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

Do you spend too much time in endless meetings? Do you have the right systems in order to be efficient with your time? Are you ready to reclaim your time and focus on working on the business? Today’s guest helps his clients use technology to implement automations and SOPs to build an ideal future for them. In this interview, he shares his personal experience learning to reclaim his time to strategize, plus ways he makes more time to work on the business and how you can do it too.

Marquis Murray is the CEO and founder of Ditto, a systems improvement consultancy helping customers get the most out of technology by improving how they work, aligning their teams, and helping them understand the current state of their business. They help clients work toward a future where they can set aside time to focus on their goals.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • First steps to implementing the systems to reclaim your time.
  • Benefits of communication with clients and employees.
  • Setting aside blocks of time to work on the business.

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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.

How to Stop Wearing All the Hats as an Agency Owner

Marquis started his career as a digital marketing manager for another agency. He left this job because he wanted to start his own business, be the boss, and make his own hours. Unfortunately, as agency owners know, that’s not always how it plays out. However, he is thankful he had some of those lessons early on.

As he started gaining clients and growing his team, he quickly found he was no longer able to wear all the hats. He was spending a lot of time in HR and onboarding. He didn't have any systems in place so his team kept coming to him with the same questions. Out of frustration, Marquis started building systems and visually documenting how he did things to send to his team when they had a question. In time, this evolved into the standard operating procedures and work templates his agency has today.

He sees this a lot with clients building a business and realizes there’s much more involved in actually scaling the business. One of the places where business owners are commonly not spending enough time is in internal team onboarding and communications.

Now, when someone joins Ditto's team they receive what he feels is a well-thought-out overview of their responsibilities and available resources. Without those systems in place, he finds confusion and frustration. Setting up expectations from day one minimizes those feelings and everyone is more productive.

Start by Documenting Your Own Tasks

Normally, when we talk about SOPs, people can get overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. A great place to begin is your own role. Whether you’re writing it down on paper or using a screen share tool like Loom, document what you do and get it out of your head. You can set apart a day or part of your day where you don’t use your phone or computer, just a pad and a pen, and write down everything.

Start by answering “What am I responsible for?” You may be responsible for sales, so document what that looks like. What does it look like when you close a sale? Record sales calls -- good and bad -- for training purposes. What do you do next? Where does the invoice get sent? How do you set up a project brief for a new client coming in? Whatever your current responsibilities, start there.

First, take a review of your days and identify what you are doing right now that you could delegate. Which meetings can you eliminate or delegate? That will free up some of your time so you can document tasks your team should be doing and get more efficient. Set reasonable expectations for yourself and know you won't be able to do it all at once.  Start small so you don't get overwhelmed and you'll eventually find the freedom you deserve.

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4 Ways to Categorize Your Responsibilities 

Marquis suggests sorting your tasks and responsibilities into these categories:

  1. Do - urgent and can't be done by anyone else
  2. Defer - can be completed later, when time allows
  3. Delegate - something that is able to be completed by others
  4. Delete - unimportant or won't drive the business forward

There’s no silver bullet for everyone, the idea is to get started and implement what works for you.

Benefits of Constant Communication with Agency Team and Clients

The worst mistake you can make with your team or clients is to assume communication has happened. We tend to believe just because we communicated something once everyone has received the message and understands it. In reality, you can never communicate enough. If you’ve only shared it once, you should probably repeat it at least three more times.

When it comes to internal communications, you can try different communication methods like documenting something in video and writing it down different learning styles can retain that information.

Frequency is another big point in communication. Doing it once is not enough. For instance, as part of their sales process, Marquis’ agency details what a customer can expect signing on with them from onboarding to the first few weeks. This is reiterated in the proposal and also in the kickoff meeting. It is repeated over and over again. That information will always be available for them in their Slack channels and in an email sent by the agency.

This was all implemented because they got feedback that clients felt in the dark about many things. There’s so much you can improve if you for feedback and are willing to listen to your clients. As the leader, it is your responsibility to ensure it is taken seriously and implement steps to make sure that future clients don’t run into the same issues.

Set Non-Negotiable Blocks to Reclaim Your Time

Marquis is a big fan of time blocking and getting time in the business to focus on what you need to do and what the business needs you to do to continue to grow effectively. He has non-negotiable blocks in his calendar to work on sales calls and set expectations for the next day.

It is very important you respect the time you block off. You set that time apart to grow your business and work on things that you otherwise wouldn’t. As an agency owner, you can find sometimes you’ve scheduled back-to-back meetings all day. That is the time you’re giving away for free to everyone else. This is how you get burned out, overwhelmed, and frustrated. You wake up one day and find you hate the job you've created for yourself. This is why your priority should be setting up systems to work on yourself and your goals with the agency.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what 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: How_to_Set_Up_Systems_to_Reclaim_Your_Time_to_Work_On_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you have 1-2 big clients making up most of your revenue? Is the majority of your agency's livelihood tied to just one major account? Riding the wave of a super client can be nice while it lasts but when the client leaves you will be forced to make some difficult decisions, just like today's guest. The choices are to shut down the agency or rebuild and hope for the best. Learn what he did to get through this predicament twice and how he protects his agency from it ever happening again.

Andrew Greenstein is the co-founder and Co-CEO of SF AppWorks a digital agency dedicated to exploring and harnessing new technology. With 10 years in the business with his current agency, Andrew recalls a few instances where they’d been on the precipice looking down and have managed to rebuild. In this episode, Andrew talks about ways to avoid this happening to your agency and the systems he has in place to avoid it happening to him agency again.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Falling into the trap of having a “Super Client.”
  • Buying your agency more time to work things out.
  • Proactively preventing the super client trap.

