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

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

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

In this episode, we'll discuss:

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



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


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

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

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

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

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

Second-Guessing Yourself as an Agency Owner

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

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

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

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

Not Letting the Agency Define You

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

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

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

Focusing on the Right Things to Get Through Tough Times

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

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

Why Your Agency Team Needs Opportunities to Flex their Idea Muscle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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#1 Agency Sales Objection: Send Me More Information

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

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

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

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

#2 Agency Sales Objection: Let me Think About It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

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


Building Authority to Land Bigger Agency Clients

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

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

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

Using a Strategic Acquisition to Break Into a New Niche

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

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

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

Lessons from Acquiring Another PR Agency

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

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

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

2 Big Misconceptions Clients Have About Public Relations

There’s usually some level of education needed for clients when it comes to understanding PR work. There are two big misconceptions most clients have:

  1. PR brings in sales. That’s not what PR is for. There are many other tools that can help with sales. But PR is first and foremost the best tool to create credibility and visibility for a brand. Typically, once Lotus823 gets clients on a couple of media outlets their views go up, sometimes to billions of impressions. That type of visibility helps a brand create awareness, which creates a different conversation with potential consumers who now have an emotional connection with the brand.
  2. Big publications are the best PR. Clients think pubs like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal are the key to unlocking PR. However, this doesn't necessarily move the needle for every brand. It depends on their audience. Everybody wants the legitimacy of being in the New York Times. However, maybe an influencer program or tech outlet is a better fit for certain brands. When they build an influencer program, they typically look for relevancy. It’s not about the numbers. Sometimes a client will specifically want to work with celebrities. David’s team will redirect them to what actually works, which is working with creators with strong, engaged communities and a great reputation.

How to Run a People-First PR Agency

David runs a hybrid agency that offers the option of coming to the office. It’s important to him to offer flexible schedules to show they respect the team’s personal lives. The goal is to allow employees to build their work schedule into their personal life and really be present when it’s time to work.

When it comes to his agency’s culture, David strives to run a people-first agency where employees feel like their mental health is taken into account. Providing a work environment that allows for a balanced life helps you find and keep great talent.

According to David, if you find yourself managing a person too tightly, you’ve made the wrong hire. It’s a mistake that leads to mediocre output. You get transformative work when you have people you trust and who are happy working with each other.

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

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

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

Are you struggling with low agency profit margins?  Are you tired of not winning the engagements you want and deserve? Did you know there’s an art to pricing in order to unlock 20X more revenue? That's 20X more than you are making right now!

When it comes to pricing, there are two common problems I see many agencies struggling with:

  1. Low profit margins.
  2. Not winning the engagements they should be.

Back in the day, I wanted to win high-profit engagements. I wanted the retainer clients because of the predictable income. I knew the combination of higher margins and predictable business would yield a healthy business and steady cash flow. But why is it so hard to accomplish? In my experience, it goes back to your approach.

Land 20x More Revenue by Making it an Easy Decision for Buyers

If you have a hard time landing the business you want it’s probably because you’re making it a difficult decision for the buyer. How? You’re selling the wrong thing first. Pitching a big project or long-term contract from the get-go is like proposing marriage on the first date. It’s a HUGE COMMITMENT to ask when you haven’t proved your worth yet. So the issue here is you haven’t created the perfect offer.

Mastermind member, Chris used to deal with this very issue. He owns an SEO agency and was charging $5,000 a month in month-to-month contracts. This was hindering his growth because clients normally stay with the agency for about 6 months, meaning they're worth just $30,000.

There were three things we needed to do in this scenario:

  • Make it an easier decision for the potential client.
  • Raise his pricing.
  • Transition to a long-term contract.


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Steps to Creating the Perfect Digital Agency Offer

In order to 20X revenue, you need to have a plan. That starts with developing a foot-in-the-door offer, which is a small, low-cost offer that demonstrates your value as an agency. This type of offer should be low-commitment and a very easy 'yes'... an offer they can't refuse :)  How can you benefit from having a foot-in-the-door offer? Well, clients who buy this offer are 20 times more likely to give you more money down the line. Overall, people are more likely to buy from you once they already know, like, and trust you.

It’s natural that you want to sell your core service first -- that’s your money maker! However, it’s a huge commitment for your prospect, and therefore a harder decision to make. YOU know your agency is awesome but they still have concerns and questions. It’s not a clear decision... yet. The solution here is to ease into a paid relationship first with a foot-in-the-door offer that highlights your expertise.

