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

Do you want to grow faster while also staying nimble like a small agency? Growing your agency means growing your team. One agency actually did it by dedicating half of its team to sales. Sometimes it just takes a simple change of focus or a deeper look at the effectiveness of your processes to find meaningful success.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • 3 keys to landing the right agency prospects.
  • Is it time to break apart your agency teams?
  • How to build on successful sales and continue to grow.

Today I talked to Michael Weinhouse, founder and co-CEO of Logical Position. Logical Position is a digital marketing agency based out of Portland, Oregon, who in just 10 years has grown to over 700 employees. Find out how a focus on sales led to tremendous agency growth.

3 Keys to Landing the Right Agency Prospects

In the beginning, clients don't just come to you. Gaining clients and growing your agency takes a lot of hard work. For Michael, he found the number one way to scale his agency fast was sales. This focus on sales led to partnerships with Google and Microsoft which contributed to the agency's rapid growth.

In the early years, this meant a lot of cold calling. For several years, the team was primarily composed of salespeople. Even after the agency began to see success, the number one focus was still sales, to the point that 50% of the employees were sales!

But if you are going to narrow-in on sales, you have to do it right. For Logical Position, it was all about making sure each call provided value. So how do you do this?

  1. Do your homework. You don't want to waste a potential client's time. Find out what your client wants and don't be afraid to give little nuggets of value or tips, even if the prospect doesn't sign on.
  2. Total transparency. Michael's agency uses a quality assurance team to make sure every client they sign-on is the right fit. By being transparent and letting a client know, "Hey, this isn't a good fit," they are able to truly help the clients they do sign on without setting unrealistic expectations.
  3. Not everything has to be perfect. Be open to feedback. Take the criticism you get and implement it into your processes.

Is It Time to Break Apart Your Agency Teams?

A lot of agencies divide work between several teams within the agency. While this approach may work for some agencies, it's not the way Logical Position does things. There are a couple of reasons for this. Michael says he always found sticking to one sector is a quick path to burnout — not good when you're trying to grow your team. When you allow your team to work with people in different verticals they can use conversations from one area to find best practices that work with another.

But while there are no teams, this certainly doesn't mean there is no structure. Logistical Position uses a tiered system to incentivize employees and keep things organized. Once you have mastered one skill set and met your goals, you have the opportunity to move further up in the agency. Michael says there is a natural level of competition among his sales team, which definitely helps convert leads.

How to Build on Successful Sales and Continue to Grow

You may be thinking: "You can't run an agency simply on sales," and you're right. Michael says the tipping point came about three years ago when the sales team had been so successful the operations team had to expand to keep up with the growth. Presently, the sales force makes up just over a quarter of the agency team, instead of the 50% share they had previously held.

As for acquisitions, Logical Position acquired its first agency at around the $20 or $30 million mark. They chose an agency they had previously worked with and whom they had built a lot of trust. They have since acquired yet a third agency. From here, Logical Position really began to grow. As a co-CEO, Michael has found his team was at the point where they could take the day-to-day stuff, allowing him to focus on employee and client retention.

Scaling an agency can be a challenge. It's important to find a focus and figure out what works for your team. A successful sales process is a great way to increase clients and motivate your team to continue to grow.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

Direct download: Why_One_Digital_Agency_Started_With_50_of_the_Team_Dedicated_to_Sales.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:58pm EDT

Thinking about selling your agency -- someday? Is a merger or acquisition a good fit? Whether you are hoping to move on to a new adventure or stay on as an employee, it's always important to make sure your agency is in a position to maximize a merger or acquisition opportunity.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • Why it's important to tell your agency's story.
  • #1 Way to get multiple buyers when selling your agency.
  • 2 Simple ways to know a merger is the right fit.

Today I talked to Todd Taskey, the CEO of Potomac Business Capital. Todd's agency does a lot of merger and acquisition work, dealing with sellers to maximize their profits and find a good fit. He shares what agencies need to do to get buyers interested and how to get the best offers.

Why It's Important to Tell Your Agency's Story

When buyers are looking to acquire or merge with your agency, they want to know where your agency is heading. This is a good way for buyers to determine your agency's value. But the biggest mistake most agency owners make is not thinking about where they are going. The best way to increase your agency's value is to tell a story. What does this mean?

  • How long have you had your clients? Buyers like to see longevity. If you have a bunch of new clients, a buyer will worry this revenue can easily slip away.
  • How much do your clients like you? Yes, this is important. Likeability and trust go a long way. If your clients don't feel a sense of loyalty, they're going to use this transition as a good opportunity to jump ship.
  • What is your recurring revenue? Those big projects are nice. But your potential acquirers want to see long term stability. Todd says he is able to get buyers to feel more comfortable with agencies that have long term retainer contracts.

#1 Way to Get Multiple Buyers for Your Agency

We all hope when we go to sell our agency there will be multiple buyers fighting over us. But many times you put feelers out there and then suddenly one of them sends you a letter of interest asking you to stop shopping your agency around. So how do you avoid this and get the best selling price? The simple answer is HARD WORK.

