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

Is your agency able to turn video views into paying clients? Do you know how to craft an effective video ad and test its results? Why is YouTube still the platform yielding better results for your video ads? Today’s guest specializes in video advertising and knows many agencies still haven’t fully tapped into the potential for video ads to engage customers and drive results. He’ll unpack why YouTube specifically is the best platform for agencies to focus their video efforts and the key ingredients for crafting attention-grabbing YouTube ads that convert. Tune in to learn to maximize your video marketing efforts, leverage data-driven video campaigns, and understand the video marketing opportunity agencies cannot afford to ignore.

Jake Larsen is the owner of Video Power Marketing, a video marketing agency that aims to help clients power their businesses by leveraging video and YouTube ads. For ten years his agency has helped clients understand the importance of creating the right video, targeting the right audience, and presenting them with the right offer to achieve successful results. By following this formula, agencies can effectively utilize video ads on YouTube to grow their client base.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why agencies should prioritize YouTube for their video content.
  • 3 elements to creating a successful YouTube ad campaign.
  • Keys to building the right message and offer.

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Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Running payroll and benefits is hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is a tool that helps make payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

 

Why Agencies Should Prioritize YouTube for Video Marketing Efforts

In many cases, the reason why many people don’t get the views they should be getting on their videos comes down to the platform. For his part, Jake likes YouTube as a unique platform for reaching a highly targeted audience.

One of the key advantages of YouTube ads is the quality of views they offer. Unlike other platforms like Facebook and Instagram, where a view is counted after just a few seconds, YouTube considers a view when the viewer watches at least half of the ad or 30 seconds, whichever comes first. If you’re using YouTube ads, you can be assured that those ads are being seen by engaged viewers likely to convert into leads or clients.

Another advantage of YouTube ads is its intent-based targeting. Since Google owns YouTube, agencies can target viewers based on their search behavior on Google. For instance, if someone searches for "how to grow my marketing agency" on Google and then goes to YouTube, they’ll probably be served an ad related to growing their agency. This highly relevant audience-to-message ratio makes it easier for agencies to connect with their target audience and deliver their message effectively.

In terms of mindset, just remember to create ads that focus on the audience and their problems, rather than solely promoting your business or product. They suggest that great ads are those that offer solutions and make the audience's lives better. They advise advertisers to consider their target audience, how to grab their attention, build trust, and offer something that will improve their lives.

3 Elements to Creating a Successful YouTube Ads Campaign

To create a successful YouTube ad campaign, Jake suggests focusing on three key elements:

  1. Can you create the right video?
  2. Can you reach the right audience?
  3. Do you have the right offer for that audience?

If you can get those three elements to line up at the right time, you’ll maximize your results. Agencies need to create compelling videos that resonate with their target audience and effectively communicate their value proposition. After that, they need to ensure that their ads are being shown to the right audience. Lastly, agencies need to provide the right offer that entices viewers to take action, whether it's signing up for a newsletter, booking a consultation, or making a purchase.

YouTube ads offer agencies a unique opportunity to reach a highly engaged audience, and with the right approach, they can effectively grow their client base and drive business growth.

What are the Keys to Building The Right Message and Valuable Offer?

To successfully utilize YouTube ads, Jake recommends crafting a message that resonates with your target audience. He suggests addressing their specific pain points or needs. This requires a deep understanding of your audience and their motivations. In terms of how this message is constructed; in particular, Jake recommends not skipping these key elements:

  • Effective hook,
  • The problem you’re trying to solve,
  • A solution to that problem,
  • Credibility,
  • Call to action,
  • And words of inspiration.

You need a valuable offer to entice viewers to engage with your ad. Offer something of value in exchange for their contact information, such as a free ebook or training. By providing something valuable, you can build trust and establish credibility with potential clients.

Once you have the right message and a valuable offer, it's crucial to test different aspects of your ad to ensure its effectiveness. This includes testing different videos or variations of the same video to see which resonates best with your audience. This way, you can identify which videos generate the most engagement and conversions, allowing you to optimize your ad strategy and improve your results.

Are Shorter Ads Always the Best Option for Agencies?

Are shorter ads really more effective? We all know people have short attention spans, however, according to feedback Jake and his team have found that their two to three-minute video ads consistently outperform 15 to 20-second ads.

For Jake, this is probably due to the fact that longer ads provide the necessary time to tell a story or create a connection with the audience. Additionally, he says 15 or 20 seconds is not enough time to engage viewers and prompt them to take action. Shorter ads may work for well-established brands like Nike or Starbucks, which have already built recognition and trust among consumers.

Furthermore, Google may prefer shorter ads to keep viewers on the platform for longer. As long as an ad is engaging, it can be longer than 15 or 20 seconds and still be effective.

The effectiveness of ad length depends on the goals of the campaign. If the goal is to grow brand recognition and measure impressions and views, shorter ads may be more successful. However, if the goal is to drive traffic to a website, generate leads, or have viewers take specific actions, longer ads of at least 60 seconds. Ideally, two to three minutes may be the most effective.

With YouTube, advertisers can target audiences who have visited their website or are on their email list. Additionally, if an advertiser has a YouTube channel with over a thousand subscribers or views, they can target those viewers with specific ads based on their previous interactions with the channel.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Do you know how to get the attention of big brands? Wondering if the glory of having enterprise clients justifies the headaches involved? Are you highlighting success stories to get attention and attract the sort of clients you want? Today’s guest dissects big brand dilemmas having partnered with countless household tech names. She says cracking their codes hinges on network and leveraging your identity. We’ll explore challenging elements agencies endure silently while chasing coveted opportunities. Tune in to unveil the dualities separating perception from reality when pursuing premier partnerships.

Kaitlyn Barclay is the CEO and co-founder of Scout Lab, a creative communications agency specializing in branding communications and campaigns. Her agency has grown well past the million-dollar mark and works with some of the biggest brands in the world.

Kaitlyn talks about her background in the tech industry and how it influenced her decision to create an agency that caters to tech companies. Tune in to learn how she decided to go all-in when promoting the agency, leveraging personal networks, and how her agency was able to establish a strong reputation and gain attention from big brands.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Using your identity and existing clientele as leverage.
  • Possible hurdles of working with big brands.
  • Highlighting success stories to attract next-level projects.

 

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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.

 

Creating a Differentiated Offer to Drive Value to Clients

Coming from Silicon Valley, Kaitlyn had a deep understanding of the world of tech, specifically multi-sided marketplaces. She had previously started a company in 2015 that was later acquired. Back then, she craved an agency that intrinsically understood technical founders' mindsets and markets. So she built that rare specialty boutique herself alongside a partner. The agency quickly took off from there.

Scout Lab's success can be attributed to its unique approach and differentiated offering. Kaitlyn went all in promoting their services to her entire network, many of whom were working with the type of clients she eventually wanted to work with. One key aspect of their differentiated offering was a clear point of view and their ability to blend the practices of brand building with agile methodology. This unique combination allows them to create a shared language with their target clients, who are often tech-focused and product-oriented founders.

Most agencies default to retrofitting versus innately knowing tech, thus Kaitlyn positioned Scout Lab through authentic insights and delivered uniquely tailored transformations. They didn't have to pretend - focused specialization allows them to stand out by simply understanding the audience

Positioning Your Agency at the Edge of Culture

In 2016, many things were happening in the world and many big brands made huge marketing mistakes that came down to ignorance. Big brands wanted a partner who could provide a 360-degree view of their target audience.

Kaitlyn’s agency promised an extraordinary amount of research on the clients’ potential consumers to have a 360-degree view of the audience they want to acquire and retain. They called it “purpose-driven marketing” although she agrees the term has lost all meaning with time. However, in 2016 when brand safety was top of mind for many executives, it was extremely provocative. They were an organization that understood the needs of tech brands to launch and scale. Billion-dollar companies were looking to appeal to “the cool kids”, folks who were on the edge of culture. By positioning themselves as experts on the bleeding edge of culture, Scout Lab was able to open doors and secure partnerships with these multinational corporations.

Leveraging Your Identity and Existing Client Work

Even though they had exactly the expertise and fresh approach big brands were looking for, how could they get their attention? Kaitlyn knows your network is your net worth, so networking plays a crucial role in approaching these clients. Representing themselves and their business in the right rooms and talking to the right people was essential.

To establish a differentiated point of view, they made a list of "no's," identifying who they wouldn't work with. By staying true to their values and focusing on enabling access, they became an attractive agency partner for clients who wanted to be more agile, purpose-driven, and consumer-centric.

Additionally, ScoutLab used its identity and existing client work as leverage. In this regard, Kaitlyn started to share the agency’s case stories with her network, hoping to attract similar successful businesses. She also recalls how her writing paid off in spades. She wrote an article on genderless AI published in Fast Company, as a way to establish her expertise and perspective. This allowed her to represent herself and her agency when she wasn't directly communicating with potential clients.

Finessing the Big Brand Balancing Act

Getting prestigious big-name clients is tempting, but it’s also good to be aware of the not-so-great side of things. For starters, procurement can be a complex and difficult process. This can be a stark contrast with upstart and challenger brands, where it’s usually a more straightforward process.

In this regard, if you’re facing a similar situation you can resort to use factoring, where companies can sell their invoices to a third party for a percentage of the invoice value. This allows businesses to receive cash up front, even if the payment terms are longer. If this is not something you’d like to try, work on building a relationship with the head of procurement to ensure invoices are given priority and paid promptly.

Finally, Kaitlyn recommends holding final files until payment is received as a way to ensure that you’re not taken advantage of and protect your financial well-being.

Other than payment terms, endless red tape also mires and sometimes kills initiatives. This can result in projects being delayed or even abandoned, which can be disheartening for the agency. It is possible to work efficiently with larger organizations, but it may not always be the case.

All in all, having big brand names in a portfolio is a way to attract clients. It’s a fact that big brands will be interested in an agency’s work with other big brands. However, they’re also very excited about an agency’s work with challenger brands, because it is usually their most creative work. So make sure to highlight that work as well.

In the end, it’s a dance between celebrating your big wins and highlighting courageous innovations. It'll all depend on the kind of business you’re hoping to attract.

Boosting Human Capital to Attract Next-Level Projects

Kaitlyn credits human capital investments as profoundly moving agency growth needles. As an agency, human capital is how you develop creative ideas and establish robust relationships with clients that are essential for agency growth. By offering benefits such as a 401k matching program, agencies can elevate and support their workforce, leading to improved creativity and client relationships.

More recently, she’s been more thoughtful about showcasing successful projects to attract more of the same kind of work. To this end, she now develops case studies to share with her network. Furthermore, the agency has applied for awards to get accreditation for these projects. It’s a way to make every sale count as much as possible and attract more projects that align with their vision and strengths.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Once a year, our digital agency owners mastermind cohort trades Zoom squares for open skies, convening at a ranch to deepen connections forged through months of vulnerable idea sharing. For three days, members taste true community while sampling strategies for unlocking agency success. But the annual live retreat with other mastermind members promises more than stimulating discussion and delicious food. This gathering of peers breeds breakthroughs that boost business and life alike.

Between fireside chats and horseback excursions, mastermind members crystallize priorities, pressure test assumptions, and summon the courage to meet change head-on. Tune in to hear some of this year's highlights and the many benefits both the members and the team take from this annual event.

Darby Copenhaver and Jason Swenk look back on this year’s Digital Agency Experience (affectionately known as DAX). They discuss the benefits of having a couple of days for in-person meetings and how it provides a sense of comfort and personal growth for everyone involved. They also recall some fun campfire anecdotes, the best memories they take from this year's reunion, and some key learnings everyone took back home.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Digital agency experience 2023.
  • Revelations around staffing and agency values.
  • Leadership check-ins on what you need to start, stop, and continue.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Running payroll and benefits is hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is a tool that helps make payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

 

Digital Agency Experience 2023 

This was Darby’s third year at the Agency Mastermind Experience and, as always, it was unique. Most of the members had not met in person and didn’t know what to expect. Fortunately, the experience created an overwhelming sense of comfort for everyone attending. The members were interacting at all times and had so much to share after a year of online meetings.

In his conversation with members, Darby could see how much they each took away. Everyone had their expectations of what they wanted to get out of the event or what they thought they needed. Fortunately, every single one expressed they got monumentally more than they expected.

When they join the mastermind, agency owners are normally filled with questions and not sure who to turn to get the answers. In many cases, mastermind discussions lead to tough questions that lead agency owners to question where they are with their business and what they need to keep growing. For others, it may lead to affirming things they already know they should do.

In many ways, it’s like group therapy. Even though you already know something, it hits differently when you’re forced to say it out loud and in front of your peers. It forces people into action in a way they might never do on their own.

Staffing Revelations Around Talent and Values

Gathering people around a campfire can foster a sense of camaraderie and create lasting memories. It’s a perfect moment for them to let their guard down and go back to their high school selves. It creates an environment where people can connect on a deeper level and engage in authentic conversations.

During the mastermind experience, the campfire was a time for reflection, collaboration, and goal-setting. The group engaged in conversations about parenting, work, and personal aspirations.

This year, many conversations highlighted the importance of considering values when it comes to your team. Jason is a big believer in evaluating team members and clients based on whether they align with the same values. It becomes an important aspect of building a successful and cohesive group. Just ask yourself, "Would I want to hang out with them at my house?"

It’s not exactly about surrounding yourself with ‘yes men’, but brilliant workers can still corrode culture. Mastermind members traded tales of top performers poisoning team dynamics.

Finding the right talent is hard, of course. But hiring mistakes grate slowly and then mass exodus eventually follows. So surgically remove cultural cancers promptly. It's the best approach to protect your team and save yourself bigger problems down the line.

Furthermore, implement the value element as part of your hiring process. Vet people based on their talent and how compatible they are with the established agency values.

Leadership Check-Ins: What to Start, Stop, and Continue?

What does your team want you to start doing? What do they want you to stop doing? And what would they like you to continue doing? These questions were part of the group discussions and led to useful realizations, even for Jason, who was asked to institute a 24-hour rule with his team.

As a leader, Jason is a doer with a tendency to act on his ideas quickly. Quick decision-making can be beneficial in some cases, but it can also lead to hasty decisions and the need for subsequent changes.

Both Darby and Stacey, the director of happiness, know Jason usually has very good ideas. He is the type of person who gets things done. There are many positives to this. He doesn’t fall into the trap of overthinking and over-analyzing. However, impulsive behavior can result in the entire team dedicating hours of work to something that may be scratched in the end.

With the 24-hour rule, they can ensure decisions are now given time for careful consideration before taking action, increasing the chance of success.

“Good is The Enemy of Great”

This was part of the mastermind’s discussions when talking about training your team to push themselves for greatness. At some point, we may feel pretty confident in what we do and our team’s success. However, there’s always room for improvement.

We all probably have an idea of what we could and should be doing to be better at what we do. However, as human beings, it can be hard to push yourself out of your comfort zone, which is where greatness lies. Training your team to always strive for greatness will ensure you’re surrounded by people who will challenge and push each other to reach their full potential.

Moreover, by instilling this mindset in your team, you’re empowering them to make decisions and take action without constant supervision. This, in turn, allows you to focus on higher-level tasks and responsibilities.

A Space for All Agency Owners Willing to Share to Reach Their Goals

So what can the members take from this members' only digital agency experience? The experience fosters new ideas and open communication that the agency owners can then take to their teams.

So many agencies nowadays are virtual which has benefits for both employees and owners. However, they also miss out on the banter and in-person interactions that come with being in an office. By making this an in-person experience, Jason and the team hope to infuse some of that creativity and problem-solving spirit into the attendees and get them back to their agencies filled with new ideas.

The mastermind is by no means a bro club. This year it was pretty evenly divided between men and women attendees. It is a place for all agency owners who need help getting through some hurdles hindering their growth. As long you're a giving, sharing, vulnerable, transparent, and honest person, you have a place to go where you can be around similar people, no matter who you are or where you come from.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Want to achieve growth through means beyond just new client acquisition? What is profitable for one company may fail another. Today’s guest knows profitable strategies demand contextualization. He built an agency helping ecommerce businesses optimize profits by leveraging his analytical skills and his desire to help people and make an impact.

Learn about the many aspects beyond just creativity where an agency can come in and help drive their client's profitability. He recalls his start as a nurse and his transition to working in ecomm, as well as some lessons on how to achieve growth without focusing solely on reducing acquisition costs, and why you should never lose sight of the bigger picture.

William Harris is the founder and CEO of Elumynt, an e-commerce growth agency focused on maximizing their clients’ profitability with a team that gets obsessive about data to build the best-performing and most cost-effective ad campaigns. William has published over 200 articles on e-commerce and advertising leadership and will detail the ways in which he uses intelligent strategies to help eCommerce and SaaS businesses accelerate their revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Analyzing customer lifetime value to determine profitability.
  • Taking comprehensive approach to advertising.
  • How the P&L unlocks a client's full value.
  • Remembering what matters most.

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Combining Problem-Solving Skills and Desire to Help People

Growing up, William had a passion for inventing and problem-solving to come up with new ideas. He also had a strong desire to help people, which he pursued through a career in nursing.

While working as a per diem nurse, he witnessed the hospitals’ staffing challenges. Their ineffective system was leading to problems in providing adequate care to patients. This was probably a problem at a lot of hospitals, which sparked his interest in finding a solution. It was 2013 and hospital schedules were still done on paper. William met with Chad Halverson, who ran a company called When I Work, and discussed using his API to develop scheduling software specifically designed for hospitals. It was a project that could truly have an impact on both hospital administrations and patients.

During their time working on this, Chad recognized William’s marketing skills and offered him an opportunity to lead his marketing team. It was a chance to combine his problem-solving skills and marketing expertise.

Analyzing Agency Customer Lifetime Value

After his time at When I Work, William transitioned into the e-commerce industry helping different businesses achieve growth and success. The eCommerce industry was still very young and many founders entered the field with innovative ideas but lacked a deep understanding of business concepts. Rather than solely focusing on minimizing acquisition costs, William helped clients view higher acquisition costs as wise investments given sufficient customer lifetime value.

To attract valuable customers, William leveraged advertising supplemented by lifestyle partnerships seeking to get involved in customers' hobbies and lifestyles. By sponsoring events or activities related to their target market, businesses can establish themselves as part of the community and build a loyal customer base. This approach not only increases brand awareness but also allows businesses to better understand their customers' needs and preferences.

William attributes this focus on customer lifetime value to his background in SaaS where it is common to analyze the customer acquisition cost (CAC) to lifetime value (LTV) ratio to determine profitability. To him, it became a sort of fun math problem. Understanding where a business needs to be in terms of this ratio is crucial for long-term success. What may be profitable for one company may not be for another, and each business needs to determine its own profitability threshold.

Maximizing Profitability Using a Comprehensive Approach to Advertising

Many eCommerce stores fixate too much on immediate transactions over long-term profitability. A lot of these businesses just look at the return on ad spend, which while commonly used as a metric to measure advertising success doesn't necessarily reflect the overall profitability of the business.

William and his team take a more comprehensive approach to advertising and marketing strategies. They look at maximizing profitability on both a unit basis and an aggregate basis. This means considering factors such as the cost of goods sold (COGS), overhead, shipping costs, and returns costs. By incorporating these numbers into their advertising strategies, they can optimize campaigns to focus on the most profitable products.

Why the P&L Are Key to Unlocking a Client's Full Value

Ideally, when his team is starting to work with a new client they look to get access to some basic numbers like their percentage of sales on an average basis. They understand their average overhead, shipping costs, and returns costs. Many clients will directly share their P&Ls with them or at least some kind of an analog to their P&L.

While it is not common for agencies to delve into P&Ls before signing clients, William believes it becomes crucial once the client is onboarded. Surprisingly, the marketing teams themselves are often unaware of the P&Ls, which can hinder their ability to make informed decisions. Some smaller companies may be hesitant to share this information due to privacy concerns; for larger companies with complex organizational structures, obtaining P&L information may be more challenging.

If a client is unwilling or unable to provide P&L information, William may choose not to work with them. Not due to a lack of willingness but rather a recognition that the client may not be ready for the agency's value-driven approach.

Learning it's Not a Matter of Life and Death

Before starting his agency, there was a moment where William tried to change up some things and as a result of that, he lost three good clients. At the time, he just saw it lost a lot of revenue and was concerned. What could he do? He went to his mentor, Dave Mortensen, who to his surprise, just started laughing.

“It was exactly what I needed,” he recalls. That reaction helped him realize he was freaking out about something that was not that big of a deal. Customers come and go. Since then, those clients have been replaced by better, bigger clients who are a better fit for his agency.

Remembering What Matters Most as a Parent and Founder

Parenting and running a company simultaneously can be one of the hardest things you can do. William admits that he doesn't have it all figured out. There are times when he has to go all-in on the agency to figure out particular issues. On the other hand, he also makes sure to make time for his family.

As a former nurse, William remembers times when he had to hold someone’s hand as they drew their last breath. Not once did someone express regret for not working more. When they had anything to say, they usually wished they'd spent more time with family and doing things they loved.

Ultimately, William's advice to entrepreneurs is to prioritize and find a balance between work and family life. As entrepreneurs, it's easy to get caught up in the immediate pressures and decisions of running a business. However, if you’re not making time for things you enjoy you may end up feeling burned out.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you effectively communicating your brand? Are you understanding your prospects and choosing quality over quantity? Do you speak in their terms to reach them? Do you have a deep understanding of their needs and challenges? Today’s guest is a branding expert who knows how to speak to audiences and get a message across. She sees agencies making many mistakes by not understanding that you have to earn your brand, not buy it. Tune in for valuable insights and tips for agency owners to create memorable and effective brands.

Jaci Russo is the co-founder and CEO of Brand Russo, a strategic branding agency that aims to change the conversation and motivate consumer behavior through the use of our experience, resources, talent, and process. Jaci discusses branding strategies for agencies and some misconceptions and mistakes agencies make when it comes to branding.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • To win prospects over, answer the question "What can you do for ME?"
  • Understanding your clients' personality type.
  • How to earn your brand.
  • Focus on quality over quantity in proposals.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Running payroll and benefits is hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is a tool that helps make payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3 months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

 

Going from Agency Employee to Freelancer to Agency Owner

After college in Louisiana, Jaci moved to Los Angeles and worked at Creative Artists Agency, where she got to be a part of the rebranding of Ticketmaster and USA Networks. Years later she moved home and worked in-house at an agency and then in-house for a client while starting a family.

Things were going well, but Jaci knew she’d never get ahead being a W2 worker. The need for a more flexible schedule moved her to make a change to be a freelance media buyer. However, with clients coming in fast and being married to a graphic designer and copywriter, they had more clients than a small agency. They decided to make it official and dedicate themselves to the agency full-time. Eventually, they bought a building to expand their growing operations and 23 years later they have 20 employees serving clients across the country.

Answering the Unasked Question “What Can You Do for Me?”

Understanding your target audience is crucial for effective branding. Sadly, many agencies make the mistake of using industry terminology that excludes their target audience. It both fails to get the message across and makes the agency appear pretentious and out of touch.

To create a successful brand that resonates with your target audience, you’ll need a deep understanding of their needs, wants, and challenges. If you do this, you’ll easily get in touch with how they talk. “SEO is great,” Jaci says “but when I see companies optimizing for their in-house terminology and the people they’re trying to reach use a completely different set of terms. It’s such an obvious disconnect!”

Furthermore, many companies spend a lot of time talking about features and what they do. In reality, the question “What do you do?” is an opportunity to answer the unasked question “What can you do for me?” Focusing on this question allows you to answer not by talking about the company but about the solutions you provide. This approach will completely change your messaging and content. Now you’ll be writing about something people care about; you’ll be writing about them.

It requires thorough market research, gathering insights, and analyzing data to gain valuable insights into the target audience's preferences and behaviors and use them effectively in your branding efforts.

Understanding Your Clients and Communicate Accordingly

Jaci believes in the power of understanding personality types of advertising. It helps her know what kind of results they need to deliver depending on the client. “When we're creating something that's targeting engineers or attorneys,” she says, “people are going to read all the details, we have to give them a lot of details”. If the client is an illustration type, they’ll love pretty pictures and awards. For them, she finds ways to convey how the agency has been rewarded for great work, like clients sticking around for twelve years. On the other hand, logotypes look to their peers for endorsement of their choices, so they need case studies and testimonials.

She knows one size doesn't fit all and it’s all about building an emotional connection. However, at her agency, they use that knowledge of the target audience to craft something that'll connect with them.

Strong Brands Aren't Bought, They're Earned

You can spend a lot of money on advertising and buy attention, but Jaci believes strong brands must be earned. Agencies should be investing in research and understanding their target audience better than they know themselves. You have to understand why your audience is choosing who they’re choosing.

To create a memorable brand that people refer to, agencies need to ask questions and delve into why their audience is choosing their current solution or competitor. What’s their disappointment with their current solution? By understanding their frustrations with their current provider, agencies can identify opportunities to offer a better solution.

Changing habits is hard, so agencies need to give their audience a compelling reason to switch. This requires being better than the hassle of switching and providing a seamless and easy transition. Speed and convenience are important factors for customers when considering switching vendors.

When it Comes to Proposals it's Quality Over Quantity

Jaci often receives proposals from digital agencies and her advice for agency owners is “look at what you’re sending out.” From where she’s standing, they all sound alike and do not take into account her specific challenges and needs.

In these cases, focus on quality over quantity. Take the time on each prospect. Jaci advises having fewer prospects that you know better to connect with them. They’ll be more likely to say yes. Try changing the conversation with clients by offering a clarity call instead of just sending a proposal. This way, you’ll get to know the client and their needs in a more personal and meaningful way.

By taking these steps, you can win more deals faster and easier. Moreover, you can also eliminate prospects who may not be a good fit or who are simply wasting your time. It’s a few baby steps to get to the big price instead of rushing and losing the opportunity to work with this person.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Did you know time is the most valuable resource for clients? How are you helping clients maximize their time with your services? The relationship between agency responsiveness and revenue is something more agencies should be looking at closely and something that will surely give you a competitive advantage. No matter how good you are at what you do, clients are noticing the time you take to do it. They no longer tolerate months of no communication to then arise with a magical strategy. They want to know what’s going on and how long you’ll take to deliver results. In fact, they’re even willing to pay more for speed. Tune in to hear from an expert on how you can use time and responsiveness to your advantage without making big changes to your process.

Jay Baer is an author and business growth and marketing expert with over 30 years of experience in the field. He’s written seven business books and owned a series of agencies for most of his career 30 years. Currently, he’s “sans agency” as he just sold his global consulting firm 18 months ago. Jay shares his insights on how to create a competitive advantage for your agency. To this end, he emphasizes the need to adapt to changes in customer behavior by focusing on the importance of time and responsiveness in capturing customer loyalty and generating revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Prioritizing responsiveness when working with clients.
  • Agency responsiveness as a distinct competitive advantage.
  • A small change to make a great difference: Response without answers.
  • Closing the uncertainty gap.

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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.

 

Other Smart Agency interviews with Jay Baer:

Converting More Clients by Helping Rather than Selling

Talk Triggers that Get Clients Knocking on Your Door

Are Agencies Conscious of How They Spend Clients' Time?

Jay has gotten into the habit of writing new books and frameworks every three years, which is the time it takes for customer behavior to change. Clients’ needs and competitive advantages will change every couple of years and it’s important to keep this in mind to stay ahead of the competition. His more recent research revolves around our relationship with time and how it’s changed after the pandemic.

I think time is actually the only resource on this planet that we actually share equally,” Jay explains. The pandemic was a harsh reminder that nothing is guaranteed and tomorrow is not promised. We have become more conscious of how we spend our time, which has led to various trends in business and personal life. After conducting extensive research on the relationship between responsiveness and revenue, Jay found that, surprisingly, two-thirds of customers now consider speed as important as price when making purchasing decisions. Causing customers to waste time can lead to financial losses.

His research findings resonate with agency owners, who often find themselves in a dilemma. As customers, they desire immediate responses and efficient service. However, do they prioritize responsiveness when working with their own clients?

Agency Responsiveness as a Way to Get a Distinctive Competitive Advantage 

Based on these findings, agencies should be using responsiveness as a distinct competitive advantage in business. Basically, with current expectations in customer service, the fastest business will win. Of course, you can also be TOO fast and lose customers’ trust in the process. This is commonly seen with chatbots, where an immediate response is seen as indicative of not dealing with a person who can answer your question. In his book, Jay clarifies business owners should be looking for “the right now”, which takes a clear understanding of an agency’s performance.

He recommends implementing a Got it audit, by answering how long does it take your clients to get a response? To get an invoice? To get a report? Basically to get any of the services your agency offers. It may seem like a basic question, but all too often agencies can’t answer it. Only by knowing this can agencies identify areas of improvement and make informed decisions to enhance their operations. After all, the perfect amount of time will always be just a little bit faster than the clients expect.

Teaching Agency Teams to 'Respond Without Answers'

According to Jay, every agency team should be trained to “respond without answers”. Basically, it’ll happen from time to time that clients ask a question for which you don’t have an immediate answer, so you set out to look for that answer and respond once you have it. However, what happens while you’re looking for that answer? The person who asked the question has no information and they’re freaking out. Instead, by acknowledging their client inquiry and informing them that their question is being addressed, you can alleviate client concerns and build trust.

This small gesture completely changes their experience and helps manage client expectations. Furthermore, it can also buy you more time now that the client knows you’re on it. Not only will it help you run your agency better, but improving your responsiveness efforts can have a huge impact on all your relationships.

How to Close the Uncertainty Gap with Clients

We live in an era where we interpret speed as caring and responsiveness as respect. As consumers, we take notice of a company’s responsiveness before any money is exchanged. If there’s no respect before a deal is made, there won’t be respect after.

Jay sees this as "Closing the Uncertainty Gap". Many agencies’ tendency to make a deal and then disappear for three months while they build a strategy creates an uncertainty gap; Jay defines this gap as “the difference between what you know about what’s going on and what the client knows”. Clients hate waiting and hate not knowing what’s going on. Technology has transformed the way we receive services, providing us with real-time updates and information. Hence, long periods of nothing while the agency works on a strategy is just not acceptable anymore.

Agencies tend to fall behind in this aspect as they cling to opacity believing that clients will appreciate their "secret sauce." This is categorically wrong. Close the uncertainty gap whenever possible by creating a visual map that will inform your client of at least the main steps of your process so they understand what’s going to happen and everyone’s on the same page.

Do You Turn Down Rush Jobs? You Shouldn't

In his research, Jay was surprised to find that, not only do clients appreciate speed as much as pricing, a lot of them are willing to pay up to 50% to avoid waiting.

In light of this, he urges agencies to reconsider their processes. Most agencies work with a “first come first served” order. But what if for whatever reason needs instantaneous service? “Don’t turn down the rush,” Jay advises. It’s a great opportunity. Agencies willing to be flexible and willing to accommodate rush jobs can charge a premium for it. This way, you can cater to clients' needs and preferences while also maximizing your revenue. You’ll be surprised at how many clients are willing to pay for it.

Now what happens with the client who was next in line and gets bumped back? Offer a 5% discount for those 3 or 4 days of delay in delivering their project. Everyone will be happy and you’ll make 15% more just for reorganizing your project plan.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Offering a unique customer service experience is a sure way to stand out from all the competition out there. With people focusing so heavily on technology and automation, customers are many times left to fend for themselves when a problem arises. When it comes to urgent matters, they crave having a human to reach out to and have experienced guidance to solve their problem. Today's guest realized this need and has worked to build an agency with a 'Yes' mentality. For him, being a service company comes first and is one of the top reasons why clients choose his agency. Tune in to learn why his vision was to offer that yes mentality and customer-centric approach.

Jeff Hastedt is the managing director and co-founder of Brkthru, a service company that helps companies harness the selling power of digital advertising. They focus on providing immediate assistance and handling media execution for brands and agencies. Most notably, they believe in “starting with a yes" and accommodating any size campaign, last-minute needs, fixed budgets, unique audiences, and tough challenges.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Building a service company with a yes mentality.
  • The importance of centering relationships in sales.
  • How his staff training became an important element of company culture.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Running payroll and benefits is hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is a tool that helps make payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Finding the Right Combination to Succeed in Digital Advertising

Jeff’s digital experience and expertise date back all the way to 2000, working at companies like CBS, Clear Channel, and Powerheads assisting brands and leading international digital campaigns.

He and his co-founder were colleagues at a previous organization and shared a dream of starting a business. Jeff’s previous attempts at entrepreneurship did not go as planned. However, he now sees he didn’t have enough experience at the time. Years later, he and his co-founder’s combined experiences and knowledge in the media and advertising industry, particularly in digital advertising, were the right combination to succeed with Brkthru.

Is There a Right Time to Start Building your Agency Management Team?

Six years after starting his business, the mission remains pretty much the same; being the preeminent service company in digital media and having no minimums. In fact, the latter is still one of the top reasons why clients continue to pick them.

Even though Jeff fully believed in their mission, their growth has been greater than expected. In 2017, when he and his co-founder agreed to let the market decide, they couldn’t have imagined the level of growth they’d seen. But Jeff mostly attributes this success to an amazing management team that was willing to take a risk working with a startup.

At the time, he wasn’t thinking about a management team. His business was barely two years old and technically he couldn’t afford one yet. However, he was presented with a wonderful opportunity to add his current COO. He decided to take the chance. Sometimes opportunities like this one will come up before you think you’re ready. It won’t always happen at “the right time”. However, if it’s worth the risk, it may be something you’re very glad you took on when you had the chance.

Benefits of being a Digital Agency with a ‘Yes’ Mentality

In an industry enamoured with technology, Jeff's agency Brkthru defiantly declares itself service-first. He knows automation leaves clients craving human connection when challenges strike. So he staffed support with savvy experts, not chatbots. Real people solve real problems in real time.

Jeff built Brkthru around "yes" - embracing each client's unique needs and budgets. While other agencies balk at last-minute requests or limited funds, they are willing to work with clients regardless of the size of their campaign or budget. They understand businesses may have unique needs and are willing to take on last-minute needs, work with fixed budgets, target unique audiences, and tackle tough challenges head-on.

Being flexible and adaptable has allowed them to offer the necessary support and solutions to overcome obstacles. This is why it’s so important for Jeff to center his entire business model on the service element.

The Customer-Centric Approach to Building Successful Relationships in Sales

Before starting his business, Jeff was laid off in 2009 during the economic crisis. He had to take on different jobs while trying to keep his entrepreneurial dream alive, including a job as a violin salesman, an unusual turn for someone who’d never played this instrument. Despite this, he became the number 1 salesperson in that industry. His formula for success? It all starts with relationships.

Jeff knows genuine connections precede sales, even in transactional roles. Too many reps see clients as data points, prioritizing efficiency over empathy. But leads longing to be heard offer precious clues when we listen first. Many people miss the opportunity to understand clients’ needs, interests, and backgrounds and just go straight to pitch mode.

It can be hard to convince some people of the importance of the human element, especially with so much talk about technology replacing everyone. However, taking the time to understand client’s needs and interests can greatly contribute to building successful relationships in sales. Even if it takes more than one call to build a rapport, it’ll be worth it. In the end, if clients don’t trust you, you’re doomed.

An In-Person Staff Training for a Remote Agency 

In their beginnings, Jeff and his co-founder were on every client call and email. As they grew though, it was time to create a glossary for new hires to follow to break through to clients. This is how their training program Brkthru U was born and it’s since evolved into an online and offline training program for staff. People usually attend thinking they're going to gain a lot of product knowledge. “There’s a time and place for that,” Jeff says. But this training is solely about being better communicators.

It’s a week-long training that Jeff chooses to do mostly in person, even if they are a remote company. For Jeff, it’s about going beyond work-related discussions and activities. They encourage employees to have dinner with their colleagues and engage in conversations about various topics, whether it be sports, stocks, or pop culture. This time spent together in a non-work setting allows colleagues to get to know each other better and strengthens their relationships.

Culture Is Built On Traditions

Other than Brkthru U, other traditions with a significant impact on their company are Pizza Friday and Coffee Break Trivia.

Pizza Friday started as a simple idea to bring employees together and create excitement around a shared experience. Many employees were posting pictures of their pizzas on Instagram, which showed how much they enjoyed this tradition. Over time, it became ingrained in the company's culture and is now one of its longest-standing traditions.

Similarly, Coffee Break Trivia was introduced during the pandemic as a way to check in on employees' well-being. Initially, it was going to be discontinued at the end of 2020, but employees were adamant that they should keep it going.

These traditions may not solve all the company culture problems, but they play a significant role in fostering a positive work environment. Focusing on what employees like to do and creating opportunities for them to engage in non-work-related activities is a simple way to build a good culture.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Do you spend too much time securing new business for your agency? Are you constantly scrambling to attract new clients? You could be missing opportunities to provide more value to existing clients. It’s also time you’re not dedicating to your agency, which leaves you marketing yourself last. Pouring effort into your own marketing fills your pipeline with your perfect clients and the ability to pick and choose who you’re working with. Today’s guest saw fast growth early on with his agency until he ran into this very issue: new business from referrals was drying up and finding new leads took a lot of time and effort. What changed everything for him? Content marketing.

Jon LaClare is the founder of Harvest Growth, an agency focused on video marketing and, to a lesser degree, infomercials. His team helps high-growth companies selling consumer products and services grow sales through the power of direct response.

Jon shares how he went from one-off projects to a predictable recurring revenue model and some of the challenges he’s faced, like the difficulty of consistently finding new leads. He also reflects on the tendency among agency owners to prioritize their clients over marketing their own agency.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • What to do after referral leads start to dry up.
  • Transitioning from project work to ongoing campaigns.
  • Why you have to stop marketing yourself last.

 

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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.

What to Do After Leads Dry Up: Challenges Following Early Success

Jon always envisioned himself as the future owner of some type of business, although not necessarily an agency. Now he sees every step in his career journey always had this intent in mind. A big moment in his career was working at OxiClean. It was a phenomenal opportunity and a great place to work until it was eventually sold. At first, Jon figured it was time to look for another job. He realized, however, this was a perfect opportunity to start his own business. It took him some time to finally figure out what he wanted to do and, in a way, he feels he lucked into the agency business.

Growth came fast in the early years thanks to a handy list of contacts made during his time at OxiClean. However, at some point, those leads started to dry up and businesses slowed. This was the first big obstacle he found as an agency owner, as he admits he didn’t realize the time and effort it would take to bring in new leads.

Pivoting from Charging by Projects to Ongoing Campaigns

Jon’s agency used to heavily rely on video production projects for revenue, which was great when times were good and very difficult when they weren’t. The ups and downs made it ultimately not sustainable in the long run. He spent a significant amount of time and effort getting projects in the door but fell behind on his agency’s marketing and sales efforts as he focused on delivering good work for clients. This would lead to drought spells where he and his team would have to scramble to find new projects.

This reactive business model wasn't sustainable. So they pivoted from one-off projects to ongoing campaigns, becoming a long-term partner maximizing value over time. Instead of just delivering a one-off TV spot or infomercial, they started focusing on how they could help their clients launch and grow their products over time. This shift allowed them to not only provide ongoing value to their clients but also stabilize their revenue stream. They started small as they found their niche, slowly raising prices as expertise and confidence grew.

Jon learned that sometimes the time and energy spent on finding and selling new clients is time you lose on existing clients. This may lead to missing out on opportunities to provide more value. By stretching out the revenue of their clients over time, the agency was able to alleviate some of the pressure and focus on being more strategic and creative.

Embrace Content Marketing and Stop Marketing Yourself Last

Jon wishes he'd embraced content marketing sooner. Now he cultivates posts showcasing expertise for ideal clients. However, he stresses the importance of choosing formats that play to your strengths. Look for something that resonates with your audience and showcases your agency's expertise.

In his case, it was launching a podcast where he interviews business owners, inventors, and entrepreneurs. It’s a form of content that aligns with his strengths and allows him to share his knowledge and expertise in a way that resonates with their audience. He struggled with writing blogs in the past and found it time-consuming and challenging. However, finding a content format that fits his skill set helped him be more consistent with creating valuable content.

Are You Using Video in Your Marketing Strategy?

Video works well and the science of video marketing is very similar today as it was 20-30 years ago. The look and feel are very different, of course. But if you're thinking about using video for your business, the core is still about communicating the benefits, not just the features of the business or agency.

It’s all about getting credibility and, for Jon, applying what he preaches to clients. He recommends getting clients to do testimonials, which are an incredibly powerful tool to demonstrate success. Furthermore, remember to have a call to action and a compelling offer in everything you do in terms of marketing material. But those same scientific approaches, apply today, even for an agency video. So if you’re looking to use video to boost revenue, Jon recommends following that same structure.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Have you made hiring mistakes that affected your agency's growth? How long did it take you to course correct before it was too late? Wrong hires can become a cancer inside your agency that leaves you exhausted and overworked. Today’s guest started her agency as a very small operation and turned to friends when it came to hiring. However, she soon realized that friendships don’t always translate to the best work relationships. She was micromanaging, losing money, and losing confidence in her ability as a leader. In a bold move, she took control of the situation by shutting down her agency at the end of the year. She decided to create new rules, enforce them, and see who really remained after the agency’s direction was made clear. Tune in to learn she saved her agency, gained confidence as a leader, and built the team she needed.

Danielle Reid is the owner of DR and Associates, a creative agency specializing in communications, diversity, and multicultural marketing. They do brand and project development, and growth campaigns for start-ups and helps all size business and achieve results through strategies that connect while using innovation and expertise.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Rapid growth and getting to 7-figures in four years.
  • Why you should always ask for a budget.
  • Pulling the brakes to correct hiring mistakes.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Gusto: Running payroll and benefits is hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is a tool that helps make payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

 

The Biggest Challenge with Getting to 7-Figures in Four Year

Danielle worked for a Big 6 agency as a senior manager for a long time and loved being the person pulled into projects that needed saving. However, she craved new challenges and eventually got bored. She left agency life to work for the Navy, a new and exciting challenge that validated her leadership talents. She realized she was the expert in the room, which fueled her motivation to one day own her own agency. After a brief stint at a corporate job she realized it was the right time to become a business owner, so she started her agency, DR & Associates.

Looking back, the growth they’ve seen since 2019 has been amazing, hitting over 7 figures in just four years. However, despite the rapid rise, pricing was the first big obstacle she struggled with. Agency owners often see low pricing as a strategy to get started and build a client list. Like many before her, Danielle wasn’t thinking about her profit margin. She figured she’d just charge low prices to have a competitive advantage.

How did she measure success? It was all about making an impact on companies she believed in. Many businesses couldn’t afford a $25,000 retainer but had great potential for growth. This approach is often driven by a desire to attract clients and gain experience in the field. However there are risks associated with low pricing. It’s important to consider the implications of this strategy and its long-term effects on the agency's growth and profitability.

A Crucial Turnaround: Why You Should Always Ask for The Budget

The first moment that represented a crucial turnaround for Danielle was her first 6-figure contract. A non-profit client needed help with social media strategy and ended up hiring her agency. She was stunned to find their budget was $180,000 but was glad to have asked for a budget beforehand. This contract dwarfed her previous record of  $4,000 so it was a huge step in the right direction.

This enormous deal affirmed her value while fueling accelerated growth. Still, Danielle doesn't apply a one-size markup. Especially with budget-limited nonprofits, proposals embody custom assessments of needs, goals, and ability to pay. Her agency balances mission and margins through context-based pricing.

Pulling the Brakes to Correct Past Hiring Mistakes

As she went through expenses at the end of last year, Danielle had the dreadful realization that she had been scammed by some employees, considering how much they cost and how little value they provided in return. This brought about a moment of radical changes, as she fired some of her team last December to figure out how to move forward in 2023.

We've all been warned about the difficulties of hiring friends. In her experience, these friends turned out to be less productive than expected. Unfortunately, it came to a point where Danielle had to babysit her employees, having to do more direction of everyone else’s duties than her own work. So she put certain parameters up, knowing these employees wouldn’t choose to return after the rules were enforced.

It was a tough lesson but it had to be done, especially considering how much money she’d lost while still having to do the work herself. She had to realize that not everybody would enter a working relationship with a friend and know how to separate the boss from the friend. Having employees who are unwilling to follow your lead will leave you exhausted and unhappy. Your agency will need direction to truly succeed and if you’re being unclear about that direction or have a team who refuses to follow it, you won’t get to where you want to be.

Since this experience, Danielle has taken full control of her leadership and reassessed her hiring decisions to prioritize the agency’s overall direction and the impact she wants to make.

Embrace the Benefits of Collaboration

Danielle encourages agency owners to not be afraid of collaboration. We often miss out on good opportunities that could help elevate and grow our businesses to new levels. Given the chance, the right collaboration could help take your agency to a Big 6 level. However, the competition mentality ruins those chances, as every opportunity for collaboration is also seen as competition. This is an example of thinking too small and failing to see the power of collaboration to further build your brand.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Have you nailed down your agency's ideal niche? Are you attracting clients that ignite your agency's growth? Could you be standing in the way of your ability to raise agency prices? After years as a generalist agency, today’s guest decided to turn his business into a dual agency launching a niche firm alongside his broad shop. This calculated risk revealed his true north while preserving the existing revenue streams. Now their work inside the niche outpaces the generalist division of the agency. He talks about the decision to create two agencies and his revelation to let go of limiting thinking in order to raise prices.

Matt Banker is the owner of Banker Creative, a business he calls a dual agency since it has two different brands under one agency. Matt shares his experience running two brands, Banker Creative and Benchmark Growth, which specialize in web design and marketing for accounting firms, respectively. He discusses the benefits of having a niche focus and the importance of building processes to delegate tasks to his team. Tune in to learn from his insights and strategies for growing and scaling an agency.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Shedding your limiting mindset in order to raise agency prices.
  • Building a dual agency to explore the ideal niche.
  • Who is the first hire you should make as a new agency?

 

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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.

 

What is the First Hire You Should Make as a New Agency? 

Matt's career began in consulting, but he craved solving business challenges hands-on. He moved to an agency, seeking a consultative versus task-driven role. However, it wasn’t the greatest experience. Ready to merge his design and storytelling skills on his terms, Matt built a web design shop.

In the early days, Matt advertised his services on Craigslist and charged around $1,500 for his first websites. He quickly realized the need to hire additional help to handle the growing workload and started with a part-time designer. It was an area he knew well enough that he could hand it off to someone else and still manage that process.

If he could do it over again, Matt would hire an operations manager sooner. However, he fell into the trap of hiring help to support him in whatever projects he was taking on. As the agency continued to grow, he made a crucial shift in his mindset and focused on building out processes and handing off tasks to his team. Once he stepped back and trusted his team, he started to have the freedom to focus on sales and business development.

Initially, delegating proved difficult. Matt's hands-on interest complicated empowering his team. But as momentum grew, he realized it was time to “become more boring as a company” and create efficient systems and workflows. Structure and trust paved the path to scale.

How to Stop a Limiting Mindset and Raise Agency Prices

Looking back on that initial $1,500 fee, Matt sees what held him back from raising prices sooner was just his own mindset. To him, running an agency is 30% being good at the thing you're selling. The other 70% is learning things you didn't think you needed to know and dealing with self-worth issues. You start to doubt yourself when asking: How much do I deserve to make for this project? Those are limiting factors. Your agency will only grow to the level that you as the owner, are at, so you need to always find ways to keep leveling up.

With time, Matt realized he and his team were gaining more knowledge and providing amazing value to their clients. If they were to charge based on performance, they could definitely get paid more. He raised his prices and soon realized in most cases he was more price-sensitive than his clients. They had no trouble paying what his agency was worth and he was the one standing in his own way.

Currently, he puts his pricing on his website as a form of self-accountability. To him, having the price out there means making one decision in advance instead of making it on every single call. This, however, could deter bigger clients from working with him, as they could be expecting to pay much more than is announced on his website and assume his agency lacks the experience they want.

Building a Dual Agency to Explore Their Ideal Niche

Matt's agency has since expanded to include two brands. Banker Creative, specializes in web design using the StoryBrand framework, and Benchmark Growth focuses on marketing for accounting firms. The decision to niche down and target accounting firms was a strategic one, influenced in part by the agency's name, "Banker Creative." While they have worked with banks and other financial professionals, they found that accountants are the ideal niche for their services.

The first five years after creating the agency Matt had no clear idea of exactly what they did. That was a big part of why they ended up splitting into two different brands. They wanted to niche down and offer more marketing services but realized they couldn't build a repeatable system for an unlimited number of businesses. On the other hand, they knew they could run website projects for any type of business.

As a result, they decided to build a system for one type of business, accounting firms. Then they split the company to focus on one client type while still not turning off the faucet on the website work. At the time, this is what was paying the bills. In just two years, it was the other way around. Now most of their business is coming through the accounting firm niche.

With a defined niche, Matt can now refer clients who aren't a good fit to other people. He has found that the willingness and the ability to refer work away is freeing because it allows him to be picky with clients. Furthermore, it builds a good referral network for his agency.

The Who Framework to Find Your Audience and Build Scalability

Building systems for scalability is a crucial aspect of growing a business. As the owner, Matt initially found himself involved in every aspect of the business. However, he recognized that in order to grow and scale, he needed to let go and trust his team to handle these responsibilities.

By doing so, he was able to focus on the parts of the business that he truly enjoyed and that gave him energy. There are certain aspects of the business that agency owners won’t necessarily want to delegate and that’s okay. The end goal is to be able to pick and choose the things that you want to do. However, you have to build a business where you don’t HAVE to do it, just choose to. In this sense, Jason recommends leveling up by answering 3 important questions of WHO:

Once you create a framework, you’ll be able to identify your ideal team and clients much faster and create more freedom for yourself. The more you’re able to build repeatable systems, the more willing you’ll be to refer work and trust your team can handle it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Have you struggled with turnover post-pandemic? Looking for insights on adapting and fortifying your agency? What about outsourcing strategies that enable growth? The pandemic has had a profound impact on the IT industry, with one of its major consequences being the mass exodus of employees, resulting in the loss of experienced staff members who had been with companies for 15 to 20 years. This has posed a tremendous challenge for IT companies, compelling them to adapt and fortify their processes. Today’s guest is an Indian entrepreneur who managed to learn and adapt to these new challenges after previous experiences surviving failure and rising again in a new niche. Tune in to gain insights on scaling your agency and the benefits of outsourcing IT services.

Shamit Khemka is the founder of SynapseIndia, a premier IT outsourcing company. They are a Microsoft-certified gold partner that provides software development, custom web and mobile applications with 23+ years of experience. Their focus is open-source frameworks and ecommerce.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Surviving failure and turning it into opportunity.
  • Choosing a niche and retaining top talent in a competitive industry.
  • Keys to effective leadership at your digital agency.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

From Belly Up to Up and Running: Surviving Failure and Turning it into Opportunity

Starting over after failure can be a daunting and challenging task. It requires resilience, determination, and a willingness to learn from past mistakes. However, it can also be an opportunity for growth and success. Shamit’s current company is the result of starting over after his initial venture went belly up. Despite the failure, he saw an opportunity to try again with the computers and talented programmers he had left. This gave them the opportunity to explore new possibilities and start building websites and developing software.

Shamit's mindset at the time was crucial in his decision to bounce back. He was young and willing to take risks, which allowed him to see failure as a learning experience rather than a setback. He also had confidence in his technological skills, receiving continued inquiries even during the dot com downfall. This indicated there was still a demand for their services, and they could leverage their existing resources to meet that demand.

However determined, starting over required a strategic approach. In this sense, Shamit attributes his focus to what he learned during his participation in the MIT program, which provided him with valuable knowledge and insights that he could apply to his business. Of course, it was not easy, but it is possible. Rising from the ashes requires a positive mindset, a willingness to learn from past mistakes, and the ability to adapt and pivot.

Finding a New Niche in a Mobile App Development

At the time his first company went under, most people would’ve probably just gotten a job. Instead, Shamit decided to give entrepreneurship another try. His passion for technology played a significant role in his ability to persevere. He firmly believes in his ability to create and build a successful business using his technological skills.

This new endeavor started with an offering of simple website and hosting services. With time, they also started developing straightforward software, as well as developing interesting projects with US companies. Slowly but surely his agency started moving between different technology solutions, which led to working in mobile applications. First, an EO mobile application built by Shamit himself, followed by hiring a mobile application developer. To date, the mobile division has grown to a team of 35 people.

Advantages of Partnering with Indian Startups

Shamit links his ability to think creatively and find solutions where none existed to a unique problem-solving approach known as "Jugaad" in India. For him, Indians are born entrepreneurs in a culture Jugaad refers to finding innovative and unconventional solutions when traditional methods fall short.

Many people think of Indian labor as cheap labor and shy away from working with Indian companies. In reality, the Indian value proposition goes beyond affordability. Indian professionals have excellent English language skills, both spoken and written, which sets them apart from other countries and enables effective communication and collaboration with clients from around the world.

Indian companies are hugely successful in mobile development, thanks in part to the availability of talent. With a population of over a billion people, Shamit estimates India has at least a million great engineers. This immense talent pool allows Indian companies to scale their operations and take on large-scale projects.

Other than that, the biggest downside for their competitive stance versus other countries like Mexico is the time zone. For Shamit, this doesn’t necessarily make things more complicated, considering the overlap between Indian and East Coast times at one point of the day and West Coast at the end of the day. This is enough of a window to have efficient communication with customers, deliver on a project, and achieve their goals.

Retaining Top Talent in a Fast-Growing, Competitive Industry

Recruiting and retaining top talent is a critical aspect of any successful business, and it is especially challenging in the fast-growing mobile development industry in India.

Building a reputable brand and establishing trust with employees and clients is essential for attracting and retaining top talent. In his case, Shamit knew he needed to improve the agency’s hiring process, which they did after participating in a program at MIT that focused on top grading. This program introduced a more objective and process-oriented approach to recruitment, reducing subjectivity in the hiring process. Another positive influence in improving their process has been studying the best practices in the industry and other verticals.

However, when it comes to retention, Shamit admits it’s been a tricky and challenging aspect. The IT industry is still in turmoil post Covid and what worked in the past seems to have no effect now, which meant it was time to get creative. At his agency, they offer loyalty leaves and loyalty bonuses, providing employees with additional time off based on their years of service. They also incentivize employees to take paid holidays and provide incentives for significant life events such as anniversaries, birthdays, and the birth of a child. These initiatives have proven successful in retaining employees and creating a positive work environment.

They’ve also moved to using new tools like ChatGPT for copywriting and being overall less people-dependent.

Proactive Systems, Outsourced Non-Essentials & Other Keys to Effective Leadership

Shamit credits peers for leadership lessons that enabled growth. Chief among them - continuously evaluating processes, systems, and technology. Every 5 years as they expand, he reviews which processes must evolve. It was this proactivity that ensured a smooth remote transition during the pandemic.

He also delegates non-core tasks through outsourcing. Why let yourself get distracted on these tasks when focus fuels success? External partners handle catering and other tangential activities. This liberates resources to deliver mobile mastery.

And fun fosters engagement. Annual retreats including families strengthen bonds and morale. At work or play, Shamit's priority is a supportive culture. The whole person thrives when work has meaning and teammates feel like family.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you struggling to get a handle on your agency’s growth? Have you established the right strategies for formalizing growth beyond referrals? Today’s guest grew organically for a long time but eventually saw the need to clearly define his agency’s direction and business goals. His team lacked a clear understanding of the overall direction, resulting in the constant need for guidance. He talks about the moment he knew it was time to hire an operator and how having clear processes and systems benefitted his team. He also shares how starting a podcast revived his agency, fueled their social media, and helped him become a better leader.

Paris Childress is the founder and CEO of Hop Online, a performance marketing agency for SaaS companies. Having run his agency for 14 years, he’s seen many ups and downs and come out stronger. Today he shares how to identify and navigate the hard times of entrepreneurship and advice on how to overcome challenges and make informed decisions. Tune in for an inspiring conversation with a seasoned agency owner.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Becoming a manager of systems, not people.
  • Formalizing growth with a three-fold marketing strategy.
  • Establishing a brand and leadership through podcasting.

 

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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.

 

Learning to Manage Systems Instead of People to Grow Beyond Referrals

Paris is an accidental agency owner who rushed to create a company once he realized invoices were an important part of getting paid. At the time, he didn’t fully understand what he was creating but luckily organic growth soon followed.

As time went by, Paris realized the agency was not set up to see real growth past initial referrals. The challenge now was to get the systems and the structure in place to grow his small team. It was time to move from managing people to managing systems.

Basically, managing the agency was getting harder because he had to manage more and more people who didn’t always know what to do. They needed systems to fall back on. He needed to clearly define their services, implement SOPs, and figure out what they were good at. Step one was hiring an operator. As the agency’s visionary, he recognized it was time to get someone to focus on processes and execution.

His agency greatly benefitted from that clarity and setting up the systems for real growth. More recently, the pandemic presented new growth opportunities as SaaS businesses were red hot during COVID-19. Now, Paris is getting ready to tackle new challenges as SaaS businesses are seeing their valuations go down. It’s definitely a tougher environment with marketing budget cuts so they’re focusing on developing their brand.

Formalizing Growth with a Dedicated Team and a Partner for Outbound

One of the first steps to have a more serious focus on their marketing was formalizing a growth team working on generating more leads for the agency. It includes two full-time marketers, one salesperson, and himself.

With a decrease of new business coming their way, Paris made the conscious decision to dedicate agency resources to the problem. This helped them avoid downsizing. With the margins being way too low for way too long, he had been pondering that option. However, he realized it was not a marketing problem but rather a sales problem.

In terms of strategy, Paris was clear he needed to develop the 3 marketing channels: inbound, outbound, and partnerships. To tackle their lack of inbound strategy, he launched a podcast, which has become his favorite part of his week. It’s still very small but it’s starting to attract the right audience. A podcast can make a huge difference in your brand even with 50 to 100 downloads per week. It’s not about building a huge audience, but rather building a relevant audience.

As to the outbound piece, Paris is surprised at how well it’s worked. They’d previously tried in the past with internal teams but this year they found a qualified partner to help them on this front. The result has been a steady pipeline with pretty good leads for them. Of course, it is a longer sales cycle than inbound or referrals. Discovery calls should be approached with a much more consultative approach and guide the conversation to get them talking about their business so they can start to realize they do need help in some areas.

Establishing Thought Leadership Through Podcasting

Starting a podcast has helped revitalize his agency in many ways. For instance, they now get to repurpose that content. It’s fueling their social media and creating assets for salespeople.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly for Paris, it brought a lot of clarity for him as an agency owner. Since having the podcast, he has had new exciting ideas and gets to have interesting conversations with influential entrepreneurs. It has made him more focused and a better leader for his team.

Paris strives to find guests he knows his audience will enjoy and benefit from. It can also be a strategy to invite people he’d like to be clients but this aspect is not a primary concern for him. He focuses on generating great conversations. In his opinion, if that person is ready to work with him they’ll come back based on that first exchange they had during the podcast.

As a strategy, a podcast will take time to bear fruit. Building your brand and establishing your agency as a leader in your niche takes a lot of effort. In the end, you will have a machine that creates predictability, freedom, and wealth but it all starts with creating content that helps and using that to build the business over time.

Real Growth Also Relies on Client Retention

One key aspect of building a successful agency is client retention. Once you have the strategies to maintain a full pipeline, you’ll also need to work on having sound processes. Separate yourself on your processes and you’ll see the positive impact on your client churn rate. It’s not always about constantly getting new clients, maintaining those clients also requires a lot of work and will help you experience real growth.

The frustration of constantly having to replace lost clients is not conducive to the growth and success of an agency. If you’re experiencing this, it may be time to think about what you can do differently in terms of service delivery and marketing. After all, bringing on two clients and losing one is better than a 1:1 win/loss ratio.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Is your agency's profitability falling short? Do you lack clarity about your real margins? Many agencies struggle to maximize performance due to a core issue - not accurately calculating gross margin. Misconceptions around margin math sabotage profits. Today’s guest specializes in increasing agency profitability by solving the single but costly problem of suboptimal agency margins. He shares how he helps agencies boost margins by correcting common errors in delivery margin calculations.