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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Falling into the Super Client Trap

In 2008, Andrew’s first company created a music platform that grew and got to partner with MySpace before having to shut down and start over. The plan was to assemble a team of developers and designers build websites and apps for other companies. The idea was to use funds from that company to build another startup. That never happened and over ten years later that agency turned out to be their most successful startup.

In their first few years with the agency, they needed a foundational client to get things going. They that client by helping one of his friends build a marathon training app. Of course, they had other clients and made several other websites but this client accounted for most of their revenue. Once the marathon app failed to secure another round of funding and shut the project down, they were left desperately looking for a client that could replace them.

Riding the Wave and Forgetting to Develop Your Sales and Marketing

Andrew and his partner decided to go back to their day jobs and kept working on the agency in their free time. They did eventually get other clients about a year later and one of them became their next super client. They poured everything into working with this client while working alongside a larger agency. Over the next four years, they grew their team from two developers to thirty. They had enough cash flow to invest in the agency, grow their team, grow their services, and explore new areas. Life was good and they felt everything was falling into place.

However, they were growing on the back of one super client and, therefore, were not developing their own sales and marketing. Once that client shut down the project, they were left without a stable income.

When you’re riding the wave, everything is exciting and it seems like nothing can go wrong. We see this type of thing happen all the time. Maybe the agency owner is just too busy with all the growth and doesn’t consider “maybe we have too much revenue tied to this client”.

Like Andrew, you may be aware your agency is too reliant on a client but there’s just no sense of urgency to remedy the situation. However, when the moment came, he wondered why he didn’t prepare more aggressively. In the battle between urgent and important work, they had spent all their time working on the urgent and not enough on the critical task of diversifying.

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Buying Yourself Time So Things Can Work Themselves Out

History repeated itself and the first decision they needed to make was what to do with a decent-sized amount of money they had in the bank. Should they just shut down the agency and walk away with the profit? Or take that money, reinvest it, and hope it worked out?

Because they loved their team, they decided to try to figure it out and came up with two strategies to keep the agency alive:

  1. First, they really needed to work on marketing and sales to attract and convert new clients as quickly as possible. They hired an agency to help them with sales outreach.
  2. They also decided to use their human resources to build an internal startup to go the investor route after six months.

Neither of these plans worked.

In retrospect, Andrew sees that sales outreach is a mixed bag and an aggressive way to get clients. If you happen to get some clients with the right message at the right time, it can work. One introduction can lead to a long relationship, especially in the software business. However, it takes a time to build it.

In the end, what did work was a hybrid of both plans. They needed to buy time to let things happen. The longer you can stay alive, the longer you give yourself the opportunity for something to happen.

For example, people that left the super client's failed project ended up in new jobs and started calling on them. Indirectly one failed super client led them to four or five new clients. Since they had kept the team on standby, they had the resources ready and could reengage to build new relationships.

Should You Let People Go When Cash Flow is Tight?

Andrew says logically, the right call in a super client trap is laying off part of your team. Keeping his staff on standby waiting for something else to come up was definitely a coin flip. Fortunately, it happened to work out. However, he advises anyone in the same position to reduce their team.

It’s hard, but it’s usually better for your team in the long run so they don’t lose other opportunities. He learned this the hard way when he waited too long to make the right decision and let some people go. The experience has helped him reshape his values of communication and transparency.

Proactively Preventing the Super Client Trap

Today SF Appworks is more proactive about preventing the super client trap. They look at their clients, revenue, and expected contract end dates every week and strategize around it. They meet and focused on risks, biggest client that is most likely to end their contract, and the second largest client that may grow.

When they do lose a client they immediately consider how many more clients they can afford to lose and become proactive in figuring out solutions.

Admid growth, like everyone the pandemic caused more strain on the agency. They ended up waiting it out and eventually began to grow again.

Their approach now is to consider: “Can we buy ourselves more time?”
"What do I need to prepare for next?”
“Are we giving enough time to the problem?”

Their philosophy revolves around being patient and allowing enough time to figure out the situation at hand.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what 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: How_Can_Agencies_Avoid_the_Super_Client_Trap_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you have issues with employee retention? Are wondering what you can do to make your agency a more attractive place to work so you stop losing employees to the competition? Today’s guest has made retention a huge focus in the development of his agency. So much so that he’s only lost two employees to the competition in the past three years. He now shares how he realized it's all about focusing on the right things. He's sharing some of the most important areas you should be working to improve employee retention.

Rob Gaedtke is the president and CEO of KPS3, a digital agency that builds brands and creates technology that moves people to action. They are now about 64 full-time employees with roughly $9 million in revenue and continually work on ways to take care of their most valuable resource, their employees. In this conversation, Rob shares some of the important questions you should be asking to reduce yourself in order to employee turnover.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • 4 steps to help you stop losing employees.
  • Keeping track of employee progress and being open to change.
  • How to empower employees and encourage their growth.

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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.

Learning to Value Your Most Valuable Asset

As an agency, your employees are your most valuable resource. After all, we are in the service industry and people are our bread and butter. So much so that keeping that talent could be even more important than keeping clients. If you manage to keep the right employees, they’ll keep the clients. Likewise, if your employees are happy, your clients will also be happy.

Rob and his team have been focusing on this as the agency grows. What they found is that if you’re focusing on the right things you have a better chance of retaining your staff.