Todd says he puts together a list of about 100 prospects and then goes and talks to each one. He then finds the three most serious buyers and works from there.

When you find the right agency, it's all about negotiating. When a buyer thinks they are getting a great value they are more tolerant when bumps inevitability come up down the road. If you work the buyer in the beginning, it provides leverage when it comes to negotiating things like working power and non-solicitation agreements.

2 Simple Ways to Know a Merger is the Right Fit

When you sell your agency, you want to know it's the right deal. Everyone's a Monday morning quarterback and will always find something they could have done better. So how do you prevent that? How can you feel comfortable with the choice you make? Todd says it comes down to a couple of things.

  1. Is it a lot of money? Funny but true, right? You don't want to walk away feeling like you got the short end of the stick. If a buyer is offering you a lot of money, it's hard to feel bad about that. Have a dollar amount in mind before you entertain any negotiations and don't settle for less (as long as you're realistic).
  2. Does the buyer share or complement your vision? If you plan on staying on with the agency, your vision is important. You need to make sure that you are comfortable with where the agency is heading. If you don't see that with the seller, it might not be a good fit.

Selling your agency is a good way to make a change or take things to the next level. But you have to do it right. Take time to prepare your agency and don't settle until you find that right fit.

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Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making 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.

Direct download: How_to_Get_the_Best_Deal_When_Selling_Your_Agency.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you looking for a way to grow your agency but don't know where to start? Does it feel like your current marketing approach is failing to bring in enough referrals to help your agency grow? Referral programs and agency events are a great way to bring in new clients and engage with the ones you already have. The good news is, you don't have to be a big agency to see big growth.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • 3 keys to rapid agency growth.
  • 3 keys to create a successful referral program.
  • Why even small agencies should host events.

Today I got to talk to Michael Mogill, a good friend and former client. Michael is the owner of Crisp Video, a digital agency who works exclusively with law firms to help them differentiate their firm and attract high-value clients. In just a few short years, Michael took a $500 investment and turned it into a $20 million agency. Discover how big risks, radical ideas, and hard work has paid off big for him.

3 Keys to Rapid Agency Growth

It's not often someone is able to create a multi-million dollar agency out of basically nothing in just a few short years. If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it. Since founding Crisp Video in 2012, Michael has been able to double the agency's size and value every single year. So just how did he do it? Michael says there are three key things that led to his agency's rapid growth.

  1. Have a clear focus: We've heard it before — discovering your niche is one of the best ways to grow your agency. When you have a clear focus and can excel at what you do, clients will begin to see you as the go-to agency in the industry.
  2. Be prepared to place big bets: Taking chances is hard, especially when you're starting out and don't have a lot of funds. But the best way to see a big payoff is to make a big investment. Don't be afraid to take chances and invest in yourself. People are more prone to invest in high-risk assets like real estate and stocks but are more hesitant when it comes to investing in something they can actually control — themselves. So what's holding you back?
  3. Hard work pays off:  At the end of the day, you won't be able to grow your agency if you don't put in the work.

3 Keys to Create a Successful Referral Program

Michael earned a lot of attention when he announced Crisp Video would be giving away a Tesla as part of their referral program. Sure he could have given away an Amazon gift card, but that doesn't really get people's attention. It all comes back to being prepared to make big bets. With such a big promotion, Michael learned a few things along the way.

  1. Have one person dedicated to the promotion full-time. Referral programs take a lot of work. Clients won't usually just give up their time to send you referrals, they need a little guidance. For Crisp Video, this meant reaching out to clients, drafting referral emails, and developing a comprehensive campaign.
  2. Make sure you have a big enough client base. You need to consider your client value and how many potential participants you have. You won't see a return on investment if you offer a $77,000 Tesla to 20 clients. The first time around, Michael saw a one in three participation rate. Take big chances but make smart choices.
  3. There's more investment than just the grand prize. When you consider how much you are willing to spend on a referral program, you have to think about the actual cost. The cost of the Tesla was only $77,000, but with marketing and tiered prizes, Crisp Video spent about $100,000 on the promotion.

Why Even Small Agencies Should Host Events

When it comes down to it, you just have to get started. When Michael hosted his first agency event, he didn't know what he would say or what he would do. He set a date and sold tickets. The rest came later. It doesn't matter if you have 500 clients or 50. If you can't get on someone else's stage build your own. Soon, you'll discover, confidence grows. The more risks you are willing to take and the more you invest in yourself, the bigger the payoff.

Referral programs and agency events are a great way to meet new people and grow your agency. But if you want people to bet big on your agency, you have to be willing to bet on yourself.

Are You Looking for Outsourced Copywriting for Your Agency or Clients?

Verblio is a content creation solution designed specifically for agencies. Their writers can help with everything from blog posts to ebook to video scripts and more.

Forget the hassle of finding and hiring your own writers. Verblio has a pool of more than 3,000 highly vetted writers who produce custom, SEO-rich content. You set the criteria for style and tone and they match you with writers that have expertise in your specific subject matter.