Marcel Petitpas is the founder of Parakeeto, a technology-leveraged service firm, specializing in helping agencies measure and improve their performance. His firm exists to solve one problem: Agency Profitability. Marcel discusses his experience helping agencies increase their profitability and shares what many firms are getting wrong about how to calculate their delivery margin. In this episode, he'll share valuable insights and strategies for agency owners looking to boost profitability.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Calculate gross income and delivery margin.
  • 3 Ways to increase agency profitability.
  • Specialization is the key to improving profitability.

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best-automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

 

Before pandemic-fueled virtual tours, Marcel built 3D home models in a glacial 2015 market. With houses languishing for years, his niche hobby lacked scale potential. So he pivoted into software, soon meeting an agency owner drowning in spreadsheet tedium.

This agency owner spent up to two precious days a week answering questions about his business like Can we take on more clients? Do we need more staff? Who's performing and who's perishing? There had to be a better way to operate and strategize.

In that moment of shared pain, Marcel's purpose sparked - a business focused on solving that problem and making it easier for small businesses to answer those questions. And so Parakeeto was born, to liberate founders from manual metrics and maximize their potential.

Opaque Profits: Shedding Light on Delivery Margin for Agencies

The big issue Marcel sees in many agency owners is that they don’t know what their gross margin is. Personally, he prefers to call it delivery margin to prevent any confusion. You can obtain an agency's delivery margin by answering how much of every dollar that clients paid to you after fulfilling on your promise is now left to you to have a profit? Most firms can’t answer that question when looking at their financials. In most cases, they're just a few steps away from being able to answer it but don’t know how to.

For Marcel, it all starts with how we measure profitability, which is a framework still stuck in the past. The growth of a firm still being predicated today is getting more bodies and utilizing them to grow. However, this is not necessarily how it works in a modern context. A lot of companies are doing at least some amount of flat-rate or value-based pricing so they don’t actually know how much money they make spending a certain amount of time on a client. As a result, the basis for their profitability is opaque and they're unsure how to do better.

How to Calculate Your Agency's Gross Income and Delivery Margin

According to Marcel, calculating your delivery margin shouldn't be so complicated if you've first established your revenue and pass-through expenses (which are third-party expenses the agency incurred by outsourcing work to satisfy client demand). The formula is:

Revenue - Pass-through Expenses = Agency Gross Income (AGI)

Once you have the Agency Gross Income (AGI), you can calculate the Delivery Cost, which is what it costs you to earn that revenue. Most of this will be your team’s time. On an agency basis, you are looking at the amount of your payroll is allocated towards delivery. On a project basis, you’d need to answer how much time you spent completing a project and the cost of that time. The formula is:

AGI - Delivery Cost/AGI.
Ex: If you made $1 million and spent $400K on Delivery Costs, then you have a 60% delivery margin.

The challenge a lot of agencies have to really get a clear idea of their delivery margin is that in many cases they have all their payroll costs on the P&L in one bucket. In those cases, they may think they have a great gross profit, but what they’re looking at on the P&L is their gross income including delivery costs.

Three Ways to Improve Agency Profitability

According to those formulas, Marcel identifies three ways to increase delivery margin. You can either decrease your costs or increase the amount of revenue generated with the costs you have:

  1. Decrease costs: Do you know your average cost per hour? This is the cost of every hour the team spends on client work. You can lower it by reducing the level of judgment required for the majority of the work in a deliverable. When there are no clear processes or requirements, it often takes a senior team member to ensure a successful outcome. Having clear processes, conducting thorough intake with clients, and leveraging technology and templates will allow you to lower the total payroll you need to get the same results.
  2. Improve Average Billable Rate: This metric measures how much revenue is earned for every hour the team spends on any kind of work. It applies to businesses that bill by the hour as well as all other billing models. You can improve your average billable rate, either through pricing increases or by decreasing the time it takes to complete a deliverable. By doing this, agencies can effectively increase their revenue without needing to make any changes to their team or resources.
  3. Utilization or "The Darksaber": This strategy comes with great power but also great responsibility. Used improperly, it can cause all kinds of damage to the agency. Utilization rate measures team efficiency by looking at the percentage of a team's capacity that is being used to generate revenue at the average billable rate. It’s a metric for the management team and it should not be used to hold individual team members accountable. Calculating this metric will allow agencies to make informed decisions about strategic moves like hiring more staff.

Why Specialization Is Key to Improving Your Agency's Profitability

Specialization is the key to improving your profitability. Specializing and eliminating non-profitable services will help you streamline operations and allocate resources more effectively. Identify the services not generating sufficient revenue and determine whether they contribute to your agency’s overall profitability. If these services do not lead to profitable outcomes, consider eliminating them. For Marcel, instead of offering a wide range of services, agency owners should focus on providing a complete solution to a specific problem.

In addition to specialization, agencies can also consider outsourcing certain tasks or partnering with other agencies that excel in areas where they may not be as proficient. Some of the most profitable agencies Marcel has audited outsource part of their work. This deliberate choice can be beneficial in terms of efficiency and profitability. In his opinion, just like the last 10 years have been about specialization in terms of what the client can see, the next 10 years are going to be about specialization inside the agency. It’ll be a time for agency owners to ask themselves, what are we good at doing? And cut the fat in terms of what they're doing operationally.

Outperforming Outdated Benchmarks

It’s really important to remember that no single path dictates profitability. With the right processes, even unconventional models like 4-day weeks can succeed. Explore various strategies aligned to your specific circumstances.

The key to profitability is to hit at least 50% delivery margin, enabling 30% for overhead and 20% EBITDA. Adjust billable rates and utilization to reach targets based on goals, constraints, and positioning.

But beware of over-reliance on benchmarks, Marcel warns. Definitional differences in billable hours or capacity distort comparisons. Instead of arbitrary standards, evaluate metrics in your context.

Profitability demands knowing your specific business, not the abstract industry. Define success on your terms, for your team. Then design the path to get there. With creativity and commitment, agencies can prosper on their own terms.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you struggling to scale your digital agency to 7-figures and beyond? Do you think 8-figure or 9-figure agency owners must have it all figured out? Today’s guest shares the journey of taking his smaller agency to an eight-figure business and discusses the strategies that helped him scale and grow. He talks about the huge impact their transparent pricing model had on their growth, why he’s still figuring out a marketing strategy that will not depend on referrals, and how he’s changed his mind about the remote model. Tune in to hear more about Graham's experiences and insights as an agency owner.

Graeme Barlow is a tech entrepreneur who has built and sold several startups in the space and is currently the owner of Iversoft, an agency that builds custom software for brands all over the world. The agency specializes in mobile but dabbles in backend web development and works with creative agencies to complement their engineering expertise.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Moving from the tech space to owning an agency.
  • The pricing model that led to immense 8-figure agency growth.
  • Marketing strategies to attract big brand clients.

 

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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.

 

Moving from Tech to Being in the Agency World

Many agency owners think grass is greener on the tech side of business and dream of building the new Facebook. For his part, Graeme made the journey backwards and ended up being an agency owner after years in tech. He has built products and games and seen the real struggles in tech and the opportunities as a service provider to partner with up-and-coming starters to develop cool tools. For him, it was the best of both worlds.

As an agency owner, Graeme could get access to the coolest technology around while also working with tech startups as they start to scale. However, he found it’s not easy working with unknown and unpredictable technologies.

Looking back at their impressive growth over the years, Graeme admits it took a lot of pain and suffering. When they started, it was all small fixed bid projects they could complete in a week. Nothing seemed too complicated working on mobile at a time when mobile apps still weren’t as complex as they are today. Fast forward to the present and they are now handling multiple six-figure projects at a time.

That level of growth is what most agency owners dream of but maintaining it takes solid processes, a good team, a good marketing strategy, and a lot of resilience.

A Pricing Model that Led to Immense Growth

Transitioning out of the fixed bid to a retainer model proved to be much more difficult than he thought, though a necessary step to scale.

In software, there’s much you’ll learn about user interaction when people start using it. It is extremely hard to define every possible element of software build up front, which is why the fixed bid model was just not working for them. What could they change? How could they make it happen?

Basically, they looked at their most successful accounts past the build stage; these accounts were in the maintenance stage and they were working on product enhancement and doing live support in DevOps. Those were their happiest clients. Why was that? All the priorities were aligned.

Now Graeme provides a cost breakdown: team retainer, overheads, and a 20% markup on team fees. Clients dictate resource levels based on priorities. Want aggressive? Add senior members. Conserve costs? Go junior heavy. It’s their call. This basically eliminated the need for price negotiation with clients.

It’s been much easier to sell and maintain and they almost eliminated price negotiation with clients, making the process smoother and more efficient.

RFPs: Graeme admits, however, that RFP traditions still clash with the retainer approach. If this is your case as well, offer skeptical prospects a paid half-day workshop exploring fit before any scope is defined. The investment filters the serious from the merely curious.

Leveraging Success Stories to Go Beyond Word-of-Mouth

The marketing component is something Graeme admits he and his team are still figuring out. The bulk of their growth has so far come from word-of-mouth from existing clients. Other than that, they’re still trying to crack the marketing piece.

Luckily, attracting elite talent gave Graeme an edge when pitching clients; as they can offer better talent than clients could recruit and retain on their own.

However, you’ll need more than word of mouth to maintain growth. You need to be intentional about your strategy. For instance, one mastermind member built a referral system tracking reciprocity. If they didn’t send referrals, it was time to look for another referral partner.

Another useful strategy for agency owners looking for new business outside of referrals is ads spotlighting client success stories – putting results in front of ideal prospects – and reaching out directly as a customer. Let them know you bought their product and have a few suggestions on how to improve their marketing. You’ll be sure to get their attention

Finally, Graeme has seen a lot of success pursuing partnerships stacking expertise across design, marketing and UX. Complete solutions require combining strengths and the most successful agencies are the ones constantly adapting their strategies to improve their results.

Unlocking Efficiency and Accessing Global Talent Through Remote Work

Up to a few years ago, Graeme was convinced that complex software development had to be solved by people in the same room. In the last three years, however, his agency transitioned from a traditional office setup to a fully remote organization. This transition has resulted in numerous positive outcomes for the agency, including increased efficiency, speed, delivery, and employee retention.

This is a mindset change he encourages for any agency owner thinking about going remote. By embracing remote work, agencies can attract talent from anywhere in the world. This opens up opportunities to work with highly skilled professionals you otherwise would’ve never considered.

Furthermore, remote work offers a flexible work environment that promotes trust and autonomy. As long as you find the right balance and ensure effective communication and collaboration among team members, a shift to remote can foster a sense of ownership and responsibility among employees, leading to increased engagement and accountability.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Have you struggled to build an ethical yet profitable agency model? Do you want your brand to attract clients through value rather than hype? Are you unsure how to leverage personal branding effectively online? Today's interview tackles it all. Today’s guest is passionate about helping people build their personal brands and counteracting the lack of integrity in the agency space. Although he dislikes the term "agency" he built one focused on really helping his clients and making sure their win is also his team’s win. Tune in to gain insights into Grant's journey and learn about the importance of personal branding in the online coaching industry.

Grant Owen is the owner of Integrity Media, a media company that helps clients create short-form and long-form content, as well as podcasts. More recently, his company has been shifting towards a CMO model where they help people with their brand foundations and scaling their own in-house team.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Building personal brands with integrity.
  • Will hiring friends inevitably lead to disaster?
  • Diversification vs. Specialization.
  • Why the agency model is here to stay.

 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

 

Developing Your Personal Brand with Integrity at the Core

Grant's agency began with impromptu business strategy sessions with friends. He found fulfillment in dispensing actionable advice. Soon he realized - these skills could help counter unethical hype plaguing online marketing.

By sharing his mastery, he saw an opportunity to restore trust by offering consulting services with integrity at the core. His tools empowered clients to build brands "the right way"- with their success tied to his.

Grant believes everyone has a story worth sharing. Especially online coaches - personal brands build trust, credibility, and community. They provide a platform to move audiences through narrative.

It became his mission to help coaches develop reach through radical honesty. In a crowded space, the character stands out. Lead with your human story and the rest will follow.

However, he has made some mistakes, like charging way below the value he actually provided, something he quickly sought to correct once he realized the agency was just not profitable. Overall, he’s made many mistakes in his journey and has learned a lot about his own shortcomings and the challenges standing in the way of growth.

Delegating and Outsourcing as the  Key to Agency Growth

By now, Grant has started delegating tasks. However, his input still powers the agency. His goal is to reach the summit where operations run smoothly without his constant direction.

First on the outsourcing list are low-value marketing tasks devouring his days. No more content editing and video production that takes time from sharing his insights to attract ideal clients.

Next, he plans to build a team dedicated to handling the services he provides. With these functions supported, Grant will be able to optimize his time for high-impact priorities.

As for sales, Grant cherishes the thrill of the close. This highlights the balancing act and sheds tedious tasks but retains activities aligned with his strengths and passion.

By outsourcing wisely, entrepreneurs unlock new heights. Pass the baton on duties that drain, and your energy will soar toward vision fulfillment. The summit is closer than it appears.

Does Hiring Friends Inevitably Lead to Disaster?

Grant leverages his network and personal connections to find the right people for his team. One thing he has learned is that creatives usually suck at business because they don’t know their value. On the other hand, business types are great at business and suck at creative, which really shows in the quality of their work. Grant realized he had a network that could bridge that gap so he started hiring his friends in the creative space and providing them with the right opportunities.

Of course, hiring friends as employees often doesn't work. You could end up with employees who treat you like a friend rather than a leader. This can lead to a lack of productivity and a failure to meet the necessary requirements of the job. A better alternative might be hiring acquaintances and building a strong enough relationship that develops into a friendship.

Still, as long as both parties have their goals aligned and work towards mutual benefit, it can lead to successful work relationships. Things will usually fall apart when one party’s self-interest is at the detriment of the other party’s goals.

Shared values also cement fruitful client relationships that can lead to a more productive and harmonious working environment. Grant refers prospects out if core tenets clash. Authentic connections matter most.

It’s very common in marketing to see people showcasing a lavish lifestyle or using vanity metrics in marketing and social media content. These temporarily grab attention but erode long-term growth. Instead, he strived to provide genuine value and partner with agencies that prioritize client fulfillment over fast bucks.

Give Away Your Best Stuff to Establish Yourself as an Authority

Instead of selling people the idea of an expensive lifestyle, what they probably need more is your knowledge.  Just remember that, in order to establish yourself as an authority in your niche, you should be giving away your best stuff. Most people are hesitant to take this approach. However, the alternative of giving away mid advice just to “protect the secret sauce” can lead to people thinking that’s the best you got.

Don’t be afraid to share their knowledge and expertise with others. It’s a way to demonstrate your expertise and have clients compare everyone else to you. You’ll be seen as and it will ultimately lead to more business opportunities and a stronger reputation in the industry.

Understanding Diversification vs. Specialization

Oversaturation is very real in the agency space and ethical agencies will have to differentiate to rise above noise.

Early on, diversification tempts before niche focus crystallizes. However, finding your niche, offering value, and aligning pricing and services accordingly will be an important part of your business’ growth. What you would be doing if you could only charge on the performance and results? Eliminate everything else.

Once you’re THE authority in your niche, clients may beg you to expand offerings. Resist diluting focus to appease them. Either build new departments under subject matter experts or acquire niche agencies stacking expertise.

Stay laser-focused on refining your craft and outsourcing the rest. Trying to conquer too much risks mastery of too little. Partner with those owning adjacent pieces of the puzzle and together a fuller picture emerges.

Why the Agency Model Will Stand the Test of Time

According to Grant, the agency model will stand the test of time because there will always be a need for outsourced help in various niches.

In particular, while execution is important, it will eventually be automated and replaced by technology such as AI. However, strategy and idea generation will always be necessary and will not be replaced by automation. Agencies that are thriving and will continue to thrive are ones solving specific problems in specific niches. Which niches are most likely to succeed? Better ask yourself if you picked the right niche for the right reasons.

By choosing a niche in which they have deep knowledge and expertise, agency owners can provide exceptional value to their clients. If you need any help, try our niche grader tool that can help agency owners determine which niche is the most suitable for your agency.

Pro Tip: Give your chosen niche enough time to succeed by trying it out for at least a year before deciding if it is working or not. Patience and perseverance will get you that competitive edge and help you achieve long-term success.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are your salespeople trained to tell relevant stories and sell in the appointment? Do they know how to catch a prospect's attention fast? Using sales scripts is a great way to keep your message focused and concise. To get the best results, your sales reps should be armed with a bulletproof script and serious training to overcome sales objections. Today's guest shares his experience and expertise in creating a big sales team that is constantly growing and improving through continuous training. Tune in to gain valuable insights on scaling your agency, building a winning sales script, and how to support ongoing professional development.

Scott Scully is the CEO of Abstrakt Marketing Group, a b2b lead generation and business growth agency that offers multi-channel marketing solutions to small and medium-sized businesses. In his 28 years in the business, Scott’s main focus has been in the marketing and lead gen space with three companies that all exceed $12 million in revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Building a winning sales script.
  • Handling outreach by creating exclusivity.
  • Gamifying growth.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Handling Outreach by Building an Exclusivity Perspective

Scott has owned three successful marketing companies always aiming to help businesses grow. His current brainchild, Abstrakt Marketing, scaled 20% annually over 12 years, crossing $50M in 2021 revenue.

His team builds predictable sales pipelines - website design, content creation, social media, and extensive email and phone outreach. They make hundreds of calls daily, qualifying and scheduling initial consultations.

But outreach takes shape through their sales enablement blueprint. First comes research and list cleansing to identify ideal prospects. Another key element is that the client has their target defined. Scott is a huge believer in having a defined niche. This way, his team can come with expertise in that particular niche. Working from an exclusivity perspective helps his team build up in terms of why they're calling them, who they are, and why potential clients need to meet with them.

Building a Winning Agency Sales Script

Scott knows cold calls aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, so he crafted a blueprint to catch attention fast. To build a solid script, he focused on getting people’s attention, exclusivity, scarcity, and then selling the appointment.

First of all, Scott recommends letting clients know you’ll be brief and go straight to the point. That’s huge because it shows you value their time and acknowledge the call is an interruption. Next, state the reason for your call and introduce your company. Take this as an opportunity to differentiate yourself. “If I'm a managed service provider, there are a lot of managed service providers these days. So why are you different?” Scott explains. This is where specialization becomes very important. If you’re able to differentiate yourself as a managed service provider who happens to specialize in their particular industry, now you have their attention.

Also, you can get ahead through influencer social proof. "We're tightly networked with industry leaders nationally - we understand your daily challenges and can plug you into best practices." This insider credibility will make you irresistible.

Why You Should Never Lose Sight of Your Goals to Sell the Appointment

Once you have your script and can differentiate yourself, the most important thing is to not forget your goal of selling the appointment. For Scott, the worst-case scenario is when the call is handled by a sales enablement person who lacks a clear understanding of the ins and outs of the sales presentation itself. In those cases, they may fall into mini-pitching. As a result, the prospect could make the decision to not show up based on that call.

Overeager reps also risk sharing too much about what comes next. In those cases, once the time for the appointment comes, a prospect may feel they’ve already talked about some of those things and you may not have their full attention and participation. This is why he insists on the importance of selling the appointment. As long as you overcome the objections and answer why that meeting is important, you’ll be good for the next round.

Exclusivity also raises the stakes. His agency only works with one company in a particular area and niche. It’s not about making threats to go to the competition but rather presenting a unique offer to get that opportunity for a meeting. "We only partner with one roofing contractor per region" conveys privileged access, not threats. By presenting engagement as a unique opportunity, they compel action.

Data-Driven Prospecting: Separating Needles from the Haystack

With hundreds of daily calls, how do they qualify these prospects? First of all, Scott credits their unbelievable database. Of course, there’s no such thing as perfect data so outreach provides invaluable validation to determine whether or not to put them on the phone with a sales rep.

If they’re coming into a particular market, their data would've already given them an idea of who usually picks up the phone, who responds to emails, and who they interact with on social.

They also try to be as smart as they can about who in the organization they’re trying to contact. When sending emails, they’re already hitting multiple people within an organization because the decision-making process isn't always the same. When it comes to making phone outreach, they’ll run tracks on different titles until they determine who makes the decision. Finally, they’ll get the particular client qualifiers so they can meet their expectations.

Gamifying Growth for Ongoing Development

There’s a low barrier to entry for becoming a salesperson. However, in order to actually be good at it there are usually many rounds of training. Scott's two-week boot camp immerses new hires in Salesforce, processes, and company ethos. Towards the end, they’ll have specific training around the industries that they're going to serve and the clients they’ll be picking up.

It’s a very complete process. However, Scott is a big believer in ongoing training so professional development is mandatory for an hour weekly. There are many options available and different tracks they can follow around their training. Each employee will accumulate points for their training, which will eventually lead to them earning a “belt” a sort of martial arts gamified acknowledgment to elevate employees who are getting ahead on their training, with the ultimate goal being to become a black belt.

Ultimately, Scott makes sure there are options for them in terms of growing their careers within the agency. Because of that, a lot of them are pretty hungry and self-motivated to go get the training.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are email newsletters out? Do people want or even read those anymore? Actually, yes! Old-school agency newsletters are a great way to position yourself as a trusted expert. Eager to learn proven strategies for engaging and valuable newsletters? A newsletter can be an invaluable tool to position yourself as a trusted advisor and expert by offering information that the audience genuinely wants to engage with and learn from. Today’s guest shares his experience transitioning from owning a marketing agency to building newsletters for his media company. He shares his insights about the ways a newsletter should provide value and the type of content it should contain. Tune in to discover some truly helpful information on how to build a successful newsletter.

Nate Kennedy is an entrepreneur and philanthropist who has been in the online marketing world since 2006. He has worked for many businesses in different niches and personally built and sold 7 different online businesses with 6 and 7 figure exits. More recently, he changed pace and now focuses on building newsletters for his media company.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Being the curator vs. being a creator.
  • Turning your newsletter into a business tool.
  • How often should you send out a newsletter to be relevant?

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

 

How to Curate an Engaging Newsletter

After working in online marketing for many years and building multimillion-dollar companies, Nate felt stressed with clients calling him at all hours and crushed under the pressure of what he had built. It was time for a change.

Rather than relying solely on platforms like Facebook or Google for traffic, Nate was fascinated by the possibility of owning his audience. By building a targeted and engaged subscriber list, he could have more control over their reach and generate revenue through sponsorships and affiliate offers. Instead of going to these other networks and paying them to buy the audience, he could own even a small piece of that pie.

In his experience, a newsletter should deliver valuable content for a specific niche or industry to provide maximum value to the target audience. This could be achieved in two ways:

  1. Build a newsletter around your thoughts, insights, and content to help said niche audience.
  2. Building it around curated content with a variety of useful sources within that industry.

For instance, Nate sends out a newsletter focused on financial literacy for a specific audience. It’s aimed at teaching consumers how to become financially smarter. This is not content he writes, he just curates it from different sources. On the other hand, he also has a different newsletter for entrepreneurs written by him with his thoughts and insights.

How Should a Newsletter Look to Get People’s Attention? This will depend on your goal and target audience. A more personalized newsletter with your insights on a matter should probably contain mainly text and not be filled with images and videos. As opposed to a more e-commerce-style newsletter aimed at selling products, which will contain more images, links, and videos. A lot of people go for a hybrid approach.

How The Newsletter Can Become a Tool for Agency Business

When it comes to building the subscriber list, Nate suggests running ads specifically promoting the newsletter and its benefits. However, right now he gets most of his new subscribers from one-step funnels, such as polls or surveys. This way, he engages potential subscribers and gathers information about their interests and preferences. This targeted approach ensures that the newsletter is attracting the right audience and providing content that resonates with them.

By consistently sending out newsletters, agency owners can stay at the forefront of their client's minds and remind them of the reasons they initially hired the agency. This is particularly important in the competitive agency industry, where other agencies may attempt to win over clients with lower prices.

Once, you’ve built an audience and started getting some traction, you might want to partner with some businesses that align with your values and beliefs. Sponsorships can provide an additional revenue stream without the need for hard selling. Just make sure to only recommend products that the business genuinely believes in. Recommending subpar products can damage the relationship with readers.

How Often Should You Send  Agency Newsletters?

While the frequency of sending newsletters may vary, it will ultimately depend on your goal. A curated newsletter with advertisers can go out daily to be profitable while the more personal one aimed at building your brand can be sent out just once a week because the focus will be having the best possible content tailored to your audience.

In the case of agencies, Nate suggests sending out newsletters two to three times a week. You don’t want to bore your audience. As to the format, he favors a combination model, with a bit of curated content and links around the marketing world and some created content that provides value. The curated content can contain different sections, including the latest podcast, success stories, a tool section, and links to other videos they have created. This part will get you more clicks while the insights will help you build trust and rapport.

Leveraging AI to Keep Our Newsletter Crisp, Clever, and Compelling

Once your newsletter blueprint is complete, optimization begins. Nate A/B tests sections and subject lines for maximum engagement. He crafts subject lines to drive readers to buried treasures below the fold. Though the above holds attention, compelling lower hooks ensure total reads.

For curated content creation, Nate enlists AI's aid. He feeds it articles, prompting paragraph summaries for each section. The AI delivers raw materials to refine.

Furthermore, to get more specific results you could feed the AI with your agency’s stories and results and then ask for ideas for blog spots. With the right prompt, it can be an amazing tool to get your creative juices started and provide something you can then add to with your own words.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


How are you leveraging AI to increase your agency’s productivity?  Which tools are you currently using? Is there a new skill you’d like to master but don’t know where to start? Artificial intelligence (AI) brings a new world of possibilities for agency owners that goes beyond just creating content. Today’s guest shares his expertise in leveraging artificial intelligence with a problem-solving approach for marketing. He discusses the use of AI to optimize bidding algorithms and drive better results for multi-location brands. David also reflects on his journey into digital marketing, his impostor syndrome when it comes to being an agency owner, how he leverages AI to master new skills, and the impact the mastermind has had on his confidence.

David Melamed is an entrepreneur and the founder of Tenfold Traffic. Even though he had very limited exposure to advertising, he describes himself as someone who was born to do marketing and pursued it from a young age. Much of what he was able to learn back then was through the blogosphere “sprinkled with a few doses of back-against-the-wall reality,” he adds. Because of this, he loves to teach and help curious marketers make the smartest marketing investments possible. Currently, David’s work focuses on wherever emerging technology meets marketing. For the past year, he’s been focusing on the legal industry and helping brands close the loop in their marketing using automation to drive better results.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to leverage AI beyond content creation.
  • Useful tools to help you master new skills.
  • The power of peer support to propel agency growth.

 

Subscribe

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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.

 

The Revelation That Led to an Interest in Digital Marketing

David's passion for marketing began bubbling at age 9 - when his pickle sale business got shut down by school authorities. But the seeds were planted.

At some point, he dreamt about building shopping centers. However, a retail leasing gig unlocked a revelation: Brands just needed demographics, accessibility...and search engines. With this epiphany, David saw a future beyond shopping centers. He knew he needed to master digital marketing.

But theory lacked application. When dream SEO jobs passed him over for experience, David spent two weeks absorbing everything he could on optimization, wowing in round two. Though still green, it was enough to get him his first opportunity.

Leverage AI to Master New Skills with a Problem-Solving Approach

With years of work in the marketing space under his belt, David has now moved to focus on the possibilities AI development brings for businesses. To him, AI has not really been a pivot from what he’s been doing for years. For instance, he admits he’s never been good at scaling a team, which is why he has resorted to scale with automation. “It was easier for me to master automation than finding a team of really awesome people and training them,” he admits.

Once AI came along, he wasn’t sure about its potential but six months ago he decided to just dive into it. What could AI enable him to do that he couldn’t do yesterday? Most people look for the low-hanging fruit to find ways to save time in content creation. What piqued David’s interest was the possibility to dive into areas he couldn’t before because he didn’t have the expertise to use the tools himself. He’s not a developer, but he now builds and runs software codes every day with the help of ChatGPT.

In his experience, David is getting massive leverage on AI by just asking for help with things he doesn’t entirely understand. To him, it's not about something he wants to delegate but rather needs help mastering.

Experimenting at the Intersection of Creativity and AI

David is a big believer in creating community and helping others with their projects whenever he can. One of the tools he uses all the time and highly recommends is Notion AI, which he uses to create all sorts of things, like a tool to help a 17-year-old entrepreneur with his dropshipping business. “AI today has what I call a last mile problem,” he says. It gives you a great output but it still has limits and Notion is very versatile and quick. Though acknowledging limitations, David sees large language models replacing up to 30% of agency workflows through automation.

Beyond workflow efficiencies, David engages in prompted experimentation to extract insights. Testing platforms like Prompt Meteus help him craft and perfect prompts for optimal results. And for both content and creative code, he leverages ChatGPT.

For David, AI represents boundless potential - faster database builds, marketing strategy, competitive research, and more. He urges fellow marketers to tap into creative problem-solving through tireless trial and error. He’s always looking for ways to leverage these tools in his benefit and finds this has made him ten times more creative than I ever was.

The Power of Peer Support for Propelling Agency Growth

There was a time when David couldn’t get past mental blocks around his pricing and growth. This is why he finds it so important for agency owners to recognize these struggles. In his personal experience, joining Jason's mastermind helped him find a community where he felt appreciated and understood.

The first time he attended an in-person meeting with agency owners and realized they all faced common struggles, such as imposter syndrome and self-sabotage. This helped him feel less alone in his journey.

Now, David champions masterminds' exponential benefits for agency growth. The connections, accountability, and normalization reframe "failures" as shared struggles. And the price tag becomes a feature, not an expense; higher investment means greater engagement and outcomes for all.

In the end, humans thrive supported, not alone. If agency life wears you down, find your people, join a mastermind, and watch obstacles transform into opportunities. You'll emerge healthier, wiser, and ready to reach the next level together.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


How are you planning to leverage AI for marketing insights? Want to know the best tools to utilize artificial intelligence in your agency? For years, we’ve known AI would revolutionize marketing through real-time insights and automation. However, for it to provide accurate insights and recommendations, it needs a comprehensive understanding of how a company is performing in relation to the overall market. Today's guest knew this was where AI was moving towards and decided to jump to the challenge of building a platform that would best utilize these developments for agencies. He'll share his journey from identifying AI as the future for agencies to years of failed attempts at development and finally finding the ideal partner to build his vision. He also talks about what he looks for in an acquisition and how he deals with burnout.

Erik Huberman is the founder of Hawke Media, an outsourced CMO and marketing team that customizes data-driven, performance solutions to help launch, scale, and invigorate businesses. Check out Erik’s previous interview, where he talked about setting financial goals, his marketing methodology, and his book, The Hawke Method. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Learning to align systems to talent.
  • Why he set out to leverage AI for marketing insights.
  • Can agency owners avoid burnout?

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Agency Analytics, an automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Go to agencyanalytics.com/smart to sign up for a 14-day FREE trial and see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Early Lessons on Aligning Systems to Talent to Boost Retention

As an entrepreneur, Erik had started a few e-commerce companies and was unimpressed by the agencies he had worked with. He decided to form a small team that could assist his clients and quickly saw a positive response.

Initially, he attracted people to work with him for a low base pay and a percentage of revenue. In his mind, the sky was the limit and any one of those workers could make a lot of money under that model. However, within six months most of them were gone. This is how he realized most people are not entrepreneurial and would rather have consistency over volatility.

With this lesson learned, he pivoted to attract talent seeking consistency over shoot-the-moon potential. With the model adjusted, growth exploded and revenue was $1 million in their very first year. As expected, the growth percentage leveled off, but steady year-over-year expansion continued.

Erik realized different motivations drive people. Some thrive on uncertainty, but most need security. Neither is right or wrong - smart leaders align systems to talent. Once he matched incentives to appetite, talent and growth flourished. Know your team and they'll drive you anywhere.

Why You Should Stay Ready to Replace Irreplaceable Talent

After starting several enterprises Erik learned you’ll always be hiring and rotating key roles. Would it be ideal to find the perfect person who will stay for the next 30 years? Of course! However, life happens so now he stays ready to perpetually replace irreplaceable talent.

Except one - his strategist-turned-president partner. So far, he’s the only hire who came into the agency with an attitude of owning his work, treating it as more than just another job. He definitely earned the leap from employee to co-owner carrying that weight from day one. It’s a decision Erik definitely doesn’t regret.

When it comes to building leaders, he has also learned the importance of dedicating more time to their training. “I used to just rush through meetings with my leaders,” he admits. Now he prefers to spend time in the weeds with them and collaborate, instead of just expecting them to solve any problem that may come up.

Building a Platform to Leverage AI for Marketing Insights

Seven years ago, Erik had a meeting with Marcus Shingles and Peter Diamantes. They talked about rapid disruption and got to wondering about what was going to disrupt marketing agencies and what they do. At the time, Marcus and Peter thought it would be freelancers. Erik disagreed and leaned more toward AI as a disrupting force.

In his opinion, AI would first offer insights into an agency’s marketing channels to see what’s working and what’s not. At some point, instead of just telling you what wasn’t working, AI would also offer to fix it for you in real time. Their response to his predictions was “Well, why don’t you build that?” His company was young but he decided to jump at the challenge.

Step one had to be data. He would need data from thousands of companies to educate an individual platform. Next, he focused on building a visualization platform that would do an automated audit to show companies how they’re performing and where they can do better.

Six long years later, the platform vision was still incomplete. Three failed tech teams couldn't deliver. Then he was approached by a dashboard developer who had the missing puzzle piece. Erik had the data and team; they had the tech. A partnership was born.

Although slow, their collaboration clicked - seamless negotiations gave way to immediate execution. Today, they have over 2,000 customers and growing.

Why No Acquisition Should Move Forward Without the Right Culture Fit

For acquisitions, Erik seeks agencies that complement Hawke Media's core. Geographic fills, service expansions, strategic bolt-ons - any over $1M revenue with scale potential.

He loves founder-led shops where Hawke's infrastructure can partner to rapidly expand capable teams 8-9X in just a couple of years. However, without cultural alignment, even winners go nowhere. So beyond financials and operations, Erik probes for shared values and vision. With those locked in, holding back becomes impossible. They nourish talent and stoke significant growth.

In the end, systems may stimulate but only engage humans who are able to innovate. That's why no acquisition moves forward without the right cultural fit. The rest can be learned, but passion and purpose must already live within.

Can Agency Owners Avoid Burnout?

Before this year, Erik never understood the talk about burnout. He had never experienced it. Now that he has, he can only say it’s inevitable, despite preparation and passion. Building a business is hard. Even someone like Mark Zuckerberg, who built one of the biggest companies of our generation, has to deal with stress and burnout. It won’t always be butterflies and rainbows. Add that to the stress of the state of the world and, overall, mental health is not great for most adults right now.

Personally, he prefers to put things in perspective because stress can affect your ability to function in your everyday life. Does this really matter? Is it worth so much stress? Is it worth compromising his health for? Other than that, he makes sure to meditate and exercise and informs himself to understand the market. Being very aware of the shifts in the economy, how they have historically played out, and how you can prepare for hard times can really help reduce the fears that come with uncertainty.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you struggling to step into your own as an agency leader? Looking to rapidly grow your boutique agency? In this episode, our guest shares her journey as an accidental agency owner and how she has grown her boutique communications agency by over 75% in the past two years. She discusses the importance of focusing on the type of agency you want to be, the clients you want to work with, and the type of work you want to do. Pilaar also highlights the benefits of organic growth and embracing mistakes to empower your team. She shares some of her experiences having grown her boutique agency quite fast and the role that stepping into her own as a leader played in their success.

Pilaar Terry is the managing partner and COO of POV Agency, a fully remote boutique communication agency that reimagines how PR is done and more importantly who it’s done by. She and her partner built the agency on the belief that a varied, nuanced, and colorful perspective is a strength. Tune in to learn from Pilaar's experience and discover how you can achieve similar growth for your agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Growth by design and the importance of having a deliberate focus.
  • Prioritizing diversity and inclusion.
  • Allowing employees to learn by embracing their mistakes.

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

 

Growth by Design: The Importance of Deliberate Focus

Pilaar attributes her success to a deliberate focus on her desired agency identity, clients, and work. She and her partner have been in the agency business for 20 years, worked with tons of brands, and remained just people who do good work. This led to a lot of good word of mouth and referrals once they joined forces. However, a more intentional and strategic approach was necessary to reach their goals. By aligning their intentions with the type of agency they wanted to be, the clients they wanted to work with, and the work they wanted to do, they were able to achieve significant growth. She emphasizes the importance of creating a plan around your goals and intentions based on your vision. This was a key component in their success.

Becoming the Leader Your Agency Needs

One of Pilaar’s biggest challenges while growing her agency was coming into her own as a leader. Basically, she struggled to find a balance between the needs of the company, the team, and herself as a leader. As the owner of a small agency with a handful of employees, she defaulted to putting her team’s needs first. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing but it came to a point where it was to her detriment. She was taking on a lot of work not wanting to burn out her employees. Looking back, she knows she needs to learn to be a leader, delegate, and give constructive feedback.

What was she afraid of? Coming from working at really big agencies and now owning a very small boutique business, Pilaar was afraid people wouldn’t want to work at her agency. Any time someone chose her agency she felt grateful that they would take a chance on her. In reality, she was also taking a chance on them.

At some point, she was no longer sure she had the team she wanted to grow the agency with, even though she had hand-selected each one. Thankfully, her agency started to invest in a really amazing partner that does team training and organization development. She realized she was hiring for the wrong reasons. Once she understood this, she came into her own as a leader.

Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion at Her Agency

Working at bigger agencies helped Pilaar learn so much about structure, skills, and dealing with clients. However, she was consistently sidelined. By the time she became senior vice president, she hoped it was her time to have a voice and be valued. When that didn’t happen, she wondered what she was doing there. This negative experience served as a catalyst and her motivation to create an agency where everyone's voice is valued. It fueled her desire to create an agency that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.

At their current agency, the majority of the team consists of people of color, working parents, individuals in the military, neurodivergent individuals, and people from different sexual orientations. She aims to create an environment where individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives can contribute and be valued for their unique insights.

Seeing Employee Mistakes as Agency Opportunities

The feeling of not being valued motivated Pilaar to create a great culture at her agency, but she admits to sometimes swinging too far in the other direction. Not wanting to demotivate employees, she was operating off of what she didn’t want to be. Instead, she should have embraced the type of agency she wanted to create. She was coddling her team and therefore getting in the way of them gaining experience.

One of her biggest worries was that, as a smaller agency, her team would resent not getting the experience of handling big clients and big budgets. However, she eventually learned to lean on what made her agency unique and not focus on what they didn’t have. This way, she was able to start guiding them toward the overall vision, let them make mistakes and learn.

Agency leaders often feel a strong attachment to their reputation and may be hesitant to let others make mistakes. This fear can lead to micromanagement and hinder the learning process for their teams. Once she was able to shift this mindset and recognize that mistakes are opportunities for growth and learning, she was able to create a culture of continuous improvement and development.

Why You Should Embrace Mistakes

Pilaar encourages agency owners to allow themselves to make mistakes because she wishes somebody had told her. In the end, of course, everyone makes mistakes. It’s inevitable and you will learn from it. Mistakes can also be an opportunity to restart and it’s okay to embrace that.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


What is the key to unlocking strategic partnerships in order to grow your agency? Wondering how to identify promising collaboration opportunities? The most mutually beneficial strategic agency partnerships are with tangential agencies that align in vision and share in collaboration. Today’s guest has great insight and information about what the most successful agencies are doing to find the best partnerships to grow. Learn how to identify and approach high-potential partners hungry for help only you can provide.

Alex Glenn is the founder & CEO of Partner Programs Inc., a parent company that operates Partner Program Collective, Agency Partners Collective, and Partner Hub, a platform built for agencies who want to find and manage their partnerships. Overall, Partner Programs Inc. works as an ecosystem that offers community support and training services for both sides of the partnership equation. Alex will offer his unique perspective on how agency owners are using partnerships to grow their businesses and the things they should avoid to protect their agencies.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Which partnerships offer the most growth for agencies?
  • What you should be looking for in a strategic partner.
  • A trap you should avoid at all costs.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

How You Should Be Using Strategic Agency Partnerships to Grow

According to Alex, the past five years have seen a whirlwind of partnership experimentation as strategies trickle from tech giants down to digital agencies. But what options offer the most growth for agencies today?

  1. E-commerce. E-commerce has historically been ahead of the curve in terms of software and in the agency world. Usually, e-commerce brands know they have a short window to either make it or land on their face once they launch. To make the most of their go-to-market, they need strategic partnerships.Typically, they’ll go for agencies that already have a channel of influencers, past products they’ve brought to market, and partners that will help increase the reach of that go-to-market. These are agencies that can almost guarantee success.
  2. Niche agency. After e-commerce, the typical agency partnership would be a niche agency that has demand for software, web development, etc. These agencies are so niched down that partner agencies know they won’t have to worry about them cannibalizing their service offering.

Across categories, Alex sees partners thriving by playing to niche strengths versus chasing full-service breadth. As competition stiffens, agencies build leverage, mitigate risk, and open new doors through collaboration. The future for agencies favors focused vision and allies rather than being isolated and siloed.

What Should You Be Looking for in a Strategic Partnership?

Picking partners requires savvy calculation. Alex says sometimes white labels can still drop balls, leaving you to blame. To reduce this risk, get in the habit of referring at least three partners to a client. If it all goes south, you can argue you provided two other good options they didn’t pick. You should also keep track of your referrals. If the referrals are only flowing one way, it’s time to find another partner.

Ultimately though, it boils down to your core offerings - that's the magnet attracting partners. For example, if you're a boutique creative agency, supplement with tech partners in ecosystems granting access to ready-to-go business. Even creative-focused agencies should dip into these pools of opportunity.

Initial referral wins, when reciprocated, start an upward spiral of exponentially increasing referrals. But don't waste time on partners not returning the favor. Alex sees this optimization process as the path to bigger contract proposals. So choose allies wisely, perfect your craft, and integrate into collaborative ecosystems. Then watch the referrals and opportunities multiply.

Avoid this Common Trap at All Costs

About 90% of agencies have around 20 employees and sit in a creative niche category. If this is your case, you should be looking for strategic alliances with tech partners. However, if your business is based on word of mouth and referrals, you’re basically very vulnerable.

Some big agencies will find agencies in that 90% and white label the heck out of them. It’s often the case that for those smaller agencies, the majority of their business is coming from this big agency partner. If you’re a smaller agency and your partner says “I want to buy you” you’ll of course be very excited. That is, until they want to lower the price arguing they’re your entire source of business. At this point, your valuation gets slashed and now you’re not making nearly the amount you expected to make.

Avoid the trap of having all your eggs in one basket. Vet relationships to ensure no single client consumes most of your time and resources. Monitor for hostile takeover risk where one buyer makes demand overly burdensome.

Instead, scale smartly via a three-pronged strategy: strategic partners, complemented byinbound and outbound approaches. Diversity eliminates overexposure so no single source can cripple you if compromised.

With balance, patience, and calculated growth, agencies gain resilience against predatory relationships. Don't sacrifice long-term health for short-term hypergrowth at any cost.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Become_a_Part_of_an_EcoSystem_of_Ready-to-Go_Agency_Business.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want to learn strategies for overcoming obstacles and fixing mistakes? Interested in fostering strong agency client relationships through communication? Today’s guest shares his journey discovering e-commerce and the strategies that helped him scale his agency under extreme circumstances. He recalls some of his struggles identifying and fixing mistakes. He also shares his gratitude for clients who recognize the process of enhancing an online business requires time and effort. Overall, he encourages communication and education between agencies and clients to foster a mutual understanding of the work being undertaken and the value it brings.

Anatoliy Labinsky is the founder of Golden Stream Media, an e-commerce growth agency that helps generate 6 and 7-figure results for their clients. In just five years, he went from waiting tables to being a successful business owner. As part of his model, he gives away some of his secrets and shares his formulas and ad templates so anyone can plug and play his winning ads.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The importance of mentorship learn from early mistakes.
  • How clear client communication and understanding leads to success.
  • How radical transparency can fuel your agency's growth.

 

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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.

 

How Mentorship Helped Turn Failures into a Multi-Million Dollar Agency

Anatoliy has had his share of failures early in his career. His journey is certainly not one of overnight success. In fact, finding the right path was initially challenging and he felt lost. In August 2017 living in Dubai and actively seeking opportunities, he had an "aha moment" after discovering the potential of e-commerce and Facebook advertising. Intrigued by this concept, he wanted to dive deeper into these areas and understand how they could be leveraged in business. This is where his journey in e-commerce and his first failure both began.

He launched his first store and soon lost everything he had, from his main job to his part-time jobs and savings. Nothing seemed to work. Looking back, he wasn’t really looking at KPIs and tracking didn’t understand what wasn’t working and why.

Luckily, in January 2018 he met his mentor. By this time, he owned money and had several part-time jobs, but kept investing in his dream. “I was addicted” he admits. He invested $47 on each coaching call with his mentor and quickly started to realize everything he was doing wrong.

Following his coach’s advice, he made his first $8,000 in the first fifteen days of working together.

When Client Communication & Trust Trumps Early Struggle

Anatoliy’s successes started with My Kitty Cat Store and some fashion, health, and beauty stores. He was one of the first to make a health product store to alleviate back pain, which presented the opportunity to scale without much competition. From the ad perspective, it was super simple. They got results without doing any detailed research and found an audience. There was no need for storytelling and long copy explaining its benefits. A picture of the product and a short and to-the-point headline did the trick.

On the other hand, he also had some difficult campaigns that took up to seven months to start showing results. It’s been one of the hardest projects they’ve done considering there were zero results for the first months. They tried several creative solutions without seeing many sales. The most surprising thing for Anatoliy was seeing the client stuck with his agency throughout the struggles. She was very appreciative of all the effort they were putting into her business and, ultimately, could see they were getting better results than she’d gotten for herself in three years. Finally, seven months later, they found the right formula and jumped from zero sales to $27,000 in sales.

Anatoliy knew it was a matter of finding the right combination of mastering the algorithm, having the right creatives, and finding an audience. In the end, it was his team’s hard work and the client’s trust that got them over the number one hurdle for any online business, which is clients solely focusing on the money spent on advertising. There’s extensive behind-the-scenes work required to implement changes and enhance online business and not fully comprehending this will lead to giving up on projects that can prove to be very profitable.

Staying the Course and Growing with a Mostly Ukraine-Based Team

Anatoliy’s agency is now US-based but part of his staff is in Ukraine, which has of course presented unique challenges in the last couple of years. Overall, he’s very happy they’ve all risen to the occasion in the face of unique difficulties. The team has managed to stay focused on their work and not be consumed by external circumstances.

Although initially concerned about potential repercussions for his business, Anatoliy feels very grateful they’ve been understanding of the situation. Clients have demonstrated patience and were even willing to pause projects, which was surprising for him. However, it wasn’t necessary because the team was willing to do whatever it took to continue working as usual. Even in the case of straining circumstances like power outages, they’ve been able to work using generators. It may sound extreme, but the team saw work as a distraction from everything going on around them. The effort was so successful that some clients didn't even notice the challenges his team faced. They all went above and beyond to reassure clients that they would continue working despite the challenging circumstances.

How Radical Transparency Fueled This Agency's 8-Figure Success

Every agency owner has their own secret formula they keep close to their chest. It’s the result of years and years of work and people are not usually as eager as Anatoliy to share them. For his part, he’s convinced that sharing as much as he can will help him succeed. It’s the vision his mentor helped him create when he was just starting out.

He believes he’ll never have a problem finding clients or escalating your success as long as he shares his knowledge and, therefore, gets a reputation as an authority in this field. In fact, he insists this has helped them get over the 8-figure mark.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Fostering_Strong_Agency_Client_Communication_to_Navigate_Hard_Times.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you looking to grow your agency fast while maintaining a work-life balance? Eager to start mastering boundaries without compromising growth? Today’s guest talks openly about growing her agency to over $1 million while fiercely protecting her personal life by establishing clear boundaries. She highlights the ongoing need for self-awareness to identify where these boundaries may be “leaky” and the importance of having people on the team who understand the challenges you face. Learn tangible tactics for aligning your agency’s growth with your personal well-being.

Caitlin Copple is the owner of Full Swing Public Relations, a PR agency with a mission to help leaders be seen and sought after so they can reclaim their power and build the platform they need. She describes herself as an unlikely agency owner who was able to grow her agency over the million-dollar mark in less than four years. Once this milestone was cleared, she realized the power of small business owners to change the world and was ready to tackle new challenges.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Working smarter and thinking about future acquisition.
  • Aligning agency growth with team well-being.
  • Building self-aware leadership.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Agency Analytics: Tired of endless manual reporting in order to show your clients the value your agency delivers? It's time to check out AgencyAnalytics, the best automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. Try it for FREE for 14 days when you head over to  AgencyAnalytics.com/Smart and sign up. It's time to see how life feels on the other side of manual reporting madness!

 

Learning About Limits as an Agency Owner 

After a decade in marketing, Caitlin took the leap to start her agency, while still young enough to risk but seasoned enough to succeed. Exceeding her initial goal to match her salary in five months, she researched the industry, motivated to overcome dismal stats for women-owned agencies.

Caitlin credits mindset as instrumental in confronting the challenges of scaling. It’s a word that gets tossed around a lot in the coaching world but there's also truth to that. We all have an idea of what we can achieve and there's something about growing a business that helps you constantly expand that vision. That’s part of what she enjoys about the ride.

Moreover, once you can generate revenue on demand, you can start setting the parameters for your life. And as someone who really values her freedom, she has really enjoyed that part of being a business owner.

Working Smarter and Preparing the Agency for Possible Future Acquisition

For Caitlin and her business partner, there was always a line in the sand regarding what they were willing to do to succeed. Working long hours and sacrificing time with family was never an option. After all, running an agency was supposed to free up their time to focus more on family. They even make sure to take five consecutive days off without cell phones or checking emails.

Therefore, the decision was made early on to try to work smarter and not necessarily harder. They sought to staff up, even though that meant their margins would be smaller. They built the agency with a very clear alignment around What's a number that would make this journey worth it? And where did they need to be in the next years to ensure the agency’s position provides options? They’re making sure they’re prepared for the future, including the possibility of being acquired by somebody who shares their values.

More recently, after making that early investment in operations, they’ve been documenting SOPs. This way, they aim to run the business more effectively and be prepared for a future sale. They started this in 2021 and have so far documented everything from onboarding to how to approach a press release.

Being very intentional about these values has helped them build the type of business they'd want to work at while still creating opportunities for their future.

Mastering Boundaries with Agency Growth Through Policy

Having people on your team who are going through the same challenges as you can be a great support for your growth. This is why Caitlin and her partner work so well as a team. They both understand the importance of drawing a hard line on what you’re willing to sacrifice for the business. In this sense, their partnership works a lot better than partners with big age gaps who are not in the same place in life.

As to their team, their agency attracts a lot of working moms wanting to be part of this boundary-honoring culture. Flexible policies, paid parental leave, instant healthcare - each perk affirms their commitment to work-life wellness. By living their values, they continue building a team as dedicated to family as success.

Building Self-Aware Leadership by Establishing Clear KPIs

Caitlin has made her share of hiring mistakes. To be fair, she also admits she wasn’t the best leader sometimes but has continued to grow and learn. Improving your leadership skills will take both humility and confidence. For her part, Caitlin recommends investing in your own self-awareness, whether paying for business coaches or whatever works for you. “It never stops,” she says; you’ll always be on a journey of self-improvement so you can show up for your organization.

How did these bad hires turn out? Unmotivated workers are not hard to spot in a remote agency. They have systems to track productivity. Anyone who is not self-motivated and committed to following the processes will not succeed.

Caitlin also tends to hire friends and has had mixed experiences with this practice. However, getting comfortable with having hard conversations and setting up clear parameters helps navigate those relationships. It’s important to set up clear expectations and boundaries from the beginning.

Having KPIs for the business and for each employee will remove the personal aspect from the relationship. This way, it becomes about data, not feelings, removing personal biases.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_to_Master_Boundaries_Without_Compromising_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are marketers going to be replaced by AI? Do agencies need to embrace AI to survive and thrive? How can data optimization maximize AI results? Our guest today discusses the impact of AI on the agency world and shares his insights on how AI is outperforming marketers and the opportunities it presents for agencies. With the rise of AI, many agencies may not survive but those that adapt and embrace AI will thrive. In this episode, you'll learn more about the future of AI in the agency industry and how data will make all the difference in the results you get using AI for your agency clients.

Bryan Trilli is the owner of Optimized Marketing, an agency specializing in lead gen for franchises. He describes himself as a serial entrepreneur with businesses in five different industries, including one that trains AI to understand images and video. Bryan is a big believer in the power of AI and will discuss some tools agencies should already be using and talk about how some of these systems can get results faster than marketers would’ve dreamed of years ago.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How AI is doing a better job than most marketers.
  • AI applications for your digital agency.
  • Using AI to interpret agency data.

 

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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.

An Accidental Agency Owner Who Got Pulled into the Agency World

More than being an accidental agency owner, Bryan recalls it as being forced into the business. Back in 2008, he owned a brick-and-mortar business and had to meet with agencies to work on advertising. However, he got the sense the agencies didn’t quite know what they were doing when it came to digital marketing. He didn’t want them to just “figure it out as it goes” and decided to handle his company’s digital marketing himself.

A few years later, he sold that business and suddenly found himself helping some friends with their digital marketing. This is where his agency journey officially began.

How is AI Doing Better than Most Marketers

Are most people aware of the many applications of AI for agencies? Sam Woods, writer of a newsletter called the Bionic Marketer, an incredible AI resource, developed software that can build an entire marketing campaign with just a few prompts. Unfortunately, this tool is not available to the public but it may give you an idea of what you should all be doing with AI. It provides copy, landing pages, ads, and more, all ready to use. It may sound too good to be true and it gets better. Sam has been using this tool for years for a bunch of companies and assures that it beats the control in 100% of cases. Even at 70% it would be amazing, but 100% is truly mindblowing, considering it’s just ten minutes of work.

Developments like this cause a lot of talk and spread fears that AI is here to replace us all. In truth, we’re not at a point where AI will replace you, but people who know how to use AI will. How can agency owners get ahead of this? For Bryan, as long as you’re staying informed and know what’s coming, you’ll stay ahead of the people not paying attention.

AI Applications You Should Be Using Right Now

One of the most widely known AI tools is ChatGPT. With ChatGPT, you can significantly enhance email and marketing copy by providing specific advice based on data. Effective use of AI for marketing campaigns will require a specific target audience in mind when developing email or marketing copy, rather than relying solely on average data. By inputting the data into ChatGPT and asking targeted questions, the tool can provide valuable insights and recommendations for improving the copy.

There are so many pieces that can be automated with AI. Some tools can transcribe videos and meetings, enabling easy reference and information searching. You can also use AI to convert spoken content into text. The transcriptions can then be fed into the tool, which can efficiently search and summarize the information. This can ensure efficient retrieval of information whenever needed. These transcripts and search capabilities have wide-ranging applications across all aspects of a business.

How Marketers Have Gotten Better in Their Use of AI

Until a few months ago, most people were using AI as an idea generator. Little by little, people have been getting better at using AI and training it to best serve their interests. To get the best input out of a tool like ChatGPT, you’ll need to ask clear and specific questions. By providing context about the data and its purpose, such as for an email campaign, the tool can effectively enhance the copy. Additionally, you can establish a direct connection and feed with ChatGPT to automate the feedback process and continuously update the copy based on new data.

When it comes to internal use, Bryan and his team fed their internal data on standard operating procedures into an AI tool. With this, they can ask questions like “What’s the value we assign to a call?" And it will go through all that data to find the answer. This is just an example of how using AI can be much more efficient for an agency than going through all their data to find an answer. Overall, it goes beyond helping you create better ads, every aspect of your business could be improved by the use of AI.

Staying Ahead of the Curve by Using AI to Interpret Agency Data

As much as you can, stay aware of the world of AI and how it is continually changing. Becoming an average AI user will help you be aware of the things that no longer work. Bryan recommends seeing it as a continuous thought experiment. He is currently looking at the type of data agencies keep based on the questions they ask in each client meeting and how that data could be used to create an interface that can interpret the data. It's all about how you're using all this data you have from each client. How can it help you improve your ads and targeting? Can it also help you give more detailed reports? Clients don't only want to know about the number of leads generated and the cost per lead. They want to know what to do with that information. How does it compare with last year's data? With last month's data? If Facebook is working better, what parts of the Facebook ads are working better?

Ultimately, Bryan believes that agencies that use AI to its full potential will develop their own tech stack. Essentially, don't only use off-the-shelf stuff. Connect all these AIs in a way that's unique to your agency and feed it first-party data. Your data is a huge asset and if you're asking the right questions it'll be very specific to your business. Understanding how to use this value will make all the difference in the type of output you'll get from AI.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Why_the_Best_Way_to_Harness_AI_is_Through_Agency_Data.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want to communicate results and build trust with clients? Need to streamline reporting without sacrificing quality to show the full value your agency offers? Effective client reports are the best way to communicate your results to clients and improve their trust in your services. However, putting together detailed reports can be time-consuming unless you're using a proven automated reporting tool. Today’s guest offers an integrated solution that helps agencies offer complete reporting without having to actually build the reports. Their services help agencies save time and reduce churn. Having built his software company from scratch, he’s intimate with challenges like hiring missteps, building leadership, and learning to let go, which he also shares in this interview.

Joe Kindness is the owner of AgencyAnalytics, an automated client reporting solution for marketing agencies. With Agency Analytics, agencies can connect all their clients into one system and bring in all that data to create the reports. You can even automate this by setting up those reports for your client to get monthly, or weekly, or they can log into the platform to see a dashboard.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How the pandemic sparked their growth by popularizing remote work.
  • The risks of scaling fast.
  • Learning to build a strong leadership team.
  • The right time to let go control of the agency.

 

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All In On Remote: Cracking the Hiring Code Post-Pandemic

Joe and his partner started like many agency owners by completely bootstrapping the process of building their company. It was not a straight path to success, but rather a start that took them to several stops before finding the best formula. “That first thing you try will definitely fail. And it won't be the thing that takes you to the end. But it's part of the journey,” he shares.

After starting the AgencyAnalytics back in 2010, they still had only 14 employees by 2020. Early on, they figured hiring would be the easy part. They’d already built great software, now it was time to open a Toronto office and welcome all the people who would want to work with them. Unfortunately, they found out it's very hard to scale and find great people. It took a lot of attempts before they figured it out.

What were they getting wrong about hiring and attracting the right people? Looking back, there were several factors. For instance, Joe remembers how hard it was to attract people to a remote business pre-pandemic. People thought it was a scam.

Once the pandemic opened the doors to popularize the remote model, they knew they had to go all in. They hired a recruiter, HR people, and all the support they needed so Joe wouldn’t have to handle all the interviewing alone. Soon they found a rhythm, gained some traction, and started to hire some generalists.

Expand Cautiously and Evolve to the Needs of the Market

Rapid hiring initially brought pure excitement after a decade of bootstrapping. But the thrill of scaling soon gave way to overwhelming demands. Joe added HR support, although uncertain it justified a full role. The results spoke volumes. Offloading time-consuming interviewing let Joe refocus on the agency.

This milestone embodied their measured growth mindset: Test new roles cautiously, validate impact, then scale boldly.

Another calculated risk? Transitioning from a niche SEO tool to an integrated agency solution. Though known for rank tracking, reporting capabilities showed greater potential. Months of pushing and prodding led to decisive commitment.

