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

    • Dec 1, 2021 LATEST EPISODE
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    Do You Struggle Deciding Between Niching Down or Going Wide?

    Play Episode Listen Later Dec 1, 2021 15:11

    Dmitriy Pisarev became fascinated with computers and started building his first website at a very young age. He never lost that fascination and eventually got interested in direct response marketing, copywriting, and e-commerce marketing optimization, which is what led to starting his agency Conversion Whisperer. However, with diverse interests and a wide range of skills, Dmitriy has had a hard time choosing a specific niche. In this conversation with Jason they talk about how he changed his perspective on what his agency is, the struggle between niching down or going wide, and how figuring out your 'why 'should always be at the core of everything you do. 3 Golden Nuggets Should you niche? Dmitriy loved to lead his business by looking for new challenges that sound interesting, fun or like a difficult problem. However, he was made aware of a rule in business that you should pick a market, pick a service, and focus on that. “It sounds very easy,” he comments, “but in a way, it's more difficult”. He can see the benefits and downsides of both. On one side, you're forced to do things that are not necessarily repeatable and are not scalable by not picking a market. But on the other, you're able to learn so much in those ventures, like is his case in e-commerce. He has been able to explore that space and is happy with the things he has learned by not niching down. It takes time to figure out a direction for your business. On creating an assembly line. Sometimes agency owners believe that they can teach other people to be the unicorns that they are. “It's like Superman trying to teach people how to fly,” Dmitriy says. People may not have the experience to comprehend what you're expecting. When you have a lot of talents and a lot of experience and can solve any problem better than most people, it may be difficult when you start to create a team and they can't keep up. Dmitriy realized that it's about creating an assembly line, a process that could be followed from start to finish without many tangents in an expected way with everything to set it up. The only way to do that is to niche down. Figure out your 'why.' What is your reason for growing an agency? Do you know what it is? Are you after a specific lifestyle or want to accumulate a certain wealth that you can pass on to your grandchildren? Why are you pushing through? It may sound corny, but not everyone has figured out their motivation. Dmitriy believes this is the core of everything. “Once you figure out your why, revisit it,” he says. “Figure it out. Make sure it's aligned. Talk with your partner about it with your team, your leadership, just so they're all aligned.” If the trophy is worth it, maybe you'll do something that's not as exciting but drives revenue. 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 Choose Your Path Between Niching Down or Going Wide and Figure Out Your Why {These transcripts have been auto-generated. While largely accurate, they may contain some errors.} Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? I got another amazing guest and episode for you. One of our mastermind members. And we're going to talk about, should you niche, or should you go wide? He's been debating about this for a long time and it's going to be a really cool episode. He's a lot of fun, very smart. And let's get into the episode. Hey, Dmitriy. Welcome to the show. Dmitriy: [00:00:27] What's going on, Jason? Jason: [00:00:30] Yeah. Tell us who you are and what do you do? Dmitriy: [00:00:33] A marketer aspiring to be a great leader. Run an agency that's focused on traffic, funnels, and email nurture sequences. And, um, we work with cool people. That's the qualifier. Jason: [00:00:47] Well, why do you work with me? Dmitriy: [00:00:52] You're, you're kind of a cool guy sometimes. Jason: [00:00:53] Sometimes. Sometimes. Dmitriy: [00:00:54] Yeah. When the moon aligns. Jason: [00:00:56] That's right. So tell us, how did you get started in this agency life? Why did you start an agency? Dmitriy: [00:01:02] Has anyone ever given you like a linear answer where it's like, oh, I went to school for this. You know, took a course and graduated and… Jason: [00:01:11] No. No one has. Dmitriy: [00:01:12] Yeah, I don't think it works that way. Jason: [00:01:13] Yeah, it doesn't. Dmitriy: [00:01:15] Yeah, man. I, I got fascinated with, uh, computers when I was, when I was nine years old and I built my first website right around then. And just, I discovered the magic of the internet. Just been fascinated with it ever since. Got really big into, uh, or deep into direct response marketing, copywriting. Then e-commerce marketing optimization. I feel like I'm, uh, collecting coins along the path of like different skillsets that will help me in the future. So really the agency was the evolution of not being able to handle the opportunities that were coming in. And for the longest time it's been like, we're an anti-agency agency where, you know, we we're, we're not what other agencies are. We worked with a very limited amount of clients and it's, uh, you know, service, integrity and dedication to delivering on the promises that we set is really important. And then just out of necessity, hiring a team, and then all of a sudden it's like, well, you guys are an agency. So I guess we are. Jason: [00:02:18] Yep. Awesome. Why do you say anti-agency? You know, there's so many people that kind of say that. Like they think agency means something bad. And I get it, cause I'm the same way about coaching. I think coaches are full of shit. I think most coaches are the ones that have never done anything. Why do you think so many people are, they'll be like, oh no, I'm not an agency. I'm like you get paid for services, marketing services…? Dmitriy: [00:02:44] Yeah, man. And like, you've, you've really helped me change the perspective on that just last year. You know, I feel like there's a presupposition to what an agency is, or like a, a misunderstanding. And it's, it's just based off of the bad taste that's been left in people's mouths working with people who are more focused on the recurring revenue than the, the value of the relationship. So, you know, in a weird way, it is kind of like a, a way to reframe the relationship and just help them better understand that things are going to be different around here. And one of our qualifiers is that clients had to have fired at least three agencies before working with us. So they know that it's not a fluke, right? So they know that it wasn't just a, the person didn't get me or they didn't pay attention or they didn't understand. You know, it's like, no, this, this is really difficult, right? Just past having a plan of action and then being able to execute on it. When you are working in an agency environment, having that leadership in place, the processes, the systems to support communication and milestones and targets. If you're looking at it purely from a hitting a certain goal of recurring revenue, it feels like what we're doing is a little different. And part of that is also the complexity of some of the messes that we've gotten ourselves into by really me leading us into the unknown of like the complexities of, hey, this client has this specific need. No one's been able to solve it for them. This sounds interesting. This sounds really fun. It sounds like a difficult problem. I love puzzles. Let's try to figure it out and let's set clear expectations that we haven't done this before. We do understand kind of what it encompasses and how to approach it, and we're able to pivot quickly. So if you're up for it, let's try to figure it out. And that's been, you know, part of the distraction. Jason: [00:04:36] Yeah, totally agree. So let's get into kind of the colossal decision for, you know, niching down or going wide. Walk us through kind of what you've been through, you know, with trying to make this decision. Cause I've, I've witnessed it firsthand. Dmitriy: [00:04:53] Yeah. It's like, uh, we get those flashbacks of PTSD. The war images. Jason: [00:05:00] I'm trying to make you cry. That's my goal. Dmitriy: [00:05:06] Yeah. Yeah, man. So look… There's this concept of building a business and an assembling a business that, um, I've been made aware of just very recently. And I think building an agency is, is… You've told me when we first started working together, like pick a market, pick a service and focus on that, which is really easy to say. And I think there's been a lot of experience and realizations that are, have become so true to you that it's almost like not an option to go down the other path. In a way, this is the difficult. Playing the video game on difficult, because you're, you're forced to do things that are not necessarily repeatable that are not scalable by not picking a market. But you're able to learn so much in those ventures because we serve e-commerce. And e-commerce itself is a very interesting and really broad space. Like we've done supplements, which are some of the most restricted things to, to market online, like the amount of compliance and crossing the T's and dotting the I's required there. So I've enjoyed the learnings that we've been able to achieve by not niching down. And I feel like the realization now, when I'm looking at the efficiency of the team and our… Certain tasks that haven't been done before causing drag and lag on finishing a project that I would have been able to do. So let me back up for a second then helping make sure I don't lose focus. One of the things that I heard is sometimes agency owners believe that they can teach other people to be the unicorns that they are. And effectively it's like Superman teaching people how to fly. They don't have that skill. They don't have that experience. They don't have the, the width of knowledge to be able to comprehend even what you're talking about. So when you have a lot of talents and a lot of experience, and can pretty much solve any problem better than most of the people out there… In my experience, I became fascinated with that, just the, the joy of solving a complicated problem. So in that transition to an agency, I built a team to support me in that. And what I found myself doing is expecting them to be able to read my mind of like, hey, go do this. And it's like, well, I expected them to end up here. And they ended up in a totally different area. So having those kinds of realizations that it's about assembling, creating an assembly line that a process could be followed from start to finish without many tangents in an expected way with everything to set it up, to request everything that's needed to deliver on it. The only way to do that is to niche down. So my realization it's been 13, 14 years of, of doing this formally, is that in order to get to a certain revenue goal while keeping services at a specific level of excellence… You have to standardize, you have to have, create a process that's bulletproof. Kind of like cars' quality assurance. Like when Tesla started out, their QA was kind of shoddy. Cars were coming in, the panels had too many gaps between them or inconsistencies or like Ford's got it down. So… Jason: [00:08:24] Not on the Bronco launch. Dmitriy: [00:08:26] Yeah. I heard about that. And you got, you got one, right? Jason: [00:08:28] No, no, I'm still waiting. I ordered a year ago. Dmitriy: [00:08:32] Okay. Okay. Yeah. I'm waiting on my Tesla. Hopefully I get it before I turned 60. T Cyber Truck. So in a way it's been something that has been kind of like a worm eating away at the fruit. Where I know that I have to do it, but there's also this joy and excitement and fulfillment of solving complicated problems and loving marketing, loving the technology that supports advertising, marketing, and sales that prevents me from, you know, really picking a, a narrow space. So what we've done is we've said we help with demand generation by building conversion driven funnels, which we send highly optimized traffic to. And then the people that don't take that don't convert right away at the ideal level, we have a nurture sequence that joins the prospect exactly where their mind's at in the conversation and making that decision to take that next step forward. So we haven't really niched down, but we are streamlining a type of service and a type of focus. And then it's about qualifying the prospects that we work with and kind of like figuring out our north star as we make our way down there. Jason: [00:09:45] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry-leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7, so you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to And re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Yeah. And everybody listening, it just takes some time. I mean, it takes some time in order to figure out the direction, who you're going after. And the biggest thing is, is just figuring out who can you help the most and putting criteria around it. And it doesn't have to be a particular industry. You just have to know that particular person and know how to find them as well. And then when they do see you, it's kind of like… I always love to hear people are like, man, I, I started listening to your podcast and it felt like you were tapping into my office. That's kind of by design, right? Like I do have really good technology to tap into your office and here… Dmitriy: [00:11:21] You're a spy. Yeah. Jason: [00:11:22] I'm a spy, yeah. Dmitriy: [00:11:23] Yeah, yeah, yeah. Jason: [00:11:24] Dmitriy sets up the technology and I was the mastermind behind it. Well, this has all been amazing, Dmitriy. And I think this really will help some people out with figuring out like, you know, especially if you've hit a certain ceiling, a lot of times it's just a little adjustments. Sometimes if you haven't picked a niche and really got really clear at your audience, sometimes that allows you to go to the next level. So is there anything I didn't ask you, Dmitriy, that you think would help the audience? Dmitriy: [00:11:56] One of the things that I feel like is a great, great pre-phase to this conversation is what is your reason in growing an agency? You know, and you talk about this a lot too. Are you building a lifestyle? You know, you're trying to get a mega yacht? Are you trying to, you know, make sure that your kids and your grandkids don't want for anything? Are you just trying to get a bunch of skills so that you can buy and flip companies in the future? Like Simon Cenex, why I'm like, man, I, so many people recommended that book to me and I'm like, I've seen the Ted talk. I've seen his YouTube videos. I get it. But it really is at the core of everything. Like, why are you doing this? Why are you pushing through this? Because if the trophy is worth it, maybe you'll do something that's not as exciting but drives revenue creates value for the people that you serve and gives an opportunity to create jobs for people and value and give them a place to learn. So yeah, figure out your why. Jason: [00:12:50] Yeah. I love that. Because you know, there's so many people that are running digital agencies that are kind of just going through the movements and the motions and they don't know where to go. They're just… Dmitriy: [00:13:01] You can hit a million doing that. Jason: [00:13:03] You're not staying consistent. You're going down, so… Dmitriy: [00:13:07] Yeah, man. And look, you can hit a million dollars figuring things out, right? Like that's, that's the thing. It's like a million dollars in revenue is not this next worldly goal. Uh, you can do that stumbling along and figuring things out. But like once you get there, what's going to push you forward to standardize, to create processes, to do all these things that are going to help you scale? So, yeah, to the guys listening, if you have a why, revisit it. Figure it out, you know, make sure it's aligned. Talk with your partner about it with your team, your leadership, just so they're all aligned. Yeah. Jason: [00:13:41] Awesome. Dmitriy: [00:13:41] Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Jason: [00:13:43] What's the website for the agency where people can go and check you guys out? Dmitriy: [00:13:47] So Business Jet Pack is going to be the one that's going to be rebuilt, uh, by Q1 of 2022, depending on when this gets released, it might already be live. But, uh, you can learn more about us at Or, you know, really, if you just want to connect, find me on LinkedIn, Dmitriy Pisarev. So, yeah, I think you'll spell my name correctly on the title there… Jason: [00:14:07] But spell it this one more time for the people listening. If they can remember. Dmitriy: [00:14:12] They won't remember. It'll be we, we'll include a link forum. Yeah, Jason: [00:14:18] I know it is difficult to spell, so awesome. Well, Dmitriy… Dmitriy: [00:14:22] Appreciate it, Jason. Jason: [00:14:24] Yeah. Thanks so much for coming on the show. Make sure you guys go check out both websites and really connect with Dmitriy. He is an amazing person. Really, really smart. And I love having him in the mastermind. And if you want to be around other amazing members like Dmitriy and be able to hang out, ask them questions, see what's working. I'd love to invite all of you to go to This is our exclusive mastermind for experience agency owners that are wanting to grow faster that have a team and that are not douchebags. So you're not a douche bag, if you're a digital agency owner, you want to scale faster, go to And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    What to Measure to Create a Successful Lead Generation Strategy

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 28, 2021 20:34

    What metrics should you track to create a successful lead generation strategy? Kara Brown had been working on a string of supply chain corporate jobs where she oversaw IPOs and eventually decided to create her own business and focus on lead generation. She believes filling the top of the funnel now will be the first to capture market share in the recovery. With LeadCoverage, she focuses on B2B revenue operations and acquisition strategies for scaling companies. In her conversation with Jason, they spoke about what she has seen working for lead generation, what every company should be measuring to keep a profitable business, and how you can save time on prospects that won't become customers. 3 Golden Nuggets Measure what's happening in your funnel. Many agencies don't have a really good lead generation source and are leaning on word of mouth to get new clients. You really have to find that source to keep growing. Where do most businesses fail? Kara says most companies she works with fail at truly measuring what's happening inside their funnel. At the top of her lead generation strategies are “share good news, track who's interested, and then follow up.” Another successful strategy is getting as niche as possible. “When your niche is small, you can be hyper-targeted in your approach,” she says. This will save you a lot of time with clients that don't meet your criteria. Measuring volume, velocity, and value. Kara is not running a creative agency, but she is all about making her business as profitable and valuable as possible. When it comes to how valuable her consultancy or her agency is, she thinks in terms of measuring volume, value, and velocity. Velocity is how fast are they getting in your funnel? Volume is how many deals can you handle any one time and how many deals are going to fill your pipelines? This is all about close ratios and trying not to spend too much time on deals that won't close. And value is all about what is this potential customer truly going to be worth to you? For this, try to be really honest and don't overvalue customers. Lead with pricing to save time. When you are speaking with potential customers, do you lead with the budget? Doing so could really help your closing ratio and save you a lot of time on deals that aren't going to close. Kara prefers to be really straightforward with her approach and start the conversation by stating what her company does for customers and say “this is our minimum monthly rate” to find out whether it is on that potential customer's budget or not. If they're not, then she offers to use the rest of the call to give free advice. She assures this is helpful and saves her a lot of time. Sponsors and Resources Sharpspring: Today's episode is sponsored by Sharpspring, an all-in-one revenue growth platform that provides all of the marketing automation, CRM, & sales features you need to support your entire customer lifecycle. Partner with an affordable marketing automation provider that you can trust. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Measure Your Way to a Successful Lead Strategy and Stop Wasting Time on the Wrong Prospects {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 have another amazing digital agency podcast guest for you. We're going to talk about lead generation for your digital agency. It's going to be a fun show, so let's go ahead and get into it. Hey, Kara. Welcome to the show. Kara: [00:00:22] Hey! Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:23] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Kara: [00:00:27] Yeah, I'm Kara Brown. I'm the CEO and founder of LeadCoverage and we do B2B lead gen for supply chain, heavy industrial, and tech. Jason: [00:00:35] Awesome. And so how'd you get started in creating an agency? Kara: [00:00:40] Yeah, that's a funny story. So I was the 12th employee at a company called Echo Global Logistics. Very sexy, all the trucks. Uh, actually a super sexy, the guy that started Echo Global Logistics also started Groupon. So I got to send the first Groupon email. It's a true story. It came from my inbox. Got to watch them grow like crazy and then ended up being on the team that took the company I was working for went public. So I did an IPO at about 25. Uh, I was asked to move to Nashville to do another IPO for a private equity company, for another supply chain management company. Sort of a stream of, of supply chain, corporate jobs. And then ended up back in Chicago, popped out two kids, moved to Atlanta, moved here for a sort of a garbage brokerage jobs. So it was sort of similar to supply chain but in a different space. Instead of going public, that company raised $95 million in equity. When I exited that, the question was like, what to do next? And someone told me the statistic that less than 2% of female founders will ever break a million dollars in revenue. And I said, well, that doesn't sound that hard. So I did it with an all female team. It took us about 10 months and now we're on the path to ten million. Jason: [00:01:54] Awesome. So is Groupon still around? I haven't heard anything from them. Kara: [00:01:58] Yes. They're still around. They're a publicly-traded company. Please buy some Groupon things. Jason: [00:02:05] So you must have some stock. Kara: [00:02:08] Yeah, I think… They still exists. They're still out of 600 West Chicago and sort of a Chicago tech darling from the early two thousands. Jason: [00:02:15] Very cool. Uh, funny story, my wife got me a Groupon in a helicopter, like 10 years ago for my birthday. And I'm like, I'm not doing it. I'm scared to death of helicopters. That's right. Let's talk about lead generation. You know, I find a lot of digital agencies, they take on the wrong clients and they take on the wrong clients because they haven't been building their pipeline. They haven't been building their pipeline because they don't have a really good lead generation source in order to really kind of tap on because they're based on word of mouth. So what have you seen working for lead-generation? Kara: [00:02:55] Sure. So we have nine lead gen strategies, but I'll start sort of at the top. So at the top is share good news, track who's interested, follow up. Most companies that we interact with, either customers or people that would just help out as friends. Are doing one or two of those and almost none of them, almost none of them, of the companies we talked to are tracking any of it, right? Like really, truly measuring what's happening inside their funnel. And so one of the things that we've found successful for Lead Coverage is getting as niche as possible. So our niche is supply chain management companies over a hundred million in revenue or venture-backed. And basically, if you don't hit one or two of those criteria, we may take you on as a client, but we may not. We may say no, thank you. And that's been very successful for us. So in terms of lead gen, when your niche is small, you can be hyper-targeted in your approach. If you're wide and not very deep, it's really easy to end up talking to a lot of folks that aren't super valuable. The other thing that we like to measure, which we can definitely talk about later, we do a lot of measurement in our company, is we measure volume, velocity and value. And I think most important for agencies is value, right? So a very smart man part of the Groupon kickoff team in the very beginning of the early days said to me, hey, Kara, it is… it costs to you, just as much money to run a $250,000 account as it does a $2,500 account. So get upstream and get as big as you can. Get your, get your retainers as big as you can, as fast as you can. Because that's where the real money-making happens. Jason: [00:04:48] You mean you don't want to race to the bottom? I see a lot of people when they initially talk with us, we really kind of determined that pricing is one of their big issues. And they're like, well, my competitor is actually cheaper. We're actually more. I'm like, what does that matter? Do you want to win that race? I was like, I don't. Kara: [00:05:10] We just decided to raise our minimums. I went to a trade show last week for our very specific niche industry, right? So every single person at that show could be a customer for us, which I think is super important. We went to the show and the number that I told everyone, nobody said it was too expensive. And I came back to the office after two days in the trade show floor. And I said, we need to increase our minimum because no one told me it was too much. And when no one's telling you, you're too expensive, you're not charging enough. Jason: [00:05:40] Yeah. Yeah, totally. Yep. Totally agree. Get in a little bit more about kind of the velocity and the volume and the, the value. Let's talk a little bit more about that. Kara: [00:05:49] Yeah. We love measurement. So we are not a creative agency. We don't have a creative director. We don't do creative. We don't do color theory. We're probably very different than most of the folks that listen to your podcast. But I still listen to the two Bobs and I'm all about agency work. And I'm like all about sort of consulting and how do I make this business as profitable and valuable as possible? So when I think about how valuable my consultancy or my agency is, I think about volume, value, and velocity. So how fast are my customers finding me? And then how fast can I get them to close the deal? Velocity story is a funny one. I have a client that we have been or potential client we've been talking to for over two years. And I think I may tell him it is time to stop talking to each other. Like it's nice. But, um, I've sort of sent him enough info. I've done enough. We've had enough phone calls. I've talked to enough of his people. It's been two years. If you're not going to buy, you're not going to buy, right? So that's velocity. But we also had a few weeks ago, our first one call-close. So we were introduced to someone, they came through a LinkedIn post that I wrote, which I should definitely mention how we do LinkedIn because it's really interesting. And one call the guy was like, great. Let's do it. And our minimums, Jason, are $15,000 a month. And the guy was like, I don't want your minimum. I want to be a big fish in your pond. We were like, all right, let's do it. So those are really exciting. So velocity is how fast are they getting in your funnel? Volume is how many deals can you handle any one time and how many deals are going to fill your, fill your actual pipelines? This is all about close ratios, right? So you can have a whole bunch of conversations, but if they're only closing 5 to 10% of them, you're spending a lot of time on deals that aren't going to close. So I have a thing that I do… fair it may not be nice, but it helps me save a lot of time. I will look at who I'm talking to before I get on the phone. And if they're not in our box, I will open the call with something to this effect: It's so nice to meet you, Jason. I want to talk a little bit about what we do and who we do it for. I'm going to tell you how much. If we're not in your budget, we'll use the next 25 minutes. I'm going to give you 25 minutes of free advice. My minimum is $20,000 a month and my core market is supply chain technology and heavy industrial. Does that feel like something that you can afford? And if they're like, oh my budget's like $2,000 a month or something crazy, then I'll say, hey, no problem. Let's use the next 25 minutes and I'll give you all the free advice I can. That's really helpful. They also don't call me again. So I don't have to like go down the rigor mortise of like giving them a proposal for $20K a month. And they're like, uh, we're not on the same page. So that stops that and then value, right? What is this potential customer going to be worth to me? Like really, truly going to be worth to me. And I don't do the work you do. So I don't work with agency owners. But I would imagine that there are a lot of folks out there who overvalue potential customers, right? I think this product is going to come in at 80 grand and it comes in at 20. I think that this customer is going to stick around for two years and they stay for three months, right? So being really, truly honest with yourself on values really important. And the best way to check out value is just to have someone, probably not you, if you're the CEO. Go back and look at your, at your previous customers, right? Like take a deep dive and really be honest with yourself on how much is each customer actually truly worth to you? Jason: [00:09:21] Is your agency struggling to deliver real revenue growth results to your clients? You know, agency marketers can consolidate data and align marketing and sales teams goals to achieve real results for your agency and clients using revenue growth platforms. Sharpspring is an all-in-one platform built for agencies like yours to optimize digital marketing strategies with simple, powerful automation. Manage your entire funnel all in Sharpspring. Now for a limited time, my smart agency listeners will receive your first month free and half off onboarding with Sharpspring. Just visit to schedule your demo and grab this offer. That's Yeah, I love it. And I love that you get right to the budget in the very beginning. There's so many people, you know, when I'm speaking to a crowd, one of the two questions I'll ask is all right, how many people get the budget every single time or almost every time? And then, you know, how many people ask for it? And by the it's about 50% of the room than ask. And then 50% of that, it's only a quarter of the percent of agencies are actually getting the budget. And that's before they put all that work in it. I would always go to them and say, I just need a range of what you're trying to stick around. Because here's the deal, especially on pricing, and I learned this the hard way when I talked to a small company, I never heard of called Berkshire Hathaway. And I pitched them like a $20,000 website. They were expecting 30,000. So like if I started out, like I would always try to lead with what's their expectation and then match them there. But I would also even have a floor. Uh, so pricing is very important. Kara: [00:11:12] So I actually disagree. I lead with our pricing. Because if they're willing to pay you $30,000 for a website, there's probably $120,000 somewhere in their budget, right? And I think as a woman, this isn't necessarily agency owner, but as a woman, knowing other women in business, we tend to undervalue ourselves. And what I've found is, as my retainers have gone from 5 to 7 to 12 to 15 to $20,000 minimums, no one's saying no, right? Like very few people say to me, I can't afford you, right? Unless they're like just out of the box, but if they're in the box and they understand the value and I've done a good job of delivering what we do and showing them what we do and how we do it and what the value is we bring. As long as I lead with my minimum… Actually, it's not even the minimum. I learned something at an EO event, the entrepreneur organization that the human brain anchors on the first number that you tell someone. So when someone says to me, Kara, how do we work with you? I say, well, our average retainer comes in between 30 and $40,000 a month, but our minimum is 20. So instead of them saying, oh, I can get this person for five grand a month because I say something like our minimum is five grand. They're already like, oh, well she's like, she's really expensive. Like, can I afford her home? Like, oh, like maybe I should find another $30,000 a month somewhere to pay this person. So I think it's really important that you set your own standards and there's always money in corporations. I have worked for enormous corporations in my corporate career. There's always money. Always. Jason: [00:12:58] Yeah. Yeah. I call it the reverse engineer effect when you're going over the range, because so many people, when they go, I just need to know a range. A thousand, fove thousand? I would literally start at a billion and then a million and then a hundred thousand and 20,000. So they echo that first number going, holy cow, no one else said that. What makes you so unique? And you can really separate yourself. And switching focus a little bit. You hinted a little bit to the LinkedIn post. Tell us how you do that. Kara: [00:13:28] Yeah, so we can attribute $480,000 to two LinkedIn posts. And that's just in 2020, not in 2021. So super proud of this whole process. I post super regularly on LinkedIn. Sometimes I post about being a woman in business. Sometimes it's about marketing. Sometimes it's just like, I don't know thoughts of the week that I've decided that I want to share. I have a ghost writer. She's on my team. Should we speak for about an hour a week. Now, because we've been working together for a while, she can get almost four LinkedIn posts out of that one hour. I also write for Forbes and Entrepreneur and other magazines. So she does those for me at the same time. And she writes the post themselves. They're my words, but she physically crafts them. They go to my team, my team adds the emojis and make sure that they're, if people are tagged and then they go into a file for me to approve. I approve. And then they get scheduled. So we have posts that are going out. We're recording this in September. We've got posts going up through the end of November and I'll be gone the entire month of October. So I'll still be posting even though I'll be in Europe, which is really nice. And so we can see attribution of almost $500,000 to LinkedIn. And this is LinkedIn thought leadership. And it cost me probably 2000 bucks a month to do this. So it's my most ROI driven piece of, of lead gen that we do for myself. And it's been a terrific way for us to meet people. You can't always track every single lead back to LinkedIn, but it was a, it was a funny story. I was at this trade show I just mentioned in our niche industry. And I ran into some guy that I had known from a million years ago. And he said Kara, I read every LinkedIn post and I was like, awesome. And he said… Jason: [00:15:11] Stalker. Kara: [00:15:12] Stalker, right? Well, that's the whole point, like, please stalk me. And he said, may I please introduce you to my CMO? I think that I'd really like to make sure that you two meet each other and now they're going to be a client. So you never know who's reading it. They may not be liking, sharing and engaging, but put it be putting yourself out there is super important. Jason: [00:15:31] Yeah. I love it. And these are just regular posts. Do you have a call to action on there or is it just helpful? Kara: [00:15:36] Yeah. So we're trying to, the LinkedIn algorithm changes pretty regularly. We do this for clients as well. So we have a human being on our team who is regularly trying to sort of like bust the LinkedIn algorithm. Not in an ugly way, just in a, how do we use it to our advantage? So one of the stats she told me that I was really surprised is that less than 2% of people that are on LinkedIn are actively posting. So just by actively engaging in LinkedIn, they're already in the top 2% of folks that are sort of voyeurs only, right? And so, as long as you just put anything out there, you're going to be sort of doing better than other folks. If you get into like exactly what, you know, doing posts, doing polls calls to action links, links back to landing pages. Links to, to form fills and video. We can, it's a whole another podcast we can do just to talk about how to like optimize LinkedIn. In my professional opinion, that this is specifically for my market, which is supply chain, heavy, industrial and tech. I don't need to put video out there. I don't need to be super complicated about it because no one's buying from LinkedIn, right? LinkedIn just keeps me front and center for the folks in my world and in my universe. That when I see them at the trade show or when I send them an email or when they see something from me that's interesting and they have a need. They're like, oh man, there's this woman who posts all the time on LinkedIn. She's really interesting. I'm going to reach out, right? So it's just about staying in the conversation. Jason: [00:17:03] Yeah. It's about consistency. You know, you mentioned you were chatting with someone for two years. Holy cow, like if I was chatting with them, but when I look at my, our stats, most people don't buy from us for about a year and a half to two years. They're digesting that content, which isn't a sweat off my back and if they never buy it and they just get helpful content, I'm perfectly fine with that as well. But, but yeah, just to go through the proposal process for two years, that is a yeah. Shit or get off the pot dude. Kara: [00:17:34] And yeah, this particular human is such a nice guy and he's so kind, and I know he does want to work with us and he is very specifically strapped by, you know, investors and sort of what these investors want to do. I get it. And it doesn't bother me to like, have a relationship with this person. He is also well connected. He's a good human, but we are going to have to at some point, be like, hey, I can't do one more deliverable for you, right? Like I can't, I can't put together another email or send you another proposal. Like they're all the same. Like, it hasn't changed. Like the same proposal you got two years ago was going to be the same one I'm going to send you now because what we do, hasn't really changed. Jason: [00:18:13] Awesome. Well, this has all been great, Kara. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Kara: [00:18:19] You know, I think one of the things that's really important to us, Jason, is the combination of failed the market. That sales and marketing, including PR and AR analyst relations, which I know a lot of folks in digital marketing don't really touch analysts at all. Cause it's kind of boring, but really important to your senior leaders, right? So if you're going up market, and this is not small business, this is enterprise. So we're very fortunate in the, in our niche. We have sort of along the spectrum, small business, all the way up through sort of big corporate enterprise, even publicly traded companies. And so we get to touch everything from analyst relations to public relations, all the way through, but long story short, the deeper we get in the niche, the higher our prices can go and the more we get integrated with both PR AR and sales. And the stickier you get, the more you can deliver math back to your client that goes to their boss, that goes to the board. The longer you'll stay in the organization, the more valuable you are and the more sticky, just the stickier that you get in inside those orbes. And so that's my sort of best piece of advice is if you can deliver math back to your clients, specifically math that goes to the board or to some sort of senior executive, you will be very, very sticky. So find something that's meaningful to your customer that you can deliver on a regular basis. That means something to their boss. Jason: [00:19:46] Awesome. Love it. What's the agency website people can go and check you guys out? Kara: [00:19:50] Yeah. We're lead and we'd love to hear from anyone who wants to talk more about lead gen or anything about supply chain. Jason: [00:19:58] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kara, for coming on the show. Make sure you guys go check out the website, connect with Kara. And if you guys want to be around the most amazing agency owners in the world, where they're sharing  what's working currently to be able to see the things you may not be able to see as well as have fun scaling your business. I'd like to invite all of you. Go to check out This is our exclusive mastermind just for digital agency owners. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    Using Data-Driven Algorithms To Find Your Agency's Sweet Spot

