Smart Agency Masterclass with Jason Swenk: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

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Growing an agency is very difficult, and you might feel unclear what to do next in order to grow and scale your agency. The Smart Agency Masterclass is a weekly podcast for agencies that are wanting to grow faster. We interview amazing guests from all over the world that have the experience of runni…

Jason Swenk

    • Jun 29, 2022 LATEST EPISODE
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    • 21m AVG DURATION
    • 477 EPISODES

    Listeners of Smart Agency Masterclass with Jason Swenk: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies that love the show mention: digital agency, agency owners, agency business, life as a result, grow your agency, jason and his guests, marketing agency, agencies, consultants, guests offer, take action, selling, highlights all aspects, highly recommend listening, sales, master, growing, build, great resource, great interviews.

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    Latest episodes from Smart Agency Masterclass with Jason Swenk: Podcast for Digital Marketing Agencies

    Are You Afraid to Raise Digital Agency Prices?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 29, 2022 16:12

    When was the last time you raised your prices? Do you know your profitability on each of your clients? If you haven't raised your prices for legacy clients in a while, you're probably losing thousands of dollars of revenue. Fear of increasing prices is a very common issue for agency owners. However, overcoming that fear might be easier than you think once you get out of your own head. As Agency Scale Specialist on our team, Darby Copenhaver talks with hundreds of agency owners and finds that one of the most common fears is raising prices. It is a hard conversation that you should have with yourself and your clients. If you are transparent and communicate your value it will never come as a surprise. In this episode, we'll discuss: Agency owners' fears around raising their prices. Understanding and communicating your agency's value. Good systems to raise your prices and be more profitable. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM 2 Most Common Fears Around Raising Agency Prices Darby spends a lot of time helping agency owners get to the next level and says many of them are scared to raise their prices. For the most part, they seem to be fine with raising prices for new clients but stop themselves from increasing for existing clients. They will typically justify the decision by saying those clients helped them get to where they are now. However, that is like not taking credit for all the work you've done to grow the agency. Loyalty to Legacy Clients - As an agency owner, you may feel a certain sense of loyalty to your oldest clients. They've probably been with the agency for years and it's logical that you want to continue that relationship. You may also believe in order to raise prices, you need to provide additional value. However, if you've been working with a client for five years you should consider that you are most likely much better at what you do after five years of experience. Those clients are now getting a better quality of services and strategy for what they were paying five years ago. This is not how it works in any other industry. Balancing Capacity and Pricing - Another big challenge agencies face is bandwidth. They find it hard to keep up with fulfillment and delivery as the agency grows. By not raising your prices, you're handcuffing yourself to a client at a discounted rate. Meanwhile, you're bringing in new clients at higher prices. It will take you the same amount of time, effort, and energy to complete the tasks for the legacy clients as for a new client. Basically, you won't have the time and bandwidth to bring on more new clients paying the right price. In this sense, your loyalty is getting in the way of your growth. Understand and Communicate Your Agency's Value Darby usually asks agency owners if they are effectively measuring and communicating client success frequently enough. It is commonly a question that takes agency owners a few minutes to answer and very few have a good answer. Communicating client success can be a challenge depending on the type of agency. To start, focus on asking the right questions. You should really know what the client cares about from your onboarding process. This way, you can know what to measure for success. If you're doing that part correctly and getting it right from the beginning then you're setting yourself up for success. You'll be able to relate back to them the results that you're getting in a matter that they know, understand, and care about. Communicating the value you're providing to clients is also crucial when it comes to the team. Your team should understand the value of their work for each client and why you charge what you charge. If you're not communicating value efficiently to your team then you're probably not communicating it to your client either. 3 Good Systems For Raising Agency Prices Have a healthy sales pipeline. You have to have predictability so you can be selective. If you're raising prices for new clients coming in, you should have new opportunities lining up right behind them in case you need to rethink your pricing strategy. At the end of the day, it's an experiment, so make sure you have a plethora of opportunities so you're not just relying on the few you have in front of you. Include price as part of your success conversations. Part of the success conversations you should be having with clients needs to be laying the ground for upcoming price increases. Talk about what you're investing in new technology, talent, training, etc. In short, all the things the "behind the scenes" things they don't see but are contributing toward getting them more effective results. Start with the right mindset and expectations. Be prepared to lose clients as a trade off for more profitable ones. Expect that you may lose a few legacy clients and set the new pricing in a way that you'll be OK when that happens. Digital Agency Elite Mastermind members have said after getting the courage to double their prices and preparing to lose a few clients they ended up not losing any because their clients actually expected the price increase. Training Agency Clients to Expect Price Increases This is something that Jason and Darby discuss with mastermind members all the time. It's part of building a relationship with your clients. You don't go for the long-term, hard sell right away before you gain their trust. It's a lot to ask someone to enter a long-term commitment, like a retainer, solely based on case studies and past successes. Instead, start with a foot-in-the-door offering.  Build a relationship, show some results and some wins which naturally lead to talking about a long-term commitment like a larger project or retainer work. By doing that, you're already building a relationship and trust where you're no longer competing for price. You've proven you can get the results you promised and the price won't matter. It also won't be difficult to justify because there is now a foundation and an understanding of the value you bring to their company. Other than that, once there is a relationship you should train your clients to expect a price increase at least once a year. If there are big gaps of time between raises then you're training them to see it as a rare occurrence. By contrast, if each year you raise a percentage based on inflation and upgrades and you've already established communication with them where they understand the results you've gotten for them, they won't question it. Check out a Foot In the Door Framework with 90% Close Rate: Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind. Want more brilliant Agency Scaling Advice from Darby? Check out one of his other interviews  or book a blueprint call with him and get a plan specific to your agency's scaling needs.

    Do You Have the Right Systems to Guide Your Agency Through Tough Times?

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 22, 2022 19:50

    Has your agency struggled through tough times? Could you pivot quickly if necessary? Back in 2020 many businesses, including digital agencies, were scrambling to adapt during the covid pandemic. Today's guest got her agency to the other side and almost back at pre-pandemic revenue. To do that, she put together a series of guiding principles her agency team sticks by as they search for ways to carry on. She shares lessons on why building leaders and leveling up leads to amazing agency growth. Robin Blanchette is the founder and CEO of Norton Creative, an agency that specializes in the restaurant industry. With a niche like restaurant hospitality, her clients were particularly affected by the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Many in her situation tried different approached and found what worked for them. For her, it was 50% about diversifying and 50% digging deeper into her niche. In this episode, we'll discuss: How the pandemic affected her business. The principles that kept her team afloat. The importance of building leaders. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Choosing an Agency Niche Based on Experience and Passion Robin was not an agency person by nature. She worked for an agency once in her 20s and never wanted to do it again. She had a background on the client side so as CMO and Media Director got to work on all the pieces of running marketing for restaurants and developed a real love for that industry. Although she really enjoyed this work, she was also a single mother of small children. She was looking for something that would allow her to be more present in her kids' lives. She naïvely thought running her own company would allow her that time and the agency was born from the idea. Choosing a niche was a no-brainer because Robin already had a background in the restaurant industry. That's where her heart is and what she is drawn to. Could she sell other things if necessary? Yes, but that's where her expertise is and where she shines. Since then, they've worked with about 150 restaurant brands whether for projects or partnerships. Adapting Your Agency Model In a Downturned Economy In early 2020, most of Robin's clients were in the restaurant business and were closing due to the lockdowns. She had the worst week of her career as many clients couldn't pay. Many were laying off staff and even she had to let go of some employees. It was a tough time, but one of the things she remembers is everyone's level of compassion and understanding. Even laid-off employees understood the decision and Robin really felt a sense of community in those moments. Thankfully, not every client had to shut down; many changed their model to drive through and delivery and kept going. A lot of people used creative measures and figured out how to stay in business during those months. This helped Robin and her team stay afloat and keep fighting as well. Some may think the pandemic proves that choosing a niche could be a negative. And back in 2020, Jason advised mastermind members to dedicate 50% of their efforts to continue to support their industries and 50% of their resources to explore new industries that were thriving with the new events. For her part, Robin decided to go even deeper into the restaurant industry. They did a lot of pro bono work and provided support to their clients. They also did a ton of branding work for digital businesses, which they now continue to do for bigger brands. All in all, they did some work outside of their niche while also digging even deeper into their industry kept them afloat in these difficult times. 4 Guiding Principles for Getting the Agency Team Through Tough Times The pandemic was certainly a hard time for many businesses. Agency owners had to get creative and look for new opportunities to get their agency past these difficulties. Like many, Robin did think of shutting down at some point. After all, she didn't have to answer to shareholders. However, her team was looking to her for leadership. Inspired by them, she decided to not give up and figure out what was next for the agency. Everyone had to be focused and working, so she created these 4 guiding principles: Focus on what you can control. Don't waste time or energy on things you can't control. Instead of worrying about the unknowns, what do you know to be true and how can you use it to your benefit? Get comfortable getting uncomfortable. Every member of the team needs to be flexible and take on new tasks and truly be a team player, even when something is a little outside their comfort zone. Assume positive intent. The uncertainty of a health crisis and changing economy is unsettling but international positivity is the only way to get through it. Don't waste the crisis. Think about how to leverage the forced changes into ways of leveling up or renewing the business. Leveling Up & Building Leadership Robin's principles for the pandemic are values any agency owner can implement at any time. You don't need a global crisis for your team to understand the agency's mission, vision, and values. When you have guiding principles, your team feels empowered to make decisions that meet the guidelines you've established. Robin believes the measure of success for her guiding principles is the fact that the agency made it through and returned to their pre-pandemic revenue. Those principles helped not only to grow the agency but also to build leaders in the organization. Coming out of the pandemic also helped her commit to leveling up in every way. It's something her agency is applying to talent, and partners. She took this opportunity to turn into the best version of herself, which it's really something we should always strive to do. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    3-Steps To Improve Decision-Making and Create Freedom In Your Agency

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 19, 2022 24:22

    Would you like to create more freedom in your agency? How can you spend less time making decisions? How can you make the right decisions to grow your agency without too much emotion or personal bias? It's time to improve your decision-making skills and spend less time on small agency tasks. Today's expert uses science to explain how you can greatly improve your decision-making skills in order to create the role you really want within your agency. All you need is discipline and the right framework to keep yourself accountable. Dr. Frederic Bahnson is a surgeon who found a new career path in coaching. Initially, he needed information on how to make a career decision and found valuable resources that helped him not only with his career but with other aspects of his life. He decided to share those tools and created his own framework, which he now shares in his book Better Than Destiny. In this episode, we'll discuss: Why struggles with decision-making could start with your ego. 3-step framework for making better decisions How to know when it's time to replace yourself in daily agency operations. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM The Process and Skill of Decision-Making As much as we theorize about decisions, we can all fall into these same mistakes again. Decision-making is a skill and as such, you'll get better with practice. You develop a framework, evaluate how you're doing with it, get feedback, and observe the results about why something might have gone wrong. Sometimes you can attribute a bad outcome to bad luck. You can't control everything, but always make sure to assess the results you get from implementing the decision-making process. Pay attention to how you go about making important decisions and see if it's effective, and if not, go back and revise. The important thing is to have a process. Being Honest and Self Aware Making Decisions for Your Agency You can approach decision-making from many angles. Dr. Bahnson encourages us to remember we all have biases and blind spots. You may have tendencies to go for things that will be beneficial in the short term but not so much in the long term. There are systematic ways in which we make decisions that are not in our best interest or fail to follow through with the decisions we've made. We find ways to justify this to ourselves but if we were honest we could identify the patterns of how we consistently fail to make the best decision or double down on a bad decision. We fool ourselves into thinking we can't give up on a project because we've already invested so much in it. You may think giving up is admitting the resources you poured into something are really lost. That leads to you digging and digging deeper into a hole, ultimately not where you want to be. Is Your Ego Playing a Role in Making the Right Decision? Some of it is ego and some of it is just your ego tripping you up into thinking you're being objective. You think you understand yourself well enough not to worry about biases. Recognizing your own biases when you're calm does not mean they won't be a problem for you. That perspective disappears once you're in the heat of the moment. You start to make decisions based on your emotional reaction or the status quo and not consider that you're being affected by your blind spots. This is something that we can much sooner recognize in another person than in ourselves, which is where our ego comes into play. Should we completely remove emotion from the equation when making an important decision? No, Dr. Bahnson does not recommend that. Understanding how we feel about something is an important part of the decision-making process. The idea is to use emotion as a piece of information but it shouldn't be in the driver's seat when we're making a decision. One way to do that is to have a process you can implement as a series of steps to making a sound decision. 3 Step Framework to Making Better Decisions Decide how much time, effort, and resources are worth spending on a particular decision. Don't fall into the trap of small decisions when you're building your agency. Otherwise, you may end up spending too much time on things like what color to paint the walls. It's not that the details don't matter, just not so much if you're doing it at the expense of strategy. Think about what's important to you when it comes to a particular decision. People approach different decisions in different ways depending on their priorities. What are your priorities and how much of a role do they play in the decision you're making? Consider your options and narrow them down to a few viable ones. If you determine the decision is in fact important and you need to spend time on it, figure out how to thin out your options by identifying a top few that you'll spend time researching. It becomes less overwhelming when you have a few concrete options to consider. Deciding When to Step Out of Daily Agency Operations A common decision agency owners face at some point is when to step out of daily operations. It is one of the most important decisions you'll need to make for your agency to start empowering your team and grow. You need to be clear on the direction you want to take your agency and which skills you personally bring to the table. If you're honest with yourself, you'll be able to identify tasks someone else could be doing much more efficiently so you can focus on agency growth. As he details in his framework, Dr. Bahnson suggests that you start by recognizing all the little things that you're spending time on, like making follow-up customer calls. Whatever it is, if it's taking up more time than building your strategy then you should ask yourself if you're better off paying someone to do that. That person would at least be able to put 100% of their attention on those tasks. You shouldn't spend more time on the day-to-day operations than on the big initiatives for your agency. Instead, try to focus on things that will matter two or three years down the road. Why Do People Struggle So Much With Delegating? It requires a certain level of humility to recognize you might like how you do something but someone else could do a much better job. It can be hard to admit for an agency owner who built their business from scratch. However, it is very likely someone who doesn't do it exactly your way could actually get better results doing it their way. When is it time to start looking to replace yourself in some agency tasks? When you assess how you're spending your time and realize you're focusing too much and spending too much time on small tasks. If you're spending more time on a three-day framework than you are on three-year planning and strategy, it's time for a change. Decision-Making for Agency Owners Similar to Dr. Bahnson's framework, Jason advises mastermind members to consider two things when they are making a decision: Is it going to save you time? Is it going to give you freedom? If you want your time and freedom to be a priority when it comes to agency decisions, then it could be useful to create rules and make decisions based on the rules. Giving yourself rules around decision-making is a good way to keep yourself accountable. If it's well thought out, these rules will be easy to follow and something you can evaluate and update. Giving yourself a goal with rules will force you to focus on what truly matters. You just need to be honest about the amount of time and energy a decision is worth. Dr. Bahnson says a good rule of thumb is asking yourself -- how much will that decision matter in three days, three months, and three years from now? Growing an agency, you need to focus on the three-year term. You shouldn't be focusing on the three-day horizon. You won't have the energy to focus on both and do it well. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Start, Grow, and Sell a Video Marketing Agency to Pursue Other Goals

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 15, 2022 19:23

    What is the life cycle of a video marketing agency? How can you transition from accidental agency owner to something else in order to fulfill your goals? What does life look like after you sell your video marketing agency? Today's guest hadn't seriously considered selling until he stepped back to realize the bigger picture. He remembered his original goals and realized there were other projects he wanted to focus on. This guest shares the way he started and grew his agency into something a team member actually wanted to buy. He also shares how he created a smooth transition for the buyer and decided what is next in his entrepreneurial journey. Doug Dibert is the founder and creator of Magnfi, a video software platform, and also the founder of Crossing River, the video marketing agency he recently sold. Like most agency owners, he fell into the business by accident when he started making wedding videos and soon turned that into a business. However, as Doug grew his agency he started thinking about selling and pursuing his filmmaking passion. In this episode, we'll discuss: How to differentiate your video marketing agency. Knowing how and when to sell your agency. Finding the right buyer for your agency might be easier than you think. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Starting a Video Marketing Agency Doug went to film school and actually started using the school's equipment to do paid jobs. He mostly worked filming weddings and got inspiration from a class on documentaries to try to apply those techniques to his wedding videos. So he took the material he filmed at one of those weddings and made a small trailer video. He posted it to social media and went to sleep. The next morning, he had thousands of views, shares, and messages from brides asking if he could do the same for their wedding. After a while, he also started getting requests from businesses that wanted to invest in video marketing. This is how the agency was born. They produced videos for businesses all over the world and focused on small to medium-sized businesses. Then the '08 recession hit and the agency lost all its marketing clients. Thankfully, the wedding video business stayed strong so the agency stayed afloat and also started to do videos for social media. Video is such an important tool and every company should utilize it. Back then, Doug had a hard time standing out among big video production companies. He thought about how to differentiate himself and concluded that instead of being a video production company they would focus on video marketing strategy. Their services went beyond creating video content. It included helping clients optimize their YouTube channels and animate their logos. They especially focused on creating content around the client's strategic goals. The word got out and they became the go-to video marketing agency for businesses. Creating a Platform to Systematize Video Content Creation Back in 2015, Doug rejected a few clients who wanted to film videos on their phones and send them to the agency to be turned into professional-looking video content. He didn't see the potential at the time. Later Doug realized 90% of his clients wanted videos shot and edited the same way. He got the idea to create a platform to systematize video content creation. Simple videos like testimonials, “about me” videos and expert tips are the core of what every business needs to see some real growth. With this in mind, Doug set out to create this platform for low-cost video content creation. His goal was to satisfy 90% of clients' needs and, in case they wanted something more personalized, they would pay an extra fee for those services. Seeing the Bigger Picture and Deciding to Sell Your Agency Doug's big goal when he started was to make movies. The opportunities to create videos for companies came by chance and the agency started to grow. He had people willing to invest in him as an entrepreneur who wanted to see if he was able to grow a business, so he focused on that. The shift in his mentality came from having a business coach who helped him see the bigger picture. He learned you have to continuously open your mind to new possibilities or you will remain stagnant. When his coach realized he wanted to make movies, she asked “why not next year?” He had been thinking about growing the agency more and delaying selling a bit longer. However, thanks to his coach he started thinking --  “why not next year?” Back then he was stuck being the hands-on agency owner who wanted to do everything. This shift encouraged him to start hiring people to replace himself and focus on what he did really well. He hired amazing talent, built a great team, and started to focus on the business aspect of the agency instead of the creative aspect. Finding the Right Buyer Might Be Easier Than You Think In his case, Doug had no strategic team or advisors come in and help him prepare to sell. It was actually one of his editors who expressed interest in buying the agency. After looking into the agency's recurring revenue, clients, assets, etc, the editor decided to buy. They also paid cash, so there was no finance clause or several payments over a period of time. In the end, the entire process from the conversation to selling the agency took about 3 months. Doug also mentioned he was building a video editing platform and agreed to refer video production clients to the agency. In the end, he ended up staying at the agency for another year. He presented the new owner as his new partner so he could start building relationships with the clients. Continuing his work at the agency and having other projects also helped Doug find purpose and fulfillment. Overall, the transition after selling your agency can be hard. You may expect to feel euphoric and end up thinking “what do I do now?” This is why you should always dedicate time to think about your life after the sale. Do you want to travel and rest? Maybe start another business? Or just focus on other projects? Whatever it is, knowing that there's something else will help you avoid the emotional fallout that comes right after selling your agency. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Your Agency Needs a Soul in Order to Maintain Great Culture

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 8, 2022 27:29

    Is your agency purpose-driven? A shared purpose is something your employees will rally around and identify with. It is critical to create a sense of belonging and have their buy-in. Today's guest built a successful agency with a great culture his employees really appreciated. When he exited the agency, he felt so inspired by the outpour of messages from those impacted by its culture that he decided to write a book on creating an agency with a purpose and a soul. Ralf Specht is an author and business leader dedicated to making soulless companies a thing of the past. As the CEO of a global digital agency, he focused on building a culture focused on connecting the different teams. Years later, he received many messages thanking him for the agency culture he had created. In this episode we'll discuss: His proven framework for building culture. Why you should have a purpose if you want a successful agency. How he made culture a hard fact. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Building a Global Agency When Ralf accepted the challenge of creating a global agency, it started with offices in four countries and 80 people. It was certainly a challenge but he remembers it as the highlight of his career. He focused on creating a sense of belonging and a culture that really motivates employees. All companies should have a purpose and a soul and that should come before any revenue goal you may have. You should also have core values that speak to the behavior you want to see in your agency. This will be the way to establish yourself and really start growing. By the time he left years later, Ralf had grown the agency to 19 offices and 1200 people. When he retired, he received many messages thanking him for the culture he had created for the agency. He felt this message was too valuable to keep it to himself, so he was inspired to write Building Corporate Soul and Beyond The Startup. 3-Step Framework for Building a Great Agency Culture Hiring based on beliefs, attitudes, and soft skills are buzzwords that get thrown around a lot these days. In their beginnings, Ralf and his partners sat down to think about the culture and values they wanted to see in their agency. At first, they set out to write a list of the behaviors they wanted to see in the agency. This proved to be difficult so they changed their approach to list the behaviors they did NOT want to see. It was easy starting from there and it also helped them shape an idea of who they wanted to become. This exercise eventually led them to figure out their purpose. It's an exercise he recommends to all agency owners because answering the question “why are you here?” will be crucial to implementing this framework: Shared Purpose (Being): We've been discussing purpose in the agency world for years. However, Ralf believes that if the end game of a purpose conversation is a great PowerPoint deck, then you achieve nothing. He prefers to talk about shared purpose, which has to be a.) shared by the company's leadership and b.) shared with all stakeholders. Shared Understanding (Believing): This includes all strategic elements like the mission, vision, and values plus an often overlooked fourth element “spirit.” For Ralf, spirit speaks to the intended company culture. As the agency leader, what sort of culture do you want to see in the organization? Shared Behaviors (Belonging): Studies show that the number one reason why employees are now leaving their workplaces in spades is that they don't have a sense of belonging. The real work will start after you have shared purpose and shared understanding defined on paper. Up to that point, it is all about strategic thinking. Now you have to actually make sure that the behaviors in your agency reflect what you wrote to establish shared behaviors. Agencies are not any different than any other company in the sense that they very much need to implement these principles as much as they would recommend their clients to do so. Creating Consistent Culture Across Different Agency Offices Ralf's agency started as a global agency, which posed the challenge of building a culture where the different teams felt part of a whole. To address this, he and his partners enforced a single P&L mindset and a mantra of better, faster, cheaper, with an emphasis on better always being #1. With that, everything within the organization was set up to support collaboration rather than competition between offices. They also designed complementary roles across the four offices. Therefore, the offices had to work together or they would not be able to deliver on the various client briefs. As to the belonging element, Ralf believes if a CEO tells you his agency has a soul, it doesn't necessarily mean anything. If you want to know whether or not a company has a soul and a great culture you don't need to ask the CEO. You should ask the employees  - they are the soul of the organization. This is why he implemented a formal evaluation structure four times a year. Under this structure, every manager talked to their team to understand what mattered to them. This evaluation included which parts of the company worked for them and which didn't. Those evaluations included a score and financial benefit depending on the score and worked very well for them. Finally, they implemented exchange programs to encourage better communication between the different offices. This way, employees had the opportunity to make connections and understand other work cultures. A Great Culture Gets You Through Difficult Times In his book, Ralf studies cases of companies that do culture right. There's so much to learn from companies like Airbnb and Salesforce that place belonging at the center of their operations. As we know, culture really shows when things get difficult. It's always easy when things are going well and everybody feels good. However, not every company has a culture that can get them through the bad days. Airbnb gave a great example during the pandemic when the hospitality industry went through some really difficult times. You may not know that this company had to let go of 25% of its workforce. This is because they did it the right way. We all learned of similar cases where the companies, unfortunately, did everything wrong (like firing hundreds of employees via a Zoom call) and the whole world knew within a few hours. Airbnb had been honest with its staff since the beginning of the pandemic. It was unknown territory for everyone, after all. They sent several memos throughout the year with updates and finally sent a written communication notifying them of their decision and detailing their reasons. The main reasons this was such a great example in protecting culture through difficult times is: The company made sure the people who had to leave didn't leave with a trauma. Those who stayed understood those who were leaving were a critical part of the company's success thus far. The people who had to leave received a lot of support from the company. All in all, it was a master class in ensuring that your company's soul remained intact after such a difficult time. Why Internal Culture is #1 in an Agency's Reputation When we talk about culture, there is this perception we're talking about an airy and soft thing. Ralf made it a hard fact. This is why his book contains real-life examples of companies with souls. Employee votes really matter more than anything else when it comes to the companies' soul index. When it comes to agencies, they are companies like any others and should strive to have strong cultures. However, it is common to see an agency's value propositions do not match its external value propositions, which are usually about what they do for their clients. In fact, very often there is no internal value proposition. There should be one and it should be in sync with the company's external value proposition. Studies indicate that internal culture is one of the most important factors of a company's reputation. You can't fake it. It has to be real and it starts with a shared purpose. To create a sense of belonging: Ask yourself, what does it feel like to belong in your agency? How can you create belonging and help others feel like they belong there? Some people want to build a $100 million agency and have no purpose beyond that. As someone who's run a very successful 8-figure agency, Ralf says you don't get to that level of success without a purpose. Remember without a purpose and something they can get behind employees will not feel identified with the company or feel empowered to make decisions. This way, the company will never run without you, which should eventually be one of your goals. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Avoid a Growth Explosion and Enjoy Agency Life Instead

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 5, 2022 15:52

    Do you want to scale your agency but fear growing too fast? Today's guest was part of the exponential growth of a big-name agency and never thought he want to work in the agency business as a result. However, he took the lessons learned from that experience and grew his own agency making sure to work on what he loves and build a team around what he doesn't. Hernan Vazquez is the co-founder of Scale Driven, a digital agency that helps clients develop high-level marketing strategies that generate revenue at scale. He was part of the success of Frank Kern's agency and its eventual failure when they grew too much, too fast. . He later took those lessons to start implementing the benefits of developing your own brand to grow your agency faster. In this episode, we'll discuss: Why you should do what you like and hire for what you don't. Why it's normal to question owning an agency. Lesson learned from fast, exponential growth. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Hernan has been in the digital agency business for the past 14 years. Throughout his career, he always did media buying, SEO, and paid media work for a few clients. He was also the marketing director on the client side for several brands. At one point, when he was feeling burned out from all the work, Hernan sat down and wrote out the amount of time spent on each job, the revenue per hour it brought him, and the fulfillment he got from each. In the end, agency work was the most profitable and fulfilling. So he decided to go all-in and the agency went from being an afterthought to being his sole focus. Do What You Like and Build a Team Around What You Don't Hernan has built several teams for agencies and he has always been involved in every aspect, from operations to marketing. However, those experiences have helped him realize he does not enjoy the operations portion of the business as much. If he were to start over, he would hire leaders faster. Oftentimes, agency owners are a bit cautious when it comes to starting to fill roles in the agency. This is commonly out of fear they won't sustain the business enough to make payroll. This was certainly the case for Hernan, but now he realizes there are creative ways to compensate and motivate employees independent of revenue and cash flow. For instance, he later hired someone in charge of recruiting and developing new talent. He offered that person a percentage of revenue and they accepted. He is now building a sales team and the sales director was offered a similar deal. As he has learned, you don't necessarily need cash flow to afford those salaries; you just need the right people who share your vision and can maintain mutual trust for building the agency. Hiring people who excel in areas where you don't allow you more time to focus on the things you truly enjoy. Being self-aware of what you like and are good at is the key to knowing what pieces you can delegate, eliminate or hire for. It's Normal to Question Owning an Agency Agency owners can get to a point where they are working on things they don't like and feel exhausted. Many feel like prisoners to the agency they've built and this is typically when they start looking for a way out. For Hernan, he was working as Frank Kern's main ad guy and then transitioned into the role of CMO. He ran ads for 30+ clients and also did some coaching for Frank's students. When the agency started to grow, he also had to hire media buyers and train them. However, when Frank partnered with Grant Cardone and the agency saw exponential growth, going from 30+ clients to 220+ clients in eight months was a huge adjustment. The team went from a handful of people to a staff of more than 60. They were also getting a lot of different types of clients, which is not what they were used to. The problem with explosive growth was, that although the revenue and demand were there and they were hiring people to keep up with the demand, they just couldn't catch up to the demand operationally. Hernan was stuck hiring and training a lot more media buyers and handling the ads for many more clients while also running the marketing for his own agency. He understandably ended up burned out and wanting an exit from the agency world. Lessons Learned From Fast, Exponential Growth After a year of feeling burnt out, Hernan observed other agency owners who really enjoyed the work. “What are they doing differently?” he thought. The difference was they were operating in their area of expertise. Hernan is a marketing guy who really enjoyed that aspect of the business but got stuck deep in operations. That's why he no longer enjoyed the work. He thought if he could just rebuild that concept of the agency on his own terms and without compromising on the things that he didn't like to do, it would work. One of the things he learned was it's not about having an endless supply of clients but about having the right clients. They were at one point taking anyone and everyone and servicing all types of companies from webinar funnels to car dealerships. He knows now, it's better to grow slow, find what you're best at and be an expert in one area. If you build a system, it will get you enough potential clients so that you can pick and choose, you'd guarantee that You'll only do the work that you can deliver on. You can charge the right amount. It won't take too much time. Some agency owners fixate on building a big agency they're willing to sacrifice anything for it. They'll end up 60  years old,  realizing life passed them by and they didn't enjoy it. The Importance of Creating a Personal Brand For agency owners, creating your own brand is as important as growing your agency's brand. It is the best way to turn on the faucet and bring in the people you need. Of course, the goal isn't bringing in more clients than your team can handle but rather being able to pick and choose the clients you want to work with. Hernan and his team have been working on rebuilding his personal brand. After being on both sides of the equation, he sees having benefit of hiring for a role that puts a lot of value and brings in clients. Now he's starting to apply this and it is impacting the business on many levels. As expected, they get a lot more people wanting to work with them, but they are also very motivated from the start and they stay longer. His message for agency owners is doubling down on content and putting advertising dollars behind that content for your ideal demographic. This is the #1 strategy that has a long-lasting impact on your business. For the 3 Golden Rules on Scaling and more on scaling your agency, click here to be redirected to Hernan's page. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How To Identify The Right Buyer For Your Agency Acquisition

