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Would you like your agency to be more profitable? Have you analyzed which of your clients are profitable and which engagements are losing money? You may feel you're doing everything right but still aren't profitable. However, it could be just a case of learning how to assess each client's profitability and raising prices on legacy clients. Today’s guest shares ways you can learn about agency profitability and increase your profit margin.

Russell Benaroya is the owner of Stride Services, a digital agency that provides outsourcing, bookkeeping, accounting, and CFO services for digital agencies. They provide timely, accurate, and actionable data so business owners can make decisions based on hard facts. In this episode, he shares some steps to assess whether a client is profitable, why you should look at your service as a product, and much more.

In this interview, we’ll cover:

  • How to make smart, profitable decisions to grow your agency.
  • 3 Questions to determine why an account is not profitable.
  • 2 Steps to evaluate if a client is profitable.
  • Raising prices for legacy clients.

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 to Smart, Profitable Decisions About Prospective Clients

For Russell, the agency space is at an interesting point where agency owners are starting to learn more about the type(s) of clients they serve. It’s important they understand each engagement and the level of profitability it brings to the agency. It is a moment of opportunity and transition where agency owners must be informed and armed to make smart decisions.

How can you make smart decisions for your agency's profitability?

Financial information isn’t particularly telling for many agency owners. It doesn’t tell them anything about how to act around a particular engagement. Russell believes you have to keep peeling back the layers to get to the information that really matters. Basically, you need data on how much revenue you’re making for a client but also what costs, time, and direct expenses are you putting into the client?

With this information, you can assess whether or not they are profitable for the agency. If the answer is no, then why and what can be done about it? This investigation leads to taking action at the client level.

2 Steps to Assess a Client’s Profitability

Russell’s agency uses these two techniques to help agencies that need to assess whether or not a client is profitable:

  1. Viewing financial and time data in one place. Let’s say you’re using Harvest for time tracking and have some direct expenses sitting on Quickbooks online. Russell and his team bring that into a unified environment and quantify the value of the time put into an account. Once they put that information together, it becomes easier to see the client or engagement's profitability.
  2. Understanding the shadow bill rate. This is especially relevant for agencies on retainer-based agreements or monthly recurring revenue (MRR) subscriptions. The shadow bill rate is a fairly easy calculation that takes into account the monthly recurring revenue and what you would be billing if you charged hourly a rate equal to the resources needed for that client. That ratio is what Russell calls the “win for all” and it’s an indication of whether or not your MRR is sufficient for a level of profitability.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

3 Important Questions to Measure Agency Profitability

If you had to track just one metric in an agency, Russell recommends it’s the golden metric: the “win for all” ratio. He feels it is the single most important metric that forces you to ask yourself:

  1. Did we price this client incorrectly?
  2. Do we have process issues affecting our efficiency?
  3. Are there issues on the client side keeping us from being effective?

This is the biggest driver for assessing profitability and becoming self-aware of what's standing in the way.

How to Increase Prices to Legacy Clients

There are many reasons your "win for all" ratio may be low; pricing is just one of them. If that is the case, it’s time to ask yourself how many clients you have on legacy pricing. It’s common for agencies to have more than a few clients at almost half under current prices. There’s a huge opportunity cost there.

As humans, we avoid conflict which makes it hard to increase prices. Instead, most people start to over-service clients to make sure they’re very happy and then increase prices. However, this is not the right way to go about it and involves spending more resources on that client.

Russell says agency owners need to have a “state of the relationship" discussion. This allows the opportunity to understand how the client views the work and then explain it’s time to increase prices.

What’s the best way to approach a client and make the account profitable?

It is particularly hard to support a client who is out of scope if you don’t have the data. Once you start the conversation, clarify there’s a difference between what you originally agreed upon and what you're doing now. That means you’re operating out of scope. Going forward, try to look at your agency services as a product... And a product has standards. When you articulate those standards and the tasks associated to create that product it will be easier to evaluate if your actions are within the scope of that product or not. It’s an objective way to be unemotional about the work.

Measuring Profit Margin of a Healthy Digital Agency

If you’re an agency owner interested in measuring your clients’ profitability, you can start by measuring the gross margin. Gross margin is revenue minus direct costs associated with serving that customer. Typically, you want gross margin to be between 50% and 55%.

If you’re in an investment year that number is lower. However, growth investments are very important for the future of your agency,  so keep that in mind before freaking out over your income statement. It is a variable that is dependent upon if and when you want to sell your agency.

One mistake Russell sees agency owners make is not taking a good salary for themselves in order to increase their margin. This isn't a good idea and becomes just an artificial achievement.

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

Happy clients grow your business. So what is the secret to happier clients? Is your agency making a good first impression? Building a rapport with them on a human level? How are your setting your agency apart from the competition?  We talked to one agency owner who always prefers to go for a true connection by building the relationship first. When it comes to employees and clients, he prefers creating genuine bonds that lead to a better agency and an overall better work environment.

