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

Is the fear of failure the driving force that keeps you striving towards your goals? For too many agency owners, the relentless stress of this life corrodes their drive, fueling an unhealthy obsession with avoiding defeat at all costs. Putting together a great team and taking the time to stop and figure things out is often the only way to get out of that trap.

Today’s guest managed to do this by implementing the lessons learned from the bike trails. She took the discipline and important insights learned from sports and translated them into business. As a result, she was able to improve her results and grow her agency. Tune in for insights on finding freedom and flow in business without being rooted in fear.

Karley Cunningham is the founder, creative strategist, and growth accelerator of Big Bold Brand Inc., a marketing agency that works with innovators, disruptors, and changemakers who seek a strategic business advantage and desire bold differentiation. Her team helps these innovators sort out their businesses and build great brands.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How a purposeful plan will help you prevent burnout.

  • Plan to thrive, not to survive.

  • Avoid operating from a place of fear.

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Sponsors and Resources

Clutch: This episode is sponsored by Clutch, the #1 marketplace for agencies just like yours. With their innovative process, your agency will be matched with highly motivated buyers looking for the exact services you offer. Leave the lead generation to Clutch and let your team focus on delivery. Get started for FREE at clutch.co/smartagency by creating your agency profile.

Prevent Burnout with a Purposeful Plan: Taking a Sports Approach to Agency Growth

Karley, a former pro-level mountain biker and passionate sports enthusiast, attributes the most significant impact of sports in her life to the structure it provides. As a creative thinker prone to distraction, she values the discipline and routine that sports have instilled in her, enabling her to focus and succeed.

For her, it’s been easier to absorb business lessons by drawing parallels between sports and business, which is how she’s gotten to important shifts like taking a rest week every six to seven weeks of the year to catch up, think about the agency’s vision, and breathe. Like navigating a challenging trail in the mountains, running an agency requires determination, resilience, and a deep sense of purpose.

However, the most important thing you can do to prevent burnout is to have a plan. Many agency owners let the day-to-day consume them until they feel the only way out of the constant stress is to get out of the business altogether and sell the agency. At this point, they need a clear plan detailing the short-term and long-term goals they’re aiming for that will provide a direction and strategy.

Additionally, Karley’s advice to agency owners is to ensure the journey is as fulfilling as the destination. Just like in outdoor adventures where the climb must be worth the descent, agency owners should find joy and fulfillment in the process of growing their business. By integrating elements that excite and motivate them into their plans, agency owners can maintain their passion and drive toward success. In this sense, she recommends agency owners to "plan to thrive, not survive" as a key mindset to adopt in order to achieve success and growth in their businesses.

Plan to Thrive: Teamwork and Collaboration for Agency Success

Just like preparing for a challenging adventure like hiking the Grand Canyon takes planning ahead and anticipating challenges in order to thrive in the face of adversity. Agency owners should remember that, just like hiking a mountain, doing it all by yourself can prove to be very difficult and even boring.

Having a strong team and a supportive network can make all the difference in your journey. By surrounding yourself with a team of smart and capable individuals, you can leverage their strengths, make better decisions, and achieve greater success as a collective unit. For Karley, watching her team thrive is very rewarding and something you can only get through collaboration, teamwork, and shared decision-making in overcoming challenges and celebrating victories together.

Ditching the Fear Mindset Operating from a Place of Passion

Right now, the next stage for Karley is to prepare to sell her core methodology, which she was able to develop and systemize during the pandemic. As she prepares to turn it into a licensable system, she is admittedly stepping into a scary part of the process, a prospect that both excites and scares her. Despite her apprehension, she is determined not to let fear be the driving force behind her efforts.

Due to the many stresses of agency life, owners can end up fueled by the fear of failure, which is a horrible way to live. Karley encourages agency owners to be aware of what the dangers are but avoid running from a place of fear and instead try to hold on to the enjoyment of the process. To get to this place, think about surrounding yourself with people who know how to navigate those dangers and build a team with the skills to get you out of any situation. By doing so, you can operate from a place of passion and trust in their abilities to succeed.

And if you do ultimately fail, then it can serve as experience for the next adventure. In the end, there are no lives at stake. The agency may die but you’re still here to keep going.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Karley_Cunningham_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

Have you ever wondered what it takes to scale an agency from millions to tens of millions in revenue? Or how to successfully pivot from services to products? Today's guest has walked that path - not once but twice.

He’s built two successful agencies with the mission to lift brands up, tell compelling stories and recognize new products. As he reflects on his journey, he recounts the differences between scaling an agency to $25 million and to $50 million, as well as the pivotal decision of starting to sell a SaaS product. Tune in for valuable insights and inspiring stories from his entrepreneurial experience.

Phil Case is the President and Chief Client Officer of Max Connect Digital, a digital marketing agency that combines the most extensive real-time consumer data sets with personalized and dynamic ads. Phil shares his journey of growing his first agency from $300,000 to around $5 million and then scaling his current agency from $18 million to over $50 million. He discusses profit margins, business growth strategies, and the competitive mindset needed to succeed in the industry.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • A smarter approach to sustainable growth.

  • Attracting talent through an SVP structure.

  • The path to becoming a $50 million agency.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Foundational Clients: The Smart Approach to Fueling Sustainable Growth

Looking back, Phil knows he would scale his first agency differently. Back then, he worked grueling 60 to 80-hour workweeks, constantly putting out fires while striving to appease everyone. He also fell into the trap of trying to cater to every need, becoming a jack-of-all-trades for his clients.

If he could go back he would tell himself to focus and maintain high standards. He now understands that striving to excel in a specific area and establish a strong reputation for himself and his agency and have a minimum threshold of what they will do for clients. The growth process would’ve been slower, but it would have prevented them from taking on clients who placed excessive demands on the agency.

Admittedly, committing to a single niche at the outset can be challenging, especially when faced with numerous options and critical decisions. Furthermore, you can’t control your inbound and the type of opportunities that come to you when you’re just starting out. If given a do-over, Phil would be deliberate in building a stable foundation with a select group of clients, who would serve as the cornerstone for the agency's continued growth.

Aligning Talent and Vision for Exponential Growth

When it came to enhancing the agency’s growth and focus, Phil found it crucial to expand his team with individuals he trusted to excel beyond his own capabilities. Understanding the agency’s ideal client and vision is essential for attracting a team aligned with the common goal. This alignment empowers the team to make autonomous decisions for the agency, freeing Phil from constant oversight.

Empowering a team, trusting them to make decisions, delegating responsibilities, and allowing them to grow within the organization are key components of scaling an agency effectively. Once he had a big enough team, Phil appreciated the ability to spread the responsibility and burden of running the agency across a group of people. With a diversity of voices now up to speed on the agency’s goals and vision, they make way better decisions than Phil would haveon his own. This is where exponential growth started for his agency.

Attracting Top Talent Through an SVP Structure

Even as Phil successfully built a top-notch sales team at his second agency, he found himself frequently stepping in to close deals or develop strategies alongside the C-suite. To address this, he implemented a senior vice president structure, tapping professionals from diverse backgrounds such as higher education, automotive, and retail. This strategic shift allowed him to confidently direct inquiries to the experts, fostering a sense of empowerment within his team to handle client interactions and secure deals without his direct involvement.

Moreover, by entrusting specific industry expertise to the senior vice presidents, the agency positioned itself as a frontrunner in those sectors, attracting clients seeking specialized knowledge. Phil's deliberate approach to hiring and training three vice presidents concurrently during the onset of the pandemic proved fruitful, as it provided an opportunity to onboard exceptional talent seeking to make an impact. This bold move resulted in several outstanding hires who excelled in leadership roles.

Since making these hires, they’ve been much more intentional with their growth and have doubled down on existing client relationships. They are focused on providing more quality, value, and performance, which has accounted for 60% to 70% of their growth in recent years.

The Path to Becoming a $50 Million Agency

Coming into his second agency, Phil had a clear-cut mission in mind: World domination. They wanted to be the best and perform well for clients and so their sight was always set on the next milestone. If they were doing $2 million in revenue, they were already thinking “How do we get to three?”

With an unwavering commitment to progress, Phil's approach to reaching $50 million differed significantly from his strategy to achieve $25 million. Initially lacking a clear understanding of their ideal customers, they have since become more deliberate in their pursuit of growth.

Once they reached $25 million, they started to interrogate whether they really wanted to exponentially grow their client base. They took a step back to analyze and define what a bullseye client looks like for them and what were the industries where they consistently outperformed the competition. This mindset shift led to the realization that the most underappreciated growth mechanism was their existing book of business.

With this in mind, they focused on signing on fewer clients per month and doing quarterly business reviews for each of their accounts. By prioritizing quality over quantity, being intentional in their growth strategy, and investing in their team and resources, agencies can position themselves for long-term success and sustainability in a competitive industry. Once that focus came to be, Phil’s agency propelled from $25 million to $30 million.

Now, at $50 million, they deal with different challenges like inner departmental collaboration, orchestrated strategies, and scaling systems and structures.

Expanding Their Market Reach by Selling a Saas Product

As his agency scaled, their margins remained relatively consistent. As they’ve hit different revenue peaks, the composition of the types of services they’re offering is what tended to affect their profitability. Recognizing that certain client compositions or services were less profitable, the agency focused on enhancing its value proposition, optimizing pricing strategies, and improving operational efficiency to boost its bottom line.

At this stage, the emphasis for Phil is on exploring ways to deliver greater value, adopt effective pricing strategies, and establish efficient frameworks to enhance service delivery. In this sense, they’ve now set out to build marketing technology platforms they’re starting to sell as a SaaS-type product.

By leveraging their expertise in marketing technology and developing innovative solutions, agencies can expand their market reach and tap into new revenue streams. This approach allows agencies to scale their business, increase profitability, and potentially attract investors or buyers interested in acquiring the SaaS product.

Agency owners can rethink their approach to their agency business to running a services-based firm and a SaaS company simultaneously. Phil acknowledges the different mindset required for each type of business and emphasizes the importance of incubating the SaaS business and eventually separating it from the services-based firm to ensure success in the long run.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Phil_Case_Audio_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

Are you debating the value of building your brand? Perhaps you're wary of the effort needed to establish your identity, only to feel confined to your business once you become the face of the agency. Our guest today specializes in helping clients effectively brand themselves and elevate their agencies.

He understands the common fears and reservations surrounding personal branding and offers valuable insights into its benefits. Above all, he wants entrepreneurs to understand that personal brands should evolve continually, ensuring that they don't limit your growth. Tune in for expert advice on cultivating trust and credibility in the industry through consistent branding efforts.

Jason Barnard is an entrepreneur, writer, and CEO of Kalicube, a digital marketing agency that makes your online brand representation irresistible to potential customers. Jason loves to solve the puzzle of how algorithms work and figure out how clients can use them in their favor. In this conversation, both Jasons emphasize the significance of branding yourself to elevate your agency to the next level in the digital marketing space.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why a personal brand won’t tie you to the business.

  • How to build and pivot your brand.

  • Communicating your evolving value.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Clutch: This episode is sponsored by Clutch, the #1 marketplace for agencies just like yours. With their innovative process, your agency will be matched with highly motivated buyers looking for the exact services you offer. Leave the lead generation to Clutch and let your team focus on delivery. Get started for FREE at clutch.co/smartagency by creating your agency profile.

The Relatable Factor: Using Personal Branding to Connect with Clients

Building a strong brand requires consistency above all else. Without it, your company risks fading into obscurity. As long as you provide value, consistency will help you gain your audience’s trust over time. For Jason, it’s also very much about believing in the value you bring and being proactive. It’s a journey that never ends, Jason says, and a game you lose unless you devote enough time to building that brand over time.

Most agency owners believe they need to choose between building the agency’s brand or their personal brand. Commonly, a personal brand is seen as something that will tie you to the business forever, turning you into the face of the company. However, you need to be the face of your agency, especially in the beginning, and this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never be able to walk away.

Being the face of the agency simply means that you are the relatable figure that people associate with the business. People prefer to interact with individuals rather than faceless entities, and having a recognizable figure can significantly enhance their connection to your agency.

According to Jason, we all have a personal brand, whether we like it or not. As soon as you step into the digital landscape you’re leaving a footprint and, even if you try to stay in the background, people will seek you out to figure out who’s behind the agency.

Furthermore, agency owners should consider their career trajectory beyond the agency. Whether that means transitioning to roles like investor or author, having an established brand can make this pivot much smoother than starting from scratch.

Building and Pivoting Your Brand on Your Own Terms

For many people, one of the scariest parts of building a brand is thinking they’ll have to be very active on social media. To this, Jason says: not necessarily. To build your brand, you need to do things that make sense to you. This might be appearances on podcasts, writing articles, or social media. It all depends on your talent set, how you want to be presented, and how your audience is going to consume the information you provide.

If, instead, you’re looking to pivot an existing brand, Jason recommends auditing and updating all existing content about yourself to ensure it accurately reflects your current brand identity. This may involve revisiting old blog posts, social media profiles, podcast interviews, and other online assets to make necessary changes and corrections. It’s what he did when he decided to become a digital marketer after many years of being known on the internet as a cartoonist. He set out to align all his content with his current brand message to present a cohesive and compelling image to your audience.

For people looking to achieve something similar, he advises looking at what they have in their digital ecosystem, deciding what they want to communicate, and refocus everything. Once you do, Google will represent you in the way you want and your audience will see you the way you want to be seen.

Communicating Your Evolving Value in the Digital Age

One thing all entrepreneurs should keep in mind when it comes to branding is that we’re not permanently just one thing. People change and evolve; likewise, your personal brand should always evolve. If you have an active career, you’ll probably need to reposition yourself at least three times as you accomplish some goals and set out to conquer new ones.

In today's digital landscape, with the increasing influence of AI and algorithms, effectively communicating one's identity and value proposition to the target audience is paramount.

As individuals, we may struggle with defining who we are and what we stand for however as professionals, we must recognize that change is inevitable and that our personal brand should reflect this evolution. It can take time and self-reflection to truly understand our values, goals, and strengths. However, by actively engaging in this process, we can better align our personal brand with our authentic selves and create a more compelling and impactful online presence.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Jason_Barnard_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

Are you striving to refine your selling strategy and cultivate enduring client relationships that stand the test of time? How can you elevate your approach to not just closing deals but fostering long-term partnerships that drive mutual growth and success? Today's guest started her business with the idea of embodying a strategic dance of trust, value creation, and genuine connection. Tune in to learn how leading with strategy can lead to success in the agency world.

Molly Baker is the founder and CEO of Indie Consulting, a marketing agency that specializes in strategic planning and activation. Molly shares her journey from working with big brands to starting her agency. She explains her reasons for prioritizing strategy and highlights the need to deeply understand client goals and strengths before making recommendations. 

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why Molly chose to sell strategy to gain clients’ trust.

  • The challenge of developing a repeatable process. 

  • Offering a foot-in-the-door and client workshops to become a trusted advisor.

  • A unique approach to account management. 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Ditching the Agency Model and Forging Her Own Strategic Path

After graduating from college, Molly kicked off her career working at a prominent agency, where she mostly worked in digital media buying for a few years. She learned a lot and enjoyed all the great things that come with working at bigger agencies. After that, she went to work on the brand side at Ben & Jerry’s, a great experience that allowed her to work with all types of agency partners. However, the brand side ultimately wasn’t for her.

Wanting to find her own way in the industry led her to work freelance for some time as she gained more and more interest for the strategy-based offer. Eventually, it was time to give her vision a shot and see what happened.

She always saw herself starting a company, although she refrained from categorizing it as an agency, aligning with her distinct vision. This leap of faith has proven successful, as her business continues to thrive five years later.

Selling Strategy and Building Long-Term Client Relationships

Most agency owners typically start by leveraging their expertise and working as freelancers, tailoring their services to meet their clients’ specific needs, all while trying to establish a successful business model. For her part, Molly took a distinct approach from the beginning.

Initially, her value proposition centered around offering businesses the opportunity to hire her for a period of 3 to 6 months, instead of bringing in an in-house marketing director or digital strategist. This allowed business owners to thoroughly assess their needs and devise a plan before committing to a permanent in-house hire. It proved to be an appealing offer, especially at a time when business owners were overwhelmed by the options presented by digital but knew they had to embrace it to be relevant.

As her business evolved, Molly expanded her services to include addressing traditional strategy inquiries, such as the most effective investment models or creative strategies tailored to each business. This evolution ultimately led to the development of a fractional resourcing offering, providing clients with a dedicated partner who could seamlessly integrate with their team on a full-time basis.

It’s a very effective way to gain clients’ trust and get over the initial hesitancy that can come when they suspect the agency is just trying to sell something. Molly built a true consultancy where they sit down and help clients figure out the gaps in their business, which goes back to the very basis of the agency work: helping someone solve a problem.

Developing Repeatable Processes Amid Market Abundance

When it came time to start delegating some of the load to her team, Molly faced several challenges. Initially, she hired friends she’d previously worked with, which made for a seamless integration due to their similar styles and approaches. However, once the team started to grow and she hired outside of her known pool of past associates, it became more about effectively communicating how she wanted things to be done. 

It ended up being more complicated than she thought, since the way they did things couldn’t always be translated to a teachable process. It took teamwork and helping her team get educated through some of the same courses she’d completed but they eventually got there.

As they built their process, they encountered projects that served as valuable learning experiences, teaching them not to rush through tasks. Understanding a client's business goals and needs before making recommendations was crucial to Molly and her team. As a result, individuals who sought to speed the process were not a good fit for them.

Given the sheer volume of options available in the market, strategic planning has become more important than ever, as clients are realizing that a one-size-fits-all approach no longer suffices.

Of course, selling a process that takes three to five months to complete is challenging, Molly has learned that diving straight into execution only leads to increased spending while testing, learning, and making corrections along the way.

Using a Foot-in-the-Door Offer to Sell Clients on the Value of Strategy

Even though clients are currently more aware of the fact that the right solution won’t come from a few paid ads, Molly admits it can be hard to sell clients on the value of strategy. In such cases, a foot-in-the-door strategy emerges as a valuable tool to attract clients for a smaller commitment, allowing them to experience your work and view you as a trusted advisor.

Statistically, clients are 20 times more likely to engage your services again after their initial commitment. Therefore, including a foot-in-the-door offer can help you close a lot more deals and cement a relationship that can help clients feel more secure in paying the higher fee.

Offering Client Workshops to Become a Trusted Advisor

Beyond the foot-in-the-door strategy, Molly and her team are also preparing to implement a strategy workshop where clients will be able to learn from each other and get to see examples of what her agency’s strategy output can look like.

These types of networking events provide a space where agencies can showcase their capabilities and expertise more interactively and engagingly, rather than relying solely on traditional sales pitches and capability decks.

From her experience, Molly has seen clients at these workshops are mostly interested in learning what’s working and not working for other brands and which tools they’re leveraging. Providing this information also perfectly positions her agency to connect with potential clients and present themselves in a professional yet friendly environment where they can showcase their expertise.

For Molly, it’s like a "karmic boomerang", highlighting the idea that by consistently offering help and support to clients without expecting anything in return, agencies can build a positive reputation and trust with their clients. This approach creates a cycle of reciprocity where clients are more likely to turn to the agency for assistance and solutions because of the trust and goodwill that has been established over time.

A Unique Approach to Account Management

Molly is very decidedly against the general idea of what account managers are and has been since the beginning of her agency journey. In her view, account management can mean many things to different people and she challenges the traditional notion of account management as simply project management.

She believes that account management should be viewed as a partnership, where agencies work closely with clients to understand their needs and goals, rather than just focusing on getting tasks done.

Molly's agency takes a unique approach to account management by assigning account leads based on skill set and personality match, rather than having dedicated account managers. This allows for a more personalized and tailored approach to client relationships, where the agency aims to be a business partner and thought partner for their clients. By building curiosity and soft skills within her team, Molly ensures that they can show up better for their clients and truly understand what makes them tick.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Molly_Baker_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

Do you treat your team like employees or like people? Every agency owner should recognize the immense value of their team and ensure they are treated with the utmost respect. This may entail parting ways with toxic clients, as the well-being of your team is irreplaceable.

Our guest today faced challenging times during the pandemic when they had to terminate their agency's largest client to prevent the team from burning out entirely. It was a difficult decision, but it ultimately demonstrated how much he valued his employees, leading to a shift in the company culture and a newfound appreciation for their skills, which could be harnessed for incubator businesses. Tune in to discover how he faced the loss of a big client to choose the team that was making his dream a reality and how celebrating the small wins helps keep everyone sane and focused.

Miles Marmo is the founder of Agency Squid, a boutique consultancy and creative agency based in Minneapolis. He shares his journey of building a successful agency, navigating challenges, and creating an incubator agency model, as well as the importance of understanding consumer segmentation, industry trends, and merging it with creative outputs.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Learning to savor the small wins.

  • Choosing your team over a bad-fit client.

  • The benefits of incubator brands for agencies.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Clutch: This episode is sponsored by Clutch, the #1 marketplace for agencies just like yours. With their innovative process, your agency will be matched with highly motivated buyers looking for the exact services you offer. Leave the lead generation to Clutch and let your team focus on delivery. Get started for FREE at clutch.co/smartagency by creating your agency profile.

Why Agency Owners Need to Savor Every Success

Miles, a former athlete with experience working in agencies on the brand side, never anticipated becoming an agency owner. However, his entrepreneurial spirit was ignited by his competitive nature and desire for some degree of control over his work. His love for working with people also made entrepreneurship a natural fit for him.

Overall, he describes owning an agency as a rollercoaster with exhilarating highs and challenging lows, so maintaining a sense of balance is very difficult. In this sense, Miles tries to always remember to celebrate the wins, no matter how small.

Agency owners often dwell on losses and setbacks, leading to demoralization. Success is almost expected and therefore not celebrated as much as it should be. Instead, Miles believes that celebrating even minor wins not only boosts morale but also provides a sense of accomplishment and validation for the hard work put into the agency.

Undoubtedly, agency owners will face common struggles and moments of doubt and burnout when they feel like giving up and taking a job instead. However, he believes that by focusing on celebrating wins and finding joy in the successes, they can stay motivated and inspired to continue growing their businesses.

The Make-or-Break Moment: Choosing Your Team Over a Bad Client

One of these hard moments happened to Miles during the pandemic, when he faced the tough decision to part ways with a major client who negatively impacted the agency's culture and caused burnout among employees. It was a moment where he even questioned whether he had chosen the right career path and his effectiveness at managing his team

Although difficult, it became clear the client would never be content with the agency’s work. This decision ultimately led to a sense of relief and a reshaping of the agency's values and its approach to new business. In the end, prioritizing the team's welfare was crucial for the business’s overall health and success.

Letting go of a client that negatively impacts your culture is a way to show your team that you value them much more than any client. At the end of the day, as an owner, your team is building your dreams and is your greatest asset. You can always get more clients, but assembling a great team is difficult.

For Miles, the key to a successful agency lies in the team that supports it so he greatly values having a team that believes in the vision and works towards achieving it. This sense of unity and shared purpose not only motivates everyone but also leads to better results for the agency.

The Double Benefit of Incubator Brands for Agencies

During the pandemic, Miles recognized the potential of his team's unique skill set and saw an opportunity for them to embark on more fulfilling and lucrative creative endeavors. In this sense, he highlights the importance of allocating time effectively and setting boundaries to ensure the team focuses on client work as well as internal projects. Many agencies leave creative projects for later and prioritize client work. However, by managing time wisely and dedicating specific days for internal work, the agency can balance client demands and working on their own brand.

In this regard, Miles discusses the benefits of leveraging his team’s skills to build incubator businesses where they can gain valuable experience and expertise that can be applied to client work. It gives them a playground to creatively express themselves without the limits usually imposed by clients, as well as rare access to the full supply chain logistics and insight into the impact of a design decision. While dedicating time and commitment to these ventures may be challenging, the benefits far outweigh the effort.

Why Neglecting Self-Care Ends Up Affecting Your Agency

Being your best self is crucial for success, which is why Miles stresses the importance of mental health in this industry. Neglecting self-care can lead to a decline in performance across all aspects of life.

With a one-year-old at home, Miles has gained a new perspective on the significance of self-care and how neglecting personal well-being can have far-reaching consequences. Delaying self-care until a specific goal is reached is counterproductive, as one's well-being directly impacts performance and overall satisfaction.

Seeking support from an entrepreneurial community or a therapist can provide invaluable assistance during challenging times, ultimately leading to improved performance, success, and contentment in both professional and personal realms.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Miles_Marmo_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT

Are you prepared to elevate your agency team and pave the path to success? As your agency expands, the need to grow your team becomes inevitable, and having standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place beforehand can save you a lot of headaches.

Today’s guest went through a rapid growth phase with his agency and found he was ill-prepared to delegate responsibilities and clearly define tasks. As a result, he lost employees and clients but has since learned that SOPs should be in place before hiring and that a good SOP takes him out of the process as quickly as possible. Tune in to gain valuable insights on navigating the complexities of scaling an agency effectively.

Robert Brill is the owner of Brill Media, a white-label media buying agency that helps clients supercharge their business. At his agency, Robert works with a fully remote team of passionate experts and has created a culture of promoting from within, keeping the team members engaged, upskilled, and motivated to take leadership roles.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • When rapid growth meets poor processes.

  • Consistency and clarity as a result of proper SOPs.

  • How to correctly implement SOPs.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

From Dreams of Advertisement Glamour to Owning an Agency

In a departure from the most typical agency owner narrative, Robert says this is the only thing he’s ever wanted to do professionally. Growing up, the idea of working on high-profile projects, like commercials, sounded like a dream to him. He craved the recognition that would come from showcasing his work. “I didn’t have the ability to become a rock star, so I went into advertising,” he jokes.

After working a couple of marketing jobs as a college student, he continued that path following graduation and spent the next ten years in the advertising business. By 2013, he still had a love for the business but felt himself becoming a bad employee. The desire to operate according to his vision and the prospect of reducing the stress of taking time off motivated him to establish his own business.

Most agency owners know that - contrary to his expectations – running his agency demanded even more and he ended up working twice as hard. However, becoming a CEO and taking on more responsibilities was the only path to what he wanted and it was a big motivator for him.

What Happens When Rapid Growth Meets Poor Processes?

Once you start gaining traction with your agency and your brand attracts more clients, you’ll need to be prepared to start hiring as the amount of work increases. For Robert, however, it was particularly challenging since he had to triple his staff throughout one summer.

The big lesson Robert took from that summer is that he should have started hiring sooner. It felt like a big risk earlier in the life of the business. However, he’s learned that of all the big risks, this is one he should have taken sooner.

Initially, he hired people he had worked with previously, assuming they would excel in their roles without much guidance. However, within six months, one of his key hires quit due to dissatisfaction with the lack of structure, organization, and process within the business.

At this point, no one was happy, — not Robert, the new hires, the existing hires, or the clients. It took him six months to figure out the missing piece was standard operating procedures. Simply put, the lack of clear guidelines, workflows, and systems was leading to confusion, frustration, and ultimately, high turnover rates.

Consistency, Clarity, Growth: The Impacts of Finally Implementing SOPs

Agency SOPs sounded like the most boring thing in the world for Robert. However, after hiring a Chief Operating Officer who created his agency’s first SOP, he quickly saw the benefits that come with sticking to your processes and refining them over time.

Now everyone on the team understood what was expected of them because they knew where their responsibilities started and ended. As a result, they were more satisfied with their job and stayed longer. The agency’s output grew stronger, everything ran smoothly, and clients returned.

With proper SOPs, Robert also has a better understanding of which steps of the process need documenting while still offering enough autonomy for his team to feel empowered. Furthermore, he has seen the importance of actually enforcing the SOP after it’s created, otherwise it’ll be useless.

Six years later, his staff once again doubled, but with the proper systems the agency’s revenue stayed consistent over time, and turnover was greatly reduced for both clients and employees.

3 Steps to Correctly Implement Agency SOPs

According to Robert, it’s important to start building SOPs before hiring new employees to streamline processes, prevent mistakes, and ensure consistent quality in operations. Clearly defined SOPs help to avoid the chaos and confusion that can occur when knowledge is only held by a few individuals. For him, the process of implementing new SOPs generally goes as follows:

  1. Identify the tasks involved.

  2. Document the process while performing it yourself.

  3. Delegate the tasks.

Hiring first and letting that person figure out the process seems like a less effective approach to Robert. For starters, figuring out the process first can help you pinpoint the person you’ll need for the task.

Tip: There should always be someone in charge of the SOP, updating and refining it, and ensuring its implementation. Additionally, you can appoint another team member who normally would have nothing to do with that particular part of the process and ask them to follow that SOP to see if they can find any gaps that can be corrected to create a more effective guide.

How Outsourcing SEO Expertise Unlocked New Opportunities

After five years of trying to figure out SEO for himself, Robert finally hired an expert who did a year’s worth of work for him and dramatically changed what he understood about SEO. This investment not only improved his business's SEO strategy but also allowed him to speak more confidently about marketing in general, create content on platforms like YouTube and TikTok, and potentially offer SEO services in the future.

As a result, he’s learned that a proactive approach to learning not only benefits the individual but also the team and the business as a whole. In the future, Robert may want to change his offering to include SEO services, and investing in expert training can lead to improved performance, increased efficiency, and better results for the business.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Robert_Brill_audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Is your agency work affecting your family life? Are you challenged by finding the right talent to assemble a team to take over some of the work? Today’s guest thought she’d always be a solopreneur but as her workload mounted, she realized she needed reinforcements to maintain her level of service and keep clients coming back. Getting the right talent to balance it all was not easy but she relied on a largely untapped talent pool: moms looking to keep their careers thriving while raising their families. In this episode, Sara discusses her experiences scaling her agency and balancing motherhood with a creative career.

Sara Jensen owns Brighter Messaging, a digital agency that helps small businesses manage their online presence and generate leads through content-based marketing. Sara shares her journey from being a solopreneur to running a digital marketing agency.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Building a compensation model to empower your team.

  • Taking advantage of the largest untapped talent pool.

  • Getting wiser about client choices.

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Sponsors and Resources

Clutch: This episode is sponsored by Clutch, the #1 marketplace for agencies just like yours. With their innovative process, your agency will be matched with highly motivated buyers looking for the exact services you offer. Leave the lead generation to Clutch and let your team focus on delivery. Get started for FREE at clutch.co/smartagency by creating your agency profile.

Delegating for Success: From Solopreneur to Agency Owner

Starting as a freelance writer, Sara began to build her agency right as she had become a first-time mother. That was twelve years ago and she was building her agency from the ground up while navigating motherhood. At the time, she was ghostwriting, blogging, and juggling clients' demands. As the business grew, clients began requesting more services, and Sara realized she needed to level up by building a team.

The first role she hired was a virtual assistant, although she admits to being hesitant and unsure of how to work with someone else. Despite her initial reservations, Sara took a leap of faith and trusted her VA to help her navigate the process of delegating tasks and creating processes.

One of the key challenges she faced was the fear of losing control and not being able to deliver the same level of quality to her clients. This fear is common among entrepreneurs who are used to doing everything themselves. However, Sara's willingness to trust her team members and let go of some responsibilities ultimately led to the growth and success of her agency.

Incentivizing Success: A Compensation Model to Empower Your Team

Sara’s assistant was the first person to introduce a project management system – Asana – to the agency, changing everything about how they worked. To this day, it’s become an essential element of how her team works together and how she manages to get her ideas from her notepad to the team.

Having introduced a more structured system to the team’s everyday work and communications, Sara understood the importance of building processes and started to do so herself, a task she later delegated to the new project manager. For her, having consistent processes is a huge piece that helps set clear expectations for everyone on the team.

Another important factor for finally letting go of many tasks was being intentional about the compensation piece. At her agency, the team works as contractors and they’ve structured their compensation model around client retainer packages. Each role within the agency gets a portion of those retainers, as an incentive to be more invested in the client’s success.

By building trust, setting clear expectations, and providing opportunities for growth and development, agencies can create a culture of success and achievement that benefits both the team and the whole agency.

Taking Advantage of The Largest Untapped Talent Pool 

Another important aspect of how Sara has structured her agency to serve the interests of the working moms that mostly make up her team is offering flexible hours and part-time work. Most of her team members have side gigs and are in some stage of motherhood figuring out how to have a career while still dedicating time to their families.

For Sara, offering flexible work to moms is a very important part of her business model. In her view, moms are a largely untapped talent pool simply because they opt out; they don’t think they can work while taking care of the family and most companies certainly don’t offer choices for them to do so.

Getting Wiser About Your Client Choices to Prioritize Your Family Life

For agency owners, their family life suffers if they fail to flip the switch from agency mode to family mode at the end of the day. However, Sara believes it’s misleading to think of it as something you can switch on and off. It depends on the day and what she’s doing. In her experience, it also gets easier when you get wiser about the type of clients you choose.

Setting expectations and boundaries early on is a big part of ensuring clients respect the balance between work and family life. Sometimes this means the agency loses certain opportunities that just weren’t the right fit. However, by making these choices the team solidifies the values they uphold and stays within that lane.

In Sara’s case, it took a long time to get to a point where she could prioritize family time and set boundaries with clients. In this sense, a big part of this shift came from investing in coaching to clarify what she wanted their life to look like and defining her values and goals. Through this process, she was able to identify the types of clients that aligned with her values and boundaries.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Sara_Jensen_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Do you prioritize new clients or building lasting relationships? Would you be willing to lose money on a client in order to build a long-lasting relationship? Today’s guest has built two successful agencies banking on the power of planning for the long term instead of focusing just on the numbers. She’ll explain how she and her partner formed their vision of an agency where people could do their best work, clients felt heard, and it would all translate into business. Tune in to learn all about the visionary approach that led her and her partner to success.

Kim Lawton is a successful agency owner with two agencies under her belt. She’s the founder of Inspira Marketing, a 300-employee agency reaching the nine-figure mark, as well as the president and CEO of Enthuse Marketing, a purpose-driven group committed to building brands through effective experiential marketing strategies. She shares her journey building two agencies and discusses her approach of over-resourcing client relationships, her role as the chief possibilities officer and president/CEO, and her entrepreneurial journey from a young age.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The four pillars of relationship building.

  • Risking losing money for long-term client relationships.

  • Strategic hiring to fuel growth.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

The Four Pillars of a Relationship-Driven Agency

Although she’s an accidental agency owner, according to Kim she’s been an entrepreneur since the age of fourteen, when she managed her father’s pizza shop and fell into the role of marketer. It wasn't until years later, working at an agency during the rise of experiential marketing, that she truly started to believe in her marketing abilities. It was there that she met her current business partner.

As Kim and her partner dreamed of owning their own agency, they kept a journal to define the key elements they wanted to include. Their primary focus was creating a place where people felt seen, heard, and empowered to do their best work. They believed this would translate into a successful business.

Rather than focusing on the numbers, hourly billing, or time spent on each account, like most agencies, they made the strategic decision to invest in relationships over profit. As they planned how this would look as a profitable business, Kim and her partner decided their agency would be built on four main pillars:

  • People: Their investment in talent.

  • Organizational development: Tools they invest in that help people do their jobs more effectively.

  • Client leadership: How they show up for their clients.

  • Growth and reputation: They measure the previous three elements and look at that to establish how the agency performed that year.

It may seem counterintuitive for business owners who prioritize profit margins and bottom lines, but it was a conscious choice to become their clients' preferred solution, even if it meant potential short-term financial losses. Their long-term relationship investment approach not only allowed them to create long-lasting relationships, but it was also a good way to quickly identify bad clients. If the client didn’t value the time they were investing in their project, it was easy to say goodbye to them and not look back.

Maximizing Client Relationships: A Strategy for Long-Term Success

How do you start to set up a structure where the business is set to lose money with each client for the first year? Kim suggests allocating a portion of marketing expenses to client service. This approach allows agencies to prioritize nurturing existing client relationships, leading to increased business opportunities and revenue.

Of course, it wasn’t a reckless strategy, Kim and her partner set a maximum 15% loss threshold per client and assigned specific departments to absorb these costs. They also regularly evaluated the value provided to clients and sought to exceed their expectations.

Despite occasional overinvestment in certain clients, they take pride in sustaining numerous client relationships over sixteen years.

Pro tip: Kim and her partner went above and beyond for their clients and meticulously tracked any additional hours spent outside the scope of the project and presented these as zero-dollar change orders. This showcased their dedication and established a strong foundation for future collaboration. This transparent and proactive approach not only fostered goodwill with clients but also paved the way for potential opportunities in value-based pricing and performance-based marketing.

Consistent Outreach for Consistent Results: Leveraging Cold Calls

Cold calling has proven to be a successful strategy for many agencies and it has certainly been the case for Kim. In the initial stages of the agency's development, one of its primary objectives was to transform cold calling into an effective strategy. Today, at their agency, this approach is known as the "nifty fifty" and has resulted in a steady stream of opportunities and business expansion. Kim and her partner committed to contacting a set list of 50 individuals each week, holding each other accountable for completing these calls.

For Kim, it’s all about timing. There’s a right time and place for these calls, but by regularly reaching out to her network and staying connected with past clients, they were able to uncover new opportunities, referrals, and partnerships that ultimately contributed to the success of her business.

Balancing Client Needs and Agency Vision: Their Path to a Second Brand

The opportunity for their second venture came from a client engagement, prompting them to develop a specialized team dedicated to delivering the client’s brand message within the hospitality industry. As discussions progressed, the client realized that their agency's brand, focused on experiential and client-facing elements, did not align with their objectives. They sought an approach more grounded in education, prompting whether establishing a dedicated business department would suffice.

Kim and his business partner's wife, an educator eager to reinvigorate her career, collaborated on a program tailored to the client's requirements. While the results met the client's expectations, a new challenge emerged: the exclusive focus on the program overshadowed the agency's identity. Consequently, they restructured the agency to revolve around the new program, shifting the focus from the client to the new business.

Strategic Hiring to Fuel Growth

Kim and her partner were deliberate in their approach to building their agency, understanding the impact of every hiring decision on the agency's success. They were determined to avoid the common pitfall of reactive hiring that leads to a cycle of downsizing and expansion. Instead, they focused on strategic, long-term growth and sustainability, ensuring that each new team member added value to the agency.

In order for this to work, they instilled in their team the importance of considering the long-term effects of their hiring decisions and aligning them with the agency's annual plan and budget. Employees were involved in the decision-making process, fostering a positive work culture and team cohesion, ultimately leading to improved client satisfaction and retention.

Effective delegation is also crucial in maintaining balance within the team. In this sense, Kim’s agency used a specialized company to conduct weekly assessments measuring employees’ strengths and weaknesses. This approach allowed the agency leaders to gauge each team member's performance in real time and identify areas where they excelled or struggled.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Kim_Lawton_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am MDT

What sets high-performing agencies apart from their low-performing counterparts? How are you positioning your agency for success? Our guest today is a seasoned business executive with extensive experience in product marketing and sales leadership. In his current role, he collaborates with agencies and gains insights into what separates successful ones from the rest. Tune in to gain valuable perspectives on agency performance and growth strategies.

Tim Condon is the Chief Revenue Officer of Clutch, a one-stop-shop were businesses can identify leading service providers through an innovative research process that melds the best of traditional B2B research and newer consumer review services. He discusses the difference between high-performing and low-performing agencies and shares insights from working with professional services companies and marketing firms, highlighting key factors that contribute to agency success.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Focusing on organic growth.

  • Making 100,000 leads in one day.

  • Shortening the sales cycle.

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Sponsors and Resources

Clutch: This episode is sponsored by Clutch, the #1 marketplace for agencies just like yours. With their innovative process, your agency will be matched with highly motivated buyers looking for the exact services you offer. Leave the lead generation to Clutch and let your team focus on delivery. Get started for FREE at clutch.co/smartagency by creating your agency profile.

Organic Growth and Operational Excellence Build a Scalable Agency

From his many interactions with agencies at Clutch, Tim has gathered some great intel on what is working for the most successful agencies. First, they start doing something they are really good at and focus on organic growth. Many prominent agency CEOs initially honed their skills in website development, later expanding their expertise to encompass SEO and pay-per-click advertising to drive increased traffic.