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 24, 2021 13:01

    Do you know how using AI and data-driven algorithms could help you save money on inefficient positioning? Anne Cheng is an entrepreneur that started her business with an idea in mind: what if she could get inside the heads of people and understand what information they required to make decisions? Supercharge Lab is a cognitive artificial intelligence company that uses AI and data to try to understand what goes on inside customers' heads, or rather listen to the voice in their head. In this episode, Anne sat down with Jason to explain how this AI technology works, why business owners should embrace that it is the future and use this innovation to their benefit, and how agency owners could use it to create specific targeting and sales and marketing content that resonates with its audiences and find their sweet spot in the market. 3 Golden Nuggets Getting inside people's heads. How can we really understand what goes on inside someone's head? Anne explains that what really gives us away is how we write, instead of what we write. The tones, the structure, the number of emojis, and the type of words we use are giveaways that offer a glimpse into things like our emotional state, personality style, social styles of interaction, and conflict management. Her company uses this data to build algorithms that help them put people in categories of psychological profiles or cognitive styles. “After we applied it to sales and marketing, we've seen a significant lift in our customer ROI,” she says. How the industry will change. Will AI replace what agencies are doing for clients? This technology is becoming quickly democratized. A few years ago artificial intelligence was all about building training models and putting in huge massive slices of data. Today it costs $16 and 39 cents to run a learning model. It can be really quick and easy to train a model with a high level of accuracy. Is the technology strong enough to completely replace a human? “I think not at this point,” Anne told us. There is still a long way to go before that, but it is the future. For now, it's all about not wasting money on inefficient positioning. “Data-driven algorithms are not the enemy,” she adds. Advantages for agencies. We should always use new technologies and innovations to our benefit, and to benefit our clients. We all know that agency owners struggle with their own marketing and have a hard time treating themselves like their own clients. Anne believes this struggle comes from not really knowing where your sweet spot is and that using these technologies could help you experiment. Using algorithms can help you determine the accuracy of your targeting. For example, if you would like to go after medium-sized businesses with revenues between 10 to 50 million, you can test your response rates. Algorithms are great ways to experiment. It's cheap, it's fast, and you're not wasting time. Sponsors and Resources Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Stop Wasting Resources and Use Data-Driven Algorithms to Find Your Sweet Spot in The Market Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and we've got another great episode coming to you. And we're going to talk around AI and what you can do with really kind of targeting the right audience, as well as having the AI tool, write the copy for you to convert faster. So I'm excited to get into this episode. Uh, so let's jump in. Hey, Anne. Welcome to the show. Anne: [00:00:31] Thanks for having me, Jason. Jason: [00:00:32] Yeah. So tell us who you are and what do you guys do? Anne: [00:00:36] Well, my name is Anne and I'm the founder and CEO of Supercharge Lab. Supercharge Lab is a cognitive artificial intelligence company, which means we take AI and a lot of data and we attempt to understand what goes on inside your head, or rather listen to the voice in your head. And we do that for the purpose of applying it to sales and marketing. We try to improve the ROI as far as our clients. And so far it's been quite a ride. Jason: [00:01:04] Cool. And so how did you… how'd you, how'd you all come up with developing this? Anne: [00:01:11] Well, I guess it started with the idea that we said, what if we could get inside the heads of people and understand what information they required to make decisions? Uh, and that way we could make decision-making more predictable, uh, less noise and biased. And, well, improve results across all kinds of positions that are being made. Whether it's medical decisions or diagnosis, whether it's sales and marketing, uh, purchase behavior. Um, so, well we decided to try to figure out how people, what information people take in, in order to make decisions. And we came up with an algorithm that profiles, the information, uh, that people take in the site, the cognitive style of people, what we call or the psychological profile. And, uh, well the rest is history. After we applied it to sales and marketing, we've seen significant lift in our customer ROI. Um, we have had customers who literally renew their campaigns with us so often that they tell us they cannot see a day without, uh, using our solution. Jason: [00:02:20] Awesome. And tell us kind of, how does… How did you guys really kind of write the algorithm in order to get inside our heads? I mean, how does all that work? That's always fascinating. Anne: [00:02:34] So I think that's a great question, Jason. So a lot of people look at what we write because when we, when we write, um, whenever we write the contents of what we write is driven by who audiences is what we want to say. Uh, but a lot of people fail to realize that what, what really gives us away is how we write. The tones, the structure, the number of emojis or bullet points, or the kind of words that we use. That actually is the voice inside our head. That's the tone of the voice inside our head to tell gifts, clues into things like, you know, your emotional state, your, your personality style, your social styles of interaction. Or even your style of conflict management. Um, by understanding how it be right to be basically we're able to take these language models, parse it into an algorithm. And well, uh, we have been able to put everybody in some categories of psychological profiles or what we call cognitive styles, um, and hopefully using rules based and data-driven, uh, algorithms, were able to cut out a lot of the noise that actually, you know, gifts written comes from manual advertising and marketing. Jason: [00:03:57] I feel, I feel dirty. You're profiling me. Anne: [00:04:02] No, I don't do that. Jason: [00:04:04] Um, so. How would someone… As an agency, you know, they, and I'm talking more about not for their clients, but really for themselves, right? So we just got done as we're recording this, this week, our digital agency experience, where we have, you know, 28 of the best agency owners come out, um, to my house in Colorado, when we brainstorm on strategies and what's working. And the common theme, and this is among most digital agency owners. And if… If, uh, if you don't admit this you're supporting terrorism. But we, they struggle with doing their own marketing and creating themselves as their own clients. Um, and a lot of them struggle with just identifying who their audience… Cause they try to go after everybody. So how could, you know, AI really helped them out in order to reach more of the audience? Because they may not know who they're targeting yet. Anne: [00:05:08] Yeah. So I think one of the biggest struggles as a… well a marketing organization is actually understanding where your sweet spot is. And, uh, you know, using algorithms, you can actually do a lot of experimentation. Uh, one of the biggest things that, um, AI does, is that it gives you a score of how much you are able to resonate, how accurate, you know, your targeting is. So if, for example, you think you would like to go after, you know, a medium-sized business with revenues between 10 to 50 million, and you don't really know whether this is really the sweet spot for you. You can actually test, um, the, the targeting and you can test things like, you know, what we call your, your outbound messages as well as your response rates. And if you see that your response rates are lower than another particular industry, you know…  It's possibly time to change and don't throw good money after, you know, a bad result all the time. And so that's what Einstein says is stupidity, you know, expecting a different result by doing the same thing, all, all the time is insanity. So what I would do is use algorithms, use artificial intelligence, or what may be called big data, uh, to understand what your audience is and test the vigor at which they will respond. Now, I've done that a lot with myself, with my own audience. Um, and I've noticed that, you know, we try to grow, uh, our customers by, you know, going after bigger companies. Well, it doesn't work. Um, we, we realized that we were not getting any conversions. We were not getting any customers inquiring. So we said, you know, maybe we should go back to, uh, the smaller businesses. And at the same time, we change up the different industry. So algorithms are great ways to experiment and it's cheap. It's fast. It, it takes me three days to identify whether, you know, this is the right market. You're not wasting time. So yeah. Jason: [00:07:28] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it's easy. Unless of course, you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gustos help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to That's for three free months. Very cool. So will AI… Will AI replace what agencies are doing for clients? Like I look at it as, and I've been telling agencies like this for a long time. And if you think about kind of the car industry, you know, many, you know, many, a hundred years ago, I guess, you know, the car industry created dealers or the manufacturer created dealers, and they were the middlemen selling to the public because you can't go to the dealer. Um, and forever, it was that way. And then, you know, Tesla came out and you, you don't go through a dealer… You buy it right from the manufacturer. And I kind of see a lot of this starting to happen with agencies that are just doing a particular service where, you know, Facebook and Google would always promote agencies. But I kind of see them starting to kind of pull back from agencies a little bit because now people can go directly to them and not use the middlemen. Anne: [00:09:33] Yeah, for sure. I think, uh, one of the things about technology is that is becoming very quickly democratized. Artificial intelligence just a few years ago, was all about, you know, building training models, you know, putting in a lot of data, huge massive slices of data. Today it costs me $16 and 39 cents to run a learning model. Uh, it takes maybe about an hour to, to train a model. And you know, it, it can be really, really quick and easy, um, with a high level of accuracy to train a, uh, artificial intelligence model. Is, um, the technology strong enough to completely replace a human? I think not at this point. I think that is still a way to go, uh, where, you know, copy is not going to sound like it's artificially written. Uh, so that's, that's something which I think is going to, uh, have to develop a little bit more. But to understand your audience, to predict the audience with a level of, um, certainty, it's starting to become quite democratized. So I think, yes, logic-based artificial intelligence is going to upend the advertising industry. But that being said, artificial intelligence to going to upend almost every industry, if you let it. Jason: [00:11:01] Yeah, yeah. Well, it's, you know… That's what innovation is. It should always challenge the status quo and make us better. And you know, the one thing I always tell agencies is use the new technology, the new innovations to your benefit, and to benefit your clients, you know, going forward. Um, this has all been great, Anne. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Anne: [00:11:24] Yeah, I think, you know, the biggest question that we have as marketing organizations is how can we use that wastage? Um, today up to 26% of ad spend… It's wasted on inefficient, uh, positioning and efficient messaging. And I think a lot of us have to try to learn that, you know, data-driven algorithms and rules-based algorithms can… are not the enemy. Our enemy is embracing… um, the, the innovation that is coming. So I think our enemy is truly ourselves. If we get over ourselves, we can definitely grow the business, um, in a massive, in a major way. Jason: [00:12:09] Awesome. What's the website people can go and check you guys out? Anne: [00:12:14] Well, it's Remember as supercharged lab without an S at the end dot com. Jason: [00:12:20] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show, Anne. You did great lots of great insights. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you guys subscribe, make sure you comment. And if you guys want to be around the best agency owners out there and really tap into their heads, because maybe you haven't tapped into the AI yet, um, I want to invite all of you to go to and apply. And, uh, if we feel that you're right and the group's right for you, we'll have a chat and… So good at And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How Relationship Equity Establishes Your Agency as a Category of One

