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

Worried your agency will collapse if you're not constantly working? Wish you could lead your agency without working 24/7? Feel like you sacrifice too much of your family and free time for your agency? Stop being a prisoner to your agency! This pace isn't the best way to run your agency. And maybe your agency doesn't actually need you as much as you think it does.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you need to get uncomfortable in order to grow.
  • 2 ways to drop the hustle and grind.
  • #1 most important delegation tip!

Today, I talked to Mike Michalowicz author of six business growth books, including Profit First Book and his latest, titled Clockwork. In this new book, Mike attempts to disrupt the hustle and grind mentality that has taken over modern small businesses, especially marketing agencies. Instead of working 24/7, Mike wants you to work less, get more done, and change your entire work mentality.

Why You Need to Get Uncomfortable

Hustling for the sake of hustle is not the way grow your business. If you've been hustling non-stop for several years and you haven't gotten anywhere, it's time to change your strategy. You've slumped. Too often, agency owners think if they just work hard enough it'll pay off. But this hustle hard mentality isn't going to cause burnout and a sense of defeat.

Mike says you have to get uncomfortable. Put yourself out there and make a change. Hire new employees, delegate more of your responsibilities onto others, try to position employees in ways that disrupt your day-to-day. Even something as simple as trying a new software may be the kick-in-the-butt you need to get out of that constant grind.

There are 5 roles of an agency owner. If you're doing anything outside of them, consider ways you can delegate, automate or eliminate it. Stop doing things you suck at or don't enjoy!

2 Ways to Drop the Hustle and Grind

1. Hire owners.

If you're having trouble getting your agency employees to act like owners and take on the responsibility necessary to help you run your agency, hire people who will. Mike suggested hiring people who had the ambitions of owning an agency one day. Even if it's just a side gig, having people who understand the mentality it takes to run an agency is critical.

2. You do you.

Stop reading those "10 Lifestyle Habits of Highly Successful People" articles and get in touch with who you are. Agency strategies (and especially lifestyle strategies) aren't just one size fits all. They have to meld with you and who you are. If you're not authentic, your agency is going to suffer. So when you hear Gary Vee tell you it's all about the hustle -- maybe it is, but maybe it is. You do you.

Don't lose yourself in your agency. Don't be a prisoner to it. Remember, you started the agency to support your life. Not the other way around.

#1 Most Important Delegation Tip

When it comes to delegating employees, Mike has a critical tip. You want to assign the outcome.

[clickToTweet tweet="Delegate the outcome rather than the specific task. You'll be amazed at how your team responds to this method, and how much freer you feel, too. " quote="Delegate the outcome rather than the specific task. You'll be amazed at how your team responds to this method, and how much freer you feel, too."]

Standard "delegation" usually works like this:

"Jamie, can you go and work on that proposal for me?" This style of delegation, or assigning specific tasks to each employee is worn-out and results in you being stuck answering tons of questions. You end feeling like it's just easier to do it yourself rather than entertain so many interruptions.

Instead, Mike recommends assigning an outcome instead of delegating a task.

So, instead of saying: "Jamie go work on that stack of proposals." You should say: "Jamie, can you make sure that those proposals really reflect the value we bring to our clients? You got this!"

You want to turn your employees into decision makers. Give them permission to do their best job and make decisions that benefit the agency. So, if Jamie has another question, tell her to go with her gut and choose the option that best reflects the vision and goals of the agency.

Delegate by the outcome rather than the specific task. You'll be amazed at how your team responds to this method, and how much freer you feel, too!

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies.

Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker. Check out and enter SMARTAGENCY in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

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

Is your agency having difficulty standing out? Want to get attention from strategic accounts or high profile clients? Looking for better ways to improve client retention? Getting prospects' trust, recognition, and loyalty doesn't have to be complicated. Giving the right gift to the right person at the right time is a gesture that goes noticed and rewarded.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • How to send gifts your clients want to receive.
  • 4 things you should never gift.
  • #1 group of people to give to (hint: it's not the prospect).
  • Bonus: When not to send gifts.

Today, I talked to John Ruhlin, founder of RuhlinGroup, an expert gift-giving agency. He also, quite literally, wrote the book on giving gifts. This is my favorite books of all time (which is really saying a lot since I rarely read!) Giftology: The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention is John's book, and he's on the show to share strategies in order to score big clients, build business, and gain trust with clients.