Tom Jauncey is the owner of UK-based agency Nautilus Marketing, a full-service digital agency specializing in WordPress and Wix. His agency works with clients on SEO and social media strategies to deliver a wide range of digital solutions on a worldwide scale. In the journey to growing his agency, Tom has relied on the value of human connection for his team, clients, and partners. Today he'll share how he makes a good impression on the first call with a client and what he has learned about hiring for culture.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why the first call is about the client.
  • Building a rapport with clients to gain trust.
  • How to make a good first impression.
  • Forming a team and building a sense of culture.

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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Why the First Call Should Be All About the Client

As another accidental agency owner, starting an agency was never part of Tom’s plan. He went to drama school and had been on TV shows and movies. He started working in content creation as a freelancer while going on casting calls. He did social media for a couple of small and medium businesses. With time, clients kept asking if he could also do graphic design and other agency work. He found freelancers to help him with those new tasks and over time built an agency with a team of 17.

Tom doesn’t see himself fitting in with the typical agency model. He loves to surround himself with “fellow nerds” and prefers to get to know clients well. In fact, prospective clients typically say they are different than other agencies in the UK. He describes himself as a people person and hates agencies that see their clients as cash cows.

Client onboarding a client at his agency starts by asking them about their problems. What are they worried about? What do they think they need? Most agencies follow a set process for each client on the first call. However, at his agency, the first call is more about building a rapport with the client. According to Tom, if you have a good strategy ready but don’t work on having a good rapport with your client, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

The first call with your client is all about them. One good way to ensure you’ll have a meaningful conversation is to send a video clearing up the most common questions before the call. This way, you’re getting that out of the way and can focus on getting to know them.

Making a Good First Impression and Starting Off a Positive Relationship

For Tom, focusing on the human connection is the key to standing out among so competitor agencies that treat all clients the same. Another important differentiator is the follow-up. After every call, he likes to set aside a few minutes to prepare the proposal. This way, not even twenty minutes after the call the client gets an email linking to the proposal. Clients appreciate having this level of dedication and it’s a good way to kick off things.

Bad first impressions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a bad first impression is trying to sell something without first building a rapport. Maybe you’ve received the kind of LinkedIn message where someone goes straight into sales mode claiming you’re in the same industry. It’s not a good look and an awful way to make a first impression. This type of tactic tends to be a massive turn-off. It has made many move off LinkedIn because they feel constantly bombarded with sales pitches. By starting a conversation and building a relationship where you’re not immediately asking someone to buy something you’re much more likely to get them on your side.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Going Beyond Skill When Hiring Your Agency Team

In the five years since he started the agency, Tom has really learned to value his team. He believes in hiring people smarter than him because it has been key to his agency’s success. Having the right people in the right seats means less micromanaging. He trusts after he makes the sale, his team will deliver exactly what the client expects. It also means someone has his back when the client is asking for something outside of his expertise. Having a reliable team has been the most important piece in scaling his agency to where it is now.

How he finds the right people. At first, he just started hiring people who had the skills needed. There was no real criteria beyond ability at that point. However, as the team began forming the people who didn’t fit in stuck out, whether not agreeing with their ethos or not getting along with other team members.

As they started to need additional team members, he refined the hiring process. While years ago it might have been just about doing the work, now he likes finding out more about the person. What did they enjoy? Did they like to learn? This has helped him get a better sense of whether a candidate or a potential client will work well with his agency.

Knowing and defining your culture helps you stop being a yes-man. It prevents red flags when bringing in new hires and new clients.

Why You Shouldn’t Underestimate the Value of Strategic Partners

In order to maintain a pipeline, you need three different lead generation channels: inbound, outbound, and partnerships.

Don’t underestimate the value of having strategic partners. Building relationships is a great way to scale, especially when you’re starting out. Tom has a few referral partners he calls whenever his agency is not able to take on a client.

His agency is also a Google partner and Wix partner, who also provide leads as part of their agreement. Tom’s message for agency owners who are just starting out or looking to grow is to go for those connections that can prove to be very valuable.

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

Does your agency align with a purpose or cause? Are you hiring diversly to bring in different viewpoints? Today’s guest has a lot of experience working with non-profits, which is how she's become an expert on purpose-driven marketing and recruiting, as well as avoiding natural bias in business. She shares some of the ways she implemented purposeful branding and diverse hiring in her agency to bring positive changes and grow her agency.

Lyn Wineman is a marketing veteran with over 30 years of experience with award-winning work. Her agency Kid Glov has been recognized as one of the best places to work in Lincoln, Nebraska. They are a marketing, branding, and advertising boutique agency with about 25 employees that helps clients create exceptional brand experiences. Their name goes back to taking great care of their clients, their brands, and the people within their culture.