Verblio's platform is designed specifically for agencies -- and for a limited time, they are offering my audience 50% off your first month of content. My team is using Verblio and loving it, so make sure you check them out.

Direct download: How_an_8-Figure_Agency_Created_a_Successful_Referral_Program.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you struggling to make your agency stand out? It could be a branding issue. Knowing your brand and owning it can make a big difference when it comes to getting your prospects' attention. In a world saturated by digital marketing agencies, the last thing you want to be is another "me too" agency. So here's advice on the best ways to differentiate your agency from the competition.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • 2 reasons it's important to find your agency's niche.
  • How to understand what it means to brand your agency.
  • #1 Way to differentiate your agency from everyone else.

Today I sat down with Scott Markman, Founder and President of Monogram Group. Monogram Group is a branding agency, dealing almost exclusively with private equity clients. As a branding agency, Scott has spent the past 30 years finding his niche, developing a brand, and becoming an expert in his field. But recently, Scott's firm hired a digital agency to help with their own brand. In this episode, we'll talk about why you have to know your agency's brand and how defining a niche can get you there.

2 Reasons It's Important to Find Your Agency's Niche

Lately, it seems like anyone who knows anything about a computer can start an agency. Because there are so many agencies, it's tempting to offer everything to everyone. The logic is, the more I offer, the more clients have to choose from. But agencies who take this approach quickly find out being a generalist isn't really the best approach. Why? Because clients want someone who knows the nuances of their specific industry.

Scott started his agency as a generalist -- part out of boredom, part out of a desire to learn something new. But while the work was challenging, he quickly learned private equity was where he needed to be. There are two main reasons why finding your niche is important:

  1. Being a generalist will quickly eat away at profits. Sure it's fun to challenge yourself and learn new things, but doing so every time you bring on a new client takes time. You'll learn you're investing too much time learning about the product when should be focusing on what you can deliver. Do this too much and you will end up losing more than what you are making. When you have a niche, you save time because you don't have to take the extra step of researching the product or the market.
  2. Clients want someone who knows what they are talking about. Scott says he is able to close 65-75% of all the proposals he pitches. Why? Because clients are confident that he knows what he is talking about. Think about it. When you speak the industry language, understand the challenges and pain points of your clients' clients you are more valuable than someone who has to research those things.

How to Determine Your Agency's Brand

Many agency owners think they know their brand, but really they have no idea. When we talk about branding, we're talking about the feeling clients get or associate with your agency. When you are developing your brand, there are a few questions you want to be able to answer:

  • Why do I exist? What can I provide to potential clients?
  • Where can I play strong? What's the market for my services?
  • How can I make clients feel they wish they had found me sooner?

Scott says 85% of what you say is going to be the same as everyone else. The key is to not stop there. The other 15% is your brand. Recognize what makes you valuable, carve out a space for yourself and own it.

#1 Way to Differentiate Your Agency from the Others

Back to the question we started with at the beginning: "How do I stand out from the crowd?" The answer is brand, brand, brand. What is it that runs in your DNA? What are you passionate about? What do you know better than anyone else? The number one way to separate your agency from "me too" agencies is to know your brand and make it approachable to a variety of audiences. Remember, your niche is who you will market your services to, but it doesn't have to stop there. When you know who you are, clients will search you out. The key is to find the one thing you can offer better than anyone else can.

Branding is so important for attracting clients and earning their respect. Your clients can't know who you are if you don't. Carve out your space, master your craft, and share it with the world.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making 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.

Direct download: How_to_Brand_Your_Agency_and_Differentiate_from_the_Competition.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you struggling to figure out what your agency really stands for? Do you find yourself developing a new process every time you start a new project? In the fast-paced agency world, knowing who you are and what strategies work for your agency are key to finding success as a team and as an agency.

In this episode we'll cover:

  •  Why developing processes means increased productivity.
  • #1 tip to help your agency survive the tough times.
  •  3 benefits transparency in agency leadership.

Today I got to talk to J.P. Holecka. J.P. is the owner of Power Shifter, a digital agency whose goal is to make things simpler. His agency works with start-ups and big brands, including some notable companies like FitBit and Energizer. With a background in film production, J.P. quickly realized how important process and culture are to an agency's success. In today's episode, J.P. discusses how culture helped his agency survive the loss of its biggest client.

Why Developing Processes Means Increased Productivity

Does it feel like your team is constantly running around in circles? Does your environment feel like it is constantly filled with chaos? If so, it might be because you haven't developed a process. What does it look like to develop a process? When you have a process in place everything is repeatable. Rather than figuring out how you are going to approach a project from scratch every single time, you can simply follow the process, saving you and your team time, money, and stress.

Developing a process will look different for everyone. For J.P., he brought in a couple of coaches to help his agency get organized. These coaches focused on the operational side of the house as well as the ad job and helped J.P. develop a system that worked.

#1 Tip to Help Your Agency Survive the Tough Times

Let's face it — business isn't always going to be easy. There will be times where your agency is tested or suffers a loss. For J.P., this moment came when his agency lost its biggest client last year. But rather than destroying the company and putting them out of business, the loss actually made Power Shifter stronger than ever.