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 21, 2021 20:03

    Do you know how relationship equity could help you grow your business and establish yourself as a category of one? Michael Stamatinos has always thought of himself as a connector. His love for building bridges and connections led him to the business development, marketing, and sales world. He founded Omorfi, an agency that empowers individuals to take a leadership role in their community and he focused on his passion for the healthcare sector, the role of leadership in communities, and helping people make connections. In this episode, he sat down with Jason to talk about how relationship equity became the core of all his interactions with the people in his life, how agency owners could use this concept to improve their relationships with clients and peers, and how being passionate about your business can really help you establish yourself as a category of one. 3 Golden Nuggets Relationship equity. Michael considers himself to be a connector. He loves creating connections between people and really believes in the concept of relationship equity. To him, relationships are like a bank account, you have to make sure to make a deposit and you have enough money before making a withdrawal or a purchase. “There are folks that are very quick to make massive withdrawals and they haven't substantiated,” he explains. People will sometimes try to get something from a person without first establishing a true connection with them and building trust. How can you do that? By taking that relationship and multiplying it by time and by value. That is what truly builds relationship equity. How can agency owners use it? Relationship equity is all about connections and being bridge builders. Agency owners can really benefit from this approach when they focus on really understanding who it is that you're trying to serve and know what it is that's going on in their environment and in their world. Understand it so well that they think, this person really gets me and my business. But this is something that you can also take to your relationship with peers. “It's amazing what doors can be opened when you try to approach the world from a place of abundance,” Michael assures. Be in a category of one. Having that connection and understanding of your client's business and needs will happen especially when you find a niche you're really passionate about. When there's a connection that allows you the opportunity to start building and cultivating that relationship and building that bridge, this is the start of establishing yourself as a category of one in your industry. This way, you can empathize with and what they're going through and ask how can I help? Who can I connect you to? Sponsors and Resources Sharpspring: Today's episode is sponsored by Sharpspring, an all-in-one revenue growth platform that provides all of the marketing automation, CRM, & sales features you need to support your entire customer lifecycle. Partner with an affordable marketing automation provider that you can trust. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Investing in Relationship Equity and Establishing Yourself as a Category of One Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Excited to have another amazing episode. We're going to talk about relationship equity, and you're going to want to really hear what we're going to talk about and I got an amazing guest. So let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey, Michael. Welcome to the show. Michael: [00:00:22] Hey, it's good to be here. Jason: [00:00:23] Yeah. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Michael: [00:00:27] Uh, so Michael Stamatinos. Managing partner of Omorfi and we work with clients that are focused on growth. We work on strategic growth initiatives with some execution services. So it really boils down to one word: access, access to the right people, access to the right strategic partners, and in some cases, access to the right growth capital. So we really view ourselves as bridge builders and connectors at heart. I am a connector and that's really what we're focused on. So come from a pretty humble background. Parents are both immigrants, so grew up working in restaurants, being Greek, and just love working with people to the point where I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. And after my training, I realized that I didn't want to be in living receptacle to people's stuff. I still wanted to help people. So gravitate it into the world of business development, marketing, and sales, and been there ever since. Jason: [00:01:18] So I'm dying to ask you and you. And you probably get asked this a lot just based on how you did the intro about your family being Greek and in the restaurant business. Is your family like the Big Fat Greek Wedding? Michael: [00:01:29] 100% Yes. Jason: [00:01:33] How many cousins do you have? Michael: [00:01:35] We have several cousins named Nick and Peter and Costa, and it's very family-oriented. And my dad is quite a character, you know. When he talks to people, he's very animated, loves to tell stories. My mom's a little bit more of sort of the, just a homemaker, very peaceful, very calm. So sort of the ying and yang there. But my dad was a really hard worker and just grinded for a long time and stayed consistent. I think if there's anything that I've taken from him, it's that. Staying consistent and having discipline. Jason: [00:02:07] Awesome. Well, let's talk about relationship equity. How do you view this? Michael: [00:02:13] So I have an interesting story of how that kind of came about. So as I mentioned earlier, yeah, I'm a connector. I've always been a connector my whole entire life. I get a lot of joy out of putting people together, regardless of whether something's in it for me or not. And I was in a meeting one day with a client… And I don't know if you've ever had, if this has ever happened to you, but I got a stream of thoughts that were so clear that I had to excuse myself from the meeting. And I call it, I got a memo from that office, if you know what I'm saying. And that hadn't happened to me up until that point in my life. So I left that meeting. I always carry a little notebook with me. So I jotted down three sort of overlapping circles with a circle in the middle that intersects all the other circles. And I called it relationship equity, and really relationships are very similar to a bank account. When you initially start a bank account, you deposit some money. Well, if you want to go out and purchase something after you've started your bank account, you would draw some money. The reality is that if you continue to withdraw and you want to make a big purchase and you don't have enough money in there deposited, it's going to say insufficient funds. And that's really how I'm seeing the world now is that there are folks that are very quick to make massive withdrawals and they haven't substantiated. They'll do withdrawals by putting in deposits into that account. And sort of the three circles within relationship equity, that makeup relationship equity rather is trust. How do you build trust with people? Well, you have to have some level of authenticity and I'm not here trying to be someone that I'm not. I'm a real person, normal person. And there has to be some sort of a connection. In our case, it was through, you know, one of your members, Pete, Pete Cunningham. And that's how we really kind of transferred that relationship equity. And so there's that trust that. And then how do you build that relationship? Well, you take that trust and you multiply it over time. And it doesn't necessarily have to be long stretches of time. It could be short, such as it's on there's some folks that have gotten really close to in short amount of time. And then how do you build equity within that relationship? Well, you take that relationship and you multiply it by value. And the way that I define value for me is helping someone for the sake of helping them not having a hidden agenda. And when you do all those things, you build relationship equity. So when people ask me, what game am I in? I'm in the game of building relationship equity all the time. Whether it be with my wife, with my kids, with my friends and family and with clients and prospects. That's what I'm doing. And that's look, that's what got me here today. I didn't reach out to you and ask you to be on your show. It was through a series of activities of trying to add value and trying to be helpful and building relationship equity, which inevitably was transferred to this particular moment here. So this is something that I'm going to be doing until I'm not here anymore, regardless. Jason: [00:05:10] Yeah. I love the term and I've always told people, you know, especially cause they're like, hey, let me, uh, you got the audience I want. I'll give you this amount of money. I'm like, no, it just doesn't work that way. I'm like, you got to make deposits before you're withdrawing. I mean, a great example… It's always been, since I've been a kid, my grandfather worked on the long island railroad and I've always wanted to ride in front of the steam engine. And I met this one guy, Greg, that a mutual friend introduced us because he usually takes off a lot of time. We go play. And so we started kind of a couple of weeks ago, epic Fridays. So we just go out, climb mountains, do some really cool stuff. And I was telling him, you know, we were talking about like bucket list items and stuff like that. And I was like, man, you know, I've always wanted a ride in a steam engine. He's like, I know the owner of the Durango Silverton Railroad. Let me call them up for you. He surprised me. And so in the next couple of days, I'm going to get to ride, hit the whistle and everything. So just, just from relationships, like I didn't ask for that. So… Michael: [00:06:17] It's amazing. It's amazing what doors can be opened when you try to approach the world from a place of abundance and not to sound all woo or anything. But when you really try to add value and try to really help people for the sake of helping people, not only are you advancing society at large, but I dunno, it just, there's more opportunities that have come across my desk that I could ever take advantage of. It's just trying to be, be that way. So I think I'm going to keep doing that. Jason: [00:06:41] Yeah. I mean, there's so many examples. I, you know, I think of, you know, in our mastermind, you know, some members like Dunkin or Ian or Jeremy. They provide so much value to the membership, but they get so much business back and that's not their whole intent. Like they don't go in it saying like you were saying, well, what can I get from this? It's like, I'm going to give, but then whenever they need anything, like people are like, I'll give you the shirt off my back. What do you need? And they're just people that recognize that you really start scaling… You know, I was very minded, many years of my career, like, oh, you're in this business, I'm going to take you down. And then I'm like, no, no, no, you can build relationships and work with people. And even if you never get anything back from it, you feel good by doing it. Michael: [00:07:30] Yeah. The currency that I play with is relationship equity. And I get, as I mentioned earlier, like I view myself as a bridge builder. And what better way to live life than to continue to build bridges, show people how to build bridges. In other instances, you're doing the bridge building for them. But then you're also building tools to show people how to build bridges. I mean, I didn't go to a fancy school. I don't have any of these fancy degree. I didn't go in and I didn't do any of that stuff. And somehow I pinch myself sometimes when I find myself in some of these meetings with people, quite frankly, that sometimes I'm like, wow, how did I get here? Oh my gosh. And I did. And it has a lot to do with knowing how to get access to just scale. And it's all about building relationship equity. Jason: [00:08:18] Yeah. So the agency owners listening in, is there any steps or there's no trickery here, but if they're thinking, well, man, I would like to build more relationships and I'm thinking back, you know, a couple of years ago for me, I was crappy at building relationships. Like it's very hard to get in with me. Once you're in, you're in, you know, I was always closed minded and that kind of stuff. So how can agency owners benefit from this? Michael: [00:08:47] The way that agency owners can benefit from it is as follows is, understand who it is that you're trying to serve and know what it is that's going on in their environment and in their world and know it's so well to the point where they're like, wow, this person really understands me. That's how you connect with people. You having been a former agency owner and knowing the growing pains, the ins and outs you'd been there before. And when you're trying to serve a specific niche or market and you understand problems that are very… And I'm not talking about just surface level deep, I'm talking about going four or 5, 6, 7 levels down. That's when there's a connection that allows you the opportunity to start building and cultivating that relationship and building that bridge. So it starts there. And then the other thing that you really are trying to do is you really are going to have to position yourself as being, you know, that category of one. That truly understands that market. I mean, you have quite a niche and I'm assuming it wasn't, it was, it didn't happen by chance. This was done by design. And it had a lot to do with how you position yourself and how you understood the pain points that agency owners were going through. Jason: [00:10:00] Is your agency struggling to deliver real revenue growth results to your clients? You know, agency marketers can consolidate data and align marketing and sales teams goals to achieve real results for your agency and clients using revenue growth platforms. Sharpspring is an all-in-one platform built for agencies like yours to optimize digital marketing strategies with simple, powerful automation. Manage your entire funnel all in Sharpspring. Now, for a limited time my smart agency listeners will receive your first month free and half off onboarding with SharpSpring. Just visit to schedule your demo and grab this offer. That's Yeah, I always tell everybody I'm like, you have to know your audience you're going after and understand what they're feeling. Not their problem, but yes, you have to understand their problem, but how does that problem actually make them feel? And then empathize with them. You know, there's many people that do what I do that has no empathy and they just, they just kind of go shouting down from their fake mountain going, hey, I can help you, you know, look at what all the shit I've done. Versus like, I've been what you're going through. I totally get it. How can I help? Who can I connect you to? You know, one of the things I always tell people after I, I meet with them, like, is there any back connect you with? Because I do believe, like you were saying, you're a connector, you know, I've seen that, like the people that go, hey, you need to meet this person. And then whenever they're like, man, that relationship was amazing. Thanks so much, Jason. You know, and then just keep building on that. So I totally agree with all this. It's so easy. It's not like rocket science. I think you have to be aware in order to do it and kind of almost, you're almost kind of changing yourself a little bit because I think early on, I think we're all takers versus givers and when you give yeah, you get more. Michael: [00:12:10] And there's a great book called The Go-Giver and it's, I'm looking at something that I've described to as a kid, that there's something that when you shift from everyone defines success differently, by the way. For me, it's about being able to have the time and money to do what it is that I want to do and do it with the people that I want to do with and having great relationships with those people. I mean, at the end of the day, I'm not a slave to money. Don't get me wrong. It's, it's an important aspect of things that it's not the end all be all. And when you really place your identity outside of that, you start to make this shift from being successful to then being significant. So the shift from being successful to significant is it's a long journey and it takes a lot of work. And I can't say that it was a smooth ride for me, and it's not, I'm not done. I'm not done by any stretch, just so have a lot of growing to do. And the best is yet to come. Jason: [00:13:03] Yeah. And I think when you make that shift to significance, I remember when I sold the first agency, I was depressed and it was because I didn't have that significance. And then when I was able to create the community that we've created and really connect all these amazing agency owners together. You know, then I was like, oh man, I feel like I'm on top of the world. Versus before I felt like I was on the top of the world by myself. And that sucked a lot of people look at it from the outside and they're like, oh, that's awesome. I'm like, no, man. Like I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed the climb. And now I feel like when you're connecting all these other people, you can be on their journey as well. And that's really pretty cool. Michael: [00:13:46] It's like, you know, like, a Sherpa. Jason: [00:13:49] Yeah, exactly. But I just, I can't climb as much. I can't climb as fast as, as those guys. That's amazing. Whenever you watch any of those Sherpas on Everest, I'm like, how are they doing this? And why would they want to do it? Michael: [00:14:06] It's crazy to see that happen. But I think it's metaphoric too. The hardest clients usually have the best views does. But sometimes those climbs might not necessarily be successful. I mean, I have to tell you that, you know, part of my growth story , and I'd be remiss if I didn't say this, came through a failed startup. I had placed everything into this, everything, you know, some people spend money to go do their MBA. I dropped every single thing that I had saved into this thing. And it didn't go well. And my identity was wrapped up into that. So having visions of grandeur, you know, making it and had, I knew just kind of looking back now because you know, you get kind of depressed when you lose everything. It's, it's not a fun place. You learn a lot about yourself. Jason: [00:14:56] But it makes you appreciate everything so much more as you're moving forward, because I was hiking the mountain yesterday and I was going through this thick brush and it just kept getting thicker and thicker. I couldn't get through it. So I had to backtrack. I had to go back down. And then find another route up. And that's, that's everything. We do everything in business, in life, everything it's never a straight path. It's always the zigzags and knowing when to turn back, I mean, I could have probably made it through, but I would have been bloodied and banged up. I was like, kinda like walking. So, awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. Michael, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Michael: [00:15:42] I think just to, just around knowing and taking that niche that you feel like you can be the best in the world. I mean, I didn't say this, but you know, we have a really big presence in the digital health space. And it's sort of done by design in that aspect. And we've really positioned ourselves and placed ourselves to being in a category of one and pick something that you believe that you can be in a category of one and name it, name it, and tame it and proclaim it is the reality is that there's a lot of digital agencies that are out there and it's hard to differentiate. So do your damn best to be able to do that and pick your claim and work it and work it and work it and work it and stay consistent over time. Consistency over time wins. I'm telling you that there's, you know, people may think that we're pretty successful at what we do, but I got a lot of scars on my back to showcase that it's been a long journey and we stayed consistent throughout the whole entire time. Jason: [00:16:49] I love it. Yeah. You know, and you have to be passionate and whatever you pick don't choose it based on money. Like we were talking in the pre-show, why you chose healthcare and why you started working with other industries, like in plastic that you were like, oh, that's healthcare as well. Cause you're passionate about it. And the more passionate about it, the more you're going to do, and it's going to resonate with your audience that you're going after. Versus just kind of getting a stupid course out there that says here's the most profitable niches for agencies and pick one. Michael: [00:17:20] Um, I care about two things that I'm very passionate about, you know, relationship equity kind of really factors into this notion of access. And the way that I view access is around customers, partners, etcetera, but on a broader scale access around access to care, access to things like food. I mean, there's 50 plus million Americans now that don't know where their next meal is going to come from. That's an access  Golproblem, access to, you know, so access is something I care very, very deeply about when I see people that can't get access or maybe someone that wants to try to get into a job and necessarily can't get in and, um, you know, that's an access problem. And then the second thing that I believe that things hinge on is leadership. And there are leaders right now that are coming into some very influential roles that they're not necessarily tech savvy, they're tech dependent. They grew up with an iPhone. They grew up with a smartphone. And they view innovation as, as a differentiator, the view innovation as a way to generate more revenue. And when you're working with a digital agency and aspect of what they do is innovation. And the way I define innovation is providing value to many. Then you can do that incrementally over time. So those things kind of combined, you know, really hinge on whether or not people are going to be accepting of adoption of some of these innovations that come through. And that's exciting to me because you interact with people that you just problems that they're solving can inevitably make a pretty big radical shift and be part of that journey is an absolute privilege. Jason: [00:19:00] Yeah, exactly. Awesome. What's the website people go and check you out if they want to reach out to you? Michael: [00:19:06] Well, I'm on LinkedIn, so people can check me out on LinkedIn, Michael Stamatinos, and they can go to our website, and they can hear from us there. Jason: [00:19:15] Awesome. Okay, everyone, go check that out. Michael, thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys want to build relations that equity and be around them, amazing agency owners all over the world that are sharing what's working. Having a lot of fun, passing a ton of business back and forth. I really never talked about that, but just really elevating each other along the way over the years. I'd love for all of you to go check out This is our exclusive mastermind for agency owners that want to grow and scale faster and just be transparent and have a lot of fun. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    How To Find The Right Formula For Quick Agency Growth

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 17, 2021 12:32

    Are you looking for the right formula for quick agency growth? When Ellen Jantsch was working as a head of growth in a small tech startup, she felt there was space for an agency focused on testing and executing strategies into long-term sustainable growth. She held on to that idea while she worked as a freelancer and when she started Tuff, a remote growth team for hire. They work with teams in nearly every industry to deliver actionable strategies to attract and keep more engaged customers. Today she joins the podcast to talk about how she found the right formula for quick growth for her agency, her strategic move to grow the agency's most valuable asset, and the moment she started thinking of a more repeatable formula to generate new business. 3 Golden Nuggets Test to find the right formula. When discussing how to find the right formula to grow your business, Ellen recalls that, more than anything, what helped her find the right fit for her agency was finding what didn't work for them. “Testing and experimentation was a much quicker route to finding what was going to work,” she assures. The agency relied a lot on word of mouth at one point and at one point they started to try different approaches, from outbound sales to putting on workshops and events. Finally, they focused on an SEO strategy that now brings 75 leads per month to their door. The foundation to grow your most valuable asset. In an unusual move, for her second hire, Ellen searched for an HR person. “If you're serious about building a remote team and a small team,” she assures, “you have to put a lot of foundation in place.” So, she worked with this person to set a career framework and think about the hiring processes. They decided on details like how to set up benefits and compensation and how to create an inclusive hiring process. It took a lot of time, but your agency team is your most valuable asset, after all. By the time she figured out what direction she wanted for the agency and the type of roles she needed to hire, there was already a solid hiring process in place. A predictable pipeline is everything. One of the things that became very clear for Ellen when she thought about what she could do to continue to grow her agency was that she would need to figure out how to create a more repeatable formula for generating new business. A more predictable look at revenue and growth would allow making strategic hiring decisions early, versus hiring someone when the pressure is up due to so much work. The only way to get ahead of that is to predict what the next six months are going to look like. 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 Finding the Right Formula For Quick Agency Growth and Generating New Business Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here. And on today's episode, we have an amazing guest, uh, fellow Coloradan, if that's a word, I don't know. I just moved here so I don't know. But we're going to talk about how she's grown her agency so quickly. And, uh, go over some of the strategies that have worked for her and some of the things that might not have worked, so it helps you avoid them. So let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Ellen. Welcome to the show. Ellen: [00:00:33] Glad to be here. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Ellen: [00:00:39] I run a business called Tuff. We're a small, fully remote growth marketing agency partnering primarily with startups, scale-ups, helping them get traffic and grow their revenue. We focus on tactics like Google ads, technical SEO, content, creative, Facebook ad, CRO, and email. Really trying to figure out how to test quickly and then operationalize small wins into long-term sustainable growth. Jason: [00:01:04] Awesome. And so how did you get started creating your agency? Ellen: [00:01:09] Primarily through freelancing. I think that's probably a common story, but I had done in my career prior to freelancing corporate marketing worked at an ad tech startup worked at like a really small startup as a head of growth. And I knew… Felt like there was an opportunity to, to start an agency like Tuff. But wanted to hone in on my own kind of experiences, primarily from an executional standpoint. So I freelanced for about a year and a half. Some consulting to strategy work, but a lot of executional work running Google ads, running Facebook ads, writing email copy. Trying to just kind of hone in on the services that Tuff was going to provide initially. And then got to a crossroads where it felt like I had enough money in the bank. I knew I didn't want to ever take capital as I started Tuff. And so I, I pretty much planned to have enough, enough money to pay myself a salary as well as two other people for six months, even if we didn't sign a single client. And at that point about three years ago, decided to start Tuff and put the freelancing work to the side. Jason: [00:02:11] Awesome, and so what were the roles of the two people that you hired first and why? Ellen: [00:02:16] Yeah, two people. Um, the first one was a PPC strategist, somebody to take over a lot of the day-to-day executional work I was doing for clients, Google ads, Bing ads, YouTube ads, that type of work. It allowed me to take off one hat and pass it to somebody else. The second hire was crazy to think about now, a non-revenue generating employee. Somebody to help us with people ops. I do think that if you're serious about building a remote team and a small team, you have to put a lot of foundation in place. We worked on a career framework. We thought about hiring processes. How do you set up benefits? How do you think about compensation? What's equitable? How do you create an inclusive hiring process? Just spend a lot of time getting that in place before we started actually thinking about building a team. Jason: [00:03:00] That's great. No, that's really great. That's first time I've heard someone bring on like an HR-type person as their second role. I thought you would say like project manager. And everyone always thinks they're not billable. Like, they're billable. I don't know why no one thinks that, but I usually tell people around the 10 person mark to get the HR and people usually are shocked. They're like, I thought you had to do that much later on. But I think a lot of people think they're just doing paperwork. And they're not doing all the other things to make sure you get the right people. Because the people in agency are the most valuable asset. Ellen: [00:03:36] Especially in a service-based agency, you know, I think it's people work with Tuff because they like the experience of the team members here. And if you don't get that right, then you have a lot of employee turnover. The cost of hiring the wrong employees is astronomical, if you ask me. And so I'd rather get it right the first time around. Jason: [00:03:54] Yeah. Well, do you guys feel that you've got it right on the first couple of hires? I know. Man, I hired so many of the wrong people. I got rid of a lot of the right people too. Many, many years. Cause I didn't have that person. Ellen: [00:04:06] Yeah, we really struggled in the beginning, mostly because we had a strong process for hiring, I feel, but didn't really know what we wanted. And I think that goes back to as well as being the kind of first-time founder never working on an agency before. We hadn't really established our playing field. So we were kind of like saying yes to every opportunity. We were doing any type of service that we could offer. We were just trying to generate revenue. And I didn't have a clear enough picture around what we actually need out of team members and what kind of like the long-term vision and who the right client is for Tuff. And we've kind of paralleled those. And as it became more clear around where we get the right results and the types of clients we want to work with, it becomes a lot easier to hire because you know exactly what you're looking for. But in the beginning it was a cluster. I was just shocked anybody wanted to work with us, to be honest. Jason: [00:04:50] Yeah, I think everyone has to go through the cluster. It's like that Vegas buffet, you're trying out everything. What was the pivotal moment where you got that clarity? Ellen: [00:05:00] Yeah, I think it probably happened about 18 months ago. And two things became really clear if I was going to continue to have any chance of growing Tuff, we had to figure out how to hire talent that's adaptable, autonomous more senior in position. So not people that we'd have to train extensively in the beginning who had experience working on small teams. So really honing in on characteristics versus job responsibilities, and that's been really helpful. Um, the second thing would be how do you create a more repeatable formula for generating new business? I think when you have a more predictable look at revenue and growth, it becomes a lot easier to then make strategic hiring decisions early. Versus waiting to kind of like feel the pinch in the stress of like, oh gosh, we've got a lot of work. We've got to hire somebody else. Or this whole thing is going to collapse. You can get to a point where you slowly get out of that and get ahead of it with hiring and you can't do that unless you can predict what the next six months is going to look like. Jason: [00:06:03] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry leading security and cyber performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7 so you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to and re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Yeah. Building a predictable pipeline is everything, right? Like if your business is built on word of mouth, which I always joke around saying that's just not scalable. And you're relying on other people, then you're going to take on work that you probably shouldn't be. Because there's no such thing as a bad agency client and only a bad prospect or a bad process. And, and so when you can build that predictable pipeline, it makes things a lot easier where you're picking and choosing. So let's transition to that. What's worked for you for building a more full pipeline? Ellen: [00:07:25] I think more than anything, what hasn't worked. I have found at least with Tuff, testing and experimentation was a much quicker route to finding, finding what was going to work. And I think in the early days we relied a lot on word of mouth. Um, larger agencies. We tried to kind of like create partnerships for any clients they didn't want. Jason: [00:07:43] That doesn't work. Ellen: [00:07:45] No. Let's see, I put on workshops, I went to events. I would like get in touch with people that had been connected with LinkedIn. We tried outbound sales, um, saw some success there, but definitely not like a natural skillset for me. So a bit of a stretch. So we tried a whole bunch of different things for about a year. Um, got exhausted. And finally realized how do we generate more inbound leads then have, have healthier conversations and get people knocking on our door and getting curious about working with top and wanting to work with us. And so we started getting really specific with an SEO strategy. So that took, you know, that's a slow burn. It's not a, it's not like paid acquisition. It's not like referrals. It takes a long time to build it was a schlep. But now when you go into Google and type growth marketing agency, you're going to see Tuff in the number one spot. If you type content, strategy, agency, technical SEO agency, YouTube ads agency, we're going to be in the top three. And now we're lucky and humbled enough to have 75 leads knock on our door a month. And we maybe take on one or two. And I couldn't have predicted that level of scale ever, but the organic acquisition has really been important for us. Jason: [00:08:52] Very cool. Yeah. You know, I always tell everybody, it's kind of like, as you're building and growing the business, you got to experiment with what's not working. And then kind of go back to kind of the basics and really build on that foundation. And what we found too cause a lot of times. In the very beginning, when we were growing our agency, we grew it from being in the search engines and people coming to us. Then when we started getting, wanting to get to the next level, we started realizing, man, we need this outbound channel. Man, we need this strategic partnership channel. You know, Google changes one thing, we're toast. And then we're laying off a lot of people. So it's always… always a work in progress. Ellen: [00:09:37] Yeah. I couldn't agree enough. And I think we kind of, you know, like we partner with clients every day to think about growing revenue and acquiring new customers or users for them. And we try to apply the same process for Tuff. So we do quarterly growth marketing strategies. We stay pretty committed to it, but I would say we're like in that moment right now, Jason, where 75% of our leads come from organic traffic. And when you think about having all of your eggs in one basket, it's terrifying. And so we're starting to get to this point where we're capturing a lot of existing demand, how do we start to create a little bit more demand? And how does that look like for us long-term? Jason: [00:10:12] Yeah. I almost even look at it too of like, when I hear 75 leads a month, I'm like, okay, good. How can I make them even better? Or how could I even convert them more? Like I was talking to Darby or skill specialist. I'm like, well, out of the conversations that you set up, how could we have the ones we want… How do we increase that conversion rate? Just a little bit. That's always those little fine tweaks that work. I'm going to ask you something I've never really asked anybody that I'm gonna start doing the show. What's the thing that you've regretted that you haven't done in the agency yet? Ellen: [00:10:47] For the agency. Hmm. That's such a great question. I think, um, this is very tactical, but I apologize. It's top of mind. We didn't add on our creative team until recently. And in the growth game, we're really metrics driven data driven, thinking about tactics and the strategies behind those. But if you don't have really good creative, you're not going to get very far. And for so long we outsourced that. Not really trusting in our processes, not really understanding what that would look like in house. And we didn't bring it in house until about three months ago. And now I'm like, oh shit, we need to triple that team tomorrow. And so I think I would've just looked a little bit more holistically at our services and figure out… Again, it just goes back to how do you exchange the most value? And where can you team be the strongest? And I was slow to, I was slow to pick up on that. Jason: [00:11:34] Awesome. Well, Ellen, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Ellen: [00:11:40] No, I think you've covered it. Jason: [00:11:42] All right. Perfect. Uh, what's the website people go and check out the agency? Ellen: [00:11:46] Jason: [00:11:48] Awesome. Very easy. Everyone go check it out. And if you liked this episode, make sure you guys subscribe. Make sure you hit the like button, comment. And uh, if you guys want to be around amazing agency owners on a consistent basis. Where you can grow your agency faster because you can get their opinions and then they can share what's working for them. So you can scale and grow faster. I'd like to invite all of you to the This is our exclusive mastermind where the agency owners are growing very, very quickly and having a fun time doing it. So make sure you go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why Becoming the Agency CEO is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 14, 2021 20:32

    Are you looking to start your transition to the role of agency CEO? David Anderson started living the entrepreneurial dream more than twenty years ago when he started Off Madison Ave, a full-service marketing agency he founded with his partner after getting fired from his agency job. After two decades as a business owner, David has experienced success and failure. Having learned from many successes and the hard knocks of business and life. In his conversation with Jason, he talks about the many challenges and mistakes that helped him learn, why taking a step back from day-to-day operations is a marathon, not a sprint, the importance of building your leadership team and letting them make their own mistakes, and what he has learned after many agency acquisitions. 3 Golden Nuggets Taking a step back is a process. After many years in the business and finally being able to take a step back to being his agency's CEO, David admits that he made many mistakes along the way. The first time, he recalls, he hired someone from the outside and did not have a solid onboarding process for that person. That fell apart quickly and they even ended up losing clients. Later, he had a leadership team implement EOS, which he highly recommends, but he chose not to be the innovator and integrator. It fell apart and he had to step in to fix the situation. Finally, he brought somebody up through the ranks, worked on a transition plan, clearly defined authority, and is holding that person accountable. “It's a process,” he says, “and you will have your failures in it.” Allow leaders to learn from mistakes. David has figured out a leadership team system that works for his agency. There were mistakes along the way, however. One of them was tying the head of the team's financial bonus to their financial income. He later changed that and now their bonuses are tied to the overall performance of the agency, not of an individual. Also, what business owners need to do is let go as they bring on those senior people. You don't hire senior people and micromanage. They don't want to be told what to do. With that, you also have to accept that there will be failures and things that don't work. If you want to grow your team, you need to let them make mistakes. On mergers and acquisitions. With 24 years in the business, our guest has seen his fair share of acquisitions. So, what does he look for in a potential purchase? In their case, as a full-service agency, they look for businesses that can complement their services. So they've purchased agencies that allow them to gain a deeper focus on some aspect of the business. On the financial side, they are definitely looking at the EBITDA. He's also made some mistakes on this front, and his advice is that, when it comes to people who will help you evaluate a potential acquisitions organization, they need to understand the industry. The person selling won't mind if you're uneducated, but you will surely overpay. Sponsors and Resources Sharpspring: Today's episode is sponsored by Sharpspring, an all-in-one revenue growth platform that provides all of the marketing automation, CRM, & sales features you need to support your entire customer lifecycle. Partner with an affordable marketing automation provider that you can trust. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Building Your Leadership Team & Letting Go of Day-to-Day Operations is a Marathon, Not a Sprint Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here with another amazing episode and amazing guest. We're going to talk to an eight-figure agency owner who's going to talk about how he really kind of transitioned out of really doing everything and transitioned more to a leadership role where he doesn't have to make all the decisions, which I think a lot of us like. We're also going to talk about M&A, growth, getting bigger, so sit back and let's get into the episode. Hey, David. Welcome to the show. David: [00:00:35] Hey, Jason. Thank you for having me. Looking forward to it. Jason: [00:00:38] Yeah. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? David: [00:00:42] All right. So Dave Anderson, I live here in sunny Arizona, where it's still a hundred plus degrees here, today when we're recording this anyway. I am in Arizona. I have been an agency owner for about 23, 24 years now and worked at another agency for a good three years before that. The name of the agency is Off Madison Ave. We are a full service, kind of going back to the old terms, full-service agency that does everything from creative media, public relations, social media, digital. All of the kind of stuff that we've had. We're about 35 full-time people but our business model is really evolved to where we're with a plethora of great talent out there now of how we're using a real combination of full-time people and people with specific skill sets to do our diverse client work every day. Jason: [00:01:41] And so tell me kind of how did you guys get started or why did you start? David: [00:01:45] Ah, that's a great question. So I have one business partner. Roger Hernie, a great friend of mine. So we were both working… Jason: [00:01:52] Still, still business partner? David: [00:01:53] Still business partners, 23, 24 years in October years later, still business partners. And I can, I can give some insights if you like, why I think that has worked overtime. But we were both working at the same agency. And to be honest with you, I got fired one day. First time I'd ever been fired in my life from a job. Um, my wife and I were one month pregnant with our first child on the way. I still remember going and telling her and picking her up at work. And she said, how'd the day go? And I said, well, they got fired today. That'll stress out your wife in any situation. Jason: [00:02:26] Was it Friday? David: [00:02:27] Uh, it was Monday. I started the week off the right way for her. So… Jason: [00:02:33] I've always been fired on Fridays. David: [00:02:35] Yeah, no, this was a Monday. And it's a story that needs to be told over alcohol. The agency kind of turned into, um, the culture was bad and the CEO asked me one day why it was bad. And I told him my honest opinion and I didn't last long after that. So I come from the PR side of things. Background in politics, PR. My business partner worked for McCann Erickson, he is the creative guy. And we just working together, saw the value… Again, I'm an old guy way back then were PR and creative, but didn't really work well together, they were more siloed. And we really wanted to bring that together to bring a total marketing picture. So yeah, 23 years later, we've done three small acquisitions over the years to help us grow. And like every one of you, we've had our best of days on our absolutely worst of days. Um, I'm a lot grayer now, but you know, we've survived. Jason: [00:03:32] Very cool. And, um, tell me what's been the process…? How long did it take you? Or if you kind of remember some of the key elements or key things that happen to get to a point where you don't have to be in the day-to-day operations anymore. David: [00:03:50] Yeah. It's a great question. And I'm going to be honest with you. I severely messed it up two times before I got it right. And it's a thing that I work with kind of both other business owners now, and agency owners. The process of working on the business every day, not in the business. And then ultimately be able to move where I am now today, where I don't really have any day-to-day role in the company. I'm still involved from a financial side. If we do an acquisition, like we did last November, I'm very involved. Um, but I work directly with our GM. So the first time I messed it up, I hired a person from the outside who supposedly had a lot of agency experience, bigger agency actually. And after going through the process, what I did horribly wrong was I didn't have a solid onboarding process for the new person that was coming on. Honestly, I kind of said, this person's hired, he starts on Monday. And by Monday afternoon I was like, good luck! You know? And within six months, we've lost clients. Most hurtful was I lost, I think, three of our top-five leadership team members because of that person's leadership style, how they were doing. Just a bad, bad time. So I had to come back in and fix that. The second time, I had a leadership team and we implemented EOS to be honest with you, which I'm a big fan of. But I chose not to be the visionary or the integrator and I left it to our executive team and the partners that were involved in the business. And that went really bad too, because when you kind of pick the integrator to lead, the other people didn't agree. There was no solid decision-making. There was not clear definition on when to bring it to the owners or me as the owner of decisions. And, again, it completely fell apart and I stepped back into fix it again. Now this time, I think I have finally gotten it right where we brought somebody up through the ranks, worked on a transition plan, clearly defined authority. I am holding that person accountable. The biggest thing where I failed was lack of accountability as I kind of turned the day-to-day operations over to others. Now there's a level of accountability. I still am very involved at times on the EOS part of it on our rocks and making sure where we are. And we are more than a year into it now and the person who runs the bay, they, her name is Sasha has done a fantastic job. The agency is growing. Our clients are happy. Our culture has improved. So what I would say is it's a process. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and you will have your failures in it. Jason: [00:06:47] Is your agency struggling to deliver real revenue growth results to your clients? You know, agency marketers can consolidate data and align marketing and sales teams goals to achieve real results for your agency and clients using revenue growth platforms. SharpSpring is an all-in-one platform built for agencies like yours to optimize digital marketing strategies with simple, powerful automation. Manage your entire funnel all in SharpSpring. Now for a limited time, my smart agency listeners will receive your first month free and half off onboarding with SharpSpring. Just visit to schedule your demo and grab this offer. That's Now I've seen it all kinds of different ways where… There's two ways I've seen it work out well. One is to bring in… One of the first guests actually brought in someone as a consultant to work with the team and to really kind of get to know them. And then eventually they hired that person as the CEO and it was kind of like, oh, well, you're part of us. You've been working with us for six months. That kind of stuff. I've seen that work. And it's a good test. And then I've also seen kind of going through the ranks. But a lot of times what people struggle with is if you don't have people through the ranks, what do you do? And that's why I wanted to kind of give you option number one, that I've seen work. I've also seen it not work where they brought in someone temporarily, and then it doesn't work, but that's fine. They're not the CEO yet. You're testing out the waters and then you can kind of go… Let's talk about a lot of times when agency owners get over the couple of million mark, right? Like you can get to the million mark by accident, I feel. And then you can kind of get to the 2 million mark by accident and a lot of luck. But then to really kind of take it up from there, you have to build out a really good leadership team. So let's talk about how did you build out your leadership team? Like not particular names, but what were their roles? What did you learn from that? Like, what did you… what didn't work? David: [00:09:05] Yeah, so great question. And again, I feel we're in a good spot now, but lots of mistakes along the way. So how we do it, we call them group heads in our organization and we put people at the lead of like our account service team, our creative team, our PR team, and our media team and creative team. So we put a person at the head of all of them, and then I made them the leadership team that they were the ones to work collectively. Um, you know, we're not big enough to, and never have been. And I, quite frankly, I don't think I agree with having people that are just managers and not… So they're working directors is what we call them. They were directors that head of their group, group heads. But they were the ones who were responsible for making sure we weren't siloed and the workflow and functioning like that. And that has worked very well with us. But as agency owners know, actually any CEO leadership knows… The challenge there is managing the personalities, the issues, the finances. You know, one of the biggest mistakes I made was tying my group head's compensation to the financial bonus to their financial income. And then it was a question of how much money do I get? Because I get to put more in my pocket on that. And so what I did was their, and still is, their compensation of bonuses and stuff like that is based on the overall performance of the agency, not of an individual. Otherwise, you'll always have people looking out for their own personal wellbeing that they go through. So it's really that… Now also as a business owner, agency owner, what you need to do, two things is one is you need to let go as you bring on those senior people. You don't hire senior people and micromanage. They don't want to come in and be told what to do, but you as an owner have to relinquish that. And with that, you have to accept, there's going to be failure. There's going to be things that don't work. These are how people learn. And we as owners, when the first time something goes wrong, we jump back in to save the day and tell everybody else what they did wrong. And believe me, I, you know, if you can see me, I've lots of gray hair. This is how I got to that point. But I think, and I've seen, you know, in entrepreneurs, business people as general, we hate to fail we're as competitive. But I believe if you really want to grow your team and you have to let them fail, just like our kids, you know, you have to learn lessons the hard way. So I hope that's helpful. Jason: [00:11:39] Yep. What was your first leadership role that you hired and second and third? David: [00:11:44] I still remember that when it was Roger and I. Well, the first full leadership role that I hired was in our media group because it was the area that we were most knowledgeable in. Roger being a creative guy, me being a PR person. So we brought that media expertise and was one of the very first things. Jason: [00:12:06] Gotcha. And why the media role if you guys had expertise in it? David: [00:12:11] Well, we really didn't. We were faking it. We were using a lot of outsiders to do the work for us. And when we got to a certain point in billings of media, we realized that we needed that expertise of not only just for placing and all of that, but the analytics behind it. And that's where we really needed the expertise. That's why we started there. Jason: [00:12:35] Gotcha. I always like to see when, uh, when people are like, well, so many people hire based on things that they don't know. And I'm like, I think the best thing is, is like hiring on the things, you know. Cause then you can actually, you know, are they full of shit or not, you know? Going there. Kind of switching focus a little bit… This focuses on growth, mergers and acquisitions and buying agencies. You know, with our agency Republics, that's how we've been able to grow, we've done 10 acquisitions so far in the past year and a half, and just had tremendous growth. So, and you've said you've done some MNA as well. So what do you look for? What's worked what hasn't worked when you bought agencies? David: [00:13:21] Yeah, that's a great question. Our philosophy right now is to find things that complement the services. We aren't necessarily looking for another full-service agency. That's going to come in with creative teams, PR teams, all of that. Like the acquisition we did, um, in November of last year was a PR agency based out of San Francisco. And we wanted to really bolster our PR capabilities. It was also a step in over 20 something years and probably something I would do different, maybe do different is… We've always been more of a generalist agency. We've had some core areas of focus and we really want to move to a much deeper focus in two areas specifically. And this was a great way to bring in a book of clients that fit into that area where we want to be more specific. So I would say is, you know, an M&A there's two types: financial, which you're just adding revenue dollars, and they're strategic. And we're looking more strategic with the one we just did. The one before that allowed us to get deeper into technology. How do we use technology more in our marketing? As a result of that, we've also started another startup, um, a SAS-based product in the marketing space that we've also done that. And if I go way back to the early two-thousands, we were a very traditional agency and we didn't have the digital capabilities that the whole marketing world was going to. And we made an acquisition to get us really deep into that space also. So they've almost all been very strategic for us. Jason: [00:15:05] Awesome. And when you're looking at buying an agency or when you bought these agencies, is it a roll up? Is it cash? How are you evaluating them? David: [00:15:18] Yeah. You know, we do the typical valuations stuff that we have. And I'm sure you've seen more than once or twice that people in their minds have a much greater valuation for their agency than what the numbers… I can tell by your face you've seen that a couple of times. And I've had, you know, while we've done four acquisitions, I've probably had 20 where we got to a serious conversation that we do. So we really look at the numbers. I'm actually a finance major coming out of school. But then you also have to take the intangibles into it. So it's always, usually a combination of some upfront money earn out that, you know, goes with it from there. Jason: [00:16:01] How do you evaluate how much they're worth? Is it on EBITDA? Is it on top line? What are some of the factors that you put in there? David: [00:16:08] More EBITDA. More is EBITDA. And then, you know, you play the whole add back game of what to, you know, really kind of goes to… From my country club membership, to my Ferrari, to my vacation home in there to get to where, it's a game. I mean, you know, as well as I do, it's a game. What I would tell… and I'm sure you've had similar experiences use people who can help evaluate a potential acquisitions organization who understands our industry. One of the big mistakes I made on the first acquisition that we did is I used my regular attorney who knew nothing about the marketing industry. I overpaid without a doubt because of that, the, you know, you know what you're doing. Because it does, it does become a game with add backs and you know… How owners are willing to structure their compensation. Jason: [00:17:04] Well, if you're selling you don't mind, if the person buying you is uneducated. Make sure you tell us that lawyer so all the sellers can use that versus David: [00:17:14] Yeah, I totally agree with you. The other thing, I had this happen once as we went through a whole valuation. We were moving forward and then it came back and I had this owner. It was a PR agency said… I think the valuation of their company came back and like 1.5 million, something like that. You know, pretty small agency. And the agency said, well, just our contacts are worth a million dollars alone. Who we know in the media is worth just a million dollars alone. So I would never sell for less than $4 million. And I was like, well, I guess we won't be moving forward. Jason: [00:17:47] Yeah. I always like to tell that person I'm like, well, you can wish in one hand and crap in the other, it gets filled up first. David: [00:17:53] I love that. I'm going to steal that if that's okay. Cause that's very well said. Jason: [00:17:58] Yeah, Well, I stole that from cousin Eddie on Vegas Vacation. David: [00:18:04] Love it. Absolutely love it. Jason: [00:18:06] Well, this has all been great, David, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? David: [00:18:11] No. Well, a couple things. One is, you know, as agency owners and entrepreneurs, make sure you have a great network around you of advisers is what I would say. Find like-minded… I'm a member of EO Entrepreneurs Organization. It's, you know, provides the CEO forum. Vistage. I was part of Vistage. Get people around you who know more than you, have more experiences that you, that you can experience share. Because that's how we learn and grow. And that's what we do best. I would also say, do whatever you have to do to work on the business every day, not in the business. And I fully understand when you're a smaller agency crossing that first million-dollar mark, $2 million mark, and you're finally making good money. And then the thought of hiring a six-digit leader, a six-figure income. Oh my gosh, that's going to set me back again. That's how you grow, you know, and it's just what you need to do um… If you want a growth the company. If you want a lifestyle company then, you know, that's perfect. And neither one is right or wrong. It's just, you have to marry it up with what you want to do. And the whole process I went through of getting out of the day-to-day, it's absolutely a marathon. It's not a sprint. I would say you need at least 18 months to plan properly for that. That's just my experience to do it in the right way. Jason: [00:19:36] Awesome. And, uh, what's uh, the agency website people go and check you guys out? David: [00:19:40] Uh, Off Madison Ave. A V E, not avenue. So Jason: [00:19:46] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, David, for coming on the show. It was awesome. And I totally agree with you on surrounding yourself with amazing people that are further ahead, so they can actually help you and see the things… And kind of setting me up for that, that was perfect. I want to invite all of you to go to This is our exclusive mastermind just for experienced agency owners. So I understand that there's other groups out there that have all kinds of different industries. But if you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners on a consistent basis, I want all of you to go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why Adapting to Change Is the Secret to Longevity in Agency Life

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 10, 2021 17:16

    Forbes has called Nancy A. Shenker a “bad girl” because she selectively breaks rules and takes calculated risks to help companies innovate and grow. Nancy had worked as a CMO for big brands like MasterCard and Citibank when she ventured to start her own business, TheONswitch. That was more than 18 years ago and she credits her client side work for providing the insight needed when she first started. Those experiences are what contributed to her still being in the agency world today. In her conversation with Jason, they talked about how staying in business through the years has meant adapting to different challenges. They also touched on some of the lessons learned in more than 18 years of owning her business, and why people shouldn't underestimate experience and the wisdom that can come from it. 3 Golden Nuggets On adapting to changes. Nancy actually credits the hard times of the 2008 recession for preparing her for the pandemic. “When the economy takes a downturn, you're sort of stuck throwing all of this stuff overboard,” she recalls. When it came time for everyone to welcome the new digital and minimalistic model, she had already adapted to it years ago. “I've been co-working and managing a virtual team for the last decade, so I was good.” In her opinion, the pivoters were the ones surviving and thriving. It was a time to do market research, to find out how customers were behaving, but many went into a state of inertia. Lessons learned over the years. After 18 years in the business, lesson number one for Nancy has been to always trust her gut. She doesn't have a lot of regrets, but she always regrets moving forward with projects where she felt like something didn't seem quite right. Another important lesson is to always watch your P&L. Hope is great but money in the bank is better. Always make sure to have that cushion because you never know when things can go south. Also, remember that a good profit margin for your business should be an average of 30%. And finally, invest in things that will bring you long-term value. Don't underestimate experience. Nancy is very passionate about calling out ageism in business. “I now bring to the table wisdom that I didn't have even 18 years ago,” she says. She calls for people not to assume that an older person cannot understand technology. She even challenges anyone a social media strategy contest, since she's been in the social media and digital media realm since the late nineties and feels that, at 65, she can offer a unique perspective. Sponsors and Resources Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Lessons Learned After 18 Years in the Business & Why We Shouldn't Underestimate Experience Jason: [00:00:00] All right. What's up, agency owners? Today I have an amazing guest who has been in business for over 18 years. Actually, today is their 18th birthday. We're going to talk about the lessons learned about growing their agency. And let's go ahead and jump into the show. Hey, Nancy. Welcome to the show and happy birthday to the business. Nancy: [00:00:25] Thank you. How are you doing? Jason: [00:00:28] So, uh, tell us who you are and what do you do? Nancy: [00:00:32] Sure. My name is Nancy A. Shenker. And as you just said, today is the 18th birthday, so it's fortuitous timing, um, of my consulting company slash agency called TheOnswitch. Um, I was an early-stage entrepreneur. I left corporate life and started my own business long before it became popular to do that. Um, and previously I was a CMO at a company called Reed Exhibitions, the producers of Comicon. And then before that I was at MasterCard and Citibank. So the first part of my career was on the client-side. So when I got ready to start my own consultancy, I sort of knew what things look like from the other side of the desk, which gave me tremendous insight and probably contributed to my still being around 18 years later. Jason: [00:01:26] Yeah. What were… Going back to when you were the CMO and working with a lot of different agencies over the years, what were some things that really pissed you off? Nancy: [00:01:39] Um, I think that, um, account people who had never really worked in or on the business, um… Always seemed sort of whimsical to me. Like if you couldn't tell me specifically what was going on with a project or why I should be spending my money on direct rather than conventional print… Then you were really just like a host or a hostess. So that was like number one, that stuck in my craw that I didn't really need somebody to take me out to lunch or invite me to parties. I needed a person who was going to give me creative ideas to grow the business. Jason: [00:02:22] A strategist. Nancy: [00:02:22] Um, yeah. Yeah. The other thing, um, was, um, paying for people who weren't actually working on my account and the recession was a tipping point for me when I really had to take a long, long, hard look at my overhead as a business and to say, whoa, whoa, like my clients are paying for my equipment. They're paying for my toilet paper. They're paying for, you know, all of this stuff. And when the economy takes a downturn, you're sort of stuck throwing all of this stuff overboard that you just bought in the previous 10 years. So I was actually really in great shape to handle the pandemic. Because I went with this minimalistic virtual model back in 2008, which suddenly became popular in 2020. And I'm like, whoa, I've been doing this for 10-15 years. I'm all good. I don't have any stuff to throw overboard at this point. I'd been co-working for the last decade. I have been managing a virtual team for the last decade. So I was, I was good. I mean, no one was really good in the pandemic, but I was better than most. Jason: [00:03:47] Yeah. I saw a lot of agencies growing actually in the pandemic, just because, you know, there were so many businesses that… Traditional, their traditional way of getting business they couldn't get anymore. And they really needed, you know, that digital, um, expertise in order to reach their customers and really kind of make, get, get them through because you know, the, the loans of the government only goes so far. Nancy: [00:04:15] Yeah. I mean, I would say probably, you know, 20% of clients said... Oh my goodness, the world is changing. Human behavior is changing and my customer's changing and I'm going to get first-mover advantage by dealing with that. And then there was a whole other swath of the population that went into this like inertia state. So the nimble, the strong, the… I hate the word pivot, but the pivoters are surviving and thriving. And those people who sort of… pause. I mean, I just saw this statistic that was shocking that two-thirds of companies, you're talking about major companies, postponed or canceled market research during the pandemic. And I would argue that that was the time to really be all over how are my customers behaving? What are they buying? What are they clicking on? How are they shopping? Because if you understood that, like, if you really understood, basic human behavior, which shifted largely to digital... Um, you were way ahead of the game if you were on top of that. Which is what taught us this lesson that, you know, I've learned starting in, when I first started my career in the 1970s. You know, our tagline as a business is bright and timeless marketing. I've seen media change radically. Um, but, um… What has stayed the same is your understanding of basic human behavior. Um, that's timeless, whether it's B2B or B2C, if you really are inside the head and heart and wallet of your customer, you'll never be wrong. Jason: [00:06:08] Yeah. What were, what were some of the things that you've learned over the years of running your business? Nancy: [00:06:15] Um, well, my lesson number one for today, I'm doing a series of nine lessons learned over 18 years. And lesson number one, which is live on my LinkedIn profile today is trust your gut. You know, and I think that it's very easy when you're a business owner to be swayed by clients, by your team members… But at the end of the day, you know, if you're a successful business owner, your intuition is usually pretty good. So if you have the heebie-jeebies, as I say, about a client or about a prospective employee or a current team member. You know, the chances are probably better than even that your gut is right. So, um, you know, the biggest mistakes I've made or learning moments I've had in the last 18 years have been when something didn't feel right to me and I moved forward with it anyway. Jason: [00:07:14] Yeah, exactly. Cool. And what are, what are some of the other nine? Obviously we, we don't have time to go over all nine. Um, and I'm not gonna put you on the spot for that, but look, give us a hint for some other ones. Nancy: [00:07:26] Um, always watch your P&L. You know, especially if you're a creative, um, and a storyteller, it's pretty easy to delude yourself and say, well, things will turn around tomorrow. Or, you know, I'm, I'm spending $10,000 on this because I think it's a good, calculated risk. But, you know, that's one of the big lessons I learned from the recession is that, um… Hope is great, but money in the bank is better. Like always have that cushion. Also because you never know when things could go south and you don't want to be too leveraged when that happens. So, you know, as I like to say, especially for women, business owners, PNL does not stand for purses and lipstick. Um, when you're in a service business and your biggest expense is people, um, you really have to spend very, very wisely. Jason: [00:08:34] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain. Calculating taxes, deductions, compliance, none of it's easy. Unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto's help you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to  That's for three free months. Yeah, I always, when I work with agencies, I'm always surprised about how low their profit margins are. And they think in the agency business that 10% is good or 15%. I'm like the average is over 30%. And then they kind of get shocked a little bit and I'm like, that's the average. I was like, you can go over. And they're like, but when you get bigger, it goes down. I'm like, no, it doesn't. Only if you're, if you get dumber. Nancy: [00:10:02] Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And, um, you know, when I first started my business, I think I was more into the creator comforts. Um, you know, I'd mentioned to you that I just moved to Arizona about three, four years ago. And I was kind of shocked at how many agencies have big spaces and their names on the door and big staffs. A lot of them did have to do some serious bloodletting when the pandemic started, you know. And you're right, there are some who didn't miss a beat and whose clients really needed them. And there are others that just could not sustain their expense base when things took a turn for the worse. So I'm a, I'm a minimalist both personally and professionally these days. Jason: [00:10:52] Yeah. I, I would always invest in anything that would be for the long-term that they would generate. And then personally, I would only invest in things, um, that were related to experiences. I would never buy a $50,000 watch, but I would buy a $50,000 experience. Nancy: [00:11:14] Oh yeah. I mean, you're talking to a woman who spent an insane amount of money on a 12th-row seats to see the rolling stones when they came through, um, a few years ago, pre-pandemic. And I will never, ever regret that expense. So, yeah. Memories, travel, experiences… And talent, you know, if you find people… I'm working with a couple of women now who I've known for years who are worth every penny, I pay them and then some. Because they are helping me scale the business and deliver great quality work and enabling me to sleep better at night, which at this stage of my life is super important. Jason: [00:11:58] Yeah, exactly. Uh, give us two other tips that you've learned over the years. Nancy: [00:12:04] Um, build a really… Another people tab is build a really strong inner circle. And that inner circle can change or evolve over time, but you really have to have people in your life who will tell you the truth, who aren't just bobbleheads. Um, operations is really key. You know, you could be doing the best creative in the world, but if stuff isn't happening on time and on budget, you're screwed. Um, and then, you know, this isn't one of my nine tips, but it's my, you know, one mini regret, in terms of how I started and scaled the business… I think having product, having tangible product is super important. Because being exclusively in a service business, no matter how much you productize your service, it's still a service. So, I mean, I'm not done yet. I have another 18 years at least ahead of me. And I have a few product concepts that I hope to launch over the next five to 10 years. Including, you know, I, I'm a writer and I have a bunch of books on Amazon and I have, um, some courses I'm developing. So yeah, I'm really into passive revenue these days. Jason: [00:13:24] Well, let me, let me tell you, the grass is not always greener on the other side. It's greener on the side you water. When I sold my agency, I thought just like you, I was like, ah, I've been in the service business for 12 years. Let me go develop a product. And I developed an iPhone app and I hated it. I literally wanted to… I put a gun to it and just blew it up behind the shed. And… Nancy: [00:13:46] Yeah, and that's one of the reasons why I haven't launched my… I have one product idea that's actually a physical, tangible product, a household product. And when I started delving into manufacturing and trademarking and distribution, I'm like, nah, I'm not, I'm not doing that. So I think that there is an opportunity and I think you've actually done it really well. You know, and I'm not just being, you know, a sycophant here. But like developing products that people in your industry truly need, you know, it's productizing your service, which is also a form of a product. I think smart, digital marketers are doing more and more of that these days. So kudos to you on that. Jason: [00:14:32] Thank you. Well, uh, is there anything Nancy, I did not ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Nancy: [00:14:39] Um, yeah, I mean, something that I think a lot about these days is, I turned 65 last February. Um, I have been very often told that I don't look 65, but what I say is this is the new 65. I would like to see the agency world and the marketing world become more age diverse. Um, it's something that I'm passionate about and you know, I now bring to the table wisdom that I didn't have even 18 years ago. So when you see that person who's old enough to be your mother or your grandmother, don't assume that they don't understand technology. Because I challenge any millennial to a social media strategy contest because I've been in the social media and digital media realm since the late nineties, early two thousands. I helped build the first website for MasterCard. I was on Twitter day one of the Twitter launch. And it's funny cause I recently said to one of our associates I've been using social media since 2005. And she said, oh my God, I was only six years old then. So yeah, don't assume that because somebody is older doesn't mean that they can't understand new tricks. So that's my final bit of anti-ageism bad-ass wisdom. Jason: [00:16:15] Awesome. And what's the URL. People can go and check the business out? Nancy: [00:16:20], T H E O N S W I T C just like a light switch, but not. Um, my daughter actually helped me name the company and, um, feel free to follow me on LinkedIn because I'm, as I said, I'm a storyteller and that's where a lot of my content goes. Jason: [00:16:39] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Nancy, for coming on the show. And if you guys want to really be around an amazing inner circle, kind of like Nancy mentioned, where they're all digital agency owners and we're all wanting to grow and scale up faster. I'd love to invite all of you to go to Go and check that out and apply. And if we think it's right for you and vice versa, we'll have a conversation. So go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Which Levers Do You Need to Pull to Scale Your Agency Faster?