In this interview, we'll discuss:

  • Where to start and how to execute a rebrand.
  • Removing bias and diversifying your team.
  • Taking on clients that align with your agency.

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.

Subscribe

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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.

 

How to Rebrand and Get More Attention for Your Brand

In 12 years, Lyn’s agency has helped over 100 non-profits with their brand messaging and strategy. In some cases, this entails tightening up their tagline and message, while in others it goes all the way to their logo and name. Overall, non-profits with great branding tend to do better, get more recognition, and are generally easier to find.

When it comes to rebranding your business, Lyn reminds clients that no one will ever create something that is universally loved. “It’s better to be the pistachio-flavored ice cream than the vanilla ice cream that no one loves”. You can accomplish more with something a small percentage likes than something 100% of people are willing to ignore.

Where to Start When Doing a Rebrand for Your Client or Your Agency

Since they work with non-profits, Lyn and her team knew their process needs to be focused and affordable. They start with a discovery session with key leaders of the non-profit. There, they talk about what makes their brand and where they see themselves in the future. This is followed by an online survey and a competitive review. Finally, they do a brand archetype profile and create a brand strategy and positioning statement.

Next they strategize the launch plan including who they need to talk to and how. To this end, they help clients plan meetings, presentations, and parties to present this new identity to their employees, the board, top donors, partners, and finally the public. They also help with their website and anything else to ensure their name and new image are well received.

Because the process of rebranding many times includes a new name for the organization, Lyn warns clients they will get comments about how it was unnecessary to do this. People are usually comfortable with the familiar and react negatively to change. However, changes to their client’s image and branding are done as the result of a lot of studies. It’s all about thinking outside of the box and garnering attention.

How Purpose and Implied Bias Play a Role in Branding

Data shows that >70% of people nowadays want to align with brands making a positive impact in the world. This percentage is even higher when it comes to younger generations who want to work with brands that make a difference. Lyn’s agency has always had a strong focus on non-profit. With these new trends, they’re getting more and more companies come to them to create purpose-driven messaging and social impact campaigns.

Part of the challenge creating a campaign is identifying implicit biases in a message. We all have biases we may not even notice. In these cases, the first step is awareness. It requires willingness to look within and identify some of their own biases as an agency as well as the customers’ biases.

Often these beliefs are not rooted in bad faith and are just the result of our surroundings. Making an effort to improve this is not just the right thing to do. Data shows how increasing diversity and inclusion in advertising translates to more conversion and sales. It is an excellent way to build trust and relationships with your clients.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Opening the Door to Speaking to Different Audiences

Seeing the growing interest in purpose-driven marketing, Lyn’s team now receives bias training. They also include a questionnaire as part of their onboarding to open the door to bias discussions. As for their internal operations, they have started focusing on what they can do to give back as part of their discovery process. This simple question helps identify potential causes to aligned with.

Almost every single member of her team felt they didn’t have an implicit bias, which is how people usually feel. Going through the bias training helped them realize we all have biases. Being aware of this helps open the door to positive change.

In marketing, we’re all taught to zero in on our primary audience and speak mainly to them. Bias training has helped Lyn and her team ask themselves how they can think about the audience differently and ensure they’re not just zeroing in on a 1-person audience. Instead, they focus on opening up and accepting that audiences are changing and whoever your buyer persona is today may not be so in the future.

Removing Bias and Diversifying Your Team

All this talk about biases and implementing diversity into your work with clients is meaningless unless you also make it part of your agency. Diversity in among your team leads to different points of view and often to better work. We all have different learned experiences we bring to every situation. A diverse team will certainly give you different results which is good for your agency.

For Lyn, it hasn’t been easy to achieve, but it starts with the hiring process. They changed their job descriptions and set new interviewing and hiring policies to help open these doors. For instance, instead of requiring a specific level of experience they now offer a training runway to bring in people without the experience but are otherwise a good fit. Furthermore, they’re creating an agency advisory panel with members of different cultural competencies.

Taking On Causes That Align With Your Agency Values

When you take on a cause, ask yourself is this in line with our agency's values? Do we have something of value to add to the conversation? Will most of our clients be in agreement?

Of course, not all clients will be passionate about the same causes. However, if you’re attracting clients that are a good fit for your agency, most of them will be supportive of the cause you choose.

Three Pillars to Cultural Success

Lyn’s agency has lost just one employee over the last year. It is quite the accomplishment in the midst of “the great resignation”. It has a lot to do with how she takes care of her agency employees as her primary job. Their "Creative Nirvana Project” is focused on creating the best environment for doing creative and strategic work.

The project started with three sessions for her creative team.