As these successful agencies matured, they strategically planned their expansion into new areas, leveraging their organic growth to thrive and deliver exceptional outcomes. Also, Tim has observed a crucial aspect of sustained agency growth lies in establishing a robust infrastructure. Agencies that have mastered this have implemented comprehensive systems for lead tracking, incentivizing sales teams, and organizing their operational structure. These systems are essential for ensuring seamless operations and maximizing growth opportunities.

Without a solid foundational framework, agencies may encounter challenges in effectively attracting, converting, and scaling their business. But by implementing streamlined processes, performance tracking, and identifying areas for improvement, they can enhance their lead generation, and client conversion, and ultimately scale their business to new heights.

Leveraging Brand Power and Partnerships to Land 100,000 Leads!

As CRO at Clutch, Tim has seen many different and innovative approaches to generating leads but especially remembers a time when he was working at the Washington Post. At that time, he was tasked with building a platform to showcase the Post’s potential as a local resource with a lot of local merchants.

The Washington Post faced competition from larger companies like Groupon and LivingSocial, so Tim capitalized on the assets at his disposal, particularly the Post's strong brand and local market distribution, to build a robust email list.

Strategically aligning with Papa John's, Tim proposed a mutually beneficial promotion that involved giving away pizzas in exchange for registrations on their site. The campaign's resounding success resulted in 100,000 new leads! And consequently, 100,000 Papa Johns pizzas delivered — which solidified the partnership between the two seemingly unlikely partners.

This was by far the best promotion either brand had done and Tim made it happen by leveraging his assets and knowing competitive dimensions. He needed emails and had something the competition didn't, a well-established brand with a huge market distribution.

How can you create lead gen that results in 100,000 new leads? Tim’s advice is to carefully assess the core requirements, leverage existing assets, and identify the dimensions crucial for a competitive edge.

Too many agency owners focus on immediate sales. However, by prioritizing email address collection, businesses can establish direct communication with potential customers, nurture leads over time, and increase conversion rates. Additionally, by standing out in the market and using creative approaches to engage with prospects, businesses can differentiate themselves and achieve sustainable growth in a competitive business environment.

The Power of Foot-in-the-Door Offers to Shorten the Sales Cycle

At Clutch, they conduct an annual survey on the sales cycle and, according to the results, 50% of agencies say their sales cycle expands to over a month, while 20% say it’s over three months. These findings are consistent across professional services and underscore the importance of implementing effective systems to convert leads into clients.

This is where a "foot in the door offer" comes in as a powerful strategy for agencies to shorten their sales cycle and secure new clients. With this approach, you offer a low-cost or low-commitment initial service to potential clients to establish trust, build rapport, and demonstrate value. It’ll be the first step toward upselling additional services or projects to the client, ultimately leading to higher revenue and long-term relationships.

Jason believes selling a foot-in-the-door offer helped his team establish a relationship and build a high-level plan to solve a huge gap the client hadn’t noticed. This way, they position themselves as an advisor and get a project sold before other agencies can come back with their proposals.

Ultimately, implementing a foot-in-the-door offer can help you drastically reduce your sales cycle from months to just a few days, so ask yourself how do I get my foot in the door? How do I get the attention? How do I get my foot in the door? And then what is that upsell to get your clients to where you need to go?

The CRM Advantage: Enhancing Agency Performance and Client Engagement

One key component of a successful foot-in-the-door offer is investing in a CRM system. Having a CRM system in place is crucial for agencies to effectively manage their client relationships and drive business growth as a tool that allows them to track and organize client information, communicate effectively with clients, and streamline their sales and marketing processes.

According to Tim, when agencies lack a CRM system or fail to utilize it effectively, it can be a red flag that their systems are not in place. This can lead to disorganization, inefficiency, and missed growth opportunities.

Investing in a CRM system can help agencies stay organized, track client interactions, and nurture relationships effectively, which is the sort of investment that will differentiate high-performing agencies from low-performing agencies.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Tim_Condon_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

What would you do if you sold your agency tomorrow? Are you clear enough on your purpose that you could keep on creating value? Today’s guest is the founder of a beloved app that changed the way people drive nowadays. He eventually sold that company but hasn’t stopped looking for ways to improve people’s lives through his startups. He’ll share what he’s learned from failure, why he was out of the company as soon as he sold, and why you should always look to understand users to create real value. Tune in to learn valuable insights into building successful startups.

Uri Levine is the co-founder of Waze, a popular app that helps users have a better driving experience, get to their destination faster, and avoid speeding tickets. After his business was acquired by Google a decade ago for over $1 billion dollars, Uri went on to focus on other ventures. He more recently wrote the book Fall In Love With the Problem, Not the Solution.

He shares his entrepreneurial journey, from creating Waze to building Moveit, and discusses the importance of solving real problems to achieve product-market fit and the impact of failing to do so.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.

  • Cracking product-market fit.

  • Making hard choices with conviction.

  • What comes after selling an agency for $1 billion.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Find a Problem Worth Solving: Advice for Agencies to Create Lasting Value

Years ago, Uri had the chance to meet one of his technological gurus – Steve Wozniak – at an event. He got to take a picture with him and that exchange inspired a chapter of his book called “Understanding Users”. In it, he explains there’s no right or wrong way to use a product, something he always tried to take into account when it came to Waze users and how they overcame problems.

In his view, every entrepreneur should start by solving a problem. “Think about something worth solving,” he advises. If a lot of people have the same problem, speak with them, understand their perception of the problem, and only then set out to build the solution. For Uri, this is the only way to guarantee that you’re creating value. Instead, starting with the solution may lead to creating a solution that no one was asking for.

Uri encourages entrepreneurs to find a problem worth solving and make it the North Star of their journey. This way, you’ll be much less likely to deviate from the path toward your goal and much more likely to succeed. To agencies, he reminds them that the problem is a significant part of their marketing. The story you’ll tell about the problem is much more compelling than one about the solution. An enticing story will help you make customers care, and if they care, they’ll make you successful.

Biggest Successes and Failures Outside of Waze

Although Waze has over 700 million users, and even more use Moveit, neither is Uri’s most successful product. His most successful venture was a voicemail company called Converse Technology. At the time, it had many more users than either Waze or Moveit and it was a massive success. Years, later, he switched to software development, always looking for innovation and change.

On the other hand, his first startup focused on mobile email and it became his first big failure. Uri knew focusing on a problem worth solving was the starting point for any successful venture. This should always be followed by speaking with potential consumers. This way, you’ll see whether or not they share your vision of the problem. If not, they may still point you to a different approach to the problem.

Unfortunately, Uri found a problem worth solving that later disappeared. Someone, in this case, Blackberry, had solved it better. It was time to pivot to a new problem.

Define Your Agency’s DNA Early in the Creation Process

Finding a problem and identifying a proper approach to a solution are the surest ways to create a venture with a better opportunity to succeed. However, a major part of your happiness in an organization will revolve around the people you surround yourself with, rather than you and what you’re doing. Because of this, Uri believes the agency’s DNA and the culture you build around it will be just as important as the mission you have.

This is something you can start to create from day one, as Uri did with Waze. From its creation, he decided the company would be the best place to work at and built the culture around that idea. Since then, he’s built more companies and always makes sure to define their DNA early in its creation process. The result will be nearly no attrition because you’ve created a favorable work environment where people want to stay.

Beyond the Myth of Overnight Success: Cracking Product-Market Fit

Half of all startups will fail as a result of not figuring out their product-market fit, which simply put entails figuring out how you create value for customers. If you can’t figure that out, then your business doesn’t have a future.

There’s only one metric when it comes to product-market fit: retention. If you create value, customers will come back. If they don’t, then you’re either too complex and they can’t figure out the value or you’re not creating enough value.

Think of the apps you use every day like, Netflix or Facebook, and ask yourself what’s the difference between how you use it today and how you used it on day one. There is no major difference. Once companies figure out product market fit they don’t change it because that’s the value they bring to customers. What users don’t know is how long it takes a company to get that product market fit just right.

New companies compare themselves to these giants and assume they’re failing if they haven’t made it big by the two or three-year mark. In reality, none of these big brands was an overnight success and we’re just not aware of how long it took them to succeed. For Waze, it was four years and it took Netflix ten years.

Creating value for customers is a continuous process that requires time and effort. It’s not an overnight process.

Why CEOs Should Make Hard Choices with Conviction

Ever since he sold Waze ten years ago people have asked Uri whether he still thinks it was the right decision. For him, there are no right or wrong decisions. There’s just deciding on making no decision.

Some people prefer to remove all emotion to make decisions based purely on the logic of what would be better for the business. For Uri, the most important thing is making hard decisions with conviction, which is a crucial skill for a successful CEO.

For instance, there’s a chapter in Uri’s book called Firing and Hiring, inspired by conversations with CEOs regarding their underperforming teams. In most cases, they knew exactly which employees were just not cutting it and had known for some time. For Uri, the big problem in these cases was that CEOs were being too slow to make hard decisions because they’d have to assume responsibility for the consequences.

If you struggle with an underperforming team, Uri recommends you take a look at any team member and ask yourself would you hire them today knowing what you know about their work? If the answer is no, then fire them immediately. It’s advice he believes can be applied to anything in life, your professional path, your relationships. If you’re not happy with where you are, then start making changes in order to change that today.

Selling for $1 Billion & How Embracing Failure Can Take You Closer to Success

People may be surprised to hear that Uri was out the door the day after selling his company for $1 billion. However, by that time, he was already thinking of new startups he wanted to build, so this was the right move to close that chapter.

Furthermore, he says that, contrary to what people may believe, the sale did not mean he was walking away with $1 billion in his pocket. By that time he owned just 3% of the company and after taxes and a divorce, he was left with far less, which he mostly invested in his new startups.

Nowadays, he spends his days coaching different startups Some of these could become even more successful than Waze at some point, while others will probably end up being big failures. The prospect of failing is not one that plagues him too much since, in his view, failure is an inevitable part of the entrepreneurial journey, but it is through these failures that one can learn and grow.

At the end of the day, if you want to create new things you’re set to fail. Over the years and by accumulating new failures, he has managed to become statistically more successful thanks to the experience he has gained.

Selling Your Agency: Key Considerations and Uri's Advice on Timing and Motivations

If you’re trying to figure out the right time to sell your agency, Uri believes you should consider whether the offer you’ve received is life-changing or not. If it is, then it merits serious consideration. Additionally, if you have aspirations to pursue new ventures and innovate to benefit others and revolutionize the industry, selling may be the right move.

On the other hand, if you believe you’re company is a once-in-a-lifetime thing then you should keep it. Don’t sell unless you know what you’re going to do next.

Above all, avoid selling solely due to exhaustion and the desire to rest, as this may lead to restlessness sooner than expected. Entrepreneurs are inherently driven to create and take action and often find it challenging to embrace prolonged periods of rest.

Finding Purpose in Value Creation

Nowadays, Uri feels happier and more fulfilled than ever and it’s because in the last decade, he was finally able to figure out who he is and who he wants to become. He now states confidently that his purpose lies in value creation and he finds equal enjoyment in both creating something himself and guiding someone else to do it.

Finding a purpose will center you, the sense of purpose and impact on the world can lead to greater happiness and satisfaction in one's work. Finding something you’re good at and that people will pay for will be the cornerstone of your happiness. Identifying one's strengths and finding a market for them is pivotal for personal contentment. When coupled with a meaningful mission to make a positive impact, it becomes the key to enduring happiness.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Uri_Levine_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Does your onboarding process set new hires up for success from day one? Do you believe the hardest part of adding new team members is the hiring process? Today’s guest believes most business owners disregard the importance of the onboarding process, which can affect a new hire’s chances of success in the agency. He goes over the many aspects you should improve for properly onboarding a new team member and why you don’t want to waste the time, money, and effort put into the hiring process by doing a bad job with onboarding. Learn valuable insights and strategies in setting up new team members for success and avoid pitfalls in hiring remote staff.

Noel Andrews is the CEO of JobRack, a hiring service that helps agencies find great remote talent from Eastern Europe and South Africa. As someone who focuses on finding the best talent and matching them with agencies looking to hire remotely, Noel knows the significance of prioritizing onboarding to ensure successful hires and discusses common mistakes agency owners make during the hiring process.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Common onboarding mistakes you should avoid.

  • How to kickstart a new hire for success.

  • Effective remote team onboarding strategies.

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies and get a free trial exclusively for Jason’s listeners!

The Biggest Onboarding Mistakes Agency Owners Make When Hiring

Whether you’re hiring remotely or locally, hiring is hard so once agency owners get to the last stage of hiring and they’ve got a start date confirmed they breathe a sigh of relief thinking their job is done. However, this is not true. The next step now is onboarding and it is a critical stage in the hiring process that is often overlooked, with the most common mistakes being.

  1. Not preparing for it.

  2. Not prioritizing it.

Failing to adequately prepare for new hires leads to inefficiency. This looks like: no email access, Slack use, or client accounts ready on someone’s first day in the office. Even at big companies, it may take three days to get a new hire a laptop. It’s both a waste of their time and a terrible first impression.

For Noel, proper onboarding is a twelve-week process, where you’ll gradually provide them with the context they need to work in your agency. During this process, you should be preparing people with the background of who your clients are, what your services are, and why you do things the way you do. It’s the sort of detail that will help workers go above and beyond for the company.

Neglecting or rushing through the onboarding process can result in wasted time, money, and effort invested in the hiring process. Just like onboarding a new client, the first few weeks should be about how excited you are about them joining the team and offering everything they’ll need to set them up for success, foster a positive work environment, and ultimately improve retention and productivity in the long run. Especially if it’s a remote position, where you’ll have to be very intentional about making sure you’re giving them all the tools for success.

Emphasizing Values in the Onboarding Process

What Simon looks for in each team member will, of course, depend on the role. However, all his account managers, recruiters, operations managers, and customer success managers roles involve dealing with people, whether clients or customers.

In this sense, their energy and attitude play a big role in how they’ll do working in his agency. Of course, attitude is something that cannot be easily trained which is why hiring individuals who align with the company's values is the only way to ensure new hires will be a good fit for the organization and contribute positively to its culture. Not everyone has the ability to make people feel comfortable in a call or interview and that will play a big role for Noel.

Overall, he’s always looking for people who will be good at communicating and being part of the team.

4 Essential Elements to Kickstart Success for a New Hire

Ideally, any onboarding process will have a few elements that make it a great starting point to cement the relationship that the new employee and agency will form in the coming weeks and months. To build a successful onboarding process, Noel believes in the first week employees should at least:

  1. Get to a place where they understand the agency and its values.

  2. Know what’s expected of them in this new role.

  3. Understand the KPIs and metrics they’ll be measured against.

  4. Have a clear idea of what the onboarding process will be like.

Get Onboarding Right From Day One: Effective Remote Onboarding Strategies

Managing a remote team can be tricky, especially when it comes to training a new member and making sure they understand how everything works. Noel adopts a hands-on approach by closely supporting the new hire, dedicating daily meetings to guide them through the onboarding process and address any queries that may arise.

Additionally, he adheres to what Dan Martell calls the 10-80-10 principle in his book Buy Back Your Time. Basically, when delegating a task, 10% of the total time dedicated to delegating should be explaining the task, 80% should be dedicated to the actual execution, and then 10% should be checking, reviewing, and providing feedback by the manager. This is a critical part of the process since no new hire is going to instinctively know how to do things, even with the available SOPs.

A good way to help employees get comfortable with communicating their plan for the day and ask questions is to have them answer these three items at the start of each day:

  • What did you do yesterday that was impactful?

  • What’s your plan for today?

  • Do you have any questions?

It’s a quick way to assess who will adapt to the agency because people who actually share their plan for the day and aren’t afraid to ask questions are usually more proactive and make for a more successful hire overall.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Noel_Andrews_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Is the fear of failure holding you back from taking the first steps to establish your brand? Are you hesitating to start a podcast because you believe it would only be worthwhile if it garners millions of downloads? Our guest today is a true trailblazer in the podcast industry, having successfully built a thriving agency around his initial decision to create a show dedicated to entrepreneurs. Tune in for an insightful conversation on the power of pushing boundaries and the value of trying new things in the ever-evolving world of podcasting and entrepreneurship.

Pat Flynn is the serial entrepreneur and podcasting pioneer behind Smart Passive Income, a massive podcast with a long history of teaching entrepreneurs proven strategies to run and optimize their businesses. He’s also the founder SPI Media, an agency that helps people launch and grow their brands. Pat’s podcast was actually the inspiration for the Smart Agency Masterclass podcast and now he joins Jason to discuss the importance of taking risks and embracing failure as part of the learning process.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What’s holding people back from starting a podcast?

  • Mastering the podcasting game.

  • 3 key principles for brand success.

  • Letting go to grow: lessons on delegating.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Navigating the Evolution of Your Brand and Business

Just like Pat has inspired so many entrepreneurs, he was inspired by the Internet Business Mastery to start his own podcast in 2007. The result was so terrible he never released that episode and it took over a year for him to gather the courage to try again. After finally releasing his first episode in 2010, he’s started several other podcasts and has amassed around 80 million downloads and a massive following.

Much has changed since he chose Smart Passive Income as the name for his brand and “passive income” has recently gained some negative connotations due to influencers promoting the idea of making money without putting in even 1% of the work. As a result, some big brands are hesitant to partner with a business associated with the term.

Of course, this is not what Pat teaches in his content, and, although he is now referring to it as just SPI, a rebrand is probably in the future to welcome as many opportunities as possible.

Currently, Pat is running a business with 11 employees, which is something he never would’ve thought he’d do. Back when he started his business, he dreamt of running a very lean operation working exclusively with contractors.

As the years went by, however, Pat felt a calling to help as many people as possible and he needed to bring the very best talent to the business to help him realize that. Once he had a team, especially his partner and CEO who took over project management and finances, Pat was able to focus on his zone of genius, doing interviews, building relationships, and going to events.

Focusing Too Much on the Numbers: The Misconception Holding People Back from Podcasting

For Pat, the number one reason people refrain from starting a podcast is the fear of wasting time. Things have changed a lot since he started and now it has become such a saturated space that he can’t blame people for thinking theirs may just get lost in the multitude of new releases each day.

Pat challenges agency owners to ask themselves, how many more clients do you need to make a positive impact in your business? Could a podcast help you close more business by attracting potential clients who wouldn’t otherwise find your agency? If the answer is yes, he suggests tailoring podcast episodes to appeal to potential clients and help them feel at ease about engaging with the agency.

In this sense, a podcast would provide the opportunity to define a much deeper relationship with your prospects than you would with a simple YouTube video. It’s quite a powerful connection you can create with a podcast with the way you as the host can become someone’s companion as they travel, walk their dog, or just go about their lives.

Mastering the Podcasting Game: Strategies for Building a Successful Podcast

When it comes to creating a successful podcast that resonates with a wide audience, having a clear vision and set goals is crucial. Merely hoping for a stroke of luck after posting your podcast episodes will likely lead to disappointment and frustration. Therefore, Pat suggests starting with a well-defined purpose and message.

Additionally, he recommends seeking assistance with the editing process early on. Podcasting is a lot of work, from planning to recording and editing and you may end up feeling exhausted, potentially discouraging you from creating content consistently. Lean into the parts of the process you enjoy the most, which will probably be the planning and creating connections, and you’ll start to see those connections lead to relationships and introductions to people who can open more doors.

Don’t lose sight of the benefits a podcast can truly bring to your business. This can happen when you focus exclusively on the numbers and get easily discouraged by low viewership numbers. Instead, focus on how an interview can lead to other opportunities; for instance, interviewing an industry leader can lead to being invited as a speaker to their event. Furthermore, it’ll allow you to pick their brain and position yourself as an industry expert just by having that connection with them.

Pro tip: Before he had his current numbers, Pat was able to get big interviews with figures like Gary Vaynerchuck by timing them just as they were releasing a new book. If you’re looking to get big names, this is when they are far more likely to take every interview opportunity they can to promote their work.

Humanizing Your Brand in the AI Era

A lot of people hesitate on whether or not they should create a personal brand. Pat believes that with the surge of AI, having a brand now becomes even more important. With everyone using AI and automating processes, a personal brand means creating a way for people to connect with you, to create a connection that is just not possible with faceless corporations and automated response systems.

In this sense, he also emphasizes the need to understand what a personal brand is and what it can offer. Basically, you’ll need to have a clear idea of what you stand for, what are your values, and how the work you do reflects that. People want to connect with others who share the same values, which means that not putting yourself out there will make you a human AI no one can relate to.

3 Key Principles for Brand Success

Back in 08, when he recorded that first podcast that never saw the light of day, Pat could’ve never imagined the evolution of his brand and the level of success he’s seen over the years. Like most people, he was afraid of failure and thought he was unprepared to venture into the entrepreneurial world.

With time, he’s discovered experience would be the best teacher and the importance of solving a problem, which is why his guiding principles formed over years in the industry are:

  1. Worry about failing as fast as you can: Pat cautions agency owners against letting perfectionism lead to getting stuck. “The riskiest thing you can do now is play it safe. Bold actions lead to bold results.” Playing it safe can actually prevent you from adapting to changes and trying new things because what worked in the past may not work in the present. To progress and grow, one must be willing to take risks and try new approaches.

  2. Serving first: Focusing on solving a problem for others and providing value will help you build trust, loyalty, and ultimately, financial success. For Pat, this emphasizes the idea your earnings are a byproduct of how well you’re serving your audience. Consider this rather than solely focusing on making money.

  3. Building community: Pat believes in the power of connection and belonging, which he fosters at his agency by creating safe spaces for his clients to come together. It’s not only about finding an audience or how well you serve your audience. It’s also about getting your people to find each other. Strengthening the bond between agency and clients will help future-proof your brand by creating a loyal and engaged community.

Partnerships, Delegation, and Prioritization in Agency Leadership

Pat’s partnership with his now friend and CEO was the leverage he needed to start to transition away from the parts of the business he least enjoyed. Looking back, he realizes he was holding himself and the business back by not letting go sooner. It was not easy for him, as he sometimes regressed to try to get too involved and micromanage the team.

To him, it’s like holding on to a ladder that takes you to a certain height while trying to climb a new one that will take you higher. In the end, as long as there’s open communication and a shared vision between partners, it’s okay to let go and not fear that the agency will get off track. Additionally, Pat underlines there’s no immediate need to train someone as CEO to have that kind of support. You may just need a business manager, which is a common struggle for agency owners.

For those grappling with where to direct their attention and energy, Pat recommends delineating personal and business priorities. "If you haven’t sat down with yourself, your partner, or your team to define your priorities, you’ll feel busy while getting nowhere. Once you do, things will start to align," he advises.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Pat_Flynn_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am MDT

Do you want to sell your agency at some point? Do you know where you want to take your business before you’re ready to search for a partnership? Today’s guest started his agency at just twenty-three years old and was ready to sell ten years later, when his business was thriving and had a solid position in a coveted niche. However, the selling process was not as smooth as he hoped and he soon found himself looking for expert advice to understand a complex process that was sure to take a lot of his time for months on end. Tune in to learn how he navigated the M&A process while prioritizing clients and employees, and creating the ideal work environment for his team.

Simon Cristal is the founder of SWC Partnership, an international full-service marketing agency that helps clients increase lead generation and brand awareness by developing strategies and creative ideas. Last year, his agency was acquired by a global independent agency, which he says was a natural process and a great experience overall. Learn his insights on building a client-centric agency, the importance of taking care of clients, and the type of help you’ll need for a smooth acquisition process.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Positioning and prioritizing profitability.

  • From Zero employees to selling an agency.

  • The agency owner’s roadmap to M&A.

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies and get a free trial exclusively for Jason’s listeners!

Lessons in Pricing, Positioning, and Prioritizing Profitability

Simon was born into the advertising world, with his father owning an agency that exposed him to the creative realms of design and copywriting from a young age. As he grew up, Simon navigated his way through several London agencies, honing his skills and gaining valuable experience. Surprisingly, the opportunity to set up his own agency came up earlier than expected. He knew he’d wanted to do it at some point in his career, although he didn’t expect to do it at twenty-three.

Simon started his agency with zero clients, which looking back was a risky move. He did, however, have a clearer vision of pricing. His first client was a big German dairy company and he knew the most effective approach to earn their respect was to refrain from underbidding.

It took around five years for him and his team to start really focusing on B2B and position themselves as specialists in helping brands connect to international audiences. This proved to be a savvy move, as the pandemic forced blue-chip businesses to seek out more affordable, niche agencies like Simon's, with their unique expertise in global brand-building.

In the ten years since starting the business, Simon has seen the importance of surrounding yourself with a good team to get through all sorts of situations. They operate under a very lean model since, in his view, it should never be about how many employees you have but about the type of business you build and whether or not it’s profitable.

This approach to building a passionate team and providing the best possible work environment helped him grow his business, and create great client relationships. It was even a deciding factor when it came to selling the agency.

Inspiring Creativity, Delivering Impact: Secrets of a Thriving Agency Mindset

Simon used to believe the agency should be focused on making sales. This has changed with time, as he realized they needed to focus on taking care of clients and looking for ways to help them succeed. It’s a friendly approach that sets the tone for a good agency-client relationship. For him, if you have great clients, great people, and great processes, the financials will take care of themselves.

Furthermore, Simon recommends using the NBAT framework (Need, Budget, Authority, Timing) as a practical way to ensure you’re picking the clients you can really help and offer the best results to. At his agency, they also use WIDI (I Wish I Did It) as a way to spark employees’ creativity. They organize a monthly meeting where people will take examples of great marketing they wish they had come up with. It’s a great way to stay inspired by innovative marketing strategies and continually strive for improvement. Taking a step back from the daily projects and allowing yourself to be inspired by others’ work will help you evolve and get better.

Working in the creative industry is fun and Simon believes it’s important to enjoy that. By being inspired, thinking outside the box, and prioritizing client satisfaction, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors and create impactful and memorable campaigns. In the end, it’s the truly creative ideas that make for ads that people will remember for years to come. Here are Jason’s and Simon’s picks for some of the most memorable and impactful ads they’ve seen. What are yours?

From Zero Employees to Selling the Agency

Simon had always envisioned selling his agency at some point, and as the 10-year milestone approached, he realized that the timing was perfect. The agency had a strong track record of business success, impressive client retention, and a stellar team.

A point of pride for the agency was its commitment to creating a work environment where employees felt valued and motivated to stay long-term. Hence, when it came to finding the right agency to be acquired by, Simon prioritized the benefits for his clients and his team. Cultural alignment, opportunities for growth, and a shared vision were all essential considerations in the decision-making process.

Taking the advice from past podcast episode guests who spoke on this topic, Simon appointed an M&A advisor and conducted thorough research; This way, he was able to navigate the complexities of selling an agency and find a suitable partner. Even so, he was surprised by how much he underestimated the time the process took. It was a lengthy eight-month journey from the initial conversation to closing the deal.

Agency Owner's Roadmap to Mergers & Acquisitions

Overall, the selling process was a great experience and an undeniably time-consuming process. Sometimes, M&As may seem purposely dragged on for too long to make the seller feel they’re already too compromised and can’t back out or they would have lost all their time and effort. The right guidance and support will help you avoid that, although it is ultimately a process that can’t be rushed.

Simon’s best advice for other agency owners is to get the right help if you know you lack the proper knowledge and to leave all M&A activities outside the normal work hours. This way, it won’t take over your work day and you can make sure to keep the focus on the agency, as well as not feel you lost valuable time in case it doesn’t work out in the end.

Another key point was testing out the partnership before fully committing to it. Just like dating before getting married, doing trial projects or meetings can help both parties assess if their cultures and values align. As an agency owner selling your business, Jason recommends making sure you understand the buyer’s integration plan. It’ll say a lot about their motivations for the purchase. This step can help prevent any potential conflicts or misunderstandings down the line.

Other than that, he suggests investing time and resources into post-merger integration activities. Face-to-face meetings, team-building exercises, and collaboration opportunities are essential for fostering a cohesive and united team. These efforts not only enhance communication and trust but also contribute to the long-term success of the merger or acquisition.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Simon_Cristal_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:00am MDT

Have you ever doubted your ability to steer your agency toward greatness? Does your team follow your lead on the decisions you make to get there? Many agency owners face this internal battle, questioning if they truly have what it takes to lead their business to new heights. Today’s guest has conquered those self-doubts and forged an unwavering confidence in his leadership abilities. He has grown his successful business over the years, gaining confidence as he accumulated more experience. Although he doesn’t regret past decisions, he realizes he could have retained a majority stake in his company and made it on his own had he trusted himself as he does now. Listen to the full episode to learn about his experience growing his agency and how he built the confidence to succeed.

Torey Azure is the CEO of Brandcraft Agency, a full-service agency that deals in videography, creative, digital marketing, and branding. Tori shares insights into his journey and the importance of having the right message for the right audience to improve digital channel performance.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Uncovering what clients need.

  • Building up leaders.

  • The confidence to not hesitate when making decisions.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

3 Key Strategies for Authentic Client Interactions

Back in high school, Torey was able to blend in with different crowds, being the jock who was also voted as ‘most artistic’ in his class. Thinking back on that time, he realizes that the ability to relate to people from different backgrounds and industries has helped him succeed as an agency owner. It’s not about liking to be the center of attention but about having emotional intelligence and connecting with clients and colleagues on a personal level.

If you’re someone who finds it hard to network and especially starting a conversation with a stranger, Torey believes the most successful interactions will come from these 3 key strategies:

  1. Don’t have an agenda. Speak confidently without thinking about what the other party may want to hear, and learn to quickly identify when someone should or shouldn’t be a client. This will come from practice and being in many different situations with different types of people.

  2. Learn to really listen to people. Instead of pitching yourself, take a true interest in the other person. It will make for a much more enjoyable and memorable experience for them.

  3. Genuinely curiosity about people. Find out why they started their business. With the pandemic and so much time spent on digital environments, it’s as if people have lost the ability to riff off in a conversation and be invested in what the other person is saying. However, it’s a very important skill to help prospective clients feel comfortable.

Make a Lasting Impact and Avoid the Order-Taker Trap

Torey believes his job as a marketer is to uncover what the client needs, which is not necessarily what they think they need. This approach is crucial for providing effective solutions and adding value to clients' businesses.

Too many agencies fall into the trap of being order takers, simply doing what the client asks without questioning or understanding the underlying problem. This mindset can lead to short-term gains but ultimately results in a race to the bottom competing to offer the lowest price. Instead, Torey advocates for taking the time to truly understand the client's needs and challenges, even if it means challenging their initial requests.

It’s a lesson Torey has learned through experience when in the past his agency created a good strategy to find the client’s audience but it turned out to be the wrong message and the wrong time.

Instead of looking at surface-level problems like lead generation issues and attracting clients through low prices, try asking probing questions and analyzing the client's past experiences with other agencies. You could identify patterns and the potential root causes of their struggles.

Empowering Leaders by Cultivating Independence

He felt proud the first time Torey realized the agency had signed a new client and delivered the results without his intervention. He is currently focused on elevating his team to foster the leadership necessary for this to continue. There is no definitive formula for achieving this goal, but he emphasizes the importance of creating enough momentum to allow team members the freedom to fail. They may struggle to gain essential experience and knowledge without the opportunity to make mistakes.

While it may not be ideal for the agency to endure losses that could have been prevented, granting team members the freedom to learn from their mistakes is crucial for developing resilience and problem-solving skills, which are vital for long-term success. This approach may be nerve-wracking at times, but it is essential for personal and professional growth.

In Torey's experience, there were fewer failures than expected. Instead, there were mainly different approaches to tasks, but no catastrophic failures that resulted in losing a client. This is fine as long as everyone agrees on what the deliverables are and what the client expects.

Furthermore, to start letting them solve issues on their own, you can use the 1-3-1 framework. If an employee comes to you with a problem, turn it into a learning opportunity by asking them to come up with three possible solutions for that problem and then you’ll ask them to choose one. Eventually, they’ll stop coming to you and just come up with the solution on their own. Ultimately, if you’re trusting them to handle the task it’s because you believe they’re ready.

Strategic Sacrifices and Lessons Learned

Staring the agency around the time of the collapse of the housing market meant a lot of struggles and no clients at first. Back then, Torey felt he needed people around him to help him scale so he decided to sell a majority stake in his business. In hindsight, he sees this as a move born out of desperation since he had a clear enough vision and he would have eventually gotten there on his own.

It also wasn’t about the money, as not a lot of money was exchanged. In the end, his biggest regret is giving up too much and not keeping a majority stake himself. However, he recognizes he just didn’t know back then, which is a must to have a clearer picture when it comes to negotiations.

Get Unstuck in Your Agency: Build the Confidence to Succeed

When it comes to decision-making, Torey believes leaders should have the ability to make prompt decisions, take decisive action, and not become mired in overanalyzing every detail. This may lead to making some decisions without fully calculating the risks, but for Torey, the growth you gain is worth it.

Being able to make quick decisions when needed says a lot about a leader’s confidence in themselves and their team. Torey trusts his instincts and prefers to move and implement instead of thinking too much about it and losing momentum. Whenever he feels the need to consult on a decision, he reaches out to other entrepreneurs he respects and who have been through similar situations. Most of the time they only reinforce what he was already thinking, but sometimes that’s what you need.

Learning from both successful and unsuccessful decisions is crucial for personal and professional development. Ultimately, the greatest regret would be failing to make a decision. Having the confidence to take action and live with the consequences not only yields valuable insights but also contributes to making more informed decisions in the future.

Cultivating Self-Trust by Embracing Uncertainty

For many, trusting yourself and your decisions will take practice, and the more you do it the more comfortable you’ll feel. Torey rarely second-guesses himself and once he makes up his mind to do something, he gets to work. For him, this is a crucial skill for any agency owner who wants to test things and move to the next level. In this sense, it helps him to think there’ll never be a point in his agency’s growth where he feels 100% sure of the next step. Each step of your growth will come with its challenges and, even though he’s learned a lot as an entrepreneur and continues to implement those lessons into how he operates the agency, more revenue doesn’t guarantee having everything figured out.

Looking back, challenges have taught Torey that all problems are solvable, and by planning, and knowing how to identify the real problem, he and his team will surely come up with a solution.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Torey_Azure_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am MDT

Do you fear missed opportunities if you define a niche or turn away less-than-ideal prospects? Today’s guest started his agency as a college student and pivoted to digital services as the internet barely became a thing. One of the biggest shifts and struggles in his journey has been overcoming the fear of tuning down revenue and letting go of the notion that his way was the only approach clients would respond to. Tune in to learn valuable insights on navigating the agency landscape, committing to a niche, and maintaining a thriving business while prioritizing well-being.

Brendan Chard is the owner and founder of The Modern Firm, a digital marketing agency for solo and small law firms. His team helps attorneys build an online presence tailored to their needs and creates client partnerships at a pace that feels right for them.

Brendan shares his journey of starting initially as an IT business and evolving it into a successful agency serving clients nationwide. He discusses the importance of avoiding burnout in the agency world and the elements you need to find the right balance between fulfilling work and owning your time.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Overcoming the fear of turning down profit.

  • Managing workload with forecasting and hiring ahead.

  • Lessons from a workaholic anonymous.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies and get a free trial exclusively for Jason’s listeners!

How the Right Mentorship Turned a Side Hustle into a Digital Agency

Starting out in his dorm room at college, Brendan initially focused on providing IT services for small businesses. He had a knack for repairing computers and his results gradually led to being connected with several law firms that kept recommending him to others in the legal space. This was during the early days of the internet when clients began requesting website development in addition to IT services. Despite initial skepticism about the internet's longevity, Brendan transitioned to website development and digital marketing.

It was a unique time for him to start the agency since being in business school gave him access to a lot of tools and mentors available to guide him through the process. He learned a specific business strategy one day, tried it the next day at his agency, and then reported back to professors.

Overcoming the Fear of Turning Down Revenue for Focused Growth

It took about eight years for Brendan to get his agency to the 7-figure mark. He recalls several bad decisions in terms of clients/projects taken to get there, which he now actively avoids.

In light of this, he focuses more on finding the perfect client fit, although he admits it’s something he still struggles with. While his agency operates in the legal vertical, they eventually discovered that their optimal niche was working specifically with solo and small law firms. They found that collaborating with larger firms resulted in increased stress and less enjoyable projects, as committees rather than individual owners made decisions.

Nonetheless, finding their perfect niche and learning to say no to the wrong clients didn’t happen at the same time. Brendan was very clear on the agency’s focus and knew it was better equipped to work with small forms. When it came to rejecting someone who was just not the right fit, however, it meant turning down potential revenue. It’s taken several misses to learn that, ultimately, not working with the wrong clients leads to a more streamlined and successful business model.

Why Forecasting and Hiring Ahead Is The Best Practice For Manageable Workload

One key moment for the agency came when they figured out systems to filter out unsuitable prospects and hone in on their ideal customer avatar. This shift coincided with Google's rise as the dominant search engine, resulting in a surge of organic leads and referrals. It marked a significant leap forward. However, the influx of work soon outpaced their capacity, prompting a reassessment of their hiring needs.

Until that point, Brendan was focused on growing the business conservatively, with a team intentionally built to manage the workload and balance the work without getting overwhelmed. Brendan knows it is important for businesses to find a balance between taking on new clients and ensuring they can deliver high-quality work to existing clients. At some point, however, it became common to constantly play catch up with hiring new team members as the business grew, which quickly became exhausting.

More recently, they’ve developed systems to hire ahead to avoid burnout and ensure sustainable growth. Hiring ahead of the curve allows them to bring on new team members before they were desperately needed, giving space for a smoother onboarding process and a more manageable workload for everyone involved. This way, new hires can be trained properly and have a smaller workload instead of being thrown into the fire.

Avoiding Burnout: Lessons from Workaholics Anonymous

For agency owners, burnout is mostly the result of comparison with other entrepreneurs and convincing yourself you’re lagging. As someone keenly aware of the risk of burnout, Brendan has made a conscious effort to avoid the pitfall. Nonetheless, early in his days of owning the agency, he did end up attending Workaholics Anonymous meetings, where he learned two valuable lessons:

1.   Letting go: The meetings were spaces where he got to turn off all devices and be present. As a result, he was able to focus on something else and the agency didn’t burn to the ground while he did it, proving he had done a good job training his team.

2.   Putting things into perspective: At the meetings, Brendan was surprised to see many of the other attendees were pastors. He learned that as spiritual leaders, they support their communities through the hardest times in their lives, including the death of loved ones. This helped Brendan put things into perspective. Agency work may feel like life and death matters sometimes but the sense of being tied to the agency is more the result of poor management.

The Wake-Up Call That Shifted an Agency's Course Towards Better Living

Although it’s not the most popular concept, Brendan believes that lifestyle should be a central focus when building a business. For him, his values around time and autonomy are baked into the core of how his agency operates.

It’s a philosophy that was forced on him after his son was born with a potentially serious medical condition. As it dawned on him that this was something he needed to focus on and that meant delegating, he trusted his director to take over sales, which ultimately led to a positive outcome. Entrusting his director with sales responsibilities resulted in a positive outcome, highlighting the significance of empowering and collaborating with his team. It was a game changer that changed the course of his agency.

As the business grows, agency owners shift their focus from day-to-day operations to strategic vision, team development, relationship building, and understanding key performance indicators. It can be a challenging transition, but it can lead to greater success and fulfillment in the long run.

Letting Go of Control to Find Balance in Agency Operations and Life

Brendan's reluctance to give up control of agency operations stemmed from his firm belief that there is only one correct way to do things or that clients will only accept one specific approach. In reality, granting his team the freedom to find their methods often leads to better results. Moreover, there is far more room to explore and experiment with new approaches than he may have realized. In the end, clients are primarily interested in the outcomes.