For instance, are you losing employees to other agencies or to different passions? Are you filling the ranks with your own team or are you having to look outside the agency? These are important questions that could lead to why you keep losing talent.

4 Steps to Help You Stop Losing Employees to Other Agencies

Making big statements like "employees are our most valuable asset" sound like an empty platitude unless you’re making the right moves to show this appreciation.

At Rob’s agency, they took these 4 steps to stop losing employees:

  1. Be in it for the right reason. Your goal really has to be the development of the employee as a person, even if it comes to losing them.
  2. Have financial transparency. Everybody can see the agency’s full financial statement. They know how what it costs to run the agency and how much profit goes back to the owners and employees.
  3. Have an open door policy. There’s this idea that it's bad when someone leaves you to go do something. Rob believes we need to break that connotation. When an employee leaves, they’re not doing it to hurt you. They’re doing it because it’s what's best for them. It’s easy to take it personally, but if you step back it opens the door to part on good terms and to have them even returning at some point if it makes sense.
  4. Encourage personal growth. A lot of employees may leave a job because they want a promotion. But growth opportunities should be available for them within your agency. Rob also believes if somebody wants to grow in an area where your agency doesn’t have business in, you could give them the opportunity to develop those skills. Even if it’s half-price or at a loss. If you put it in the education bucket, it’s benefitting an employee. The same goes for a different industry that the agency doesn’t normally work in.Online Training for Digital Agencies

Keeping Track of Employee Progress and Being Open to Change

Rob’s agency has strategic growth initiatives to get employees off on the right foot. They have mandatory reviews that occur after someone's first 30 days, 60 days, and 90 days. After that, the review meetings happen at the six-month mark and eventually become annual. The idea is to get a fruitful discussion going beginning the first month and then get more in-depth as time passes and more goals are met.

On top of that, everybody is encouraged to have weekly one-on-one discussions. A lot of the discussions are focused on what each employee needs and what the agency can do to support their goals.

Also, the agency is open-minded to employees changing departments if they are not enjoying the work. A department change is very important and something you can only ever address if your manager is tracking your progress.

Encouraging and Empowering Agency Leaders

When an agency is growing, you have to make sure the leaders grow with it. Every worker needs to feel challenged, respected and empowered. You can have a fun agency where everyone is having a great time -- but smart people also want to be pushed and challenged. If you’re micromanaging and they don’t feel empowered, you’ll lose them.

At Rob’s agency, they give people the opportunity to grow and manage people. If someone expresses an interest in growing support that by including them in their management and leadership training. Rob also encourages people to talk about their goals and where they want to be.

You need to promote it on one side and on the other make sure it’s actually available and allow people the opportunity to grow.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what 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: 4_Steps_to_Stop_Losing_Agency_Employees_to_the_Competition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you tracking your agency’s gross margin? How about the EBITDA? KPIs are super important and something every agency owner should be aware of. But which KPIs you track depends on the priorities you set for the agency. Do you want to grow fast? Are you planning to sell soon? Having a clear vision and goals makes a difference when it comes to what you're measuring. Today’s guest shares the most important KPIs he believes all agencies should be keeping track of and what you can do if some of them dip below where they should be.

Jon Morris is the CEO of Ramsay Innovations, a company dedicated to helping agencies get greater insights out of their finances so they can grow at a faster rate. In his area of specialty, Jon is used to advising companies on ways to improve their finances and now shares some of that useful insight.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The most important KPIs for agencies.
  • What to spend on sales and marketing.
  • Revenue as a percentage of client base.
  • Dos and Don’ts of using a line of credit.

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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How a Minority Investment Can Help Growth

Jon started working from his home in 2004 in an agency called Rise Interactive. Several years later, he took a minority investment and grew it into one of the largest independent digital agencies, managing about $250 million in media before he sold it.

When he took the minority investment, his agency’s fees were around $20 million. At the time, he wanted to invest more in sales and marketing. Their mission as an agency was to be the leader in leveraging data to help brands make smarter marketing decisions. However, the reality is that if you line up 50 agencies they would all say that they are data-driven. They had to answer why they were more data-driven than the rest.

$20 million in fees may seem like quite a lot. However, the cost of building technology and putting together a sizeable team is a major investment. Looking back, he knows taking the minority investment was the best move because back then he just didn’t have the capital for the technological investments.

When you build technology you need a fully dedicated team that eats, sleeps, and dreams the product. Every agency has a very standard leadership structure, with a client service team, a sales a marketing team, and operations and finance teams.

In their case, they added another pillar that was product development and strategy, which included:

  • UX developers
  • Engineers
  • Product developers
  • Development Operators
  • Quality Assurance

The Most Important KPIs for a Digital Agency

For Jon, the most important KPI for an agency is gross margin, which is different from adjusted gross income. The first thing you need to do to get to your gross margin is to know your revenue. He breaks revenue into two categories: gross revenue and net revenue.

Having worked with many agencies by now, Jon knows it’s not very easy getting these numbers. Often times it’s a matter of getting the data clean to figure out net revenue vs. gross revenue. A lot of agencies are very focused on payroll divided by revenue as a ratio. However, payroll generally includes everything from sales and marketing to operations.

What you want to do is get to your costs of service. To do that, you need to go through every single line item to determine whether or not it is dedicated to client work. If you have an employee that is dedicated to a client’s paid search campaign, then that’s going to be a cost of service. On the contrary, an employee dedicated to HR is not a cost of service.

On average, his clients are at a 40% gross margin when they start working with his agency and their goal is to get them to 50%.