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 7, 2021 14:11

    Do you know which levers you can pull in order to scale your agency faster? Greg Bond believes his purpose in life is to add value to other people's lives. He is the head of revenue at SharpSpring, a company that aims to help businesses better understand their customers so they can maximize their value proposition. Greg oversees the sales function and works really close with the marketing team. He understands what it is agencies, and end-users, are really trying to do with that platform. Greg discussed the levers agencies need to pull to scale faster, some of the challenges agencies face, and what works for showing ROI and continuing to grow. 3 Golden Nuggets Levers you can pull to scale faster. One of the biggest challenges for agency owners is when they need to hire new employees and must raise their prices to be able to afford that. Will their clients pay that? Well, that depends. Do they know how much value they are delivering to their clients? Sharpspring focuses on ROI and being able to report specifically on this piece of revenue. With the consolidation of tools and bringing data into one place, you'll have a centralized data repository that drives your automation engine and behavioral tracking, making your message more relevant. This is what gets you extra conversion rates and will help you grow your revenue. Why are agencies bad at their own marketing? You probably recognize this. The cobbler's shoes. Agencies spend a lot of time and effort working with their customers and they don't do a great job of marketing for themselves. Agencies spend all their time trying to blow their clients away to get more clients through word of mouth. That's great, of course. It's the first requisite to start scaling. However, you can't raise your prices when you're built on referrals. About this, Jason asks, what if you hire a hunter? That way, con can stop self-sabotaging, you'll continue to scale, and you can finally raise your prices. What works for showing ROI. For Greg, it's all about showing value at the end of the funnel. Agencies bought into the lead marketing approach, he says. But with new customers these days there are multiple interactions before they actually make a purchasing decision. So the idea is being able to track all the different interactions across the entire funnel. Having all that data in one place and being able to map it to a singular campaign and then show when this deal actually does close enables agencies to tell what contributed to a sale and report on it in a way with confidence. YOUTUBE AUDIO LINK Levers You Can Pull To Scale Your Agency Faster and Why Agencies Are Bad at Their Own Marketing Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk and I have another amazing episode with my friends at SharpSpring. We're going to talk about what are the levers you need to pull in order to give your clients better results to scale your agency even faster. We all want to know this, so let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Greg. Welcome to the show. Greg: [00:00:25] Hey! Thanks, Jason. Happy to be here, man. Jason: [00:00:28] Yeah. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Greg: [00:00:32] Yeah, so my name is Greg Bond and I'm the head of revenue over at SharpSpring, which very recently we were acquired by Constant Contact. So, um, a lot of really cool integration stuff going on there between those two companies. And yeah, I just kind of oversee our entire kind of sales function and work really close with our marketing team. I actually, I've been with the company a while and I came from VP of customer success. So very close to our customer base and really understanding what it is that our agencies and even our end users are really trying to do at the platform and kind of what their pain points are and what they're struggling with. And I've been able to bring a lot of that into the revenue focus of the company. So… Jason: [00:01:13] Awesome. Let's get into it. Let's talk about some of the levers that agencies can pull in order to kind of scale their agency faster and get better results for their clients. Greg: [00:01:25] Yeah. And I, I think, you know, when we talk about this, especially in the context of SharpSpring, I think what a lot of it focuses in on for us is tool consolidation. I think is one of the main things. Over the years, the technology revolution of the past 10 years, you know, the past decade. Um, has brought a lot of different point solutions to market that are fantastic tools. But the problem with them is that you end up with siloed databases and all this information that, that sits in each individual tool. And you almost have to have a whole team of operational wizards to connect these things and pull all that data together. You've got all this different reporting that's ended up end up in silos. And you can't really work to unify that customer experience and report on where exactly what attribution is the attribution that you should be pointing towards for your clients that you're working with to say, hey, this is where that sale came from. And at Sharpspring what we really focus our customers in on is ROI and being able to report specifically on this piece of revenue, where did it come from? We talk a lot about being a full-funnel marketer, and I think that's really the space where we want to play and where we think agencies can leverage to improve their own results. Jason: [00:02:45] So ROI has always been very important. And I think a lot of… You know, when I talk to agencies, one of their biggest challenges that they have is well, I can't afford to hire someone right now. I'm like, well, why don't you charge more? They're like, well, I don't know if they'd pay that. Um, and then my next question to them is, well, how much value do you deliver your clients? And a lot of them go, I don't know. And which is really freaking scary. So depending on your industry, sometimes it's hard to show an ROI. How have you found... Or what are some of the things that have worked for agencies for showing ROI in order for them to, you know, have the client stay with them longer, as well as to charge more? Greg: [00:03:29] It really is about showing that value at the bottom of the funnel. I think agencies in the past and marketers, just digital marketers period, they… They bought into this inbound marketing approach where you have the lead magnet. Somebody fills out a form and that form gives you somebody's email address in a really nice tidy bow of, hey, this is where this person came from. But the new customers, these days, there's multiple interactions before they actually make a purchasing decision. And so you have all of this noise in the system. So being able to track all the different interactions across the entire funnel, sometimes people move into the middle of the funnel and then back up to the top and then back down. And, you know, they may not necessarily be ready yet when they talk to your sales team. And to be able to kind of… Keep all of that data in one place and be able to map it to a singular campaign and then show when this deal actually does close. That's the place where I can now track all of those interactions back and say, whether I want to look at first touch or last touch or any different number of touches and attribution. I can tell you what contributed to that, that sale and be able to report on it in a way with confidence, right? Like being able to go to your client with confidence and say I am 100% sure that our marketing efforts drove this sale. As well as your sales team, right? Like, I don't want to take the sales team out of it. The sales team has a role to play as well. But marketing runs alongside the sales team and helps enable them to be able to close those deals. And you need a singular system that can track all of those interactions without some sort of XL ninjitsu happening there in the middle of it. Yeah. Jason: [00:05:14] You know, Dean Jackson always talks about out of a hundred percent of the pie. Like he always draws like this square and then he basically draws a line down the square and says 50% will never buy from you. And that out of the other 50%, they'll eventually buy from you, but maybe like 10% are ready to buy now. Then the other 40% is over time, right? And so it's really important to really kind of think about it in that way, because a lot of people just go after the 10% and they forget about the 40%. Like, when I look at our data and the different things… There's a lot of times people don't engage with us or, well, jump into the mastermind or buy a, our framework for like two or three years. Which I'm like, that's awesome. Like we held their attention that long, but you know, some people. Yeah. Greg: [00:06:07] And I talk a lot about it with our teams. I talk a lot about the buyer's journey. And there are plenty of people who fall into the bottom of your funnel, who are ready to buy right now. It's the first time you ever talked to them, right? But that's where they are in their buyer's journey. And they just happened to find you at that time. I think so many people look for that, you know, zero moment of truth, that, that place where, you know, that's all marketing is like targeting that person. But there are so many other people, like you said, there's a, the vast majority of the people who will buy from you in the future are not at that point yet. And how do you nurture them to get there? And how do you drop them in at the top of your funnel? Where at the top of your funnel, it's damn near impossible to keep them accurately it attributed to the right campaign over a long period of time. But you still have to fill that top of the funnel and help nurture them down. But with a unified database and behavioral tracking and a tool like SharpSpring, you now have that ability to get all those different touch points in and have them all in the system so that when two years from now three years from now, they actually do convert into a sale, you know exactly how to attribute that marketing spend. Jason: [00:07:19] You've been working with agencies for a long time. Why are agencies so bad at their own marketing? Greg: [00:07:25] That's a great question. I mean, I think one of it is, it's, you know, the cobbler shoes. They've spent a lot more time and effort working with their customers and in collaboration with their, their clients. So they don't do a great job of marketing for themselves. And I, and I think the other one is the number one way that agencies get businesses through word of mouth. Word of mouth is about delivering results, right? If you deliver results above and beyond the expectations of your clients, that's where you get that word of mouth from. And so they spend all their time and I believe rightly so, they should spend all their time trying to blow their clients away and just deliver those results. Again, being able to point back to the ROI and say, hey, this marketing spend this effort that we drove, drove these results. And if you do that over and over again, you'll get word of mouth. And so it'd be great if you could also fill the top of your funnel with a bunch more content, but if it comes at, at the risk of losing the results for your clients, then I don't think it's worth either. Jason: [00:08:28] Yeah, I see that, you know, I, I just had, um, as we're recording this. A week ago, we had 28 of the best agencies over at the house for a three-day experience. And we all talked about like, where were the biggest challenges? Some of them were, you know, we're not doing our own marketing. And they thought, well, in order to scale my agency, the lever I need to pull is the sales. And I need to find a hunter. I, I started asking more questions as well, why? I was like, well, what about the business coming to you? And they said exactly what you're saying, most of their businesses generated by word of mouth. I said, well, congratulations, you're doing a great job. That's prerequisite one for scaling an agency. Right? Like, because there's a lot of people that take a stupid Facebook course and go, I'm a Facebook ads agency. They can't deliver shit. And then it screws it up for all the legit people out there. But what I told them, I said, what if you actually hired a hunter in order to scale? They're like, what about the leads? I'm like, well, that's the other thing, you pull the marketing lever, you can start generating and building your pipeline. Because what I found was there's a lot of owners that the better they do in marketing, the more meetings they have. Soon they get overwhelmed and then they start self-sabotaging themselves. And a lot of you listening right now, you're doing this shit right now. I can promise you. You're self-sabotaging yourself, but if you hired a hunter, then they can start closing that business. They're not going to sabotage you. They want to do well. And then you can scale. Then you can raise your damn prices because when you're built on referrals, you can't raise your prices because they're like, oh, I paid 10,000 a month. You can't charge a hundred thousand to a guy that just referred you 10,000. It's just a different playing field. Greg: [00:10:16] And I think agencies, it's such a unique business because it is a professional service. And, in professional services businesses, it's the expertise that people are buying, right? And the agency owner and the principal is that main source of vision and creativity. So you have to have them involved in the sale. And you also want them involved in every client engagement. That's what the clients purchased, right? So it becomes a scalability issue for your agency, right? Like there's only a certain amount that you can scale yourself. And so you have to hire people who have that ability to cast a vision and be that sort of thought leader as well alongside of you. And you need to be able to share the spotlight a little bit with them. Or at least have, like you said, that hunter that goes out and brings people in front of you and does it in a way that doesn't require a ton of your time so that you can spend the time delighting your customers with incredible results. Jason: [00:11:09] Yeah, exactly. And, and I look at it to have going, you know, as your business scales and you scale the agency, you better damn well start putting the people in place for this, right? Like you should have someone like the director of happiness, making sure you're delivering the results, right? That's what we have. So I don't have to. Like, my attention to detail is probably like everybody else's, that's why I was telling you, like our shows use like 10 to 15 minutes. Like we're all like attention to detail, like bird, where's the bird? So… Well, this has all been amazing, Greg. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think our audience needs to know about? Greg: [00:11:47] I don't think so. I mean, I think we kinda covered all the, all the main topics that I think are worth really focusing on. But I think one thing that I want to make sure is clear here is when we talk about tool consolidation… And I think everyone hears cost savings, right? They hear that, oh, I can make my life a little simpler, have fewer log-ins and things like that. And that's not really what we're saying. What we're saying is the consolidation of tools and bringing all that data into one place and being able… For that CRM, that centralized data repository to be the thing that drives your automation engine and all that behavioral tracking, being able to make your message more relevant. The right person, the right message. The right person, the right time. That is what gets you those extra conversion rates. That is what helps you grow your revenue. And it's not just, oh, you get to save some money. Yeah. Okay. That's cool. Yeah. That's another benefit. But the real benefit here is... It's actually the right way to build a customer experience that people will go nuts for. Jason: [00:12:52] Awesome. I love it. Now, Greg, you guys have a special offer for our audience for a short time. So tell us about. Greg: [00:12:59] We do. We want to offer anyone that that's a listener of your podcast series a half off their onboarding and their first month free. So big offer here for, for you guys, um, especially for, for this podcast and your audience, Jason. Jason: [00:13:13] Sweet. Thank you very much. Where can they get this? Cause now they're, you know, if you want to get… right? Like, we need to tell them. So where's the call to action, so you can give me attribution for it? Greg: [00:13:24] So head over to, and you can schedule a demo right there and that will help us secure that offer for you. Jason: [00:13:35] Awesome. And you'll be able to schedule with one of their cool strategists that can walk you through everything and set you up. So I highly recommend SharpSpring, go check it out and get your half month or the full month and a half off the onboarding. That's a tongue twister. Greg: [00:13:52] It is a tongue twister. You know, it's about a $1,600 value right there. Jason: [00:13:55] Ooh, go get it, guys. Go get it while it's hot. But, uh, thanks so much for coming on the show and uh, until next time have a Swenk day.

    How Relationships & Collaborative Culture Help Agencies Scale Faster

    Play Episode Listen Later Nov 3, 2021 16:30

    Do you know the importance of building relationships to help your agency scale faster? Brian Cosgrove was doing well at a big agency but felt it kept him from doing what he really wanted to do, which was starting his own business and bringing innovation to the way the services are provided. Once he founded BrainDo, they started scaling and, within a year, had already grown from two to eight employees. In this conversation with Jason, he talked about the important role that building relationships & collaborative culture played in getting his agency off the ground, why he was always confident that they could run a big program, and what bringing value to his clients really means for him and why it is one of the guiding principles for everyone working at his agency. 3 Golden Nuggets What contributed to their growth. Once he and his partner hired their first employee, figuring out how to get benefits for their staff, how to do payroll, and making everything official with the agency made it a lot easier. They ended up going after a big contract, and that led to them getting at least 8 more workers, which allowed them to build out a lot of different services. What contributed to their faster growth? Brian credits the importance he places on maintaining good relationships with past clients, team members, and employers. He left his position at a big agency in good terms and, thanks to this, they still wanted to contract him afterward. Also, they were always confident that they could run a big program and positioned themselves to be ready for it. Building relationships & collaborative culture. Other agencies started reaching out to partner with them because their expertise. This helped them start to build relationships with local agencies that could refer clients. Also, former clients that were working at different companies started calling them. So Brian highlights the importance of these connections to get his agency off the ground. The importance of building the type of network where everyone is willing to help one another and believe they can all rise together. Of course, good work is a big part of it. “Because of that relationship, I don't want to leave the client in a worse place,” he says, “I refuse to do it.” The chain of value. After signing a contract, the agency will usually deal with the company's manager on a day-to-day basis. One of the guiding principles at Brian's agency is to make sure that that manager is benefitted from this relationship with them. They want to see that person get promoted and fully engaged. They should love what they're doing and help break down barriers within the organization to provide value. “The way I see it,” Brian says, “is I need everybody on my team to say everything that we do has provided value.” The principle is to make sure that what they do brings value to the customer, but also helps them help their team, their whole company and organization. And make sure all of that ends up helping their end customer. 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 Building Relationships that Will Help You Scale & The Guiding Principle of Providing Value Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swank here and I have another amazing guest for the podcast so you can grow your agency faster. We're going to talk about building relationships and creating a collaborative culture within your agency so you can scale faster. So let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey Brian, welcome to the show. Brian: [00:00:25] Hey, how are you? Jason: [00:00:26] I'm excited to have you on. So this is your first podcast. I'm honored you picked me to be your first podcast. But, uh, for the people that have not heard of you yet, tell us who you are and what do you do? Brian: [00:00:39] Yes. I'm Brian Cosgrove. I'm the owner of BrainDo Interactive Consulting, and we do a lot of work across the board, uh, focusing in analytics development and different areas of digital marketing. Jason: [00:00:53] Great. And so how did you get started? Brian: [00:00:55] Interesting story. I was in aerospace engineering and I was looking for as some side money during the holiday season and I applied for warehouse job. And found out I wasn't the best at doing packing boxes, but I was a bit overqualified. And the owner of the company asked if I could help out with some things related to their SEO program. So I read a bunch of like white papers. I read a bunch of like academic papers on people that were actually developing these engines. I tried to figure out, okay, who's the talent? Like how they did it? And then figure out what we should do and came up with a plan. And implemented it and started ranking top. In my other career I was like, okay, I can see where I'm going to be at in 10 years. And that's cool. But this is like amazing growth and I'm able to have a huge impact and I'm still in my early twenties. So I got into that and that kinda got me to crossover into this digital marketing thing. Worked in that space for a little while, went to my first agency Razorfish and started off in SEO. And then I had to fix analytics. Was there for about three years and then went into another company another comp company to help them build out their digital practice when they were doing all kind of like direct mail TV, pretty much all traditional marketing. I went there with some, you know, one of my colleagues from Razorfish. And then that went really well and kind of grew that. And then struck out with a good friend of mine on our own in 2013. Jason: [00:02:38] What made you want to leave? Since the one agency was going really well and you were leading that. What was that itch? Brian: [00:02:44] I already knew, like, I kinda knew since I was young, that I wanted to kinda like start my own thing or make my own thing. I always kind of had a sense of, you know, we could do things a little bit differently. We could innovate a bit in how these services are provided or culture. So for me, it was kind of like I liked doing what I was doing. But it was almost like a trap because it was keeping me away from what I really wanted to do, which was kind of start something fresh. Jason: [00:03:10] Gotcha. Awesome. And when you started the agency, how long did it take you to really kind of start bringing on and building a team? Brian: [00:03:20] So it was just myself and my partner for, I guess, February to November. And then we hired our first employee in November. And at that point we figured out how to get benefits for them. We figured out how to do payroll. We figured it out, we made everything official and we got all that squared away and that made it a lot easier. And then we went after a kind of big contract to kind of do all many different digital channels in, you know, a year two and ended up hiring eight more people that year. That kind of allowed us to build out a lot of different services that we needed someone to run point on. So I'd say within a year and a half, we were at 10 from, you know, two. Jason: [00:04:05] That's great. So what do you think contributed to that growth? Like how did you have that fast growth? Because a lot of people for a couple years, they're just kinda, it's kinda them, their business partner, maybe a couple of contractors. Brian: [00:04:18] It's an interesting thing. So while I was still working, before I even started, I really cared about the relationships with my clients, with my colleagues, with my management, with team members, with vendors. So I had a pretty big network at that point. And it was… You know, there's an interesting thing that happens when you kind of let people know like, okay, I'm going out to do this on my own, you know. People that you've built relationships with that care about you they kind of want to figure out how to work with you. So it helped out tremendously just to kind of lean into that. As soon as we left the place that we were working on asked if we could do some contracting with them. And I was like, we can, but you know, it's gotta be at our contracting rate. You know, it will give you somewhat of a discount for a period of time, but this is how we have to work for our business. And we were able to end up converting our former employer into our client, which was based on the fact that it maintained good relationships. We also took a lot of care in transitional work. Backfilled our roles sort of before we left. We left them in a good place to be like, okay, they're good. All of our big retainers are renewed. Our team they're fully staffed. They can run without us. And then they still wanted to contract with us afterward. Other agencies reached out, they wanted to partner with us because they knew that just individually, myself and my business partner had some expertise in certain areas. And they said, hey, we need help there. Can you guys help us out? So we ended up building relationships with other agencies that were in the area, you know. And then it was like someone who was a former client, you know, went to another agency, brought us in. I'd say a lot of it was kind of just relationships that got us off the ground. I think a big thing for us is we're kind of confident we could run a big program, like an enterprise program. And so, while we took on some smaller clients, we kind of just always positioned ourselves to be ready for that. Like we always kind of really played that role that we're ready to do enterprise work at a moment's notice. And we knew that that would get us a six-figure contract or something like that from a client, which again is sort of like a game-changer when it comes to hiring employees and say, I already kind of have your salary on contract. Like I can afford to pay you in the future without worrying about that. Jason: [00:06:37] Yeah, I think so many lessons in there that I want to make sure people don't skip over. It's you know, the one is you gotta be really good at what you do. Like a lot of people are like, how do you, how do you create a successful agency that's growing? And I'm like, well, you have to know how to do something better than most. And to actually get people results. That's rule number one. But I also liked that you talked about building relationships and really not just going, you know, what's in it for me, you know, like a lot of our mastermind members, they do this amazing… where they're like, look, I don't have any problem today, I just wanted to show up and help. Like help other members, right? And then when they do need help, everyone will… Here, here's the shirt off my back. Here it is. And it's not like I'll do this for you, if you do this. Like we get, you know, all those slimy emails that you get? Like, oh, you have my audience, can you just blast this out? Brian: [00:07:43] Yeah, there's a lot of that going on. Honestly, it's, it's building a tighter circle with people that you don't have to… You know, there's no fakeness to it. There's a lot less agenda. It's sort of like let's all rise together, to me has always been important. Jason: [00:07:59] Yeah, iron sharpens iron, right? Brian: [00:08:04] And I also really care about doing good work. So that point, and so I think that was another thing was that we were kind of committed to making sure we did great work no matter what. It wasn't like, uh, maybe we'll do well, maybe we won't. It was like, we're going to do great work no matter what, because of that relationship. I don't want to leave the client in a worse place. I refuse to do that. And that, and that was just sort of a… an important lesson, I think Jason: [00:08:34] When you're an agency partner with Wix you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry-leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7 so you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to and re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. And I think a lot of people forget that, you know, we kind of ring the bell. Or the gong, you know, ring the gong when you sell a deal and you're like, yeah, that's good for you. But you know, the client is already thinking, like having buyer's remorse, like you should be thinking about… Like, I was chatting with Darby, our agency scale specialist yesterday, and he's been bringing on a lot of really amazing members. And he's like, look, I'm so invested because I want them to have the best experience because it's, it's my word of what they went on. And I'm like, that's why we get along so well, we will do anything to move people along rather than like yeah. You gave us money. Yeah. Good luck. Brian: [00:10:10] Yeah, exactly. I mean, the way that I've seen it. So usually when we take on a contract, there's occasionally if it's smaller company, we might be dealing with the owner or upper executives. But usually when it comes to day-to-day, we're dealing with the manager that they have on their end. That's managing the relationship with us. And I've always told my team and, and this is kind of been a guiding principle… I want to see that person be in a position to get promoted. Just for working with us, they're doing so well, but they're now getting promoted. They're fully engaged. They love what they're doing and they're helping break down barriers within the organization to provide value. On top of that, the way that I see it, especially in the bigger organizations is I need everybody on my team to say everything that we do has provided value. Obviously, like it provides value to the brand that we're doing this work for… We're, we're billing for it. And that works out and ultimately it should be contributing to our culture. But after that, the client, that first person, that first line of contact or the person on the front lines, make sure that we're doing everything we can to help them. Make sure that what we're doing not only helps them, but helps them help their team. Make sure what we're doing not only helps them and helps their team, but helps their whole company and organization. And make sure all of that ends up helping their end customer. Because like, if you can follow that, that thread all the way through, and there's no conflict anywhere along the way, let's proceed. Let's move forward with this project and give it everything you've got. If there's a conflict on the way, maybe that's project we don't want to take on. Maybe there's a different reason that we, you know, maybe we want to propose something else. But if you can't follow that all the way along the way, then you can't have confidence that what you're doing is going to provide value. Another thing, I think that was important for us is... And this came up after working in other agencies was, you know, I remember a gentleman said to me said, look, I want to be able to be proud of who I see when I look in the mirror. I want to be able to be proud to tell my kids, the clients and the projects that I work on. And so another thing that we took on very early on was like to be picky. And so it's picky not just on the clients and the projects we work on. We want to do things that provide value to the world, but we also care about kind of like… Are we providing value to that organization? And so the how is just as important as like specifically what we're doing. And I would say, I want to add too, that team members put a lot more energy into it. Jason: [00:12:26] Oh, yeah. I think a big part of why you've gotten to grown so fast too, is you have belief in your team and you. And you said that we knew right away we could take on enterprise clients, right? There's so many of us that didn't start that way, right? We didn't start with at a big agency, like a Razorfish or go to... Like me, I was accidental. I remember I joke with people. I'm like, my first client asked me for an invoice. I didn't even know what an invoice was. I didn't know all these terminologies. And so for many years I had kind of that, um, imposter syndrome. That I could do a website, but I can't do anything else. And I see a lot of people that way. So I just want everybody listening, even if you have that… Look, I even feel like the imposter syndrome too. And I've been in the agency space since 98. And so you got to kind of go look, I'm really good at this and I can dominate this part and go do it. And build relationships like Brian has talked about… Correct me if I'm wrong, if you make all your managers and all those people rockstars, they get promoted and where do they go? Other companies, and then they bring you along. Don't they? Brian: [00:13:43] Yes, exactly. And so, in fact, I just received an MSA for a sneaker brand I'm super into, you know, like huge brands that I liked already loved are now like our client base. And I feel like… This morning, just from work, doing, working hard with some people while they worked in other companies before that. And so the way that I say it is just, that should almost be the end goal. That should be the expectation. Like we're all kind of in our careers together. We are all sort of like at certain points in certain stages. Our clients should be going to other companies, and when they do, they should want to come into work with us. And we should be sort of a secret tool that they bring to the table. Is that it bring that success along with them. Jason: [00:14:26] Exactly. Yeah. Cool. Awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. Brian, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Brian: [00:14:34] I just want to touch briefly on the collaboration part. One thing that helped out was that a lot of our brainstorming sessions early on, and what helped us grow is that we, you know, this person was a graphic designer. This person is doing SEO. This person is an analytics and that person's doing paid media. We would do a lot of like collaborative work early on to say, you know, kind of all hands on deck. Like how do we solve this client's paid search need? And get ideas from a lot of different people and made sure that everybody on our team knew Google analytics, knew kind of some of the mechanics of how the other channels worked. And that went a long way to them building relationships, them doing sort of cross-channel collaboration. And then being able to offer solutions to clients that were kind of like a bit more thought through. A bit more holistic or integrated, and a bit more defensible, maybe from different angles. So I would just say like, if you have a few different disciplines, like make sure to figure out how those two go together to be better than if you only worked on just one discipline alone. Jason: [00:15:38] I love it. I love it. What's the website people go and check your agency out? Brian: [00:15:43] Uh, Jason: [00:15:44] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out. Thanks so much, Brian, for coming on the show. Lots of amazing stuff. And if you guys want to be around amazing agency owners and you believe that iron sharpens iron, where other agencies are sharing the strategies that are working for them, and they're able to see the things you might not be able to see. I want to personally invite you all to go to This is our exclusive mastermind just for experienced agency owners. We only take a few every couple of months. So go there now, fill out an application and maybe we'll chat if we feel it's right for you. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Build Better Client-Agency Relationships to Scale Faster