This is the first step to giving yourself the space to create balance in your life. For Brendan, that means making a good income, interesting work, with flexibility and autonomy over his time. The balance is crucial for overall satisfaction and fulfillment in both personal and professional life and is something he always keeps in mind when he thinks about the agency and the life he wants to build.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Brendan_Chard_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

Are you struggling to keep your clients happy and retain their business? How do you prepare your team to create the best client experience? In today's competitive market, delivering an exceptional client experience is paramount. Our guest today is a true master of client service, leading a team laser-focused on understanding each client's unique needs and proactively crafting tailored solutions that address their pain points head-on. Tune in to learn strategies for client retention and growth in your agency business.

Khushbu Doshi is a customer service specialist passionate about strategizing, making realistic action plans, and following up on their implementation to get real results for agencies. She leads the customer service and sales division at E2M Solutions, managing a portfolio of 200+ agency clients, and works closely with a team of 20 to ensure client satisfaction.

She’s been on the show before discussing ways to improve customer success and reduce churn. Int his episode, she’ll share insights into the importance of building trust and providing value to clients to foster long-term relationships.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Strategies to building trust and efficiency.

  • Understanding client needs.

  • Reviving client engagement.

  • The always & never exercise.

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2 Reasons Agencies Lose Clients

Client satisfaction and retention are crucial for any business and building trust through efficient service is a key way to grow your client base. In essence, there are two main reasons an agency may be losing clients:

1. Clients don’t understand the value your agency is providing, or

2. You’re bringing on the wrong agency clients.

To illustrate the impact of client satisfaction, Khushbu talks about the Delta 4 Framework, a way to rate client experiences that can be applied to products and services. Results of this framework will show your service’s efficiency, with a rating of four or above indicating that clients are unlikely to switch to a less efficient option. In the case of Uber versus traditional cabs, Uber's efficiency rating was eight, hinting that clients would rarely go back to using regular cabs.

Businesses can then keep track of their efficiency and rate themselves in terms of client satisfaction or a particular project. According to Khushbu, results from applying this framework should be met with the curiosity to find out “why” and what’s behind said results. If clients are unhappy with the service, why is that? The answers will help you define a roadmap to deal with those metrics.

Efficiency is not just about completing tasks quickly, but also about providing a seamless and effective experience for clients. When a service is efficient, clients are more likely to share it with others, leading to word-of-mouth recommendations and further growth for the business.

Understanding Client Needs and Tailoring Solutions for Success

Everyone brings a different set of expectations to the agency-customer relationship. Agencies should try to understand their clients’ pain points better. At E2M, they focus heavily on defining these pain points during the first client call and then tailor their offering to fit the solution that particular client needs.

For example, if a client lacks technical expertise, the agency can step in as a technical expert to provide the necessary support. If a client struggles with communication, the agency can act as a project manager or account manager to streamline communication processes and save the client time.

This approach is crucial in ensuring that clients save time and become more efficient, ultimately leading to a more successful and fruitful relationship between the agency and the client.

Furthermore, Khushbu highlights the importance of ongoing communication and follow-up with clients even after delivering a service. Checking in with them and ensuring the solutions provided meet clients’ needs and expectations helps the agency continue to build trust and strengthen the client relationship. It’s a proactive approach that not only helps retain clients but also establishes a reputation as a trusted and reliable partner.

Unlocking Agency Growth by Harnessing the Power of Existing Client Relationships

If you’re looking to elevate your agency's growth strategy, 70% of your success lies in your existing client base. It's all about deciphering the right metrics, tracking client health, and mastering the art of scaling relationships to ensure a seamless dance of value delivery and exceeding client expectations.

One of the main KPIs to track is the client retention ratio, which measures the percentage of clients that continue to work with the agency over time. Khushbu and her team take it a step further by categorizing clients into green, yellow, and red zones, unveiling insights that guide tailored strategies. From nurturing green advocates to championing red and yellow clients with extra attention, this personalized approach paves the way for sustained growth and client satisfaction.

Reviving Client Engagement with Success Stories & FOMO

Ever wondered how to rekindle the spark with clients who've gone MIA? It's a common fear — reaching out could lead to cancellations. Khushbu recommends approaching them with success stories, highlighting how they could be using their plan and the results they could be getting.

Try to stir that competitive spirit in them that says, “If this other client is getting these results why can’t I?” She describes it as creating FOMO around your services and the benefits they could be getting from the plan they’re already paying and it’s a way to be proactive in identifying and addressing challenges before they escalate.

Agencies must be more proactive about assessing the value they are providing to clients. Outsourced solutions may be seen as implementers or order takers, but Kushbu knows the importance of taking care of clients in a strategic way. By asking questions like "Are we delivering value?" and "What are the results we are actually delivering?" agencies can stay ahead of potential problems and ensure that they are meeting their clients' expectations.

Using ‘Always and Never’ to Train Your Agency Team to Deliver Exceptional Service

For Khushbu's team, client satisfaction is at the core of everything they do. But how do you ensure that your team is consistently delivering exceptional service? She has a few exercises up her sleeve that are game-changers.

One of her favorites is the "always and never" exercise – a simple yet powerful way to get everyone on the same page. Team members list out the things they always want clients to say about their service and the things they never want to hear. This exercise helps team members understand what clients expect from them and how they can work together to deliver exceptional service.

Once those lists are created, it's time to roll up their sleeves and get proactive. The team dives into contingency plans and potential solutions for any problems that could lead to client dissatisfaction. It's a preemptive strike against potential pitfalls. Additionally, Khushbu regularly asks team members the hardest problem they’ve solved for a client. This way, they’ll be more conscious when it comes to asking themselves “Am I solving the client’s problem right now?” It’s also a way to constantly capture client success stories.

With exercises like this, her team is primed to deliver exceptional experiences that keep clients coming back for more.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Khushbu_Doshi_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am MDT

Would you say your agency is like your baby? Could you be so emotionally attached to your business that you may be stifling its growth? Today’s guest will share his experience growing an agency and the turning points that allowed him to make real progress in its growth. From learning to communicate his agency's vision in a way that inspired buy-in to the surprising struggle of carving out space for a personal life amidst the chaos of entrepreneurship, his biggest challenge was letting go of the belief that he alone was the driving force behind its success. Tune in to learn his valuable lessons and tips for agency success.

Suken Shah is the owner of Envision Marketing, a digital agency that works with clients to find the right strategy that will them find success online. They mostly work with small businesses to help them build their website, SEO presence, and get more leads. Suken shares insights and stories from his 10 years of agency growth and the mindset shift required to see real agency growth. Tune in to learn his valuable lessons and tips for agency success.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The problem with calling your agency “your baby.”

  • Learning to communicate your worth.

  • The power of communication and transparency.

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies and get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

Embracing the Entrepreneurial Leap & The Unexpected Realities of Agency Life 

Suken never had concrete plans to establish an agency. His journey into the world of digital marketing began when he was offered a teaching opportunity at the University of Nevada. Eager to excel in his new role, he delved into digital marketing, eventually formalizing his business as an LLC and initially running it as a side venture. He approached the transition from his corporate job with caution, gradually embracing the potential of his digital business as it gained traction.

As he embraced his new role as an entrepreneur, the most unexpected aspect of owning an agency was the sheer amount of effort required to build a team, attract and retain clients, and steer the business in the right direction. Suken was taken aback by the challenge of taking breaks and carving out personal time amidst the demands of the business.

Initially, he anticipated owning a business would allow him to maintain a similar income level as with his corporate job while having more free time. However, the reality was markedly different. As an agency owner, he found himself being the first to arrive and the last to leave, bearing the brunt of responsibility and often being the scapegoat for any misstep.

Driven by the fear of losing clients, Suken dedicated himself to client acquisition and business growth. His commitment to delivering exceptional results led to organic growth through client referrals, solidifying his agency's reputation.

The Problem with Calling an Agency “Your Baby”

Suken is still navigating the process of relinquishing control over certain tasks, acknowledging that it's a work in progress for him as a business owner. Delegating tasks used to be a struggle for him as he wanted things to be done a certain way. His agency, in many ways, has been like his 'baby', making it emotionally challenging to entrust control to others. This emotional attachment is a common experience among business owners who have poured their time, energy, and passion into nurturing the growth and success of their ventures.

After years of dedicated efforts to witness the gradual growth and success of an agency, it has become a source of immense pride. However, this attachment can sometimes lead to decisions being influenced by emotions rather than what is truly beneficial for the business's growth and success. Moreover, tying one's identity exclusively to the business can also impede growth by hindering the ability to delegate tasks and gain trust in the capabilities of a team. When a business owner views themselves as the sole driving force behind the agency's success, it may be challenging to empower team members and entrust them with greater responsibility.

Gary Vaynerchuk and VaynerMedia is a great example of how to do this right. He’s an incredibly successful agency owner, podcaster, and YouTuber yet he would most likely refer to himself as a creative and describe his qualities rather than define himself by what he’s doing at the moment.

Ultimately, building a successful agency requires a shift in mindset from being a hands-on entrepreneur to becoming a strategic leader. This transformation involves acknowledging one's strengths and weaknesses, delegating tasks, and empowering employees to take ownership of their responsibilities.

Quantifying Your Agency's Value Beyond Billable Hours

While having made progress in this area, Suken acknowledges he is still in the process of determining how to accurately price the agency's services based on the value they offer to clients. Quantifying the value of the services provided involves a deep dive into self-discovery and self-assessment and can be quite challenging, as it is a subjective process that evolves.

It is most likely inevitable to undercharge clients at some point and it did happen to Suken; however, through experience, client feedback, and a proven track record of success, agency owners can develop a better understanding of their worth and the impact they have on their clients' businesses.

An essential step in determining the agency's value is to begin tracking results. Whether it is revenue, leads, or website traffic, measuring metrics that are crucial to clients can effectively demonstrate the impact of the agency's work. This approach will assist in effectively communicating the agency's value and setting prices that align with this value. Suken began taking measurement more seriously around five years ago and has since become more disciplined and proactive in this aspect.

The Power of Communication and Transparency with Your Agency Team

Suken's top priority this year is to enhance agency communications, and he knows the work starts with him. He places great importance on actively engaging with team members and clients to ensure alignment and progress toward shared objectives. As part of this, he plans to conduct regular meetings and encourage team members to communicate extensively with clients through various channels.

Moreover, he advocates for transparency when it comes to addressing project challenges. He believes in openly discussing hurdles and potential issues with clients, rather than solely focusing on successes. He emphasizes the value of honest conversations, as he believes they can lead to effective solutions. Instead of the common practice of masking results or showcasing only positive outcomes, he believes that honest dialogue can foster trust and positive relationships with clients.

Furthermore, Suken's team has gotten better at preparing and communicating comprehensive plans to clients. They have established a thorough onboarding process, involving multiple team members in client meetings and documenting essential information to ensure everyone is aligned and working towards a common goal. This commitment to transparency and collaboration not only builds trust with clients but also sets the stage for the successful delivery of results.

Creating Effective Connections Strong Team Culture

Running a virtual agency, Suken is aware that building rapport virtually is not the easiest thing to do. Still, it can be effective in creating a sense of connection and understanding between parties. In any case, effective communication goes beyond just meeting in person. It also involves actively listening, showing empathy, and being present in conversations.

Furthermore, clients are becoming more aware of how technology can streamline processes and reduce costs, leading to a shift in expectations when it comes to meetings and communication. Being mindful of these changes and finding ways to leverage technology to improve efficiency will help agencies adapt to meet the needs of their clients while still delivering high-quality services.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Suken_Shah_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:00am MDT

As an agency owner, have you explored the possibilities of content creation? Has it proven effective in building an audience or generating leads? Today’s guest is an agency owner who has been writing books and collaborating with different publications for years. However, he finds that, for marketers, content doesn’t really bring a lot of leads. For him, it’s all about the credibility and trust you build through that content. He’ll discuss why content creation nowadays is all about credibility and learning to adapt to leverage new tools. He’ll also share why he chose an agency model that veered away from the more common use of RFPs and how it helped him tap into a well of talent waiting to find a meaningful job. Tune in to hear his thoughts regarding RFPs vs, referrals and the tools you should be leveraging in your content creation.

Scott Gillum is the founder and CEO of Carbon Design, a B2B marketing services firm that uses the power of audience insight to increase conversations, engagement, and revenue for clients. Scott shares how his agency has evolved its model to focus on efficiency and effectiveness for midsize companies by utilizing all contractors.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The agency model that helps you tap into a well of talent.

  • Moving away from RFPs.

  • Why content is KEY.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Building an Agency Model Around Work-Life Integration

Since his start in the industry, Scott has been always intrigued by engagement rates and frequently referred to Gallup’s data – a multinational analytics firm that conducts workplace consulting research – and found the results were frankly concerning. In the 25 years that Gallup has been measuring employee engagement rates, it has never been above 32%. Additionally, at least 15% of the surveyed employees felt actively disengaged.

Scott also worked as a management consultant for a while and observed people usually leave their jobs to attend to family life responsibilities like taking care of their kids or sick parent. He could see how much they struggled to balance both and ended up disappointed. Around this time, he was in conversations with an agency that offered him to work on a different and very meaningful project.

He pitched the idea to build a model that would allow an agency to tap into a well of talent looking for meaningful work but have to deal with the difficulties of being a main caretaker. “There are 5 million stay-at-home moms looking for meaningful work. It’s unused capacity we could tap into,” he explains.

The decision to engage solely with contractors also significantly influenced the agency’s operational approach. Scott notes they operate entirely on referrals, focusing on inbound leads and project-based work rather than traditional retainers. This is how his agency has operated for the past six years.

Referrals over RFPs: The Power of Building Relationships in Agency Business

In the agency world, one of the traditional approaches to acquiring clients involves responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs). These documents outline the client's requirements and ask agencies to submit proposals detailing how they would meet those needs. However, there is a growing trend among agencies to rely less and less on engaging in the RFP process. It’s a shift that highlights the power of building relationships and trust with clients, and the benefits that come with it.

In their six years operating, acquisition of business has been the hardest part for his agency. Being 100% referral-oriented, they don’t typically respond to RFPs, don’t believe in retainers, and focus exclusively on doing good project-oriented work, building trust, delivering quality work, and fostering long-term relationships with clients. Their goal is that clients are completely satisfied with the results and hire them again.

For agencies seeking to move away from RFPs, a potential approach could involve offering a reduced fee for a consultation to gain a better understanding of the prospect's needs. Spending at least one hour to build a tailored plan based on the client's input can demonstrate the agency's commitment. If the client approves the plan, they can choose to engage with the agency, or implement the plan themselves. If the client is dissatisfied, they receive a full refund.

How do you respond to an RFP? Watch this 2-min video for Jason Swenk’s answer.

Content is KEY:  From “Publish or Perish” to “Adapt or Die”

Writing, podcasting, and video creation are great lead generators in sales and things agency owners are encouraged to do to attract clients. However, as an author for several publications and books Scott finds that marketing is much more about building trust, establishing relationships, and ultimately driving business growth.

Content creation allows agencies to showcase their expertise, build credibility, and connect with their target audience on a deeper level. By consistently putting out valuable and engaging content, agencies can attract new clients, retain existing ones, and differentiate themselves from competitors. In Scott's case, he predominantly produces informative material based on client research and experience. Two additional ways for him to leverage his writing to build relationships could be to:

1. Approach industry experts for interviews, thereby enhancing audience trust and fostering connections, and

2. Take his research and advice to other formats like audio and video.

With the widespread popularity of audio podcasts and video content, it's crucial for agencies to adapt their content strategy to align with their audience's preferences. The emergence of AI tools that facilitate script creation and video editing underscores the need for agencies to be open to experimenting with new formats and embracing emerging technologies to remain relevant and competitive.

Establishing Trust Through Content: The Role of Credibility and Experience

With content creation becoming much more accessible thanks to AI tools, the other side of the coin is that a lot of bad content is thrown into the mix. According to Scott, some of this content is concerning because it has no knowledge or research to back it up. “We have a generation now that understands marketing tools but doesn’t understand marketing very well,” he says.

Credibility will make the difference between audiences more keen on either receiving well-researched facts or the opinion of a trusted source. In this sense, experience will play a crucial role in establishing credibility. The audience will typically look at someone’s practical experience in a particular field before offering opinions or advice. For instance, young life coaches who may not have experienced enough in life to truly understand and guide others will likely have low credibility compared to their more experienced counterparts.

Ultimately, credibility and experience go hand in hand when it comes to creating content. By combining a strong knowledge base with practical experience, content creators can establish themselves as trustworthy sources of information and opinions. This, in turn, helps build a loyal following and enhances the impact of their content.

AI Tools You Should Check Out in 2024

AI tools have been ubiquitous in the past year, and this year promises even more potential for those in the industry looking to leverage their capabilities. Scott utilizes widely used tools such as ChatGPT 4 and has recently partnered with Cassidy, a company that offers AI tools for website content creation and image generation, which can also aid in brainstorming. Scott finds that other tools frequently require updates, leading to the need for continuous adjustments to yield accurate results. In this sense, Cassidy seamlessly integrates with G Suite, allowing it to analyze files, proposals, emails, and more to facilitate content creation.

This type of AI tool can be extremely beneficial for small business owners and agency owners who are juggling multiple tasks and responsibilities. With the right information, AI tools like Cassidy learn from you, work for you and can help content creators save time and effort by automating certain processes and getting assistance in pulling relevant information from past projects. Will AI replace agencies? No — and learning to efficiently use these tools opens a lot of doors.

Overall, Scott remains optimistic about the potential of AI tools to be additive rather than replacing human workers. He emphasizes that AI tools can assist teams in finding past project work, pulling relevant information, and overall making the job easier for content creators.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Scott_Gillum_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

Are you fed up with the revenue roller coaster? Ready to get off and build an agency business model focused on sustainable profits? Maybe you’ve heard the saying "revenue is vanity and profit is sanity.” Our featured guest today experienced significant sustainable growth after breaking free from the “revenue trap.” By shifting the focus from revenue to the bottom line, he saw a remarkable shift, leading to financial stability and long-term sustainability. Listen or read to discover how this agency owner navigated through adversity, turned his business around, and expanded his team to more than 700 members.

Robert Berkeley is the co-founder of EKCS, a creative agency specializing in turning ideas into multiple assets. His team works with brands, agencies, and media companies as an extended team that helps them overcome creative production challenges, gain efficiencies, and improve ROI. Robert shares insights on partnership dynamics, dealing with negative people, and the importance of course correction when a business is heading in the wrong direction.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The key to partnership longevity.

  • Escaping the revenue trap.

  • Balancing client acquisition and retention for manageable agency growth.

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies and get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

The Key of Partnership Longevity: Respect, Trust, and Value Alignment

Despite their different styles and personalities, Robert and his partner work very well together thanks to a shared set of values and mutual respect. For Robert, their differences mean they can be great in the sum of their parts, which has been proved time and time again over twenty years together.

Business partnerships really are like marriages and their success often hinges on respect and trust between the individuals involved. Without respect, there’s no trust, and without trust there’s no way to make it work. In their case, Robert and his partner have a fundamental desire to maintain that respect, which keeps them from overstepping boundaries and helps make decisions that align with their shared values.

In their partnership, all major decisions are taken together and they would never make a key hire or approve any major move without the other’s knowledge. This allows them to communicate honestly and have each other’s back if those decisions don’t go as planned. When there is respect in a partnership, there is a willingness to listen, compromise, and work together towards common goals.

Navigating Declines in the Industry and Pivoting to Profitability

With two decades of experience in the industry, Robert and his partner have weathered their fair share of setbacks and missteps. One of the biggest examples of this happened around their third year in business. They hadn’t quite broken through and did not have authority in the industry. Desperate for business, they eagerly pursued any opportunity that came their way.

Their initial foray into Google Ads led to a promising prospect in the form of a newspaper, which seemed like a solid bet at the time. Being good at what they did, they succeeded where others failed. However, the newspaper industry's rapid decline soon rendered their services obsolete, forcing them to reevaluate this niche.

After refocusing their efforts and downsizing the business by approximately 20%, they successfully navigated through challenging times. Seeking new avenues to leverage their skills, Robert recognized the potential in serving markets that prioritized quality over price, leading them to collaborate with creative teams. Many agencies and brands have creative teams but lack the resources or desire to manage production in-house due to fluctuating demands or limited creative capabilities. This became their main target and the right formula for his agency’s growth.

Why Focusing on Revenue is a MISTAKE

Looking back, Robert realizes that before pivoting, he and his team were overly focused on chasing profits rather than prioritizing revenue, which turned out to be a regrettable mistake. As the agency expanded, it became tempting to chase top-line dollar and assume that the costs would take care of themselves. However, focusing on profit means prioritizing the bottom line and ensuring that the business is financially stable and sustainable, making strategic decisions to maximize profitability and minimize costs.

One key lesson Robert shares is the importance of forecasting and planning for growth. By closely monitoring predicted revenue and aligning all departments within the company, including finance, operations, HR, and technology, his agency anticipated their needs and made informed decisions about hiring and resource allocation. This approach ensured that when a client required 20 or 30 people, finance was aware of the impact and costs, and HR was prepared to start recruitment.

Having a system in place ensures that new business won’t overwhelm the agency and prepares the business for growth without being caught off guard by sudden changes in demand. Robert also learned the importance of embracing CRM tools. Many agencies underutilize their CRM systems, missing out on valuable insights and growth opportunities. Rather than treating it as a glorified rolodex, investing time and effort into configuring and optimizing your CRM system can fully leverage its capabilities.

Pro tip: After many years of mocking the idea of having a business coach, now Robert says he wouldn’t do without one and it’s a move he highly recommends to all agency owners.

Setting Manageable Agency Growth by Balancing Client Acquisition and Retention 

In recent years, his agency’s efforts to build a more sustainable operation have led them to focus on a more customer-led approach to service delivery, instead of an operations-led approach, which supports their growth mission.

Looking ahead, Robert believes a 20% to 30% growth rate allows them to grow successfully and sustainably while maintaining their EBITDA and continue providing a great service for clients.

If you have a similar goal, remember it's crucial to consider churn when setting growth targets. Despite the agency's success in retaining most clients over the past four years, Robert acknowledges the impact of churn. For instance, if the agency plans to add $1 million but loses $200K due to churn, plan for $1.2 million growth instead.

Furthermore, it's essential to allocate a budget not only to acquiring new business but also to nurturing existing client relationships. Upon reviewing their client portfolio, Robert recognized the untapped potential for providing additional value. The agency is now actively working on demonstrating to clients how they can further benefit from the relationship to achieve their business objectives.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Robert_Berkeley_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

When was the last time you stepped back to evaluate whether your agency's strategy is truly aligned with your core mission and values? Is your team buying into the overall vision? Are they motivated and understand their role in the vision? If not, it’s time you start integrating vision and strategy for more effective results. Today’s guest has set himself the mission of saving small businesses from failure by teaching them how to combine their vision with effective strategy. He thinks agency owners should think about strategy a lot sooner to avoid moving blindly with no particular purpose in sight. In t his episode, you’ll learn how having a clear vision statement can motivate your team and drive growth.

Jimmy Newson is the founder of Moving Forward Small Business, a membership-based organization that helps businesses grow and achieve their goals through practical and actionable advice. As a business and growth strategy consultant, Jimmy has worked with organizations of all sizes, but his specialty lies in working with small businesses and entrepreneurs. Jimmy is also a contributor and member of Leadership Network with Entrepreneur.com, where he shares his expertise on small business management and growth.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • Integrating strategy for clearer and more effective results.

  • Why you should rethink and adapt your strategy.

  • Building a purpose-driven team.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Strategy Can SAVE Small Businesses

At his organization, Jimmy’s ultimate goal is to save one million small businesses from failure by 2050. Why small businesses? According to Jimmy, 99% of businesses in the United States are small businesses and the failure rate among them is alarmingly high. “You have to start questioning why that is,” he says.

Jimmy's personal experiences have given him a deep understanding of small businesses' challenges. Despite working with large organizations, he deliberately maintains a small team and leverages available technology to bridge the gaps. His goal is to empower small businesses to thrive by implementing effective strategies that ensure financial success and long-term sustainability.

Is a clear vision enough to create this sustainability? Jimmy highlights the need to create a business plan that aligns with your vision, mission, and purpose. He also stresses the need for a strategy that outlines the rules of engagement and guides decision-making. This strategy will become the guiding force that will keep the organization on track and allow business owners to make decisions that align with their vision and mission.

Once established, new opportunities for your business should always be examined under the guise of “Does this align with my strategy?” By aligning opportunities with their strategy, business owners can ensure they are moving in the right direction and avoiding potential pitfalls.

Is it Time to RETHINK Your Strategy?

Most agency owners start out being good at something – whether Google ads, website building, etc. – However, once they step into the role of entrepreneur, they encounter various unfamiliar aspects of the business. “You don’t have to be good at all these things,” Jimmy clarifies, “but you have to be aware of them.” It’s about figuring out how to address these aspects of business without shouldering them on your own, which would probably not provide the best results.

The logical step is to hire a team and start delegating tasks. However, before that be sure to build a strategy that provides a path to reduce uncertainty around the future of your business. By developing a roadmap for their business, agency owners can navigate challenges and obstacles with greater ease.

Additionally, Jimmy suggests reevaluating and revising the strategy regularly to evolve and refine your vision and strategy and thus adapt to changing market conditions.

Building a Purpose-Driven Team to Cultivate Employee Motivation and Commitment

Once you’ve established and integrated a strategy into your agency’s mission and vision, how do you get people joining your organization to buy into that vision? They should be aware that their role isn't just a job; it's a mission fueled by the agency's core values. This is the power of having a compelling "why" behind your agency's vision.

As Jimmy emphasizes, people aren't just motivated by products or services; they crave purpose. When employees believe in the organization’s mission and values, they are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and committed to their work.

Having a strong "why" behind the agency's goals can help employees self-validate their reasons for being there. This sense of purpose not only benefits them but also the organization as a whole.

As a leader, it's your responsibility to provide employees with the necessary tools and support for success, while highlighting the significance of their work. Helping them see the bigger picture and understand how their contributions make a difference will significantly boost their motivation.

This is a key lesson that Jimmy learned the hard way, leading him to now refer to key team members as stakeholders. To him, a stakeholder is anyone associated with your organization who should be aware of their importance in its mission and purpose.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Jimmy_Newson_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:00am MDT

Is your agency leveraging CRMs to tailor personalized client experiences and nurture long-term client relationships? Are you tracking customer interactions from first message to delivery? In the dynamic world of agency-client interactions, CRM tools play a pivotal role in streamlining operations and enhancing customer experiences. Today’s guest has made customer satisfaction his focus even since his start as a graphic designer and now offers a CRM system designed specifically with agencies in mind. Tune in to learn valuable insights on client management and relationship-building strategies for agencies.

Steve Holm is the CEO of Copper, a CRM company that helps agencies track clients from initial interest to project delivery. He discusses the importance of building better relationships with clients and shares his background as a graphic designer and his experience in digital product development.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How design can translate to customer value.

  • Crafting a success path for designers at your agency.

  • How to effectively use CRM to navigate customer relationships.

  • One CRM designed specifically for agencies.

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Understanding How Design Can Translate to Customer Value

Steve's journey began as a graphic designer, crafting yearbooks for elementary schools using InDesign. He then transitioned to digital design at an agency collaborating with Facebook on feature and product development. Through his network of industry connections, Steve ventured into partnerships with various companies, eventually assuming a leadership role in product management.

His background in design and product management equipped Steve with the skills to create a vision and roadmap for his company based on the impact they aim to have on customers.

Since the beginning, Steve has seen that design can directly impact customer satisfaction and, as a result, business success. To him, the most important thing to keep in mind as you design is “what is the value this is giving to customers and how can I make a connection between my design and the value they’re receiving?” Making this connection leads to increased revenue or reduced turnover.

In his view, this approach translated well into the role of CEO, as he understood the significance of prioritizing customers, designing with the end consumer in mind, and working backward to the technology, rather than starting with the technology and trying to sell it. It’s a philosophy very similar to that of Steve Jobs, who believed in designing products that cater to the needs and desires of customers.

Establishing a Clear Path to Success for Designers at Your Agency

As a designer who eventually transitioned to management roles, Steve knows that trajectory depends on the person. Throughout his professional journey, he has strived to elevate the role of design within strategic discussions to provide more avenues for designers to find fulfillment.

Establishing a clear career path for designers, encompassing both technical expertise and management responsibilities, is crucial for retaining top talent. However, not all designers aspire to or are suited for managerial positions; some excel as creatives and prefer to stay in that role. The problem is that in certain organizations managerial roles are perceived as the sole route for designers to have a significant impact on the broader vision.

At his organization, Steve focused on granting design a strategic role in project development. Addressing the issue of impact makes it easier to understand a designer's motivations for role transitions, their objectives, and how to support their success.

When designers only see themselves getting ahead by moving into manager roles, Steve perceives it as a flaw in company operations. Designers should have more participation in strategic decisions. By exposing them to the right conversations and strategies, agencies can leverage their expertise to drive innovation and create customer-centric solutions.

Navigating Your Agency’s Customer Relationships with CRM

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a crucial aspect of any business and, as such, agencies should provide world-class relationship building across every touchpoint in the customer journey. It’s the way to engage prospects and close more deals, as well as, retain existing clients to grow those accounts.

With ten years of experience in CRM and looking at it from end to end Steve believes it’s important to provide the utmost quality at every step of the process. How are you engaging with customers from the moment they reach out? How are you interacting? Are you making sure to get feedback on what went well and what can be improved post-interaction? The right answers to these questions will help you remarket and grow your business from existing clients.

For Steve, a key practice in this process is to have a CRM that tracks all these interactions, documents, and tasks for the post-sales, and project delivery stages all in one place, as well as trying to automate as much as you can. Automating relationship building at scale will allow you to improve overall efficiency across the customer journey.

Two Key Aspects to Get Better Results from Your CRM System

The main problem with CRM is data integrity because it is only as good as the data you put into it. Do you have the right data in the system? Without accurate and up-to-date data, the CRM system becomes ineffective and may lead to missed opportunities or miscommunication with clients. In this sense, Steve recommends automating data entry and integration with other tools such as email and calendar platforms to ensure your CRM system remains reliable and useful for managing customer relationships.

Another key aspect of using CRM effectively is customization. Different businesses have unique workflows and processes, so it is essential to have a CRM system that can be easily customized to fit specific needs. This includes setting up multiple pipelines for different types of customers or projects, and being able to adjust and tweak the system as needed to align with changing business requirements.

The CRM Designed Specifically for Agencies

Copper CRM, Steve’s business, recently reset their focus to relationship-intensive businesses, such as agencies, consulting firms, and financial services, which rely heavily on building and maintaining strong relationships with their clients, rather than focusing on high-volume leads and deals.

Copper serves as both a CRM and project management system, which sets it apart from similar businesses. This integration allows clients to seamlessly track the entire client relationship, from pre-sales to post-sales, in one tool.

With Copper, agencies can focus on growing their business knowing their CRM is set up for success.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Steve_Holm_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

How do you prioritize between family time and business responsibilities as an entrepreneur and parent? How is that balancing act working out for you? Being an agency owners and a parent can be a bit of a mess and there’s no magic formula to balancing parenthood and being an agency CEO. For some parents, this means a lot of guilt about not spending enough quality time with their kids or not being 100% focused during family hours. Today’s guest started her entrepreneurship journey while eight months pregnant and has been constantly learning ever since. She’ll share some of the boundaries she’s learned to uphold to protect her family and rest time. She also explains why hiring was a daunting but key step towards improving both her personal and business life.

Audra Brehm is the owner of Brehm Media, a social media marketing agency focused on the beauty and fashion industry. She’s been on the podcast before talking about raising agency prices and why it does not scare away the right clients.

As a business owner and a mother, Audra discusses the challenges of balancing life and work, going back to starting her agency while eight months pregnant and learning to embrace imperfection. Tune in to hear insights on making it work and finding success in business while navigating the demands of family life.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The boundaries need to balance motherhood and being an agency CEO.

  • Embracing imperfection to find work/life balance.

  • how hiring the right team will set you free.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

The Balancing Act of Being a Mom and an Agency CEO

Balancing work and family is a common struggle for many individuals, especially for moms running their businesses. Audra jumped into the adventure of being a business owner while still eight months pregnant with her second child.

It was not exactly her plan. Freshly moving to Colorado and interviewing for jobs, she was presented with the choice to either relocate to Florida for work or start her own consulting firm with that brand as her first client. Being a self-declared bad employee, the possibility of becoming a business owner appealed to her even while eight months pregnant and she jumped at the opportunity.

Although excited about launching her business post-baby, managing both her business and family proved to be a challenging task. Many working moms grapple with the fear of neglecting their families while pursuing their professional goals. The initial years were particularly demanding for Audra as her business demanded a significant amount of her time. Over time, she learned to prioritize her time commitments alongside her financial objectives. Failing to uphold self-imposed time boundaries can lead to feeling torn between family and business responsibilities. Now she has non-negotiable boundaries such as being present during weekends or after a certain hour.

Does this mean she advises postponing starting a family until after establishing your agency? No. There’ll never be a perfect time to have kids, just like there’s never a perfect time to start a business. Audra’s advice is to stop pushing things off and just treat both with care. If you aspire to have a family and run an agency, you will find a way to strike a balance. It's a challenging juggling act that requires diving in and taking action rather than waiting for the ideal moment.

Finding Work/Life Balance Through Delegation and Goal Setting

Like Audra, many agency owners experience the guilt and stress that often come with trying to juggle both family and business. She’s found the way to be present in both aspects of life is to set clear boundaries. She has also learned to delegate tasks, set goals, and communicate with her children about the demands of her work. This open communication has allowed her to involve her children in her business and help them understand the importance of her work.

Similarly, Audra prioritizes quality time with her husband, who also serves as her COO. They have intentionally set aside dedicated hours each week to simply enjoy each other's company without discussing work or family matters. This practice helps them nurture their relationship beyond their roles as parents and business partners, preventing burnout from an exclusive focus on work.

Of course, accepting imperfection will also be key to finding peace as you try to balance both worlds. Audra believes even the smartest and most successful people have figured it all out yet. It’s a real struggle to maintain a good family life, be an engaged significant other, and have a successful business all at the same time.

It’s a grind all the time and it’s okay to acknowledge that,” she says.

As a mom and a business owner, Audra knows giving herself grace and recognizing that it is okay to make mistakes or fall short is not only ok, it’s essential.

Hiring, Firing, and Finding the Right Employees to Set You Free

One of the key lessons Audra strives to impart to her kids is that you don't have to wait until retirement to start living life to the fullest. It's possible to build a thriving business while raising a family - the key is learning to find joy in the journey, through both the highs and inevitable lows.

Will there be challenging days where you feel stretched thin as a manager and parent? Absolutely. But there will also be triumphs when everything clicks into place. The path is about embracing the ebb and flow.

For Audra, one of the biggest game-changers in her work-life integration has been making the right hires, even if it represents an initial financial strain. Once intimidated by the prospect of expanding her team, she can attest that leaping to bring on supportive talent was one of the best decisions for her agency's growth and her own sanity.

With around 15 employees now, Audra can step away trusting her team will handle everything. "Are we the biggest agency? No. But I can walk away and come back without anything going up in flames," she remarks.

Of course, building a solid team is an ever-evolving process. It requires having the humility to learn from hiring missteps, the courage to make staffing adjustments when someone isn't the right fit, and the wisdom to provide learning opportunities that unlock each person's potential. By staying open-minded, nimble, and committed to continuous improvement, agency leaders can assemble a talented crew that propels the business forward while enabling a sustainable work-life balance.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Audra_Brehm_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am MDT

Gary Vaynerchuk and Steve Jobs both became the face of their brand, but could this marketing strategy cost you when it’s time to sell your agency?  How can you avoid becoming the brand to build a ‘sellable’ agency? Today’s guest is an entrepreneur who has successfully started and sold four businesses. He discusses the value of personal brands in relation to company success and delves into the challenges faced by service companies in building assets compared to tech or SaaS startups. Tune in to learn about common mistakes made by agency owners when considering selling their businesses and the pitfalls of an obsession with scale.

John Warrillow is the founder and CEO of The Value Builder System, a sales and marketing software for business advisors to find, win and keep their best clients. In addition to having started and exited four companies, John is the best-selling author, Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.

In this episode, we discuss:

  • How to add value to your agency.

  • Build a ‘sellable’ agency.

  • Equity rolls vs. earn-outs.

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: This episode of Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies to get a free trial just for Jason’s listeners!

How Businesses Fall into the Revenue Pitfall

Agency owners and service-based businesses often fall into the trap of overvaluing their companies when considering selling them. This common mistake is rooted in their relentless pursuit of growth and expansion. As a public, we tend to idolize big companies as opposed to good companies. This can turn into an obsession that leads agency owners to focus solely on increasing revenue, rather than building systems and processes that can make the business less dependent on the owners and founders.

This fixation on growth typically results in rainmakers focusing predominantly on their sales expertise, which, while driving business growth, also increases dependence on the founders. Paradoxically, this dependence diminishes the overall value of the business. For John, the obsession with growth does agencies a great disservice by creating a culture of focusing solely on revenue.

Consequently, businesses become so intertwined with the owner's presence that they essentially create a job for themselves rather than an asset that can thrive independently. This realization can be a bitter pill to swallow for many agency owners, especially when they recognize that their ego often drives these attitudes. By subscribing to the notion portrayed in "Mad Men" that their primary role is that of the charismatic pitchperson, they inadvertently create successful jobs rather than valuable assets.

An Easy Method to Add Value to Your Agency

So how can you avoid the revenue pitfall? John recommends agency owners take their CEO hat off from time to time and replace it with that of the parent of the business. In this sense, rather than micromanaging employees to hit revenue goals, empower them to take ownership of their work. They will feel greater pride and engagement, enabling the agency to thrive with or without you.

By prioritizing long-term sustainability you can increase your agency’s value and make it more attractive to potential buyers. It's not just about winning big clients or receiving accolades, but about creating a valuable asset that can stand the test of time.

John also introduces the concept of assessing agency services according to how "teachable, valuable, repeatable" (TVR) they are to make strategic business decisions based on this. The TVR framework encourages agency owners to assess each service based on how teachable it is to their team, how valuable it is in terms of differentiation from competitors, and how repeatable it is in terms of recurring revenue.

According to John, aency owners should focus on services that score high on all three criteria, as these are the services that will ultimately lead to a more sustainable and scalable business. This is not necessarily easy. Getting rid of some low-scoring services may mean walking away from 90% of your revenue. If this is your case, you can jettison the lowest-scoring services at least once a year.

Striking the Right Balance as an Agency CEO

Building a business that can run without you and that you can eventually sell will also require you to make the transition from agency owner to CEO. This means assuming different roles like setting the vision for the agency, being the face of the organization, understanding the financials, and coaching and mentoring the leadership team.

Personally, John disagrees with Peter Drucker’s notion that the two key functions that a CEO should focus on are product development and sales/marketing. In the context of an agency, the CEO should prioritize activities that drive revenue and attract new clients. “If you’re doing those two functions, your business is worthless without you” he argues.

CEOs who are too public-facing and personally branded may undermine the value of their agency when it comes time to sell. This is because potential buyers may view a highly visible CEO as a risk factor, leading to a larger portion of the deal being tied to an earn-out agreement. Therefore, CEOS need to strike a balance between being the face of the organization and focusing on the core functions of sales and marketing.

How to Avoid Becoming the Brand: Tips for Becoming a “Sellable” Agency

Would VaynerMedia continue to thrive without Gary Vaynerchuk? Just like Apple continued to grow without Steve Jobs, the most important element of that business is Gary’s framework and methodology. What people like Steve and Gary did very well in each case is that the brand supersedes the individual.

In Gary’s case, many people might not realize who he is as a creator or tie VaynerMedia to him. In any case, building a powerful brand that can grow even in your absence is all about branding processes and not just people. Of course, a strong personal brand can be beneficial but it is also essential to establish the processes that drive the business. By doing so, agencies can create value beyond the individual personalities of their founders or leaders.