Why Cost of Service is the Most Important KPI?

If you are selling something for $1 million and you get $500,000 in fees and $500,000 in gross margin, then you now have $500,000 to put back into your business or in your pocket.

However, if that same $1 million is costing you $800,000, you only have $200,000 to invest in your business.

Therefore, you can have two agencies doing the exact same thing both around $5 million in net revenue. In the end, one made a profit of $1.5 million and one lost a few hundred thousand dollars. The difference is their gross margin.

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Percentage of Revenue Spent on Sales and Marketing

The next metric you should be focusing on is what percentage of net revenue you’re spending on sales and marketing. Again, divide your payroll to group sales and marketing people into "sales and marketing costs". In theory, if you spend on sales and marketing you have a better chance of growing than if you don't.

What you're willing to spend on sales and marketing directly impacts your growth:

  • Spend 0 and 5% of revenue on sales and marketing says you’re not that serious about growth.
  • If you’re between 5% to 10% spending, you’re where everyone else is in terms of the importance of growth.
  • Spending more than 10% means you’re very serious about growth.

Of course, it’s fine if your focus right now is not on growth. For instance, one of Jon’s clients is focused on increasing their revenue per employee and is interested in growing moderately. It will depend on your priorities. Some agency owners may just want to optimize their gross revenue to maintain their lifestyle business.

On the other hand, some of Jon’s clients don't spend anything on sales or marketing. To him, it was unbelievable that an agency could believe so little in marketing.

Where Should Your EBITDA Be?

The golden rule for agencies is to have 20% topline growth and 20% EBITDA. If you’re planning to sell to a holding company, they’ll expect you to have 20% EBITDA.

However, Jon has a different philosophy. If you can make a positive investment in your agency it’s okay for you to have a lower EBITDA.

If you hire a salesperson who brings in a client that ends up being a retained relationship, that’s fine, as long as you measure the percentages and outcome you’re looking to make. Keep in mind, if you want to build a big agency without outside capital, lowering your EBITDA target will give you more money to invest in the business.

Bottom line, your business is the best investment you can make.

How Much Cash Flow Should Your Agency Have?

Jon believes everyone should have two bank accounts at minimum, three if you manage media.

  • Operating Account: this is the one you’ll use to pay your employees, taxes, and bills. You should always have 1 month of payroll and 35% of your quarterly profits in this account. It should be enough to pay your bills at any given moment in time.
  • Savings Account: Here you should have your monthly overhead. Double the sum of all your expenses (like payroll, sales and marketing, traveling, and entertainment x 2). Rule of thumb for savings is two months and could be up to six months if 1-2 clients make up most of your revenue or if you are project-based.
  • Media Account: This is not your money. You have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure that money is completely separated and you’re not using it for anything other than the client ad spend.

Looking at Your Revenue in Terms of Percentage of Each Client

How much of your revenue do your top five clients represent? For instance, one of Jon’s clients has 123 clients, and the top 18 account for half their revenue. It's important to understand your agency's client concentration and strategize to reduce it.

Whenever Jon won a big account that became a large percentage of their evenue, he increased his sales and marketing to go win the next big account. He was really, understandably, scared of being dependent on any single customer.

Dos and Don’ts of Credit Lines

Jon and Jason agree if you have a positive 12-month trailing EBITDA, you should get a line of credit. However, you shouldn’t use it to use it fuel the growth of your business but rather for cash management purposes.

If you have a big account like Procter and Gamble – known to pay in a net 120 days – you may want to use a line of credit to make payroll. It may be an account you really want but you can’t negotiate better payment terms and that’s fine. Having a line of credit is important in those scenarios. Where you shouldn’t use it is to invest to grow your business.

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: How_to_Make_Smart_Financial_Decisions_to_Scale_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Do you struggle with educating clients on relevant messaging? Great messaging addresses the audience's emotional connection with an issue and sometimes that means it's not all about the product. Educating clients on looking beyond their product can be tricky. However, once they understand it they'll see significant growth. Today’s guest increased his client's topline revenue from $35 million to $230 million in just 18 months by understanding who their message was aimed at. For his second podcast appearance, he discusses how he fell in love with helping challenger brands and how he helps them rise above the plateau to success. He also shares 2 mistakes you might be making that are costing you money.

Bill Harper is the founder of WM Harper, a strategic branding agency focused on brands in need of transformation. His team helps companies that have hit a plateau. These are challenger brands that haven’t quite hit their potential goal and need help figuring out how to get to the next level.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why clients need to understand it's not always about the product.
  • Building an agency machine that runs itself.
  • 2 Mistakes are a big waste of time and money.

 

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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Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.

 

Helping Brands Understand Relevant Messaging

Bill has worked with many exciting companies in his career but BMB&B is probably where he learned the most. There, he got to work with big-name brands and got inspired to start his own agency. He has built several businesses from being a consultant to running an agency. However, as he puts it, once you’ve been bitten by the ownership bug it’s practically impossible to go back.

Working with a company like Blockbuster, Bill realized sometimes the agency does not have a lot of influence to change big brands. Typically, this type of company is very focused on maintaining its position in the market. That is what keeps them up at night. However, Bill fell in love with helping brands with billion-dollar potential but stuck in a multimillion-dollar universe.

These brands just need a push to go from an awkward stage to center stage. Most of the time, they have similar strategies to the bigger players but they haven’t figured out how to implement them yet. If the client is willing to embrace a change in the way that they think about relevant messaging, they help them create a path forward that makes sense and helps them scale.