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 31, 2021 23:52

    Do you know how you can improve client-agency relationships to scale faster? Joe Koufman has worked in the agency world for over 20 years. He was actually a guest on the podcast during its first year. In 2014, he decided to use his experience in marketing, business development, and management to create Setup, a company that works to connect brands and marketing agencies by helping companies find the right agency to meet their needs at a given time. Today he returned to the podcast to discuss what clients look for in an agency, how does a successful client-agency relationship looks like, why you shouldn't be afraid to challenge your clients, and more. 3 Golden Nuggets What do clients look for in an agency? Setup has set out to really understand client-agency relationships and asked several companies what are some of the things that matter to them in their agency partner. They found that most clients really don't care about things like proximity, size of the agency, or awards. Clients were mostly looking for chemistry, transparency, good communication, and creativity. As to the things they wished agencies knew, they wanted agencies to be more strategic partners. They also wished agencies had a better understanding of their business and that they understood that not all ideas could be executed. Building better agency-client relationships. It was curious that, when asked about what they wished to improve in the client-agency relationship, both parties seemed to ask for the same things. The reality is that, in order to have a good client-agency relationship, they need to have shared goals, sharing common KPIs. And, of course, there must also be a high level of transparency between client and agency, even some vulnerability in terms of what they are sharing. A big frustration for clients was when agencies claimed to be good at something that they are not. Agencies have to set clear expectations and be completely transparent and candid about what they do well and what they don't do well. Don't be afraid of tension. “You're not looking for harmony,” Joe says, “you're looking for tension in the relationship.” Don't strive to be your client's buddy. You can be buddies with your sales rep, but never buy anything from them. The idea is that you push the client and bring them an insight that's not obvious to them. Get them to agree that there's an issue in their organization and then present your solution and the best option. Remember that usually, clients don't hire an agency because they want order takers. They hire an agency because there's an unmet need. “The byproduct of being a real challenger,” Joe assures, “is relationship.” Sponsors and Resources Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM The Byproduct of Being a Real Challenger is Better Client-Agency Relationships Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Got another exciting show for you. One of my good friends from Atlanta that was actually back on the podcast the first year we've done this. And we're going to talk about building client relations so you can scale your agency faster. So let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey, Joe. Welcome back to the show. Joe: [00:00:27] Hey! Thank you. It's been a long time since I've been on this show. Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, I mean… seven years? And that back with the intro in the, in the video with the cup. I was like, oh, I'm here. Joe: [00:00:42] We, uh, we haven't aged a bit in seven years. Jason: [00:00:45] No, I've, I've just gotten a lot more gray in my beard. Um, a lot more gray. Yeah. No, you've always been kind of peppered. I think… Joe: [00:00:56] Yeah. Just more so. Jason: [00:00:57] Exactly. Well, um, tell everybody who you are and tell them a little bit about your, uh, your background of working with the agencies. Joe: [00:01:05] Sure. So I'm Joe Kaufman, I'm the founder and CEO of Setup and we are marketing matchmakers, meaning that we connect brands and marketing agencies together. So from an agency perspective, um, what that usually means is that we connect agencies with potential clients. From a client perspective, they look at us as a search consultant or a, an augment of their team to help them find agencies that can fill gaps in either capacity. Like they don't have enough arms and legs to do the work they need to do. Or capability, they're missing some capability that an agency could fill. Jason: [00:01:43] Very cool. Awesome. Well, let's, let's kinda talk about what people are listening in for is like building better relationships and, you know, and re-engaging. You know their client year after year, you know, because you, you've worked for, you know, many agencies in the past before doing the matchmaking service. We've had a lot of those guests on from Hill Meyer. It's, uh, you know, uh, Sims and those guys. So I guess let's, let's get into that. How can agencies build better relationships to scale better? Joe: [00:02:15] We, we think a lot about that agency-client relationship. And to that point, we actually do an annual marketing relationship survey. Um, Ad Age actually picked it up, uh, earlier this year, which was pretty cool. But basically what we wanted to do is understand what the reasons are that clients look for agencies. Why do they hire agencies? What do they expect out of their agency relationships? And, um, and we also actually did an event earlier this year, where we were calling it group therapy for the agency-client relationship. And we add a bunch of agency people and a bunch of clients on a Zoom call and we talked through that relationship. Um, you know, as I mentioned before, the clients often look for agency support because of an issue with capacity or an issue with a key capability that they're missing. And, um… That survey that we do annually to understand that relationship, we ask clients, what are some of the things that matter to you in your agency partner? When you're looking for a new agency partner. And the things we didn't hear, the things that came up really low on the list were things like proximity. You know, I don't care if my agency is down the street. Particularly in the days of a pandemic I really don't care where my agency's located physically. I don't care so much about the size of my agency. Smaller agencies can do amazing work for larger clients. Um, I don't care so much about what awards they've won. Just agencies often… Yeah. Agencies often think awards are important. And for some clients, they really do care, but most don't care about… Jason: [00:04:00] Well, those clients are idiots. Did I ever tell you that…? Did I ever tell you the story of, um, we were pitching Mellow Mushroom and, uh, they… If you've ever been to their office, it's like in the middle of nowhere and they were joking around about oh, here's a map to find her office. And like, I want you to show you how, how, how I want you to show me how creative you are. So I showed up at their office in full camping gear. Like they thought I was a homeless person. And like I had like the portfolio in this bag… like, and they were like, we loved it, but we're going with… You mentioned in the pre-show. I won't, I won't bash them now. Um, so I won't bash them on the show. But they were like, we're going with so-and-so because they won a ton of Addy awards and we want to win an Addy award. And I tell them, I go, I'm never eating your pizza ever again. Joe: [00:04:56] You don't want to sell pizza. You just want to win awards. Jason: [00:04:59] Yeah, I've never eaten your pizza. Joe: [00:05:01] That's right. You, you reminded me of a time that I wore an entire cowstume to the Chick-fil-A headquarters. Um, and my goal was to not smile the entire time. I was just going to be deadpan serious. Everybody would cut off pointing at me when I was walking through the lobby and walking through the… The women that check you in at the front desk did not think I was funny. Uh, and in fact, the client told me two or three times during the meeting to please keep my utters underneath the table. He said he found them a little bit disturbing. Jason: [00:05:33] What you should have done is started messing with your utter… utters. Joe: [00:05:38] I, I may or may not have done that. Maybe that was the reason he said that. But, um, I did think it would have been really fun to get some camelbacks or something and have like chocolate milk come out of one and strawberry milk and vanilla and whatever. But… Jason: [00:05:53] And then could be like just tap me. Joe: [00:05:57] Right. But it was an innovative idea for a client. I mean, dispensing cow milk dispensing cow on site. Uh, but anyway, so, uh, we, we found through the survey that, you know, those, those things are less important to clients. The awards, location, size, et cetera. What they really care more about is some of the soft and intangible things that the client can do well. Like… I'm sorry that the agency can do well. Like, um, they're looking for chemistry and relationship and transparency and, and good communication. And they're looking for, um, you know, creativity, uh, th, there are not… Many of those things are things that are within an agency's control. Um, and you know, we did, I mentioned, we did an event where we asked the questions, what things… What do you wish agencies knew? You know, we ask clients, what do you wish agencies knew? And they said things like we wish they were more strategic partners for us. We wish that our agency would help us navigate some of the bureaucratic red tape within our organization. Um, we want them to act as an extension of our team. We want them to I understand that not all ideas can be executed. Sometimes agencies come with these big glossy, creative ideas, but there's just not realistic for, for this client. And they wished that the agency would just understand their business better. Um, we built a series of resources for clients, um, in our resources section of our site. And, you know, there's a complete guide to finding a marketing agency in there. There's a scorecard in there that... There's two versions of the scorecard. One version is if the client is trying to decide between three or four different agencies, how do you choose in a pitch kind of situation? But the other scorecard is made for agency or for clients to evaluate their agency on an ongoing basis to see if they still are feeling the love. Jason: [00:08:05] Yeah. And what are some of those…? What are some of those questions that the clients are actually looking at? Joe: [00:08:12] Yeah. I mean, how, how creative is agency? How, how innovative are they in terms of, you know, finding new ways of doing things? How good is their, their, their communication? How good is their project management, their service? Um, you know, uh, uh, how are, how tech savvy are they? Even if they're not a technology agency, or, you know, a CRM agency or something like that. You still want to know that they're leveraging the best tools and that kind of thing. Um, and you know, we do it like a scorecard. I mean, they can rate each category and section and then decide is this agency is still the right one for me in the future? Um, the flip side of that conversation that we had about what, uh, you know, clients wish agencies knew. We asked the agency people what they wish clients knew. And I'm sure some of your listeners will, you know, feel some of these things. They, they wish that the clients would be patient and answer also, but also answer all the questions that you ask. When, when an agency asks a lot of questions, it's usually to uncover some insights so that they can deliver value for the client. They wish that the client would lean on the agencies for their expertise in a bigger way. They wished that the client would provide all of the crucial information upfront. I think sometimes there's a hesitancy for a client to open the kimono and give you everything as an agency. But if you truly want your agency to be a partner and not a vendor, then you gotta be really. You know, up front about all of the, the, um, information that might be useful. Jason: [00:10:00] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it's easy, unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gustos help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to That's for three free months. Well, you, you, you know what, like… I'm glad you're going over this part. Because if I had one of my agency clients go to me going, and I wished they could do this, I'm like, well, hey, dumb ass, they could. You're taking on the wrong prospect. Um, you know, I, I did a video, I think back around when you were back on the show, and I remember it was the worst background. I looked like Oompa Loompa in it. And the title of it was like, there's no such thing as a bad agency client, there's only a bad prospect or a bad process. And if you don't have the right, if you don't have the right qualification to check, if that prospect is legit or going to be a nightmare client, or it was going to be good. Because like, you've been on so many pitches, like I have, right? Including the cow utter or, or the campaign… Joe: [00:11:54] That, that was planning for cow appreciation day. So it was very appropriate to wear a cowstume. Jason: [00:12:00] Of course, of course. I mean, right? So we've been on all these pitches and like, if you can look back at when the guy was offended by your utters, right? It'd be like, you're probably not going to be a really good client for us. I don't care if your Chick-Fil-A. Uh, like, I need to pick. And then the other point, I think that you mentioned, you know, like kind of like to sum it up is that the end of the day, the agency needs to be the advisor. You can be a really good advisor if you really get laser focused at what you're going after. And having a niche or a specialization rather than a generalist and going after all the big brands. Like when we did that, it was just challenging. But when we started going after automotive, I could talk to Porsche, I could talk to Lotus, talk to Maserati. Like I was like, hey, I speak your language, guys. I race cars too. Like, I'm one of you. So… Joe: [00:12:53] Yeah. Super cool. Yeah, we, it is interesting that, um, they both sides of the equation were talking similar language though in terms of what they were looking for when it came to strategy. And I thought that was interesting that clients were saying, I wish my agency were more strategic. And then the agency people were saying things like, I wish my client would let me be more strategic. So, you know, we, we started that conversation like the old book from the, I guess it was the 80s or something. Men are from Venus & Women are from Mars or whatever it was. And that was sort of like the agencies and clients. But the reality is the best agency-client relationships have shared goals. You know, do you have shared and common KPIs, your key performance indicators that you're trying to achieve. And, you know, sometimes clients will give their agencies skin in the game and, and tie their compensation to, you know, some metric that is important to the larger business. But at the end of the day, those best agency, client relationships, you know, there's no surprises. There's a high level of transparency between client and agency. There's some vulnerability there in terms of sharing, more than you maybe should on purpose. Um, and then just being super clear with expectations about, you know, and that goes on both sides. I mean, the agencies setting clear expectations and being completely transparent and candid about what they do well and what they don't do well. Uh, a big frustration for a lot of clients that we talk to is, you know, my agency says they're good at everything. And I know that they're not. Jason: [00:14:35] Yeah. Yeah. They're full of shit. Yeah. I mean, at the end of the day, it's even if you have the client that like when… Going back to I wish I could be more strategic and I wish you were more strategic… Well, it sounds like, you know, if you find the right client, like it's about the communication or the process in order to show them that, rather than going, you should go do this, but then you can't back it up. I'm like… Joe: [00:14:57] Yeah. There's a, there's a book that I've always loved since I first read it. And I recommend it to a lot of people in The Challenger Sale. And I think you've probably read it. But the concept of The Challenger Sale, the biggest concept to me is you're looking for tension in the relationship. You're not looking for harmony in the relationship. Or relationship… people think they want to hire a relationship builder as a sales guy or saleswoman. The reality is a relationship builder. You can be buddies with your sales rep, but never buy anything from them. But those that really challenged… So the idea of the challenger sale in the book is you push the client, you bring them an insight that's not obvious to them. You get them to nod their head that, yes, that same issue happens within my organization. And then it only, then that they've nodded their head and said, yes, this happens within my organization, you can present your solution as the best. Or maybe the only way to solve that specific challenge or problem. And, um, and I had always been that way with clients where I was constantly, you know, pushing them and looking for tension. And there's a fun byproduct of being a real challenger and the by-product is relationship. Um, because I think that the clients will appreciate... I don't think clients hire an agency because they want order takers, usually. They hire a client, they hire an agency because there's some unmet need. You know, we talked about capacity or capability need, and they feel that the agency could not only solve that problem, but help them think through the future and, and overcome challenges that they haven't even anticipated yet. Jason: [00:16:48] Yeah. We, we were talking about this in our mastermind. We were helping a member out. Um, and they just, their close rate just kept going down and down. And everyone, a lot of people were starting to focus on the end. Like what, how are you asking for the close? We're like, let's start at the very beginning and let's, how are you setting up the meeting? Like, how are you starting the meeting? Are you letting them know…? Like whenever I would do a sales call, I'd be like, hey guys, I'm like, I'm going to build rapport really quick, but I'm not going to be their friend. The friend can come later on, but if they look at me as a friend, they're never going to buy from their friend, they have to, I have to position as an advisor. And then right after I do that, I'm like, hey, I have this quick little framework I'm going to go through to make sure we stay on time and make sure I can really figure out what your biggest issue is so we can fix that out. Can we, can we stay on track? And like, if you audit your process, like start from the very beginning a lot of times people get off track there. And then what do we have happen? The prospect just won't shut up for 40 minutes. They tell you this crap story that you don't need right now. Um, I'm being nice. Uh, but among … Joe: [00:18:00] Yeah. Well, or even go back further. I mean, you know, and to you, you kind of made this point earlier a little bit, which is, are you prospecting the right kind of opportunity? You know, before you even get to the meeting or the conversation, is it the right person? Uh, back when I was at a small digital shop, when I began, you know, my, my mark, my agency career, I had four criteria to determine if I wanted to pursue an opportunity. One was, do we want their logo on our logo slide? You know, is it a brand that we just really need, we really want? Number two was, is it a hundred thousand dollars in revenue and profitable for us as an agency in terms of opportunity? Third was does it teach us a new skill that we need to have? We just don't have today. And then fourth was, are there hungry mouths to feed within the agency? And we just, we'll take it even if it doesn't meet those three criteria because the thing that they need is the exact thing that we have some capacity on right now? Over time, we became part, we were acquired and became part of a kind of medium-size full service agency. We went from 50 people to 250 people. And that number, that second criteria, which was a hundred thousand dollars, became 200 became 500,000, became a million. And by the time we sold to a massive holding company in 2013. Um, I was… if I didn't see a million dollars in revenue in year one, they were too small. And it wasn't just size, but it was just the commitment of does this client…? Are they committed to marketing and working with us on a larger scale than just, we want to give you a little project here? And that doesn't mean we would never take on a project if it was a foot in the door that meant, you know… We would get in and get an opportunity to earn the larger piece of business. But we were really careful about that. We wanted to know that there was a path to a million dollars in revenue in year one. Um, and, and I think, you know, setting those parameters upfront, you know, if you're talking about an agency business development standpoint… You need to have your criteria. I have, an agency we work with that, um, that also has a PITA criteria. Do we think that the client is going to be a pain in the ass? And if the answer is yes, I don't care how many… you know. There are some red flags that sometimes occur upfront. To your point, when you're first having the conversation that the money looks attractive, but maybe you should run away. Jason: [00:20:43] Yeah. Trust your gut, your gut never lies. Joe: [00:20:46] And I'll give you one other piece that you probably experienced in your days running an agency. But nothing is motivational to the team in a positive way, in a very positive way than you firing a pita client. Um, you know, if a client truly is abusive or, you know, doesn't treat the agency like a strategic partner and treats the agency like a vendor or something like that, um, it's not worth the revenue. It's just not. And, and nothing, nothing helps your team be more supportive of the overall mission of the agency than when you say, look, we won't tolerate… You know, a client that's not supportive, not, not, uh, that that's abusive or… Jason: [00:21:36] Yeah, we. Yeah, I can't agree with you more on that. I mean, we literally, there was a… There was a member in the mastermind, not too long ago, that was doing stuff that we didn't agree that we asked to leave. Um, and then it just rallies the other, the other people. They were like, oh wow, they're not just, just taking for the money. They'll defend me. Um, and, uh, yeah, I think it says a lot about your company and character in that. So… Well, this has all been amazing, Joe. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Joe: [00:22:13] Um, I would just say that if there's an agency that's interested in growth, um, there are certainly… We can offer some services that help growth. Um, the four primary services can be found at And I can send you a link to that. But essentially the services are around how do you help the agency position itself for growth? How do you, um, really uncover insights about the agency, that'll help you do that. And then we actually do help agencies grow through business development services on our sustainable pipeline. So we do have some pretty strict criteria about the kinds of agencies that we'll take on to work with. So we're not working with really small agencies. If they've got fewer than say 50 full-time employees, we probably won't we'll work with them on an ongoing… You know, sustainable pipeline basis. But happy to have the conversation with, with anyone that might be interested. Jason: [00:23:14] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Joe, for coming on the show and everybody go check out their website. If you have more than 50 employees and you need help, go check them out. And if you want to be around amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where they can see the gaps that you're not able to see. Help you climb that mountain a lot faster, prevent those falls from crashing in the crevasses. Uh, I want you guys to go to a This is our exclusive mastermind for experienced agency owners. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Get Your Agency To the Next Level By Focusing on Who, Not How