For agency owners who include their name in the agency name, John suggests branding the processes; for instance, “3 things we do before onboarding a new client”. Codify and brand these processes to create a more valuable and attractive asset for potential buyers. This way, agencies can demonstrate a level of consistency and professionalism that goes beyond any individual's involvement in the business.

By establishing and branding the processes that drive the business, agencies can create value that is sustainable and transferable, ultimately leading to long-term growth and success. It’s something you can do in stages and could take 2 or 3 years complete. It’s an important element of reducing dependency on individual personalities and create a more valuable and attractive asset for potential buyers.

Equity Rolls vs. Earnouts: One of these will cost you MILLIONS

The classic way an agency is sold is you get approached by the buyer who says they’re willing to pay X multiple for it. However, once you take a closer look at that price, it’s really 40% upfront, with the other 60% tied to an elaborate earn-out component where you become an employee of another agency.

Alternatively, John highlights how private equity companies are increasingly doing "roll-ups" to consolidate agencies, especially in ad tech and tech-enabled services. In an equity roll deal, the seller gets some cash upfront but rolls the remaining amount into an equity stake in the entity owning the agency. This provides pros and cons compared to an earn-out model and gives owners more control over the transition.

Equity rolls like majority recapitalizations allow owners to sell just a portion of their shares to receive some liquidity. This payout offers financial stability to pay off debts or invest elsewhere while still having skin in the game to take risks growing the agency. However, selling a majority stake means giving up decision-making control. Owners must be comfortable with a new role and adapt to having outside stakeholders that may bring conflicting interests, especially regarding earn-outs or integrating services across divisions.

For its part, an earn-out means you’ll lose control of the agency, so be aware of the potential pitfalls of this structure. Instead, Jason suggests a different approach where the seller prioritizes receiving cash upfront and maintains control over the company until the earn-out or period of time is completed. This gives the seller more agency in the sale process and reduces the risk of losing control over their business.

All in all, as a seller, be aware of what the acquirer is trying to do, their motivations, and how that aligns with what you want to determine whether or not an earn-out makes sense for you.

Prepare Yourself Against the Potential Pitfalls of Acquisitions

There are potential pitfalls in agency acquisitions and it’s important to be cautious when considering selling or merging with another agency. Typically, as a seller, you have to be aware of the fact that you’re becoming a minority shareholder and giving up entrepreneurship for a job. Just be vigilant and protect your interests.

Do your due diligence when considering an acquisition and thoroughly evaluate the potential buyer and ensure that the terms of the deal are fair and beneficial to the agency. Furthermore, be wary of offers that may seem enticing on the surface but could ultimately result in a loss of control or value for the agency.

The most important way you can protect yourself is to understand the true value of your agency before entering into any acquisition agreements. Don’t allow yourself to be swayed by promises of high valuations or potential growth opportunities without thoroughly evaluating the risks and potential drawbacks of the deal and ensure that all parties involved in the acquisition are aligned in terms of goals, vision, and values to avoid potential conflicts down the line.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: John_Warrillow_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Do you have enough of an appetite for risk to trigger exponential agency growth? Have you considered strategic partnerships as a growth strategy? Today’s guest changed the music scene for entrepreneurship and managed to grow his agency from $2 million to $16 million in just two years. How’d he do it? After getting past common initial struggles like developing sales and hiring the right people, he focused on strategic partnerships and found the right formula to scale his marketing agency. Tune in to learn from his incredible growth story and strategic approach to agency success.

Alex Rossman is the owner of Rossman Media, a socially led digital marketing agency that serves brands of all sizes to help them grow online, with a particular focus on social media. Rossman’s award-winning team is positioned for global expansion. He discusses the importance of having an appetite for risk and thinking long-term about company growth.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Learning when to hire employees.

  • 8Xing a digital marketing agency.

  • How to minimize the risks in an agency acquisition.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

When to Hire Employees For Your Agency

Alex started out as a musician and was actually signed by a record label and touring at some point, all while maintaining a corporate job. However, the corporate job was draining and the music gigs weren’t profitable so he needed another way to balance his creative side while using his experience with sales and marketing. This led to his start in the agency world back in 2017.

Over seven years of steering his agency, Alex pinpoints hiring as his biggest challenge. Though his hands-on experience gave him insight into each role's requirements, finding candidates who could confidently take the reins proved difficult. Like many founders, Alex struggled to prioritize - should he start by beefing up sales or operations?

Eager to scale rapidly, Alex also fell into the common trap of over-hiring. Buoyed by high growth, he staffed up quickly rather than strategically. Soon he was building the plane while flying it, scrambling to course-correct profitability and organization.

To surmount hiring hurdles, agency owners need self-awareness around strengths, weaknesses, and business stage. Rather than focusing on rapid growth alone, smart hiring means filling gaps with experts who complement the existing team. This prevents overstretching capabilities and sets an achievable path for sustainable scaling.

Looking back, Alex wishes he balanced ambition with patience. Hiring is never easy, but by aligning roles and capabilities to the agency's most pressing needs, founders can build a thriving team equipped for the long-haul.

Centering the Utilization Rate to Increase Agency Success

Having learned from over-hiring missteps, Alex now centers his growth strategy on utilization rate and team optimization - two pivotal aspects for agency success. By closely tracking utilization, he ensures his team effectively spends time on client work, driving productivity and profitability. Now, Alex and the team rate incoming leads as high, medium, and low, which plays into how they decide to hire based on the amount of work they’ll have in the coming months.

Focusing on high-impact tasks and leveraging each team member's strengths, or "superpower," will also help you ensure you’re optimizing team performance and maximizing productivity. This approach not only benefits the agency but also serves the individual team members by allowing them to excel in their roles and contribute to the company's success.

Moreover, with an adaptable mindset, Alex continuously reevaluates team efficiency as the agency evolves. Assessing performance, identifying improvement areas, and adjusting roles over time is key. This may involve revisiting responsibilities, offering training, or reallocating resources to tap the highest potential impact.

8Xing HisAgency in Just Two Years

The driving force behind the remarkable growth of his agency lies in strategic acquisitions. As the agency owner, Alex has diligently focused on enhancing services for clients and nurturing relationships with both clients and employees. Additionally, he dons his investor hat to assess the industry's current fragmented landscape. Recognizing an opportunity, Alex leveraged mergers and acquisitions to bring on board companies that not only aligned with the agency's culture but also addressed operational gaps.

In 2022, their pivotal acquisition involved the purchase of a complementary social media agency, a move that facilitated horizontal integration and bolstered the management team with fresh talent and clientele. Buoyed by this success, they have subsequently completed three more acquisitions, significantly fueling their expansion.

The Required Mindset Shift for Explosive Growth

In the competitive agency world, organic growth hovers around 10% and, for Alex, thriving in this environment requires embracing a new mindset that welcomes calculated risks. For this, agency owners must step back from day-to-day operations and chart a course for where they envision their company in the next five years. This long-term perspective is essential for pinpointing growth opportunities and forging strategic partnerships that can propel the agency to new heights.

In light of this, Alex initiated discussions with agencies he had built strong relationships with over the years, exploring potential mergers. His approach was all about identifying the right agencies to acquire that align with his goals and values.

Successful mergers and acquisitions can yield numerous benefits, such as bolstering the management team, expanding the customer base, and venturing into new industries.

Of course, strategic acquisitions will also require agencies to assess the potential risks. “Do not think that you’re just buying a company to multiply your company by two or three,” Alex advises. Factor in potential setbacks like employee and client retention issues to better prepare for the challenges that may come with integrating a new agency into their existing operations.

Trying the Acquisition Growth Strategy? Minimize the Risks

For agency owners considering the acquisition growth strategy, Alex suggests starting small to minimize risk with the initial deal. In his experience, they began by acquiring a small lifestyle business with strong client retention and a vision that aligned with their agency's goals. Subsequently, they progressed to larger acquisitions with the second and third deals.

By effectively integrating and expanding these smaller acquisitions, the agency can confidently pursue larger opportunities. For funding, Alex eventually explored debt financing to support growth beyond what the agency's profits could sustain. This allowed them to secure the necessary capital for larger acquisitions and expedite growth. However, it's important to exercise caution when taking on debt and avoid personal guarantees to mitigate financial risks.

Agency Integration: How to Succeed after Mergers and Acquisitions

The hardest part of agency growth through acquisitions is not the buying process, but rather the integration and scaling of the acquired agencies. Successful integration requires careful planning, clear communication, and a focus on aligning processes, systems, and cultures. You don’t want to come in and suddenly change everything that made that agency what it was.

Alex advises against quick changes and instead embraces the existing culture, systems, and processes of the acquired agency. Don’t rush into making changes that could disrupt the organization. Instead, take the time to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the acquired agency, identify key personnel and clients, and create a timeline for integration that can lead to a smoother and more successful transition.

In this sense, having a dedicated team or individual responsible for integration can also be beneficial. Alex handles some of these tasks and then hands them off to his directors. However, he’s planning to turn this into a dedicated role and have someone focused on identifying synergies, streamlining operations, and ensuring a successful transition for both parties involved. By having someone dedicated to integration, agencies can avoid overloading existing leadership teams and ensure that the process is given the attention and resources it deserves.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_Alex_Rossman_8xed_his_Agency_in_2_Years___Ep_677.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Would your agency keep running and growing if you had to take a month off tomorrow? Or would it all fall apart? Which systems could you start implementing right now to keep this from happening? Today’s guest went through difficult times last year and his focus wasn’t fully in the business. These struggles proved to be too much for a recent purchase, which he had admittedly rushed; as that acquisition started falling apart and becoming a burden, it started to take a toll on mental health. In the end, he had to sell. Now he thinks carefully about the processes and systems that must be in place in case of an emergency. Tune in to learn how he navigates his agency to allow himself time to focus on the things that are more important than money.

Robert Lee is the owner of Lesix Media, a real estate-focused agency that thrives on doubling clients’ productivity, sales, and marketing through innovative frameworks. Robert discusses his experience buying and transforming an agency that now focuses on helping real estate professionals, commercial roofers, political candidates, and organizations. He shares insights on finding a consistent path to growth and how setting up the right systems will allow you to take care of your mental health.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to use direct email to leave a lasting impression.

  • Avoid regret by trusting your gut.

  • More important than money: prioritizing mental health.

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Sponsors and Resources

Copper: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Copper, a CRM solution built specifically for agencies that use Google Workspace. Its CRM integration works seamlessly with Gmail, Google Calendar, and Drive, so you never have to switch tabs to add leads, track email conversations, find files, or manage tasks in your marketing or your sales process. Head over to Copper.com/agencies to learn more and get a free trial.

From Young Freelancer to Entrepreneur Needing the Structure of an Agency  

Robert has been working with political candidates and organizations for around fifteen years. Starting as a freelancer who thought he could do it all, his understanding of what an agency was grew with experience. The more he learned, the more he appreciated the structure and organization needed to truly succeed. This wish to become a more formal and organized business was the idea behind his plan of buying into a direct mail agency. It was a natural transition after fifteen years in the business to grow a team and have a business he could grow.

In the end, he didn’t just buy into an agency but outright purchased one. They were one of his vendors around 2017 and it was actually a long process to complete. He already had the political marketing business and had plans to transition that business from just fulfilling mail projects to becoming a full-service agency.

Using Direct Mail to Leave a Lasting Impression

His agency currently focuses on helping political candidates and organizations spread their message. However, up until six months ago they were all about direct mail and were responsible for a lot of junk mail for real estate agents and commercial roofers. For Robert, direct mail may get a lot of hate but it can be impactful in a variety of ways. “You don’t have to use direct mail for everything, but don’t count it out,” he argues.

Personally, he favors sending obnoxiously large pieces because there are a lot ways to make it really creative and get people’s attention. It’s important to think outside the box when it comes to designing and executing direct mail pieces and there’s a lot of space for impactful designs, such as die-cut pieces and pop-up elements that leave a lasting impression.

Avoiding Regret in Your Agency by Trusting Your Gut

Looking back, there are many things Robert would do differently in that process to purchase and transition the agency’s services but the biggest one is to trust his gut. The company he acquired was a mom & pop shop with no sales processes in place. Despite having reservations about this, Robert chose to move forward with the purchase.

Instead of waiting until they created the necessary sales process and revisit the acquisition after a year, he argued against himself and went ahead with the purchase. As a result, he faced challenges and struggles that could have been avoided.

Basically, their sales process revolved entirely around the owners and referrals. There was no lead generation. Under these conditions, it wasn’t really a business so much as a job these owners built for themselves and were now trying to sell.

For his part, Robert had been planning this acquisition for a long time and was nervous he would lose the opportunity if he asked for more time for them to resolve the issues.

It was a valuable lesson in business. With those problems, the agency became more of a burden that needed his constant attention. It was not structured in a way that allowed Robert space to face these challenges and soon became an issue that took over his life.

In the end, he was forced to sell that business and, even though it was the right choice, he recognizes that if he’d listened to himself from the beginning, he could have avoid the headaches. In the quest for growth and success, it is essential to trust your instincts and listen to that inner voice that may be warning you to slow down and reconsider your actions.

More Important Than Money: Prioritizing Mental Health

Robert’s experience can be a great lesson for agency owners thinking about selling their business in the future and who are too involved in sales, marketing, or operations. If you’re too involved in any of these aspects and haven’t created a plan for someone else to take over, then you’ve created a great job but not an asset that you can sell one day.

Personally, Robert believes it’s important for agency owners to have those systems in place to prioritize mental health and rest whenever necessary. Last year he experienced two losses that left him lost and affected his ability to focus on the business. These times of personal crisis really underscore the importance of having a business set up to give you the time to handle a crisis. Without the proper time to grieve, he knows this grief would have eventually bled into his decisions and magnified the agency’s issues.

It was a reminder that running a business is not just about making money and achieving success, but also about taking care of oneself and prioritizing mental and emotional well-being.

Build a Machine, Not a Job: Structuring Your Agency for Sustainability

Reflecting on his experience, Robert realizes he should have invested more time upfront in developing structured processes and aligning his team towards shared goals. Though he had begun implementing some procedural tweaks, more robust and documented systems would have better prepared the agency when crises hit.

Many agency owners assume that building a business will automatically grant them freedom. However, in those critical early years, it often feels more like a noose around your neck. The end goal should be constructing an agency that runs smoothly without you, liberating you to focus on other pursuits.

In Robert's case, while his team was already taking ownership of their responsibilities, he still lacked a clear structure for making pivotal financial decisions. This resulted in undue financial risks, like retaining employees who did not align with the overarching vision. Though difficult, removing these individuals would have saved time and money over retaining them.

All in all, thoroughly systematizing processes and instilling a unified sense of purpose across your team early on is necessary so your agency can persevere in your absence. With a robust infrastructure in place, you’ll be able to focus less on maintaining day-to-day operations, and more on innovating and guiding your agency into the future.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Is the wrong prospecting process bringing you clients who are just not a good fit? Are you feeling trapped in a contract with clients you wouldn’t choose to work with again? Building strong connections with clients based on common ground and understanding can significantly impact the success and fulfillment of partnerships in the agency world. Today’s guest saw her first agency end after all partners lost their passion for the work. The reason? Working with clients who didn’t fit the agency’s personality left them all feeling stuck and overwhelmed. After selling and starting over, she has made the right prospecting process a focus of her new business and is seeing the results. Tune in for insights on starting over the right way after selling an agency that wasn’t working out.

Jodie Ball is an agency owner specializing in search engine optimization helping clients scale and grow. She has a decade of experience in SEO and digital marketing and uses a data-driven, non-siloed approach to capture target demographics at pivotal points during their decision-making process. Jodie shares her journey of building and selling her first agency with partners, along with the challenges and successes she experienced. She now enjoys the freedom to choose her clients and work with people she wants to work with.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How the wrong prospecting can lead to agency frustration.

  • Ensuring your vision aligns with your prospects.

  • Selling and starting over the right way.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

When Clients Don't Align: The Path to Agency Frustration

Jodie’s agency journey started when she was an intern helping build websites for musicians and got the amazing opportunity to work in the search engine optimization of an Amazon-owned business. She sort of fell into the role of executing an account for Amazon, a path she would have never imagined for her career. Later on, the people who first contacted her for that project called her when they decided to build an SEO agency and eventually became her business partners.

The Amazon gig helped them gain credibility as they started and grew their agency. Initially, she worked on sales and strategy and had to wear a lot of different hats as she and her partners figured out the agency.

After starting off with a bang with Amazon, Jodie’s agency went on to work with high-end fashion retailers like Skims and Good American. They stayed within the fashion niche to leverage their expertise and reputation in that area and attract clients who valued their industry knowledge and experience.

However, they fell into a pattern of taking on clients that didn't fit their agency's personality and started to feel stuck and overwhelmed. This led to stress and ultimately made the business less enjoyable. Five years in, her partners were now too busy for the agency and it seemed there was not enough meat left on the bone.

Basically, it seemed clients did not have a full understanding of the value the agency was providing. This resulted in unhappy clients and frustration on both ends. Looking back, Jodie sees their reporting was not complete enough to communicate the full extent of their results.

How to Find The Right Prospects: Correcting Past Communication Mistakes

Agencies must establish clear channels of communication with clients from the very beginning and consistently update them on the progress of their projects. By setting expectations and goals upfront, agencies can ensure that clients are aware of the value they are receiving and can better appreciate the results of their work.

There are certainly many things they could have improved which Jodie now implements in her new agency with her current understanding of prospecting that helps eliminate the wrong prospects since the beginning.

A lot of it has to do with educating the client during the onboarding process. Clients may not always be familiar with the intricacies of digital marketing, SEO, or other services offered by agencies, so it is crucial to take the time to explain these concepts in a way that is easy for them to understand.

Jodie finds that many times with clients the business model is a really great fit for the agency but the person they’ll be communicating with is not there yet in terms of understanding or being in the right mindset. This is not necessarily insurmountable and agencies can empower these clients to make informed decisions and better appreciate the work being done on their behalf.

Looking forward, Jodie would like to focus on growing the team, scale the agency to reach the 7-figure mark and retire to live a more relaxed lifestyle.

Selling an Agency and Starting Over the Right Way

As the partners' passion for the agency waned and problematic clients drained the joy from their work, discussions about a potential sale arose. Initially, Jodie resisted - in her early 20s with minimal living expenses, she felt ready to keep battling for their vision. But her partners craved more stability and Jodie admits their backend costs were spiraling out of control.

Then a familiar company came calling, sharing a business partner and needing project management with solid SEO chops. When Jodie's team opened their books to this potential buyer, the numbers spoke volumes - they were tanking fast. So they accepted a decent exit package and walked away.

For Jodie, the transition back to employee life quickly confirmed her entrepreneurial itch. Just selling websites at a corporate gig felt like a downgrade from the autonomy she once had. The realization cemented her future path - that the risks and rewards of building her own venture were worth the fight.

It was a bittersweet closing chapter for that first agency but Jodie emerged with the unshakable tenacity and determination to build something even greater in her next iteration as a founder.

Get Paid More with a Foot-in-the-Door Offer

Revamping her client onboarding has been enlightening for Jodie. She now deeply appreciates the value of an exploratory conversation to truly get to know prospects. In the past, she learned the hard way that seeming like a good fit upfront doesn't guarantee long-term alignment.

These days, Jodie's process kicks off with discovery calls and initial questions, but quickly dives into extensive conversations searching for that essential common ground. It's a critical step to prevent getting trapped in contracts misaligned with her agency's core. For Jodie, there must be a palpable connection - a sense you could comfortably chat with this person as a friend, beyond the business transaction. Without shared fundamental beliefs and values, any working relationship is doomed.

The next step to improve this approach would be to offer a "foot-in-the-door" to collaborate on high-level planning. This offer vets both sides - proving the client's seriousness and fit, while showcasing Jodie's agency value with some initial results. It's a win-win for rapidly progressing viable prospects toward full-scope engagements at well-deserved premium fees. With good results on this end, clients will see the value you bring for their business and be willing to pay a higher ticket to get there.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Do you dream of running a big agency? What’s your target number and how do you think you’d handle the added stress of an increasingly larger team? Today’s guest is the leader of an agency colossus: an over half-billion-dollar behemoth with around 4,000 employees spanning the globe, a scale very few founders could even imagine. He’ll share invaluable insights into engineering colossal expansion, the leadership mindset needed to wrangle this growth, and how his team handles agency valuations in their search to continue the agency’s growth. Tune in to this must-listen episode if you're looking for inspiration and practical advice on taking your agency to the next level.

Dimi Albers is the global CEO of DEPT, an agency that has seen phenomenal growth over the past eight years. He shares the pivotal moment back in 2014 when the partners at Dept decided to shift their focus from being a Netherlands-centric design and tech agency to becoming a global player that covers the full digital customer journey and the strategy behind acquiring 33 agencies.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The road to scaling to $500M.

  • Lessons from a cultural mismatch.

  • Inspiring your leadership team.

  • Elements to consider for an agency valuation.

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Convert Masterclass: Do you want the ultimate guide to building a profitable and self-driven sales team? Access our FREE masterclass and learn how much you should be charging to increase profitability, how to train your salespeople to respond to any objections, and more. Just go to AgencyMastery360.com/convert and unlock maximum profits.

Taking a $500M Agency to Global Markets

Back in 2014, Dimi’s agency made the pivotal decision to expand its services and target international clients. They wanted to transform from a design and tech-focused agency into a company that covers the customer’s full digital journey. This strategy was considered relatively unique and presented an opportunity for growth. At the time, the agency had a very good reputation in The Netherlands and was valued at 15 million USD.

To support their ambitious plans, the agency partnered with a Dutch private equity firm. This partnership provided the necessary resources and expertise to accelerate their growth, despite initial reservations about working with a private equity firm.

Even with capital backing, they remained relatively conservative in investments. Dimi focused on establishing profitability for core revenue drivers within a tight 12-18 month timeframe. The agency pursued a two-pronged growth strategy - mergers and acquisitions supplemented by nurturing intrapreneurial talent to drive organic business wins. Organic expansion from existing client relationships delivered a steady 25% annual growth rate, which compounded as M&A activity layered in.

For Dimi, scaling an agency is fundamentally a people business and requires making sound decisions consistently rather than betting on a few big moves. It may sound boring, but he cautions against the idea of explosive growth and highlights the unglamorous but crucial factors like hard work and incremental smart choices.

His agency methodically built its value proposition in the Dutch market first. From this solid foundation, they gradually expanded into Europe, the US, and ultimately APAC - advancing to new geographies only after careful evaluation of their capability strengths and each market's receptiveness. This thoughtful, capability-driven approach to global scaling enabled successful service expansions into new territories.

Trusting Your Gut: Lessons from a Cultural Mismatch

Quite early in their journey, when they were far less experienced, DEPT partnered with an agency that ended up being a cultural mismatch. This was the sole instance Dimi can recall facing such an issue. Being a first for him at that stage, Dimi admits to underestimating how long it would take to recognize and address the disconnect.

Ultimately, even though the merger was a sound financial decision, the misaligned team needed to be merged with a more culturally compatible group to rectify matters. Looking back, he thinks he could have made faster decisions by just trusting his gut. It’s possible to determine with a high level of certainty whether a partnership or hiring decision will work out after speaking with someone for a certain amount of time. In this sense, he’s learned to trust his intuition and instincts in business.

How To Deal With “Difficult” Clients at Your Agency

Dimi's agency evolved from being generalist to niche-focused through strategic mergers and acquisitions. As specialized firms joined, it opened up new service offerings and vertical markets like Amazon advertising expansion across Europe.

Their vision for growth centered on meeting client needs first. Starting with establishing a strong portfolio in the Dutch market, they then expanded across Europe as demand grew. For Dimi, prioritizing client satisfaction and value delivery guides their expansion more than conquering specific regions.

Within the agency, discussions revolve around ensuring both client and employee happiness take center stage before finances. Dimi meets daily with clients for meaningful dialogue on how his team generates value. He also connects with internal teams to gauge engagement, workload balance, and overall well-being.

When challenging client relationships surface, Dimi emphasizes communication to understand root issues, turn situations around through solutions, and either improve dynamics or mutually part ways if necessary.

Balancing Innovation and Strategy in Agency Growth

Scaling an agency requires clarity about some key questions. First of all, WHO; Who do you want to go after? Who do you need to hire to achieve this? Who do you need to become? Additionally, Dimi has also learned to think about the WHAT and HOW, because he’s found there’s a big difference between people who are good at defining the “what we’re going to do”, and the ones who are good at the “how we’re going to do it”. Instead, of looking for the unicorn who is good at both, he recommends looking for the brilliant WHAT people and the brilliant WHO people. Working and collaborating with individuals who complement each other's strengths requires self-awareness and the ability to recognize one's own limitations.

As a visionary who is mostly concerned with the ideas or the WHAT Dimi has run into some challenges when it comes to the structure systems an agency needs once it starts experiencing growth. In the past, he’s been slow to listen to the "how" people, who have a more cautious and strategic approach, which is something he continues to work on.

How to Inspire Your Team to Dream Beyond What is Logical

Although he admits to not being the best manager, Dimi knows his strength lies in inspiring people to think beyond what is logical. And he does it by setting the example. When he and his partner created the plan to expand and scale globally, everyone thought they were crazy. However, once they reached their goals in record time, they proved the sky was the limit.

Their vision not only challenged the team to think bigger but also provided a clear direction for the organization to strive towards.

Inspiring your team is about achieving something unique. It’s not necessarily about numbers and growth, it can also be about craft. Show them the impact they’re having. For instance, if you work with non-profits, show them how their work is helping change the world for the better. Reach beyond their perceived limitations and you’ll be motivating them to keep going.

Additionally, he also highlights the importance of vulnerability and personal connection. As a leader, Dimi openly talks about his mistakes. This vulnerability creates a sense of authenticity and trust within the team. It allows team members to feel comfortable sharing their struggles and mistakes, fostering a culture of learning and growth.

Key Considerations for Successful Acquisitions

Dimi’s agency has been acquiring agencies for some time as part of its expansion plans. For him, there are two main elements for a successful merger: capabilities and geography. Beyond that, they’ll consider:

  • Culture: It is the first and most important aspect they’ll consider. Can they see themselves working and growing with their team?

  • Quality of their work.

  • Quality of their second and third generations: Basically, they look beyond the founders. Do they have a good team around them who are ambitious enough to keep growing and running the business once the founders decide to scale back?

  • Numbers: His agency has excellent growth and margins, so any agency that joins them must be at that level so it doesn’t devalue the whole when they join.

8 Elements to Consider When Doing an Agency Valuation

While a general rule of thumb is that an agency making a million in EBITDA could be valued at four times that amount, there several factors that contribute to much higher multiples paid for agencies with exceptional qualities, such as:

  1. Growth rate: The faster an agency grows, the more valuable it becomes.

  2. Market: The markets that the agency is addressing also play a role in its valuation. Agencies that are targeting larger and more lucrative markets will generally be valued higher than those targeting smaller markets.

  3. Team: It’s important to have a talented and capable team. A strong team can contribute to the agency's growth and success, which in turn increases its value.

  4. Profitability: The margin percentage, or profitability, influences an agency’s valuation. Higher margins indicate a healthier financial performance and can lead to a higher valuation.

  5. Addressable market: Agencies operating in markets with more potential for growth and expansion will generally be valued higher than those in smaller markets.

  6. Popular and sought-after capability: Agencies that specialize in a highly in-demand area, such as AI technology consultancy, will be valued higher due to the premium placed on their expertise.

  7. Recurring revenue: Agencies that have a significant portion of their revenue coming from retainer contracts are considered more valuable than those relying solely on project-based revenue.

  8. Revenue concentration: Diversification of clients and revenue sources is preferred and can contribute to a higher valuation.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Scaling_an_Agency_to_500M_with_Dimi_Albers___Ep_674.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00am MDT

Are you looking for motivation to get your agency off the ground? How has your client acquisition strategy evolved since you started? Have you tried building client communities to foster a competitive spirit that will lead to client wins? Today’s guest is a young entrepreneur who turned to marketing as a teen knowing college just wasn’t for him. He focused on learning and building a solid base and now has 400K/mo SMMA and has purchased another two agencies. He and his partner understand their strengths lie in getting businesses off the ground and recognizing potential for growth in partnerships. However, they’re still figuring out how to scale to eight figures. Tune in to learn from his inspiring journey and his tips for successful mergers and acquisitions.

Matt Shields is the founder of Estate AI, an agency that seeks to shift the paradigm for realtors who rely on referrals by teaching them how to run a business with consistent opportunity flow.  Matt is a young agency owner who has achieved impressive success in a short period. His determination and entrepreneurial spirit led him to purchase his first SMMA course at just 17 years old. Now, with over $425,000 in monthly recurring revenue, Matt shares his unique approach to acquiring agencies and achieving high profit margins.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Matt’s client acquisition strategy.

  • The $2,500 ad that got them a $1,000,000 win.

  • Building communities for client success.

  • Top tips for buying and selling your agency.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Outgrowing Self-Doubt to Catalyze Agency Success

At age 17, Matt felt school wasn't the right path for him and wanted to try a different entrepreneurial approach. He purchased a $597 marketing course that taught him key skills - sales, outreach, onboarding customers, and Facebook ads. However, as Matt took his first steps into entrepreneurship, the biggest hurdle had nothing to do with practical business tactics.

In that crucial first year, Matt was forced to face deep inner fears - the fear of failure, rejection, and not being good enough. He realized he needed to work extensively on his own psychology and overcome limiting beliefs about his young age and ability to successfully build a business. Confronting these mental roadblocks proved just as important as mastering the outward skills.

Although Matt eventually reached a good place and found success, in his view he never fully overcame self-doubt. Getting too comfortable would mean stagnation, which he wanted to avoid. While he conquered early fears around sales and now thrives in that area, he continues to face the challenge of overcoming fears of leadership and leveling up his mindset.

It's a constant process of self-improvement, because as a business grows, so too must the entrepreneur grow personally. Most recently, Matt has focused on becoming disciplined enough to consistently take action on the hard things, regardless of his passing feelings or mental resistance.

The Evolution of His Agency's Client Acquisition Strategy

Matt scaled his first agency through the strategic use of free trials. To attract initial clients, they leveraged LinkedIn automation, Facebook direct messages, and cold email outreach. This approach worked particularly well when they started emailing gym owners to offer free trial services. They completed around 70 free trials over 6 months - but only for prospects they knew could convert to paying customers. After that 6-month ramp-up period, they were generating $20,000 in recurring monthly revenue.

This early method provided valuable entrepreneurial experience. However, Matt's agency has since evolved its approach to client acquisition. They now rely on paid advertising and use the same systems they sell to run their own growth campaigns. This strategy rocketed them from $10,000 per month to $150,000 within just 3 months, hitting $350,000 in monthly revenue by their first year - all through paid ads.

To fuel this exponential growth, Matt and his partner reinvested all profits into paid media spending and building a robust sales team. They also recognized offering a compelling guarantee in their ads was crucial for conversion. Rather than innovate from scratch, they analyzed competitors' guarantees and modeled their own to be slightly better than existing market offerings. Matt believes that SMMAs don’t need to innovate, just pay attention to what works and do it better.

Their simple but realistic promise - "10 listing appointments in 6 months for realtors" - resonated powerfully with their target audience. This honed, benefit-driven guarantee helped attract a steady stream of new clients. However, Matt cautions that overused or unrealistic guarantees can become saturated and erode trust over time when not thoughtfully implemented.

A $1,000,000 Win from a $2,500 Paid Ad

According to Matt, the agency’s most successful ad was sparked by this philosophy of “paying attention to what works and do it better”. Imagine a fun, catchy music video that racked up millions of views and shares for them. For Matt's agency, that viral sensation was worth a cool $1 million in new business - all off the back of a single $2,500 ad spend!

It was a stroke of brilliance sparked by a clever HVAC ad Matt discovered. He immediately contacted that production company with a request: "Can you take this same awesome concept and adapt it to the real estate niche?"

One week and $2,500 later, the magic arrived - a fresh, industry-tailored spin on the original video that immediately resonated and took off like wildfire.

By keenly observing what's crushing it, repurposing ideas executed extremely well, and layering on innovation for further gains, he unlocked exponential success, which underscores the importance of truly understanding your audience, leveraging existing momentum cleverly, and constantly elevating your approach to stay ahead of the pack

Building Communities for Client Success

Scaling so fast, it’s fair to assume that Matt’s agency had a hard time combating churn. He does admit in the beginning the agency was not securing many deals for their clients. Despite this, clients were still happy and satisfied, a trend he also observed in his first agency acquisition. This did change a bit after the expansion of the sales team, which meant the agency’s founders stepped away from sales. To address this new low, Matt and his partner created a client community modeled after Alex Hormozi’s client mastermind concept. By bringing clients together, providing coaching, and inviting experts, they aimed to foster a competitive environment that motivated them to excel and achieve success.

The implementation of the client community proved to be a game-changer for the agency. The competitive nature of realtors within the community sparked a desire to outperform each other, leading to increased effort, dedication, and ultimately, success.

Furthermore, Matt emphasizes the role of a free Facebook group in building this community. He and his partner purchased an existing Facebook group within their niche, which had 8,000 realtors. This acquisition proved to be a valuable resource, as it provided a platform for interaction, engagement, and the opportunity to showcase their expertise. The free group served as a stepping stone for potential members to become part of the main paid community, as they were already familiar with the agency's values and offerings.

Most recently, Matt has improved by leveraging industry expert coaches. Recognizing his own limitations, he pays experts to advise clients directly. This provides high-quality guidance while ensuring his team gains deep real estate knowledge, significantly improving account management.

Lessons Learned from Early Mistakes in Community Building

In the very beginning, Matt and his team would keep their community members engaged doing eight calls per week to talk about strategy and progress. However, he now sees they were overdoing it. It was one of those early mistakes he now takes as a lesson learned. Rather than only giving people the best, the calls started becoming diluted.

Bumping up the number of calls offered resulted in a decline of their show rate. Clients didn’t have the time to show up for so many calls per week and didn’t know which ones to prioritize. Instead, make sure the quality is solid and you’ll keep people coming back.

Another early mistake he’s learned from was not establishing clear core values from the get go. He now sees the importance of being firm and upfront about the community's values, and giving potential members the option to opt out if they do not align with those values. This approach not only filters out individuals who may not be a good fit for the community but also attracts like-minded individuals who are eager to be part of a group that shares the same values.

The Top Tip for Buying and Selling Your Agency

Matt and his partner have acquired two agencies by leveraging their expertise and reputation and recognizing their limitations. With a respected reputation within a specific group of people and his partner’s coaching company adding to their perceived value, they’ve managed to draw people and sell their vision for the partnership.

For their first acquisition, it was difficult to come up with a valuation since the agency had been around for less than a year. They relied on a multiple of one-time EBITDA, although Matt admits lacked knowledge in the area and trusted his partner to make the decisions. Nowadays he would just bring in a broker to provide a legitimate valuation.

He’s since also learned the importance of legal agreements and the role of lawyers in creating these documents. In their initial partnership, they created their own agreements. However, Matt now recognizes the need to involve a mergers and acquisitions lawyer to ensure that the agreements are legitimate and protect all parties involved.

For the second acquisition, Matt met an agency owner who had a lot of potential but seemed stuck in his growth, making only around 10k a month. That owner wanted Matt to be his coach, but he would only consider getting involved with his agency as a partner. They eventually cut a deal and the partnership began with a revenue-sharing agreement and phantom equity, which eventually evolved into a flat retainer and phantom equity. This partnership proved to be successful, with the agency's revenue increasing significantly under the speaker's guidance.

Pro tip: When it comes to taking phantom stock in a partnership deal, remember that sometimes small business owners change their minds when the business starts to grow and claim less access for you under the guise of it “just being a phantom stock”. To protect yourself, make sure to always get a lawyer. It's going to cost you more in the very beginning, but it will protect you later on.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_Matt_Shields_Built_A_400K_mo_SMMA___Ep_673.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Do you find it hard to stand out on LinkedIn? Have you tried making connections there only to feel bombarded by spam? Our guest today is here to rescue your LinkedIn presence from obscurity. She specializes in coaching agency owners to transform their profiles into irresistible client magnets. During this chat, she goes over some of the most common misconceptions about LinkedIn, her concept of writing a “love letter” to your target audience, and why trying to be overly professional won’t work on this platform. Tune in to learn how to make the most of LinkedIn and differentiate yourself in this crowded digital platform.

Nicole Osborne is the founder of Wunderstars, a brand and marketing coaching program designed for agency owners and online businesses. With her help, entrepreneurs get to the bottom of how to stand out on LinkedIn. She discusses the importance of being authentic and sociable on the platform and shares insights on how to fix the common LinkedIn mistakes agency owners are making.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What’s working and not working on LinkedIn.

  • How to write a love letter to your audience.

  • How to connect through vulnerability.

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Agency Blueprint: Do you need help accelerating your agency’s growth? If you’re having trouble scaling your agency, maybe you're just too close to the identify areas where you need the most help. This is why we're setting up a free strategy session with our Scale Specialist Darby where he’ll walk you through a framework for scaling your agency faster. Just schedule a chat with Darby – no string attached – at JasonSwenk.com/Darby. Together, you'll figure out your next steps for scaling your agency faster.

Rapport Building: The Secret Weapon to Make it in Marketing

As a teenager living in former Eastern Germany, Nicole had to help out with the family’s market stall sales after both her parents lost their jobs. She was tasked with selling sunglasses and, initially, she felt awkward and shy. However, she soon realized that building rapport with potential customers was essential to successful sales. By engaging in friendly conversations and making people feel comfortable, Nicole was able to draw them in, make the sale, and get referrals.

Reflecting on this experience, she realized that many agencies, despite being excellent at marketing their clients' businesses, often struggle to market themselves effectively. They fail to overcome their fears in order to become more visible and successful on platforms like LinkedIn.

Initially, agency owners may feel the pressure to portray themselves as uber-technical experts on LinkedIn. However, Nicole suggests that being authentic and talking about everyday things can be just as effective as long as you keep your ideal clients in mind.

Not Growing On LinkedIn?  Try This

LinkedIn has proved to be THE platform to be in for many agency owners. However, a lot of people have negative perceptions of it. Even though some still think of it as a “boring” platform, it has evolved over the years, transitioning from a strictly professional and corporate platform to becoming a more sociable and engaging one.

In this sense, Nicole encourages agency owners to be authentic in how they present themselves on the platform and not stick to an outdated overly professional style in their posts. This is the only way you’ll succeed in utilizing LinkedIn to connect with people on a more personal level.

Of course, there’s no denying that interactions can get quite spammy on LinkedIn. To this, Nicole counters that email marketing can also get very spammy, yet everyone uses it to promote their businesses. Likewise, as long as individuals focus on building genuine connections, the platform can be a valuable tool for business development.

It’s important to avoid immediately jumping to a sales pitch without first assessing if there is mutual value and benefits in the connection. Instead, engage in conversation and find common ground. By taking the time to get to know each other and finding shared interests, individuals can establish a solid foundation for a meaningful connection on LinkedIn.

Approach LinkedIn as a real networking event where you would hopefully not just talk about yourself but also actively listen and engage with others. Treat it like a virtual networking party and you’ll have global reach that will allow you to work with international clients and grow your personal brand across the globe.

From LinkedIn With Love, How To Find Your Ideal Clients

What works on LinkedIn is something that can change over time, like with any social media platforms. For Nicole, one thing that will never change is the human element, which is why you should always show up as yourself.

Instead of putting on a professional mask, start by thinking about what your ideal clients need and focus on that. It’s an approach she links to writing a love letter. Ask yourself what would appeal to your audience? What would they find interesting? What is it they're struggling with? What is it they're really hoping to achieve? Showcase your agency's culture, creativity, and problem-solving abilities and present yourself as a guide to help them get to where they want to be.

