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

Are you a proactive or reactive agency owner? It's common to come into the business not having a full understanding of what it takes to grow your agency or the type of issues you could face. Today’s guest tells us about the process of growing his agency, ditching the competition mentality, and how he wants to help agency owners prepare to grow their businesses.

Bear Newman founded his agency Bear Fox Marketing with the belief that running a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO wouldn’t be as difficult as it actually was. Years later, he says it was one of the best things he ever did but admits he wasn’t quite prepared for some of the challenges. He has overcome a lot of obstacles, including losing clients that accounted for more than 50% of revenue. Now, with a full staff of employees and as he starts to step away from day-to-day operations, he crafted The Bear Fox Principle, a book to help prepare agency owners for what they should expect in the path of growing their business.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Running an agency is more than just knowing how to do the work.
  • Why one client shouldn't be more than 20% of total revenue.
  • Why winning doesn't mean crushing every other agency.

Sponsors and Resources

Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out agencydad.money/freeaudit to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you.

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Running an Agency Is More Than Just Doing the Work

Bear was doing SEO work as a freelancer when he decided to open his own agency. “I may not have fully thought through that career move,” he jokes. At the time, his reasoning was just, why not? How difficult can it be? He soon realized there’s a lot more to running an agency than just being able to do the work.

For starters, he had no idea what he should charge clients in order to run a successful business. For his first SEO account, he planned to bill $750 a month. That has definitely changed by now.

He also had to figure out every side of the business, from sales to servicing and marketing. Now his agency has great client reviews and is the #1 rated agency in Idaho. He has employees that are much better at selling the agency’s products and work on marketing, ads, and creative content to keep the pipeline full.

There's a Lesson in Every Experience While Growing Your Agency

A lot of agency owners live by the words “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Bear does believe in the importance of planning, but he also knows that you can’t plan for everything and tries to figure it out whenever he can’t. For example, he once got a meeting to pitch for the largest pest control company in the Valley. The marketing director quickly let him know he was just meeting with him as a courtesy because he was never getting that account.

Instead of feeling bad, he decided the experience of pitching the project would be enough. With that in mind, he went ahead with the pitch, trusting it would at the very least help him improve. In the end, he ended up winning the account.

Once he did get the account, however, he had no idea what to charge. Some people may say he should have anticipated that, but for him, the beauty of the agency world is also having the confidence to say “whatever comes at me, I’ll figure it out.”

Stages of Starting to Build Your Digital Agency Team

For Bear, his search for an agency team really began when he realized he was unable to keep up with the workload. He wanted to maintain the quality of work and didn’t want to be everything to everybody.

Like many agency owners, he focused on specific challenges. Bear knew needed a team of specialists who were really good at what they did so he could start to delegate tasks.

When he started his search for employees, the most important quality for him was having the right attitude towards hard work and never choosing to do the minimum.

Candidates were offered a client brief and the opportunity to create 2-3 Facebook ads and landing pages. If they only did two, he knew it wasn’t a right fit for him. It was important to find people who always strive to do everything above and beyond for clients and the agency.

The Worst Thing His Agency Overcame

The first year of Covid was the hardest for his agency. Two of his clients were making the transition to handling their marketing in-house and they accounted for about 53% of his total revenue. It was a really hard time, but he had to come up with a solution. He could either downsize and prepare for the loss in revenue or he could face the problem head-on.

He decided to hire a sales team to get that revenue replaced. Of course, the team was going to need time to set in and build the funnel. Bear made the bold move of hiring two salespeople, just in case one of them failed. If this didn’t work, he would lose the cost of both of them, but it proved to be the right decision. By the end of the year, they grew by 70% and now one of those salespeople is his VP of Operations.

Lesson learned: As Jason tells his Mastermind members, having one client account for 50% or even 20% of your revenue is definitely too risky and just not smart. Bear realized this and was already thinking about the options by the time the clients pulled out. However, he learned he needed to be more proactive than reactive in these types of situations.

Agency Owner Transitioning Out of Day-To-Day Operations

After hiring the right team to keep the agency’s momentum going, Bear is trying to extricate himself from day-to-day operations. At some point, every owner reaches a point where they need to spend more time working on the business rather than in it.

