want to fix the unprofitable parts so I can grow them.

And so it's not just about what's coming in and what's going out. It's where we really truly making the money? Where, where are the leaks in our business? And that's the other thing that people don't really understand, which is what's all the stuff that they're doing that's um, producing activity, but not results?

So you got three or four lines of business. One of them is probably a great. One of them is probably a loser. The other two were in the middle. You know, if you can figure that fast and stop doing the stuff that's losing you money… flows right to the bottom line, finds your growth. But you need to have a level of insight into your numbers before you can start to look at it that way.

Jason: [00:19:23] Yeah. So, I mean, basically you're just still a problem solver for your team. Uh, and, and just saying here's, here's the direction that we want to go. You guys figure out the, how. I'll support you however. You just tell me what you need, is that right?

Ben: [00:19:41] Yeah. It's a lot of what, you know, figuring out what's missing. And also, um, just because you want to take the business in a certain direction, doesn't mean everybody wants to go with you. And so then you get faced with a far more difficult set of choices, you know. Um, how do you persuade the people that you need to come with you, that this is the right journey? I know that what we're doing and where we're going seems weird or sounds scary, or isn't what you signed up for, or it's not at all what you saw on Melrose Place. And that's okay.

Um, because here's where we're going and why. And I have… come on board. Uh, it's finding people who, you know, can come in and understand that vision and help make it understood inside the organization. Uh, change is scary and difficult, and we've got people at Wongdoody have been there since 1994, 1995.

Um, and so part of the balancing act is we have changed radically in that time. We've, we've reinvented ourselves multiple times and that's great. And then there are some fundamental things about the business that cannot, should not, and will never change. And those need to be protected. And that's, uh, figuring out what, figuring out what the real core of your businesses versus what's just sort of comfortable or habitual.

That's another challenging thing because you want to, you want to know what's up for grabs and there should be more things that are up for grabs and you're probably comfortable with, but you can't sell your soul for anything.

Jason: [00:21:19] Yeah, well, yeah, you have to, you have your beliefs and the beliefs of the company and, uh, that, that always stays true, I find.

Even though your services, your solutions, who you target may change. Um, but, uh, talk a little bit about… Because you guys have been around, I mean, I started solar went out in 99, so you guys are, you know, a couple of years ahead of us. And we went through a lot of different changes. I mean, I remember going through the yellow pages going, you want a website? And they're like, what's the website?

And I was like, I'll put it on Netscape composer. Um, so talk about how do you know when the company outgrows an employee that's been there for so long with you? And how do you… How do you get past that? Because I think people hold on to people too long as the agency outgrows that individual.

Or how do you bring those individuals along? Um, you know, make them better.

Ben: [00:22:28] Oh, I mean, these are hard, hard things, particularly when, you know…

My goal has always been to have the agency changing faster than our clients so that, you know, changes never being dictated to us and that we're ahead of the market. And by that same token, I need people who can change as fast as the agency. And so when you realize that people have a fixed mindset or they are nostalgic for what the agency was.

Um, or they can't contribute to the growth. It's a very, very difficult decision to help them find a place where they're going to be better off and happier, but ultimately they're going to be better off and happier. We've had people who came to us and said, we want no part of this digital thing. And we're like, that's great.

Uh, I don't agree with you, but I value everything that you have brought to this company for the last X years. How do we find you a better place to be together? What's our plan? We have an obligation to the careers and the growth and the progression of the people that choose to work with us, whether or not that work happens in our company.

And so our responsibility to mentor and find opportunities doesn't stop when people start getting a paycheck from us. So I think if you take that attitude of you want the right people in the right place, whether or not that's inside your organization. Then it becomes a different conversation than sorry, Suzy, you know, we're moving on and you're not.

Jason: [00:24:11] Yeah, I liked, I liked that approach and I think that's the right approach. Um, because look, I always joke around. I've been fired from every single job. Uh, I've ever had other than two and my best friend owned the company, own the businesses. That was when I was little. But, um, but yeah, like at the end of the day, I, and I figured it out. I just never liked quitting.

But when someone would come along and say, no, you need to go do this, I was like, oh man, thanks. That's very freeing. And the lesson I learned there, I was like, you know, when you have the people that are not the right fit, find them the right fit. And there'll be so much happier rather than thinking that their life is over.

Um, and it's, it's a good mentality because like agency changes so many times it's gonna outgrow a lot of people, including owners. Um, it, I see that a lot at times happen and the owners have to stop out. So it’s great. Um, last question, uh, before we wrap up, talk about what is it like, to like, how did you get from the eight figure mark to where you're at now?

Like what… If you had to pick two things outside of people and the right clients, because we've already covered those. Is there anything else? Um, or is it just boom, boom, boom.

