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Are you afraid to niche for your digital agency because you think it means saying no? Are you scared niching down will pigeonhole your agency and limit its potential? Think again! There are so many benefits when you choose to focus your agency services on a specific market. Joe Giovannoli worked for a full-service agency right out of college and decided to replicate that model when it came to building his own business. Like many agency owners, he was hesitant to focus on a specific market. But once his agency, 9Sail decided to niche down to just SEO for law firms and construction, they started to grow quickly. Joe is on the show sharing about niching down twice, life after learning to say no, and the most exciting deal his agency has landed.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Niching down twice. There is a lot of fear associated with niching down and making the switch to only go after a specific market or provide a specific service. Joe did this twice, once to change their service offering from a full-service agency to an SEO & SEM agency. Then again to focus on two specific industries with law and construction. Both times it was a scary step and he found himself relieved at the results. “We started getting more referrals. We've started getting more qualified leads, and we actually started to establish a name for ourselves in those spaces,” he says.
  2. Clients that take you with them. When asked about the most exciting deals they’ve gotten as an agency, Joe thinks back to the times they get referred by past clients. This is a testament to their work as an agency. Some of former clients have worked at several different companies over the years and each time they get to a new company they call 9Sail to work with them again. “That’s the really exciting stuff,” he assures “the deals that we get referred in from a past client, or we get referred in from somebody that's happy.”
  3. Life after learning to say no. What is life after learning to say no to being the agency that does everything and choosing a niche where you can be an authority? “The word relaxed comes to mind,” Joe told Jason. For starters, the team feels comfortable learning the space and knowing they're going to use this knowledge time and time. Rather than always needing to learn the nuisances of different industries. Also, niching gives them an opportunity to build their pipeline where they chose the clients that are the right fit for the agency. This results in a more predictable means for growth.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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Saying No to Trying to Be Everything to Clients & Finding Success After Niching Down Twice

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Joe, welcome to the show. I'm excited to have you on.

Joe: [00:00:05] Yeah. Thanks. Excited to be here.

Jason: [00:00:07] Tell us who you are and what do you do?

Joe: [00:00:11] Uh, yeah, so, uh, my name's Joe Giovannoli. I am the founder and CEO of 9Sail. We are a search marketing company for law firms and construction companies. So we work on both the SEO organic side, as well as the paid search side of a marketing strategy that a law firm or construction company might have.

Our goal is basically lead generation for those, those companies.

Jason: [00:00:35] Awesome. And, uh, tell me a little bit about you and how you got started in the agency.

Joe: [00:00:40] Yeah. So I actually, uh, had started a company while I was in college. Uh, that was a social media marketing agency. And then coming out of college, I decided to work for a full-service marketing firm, you know, really just to get more experience.

I did sales and, you know, moved from there to another agency and realize that, you know, I love this agency world. I love the pace of it. I loved working with different clients and speaking with different business owners and, and marketing leaders. And I decided to start my own thing. So kind of fell into the industries that we are, that we're in now, you know, law firms and construction companies were just two really interesting spaces for us to be in.

And we identified some opportunity in the market so we went for it.

Jason: [00:01:24] Awesome.

Joe: [00:01:25] Yeah. We didn't set out to be just an SEO and SEM company. We were a full-service agency cause that's what I, only thing I knew and frankly, I didn't know that I could break off services at the time when I started the company. So we've been an SEO and SEM company for the last five years.

Jason: [00:01:43] What made you kind of drill down? Like what was the turning point or what was the aha moment?

Joe: [00:01:50] Yeah, there was a lot to that. I mean, really being a full-service agency, unless you have, you know, teams of people specializing in each thing, it's very difficult to be an expert. So we had one of those situations and I always refer to the book by John Warrillow 'Built to Sell'.

We had one of those moments where, you know, we had what we call fires all over the place. We had, you know, projects that were behind because a client was behind or, you know, somebody wasn't happy with the design or they had approved a design and then somebody, you know, told them, oh, you should try this. And then they want to changes.

And, uh, meanwhile, some of our SEO clients are just reaching out on a weekly basis saying, hey, we just closed this great deal or, hey, we, you know, we settled the case that made us, you know, $50,000, you know, this is great, thanks so much. And we realized, you know, what? Light bulb. We need to specialize because we're really good at this and we can only get better with, with time and with practice and with process.

So we said, you know what, let's cut the bait and really focus on what we know.

Jason: [00:02:47] Yeah, you know, it takes a while to get there. You know, I was talking to, um, a mastermind member this week and when they joined, they were around the 500,000 mark and now they're around the 2 million mark.

And I told them when you're going through this process, things will change. And a lot of times as things change, you have to make things simpler. And I was talking to a member and telling them how they had needed to drill down and say no to more things and really start eliminating some of the stuff that's not profitable or some of the stuff that's not streamlined that they do really well.

And, um, I'm excited to see where they, they can go cause when agency owners figure that out, that's when they have substantial growth and then they run into all new issues.

Joe: [00:03:38] Yeah. Honestly, that's like the launchpad, right? Is, you know, as soon as we recognize that and listen, we turn down more work than we take on a regular basis. And I have a couple of SEO agency partners that I have just grown to like and build relationships with.

I say to a prospect, hey, it's not for me, but here's two names that I recommend that you reach out to. I can make personal intros for you if you'd like, but we know what our wheelhouse is. And the second that we start to stray from it we're not doing our people any favors internally because they can't see themselves as experts anymore because they're working on 20 different industries. And you know, we're not doing our clients any favors because we're in a way trying to reinvent the wheel over and over again, learning things that maybe another agency could do better than, than we can.

Jason: [00:04:24] Yeah. What's the biggest deal or the most exciting deal that you guys have won?

Joe: [00:04:31] That's an interesting question. So for us, we get just as excited over the small boutique law firms that we work with as we do when we get a big law firm. So one of our clients who was a very, I would say older law it was much older law firm in New Jersey, they just rebranded because one of the partners became a named partner. And so we are helping them through the transition of changing the name online from one to another.

And, uh, you know, that has been super exciting. We've been fortunate to work with the chief culture officer there. She's now the chief culture officer. She's been at a couple of different law firms and, uh, we've had the opportunity to work with her pretty much everywhere she's went for the last five years. And, uh, that was really exciting.

The deals that we get referred in from a past client, or we get referred in from somebody that's happy. That's the exciting stuff that we, we love working on.Online Training for Digital Agencies

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Yeah. You know, that just tells you, you do good work when, uh, you know, I used to, we would work with some of the biggest brands and then we would get, I remember this one time we got in bed with Aflac and we were real excited. We were like, we can do all kinds of really cool things with this duck. And the CMO got fired.

And I was like, no! Like we were so close, but then that CMO got hired at another big firm or a big company and then they brought us in. It's always exciting when you get referrals or they take you along on the journey. I'm curious, what's been one of the biggest challenges that you guys overcame in the past couple years, that really made a difference for you guys?

Joe: [00:07:30] Yeah, you know. You kind of touched on it earlier and it goes back to saying no. I had a real challenge ahead of me when I realized that we did have to say no to things, because for me revenue and dollars where ways to grow the company and kind of grow the talent on the team and, and add to the team. And so I really struggled for a long time to say no.

And we had somebody come to us that knew of us and had been referred to us and essentially said, hey guys, we're willing to offer you pretty much three times what any of one client would typically pay us to kind of take over our search presence and know online presence. And it was so not a fit for anything that we had ever done and some back and forth conversation happened and we said, no.

And that was a big thing for me because I am a helper. I like to help people. I like to be the guy to not say no. And I learned, and I realized that I could say no, but I could offer them a solution, right? And, and I think that, that for me was the way that, that we got over that. But I think that that's been the biggest thing that we've overcome.

We have challenges today that we still face that we're still working through. And those will probably be the answer to that question in the future when we can solve them. But, you know, I think all in all our biggest thing was saying no. And I think we do that really well now.

Jason: [00:08:56] Yeah. One of our mastermind members, Chris, when he learned to say no and he did something very similar to you. He had a bunch of strategic partners that were in the same space and he really scaled his digital agency by going to those partners and saying, hey, here's a perfect lead for you. Because he had such a high criteria for his clients, and they were still really good leads, but they would pass them to other people that do the exact same thing.

And then they would replicate back and forth and really what became one relationship became a many relationships. It was when they started doing that, their digital agency scaled really quick and they really grew their agency fast.

So what's life like now that you've learned to say no? Like what does your daily routine look like?

Joe: [00:09:51] So we have our team kind of siloed out, you know, they work on, you know, I have, uh, somebody that's, their entire workload is law firms. I have actually two people that are in that way. I have one person that's just specifically focused on the contractors and construction companies.

So it's been a lot calmer and what I've found too and, and we've been seeing a lot of success with this is that, you know, our clients don't compete with one another. That's another thing is we don't take clients on that directly compete in the same market. So we will get a, a backlink opportunity and we'll be able to leverage that relationship for a couple of different clients over the course of time, because a different, you know, it may be a good place for a blog article, like a guest blog or something of that nature.

So for us, I think the word relaxed would come to mind because I think that the team can feel comfortable, you know, learning a space and, and knowing that they're going to use this time and time again, rather than kind of playing ping pong between different industries. But, you know, for myself personally, it's been great because growth is kind of predictable, right?

Is if I say, you know, hey, I really want to add two new clients a month and you know, I want to grow at that scale for the next year and we want to make sure that we're getting the right size clients. For me to say no to a bunch of things isn't a big deal because I know that I'm building a pipeline and I'm referring things out to people, but I'm getting the people that I want, right?

And in a way, now we're interviewing prospects to see if they're a fit for us, rather than, you know, scraping to grab everything and every dollar that comes our way.

Jason: [00:11:23] I love it. Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Joe: [00:11:29] No, not really. Other than I would say, you know, again, we talked a lot about, you know, our niche and our niche and, or however you want to say it. And, uh, I think that it really is something that people fear. I've talked to so many entrepreneurs that they fear that switch, right? That change of like, oh, well, we're going to only go after this or we're only going to provide this specific service.

And we did that twice. We did that with the service, changing our service offering, and then we did it again by picking a specific set of clients. And both times it was the most nerve-wracking yet rewarding thing in literally six months.

Like it went from being like a, oh my God, I can't believe we did this to and like, are we doing the right thing? To wow. We opened the flood gates. We told people, this is what we specialize in. We started getting more referrals. We've started getting more qualified leads, and we actually started to establish a name for ourselves in those spaces.

And we are no longer trying to be everything to everybody. We're just trying to be everything to somebody, right? And we are trying to be that go-to person for search marketing in these two spaces. Especially in the legal space, in and around the New Jersey, New York market people know our name, they, we are part of that conference,

Jason: [00:12:40] Yeah. I love that when I see digital agencies really do that, then they can say, well, it really steamrolls a whole, whole thing in order to scale the agency, because now you can be selective of who you take on, you can raise your prices to whatever you want, based on the value and their expectations.

You know, we were talking about this in the mastermind. I was asking people like, well, when do you guys raise your pricing? And some people are like, well, once a year, but we only do that for new people coming in and we were talking about strategy. We were like, look, you should all set up tiers and saying, the next five clients are at this price. The next five clients is this price.

And then once we get to this level, then we're going to go back to all our existing ones and raise it. And just little small changes like that can grow profitability because everyone focuses on top-line revenue and that's, I think bullshit.

I think it's all-around profitability because when we come in and we buy an agency, we're looking at profitability. I don't care if you're a 10 million, $20 million agency. If you don't have any profit, you're not worth anything.

Joe: [00:13:47] Right. Yeah. Well, it's funny you say that. So we operate a little differently than that model, but I think in the same vein. So we have set three, five, and 10-year targets as to what our average client is going to be worth. And again, to your point, we look at both top-line revenue, but a profit, right?

So we have it worked out where we know if they're at a top-line revenue at this all of our expenses are completely baked out. We know what our profit's going to be. So we've set those targets and essentially we know now that very similar to how, cause we also run traction, very similar to how you set quarterly rocks. We set quarterly expectations as to what our clients need to be paying at that point in order to make sure that the average of all of the clients that we have equals out to that number.

So, you know, we're really excited for that. And it is something that the entire team kind of grabs onto because they also know that the higher the dollar figure that the client is paying, the less clients that they're managing and the more detailed they can get with their clients, right?

So, and we try to explain this to our small law firms all the time is that, you know, you're taking the right step by doing the work that we're doing and working with us. But the reality is if you were paying four times this, right? You're going to have somebody that pretty much read a 50% of their time is going to be dedicated to just your stuff and think about all of the things that they could accomplish for your brand if they were solely focused on you.

Jason: [00:15:09] I love it.

Joe: [00:15:09] It's selling that vision.

Jason: [00:15:11] Yeah. Tell us what's the website people go and check you guys out.

Joe: [00:15:15] Yeah. So, uh, our company is 9sail.com. So it's the number nine, sail, like a sailboat, S A I L. Check us out. We're in the process of redoing that site again, you know, we're going to be expanding some of our SEO services to granularize some of the things that we do really well.

Digital PR is a, is on the horizon for us, something that we're going to be breaking down because it is pretty much the same thing as the backlinking that we do just, you know, on a, on a larger scale. So we are super, super excited about it, but yeah, check us out at 9sail.com.

Jason: [00:15:46] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. You rocked it. Everyone go check out their website, reach out to them if you need it. And if you guys want to be around amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where you can scale your digital agency faster and see what's working and really have 60 plus trusted advisors to really help you out. I'd love to invite you all to go to digitalagencyelite.com.

And go check it out, and if it's right, we'll have a conversation and let you know. So go to digitalagencyelite.com and until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Do you struggle to embrace automation in your agency's operations? Jordan Bell was already an ads expert that taught the ins and outs of creating successful ads when he started his agency Agency Bell, where he applied his knowledge to offer direct response ad mastery with AI-powered automation and retainer-level audience insights for law firms. In his interview with Jason, he talks about why it was difficult to embrace automation which ultimately became a game-changer for his agency. He also chats about the importance of really understanding what you're doing and not fully relying on technology as the ultimate solution, and why it takes a solid structure, more than just new technology, to get your agency through difficult times.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Embracing automation. Jordan was the guy when it came to ads. He could calculate the exact bid that we would need at a common conversion rate in like a specific keyword or targeting group. It was all manual. This is why it was very hard for him to embrace automation. In the end, it wasn’t about getting into machine automation, but actually turning it into a competitive advantage for them, which became a massive milestone for his agency.
  2. Can you find your way through a problem? We all need to get back to the basics at some point to remember what’s important. As Jordan puts it, you should learn to fly a plane before turning on automated navigation. “There’s so much technology available to us that it often becomes the solution in people's minds,” he says. They forget that, in order to be reliable, efficient and successful you should be able to understand what you’re doing in the context of what we're trying to achieve or the larger vision and goals. At the end of the day, regardless of what task management program you use, can you write down what outcomes you need to be able to achieve when you know, you've got like 20 or 30 tasks due that week?
  3. A solid structure to get you through. These have been difficult times where many have had to learn to adapt to new circumstances. There are solid frameworks that protect any kind of business and Jordan has learned that it’s not about getting to the new tech. It’s more about the management side of running a business, being in charge of the outcomes, having a vision for the future of the business, designing the lifestyle. These years taught him to really consider what work he should be doing versus not doing in the business as an agency owner.

Sponsors and Resources

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

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Using Automation as a Competitive Advantage & Really Understand the Context of What You're Trying to Achieve

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Jordan, welcome to the show.

Jordan: [00:00:04] Hey, thank you.

Jason: [00:00:05] You know, the funny thing is, is whenever we record these shows, it's like we have chatted before, which we've been chatting for like 10 minutes, but I guess we have to do that for you listeners out here, making it believe this is the first time we're chatting. But, um, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Jordan: [00:00:20] Yeah. So my name is Jordan Bell. I run a digital ad agency called Agency Bell. I've been doing it for about five years, but my experience in advertising and agency-type services is about over a decade or so. I'm a builder type of agency owner. I kind of classify them as like, kind of like the builders and engineers, the service people, the sales focus ones. I'm a true builder and a service type of person.

So I built the agency really from a service perspective as a guy who was cutting his teeth in Google ads on large accounts for a long time. And getting really involved in the technology side of it and really enjoying the customized integrations.

And so, you know, I ran an agency or I helped run an agency as a junior partner for a little while after my last corporate role, seven years ago or something and, um, after that I was teaching digital marketing courses, advertising courses at coding academies and stuff, and a couple of colleges and a while also consulting and taking on like really not really like, um, you know, corporate, not a lot of corporate projects. I had a couple like Fortune 500 ones, but, um, a lot of like, uh, hit the hammer, strike the from hammer to anvil, get the outcome type of in the trenches types of roles.

I always enjoyed that. And, um, the consulting gigs came from teaching adults in CMOs. Good to go digital, stuff like that. And then eventually the consultancy, it just kind of became more and more until it became time to start an agency again. I'm an individual agency owner, right? My wife and I work on it together, but I'm a primary principal on it and we haven't had done it before. We'd like, you know, partners or multiple people, which is, uh, its own a wild ride of challenges and volatility in the past.

But today, after working on a lot of different industries, we're currently focused primarily on large-scale law firm projects. So, um, think like, you know, multimillion-dollar annual budgets for plaintiff driven. So you've got your mass like product liability, lemon law, um, motor vehicle accidents, those kinds of things. We work with a lot of investors, so we're usually like one of the three or four people at partner like, uh, companies at the table.