The number one thing that helped J.P. and his team make it through this loss was culture. When you have an established culture and know what your company stands for, you'll be equipped to handle times of adversity.

To develop a strong culture, it's important to be clear with your values. What do you stand for and what do you want to achieve? Then, surround yourself with people who have the same beliefs and want the same things.

3 Benefits of Transparency in Agency Leadership

So many times, agency owners are afraid to be open and transparent with their team. Whether it's the fear of sharing too much or losing members of their team, owners have a tendency to hold things closer to the chest. But J.P. says he's seen the benefits of being transparent and plans to develop an open-book management style in the near future. Being transparent with your team can derive many benefits.

  • Transparency helps make sure everyone is on the same page. Your team can't get behind you if they don't know where you're going. Don't be afraid to share your goals, your strategies, and even some financials so everyone knows where the agency stands. You'd be surprised how much clarity is gained by being open and honest.
  • Transparency helps develop culture. We already know how important culture is to your agency's success. When you're transparent with your team, the ones who want to stay will have your back and the ones who don't will likely leave.
  • Transparency promotes teamwork. When you're honest with your team, they're more likely to be honest with you. They'll be apt to share their ideas, offer opinions, and say something when something's not right.

You'll find it difficult to find success as an agency if you and your employees are two separate entities. Transparency can empower individuals and help you come together as a team.

At the end of the day, culture is more than ping pong tables and beer taps, as J.P. likes to say, it's about knowing who you are and having the tools and the faith to survive even the toughest times. If you develop your agency with process, culture, and transparency in mind, you'll be more likely to find success.

Direct download: Why_Transparency_and_Culture_Are_Important_to_Your_Agencys_Success.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

What happens when a digital agency outgrows a partner? Do you sell the agency and part ways? Can you negotiate an agency partner buyout? It happens - partners drift apart or sometimes people simply want out. Dealing with a partner break-up doesn't have to impact your agency's growth if you don't want it to. In fact, you can negotiate a fair buyout by facing it head-on or by being proactive. It's a tough conversation but definitely one to have earlier than later.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • #1 source of digital agency leads.
  • The best way to approach a bad partnership.
  • 4 steps to an agency partner buyout.

Today, I talked with Dan Altenbernd, Co-founder of H2M, which is his digital marketing agency in Fargo, Minnesota. Dan has over 18 years of experience in the industry, and he's been building brands in his hometown for years. Not only is Dan's agency booming, but he started it with one more partner than he has now. When his partner didn't have the same goals as him, they negotiated a buyout and he's on the show to share that wisdom.

#1 Source of Digital Agency Leads

We all know agency growth is both the biggest goal and the biggest barrier for most agencies. We all want to grow. And how do you grow? With a lead generation system that keeps your pipeline full. The lead war always seems to be between outbound and inbound. Should you be reaching out to them or should they be coming to you? And actually, I don't think there is one right answer -- in fact, I preached a 3-channel approach to lead generation. I've seen agencies win with outbound. And I've seen agencies win with inbound. Your agency needs both, as well as strategic partnerships, in order to stay successful.

But, here's the thing — neither inbound nor outbound is the easiest source of leads. You know all of those relationships that you've been cultivating throughout your career? Those are an amazing source of leads. Former colleagues and co-workers are all low-hanging fruit. Many agency owners think they need 1,000 leads a day to grow big. You don't. You really only need a few. And your network can be those few leads that end up catapulting your agency into 7 figures.

Dan says this is especially important for newer agencies with lean budgets. Rather than spending a ton on Facebook ads, get out there and leverage the connections you already have. Once you have your first few clients, you can start implementing other killer inbound strategies you've been thinking about.

The Best Way to Approach a Bad Partnership

There are plenty of agencies that have amazing partnerships that just work. But, let's be real. No one will always want exactly the same things as you at exactly the same time as you, right? Eventually, you or your partner will outgrow each other or the business. Maybe your partner doesn't have the same ambitions as you, has different views, or simply wants out. Then what?

I always say, you either know the bad partner or you are the bad partner. But as Dan explained, it doesn't have to be an ugly break-up. You just need to have an honest conversation with your business partner. If you think you're headed in the wrong direction, let them know. Don't be scared to start the conversation. If a change needs to happen, rip off the band-aid, and get it done sooner than later for the sake of your business and your own well-being.

4 Steps to an Agency Partner Buyout

  1. Put it out there. Be upfront and honest with them. If you avoid the conversation for too long, it will be too difficult. It's better to face the confrontation and try to move forward. You might be surprised at the result! Dan simply pulled his partner into a room and told him it wasn't working - and his partner understood.

  2. Once it comes time to actually create the exit plan for your partner, hire an outside consultant to help mediate conversations and negotiations. Emotions and egos can get in the way of an agency partner buyout. You're both entrepreneurs and you're both going to want to win the negotiations. Allowing a third-party to make the deal is the best way to keep things amicable.

  3. Give your agency team time to process. Don't let your partnership break-up impact the team or get in the way of the great work you're doing. Communicate the new vision for the agency so the team knows and understands the direction and what things will look like without the partner. 