As to letting your authenticity shine through, don’t forget the importance of the human element. In this regard, while she’s all about making processes more efficient, Nicole advises not to lean too much on automation because it may hinder your ability to connect with potential clients on a personal level. Understanding your target audience and what resonates with them is crucial to bringing personality to these interactions, and it can’t be effectively done if you’re solely relying on AI tools.

Additionally, agencies should avoid outsourcing without providing a thorough brief and should be cautious of using appointment setters who may spam potential clients. These approaches can come across as impersonal and may not effectively showcase the agency's unique value.

Pro tip: Create polls that tap into your audience’s pain points. By reaching out to those who participate in the polls and engaging in conversations, agencies can provide value, offer tips, and potentially encourage further discussions about their services.

Ditch the Superhero Complex: Connect Through Vulnerability

One mistake agency owners make in how they present themselves on social media platforms is thinking they need to appear as superheroes who have everything figured out. In reality, people feel much more drawn to the vulnerability of someone admitting that they got to this point after making many mistakes. By sharing personal experiences and lessons learned, agency owners can establish a sense of relatability and authenticity, which in turn builds trust and credibility with their audience.

Additionally, having the confidence to talk about your mistakes can help you stand out. If you post like everyone else you’ll blend so much into the background that no one will ever notice you, which is certainly not the point of marketing. By being willing to share embarrassing or outrageous stories, you can differentiate yourself from competitors in the crowded social media landscape and capture your target audience’s attention.

Furthermore, focusing on specific social media platforms that align with your target audience will also help you stand out where it counts. For Nicole, LinkedIn is a platform where professionals are actively seeking learning and networking opportunities. She advises agency owners who’ve tried to use LinkedIn in the past and not seen results to rethink their strategy by following these steps: show up as your authentic self, write as if you’re writing a “love letter” to your audience, be vulnerable, and be visible.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_to_Stand_Out_on_LinkedIn_with_Nicole_Osborne___Ep_672.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Are you running a full-service agency? Have you already considered niching down? What about broadening your services once you do? Today’s guest built an agency that became a world authority on Google ads. Even though he eventually sold, he now believes more growth may have been possible with patience and the vision to expand his services after niching down, which he calls the “hourglass method”. Tune in to learn about his early failures and successes as a young entrepreneur, the lessons he takes from his years of experience and selling his agency, and why he believes agencies are the future of most businesses.

Kasim Aslam is the founder of Solutions 8, a highly successful Google Ads agency and the host of the Perpetual Traffic podcast. After seeing his dreams crushed by a financial collapse and rebuilding to reach the highest successes in the industry, Kasim talks about the importance of having a strong business partner and lessons he took from selling his agency. Tune in to gain insights from Kasim's experiences and learn valuable lessons from his agency success story.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why it’s okay to start broad before niching down.

  • Becoming an authority on Google ads.

  • Attracting potential buyers to your agency.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Ending Up $150,000 in Debt in His Early 20s

Despite having sold the most successful Google Ads agency and knowing few people have ever gotten to that level of success in the industry, Kasim is quick to acknowledge he’s not the brains of the operation. The joke between him and his partner is that Kasim made promises and his partner kept them, which worked out really well for both. After growing their agency which they sold in 2022 to now, for the first time in two decades – he’s an employee.

In recalling his agency journey, Kasim first remembers his greatest failures. In his early 20’s, he was working in the banking industry building software right at the time of the financial collapse of 2008. “It was the best thing that could’ve happened” he says looking back. He was making way too much money at a young age, had just bought his first house, a car, and was spending way more than he should have. However, once he lost his job he was quickly reminded that he did not actually own those things and ended up losing them. He was just 22 years old, $150,000 in debt and felt his life was over.

The lack of funds to float a percentage of a software building project had him searching for other types of web work. Website maintenance quickly led to website development, SEO work, and eventually to his agency, Solutions 8.

The Secret to Choosing The Best Niche For Your Agency

Starting an agency after a personal setback can be a daunting task, but Kasim managed to rebuild from scratch to have a profitable business with 15 employees. However, he went too wide on his offering and soon found it felt like having eight different businesses.

The agency was certainly profitable but he was miserable. The business could not run without him and he was working 12-hour days. At one point, he tried to sell the business. “I kept trying to get rid of it,” he recalls. He never got too close to actually selling it, since the valuation offered by brokers didn’t come close to his expectations and he knew his books were a mess, which made the agency much more difficult to sell.

Many things needed to be fixed, so Kasim hired his current business partner with the intention of having him run the agency. Right away, his partner started to highlight issues that could be fixed. Having someone in the trenches with him reignited Kasim’s passion for the agency and soon they were working on growing it together.

The years of running a full-service agency were incredibly stressful, but Kasim sustains it was the best way to eventually find success in the right niche. “You can’t niche down right off the gate because if you do, you’ll pick the wrong niche,” he says. In his view, it’s okay to start broad as long as you have the intention of niching down.

Once a niche is established and successful, Kasim suggests branching out to add related services or offerings. It’s the hourglass formula – start broad, niche down, branch out – to maximize your business’ potential and cater to a wider range of clients.

How His Agency Became the World Authority on Google Ads

The Google Ads piece of the business started by adding this offering to his real estate business. He picked the best Google Ads agency he could find and the partnership went so well that Kasim was soon sending agency clients their way. On one hand, it killed his margins but it was turnkey so they handled everything and all Kasim had to do was sell it and hand it over. Eventually, he started selling Google Ads as a supplement.

It was Kasim’s partner who first suggested the agency should start selling Google Ads.  Although initially hesitant, fearing that it would limit their scope, Kasim eventually recognized the value of specializing. Having first focused on building sales and client support, he was ready to build the fulfillment piece by niching down.

Does he regret selling someone else’s services? Not at all. Kasim’s message to agency owners is that it’s okay to resale somebody else’s product while you’re still figuring out your niche; just remember the importance of owning the relationships and providing value beyond being an affiliate.

As his agency grew and became three times the size of the partner agency, issues started to arise. He needed more resources from the partner agency to meet the demands of his expanding client base. However, the partner agency was hesitant to invest too much, fearing they could easily take their business elsewhere.

Negotiations for a new agreement between the two agencies turned sour and, ultimately, Kasim resorted to swiftly building an entire fulfillment team in India by targeting Google's offices there. The transition was not without its challenges, but with their previous experience with the partner agency they soon became a niche authority.

When to Sell Your Agency and How to Get More

Kasim did end up returning to the idea of selling, now in a better position to get the valuation he expected. He had even received numerous unsolicited offers for his agency, with some of them coming from reputable venture capital firms. However, he was advised to prioritize a disciplined process and not settle for the first offer that came his way. So he conducted a competitive process exploring multiple options to secure the best deal.

Interestingly, Kasim notes that the offer that eventually caught his attention came from a company backed by SoftBank, based in India. He had initially set his sights on offers from Silicon Valley companies. However, his mentor saw potential in this particular offer due to their "buy-side mandate," which made them a serious contender.

In terms of the price, Kasim admits he sold his agency for lower than he could have negotiated. However, it was an all-cash transaction with light due diligence and a short timeline, indicating that the buyer was serious and had the necessary funds.

In terms of timing, he firmly believes he sold just in time, with AI about to replicate what they did. This way, he was able to capitalize on the demand for his agency's expertise and avoid potential hurdles in the future.

Reflecting on what he could have done differently to potentially negotiate a higher price, Kasim knows he could’ve explored other options and engaged in more negotiations. However, he doesn't dwell on this, as he is satisfied with the terms of the deal.

Learning to Craft a Compelling Story to Attract Potential Buyers

Even though he doesn’t regret the selling price and moment, there are some things Kasim would’ve done differently with the agency. For instance, one of the main missed opportunities for revenue growth was the failure to pursue other avenues of monetization.

Looking back, he sees he could have doubled his revenue if he had added Facebook ads to his agency's services. Despite specializing in Google ads, many of his clients expressed interest in running ads on other platforms, such as Facebook. However, he became too focused on what was working and didn't explore these opportunities further.

Kasim realizes that he should have focused more on showcasing the potential growth of his agency, rather than just its current success. In this sense, he also missed the opportunity to tell a compelling story about a company on the brink of exponential growth that could attract more buyers and potentially increase the value of the company. With this, he’s learned that not only having strong financial performance but also crafting a narrative that captures the imagination and potential of the business.

Why Agencies Continue To Be The Future of Business

With new experience and perspective gained after selling, Kasim now thinks about the importance of taking risks, trying new things, and learning from failures during the early stages of your career.

Starting out young gives you the opportunity to experiment and try out everything and figure out who you are. This is true for anything in life, including entrepreneurship. Of course, this means you’ll also mess up a lot, and that’s okay, as long as you stay true to your character.

If you do this in your twenties, you’ll have an idea of what you want to give a serious try by your thirties. With a better perspective, your forties will be the time to cash out.

For his part, Kasim emphasizes the importance of confidence in one's abilities, which he believes comes from having enough experience. By now, he has built multiple successful agencies, and once you have achieved something once, it becomes easier to replicate that success. For his next steps, he would love to broaden his horizons but also keep in mind that the agency model is the future of business. Despite the challenges and saturation in the agency space, Kasim believes in its potential and his ability to excel in it.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Does your agency offer web design services? What is your perspective on creating impactful agency web design? What do you think of how most websites are currently utilized? Today’s guest is an expert in website design with a growth-driven approach to agency web design. He’s been working in web design ever since the early days of the internet and believes nowadays many businesses are building low-quality websites focused only on sales. In his opinion, websites should have a strong technical foundation and create a journey that leads to engagement and conversions. Tune in to learn about his passion for creating impactful websites, how he developed a very effective foot-in-the-door, and how he’s embraced podcasting as a way to attract the type of client he wants to work with.

Mark Bevington is the CEO and founder of Ninedot, a website design and development agency that takes underperforming websites and turns them into the best-selling tools for their clients. Mark shares his insights on the limitations of traditional websites and the importance of growth-driven design. With over 23 years of experience, he sees a need for websites to evolve and adapt to changing analytics and customer preferences and allow for easy updates that align with business evolution.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • How to provide value in web design.

  • WebCare as a foot-in-the-door strategy.

  • Using a podcast to create meaningful connections.

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Three Differentiating Factors that You’ll Find in Any Quality Website

With over twenty years in the industry, Mark has seen a lot as a marketer and agency owner. When he started his agency, the internet wasn’t really a thing, so they focused more on print work and newsletters and eventually moved to digital. However, some things remain unchanged because they’re at the core of a solid business strategy, starting with quality, which has taken a hit with the onset of AI.

In his opinion, since the pandemic and the surge of many new agencies that don’t work with the necessary standards, it’s become common to see crappy work all around. It can be challenging to differentiate quality work from garbage in the context of website design and development. Here are some differentiating factors:

  1. A reputable agency or designer takes the time to thoroughly analyze the client's business, target audience, and goals before embarking on the project. They conduct research and gather relevant information to ensure that the website aligns with the client's brand identity and effectively communicates their message.

  2. A well-designed website is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and optimized for different devices and browsers. For Mark, UI and UX have become such buzzwords and most people don't understand what that means. It’s not just about getting a client from point A to point B. Behind that should be an understanding of the experience based on the journey you're creating.

  3. A website should not be a static entity but rather an evolving platform that adapts to changing market dynamics and user preferences. A quality web agency conducts A/B tests, analyzes user behavior, and makes necessary adjustments to improve conversion rates and achieve business objectives. Garbage work, on the other hand, lacks this growth-driven approach and fails to leverage data to enhance the website's effectiveness.

Affordable Website Support as a Strategy for Long-Term Success

Mark’s web design agency has always provided some degree of web maintenance for its clients. However, as clients continually asked for a more affordable dedicated website support option, the agency developed a new service called WebCare. Through this service, his agency helps clients properly maintain the core functions of their websites by having an expert team keep a watchful eye out for technical issues. As Mark notes, most clients are brilliant at their actual business but lack the technical knowledge needed to run a website themselves and need reliable, judgement-free support to maintain it.

WebCare is all about maintaining a website as a long-term investment. While the aesthetics of a website may become outdated over time, proper maintenance ensures it continues to function effectively.

Additionally, it’s become a very effective foot-in-the-door offer for them. If a client comes to them with an underperforming site, they can offer this affordable option instead of hitting them right off the back with an expensive rebuild and get the relationship going. Being able to show quick wins to clients is a key element in building trust and further extending that relationship.

The Game Changer: Embracing Change Through a Mastermind

As a business owner, Mark acknowledges it can be difficult to allow himself to be vulnerable and open to change. Because of this, his business was at a point profitable but still not at the scale it could have been.

In this sense, becoming a mastermind member has proved to be the game changer for his agency’s growth as well as an emotional roller coaster.

The first 12 months were all about changing everything he thought worked about the business. Despite the initial challenges and doubts, the results of implementing these changes have been impressive in year two. Of course, success does not happen overnight and it requires time and effort to see the desired outcomes, but the mastermind has provided him with the necessary resources and support to implement the changes effectively.

After a year of establishing the right processes and SOPs, Mark now realizes how inefficient they really were with him handling too many tasks outside his expertise area. He needed to find people to handle these tasks. It was an investment – both financial and it terms of time – to get it right, but it’s been definitely worth it. This shift has brought newfound freedom to spend more time on personal interests and taking the time to think, implement, and try new strategies to grow the business.

Creating Meaningful Connections & Reaching the Right Audience with a Podcast

Even though his podcast it’s still in its early stages after launching three months ago, Mark loves podcasting as a way to connect with others, share stories, and create meaningful connections.

It all started as a way to reach more clients in the pet industry, since this is work Mark enjoys so much. A podcast seemed like a good way to get in contact with adoption shelters, animal centers, and independent pet companies.

Although he had initial resistance to the idea of starting a podcast, after discussing it with his colleagues and receiving encouragement, he decided to give it a try. It turned out to be another great benefit of being a mastermind member. The encouragement he received from the team pushed him to get into a world he now enjoys very much, with the experience not only serving as a marketing tool but also as a way to build unique relationships and friendships.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Are you trying to grow your SMMA but can’t get past the referrals stage? What’s holding you back when it comes to continuing your growth and reaching eight figures? Today’s guest may not have written the book on how to start a SMMA, but he sure read it from cover to cover and then threw all the rules out the window. He is a young agency owner who started out with dreams of outgrowing his post-college job and gaining the sort of independence and success he knew could come from entrepreneurship. He endured long months of looking for his first client and the hardships of trying to stand out before finding the right niche. Tune in to hear about the challenges and advantages of being a young agency owner and his experience and insights in growing a SMMA.

Stevie Johnston is the young entrepreneur behind Digital Ox Zero, a specialized marketing agency that offers turnkey digital marketing solutions, expert appointment-setting services, and business coaching for Chiropractic, Dental, and Integrated Medical Clinics. Stevie niched the niche and doubled down on a bold strategy, allowing him to scale his modest digital agency from operating out of his apartment to a $500K/month recurring industry-leading powerhouse with over 20 employees.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Finding the right formula for SMMA growth.

  • Going beyond referrals to build a scalable agency.

  • Focusing on creating a steady recruitment pipeline.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 Unlocking His Marketing Potential & Finding His Drive

Stevie describes himself as a Tai Lopez case study, as it was one of his ads that inspired him to build his own agency. He figured if he managed to get at least ten clients to each pay him $1,000 per month he’d be able to have freedom, travel, and enjoy life as an agency owner.

Having recently graduated, Stevie found himself working his same college job at 23 and feeling stuck. He knew something needed to change and entrepreneurship offered a straightforward solution to his desire for a better life.

Tai Lopez’s ads promised exactly the type of opportunity he needed to do something different. It seemed simple, but of course he soon realized it was actually very hard. However, it was a proven business model so he trusted that getting through the learning curve would land him on the right path. He held strong for seven months waiting for that first and ended his first year with 20K in revenue.

But how did he stay motivated? Even though he had a hard time finding that first client, Stevie felt this was his chance. Going back to working at the juice bar was not an option. He felt he had a lot to offer as a great communicator with good work ethic; he just needed that first client to make it work.

Once he had his first clients, prospecting, learning sales, and working 10-14 hours from his small apartment was nowhere near the pain of going back to a job that only offered financial constraints and lack of freedom.

Initial Turning Points & Finding the Right Formula for SMMA Growth

The big turning point for Stevie was finding the right niche. Although he started out working with chiropractors, which seemed focused enough, it was still hard to stand out in a market with so much competition. When a client asked him to help them advertise their spinal decompression machine, he found a specialty within a specialty that actually needed attention and had lots of demand. Focusing on this niche he not only saw more consistent results, he became a niche leader.

A more specialized focus also helped justify a higher price point, which helped him get to 20K. As the agency continued to grow, however, Stevie realized they had no big differentiator. Anyone can run ads and it seemed like everyone did at that point, which started a big race to the bottom while high turnover rates were impacting his agency’s growth.

It was very frustrating to realize that his clients weren’t getting the results they wanted as they kept complaining the leads were bad. In an attempt to keep a client, Stevie offered to take over sales calls for one month. It was his moment to “get in the trenches” and figure out what was not connecting. That month they 4X the amount of leads turned into appointments. The model did work, they just needed someone at the phone with basic sales skills, energy, and that would follow up with clients.

As momentum built, Stevie first hired a dedicated sales associate and then continued staffing specialists internally, subsidizing expenses by raising prices. It was the differentiator they needed. It required more employees, more expenses, and a lot more headaches, but they were solving a problem no one else was willing to solve. As a result, referrals went through the roof, churn plummeted, and prices continued to climb.

Building Systems to Create a Scalable SMMA

As the agency gained more clients, the demand for their services grew exponentially, largely due to influential clients in the industry spreading the word about the agency's effectiveness.

This rapid growth came with the pressures of going from a small team of two to having ten employees and an office. They needed to set goals, track key performance indicators (KPIs), and develop effective hiring and training processes. The overwhelming nature of these tasks prompted Stevie to seek guidance from Judge Graham, a prominent figure in the agency space who had achieved a significant exit and subsequent sale of his agency.

With this guidance, Stevie began implementing a more structured approach to building his agency. This included focusing on enterprise value, establishing values and meeting rhythms, and honing hiring and management techniques. The goal was to create a scalable agency that could continue to grow and provide value to clients.

Going beyond referrals

Throughout their growth, referrals remained a significant driver of business for the agency. The influential clients who initially spread the word about their services continued to refer new clients, contributing to their ongoing success. However, at 400K high turnover rates became a problem again. With referrals bringing in five to eight clients per month and the agency losing eight clients per month, they found themselves at the same plateau as they did at 50K.

This realization led Stevie to understand the limitations of relying solely on referrals for business growth. Referrals alone were not enough to sustain the agency's growth.

It was time to start focusing efforts on inbound and outbound marketing, starting with paid ads. Additionally, he started building a sales development representative (SDR) team with two people responsible for cold calling potential clients and setting up demos for the agency's account executives. This new channel of outbound sales proved to be successful, as the agency was able to land five clients in one month solely through cold calls.

With the SDR team starting to bring some good results, Stevie’s already thinking about establishing other channels to drive growth. Agencies should aim to have at least two channels in order to break through the million-dollar mark in revenue. Once this milestone is achieved, additional channels can be added to further scale the business. For Stevie, it’s just something you have to do if you’re serious about year-on-year growth.

What Next: Focusing on a Full Recruitment Pipeline

Now close to hitting eight figures, Stevie has been meditating on what it takes to get to the next level. What people say about “what got you here won’t get you to the next level” is ringing very true to him as he reassesses the agency’s core values.

One key aspect he realized could be holding them back is not having a full recruitment pipeline, which is why he is hiring a full-time recruiter. Once you’re around the 20-million mark, it’s time to bring in a dedicated recruiter instead of relying on external recruiters and paying fees. As your agency grows, having a pipeline of talented individuals will be just as important as having a pipeline of clients. This way, agencies can better position themselves for success and overcome challenges associated with rapid growth.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: How_Stevie_Johnston_10Xed_His_SMMA_To_500K_mo_Recurring___Ep_669.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

What kind of culture do you promote at your agency? Do you keep track of things employees say are hitting or not hitting the mark about the culture? How has your culture changed since the pandemic? Today’s guest runs a 260-employee agency and has put great care to ensure that work flexibility and employee happiness are a big part of their culture. She believes giving employees reasons to stay at her agency are much more beneficial than the work of having to constantly replace key roles due to high turnout rates. Tune in to learn about the ways she has reintroduced in-person activities while keeping a mostly remote workflow and how she makes sure employees feel heard.

Jane Crisan is the CEO of Rain the Growth Agency, a fully integrated performance-based agency based in Portland, Oregon. Her agency offers agency a unique approach to scaling brands with deep expertise in media, creative, strategy, and analytics. With more than half of their employees working from all over the country, they’ve made a commitment to having a flexible-first workforce as a way to keep employees happy. Tune in to see their journey to small independent business to a multimillion-dollar agency and the struggles to maintain a flexible work culture following the pandemic.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Mapping out the path for employee career progression.

  • Building community while respecting work flexibility.

  • Making a deliberate effort to create culture.

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Making Sure Employees Feel Heard & Can Express Their Concerns

Like many businesses, Jane’s agency took the pandemic as a chance to open up its doors to talent from all over the country. It was a great opportunity to grow the agency, which started 25 years ago as a small independent agency and now has around 260 employees.

Getting access to talent they probably would’ve never been able to relocate to Portland was a huge advantage and it also meant committing to being a flexible-first agency. Jane puts a lot of effort into maintaining low turnover levels, and although she knows there’s no magic solution to making everyone happy, there are a few things she’s found are very important to creating a sound work environment. For starters, the agency conducts a yearly all-employee survey to gather feedback and identify areas of improvement. This survey has been conducted for the past 10 years and allows the agency to track trends and address any concerns.

The Importance of Mapping Out the Path

Over the years, the number one thing that came across with the annual survey was career progression. To address this, the agency invests time and resources in helping employees see a future within the organization. They employ a talent management assessment system called the "nine box," which assesses an employee's potential for growth and where they currently stand in their career. This system allows them to identify high performers, future leaders, and individuals who may need additional support or training.

The agency is also very committed to quarterly goal setting and tracks whether departments and individuals are setting and achieving their goals. For Jane, no matter the size of the agency, goal setting a priority and holding employees accountable helps creates a culture of continuous improvement and personal development.

Having a clear growth track can help tremendously to keep people motivated. Instead of shifting people's goals every quarter, at Jane’s agency the senior team sits down at the beginning of the year and establish career progression goals for each employee. This long-term approach allows employees to have a clear vision of their growth trajectory and helps them stay focused on their objectives throughout the year.

Additionally, the agency conducts quarterly check-ins to ensure that employees and their managers are on the same page and to make any necessary adjustments. Sometimes employees may find that their initial goal to be managers didn’t turn out to be what they expected and want to change paths. Many individuals excel as individual contributors and may feel miserable when forced into management positions. This is why it’s so important to help employees discern their strengths and interests, guiding them towards the most suitable career paths.

Mastering the Remote Agency Balancing Act

As a mostly distributed agency, Jane confronts an ironic challenge - remotely fostering the connections that sustain a thriving culture. Granting location flexibility wins employee applause yet strains community ties essential for engagement.

Seeking solutions – and since employees themselves expressed missing in-person interactions – Jane orchestrates annual on-site summits converging far-flung teams under one roof. Finally pairing names to faces, coworkers bond face-to-face, forging ties persisting long after their Portland return.

Supplementing yearly reunions, virtual initiatives facilitate camaraderie despite distance. Happy hours, trivia and Slack channels give employees seeking camaraderie space to interact casually. Laughter and levity still permeate daily experience.

While remote work poses undeniable engagement obstacles, for Jane flexibility prevails as a strategic advantage with proper caretaking. Her creative efforts to nurture connection amidst constraints highlight that distributed teams can thrive through unity-focused systems.

With purposeful community-building as a priority, employees feel recognized, valued and bonded through shared experience - the foundation for an agile, resilient agency built to go the distance. Though staying remote requires constant creativity, with the right workplace culture any isolated gaps soon disappear.

Cultivating Connective Tissue Through Deliberate Building

Jane understands a thriving agency relies on thriving teams. And cohesive teams demand deliberate culture cultivation. Hence the urgency of making connection central to company identity - binding individuals to collaborative community. Deliberate culture builds strong teams, so her focus is on creating and maintaining a set of values, behaviors, and practices that align with the company's goals and objectives. When a company takes intentional steps to cultivate a positive and inclusive culture, it lays the foundation for building strong teams.

For Jane, one of the key aspects of deliberate culture is the emphasis on connection and community. She prioritizes regular team meetings, both in-person and virtually, where team members have the opportunity to interact and collaborate. By fostering these connections, team members feel a sense of belonging and are more likely to stay with the company for a longer period.

Over time, the priority placed on genuine human relationships cements loyalty even amidst competing opportunities. When agency priorities align with employee values beyond paychecks, retention risk reduces.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


What fears or limiting beliefs hold agency owners back from pricing their services assertively? What critical ingredients are you missing to confidently quantify value? Today’s guest co-founded a small yet highly profitable creative agency in less than four years by starting out with a clear concept of the value she provides. Charging according to your worth is usually a difficult subject for many agency owners, as it gets to the core of how they value their work. However, establishing your value and pricing it accordingly sits at the heart of every agency's growth potential. Tune in to learn how starting out with a clear idea of your pricing will help you find your ideal audience faster and weed out bad prospects.

Shannon Fitzgerald is the co-founder and CCO of The Hooligans Agency, a boutique agency specializing in video content for small to mid-size agencies, advocacy organization, non-profits, and more. As she puts it, they make culturally dope shit that makes the world a more fair and equitable place. Shannon recalls her road from the media industry to focusing on the political and advocacy space, the challenge of not losing yourself in hustle culture, and much more.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Standing unflinching on price.

  • Communicating your values to find the right clients.

  • How to build a workflow structure to ensure smooth agency sailing.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

From Success in Entertainment to Becoming an Agent of Change

After starting her media career very young working at the BBC and rising up the ranks at MTV developing binge-worthy series, Shannon decided to change her focus and go beyond primetime profits into the political field.

Following the 2016 election, she became a creative strategist and worked with over 80 congressional and statewide candidates. Eventually, she decided to create her own agency to focus on the non-profit and advocacy space, which was in great need of a new creative and storytelling perspective, and has been working on getting these more traditionally-minded organizations to take creative risks.

Standing Unflinching on Price: Projecting Self-Worth to Clients

For Shannon, quantifying her agency's value started by trusting decades of expertise. With 20 years as an entertainment power player, her creative vision at last found purpose converging politics with media. Intuitively connecting candidates' objectives to audience-captivating messaging, early wins confirmed - this was her niche.

Even while securing that first client, self-doubt barely surfaced. Shannon charged $1,200 for a 30-second ad, cementing her positioning confidence. She knew the right customers would recognize a premium creative's worth and pay for ingenuity.

Ultimately, if you don’t understand your worth, neither will clients. For founders struggling to project certainty, she admits self-valuation reflects inner beliefs. Shannon and her partner started out establishing their worth and trusting the right clients will appreciate their expertise and have been successful in finding an audience. Establishing your worth can be really difficult, but it’s a hurdle all agency owners must face on their path to growth. By boldly embracing self-worth from inception, her agency found its niche and charted the path toward maximum impact.

How to Communicate Value to Find the Right Clients

Once you have a clear understanding of your worth, it is important to effectively communicate this value to your prospects. This involves highlighting your experience, expertise, and the unique solutions you bring to the table. Being clear about your worth will also help you be clear about the type of client you want to work with. For Shannon, this means making sure the values are aligned; is the message they want to put into the world something she wants the agency to spend time on? Are they willing to try new things and trust her agency’s guidance? In this sense, she’ll typically turn in a document with 5 to 6 ideas for the client’s project varying from new and risky to more moderate. The client’s pick will let her know how far they’re willing to go in terms of creative risks. Next, they’ll develop the selected idea to create a campaign.

It is also important to be confident in your pricing and not undersell yourself. Charging prices that accurately reflect your abilities and the impact of your work are essential for attracting clients who appreciate and are willing to pay for your services. Confidence in pricing allows you to establish profitability, work fewer hours, and have the freedom to do what you love.

Structuring Workflows for Smooth Agency Sailing

Shannon's agency survives the chaos of campaign cycles through ruthless workflow efficiency. By maximizing available resources and strictly limiting revision round robin, projects emerge unscathed by decision delays.

Early on, Shannon learned overthinking routinely murdered great ideas. Now her team trusts initial creative sparks, moving decisively to harness that raw momentum. This scrappy, disciplined approach sets firm boundaries around agency bandwidth, eliminating time-draining distractions.

With non-negotiable processes comes responsibility on the client side as well. With cascading deadlines for feedback completion, accountability transfers to customers themselves. Stakeholders must consolidate direction, no drifting directives landing sporadically.

Failing that test risks additional charges - fees enforcing alignment. Weekend emergency edits draw penalties too. These rules, while rarely weaponized, provide productive pressure. Just knowing outputs remain on track guides teams internally to hit targets for which they stand accountable.

In such high-stakes environments, structure keeps all moving briskly towards the finish. By maximizing her crew’s gifts and limiting second-guessing revision requests, Shannon’s agency delivers despite unforgiving timelines. Within carefully defined constraints, creativity thrives.

Finally, although they are starting to move more towards a retainer-based model, Shannon talks about being project-based so far and how it’s helped her small team take on different kinds of projects. For big projects, they’ll call in contractors who’ll work with them for the duration of the project. This has allowed them to stay flexible about the type of projects they take on and not have to build a bigger team before the agency is ready.

Designing Your Agency Around Your Life & Not the Other Way Around

Shannon has been conscious of building the agency around her life. As someone who cannot stand hustle culture and the glorification of being busy, she wanted nothing to do with a life dedicated solely to working. Of course, building a business is no easy feat and requires a lot of work but she gives herself permission to take a break, workout, and take care of her mental health if needed.

Working non-stop will only lead to burnout. What you really need to start building the life you want today is a clear vision of what you want. How does that life look like? What do you need to start doing now to make that happen? How do you need to hire? Shannon refers to the idea of making yourself as obsolete and unnecessary as possible by building a team that can operate without you, ensuring continuity and growth.

Once agency owners free themselves from minor tasks, they can focus on strategy and on leveling up to take their agency to the next level. An agency can only reach its maximum potential based on the current level of its owner. The goal should be to create systems and processes that can sustain the agency's growth even if you’re not directly involved in every aspect of the business.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Cracking_Profitable_Agency_Growth_with_Shannon_Fitzgerald___Ep_667.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Are you looking for ways to differentiate your agency? Have you considered expanding your agency’s offering with proprietary technology? Today’s guest markets to franchise systems and offers a platform built for their specific marketing needs. It’s a great way to cater to clients’ specific pain points while increasing his agency’s value. He details the unique challenges and opportunities of marketing for franchise systems, the strategic decisions behind developing proprietary technology to better serve clients, and the challenge of getting most clients to adopt this solution.

Alex Porter is the CEO of Location3, a partner agency for multi-unit brands and franchise systems. His agency has been delivering enterprise strategy with local activation for clients and helped them drive digital transformation since 1999. Tune in to gain valuable perspective on growing and scaling your agency and learning how having their own platform has helped them differentiate from the competition.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Finding their perfect niche.
  • Marketing to franchises.
  • Offering a dedicated platform for franchisees.

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Agency Blueprint: Do you need help accelerating your agency’s growth? If you’re having trouble scaling your agency, maybe you're just too close to the identify areas where you need the most help. This is why we're setting up a free strategy session with our Scale Specialist Darby where he’ll walk you through a framework for scaling your agency faster. Just schedule a chat with Darby – no string attached – at JasonSwenk.com/Darby. Together, you'll figure out your next steps for scaling your agency faster.

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.

Why Franchises was the Perfect Niche for This Agency

25 years ago, Alex was ready to go back to college for a PhD in Sports Psychology when he ran to an old buddy who told him the internet was going to be the next big thing. He offered him a job at his startup where he could learn about internet marketing. The appeal of getting very early into something like that was exciting, so he changed his plans and followed his friend and began his career in marketing.

About five years ago, after working for Location3 for many years, Alex and the team decided the agency would focus on the franchise space after one of their biggest clients went out of business. This event led the company to reevaluate their purpose and strengths. They realized they had a strong track record of working with franchise brands and enjoyed the relationships they had built in that industry.

One of the key insights looking into this space was that there were very few agencies specifically catering to franchises. This presented an opportunity for them to differentiate themselves and provide targeted solutions to franchise systems and their individual franchisees.

What It’s Like to Work With Franchises

The success of franchise marketing lies in the mindset of innovation. Alex and the team not only understand the business of their franchise clients but also focus on driving revenue. They constantly test new tactics and ensure that each dollar is spent efficiently.

However, franchise marketing also presents unique challenges, particularly in navigating the corporate versus individual franchisee relationship. Location3 primarily starts at the franchisor level, as they are responsible for assisting their franchisees in their marketing efforts. This why they first take the time to understand how this particular relationship works from a funding perspective in each case and aim to become the franchisors preferred vendor that they will then recommend to franchisees.

In terms of engaging with franchisees, most franchise systems have annual conferences to discuss operations, finance, and marketing. Location3 typically attends these conferences and provide education on new marketing strategies and showcase data-driven results. Throughout the year, they continue to engage franchisees with webinars and information to keep them updated on the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.

Bridging the Tech Gap for Franchise Marketing with Their Own Technology Solution

Franchise marketing is unique in that each franchisee acts as their own Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). The success of their marketing efforts directly impacts their individual lives, making it a highly invested interest for them. Location3 recognized this and developed its own platform called Local Act, which allows franchisees to understand and optimize their local digital marketing efforts.

Through Local Act, franchisees can track metrics such as website traffic, reviews, phone calls, and conversions. They can also analyze the effectiveness of their local marketing campaigns and make data-driven decisions to drive customer acquisition and revenue. The response has been very rewarding.

According to Alex, the decision to build the platform was primarily driven by client demand. Location3 saw there was no existing solution in the marketplace that met their clients' needs. The franchisees wanted their information platformed, and instead of building an Excel dashboard, they saw the value of hosting that data. Additionally, they believed that incorporating technology into their business would increase their company's value and enable them to transition from a services-based business to a technology-enabled services business.

Implementing this technology-enabled service required hiring various roles within their software engineering department, including a database person, a UI (user interface) designer, a project manager, and data analysts and data scientists to help understand and incorporate AI and machine learning findings into their data analysis.

Despite the company's belief in their tool for franchisees to drive customer acquisition at a reasonable cost, the adoption rate has not reached its full potential. This may stem from the fact that some franchisees still rely on traditional marketing methods like direct mail and is something Alex will continue to address moving forward.

Growth Plans: Calculated M&A Pursuits

In terms of growth strategies, Alex is considering the possibility of acquisitions. By acquiring companies that are similar to them but lack the technology platform, Location3 can seamlessly integrate them, further enhancing their services. Additionally, they plan to invest more in sales and marketing to attract more brands and establish more touchpoints with senior leaders in franchise systems. In this sense, they hope to attract more franchise systems with more than 50 locations, with strong management teams, and willing to invest in technology.

As to how they continue to add value for customers, they’ve implemented digital recruitment. Recognizing the hiring challenges faced by their clients, they developed hyperlocal campaigns across search, social media, and retargeting to directly reach potential candidates. This approach allows clients to connect with qualified candidates on a one-to-one basis, rather than relying on expensive job platforms where resumes are sent to multiple competitors. By targeting candidates directly, Location3 has been able to reduce the cost per recruit and successfully fill open positions for their clients.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Do you have a hard time letting go of agency operations and overall control? Have you embraced your role as the visionary and taken a step back from minor tasks? If you haven’t, why not? Today’s guest realized at one point that autonomy was his personal core value and that his agency would fail unless he prioritized it. This realization led to a new point of view, where he imagines how he would run his agency if he knew nothing about the business. This exercise has greatly helped him detach himself from agency operations and trust the agency can run without him. Tune in for an interesting discussion about autonomy in business, having employees vs. hiring contractors, and the benefits of building a personal brand.  

Nicholas Kusmich is a digital marketing expert who helps businesses rapidly scale revenue using Facebook Advertising. He’s behind the highest campaign ROI's in the world thanks to his “Contextual Congruence”– a proprietary process based on the marriage between direct response marketing and understanding social behavior.

He’s also the founder of H2H Media Group, a paid media agency that has been helping brands be heard since the onset of Facebook. Nicholas shares his journey of starting his agency in 2008 and how he transitioned from being a one-man show to building a team of autonomous contractors.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Strategies vs. tactics to build businesses.

  • The power of personal brand.

  • Putting autonomy first.

  • An exercise to help take yourself out of the equation.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Long-term Strategies vs. Tactics as a way to Build Business

Back in 2008, Nicholas was told having his own business would require selling an ebook and a course. In order to sell said ebook, he started running ads on Facebook. Once he became good enough, people were contacting him to do these ads for them. Suddenly, he had an agency. Since then, his agency has had the fortune of working with big brands and helping businesses that needed to be heard become brand names.

In the beginning, Nicholas admits he was charging way less than he should have, with an initial fee of $500 a month. However, compared with today’s landscape where you can get offers from people promising to work for free, it seems far more tamed. As an alternative, to get the attention of your first clients, he suggests being clear on what the fees are from the beginning but offering to only charge them after they see results. It’ll allow you to build leverage, get those new clients and not ruin your reputation.

Furthermore, you’ll get much better results by building your reputation using long-term strategies. Instead of emailing a prospect offering to send them a video, create 10 custom videos that offer value and send them over a certain period. You’ll be much more likely to get their attention and start a conversation. For Nicholas, “strategies build business and tactics make sales.” Yet everyone in the business seems to be using tactics.

Too many marketers are constantly chasing the latest trends in an attempt to capture attention and make quick sales. To some extent, of course it makes sense to always be aware of new developments and using new technologies. However, the consistency and focus on long-term strategies is what will allow you to build a successful business.

Recognizing the Power of Building Your Personal Brand

Nick, unintentionally, built the agency’s brand around himself and his knowledge. Now he’s spent the last few years pushing off the notion that working with his agency means working directly with him. In the beginning, he was very much the button pusher, running the ads himself and taking sales calls. However, he realized he wasn’t living the entrepreneurial dream he’d wanted and was burned out and stressed. Learning about Dan Sulllivan’s unique ability principal, he realized real growth and development would only come by surrounding himself with people with their own unique abilities. These people would then take over every other tasks outside his specific expertise.

Next, it was time to build his brand, but was it better to build his own or the agency brand first? It seems no one can agree on whether it’s best to develop your personal brand or agency brand first. But we can all agree on this: personal brands are very powerful. Logan Paul and KSI took out heavy hitters like Coca-Cola not because Prime is the best energy drink in history but because they had really strong personal brands.

No one wants to engage with a brand, they want to engage with a human being. Nicholas recognized the value of his personal brand in attracting clients. His unique point of view on acquisition and advertising strategies is what sets his agency apart from others. In essence, your personal brand is something that will stay with you for years to come. Will you also need to build a separate agency brand? Yes, because that’s maybe something you’ll sell or license down the line while you keep the personal brand you’ve worked hard to build.

Establishing Autonomy as a Core Value in His Agency

Nick strongly believes in upholding autonomy as his number one value in all aspects. Going against this, he says, would only bring frustrations. This is why he set out to create a business where he would either not have employees or strictly hire autonomous individuals who don’t need to be micromanaged and know how to take initiative.

Taking this step felt simultaneously liberating and like he was going against industry standards. He felt like team culture was very important for owners but something that went against his sanity overall. In the beginning, he admits to going too far with this approach, diving so much into autonomy that he ended up being a bad leader. It was one thing to give people space to operate and a very different one to feel disconnected from his team. He had to go back and bridge that gap.

In the past, having employees had been a source of pressure. Therefore, he set out to look for specific team members who value autonomy and initiative just as much as he does. This approach has worked out well for him. Of course, working with contractors has its down side but it’s what is right for him.

It’s a vision that a friend of his called “netting up”, which means maintaining his net revenue while working less and having fewer employees. Importantly, Nick always had a vision of building the agency as a lifestyle business. Diving deep into building an agency where he could maintain his autonomy was his way to continue to scale the business on his terms.

An Exercise to See the Benefits of Taking Yourself Out of the Equation

For Nicholas, many agency owners find it hard to give up full control of their agency’s operations and sales because they started the business as a skilled person working by themselves. If you have the skill and do the work, when it comes time to hand that work off chances are you’ll think “I can do it better!”

An interesting exercise for these cases is to imagine how things would be if you started a business you knew nothing about. In this hypothetical case, you wouldn’t build the business around yourself but rather hire great people to execute the business while you come up with strategies in your visionary role. It’s an exercise that helps agency owners detach themselves from their business allow them to reach new heights by taking themselves out of the equation.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.

Direct download: Embracing_Autonomy__Personal_Branding_with_Nicholas_Kusmich___665.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00am MDT

Are you an agency owner or an entrepreneur who wants to take your business to the next level? Do you want to learn how to grow your revenue, profit, and impact in the world? Have you found yourself chasing only the money and feeling dissatisfied later? Today’s guest grew her agency from zero to seven figures in just two years, while also making a positive impact in the world through her social responsibility initiatives. She has transitioned from being a consultant to being a leader and aligned her business with her personal goals and values, and has used her agency as a platform to create social change and help others.

Natalie Hogg is the founder and CEO of Method Q, a marketing agency that offers a unique combination of services, including traditional marketing, talent placement, and fractional CMO work. Under her leadership, Method Q has achieved remarkable growth, evolving into a seven-figure enterprise within just two years of its inception. She reveals how she started her agency with a vision and a press release and explains how she faced and overcame the challenges of scaling her business.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • A press release setting a clear vision.
  • Allowing room for solutions to emerge.
  • The key to building a scalable business.

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Making the Best Out of an Unexpected Layoff

Natalie's journey into the world of marketing and agency ownership is marked by a blend of strategic foresight and a deep understanding of the digital landscape. Her career began in the bustling world of digital marketing, where she was getting ahead until an unexpected layoff derailed how she’d seen her path thus far.  The idea of starting her own business had been in her mind as something she’d do further down the line. However, this shift made her question “Why not now? Why should I have to wait years until I’m more experienced?”

She found a gap in the market, with many companies laying off their marketing and sales teams and later falling behind in reaching their goals. This is where she comes in to help them figure out who to hire. It all started as consultancy work, but soon evolved into a growing team and officially having her own agency.

One of her signature services is fractional CMO work, where she acts as a part-time chief marketing officer for her clients, providing them with strategic guidance and direction. This service has positioned Method Q as a trailblazer in the marketing world, offering a novel and valuable solution that sets them apart from their competitors.

With every success she tries to give back by taking on non-profit clients and she herself is on the board of StandUp for Kids, helping youth at risk of homelessness.

How a Clear Vision Will Take You All the Way to Success

Natalie’s vision for the agency started with a press release she wrote in 2020 about her future and her retirement. Everything she wrote there became a reality, even faster than she could have expected.

Growing an agency is a very complex endeavor that will have many ups and downs. For her part, Natalie has been able to pull through the hard times and not let fears of failure get to her. In fact, she says she’d never go back now that she’s had her taste of entrepreneurship. Her success is the proof that having a clear idea of where you’re going makes it much easier to take full advantage of the little uptick moments that get you to the next level.

Feedback Over Firefighting: Allowing Room for Solutions to Emerge

With over 20 clients, Natalie has had to accept she’s no longer able to handle all accounts herself and started delegating. It was time to make her team accountable and trust their work.

Giving up control is not easy and it will take hiring people you trust. If you’re finding it too hard to delegate tasks, it may mean you don’t trust your team. Ask yourself why this is the case. Did you have clear standards when it came to hiring or just started hiring when you were desperate for help? For her part, Natalie made many valuable contacts while working in-house and was already aware of the incredible value they would add to her agency.

As a boss, she sees herself as an empowerer and has no issue giving up control; however, she’ll always want to be in the loop to influence decisions rather than make them. Agency owners tend to fall into the trap of wanting to solve all problems and not let their team figure it out. This is a mistake. Instead, hard times can become teaching moments if you allow your team to talk through the possible solutions. In this sense, she knows the importance of having a good team to grow your agency and is doing the work to add the necessary talent to take her agency in the direction of being full service.

The Key to Building a Scalable Business

As the head of a multimillion dollar agency, does she have more freedom? “I did in the beginning,” she says. Now past that initial fun stage, boundaries means making a conscious decision to not put her full self in the business and end up exhausted.

Moreover, once you make the decision to take care of yourself to avoid burnout, who’s going to be there to fill the gap? Finding the right people to fill that gap is crucial for that transition into more freedom. As she continues to take on more, she will have to delegate part of her load. Sure, creating these jobs can end up initially impacting profitability, but it will surely help the business make more money down the line.

Letting go and being very strict about your free time is all about building habits and creating rules for yourself. Just like you schedule your meetings, block some time in your schedule exclusively for your enjoyment. It’ll help you enjoy your business that much more.

Building a business that is scalable means building a business where you’re not doing everything. You’re just doing what you do best and keep learning and evolving to then bring that to the business.

Making a Clear Mission Statement for Yourself

Curiosity and the will to keep learning is the key to any type of success. It also means not letting yourself getting too comfortable with what you know and continue to improve yourself however you can. That was the idea behind Natalie’s original press release, to set herself some goals that would take her out of her comfort zone. Now that she accomplished everything on that press release, she’s due for a new one.

The idea of a press release or any kind of statement where you publicly declare your goals for the next couple of years is a good exercise for all agency owners. It’ll be a clear mission statement regarding the type of business you want to create that can provide direction as to where you’re going and what your next steps should be. If a giant like Amazon does it, it can sure benefit your business.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


What does it take to succeed in business, especially in the agency world? How do you surround yourself with the right people who can support you, challenge you, and help you grow? How do you overcome the obstacles and fears that may hold you back from achieving your goals?

Today’s guest is an agency owner who shares his personal experiences of being in both conducive and detrimental social circles and highlights how the latter can negatively impact one's mindset and success. His philosophy underscores the importance of having a balanced perspective by interacting with people at different levels – those who are less experienced, peers, and more successful individuals. Tune in to learn about how surrounding yourself with the wrong people can leave feeling stuck and miserable, the fallacy of comparing yourself to others, and the importance of finding a community that will help you reach new heights and keep you accountable to your goals.

Ian Garlic is a marketing expert specializing in video marketing and storytelling. He is the founder of video marketing agency authenticWEB and is the mind behind Storycrews. He also hosts The Garlic Marketing Show, is part of the team at Video Case Story, and consults on video shoots. Ian known for his profound insights and innovative approaches in the digital marketing landscape. His journey in the industry is marked by a deep understanding of the intricacies of business growth, particularly in the agency sector, and a passion for helping businesses harness the power of effective storytelling in their marketing strategies.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Curating your support system.

  • Overcoming the barrier of overthinking and self-doubt.

  • Choosing the right group for you.

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Who’s In Your Corner? Curating Your Support System

Agency owners everywhere find themselves chasing the wrong yardstick, pushing relentlessly toward finish lines not their own. Gripped by others’ narrow definitions of success, they wake one morning in quiet panic.

The team too often hears from agency heads who built ventures according to the “right” metrics. Yet after reaching a certain level of success they find themselves stressed out and disillusionment sets in. Soon enough, they start thinking about selling because of how unhappy they are.

Ian knows that pain firsthand. Surrounded by big league players, he pushed his agency to serve ever-larger corporations. But in that quest for status, the work lost meaning. At a point, he felt far removed from the local businesses he set out to empower.

It was time for a change. He needed his own definitions, his own scorecard - rooted in his values rather than others’ demands.

If you find yourself chasing ideas of success that don’t fit with your values, look around and evaluate if you’re surrounding yourself with the right people. For Ian, being in the wrong group, even if technically you’re surrounded by very successful people, can have a negative effect on one's confidence, motivation, and performance.

By contrast, the right people will offer support and help you find the right answers. In this sense, Ian speaks about the importance of being with people who are at different levels of success - below, at the same level, and above you - to ensure a balanced perspective and growth.

Peers at all stages can become guides or critics. Just take stock of those given VIP access to your mind. Do they fill your cup or drain it? Nourish dreams or deflate them? With perspective, those draining more than giving face demotion.

Shortcutting Analysis Paralysis Through Shared Perspectives

As agency scale specialist, Darby speaks with many agency owners every week to help them come up with growth strategies and keep track of their goals. In this role, he has found that overthinking is a common barrier for agency owners that can lead to analysis paralysis, where one gets stuck in indecision and inaction. Making decisions is tough, and agency owners can fall in the trap of seeing all the angles and choices, which leads to worrying they’re making the wrong move.

He recommends seeking a supportive environment, such as a mastermind or a support group, where they can get feedback, advice, and accountability to help them make decisions and move forward. On your own, you may get too deep into what you’re trying to do and give up before giving yourself enough time to find the right way.

Having the right people to support you can help you transform not only your business but also your mindset. You’ll learn to receive feedback, which can be hard but is very important to get out of your own head and see things from a different perspective. Like most things, it takes practice, and being in an environment where you frequently get feedback will help you build that muscle.

Maybe you feel it’s not something you need right now but it will surely become important at some point in your growth. Anyone that says they succeeded completely on their own is either lying or in denial. After all, some of the most successful people out there couldn’t have made it without the right support system.

How Do You Know if a Group is Right for You?

You may find it takes a few tries to find the right community or group for you. It’s not just about getting to share your struggles, you also need to feel challenged. If you’re the smartest person in the room and everyone there thinks everything you’re doing is great, you’re probably in the wrong group. Do you feel good about what they’re doing and how they go about things? Do you like being around them? Are they going in the same direction you want to go?

Furthermore, look for a group with people who’ve already faced the challenges you’re currently facing. If you’re working on scaling your agency past eight figures and are currently in a group where no one has done that then can they really help you get there?

It all goes back to what you want to do and who you are. If you’re trying to build an agency, then you shouldn’t be in a general marketing group. In his case, Ian prefers groups that are not just money motivated but also think of the bigger picture.

It’ll take work to find your “pack” and you may even find that it changes over time as you evolve and go through stages. Maybe you’ll hit a stage where you want a lifestyle business and seek out people with the same goals. The important thing is that you understand what you want and what you’re going after at the moment.

Think of a Mastermind as an Investment in Your Growth

Focusing on relationships that better you as an agency owner and a person will be a huge step in your growth journey. Join a mastermind, start a mastermind, and figure out the groups you want to be in. You won’t necessarily get it right the first time, but it’s an important investment in the future of your business.

Start by getting clear on what you want and why you want it and, define what success looks like to you. Then push yourself to look for a community that will help guide you in the steps you need to get to that success.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Have you considered bringing on a partner to lighten the immense pressure of solo agency leadership? Do fears around lacking key skills or experience hold you back from taking the entrepreneurial leap yourself? When today’s guest launched his first agency, self-doubt around “going it alone” led him to take on a co-founder partnership. But without aligned goals from day one, hairline fractures quickly formed.

As their once amicable agency grew and priorities diverged, he outgrew the partnership and they went their separate ways. In this interview, he’ll talk about why he didn’t go into a partnership for the right reasons, how the dynamic between he and his partner worked, and how they went about the adjustment process after the split. Tune in if you’re an agency owner trying to figure out whether a partnership would be right for you.

Rob Rosasco is the founder and driving force behind Too Darn Loud Digital Marketing, a boutique agency that specializes in assisting law firms to amplify their presence and reach. Rob reflects on his early days in the industry, his eventual venture into starting his own agency, and the initial fears that led him to start his business with a partner. He goes into the dynamics of the partnership and how eventually he found himself outgrowing it, both professionally and in terms of the vision for the company.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Building an exit strategy after outgrowing your partner.
  • Dividing the agency when selling is off the table.
  • Preparing an ironclad clause for an agency partner breakup.

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Outgrowing Co-Founders: Building Exit Strategies into Agency Partnerships

After working for a larger company in the legal marketing space for eight years, Rob felt starting his own business would be a natural transition. His journey into entrepreneurship began with a mixture of ambition and caution. Initially hesitant to venture solo into the competitive arena of digital marketing, he decided to start his business with a partner. This decision, born out of a desire to mitigate the challenges of launching and running a business independently, marked the beginning of a significant phase in his career.

At the heart of Rob's professional expertise is a profound understanding of sales and client engagement, a skill set essential for the growth of his venture. Despite his extensive experience, he recognized the need for support in areas like back-office operations, web development, and SEO. So he resolved to partner with someone who could complement his skills and share the entrepreneurial journey.

The relationship worked exactly as he had envisioned for a while, with his partner working his excellent selling skills to get clients while Rob ran the business. As the business evolved, Rob found himself at a crossroads. Both he and the agency outgrew his partner who got comfortable staying at a certain point in terms of growth. After seven years, the differing visions and philosophies between him and his partner necessitated a reevaluation of their partnership. However, their operating agreement did not include language for this specific situation where one partner was dissatisfied with the other’s contribution.

Rob's experience is not just a tale of business strategy and partnership dynamics; it emphasizes the importance of having clear terms in any business partnership, especially provisions for situations where partners may need to part ways due to divergent goals or strategies.

When Selling's Off the Table: Divvying Up Split Partnerships

Not all partnerships have to end this way. If you have a business partner and are thinking about parting ways, think hard about whether you have irreconcilable differences or just need to make a few changes. Having fundamental differences in your approach to the business, vision, and philosophy is very different from just needing a new role. If you do decide you just don’t see eye to eye in the business anymore, then it’s better to part ways sooner rather than later.

By the time both partners accepted it was no longer working out, they considered different options like splitting or one of them buying the other out. Selling the agency seemed like a possibility in the beginning, having already received some decent offers. However, Rob and his partner couldn’t agree on what constituted a fair amount.

Rob pushed to buy his partner out to have the company as a whole, but it wasn’t possible. Since neither of them wanted to sell, it came down to splitting their customer base down the middle. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was the solution that ultimately avoided a long legal battle.

Preparing for Bitter Ends: Ironclad Clauses & Agency Breakups

After the split, Rob and his former partner were able to chart a new course through thoughtful negotiation. With the client base divided 50/50, it was time to also decide who their employees would continue to work with. Four of their employees went to work with Rob while another two split their time between both as they went through the transition. As to their clients, they were informed as soon as the deal was made. However, it would be another four to six months before they’d see real changes like new bank accounts and invoices. Overall, it was a very successful transition, considering they didn’t lose neither clients nor team members in the process.

Golden Nugget: While their approach went smoothly, the experience revealed gaps in his agency legal safeguards. When co-founders part ways, air-tight client contracts become essential. Specifically, it’s important to include a clause in your client agreement clarifying you can transfer those contracts in case of a sale.

For context: smaller agencies (under $5M revenue) typically transact as asset sales. This means the buyer purchases all client contracts and can onboard accounts without seeking added approval.

But without explicit clauses permitting easy account transfers, securing signatures of dozens (or hundreds) of clients amidst an agency sale sounds nightmarish. As does trying to exclude accounts unwilling to switch over.

Come sale time, this clause spares chaotic scramble to confirm who stays and who goes. The buyer inherits your book of business cleanly. No need to parse accounts in the midst of a turbulent ownership shuffle..

It may feel premature early on, but it ultimately provides flexibility to pivot strategically as your agency evolves. Whether a bitter founder split or lucrative acquisition offer, you dictate the terms without complications.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Are you getting ready to sell your agency? Are you looking into potential buyers? How will you protect your interests in an M&A process? Today’s guest has a lot of experience, and even a book, in this area having sold the same agency twice and coming out mostly unscathed from the initial failed deal. He’ll share some of the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of selling your agency and the challenges of managing a large agency team. Tune in to gain valuable insights on navigating the process of selling your agency.

David Rodnitzky is a digital marketer who started and later sold 3Q Digital, a team of 500+ rockstar/ninja/guru online marketing pros who offer expertise in online analytics, decision science, strategic consulting, creative, and conversion rate optimization. He also founded Agentic Shift, a boutique consulting firm dedicated to helping agency founders successfully exit their businesses through mergers or acquisitions (M&A).

Recently, David poured all his M&A expertise into his new book, Selling Your Marketing Agency, which you can get on Amazon.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The Key to managing an agency team of over 100 people.

  • An ironclad acquisition contract clause that will save your agency.

  • Lessons to help you avoid pitfalls in the M&A process.

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Accidental Agency Owner in Search Engine Marketing

According to David, he sort of glammed into the world of search engine marketing after started in digital marketing in 2000. He worked at a series of startups in Silicon Valley, for about eight years and moved on to a company where he found the culture was not one he agreed with. He was traveling to India three times a year to manage a team while his wife was pregnant and decided it was not a smart family decision. So he quit and set up shop in a coffee house in Pacifica, California.

Soon people started calling him to help them with search engine marketing consulting and he had an agency. That agency Today is 3Q Digital, part of a bigger organization called DEPT.

The Key to Managing Over 100 People: Maintaining Consistency of Quality and Processes

For David, it’s a lot harder to go from managing two people to 25 people than it is to go from 25 people to 100 people. No individual can manage hundreds of people. You can only dedicate so many hours per week to checking in with your team. In this sense, he has learned the importance of maintaining consistency of quality when it comes to the people he hires, as well the importance of processes.

Most agency owners would agree it's relatively easy to manage and monitor two or three employees and make sure that they are doing a great job. However, the more people you hire, the more you have to delegate that responsibility and the less you sort of know about how well your team is performing. So David has learned to remain constantly obsessed with quality on the team.

As to delegating, processes will be key to maintaining quality, and unfortunately, most agencies don't have many processes. At David’s agency, when a client is onboarded, the success or failure of that client is based on the person assigned to that account. The results could vary since everyone has their unique ideas. That’s why you’ll need a solid process to ensure consistency because you can't have a brand without consistent results.

An Ironclad Acquisition Clause to Save Your Agency from Ruin

Initially, David wasn’t planning on selling his agency, until the offers came pouring in unsolicited. So he hired an investment banker to keep track of these inbound leads and screen them to determine which ones were legitimate buyers.

At this point, David decided to do a "mini process" where he sent letters to some potential buyers hoping to get official offers. The idea was to create a competitive environment and increase his company’s perceived value. The result was three great offers with one clear winner. This offer was a lot higher than David had expected, as its owners were bent on buying an agency. In the end, they took the offer for $30 million in cash and $35 in an earnout over three years.

But business veterans know big payouts often come with equally big headaches. So before ink hit paper, David negotiated an ironclad clause: until the full earnout paid out, he would retain absolute authority on all agencies like finances, sales, and hiring. Furthermore, if the company failed to meet the initial terms David would have the option to buy the agency back. He’d soon confirm adding that clause was the right decision.

Earnout Loopholes and Buying Back the Agency to Rebuild

Under the deal signed with their new parent company, David would get his earnout if he managed to double the agency’s revenue in three years. They had to get from $17 million in revenue to $35 million in three years. Looking back, David believes the buyers didn’t think they’d be able to do it. However, after about a year and a half, it became clear the agency would reach that goal.

Unfortunately, the parent company was now facing some economic struggles and it became clear they’d be unable to pay the $35 million. This led to a second process that was the opposite of the first one. With their parent company struggling and trying to sell just two years after acquiring them, no one seemed interested in buying.

Finally, saving his agency came down to securing a $5 million loan to buy it back. Under this deal, they would give the parent company $5 million in cash immediately and remove the $35 million debt obligation, to which they agreed.

David took the company back and focused on scaling it and nine months later he got purchase offers once again. In the end, he sold under a traditional private equity deal.

More Lessons on the Agency M&A Process

Having sold his company once, David was prepared for the push and pull of negotiations and figured he’d had to make some compromises. He focused on making sure his interests were protected after the deal was done. “People are very nice during the M&A proves, but afterward it’s the contract that speaks,” he says.

Whatever the negotiation point you want to secure, David recommends getting it in writing. You’ll occasionally see a different side of people when money is involved, which is why he recommends working with people you trust and hiring the best lawyers you can. You can’t anticipate any wrongdoings, but you can protect yourself to the best of your ability by looking at every corner case before the deal is signed.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Are you paying attention to the changes AI is bringing to the agency world? How have you been finding ways to incorporate it to streamline processes? Would you consider hiring a dedicated innovation role to keep track of these technological advances and not fall behind? Today’s guest has been in the industry for over 20 years but has been active in staying on top of new technological developments that will change how marketers operate forever. He’s actively testing new uses for AI and working to keep his team excited about learning everything they can about these developments. Discover why refusing to learn and adapt will leave your agency in the past and the importance of a good AI prompt to get the best results.

Jeff Lizik is the president of RedShift Digital Marketing, an ROI-focused business that defines itself as more of an “anti-agency”. His team promises to increase clients’ visibility, boost website traffic, and grow their business while building real relationships that will impact their businesses.

Jeff shares how his accidental success as a paintball retailer led to his venture into the world of digital marketing. He also dives into the challenges he faced with Google's algorithm updates and highlights the need for agency owners to be versatile and adaptable in a constantly evolving industry.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • The power of an expertly crafted AI prompt.

  • Will you eventually need a director of innovation?

  • Why you should hire highly skilled talent sooner rather than later.

From Accidental E-Commerce Success to Leading a Top Agency

Jeff found accidental success in the e-commerce industry in 2001 selling paintball supplies he got on eBay. Within a year, he had sold a million dollars worth of products and became the second-largest paintball retailer globally. At one point, he even participated in the beta testing for third-party selling on Amazon.

After his e-commerce venture, he initially decided to take a break and go back to a corporate job. It didn’t last long though; once he missed the entrepreneurial lifestyle, Jeff started building affiliate sites and was making more money than before. However, once Google implemented the Penguin update, all its sites plummeted in search rankings. Unwilling to rebuild the sites, he decided to start his own agency instead.

How Technology Has Transformed and Continues to Transform Marketing

With over two decades in the agency business, the main changes Jeff sees are powered by technology; nowadays there are very efficient tools that have helped marketers improve their jobs.

According to Jeff, technology has made marketers more efficient and effective in their strategies. Search engines, particularly Google, have evolved to become more complex. Everything about Google's search results has changed, such as the placement of ads at the top and the decrease in organic search visibility.

But most people now rarely use Google for searches and instead rely on YouTube and other platforms. Hence, videos have become more important in the decision-making process and social media platforms such as Instagram will play a larger role in driving consumer behavior and sales.

On the other hand, nothing is as simple as 20 years ago. Back in the early 2000’s marketers could still scam the search engines. That’s not possible nowadays, so you have to be good at your job. And we’ve yet to see the full impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the industry, probably the biggest transformation marketers will go through.

The Power of an Expertly Crafted AI Prompt

By now we should all understand there are potential dangers associated with AI, which is why its use should go hand in hand with human oversight and the correct prompts. There’s always the possibility the AI is giving you false information. Treat it as a tool, not a replacement for human expertise and judgment.

AI prompts are powerful tools that have the potential to revolutionize the way marketers approach their work. They can significantly enhance productivity and efficiency by streamlining processes and reducing time spent on tasks.

When it comes to creating the perfect prompts, there are already services that create these prompts for you, which not a lot of people know. These premium prompts are built by experts in the field and provide complete context and background information, ensuring that the AI understands the desired output accurately. By investing in advanced prompts, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of AI capabilities and maximize its potential.

In his case, Jeff works with very detailed prompts that produce very efficient results. How does he use this tool? After uploading detailed information about his agency and the type of clients they work with, he uses AI to create different personas and works through that until he gets one ideal customer profile. He then asks the AI to create headlines based on this customer’s pain points, as well as ideas for every social media platform. In detail, he’s experimented using AI for several areas and can confidently say he can use it for content strategy, lead generation, topic ideas, and lead magnets, and has continued to fine-tune it to get more efficient results. Done correctly, AI prompts can be a marketer's best friend.

Why AI Implementation Will Eventually Require a Dedicated Role

It can be tricky to get your team excited and comfortable using AI. They’ve been doing things a certain way for so long that they may be wary of so many changes. Jeff is slowly turning this around by offering individual members tips and ideas for how to use their prompts and save time. Furthermore, he’s also pushing for them to learn all they can about AI and its uses. Eventually, he plans to record SOPs from which they’ll learn the processes he’s currently figuring out. However, information about AI changes constantly, so he’s been holding off on doing that for now.

One important aspect of the future implementation of AI use in his agency will be hiring a dedicated role responsible for overseeing its implementation and maximizing its potential. Ideally, this role would be tied to all kinds of technological developments changing the industry, rather than just overseeing the use of IA prompts.

This director of innovation would be responsible for staying ahead of emerging technologies and trends. They would be tasked with identifying opportunities for implementing AI in various facets of the agency's operations and developing standard operating procedures (SOPs) to guide the team in utilizing AI effectively.

AI is set to become an integral part of the agency business, which warrants dedicated attention. In this regard, having someone in this role full-time will be crucial for potential cost savings and efficiency gains.

Why You Should Hire Highly Skilled Talent Sooner Rather Than Later

At this point of their agency growth, there are some roles where Jeff and his partner look to hire people with the highest skill level possible. They no longer have the time to teach them and mold them into the role.

In the past, hiring people who don’t have the capacity needed for the role has burnt them and made the agency worse. Team loyalty is important, of course, but Jeff now recognizes the need to prioritize the agency's growth and success. In a sense, he recommends holding people accountable. Once you do that, they’ll either step up and become great in their role, or they’ll see themselves out.

Knowing how having highly skilled team members can significantly contribute to the agency's growth, Jeff wishes he’d invested more in talent since the beginning. However, after the pandemic, hiring outside your state and even your country has become much more common. This has opened many more options when it comes to finding talent. Hence, newer agencies are coming up in a new landscape where they can much easily find the best talent for their needs.

Don’t Fall Behind, Pay Attention to Coming Changes

If you’re not learning about AI and testing the many ways you could be implementing it in your agency, what are you waiting for? Way too many people in the agency industry are ignoring AI. Make no mistake, if you don’t adopt AI, you will be left behind. By the time the agencies not paying attention to the impact of artificial intelligence start to pay attention, it’ll be too late.

Additionally, with the rising prices of Google ads and Facebook ads Jeff he also encourages agency owners to think about the future. What if the search is no longer affordable for your clients? How will you get eyeballs on your client’s products and services? Options like video content and podcasts will be game-changers and we should all be on the lookout for more of these options before we’re blindsided by reality.

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

Looking to dig deeper into your agency's potential? Check out our Agency Blueprint. Designed for agency owners like you, our Agency Blueprint helps you uncover growth opportunities, tackle obstacles, and craft a customized blueprint for your agency's success.


Jason Swenk and Manish Dudharejia delve into the world of agency management and business scalability, shedding light on the complex yet rewarding journey. They explore how past challenges can be transformed into valuable lessons for growth, highlighting the indispensable roles of continuous innovation and strategic thinking. Through their discussion, they unravel the subtle differences that set exceptional work apart from the average, offering listeners practical insights to propel their own business ventures toward unparalleled success and distinction.

Manish reflects on the evolution of a growth-obsessed mindset, both personally and in business, acknowledging past mistakes as pivotal learning experiences. He shares his journey from conventional lead responses to a more focused, core-driven approach, underscoring the value of adapting and evolving business strategies over time.

00:00:00 - Opening Insights: Navigating Agency Management Mastery

00:01:23 - Introducing the Visionary: Insights from Manish Dudharejia

00:03:38 - Agency Growth Uncovered: Planning for Scale and Success

00:04:27 - The Power of Reflection: Innovating for Business Breakthroughs

00:06:46 - Transformative Decisions: How Past Lessons Shape Future Success

00:08:57 - Strategic Focus: The Key to Business Acumen and Achievement

00:10:43 - Pursuing Excellence: Elevating Business Practices to New Heights

00:18:58 - Concluding Wisdom: Summarizing Game-Changing Strategies

00:20:09 - Final Thoughts: Wrapping Up with a Special Opportunity

Resources: https://e2msolutions.com/smartagency

Direct download: Why_You_Need_to_Level_Up_Your_Agency_in_2024.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Why Agencies Should Prioritize YouTube for Video Marketing Efforts

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

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

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

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

3 Elements to Creating a Successful YouTube Ads Campaign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Shorter Ads Always the Best Option for Agencies?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Creating a Differentiated Offer to Drive Value to Clients

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

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

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

Positioning Your Agency at the Edge of Culture

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

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

Leveraging Your Identity and Existing Client Work

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

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

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

Finessing the Big Brand Balancing Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

Boosting Human Capital to Attract Next-Level Projects

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Digital Agency Experience 2023 

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

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

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

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

Staffing Revelations Around Talent and Values

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Good is The Enemy of Great”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

Combining Problem-Solving Skills and Desire to Help People

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

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

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

Analyzing Agency Customer Lifetime Value

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

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

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

Maximizing Profitability Using a Comprehensive Approach to Advertising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning it's Not a Matter of Life and Death

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

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

Remembering What Matters Most as a Parent and Founder

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Going from Agency Employee to Freelancer to Agency Owner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding Your Clients and Communicate Accordingly

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

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

Strong Brands Aren't Bought, They're Earned

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

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

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

When it Comes to Proposals it's Quality Over Quantity

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Other Smart Agency interviews with Jay Baer:

Converting More Clients by Helping Rather than Selling

Talk Triggers that Get Clients Knocking on Your Door

Are Agencies Conscious of How They Spend Clients' Time?

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

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

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

Agency Responsiveness as a Way to Get a Distinctive Competitive Advantage 

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

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

Teaching Agency Teams to 'Respond Without Answers'

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

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

How to Close the Uncertainty Gap with Clients

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

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

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

Do You Turn Down Rush Jobs? You Shouldn't

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

Finding the Right Combination to Succeed in Digital Advertising

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Customer-Centric Approach to Building Successful Relationships in Sales

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

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

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

An In-Person Staff Training for a Remote Agency 

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

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

Culture Is Built On Traditions

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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

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

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

Pivoting from Charging by Projects to Ongoing Campaigns

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

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

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

Embrace Content Marketing and Stop Marketing Yourself Last

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

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

Are You Using Video in Your Marketing Strategy?

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pulling the Brakes to Correct Past Hiring Mistakes

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

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

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

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

Embrace the Benefits of Collaboration

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we'll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

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

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

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

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

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

How to Stop a Limiting Mindset and Raise Agency Prices

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

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

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

Building a Dual Agency to Explore Their Ideal Niche

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

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

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

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

The Who Framework to Find Your Audience and Build Scalability

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

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

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

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

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

Finding a New Niche in a Mobile App Development

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

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

Advantages of Partnering with Indian Startups

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

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

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

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

Retaining Top Talent in a Fast-Growing, Competitive Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Learning to Manage Systems Instead of People to Grow Beyond Referrals

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

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

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

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

Formalizing Growth with a Dedicated Team and a Partner for Outbound

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

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

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

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

Establishing Thought Leadership Through Podcasting

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

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

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

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

Real Growth Also Relies on Client Retention

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

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

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

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

Opaque Profits: Shedding Light on Delivery Margin for Agencies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Ways to Improve Agency Profitability

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

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

Why Specialization Is Key to Improving Your Agency's Profitability

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

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

Outperforming Outdated Benchmarks

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Moving from Tech to Being in the Agency World

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

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

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

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

A Pricing Model that Led to Immense Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Success Stories to Go Beyond Word-of-Mouth

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

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

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

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

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

Unlocking Efficiency and Accessing Global Talent Through Remote Work

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Developing Your Personal Brand with Integrity at the Core

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

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

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

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

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

Delegating and Outsourcing as the  Key to Agency Growth

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

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

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

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

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

Does Hiring Friends Inevitably Lead to Disaster?

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

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

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

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

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

Give Away Your Best Stuff to Establish Yourself as an Authority

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

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

Understanding Diversification vs. Specialization

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

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

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

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

Why the Agency Model Will Stand the Test of Time

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

Handling Outreach by Building an Exclusivity Perspective

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

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

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

Building a Winning Agency Sales Script

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Data-Driven Prospecting: Separating Needles from the Haystack

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

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

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

Gamifying Growth for Ongoing Development

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

How to Curate an Engaging Newsletter

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

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

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

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

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

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

How The Newsletter Can Become a Tool for Agency Business

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

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

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

How Often Should You Send  Agency Newsletters?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

The Revelation That Led to an Interest in Digital Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Experimenting at the Intersection of Creativity and AI

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

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

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

The Power of Peer Support for Propelling Agency Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

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

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

Early Lessons on Aligning Systems to Talent to Boost Retention

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

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

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

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

Why You Should Stay Ready to Replace Irreplaceable Talent

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

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

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

Building a Platform to Leverage AI for Marketing Insights

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

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

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

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

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

Why No Acquisition Should Move Forward Without the Right Culture Fit

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

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

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

Can Agency Owners Avoid Burnout?

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Growth by Design: The Importance of Deliberate Focus

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

Becoming the Leader Your Agency Needs

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

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

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

Prioritizing Diversity and Inclusion at Her Agency

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

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

Seeing Employee Mistakes as Agency Opportunities

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

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

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

Why You Should Embrace Mistakes

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

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

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


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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

How You Should Be Using Strategic Agency Partnerships to Grow

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

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

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

What Should You Be Looking for in a Strategic Partnership?

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

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

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

Avoid this Common Trap at All Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

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

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

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

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

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

When Client Communication & Trust Trumps Early Struggle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Learning About Limits as an Agency Owner 

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

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

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

Working Smarter and Preparing the Agency for Possible Future Acquisition

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

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

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

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

Mastering Boundaries with Agency Growth Through Policy

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

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

Building Self-Aware Leadership by Establishing Clear KPIs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

An Accidental Agency Owner Who Got Pulled into the Agency World

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

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

How is AI Doing Better than Most Marketers

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

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

AI Applications You Should Be Using Right Now

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

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

How Marketers Have Gotten Better in Their Use of AI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Expand Cautiously and Evolve to the Needs of the Market

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

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

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

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

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

Bringing Strategy into Agency Leadership Rather Than Just People Managers

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

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

When to Relinquish Control and Trust Your Leaders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 11 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

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

Reducing the Agency Owner's Workload and Building a Team

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

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

Securing Organic Leads through Content

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

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

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

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

Leveraging Your Personal Brand to Promote Your Agency's Expertise

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

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

Getting the Owner Out of Sales By Establishing Their Role Upfront

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

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

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

Getting Over Discomfort to Market Yourself Effectively

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Why Do Great Agencies Lose Great Employees?

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

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

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

What You Should and Shouldn't Do During Employee Reviews

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

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

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

Are You Incentivicing Employee Burnout?

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

3 Ways to Create a Remarkable Employee Experience

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

Team Time is Sacred: Prioritizing Employee Meetings

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Mixing Agency and Startup Mindsets

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

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

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

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

How a Clear Long-Term Plan Helps Supercharge Agency Growth

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

Growing Pains at Warp Speed: Navigating 250% Agency Expansion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expanding Your Worldview to Help Trace the Path to Success

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

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

Going Back to Basics in Business

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Increasing Agency Valuation Up to 12X 

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

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

Creating a New Agency Vision Around Mergers and Acquisitions

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

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

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

Different Models of Agency M&A Investing

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

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

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

Advice for Agency Owners Hoping to Grow Through M&A

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

What Clients Want vs. What Clients Need

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

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

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

Improving Your Agency Website to Convert More Clients

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

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

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

Why Clients Can Humble the Most Experienced Marketing Agency Experts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we'll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

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

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

 

Pivoting Away from the Full-Service Agency Model

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

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

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

Creating Balance with Your Agency Business Partner

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

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

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

Cultivating Agency Leadership and Building a Great Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Do You Need More Agency Employees or Better Delegation Skills?

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

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

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

Effective Delegating Begins with the Agency Vision 

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

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

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

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

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

Why Every Visionary Needs an Operations Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

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

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Sponsors and Resources

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

Podcast Takeover!!

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

 

Learning How to Evolve Your Skills into a Role You Desire

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

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

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

Helping Brands Adapt to From Print to Pixel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Type of Leadership Enables Agency Growth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

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

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

Top 4 Agency Sales Tips: Insights from a Brand CEO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4- Be Courteous in Your Follow-Up 

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

What Gets a Brand CEO's Attention?

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

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

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

Being Patient May be Your Best Sales Tool 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

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

 

Subscribe

Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM

Sponsors and Resources

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

 

Nurturing Relationships Before Selling Agency Services

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

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

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

Getting Conversations Started with Bigger Clients

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

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

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

Earning the Attention of Your Ideal Prospects With Targeted Content

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

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

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

Is LinkedIn the Best Place to Grow an Audience?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode, we'll discuss:

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

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

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

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

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

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

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

Second-Guessing Yourself as an Agency Owner

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

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

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

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

Not Letting the Agency Define You

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

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

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

Focusing on the Right Things to Get Through Tough Times

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

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

Why Your Agency Team Needs Opportunities to Flex their Idea Muscle

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

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

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

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

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Unleash_Your_Agency_Leadership_Potential_by_Overcoming_Self-Doubt.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Every digital agency struggles with some of the most common sales objections. I'm here to tell you how to turn those around and convert more prospects into clients, faster and easier.

Have you ever felt your agency’s proposal knocked it out of the park only to have the prospect put you off? It happens to all of us. You put your energy and effort into a stellar proposal only to receive a lackluster response like “Let me talk to my partner”, “let me see if we have the money”, or my personal favorite “Send me more information”.

Are these responses just to put you off or simply objections that can be flipped into a more favorable response? In this video, I go through some of the most common objections and how you can actually respond and determine if they can be flipped so you can train your team to handle objections effectively and close more business.

The best marketing salespeople answer questions before they’re asked. How to do this? By being transparent and sharing their exact process to build trust. Of course, questions and objections will still be raised, but if you answer 90% of the unasked questions then your salesperson can come in with that extra 10% and bring it to the finish line.

I firmly believe there are no bad agency CLIENTS, only bad PROSPECTS or bad PROCESS. So how do you know if your prospect has a true objection or is just wasting your time? There are some steps you can follow to get to the bottom of this faster and turn more of those NO's into YES!

 

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#1 Agency Sales Objection: Send Me More Information

If you give your pitch and the prospect's reaction is that they still want more information, this can mean one of two things, either something’s missing or you’re just getting a nice put-off. It can be difficult to determine which one it is, which is why I recommend asking these three simple questions: What, When, and Why.

  • ‘What information would you like me to send you?’ This will help you determine what’s missing from your proposal and what else they need to know before saying yes.
  • ‘When would you like me to send you this information?’ You want to follow up with the right information at the right time to increase your chances of working together.
  • ‘Why do you need this additional information?’ This way you can understand more about the specific goals the prospect is trying to achieve. Moreover, it may also reveal whether you’re speaking to the right decision-maker or not. Perhaps they need more information to pass along to their boss or business partner. In that case, you need to get in front of the right person to answer their questions accurately.

If someone is blowing you off, they won’t have good answers to these questions. On the other hand, a good prospect who is genuinely interested in working with your agency will have very specific information they’re requesting, a timeline, and a reason.

Pro Tip: If it turns out it is a good prospect who just needs more information, then yes, commit to sending the information but also make sure to schedule the next meeting right then and there. That’s how you’re going to close the deal and stop wasting time on the wrong prospects.

#2 Agency Sales Objection: Let me Think About It

You spend lots of time on the prospect only to hear ‘Let me think about it”. It’s frustrating and unfortunately very common. Luckily, there’s an easy solution that just needs a couple of upfront questions.

If it’s a legitimate objection, then you can prevent issues by gathering more information. When I hear ‘Let me think about it’ it’s usually due to one of three reasons:

  1. The prospect remains unclear about the plan. You may be using jargon that makes it confusing to the client when you should actually be talking to them about stuff they know.
  2. The prospect is unclear about the results. Remember you’re not selling your agency services to your prospect, you’re selling them results. Do they understand how your solution will ease their pain and solve their issues? Have you established trust and authority in order to build their confidence in your ability to deliver?
  3. Your agency isn’t clear on one or more elements of the NBAT criteria. The NBAT criteria (Need, Budget, Authority, and Timeline) is the best way to qualify your prospect so you don’t have to waste time with the wrong ones.