You've got the large-scale investment companies that are investing in plaintiff operations for law firms. And then the law firms who are the subject matter experts and sometimes they're have their own large scale budgets. And through that, it's sort of given us a nice corner where we can really build out larger-scale programs that are really fully integrated into their CRMs.

So the way I like to think about it is that there's a lot of lead generators out there, and we like to train the ad systems to optimize towards people who are more likely to take the desired final action, which with your thinking about e-commerce it's like optimizing to the conversion pixel, right? But in the lead generation world, you're optimizing to a person who is more likely to sign a contract retainer, or like, if it was like a car dealership, it'd be like a person who's likely to buy the car at the end.

So that created a big, a massive burden of technology because you have to protect data pipelines because if you don't have perfect data flowing between a firmer, a company, that's actually, um, doing things inside their CRM, it can destroy the campaigns quickly. So it created a data requirement for ad data and CRM data, and automation where power's out to your users and a bunch of other fun technology because people contact our clients through chat and form and phone, and there's different levels of engagement in the pipeline.

So it really encompasses all of like, what I know from my background is an MBA, business modeling with them and their own operations as companies, as clients. And so it goes far beyond like the advertising stuff and it lets us stay up to date on the new tech that's, that's out and really weaponizing that.

So it's a massively difficult thing to do, and it takes a while to onboard people in our team, but it's a lot of fun and I enjoy it. I'm where I want to be. So…

Jason: [00:04:08] That's awesome. Tell us about what's a big milestone that you've achieved since starting the agency that you're really proud of with running your digital agency?

Jordan: [00:04:21] Yeah, it used to be like I was for a while the guy that somebody knew that was really good at ads and it didn't involve automated bidding inside like Google ads, Bing, Facebook. It involved a lot of manual work. I used to like calculate the exact bid that we would need at a common conversion rate in like a specific keyword or a targeting group, and like be able to pinpoint and say, okay, I needed a negative 20% bid modifier.

It was all manual. I mean, it was good. We'd calculate it. But I was teaching people to really go in there and move all the levers and switching over to automation and machine learning was, I was extremely stubborn about like, not wanting to like take my hands off the levers. It'd be like, I don't want the computer to fly the plane. I want to fly it myself. You've got to feel it differently, right?

And that journey, I'm a risk-taker in some ways, but risk-averse and others and trusting automation systems to think big picture strategically like a person who's looking at many different factors, not just the ad system, which itself is a rocket ship, but looking at many different factors before making a decision inside an ad program, when you're dealing with multi-million dollar budgets. That is one extremely hard to teach in collectively with, um, as we bring on team people internally, and we have a small team for that because of this.

But also it's like what logic rules inside ad systems are going to account for that. They don't make the technology that is designed specifically to solve the kinds of problems that we're trying to solve that would make it like we could not set it and forget it, but there's so much ad tech out there that is like, oh, you won't have to do as much. It'll tell you exactly what to do.

And yet no program was able to give us those exact winning solutions or even close. And so learning, not whether to go into machine learning and automation, but actually how to make it our competitive advantage the way we used it was a massive milestone for us. The reason, the way that we had to do that was we had to think about how to make sure that all the data that we wanted from disparate sources were not available from these static reports that would take hours to put together.

I used to hand-piece together all these like reports, but they had to be available in seconds, completely dynamic, so I could, we could change date ranges and filters and stuff. Google systems didn't even have, like, not all the views that are possible are actually available. And their own tools aren't even flexible enough for it.

So we had to be able to recreate things like dynamic reports that are based in sheets that pull data from APIs. We had to create audit systems and the audit systems are like, cause we use this thing called offline conversions where, where a CRM action happens and then a person has a unique click in the URL. And then we follow that, we connect it to the person and it, and it kind of, um, in updates, Google. That person, they get, I call it a superhero Cape when one of 20 leads gets a superhero cape, and that's the person you want more of. And then you have to immediately send that to Google. But that data pipeline is extremely fragile because there's so many things that can break that connection.

And so learning how to audit that in workflow, we're dealing with thousands of leads per week, it could become doing it manually is, is an impossible job. I was up to like three or four in the morning, every night, just trying to manually like hand stitch these things together, and then eventually learning how to build operational workflows like that was a massive challenge.

But when we finally like wrapped our heads around it and got through like these 40 step, like Zap(ier) automations, that was a huge milestone. In the biggest account that we have we finally just did a workflow where we had to treat it like an e-commerce setup and where like multiple conversions could come from one lead, like multiple cases.

And that was extremely difficult because if, if not to go too into the weeds, but if you mess that up, you can't undo the damage to the account. And so building that entire thing to protect that meant that as soon as we committed to the machine learning aspect of our agency, it put a huge burden of things that we had to accomplish in order just to be successful. When you raise the bar that high, you have to be able to get over it, or you have to go back and lower the bar.

And so that was really big for us.

Jason: [00:08:28] Yeah. So, I mean, that's amazing how you're, you're trusting machine learning and AI in order to do things that used to do manually. So what's life like now that you've turned over that stuff, like, what are you able to focus on now?

Jordan: [00:08:45] Building the system better. We couldn't focus on things before. Like we couldn't take like this satellite image view in seconds of anything in the campaign we want to see you. So if I want to look at the income, like income or age range inside a particular ad group or geographic location and instantly get statistically significant data on a specific, customized low conversion action, like assigned retainer up to the minute basically that they're doing it. We didn't have that ability before.

To be able to say in 10 seconds we can get to that information and get a stat that's relevant. It changed the way that we could optimize campaigns with the level of granularity that we could get to so that rather than 10 different decisions that could be made, we can isolate down to the two or three where at least two of them are highly likely to work.

We're creating the science in the advertising world, where there were so much more of the, there is a, there's a data science obviously to advertising that a lot of people don't realize until they really get into it and look at the data. But our decisions are far more likely to deliver the expected outcome.

And when we're dealing with return on investment for like large scale investors that becomes a competitive advantage for us because we become the company and they don't want to work with anybody else. So our retention is incredible at that point. We're talking about years not months when with our retention.

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Now, how did you guys go about finding the right solution? You know, because there's lots of tools out there that say they do machine learning and AI. And there's always a fuzzy thing between each and then people were like, well, if you do this, then why can't the customer or the client go directly there and just bypass the agency? So talk a little bit about that.

Jordan: [00:11:34] Yeah, great question. When I used to teach one of the first lessons that we did in the marketing course was about how I would call it like the ninja digital marketer will have a set of skills. Like they'll be a creative thinker, they'll be kind of like a data and analytical thinker, and then they'll be a strategist as well.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

And all the kind of technology and the programs that we're using and the way that we bring them together, which is always cool, people are often surprised that I don't make a decision on technology and workflows until far later in the game than most others will.

And the reason is because we're trying to pick a decision that's not, that we're not going to have to iterate on and change a bunch of stuff the next day or the next week. We're trying to make a decision that accounts for all the factors or as many of them as we can reasonably do while allowing for variability afterwards and allowing us to have the flexibility.

So when we do things like pulling data from like the tracking URL, we pull everything because we don't know that we're whether we're going to need it yet. And oftentimes that's how we're able to like sort of save the day on scenarios because we pulled it, not knowing when we'd need it, but having it anyway.

And so one of the reasons why it's difficult for companies to execute on this is because in order for them to do this properly, they, well properly in the sense of like what we're trying to achieve here, they have to be able to tap into a series of strategic decisions that come from first off knowledge of the market and what you can do to understanding how machine learning is working in how the system is looking at signals and having outcomes from that.

We have to be able to predict based on experience and like vast amounts of data. The difference between asking a single qualifying question that's slightly different in its wording and what the user experience of the person is going to be like who's just did a search, which there's search psychology in there.

And then following that process through what kind of data does it produce and how did the ad systems learn from it as the law firm or any other is changing things in their CRM? There's a long pattern of factors before you can make really effective decisions. And it's, unfortunately, it creates kind of a tight rope because digital can be pretty unforgiving in a lot of ways, but it's what makes the work interesting because you can no longer just look at ad data and say, oh yeah, just make this next move. You know, it doesn't work that way. It's a, it's a worthy challenge.

But I also like to make it accessible though, you know, we get on a call, like, do you want to teach the firms how to think about this stuff because there'll be a better partner. They'll appreciate the fact that we're confident that nothing that we're doing yet or how we packaged it as proprietary. It's just really difficult to do and it's really great for big outcomes and sustainable.

So like we have $200 click keywords in some accounts and that usually produces high click fraud rate, and we have one of the lowest click fraud rates I've ever seen on that on our most expensive account, because we've trained Google to avoid lawyer and marketer clicks that destroys budgets.

So you, it's very hard without all the pieces together you actually can't really do it very easily on your own. And that's why it's fun, but it's also, there's also, it's pretty high stakes at that point.

Jason: [00:14:34] I remember back in the day when I was first advertising on Overture, so this was before Google and yeah, there's a bunch of click fraud because I know people, you just see the competitor and you'd go back and forth and be like, ooh, I charged this guy a dollar.

Jordan: [00:14:51] Yeah, we have click fraud software but it doesn't really, it eats like it's a whack-a-mole game, right? And the bigger, the ratio of people you don't want clicking to the ones you do it can really mess up campaigns. It's hard. We won't even start some kinds of campaigns without a runway budget and without like certain factors in their tech and their operations being okay because that's our story.

If there are things that we can't reasonably control and they're not the right fit, then that becomes our story at that point. And most of the business was built off like our and my reputation because we drive to success, you know, we aim for that outcome. And that was a level of commitment that it's very exhausting at times, but you know how it is.

And you don't always know if it's a click, it's like, how does one person who types in the same keyword, how do you know the difference? You know, what's happening. You just don't know where it is.

Jason: [00:15:39] Let's switch focus a little bit, because a little while ago, we were talking about some things that you were doing that's really helping you guys out and kind of going back to the basics. Talk a little bit about that, cause I know your agency is doing really well. You guys are growing and scaling the agency fast, but why would you go back to the basics? Because a lot of people were like, oh, you're advanced. And we're talking about very advanced stuff right now that machine learning all that.

So why go back to the base?

Jordan: [00:16:09] Yeah. I've heard some good things from people that better explain it than I do. So I'm going to borrow one from a person who said this to me recently, is that show me, you can do long division before you get a calculator, right? Or I've always described it as like, show me, you can fly the plane before you get your like computer navigation, like on, you know, within like a 747 or a fighter jet.

Like what are the stories that are, that are amazing about crash landings with planes? Is that the pilot was able to land the plane in a river, right? And what computer is going to do that at that point? Is, is a team's ability it can fail fast when the plug is bolt, can you get a candle in the dark and find your way through a problem, or like have a get out of the woods with the stars, right?

And I've found that that is so important, especially in like comprehension of the material, because it's so much technology that's available to us that it often becomes the solution in people's minds. And they forget that in order to be the most successful, the most efficient, the most reliable and achieve results when we set the bar high is we have to be able to understand what we're doing in the context of what we're trying to achieve or our larger vision and goals.

You know, to talk about it as if you don't need the technology, but you can operate faster with it and you can be more efficient with it and get to better places, because then you're talking about, then you're living it. It's authentic.

You know, I'm not a great salesperson on the phone. I'm really not, I don't say all the right things, but I close the deals because for me it's authentic. I believe in it. I understand how it works and that interestingly in the success and challenges of the, of the agency that we've had in, in my own. When we won it was because we understood it without technology and process and in any kind of, and you know, frameworks have been awesome, but like we've been looking at a lot of things like whether like agile adaptive would help us, you know, like EOS, OKRs all those kinds of things are, are, are really coming to the forefront now.

At the end of the day, can you, regardless of what task management program that you have, can you throw things off the desk and then write down what outcomes you need to be able to achieve when you know, you've got like 20 or 30 tasks due that week? Can you say, this is why they're important, what they're going to achieve, its current place within the scope of the work, because then no matter what you have, you can prioritize, you can do what matters and that every time we get away from that we struggle.

So I make the technology decisions and the operational policies and the workflows, all that kind of stuff is one of the last things that we do to get it right. But we have to have that comprehension in the beginning and the ability to operate in the dark with a candle in a piece of paper.

Jason: [00:18:46] Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. I always tell everybody every quarter you should look at going back to the basics. You know, I always use the story when, when I was playing college tennis and I was losing to a guy I should not have been losing to. And my tennis coach go back to the basics, Swenk! Go back to the basics dummy! And as soon as I stopped overthinking about my backswing or my follow through, I was like, all right, I'm gonna just look at the ball and hit it. And it started working.

Jordan: [00:19:16] Yeah, that's great. I mean, I'm a, I'm a musician so this is kind of like someone playing, doing their scales or doing the rudiments on a, on a drum or something like that, right? Like there's a reason those are important because it's got, those have to be second nature to build things on top of it.

And it's why, you know, whether it's in an ad campaign, right? We, we’re looking at all like the data and the tech and like all the suggestions that has, but we're lost. Why are we lost? At the end of the day what do we have to do? We have to say, what is the business problem we're solving? Who are we reaching? Well, how would we describe them? Demographically, behaviorally, like when something is stopping in their newsfeed.

Like, what would we say to them that would make them go, yeah, oh, I'm going to stop doing this thing that I really want to do to, to look at an ad that I didn't ask for. What's in it for me? Why do I care? Like, and there's going into user experiences on at that point. User experience, design and copywriting, and really good targeting theory is timeless. It really is.

It's the same skills we use to decide whether what we should write on a direct mail piece and where we should send it and what kind of things to put on billboards. That skill is so still important. The best copywriting books are ancient, and yet we apply them differently today just based on the technology.

And I'm a big believer in the, in the traditional foundations there. If someone can, she can talk me through that strategy. I can teach him how to use it. That's no problem. But teaching the basics and teaching the foundations, that's the challenge.

Jason: [00:20:40] Yeah. Many years ago, when, when I started helping agency owners and I was developing the playbook, I really thought about that of like, what are the foundational systems that you need that will stand the test of time that are the basics that you go back and forth.

Like we were talking, pre-show like, you know, how do we make sure we have that clarity? And then we get the positioning and then the offering, and then we can start prospecting and doing sales. Like there's systematic things that you need to do that will always stand the test of time and you just got to think about what is that for your business and constantly going, are we making it simple? Are we on the right plan? And then, you know, adjust rather than just see the shiny red object and where the cat trying to swat it down.

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

Jordan: [00:21:35] The one thing I've been thinking a lot about is how like the systems, right? So like the agency playbook kind of systems, right? Like one of the things that has really kind of helped and, and maybe kind of almost like saved us from like the peaks and valley, like the, the days of where it's like, can we, is this gonna work tomorrow? Did we set our sights too high, right?

You know, I got married last year, we had a child, I started law school, like I was back to the 16 hour day. Like it was hard, like life was coming and also were, we were both work from home parents. So that whole psychological challenge that happens, like there's research about how people are getting like really beaten up their mental health is hard, is tough right now.

And one of the things that really has stood out to me is that it wasn't about getting to the new tech. And it wasn't even about something that would like, it would just be for agencies for anyone that's kind of like manager, running a business, you know, major responsibilities like that, who is in charge of outcomes.

It was really focusing on the vision, the designing the lifestyle, like what work I should be doing versus not doing, and then backing up from those outcomes, which I, I used to talk about all the time, but I wasn't taking those daily steps.

I worked with a CEO coach and I found that some of those just involved setting the vision for myself as an agency owner. Now, it's now as we're kind of running the agency together as, uh, you know, with a child at home is that we, we have to look at our life and our daily schedules and our vision and how that contributes and how we work together as a team.

And so everyone's got their own version of this in the pandemic era where then maybe they're in an office or not, maybe, you know, but everything is a little bit more difficult these days and it's changing constantly.

And the thing you just talked about with the going back to basics, there are solid frameworks that protect any kind of business. And it doesn't mean that you have to use, like, I've always finally, it doesn't mean you have to use one specific method. It doesn't, no one method solves everything. It's the application of it.

And I could not see it more clearly now how there were things that we did not have in place in every department like that. Uh, you know, just the planning element, the vision and mission, the OKR style, like KPIs, like the qualitative and quantitative outcome, and making sure that we are locking onto that.

I mean, we've had times where people, we had people working two jobs and we didn't know about it until like two full-time jobs, because that's what happened in advertising in the pandemic air, right? And engineering and stuff like that.

And so we had, like, we learned a lot of hard lessons that way, but if we started with those things and then build operational structures in which the outcome was still those things and we held accountability systems in place to that, that's the only thing that we feel now stands the test of time. Because everything else is just which workflow we're using, which project management system it's, I'm, I'm agnostic to those things. They're all, they all kind of work the same way.

But I've only really become safe and scalable from those basics and those frameworks and the things that we found worked for us. And then we, we made those, our bottom line. Like those are non-negotiables. And from there, honestly, like I feel like even still, I'm getting back to waves of peace, again, knowing that there's a big uphill battle to achieve the goals, but it's not scary anymore.

That's really the biggest thing that I, that I think even just from going into the new year that, that we found.

Jason: [00:24:57] That's awesome. Well, it's been great to have you on the show. It's been also great to get to know you over the past years of being in the mastermind and watching your guys grow. And watching you constantly take one tackle and then get up and then tackle the next one because running an agency's tough and you're always going to get beat down, but it's about like moving forward and moving forward in the right way and be able to just kind of sidetrack some of the things coming at ya.