Bear now oversees staff training and overall tries to keep an eye on their metrics, clients, and set the course for the future of the agency.

With the right systems in place, the agency is getting all the pieces together to really accelerate its growth. For Bear, it’s like building an engine. The more expertise you have the better engine you can build, which will be your foundation to really move forward to the next stage of your growth.

Why You Need to Ditch the Competition Mentality

After all the ups and downs experienced with his agency, it was really important for Bear to create a guide for agency owners who are just starting in the industry. The Bear Fox Principle is a book about what it takes to build a successful digital marketing agency.

A lot of agency owners don’t know what they need to understand in order to grow their business. The book goes over the metrics you should know and what you need to understand to make a campaign successful. It also touches on integrity and how you can do what’s best for your client as well as your company. Both parties have to win and not because you win somebody else has to lose.

The “crushing your competition” mentality is a pervasive attitude in the agency world. Even Jason used to think that making it in his market meant crushing every other agency. That’s not true. You can learn a lot from people in your industry if you open up your mind.

Remember that success is created, not taken from someone else. Even if you don’t get a particular account, that doesn’t mean you won’t get another one. You just have to be resourceful.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

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

Are you thinking about buying an agency? What about just buying one department of agency to compliment your service offering? There are many reasons to consider acquiring another agency, like client lists or intellectual property. However, buying one for its resources made the most sense for this podcast guest. When a few red flags made him take a step back, he found he could structure a deal in the form of buying just the department he was most interested in rather than acquiring the whole agency. It takes the right circumstances and aligned interests, but it worked for both agencies involved.

Like many agency owners, Antoine Gagne started his agency, J7 Media, by accident. He hosted events that drove a lot of people in and realized he was good with social media. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram were still sort of new in Canada, so he started off selling social media management packages. He saw a lot of success in this market and eventually niched down to specialize in Facebook advertising. More recently, he has ventured to buy other agencies to expand his services.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Niching down to grow the agency.
  • When to raise agency prices.
  • Buying an agency department for the resources.

Sponsors and Resources

Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out agencydad.money/freeaudit to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you.

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Getting to the First Million in Revenue and Beyond

In his beginnings, Antoine started an agency that offered social media management and content creation services. He eventually decided to focus on an area that was most profitable and where the agency really shined. As a Facebook ads agency, they were so specialized it was easy for clients to refer them to people looking for these exact services, which led to a stable sales cycle. Antoine really recommends figuring out one service that you’re good at and you’re able to sell repeatedly.

Once you settle on this, the key is to not give up, he assures. Keep going until it becomes easy for you to get more and more clients. At this rate, you will get to your first million in revenue. For Antoine, once you figure out how to keep it simple and go all-in on one service you do really well, you find that getting to the second million is actually easier.

When To Raise Your Agency Prices

Failing to recognize when it’s time to raise prices is a common problem for agency owners. Additionally, most fear this move will make them lose out on prospective clients.

To be clear, the point where you find a service you can sell repeatedly while improving and consistently getting better clients should also be the point where you get ready to raise your prices and think about your profit.

If you have an agency and you’re not focused on profit then you may be in the wrong business. The sooner you realize agency owners should not be looking primarily at just top-line revenue the better. In Antoine's case, the shift began with looking at the different parts of the agency and using this information to structure its prices. He figured out how much the agency was making from each department and then decided he wanted to make 40% net revenue from those parts of the business.

Next, he needed to decide what the agency should charge and how many clients it would take to meet the goal. It basically took some backward math to figure out how the pricing.

As to the fear of losing clients, all new clients agreed to the new price without further pushback. For their part, existing clients were gradually moved to this new price point at a different pace.

Why You Have to Focus on Net Margin Instead of Revenue

Getting J7 Media on the path to growth required a clear vision of the net margin Antoine was hoping for and adjusting the prices around it. A lot of people tend to start with the revenue in mind and plan around that. The problem comes when they don’t make any profit. This is a much more advisable way to go about it, especially if you plan to sell someday because your agency is valued on EBITDA.