A lot of folks tend to over-complicate their foot-in-the-door offer so I created a tool to help agency owners develop your offer. Just go to and download this free resource call the Foot in the Door Decider.

How to Build a Digital Agency Offer Ladder

The next step we did for Chris was to create an offer ladder, beginning with a foot-in-the-door. Start by asking yourself “What are you doing for free now that you could charge a small amount for?”

In Chris's case, he was spending around two and a half hours with each prospect giving them free strategy and advice. Instead, he switched to offering a one-hour paid strategy session where he could help them create an SEO Blueprint. They would go over some of their biggest challenges and highlight ways to solve them quickly. At the end of this session, the prospects who wanted help implementing this blueprint could sign on as clients.

Next Step in the Ladder: Small Project or Engagement

The next step in an offering ladder is a short-term project. Here you’ll be solving one of the issues you highlighted in the foot-in-the-door. This small project entails a slightly more significant financial commitment for the client. For instance, in Chris’ case, he offered a 3-month project for $15,000. This gives the agency 90 days to deliver results.

What do you think happens after your agency starts showing results? The client starts to trust you more and more. Suddenly, the decision to commit to a long-term relationship doesn’t seem so difficult.  Also, this short-term project also gives your team time to get acclimated to working with this client, and them working with you. Chances are it goes really well and a long term longer-term relationship is beneficial but in the off chance they're a nightmare client you're only stuck with them for 3 months!

Next Step in the Ladder: Digital Agency Retainer

As the window starts to close on the short-term project and you know you want to continue working with the client, that is when you can propose a year-long retainer. For Chris, it was also an excellent opportunity to raise his prices and change that year-long retainer from $5,000 a month to $9,000 a month.

So ask yourself what is your value proposition? What kind of front-end, middle, and back-end offers do you have to entice your clients? The answer to these questions will help you create an offering ladder and a perfect offer.

Why Do You Need to Go Through the Offer Ladder Process?

I get a lot of questions about the foot-in-the-door offer. Most agencies, make the jump to start charging for something they used to do for free and tend to put gasoline on it. They create something so complicated that they confuse and overwhelm their prospects.

Just remember, you don’t have to teach them anything in the initial call. Just help them identify problems and prescribe the solution they need.

10-Step Framework to Build a Foot-in-the-Door Offer

1. Build rapport.
Work with what you got. If you see a picture of a golf course behind them, chat about golf briefly.

2. Lay out the agenda.
Let them know you have a framework you use to make sure you cover all the basis in these conversations. This will position you as an authority and keep you on track.

3. Identify why now.
Ask them “What made you reach out and why is it important now?” and check to know if they’re okay with the agenda.

4. Current situation.
Where are they now with revenue, marketing, and profits? You restate it to them like this: “From what you're telling me, I understand that you want this to happen. Currently, this is what's happened, you've tried this and then that happened. Is that right? Anything else I need to be aware of?”

5. Talk about the roadblocks.
Let them know you want to know their roadblocks by making a list of everything standing in their way.

6. Restate the value.
Go back to what you’ve discussed to make sure you have the full picture. “So let me get this right, you really want X but Y is in the way and costing you XYZ. Does that sound right?”

7. Prescription or solution.
Present your assessment according to what you’ve been told. “So based on what you’ve told me, it sounds like you need [your solution] in order to get [X benefit]”.

8. The promise.
This is where you start talking about what you do. Go through how your agency helps clients and the benefits your team gets for them.

9. Logistics.
This is where you can go more into detail on your prescribed solution. Go through the specifics of how it would actually work. You’d be surprised at how much educating your prospects on the process can help you win the deal.

10. The price.
Now that you’ve helped them determine where they want to go, where they are now, and the impact on their business, they’ll be more open to paying much more than prior to you walking them through the framework.


Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

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

Direct download: The_Perfect_Digital_Agency_Offer_to_Unlock_20X_More_Revenue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you resisting the advice to niche down and become a specialist? Do you think niching down means losing opportunities and turning down clients? It's normal to fear a change like this but when you understand your ideal audience, you can't lose. Your ideal prospects will notice that you speak their language and understand their challenges. That leads to building trust and authority as well as a pipeline full of prospects. For one agency, everything changed once they realized they already had tons of success in an uncommon niche. It took time but this agency doubled revenue when they went all in.