How to Get 3X Top Line Revenue in 18 Months for Your Client

Part of Bill’s journey with clients is getting them to understand what they want is people’s attention. Sometimes is not really about the product, which can be hard for clients to accept. It’s not about listing the new features and talking about the tech. That is what everyone else is doing. When you’re doing research, look for the thing people engage with emotionally.

For instance, his agency once made an ad for Delsey luggage where they removed all the technical details about the product and focused on being lightweight. The emotional connection was in the audience’s frustration with travel. It had changed from being something exciting into being inconvenient. The idea was to address this existing frustration by focusing on how the product leaves the consumer in a better emotional state. Once you find what consumers are either striving toward or moving away from then you have something to play with. Few brands have logged into that insight, but once they do, their growth is significant.

Another great success came when his agency helped the Breast Cancer Index achieve sixfold growth of its top-line revenue. The client originally asked them to increase their top-line revenue from $35 million to $250 million within 3 years. They exceeded expectations mainly by understanding who they needed to address. In the case of this hyper-specific test, the way to get oncologists’ attention was by giving patients the information they need to begin the conversation. With a combined strategy of influencer marketing, digital marketing, trade shows, and event marketing, they were able to reach $230 million in just 18 months.

Building an Agency Machine That Can Run Itself

What Bill recalls from his first few experiences as an agency owner is valuing the work when he should have been thinking about the value of the agency itself. With time, he learned ultimately it is about making sure the owner is NOT involved in every aspect of the business. You need to build an agency machine that can run independently from you. This requires a solid understanding of who you’re working with and a solid process for hiring the right people. That transition, which of course did not happen overnight, made the biggest change.

Learning how other people view the agency’s value was instrumental. Bill realized the most important things to him were not necessarily important to everybody. For instance, in the early stages, he did not realize the importance of not being involved in the business.

When you start an agency, you wear all the hats. And if you do it well, by some point you give them all away. So many leaders feel the need to be involved, as though the agency will go off the rails without them. However, this is indicative of someone who is just trying to protect a lifestyle rather than grow a business.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Hiring for Values to Build a Great Agency Culture

Bill used to hire almost exclusively based on talent but was struck by how hard it was to create agency culture. Most recently, he shifted to hiring for personal values. Of course, talent is not disregarded, but values are the deciding factor. He no longer expects people to find joy in his dream. He prefers to hire someone who is chasing their own dream, as long the agency fits into it.

Furthermore, he watches out for people who are running from something and looks for the ones who are running toward something. It’s more about their goals than about their history at other companies. He understands if someone wants to use their time at his agency to learn and someday have an agency of their own. Knowing this gives him an understanding of how they value their time there.

Another change he introduced is letting employees write their own development plans for the year. He used to do it himself but this way they get to define the things that excite them the most. In doing that, he finds out what’s important to each employee and what they dislike about their job.

Now that he focuses on bringing in people who value the same things, building a great culture is no longer a hard task, even in these times of virtual workplaces.

2 Common Mistakes That Are a Waste of Money

  1. Buying growth - There is a misconception that you can continuously buy growth. People have become so fixated on buying their way to success but there's no rationale behind it. Trackability gives people a false sense of security, which has manifested in everyone's lack of patience. We all want immediate results. However, trying to AB test your way to success will most likely lead you to unnecessary spending.
  2. Adopting new tech - Entrepreneurs commonly race for the newest thing whether or not it makes sense for your brand. The truth is you don’t have to be on every single social media platform. You just need to be present where your audience congregates most. If you build a following on just two platforms where your audience is, you’re already ahead of the competition!

At the end of the day, it all comes back to the metrics of the company. Once you take the eye off that ball because you’re fixated on the idea of buying more, you may as well be burning your money. Bill’s advice is “don’t be dazzled by the movement, be dazzled by the achievement”.

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Do you live by your agency’s core values? Have you spent time defining those values? Do you communicate them with your team? Many accidental agency owners haven't however it is a critical component of growing your business. For some, it's a one-time exercise that is just as quickly forgotten. Your values are the guiding principles leading the way your agency team operates. Today’s guest shares how he built a value-based agency, how these 5 core values affect everything his team does, and the biggest challenges he has faced while scaling his agency.

Will Roberts is the founder WebBox, a digital marketing and web design agency that collaborates with clients to create unforgettable experiences and campaigns. His agency strives to provide a relentlessly responsive service, which is one of its core values. Will shares why each of those values is an important pillar of how the agency operates and how he has chosen to celebrate his team’s small victories.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Building an agency based on 5 core values.
  • How to solve your recruitment woes.
  • Learning to celebrate small victories.

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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Being the Change You Want to See in the Agency World

Like many agency owners, Will started doing some freelance work for some friends and family to gain experience. He got paid £75 for his first website – which he laughs about now. He quickly learned working for friends and family was not the best strategy, but thankfully he started getting calls from local businesses wanting his services. It was the first step toward growth.

He was still halfway through university in 2008 when, after a few interactions with agencies, he became interested in the industry. One of the big problems he saw was that agencies didn’t really care about their clients. Regardless, he knew there was potential for someone willing to raise the game by introducing some changes.

Building a Digital Agency Guided By Core Values

Plastering your values on your meeting room wall and actually living those values are very different things. Will had the opportunity to see how some agencies worked back when he was in college. He saw many things that could be improved and decided to build something different. He noticed a lack of direction resulting in poor client service. Employees were often not really aware of or held accountable to the company’s core values.