  4. While you want to be direct with the conversation, don't be hasting with the exit plan. That way, there's plenty of time to phase one partner out without impacting agency processes. Dan's entire buyout took place over the course of 5 years!
Direct download: How_to_Handle_an_Agency_Partner_Buyout_Without_Impacting_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:26pm EDT

Would you like to be your own agency boss but not hesitant to start a business from scratch? Tired of having a boss? Think you can do it better? Ready to run things yourself? Most times these are the reasons most agency entrepreneurs start their own agency. But that doesn't mean it has to be the way you do it. Another viable option is to acquire an established agency to give you a jumpstart.

In today's episode we'll cover:

  • How to find the agency that's right for you.
  • 2 tips to make sure you don't pay too much to acquire an agency.
  • 3 keys to finding success at with your new acquisition.

Today I had the opportunity to talk to John Kadlic, CEO and owner of Parallel Path. Parallel Path is a digital marketing agency focusing on the health, wellness, and lifestyle industries. John worked his way up in the agency world, eventually becoming president of a large digital marketing agency. After 22 years in marketing, John was ready for his own agency. But John didn't take the conventional approach and start one — he bought one! Discover why John took this approach, and what he learned along the way.

How to Find the Right Agency for You

Why buy an agency when you can start your own? John wanted to take advantage of the hard work someone had already put into their company. John bought Parallel Path on his 50th birthday. He says at this point in his life, he was willing to spend more money, in exchange for not having to invest the extra time. John didn't have to spend time finding clients or hiring staff, they all came with the acquisition.

Buying an agency is a great option for people who don't have the time or desire to start an agency from scratch or who are looking to grow their existing agency. The downside is, it requires a larger investment.

So how do you find the agency that's right for you? John says his process started with a little soul searching. He took some time to figure out what he liked about work, what he didn't, and what energized him and got him excited about his job. Then, he made an outline of all the things he was looking for in an agency. Having a clear vision of what he was looking for not only helped John narrow his focus but also made it easier for his team to suggest potential agencies.

2 Tips to Make Sure You Don't Pay Too Much for Your Agency

Okay. So you've found your dream agency. How do you make sure you don't pay too much? Buying an agency is like buying a house. Owners take pride in their "baby" and often ask for more than what it's worth. Buyers, on the other hand, are looking for a deal ~ the acquirer's idea of fair valuation is often much lower than the sellers. How do both parties find common ground?

  1. Surround yourself with a good team: John had a strong team working with him throughout the entire process. His team included an experienced lawyer, a financial adviser, and a private equity expert. Make sure you hire the right professionals who will give you honest, sound, financial advice.
  2. Data, data, data: Buying an agency is an emotional process for all parties. While you may not be able to eliminate the emotions altogether, the less they are involved, the better. Stick to the facts and always have benchmarks, figures, and numbers to back up your offer.

3 Keys to Finding Success at Your Newly Acquired Agency

You've bought an agency, now it's time to make it your own. But wait! Now is not the time to go in and change things up. John says new owners often want to jump in and get their hands dirty. But this is almost always the worst thing you can do. To find success, you need to appreciate what you are getting into.

  1. Take it all in: We get it; you're excited and ready to make big changes. But you have to respect the process and team already in place. If you go and change things up right away, you're likely to upset your team and clients.
  2. Implement structure: It's important your team understands what is expected of them and how you will hold them accountable. John says he uses EOS, implementing accountability charts and weekly leadership meetings.
  3. Create a vision: John waited about 5 months before he made any big changes. At this point, he met with his team to discuss the vision moving forward. Letting your team know you respect the past and including them in your vision of the future will help gain their respect and find success as an agency moving forward.

Whether you're buying your first agency or acquiring another agency to grow an existing one, it's all about the process. With a careful plan, a solid vision, and respect for existing systems, you'll be on the path to success.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making 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.

Direct download: Should_You_Acquire_an_Established_Agency_or_Start_Your_Own_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Do you feel like a "me too" agency, but you're not sure how to break the chains? Do you want to create a differentiator you can use to grow faster? The agency space is changing. With Facebook pushing business owners to create their own campaigns and hundreds of new agencies popping up monthly, it can be tough to grow. You probably feel like your trapped in a small room and in a rut. Don't worry! There's a way out.

In this episode, we'll cover:

  • 3 traits every agency owner needs.
  • Why your agency needs to create a differentiator.
  • 4 steps to creating and hosting agency events.

Today, I talked with Mike McCloud, President & CEO of MMA Creative and founder of the World Food Championships. Mike is a tried-and-true entrepreneur with agency DNA. Not only has Mike been in the agency space since 1991 (that's 29 years now!), but he leveraged his agency to help him create the hyper-successful World Food Championships event. That event now generates 95% of MMA Creative's revenue! So, how did an agency owner create a renowned food league with its own TV show and top-tier sponsors? Like this!