James Kaye is the co-founder of Big Games Machine, a video games PR agency with unique experience in delivering consumer and B2B PR campaigns for clients worldwide. Although it has tons of experience in the gaming industry, James’ agency wasn’t always marketed to that niche. The decision to speak to its ideal audience changed everything for its business. He discusses how this small change helped them double their revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Doubling their revenue by positioning themselves as a specialist agency.
  • Struggling to fill his agency’s pipeline.
  • Why choosing a niche doesn’t mean you’ll turn down all other clients.



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


Like many, James and his business partner are accidental agency owners. They had both worked at different agencies before reuniting to create Big Games Machine. They started as just two consultants working from their kitchen tables on different sides of the country. Growth was slow, but it snowballed into an agency little by little as they started to take people on.

Overall, just learning to run an agency was a bumpy road that led to many failures before starting to see the successes. Now even after nine years of growing the agency, he's still learning and making mistakes. For instance, new business remains a constant problem that he's still figuring out. On the other hand, one of the most valuable lessons for him has been the importance of finding the support of a coach to guide you and trusting his agency could grow in a specialty niche.

The Biggest Inbound Marketing Mistake

Many agency owners struggle to build a pipeline after growing on referrals in the beginning, which is not scalable. This is actually still a struggle but James has learned his pipeline is his lifeblood so he’s always willing to try something new.

In terms of the work they do at the agency, they divided it into two segments:

  • Consumer, where there’s a lot of competition with many agencies doing consumer PR,
  • B2B, where they’d really found their footing.

At his agency, they work in video games PR, which is a pretty small niche. Luckily, they are pretty good with SEO, which has become a big part of their inbound marketing strategy. The problem James has found, however, is that as a unique specialist, it becomes very difficult for a third party to represent you eloquently and passionately.

Over the years, he’s tried pretty much everything in terms of building the pipeline. He partnered with a LinkedIn agency to give cold emails a try and found this did not work for his agency. Of course, some things take 6-12 months to start showing results. Looking back, he thinks they were too generalist in their inbound marketing approach.

How Seeking the Help of an Expert Changed Everything

There are a lot of options out there for agencies trying to accelerate their growth; it might seem like you're simultaneously drowning in options and starving for good ones. Loads of bad options are out there and it’s up to agency owners to decipher which ones are legit.

James found a good fit and started integrating systems for agency growth. One of the most impactful was making the decision to become a specialist.

Up to that point, his agency was called Big Ideas Machine and was more of a general Tech PR agency. They served B2B and consumer customers but hadn’t managed to book a consumer client. The feedback they were getting was that the agency didn’t look enough like a games agency. He decided to create a different brand called Big Games Machine hoping to attract consumer clients on the gaming side.

Stop Resisting the Shift to be a Specialist Agency and Pick a Niche

In James’ experience, it was a big mess trying to run two brands and two websites at the same time. It came to the point where he and his partner sat down to consider their choices. They had 25 years of experience in the game industry and that was their area of expertise. In fact, looking at their B2B clients, they were all in the games industry. They had resisted the idea to niche down even though they were getting no traction as a generalist agency. That was the lightbulb moment.

The big shift came when they finally decided to get rid of Big Ideas Machine and consolidate Big Games Machine as their main brand. By doubling down on that niche they occupy a very unique space. No one else does B2B in the gaming industry quite like they do.

Now that they do B2B and consumer work for the games industry, people quickly understand what problems they solve. With this change, James understood it’s not only about picking a niche but also about how you position yourself in the market.

Additionally, he recently hired a new head of new business marketing with experience and contacts in the gaming industry that has been getting very good quality leads for the agency.

Does Choosing a Niche Mean Turning Away Other Clients?

When pushing to remain a generalist agency, it was because James was thinking about the business they would lose as specialists. What if a client from another industry approached them? Would they have to turn them away?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re choosing a niche is thinking they’ll need to say no to other clients. The idea is that you’re only marketing to ideal clients in a niche, but can still take on projects outside the niche.

The Best Advice to Fill Your Agency's Pipeline

James best advice to fill your pipeline is to play the long game and go all in on content. He feels this is the best way to gain your prospects’ trust, which you’ll do by solving a problem for them. How can you do that? Start by creating amazing content, whether it's a podcast, blog post, or newsletter. It’ll be the best thing you can do for your agency.

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

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

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

Are you tired of being the only one in your agency responsible for closing deals? Would you like to build a top-notch agency sales team to land the deals you’ve always wanted? In this episode, you'll learn how to find the right salesperson, build a sales team, train, manage, and compensate them so the owner is no longer the one responsible for agency sales.