  • Session 1: In the zone - is focused on questions like “what does it feel like when things are great and feels like you can’t fail?” They then analyze how that situation looks for each employee.
  • Session 2: Bummer - is not as positive but equally important. Here they ask the team to describe what it looks like when things suck. They focus on what makes a situation not great.
  • Session 3, The path - the last session focused on drawing a path asking "how do we get from where we are to where we need to be?" And "what are some quick wins and big things we can do?"

It is like such a simple principle, yet it has helped them get great feedback and be on the list of the best places to work in their state. Moving forward, they realize creative Nirvana needs to be a pillar of the whole agency and include all teams (not just creative).

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

Do you have an agency business partner? Are you considering bringing on a partner? Or experiencing challenges with your partner? Many people are afraid to start an agency with a partner because they think it will end badly. And it's true, striking the right balance with a partner is no easy feat. However, finding a partner that compensates for your shortcomings makes it all worthwhile. Today’s guests have had a successful agency partnership for over a decade. As expected, they have faced challenges along the way and found success by inserting their own style into their agency formula.

Alexis Krisay and Melissa DiGianfilippo are the owners and partners of Serendipit Consulting, a full-service marketing and creative agency in Phoenix, Arizona. They’ve been partners at their digital agency for almost 15 years. It seems like a long time to work alongside a co-owner. However, with backgrounds in PR and marketing, they found they complement each other very well over the years. Recently, they started a podcast together called Will it Stick that covers bold marketing campaigns and PR stunts.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The secret to a successful agency partnership.
  • Why key differences can lead to synchrony.
  • How a mastermind can help you get intentional about your business.

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.

Subscribe

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The Learning Curve After Starting a Digital Agency

Alexis grew up being familiar with the agency world. Her father owned a digital effects agency in LA and she visited the studio all the time. She loved the relaxed and fun environment and aspired to create something as cool. However, she never actually thought she would have an agency. She met Melissa working together for a real estate developer. That’s when they discovered they made a really good team and thought it would be cool to have a project together. After securing a few freelance clients, they knew it was time to leave their jobs and officially start their agency.

There was a learning curve, of course. They charged their first client $8,000, which seemed like a pretty good deal at the time. However, they quickly learned to take the project scope into account. They were doing everything for this client and the amount of travel warranted a much higher price.

The Secret to a Successful Agency Partnership

As Jason says, when it comes to partnerships, “you either know the bad partner or you are the bad partner”. That’s not necessarily the case here. Sometimes a partnership lasts a couple of years and then one partner gets bored with the business and wants to do something else. Maybe the agency outgrows one of the partners and they are no longer relevant. Working with agency owners from all over the world Jason has known many successful partnerships. How do some agency owners make it work?

Alexis and Melissa have encountered challenges, of course, but their partnership has continued to work. Most of all, they credit the immense respect they have for each other. They respect each other’s passions, opinions, and expertise and work hard to each stay in their separate lanes. According to them, this respect makes it so they’re not afraid to “fight productively”. These arguments are productive because leave the conversation with a full agreement on both sides. There’s no “I told you so” when you reach a compromise.

This synchrony certainly didn’t happen overnight, but with practice they’ve come to know each other really well. What works especially well for them is they each compensate for the other one’s shortcomings. Each has her own area of expertise and respects the other. If a situation requires one of them to cover for the other, they’ll of course do it. However, when in doubt, it’s better to pause and say “this is my partner's expertise. I better call her to be sure”.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Aligning Goals in Agency Business and in Life 

Making sure your goals for the agency align is one thing, but your overall goals must also align. If you and your partner are at different points in life then you might want different things from the business. If one of the partners is much older, then they may be looking at exiting sooner. However, there is room for some differences to improve the relationship. If you look at each of their profiles, Alexis and Melissa are very different from one another.

This works really well for the agency because one of them is the visionary while the other is the planner. Why does this matter? In the end, your partnership affects far more than just the agency. It affects your entire life, so make sure to enter that “business marriage” with someone that complements you.

Get Intentional About Your Agency With the Help of a Mastermind

About five years into the business, Alexis and Melissa joined an entrepreneurial organization. Joining this group helped them get intentional about building their business. Up to that point, they treated the agency as a way to work while taking care of their families.

Getting to the million-dollar mark helped them realize they had the resources and employees to do something really special. The organization helped them get serious about treating the agency like a real business instead of a hobby or lifestyle choice. With this new perspective, they focused on growing and scaling the agency.

Once they got clear about their goals, the agency started growing fast. In fact, they reached $2 million in just two years. With the help of advisors, they were exposed to different proven systems like EOS. In the end, they adopted a mismatch of different systems and found a formula that worked for them.

Finding their own version of a system was part of their journey to define themselves as a unique agency that doesn’t necessarily work as any other agency out there. Alexis and Melissa don’t want to be like the agencies they worked for in the past. They find that trying to do things the traditional agency way leads to stagnation. On the other hand, going back and following their own path has led to success.

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

Have you ever asked your team what they don't want to do anymore? What would your employees eliminate, if they could? One agency owner started asking these important questions and unlocked rapid growth by implementing their ideas and truly innovating processes. For his agency, niching down and adopting innovation as an agency value made all the difference. He discusses how he implemented those changes and the 5 big questions you need to ask your team.

Josh Webber is the co-founder of Big Red Jelly, an agency focused on digital branding, web design, and development. His team helps businesses focus on all the steps a business should complete before working on advertising and marketing.

Although his agency is five years old, Josh has been in the agency world since graduating college, working at several agencies around the country. As is often the case, his agency started as a full-service digital marketing agency. The decision to niche down came after the pandemic. This marked a point where his team started to focus on what they did best: branding. The decision led to exponential growth for his agency. He now shares how focusing on innovation and making the jump to niche down changed everything.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How to make innovation a top value at your agency.
  • Why innovation can also mean simplifying processes.
  • How to get a fresh perspective to bring new ideas.

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.

Subscribe

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Overcoming Hard Times By Niching Down

For Josh's agency, the two years leading up to the pandemic were years of slow and organic growth. Once Covid hit, more than a third of their clients had to close shop and were unable to pay invoices. It seemed as good a time as any to do something they’ve been discussing for a while and niche down. Josh had been listening to several experts talk about the importance of niching down and owning your niche. Ultimately, they pulled the trigger and it was the best decision they have ever made. In fact, their finances started to improve almost immediately.

If anything, Josh only regrets waiting so long to do it. Luckily, he was able to turn the regret into creating a culture of innovation within the agency. Innovation is probably at the heart of most agencies' mission and vision. What’s actually hard is clearly defining it with actions.

There is a gap between how many agencies place innovation as one of their top values and how it’s actually one of the lowest when it comes to seeing this investment take place. Most agency owners want to be innovative but fail at “how”.

How Can You Find and Implement Innovation Within Your Agency?

In the agency world, you’re either moving forward or going backward. What can you do to make sure you’re always moving forward? Josh and his team organized a vision meeting where they defined innovation for their agency.  They started by “abolishing” some terms like “that’s just the way it is” and “this is how it’s always been”. By doing this, they started recreating their culture.

The concept of innovation in the agency space is usually attached to creative roles, which is a mistake. Anyone can innovate and it’s the youngest people on the team who usually bring a completely unique perspective. So, step one for Josh's team was deciding that innovation would be a huge part of the agency moving forward. Secondly, they focused on meetings, processes, and implementing tactics to ensure this.

Making huge changes in the agency is never easy and some team members may not be on board. In Josh’s case, about 30% of the team weren't accepting of the changes. It was his opportunity to see who was willing to be part of an agency transformation. There will always be people who don’t like change. However, in the digital marketing space you have to be innovating and changing or you will be left behind.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

5 Questions to Kickoff Innovation in Your Agency

After defining innovation and bringing ideas to implement it, the team next focused on what they could remove from their processes. The idea was to get employees talking about things they were tired of doing and it was a big success. You can become so inflated with processes and SOPs the question “what can we remove?” brings a lot of suggestions. This helped Josh see innovation doesn’t have to be adding more and more. It can also be about removing what no longer serves a purpose for the agency.

In advance of the meeting, Josh sent his team some questions to get them thinking about what should be eliminated:

  1. What would you like to do more of?
  2. What would you like to do less of?
  3. Is there something that has always confused you?
  4. Is there something that you have always disagreed with?
  5. What do you think could be removed that would lead to better results?

The exercise led to a lot of ideas which, Josh admits, were spot on. It can be hard to hear because some of the things your team wants to eliminate might be things you put into place. But that is what innovation is all about -- change and growth.

Next, they focused on questions about the leadership and the founders. Does X do something that distracts you? You’ll need to have thick skin to listen to what your team has to say, but it’s a great exercise.

How Masterminds Can Help Get a Fresh Perspective on Your Agency

Those meetings were such a success they turned into an annual event for his agency. Every year they organized meetings to tackle: how can we renew? What can we change? What can we add? And the second half focuses on what they can remove and simplify. The big takeaway has been simplicity. These meetings have helped his agency build its culture of innovation and allow its team to bring their own perspective.

More recently, they are focused on the importance of getting external motivation outside of the agency. It’s about maybe finding a peer group or mastermind and learning from someone with a new perspective. Oftentimes, it’s the agency owner who gets to experience these things, but they are trying to come up with ways for employees to also have these experiences.

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

Are you trapped working 24/7 in your agency? Do you know who to hire and how to empower them to make the right decisions? How do you build the culture for a growing team? Discover how one agency owner built and scaled a successful agency with multifaceted hires who wear many hats. She is currently working on her building her second agency and shares some of the lessons she’s bringing to round two.

Gina Michnowicz is the CEO and CCO of The Craftsman Agency, an agency specializing in experiences and creating magical moments. They work with clients that want to do something innovative across the digital space and also in-person events. They started their journey working with big clients like Disney and Cisco, although they also work with some small and medium brands as well.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Finding your first employees who can wear many hats.
  • Creating the right culture and empowering your team.
  • How to avoid burnout as an agency owner.

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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.

 

Starting an Agency with Big Clients Right Off the Bat

For Gina, ending up as an agency owner was the moment her career came full circle. Right out of college she interviewed at an advertising agency. However, they didn’t have any open positions at that moment so she ended up working in HR. She then worked at a management consulting company running part of the digital practice. The idea of starting her own agency came from others who enjoyed working with her and offered to be her first clients. This is how Gina's agency started with two big clients, Cisco and VMWare --  a big break for a young agency!

While most agencies work for many years to earn big clients it can also be quite challenging considering they can be very complex and political. Big brands tend to be siloed, which can make things difficult.

Luckily, Gina is very good at picking the right clients and was able to handle it as a new agency.

Hiring Multifaceted Talent to Get Your Agency Off the Ground

Gina started working by herself but reached the breaking point very quickly, during the first quarter. She was lucky to have someone from her old job who wanted to work with her. It turns out this was a very multifaceted person who could wear many hats. Finding this type of talent is super helpful when you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of resources.

More recently, she continues to rely on more traditional ways to look for new talent for her agency. She is very active on LinkedIn, where she built a large network she can rely on when it comes to looking for new talent. She also uses ads, although they tend to bring in more unqualified candidates.

Gina's agency is in the process of creating an intern program to receive candidates from some great schools. She finds this is a great place to start recruiting because today, young adults graduate with fantastic instincts and insight.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Creating Culture By Getting to Know Your Team 

Your team members need to feel empowered to make decisions. Admittedly, it’s hard to let go of control. Gina sometimes catches herself wanting to intervene and take control of a situation. In these cases, she reminds herself the leadership team can handle it.  It's not only okay to step back, it's important to do so.

It's also important to make sure the leadership team is very connected. If you are disconnected at the top, this feeds into the rest of the team. As leaders, we have to show up as our best selves. If we’re not, permeates the rest of the organization.

It also comes down to relationships. Are you working on building relationships with your team? Do you know them as people beyond their agency role? Get to know the person, not just project manager. Talk to your team about what they are passionate about, and what they like doing. It’s important to create opportunities and spaces where these conversations happen naturally by encouraging team activities.

How to Avoid the Burnout Point

Having trusted key employees who became her right and left hand helped Gina avoid the trap of overworking. She delegates important tasks to them and keeps a healthy work balance.

Unfortunately, one of those key employees had an unexpected leave during the pandemic. In order to stay profitable, Gina and her other trusted employee took on those tasks and worked non-stop during the pandemic. As a result, the agency had a phenomenal 2021 but they were both burned out by the end.

To reclaim her time, she made herself a new routine that includes time to meditate and walk each morning and small workouts throughout the day. Blocking time to rest has also worked. Now, she now tries not to pack her entire day with meetings if she can avoid it. You have to create rules for yourself and be strict about following them to have the time to focus on yourself. Finally, it’s all about knowing when to take time off, which she now does and encourages in her employees.

Why Engagement is the Key to a Successful Remote Model

If you’re managing a fully remote agency, Gina advises you to be really engaged and ensure your employees are also engaged. Engagement is a big factor in seeing whether or not someone is happy and passionate in their current role. Lack of engagement stems from a variety of factors. As a leader, it’s your job to try to understand what can be done to help someone be comfortable with their role in 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_Empower_Your_Team_and_Avoid_Agency_Owner_Burnout.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am EST

Want to make better hires? Looking to improve your agency's employee retention? Many times, a high turnover rate is a consequence of a flawed hiring process. You need to understand what you're looking for and how each person will contribute not only to the agency's effectiveness but also to its culture. Today's guest has developed a system that took his agency's employee retention from 30% to 80% by just adjusting the way they assess new hire candidates.

Shannon Hansen is the owner of Lightfoot Media, a full-service agency focused on helping companies maximize their ROI. He started his first business at age 21 and learned lessons as some of those ended in bankruptcy. In 2012 he ended up in the digital industry figuring out how to make money online with mortgage lead generation. Over the years, the business expanded as he figured things out. He has experienced both great successes and great failures that led him to regroup.

For Shannon, being on such a good path and then having everything go south was an opportunity to stop and wonder: what happened? He learned lessons and figured out how to move forward after picking up the pieces and starting over once again. Starting over led him to what he describes as the most fulfilling stage he has ever reached in business. He hopes it can help others too.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • What are you doing wrong in your agency's hiring process?
  • The six-step framework to transform your agency hiring process.
  • Understanding what drives your agency employees.

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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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.

 

What Are You Doing Wrong in Your Agency Hiring Process?

CPRMPPS is the roadmap Shannon now uses in many business areas. However, this winning formula actually started with his staff. In a span of six months, his agency lost four senior-level employees. It was a big blow for his agency and he admits they were not equipped to fill these positions internally. Shannon and his partner didn't understand how they ended up in the position; they weren't all bad apples. After much reflection, it all came back to the hiring and employee selection process.

So how could they improve their hiring process? What should they do to avoid similar situations in the future? This is how they came up with a system consisting of 6 steps (abbreviated CPRMPS) to their new hiring process. Basically, these steps serve as a guide to quickly tell whether a person is a good fit for the agency or not.

According to Shannon, hiring individuals that fit with this model has increased their employee retention rate from 30% to 80%. It really marks a before and after in terms of the agency’s culture. As a team, they are now much more effective and the atmosphere is incredibly positive.

With this process, Shannon and his team score candidates in each of the following categories from 1 to 10. No person who scores lower than 7 in any of these areas is considered to be a good fit for his agency.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

6-Step System to Transform Agency Employee Retention Rates

  1. Coachable: There are two main things you should be looking for in this area while interviewing: 1.) Do they ask questions? 2.) Do they take feedback? It’s pretty straightforward, yet very few people ask questions even if they’re encouraged to. This can typically indicate they’re not coachable. Of course, it could also mean the person is shy about asking questions, but this can also be tested in the next step.
  2. Problem-solving: The team tests candidates on the skillset needed for their role. The team takes this opportunity to test the person with a particularly difficult problem to solve. They are once again encouraged to ask questions. If they are not willing to ask questions when facing something very difficult, then they’re definitely not coachable. It’s safe to assume that, if hired, they would face very difficult situations on the job. It’s a bad sign if they’re not capable of asking for help.
  3. Reliable: When looking at a candidate’s resume, Shannon considers 3+ years at a particular job as a sign of reliability. It’s not necessarily a game-changer, especially if they’re really young. However, they also test reliability based on when they show up for the interview. Early or on time is great, however late by 15 minutes or more, is an instant deal breaker.
  4. Motivation: This is the central piece of this hiring system. What drives a person to do what they do? It’s normal for people to have more than one motive but the primary is what you’re looking for. Identifying the candidate's motivation is key because it can either be really great for the agency or really distracting. Some common motives include helping, creativity, and growth. There are also no-go ones like power and control, which are red flags for poor candidates.
  5. Personability: This step is all about considering how much time would you be willing to spend with this person. Will they vibe with your team on a personal level? Would you ask them for dinner at your house? It’s really important for culture and the team members judging this usually give very similar scores.
  6. Superpowers: This final step is optional but consider, what are they really best at and is it something your team is missing. There are plenty of people on Shannon’s team who don’t have a superpower and are great team members. However, there are people who can make a huge difference with their potential to drive the agency forward in one particular area. This will influence the person’s future role in the agency.

Understanding What Really Drives Your Employees

For Shannon, learning to discern motivation was by far the hardest part of mastering the hiring system. It's not as straightforward as just asking them. It requires practice and intentional listening to discern their true motivation.

Like anything - with time, the team learned about different motives or drivers and why some are good fits for the agency and others aren’t. Some are not adequate for different reasons, whether they go against the agency's core values or simply don't fit within the culture. Ultimately, understanding them helps Shannon see how the wrong hire could damage the agency’s growth.

Once you really understand a candidate's true motivation and how they change the way you can work with a person, you also start thinking about how people with different motives can work together. You get the best work out of a person once you understand what drives them.

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

Would you like to build authority with a speaking career? Want to generate new agency business from a stage, unsure how to get speaking engagements? As an agency owner, speaking can be lucrative when you’re speaking at the right events and to the right audience. However, there are some things you should be clear on before you begin. Today’s guest has been a public speaker for over a decade and now prepares others for the speaking life. He shares a few tips on how to start your journey to build a successful speaking career.

Grant Baldwin has been in the speaking industry for most of his career. He now runs a speaker coaching company called Speaker Lab, where he teaches people how to find and book paid speaking engagements. After being a full-time speaker for ten years, he was frequently asked what it takes to make it as a speaker. So he decided to start teaching the ins and outs of finding and booking speaking gigs.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • The five steps to building a speaking career.
  • Knowing where to find your audience.
  • Strategies to get noticed by event planners.
  • Money is not the only way to get your value back.

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5-Step Roadmap to Build a Successful Speaking Career

Booking speaking engagements is a great way to build your personal brand. It's also a great way to build your agency’s brand and attract more clients. Grant teaches the Speaker Success Roadmap which goes through the five S.P.E.A.K steps to help you build your speaking career:

S - select a problem to solve: This is a good first step for any type of future speaker. You should be able to answer: Who do I speak to? What problem am I solving for that audience? Many agency owners make the mistake of wanting to cast the net as far and wide as possible. People who do this tend to say they speak to “people” and have a message for everyone. The more clear and focused you are, the easier it is to find and book gigs.

It may seem counterintuitive but focus on being really good at one thing. Doing this makes it easier to book gigs on a consistent basis. You may think that big agency personalities like Gary Vaynerchuck tend to speak to everyone, but it hasn’t always been like that. Gary actually started off talking to wine people. That’s how he started building his brand. Once you get start building your brand, you can branch out to broader audiences.

P- prepare your talk: This step is about being very clear about the solution you’re providing to the audience’s needs. What are you doing to provide this solution? Will it be through webinars, seminars, or maybe keynotes? They all work; it’s just about being clear on the means of delivery that works best in your case, for your audience.

E - establish yourself as the expert: Two key marketing assets all speakers need are a website and a demo video. Your demo video is like a movie trailer, a short video (2-3 minutes) that sparks people’s interest. This video helps event planners get a sense of your style and whether or not you’ll fit with their audience.

A - acquire paid speaking gigs: This is the part you want to fast-forward to. A common mistake speakers make at this point is doing nothing. They have the first three steps so they figure now they just sit and wait. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that. You need to have a system and a process in place to actively reach out to at least five events and generate momentum.

K - know when to scale: A lot of people interested in speaking are also interested in writing or consulting. Of course, it is possible to do all these things, but Grant argues not all at once. It is up to each person to figure out how speaking fits into their overall plans and goals.

Building Your Speaking Brand by Knowing Where to Find Your Audience

In his case, Grant has a website for his agency and a different one to promote his speaking brand. Both websites point to each other and serve two different purposes. If a potential client wants to learn how to get more speaking gigs, they’re directed to Speak Lab. If they want to hire Grant as a speaker, they’re directed to his personal page.

However, once you know who your audience is and have a website, you can’t just post the link on social media and wait for clients to come. When you’re clear about who you’re speaking to, it’s easier to find events where you could potentially speak.

Where does your audience gather? If you’re running a digital agency, you probably already have an idea of the types of events, gatherings, and associations they are attending. Once that’s clear, it’s a matter of reaching out to the event planner and conferences and starting a conversation about why you’re a good fit for their audience. It’s not about convincing them to hire a speaker; they were already going to do that. It’s more about presenting yourself as the best option.

Like with agency clients, you may reach out and find the planner is not hiring at the moment. Nonetheless, reaching out and starting a conversation is a good strategy and requires discipline and commitment.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

How to Make Contact and Standout from Other Speakers

According to Grant, you can focus on events you’ve personally attended before. In this case, you may already know the event planner or can get an introduction if you know another speaker at the event. Speaking is very much a momentum business; the more you speak the more gigs you’ll continue to book. Initially, it may feel like you’re pushing a boulder uphill. But if you plant enough seeds, you’ll see some results.

Simple strategies like sending an email can be perfectly effective too. Grant has booked many events by cold emailing people. However, if you’re sending a 90-paragraph email about how awesome you are, no one will read that. The goal of an email is to get a reply -- keep it short and simple. That is the type of email most likely to get a reply.

Of course, short and simple doesn’t mean vague. Instead of asking “are you hiring speakers?” you can ask for more detailed information. Mention you came across a conference they’re having and were curious to know when they’ll start reviewing speakers for it.

How to stand out: What if you get a reply saying the review process won’t start for another two months? Then that’s an opportunity to ask if it’s ok to reach out again in two months. They’ll say yes to that because they don’t actually expect you to do it. Very few would. So when you actually reach back, you’ll be showing them what it’s like to work with you and giving them reasons to consider you.

Why You Shouldn’t Speak for Free

Speaking for free is okay, as long as you know why we’re doing it. Some speakers may think they’re doing it from the goodness of their hearts and someday they’ll get the return. Speakers are not running a non-profit, they’re running a business and they should treat it as such. As a speaker, you are providing something of value and it’s important to receive something of value in return.

This value may or may not be in the form of a check. For example as an agency owner, speaking at the right event might land you three new clients. This is worth more than what the event would have paid you.

Grant has even offered to speak at an event for free or at a discount on the condition that the event planner introduces him to other event planners. Getting introductions that can lead to other gigs is valuable to him.

Will Speaking be an Important Part of Your Business?

Agency owners looking to build a speaking career should be clear about the role they want it to have in their lives and their agency. There are speakers who do hundreds of gigs per year and others who do three. Both are fine. Just try to figure out which one works for your lifestyle and your agency.

Speaking can be a very lucrative way to grow an agency, and it should be treated like it. Try to treat it like a serious part of your business plan if you’re expecting it to bring great results for your agency.

Are You Looking for a Mentor or Trusted Advisors? 

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

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