It’s normal to start out with the revenue in mind and slowly get to the point where you realize you should be focusing on net profit. It’ll change the way you look at your business and the way you approach your agency growth. This mindset prompted Antoine to create new services to improve the profit margin instead of thinking about revenue. It was the starting point to grow into a healthier financial situation.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Why Buy an Agency Department, Not the Whole Agency

There are various reasons to acquire a company, like their client list or intellectual property. For Antoine and his agency, it was about resources. On one hand, they noticed their clients needed more from them. On the other hand, a lot of things had changed with Facebook and it no longer made sense being positioned only as a Facebook ad agency. Clients were now looking for a one-stop shop that could do all the media buying for them.

They looked into adding Google ads services, seeing this was the number one service clients needed at the time. However, they couldn’t just jump into this market 15 years later and become experts while still trying to figure out the Facebook changes. They ultimately decided to shop for an agency that could cover this new need.

Antoine met with a few agencies and ultimately decided to buy not an entire agency but just a department. They didn’t need all the different departments, so they structured a deal where they could acquire only the specific employees from this department and the transaction was good for both sides.

Structuring the Acquisition of an Agency Department

Some people have never even considered buying just an agency department but it could be the perfect solution in some cases. Keep in mind a lot of agencies have more than they can handle and would gladly sell just part of their operations.

Antoine was looking for a profitable Google ads department and in the negotiating process with this agency, he found out that employees in this particular department were not in love with that company anymore. The owner knew this and he knew it was a matter of time before he would lose these employees. In this way, the deal was beneficial for both parties.

He encourages agency owners to do this when possible and try to craft the best possible deal. Remember not everyone wants to keep their agencies. Many people have other interests or goals and want to try different things. If you come at the right time with the right offer, most of the time you’ll find interest and will be able to complete this transaction.

How Much Time Does It Take To Complete a Deal?

How much time will it typically pass between the moment you’re interested in a company and the time you conclude the transaction? It will depend on the size of that deal. Small transactions like purchasing a department for under $1 Million take just a few months to complete. However, other bigger transactions take more time. If you dedicate 5-7 hours a week reaching out to companies of interest, the meetings will come.

Antoine currently dedicates 5 to 10 hours a week to look at companies he would be interested in acquiring. At first, it can be overwhelming but he assures, that it’s not as hard as it seems and you could even end up wanting more.

Open Your Eyes To New Opportunities

We’re in a time of changes in the media buying space. A lot of things are changing and when things change many people quit. If you choose to be one of the ones who stay, then remember to open your eyes to the opportunities to buy agencies that are leaving a certain space.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

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

Do you know how good branding establishes your agency as an authority? As a result, you will grow your agency faster. The fact is, being relatable and establishing yourself as a trusted advisor to prospective clients gains their willingness to let you help them solve their challenges and achieve their goals. Our guest today shares how branding helps establish authority and how she turned her agency from a side hustle to a full-time priority.

Annie Scranton had worked at several media companies when she founded her own PR agency, Pace Public Relations, focused on getting their clients media attention and placement to highlight their work.

After losing her job as a producer at CNBC, Annie sent an email to her network and got an answer asking if she could help get media for a client. It came natural to her. She got that person an interview and knew this was the path for her future career helping actors, CEOs, and authors get access to media.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Turning a side hustle into a full-time opportunity.
  • Branding yourself vs. branding your agency.
  • The importance of a solid pitch.

Sponsors and Resources

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

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Turning an Agency From a Side Job to Full-Time Priority

Annie’s PR venture began as a side job that wasn’t really her number one priority at the time. After years of working in several media outlets, she knew many influential producers and reporters. This was her currency to take the business off the ground and allowed her to offer clients access to the media. Nevertheless, she admits she undercharged for many years, a common issue for startups.

This may have slowed her growth a bit, but eventually, Annie's pricing model evolved to monthly retainers. She finally made the decision to focusing on her business full-time once she had enough of a safety net to take the risk. Twelve years later, her monthly retainers are now up to 10K and she has offices around the world.