How to Send Gifts That Your Clients Want to Receive

What gift does that CEO of the company that your agency has been chasing really want? Great question! You should go figure that out.

John talked about the time he wanted to connect with Cameron Herold (yes, that Cameron Herold,) so John called Cameron's assistant and asked for his shirt size. What did he do next?

He went to Cameron's favorite store — Brooks Brothers — and purchased shirts, jackets, pants, and all kinds of Brook's Brothers swag.

Then, he literally outfitted Cameron's entire hotel room in Brook's Brothers stuff and made it look like a showroom. Cameron was so impressed at the thought and consideration behind the gift that he agreed to a meeting with John. It's not about the gift itself, but rather the meaningful gesture.

So, next time you're looking to impress a client with a gift, don't just purchase something expensive for them — purchase something that they love and add an element of surprise.

4 Things You Should Never Send to Clients

Sending gifts is a great way to win over clients, increase referrals, and build critical relationships, but some gifts may be doing more harm than good.

John talked about 4 things that you should never send to clients.

  1. Branded Swag: Sending clients that cool branded gear you have is doing way more harm than it is good. Sure, every marketing book ever tells you that you literally need to brand everything, but gifts are supposed to be about the recipient, not you.
  2. Apple Products: Do you want to send that prospect an iPad? John wants you to know something before you do — everyone has an iPad! Don't send clients swag that they're just going to end up regifting.
  3. Food: John has two reasons that you shouldn't give clients food:
    • (You only get one impression. If you send clients something like a paring knife, they're going to use it a bunch of time throughout their life. Each time they use it, they're going to think about you. Once they eat that food, you're irrelevant.
    • There are too many diets! Is your client Paleo? Gluten-free? Jewish? There are too many diets, allergies, and restrictions. Giving food as a gift is risky.
  4. Gift Cards: Do you know what gift cards say? I'm too lazy to get to know you!

John teased that he actually had 10 gifts that he thinks are bad gift ideas. Get them all here.

#1 Group of People To Gift To

Let's say you want to nurture a relationship with a CEO with gifting. Should you send your gift to him? Not according to John. You should send a gift to his wife, kid(s), pet(s), or assistant(s) instead. You want to make everyone around him a sales advocate.

Think about it. That CEO gets tons of gifts all the time, but his wife or his assistant doesn't reap the same benefits. A $1 investment in his wife is like $200 investment in him.

Bonus: When Not to Send Gifts!

Don't let your gift sit next to 500 other gifts. There's a reason John never sends gifts on Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries. No matter how great your gift is, you don't want to be competing with 50 other people. Suddenly the gift you poured your heart into is now lame.

Also, don't send someone a gift after a referral. You just boiled your entire relationship down to a monetary value. Send them gifts when they aren't expecting them — not when they are - and add an element of surprise. Remember the scene in Christmas Vacation where Clark bring his boss a gift? Unimpressed and ungrateful, his boss tells him to add it to the stack with all the others.

Ask yourself what gift would provide unexpected thought and creativity... then execute. Don't be a Clark!

Movie image courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

Related:  How to Retain More Agency Clients & Increase Recurring Revenue 

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

Looking for ways to improve your agency's long-term growth? Ever felt like throwing in the towel because the agency grind was just too much? It might be time for a gut check on whether you need to hustle harder or move on. So, check out these insights and actionable strategies from an agency owner that up-and-quit his $1 million agency with over 50% net profits, so he could chase a different dream.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Should you quit or hustle harder?
  • #1 most important long-term agency growth tool.
  • 3 reasons why scaling isn't always a good idea.
  • 4 benefits of podcasting to grow your agency.

Today I talked to Mark Asquith who is a founder over at Mark moved onto podcasting from his agency that he dissolved (without selling) that was operating at over 50% net profit! Mark left the agency he created to start chasing his dreams creating SaaS for podcasts. We talk about why he left, how anyone could possibly leave such a successful agency, and why agency owners need to be podcasting.

Let's dive right in!

Should You Call it Quits or Hustle Harder?

Mark's former agency was operating at almost 60% net profit and filled with high ticket clients. How in the world can anyone leave that behind without selling it?