Joe knew niching down as a comprehensive agency resource felt right, though not without uncertainty. In the end, their courage to strategically evolve paid off.

For Joe, exciting growth requires patiently navigating uncertainty. Thoughtfully elevate support roles, validate successes, and then expand courageously. Keep your vision broad but your validations focused.

Bringing Strategy into Agency Leadership Rather Than Just People Managers

When you start hiring, you mostly hire people to do and manage stuff. At some point, however, you’ll need to bring in team leaders. For Joe, it started with understanding what a true leader’s role is. A leader is not just a manager of people. A leader brings in strategy. Therefore, being able to get to that point where you can afford or attract a person to handle the strategy is a really key moment. Joe’s advice is that once you get to that point where you can bring that person in, just do it. Don't get too caught up in the equity or the salary you’ll give them. The right person will give you a positive ROI and will be key to helping the company get to the next milestone.

How to make sure you find the right person? There’s always a chance you’ll hire a bad leader, and they’ll end up creating more work for you. Take the time to ensure you’re choosing the right person. Don't just hire the first resume that looks great because you need help fast. More recently, Joe and his partner have used recruitment firms to find leaders to ensure they run a thorough search. It is quite expensive, but they already have a wide network to pick from and will only recommend the best fit.

When to Relinquish Control and Trust Your Leaders

Even after you’ve hired great leaders, you may find it hard to let go and step away. Joe and his partner know every facet of the business therefore sometimes fall into micromanaging. Luckily, his leaders understand they have years of experience working on all things. The systems they built are not perfect; however, something there did work, which is why they were able to grow as they did. Leaders should get processes that work better for a bigger company but this can’t happen overnight because it will break everything.

Find leaders that recognize that even though you didn’t do everything by the textbook, it worked and now they need to transition that to the more scalable way. You’ll be more likely to evolve and grow with someone with this mentality than with someone who just wants to come in and change everything.

Having someone who respects the work you’ve done so far helps you, the owner, relinquish control, which is really hard to do. For Joe, it became easier once he hired the right leaders and recognized he was now the worst person in the room. The aspects of the business you’re most passionate about will always be the hardest to let go. However once you can build a team you trust, you’ll gladly step away. Moreover, you don’t necessarily have to.

The idea is getting to a point where you can choose to work in those parts of the business you most like but that the business doesn’t necessarily need you to do it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: The_Secret_to_Gaining_Agency_Efficiency_with_Automated_Reporting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you looking to grow your agency while maintaining a work-life balance? Not sure who and when to hire to achieve your agency goals and not work yourself to death? You can find the balance and reach your goals when you hire the right team. That's what today's guest learned when she figured out how to offload the things she doesn't love and focus on what she does love about being an agency owner. As a former TV reporter turned PR agency owner, she shares her journey of growing her agency and her strategies for increasing profit while decreasing workload.

Although she used to default to controlling sales and all communication with clients, she eventually became addicted to building a team. Now as CEO, her day-to-day activities focus more on creating content that will bring organic leads to the agency. She shares her strategies for finding the right people to achieve her agency goals and wants to help agency owners understand the importance of overcoming the hurdle of marketing yourself as an agency owner in order to build your brand.

Christina Nicholson is a former TV reporter and anchor who got into PR and is now the owner and CEO of Media Maven. Christina's first job after leaving TV was working at an agency for 6 months. Her agency experience wasn't the best so she decided to leave and started to work as a “professional freelancer”. From there, she slowly started building a team and, before she knew it, she now had an agency. Her agency gives people exposure in the media without spending on ads. Christina also has an online course that helps people DIY if they don’t have a budget for an agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Reducing the owner's workload and building a team.
  • Building your personal brand to secure organic leads for your agency.
  • Getting out of sales by establishing your role upfront.

 

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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 11 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Check out Christina's previous Smart Agency interview back in 2019.

Reducing the Agency Owner's Workload and Building a Team

For Christina, the scariest part of building an agency was hiring people. She had a personal brand as a freelancer that she carefully curated with impeccable work ethics. Of course, she was nervous about bringing other people into that dynamic. However, by this time she was working around the clock, and was stressed out, and it was clearly time to get other people to help her. She initially had to force herself to back off and allow her employees to do their jobs. Eventually, she became addicted to building a team.

The big change really came once she hired a person who could essentially replace her functions with clients. This way, she stopped being the middleman between clients and her team. This person was in charge of making sure that both clients and team members had everything they needed to be successful. At this point, she realized she was still making money and didn’t have a lot to do, which was amazing.

Securing Organic Leads through Content

For her first hires, Christina started posting in Facebook groups with contacts from her time working in media. This led to a few key hires that later made valuable referrals as she grew her team. For her most valuable hire to date, she was surprised to find this person in her personal network.

At the time, she didn’t quite know she needed a director of operations. Once she was clear on what she needed, someone suggested she just post it on her personal Facebook to see what came up. Luckily, the right person quickly answered and she was able to fill the role that would change the way she ran her agency. It wasn’t a smooth process at first. Christina would continually answer emails before anyone else could. This is common for agency owners who are so used to doing things by themselves. However, it defeats the purpose of bringing on a team. Once she backed off and started delegating and empowering her team, she saw real change.

When it was time for her role at the agency to change, she started to study how she got the clients she had. She realized most of them came to her organically after listening to her podcast or her posts on LinkedIn. It was time to focus on creating more content, building her newsletter, and recording her podcast.

How to stop wasting time. Christina used to waste a lot of time on potential clients who had no idea what they wanted, no budget, and unclear goals. Now she dedicates time to qualifying her leads, asking for their budget and goals, and afterwards refers them to a team member who will be their point of contact.

Leveraging Your Personal Brand to Promote Your Agency's Expertise

A lot of agency owners resist the idea of becoming the face of their brand and start creating content. They feel this will create the expectation that clients will be working directly with them in their campaigns. This is not necessarily the case and Christina has found the best way to get that message through is by being very clear about the expectations once they sign on. There are many benefits to building your brand like opportunities for contributed articles, podcast interviews, and quotes. These will all help you reach people and attract new clients who see you as an authority and want to work with your agency. There has to be an expert behind the brand and agency owners should be that expert.

Why do people want to be a part of Oprah’s favorite things or work with Vaynermedia? It’s because of Oprah and Gary. It all goes back to the personal brand. And clients know when they sign with Vaynermedia they're not going to work with Gary himself, but that his team has been chosen and trained by him.

Getting the Owner Out of Sales By Establishing Their Role Upfront

One of the biggest concerns for agency owners wanting to get out of sales is that clients will want to work directly with them. If clients come to know your agency through your content, won’t they expect to be working with you every step of the way? For Christina, it’s about setting expectations early.

If a client specifically asks if they’ll be working with her, she explains that won’t be the case and talks about the option of hiring her as a freelancer at a much higher rate. However, she’s very upfront about why it is in their best interest to hire her as an agency. By hiring the agency, they’ll get a team of specialists working on their brand while she oversees everything. If they hire her as a freelancer, they’ll just get her.

Building the best sales team. When it comes to her sales team, Christina prefers to hire people who used to work as publicists, at newsrooms or book publishing agencies. They have the right expertise and the stories to close those sales. It takes a lot of the stress off for her as an agency owner.

Getting Over Discomfort to Market Yourself Effectively

Are you afraid of appearing "too loud" if you start to market yourself? Maybe you’re uncomfortable with putting yourself out there. Remember that people need to know about you to do business with you. You have to be known to get leads and translate them into some kind of sale. It’s something Christina strongly encourages business owners to get over or else risk oblivion.

Furthermore, that fear could stem from comparison with people online who are actually making false promises and displaying a lifestyle they don’t live. For Christine, the biggest mistake people make is believing they don’t have a big enough team or presence to get coverage. Nobody cares how big your business is or how much money you’re making. It’s all about having a story people will enjoy.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Reducing_the_Agency_Owners_Workload_By_Building_the_Right_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you worried about losing top talent at your agency? Struggling with high employee turnover that hinders your agency's growth? It can be hard to find and keep the right people to help achieve your agency's goals. Our expert guest is a repeat on the show who shares the importance of retaining employees and how you can ensure you never lose an agency employee again. Joey Coleman shares insights on how to create a remarkable employee experience to prevent turnover. He dives into the top reason employees leave and the impact it has on agency growth. You will learn practical strategies to never lose an employee again and ensure the success and scalability of your agency.

Joey Coleman has spent 20 years teaching organizations how to keep their customers and employees. How? He turns them into raving fans via his entertaining and actionable keynotes, workshops, and consulting projects. With his model, he helps companies enhance the experience they’re delivering to customers or employees and how to make it as remarkable as possible. In addition to being an entrepreneur, speaker, and recovering lawyer, he is also the writer of the recently released “Never Lose an Employee Again”.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why do companies lose employees?
  • Are you making these mistakes during employee reviews?
  • How to create a remarkable employee experience.

 

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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.

 

Why Do Great Agencies Lose Great Employees?

If you talk to most agency owners and ask why they lose employees they’ll say it’s because they were offered more money. However, the biggest study on this matter conducted so far indicates that, yes, some employees do leave for more money. Surprisingly, though, just 9% of the people interviewed left for better compensation. What did the remaining 91% list as the reason for leaving their jobs? Well, almost 1/4 of respondents left because there wasn’t a clear path for their future with the organization. They didn’t understand what could be their next role within the company. They thought they had to leave to move upward.

How do you approach the conversation about their future? Give them the option to decide. Ask them what they hope to achieve at your agency. Do they see themselves in a leadership role or do they prefer to develop their skill set? It’s important to highlight this decision doesn’t have to be set in stone throughout their time at the agency. In fact, this is a conversation you should revisit at least once a year at the annual review – which Joey believes should be a biannual review – where the employee should have the opportunity to change their answer without negative repercussions.

You shouldn’t expect a level of certainty from your creative, non-client-facing employees. When you’re dealing with creatives try to think creatively about how you manage and deal with them in that way.

What You Should and Shouldn't Do During Employee Reviews

Would annual reviews become something employees are actually dreading? It depends on the type of workers you employ. Entrepreneurs typically hate reviews and may prefer "coaching sessions." And surely you can choose to have entrepreneurial employees. However, that structure will ensure you don’t have a good retention. Instead, employees who like stability and like to know what will happen in the immediate future will almost always appreciate a review. They like to know that their work is being appreciated and areas where they can improve.

However, there are some things you definitely SHOULDN’T do, like walking into the review announcing you’ll be pointing out the areas where the employee is deficient. You also shouldn’t use that to justify not giving a raise. Instead, Joey recommends 360 reviews, where you’ll review your team members and they’ll review you all well.

He likes to structure these reviews with STOP, START, and CONTINUE questions. In this sense, you could ask employees “What are some things I should stop doing and why? What are some things I should start doing? And “What is something I’m doing that you’d like for me to continue to do?” Pay special attention to the answer for CONTINUE because that’s where you’ll learn what’s most important to them. This way, you’ll cultivate an environment of honesty and accountability without being overly critical.

Are You Incentivicing Employee Burnout?

What is the actual workload you’re expecting employees to handle? Many agency owners don’t realize that employees start complaining about not having a healthy work-life balance because that’s how much they feel they’re expected to work. We’re expecting the work time to dip into their personal lives. When was the last time you took two consecutive weeks of vacation? If you can’t even remember the last time you did that, how can your employees think it is acceptable behavior?

3 Ways to Create a Remarkable Employee Experience

  1. Recognize that onboarding a new employee should be measured in months, not hours. So many owners think they’ll quickly bring a new arrival up to speed and they’ll immediately start producing. Stop thinking that way. Instead, take everything you’d like them to learn and break it into a day-to-day framework over the course of weeks.
  2. Avoid new hires remorse. After accepting a job offer, an employee will doubt themselves and start wondering if they should’ve asked for more money or taken a different offer. This will occur between the moment of accepting the job offer and their first day in their new position. Normally, the communication they’ll get from the company leader during that time is nothing. Instead, use that time to reaffirm their choice.
  3. Get clear on your personal psychology. Whether spending time at the shrink, meditating or at a mastermind, you need people on the outside of the agency who feel comfortable holding up a mirror and be honest about how you’re showing up.

Team Time is Sacred: Prioritizing Employee Meetings

Most agency owners will move heaven and earth for a client meeting but will constantly cancel meetings with team members. Nothing destroys engagement more than giving your team signals that they don’t matter. Those are the meetings that should never be canceled. Candidly, you have more clients than employees and clients will be easier to replace.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boost_Retention_and_Never_Lose_an_Agency_Employee_Again.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:33pm MDT

Have you hit a growth ceiling? Looking to supercharge your agency growth? Eager to learn from someone who grew over 250% in three years? In this episode, our guest shares his against-all-odds journey of growing his agency by over 250% for the past three years. He pulls back the curtain on how investing in personal growth, seeking support, and building a senior leadership dream team helped propel this growth. From perfecting their hiring structure to clearly defining each new role, you’ll learn their step-by-step blueprint for scaling successfully. He also stresses the importance of investing in communities, coaches, and your own development as an agency leader. Discover how to get urgent insights on shattering growth barriers from someone who’s been in the scaling trenches. It’s time to spark your agency's growth story.

Samir Balwani is the founder of QRY, a paid media agency specializing in helping e-commerce brands grow predictably and profitably. They help clients with paid search, social media, and whatever they may need to buy. Check out Samir's previous interview, where he talks about employee happiness and productivity.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Navigating rapid agency growth.
  • Setting up an effective hiring process to supercharge your agency growth.
  • How a supportive community can expand your business mindset.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Would you like to create a magnetic agency? Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is brought to you by the Agency Mastery Attract Masterclass, a free video training series where you'll learn how to build a better agency by becoming an authority in your niche and mastering the art of client attraction. Check it out at AgencyMastery360.com/attract.

 

Mixing Agency and Startup Mindsets

Samir had the luxury of working on the agency side as well as the startup side at a large enterprise. This is why he places himself in between “accidental agency owner” and carefully planning this move to own an agency.

Working at American Express, he realized the top brands had figured out the best results come from hiring true subject-matter experts. A creative agency would focus on making the most beautiful brand product; On the other hand, a media buying agency would focus more on numbers and performance scores. That interplay ultimately leads to the best results.

This is why he advises clients against hiring a full-service agency. “You really want that back and forth to get the best results for your business,” he says. This is what he set out to do for mid-size businesses. He didn’t realize at the time he would end up creating an agency. However, the second he realized the business he was building, he focused on creating a ten-year plan for success. In this sense, his client-side experience with agencies was very useful in helping him set up his own agency for success.

Very early on he started structuring a senior and leadership team, investing in sales and marketing, focusing on a niche, and all elements he knew were key to reaching his goals.

How a Clear Long-Term Plan Helps Supercharge Agency Growth

Thinking in the long term is a key part of actually reaching your goals. It means you’ve sat down to consider what you want in 10 years or 20 years' time. This focus helped Samir clarify the agency’s mission and vision and the next steps for that to become a reality. With a success plan already in place early on, Samir had the tools to identify the next stage the agency was moving towards and what he would need to do to push his agency through the next goal. This involved careful thought around hiring his senior team, which he knew would free him up to focus on agency marketing like content creation and podcast interviews.

Growing Pains at Warp Speed: Navigating 250% Agency Expansion

Growing 250% in just three years may sound scary for most. Fortunately, Samir had no idea what was about to hit him when it all started.

He and his team thought they were prepared and had solved many things ahead of time. However, they would soon learn they were not nearly as prepared as they thought. The years of rapid growth were a real lesson in prioritization and preparing agency processes. Ultimately, this got them to a point where the agency will now continue to steadily grow without so much effort.

Thinking back, the biggest challenges included blowing past the growth stage gates most agencies go through. All agencies will go through different growing pains at different points of their growth. $250K in revenue will present different challenges than $1 million in revenue. In his case, his agency grew so fast that the issues kept changing as they were still trying to solve them.

Pro tip on team management: When you’re growing that fast there’s always a new fire; and without any time to slow down, how can you make sure you won’t burn out your team? Samir made sure to hire an HR person early on to establish an efficient hiring system, performance reviews, and all elements that would help the agency maintain its reputation in the market.

Defining Roles, Metrics & Reviews: A Formula for Efficient Hiring

An important reason people usually struggle with senior leadership hires is unrealistic expectations. If you hire someone expecting them to solve certain problems and you find yourself telling them how to solve those problems, then it’s not a very successful hire. Samir prefers to trust his senior leaders are experts in their fields. He asks them to draw out a 30-60-90 plan and lets them get right to it. “I have never not been surprised by the output when we give the team autonomy to do things the way they want to do them,” he assures. Or, as Jason suggests, assign outcomes not tasks. Sometimes the team knows better!

But how to get the right people through the door in the first place? Samir gives all the credit to his culture team and clarify on each role. Basically, they’ve clearly defined every role they hire in terms of responsibilities, core KPIs, and quantitative and qualitative feedback. In fact, they don’t hire anyone unless they have a training plan, a clearly outlined role definition, and planned performance reviews. Having all this in place before starting the interview process allows them to be more efficient in their search.

Expanding Your Worldview to Help Trace the Path to Success

Being a business owner can be quite lonely at times. Not a lot of people can understand the ups and downs of it. For Samir, being able to talk to other entrepreneurs about this experience can be redeeming at times. In fact, one of his first investments was an executive coach, after recognizing he needed to tell someone what he was dealing with and get helpful feedback. In this sense, he found great value in joining mastermind groups with fellow entrepreneurs. This provided a supportive community to share experiences and learn from others facing similar challenges.

These groups offer the opportunity to hear viewpoints from a diverse range of people, even those outside of their industry. After all, success leaves clues so being around other agency owners and taking pieces from their growth path can help you build your own silver bullet. That’s why curiosity is one of their core values at his agency and something they work hard to instill in every team member.

Going Back to Basics in Business

Many agency owners undervalue the importance of their books and how clean they should be. This is the only you'll have a clear understanding of your business. Samir’s very first hire was an outsource CFO and it was critical in setting up the business for success. He always knew their cash flow, which clients were profitable or not, and if they needed to raise their prices. This is why he recommends all agency owners focus on the fundamentals and financial backing that comes with it as a key to success.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Supercharged_Agency_Growth_250_with_an_Effective_Hiring_Structure.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Have you ever considered acquisition as a growth strategy? What about acquiring five or even ten other agencies in order to grow? A lot of agency owners consider M&A for growth but think there are financial barriers preventing them from taking the leap. However, have you ever considered M&A as more of an investment strategy?  In this episode, our guest shares his insights on the power of mergers and acquisitions in the agency industry. He discusses how he initially thought M&A was only for businesses with large amounts of cash but now realizes the surprising accessibility of acquisition andhow it more achievable than he thought. He also shares his hands-on experience purchasing companies with lower EBITDA values and how it has the potential to significantly boost his own company's EBITDA.

Jon Bast is the owner of T3 Marketing, which started as a full-service marketing agency and is currently in the process of changing to focus on CMO services for car dealerships. He’s been in marketing since graduating college in 2012 and launched his agency in 2016. Jon has been a member of Agency Mastery since 2017 and believes the agency mastermind community has been an important part of his growth as an agency owner. More recently, he's been learning about the accessibility of acquiring companies to grow his agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Increasing agency valuation up to 12x.
  • Different models of agency M&A investing.
  • Advice for agency owners hoping for growth through M&A.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Would you like to create a magnetic agency? Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is brought to you by the Agency Mastery Attract Masterclass, a free video training series where you'll learn how to build a better agency by becoming an authority in your niche and mastering the art of client attraction. Check it out at AgencyMastery360.com/attract.

 

Increasing Agency Valuation Up to 12X 

Like many agency owners, buying other agencies had long been on Jon's mind, though it seemed out of reach. But as his agency scaled, acquisition opportunities came into view. Now knee-deep in the process, Jon wishes he'd studied up sooner. In the past, he and his partner entertained options, but none felt like the right strategic fit. That changed in 2021 when an agency aggregator approached them. This sparked a six-month preparation process for acquisition. Though the deal ultimately fell through, it lit a fuse within Jon. With this new insight, he focused on proactively pursuing acquisition targets that aligned with his agency's goals.

One important thing he learned in that failed process was the term "multiple arbitrage." With this strategy, agency owners can add value to their business ranging from 3x up to 12x. However, a common concern is how to add value, and multiply sales, yet still retain clients and be scalable. This growth rate is something he never thought he’d see until he understood the power of M&A. Jon thought it was pretty much impossible to get to $2 million in revenue fast, but he now realizes it actually is realistic. Now he understands by adding the right agencies to his portfolio, his business can get to $2 million in EBITDA through the power of M&A.

Creating a New Agency Vision Around Mergers and Acquisitions

Jon’s team has semi-automated their outreach. They identified 100 possible purchase options and narrowed down the list to 50 to start contacting. They also created an acquisitions brand, which is associated with a bigger vision of acquiring companies and reselling them in 2-4 years.

The owners of the acquired companies are presented with the option to keep a percentage of a business worth 5x and take a second exit in 2-4 years.

Jon has also learned that in many cases owners are looking for an opportunity like this. Some have been operating the business for several decades and are ready to move on; others really need someone to step in and operate the company. After a couple of conversations, Jon finds these owners are willing to sell just so they no longer have to operate the business.

Different Models of Agency M&A Investing

Jon’s vision is to sell his newly acquired agencies as a larger entity. The team takes the top talent from these agencies and has them come together to discuss ways to leverage each other's strengths. Right now they’re focused on looking for specific capabilities. With experience, they’ve learned the importance of acquiring capabilities instead of synergies.

There are many models for this type of sale that don’t necessarily require millions of dollars to start. For instance, in the Alex Hormozi model, they invest and do management consulting with the option to buy the business. Then they sell it off piece by piece, rather than selling the parent company.

Overall, Jon's advice is to strive to buy something that is established instead of buying and then building from scratch. You’re buying someone’s perfect formula that took years and years to come up with. You’re not just buying a product so don’t just limit yourself to looking at just EBITDA. The true value to you may be different than to the owner who has emotional ties to the business.

Advice for Agency Owners Hoping to Grow Through M&A

When it comes to agency M&A, Jon encourages agency owners to think big. In his experience, once he started thinking about acquiring not just one but 5-10 agencies, that vision led to more people attaching themselves to him along the way. This is why he believes in the importance of allowing yourself a limitless vision.

Jon highlights the potential and feasibility of acquiring other agencies, even for smaller businesses. For his part, Jason suggests narrowing down the focus to one or two key actions. Jason finds many agency owners overwhelmed when they consider the steps needed to double their agency in the next year. However, when he asks them to consider what it would take to 10x their agency, the list is much smaller and more manageable. This indicates that focusing on a few key actions can lead to significant growth.

By thinking big and expanding one's vision, it becomes easier to attract and align with the right people and resources to achieve growth.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Does your agency website convert as well as it should? Why do clients buy from your agency? It might be time to take an objective look to determine how your agency website can convert more clients. It’s a practice that will help you improve as a business and get a pulse on your audience’s decision-making process. Today’s guest founded one of the first CRO agencies in America and has a lot of experience understanding what his clients need versus what they want. He's sharing his story about growing his successful agency and ways you can improve your website to convert more clients by looking at the functional, emotional, and social reasons they buy from you.

Khalid Saleh is the CEO of Invesp, one of the first dedicated CRO Agencies in North America. His agency has worked with the likes of eBay and Target, as well as smaller startups. As an eCommerce software architect, Khalid built his career devising ecommerce and optimization solutions for companies like American Express. Today he’ll reveal how some of the most important changes to a business website must come from careful testing and how, in that process, he’s usually humbled by clients.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What clients want vs. what clients need.
  • Improve your agency website to convert more clients.
  • Getting to the core of why clients buy.

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

What Clients Want vs. What Clients Need

Khalid got the opportunity of a lifetime to work with Motorola revamping their ecommerce website in 2005. It was a dream come true for any software engineer as he had access to all the technology he needed to build the best website.

The project took endless nights of hard work but the site was ready in three months. However, after so many hours of work and resources poured into the website, they quickly learned the site was not converting. They had almost no orders. As a software engineer, this was outside Khalid's expertise. The site was built as expected so his job was done. Nonetheless, Khalid became very interested in how something like this could happen and the idea for his agency, Invesp, was born.

Now his agency helps brands increase conversion rates by getting to the core of their goals. It boils down to what clients want versus what clients actually need. Often times clients think they just want to revamp their websites, but they actually want help growing their business.

Improving Your Agency Website to Convert More Clients

Khalid and his team know that website CRO starts with looking at the website from the client's perspective. Once he understood that clients chose his agency in order to grow their business, his team made some adjustments to the agency website. First, they got rid of any language that sounded too formal. He wants clients to feel like they’re being greeted as a friend. He also removed ambiguous language and tried to be very clear about what his agency does. Too often a company’s website uses vague language. As a result, people leave not having any idea about what they do. In this sense, the friendly language must be balanced with practical descriptions of the ways you help clients.

Next, clients browsing the website may worry their team lacks experience. So they added social proof of the different companies they’ve worked with and the results they’ve achieved. They even added video testimonials to offer additional evidence and not just claims of success.

Khalid and his team designed the website according to what they wanted the client’s user journey to look like. They strategically mapped it out to answer their main questions and concerns and address their core needs. This is what he did for his agency and part of how he helps clients increase their CRO.

Why Clients Can Humble the Most Experienced Marketing Agency Experts

In his keynote speeches, Khalid often refers to being humbled by clients. Sometimes all your research and testing does not prepare you for the clients’ reactions. Even though the research indicates one option is the most likely to bring more website traffic and clicks, you may be quickly humbled by the actual response. It’s something every business owner, marketer, or designer can relate to.

Anytime you run an experiment in marketing you have a hypothesis. You may be proven correct or find you’ve misinterpreted what the audience wants. With several options, one wins, and the others lose. Why did some of them not work out? This is a tricky question you should always ask to get a better understanding of what works for your audience.

Some clients may agree there are reasons to change a design but don’t think testing is necessary. They can’t choose one design out of several options so they figure any of them will do. This is where Khalid’s team insists on the importance of testing each design out. Usually, the results end up surprising everyone. Out of four designs that seemed equally good maybe two actually reduce the conversion rate, while the results for the other two show a clear winner. This is why testing is so important.

Getting to the Core of Why Your Clients Buy from Your Agency

Anyone who’s been through business school has probably heard that “no one buys a quarter-inch drill, they buy a quarter-inch hole”. That saying refers to the practical results you expect to get when you buy a product. In reality, for every action we take there are functional results, social results, and emotional results. For instance, if you buy a car you’ll be able to get from point A to point B (functional), you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something (emotional), and maybe get your peers’ praise (social).

However, getting people to admit this is difficult. You must be very good at customer interviews by structuring them in a conversational style. After establishing the conversation, Khalid recommends going back to when the problem began. Ask questions that take the prospect back to the moment they decided to make the purchase. The more they remember and open up with details about their purchase decision,  the better results you'll get about the emotional and social response to the purchase. These results are better than just asking direct questions about the product and purchase experience.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Improve_Your_Agencys_Website_and_Convert_More_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want to level up leadership in your agency and empower your team? Providing resources and training to your leadership team is important in helping build their confidence and creating a trickle-down effect to the rest of the team. Today's guest believes it all starts with the hiring process and creating an agency that is desirable to work for. He is on the show sharing how he and his agency business partner maintain a balanced relationship that benefits the agency and how they've created an agency that is in high demand not only by clients but by protective employees as well.

Brett Curry is the CEO of OMG Commerce, a performance marketing agency that manages YouTube, Google, and Amazon campaigns for growing ecommerce brands. They’re a Google Premiere partner and Amazon partner. Brett is also the host of two ecommerce podcasts Spicy Curry and Ecommerce Evolution, where he highlights what’s new and coming in e-commerce.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Creating balance with your agency business partner.
  • Cultivating leadership and empowering your team.
  • 2-step strategy taking e-commerce brands to the next level.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Would you like to convert more prospects into clients, charge what you're worth, and maximize profits? Check out our free video training all about pricing, building a sales team, and getting the owner out of sales so they can focus on profitability. Head over toAgencyMastery360.com/covert

Listen to our Smart Agency podcast episode with Chris Brewer, OMG Commerce where he shares 4 major agency sales mistakes and the systems you need to sales success.

 

Pivoting Away from the Full-Service Agency Model

For as long as he can remember, Brett has been captivated by the world of advertising and marketing. Even while on vacation, he can be found diving into the latest marketing books and publications. His passion was sparked early on when he discovered direct-response marketing gurus like J. Abrahams and Dan Kennedy in his teens. Though the mediums may have changed over the years, as an agency owner he has maintained that intrinsic drive to understand what makes great marketing.

Brett and his partner first started the agency in 2010. By then, he had a successful career in marketing and owned a company focused on print, TV, radio, and direct mail. The agency started a project to try their luck with online advertising. They started with local Google map optimization for businesses and was a hit right away. With time, they started doing website design, copywriting, and TV advertising. However, it quickly became too much and they pivoted away from that full-service model.

It was time to drop some services and focus exclusively on an area where they truly shined. The clear answer was search marketing. It combined all the things they were really good at as a team, so they went all in. Right away they formed some key partnerships and started working with ecommerce clients.

Creating Balance with Your Agency Business Partner

Starting out, both Brett and his partner had existing businesses to lead, so balancing the agency became a challenge. How could they each utilize their skill sets and still work as a team? They share the most important value which is their trust in marketing and leadership style. When it comes to their individual strengths, Brett is really good at pitches and leading teams while his partner loves everything about the sales process and is very good about following up. This is how they complement each other and divide the workload.

For agency owners with co-founders, Brett recommends having very clear expectations about what each one brings to the table. It’s good to have this in writing from the beginning instead of figuring it out along the road. In fact, this is something they still revisit 16 years later when they talk about how their roles need to shift every couple of years as the agency grows.

The most important thing is having a good understanding of each partner’s personality and areas of genius. Get clear about how you’ll work together and which decisions you can make individually and which must include all partners.

Cultivating Agency Leadership and Building a Great Team

For Brett, everything rises and falls on good leadership. To ensure he’s creating the best conditions to build great team leaders, he leads a monthly leadership development training open to everyone in the agency. He’s a big believer in providing the right resources and training to empower people to make decisions. This is the fastest way to prevent a bottleneck where every decision has to be run by you. Having good leaders working alongside you ensures they can make decisions. It’s not easy to do for agency owners. We love to solve problems! But you need to show people you trust them to make decisions.

Finding and training great leaders starts with the hiring process. Brett is proud of his agency’s process and the type of people their culture attracts. They’ve had some disastrous experiences with past hires, which have mostly traced back to hiring friends of friends. They’ve since learned a lot from their mistakes and made great key hires who have been with the agency for a long time.

How to attract the right people to your agency team. Brett loves podcasting and speaking at events and admits he would do it just for fun. However, he says a really cool benefit of having a podcast and being a regular speaker at industry events is not only attracting clients but also attracting employees, too.

2-Step Strategy to Take eCommerce Brands to the Next Level

Brett declares YouTube as one of the fastest-growing and most used platforms by younger generations. If you want to learn or research something, YouTube is the place to go. It has reach and targetability so you can be really specific about what you want to reach.

As opposed to other platforms where the video is just doing part of the work, on YouTube the video is everything. YouTube videos must interrupt, grab attention, overcome objections, demonstrate the product, get the viewer to take action, and have the right pacing. Furthermore, it's important to understand video ad campaign structure to identify how to bid, measure, and look at things to get the most out of your video. It’s not enough to measure direct conversions. Many people watch an ad and then go to Amazon rather than click through and purchase directly.

Owned by Google, YouTube holds all the search behavioral data you need. They’ve been collecting the data for decades and you can tap into that keyword search behavior and target people based on that. Build your audience based on what people search on Google so they’ll see your ad. YouTube really understands audiences and creatives.

Brett has witnessed many shifts in the marketing game over the years. However, he still thinks email remains as powerful as ever. It’s a good way to warm someone up to your brand and cultivate them into a great client before they buy. Once they do buy, it’s also a great way to get them ready to get the most out of the product. It basically facilitates repeat purchases and product launch sequences.

Put them together for a strategy that takes brands to the next level. YouTube ads are a great way to get people introduced to a product and send them to a landing page to opt-in to an email list. Then, use email to close the deal. In fact, in Brett's opinion, a direct-to-consumer e-commerce brand email should be responsible for 30% to 45% of revenue.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Is your team working together toward a clear agency vision? Do you trust your team and effectively delegate? Do the agency leaders also know how to delegate in order to scale the agency?  The agency owner is the Visionary and needs an effective operations leader to align the team with the vision by holding them accountable and having hard conversations. Today's guest is an Agency COO offers insight into an operator's role in keeping the team focused on the agency owner's vision.

Zach Montroy is the founder of The Intention Collective, a company that offers strategic planning, growth acceleration, workshops, and leadership coaching for entrepreneurs. As an agency COO, he is passionate about helping companies grow and evolve into high-functioning, high-impact organizations. Today he talks about how agency owners can hold their team accountable and make sure everyone’s rowing in the same direction to get their the destination faster and easier.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Do you need more employees or better delegating skills?
  • Why effective delegating begins with the agency vision.
  • Operations leaders keep agency Visionaries more focused.

 

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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.

 

Do You Need More Agency Employees or Better Delegation Skills?

To Zach, one of the biggest obstacles for agency owners is clarity on how to hold people accountable. As leaders, we carry a huge weight on our shoulders and often think the answer to managing workload is hiring more people on the team. However, it all comes down to how they are delegating, holding people accountable, and driving clarity.

Hiring more people can become the default response to a increased workload. However, if you were to examine your team’s capacity, you would probably find faults with delegating and clarity that is costing them time. Fixing these issues leads to more work getting done without the need to make new hires. Furthermore, oftentimes we convince ourselves that it’s easier and faster to just do things on our own. You may think “It’ll take me 15 minutes to do it myself but an hour to explain it to someone else.” The problem is that if we multiply that times 20 or 50 now all our time is going to things other people could be even doing.

Agency owners should start by auditing their time for one or two weeks to catch how much they’re spending on low-level tasks. Ultimately, those 15-minute tasks add up to 10-15 hours a week that should be delegated to someone else. As an entrepreneur, is this the most effective use of your time?

Effective Delegating Begins with the Agency Vision 

Cutting down on tasks that are just draining you and taking away time from setting the vision for the agency reflects on your culture. Moreover, it’s very likely that there are people on your team who find joy in some of these tasks. It takes a lot of self-awareness to know which tasks to delegate and do it wisely.

Identifying the things you need to do in the business goes beyond just wanting to scale. Instead, think about what you would need to do to 20x the business. There are probably two or three big things you should be focusing on. Everything else you should delegate.

Ultimately, a clear vision makes all the difference in achieving your goal. Without a clear vision, your team is just working on what they think is important. It's like your team is together in the same boat but everyone will be rowing in a different direction.

This is a result of not dedicating enough time and energy to being a leader. As the agency leader you set the boat on it's course and everyone else to follows.

Do you know what your destination is? You need to define where you’re going as well as why and how you’re going to get there.

Why Every Visionary Needs an Operations Leader

Being an agency Operations leader requires a particular skill set. When you’re leading an agency it’s your responsibility to keep everyone focused. It’s the Visionary’s job to be thinking in terms of the agency’s future three, five, or ten years down the road. If they’re not doing that, it won’t grow and scale. In that sense, the Operatorations leader's job to determine what’s best now and establish a working strategy to follow.

The Operations leader indicates how to align people behind the vision so that it becomes more than just an idea. They also establish priorities and make the hard decisions. If this leader is doing their job, they’ll probably say at some point “If we say yes to this then we have to say no to this other idea.”

This may create a notion that operations are constantly saying no to the Visionary’s ideas. That’s not the case. They do say yes to things but they usually have to say no to something else.

How Can You Hold Your Team Accountable to the Agency Vision?

Pursuing the same goal as the company comes down to how you are holding people accountable. What does accountability look like? Zach says it comes down to clarity. People have to have deep clarity in their roles and contributions. The agency is investing in them and giving them trust to perform the job.

Finally, when it comes to accountability, leaders need to have the ability to have hard conversations. Facing issues with the team head-on and with empathy will help you develop as a leader. The more a leader is willing to hold their team accountable, the less they actually have to do it. They’ll do it for themselves. Avoiding uncomfortable accountability conversations only leads to a lack of accountability.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


How would you define your agency leadership style? Has your leadership evolved as your agency grows? Or has it remained stagnant as you keep doing things the way you've always done them? Ideally, your style should align with your agency culture and enable the desired outcomes for your agency. Finding your ideal leadership approach takes time, but it helps to first clearly define your goals. Furthermore, what kind of culture do you want to foster in your business? As today's guest explains, agency owners need to adjust their leadership style as their agency continually grows. She shares how she's identified the right leadership style for her agency's current stage, and how her leadership team has also adopted styles that align with how they want to show up for the agency.

Bobbie Bailey is the owner and president of M Agency, a digital agency that partners with companies looking to build memorable brands, websites, and marketing campaigns. As a full-service creative marketing agency headquartered in the Pacific Northwest, they work with clients in a variety of industries. Bobbie is an accidental agency owner whose career has taken many twists and turns. She is on the show reflecting on the transition from print advertising to digital and her evolution as an agency owner and leader.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Evolving your digital agency to focus on what clients need.
  • Helping brands adapt to the digital age.
  • What type of leadership style enables agency growth?

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Sponsors and Resources

Attract Masterclass: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by the Attract Masterclass, a free masterclass series where you'll learn how to create a magnetic agency, become an authority in your niche, and master the art of client attraction. Make sure to check it out at AgencyMastery360.com/attract.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: John Corcoran 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.

 

Learning How to Evolve Your Skills into a Role You Desire

At just 15 years old, Bobbie was determined to work. She figured the restaurant industry was the right place to start, so she began persistently calling all the restaurants in her area. Her tenacity paid off when one restaurant created a hostess role specifically to hire her. This formative experience taught Bobbie invaluable skills in reading people and adapting to different situations. Additionally, she learned to handle a high level of responsibility early on. To this day, when interviewing potential hires for her agency, if Bobbie sees restaurant experience on their resume, she knows they can handle a lot.

After studying computer science, Bobbie interned at a woman-owned tech company. This proved to be a great learning experience. As she had hoped, the internship led to a full-time job offer. However, the owner was very honest and actually encouraged Bobbie to pursue something more suited to her interpersonal skills. While skilled in computer science, Bobbie wondered if she wanted to sit behind a desk for the rest of her career. After all, her people skills could provide success in other directions.

Considering her options outside of computer science ultimately led Bobbie to a job producing the Yellow Pages. Her entry-level role involved cold-calling 70+ people per day. Before long, Bobbie quickly grew from prospector to sales representative.

Helping Brands Adapt to From Print to Pixel

As the company’s work culture took a turn for the worse and it became clear the future was in digital advertisement, Bobbie felt motivated to make a change. Clients were asking her for support in the transition from print advertising to digital and navigating this new world. How to take advantage of the digital medium? With so many options, how could they better spend their budget?

Businesses that came from the print world and managed to evolve to digital proved to be very innovative. They found a way to monetize different channels and different mediums and adapt to a new era. Luckily, Bobbie had just the right training to know how to provide the support and strategy they needed. Furthermore, digital exposure was still very limited, with not as many options as we see today, so the transition felt natural.

Evolving Your Digital Agency to Focus on the Needs of the Clients

Initially, Bobbie transitioned into a consultant helping companies outline a digital marketing strategy. However, she quickly realized there were not any full-service agencies in this space. Since there was no one looking at the full picture she added website development to her services.

Bobbie grew a team that built websites and brought many brands to the new era. For instance, some of their clients had websites that were more than a decade old, terribly outdated, not optimized for smartphone view, and full of useless PDFs. Her agency completely rebuilt its clients' online presence and brand.

It took about five years for her to learn enough and realize the need to focus more on brands. From that point on, everything at her agency is rooted on branding, brand identity, and brand archetypes.

Bobbie and her team have different ways to extract a business’ personality. They go deep asking all sorts of questions that vary according to the industry. Then, all key stakeholders are interviewed as part of the process. Finding the essence of a business is vital to helping them articulate their voice and visual identity.

What Type of Leadership Enables Agency Growth?

Being an agency owner is a leadership role that changes and evolves as the business grows. In Bobbie’s case, she recently realized the leadership style she developed over the years was no longer a good fit for an agency of their size. She had to step back, identify the problems, and get curious about coaching styles. She had a business coach who regularly met with the team and provided support. However, as the agency grew the expectation for support continued even though the agency had outgrown it.

Choosing and committing to a leadership style requires an understanding of whether or not it fits your agency. This is something Bobbie has shared with her leadership team. At present, everyone on her team has also named their leadership style and identified how they want to show up for the agency. This helps keep everyone accountable and behaving according to the ideal way they want to show up.

Consider the leadership style you desire. Then take some time to outline the outcome you want. After that, identify and name your desired leadership style. Some people may want a militaristic type of organization. Some prefer servant leadership where they get involved whenever a problem comes up. However, this type of leadership is not ideal when you’re trying to scale your business. That’s where a coaching style can be helpful to try to pass the baton and focus more on the vision. In the end, your leadership style must be suited to the current growth stage and the desired outcomes to get your agency to the next level.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Why_Your_Agency_Leadership_Style_Must_Evolve_to_Enable_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you getting the attention of your ideal clients? Ever wonder if your sales tactics are working? Wonder what clients think about your sales emails and calls? Most agency salespeople believe in what they sell but are unknowingly going about sales in the worst way, scaring off potential clients. Today’s guest once owned a marketing agency and has moved to the client side with a very successful retail brand he founded. He shares the secret of what sales tactics get his attention and how you can improve your sales to stand out from the competition.

Kelley Thornton is the founder and CEO of Tiege Hanley, a company focused on helping men look and feel amazing with uncomplicated skincare routines. He and his team are always looking for new ways to reach their customers with new marketing for their products. Over the years, his company has worked with several agencies and seen the very best and worst of agency salespeople. He sheds light on why some agencies' sales tactics are not working.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why some agency sales tactics are not working.
  • How to improve your sales tactics and convert more prospects into clients.
  • What gets a brand CEO's attention?
  • Why patience can be the best sales tool.

 

Subscribe

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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.

 

Kelley founded his agency in 2009 and spent ten years in the grind as CEO. He enjoys looking back and remembering everything they accomplished and how much the agency grew in that time. To him, the agency business is about people but there was a constant struggle to get paid fairly for your expertise. He saw first-hand how difficult it is to scale an agency, which is why he ultimately chose to leave the #agencylife.

Now, as the owner of a big brand, he gets approached by many agencies trying to work with him. In this position, he has witnessed many good and bad sales tactics and strategies. As someone who worked in sales for eighteen years, Kelley says he has the utmost respect for salespeople. However, while some of these strategies stood out to him for very good reasons, there are some sales strategies agencies should stop doing altogether.

Top 4 Agency Sales Tips: Insights from a Brand CEO

1 - Know Who You’re Marketing To and Be Specific

How can you stand out to potential clients for the right reasons? Just like anything else, you have to do your homework and have some idea of who your audience is. A lot of agencies set up email campaigns. Sometimes they take the time to customize them however, most don’t spend the time and energy to really understand their customers.

Even people who do try to understand their ideal customers opt for a spray-and-pray approach because it's more efficient. They send the same email to several people within an organization. However, Kelley believes that is the worst thing to do. If someone in the company finds the email interesting and brings it to someone who also got the email, they both become put off by it. Even worse than that is sending it to multiple people in the same email thread. You will stand out by taking the time to send personalized email communication and research the person whose attention you’re trying to get.

2 - Don’t Make Assumptions or Promises You Can't Keep

Kelley says the worst emails are the ones that make an incredible amount of erroneous assumptions about his business. This includes what the agency thinks it can do for his company. These emails usually contain promises like “We can help you improve your revenue from email by X amount". Kelley immediately trashes this type of email because no one should be making assumptions about how much they can help before they've even had a discussion with him.

Another common tactic he doesn’t like is the “I’ve prepared something very special for you, I just need you to respond to this email to confirm you want me to send it”. Basically, Kelley finds this type of "bait email" very disingenuous. If the salespeople really had something prepared, they would just send it. He has responded to some of these emails only to find the salesperson is not prepared to send the materials they promised.

3-Send Emails That Are Honest, Clear, and Concise

Communicate why you’re reaching out in as few words as possible. Be really precise about what problem you solve and how you’re uniquely capable of solving it. That’s it. A clear and concise email conveys you value the person’s time. Most people won’t even bother to read a long email explaining why you should work with them. Get straight to the point and you'll start converting more prospects.

Being honest will help the prospect also respond with honesty. Kelley says that if he as the client has that problem, he’ll respond. He has felt engaged and compelled to respond when the emails are concise, make suggestions, and maybe ask one question. If he’s interested, he’ll respond to that question. It’s a legitimate way to start a conversation, although it should be specific and not something complicated.

4- Be Courteous in Your Follow-Up 

We all hate the “bump-up” email. Please don’t do that. Or at the very least, don’t just say “Hi. I’m bumping up this email”. At least take the time to restate why you’re sending the email. Some people get creative with these emails and will even send pictures to try to get the prospect’s attention; remember to keep the tone light and don’t take offense if they've decided not to respond. Instead of sending a final email saying something rude like “I guess you’re just not interested in scaling your business,” try leaving the doors open with something like “I sense the timing is not right. We still think we have a great solution for you. I’ll back in X amount of time.”

What Gets a Brand CEO's Attention?

Phone calls are tricky nowadays because you rarely find anyone willing to pick up the phone for an unknown number. However, Kelley occasionally does pick up the phone and he finds he’s more likely to stay on the phone for a longer time when the salesperson gets to the point fast. He’ll ask “How can I help you?” and hopes to get a really succinct answer to assess whether or not he’s interested in the first few minutes of the call.

As someone who enjoys reading. Kelley is more impressed by a direct mail package that includes a letter over fancy boxes people tend to send. In these cases, a handwritten note is even more valuable because it’s such a rare gesture to have. It shows the person is really interested in the client’s business even more so than expensive gifts.

Finally, personalized videos are great for getting a prospect's attention. Of course, just like in text form, they shouldn’t be too long if you want people to watch them. It’s a great way to stand out as long as you make it about the client or their product. You could show you’ve already used their product to start a conversation about how you can help them market them. That’s the type of customization that really moves the needle.

Being Patient May be Your Best Sales Tool 

Sales is a long game and in this day and age, we’re conditioned to getting an instant response. Kelley encourages salespeople to be patient. Just because you struck out on your first attempt to reach a client doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested or won’t engage with you. Most of the time a no just means "not right now." Be patient with your audience. Know who you’re talking to and do not take it personally.

Jason once waited eight months to interview Seth Godin and he came through. Eight months after their initial exchange he reached out again and got the interview he wanted for the podcast. The wait was definitely worth it.

Two or three times a year is a good measure of how many times to reach out to prospects without becoming a nuisance. Sending multiple emails won’t help wear them down. That’s not how it works. Two or three emails are enough to determine if this is something they need right now.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Top_4_Agency_Sales_Tactics_That_Work__Insights_from_a_Brand_CEO.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you looking to connect with decision-makers in big brands? Do you want to land bigger, high-value clients? Big brands realize there's a good match with boutique agencies that provide a fresh and innovative approach. So how can your agency unlock inbound marketing strategies and get noticed by big brands? One agency has worked with household names like Disney and Shopify. He explains why he strongly believes in the value of forming and nurturing strong relationships with people rather than brands, and how betting on someone’s growth can help you land big clients and take your agency to the next level.

David Mausolf is the owner of Apex Growth, an agency focused on helping big brands that aren't fully staffed or are uncertain about their growth strategy crush their financial forecasts. David’s team becomes seamlessly integrated with partners and provides clients with the tools and training they need to grow.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Nurturing relationships before selling services.
  • Starting conversations with big brands.
  • Earning the attention of ideal prospects with targeted content.

 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Attract Masterclass: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by the Attract Masterclass, a free masterclass series where you'll learn how to create a magnetic agency, become an authority in your niche, and master the art of client attraction. Make sure to check it out at AgencyMastery360.com/attract.

 

Nurturing Relationships Before Selling Agency Services

Years ago, David and his partner were working full-time jobs while trying to grow their agency on the side. However, it wasn’t sustainable and in 2020 they decided to make the jump to focus on scaling the agency full-time. In just three years they’ve grown to have 25 employees and over one million in revenue.

How did they do it? David believes it all started with relationship-based selling. Most agency owners approach their relationship with clients from a service-based standpoint, where the focus is on what they’re selling – whether ads, SEO, CRO, etc. Instead, his agency's model revolves around cultivating meaningful relationships with clients to uncover their unique needs. Then they craft tailored solutions that speak directly to the clients' needs.

Depending on their needs, David’s team helps companies hire new team members or executives. The relationship may also start directly with the specialist searching for new job opportunities. By strategically connecting specialists with target companies, they foster meaningful relationships that organically develop into sales opportunities with large enterprises. This strategy helps them stand out from the competition who are just selling services.

Getting Conversations Started with Bigger Clients

David understands the opportunity to work with a big company may come every 1-3 years. In the meantime, he works on planting the seeds to first build and nurture a relationship with that company. It’s a very different model than trying to sell to a mid-size company or startup, which can be much more transactional. When you’re trying to work with a brand like Facebook, that relationship must be pre-established so they feel they know you on a personal level.

Start by supporting them in a way that’s not transactional. Keep in mind you’re selling to people, not brands. David’s team focuses on building valuable relationships with executives knowing they will move on to work at other companies and bring the relationship with them. Someone currently working at a small startup might end up working at a big international company in a few years. The relationship-based model focuses on the individuals as their career progresses.

For instance, David’s team may even make introductions for one of these individuals looking for a new job. The agency doesn’t gain anything from that, but it’s part of establishing trust and making a bet on someone who is likely to be a valuable contact at a big brand someday. It’s definitely a long-game strategy. Eventually, when this person needs your agency's services in their new company, your agency is one of the first they reach out to.

Earning the Attention of Your Ideal Prospects With Targeted Content

Relationship-building is a strategy that has worked wonders for David’s team. However, if you want to get your foot in the door right now then it’s all about getting attention with great content.

Ask yourself what type of content would be relevant for someone in your niche/ industry. David focuses on LinkedIn content by posting about the type of problems his ideal clients usually face. Then he might also run ads to target that specific audience. It’s a way to create a passive relationship before ever talking. In fact, he prefers using ads over sending direct messages, which can feel invasive and repetitive. Many times, after consuming his content for a few months, clients come to them.

Keep in mind you might not get concrete data that your content is being seen by the right prospects. As David explains, executives and decision-makers are very busy and don’t necessarily comment and engage with your content. This doesn’t mean they’re not paying attention. Many times an executive will tell David during their first meeting that they’ve been following him for months.

Is LinkedIn the Best Place to Grow an Audience?

Is LinkedIn the best place to find these decision-makers? Yes, you are more likely to find that audience there. However, David and his team are starting to organize round tables and invite people from the industries they’re targeting. They also participate in private Slack work groups where they get to meet ideal prospects and bring their expertise. Their goal in these forums is to present themselves as a resource that can help with specific issues. It’s not a place for selling, it's more about establishing authority and gaining trust.

How often to post? Most don't have meaningful and insightful advice to offer by posting daily. David’s team focuses on quality over quantity, which means posting about 3-6 times in a two-week period. There’s no need to post daily - people don’t need to see you every single day. David's agency has a formula focusing 20% of its content on personal stories and 80% on industry-relevant content. This too, establishes authority in the industry and followers begin feeling like they know you on a personal level. Finally, they also mostly focus on written form, which gets them better results than video.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners who can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Unlock_Inbound_Marketing_Strategies_That_Attract_More_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you sometimes doubt your ability as an agency owner? Are you constantly comparing yourself and feeling like you have imposter syndrome? Setbacks make every agency owner nervous about their ability to push through. Today’s guest has been successfully running an agency in an unconventional niche for years. They have experienced their share of setbacks and she was forced to come to terms with the fact that hard times shape her business as much as successes. Our guest shares how she learned to separate her identity from her role as agency owner and the importance of looking for outside support. As a result, she’s become much a more effective leader.

Kate Ahl is the owner of Simple Pin Media, a Pinterest marketing agency focused on both organic and ad marketing. They help clients create a multi-layered approach to marketing their products or content on Pinterest. After seeing steady growth for a couple of years, her agency was recently hit by setbacks that shook her confidence.

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Second-guessing yourself as agency owner.
  • Not letting the agency define you.
  • Regaining the focus to get through the tough times.

 

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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.

 

Finding a Gap in the Market and Building an Agency Around It

In 2010, Kate got her first taste of the digital marketing world by helping a friend who did Facebook marketing for freelance clients. They also dabbled in Pinterest and the potential for this overlooked platform.

Three years later, Kate’s family was hit by the reality of post-recession when her husband lost his job. By then, her friend had learned more about Pinterest and suggested she manage people’s profiles. “It sounded like the dumbest idea,” she recalls, but since she was in a desperate situation, she gave it a try. She bought the Simple Pin Media domain, went through some content creator struggles, and got to work.

Right around that time, Facebook changed its algorithm and businesses were scrambling to find other alternatives. It was the perfect opportunity to give Pinterest a try. After three or four months, her first clients started spreading the word about her work as a Pinterest educator.

Still, the agency remained a side hustle for a while until a referral got her five inquiries at the same time. That was the turning point. Kate hired a business coach and from that point treated the agency as a serious business.

Second-Guessing Yourself as an Agency Owner

Revenue was a particularly tricky goal to set for Kate because of its variable nature. However, as the agency and team started to grow, the million-dollar mark seemed achievable. They did reach that milestone in 2019 and then continued to grow in 2020 and 2021.

Unfortunately, she got hit later by the pandemic and in 2022 started seeing a decrease in revenue after several years of growth. Kate used to think the 7-figure mark was the dream for her agency. In reality, it is just another vanity metric like the number of employees.

In fact, getting past the 7-figure mark came with a sudden awareness of the level of responsibility she had to employees and as the breadwinner. She started to question how clients were getting into their ecosystem and how sustainable it all was. She was suddenly very aware of how improbable it was to get over both a pandemic and a recession unscathed.

The weight of being responsible for a large team – mostly made of working moms – really got to Kate. Suddenly, scaling back to a solopreneur or having a smaller team started to look very appealing. In reality, she can see she was self-sabotaging. Her coach brought this to her attention and helped her see the need to separate her identity from her agency.

Not Letting the Agency Define You

Being an agency owner can’t become your entire identity. At some point, you will exit the business. If you’re too attached to the role as owner and see the agency as your baby, you’ll never be able to delegate. Some people feel selling their business is the equivalent of selling your soul. Instead, if you see yourself as being “entrepreneurial” and not just an entrepreneur, you’ll be able to take that to whatever you take on next.

Agency owners don’t realize how much their identities become entrenched in the business. It makes sense, you put everything into your agency. Many owners believe they won't be the type to be too engrossed however, one day they wake up to the realization that's exactly what happened. And it happened to Kate, who admits she thought she’d be the exception to the rule.

At one point, she even thought of selling the agency instead of turning to layoffs to stay afloat. She needed to take a step back and realize everyone would lose if she gave. She needed to step up and make hard decisions.

Focusing on the Right Things to Get Through Tough Times

In order to get through a difficult time, Kate reflected on what had worked before. When they were growing back in 2019, what was the team structure? What were the lessons learned? She now had the added advantage of more experience to help her be a better leader.

It’s easy to become resentful as growth declines but it’s also useless. Instead, Kate chose to get back to the basics and really understand her clients. By doing that, she opened the doors to be more profitable than before. Trusting herself as the leader of the agency was very important for their overall success. In hindsight, she got distracted by what she saw in the marketing space, which led to self-doubt. To get back on track, she stopped focusing on what others were doing and focused on results.

Why Your Agency Team Needs Opportunities to Flex their Idea Muscle

Going back to the basics with your agency means going back to the vision you set in the beginning. It maytake a couple of years, but creating the agency vision provides a timeline for your agency’s growth. Sharing your vision helps elevate your team to believe in it and empowers them to start making decisions without you.

Kate is very proud of having a team very tuned in to her agency vision. They’ve gotten through the most recent setback thanks to the vision. However, getting too deep into implementation modeduring crisis makes it so the team isn’t flexing the idea muscle as much as they should.

Kate’s team had been grinding so much that they hadn’t given themselves the opportunity to get creative. Is that in contradiction to a business going through a setback? Tough times are always an opportunity to look at things in a new way. It can be a chance to think differently.

Give your team an opportunity to think of fun ways to stand out and serve clients. Ultimately, your agency will benefit from having a team that allows themselves to think bigger and dream bigger.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Unleash_Your_Agency_Leadership_Potential_by_Overcoming_Self-Doubt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Every digital agency struggles with some of the most common sales objections. I'm here to tell you how to turn those around and convert more prospects into clients, faster and easier.

Have you ever felt your agency’s proposal knocked it out of the park only to have the prospect put you off? It happens to all of us. You put your energy and effort into a stellar proposal only to receive a lackluster response like “Let me talk to my partner”, “let me see if we have the money”, or my personal favorite “Send me more information”.

Are these responses just to put you off or simply objections that can be flipped into a more favorable response? In this video, I go through some of the most common objections and how you can actually respond and determine if they can be flipped so you can train your team to handle objections effectively and close more business.

The best marketing salespeople answer questions before they’re asked. How to do this? By being transparent and sharing their exact process to build trust. Of course, questions and objections will still be raised, but if you answer 90% of the unasked questions then your salesperson can come in with that extra 10% and bring it to the finish line.

I firmly believe there are no bad agency CLIENTS, only bad PROSPECTS or bad PROCESS. So how do you know if your prospect has a true objection or is just wasting your time? There are some steps you can follow to get to the bottom of this faster and turn more of those NO's into YES!

 

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#1 Agency Sales Objection: Send Me More Information

If you give your pitch and the prospect's reaction is that they still want more information, this can mean one of two things, either something’s missing or you’re just getting a nice put-off. It can be difficult to determine which one it is, which is why I recommend asking these three simple questions: What, When, and Why.

  • ‘What information would you like me to send you?’ This will help you determine what’s missing from your proposal and what else they need to know before saying yes.
  • ‘When would you like me to send you this information?’ You want to follow up with the right information at the right time to increase your chances of working together.
  • ‘Why do you need this additional information?’ This way you can understand more about the specific goals the prospect is trying to achieve. Moreover, it may also reveal whether you’re speaking to the right decision-maker or not. Perhaps they need more information to pass along to their boss or business partner. In that case, you need to get in front of the right person to answer their questions accurately.

If someone is blowing you off, they won’t have good answers to these questions. On the other hand, a good prospect who is genuinely interested in working with your agency will have very specific information they’re requesting, a timeline, and a reason.

Pro Tip: If it turns out it is a good prospect who just needs more information, then yes, commit to sending the information but also make sure to schedule the next meeting right then and there. That’s how you’re going to close the deal and stop wasting time on the wrong prospects.

#2 Agency Sales Objection: Let me Think About It

You spend lots of time on the prospect only to hear ‘Let me think about it”. It’s frustrating and unfortunately very common. Luckily, there’s an easy solution that just needs a couple of upfront questions.

If it’s a legitimate objection, then you can prevent issues by gathering more information. When I hear ‘Let me think about it’ it’s usually due to one of three reasons:

  1. The prospect remains unclear about the plan. You may be using jargon that makes it confusing to the client when you should actually be talking to them about stuff they know.
  2. The prospect is unclear about the results. Remember you’re not selling your agency services to your prospect, you’re selling them results. Do they understand how your solution will ease their pain and solve their issues? Have you established trust and authority in order to build their confidence in your ability to deliver?
  3. Your agency isn’t clear on one or more elements of the NBAT criteria. The NBAT criteria (Need, Budget, Authority, and Timeline) is the best way to qualify your prospect so you don’t have to waste time with the wrong ones.

So as you prepare for your next business pitch, instead of dreading one of these lines, approach the pitch more proactively. Make sure you’re clearly defining the plan and results and that prospects have a full understanding of the NBAT. Once you have that covered, you’ll dramatically reduce and even eliminate this objection.

#3 Agency Sales Objection: We’ve Had a Bad Agency Experience

The first impression can be everlasting, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. Unfortunately, many times you can be held accountable for negative impressions left by an awful experience with a bad agency. This experience can become an objection because the prospect doesn’t fully understand what separates your agency from the rest.

There’s nothing you can do with regard to that past bad experience. It happened and was probably the result of bad communication when it came to expectations and results, strategy, or just a clash of personalities. What you CAN do is educate the prospect that those types of bad experiences aren’t the norm. How can you turn it around? Educate them on the plan. Explain exactly how you’re planning to achieve their goals and ease their pain points.

There’s an inherent uneasiness when people don’t know what to expect. However, having a clear plan in place will help your prospect feel more confident and assured. Inform them about the systems and processes. Establish clear communication on what you do and how you do it.

You need to know and understand what’s the issue they’re having, what’s the impact that issue is having on their business, and what’s the level of importance or consequence if they don’t address the issue? When the right prospects are properly educated on the process, they’ll choose to work with you. However, it requires work to build that relationship.

#4 Agency Sales Objection: Do You Have Any References?

What if the prospect isn’t asking you for more information and instead they want references? Does it hurt or help to use past clients as references for new ones?

The request for references goes back to the presence of doubt in the prospect’s mind. There’s something they’re still uncertain about when it comes to working with you. Bottom line, this means there’s a hole in your sales process. It’s possible that somewhere in the sales process you failed to gain their trust fully.

Frankly, giving them a reference will actually hurt your agency. Here’s why, you respect your client’s time. If you have a prospect call up a client now they’re spending their time helping sell you instead of working on their business.

A lot of prospects will have questions about your specific strategies, which are your intellectual property. Not knowing any better, your clients might start giving away your secret sauce for free. So when a prospect asks for a reference, counter by asking more questions: What’s missing for them? What are they unsure about?

Instead of letting a reference or testimonial talk them into or out of working with you, try to answer all their concerns. Finally, tell them you want to share a case story or two instead of a reference. Case stories can often accomplish the same trust-building as a reference without monopolizing your client’s time and putting your IP at risk. If after this, they still want a reference, you can do this as a last resort and make sure you have a trusted client or two that previously agreed to be contacted.

#5 Agency Sales Objection: Another Agency Will Do It Cheaper

After easing the prospect’s mind, answering all their questions, and offering all the information, you may find some clients will want to haggle over price. They’ll say something like they got a cheaper quote from a different agency. It may be a case of an uninformed prospect who just needs a little bit more formation or a sign this is a bad prospect who’s just not a good fit with your agency.

Is it really a price issue or are they undervaluing the solution that you’ll be providing? Oftentimes, prospects aren’t fully educated on the value. So how to combat common price objections? Cheaper does not mean equal. Go back to Issue, Impact, and Importance. Is the lower-cost option really meeting the prospect’s objections? Ask them why the other agency’s quote is so cheap and let them think through the cost vs. quality difference. Often the cheaper option will mean more work for the client and, don’t forget, time is money.

Sometimes prospects only see dollar signs and forget to really scrutinize what they’re getting. When you initiate conversations like these it helps them second-guess their gut reaction of going with the cheapest option.

Related: https://jasonswenk.com/top-5-agency-sales-objections/

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.


Have you thought about expanding into a new industry? Ever wonder about buying another agency for their expertise and book of business? Even for an established agency, it can be difficult to break into a new space. However, a strategic agency acquisition can save a lot of time and effort. Today's guest found an agency acquisition was the ideal way to break into another niche. In this conversation, he shares some of what he learned from his agency acquisition and some lessons learned along the way.

David Hernandez is the cofounder of Lotus 823, an integrated communications and digital market agency. This boutique agency works with some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in consumer tech and lifestyle offering to build engaging partnerships that feel like a natural extension of clients’ companies.

Historically, his agency had mostly served clients in the tech space. However, they recently expanded to the home and lifestyle industry after purchasing an agency with years of expertise and reputation in that space. Thinking back to the acquisition process, he talks about how he made the decision, the lessons learned, and the valuable partner they gained as a result.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using a strategic acquisition to break into a new industry.
  • Lessons from acquiring an agency.
  • How to run a people-first agency.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective on the show.

 

Building Authority to Land Bigger Agency Clients

The idea for David’s agency was born 12 years ago while he and his wife pondered the possibilities for social media. Back then, people were still trying to figure out Facebook and they could see consumers would use it to communicate with each other and brands. It would never again be just top-down marketing. That was their inspiration for building an integrated agency that focuses on public relations, communications, and digital marketing. From the start, they had the vision of being a true partner to their client’s business goals.

Like most agencies, in the first couple of years, they focused on trying to get off the ground. They had a logo, a website, no case studies, and basically just their word and prior experience to attract clients. Because of this, their first clients were innovative startup brands in the tech space who took a risk on them. They worked to get their clients' media placements and third-party credibility through media reviews and spotlights.

That was the start and they built on that even when it took extra hours and was not profitable. Eventually, they had a body of work they could use to go for bigger brands.

Using a Strategic Acquisition to Break Into a New Niche

Several years ago, David and his partner acquired an agency specialized in the home space. They saw the growing push of the tech space into homes/lifestyles and wanted to access new opportunities to expand into a new industry.

Initially, David and Rachel (the owner of the agency he eventually acquired) met working on opposite sides of a client. While Rachel was handling the public relations side, David and his team handled social media marketing. They quickly hit it off and realized both agencies meshed really well, culturally. The idea for the acquisition grew organically and seemed like a great move for Lotus 823. Additionally, it offered the advantage of having a true expert at the helm of that initiative.

Of course, the acquisition process came with its own challenges and frustrations past the honeymoon phase. Bringing together different cultures has its challenges, even if they’re a good fit. In the end, it was a great way to accelerate access to the home/lifestyle space as opposed to them breaking down that door by themselves.

Lessons from Acquiring Another PR Agency

If he could do it all over again, David would try to understand the other agency’s processes, instead of just focusing on their results. His team didn’t realize how different their process was from what they were used to. It differed in the way both agencies measured profitability and results. There was no ill intent in it; it was just a series of details the team glossed over that led to complications later on.

It was definitely a learning process and in hindsight, David says he should have understood how the agency works from onboarding to execution. It’s the only way to know what you’re acquiring in terms of revenue vs. profitability and whether or not both teams can mesh seamlessly.

The agency they acquired was a boutique so it was more about acquiring their book of business as well as Rachel’s expertise in the space. From the beginning, they laid out the plans for her involvement and future exit. He worried the acquisition would spook clients not on long-term contracts. However, in a sense, it made it a simpler acquisition. The challenges came later on when it was time to figure out how to incorporate the acquired agency into his agency's processes.

2 Big Misconceptions Clients Have About Public Relations

There’s usually some level of education needed for clients when it comes to understanding PR work. There are two big misconceptions most clients have:

  1. PR brings in sales. That’s not what PR is for. There are many other tools that can help with sales. But PR is first and foremost the best tool to create credibility and visibility for a brand. Typically, once Lotus823 gets clients on a couple of media outlets their views go up, sometimes to billions of impressions. That type of visibility helps a brand create awareness, which creates a different conversation with potential consumers who now have an emotional connection with the brand.
  2. Big publications are the best PR. Clients think pubs like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal are the key to unlocking PR. However, this doesn't necessarily move the needle for every brand. It depends on their audience. Everybody wants the legitimacy of being in the New York Times. However, maybe an influencer program or tech outlet is a better fit for certain brands. When they build an influencer program, they typically look for relevancy. It’s not about the numbers. Sometimes a client will specifically want to work with celebrities. David’s team will redirect them to what actually works, which is working with creators with strong, engaged communities and a great reputation.

How to Run a People-First PR Agency

David runs a hybrid agency that offers the option of coming to the office. It’s important to him to offer flexible schedules to show they respect the team’s personal lives. The goal is to allow employees to build their work schedule into their personal life and really be present when it’s time to work.

When it comes to his agency’s culture, David strives to run a people-first agency where employees feel like their mental health is taken into account. Providing a work environment that allows for a balanced life helps you find and keep great talent.

According to David, if you find yourself managing a person too tightly, you’ve made the wrong hire. It’s a mistake that leads to mediocre output. You get transformative work when you have people you trust and who are happy working with each other.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Break_Into_a_New_Niche_with_a_Strategic_Agency_Acquisition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you struggling with low agency profit margins?  Are you tired of not winning the engagements you want and deserve? Did you know there’s an art to pricing in order to unlock 20X more revenue? That's 20X more than you are making right now!

When it comes to pricing, there are two common problems I see many agencies struggling with:

  1. Low profit margins.
  2. Not winning the engagements they should be.

Back in the day, I wanted to win high-profit engagements. I wanted the retainer clients because of the predictable income. I knew the combination of higher margins and predictable business would yield a healthy business and steady cash flow. But why is it so hard to accomplish? In my experience, it goes back to your approach.

Land 20x More Revenue by Making it an Easy Decision for Buyers

If you have a hard time landing the business you want it’s probably because you’re making it a difficult decision for the buyer. How? You’re selling the wrong thing first. Pitching a big project or long-term contract from the get-go is like proposing marriage on the first date. It’s a HUGE COMMITMENT to ask when you haven’t proved your worth yet. So the issue here is you haven’t created the perfect offer.

Mastermind member, Chris used to deal with this very issue. He owns an SEO agency and was charging $5,000 a month in month-to-month contracts. This was hindering his growth because clients normally stay with the agency for about 6 months, meaning they're worth just $30,000.

There were three things we needed to do in this scenario:

  • Make it an easier decision for the potential client.
  • Raise his pricing.
  • Transition to a long-term contract.

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Steps to Creating the Perfect Digital Agency Offer

In order to 20X revenue, you need to have a plan. That starts with developing a foot-in-the-door offer, which is a small, low-cost offer that demonstrates your value as an agency. This type of offer should be low-commitment and a very easy 'yes'... an offer they can't refuse :)  How can you benefit from having a foot-in-the-door offer? Well, clients who buy this offer are 20 times more likely to give you more money down the line. Overall, people are more likely to buy from you once they already know, like, and trust you.

It’s natural that you want to sell your core service first -- that’s your money maker! However, it’s a huge commitment for your prospect, and therefore a harder decision to make. YOU know your agency is awesome but they still have concerns and questions. It’s not a clear decision... yet. The solution here is to ease into a paid relationship first with a foot-in-the-door offer that highlights your expertise.

A lot of folks tend to over-complicate their foot-in-the-door offer so I created a tool to help agency owners develop your offer. Just go to agencymastery360.com/convert and download this free resource call the Foot in the Door Decider.

How to Build a Digital Agency Offer Ladder

The next step we did for Chris was to create an offer ladder, beginning with a foot-in-the-door. Start by asking yourself “What are you doing for free now that you could charge a small amount for?”

In Chris's case, he was spending around two and a half hours with each prospect giving them free strategy and advice. Instead, he switched to offering a one-hour paid strategy session where he could help them create an SEO Blueprint. They would go over some of their biggest challenges and highlight ways to solve them quickly. At the end of this session, the prospects who wanted help implementing this blueprint could sign on as clients.

Next Step in the Ladder: Small Project or Engagement

The next step in an offering ladder is a short-term project. Here you’ll be solving one of the issues you highlighted in the foot-in-the-door. This small project entails a slightly more significant financial commitment for the client. For instance, in Chris’ case, he offered a 3-month project for $15,000. This gives the agency 90 days to deliver results.

What do you think happens after your agency starts showing results? The client starts to trust you more and more. Suddenly, the decision to commit to a long-term relationship doesn’t seem so difficult.  Also, this short-term project also gives your team time to get acclimated to working with this client, and them working with you. Chances are it goes really well and a long term longer-term relationship is beneficial but in the off chance they're a nightmare client you're only stuck with them for 3 months!

Next Step in the Ladder: Digital Agency Retainer

As the window starts to close on the short-term project and you know you want to continue working with the client, that is when you can propose a year-long retainer. For Chris, it was also an excellent opportunity to raise his prices and change that year-long retainer from $5,000 a month to $9,000 a month.

So ask yourself what is your value proposition? What kind of front-end, middle, and back-end offers do you have to entice your clients? The answer to these questions will help you create an offering ladder and a perfect offer.

Why Do You Need to Go Through the Offer Ladder Process?

I get a lot of questions about the foot-in-the-door offer. Most agencies, make the jump to start charging for something they used to do for free and tend to put gasoline on it. They create something so complicated that they confuse and overwhelm their prospects.

Just remember, you don’t have to teach them anything in the initial call. Just help them identify problems and prescribe the solution they need.

10-Step Framework to Build a Foot-in-the-Door Offer

1. Build rapport.
Work with what you got. If you see a picture of a golf course behind them, chat about golf briefly.

2. Lay out the agenda.
Let them know you have a framework you use to make sure you cover all the basis in these conversations. This will position you as an authority and keep you on track.

3. Identify why now.
Ask them “What made you reach out and why is it important now?” and check to know if they’re okay with the agenda.

4. Current situation.
Where are they now with revenue, marketing, and profits? You restate it to them like this: “From what you're telling me, I understand that you want this to happen. Currently, this is what's happened, you've tried this and then that happened. Is that right? Anything else I need to be aware of?”

5. Talk about the roadblocks.
Let them know you want to know their roadblocks by making a list of everything standing in their way.

6. Restate the value.
Go back to what you’ve discussed to make sure you have the full picture. “So let me get this right, you really want X but Y is in the way and costing you XYZ. Does that sound right?”

7. Prescription or solution.
Present your assessment according to what you’ve been told. “So based on what you’ve told me, it sounds like you need [your solution] in order to get [X benefit]”.

8. The promise.
This is where you start talking about what you do. Go through how your agency helps clients and the benefits your team gets for them.

9. Logistics.
This is where you can go more into detail on your prescribed solution. Go through the specifics of how it would actually work. You’d be surprised at how much educating your prospects on the process can help you win the deal.

10. The price.
Now that you’ve helped them determine where they want to go, where they are now, and the impact on their business, they’ll be more open to paying much more than prior to you walking them through the framework.

 

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: The_Perfect_Digital_Agency_Offer_to_Unlock_20X_More_Revenue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you resisting the advice to niche down and become a specialist? Do you think niching down means losing opportunities and turning down clients? It's normal to fear a change like this but when you understand your ideal audience, you can't lose. Your ideal prospects will notice that you speak their language and understand their challenges. That leads to building trust and authority as well as a pipeline full of prospects. For one agency, everything changed once they realized they already had tons of success in an uncommon niche. It took time but this agency doubled revenue when they went all in.

James Kaye is the co-founder of Big Games Machine, a video games PR agency with unique experience in delivering consumer and B2B PR campaigns for clients worldwide. Although it has tons of experience in the gaming industry, James’ agency wasn’t always marketed to that niche. The decision to speak to its ideal audience changed everything for its business. He discusses how this small change helped them double their revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Doubling their revenue by positioning themselves as a specialist agency.
  • Struggling to fill his agency’s pipeline.
  • Why choosing a niche doesn’t mean you’ll turn down all other clients.

 

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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.

 

Like many, James and his business partner are accidental agency owners. They had both worked at different agencies before reuniting to create Big Games Machine. They started as just two consultants working from their kitchen tables on different sides of the country. Growth was slow, but it snowballed into an agency little by little as they started to take people on.

Overall, just learning to run an agency was a bumpy road that led to many failures before starting to see the successes. Now even after nine years of growing the agency, he's still learning and making mistakes. For instance, new business remains a constant problem that he's still figuring out. On the other hand, one of the most valuable lessons for him has been the importance of finding the support of a coach to guide you and trusting his agency could grow in a specialty niche.

The Biggest Inbound Marketing Mistake

Many agency owners struggle to build a pipeline after growing on referrals in the beginning, which is not scalable. This is actually still a struggle but James has learned his pipeline is his lifeblood so he’s always willing to try something new.

In terms of the work they do at the agency, they divided it into two segments:

  • Consumer, where there’s a lot of competition with many agencies doing consumer PR,
  • B2B, where they’d really found their footing.

At his agency, they work in video games PR, which is a pretty small niche. Luckily, they are pretty good with SEO, which has become a big part of their inbound marketing strategy. The problem James has found, however, is that as a unique specialist, it becomes very difficult for a third party to represent you eloquently and passionately.

Over the years, he’s tried pretty much everything in terms of building the pipeline. He partnered with a LinkedIn agency to give cold emails a try and found this did not work for his agency. Of course, some things take 6-12 months to start showing results. Looking back, he thinks they were too generalist in their inbound marketing approach.

How Seeking the Help of an Expert Changed Everything

There are a lot of options out there for agencies trying to accelerate their growth; it might seem like you're simultaneously drowning in options and starving for good ones. Loads of bad options are out there and it’s up to agency owners to decipher which ones are legit.

James found a good fit and started integrating systems for agency growth. One of the most impactful was making the decision to become a specialist.

Up to that point, his agency was called Big Ideas Machine and was more of a general Tech PR agency. They served B2B and consumer customers but hadn’t managed to book a consumer client. The feedback they were getting was that the agency didn’t look enough like a games agency. He decided to create a different brand called Big Games Machine hoping to attract consumer clients on the gaming side.

Stop Resisting the Shift to be a Specialist Agency and Pick a Niche

In James’ experience, it was a big mess trying to run two brands and two websites at the same time. It came to the point where he and his partner sat down to consider their choices. They had 25 years of experience in the game industry and that was their area of expertise. In fact, looking at their B2B clients, they were all in the games industry. They had resisted the idea to niche down even though they were getting no traction as a generalist agency. That was the lightbulb moment.

The big shift came when they finally decided to get rid of Big Ideas Machine and consolidate Big Games Machine as their main brand. By doubling down on that niche they occupy a very unique space. No one else does B2B in the gaming industry quite like they do.

Now that they do B2B and consumer work for the games industry, people quickly understand what problems they solve. With this change, James understood it’s not only about picking a niche but also about how you position yourself in the market.

Additionally, he recently hired a new head of new business marketing with experience and contacts in the gaming industry that has been getting very good quality leads for the agency.

Does Choosing a Niche Mean Turning Away Other Clients?

When pushing to remain a generalist agency, it was because James was thinking about the business they would lose as specialists. What if a client from another industry approached them? Would they have to turn them away?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re choosing a niche is thinking they’ll need to say no to other clients. The idea is that you’re only marketing to ideal clients in a niche, but can still take on projects outside the niche.

The Best Advice to Fill Your Agency's Pipeline

James best advice to fill your pipeline is to play the long game and go all in on content. He feels this is the best way to gain your prospects’ trust, which you’ll do by solving a problem for them. How can you do that? Start by creating amazing content, whether it's a podcast, blog post, or newsletter. It’ll be the best thing you can do for your agency.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Doubled_Revenue_Becoming_Specialists_in_a_Unique_Niche.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you tired of being the only one in your agency responsible for closing deals? Would you like to build a top-notch agency sales team to land the deals you’ve always wanted? In this episode, you'll learn how to find the right salesperson, build a sales team, train, manage, and compensate them so the owner is no longer the one responsible for agency sales.

It all starts with:

 

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Being an agency owner can feel like being on a rollercoaster ride. One moment you have a full pipeline and the next it is as dry as the desert. I remember focusing all my attention on sales to get new business and then having to switch my focus to delivery. As soon as I was focused on delivery I noticed sales suffered. In hindsight, I think I was self-sabotaging sales because we just couldn’t deliver as fast as I was selling the services.

To fix this problem you have to find a salesperson who can do a better job at sales than you do, as the agency owner.

There are three types of salespeople:

  • Hunter:  usually has a lower salary and gets paid per appointment.
  • Closer: with a higher base salary and tiered commission, and should have a sales quota.
  • Farmer or account service: has a mid-range salary with a bonus based on client retention.

The BIGGEST MISTAKE you can make while searching for a salesperson is trying to find a unicorn that can fill all three of these roles. And, you don’t need to hire all three at once. Start by hiring for the role you’re weakest at. Are you good at getting the leads in but lacking when it comes to following up? Then hire a closer. Eventually, you can hire the rest and grow a sales team.

Pro tip: be sure to give them the right title. No one wants to meet with a “Business Development Manager” or “Salesperson.” Personally, I’ve always preferred the term Specialist, like Scale Specialist or Conversion Specialist. You need a title that makes prospects want to have a conversation.

Now where can you actually find these salespeople? You have several choices:

  1. Personal connections: I don't suggest hiring a friend, but a mutual connection is a winner almost every time.
  2. Current and past clients: Your clients already know what you do and your process and they may love working for you.
  3. Salespeople who have sold to you in the past: They can even be from another industry. The important thing is that you had a good experience; you can teach and train them in everything else agency-related.
  4. Recruiters and job boards: This has never personally worked for me but it depends on your style and preferences.

How to Differentiate a Good Agency Sales Candidate

Once you start the interview process, how can you tell a sales candidate is right for your agency? Look at how they’re behaving during the interview. Are they talking too much? If they do, it’s probably a bad sign. A good salesperson listens more than they talk. Are they asking great questions? Have they been successful in sales in the past? As mentioned, they don’t necessarily need experience in the agency industry, as long as they understand the principles of sales.

For the candidates you do like, ask them to prepare a 90-day plan. They should be able to paint a picture of what they would do during the first 90 days at your agency. Moreover, you can use that plan later as a way to measure them.

Pro Tip: Sales are very competitive, so if you can hire two or three candidates at the same time, you can encourage competition while also testing out strengths.

How Should You Compensate Agency Sales? Commission-Only vs. Salary

This is a question I get very often. How do you compensate an agency salesperson? Commission-only or straight salary?

To be clear, each has its downsides. If you’re paying commission only, your salespeople may start to make false promises in desperation to make a sale. They also may not be 100% focused on your agency and might even sell for someone else to make ends meet.

On the other hand, if you go for 100% salary you avoid the problem of false promises but they almost certainly won’t be hungry enough to go hard on sales.

This is why I lean more toward doing a combination of both: salary plus commission. I offer a base salary that is just below their salary requirements and a commission, of maybe 5% - 10%. You need to show them there is an incentive to exceed their salary goals IF they are a rockstar at sales.

Training Your Digital Agency Sales Team

When I think about training a salesperson I think about preparing them to be able to answer the following:

  1. What’s your promise to your clients?
  2. What’s your client's problem? And,
  3. What types of clients are a good fit and what are not?

Over the years I’ve broken down what makes agency owners such good salespeople and realized it all comes down to stories. As owners, we have all the stories for different scenarios. If you’re dealing with a prospect that’s having a hard time converting leads, you probably have a story about another client who dealt with this same struggle and overcame it.

As the owner, I recommend keeping track of and sharing those stories. The team could use some of them to attract leads, others to convert. The point is that you give them the tools to succeed. Over time, they’ll accumulate their own stories.

How to Train and Manage Your Agency Sales Team 

When it comes to managing salespeople I recommend you start doing it daily until you feel they can handle themselves. You can break it down into morning and afternoon, at least for the first couple of months. The morning should be used to share stories and prepare them to chat with clients. You’ll also want to share wins and go over objections people may be having.

On the other hand, the afternoon should be more about the progress of the day. This is better left for the afternoon because some days they’ll get a lot of no’s and you’ll have to help rebuild their confidence.

Once they get to a good place, you can change the daily check-ins to weekly. They should also start recording all their calls so you can review them. You can ask them to send their worst and best calls of the day. This way, you can see if they’re clarifying why the client got on the call. They should label the problem and establish a gap in how far away the client is from where they want to be. Also, make sure they ask for the sale, rather than just prescribe what they need to do.

Finally, make sure you’re constantly measuring them on their 90-day success plan. This way, I guarantee within 30 days you’ll know whether that salesperson is going to work out or not.

How to Qualify Agency Prospects and Stop Wasting Time with the Wrong Ones

How can you spend time with the right prospect and avoid wasting time with the wrong ones? The first conversation with a prospect is the most important because it frames how the relationship develops.

Too many agencies use that conversation to focus on themselves (showcasing capabilities and successes) when you should actually be focusing on the prospect. Often agencies start talking about their awards and their portfolio with a prospect that doesn’t care about that yet. They don't care what the agency can do, they care what the agency can do for them.

However, I’m sure you want to stand out and present yourself as more than just another Me Too agency, and there are 10 questions you can ask to position yourself as THE CHOICE rather than a choice.

10 Steps When Talking with New Agency Prospects

It's important to gauge the benefits and pre-qualify any new agency prospect. I call this a triage call, where you can assess the challenge the prospect is facing and determine whether you can work together to deliver the results they seek.

  1. The Welcome: This sets the tone for the meeting and establishes you as the one in control. Just make them feel comfortable and let them know you’ll be asking them some questions to determine whether or not you can help them. Explain that if you're a good fit, there will be another meeting. If you can't help, you’ll give them some advice and part as friends.
  2. Why now and why me? Try to understand why they’re coming to your agency at this particular moment.
  3. Tell me more about your business: Make sure you have the full picture of what they do so you can determine if you can help them.
  4. What’s your budget? This will determine their expectation and what they’re willing to pay.
  5. Where are they now and where are they trying to be? Get to know the metrics, the goals, and how they are going to measure success.
  6. What is missing or broken? Try to identify their biggest issue. Try to learn the impact that issue is having on their business and the impact of fixing it.
  7. What do they need? What are their biggest challenges and why do they think you can solve those?
  8. Establish the priority: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much of a priority is it to resolve this issue?
  9. Problem check-in: State the top problems and the impact they’re having on them.
  10. Can you actually help them and do you want to? This is a question to ask yourself, thinking not just in terms of revenue but based on the initial interaction; is this client he right fit for your agency?

After doing the triage call and walking through these 10 questions, it is time to present your foot-in-the-door offer.

A foot-in-the-door offer is a low commitment, low cost, and easy YES for the prospect. And, it's the best way to showcase your agency's expertise and test out a working relationship with a client before fully committing to larger projects.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: Building_a_Top-Notch_Sales_Team_for_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you an accidental agency owner? Most of us are! That is why it's important to continually evolve in order to grow your digital agency. Can you identify the milestones that have gotten you where you are? What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face? As an agency owner, it's important to stay inspired and stay the course on the path we're paving for ourselves. Today’s guest took inspiration from various industry leaders to start his agency and learn how to grow from just an owner to a CEO. He’s been in the agency world for over ten years and has had to reinvent a few times to keep up with new challenges. He shares the various challenges he's faced over different stages of his agency's journey and the milestones that helped him keep going.

Andrew Gottlieb is the founder and CEO of No Typical Moments, a digital marketing agency that works exclusively with purpose-driven social impact-focused businesses. His agency acts as a Fractional CMO working executing social media campaigns for online education. His agency handles everything from media buying to Instagram, Facebook, and Google campaigns, and backend email marketing solutions for some of the world’s thought leaders.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Evolving the agency's service offering to keep up with market changes.
  • The importance of diversifying your lead gen source.
  • Overcoming 3 big challenges of growing an agency.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Becoming an Accidental Agency Owner with Inspiration and a Mastermind

In 2010, Andrew was a senior in college applying for and getting rejected from any job he could find. He had majored in Managerial Economics and had done everything right. However, it didn’t work out as expected so he had to sit down and reflect on his next move.

He was referred to David Siteman Garland’s podcast, where he described a lifestyle working from the beach in Puerto Rico while making six figures. That's when Andrew set out to get himself to that point and developed the idea for his agency, No Typical Moments.

It turned out that the formula for building his ideal business included things he greatly enjoyed: marketing and new technologies. It took him 18 months to really develop the concept of his agency. Meanwhile, he worked odd jobs, did a couple more internships, and finally found a full-time job with a minor league baseball team.

In his agency journey, Andrew found many role models like David, Gary Vaynerchuck, Jesse Itzler, and more. They were an inspiration throughout building and growing his agency in different ways. They helped him see the importance of taking advice from someone who already walked that same path.  He also credits involvement in a mastermind is a fundamental part of going from agency owner to Agency CEO.

What Milestones Propel Agency Growth?

Andrew officially started his agency in 2012 with six months' worth of savings and the plan to either duplicate his income in those six months or find another job. After 90 days of endless meetings, he hit his first big milestone: finding a paying client.

From there, his growth was marked by milestones like meeting the agency’s first big client and making some key hires. Around 2013, Andrew met a sales expert who joined the agency and ended up being an important part of its growth. Having someone besides him to help with client work and sales made a big difference.

As he started delegating the client work, they were also able to take on more clients. Shortly after that, their next big client was the Pittsburg Marathon, which was another big moment for the agency.

Evolving the Agency’s Service Offering with Market Changes

Originally, the agency offered organic social media marketing, which included Twitter and LinkedIn. However, over the years he's had to adapt to keep the business going. With time, Andrew realized there wasn’t a clear ROI he could break down for clients. There wasn’t a clear way to explain what those campaigns would do for their business. This was back when social media wasn’t what it is today. He realized doing paid ads lend to a more straightforward conversation. ROI is clearer with ads and it's a cleaner business case to sell to clients. This is what inspired a change in their service offering.

Later on, their offer evolved again to Facebook ads campaigns, which actually became pretty much their only service offer. Everyone was using Facebook and it worked for the agency. However, the big wake-up call came when iOS 14 changed everything. As most know, this made Facebook advertising very challenging and clients started to pull out. Those who weren’t immediately taken aback saw their ROI go down pretty quickly.

Luckily, Andrew and his team had already been thinking about broadening their offering. They had their eyes on doing YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google advertising. Moreover, he realized some clients were more in need of thought leadership and strategic direction than advertising. Hence, they searched for a Fractional CMO who could point these clients in the right direction so the ad campaigns would have a better chance of success.

The Importance of Diversifying Your Lead Gen Source

Usually, clients defer to Andrew's agency to get clear on their next best step in digital marketing. At some point, the easy answer was Facebook Ads. With it, you could generate revenue at the snap of your fingers. The game has changed, however. It’s now very important to be clear on where the business is at in its maturity to develop the right strategy. When a client brings on their team, they’ll help them with anything from email marketing, landing pages, copywriting, media buying on any major platform, or tech integration. They can also help manage employees, manage vendor relationships, contractors, and whatever clients require from a CMO.

When his agency changed course to a more full-service offering, he needed to get clients to understand it was a good moment to diversify their lead gen sources. If their entire campaigns hinged on Facebook, they will likely have issues in the future. The storm from iOS 14 combined with other difficult moments for the platform finally helped some clients see the light. Some companies had spent millions in Facebook ads only for their accounts to be banned out of nowhere. Now they had a need to spend on Google and YouTube to get to a million in spending.

For the longest time, it seemed like Facebook could not fail. But, in that moment it became much easier to explain the importance of diversifying.

3 Biggest Challenges He’s Faced at Different Stages of His Agency Journey

For Andrew, the challenges presented by building a digital agency have changed depending on the stage of the agency’s growth.

  1. The mental challenge of entrepreneurship.
    As a 22-year-old starting a business, his friends went the more traditional route and had high-paying jobs. Their path offered more of a clear trajectory whereas he entered entrepreneur which is the land of the unknown. The shame and embarrassment of not having that clarity affected his confidence. It also affected his social life, since he had to pour all his resources into the business. He couldn’t afford to go out and risk spending money he would need for the agency.
  2. Growing the agency beyond the owner.
    Finding the right people to continue to grow the agency has been more challenging than he expected. He was lucky with his two first hires, who are actually still with him years later. However, he made a series of bad hires as the agency grew. He was not clear on the expectation for each role and needed to hand over control. Those first mistakes ruined some relationships for him.
  3. Staying inspired to grow.
    More recently, Andrew's big challenge has been continuing to be inspired to grow and build after ten years. After years of weathering different storms like the pandemic and changes to his offering, it is time to reinvent again.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Conquering_3_Big_Challenges_in_Order_to_Grow_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Did you know if you keep saying you’re too busy it probably means you’re not charging enough? Are you ready to start charging what your digital agency is worth?

Being too busy is the quickest way to not only burn yourself out but also your team. I’ve been there, and let me tell you I was on the verge of shutting down my agency from being overworked and undervalued. We were doing so many things wrong. We were talking to the wrong clients, working long hours, and worst of all, barely making ends meet.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to get out of your own way and start charging what you’re worth.

How can you get your prices to where they should be?

  1. Understand the value and results your agency delivers.
  2. Build trust with clients through an offer ladder.
  3. Position yourself as an authority in your space.

 

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In this video, you will learn the three pricing structures you can use to get you to a place where your pricing will both be more on par with the results you deliver and will give you an advantage over other cheaper agencies.

Most agency owners believe at some point that low prices will give you an advantage over the rest. However, I’d argue that increasing your prices actually works to your advantage. As an adviser, I go through the financials of thousands of agencies, and in up to 90% of cases, I recommend they increase their prices. The suggestion alone makes them back away in fear.

I get it, most agency owners worry about things like losing the pitch because their prices are too high. However, I counter with “What if you lose the pitch because your pricing is too low?” You don’t think this can happen? It happened to me!

Years ago I got a call from a prospect that needed a website. I nailed the call and was invited to their office to present an offer. Their office was HUGE. Who was this company? I proceeded to make the pitch and said my price: $10,000. They actually laughed and I was so confused. Was the price too high?

Well, it turns out this company I'd never heard of, Berkshire Hathaway, was expecting to spend around $300,000 on the website. They loved the pitch and were excited to work with us until I named my price... because it was too low they thought it wouldn't deliver the results they expected.

So how should your digital agency pricing be structured? How can you come up with a price that shows your value, increases profit, and allows you to win more deals? A lot of businesses tend to set a price and then not think about it again for years. When there’s one element of your business that affects everything other element so much, it’s definitely not something to be forgotten. Pricing should evolve as much as your business does.

3 Digital Agency Pricing Models

1. Hourly-Based Pricing

Should agencies charge by the hour? Honestly, I’m not a fan. This is my absolutely least favorite model. Charging by the hour sounds like a great idea, but as you get better and more efficient at your job you’ll be working fewer hours and thus making less money. It’s also the option that makes clients more nervous because there’s a variable of the unknown. However, I do believe there’s a time for hourly rates. If you’re doing something new and it’s hard to estimate how long it will take you, then it’s the best option.

2. Value-Based pricing

This pricing model is the intersection between what your services are worth to the client and what you’re willing to take. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get a pulse on the perceived value. Try to gather as much information as you can from clients so you can fully understand what they need and how you can help them. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met with clients and asked them for their budget to find that it’s much higher than I would’ve quoted, so we could have possibly lost revenue or lost the deal altogether.

3. Performance-Based Pricing

What if you only got paid for performance? Would you be profitable? Mastery member David was having trouble charging anything more than $3,500 per month. He was in a race to the bottom that involved over-delivering and under-promising. David focused too much on what others in his niche were charging. After hearing countless success stories from other mastermind members, he got the courage to make a change. He picked a client who he knew he could make tons of money for and asked for a percentage of the revenue he would generate for the company as payment. That percentage turned into a $1 million payday six months later.

The trick when it comes to this model is coming up with a formula to pick the winners. If you generate this company X amount of business, can they scale as quickly as you’re sending them business? What’s the metric you can control? If their sales team won’t return calls then you need to change the performance to an agreed amount of leads.

Getting Your Prices to What They Should Be

I’m a big advocate of agencies increasing their prices but it obviously needs to be done in the right way. You can’t just double prices for existing clients right away.

Mastery member Dean was struggling to afford the team he needed, which led to him doing everything and being close to burning out. We challenged him to raise his prices and he started by doubling his fees for the new clients coming in. To his surprise, they all said yes. Now it was time to turn our attention to existing clients.

By that time, existing clients were paying 50% of what new clients were paying so he was actually losing money on those accounts. We developed a plan for him to reach out to those clients and let them know the price was increasing. He expected to lose around 50% of these clients but the other 50% would make up for this loss. He actually didn’t lose any clients. They all agreed to pay the increase.

This resulted in an extra $67,000 per month for his agency with no additional work for his agency.

Ultimately, your pricing structure will be up to you. Consider your financial goals for the future and ask yourself which structure will get you there the quickest. It’s not about topline revenue but about how you can maximize the profitability of your bottom line.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: The_Secret_to_Charging_What_Your_Digital_Agency_Is_Worth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you effectively using storytelling in your agency's marketing? Storytelling is an invaluable tool that makes your prospects feel heard and understood. It's a way to relate to clients and communicate how your help solve their problems. Storytelling creates better communication that’s more effective, more memorable, and easier for people to understand.

Today’s guest started working as a scriptwriter until he discovered business storytelling was a coveted skill he could help business owners develop. Over the years, he has implemented 3 methods that help facilitate clients’ access to storytelling tools. He explains some of the logic behind these frameworks and how anyone can train themselves to be a compelling storyteller.

Douglass Hatcher is the CEO of Communicate4IMPACT, an agency that helps coach people in the art and science of business storytelling. They take what business owners do naturally – telling stories – and help them apply that to what they do professionally.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using business storytelling effectively.
  • 3 methods to improve your storytelling skills.
  • Secret to building a successful agency sales team.

 

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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.

 

Discovering the Power of Business Storytelling

For most of his career, Douglass was a speech writer. First in the public sector, for congressmen and a senator. Eventually, he moved on to the corporate world where he wrote speeches for the CEO of MasterCard. This led to requests to help with their presentations and pitch decks. That is where he first heard the term business storytelling.

Douglass quickly learned that it's an actual craft to tell a story in the business context. In addition to creating presentation decks, he ended up helping develop a two-hour course on storytelling for the company. The course was more popular than he could have imagined. That is when he realized there is a market for this service and started his own agency.

The Significance of Effective Business Storytelling

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are great examples of successful business owners who care about effective communication. Not all leaders put communication ahead of everything else in their business. Of course, your data, financials, and numbers matter; but at the end of the day, if your audience doesn’t understand what you bring to the table, you’re in a tough place.

That said, Steve Jobs wasn't always the confident and expressive presenter we remember today. Douglass recalls a TV interview with an anxiety-ridden Jobs who even vomited between takes. From that point on, he worked hard to become a great communicator spending up to thirty hours on each of his presentation slides.

If you look at any of Steve Jobs’s presentations, he doe not focus on selling the newest iPhone or iPad. He’s more focused on communicating through storytelling. Instead of saying that the iPod was the latest and greatest mp3 player, he said "the iPod is having 1,000 songs in your pocket." Rather than just selling features, Steve Jobs was the master of telling the story of what a product will do for you.

3 Methods to Help Improve Your Storytelling Skills

 

1. The ABT Method

ABT or And, But, Therefore is the three-word vocabulary necessary to tell a good story. It was first popularized by Randy Olson who was inspired to apply the ABT method after seeing a documentary by the South Park creators where they talked about using it for their scriptwriting.

  • AND represents the way things are
  • BUT is the turn or the change
  • THEREFORE is the outcome with a resolution.

Basically, the idea is that instead of saying “My product is this, my service is that,” you use the framework:

“My services are this AND this, BUT if you use it this way you will get X result; THEREFORE, this can happen.”

In storytelling, without change, there is no story. Likewise, in business you’re trying to solve a problem, to change the customer’s situation for the better -- that’s where storytelling comes in.

2. What, So What, Now What

  • WHAT is the thing you want to talk about
  • SO WHAT is “why do we care”
  • NOW WHAT is about what’s next.

In this framework, you ask these questions to identify, analyze, and draw sense from an event. Douglass uses it to train clients to tackle situations where they have to answer a question under pressure.

He gives the example of a famous director who experienced technical difficulties on stage when the teleprompter went out. As a result, he chose to walk off stage. If he had this tool he could have stayed on stage and improvised a way to engage the audience.

The goal of this framework is to keep you from tanking in moments of high pressure, control your anxiety, and have courage to carry on.

3. The PIXAR Framework

Pixar is famous for creating compelling stories that are universally loved by people of all ages. They are masters of storytelling and their framework can be broken down as follows:

  • Once upon a time,
  • Every day…
  • One day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Until finally…

Similar to the previous ones, we start with ONCE UPON A TIME, which is the client’s current situation. EVERY DAY would be the problem they’re facing. ONE DAY is when you come into the picture with a solution. Each BECAUSE OF THAT represents a benefit brought by your solution. UNTIL FINALLY is the resolution.

It’s amazing how effective this framework is. The best part is that choosing you as the solution doesn’t come until the third act. This is why it's important to always put the customer first and position yourself as their guide.

The Secret to Building a Successful Agency Sales Team

These frameworks are seemingly very simple but they’re also very effective. It often happens that the things that are made to look simple took the longest time to create. There’s a lot of research behind each of these that comes from many years of research on the best practices to create compelling stories. If you’re an agency owner looking to become a better storyteller, these frameworks will give you the advantage you need.

The power of storytelling is also what makes agency owners so good at selling. Owners who have a lot of trouble building a really great sales team are usually not sharing their success stories. Owners need to create a shareable library of stories to pass on to their sales team. When your team can share success stories with clients and prospects, you help them succeed and help get yourself out of sales.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: 3_Methods_of_Storytelling_That_Wins_More_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

When was the last time you took a break from your agency? Do you stress out just thinking about taking time off? Do you feel like everything will fall apart with you? This is usually the case when agency owners need to create SOPs and delegate more to their team. Getting serious about SOP documentation levels up your agency, sets up the team for success, and increases its overall value. It starts with an important mental shift and understanding your agency will actually benefit from you taking a step back.

Today’s guest is a process and systems expert who focuses on establishing all the necessary systems and procedures to make sure you have something to lean on. If you're doing all the agency work, you’re rarely able to put 100% into anything. This is why she focuses on teaching how to leverage rest and create simple systems to increase your agency's longevity.

Alyson Caffrey is a systems and process creation expert and the founder of Operations Agency. She helps founders get their agencies out of their brains and centralized to help them be more impactful. She’s also the author of The Sabbatical Method: How to Leverage Rest and Grow Your Business, a guide to help return business owners back to their families. With it, founders learn that taking a break can increase your business’s longevity, uncover some inefficiencies, and professionalize operations.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Taking a step back increases your agency's value.
  • Simplifying SOP creation to have an immediate impact.
  • 3 keys to successful digital agency processes

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Why Agency Founders Need to Be Intentional with Their Time 

Like many service-based business owners, Alyson hadn’t planned to start an agency. She was working as an Operations Manager in Colorado when her husband got a career-defining opportunity that meant moving cities. Not long after that, she was approached by several former clients to continue providing some services, and she was suddenly an accidental agency owner providing SOPs and operations support.

With no children and her husband occupied in the military, Alyson had a ton of time to dedicate to her business. This meant she was able to serve clients at a really deep level in the beginning. However, when she became a mom she was confronted with the need to take time off.

As the operations expert, Alyson knows she should've had her processes documented, but like the cobbler's children with no shoes, she had not prioritized it. She now attributes the birth of her son to finally being more intentional about the time she spends working in her business and making sure she can spend time away from it, too.

Taking a Step Back Helps Increase Your Agency’s Value

Agency owners work very hard to build a business with the idea that at some point, they'll have freedom and the ability to take breaks. However, once the agency starts growing it never seems to be the right time to take time off. Many agency owners are they're forced to decide between their agency and their personal life. That means missing important events and strained relationships. Alyson says for her it was a high-stakes moment when she realized there was a problem.

It all starts with a mental shift and understanding you’re selling a transformation, not your time.

Many agency owners think they’re the only ones that can lead their business to success. However, once you remove yourself from the equation of day-to-day operations, the agency's value instantly drives up. When you can step away from the agency to recharge, or even just to work on the business and not in it, that single benefit is a game changer.

Three Steps You Can Take to Start Empowering Your Team

Where can you start to systematically take action to make the necessary changes? Alyson started by changing how she performs inside her business.

  1. Screen recording. Instead of just going in and doing the work, Alyson started to screen-record while she did it.
  2. Become the advisor. Next, she provide the resources and guidance for her team to get the results but didn’t do the work for them.
  3. Test the framework. Alyson decided to test out her client-facing frameworks with her own team to see which processes they could set up using them.

How to Simplify SOPs and Have an Immediate Impact on Your Agency

Although the process of creating SOP's and documenting processes can take time, Alyson saw results almost immediately. After screen recording her processes, she was able to delegate some things to her client success manager. This small act freed up some of Alyson's time so she could focus on more important elements of the agency.

Start with the administrative tasks, which can be delegated overnight once you record the process. Things like sending client reports and scheduling meetings do not require a special skill set. Nothing will fall apart if you, as the agency owner, are not doing it. You can focus on other areas of the business while still allowing clients to feel supported without your direct input. Also, setting up a way to centrally locate all processes helps your team have independent access to information without needing your help.

Do you need an Operations Manager right away? In Alyson's opinion, no. Most agencies can wait until they’ve grown to maybe 30-40 people, depending on the type of agency. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all idea. Some owners can achieve results on a smaller scale. You can start by delegating or offloading just 20% of your tasks and still have a small win.

Are Your Digital Agency Processes Set Up for Failure?

Alyson says agency owners need to understand there are two states of operations. There’s operations creation and operations management. Usually, people want to skip right to the management part.

Often, agency owners want someone to come in and take over operations management without taking the time to first create the pathway. According to Alyson, this is largely why agency owners get burned with hires. They hire someone to do something without providing the tools for this person to get familiar with their role.

Furthermore, creating something that isn’t maintainable sets up failure. You can have fancy spreadsheets and automation but if you don’t understand how to maintain them, these processes go out of date fast. Building a system that needs less maintenance ultimately results in a better system that lasts longer.

3 Keys to Successful Digital Agency Operational Processes

  1. Clear Expectations: We’ve all been there with projects that have a thousand revisions, take too long, or go out of scope. Start by taking a close look at those projects and get some SOPs to ask and answer: What’s in scope? What's outside of scope? What’s the timeline?
  2. Standard Operating Procedures: You need to document absolutely everything around how you deliver your core services. A lack of centralized SOPs creates a limit on how much you can grow.
  3. Transparent Reporting: There’s no need to overcomplicate this step. Focus on measurable KPIs around your projects. Are they on time? Within scope? Are they coming back error-free or an acceptable amount of minor errors? You want to gain visibility into how things are functioning overall to help you lay a foundation to get to the next level.

Your Digital Agency Can Grow In Your Absence

Some owners don’t want to hear this but the reality is your agency can grow in your absence. Stepping away to take a break gives you the opportunity to get to the next level. When climbing Mt. Everest, one of the main reasons climbers fail to reach the summit is the lack of altitude acclimation. This means climbers don’t take enough breaks at strategic points to prepare themselves for the next level.

In the end, reaching the summit is just 15 minutes of celebrating success. The fun part is the climb. Prepare your agency for joy in the day-to-day, not just in reaching the summit. Stop working weekends or into the evenings. Stop missing important events or skipping vacations. The trade-off is sacrificing daily operations for the joy of reaching the summit.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Digital_Agency_Growth_Starts_with_SOPs_and_Delegating.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you view your digital agency clients as a means to an end? Are you and your team taking a real interest in your clients in order to understand them as a person first? Creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency. That's why today's guest finds his background in accounting a helpful skill in understanding what is important to his agency clients. Budgets and bottom line are one thing, but clients want to be treated like humans. He is on the show to share the insights he has learned about client relationships, how he weaves that into the interview process, and two pivotal moments that helped him have confidence and courage as an agency owner.

Spencer Hadelman is the founder and CEO of Advantage Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing firm that provides digital and traditional media solutions. His agency has served big brand clients like the University of Berkley and Hello Kitty and also invests in multiple companies with their recent e-commerce acquisitions.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency.
  • One unique interview tactic that assesses agency employees.
  • Why you need confidence and courage to be an agency owner.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective on the show.

 

Serving Agency Clients According to Their Specific Needs

Spencer describes his business as a full-service marketing firm since he believes the label “agency” scares people off sometimes. He understands clients don’t always need help in every area so his company has 3 subdivisions:

  • Digital advertising: Helping clients with search and Google campaigns, as well as paid social.
  • Traditional media: Including television ad campaigns, radio, billboards, and direct mail.
  • Content creation: Mainly content for their organic social campaigns. They also do website design, logo design, branding work, etc.

Some clients require all three services while others choose just one pillar depending on their needs. Overall, clients seem to appreciate that, depending on their strategy, they have different experts working on their marketing needs. They aren’t just pushed to one division completely. It’s great to have a different perspective from someone in a different division and in the end, it’s all about the results.

Why Human Relationships Are at the Core of Every Successful Agency

Even though Spencer majored in accounting, he credits the knowledge and skill set he got from his education as an important part of his marketing work. In fact, having those accounting skills is something he recommends to anyone wanting to own a business someday. Marketing courses and working at other agencies gave him the experience he needed to learn about the industry; however, accounting is what still helps him understand the clients' businesses.

Working at other agencies he learned about media buying and the evolution of changing technologies. The biggest lesson he took away, however, was that clients want to be treated like humans. It’s not just about their budget and coming in focused on how much ad spend. It's about creating long-term relationships. Whether it’s a startup or a huge brand, if clients are putting their faith in you, you need to take a human approach to it.

It was those relationships with clients that gave Spencer the push to start his agency. It seemed like a logical next step, after realizing clients didn’t really care about the agency and were more excited to work with him and his team.

 

A Unique Interview Tactic that Helps Assess Agency Employees

Spencer likes to prepare potential new hires for possible hostile reactions from clients. This is something he does even during their interview process. He reads their CV in front of them and shows a dismissive attitude just to see their reactions. In his opinion, it’s a good way to see how someone handles conflict and difficult situations.

To balance that with a fun work culture, he organizes outings, retreats, and contests. To help the team integrate and have fun, he comes up with different activities throughout the year. This reflects on the way the team interacts with one another and helps create strong relationships.

2 Pivotal Moments That Shaped Confidence and Courage as an Agency Owner

When Spencer started his agency, a friend offered to rent him an extra office space. Although he had planned to just work from home and not pay any rent, his friend offered him a very reasonable deal and he took it. Looking back, this helped him a lot during the early stages of his agency. He had access to a conference room where he could meet clients, which greatly helped with credibility. He also got to wake up every morning and leave the house, which helped his agency feel more like a real business even if he was one person at the time. It was such an impactful gesture that nowadays he always offers office space to that same friend.

Another pivotal moment for Spencer happened while working at another agency. He pitched some ideas to the owners of a golf resort. In the end, that client didn’t end up choosing the agency but liked his ideas. They were vocal about the opportunity to work with him outside that agency.

After quitting, he reached out to them and they talked about a project for a golf course in Wisconsin. He had never worked on that type of project but knew the sport well and had his agency experience to fall back on. It’s now one of the top five golf resorts in the country, something he helped build since its beginning.

Overall, Spencer is very proud of how it all happened because he had the confidence and courage to follow through with that client. He thinks every agency owner could benefit from trusting their abilities and taking calculated risks when someone expresses interest in working with them.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Creating_Relationships_that_Lead_to_a_Successful_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Why is VaynerMedia attracting the best brands that everyone wants to work with? Do you think it is because they have the best team? Do they have the best process and deliver the best results? Out of the millions of agencies… Why do we all know who that agency is? Simply put, they are well known because their founder understood the game of attention. You can to that level of success too by learning to promote your digital agency through content.

In 2006, Gary created Wine Library TV, where he reviewed different types of wine in the hopes of getting the attention of wine buyers. He started by sharing his thoughts about wine on social media and ended up becoming known for his insights on digital marketing. Years later, he founded VaynerMedia after growing his dad’s wine store to over $100 Million!

Pretty much out of the gate, his agency was working with brands like Pepsi and General Electric. But why were they coming to them?

Gary knew what others didn’t, which is that whoever can get and keep people’s attention, will win 99% of the time.

Once I figured out this I never went back.

I thought if I had the best team, service, and results people would line up to work with us. As you may guess, I was WRONG.

I had figured out a formula to get the perfect clients by reaching out through calls, emails, conferences, and even showing up at their offices. However, I never figured out how to get clients to come to us until I started following Gary.

In this video, I’ll share:

  • How agencies are getting their perfect clients to call them.
  • The type of content you need to be creating to get clients’ attention.

Why Content is a MUST for Digital Agency Owners

First off, let’s just be clear that creating content is not a nice-to-have piece for an agency. It’s a MUST. If you want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed, you should be creating content.

Usually, agency owners I chat with have one main fear around content. They don’t want to be the face of the agency and that holds them back from creating content. They think “if I create it, all the clients will ask to work with me directly” which is just not true. Gary Vaynerchuck is not out there working every single client engagement that comes to VaynerMedia.

If you create content that gets your niche audience’s attention and provides value, they’ll now trust you and compare everyone else to you.

Do you think this is a competitive advantage? OF COURSE IT IS.

Using Success Stories to Promote Your Digital Agency

In this video, you’ll meet Marty, a mastery member who already had previous success in a well-defined niche. However, his agency was not growing as fast as he’d like. We recommended they highlight some of the agency’s successes through video case stories. His audience wanted to hear stories from other businesses they could relate to. These were simple videos that answered:

  • What's the conflict?
  • How did they overcome it?
  • What is life like now that it is resolved?

You may think the work was done once the case stories were ready. Job done, time to open up the floodgates. Not necessarily. Now it was time to promote this content.

They began to run ads and guess what? They got the attention of their ideal audience. Clients like Delta were now calling them wanting to work together.

Sharing success stories will allow you to not only showcase your expertise but also demonstrate the real-world results your agency can deliver.

Promoting Your Brand Through a Podcast

Another type of content I’ve seen work very well for agencies is a podcast. A podcast can be a great opportunity to interview experts in your field while adding color to the conversation. It’ll take time to build an audience, but it’s fun and easy to do. You’ll also learn a lot from others in the process and establish yourself as an authority. By sharing knowledge and expertise you’ll be showing your audience you know what you’re talking about.

Creating a podcast and interviewing experts in your area will also help you create credibility by association. Once you’re seen as an authority, it’ll become much easier to attract and convert leads.

How to Content to Educate Your Audience

This one’s always a winner. One of the best ways to create content that will resonate with your audience is to educate them. By teaching your audience how to do something you’re providing real value that they can use to improve their lives or their business.

What type of valuable information should you share? Make sure it’s some of your best stuff. Too many times people try to get away with sharing some really small pieces. The problem with this is people will assume you’re giving away your best stuff and that your best stuff sucks.

What I’ve found is that people are interested in knowing how something works but they’re rarely interested in doing it themselves. They want to understand, but in the end, they want someone to come in and do it and get it right first. So don’t be afraid to show them. Clients want someone who can solve their problem fast and if you can position yourself as an authority in the space, you’re going to win.

The Ultimate Guide to Unlocking Your Agency's Potential

If you want to attract your ideal clients the best way is through custom content so you can build the know, like, and trust factor. You'll establish yourself as an authority by speaking to their specific issues and challenges. Anyone can create social posts and schedule them on various platforms. Custom content in the form of a podcast and videos showcasing your best stuff if what makes you a master in the art of attraction.

Direct download: The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Promoting_Your_Digital_Agency_Through_Content.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Does your agency truly understand your clients' needs? Are you proactive about learning their business? Is your team constantly looking for new, innovative solutions? What can you do to earn clients’ trust to retain and even upsell them? Today’s guest has been an agency owner for 30 years and knows the business well. He understands which questions to ask to gain clients’ trust and teaches other agency owners to do the same. He’ll reveal what clients are looking for in an agency according to a recent survey.

Drew McLellan owns Agency Management Institute, which serves small to mid-scale agencies helping them grow. He's on the show sharing insight from a recent survey. Drew’s agency runs an annual survey where agency clients respond to focused questions that give agencies some insight into what they can improve to have a better relationship with them. This year, the survey focused on agencies’ struggles to grow their existing book of business.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What do clients think about agencies?
  • 4 things you can do to build better relationships with clients.
  • 2 big mistakes you should avoid with clients.

 

Subscribe

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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.

 

What Do Clients Think About Their Agency Relationship?

Most agency owners are great when it comes to their services but don’t have the tools to run a business profitably. Having run an agency for thirty years, Drew knows the industry well and now focuses on helping them.

His agency runs an annual research piece called the Agency Edge. In its ten-year history, they’ve mostly talked to people who hire agencies, as was the case this year. The central theme this year was agencies’ struggles to grow their existing book of business.

Clients are taking a longer time to hire agencies, and even once they’ve hired them, they’re slow to assign a first project. So how to get more from the clients you already have? Basically, the gist of the research was to get respondents to reveal how, when, and where they give an agency more money. The results were fascinating -- most fell into one of three categories:

  • The ideal agency client: This is the client we all want to have. They want their agency at the table talking about strategy and truly believe they couldn’t run their business as well without the agency.
  • The client looking for a specialist: This was the largest group, accounting for over 45% of the respondents. These are businesses that are pretty happy with their in-house team but are in need of extra sets of hands and depths of expertise in certain areas. They expect the agency to come in and partner with their team. They don’t expect them to get in on big-picture strategy.
  • The client who thinks everything’s too expensive: This was fortunately the smallest group. These clients see agencies as a necessary evil that is too expensive. If they could avoid giving an agency more money, they will choose to do that.

Naturally, the research focused on the first two groups, which are the ones likely to spend more money on agencies.

What Do Clients Really Want From Their Agency?

No matter the different topics they’ve covered over the years, Drew and his team keep finding these same groups. The undesirable clients who see agencies as money-sucking machines are thankfully always the minority.

However, Drew does note this was the first year where that minority came off very strongly about their views. This might be an indication that brand leaders are becoming more leery about partnerships. Moreover, there are now more agencies out there than ever before, which means there are more bad agencies too. With more people out there who don’t know how to market and adequately provide a service, it drowns out the good ones. This creates a rejection of the concept of agency, which leads to businesses trying to avoid that label.

In terms of how to identify these client categories, they’re actually spread across the board. Businesses that want agencies as a partner could be big brands or small startups.

Overall, clients want an agency partner who really tries to understand their business. Basically, they want the agency to care enough about their business to come up with good ideas; even if those ideas don’t necessarily impact the agency. This could be a problem when account people are order takers who don’t understand the clients’ business and don’t know which questions to ask to have insights into their business problems.

4 Things You Can Do to Build Better Relationships With Clients

  1. Learn more. Based on survey responses, agency owners could invest more time and energy learning how their clients do their work. This can mean a number of things like case studies or helping your client do customer research. Yes, this is a huge time investment on the agency's part. However, failing in-depth understanding relegates you to an order-taker role by your own doing.
  2. Meet your clients. Even if you’re a virtual agency you should get out there and meet your clients in person, especially in the onboarding process. There's still no substitute for face time in this post-pandemic era with so many ways to connect virtually. It’s hard to develop more than surface-level trust when you’ve never even been in the same room as that person.
  3. Ask more questions. Drew believes agency owners tend to stop themselves from asking questions. They assume the client knows their business well, so if they say they want an app or a tradeshow booth, all too often the answer is “Okay, we’ll do that for you”. It’s okay to at least ask simple questions like: "Why?" or "Is there a better way to spend that budget?" Just dig a bit into the reasons behind what they’re asking. More than half the time they need something, but are wrong about what that something is.
  4. Be proactive. Clients want their agencies to be proactive and not wait around for them to place an order. Many agencies shy away from this because it feels pushy; however, the message that came across loud and clear is that clients will give agencies more money when agencies give them a good reason to spend more money.

2 Big Mistakes Some Agencies Make with Clients

Out of all the groups, it was especially important for the second one – clients looking for a specialist –to find an agency that respects their team. It’s important to understand the ecosystem of how the business works, who’s on the team, and where you can lend a hand. Overall, the message was “don’t overstep your bounds”.

Clients were clear about how much they dislike agencies that come in and try to prove they’re smarter than the internal team. Collaboration will get you better results because these companies think highly of their internal team. This also goes for getting into a meeting and immediately starting to use technical terminology. You obviously want clients to think you’re smart but you won’t get far by making them feel dumb.

Big Takeaways: More Time with Agency Owners and Being Assertive

Still focusing on the first two groups, it’s important to mention these clients wanted more interaction with the agency owner. This doesn’t necessarily mean the agency owner will be working on their business on a day-to-day basis. It just means they want the agency owner to check in and know what the team is doing and can be a sounding board for them.

Overall, the big takeaway from the survey is that clients are open to agencies being more assertive in bringing more ideas to clients. They want those ideas and most of them do have more money to give to agencies and are eager to do so if they demonstrate they really understand their business.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: What_Do_Clients_Really_Want_from_Their_Agency_Partner_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

What sets digital marketing agencies apart? How can you destroy your competition to succeed? Are you struggling to stand out in a crowded market? Do you want to crush your competition and become the go-to agency in your industry, but don't know where to start?

What if I told you there’s a way to separate your agency from everyone else? Whether it’s an SEO, ecommerce, or email marketing agency, your agency can still sound like everyone else despite having a niche. Having a MeToo agency will only have you winning the race to the bottom.

The next logical step after choosing a niche is finding ways to position your business as the top choice for clients. From crafting a unique value proposition to building a strong brand identity, you need to know how to set your agency apart from the competition.

In this video, I’ll share…

  • How one agency transformed from a "Me Too" agency to an industry leader with a huge waitlist of clients that are willing to pay a premium for the best.
  • Why your marketing isn’t clear and how to fix it. I’m also going to show you the simple formula for developing an elevator pitch that makes people say where have you been all my life.
  • My positioning script board that you can download and use to make your own marketing stand out.

So, how can you be more competitive in such a crowded space? Let’s about how to position your agency to stand out. Most digital agencies struggle with positioning in a way that truly resonates with their audience. Having unclear marketing leads to several bad things:

  • Your clients won’t know who you are.
  • Nobody is clear on how you can help them.
  • Your marketing campaigns fall short.
  • Potential clients won’t buy from your agency.

It’s frustrating because you know you have a great service to offer but you’re talking to an empty room.

Crush Your Competition With Marketing Messaging That Really Works

Let me tell you about my friend Jose, who had an agency with a well-defined niche, but was converting at less than 20%. My first thought was to ask him about his elevator pitch, which was “We design websites for non-profits”... Clear, understandable, and to the point. However, the problem was that it only mentioned who he helped and what he did.

No one cares what you do; they care what you can do for them.

After thinking about the results his clients wanted and why, we came up with an elevator pitch that mentioned how they helped nonprofit clients achieve their goals of raising awareness and finding donors and volunteers. We walked him through our positioning scripts and came up with a new approach. The new elevator pitch was clear on who they actually helped, what they want, and why in just a couple of sentences. That agency is now dominating their niche.

 The Positioning Script That Can Help You Reach the Top

Our formula to help agency owners improve their positioning includes five questions. Ideally, you’ll spend at least 10-15 minutes on each. You’ll be ranking each of the provided options to answer:

  • What does your client want?
  • What is keeping your client from getting what they want?
  • How does their problem make them feel?
  • Why shouldn’t people have to deal with this in the first place?
  • What is the root cause of your problem?

Once you have your answers, you can start following the script to tell a story and create your new elevator pitch. This is what we did with Jose and this is how you too can get the best results. Get access to these resources at JasonSwenk360.com/attract.

Now you can create authority and position your agency in the right way. That’s where great content comes in, which is our next step in the Attract Series.

Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your agency to the next level, this video is a must-watch for anyone who wants to dominate their industry. So what are you waiting for? Hit the play button and start becoming the go-to agency today!

The Ultimate Guide to Unlocking Your Agency's Potential

If you want to stand out from the noisy agency space and attract your ideal clients in order to crush the competition be sure to check out our FREE video course: AgencyMastery360.com/Attract

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


How do you get noticed by big brands? And eventually, get noticed by big agencies for an acquisition offer? It's all about making decisions that put the client first. That is what this guest shares in his story about starting out in the early days of social media, finding a hole in the industry,  and how his agency's rapid growth led to an unexpected acquisition offer.

Daniel James is the founder and CEO of Mint Performance Marketing, a growth agency working with brands that take a strong stance. His team helps brands build their business profitably with integrated omnichannel growth marketing execution. He’s led marketing strategies for AOL, Toyota, Disney, and more. His agency saw rapid growth, getting to seven figures within a year, and caught the eye of the global agency group Social Chain, which acquired it in 2019. He'll now discuss how the acquisition conversation started, how he estimated a fair value for his agency, and much more.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Running a full-service agency to have a bigger impact on brands.
  • How to use influencer marketing for your agency.
  • The importance of customer experience to create loyalty.
  • How the acquisition conversation started and how he justified his valuation number.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective on the show.

 

The Evolution of Social Media from it's Beginnings

Daniel has been in the digital space for a long time, beginning as a MySpace employee. At that time, MySpace was one of the first recognized social media platforms that really took off. For Daniel, it was a blast working there feeling the excitement of what they were helping build. It was a very creative environment where they were encouraged to do innovative things.

MySpace was always a creative community where you would code your own page. Later on, companies like Facebook took over with a more user-friendly communication tool. From that point, the platform struggled although it still exists today.

All in all, it was an amazing opportunity to visit Los Angeles and work with the MySpace team there. That is when he decided to move to LA and run his own marketing agency.

Finding a Gap in the Market to Have a Bigger Impact on Brands

Daniel didn’t study marketing but was lucky to have a solid formation from the people around him and working on different big brands. After a while, he wanted to have a bigger impact on brands and noticed a gap in the communication between different agencies all working on the same brand. This inspired him to start his agency, Mint, with a vision of being a full-service agency for disruptive ecommerce brands.

As an agency, they don’t try to cover absolutely every service. For instance, they don’t do SEO. However, in their core focus of acquisition and retention Daniel strives to offer a full and non-fragmented service.

One of his current clients was working with several agencies until recently. Although it worked for him, it meant he had different teams for CRM, influencer, social, and Google. Instead, having now all those teams under the same umbrella means they work cohesively to drive the most efficient, scalable, and profitable performance.

The Do's and Dont's of Influencer Marketing

Daniel’s agency uses influencer marketing to harness creative’s connections with their audiences. What brands normally want from influencers is a person-to-person connection to their audience. In his opinion, influencers do a great job because they’re contextually relevant to the platforms. People respond better to a familiar face than to stylized commercial content (although there is a place for commercial content). The influencer approach increases the chances of content being viewed as not just an ad.

Daniel’s agency prefers to provide a script however they're careful not to restrict the influencer. They’ve already figured out a way to engage their audience. That said, it doesn’t mean they’ll be great at getting your message across. This is why they provide guidelines that still allow creative freedom and improves the chances of success.

Influencer marketing is about community first. The worst mistake Daniel has seen when it comes to using influencer marketing is when people don’t think through the community element. Are they relevant to the brand? Are they engaged? Is it the type of community you want to tap into?

 

How the TikTok Algorithm Favors Influencer Marketing

TikTok influencers are growing and becoming mainstream celebrities at impressive speeds. What is it about TikTok that helps them grow so much? For starters, it still has organic reach so you can actually establish yourself and build an audience. Additionally, the production levels required to be successful are lower. Because of this, the platform is very attractive to creators and it’s easier to attract an audience.

For Daniel, the production level you want for your influencer campaign depends on what you’re trying to achieve. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on highly stylized video content on TikTok. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in video production. However, for brands trying to tap into TikTok and video, they can go for less stylized productions and get great results.

There’s a place for both. It’ll all depend on what your goal is and what’s native to the platform and doesn’t feel out of place.

The Important of Good Customer Experience to Create Loyalty

Generally, you never want to pay to acquire a customer more than once which is why there is a huge focus on retention.

This is even more important now in an economic climate of inflation and a recession. Consumers will be pickier about where they put their money and demand more from brands. Brands must pay attention and really go above and beyond to keep existing customers engaged.

What’s a good customer experience? There are certain elements that contribute to a good customer experience. There’s a good level of communication upon purchase, shipping speed, and how the brand is following up with the consumer. Things like VIP programs, loyalty points, subscriptions, etc. are ways to encourage repeat purchases.

Daniel is a big believer in making the product unpacking shareable. If your product arrives in a normal package then OK. People will open it and use it. However, if it arrives in a cool package with a thank you note and stickers, then customers are likely to take a picture and post it on social media. This customer experience creates free, word-of-mouth advertising.

How They Got to a Fair Validation that Satisfied Both Parties

Daniel already knew Social Chain owner Steven Barlett from meeting at events yet the eventual conversation about an acquisition came as somewhat of a surprise to him. At this point, the agency was just two years old.

Social Chain had built its business and name working on very creative campaigns around brand awareness. They tapped into social media as more of a communication tool and never had a performance element to what they did. They were now looking to marry brand marketing with performance marketing.

Daniel felt this was a great opportunity and converging those two worlds of brand and performance has always made sense from a consumer perspective and in terms of efficiencies.

When it came time to talk numbers, the estimated valuation depended on a number of factors. It was heavily tied to EBITDA. It was also tied to whether or not the business was growing, profitability, length of contracts, forecastable revenue, and composition of the team (the value will be less for agencies that are freelancer/contractor-only agency).

His agency had established employees, had forecastable revenue, and was profitable. All these things aided him in getting a good valuation. Furthermore, it was important for him to retain control because it wasn’t a cashout for him. They were barely starting and the acquisition was more about a strategic alliance.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Rapid_Agency_Growth_that_Led_to_a_Lucrative_Acquisition_Offer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Have you ever heard the saying there are riches in niches?

Are you an overworked owner of a stagnant agency? Maybe you have grown your digital agency to seven figures but can’t figure out how to get beyond that and are feeling stuck. The door to growth can be unlocked with one key and that key is choosing a niche. But how do you choose the best niche for your agency? Will narrowing down your focus limit your agency's potential?

Everyone is talking about niching down and picking your “perfect avatar” But do you want to know the biggest mistake that no one is telling you about when it comes to niching down?

In this video, I will share with you:

  • The biggest mistake digital agency owners are making when it comes to niching.
  • How to choose the best niche for your digital agency.

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Do You Have to Turn Away Clients Outside Your Agency's Niche?

When you hit the point of stagnation in your agency's growth, you’re usually working more and making less money. It doesn’t seem fair. However, agency owners are often reluctant to niche down because they fear limiting the agency, hurting the business, or losing leads. But...

How many leads do you have right now? How’s the agency doing? If the answers are not all positive ones, then you have more to lose if you don’t pick a niche!

And this is the biggest mistake people make when picking a niche. You don’t have to get rid of existing clients or turnaway inbound leads outside of the niche. Who said you couldn’t still work with those clients? When you pick a niche it means you’ll now only be marketing to that niche. And the more specific you are, the more clients you’ll attract.

Think about it this way, if you’re having heart issues, would you go to a general doctor or a cardiologist who specializes in heart issues? In fact, the more specialized the better because they know all the special nuances about the heart and your condition.

By focusing on a specific niche, you can build a deep understanding of:

  • your clients’ needs,
  • their audience and their audience's needs,
  • and the challenges they’re going through

Offering a specialized service helps you stand out in your industry as an agency with expertise others can’t match. You will stand apart from the generalists and "me too"  agencies that do a little bit of everything.

How Do You Choose the Best Niche for Your Agency?

When my friend Chris moved to niche down his agency services he started to only work with clients using Magento. With this horizontal niche, his agency became specialized in this software they became the leader in this technology. They were able to  charge premium prices and pick and choose which clients they wanted to work with.

As the expert in your niche, you're able to charge higher fees, your team will become more efficient, and your agency’s profitability will skyrocket. Once you start servicing your ideal customers, you’ll build a stronger relationship with them leading to repeat business. The positive word of mouth and referrals you get from those relationships will help you become the choice, rather than just a choice.

I’ve created a system to help you pick your niche. Download my Niche Grader here, where you'll also find other systems and resources. I’ve found that if you make a list of the niches you’re thinking about choosing – whether it’s lawyers, real estate, doctors, etc – and start ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10 according to the questions presented. You’ll find questions like “do you have experience in this niche?” Or “Is this large enough to support your business?” Once your list and scores are ready, you’ll see the biggest score will almost always be the right answer for a niche you can dominate.

Of course, a niche alone won’t get you all the way to the top. You’ll need to pair that with clarity, strong messaging and authority, which is all part of the attract video series.

Do You Want to Master the Art of Attracting Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to ATTRACTING the perfect agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/attract In a 4 videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to take in order to gain clarity, empower your team, and create the freedom you've always wanted in your agency.


Are you guilty of making one of the biggest agency sales mistakes? Do you rely too much on referrals? Do you have three channels working to find new prospects and fill your pipeline? Without this, you're always playing catch-up leaving no time for working on growth. A lack of systems hinders your agency's growth by keeping the owner tied to daily operations. As today's guest learned the hard way, you can't rely too much on any one specific channel of lead generation. He shares the lessons he learned on maintaining a balance and working hard to set up the different channels to secure new leads. He also recalls the pitfalls and mistakes made as well as the ways he learned to set up his agency sales team for success.

Chris Brewer is the cofounder of OMG Commerce, a digital agency that’s highly experienced in crafting Google search ads designed to target traffic that converts. Their team is really connected to the Google ecosystem and knows what’s new and noteworthy, what’s tested, and what’s not quite ready for primetime.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • 4 biggest sales mistakes growing your digital agency
  • 3 systems to setup for agency sales success.
  • The worst and best day in an agency owner’s life.

 

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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.

 

Pivoting to the Agency Service Offering with Market Demands 

Chris and his business partner Brett Curry are both serial entrepreneurs and accidental agency owners.

In 2009, after selling his business and feeling miserable about it, Chris attended the Dan Kennedy Super Conference in Dallas. This conference was a great place to network and Chris actually left with a pretty good idea for a new business he later presented to Brett.

They started selling Google Maps optimizations to local businesses. That first year they sold $30K worth of optimizations. This allowed them to pivot to other areas which provided opportunities for repeat business. They turned their Google Maps model into SEO and PPC and continued to grow their agency in other service areas. Their most recent focus is on eCommerce.

4 Sales Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Your Digital Agency 

With such a long history in the business, Chris is embarrassed to admit it was only eight years ago he realized he needed to get out of sales. Now he shares mistakes made while growing his agency:

  1. Not focusing on outbound. When the agency was growing, it seemed there was no need to focus on outbound. However, there came a time when the inbound pipeline dried up and they scrambled to hire for outbound sales. This is reactionary and, as Chris says, “hindsight’s always wonderful in agency land.” Jason recommends a 3-channel approach to lead generation: inbound, outbound, and a strategic partnership.
  2. Relying on referrals. Chris and his partner worked hard to establish themselves as a reliable and trustworthy partner. With that kind of reputation, other agencies felt comfortable sending them referrals. However, if most of your strategic partners are other agencies, they’ll hold onto business when things get slow for them.
  3. Conferences and events. Before the pandemic, conferences were the place to network since all the big brands were usually there. As we've seen, things change quickly so it's important not to rely heavily on events you haveno control over.
  4. Lead gen companies. They turned to the many emails they regularly got from lead gen companies coming after their agency. In the end, however, the ones they chose didn’t play out too well. It was a disappointing experience, but he still believes in outbound.

3 Systems to Set Up Your Agency Sales Team’s Success

By now, Chris has figured out what he does best and the value he brings to the agency. At some point, he felt he wanted to share the spotlight and get approval. More recently, he decided he wanted to step back and do what he does best, which is relationships and connecting with people in a non-sales way.

An owner always sells better than an outside hire. There are various reasons for this, but Chris thinks it starts with compensation. An owner will just step into a conversation and make sure they’re getting the right kind of clients. They’re in no rush to meet a sales quota or specific commission, so they can properly separate prospects from suspects. Additionally, they have a high degree of credibility and trust which helps put people at ease.

There are certain things an owner can teach their team to attract and covert clients:

  1. Agency-specific experience isn't necessary; nuances of the agency business and service offering can be learned.
  2. Your sales team can navigate sales calls when you prepare them with responses to the common sales objections.
  3. Pass along success stories accumulated from the years of being an agency owner in order to share with future prospects. It’s an integral piece to making prospects feel like they’re in a conversation rather than being sold.

Once you set up these systems to tackle the challenges of training an effective sales team, they won’t even need you anymore.

What is the Worst and Best Day in an Agency Owner’s Life?

The day they can finally exit day-to-day operations is the best and worst day for an agency owner. You walk around realizing your team doesn’t need you and can handle things on their own. It’s the best day because now your business is scalable; and the worst day, short-term, until you realize the agency still needs you in a different way.

Maybe you don’t want to exit and maybe you do, but it’s important to have the choice. Also, it’s something you’ll need to do even if you want to take a vacation. Has it been years since the last time you took even two weeks off? Do you think the business will come crashing down if you’re not there to put out the fires? Something’s probably wrong if that’s the case.

Be more productive in the things that’ll move you forward

Most entrepreneurs can relate to the feeling of having so many ideas you end up all over the place. Chris says that’s how he’s made money but he also admits this also makes him his own worst enemy.

If you’re trying to focus on certain projects, Chris recommends not making any big changes all at once. Start with one thing and give it some time to see if it works. Also, figure out your why before you start. Have a clear reason why this new thing you’re working on is important to you and then find an accountability partner. If you’re planning to try time-blocking, you need someone to keep you accountable for that and attach a personal or financial penalty. For instance, when Chris was writing a book, he told his wife he’d put $500 in her account if he didn’t get up at 7:00 AM to work on it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: 4_Biggest_Agency_Sales_Mistakes_and_3_Sales_Systems_to_Setup_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Why did I almost QUIT my multi-million dollar agency to get a job? It sounds crazy to think that I’d gotten to that point – for many is a measure of success – and was willing to let it go. I needed to learn to plan for the future and create a vision statement for my agency.

You see, I envisioned owning a business as the ultimate path to freedom, but it was ending up being the exact opposite. Like most agency owners, I started off wanting a business that provided me with predictability, freedom, and wealth. However, there came a point where I felt like a prisoner to the agency I had created.

I was doing EVERYTHING!

Every little decision in the agency was going through me. My team was not making a single decision without me and everything was falling on my shoulders. I was stressed out and miserable.

It’s easy for agency owners to become overwhelmed by the daily grind. This habit will only take you so far and the agency will eventually plateau. You need to take time to plan for the future and envision the agency you want to build. Your vision dictates your eventual success.

Here’s what I want to discuss with you today:

  • The first of two keys that led an agency from barely scraping to being nearly an 8-figure agency.
  • The 5 most important questions which allowed my agency to grow faster while I worked fewer hours.
  • The secret that led to eventually selling my first digital agency to a huge firm.

I’ve seen many agency owners skip these steps, but it’s the foundation that your agency is built on and the most important thing we make sure the members of our Agency Mastery do.

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Setting the Vision for Your Agency

I always say running an agency is like getting on a boat with your team. As the captain, you set the course. However, if your team has no idea where you’re going, they’ll keep coming to you to steer the boat in the right direction. After a while, it’ll get pretty frustrating. It happens to a lot of us and things will never truly change for your agency until you figure out the two keys to successfully leading an agency, here's the first one:

Communicate your vision. This means not just gathering your team and explaining your vision once. For them to steer the boat even in your absence, you’ll have to communicate that vision often.

The Five Most Important Questions Every Agency Owner Should Answer

When I say I almost made the decision to take a job a quit the agency I mean I even did interviews. One of those interviewers asked me the most important question I’ve ever been asked and one I encourage you to ask yourself:

1. What do you want to do every day and what do you want to avoid?

The answer to this question was the beginning of my vision. I realized I didn’t have to shut down the agency. I just needed to create a vision and plan that allowed me to work on the things I loved and delegate the ones I didn’t want to work on.

2. What type of agency do you want to have?

Do you want to have an agency you can one day sell? Then we need to figure out what to do to get it to that point. Do you want to create a lifestyle business where it’s built around your lifestyle and you can do what you want? Do you want an incubator agency where you use the business to build products and companies? Or do you want to be high-priced or high-value, low-price? Deciding the type of agency you want will make it easier for you and your team to make decisions along the way.

3. Where do you want revenue to be in the next year? And in 5 years?

After the first 3 to 5 years with the agency, I felt like we were hitting a glass ceiling. I was being reactive to the business coming to me and never thought about where I wanted to take the agency. Once I started thinking about the number I wanted to reach – which was over eight figures – I was able to start formulating a plan.

By planning ahead to the number I wanted to reach, I realized I either had to 5x the number of clients I had or 5x my pricing. The first one just wasn’t an option without depleting my team, and if you can’t implement the second then, then you have the wrong clients, which leads me to the next question.

4. What types of clients, industries, and engagements excite you?

I was taking on the wrong clients and saying yes to the wrong engagements. One time, the agency took on a client who wanted to build the next big thing for golf. It was an industry we had no experience in and it quickly became apparent the engagement would be a nightmare for all. We kept missing deadlines because we had no prior experience in this industry, the client demanded constant meetings, low budgets and unrealistic timelines; the worst part was that we took time and focus from other clients.

It was tough for the team’s morale and made me question everything. This is what took me to the point of considering shutting down the agency and taking a job.

Looking back, this could all have been avoided if I’d just been clear about the type of clients we as an agency should be going after.

5. What are the values you’re looking for in your team?

I figured we needed to get the right workers to get the job done but went about it the wrong way. I thought if we hired workers from the biggest agencies we would become like them. This turned out to be a big mistake. Coming from a big agency made no difference because the person we hired didn’t share our values, especially being resourceful.

I should’ve focused on hiring team members who believed in the same things the agency stood for and shared my vision. So I started by defining our values and what we believed in. This way, we could measure future and current team members on our values.

The Ultimate Guide to Unlocking Your Agency's Potential

The answers to these questions will become the ultimate guideline for unlocking your agency’s potential. If you’re feeling lost and unsure about why you do what you do, it will be the cause of a lack of clarity.

So why haven’t you worked on clearly defining your vision yet? I get that this is probably the last thing you want to do. It’s tedious and you came here to learn how to attract your ideal clients. That will only happen once you define who your perfect clients are, which you can’t do until you define who YOU are.


Is it difficult for you to delegate to your team? Are you still handling everything yourself? Does your team feel empowered to take the initiative or do more work?  If you’re still at the center of everything, it's time to unlearn your old ways and elevate your team. When you do, you'll experience limitless agency growth. Today's guest thought clients expected to work directly with her and therefore found it hard to step away from daily operations. However, she learned to let go of this limiting mindset and embrace collaborative work. It was a humbling experience to see how much empowering her team made everything better. Now she finally gets to focus on strategy, growth, and agency culture.

Julianne Fraser is the founder of Dialogue New York, a digital marketing consultancy specializing in building influencer marketing strategies for lifestyle brands. For five years her agency has worked with corporate giants like Adidas and startups like Brooklinen amplifying their stories through influential voices.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Growing agency employee growth paths.
  • Building a collaborative approach to improve client relationships.
  • Elevating your team to develop strategy on their own.
  • Keeping high standards of quality as the agency grows.

 

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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.

What Influenced the Vision for an Influencer Marketing Agency?

Julianne got into the industry just as brands started to understand the power of social media. She worked as a consultant at a startup accelerator where she gained valuable insight into the art of building client relationships. In her career, she laid the foundation of strategy work for many startups. Since then, influencer marketing has become a bigger part of marketing budgets. Just last year, investment in this area added up to over $16 million.

Working at several companies over the years, she also learned there are varying approaches to influencer marketing. The PR Approach, understanding relationships and creativity but no measurable results, Performance Marketing Approach, where they measure returns but no creative strategy, and the Automated Influencer Marketing Approach.

Having done all three approaches throughout her career, Julianne felt there was an opportunity to develop a strategy that incorporated all their benefits.

Her agency officially opened its doors in 2017 as a solo venture operating from Julianne's apartment. After 6 months her first hire was someone to handle execution. That time gave her a solid perspective on the ins and outs of all aspects of the operations; this was very useful as she grew her team.

How to Develop Agency Employee Growth Paths

Julianne felt humbled by the experience of hiring and mentoring a team. It’s been one of the greatest challenges but also one she greatly enjoys. Her view on how to hire, train, and manage has changed with experience. In the beginning, she mostly hired based on skill. Now, however, she’s learned the importance of culture fit and having a team that’s excited to learn.

In this sense, she admits to being old school in her approach to employee growth in the agency. Initially, new hires in coordinator junior roles were promoted to associate or manager after a couple of months. Now, however, she crafts her team’s growth by catering to their passions and talents.

She credits her business coach for teaching her the benefits of coaching her team for the role they want. Basically, getting people with very different abilities – whether for customer service, negotiations, or systems – on the same growth track will just ensure they’ll get bored and leave. It was a limiting belief based on old-school conceptions of growth and it took years to unlearn it.

Now she pinpoints each team member’s zone of genius and develops individual growth plans for them. It has worked wonders and helped her increase retention and creating a great culture at her agency.

Building a Collaborative Approach to Improve Client Relationships

For the longest time, Julianne was convinced she had to manage all client relationships. Like many agency owners, she believed clients were coming specifically to work with her. It was an old-school limiting belief that got in the way of her agency’s growth. Furthermore, she thought she should be the one developing all the strategy work for clients.

Fortunately, she realized the agency would grow by adopting a different approach. Building trust with clients is very important to the relationship, so there was a lot of work put into training. As to the strategy work, instead of doing it from start to finish, Julianne could break it into stages. Bringing in team members with expertise in creative concepts or copywriting transformed the process into a collaborative approach.

Today, she is completely out of client management and process. She solely focuses on strategy and growth. It has completely changed her role as an agency owner.

It was a humble awakening when Julianne realized she didn’t have to do everything herself and how much stronger the work is when the team collaborates.

Elevating Your Agency Team to Develop Strategy On Their Own

Julianne believes when teaching her team about strategy, why is more important than how. She explains the why can is related to the answers to these questions: What’s the client’s personality? Who are they reporting to? What do they care about?

In their training sessions, she pays special attention to whether her team notices relevant details. For example, if a client feels pressure from their CEO, she asks the follow-up question “How can we ease that for them?” These very subtle elements that don’t feel that important are crucial for Julianne.

When it comes to strategy, many agencies churn out the same copy/paste plans. However, Julianne is constantly challenging her team to break out from the norm. For her, every single detail that goes into the strategy must offer some sort of value.

Her team puts a lot of effort into building custom strategy for a specific client. Developing a competitive analysis is not that hard but adopting that unique mentality is what really made a difference in the quality of their work.

Keeping High Standards of Quality As Your Agency Grows

Julianne runs the type of agency where employees are judged more on results than the amount of time spent working. What she does expect of her team is maintaining the quality of work at 95% to 100%. Everything they put out has to be at the level of something she’d created herself or, ideally, better.

It’s important to keep high standards of quality as you grow your team and clients because it’s very common for agencies to allow quality to slide as workload increases. Of course, it’s not the same having two clients as having ten but that’s where teamwork and training come in. Be very thorough in your training and ensure your team is constantly striving to provide the best service.

For her, strategy is more than just the initial kickoff. They do put together a comprehensive strategy as a roadmap for a year-long engagement. However, she encourages her team to think about what’s coming down the pike every three months. They should ask themselves, is this too simple? Should we reinvigorate with fresh ideas? Do we need to pivot and change? This constant effort of always offering fresh ideas is what Julianne believes retains clients for long periods of time.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Unlock_Limitless_Agency_Growth_By_Empowering_Your_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Can your agency employees make decisions without you? Are you frustrated that you keep putting out fires or re-explaining yourself over and over? Documenting processes isn't the glamorous part of being an agency owner. However, it’s a necessary part of growing your and the first step to exiting daily operations. Today’s guest runs an advisory agency where they help customers achieve profitability by documenting processes. He’ll talk about the biggest mistake agency owners typically make when it comes to documenting processes and how you can tackle this daunting task.

Chris Gwinn is the founder of Great Lakes Advisory, an agency that helps digital agencies implement EOS by creating more consistency, productivity, and profitability by documenting their processes and developing KPIs. They also offer customized training to ensure all processes are up to standard.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • 3 ways to identify your agency's core processes.
  • How to start documenting agency SOPs.
  • The biggest mistake people make when documenting processes.

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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.

 

The Benefits of Having Clearly Defined Processes

In 2015, Chris’ dad was struggling with his business; constantly putting out fires and dealing with personnel issues. He asked Chris to take an objective look at their operations and financials. As he started to dissect operations and interview employees, he quickly found out they had NO did not have any documented processes or training, and didn't measure any KPIs. “It was essentially throwing them in a room and see if they’d figure it out on their own." There was no way to verify whether or not anyone was following processes.

His first instinct was to clearly define all the processes and organization. They needed clarity with step-by-step processes that lead to a specific result. It was also important to tie those results to specific KPIs so they could measure outcomes and build training around it. He felt that this plan would help all employees be better prepared to fulfill their tasks.

Dissecting the company’s financials and operations to build a process playbook helped him see how processes impact an organization. Employees feel the organization is investing in their professional development. The team becomes less reliant on their managers. At the same time, managers have better visibility into the operations and filled less of a technician role. Finally, having processes in place help the owner step away from daily operations and reduce hours working in the business.

3 Steps for Prioritizing Your Agency's Core Processes

If you’re not a detailed, process person, the thought of developing and implementing processes might give you some anxiety. However, you don’t necessarily have to put all the processes in place at once. According to Chris, the idea that you have to document absolutely every part of the operations is wrong. Instead of trying to document every single process, he advises focusing on the highest-impact items.

A good way to prioritize your core processes is to separate them according to these categories:

  1. Impact. What are the 20% of processes that represent 80% of your agency’s activities and results? For most agencies, this is the sales process and client onboarding. Be sure to standardize these core processes.
  2. Priority by headcount. How many people are performing certain processes? If it’s 50 people, then that would be a priority over a process only one person is performing.
  3. Frequency. If it’s an ad-hoc process performed quarterly or annually, it ranks lower on the priority list than processes performed weekly or daily.

How to Start Documenting Agency SOPs

If you ask a salesperson to document what they do, they might not know where to start. Once you have a list of priorities and break it down by the different departments, identify the subject matter expert. Who owns that particular process? It is usually the head of that department.

Basically, identify the process owners, the name of the process, how frequently it is performed, and how long it takes to perform. From there, you can share additional information, applications, or resources and outline the simple steps.

The idea is to create a resource that one person can follow from beginning to end without having to reach out to another person or another department. The goal of an SOP is to always achieve the same result or outcome by following the same steps.

Biggest Mistake People Make When Documenting Processes

Overall, the biggest mistake Chris sees when it comes to documenting processes is thinking it has to be perfect from the start. In those cases, people spend way too much time trying to perfect their SOPs rather than making them available.

Documenting your processes is an evolving process. The agency processes when you have 5 employees won’t necessarily be the same as when there is a team of 50. Set clear expectations of how the processes are likely to change and create areas of accountability for the people responsible for documenting their core processes.

Finally, set a cadence of reviewing those processes every year or every six months to ensure they’re all up to date.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Maximizing_Digital_Agency_Profits_By_Documenting_Core_Processes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you struggling to connect the dots between agency services and the results you drive for clients? Do you produce leads for clients without being sure if they're following up? What about your own marketing efforts? Do you have a process in place for outreach and follow-up? Throwing money at marketing initiatives without correctly measuring their performance can leave agencies with unanswered questions and uncertainty. An effective CRM is the answer; which is why today's guest has specialized in helping agencies enhance their sales process with the right tools. In this interview, he talks about some common mistakes agencies make with follow-up and processes and how they can improve.

Jason Kramer is the founder of Cultivize, a marketing technology company that helps B2B businesses and digital agencies streamline their sales and marketing process and retain more clients. He’s one of the world's few certified strategists and implementers for the SharpSpring platform.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What to look for in a good CRM platform.
  • Why agencies should insist clients use a CRM.
  • How to improve your agency sales follow-up process.

 

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Changing Your Niche to Adapt to the Market

Back in 2001, Jason Kramer was working at an agency in New York with big clients like Virgin Atlantic Airways. After 9/11, the agency went from 60+ people to 14 people very quickly. At the time, he was already doing some freelance work on the side so his choices seemed clear. He could either go work for another big agency or he could start his own business. That decision led to starting his first agency, focused on web development services.

After a while, it became harder to sustain his business with the emergence of new tools that made website design more accessible. He eventually sold that agency.

In his new agency, Jason and his team help B2B businesses and agencies streamline their sales and marketing process and are top Sharpspring integrators.

Technology alone doesn’t solve problems, so Jason's secret sauce is leveraging his experience in order to identify pain points in his clients' processes. Next, they pair clients up with the right technology to meet their goals. The challenge is having the right team to adopt the technology. It’s a lot of moving parts and Jason’s key to success is his team’s hands-on approach. They’re involved from the very beginning and have a deep understanding of how to customize technology to reach clients' goals.

What to Look for in a Good CRM Platform

When they first start working with Cutlivize, many clients don't have CRM technology in place.  So the first step is to analyze whether or not a SharpSpring is a good fit. Their criteria for a good CRM include intuitive adoption for new users, affordability, and fully inclusive of add-on capabilities.

Most of their clientele doesn't have a CRM and is starting from scratch with SharpSpring. About 30% of their clients transition from another CRM platform to SharpSpring with their help. However, that 30% usually needs some convincing to consider the idea of migrating to a new system.

When clients are using another platform, they’ve usually stuck to that technology simply because they’ve been using it for a long time. Some clients are using dated systems and worry they won’t be able to export their data. Another big concern is training the client team on a new CRM.

In those cases, Jason asks to see how the company uses this technology on a daily basis. The majority of clients discover they’re not actually using the technology as much as they thought. Whatever the concerns, the most important element to ensure a successful migration will be that the sales team is a part of that conversation.

 

Why Agencies Should Insist Clients Use a CRM

The Cultivate team has worked with over 30 agencies helping their clients get more out of a CRM for their clients. Jason says those agencies are leaving money on the table because any agency is only half the equation. They’re normally getting leads into the organization. However, it’s up to the client to actually talk to those clients, close the deal, and report the results of those leads. You can effectively track your results for clients if they aren't tracking things on their end as well.

According to Jason, agencies that don’t offer a CRM platform service struggle because the clients don’t follow through on those leads. This ultimately affects the results clients see and they will continue to shift agencies. In reality, the problem is the client doesn’t have a system in place to track everything.

For these cases, Jason’s team offer to help with strategic planning and integrating the CRM so they can have transparency to show what’s actually working.

Additionally, based on their model, it can work as an additional passive revenue stream for the agency. The agency offers value to the client and gets an additional revenue stream for something their team doesn’t even have to touch.

How to Create an Effective Agency Sales Follow-Up Process

Typically, when Jason’s team comes in to assess a company they find there’s some sort of follow-up process. However, it tends to be inconsistent. Most have no rhyme or reason for their outreach efforts. On the other hand, there are some who are too aggressive with their outreach. They make multiple attempts every week, making phone calls and sending emails, which quickly turns people off.

Generally speaking, follow-up should be done in a way that is ethical but also friendly and not overbearing. Additionally, these interactions should be tracked. If you sent 50 quotes, how many of those are likely to close? Which ones do you still need to follow up with? At the end of the day, you want to sell, not be stuck with mundane emails forever. That’s why a follow-up process is so important. Prepare templates to ensure you’re sending emails that provide value and a reason for reaching out. This empowers the sales team and makes their outreach more effective.

What Can You Do to Improve?

  1. Understand their goals. The best way to help your client make a decision is to understand them and their business. It can take a few months to get a client going and excited to work with you. If that client usually has a very busy summer season, for instance, explain that your process can take up to three months to get ramped up. Therefore, it's important to get started three months or more before that busy summer season.
  2. Providing value and education. Instead of sending back-to-back messages asking when they’re going to make a decision, you can explain a little bit about your process, how it’s done, and why you’ll need a certain amount of time to do it. Educating the client and providing information is helpful without being pushy.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Why_an_Effective_CRM_is_Important_for_Agencies_and_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you lack a clear vision for your agency? Communicating the vision is the best way to empower your agency team. An unclear vision leads to a lack of direction and makes it more difficult to scale your digital agency. Today's guest has grown his agency to nearly 8-figures and admits only recently things have become more clear. He expands on how a lack of direction was one of his first mistakes with the agency and how he has been getting through rough times thanks to the support of other entrepreneurs.

Ryan Kutscher is the founder and CEO of Circus Maximus, an advertising agency focused on brand narrative and content creation. They are entrepreneurs, branding, and advertising specialists led by a constant team of proven professionals. As an entrepreneur, Ryan’s passion is building brands, telling unique stories, and creating scalable systems that help brands grow long-term.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How to be the beneficiary of your own hard work.
  • An unclear vision leads to a lack of direction for the team.
  • 2 ways to stop being the problem solver and empower your team.
  • Finding the right support to get your agency through hard times.

 

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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.

 

How to Be the Beneficiary of Your Own Hard Work

Prior to starting his agency, Ryan had freelanced and worked at several good agencies as a creative, so he knew the industry. At some point though, he felt he had to at least try to have the American dream of owning his own business. This way he would be the benefactor of the hard work he’d been putting in. Additionally, at that point his career was about smaller goals like selling ad campaigns, being a Creative Director, and becoming a CEO. It seemed all those goals were leading to him wanting to own the business that generates the ideas.

Initially, Ryan had a business partner who specialized in strategy. They figured a strategist and a creative would make a great agency partnership. However, it wasn’t as successful as they’d thought because they didn’t create a pipeline based on their specialties. Instead, it felt like they were running two separate businesses under the same name. This wasn’t the vision he had for his agency and he wasn’t able to do the things he enjoyed and is good at. He realized he needed to give it a try on his own.

An Unclear Vision Leads to a Lack of Direction

The first couple of years after starting the agency Ryan had no real vision. When you go into a market you should have a clear message, target audience, and specific offer. Ryan didn’t have any of this and just jumped in knowing he is good at advertising.

He realized in order to build the agency he wanted, he needed processes, pipelines, and people that would bring his vision to life. The first step was clearly defining the vision, followed by communicating that vision to everyone in the agency. He found that communicating the vision led to attracting the right people for his team.

He’s made a lot of progress since taking that first step. However, as the owner, he still felt he was constantly making adjustments and imprisoned by the agency.

Defining lack of direction. Making so much progress but still feeling trapped in the business is a sign of a lack of direction. For Ryan, having a lack of direction felt like the agency was running him. He had no way to identify what was going right or wrong and had no clarity on all the moving parts. If you don’t know what’s going wrong, what to do to improve it, and how to measure it, you don’t have a clear vision. Good or bad, you should know why certain things at happening at your agency.

2 Ways to Stop Being the Problem Solver and Empower Your Team

A lot of agency owners make the mistake of solving their team's problems rather than empowering them to make decisions. To prevent this, start showing your team how to be more proactive in looking for solutions. For instance, Jason recommends using the 1-3-1 rule. That is, when an employee comes to you with a problem, they should prepare three possible solutions and the one option they like best.  Practicing this enough will help them learn they already know the right answer and they can stop coming to you for it.

The Socratic Method. Ryan uses this method which basically consists of asking questions. The idea is that, through these questions, you can guide someone to see they already know the answer. It's a way of walking them toward it on their own rather than providing it for them. For this method, you have to fight the instinct to just give your team the solution.

Once you empower your team, you’ll be free to start acting as the agency’s CEO and exit the day-to-day operations.

Where to Find Support to Help Overcome Hard Times

After ten years of being an agency owner, Ryan admits some things are just now becoming clear. It’s definitely not been a linear journey. In fact, this year has been difficult so far with things that were working very well last year but no longer work anymore.

So what is he doing to get through rough patches? Speaking with other CEOs has helped him feel reassured. Joining an entrepreneur group provides reassurance that you’re not the only one struggling. It can also provide you with different perspectives on ways to attack the problem.

Plus, these are conversations you wouldn’t be able to have with other executives at the agency. It also helps Ryan feel even more committed to his decision of becoming an entrepreneur. He could go back to working for somebody else but despite tough times, entrepreneurship is what he really wants.

2 Strategies to Get Your Agency Through a Rough Patch

Owning an agency and dealing with all the unpredictability can be all-consuming and overwhelming. However, Ryan advises that when you find yourself in a rough patch in your agency journey, take your time before making a big decision. It’s important to step back, take a breath, and assess instead of overreacting. This allows you to create a strategy and feel confident executing it. Outcomes are never guaranteed, but having a plan gives you a much better chance of success.  And being proactive is better than just waiting for things to turn around.

Another good way to get through tough times is to ask yourself if your agency is bought tomorrow, what would the buyer change? That’s what you should be focusing on. Agency owners are often reactive to the concerns of the moment and forget to be proactive to get ahead. Growth and challenges come in phases that are often unpredictable but resourceful people will always figure it out.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Empower_Your_Agency_Team__Be_the_Beneficiary_of_Your_Hard_Work.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Have you considered hiring remotely to help cut costs? Where would you look for remote employees that are still a good culture fit? Finding the right talent can be very challenging even if you’re looking locally. Trying to find great talent in a different country could be next to impossible without the right help. Today’s guests run an agency that offers white-label services and runs highly efficient recruitment services for US companies. They’ve perfected a process to find the best talent in Latin American countries and connect them to small and medium US companies looking to source top talent. They’ll reveal the basic parameters they consider as part of their recruitment process and how they match candidates according to their clients’ needs.

Carlos Corredor & Antonio Santana are the co-founders of Condor Agency, a digital marketing agency that helps US companies become more competitive by leveraging the best talent in Latin America. They serve as an agency partner that offers managing services and also recruits talent directly for their clients.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Finding a gap in the market and providing high-quality services.
  • Tapping into the Latin American market to source top agency talent.
  • Understanding clients' needs and best interests.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Finding a Gap in the Market and Providing High-Quality Options

Over ten years ago, Carlos and Antonio were on the client side of the business, unimpressed by the quality of the work from agencies. Some didn’t understand their business and took forever to deliver results. Fortune 1,000 companies and other big clients get most of the agency's attention. Seeing the low quality of service agencies provided for small and medium businesses, they realized there was an opportunity to serve that sector.

Their agency, Condor, began as a managed services agency that worked with B2B companies in consulting, finance, and IT. They leveraged Latin American talent to help small and medium US companies grow. Years later, as things changed with the pandemic and people seemed more open to the idea of hiring remote talent they also started recruiting directly for their clients. Their recruiting service is targeted at agencies, offering an opportunity for smaller agencies to find skilled talent at more affordable rates.

Connecting US Companies with Untapped Latin American Talent

Coming from Venezuela where salaries were much lower, Carlos and Antonio were struck by the cost of agency work. This was especially shocking considering how little attention agencies pay to small and medium clients. However, they had a lot to learn from the US market.

Living in Chicago, they could see agencies delivering top-notch, specialized work. Nonetheless, they paid much more attention to the bigger clients. As a result, smaller clients were not seeing the same level of service or results. They were built to serve Fortune 1,000 clients, charging around $200 an hour or more. They were also very well structured, with dedicated teams handling the different service areas.

Hence, if they were serious about entering the agency space, Carlos and Antonio needed to play in the same league. They needed to offer quality and speed in order to be competitive in the US market.

Additionally, they understood Latin America is a great source of untapped talent that most US agencies hadn’t considered. At first, they struggled with employee retention and learning to be leaders. With time, they developed a solid recruitment system.

Prioritizing Soft Kills and a Good Culture Fit for Agency Roles

As an agency constantly looking for talent, Condor has a scoring system to assess candidates’ skills. One of the most important factors is proficiency in the English language. These candidates are referred to American companies so they must be able to maintain conversations and provide clear explanations.

Soft skills are also highly valued, as well as being a good culture fit. They’d rather hire someone who is passionate about learning and improving than someone with the right skills who’s just going through the motions. Ideal candidates are excited to be challenged and willing to learn from their mistakes. They look for a winning mentality, not necessarily about never losing but taking the right lessons. For the technical skills, they have a number of tests based on the needed skills required by clients.

Condor's clients are agencies looking to fill positions such as account managers, paid media analysts, designers, email marketers, and SEO experts with 3+ years of experience. However, sometimes clients are willing to take candidates with less experience but with great personalities and a willingness to learn. It just depends on their urgency to fill the position and how much training is necessary.

The Five Steps to Source the Best Agency Talent in the Latin American Market 

Carlos and Antonio developed a layered process meant to assess many aspects and weed out uncommitted candidates.

  1. LinkedIn messages. To start, they have a dedicated team to contact people through LinkedIn. This team messages about 1,000 people yielding about 100 responses.
  2. Basic information. Before an interview, candidates fill out a form with basic questions like salary expectations.
  3. First interview. Candidates get scored on a scale from 0-5. Those who pass the first interview with a score of 3 or better go on to the next step of the process.
  4. The test. Selected candidates are tested in a simulation scenario in order to demonstrate their skills or solve a complex issue.
  5. The panel interview. The leadership team interviews the candidate in a panel format. They ask them situational questions and it's a much more candid-style interview where candidates tend to be very honest and transparent.

They weed out candidates who are not a good fit by following this 5-step process. This way, they’re able to refer at least five great candidates to their US clients. Their process has come a long way; 3 years ago it would take them a couple of months to find one qualified candidate. Now that they’ve perfected the process, it takes them about two weeks to get 5.

Understanding Clients' Needs and Best Interests

Once a client comes to them, how do they know whether to stick to offering recruiting services or offering agency services? A big factor for them is whether they have the bandwidth and expertise the client needs. If they do, especially when it comes to management, then it makes sense to offer their in-house services. If not, they offer to build a team ready to perform and dedicated to that client.

Ultimately, the goal is to help clients save time with a plug-and-play team that knows what they’re doing to achieve successful results.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Tapping_Into_Latin_American_Talent_to_Grow_Digital_Agency_Profits.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you letting fear stand in the way of success? Have you ever lost a big opportunity because you wanted it too badly? Are you guilty of skipping your own processes only to have it bite you in the ass down the road? Often time entrepreneurs get overly focused on a specific outcome and ignore the bigger picture. Today’s guest has started many businesses with more than half being lessons on what not to do. He shares several of those lessons and the most important, million-dollar lesson that helped him get over his fear, trust the process, and double the agency's MRR.

Derrick Kuhn is the Founder and Managing Director of Brillity Digital, a full-service digital marketing agency. He’s had a total of eleven businesses over the years and considers Brillity to be the culmination of everything he has learned. Now he leverages that experience into an agency that combines business consulting with a true digital marketing strategy.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The $1 million lesson of not niching down early enough.
  • Losing a big opportunity and respecting the process.
  • Listen more and talk less to increase agency sales tenfold.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

Growing Up with a Passion for Business

Derrick always wanted to be an entrepreneur, taking after his dad, who was a mega-success in the corporate world. Growing up seeing his dad’s business success infused a passion for becoming an entrepreneur.

His first opportunity came right before graduating from college. Some of his friends were programming geniuses but had no idea how to run a business. They had around $100,000 in uncollected Accounts Receivables and needed his help. He collected most of it in about a week just by taking action. It didn’t take massive business skill but he knew he had what it took to make it as an entrepreneur.

The Million Dollar Lesson of Not Niching Down Early Enough

Derrick warns us to be careful of getting overly focused on a specific outcome versus the larger picture. Some agency owners put on horse blinders and will step over a $1 Million opportunity while looking for the $100,000 one.

Opportunities in the digital space are infinite. There’s no use in saying only one tool or path will get you to success when that is constantly changing. People who focus on only one way to do things and don’t adapt will not find the success they want. However, on the opposite side are the agency owners chasing 1,000 things at once. This was one of Derrick’s mistakes.

In his last agency, he found great success in the healthcare space. They grew tremendously within that niche accumulating a lot of expertise and a good reputation. However, he didn’t recognize the golden opportunity to stay in a high-demand niche market. On the contrary, after separating from his agency partners and starting his current agency, he decided to cast a wide net to land clients in a variety of industries. Looking back, walking away from the equity he built in an established niche was a wasted opportunity.

Derrick says he abandoned his niche because it was the first time he was a solo agency owner without partners and felt fearless. Being responsible for his team he knew immediate cash flow was super important, but in his haste to grow the new agency, he overlooked the value he'd already built in the healthcare niche. In his mind, once he figured out the new business he’d go back to the idea of specializing. Nonetheless, he did end up losing valuable time establishing his new agency's expertise.

A Lesson on Respecting Your Agency's Sales Processes

After analyzing strategies for engaging new prospects, Derrick decided to put them through what he calls the Apex Strategy Process. Basically, this is a stage to set expectations, do research, map out the ROI, etc. Unfortunately, when the agency had an opportunity to get what would’ve been its biggest client in years, the team got too excited and skipped this step. They went straight for the close on a big contract and wound up losing it.

At that moment, Derrick decided every sales process, marketing, etc. needs to be funneled in through this strategy. Prospects who don’t want to go through the process are not ideal candidates to work with the agency. It soon paid off.

By committing to the strategy, agency sales increased tenfold. The lesson is -- respect your own processes!

Why Asking a Lot of Questions is a Key Part of Sales

Part of Derrick’s strategy to succeed with clients is asking a lot of questions. When it comes to sales, success increases when prospects spend more time talking and you spend more time listening. There’s value in asking questions and actually listening to clients. The more they talk, the greater chance they’re likely to buy.

A lot of agency owners will chat with the prospect and think they immediately know what they need. However, if you jump to tell them what they need to do right away they likely won’t believe it. Instead, ask detailed questions and try to understand their business first. Naturally, the conversation will lead to saying, “Based on what you told me, I believe we should do…” That way, they’ll see you’re coming from a place of authority in the business and follow your lead. In fact, taking the time to listen will lead to more insightful questions.

A correct diagnosis only comes from asking the right questions and really listening to the answers.

Harness the Fear and Trust the Process

Derrick has learned to take his time before making big decisions and letting his panicked mind settle down. Taking the time to consider big moves helps you feel more empowered to hold the course after the decision. After losing that big deal, the pivotal point in Derrick's mental shift was a conversation with Jason that regained his confidence. Derrick realized he had a great process in place but he hadn't fully committed to it. He let his fear of losing the prospect cloud his judgment of how he knew things should be done.

Does this mean he now leads his agency without fear? There will always be moments of self-doubt. However, fear, like stress, can be very powerful when harnessed correctly.

Taking the time to think about your response to a situation and trust your processes is how you can harness the fear.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_One_Digital_Agency_Doubled_MRR.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you considering adding video services to your digital agency? Do you use video as part of your agency marketing strategy? Do you know how to leverage the power of video for you and your clients? Video is an integral part of any successful marketing strategy; particularly when video case stories are included. Nothing engages an audience as effectively as video content. Furthermore, it’s a great way to showcase your brand's personality, build authority, and improve SEO. As a video marketer, today’s guest understands that people remember, share, and buy stories. He shares what many people get wrong when they roll out video content and the best way to get fast results with video marketing.

Ian Garlic is the founder of Story Crews, a video marketing agency that helps clients tell their stories in video. His team focuses on collecting, crafting, and delivering emotional video stories that help his clients get more leads, better clients, and more sales. He’s also the creator of the Garlic Marketing Show and Authentic Web Agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why is video the best foot-in-the-door offer for your agency?
  • How video helps with client retention.
  • The best approach to add video services to your agency.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

 

Leveraging the Power of Video Stories to Sell Results

Fifteen years ago, Ian was working for Thomson Reuters as an SEO consultant in Long Island. He had left his career in commercial real estate to pursue his passion for marketing but was not doing well at all. Looking at what the best consultants in the company did, he realized they all collected stories they would later use while selling. To change things up, Ian decided he would collect those stories in video. With video, it's easier to convey emotion and more easily show people what they need to see. This strategy was the move that transformed everything for Ian. He was no longer selling websites or SEO, he was selling results.

After adding video to his strategy, Ian quickly grew to be among the top-ranked in the company for the next few months. However, he started noticing all marketing looked the same, which made clients hungry for something different. Luckily, this was back in 2007-2008 after Google purchased YouTube, and Ian knew this would change everything. Shortly after, he left the company to start his own digital agency.

What Makes Video the Best Foot-in-the-Door Offer?

Ian believes video is one of the best foot-in-the-doors offers that exist. With video case stories, the client talks about themselves. Most like video format and it is approved quickly. Clients get results quickly from the video too. It just comes down to having the right systems.

When done the right way, video as a foot-in-the-door offer is an effective way to gain more clients because the content is 100% unique. Furthermore, doing shoots with a client means spending the day with them strategizing, which will make them feel like you’re an extension of their business. It’s an opportunity to improve your clients’ results by really diving deep into their business.

How Video Helps With Client Retention

At his agency, Ian started selling websites and SEO, with the video strategy as just part of the package. However, slowly his clients began to realize the power of video. They feel video built their authority in the industry and helped elevate the know, like, and trust factor by being genuine.

Videos can quickly become the best metric to measure success. Ian's agency sends clients very detailed reports – which most don't read. However, bringing eager customers to your clients thanks to video content is what keeps them coming back.

Starting with the Right Strategy to Get Fast Results with Video

Many people start uploading videos to YouTube one day because they have a great idea and want to try it out. Very few, however, have a strategy behind that video content, which means they ultimately don’t see results.

According to Ian, people don’t get results fast enough because they start too far from the right place. Even Gary Vaynerchuck made nothing from YouTube for a couple of years. However, he had the determination, money, and time to keep going. Most people give up after not seeing results for the first six months. That’s why Ian starts with video case stories, which get people results faster.

Nonetheless, faster results don’t mean clients get an influx of cold traffic right away. It can be six months before they start seeing results and one year until they have a successful YouTube channel.

For agencies, one of the most common issues is speaking to the real problems of your target audience. Agencies tend to go for videos aimed at the masses in order to get a lot of views. However, the masses aren’t the ones who hire digital agencies.

The Best Approach to Add Video Services to Your Agency

You don’t need movie-level production equipment to start adding video to your services. According to Ian, you’re better off starting with a partner when it comes to adding any service. This way, you can focus on what you do best and have the proper guidance to integrate the new service into your agency.

There are 3 ways to add video services:

  1. Build a production team. This is what Ian calls the hard option. You’ll need to have a strategy to sell it and hire at least five people to form three departments for production. You need a pre-production team to take care of timing, scheduling, location, etc; videographers for your production team, and a post-production team. It’s overwhelming and it's a process that took Ian years.
  2. Hire film contractors. The second way to approach this is to hire videographers to handle all aspects of the process. You can find a few good ones in your search. The problem, however, is figuring out how to sell or package the offer, knowing timelines, and how to price it properly.
  3. Find a partner. This is usually the best way to start out with a new service. Find the support of a partner with experience in the field who can help you integrate it into your agency. You can focus on what you do best and use the new service as a differentiator.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you trying to grow your agency fast? Trying to posture as a big agency to impress clients? There are a lot of big decisions to make when you're growing. However, you could be making mistakes that actually hold back agency growth. Today’s guest learned some lessons from growing too quickly the first time. He shares what he learned and how he overcame it to grow more consistently. He talks about leaning too hard into vanity metrics and hiring a team too soon as well as which roles to hire first.

Christopher Marrano is the founder of Blue Water Marketing, a digital agency that works with direct-to-consumer brands to generate sales using SEO, Google ads, and Facebook ads. Chris started his agency focusing on SEO and grew quickly solely with referrals. However, he did not know which systems to implement to scale and it almost failed as a result. He soon learned from his mistakes and now has a successful agency that continues to grow.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The downside of growing too quickly.
  • Why you shouldn’t get sidetracked by vanity metrics.
  • Why sales should always come first.
  • A strategy to fill your agency’s pipeline by trusting your results.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

The Downside of Growing Your Agency Too Quickly 

In 2010, Chris was fresh out of college and into a job market still feeling the impact of the '08 crash. Finding his first job after studying advertising took longer than expected, he ended up working at a pretty prominent agency. He worked on big accounts like Lending Tree, Match.com, and National Geographic. It was the perfect preparation for the complexities of agency work.

Since the digital revolution hadn’t taken the world by storm yet, he was still working on traditional media. He later worked on the client side while learning more about the new digital technologies. Eventually, he needed a break from the corporate ladder and started to freelance, which led to his starting Blue Water Marketing in 2016.

Chris’ agency broke the six-figure mark very quickly. After reaching that milestone, he went straight to renting an office, hiring a team, and focusing on a niche. However, within a year everything came crumbling down. He was forced to lay off his team, working alone in that office space with the one client he’d had from the start. This led him to question the decision to even start the agency.

Are You Getting Sidetracked by Vanity Metrics?

Vanity metrics have always been a thing. Even when Jason was growing his first agency, conversations with other agency owners would eventually lead to asking “How many employees do you have?”. If they didn’t have 50 or 100 employees, they would posture based on media spend or revenue. Looking back, it never really mattered -- it's more about the value you provide not the size of your team. That said, there are still people that see a big office and a big team as indicators of a successful agency. However, the move to virtual meetings has made it so that in-person client visits are few and far between.

The problem wasn’t his vision but rather giving too much value to vanity metrics. Nowadays, his vision hasn’t actually changed much since that first attempt. In fact, maintaining that vision is what helped him get through the difficult times. He let himself get carried away by the vanity of being perceived as a legitimate business. Having a team and an office made clients take his agency seriously and, he thought, would help attract more clients. It was sort of the Field of Dreams approach of “if you build it, they will come.”

Chris still values having his team work in the office, for at least part of the week. But now it’s not about the vanity metrics but rather because he likes the camaraderie and relationships the team can only build while working in the same space.

Defining Your Worth as Agency Owner

When everything was crumbling at his agency, Chris took a step back to figure out what went wrong. He brought in a person to work with him on an effective way to grow and scale the agency. They knew there was something there but first, they had to figure out the why behind the failure. This person is now his agency business partner and they’ve continued to focus on things they can improve each quarter. They also work hard to identify and speak to a unique audience and develop effective processes for their teams.

From that experience, Chris learned measuring his self-worth based on competitors' and clients' perceptions isn't good for the business. Currently, he focuses more on team unity and growing effectively while providing the best service.

Who to Hire First and Why Sales Are the Key to Agency Survival

One of the first mistakes Chris made after growing quickly was focusing on hiring for the wrong roles. Once he had an office space, he hired four people. The first was a graphic designer. Looking back, he realizes this was a big mistake because his agency did not offer those services. He also hired a website designer, a Google Ads expert, and an account manager.

If he could go back and do it all over again, now knows sales is the key to survival. At the time, it felt important to hire for fulfillment but that is pointless if you don't have any clients. He realizes he should have approached it differently, focusing on getting the clients first and then hiring the staff as the work grew. Sales always need to come first, followed by delivery.

A Strategy To Help Fill Your Agency's Pipeline

Another thing that really helped the agency grow is having enough confidence to ask clients for testimonials. Chris needed to learn to trust the relationships he has with clients and that they would feel comfortable recording testimonial videos.

They start with a list of ten questions and let the client focus on the ones most important for them. The end result was some very powerful videos about the results achieved by the agency. They have built custom landing pages based on what the topic of the client videos and post them on Instagram and Facebook.

This strategy was a game changer when it came to the agency's pipeline. Now they have a predictable pipeline of prospects that they can pick and choose. One month they may onboard five big accounts and the next they may take no new clients while they focus on the new ones.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Lessons_from_Growing_an_Agency_Too_Fast.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you charge for strategy or give it away for free? Are your prospects aware of the value of your thinking and research? Charging for strategy benefits both the agency and the client but so many give it away. However, when you charge for strategy, you'll grow faster and easier. Instead of giving away value for free, you can improve your processes and offer a highly detailed offer and a productized option. Today's guest found himself in this situation as his agency started to grow. He feels one of his biggest mistakes was not charging for strategy sooner. Now his team gets paid for thinking as well as doing. Here's how you too can charge for your brainpower right now.