First Steps to Growing an Agency

Annie was lucky to have a big network of people answering her questions about the first steps she needed to take with her business. Since PR is a service industry, she didn’t have to manufacture a product or answer to investors. Once she made the decision to fully focus on building her agency, she hired a web designer to put together a website, opened a corporate email, and was ready to start growing her business. She quickly learned the importance of hiring a good accountant, since she hadn’t realized how much money she need to put away for taxes. It was a rough reality check.

As soon as she couldn’t handle the amount of work on her own, she started looking for her first employee. She started by delegating the low-level admin work to dedicate more time to getting new business. For this, she decided it would be best to hire and train someone who already had a background in media. Ultimately, overcoming the anxieties that come with being responsible for payroll was one of the best decisions she could make for her business.

The Difference Between Marketing Yourself vs Building Your Brand

Annie is a big believer in the power of building your own brand. In the debate between branding yourself or branding your agency, she thinks we should all do both. However, it is also a matter of your needs and your particular industry. For her business in PR, it really is all about the image she presents of herself as someone that can get you access to the media. Therefore, her branding is about 75% focused on her.

Your prospective clients want to work with you and your team, not your "company". People want to work with people that are relatable and that share their values. It can be aspirational in a way. You want to follow their journey, career path, and success. Remember that this is why it is so important to brand yourself. It attracts people in a way that just branding your business won’t do.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

No, Branding Yourself Doesn’t Mean You’ll Do Everything

It’s true that creating a situation where clients strongly identify your agency with your personal image may lead them to expect to work directly with you. However, Annie says it is true to a much lesser extent than people may imagine. At the startup phase, the owner is doing pretty much everything, which is why you should really love what you do. However, if you hire really smart people that you train well then you won’t have to do everything. It’s natural to grow and evolve within your agency to the point of being focused on growth and your vision for the agency.

When it comes to building your brand, Annie recommends posting and interacting on LinkedIn. It’s a very powerful tool if you use it well and it’s where she has gotten tons of new business leads. Building your brand like this is more than just posting about a new client you have. It’s more about taking new stories that people are discussing and writing a related post where you position yourself as a subject matter expert. It’s a good way to be consistent about putting your personal branding and message out there. Similarly, she attends webinars, seminars, and speaking engagements where she talks about personal branding.

Can You Describe What You Do in 20 Seconds?

If you have a business, you will eventually have to learn about personal branding. It will provide you with useful tools to interact with your audience or people in the same industry. You have to learn to draw people in with your elevator pitch. As a rule of thumb, if it takes you longer than 20 seconds to describe who you are and what you do you should really sit down and figure out your elevator pitch.

To put together a successful pitch, make sure to include how you can benefit the other person. No one wants to listen to you ramble on and on about your business, but if you can summarize it in “here’s what I do and here’s how I can help you” then you have their attention. Always think about the ROI for the person you’re talking to.

How NOT to Pitch Your Business

Annie once received a pitch about a Tequila testing for a client that was actually a recovering alcoholic. She wrote back to the person explaining how that pitch was so wrong on so many levels and how it would have taken a quick Google search to find out why. It really discredited that person for her.

You have to know who you’re pitching. It is unbelievable how many times people don’t do their research ahead of time when it’s actually easier thanks to social media nowadays.

Also, remember that it doesn’t always have to be transactional. Think about reaching out to people in the spirit of collaboration to develop a relationship. Maybe email them just to mention you really enjoyed their last article or conference. If you do that, they’ll remember you when your agency can help.

The Beauty of In-Person Collaboration

Annie’s agency has offices all over the world. Why not go virtual when so many people are making this move nowadays? They were virtual for the last two years, obviously, but PR is a collaborative industry and there are ideas that spark in an office that cannot be replicated in a Zoom meeting. “My job is to communicate,” she says, so she really prefers in-person interaction.

This is especially relevant when we consider how difficult hiring and retaining talent has become. Not being able to build a relationship with them makes it all that much harder, so, when possible, she prefers to have the kind of bonding moments that only in-person interaction can provide.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

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

Are you doing your own bookkeeping? Are you paying too much for someone else to do it? You might be wasting valuable resources that could be focused on growing your agency and your profitability. In most cases, it’s not an agency owner's area of expertise and CPA's charge a ton for this service. It's worth it to hire someone who understands the scope of what you do and how to keep your books. Today’s guest is an expert in accounting for agencies and his company, Agency Dad, helps agency owners forecast their finances and establish a strong fiscal foundation for their future.