What's the agency website, people go and check you guys out?

Jordan: [00:25:32] Sure, agencybell.com

Jason: [00:25:34] Really hard. Very easy. If you guys can't remember that you guys got issues, but uh, check out Jordan's, uh, agency website and, uh, thanks so much Jordan for coming on the show.

And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe comment and if you want to be around other amazing agency owners like Jordan, where you can ask us any questions that you're struggling with. And we might be able to see the things a little bit differently so you guys can grow and scale your digital agency faster, go to digitalagencyelite.com and apply.

And until next time have a Swenk day.


Do you want to sell your agency in the future? What strategic relationships can help you grow and possibly sell your agency? Roy Chong was working in the music industry for many years before deciding to make a drastic change and start over in digital marketing. Now with Noodle Wave Media he helps companies in the healthcare space thrive by developing meaningful strategies and tactics that move their marketing efforts towards success. In this interview with Jason, Roy discusses the most important decisions he made for his business, how he always envisioned a strategic partnership for the future of his agency, and why you should always take your passion wherever you go.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. The most important decisions for his business. Roy never really saw a reason to rent an office space he could not afford at the time, so very early on he invested in having a remote working model with a team that could work from anywhere in the country. It shaped the way his agency works and its culture because he acknowledges that not everyone likes or can work remotely. Finding those types of people that shared this vision really helped build their culture. The second biggest decision was niching down to focus on the healthcare vertical, where the agency really found its footing and scaled to the point where he could sell the agency.
  2. Making the decision to sell. Roy always envisioned a strategic partnership for his agency. He knew it was in his future but just needed to figure out how it would work and what would be the right time to pursue it. Jason helped him by pointing out some things he needed to work on, which provided some time to add another layer of value for clients. He also had time to consider what he didn’t want to lose with the deal, and the type of relationship he expected from this partnership. All of this ultimately led him back to Jason and to the partnership that would enable him to still be in charge of day-to-day operations.
  3. Taking your passion wherever you go. If you ever have to start again from scratch remember to take your passion with you. Passion is commonly depicted as what we do, “that isn’t necessarily true,” Roy says, “It’s who you are.” At one point in his career, he made the transition from the music industry to digital marketing. There is seemingly no correlation between both, but Roy argues what made the difference and helped him succeed in a new industry was taking a passion for helping people with him.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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Finding a Strategic Relationship That Fits Your Agency Growth Goals

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Roy, welcome to the show.

Roy: [00:00:04] Hey! Thanks, Jason. Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:06] I'm excited to have you on the show. So, uh, for the ones that have not heard of you yet, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Roy: [00:00:13] Yeah, so I'm the CEO and founder of Noodle Wave Media. We're a full-stack digital marketing agency focused on the healthcare vertical. I've been doing that for 11 years. Prior to that, I was in the music industry as a music producer, and I've got kind of that entrepreneurial spirit so I flipped a couple of the businesses along the way. Father of two amazing boys and a passionate creative and marketer.

Jason: [00:00:44] And how did you get started and how long ago did you start your agency?

Roy: [00:00:49] Yeah, so I started it probably in 2000, around 2010. I had just kind of rotated out of the music industry and I'd spent 10 years there writing music for artists and I got signed to a production deal in New York and I was running the artists for my idols, and then I did a stint in Korea.

And then I decided, you know what, I'm kind of done with this it's time to start something new. And I realized at that time I’d been in the content game for 10 years. I thought, boy, combine that with using ability to create content and find a thread that resonates with people and tie that to helping small businesses, cause I had a marketing education and experience already, that could be something.

And so I started that 10 years ago with that exact premise of leveraging content to help brand build brand equity for clients. But at that time, like, and you'll know this, Jason, like that wasn't a thing, really. Large brands we're doing that, leveraging YouTube and all kinds of other platforms, but the small business owner didn't really have access cause they just didn't know how to do it.

So I started it at that time with that premise in mind. And I just remember people thought, yeah, but like who's going to search for a content marketing agency like that just seems offbeat and really way off the normal path, because you know, their traditional brick and mortar agency was the way to go. I don't know, but I think it's going to be something.

And of course, we all know that content marketing became the thing and we've been on a steady increase in incline from there, leveraging that idea that kind of the small to medium-sized business owner doesn't realize that the biggest piece of equity that they have is the knowledge in between their ears and the experience that they have.

So we just provided them the platform and support to do that. And here we are 2021 and... 22 geez 22. I lost the year. I think we all lost a couple of years there.

Jason: [00:02:43] We all did lose a couple of years. What was the biggest deal that happened to your agency or what's the most exciting thing to you and why when you were growing your agency?

Roy: [00:02:56] I definitely would have to say that I built the agency on the remote working model or distributed model, however you want to call it. And I did it really out of just trying to solve problems. You know, I couldn't afford office space. Like I just didn't have the cashflow, but then also at the same time, I was like, does it really even make sense for me to have an office? Because it's just going to eat into my margins.

This is just the way that I thought at that time that well why can't I just hire a bunch of people who live wherever, but are super talented and have them work on these projects with me.

It ended up of course, being very prescient and not until COVID hit that everybody else got it. But of course, leading up to that, that trend was already there, right? So COVID obviously the big pull ahead, but I would be championing this whole remote working lifestyle and people just didn't get it.

Like it was another thing that people thought I was crazy. Like, well, you need an office, right? Cause you need to have clients come and see you. I was like, I don't think so. I don't think I need that.

And for us, that ended up probably being the single most important decision that we made as an agency, just to keep that. And my vision was always, can I scale this? Could it be like from one man band man show to like 10 staff, then how about 20? How about 30 then? How about a hundred? How about 300? Keep going from there.

And that's just kind of, what's continued to happen today. And of course, when COVID hit people are like, oh, okay. I get it. That makes total sense. And now at a global scale where we're doing this thing.

Jason: [00:04:22] I love the remote thing because you know, you can recruit way out far, you know, all over the world rather than just driving distance. And then also too your team works a hell of a lot harder because they're not in a commute. I remember when I had an agency in Atlanta, I had some people that were in a car for two hours a day that could have been doing other things, having fun, relaxing, working on the business, maybe.

Roy: [00:04:50] Yeah, totally. Yeah. And that was the real value proposition. And actually, I don't know if a lot of people realize this though, maybe now they do, but at that time have... being in a remote working model, only certain people would thrive under that environment.

Like you and I would probably both know like people that just, they need to be around people. They need to be in an office. And that works for certain people and that doesn't work for other people. So, um, it ended up becoming a pretty cool automatic filter for developing a culture of people who worked the same way, who thought the same way who had the same kind of time management skills and critical thinking skills.

So just again, like when I say that that was the single most important decision, not only from an operational standpoint but like from a culture standpoint, from a productivity standpoint, like you mentioned, it had a lot of trickle-down effects, you know, making that choice.

Jason: [00:05:41] Other than, you know, doing the remote, working and figuring that out. What's the most important thing that you learned running your agency the past years?

Roy: [00:05:50] Uh, for sure. The other thing would be probably niching down in this specific vertical that's super key. I always knew that at some point that I would want to either exit the business or develop a strategic partnership.

I knew we didn't have the, necessarily the resources or the kind of client base to be a bigger agency. And our, my strategy was always to be part of a bigger agency. So I just thought about like, what would make us attractive to an agency that already has, and does everything? And for us that would just be to let's find a specialty, let's niche down. And it kind of just organically happened.

Like I didn't set out to build a company that like provided marketing services to the oral health care space. It's not something that you like set out to do necessarily. It was just through relationships. And as I kind of saw that continuing to grow in our reputation as, okay, we've got to double down on this vertical.

So by niching down two things happened. One, yes, we prepared ourselves for an eventual exit where we gained domain expertise in this one vertical. But it also, from an implementation standpoint, when we ran campaigns, it was just so much easier. Like there was no learning curve.

Over the years, we developed expertise in orthodontic, dental care, pediatric dentistry. All these different verticals. So we knew that our target audience. We knew what the client did. We knew what the value propositions were in general at all we had to kind of do was hunt for the nuance of that specific client in that specific geographic area. We compress the discovery process time to really short period of time because we know the industry, right?

So that was the other kind of key thing for us.

Jason: [00:07:32] Awesome. And eventually, you sold the agency. So why did you decide to sell? And kind of walk us through that process as well.

Roy: [00:07:41] Well, it's funny because my own personal journey was thinking about, you know, when is it time to kick in the strategic partnership that I always envisioned would need to happen? What time does that look like and when does that need to happen?

And as I was going through that journey of searching, I found you through that journey, which was so funny. And, uh, you know, kudos to you and your funnels and your content and having stuff out there that allowed other agency owners to discover that.

And I learned a lot just from reading some of your content about what I needed to do to prepare but also engaged you in a conversation at that time. You were gracious enough to entertain just a quick chat and let me know that there's some things that maybe I need to work on. And so, I think for me personally it was just knowing that it was time for me to add another layer of value to the clients. But also being real with myself in terms of what I wanted out of my lifestyle.

There's kind of a, like, I could easily say I could grow this business and then exit, you know, in the next five years if I wanted to, but what’s the cost, right? Like what am I giving up in terms of my lifestyle in order to do that?

I think when we get into leadership conferences or we talk with other entrepreneurs, we talk about the KPIs and the metrics and the sales figures and all that stuff. But oftentimes we don't talk necessarily about what's the livestock cost. What is the other side of that coin? And I think for me, it just wasn't worth it to do it alone.

And that was the point when I said, okay, it's time to find a strategic partnership. And that's what sent me on that journey. And it's funny because it didn't happen for two years, right? Like I started it and I thought about it and I marinated on it. I think at the time you were like, Hey, there's some things you work on.

And then two years later, I was like, hey, I worked on these things. What do you think? And then the conversation continued from there.

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Jason: Yeah, I always, I tell agencies the ones that have visions for possibly selling because too, like if you get to a certain point and you may not want to sell. It's not right for everyone. And sometimes Thomas and everybody at Republix gets mad at me cause I'll talk people out of it sometimes. But like you shouldn't sell, you got everything you want.

And then sometimes the other people were like, no, I want to take chips off the table. I want to sell, I want to do other things. I want to have a life after selling the agency. And I'm like, okay, cool. And I'm glad that you came back because I always tell people, start relationships with the people now that you think could buy you later on.

And right? Like we talked two years prior and then we were able to, you know, strike up a deal, and I'm so excited that we were able to do that. And too many people think about, well, I'll sell when things are bad. I'm like, no, no, no. You're not going to get what you want. You're not going to be happy afterward. Cause it has to work for both parties.

Sell when things are really good.

Roy: [00:11:42] Yeah, totally. Yeah. And it was interesting, I liked what you said about relationships because I did explore, you know, going the broker route and people had approached me over the years with that, uh, let me just entertain some of these conversations, but there wasn't that like relationship aspect, it was very transactional in a sense.

And at that point, I was like, wait a second. I got to reach back to Jason. Cause we had a conversation about this before. Like I actually kinda forgot because I, you know, there's all these other opportunities coming down the pipeline and then it just so happened that it was the relationship-based connection that ended up working out, right?

Jason: [00:12:16] Yeah. I mean, that's what I tell everybody is like your net worth is what your network is. You know, and the people that you know, and you hang out that you trust and they trust you. I mean, that's why we've been doing the mastermind for so long. It's about getting the right people around so you can create those relationships over time.

What surprised you going through the acquisition? Was there anything that surprised you?

Roy: [00:12:43] Oh, for sure. Yeah. It was a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be, right? Like, I know you had prepared me with a couple of kind of points about this is going to be a lot of cows. And of course, Thomas and the team at Republix, they've been through it a million times and so they knew what was going to happen.

Like they're preparing me, like it's going to get busy, but it's very challenging to switch the hat between all of these corporate finance and other aspects of your business that perhaps, I mean, some industry leaders and agency owners might know that stuff really well, some don't and they leave it to their bookkeeping and accounting team.

I think it's wise to have a breadth of knowledge across all of those disciplines, right? But to the extent of like doing the deal, managing lawyers, managing accountants, and then in a very active way, more so than you would normally running your business. And then on top of that, running your business, right? It became pretty challenging. So it was, I knew that it was going to be weighty, I mean, it's such a deeply personal decision that you make.

So there's that, that's the other component like there's this emotional attachment to going through this process and then you're like doubting yourself or like is this the right time? Should I be doing this and that? And then there's negotiating aspects.

This is all these emotions that are happening, right?

Jason: [00:14:05] It's my baby. How can I sell my baby?

Roy: [00:14:09] It’s my baby, how can I…? And then you have people saying you shouldn't sell this and other people be like, oh, you should totally do it, that's amazing, right? So I think what I wasn't prepared for was the emotional rollercoaster that I was going to go through with that.

But in the end, what happened was, you know, luckily that it was a, I could see it through like this, this, this storm and on the other side of this storm is the breakthrough and the completion, and then it kind of winds down. So I think for any agency owner, that's thinking about selling, there is that storm you're going to, it's going to get tougher. It's going to get busy. You're going to go through the storm and then you will eventually come out that other side.

Even if you don't sell the business, you learn a ton of about your business along the way.

Jason: [00:14:48] Why tell people…? Cause there's lots of people that reach out and be like, oh, we want to buy you. And then they right they’re, they're scumbags. But I say like for legit people, you should go through the process because like you said, Roy, you're going to learn a ton. And then you're going to really know, because I went through it a couple times before we actually sold in order to learn more about like, what do they need?

So then when we finally did go through it for real, we had everything like, here it is, here it is. Boom, boom, boom. There is still that emotional roller coaster. I think I flipped a coin to decide if I was going to do it or not. Like, literally it was like 50, 50. It all worked out really well.

What was the turning point for you? Because you know, you're going ups and down. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. What was the turning point for you when you were like, all right, I'll do it? And how close was it to the close? Was it like the night before?

Roy: [00:15:44] Yeah. Like if you talk to Thomas, he'll say, yeah, this is one of the, the more messy negotiations that we had gone through because there was just so much back and forth and, you know, I was really fighting to have peace with the deal.

So I was fighting for things that I wasn't necessarily happy with upfront, but, you know, I prayed through it. I'm a man of faith and that was one thing that Thomas and I really connected on was, you know, that spiritual component, but praying through it a lot was really important for me. But I think at the same time, the turning point was some of the things that were happening in the periphery of my life at that time.

And in the periphery, like the business metrics made sense, everything lined up. I love the guys at Republix. I was really connecting with them. All of those things lined up and I have kind of like a laundry list of things that I think any person that's selling their business should check off in doing any deal.

But the real pivot for me was things that were happening around me. Like, my son, more of it, but a good friend and his brother passed suddenly, you know, like that was huge. Like, again, I'll go back to the things like cost, and this is just my own experience around, like, what was the cost? What is the cost? Cause everything has a cost. There's a, there's an upside, but there's a cost to getting that.

And so for me, it was really like those periphery things that had me say, okay, you know what? I think life is pointing me in this direction to do this because I want to free up myself to be more present as a father, more present as a husband, kickstart some things that I, uh, ventures that I've wanted to do just haven't had time to do.

So all those like soft lifestyle components really had an impact. I think it's just important to consider that iike for me anyways, it was one of the biggest transactions I'd ever have to do from a business perspective. It's not just about the money, you know? It's what are you gaining from this?

And if it's equitable on both sides, then it makes sense. It should make sense, right? Because if you just think about the money part of it, you might make a decision that you regret later, right? You have to really be happy with the deal at the end of the day. And I think for people that are chasing the money, they might be unhappy because they'll sacrifice like working with a buyer who you don't really like, but they gave you the best offer.

And that's not always the best decision to make when you're doing the deal. You got to really like the people you're going to work with because you're going to continue, hopefully, to work with them. So it's just those kinds of factors that kept it in my decision-making process.

Jason: [00:18:07] What's life like now?

Roy: [00:18:09] You know what? Nothing's really changed other than I just feel more at peace with everything. You can relate to this, like being in leadership, being an owner of a business and in leadership position is a pretty isolating lonely place because, I mean, even your spouse may not be able to understand truly what you're going through unless they were, uh, agency leader or owner before.

And so I think for me, I needed that sense of community and I needed a team of people to bounce these agency's specific leadership, specific ideas off of, and being a part of our Republix has provided that.

I still run the business on a day-to-day. That was really key, I think, for our communication to clients and the staff that I still be at the helm, and that's still part of the plan. So at least from a day-to-day, it hasn't really changed, but the weightiness of full ownership has lifted. And that's actually freed me up to be more open and be more inspired.

And you think even bigger than before, you know, like we're now joint, doing joint pitches with other agencies to bigger clients that we didn't have access to before, on one hand. And even clients that we did have access to do have access to, we can pitch better ideas.

So that's, for me, such a huge accomplishment, not only in building a business from nothing to where it is today, where, like you say, most businesses think about selling when they're on the downspout and then they go bankrupt, right? Like 80% of businesses fail. So we're in that small margin of businesses that have been successful.

So that's a huge accomplishment for me. And I'm kind of walking around with a little extra pep in my step, having achieved that and now scaling the team and growing the business in a way that I feel really confident that we can set it up for the next 10 years of growth.

Jason: [00:20:03] Yeah. And when you have that pressure off, you're not really worrying about money anymore. You can make decisions based on just what you feel rather than, oh, I need to take this deal.