For his part, Will has worked to build a value-based agency. It is an important part of who they are as an agency. His team is even encouraged to bring up if they ever feel the agency is doing something that is contrary to these values. Everything they do goes through five core values that were part of creating an agency that was focused on users and clients.

5 Core Values that Steer Agency Growth

  1. Collaboratively Creative. They try to not go into meetings with an attitude of “it’s our way of the highway”. Instead, they open the conversation with their intent to collaborate. Mutual respect is key - clients know their niche really well and his team knows UX. Bringing those two together ensures better results.
  2. BrutallyTransparent. As an agency, you have information that can make or break a client’s website or online presence. Some agencies may choose to withhold that information. However, WebBox chooses to be transparent. Many times what a client wants is not necessarily what they need. Getting them to understand this leads to difficult conversations. This transparency also goes through to their accounts. They share timesheets with clients so they know how their resources are being spent.
  3. Seriously Skilled. WebBox brings on highly skilled specialists only. This is true for both clients and team members, who are actively encouraged to set time to train and get better at what they do.
  4. Proactively Ambitious. As an agency, they want to be ambitious and keep growing, but they are also ambitious for their clients. Client growth is also their victory as an agency.
  5. Relentlessly Responsive. It is not unusual to wait days and even a week to get a response from an agency. Will decided his agency would make it a priority to get back to clients quickly, within the hour. They believe if they’re going to partner with clients, then they’re going to be there when they need them.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Challenges He Has Managed to Overcome While Growing His Business

  1. Keeping their sales pipeline full. An important part of scaling your agency is putting systems in place to keep your pipeline full. If your agency is still 100% project-based, remember your pipeline can be a risk. This was the case at Will’s agency, so six years ago they introduced retainers and also added PPC management to their services. This way, they have balanced their income to a point where 60% comes from project-based and 40% from recurring revenue. This move has really helped them grow their team and also provided a solid base.
  2. Finding the right people to join the team. His agency has struggled with recruitment as they grew and the team couldn’t keep up with the demand. Since then he has built a recruitment funnel, a very important step in any agency’s journey. After you build a sales system, it’s time to put together the right team to continue to scale your agency. The search for this team is a continuous effort, so you should always be recruiting.
  3. Finding time to work on the business. Will has been able to carve out some time each day to work on the agency rather than in it. Most agency owners will have a hard time getting to this point. You may think your responsibility is being the hardest working member of the team. However, being the first to get to the office and the last one to leave will only result in one thing: burnout. Will now sets apart half an hour in the morning where he focuses solely on strategies for the business. It’s all about figuring out time rules to create to keep yourself accountable.

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: Do_You_Uphold_Your_Agencys_Core_Values_Everyday_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you struggling with client acquisition? Do you offer a ton of services but still can't scale? Wonder what else you could be doing to get the attention of the right clients? In today’s episode, we’ll learn how an agency went from getting most of its business from cold emails to evolving its acquisition model. Our guest also shares the mistakes he made in his first two agencies which led to massive success the third time around and a merger deal which led to more growth.

Chase Dimond is a partner at Structured Agency, a highly-collaborative eCommerce marketing agency. With three agencies under his belt, Chase now reflects on past mistakes and shares how he grew this agency to a team of 100 people working from 6 countries working with brands doing 7-9 figures online.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Mistakes and learning what not to do with your agency.
  • 3 challenges of an agency merger.
  • 3 ways to acquire new agency business.
  • Tips for growing a following on Twitter.

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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Learning Hard Lessons on What Not to Do to Grow a Digital Agency

Chase formed his first agency as a side gig hustle from his full-time job out of college. As a kid who, he admits, thought he knew more than he actually did. He didn’t have case studies but he was lucky to purchase a dating website for Bernie Sanders supporters that ended up going viral. It was the best way to attract clients and he learned a lot from the experience. They quickly scaled that agency to $30K per month on the side of their full-time jobs, but offering 8 different services as a side gig wasn't sustainable. The partners disbanded the agency and focused on their full-time jobs.

A couple of years later, he gave it another try at creating an agency with some friends. Admittedly the lessons learned the first time didn't stick. This time, they got it to about $80K/month but went their separate ways after a falling out.

From that experience, he knew he wanted to start an agency with a singular focus. Email had been at the core of everything since Chase's first business, so in 2018 he started an email marketing agency for eCommerce brands. They later merged with a paid social agency in 2020 servicing similar clients so now they can offer both customer retention and acquisition to their clients.

Looking back, he can see that in the first two agencies he made the mistake of trying to offer too many services right away. It was impossible to staff and predict demand for each offering. This time around he's been successful because they focused on doing one service well and then merged with another agency offering a tangential service.

3 Challenges with a Digital Agency Merger

Recently, his agency merged with another agency that had been a close referral partner for many years. They actually helped his agency early on with getting their first clients. They were already familiar with each other and offer complimentary services which naturally went together. They realized with more agencies specializing, brands have 8-12 agencies. They decided it would be best to bring together two core services under one roof and one P&L to keep servicing the same clients.