It all starts with:



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Being an agency owner can feel like being on a rollercoaster ride. One moment you have a full pipeline and the next it is as dry as the desert. I remember focusing all my attention on sales to get new business and then having to switch my focus to delivery. As soon as I was focused on delivery I noticed sales suffered. In hindsight, I think I was self-sabotaging sales because we just couldn’t deliver as fast as I was selling the services.

To fix this problem you have to find a salesperson who can do a better job at sales than you do, as the agency owner.

There are three types of salespeople:

  • Hunter:  usually has a lower salary and gets paid per appointment.
  • Closer: with a higher base salary and tiered commission, and should have a sales quota.
  • Farmer or account service: has a mid-range salary with a bonus based on client retention.

The BIGGEST MISTAKE you can make while searching for a salesperson is trying to find a unicorn that can fill all three of these roles. And, you don’t need to hire all three at once. Start by hiring for the role you’re weakest at. Are you good at getting the leads in but lacking when it comes to following up? Then hire a closer. Eventually, you can hire the rest and grow a sales team.

Pro tip: be sure to give them the right title. No one wants to meet with a “Business Development Manager” or “Salesperson.” Personally, I’ve always preferred the term Specialist, like Scale Specialist or Conversion Specialist. You need a title that makes prospects want to have a conversation.

Now where can you actually find these salespeople? You have several choices:

  1. Personal connections: I don't suggest hiring a friend, but a mutual connection is a winner almost every time.
  2. Current and past clients: Your clients already know what you do and your process and they may love working for you.
  3. Salespeople who have sold to you in the past: They can even be from another industry. The important thing is that you had a good experience; you can teach and train them in everything else agency-related.
  4. Recruiters and job boards: This has never personally worked for me but it depends on your style and preferences.

How to Differentiate a Good Agency Sales Candidate

Once you start the interview process, how can you tell a sales candidate is right for your agency? Look at how they’re behaving during the interview. Are they talking too much? If they do, it’s probably a bad sign. A good salesperson listens more than they talk. Are they asking great questions? Have they been successful in sales in the past? As mentioned, they don’t necessarily need experience in the agency industry, as long as they understand the principles of sales.

For the candidates you do like, ask them to prepare a 90-day plan. They should be able to paint a picture of what they would do during the first 90 days at your agency. Moreover, you can use that plan later as a way to measure them.

Pro Tip: Sales are very competitive, so if you can hire two or three candidates at the same time, you can encourage competition while also testing out strengths.

How Should You Compensate Agency Sales? Commission-Only vs. Salary

This is a question I get very often. How do you compensate an agency salesperson? Commission-only or straight salary?

To be clear, each has its downsides. If you’re paying commission only, your salespeople may start to make false promises in desperation to make a sale. They also may not be 100% focused on your agency and might even sell for someone else to make ends meet.

On the other hand, if you go for 100% salary you avoid the problem of false promises but they almost certainly won’t be hungry enough to go hard on sales.

This is why I lean more toward doing a combination of both: salary plus commission. I offer a base salary that is just below their salary requirements and a commission, of maybe 5% - 10%. You need to show them there is an incentive to exceed their salary goals IF they are a rockstar at sales.

Training Your Digital Agency Sales Team

When I think about training a salesperson I think about preparing them to be able to answer the following:

  1. What’s your promise to your clients?
  2. What’s your client's problem? And,
  3. What types of clients are a good fit and what are not?

Over the years I’ve broken down what makes agency owners such good salespeople and realized it all comes down to stories. As owners, we have all the stories for different scenarios. If you’re dealing with a prospect that’s having a hard time converting leads, you probably have a story about another client who dealt with this same struggle and overcame it.

As the owner, I recommend keeping track of and sharing those stories. The team could use some of them to attract leads, others to convert. The point is that you give them the tools to succeed. Over time, they’ll accumulate their own stories.

How to Train and Manage Your Agency Sales Team 

When it comes to managing salespeople I recommend you start doing it daily until you feel they can handle themselves. You can break it down into morning and afternoon, at least for the first couple of months. The morning should be used to share stories and prepare them to chat with clients. You’ll also want to share wins and go over objections people may be having.

On the other hand, the afternoon should be more about the progress of the day. This is better left for the afternoon because some days they’ll get a lot of no’s and you’ll have to help rebuild their confidence.

Once they get to a good place, you can change the daily check-ins to weekly. They should also start recording all their calls so you can review them. You can ask them to send their worst and best calls of the day. This way, you can see if they’re clarifying why the client got on the call. They should label the problem and establish a gap in how far away the client is from where they want to be. Also, make sure they ask for the sale, rather than just prescribe what they need to do.