Nate Jenson is a certified management accountant, internal auditor, and fraud examiner who founded Agency Dad, an accounting company that focuses on profitability for agencies. He offers bookkeeping services for agencies but their main focus is helping agencies understand financials and what’s driving profitability. Nate has been on the show before talking about the financial benchmarks and KPI’s that can help you plan for the future of your agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why you shouldn’t do your own bookkeeping.
  • The high cost of bookkeeping mistakes.
  • How tracking time will help you improve profitability.

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YOUTUBE

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Why You Probably Should Not Be Doing Your Agency's Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping is not the sexiest topic and most creatives are not interested in it. However, a lot of agency owners do their own bookkeeping, even when it typically isn’t their area of expertise. Nate advises against this for several reasons, although he admits there’s a point in your startup when it’s OK.

There is a situation where handling your own bookkeeping makes sense. If you’re just starting, have only a few clients, one invoice a month, and no employees, then it’s perfectly fine. It can also be the best for you as you try to scale your agency and need to keep costs low.

Once you start growing, the complexity of the data grows exponentially. You get to a point where maybe you just hired your first employee, have several clients, and diversify your service offering. Then tracking that data becomes more important and more difficult. And, knowing the data leads to making better decisions for future growth.

Finally, you should also consider opportunity cost. If you started an agency, maybe you’re an expert on SEO or getting clients. Imagine how much money you could be making if you focused on what you’re good at instead of bookkeeping, which is most likely not your greatest strength.

2 Reasons Not to Use Your CPA For Bookkeeping

A lot of people use their CPA for bookkeeping because they lump all the "financial stuff" in the same category. But a CPA and a bookkeeper are drastically different. And, Jason and Nate agree this does not provide the best results for your agency. This solution keeps your books clean and reconciled but Nate says there are several reasons he does not recommend it:

  1. It is the more expensive option. Most likely, you will overpay to have your accountant do your bookkeeping. However, more importantly --
  2. CPAs usually keep books based on their tax knowledge. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, however, on the backend, it doesn't help you make good decisions for running your business or to move forward.It all starts with the data entry and your vision for the agency.

If you want to make smart growth decisions you need a good bookkeeper to help you with the data. What do you need to know from the data to make good decisions? Can you hire a new employee? How much should you charge? Can you give your team a raise?

Imagine you want to sell your agency soon, you would probably have very specific questions about valuation and how the decisions you’re making right now will affect your business. When would you like to sell? In one year? Five years? In terms of the data, you have to know what you’re putting in and why so you can answer those questions in the backend.

If you are planning to sell and do not know this information it could be a red flag to potential buyers. You should know the financial outlook of your agency at any time. If you want to have an opportunity to sell you should have everything in order. And if you want to sell in the future, you want to know what you can do as of now to maximize your value.

The High Cost of Making Bookkeeping Mistakes

According to Nate, 96% of data analysis happens at your data entry. This means that if you don’t know how to properly enter the data you will run into trouble.

Overall, you want to do everything right in your bookkeeping from the beginning. Nate has been hired to “clean up books” and fix years of improperly kept data which sometimes takes months. If it’s too complex, he even prefers starting from scratch and rebuilding everything.

Having the right systems and the right processes in place can even help save money you're already spending in bookkeeping. In one of the worst cases he’s ever seen, Nate rebuilt his client’s entire system and set up everything in a way so they were able to replace two full-time bookkeeping employees and replace their roles with one part-time employee.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

The Importance of Tracking Time for Profitability

Based on experience, Nate says most agency owners are not tracking time with the data they measure. Usually, he gets some pushback when he mentioned it. However, most do admit they should be doing it, but their employees don’t want to.