There are still a few things lingering even though it's been 2 years since the merger:

  1. Establishing a united brand. They haven’t figured out how to unite under one name. Clients know and refer to them by their separate names, making it difficult to establish a united identity. However, they might not have to. In Jason's experience, he prefers keeping the agency’s name and identity so clients don’t get confused.
  2. Cross-selling services is harder than expected. They used to sell people on an email campaign, which is a very simple service to explain. But now they have to sell clients on paid ads as well, which is more complex and has a lot of moving parts. Figuring out how to cross-sell and educate clients is really important. Without it, the agency loses opportunities because your clients don’t know or understand the services.
  3. Realizing shared costs and infrastructure. They still have operations on each side and haven’t really crossed the chasm of understanding the other person’s business model, how to offer their services, and how they differ.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

3 Strategies to Acquiring New Agency Business 

1. Building the Founders' Personal Brand

In 2018, a lot of their business came from cold emails. Now they have evolved into content marketing, strategic partners, and developing the founders' personal brands. In this way they are focused on podcasts interviews, speaking at events, and creating out content to attract clients.

2. White Labeling

One of the things they did early on is become a white-label partner for big agencies. Big agencies not specialized in email marketing would bring them in as a partner agency. Many are not willing to be a white-label partner for other businesses, but it has been a really great way to build case studies.

3. Strategic Partnerships

Another big source of business are partnerships, which came in three shapes: tech partners, influencers, and other agencies. Tech partners, like Klaviyo, work best when partnering with a fast-growing tech brand. Another way to gain authority is by partnering with other personal brands or influencers within your client niche. Lastly, is other agencies. The easiest way to build your agency in the very beginning is to get in bed with other agencies and have them white label you. The key is finding the right partner who accepts your agency and its processes without .

Tips for Growing Your Following on Twitter

Chase now focuses on developing his brand on Twitter, LinkedIn, and short-form video. He has between 70K-80K followers on Twitter and is getting about 3 million impressions every single month on his content. For him, growing on Twitter is all about:

  • Consistency: tweeting about four times a day.
  • Threads: they take a lot of time to plan and you really have to know how to make them hook audiences and keep people interested. But they work wonderfully once you do.
  • Distribution: getting the right people to comment, like, and retweet your content.

Once he had that in place, Chase also started to run ads targeted at his followers with relevant content he wanted them to see, like his threads. So he’ll use ads to retarget his own content to people. He’s also started to build a network of specific pages. For example, he has “email of the day” thread, where he shares screenshots of emails he likes.

Because Twitter is his biggest platform, any content that works there gets repurposed for other platforms. For example, if one of his tweets is a hit, it will go on his IG and LI. For the most shared tweets, he’ll do a video later on.

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

Have you considered creating a course to attract clients? How about having so much business you need to start a waitlist? Creating a course is one way to pour your knowledge and experience into content that gains interest in your agency services. Today’s show guest started making courses and offering mentorship which eventually led to a mastermind, where clients and potential clients share ideas and experiences. She's sharing how this positive for her agency led to having a waitlist of clients wanting to work with them.

Katie Wight is the founder and CEO of KWContent, a social media marketing agency specializing in growing audiences, engaging consumers, and amplifying clients’ impact through their best-in-class content and social media strategy. Recently, Katie decided to offer courses where brands get access to her agency’s frameworks and methodologies. Today, she shares the success this move turned out to be for her agency.

In this interview, we’ll talk about:

  • Toxic leadership that holds back the team.
  • Generating so many leads you can pick and choose clients.
  • Developing your own client community or mastermind.
  • The biggest lie about agency 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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Toxic Leadership That Holds Back the Team

After a great experience in her first job, Katie worked for several months at a company where the toxic work environment fostered by the leadership led to very high turnover rates. At first, she was very excited to work with them. However, she slowly realized they didn’t necessarily live their external company values and mission. This was an immediate turnoff for someone who really values company culture. Additionally, she went from having flexible work hours to having to adhere to a strict work schedule.

Lack of alignment and a roadmap makes it really hard to delegate tasks. It eventually became an obstacle when Katie was setting up the company’s content strategy and growing the brand on social media. Unfortunately, this had been previously handled by the founder, who did not provide proper direction. It was a situation where the company leader was not ready to delegate control of the company’s social media. Without this support, she just couldn’t do her job properly.

As agency owner, most of us aren't prepared to be good leaders from the start. It's not something that comes instinctively to most, however, stepping down from certain tasks is a necessary part of your agency’s growth. In cases like this, failing to do so turned the owner into the problem. Why are so many amazing brands terrible places to work? It all comes back to leadership.

Following this experience, Katie did the math on how what it would take replace her income. And suddenly, she had started an agency.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Generating So Many Leads You Can Pick and Choose Clients

Back in 2019, Katie’s agency reached $500K in revenue and she started delegating some of her work. She knew she needed to systemize everything so she spent time and resources building that out. If you’ve gone through this process with your agency, you know that systemizing your creative process is no easy feat but it was just what needed done at that point.

By the time the pandemic hit in 2020, she had a very small team and no "essential brands" as clients that could keep functioning during the lockdowns. It was a scary time but it became clear she had to lean into the educational component as a pivot for her agency. After spending so much time systemizing her process, she was ready. It was perfect timing since a lot of smaller brands were trying to figure out how to pivot online.

The agency's first course offering was a very comprehensive view of the purpose of social media marketing: what it’s meant to do, how to systemize it, and align it to your goals.

It helped a lot of clients understand what they needed to focus on and what work they could stop doing. Some of them finished the course and asked for more or even mentorships in specific areas. Yet others wanted to hire the agency for their services.

This was game-changing for Katie's agency because it brought a lot of business to the agency.  While they used to pay for leads, now they have a waitlist for calls and scan the list of companies to pick and choose who they want to work.

Offering Mentorship and a Client Mastermind for Additional Growth

The first year of the course went really well and it impacted their sales, conversion rates, and overall business. Everything seemed to be working and attendees were asking for more. They also learned a lot about who they were capable to advise and the kind of work they most enjoyed doing.