    Play Episode Listen Later Jun 1, 2022 20:51

    Are you setting up the processes you'll need to sell your agency one day? How would you go about weeding out the red flags to identify the right buyer? Today's guest started his agency at 25 and didn't think he'd ever want to sell. The pandemic made him reconsider, but he needed to find the right buyer. Someone that would benefit his clients, his team, and allow him to still be a part of his agency's future. Aaron Levenstadt was working at Google when he started offering SEO consultancy services to referred clients. When some of them asked for on-going support, he started Pedestal Search. His agency focuses on helping businesses drive more productive traffic from search engines to their websites or stores. Now, years later, he found the right buyer and continues to be a part of his agency's growth. In this episode, we'll discuss: How he decided to sell. Red flags in possible buyers. How to identify the right buyer for your agency. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM A Lesson on Accelerating Agency Growth Early-On Aaron started his agency charging $6K a month for SEO and analytics services, which was great for a new business. He believed rushing to scale too fast could affect his ability to provide a good service. It took him 6-7 years to get over the $1 million mark. There were many lessons involved over the years of that agency growth process. One big lesson was learning how to explain what they do as an agency. Part of niching and finding your audience involves learning to clearly explain what you can and cannot do for clients. Once they nailed that part and had the processes to support it, growth accelerated. He also chose this time to start raising prices now that the agency had found an audience that resonated with its message. Getting Serious After Hitting The $1 Million Dollar Mark Getting to the $1 Million mark was the moment when Aaron actually started to get more serious about the agency's future. He and his team laid out a blueprint of how the company should run and got to work. It was a good moment for him to start replacing himself in several tasks and move to more of a strategy-based role. Basically, they developed an organizational chart where they could look at ratios of account strategists to see how many clients each could handle comfortably. The result was 4 to 9 clients per strategist depending on the size of the account.  They then added an execution and delivery layer to the chart and started filling those roles, which freed Aaron to focus on more strategic and directional level thinking for the agency. Two Major Red Flags in Vetting Potential Buyers for Your Agency Selling the agency was not the goal from the start. Aaron saw himself working in the agency until the end of his career and saw no need to sell it. This is where having guidance like the Digital Agency Elite Mastermind is really helpful. Aaron didn't really consider acquisition seriously until some of his mentors started to ask questions about his future and legacy. Questions like “where do you see the agency going in the future?”, and “are you planning to grow your staff of 25 employees, or to 50 employees?” got him thinking Around that time, he started to get emails from companies interested in buying his agency. It was the start of the pandemic and he got regular inquiries. However, he still wasn't sure. In dealing with potential buyers, Aaron found a few red flags he shared: Why are they interested in your agency in specific? If they cannot articulate a reason then they are just shopping around and are not serious. What is their reason for acquiring an agency? Are they buying to grow in a niche? Do they want to expand in a specific service area? Are they buying you for your team and processes? If they are not anchored to a why then aren't legitimate. If you're going down the path of deciding to sell, you need to understand where a buyer is coming from and where they are going. In Aaron's experience, buyers back then were only thinking about the low-interest rates and didn't have a real plan. A serious acquirer needs a full plan to cover different key factors like the culture fit which is so important for the possible success of a merger. Identify the Right Buyer With a Commitment to Your Agency Vision Aaron finally found the structure and vision he was looking for when he started talking to a buyer with a very clear vision from the beginning and showed a sort of confidence in what they could do together. Of course, there were difficult points where Aaron was not sure if he wanted to go through with the acquisition. He had built this agency working by himself with his laptop and meetings clients at a Starbucks or a restaurant. It was his baby. However, throughout the entire process, this buyer proved to be the sort of person that does what they say they're going to do. A reliable buyer provides a sense of relief because an acquisition is commonly a time-consuming and stressful undertaking. Aaron was able to visualize himself working with the new, merged company and that the acquisition would benefit his clients and his team. Additionally, this buyer's ability to work with his agency leaders really helped drive value for his clients and provided valuable opportunities for his team to learn and grow. Things He Would Change That Could Have Boosted His Growth Things turned out pretty good for his agency, but if Aaron could go back to when he was starting out in the industry he would be much more intentional about defining his ideal client sooner. His advice is to focus on finding your niche and audience early on. This empowers you and your team to say no to everything else and has a big impact on your growth. He would also hire an operations manager a lot sooner. As an agency owner, it's a commitment to start hiring for key roles, but having someone that can be responsible for running operations is incredibly helpful. Thinking back, Aaron now sees with a team of about 10, is the ideal time to hire someone to ensure operations run smoothly. Agency owners are mostly visionaries and are not particularly good with management. You need the “how” people that take care of the logistics to implement your ideas and get you where you need to be. This is the first step in setting up the systems to eventually sell one day. If the owner is doing everything, the valuation and the opportunities to sell will go down rapidly. An operations manager will help you both have more free time and focus on the vision for your agency. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Raising Digital Agency Prices Won't Scare Away the Right Clients

    Play Episode Listen Later May 25, 2022 23:19

    Would you like the confidence to raise prices and triple your agency's growth? Are you ready to empower your team and transition to a true Agency CEO? That's exactly what today's guest has been able to do over the past couple of years. She is on the show talking about overcoming her two biggest challenges: removing herself from sales and the fear of raising prices. What she realizes now is that she was standing in her own way and letting go has actually led to amazing agency growth. Taking a leap of faith and reinventing her role was what her agency needed to reach its full potential. Audra Brehm is the founder of Brehm Media, a social media agency that focuses on the fashion and beauty world. As she grew her agency, she doubted whether clients would see their value and agree to pay once she raised her prices. As CEO, she realizes the right client will see the agency's value even when you don't. In this episode, we'll discuss: Raising prices to affirm your agency's value. Determining which clients are a good fit for your agency. Empowering your agency team and removing yourself from agency sales. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Why Raising Prices Affirms Your Agency's Value Audra was looking for a new job in Denver when an interviewer asked her why she hadn't opened her own agency. She really couldn't come up with a reason and thought "why not?" That company ended up being her first client and, as she's embarrassed to admit, she started charging $800 a month for social media and marketing services. She was just excited to be starting her own business. Entrepreneurs commonly become a "yes man" in their early stages and figure they'll eventually get other clients and raise their prices. Audra admits she hasn't always had a good idea of her agency's value, but listening to their clients talk about the agency was an excellent way to understand their worth. If the client could see her agency as its marketing arm and an extended family, then she knows they are positioning themselves as a valuable partner. As someone who loves to learn, she strives to always be ahead of the curve. If they can do that as an agency, then she knows they are providing value. So then, why wouldn't people pay what they charge? The thought of raising her agency's prices used to be terrifying. Every time they increased, Audra worried she would lose clients. If she could go back, she would tell herself not to be so afraid. It's ok if clients decide to leave after you raise your prices. The ones who stay are the right clients. In retrospect, Audra thought the agency would be ruined with a reputation of being too expensive. Now she realizes her agency's value and knows the importance of raising prices. The reputation isn't about being too expensive, it's about being receiving the elite value Brehm Media provides. Transitioning Out of Agency Sales and Empowering the Team As the agency has grown, Audra had a really hard time taking a step back from sales. She doesn't like to feel out of control, however, empowering the sales team meant putting control in other people's hands. Getting out of day-to-day operations was the first time that she actually questioned what she was doing in the agency. In time, she found a new way to continue participating in the sales cycle by handling the final sales calls with new clients. She found that relationship-building before taking on a client is actually her favorite part of the sales process. So instead of taking herself completely out of sales, she gets to engage and learn more about clients while still letting go of some control and empowering her team. Plus, she feels clients appreciate the fact that the entire agency has their back, including the owner. It can be hard for many digital agency owners to transition out of day-to-day operations, but finding ways to still be part of your agency will help you with that transition. Later on, you may even find that you don't need that small role anymore. Audra has embraced her role as CEO and realizes the team won't need her as much. Now she can really live the work-life balance agency owners strive for. Last year was the first time she went on a family vacation and didn't take any business calls or check emails for two weeks. She had confidence that her team could handle anything that came up. Finding Ideal Clients That Are The Right Fit For The Agency It's good to be self-aware enough to recognize when your agency can't deliver the results clients expect. For instance, if a client expects a 10x return in a month and you know you can't deliver, then tell them. Are there agencies out there that could get them there? Yes, but it's better not to promise a deliverable you know you probably can't reach. For Audra, this is the first step of avoiding the wrong clients that are not a good fit for her agency. Other common red flags a prospect won't make a good client include asking to split monthly payments into multiple charges. This clearly shows they cannot afford you. They have a cash flow issue and are banking on your agency's results in order to pay moving forward. Another issue is clients who think that they know more than the agency does. This fosters a very toxic environment where the client does not treat the agency as a partner but expects more of an order taker. To qualify a prospect, Audra's team asks what a prospect's monthly revenue is just to be sure that they can afford her agency. They also want to see what else they're spending on other marketing efforts. This helps the Brehm team learn whether the client is diversifying their marketing budget on other vehicles. Audra says to run the other way if you encounter a company that cannot explain who they are and its future vision. If they can't answer where they hope to be in 6 months, 1 year, and 10 years, it's a massive warning sign. Getting Through the Rough Patches in Your Agency Journey Audra feels a lot of people don't believe in what's possible for themselves and only see the obstacles. You need to have clear goals for your business. That's something you should look for in clients and that you should have for your agency. Having an agency is a rollercoaster but the highs should outweigh the lows. And if they don't, then maybe you should reconsider if this is what you want to be doing. In the end, you should be proud of what you built, the business, the lifestyle, and your team. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.   Check out Audra's previous interview:

    How To Reduce Your Agency's Client Churn Rate By Being More Selective

    Play Episode Listen Later May 22, 2022 29:22

    Are you trying to improve your client retention rate? How often do you communicate with your clients? Building a good relationship with your clients starts immediately after they sign on to work with your agency. Today's guest takes us through his process of creating a level of trust with clients that make them want to stay. With clear goals set from the start and constant communication, they've only lost one client in ten years! Jeff Barnes is Chairman of Barnes Health, the strategic healthcare marketing, and public relations agency be started in 2003. He began his career in the healthcare marketing and public relations space on the client side 34 years ago. Being able to look at things from the client's perspective has been a plus for him as he has really focused on building good relationships with them. He sets clear goals and always makes them feel like they are the priority. In this episode, we'll discuss: Keeping client churn rates at a minimum. Why constant communication and a clear process are the key. Why you should strive to find clients that really fit with your agency. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Jumping From the Client-Side to Agency-Side Jeff had been working in healthcare marketing and public relations for 15 years before joining “the dark side” of the agency world. Basically, he wanted the freedom and more flexible hours of being an agency owner. Back then, there weren't many marketing firms in the healthcare niche, so he saw a good opportunity. Barnes Health started with one client and the agency has grown significantly since. He still has that first client and, actually, a total of four legacy clients that have worked with the agency for 20 years. Jeff has always preferred to work with a retainer pricing model. Some agencies may feel clients take advantage of working under a retainer expecting too many services under the retainer umbrella. However, the most important advantage for Jeff is having a guaranteed revenue, which helps him sleep at night. Nowadays, retainer clients account for about 95% of the agency's revenue. How to Keep Agency Client Turnover Rate At a Minimum The average agency turnover is 25% for a variety of reasons. With these statistics, Jeff usually gets bewildered looks when he says he's only lost 1 client in 10 years. What's his secret? Well, he's learned from speaking with his clients most agencies are exceptionally good at the front end. They sell their services with a dynamic attitude and promise that gets clients excited for working with them. However, client success is an important KPI and many agencies fail when it comes to customer service. There are two components to an agency 1) client acquisition and 2) client service. It is a lot easier to retain an existing client than to get a new one, so Jeff focuses on providing great customer service to keep the turnover rate at a minimum. He has trained his team to communicate with clients on a regular basis and have a quick response time for any questions they may have. Each client, big or small, should feel like they're the #1 most important client. Remember if you neglect clients, they'll probably start wondering why they're working with you and start looking for other opportunities. Answer the unasked questions -- and if you don't communicate it, they don't know it happened. Setting Clear Goals to Get Clients On Board With Your Strategy The moment a client agrees to work with your agency, you should quit promoting yourself and immediately transition to learning as much as you can about that client. Focus especially on their goals, objectives, and the criteria under which your work will be measured for success. The more educated and informed you are about every aspect of their operations, the more valuable you can be to your clients. Jeff's team typically gets clients to sign off on the strategic plan that they build together. They list the goals and objectives with clarity on who is responsible, the timeframe, and how success is to be measured. The overall strategy is documented and everyone on the team and the client is familiar with each step. It may be revised from time to time, but the client should always have access to the documents. Maintaining A Good Relationship With Clients Jeff favors constant communication with clients on a regular basis, even daily at times. In his opinion, this shows the agency is a very valuable resource for them. If there is no communication for three or four days, his team reaches out to make sure everything is in order - follow up on an email or run an idea by them. He also emphasizes how important it is to do this with both smaller and bigger clients. The amount of attention should not vary based on size or a client's portion to topline revenue. Moreover, this way of working helps you be more selective with your clients. If you don't feel like communicating constantly with your clients, then there's probably an issue there. Don't take in clients that you don't want to communicate with. You'll start resenting them and feel burnt out. Adapting Your Agency To a Changing Market The one constant in life changes, and in the agency world, you better be ready to adapt to a changing market. Jeff has had a long career and in those years he has learned to adapt to the internet, websites, and social media. New things are coming now with novelties like the Metaverse and NFTs which he says he will leave to his team to understand and educate him. To adapt to changing times, he likes to hire young professionals who understand and are using the newest technologies. It's so important to stay ahead of  new trends because a lot of the work marketing firms do has to do with consultation. Staying on top of emerging technology, educating and informing clients about new tools is the best way to present new ideas to your clients. However, Jeff says he is careful to not portray his team as being good at everything. It's better to actually be great at one thing than to pretend to be good at everything. As a client, he always asked agencies what they were great at. If they answered everything, he knew they weren't a good fit. Your Goals Should Reflect the People You Want to Work With It's important to have clear goals of what you want to accomplish in your agency. Your goals should go beyond a revenue level. Go deeper with your goals and really create a future vision. What type of lifestyle and freedom do you hope to have? What do you need in order to really love your work and your business? Do you know what sort of people you want to work with? For his part, Jeff credits his love for the business a being selective with which clients his agency takes on. In 20 years, he has been fortunate to never have felt like quitting. Regular communication with clients does not frustrate him because he actually likes the people he's working with and doesn't have any “nightmare clients.” Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Set Up a Smooth Agency Acquisition Without an Earnout

    Play Episode Listen Later May 18, 2022 33:11

    Are you planning to sell your agency at some point in the future? How are you preparing to make the process easier for yourself and your team? Our guest for this episode created a lifestyle business that allowed her to lead the life she wanted. When she decided to sell, she realized the business was already set up to work without her, which made for a pretty seamless selling process when the time for an acquisition came along Jodie Cook is an entrepreneur, writer, and athlete who started as a freelance social media manager. She created and successfully ran her social media agency, JC Social Media, for ten years -- even growing it during the pandemic. She's sharing the story of how she grew her agency and sold it, without an earnout, in 2021. In this episode, we'll discuss: Why she decided to sell her lifestyle business. How she prepared for the selling process. Why you should hire a broker. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions. E2M is a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Building and Growing Her Agency As often happens with agency owners, Jodie started as a freelancer and went on to create her agency once she had too much work to handle on her own. To promote services, she went to networking events telling people she was a social media manager until she got a few clients. After a while, she got to a point where she had a full-time job worth of work for herself and could choose between continuing as a freelancer or building a team. As for hiring, Jodie says she stuck to hiring other social media managers. It was a role she knew and could evaluate and train for and as a result, she developed a successful training process. However, she also sees her agency could only ever grow as far as her own knowledge would allow. And in hindsight, it would've made sense to scale by hiring for roles that are not her strength. Setting Up a Lifestyle Business Agency owners get into the business for various reasons but at some point, we can all expect to have some degree of freedom. Jodie found herself as the owner of a big agency where everything relied on her and didn't feel happy. This is when she did something that would change her life and her agency. She created a document with four columns where each column represented a step for how the business would start to change to a lifestyle business that could run without her. This was a very important exercise that would later allow her to be better prepared for a sale later on. The four columns contained: Every single process that happened at the agency Who was in charge of every task (at that moment, it was pretty much all her) Who would be in charge in the future (either by getting promoted or looking for a new hire) Her plan (actions she needed to take and even dates) Growing the Agency Through the Pandemic and Beyond Back in March 2020, just as the world changed with the pandemic, Jodie had been running her agency as a lifestyle business. She usually traveled for a couple of months of the year and the business ran very well. She was no longer needed there all the time for things to work correctly. This all came crashing down with the start of the pandemic. Clients in the hospitality and travel sectors were suddenly out of business and the agency shrunk by about 25% in one week. The shift meant Jodie got back to being very much involved in the business. Initially, she tried to figure out how to make a shift in the changing economy. This included a decision on whether or not to lay off part of her 16-member team. After a team meeting, they decided to carry on, secure the clients they still had, and work to look for new clients. The agency offered online webinars, replacing all their in-person events, and started to build the business back up. They not only managed to get back to where the business was before March 2020, they actually grew past it. Preparing to Sell a Social Media Agency With the agency back on track, Jodie asked herself what was next. She could easily go back to having a lifestyle business, but she really didn't want to be pulled back by another emergency like this one. So she made the decision to sell in August 2020. Once she got intentional about an acquisition, Jodie started to reach out to people that knew more about the subject and could point her in the right direction. The key is not discussing an agency sale with your team and just having a small group of trusted people who can help you navigate the process. Keeping it quiet until you have signed agreements saves you from hearsay and speculation by your clients and team. She eventually started working with a broker who clarified how to prepare for the sale process. Basically, it entailed setting up processes, a second tear management team, and documentation. Jodie was relieved to see most of this was already in place because of how she set up the agency to begin with. This gave her the opportunity to sell faster and be comfortable meeting with potential acquirers. She wasn't selling in a desperate moment, loved her team, and actually raved about them so it was genuinely easy to convince buyers how great her agency was. Furthermore, this helped her feel more like she was interviewing the buyers instead of them interviewing her. Successful Interviews with Potential Buyers When discussing either a sale like this or even interviewing prospective clients, you want to feel in control. The person who is more eager to speak and prove themselves has lost control of the meeting. A possible buyer might even think you have something to hide if you seem too anxious. As Jason advises, you want them to speak first because whoever speaks last is now in control of the meeting. Also, this way you can listen to them talk about their agencies and their plans for the future. Jodie listened to potential buyers first and then offered relevant information about the agency. If she had spoken first, she would probably go on tangents that didn't really matter to them, which could ruin the meeting entirely. Letting the potential acquirer speak first also gives you time to evaluate them to see if their agency is a good fit with yours. Remember, culture fit is one of the most important aspects of a successful acquisition. Selling Your Agency Without an Earnout All in all, the purchase process took six months, which is pretty quick for this type of transaction. There were two months of meetings with potential buyers. This was followed by two months of heads of terms with three of them, and then two more months of due diligence. Initially, the three offers they got included an earnout and tied the purchase of the business to Jodie's role in earnout period. Basically, they wanted her to take care of the team and sales which would get her more involved in the business rather than stepping away, which was the goal. Ultimately, she was able to convince the buyers against the earnout. Clients tend to grow attached to agency owners in the sales process and they only want to deal with them. They agreed to have no earnout and the handover process took two weeks. It takes a lot of confidence to get the deal you feel is best for you. Don't be scared into accepting the first offer-- have a number in mind before negotiations begin and be prepared to wait for it. Is it Important to Get an M&A Broker? Jodie did consider handling the sale by herself. If you commit to learning everything you need to learn for this process, it may be the best course for you and your agency. However, looking at the hours she would have to invest into this each day (at least 10 or 12) she decided labor would be best put into continuing to grow her agency. She opted to look for and hire a broker. If you're working with a broker, remember they are incentivized to get you a sale but not necessarily to get you the best possible deal. Sometimes brokers won't educate you on whether you could be making a better deal, so remember to learn as much as you can about the process. Have the confidence to say no and wait for a better offer. It will save you a lot of regrets. When looking to hire a broker, Jodie discovered many don't charge based on the completion of the sale. They charge a monthly fee and hence they may not necessarily be as invested in selling your agency. Because of this, she made sure to ask for completion rates and chose someone with a very high completion rate. Jason also recommends using a broker that charges an upfront fee, another fee once you get to the LOI, and a percentage of the exit. No recurring fee. This means they have more skin in the game are more invested in selling your agency. Life After Selling Your Agency Life after your agency's sale could be more difficult to adapt to than you imagine. A lot of agency owners feel depressed and purposeless after selling their life's work, and it's understandable. Your "why" for selling should be very clear from the beginning. Additionally, you should start planning for your post-sale life and have other projects in mind so you can find your new purpose. Jodie visualized the sale and had in mind the exact amount she wanted from the sale. She also had plans to travel and start a new stage of her life. It looked slightly different than she had planned, as it was still the middle of the COVID restriction. However, she took the time to figure things out and even wrote a book, Ten Year Career. Niching Down to Be a  Successful Social Media Agency When she first started her agency in 2011 she says it was still possible to be a general social media agency. That is something she would change if starting an agency today. “I don't believe you can be a general social media agency. I believe you have to have a niche,” she says. She would choose a vertical and horizontal niche. Then her agency would be experts in a specific space like Instagram for restaurants or TikTok for dentists. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Leverage Event Speaking to Grow a Thriving Agency

    Play Episode Listen Later May 11, 2022 29:47

    Does your agency's branding stand out from the competition? Is your offering and positioning unique? Does it establish your agency's authority in your niche? Today's guest explains how he turned his speaking career into a thriving agency thanks to smart branding. Travis Brown is the founder and CEO of Mojo Up Marketing+Media, an agency focused on building unstoppable personal and company brands. Travis has been building his brand since long before stepping into the agency world. Now, with his diverse and talented marketers, he helps others figure out and grow their brands. In this episode, we'll discuss: Getting started with public speaking Leveraging speaking engagements to grow the agency What works with branding. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Taking the First Steps in the Public Speaking Space Before ever thinking about starting his agency, Travis began a successful career as a motivational speaker. One of the most valuable lessons he learned was that the hardest part wasn't the speaking itself, it was getting people to pay him to get on their stage and speak. He hired a coach early on who taught him to invest time in figuring out his brand and unique positioning. Once he learned to do that for himself, it led to more than 2,500 paid talks over 10 years. Travis started out speaking about leadership, management conflict, and corporate training and eventually turned to youth speaking. Later on, he got a creative position as America's anti-bullying coach, where he could use his experience while also having a big impact. This new role was an opportunity to get to another level as he toured the country and had interviews on national TV. In hindsight, this taught Travis the power of creating unique positioning in the market where, instead of competing with anybody else, he was complimenting them. After many years in that industry and working as VP of marketing in a bank, he decided to start his own agency to help other people build their brands. How Can You Start a Speaking Career? It is a powerful feeling to get up on a stage. It's the sort of experience which changes how people see you. In fact, Travis now rejects invitations to tradeshows without a speaking engagement. He recognizes the moment you step on a stage people will look at you as an expert, which is a game-changer for elevating your brand. Try to link speaking engagements to your area of expertise and your core beliefs so you really come off as an expert. Travis always takes the topic he's asked to develop and links it back to his branding, which is his specialty. How can you start? He recommends starting local. If you have a niche, look for an opportunity to do a breakout session. For example, if you specialize in marketing for dentists, reach out to the local dentist association. Once you do find an opportunity, build the presentation thinking like a marketer: Have video and engaging content. Offer valuable nuggets of info. Have a free offer to get them into the funnel. Following that, focus on leveraging the first speaking engagement into another and then another. Before you know it, you'll be on a big stage with an audience filled with your ideal customer avatar. Being on stage will put you in the position of being the expert who can help them. They'll get in line to hire you and your agency. Turning Speaking Career Into a Thriving Agency Travis says he has done it both the right and the wrong way. When he started his agency, he had accumulated a lot of experience in elevating himself and his brand. However, he didn't know how to grow an agency. He got out there and got a lot of business for the agency with his brand. He soon learned it couldn't be all about him. It had to be about the team and the focus really needed to shift to showcase their abilities. His first attempt to do this didn't go as well as expected. It was done too quickly and it didn't make sense to remove him so fast when his personal brand was driving all the revenue. He had to start over and get to a point where he transfers the knowledge and credibility over to the agency.         A perfect example of how to do this right is Gary Vaynerchuck and Vayner Media. Gary is the brand, but clients never expect to work directly with Gary himself. Travis has started to introduce his audience to his team, instead of just making it the Gary show. This is how Travis is rethinking his model. Building your personal brand can be the fastest way to bring in revenue for the agency. You just need to know how to do it correctly so the agency can shine as well. What Has Worked for His Agency's Branding Right now Travis and his team are leaning into the “diverse and talented” core of the agency. They realized they have a very diverse team, which is not common at all. The team of 15 people includes black men and women, Asian women, and Hispanic and white women. That diversity led to opportunities with companies that are looking to: Work with a diverse agency, and Trying to figure out how to get a similarly diverse team. Now they are focusing on helping clients tell a story and develop an impactful brand through the lens of diversity. This way, they can help tell diversity stories by actually being one. They recognize that the diversity within the team helps them be that much better at telling diversity stories. A lot of agencies may say they are diverse but can't actually back it up. Credibility is so important nowadays and people are able to tell if you're claiming you can do something but not actually doing it yourself. For his agency, diversity has become an important part of who they are and it also works as a unique identifier, which all agencies need. What Are Your Agency's Unique Identifiers? Travis believes your agency should have its own “three uniques,” which are three things that identify and differentiate your agency. Some other agencies maybe have one or even two similar differentiators, but no other company should have those exact three since they are true to your specific DNA. These identifiers will help you create your own unique persona as an agency. Those are your core values and how you will get very different types of people in your team to all work towards one single goal. Moreover, being clear about your brand and core values will help you find like-minded individuals to join your team. For Travis, diversity is part of the agency's culture and what he is building. He is passionate about building a brand and telling a story to help his client make the most impact and he wants a team that is equally passionate about that. 2 Tips on Hiring and Client Success Travis likes to make sure that whoever his hiring is really passionate about doing the thing they're hired to do. A lot of times in an agency you're trying to fill some roles quickly. You end up hiring someone who is good but is not necessarily passionate about their role. In hindsight, he would really slow down and make sure people convince him that they want to be in their position within his company. He also wishes he had spent more time understanding how to create a better client experience. His agency's end product is always good, but the process was sometimes a bumpy ride for clients. Now he really wants to focus on making the entire experience exceptional from start to finish. Improving Customer Experience Remember that you may be celebrating every time to make a sale, but the client is probably thinking “did I make the right decision?” A good way to ease their anxiety is to immediately communicate with them after the sale. Jason likes to send quick personalized videos where he welcomes the new client and offers a few pointers. People are usually surprised to learn his videos are not automated. This is why it's worth it to think about ways to make each client feel appreciated. That extra effort will definitely separate you from everyone else. Travis has learned there's a difference between having a talented team and having a successful process. A successful process leads to a great experience. You need to map out every single instance within the client journey where you can impact and connect with them. As the lead strategist in his agency, he has also learned once clients get to a stage where they'll be communicating directly with the team, they feel abandoned by him. He empowers his team and lets them do what they do best. However, he is working on finding a way this in a way clients still feel taken care of. As an agency owner, you need to position yourself as a thought leader and make it clear at some point clients will be working with the team.  Build up the team and make sure they know they will get better results than if you took care of every single aspect. Also, map out the process so they'll know who they can turn to at each stage of the process. Should We Look for Mentors in The Agency World? After years of building his business from scratch, Travis admits he would've liked having someone to turn to. Nothing like that existed when he or Jason were building their agencies, but it is the entire reason behind the mastermind. Jason's goal is to be the resource he wished he had when he was starting out. Think about how many times you've given advice to your team or partners. You probably can't seem to do that with yourself and it's because you are too attached to your business and your way of doing things to see other possible ways to approach a solution to your problems. If you learn to ditch the competition mindset and look at it more as a community that understands and supports your most difficult challenges, then you won't need a mentor. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Test Out a New Niche Instead of Going All-In Right Away

    Play Episode Listen Later May 8, 2022 23:24

    Is it time to pick another niche for your digital agency? There are tons of benefits of niching down. However, there are a lot of concerns about making big changes and focusing on a specific industry. The good news is there are ways to test out a new niche instead of going all-in. Alano Vasquez is the founder and CEO of Cyberwhyze, an agency that helps cyber security companies become brands that scale. Although he found success and even more room for opportunity in this space, he has had other failed attempts at niching down and understands it can be scary to choose a new market and fail. However remember, failures are just lessons to help you move closer to success! In this episode, we'll discuss: Failures that become lessons learned when niching down. Testing out a new niche, rather than going all-in right away. Having the right team in place to give your freedom in your agency. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM First Steps and Lessons Learned When Niching Down Alano was working in sales at a tech startup right out of college. He was laid off, unfortunately, but when another startup hired him, he soon realized they had no marketing. He decided to use what he had learned and focused on becoming a full-staff marketer. After learning the tech industry and creating his own agency, Alano started working by with any client in the B2B space. He worked with education, healthcare, and fintech companies trying to offer as many services as he could. Within 3 or 4 years, the agency hit a ceiling of about $1.5 million in revenue. In trying to work out a solution, Alano noticed a lot of density with the agency's cyber security clients. However, at the time he actually decided they would focus on the tradeshow space. It seemed like the right choice at that moment. Unfortunately, this happened right before the 2020 pandemic and the end of all in-person events for quite a while. They had spent time and resources on experiential and interactive marketing when everything went virtual because of Covid. How to Identify a New Niche for Your Agency After his first failed attempt, Alano and his team went back to the basics and turned to the opportunity in the security space he had noticed before. They focused on branding and content creation for cyber security companies. Before you pick a niche you pretty much start working with everyone so you can start to see what you like and do really well. You can see where you have success and start weeding out the things that you don't like or do well. To his surprise, Alano quickly realized this new market presented a big runway of opportunities and was dealing. His agency Cyberwhyze started working with big brands sooner than he thought. He has rushed to create the capabilities in order to keep up with what the clients wanted from his agency. Now sees a possibility to double down on this niche. You Can Test Out a New Niche Instead of Going All In In hindsight, his agency would have niched down much sooner had he followed the advice he now gives to his clients. Some of his clients have a few verticals and try to put out a lot of broad-stroke marketing, trying to make it a one-size-fits-all. He finds clients tend to do this to avoid going through the process of creating an entire website for each vertical. Instead, Alano suggests creating a funnel with positioning that speaks to each specific persona. Agencies can also apply this same principle. There's no need to build an entire website for a new niche, just build a funnel, test it out on LinkedIn and run some Google ads. It serves as insurance to make sure you're not going down the wrong path and it might help you feel more at ease when you eventually decide to go all-in. The Value of The Cheat Sheet as a Lead Magnet Coming from sales, Alano and his partner knew very early on they did not want to give away strategy for free. They found a way to productize strategy and sell it as a core component of their work. A good way to attract new clients to your strategy is a cheat sheet. CMOs love them and even bigger brands use them. Cheat sheets come in many forms and you can use them as an opportunity to offer something really valuable while capturing data to continue marketing to your prospects. Cyberwhyze offers a cheat sheet paired with a video webinar that explains how companies can use it to their advantage. This has helped them build trust and led many people to their website. Even some big brands have contacted him based on their cheat sheet, so the agency didn't have to jump through hoops to get their attention. It's all about realizing there's really no reason to offer strategy for free and later feeling remorse for it. Having The Right Team to Provide You Freedom in Your Agency Agency growth is also about continuing to refine strategy and making sure the right people are in the right seats. Agency owners are normally the think tank of the business and the ones coming up with all the client strategies. This could be because it is expensive to replace yourself in that role early on. In fact, most agencies don't seek to do this until they hit the $5 million mark. For Alano, you have two options when it comes to replacing yourself in the strategy role: Do it anyway and maybe offer a profit share if you feel you can't quite afford it yet. Keep trying to do all the strategy but become a bottleneck for your own business. For Alano, it made sense to do this early on, even before hitting $1 million. It was the best decision for his agency. His clients have come to really like the person he hired for this role. The benefit for Alano is peace of mind and freedom. He is able  to take a vacation and only work until 5 PM knowing the agency is taken care of by his head of strategy. The idea of replacing yourself might be uncomfortable. However, the sooner you can replace yourself as the head of strategy the better if you're going after bigger projects. Remember, you probably started this business to eventually have more freedom. This resistance could also stem from the fact that they don't know the steps they need to take to make sure that this new hire will work. Agency owners are usually visionaries and many struggle with execution or hiring for execution. You need clarity of where you're going and who you're going after from the beginning. This way, your team will feel empowered to make decisions without you. Once you have this, you can hire the right person to replace you. Staying True to Your Why as Your Agency Grows Alano had to figure out his agency's growth before getting to this point. He went back to the basics to figure out his individual why and his agency's why. But don't forget, figuring out your why should be followed by communicating it to your team and revisiting it from time to time to keep everything cohesive. In this new stage, he is thinking beyond bootstrapping. He will now look at acquisitions, as he continues to explore his niche market. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Keys to Improving Agency Client Success and Reduce Churn Rates