3 Traits Every Agency Owner Needs

Mike says these are the three traits every successful agency must have:

  1. Contrarianism: Is everybody selling Facebook ads? Then you shouldn't be. Winning as an agency owner requires lacing up your boots to go on the road less traveled. Opportunity is everywhere. Sure! You can be a "me too" agency and settle for the crumbs. But why wouldn't you want the whole cake? You have to think outside-of-the-box. What is everyone doing wrong? What is everyone ignoring? Figure that out, and use it to grow.
  2. Optimism: When tough times come knocking, you better be ready to answer. We all know that an economic downfall is on the horizon. It may not be today, but it's coming. And when it does, you need to be able to smile, sit down with your team, and figure out how to use that recession to your advantage. Never give up. Always have a trick up your sleeve. And persist through the good times and the not-so-good ones. Every agency owner is going to face situations where giving up is easier than pushing through.
  3. Experimentalism: This is a big one! You need to be willing to try new things. All of these blog posts and marketing podcasts aren't going to tell you the next big thing. Once others have figured it out, it's no "the next big thing" anymore. It's just a thing. You have to experiment and find those amazing growth hacks yourself.

Why Your Agency Needs to Create a Differentiator

There are two big threats to agencies.

  1. Business owners can live without you. As an agency, you're the middleman. Business owners can run Facebook ads without you. They can make creatives without you. And they can generate leads without you. They're probably not as good as you are, but they can. And as long as they can, some will.
  2. There are thousands of other agencies offering what you have. If you're a "me too" agency, you're a commodity. If your pitches revolve around price, you're racing to the bottom. Your strength shouldn't be your price tag. But it often is.

Creating a differentiator eliminates those threats. What can you do that no one else can do? If you don't have an answer, find one. Mike created an event. But you don't have to. You can create an experience, a product, a service, or anything else your competitors can't. I've interviewed agency owners who use strategic gifting, promote their freak factor, and even build tech, just to name a few.

They all share one thing in common. They do something unique in order to stand out.

4 Simple Steps to Creating and Hosting Agency Events

Use your agency to catapult growth. While your agency is generating revenue, use some of it to experiment and create an amazing differentiator. Here's how Mike was able to create a massive food event using his agency as a springboard.

  1. Be profitable: Creating a product, service, event, or experience requires, well... cash. If your agency isn't in the positive or you don't have enough income to support yourself adequately, focus on that first. Learn how to build an evergreen agency. Differentiators don't happen overnight. You'll need income to help you build one.
  2. Find something valuable: What should you build? Great question! Here's the answer — something that's valuable to someone. Find a gap in the market and attack it. Did you notice there aren't any agencies using VR tech for restaurants? That's a gap! Get to work.
  3. Look at everything through an R&D filter: ABM = Always Be Experimenting. You're probably not going to create something amazing on your first try. You'll have some failures. Use some of your agency income to experiment with new strategies and services. Some of them may pay off dividends in the future.
  4. Have commitment: It took Mike 5 years for his food event to become popular. That's a long time! You must be willing to commit to something and nurture it in order to succeed.
Direct download: Could_Hosting_Agency_Events_Be_the_Key_to_Growth_.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you worried your agency is too small to compete with the big dogs? Are you exhausted trying to provide everything for everyone? The marketing world has changed over the past few decades, but a lot of the concerns and approaches have remained the same. As an agency, knowing your strengths and marketing to your niche can be a huge advantage. The sooner you realize this, the better.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why agencies need to combine branding with direct marketing.
  • How segmentation can take your agency to the next level.
  • #1 reason to dominate your agency's niche.

Today I got to talk with Grant Johnson, founder, and owner of Responsory. Responsory is a direct response digital marketing agency focused on measurable results. Grant started his agency in 1999 after leaving his job as VP of a marketing agency. Grant didn't like the direction the agency was heading, so he started his own. Grant felt nobody was really doing measurable marketing the right way, so he took on the challenge on his own. 20 years later, Grant has grown Responsory into a multi-million dollar agency. Let's dive in.

Why Agencies Need to Combine Branding with Direct Marketing

Many agencies put all their effort into building their brand but fail to focus on direct marketing. Or, they do the opposite, and put their efforts on direct marketing, with no real idea about their brand identity. But the truth is, you'll get the best results when you combine the two.

That's what Grant did when he started his agency in 1999. He says when he started his agency, you had brand marketing on the left and direct marketing on the right, and the two weren't converging. Today, it's all about ROI — what am I getting out of what I am putting in?

Grant believes when you combine branding with direct marketing, you have the ability to enhance and grow your brand in a measurable way. Direct marketing helps your agency grow faster, while branding helps you establish trust with your audience.

How Segmentation Can Take Your Agency to the Next Level

The bulk of the clients Grant works with don't do segmentation. This has been a problem for as long as advertising has been in existence. Some agencies prefer to reach as many people as possible, instead of focusing on specific sectors. It's important to realize your customers are going to have a variety of wants, needs, and ideals, even within the same niche. You can't just send out a blanket marketing campaign and call it good. You have to understand the individual component. Today, SEO and paid digital make marketing to specific sectors and analyzing the results easier than ever. You have to remember to look at your audience as a whole vs. individuals.