An agency's biggest overhead cost is your team’s time. If you don’t understand where people are spending the most time, you won’t be able to identify which client relationships are not profitable. Tracking time is a data entry task so if you have the systems in place where you can run payroll and track time, you can easily run reports that specify profitability per client. This way, you can identify which clients are using up most of your time.

Rarely does Nate find an agency that isn't losing money on their engagements. What they need to do after they find this out is adjust and find out where they can raise prices or what things they need to stop doing. Sometimes you can even increase profits when you cut a service offering or stop making a specific product. Do less and make more money!

How To Handle The Shift to Tracking Time 

It’s common for your employees to pushback when you start tracking time. Jason recommends being very honest with your team and clearly explaining the agency will suffer unless some things change. It’s also important to reassure that you will not be tracking the employees themselves, but rather collecting necessary information for the business to keep growing.

Make it mandatory, not optional and be ready to make non-compliance a reason for dismissal. Oftentimes, the employees who complain the most about necessary changes like these are not a good culture fit for the agency you’re trying to build. It will be the same with some clients and it’s ok if you decide to cut ties.

How to Find The Right Person for Your Agency Bookkeeping

Someone who is doing their own bookkeeping is also typically someone who is already overwhelmed. They have so much to do and they feel they can’t afford to hire someone else to help. With this mindset, it becomes difficult for them to see the benefits of making a change.

A good bookkeeper knows your industry, understands data analysis, and can put those numbers in front of you to help make decisions. They will be able to show where you are losing money and what can happen if you make some changes.

Of course, you also have to be careful. You can’t just hire anyone to do your bookkeeping. Some people ask their support staff, like a receptionist to do it. You may be freeing some time for yourself, but it will probably create problems further down the road.

Mistakes like incorrect invoicing can cost your agency thousands of dollars, so make sure to put in the effort and choose the right person for the job. It doesn’t have the most expensive solution, but it's important to  really understand the role and the difference between someone who understands accounting and someone who knows how to use Quickbooks.

Pro Tip:  Nate's suggests a quick test to determine if someone really knows about accounting is to ask them this quick question. “Does the debit increase or decrease my assets?” If they say increase right away, you’re good. If they hesitate, they’re not thinking like an accountant.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

 

Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out agencydad.money/freeaudit to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you.

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

Do you have a clear agency vision? If so, have you shared it with your team and have their full buy-in? It takes courage to make changes that will help you scale faster. You need clarity to define your vision for the agency and a team that shares that vision. It may rock the boat a bit too much for some in your team. However, when you surround yourself with people that believe in your vision you'll see results so much faster than working with those who resist it.

Arti Sharma is a marketing and business leader who had worked for 15 years contributing to the growth and success of several start-ups and Fortune 500 companies when she created Measure Marketing Results Inc. As a marketer, she felt a lot of people were talking about marketing but no one was measuring it. She saw the opportunity and started reaching out to some old clients offering to build a campaign for them. Her business has changed a lot since then, but the most significant change came about five years ago when she redefined the agency’s goals and created a vision script.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why finding clarity is the first step toward change.
  • Your mission statement and vision script.
  • The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.

Sponsors and Resources

Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out agencydad.money/freeaudit to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you.

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How To Find Clarity for Your Agency

Digital agencies nowadays find themselves in a very crowded space. In order to stand out, agency owners must answer the question “how do I differentiate myself from everyone else?” Usually, agencies go to Jason with a variety of problems that are standing in the way of their growth. The majority of those problems stem from a lack of clarity which affects the agency owners' ability to focus on niche, services, pricing, and even leadership.

Five years ago, Arti ran a successful company that had changed between building websites and offering SEO and SEM services. She started to question what she was building and whether it aligned with her personal and business goals. In essence, the agency’s mission statement “influence, inspire and impact” had not changed. However, she realized her clarity was lost somewhere along the way.

As agency owners know, sometimes this can happen as you worry about all sorts of issues like building a team, getting new clients, and maintaining sales.

Holding Your Agency Team Accountable to the Mission

The real change began in January 2020, when the team met to discuss the mission statement and create a complete vision script establishing how they would operate based on that mission. From then on, they made the commitment to hold themselves accountable to the mission by measuring operations, serving customers, hiring, and sales and marketing. Turns out it was perfect timing.