So as you prepare for your next business pitch, instead of dreading one of these lines, approach the pitch more proactively. Make sure you’re clearly defining the plan and results and that prospects have a full understanding of the NBAT. Once you have that covered, you’ll dramatically reduce and even eliminate this objection.

#3 Agency Sales Objection: We’ve Had a Bad Agency Experience

The first impression can be everlasting, whether it’s good, bad, or indifferent. Unfortunately, many times you can be held accountable for negative impressions left by an awful experience with a bad agency. This experience can become an objection because the prospect doesn’t fully understand what separates your agency from the rest.

There’s nothing you can do with regard to that past bad experience. It happened and was probably the result of bad communication when it came to expectations and results, strategy, or just a clash of personalities. What you CAN do is educate the prospect that those types of bad experiences aren’t the norm. How can you turn it around? Educate them on the plan. Explain exactly how you’re planning to achieve their goals and ease their pain points.

There’s an inherent uneasiness when people don’t know what to expect. However, having a clear plan in place will help your prospect feel more confident and assured. Inform them about the systems and processes. Establish clear communication on what you do and how you do it.

You need to know and understand what’s the issue they’re having, what’s the impact that issue is having on their business, and what’s the level of importance or consequence if they don’t address the issue? When the right prospects are properly educated on the process, they’ll choose to work with you. However, it requires work to build that relationship.

#4 Agency Sales Objection: Do You Have Any References?

What if the prospect isn’t asking you for more information and instead they want references? Does it hurt or help to use past clients as references for new ones?

The request for references goes back to the presence of doubt in the prospect’s mind. There’s something they’re still uncertain about when it comes to working with you. Bottom line, this means there’s a hole in your sales process. It’s possible that somewhere in the sales process you failed to gain their trust fully.

Frankly, giving them a reference will actually hurt your agency. Here’s why, you respect your client’s time. If you have a prospect call up a client now they’re spending their time helping sell you instead of working on their business.

A lot of prospects will have questions about your specific strategies, which are your intellectual property. Not knowing any better, your clients might start giving away your secret sauce for free. So when a prospect asks for a reference, counter by asking more questions: What’s missing for them? What are they unsure about?

Instead of letting a reference or testimonial talk them into or out of working with you, try to answer all their concerns. Finally, tell them you want to share a case story or two instead of a reference. Case stories can often accomplish the same trust-building as a reference without monopolizing your client’s time and putting your IP at risk. If after this, they still want a reference, you can do this as a last resort and make sure you have a trusted client or two that previously agreed to be contacted.

#5 Agency Sales Objection: Another Agency Will Do It Cheaper

After easing the prospect’s mind, answering all their questions, and offering all the information, you may find some clients will want to haggle over price. They’ll say something like they got a cheaper quote from a different agency. It may be a case of an uninformed prospect who just needs a little bit more formation or a sign this is a bad prospect who’s just not a good fit with your agency.

Is it really a price issue or are they undervaluing the solution that you’ll be providing? Oftentimes, prospects aren’t fully educated on the value. So how to combat common price objections? Cheaper does not mean equal. Go back to Issue, Impact, and Importance. Is the lower-cost option really meeting the prospect’s objections? Ask them why the other agency’s quote is so cheap and let them think through the cost vs. quality difference. Often the cheaper option will mean more work for the client and, don’t forget, time is money.

Sometimes prospects only see dollar signs and forget to really scrutinize what they’re getting. When you initiate conversations like these it helps them second-guess their gut reaction of going with the cheapest option.

Related: https://jasonswenk.com/top-5-agency-sales-objections/

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.


Have you thought about expanding into a new industry? Ever wonder about buying another agency for their expertise and book of business? Even for an established agency, it can be difficult to break into a new space. However, a strategic agency acquisition can save a lot of time and effort. Today's guest found an agency acquisition was the ideal way to break into another niche. In this conversation, he shares some of what he learned from his agency acquisition and some lessons learned along the way.

David Hernandez is the cofounder of Lotus 823, an integrated communications and digital market agency. This boutique agency works with some of the most recognizable and innovative brands in consumer tech and lifestyle offering to build engaging partnerships that feel like a natural extension of clients’ companies.

Historically, his agency had mostly served clients in the tech space. However, they recently expanded to the home and lifestyle industry after purchasing an agency with years of expertise and reputation in that space. Thinking back to the acquisition process, he talks about how he made the decision, the lessons learned, and the valuable partner they gained as a result.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using a strategic acquisition to break into a new industry.
  • Lessons from acquiring an agency.
  • How to run a people-first agency.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective on the show.

 

Building Authority to Land Bigger Agency Clients

The idea for David’s agency was born 12 years ago while he and his wife pondered the possibilities for social media. Back then, people were still trying to figure out Facebook and they could see consumers would use it to communicate with each other and brands. It would never again be just top-down marketing. That was their inspiration for building an integrated agency that focuses on public relations, communications, and digital marketing. From the start, they had the vision of being a true partner to their client’s business goals.

Like most agencies, in the first couple of years, they focused on trying to get off the ground. They had a logo, a website, no case studies, and basically just their word and prior experience to attract clients. Because of this, their first clients were innovative startup brands in the tech space who took a risk on them. They worked to get their clients' media placements and third-party credibility through media reviews and spotlights.

That was the start and they built on that even when it took extra hours and was not profitable. Eventually, they had a body of work they could use to go for bigger brands.

Using a Strategic Acquisition to Break Into a New Niche

Several years ago, David and his partner acquired an agency specialized in the home space. They saw the growing push of the tech space into homes/lifestyles and wanted to access new opportunities to expand into a new industry.

Initially, David and Rachel (the owner of the agency he eventually acquired) met working on opposite sides of a client. While Rachel was handling the public relations side, David and his team handled social media marketing. They quickly hit it off and realized both agencies meshed really well, culturally. The idea for the acquisition grew organically and seemed like a great move for Lotus 823. Additionally, it offered the advantage of having a true expert at the helm of that initiative.

Of course, the acquisition process came with its own challenges and frustrations past the honeymoon phase. Bringing together different cultures has its challenges, even if they’re a good fit. In the end, it was a great way to accelerate access to the home/lifestyle space as opposed to them breaking down that door by themselves.

Lessons from Acquiring Another PR Agency

If he could do it all over again, David would try to understand the other agency’s processes, instead of just focusing on their results. His team didn’t realize how different their process was from what they were used to. It differed in the way both agencies measured profitability and results. There was no ill intent in it; it was just a series of details the team glossed over that led to complications later on.

It was definitely a learning process and in hindsight, David says he should have understood how the agency works from onboarding to execution. It’s the only way to know what you’re acquiring in terms of revenue vs. profitability and whether or not both teams can mesh seamlessly.

The agency they acquired was a boutique so it was more about acquiring their book of business as well as Rachel’s expertise in the space. From the beginning, they laid out the plans for her involvement and future exit. He worried the acquisition would spook clients not on long-term contracts. However, in a sense, it made it a simpler acquisition. The challenges came later on when it was time to figure out how to incorporate the acquired agency into his agency's processes.

2 Big Misconceptions Clients Have About Public Relations

There’s usually some level of education needed for clients when it comes to understanding PR work. There are two big misconceptions most clients have:

  1. PR brings in sales. That’s not what PR is for. There are many other tools that can help with sales. But PR is first and foremost the best tool to create credibility and visibility for a brand. Typically, once Lotus823 gets clients on a couple of media outlets their views go up, sometimes to billions of impressions. That type of visibility helps a brand create awareness, which creates a different conversation with potential consumers who now have an emotional connection with the brand.
  2. Big publications are the best PR. Clients think pubs like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal are the key to unlocking PR. However, this doesn't necessarily move the needle for every brand. It depends on their audience. Everybody wants the legitimacy of being in the New York Times. However, maybe an influencer program or tech outlet is a better fit for certain brands. When they build an influencer program, they typically look for relevancy. It’s not about the numbers. Sometimes a client will specifically want to work with celebrities. David’s team will redirect them to what actually works, which is working with creators with strong, engaged communities and a great reputation.

How to Run a People-First PR Agency

David runs a hybrid agency that offers the option of coming to the office. It’s important to him to offer flexible schedules to show they respect the team’s personal lives. The goal is to allow employees to build their work schedule into their personal life and really be present when it’s time to work.

When it comes to his agency’s culture, David strives to run a people-first agency where employees feel like their mental health is taken into account. Providing a work environment that allows for a balanced life helps you find and keep great talent.

According to David, if you find yourself managing a person too tightly, you’ve made the wrong hire. It’s a mistake that leads to mediocre output. You get transformative work when you have people you trust and who are happy working with each other.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Break_Into_a_New_Niche_with_a_Strategic_Agency_Acquisition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you struggling with low agency profit margins?  Are you tired of not winning the engagements you want and deserve? Did you know there’s an art to pricing in order to unlock 20X more revenue? That's 20X more than you are making right now!

When it comes to pricing, there are two common problems I see many agencies struggling with:

  1. Low profit margins.
  2. Not winning the engagements they should be.

Back in the day, I wanted to win high-profit engagements. I wanted the retainer clients because of the predictable income. I knew the combination of higher margins and predictable business would yield a healthy business and steady cash flow. But why is it so hard to accomplish? In my experience, it goes back to your approach.

Land 20x More Revenue by Making it an Easy Decision for Buyers

If you have a hard time landing the business you want it’s probably because you’re making it a difficult decision for the buyer. How? You’re selling the wrong thing first. Pitching a big project or long-term contract from the get-go is like proposing marriage on the first date. It’s a HUGE COMMITMENT to ask when you haven’t proved your worth yet. So the issue here is you haven’t created the perfect offer.

Mastermind member, Chris used to deal with this very issue. He owns an SEO agency and was charging $5,000 a month in month-to-month contracts. This was hindering his growth because clients normally stay with the agency for about 6 months, meaning they're worth just $30,000.

There were three things we needed to do in this scenario:

  • Make it an easier decision for the potential client.
  • Raise his pricing.
  • Transition to a long-term contract.

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Steps to Creating the Perfect Digital Agency Offer

In order to 20X revenue, you need to have a plan. That starts with developing a foot-in-the-door offer, which is a small, low-cost offer that demonstrates your value as an agency. This type of offer should be low-commitment and a very easy 'yes'... an offer they can't refuse :)  How can you benefit from having a foot-in-the-door offer? Well, clients who buy this offer are 20 times more likely to give you more money down the line. Overall, people are more likely to buy from you once they already know, like, and trust you.

It’s natural that you want to sell your core service first -- that’s your money maker! However, it’s a huge commitment for your prospect, and therefore a harder decision to make. YOU know your agency is awesome but they still have concerns and questions. It’s not a clear decision... yet. The solution here is to ease into a paid relationship first with a foot-in-the-door offer that highlights your expertise.

A lot of folks tend to over-complicate their foot-in-the-door offer so I created a tool to help agency owners develop your offer. Just go to agencymastery360.com/convert and download this free resource call the Foot in the Door Decider.

How to Build a Digital Agency Offer Ladder

The next step we did for Chris was to create an offer ladder, beginning with a foot-in-the-door. Start by asking yourself “What are you doing for free now that you could charge a small amount for?”

In Chris's case, he was spending around two and a half hours with each prospect giving them free strategy and advice. Instead, he switched to offering a one-hour paid strategy session where he could help them create an SEO Blueprint. They would go over some of their biggest challenges and highlight ways to solve them quickly. At the end of this session, the prospects who wanted help implementing this blueprint could sign on as clients.

Next Step in the Ladder: Small Project or Engagement

The next step in an offering ladder is a short-term project. Here you’ll be solving one of the issues you highlighted in the foot-in-the-door. This small project entails a slightly more significant financial commitment for the client. For instance, in Chris’ case, he offered a 3-month project for $15,000. This gives the agency 90 days to deliver results.

What do you think happens after your agency starts showing results? The client starts to trust you more and more. Suddenly, the decision to commit to a long-term relationship doesn’t seem so difficult.  Also, this short-term project also gives your team time to get acclimated to working with this client, and them working with you. Chances are it goes really well and a long term longer-term relationship is beneficial but in the off chance they're a nightmare client you're only stuck with them for 3 months!

Next Step in the Ladder: Digital Agency Retainer

As the window starts to close on the short-term project and you know you want to continue working with the client, that is when you can propose a year-long retainer. For Chris, it was also an excellent opportunity to raise his prices and change that year-long retainer from $5,000 a month to $9,000 a month.

So ask yourself what is your value proposition? What kind of front-end, middle, and back-end offers do you have to entice your clients? The answer to these questions will help you create an offering ladder and a perfect offer.

Why Do You Need to Go Through the Offer Ladder Process?

I get a lot of questions about the foot-in-the-door offer. Most agencies, make the jump to start charging for something they used to do for free and tend to put gasoline on it. They create something so complicated that they confuse and overwhelm their prospects.

Just remember, you don’t have to teach them anything in the initial call. Just help them identify problems and prescribe the solution they need.

10-Step Framework to Build a Foot-in-the-Door Offer

1. Build rapport.
Work with what you got. If you see a picture of a golf course behind them, chat about golf briefly.

2. Lay out the agenda.
Let them know you have a framework you use to make sure you cover all the basis in these conversations. This will position you as an authority and keep you on track.

3. Identify why now.
Ask them “What made you reach out and why is it important now?” and check to know if they’re okay with the agenda.

4. Current situation.
Where are they now with revenue, marketing, and profits? You restate it to them like this: “From what you're telling me, I understand that you want this to happen. Currently, this is what's happened, you've tried this and then that happened. Is that right? Anything else I need to be aware of?”

5. Talk about the roadblocks.
Let them know you want to know their roadblocks by making a list of everything standing in their way.

6. Restate the value.
Go back to what you’ve discussed to make sure you have the full picture. “So let me get this right, you really want X but Y is in the way and costing you XYZ. Does that sound right?”

7. Prescription or solution.
Present your assessment according to what you’ve been told. “So based on what you’ve told me, it sounds like you need [your solution] in order to get [X benefit]”.

8. The promise.
This is where you start talking about what you do. Go through how your agency helps clients and the benefits your team gets for them.

9. Logistics.
This is where you can go more into detail on your prescribed solution. Go through the specifics of how it would actually work. You’d be surprised at how much educating your prospects on the process can help you win the deal.

10. The price.
Now that you’ve helped them determine where they want to go, where they are now, and the impact on their business, they’ll be more open to paying much more than prior to you walking them through the framework.

 

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: The_Perfect_Digital_Agency_Offer_to_Unlock_20X_More_Revenue.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you resisting the advice to niche down and become a specialist? Do you think niching down means losing opportunities and turning down clients? It's normal to fear a change like this but when you understand your ideal audience, you can't lose. Your ideal prospects will notice that you speak their language and understand their challenges. That leads to building trust and authority as well as a pipeline full of prospects. For one agency, everything changed once they realized they already had tons of success in an uncommon niche. It took time but this agency doubled revenue when they went all in.

James Kaye is the co-founder of Big Games Machine, a video games PR agency with unique experience in delivering consumer and B2B PR campaigns for clients worldwide. Although it has tons of experience in the gaming industry, James’ agency wasn’t always marketed to that niche. The decision to speak to its ideal audience changed everything for its business. He discusses how this small change helped them double their revenue.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Doubling their revenue by positioning themselves as a specialist agency.
  • Struggling to fill his agency’s pipeline.
  • Why choosing a niche doesn’t mean you’ll turn down all other clients.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Like many, James and his business partner are accidental agency owners. They had both worked at different agencies before reuniting to create Big Games Machine. They started as just two consultants working from their kitchen tables on different sides of the country. Growth was slow, but it snowballed into an agency little by little as they started to take people on.

Overall, just learning to run an agency was a bumpy road that led to many failures before starting to see the successes. Now even after nine years of growing the agency, he's still learning and making mistakes. For instance, new business remains a constant problem that he's still figuring out. On the other hand, one of the most valuable lessons for him has been the importance of finding the support of a coach to guide you and trusting his agency could grow in a specialty niche.

The Biggest Inbound Marketing Mistake

Many agency owners struggle to build a pipeline after growing on referrals in the beginning, which is not scalable. This is actually still a struggle but James has learned his pipeline is his lifeblood so he’s always willing to try something new.

In terms of the work they do at the agency, they divided it into two segments:

  • Consumer, where there’s a lot of competition with many agencies doing consumer PR,
  • B2B, where they’d really found their footing.

At his agency, they work in video games PR, which is a pretty small niche. Luckily, they are pretty good with SEO, which has become a big part of their inbound marketing strategy. The problem James has found, however, is that as a unique specialist, it becomes very difficult for a third party to represent you eloquently and passionately.

Over the years, he’s tried pretty much everything in terms of building the pipeline. He partnered with a LinkedIn agency to give cold emails a try and found this did not work for his agency. Of course, some things take 6-12 months to start showing results. Looking back, he thinks they were too generalist in their inbound marketing approach.

How Seeking the Help of an Expert Changed Everything

There are a lot of options out there for agencies trying to accelerate their growth; it might seem like you're simultaneously drowning in options and starving for good ones. Loads of bad options are out there and it’s up to agency owners to decipher which ones are legit.

James found a good fit and started integrating systems for agency growth. One of the most impactful was making the decision to become a specialist.

Up to that point, his agency was called Big Ideas Machine and was more of a general Tech PR agency. They served B2B and consumer customers but hadn’t managed to book a consumer client. The feedback they were getting was that the agency didn’t look enough like a games agency. He decided to create a different brand called Big Games Machine hoping to attract consumer clients on the gaming side.

Stop Resisting the Shift to be a Specialist Agency and Pick a Niche

In James’ experience, it was a big mess trying to run two brands and two websites at the same time. It came to the point where he and his partner sat down to consider their choices. They had 25 years of experience in the game industry and that was their area of expertise. In fact, looking at their B2B clients, they were all in the games industry. They had resisted the idea to niche down even though they were getting no traction as a generalist agency. That was the lightbulb moment.

The big shift came when they finally decided to get rid of Big Ideas Machine and consolidate Big Games Machine as their main brand. By doubling down on that niche they occupy a very unique space. No one else does B2B in the gaming industry quite like they do.

Now that they do B2B and consumer work for the games industry, people quickly understand what problems they solve. With this change, James understood it’s not only about picking a niche but also about how you position yourself in the market.

Additionally, he recently hired a new head of new business marketing with experience and contacts in the gaming industry that has been getting very good quality leads for the agency.

Does Choosing a Niche Mean Turning Away Other Clients?

When pushing to remain a generalist agency, it was because James was thinking about the business they would lose as specialists. What if a client from another industry approached them? Would they have to turn them away?

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re choosing a niche is thinking they’ll need to say no to other clients. The idea is that you’re only marketing to ideal clients in a niche, but can still take on projects outside the niche.

The Best Advice to Fill Your Agency's Pipeline

James best advice to fill your pipeline is to play the long game and go all in on content. He feels this is the best way to gain your prospects’ trust, which you’ll do by solving a problem for them. How can you do that? Start by creating amazing content, whether it's a podcast, blog post, or newsletter. It’ll be the best thing you can do for your agency.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: How_One_Agency_Doubled_Revenue_Becoming_Specialists_in_a_Unique_Niche.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you tired of being the only one in your agency responsible for closing deals? Would you like to build a top-notch agency sales team to land the deals you’ve always wanted? In this episode, you'll learn how to find the right salesperson, build a sales team, train, manage, and compensate them so the owner is no longer the one responsible for agency sales.

It all starts with:

 

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Being an agency owner can feel like being on a rollercoaster ride. One moment you have a full pipeline and the next it is as dry as the desert. I remember focusing all my attention on sales to get new business and then having to switch my focus to delivery. As soon as I was focused on delivery I noticed sales suffered. In hindsight, I think I was self-sabotaging sales because we just couldn’t deliver as fast as I was selling the services.

To fix this problem you have to find a salesperson who can do a better job at sales than you do, as the agency owner.

There are three types of salespeople:

  • Hunter:  usually has a lower salary and gets paid per appointment.
  • Closer: with a higher base salary and tiered commission, and should have a sales quota.
  • Farmer or account service: has a mid-range salary with a bonus based on client retention.

The BIGGEST MISTAKE you can make while searching for a salesperson is trying to find a unicorn that can fill all three of these roles. And, you don’t need to hire all three at once. Start by hiring for the role you’re weakest at. Are you good at getting the leads in but lacking when it comes to following up? Then hire a closer. Eventually, you can hire the rest and grow a sales team.

Pro tip: be sure to give them the right title. No one wants to meet with a “Business Development Manager” or “Salesperson.” Personally, I’ve always preferred the term Specialist, like Scale Specialist or Conversion Specialist. You need a title that makes prospects want to have a conversation.

Now where can you actually find these salespeople? You have several choices:

  1. Personal connections: I don't suggest hiring a friend, but a mutual connection is a winner almost every time.
  2. Current and past clients: Your clients already know what you do and your process and they may love working for you.
  3. Salespeople who have sold to you in the past: They can even be from another industry. The important thing is that you had a good experience; you can teach and train them in everything else agency-related.
  4. Recruiters and job boards: This has never personally worked for me but it depends on your style and preferences.

How to Differentiate a Good Agency Sales Candidate

Once you start the interview process, how can you tell a sales candidate is right for your agency? Look at how they’re behaving during the interview. Are they talking too much? If they do, it’s probably a bad sign. A good salesperson listens more than they talk. Are they asking great questions? Have they been successful in sales in the past? As mentioned, they don’t necessarily need experience in the agency industry, as long as they understand the principles of sales.

For the candidates you do like, ask them to prepare a 90-day plan. They should be able to paint a picture of what they would do during the first 90 days at your agency. Moreover, you can use that plan later as a way to measure them.

Pro Tip: Sales are very competitive, so if you can hire two or three candidates at the same time, you can encourage competition while also testing out strengths.

How Should You Compensate Agency Sales? Commission-Only vs. Salary

This is a question I get very often. How do you compensate an agency salesperson? Commission-only or straight salary?

To be clear, each has its downsides. If you’re paying commission only, your salespeople may start to make false promises in desperation to make a sale. They also may not be 100% focused on your agency and might even sell for someone else to make ends meet.

On the other hand, if you go for 100% salary you avoid the problem of false promises but they almost certainly won’t be hungry enough to go hard on sales.

This is why I lean more toward doing a combination of both: salary plus commission. I offer a base salary that is just below their salary requirements and a commission, of maybe 5% - 10%. You need to show them there is an incentive to exceed their salary goals IF they are a rockstar at sales.

Training Your Digital Agency Sales Team

When I think about training a salesperson I think about preparing them to be able to answer the following:

  1. What’s your promise to your clients?
  2. What’s your client's problem? And,
  3. What types of clients are a good fit and what are not?

Over the years I’ve broken down what makes agency owners such good salespeople and realized it all comes down to stories. As owners, we have all the stories for different scenarios. If you’re dealing with a prospect that’s having a hard time converting leads, you probably have a story about another client who dealt with this same struggle and overcame it.

As the owner, I recommend keeping track of and sharing those stories. The team could use some of them to attract leads, others to convert. The point is that you give them the tools to succeed. Over time, they’ll accumulate their own stories.

How to Train and Manage Your Agency Sales Team 

When it comes to managing salespeople I recommend you start doing it daily until you feel they can handle themselves. You can break it down into morning and afternoon, at least for the first couple of months. The morning should be used to share stories and prepare them to chat with clients. You’ll also want to share wins and go over objections people may be having.

On the other hand, the afternoon should be more about the progress of the day. This is better left for the afternoon because some days they’ll get a lot of no’s and you’ll have to help rebuild their confidence.

Once they get to a good place, you can change the daily check-ins to weekly. They should also start recording all their calls so you can review them. You can ask them to send their worst and best calls of the day. This way, you can see if they’re clarifying why the client got on the call. They should label the problem and establish a gap in how far away the client is from where they want to be. Also, make sure they ask for the sale, rather than just prescribe what they need to do.

Finally, make sure you’re constantly measuring them on their 90-day success plan. This way, I guarantee within 30 days you’ll know whether that salesperson is going to work out or not.

How to Qualify Agency Prospects and Stop Wasting Time with the Wrong Ones

How can you spend time with the right prospect and avoid wasting time with the wrong ones? The first conversation with a prospect is the most important because it frames how the relationship develops.

Too many agencies use that conversation to focus on themselves (showcasing capabilities and successes) when you should actually be focusing on the prospect. Often agencies start talking about their awards and their portfolio with a prospect that doesn’t care about that yet. They don't care what the agency can do, they care what the agency can do for them.

However, I’m sure you want to stand out and present yourself as more than just another Me Too agency, and there are 10 questions you can ask to position yourself as THE CHOICE rather than a choice.

10 Steps When Talking with New Agency Prospects

It's important to gauge the benefits and pre-qualify any new agency prospect. I call this a triage call, where you can assess the challenge the prospect is facing and determine whether you can work together to deliver the results they seek.

  1. The Welcome: This sets the tone for the meeting and establishes you as the one in control. Just make them feel comfortable and let them know you’ll be asking them some questions to determine whether or not you can help them. Explain that if you're a good fit, there will be another meeting. If you can't help, you’ll give them some advice and part as friends.
  2. Why now and why me? Try to understand why they’re coming to your agency at this particular moment.
  3. Tell me more about your business: Make sure you have the full picture of what they do so you can determine if you can help them.
  4. What’s your budget? This will determine their expectation and what they’re willing to pay.
  5. Where are they now and where are they trying to be? Get to know the metrics, the goals, and how they are going to measure success.
  6. What is missing or broken? Try to identify their biggest issue. Try to learn the impact that issue is having on their business and the impact of fixing it.
  7. What do they need? What are their biggest challenges and why do they think you can solve those?
  8. Establish the priority: On a scale of 1 to 10 how much of a priority is it to resolve this issue?
  9. Problem check-in: State the top problems and the impact they’re having on them.
  10. Can you actually help them and do you want to? This is a question to ask yourself, thinking not just in terms of revenue but based on the initial interaction; is this client he right fit for your agency?

After doing the triage call and walking through these 10 questions, it is time to present your foot-in-the-door offer.

A foot-in-the-door offer is a low commitment, low cost, and easy YES for the prospect. And, it's the best way to showcase your agency's expertise and test out a working relationship with a client before fully committing to larger projects.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: Building_a_Top-Notch_Sales_Team_for_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you an accidental agency owner? Most of us are! That is why it's important to continually evolve in order to grow your digital agency. Can you identify the milestones that have gotten you where you are? What are the biggest challenges you’ve had to face? As an agency owner, it's important to stay inspired and stay the course on the path we're paving for ourselves. Today’s guest took inspiration from various industry leaders to start his agency and learn how to grow from just an owner to a CEO. He’s been in the agency world for over ten years and has had to reinvent a few times to keep up with new challenges. He shares the various challenges he's faced over different stages of his agency's journey and the milestones that helped him keep going.

Andrew Gottlieb is the founder and CEO of No Typical Moments, a digital marketing agency that works exclusively with purpose-driven social impact-focused businesses. His agency acts as a Fractional CMO working executing social media campaigns for online education. His agency handles everything from media buying to Instagram, Facebook, and Google campaigns, and backend email marketing solutions for some of the world’s thought leaders.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Evolving the agency's service offering to keep up with market changes.
  • The importance of diversifying your lead gen source.
  • Overcoming 3 big challenges of growing an agency.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective to the show.

 

Becoming an Accidental Agency Owner with Inspiration and a Mastermind

In 2010, Andrew was a senior in college applying for and getting rejected from any job he could find. He had majored in Managerial Economics and had done everything right. However, it didn’t work out as expected so he had to sit down and reflect on his next move.

He was referred to David Siteman Garland’s podcast, where he described a lifestyle working from the beach in Puerto Rico while making six figures. That's when Andrew set out to get himself to that point and developed the idea for his agency, No Typical Moments.

It turned out that the formula for building his ideal business included things he greatly enjoyed: marketing and new technologies. It took him 18 months to really develop the concept of his agency. Meanwhile, he worked odd jobs, did a couple more internships, and finally found a full-time job with a minor league baseball team.

In his agency journey, Andrew found many role models like David, Gary Vaynerchuck, Jesse Itzler, and more. They were an inspiration throughout building and growing his agency in different ways. They helped him see the importance of taking advice from someone who already walked that same path.  He also credits involvement in a mastermind is a fundamental part of going from agency owner to Agency CEO.

What Milestones Propel Agency Growth?

Andrew officially started his agency in 2012 with six months' worth of savings and the plan to either duplicate his income in those six months or find another job. After 90 days of endless meetings, he hit his first big milestone: finding a paying client.

From there, his growth was marked by milestones like meeting the agency’s first big client and making some key hires. Around 2013, Andrew met a sales expert who joined the agency and ended up being an important part of its growth. Having someone besides him to help with client work and sales made a big difference.

As he started delegating the client work, they were also able to take on more clients. Shortly after that, their next big client was the Pittsburg Marathon, which was another big moment for the agency.

Evolving the Agency’s Service Offering with Market Changes

Originally, the agency offered organic social media marketing, which included Twitter and LinkedIn. However, over the years he's had to adapt to keep the business going. With time, Andrew realized there wasn’t a clear ROI he could break down for clients. There wasn’t a clear way to explain what those campaigns would do for their business. This was back when social media wasn’t what it is today. He realized doing paid ads lend to a more straightforward conversation. ROI is clearer with ads and it's a cleaner business case to sell to clients. This is what inspired a change in their service offering.

Later on, their offer evolved again to Facebook ads campaigns, which actually became pretty much their only service offer. Everyone was using Facebook and it worked for the agency. However, the big wake-up call came when iOS 14 changed everything. As most know, this made Facebook advertising very challenging and clients started to pull out. Those who weren’t immediately taken aback saw their ROI go down pretty quickly.

Luckily, Andrew and his team had already been thinking about broadening their offering. They had their eyes on doing YouTube, LinkedIn, and Google advertising. Moreover, he realized some clients were more in need of thought leadership and strategic direction than advertising. Hence, they searched for a Fractional CMO who could point these clients in the right direction so the ad campaigns would have a better chance of success.

The Importance of Diversifying Your Lead Gen Source

Usually, clients defer to Andrew's agency to get clear on their next best step in digital marketing. At some point, the easy answer was Facebook Ads. With it, you could generate revenue at the snap of your fingers. The game has changed, however. It’s now very important to be clear on where the business is at in its maturity to develop the right strategy. When a client brings on their team, they’ll help them with anything from email marketing, landing pages, copywriting, media buying on any major platform, or tech integration. They can also help manage employees, manage vendor relationships, contractors, and whatever clients require from a CMO.

When his agency changed course to a more full-service offering, he needed to get clients to understand it was a good moment to diversify their lead gen sources. If their entire campaigns hinged on Facebook, they will likely have issues in the future. The storm from iOS 14 combined with other difficult moments for the platform finally helped some clients see the light. Some companies had spent millions in Facebook ads only for their accounts to be banned out of nowhere. Now they had a need to spend on Google and YouTube to get to a million in spending.

For the longest time, it seemed like Facebook could not fail. But, in that moment it became much easier to explain the importance of diversifying.

3 Biggest Challenges He’s Faced at Different Stages of His Agency Journey

For Andrew, the challenges presented by building a digital agency have changed depending on the stage of the agency’s growth.

  1. The mental challenge of entrepreneurship.
    As a 22-year-old starting a business, his friends went the more traditional route and had high-paying jobs. Their path offered more of a clear trajectory whereas he entered entrepreneur which is the land of the unknown. The shame and embarrassment of not having that clarity affected his confidence. It also affected his social life, since he had to pour all his resources into the business. He couldn’t afford to go out and risk spending money he would need for the agency.
  2. Growing the agency beyond the owner.
    Finding the right people to continue to grow the agency has been more challenging than he expected. He was lucky with his two first hires, who are actually still with him years later. However, he made a series of bad hires as the agency grew. He was not clear on the expectation for each role and needed to hand over control. Those first mistakes ruined some relationships for him.
  3. Staying inspired to grow.
    More recently, Andrew's big challenge has been continuing to be inspired to grow and build after ten years. After years of weathering different storms like the pandemic and changes to his offering, it is time to reinvent again.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Conquering_3_Big_Challenges_in_Order_to_Grow_Your_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Did you know if you keep saying you’re too busy it probably means you’re not charging enough? Are you ready to start charging what your digital agency is worth?

Being too busy is the quickest way to not only burn yourself out but also your team. I’ve been there, and let me tell you I was on the verge of shutting down my agency from being overworked and undervalued. We were doing so many things wrong. We were talking to the wrong clients, working long hours, and worst of all, barely making ends meet.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to get out of your own way and start charging what you’re worth.

How can you get your prices to where they should be?

  1. Understand the value and results your agency delivers.
  2. Build trust with clients through an offer ladder.
  3. Position yourself as an authority in your space.

 

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In this video, you will learn the three pricing structures you can use to get you to a place where your pricing will both be more on par with the results you deliver and will give you an advantage over other cheaper agencies.

Most agency owners believe at some point that low prices will give you an advantage over the rest. However, I’d argue that increasing your prices actually works to your advantage. As an adviser, I go through the financials of thousands of agencies, and in up to 90% of cases, I recommend they increase their prices. The suggestion alone makes them back away in fear.

I get it, most agency owners worry about things like losing the pitch because their prices are too high. However, I counter with “What if you lose the pitch because your pricing is too low?” You don’t think this can happen? It happened to me!

Years ago I got a call from a prospect that needed a website. I nailed the call and was invited to their office to present an offer. Their office was HUGE. Who was this company? I proceeded to make the pitch and said my price: $10,000. They actually laughed and I was so confused. Was the price too high?

Well, it turns out this company I'd never heard of, Berkshire Hathaway, was expecting to spend around $300,000 on the website. They loved the pitch and were excited to work with us until I named my price... because it was too low they thought it wouldn't deliver the results they expected.

So how should your digital agency pricing be structured? How can you come up with a price that shows your value, increases profit, and allows you to win more deals? A lot of businesses tend to set a price and then not think about it again for years. When there’s one element of your business that affects everything other element so much, it’s definitely not something to be forgotten. Pricing should evolve as much as your business does.

3 Digital Agency Pricing Models

1. Hourly-Based Pricing

Should agencies charge by the hour? Honestly, I’m not a fan. This is my absolutely least favorite model. Charging by the hour sounds like a great idea, but as you get better and more efficient at your job you’ll be working fewer hours and thus making less money. It’s also the option that makes clients more nervous because there’s a variable of the unknown. However, I do believe there’s a time for hourly rates. If you’re doing something new and it’s hard to estimate how long it will take you, then it’s the best option.

2. Value-Based pricing

This pricing model is the intersection between what your services are worth to the client and what you’re willing to take. Unfortunately, it’s very hard to get a pulse on the perceived value. Try to gather as much information as you can from clients so you can fully understand what they need and how you can help them. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve met with clients and asked them for their budget to find that it’s much higher than I would’ve quoted, so we could have possibly lost revenue or lost the deal altogether.

3. Performance-Based Pricing

What if you only got paid for performance? Would you be profitable? Mastery member David was having trouble charging anything more than $3,500 per month. He was in a race to the bottom that involved over-delivering and under-promising. David focused too much on what others in his niche were charging. After hearing countless success stories from other mastermind members, he got the courage to make a change. He picked a client who he knew he could make tons of money for and asked for a percentage of the revenue he would generate for the company as payment. That percentage turned into a $1 million payday six months later.

The trick when it comes to this model is coming up with a formula to pick the winners. If you generate this company X amount of business, can they scale as quickly as you’re sending them business? What’s the metric you can control? If their sales team won’t return calls then you need to change the performance to an agreed amount of leads.

Getting Your Prices to What They Should Be

I’m a big advocate of agencies increasing their prices but it obviously needs to be done in the right way. You can’t just double prices for existing clients right away.

Mastery member Dean was struggling to afford the team he needed, which led to him doing everything and being close to burning out. We challenged him to raise his prices and he started by doubling his fees for the new clients coming in. To his surprise, they all said yes. Now it was time to turn our attention to existing clients.

By that time, existing clients were paying 50% of what new clients were paying so he was actually losing money on those accounts. We developed a plan for him to reach out to those clients and let them know the price was increasing. He expected to lose around 50% of these clients but the other 50% would make up for this loss. He actually didn’t lose any clients. They all agreed to pay the increase.

This resulted in an extra $67,000 per month for his agency with no additional work for his agency.

Ultimately, your pricing structure will be up to you. Consider your financial goals for the future and ask yourself which structure will get you there the quickest. It’s not about topline revenue but about how you can maximize the profitability of your bottom line.

Do You Want to Convert More Prospects Into Agency Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to CONVERTING more agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/convert In our videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to charge what you're worth, overcome common sales objections, and unlock up to 20X more revenue from existing clients.

Direct download: The_Secret_to_Charging_What_Your_Digital_Agency_Is_Worth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Are you effectively using storytelling in your agency's marketing? Storytelling is an invaluable tool that makes your prospects feel heard and understood. It's a way to relate to clients and communicate how your help solve their problems. Storytelling creates better communication that’s more effective, more memorable, and easier for people to understand.

Today’s guest started working as a scriptwriter until he discovered business storytelling was a coveted skill he could help business owners develop. Over the years, he has implemented 3 methods that help facilitate clients’ access to storytelling tools. He explains some of the logic behind these frameworks and how anyone can train themselves to be a compelling storyteller.

Douglass Hatcher is the CEO of Communicate4IMPACT, an agency that helps coach people in the art and science of business storytelling. They take what business owners do naturally – telling stories – and help them apply that to what they do professionally.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Using business storytelling effectively.
  • 3 methods to improve your storytelling skills.
  • Secret to building a successful agency sales team.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Discovering the Power of Business Storytelling

For most of his career, Douglass was a speech writer. First in the public sector, for congressmen and a senator. Eventually, he moved on to the corporate world where he wrote speeches for the CEO of MasterCard. This led to requests to help with their presentations and pitch decks. That is where he first heard the term business storytelling.

Douglass quickly learned that it's an actual craft to tell a story in the business context. In addition to creating presentation decks, he ended up helping develop a two-hour course on storytelling for the company. The course was more popular than he could have imagined. That is when he realized there is a market for this service and started his own agency.

The Significance of Effective Business Storytelling

Richard Branson and Steve Jobs are great examples of successful business owners who care about effective communication. Not all leaders put communication ahead of everything else in their business. Of course, your data, financials, and numbers matter; but at the end of the day, if your audience doesn’t understand what you bring to the table, you’re in a tough place.

That said, Steve Jobs wasn't always the confident and expressive presenter we remember today. Douglass recalls a TV interview with an anxiety-ridden Jobs who even vomited between takes. From that point on, he worked hard to become a great communicator spending up to thirty hours on each of his presentation slides.

If you look at any of Steve Jobs’s presentations, he doe not focus on selling the newest iPhone or iPad. He’s more focused on communicating through storytelling. Instead of saying that the iPod was the latest and greatest mp3 player, he said "the iPod is having 1,000 songs in your pocket." Rather than just selling features, Steve Jobs was the master of telling the story of what a product will do for you.

3 Methods to Help Improve Your Storytelling Skills

 

1. The ABT Method

ABT or And, But, Therefore is the three-word vocabulary necessary to tell a good story. It was first popularized by Randy Olson who was inspired to apply the ABT method after seeing a documentary by the South Park creators where they talked about using it for their scriptwriting.

  • AND represents the way things are
  • BUT is the turn or the change
  • THEREFORE is the outcome with a resolution.

Basically, the idea is that instead of saying “My product is this, my service is that,” you use the framework:

“My services are this AND this, BUT if you use it this way you will get X result; THEREFORE, this can happen.”