Finally, make sure you’re constantly measuring them on their 90-day success plan. This way, I guarantee within 30 days you’ll know whether that salesperson is going to work out or not.

How to Qualify Agency Prospects and Stop Wasting Time with the Wrong Ones

How can you spend time with the right prospect and avoid wasting time with the wrong ones? The first conversation with a prospect is the most important because it frames how the relationship develops.

Too many agencies use that conversation to focus on themselves (showcasing capabilities and successes) when you should actually be focusing on the prospect. Often agencies start talking about their awards and their portfolio with a prospect that doesn’t care about that yet. They don't care what the agency can do, they care what the agency can do for them.

However, I’m sure you want to stand out and present yourself as more than just another Me Too agency, and there are 10 questions you can ask to position yourself as THE CHOICE rather than a choice.

10 Steps When Talking with New Agency Prospects

It's important to gauge the benefits and pre-qualify any new agency prospect. I call this a triage call, where you can assess the challenge the prospect is facing and determine whether you can work together to deliver the results they seek.

  1. The Welcome: This sets the tone for the meeting and establishes you as the one in control. Just make them feel comfortable and let them know you’ll be asking them some questions to determine whether or not you can help them. Explain that if you're a good fit, there will be another meeting. If you can't help, you’ll give them some advice and part as friends.
  2. Why now and why me? Try to understand why they’re coming to your agency at this particular moment.
  3. Tell me more about your business: Make sure you have the full picture of what they do so you can determine if you can help them.
  4. What’s your budget? This will determine their expectation and what they’re willing to pay.
  5. Where are they now and where are they trying to be? Get to know the metrics, the goals, and how they are going to measure success.
  6. What is missing or broken? Try to identify their biggest issue. Try to learn the impact that issue is having on their business and the impact of fixing it.
  7. What do they need? What are their biggest challenges and why do they think you can solve those?
  8. Establish the priority: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much of a priority is it to resolve this issue?
  9. Problem check-in: State the top problems and the impact they’re having on them.
  10. Can you actually help them and do you want to? This is a question to ask yourself, thinking not just in terms of revenue but based on the initial interaction; is this client he right fit for your agency?

After doing the triage call and walking through these 10 questions, it is time to present your foot-in-the-door offer.

A foot-in-the-door offer is a low commitment, low cost, and easy YES for the prospect. And, it's the best way to showcase your agency's expertise and test out a working relationship with a client before fully committing to larger projects.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

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

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

Are you an accidental agency owner? Most of us are! That is why it's important to continually evolve in order to grow your digital agency. Can you identify the milestones that have gotten you where you are? What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face? As an agency owner, it's important to stay inspired and stay the course on the path we're paving for ourselves. Today’s guest took inspiration from various industry leaders to start his agency and learn how to grow from just an owner to a CEO. He’s been in the agency world for over ten years and has had to reinvent a few times to keep up with new challenges. He shares the various challenges he's faced over different stages of his agency's journey and the milestones that helped him keep going.

Andrew Gottlieb is the founder and CEO of No Typical Moments, a digital marketing agency that works exclusively with purpose-driven social impact-focused businesses. His agency acts as a Fractional CMO working executing social media campaigns for online education. His agency handles everything from media buying to Instagram, Facebook, and Google campaigns, and backend email marketing solutions for some of the world’s thought leaders.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Evolving the agency's service offering to keep up with market changes.
  • The importance of diversifying your lead gen source.
  • Overcoming 3 big challenges of growing an agency.



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

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


Becoming an Accidental Agency Owner with Inspiration and a Mastermind

In 2010, Andrew was a senior in college applying for and getting rejected from any job he could find. He had majored in Managerial Economics and had done everything right. However, it didn’t work out as expected so he had to sit down and reflect on his next move.

He was referred to David Siteman Garland’s podcast, where he described a lifestyle working from the beach in Puerto Rico while making six figures. That's when Andrew set out to get himself to that point and developed the idea for his agency, No Typical Moments.

It turned out that the formula for building his ideal business included things he greatly enjoyed: marketing and new technologies. It took him 18 months to really develop the concept of his agency. Meanwhile, he worked odd jobs, did a couple more internships, and finally found a full-time job with a minor league baseball team.

In his agency journey, Andrew found many role models like David, Gary Vaynerchuck, Jesse Itzler, and more. They were an inspiration throughout building and growing his agency in different ways. They helped him see the importance of taking advice from someone who already walked that same path.  He also credits involvement in a mastermind is a fundamental part of going from agency owner to Agency CEO.