The company navigated the pandemic by serving its customers and building a niche based on the new commitment. Looking back, those were uncertain times for any business, but their new commitment was the push they needed to think outside the box and actually live their mission in daily actions.

Arti's team is still working on their changes, but so far they’ve become Hubspot partners and changed their offering to be more of an account-based marketing and sales enablement company. They’ve even built another business, an agency for agencies that wish to outsource some of their services.

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The Importance of Creating Your Agency’s Vision Script

Measure Marketing Results' mission statement remains the same and continues being true to its goals. The next step Arti took was redefining the vision statement in accordance with its goals and creating a script.

To do this, they got really specific and identified, among other things, who their ideal clients are, where they would find them, what sort of impact would they have on their business and growth. They broke that vision down as much as they could and this provided much-needed clarity for the agency.

Creating this vision script ultimately impacted their systems, sales scripts, thinking about where they would find clients and partnerships. It became clear that the agency would need to align itself with companies like Hubspot and leverage its tools to expedite the agency’s go-to marketing strategy in the world of inbound marketing.

Crafting your Value Script entails:

  • Defining your core values.
  • Having a vision of where you want to be in 2 years, 4 years, and 10 years.
  • Big action items for each year to move toward your goal.

The Vision Can’t Stop with the Leadership Team

Defining your agency’s vision is another important step, but you need your team’s commitment to make it a reality. The problem many agencies have is the vision stops at the top management tier. The CEO and leaders are committed to the core values and goals but what about the rest of the team?

Arti’s team held a two-hour meeting with all their staff when they crafted the vision script. They explained the vision, answered questions, gave examples of who the customer was. They also explained how these changes would affect them as service delivery or client management team. Team members needed to understand how implementing these principles correctly would impact the agency.

It was important for them to have everyone on the same page and have the newly defined vision for the company align with the staff’s vision.

Don’t Let Your Clear Vision Get Distorted

Not everyone will be on board with the changes, but those are the ones that will probably end up going in a different direction. You can’t let your vision get distorted by other peoples' opinions of the vision. Go over your vision and if they don’t get it, then maybe they aren't the right people to help the vision become reality.

Changing the trajectory of your company takes time and work. Having the right people on your team is essential for that.

Investing In Your Agency Team

Arti doesn’t take all the credit for knowing what steps to take to lead her agency in the right direction. She heavily invested in finding her mentors and surrounded herself with the type of people that would advise her on the next steps for her agency. Additionally, she completed a leadership program, read business books, listened to Jason’s podcast (always a wise decision:) brainstormed, tested, tried, failed, and finally succeeded.

She believes in the impact of having a team that shares your vision for the future of the business. With the guidance of her mentors, she identified key people in the team that would be ready to take the risk with her and started to invest in them. They have now wrapped up a leadership program and are working on building a management team.

For her, it’s about investing back in your people, in your processes, in your systems. If you do this, the sales will come through and you’ll be able to retain customers.

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Direct download: Do_You_Have_a_Clear_Vision_and_Does_Your_Team_Support_It_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:40am EST

Do you want to start charging for strategy instead of just execution? A lot of agencies out there are getting paid for execution and giving away strategy for free. They end up being viewed as a commodity instead of for the value and expertise they bring their clients. It’s mostly about learning how to cross that bridge. Our guest today specializes in helping business owners make this transition. It involves a lot of trial and error, trusting your experience, and learning to listen to clients.

Stephen Houraghan is a brand strategist who helps businesses amplify their brands and teaches designers and brand builders how to specialize in this area with his Brand Master Academy. He started his career working in finance and stockbroking and eventually left that world to start his own agency offering web design services. With the rise of freelancer platforms, Stephen saw clients wanted more value, so he tapped into strategy, which in time opened the doors to a different type of business and relationship with clients.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Stop giving away strategy for free.
  • The thought and process of selling strategy.
  • Listen to clients to create authority.

Sponsors and Resources

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

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Figuring Out How to Charge for Strategy

When Stephen started working as a freelance designer he tapped into his professional network and was getting lots of referrals. He was doing what he loved and money wasn’t a worry. However, this started to change with the rise of freelancer platforms. Clients were pushing back on his prices and he realized he needed to offer more value to retain customers.