Spencer Powell is the owner of Builder Funnel, a strategic marketing agency focused on helping design-build remodelers and custom home builders achieve sustainable business growth. With a combination of inbound marketing, software, and proven strategy, they shorten their clients' path to revenue and profit goals.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why giving away strategy is a mistake.
  • Agency and client benefits of charging for strategy.
  • Giving your sales team tools for success.

 

Subscribe

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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.

 

Why You Should Get Paid for Strategy

Spencer’s journey in the agency industry started twelve years ago. Not knowing a lot about the business, he made mistakes early on. One of his biggest mistakes was not charging for strategy. Building a highly specialized offer and charging for strategy completely transformed the agency. So how did he turn it around and start getting paid for the thinking and the doing?

Like any new agency, the first years are all about gaining clients’ trust and figuring things out. That is why giving away strategy didn’t seem like a big mistake at the time. A couple of years down the line, however, they became much more focused and experienced. Spencer realizes now they should’ve started charging for strategy.

Their process includes looking into clients’ Google Analytics and putting together a custom game plan which took significant “thinking time”. So they add that time into the proposal. According to Spencer, it is part of the plan they present and it makes sense to include it in the proposal. He wants his proposals to have some element of customization to them. Adding "thinking" and research is a logical part of creating a really good plan.

The Agency and Clients Both Benefit When You Charge for Strategy

The shift to charging for strategy is fairly recent for Spencer's agency. It all started with setting the goal of becoming the best agency for remodelers and custom builders. They picked a very narrow niche and started working towards that north star.

Spencer knows ensuring that #1 spot would take a lot of groundwork to create a sound strategy and great execution plan. As they listed all the things they should do to create the best possible plan, the steps kept increasing. It was a good opportunity to justify charging for strategy. When strategy is billable, they’re able to spend an appropriate amount of time on it.

In hindsight, their free strategies weren’t customized enough. All their clients got similar steps to follow. Now, they take a few weeks to review a clients’ analytics and come up with a custom, detailed 12-month plan.

Building a Sales Team and Giving Them the Tools to Success

Two or three years down the line Spencer realized the need for salespeople selling custom marketing plans. But what level of knowledge and experience would his agency sales team need? Do they need to know the remodeling industry? How to sell and market within it? He was convinced he would never find salespeople with this specific expertise, so he decided to productize.

Now, Spencer is three months into hiring his first salesperson. When hiring, he didn’t look for agency experience. He specifically searched for a person with experience in their niche The new addition to the team worked out perfectly and he can already see the benefits. However, you can take someone who’s really good at sales and teach them the industry and services if you have the right systems in place.

With a productized offer, salespeople learn how to manage sales objections and value points. Eventually, as CEO you only need to assist with sales to add color and track progress. The key is to provide them with a solid process and the right tools.

Stories as part of the toolkit. Why is the agency owner always so good at sales? Because they have the stories and can use them on sales calls to draw in prospects with details on how they helped past clients. When you start sharing those stories with your sales team they’ll start seeing results right away. Eventually, they’ll have their own stories.

Shorten Your Sales Cycle and Increase Your Closing Ratio

Back when they improved their processes and stopped offering strategy for free the agency’s sales cycle was around 3 to 4 months. Their closing ratio has definitely improved since then. According to Spencer, this is most likely thanks to the positioning of a blueprint. Prior to the change, they were positioned from a brand perspective thanks to their niche. However, they still offered a list of deliverables similar to everyone else. Now, they have a $20K offer that includes an extensive questionnaire and a 4-week period to get a detailed plan with 12 months of deliverables.

That blueprint is presented to the client who has the option to implement it themselves. They get access to the agency’s training videos and SOPs to execute the plan. Companies under $2 million and over $15 million end up executing the steps in the blueprint internally. But the middle sector is Spencer's target. They’ll almost always move forward with the agency to implement the blueprint.

Filling Your Pipeline by Creating a Community

Overall, Spencer's agency is closing the same percentage of retainer deals and unlocking another option for people who want to self-implement. The feedback has been great because many people actually want to learn to do their own marketing. As an aside, they’ve also launched a website theme for their target industry based on conversion principles, layouts for portfolios, about us, etc. It’s modeled as a design-build approach mirroring their industry.

These options have also led Spencer and his team to create a community of companies learning to market with their tools. This fills their pipeline with prospects that can afford to pay for the agency for marketing services in a couple of years.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_to_Get_Paid_for_Strategy_Youre_Giving_Away_for_Free.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Could your ego be standing in the way of your agency's success? Do you want to perform at peak level but struggle to break through an invisible ceiling? It might be time to reinvent and put energy into a mindset that helps you get there. There are a lot of people claiming to know the “secret to success” but most ignore the core issues of the mental game. Today’s guest has been the coach to pro athletes, public figures, and leaders by helping them improve performance by starting with improvements to their mental game.

Todd Herman is a global leader, speaker, author, and mentor who helps amazing talent, like Kobe Bryant, reach a new level in their careers. He coaches elite pro athletes, leaders, and public figures on the topics of performance, strategy, mindset, and execution. Todd is an insider in the thought process of not only elite performers but legends in their fields.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Overcoming ego death by developing an alternate persona.
  • Separating the different sides of your identity.
  • Being authentic and intentional as your identity superpower.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

The Path of the Mental Coaching Game

Todd got his start in 1997 coaching high school football players and got really good results by helping them with their mental game. Back then, mental game coaching wasn’t really an industry, a market, or even a niche. Nevertheless, he got results and parents started reaching out to pay for private coaching lessons.

Since his coaching career started in the world of sports and being a big believer in mentorship, he reached out to Harvey Dorfman, a giant in the mental game industry. With Harvey, he got to go behind the scenes and see what it’s like to work with professional athletes. This is how he started moving more into the world of peak performance and mental game coaching.

Since then, Todd has improved his methods and moved on to coaching Hollywood and Broadway talent, and top CEOs. Whatever his clients are trying to conquer, he usually goes back to the principles of the inner game, strategic game, and execution game. With this, he builds programs and systems to tackle their goals.

As Todd's coach, Harvey had a huge impact on his career. His best advice was that you don’t need to act a certain way in order to deliver value. He didn’t need to be the kindest or the most aggressive or appear a certain way to help his clients. He just needed to be honest and use everyday words, without the need to posture with big words.

Overcoming Ego Death by Developing a New Persona

Todd met Kobe Bryant when the athlete reached out to his coach Harvey while going through a difficult time due to a public scandal. It was 2003 and Harvey described it to Todd as Kobe's “ego death” or an identity challenge. Harvey referred Kobe to Todd at that time, as he specialized in that kind of crisis for athletes.

As Todd explains, when an athlete needs to step into a new world or new type of challenge, like a college athlete going to a professional league, they need to shed some of their old identity. The longer it takes them to do that, the greater the chances they’ll never succeed in that new area.

At that time, Kobe was going through a moment that forced him to shed his image as a young, naïve player. This was the source of his crisis and he needed to figure out a new identity to get back in the game. Todd worked with him to cultivate a new image of Kobe, both ON and OFF the court.

With Todd's help, Kobe developed an aspirational persona of a stone-cold killer who never gives up -- The Black Mamba. Naming the persona is an important part of the process that helps people tap into their alter ego. Kobe attributes his moment of clarity to the movie Kill Bill where he discovered the black mamba and instantly felt inspired and connected to it.

Developing Your Own Alter Ego Persona

People tend to think they can get to the same success level by modeling their life exactly like celebrities. In reality, the idea is to look at them as sources of inspiration. If you take Kobe and The Black Mamba as the source for your alter ego, you won’t see similar results. An alter ego has to inspire you with its attributes and qualities; then customize that to your current ambitions.

Any person looking to build their alter ego should be very honest about what they want. The problem is that many people don’t know how to articulate it. This is the basis of the alter ego you end up creating. In Kobe’s case, the black mamba was created to help him get through a very specific moment in his career. It was meant for a specific role -- not every aspect of his life.

If you think about the roles in your life, which one is giving you the most challenges and struggles? Which one do you feel the most trapped by? There should be some element of playfulness and creativity in building your persona.

If you’re an agency owner who's feeling trapped, what’s an area in your life where you could be more playful?

The Importance of Separating the Different Sides of Your Identity

The black mamba was only one part of Kobe’s identity created exclusively for the basketball court. This is how we should approach high-performance alter egos. They are meant to help us excel in a specific area where we’re struggling and remain separate from other facets of our lives.

Your alter ego helps you reach very specific goals in one area but it is not who you are.

If you’re an agency owner, maybe you need an alter ego for that side of your identity. Maybe you need an alter ego for being an author or podcast host. Seeing yourself as just an entrepreneur is what makes it so difficult for some people to exit the business and give up control. This mindset gets in the way of agency growth because owners don’t know who they are outside of the business.

As human beings, we love to attach labels to ourselves and label others, as well. Labels can be very empowering. However, when you’re about to make a shift make sure you have the right narrative of yourself. For instance, Todd recommends switching the entrepreneur label to “I am entrepreneurial”. This way, if you sell your agency you don’t lose your identity. An entrepreneurial nature is something you can take anywhere, into anything.

Being Authentic and Intentional as Your Identity Superpower

Nowadays we hear a lot about authenticity and how it's the best way to succeed. However, Todd believes there’s an argument to be made about the results you get when you adopt a persona that helps you get ready to perform at the level you want to be.

Todd believes intentionality with identity is a superpower. If you’re a public speaker, the person who’s on stage catching the audience’s attention won’t necessarily have the same energy as the one answering their questions after you leave the stage. And that’s okay.

In a study conducted at the University of Minnesota, a group of grade 1 and 2 kids were tasked with grabbing a set of keys and finding the correct one to open a padlock. In reality, the test was about resilience. The key was not there but how long would it take them to give up?

The second part of the test included the same exercise but this time, the kids got to dress up as either Batman or Dora the Explorer. The time they spent trying to open the door increased drastically. In their normal clothes, they gave up quickly. However, as a dressed as a character they had a mindset shift. That is the power of an alter ego.

As you step onto the stage, in front of a camera, or whatever your platform -- adopt the identity of a winner or a fighter who gets the job done.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_You_Can_Become_Your_Agencys_Black_Mamba.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you feel stuck on how to unlock your agency's growth potential? Are you struggling to communicate your agency's competitive advantage in order to stand out? Most entrepreneurs hit a point where the old strategies don’t work anymore. There’s when growth requires a different skill set to take your agency to the next level. Today’s guest has centered his career and agency around figuring out the secrets to rapid growth. He shares some of the common mistakes he sees clients making, and how you can prepare your team for quick growth.

Mark Patchett is the founder of Growth Shop, a digital agency specializing in growth marketing. His agency provides brands with a proven methodology that removes the guesswork with the firepower of a team that will help them grow. They’ve helped build brands like Victoria Beckham Beauty and hundreds more. Today he’ll break down his thought process around growth and how to understand your position in the market.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How positioning creates a competitive advantage.
  • 3 mistakes that prevent you from understanding growth.
  • Preparing your team for rapid growth.
  • Using reviews to understand your position in the market.

Subscribe

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

How Positioning Creates a Competitive Advantage

Positioning is a tricky beast. Mark's competitive advantage is that his agency team has actually built companies in the past. Most performance agencies do some Facebook ads and maybe ad creative. However, when you have experience building a  company you know this is just a fraction of it. Having in-depth knowledge of entrepreneurship means Mark's team can take the conversation beyond just Facebook.

Furthermore, his agency offers a platform where clients can see all relevant data in one unified view. Clients get an executive view with all the key data in order to pinpoint why their business is performing well or not.

3 Mistakes That Prevent You from Understanding Growth

As someone who’s looked under the hood of many big companies, Mark has seen some of the biggest mistakes they make when it comes to understanding growth:

  1. Not understanding attribution across different platforms. They may say Facebook isn’t working because they’re not making as much as they’d like to from it. However, once they learn about the blended metrics they understand it might be doing more than they think.

  2. Neglecting conversion rate optimization and positive reviews. Their clients learn if they increase the conversion rate, lifetime value, and average order value by 26% they’ll be making more money without spending more money.

  3. Assuming customers understand the brand. In these cases, they use a reverse elevator pitch. Basically, as soon as someone lands on your homepage, without even scrolling, they should be able to tell exactly what you do uniquely. Most companies don’t pass that test.

Using Reviews to Understand Your Agency's Position in the Market

As part of their onboarding research, Mark’s team uses what he calls one of the easiest hacks in marketing. Instead of expensive brainstorming sessions to answer the question “Who are we?” companies should be looking at their customer reviews.

For starters, export all your reviews and run a Wordlab analysis. You’re looking for positive and negative reviews so you can extract common themes. How are your customers talking about your brand? What’s resonating with them? They will be things that stand out or patterns you'll find.

Next, do the same thing with your competitor's reviews to find out what they're doing well and not. Learn what your clients really care about and use that information to build your next ads instead of doing expensive consulting activities.

Preparing Your Agency's Team for Rapid Growth

Not everyone is ready for fast growth and it can break a business. Rapid growth can be exciting for many, but client service and operations people usually just see it as a tsunami coming at them.

To prepare client services for the onslaught of new business, his team does a lot on the automation front. There are options like AI chatbots that get great results. However, the biggest hurdle is in delivery. Most client service problems are under control if your product is good and on time. If you really want to grow quickly, you’ll find money comes out as quickly as it’s coming in.

The key is to plan for growth and be proactive, rather than reactive.

Hiring People with the Ambition to Start Their Own Business

At his agency, Mark handles a team of people working from all over the world. Their core values are “smarter, faster, happier”; which stands for being able to build big things while getting better at it and enjoying the process.

This goes back to his days working at venture-backed companies where the mission was hitting the goal, or "crash and burn." As a result, people dealing with that type of pressure were completely burned out. It was that negative experience that helped Mark discover the kind of culture he’d create at his agency.

Mark still handles all first-round interviews where he gets a good sense of someone’s ability to fit in with the agency's culture. He learns this fairly quickly by finding out how they deal with problems in their lives. Next, he has the candidate work on a paid test project where they get access to anonymous data. They mostly look for entrepreneurial people that have the drive to start their own businesses. This may seem counterintuitive, but Marks sees it as helping build phenomenal talent that can later become a client or the agency could even invest in their startup.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Creating_Your_Agencys_Competitive_Advantage.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

What key metrics are you tracking for your agency? Do you know which KPIs are crucial for making proactive decisions to benefit your agency? There are 4 key metrics that enable you to see into your agency’s future and make smarter growth decisions. Today’s guest runs a CPA advisory firm that provides agencies with the tools they need to come up with original solutions for their unique challenges. He shares the four key metrics every agency should be tracking to predict their future moves.

Jody Grunden is the founder of Anders CPAs + Advisors, a virtual CFO group focused on the creative agency space. His team serves as a catalyst for those striving to achieve their highest potential and carry this mentality on to their clients and community.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Crucial metrics to track for your agency.
  • The target average utilization rate for agencies.
  • Assessing profitability and gross margin to make adjustments to your prices or staff.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

The 4 Crucial Financial Metrics You Should Be Tracking for Your Agency

Jody and his team help their clients focus on their goals and achieve their highest potential. They help improve their client's business by teaching them to focus on four main metrics:

  1. Cash metrics
  2. Production metrics
  3. Financial metrics
  4. Pipeline metrics

Keeping track of these metrics makes a huge impact on your agency allowing you to predict your cash position every month and make key decisions ahead of time rather than being reactionary.

1. Cash Metrics

This is annualized revenue; something all agency owners should have knowledge and control over. Keeping track of how much cash you have in the bank determines your next steps in the business.

The goal is to have at least 10% of your annualized revenue in the bank at all times. So if you have a $3 million agency, you should have $300,000 in the bank. Why ten percent? This amount covers 2 months' worth of expenses for a service-based business. Of course, this is the minimum. It's better to strive for 30% or six months' worth of expenses.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Some agencies are fine with 4 months' worth of expenses in the bank, some need less. How do you decide on the percentage your agency requires? Just look at your different risk factors. Are you focusing most of your resources on just one client? Do you have older, retiring partners? In those cases, there is high risk and you need a higher percentage. Do you have high recurring revenue? If so then 10% is fine. Anything over 6 months might be overkill and money you could be using to reinvest in the agency.

Why You’ll Need at Least Three Different Bank Accounts

Jody usually advises clients to have three different bank accounts; a tax account (for 40% of net income); an operating account (money to pay bills), and a cash reserve account (a money market account or a high-interest savings account). Just keep in mind that if that money is sitting in your operating account, you’ll be losing opportunities. The name of the game is making money on your money.

Jason and Jody agree that you should also get a line of credit when you don't need it. Treat it as a safety guard and preferably have it renewed every two years instead of annually. It’s not designed to be used on a daily basis. That’s what your cash reserve is for.

2. Production Metrics

This is the metric agencies use to build a solid forecast. This forecast should be dialed into your non-financial metrics and may change every month. There are two very important metrics to getting that forecast right:

  • Utilization Rate -  what your team is working on and the percentage of their total hours spent on billable work.
  • Average Build Rate - which is not what you’re charging clients but rather the work being done. If you charge by the hour and you’re not accurately tracking the time spent working that reduces your average build rate.

These two metrics will help build a dynamic forecast because it’s all based on people. You’ll be able to build a month-by-month forecast and break down exactly what your agency should do on a monthly basis to achieve your revenue goals.

Average Utilization Rate for Agencies

How many hours does an agency typically work? This varies from agency to agency but on average they expect to work 30-32 (billable) hours per week. This is a benchmark of the number of hours you expect your workers to put in each week.

Basically, the number of billable hours (work hours minus culture hours) divided into the number of available hours will give you your utilization rate. The average utilization rate for agencies is around 60%. However, your agency should strive to achieve your forecast projections.

3. Financial Metrics

Assessing profitability and gross margin. Compare your agency to the competition and to your forecast. Comparing to everyone else will give you an idea of whether you’re in the ballpark but more importantly, how well you're forecasting.

To assess your overall profitability, first look at your net revenue. This is basically revenue minus hard costs. Once you have that, subtract all costs associated with production (anyone who works in the business), including fully-burdened costs like 401K and health insurance. Your goal as an agency should be about 50% net revenue.

Additionally, your overhead costs like marketing expenses, business development, and facility costs should be no more than 35%. So, net revenue (50%) minus overhead (35%) = a gross margin bottom line (15%). Ideally, you’ll want to get gross margin up from 15% closer to 25%.

Try to focus not only on things you can cut back but also if it’s time to increase prices. Planning to increase staff by 5%? Then you should probably also raise your prices or your margin percentage will shrink.

4. Pipeline Metrics

The cash, production, and financial metrics will help you build a great model to predict exactly how much you’ll hit each month. However, it can all crumble pretty quickly without the pipeline metric. This metric helps keep an eye on what you have under contract for the next three months and when you’ll need to make adjustments according to the amount of work.

For instance, if you have 65% under contract for the next three months that’s fine and it’s the typical number for your agency. However, if you’re at 80% or 20% capacity then you’ll need to make some adjustments.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: 4_KPIs_to_Predict_Your_Agency_Financial_Future.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

How often do you look at your agency's churn rate? Do you know the lifetime value of a client? What are your client retention strategies? Do you dedicate time to client retention like you do to client acquisition? It all starts with monitoring the right metrics, understanding what clients really want, and being proactive in client services. Today’s guest is an agency sales and client service expert who manages end-to-end sales activities for a white-label agency. She shares the key metrics you should track and tips to help you master client retention.

Kushbu Doshi is the VP of Sales and Customer Service at E2M Solutions, a white-label agency with clients around the world. She is a customer service specialist with a passion for strategizing, making realistic action plans, and following up on their implementation to get real results for agencies. Kushbu has been on the show before to talk about how to improve your customer service.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to calculate client retention rate.
  • Questions that lead to better client retention.
  • Dedicating time to retain existing clients.
  • Important KPIs to improve agency-client relationships.

Subscribe

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How to Calculate Your Agency's Client Retention Rate

The team at E2M Solutions has created metrics meant to track their performance in terms of client retention. The most important step to start getting a sense of how your team is doing with client retention is establishing your client retention rate. You can figure this out by establishing how many clients you have at the start of the quarter (S) and at the end of the quarter (E).

Client Retention Ratio = (E ÷ S) x 100

So basically, if you have 100 at the start of the quarter and 80 at the end of the quarter, your retention rate will be 80%. Ideally, your client retention should be above 75%. Any number below should be something you address with your team to find out what’s not working out.

Effective Ways to Master Client Retention

Client retention starts with the sales conversations and setting the right expectations from the very beginning. There are many things you could start doing at your agency to increase retention level.

For instance, after calculating your retention rate, you can appoint a client service person to start tracking client success. E2M decided client service has to be a stand-alone role instead of something handled by the project manager or the team working directly with the client.

This person ensures the client is happy and the agency is matching client expectations. They have keynotes for every client containing their goals for the next 1-3 years. These details help the agency determine how to work with the client, what may not work, and how to upsell or cross-sell new opportunities to extend the relationship.

Additionally, they also do periodic calls in which they go over expectations and progress. Basically, it’s about keeping an eye on your clients and staying curious about their plans for the future. Are they open to expanding services? What kind of niche do they want to target next?

Ask Bold Questions and Improve Client Communication

Kushbhu's team is trained to ask bold questions in the sales call to find out why clients want to be associated with their white-label agency. What are the major pain points her team will solve? If you can get clients to talk about their whys, you’ll come out confident about exactly what they want. Many times these conversations help reveal what the client thinks they want is not actually what they need.

Additionally, in most cases, clients are pleasantly surprised to receive this type of personalized attention. This type of action helps win trust and mutual respect.

Do You Dedicate Time to Retaining Existing Clients?

Kushbu strongly believes the time spent getting more leads should match the time spent retaining existing clients. After all, if your churn rate is high then what’s the point of just focusing on getting more clients?

The E2M Solutions team dedicates a specific day of the week to review existing clients' challenges. Are those clients working well with the current team? Are they matching the delivery times of previous weeks? A review of these metrics determines whether they’re on the right track to retain clients. The rest of the week is dedicated to new client acquisition.

Many people don’t focus on retention until they lose a few clients. Once they think they figured it out, they move on to the next issue. With a client service team in place, E2M always has dedicated efforts to client retention.

Using AI to Figure Out What Clients May Like

Kushbu and her team are starting to experiment with AI to see how to best utilize this tool. For now, they have been using ChatGPT to create personas and ask them about specific scenarios.

For instance, they have tried the command: “if you were a client success manager what would you do in this scenario?” They also share a client’s characteristics and preferences to then ask what it thinks their client would like. In Kushbu's experience, AI comes up with really good recommendations.

Important KPIs for Improving Agency Client Relationships

Other important KPIs are the Lifetime Value (LTV) and Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) ratios. Keeping track of these has helped the E2M Solutions team understand where they’re at and the kind of positioning they need. Another important metric is the average amount of time clients stay with you so you can increase the duration of the relationship.

Kushbu suggests agency owners use these metrics instead of relying solely on churn and retention ratios. It's important to always be looking at these numbers by calculating them every quarter instead of just at the end of the year.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boost_Client_Retention_with_These_Strategies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

How are you branding your agency? Do you treat the agency like a client and market purposefully? Your agency’s brand is much more than just a name or logo. The way you brand your impacts the type of clients you attract. A rebrand can be daunting. However, sometimes it’s the best way to regain control and attract your ideal clients. Today’s guest purchased an agency and decided to strip it down and rebuild the agency she envisioned. She shares the reasons for the rebrand and some of the surprising results in her team and marketing efforts.

Avril Tomlin-Hood is the CEO and Founder of boa, a Vancouver-based digital marketing agency specializing in media buying. After committing to elevate companies that want to effect positive change, boa now works exclusively with plant-based and sustainable brands. She recalls why she decided to rebrand her agency after six years and her surprising new role at the agency she enjoys more than expected.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Rebranding to build the agency you really want.
  • How a mastermind helps combat isolation.
  • The surprising way a podcast can change your agency.
  • Why you shouldn't forget to invest in your agency.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

Rebranding to Build the Agency You Really Want

Ten years ago, Avril worked at a media buying agency. After four years there, the owner was ready to move on to other things, so Avril took over and bought the agency. The agency has gone through a few iterations doing white labeling services and branded agency work.

A year ago, after a failed employee acquisition, she realized it was time to invest in the agency’s brand to be in more control. In hindsight, the acquisition was never going to work because the structure didn't allow for independence. Once the deal fell through, she knew it was time to try something different and focused her energy on an agency rebrand.

Years after acquiring the agency, she had never really invested in the brand. It was sort of just there while the actual work had shifted to white labeling services. Hence, despite having owned the agency for many years it never felt like it was actually hers.

She renamed it boa and decided to focus less on white labeling and more on media buying. The shift also includes working exclusively in a niche of brands that want to have a positive impact on the planet.

Finding an Agency Community to Help Set Goals and Combat Isolation

Lots of agency owners feel like they're making decisions on an island. The game changer for Avril is following a friend’s advice to get a coach. This way, she got the help she needed to figure out her goals, strategy, and the support she needed to get there.

Furthermore, joining a mastermind like Agency Mastery made a big difference when it came to combating isolation. The community really helped her work through her feelings of being stuck. It also helped her see the options and opportunities for the future, by meeting people who were three or five years ahead in their agency journey.

Finding an Integrator and Focusing on Building a Leadership Team

We all know how hard it can be to find great people. One of Avril's most significant successes in this area was hiring a trusted "right-hand" person who has been moving into an operations position. This person fills the role of the Integrator and her addition to the team has been a game-changer for the agency operations.

Avril's own role as Visionary has helped her have a clear and defined vision for the agency. She is no longer in the weeds and can focus on the agency rather than being stuck in it. This is something she now communicates to her team. She focuses more on reaching the agency's goals and measuring KPIs that matter in the process.

Avril believes growth is all about building a leadership team. Right now, she requires all hires to have leadership potential so they can manage a team in the future.

The Surprising Way Starting a Podcast Can Change Your Business

Recently, Avril has added podcast host to her role. Starting a podcast wasn't in the original plan but she has found it is a great way to grow her agency's audience. It was hard to get her head around the concept and she didn’t know what she would talk about on the show.

In the end, she realized the podcast didn’t have to focus on what the agency does. It should focus on her target audience, which is why she interviews innovative and sustainable brands.

The podcast has actually made it easier for her to reach out to her ideal clients. Instead of sending a cold email, she invites them to the podcast as a thought leader on sustainable brands. It’s a smart strategy for business development. It has also helped her understand the importance of branding herself, which wasn't a priority at first. Now she sees branding herself can be very beneficial for the agency as well.

Growth Takes Investment and Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

For a long time, Avril was really good about keeping solid profit margins. However, this also meant she was limiting the agency’s growth. Staying in your comfort zone is not necessarily best for agency growth.

If you’re feeling too comfortable, you’re probably not pushing enough. Growth takes investment, which is something Avril is taking seriously by treating the agency like a client. Now when they look at investments like media planning, marketing planning, etc. the agency is included.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Is_it_the_Right_Time_to_Rebrand_Your_Agency_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have a personal brand? Did you create your brand with purpose and intention? Does it speak to who you are and your mission? Do you know how you can use it to create the opportunities you want to access in your career? Today’s guest is a branding expert who created an agency focused on one-on-one brand development, coaching, and consultation for women leaders. After 20 years of helping create and fine-tune brands, she shares the right questions to ask yourself in order to unlock your brand. She also explains why the process could even make you uncomfortable.

Laura Barnard is the founder of Breakthru Brands, a brand-building agency that empowers women leaders. Her team works to empower women and the LGBTQIA+ community to break through barriers and close gender gaps in leadership. Laura breaks down her agency’s process to help unlock their clients’ brands, and why it’s so important to know yourself and your purpose to create a successful brand.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Lessons on branding from big corporate brands.
  • 3-Steps to unlock and activate your brand.
  • Finding inspiration and purpose in your agency's vision.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists helping digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Lessons About Branding from Working On Big Brands

Laura’s impressive background includes an MBA from the University of Chicago and a degree in Psychology from Harvard. However, if you ask her what influenced her journey the most, she’ll say it was basketball, both playing in college and then coaching. It provided her with the discipline and leadership skills she uses in her career. Basketball was also how she got to know the first female leader that inspired her current path.

Looking back at her career, Laura spent over 15 years working in corporate America focusing on brand management. Business school is when she first understood brand management. She was eager to apply her passion for psychology in her desire to understand why people think, act, and behave in the ways they do. Brand management emerged as a way for her to bring psychology into sales, strategy, and business management.

Leading strategy for iconic brands like Skittles and Wrigley's, she worked to help big brands create an impact. It was a great opportunity for her to learn as much as she could about the business. The #1 lesson she took from that time was the importance of knowing your consumer really well. Understand what motivates them. Find out what they need and what benefits they are seeking. Laura also learned to manage large businesses with cross-functional teams, five-year plans, etc.

Later on, working with Haribo, she had the chance to step into a leadership position and help a big brand establish itself in the US. By the end of that experience, it was that her future in the industry was to break out of stifling corporate America and make her own path as an entrepreneur.

Finding Inspiration and Purpose In Your Agency's Vision

After fifteen years of climbing the corporate ladder and improving her skills, Laura relocated with her family. New jobs, new schools, and new surroundings required some time off. She took the pause she needed to reflect on her next chapter.

This was an opportunity to work in brand management but do it with more autonomy, more ownership, and ultimately with more purpose. She was inspired to use everything she had learned about brand management to start her own company advancing women leaders.

This thinking led her to one of her first inspirations, her former basketball coach, Kathy. She wanted to help Kathy increase her impact as a woman leader and get her messaging to a wider audience. This experience helped shape her agency's vision of growing a network around sports leaders and eventually in other industries as well.

 

3 Steps to Unlock and Activate Your Own Brand

Laura’s team has helped over 100 women leaders define and activate their brands. In time, they’ve refined and adjusted what they do to form a very effective 4-week process that is clear and effective. Overall, the process is divided into three basic phases:

  1. Discovery. During the Discovery phase the team works to help people get to know who they are. This process helps them get clear on who they to themselves and for others, as well as what they want to stand for. It may be uncomfortable for some clients. In fact, Laura believes if they’re not making the client uncomfortable, they’re not doing their jobs. It also includes interviews with key stakeholders who can speak to the clients' strengths and abilities and say things clients will probably not tell about themselves.

  2. Defining. The interview and discovery process helps Laura’s team determine the clients’ purpose, mission, and vision. This is what they call brand values which become somewhat of a north star.  Furthermore, many times a leader will come to them at a time of inflection and change. The agency helps define the paths they can take and opportunities to position themselves to have a greater impact.

  3. Unlocking. This is the deliverable phase where they craft the brand story. Once the values and paths are defined, how do you brand yourself and tell your story? A brand story is a 2,000-word narrative that clearly states why they do what they do. This way, they can start shouting it to be world by speaking about it, writing about it, going on podcasts and interviews, etc.

Gaining Intentional Growth By Knowing Who You Serve

For Laura, intentional growth starts with knowing who you are and who you serve. Be clear on your clients' needs and try to match that as uniquely as you can. For Laura and her team, the way to make the business their own was to focus on building leadership brands for women.

Of course, this also means they can't help everyone. This is why they also grow through strategic partnerships. They know sometimes they must refer clients to agencies that will be better equipped to help them. They are also always on the lookout for partnerships with larger organizations that can help them grow their networks. These can be big organizations that have large groups of women leaders and get curious about what they do and how the agency may fit into that.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_Important_is_Personal_Brand_to_Agency_Growth_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you driven to grow your digital agency fast? Are there drawbacks to growing your agency too quickly? One agency went from chaos to $5 Million by doubling every year. However, growing too fast without the systems and processes to support it makes agency owners feel like they’re always trying to catch up. Today’s guest is the founder of one of the fastest-growing businesses in Dallas in 2022. Quickly reaching many milestones in a short time made it difficult to build the structure for that growth to continue. She shares some of the aspects she focused on, the roles she sought to fill, and the systems put in place to ensure her agency’s success without growing too fast.

Antonella Pisani is the owner of Eyeful Media, a digital marketing agency focused on paid social, paid search, SEO, copywriting, and digital strategy. Antonella’s agency reached a 1000% growth rate in just one year. Although it was an incredible achievement, it also meant she constantly felt like she was trying to catch up to their growth and couldn't really focus on setting the agency’s structure.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The chaos of growing too quickly.
  • Which agency roles to fill to create the right infrastructure.
  • How to avoid scope creep to keep projects within budget.
  • Why you need to focus on leadership training.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

Overcoming the Chaos of Growing Too Quickly 

Antonella’s agency grew very quickly, reaching a 1000% growth rate in just a couple of years. She constantly felt behind because they experienced 10 years' worth of growth in just one year. Looking back, that level of growth and chaos kept her so busy she failed to implement this structure much sooner. There are some things she wishes she had structured from day 1.

It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to thrive and even get energy from the chaos around them. However, not everyone thrives from chaos. Some people need more structure to be successful in their roles. So it's important to create a structure to allow employees to onboard quickly and get up to speed.

Three years ago she decided it was time for a “year of infrastructure”. As a first step, she and her team thought about the software pieces they needed in order to grow. They had some things figured out, like the software for billing clients and time tracking.

As she looked at the available solutions, she realized the choice was about what type of business she wanted to build in terms of culture and values. It’s not necessarily something you want to rush. Infrastructure can be created over time as you figure out what you want and what type of business you're creating.

Who to Hire to Create the Right Agency Infrastructure

After putting the software solutions in place, Antonella knew she needed to find solutions to help the agency scale. Her focus was adding people to the agency in a way it would not end up diluting the quality of work they did for clients. Of course, you have to get to a certain level before you can afford hiring managers. So once they started to grow, it was time to make some hard choices. Instead of hiring someone for SEO, they would focus their efforts on finding a group director or project manager.

For Antonella, setting up the proper infrastructure started with implementing the software, hiring the managers they needed, and going back to check if they needed to make changes to the initial software.

That year she focused even more on hiring people with experience to then build teams underneath them. She knew it was important to create the right hierarchy rather than having too many direct reports herself.

Avoiding Scope Creep In Order to Keep Projects on Budget

Coming from a role as VP of Global eCommerce for a big brand, Antonella had an idea of how much she needed to charge clients. She started charging $250 an hour on their first few projects. The biggest challenge was learning how to charge fixed-rate strategy projects, where she became her worst enemy.

Pro tip: When clients keep coming with requests and it’s not clear to them whether it’s out of scope or not, it’s best you take control of the situation. Say “it’s no problem but this is out of scope." Clarify this one time you’ll do it for free and send a $0 change order that they have to sign. This way, they’re aware they’re getting something they should be paying for. Next time they come to you for something like that, they’ll know it’s out of scope and expect to pay.

Boosting Efficiency by Focusing on Leadership Training

Right now, Antonella and her team are done with setting up the systems to increase efficiency. The current focus is on automation and giving the team time to analyze and interpret data. Her agency does a lot of training, which is a point of pride for her. They’re trying to lean more into that with a focus on leadership development. Training the next generation of leaders is something that helps the agency be stronger and more efficient.

Sometimes you hear the people who got your agency to a certain point won’t get you to the next level. However, if you invest in leadership and training, this isn't necessarily true.

Antonella believes in making this kind of training available at every level in order to help create a common language that helps boost efficiency. It hasn’t been easy focusing on these things while growing so fast, but they know it will be critical to continue to scale while maintaining their client and employee experience.

Growing Too Fast and Saying No to the Wrong Clients

Is it necessary to pull the brakes when your agency is growing so fast? For Antonella, her agency grew entirely from word of mouth. For a long time, when they got to the conversation of “should we start to market ourselves?” they decided to put it off. Essentially, they wanted to wait until the agency’s structure was in place and all operations were running smoothly before starting to think about other marketing channels.

As the agency grew, they also learned to get comfortable saying no to the wrong prospects. It was their way of making sure they didn’t implode. Saying no is a very powerful way to set your agency up for success.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: From_Chaos_to_5_Million_By_Building_the_Right_Agency_Systems.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

2023 recession talk: pull back or grow? For the first time ever, Jason Swenk, agency owner, advisor, podcast host, and speaker, is interviewed on his own show! Darby turns the tables on him in this episode, where they discuss mistakes, regrets, and the path to becoming an advisor. Jason also talks about why he feels recessions offer opportunities. He shares his views on an economic downturn and how you can grow when others give up. Don't let fear take over, be proactive and tune in!

Jason Swenk is an Agency Advisor, speaker, and podcast host who literally wrote the book on growing and scaling a successful digital agency. Jason started, grew, and sold an 8-figure agency and today is a shareholder in another multi-million dollar agency. For the first time ever he’ll be interviewed on his own podcast to talk about some of the mistakes he regrets and the path that led him to become an advisor.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Ways being reactionary gets in the way of growth.
  • How a recession is an opportunity for growth.
  • How to get ahead of difficult conversations.
  • The 3 best reasons to sell your agency.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Darby Copenhaver is the Agency Scale Specialist at the Agency Mastery 360, which provides agency owners with the coaching, community, and tools needed to scale and find their freedom. He helps agency owners scale through a proven framework for growing their agencies faster and connecting with other amazing agency owners. 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 Being Reactionary Gets in the Way of Growth

Jason's journey to success in the agency industry was not without its challenges. In the early days, he found himself being reactionary, a major roadblock to growth. However, he learned from this mistake and discovered that having a clear focus and target clientele was key to achieving growth.

As with many business owners, Jason had to grapple with the decision of whether to sell his agency or continue to run it. He started his agency during the dot-com era, hoping to grow it for a year and then sell it. But after the market crashed and he came to enjoy the business, his feelings changed. He realized that the desire to sell or keep going depends on where you're at in his life and the agency's growth trajectory.

Why Recessions are an Opportunity for Growth

Interestingly, Jason also saw recessions as an opportunity for growth. In the early 2000's dot bomb and again in 2008, as the market was crashing, his agency was reaching new heights. He and his partner invested more and found strategic partners, which helped them weather the storm and come out even stronger.

Overall, Jason's story serves as a reminder that success in the agency industry requires a combination of strategic planning, adaptability, and perseverance. By staying focused, taking advantage of opportunities, and being willing to evolve, agency owners can achieve long-term success.

Are you ready to tackle the tough conversations and come out on top? Jason, an agency owner, knows how difficult it can be to approach clients with their concerns and hesitations. But with a little transparency and a lot of courage, Jason was able to ease their worries and showcase the many opportunities that lay ahead.

Being Proactive with Difficult Client Conversations

But what if your clients just aren't ready to take the leap? Jason suggests making a top 100 list of ideal clients who share your values and can afford your services. Back in 2008, when his agency was struggling to stay afloat during a market slowdown. This strategy proved to be a game-changer. Jason was able to catapult his agency to new heights by targeting clients who were willing to invest and grow despite the challenges.

Of course, there were some bumps in the road along the way. Some clients froze or reduced their budgets, which meant Jason had to make some tough choices. But by freeing up resources and replacing those clients with new ones, he was able to weather the storm and come out stronger than ever before.

3 Big Mistakes as an Agency Owner

Looking back on his 12 years as an agency owner, Jason knows there are a few things he would have done differently.

  1. Firing Sales Too Fast. He regrets firing a salesperson too quickly without offering more support and guidance.

  2. Talent from Big Agencies Doesn't Equal Growth. He also learned the hard way that hiring people from bigger agencies doesn't always translate into success at a smaller agency. They are often not very resourceful in a more intimate agency setting. He learned it's more important to hire based on core values instead of just bringing people from the top.

  3. Not Delegating the Manager Role. Perhaps most importantly, he recognized management skills are crucial to team success. Now he knows he needs to hire people who are good managers and can get by with some guidance and coaching.

3 Reasons It Might Be Time to Sell Your Agency

If you're thinking about selling your agency, Jason has some advice for you too. He urges you to take a step back and ask yourself why you're considering it in the first place. Is it because you're burned out and no longer enjoy the work? Or is it because you need the money for other reasons? Maybe there's a bigger opportunity waiting for you out there. Whatever the case may be, make sure you're clear on your reasons for selling before you take the plunge.

Jason warns against being too reactionary to the market forces that come your way. Instead of simply reacting to the challenges and opportunities that arise, agency owners need a clear vision. It's important to be clear on where you're headed and goals you want to achieve. By designing your agency around your goals and values, you'll be better equipped to weather the ups and downs of the market and come out on top. So why not take a chance, make that top 100 list, and see where it takes you?

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_Recessions_Offer_Opportunities_for_Digital_Agencies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you an in-person agency with office space? Are you a fully remote agency? Both models have benefits and drawbacks for the agency and your team. However, one agency is thriving on a hybrid office model that provides flexibility and freedom while maintaining culture and inspiration. Overall, most talent wants the flexibility of working from home but also appreciates the importance of in-person work. Today’s guest ran a traditional in-person agency for 20 years. After going remote during the pandemic, shares how he made the decision to remain flexible with office attendance while maintaining collaboration and connections.

Dean Trevelino founder and co-CEO of Trevelino/Keller, a boutique PR, and marketing agency based in Atlanta. As one of their core values, they believe focusing on staff should be part of the agency’s DNA. Part of prioritizing their employees’ needs has been deciding on a structure that works for everyone. Full-time in the office, fully virtual, or the option to do both.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Will your team lose passion if they're fully remote?
  • Benefits of a physical office.
  • How a hybrid office model increases employee retention.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists helping digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of Dot's knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

How an Established Culture Made an Easy Shift to Virtual

Dean and his team had built their agency's culture over 20 years of in-person operations before the pandemic hit and forced them to go fully virtual. The debate about the best environment for running a successful agency was ongoing. Some advocated for personal contact and focus on work, while others emphasized the benefits of remote work and flexible schedules. Dean believed in the importance of connectivity and community that an office environment provided, as it had helped retain staff better than any other agency in the industry, losing only two people in two decades.

Moving to a virtual setting was not an easy decision, but they had to make the change all at once due to the pandemic. Initially, they adopted a hybrid model where staff was expected to be at the office at least 60% of the time each month. However, the conversation later shifted towards more remote work, and rather than changing policies incrementally, Dean decided to go fully virtual.

Will Your Team Lose Passion If They're Fully Remote?

Dean's biggest fear was that losing in-person contact would result in everyone losing their passion for the business. To prevent this, they leaned more into education and encouraged staff to stay ahead of industry trends. They also introduced programs designed to leverage the benefits of remote work and promote team building, such as sending a random employee on a trip anywhere in the world every quarter.

Ultimately, Dean's team successfully adapted to the new virtual setting, and the agency continued to thrive. The focus on education and team building helped maintain everyone's passion for the business, and the shift to fully virtual work proved to be the right decision.

Benefits of Having Physical Agency Office

Having a physical office to go back to can offer several benefits for employees. These benefits are challenging in a fully virtual model. While remote work provides flexibility, it can be counterproductive when urgent meetings are necessary. It is even more difficult across different time zones. Not everyone has an ideal workspace at home, which can lead to difficulties in taking client calls or having meetings. This can result in people feeling like they are always working, which can cause burnout.

Dean established a compromise that employees may be required to be present at the office for a week if there are important meetings or clients visiting. This ensures that the agency continues to function as a high-performance team. This is decided by the senior staff, and every employee is expected to uphold this compromise.

However, Dean also found it essential to be clear the team should not behave like they're remote when they are in the office. It defeats the purpose of having a physical office if employees forget how to act when they are there. Dean addressed this by reminding employees of previously established rituals. Things like joining the staff meeting in the conference room when they are at the office.

Overall, while remote work offers flexibility, it is important to strike a balance. That balance maintains a high-performance team and ensures employees have access to an ideal workspace.

How a Hybrid Office Model Helps Increase Retention

One of the challenges of fully remote work is retaining new hires, particularly younger employees who value in-person connection and community. To address this, a hybrid model that includes a physical office can be beneficial. Larger companies can establish structured days for each department to be in the office, which can provide a sense of community and help retain vulnerable employees.

Dean also emphasizes the importance of maintaining a strong company culture, even in a virtual setting. Agency owners should make efforts to inspire employees to come to the office. You can offer unique benefits and programs accessible only in person. Additionally, leaning heavily on agency values and reminding employees of the company's vision can help ensure everyone is working towards the same goals and prevent deviation from them. Stagnation occurs when the agency is just reactive to market changes. So it is crucial to communicate a clear vision for growth and scaling.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_a_Hybrid_Office_Model_Can_Benefit_Your_Agency_and_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you at the crossroads of deciding how big to grow your agency? Bigger isn't always better; in some cases, it makes more sense to create a lifestyle business. It's important to have a clear vision for your agency. For some, that means growing to 7- or 8-figures. However, for others, it means keeping a small, nimble team with lots of control over processes. This is why some agency owners decide to either wait until they feel ready to take on that challenge or continue to thrive as a boutique agency. Today’s guest made the decision to run a small operation where she still feels in control of the agency operations.

Rebekah Edwards is the owner of Clara, a digital marketing agency in the SEO and content space. Her agency niche is in the health and wellness space. Clara creates the clearest, highest-value, and most trustworthy SEO on the market. Since 2019, their team has been propelling clients to become expert voices in their fields. About a year after starting the agency, she realized she could start growing the operation, hire more staff, and take on more clients. However, it would’ve been a huge undertaking that didn’t fit with her busy personal life. She is sharing why she decided to remain in control of her agency operations by keeping it small. In the years since the agency has actually dropped clients and is doing better than ever.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Deciding to stay small and retain control of your agency.
  • Dropping clients and saying no to the wrong clients.
  • Common mistakes when trying to grow.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Darby Copenhaver is the Agency Scale Specialist at the Agency Mastery 360, which provides agency owners with the coaching, community, and tools needed to scale and find their freedom. He helps agency owners scale through a proven framework for growing their agencies faster and connecting with other amazing agency owners. 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.

 

Rebekah had never worked in the agency space before. However, she had worked as a freelancer in different areas for many years and was the managing editor for a website that saw tremendous growth. She decided to build an agency as she needed help and didn't have the time to fully invest in each of her clients. Together with her husband, they developed a system for hiring writers and editing things on the backend. They did this by doing white-glove work for people who would benefit from content-led SEO without Rebekah having to do all the work.

Using SEO as a Lead Generation Platform

Rebekah's agency uses SEO as a lead generation platform by creating long-form educational content in the health and wellness niche. This strategy enables them to create the type of results that appear when people Google questions like "why do I get headaches in the morning?" Companies can then convert those people to leads, sales, etc.

Staying Small to Retain Control Over Agency Operations

Despite many agency owners aiming to grow into one of the best agencies in the US, Rebekah doesn't necessarily want her team to be passionate about their jobs. Instead, she values them being good at their jobs, so they can finish and get home to their families. After creating the agency, Rebekah had to decide whether to continue scaling or carry on as a boutique agency. Being a boutique agency suited her role as an adoptive mother to two teenagers. She and her husband decided a lifestyle business was better suited for their needs. Rebekah can still act as a project manager and ensure that every client gets the promised results. She is open to scaling in the future, but the point of having an agency was to be with her family and have a more flexible schedule

.

Dropping Clients and Saying No to the Wrong Ones

To prevent the agency from taking over her life and decisions, Rebekah plans to drop some clients this year. This way, the agency will be operating with fewer clients than they've had in a long time. Building a social media presence has helped her find her audience, and this way, she can scale without having to say yes to every single client.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Trying to Grow

In the past, Rebekah made some common mistakes by trying to expand her service offering and train in-house staff to take on some of her tasks. However, this didn't resonate with what she ultimately wanted for the agency, and the team performed poorly in those cases. Rebekah feels more freedom to say no to the wrong clients now that she's back in her role as a project manager. There's a clear direction for the agency, and she's in control.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Choosing_to_Stay_Boutique_to_Retain_Control_Over_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Why do your clients hire your agency? Do you know the struggle or challenge that led them to you? Many agency owners think they know these answers. However, a deeper search could lead you to change your entire strategy. It starts with simply asking clients what they expect and need. Armed with this information you can rethink who and how you're marketing to your prospects. Today’s guest talks about two mistakes he made at his agency and how he learned the importance of defining the client's north star in order to know what they really want.

Valentin Radu is the CEO of OnmiConvert, an agency that provides e-commerce services to improve conversion rates and grow faster with their AB testing platform. The agency also has software, which helps them serve as a bridge between agencies and clients. Valentin also runs the CVO Academy, which seeks to democratize the way people grow in retail and e-commerce.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • 2 Mistakes to avoid early on.
  • Learning to target the right prospects.
  • A shift in mindset that helps you realize results.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists that will help digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers, agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

2 Early Mistakes to Avoid in Your Agency

Starting a business is a challenging venture. It requires patience, dedication, and most importantly, a willingness to learn from mistakes. Valentin's company learned this the hard way. Initially, his company consisted of just a software division. However, they soon discovered that their ideal customers needed not only software but also services. This led to building a consulting arm within the company to work like an agency for large companies. It was a hard moment, but it ultimately improved their services.

Valentin's agency encountered two mistakes that nearly ended their agency. However, learning from them ultimately improved their services.

The first mistake was venturing into consulting services without fully understanding the results-oriented nature of the agency world.

The second mistake was trying to serve all types of customers and markets, which burned a lot of money on a go-to-market strategy that ultimately led to increased churn rates.

Learning to Target the Right Prospects

After realizing that going after every prospect they could find wasn't working, Valentin's team began to put all their existing customers under the microscope. Customer research became the basis of their methodology to improve customer lifetime value. They found out who their best customers were and why they were buying from them. This allowed them to position themselves as the solution for similar prospects.

Defining the Client’s North Star Metric

Valentin's agency developed what they call the "North star metric" for each of their customers. They reinvestigated existing clients, even after two years, to have a direct account of what they expected to get from the agency. Some of the responses were surprising. They found out that many customers appreciated their creative solutions and saw them as an extension of their teams. They weren't really after the numbers but rather stayed for the innovative ideas.

Interviewing existing customers can be a great way to unveil hidden struggles and lead to real progress. It can change not only reporting but also marketing once you understand what your ideal client wants.

Why You Need a Mindset Change to See Real Results

Clients want a partner that will help them figure out their business model. It's essential that agency owners are willing to adapt to these changes. Valentin's agency handles data that show how much agencies are struggling to work as a bridge between clients that are using their technology and agencies looking for customers.

Valentin believes the entrepreneurial journey is, in part, a spiritual journey. It's not just about the likes and the zeros, but also about who you are becoming in the process. Many entrepreneurs get comfortable and don't make any more progress. This means they end up with a mediocre company or struggling to find reliable people that would take their business to another level out of fear of change.

Preventing Costly Mistakes

Valentin's company learned the hard way that starting a business requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to learn from mistakes. They had to adapt to the changes in the market and redefine their ideal customer. They had to redefine their reporting and marketing strategies to meet the needs of their clients. Above all, they had to change their mindset to see real results.

If you want to start a business or take your existing business to the next level, it's essential to understand the importance of adapting to changes in the market, defining your ideal customer, and interviewing existing customers to understand their struggles. You must also be willing to change your mindset and embrace the challenges of entrepreneurship to see real results.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_Understanding_Clients_Needs_Prevents_Costly_Mistakes.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you delegating effectively in order to grow your agency? Do you have a satisfying work-life balance? Or are you working yourself to death? A lot of agency owners hit the early milestones by hustling hard. Many believe they are the only ones capable of doing specific tasks the right way. But this superhero syndrome ultimately gets in the way of your growth and results in being burnt out. Today’s guest saw rapid growth with his agency, hitting the $1 million mark in just one year. However, he shares the toll it took and what he would do differently.

Daniel Englebretson is the co-founder and CCO of Khronos, an account-based marketing agency helping B2B companies create demand generation from the ground up. His team assists clients as they validate, refine, and execute their go-to-market strategy by running targeted account-based programs that deliver a real pipeline. Daniel has spent most of his career in B2B marketing and is passionate about helping businesses solve problems.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Value-based pricing and charging what you're worth.
  • Key roles to hire in order to boost agency growth.
  • Staying motivated after working around the clock.

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

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.

 

Value-Based Pricing and Charging What You're Worth

Daniel began his career in B2B marketing immediately after college when he was recruited to work on a demand generation project. Over the next few years, he honed his approach and skills while working on similar projects. He met his future co-founders as they collaborated on several projects. Together they developed their methodology for scaling up demand generation. Their goal was to revolutionize the sector by assisting businesses that had an old-school approach.

The agency's first retainer was for $3,000 and was signed three months after Daniel quit his job to focus on building the business. However, it wasn't until two months later that the agency signed what he calls their actual first retainer, in the $15,000 range. From that point on, it took them only a year to reach $1 million. They have grown the agency 2X every since then.

Daniel envisioned building and selling Account Based Marketing programs for the same price it would cost to hire an ABM director, around $15,000 per month.

Related: How the Right Foot in The Door Offer Helps Land Bigger Retainers

Key Roles to Boost the Agency’s Growth

Since the agency aimed to be its clients' fractional ABM team, the most critical role to fill was operations to help document processes. From there, their most significant hires were for process execution and staffing customer services.

Daniel and his partners initially had reservations about hiring more leaders, but they recognized their blind spots and brought in an account manager to help define what customer success would look like for them and the roles they needed to fill. However, they later realized they had leaned too much on expensive leadership, which did not work out.

Staying Motivated After Working Around the Clock

While reaching $1 million in just one year was impressive, Daniel and his partners paid themselves the bare minimum that first year, allowing them to reinvest in the agency. Daniel handled all client-facing tasks and worked around the clock. He eventually realized the importance of work-life balance and separating his personal and professional identities. This led to reorganizing the company and having all client-facing roles roll under him, giving him the chance to focus on his role as the visionary.

Daniel recommends having a coach, partner, therapist, or adviser to bounce ideas off. Often agency owners struggle to find someone to advise them when they start their agency journeys on their own. Turning outside the agency to find a coach or adviser can help owners get through the low points.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boost_Agency_Growth_Without_Working_Yourself_to_Death.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Have you used LinkedIn to generate leads for your agency? Do you know how to access your ideal prospects on LinkedIn? A lot of people get LinkedIn messaging wrong their results show it. It can be a very valuable platform when you use it the right way and master the type of messaging that gets engagement. However, very few do it right. Today’s guest has a lead generation agency that specializes in creating targeted messages that generate responses from your ideal prospects. He shares common mistakes agencies typically make on LinkedIn and tips for improving your LinkedIn outreach.

Nick Verity is the CEO of Cleverly, a LinkedIn marketing agency that uses data from thousands of outbound B2B campaigns to send proven, personalized messages to your dream clients on this platform. His team leverages high-performing data to engage your most qualified decision-makers, driving them directly into your sales funnel.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Common mistakes with LinkedIn messages
  • How to get LinkedIn messaging right.
  • Accessing your ideal prospects on LinkedIn.

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Sponsors and Resources

Dot & Co: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Dot & Co, client management specialists helping digital marketing agencies keep their clients happy. With the help of their knowledgeable account managers agency owners can step away from the day-to-day and focus on driving results. Check out dotandcompany.co/smartagency and get 20% off your first month working with them.

 

Starting Out as a Lead Generation Agency

Nick got into the agency world figuring if he learned how to market he would always have a job. His business partner used to work in lead generation for a big tech company and had successfully used LinkedIn to create leads for himself. Of course, experience with lead generation came in handy when they decided to create an agency.

Their original offer was a ton of volume on LinkedIn with fully done-for-you copywriting and targeting. It was very successful and they were soon charging $800 per month to send 2,000 connection requests on LinkedIn. However, things have changed since LinkedIn has limited connection requests to 400 per month.

The Unusual Path that Led to Scaling the Agency

Looking back, Nick sees they failed to work on filling their sales pipeline faster. Basically, they stuck to the same 20 clients for about a year. They were doing so much for these clients that it was difficult to focus on bringing in more business. This meant their agency growth plateaued.

The eventual solution was dropping prices and making a switch to fully backend scalable operations coupled with a lot of automation. This was the solution they needed in order to scale. It was the key to pulling themselves out of the business. For Nick, making those changes and being delegating work is what made the difference between scaling and staying at the same level as other agencies.

Many agencies take the opposite route of having fewer clients and charging more, but this is the change Cleverly needed in order to scale.

The Most Common Mistake People Make on LinkedIn

Most people ignore the "salesy," persistent messages we normally get on LinkedIn. You can see them from a mile away. According to Nick, most people get on LinkedIn thinking they’re just going to pitch and sell, which leads to the many irrelevant messages we all know. With automation, it becomes even worse as they start to spread the same irrelevant messaging even more. It fills inboxes with the same type of generic messages and drives people away from the platform.

Like cold calling and cold email, there are ways to make it work, there are just very few doing it right.

How Can You Get LinkedIn Messaging Right?

  • Step 1: Targeting. People usually look for copy hacks to improve their LinkedIn success. However, Nick says it all starts with targeting. Half the reason people assume the message is spam is because they see “I’m an insurance agent or real estate broker” and think “I don’t need this.” Think about targeting first. Don't just target everyone. Instead, niche down and make sure to hit relevant people. List your clients and try to target similar individuals. This way, you're saying something credible and relevant which increases the chance of success. At his agency, they use Sales Navigator to build a hyper-niche list of around 1,000 prospects.

  • Step 2: Mindset shift. You’re not on LinkedIn to sell. Instead, your goal is to start conversations and build a network. When you change your mindset to starting conversations, your messages are shorter and you'll learn to ask good discovery questions. Instead of pitching, lead off by providing value for free and see where it goes.

  • Step 3: The conversation. You can start the conversation by boosting their ego. Complement them on the work they’re doing and be specific on where you think they’re doing really well. Next, you make a low-friction offer that’s not a sales pitch. For instance, invite them on your podcast or offer to send a video with valuable information. After that, it’s all about the delivery. If it’s a video, for example, make sure it’s really well done and actually offers valuable, relevant information.

What Makes Engaging LinkedIn Posts?

Most LinkedIn posts get little to no engagement but Nick says there are a couple of types of posts that outperform others.

First, if you want to go viral, focus on HR and stories. Most people on LinkedIn are not big CEOs, they’re employees. It may be corny, but people really resonate with stories about overcoming failure; like “started from the bottom and overcame all obstacles” or “I was fired and now I’m a top performer”.

Nick also likes to post value-added content, like a post about his agency’s strategy and then offering a complete guide for people who comment. These posts can include video and images as long as it’s not just a repost and you’re adding something exclusively for this platform.

It’s worked so well for them that they managed to scale their agency to 1 million with just LinkedIn outreach and Google ads.

Tips for Accessing Your Audience on LinkedIn

If you’re not getting the results you want on LinkedIn, Nick suggests using the search bar to look for ideal prospects. Send at least 15 connection requests per day. Customize each request by saying something personalized based on the prospect’s profile. Usually, three to eight of your new connections will accept, which validates that your ideal audience is accessible.

It’s also a good idea to stick to the channels you master as you grow your agency. His agency expanded to a total of 8 channels only now that they’re over $4 million. They get leads off Twitter and do SEO but he recommends getting very good at maybe one or two as you start off.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Mastering_LinkedIn_Messaging_for_Agency_Lead_Generation_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Does your agency have a defined niche? Do you serve a specific industry or work in a specific vertical offering? We always hear the riches are in the niches, but it's all about balance. Growth comes from serving the right clients with the right offering. Boost client retention when your agency's positioning is clear on who you serve and the solution you provide. After all, you can’t be everything to everyone -- you'll just end up a generalist, 'me too' agency. However, choosing a vertical and horizontal niche might be too limiting at first. Niching down too much and too quickly can leave your business vulnerable to the whims of the market. Today’s guests learned this after seeing exponential growth and then panicking once a change in the algorithm threatened their business niche.