In storytelling, without change, there is no story. Likewise, in business you’re trying to solve a problem, to change the customer’s situation for the better -- that’s where storytelling comes in.

2. What, So What, Now What

  • WHAT is the thing you want to talk about
  • SO WHAT is “why do we care”
  • NOW WHAT is about what’s next.

In this framework, you ask these questions to identify, analyze, and draw sense from an event. Douglass uses it to train clients to tackle situations where they have to answer a question under pressure.

He gives the example of a famous director who experienced technical difficulties on stage when the teleprompter went out. As a result, he chose to walk off stage. If he had this tool he could have stayed on stage and improvised a way to engage the audience.

The goal of this framework is to keep you from tanking in moments of high pressure, control your anxiety, and have courage to carry on.

3. The PIXAR Framework

Pixar is famous for creating compelling stories that are universally loved by people of all ages. They are masters of storytelling and their framework can be broken down as follows:

  • Once upon a time,
  • Every day…
  • One day…
  • Because of that…
  • Because of that…
  • Until finally…

Similar to the previous ones, we start with ONCE UPON A TIME, which is the client’s current situation. EVERY DAY would be the problem they’re facing. ONE DAY is when you come into the picture with a solution. Each BECAUSE OF THAT represents a benefit brought by your solution. UNTIL FINALLY is the resolution.

It’s amazing how effective this framework is. The best part is that choosing you as the solution doesn’t come until the third act. This is why it's important to always put the customer first and position yourself as their guide.

The Secret to Building a Successful Agency Sales Team

These frameworks are seemingly very simple but they’re also very effective. It often happens that the things that are made to look simple took the longest time to create. There’s a lot of research behind each of these that comes from many years of research on the best practices to create compelling stories. If you’re an agency owner looking to become a better storyteller, these frameworks will give you the advantage you need.

The power of storytelling is also what makes agency owners so good at selling. Owners who have a lot of trouble building a really great sales team are usually not sharing their success stories. Owners need to create a shareable library of stories to pass on to their sales team. When your team can share success stories with clients and prospects, you help them succeed and help get yourself out of sales.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: 3_Methods_of_Storytelling_That_Wins_More_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

When was the last time you took a break from your agency? Do you stress out just thinking about taking time off? Do you feel like everything will fall apart with you? This is usually the case when agency owners need to create SOPs and delegate more to their team. Getting serious about SOP documentation levels up your agency, sets up the team for success, and increases its overall value. It starts with an important mental shift and understanding your agency will actually benefit from you taking a step back.

Today’s guest is a process and systems expert who focuses on establishing all the necessary systems and procedures to make sure you have something to lean on. If you're doing all the agency work, you’re rarely able to put 100% into anything. This is why she focuses on teaching how to leverage rest and create simple systems to increase your agency's longevity.

Alyson Caffrey is a systems and process creation expert and the founder of Operations Agency. She helps founders get their agencies out of their brains and centralized to help them be more impactful. She’s also the author of The Sabbatical Method: How to Leverage Rest and Grow Your Business, a guide to help return business owners back to their families. With it, founders learn that taking a break can increase your business’s longevity, uncover some inefficiencies, and professionalize operations.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • Taking a step back increases your agency's value.
  • Simplifying SOP creation to have an immediate impact.
  • 3 keys to successful digital agency processes

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Why Agency Founders Need to Be Intentional with Their Time 

Like many service-based business owners, Alyson hadn’t planned to start an agency. She was working as an Operations Manager in Colorado when her husband got a career-defining opportunity that meant moving cities. Not long after that, she was approached by several former clients to continue providing some services, and she was suddenly an accidental agency owner providing SOPs and operations support.

With no children and her husband occupied in the military, Alyson had a ton of time to dedicate to her business. This meant she was able to serve clients at a really deep level in the beginning. However, when she became a mom she was confronted with the need to take time off.

As the operations expert, Alyson knows she should've had her processes documented, but like the cobbler's children with no shoes, she had not prioritized it. She now attributes the birth of her son to finally being more intentional about the time she spends working in her business and making sure she can spend time away from it, too.

Taking a Step Back Helps Increase Your Agency’s Value

Agency owners work very hard to build a business with the idea that at some point, they'll have freedom and the ability to take breaks. However, once the agency starts growing it never seems to be the right time to take time off. Many agency owners are they're forced to decide between their agency and their personal life. That means missing important events and strained relationships. Alyson says for her it was a high-stakes moment when she realized there was a problem.

It all starts with a mental shift and understanding you’re selling a transformation, not your time.

Many agency owners think they’re the only ones that can lead their business to success. However, once you remove yourself from the equation of day-to-day operations, the agency's value instantly drives up. When you can step away from the agency to recharge, or even just to work on the business and not in it, that single benefit is a game changer.

Three Steps You Can Take to Start Empowering Your Team

Where can you start to systematically take action to make the necessary changes? Alyson started by changing how she performs inside her business.

  1. Screen recording. Instead of just going in and doing the work, Alyson started to screen-record while she did it.
  2. Become the advisor. Next, she provide the resources and guidance for her team to get the results but didn’t do the work for them.
  3. Test the framework. Alyson decided to test out her client-facing frameworks with her own team to see which processes they could set up using them.

How to Simplify SOPs and Have an Immediate Impact on Your Agency

Although the process of creating SOP's and documenting processes can take time, Alyson saw results almost immediately. After screen recording her processes, she was able to delegate some things to her client success manager. This small act freed up some of Alyson's time so she could focus on more important elements of the agency.

Start with the administrative tasks, which can be delegated overnight once you record the process. Things like sending client reports and scheduling meetings do not require a special skill set. Nothing will fall apart if you, as the agency owner, are not doing it. You can focus on other areas of the business while still allowing clients to feel supported without your direct input. Also, setting up a way to centrally locate all processes helps your team have independent access to information without needing your help.

Do you need an Operations Manager right away? In Alyson's opinion, no. Most agencies can wait until they’ve grown to maybe 30-40 people, depending on the type of agency. But it’s not a one-size-fits-all idea. Some owners can achieve results on a smaller scale. You can start by delegating or offloading just 20% of your tasks and still have a small win.

Are Your Digital Agency Processes Set Up for Failure?

Alyson says agency owners need to understand there are two states of operations. There’s operations creation and operations management. Usually, people want to skip right to the management part.

Often, agency owners want someone to come in and take over operations management without taking the time to first create the pathway. According to Alyson, this is largely why agency owners get burned with hires. They hire someone to do something without providing the tools for this person to get familiar with their role.

Furthermore, creating something that isn’t maintainable sets up failure. You can have fancy spreadsheets and automation but if you don’t understand how to maintain them, these processes go out of date fast. Building a system that needs less maintenance ultimately results in a better system that lasts longer.

3 Keys to Successful Digital Agency Operational Processes

  1. Clear Expectations: We’ve all been there with projects that have a thousand revisions, take too long, or go out of scope. Start by taking a close look at those projects and get some SOPs to ask and answer: What’s in scope? What's outside of scope? What’s the timeline?
  2. Standard Operating Procedures: You need to document absolutely everything around how you deliver your core services. A lack of centralized SOPs creates a limit on how much you can grow.
  3. Transparent Reporting: There’s no need to overcomplicate this step. Focus on measurable KPIs around your projects. Are they on time? Within scope? Are they coming back error-free or an acceptable amount of minor errors? You want to gain visibility into how things are functioning overall to help you lay a foundation to get to the next level.

Your Digital Agency Can Grow In Your Absence

Some owners don’t want to hear this but the reality is your agency can grow in your absence. Stepping away to take a break gives you the opportunity to get to the next level. When climbing Mt. Everest, one of the main reasons climbers fail to reach the summit is the lack of altitude acclimation. This means climbers don’t take enough breaks at strategic points to prepare themselves for the next level.

In the end, reaching the summit is just 15 minutes of celebrating success. The fun part is the climb. Prepare your agency for joy in the day-to-day, not just in reaching the summit. Stop working weekends or into the evenings. Stop missing important events or skipping vacations. The trade-off is sacrificing daily operations for the joy of reaching the summit.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Digital_Agency_Growth_Starts_with_SOPs_and_Delegating.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Do you view your digital agency clients as a means to an end? Are you and your team taking a real interest in your clients in order to understand them as a person first? Creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency. That's why today's guest finds his background in accounting a helpful skill in understanding what is important to his agency clients. Budgets and bottom line are one thing, but clients want to be treated like humans. He is on the show to share the insights he has learned about client relationships, how he weaves that into the interview process, and two pivotal moments that helped him have confidence and courage as an agency owner.

Spencer Hadelman is the founder and CEO of Advantage Marketing, a Chicago-based marketing firm that provides digital and traditional media solutions. His agency has served big brand clients like the University of Berkley and Hello Kitty and also invests in multiple companies with their recent e-commerce acquisitions.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Why creating relationships is at the core of every successful agency.
  • One unique interview tactic that assesses agency employees.
  • Why you need confidence and courage to be an agency owner.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective on the show.

 

Serving Agency Clients According to Their Specific Needs

Spencer describes his business as a full-service marketing firm since he believes the label “agency” scares people off sometimes. He understands clients don’t always need help in every area so his company has 3 subdivisions:

  • Digital advertising: Helping clients with search and Google campaigns, as well as paid social.
  • Traditional media: Including television ad campaigns, radio, billboards, and direct mail.
  • Content creation: Mainly content for their organic social campaigns. They also do website design, logo design, branding work, etc.

Some clients require all three services while others choose just one pillar depending on their needs. Overall, clients seem to appreciate that, depending on their strategy, they have different experts working on their marketing needs. They aren’t just pushed to one division completely. It’s great to have a different perspective from someone in a different division and in the end, it’s all about the results.

Why Human Relationships Are at the Core of Every Successful Agency

Even though Spencer majored in accounting, he credits the knowledge and skill set he got from his education as an important part of his marketing work. In fact, having those accounting skills is something he recommends to anyone wanting to own a business someday. Marketing courses and working at other agencies gave him the experience he needed to learn about the industry; however, accounting is what still helps him understand the clients' businesses.

Working at other agencies he learned about media buying and the evolution of changing technologies. The biggest lesson he took away, however, was that clients want to be treated like humans. It’s not just about their budget and coming in focused on how much ad spend. It's about creating long-term relationships. Whether it’s a startup or a huge brand, if clients are putting their faith in you, you need to take a human approach to it.

It was those relationships with clients that gave Spencer the push to start his agency. It seemed like a logical next step, after realizing clients didn’t really care about the agency and were more excited to work with him and his team.

 

A Unique Interview Tactic that Helps Assess Agency Employees

Spencer likes to prepare potential new hires for possible hostile reactions from clients. This is something he does even during their interview process. He reads their CV in front of them and shows a dismissive attitude just to see their reactions. In his opinion, it’s a good way to see how someone handles conflict and difficult situations.

To balance that with a fun work culture, he organizes outings, retreats, and contests. To help the team integrate and have fun, he comes up with different activities throughout the year. This reflects on the way the team interacts with one another and helps create strong relationships.

2 Pivotal Moments That Shaped Confidence and Courage as an Agency Owner

When Spencer started his agency, a friend offered to rent him an extra office space. Although he had planned to just work from home and not pay any rent, his friend offered him a very reasonable deal and he took it. Looking back, this helped him a lot during the early stages of his agency. He had access to a conference room where he could meet clients, which greatly helped with credibility. He also got to wake up every morning and leave the house, which helped his agency feel more like a real business even if he was one person at the time. It was such an impactful gesture that nowadays he always offers office space to that same friend.

Another pivotal moment for Spencer happened while working at another agency. He pitched some ideas to the owners of a golf resort. In the end, that client didn’t end up choosing the agency but liked his ideas. They were vocal about the opportunity to work with him outside that agency.

After quitting, he reached out to them and they talked about a project for a golf course in Wisconsin. He had never worked on that type of project but knew the sport well and had his agency experience to fall back on. It’s now one of the top five golf resorts in the country, something he helped build since its beginning.

Overall, Spencer is very proud of how it all happened because he had the confidence and courage to follow through with that client. He thinks every agency owner could benefit from trusting their abilities and taking calculated risks when someone expresses interest in working with them.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Creating_Relationships_that_Lead_to_a_Successful_Digital_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Why is VaynerMedia attracting the best brands that everyone wants to work with? Do you think it is because they have the best team? Do they have the best process and deliver the best results? Out of the millions of agencies… Why do we all know who that agency is? Simply put, they are well known because their founder understood the game of attention. You can to that level of success too by learning to promote your digital agency through content.

In 2006, Gary created Wine Library TV, where he reviewed different types of wine in the hopes of getting the attention of wine buyers. He started by sharing his thoughts about wine on social media and ended up becoming known for his insights on digital marketing. Years later, he founded VaynerMedia after growing his dad’s wine store to over $100 Million!

Pretty much out of the gate, his agency was working with brands like Pepsi and General Electric. But why were they coming to them?

Gary knew what others didn’t, which is that whoever can get and keep people’s attention, will win 99% of the time.

Once I figured out this I never went back.

I thought if I had the best team, service, and results people would line up to work with us. As you may guess, I was WRONG.

I had figured out a formula to get the perfect clients by reaching out through calls, emails, conferences, and even showing up at their offices. However, I never figured out how to get clients to come to us until I started following Gary.

In this video, I’ll share:

  • How agencies are getting their perfect clients to call them.
  • The type of content you need to be creating to get clients’ attention.

Why Content is a MUST for Digital Agency Owners

First off, let’s just be clear that creating content is not a nice-to-have piece for an agency. It’s a MUST. If you want to stand out from the crowd and get noticed, you should be creating content.

Usually, agency owners I chat with have one main fear around content. They don’t want to be the face of the agency and that holds them back from creating content. They think “if I create it, all the clients will ask to work with me directly” which is just not true. Gary Vaynerchuck is not out there working every single client engagement that comes to VaynerMedia.

If you create content that gets your niche audience’s attention and provides value, they’ll now trust you and compare everyone else to you.

Do you think this is a competitive advantage? OF COURSE IT IS.

Using Success Stories to Promote Your Digital Agency

In this video, you’ll meet Marty, a mastery member who already had previous success in a well-defined niche. However, his agency was not growing as fast as he’d like. We recommended they highlight some of the agency’s successes through video case stories. His audience wanted to hear stories from other businesses they could relate to. These were simple videos that answered:

  • What's the conflict?
  • How did they overcome it?
  • What is life like now that it is resolved?

You may think the work was done once the case stories were ready. Job done, time to open up the floodgates. Not necessarily. Now it was time to promote this content.

They began to run ads and guess what? They got the attention of their ideal audience. Clients like Delta were now calling them wanting to work together.

Sharing success stories will allow you to not only showcase your expertise but also demonstrate the real-world results your agency can deliver.

Promoting Your Brand Through a Podcast

Another type of content I’ve seen work very well for agencies is a podcast. A podcast can be a great opportunity to interview experts in your field while adding color to the conversation. It’ll take time to build an audience, but it’s fun and easy to do. You’ll also learn a lot from others in the process and establish yourself as an authority. By sharing knowledge and expertise you’ll be showing your audience you know what you’re talking about.

Creating a podcast and interviewing experts in your area will also help you create credibility by association. Once you’re seen as an authority, it’ll become much easier to attract and convert leads.

How to Content to Educate Your Audience

This one’s always a winner. One of the best ways to create content that will resonate with your audience is to educate them. By teaching your audience how to do something you’re providing real value that they can use to improve their lives or their business.

What type of valuable information should you share? Make sure it’s some of your best stuff. Too many times people try to get away with sharing some really small pieces. The problem with this is people will assume you’re giving away your best stuff and that your best stuff sucks.

What I’ve found is that people are interested in knowing how something works but they’re rarely interested in doing it themselves. They want to understand, but in the end, they want someone to come in and do it and get it right first. So don’t be afraid to show them. Clients want someone who can solve their problem fast and if you can position yourself as an authority in the space, you’re going to win.

The Ultimate Guide to Unlocking Your Agency's Potential

If you want to attract your ideal clients the best way is through custom content so you can build the know, like, and trust factor. You'll establish yourself as an authority by speaking to their specific issues and challenges. Anyone can create social posts and schedule them on various platforms. Custom content in the form of a podcast and videos showcasing your best stuff if what makes you a master in the art of attraction.

Direct download: The_Ultimate_Guide_to_Promoting_Your_Digital_Agency_Through_Content.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Does your agency truly understand your clients' needs? Are you proactive about learning their business? Is your team constantly looking for new, innovative solutions? What can you do to earn clients’ trust to retain and even upsell them? Today’s guest has been an agency owner for 30 years and knows the business well. He understands which questions to ask to gain clients’ trust and teaches other agency owners to do the same. He’ll reveal what clients are looking for in an agency according to a recent survey.

Drew McLellan owns Agency Management Institute, which serves small to mid-scale agencies helping them grow. He's on the show sharing insight from a recent survey. Drew’s agency runs an annual survey where agency clients respond to focused questions that give agencies some insight into what they can improve to have a better relationship with them. This year, the survey focused on agencies’ struggles to grow their existing book of business.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • What do clients think about agencies?
  • 4 things you can do to build better relationships with clients.
  • 2 big mistakes you should avoid with clients.

 

Subscribe

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

What Do Clients Think About Their Agency Relationship?

Most agency owners are great when it comes to their services but don’t have the tools to run a business profitably. Having run an agency for thirty years, Drew knows the industry well and now focuses on helping them.

His agency runs an annual research piece called the Agency Edge. In its ten-year history, they’ve mostly talked to people who hire agencies, as was the case this year. The central theme this year was agencies’ struggles to grow their existing book of business.

Clients are taking a longer time to hire agencies, and even once they’ve hired them, they’re slow to assign a first project. So how to get more from the clients you already have? Basically, the gist of the research was to get respondents to reveal how, when, and where they give an agency more money. The results were fascinating -- most fell into one of three categories:

  • The ideal agency client: This is the client we all want to have. They want their agency at the table talking about strategy and truly believe they couldn’t run their business as well without the agency.
  • The client looking for a specialist: This was the largest group, accounting for over 45% of the respondents. These are businesses that are pretty happy with their in-house team but are in need of extra sets of hands and depths of expertise in certain areas. They expect the agency to come in and partner with their team. They don’t expect them to get in on big-picture strategy.
  • The client who thinks everything’s too expensive: This was fortunately the smallest group. These clients see agencies as a necessary evil that is too expensive. If they could avoid giving an agency more money, they will choose to do that.

Naturally, the research focused on the first two groups, which are the ones likely to spend more money on agencies.

What Do Clients Really Want From Their Agency?

No matter the different topics they’ve covered over the years, Drew and his team keep finding these same groups. The undesirable clients who see agencies as money-sucking machines are thankfully always the minority.

However, Drew does note this was the first year where that minority came off very strongly about their views. This might be an indication that brand leaders are becoming more leery about partnerships. Moreover, there are now more agencies out there than ever before, which means there are more bad agencies too. With more people out there who don’t know how to market and adequately provide a service, it drowns out the good ones. This creates a rejection of the concept of agency, which leads to businesses trying to avoid that label.

In terms of how to identify these client categories, they’re actually spread across the board. Businesses that want agencies as a partner could be big brands or small startups.

Overall, clients want an agency partner who really tries to understand their business. Basically, they want the agency to care enough about their business to come up with good ideas; even if those ideas don’t necessarily impact the agency. This could be a problem when account people are order takers who don’t understand the clients’ business and don’t know which questions to ask to have insights into their business problems.

4 Things You Can Do to Build Better Relationships With Clients

  1. Learn more. Based on survey responses, agency owners could invest more time and energy learning how their clients do their work. This can mean a number of things like case studies or helping your client do customer research. Yes, this is a huge time investment on the agency's part. However, failing in-depth understanding relegates you to an order-taker role by your own doing.
  2. Meet your clients. Even if you’re a virtual agency you should get out there and meet your clients in person, especially in the onboarding process. There's still no substitute for face time in this post-pandemic era with so many ways to connect virtually. It’s hard to develop more than surface-level trust when you’ve never even been in the same room as that person.
  3. Ask more questions. Drew believes agency owners tend to stop themselves from asking questions. They assume the client knows their business well, so if they say they want an app or a tradeshow booth, all too often the answer is “Okay, we’ll do that for you”. It’s okay to at least ask simple questions like: "Why?" or "Is there a better way to spend that budget?" Just dig a bit into the reasons behind what they’re asking. More than half the time they need something, but are wrong about what that something is.
  4. Be proactive. Clients want their agencies to be proactive and not wait around for them to place an order. Many agencies shy away from this because it feels pushy; however, the message that came across loud and clear is that clients will give agencies more money when agencies give them a good reason to spend more money.

2 Big Mistakes Some Agencies Make with Clients

Out of all the groups, it was especially important for the second one – clients looking for a specialist –to find an agency that respects their team. It’s important to understand the ecosystem of how the business works, who’s on the team, and where you can lend a hand. Overall, the message was “don’t overstep your bounds”.

Clients were clear about how much they dislike agencies that come in and try to prove they’re smarter than the internal team. Collaboration will get you better results because these companies think highly of their internal team. This also goes for getting into a meeting and immediately starting to use technical terminology. You obviously want clients to think you’re smart but you won’t get far by making them feel dumb.

Big Takeaways: More Time with Agency Owners and Being Assertive

Still focusing on the first two groups, it’s important to mention these clients wanted more interaction with the agency owner. This doesn’t necessarily mean the agency owner will be working on their business on a day-to-day basis. It just means they want the agency owner to check in and know what the team is doing and can be a sounding board for them.

Overall, the big takeaway from the survey is that clients are open to agencies being more assertive in bringing more ideas to clients. They want those ideas and most of them do have more money to give to agencies and are eager to do so if they demonstrate they really understand their business.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: What_Do_Clients_Really_Want_from_Their_Agency_Partner_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

How do you get noticed by big brands? And eventually, get noticed by big agencies for an acquisition offer? It's all about making decisions that put the client first. That is what this guest shares in his story about starting out in the early days of social media, finding a hole in the industry,  and how his agency's rapid growth led to an unexpected acquisition offer.

Daniel James is the founder and CEO of Mint Performance Marketing, a growth agency working with brands that take a strong stance. His team helps brands build their business profitably with integrated omnichannel growth marketing execution. He’s led marketing strategies for AOL, Toyota, Disney, and more. His agency saw rapid growth, getting to seven figures within a year, and caught the eye of the global agency group Social Chain, which acquired it in 2019. He'll now discuss how the acquisition conversation started, how he estimated a fair value for his agency, and much more.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Running a full-service agency to have a bigger impact on brands.
  • How to use influencer marketing for your agency.
  • The importance of customer experience to create loyalty.
  • How the acquisition conversation started and how he justified his valuation number.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

Podcast Takeover!!

Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: Dr. Jeremy Weisz is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and getting a new perspective on the show.

 

The Evolution of Social Media from it's Beginnings

Daniel has been in the digital space for a long time, beginning as a MySpace employee. At that time, MySpace was one of the first recognized social media platforms that really took off. For Daniel, it was a blast working there feeling the excitement of what they were helping build. It was a very creative environment where they were encouraged to do innovative things.

MySpace was always a creative community where you would code your own page. Later on, companies like Facebook took over with a more user-friendly communication tool. From that point, the platform struggled although it still exists today.

All in all, it was an amazing opportunity to visit Los Angeles and work with the MySpace team there. That is when he decided to move to LA and run his own marketing agency.

Finding a Gap in the Market to Have a Bigger Impact on Brands

Daniel didn’t study marketing but was lucky to have a solid formation from the people around him and working on different big brands. After a while, he wanted to have a bigger impact on brands and noticed a gap in the communication between different agencies all working on the same brand. This inspired him to start his agency, Mint, with a vision of being a full-service agency for disruptive ecommerce brands.

As an agency, they don’t try to cover absolutely every service. For instance, they don’t do SEO. However, in their core focus of acquisition and retention Daniel strives to offer a full and non-fragmented service.

One of his current clients was working with several agencies until recently. Although it worked for him, it meant he had different teams for CRM, influencer, social, and Google. Instead, having now all those teams under the same umbrella means they work cohesively to drive the most efficient, scalable, and profitable performance.

The Do's and Dont's of Influencer Marketing

Daniel’s agency uses influencer marketing to harness creative’s connections with their audiences. What brands normally want from influencers is a person-to-person connection to their audience. In his opinion, influencers do a great job because they’re contextually relevant to the platforms. People respond better to a familiar face than to stylized commercial content (although there is a place for commercial content). The influencer approach increases the chances of content being viewed as not just an ad.

Daniel’s agency prefers to provide a script however they're careful not to restrict the influencer. They’ve already figured out a way to engage their audience. That said, it doesn’t mean they’ll be great at getting your message across. This is why they provide guidelines that still allow creative freedom and improves the chances of success.

Influencer marketing is about community first. The worst mistake Daniel has seen when it comes to using influencer marketing is when people don’t think through the community element. Are they relevant to the brand? Are they engaged? Is it the type of community you want to tap into?

 

How the TikTok Algorithm Favors Influencer Marketing

TikTok influencers are growing and becoming mainstream celebrities at impressive speeds. What is it about TikTok that helps them grow so much? For starters, it still has organic reach so you can actually establish yourself and build an audience. Additionally, the production levels required to be successful are lower. Because of this, the platform is very attractive to creators and it’s easier to attract an audience.

For Daniel, the production level you want for your influencer campaign depends on what you’re trying to achieve. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on highly stylized video content on TikTok. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in video production. However, for brands trying to tap into TikTok and video, they can go for less stylized productions and get great results.

There’s a place for both. It’ll all depend on what your goal is and what’s native to the platform and doesn’t feel out of place.

The Important of Good Customer Experience to Create Loyalty

Generally, you never want to pay to acquire a customer more than once which is why there is a huge focus on retention.

This is even more important now in an economic climate of inflation and a recession. Consumers will be pickier about where they put their money and demand more from brands. Brands must pay attention and really go above and beyond to keep existing customers engaged.

What’s a good customer experience? There are certain elements that contribute to a good customer experience. There’s a good level of communication upon purchase, shipping speed, and how the brand is following up with the consumer. Things like VIP programs, loyalty points, subscriptions, etc. are ways to encourage repeat purchases.

Daniel is a big believer in making the product unpacking shareable. If your product arrives in a normal package then OK. People will open it and use it. However, if it arrives in a cool package with a thank you note and stickers, then customers are likely to take a picture and post it on social media. This customer experience creates free, word-of-mouth advertising.

How They Got to a Fair Validation that Satisfied Both Parties

Daniel already knew Social Chain owner Steven Barlett from meeting at events yet the eventual conversation about an acquisition came as somewhat of a surprise to him. At this point, the agency was just two years old.

Social Chain had built its business and name working on very creative campaigns around brand awareness. They tapped into social media as more of a communication tool and never had a performance element to what they did. They were now looking to marry brand marketing with performance marketing.

Daniel felt this was a great opportunity and converging those two worlds of brand and performance has always made sense from a consumer perspective and in terms of efficiencies.

When it came time to talk numbers, the estimated valuation depended on a number of factors. It was heavily tied to EBITDA. It was also tied to whether or not the business was growing, profitability, length of contracts, forecastable revenue, and composition of the team (the value will be less for agencies that are freelancer/contractor-only agency).

His agency had established employees, had forecastable revenue, and was profitable. All these things aided him in getting a good valuation. Furthermore, it was important for him to retain control because it wasn’t a cashout for him. They were barely starting and the acquisition was more about a strategic alliance.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program enables you to take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: Rapid_Agency_Growth_that_Led_to_a_Lucrative_Acquisition_Offer.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Have you ever heard the saying there are riches in niches?

Are you an overworked owner of a stagnant agency? Maybe you have grown your digital agency to seven figures but can’t figure out how to get beyond that and are feeling stuck. The door to growth can be unlocked with one key and that key is choosing a niche. But how do you choose the best niche for your agency? Will narrowing down your focus limit your agency's potential?

Everyone is talking about niching down and picking your “perfect avatar” But do you want to know the biggest mistake that no one is telling you about when it comes to niching down?

In this video, I will share with you:

  • The biggest mistake digital agency owners are making when it comes to niching.
  • How to choose the best niche for your digital agency.

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Do You Have to Turn Away Clients Outside Your Agency's Niche?

When you hit the point of stagnation in your agency's growth, you’re usually working more and making less money. It doesn’t seem fair. However, agency owners are often reluctant to niche down because they fear limiting the agency, hurting the business, or losing leads. But...

How many leads do you have right now? How’s the agency doing? If the answers are not all positive ones, then you have more to lose if you don’t pick a niche!

And this is the biggest mistake people make when picking a niche. You don’t have to get rid of existing clients or turnaway inbound leads outside of the niche. Who said you couldn’t still work with those clients? When you pick a niche it means you’ll now only be marketing to that niche. And the more specific you are, the more clients you’ll attract.

Think about it this way, if you’re having heart issues, would you go to a general doctor or a cardiologist who specializes in heart issues? In fact, the more specialized the better because they know all the special nuances about the heart and your condition.

By focusing on a specific niche, you can build a deep understanding of:

  • your clients’ needs,
  • their audience and their audience's needs,
  • and the challenges they’re going through

Offering a specialized service helps you stand out in your industry as an agency with expertise others can’t match. You will stand apart from the generalists and "me too"  agencies that do a little bit of everything.

How Do You Choose the Best Niche for Your Agency?

When my friend Chris moved to niche down his agency services he started to only work with clients using Magento. With this horizontal niche, his agency became specialized in this software they became the leader in this technology. They were able to  charge premium prices and pick and choose which clients they wanted to work with.

As the expert in your niche, you're able to charge higher fees, your team will become more efficient, and your agency’s profitability will skyrocket. Once you start servicing your ideal customers, you’ll build a stronger relationship with them leading to repeat business. The positive word of mouth and referrals you get from those relationships will help you become the choice, rather than just a choice.

I’ve created a system to help you pick your niche. Download my Niche Grader here, where you'll also find other systems and resources. I’ve found that if you make a list of the niches you’re thinking about choosing – whether it’s lawyers, real estate, doctors, etc – and start ranking them on a scale of 1 to 10 according to the questions presented. You’ll find questions like “do you have experience in this niche?” Or “Is this large enough to support your business?” Once your list and scores are ready, you’ll see the biggest score will almost always be the right answer for a niche you can dominate.

Of course, a niche alone won’t get you all the way to the top. You’ll need to pair that with clarity, strong messaging and authority, which is all part of the attract video series.

Do You Want to Master the Art of Attracting Clients?

FREE COURSE: Discover the 4-system process to ATTRACTING the perfect agency clients at https://www.agencymastery360.com/attract In a 4 videos series, we'll break down the steps you need to take in order to gain clarity, empower your team, and create the freedom you've always wanted in your agency.


Are you guilty of making one of the biggest agency sales mistakes? Do you rely too much on referrals? Do you have three channels working to find new prospects and fill your pipeline? Without this, you're always playing catch-up leaving no time for working on growth. A lack of systems hinders your agency's growth by keeping the owner tied to daily operations. As today's guest learned the hard way, you can't rely too much on any one specific channel of lead generation. He shares the lessons he learned on maintaining a balance and working hard to set up the different channels to secure new leads. He also recalls the pitfalls and mistakes made as well as the ways he learned to set up his agency sales team for success.

Chris Brewer is the cofounder of OMG Commerce, a digital agency that’s highly experienced in crafting Google search ads designed to target traffic that converts. Their team is really connected to the Google ecosystem and knows what’s new and noteworthy, what’s tested, and what’s not quite ready for primetime.

In this interview, we’ll discuss:

  • 4 biggest sales mistakes growing your digital agency
  • 3 systems to setup for agency sales success.
  • The worst and best day in an agency owner’s life.

 

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Sponsors and Resources

E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.

 

Pivoting to the Agency Service Offering with Market Demands 

Chris and his business partner Brett Curry are both serial entrepreneurs and accidental agency owners.

In 2009, after selling his business and feeling miserable about it, Chris attended the Dan Kennedy Super Conference in Dallas. This conference was a great place to network and Chris actually left with a pretty good idea for a new business he later presented to Brett.

They started selling Google Maps optimizations to local businesses. That first year they sold $30K worth of optimizations. This allowed them to pivot to other areas which provided opportunities for repeat business. They turned their Google Maps model into SEO and PPC and continued to grow their agency in other service areas. Their most recent focus is on eCommerce.

4 Sales Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Your Digital Agency 

With such a long history in the business, Chris is embarrassed to admit it was only eight years ago he realized he needed to get out of sales. Now he shares mistakes made while growing his agency:

  1. Not focusing on outbound. When the agency was growing, it seemed there was no need to focus on outbound. However, there came a time when the inbound pipeline dried up and they scrambled to hire for outbound sales. This is reactionary and, as Chris says, “hindsight’s always wonderful in agency land.” Jason recommends a 3-channel approach to lead generation: inbound, outbound, and a strategic partnership.
  2. Relying on referrals. Chris and his partner worked hard to establish themselves as a reliable and trustworthy partner. With that kind of reputation, other agencies felt comfortable sending them referrals. However, if most of your strategic partners are other agencies, they’ll hold onto business when things get slow for them.
  3. Conferences and events. Before the pandemic, conferences were the place to network since all the big brands were usually there. As we've seen, things change quickly so it's important not to rely heavily on events you haveno control over.
  4. Lead gen companies. They turned to the many emails they regularly got from lead gen companies coming after their agency. In the end, however, the ones they chose didn’t play out too well. It was a disappointing experience, but he still believes in outbound.

3 Systems to Set Up Your Agency Sales Team’s Success

By now, Chris has figured out what he does best and the value he brings to the agency. At some point, he felt he wanted to share the spotlight and get approval. More recently, he decided he wanted to step back and do what he does best, which is relationships and connecting with people in a non-sales way.

An owner always sells better than an outside hire. There are various reasons for this, but Chris thinks it starts with compensation. An owner will just step into a conversation and make sure they’re getting the right kind of clients. They’re in no rush to meet a sales quota or specific commission, so they can properly separate prospects from suspects. Additionally, they have a high degree of credibility and trust which helps put people at ease.

There are certain things an owner can teach their team to attract and covert clients:

  1. Agency-specific experience isn't necessary; nuances of the agency business and service offering can be learned.
  2. Your sales team can navigate sales calls when you prepare them with responses to the common sales objections.
  3. Pass along success stories accumulated from the years of being an agency owner in order to share with future prospects. It’s an integral piece to making prospects feel like they’re in a conversation rather than being sold.

Once you set up these systems to tackle the challenges of training an effective sales team, they won’t even need you anymore.

What is the Worst and Best Day in an Agency Owner’s Life?

The day they can finally exit day-to-day operations is the best and worst day for an agency owner. You walk around realizing your team doesn’t need you and can handle things on their own. It’s the best day because now your business is scalable; and the worst day, short-term, until you realize the agency still needs you in a different way.

Maybe you don’t want to exit and maybe you do, but it’s important to have the choice. Also, it’s something you’ll need to do even if you want to take a vacation. Has it been years since the last time you took even two weeks off? Do you think the business will come crashing down if you’re not there to put out the fires? Something’s probably wrong if that’s the case.

Be more productive in the things that’ll move you forward

Most entrepreneurs can relate to the feeling of having so many ideas you end up all over the place. Chris says that’s how he’s made money but he also admits this also makes him his own worst enemy.

If you’re trying to focus on certain projects, Chris recommends not making any big changes all at once. Start with one thing and give it some time to see if it works. Also, figure out your why before you start. Have a clear reason why this new thing you’re working on is important to you and then find an accountability partner. If you’re planning to try time-blocking, you need someone to keep you accountable for that and attach a personal or financial penalty. For instance, when Chris was writing a book, he told his wife he’d put $500 in her account if he didn’t get up at 7:00 AM to work on it.

Do You Want to Transform Your Agency from a Liability to an Asset?

If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see what you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to Agency Mastery 360.  Our agency growth program helps you take a 360-degree view of your agency and gain mastery of the 3 pillar systems (attract, convert, scale) so you can create predictability, wealth, and freedom.

Direct download: 4_Biggest_Agency_Sales_Mistakes_and_3_Sales_Systems_to_Setup_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am MDT

Why did I almost QUIT my multi-million dollar agency to get a job? It sounds crazy to think that I’d gotten to that point – for many is a measure of success – and was willing to let it go. I needed to learn to plan for the future and create a vision statement for my agency.

You see, I envisioned owning a business as the ultimate path to freedom, but it was ending up being the exact opposite. Like most agency owners, I started off wanting a business that provided me with predictability, freedom, and wealth. However, there came a point where I felt like a prisoner to the agency I had created.

I was doing EVERYTHING!

Every little decision in the agency was going through me. My team was not making a single decision without me and everything was falling on my shoulders. I was stressed out and miserable.

It’s easy for agency owners to become overwhelmed by the daily grind. This habit will only take you so far and the agency will eventually plateau. You need to take time to plan for the future and envision the agency you want to build. Your vision dictates your eventual success.

Here’s what I want to discuss with you today:

  • The first of two keys that led an agency from barely scraping to being nearly an 8-figure agency.
  • The 5 most important questions which allowed my agency to grow faster while I worked fewer hours.
  • The secret that led to eventually selling my first digital agency to a huge firm.

I’ve seen many agency owners skip these steps, but it’s the foundation that your agency is built on and the most important thing we make sure the members of our Agency Mastery do.

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Setting the Vision for Your Agency

I always say running an agency is like getting on a boat with your team. As the captain, you set the course. However, if your team has no idea where you’re going, they’ll keep coming to you to steer the boat in the right direction. After a while, it’ll get pretty frustrating. It happens to a lot of us and things will never truly change for your agency until you figure out the two keys to successfully leading an agency, here's the first one:

Communicate your vision. This means not just gathering your team and explaining your vision once. For them to steer the boat even in your absence, you’ll have to communicate that vision often.

The Five Most Important Questions Every Agency Owner Should Answer

When I say I almost made the decision to take a job a quit the agency I mean I even did interviews. One of those interviewers asked me the most important question I’ve ever been asked and one I encourage you to ask yourself:

1. What do you want to do every day and what do you want to avoid?

The answer to this question was the beginning of my vision. I realized I didn’t have to shut down the agency. I just needed to create a vision and plan that allowed me to work on the things I loved and delegate the ones I didn’t want to work on.

2. What type of agency do you want to have?

Do you want to have an agency you can one day sell? Then we need to figure out what to do to get it to that point. Do you want to create a lifestyle business where it’s built around your lifestyle and you can do what you want? Do you want an incubator agency where you use the business to build products and companies? Or do you want to be high-priced or high-value, low-price? Deciding the type of agency you want will make it easier for you and your team to make decisions along the way.

3. Where do you want revenue to be in the next year? And in 5 years?

After the first 3 to 5 years with the agency, I felt like we were hitting a glass ceiling. I was being reactive to the business coming to me and never thought about where I wanted to take the agency. Once I started thinking about the number I wanted to reach – which was over eight figures – I was able to start formulating a plan.

By planning ahead to the number I wanted to reach, I realized I either had to 5x the number of clients I had or 5x my pricing. The first one just wasn’t an option without depleting my team, and if you can’t implement the second then, then you have the wrong clients, which leads me to the next question.

4. What types of clients, industries, and engagements excite you?

I was taking on the wrong clients and saying yes to the wrong engagements. One time, the agency took on a client who wanted to build the next big thing for golf. It was an industry we had no experience in and it quickly became apparent the engagement would be a nightmare for all. We kept missing deadlines because we had no prior experience in this industry, the client demanded constant meetings, low budgets and unrealistic timelines; the worst part was that we took time and focus from other clients.

It was tough for the team’s morale and made me question everything. This is what took me to the point of considering shutting down the agency and taking a job.

Looking back, this could all have been avoided if I’d just been clear about the type of clients we as an agency should be going after.

5. What are the values you’re looking for in your team?

I figured we needed to get the right workers to