#1 Reason To Dominate Your Agency's Niche

When you're starting an agency, the temptation is to provide everything to everyone. This is the quickest way to fail. For the bulk of agency prospects, they're not looking for an agency who can do a lot of things okay, they want an agency who can do what they need really well. Know your niche and own it! Grant says he's always upfront with his clients. When they come to him, he tells them what he is really good at and what he's not.

In the same regard, if you're a small agency, own it. There's been a shift towards smaller agencies who know what they are doing vs large agencies who do it all. If you have a team of five, don't hide the fact that you're small, announce it to the world! It's all about quality vs. quantity. Most importantly, you have to believe in your brand and believe you're the best. Like Grant says, if you don't think you have a niche, or a difference, or are the best at what you do, then why do it?

What's that saying — the more things change, the more they stay the same?

A lot has changed in direct marketing and branding over the years, but many of the same basic principles remain the same. When you combine proven philosophies that work with today's technology, you provide the catalyst to help your agency grow.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making 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.

Direct download: How_Niching_Down_Equals_Big_Digital_Agency_Growth.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Struggling to attract and keep Millennials at your agency? Do you want to learn what motivates Millennials in the workplace and how you can become an inspiring leader? Millennials are slowly taking over the workforce as the largest group, which means learning how to attract them and keep them around is critical for the success of your agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • New trends in incentivizing agency employees.
  • 4 things Millennials want from their leaders.
  • 2 ways to keep agency employees engaged.

Today, I talked with Chris Tuff, Executive Vice President and Partner at 22squared and best-selling author of The Millennial Whisperer. Chris has achieved great success as a digital marketer and is revered for his thought leadership and boldly blazing new paths in the digital space, including working with companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Chris shares some golden nuggets of information about motivating and leading Millennials to help you build an amazing agency team.

New Trends in Incentivizing Agency Employees

Today's workforce has different values and traditional incentives might not be the key to keeping good employees at your agency. Instead, consider adapting to the go-getters. Chris believes in the importance of giving your employees a stake in the company. You can do this in a few different ways:

  • Phantom Stock. Sometimes called "shadow stock," you don't actually give your employees stock, but you give them the same financial benefits as stockholders.
  • ESOP. Implementing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) gives your employees shares in the agency towards their retirement. You can either give employees shares or money to buy shares.
  • Partnership. The largest stake you can give your go-getter employees is to make them a partner in your agency. Typically, you offer this to employees as an opportunity for them to buy into your company and become a partner.

4 Things Millennials Want from Their Leaders

You've probably heard comments about Millennials like "entitled, needy, dumb, impatient, naive." Chris argues these characterizations simply aren't true. In fact, his favorite quote is "Millennials aren't the problem, they just expose all the problems." Many agencies are doing it wrong because they don't understand what Millennials want from their leaders. According to Chris, you need to provide the following things as you lead your team, so you can retain quality employees:

  1. Inspirational leadership which includes coaching and goes beyond simple motivation.
  2. Autonomy such as remote work or flexible work schedules.
  3. Transparency like sharing information and communicating the vision.
  4. A sense of purpose which fosters employees' passions and interest.

2 Ways to Keep Agency Employees Engaged

Attracting and keeping Millennials isn't only about incentivizing and understanding their leadership needs. You also have to adapt the way you promote them and really learn how to bring out leadership traits. Chris says this is really about making a connection with your team and you can do that in two ways:

  1. Follow your team on social media. Some agency owners and bosses assume following your employees on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is a big no-no. This isn't true. In fact, you can create a stronger connection with your team, foster friendship, and show empathy by keeping up with what's going on in their lives.
  2. Be open to your team's side-hustles. So, you might think it's counterintuitive to encourage your team to have a side-hustle because it distracts them from their work at your agency. Yet, it's these side-hustles that fuel your team's passion and purpose. When you are open to supporting other projects that aren't in direct competition with your agency, you help your employees feel engaged in work and in life. This can fulfill their desires and keep them from moving on to other employers or projects.
Direct download: How_to_Attract_and_Keep_Millennial_Agency_Employees.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you still struggling to score the first few agency clients? Or maybe you've scored them, but now you feel like you're stuck handling them and not growing. Making it past those first few agency road bumps is difficult. And finding your first clients and figuring out how to use them to springboard your growth is the biggest initial road bump. But finding those clients doesn't have to be a nightmare. You just have to get a little creative. He's on the show to talk about a cool strategy for landing the first five clients and how his agency took off from there.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • Why sometimes even the best agency team members quit.
  • How to score your first few clients.
  • #1 thing to do after you secure your first digital agency clients.

Today, I talked with Benjamin Arabov, Founder and CEO of Pure Digital — an agency specializing in PPC, ad design, and influencers. Benjamin is passionate, hardworking, and above all, dedicated. When his brother told him about an agency internship while he was in college, he pounced on the opportunity. From there, he moved into full-time while taking night classes.

Why Sometimes Even the Best Agency Team Members Quit

Keeping your agency employees can be the hardest part of your initial growth. Replacing team members isn't cheap. In the past, I've talked about how you can dominate employee retention using a variety of methods like profit-sharing and killer training processes.