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 27, 2021 19:00

    Do you know the importance of focusing on the who, rather than the how, to get your agency to the next level? Dallin Cottle had a degree in political science and was heading to law school when he started working at an agency and discovered a knack and passion for advertising. He quickly felt that he couldn't continue to grow at that company and decided to branch out and start his own business, Roar Media. Now, after scaling his agency and getting through the many difficulties that COVID brought for business owners, he sat down with Jason to talk about how he got his first clients, how getting his agency to the next level meant focusing on the who, rather than the how, and how he realized when it was time to start transitioning from his role of agency owner to being a CEO. 3 Golden Nuggets Making the first $100,000 from unqualified leads. Coming from many years in the agency world, Dallin already had some contacts and an idea on how to get his first clients. He reached out to some of his connections in local agencies and asked if they could refer some unqualified leads. “There's a lot of them and they were just throwing them out like garbage,” he recalls. And that's how he got the first clients for start building his agency and made his first $100,000 from calling up leads that nobody wanted. Focusing on the who, rather that the how. When building and starting to grow an agency, many people focus on how to get to the next level and start to work more and more. Dallin believes that the more you learn, the more you'll realize that you have no idea what you're doing. “This is a pivotal moment for any agency owner,” he says. It is at that point when you have to look around and realize where the business is at and where you are going and you have to surround yourself with the right people that are going to help get you there at that moment. Transitioning to the role of CEO.  Agency owners typically have many capabilities. They can wear a lot of different hats and this can result in a failure to recognize when it's time to look for experts that can help you scale to the next level, as well as the time to transition to the role of CEO. In his case, our guest understood it was now or never and organized a 6-week vacation. Just the thought of leaving for a long period without answering calls or emails forced him to start delegating tasks he would normally do for his team. At this point, part of your role will be setting the vision for the company and coaching and mentoring the leadership team. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Focus on The Who To Get Your Agency To The Next Level And Transition To The Role of CEO Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited to have another amazing guest. We're going to talk about the who, not how, which is real important when you're growing and scaling your agency. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode. Hey, Dallin. Welcome to the show. Dallin: [00:00:21] Thank you. Thank you. Excited to be here. Jason: [00:00:24] Yeah, me too. Tell us who you are and what do you do? Dallin: [00:00:27] Yeah, so I'm Dallin Cottle. I own a marketing agency in Salt Lake City, Utah, Roar Media. We specialize in Facebook ads, Google ads for the real estate niche, fitness and personal development spaces primarily. So, yeah, excited to be here. Jason: [00:00:47] Yeah! Tell us, how did you get started? Like why create an agency? Because, you know, as we all know, it's, it's a hard life for a number of different years. Dallin: [00:00:54] Yeah. So my story is actually really, you know, unconventional. I actually got a degree in political science and I thought I was heading straight to law school. And, you know, I got, I graduated and I was looking around and I'm like… Man, I don't really actually see the type of job that I was thinking I was going to have right here at the end of the road here. And looking at a lot of years ahead with law school I'm like, man, I don't know if this is it for me. So I took this job at an agency and, you know, day one, I was like, man, I, I'm home. Like, this is what I love doing. And a lot of parallels from just human psychology and everything I've learned, I learned in political science of how people vote is very similar to how they respond to ads and different things. So it was kind of a, you know, it's definitely a match for me. And from there I, just about a year later, I realized that I had I've reached my destination at that company. I had… making the six figures. I bought the Beamer. I bought the house. Bought the 4runner. I mean, we had a kid, I felt like, wow, this is, this is a great life, but I'm like, man, I'm tapped out in here. I can't continue to grow. And so I decided to jump and to branch out on my own and start, start my own thing. It was the dumbest thing I ever did. No, I'm just kidding. Jason: [00:02:13] Oh no. That was probably the best thing. Yeah. So how did you land your first client? Dallin: [00:02:19] All right. This is a, this is awesome. So my first clients came from… Being at an agency, I realized there's a lot of unqualified leads. And they were just throwing them out like garbage, right? At least the agencies that I was familiar with here locally. And so I was just, I mean, I had made really great connections. Even the, you know, the place I previously worked, like I was, you know, all on good terms and everything else. So I just started reaching out to some of these local agencies and the people that we had partnered with or worked with. And I just said, hey, I'm just kind of doing my own little thing here, freelancing. Would you mind if I just shoot me like 10, like crappy, crappy leads that I could just call and just cut my teeth out on, right? And that's how I made my first a hundred thousand dollars in like six months, right? It was from calling all the leads that nobody wanted to work, right? And just put in some serious time to learn the ropes and started from there. So… Jason: [00:03:14] Did you find that the first couple of clients that you got that made the, you know, the first hundred thousand… Do you still have those clients or did you, did the agency outgrow them? Dallin: [00:03:24] Yeah, that's a great question. So it's really interesting because the first out of my first four clients, the three of them I've had up until this last year, one sold their business. One, unfortunately, had a partner in the business passed away and they actually kind of just shifted gears and decided not to do advertising anymore. And another one, we stopped working together a couple of years ago, right? And I think that for that person, I think that, yes, that one probably was a little bit of a we've, we've kind of outgrew that modelers the expectation at the beginning of, you know, what you're charging and what you're doing. It's hard for that kind of growth. But for the most part, there's kind of a little bit of everything there, right? From the ones that we saw kind of continue with us. And then there's the other set kind of fell, fell off. So... Jason: [00:04:20] Well, let's talk about kind of the who rather than the how. Because a lot of people are always kind of focusing on, well, Jason, how do I get over the million?Or how do I get to the multi-million? Or how do I get to the eight figures? How to get to the next…? And I always tell them, you're kind of focused on the wrong thing. So tell us a little bit about what that means for you. Dallin: [00:04:41] Yeah. Well, when you first start out building an agency, there's so many things that you are learning. And there's so many things that you start to realize there's kind of that unconscious competence at first, where you are like the… where you feel like you're kind of there. And you are, you kind of have that ego in you and you're like, yeah, I can do this. Like, I'm good at this, right? And the more you start to learn, the more you start to realize that, wow, I really have no idea what I'm doing, right? And it's at that point where you realize you actually have no idea what you're doing is, I think, a really pivotal moment for most agency owners. And it's in that moment that I was really grateful that I've had mentors and coaches that, you know, I've spent a lot of money to surround myself with those people. But in those moments, that was the counsel that I was given, right? The council was, hey, perfect, you recognize that you don't have it all figured out. And what you need to do is start looking around at who's done this before. Cause it's not an impossible task. Like I'm not a surgeon, I'm not, you know, working on someone's brain or whatever it is, where I'm going to have, have, have to know the how of all of this. I just have to know someone who's actually done it before, or who's done something similar and go and find that person. And that principle is served me, so, so well, and… I mean over the years and when COVID hit, we've had the seriously change the who. Like we had to change a complete who. I had to let go of 12 employees at one point. And it was like the hardest decision I ever had to make in the business. But, you know, you, you look at where the business is at, where you're going… And you have to surround yourself with the people that are going to help get you there at that moment. Jason: [00:06:28] Yeah. I always tell everybody kind of what got you to the point you're at right now is not going to get you to the next level. Like for example, getting to the million mark, you can get there by referrals and marketing. But then, you know, that's not going to get you to the next level, which you really need kind of a system in place where, you know… All right, I put this amount of money in. I know if I can get this amount of people through this. This is how much we're going to, you know, build in the pipeline. Or even looking at kind of on the sales part, right? A lot of times what got you to a certain point is a person. And that person could be you doing the sales or maybe one salesperson. But you need to build a sales system, a sales team that can operate without just one. And it just goes on and on and a lot of people don't realize that. They go, I've grown really quick to this one point and then they go, well, I'll keep going this way. I'm like, no, no, no, you got to constantly adapt or you're going to reach a level. And then you're going to constantly go up and down. And when you're going through that roller coaster, which gets you through that is luck and determination. Depending on how many times you go through that, you know, that takes away a lot of energy and sometimes it puts you on a downward spiral or you're like, I'm just tired, man. And I, I can't tell you how many people I talked to that just like… Can you just by me? I'm like we don't buy dying businesses. Dallin: [00:08:01] Exactly, yeah. No, exactly. Well, and then, you know, what's interesting with, with all of that, I mean… Being an agency owner, most of the time, the agency owner started the agency because they're really good at marketing. And if you're really good at marketing, chances are you're really good at a lot of different things, or you can wear a lot of hats. And so you're typically good at sales because you know how to write copy for a great ad to get sales, right? You know how to do a webinar. So you're great at presenting things. And so you help do sales presentations, right? And you can kind of do a little bit of everything. So it's one of those things where if you're, you know, if you're selling real estate or you're doing something else there where you're like building a house, like… You may not know how to do all of the, you know, you may not be a good electrician, there's plumbing. Like there's so many other factors where you're going to have to rely on the who and not, you know, just the how to do all of that. With an agency owner you're kind of in this like really awesome pocket where you have so many capabilities. It's really hard to just be like, you know, I'm not going to do that myself. I'm going to find an expert that can actually help me scale it to the next level. Jason: [00:09:09] Do you feel like you have to come through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and back again, in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports that scale. Now, Ninja Cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place, freeing you up from manual data wrangling. And it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your business. And for a limited time, my smart agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit. When you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo that's Yeah, and I find a lot of people get to a point where they're okay at everything. That's what I'll put. And they go, well, Jason, I don't want to become a big agency and a big agency to them might be 40, 50 people. They are like, yeah, I already have 10 or 20, and that means I'm going to have double or triple the amount of pressure on me. Or, and I'm like, no, no, you don't get it. The more people you hire and the more of the right people you hire, the less you have to do. Like one of the things when I'm working with mastermind members or clients, is once they get the right system set up, I tell them, take a month off. And then don't even pick up the phone, don't check, email. And then come back and what you'll find a lot of times is now you're ready to kind of change your position from an owner to a CEO. Because the CEO role is really going to setting the vision for the agency, communicating that to the team, coaching and mentoring and leadership team. And really being the face of the organization and a couple other ones, but that's really it. Then you can have all this free time to do, like we were talking pre-show… We were joking around about I'm researching building a teepee and putting on top of the mountain. And then you talked about buying real estate, all kinds of stuff. So, you know, it's like you have time to do other things. So I want you guys to have time to research teepees and go buy your own teepee. Dallin: [00:11:55] We're going to wait to post this episode, right? So you can get this teepee. Jason: [00:12:00] I'm going to corner the market. I'm going to corner the market because I'm checking out these websites and they do a piss poor job at marketing. So there might be, if you could be the number one agency in the world for going after the teepee niche. Dallin: [00:12:16] That's right. If you learn one thing from this episode today, it's that. Um, no, but to your point, I, this last summer, we've been an agency, route four and a half years now. And so, you know, it's always, it's been a grind, a huge grind. I haven't done a lot of vacationing, okay? But I told my wife that that's the danger it's like next year, next year, right? In a month or so. And then pretty soon I was like, you know what I'm gonna do? I'm going to force my hand here. And I said, we are going to go to Hawaii for six weeks this summer. So we left the first part of June and got back the, the end of July, um, this summer. And man, the lessons I learned from that, just exactly what you were saying. It was absolutely insane because the preparation, knowing that you're leaving in a couple of months. Everybody, at least most people that I know. And I've talked to you about this. When you go to leave on vacation, even if it's for a weekend or a week or whatever, the house is clean. All the, you know, the bills that were on the counter are paid. All the things are kind of cleaned up and you kind of leave… You try to package things as nice as you possibly can cause you're leaving. And so that same principle, like when I'm thinking, leaving for two months in my business or six weeks like that. Man, I, all these certain things that I would have just normally done, I started handing off. And I couldn't believe the difference that it made in my business. And then just like you said, just stand back and like put my hands up and be like, Hey, it's on you guys. Like, keep it going, right? I don't want to get that phone call, right? And so that was an awesome experience. And coming back, just like you said, I was able to really shift that direction. It also forced the team to be able to do that. And I think sometimes we don't let the people that are, that could step up and be leaders in the company, we don't really give them an opportunity to step up and be the who. We just focus on them always being the how, right? And so in that moment, we're like, hey, can you do this while I'm gone? Because if I got hit by a car and I was out for six weeks, they totally would've, right? They would've stepped up in a big way to make sure that things continued on they're on that path. So it's, uh, it was a huge lesson for me this year. I'm like, man, should've done that a lot sooner. Just planned it out and did it. Jason: [00:14:31] Yeah, you should never look at like tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow. It's like. You know, it's like today living today, don't live in the past. Don't live in the future either. I make that mistake. I, I make that mistake all the time. You know, it's like, we've always done it that way. And then I'm like, I quickly slap myself in the face going that's the kiss of death and… Or I'll say, oh, I'll do that tomorrow. And be like, no. I've always been really good at executing if we have an idea… And my team always laughs. They're like, oh, Jason has another idea. When's it going to be done? Probably in like two seconds. Dallin: [00:15:08] That's right. Jason: [00:15:10] Like buying the teepee. Uh, I think that's what the title is, how you can grow your agency to afford a teepee. That's right. Dallin: [00:15:18] That's all you need, is the teepee. Jason: [00:15:21] Exactly. Perfect housing, right? That's all you need. Well, this has all been great. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Dallin: [00:15:31] No, I just, I mean, just to kinda summarize that. I think that, you know, you, you look around and like where you want to go, right? Find the people that have that have done it, you know, keep continuing to listen to this podcast and, and see all the, you know, all the different stories and learn from that. And you'll find the people that are around you. It's so crazy how close those people really are. If you don't mind, I'd love to share one more thing with you. Jason: [00:15:58] Go for it. Dallin: [00:15:59] I recently was watching, um, Undercover Billionaire. I don't know if you've seen that show on the discovery channel. But, uh, man, what an awesome, just like… Jason: [00:16:08] The second season or first season? Dallin: [00:16:10] Both. I watched both of them. But I thought they were both amazing in their own kind of way. But yeah, no spoilers, but Grant Cardone in the second season, you know, agency directions, right? And so looking at kind of that whole approach, there's no fear in, well, I don't have money to hire, I don't have money to find the who. I don't have, like, you know… There's no resources that are like they're building, you know, a million-dollar evaluation business in 90 days... With literally they have no contacts, no resources, no nothing. It's literally just asking people and trying to find out what their passion and their drive is and how they can help contribute to the, you know, a greater vision, right? So you sell that vision and you build the life and the agency that you want. So I highly recommend plugging that in there. No, I wasn't called to plug that in from the Discovery Channel or anything. But it was a pretty cool, um, you know, kind of looking at it from a, just a straight-up business standpoint. But it's good entertainment too. Jason: [00:17:13] It was really good. I, I just think, you know, people are like, I remember watching something, um… A Tony Robbins video and Al gore was in the front row. And I guess that beforehand, he was like, if I had the Senate or Congress, I don't, I don't know the, uh, you know, I would've won the presidency. And Tony was like, no, it's never a lack of resources, it's about a lack of resourcefulness. So I just want to leave everybody with that of going, if you can dream it, you can build it. You just need to figure out the who can actually help you and just build that community, build those relationships and that's really everything. So what's a website people can go and check the agency out? Dallin: [00:17:59] Yeah,, and basically you can find us anywhere on on social media as well. Jason: [00:18:08] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you go check out their website. Make sure you subscribe. And if you want to be around amazing agency owners that are constantly challenging you and constantly motivating you to push harder and be more resourceful. I want to invite all of you to go to This is our exclusive community and mastermind for only the experience agency owners that are really wanting to change the game and really take it up a notch and have a lot of fun and share what's working with other amazing people. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    How the Right Foot in The Door Offer Helps Land Bigger Retainers

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 24, 2021 19:08

    Would you like to land big retainers of $50,000 to $100,000? Spencer Brooks is the founder and principal of Brooks Digital, an agency that empowers health nonprofits to build engaging digital platforms that improve the lives of patients. He has worked to create an agency that brings a new perspective to the nonprofit sector, which is very one-time project-focused, and tries to bring a more agile approach to help them adapt to changes in online health information. With this in mind, Spencer has created a system where the agency looks for opportunities for a longer-term relationship with the clients in 12-month retainers. In his conversation with Jason, he talked about choosing a niche, how he goes about offering retainers, and the point at which the working relationship can lead to bigger retainers. 3 Golden Nuggets Choosing a niche. As it tends to happen, this agency stumbled upon its niche after hearing many times that he should choose one. At first, it was just about realizing that 60-70% of their clients were nonprofits and making the move to start focusing on those clients. It was fairly easy because as a niche it was still quite large. Another look at their client roster revealed that most of those nonprofits worked with health issues. The decision to focus on those clients was much harder because it was scary to move into a much smaller niche with about 20,000 nonprofits. However, it was the right move for them and they've made it work by bringing a more agile approach to the sector and working with the perspective that their digital presence is a product, not a project. Landing big retainers. Of course, there are agencies that can get six-figure retainers from day one, but in Spencer's experience, the agency's biggest retainers have come from a working relationship with a client that matures to that point. It usually starts with a client that has a very specific project or something that they want to do. Spencer will then evaluate whether there's an opportunity for a retainer with this client. What are their challenges? What are the organization's goals? It usually goes beyond just building a website. He informs the client that there's an opportunity for a longer-term retainer with their project and makes sure to have a roadmap for the post-launch of the website. Timeline to get a retainer. When working on the initial foot in the door project, Spencer and his team are usually looking for ways to craft a winning strategy. After that, he says, it's usually either simple and takes just a few weeks  or it'll take months and months and never come to anything. It's the ones in the middle, the ones that take up to six months that are more complicated because, in his experience, they are always tied to trying to sell the retainer upfront. The idea is that the client can make that decision in a few weeks or on the spot. Because the foot in the door offering is an opportunity to build trust, as well as for the agency to evaluate that client and decide if it's worth it to commit to them for the long term. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Choosing a Niche and Creating a System to Land Bigger Retainers Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited for another amazing episode. We're going to talk about how to land bigger retainer. My guest on the masterclass today is going to talk about how he sold 30,000 to 100,000 dollars plus retainers, which all of us want to do. But a lot of times we're doing it the wrong way. And, uh, so let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey, Spencer. Welcome to the show. Spencer: [00:00:32] Hey. What's up, Jason? Glad to be here. Jason: [00:00:34] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Spencer: [00:00:39] Sure. So, like you said, my name is Spencer Brooks. I run Brooks Digital. We're a digital agency. We do a lot of strategy, like user experience, as well as design and development for nonprofits. Specifically, those nonprofits that focused on a health condition like cancer, diabetes, something like that. We take the perspective that their digital presence is a product, not a project. Because there's certainly a lot of one-time project-based thinking in the nonprofit sector. So we try to bring a more agile approach to help them adapt to changes in online health information and things like that. Jason: [00:01:15] Awesome. And so how did you get into doing this and how did you wind up picking this niche? Spencer: [00:01:21] Yeah, that's a great question. I mean, I, I stumbled into it to be honest, I think as many people do, or at least other agency owners I talk with. I started as a, as a freelance web developer. And so over the years, I started hearing about, oh, you need to niche down and you need to choose a good position and things like that. I began by just honestly examining the clients that I was working with already. I looked at them and I went well that 60 or 70% happened to be nonprofits. And so for a while, I focused just on the nonprofit niche. And I made a decision, hey, this, this is still quite large. There's like a million, you know, there's a million nonprofits that are seven figures plus in revenue, that's still quite large. So took another look at our client roster and realized we just happened to be doing work with a lot of organizations that focus on health issues. And so that was much scarier to do because that's a, it's, it's a much smaller. You know, you're, you're talking about maybe 50 or 100,000 tops. Uh, you know, more realistically the, the ideal client is somewhere in like that 10,000. There's probably 10, 20,000 organizations and in that space, so it was a little bit scarier to make that decision, but, uh, I went ahead and did it. And so that's, that's sort of how I ended up in this space today. Really, by just sort of looking back at what clients happened to be working with us, what clients happen to uh, you know, the clients have the highest revenue and making those decisions with a whole lot of courage. And, and, you know, some help along the way to, to get to where I am right now. Jason: [00:03:09] Awesome. So let's talk about how are you landing such big retainers? Spencer: [00:03:14] Yeah, that's the mega question, right? I, I think I'll start by saying that the biggest retainers have come, in my experience, from a working relationship with a client that matures to a point of a big retainer. So it's not necessarily from day one that I'm getting a retainer that's six figures. I'm sure that there are agencies out there that have developed a market position and that, that claim to expertise where they could theoretically do that on day one. But I think much more commonly and certainly in my case, that that develops over a period of time. So I'll usually start with smaller projects and that's usually the case with clients is that they come and they have a very specific project or something that they want to do. And I evaluate their organization as a whole and say, okay, this is what you want to do right now. But in my head, I'm sort of thinking, is there an opportunity for a retainer here? Do they have ongoing needs? And so I'll, I'll take that. I might take that small project and do some sort of strategy or examination of, okay, what are your needs? Do a discovery and then pitch them a, a little bit of a larger project. And then telegraph that there's probably a longer term retainer here. And that's just how we work. So it's a progressive process, but I telegraph that that's usually how we work and then I build the client relationship into that place. Jason: [00:04:48] Yeah. I mean, I, I totally agree with that just because I see so many people that they're pitching marriage right off the bat. And I don't think it works for either party because it's a big commitment. Like for example, I remember many years ago, and this happens all the time as well. I had a client that came to me and said, hey, you know, charge $5,000 a month on a retainer. Um, and, uh, it's month to month. I'm like, well, why is it month to month? They're like, well, it's easier to sell. And I was like, well, why wouldn't it be 12 months? And they're like, well, that's big decision and a lot of risk. I said, well, do you want to kind of eliminate that? So I like kind of what you, you probably do the same thing, kind of start with a strategy and really figure out like a, like you said, kind of figure out where they're wanting to go, what their biggest challenges are. And then, you know, we put a high-level plan together and then that probably leads to a project, I presume, or a smaller project? Spencer: [00:05:46] Yeah, exactly. So if… let's say someone, I had a, a lead come in the door and they want to do a website or something like that, right? So I might start to examine, okay, what, like what's the context in which this project happens? It's usually not just a website. That's like a lot of the work that we do ends up being website-related. But talking to them about what are the organizational goals? What, what is this, what are your challenges? What is this solving for? And then laying out a plan for, okay, maybe a website's part of that, but have you considered all these other things that you might want to be doing, right? Have you, you want this website, but have you actually even researched your audience at all? Like the people… You're thinking about it this way, but you know, we take the perspective that your website is a product. So are you thinking about this like a one-time project and it's going to be, is it going to be done? And how are you going to then adapt to that over time, right? And sort of, and take their project and bring our perspective to that. Then that usually… our perspective, of course, being that the website is a product naturally leads into a retainer-based relationship. So then we'll say, okay, we'll build out your, your MVP, you know, this, uh, the, the initial version of the website, and we'll help you do that. But then here's our roadmap for post-launch for this website. So we'll do the build, but then know that after that, here's what we're trying to do. So here's the retainer that's gonna come along with that. And usually, by the time we get done with the website, I don't think a website project has ever been finished without a phase two wishlist at the end. And so it's just very natural to just say, all right, like we'll, I'll scope control the project by bundling all of the stuff that comes up during the middle of it into retainers. It just, it flows really nicely just through the course of the project and helps me say yes to a lot of the stuff like strategy-wise or helps the project manager say yes to that during, um, you know, during the build-out. But then say, yeah, well, yeah, phase two, yeah, but this is the retainer. Jason: [00:08:08] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it's easy. Unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto's help. You can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to That's for three free months. Yeah, I, um, I like that you kind of start selling the retainer while you're in the first engagement. I find if there are people where they wait until the project's done, then I think it's sometimes too late. Because they're already kind of like checked out, right? Like, do you see that as well? Spencer: [00:09:33] Yeah, I think it's super hard if you're, if you're acting as if you're just this super project face company agency. And then all of a sudden at the end, you're like, hey, by the way, uh, I am... I'm going to recommend that you spend a hundred thousand dollars a year. They're like, wh…? You know, it's just like a truck hits them. Uh, and so I do think that telegraphing, that that's the way that, that we work, that you work as an agency, helps them prepare over time. And I, and I phrase it in a way that says, you, you, if you want to continue working with us, then this is how we work. If you, if you, for whatever reason you don't like this, that the product that we put in. If you don't like the experience of working with us, then after the project, like you can take it and you can go and you can find someone else to do it. And so that sort of relieves them of this pressure of committing to the, uh, effectively committing to a retainer at the beginning of our project. But also telegraphing to them that this is the conversation that's going to come after the project's done. And then it just leaves us as the agency in the position to just deliver a great experience. So that, that conversation is easy when the project is done. Jason: [00:10:51] So what is your close rate percentage or have you been tracking that of when people come to you for all this? Spencer: [00:11:00] Yeah, no, that's a, it's a, it's a good question. Um, I don't have like a hard number off the top of my head. So I'll give you my, my ballpark guesstimate. It's very high. Usually, like, frankly, if someone, if I get a sense that a prospect is just interested in a project and there's not even an opportunity of a longer-term relationship there, then I'll probably pass. So I mean that in itself takes my retainer close rate up a notch because I'm not trying to funnel people through that. It's kind of part of my qualifying process. Uh, so like that being said, I I'd say it's at least 50% or 60% uh, that go into a retainer, if not more. And then the folks that don't go into our retainer, they typically stick around, but they're still thinking about the project-based kind of work. So as a fallback with the, with the clients that just say, no, I'm not going to do a retainer. Then I'll probably do the more standard, you know, account management, follow up every couple months and generate some more projects. But typically those kinds of clients, they know that we work on retainer and if we're not available, we're giving priority to our clients that are on retainer. And so that, it's kind of a nice way to you prioritize the people who are on retainer and then the clients that don't end up closing on a retainer, like you can sort of nurture them to fill any gaps that you might have in your pipeline. So that's how I think about it. Jason: [00:12:31] Yeah. I mean, that's huge. Because I see when people are pitching retainer, run off the bat. They're less than 25% because it's a big commitment, right? And now you said 50%, but I want everybody to hear this is 50% to a retainer. So they've already gone through strategy and projects and to the retainer. So the close rate for, you know, what I call the foot in the door or a project is going to be skyrocket much faster. And then also what is typically the timeline for closing, for getting that client to pay you right up, like for the first time? And then also what's the trend, like how long is the timeline to get to the retainer average? Spencer: [00:13:12] Yeah, it's a, it's a great question. So initially, when you're doing like the, I think you mentioned like foot in the door, that initial project. That, that my entire goal with that is like, how, how do I craft a, uh, like some sort of quick wins strategy engagement? And then we're talking like two weeks, right? It's usually very easy. It's either like they're going to probably pay up within two weeks and sign, or I'm going to chase them for months and never hear back. Um, it's only that middle, you know, when you get like that three-month close or six-month close, where... Those are in my experience, usually always tied to these huge, mega, you're trying to sell the retainer upfront. You're trying to sell the six-figure seven-figure project right off the bat. And those, of course that takes months and months to close because that's huge. But it's a much smaller… it, the idea is that they can make that decision in a few weeks or on the spot. Jason: [00:14:05] Exactly. Spencer: [00:14:06] Then we'll typically go through a process that's about three months. If we're going to do a project like a website build or a relaunch I'm shooting for about three months. There are three or four months. And then after that, I'm looking to close a 12 month retainer on the back of it. So really it it's actually fairly accelerated. And usually, once we get past that initial project, that the foot in the door and then ladder it into a larger project. Then by that point, they've gone through two projects with us, essentially. There's a lot of momentum behind the relationship… they're, they're in a position where they're liking what they see. And so then when you're like, yeah, let's just keep working together. Like we've all these things that we've been talking about, the strategic roadmaps we just need to now do that work. And so it just makes the, the retainer conversation very, very easy. Jason: [00:15:02] Yeah. Well, I mean, you build trust, you made it an easier decision. And then you're building trust as you show them little wins, you show them the plan. You know, one of the things I always told people is people chose us because we made it easy for them to choose us. We explained exactly how our process worked rather than hiding or stra… or secret strategy soft… You know, like all this super-secret shit. And then, you know, we did a little commitment on their end. And we also too, we were evaluating them and we let them know we were evaluating them. Just kind of like you, like, if people are wanting to go right to the retainer. Yes, that's exciting. But it's also should be a red flag. Do you really want to commit to someone for 12 months and be miserable? You know, you gotta, you know, we, uh, and, and I can't tell you how many members in the mastermind I chat with that, uh. You know, in the very beginning when they join… There's so many clients that they need to get rid of because they're not profitable or they're a pain in the ass and it's an easy... And we walk them through our offering ladder and the foot in the door and all of this. And it really solves a lot of their pain. It doesn't solve everything, but it solves a good portion of it. Um, well this has all been amazing, Spencer. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Spencer: [00:16:29] No. I think that maybe the one comment that I would add to kind of, to flesh out your point, Jason. Then, um, then I think that's, it, is that yeah, the, the... The foot in the door in the larger offering is absolutely, uh, that chance to evaluate a client. And over the years, that's certainly the thing that I've discovered with retainers is that great, okay, you get awesome at closing retainers that… But if you close a client that you don't really like working with it, then you're stuck with them for at least 12 months. And then of course, everyone knows, it's really hard to say bye-bye to revenue. Even if there's so much pain associated with that. And so you really got to think about it from that perspective as well is give someone… Just progressively unlock your services to them so that you have that experience, that opportunity and experience with them to just say, no, thanks. I don't think this is going to work out and save yourself a lot of pain. Jason: [00:17:29] What's the website people can go and check out the agency? Spencer: [00:17:33] So it's, but the fancy new dot it's not new anymore, I guess. But… Jason: [00:17:47] At least you didn't do like some of my guests going WWW… I'm like, wow. You just aged yourself. Spencer: [00:17:50] HTTPS colon forward slash forward. Jason: [00:17:55] Well, I used to do that for many years and then someone made fun of me and then I'm like, ah, maybe I need to switch that. So, but uh, well, amazing. Uh, thanks so much, Spencer, for coming on the show. Make sure you guys check out his agency's website. And if you guys want to know more about really crafting your own foot in the door and really how you can start selling bigger, bigger retainers, faster, closing, more, making it easier, getting paid for the proposal. I want you guys to go to This is our exclusive program that I did with my good friend, Ian Garlic aka Sasquatch. He makes a lot of cameo appearances on our videos. Really good friend. And he's been doing the foot in the door framework for many, many years, and perfected it. And he's been really helping out a lot of mastermind members... In the mastermind walk through this and we just launched this program. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Boost Productivity by Supporting Your Team's Work-Life Balance