And what people don't realize is when you actually start making that switch… If you did that in the very beginning, you would have grown five times as fast, and everybody always thinks they're were like, you guys have money. So it's easy for you guys to say that, but you know, looking back, if I could tell myself again on that, I'd be like, dude, start with that from day one.

And you know, in the very beginning it might be a little tougher, but later on, it'd be that much.

Roy: [00:20:45] Yeah. You know, like, I, I, at least for us, like we have pre, we have pretty good margins for the last 10 years. Like w like, as a corporation, we'd never had real money issues, like we didn't have debt. We operated in, you know, with a 45, 50% margin.

So decision making around money for the business was never an issue. I think for me personally as well, it wasn't necessarily the money that makes me, cause you know, when you get a liquidity event like that, you have all kinds of other problems after that, right? Like, so…

Jason: [00:21:14] Lots of cousins coming out of the woodworks.

Roy: [00:21:16] Yeah, right? Yeah. Yeah. Ray Ray from way back in the day who you haven't talked to in 20 years or, you know, like, or just managing it at all, it poses other situations. But I think it's, you know, there's something unique about calling yourself, the singular owner, where every decision comes down to you. And again, nothing's changed. I'm still making every decision.

Like Republic's is really great that way in the sense that they really want you to work autonomously, but at the same time have be part of this bigger vision. So I'm still managing the business, but there's just this underlying weight of that's been lifted because you feel like you have support, right?

There's other people who have been through this a million times that know what you're going through, as opposed to like, boy, I feel like I'm really just kind of going through this on my own and no one really understands. And so that part of it was really huge for me.

Jason: [00:22:09] Awesome. Last question, if you had a billboard and you could put anything on it, what would it be? What would it say?

Roy: [00:22:18] Oh, that's great. That's great. I love that question. Uh, it would be this: Take your passions with you.

Jason: [00:22:25] I like that.

Roy: [00:22:26] What I mean by that is a lot of people get caught up in thinking, I gotta find my passion, I gotta find my passion. And passion often gets related to what do you do? Which isn't necessarily what your passion is. It's who you are.

And that thing can be taken with you to whatever it is you're doing in the moment. Whether that's, you're a problem solver, whether that's your, you want to make a human connection, whether you want to give to people, whether you want to build people up, whether you want to, it doesn't matter what it is. Just know that you can take it with you wherever you go.

I took what I do in the music industry to digital marketing to help orthodontists and dentists, you know, like it's just, there's nothing correlated other than what my passion is to solve problems. And that was my billboard. That's what it would it be.

Jason: [00:23:18] I love it. I love it. What's the website people go and check out the agency outside of Republix?

Roy: [00:23:24] Sure. Yeah. It's noodlewavemedia.com. Noodle like as a bowl of noodles, wave, wave media.com. I would say that.

Jason: [00:23:32] Awesome, man. Well, Roy, thanks so much for coming on the show.

And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe, make sure you comment. And, uh, if you want to be around other amazing agency owners where we can see the things that you might not be able to see, because just like Roy was saying, like it's very isolating making your own decisions and maybe you wanted some help with that. I'd love to invite all of you to go check out digitalagencyelite.com.

This is our exclusive mastermind for very experienced agency owners. Go there now, and until next time have a Swenk day.


Quinn Zeda had been running an agency for six years when she decided to start from scratch and focus on conversion rate optimization with Conversion Crimes. She and her team help clients identify mistakes in their website’s design, messaging, and navigation that is stealing revenue from under their nose. Quinn is really big on user-testing and customer research. In her interview with Jason, she explained the roadmap strategy she implemented to get the type of projects she could execute the way she wanted to, how this strategy helped her slowly educate customers on why they needed much more than just a website, and how she learned to appreciate the importance of systems and operations.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. The roadmap strategy. When she first started her agency, Quinn was charging $1,000 for a website. One of her frustrations was with those $1,000 - $2,000 projects was that she could never execute them in the way that she wanted to. To be able to deliver the results that she knew she could, without scaring clients off with a $180K budget, she started with a 10K retainer presented as a roadmap of things she could accomplish for the company. After a couple of months, clients were seeing some really incredible results and excited to go on to phase two.
  2. More than a website. Creating her roadmap strategy was a great way for clients to understand that they were not paying $250,000 for a website. It may be what they thought they needed, but going step by step and getting them to approve a foot in the door project Quinn was able to educate her clients to see that they needed much more. They would gather information on who their most profitable customer was and who was draining their teams of resources and, with those insights, create a plan of action for the branding, the marketing, and the strategy.
  3. The importance of SOPs. Once you start bringing in more customers you need to make sure operations run smoothly, especially with the new hires you will probably need. Quinn acknowledges she didn’t really see the importance of systems, processes, and SOPs and the value they brought to the business when she first started her agency. It was only after her team started documenting some of these processes, even if it was in a very basic way at the beginning, and gradually became more detailed that she saw it was really a game-changer that saved them a lot of time.

Sponsors and Resources

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

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Raising Prices With a Roadmap Strategy and Why SOPs Are a Game-changer

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Quinn. Welcome to the show.

Quinn: [00:00:04] Hey, thanks for having me, Jason.

Jason: [00:00:06] Yeah. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and, uh, tell us a little bit about the agency that you started.

Quinn: [00:00:12] Yeah, so my name is Quinn Zeda. I started freelancing right out of college, which then turned into too much work than I could handle. I started hiring more freelancers, which then kind of morphed into an agency where I started then kind of hiring my first full-time employees that were like really dedicated to me.

And after running the agency for a few years, maybe five or six years on, then I shut it down and now I run a startup, um, Conversion Crimes, which is like a user testing SaaS.

And yeah, when I ran the agency, we were doing user experience, conversion rate optimization really focused on helping basically businesses around the one to 5 million mark scale. You know, people kind of get a business to a certain point. They reach a glass ceiling and they kind of duct-taped everything together. They found product-market fit. They started making their money and they're like, yeah, but now like what we built doesn't represent who we are anymore. So we come in and kind of restructure that. So…

Jason: [00:01:15] Very cool. And what was the biggest accomplishment that you had at the agency before you closed it down and why?

Quinn: [00:01:25] Yeah, the biggest accomplishment, I think, was kind of really getting with the value-based pricing that we went on. So when I first started, I was charging like a thousand dollars for a website and I ended at a quarter of a million for a website.

So originally, like when I started that, it was like, this client is like a thousand. The next one was 2,000. The next one was 4,000. Then at 8,000, I just kept doubling it every time I would send a proposal out. Granted, the deliverables definitely changed from each one of those jumps and kind of gave me more resources to get more clarity on the kind of projects that we wanted to do. And then I went from like 20K to like 180K and jumped.

So I'm super proud of being able to pull that off and then also getting an alignment with what I actually wanted from the business and the work that I really wanted to do. So one of my like biggest frustrations and like these like thousand or $2,000 projects was that I could never really execute them in the way that I wanted to.

Like, I would see all these things I wanted to do, but of course their budget is 2K. So I'm not going to do like months of work for like 2K and really getting that in alignment with what I wanted to actually deliver and add value and to have pulled that off. So it was like super, super stoked about that.

Jason: [00:02:57] What was the changing point or what made you change from, I think you were saying it was like 20,000 to 180. So that was a big jump. So, what happened?

Quinn: [00:03:08] Yeah. So the first one kind of ended up a little bit kind of in my lap, right? So I didn't really kind of go out and pitch that I'm going to sell that for 180 or what have you. It started out as a retainer where we, I like had this roadmap of things I wanted to accomplish for this business, and I couldn't really sell them on that yet. One, I hadn't proven myself yet. I couldn't really articulate the value. And it was also like out of their price range, right?

So what I did was it was like, okay, I'm going to do this first project for these like couple of months for this much retainer each month. I think it was like $10K or something like that, and then I'm going to get a result that's going to pay for the next phase. And this is the next phase that we're going to do of this project. And in that, I was able to get some really incredible results for the clients. So then they were like, okay, let's do the next phase.

And then when I got that one, I was like, okay, let’s do the next phase. And then it ended up being my end goal, right? So yeah, it was a really cool kind of process. Then after that I kind of figured out like, okay, if I did it this way, how can I repeat that was like kind of giving them the end result?

So that's when I kind of implemented this roadmapping strategy. Where instead of selling them on like this $200K project or whatever, sold them on a 10K roadmap of which I would just outline the project that I was going to do. Here's the thing, and this is the price. So that's kind of how that transitioned.

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Online Training for Digital AgenciesJason: Yeah, I like it. You know, it follows a methodology that I teach a lot of agencies have going sell them a foot in the door, which is basically a strategy, right? Of like, here's everything that we're going to do, and then figure out how long it takes in order for them to start seeing some results. And then it can transition to a monster, you know, engagement, you know, after. And a lot of people just don't figure that out.

You know, when I went from the $20,000 websites to the $80,000 websites and beyond it wasn't as graceful as that. It was more about this asshole, literally, I didn't want to say no to this asshole. And I literally was like $80,000, thinking he would just go away. And he said, yes.

And then I realized psychologically... Yeah. I was like, shit. Psychologically, I realized I was like, well, other people, this idiot would say it let's find some really good people that we can do really good work with, but I like your story better.

 

Quinn: [00:06:49] Yeah. And it's, I kind of had like the same thing as well. It's like, oh, I saw one person one time. Like, there's gotta be another person out there that would do this because we had a very unique kind of product that we were doing that was different than other agencies. We did a complete transformation because we were really experts in a lot of those different things.

We were able to cohesively pull it together where I think a lot of agencies can't and I also sold them on, like, you're getting our full attention. We only get, we're only doing one major project at a time. So you're getting our team's focus because the kind of work that went into that was like, really this deep work and you can't manage like five clients at the same time. At least I couldn’t.

Jason: [00:07:33] Yeah, exactly. So what were some of the details that go into it? Cause some people are like holy cow, $250,000 for a website. It's not just a website, right? Like it's strategy, it's research, like talk a little bit about everything that goes into it.

Quinn: [00:07:47] Yeah. So, um, I'm really big on customer research and stuff like that. So a lot of these businesses, they just kind of found product market fit through whatever reason, but then they didn't know who their most profitable customer was. They didn't know like who was like draining their teams of resources and stuff.

So we would actually go in, we would interview their team. We would interview all their different customer segments. We would go through their analytics, we would do user testing and we would kind of come up with a… we'd spend, like the projects were in general were like eight months long.

And so we'd spend like the first three months just going through all of that, getting all the data, making these like reports on them kind of putting all this stuff together and then kind of looking at all of it and being like, okay, this is your most profitable customer, but we're not even speaking to them on the website or we'd find out that people were coming in to the website, but then they were losing them on their backend operations. So they would get a lead in, but then it would take a week to get like their first like class scheduled or something like that, right?

And so it was like, okay. And we would also go into operations and help them. Um, cause that's part of, like you say, website conversion rate optimization, right? But it's also, you have to be able to deliver on the back end.

So sometimes we help them kind of restructure a little with their team. And then we would take all these insights and we create a plan of action and we would make outlines for sales copy, what kind of things are needed, and then kind of turn it into a final product.

So that's like the branding, the marketing, the strategy, kind of really a whole business overhaul. But how I got that lead in was a website. They're like, oh, we need a website. And it's like, well, no, you more than the website. You need to understand where you're taking the business if you want to grow your business. That's like the underlying goal here, right? It's not just about a pretty website with a cool logo.

Jason: [00:09:50] Yeah. You know, we always use the website as the end because people would be like, oh, I need a website. Well, why do you need a website? Oh, my competitor just redesigned theirs. Well, no. And yeah, if, if that's all you need go to a particular, you know, template ID site and you can get. Uh, website, you know, just pick a theme and you can do that versus if you really want results, then we can look at it a different way.

And I, I liked your process and analysis of everything that you went through. Cause I bet when you're explaining that to the prospect, they're like, oh yeah. And it separates you from everyone else. Did you find that?

Quinn: [00:10:33] Yeah. Yeah. And that's a big reason why we started with the roadmap because if I was going to like tell them those things or try to sell them on those things, they didn't believe me really at first, but if I can sell them on a roadmap for the website, and like kind of put those things in there and didn't tell them about it and they're like, oh yeah, that makes total sense. We can't just increase the leads on our website because we're losing them here.

So it would make no sense to invest there and not invest here. And nobody else really would point that out to them. So I had to kind of like weasel it in. If that makes sense.

Jason: [00:11:06] Yeah, no, exactly. Well, you know, what you're doing is you're educating them. You know, they came to you for a particular, something that they thought they wanted and you educated them. And then like, well, this is the process and it just, there was literally no, probably other choice that they had, you know, after you explained that. So that's, that's amazing.

Is there anything else? I mean, this has all been amazing and I always like to keep these short, like I was telling you just so people can really hear it and go, oh man, I need to make this simple if I'm just designing websites or if I'm just doing SEO or pay-per-click or whatever your particular services, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think if you were listening this show back when you were, you know, getting going that you would want to know?

Quinn: [00:11:53] I think in the beginning, I didn't really understand the importance of systems and processes and SOPs and stuff like that and how valuable they were to the business. So as like an agency owner, there are tons of processes that happen and even though what we were doing this like huge project that was very custom-tailored to the client, there is still a repeatable creative process in that.

And so every time we had someone do something, I had them like document it and start to make these SOPs. And they started out like really primitive, like, here's the 10 steps I'm going to do. I'm going to analyze analytics. Then I'm going to like put that data in a spreadsheet and then I'm going to like something super simple like that.

But the next time it's like, oh, I'm adding screenshots. I'm adding the step-by-step about what that means to add the data to the Excel sheet or what have you. And this has like saved me so much time when I'm, I never really created and SOP in my life, but my team has created though. And it's like, when someone else comes in or something, it's like, now I'm just like, oh, here's the SOP. Boom.

And I didn't really understand the importance of creating those in the in the beginning, but they've been game-changing for my business overall.

Jason: [00:13:17] I love it. I love it. What's the website, what's the SAS website people can go and check you guys out?

Quinn: [00:13:23] Yeah. So my SAS website is conversioncrimes.com. If you want to check out the old agency site it’s zedalabs.com Z E D.

Aand uh, let's see, like Twitter it’s just my name Quinn Zeda. I think I'm like the only one. So that's pretty easy.

Jason: [00:13:38] That is easy. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show and, uh, I wish you the best of luck. And for everyone that listened, if you want to be around other agency owners that can share the things that are working for them and be able to, hopefully, be able to see the things you might not be able to see. I'd love to invite all of you to go to the digitalagencyelite.com.

Apply and if we think you're right for the mastermind and we can help you out, we'll have a conversation. So go do that now and until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Are you thinking of adding funny videos to your sales strategy? This eight-step framework may be just what you need to create successful sales videos. Joseph Wilkins has been creating sales videos since the half-hour infomercials that appear on TV. When his clients stopped getting the results they used to, he knew it was time to change spaces and switched to making videos for social media with his agency FunnySalesVideos.com. In his interview with Jason, he explains his eight-step framework to making successful sales videos, the process to make a solid video script, why you want professional comedians and actors involved in the process, and why you should never prioritize the comedy over the sale.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Eight steps to making funny sales videos. Joseph has been producing funny videos that sell for many years and has developed a list of eight steps that have worked for him and that will surely serve as a very good framework for anyone that wants to create these types of videos. These steps take you from really understanding who your audience is before even starting to think about ideas for the videos, getting in the habit of writing down at least 50 bad ideas before thinking about the ones that could actually work, the process of making a script that works and adding the comedy punch, hiring the rights talent, and more. And that’s just 50% of the process.
  2. You’re not trying to make the funniest videos. When it comes to videos like these, and as Daniel Harmon when he spoke with Jason about video ads, remember that you’re not trying to create a video that is just funny. You're looking to create a video that creates sales. The comedy has to support the sale. If it doesn’t, if it distracts from your main objective, then you should cut it out. “Some of the funniest jokes never end up in the video,” Joseph confirms. This is why the creative director will always have to push to get a video that is different and new for the brand, while also being laser-focused on the sales aspect.
  3. On agency owners appearing in these videos. “Don’t do it!” Joseph puts a lot of emphasis on this point. This kind of video is a top of funnel first impression video. You want to give it a good chance of grabbing the audience's attention and keeping it and getting them to click into your funnel. It’s not completely out of the question for the company CEO to appear on a video at a later point in time, but always keep in mind they should not be the comic relief. Comedy takes true skill and Joseph prefers to leave it to the pros.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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Leave The Comedy To The Pros & Follow These 8 Steps Funny Sales Videos

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing episode and guest where we're going to talk about how to create funny sales videos that don't seem salesy that really get people's attention and convert. So let's go ahead and jump into the show.

Hey, Joseph. Welcome to the show.

Joseph: [00:00:24] Thanks, Jason, it's good to be here.

Jason: [00:00:25] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and tell us a little bit about your agency.

Joseph: [00:00:30] Sure. So I own FunnySalesVideos.com, which is kind of a recent breaker or rebrand to my original agency, which was Procreative.

For 20 years we've produced videos that sell, and I'll give you a quick background. We started primarily in television. So back in the day, our very first project, we were focusing on infomercials. So, you know, those huge 30 minute long infomercials that people would find in the middle of the night flipping through their channels.

Our very first project did over $200 million in sales and that kind of got us hooked and for the next 15 years that was our main focus, was television. But as you and I well know the way that people watch television, if they even do anymore, has dramatically changed in the past decade or two.