Ben: [00:25:35] You have to recalibrate your ambition.

Jason: [00:25:40] How so?

Ben: [00:25:44] When you get to seven figures, you think, oh my God, you know, here I am at seven figures. And many people think I never thought I was going to get here. Wow. Isn't great? Versus, okay, how do I use eight figures as a platform to get to 10 figures? And what are the next set of changes that we are going to make?

It's like a, you don't want to be George Bush on the battleship. You know, there's no, the mission never accomplished, which is not to say you can never step back and enjoy where you've gotten. But you need to be looking at all of it on a path to where you want to be. And not everybody has eight-figure nine-figure ambitions.

We had a… Wongdoody was a great lifestyle business until we realized it was unsustainable and that we were not going to keep our good people challenged. We were not going to be able to attract and retain the best talent as a lifestyle business because ambitious people want growth. So massive amounts of growth… It's a choice.

And you need to be ready for that choice and recognize that it's not the only valid choice. But if you want to get there, it's also believing that it's possible. You know, we would often look at bigger, better agencies and say, how can we be like them? And you go to, oh, we can't be like them. And they've got this and that and this and that and whatever. And you make this list of why it can't be you.

That's another example of our ability to rationalize ourselves into bad decisions or no decisions, uh, or selling. So I don't want to be like an inspirational poster and be like it's 99% attitude is not, um, it's attitude is luck. It's hard work. It's being smart.

All of those things in equal combination and don't discount luck. Um, you know, and you have to make sure that you want to get there because the other thing is a lot of what you love about running a $5 million business. Is not there when you're running a $50 million business, there are different things to love, but it's not the same job with more zeros at all.

Jason: [00:28:02] I like that you said be careful what you wish for. Because you know, uh, and we're even going through that right now, for us, personally, in this consulting and education business of like, man, life is good. We're serving all these amazing people. And we're like, do we want to blow it up and, and take it to, you know, a gazillion dollars and, uh, you know, it's, it's a challenge.

Um, and I think it just takes some time to think about, and I think you can kind of constantly change your mind. But I, I do believe what you said is like don't um, don't show shortcut yourself of what's possible. Just really kind of dream it and then just start figuring out who do you need to hire? What do we actually need to do in order to get there?

And, uh, you know, once you get there, then, then you live in the bed that you made.

Ben: [00:29:00] Well, I think the other thing is, you know, generally starting a company is a culmination of your career. I worked for a bunch of other people. I worked for a bunch of other people. I learned this, I learned that I saw all this stuff I could do better.

I saw the opportunity my last boss was missing. I started the company and now I'm done. And I think that's also a dangerous attitude or thought. Because you don't stop growing and evolving, like you have the same obligation to yourself as you do to your employees, which is how do we keep getting better? How to keep getting smarter? How do I keep learning new things? And how do I keep challenging myself?

And so whether, you know, you don't want to go blow up a business for the sake of blowing it up. But once again, if you're not continuously trying to reinvent yourself, you're going to get reinvented by the market, by your clients, by forces, beyond your control. And that's nowhere you ever want to be.

Jason: [00:29:46] Yeah, I love it. Well, this has all been amazing, Ben. Is, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in?

Ben: [00:29:57] that is not the conversation I was expecting. This is like, this was a people conversation and a leadership conversation. Much less a, you know, what is the future of UX and touchless retail experiences and, you know, what are you seeing about global trends? Which is great, um, because. Yeah, for better.

The people are kind of why I show up every single day that the work is incidental. Pat and Tracy and I always said that we, whether we're running an agency or running a carwash, we would do it the same way. So thank you for letting me think about and focus on what really matters.

Jason: [00:30:28] Yeah, definitely. Well, thanks so much for coming in. Uh, what's the website people can go and check you guys out?

Ben: [00:30:35] Uh, www.wongdoody.com. Uh, and we have a zillion open roles. So any disgruntled employees from other agencies that are watching this, please go see if there's a fit for you here.

Jason: [00:30:48] Awesome. And you date yourself by going www. No one does that anymore.

Ben: [00:30:53] HTTP.

Jason: [00:30:56] Uh, I love it. I love making fun of my friends that do that. Cause I used to do that until someone razzed me. I was like, oh my gosh, www.

Ben: [00:31:05] I am, I will own that.

Jason: [00:31:10] Well, awesome.

Ben: [00:31:10] I got that going for me.

Jason: [00:31:14] Well, awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe. Make sure you comment.

And if you want to be around amazing agency owners who are constantly pushing you to be better and sharing what's working for you and are sharing what's working for them. So you can actually build on that foundation and grow and scale your agency faster and be around amazing people.

I want to invite all of you to go check out digitalagencyelite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind that only a select few get in. So go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

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