    Play Episode Listen Later May 4, 2022 15:43

    Are you measuring your client retention rates? Do you trust your team will build good relationships with your clients? A lot of agency owners focus on making the sale but neglect customer service. Today's guest will talk about why you may be losing clients and why it's important to have someone dedicated to client success. Khushbu Doshi is a customer service specialist with a passion for strategizing, making realistic actions plans, and following up on their implementation to get real results for agencies. She leads the customer service and sales division at E2M Solutions, a full-service white label partner that helps agencies scale their business. In this episode, we'll discuss: What works when it comes to improving your retention rates. Effective agency-client communication. How you should structure your customer service. Closing the Gap Between Sales Promises And Customer Service Reality Agency owners commonly focus on signing the deal and ringing the bell when they finally get that client. As important that is, you definitely don't want to drop the ball when it comes to following through in customer service. If you do, you'll end up losing clients and wondering why you have a high turnover rate. Why is this so common? As a customer service specialist, Khushbu believes many agencies rely too much on the newest tools and miss the human-oriented approach. In a world of modernization, we all lean on technology to do things for us. This can be great for freeing up more time to focus on the things you do best. However, when it comes to customer service, it can lead to paying less attention to new customers and turning your attention to getting new sales. It's common to see a discrepancy between the possibilities that agencies present to customers during the sales process and what actually ends up happening. To begin bridging the gap, we should focus on the fact that the values you show on that first call with the client should be consistent in their journey with your agency. This is the only way to really earn their trust. Managing Client Expectations After the Sale is Made We're not saying you shouldn't try to improve sales or use new technological tools available to improve operations. However, once the deal is closed and you have a new client, make sure all the promises made during the sale are actually met. If you promise the client they'll have tons of communication and feedback calls and then you don't really do that, you're already starting on the wrong foot. Clients may be very skeptical at the start of the relationship and may even start to question the decision to work together. They need to feel reassured that you're a trusted partner who looks out for them and their interests. Think of it this way, if you don't communicate it -- as far as the client is concerned, it didn't happen. Take immediate action whenever is required and immediately act once the client expresses concern or raises a red flag. Make sure that their journey with your team is seamless. Structure the different stages of your agency sales process. Once a client gets to a new stage, introduce them to the team members they are going to be working with, rather than just having a salesperson just disappear. That same salesperson can be the one to explain from now on, they will be working and communicating with a different team. Also, as part of the onboarding process, define the process and roles within the agency. Let clients know who on the team is responsible for each part of the process so they know who to turn to when they have a question. How Often Should We Communicate With Clients? This will obviously change depending on the stage of the client's process with your agency. In the beginning, clients need more frequent communication until they trust your methods and see results. Khushbu says her clients start with weekly meetings with the customer service team to ensure a seamless journey. This allows her team to meet clients' expectations and learn about their concerns as they move through the first stages. Apart from the weekly calls, she underscores the importance of letting clients know exactly what the team is doing. They should know the research they are doing, the number of team members working on it, something new added to the pipeline, and the time dedicated to these details. Additionally, try to personalize communication with each client by offering alternatives and asking what they prefer (email, Slack, etc.). Remember sometimes a phone call is the best way to let your client know you are invested in the work you do for them. Nothing replaces a personal touch. Communicating to Clients in a Monthly Newsletter Khushbu suggests creating a monthly newsletter for clients detailing what the team has been working on that month. Rather than being skeptical about your work, they will start to trust that you know what you are doing and will be glad to have all details about the next moves. In fact, many agency owners who started to use the monthly newsletter come back to Khushbu to tell her it has helped increase retention rates. It's all about attention to detail and customized communication with clients. Instead of spamming their inbox, prepare something that speaks to the specific plan and the results the team has been getting from the campaigns. They want real data and real information. When they get that, they know you are the one to trust. Plan for Success: It's important that you are constantly planning new things for your client and showing them what you're planning to do. As mastermind member Deacon likes to say, “if you don't have a plan for your client, they're going to give you their plan, and it'll never work.” You'll be forced to follow their plan and then have to take the blame once it doesn't work. Should Agencies Have a Particular Role Around Client Success or Customer Service? There's certainly a need for roles focused on making the customer service experience the best it can be. We see agencies with poor retention rates that have not realized the huge gap between the picture they presented in the sales call and what they continue to present to clients afterward. A client success manager role is a must since there's a thin line between salespeople and customer service. This is why these teams need to work closely to make sure that the experience is consistent with the client from the onboarding to the customer service and deployment. These issues tend to create an internal battle. You may be very good at sales, but if you don't believe that your team can deliver on what you're promising then you'll never get your client's trust. You may be confident enough to sell but if you're not confident about what will be delivered, clients will see right through that. Working on your customer service will bridge the gap between client expectations and the reality they get. Using automation is helpful for some things and frees your time up to focus on other things. Don't focus too much on a particular template or tool when the way to take your customer service to the next level is great, personalized attention. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Ditching the Competition Mentality Leads to Real Agency Growth

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 27, 2022 22:15

    Are you a proactive or reactive agency owner? It's common to come into the business not having a full understanding of what it takes to grow your agency or the type of issues you could face. Today's guest tells us about the process of growing his agency, ditching the competition mentality, and how he wants to help agency owners prepare to grow their businesses. Bear Newman founded his agency Bear Fox Marketing with the belief that running a digital marketing agency specializing in SEO wouldn't be as difficult as it actually was. Years later, he says it was one of the best things he ever did but admits he wasn't quite prepared for some of the challenges. He has overcome a lot of obstacles, including losing clients that accounted for more than 50% of revenue. Now, with a full staff of employees and as he starts to step away from day-to-day operations, he crafted The Bear Fox Principle, a book to help prepare agency owners for what they should expect in the path of growing their business. In this episode, we'll discuss: Running an agency is more than just knowing how to do the work. Why one client shouldn't be more than 20% of total revenue. Why winning doesn't mean crushing every other agency. Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Running an Agency Is More Than Just Doing the Work Bear was doing SEO work as a freelancer when he decided to open his own agency. “I may not have fully thought through that career move,” he jokes. At the time, his reasoning was just, why not? How difficult can it be? He soon realized there's a lot more to running an agency than just being able to do the work. For starters, he had no idea what he should charge clients in order to run a successful business. For his first SEO account, he planned to bill $750 a month. That has definitely changed by now. He also had to figure out every side of the business, from sales to servicing and marketing. Now his agency has great client reviews and is the #1 rated agency in Idaho. He has employees that are much better at selling the agency's products and work on marketing, ads, and creative content to keep the pipeline full. There's a Lesson in Every Experience While Growing Your Agency A lot of agency owners live by the words “if you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Bear does believe in the importance of planning, but he also knows that you can't plan for everything and tries to figure it out whenever he can't. For example, he once got a meeting to pitch for the largest pest control company in the Valley. The marketing director quickly let him know he was just meeting with him as a courtesy because he was never getting that account. Instead of feeling bad, he decided the experience of pitching the project would be enough. With that in mind, he went ahead with the pitch, trusting it would at the very least help him improve. In the end, he ended up winning the account. Once he did get the account, however, he had no idea what to charge. Some people may say he should have anticipated that, but for him, the beauty of the agency world is also having the confidence to say “whatever comes at me, I'll figure it out.” Stages of Starting to Build Your Digital Agency Team For Bear, his search for an agency team really began when he realized he was unable to keep up with the workload. He wanted to maintain the quality of work and didn't want to be everything to everybody. Like many agency owners, he focused on specific challenges. Bear knew needed a team of specialists who were really good at what they did so he could start to delegate tasks. When he started his search for employees, the most important quality for him was having the right attitude towards hard work and never choosing to do the minimum. Candidates were offered a client brief and the opportunity to create 2-3 Facebook ads and landing pages. If they only did two, he knew it wasn't a right fit for him. It was important to find people who always strive to do everything above and beyond for clients and the agency. The Worst Thing His Agency Overcame The first year of Covid was the hardest for his agency. Two of his clients were making the transition to handling their marketing in-house and they accounted for about 53% of his total revenue. It was a really hard time, but he had to come up with a solution. He could either downsize and prepare for the loss in revenue or he could face the problem head-on. He decided to hire a sales team to get that revenue replaced. Of course, the team was going to need time to set in and build the funnel. Bear made the bold move of hiring two salespeople, just in case one of them failed. If this didn't work, he would lose the cost of both of them, but it proved to be the right decision. By the end of the year, they grew by 70% and now one of those salespeople is his VP of Operations. Lesson learned: As Jason tells his Mastermind members, having one client account for 50% or even 20% of your revenue is definitely too risky and just not smart. Bear realized this and was already thinking about the options by the time the clients pulled out. However, he learned he needed to be more proactive than reactive in these types of situations. Agency Owner Transitioning Out of Day-To-Day Operations After hiring the right team to keep the agency's momentum going, Bear is trying to extricate himself from day-to-day operations. At some point, every owner reaches a point where they need to spend more time working on the business rather than in it. Bear now oversees staff training and overall tries to keep an eye on their metrics, clients, and set the course for the future of the agency. With the right systems in place, the agency is getting all the pieces together to really accelerate its growth. For Bear, it's like building an engine. The more expertise you have the better engine you can build, which will be your foundation to really move forward to the next stage of your growth. Why You Need to Ditch the Competition Mentality After all the ups and downs experienced with his agency, it was really important for Bear to create a guide for agency owners who are just starting in the industry. The Bear Fox Principle is a book about what it takes to build a successful digital marketing agency. A lot of agency owners don't know what they need to understand in order to grow their business. The book goes over the metrics you should know and what you need to understand to make a campaign successful. It also touches on integrity and how you can do what's best for your client as well as your company. Both parties have to win and not because you win somebody else has to lose. The “crushing your competition” mentality is a pervasive attitude in the agency world. Even Jason used to think that making it in his market meant crushing every other agency. That's not true. You can learn a lot from people in your industry if you open up your mind. Remember that success is created, not taken from someone else. Even if you don't get a particular account, that doesn't mean you won't get another one. You just have to be resourceful. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Is Buying An Agency Department A Good Way To Expand Your Offering?

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 20, 2022 22:34

    Are you thinking about buying an agency? What about just buying one department of agency to compliment your service offering? There are many reasons to consider acquiring another agency, like client lists or intellectual property. However, buying one for its resources made the most sense for this podcast guest. When a few red flags made him take a step back, he found he could structure a deal in the form of buying just the department he was most interested in rather than acquiring the whole agency. It takes the right circumstances and aligned interests, but it worked for both agencies involved. Like many agency owners, Antoine Gagne started his agency, J7 Media, by accident. He hosted events that drove a lot of people in and realized he was good with social media. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram were still sort of new in Canada, so he started off selling social media management packages. He saw a lot of success in this market and eventually niched down to specialize in Facebook advertising. More recently, he has ventured to buy other agencies to expand his services. In this episode, we'll discuss: Niching down to grow the agency. When to raise agency prices. Buying an agency department for the resources. Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Getting to the First Million in Revenue and Beyond In his beginnings, Antoine started an agency that offered social media management and content creation services. He eventually decided to focus on an area that was most profitable and where the agency really shined. As a Facebook ads agency, they were so specialized it was easy for clients to refer them to people looking for these exact services, which led to a stable sales cycle. Antoine really recommends figuring out one service that you're good at and you're able to sell repeatedly. Once you settle on this, the key is to not give up, he assures. Keep going until it becomes easy for you to get more and more clients. At this rate, you will get to your first million in revenue. For Antoine, once you figure out how to keep it simple and go all-in on one service you do really well, you find that getting to the second million is actually easier. When To Raise Your Agency Prices Failing to recognize when it's time to raise prices is a common problem for agency owners. Additionally, most fear this move will make them lose out on prospective clients. To be clear, the point where you find a service you can sell repeatedly while improving and consistently getting better clients should also be the point where you get ready to raise your prices and think about your profit. If you have an agency and you're not focused on profit then you may be in the wrong business. The sooner you realize agency owners should not be looking primarily at just top-line revenue the better. In Antoine's case, the shift began with looking at the different parts of the agency and using this information to structure its prices. He figured out how much the agency was making from each department and then decided he wanted to make 40% net revenue from those parts of the business. Next, he needed to decide what the agency should charge and how many clients it would take to meet the goal. It basically took some backward math to figure out how the pricing. As to the fear of losing clients, all new clients agreed to the new price without further pushback. For their part, existing clients were gradually moved to this new price point at a different pace. Why You Have to Focus on Net Margin Instead of Revenue Getting J7 Media on the path to growth required a clear vision of the net margin Antoine was hoping for and adjusting the prices around it. A lot of people tend to start with the revenue in mind and plan around that. The problem comes when they don't make any profit. This is a much more advisable way to go about it, especially if you plan to sell someday because your agency is valued on EBITDA. It's normal to start out with the revenue in mind and slowly get to the point where you realize you should be focusing on net profit. It'll change the way you look at your business and the way you approach your agency growth. This mindset prompted Antoine to create new services to improve the profit margin instead of thinking about revenue. It was the starting point to grow into a healthier financial situation. Why Buy an Agency Department, Not the Whole Agency There are various reasons to acquire a company, like their client list or intellectual property. For Antoine and his agency, it was about resources. On one hand, they noticed their clients needed more from them. On the other hand, a lot of things had changed with Facebook and it no longer made sense being positioned only as a Facebook ad agency. Clients were now looking for a one-stop shop that could do all the media buying for them. They looked into adding Google ads services, seeing this was the number one service clients needed at the time. However, they couldn't just jump into this market 15 years later and become experts while still trying to figure out the Facebook changes. They ultimately decided to shop for an agency that could cover this new need. Antoine met with a few agencies and ultimately decided to buy not an entire agency but just a department. They didn't need all the different departments, so they structured a deal where they could acquire only the specific employees from this department and the transaction was good for both sides. Structuring the Acquisition of an Agency Department Some people have never even considered buying just an agency department but it could be the perfect solution in some cases. Keep in mind a lot of agencies have more than they can handle and would gladly sell just part of their operations. Antoine was looking for a profitable Google ads department and in the negotiating process with this agency, he found out that employees in this particular department were not in love with that company anymore. The owner knew this and he knew it was a matter of time before he would lose these employees. In this way, the deal was beneficial for both parties. He encourages agency owners to do this when possible and try to craft the best possible deal. Remember not everyone wants to keep their agencies. Many people have other interests or goals and want to try different things. If you come at the right time with the right offer, most of the time you'll find interest and will be able to complete this transaction. How Much Time Does It Take To Complete a Deal? How much time will it typically pass between the moment you're interested in a company and the time you conclude the transaction? It will depend on the size of that deal. Small transactions like purchasing a department for under $1 Million take just a few months to complete. However, other bigger transactions take more time. If you dedicate 5-7 hours a week reaching out to companies of interest, the meetings will come. Antoine currently dedicates 5 to 10 hours a week to look at companies he would be interested in acquiring. At first, it can be overwhelming but he assures, that it's not as hard as it seems and you could even end up wanting more. Open Your Eyes To New Opportunities We're in a time of changes in the media buying space. A lot of things are changing and when things change many people quit. If you choose to be one of the ones who stay, then remember to open your eyes to the opportunities to buy agencies that are leaving a certain space. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Every Agency Needs a Solid Elevator Pitch and Good Branding

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 17, 2022 20:57

    Do you know how good branding establishes your agency as an authority? As a result, you will grow your agency faster. The fact is, being relatable and establishing yourself as a trusted advisor to prospective clients gains their willingness to let you help them solve their challenges and achieve their goals. Our guest today shares how branding helps establish authority and how she turned her agency from a side hustle to a full-time priority. Annie Scranton had worked at several media companies when she founded her own PR agency, Pace Public Relations, focused on getting their clients media attention and placement to highlight their work. After losing her job as a producer at CNBC, Annie sent an email to her network and got an answer asking if she could help get media for a client. It came natural to her. She got that person an interview and knew this was the path for her future career helping actors, CEOs, and authors get access to media. In this episode, we'll discuss: Turning a side hustle into a full-time opportunity. Branding yourself vs. branding your agency. The importance of a solid pitch. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Turning an Agency From a Side Job to Full-Time Priority Annie's PR venture began as a side job that wasn't really her number one priority at the time. After years of working in several media outlets, she knew many influential producers and reporters. This was her currency to take the business off the ground and allowed her to offer clients access to the media. Nevertheless, she admits she undercharged for many years, a common issue for startups. This may have slowed her growth a bit, but eventually, Annie's pricing model evolved to monthly retainers. She finally made the decision to focusing on her business full-time once she had enough of a safety net to take the risk. Twelve years later, her monthly retainers are now up to 10K and she has offices around the world. First Steps to Growing an Agency Annie was lucky to have a big network of people answering her questions about the first steps she needed to take with her business. Since PR is a service industry, she didn't have to manufacture a product or answer to investors. Once she made the decision to fully focus on building her agency, she hired a web designer to put together a website, opened a corporate email, and was ready to start growing her business. She quickly learned the importance of hiring a good accountant, since she hadn't realized how much money she need to put away for taxes. It was a rough reality check. As soon as she couldn't handle the amount of work on her own, she started looking for her first employee. She started by delegating the low-level admin work to dedicate more time to getting new business. For this, she decided it would be best to hire and train someone who already had a background in media. Ultimately, overcoming the anxieties that come with being responsible for payroll was one of the best decisions she could make for her business. The Difference Between Marketing Yourself vs Building Your Brand Annie is a big believer in the power of building your own brand. In the debate between branding yourself or branding your agency, she thinks we should all do both. However, it is also a matter of your needs and your particular industry. For her business in PR, it really is all about the image she presents of herself as someone that can get you access to the media. Therefore, her branding is about 75% focused on her. Your prospective clients want to work with you and your team, not your "company". People want to work with people that are relatable and that share their values. It can be aspirational in a way. You want to follow their journey, career path, and success. Remember that this is why it is so important to brand yourself. It attracts people in a way that just branding your business won't do. No, Branding Yourself Doesn't Mean You'll Do Everything It's true that creating a situation where clients strongly identify your agency with your personal image may lead them to expect to work directly with you. However, Annie says it is true to a much lesser extent than people may imagine. At the startup phase, the owner is doing pretty much everything, which is why you should really love what you do. However, if you hire really smart people that you train well then you won't have to do everything. It's natural to grow and evolve within your agency to the point of being focused on growth and your vision for the agency. When it comes to building your brand, Annie recommends posting and interacting on LinkedIn. It's a very powerful tool if you use it well and it's where she has gotten tons of new business leads. Building your brand like this is more than just posting about a new client you have. It's more about taking new stories that people are discussing and writing a related post where you position yourself as a subject matter expert. It's a good way to be consistent about putting your personal branding and message out there. Similarly, she attends webinars, seminars, and speaking engagements where she talks about personal branding. Can You Describe What You Do in 20 Seconds? If you have a business, you will eventually have to learn about personal branding. It will provide you with useful tools to interact with your audience or people in the same industry. You have to learn to draw people in with your elevator pitch. As a rule of thumb, if it takes you longer than 20 seconds to describe who you are and what you do you should really sit down and figure out your elevator pitch. To put together a successful pitch, make sure to include how you can benefit the other person. No one wants to listen to you ramble on and on about your business, but if you can summarize it in “here's what I do and here's how I can help you” then you have their attention. Always think about the ROI for the person you're talking to. How NOT to Pitch Your Business Annie once received a pitch about a Tequila testing for a client that was actually a recovering alcoholic. She wrote back to the person explaining how that pitch was so wrong on so many levels and how it would have taken a quick Google search to find out why. It really discredited that person for her. You have to know who you're pitching. It is unbelievable how many times people don't do their research ahead of time when it's actually easier thanks to social media nowadays. Also, remember that it doesn't always have to be transactional. Think about reaching out to people in the spirit of collaboration to develop a relationship. Maybe email them just to mention you really enjoyed their last article or conference. If you do that, they'll remember you when your agency can help. The Beauty of In-Person Collaboration Annie's agency has offices all over the world. Why not go virtual when so many people are making this move nowadays? They were virtual for the last two years, obviously, but PR is a collaborative industry and there are ideas that spark in an office that cannot be replicated in a Zoom meeting. “My job is to communicate,” she says, so she really prefers in-person interaction. This is especially relevant when we consider how difficult hiring and retaining talent has become. Not being able to build a relationship with them makes it all that much harder, so, when possible, she prefers to have the kind of bonding moments that only in-person interaction can provide. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How Smarter Bookkeeping Helps Increase Agency Profitability

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 13, 2022 21:42

    Are you doing your own bookkeeping? Are you paying too much for someone else to do it? You might be wasting valuable resources that could be focused on growing your agency and your profitability. In most cases, it's not an agency owner's area of expertise and CPA's charge a ton for this service. It's worth it to hire someone who understands the scope of what you do and how to keep your books. Today's guest is an expert in accounting for agencies and his company, Agency Dad, helps agency owners forecast their finances and establish a strong fiscal foundation for their future. Nate Jenson is a certified management accountant, internal auditor, and fraud examiner who founded Agency Dad, an accounting company that focuses on profitability for agencies. He offers bookkeeping services for agencies but their main focus is helping agencies understand financials and what's driving profitability. Nate has been on the show before talking about the financial benchmarks and KPI's that can help you plan for the future of your agency. In this episode, we'll discuss: Why you shouldn't do your own bookkeeping. The high cost of bookkeeping mistakes. How tracking time will help you improve profitability. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM YOUTUBE AUDIO LINK Why You Probably Should Not Be Doing Your Agency's Bookkeeping Bookkeeping is not the sexiest topic and most creatives are not interested in it. However, a lot of agency owners do their own bookkeeping, even when it typically isn't their area of expertise. Nate advises against this for several reasons, although he admits there's a point in your startup when it's OK. There is a situation where handling your own bookkeeping makes sense. If you're just starting, have only a few clients, one invoice a month, and no employees, then it's perfectly fine. It can also be the best for you as you try to scale your agency and need to keep costs low. Once you start growing, the complexity of the data grows exponentially. You get to a point where maybe you just hired your first employee, have several clients, and diversify your service offering. Then tracking that data becomes more important and more difficult. And, knowing the data leads to making better decisions for future growth. Finally, you should also consider opportunity cost. If you started an agency, maybe you're an expert on SEO or getting clients. Imagine how much money you could be making if you focused on what you're good at instead of bookkeeping, which is most likely not your greatest strength. 2 Reasons Not to Use Your CPA For Bookkeeping A lot of people use their CPA for bookkeeping because they lump all the "financial stuff" in the same category. But a CPA and a bookkeeper are drastically different. And, Jason and Nate agree this does not provide the best results for your agency. This solution keeps your books clean and reconciled but Nate says there are several reasons he does not recommend it: It is the more expensive option. Most likely, you will overpay to have your accountant do your bookkeeping. However, more importantly -- CPAs usually keep books based on their tax knowledge. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, however, on the backend, it doesn't help you make good decisions for running your business or to move forward.It all starts with the data entry and your vision for the agency. If you want to make smart growth decisions you need a good bookkeeper to help you with the data. What do you need to know from the data to make good decisions? Can you hire a new employee? How much should you charge? Can you give your team a raise? Imagine you want to sell your agency soon, you would probably have very specific questions about valuation and how the decisions you're making right now will affect your business. When would you like to sell? In one year? Five years? In terms of the data, you have to know what you're putting in and why so you can answer those questions in the backend. If you are planning to sell and do not know this information it could be a red flag to potential buyers. You should know the financial outlook of your agency at any time. If you want to have an opportunity to sell you should have everything in order. And if you want to sell in the future, you want to know what you can do as of now to maximize your value. The High Cost of Making Bookkeeping Mistakes According to Nate, 96% of data analysis happens at your data entry. This means that if you don't know how to properly enter the data you will run into trouble. Overall, you want to do everything right in your bookkeeping from the beginning. Nate has been hired to “clean up books” and fix years of improperly kept data which sometimes takes months. If it's too complex, he even prefers starting from scratch and rebuilding everything. Having the right systems and the right processes in place can even help save money you're already spending in bookkeeping. In one of the worst cases he's ever seen, Nate rebuilt his client's entire system and set up everything in a way so they were able to replace two full-time bookkeeping employees and replace their roles with one part-time employee. The Importance of Tracking Time for Profitability Based on experience, Nate says most agency owners are not tracking time with the data they measure. Usually, he gets some pushback when he mentioned it. However, most do admit they should be doing it, but their employees don't want to. An agency's biggest overhead cost is your team's time. If you don't understand where people are spending the most time, you won't be able to identify which client relationships are not profitable. Tracking time is a data entry task so if you have the systems in place where you can run payroll and track time, you can easily run reports that specify profitability per client. This way, you can identify which clients are using up most of your time. Rarely does Nate find an agency that isn't losing money on their engagements. What they need to do after they find this out is adjust and find out where they can raise prices or what things they need to stop doing. Sometimes you can even increase profits when you cut a service offering or stop making a specific product. Do less and make more money! How To Handle The Shift to Tracking Time  It's common for your employees to pushback when you start tracking time. Jason recommends being very honest with your team and clearly explaining the agency will suffer unless some things change. It's also important to reassure that you will not be tracking the employees themselves, but rather collecting necessary information for the business to keep growing. Make it mandatory, not optional and be ready to make non-compliance a reason for dismissal. Oftentimes, the employees who complain the most about necessary changes like these are not a good culture fit for the agency you're trying to build. It will be the same with some clients and it's ok if you decide to cut ties. How to Find The Right Person for Your Agency Bookkeeping Someone who is doing their own bookkeeping is also typically someone who is already overwhelmed. They have so much to do and they feel they can't afford to hire someone else to help. With this mindset, it becomes difficult for them to see the benefits of making a change. A good bookkeeper knows your industry, understands data analysis, and can put those numbers in front of you to help make decisions. They will be able to show where you are losing money and what can happen if you make some changes. Of course, you also have to be careful. You can't just hire anyone to do your bookkeeping. Some people ask their support staff, like a receptionist to do it. You may be freeing some time for yourself, but it will probably create problems further down the road. Mistakes like incorrect invoicing can cost your agency thousands of dollars, so make sure to put in the effort and choose the right person for the job. It doesn't have the most expensive solution, but it's important to  really understand the role and the difference between someone who understands accounting and someone who knows how to use Quickbooks. Pro Tip:  Nate's suggests a quick test to determine if someone really knows about accounting is to ask them this quick question. “Does the debit increase or decrease my assets?” If they say increase right away, you're good. If they hesitate, they're not thinking like an accountant. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.   Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you.

    Do You Have a Clear Vision and Does Your Team Support It?

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 6, 2022 20:42

    Do you have a clear agency vision? If so, have you shared it with your team and have their full buy-in? It takes courage to make changes that will help you scale faster. You need clarity to define your vision for the agency and a team that shares that vision. It may rock the boat a bit too much for some in your team. However, when you surround yourself with people that believe in your vision you'll see results so much faster than working with those who resist it. Arti Sharma is a marketing and business leader who had worked for 15 years contributing to the growth and success of several start-ups and Fortune 500 companies when she created Measure Marketing Results Inc. As a marketer, she felt a lot of people were talking about marketing but no one was measuring it. She saw the opportunity and started reaching out to some old clients offering to build a campaign for them. Her business has changed a lot since then, but the most significant change came about five years ago when she redefined the agency's goals and created a vision script. In this episode, we'll discuss: Why finding clarity is the first step toward change. Your mission statement and vision script. The importance of surrounding yourself with the right people. Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM How To Find Clarity for Your Agency Digital agencies nowadays find themselves in a very crowded space. In order to stand out, agency owners must answer the question “how do I differentiate myself from everyone else?” Usually, agencies go to Jason with a variety of problems that are standing in the way of their growth. The majority of those problems stem from a lack of clarity which affects the agency owners' ability to focus on niche, services, pricing, and even leadership. Five years ago, Arti ran a successful company that had changed between building websites and offering SEO and SEM services. She started to question what she was building and whether it aligned with her personal and business goals. In essence, the agency's mission statement “influence, inspire and impact” had not changed. However, she realized her clarity was lost somewhere along the way. As agency owners know, sometimes this can happen as you worry about all sorts of issues like building a team, getting new clients, and maintaining sales. Holding Your Agency Team Accountable to the Mission The real change began in January 2020, when the team met to discuss the mission statement and create a complete vision script establishing how they would operate based on that mission. From then on, they made the commitment to hold themselves accountable to the mission by measuring operations, serving customers, hiring, and sales and marketing. Turns out it was perfect timing. The company navigated the pandemic by serving its customers and building a niche based on the new commitment. Looking back, those were uncertain times for any business, but their new commitment was the push they needed to think outside the box and actually live their mission in daily actions. Arti's team is still working on their changes, but so far they've become Hubspot partners and changed their offering to be more of an account-based marketing and sales enablement company. They've even built another business, an agency for agencies that wish to outsource some of their services. The Importance of Creating Your Agency's Vision Script Measure Marketing Results' mission statement remains the same and continues being true to its goals. The next step Arti took was redefining the vision statement in accordance with its goals and creating a script. To do this, they got really specific and identified, among other things, who their ideal clients are, where they would find them, what sort of impact would they have on their business and growth. They broke that vision down as much as they could and this provided much-needed clarity for the agency. Creating this vision script ultimately impacted their systems, sales scripts, thinking about where they would find clients and partnerships. It became clear that the agency would need to align itself with companies like Hubspot and leverage its tools to expedite the agency's go-to marketing strategy in the world of inbound marketing. Crafting your Value Script entails: Defining your core values. Having a vision of where you want to be in 2 years, 4 years, and 10 years. Big action items for each year to move toward your goal. The Vision Can't Stop with the Leadership Team Defining your agency's vision is another important step, but you need your team's commitment to make it a reality. The problem many agencies have is the vision stops at the top management tier. The CEO and leaders are committed to the core values and goals but what about the rest of the team? Arti's team held a two-hour meeting with all their staff when they crafted the vision script. They explained the vision, answered questions, gave examples of who the customer was. They also explained how these changes would affect them as service delivery or client management team. Team members needed to understand how implementing these principles correctly would impact the agency. It was important for them to have everyone on the same page and have the newly defined vision for the company align with the staff's vision. Don't Let Your Clear Vision Get Distorted Not everyone will be on board with the changes, but those are the ones that will probably end up going in a different direction. You can't let your vision get distorted by other peoples' opinions of the vision. Go over your vision and if they don't get it, then maybe they aren't the right people to help the vision become reality. Changing the trajectory of your company takes time and work. Having the right people on your team is essential for that. Investing In Your Agency Team Arti doesn't take all the credit for knowing what steps to take to lead her agency in the right direction. She heavily invested in finding her mentors and surrounded herself with the type of people that would advise her on the next steps for her agency. Additionally, she completed a leadership program, read business books, listened to Jason's podcast (always a wise decision:) brainstormed, tested, tried, failed, and finally succeeded. She believes in the impact of having a team that shares your vision for the future of the business. With the guidance of her mentors, she identified key people in the team that would be ready to take the risk with her and started to invest in them. They have now wrapped up a leadership program and are working on building a management team. For her, it's about investing back in your people, in your processes, in your systems. If you do this, the sales will come through and you'll be able to retain customers. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? Do you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency? Then go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Stop Giving Away Strategy For Free and Get Paid What You're Worth

    Play Episode Listen Later Apr 3, 2022 26:54

    Do you want to start charging for strategy instead of just execution? A lot of agencies out there are getting paid for execution and giving away strategy for free. They end up being viewed as a commodity instead of for the value and expertise they bring their clients. It's mostly about learning how to cross that bridge. Our guest today specializes in helping business owners make this transition. It involves a lot of trial and error, trusting your experience, and learning to listen to clients. Stephen Houraghan is a brand strategist who helps businesses amplify their brands and teaches designers and brand builders how to specialize in this area with his Brand Master Academy. He started his career working in finance and stockbroking and eventually left that world to start his own agency offering web design services. With the rise of freelancer platforms, Stephen saw clients wanted more value, so he tapped into strategy, which in time opened the doors to a different type of business and relationship with clients. In this episode, we'll discuss: Stop giving away strategy for free. The thought and process of selling strategy. Listen to clients to create authority. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Figuring Out How to Charge for Strategy When Stephen started working as a freelance designer he tapped into his professional network and was getting lots of referrals. He was doing what he loved and money wasn't a worry. However, this started to change with the rise of freelancer platforms. Clients were pushing back on his prices and he realized he needed to offer more value to retain customers. He started his agency and thought about how to compete with freelancers. Being more competitive would require solving the right problems for clients and offering more. He turned to branding, something he really loved to do. Eventually, that led to piecing together the puzzle of brand strategy. Brand strategy is the key to making competitors irrelevant. Offering all the pieces of building a brand to clients put Stephen on another level, no longer competing with freelancers who just offered a logo or website. It took years of developing and improving his process but now clients do not compare based on logos and brochures but rather based on long-term success based on the strategy behind these items. How to Test Your System for Selling Strategy No matter how you fell into the agency world, there comes a point where you have to turn what you've learned into something which proves value to your clients. The bridge you need to cross to get to that point is experience. You need to realize you already have the building blocks to shift to this model. No one jumps into a creative project and just drags pixels around. It takes thought and a process. This process may be more or less detailed and, for some, it involves research and building a brand persona. Begin by documenting it and you will slowly develop it from there. Usually, freelancers and new agencies will not charge for the labor involved in the process. Taking this step will really make a difference in your growth because there's no ceiling to what you can charge when you sell strategy. For his part, Stephen started by splitting up his services. He increased his design prices but made sure to sell them as the product of a comprehensive process. At first, he included the strategy for free as he slowly transitioned to taking his clients through his system. With time, his system became much more comprehensive as he tested and refined it. A big part of doing this was pushing the impostor syndrome away. Of course, you have to be very careful to not just slap a title on yourself as you start to sell brand strategy but trust your experience. It is about building the system, but it is also about building confidence in yourself, your system, and knowing that clients need that system whether they know it or not. What are the Elements of Brand Strategy? Knowing the concept of brand strategy is a start but you need to understand its elements and how to tie them together to create more value for clients. Stephen identified a lot of common elements, including buyer persona, competitive analysis, positioning, storytelling, brand personality, brand mission, etc. The challenge was to figure out if every single one of these elements applies to every business, in what order, and how he could go about developing them. Asking these questions was the start of putting together a system to build a brand. It all starts with the customer, naturally, but it goes beyond the persona. You have to dig into their journey and understand each of the challenges in that journey. From there, it's about looking out into the market and understanding all the players in that market. Look for gaps where you can go in and offer something different, new, and fresh. Your messaging, what you say, and the buttons you push within your message is your most influential tool as a brand. That is the value of brand strategy. All these elements in the right order will help you resonate with your audience in a way that a logo or a website alone can't replicate and will give you the ability to sell your thinking instead of giving it away for free. Learn To Listen to Clients and Ask The Right Questions The trial and error to figure out your process will most likely result in some mistakes. For Stephen, the most obvious mistake was taking the position of “I'm the brand strategist and you don't know what you're talking about”. He would tell clients that they didn't need a logo and try to push them in a certain direction. “9 times out of 10 that conversation did not end well,” he acknowledges. Both Jason and Stephen agree that selling on strategy is about asking the right questions in order to help them determine the direction they need to follow. It doesn't work unless you ask the right questions, listen, and walk them through the plan. With this framework, they never lost a deal over price. Remember that no one likes to be told that they're wrong. You can't just tell clients they need something they don't think they need because they most likely won't listen. It's about showing and demonstrating the need to create the desire. Stephen learned about negotiations and started to structure conversations with clients. He asked more questions and really tried to understand what they wanted and get them excited about the brand they wanted to build. The Right and Wrong Way to Create Authority Many people think building authority takes a lot of talking and flexing your muscles. Actually, questions are a really powerful tool when it comes to building authority. The more you are talking the less your clients are talking. It is so important that clients feel you are interested in their business and helping them build their brand. With the right questions, you can get clients to consider that there's maybe another path they haven't considered. You can get them to dream about different possibilities that will help build a relationship and build authority. Remember, you always want to position yourself as a trusted advisor, and listening to your clients is a great way to do that as well as separate your agency from the competition. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Your Agency Hit a Plateau and How to Catapult to the Next Level

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 30, 2022 17:11

    Do you feel that your agency has hit a plateau? Are you wondering what steps you could take to reignite your growth? Maybe it's time to get out of your comfort zone. Maybe you're not making your agency's needs a priority. Maybe you're just too close to your business and can't see the forest for the trees. In this week's podcast episode, our Agency Scale Specialist Darby Copenhaver shares the common challenges he's hearing from agencies. In his role, Darby speaks with agency owners who are looking for a leg up, whether that means working with Jason or not, to identify their issues and create a game plan for overcoming them so they can achieve their growth goals. In this episode, we'll discuss: Overcoming the most common issues for agency owners. How to get more clarity so you can scale. Branding yourself vs. branding the agency. Why the fear of missing out (FOMO) is holding you back. The Most Common Reasons Agency Growth Reaches a Plateau As agency owners, we put so much energy into our clients' success and strategies and we forget to do the same when it comes to our own marketing and growth strategies. Because of this, many of the agency owners that come to us frequently feel stuck. They've plateaued and can't figure out what comes next. In Darby's opinion, this is rooted in a lack of prioritization. We tend to put ourselves last because we want to do the best we can for our clients. This is very common, but we need to make time for the things that we want to accomplish in our businesses. Remember there's a difference between making time and having time. There's always time where you make it. You may not think you have time, but you must make the time to overcome the plateau you're on. How Clarity Will Help Overcome the Plateau You're On We've talked about the importance of niching down and the benefits it can bring for your business. However, it is still a very common fear, and understandably so. Agency owners feel they're missing out on something or going in a certain direction will mean leaving many opportunities behind. This kind of thinking pulls you in many different directions at once. A clear vision of the goals you have for your agency will make all the difference. Improving yourself and your agency will take dedication and intent. Reaching your goals is just as important as reaching the goals of the people you work with. This is something that we often discuss in the Digital Agency Elite mastermind when we advise members to say no to some things and delegate tasks to free their time for focus on what they really want to do. The Understanding That Comes With More Clarity Once we start to cover some of the things that may be slowing their growth, agency owners start to recognize some small changes that could make a big difference for their agencies. One of the most common ones is capitalizing on their existing relationships. They realize they haven't taken the time to recognize opportunities with existing clients and grow revenue from there. There's so much low-hanging fruit there that they don't realize. With the help of the mastermind team, they realize they need to go after those opportunities and empower their team to do so as well. Many of them also overlook the importance of creating content and building authority. Having clarity about who you are as an agency, who you audience is and what you offer can lead to building content of value around that. This can only improve your business because providing value-driven content instead of generalized marketing tips will lead to better opportunities. Should You Brand Yourself or Brand Your Agency? Sharing your personal branding helps you align with the right clients. Remember that people buy from people and tend to not trust companies and corporations. Personalizing things will help you establish yourself as someone clients can trust. You can see bigger companies commonly offer a personification of the business (like the Geico gecko) people can relate to.  And in Jason's social media, you'll see posts about his adventures on the mountain, which personifies his brand and attracts the type of people that share his love of adventure. Many agency owners believe that branding themselves will mean that they'll be expected to do everything themselves. It's a misconception that people need to get past because it's just not realistic. If you buy a Tesla, you don't expect to deal directly with Elon Musk in the purchase process, but that's the personality that probably attracted you to that company and that product in the first place. It's about investing in the leader and having the confidence that their team will work in consonance with what those figures represent. Some mastermind members that took the step to do their own content on Youtube or their own podcast find that many times clients and employees approach the agency because they wanted to work with them. They are attracted by the personality and the values that they represent and now this content has become their main source of leads. Lose The Fear of Missing Out & Start Taking Risks The clarity that you need to continue your growth will come with losing the fear of saying no, niching down, and putting yourself out there. Mastermind members feel encouraged to make these changes and lose that fear because they can see it works for other agency owners. Once they see it works, they want to reach that same level of success. As Darby says, anything in life involves some degree of risk. Every time you say yes to something you'll be saying no to other things. Just take into consideration what you are really giving up and what are you gaining. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Replace Yourself as Agency CEO and Remain Part of Its Future

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 23, 2022 30:34

    Do you have a clear vision of your agency's future and your role in it? Would you like to sell your agency or just transition out of the role of CEO, maybe to Chairman? We all have to confront these questions at some point as we consider our agency's growth trajectory and what's next. Today's guest may help you start to think about how to structure your agency for your eventual exit. Zach Williams is an entrepreneur and longtime mastermind member who founded Venveo, a digital agency that focuses on the building construction space. He's been on the podcast before talking about the 2 strategies that grew his digital agency's revenue by 4X. After many years in the business and growing his agency from just four people to over 65 employees, Zach started thinking about the best way to continue moving the business forward. He concluded it was time for him to step away as CEO, while continuing to contribute to the agency's vision. In this episode, we'll discuss: How he made the decision to become a Chairman instead of CEO. How he structured the agency to be able to get to that point. What support Zach needed in order to get through the difficult times. Redefining Success and Gaining Clarity In Your Agency A lot of agency owners get into the business because they love the work and then end up hating it. For Zach, it was important that he built something that he loved while trying to keep a clear idea of his role in it and what he brought to the table. Once the company saw real growth, he started to redefine his idea of success. He started by clearly setting out his goals for the business and his personal goals. He found that what he brought to the business as an individual no longer served the goals for the business and it became clear then that he needed to exit for both the business and himself to thrive. Zach was always very focused on business growth and getting the agency to be self-sustaining. He never wanted to be the type of entrepreneur that focuses solely on EBITDA. His goal was to create a business that could grow beyond him. Making the decision to really focus on that changed the way he and his team structured the company, the people he brought to work on the business, and even the clients they took, which made for a really smooth transition process when the time came. How to Make a Smooth Transition Away from Agency CEO Other than having a clear vision of what type of business he wanted to build, Zach credits these as the most important steps he took to grow his agency: Picking a niche. This is probably the most important thing you can do. You need to understand who you are targeting, what's the value that you're bringing them, and how are you going after them. Understanding this made all the difference for a company that business remained a small-scale operation with four employees for many years until they knew who to target and how to get better at sales. Improving sales. Looking back, Zach recognizes that he initially didn't really like sales, which affected his agency's growth. He knew he needed to improve a lot in that area and finally did so following Jason's advice. He saw results right away, landing his biggest deal shortly after starting to implement Jason's advice. Hiring a Director of Operations. Once he started filling the sales pipeline, and his confidence grew as a result, he started to build into infrastructure operations. He hired a Director of Operations and a counterpart to oversee the client strategy and continued to grow 20%-30% year-on-year. The turning point was understanding that filling your sales pipeline will lead to a waterfall effect where having more opportunities will get you to a point where you can increase your prices, which will lead to hiring the right people. This will all allow you to follow your vision. Why You Must Trust Your Team and Empower Them Make Decisions Agency owners can have a hard time giving up control, even when they say they completely trust their team and are convinced they have the right people in the right positions. You can't really grow unless you give people the autonomy they need. This will not only give you more time to focus on what you really want to do, it will be good for the business and your team will grow more confident from that trust and the knowledge that you have their back. They are going to make mistakes and that's ok. If your team doesn't think they can take risks, then that's on you as a leader. It will even help you get rid of team members who resist change and want to stay in a box. The Process to Getting a New Agency CEO Ready For Zach, when it came time to select and start to train a new CEO it was a no-brainer to go for someone inside the organization. This person was already a team leader who had worked in the company for years and really knew the business, was a culture fit, and had a good rapport with team members and clients. As to the transition, he mapped out daily tasks that he could start to exit. He identified parts of the business where he was really involved and that would require either a new hire or delegating it to someone who was ready. This gave him more time to really think about how he wanted to position his new CEO and executive team for that transition. When it came time to announce it, the team was ready and saw it as a natural next step. What's Next After You Transition Away From CEO? After a successful transition, Zach now has two main roles in the company: He continues to be involved in the marketing part of the business (attending events and appearing on podcasts). He is still focused on finding new things the agency can build to offer new value to clients. This will really depend on how each agency owner sees their life after transitioning out of the role of CEO. Some may want to have nothing to do with the business and focus on new projects or hobbies. That's fine too. Zach really likes the process of building something and getting it off the ground. He found he really shines when it comes to creating things that can help the agency be more successful with clients. In the end, selling the business is not for him. He loves his team and his business and can still play a part in helping the agency grow. Remember that Jason always identifies 3 reasons why an owner should really consider selling their business: You need the money. You don't like the business anymore. You've reached your max and you want someone else's help. In addition, transitioning away from CEO has created time for Zach to pursue new ways to create. He is working on a new project called The Untold. A podcast where he uncovers obscure stories about businesses we all know. If you like business, you really need to check this out to learn really cool stories that will entertain you and change the way you think. “Words tell you something, fonts make you feel something” ~ Zach Williams, Font connoisseur Why You Need the Support of Like-Minded Entrepreneurs We've said it before but it's always worth highlighting the benefits of having a group of people that you trust and who can offer valuable advice. Being an entrepreneur and trying to build and grow a business will be difficult and isolating. Very few manage to do it successfully, which is why you need the support of people who will understand and ins and outs of growing a business. Zach had the support of Jason and the mastermind, who offered their expertise to help him get through the tough times and keep him accountable for his goals for the business. If You Avoid Discomfort, You're In Your Own Way If he could go back and do something that could help his business grow faster, he would push himself to go in a direction that seems uncomfortable but that would ultimately help the agency. In his case, it would be sales. He didn't like sales and subconsciously avoided it but it was the key element to grow his business. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Why Your Startup Mindset is Holding Your Digital Agency Back

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 20, 2022 23:33

    Are you starting to grow your agency and feel the need to keep adding services and saying yes to every potential client? Getting out of that startup mindset is difficult. However, you will be glad you did it when you start seeing better results for your agency by just learning to avoid complexity and focusing on the right things. Kait Le Donne worked in marketing in her 20s and started to do brand consulting for small businesses on the side. She came up with a plan to help a client become a known entity and get more speaking engagements in their field by writing a book. The strategy was so successful she found a new career path and founded Brandwise Media, a niche agency specializing in helping business owners build audiences excited to buy their books and using those books as a vehicle to drive up brand awareness for themselves. In this episode, we'll discuss: Getting out of the startup mode. Narrowing down services. Why you need to raise your prices. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM How Would You Simplify Process If You Could Start Over? Raise your hand if you can relate. When you start to scale and people want to work with you, you start to add more. You have more revenue, so you add more people and keep adding services. It becomes about asking yourself, what more can we do? What more can we add? Two years after starting her agency and with other seasoned entrepreneurs around her, Kait realized the reality of growing broke. Her top-line revenue was increasing and expenses were increasing in correlation. In short, growth costs. At some point, you really have to ask yourself if you had to rebuild your business, would you do it in the same way? For Kait, the answer was no. She realized she had fallen into the trap of thinking that the more she offered clients quantity-wise the better her agency would be. In reality, creating value is not a matter of more is more. It can come with pulling back and going back to what you do really well and establishing profitability there.  Then you decide if you want to grow that and how. She started to question “do we really need these complex processes?” “Do we really need this many clients? Or do we just need less clients at the right price point?” She encourages any agency owner that has started growing their business to ask themselves these questions. The bigger the better is a truism that many entrepreneurs fall for. When you're in startup mode, it's normal that you just throw a lot of stuff to the wall to see what sticks. With experience and growth, there will come a point when you start figuring out your path. What Can You Do To Start Narrowing Down Services? There are many ways to go about it, but Kait identifies three main aspects that really helped her get on the right path for her agency: Start prioritizing the right clients. Letting go of clients that are just not the right fit for your agency may sound frightening, and you may expect it to be a really difficult conversation. However, most likely it won't be as bad as you imagine. At the end of the day, anybody in a service business will respect it if you tell them “This is what we need to do to continue working together. And if we can't, then that's fine.” You can go your separate ways on good terms. Simplify the process. Kait and her team came up with what they call the Brand Turbo Charger Process, which in short contains the five or six parts of the process from the moment the client enters the door to the moment they leave. “There is a time and a place for a complex web of SOPs,” she acknowledges. “But this has been very illuminating for our business.” Figuring out the time to bring full-time employees. Not only the right time to bring in a new team member but also having the right employees in the right positions. When does it make sense to take this step vs. when your staff is largely compiled of contractors, which a lot of us do as agency owners, and there is a time and a place for it. It may sound overly simple, but it is all about gaining clarity of where you want to take your business. Lose the Fear of Raising Agency Prices Once you have a clear vision of the future of your business and start prioritizing the right clients, it's time for another difficult step. Ask yourself what was the last time you raised your prices? Raising prices may sound like a risky way to lose a lot of clients, but it is the next logical step for a growing business. You can double or triple your business just by making some simple changes instead of adding services. Kait let her clients know her prices would go up by 10% at the start of 2022. All the right clients already expected this move. You may think that clients will walk out when you decide to raise your prices, but you have to trust that the right ones know your value. And if some do leave, then now you have space for the next right one. Kait even did this with her online course. Once she doubled the price, more clients showed up because now the pricing said “this is not like every other online course out there.” What She Wishes She Had Known As an entrepreneur, you will always have to exist in duality. You're focused on operations and suddenly you have to focus on sales. There always seems to be a fire to put out. Maybe you ask yourself am I over managing? Am I undermanaging? The sooner you accept that as an entrepreneur you actually thrive in duality instead of fighting it, the better. Never get comfortable. That's when you start doing the same thing over and over again. And you probably chose this business because you like uncertainty and you are comfortable with the fact that there will always be an issue to fix and a puzzle to put together. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    5 Keys To a Great Customer Success Strategy to Retain More Clients

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 16, 2022 26:24

    Are you looking for ways to improve your customer service? Have you implemented a customer success strategy in your organization? Nils Vinje is an author and leadership coach who founded the first-ever customer success firm, Glide Consulting, to help organizations improve their leadership skills and teaches the tools you may be lacking to implement a proper customer success strategy, which he details in his new book 30 Day Leadership. In this episode, we'll discuss: 5 keys to improving your clients' success. Tracking where you stand with your agency's clients. 4 Pillars to becoming a better leader. Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM We've all had a bad customer experience some time in our lives. Maybe we feel exasperated by a customer service team and has failed to solve a problem several times or is slow to provide answers. As agency owners, we need to be aware of the consequences of inefficient customer service and how it will affect brand loyalty. It often boils down to lack of onboarding and a clear, no real-time assistance, and mostly the absence of a clear strategy. So how are you getting success for your clients? How can you improve your customer service? 5 Keys to a Great Customer Success Strategy According to Nils, it is very common for organizations to lump customer service with other areas like sales. It takes a village to serve a customer and there must be a team responsible for this task. “You have a product strategy,” he tells owners, “you have a sales strategy, what's your customer strategy?” He often gets blank stares. Because of this, he prepared his own 5-Step framework for customer success: Being PrescriptiveLet's say you ask for lawyer referrals to do some kind of business deal. You get two referrals, one that confirms his experience in the area and asks you what he should include in the contract and one that gives you a list of things you should cover, a series of recommendations, offers a perspective of the best scenario for you and finally asks how you would like to proceed. You should strive to be like the second lawyer. Clients are not paying you to be asked what they want to do. Be the trusted advisor right from the beginning. TransformationClients are usually expecting some kind of transformation from buying a service. They are at point A and want to get to point B. It is up to you to define what is the absolute best transformation for your clients before they ever go through your process. Ask yourself how you could provide the best possible value for them. That is the destination because then they will very likely renew and expand their relationship with your agency. A Fresh Start. This is the moment right after your client signs up to work with you. Their openness, willingness, enthusiasm, and ability to get things done will never be higher than at that point so this is the moment to set expectations regarding how you will continuously drive value to that customer over time. Engaging Middle. There is a sense that all the intense part of the process happens at the beginning and then we get into a rinse and repeat the cycle. This rhythm is important. However, we must not miss the opportunity to continue to add value to our clients and come to the table with recommendations on what to improve and what to change. Crushing the Milestones.According to Nils, businesses need to architect the right milestones for their customer strategy and build stepping stones to get there. This way, you can understand whether you are on track or off track with a customer. If you answer each of these steps in a very detailed manner, then you now have a customer's strategy. Keeping Track of Where You Stand With Clients Client churn is going to happen, and that's ok. It will be an opportunity for you to upgrade. The key is to know when it's going to happen because it's the surprise that kills you. When you have a strategy in place for your customers, you can know how on track or off track they are, and that can give you a very good indicator of how likely they are to renew. If your client retention rate is not as good as you hoped, what are you doing to fix this? Jason likes to recommend a system of monitoring client satisfaction with a stoplight approach: red, yellow, and green.  Everyone starts out at yellow and hopefully moves to green once they start seeing results. Clients in the red are the ones in danger that need intervention because they're at risk. How can you communicate better with your red and yellow clients? How can you help them more? Or is there something they're not telling you? Intervention is the key. Improving your customer retention rate by 5% would probably double your business and achieving that will require working on your communication with clients. It's better to over-communicate with your clients than to under-communicate. As soon as there is a vacuum of information where there is not an answer to an issue, your customer will likely be thinking negatively and assume you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing. 4 Pillars of Becoming a Better Leader  A lot of agencies start by accident and you suddenly find yourself leading several teams that rely on you to point out how they can improve at their jobs. When thinking about the complex world of leadership, we can't just pick some random tips and expect to get a better result. We have to take a long-term view and apply it to develop our leadership skills. As a first step, Nils came up with four fundamental pillars to become a better leader: Leading yourself. All about you and your psychology; Leading others. The interactions with your team; Leading with communication. The tools and techniques to communicate and send your message to the people that you work with and your clients as well; Leading with metrics, which is all about how we measure our progress to identify how we can improve. The Most Important Leadership Tool If you really want to improve your leadership skills, Nils suggest you focus on Feedback. Learning how to give negative feedback in a way that will help people get better at their jobs will be one of your most important qualities as a leader. However, giving negative feedback is something that most people try to avoid because it is uncomfortable and they don't have a system to do so. Here's a 3-step process that you can implement: Here's what I observe. Start with these words and follow up with an objective and very specific instance. This is not the place for generalities but rather for a specific event or behavior you witnessed. The impact that had. Your interpretation of the impact of that behavior you observed. Help me understand what's going on. Invite them to share their point of view. We never know where someone else is coming from. But, if you choose to just share your observations and the impact they had and then ask them to explain what is happening, you will get them to share their side of the story, which you would never get on your own. This is a fairly simple framework that anybody could start using today. “I guarantee your employees want that feedback” Nils assures. It will improve their lives, their jobs, and your relationship with them and you can even implement it with clients too. For more insight on the tools to becoming a better leader, go get Nils' new book 30 Day Leadership. Want the Support of Amazing Digital Agency Owners? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    Does Your Agency's Messaging Stand Out from the Competition?

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 9, 2022 22:06

    Build It and Maybe They Will Come? Unless You Get Different and Stand Out from the Crowd Do you want your digital agency to stand out from your competition? Putting together a compelling message for your audience is not enough to really make an impression. Differentiating your agency is an important part of getting your audience's attention and getting your message across among the slew of marketing messages they get every day. Mike Michalowicz is a small business author and entrepreneur who has devoted himself to making entrepreneurship simple and answering the question What makes entrepreneurship successful? He is the mind behind many great books like 'Profit First', a favorite among mastermind members, and his latest 'Get Different'. Mike has also been on the podcast before to discuss how to grow your business without constantly working in it. In this episode, we'll discuss: How to stand out from the competition. Ideas that break the norm and introduce an unexpected element. Ripping off other industries. Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM How Can You Stand Out From Your Competition? Ask yourself “are you better than the competition?” You have to have a definitive answer, and no, it does not mean better in all capacities, but there must be an area where you shine. If the answer is yes, then you have a responsibility to market yourself appropriately. You MUST be noticed. If you don't, then clients will end up choosing a lesser offering and it will be your fault. Every business has the opportunity to be the best in its category. If you're not, you may have some fine-tuning to do, but the opportunity is there. Worst Marketing Examples We tend to think bad marketing is marketing that doesn't speak to us, that we don't like or is offensive. But the fact you noticed it means that it was better than 99% of the marketing out there. There's marketing all around us every day that we don't even bother to notice. That's the worst marketing. Being seen is the first hurdle. The second hurdle is getting the audience's attention for the right reasons. Don't try to emulate something that isn't true to your brand or the attention you get will be becoming a ridicule and an example of bad marketing. How to Market Your Agency For Mike, the way to be noticed is to be different, to break through the common noise that is always circulating in every market. Look at your competition and notice the same four or five things that everyone is doing over and over again. Those are the four or five things you should never do because they are easy to ignore. Why? This is the result of Habituation, which is the action which our brains see something that is not relevant, qualify it as such, and ignore it from then on. Mike goes back to the “Hey, friend!” message. The first time he received that email he was curious, but as soon as he noticed it was just a cheesy marketing technique, he began ignoring it. You never want to be the common “hey, friend” in your marketing, and the way to avoid it is to introduce something unexpected in your messaging. Steps To Stand Out and Not Be a “Me Too” Agency In the agency world, when you're just starting out you may look at your bigger competitor and try to copy everything they're doing. It makes sense because they have achieved the success you want, but this creates sameness in the industry. Instead, consider identifying whatever the common approach is and thinking, how can I flip it? For example, Mike knew sending email blasts was a common practice in his industry and took a look at a couple to see the most common features. The look was almost always white background and black text. He thought, “how could I change this?” and came up with the invisible ink email blast, with a black background and black text and directions to highlight the email to reveal the message. The clickthrough rate was double that any other email he had ever sent, all because he did something different. He also recommends doing a simple R&D (aka: "rip off and duplicate") by looking outside of your industry. Take a look at what people are doing in vastly different industries and find out what you could replicate in your own content. Be Bold “The reptilian mind tells you that doing different equals death,” Mike says, but in modern society, it is the way to get noticed. Also, “different” has an expiration date. It will last until too many people start replicating it, so milk it while you can and start working on your next approach. But don't worry; it will take time before others dare to replicate it. It's also important to clarify different doesn't have to be completely outside of who you are. It doesn't mean a complete 180-degree change; it can be subtle. The trick is to dismiss ideas that don't resonate with you and adapt the ones that do. It's about amplifying who you are. Remember, no one will have any idea about you or your digital agency until they do business with you. Until then, they will only know your marketing, so it has to be absolutely congruent with your brand. If there's any incongruence, there's mistrust. How Can You Hold Your Audience's Attention? Speak their language. Show them you really understand their particular industry. Use language specific to that industry and use relevant data to get their attention. Using their language will instantly get you noticed above all the white noise. “Marketing is the ultimate act of kindness. It is a necessity to be of service. The world is starving for good things. So if you're doing good things, the world is starving for you.” ~ Mike Michaelowicz Want more? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    How to Increase Conversion Rates and Land the Perfect Close Every Time

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 6, 2022 19:55

    Are you having trouble selling yourself and getting prospects to see the value you can provide for them? In this episode, James Muir joins Jason to talk about closing more sales and his book, The Perfect Close. James shares the process leading up to it, 4 high leverage areas in sales, how to prepare messaging that works to get a high close rate, and the two questions that can improve your closing percentage without ever sounding pushy or manipulative. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out to learn more and become a member of the community for free. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM 4 High Leverage Areas in Sales The truth is there's no messaging that will suddenly overwhelm people with persuasion and approval. You have to do your research and make your that you're delivering the right message to the right audience and using the correct medium. James breaks down this process into four high leverage areas in sales that will you to improve your closing rate: Market. The single best thing you can do to improve sales is sell only to ideal clients. Targeting the right customer will be pivotal because everything else falls below that in your funnel. If you get that wrong, everything you're doing in sales will fall on deaf ears. Message. Now that you figured out who you want to target, what is the message you want to send? It's a very narrow window to get your message across once you have their attention, so you have to make sure that you're delivering a high-impact message. Medium. Now that you know who you're talking to and what you're going to say ask yourself where do these people hang out? Remember to meet the customer where they are (social media, trade shows, etc). Motivation. This is about personal motivation, what gets you out of bed in the morning? Getting all these elements just right will require a lot of work and the right motivation will help you get through it. Are You Talking to the Right Prospects? For his part, Jason recommends thinking of N.B.A.T. before engaging in any new project conversation. These steps will help you save time and energy on the wrong prospects. N – Need: Ask what the specific needs are and what specific end results they're expecting. Ask how this project fits in with the overall company vision. If they need to pull in another person to answer that question, hold onto that nugget of information. B – Budget: Ask for the budget. More often than not, you won't get an actual number so act like a reverse auctioneer… Start with a ridiculously high number saying, “Is your budget $500,000, or $400,000, maybe $300,000…?” They either give you a more realistic range or the name of someone who knows. Hold onto that nugget of information, too! A – Authority: Were they able to answer the questions about need and budget? If not, and they gave you another name or two, then you know who you really need to be talking to. T – Timing: Only you know what you can do and how long it takes. You might really want or even need this project but, if the timing has unrealistic parameters you are setting yourself up for failure. Messaging to Increase Your Agency's Close Rate There's really great research available on how to create effective messaging and identifying the different elements you should consider when crafting a sales pitch. Some of these elements include determining the Issues or problems the customer has, as well as the goal they're trying to achieve. Then there's the Trigger event, which are occurrences that lead to a sales opportunity and will indicate the best time to sell your product or service. The most challenging part will be the Insight or unconsidered needs, where you get your prospect to see a compelling enough reason to buy by tapping into their unconsidered needs, which are shortcomings, challenges, or missed opportunities that they haven't considered yet. This will help you create a value proposal of how you can produce some results for them. The natural outcome of this will be Skepticism, which is the perfect moment for you to reveal your mechanism of action, the thing you do for the customer that produces the desired results. For this, you will need Proof. There are many types of proof you can present, but you can get the best results with third-party validation because it is the hardest to fake. You don't necessarily have to follow this order, but this is the mechanism that will get buyers to make a decision now and not wait. Related: Overcoming the Top 5 Agency Sales Objections 2 Questions To Improve Your Closing Percentage Before you go into any meeting, you should have an idea of what you want the outcome of this meeting to be. You should have an idea advance and a couple of alternate advances. If you have that prepared, then you're ready for the two questions, which are designed to be non-confrontational or pushy: Does it make sense for us to X? (where X is your sales advance). What do you think is a good next step? It's all about really considering the possible results before you walk into the meeting. Think about, what's the best thing that could happen for the client? And what other things you can do keep the ball rolling? By doing this, you're pacing the sale at exactly the rate that the client is ready to move. It's when you try to move a customer faster than they're comfortable with when it can feel pushy or manipulative. Want the Support of Like-Minded Agency Owners to Help You Grow? If you want to be around amazing agency owners that can see you may not be able to see and help you grow your agency, go to the Digital Agency Elite to learn all about our exclusive mastermind.

    2 Common Mistakes to Avoid While Growing Your Agency

    Play Episode Listen Later Mar 2, 2022 28:23

    Have you made these common mistakes that hold back your agency? Our guest, Sandy Smith is the President of Smith Publicity, has grown her agency for over 25 years and she shares lessons learned from 2 common mistakes she made over the years. Sandy's agency is focused on book marketing and author promotion services publicity. At first, a one-person shop they have grown to more than 30 employees with offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Canada. Sandy and her Senior VP, Marissa Eigenbrood, are on the show sharing how their expansion process led them to open an office in London that ultimately brought more problems than business. They also share why you should act fast when an employee just doesn't fit with the company and why you need to find someone you trust so you can transition from owner to agency CEO. 3 Golden Nuggets Identifying the source of customer service problems. Although the agency is US-based, it used to have a London office. Susan later identified this as the source of 95% of their customer service problems. London was an important market for the agency and held 10% of its business. However, it took too much work to get their UK clients to understand how the business worked in the US and get them to a place where they saw the value in the agency's work. In the end, these clients just weren't the right fit for the agency, and closing the London office was an important step to move forward. Waiting too long to do what's best for the team. Hanging on for a little too long after seeing someone just isn't working out in their role is a common problem for small business owners who try to avoid these decisions. Sometimes the person is not a good culture fit for the agency; you never want someone to mess culture up, even if they're great at what they do. For Sandy and Marissa, it was actually the opposite, someone was a great culture fit but who kept making the same mistakes in his job. After spending time and resources in retraining, they had to accept it wasn't working out and make the necessary change.. Transitioning from Agency Owner to CEO. With the help of Marissa, Sandy is in the process of doing something we know can be a difficult process -- transitioning to the role of CEO. We know by now that this transition is more of a marathon than a sprint. For Sandy, it has been about finding the right person to take over the tasks she no longer wants to handle and focus on the ones that she enjoys. “It's having trust and sharing, opening up our books, opening up our real thoughts,” Sandy says. “And it's not an overnight process. It's many years of trusting and slow steps of giving control and giving insights and allowing, and this is the hardest part, for difference of opinion.” Sponsors and Resources Agency Dad: Today's episode is sponsored by Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials. Check out to get a phone call with Nate to assess your agency's financial needs and how he can help you. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Avoid These Common Mistakes in your Agency Building Trust to Help You Transition from Agency Owner to Agency CEO Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, all! How's it going? Marissa: [00:00:04] Hi, Jason, how are you? Jason: [00:00:07] Doing good. So I haven't done two people on the podcast in a long time. So we're on these little boxes. I apologize for these little boxes, but for the people listening and watching, tell us who you guys are and what do you guys do? Marissa: [00:00:23] Oh, well, thank you. I am Marissa Eigenbrood. I'm the senior vice-president at Smith Publicity. We are a book publicity and marketing agency celebrating 25 years in business this year in 2022. We focus on working with, with authors and experts and publishers on building awareness around their launches and beyond. That's a quick summary there. Sandy, pass the baton. Sandy: [00:00:47] Yeah, I'm Sandy Smith, Sandy Poirier Smith, but no one can pronounce that, but Sandy Smith. And I'm the president here and co-owner of Smith Publicity. And we started off as like a one-person shop and now we have 31 of us, 32, Marissa? And we've grown pretty much every year. We've learned a lot. We've made a lot of mistakes and we've done some really great things. So we're excited, Jason, to talk with you and, um, pick our brains and see if we can help some of the people here. Jason: [00:01:19] Awesome. So, well, let's, let's jump into it. What's the biggest mistake you guys made? Marissa: [00:01:28] Love that. Wow. Sandy: [00:01:29] One I would say is, as we were growing, we expanded our offices. We are based in the US but we had a Toronto office, a Los Angeles office, a New York city office, and a London office. And this is back in the day where… while we have always been hybrid, believe it or not even 20 years ago we were hybrid, having that kind of a brick and mortar office kind of made sense. And people expected that. And our London office gave us this great, like worldwide, you know, kind of brand appeal, which was fantastic. However, our London-based our English-based caused, because they probably were maybe 10% of our total clients, but they caused 95% of our customer service problems. And the reason for that is the education that took to get them to understand what we do in the US market was just so much work. And one example of that is an author said “I want to be on Oprah.” Well, okay, that's great, and can't she just schedule me in that type of thing. They just didn't understand that the vastness. Even geography, there was one author who said I want to pop a new office for a meeting. I will be in a meeting in… I'm going to a wedding in San Francisco, can I drive over to see you in New Jersey this afternoon? It just… like some people just didn't have the scope of the US market. So even though it looked good and they did, you know, 10% of business, we decided not to continue having a London-based office just because those clients were not the right fit for us. We spent so much time trying to educate and get them to a place where they saw value in what we do. Jason: [00:03:28] That's awesome. Yeah, I know I'm figuring out the perfect clients for you is, uh, I always tell everybody it's kind of like a Vegas buffet. Like you gotta kind of try everything and then you're like, oh, that thing made me sick. I'm not going to eat that anymore. So… Sandy: [00:03:44] Yeah, Marissa, another mistake that you want to talk about, unless you have another idea is, um, our evolution of the longer projects rather than the shorter but more quick projects that were evolving to. Marissa: [00:04:00] Yeah. I mean, I think this is, this has definitely been an evolution. And also, um, again, it was not necessarily a giant mistake cause it worked really well for us for a long time, but kind of having that moment of realization and I did I had to really connect to that as well, is they're having times over the years where we've tried to incorporate other types of services that haven't been the real meat and potatoes, the publicity that we, that we focus on and we're, we're, we're really great at. We for a few years added in social media services and, you know, we, we dabbled in other areas too. And I think it's really kind of realizing when it's time to say goodbye. And sometimes you hold onto those, those things for a little too long and we were doing that with shorter-term campaigns. I think, uh, we had previously six-week-long campaigns, or maybe even four-week campaigns… We actually had three-week campaigns, which in today's world of publicity sounds absolutely insane to do just three weeks of work with someone and have it be impactful. But, you know, it's been part of the changing landscape of the media that we've had to react to as well. The time things are taking, the delays. The publishing industry is phase two, so there's so many factors that have influenced those decisions, but, um, really giving our, our publicists, our authors, the time that they need and, and really kind of building that awareness of, of how much time is really needed to be impactful is something that has evolved. And we've really learned and grown from over the last few years in particular and so at this time, you know, we've, we've eliminated everything that's six weeks and less, pretty much. And you know, two months is not far behind it, I think too. Sandy: [00:05:41] And that's hard too because we made money from that. It was a great place but it just wasn't in the clients are our best interest to continue with that based on the changes we saw. So that was interesting. The other one, um, and I don't want to just harp on mistakes. I think it's all small businesses is when someone is not working out in their role. I think sometimes we hang on a little longer than we would because our emotions get involved. We like these people. We want it to work. And I'm thinking of someone, Marissa, who was in our business development coordinator and years, and years and years ago. This person was fantastic individual. And we just kept changing the job description and kept changing his focus. And it wasn't working and we probably should have, in hindsight, let them go a lot sooner. It just wasn't the right fit. But as a small business, we get probably a little more connected to our team and that's probably a mistake. And fortunately, we don't have to do this very often. We have hopefully better hiring and onboarding and vetting before we get to that stage. But that's something that we struggled with as a small business. I don't think it's unusual, but I know that that since reading, cause we read a lot of books here, you're supposed to hire slow and fire quickly in small businesses. Jason: [00:07:03] Was it that this person was not a cultural fit? Marissa: [00:07:07] I think it was actually the opposite. It really was the, I mean, he really got along so well with everyone, you know, really was a nice fit with so many, but the skills were hard to really build in the direction that we needed them to go. Um, Sandy, would you agree with that? Sandy: [00:07:25] I do. And again, because we read a lot of business books, I know that 80% of people are let go because of soft skills, the culture, and 20% it can do the job, but they just don't fit in. But I think in this case, it was the, exactly what Marissa said, culturally, he showed up, was great, people liked him… He was all in, just kept making the same mistakes over and over and over again. And we probably gave him too much grace and too much training, like retraining and retraining before we just said square peg round hole. Marissa: [00:07:59] Yeah. I mean, we've, we face it the other way around too. I mean, just fairly recently, we had someone and I learned from another great industry partner recently that, uh, she started at Shake Shack. They have this phrase where they say there's no, skunking, there's no skunking of the culture. So even if you're amazing at your job and you, you're just one of the best in terms of the skills, if you are skunking up the culture and you're creating negativity there. You know, you're not a right fit and they're looking at an exit plan and that was, you know, we've had to have those conversations recently. And I think that, you know, that's just as hard to deal with, as, in terms of letting someone go or figure out an exit plan as it is for someone who does, you know, who has that connection from the emotional side, from that cultural side, because you're like, wow, this person's great at their job. They're great at the tasks. It's just that on the other side it's… Sandy: [00:08:54] Person. Yeah, it's just not a team player. Jason: [00:08:58] I have a question because you guys have achieved something a lot of people listening are wanting where the owners can kind of start transitioning a little bit out, right? Like have a life again and find someone to, you know, run operations and really just kind of take the baton and run. So going back 13 years and knowing what you know now, how can people listening do that? Because I find that's a big struggle. They, they, they don't want to relinquish control. Was that tough for you guys? Sandy: [00:09:35] No. Oh, it's really hard and it's hard for it for two reasons. One is the company is our baby. It's our livelihood. That's, what's going to be funding our kids college and our retirement and all that. So that's, that's important to us. It's also too, and I've learned this from many of our authors. People will sell a company or they turn over control to the next generation. Three years later, they're bored and then they write a book because they want to connect back to what made them feel good and what kind of got them out of bed every day. So while, and I'm just being very transparent. I am not necessarily looking to step out of the business fully. What I'd like to do, Jason, is pick and choose more of the things that get me excited rather than the things that I don't want to do anymore. My husband on the other end, as we speak he's outside with our chickens. Jason: [00:10:27] He is he's chasing chickens? Should that be the title? Can you send me a picture of him chasing the chicken? And that'll be the thumbnail. Sandy: [00:10:39] If you flip through my phone, for everybody at home, is the picture of him, which of course, like it's not coming up because the, our Google call is on here, but here he is sitting on his tractor this way, yes, sitting on a tractor in the backyard. But he's excited. He's a few years older than me, but not that older, but he's excited to really dive into other passions outside of the work. And I am still like, oh, I want to do this, but I'd never had time sometimes to really dive into some of these other opportunities for us. I think the hardest thing is to, to trust in someone. Um, and what made it easier is Marissa because she is, not to get her head big, but she is…. Jason: [00:11:23] Be closer to the screen. Marissa: [00:11:25] Right, here I come. Sandy: [00:11:44] And she's tall. She's super tall too. What are you, 6'3, Marissa? Marissa: [00:11:33] 6'3, yes. Sandy: [00:11:34] 6'3 and she wears heals. So she's got a beautiful confidence. But… Marissa: [00:11:39] I just intimidate people into letting me run their company. That's all it is. Sandy: [00:11:44] Exactly. It's having trust and sharing, like opening up our books, opening up our, um, our, our real thoughts. And it's not an overnight process. It's many years and trusting and slow steps of, of giving control and giving insights and allowing, and this is the hardest part, is allowing for difference of opinion. Mistakes allowing for those mistakes and saying, I'm going to, I'm going to let, not just Marissa, but our team, they have a different view than I do… weekly updates, but I'm trusting the team and say, okay, you feel strongly about this. Let's go. And that's worked for us. And, and we might talk about this in the future, but we're getting to that stage of size, where we need a lot more expertise than we have from running the day-to-day business than we have now. We don't need a human resource person sitting in an office or a cubicle all day. But we need human resource expertise, the same thing for IT, the same thing for all the other functionalities, a CFO. And having someone like Marissa it's just so great because I don't feel like I'm in a vacuum doing it alone. And that's something that for people who are looking to do this in the future is to find that internal person or someone new who, whoever to accompany, someone that you trust. But I'm just as excited to grow the business and a sounding board for the headaches and the challenges. So it's actually freeing because we're not alone. Jason: [00:13:22] As an agency owner it's hard to know when you have to make those big decisions. And I remember needing advice for thinking like hiring or firing or re-investing and when can I take distributions without hurting the agency? You know, we're excellent marketers, but when it comes to agency finances like bookkeeping, forecasting, or really organizing our financial data, most of us are really kind of a little lost. And that's why my friend Nate created Agency Dad specifically to solve these exact problems. At Agency Dad, they help agency owners handle the financial part of their agency so they can focus on what they're really good at. Nate has spent years learning the ins and outs of agency business. He understands everything from how to structure your books, to improving the billing process and really managing your financial efficiencies. Agency Dad will show you how to use your financial data to make the key decisions from making your agency more successful and most importantly more profitable. If you want to know how your agency finances stack up to the rest of the industry agency, Agency Dad can tell you how to do that. A lot of my listeners have already gotten their free audit from Agency Dad. And if you haven't yet, go to and get your free financial metrics audit. Also, just for smart agency listeners, find out how to get your first month of bookkeeping or dashboarding and consulting for free. It's time to clean up your agency finances and listen to dad. Go to Yeah, you know, I, I always tell our mastermind. You know, once you figure out as an owner or leader where the ship is going, then you can bring the right people on and delegate the outcomes rather than delegate the tasks because many people will do them very differently. And the reason why I've always liked to get a number of different, really smart people together is because you see things differently. And I like how you probably did it in stages of, you know, this was not a quick fix. Whenever I tell anybody when you want to get to a point where you have the option to sell or the option to pick and choose to do what you want the agency, that's really when your agency scales, because now you've transitioned from owner to more of a, a leader because the owner does everything. Like, you can't chase chickens as an owner. Uh, well, I mean, I guess you, you chase different kinds of chickens, the pay you collect the checks. Marissa: [00:15:59] I was just going to add in too, I think the fact that even as a small, smaller company and a smaller agency here, you know, having the 30 some people, but even in the years prior, if we were closer to 20, there's always been layers and having that in place with  Dan as CEO, Sandy, as president. We've had other vice presidents as well in there. So there's, there is we're leadership-heavy, but in, in the right way, is that it feels like it's not an agency where you have the CEO and you just have somebody who's replacing that person. And there's no kind of other people around to support that. So I think, you know, for me and I listen, I've again, 13 years, I've been here. It's my entire career. I started at Smith a year after college and it's intimidating at times to even think about running a business when I didn't work really anywhere else before, and this is all I've known. And so it's just, it's so great to know that as I learn more things or take on new responsibilities and, and grow over time that I have others around me who are, who have a lot of them who have been through it just as long or longer than I have, but who are just there to support. And just especially when Sandy's role in having Sandy as a partner, so many things that we do together all the time, it's just doesn't feel as daunting of a thing that potentially take on whatever that looks like in the future when Dan wants to fully, fully go off the pasture and, and, uh, and seeing what's next from there. But it's, it's knowing that you have these true, like partners that you're doing this with, you're not making the decisions solely on your own, and you've got these different opinions and ideas to loop into it. And I mean, that's always been something that we've, we've really just kind of stood by at Smith is that everybody has a voice at the table. So we're always looking at, it's not just the leadership team, but new people who are joining. And what ideas do you have? How can we grow? What, what, what are you bringing in from wherever you worked before? Some of our best ideas and, and most profitable growth opportunities have come from the ideas that have come from those who are newer to the team too. So it's just knowing you're not alone through all of it, makes it a little less daunting. Jason: [00:18:10] Yeah. And I think, you know, I go back to, you know, Sandy, what you said too about now that I don't have to do everything, but I still want to be a part of it, and like how you were saying like a lot of owners that sell or whatever. I was like that. When I sold my agency, for like two weeks I was like, yes, I can go chase my chickens or whatever, right? Um, I can't get this out of my head. This needs to be in the thumbnail. How you can chase chickens and grow your agency. But I was depressed after I sold because I didn't feel like I had that significance. And then I also went through a depression in my agency when I was running it when I actually transitioned from the owner to the CEO, the person really leading the ship. Because I didn't have to do all the other little stuff. I only had to do like five different roles, which were like, you know, setting the vision for the agency, coaching and mentoring leadership team, blah, blah, blah, right? And I always tell my mastermind members and the people that I work with and all the people listening on. I'm like, look, when you get to this point where you can pick and choose the things you want to do, you'll go through a depression. And then you have to realize, you go your role switched and like, you need to hand over the reigns and trust the people that you put in place. And then once you do that, then it's very freeing. But in the very beginning, when you go into a meeting and you're like, hey, can I help? And they're like, no, Jason, I got this. And then you go to the next meeting. They do the same thing and you're like, I'm a piece of shit Sandy: [00:19:47] No, we don't. And that's the goal, but it's when you've been needed and you'd feel at the end of the day, like, wow, I helped, I did this. I need that taken away. That's a big shift for sure. Jason: [00:19:57] Oh yeah. What's the biggest, most important thing you've learned in the business to date that you both have learned? And I'll let you go first, Marissa. Marissa: [00:20:09] Wow. I mean, I really think it's and I'll shout out to, uh, Diane Eichenberg, that's my mom because growing up, she'd always told me to be true to myself. And I almost got a tattoo on myself at one point and did not do that. And she was very happy that I didn't do that, but it sounds so basic and cliche and, but I really, it, over my years, I learned that. I actually, I went through kind of a big personal transition about like seven years ago, six or seven years ago now. And it was this moment where I personally had this like kind of moment where I'm like, I've got to just be true to myself. That was the time that I found that I could really come forward and encourage more transparency and just honesty and open communication about things and sharing my ideas more fluidly. I think that was just such a big, big jump. And then it's, I feel like so much of the company has even changed, not just because of me that way, but I'm saying this as a whole, we've all just moved into this culture of transparency and we definitely had earlier years where there was a lot of walking on eggshells or trying to like kind of scoot around having to have tough conversations sometimes because of people's feelings. I just feel like we are in such a great place now of all of this, knowing that if we're honest with each other, we have those open conversations. We state how we're really feeling about something. It's really making our work easier. It's making everything more productive and more efficient in a lot of ways too. And that's just been kind of, like I said, it sounds so cliche in some ways, but it really has been such a big moment for, or it's a big transition for me and then understanding the company moving that way as well. Sandy: [00:21:50] I agree with you everything Marissa is saying, and I'll take a different turn here and kind of a client service perspective. Something is to just pay attention to the details of what's working and try to replicate that. And what I mean by that is many years ago, when I was working closely with Dan and he was working his 18 hour days, seven days a week, as new agencies owners kind of do, is to really pay attention to the nuggets of what's working and to try to replicate that. And when you read something that Dan wrote about an author, you just want to read this book. It's like, damn, this is really good. It could have been the worst book or not the worst book, but a book that would be not appealing to me in the slightest, but he could write in a way that it's like, wow, I want to see that. Well, how do you capture that spirit and duplicate, replicate that on all our projects? And the same thing for even onboard or communication. And when I first really got into working with Dan, what was exciting for me was finding his brilliance and what he was doing, and then making it happen more consistently across all our clients. You know, for example, we have an author questionnaire that people have to fill out before they start working with us. We have, that wasn't standard when we first started and now we do what we've expanded it. And now our publicist and our team get the right information at the beginning and we don't stop. And the same thing with our communication delivery, where we used to have monthly reports, and then we started having cumulative reports and then we started having standard calls and more sophisticated reporting. Just figuring out what makes one client happy, what makes one publicist efficient, taking that nugget and then replicating that, where it makes sense. I think that is something that we do well. We never rest on our laurels that we, that we're as good as we can be. We want to keep learning and listening to our clients, listening to our publicist, because we want to be ahead of the service that we provide rather than trying to catch up with the trends. And I think that's one way is really listening and then picking out those golden service deliverables and trying to make it standard across where it makes sense. Jason: [00:24:14] I like it. Yeah. You know, I, I think too many of us forget about the things that are working and we are constantly focused on new stuff rather than just going back to the basics. You know, I always joke with people when I was playing tennis in college, like if I was doing bad, my coach would yell out, go back to the basics. You're thinking too hard. Marissa: [00:24:36] Yeah. I mean, we've definitely had, in our industry, there's always something new popping up. Whether it's, you know, Substack and Clubhouse and TikTok and new media. I remember when podcasts first showed up. I mean, that wasn't that long ago when they were really something that was worth paying attention to and adding in for our work. And we're like, oh, what are these podcasts has gotten their basements, you know, doing their podcasts and is this going to be a thing? And, and it was something that we really had to, you know, we have to always kind of pay attention to what are those things that are starting to bubble under the surface and get some attention and how maybe impactful… but not kind of throwing everything resources, time, energy into, oh my God, how do we figure out how to have Clubhouse as part of our campaigns and make sure it's a staple in there and, and, you know, it's okay, well, we can dabble in it a little bit. That's always kind of been, our approach was not running full force into whatever the next trend is, but really settling back into it. We'll say, hey well, traditional media is, is dying in a lot of ways. Certainly certain areas of it are not doing as well as they should when I started 13 years ago here, but there's a lot of other spaces that have, that have been booming with blogging and podcasts and video casts and whatever else it is. So that's always has been something that we, we really tried to not let the trends dictate our, our decisions and our, the direction of our campaigns too much over, over time. Jason: [00:26:01] Love it. And wrapping up, if there was a billboard, what would you guys put on the billboard? And it doesn't have to be work-related whatever it was, what would be on your guys' billboard? Marissa: [00:26:14] Oh, I love that. Well, it's funny. I feel like, I feel like Dan would say we do good things for authors if Dan was on this with us, because that's always been the tagline for so long of Smith. It sounds so basic, but we always say we do good things for authors since there's so many bits around that, but, um, I'll have to go back to my previous one and say, you know, be, be true to yourself, which Diane will get some credit there again. Sandy: [00:26:39] I'll agree with Marissa. You know, one thing we say on our clients service, I think the answer to almost every question we get is it depends. And it's kind of a standard joke because for what we do, there's no one right answer. Whether it's a timeline, the length of service, how much you should be doing. So from a company perspective, I would say it depends because it really depends on you. So that's something from, from the service. But I do want, Jason to, um, chasing chickens and running an agency. I think we might have to do something with that. Jason: [00:27:15] Oh, yeah, you definitely should. Awesome. Well, um, what's the agency website people go and check you guys out. Marissa: [00:27:24] It is Tried to keep it pretty easy. Jason: [00:27:28] Awesome. Well, I think everybody appreciates the easiness because a lot of times people make it very complex and misspell everything because they couldn't figure out the right domain. So we all appreciate the easy names, but, uh, thanks so much everybody for coming on. Uh, it was a lot of fun. I wish you guys tremendous success. And if you guys want to be around other amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where we can help you be able to figure out if you want to chase chickens or not, and really focus on the things that you wanted to be doing, I'd love to invite all of you to go check out the Digital Agency Elite. This is our exclusive mastermind for agency owners and agency leaders that really want to get better and be surrounded by amazing people. So you guys can grow your digital agencies faster. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Increase Your Agency's Revenue By Niching Down and Saying No

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 27, 2022 16:28

    Are you afraid to niche for your digital agency because you think it means saying no? Are you scared niching down will pigeonhole your agency and limit its potential? Think again! There are so many benefits when you choose to focus your agency services on a specific market. Joe Giovannoli worked for a full-service agency right out of college and decided to replicate that model when it came to building his own business. Like many agency owners, he was hesitant to focus on a specific market. But once his agency, 9Sail decided to niche down to just SEO for law firms and construction, they started to grow quickly. Joe is on the show sharing about niching down twice, life after learning to say no, and the most exciting deal his agency has landed. 3 Golden Nuggets Niching down twice. There is a lot of fear associated with niching down and making the switch to only go after a specific market or provide a specific service. Joe did this twice, once to change their service offering from a full-service agency to an SEO & SEM agency. Then again to focus on two specific industries with law and construction. Both times it was a scary step and he found himself relieved at the results. “We started getting more referrals. We've started getting more qualified leads, and we actually started to establish a name for ourselves in those spaces,” he says. Clients that take you with them. When asked about the most exciting deals they've gotten as an agency, Joe thinks back to the times they get referred by past clients. This is a testament to their work as an agency. Some of former clients have worked at several different companies over the years and each time they get to a new company they call 9Sail to work with them again. “That's the really exciting stuff,” he assures “the deals that we get referred in from a past client, or we get referred in from somebody that's happy.” Life after learning to say no. What is life after learning to say no to being the agency that does everything and choosing a niche where you can be an authority? “The word relaxed comes to mind,” Joe told Jason. For starters, the team feels comfortable learning the space and knowing they're going to use this knowledge time and time. Rather than always needing to learn the nuisances of different industries. Also, niching gives them an opportunity to build their pipeline where they chose the clients that are the right fit for the agency. This results in a more predictable means for growth. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Saying No to Trying to Be Everything to Clients & Finding Success After Niching Down Twice {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Joe, welcome to the show. I'm excited to have you on. Joe: [00:00:05] Yeah. Thanks. Excited to be here. Jason: [00:00:07] Tell us who you are and what do you do? Joe: [00:00:11] Uh, yeah, so, uh, my name's Joe Giovannoli. I am the founder and CEO of 9Sail. We are a search marketing company for law firms and construction companies. So we work on both the SEO organic side, as well as the paid search side of a marketing strategy that a law firm or construction company might have. Our goal is basically lead generation for those, those companies. Jason: [00:00:35] Awesome. And, uh, tell me a little bit about you and how you got started in the agency. Joe: [00:00:40] Yeah. So I actually, uh, had started a company while I was in college. Uh, that was a social media marketing agency. And then coming out of college, I decided to work for a full-service marketing firm, you know, really just to get more experience. I did sales and, you know, moved from there to another agency and realize that, you know, I love this agency world. I love the pace of it. I loved working with different clients and speaking with different business owners and, and marketing leaders. And I decided to start my own thing. So kind of fell into the industries that we are, that we're in now, you know, law firms and construction companies were just two really interesting spaces for us to be in. And we identified some opportunity in the market so we went for it. Jason: [00:01:24] Awesome. Joe: [00:01:25] Yeah. We didn't set out to be just an SEO and SEM company. We were a full-service agency cause that's what I, only thing I knew and frankly, I didn't know that I could break off services at the time when I started the company. So we've been an SEO and SEM company for the last five years. Jason: [00:01:43] What made you kind of drill down? Like what was the turning point or what was the aha moment? Joe: [00:01:50] Yeah, there was a lot to that. I mean, really being a full-service agency, unless you have, you know, teams of people specializing in each thing, it's very difficult to be an expert. So we had one of those situations and I always refer to the book by John Warrillow 'Built to Sell'. We had one of those moments where, you know, we had what we call fires all over the place. We had, you know, projects that were behind because a client was behind or, you know, somebody wasn't happy with the design or they had approved a design and then somebody, you know, told them, oh, you should try this. And then they want to changes. And, uh, meanwhile, some of our SEO clients are just reaching out on a weekly basis saying, hey, we just closed this great deal or, hey, we, you know, we settled the case that made us, you know, $50,000, you know, this is great, thanks so much. And we realized, you know, what? Light bulb. We need to specialize because we're really good at this and we can only get better with, with time and with practice and with process. So we said, you know what, let's cut the bait and really focus on what we know. Jason: [00:02:47] Yeah, you know, it takes a while to get there. You know, I was talking to, um, a mastermind member this week and when they joined, they were around the 500,000 mark and now they're around the 2 million mark. And I told them when you're going through this process, things will change. And a lot of times as things change, you have to make things simpler. And I was talking to a member and telling them how they had needed to drill down and say no to more things and really start eliminating some of the stuff that's not profitable or some of the stuff that's not streamlined that they do really well. And, um, I'm excited to see where they, they can go cause when agency owners figure that out, that's when they have substantial growth and then they run into all new issues. Joe: [00:03:38] Yeah. Honestly, that's like the launchpad, right? Is, you know, as soon as we recognize that and listen, we turn down more work than we take on a regular basis. And I have a couple of SEO agency partners that I have just grown to like and build relationships with. I say to a prospect, hey, it's not for me, but here's two names that I recommend that you reach out to. I can make personal intros for you if you'd like, but we know what our wheelhouse is. And the second that we start to stray from it we're not doing our people any favors internally because they can't see themselves as experts anymore because they're working on 20 different industries. And you know, we're not doing our clients any favors because we're in a way trying to reinvent the wheel over and over again, learning things that maybe another agency could do better than, than we can. Jason: [00:04:24] Yeah. What's the biggest deal or the most exciting deal that you guys have won? Joe: [00:04:31] That's an interesting question. So for us, we get just as excited over the small boutique law firms that we work with as we do when we get a big law firm. So one of our clients who was a very, I would say older law it was much older law firm in New Jersey, they just rebranded because one of the partners became a named partner. And so we are helping them through the transition of changing the name online from one to another. And, uh, you know, that has been super exciting. We've been fortunate to work with the chief culture officer there. She's now the chief culture officer. She's been at a couple of different law firms and, uh, we've had the opportunity to work with her pretty much everywhere she's went for the last five years. And, uh, that was really exciting. The deals that we get referred in from a past client, or we get referred in from somebody that's happy. That's the exciting stuff that we, we love working on. Jason: [00:05:37] Are you looking for a reliable partner to increase your agency's bandwidth so you can take on more projects? You know, our partner at E2M wants to help you grow your revenue, your profit margins without increasing your overhead costs. Now, they're a white label, web design and development agency that's been providing white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Their team is over 120 experienced, skilled digital experts that's highly motivated to help you get more done in less time. Now they can help you in all kinds of digital areas, including web design, development, e-commerce, SEO, copywriting, content marketing, and a lot more. If you're not sure whether E2M is the right fit for your agency, I want you to check out their flexible and transparent pricing model. Go to For a limited time, they're offering my smart agency listeners 10% off for the first three months of service. That's Yeah. You know, that just tells you, you do good work when, uh, you know, I used to, we would work with some of the biggest brands and then we would get, I remember this one time we got in bed with Aflac and we were real excited. We were like, we can do all kinds of really cool things with this duck. And the CMO got fired. And I was like, no! Like we were so close, but then that CMO got hired at another big firm or a big company and then they brought us in. It's always exciting when you get referrals or they take you along on the journey. I'm curious, what's been one of the biggest challenges that you guys overcame in the past couple years, that really made a difference for you guys? Joe: [00:07:30] Yeah, you know. You kind of touched on it earlier and it goes back to saying no. I had a real challenge ahead of me when I realized that we did have to say no to things, because for me revenue and dollars where ways to grow the company and kind of grow the talent on the team and, and add to the team. And so I really struggled for a long time to say no. And we had somebody come to us that knew of us and had been referred to us and essentially said, hey guys, we're willing to offer you pretty much three times what any of one client would typically pay us to kind of take over our search presence and know online presence. And it was so not a fit for anything that we had ever done and some back and forth conversation happened and we said, no. And that was a big thing for me because I am a helper. I like to help people. I like to be the guy to not say no. And I learned, and I realized that I could say no, but I could offer them a solution, right? And, and I think that, that for me was the way that, that we got over that. But I think that that's been the biggest thing that we've overcome. We have challenges today that we still face that we're still working through. And those will probably be the answer to that question in the future when we can solve them. But, you know, I think all in all our biggest thing was saying no. And I think we do that really well now. Jason: [00:08:56] Yeah. One of our mastermind members, Chris, when he learned to say no and he did something very similar to you. He had a bunch of strategic partners that were in the same space and he really scaled his digital agency by going to those partners and saying, hey, here's a perfect lead for you. Because he had such a high criteria for his clients, and they were still really good leads, but they would pass them to other people that do the exact same thing. And then they would replicate back and forth and really what became one relationship became a many relationships. It was when they started doing that, their digital agency scaled really quick and they really grew their agency fast. So what's life like now that you've learned to say no? Like what does your daily routine look like? Joe: [00:09:51] So we have our team kind of siloed out, you know, they work on, you know, I have, uh, somebody that's, their entire workload is law firms. I have actually two people that are in that way. I have one person that's just specifically focused on the contractors and construction companies. So it's been a lot calmer and what I've found too and, and we've been seeing a lot of success with this is that, you know, our clients don't compete with one another. That's another thing is we don't take clients on that directly compete in the same market. So we will get a, a backlink opportunity and we'll be able to leverage that relationship for a couple of different clients over the course of time, because a different, you know, it may be a good place for a blog article, like a guest blog or something of that nature. So for us, I think the word relaxed would come to mind because I think that the team can feel comfortable, you know, learning a space and, and knowing that they're going to use this time and time again, rather than kind of playing ping pong between different industries. But, you know, for myself personally, it's been great because growth is kind of predictable, right? Is if I say, you know, hey, I really want to add two new clients a month and you know, I want to grow at that scale for the next year and we want to make sure that we're getting the right size clients. For me to say no to a bunch of things isn't a big deal because I know that I'm building a pipeline and I'm referring things out to people, but I'm getting the people that I want, right? And in a way, now we're interviewing prospects to see if they're a fit for us, rather than, you know, scraping to grab everything and every dollar that comes our way. Jason: [00:11:23] I love it. Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Joe: [00:11:29] No, not really. Other than I would say, you know, again, we talked a lot about, you know, our niche and our niche and, or however you want to say it. And, uh, I think that it really is something that people fear. I've talked to so many entrepreneurs that they fear that switch, right? That change of like, oh, well, we're going to only go after this or we're only going to provide this specific service. And we did that twice. We did that with the service, changing our service offering, and then we did it again by picking a specific set of clients. And both times it was the most nerve-wracking yet rewarding thing in literally six months. Like it went from being like a, oh my God, I can't believe we did this to and like, are we doing the right thing? To wow. We opened the flood gates. We told people, this is what we specialize in. We started getting more referrals. We've started getting more qualified leads, and we actually started to establish a name for ourselves in those spaces. And we are no longer trying to be everything to everybody. We're just trying to be everything to somebody, right? And we are trying to be that go-to person for search marketing in these two spaces. Especially in the legal space, in and around the New Jersey, New York market people know our name, they, we are part of that conference, Jason: [00:12:40] Yeah. I love that when I see digital agencies really do that, then they can say, well, it really steamrolls a whole, whole thing in order to scale the agency, because now you can be selective of who you take on, you can raise your prices to whatever you want, based on the value and their expectations. You know, we were talking about this in the mastermind. I was asking people like, well, when do you guys raise your pricing? And some people are like, well, once a year, but we only do that for new people coming in and we were talking about strategy. We were like, look, you should all set up tiers and saying, the next five clients are at this price. The next five clients is this price. And then once we get to this level, then we're going to go back to all our existing ones and raise it. And just little small changes like that can grow profitability because everyone focuses on top-line revenue and that's, I think bullshit. I think it's all-around profitability because when we come in and we buy an agency, we're looking at profitability. I don't care if you're a 10 million, $20 million agency. If you don't have any profit, you're not worth anything. Joe: [00:13:47] Right. Yeah. Well, it's funny you say that. So we operate a little differently than that model, but I think in the same vein. So we have set three, five, and 10-year targets as to what our average client is going to be worth. And again, to your point, we look at both top-line revenue, but a profit, right? So we have it worked out where we know if they're at a top-line revenue at this all of our expenses are completely baked out. We know what our profit's going to be. So we've set those targets and essentially we know now that very similar to how, cause we also run traction, very similar to how you set quarterly rocks. We set quarterly expectations as to what our clients need to be paying at that point in order to make sure that the average of all of the clients that we have equals out to that number. So, you know, we're really excited for that. And it is something that the entire team kind of grabs onto because they also know that the higher the dollar figure that the client is paying, the less clients that they're managing and the more detailed they can get with their clients, right? So, and we try to explain this to our small law firms all the time is that, you know, you're taking the right step by doing the work that we're doing and working with us. But the reality is if you were paying four times this, right? You're going to have somebody that pretty much read a 50% of their time is going to be dedicated to just your stuff and think about all of the things that they could accomplish for your brand if they were solely focused on you. Jason: [00:15:09] I love it. Joe: [00:15:09] It's selling that vision. Jason: [00:15:11] Yeah. Tell us what's the website people go and check you guys out. Joe: [00:15:15] Yeah. So, uh, our company is So it's the number nine, sail, like a sailboat, S A I L. Check us out. We're in the process of redoing that site again, you know, we're going to be expanding some of our SEO services to granularize some of the things that we do really well. Digital PR is a, is on the horizon for us, something that we're going to be breaking down because it is pretty much the same thing as the backlinking that we do just, you know, on a, on a larger scale. So we are super, super excited about it, but yeah, check us out at Jason: [00:15:46] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. You rocked it. Everyone go check out their website, reach out to them if you need it. And if you guys want to be around amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where you can scale your digital agency faster and see what's working and really have 60 plus trusted advisors to really help you out. I'd love to invite you all to go to And go check it out, and if it's right, we'll have a conversation and let you know. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why Your Agency Needs to Embrace Automation and Artificial Intelligence

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 23, 2022 26:16

    Do you struggle to embrace automation in your agency's operations? Jordan Bell was already an ads expert that taught the ins and outs of creating successful ads when he started his agency Agency Bell, where he applied his knowledge to offer direct response ad mastery with AI-powered automation and retainer-level audience insights for law firms. In his interview with Jason, he talks about why it was difficult to embrace automation which ultimately became a game-changer for his agency. He also chats about the importance of really understanding what you're doing and not fully relying on technology as the ultimate solution, and why it takes a solid structure, more than just new technology, to get your agency through difficult times. 3 Golden Nuggets Embracing automation. Jordan was the guy when it came to ads. He could calculate the exact bid that we would need at a common conversion rate in like a specific keyword or targeting group. It was all manual. This is why it was very hard for him to embrace automation. In the end, it wasn't about getting into machine automation, but actually turning it into a competitive advantage for them, which became a massive milestone for his agency. Can you find your way through a problem? We all need to get back to the basics at some point to remember what's important. As Jordan puts it, you should learn to fly a plane before turning on automated navigation. “There's so much technology available to us that it often becomes the solution in people's minds,” he says. They forget that, in order to be reliable, efficient and successful you should be able to understand what you're doing in the context of what we're trying to achieve or the larger vision and goals. At the end of the day, regardless of what task management program you use, can you write down what outcomes you need to be able to achieve when you know, you've got like 20 or 30 tasks due that week? A solid structure to get you through. These have been difficult times where many have had to learn to adapt to new circumstances. There are solid frameworks that protect any kind of business and Jordan has learned that it's not about getting to the new tech. It's more about the management side of running a business, being in charge of the outcomes, having a vision for the future of the business, designing the lifestyle. These years taught him to really consider what work he should be doing versus not doing in the business as an agency owner. Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Using Automation as a Competitive Advantage & Really Understand the Context of What You're Trying to Achieve {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Jordan, welcome to the show. Jordan: [00:00:04] Hey, thank you. Jason: [00:00:05] You know, the funny thing is, is whenever we record these shows, it's like we have chatted before, which we've been chatting for like 10 minutes, but I guess we have to do that for you listeners out here, making it believe this is the first time we're chatting. But, um, tell us who you are and what do you do? Jordan: [00:00:20] Yeah. So my name is Jordan Bell. I run a digital ad agency called Agency Bell. I've been doing it for about five years, but my experience in advertising and agency-type services is about over a decade or so. I'm a builder type of agency owner. I kind of classify them as like, kind of like the builders and engineers, the service people, the sales focus ones. I'm a true builder and a service type of person. So I built the agency really from a service perspective as a guy who was cutting his teeth in Google ads on large accounts for a long time. And getting really involved in the technology side of it and really enjoying the customized integrations. And so, you know, I ran an agency or I helped run an agency as a junior partner for a little while after my last corporate role, seven years ago or something and, um, after that I was teaching digital marketing courses, advertising courses at coding academies and stuff, and a couple of colleges and a while also consulting and taking on like really not really like, um, you know, corporate, not a lot of corporate projects. I had a couple like Fortune 500 ones, but, um, a lot of like, uh, hit the hammer, strike the from hammer to anvil, get the outcome type of in the trenches types of roles. I always enjoyed that. And, um, the consulting gigs came from teaching adults in CMOs. Good to go digital, stuff like that. And then eventually the consultancy, it just kind of became more and more until it became time to start an agency again. I'm an individual agency owner, right? My wife and I work on it together, but I'm a primary principal on it and we haven't had done it before. We'd like, you know, partners or multiple people, which is, uh, its own a wild ride of challenges and volatility in the past. But today, after working on a lot of different industries, we're currently focused primarily on large-scale law firm projects. So, um, think like, you know, multimillion-dollar annual budgets for plaintiff driven. So you've got your mass like product liability, lemon law, um, motor vehicle accidents, those kinds of things. We work with a lot of investors, so we're usually like one of the three or four people at partner like, uh, companies at the table. You've got the large-scale investment companies that are investing in plaintiff operations for law firms. And then the law firms who are the subject matter experts and sometimes they're have their own large scale budgets. And through that, it's sort of given us a nice corner where we can really build out larger-scale programs that are really fully integrated into their CRMs. So the way I like to think about it is that there's a lot of lead generators out there, and we like to train the ad systems to optimize towards people who are more likely to take the desired final action, which with your thinking about e-commerce it's like optimizing to the conversion pixel, right? But in the lead generation world, you're optimizing to a person who is more likely to sign a contract retainer, or like, if it was like a car dealership, it'd be like a person who's likely to buy the car at the end. So that created a big, a massive burden of technology because you have to protect data pipelines because if you don't have perfect data flowing between a firmer, a company, that's actually, um, doing things inside their CRM, it can destroy the campaigns quickly. So it created a data requirement for ad data and CRM data, and automation where power's out to your users and a bunch of other fun technology because people contact our clients through chat and form and phone, and there's different levels of engagement in the pipeline. So it really encompasses all of like, what I know from my background is an MBA, business modeling with them and their own operations as companies, as clients. And so it goes far beyond like the advertising stuff and it lets us stay up to date on the new tech that's, that's out and really weaponizing that. So it's a massively difficult thing to do, and it takes a while to onboard people in our team, but it's a lot of fun and I enjoy it. I'm where I want to be. So… Jason: [00:04:08] That's awesome. Tell us about what's a big milestone that you've achieved since starting the agency that you're really proud of with running your digital agency? Jordan: [00:04:21] Yeah, it used to be like I was for a while the guy that somebody knew that was really good at ads and it didn't involve automated bidding inside like Google ads, Bing, Facebook. It involved a lot of manual work. I used to like calculate the exact bid that we would need at a common conversion rate in like a specific keyword or a targeting group, and like be able to pinpoint and say, okay, I needed a negative 20% bid modifier. It was all manual. I mean, it was good. We'd calculate it. But I was teaching people to really go in there and move all the levers and switching over to automation and machine learning was, I was extremely stubborn about like, not wanting to like take my hands off the levers. It'd be like, I don't want the computer to fly the plane. I want to fly it myself. You've got to feel it differently, right? And that journey, I'm a risk-taker in some ways, but risk-averse and others and trusting automation systems to think big picture strategically like a person who's looking at many different factors, not just the ad system, which itself is a rocket ship, but looking at many different factors before making a decision inside an ad program, when you're dealing with multi-million dollar budgets. That is one extremely hard to teach in collectively with, um, as we bring on team people internally, and we have a small team for that because of this. But also it's like what logic rules inside ad systems are going to account for that. They don't make the technology that is designed specifically to solve the kinds of problems that we're trying to solve that would make it like we could not set it and forget it, but there's so much ad tech out there that is like, oh, you won't have to do as much. It'll tell you exactly what to do. And yet no program was able to give us those exact winning solutions or even close. And so learning, not whether to go into machine learning and automation, but actually how to make it our competitive advantage the way we used it was a massive milestone for us. The reason, the way that we had to do that was we had to think about how to make sure that all the data that we wanted from disparate sources were not available from these static reports that would take hours to put together. I used to hand-piece together all these like reports, but they had to be available in seconds, completely dynamic, so I could, we could change date ranges and filters and stuff. Google systems didn't even have, like, not all the views that are possible are actually available. And their own tools aren't even flexible enough for it. So we had to be able to recreate things like dynamic reports that are based in sheets that pull data from APIs. We had to create audit systems and the audit systems are like, cause we use this thing called offline conversions where, where a CRM action happens and then a person has a unique click in the URL. And then we follow that, we connect it to the person and it, and it kind of, um, in updates, Google. That person, they get, I call it a superhero Cape when one of 20 leads gets a superhero cape, and that's the person you want more of. And then you have to immediately send that to Google. But that data pipeline is extremely fragile because there's so many things that can break that connection. And so learning how to audit that in workflow, we're dealing with thousands of leads per week, it could become doing it manually is, is an impossible job. I was up to like three or four in the morning, every night, just trying to manually like hand stitch these things together, and then eventually learning how to build operational workflows like that was a massive challenge. But when we finally like wrapped our heads around it and got through like these 40 step, like Zap(ier) automations, that was a huge milestone. In the biggest account that we have we finally just did a workflow where we had to treat it like an e-commerce setup and where like multiple conversions could come from one lead, like multiple cases. And that was extremely difficult because if, if not to go too into the weeds, but if you mess that up, you can't undo the damage to the account. And so building that entire thing to protect that meant that as soon as we committed to the machine learning aspect of our agency, it put a huge burden of things that we had to accomplish in order just to be successful. When you raise the bar that high, you have to be able to get over it, or you have to go back and lower the bar. And so that was really big for us. Jason: [00:08:28] Yeah. So, I mean, that's amazing how you're, you're trusting machine learning and AI in order to do things that used to do manually. So what's life like now that you've turned over that stuff, like, what are you able to focus on now? Jordan: [00:08:45] Building the system better. We couldn't focus on things before. Like we couldn't take like this satellite image view in seconds of anything in the campaign we want to see you. So if I want to look at the income, like income or age range inside a particular ad group or geographic location and instantly get statistically significant data on a specific, customized low conversion action, like assigned retainer up to the minute basically that they're doing it. We didn't have that ability before. To be able to say in 10 seconds we can get to that information and get a stat that's relevant. It changed the way that we could optimize campaigns with the level of granularity that we could get to so that rather than 10 different decisions that could be made, we can isolate down to the two or three where at least two of them are highly likely to work. We're creating the science in the advertising world, where there were so much more of the, there is a, there's a data science obviously to advertising that a lot of people don't realize until they really get into it and look at the data. But our decisions are far more likely to deliver the expected outcome. And when we're dealing with return on investment for like large scale investors that becomes a competitive advantage for us because we become the company and they don't want to work with anybody else. So our retention is incredible at that point. We're talking about years not months when with our retention. Jason: [00:10:12] Are you looking for a content creation solution for your agency and/or clients? Verblio can help you with everything from blog posts, eBooks, to video scripts, and a lot more. Verblio is a crowdsource solution to content creation with the pool of more than 3000 highly-vetted writers who produce custom SEO-rich content. In fact, my team has been using Verblio and we love the ease of their process. With Verblio, we set the criteria for the style and the tone, and then they match you with the writers that have the expertise in your subject matter. Verblio is a platform specifically designed for agency, and that's why for a limited time, they're offering my listeners 50% off the first month of content. Just go to to learn more. That's Verblio, V E R B L I Now, how did you guys go about finding the right solution? You know, because there's lots of tools out there that say they do machine learning and AI. And there's always a fuzzy thing between each and then people were like, well, if you do this, then why can't the customer or the client go directly there and just bypass the agency? So talk a little bit about that. Jordan: [00:11:34] Yeah, great question. When I used to teach one of the first lessons that we did in the marketing course was about how I would call it like the ninja digital marketer will have a set of skills. Like they'll be a creative thinker, they'll be kind of like a data and analytical thinker, and then they'll be a strategist as well. And all the kind of technology and the programs that we're using and the way that we bring them together, which is always cool, people are often surprised that I don't make a decision on technology and workflows until far later in the game than most others will. And the reason is because we're trying to pick a decision that's not, that we're not going to have to iterate on and change a bunch of stuff the next day or the next week. We're trying to make a decision that accounts for all the factors or as many of them as we can reasonably do while allowing for variability afterwards and allowing us to have the flexibility. So when we do things like pulling data from like the tracking URL, we pull everything because we don't know that we're whether we're going to need it yet. And oftentimes that's how we're able to like sort of save the day on scenarios because we pulled it, not knowing when we'd need it, but having it anyway. And so one of the reasons why it's difficult for companies to execute on this is because in order for them to do this properly, they, well properly in the sense of like what we're trying to achieve here, they have to be able to tap into a series of strategic decisions that come from first off knowledge of the market and what you can do to understanding how machine learning is working in how the system is looking at signals and having outcomes from that. We have to be able to predict based on experience and like vast amounts of data. The difference between asking a single qualifying question that's slightly different in its wording and what the user experience of the person is going to be like who's just did a search, which there's search psychology in there. And then following that process through what kind of data does it produce and how did the ad systems learn from it as the law firm or any other is changing things in their CRM? There's a long pattern of factors before you can make really effective decisions. And it's, unfortunately, it creates kind of a tight rope because digital can be pretty unforgiving in a lot of ways, but it's what makes the work interesting because you can no longer just look at ad data and say, oh yeah, just make this next move. You know, it doesn't work that way. It's a, it's a worthy challenge. But I also like to make it accessible though, you know, we get on a call, like, do you want to teach the firms how to think about this stuff because there'll be a better partner. They'll appreciate the fact that we're confident that nothing that we're doing yet or how we packaged it as proprietary. It's just really difficult to do and it's really great for big outcomes and sustainable. So like we have $200 click keywords in some accounts and that usually produces high click fraud rate, and we have one of the lowest click fraud rates I've ever seen on that on our most expensive account, because we've trained Google to avoid lawyer and marketer clicks that destroys budgets. So you, it's very hard without all the pieces together you actually can't really do it very easily on your own. And that's why it's fun, but it's also, there's also, it's pretty high stakes at that point. Jason: [00:14:34] I remember back in the day when I was first advertising on Overture, so this was before Google and yeah, there's a bunch of click fraud because I know people, you just see the competitor and you'd go back and forth and be like, ooh, I charged this guy a dollar. Jordan: [00:14:51] Yeah, we have click fraud software but it doesn't really, it eats like it's a whack-a-mole game, right? And the bigger, the ratio of people you don't want clicking to the ones you do it can really mess up campaigns. It's hard. We won't even start some kinds of campaigns without a runway budget and without like certain factors in their tech and their operations being okay because that's our story. If there are things that we can't reasonably control and they're not the right fit, then that becomes our story at that point. And most of the business was built off like our and my reputation because we drive to success, you know, we aim for that outcome. And that was a level of commitment that it's very exhausting at times, but you know how it is. And you don't always know if it's a click, it's like, how does one person who types in the same keyword, how do you know the difference? You know, what's happening. You just don't know where it is. Jason: [00:15:39] Let's switch focus a little bit, because a little while ago, we were talking about some things that you were doing that's really helping you guys out and kind of going back to the basics. Talk a little bit about that, cause I know your agency is doing really well. You guys are growing and scaling the agency fast, but why would you go back to the basics? Because a lot of people were like, oh, you're advanced. And we're talking about very advanced stuff right now that machine learning all that. So why go back to the base? Jordan: [00:16:09] Yeah. I've heard some good things from people that better explain it than I do. So I'm going to borrow one from a person who said this to me recently, is that show me, you can do long division before you get a calculator, right? Or I've always described it as like, show me, you can fly the plane before you get your like computer navigation, like on, you know, within like a 747 or a fighter jet. Like what are the stories that are, that are amazing about crash landings with planes? Is that the pilot was able to land the plane in a river, right? And what computer is going to do that at that point? Is, is a team's ability it can fail fast when the plug is bolt, can you get a candle in the dark and find your way through a problem, or like have a get out of the woods with the stars, right? And I've found that that is so important, especially in like comprehension of the material, because it's so much technology that's available to us that it often becomes the solution in people's minds. And they forget that in order to be the most successful, the most efficient, the most reliable and achieve results when we set the bar high is we have to be able to understand what we're doing in the context of what we're trying to achieve or our larger vision and goals. You know, to talk about it as if you don't need the technology, but you can operate faster with it and you can be more efficient with it and get to better places, because then you're talking about, then you're living it. It's authentic. You know, I'm not a great salesperson on the phone. I'm really not, I don't say all the right things, but I close the deals because for me it's authentic. I believe in it. I understand how it works and that interestingly in the success and challenges of the, of the agency that we've had in, in my own. When we won it was because we understood it without technology and process and in any kind of, and you know, frameworks have been awesome, but like we've been looking at a lot of things like whether like agile adaptive would help us, you know, like EOS, OKRs all those kinds of things are, are, are really coming to the forefront now. At the end of the day, can you, regardless of what task management program that you have, can you throw things off the desk and then write down what outcomes you need to be able to achieve when you know, you've got like 20 or 30 tasks due that week? Can you say, this is why they're important, what they're going to achieve, its current place within the scope of the work, because then no matter what you have, you can prioritize, you can do what matters and that every time we get away from that we struggle. So I make the technology decisions and the operational policies and the workflows, all that kind of stuff is one of the last things that we do to get it right. But we have to have that comprehension in the beginning and the ability to operate in the dark with a candle in a piece of paper. Jason: [00:18:46] Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. I always tell everybody every quarter you should look at going back to the basics. You know, I always use the story when, when I was playing college tennis and I was losing to a guy I should not have been losing to. And my tennis coach go back to the basics, Swenk! Go back to the basics dummy! And as soon as I stopped overthinking about my backswing or my follow through, I was like, all right, I'm gonna just look at the ball and hit it. And it started working. Jordan: [00:19:16] Yeah, that's great. I mean, I'm a, I'm a musician so this is kind of like someone playing, doing their scales or doing the rudiments on a, on a drum or something like that, right? Like there's a reason those are important because it's got, those have to be second nature to build things on top of it. And it's why, you know, whether it's in an ad campaign, right? We, we're looking at all like the data and the tech and like all the suggestions that has, but we're lost. Why are we lost? At the end of the day what do we have to do? We have to say, what is the business problem we're solving? Who are we reaching? Well, how would we describe them? Demographically, behaviorally, like when something is stopping in their newsfeed. Like, what would we say to them that would make them go, yeah, oh, I'm going to stop doing this thing that I really want to do to, to look at an ad that I didn't ask for. What's in it for me? Why do I care? Like, and there's going into user experiences on at that point. User experience, design and copywriting, and really good targeting theory is timeless. It really is. It's the same skills we use to decide whether what we should write on a direct mail piece and where we should send it and what kind of things to put on billboards. That skill is so still important. The best copywriting books are ancient, and yet we apply them differently today just based on the technology. And I'm a big believer in the, in the traditional foundations there. If someone can, she can talk me through that strategy. I can teach him how to use it. That's no problem. But teaching the basics and teaching the foundations, that's the challenge. Jason: [00:20:40] Yeah. Many years ago, when, when I started helping agency owners and I was developing the playbook, I really thought about that of like, what are the foundational systems that you need that will stand the test of time that are the basics that you go back and forth. Like we were talking, pre-show like, you know, how do we make sure we have that clarity? And then we get the positioning and then the offering, and then we can start prospecting and doing sales. Like there's systematic things that you need to do that will always stand the test of time and you just got to think about what is that for your business and constantly going, are we making it simple? Are we on the right plan? And then, you know, adjust rather than just see the shiny red object and where the cat trying to swat it down. Jordan this all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Jordan: [00:21:35] The one thing I've been thinking a lot about is how like the systems, right? So like the agency playbook kind of systems, right? Like one of the things that has really kind of helped and, and maybe kind of almost like saved us from like the peaks and valley, like the, the days of where it's like, can we, is this gonna work tomorrow? Did we set our sights too high, right? You know, I got married last year, we had a child, I started law school, like I was back to the 16 hour day. Like it was hard, like life was coming and also were, we were both work from home parents. So that whole psychological challenge that happens, like there's research about how people are getting like really beaten up their mental health is hard, is tough right now. And one of the things that really has stood out to me is that it wasn't about getting to the new tech. And it wasn't even about something that would like, it would just be for agencies for anyone that's kind of like manager, running a business, you know, major responsibilities like that, who is in charge of outcomes. It was really focusing on the vision, the designing the lifestyle, like what work I should be doing versus not doing, and then backing up from those outcomes, which I, I used to talk about all the time, but I wasn't taking those daily steps. I worked with a CEO coach and I found that some of those just involved setting the vision for myself as an agency owner. Now, it's now as we're kind of running the agency together as, uh, you know, with a child at home is that we, we have to look at our life and our daily schedules and our vision and how that contributes and how we work together as a team. And so everyone's got their own version of this in the pandemic era where then maybe they're in an office or not, maybe, you know, but everything is a little bit more difficult these days and it's changing constantly. And the thing you just talked about with the going back to basics, there are solid frameworks that protect any kind of business. And it doesn't mean that you have to use, like, I've always finally, it doesn't mean you have to use one specific method. It doesn't, no one method solves everything. It's the application of it. And I could not see it more clearly now how there were things that we did not have in place in every department like that. Uh, you know, just the planning element, the vision and mission, the OKR style, like KPIs, like the qualitative and quantitative outcome, and making sure that we are locking onto that. I mean, we've had times where people, we had people working two jobs and we didn't know about it until like two full-time jobs, because that's what happened in advertising in the pandemic air, right? And engineering and stuff like that. And so we had, like, we learned a lot of hard lessons that way, but if we started with those things and then build operational structures in which the outcome was still those things and we held accountability systems in place to that, that's the only thing that we feel now stands the test of time. Because everything else is just which workflow we're using, which project management system it's, I'm, I'm agnostic to those things. They're all, they all kind of work the same way. But I've only really become safe and scalable from those basics and those frameworks and the things that we found worked for us. And then we, we made those, our bottom line. Like those are non-negotiables. And from there, honestly, like I feel like even still, I'm getting back to waves of peace, again, knowing that there's a big uphill battle to achieve the goals, but it's not scary anymore. That's really the biggest thing that I, that I think even just from going into the new year that, that we found. Jason: [00:24:57] That's awesome. Well, it's been great to have you on the show. It's been also great to get to know you over the past years of being in the mastermind and watching your guys grow. And watching you constantly take one tackle and then get up and then tackle the next one because running an agency's tough and you're always going to get beat down, but it's about like moving forward and moving forward in the right way and be able to just kind of sidetrack some of the things coming at ya. What's the agency website, people go and check you guys out? Jordan: [00:25:32] Sure, Jason: [00:25:34] Really hard. Very easy. If you guys can't remember that you guys got issues, but uh, check out Jordan's, uh, agency website and, uh, thanks so much Jordan for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe comment and if you want to be around other amazing agency owners like Jordan, where you can ask us any questions that you're struggling with. And we might be able to see the things a little bit differently so you guys can grow and scale your digital agency faster, go to and apply. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How the Right Strategic Relationship Sets Up a Smooth Agency Acquisition

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 20, 2022 24:10

    Do you want to sell your agency in the future? What strategic relationships can help you grow and possibly sell your agency? Roy Chong was working in the music industry for many years before deciding to make a drastic change and start over in digital marketing. Now with Noodle Wave Media he helps companies in the healthcare space thrive by developing meaningful strategies and tactics that move their marketing efforts towards success. In this interview with Jason, Roy discusses the most important decisions he made for his business, how he always envisioned a strategic partnership for the future of his agency, and why you should always take your passion wherever you go. 3 Golden Nuggets The most important decisions for his business. Roy never really saw a reason to rent an office space he could not afford at the time, so very early on he invested in having a remote working model with a team that could work from anywhere in the country. It shaped the way his agency works and its culture because he acknowledges that not everyone likes or can work remotely. Finding those types of people that shared this vision really helped build their culture. The second biggest decision was niching down to focus on the healthcare vertical, where the agency really found its footing and scaled to the point where he could sell the agency. Making the decision to sell. Roy always envisioned a strategic partnership for his agency. He knew it was in his future but just needed to figure out how it would work and what would be the right time to pursue it. Jason helped him by pointing out some things he needed to work on, which provided some time to add another layer of value for clients. He also had time to consider what he didn't want to lose with the deal, and the type of relationship he expected from this partnership. All of this ultimately led him back to Jason and to the partnership that would enable him to still be in charge of day-to-day operations. Taking your passion wherever you go. If you ever have to start again from scratch remember to take your passion with you. Passion is commonly depicted as what we do, “that isn't necessarily true,” Roy says, “It's who you are.” At one point in his career, he made the transition from the music industry to digital marketing. There is seemingly no correlation between both, but Roy argues what made the difference and helped him succeed in a new industry was taking a passion for helping people with him. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Finding a Strategic Relationship That Fits Your Agency Growth Goals {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Roy, welcome to the show. Roy: [00:00:04] Hey! Thanks, Jason. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:06] I'm excited to have you on the show. So, uh, for the ones that have not heard of you yet, tell us who you are and what do you do? Roy: [00:00:13] Yeah, so I'm the CEO and founder of Noodle Wave Media. We're a full-stack digital marketing agency focused on the healthcare vertical. I've been doing that for 11 years. Prior to that, I was in the music industry as a music producer, and I've got kind of that entrepreneurial spirit so I flipped a couple of the businesses along the way. Father of two amazing boys and a passionate creative and marketer. Jason: [00:00:44] And how did you get started and how long ago did you start your agency? Roy: [00:00:49] Yeah, so I started it probably in 2000, around 2010. I had just kind of rotated out of the music industry and I'd spent 10 years there writing music for artists and I got signed to a production deal in New York and I was running the artists for my idols, and then I did a stint in Korea. And then I decided, you know what, I'm kind of done with this it's time to start something new. And I realized at that time I'd been in the content game for 10 years. I thought, boy, combine that with using ability to create content and find a thread that resonates with people and tie that to helping small businesses, cause I had a marketing education and experience already, that could be something. And so I started that 10 years ago with that exact premise of leveraging content to help brand build brand equity for clients. But at that time, like, and you'll know this, Jason, like that wasn't a thing, really. Large brands we're doing that, leveraging YouTube and all kinds of other platforms, but the small business owner didn't really have access cause they just didn't know how to do it. So I started it at that time with that premise in mind. And I just remember people thought, yeah, but like who's going to search for a content marketing agency like that just seems offbeat and really way off the normal path, because you know, their traditional brick and mortar agency was the way to go. I don't know, but I think it's going to be something. And of course, we all know that content marketing became the thing and we've been on a steady increase in incline from there, leveraging that idea that kind of the small to medium-sized business owner doesn't realize that the biggest piece of equity that they have is the knowledge in between their ears and the experience that they have. So we just provided them the platform and support to do that. And here we are 2021 and... 22 geez 22. I lost the year. I think we all lost a couple of years there. Jason: [00:02:43] We all did lose a couple of years. What was the biggest deal that happened to your agency or what's the most exciting thing to you and why when you were growing your agency? Roy: [00:02:56] I definitely would have to say that I built the agency on the remote working model or distributed model, however you want to call it. And I did it really out of just trying to solve problems. You know, I couldn't afford office space. Like I just didn't have the cashflow, but then also at the same time, I was like, does it really even make sense for me to have an office? Because it's just going to eat into my margins. This is just the way that I thought at that time that well why can't I just hire a bunch of people who live wherever, but are super talented and have them work on these projects with me. It ended up of course, being very prescient and not until COVID hit that everybody else got it. But of course, leading up to that, that trend was already there, right? So COVID obviously the big pull ahead, but I would be championing this whole remote working lifestyle and people just didn't get it. Like it was another thing that people thought I was crazy. Like, well, you need an office, right? Cause you need to have clients come and see you. I was like, I don't think so. I don't think I need that. And for us, that ended up probably being the single most important decision that we made as an agency, just to keep that. And my vision was always, can I scale this? Could it be like from one man band man show to like 10 staff, then how about 20? How about 30 then? How about a hundred? How about 300? Keep going from there. And that's just kind of, what's continued to happen today. And of course, when COVID hit people are like, oh, okay. I get it. That makes total sense. And now at a global scale where we're doing this thing. Jason: [00:04:22] I love the remote thing because you know, you can recruit way out far, you know, all over the world rather than just driving distance. And then also too your team works a hell of a lot harder because they're not in a commute. I remember when I had an agency in Atlanta, I had some people that were in a car for two hours a day that could have been doing other things, having fun, relaxing, working on the business, maybe. Roy: [00:04:50] Yeah, totally. Yeah. And that was the real value proposition. And actually, I don't know if a lot of people realize this though, maybe now they do, but at that time have... being in a remote working model, only certain people would thrive under that environment. Like you and I would probably both know like people that just, they need to be around people. They need to be in an office. And that works for certain people and that doesn't work for other people. So, um, it ended up becoming a pretty cool automatic filter for developing a culture of people who worked the same way, who thought the same way who had the same kind of time management skills and critical thinking skills. So just again, like when I say that that was the single most important decision, not only from an operational standpoint but like from a culture standpoint, from a productivity standpoint, like you mentioned, it had a lot of trickle-down effects, you know, making that choice. Jason: [00:05:41] Other than, you know, doing the remote, working and figuring that out. What's the most important thing that you learned running your agency the past years? Roy: [00:05:50] Uh, for sure. The other thing would be probably niching down in this specific vertical that's super key. I always knew that at some point that I would want to either exit the business or develop a strategic partnership. I knew we didn't have the, necessarily the resources or the kind of client base to be a bigger agency. And our, my strategy was always to be part of a bigger agency. So I just thought about like, what would make us attractive to an agency that already has, and does everything? And for us that would just be to let's find a specialty, let's niche down. And it kind of just organically happened. Like I didn't set out to build a company that like provided marketing services to the oral health care space. It's not something that you like set out to do necessarily. It was just through relationships. And as I kind of saw that continuing to grow in our reputation as, okay, we've got to double down on this vertical. So by niching down two things happened. One, yes, we prepared ourselves for an eventual exit where we gained domain expertise in this one vertical. But it also, from an implementation standpoint, when we ran campaigns, it was just so much easier. Like there was no learning curve. Over the years, we developed expertise in orthodontic, dental care, pediatric dentistry. All these different verticals. So we knew that our target audience. We knew what the client did. We knew what the value propositions were in general at all we had to kind of do was hunt for the nuance of that specific client in that specific geographic area. We compress the discovery process time to really short period of time because we know the industry, right? So that was the other kind of key thing for us. Jason: [00:07:32] Awesome. And eventually, you sold the agency. So why did you decide to sell? And kind of walk us through that process as well. Roy: [00:07:41] Well, it's funny because my own personal journey was thinking about, you know, when is it time to kick in the strategic partnership that I always envisioned would need to happen? What time does that look like and when does that need to happen? And as I was going through that journey of searching, I found you through that journey, which was so funny. And, uh, you know, kudos to you and your funnels and your content and having stuff out there that allowed other agency owners to discover that. And I learned a lot just from reading some of your content about what I needed to do to prepare but also engaged you in a conversation at that time. You were gracious enough to entertain just a quick chat and let me know that there's some things that maybe I need to work on. And so, I think for me personally it was just knowing that it was time for me to add another layer of value to the clients. But also being real with myself in terms of what I wanted out of my lifestyle. There's kind of a, like, I could easily say I could grow this business and then exit, you know, in the next five years if I wanted to, but what's the cost, right? Like what am I giving up in terms of my lifestyle in order to do that? I think when we get into leadership conferences or we talk with other entrepreneurs, we talk about the KPIs and the metrics and the sales figures and all that stuff. But oftentimes we don't talk necessarily about what's the livestock cost. What is the other side of that coin? And I think for me, it just wasn't worth it to do it alone. And that was the point when I said, okay, it's time to find a strategic partnership. And that's what sent me on that journey. And it's funny because it didn't happen for two years, right? Like I started it and I thought about it and I marinated on it. I think at the time you were like, Hey, there's some things you work on. And then two years later, I was like, hey, I worked on these things. What do you think? And then the conversation continued from there. Jason: [00:09:31] Are you looking for a reliable partner to increase your agency's bandwidth so you can take on more projects? You know, our partner at E2M wants to help you grow your revenue, your profit margins without increasing your overhead costs. Now, they're a white label, web design and development agency that's been providing white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Their team is over 120 experienced, skilled digital experts that's highly motivated to help you get more done in less time. Now they can help you in all kinds of digital areas, including web design development, e-commerce, SEO, copywriting, content marketing, and a lot more. If you're not sure whether E2M is the right fit for your agency, I want you to check out their flexible and transparent pricing model. Go to For a limited time, they're offering my smart agency listeners 10% off for the first three months of service. That's Jason: Yeah, I always, I tell agencies the ones that have visions for possibly selling because too, like if you get to a certain point and you may not want to sell. It's not right for everyone. And sometimes Thomas and everybody at Republix gets mad at me cause I'll talk people out of it sometimes. But like you shouldn't sell, you got everything you want. And then sometimes the other people were like, no, I want to take chips off the table. I want to sell, I want to do other things. I want to have a life after selling the agency. And I'm like, okay, cool. And I'm glad that you came back because I always tell people, start relationships with the people now that you think could buy you later on. And right? Like we talked two years prior and then we were able to, you know, strike up a deal, and I'm so excited that we were able to do that. And too many people think about, well, I'll sell when things are bad. I'm like, no, no, no. You're not going to get what you want. You're not going to be happy afterward. Cause it has to work for both parties. Sell when things are really good. Roy: [00:11:42] Yeah, totally. Yeah. And it was interesting, I liked what you said about relationships because I did explore, you know, going the broker route and people had approached me over the years with that, uh, let me just entertain some of these conversations, but there wasn't that like relationship aspect, it was very transactional in a sense. And at that point, I was like, wait a second. I got to reach back to Jason. Cause we had a conversation about this before. Like I actually kinda forgot because I, you know, there's all these other opportunities coming down the pipeline and then it just so happened that it was the relationship-based connection that ended up working out, right? Jason: [00:12:16] Yeah. I mean, that's what I tell everybody is like your net worth is what your network is. You know, and the people that you know, and you hang out that you trust and they trust you. I mean, that's why we've been doing the mastermind for so long. It's about getting the right people around so you can create those relationships over time. What surprised you going through the acquisition? Was there anything that surprised you? Roy: [00:12:43] Oh, for sure. Yeah. It was a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be, right? Like, I know you had prepared me with a couple of kind of points about this is going to be a lot of cows. And of course, Thomas and the team at Republix, they've been through it a million times and so they knew what was going to happen. Like they're preparing me, like it's going to get busy, but it's very challenging to switch the hat between all of these corporate finance and other aspects of your business that perhaps, I mean, some industry leaders and agency owners might know that stuff really well, some don't and they leave it to their bookkeeping and accounting team. I think it's wise to have a breadth of knowledge across all of those disciplines, right? But to the extent of like doing the deal, managing lawyers, managing accountants, and then in a very active way, more so than you would normally running your business. And then on top of that, running your business, right? It became pretty challenging. So it was, I knew that it was going to be weighty, I mean, it's such a deeply personal decision that you make. So there's that, that's the other component like there's this emotional attachment to going through this process and then you're like doubting yourself or like is this the right time? Should I be doing this and that? And then there's negotiating aspects. This is all these emotions that are happening, right? Jason: [00:14:05] It's my baby. How can I sell my baby? Roy: [00:14:09] It's my baby, how can I…? And then you have people saying you shouldn't sell this and other people be like, oh, you should totally do it, that's amazing, right? So I think what I wasn't prepared for was the emotional rollercoaster that I was going to go through with that. But in the end, what happened was, you know, luckily that it was a, I could see it through like this, this, this storm and on the other side of this storm is the breakthrough and the completion, and then it kind of winds down. So I think for any agency owner, that's thinking about selling, there is that storm you're going to, it's going to get tougher. It's going to get busy. You're going to go through the storm and then you will eventually come out that other side. Even if you don't sell the business, you learn a ton of about your business along the way. Jason: [00:14:48] Why tell people…? Cause there's lots of people that reach out and be like, oh, we want to buy you. And then they right they're, they're scumbags. But I say like for legit people, you should go through the process because like you said, Roy, you're going to learn a ton. And then you're going to really know, because I went through it a couple times before we actually sold in order to learn more about like, what do they need? So then when we finally did go through it for real, we had everything like, here it is, here it is. Boom, boom, boom. There is still that emotional roller coaster. I think I flipped a coin to decide if I was going to do it or not. Like, literally it was like 50, 50. It all worked out really well. What was the turning point for you? Because you know, you're going ups and down. Yes, no, yes, no, yes, no. What was the turning point for you when you were like, all right, I'll do it? And how close was it to the close? Was it like the night before? Roy: [00:15:44] Yeah. Like if you talk to Thomas, he'll say, yeah, this is one of the, the more messy negotiations that we had gone through because there was just so much back and forth and, you know, I was really fighting to have peace with the deal. So I was fighting for things that I wasn't necessarily happy with upfront, but, you know, I prayed through it. I'm a man of faith and that was one thing that Thomas and I really connected on was, you know, that spiritual component, but praying through it a lot was really important for me. But I think at the same time, the turning point was some of the things that were happening in the periphery of my life at that time. And in the periphery, like the business metrics made sense, everything lined up. I love the guys at Republix. I was really connecting with them. All of those things lined up and I have kind of like a laundry list of things that I think any person that's selling their business should check off in doing any deal. But the real pivot for me was things that were happening around me. Like, my son, more of it, but a good friend and his brother passed suddenly, you know, like that was huge. Like, again, I'll go back to the things like cost, and this is just my own experience around, like, what was the cost? What is the cost? Cause everything has a cost. There's a, there's an upside, but there's a cost to getting that. And so for me, it was really like those periphery things that had me say, okay, you know what? I think life is pointing me in this direction to do this because I want to free up myself to be more present as a father, more present as a husband, kickstart some things that I, uh, ventures that I've wanted to do just haven't had time to do. So all those like soft lifestyle components really had an impact. I think it's just important to consider that iike for me anyways, it was one of the biggest transactions I'd ever have to do from a business perspective. It's not just about the money, you know? It's what are you gaining from this? And if it's equitable on both sides, then it makes sense. It should make sense, right? Because if you just think about the money part of it, you might make a decision that you regret later, right? You have to really be happy with the deal at the end of the day. And I think for people that are chasing the money, they might be unhappy because they'll sacrifice like working with a buyer who you don't really like, but they gave you the best offer. And that's not always the best decision to make when you're doing the deal. You got to really like the people you're going to work with because you're going to continue, hopefully, to work with them. So it's just those kinds of factors that kept it in my decision-making process. Jason: [00:18:07] What's life like now? Roy: [00:18:09] You know what? Nothing's really changed other than I just feel more at peace with everything. You can relate to this, like being in leadership, being an owner of a business and in leadership position is a pretty isolating lonely place because, I mean, even your spouse may not be able to understand truly what you're going through unless they were, uh, agency leader or owner before. And so I think for me, I needed that sense of community and I needed a team of people to bounce these agency's specific leadership, specific ideas off of, and being a part of our Republix has provided that. I still run the business on a day-to-day. That was really key, I think, for our communication to clients and the staff that I still be at the helm, and that's still part of the plan. So at least from a day-to-day, it hasn't really changed, but the weightiness of full ownership has lifted. And that's actually freed me up to be more open and be more inspired. And you think even bigger than before, you know, like we're now joint, doing joint pitches with other agencies to bigger clients that we didn't have access to before, on one hand. And even clients that we did have access to do have access to, we can pitch better ideas. So that's, for me, such a huge accomplishment, not only in building a business from nothing to where it is today, where, like you say, most businesses think about selling when they're on the downspout and then they go bankrupt, right? Like 80% of businesses fail. So we're in that small margin of businesses that have been successful. So that's a huge accomplishment for me. And I'm kind of walking around with a little extra pep in my step, having achieved that and now scaling the team and growing the business in a way that I feel really confident that we can set it up for the next 10 years of growth. Jason: [00:20:03] Yeah. And when you have that pressure off, you're not really worrying about money anymore. You can make decisions based on just what you feel rather than, oh, I need to take this deal. And what people don't realize is when you actually start making that switch… If you did that in the very beginning, you would have grown five times as fast, and everybody always thinks they're were like, you guys have money. So it's easy for you guys to say that, but you know, looking back, if I could tell myself again on that, I'd be like, dude, start with that from day one. And you know, in the very beginning it might be a little tougher, but later on, it'd be that much. Roy: [00:20:45] Yeah. You know, like, I, I, at least for us, like we have pre, we have pretty good margins for the last 10 years. Like w like, as a corporation, we'd never had real money issues, like we didn't have debt. We operated in, you know, with a 45, 50% margin. So decision making around money for the business was never an issue. I think for me personally as well, it wasn't necessarily the money that makes me, cause you know, when you get a liquidity event like that, you have all kinds of other problems after that, right? Like, so… Jason: [00:21:14] Lots of cousins coming out of the woodworks. Roy: [00:21:16] Yeah, right? Yeah. Yeah. Ray Ray from way back in the day who you haven't talked to in 20 years or, you know, like, or just managing it at all, it poses other situations. But I think it's, you know, there's something unique about calling yourself, the singular owner, where every decision comes down to you. And again, nothing's changed. I'm still making every decision. Like Republic's is really great that way in the sense that they really want you to work autonomously, but at the same time have be part of this bigger vision. So I'm still managing the business, but there's just this underlying weight of that's been lifted because you feel like you have support, right? There's other people who have been through this a million times that know what you're going through, as opposed to like, boy, I feel like I'm really just kind of going through this on my own and no one really understands. And so that part of it was really huge for me. Jason: [00:22:09] Awesome. Last question, if you had a billboard and you could put anything on it, what would it be? What would it say? Roy: [00:22:18] Oh, that's great. That's great. I love that question. Uh, it would be this: Take your passions with you. Jason: [00:22:25] I like that. Roy: [00:22:26] What I mean by that is a lot of people get caught up in thinking, I gotta find my passion, I gotta find my passion. And passion often gets related to what do you do? Which isn't necessarily what your passion is. It's who you are. And that thing can be taken with you to whatever it is you're doing in the moment. Whether that's, you're a problem solver, whether that's your, you want to make a human connection, whether you want to give to people, whether you want to build people up, whether you want to, it doesn't matter what it is. Just know that you can take it with you wherever you go. I took what I do in the music industry to digital marketing to help orthodontists and dentists, you know, like it's just, there's nothing correlated other than what my passion is to solve problems. And that was my billboard. That's what it would it be. Jason: [00:23:18] I love it. I love it. What's the website people go and check out the agency outside of Republix? Roy: [00:23:24] Sure. Yeah. It's Noodle like as a bowl of noodles, wave, wave I would say that. Jason: [00:23:32] Awesome, man. Well, Roy, thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe, make sure you comment. And, uh, if you want to be around other amazing agency owners where we can see the things that you might not be able to see, because just like Roy was saying, like it's very isolating making your own decisions and maybe you wanted some help with that. I'd love to invite all of you to go check out This is our exclusive mastermind for very experienced agency owners. Go there now, and until next time have a Swenk day.

    Do You Have a Foot in the Door Strategy to Scale Your Agency Faster?

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 16, 2022 14:15

    Quinn Zeda had been running an agency for six years when she decided to start from scratch and focus on conversion rate optimization with Conversion Crimes. She and her team help clients identify mistakes in their website's design, messaging, and navigation that is stealing revenue from under their nose. Quinn is really big on user-testing and customer research. In her interview with Jason, she explained the roadmap strategy she implemented to get the type of projects she could execute the way she wanted to, how this strategy helped her slowly educate customers on why they needed much more than just a website, and how she learned to appreciate the importance of systems and operations. 3 Golden Nuggets The roadmap strategy. When she first started her agency, Quinn was charging $1,000 for a website. One of her frustrations was with those $1,000 - $2,000 projects was that she could never execute them in the way that she wanted to. To be able to deliver the results that she knew she could, without scaring clients off with a $180K budget, she started with a 10K retainer presented as a roadmap of things she could accomplish for the company. After a couple of months, clients were seeing some really incredible results and excited to go on to phase two. More than a website. Creating her roadmap strategy was a great way for clients to understand that they were not paying $250,000 for a website. It may be what they thought they needed, but going step by step and getting them to approve a foot in the door project Quinn was able to educate her clients to see that they needed much more. They would gather information on who their most profitable customer was and who was draining their teams of resources and, with those insights, create a plan of action for the branding, the marketing, and the strategy. The importance of SOPs. Once you start bringing in more customers you need to make sure operations run smoothly, especially with the new hires you will probably need. Quinn acknowledges she didn't really see the importance of systems, processes, and SOPs and the value they brought to the business when she first started her agency. It was only after her team started documenting some of these processes, even if it was in a very basic way at the beginning, and gradually became more detailed that she saw it was really a game-changer that saved them a lot of time. Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Raising Prices With a Roadmap Strategy and Why SOPs Are a Game-changer {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, Quinn. Welcome to the show. Quinn: [00:00:04] Hey, thanks for having me, Jason. Jason: [00:00:06] Yeah. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and, uh, tell us a little bit about the agency that you started. Quinn: [00:00:12] Yeah, so my name is Quinn Zeda. I started freelancing right out of college, which then turned into too much work than I could handle. I started hiring more freelancers, which then kind of morphed into an agency where I started then kind of hiring my first full-time employees that were like really dedicated to me. And after running the agency for a few years, maybe five or six years on, then I shut it down and now I run a startup, um, Conversion Crimes, which is like a user testing SaaS. And yeah, when I ran the agency, we were doing user experience, conversion rate optimization really focused on helping basically businesses around the one to 5 million mark scale. You know, people kind of get a business to a certain point. They reach a glass ceiling and they kind of duct-taped everything together. They found product-market fit. They started making their money and they're like, yeah, but now like what we built doesn't represent who we are anymore. So we come in and kind of restructure that. So… Jason: [00:01:15] Very cool. And what was the biggest accomplishment that you had at the agency before you closed it down and why? Quinn: [00:01:25] Yeah, the biggest accomplishment, I think, was kind of really getting with the value-based pricing that we went on. So when I first started, I was charging like a thousand dollars for a website and I ended at a quarter of a million for a website. So originally, like when I started that, it was like, this client is like a thousand. The next one was 2,000. The next one was 4,000. Then at 8,000, I just kept doubling it every time I would send a proposal out. Granted, the deliverables definitely changed from each one of those jumps and kind of gave me more resources to get more clarity on the kind of projects that we wanted to do. And then I went from like 20K to like 180K and jumped. So I'm super proud of being able to pull that off and then also getting an alignment with what I actually wanted from the business and the work that I really wanted to do. So one of my like biggest frustrations and like these like thousand or $2,000 projects was that I could never really execute them in the way that I wanted to. Like, I would see all these things I wanted to do, but of course their budget is 2K. So I'm not going to do like months of work for like 2K and really getting that in alignment with what I wanted to actually deliver and add value and to have pulled that off. So it was like super, super stoked about that. Jason: [00:02:57] What was the changing point or what made you change from, I think you were saying it was like 20,000 to 180. So that was a big jump. So, what happened? Quinn: [00:03:08] Yeah. So the first one kind of ended up a little bit kind of in my lap, right? So I didn't really kind of go out and pitch that I'm going to sell that for 180 or what have you. It started out as a retainer where we, I like had this roadmap of things I wanted to accomplish for this business, and I couldn't really sell them on that yet. One, I hadn't proven myself yet. I couldn't really articulate the value. And it was also like out of their price range, right? So what I did was it was like, okay, I'm going to do this first project for these like couple of months for this much retainer each month. I think it was like $10K or something like that, and then I'm going to get a result that's going to pay for the next phase. And this is the next phase that we're going to do of this project. And in that, I was able to get some really incredible results for the clients. So then they were like, okay, let's do the next phase. And then when I got that one, I was like, okay, let's do the next phase. And then it ended up being my end goal, right? So yeah, it was a really cool kind of process. Then after that I kind of figured out like, okay, if I did it this way, how can I repeat that was like kind of giving them the end result? So that's when I kind of implemented this roadmapping strategy. Where instead of selling them on like this $200K project or whatever, sold them on a 10K roadmap of which I would just outline the project that I was going to do. Here's the thing, and this is the price. So that's kind of how that transitioned. Jason: [00:04:49] Are you looking for a content creation solution for your agency or clients? Verblio can help you with everything from blog posts, eBooks to video scripts, and a lot more. Verblio is a crowdsource solution to content creation with a pool of more than 3000 highly-vetted writers who produce custom SEO-rich content. In fact, my team has been using Verblio and we love the ease of their process. With Verblio, we set the criteria for the style and the tone, and then they match you with the writers that have the expertise in your subject matter. Verblio is a platform specifically designed for agency, and that's why for a limited time they're offering my listeners 50% off the first month of content, just go to to learn more. That's Verblio V E R B L I Jason: Yeah, I like it. You know, it follows a methodology that I teach a lot of agencies have going sell them a foot in the door, which is basically a strategy, right? Of like, here's everything that we're going to do, and then figure out how long it takes in order for them to start seeing some results. And then it can transition to a monster, you know, engagement, you know, after. And a lot of people just don't figure that out. You know, when I went from the $20,000 websites to the $80,000 websites and beyond it wasn't as graceful as that. It was more about this asshole, literally, I didn't want to say no to this asshole. And I literally was like $80,000, thinking he would just go away. And he said, yes. And then I realized psychologically... Yeah. I was like, shit. Psychologically, I realized I was like, well, other people, this idiot would say it let's find some really good people that we can do really good work with, but I like your story better.   Quinn: [00:06:49] Yeah. And it's, I kind of had like the same thing as well. It's like, oh, I saw one person one time. Like, there's gotta be another person out there that would do this because we had a very unique kind of product that we were doing that was different than other agencies. We did a complete transformation because we were really experts in a lot of those different things. We were able to cohesively pull it together where I think a lot of agencies can't and I also sold them on, like, you're getting our full attention. We only get, we're only doing one major project at a time. So you're getting our team's focus because the kind of work that went into that was like, really this deep work and you can't manage like five clients at the same time. At least I couldn't. Jason: [00:07:33] Yeah, exactly. So what were some of the details that go into it? Cause some people are like holy cow, $250,000 for a website. It's not just a website, right? Like it's strategy, it's research, like talk a little bit about everything that goes into it. Quinn: [00:07:47] Yeah. So, um, I'm really big on customer research and stuff like that. So a lot of these businesses, they just kind of found product market fit through whatever reason, but then they didn't know who their most profitable customer was. They didn't know like who was like draining their teams of resources and stuff. So we would actually go in, we would interview their team. We would interview all their different customer segments. We would go through their analytics, we would do user testing and we would kind of come up with a… we'd spend, like the projects were in general were like eight months long. And so we'd spend like the first three months just going through all of that, getting all the data, making these like reports on them kind of putting all this stuff together and then kind of looking at all of it and being like, okay, this is your most profitable customer, but we're not even speaking to them on the website or we'd find out that people were coming in to the website, but then they were losing them on their backend operations. So they would get a lead in, but then it would take a week to get like their first like class scheduled or something like that, right? And so it was like, okay. And we would also go into operations and help them. Um, cause that's part of, like you say, website conversion rate optimization, right? But it's also, you have to be able to deliver on the back end. So sometimes we help them kind of restructure a little with their team. And then we would take all these insights and we create a plan of action and we would make outlines for sales copy, what kind of things are needed, and then kind of turn it into a final product. So that's like the branding, the marketing, the strategy, kind of really a whole business overhaul. But how I got that lead in was a website. They're like, oh, we need a website. And it's like, well, no, you more than the website. You need to understand where you're taking the business if you want to grow your business. That's like the underlying goal here, right? It's not just about a pretty website with a cool logo. Jason: [00:09:50] Yeah. You know, we always use the website as the end because people would be like, oh, I need a website. Well, why do you need a website? Oh, my competitor just redesigned theirs. Well, no. And yeah, if, if that's all you need go to a particular, you know, template ID site and you can get. Uh, website, you know, just pick a theme and you can do that versus if you really want results, then we can look at it a different way. And I, I liked your process and analysis of everything that you went through. Cause I bet when you're explaining that to the prospect, they're like, oh yeah. And it separates you from everyone else. Did you find that? Quinn: [00:10:33] Yeah. Yeah. And that's a big reason why we started with the roadmap because if I was going to like tell them those things or try to sell them on those things, they didn't believe me really at first, but if I can sell them on a roadmap for the website, and like kind of put those things in there and didn't tell them about it and they're like, oh yeah, that makes total sense. We can't just increase the leads on our website because we're losing them here. So it would make no sense to invest there and not invest here. And nobody else really would point that out to them. So I had to kind of like weasel it in. If that makes sense. Jason: [00:11:06] Yeah, no, exactly. Well, you know, what you're doing is you're educating them. You know, they came to you for a particular, something that they thought they wanted and you educated them. And then like, well, this is the process and it just, there was literally no, probably other choice that they had, you know, after you explained that. So that's, that's amazing. Is there anything else? I mean, this has all been amazing and I always like to keep these short, like I was telling you just so people can really hear it and go, oh man, I need to make this simple if I'm just designing websites or if I'm just doing SEO or pay-per-click or whatever your particular services, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think if you were listening this show back when you were, you know, getting going that you would want to know? Quinn: [00:11:53] I think in the beginning, I didn't really understand the importance of systems and processes and SOPs and stuff like that and how valuable they were to the business. So as like an agency owner, there are tons of processes that happen and even though what we were doing this like huge project that was very custom-tailored to the client, there is still a repeatable creative process in that. And so every time we had someone do something, I had them like document it and start to make these SOPs. And they started out like really primitive, like, here's the 10 steps I'm going to do. I'm going to analyze analytics. Then I'm going to like put that data in a spreadsheet and then I'm going to like something super simple like that. But the next time it's like, oh, I'm adding screenshots. I'm adding the step-by-step about what that means to add the data to the Excel sheet or what have you. And this has like saved me so much time when I'm, I never really created and SOP in my life, but my team has created though. And it's like, when someone else comes in or something, it's like, now I'm just like, oh, here's the SOP. Boom. And I didn't really understand the importance of creating those in the in the beginning, but they've been game-changing for my business overall. Jason: [00:13:17] I love it. I love it. What's the website, what's the SAS website people can go and check you guys out? Quinn: [00:13:23] Yeah. So my SAS website is If you want to check out the old agency site it's Z E D. Aand uh, let's see, like Twitter it's just my name Quinn Zeda. I think I'm like the only one. So that's pretty easy. Jason: [00:13:38] That is easy. Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show and, uh, I wish you the best of luck. And for everyone that listened, if you want to be around other agency owners that can share the things that are working for them and be able to, hopefully, be able to see the things you might not be able to see. I'd love to invite all of you to go to the Apply and if we think you're right for the mastermind and we can help you out, we'll have a conversation. So go do that now and until next time have a Swenk day.