And so about five years ago after producing, you know, tons and tons and tons of TV commercials, infomercials and web videos and we'd work for, you know, some of the biggest brands on the planet, Google, LinkedIn, Chevrolet, McDonald's, um, we're a very small boutique agency, but we like to pretend to be clients that we're not so that we can compete with the best of them.

But anyway, after about 15 years, our clients basically said we're not getting the results that we used to, you know, we're spending the same amount of money running the creative we're spending sometimes even more for the media buying because it wasn't getting any cheaper, but the results just weren't there because the eyeballs weren't there anymore.

And so our clients started saying, what can we do to get back to the results that we used to get? You know, the return on broadcast ad spend that we used to, to see. And about the same time is when the Harmon Brothers, uh, launched their mentorship program.

For many years we had kind of watched them and they're actually just down the road from us here in Utah. And, uh, you know, I watched everything that they had been doing with the Squatty Potty, with, uh, Poo-Pourri, Purple Mattress, Chatbooks, Fiber Fix. And, uh, right when they launched their mentorship program, it was kind of a perfect time for us to pivot and really decide is this the new vehicle, that's going to get us the returns that we used to get?

And I'll just give you a couple of quick case studies and then we can talk about something else. But before we launched Funny Sales Videos, you know, when clients would call us and say, hey, we saw this really funny video. We want to do a viral video. We would say, sorry, we don´t do that.

Whenever people asked for that elusive thing that they think is just push a button and you'll get a viral video. But we don't do funny because frankly, the worst thing that you can do is try to be funny and end up looking silly if you don't have the right people in the bus, as far as the scripting, as far as the acting, as far as the editing, you know, comedic timing, and we can talk about all of those in a minute.

But we don't want to do something unless we can do it fully a hundred percent. And that's kind of the missing piece that the Harmon Brothers helped test to figure out with their courses. And I, you know, I, I'm not an affiliate, but I always plug harmonbrothersuniversity.com to anyone that's looking to up their marketing skills, whether it's funny or not.

And so our very first video, when we launched finally sales videos with this new information that we had got, got over 7 million views, and more importantly, over a half a million dollars in subscriptions to a SAS service that was a very, very niche audience. And so we knew were on to something.

Fast forward to today, our biggest campaign is, I think, I got a chat with the client, I think we've hit a hundred million views and just millions of millions of dollars in revenue. So we kind of feel like we've come full circle back to our original days of just killing it on television, that there it's a whole new playbook to work online and also to use humor to essentially trick people into watching a video.

Jason: [00:04:51] Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah. I've had the Harmon Brothers on the show and, and had a lot of fun chatting with them. And I even worked with people in the past that have been on those Squatty Potties and that kind of stuff… not in the videos. In producing the videos not, not using the Squatty Potty. I don't think anybody would admit that.

I remember one of my buddies was like, well, before I get behind any video, I need to try it. And then he was like it works! So it was funny.

Let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about kind of the eight steps that you found that really works for your framework. What's the first one for someone creating a really good sales video?

Joseph: [00:05:37] Yeah. So we, uh, this is the ebook that anyone can download from our website funnysalesvideos.com. We basically just put it together because a lot of the time we’ll have clients that want to do a video and we only take on kind of two or three clients at a time.

So the very first step is, you know, it's marketing 101, it's understanding who your audience is, what their pain points are, creating as detailed customer avatar as possible. And again, your audience is more savvy than most, but a lot of people I tell them you never write a letter and then walk to the mailbox and decide before you put it in the mailbox who to address it to, but that's what a lot of people do when they sit down and they write these scripts, they just think about the product and they think about why did I start this company? Or why did I invent this product?

And unless you really do the homework to figure out who is your customer and what they already saying about your product? We get too caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid and, and an exercise that the Harmon Brothers taught us that everybody should do is go out and spend a good chunk of time reading through dozens and dozens and dozens of customer reviews.

Find out, what are people saying about your product? What do they like? What do they not like? What could you improve upon? Or what do you need to address in your marketing that will overcome the objections? You know, whether it's price, so you have to build a value proposition that, you know, yours is more valuable in the long run, or whatever it is, but really spend the time to identify the key selling points that cold traffic…

And these videos are top of funnel videos, right? So they're not that they're intended to convert cold traffic into clicks to your sales funnel. And so you've got to get them very quickly with the top-selling points. And then, if necessary, if there are objections that you've got to overcome, you know unanswered concerns never lead to a sale, so you've got to figure out what are your key selling points? What are any objections you need to overcome?

And then these kinds of videos when we launched them on number one comment that we look for, and frankly that we get very often, is I loved watching that video because that person just felt like me, or it felt like a friend or it felt, I want to be friends with that person.

Well that's because that person is you. We've stolen lines that you've written in your customer reviews and we've created a character that is so close to the customer avatar that it connects on a much, much deeper level.

And just a final thought, you know, some businesses will say, well, what if I don't have a hundred reviews to read through? Well, go and steal from competitors. Go read what other company’s clients are saying. If their products are close to yours, it's the same market.

So number one is just do your homework. Don't set pen to paper until you have a really solid understanding.

Jason: [00:08:41] Yeah. You know, I always tell agency owners that they have to have a real clear understanding of who their audience is and really in your marketing, it should be going after a specific audience.

And I really like what you were talking about overcoming objections, because that's a really good one. Like if you think about, when you're talking to your sales team and thinking of like, here are the objections. And like literally if you called them out and you were like, here are the objections and then like on the video, you're going to get their attention. So what’s number two?

Joseph: [00:09:10] Exactly. Okay, so number two is kind of the fun one that is harder to quantify, but it's the brainstorming. And what I always like to tell people is before you get scared, you know, thinking about a blank sheet of paper or an empty whiteboard or an empty Word document, I tell people your goal… And so this kind of video, we're looking for two things in the brainstorming phase, we're looking for number one, who's the character, the main character that this video is about?

And number two, what is the big problem that they are going to present in the video? And obviously your product or solution has to overcome and solve that problem. But you're got to get really creative and come up with crazy fun, irrelevant ideas.

I tell people come up with 50 bad ideas. Don't judge them. Don't filter them, get as many people into your brain, share as possible as you're brainstorming this. But you're looking for answer the two questions 50 times. Now people will say, that's, that's crazy. And I say, yes, it is. And that's part of the, the method is that bad ideas will lead to good ideas.

And if you don't put any judgment on it, it takes away the fear. And so we will literally sit down in, in my agency we'll do it virtually. We do it, we throw up a shared document and my writers will get into a document and it'll normally take us about a couple of weeks between four or five of us to just throw bad idea of the bad idea.

And then once you've got your 50 bad ideas, now you put on your, your serious thinking cap and you look at okay, which of these speaks to me? Which of these has the flavor of a fun story? And that's what you're looking for. Forget selling. Right now all you're interested in is hooking people's attention and getting them to watch past the first few seconds.

And so the more fun that character can be, the more bizarre that situation while still being intellectually relevant. It doesn't have to be literally relevant. I mean, there's no relevance in a magical unicorn that craps out ice cream, but it's relatable to the Squatty Potty because you can draw a parallel.

And so don't, you know, sometimes our videos are very, very, the customer avatar is the hero of the video. And sometimes it's a completely fictitious character that is still relatable to that customer avatar, but you really have to do the brainstorming to be able to arrive at what are the best ideas? And then as an agency owner, what I do is I present my best five ideas to the client.

So as an agency that's, that's what I would recommend. Don't give them the 50 bad ideas because they’ll think you're a terrible agency. Give them the five best ideas and sometimes the worst ideas on the paper to begin with will spark somebody else to say, well, that's bad, but actually what if we flipped that and come up, you know, you can get great ideas by going off on tangents.

So step two is brainstorming as many ideas as possible only worrying about those two things. Who's the character? And what’s the big problem?

Jason: [00:12:33] I really liked that, the brainstorming. And I liked that you said present, you know, the five best ideas that you have. Now, one of the things that I learned early on is don't tell people, be like, hey, we have incredible ideas for you. These are the best ideas we've ever come up with.

Because if the clients hate it, then they're going to be like, you're an idiot. And they're going to think you're a real bad agency going forward. So just always preface as, hey, we've got some from five ideas to go by. Don't get really Gung-ho for them because if they do shoot you down, that's fine. Then you can go off to the next one.

Joseph: [00:13:09] Yeah. So before I go on to three, just another power tip, you know, since your audience are agency owners primarily. Uh, along the lines of what you just said, what we do is when we present those five ideas to the client, we tell them here they are, they're not in any particular order. We're not going to show you all hand of which ones we like best until we get feedback from you.

And so you basically, you're trying to get the client to get ownership, right? If they pick the best idea… now, if there are five ideas and there's one that clearly you feel like is going to have the best success as an agency you're obliged to then share well, you had, that was good, but, you know, have you thought about, you know, this, this and this?

So yes. Yeah. There's politics when you dealing with clients as always. So anyway, step three is scripting. This is where the rubber meets the road. You're going to actually develop your script. Now, the first thing you do is go back to step one and look at your key selling points that you identified.

And most of the time, these videos are three to four minutes long for the long version. We do shorter versions, but the hero version, which incidentally, typically tests out the best when you're on a platform that allows longer versions, you can probably communicate three to five key selling points in that video, in that amount of time.

Now your most mentioned reason why people buy should be, you know, hit over the head multiple times in that video. So it's a prioritized list, but you take your key selling points. You take any objections, that becomes your marketing framework for the script. Then you take your character and the problem and you bring in a creative writer to create the story arc.

Now in my world, I use many many freelance creative writers and people would say, well, what if I don't have a really good writer that understands this kind of comedy? Well this step it's not funny. It's just a creative storyteller that you want to do this part of the scripting. We actually have 6, 7, 8 writers on every project that we produce.

And I'll talk more about that in a minute. So you basically take the story writer, the creative writer that takes the elements and build the story. And I always used Donald Miller’s story, is it StoryBrand? As a framework for how a good story should be written. So you got somebody who has a problem who meets a guide who shows them the solution, and then has the transformation that then shows how their world or their life is better because of that solution.

So that's the arc that we're trying to get. And we're also trying to call them to action. Now, once you've got your story, you also need to make sure that you spend a lot of time writing your big hook. That's the first five seconds of your video.

Nothing past that first five seconds matters if you don't create something that's attention-grabbing and the also works with the sound off, because 80% of people watching aren’t going to have the sound on. And we going to have to create visuals and titles and literally design in subtitles so that visually you're telling all of the story without the sound on.

And then, you know, the goal of that is to get people, to turn the sound on and peak their curiosity enough. So that's step three is writing the basic script. It's not funny, but it's fun, right? It's an entertaining story. And then step four, I bring in on every project, at least five professional comedy writers.

Now this is the difference between what I said earlier about how I used to say, I won't do a sales video because we don't have the talent to do that in-house. And so I spent a lot of time looking for good professional comedians. Now, how do your agency owners do that if they don't have any connections? Well, there are a lot of online freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork and other places where good comedy writers in their spare time write for other people, you know, freelances.

I also watch a lot of standup comedy and I'll reach out to people. I'll send them an email or I'll go to the website and talk to their agent and you'd be surprised at how affordable some, I, I won't tell you the names, but some people that you would recognize from big sitcoms, the lead writers. They apparently don't get paid enough because they still want to do freelance work on the side.

I also have guys that worked for me that work on cruise ships as comedians.

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Joseph: [00:19:17] Now you're asking to me to give away all of my secrets. I would say a decent rate is like a hundred bucks an hour. And… really, oh yeah. Yeah, well, maybe not to the, some of the higher-end ones. I paid a thousand dollars to the guy that I was mentioning that they worked for a bigger show. But you got to understand, you're not looking for them to write a script.

All I'm asking them to do is review a sprit that already exists. Comedians aren't good at writing. They're good at creating jokes, right? They're not good at writing stories. They're good at bits, right? Fragments. Punch up, that’s the technical term. When I reach out to a comedian, I say, hey, I've got a script it's fully written, I just need someone to punch it up with some jokes, add in some witty comedy, a word here, a word there, a line here, a line there. That's all you're looking for.

And normally, you know, an hour or two for comedian. And then when you do that with five different comedians and everyone's kind of in the virtual writer's room, seeing everyone else's comments, it's kind of like Saturday night live. That's how they do it. They lock everyone in a writer's room and the riff off each other. So I do that in a virtual environment. Does that make sense?

Jason: [00:20:31] I really like that. And I like how they're all going off and building on each other's work rather than going, oh, we have five comedians. They all submitted it. Which one do you like? And then you're trying to make it better.

I really liked that. That's my favorite part.

Joseph: [00:20:46] That could be difficult sometimes because, I'll just be honest, It's kind of serendipitous how the script evolves depending on which writer put their comments in first because everyone's building off the previous one and there's no real stretcher for that, but the chaos just kind of seems to work.

I don't know if that makes sense, but it's a front part of the process. Probably the most fun.

Jason: [00:21:09] Yeah. I think that would be a lot of fun. So what's the next step after this?

Joseph: [00:21:12] Okay. So just one more point on comedy. You're not looking to create a funny video. You're looking to create a video that creates sales. And so, because of that, some of the funniest jokes never end up in the video.

The comedy has to support the sale. If it's distracting from the sale, if it goes off on a tangent that doesn't advance the sale, if it's too edgy, too offensive, obviously it's going to get flagged on Facebook or, you know, Instagram. There are certain rules that you have to follow.

So, but the hard part of as a creative director, and that's what I do, I, I kind of am the one that reviews everyone's comments and decides which ones make the cut. My job is to protect the brand while still pushing it to be different than, than anything that they're done before. Cause that's why they're coming to us in the first place, but also number on my, I need to be laser-focused on the sale.

So just keep that in mind. You're not just looking for the funniest jokes, you're looking for things that will advance, the story. Number one, get them to stay watching. And then number two, get them to advance, to click through to your sales funnel.

Number five is production. Now you would think as a guy who has spent literally 20 years running a video production studio… I mean, if we were to go in the other room, I could show this huge studio with, you know, million dollars of crap, man, you would think that I would say the most important part production is getting the best cameras and the best lights and the right crew. Not true.

The number one thing about production is casting. Finding the right actor to be your hero, to guide them through this journey. The two most important parts of your video success are the script and the actor. Everything else you can literally shoot with your iPhone and get better results than me taking a million dollars and having a bad script and a bad actor.

And in today's world, the democratize video, you know, this 4k camera here. I would have died for this 20 years ago. So if there's no excuses anymore, people can produce great content. Now, how do I find the right actor? Well, you might be surprised to hear that for every actor, and I'm talking to hero actor. There are supporting actors and other extras in our videos, but there's really only one hero actor. I will look at over a hundred candidates before I select my actor.

Now some agency owners may not know this, but the process of casting and getting actors to audition cost you nothing but your time. Here’s how I do it. I'll go to two or three good acting agencies here in my town, depending on where you live, you'll have more or less.

I will go to those agencies and I'll give them a portion of the script. You don't want to give them the whole thing. it'll overwhelm an actor. Just give them a good chunk of the script, maybe three or four paragraphs. But also before I do that, I'll look at the demo reel. I'll look at their pictures and I'll pick out of those hundred. I'll probably pick 20 of them to send the script and ask the urgency to have them do self-taped auditions.

In the world of COVID, everyone has a setup right now. With the zoom recording, whether it's the foreign that laptop, just like we're doing right now. And so I'll get back about 20 videos that are prerecorded auditions from these actors.

Then I'm going to select my top three to five and I'm going to invite my client to a joint zoom session. A lot of the times I'll have the actor come into my studio, or sometimes I'll just have them stay at home and do it. But what I'm doing there is I'm looking to see how directable, how coachable are they? Can they do this line faster? Can they slow it down here? Can they put the emphasis on this word?

I'm looking for how do they respond to me as a director because anyone can do a really good audition with no pressure and do 20 takes and send the best one, but can they perform on the day? The other thing that I'm looking for is what do they add to the script that I haven't written? What spontaneity do they bring out while we're filming? Because during the production, your script should get better if you picked the right actor.

And I love to cast actors that have experience in comedy specifically improv so that they can add things and riff off of what I've written or what my team has written.

And so acting, I could spend hours just talking about that one subject, but the final thing I'll say about production is backing up to what I said earlier. Yes, everyone has an iPhone, but guess what? Every single other video on someone's Facebook feed or Instagram feed or on YouTube, every other video has been shot with their iPhone or with their, whatever smartphone. So if you want to stand out and be disruptive, you should hire the professionals.

And so having both the right script, the right actor and a team of really good film production company that really knows how to shoot things, that's just going to increase your results.

So that's step five, production. And again, I go into way more detail in my ebook on each of these things.

Jason: [00:26:48] Awesome. I love it. And one of the things I want to ask you, because a lot of times, especially with agencies, you know, I tell them you need to position yourself as that trusted advisor, right? The Yoda, the Obi-wan, right? Rather than the Luke Skywalker.

And in doing that, and if you're creating a video and then you hire an actor and they're like, oh, that was an actor that wasn't us. So what are your thoughts on an agency doing their own video and having one of them being in the video? Because you know, one of the things…

Joseph: [00:27:25] No. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

Jason: [00:27:28] Don’t do it?

Joseph: [00:27:29] No, for this… I have very strong opinions on this matter, so feel free to disregard, but these are my opinions. Marketing is like a salad. You should have all kinds of different ingredients. This kind of video that I'm talking about is a top-of-funnel first impression video. You want to give your very best chance of grabbing their attention and keeping their attention and getting them to click into your funnel.