What Milestones Propel Agency Growth?

Andrew officially started his agency in 2012 with six months' worth of savings and the plan to either duplicate his income in those six months or find another job. After 90 days of endless meetings, he hit his first big milestone: finding a paying client.

From there, his growth was marked by milestones like meeting the agency’s first big client and making some key hires. Around 2013, Andrew met a sales expert who joined the agency and ended up being an important part of its growth. Having someone besides him to help with client work and sales made a big difference.

As he started delegating the client work, they were also able to take on more clients. Shortly after that, their next big client was the Pittsburg Marathon, which was another big moment for the agency.

Evolving the Agency’s Service Offering with Market Changes

Originally, the agency offered organic social media marketing, which included Twitter and LinkedIn. However, over the years he's had to adapt to keep the business going. With time, Andrew realized there wasn’t a clear ROI he could break down for clients. There wasn’t a clear way to explain what those campaigns would do for their business. This was back when social media wasn’t what it is today. He realized doing paid ads lend to a more straightforward conversation. ROI is clearer with ads and it's a cleaner business case to sell to clients. This is what inspired a change in their service offering.

Later on, their offer evolved again to Facebook ads campaigns, which actually became pretty much their only service offer. Everyone was using Facebook and it worked for the agency. However, the big wake-up call came when iOS 14 changed everything. As most know, this made Facebook advertising very challenging and clients started to pull out. Those who weren’t immediately taken aback saw their ROI go down pretty quickly.

Luckily, Andrew and his team had already been thinking about broadening their offering. They had their eyes on doing YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google advertising. Moreover, he realized some clients were more in need of thought leadership and strategic direction than advertising. Hence, they searched for a Fractional CMO who could point these clients in the right direction so the ad campaigns would have a better chance of success.

The Importance of Diversifying Your Lead Gen Source

Usually, clients defer to Andrew's agency to get clear on their next best step in digital marketing. At some point, the easy answer was Facebook Ads. With it, you could generate revenue at the snap of your fingers. The game has changed, however. It’s now very important to be clear on where the business is at in its maturity to develop the right strategy. When a client brings on their team, they’ll help them with anything from email marketing, landing pages, copywriting, media buying on any major platform, or tech integration. They can also help manage employees, manage vendor relationships, contractors, and whatever clients require from a CMO.

When his agency changed course to a more full-service offering, he needed to get clients to understand it was a good moment to diversify their lead gen sources. If their entire campaigns hinged on Facebook, they will likely have issues in the future. The storm from iOS 14 combined with other difficult moments for the platform finally helped some clients see the light. Some companies had spent millions in Facebook ads only for their accounts to be banned out of nowhere. Now they had a need to spend on Google and YouTube to get to a million in spending.

For the longest time, it seemed like Facebook could not fail. But, in that moment it became much easier to explain the importance of diversifying.

3 Biggest Challenges He’s Faced at Different Stages of His Agency Journey

For Andrew, the challenges presented by building a digital agency have changed depending on the stage of the agency’s growth.

  1. The mental challenge of entrepreneurship.
    As a 22-year-old starting a business, his friends went the more traditional route and had high-paying jobs. Their path offered more of a clear trajectory whereas he entered entrepreneur which is the land of the unknown. The shame and embarrassment of not having that clarity affected his confidence. It also affected his social life, since he had to pour all his resources into the business. He couldn’t afford to go out and risk spending money he would need for the agency.
  2. Growing the agency beyond the owner.
    Finding the right people to continue to grow the agency has been more challenging than he expected. He was lucky with his two first hires, who are actually still with him years later. However, he made a series of bad hires as the agency grew. He was not clear on the expectation for each role and needed to hand over control. Those first mistakes ruined some relationships for him.
  3. Staying inspired to grow.
    More recently, Andrew's big challenge has been continuing to be inspired to grow and build after ten years. After years of weathering different storms like the pandemic and changes to his offering, it is time to reinvent again.

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

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

Direct download: Conquering_3_Big_Challenges_in_Order_to_Grow_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Did you know if you keep saying you’re too busy it probably means you’re not charging enough? Are you ready to start charging what your digital agency is worth?

Being too busy is the quickest way to not only burn yourself out but also your team. I’ve been there, and let me tell you I was on the verge of shutting down my agency from being overworked and undervalued. We were doing so many things wrong. We were talking to the wrong clients, working long hours, and worst of all, barely making ends meet.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to get out of your own way and start charging what you’re worth.

How can you get your prices to where they should be?