Adam Smith and Laura Hanlon are owners and Co-Directors of Pink Leopard, a growth acceleration agency that helps e-commerce brands grow and scale through the power of paid social, search, and email. The majority of their clients are female-owned e-commerce brands with a primarily female clientele. This wasn’t always the case, however. In its early days, the agency was exclusively focused on Facebook ads.  However, a shift in the market forced them to reconsider if they perhaps niched down too, much too soon.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Discovering a niche is too limiting.
  • Growing from 1 hire to a team of 20.
  • Boosting client retention with the right offering.
  • Time tracking to increase profitability.

Subscribe

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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.

 

Starting an Agency and Selecting a Business Partner

Initially, Laura worked in network marketing and used social media to launch and grow brands, as she had done with her own. It was a very different time and organization was the only thing you needed to grow. However, she quickly identified that paid social ads were the key to helping brands get to the next level.

During that time, she also found a passion for e-commerce and started her own e-commerce store. In hindsight, it was too much on top of her agency work, but it helped her understand her clients’ struggles. As her business grew, she was still a one-woman show getting more and more business thanks to referrals. This is when she thought about Adam.

They had known each other for years, he also wanted to start a business, and his experience in business development and employee engagement complemented her own experiences. He was an ideal match for a business partner.

Growing from the First Hire to a Team of 20

With Laura selling and Adam handling operations, the agency grew quickly. After just six months they hired an account manager to alleviate the handover from sales to delivery.

This meant Laura could focus on running accounts while the account manager handled the back-and-forth with clients. However, when the pandemic hit, as it happened to many, agency growth soared. They quickly went from a 2-person operation to a 20-person team.

Not every new hire was successful. In fact, they made the common mistake of hiring someone very junior when they didn't have the time to train him. Adam and Laura learned they needed to hire skilled experts, which proved to be a great move. Now, they have specialists leading and growing the teams while they focus on growing the agency.

Can an Agency Be Too Niched? 

At first, Pink Leopard worked exclusively with Meta (Facebook) in the e-commerce space. They felt confident to be starting out with a clear idea of their niche and audience. They grew significantly during the Covid pandemic when a lot of brands moved to an e-commerce model or stepped up their e-comm presence. However, growth during the pandemic was very hard to maintain two years later, when things got back to normal. Additionally, the Apple/iOS changes removing data sharing were catastrophic for them as a Facebook agency.

They actually lost a few clients, who were cutting costs after growing too fast during the pandemic. A lot of this had to do with taking on the wrong clients, Laura admits. In 2020 and 2021 they were taking on many businesses without properly vetting them. They later discovered these clients weren't a culture fit.

In the end, they learned relying on a single platform like Facebook was just too risky. They pivoted to being all-in with e-commerce and diversified their services to include email marketing and Google ads.

How to Boost Client Retention with the Right Offering

Diversifying their service offering actually turned out to be a massive client retention piece. It has also helped with growth as they established trust with their clients.

Their new expanded offering helps attract partners who understand the value of a marketing mix including discovery, intent, and retention. Their services are much more robust, now. Which helped improve client retention because they’re no longer reporting on just one channel's performance. Now that they’re working on email, Facebook, and Google, their reports are true reflections of the results they're getting for clients.

How Time Tracking Helps Track Profitability

If they could go back, Adam and Laura would take a closer look at their pricing model a lot sooner. Most agencies are guilty of starting out with lower pricing to attract clients and grow. But it’s important to implement time-tracking to really track where your team is spending time and which projects/clients are actually profitable. The next step to being profitable is saying no to the wrong clients.

It's a risk many agency owners are afraid to take however it's very liberating when you turn away clients that you know aren't the right fit.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boosting_Client_Retention_with_the_Right_Offering.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Not sure why you're stuck trying to scale your agency? Growth vs Scaling? What's the difference? There are four main reasons some agencies never scale. Today’s guest has accumulated nearly 15 years of experience in the agency business and shares how he stays focused in order to scale. He also shares lessons that helped him get through difficult and why is usually the agency owners standing in their own way of scaling.

Wayne Mullins is the founder of Ugly Mug Marketing, a boutique agency with 14 years of experience. The agency's design approach places a lot of emphasis on content and understanding the audience to convey an effective message. Their core value is that results should never be compromised for the sake of "good" design.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why your agency needs a north star to stay focused.
  • The difference between scaling vs. growth.
  • How agency owners sabotage their growth by not adapting.

Subscribe

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

Why You Need a North Star 

Don't let the name fool you; Ugly Mug represents the agency's philosophy of prioritizing results. It originates from a quote by David Ogilvy, where he said “I rather you show me an ad that’s ugly and effective over one that is beautiful but isn’t." This quote became Wayne's north star, keeping him from getting sidetracked by awards and accolades. Instead, he believes that agency owners should focus on solving clients' problems and getting results.

What's the Difference Between Scaling and Growth?

Scaling a business and growing it is often confused, with the latter becoming a buzzword. According to Wayne, scaling involves having more free time and working only in the areas you choose. However, growth leads to time constraints and doing things you hate. To scale, you need to have the right mindset, systems, and processes in place.

4 Reasons Why Some Agencies Are Not Scaling

  1. The owner's mindset is the main reason why agencies fail to scale. In the beginning, Wayne's ego played a significant role, and he enjoyed being the hero who saved the day. However, he realized that he needed a clear vision of where he wanted the agency to go to communicate it to his team. That way, they could make better decisions, and he wouldn't become a hindrance to growth.

  2. Many agencies fall into the scale hustle trap when they hit certain levels of revenue or employee numbers, believing that they only need to work harder to get to the next level. However, the key to scaling is having the right systems and processes in place, documenting them, and trusting your team to have autonomy.

  3. To scale, you need to balance alignment and authority. Without autonomy, everything is controlled, and without alignment, there's chaos. Everyone must be aligned with the agency's vision, and team members must have autonomy to make decisions.

  4. Ideally, you want to stay around the complexity line, which indicates that you're growing. The faster you scale, the more chaos you feel, but if you pull back, you're sabotaging future growth. Feeling overwhelmed means that there's too much on your plate, and you need to adapt your processes to grow.

Wayne's philosophy is that agencies should focus on delivering results and solving clients' problems rather than just winning awards. Scaling requires the right mindset, systems, and processes, as well as a team aligned with the agency's vision and autonomy to make decisions. Don't be afraid of complexity, adapt to it, and keep growing.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: The_4_Reasons_Many_Digital_Agencies_Never_Scale.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Considering adding software as a service to your offering? Do you have a SaaS idea in mind? Having proprietary agency software is a great way to meet the needs of your clients. However, building it is no easy task and often takes longer than expected. Today’s guests created an email marketing system which led to building their agency back in the early 2000s. They share lessons learned and challenges overcome in the process of building their email marketing agency out of a SaaS model.

Robert Dodd and Joe Solano are the founders of XL Technologies, a digital agency specializing in helping US-based real estate brokers grow and scale their brokerages. They have over 20 years of experience and help their clients using their proven and tested agent acquisition framework.

They also created proprietary software for real estate brokerages, which they use to help get clients better results from their campaigns. Their product, and the one that actually got their partnership started, is eCampaignPro. This email marketing system helps build targeted agent-to-agent email marketing lists.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Discovering the right niche and selling a solution.
  • The #1 common mistake sending cold emails.
  • Recommendations on building your own SaaS.

Subscribe

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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.

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 getting a new perspective to the show.

Discovering the Right Niche and Selling a Solution

Robert and Joe have been involved in internet marketing since the dot-com bubble era. Robert moved to Florida to work in a startup, which didn't work out. He met Joe through a project, and they started XL Tech together. They developed an email marketing system, which was a challenge to sell to businesses. They decided to niche down and adapted the system as a solution for the real estate market, specifically brokers. It was a great success.

Evolving from SaaS to an Email Marketing Agency

They identified common mistakes while managing agent-to-agent marketing relations and decided to provide a more complete solution. The concept of their agency was born from the need to help clients better use their software. Their company quickly grew with the success of eCampaignPro. However, they ended up getting into hot water with Google after some of their customers were spamming clients. As a result, their email traffic got blocked, which caused a significant disruption in the business.

They decided to help real estate brokers strategically map out the right approach and leverage social media as another way to reach out to agents. Their agency used their understanding of their audience's pain points and motivations to create an agent acquisition framework. They take everything brokers may need to put together a fully functional and omnipresent marketing campaign to get their message out. They also handle all the pre-qualifications, appointment setting, and follow-up all the way to the onboarding process.

#1 Common Mistake in Email Marketing

Joe and Robert say that creating software to sell with agency services is an unbelievable undertaking and will almost certainly take longer than expected. One of the most common mistakes in people's approach to cold email is being too aggressive with the frequency and cadence. Therefore it's important to have the right balance between cadence and messaging to get the results you're looking for.

With the way algorithms work today, it's essential to be tactful and strategic with your approach. They work out email sequences in their agency, which doesn't try to say everything at once. Sometimes they just contain a simple introduction. Then they wait to see how engaged the audience was with that message before following up.

Although they grow brokerages from scratch to thousands of brokers, they've never taken equity. They acknowledge it's an interesting prospect they haven't explored and are proud of the results they can get for their clients.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Evolving_from_a_SaaS_Agency_to_a_Successful_Email_Marketing_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have passion for your agency and clients? Have you identified your agency's purpose? Do you know your why and does your team buy into your vision?  One agency had a hard time with this and decided to begin a startup incubator to fill the void. The results have been amazing for the agency, the team, and their clients. She managed to create a very cool agency model that both creates opportunities for startups with a lot of potential and also provides investment opportunities for her staff, even in the early stages of their careers.

Laura Hutfless is the Co-Founder at FlyteVu, an entertainment marketing agency that helps brands connect to consumers via pop culture and purpose. Their work varies depending on the client, but it includes music events, influencers, endorsement deals, and more recently gaming. In short, they help clients try to keep up with pop culture and stay at the forefront.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why agency projects need to have a purpose.
  • The process for working with incubator clients.
  • Advice for agency owners starting to invest.

Subscribe

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

 

Why Every Agency Project Should Have a Purpose

Laura started her own agency, but her niche was something she stumbled upon accidentally. Before starting the agency, she worked in the talent agency CAA brokering deals between talent and corporate brands. As brands began to spend more on entertainment and influencers, Laura was asked to work for them. She saw the need to help companies navigate the new influencer culture to stay relevant to younger consumers, which led her to start her own agency.

She wanted to take on as many clients as possible to help these companies make sense of this new landscape. However, she felt that she was only helping people who already had a lot of money just make even more money; and she began to lose her passion for the job. To combat this, she decided that every project at her agency would have an actual purpose. This means working on either a movement, a change in culture, or a gift bag.

Laura also applied these principles to her incubator clients, investing only in startups she truly believed in and incorporating causes that were close to her heart. Laura wanted 20% of the agency's revenue to go to charity. So, she created the FlyteVu fund, which clients, teams, and vendors can access, and which can reach up to $1 million dollars each year.

One of her agency's first clients was Bumble. Although they did not receive equity, it was a mutually beneficial partnership that allowed the agency to earn credibility and learn a lot about the process and what a brand like that needs. Laura wanted to set up a startup incubator for future opportunities and to help entrepreneurs with great ideas and no funds. Now the agency has enough staff and hours to dedicate to these kinds of projects without taking payment.

The Process of Working with Startup Incubator Clients

When choosing incubator clients, Laura looks for mission-driven brands that resonate with her and her team's values, ensuring that it is something they believe in. There is a dollar amount attached to the equity they will receive in the company. This determines the hours spent on that client, and they are capped on the number of hours. Laura also looks at the brand's growth plan, strategy, and where they are in their timeline to better understand what the agency's role is and how far they can get them.

Laura's agency offers services for incubator clients for a year. After a year, they can either go off on their own or retain FlyteVu as their agency and pay their fee. Laura also pays for the equity of companies that are not yet at a point where they can benefit from their services.

When it comes to having dedicated teams, Laura only sees the need to have a separate account team. She wants to offer her staff opportunities for investment and wealth-building, which she never had as a young executive. By setting up her own incubator, Laura is able to give back and provide opportunities for entrepreneurs while also benefiting her agency.

 

Advice for Agency Owners who Want to Start Investing

If you’re interested in setting up an incubator, Laura recommends you start small. It has taken her agency some time to figure out a process that was right for them and she is thankful she gave herself that time. “You don’t have to dive in a big way,” she says. A lot of these startups need a phone call a month or some advice. These entrepreneurs don’t have the connections you have and at the beginning that’s a huge part of the agency’s involvement.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Creating_a_Startup_Incubator_to_Find_True_Purpose_in_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want more clients? Thinking about increasing your offering to attract more clients? Truth is, the opposite strategy is what helps a lot of agencies grow. Scale back to scale up! That's what this agency did when they took the scary approach of cutting back on their service offering and niching down. However, the results speak for themself.  That is how one PR agency went from functioning as a full-service to niching down and focusing on just one area. Learn the motivation that led to making this transition and how he prepared for it.

Matt McAllister is the Managing Director at Candor Content, a content marketing agency that helps technology companies grow by driving organic traffic and generating inbound leads. Their content programs turn websites into organic traffic magnets by publishing content that attracts visitors, builds trust, and forges enduring relationships. With a team so passionate about writing and content marketing, it’s hard to believe the agency was first focused on PR. Matt offers some insight into that transition process and their eventual success.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Simplify your agency service offering and say no to the wrong clients.
  • Going all in on niching down.
  • Is the emergence of AI affecting content marketing agencies?

Subscribe

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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.

Shifting Focus From PR to Content Marketing

Matt started his agency 12 years ago, initially focusing on the PR side of the industry. At that time, he believed that most companies allocated a budget for public relations and that he would find clients easily. He did not consider content marketing because it was not yet a big thing. However, he had a content-centric approach to doing PR, offering to publish articles, research reports, and take over clients’ blogs.

Around 2015, HubSpot became popular and many companies realized the power of inbound marketing. They needed content to fuel their inbound engines, so Matt and his team focused more on creating content. However, in the early days of his agency, they fell into the trap of trying to be all things to all people. They gave clients a full-service offering where they would do anything needed, including branding, design, and positioning. This approach proved to be very stressful because they were a small team and had to rely on freelancers.

Simplifying the Agency Offering and Saying No to the Wrong Prospects

Eventually, they realized that it was time to strip down their services and focus on what they enjoyed doing the most. Niching down and saying no to the wrong customers is a natural part of growing an agency. But it's not as simple as it may sound. You have to consider possible risks and start implementing it with some clients first to assess the response. The hardest part will be drawing a line in the sand and start telling clients you will only work on a specific space. This involves offering referrals for all those wanting other services outside that expertise.

It's important to take the time to feel well-prepared for the shift. Too many agency owners pull the ripcord too early and go back to what they feel is safe before seeing results. Fortunately, they started to see results right away. Existing clients responded with more budgets for content creation, something they already knew his agency was good at. Additionally, new prospects trusted them in this area of expertise. They figured they must be really good at that if they were willing to focus on that one area.

Going All In On Niching Down to Attract More Clients

Realistically, you may go through a few rough weeks where you lose clients that don’t fit your new niche. The important thing is to push through that point. Matt’s agency lost about 10-15% of its overall revenue at first. "It was scary," he admits, "we’re a small agency so this was a significant part of our revenue for sure." He was definitely tempted to take some of the PR work opportunities that they have following their shift to content. Thankfully, his partner reminded him they needed to go all in on their strategy for it to work. Big changes like this benefit from having people around you who will hold you accountable for your commitment.

If he could go back to the agency’s first few years, Matt would have brought on help sooner. It’s common for agency owners to decide to do everything themselves at first to cut costs. "I called it an agency," he recalls, "but it was me and a couple of freelancers." Looking back, he would have liked to have more trust in the project and given more work to other people.

Scaling Back Services to Scale Up the Agency

As far as the transition, he would have more faith that it would all work out in the end. It certainly would have saved him some sleepless nights. Moreover, he would have cut down the agency’s services even more. It was a gradual transition, starting with the PR and messaging, and positioning offering. However, they kept doing email marketing and other services that they eventually dropped. Nowadays, it’s clearer for him that the agency shines when it comes to SEO, lead generation content, and brand generation content.

If you want to scale up, you must be willing to scale down first. In order to figure out how to strip down your offering, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What would I do if I only received my payment after having performed?
  2. How can I be the best at what I do and be clear about that?

How is the Emergence of ChatGPT Affecting Content Agencies?

Many in Matt’s team are writers and journalists who are very passionate about their craft. Understandably, a lot of writers are a bit nervous right now about the emergence of AI writing tools. There’s a lot of talk about these tools replacing writers. Matt doesn’t think this will be the case.

AI provides writers with the tools to get better ideas, get over writer’s block, and have the potential to make them better editors. Like anyone in the content creation space, he’s been following this technology closely and he’s excited about it.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Want_More_Clients__Niching_Down_Can_Help_You_Find_Your_Ideal_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have an irresistible offer that generates leads? What if you had a pipeline full of qualified leads? Webinars can help you get the attention of your ideal prospects. They are a great tool to attract clients and offer value. However, there’s a possibility you end up over-educating your audience unless it's done right. Today’s guest built a career in webinar coaching and designing high-ticket offers to generate sales. It took him years to identify how he was failing to attract the qualified leads he needed to maximize his sales. But now he shares his script for creating a power offer that will get you tons of sales-qualified leads.

Joel Erway is the founder of The Webinar Agency, which helps clients build high-converting sales presentations and webinars. They primarily work with thought leaders, coaches, and consultants, including Russell Brunson, Mike Dillard, and many more. He is also the author of High Ticket Courses and the host of two podcasts: Sold with Webinars and Experts Unleashed. Joel shares how he discovered his marketing was missing a potential pool of clients who had the right urgency and wanted to buy and how he used power offers and mini webinars to harness that potential to great success.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Why your agency needs to add mini webinars.
  • Marketing-qualified leads vs Sales-qualified leads.
  • Creating an irresistible power offer to generate more leads.

 

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

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.

Why Your Agency Needs to Add Mini Webinars

Joel, the webinar guy, had a bit of a revelation after struggling with getting paid traffic to work for his business. He realized that relying solely on giving out free value to eventually turn into sales wasn't working for him. He wanted to flip that model on its head and make some changes to his process.

After doing some research and attending various events, Joel finally stumbled upon a book called How to Create an Irresistible Offer. This book helped him understand what he was doing wrong and how he could fix it. He realized that his long-form webinars of one or two hours were only generating marketing-qualified leads, which weren't enough to convert into sales. He needed to focus on sales-qualified leads to see a significant impact on his business.

Differentiating Marketing Qualified Leads vs Sales Qualified Leads

To differentiate between marketing-qualified leads and sales-qualified leads, Joel explained this. The former is interested in the topic but not necessarily ready to buy. The latter is in the market, likes the process, and recognizes the problem they need to solve. The challenge for Joel was how to accelerate the process and move more marketing-qualified leads to sales-qualified leads.

He found that publishing offer-driven content was the key to getting a lower cost per acquisition. So, he decided to expand his offers to include mini webinars instead of only doing long-form ones. This change helped him generate more sales-qualified leads and ultimately increased his conversions. It was a game-changer for his business, and he became a thought leader in the webinar space.

 

Creating the Power Offer as a Way to Attract the Right Leads

According to Joel, the key to getting more clients is by making power offers instead of constantly marketing yourself.

A power offer is a short but compelling statement that offers a solution to a problem your audience is facing. It's all about getting your potential clients to think and engage with the idea you're presenting. If it's good enough, you might even get some hand raisers.

Once you have your power offer, the next step is to create a three-step funnel. That will guide your leads from making a promise to closing the sale. The funnel includes a power offer ad, a landing page, and a mini webinar.

  • Power offer ad. This is your sales-qualified offer containing the promise you make on how you can help potential clients get results while avoiding certain hurdles.
  • Landing page. Clicking on that power offer ad will lead them to a landing page with sales-qualified lead messaging. The messaging here will be very similar to the first step, something like “We’re looking for clients who need help with this. If you’re interested, apply here”.
  • Mini webinar. The mini webinar will contain more detailed information on how you’re planning to fulfill the promise. Once they watch the mini webinar, they should be ready to fill out an application and book a call.

Who is the Power Offer for?

So who's the right candidate for a power offer? It's less about where they are in their business and more about their commitment to entrepreneurship. If they're fully committed and have a course they want to sell or an idea they want to pursue then they're the perfect fit for this offer.

Now, it's important to keep in mind that not every power offer will work. Sometimes, you need to be open to pivoting your offer until you find one that resonates with your audience. And most importantly, don't give up! Even if you have to try 60 different versions of your power offer, keep at it until you find the one that works.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


Are you feeling threatened by AI? Are you worried that it could replace your agency's creative work? There are so many uses for artificial intelligence and it is here to stay. So it's time to embrace it and unlock the power of AI for your agency's growth. From creating meeting summaries to building websites, there are so many applications people aren’t talking about yet. Today’s guest has explored many of these tools at his agency and offers a few tips on the ones you should be testing to become more productive.

Carl Cleanthes is the founder of Epic Made, a digital art and animation studio that does most of its work in the entertainment advertisement space, including NFTs and PFP collections. In his agency, Carl has implemented the use of AI to generate images that can serve as a reference for the work they do. However, he has also discovered other very useful AI applications that any agency owner can implement to boost productivity.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How AI is helping creators and agency owners.
  • The benefits and power of AI in creative work.
  • Will AI replace your agency?

Subscribe

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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.

 

How AI is Revolutionizing Creative Work

The conversation around AI is a layered and complex one, and not without controversy when it comes to copyright. At its core, however, artificial intelligence is a tool to help make human beings more productive, more creative, and allow them to execute their ideas faster and on another level.

Many people became aware of AI tools mostly through the use of ChatGPT or some image-generating artificial intelligence software. In reality, AI has been around for a long time but what’s really getting people excited now is the machine aspect of it.

The Benefits of AI in Creative Work

Pumping in a data set and creating content from that seemed like a distant possibility not very long ago. Now, AI’s ability to do this is just getting better and better, with the possibility to generate tons of content in just seconds.

This record-breaking shift to AI we’re seeing with ChatGPT is largely thanks to how intuitive it is. The ability to just drop an idea there and get very good and in some cases amazing quality text that needs very little editing is something that is helping get productivity to levels we could only dream of in the past.

Will AI Replace You or Your Agency?

Of course, not everyone has a positive interpretation of these developments. Some people fear AI will replace them. Instead, we should reframe it as adapting to the many ways in which AI can help us improve what we do. For writers, it’s a great tool to get that first idea to start your text. In fact, people who are just using it to create a text and then copy and paste are missing out. The real great results will come from combining the ideas the AI can give you with your own writing.

Carl doesn’t believe AI can fully replace human creativity. It will, however, hurt the bottom of the market. It won’t make sense to pay someone to do something you can now do yourself with AI.

The Power of AI in Business Productivity

Most agency owners have heard of ChatGPT or Jasper. However, their widespread use has made some people think this is the first AI tool of their kind. This is not true at all; these types of tools have been available for years and have many uses.

For instance, Carl uses Fireflies and Otter AI, which are AI bots that join your meeting, record it, transcribe it, note all the questions, and automatically email that to everyone in the meeting. He also uses Midjourney for image generation. In this case, he uses it to generate ideas instead of manually searching for references on the internet. It’s a good way to get a sample of what’s out there on the internet with the added benefit of saving time.

For copywriting, he uses some of the more known ones and also recommends Neuroflash. These tools are not only great for generating ideas for posts but also a good way to spice up an email or get a start on tedious tasks like writing a letter of intent. There’s still much to learn about the subject, so the important thing is to stay informed and constantly learn about this topic. You’ll find AIs for building landing pages, thumbnails, creating websites, so many functions most people are not yet aware of and that can really help you boost productivity.

TikTok is a Good Place to Start Researching AI Applications

Many people are unaware of the vast range of AI tools available, from building landing pages to creating websites. TikTok is an excellent platform to start researching and learning about AI applications, with informative and easy-to-digest content.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Unlocking_the_Power_of_AI_for_Creatives_and_Agencies.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Did you know that applying behavioral science to your agency's work will result in better outcomes for your clients? By utilizing research-backed methodologies, you'll gain a competitive advantage. With extensive research on how to decipher customer thought processes, behavioral science is an incredibly useful tool for influencing and predicting their behavior.

Our guest today, Shirin Oreizy, is the founder and CEO of Next Step, a marketing agency that specializes in using behavioral science and research methodology to help clients achieve their marketing goals. Their approach is different from traditional marketing, which often puts all customers in the same box. Instead, Next Step seeks to de-risk the process and provide evidence-backed results. Shirin discusses the basics of the behavioral science approach, why it is so useful for agencies, and how her agency's methods lead to the best possible outcomes for clients.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The role of behavioral science in digital design.
  • 4-phases to use behavioral science to your agency's advantage.
  • The importance of process transparency to gain clients’ trust.

Subscribe

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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.

An Under-Utilized Tool that Became the Agency's Differentiator

Behavioral marketing agencies have changed the way companies approach business, by offering unique solutions and products designed to meet the specific needs of their clients. While many agencies may rely solely on website design, graphics, and typography, successful agencies understand the importance of behavioral science in creating unique products and driving conversions. Shirin's interview explores the four-phase methodology used by her agency to leverage behavioral science, as well as the benefits of process transparency in driving sales.

The Role of Behavioral Science in Digital Design

The gap between what we know we should do and what we end up doing is significant. Behavioral science takes into account the fact that people’s emotions, environment, and social factors heavily influence their decisions. By studying these behaviors, agencies like Shirin's can identify gaps in existing marketing plans and develop tailored solutions that meet the unique needs of their clients.

Understanding Human Behavior to Design Unique Solutions and Products

Behavioral science is a social science that takes into account many external factors. It's important because people’s emotions, environment, and social factors heavily influence their decisions. Behavioral scientists take into account things like people’s laziness, biases, and heuristics, which are often overlooked in traditional marketing practices.

The 4-Phases to Use Behavioral Science to Your Agency’s Advantage

Shirin's agency has developed a research methodology called the science of design, which uses behavioral science as the backbone to understanding a situation. It’s a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to try to figure out why consumers prefer a product or ad. The 4 phases are as follows:

  1. Behavioral Science Assessment: Their behavioral science researchers analyze how the client is currently marketing. They identify gaps and issues that can be addressed immediately.
  2. Qualitative Research: This phase involves talking to about 10 people to verify the agency is moving in the right direction.
  3. Quantitative Research: This phase involves testing the different hypotheses against each other. The goal is to figure out what works. The test groups have significant numbers so there is no question about the results.
  4. Incorporating the principles: Designers and copywriters get involved to incorporate these principles into the work they’re doing for the client.

Why Process Transparency Will Help You Sell More

Process transparency is one of the core principles of behavioral science. Research shows that human beings value effort, hence explaining the process behind a product or service ensures clients will value the result more. Clients with information about what happens in the background are willing to wait longer, increasing the likelihood of driving conversions.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Boost_Your_Agencys_Success_with_the_Power_of_Behavioral_Science.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have trusted referral partners? Every considered merging with an agency partner? A merger can be a good way to expand your service offering, but surviving a merger is a whole other thing. The right partner gives you access to highly skilled professionals, more creative ideas, and proven methods to maximize success. Today's guest found a great, longtime partnership. However, when it came time to merge their agencies, both opted to maintain ownership of their individual entities. He explains the thought process behind this decision and the road that led to his eventual acquisition.

Gus Wagner is the president and owner of The Rocket Group, a full-service agency based in Missouri. In its long history, the agency has worked in all sorts of different sectors with businesses, organizations, and nonprofits; focusing on government communications and politics. Established as a virtual organization since its beginnings, the agency has always worked with independent contractors to help build and perform their client marketing tools and activities. For this episode, he recalls his agency journey and how he and his partner decided to set up a separate agency to work together and not lose control of their individual businesses.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Protecting agency ownership when collaborating with a partner.
  • Should you sell your agency to a competitor?
  • When and how to announce an agency acquisition.

Subscribe

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

 

In 2001, Gus, a sales and marketing manager for different manufacturing companies, quit his job and decided to start his own agency. After 21 years of working with The Rocket Group, he had completed numerous opportunities and projects, specializing in tools to help his clients communicate online and in the real world with their customers and prospects. Gus is also a certified social media strategist and enjoys training interested parties in these ever-changing modern communication platforms. Over the years, he has made valuable strategic partnerships, with some colleagues working with his agency for more than 5 years. On a daily basis, his agency works with 19 state associations, 200 individual member public utilities, and one national organization.

Protecting Agency Ownership While Collaborating with an Agency Partner

However, there was a time when Gus decided to set up a separate agency to protect ownership of his original business. This happened when he officially formed an agency partnership to maximize his success. Instead of merging their agencies, they created a third entity owned by both of businesses. Whether because of different industry niches or partners who didn’t want to get too involved in the entire agency’s operation.

Many agency owners are always networking and passing business back and forth but keep their businesses separate. In fact, clients are often aware of this. For Gus and his partner, it was a case of simplifying things for the clients. This way, they would have to deal with one entity instead of two.

It seemed like the best way to go about these partnerships since Gus also didn’t want to sell a piece of his agency. This is because many businesses don't want to give up ownership of their organization, especially to someone they don't trust. When it comes to selling your agency, there are many things to consider, such as your employees, clients, and the value of the agency itself.

Should You Sell Your Agency to a Competitor?

If you decide to sell, it's important to make sure that the buyer is someone you trust and that the process is done right. In Gus's case, he was approached by a competitor who wanted to acquire his organization. They accepted and closed the deal in March 2020. The buyer was a known competitor who had been working with the same pool of clients for some time. It was a smaller agency trying to win social and digital campaigns for public utilities. They were trying to do it differently and weren't being very successful with that client base. They were put in touch by a client who had worked with both and they got to compare strengths and weaknesses. The conversation grew from there.

At that time, Gus’s agency was growing more than he and his partner were comfortable with. Hence, it was attractive for them to form a larger structure to take over that growth. It took about six months from the initial conversation to signing the paperwork and making the announcement.

How and When to Announce an Agency Acquisition

Announcing an agency sale can be challenging as clients may assume the services will quickly lower in quality. However, if you wait until they have positive comments about the service to announce the sale, they’ll see there was nothing to worry about. In Gus’ case, the buyer was excited about the purchase and the new capabilities it brought for their agency, so they made the announcement right away.

Gus has been in this industry for over 21 years with The Rocket Group and about 15 years before that. He advises keeping things simple, keeping your eyes on the prize, and keep moving forward and upward. He also emphasizes the importance of protecting ownership of your agency, which he did by setting up a separate agency and forming agency partnerships. This way, you can maximize your success without giving up control of your original business.

 

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Surviving_a_Merger__How_to_Safeguard_Your_Digital_Agency_and_Team.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you running your agency, or is your agency running you? Are you lacking the freedom you thought you'd have in your agency? Many owners start growing their agency, getting more clients, and hiring more people and quickly find they’ve built a prison for themselves. Today’s guest went through this and came up with a method to regain freedom and buy back your time. He now helps clients set up systems to identify their buyback rates and delegate tasks so they can maximize time and revenue.

Dan Martell is the CEO of SaaS Academy, the largest coaching company for software CEOs. He has owned and sold several agencies and continues to invest and buy companies through his company, High-Speed Ventures.

As a troubled teenager, Dan discovered his obsession with computer programming while serving time in a detention home. Many years later, he started and sold several companies. He has two venture companies and has been an angel investor in about 50 companies. He is currently CEO of SaaS Academy and is further developing his personal brand as an author. Today, he talks about his new book, Buy Back Your Time, where he details the method he created to help business owners regain their freedom.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How to calculate buyback rate and conduct an audit of your time.
  • 3 mistakes entrepreneurs make when they reach the pain line.
  • 5 key hires to help you delegate and reclaim your time.

Subscribe

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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.

 

How to Calculate Your Buyback Rate

The “buyback rate” is a concept that many entrepreneurs are embracing to avoid the “pain line.” This is the point where they can no longer balance their personal and business life. Dan's book explores the buyback rate in-depth and discusses how it can help you build a successful business while enjoying your personal life.

Dan, the author of Buy Back Your Time, teaches entrepreneurs to calculate their hourly revenue value to determine their buyback rate. To do this, divide your annual income by the number of hours you work per year, then divide that amount by four. The result is your buyback rate.

Calendar Audits to Identify Tasks You Can Delegate

Once you have your buyback rate, it's time to audit your calendar. Dan advises clients to audit their calendars for two weeks, highlighting tasks they enjoy in green and tasks that drain their energy in red. Each red task should be rated on a scale of one to ten based on the cost to outsource it. Tasks rated as one will cost ten dollars to outsource, tasks rated as two will cost twenty-five dollars, and so on.

After classifying tasks, Dan suggests that you work through the $1 tasks, the ones that will cost the least to outsource. While this might not free up a lot of your time at first, it's important to build the muscle of delegating.

Dan warns that buying back your time isn't about going to relax. It's about using that time to generate more revenue for your agency. It's important to avoid the "pain line," the point where people start making rushed decisions.

The "pain line" can cause entrepreneurs to stall, sabotage themselves, or sell their business, even if it's thriving. Dan has developed a replacement ladder with five levels to help you buy back your time gradually. The levels are Executive Assistant, Delivery, Marketing, Sales, and Leadership.

 

 

The Five Steps in the Replacement Ladder

Dan suggests starting with an Executive Assistant, who can help with scheduling and administrative tasks. Next, hire for Delivery, so you can delegate client work. Marketing and Sales come next, where you delegate lead generation, conversion, and follow-up. Finally, when you have a team in place, you can focus on Leadership.

Dan emphasizes that buying back your time isn't a one-time event. Instead, it's a loop that you should continually refine. It's essential to solicit feedback from your team to prevent stagnation.

In conclusion, the buyback rate is a useful concept for entrepreneurs who want to balance their personal and business life. By identifying the tasks they can delegate, entrepreneurs can focus on generating revenue and avoid the "pain line" that often causes them to stall, sabotage themselves, or sell their businesses. The buyback rate allows entrepreneurs to buy back their time gradually, building a team that can take over their day-to-day tasks, and create a successful business while enjoying their personal life.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_to_Calculate_Your_Buyback_Rate_and_Maximize_Time_and_Revenue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

What are you doing to keep your team happy? Do you have an amazing culture? Is your team passionate about the agency's vision? Do they understand their growth plan beyond their current role? Your employees are your most valuable asset. That's why one agency owner shares his strategy for maximizing employee happiness and how that's led to massive productivity for his e-commerce media agency.

Samir Balwani is the founder and CEO of QRY, a media buying agency for e-commerce and direct-to-consumer brands. Their media methodology and testing framework called the QRY Paid Media Process has enabled e-commerce brands to reach new customers and accelerate growth.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • The importance of people management for team happiness and productivity.
  • Favoring process-driven thinking and management layers.
  • Thoughts on DTC moving to an in-store product line.

Subscribe

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

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.

 

Importance of People Management for Employee Happiness and Productivity

People management is a critical factor in keeping employees happy and productive, yet it's often overlooked by many businesses. Samir, the founder of an agency that specializes in working with direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands, understands the importance of prioritizing people management. He's implemented various strategies at his agency to ensure that his team is engaged and motivated, even as the company has grown.

One of the keys to maintaining a sound work environment is to create a culture of feedback and communication. Samir has implemented 360 reviews, growth plans, and annual plans to help his team stay passionate and excited about their work. He also recognizes the importance of preventing burnout by ensuring that workers feel valued and appreciated. Allowing employees to voice their concerns and be heard is a crucial part of creating a space where they can thrive.

Favoring Process-Driven Thinking and Management Layers at his Agency

Another critical aspect of people management is fostering a process-driven approach that doesn't hinder innovation. Samir believes that layers and organizational structure are essential to allowing people to learn from those with more experience. His agency has a coordinator level, a manager and strategist level, and a director level, which has helped to empower employees while also providing them with the support they need to grow.

Being a Data-First Business and Sharing Valuable Information

As a data-driven business, Samir's agency collects a lot of valuable information about the e-commerce marketplace. They've created a benchmarks page to share high-level trends and KPIs with their clients. This helps to build trust and demonstrate their expertise.

Should Direct-to-Consumer Brands Make the Move In-Store?

Samir also believes that direct-to-consumer brands will need to reconsider their approach to brick-and-mortar stores in the coming years. These stores can provide valuable validation and brand awareness. However, they may not be the best fit for every brand. Working with wholesale partners like Target can be a more strategic way to build brand awareness. It also allows a brand to grow without cannibalizing a company's entire product portfolio.

Improve employee happiness and productivity in your agency. Take a cue from Samir and prioritize people management. By creating a positive work environment that values communication, feedback, and innovation, you can set your team up for long-term success.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Maximizing_Employee_Happiness__Productivity_with_People_Management.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you in the growth phase or the scale phase of your agency journey? Do you need generalists, specialists, or both? Knowing where you're at is the key to knowing who to hire to get where you're going.  Today’s guest is in the scaling phase and believes this is when an agency needs to hire specialists. Before that, it’s all about hiring generalists that can handle multiple tasks and get the business to the next stage.

Manish Dudharejia is the founder and president of E2M Solutions, a full-service, white-label digital agency. His agency works as a trusted partner to scale your agency business behind the scenes. E2M has been serving agencies for 10 years and currently works with about 130 agencies across the U.S.

Manish is a valued partner of the show and as a repeat guest, he shares his experiences solving some of the most common agency growth challenges. In this episode, he shares some of the hiring decisions that may be holding back agency's growth.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • When to hire a generalist or a specialist.
  • The differences between the growth phase and the scale phase.
  • Why automation is the next step after hiring specialists.

Subscribe

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A Common Hiring Mistake for Agencies in The Early Growth Phase

If you’re past the initial growth phase with your agency, what would you have done differently to scale faster? Like many agency owners, Manish didn’t know a lot about building a team back when he started his business. More than 10 years later, he has learned that when you’re starting an agency or you’re in the growth phase, you want to make sure you start off with a team of generalists.

Generalists are people who are not necessarily tied to a specific role. They are able to work in several different roles during the agency’s growth phase. After reaching certain goals and entering the scale phase is when you need to hire specialists.

After opening his agency for business, Manish started looking for specialists right away. He figured he couldn’t run the agency without them.

The Importance of Hiring Generalists in the Early Growth Phase

When starting an agency or in the growth phase, it is essential to hire individuals who can be flexible and perform multiple roles. These individuals, known as generalists, can provide much-needed support in various areas, allowing the agency to save costs and reduce the number of people to manage. Hiring generalists during this stage also enables the agency to avoid having idle employees and ensures that the quality of work does not compromise.

3 Advantages of Hiring Generalists

In the early growth phase, it is common for agency owners to approach growth-related problems by hiring more people. However, this approach can be both costly and time-consuming, especially if the right employees are not found. On the other hand, hiring generalists provides several advantages, including:

  1. Reduced Costs: By hiring generalists, the agency can combine multiple roles into one, saving on costs and reducing the number of people to manage.
  2. Increased Resourcefulness: Generalists are known for their resourcefulness, which is an essential trait in the early growth phase. These individuals are versatile and can perform multiple tasks, providing the agency with much-needed support.
  3. Improved Quality of Worhttps://jasonswenk.com/amazing-agency-talent: Hiring generalists ensures that the quality of work does not compromise, as these individuals can perform multiple roles and provide support in areas where it is needed.

The Right Time to Hire Specialists

As the agency moves from the growth phase to the scale phase, it is time to start thinking about hiring specialists. Specialists bring unique skills and expertise that generalists may not possess, and they play an essential role in scaling the agency. Once the agency has reached a certain level of profitability and established a talent pipeline, it is the right time to start thinking about hiring specialists in each department.

Hiring generalists in the early growth phase is crucial for the success of an agency. These individuals provide versatility and resourcefulness, saving the agency costs and improving the quality of work. As the agency moves from the growth phase to the scale phase, it is the right time to start thinking about hiring specialists who bring unique skills and expertise to the business.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

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Direct download: Hiring_Tips_for_Agencies_in_the_Growth_and_Scaling_Phases.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want your eventual exit to benefit many instead of a few? Want to motivate and empower the team by making them personally invested in the agency’s success? Have you thought about employee shares or stock options? Learn what you should do and what to avoid in this situation from the CEO of an employee-owned agency. It was an unconventional exit strategy by its owner. However, it the new ownership structure offers many benefits for all involved and is a very interesting way to positively ensure that everyone at the agency has skin in the game.

Leeann Leahy is the CEO of VIA, a full-service advertising and marketing agency based in Portland, Maine. They are an award-winning team and one of the largest independent agencies in the business. How did they do it? Many years after its creation, the last remaining original partner decided to build a very interesting ownership structure that would benefit all employees instead of a select executive team. Leeann discusses the process of putting such a structure together, the challenges, and the many benefits it creates for the business culture and overall employee commitment.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How to set up an employee-owned agency and mistakes to avoid.
  • Finding the right agency employee ownership option.
  • Why successful ESOPs start with a foundation of good culture.

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

 

Create Something Larger than Yourself with an Employee-Owned Structure

In a sense, Leeann grew up in the agency world. She was a child actor in several commercials, so she grew up around the business of advertising. At one point in her life, she swore off that world. However, she fell right back into it with account planning. Since then she has had a successful career working at both large and small agencies. Ten years ago she moved to Portland, Maine and became the CEO of a very interesting employee-run project.

When the agency was created, its three owners had a vision of creating something larger than themselves. This is why they named it VIA (Vision, Instinct, and Action) instead of something tied to the founders. Over the years, two of the partners left and, as the last one prepared to step away from his active role, the agency got a lot of acquisition offers. With Fortune 500 clients and awards for best culture, the agency was a valuable asset for any buyer. Instead, the remaining partner had something very different planned for his exit strategy. He set up an agreement whereby he would give the agency to the employees.

This was not a typical employee-ownership program. It was completely bespoke, with lawyers and accountants advising against it. However, they started a program measuring the agency’s performance each year and if they reached certain metrics, the owner would gift a portion of his ownership in the form of options.

The program, which they called VEEP (VIA's Employee Equity Program) was meant to last for ten years. Fortunately, they were actually able to do it all by year seven.

Finding the Right Agency Employee Ownership Structure

Seven years after starting VEEP, employees could convert their earned "options" into shares. This is when they realized the lawyers and accountants were right.

The original agreement had the best intentions; however, it didn’t take tax implications into consideration. The problem was that the conversion from options to shares was prohibitively expensive because of the agency's growth over the years. As a result, they were forced to reevaluate their situation.

They looked at many different types of structures that didn’t involve giving up their independence. In the end, they landed on an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Program), a program overseen by the government. It has huge tax exceptions, so there are benefits for both the employer and employees. It is basically set up as a qualified retirement plan.

Now everyone at the agency is given more shares every year at no cost to themselves. That grows over time and, by the time they leave the agency, they’ll have something they can roll over into an IRA or cash out. This way, they’re actually earning as the agency grows and everyone is invested in the agency’s success.

3 ESOP Models Depending on the Owner’s Future Role in the Agency

Does the owner get paid out in an ESOP structure? The short answer is yes. Of course, they had to find a way to make it work both for him and the employees.

In VIA's case, the owner was paid out in two segments with a down payment and the rest over time. Technically, it was all done through a trust. They set up a trust that "bought" the agency and allocated shares to the employees. This way, the Board of Directors would still govern operationally while a Trustee Committee oversees the Board.

It was a complicated feat to pay out the owner and recognize the value he had gifted employees over the years. It involved a lot of legal math and the collaboration of many lawyers and accountants. Depending on how you structure it and what the owner wants their future role to be, they can still have residuals or be completely out.

The owner payout in an ESOP can work in 1 of 3 ways:

1. The owner receives 100% of the buyout through a note with an interest rate or participation in the ESOP.
2. It could be through a down payment to the owner and a note for the remainder.
3. Funding can be sourced from an outside, third-party.

Pros and Cons of an Agency ESOP

To take a similar route with your agency and have successful results, the first key is having the desire for everyone to benefit, as opposed to just the founder and a small executive team. This doesn’t mean they’ll all benefit equally but rather in an equally fair manner based on their contribution and compensation.

People get nervous around ESOPs because it generally involves taking on debt to buy out the founder. This debt gets paid first, even before the owner’s note, so the government knows you’re repaying it. Furthermore, you have to hold a certain amount of cash in reserves for when people redeem shares.

At Leeann’s agency, they set up the ESOP so only employees can hold shares, but this also means the agency needs to be ready to buy people out when they leave.

There are some ties to it for the employees, like paying a penalty if you decide to take out the shares before reaching a certain age. Nonetheless, the big benefit for the business is the ability to operate as a tax-free organization.

Investing in Good Culture and Commitment to the Agency’s Success

Being in a creative industry, it’s important to provide a work environment where employees feel motivated and inspired. The key to achieving this is keeping them happy. This agency invests in its happiness factor by providing its team the opportunity to work for themselves. It’s an interesting approach to the problem of employee engagement by offering benefits linking the overall agency’s performance to the team's personal gain.

Of course, this structure is not without risks. It’s built in a way in which, if you maintain a good culture and an engaged employee base, they’ll be invested in the agency’s success. If people are not engaged and it’s just a job to them, then it all falls apart. On the contrary, if they understand the agency’s success is their success, then odds are it won’t fall apart.

To ensure they give a space where employees can voice their concerns, VIA introduced VN Voices. It’s a new figure apart from the Board of Directors and the Trustee committee called the Associates’ Panel. They’re a group of seven volunteers who represent the employees. They raise issues affecting the team and bring them to the Board and Trustees.

A Successful ESOP Starts with a Foundation of Good Culture 

If you’re interested in creating something similar to the model Leeann’s agency came up with, she recommends having a well-established culture. “It’s just not something you can create on top of it,” she says. VIA already had a culture of investing in happiness, people, and fun. They invest a ton in mental health and creating an equitable environment to introduce diversity. Investing in your culture is a good way to invest in your agency’s future. “No matter where you land, you’ll be passing on something more complete if you invest in the culture,” Leeann assures.

Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners?

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Direct download: How_an_Owners_Unconventional_Exit_Strategy_Boosted_Agency_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you want to grow your agency through an acquisition? What it would look like to merge with an agency offering complementary services? What if you could expand your team by acquiring another agency's talent?  An acquisition might feel impossible, but done right can be an amazing growth strategy. Today’s guest never thought he would acquire not one but two agencies. He saw acquisitions as an impossible growth strategy that required enormous amounts of cash. In the end, it was just about finding the right partners. He is on the show to share his experiences buying out his partners and eventually making two acquisitions.

Todd Nienkerk is the co-founder of Four Kitchens, a digital agency that makes websites for organizations that educate, advocate, and reform. Their team builds digital content platforms, design systems, and apps for ambitious organizations. After nearly selling his agency and then growing back stronger and expanding his team and offering through acquisitions, he shares some of the changes he made to get to this point, as well as some of the unexpected challenges of the acquisition process.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Taking a big risk to rebuild after a failed acquisition.
  • 3 big structural changes to grow your agency.
  • Why acquisitions aren't an impossible strategy.

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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.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Darby Copenhaver is the Agency Scale Specialist at the Agency Mastery 360, which provides agency owners with the coaching, community, and tools needed to scale and find their freedom. He helps agency owners scale through a proven framework for growing their agencies faster and connecting with other amazing agency owners. 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.

 

Taking a Big Risk to Rebuild the Agency After a Failed Acquisition

Todd started the agency with several partners he met working for a student publication. With over 16 years in the business, they worked with large media companies and small non-profits, education reform groups, and universities. Over the years, however, his other partners wanted out of the agency.

At the start of the pandemic, he still had one partner left. They were coming out of a rough year and Covid affected the agency much earlier than other organizations in the US and Canada. The agency kicked off 2020 with a massive gap to fill with clients, with things only getting worse later that March. Luckily, they didn’t have to adjust to remote work, since they’d made that transition years before. However, they weren’t at all sure about their chances of pulling through.

They started looking for a way out and reached out to an agency that could acquire their business. The acquisition didn’t work out and with PPE loans starting to take shape, it suddenly seemed there was a way out. Todd took a risk and made his business partner the same acquisition offer in order to assume 100% ownership. It was a bold move at such an uncertain time but he is thankful he took the risk.

It took a lot of readjusting, rethinking the way they did business, and making pretty significant changes in early 2020. However, he got his investment back by the end of the year and went on to have a very successful 2021. Not only did Todd and the team manage to get the agency profitable again, but in 2022 they acquired several other agencies to expand the business. He is the sole owner of the agency which is the largest it has ever been.

3 Necessary Structural Changes to Grow the Agency

When it came to the agency’s second chance, Todd didn’t have a magic formula. In fact, much of what he did were necessary steps for growth (niching down, building a leadership team, etc). However, it took hitting bottom and almost selling the agency for him to be ready to face the hard truths.

For starters, Todd focused on the key people in leadership positions. He knew the ultimate outcome for the agency would largely depend on the mindset of the people at the top. It’s not even about what they do, but their approach and attitude can change the tide and really influence people’s commitment to the work and overall enthusiasm.

Taking the risk to assume full ownership of the agency and commit to its success reinvigorated Todd. It motivated him to put in the extra effort to make the agency as successful as it could be. With this in mind, he dared to address 3 fundamental issues he’d avoided:

  1. Leadership changes. Some people in the leadership team weren’t in the right role. They had gotten the agency to where they were, but weren’t the right person for the next stage of its growth.
  2. Marketing. The agency’s marketing strategies just weren’t working. Fortunately, they kicked off a marketing engagement with an outside agency in 2019. It was a big investment Todd had avoided but it started to show results in mid-2020.
  3. Niching down. It was very important to be really specific about where they spent their time. This meant focusing on what they did best. In order to do this, they deprioritized leads that did not fit their expertise.

Building a Culture of Trust with Over Communication and Transparency 

The start of the pandemic was not an ideal time to make serious changes in any business. However, for Four Kitchens, it was necessary. The team needed reassurance Todd would empower the right people and make necessary changes.  Most importantly they needed to understand the vision of what success looks like.

Of course, at this point, everyone was paying close attention to these changes. To address the team’s concerns, he committed to communicating next steps, pipeline, and what else is on the table at least once a week. Ultimately he gives his team credit for rallying around the agency and showing enthusiasm about the new things they were trying. Not everything worked; some of the people they hired for leadership positions weren't the right fit, for instance. In one case, they had 100% turnover in one team and had to rebuild. However, the commitment to over-communicate with the team established a culture of trust.

The degree of transparency they had at the time about the agency’s finances is not necessary now. They have scaled back on these open-book meetings. If they get to a similar situation in the future, the team knows Todd will be forthcoming with information.

Why Mergers and Acquisitions Are Not Impossible with the Right Partner

Todd used to look at acquisitions as an impossible strategy for his agency. He had always assumed it required an enormous amount of cash on hand to even consider an acquisition. From a business standpoint, it is a great growth strategy. However, it seems overwhelmingly complex, and expensive.

This changed in early 2021, when a friend and fellow agency owner decided to retire, and reached out to let him know she was looking for the right partner to take over. Fortunately, they structured a deal that worked financially for both parties. The two agencies complemented each other as partners should, so they ended up forming a true merger.

This success gave Todd the courage to approach an agency in Costa Rica less than a year later in order to acquire their team.

A merger that helped reduce turnover. The Costa Rica team was part of his vision for international expansion but it also ended up being a good investment to reduce employee turnover.

Like many agency owners, Todd had regularly lost developers to tech companies offering up to 50% salary increases. How to fight this? A friend recommended hiring developer teams overseas and really investing in their compensation. Most people who hire international teams are just hiring cheap labor to feed bottom-line growth. However, if you really invest in those employees, you’ll end up with the same level of talent while also creating loyalty with a competitive salary.

How Different Acquisitions Present Different and Unique Challenges

After going through two acquisitions, one of the things that surprised him the most was how they differed from each other. With the first acquisition, it was a very small but very efficient and integrated team. The merger's influence on his agency’s structure was unexpected.

Todd's existing agency had much better ways to do things like technical strategy. In this sense, it was truly two equal organizations coming together to form a much better agency. The challenge was making sure they didn’t change anything the smaller agency was doing really well. Their processes were so efficient they heavily influenced how his agency would work from then on.

On the other hand, the second acquisition posed different challenges, mainly because it was an international organization. They had to create a separate entity to acquire that agency. Todd found doing business abroad is very different. Even simple things like opening a bank account proved to be very difficult and the process took several months. Thankfully, they had proper guidance and everything worked out.

Don’t Let an Acquisition Deal Take a Life of its Own

For those considering an acquisition as a means to grow, Todd advises not letting the deal take on a life of its own. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re not just trying to make the deal work. Ultimately, you’re trying to improve your existing agency. It’s very easy to slip into a mindset where you just think about the transaction as the thing you’re chasing. It should never be like this. The main focus should always be the outcome of the transaction.

That outcome won’t be immediate, it may take a year or two and you should prepare for this. An acquisition will fundamentally change your organization and you have to be prepared for this. Work with both your existing team and your incoming team because they will be the key pieces of that transition.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Why_Acquisitions_Arent_an_Impossible_Growth_Strategy_for_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you have the confidence to charge what you're worth? Do your clients understand your agency's value? Understanding your value is an important part of growing your agency. It requires strategy and attracting the right clients. Most of all it requires a lot of confidence. If you truly believe in yourself and your pricing, the right clients won't think twice about paying it. Today’s guest specializes in taking her clients to the very highest levels in the market. She believes agency owners need to stop charging mainstream prices and start charging luxury prices in order to scale faster.

Kathryn Porritt is the owner of Icons Incorporated, a boutique agency that helps personal brands make the transition from mainstream pricing to luxury offers. Their clients land multi-million dollar deals in one transaction! They usually have big consulting gigs and commercial deals. Icon's job is to create connections for people for the sake of leveraging their personal brands at the very highest level.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Growing your agency by starting at the top.
  • Positioning yourself as the best at what you do.
  • Why niching down is an important part of finding confidence.

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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.

 

What Are You Left With if You Don’t Build Your Brand?

When they start their business, agency owners tend not to put enough into growing their own brand. The thinking being it is essentially to not get too involved so the agency is more attractive for potential buyers upon the owner's eventual exit. For her part, Kathryn has gone through a similar process where she created, grew, and sold an agency. After the sale, she thought “what am I left with?” Without another business, advisory gigs, or book deal to fall back on, she had to take the lessons learned and start over.

After that experience, she advises agency owners to work on both their personal brand and the agency’s marketing in parallel. In the end, it takes time to build a personal brand into something profitable -- and now is the right moment to start. Even if you ultimately decide to sell, if you’ve protected your personal brand, you probably have a list of people who will follow you on other projects. That’s freedom. It allows you to explore other things once you sell. This way, you’ can build a profitable brand and have a legacy.

Starting at the Top and Growing Your Agency With a Luxury Pricing Model 

At some point, agency owners wanting to grow their business need to increase prices. Most of the time, they don’t even have a reason to justify their current prices. For Kathryn, part of the problem is most have experience with charging mainstream prices. Mainstream business strategies teach an ascension model, where you start from the bottom, build an audience, increase your offers, and eventually find people who will pay high ticket prices.

The core problem is most agency owners are not aware there’s a different way to get to the top. They don’t teach you the luxury strategy. The main difference between the mainstream and luxury models is that the latter will start at the top and then works its way down to still create an impact.

In essence, with the luxury model, you understand you have a true leadership position in the market. These are trendsetters and are not looking to the market for answers about what they’re building.

When you start at the top, you’re in the #1 position and work with fewer clients. For agencies, this means working really deeply with a handful of clients. Kathryn finds clients who work at this level are easier to work with.

Of course, you have to be really good at what you do. If you can provide a really specific world-class solution to a problem, then you can absolutely start at the top. The key element is having the audacity to go after a core set of clients who will invest heavily to have that world-class proximity.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

How to Position Your Agency in a Luxury Model

According to Kathryn, in order to position yourself in a luxury model you must drop humility at the door. It sounds harsh, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good or nice person. There’s also no need to post pictures with a private jet and brag about how much money you have. In reality, it’s about showing such a level of confidence and certainty that you are magnetic. Kathryn calls it “iconic embodiment” which is the moment where you step into the most arrogant version of yourself. This is the key to positioning the luxury model.

If, as an entrepreneur, you can walk into a meeting, sales call, or pitch with that level of power and the knowledge that you’re the right person for the job, you’ll be unstoppable.

What if you don’t think you’re the best? There is a space for all experts to claim as their own and where they can with all certainty and integrity claim to be the best. You may not be the best in the world for everyone. But you can certainly be the best for the right people. It shouldn’t be about pretending but rather about really believing you’re exactly what that client needs. This is why niching down and knowing your audience is such an important part of finding your confidence.

In the end, knowing your worth is a very attractive quality. If you don’t know it, then nobody else will.

Is this the Right Time to Charge Luxury Prices?

With the economy being what it is right now, you may want to change your offering a bit and work with a handful of clients who can afford it. If you’re starting to find it quite difficult at the low end of the market, is there a strategy where you could work with clients more deeply? Think about how you could restructure your agency so that you’re providing more attention to each client and be paid at a higher level.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


What do you think about hustle culture? Do you have a healthy work-life balance with your agency? Does your team? As the owner, you set the tone for the agency's culture. And what is important to you by extension becomes important to the team. Today’s guest owns a boutique agency she started after quitting her job in the tech space after feeling exhausted from 80-hour work weeks. She started fresh in Belize with a new mindset about the type of work-life balance she wanted and the culture she’d create for her agency.

Jeanna Barrett is the founder and Chief Remote Officer of First Page Strategy, an award-winning remote growth marketing agency. She has 17 years of inbound marketing experience working with venture startups, digital agencies, and fortune 500 companies.

Six years ago, Jeanna left the US and built a business in Belize. What started as freelancing grew into a full inbound marketing agency with 40+ experts across the globe. Beyond the success of her agency, she’s most proud of the culture she was created with her remote team. Jeanna encourages different passions outside of work and promotes a healthy work-life balance. She shares her journey of creating an anti-hustle culture for her agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Recovery from the hustle culture and burnout.
  • Prioritizing boundaries to create healthy agency culture.
  • Embracing your team’s passions and hobbies.

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: John Corcoran 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.

 

Recovering from the Hustle Culture and the Burnout it Causes

In 2016, Jeanna was living in San Francisco and felt burned out by the non-stop work hustle and grind culture. She realized the “dream offices” popular in the tech world, with free lunch, snack bars, entertainment, and laundry service exist only to justify 80-hour work weeks. Jeanna was ready to leave the perks behind.

She was eager to live a life where she didn’t have to work all the time. She wanted time and freedom to focus on the things that make her happy.

Building a business in Belize may not be what she originally intended, but it is exactly what she needed to have a work-life balance. It is an opportunity to create a work culture valuing and encouraging different passions and pursuits outside of work. Her agency focuses on employee performance based on tasks completed and not on the amount of time spent in front of a computer.

A Lesson on the Benefits of Doing Content Marketing Right

Fortunately, after 15+ years of working in marketing, Jeanna had a network she could tap into. She was looking to work as a freelancer and started by calling old clients and colleagues. Eventually, her freelance business evolved into an accidental agency.

Getting her first big client was a lesson in content marketing. At one point, Jeanna wrote an article about how she left her career and moved to the Caribbean. It offered advice for people looking to do something similar and work remotely. In the article, she mentioned the company she used to establish her business as an LLC. Ironically the company had fired their SEO partner and contacted her to take over the role. She had not yet formed an agency but decided to give it a try.

She started with a small entry-level contract, so she just hired two consultants to work on SEO content. After that, they scaled every year, based on the services and the needs they cover. By year two, she added another three people to work on that account, and year three added another three employees.

At first, they worked exclusively on content creation but as the relationship developed they slowly added other services like email marketing and lead generation.

Prioritizing Boundaries to Create a Healthy Agency Culture

Since the beginning, Jeanna had a certain culture in mind for her agency. It was always one of the most important pieces of what she was trying to build. To avoid going back to old habits that ultimately burn people out, she focused on building a culture where the work would not leave employees feeling exhausted or stressed. No one is happy working under those conditions. Instead, she created a work environment that encourages a work-life balance. You are more efficient when you're not constantly replacing people and everyone is noticeably happier.

It would’ve been easy to go back to old habits, which is why Jeanna is obsessive about boundaries. For instance, she follows certain routines like blocking her calendar to ensure she schedules time to exercise and have lunch at a certain time. It’s more about making sure she takes care of her health. This is what works for her; however, it varies person to person. This is a conversation she has with all employees. It’s important for them to know which boundaries will help keep them delivering great work while remaining healthy and happy.

Boundaries with clients. If you’re going to respect boundaries within the agency, they should be established with clients as well. As a boutique agency, they only take on the business they can handle. They talk about their boundaries as a team and are very strict about adhering to them - even with clients. Ultimately, it’s about setting and managing expectations.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Should Your Agency Invest More in PPC or SEO?

One of the biggest objections to inbound and content creation is it takes too long to see results. Clients likely have to wait 6-8 months to see results. It is more of a long-term strategy when you’re using PPC ads to pull people in.

Clients tend to fall into the trap of overly investing in PPC and under-investing in SEO and inbound. PPC is an expensive but powerful engine. Some spend $50+ for one click, and even then, how many clicks does it take to convert a customer?

It is very competitive out there and if your competition is using PPC then so should you. However, Jeanna feels clients could be investing more evenly in what they put into PPC and the long-term strategy. Investing in a long-term strategy will get their business to the first page and ultimately reduce their PPC spending.

As an expert in SEO and inbound marketing, she says no brand has ever regretted investing in quality content marketing.

Changing Your Mindset to Retain a Happy and Fulfilled Team

You may really love your digital agency but there’s probably a lot you’re passionate about outside of work. This is true for every single team member and it's something Jeanna tries to find out during the interview process. She has discovered one employee has a cookbook, others are runners or had a band. It’s a great way to realize the different types of people within the agency and presents the opportunity to highlight or celebrate these passions. It’s important to encourage these outside hobbies because happy and fulfilled people are better workers.

A change in culture requires a change of mindset. If you’re under-investing in building your agency’s culture, the first thing to change is your mindset. Putting a number on how much you should spend makes no difference if you don’t believe in its importance.

Important Investments in Your Agency's Growth

Ultimately, the first significant change is hiring a leadership team. It’s one of the most important steps in realizing you don't need to micromanage people so they produce good work. It's also a way to get yourself out of daily operations and focused on scaling your agency.

Another important investment for growth is an amazing project management system. All your agency work goes through this system and it’s worth the investment, especially if you have a remote team. With a remote agency, the PM software is the central system that sort of becomes your "office space" and should be prioritized as such.

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_Create_Work-Life_Balance_With_Anti-Hustle_Culture.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you feel like you're in no man's land? Growing beyond the $1 Million mark and beyond 7 figures can be a very gray area where the agency is making more money but the owner is working more than ever. This is no man’s land and it's a sign you need a strong leadership team to get the agency to the next level. Today’s guest is an accidental agency owner, like most, who found the transition to Agency CEO reignited her interest in the business. She now runs an agency that serves its clients and aims to have an impact on the community.

Ruth Bernstein is CEO and co-founder of Yard NYC, a New York-based creative agency that helps turn brands into cultural beacons. They’ve worked with brands like Amazon, and Walmart with the belief that purposeful brands can both drive cultural relevancy and good business. After growing as an agency and getting past certain milestones, they have also worked to turn themselves into a brand that creates change.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How to raise prices and charge what you're worth.
  • Why culture misfits that can cost your agency big opportunities.
  • Navigating no man's land by hiring a leadership team.

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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.

 

Starting a Female-Led Agency During the Industry’s Mad Men Era

Ruth and her partner Stephan worked on the client side in London and had never worked at an agency. At one point, while working with media companies, they started looking for agency partners in the fashion, wellness, and beauty space. They were looking for partners who could bring strategy to the table, were female-led, and really understood how to work with in-house teams. It was the '90s and still the “Mad Men” era in the agency space and none of the candidates met these requirements.

This is how they became accidental agency owners. They had never worked for an agency or run one but their search on the client side revealed there was a niche for this type of agency. Coming from the client side, they already had credibility and went for big-brand clients right away.

How Culture Misfits Can Cost Your Agency Big Opportunities

Mistakes help us grow. And one of those from Ruth's early agency days was delegating negotiations with a prospect to a consultant. It wasn’t right for the agency and nearly made them lose their first really big project. At the time, Ruth was in charge of strategy and Stephan was heading up the creative side. Neither of them had negotiated an agency deal. Since it was a big client, they figured it would be best to delegate negotiations to a consultant who could help make sure it was solid.

Unfortunately, the consultant’s tone and manner of handling the deal nearly made them lose the client. In hindsight, this person did not align with the agency's culture or vision. The client approached Ruth and Stephan because they knew and trusted them.

As a result, they learned communication is a key piece in showing prospects what it's like working with their agency. There’s nothing wrong with getting help in areas you don’t have experience. However, in this instance, they just needed the confidence to handle it themselves.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

How to Raise Prices and Charge What You're Worth

Pricing is not easy. You have to do your homework and understand competition and what the client is willing to pay, as well as your own value.

As a smaller agency working with both bigger and smaller clients, Yard NYC geared prices toward smaller clients. However, it got awkward when those clients started growing and it was time to raise prices. For a lot of agency owners, this is a really difficult conversation.

Usually, it’s more difficult to raise prices for legacy clients than for new clients. Even some of the mastermind’s members with very successful agencies have gone years without raising prices to legacy clients. Under Jason’s guidance, they learned to look at the opportunity cost between new and old clients. At the point where the difference is just too big, it’s time to approach those clients, have a conversation about value, and explain a price increase. Almost all clients admit they’d been expecting a price raise and had no objections. By raising prices on existing clients you can increase revenue without increasing workload.

A Non-Traditional Approach to Partnering with Clients

After years in the agency business and witnessing success stories for many of her clients, Ruth realized there were other ways to gain from a client’s growth.

The team at Yard NYC came up with a partnership program of co-investing in some client businesses and providing marketing. They work with some clients who receive venture capital funds and saw the clients' business transformation. The value-added and brand-building were great; after five years they would sell and capitalize on the investment.

It’s not the typical client-agency relationship, but for Ruth, it’s an opportunity for getting more involved on the venture side.

How to Navigate No Man's Land By Hiring a Leadership Team

A lot of agencies fall into a kind of “no-mans land” between the $1 Million and $7 Million revenue mark. It’s a point where, after bringing in more people, the agency is making more money. However, agency owners are working more and making less.

This is the point Ruth realized it was time to build an executive leadership team. At some point, you have to bring in people to be the brains of the operation. There comes a moment as you scale where growth starts to demand a stronger foundation; not only for your own freedom, but so your organization can thrive. Surround yourself with people smarter than yourself.

Hiring leaders is a necessary step but one that usually leaves agency owners feeling like the business no longer needs them. Ruth's transition to CEO came naturally since they wanted a female leader for the agency. In a sense, this shift renewed her interest in the business. It was an opportunity to get out of her comfort zone and grow. She didn’t feel like she wasn’t needed but rather she was needed in new ways.

The beauty of having the right team and amazing culture takes a huge load off the agency owner. We’re all creative people who want to make, create, and transform. As you grow, your personality will emanate from the business, which doesn’t mean you have to be involved in every aspect of it. It’s important to build a leadership team and create a culture that encourages growth and involvement. By building a strong culture, you create the basis for the agency to run without you.

How to Make an Impact While Reinvigorating Your Team’s Passion

Doing great work while also having an impact. Agencies are constantly serving their clients and making great things. That takes up a lot of their time. However, agencies also have the power to put their creative abilities to good use. There are many other things you can do to impact on your community.

Ruth wanted to galvanize her team and put their voices out there as a women-led business. They organized a campaign around women's values. It not only created incredible buzz and managed to raise awareness, but it reinvigorated the team and get them excited about making a difference.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.


If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is the year for AI content creation like ChatGPT. (Even Ryan Reynolds and Mint Mobile know it  :) Should your agency be using it too? Are you worried about turning off clients over this technology? Or could you make more money using it?  There are drawbacks, which is why agency owners need to know the best way to leverage AI for content. Today’s guests are experts in content creation as they talk about pros, cons, and how agencies can use AI like ChatGPT to be more efficient and grow their business.

Ryan Sargent is the Director of Content Marketing at Verblio, the world’s friendliest content creation platform. Verblio builds content marketing for other marketers at scale by pairing specialized, niche writers with marketing agencies and marketing professionals. Verblio is a preferred partner of the show and Ryan is a repeat guest who brings amazing insight.

This time, he is joined by Megan Skalbeck, the content marketing manager at Verblio handling strategic initiatives.

The team at Verblio are experts at content creation and have done a ton of research on how agencies can leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence and AI tools.  You can check out their survey results at verblio.com/ai. With those results in mind, they shared some of their conclusions on the best ways to use AI for content creation while keeping high quality standards.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How agencies can make more money by integrating AI tools.
  • Weaknesses of AI and a hybrid plan for using them effectively.
  • Why aren't more agencies using AI?
  • 3 tips for making AI more effective for your agency content.

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

Links to other episodes featuring Ryan Sargent:
https://jasonswenk.com/creating-content-for-clients/
https://jasonswenk.com/content-creation-team/

How Agencies Can Make More Money by Integrating AI Tools

Where do content creation experts stand on whether or not to use AI? Basically, if your agency isn’t planning on using AI at all in 2023, you are making a mistake. On the other hand, if you think AI is going to replace freelancers, fool Google, and you’ll never need a writer again, that's also a mistake.

The reality is, agencies need to be using AI as soon as the next few months. We should all learn to use AI not as a catch-all, but as an actual tool. To this end, work with people who really understand AI.

Find the balance. As it stands right now, AI tools can produce a lot of words. However, there are a lot of weaknesses:

  • Factual accuracy. There’s actually no guarantee the content produced by an AI is correct.
  • Sentence structure. A blog post created by AI does not necessarily have a logical structure or make sense at all.
  • Weakened SEO. Google knows AI-generated created content apart from what is human-written.

It is tempting for agencies to look at AI as a way to produce content at a much lower cost. However, with these weaknesses, the best alternative is a hybrid approach. Take content created by AI and improve it with human editing.

We shouldn’t view AI as a service or a finished product. It can do great work in saving writers from a blank page. With the right prompt, AI is great at generating ideas and continuing thoughts. As long as the writer is there to review and (probably) make significant edits, it can be really effective.

First Steps to Integrate AI as Part of Your Strategy in 2023

Curious about AI? Try a free version of any of the existing tools. This way, you can get a sense of their potential and learn how it works. If you’re not interested in exploring these tools in your own time, work with someone who is doing this. The important thing is to have a vision of how to integrate these tools into agency work. Don’t try to just jump into technology because it’s new without a vision for how it serves your agency. You don’t want to be the agency getting content that ranks but doesn’t convert and never makes money for the client.

AI is an incredibly powerful tool. However, it will add costs, both financially and in terms of time and effort. Instead of hiring an entire team of in-house writers or relying on the free version of the AI tool, find a partner who can provide AI expertise.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Why Aren't More Agencies Using AI for Content?

Can agencies use AI to make money? Yes, absolutely. But are they doing it yet? Verblio’s recent marketers survey reveals NO, agencies are actually lagging behind in the use of AI tools.

Verblio found agencies have been slow to adapt because they’re afraid of losing clients. They fear it could break trust or threaten the agency's position with the client. But, how true is this? Clients look at agencies as the experts to tell them if they should be using AI or not. The key is transparency. No one should be using AI to save money and hide it from the client.

The use of AI also depends on the type of agency. A branding agency won’t get as much use of AI as an SEO agency trying to produce content as rapidly as possible.

There is also an advantage to having the surge of AI now as opposed to 10 years ago. The Google algorithm is much better now at rewarding quality results. The algorithm doesn’t care how the content was created - it only cares about answering the searcher’s query.

All AI content is not created equal.  How you plan to use it determines how efficient it proves to be for your agency and the results it achieves for your clients. For instance, if you’re creating content around cutting-edge technology, it will not give the best results. AI is great for local SEO on more general topics because it’s been trained with existing online content.

3 Tips to Make AI Effective for Your Agency's Content Creation

  1. Be transparent about AI use. Don’t underestimate the importance of being transparent with clients regarding your use of AI. Some of them may be concerned you’re not using it enough, or on the contrary that you’re overdoing it. An honest conversation about this allowing them to voice their concerns goes a long way.
  2. Human intervention makes it work. Figuring out the best way to use AI is really important to get the best results possible. Take whatever the tool creates and give it a quick edit. To really get the most out of AI, have a human involved in the process providing structure and input throughout.
  3. Find a partner. The current economy makes the use of AI very valuable. It’s not a time when many people are able or willing to hire an entire writing team for content creation. You can instead find a partner and leverage AI to create a lot more with less.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (Attract, Convert, Scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_to_Make_More_Money_Using_AI_to_Create_Content_for_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

If you're in the early stages of your agency, what should you prioritize in order to grow? With so many things to track and so many hats to wear, how do you know what's most important? What deserves your time and attention? As a solopreneur with a startup, building relationships and establishing values for your are crucial for growth. Yet, some owners are not equipped to maintain these parts of the business. So, how can you prioritize these factors when growing your agency?

Today's guest, Christy Pretzinger, understands that solopreneurs are not in a position to oversee relationships consistently. That's why she hires compatible talent to help her develop and sustain team-building programs and workshops. These initiatives cultivate a supportive culture and ensure her team embodies their values. Christy talks about maintaining a positive company culture and explains the importance of relationship building, how she attracts like-minded people and her strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships. 

In this episode, we'll discuss:

  • Why it's important to build relationships when seeking opportunities.
  • Strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships. 
  • Growing an agency during uncertain and challenging economic times.

Christy Pretzinger is the President and CEO of WriterGirl, an agency that helps hospitals and healthcare organizations create patient-friendly website content to grow their brand and strengthen their position in the marketplace. Since 2005, Christy has grown WriterGirl from a freelance writing business into a nationally recognized healthcare content consultancy. She is passionate about building environments where people can thrive and strives to reinvent how we view the work world. As an experienced entrepreneur, Christy shares her experiences with younger agency owners to help them grow.

 

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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.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  John Corcoran 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.

Episode transcript:

John Corcoran  0:00  

Hey, I'm John Corcoran taking over for Jason Swenk in this episode of The Smart Agency Masterclass, and I run Rise25 and Rise25. We are an easy button to help businesses get more clients and referrals with done-for-you podcast and content marketing. And for over a decade, we've been helping companies to give to their best relationships and partnerships through a podcast. I also am a longtime podcaster and have done Smart Business Revolution Podcast since about 2010. And I got to know Jason by listening to his podcast, and then we joined his Digital Agency Elite Mastermind, we've attended his events. And we wanted to learn from someone who grew in multimillion dollar operation with over 100 staff and then sold it. So if you are an agency that wants to grow, contact Jason and his team because they can help go to digitalagencyelite.com. But you can also email support@Jasonswenk.com.

And so I was also honored when he asked me to take over the show as a guest host. So check out today's episode with an amazing agency owner. Today we've got Christy Pretzinger, and Christy is the owner and CEO of WriterGirl. It's a fast-growing organization that creates content and provides strategy for hospitals, and healthcare organizations across the United States. Christy went from being a freelancer to an agency owner. So we're going to talk about that journey. And she uncovered her passion for creating an environment where people can thrive writing a book on sharing your experience around doing that, just that. And one of the things that she talks about, and we'll talk about this interview is about viewing culture through the lens of a balance sheet, and helping fellow business owners and others who have a direct impact on the culture.

So Christy, I'm excited to hop into those topics. And first, let's start at your origin story, how you got into the agency world into becoming an agency owner, you'd been a freelancer, and you actually ended up, you knew a woman who a former client of yours, who'd started your company, WriterGirl, and you ended up partnering up with her. So talk a little bit about how that came about.

 

Christy Pretzinger  1:55  

Okay, thanks for having me, I'm happy to talk to you. That's, I guess, an interesting story. She was a client, and she brought me on as a partner, and really kind of to sell, you know, stuff that it was a company at the time that did advertising copy. So it did like headlines and naming and things like that. And a year later, her largest client, she really kind of had one client. And he was indicted and imprisoned actually for tax fraud. So she was expecting a baby and was obviously made her very nervous. And she wanted out. And so I bought her out for a pittance. And basically got the name of the company which is WriterGirl. But I had to pivot pretty quickly because there was no client anymore. And started seeking out more long-form content, because that was the kind of writer that I was. And you know, as the Queen, Oprah says, luck is preparation meeting opportunity. And so what happened is that through a series of events, a hospital group was redoing, they were merging and renaming actually. And they needed three websites done for each one of their three hospitals. And they had to be done pretty much simultaneously, the marketing director of that hospital group had been a former client of mine when I was a freelancer. So she reached out to me and thought that most of the content was done. And I came to find out like a week in that literally nothing was done. And I had like 35 writers on it, you know, within like 20 minutes. And then once we finished that it was a huge learning curve. But fortunately, it was going so quickly, that we could make mistakes, and then fix them without really causing any issue. And so by the end of that, I thought, well, I'll bring teams of writers to hospitals. 

John Corcoran  3:42  

And so it just seemed right? Yeah. Before we get to that, I want to ask you about how you brought in that first big project. You know, was it it was a kind of a case of fake it till you make it, you know, you saw the opportunity? There must have been part of you that was saying, oh my gosh, wow, this is like a massive project for me something bigger than I've ever handled. So, you know, I'm wondering how you set yourself up, for lack of a better term to take on that big project?

Christy Pretzinger  4:14  

Well, I'll talk about I won't talk about the one that made me decide to go into hospitals really was kind of an accident. So I'll talk about how I actually deliberately went out and got one because that's more interesting. And what happened? There were two things. One of them was I went to, I'm in Cincinnati, I went to The Ohio State University and ended up landing their business for a small project, just like a just a brochure at the time. But she was saying they had a whole bunch of work to do. And if we could do this well, but she was warning me that the medical director had an undergrad in English and then, you know, had gone on to get his MD and she said he hates everybody's writing. And when we did this, he made two changes and it was like commas, and she couldn't believe that. And so then she gave us a very large project to do the website content for their heart hospital, and that was probably the time the biggest single project we'd ever had. And I honestly wasn't sure if we could do it that I've thought, well, I done that other hospital project, I did have some writers, I had done some learning. And I knew how to project manage that kind of thing. And I had a really good relationship with the client at Ohio State. And for me, I've always found, especially when I was building the business, that having that really, really working to build that relationship with the client was key to being able to not only produce excellent work, but get the grace if you made a mistake. Because I would always say nobody will work harder than me to find something about you to like, because, you know, clients can be challenging, right and personally, and what I think and there's gotta be, there's gotta be a point, like, I had to work with one of her employees, and this woman was very challenging. But over time, we finally did build a relationship, and then it just made it so much better. So that then you feel like you can, if you make a mistake, you can acknowledge that and they'll give you the grace to fix it. So me relationship building has always been key. But then this was an interesting one to the next really big one. This was when I landed $150,000 from one client, and we'd never ever, ever had that kind of money. It was Indiana University. And I went through I'm a WeBank, a woman-owned business, which has never gotten me anything except this one time. I called the diversity person, who in this instance, was a man, which usually isn't that it was. And for whatever reason, he's like, Okay, I'll connect you with our marketing director, which was like, Oh, wait, why? And he got me on the phone with them. And that hospital system at the time, had to use it or lose it budgetary thing. And they had like foreign $20,000 That was going to go away had been earmarked for something. And it didn't fit in, or I think it had been earmarked. And the work didn't get done in that calendar year, or whatever their year was academic year. And so they said, Can we give you a check for $450,000? And then work it off? And I was like, Well, yes, you can.

John Corcoran  7:06  

That was not a hard Yes.

Christy Pretzinger  7:10  

I can complete again, luck is preparation, meeting opportunity that was just me calling and thinking, Well, why don't we try getting in this way? And

John Corcoran  7:20  

that's great. That's great. How did you make that transition from being a freelancer to managing teams of writers? And all the different challenges that come from moving from one to the other? Can you talk about that?

Christy Pretzinger  7:37  

Yeah, it's interesting. In retrospect, now, I have a few different experience shares, I guess, around that. One of them is that when I became a freelance writer, a long, long, long time ago, I did it because I was a competent writer. I never wanted, I didn't have a passion to be a writer, you know, I was a good writer, I made a good living as a writer. But it wasn't, it wasn't my passion. So when I started building WriterGirl, I wasn't feeling like I had to hold on to being a writer and wasn't like, oh my gosh, this is who I am. This is my talent. So as it started growing, I used to write project manager. And so the first thing I let go of was the writing. Because it wasn't my passion anyway. And I was okay at project managing, I'm really, especially now, I'm not a detail-oriented person, I would really have to really put on that hat and do that. And then sales came more naturally to me, but at that time, as it is for most people building a business as a solopreneur, you know, at that time, you're like, Okay, sell, sell, sell, sell, project, manage product, manage, and, you know, farm out the work to writers, and then oh, crap, there's nothing in the pipeline, sell, sell, sell. You know, I mean, most people know that drill. So that was how I mean, like, a lot of people I was doing that the difference for me was unlike people who maybe are engineers and, and do something in an engineering field, or a doctor or like a dentist or something like that. I'm not the only one with the skill set. So I was able to move out of those roles. And because I had done all the roles, I knew what was required. And I could hire people that were better at it than I had been. And that was really key. I don't think I knew that at the time. But I also never had a lot of ego around that. And I know sometimes that that's again, an experience share that I see, especially with younger businesses where they think well, I'm the one who's the best at that. I'm like, well, that's great if you want to have a job for the rest of your life. And there's nothing wrong with that. I didn't want a job for the rest of my life. So I was always really happy to hire people that were you know, better, faster, stronger than me in whatever capacity that was.

Strategies for Maintaining Client and Employee Relationships

John Corcoran  9:41  

Yeah. Now I know one of your passions now is building maintaining a culture within your company. And you were telling me beforehand that one of the things that you've always believed is if I couldn't build a business based on kindness, I would go back to being a free Freelancer so that was important to you. Was there a point Lean was our breaking point, like sometimes I talk to business owners and they realized that their culture is off. They don't like their own culture. Sometimes they have to fire a bunch of people to change the culture. Was there anything like that? Or what was the realization that culture was really important to you as you built your business?

Christy Pretzinger  10:17  

Well, I think because when I started freelancing, I had left a job because I felt completely unappreciated and taken advantage of, it had been a really good situation for a period of time. And then it just stopped being a good situation. And largely because the woman who had been my boss left, and I think she had shielded me from a lot of things and had promoted me and champion me. And that was wonderful. Then she was gone. And I was like, wow, this is a mess. And I didn't like that at all. And I had had a lot of jobs, I'd moved around a lot before I only worked in the workforce for I don't know, what, seven years before I started freelancing. And so and I think I'd had like four or five different jobs, I stayed about a year and a half the last one I was there for, I think, for years. So I'd seen a lot of different things that workplaces that weren't necessarily that appreciative or kind to their people. So for me, it was always from the outset that I wanted to do that that was a core belief of mine. And I think, again, looking back on it, at the time, I have grown and changed but at the time, because of my own insecurities. I wanted to be everyone's favorite client, meaning all the 1090 nines, the contractors that I would hire, I wanted to be their favorite client. And I wanted to be every client's favorite vendor, I wanted everyone to like me. And so I thought that maybe I guess maybe kindness was a core thing. It's always been a core thing for me. And then once I never had to fire anybody, because of culture until many years later. And that was just a situation we knew was going awry anyway. But really, the people that are drawn to this organization seem to be of like mind. And that has been I don't know what that's about. I don't know what that magic is. Because that's actually been true in most aspects of my life, too. I haven't had a lot of negative people around me, generally speaking.

John Corcoran  12:10  

There isn't, is there anything that you do deliberately in the hiring process, or in your own content marketing, that you put out on your own website that would attract people like that? Yes,

Christy Pretzinger  12:22  

very much. So I mean, I think that there's a lot of people when people look at our website, especially if they're women, because it is a woman in business, and it's called WriterGirl. And they're like, oh, I want to work there, I think it would be fun. And we are very, pretty loud and proud about our values, which are we are empowered, curious, kind and fun. And so we do that in our own content marketing, we talk about that we talked about, we have a program called kindness counts, and we use that the organization to go out and do things in the community, you know, whether it's, you know, volunteer someplace, or go clean up, you know, something that's a mess, things like that. We also do something called moment makers that we do for our clients. So we try and mark a moment for them if they get married, if they have a baby if something happens, and so we do something. And we actually have a file within our SharePoint called moment makers, where we can put all that stuff so everybody can see it, and drawn it and build on it. So all of those things we do talk about quite a bit. And then the people that work for WriterGirl talk about it a lot. And they tend to have their friends want to come work and their friends tend to be project managers and writers or content strategists and things like that. So we get a lot, a lot, a lot of people that way.

Growing an Agency During Uncertain Economic Times

John Corcoran  13:29  

And did you know many companies when COVID hit in 2020 film that they had to make deliberate changes to their culture, because all of a sudden, everyone's dispersed? They're not under the same roof? I don't know if they were before. But did you have to make any deliberate changes in order to maintain that culture that you wanted when COVID hit?

Christy Pretzinger  13:48  

Well, what's interesting is when I was building the business, as I started hiring people, I never wanted an office because I would have to go there. And I didn't want to have to do that. I didn't like that whole environment. And, again, I think I've shared with you, John, that my goal was always to work as little as possible make as much money as possible. So I didn't want anybody to see that I wasn't going to the office. And so I mean, I was hoping that would happen at the time, it didn't you know how it is, when you're building a business, it's like working 24/7. But I was hoping to get to the point where I am now where I don't, don't work as much. So we've been virtual from day one. So we did not miss a beat when COVID hit. And in fact, what we were able to do was help a lot of our clients who you know, largely work in hospitals and healthcare and some agencies that serve you know, like big agencies that are full service agencies that also are clients of ours that serve hospitals and health care and help them figure out how to do that virtually. You know, are there different tools that you use? How do you collaborate? How do you make sure that you still feel like you have a culture going on? And so much of it has been ingrained in us that we never had really pulled it apart before. And looked at it doesn't like well, why does this work? You know what, what is the magic that makes it a an environment where people do truly feel like they can thrive.

John Corcoran  15:03  

Yeah, some companies like Zappos, for example, developed a whole b2b culture consulting division, I interviewed the head of it a bunch of years ago. Were you were you it? Was this something that you just kind of did as, as an add-on without charging for it? Or did you ever think like, you know, we have built a really good culture, we should turn this into its own business initiative?

Why It's Important to Build Relationships When Seeking Opportunities

Christy Pretzinger  15:26  

You know, we never really did. It was just, it was really more ad hoc. And again, it was building those relationships with our clients. I mean, our mission is we build relationships, one word at a time. And then our values are, we're empowered, curious, kind and fun. So that kind of underpins everything that we do. So if we had a client who's like, Oh, my God, I'm working from home, my kids are homeschooling? I'm not really sure. And we were always like, Okay, first of all, just don't worry about it. It's fine. I got kids here, too. It's okay. Let's just make this work. And then they'd be like, Well, how do you? I don't even know how to use Zoom. What is this? Like? You know, so just helping people with things like that? Yeah. Now, with the, with the book that I'm writing and things like that, that's that really, it's not so much about being a revenue generator, fine. If it is, it's really more about having an impact on other business owners, you know, like us, that have a direct impact on culture, probably more smaller business owners, although within an organization, I've never worked in huge fortune 500 companies, but you know, the smaller groups within organizations have their own cultures, right, within a huge organization. So, my mission, personally, is to sort of reinvent the way people look at the world of work by making it someplace where it is literally life, work, balance, not work life balance. Hmm.

John Corcoran  16:38  

I want to ask you also about you niche down and decided that you wanted to work with hospitals. Talk a little bit about that. thought process behind that, and how you did that. And were there bumps along the road. I mean, there's been major health care legislation that has come down in the last 15 years, I don't know if that ever, you know, changed the way that you had to operate.

Christy Pretzinger  17:03  

Well, you know, what's interesting is chaos creates opportunity, right. And if, if nothing else, you can say that healthcare in the US is chaotic. When we started working in healthcare, only trying to think like, even I know, 11 years ago, I think that the Affordable Care Act had just passed a little bit before that. So there were all sorts of things and hospitals, it was really just chaotic. They didn't even know how to price anything. And that was one of the requirements at the time. Because they would just build it all into the, you know, the CAT scan that you had, or whatever, they have no idea how much surgery costs, how much anything costs, I still don't think they do. But that was a general idea of trying to control costs by at first understanding them. So we had a lot of communication, there was a lot of opportunity for communication there. In terms of getting into it. As I said, After that one client hired me, it just I looked around, I was like, there are hospitals everywhere. And they must be doing things like this one is doing like, you know, doing entirely new websites where they have so much content that has to be written, who's going to do that? It just seems like a really, it seems simple, you know, you tell yourself the necessary lie, right? It'll be easy. That'll be easy. And that looking at hospitals, and at the time, strictly content, not even content strategy was like we write words on the page. And the reason I did that was because that's what I understood. I didn't want to try and sell at the time search wasn't even a big deal. But I didn't want to do web development or design or any kind of that because I didn't understand it. And I didn't want to look stupid trying to sell something that I really didn't understand. So we ended up probably inadvertently, narrow, narrowly niching in a way that worked really well it ended up being a very narrow and very deep niche. We've never had any problem having growth numbers within just that narrow niche.

John Corcoran  18:53  

I want to ask you also about you mentioned earlier about the importance of relationships. And you said it's always been about the relationship with the client. But you're at a size now where I'm sure all the relationships don't go through you. So as you as you grew to a larger point, and you had to step away, step back and let others manage those relationships. How did you you know, oversee that process to ensure that other members of the team were building that relationship in the way that you really wanted it to be built.

Christy Pretzinger  19:26  

You know, it's so interesting, because so much of things around culture and relationships is fair. It's very esoteric, isn't it? And it's kind of hard to quantify it, which is exactly what I'm trying to do by looking at culture through the lens of a balance sheet. So one of the things that because first of all, I was bootstrapping it, it grew slowly. So I would still be involved at some level and I could see how someone was working. I did once have a project manager who was working with me and she started behaving very passive-aggressive manner to me. What the time I didn't realize she was treating the client that way. I thought she was just doing that to me. Well, then we went to a client meeting. And I saw how angry the client was with her. And I was like, Oh my gosh. So that was a big learning. For me. It's like, oh, however they treat me is how they're treating the client. So I started sorting for that, and watching the kind of people who would be more interested in a, what's the word, not a transactional relationship, but solicitous relationship and appreciative relationship. And then what because I was still, like I said, I was still involved, at some level for quite a long time, I could observe that and see, you know, what's happening here. And also, another thing that I did very early on is we use the Enneagram as a tool. And even when we were much smaller, we have an Enneagram, coach, who types everyone. And then, when we were much smaller, we had full company groups, when they were like, I don't know, seven or eight of us. And we would have workshops, full day workshops. So we really understood and dove into that. And I don't know if anybody, any of you or the audience are familiar with Enneagram work. But if you have an excellent coach in the Enneagram, it's more about your motivation, and really understanding why someone does what they do. And so when you know that about your coworkers, it, it builds empathy for them. So like when I was still managing more people, like, say, for example, I had an employee who was a three and I had to kind of, I can't remember what I had, it was gonna be a challenging conversation. And so I was able to call the Enneagram coach and go, What should I, okay, this is what I have to do, which I do. And she was able to coach me through and say, Well, remember, as a three, she needs to feel like, she looks good, and that she's winning. And so I could communicate to her in that way. And so we did that a lot. And so there's this core group that has a real solid understanding of that. And we are continuing to build that out, we've grown, you know, we added, I don't know, 15 people all at once we doubled in size, like within a six month period. And those people don't have as much core knowledge about that as the rest of us. But we are actually bringing everyone in town for a retreat, and a big part of that is some Enneagram work to let people know how to use that. Did that answer your question?

John Corcoran  22:10  

Yeah, nothing I want to ask about, which I think is fascinating. I can't tell you how many businesses, I've talked to business owners I've talked to where, you know, they've experienced these big downturns and they're predictable after nine eleven.com, meltdown, 2008, COVID, that sort of thing. And you say that you've actually you actually grew through these time periods. So I'm wondering if you could unpack that a little bit kind of reflect back on you know, the years with WriterGirl and why you think that was the case?

Christy Pretzinger  22:43  

Again, some of it, I'm so not a, well, here's your technique, kind of business owner, I'm much more esoteric than that. So for me, when we grew in, oh, eight and nine, I had a coach say to me, that WriterGirl is you and it won't grow until you do. And so I've very deliberately spent time every day on personal development. For me, some of that was kind of some sort of some spiritual kind of reading. I didn't read a lot of business books, I've never been a big business book reader, I don't, they just don't interest me that much, generally speaking, unless they talk a lot about culture and things like that. So I did a lot of a lot of that kind of work. And that was when we actually hit a million for the first time when I did all this work on myself. So I don't think that's a coincidence. I think that that correlates, especially when you are a sole owner of a business. And I think even if you're a partnership, you know, being able to grow yourself, and recognizing your blind spots, your weaknesses and embracing those, you know, and like I hire for my time I would hire for my weaknesses, I knew that this was not a strength of mine, I'm going to find someone who's got that as a strength. So through it just coincided that spiritual work that happened to coincide with the big Oh, eight, nine, downturn, and our business just grew phenomenally now. I'm trying to think I didn't hire my first salesperson until this is 22. And she's been here 11 years today. So until 11. And that was a big deal. Hiring a salesperson was huge, because that took me out of the day-to-day sales. And I actually hired her and said, go build it

John Corcoran  24:18  

Relate to the relationship piece as well, because the salesperson is building the relationship. And so she was when you hired her 11 years ago, and you have the same salesperson level, you have more but still have her she was 27.

Christy Pretzinger  24:29  

She's 38 She had just gotten married, and now she has five kids still works full time. So I've literally watched her, you know, grow up. And it's, you know, really,

John Corcoran  24:41  

what do you think that relationship work? Well, because again, another one that I've heard a lot from business owners is they go through different sales reps.

Christy Pretzinger  24:48  

Yeah, I've had the same sales rep and the next sales rep has been there, eight or nine years. So, you know, I think part of it is that and I would really love to ask Reba that's Her name this question. But I think what she would say is that I always knew that you had my back. You know, when I hired her, I had just gotten that big $450,000 piece of work from IU, I handed that over to her and paid her commission on it. And she worked it very hard and earned it because I knew from watching some of the businesses, I didn't want to compete with her, I didn't want to be out selling against my salesperson. So everything I did was to set her up for success. And so when I first was hiring people in those roles like that, I tried to do everything I could to, to make sure they were going to win. And she always knew that and saw that. And, and in fact, has said many times, you know, we have we very much appreciate each other that, that she's always felt taken care of, for lack of a better word by me. And she said a lot. You know, we've been through a lot in 11 years, a lot of family things have happened on both sides. And, you know, she's always had a very supportive environment for when these things happen.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

John Corcoran  25:57  

I mentioned, I touched on COVID briefly, but can you talk a little bit about how that downturn starting in March 2020 affected your business?

Christy Pretzinger  26:07  

Yeah, when it happened. I told everybody because we were already all virtual. I said that anybody who wants a job with WriterGirl through all of this will have a job. We are not letting anybody go during COVID. There's not gonna be any reductions in staff or anything like that. You said that early on. I said it right away. I said, Yeah, guess what, because because of our model, you know, we work with so many contractors, we could just shrink the contractor pool and bring the work into the people and keep them busy. If we needed to. That did not happen at all. Partially, largely because we worked in health care, and talk about chaos, right? I mean, that was completely chaotic. And they still needed to communicate to people and communicate differently. They might not even more. Yeah, yeah, differently, and more. And so we were able to help meet that need for them.

John Corcoran  26:54  

Yeah. So but you did have to pivot though, to different types of communications. Right. Okay. Yeah. So like, communication. Okay. Okay. And did that feel like, well, we got to do what I gotta do? Or did it feel like, okay, here's what we're gonna, you know, an opportunity for us. I mean, sometimes companies resist thinking, okay, maybe this moment shall pass. But then as it goes on, they realize, oh, you know, we really do need to meet this demand in the marketplace, we can't build that big website project, because they put it on hold, we've got to help with the crisis communications, when we could do that.

Christy Pretzinger  27:26  

Because again, we have, you know, we have 29 or 30 employees. And then we have upwards of 80 to 99 writers that have been trained through the WriterGirl Academy. So they've been, you know, they've been vetted and trained. And we have, like a database of areas of expertise. So some of them might be marketing writer, some of them might be highly skilled medical writers, some of them might have crisis communication and PR experience. So we could pull from that, as well as recruit for that, if we needed it. I think we did a few if I'm recalling correctly, a few kind of crisis management. Like, you know, binder kind of things for people that could then be adapted for whatever crisis they're facing. COVID was the one that let's make it as kind of like, put crisis here. And then these are the things that you have to do. And we were able to do that. And I think we might have leveraged that, and done that for a few different clients at the time and said, Hey, we know how to do this, we can help you do this, because it could talk about their communication plan and the different kinds of things that they needed to do. You know, we've always had a big group of people that we were always willing to pivot and do something new. And again, I never once saw there's someone who's like, well, I don't know if we know how to do that. But the person who does our recruiting is like, Well, we'll find somebody that does, it all figured out and done that, you know, and I'm sure it was during COVID, that we started working with some consultants on various things. And one of the things that they helped us do was guide us through developing an ideal client, and then red, yellow green projects with those clients. And so then that helped us to kind of narrow down so we weren't, again, niching even further, to make sure that we know these are things that we do, we do not do a lot of medical content writing, it's very expensive to find those people. It lowers our margins. It's challenging, because we don't do a lot of it, it's hard to source it. So that becomes a red product project that we probably wouldn't take on unless it was with an ideal client, and they really, really needed it. And then we would do that.

John Corcoran  29:27  

You mentioned WriterGirl Academy, that sounds like not a small endeavor to build that out. Talk a little about what that looked like and why you decided to create that sounds like a training program for your writers.

Christy Pretzinger  29:39  

Yes. And that was many years ago, I kept wanting to do it. And we probably gosh, we probably had six or seven employees. And I kept saying I really want to WriterGirl Academy. And then I realized absolutely no one is scared of me because nobody was doing it. But I also wasn't forcing it to you know, be done. So then the person who is now one of my EVPs of operations, I really want it for Gonna be an employee. And I think she's been here eight or nine years now. And she had contracted with us before, and I reeled her in and didn't have actual work for her. So I said, Here, just go build out this, you know, right URL Academy. And so with absolutely no training or instructional design background, she did. So she didn't even know what a learning management system was. And I forgot to tell her because that is not my strong suit details. And so, but she did, she built it out, and over time, has adapted it and changed it and added to it. And at one point, my intention was to build that up as a separate business. And I did kind of try that. And I wanted to fail fast if it wasn't going to work. And I think it was, I had the idea so many years ago, that if I would have done it, then but I didn't have the time, the money or the resources. By the time I had the time, money and resources, the moment had passed. And it was going to take way more money and a lot more of my time that I was willing to invest. So I did it and was like, nope, not doing that. It was gonna be called wonder writer. And then we just I scrapped that, but we have all the content we developed for that, and brought that into the writer girl Academy. But it's still it's, you know, it's still a challenge to keep it updated. Because unless you have a full time, you know, learning management, I mean, you know, person who's an HR instructional designer, it's challenging to keep that up to date, but we do a fairly good job of it, and everybody does is run through that.

John Corcoran  31:23  

Right, right. And you see that that helps get people prepared to hit the ground running and to do the job. 

Christy Pretzinger  31:29  

Yeah, yeah, a lot of it is training them on the right or go away. And now we'll be training them because we're making a big investment in Salesforce. We've been using Salesforce, but we're vastly upgrading it so that it will be good for the next five years at least. And there's a portal that our 1090 nines can now access, they have not been able to access Salesforce prior to now. So now they will and we're getting rid of all these other things like base camp and you know, harvest time tracking all these different kinds of things. So we'll do a formalized training for them on this. So and that will be part of the academy as well.

John Corcoran  31:59  

Got it. Got it. Well, this has been great. Christy, thanks so much for your time, where can people go to learn more about you connect with you learn more about WriterGirl?

Christy Pretzinger  32:07  

Well, they can find me on LinkedIn. Unfortunately, somehow, again, I've hit my limit in technology, somehow I have two profiles on LinkedIn. And I've never bothered to get rid of the one that's wrong. But the one that has more than 500. You know, connect is me. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also find us at writergirl.com. And you can email me directly. I'm Christy@writergirl. I'm happy to talk with younger businesses that would like experience share. I also do offer coaching. And I'm happy to talk with people about that. And I really, as I said earlier, I think that it is so invaluable when you are a young growing business to find places like you know, Jason Swenk mastermind, like Entrepreneurs’ Organization because they're like-minded people who can help you scale so much more quickly than I did. So I would highly recommend that.

John Corcoran  32:58  

Yeah, absolutely. I second that. Christy, thank you so much for your time.

Christy Pretzinger  33:02  

Thank you, John. Appreciate it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: What_are_the_Top_Priorities_for_Building_a_Strong_Agency_Foundation_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Looking to improve agency margins and profitability? Which key metrics are important to track? Are you paying yourself a salary? How much cash should you have in reserve? If you’re hoping to sell soon, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of starting to pay yourself a salary. Potential buyers will pay attention to this and many other details you could start to work on right now. Today’s guest owns a CPA firm focused on helping agency owners scale by getting their finances in order and avoiding the biggest mistakes in agency finances.

Chris Hervochon runs Better Way CPA, a CPA firm that specializes in virtual CFO services for agencies. Over the past eight years, his company has provided services to marketing agencies and nonprofits all over the US. He provides some insight into the key metrics you should be measuring, why you should pay attention to your gross margin, and more.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Avoid the biggest mistake in agency finances.
  • How to increase your margins.
  • Why you should pay yourself a salary.
  • Key metrics to manage agency cash flow.

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

The Biggest Mistake in Agency Finances

The biggest and most common mistake Chris sees agency owners make with their finances has to do with cash management. Usually, they fail to understand how cash moves in and out of the agency. Also, how it’ll move into and out of the agency in the future. This is critical because it’s how you can really understand how to grow in the future.

As an owner, you must understand the way cash moves within the agency impacts clients, the work you do for them, and how you collect payments. This impact the people you pay to work for the agency. All of this helps you get a clearer vision of how you’re going to scale and bring in the next client.

Pay Attention to These Key Metrics

  • Profitability. When it comes to profitability, you need to be over 15% or 20% to be good. 15% or less is when the alarm starts ringing and you need to pull some levers to figure out what’s going on.
  • Net income. If you’re using some sort of accounting software and looking at P&L, net income is your bottom line.
  • Gross margin. This varies wildly across agencies because every agency operates so differently. In this particular case, measure yourself against yourself and track that over time. Make sure you’re maintaining or increasing margins over time.
  • Cash reserves. Every business should set aside cash reserves to fund growth. They help pay for unexpected costs that occur throughout the year, and they're often kept in your business account.
  • Pipeline. Make sure to have a process to measure your pipeline. This bleeds into your forecast and indicates what roles you need to hire, when, as well as who you need to fire and when.

Why You Need to Pay Attention to Gross Margin

Gross margin is your revenue minus variable expenses (cost of sales). This is the percentage of revenue you can keep in order to pay fixed expenses and then pay yourself. In short, the costs you’re going to incur every time you generate a dollar.

If your margins are very low, it's hard to pay for fixed expenses needed to operate the agency and deliver your services. If you don’t have enough money to pay your team, for example, you might start making bad decisions, like cutting staff, expenses, and software. At that point, you don’t even have enough to pay yourself as agency owner, which is definitely a problem.

This is why you need to pay attention to margins and make sure you have enough money every time you generate a dollar of revenue to pay those expenses. In the end, having revenue is good, of course; however, there’s really no point to it if it won’t allow you to pay for your fixed expenses.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

What Works for Agencies When it Comes to Increasing Margins?

According to Chris, pricing and how you price will always be the biggest lever you can pull to increase profits. This may be difficult in our current economic times. However, that’s your biggest opportunity to move the needle. How can you increase prices?

  1. Build up value so you don’t face pushback from clients when it’s time to raise prices.
  2. Have value conversations with your clients.
  3. Ensure your sales and pricing functions are split.
  4. Be open to flipping some internal capacity to external capacity and bringing in contractors. This can be beneficial and prove to be more cost-efficient than having a full-time employee.
  5. Cut unnecessary software costs. Take a look at who’s using what software and get rid of what's not needed.

It's Important to Pay Yourself a Salary as an Agency Owner

Many agency owners don’t realize the importance of paying themselves a salary. They skip the salary to increase profitability. Paying yourself little to no salary just to be at 30% profitability is not an option if you want to sell one day. A prospective buyer will look at agency finances and see margins are good because you’re not paying yourself.

How much should you pay yourself? To determine the average salary of an agency owner in a given area, Chris’ team does a regional compensation study.

They take the owner’s functions in the agency and determine how proficient they are at these tasks. Next, they assign an hourly rate based on the bureau of labor’s existing data. Then add that up and have what the agency owner should pay themselves from payroll. The resulting salary is just low enough to save in taxes while also satisfying the IRS. The rest of the agency owner’s compensation is taken out as a draw or distribution. The amount of that draw depends on how much cash you can take out of the agency

Make sure you have an adequate cash reserve to get you through difficult times and invest in the agency. It’s a balancing act between what the agency owner should be making and planning for taxes.

Average salary for agency owners: For agencies around $1 million, most agency owners Chris has worked with have salaries ranging from $175,000 to $225,000 for an agency operating profitably. For agencies closer to $3 million, the agency owner’s salary doesn't necessarily increase much. It is roughly the same for tax purposes. The draw is where there's an increase and takes total compensation to around $500,000.

How to Project Your Agency’s Future Investments

Usually, investments in your agency’s future are in capacity. This means “people costs” such as equipment, bigger space, etc. The best way to calculate this is by putting together a capacity model and figuring out which roles you need to fill, the amount of work they’ll take on, and how much they’ll cost. Forecast that into the future and see what it does to your cash flow.

From a cash flow standpoint, look ahead to six months. Maybe the results of that tell you that in seven months-time you won’t be able to make payroll. However, knowing now gives you enough time to do course corrections.

How much should you have in cash reserve?

Typically, Chris wants his clients to have between 2-6 months of fixed expenses in cash reserve. Chris conducts a brief study of the clients' plans to spend and invest in order to assess and make a recommendation. Most agency owners land between 3 ½ to 4 ½ months cash reserves needed.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Proven_Strategies_for_Maximizing_Margins_and_Improving_Cash_Flow.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

What do you need to know about selling your agency? Is the market right for a sale or acquisition? What does a successful M&A deal look like? It's actually a good time to sell and there’s no shortage of buyers. If you are prepared and have guidance, an acquisition can be smoother and faster than you think. Today’s guest specializes in mergers and acquisitions in the agency space. In this conversation, she shares how to realistically determine your agency's valuation, two common questions about acquisition deals, and what you can expect when you sell your agency.

Amanda Dixon is the founder and CEO of Barney, an M&A advisory firm for agencies. In her career, Amanda went through a couple of exits as an entrepreneur and describes the experience as atrocious. She saw a need for a company that understands the valuation of digital assets. As a result, she created a firm that has helped over 150 media, marketing, and tech companies through acquisitions.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • How long does it take to sell your agency?
  • How to realistically determine your agency valuation.
  • Answers to 2 common questions about M&A for digital agencies.

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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.

Selling a Digital Agency In an Unrepresented Market

After growing her own business in the digital space, Amanda decided to sell and started looking for a professional valuation. Unfortunately, she found herself surrounded by people who just didn’t understand new technologies and how to value digital assets. She was selling her own, life-changing agency but felt ignored by the market. Since larger firms were not returning her calls, she went with a broker who didn’t have the experience or sophistication to sell a business the size of hers and the results were not quite what she expected.

Through that experience, Amanda discovered a huge opportunity for a niche firm for this kind of acquisition. Businesses valued <$250 million needing national buyers were severely underrepresented. So seven years ago she started her firm to help guide agency owners going through that same process.

How Long Does It Take to Sell Your Agency?

Selling your agency can be a painful and complicated process. Many times, agency owners get into it not really knowing what to expect. It can drag on for a long time if, for example, the buyer keeps coming back with last-minute changes. In these situations, agency owners may be afraid to pull out of the sale for fear or financial repercussions.

In the height of the pandemic, without in-person meetings, the process took around 90 days. With in-person meetings back, this adds a couple of weeks and sometimes months to the process. Overall, in the worst-case scenario, it is currently taking her team around 5 months to complete a sale.

For Amanda, the most eye-opening discovery working in M&A is that it doesn’t have to drag on forever. For starters, one of the things that delays the process the most is finding the buyers. Since her firm is focused on digital-based business, that part of the process is faster. Approved sellers that work with them are referred to several interested potential buyers. This is good because deal fatigue is a very real thing.

Having a buyer pool interested in your particular industry helps to create a sense of competition. With several potential buyers, you can have more control and ultimately choose the one that makes sense financially and fits your team and your culture.

How to Realistically Determine Your Agency Valuation 

Agency owners are typically very eager to know their agency’s worth. The multiple of EBITDA formula is a good place to start and is what Amanda’s team analyses first.

EBITDA = Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation Amoritization

Of course, this doesn't offer a clear picture of the agency’s financial state. For instance, they see many agencies that have grown too fast and have too many team members. In these cases, since their margins may be low, it’s hard to judge financial health with just the multiple of EBITDA. On the other hand, if an agency isn’t staffed enough and are at a breaking point, they may have 50-60% margins which is not scalable.

The next step is determining where the agency falls within Barney's valuation range. They consider factors like client concentration and new client acquisition. Of course, agency owners don’t always agree with the results and believe they’re worth more. However, it is a very efficient formula for determining agency’s value.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Why Agency Owners Need Executing a Profitable Acquisition Process

Many agency owners are caught offguard when someone shows interest in buying their agency. This results in wasting a lot of time and the sale never happening. Amanda strongly believes most agency owners need representation through the acquisition process.

They need the support to ensure the terms of the purchase are clear and negotiated in a way that protects them. For instance, a buyer may say they’ll pay you $10 million for your agency. In reality, they may intend to pay $5 million and the other half is contingent on what happens post-transaction.

Looking for M&A advisory services can also help you find more buyer options. Amanda’s team is often approached after an agency owner has an acquisition offer. They will guide them through that offer, of course. However, it is more advisable to meeting with other potential buyers, just to see what else is out there.

When to Bring an Accountant or Lawyer into the Acquisition Process

To be clear, an accountant should be part of an agency well before you even start thinking about selling. Having clean financials is crucial to getting through the finish line. If your books are a mess, sort that out before starting the acquisition process.

When it comes to an attorney, the point of bringing them in may depend on the size of the agency. Some prefer to bring them in at the LOI phase. However, most don’t choose to do so until they have prepared the purchase documents.

An important rule of thumb is choosing one with experience representing digital agencies. In general, the terms and specifics are different in the digital space. Like, non-competes average 5 years in the agency business. Retaining an attorney with this type of experience will make sure this doesn’t restrict your ability to form another agency in the near future.

2 Common Questions About Digital Agency Mergers & Acquisitions

  1. How Do Earnouts Work?  Acquisition advisors love a deal where the owner gets to capitalize on how the agency continues to grow after the transaction. However, earnouts are tricky. The key is that the earnout shouldn’t be tied to rapid growth. In essence, it is intended to be protection for the buyer in the event of catastrophic implosion. But when you're on the seller side, it's not something you can control so make sure you’re happy with however much you get at the closing table.
  2. Are Agency Rollups a Good Idea? In theory, doing a roll-up is a great idea. Unfortunately, most of the time integration is much harder than people think. Buyers want integrated agencies to become a well-oiled machine with systematized processes. It is possible, however, merging multiple agencies doesn’t increase their value unless you prove cross-selling services to a unified client base. Until you’ve done that and have historical churn numbers on your clients, a rollup doesn’t provide a lot of value.

Why You Shouldn’t Feel Pressured to Sell

Many agency owners may have concerns about what’s happening with the current economy. However, Amanda says the agency space is seeing strong interest from buyers. There are still many more buyers than sellers in agency M&A.

The market isn’t going anywhere so you shouldn’t be pressured to sell. And if you do want to sell, it is not a situation where you won’t find buyers because of the economy. This industry is only growing, so no matter where you are in the process, you’re in a great place.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

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 Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: When_and_How_to_Sell_Your_Agency_with_a_Profitable_Acquisition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Would you like to increase agency lead generation and have so many prospects you get to pick and choose who you want to work with? Finding the right lead gen strategy is an important part of your agency’s growth. Today’s guest has found a simple framework that worked for him as well as many of his clients. By just fine-tuning 3 aspects of most lead generation strategies, you could be quadrupling leads in just one month.

Dave Valentine is the owner and founder of Avadel Agency, an outsourced sales & development rep agency that helps clients fill their sales pipelines and book meetings. He owns eight businesses and tested the success of his lead generation framework in several different industries. Today he shares how going back to the basics can help you quadruple your leads and unlock a new level of growth.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why a quality case study should be kept short and to the point.
  • How an outrageous offer can help you get your agency to seven figures.
  • Inventive ways to use old tools that are regarded as outdated.

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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 of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.

 

 

Dave is an entrepreneur who started his first agency at the age of 25. Looking back, he has made some common mistakes, like making his agency a catch-all and trying to be everything for everyone. In spite of this, he built the agency over 7-figures. However, relied too heavily on him and clients expected Dave to be involved in everything.

In the end, this led him to sell his former agency and start Avadel. Now, growth comes not from relying on one person but from how they generate leads.

3 Things To Increase Agency Lead Generation in 30 Days

According to Dave, increasing your agency’s lead generation in record time will require just three key elements:

  1. Quality case studies. Most people think a quality case study needs to fill two pages or more to get client’s attention.  Dave believes all you need is a sentence that follows this formula: We work with X company and got Y results in Z time. Additionally, if "Z time" is 90 days or less, it is incredibly compelling. When you put that in an email or an advertisement piece, it will get people’s attention.
  2. Outrageous offers. Dave credits this element with helping him get six of his businesses to seven figures. An outrageous offer is something that sounds too good to be true. Actually, it is a way to increase your profits and book more meetings. More meetings give you an opportunity to assess clients so you can pick and choose the ones you want to work with. It’s really about understanding what your deliverables are and how good your team is.
  3. Cold emails with creative follow-up. 86% of the meeting booking they do at Dave’s agency come through cold emails. This statistic surprises most people because we all tend to shut down this kind of outreach. We get hundreds of emails every day from people trying to sell us something, so how do you cut through the noise? Dave recommends those emails be short and to the point. “Two to three sentences is the sweet spot,” he says. Also, look to create human connections. Let it come across that they’re dealing with a person, not a bot. Lastly, he uses creative direct mail follow-up, like a piñata with a QR code that sends them to a calendar to book a call.

Dave has found a lot of success in taking these strategies seen as old and outdated and leveraging them to generate new business.

Online Training for Digital Agencies

Why You Need an Outrageous Offer to Attract Leads

The "outrageous offer" is a bold move that can bring great results for your agency. It’s always a great way to stand out and put pressure on the competition. Of course, you have to be careful in how you word it. Don’t promise something you can’t deliver. A good way to ensure you’re not over-promising is putting conditions around the offer.

For example, if you're a web design agency, you can guarantee you’ll have a client’s website ready to launch in 12 weeks. The condition is they get you all the information required within the indicated timeline. It’s a way to hold clients accountable for their outcomes.

This doesn't work for every type of agency and sometimes you have to take some risks.

When creating an outrageous offer for a flight school, Dave and his team offered a test flight at $49.99. Most flight schools make a similar offer at a much higher price point of $300, because it covers gas and the pilot’s time. Their outrageous offer meant losing some money. They trusted the process and as a result, saw a 4x increase in lead generation with the same ad spend. And, their close rate stayed about the same! In the end, they soaked up all the leads their competitors were getting.

Over the years, Avadel has successfully repeated this strategy for different industries.

Gaining the Client’s Trust so They’ll go All in on the Bold Strategy

Increasing lead generation isn't just about the agency. It’s also about creating opportunities for clients to engage with you. Right off the bat, Avadel does this by acknowledging when a client books a meeting. When a meeting is booked, the prospect receives a video from Dave talking about the challenges that probably led them to his agency and thanking them for taking that step. It’s a simple thing that clients find really helpful.

In every sales conversation, they try to anticipate the client’s objections and proactively address them. They acknowledge some of the most common concerns and offer a money-back guarantee. This way, the client can move forward and go all in on Dave’s strategy with ease.

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: 3_Things_To_Increase_Agency_Lead_Generation_in_30_Days.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Is your digital agency too reliant on you? Are you always putting out fires and answering questions? Is your team empowered to succeed without you? It's all about being intentional with how you spend your time and creating the processes to support your role as agency CEO. In this episode, a time and profit expert shares ways you can stop being the superhero at your agency and instead be the super visionary.

Mike Michalowitz is an author and entrepreneur who focuses mostly on researching ways to make businesses run more efficiently. In this research, he noticed most businesses starve for profitability and very few achieve it. He's been on the podcast twice before chatting about his books: Profit First and Clockwork. His book and framework, Profit First, has changed the way many small businesses approaches profitability. One of his other best sellers is Clockwork, where he disrupts the "hustle harder" mindset. He's sharing how agency owners can reinvent their role in the agency to work less and still do the things they love.

In this episode, we’ll cover:

  • Why you should strive to be the super visionary instead of the superhero.
  • How a four-week vacation can help you ultimately exit operations.
  • How to start empowering your team.
  • Do you know the most important function at your agency?

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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.

Why Your Superhero Syndrome Is Your Agency's Bottleneck

Agency owners are commonly the bottleneck at their agency. The processes make it so everything has to go through them. It’s not efficient at all, causes a clog in project completion, and exhaustion for the agency owner. Michael calls this the Superhero Syndrome.

Many agency owners believe they are the best at everything and can fix everything. They are the agency’s superheroes. However, having a superhero fix everything ultimately weakens the police department. This is what happens to agency teams. They can become too dependent on the owner always solving issues. According to Michael, instead of being the superhero, agency owners should strive to be super visionary.

What the agency really needs is for the owner to have a clear vision of where the agency is going and then drive the team to get there.

How to Set Yourself Up as the Super Visionary

Part of having the clarity to become a super visionary is empowering your team to follow your vision, as opposed to you making the decisions. Michael believes the easiest way to position yourself as the visionary starts with one word: shareholder.

The term entrepreneur has become overused. It used to me "someone who had an idea then took the risk of organizing a team and resources to pursue it." Now, it’s become “someone who works like an animal.”

On the other hand, a shareholder is someone who receives earnings and never says “I need to go to the company to solve something.”

As an agency owner, you’ve taken on an extraordinary risk the only shareholder. Only about 15% of the population ever takes this risk and 3% manage to do it successfully. Sure, in the beginning, you’re the only resource and work a ton. However, you should exit operations as soon as possible.

As a s