Mark left because, well, he got bored.

We all get bored at certain points with our agencies. Whether it's because the market is in a strange space that we're unfamiliar with, or it's because we have to deal with another sales pitch, running an agency has its ups and downs.

So, if you're tired of the grind, how do you know it's quitting time? When should you stop and when should you shift your position?

For Mark — who wanted to do SaaS for podcasts — what he wanted to do wasn't something that he could position his agency to do without disrupting its standard practice. He was tired of the sales pitch (who isn't?) so, instead of hiring a sales manager and delaying the inevitable, Mark decided to just jump ship and do what he was really passionate about, which didn't include running an agency

By not selling his agency, he got to keep all of those client relationships he had developed, and use them to consult on the side.

Did he make the right decision? Mark made the right decision for Mark! Only you can really know if quitting is the right thing to do. If you want to leave because your heart really isn't in it, you should consider it. However, if you know that you should be running an agency in your heart and you just aren't doing well at the moment, get scrappy and resourceful, and hustle harder!

#1 Most Important Long-Term Agency Growth Tool

What's more important your brand or your offer? Your offer may get you a quick sale, but your brand is the backbone of your entire agency.

Mark and I talked about ways to fight back against the commoditization of agencies in today's business world. I see lots of agencies just sticking the pedal-to-the-metal and trying to Walmart their way out (grab lots of clients to justify the low margins.)

But, let me ask you this. Why do most of us own Mac computers? I know, the Apple analogy has been done to death, but seriously, think about it. They are 3x more expensive, yet almost all agency owners and creatives have one. That's because Apple branded themselves so well that they made their product associated with creatives.

Trying to scale too fast to compensate for low margins will end up making you work 10x harder and possibly sink your whole agency. Branding, on the other hand, creates long-term success and shields you against market fluctuations.

Branding is the only way to set your agency up for long-term success. Successful branding will help you leverage yourself as more than a commodity. You want the price to be incidental.

As the old saying goes. Sell a good night's sleep — not the mattress.

3 Reasons Why Scaling isn't Always a Good Idea

To scale or not to scale, that is the question.

Mark's agency made the conscious choice not to scale. In fact, he did the opposite! He purposefully trimmed down his clients to the top 20%. This way, he got to work with high margin clients and develop deep meaningful relationships.

Here's why your agency may want to follow Mark's example and not scale.

  1. It gives you time to market yourself. If you aren't busy 24/7 working with clients, you have a chance to content market yourself. You can start a podcast, write some articles on Medium, or make that blog you keep putting off.
  2. You get better margins. If you focus on taking only the clients with the best margins, you set a precedent for future clients. You're an agency that's focused on delivering rich content, not being the cheapest.
  3. You don't get burnt out! Getting burnt out can seriously impact your business. Don't bite off more than you can chew.

Mark took on a few quality clients, built a photography studio downstairs, did speeches around the world, and found time to run a successful podcasting company on the side. He wouldn't have been able to do any of that if he was focused on scaling non-stop.

4 Benefits of Podcasting to Grow Your Agency

It's very simple. If you want to grow your agency and provide value, you should have a podcast. Here's why.

  1. You can position yourself as an expert. You're the head honcho of your podcast so you can position content however you want. People are listening to you, so you're already set up to be an expert  — all you have to do is follow that up with decent content.
  2. You can get hyperlocal. Forget the "geotargeted hyperlocal social media-driven ads" for a moment. With podcasts, you can get local and locally relevant. Do you run a digital agency in St. Louis that specializes in landscaping companies? Sweet! Start a podcast that talks about the current landscaping ongoings in St. Louis or how St. Louis landscapers can market themselves better. You can't get much more local than that.
  3. It lets you market yourself as an agency owner. Mark talked a bit about this on our podcast. The #1 tip he has for agency owners is to market themselves. You want to be putting out content that ads value to your customers. It will build you and your agency.
  4. You can target your ideal customer. Your podcast can target the exact audience you want. For example, who's my ideal client? Agency owners. What is my podcast about? Growing your agency.

If you haven't started a podcast yet, start one. It's so much easier than you think, and it's the perfect resource for building up an audience of quality leads while also bolstering yourself and your brand!

