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

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.



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 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.



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 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

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:

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.



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 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 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 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.