  1. Understand the value and results your agency delivers.
  2. Build trust with clients through an offer ladder.
  3. Position yourself as an authority in your space.



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In this video, you will learn the three pricing structures you can use to get you to a place where your pricing will both be more on par with the results you deliver and will give you an advantage over other cheaper agencies.

Most agency owners believe at some point that low prices will give you an advantage over the rest. However, I’d argue that increasing your prices actually works to your advantage. As an adviser, I go through the financials of thousands of agencies, and in up to 90% of cases, I recommend they increase their prices. The suggestion alone makes them back away in fear.

I get it, most agency owners worry about things like losing the pitch because their prices are too high. However, I counter with “What if you lose the pitch because your pricing is too low?” You don’t think this can happen? It happened to me!

Years ago I got a call from a prospect that needed a website. I nailed the call and was invited to their office to present an offer. Their office was HUGE. Who was this company? I proceeded to make the pitch and said my price: $10,000. They actually laughed and I was so confused. Was the price too high?

Well, it turns out this company I'd never heard of, Berkshire Hathaway, was expecting to spend around $300,000 on the website. They loved the pitch and were excited to work with us until I named my price... because it was too low they thought it wouldn't deliver the results they expected.

So how should your digital agency pricing be structured? How can you come up with a price that shows your value, increases profit, and allows you to win more deals? A lot of businesses tend to set a price and then not think about it again for years. When there’s one element of your business that affects everything other element so much, it’s definitely not something to be forgotten. Pricing should evolve as much as your business does.

3 Digital Agency Pricing Models

1. Hourly-Based Pricing

Should agencies charge by the hour? Honestly, I’m not a fan. This is my absolutely least favorite model. Charging by the hour sounds like a great idea, but as you get better and more efficient at your job you’ll be working fewer hours and thus making less money. It’s also the option that makes clients more nervous because there’s a variable of the unknown. However, I do believe there’s a time for hourly rates. If you’re doing something new and it’s hard to estimate how long it will take you, then it’s the best option.

2. Value-Based pricing

This pricing model is the intersection between what your services are worth to the client and what you’re willing to take. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get a pulse on the perceived value. Try to gather as much information as you can from clients so you can fully understand what they need and how you can help them. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met with clients and asked them for their budget to find that it’s much higher than I would’ve quoted, so we could have possibly lost revenue or lost the deal altogether.

3. Performance-Based Pricing

What if you only got paid for performance? Would you be profitable? Mastery member David was having trouble charging anything more than $3,500 per month. He was in a race to the bottom that involved over-delivering and under-promising. David focused too much on what others in his niche were charging. After hearing countless success stories from other mastermind members, he got the courage to make a change. He picked a client who he knew he could make tons of money for and asked for a percentage of the revenue he would generate for the company as payment. That percentage turned into a $1 million payday six months later.

The trick when it comes to this model is coming up with a formula to pick the winners. If you generate this company X amount of business, can they scale as quickly as you’re sending them business? What’s the metric you can control? If their sales team won’t return calls then you need to change the performance to an agreed amount of leads.

Getting Your Prices to What They Should Be

I’m a big advocate of agencies increasing their prices but it obviously needs to be done in the right way. You can’t just double prices for existing clients right away.

Mastery member Dean was struggling to afford the team he needed, which led to him doing everything and being close to burning out. We challenged him to raise his prices and he started by doubling his fees for the new clients coming in. To his surprise, they all said yes. Now it was time to turn our attention to existing clients.

By that time, existing clients were paying 50% of what new clients were paying so he was actually losing money on those accounts. We developed a plan for him to reach out to those clients and let them know the price was increasing. He expected to lose around 50% of these clients but the other 50% would make up for this loss. He actually didn’t lose any clients. They all agreed to pay the increase.

This resulted in an extra $67,000 per month for his agency with no additional work for his agency.

Ultimately, your pricing structure will be up to you. Consider your financial goals for the future and ask yourself which structure will get you there the quickest. It’s not about topline revenue but about how you can maximize the profitability of your bottom line.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

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

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

Are you effectively using storytelling in your agency's marketing? Storytelling is an invaluable tool that makes your prospects feel heard and understood. It's a way to relate to clients and communicate how your help solve their problems. Storytelling creates better communication that’s more effective, more memorable, and easier for people to understand.

Today’s guest started working as a scriptwriter until he discovered business storytelling was a coveted skill he could help business owners develop. Over the years, he has implemented 3 methods that help facilitate clients’ access to storytelling tools. He explains some of the logic behind these frameworks and how anyone can train themselves to be a compelling storyteller.