Once they're in your funnel, by all means, throw at them other kinds of videos. CEO videos, customer testimonials, be in more videos for sure. But unless like the Dollar Shave Club guy, which a lot of people don't realize this, unless you are a trained comedian and have experience with acting, don't try to be funny because you'll end up looking silly.

That's what I've seen. Now I've seen this, the rules broken a couple of times well, but I can't tell you in the 20 years that I've been doing this, how many times I've had a CEO that says, I think I can act, we get into the studio and they suck.

Jason: [00:28:41] I get that. I get that.

Joseph: [00:28:43] So it's a very specific kind of skill. Comedy is the hardest thing for me.

Jason: [00:28:48] Yes. And I'm glad you preface that because I know a lot of people listening are thinking about, well, I want people to recognize me, but this is just to get their attention and then you can get them later on because you know, one of the things I always worried about, and I think they think about with putting all this together is…

You know, I think about with, um, what was the T-Mobile guy? Or let's say there's like, um, Fey, uh, Progressive Insurance. Let let's say she's like, you know, she's in all their videos and then let's say they don't like her anymore. Well, everyone associates progressive to Fey. And now they have to find a new spokesman and then it just gets harder.

But I'm glad you explained that. Cause I actually agree with that as well, because I've seen some really bad videos. Hell, people have tried to mock some of our videos that we've done and I'm like, that was really, really bad. Don't do that again.

Joseph: [00:29:43] Yes, yes. Now there is one place that I'll, I'll make an exception. If during this video you want to bring in someone, you know, very short clip that basically says, here's the dude who invented it.

And I've actually seen the Harmon Brothers do this pretty well with Lumē, their deodorant. They had some scientists expert who was somehow involved with the clinical trial and they burnt him in just as a start, like a second, you know, I'm the guy that's going to make some credibility here, but then they actually make fun of him in the video.

There's a way that you can do it if you really want the CEO to be in the video, but don't make them the comic relief in the sense that they're trying to be funny.

Jason: [00:30:31] Yup. Got it. What's the next step? What number are we on? Um, I've lost track of the numbers.

Joseph: [00:30:36] This is number six and the two after are a pretty quick. So we'll go quick cases. For step six, you've always heard the phrase comedy is about timing and when it comes to step six, which is editing, nothing could be more truthful. The difference between an editor who understands timing, especially comedic timing, and somebody that just knows how to edit is very different.

And so I'll give you an example, you know, we'll do film shoots and we'll do a line and the actor, and it's very well written and it's very well acted. But when we get into the edit, something’s just not working. The line doesn't hit the way that in our brains we thought it would and a good editor can simply put a cut here and punch from a wide shot to a close-up or take out a pause or overlap two sentences, or bring somebody else in quicker or even rearrange the entire sequence. And all of a sudden it works.

It's all about timing and it's also, you know, not a people back to the point I made earlier. A lot of people are surprised to hear our videos are three to four minutes long. They say people don't have the attention to watch those kinds of videos. And I say, uh, have you heard of Netflix?

They still put out two hour long videos and people are watching them. People don't stop watching the videos because they're long. They stop watching cause they suck. They stop watching because they're boring. They start watching because they're irrelevant.

And so, if your goal is to not make your video boring, you got to speed it up. It's got to be action packed from beginning to end. Our videos, the script feel more like five minutes when we read them. But when we filmed them and edit them so tight with taking out breaths, with speeding things up with, you know, literally over cutting people's sentences talking over each other. So that at no point in that video can you say, oh, that feels long, or that feels boring.

You still gonna get most people that don't watch it through to the end. In fact, the Harmon Brothers have said that only 5% of people that watch their videos make it through to the end. But 5% of a hundred million people is a whole lot of qualified people ready to click into your sales funnel.

So you've got an editor who knows how to keep it snappy and fast, people won't get bored. The other thing that we do is for most of our clients, depending on what package they go with, we deliver 32 different versions of the same video. Because what we're doing is we're giving them a whole bunch of data to test. You know, you've heard of AB split testing, well we do A through Z split testing.

We're going to create three totally different opening hooks. We're going to test which one gets watched through the most. We're going to create three different calls to action. We're going to test which one gets clicked on the most. We're going to do the long version. We're going to do the short versions. We're going to do the square versions for mobile. We're going to do the wide-screen versions for YouTube and for desktop.

So all of these variables so that it's not leaving things to chance. In our early days, it's kind of embarrassing to admit this, but even to this day our most successful video, then now has over 50 million views on one video. We didn't do this to, we just guessed and we were right. But guess what? We're seldom right every time.

And so what we like to do now is give our clients every single opportunity to test so that it's not gambling on one version, we're doing the split testing. So a good editor knows how to create all of those different versions. So that's step six.

Step seven we've already briefly touched on it, but it's the testing. And this might be the time to reveal the dirty secret that none of our videos organically went viral. That's not what it's about. This is about creating a video that where you spend a dollar on advertising, you get 2, 3, 4, or $5 in return. I explained it like a vending machine that's full of a hundred dollar bills and it costs $20 to use. How many times are you going to want to use that machine?

So understand that once you've produced this video, that's only 50% of the work. You've now got to build a dynamite sales funnel, and you've got to have a dynamite media buyer who understands how to buy Facebook, YouTube, you know, hopefully in step one, we've already identified who is your customer and where are they viewing online so that, you know, where you're most likely going to end up.

But having said that most of our videos they're fairly platform agnostic. We test them on YouTube. We test on Facebook. Test them on Instagram. So knowing that this is a conversion video, not a organically viral video.

Now organic views will come, maybe five to 10% of all views are organic because people love to share them and comment on them. And, you know, engagement is just through the roof on these kinds of videos. So we do get kind of a cherry on the top of the cake, but the cake is paid ads. So know that and plan for it. And budget for it.

Final step, I've already said it, it's don't think that this is going to be something that you going to put her or this work into a video, and then you’re just going to go famous overnight. That's no business model that I could predict, control, repeat. And we've heard about people that win the lottery and go broke, kind of liken it to companies that, you know, sometimes get a whole bunch of seed money and don't really know what to do with it.

In the world of video hits there are so many examples of companies that did have videos that went viral back in the old days, but where are they now? You want a repeatable controllable business that you can count on. And, you know, we have clients that have done 7, 8, 9 of these videos because every single time it's worked, it's given them that return.

It's not a flash in the pan and going through the steps is the best way to ensure that it will predictably bring those returns that your company needs or your clients need.

So those are my eight steps.

Jason: [00:37:13] I love it. I love the eight steps and they're so simple, and I'm glad you clarified on a lot of them because I can't tell you how many times I hear agencies I was like, we need to get more attention and we need to create a viral video. Or, and they're just, I'm like, there's so many different things that go into creating a successful video.

And I totally agree with you on all the steps. I mean, they're very well laid out and I'm glad you've built upon other people's framework for, from, you know, Donald's to the Harmon Brothers. Because when I look at growing our agency and growing the mastermind and seeing other agency owners, it's no one ever invents everything. It's always like, especially with your creative process, it's always just building on that.

And I really do appreciate that and that's why you guys are really successful.

Tell us, um, if people want to know more where can they go?

Joseph: [00:38:06] Real simple, funnysalesvideos.com. Take a look at some of the examples videos there, there's some case studies there, but most importantly, that's where you can download the free ebook that will give you that. And I should just add if, if you're looking to follow these steps to do it right, we won't take on a client until they understand this is going to take at least four months.

To go through all of these steps you got to take the time to do it right. Just want to make sure people understand this isn't the kind of thing that you don't want your clients calling up saying, hey, we need a video in a week. What kinds of videos can you produce? Hey, I've just heard this podcast. Maybe we'll try that. No, it's gotta be, it's got to take the time to get the results.

Jason: [00:38:49] Awesome. Well, I love it. And thanks so much for coming on the show. Make sure everyone to go to their website and check them out.

And if you guys want to be around other amazing agency owners, where you can build on what they've learned over their years of scaling and growing their agency faster, so you can do the same and really do it the right way and avoid some of the pain. You'll never avoid all the pain, but I'd love to invite all of you to go check out digital agency elite and, um, see a band, just check out the stories from the other mastermind members there of their growth and their success and what their life looks like now, rather than working around the clock and not enjoying what they're doing.

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

Direct download: 8_Steps_to_Create_Funny_Sales_Videos_For_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you struggling to retain employees? Do you know how to keep scaling without burning through talent? When Robert Glazer started Acceleration Partners, he always had a vision of working with an international team. Now, his agency, which is focused on managing partnership and affiliate programs for high-growth brands, has 300 employees in eight different countries. Robert joined Jason in this episode to talk about how he avoids burning through talent, how he trains his employees to ask why, and what he invested in to get beyond the referral stage.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Beyond the referral stage. Robert ran a referral-based agency for about 15 years. Of course, it couldn’t last forever and eventually, they started focusing more on sales and marketing so he and his partner would be less overwhelmed by the sales aspect. It’s a stage every agency will go through and they faced it by investing in leadership, having great marketing, and great delivery. In the end, they have exponential revenue growth from the time they started scaling the sales and marketing team and hired a fully integrated sales and marketing team.
  2. On not burning through talent. With an agency that has been in Glassdoor's best places to work, what have they focused on when building their culture? Robert says they always had a vision of working remotely with employees from different countries. They have also focused on offering a work environment where employees can grow professionally, which is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs. In the end, agency life is not for everyone, some will love its unpredictable nature and others won’t, but Robert made sure to create a culture that does not reward overworking employees unnecessarily and offers flexible hours.
  3. Asking why. On the subject of them not rewarding working extra hours with little results, Robert explains they have resorted to training employees to ask why. Why does the client need this data by tomorrow? Could this be solved any other way? Do they really need everything they think they need? “Don’t assume, because they're asking for something that it's the right thing or you can't explain to them the trade-off or explain the consequences,” he says.

Sponsors and Resources

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

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Scaling Your Agency Faster Without Burning Through Talent

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another great episode where we're going to talk about how you can scale your agency rapidly without burning through a ton of talent, because all of us have been going through and going, how do we keep employees and how do we find the right talent?

And on today's episode, I have a guest that's going to talk exactly about that, that's done this. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.

Hey, Robert, welcome to the show.

Robert: [00:00:32] Thanks for having me, Jason.

Jason: [00:00:33] Yeah. So tell us who you are and what you do.

Robert: [00:00:36] Uh, yeah, I'm Bob Glazer. I'm the founder and the chairman of the board of Acceleration Partners. Acceleration Partners is the largest global independent agency focused on managing partnership and affiliate programs for well-known and high-growth brands.

Uh, we have almost 200 clients and, uh, I think, uh, getting close to 300 employees across eight countries and we manage programs across 25 different countries.

Jason: [00:01:02] Very cool. And so how did you start the agency? What made you fall into this?

Robert: [00:01:08] Uh, like most agency owners… No, I don't know anyone who started the agency intentionally. I just, you know, I started doing some work in the affiliate space.

I found a lot of problems with it. I started helping a company fix its program. Uh, that company ended up being a huge success. It was called Tiny Prints. Sold them to Shutterfly for $300 million.

People then spread out from that and start saying, hey, can we do that thing that you helped us with there? And then I couldn't do enough of those. So I hired some people, so, and sort of the rest was history from there. So we were very, for years, just all referral-based, uh, word of mouth, you know, 15 years. It's really in the last five years that we've had kind of sales and marketing a little bit before.

Jason: [00:01:47] So, what were some of the stages that you went through, you know, in order, like, obviously go through the referral stage, right? And you only can get to a certain plateau. And I feel a lot of people listening to the show right now, you know, are at that level, right. They're kind of plateaued, you know, it could be at 5 million, 10 million, whatever it is, they're plateaued, but you have to do something different.

What were the things that you guys did different?

Robert: [00:02:10] We invested a lot in thought leadership, content marketing. We wrote a book that was the first in our industry called Performance Partnerships. So we really focused on having great… someone sent me the barbell strategy, having great marketing, having great delivery, which drove the word of mouth.

Eventually, though, you know, we were like, look, we don't want to sell or need to sell. Eventually, myself and Matt who is now CEO who is the VP of client services, we're just handling sales calls all day. So even if they were inbound, right, then you had to talk to these people. And we were, you know, the people that called us, we answered the phone, but we weren't following up with them and checking in and the things that you need to do to keep, uh, a sales pipeline moving.

So eventually we started to acquiesce. It was like, look, even if we don't want to be cold calling people like this is a lot of, I find, to manage. But from the time we started scaling the sales and marketing team and now with a fully integrated sales and marketing team, I mean, we will, we will sell more this year revenue than we did in our for… Our revenue growth this year will be more than our first 10 years, right? Combined.

So it takes a while to get those pieces working. You can go either way. Again, it depends on the type of business you want to build. I wanted to establish our marketing before our sales, like, get the demand going, but, you know, I've seen the opposite approach work too where you get account development and people calling and doing that.

We had a really good referral pipeline and we thought that that thought leadership would also help on the conversion of, you know, the people who are examining us.

Jason: [00:03:39] Gotcha. So what have you seen work to allow you to scale rapidly without burning through talent?

Robert: [00:03:45] Yeah, look, it's hard in this business. Paradoxically, I would say, you know, we, we started by sort of in the premise, you know, five or 10 years ago that people aren't gonna stay here forever and turning that into sort of an open conversation and, you know, having a productive alumni group. But we've, we've actually always been remote. We focused on having sort of a world-class, uh, culture.

We spent a lot of time and energy on our culture have been in Glassdoor's best places to work a few years. And look, agency life is not for everyone, but what's interesting is people who come here from other agencies really say to us, this is really different.

Some people are a lot of people, realize agency is not right for them. Maybe that's not the work that they want. So we've done a lot to really screen the type of person who likes that fast growth, high pace. You are serving clients. If you don't like client service, probably not a great role, but they like the kind of unpredictability and working on something new and different.

I think that the biggest thing that keeps your talent around is investing in your talent and helping them grow and develop. That's one of the reasons we are a growth firm and that growth has allowed for, you know, I think we've had 87 seven promotions last year or something like that, you know, across our team.

So for people to see that, oh, that person started associate and manager and now they are a director or VP. And that, that path is available to them. I think these days people leave for two reasons. They don't, they don't like their manager, maybe three reasons, they don't like what they're doing or they just don't, they're not growing or don't see a path for them.

I don't think anyone here is blocked. I mean, that's one of the nice things. If you go up 30% a year for a while, as we have, there's just new roles available every year. No, no one is blocked on their development path.

Jason: [00:05:31] So when someone joins from another agency, what do they say it's different?

Robert: [00:05:35] I think that… look, there's an interesting expectation gap. I actually think the last year has really shown some almost generational gaps in the workplace. We didn't see it before, you know, for better, for worse. I think some gen Z or people coming out now, I mean, they just, they think a 35 hour or 40 workweek is, is a work. That's the workweek and the expectation isn't above that.

Some people want to learn and be exposed to a lot of things and understand that they're going to have to do that. But I think the biggest difference… so, so look there's times when there's a lot of work or whatever proposal was due and clients are, but we generally want to solve these problems. We generally don't want people, they don't work weekends. They don't work nights.

And so what I've heard people express is at other agencies, people just didn't care if I was working 18 hours a day and they didn't care if I was burnt out or work weekends. They're like, no one wants that here. No, one's asking me to do that. But again, I think we all have to be honest, and this is the nature of the business. Sometimes if there's a million-dollar proposal and the client wants it on a Monday morning, someone's probably going to be working on that on a Sunday night.

Like I, I, to me, that's the trade-off of flexibility. The other side is you want to go watch your kid's soccer game on a Friday afternoon? Like you can do like awesome. Go do that.

So I think that's the biggest difference is people feel really supported. We are not celebrating. We actually talk culturally, we celebrate work performance, marketing, and we get paid how well these programs do. So we talk culturally about, we don't reward working hard. We reward working smart.

I've seen people work a hundred hours a week and not get a lot done and really exhaust themselves and those around them. So I think that's the difference. If you haven't worked in an agency before, agency life can feel different. If you have, I think there's some ones who… again, it's a badge of honor to pull it all night, or I don't think anyone's ever done that in history of our company.

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Well, I mean, there's lots of people out there that talk about how much they work and how much they hustle. And that's really all they do. And that's perfectly fine for them. But I know when I'm working with agencies and I know when I'm running this business or the other agency, it's like, look, I want to do it smart.

I want to be able to maintain, to take off Monday and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and only work Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That's what I want. And then you have to figure that out. Like in our mastermind, we were chatting at the end of the year, we were talking about what are the things we're going to say no to, in order to really like set the goal around time.

Your goal should be around your time, not around money because you always sacrifice money. And that always makes a big difference. Cause yeah, I remember out of school I worked for Arthur Anderson and that was like a badge of honor to see how many hours, you know, oh, you got to 80 hours a week? I got a hundred hours a week. I'd be like, you're an idiot.

Robert: [00:09:24] We actually train around asking, you know, why a lot. And when a client asks for panic for a ridiculous amount of things last minute, you go to them and you say, well, why do you need…? Well, my boss, I have a new boss starting tomorrow. And I wanted them to have this two years of data. And he said, hey, how about we give them X, Y, and Z?

And like, I don't want to reward the person spending 10 hours on something they didn't need to do, because it didn't produce a better outcome and it exhausted them. If they could solve that problem in a half an hour by asking why, what do you need? You know, a lot of times, I think it's explaining to clients too what that means.

Yes, we can chase those new to new markets, but you realize that mean the core launch mark is then aren't going to get the same support? And they'll say, well, can we do both? Can't… no, so we can either double the team or we can, I think a lot of times it actually if you're an agency that provides great services, your biggest problem is that your teams don't know how to say no well, or sort of put a lid on scope creep and they over-deliver.

And by the way, what happens when you overdeliver in an agency? I go look at the PNL at the end of the month and not only is the employee upset, but we haven't made any money. So that's a lose, lose.

Jason: [00:10:36] Well, yeah. And the clients are getting overwhelmed by all the stuff that you just provided them. And a lot of times they get confused, which means they're going to leave. So you just burn out your clients.

Robert: [00:10:45] Don’t assume, because they're asking for something it's the right thing or you can't explain to them the trade-off or explain the consequences. Again, if they say, well, let's chase this city and that city, are you okay if that deteriorates the results on the existing two cities?

Well, if it's one of these things where it's 99, 1% and it's oh, when you put it that way, I know I don't want to put those campaigns at risk at all.

Jason: [00:11:08] Yes. Awesome. Well, Robert, this has been great. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Robert: [00:11:14] Yeah, just in terms of, I think thinking about where you want your agency to go in terms of determining how you want to run it, right? I think there are a bunch of different paths, particularly, you know, there are a lot of people exiting these days, and I think there's a specific set of things that you need to do and understand your industry if you want to move towards that outcome.

Jason: [00:11:33] Let's go over a couple of those. What's important in your eyes?

Robert: [00:11:37] A couple of things. Cause you might hear from your friends who have SAS businesses or otherwise, but agencies are sold on EBIT. They are not sold on revenue. They're not sold on customers or clients or other things they're sold on trailing 12 month EBIT.

So, first of all, you can get over the fact that you haven't started a SAS business, you know, and your friend did, and he sold it for 10 times sales. And then you need I, so I think the two things that I see really hurt the most… one is not having everything relying on the founder, right? These are the things that impact valuation. Understanding that trailing 12 months EBITDA is the primary driver and then having a proper cost accounting for your business.

The amount of agencies I've seen who don't have for gross margins correctly, who aren’t putting, you know, the actual people cost of doing the works in a gross margins. Like this is kind of finance 101. You can't, if the people are delivering the service, then that is, you know, you can't say you have a hundred percent gross margin and operating expenses, it doesn't, it doesn't present an accurate picture.

And I would also encourage everyone out there to, you know, if you're an owner-operator, pay yourself a market salary in the business and then take the profits, so that you have a proper PNL. Because we, we've gone to look at businesses and they say their profits’ a million dollars in EBITDA, and then there's three founders taking $30,000 a year. Well, those financials are not accurate. And then you're very upset, but your evaluation is not going to be there.

So those are three of the things I would really encourage people to do if they're thinking about an exit down the line.

Jason: [00:13:07] What do you see the multiples being in? Uh, you know, I've seen them as ranges, so let's say you're under a million in EBITDA. What's the multiple?

Robert: [00:13:15] Yeah. So I built a chart on this for marketing agencies. I'm happy to share it with you. So under a million in EBITDA, I mean, right now it's hard, but it could be two to four times EBITDA with a heavy earn-out. Because again, under a million EBITDA, the owners, probably the head of marketing head of sales. I wouldn't expect them to get more than 50% of that upfront.

I think two to 3 million in EBITDA these days, maybe 5, 6, 7, you know, the first inflection point, major inflection point, is 5 million in EBITDA. And I think, you know, healthy agencies have 5 million EBITDA with recurring revenue, you know, business are, are going for 10 times plus EBITDA these days.

Jason: [00:13:58] Yeah, what we'll do is anything under a million in EBITDA is usually one to two X EBITDA. A million to 3 million is usually four to six. Three to about, you know, six would be a little bit more. And then if you're over the 10 figure mark in EBITDA, then it's really write your own ticket, depending on a number of different things.

Robert: [00:14:20] Agencies over 10 million, 20 million are getting 20 times earnings some of them these days. But I think he made the point you made is really interesting. Again, this is why you need to focus on what your strategy is. The problem, it's hard to get one of those one to two times EBITDA deals done, because why would that founder sell when they can just have to hold on a business for two years?

But they haven’t created anything beyond themselves that has value. In fact, if the earnings of that $1 million EBITDA, you know, and they are the head of sales, the head of marketing, the head of whatever, that includes $400,000 of things that you'd need to pay for other people, then it's really 600,000. So that's the problem. That's why those deals don't get done.

Again, if I'm the seller, do I want to give up the…? You know, you wouldn't give up one time, EBIT if it's, unless you saw it, your business is going to collapse. And even too, he said, if I just held on for two years. So if you want to get real value for your business, it needs to be a valuable business beyond yourself. And the more that you can take yourself out of functions, you know, when you start having a marketing person, when you start having a salesperson and you're not on all the sales calls, these are the things that might get you up to a two to three from one to two.

Jason: [00:15:28] Yeah. My partners always get mad at me. A lot of times I talk people out and I'm like, look, you're not worth what you think you're worth, and if you are worth what you think you are, like, why do you want to sell? Like, there's lots of mastermind members that we've gotten to the level where they're the chairman and they're not in the day-to-day and they're getting millions of dollars every year.

So why would they sell?

Robert: [00:15:51] Let's say, it's, let's say it's a million-dollar EBITDA business and you're out of it, but it's just only a million of EBITDA, which again is not a lot of scale. And let's just say someone will pay two to three times for that. I mean, do you want to sell the golden goose or do you want to keep getting the eggs, right?

That becomes a tough, tough equation. But I think if you certainly don't want to get a deal done, you go to market and you tell everyone, you know, that you want evaluation either, or you're… An agency is an agency. There could be a hot segment, but they've all, every sale has been valued generally the same for the history of, of time.

And I think when you go to market and talk to people and your expectations are just nothing like the deals that are, I always say market-clearing prices. We hear a lot of rumors, right? We hear LOIs… 80% of deals I think don't close, right? So you hear a lot of headline LOI that didn't close. You don't know whether the headline number had earn-outs or not. It could have had five or six years of earn-outs.

And so I, the only prices and comps you can use or what I call market-clearing prices, not the rumor that your friend said, or the LOI that your other friend said, or otherwise.

Jason: [00:17:00] Yeah. Awesome. Well, Robert, what’s the agency website, people can go and check out?

Robert: [00:17:03] Yeah. It's probably easier to Google than it is to spell it all out. It's accelerationpartners.com. Uh, hopefully, we're doing a decent job at SEO and you put Acceleration Partners. I'm sure one of your SEO agencies listening will, uh, will give us a call and offer to fix.

Jason: [00:17:18] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see the things that you're not able to see and help you scale and grow and get to a point where you've really created the freedom in your agency, where you're making the profit. You don't have to make all the decisions. You don't have to have all the risks and your team is, you know, humming along. I'd love to invite all of you to go to digitalagencyelite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind for agency owners that are experienced.

Go there now and until next time have a Swenk day.

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

Can you effectively communicate what your business is about? With a 30-year background in marketing, Chris West noticed businesses normally handled their visual identity very well but need help when it comes to using their language. He started his agency, Verbal Identity, and has helped clients create a distinctive and impactful tone of voice for their brand. He is a big believer in the power of language and in this interview, Chris discusses the three levels of communication he teaches his clients, why humanity wins over corporate in social media, and his new book.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. 3 levels of communication. As a digital agency, you need to differentiate yourself from your competition. When looking at how the world’s biggest brands communicate, Chris identifies three levels of communication. At the 10,000 feet level, we have a vision of the world you want to create. What do you stand for? And even more powerful, what do you stand against? At 1,000 feet, we have the personality, which is a very important piece because customers buy into the personality of a business. Finally, at ground level, it's all about the details, especially when it comes to the language. Establish the language your business will use and identify with and communicate it to your team.
  2. Humanity wins. Even when it comes to some of the world’s biggest brands, like Microsoft, people would rather follow Bill Gates on social media than his company. That is because they want to follow a person, someone they can relate to. It’s important to be more than a corporate blank face that only speaks in business terminology and communicates merely in announcements. Dare to get personal, to share your likes and dislikes and you will attract like-minded individuals. And, perhaps more important, identify the ones that will reject you and cannot relate to you.
  3. Writing advice. When it comes to writing, some of the best advice Chris has ever gotten is “write like they’re walking away”. Be very intentional about your message and try not to rely on context and details to get your point across. Write like you don’t have time to warm up your reader because you’re already losing their interest.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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These 3 Levels of Communication Will Help You Differentiate Your Brand From The Rest

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk and I have another amazing show for you and guest. We're gonna talk about the three levels of communication or language that you can actually check out in order to position your agency to be the choice. So let's go ahead and jump into the show.

Hey, Chris. Welcome to the show.

Chris: [00:00:25] Hey, Jason, how you doing?

Jason: [00:00:27] Hey, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Chris: [00:00:29] Certainly. I run a business called Verbal Identity and it came about because I have a 30-year background in marketing. And what I noticed was a lot of clients, business owners were really sweating their visual identity, but they were forgetting about their language.

So really what we do is we help businesses use language better.

Jason: [00:00:48] Awesome. Well, in pre-show we were talking about kind of the three different levels that you need to kind of really kind of position your agency. So let's kind of jump into it and talk about it.

Chris: [00:00:59] Yeah, thank you very much. So I think the thing that really kills and bogs down agency growth is how are you different from every other agency?

So you’re a digital agency, so are a hundred other digital agencies. So how on earth can you stand out and be differentiated? And I think that when we look at how the best brands in the world and the best businesses in the world communicate, whether it's a small, you know, super fast grain startup, whether it's a big brand, like we've worked with like an Alphabet over in Silicon Valley, their communication really works on three levels.

So if you're like at 10,000 feet, they're very clear and consistent always in their narrative. This is the world we believe in. So this is what we're going to stand for. And even better, this is what we're going to stand against.

So if you're a digital agency owner, you can't just be a digital agency owner. You can't just believe that the world needs kind of better digital, whatever, whatever, you know, everyone's saying that, right? You got to say that we do it fast. We do it better. We understand our clients better, or we, you know, what is the truth about you, about the world that you were trying to create when you set up this agency? What was it…?

How precise and personal can you be about, and when you find that, what is it you stand for and what is it you're going to start against? Cause we see people, elected president selected being very clear on what they stand against. And really you're fighting for election when clients are looking for which agency to take on.

So that's like in the 10,000 feet. Now, of course, you've also got to find the personality, my belief, and, you know, working with agencies here in the UK, is that what we find is clients buy people and then they buy the agency that those people represent. So what they buy into is the personality. And what you want to do is make sure that there's a thousand feet, there's a personality which is true to you, which kind of expresses this worldview. Are you as an agency, quite confrontational? Do you think the world is stupid and everything has changed or are you as a bunch of people actually much softer, more considered, more insightful, maybe more intellectual?

Whatever it is, if you can take your worldview and then represent that in your personality, then you really strongly differentiated. And of course the other thing that bogs us all down as agency owners, business owners is we're trying to do everything and we want to move faster and I've got six people writing content for me. I want all events sound the same and I want them all to sound like us.

So down at the ground level, there are some ground-level details and people often overlook this, but are the words and phrases we use and the words and phrases we don't use to describe ourselves? From the consumer world we had a wonderful client, Fred Perry, Fred Perry Clothing, the CEO kept on saying we don't use the word store. When we're writing our content because we're British and stories and Americanism, we have to use shop, right?

When you put that in the guidelines, he saved his frustration in these weekly content review meetings, just because these are the words and phrases we use and don't use. Also some things around grammar so a couple of other things. And then once you've got all those aligned, you're differentiated and you've got your team pointing in the right direction.

Jason: [00:04:08] I love it. What are some other areas where you see people going wrong with positioning, you know, their agency?

Chris: [00:04:17] I think agency owners are usually hyper-intelligent people and hyper passionate, hyper purposeful driven people. And actually they want to get all of that across in the first communication. So, you know, but I don't have time for it, Jason. I don't know how much time you've got for it. I mean, you know, I see 20 people writing to me each day, say, hey, Chris, we can do this we can do that, right? You know, I, my phone is going, WhatsApp is going three more emails have come in just as I've been thinking about what I should do about the other emails.

And actually, can you say something simple, just enough to open the door? More to the point, if you dare to do this, can you say something that 99% of the vault of the world will reject? Cause we don't want the whole world. What you want is the 1% of the clients that really get you. So what is it that you're going to say that 99% will reject?

That's one of the biggest tips. Be prepared to lose the people that are just going to waste your time in meetings anyway, and never love you. Focus on the ones, you know, the thing that will appeal to the 1% and then keep it simple. Keep it short. Unlike me, who tends to talk for too long.

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I love that you talk about talking about what you stand against or stand with. You know, I think that's very important when you're positioning your agency, because I find too many times agency owners try to appeal to everyone and they're going to appeal to a lot less rather than saying, hey, you know…

Like what we do with our agency mastermind, we're saying, hey, if you're an asshole, right? Or if you're all about yourself, do not apply. There's other places that you can go for that. And like, that's our stance. Or if you're not about sharing or, you know, helping other people out or being transparent, you know, hey, it's probably not right for you. And then that's our stance. And that's enabled us in order to really create an amazing place, you know, in the same thing at the agency, like we used to say the same thing about our clients.

Like if you think, you know it all, we can’t help you.

Chris: [00:07:28] Yeah, definitely got to help me. And I think, can I add something to this? Cause this is exactly what I believe as well. I mean, there are places for ourselves, right? But here's the thing I, I see that works really well when people are using language: humanity wins. So, if you look at the number of followers, I think Apple has on LinkedIn is… I don't know how many million it is, but Tim, who runs Apple, has twice as many followers.

If you look at how many followers Microsoft has is however many millions, right? But can you believe Bill Gates? I suddenly forgot his name, but Bill Gates has two and a half times as many followers. Why? Because humanity wins. People want humans to talk like humans to a human. Soon as we slip into the corporate stuff, people switch off.

Jason: [00:08:13] Exactly. Yeah. You know, I mean, that's what I love about social media. It gives you an idea of what's every day in the life of Bill Gates or, you know, Tim Cook or whoever, you know, rather than, you know… I always hate when people just share out or communicate just business and brand stuff. I'm like…

Chris: [00:08:34] Oh, and there's nothing. There's nothing. So what I'm for you for going to work this morning? Sometimes, I mean, that sincerely what happened going to work, but right… We're delighted. We've appeared at this. Yeah. Good for you. Nothing for me in that, right? But tell me how you have to fix the wheel on your car on your way there and you turned up and your pants were soggy because of the rain and you had to borrow some pants… Right, now I've got you. Rather than now, you've got me, I'm walking up onto the stage with you and man, I want you to succeed.

The human stuff wins.

Jason: [00:09:04] Yeah. And you know, I, my team fought me for a long time on this, you know, on social. I was like, hey, look, we live in the mountains. I want to share my life in the mountains on social. And it's been amazing where it's attracted people that have the same interest as well.

And then it's so much more enjoyable that we've attracted people that believe in the same things.

Chris: [00:09:29] And that's your differentiation. So 99% of the world might look at that and go, why do I want to talk to some guy that's stuck in the mountains? My life is four story, high glass fronted, lobbies and stretch love, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, right?

1% are going to go. I found the man, right? He gets what it is. It's not all about that. So immediately you're streets ahead of the competition. And also, yeah, so you say, when you open up personally on social media, you really big, right? So don't want to phone this guy. He sounds like a corporate blank face. Or do I want to find this guy? Because he's honest, like you had, excuse me, crap day cause he missed all his night's sleep because his kids were up or whatever it was. Okay. That's like, that was me yesterday as well. So I can talk to this guy like an honest person.

Jason: [00:10:16] Yeah, I love it. Well, this has all been amazing, Chris, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?

Chris: [00:10:23] Ah, writers tips, maybe, you know, sometimes people say Chris, you know, you're an award-winning writer. They never say that. I always try and get them to say that, but they never say you're an award-winning writer. They say, Chris, you know, you're a writer and you're in the room. So let me ask you a question. Best writers tip ever?

So I would say right like that already walking away. It was this piece of advice I heard three years ago and it's like, that's great, right? And you don't have time to warm up the reader. You don't have time to explain the context or anything else. They are already walking away. So what is it you want to say? Get it upfront and start back.

So for me, it's a, it's a lovely piece of advice walk, write like they're already walking away because they are.

Jason: [00:11:06] I really liked that. And I'm probably the person always walking away because my attention span is about this big, a lot, like everyone else. So, you know, get to the point really pretty quick. Tell us a little bit about the book and where people can check it out.

Chris: [00:11:21] Do you mean this book? Thank you very much. Yeah. So. I've been running this business for 10 years. Love language, love what it can do. I think it's a sneaky, amazing thing, language. Uh, people said, Chris, can you put it, can you stop talking to me and just write a book so I can read the book and stop listening to you?

So the book came out in September. I'm delighted to say it hit number one in its category on Amazon straight away. And really it talks about this framework that everyone can use this simple framework, 10,000 feet worldview, thousand feet personally, ground-level details, how you make sure they will reinforce each other.

And then there's a little bit about how do you build ROI because we all, we all need to worry about, there's 20 things I could do right now to help my agency, is it going to be ROI for this? Is this the most important? And then it talks a little bit about quick wins and a few other writers' tips in there as well.

Jason: [00:12:14] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Chris, for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode and you would like to know the strategies that are currently working and literally have access to them every month, if that sounds of interest to you, I'd love for you guys to check out the digital agency elite.

This is where we have members and guests come in once a month to really go over strategies that they're crushing it on as well as be surrounded by amazing agency owners.

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

Direct download: 3_Levels_of_Communication_to_Differentiate_Your_Agency_Brand.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you struggling to get your agency beyond the million-mark? What benefits await beyond seven figures? Erik Olson merged companies with his current partner four years ago and they started Array Digital, an agency that, in its beginnings, focused on website development and mobile application services. They introduced digital marketing services as a smaller branch and then realized it became more popular than expected. In his conversation with Jason, Erik spoke about making the decision to niche down and why reaching the seven-figure mark made such a difference. He also talks about his book about the journey to a million dollars.

3 Golden Nuggets

  1. Why seven figures? It took Erik 11 years to break a million dollars in revenue but he really saw a difference after that point. Why seven figures? “It’s a nice round number,” he says. It’s not random at all, only 4% of businesses reach the million-dollar mark, so reaching that number meant, to him, that he crossed the threshold of success. Once he did it, he realized that running the business became a bit easier. He finally had extra money to invest in their own marketing, getting clients gifts, a mastermind, and things that were unaffordable in the beginning.
  2. Invest in your people. A huge component of any business is its people and Erik knew this was another area that could see significant investment once the agency started growing. “When I hired my first employee, the only benefit that I had was paid time off,” he recalls. As time went on, they were able to offer more benefits like dental, medical insurance, and even retirement matching. He’s giving his staff what they need to be whole when it comes to their finances and the work itself.
  3. What he would do differently. If he had to start over from having a 300,000k business trying to get to one million, Erik says he would quickly focus on the ideal prospect. This is something that took him a long time but now he says he would 100% niche down at that point. “First and foremost, I would certainly identify very clearly who it is I'm talking to or want as a client. And then I would be pretty rapidly going towards niching.”

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What Are The Benefits Beyond the Seven-Figure Mark & How You Can Invest in Your Team

{These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.}

Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and I'm excited. I have another amazing episode. I have one of my mastermind members who runs a really successful agency. His partner has actually been on, so I thought I would bring him on as well. And we're going to talk about scaling to seven figures. I know a lot of you watching or listening are constantly trying to battle and you're really trying to get there. And it took me a number of different years to get there and he's going to talk about it as well.

So let's go ahead. Get into it.

Hey, Eric. Welcome to the show.

Erik: [00:00:37] What's up, Jason? Thanks for having me.

Jason: [00:00:38] Yeah. I just realized too. I've had Drew and Darren on and, and Kevin and you. Now you're the fourth person on the intro that you can see the drone, the drone flying out from experience. I see them, I see them, I could see the shining head off the edge.

Erik: [00:00:57] Hey! Why’d you have to go there, man? Now that was awesome. As a matter of fact, uh, one of the pictures from the experiences my Twitter profile, picture up on the mountain, it was like the, I guess it's the first full day we hiked up Swenk mountain. Yeah, that was amazing, man.

Jason: [00:01:14] It was fun, yeah, at sunset. So yeah, it was fun. And then obviously the ones we did on the ATVs, since you guys were the suckers in the back, you guys got dusted, but…

Erik: [00:01:25] Yeah, I definitely should've brought goggles to that trip, that's for sure.

Jason: [00:01:28] Exactly. Well, tell us who you are and what do you do?

Erik: [00:01:31] Sure I’m Erik. Online I go by Erik J. Olson. I am the CEO of a digital marketing agency in Chesapeake, Virginia named Array Law. We have been in business for about four years.

We, um, we've gone through a bunch of different iterations and I've run several previous companies. And so about four years ago, my business partner, Kevin Daisy, who was also on your show recently and also a mastermind member, we merged companies. And at that point, we decided that we were going to rebrand as Array Digital.

And at the time we were focused on website and mobile applications, and we did this little thing called digital marketing off to the side. We had one person that we were just like, just go take care of that extra value-added service. And one day I sat down and I looked at all of our financials and I saw that we were making pretty good money.

It just wasn't a lot of it, very high percentage. So high percentage, but low dollar amounts. I'm like, what don’t we focus on this a little bit more? And I had been focusing on it and like, you know, my research and whatnot for the last year. It took about six months before we started to get some real recurring revenue from that.

That was really nice to see recurring revenue in an area that we really enjoyed working in.

Jason: [00:02:51] Yeah. I think, you know, for many years, or some people take even longer, it's you do the things that just keep coming to you rather than really go and really look at what are the things that give me a lot of energy or which are the ones that like take energy away?

And like, if you can match like the ones that give you energy with the ones that make you a lot of money and profit, you're like, all right, let's do more of that. But I think we get too involved in the process in, in the business that we can't even see it. So how were you able to kind of take some time and to see that and really kind of, I look at it?

Erik: [00:03:23] Yeah. So as far as like the, the pivot that we were going to make?

Jason: [00:03:26] Exactly.

Erik: [00:03:27] Yeah, well, honestly the work started to dry up a little bit. We had a whole bunch of very expensive software developers on staff and we were wrapping up some projects. We were going into the holidays. And we had about five prospects, several, like, yes, we're going to sign with you.

And we're like, oh man, we're going to need to get more office space and all this stuff. And I wouldn't say that that actually was probably like late summer that happened. And then going into the fall, the prospects didn’t close. Going into the holidays, the prospect started ghosting us.

And so our projects were wrapping up. We didn't have a lot of new projects coming and we were, honestly, quite afraid for the future. So we started having some real discussions about what are we going to do here if this doesn't work out the way that we had hoped it was going to work out?

And, you know, my background was software development. I did software development for 15 years, so this digital marketing stuff was new for me. And so I spent about a year just deep diving into, uh, getting this taking in everything I get my hands on, you know, online personalities, articles, blogs, you name it. I was just consuming, consuming and learning about it, and we were getting better as a team. But, um, I realized we had to make a pivot and actually we had a conversation that the riskiest thing that we could do was to do nothing.

We had to pivot and take that big, big risk. But, you know, from a personal standpoint, I was walking away from the thing that I knew the most about. So, it was, it was a challenge.

Jason: [00:05:00] Yeah. And I know when I'm always talking to people about niching down and really going all in on it, they're like, well, what if it doesn't work?

And then I'm like, well, what if it does? Like, that's a bigger, it's like, that's the bigger thing. It's like, I've seen it 95% of the time work. There's always those exceptions for bad implementation, but when you can kind of go all in to something that the market needs, that you have passion for forget about it. So…

Erik: [00:05:30] Yeah. And you know, we did not niche until, well, until we, honestly, we joined the mastermind and we kept hearing about it and we kept meeting and learning about the businesses of mastermind members. And what we noticed very clearly was that the members that had niched the most as far as industry or discipline seemed to be doing the best.

And so we started to kind of go down that path. But again, it's a scary thing because you're not used to it. You're used to people just coming to you from various industries for various needs, but it also gets exhausting when every time a prospect comes to you it's like a brand new problem that you may not even know how to solve. And you have to kind of be like, yeah, we could do that. And you don't really know if you can.

I'd rather do the same kind of work, frankly. As far as the work itself, over and over again, but the, uh, the creative output or process be the variable for each client. So we can still be creative. The things that we do as far as like run ads or build websites, it's the same, right? And so we get better. We get more efficient.

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Yeah, I remember cause we did a lot of custom application development and yeah, it was, there was no set playbook. I mean, it was always, always different and it was just challenging. And at that part of the business was always the one that was kind of close to breaking even, it seemed like.

It was just, we were really profitable on the creative and the digital marketing. I just wish I cut that, the development a little quicker, but back in the day when we were growing, we, that was one of the things that could actually help us to grow. But it's a little different nowadays, you know, going forward.

What are some of the other things that helped you guys get over the seven-figure mark?

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Erik: [00:08:19] Yeah, great question. So it took me 11 years to break a million dollars in revenue. Uh, 11 years as a business owner. The first four years I was doing government contracting for the Navy. I, I live in the Norfolk, Virginia, uh, market, and there's a ton of Navy here. And so a lot of people get DOD work.

I started my own little company with another, with a partner and it was just a two-man crew. And right off the bat, we were making good money but it wasn't seven-figure money, but it was, it was a good income for an individual. And it was one of those situations where you don't want to walk away from it.

But I knew I had to one day and eventually I got the boot and had to golf on my own and, uh, started to, to really focus in on business and started hiring people and growing a team. You know, one of the things that really helped me a lot was when I did that, when I took that step and I, I started to take on commercial clients, I knew that I had an opportunity to get a lot of work from my network, but only if I told them what I was doing.

So I literally had to tell the world on a daily basis what I was doing. And it was, there was hesitation for me to do that. And I see this in a lot of new company founders or freelancers, where it's almost like they're hedging their bets in case they fail. It was what it seems like.

And that's how I was feeling like, well, if I tell everybody, if I tell my mom, my dad, my aunts, all my friends from high school, every, everybody that I know, if I tell everybody, and then it doesn't work out, I'm going to be embarrassed.

But I knew that that, that was it. There was one plan for me, it was the plan that had to work. And so I had to activate that network. So that was a big, big thing for me, was telling everybody what I was doing and making sure everybody knew what I was doing.

And it continues today because you know, all companies kind of pivot a little bit and tweak their offering and whatnot, or, or they niche, or, and so we, we have to continue to tell people what we're doing so that if someone knows me from years ago, or we just met, I want them to know that Erik is the guy that does X, Y, or Z.

Even if they're not a prospect, they can carry the message on. So that was a big part for me.

Jason: [00:10:40] Why the seven figures?

Erik: [00:10:42] So yeah, you know, why million dollars a year in revenue? Why is that pertinent? Number one, it's a nice round number and it's something that our culture kind of throws around a lot, you know, millionaire's kind of a big thing.

Not that if you make seven figures that your agency, if you're a millionaire, not by a long shot. You may actually be losing money in reality. So it's something that's recognizable, but also I learned a couple of years ago that only 4% of businesses reach the million-dollar mark.

Jason: [00:11:12] Really. Oh, wow.

Erik: [00:11:13] And to me… yeah. To me that meant that 96% of businesses either are mom and pops or they struggle to get there or do they just die trying.

And so it's enough of the challenge where I knew I wanted that. But once I crossed that threshold, what I didn't realize until afterwards was that the business just got a little bit easier to run. So we finally had a little bit of extra money that we could put into things like our own marketing and getting clients gifts and a mastermind and some of these extra kind of like things that were unaffordable in the beginning. Nice to haves later.

And now we could actually start investing back in the business and we can hire people, the right kinds of people. So it just got easier as a business owner once we cross that threshold. Now, the number of self is it's just a number. There's nothing magical about it, but right around that point for me in my personal experience is when things started to really change.

Jason: [00:12:20] Yeah. Yeah. I agree with you on there. I remember… It took us a couple of years to get through to the million dollar mark just on the top line. And then I realized, you know, after that I was like, well, okay, that's top line. Well, how do we get it to, you know, the profit? Like, make that the profit, like literally I just got off an interview a little while ago, not sure uh, when that show will go live, but it's with Don scales.

And we were talking about, he's done 40 acquisitions and he's a CEO for a huge global agency of over 500 people. We were talking about like, which are the ones that he looks for. And he, uh, I remember him telling a story about, he was talking to the Omnicom CEO. He goes, hey, I'm going to go look at this one agency. And he's like, well, where are they at? And he's like, well, they're a million in revenue. He goes a million in EBITDA? He goes, no a million in revenue. And he goes, if I were you and I was flying to them, I would fly by and wave. He goes, I wouldn't talk to anybody for that under a million and EBITDA.

And I didn't realize that for many years to come as well of going… Cause we all have that, that mental hurdle we want to get to that million and then you get to a million, then you're like, you go to the next. And I totally agree with you, you know, Erik on it does get simpler because you can afford to, you're really starting to focus on building your team.

Like, you know, like what we talked about in the mastermind a lot with your guys' success group is around recruiting and building leaders and that kind of stuff. And when you can invest into that, it takes, um, all the weight off your shoulders. Have you found that as well?

Erik: [00:14:07] Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And, and people, that's a huge component of any business, but certainly in, in agency life, you, you have to invest in your folks.

And, you know, in the beginning, when I, when I hired my first employee, the only benefit that I had was paid time off and that was pretty cheap. So it was like, you know, two weeks of paid time off and we kept hours and all that stuff. And, but as time went on and we made a little bit more money, I was able to offer more benefits.

So when we offered dental, we offered a vision, we offered a medical, of course. And then, you know, one of the most recent ones was retirement matching, which that's a big deal. I mean, that costs us a lot of money, every pay period to put money into someone else's retirement account, but we're giving our staff what they need to be whole when it comes to their finances and hopefully with the work itself as well.

But all that costs money. You need tools as well, right. So it's easy to say, oh, you need to do great work. But if you don't give them the tools, if you can't afford the tools, they need to do great work, then you're asking for something that's unreasonable. So yeah. You need the money to invest in your people. Now that's probably the biggest component, right?

Jason: [00:15:26] Yeah, exactly. Well, if you had to do one thing over again, you know, so it took you a couple of years in order to get to the million mark if you were starting over today and you're around 300,000. What's, what's the one thing, if you had one thing that you could do in order to get you over a million, what would it be?

Erik: [00:15:47] Oh, man, great question. If I was at 300,000 and I wanted to get to a million as quickly as possible, I do think that I would very quickly focus in on the ideal prospect. It took me a long, long time to get to that point. So I don't know if that's, if I would a hundred percent niche at that point, but I would certainly know who I'm speaking to.

I think niching is very, very powerful, but one of the main reasons is powerful is that even though you may be doing almost the same kind of work in one niche as the other, you can speak directly to your prospect. So before we did any niching, our messaging as a marketing agency was something along the lines of, we do great SEO, websites, fill-in the discipline. We do great digital marketing. But we can never say for who.

And so the moment that we started to niche in, and when we have two agencies now, I'll go with the newer second one, which is HPAC contractors, these are people that put AC units into homes. We can say we do amazing digital marketing for HPAC owners and we can talk about the different kinds of manufacturers that they interface with and the pros and cons of each and what their customers want out of them. And so we can get very, very specific in the messaging that we provide to our ideal prospects.

So back to the question, what would I do? First and foremost, I would certainly identify very clearly who it is I'm talking to or a want as a client. And then I would be pretty rapidly going towards niching.

Jason: [00:17:32] I agree with that because then you can charge and raise your prices to whatever you want it to be. Like, I always tell people I want to print the t-shirt like “Raise your prices, stupid.” Literally, just because so many agencies are hardly charging anything.

And if you can charge more, you make more. If you make more, you can hire the right people. But in order to do that, you have to separate yourself from everyone else out there, all the me-too digital agencies out there. So make sure if you're a digital agency and you're want to get over the million mark, look at your agency pricing, look at who you're actually going after. And I look at that as… that's how you get over it. And then once you get over it, now it's about, you know, kind of keep scaling it.

I see a lot of times people get over it and then they're like, I kind of liked it when it was in the fun stage. And I kind of go back down the mountain, like at base camp, it's easier to breathe at base camp. And I'm like, but the view's not as good.

Erik: [00:18:35] Yeah. Yeah. You mentioned raising prices and I've heard you say that many, many times, and it's a scary thing, right? And especially when you're a young company, because you haven't figured everything out. And so you know that there's a lot of opportunity for improvement in your offering and your customer service and you're afraid… you know, I think a lot of times people are afraid of raising the price on existing customers. So they're fearful of raising the price for new prospects. And I think those two things should be separated. You can handle how much you charge existing customers separate from how much you quote new customers.

When we started to raise our prices, it was pretty shocking to everybody that people were saying yes. That happens.

Jason: [00:19:23] Oh, they'll, they'll say yes really quick. And then you're like, oh man, I should have said more. But I'm glad you brought that up, it's like, you really want to start with raising your prices on the prospects coming in.

And then once you get enough, if you want, you can go back to your clients because there's an opportunity cost there on agencies, right? You know, you'd be like, oh, well I’m making 20,000 more a month on this one client then some of the old ones. Well, you need to have a conversation like a Dean in the mastermind. We had a conversation and, uh, he had a bunch of legacy clients. Literally we thought he would lose about half of his clients, but the other half would say yes, because he doubled his price.

Every one of them said yes. And he made it another 60,000 in monthly recurring revenue just by going to his old clients, not even including raising the pricing on the prospecting. So it's huge, huge thing that everyone can do.

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

Erik: [00:20:23] Sure. If you don't mind, I did write a book about my journey to the million-dollar mark and it's called Million Dollar Journey. And it is up on Amazon and got a little bit of a shine here, but yeah Million Dollar Journey by me, Eric J. Olson. And it's just the whole story of everything that I did. So the stuff that we talked about today, uh, but then a lot more things went into it and the merger on the pivot and whatnot.

Jason: [00:20:47] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, Eric. And everyone go check out their book, Eric's book on scaling over the seven-figure mark.

And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you guys want to be around amazing agency owners and have a good time and scale and have those people that actually understand what you're going through and that are all digital agency owners. I'd love for you guys to go check out the digital agency elite mastermind, go to digitalagencyelite.com.

And until next time have a Swenk day.

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

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