Cashflow or Bookkeeping Issues?

FreshBooks is the solution with their ridiculously easy­-to-­use cloud accounting software for agencies.

Freshbooks helps you work smarter and become more organized. Most importantly, it gets you paid quicker. Check out and enter SMARTAGENCY in the “How Did You Hear About Us?” section for a FREE 30-day, unrestricted trial.

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

Is billing a headache for your marketing agency? Do you wish you could quit hour-based pricing and actually get paid what you're worth? Good news! You can. By removing the time barrier, you will see increased profitability and improve client relationships for your agency.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 reasons to bill by value instead of time.
  • What does it mean to break the time barrier?

Today, I talked with Mike McDerment, co-founder and CEO of FreshBooks —  invoicing and accounting software with over 24 million users. Mike talked about his recent free eBook called Breaking the Time Barrier and why agencies need to drop time-based billing and start to use a more value-centric model.

3 Reasons To Bill by Value Instead of Time

Most agencies bill by-the-hour or by-the-project, but, time-based pricing may be doing your agency more harm than good. Mike explains 3 reasons value-based pricing is a better approach.

  1. It removes incentive-based agency-client friction. You're incentivized to take longer on a project, while your client is focused on getting it done as fast as possible. This difference of incentives can lead to some friction between you and your clients that can ultimately fracture your relationship with them.
  2. Value is a better creative metric. Mike brings up a great point here. When you do creative work, every hour isn't the same. Sometimes we have a 20-hour burst of activity where our brain is firing all the right signals and we produce some insanely good content. But, sometimes we also work for 3 straight hours, and nothing seems to be moving forward. Do you get the same quality of work done every single hour? Of course not.
  3. You understand your client's goals better. If you bill by value, you have to really understand what value you're bringing to your clients. This means that you will have to fully understand why they want that new website. Are they trying to increase conversions? Are they looking to take advantage of a newer and faster CMS? Why do they want what they want? Understanding why a client wants something lets you nurture a more fulfilling goal-based relationship.

Value-based billing allows you to develop deeper relationships with your clients. Not only that, it gives you the ability to bill clients based on your deliverables, which benefits your agency since productivity isn't always consistent. And actually, with hour-based pricing, the smarter you get the more profit you lose.

What Does it Mean to Remove the Time Barrier?

Let me ask you a question. If you charge based on hours, are you selling a service with value or are you just selling hours?

For example, if your agency designs websites, what are you really doing? It depends on the client. Some clients want a new site so they can increase their conversions, right? Wouldn't it make more sense to sell them a website that increases conversions? The difference between billing by the hour and billing by the value of your service can seem like they're the same thing - but they are not!

Let's say it takes you 5 hours to design that website and it starts increasing the client's conversions immediately. Great! But, if you billed them at $60 an hour, you've only made $300. Is that really enough for improving a clients conversion rate by 4%? At the same time, if it took you 300 hours, your price may seem too high for the client.

Instead, sit the client down and figure out what they need. Once you understand their needs, you can bill them based on what you are delivering, not how many hours you worked.

There's no confusion at the end of the project, no combatting over hours, and you and the client will feel better about the end product. No one feels like they got the better of the other party. That's what removing the time barrier is all about.

Related:  Increasing Agency Profit with Value-Based Pricing

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

How can your agency create compelling YouTube ads? How can you get the most ROI from YouTube ads? YouTube ads are a strange beast, and the creative landscape of YouTube is continually shifting. But, if you stick to your buyer's persona and chase your ideal customer, YouTube ads can help grow your agency fast.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • Why you may need 2 YouTube channels.
  • The difference between YouTube and Facebook ads.
  • 3 steps for making better YouTube ads.
  • Why 5 seconds could make-or-break your ad.
  • #1 most important tip for the future of YouTube ads.

Today, I talked with Tom Breeze (A.K.A the king of YouTube ads) who runs Viewability — the highest spending performance campaign agency on YouTube! Tom has been on the podcast before, and he dropped some great insight into performance-based models. I urge you to check out that episode if you haven't already; it's one of my favorites.

Tom went over some of the most critical YouTube ad strategies, and how he and his agency position YouTube ads that engage and convert.

Let's dive right in!