Douglass Hatcher is the CEO of Communicate4IMPACT, an agency that helps coach people in the art and science of business storytelling. They take what business owners do naturally – telling stories – and help them apply that to what they do professionally.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using business storytelling effectively.
  • 3 methods to improve your storytelling skills.
  • Secret to building a successful agency sales team.



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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service.


Discovering the Power of Business Storytelling

For most of his career, Douglass was a speech writer. First in the public sector, for congressmen and a senator. Eventually, he moved on to the corporate world where he wrote speeches for the CEO of MasterCard. This led to requests to help with their presentations and pitch decks. That is where he first heard the term business storytelling.

Douglass quickly learned that it's an actual craft to tell a story in the business context. In addition to creating presentation decks, he ended up helping develop a two-hour course on storytelling for the company. The course was more popular than he could have imagined. That is when he realized there is a market for this service and started his own agency.

The Significance of Effective Business Storytelling

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are great examples of successful business owners who care about effective communication. Not all leaders put communication ahead of everything else in their business. Of course, your data, financials, and numbers matter; but at the end of the day, if your audience doesn’t understand what you bring to the table, you’re in a tough place.

That said, Steve Jobs wasn't always the confident and expressive presenter we remember today. Douglass recalls a TV interview with an anxiety-ridden Jobs who even vomited between takes. From that point on, he worked hard to become a great communicator spending up to thirty hours on each of his presentation slides.

If you look at any of Steve Jobs’s presentations, he doe not focus on selling the newest iPhone or iPad. He’s more focused on communicating through storytelling. Instead of saying that the iPod was the latest and greatest mp3 player, he said "the iPod is having 1,000 songs in your pocket." Rather than just selling features, Steve Jobs was the master of telling the story of what a product will do for you.

3 Methods to Help Improve Your Storytelling Skills


1. The ABT Method

ABT or And, But, Therefore is the three-word vocabulary necessary to tell a good story. It was first popularized by Randy Olson who was inspired to apply the ABT method after seeing a documentary by the South Park creators where they talked about using it for their scriptwriting.

  • AND represents the way things are
  • BUT is the turn or the change
  • THEREFORE is the outcome with a resolution.

Basically, the idea is that instead of saying “My product is this, my service is that,” you use the framework:

“My services are this AND this, BUT if you use it this way you will get X result; THEREFORE, this can happen.”

In storytelling, without change, there is no story. Likewise, in business you’re trying to solve a problem, to change the customer’s situation for the better -- that’s where storytelling comes in.

2. What, So What, Now What

  • WHAT is the thing you want to talk about
  • SO WHAT is “why do we care”
  • NOW WHAT is about what’s next.

In this framework, you ask these questions to identify, analyze, and draw sense from an event. Douglass uses it to train clients to tackle situations where they have to answer a question under pressure.

He gives the example of a famous director who experienced technical difficulties on stage when the teleprompter went out. As a result, he chose to walk off stage. If he had this tool he could have stayed on stage and improvised a way to engage the audience.

The goal of this framework is to keep you from tanking in moments of high pressure, control your anxiety, and have courage to carry on.

3. The PIXAR Framework

Pixar is famous for creating compelling stories that are universally loved by people of all ages. They are masters of storytelling and their framework can be broken down as follows:

  • Once upon a time,
  • Every day…
  • One day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Until finally…

Similar to the previous ones, we start with ONCE UPON A TIME, which is the client’s current situation. EVERY DAY would be the problem they’re facing. ONE DAY is when you come into the picture with a solution. Each BECAUSE OF THAT represents a benefit brought by your solution. UNTIL FINALLY is the resolution.

It’s amazing how effective this framework is. The best part is that choosing you as the solution doesn’t come until the third act. This is why it's important to always put the customer first and position yourself as their guide.

The Secret to Building a Successful Agency Sales Team

These frameworks are seemingly very simple but they’re also very effective. It often happens that the things that are made to look simple took the longest time to create. There’s a lot of research behind each of these that comes from many years of research on the best practices to create compelling stories. If you’re an agency owner looking to become a better storyteller, these frameworks will give you the advantage you need.

The power of storytelling is also what makes agency owners so good at selling. Owners who have a lot of trouble building a really great sales team are usually not sharing their success stories. Owners need to create a shareable library of stories to pass on to their sales team. When your team can share success stories with clients and prospects, you help them succeed and help get yourself out of sales.

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

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

Direct download: 3_Methods_of_Storytelling_That_Wins_More_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT