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

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: 7:00am EST

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: 7:00am EST

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: 7:00am EST

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: 7:00am EST

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: 7:00am EST

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

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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: 7:00am EST

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

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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.

 

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: 7:00am EST

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: 7:00am EST

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.

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.

 

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: 7:00am EST

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