    8 Steps to Create Funny Sales Videos For Your Agency

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 13, 2022 39:41

    Are you thinking of adding funny videos to your sales strategy? This eight-step framework may be just what you need to create successful sales videos. Joseph Wilkins has been creating sales videos since the half-hour infomercials that appear on TV. When his clients stopped getting the results they used to, he knew it was time to change spaces and switched to making videos for social media with his agency In his interview with Jason, he explains his eight-step framework to making successful sales videos, the process to make a solid video script, why you want professional comedians and actors involved in the process, and why you should never prioritize the comedy over the sale. 3 Golden Nuggets Eight steps to making funny sales videos. Joseph has been producing funny videos that sell for many years and has developed a list of eight steps that have worked for him and that will surely serve as a very good framework for anyone that wants to create these types of videos. These steps take you from really understanding who your audience is before even starting to think about ideas for the videos, getting in the habit of writing down at least 50 bad ideas before thinking about the ones that could actually work, the process of making a script that works and adding the comedy punch, hiring the rights talent, and more. And that's just 50% of the process. You're not trying to make the funniest videos. When it comes to videos like these, and as Daniel Harmon when he spoke with Jason about video ads, remember that you're not trying to create a video that is just funny. You're looking to create a video that creates sales. The comedy has to support the sale. If it doesn't, if it distracts from your main objective, then you should cut it out. “Some of the funniest jokes never end up in the video,” Joseph confirms. This is why the creative director will always have to push to get a video that is different and new for the brand, while also being laser-focused on the sales aspect. On agency owners appearing in these videos. “Don't do it!” Joseph puts a lot of emphasis on this point. This kind of video is a top of funnel first impression video. You want to give it a good chance of grabbing the audience's attention and keeping it and getting them to click into your funnel. It's not completely out of the question for the company CEO to appear on a video at a later point in time, but always keep in mind they should not be the comic relief. Comedy takes true skill and Joseph prefers to leave it to the pros. Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out and get 10% off for the first three months of service. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Leave The Comedy To The Pros & Follow These 8 Steps Funny Sales Videos {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing episode and guest where we're going to talk about how to create funny sales videos that don't seem salesy that really get people's attention and convert. So let's go ahead and jump into the show. Hey, Joseph. Welcome to the show. Joseph: [00:00:24] Thanks, Jason, it's good to be here. Jason: [00:00:25] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and tell us a little bit about your agency. Joseph: [00:00:30] Sure. So I own, which is kind of a recent breaker or rebrand to my original agency, which was Procreative. For 20 years we've produced videos that sell, and I'll give you a quick background. We started primarily in television. So back in the day, our very first project, we were focusing on infomercials. So, you know, those huge 30 minute long infomercials that people would find in the middle of the night flipping through their channels. Our very first project did over $200 million in sales and that kind of got us hooked and for the next 15 years that was our main focus, was television. But as you and I well know the way that people watch television, if they even do anymore, has dramatically changed in the past decade or two. And so about five years ago after producing, you know, tons and tons and tons of TV commercials, infomercials and web videos and we'd work for, you know, some of the biggest brands on the planet, Google, LinkedIn, Chevrolet, McDonald's, um, we're a very small boutique agency, but we like to pretend to be clients that we're not so that we can compete with the best of them. But anyway, after about 15 years, our clients basically said we're not getting the results that we used to, you know, we're spending the same amount of money running the creative we're spending sometimes even more for the media buying because it wasn't getting any cheaper, but the results just weren't there because the eyeballs weren't there anymore. And so our clients started saying, what can we do to get back to the results that we used to get? You know, the return on broadcast ad spend that we used to, to see. And about the same time is when the Harmon Brothers, uh, launched their mentorship program. For many years we had kind of watched them and they're actually just down the road from us here in Utah. And, uh, you know, I watched everything that they had been doing with the Squatty Potty, with, uh, Poo-Pourri, Purple Mattress, Chatbooks, Fiber Fix. And, uh, right when they launched their mentorship program, it was kind of a perfect time for us to pivot and really decide is this the new vehicle, that's going to get us the returns that we used to get? And I'll just give you a couple of quick case studies and then we can talk about something else. But before we launched Funny Sales Videos, you know, when clients would call us and say, hey, we saw this really funny video. We want to do a viral video. We would say, sorry, we don´t do that. Whenever people asked for that elusive thing that they think is just push a button and you'll get a viral video. But we don't do funny because frankly, the worst thing that you can do is try to be funny and end up looking silly if you don't have the right people in the bus, as far as the scripting, as far as the acting, as far as the editing, you know, comedic timing, and we can talk about all of those in a minute. But we don't want to do something unless we can do it fully a hundred percent. And that's kind of the missing piece that the Harmon Brothers helped test to figure out with their courses. And I, you know, I, I'm not an affiliate, but I always plug to anyone that's looking to up their marketing skills, whether it's funny or not. And so our very first video, when we launched finally sales videos with this new information that we had got, got over 7 million views, and more importantly, over a half a million dollars in subscriptions to a SAS service that was a very, very niche audience. And so we knew were on to something. Fast forward to today, our biggest campaign is, I think, I got a chat with the client, I think we've hit a hundred million views and just millions of millions of dollars in revenue. So we kind of feel like we've come full circle back to our original days of just killing it on television, that there it's a whole new playbook to work online and also to use humor to essentially trick people into watching a video. Jason: [00:04:51] Yeah, that's awesome. Yeah. I've had the Harmon Brothers on the show and, and had a lot of fun chatting with them. And I even worked with people in the past that have been on those Squatty Potties and that kind of stuff… not in the videos. In producing the videos not, not using the Squatty Potty. I don't think anybody would admit that. I remember one of my buddies was like, well, before I get behind any video, I need to try it. And then he was like it works! So it was funny. Let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about kind of the eight steps that you found that really works for your framework. What's the first one for someone creating a really good sales video? Joseph: [00:05:37] Yeah. So we, uh, this is the ebook that anyone can download from our website We basically just put it together because a lot of the time we'll have clients that want to do a video and we only take on kind of two or three clients at a time. So the very first step is, you know, it's marketing 101, it's understanding who your audience is, what their pain points are, creating as detailed customer avatar as possible. And again, your audience is more savvy than most, but a lot of people I tell them you never write a letter and then walk to the mailbox and decide before you put it in the mailbox who to address it to, but that's what a lot of people do when they sit down and they write these scripts, they just think about the product and they think about why did I start this company? Or why did I invent this product? And unless you really do the homework to figure out who is your customer and what they already saying about your product? We get too caught up in drinking our own Kool-Aid and, and an exercise that the Harmon Brothers taught us that everybody should do is go out and spend a good chunk of time reading through dozens and dozens and dozens of customer reviews. Find out, what are people saying about your product? What do they like? What do they not like? What could you improve upon? Or what do you need to address in your marketing that will overcome the objections? You know, whether it's price, so you have to build a value proposition that, you know, yours is more valuable in the long run, or whatever it is, but really spend the time to identify the key selling points that cold traffic… And these videos are top of funnel videos, right? So they're not that they're intended to convert cold traffic into clicks to your sales funnel. And so you've got to get them very quickly with the top-selling points. And then, if necessary, if there are objections that you've got to overcome, you know unanswered concerns never lead to a sale, so you've got to figure out what are your key selling points? What are any objections you need to overcome? And then these kinds of videos when we launched them on number one comment that we look for, and frankly that we get very often, is I loved watching that video because that person just felt like me, or it felt like a friend or it felt, I want to be friends with that person. Well that's because that person is you. We've stolen lines that you've written in your customer reviews and we've created a character that is so close to the customer avatar that it connects on a much, much deeper level. And just a final thought, you know, some businesses will say, well, what if I don't have a hundred reviews to read through? Well, go and steal from competitors. Go read what other company's clients are saying. If their products are close to yours, it's the same market. So number one is just do your homework. Don't set pen to paper until you have a really solid understanding. Jason: [00:08:41] Yeah. You know, I always tell agency owners that they have to have a real clear understanding of who their audience is and really in your marketing, it should be going after a specific audience. And I really like what you were talking about overcoming objections, because that's a really good one. Like if you think about, when you're talking to your sales team and thinking of like, here are the objections. And like literally if you called them out and you were like, here are the objections and then like on the video, you're going to get their attention. So what's number two? Joseph: [00:09:10] Exactly. Okay, so number two is kind of the fun one that is harder to quantify, but it's the brainstorming. And what I always like to tell people is before you get scared, you know, thinking about a blank sheet of paper or an empty whiteboard or an empty Word document, I tell people your goal… And so this kind of video, we're looking for two things in the brainstorming phase, we're looking for number one, who's the character, the main character that this video is about? And number two, what is the big problem that they are going to present in the video? And obviously your product or solution has to overcome and solve that problem. But you're got to get really creative and come up with crazy fun, irrelevant ideas. I tell people come up with 50 bad ideas. Don't judge them. Don't filter them, get as many people into your brain, share as possible as you're brainstorming this. But you're looking for answer the two questions 50 times. Now people will say, that's, that's crazy. And I say, yes, it is. And that's part of the, the method is that bad ideas will lead to good ideas. And if you don't put any judgment on it, it takes away the fear. And so we will literally sit down in, in my agency we'll do it virtually. We do it, we throw up a shared document and my writers will get into a document and it'll normally take us about a couple of weeks between four or five of us to just throw bad idea of the bad idea. And then once you've got your 50 bad ideas, now you put on your, your serious thinking cap and you look at okay, which of these speaks to me? Which of these has the flavor of a fun story? And that's what you're looking for. Forget selling. Right now all you're interested in is hooking people's attention and getting them to watch past the first few seconds. And so the more fun that character can be, the more bizarre that situation while still being intellectually relevant. It doesn't have to be literally relevant. I mean, there's no relevance in a magical unicorn that craps out ice cream, but it's relatable to the Squatty Potty because you can draw a parallel. And so don't, you know, sometimes our videos are very, very, the customer avatar is the hero of the video. And sometimes it's a completely fictitious character that is still relatable to that customer avatar, but you really have to do the brainstorming to be able to arrive at what are the best ideas? And then as an agency owner, what I do is I present my best five ideas to the client. So as an agency that's, that's what I would recommend. Don't give them the 50 bad ideas because they'll think you're a terrible agency. Give them the five best ideas and sometimes the worst ideas on the paper to begin with will spark somebody else to say, well, that's bad, but actually what if we flipped that and come up, you know, you can get great ideas by going off on tangents. So step two is brainstorming as many ideas as possible only worrying about those two things. Who's the character? And what's the big problem? Jason: [00:12:33] I really liked that, the brainstorming. And I liked that you said present, you know, the five best ideas that you have. Now, one of the things that I learned early on is don't tell people, be like, hey, we have incredible ideas for you. These are the best ideas we've ever come up with. Because if the clients hate it, then they're going to be like, you're an idiot. And they're going to think you're a real bad agency going forward. So just always preface as, hey, we've got some from five ideas to go by. Don't get really Gung-ho for them because if they do shoot you down, that's fine. Then you can go off to the next one. Joseph: [00:13:09] Yeah. So before I go on to three, just another power tip, you know, since your audience are agency owners primarily. Uh, along the lines of what you just said, what we do is when we present those five ideas to the client, we tell them here they are, they're not in any particular order. We're not going to show you all hand of which ones we like best until we get feedback from you. And so you basically, you're trying to get the client to get ownership, right? If they pick the best idea… now, if there are five ideas and there's one that clearly you feel like is going to have the best success as an agency you're obliged to then share well, you had, that was good, but, you know, have you thought about, you know, this, this and this? So yes. Yeah. There's politics when you dealing with clients as always. So anyway, step three is scripting. This is where the rubber meets the road. You're going to actually develop your script. Now, the first thing you do is go back to step one and look at your key selling points that you identified. And most of the time, these videos are three to four minutes long for the long version. We do shorter versions, but the hero version, which incidentally, typically tests out the best when you're on a platform that allows longer versions, you can probably communicate three to five key selling points in that video, in that amount of time. Now your most mentioned reason why people buy should be, you know, hit over the head multiple times in that video. So it's a prioritized list, but you take your key selling points. You take any objections, that becomes your marketing framework for the script. Then you take your character and the problem and you bring in a creative writer to create the story arc. Now in my world, I use many many freelance creative writers and people would say, well, what if I don't have a really good writer that understands this kind of comedy? Well this step it's not funny. It's just a creative storyteller that you want to do this part of the scripting. We actually have 6, 7, 8 writers on every project that we produce. And I'll talk more about that in a minute. So you basically take the story writer, the creative writer that takes the elements and build the story. And I always used Donald Miller's story, is it StoryBrand? As a framework for how a good story should be written. So you got somebody who has a problem who meets a guide who shows them the solution, and then has the transformation that then shows how their world or their life is better because of that solution. So that's the arc that we're trying to get. And we're also trying to call them to action. Now, once you've got your story, you also need to make sure that you spend a lot of time writing your big hook. That's the first five seconds of your video. Nothing past that first five seconds matters if you don't create something that's attention-grabbing and the also works with the sound off, because 80% of people watching aren't going to have the sound on. And we going to have to create visuals and titles and literally design in subtitles so that visually you're telling all of the story without the sound on. And then, you know, the goal of that is to get people, to turn the sound on and peak their curiosity enough. So that's step three is writing the basic script. It's not funny, but it's fun, right? It's an entertaining story. And then step four, I bring in on every project, at least five professional comedy writers. Now this is the difference between what I said earlier about how I used to say, I won't do a sales video because we don't have the talent to do that in-house. And so I spent a lot of time looking for good professional comedians. Now, how do your agency owners do that if they don't have any connections? Well, there are a lot of online freelance sites like Fiverr and Upwork and other places where good comedy writers in their spare time write for other people, you know, freelances. I also watch a lot of standup comedy and I'll reach out to people. I'll send them an email or I'll go to the website and talk to their agent and you'd be surprised at how affordable some, I, I won't tell you the names, but some people that you would recognize from big sitcoms, the lead writers. They apparently don't get paid enough because they still want to do freelance work on the side. I also have guys that worked for me that work on cruise ships as comedians. Jason: [00:18:04] Are you looking for a reliable partner to increase your agency's bandwidth so you can take on more projects? You know, our partner at E2M wants to help you grow your revenue, your profit margins without increasing your overhead costs. Now they're a white label web design and development agency that's been providing white label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Their team is over 120 experienced, skilled digital experts that's highly motive to help you get more done in less time. Now they can help you in all kinds of digital areas, including web design, development, e-commerce, SEO, copywriting, content marketing, and a lot more. If you're not sure whether E2M is the right fit for your agency. I want you to check out their flexible and transparent pricing. Go to For a limited time, they're offering my smart agency listeners 10% off for the first three months of service. That's So how much would you pay someone like you were talking about? Joseph: [00:19:17] Now you're asking to me to give away all of my secrets. I would say a decent rate is like a hundred bucks an hour. And… really, oh yeah. Yeah, well, maybe not to the, some of the higher-end ones. I paid a thousand dollars to the guy that I was mentioning that they worked for a bigger show. But you got to understand, you're not looking for them to write a script. All I'm asking them to do is review a sprit that already exists. Comedians aren't good at writing. They're good at creating jokes, right? They're not good at writing stories. They're good at bits, right? Fragments. Punch up, that's the technical term. When I reach out to a comedian, I say, hey, I've got a script it's fully written, I just need someone to punch it up with some jokes, add in some witty comedy, a word here, a word there, a line here, a line there. That's all you're looking for. And normally, you know, an hour or two for comedian. And then when you do that with five different comedians and everyone's kind of in the virtual writer's room, seeing everyone else's comments, it's kind of like Saturday night live. That's how they do it. They lock everyone in a writer's room and the riff off each other. So I do that in a virtual environment. Does that make sense? Jason: [00:20:31] I really like that. And I like how they're all going off and building on each other's work rather than going, oh, we have five comedians. They all submitted it. Which one do you like? And then you're trying to make it better. I really liked that. That's my favorite part. Joseph: [00:20:46] That could be difficult sometimes because, I'll just be honest, It's kind of serendipitous how the script evolves depending on which writer put their comments in first because everyone's building off the previous one and there's no real stretcher for that, but the chaos just kind of seems to work. I don't know if that makes sense, but it's a front part of the process. Probably the most fun. Jason: [00:21:09] Yeah. I think that would be a lot of fun. So what's the next step after this? Joseph: [00:21:12] Okay. So just one more point on comedy. You're not looking to create a funny video. You're looking to create a video that creates sales. And so, because of that, some of the funniest jokes never end up in the video. The comedy has to support the sale. If it's distracting from the sale, if it goes off on a tangent that doesn't advance the sale, if it's too edgy, too offensive, obviously it's going to get flagged on Facebook or, you know, Instagram. There are certain rules that you have to follow. So, but the hard part of as a creative director, and that's what I do, I, I kind of am the one that reviews everyone's comments and decides which ones make the cut. My job is to protect the brand while still pushing it to be different than, than anything that they're done before. Cause that's why they're coming to us in the first place, but also number on my, I need to be laser-focused on the sale. So just keep that in mind. You're not just looking for the funniest jokes, you're looking for things that will advance, the story. Number one, get them to stay watching. And then number two, get them to advance, to click through to your sales funnel. Number five is production. Now you would think as a guy who has spent literally 20 years running a video production studio… I mean, if we were to go in the other room, I could show this huge studio with, you know, million dollars of crap, man, you would think that I would say the most important part production is getting the best cameras and the best lights and the right crew. Not true. The number one thing about production is casting. Finding the right actor to be your hero, to guide them through this journey. The two most important parts of your video success are the script and the actor. Everything else you can literally shoot with your iPhone and get better results than me taking a million dollars and having a bad script and a bad actor. And in today's world, the democratize video, you know, this 4k camera here. I would have died for this 20 years ago. So if there's no excuses anymore, people can produce great content. Now, how do I find the right actor? Well, you might be surprised to hear that for every actor, and I'm talking to hero actor. There are supporting actors and other extras in our videos, but there's really only one hero actor. I will look at over a hundred candidates before I select my actor. Now some agency owners may not know this, but the process of casting and getting actors to audition cost you nothing but your time. Here's how I do it. I'll go to two or three good acting agencies here in my town, depending on where you live, you'll have more or less. I will go to those agencies and I'll give them a portion of the script. You don't want to give them the whole thing. it'll overwhelm an actor. Just give them a good chunk of the script, maybe three or four paragraphs. But also before I do that, I'll look at the demo reel. I'll look at their pictures and I'll pick out of those hundred. I'll probably pick 20 of them to send the script and ask the urgency to have them do self-taped auditions. In the world of COVID, everyone has a setup right now. With the zoom recording, whether it's the foreign that laptop, just like we're doing right now. And so I'll get back about 20 videos that are prerecorded auditions from these actors. Then I'm going to select my top three to five and I'm going to invite my client to a joint zoom session. A lot of the times I'll have the actor come into my studio, or sometimes I'll just have them stay at home and do it. But what I'm doing there is I'm looking to see how directable, how coachable are they? Can they do this line faster? Can they slow it down here? Can they put the emphasis on this word? I'm looking for how do they respond to me as a director because anyone can do a really good audition with no pressure and do 20 takes and send the best one, but can they perform on the day? The other thing that I'm looking for is what do they add to the script that I haven't written? What spontaneity do they bring out while we're filming? Because during the production, your script should get better if you picked the right actor. And I love to cast actors that have experience in comedy specifically improv so that they can add things and riff off of what I've written or what my team has written. And so acting, I could spend hours just talking about that one subject, but the final thing I'll say about production is backing up to what I said earlier. Yes, everyone has an iPhone, but guess what? Every single other video on someone's Facebook feed or Instagram feed or on YouTube, every other video has been shot with their iPhone or with their, whatever smartphone. So if you want to stand out and be disruptive, you should hire the professionals. And so having both the right script, the right actor and a team of really good film production company that really knows how to shoot things, that's just going to increase your results. So that's step five, production. And again, I go into way more detail in my ebook on each of these things. Jason: [00:26:48] Awesome. I love it. And one of the things I want to ask you, because a lot of times, especially with agencies, you know, I tell them you need to position yourself as that trusted advisor, right? The Yoda, the Obi-wan, right? Rather than the Luke Skywalker. And in doing that, and if you're creating a video and then you hire an actor and they're like, oh, that was an actor that wasn't us. So what are your thoughts on an agency doing their own video and having one of them being in the video? Because you know, one of the things… Joseph: [00:27:25] No. Don't do it. Don't do it. Jason: [00:27:28] Don't do it? Joseph: [00:27:29] No, for this… I have very strong opinions on this matter, so feel free to disregard, but these are my opinions. Marketing is like a salad. You should have all kinds of different ingredients. This kind of video that I'm talking about is a top-of-funnel first impression video. You want to give your very best chance of grabbing their attention and keeping their attention and getting them to click into your funnel. Once they're in your funnel, by all means, throw at them other kinds of videos. CEO videos, customer testimonials, be in more videos for sure. But unless like the Dollar Shave Club guy, which a lot of people don't realize this, unless you are a trained comedian and have experience with acting, don't try to be funny because you'll end up looking silly. That's what I've seen. Now I've seen this, the rules broken a couple of times well, but I can't tell you in the 20 years that I've been doing this, how many times I've had a CEO that says, I think I can act, we get into the studio and they suck. Jason: [00:28:41] I get that. I get that. Joseph: [00:28:43] So it's a very specific kind of skill. Comedy is the hardest thing for me. Jason: [00:28:48] Yes. And I'm glad you preface that because I know a lot of people listening are thinking about, well, I want people to recognize me, but this is just to get their attention and then you can get them later on because you know, one of the things I always worried about, and I think they think about with putting all this together is… You know, I think about with, um, what was the T-Mobile guy? Or let's say there's like, um, Fey, uh, Progressive Insurance. Let let's say she's like, you know, she's in all their videos and then let's say they don't like her anymore. Well, everyone associates progressive to Fey. And now they have to find a new spokesman and then it just gets harder. But I'm glad you explained that. Cause I actually agree with that as well, because I've seen some really bad videos. Hell, people have tried to mock some of our videos that we've done and I'm like, that was really, really bad. Don't do that again. Joseph: [00:29:43] Yes, yes. Now there is one place that I'll, I'll make an exception. If during this video you want to bring in someone, you know, very short clip that basically says, here's the dude who invented it. And I've actually seen the Harmon Brothers do this pretty well with Lumē, their deodorant. They had some scientists expert who was somehow involved with the clinical trial and they burnt him in just as a start, like a second, you know, I'm the guy that's going to make some credibility here, but then they actually make fun of him in the video. There's a way that you can do it if you really want the CEO to be in the video, but don't make them the comic relief in the sense that they're trying to be funny. Jason: [00:30:31] Yup. Got it. What's the next step? What number are we on? Um, I've lost track of the numbers. Joseph: [00:30:36] This is number six and the two after are a pretty quick. So we'll go quick cases. For step six, you've always heard the phrase comedy is about timing and when it comes to step six, which is editing, nothing could be more truthful. The difference between an editor who understands timing, especially comedic timing, and somebody that just knows how to edit is very different. And so I'll give you an example, you know, we'll do film shoots and we'll do a line and the actor, and it's very well written and it's very well acted. But when we get into the edit, something's just not working. The line doesn't hit the way that in our brains we thought it would and a good editor can simply put a cut here and punch from a wide shot to a close-up or take out a pause or overlap two sentences, or bring somebody else in quicker or even rearrange the entire sequence. And all of a sudden it works. It's all about timing and it's also, you know, not a people back to the point I made earlier. A lot of people are surprised to hear our videos are three to four minutes long. They say people don't have the attention to watch those kinds of videos. And I say, uh, have you heard of Netflix? They still put out two hour long videos and people are watching them. People don't stop watching the videos because they're long. They stop watching cause they suck. They stop watching because they're boring. They start watching because they're irrelevant. And so, if your goal is to not make your video boring, you got to speed it up. It's got to be action packed from beginning to end. Our videos, the script feel more like five minutes when we read them. But when we filmed them and edit them so tight with taking out breaths, with speeding things up with, you know, literally over cutting people's sentences talking over each other. So that at no point in that video can you say, oh, that feels long, or that feels boring. You still gonna get most people that don't watch it through to the end. In fact, the Harmon Brothers have said that only 5% of people that watch their videos make it through to the end. But 5% of a hundred million people is a whole lot of qualified people ready to click into your sales funnel. So you've got an editor who knows how to keep it snappy and fast, people won't get bored. The other thing that we do is for most of our clients, depending on what package they go with, we deliver 32 different versions of the same video. Because what we're doing is we're giving them a whole bunch of data to test. You know, you've heard of AB split testing, well we do A through Z split testing. We're going to create three totally different opening hooks. We're going to test which one gets watched through the most. We're going to create three different calls to action. We're going to test which one gets clicked on the most. We're going to do the long version. We're going to do the short versions. We're going to do the square versions for mobile. We're going to do the wide-screen versions for YouTube and for desktop. So all of these variables so that it's not leaving things to chance. In our early days, it's kind of embarrassing to admit this, but even to this day our most successful video, then now has over 50 million views on one video. We didn't do this to, we just guessed and we were right. But guess what? We're seldom right every time. And so what we like to do now is give our clients every single opportunity to test so that it's not gambling on one version, we're doing the split testing. So a good editor knows how to create all of those different versions. So that's step six. Step seven we've already briefly touched on it, but it's the testing. And this might be the time to reveal the dirty secret that none of our videos organically went viral. That's not what it's about. This is about creating a video that where you spend a dollar on advertising, you get 2, 3, 4, or $5 in return. I explained it like a vending machine that's full of a hundred dollar bills and it costs $20 to use. How many times are you going to want to use that machine? So understand that once you've produced this video, that's only 50% of the work. You've now got to build a dynamite sales funnel, and you've got to have a dynamite media buyer who understands how to buy Facebook, YouTube, you know, hopefully in step one, we've already identified who is your customer and where are they viewing online so that, you know, where you're most likely going to end up. But having said that most of our videos they're fairly platform agnostic. We test them on YouTube. We test on Facebook. Test them on Instagram. So knowing that this is a conversion video, not a organically viral video. Now organic views will come, maybe five to 10% of all views are organic because people love to share them and comment on them. And, you know, engagement is just through the roof on these kinds of videos. So we do get kind of a cherry on the top of the cake, but the cake is paid ads. So know that and plan for it. And budget for it. Final step, I've already said it, it's don't think that this is going to be something that you going to put her or this work into a video, and then you're just going to go famous overnight. That's no business model that I could predict, control, repeat. And we've heard about people that win the lottery and go broke, kind of liken it to companies that, you know, sometimes get a whole bunch of seed money and don't really know what to do with it. In the world of video hits there are so many examples of companies that did have videos that went viral back in the old days, but where are they now? You want a repeatable controllable business that you can count on. And, you know, we have clients that have done 7, 8, 9 of these videos because every single time it's worked, it's given them that return. It's not a flash in the pan and going through the steps is the best way to ensure that it will predictably bring those returns that your company needs or your clients need. So those are my eight steps. Jason: [00:37:13] I love it. I love the eight steps and they're so simple, and I'm glad you clarified on a lot of them because I can't tell you how many times I hear agencies I was like, we need to get more attention and we need to create a viral video. Or, and they're just, I'm like, there's so many different things that go into creating a successful video. And I totally agree with you on all the steps. I mean, they're very well laid out and I'm glad you've built upon other people's framework for, from, you know, Donald's to the Harmon Brothers. Because when I look at growing our agency and growing the mastermind and seeing other agency owners, it's no one ever invents everything. It's always like, especially with your creative process, it's always just building on that. And I really do appreciate that and that's why you guys are really successful. Tell us, um, if people want to know more where can they go? Joseph: [00:38:06] Real simple, Take a look at some of the examples videos there, there's some case studies there, but most importantly, that's where you can download the free ebook that will give you that. And I should just add if, if you're looking to follow these steps to do it right, we won't take on a client until they understand this is going to take at least four months. To go through all of these steps you got to take the time to do it right. Just want to make sure people understand this isn't the kind of thing that you don't want your clients calling up saying, hey, we need a video in a week. What kinds of videos can you produce? Hey, I've just heard this podcast. Maybe we'll try that. No, it's gotta be, it's got to take the time to get the results. Jason: [00:38:49] Awesome. Well, I love it. And thanks so much for coming on the show. Make sure everyone to go to their website and check them out. And if you guys want to be around other amazing agency owners, where you can build on what they've learned over their years of scaling and growing their agency faster, so you can do the same and really do it the right way and avoid some of the pain. You'll never avoid all the pain, but I'd love to invite all of you to go check out digital agency elite and, um, see a band, just check out the stories from the other mastermind members there of their growth and their success and what their life looks like now, rather than working around the clock and not enjoying what they're doing. So make sure you go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    Can You Scale Your Agency Fast Without Burning Through Talent?

    Play Episode Listen Later Feb 9, 2022 17:58

    Are you struggling to retain employees? Do you know how to keep scaling without burning through talent? When Robert Glazer started Acceleration Partners, he always had a vision of working with an international team. Now, his agency, which is focused on managing partnership and affiliate programs for high-growth brands, has 300 employees in eight different countries. Robert joined Jason in this episode to talk about how he avoids burning through talent, how he trains his employees to ask why, and what he invested in to get beyond the referral stage. 3 Golden Nuggets Beyond the referral stage. Robert ran a referral-based agency for about 15 years. Of course, it couldn't last forever and eventually, they started focusing more on sales and marketing so he and his partner would be less overwhelmed by the sales aspect. It's a stage every agency will go through and they faced it by investing in leadership, having great marketing, and great delivery. In the end, they have exponential revenue growth from the time they started scaling the sales and marketing team and hired a fully integrated sales and marketing team. On not burning through talent. With an agency that has been in Glassdoor's best places to work, what have they focused on when building their culture? Robert says they always had a vision of working remotely with employees from different countries. They have also focused on offering a work environment where employees can grow professionally, which is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs. In the end, agency life is not for everyone, some will love its unpredictable nature and others won't, but Robert made sure to create a culture that does not reward overworking employees unnecessarily and offers flexible hours. Asking why. On the subject of them not rewarding working extra hours with little results, Robert explains they have resorted to training employees to ask why. Why does the client need this data by tomorrow? Could this be solved any other way? Do they really need everything they think they need? “Don't assume, because they're asking for something that it's the right thing or you can't explain to them the trade-off or explain the consequences,” he says. Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease in their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Scaling Your Agency Faster Without Burning Through Talent {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another great episode where we're going to talk about how you can scale your agency rapidly without burning through a ton of talent, because all of us have been going through and going, how do we keep employees and how do we find the right talent? And on today's episode, I have a guest that's going to talk exactly about that, that's done this. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode. Hey, Robert, welcome to the show. Robert: [00:00:32] Thanks for having me, Jason. Jason: [00:00:33] Yeah. So tell us who you are and what you do. Robert: [00:00:36] Uh, yeah, I'm Bob Glazer. I'm the founder and the chairman of the board of Acceleration Partners. Acceleration Partners is the largest global independent agency focused on managing partnership and affiliate programs for well-known and high-growth brands. Uh, we have almost 200 clients and, uh, I think, uh, getting close to 300 employees across eight countries and we manage programs across 25 different countries. Jason: [00:01:02] Very cool. And so how did you start the agency? What made you fall into this? Robert: [00:01:08] Uh, like most agency owners… No, I don't know anyone who started the agency intentionally. I just, you know, I started doing some work in the affiliate space. I found a lot of problems with it. I started helping a company fix its program. Uh, that company ended up being a huge success. It was called Tiny Prints. Sold them to Shutterfly for $300 million. People then spread out from that and start saying, hey, can we do that thing that you helped us with there? And then I couldn't do enough of those. So I hired some people, so, and sort of the rest was history from there. So we were very, for years, just all referral-based, uh, word of mouth, you know, 15 years. It's really in the last five years that we've had kind of sales and marketing a little bit before. Jason: [00:01:47] So, what were some of the stages that you went through, you know, in order, like, obviously go through the referral stage, right? And you only can get to a certain plateau. And I feel a lot of people listening to the show right now, you know, are at that level, right. They're kind of plateaued, you know, it could be at 5 million, 10 million, whatever it is, they're plateaued, but you have to do something different. What were the things that you guys did different? Robert: [00:02:10] We invested a lot in thought leadership, content marketing. We wrote a book that was the first in our industry called Performance Partnerships. So we really focused on having great… someone sent me the barbell strategy, having great marketing, having great delivery, which drove the word of mouth. Eventually, though, you know, we were like, look, we don't want to sell or need to sell. Eventually, myself and Matt who is now CEO who is the VP of client services, we're just handling sales calls all day. So even if they were inbound, right, then you had to talk to these people. And we were, you know, the people that called us, we answered the phone, but we weren't following up with them and checking in and the things that you need to do to keep, uh, a sales pipeline moving. So eventually we started to acquiesce. It was like, look, even if we don't want to be cold calling people like this is a lot of, I find, to manage. But from the time we started scaling the sales and marketing team and now with a fully integrated sales and marketing team, I mean, we will, we will sell more this year revenue than we did in our for… Our revenue growth this year will be more than our first 10 years, right? Combined. So it takes a while to get those pieces working. You can go either way. Again, it depends on the type of business you want to build. I wanted to establish our marketing before our sales, like, get the demand going, but, you know, I've seen the opposite approach work too where you get account development and people calling and doing that. We had a really good referral pipeline and we thought that that thought leadership would also help on the conversion of, you know, the people who are examining us. Jason: [00:03:39] Gotcha. So what have you seen work to allow you to scale rapidly without burning through talent? Robert: [00:03:45] Yeah, look, it's hard in this business. Paradoxically, I would say, you know, we, we started by sort of in the premise, you know, five or 10 years ago that people aren't gonna stay here forever and turning that into sort of an open conversation and, you know, having a productive alumni group. But we've, we've actually always been remote. We focused on having sort of a world-class, uh, culture. We spent a lot of time and energy on our culture have been in Glassdoor's best places to work a few years. And look, agency life is not for everyone, but what's interesting is people who come here from other agencies really say to us, this is really different. Some people are a lot of people, realize agency is not right for them. Maybe that's not the work that they want. So we've done a lot to really screen the type of person who likes that fast growth, high pace. You are serving clients. If you don't like client service, probably not a great role, but they like the kind of unpredictability and working on something new and different. I think that the biggest thing that keeps your talent around is investing in your talent and helping them grow and develop. That's one of the reasons we are a growth firm and that growth has allowed for, you know, I think we've had 87 seven promotions last year or something like that, you know, across our team. So for people to see that, oh, that person started associate and manager and now they are a director or VP. And that, that path is available to them. I think these days people leave for two reasons. They don't, they don't like their manager, maybe three reasons, they don't like what they're doing or they just don't, they're not growing or don't see a path for them. I don't think anyone here is blocked. I mean, that's one of the nice things. If you go up 30% a year for a while, as we have, there's just new roles available every year. No, no one is blocked on their development path. Jason: [00:05:31] So when someone joins from another agency, what do they say it's different? Robert: [00:05:35] I think that… look, there's an interesting expectation gap. I actually think the last year has really shown some almost generational gaps in the workplace. We didn't see it before, you know, for better, for worse. I think some gen Z or people coming out now, I mean, they just, they think a 35 hour or 40 workweek is, is a work. That's the workweek and the expectation isn't above that. Some people want to learn and be exposed to a lot of things and understand that they're going to have to do that. But I think the biggest difference… so, so look there's times when there's a lot of work or whatever proposal was due and clients are, but we generally want to solve these problems. We generally don't want people, they don't work weekends. They don't work nights. And so what I've heard people express is at other agencies, people just didn't care if I was working 18 hours a day and they didn't care if I was burnt out or work weekends. They're like, no one wants that here. No, one's asking me to do that. But again, I