But here's the thing. Even if you give your team members big chunks of cash, it doesn't mean that they're all going to stay. There's no way to prevent employees from leaving. Some people just want out. And I'm not talking about those poor performers you should be firing already. I'm talking about some of your best workers. They may want out.

In Benjamin's case, he was crushing it at his first agency job, but he wanted more. Born from a long line of entrepreneurs he decided to chase his own dream and create his startup agency. You should be prepared to lose anyone. And you should have a backup plan in case your most valuable employees up-and-leave.

How to Score The First Few Agency Clients

The hardest clients you'll ever land are your first ones. You need incoming cash to fuel agency growth. You may have clients in mind. But you don't have past client results to show off and win them over. Why should they even look your way? Benjamin says his agency's early growth was largely due to referrals and a super successful email campaign.

If you want to grow early, you have to get scrappy. You need to flex some of those creative muscles. Back in 2015, Benjamin sent out an email campaign offering a performance review (audit),  that scored him 5 BIG clients. Let's be honest — that may not work in 2019. Audits have been done to death. But you can identify your own Foot in the Door offer and create a winning email campaign surrounding it.

#1 Thing to Do After You Secure Your First Agency Clients

When you finally figure out that magic formula to get a few initial clients (call in some favors if you have to!), you need to do something ASAP. You need to hire some people. You don't want to be the person making all the creatives for this account.

Why?

Because you'll get stuck and unable to scale your agency to the next level. When you spend all your time on those first few clients you put yourself in a prison and you're chained to client work. But when you hire creatives or project managers, you are free to work on business development. You want to scale. We all have different agency goals. You probably want more than just those first few clients. And you need people to make that happen.

What role should you hire first? The role you're worst at! Eventually, you want to move away from creatives unless you have an agency partner who can handle the business side.

Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency?

Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you’re a small business. Gusto is making 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.

Direct download: How_to_Get_Your_First_Few_Digital_Agency_Clients.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT

Are you thinking of starting an agency, but are not sure where to start? Do you have a business model but are struggling to find your core values? In today's market, starting a digital agency can be an exciting and prosperous opportunity. Knowing your brand's message and how to share it with others is the key to standing out and not be another "me too" agency.

In today's episode, we'll cover:

  • How to find and retain agency employees.
  • #1 key to creating an agency business plan.
  • How to find your agency's true north.

Today, I got the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan Peischl, co-owner of SPLICE Agency. Jonathan started his career as a medical writer, but quickly realized he was destined for the digital ad agency world. After a couple of moves (and a major move across the United States), Jonathan and his business partners realized the companies they were working for were missing a few key components necessary for the industry to survive. Together, the four men created a business plan that has transformed SPLICE from a four-man operation to a company of over 30 employees in just three years. Find out Jonathan's keys to success here.

How to Find and Retain Agency Employees

When you are creating a business, your employees are going to be one of the key components of your businesses' success. It doesn't matter how great you are at everything else, if your employees are constantly jumping ship for the next bright and shiny opportunity, your agency is going to sink, fast. So how do you make your employees want to work with you?

It begins with culture. Promote a culture you want to live by. Jonathan says he wants his employees to have time to pursue their passions. Whether this means letting your employees work from home or leave early to pick up their kids, show your employees that you value their creative input, as well as their lives outside of the business. Really live by this culture. Don't just put it on a whiteboard and be done with it. Creating culture employees want to work in requires care and feeding every day. It begins with great leadership promoting your company's values.

#1 Key to Creating an Agency Business Plan

The thing about digital agencies is many begin without a solid business plan in place. They start the business and then five years later create a business plan. If you are going into a startup trying to create a business plan from scratch, you want a plan that sets you up for success. The number one way to do this is to develop a plan that works well for both your clients and your team. Once you have your philosophy, you surround it with a set of core values for which you want your company to stand by. When you balance your vision of what you what for your business with what you provide your clients, you will always be able to find your true north.

How to Find Your Agency's True North

Your true north is where you want your business to grow — where your vision should be focused every day. But how do you find your true north? How do you know what direction is the right direction? It all begins with soul searching.

  1. Cleanse yourself from the processes of past employers: It's so easy to get caught up in values and ideas from previous companies and leaders. To find your true north, you need to really sit down and think about what's important to you.
  2. Find what makes you stand out from your competitors: You won't always be able to compete on price or cash flow, so it's important that your values and offerings stand out from the crowd. What can you provide that no one else can? How can you position yourself beyond just a commodity?
  3. Gut check yourself: You don't want to come up with a vision or idea that is so lofty that nobody can pull it off. That's a way to set yourself up for failure. You have to keep your feet on the ground to some degree.

Your true north and guiding values will be a key to your success as an agency. If you can't provide a product or service you are proud of and work for a company you enjoy working for, you're never going to find true success. When you begin with a solid vision and business plan, the opportunity to grow bigger and better will always exist.

Direct download: How_to_Create_an_Agency_Business_Plan_That_Works.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:00am EDT