He started his agency and thought about how to compete with freelancers. Being more competitive would require solving the right problems for clients and offering more. He turned to branding, something he really loved to do. Eventually, that led to piecing together the puzzle of brand strategy.

Brand strategy is the key to making competitors irrelevant. Offering all the pieces of building a brand to clients put Stephen on another level, no longer competing with freelancers who just offered a logo or website. It took years of developing and improving his process but now clients do not compare based on logos and brochures but rather based on long-term success based on the strategy behind these items.

How to Test Your System for Selling Strategy

No matter how you fell into the agency world, there comes a point where you have to turn what you’ve learned into something which proves value to your clients. The bridge you need to cross to get to that point is experience. You need to realize you already have the building blocks to shift to this model. No one jumps into a creative project and just drags pixels around. It takes thought and a process. This process may be more or less detailed and, for some, it involves research and building a brand persona. Begin by documenting it and you will slowly develop it from there.

Usually, freelancers and new agencies will not charge for the labor involved in the process. Taking this step will really make a difference in your growth because there’s no ceiling to what you can charge when you sell strategy.

For his part, Stephen started by splitting up his services. He increased his design prices but made sure to sell them as the product of a comprehensive process. At first, he included the strategy for free as he slowly transitioned to taking his clients through his system. With time, his system became much more comprehensive as he tested and refined it.

A big part of doing this was pushing the impostor syndrome away. Of course, you have to be very careful to not just slap a title on yourself as you start to sell brand strategy but trust your experience. It is about building the system, but it is also about building confidence in yourself, your system, and knowing that clients need that system whether they know it or not.

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What are the Elements of Brand Strategy?

Knowing the concept of brand strategy is a start but you need to understand its elements and how to tie them together to create more value for clients. Stephen identified a lot of common elements, including buyer persona, competitive analysis, positioning, storytelling, brand personality, brand mission, etc. The challenge was to figure out if every single one of these elements applies to every business, in what order, and how he could go about developing them.

Asking these questions was the start of putting together a system to build a brand. It all starts with the customer, naturally, but it goes beyond the persona. You have to dig into their journey and understand each of the challenges in that journey. From there, it’s about looking out into the market and understanding all the players in that market. Look for gaps where you can go in and offer something different, new, and fresh. Your messaging, what you say, and the buttons you push within your message is your most influential tool as a brand.

That is the value of brand strategy. All these elements in the right order will help you resonate with your audience in a way that a logo or a website alone can’t replicate and will give you the ability to sell your thinking instead of giving it away for free.

Learn To Listen to Clients and Ask The Right Questions

The trial and error to figure out your process will most likely result in some mistakes. For Stephen, the most obvious mistake was taking the position of “I’m the brand strategist and you don’t know what you’re talking about”. He would tell clients that they didn’t need a logo and try to push them in a certain direction. “9 times out of 10 that conversation did not end well,” he acknowledges.

Both Jason and Stephen agree that selling on strategy is about asking the right questions in order to help them determine the direction they need to follow. It doesn’t work unless you ask the right questions, listen, and walk them through the plan. With this framework, they never lost a deal over price.

Remember that no one likes to be told that they’re wrong. You can’t just tell clients they need something they don’t think they need because they most likely won’t listen. It's about showing and demonstrating the need to create the desire.

Stephen learned about negotiations and started to structure conversations with clients. He asked more questions and really tried to understand what they wanted and get them excited about the brand they wanted to build.

The Right and Wrong Way to Create Authority

Many people think building authority takes a lot of talking and flexing your muscles. Actually, questions are a really powerful tool when it comes to building authority. The more you are talking the less your clients are talking. It is so important that clients feel you are interested in their business and helping them build their brand.

With the right questions, you can get clients to consider that there’s maybe another path they haven’t considered. You can get them to dream about different possibilities that will help build a relationship and build authority. Remember, you always want to position yourself as a trusted advisor, and listening to your clients is a great way to do that as well as separate your agency from the competition.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.


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