Why You May Need 2 YouTube Channels

Tom talked about splitting your organic YouTube channel and your Ad-based YouTube channel. That may seem strange at first, but, since both require different things for success, splitting them up actually makes a bunch of sense.

When you're releasing videos on your organic channel, you want to have a ton of views and engagement (subscribers, comments, shares, etc.) to help boost your channels ranking on the YouTube algorithm.

When you're running ads, you want views, but you aren't going to have a lot of engagement (and you probably don't want a lot of engagement.) That's where a second channel comes in useful.

Splitting them up gives you the freedom to chase different metrics on each account without risking tanking your YouTube rankings on either of them.

The Difference Between YouTube and Facebook Ads

Tom laid out the main difference between YouTube and other ad types. On YouTube, you already have your viewers attention. They're already there to view and buy. Facebook, TV, Instagram, and other creative outlets all require you to be entertaining and engaging enough to grab the viewers attention.

On YouTube, you don't want ads that are too entertaining. When you do pre-roll ads (those ads that you can skip after watching 5 seconds before the video you actually wanted to watch), you only pay if the viewer watches 30 seconds of the ad. You don't want anyone except potential buyers to watch the entire ad because you'll waste ad spend.

You'll end up paying for people who aren't your ideal clients and don't fit into your buyer's persona.

3 Steps for Making Better YouTube Ads

YouTube ads can be annoying. There, I said it. So, when it comes to creating ads that are going to nurture customers down your funnel, you have to use a little finesse. Tom shared some of his agency's biggest tips on how to chase those critical customers without wasting money and people's time.

  1. You want to disqualify people in the first 30 seconds of your ad. You have to pay for pre-roll ads once it hits the 30-second mark. Make sure only your ideal customers get to that point in the ad.
  2. Create different ads for each pain point your audience experiences. For example, let's say you run a social media marketing company. You will want to create an ad that targets companies looking for help running their Instagram accounts. At the same time, you'll want to run ads targeting companies looking for help with social media metrics on Facebook. If you create ads for each service, you'll be hyper-targeting people who need your service, so you'll only be paying for prime leads.
  3. Don't be too engaging! I know, everyone ever has told you that all your ads need to be engaging all-of-the-time, but, when it comes to YouTube, engaging ads are going to waste your money and people's time. Don't let people get all the way through the ad because you blew your budget to make a hilarious creative. Be engaging in a way that appeals to your ideal customer, not to everyone. Remember, you already have their attention — you don't need to fight for it.

Why 5 Seconds Could Make-or-Break Your Ad

Here's a prime tip for all of you. Adding an extra 5 seconds to the end of your ad can make-or-break your CTA. Tom recalls watching a ad on YouTube that was engaging and appealed to him, but the ad ended before he could click the CTA.

Tom's company has been having major success testing a countdown timer at the end of the ad. This way, customers have time to click that CTA and it adds a sense of urgency. You have to remember that video ads aren't like landing pages. People only have a certain amount of time to click the CTA — give them an adequate amount of time to click it.

#1 Most Important Tip for the Future of YouTube Ads

The future of YouTube ads lies in AI metrics. You want to keep an eye on your conversion pixel. Gather as much information as possible on each ad you're running. You want to give the Google AI monster as much food as possible.

The more Google knows about your ad and the people consuming it, the better it's going to get at targeting your ad to the right customers. Data has become the king of marketing — we all know that.

The future of YouTube ad targeting (and ad targeting in general) is going to be reliant on AIs consuming as much data as possible.

For those of you that want to get ahold of some more great YouTube insights from Tom, he's written a book called Viewability where he breaks down some of his agencies time-tested strategies and tips — like how to find selling moments and capitalize on different customer types.

Ready to Grow Your Agency, but Not Ready to Hire?

Hiring freelancers can be frustrating. You post your job, wade through hundreds of proposals, and hire a few before you find the right fit. You want to scale your agency by outsourcing, but wonder if this dreadful process is worth it. That's where Freeeup is different. Instead of wading through freelancers yourself, FreeeUp does all that for you.

They have a network of the top 1% of freelancers, so everyone you hire is top notch. Depending on what you need, FreeeUp connects you with a freelancer who can make it happen. And just for Smart Agency Master Class listeners, create a Freeeup account and enter code "JSwenk50" for $50 off.

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