It was clear, following the course people wanted to work with KW Content. And they were being asked for more than just social media. A lot of people on her team had worked for big brands that had gotten to the level where their clients wanted to go. This experience established authority within her team and they were confident that they could advise clients on growth. The next natural step was forming a mastermind.

A mastermind is an opportunity for your clients to talk to each other and share what’s working for them. If you can get them together as an added bonus of working with you, it can be beneficial for all. Also, by just connecting people you are almost ensuring your clients recommend your services to others.

The Biggest Lie about Agency Business Growth

For the first couple of years of the course, Katie and her team just tried to deliver everything clients wanted. Because of this, they ended up burnt out. After working themselves to exhaustion and needing a break, Katie learned the importance of measuring happiness as an important KPI.

The biggest lie about business growth is the more you do the faster you’ll grow. It used to be "hustle harder, " right?  Instead, Katie realized her agency has continued growing without being IN everything. What she recommends for agency owners feeling burned out right now is to never bite off more than they can chew. It may sound like a crazy thing to say to entrepreneurs, but the best advice for her is to find something you do very well and stay focused on that.

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: How_to_Generate_So_Many_Leads_Your_Agency_Has_a_Waitlist.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Are you too involved in your agency’s operations? Too stuck working IN the business to work ON the business? It's time to fire yourself from some of operations tasks and increase agency valuation. Removing yourself from daily operations is a great way to prepare your agency for an eventual sale and increase its valuation when the time comes. Start by identifying tasks you don't like as well as the ones someone else could do much better.

Tom Foster is the founder of Foster Web Marketing, a digital agency that helps doctors and lawyers get in front of their ideal customers. Clients usually come to them to build their websites, but many choose to also have them handle aspects like website optimization and content creation. After transforming to a fully virtual model, it took an acquisition offer for Tom to realize he needed to change some things in order to increase its value.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Preparing your agency for a future sale.
  • The different approaches to sale.
  • Firing yourself from your agency tasks.

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.

What's your agency's valuation? Get the formula here.

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Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.

Are You the One Bringing Down Your Agency's Valuation?

Tom originally entered the world of technology to focus on sales and marketing in 1991 after serving a six-year tour in the Marines. Right after the Marines, he went to work in software sales doing cold calls, fax blasts, and selling translation software. He ended up being very successful early on and got into the software business in the floppy disc era.

After forming his own agency, Foster Web Marketing, Tom started working on an all-in-one solution SaaS for website building. Creating his own software was a big undertaking, but there weren’t as many options back then. The platform, called DSS, continues to be part of his agency’s main offering. The platform offers CMS, CRM, lead management system and SEO tool, social media tools. Everything you’ll need for DIY digital marketing.

Recently, he received an offer to sell his agency. Although it was very flattering the time just wasn’t right. However, it helped him realize he needed to fix some things to increase the agency’s value to where he knew it could be. The most noticeable problem was that Tom was involved in everything. As the agency’s visionary, he knew he needed to fire himself that were not the most effective ways to spend his time.

Try a Different Approaches to Grow Agency Sales

For Tom, constant communication is the most important aspect of training someone in a new task in your agency. Of course, he also likes to hire people who bring their own experience. He recently hired someone with a lot of experience in a different area of sales. There are different types of sales people and different approaches to the sale:

  • Hunters find prospects and generate interest
  • Trappers close the sale

Tom used to exclusively hire trappers but now he wants a more well-rounded sales team. Rather than just continuing what he has done over the years,  he's looking for a new or different approach. He understand what he's been doing has gotten the agency where it is. However, in order to grow it's important to hire someone to get them to the next level. Online Training for Digital Agencies

Fire Yourself From Agency Operations

When he first started the agency, Tom coded, designed, wrote copy -- all the things! Recently, he has been delegating most of those tasks, or as he calls it, firing himself from his many jobs. He trusts his team to do a much better job. It wasn't easy at first, but he started by delegating any task he didn’t like and things he knew someone else could do better. He has a great agency team who he trusts and feels comfortable leaving the job to them.

You might be the person holding back your agency growth. Consider all the tasks you're doing. Which ones can be delegated? Which don't you like or aren't good at? Lean on your team and delegate outcomes. There are probably tasks you really enjoy doing and don’t want to let go of, and that’s fine. Tom still jumps into sales and marketing once in a while but acknowledges those can't be his focus while also focusing growing the agency.

Creating a Strong Agency Culture While Being Fully Virtual

When the pandemic started, Tom's office had a staff of 30. Like many businesses in the light of Covid-19, they swiftly moved to a remote team overnight and got stuck paying rent for an empty office for two years. In the end, it worked out well because going virtual allowed them to become more efficient and effective. As a fully remote agency, Tom sources talent from different parts of the country. Expanding beyond geographic limits has allowed him to hire amazing talent. It has also allowed him to keep talent that decided to move away from the DC area after the pandemic.

That said, company culture is a very important element of any successful agency and Tom admits it’s really hard to do over Zoom. How do you inspire a remote team and maintain culture? Keep your staff content by creating a good work environment. It’s not just about giving them a raise, it's about treating them with respect and protecting them from abusive clients.

Tom also believes in creating bonding moments in a virtual environment. He encourages game nights and morning meetings with the entire staff, where managers go over the most important things that happened the day before and the agenda for the day. This is a way to keep the entire staff in the loop when it comes to what’s happening in the company.

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: How_to_Increase_Agency_Valuation_By_Firing_Yourself.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

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