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 20, 2021 11:33

    Are you looking for ways to boost your team's productivity while also improving your work-life balance? Jason Berkowitz was working as a personal trainer in NYC when he discovered SEO and decided to become a freelancer. He grew his business and started hiring and building his team to create a legit agency, Break The Web. Now that he has a team, he has been implementing a few ways to boost productivity and morale. In this conversation, he talks about the key roles he hired to start growing his agency, why offering unlimited PTO has worked for his team, and how a special summer schedule allows the team longer weekends 3 Golden Nuggets On growing his agency. Jason found success learning about SEO practices and how to help people implement them in their websites. However, freelancers have to take care of different aspects of the business like admin, selling, project management, execution, client management. Some people are comfortable with that, but he wanted to delegate certain aspects of the business to increase his income. For this, the first strategic hire was an account manager, which was the first step to start building a legit agency. This way, he didn't have to spend so much time speaking with clients, relaying information, and setting expectations and could focus on other aspects of the growing business. On unlimited PTO. More and more people are deciding to offer employees unlimited PTO. It is an ongoing debate and, in his particular case, Jason decided to do this at his agency. The main reason has to do with fairness. “If I wanted to take unlimited vacations, it was only fair to allow that as well in the team culture,” he says. But there was also the matter of allowing people to enjoy their time off and see how that affected the way they enjoyed work. There are still rules, it is based on performance, employees have to put in requests for PTO at least 10 business days beforehand, and it can be approved or denied. But it has been a success at his agency. Boosting his team's productivity. Other than offering unlimited PTO, another strategy introduced this year at the agency to boost the team's morale was working half-day Fridays in the month of June. It was a way of letting them enjoy their summer weekends, but it actually ended up improving team productivity from Monday to Thursday. Work was being executed much faster and more efficiently. It also helped Jason maintain a better work-life balance. Overall, it was a success for this team and something that they may continue to do every year. 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 Growing Your Agency, Work-Life Balance, and Boosting Your Team's Productivity Jason Swenk: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing guest and, uh, his name is Jason. He's also from New York. So don't get confused. He's probably better looking than me, but, uh, we're going to talk about growing his agency, life balance, and a lot of cool stuff. So, uh, I'm excited to have him on. So let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Jason. Welcome to the show. Jason Berkowitz: [00:00:29] Hi! Thank you so much for having me, Jason. It's a pleasure and, yeah, best name ever. Jason Swenk: [00:00:34] I know. I was like, don't get confused. You're the newer and better version of me, I guess. But tell us who you are and what do you do? Jason Berkowitz: [00:00:42] I am the founder of the search marketing agency Break The Web, and we specialize primarily in SEO and paid search. We help in-house marketing teams, integrate SEO, which is always nuanced and confusing and annoying, into their existing marketing practices. So it's seamless all around. Jason Swenk: [00:01:00] Very cool. And so how did you get into this space? Jason Berkowitz: [00:01:03] It was probably by accident. I used to be a personal trainer, way back when in New York City. And I was tired of working for a gym and basically working off the leads that they gave me, which were new membership signups. And I had the idea of what if I can get people to come to me? Is there a demand? So of course people are going to Google typing in personal trainer NYC. Saw the acronym, SEO started implementing it on my website at the time. And then I was like, screw personal training. Uh, this SEO stuff is fun. Of course, SEO was way different back then anyway, but it was kind of a paradigm shift. That's where the journey started. I worked as a freelancer for a while, but that's where it started. Jason Swenk: [00:01:39] How long ago was that? Jason Berkowitz: [00:01:42] Around 2009, 2010 is where I started actually getting into the practices of SEO what's involved? What does everything mean? What's the methodology? So about a decade now. Jason Swenk: [00:01:53] Very cool. I remember when you could get right for any term by just putting that keyword in the background at the same color. So I might be dating myself on that one, but that was a really… Jason Berkowitz: [00:02:04] The good old days. Oh yeah. One among the many different things that would work really well and really fast back then. Jason Swenk: [00:02:13] What made you decide to go from a freelancer to hiring people? Jason Berkowitz: [00:02:18] Yeah, I think I wanted to have a certain income. The problem with being a freelancer is that you're managing everything. When it comes to admin, selling, project management, execution, client management. All these different aspects. And some people are comfortable with that, but I felt like I needed to delegate certain aspects if I wanted to increase my own personal income. So then I started bringing on VAs to help with some of the smaller things. And then before you know it I'm like, wait, I can let go of this one thing too and not have to worry about it? And I can let go of this one other piece? Then before you know it, you just look up, you're like, oh shit, we're a boutique agent. Jason Swenk: [00:02:59] Yeah, it's exciting to let go of the stuff that you don't necessarily want to do anymore or have to do. And then other people actually start doing, you know, a better job. And I'm always curious, who was the first hire? Not the person's name or well, please list out their social security number. I'm just kidding. What was the role? What was the first role that you hired? Jason Berkowitz: [00:03:23] The first unofficial, non US-based was a VA in the Philippines. That was to help with link building as one of the big, uh, time-consuming aspects related to SEO. The first US in which we officially, you know, start with like, hey, we're going to be legit and grow a real agency was an account manager. I found myself just taking a lot of time speaking with clients and trying to relay information, setting expectations. So the account manager was our first hire. Jason Swenk: [00:03:51] Awesome. There's always a debate around kind of PTO. Well, there's more and more people now kind of giving unlimited PTO. Why did you go to that? Jason Berkowitz: [00:04:04] I think if I wanted to take unlimited vacations, if it made sense or just take off when I wanted to take off, it was only fair to allow that as well in the team culture. I think just people are going to enjoy work if they could also enjoy pleasure. And if you restrict them by X amount of time that they have for that pleasure, they may not enjoy work as much. So if they just needed an extra three or four days on a certification or an extra trip. Or maybe they were capped out throughout the year for the amount of days, that just gives them a bad taste in their mouth. So we'd rather if you're doing great work, if things are looking good and we won't be set back, if you take an extra couple of days off by all means, go for it. We just care about the output more. Jason Swenk: [00:04:48] Yeah. Some people are always concerned about can people take advantage of it? Like, have you ever had anybody try to take advantage of it? Jason Berkowitz: [00:04:55] No. They still have to put in requests for PTO at least 10 business days beforehand. And they still could get approved and denied. I don't believe I can recall offhand recently I have denied someone. But we do have it in our knowledge base internally and our SLP is that it is based on performance. So yeah, technically, if you want to go ahead and request. One thing we'll be looking at is how much time they've taken off previously, a culmination of hours. But also the performance and the output overall, as well as what things might look like around the time period in which you plan to take off. But yeah, I don't think I've ever denied someone and no one hasn't taken advantage yet. Surprisingly, I find what might be, if you do have, for example, two weeks or 80 hours of paid time off towards the end of the year, people want it. So then you've got people taking off just for the health taken off and they may just sit on their couch. Jason Swenk: [00:05:53] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7, so you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to And re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Yeah. You know, we had that in the very beginning of our agency where everyone, like, we would say, hey, it doesn't rollover. You got to use it or lose it. And then they wouldn't use it until the very end. Then literally right when all the clients want all the work they're like, I'm taking time off. And it really screwed us majorly and it was pretty hard, cause sometimes we had to deny it. I do like how you have, hey, we have unlimited PTO. But you have to put in like, and you're a lot nicer than I would have been about 10 days. I'd have been like, at least give me a month. Or like, if, if there's emergency, like your parents need you or something or kids or something like that, obviously go. But if it was like, hey, I forgot to tell you about my Hawaii vacation. I'm gone for two weeks and it's happening next week. I'd be like, well, you might not want to come back. Jason Berkowitz: [00:07:37] Yeah. You know, I know we were just talking about New Yorkers and whether New Yorkers are mean. And I guess that's, you're in New York attitude right there. Jason Swenk: [00:07:45] Yeah. Well, I think I was telling people, I was like, and I could say this cause I was like, yeah, cause we're brutally honest and a lot of people do take that as mean. But you definitely know where you stand with the New Yorker. There's no beating around the bush. Jason Berkowitz: [00:08:02] No sugarcoating. No. Jason Swenk: [00:08:04] Is there any other interesting things that you guys do around making your team happy? Uh, you know, incentivizing them or anything like. Jason Berkowitz: [00:08:14] Yeah, we tested out in the month of June as the intro to summer half-day Fridays. And everyone loved it. So it's just half the time you normally would be estimated for that hourly output of the day. I loved it. So I was happy with it. And after interviewing every team member, they loved it too. And I think it's something we might do recurring every June, maybe even possibly thinking about just doing four-day workweeks, the month of June. Just to see and everyone loved it because they were able to take, they didn't need to put in for PTO or maybe half day PTO on that day. Uh, which was nice. And just having a longer weekend as the summer rolls in, especially after the last year and a half or so. It was nice to boost morale a little bit. Jason Swenk: [00:08:55] Yeah, I see more and more people doing that. And actually, if you think about it's probably should do it for the rest of the year, honestly, half day on Fridays, or maybe even one a month be like Fridays are completely off. I've seen some of our mastermind members actually do it on Monday because everybody hates Mondays and… right? And it's a little bit easier, but a lot of times on Friday afternoon, people are just messing around. I remember walking around the office, like they're not getting shit done. Uh, you might as well, hey, here's the benefit. Go home. But, uh, yeah, it's, uh, it's definitely pretty interesting. Jason Berkowitz: [00:09:31] Yeah. I dunno if I will be able to do Mondays. I feel like Monday is like the first half that they are catching up from what you might've missed over the weekend. But good for them. I appreciate it. Jason Swenk: [00:09:40] Yeah, well, they were just like, and how I do my schedule now is I don't do any meetings on Monday, even though I'll work Monday. And then I take off Fridays. I never work on Fridays. And just by doing that, it just eases you into that, that week. And it's amazing how much more you get accomplished in the shorter week, rather than just sitting around. Because I remember seeing some employees, they were just sitting around and they like, like looking at the clock. Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:12] Yeah. Well that's was one of the things we noticed with the half-day Fridays is that productivity during the week, Monday to Thursday was actually up. Deliverables and stuff were executed much earlier. According to like our time tracker, which I don't know how they gauge productivity, I guess, user movement on the mouse and stuff. Uh, productivity went up and everyone was saying that like, yeah, I was actually getting stuff done quite quicker and sooner and probably more efficiently. Jason Swenk: [00:10:34] Yeah, exactly. Awesome. Well, Jason, this has been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:42] I don't think offhand. Um, maybe where to find us in case you're curious about learning more about Break The Web, always a shameless promo, uh, Jason Swenk: [00:10:50] Awesome. Well, what's a website people can go in and check you guys out? Jason Berkowitz: [00:10:54] Yeah, or you can just Google "break the web." Jason Swenk: [00:10:57] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. And you guys go check out their website. If you guys enjoyed this and you want to be around other amazing agency owners that could really help you scale faster and share what's working with you. So, uh, we all can grow together. I want you guys to go to the This is our exclusive mastermind. That's only for a select few and not everyone gets in. So go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Can You Continue to Scale Your Agency While Staying Lean?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 17, 2021 16:30

    Do you think that growing and scaling your agency means always going for more in every aspect? Will Russell is the founder and CEO of Russell Marketing, an agency focused on product launch marketing, crowdfunding, e-commerce, and Amazon. Through his experience with his agency, he created a five-step launch process meant to enable anyone to validate and pursue an idea in an affordable manner without taking a massive amount of risk. In this episode, he'll talk about how to prepare for the launch, why you should never ask family and friends what they think about your idea, and how he approaches the idea of scaling his agency while staying lean. 3 Golden Nuggets Pursuing an idea. There are no guarantees when it comes to ideas. If there were, major brands like Apple wouldn't launch products that fail. This is why Will's process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas, but not everyone has the right feedback. Preferably don't lose time asking your family and friends if your idea is good. You won't know for sure until you start selling. Sometimes the market will tell you that the idea is not good, Will's system is all about preparing as much as you can and anticipate some of the possible hurdles. The five-step process. The mistakes made when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way can be very costly. This five-step system was created to avoid those mistakes. 1. Validation, which is understanding how a product resonates in the market. 2. Build an audience, 3. Engage your audience, a key here will be resolving sales objections by trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the launch, 4. Focus on audience conversion, 5. Scale and optimize. Not more but better. Something that really describes Will's philosophy and the direction he wanted to take with his agency is “the goal should not be more, the goal should be better” and how he wanted to continue to scale his business while staying lean. This applies to pretty much everything. From the number of clients you have, the number of employees you need, and the number of hours you're working to get your agency to the next level. The answer doesn't always have to be more, more, more. Sometimes we should ask ourselves how we could work better or smarter. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Continue to Scale Your Agency While Staying Lean With this 5-Step Process for a Successful Launch Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited to have another amazing guest in the masterclass. We're going to talk about the five-step launch system that you can follow for yourself or for your clients. We're going to talk about how Will's actually grown and scaled his agency while staying lean. And having a lifestyle that he's always wanted, where you have the freedom to pick and choose to do the things that you love doing rather than being forced to do everything. So let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Will! Welcome to the show. Will: [00:00:39] Hey, Jason. Thank you for having me, pleasure. Jason: [00:00:42] Well, um, thanks for coming on. Uh, tell us who you are and what do you do? Will: [00:00:48] Absolutely. My name's Will Russell. I'm the founder of a launch marketing agency, Russell Marketing. We specialize in product launches, idea launches, uh, such as crowdfunding, Amazon, e-commerce, and so on. Essentially we have a five-step system that we, we bring to our clients and help them successfully launch their, their big ideas. Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. Well, let's go ahead. And, um, you know, before we kind of jump into it, how did you start the agency and why? Will: [00:01:21] I used to… About six years ago, I, I was working at an organization and the organization relocated. That would have meant a kind of a 19-minute commute, either way for me. And that was not what I wanted to be doing. You know, my, I created this business and I wanted to always wanted to have a lifestyle or life outside of work. And so three hours every day commuting wasn't my cup of tea. So I decided if there was ever a time to pursue something myself, then, then that was it. I went ahead, just kicked it off with some freelancing work. So, if, if the business was viable, if I could start bringing in clients like that and. And it was able to, and we successfully just continue taking steps since then really. Jason: [00:02:07] Very cool. Well, let's go ahead and jump into kind of the five-step launch process. Uh, tell us a little bit about that and walk us through it. Will: [00:02:17] Absolutely. So this five-step launch process is all about swiftly and, and affordably pursuing an idea. Lots of people have big ideas. In my early work as a freelancer, I saw how costly mistakes can be when pursuing a bad idea or pursuing an idea in the wrong way. And so what I did is I created this five-step system, which if follows like a recipe, uh, should enable anyone to validate and pursue their idea in a, in an affordable manner. Without taking a massive amount of risk. I'm a pretty risk-averse person and my, my processes and my in my business, uh… reflect that. So the, the system is, as I say, five steps. We start with validation. Validation is short period, which I'm sure many of your listeners know, know well. You know, product market fit. Understanding how this product, how this idea resonates in the market. Steps two and steps three a then a curve between the validation period and the actual launch. And it's all about acquiring prospective customers and getting them excited. Getting them ready to buy. And essentially a key is resolving sales objections. If you're launching a new product, you're not going to know what those sales objections are until you actually start selling. So this prelaunch period is really about trying to understand as many of those objections as possible and getting them resolved in advance of the, of the launch. Step four is once the launch occurs, you build your prospective customer audience. Now you've got to convert them. So we're going to focus on converting them into customers. And step five in this system is scale. So most folks, when they're launching, we'll have a call launch period, and I'll go with our clients is to scale as high as possible as many units sold as much revenue, whatever that goal is… As possible during that, uh, during that footstep scale, during that pre-order period. So we'll set and done. That, that five-step system can usually take around four or five months. And coming out at the end of it, a client has, uh, early customers, early adopters, uh, engaged communities around their product and knock on wood, they'll be ready for a real ramp up on their e-commerce. Jason: [00:04:39] That's awesome. I love it. I love how simple it is and I love, um, you know, the step number two, kind of around overcoming objections. Uh, yeah. Like I totally agree with you, you can't overcome objections until you've actually tried to sell and exactly convert people, uh, to figure that out. Cause everybody, like I remember, you know, I, I did many, many companies and came up with many dumb ideas. And I remember telling people, like, hey, this is idea, what do you think? They're like, we love it. And then you get to, you know, selling it and like no one buys it. I remember doing this one thing. It's when I did a lot of triathlons. And I just thought of like, as gag gift, I was like this beer trainer. It was like a helmet with a big, uh, little, like, like a wire that hangs a beer out in front of you that you never could reach... it was the dumbest thing. Will: [00:05:37] Yeah. I mean, it's little funny, it's funny that… It's obviously, it's impossible to predict. Otherwise, you know, apple and Google wouldn't launch products that fail. You can't predict them. However, there are a lot of things you can do to really understand, uh, the potential of an idea well before you have to invest. And so a lot of folks do come to me like you might have, have with, with your idea, which was kind of, you know, kind of unusual… Jason: [00:06:07] You can say it's stupid. Will: [00:06:11] And, and… they've been told by their family and friends. Oh yeah, I would definitely buy this. But there's a great book called The Mom Test. I can't remember the author but, you know, you don't ask your family and friends. If your idea is good, you got to get it into the market and got to get that feedback. And sometimes you get told by the market your idea sucks. And that sucks. Uh, but in my opinion, it's better to find that out before you've invested thousands of dollars, tens of thousands of dollars in pursuing it. Jason: [00:06:45] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it's easy, unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto's help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to That's for three free months. Yeah, there, there was one situation where a company came to me that was starting out and they're like, hey, we're going to… We want to develop this little, this book and this little elf that sits on the shelf. And, uh, and I was like, no, that's a dumb idea. And then every Christmas I've been doing it. Will: [00:08:10] Yeah. Elf, exactly. You, you… the strangest things can unexpectedly take off. Uh, so it's an interesting business to be in launches because you do see, you see some products you think a slam dunks face some really big objections and vice versa. So it's all about, it's all about what the data's telling us. Uh, and that's what the system focuses on. Jason: [00:08:32] Exactly. Well, let's switch focus a little bit. Um, how have you been able to build a lean team and keep scaling the agency? Will: [00:08:41] Yeah, that was a particular goal of mine in the last couple of years. This year more so. You know, over the… I think most agency owners will they'll grow. And the solution to growing is okay, I need to hire more, bring in more team members. So we got to eight or nine and of last year, middle of last year. And I was having spending more time in meetings and check-ins, and I, then I, then I wanted to frankly, and, and, and what I'm… How I'm looking to live ,y life is a key guide of the business. So I didn't want to live my life in meetings with, with the team. And so I said, okay, no more hiring. What are we going to do this year to grow without hiring? And that, I think a lot of the answers aren't surprising to people when we talk about productizing your services and making everything as systematic as possible. Uh, we talk about, uh, avoiding scope creep by really understanding and allocating kind of time allowances or bandwidth allowances for each, each role in the business and which role in the system. Uh, we talk about… Having a great lead pipeline so you can pick and choose the higher value leads that come in. But as essentially too, I think you, you really set that goal hiring is such an easy solution to increasing revenue. And so while you might know, you know, the key, the key ways to avoid that and to grow while staying lean. When you actually force yourself to enact it, and you really start seeing the details and specificities for your business rather than the generic kind of best practices of doing so. Jason: [00:10:31] I hit my mute button. Will: [00:10:32] Yeah. Do you know… I listened to, I listened to Seth Godin's… the podcast you did with him a while back. I listened that recently before this show and he said something that I felt really tied into our philosophy around that. And he said, the goal should not be more, the goal should be better. And he was speaking about that with regards to the type of people you work with I think, the clients. But I think that applies to pretty much everything. You know what, whether it's the, how many hours we're working a week or the value we're providing. It's not necessarily always do more, do more, do more, but it's how can we do it better? And that's a good, uh, philosophy to work off of when we scaling, uh, leaning too. Jason: [00:11:17] Well, it's also doing it better and then doing it your way, right? I talk to so many agencies that they have goals of going, you know, like a lot of agencies on our mastermind. They go I want to go from 3 million to over eight figures. I'm like, well, why? And a lot of them have issues with saying that they just go, I don't, it's just a number. It's, it's a goal. Like, well, what if your goal was to do it better, to do it more efficiently where you actually can create more time for yourself, right? Like in the pre-show we were talking about how you work maybe 20 hours, and then you spend a lot of work on your nonprofit and it's about how can you create the right systems, have the right people- because you have to have people, um, in this business in order to be able to pick and choose and do the things that you love. Like, you know… In this business, you know, the, you have to figure out what is like Dean Jackson says, like you're the cow, all you do is produce the milk. So what is the milk? I don't need to produce the cheese. I don't need to sell the cheese. Those that's what other people can actually do. Will: [00:12:34] Yeah, absolutely. That does saying I think applies to, uh, being a generalist versus a specialist, a lot of agencies early, early on, myself included, try to do a lot of things and quickly realize you can't do that well. So focus on a couple of things that we do really well. And that is limiting when you have people coming to you saying, well, we need SEO help. Uh, we've got a lot of money to spend on SEO. I mean a lot of money sounds, sounds good in the sense that it gives me safety net protection. But we don't do SEO. So, so, and we've got to stick with that and we want to be the best that the launch system we do have. And so, yeah, I completely agree with that. Jason: [00:13:19] And I look at it as kind of, when you start out, you have to try everything and you have to figure out what are you really good at? It's kind of like, you know, in sports, you know, you got to try basketball and football and soccer and tennis, swimming, whatever it is. And then by the time you get toward the end of your high school and you're wanting to go to college, well, you have your sport. Um, that's kind of how it was with me. That's kinda how it's going with our kids. It's like try everything and then see what you really like, what you're good at, what you don't like. Do more of the good stuff. Will: [00:13:55] Yeah. And from an agency standpoint, I do remember early on one of the... The key things I was looking for is what, what marketing can, uh, or what service offering can quickly show results. Because there's especially early on, if you have no credibility and no case studies, you can have a hard time with sales. So SEO is a long-term game. It might be a long time before we have that evidence. But paid ads, which are a big piece of our launch system, I can get results tomorrow and I can have a case study tomorrow that shows that results. So that was a big piece of it. You know, what can we do to build that foundation of credibility as quickly as possible, so that did direct or choose of services. Jason: [00:14:37] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, this, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Will: [00:14:45] No, I guess the, the main thing I often like to leave people with is, is just to focus on the validation… Is kind of what you pointed out, Jason, why, you know. A lot of people come to me and I'm sure a lot of folks are coming to your listeners with, with ideas, with things to pursue. Uh, but understanding the why and, and validating that is the right thing to pursue saves a lot of heartache money and time in the end. And it's been a well worthwhile focus for us. So it's always something I lean on others to consider. Jason: [00:15:18] Awesome. And what's agency website people can go and check you out? Will: [00:15:22] Sure., Jason: [00:15:26] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out. Russell,uh, Will, thank you for so much for coming on. And, uh, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners that can really see the things that you're not able to see and be able to open your eyes to things you may not have heard of. So you can grow and scale faster and really get to the point where you can pick and choose to do the things you love while your agency's scaling, which is really pretty cool. I'd love to invite all of you to go to the It's our exclusive mastermind for really experienced agency owners that want to be transparent and share what's working Go there now and, uh, and meet the, meet the other members there. There's a great video where the, you can check out the members, but go to digital And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How an Agency Grew Fast to Over $4 Million and Sold Quick

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 13, 2021 20:33

    Hollis Carter is an entrepreneur and avid skier who, after founding many companies in his career, recently became the co-founder of the Baby Bathwater Institute, a membership-based community of entrepreneurs with a focus on cultivating natural, mutually beneficial relationships. Since his business relied on many in-person events, it was quite affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. During this time of cancellations and being stuck at home, Hollis thought of a way to add value to the members during this new situation and started to offer a series of services with a performance-based model. This model quickly grew and he ended up selling it before actually having to fully build an agency. In this interview, he talked about the process of building and growing an agency to over $4 million and then selling it, all during a pandemic. 3 Golden Nuggets Growing an agency during Covid. Before the pandemic, Hollis was organizing many in-person events. Once they were canceled because of this new situation, he realized he had a perfect opportunity to offer a new service that would offer value to members of his mastermind. There was already a business relationship and he knew their products and believed in them. So he got ready to work under a performance-based model. “It was really very simple,” he says. The offer included podcast interviews, email lists, and content sites. He spent on setting up all the automation and tracking and found someone to handle that. And of course, under this model he was working with clients, not for them. Simplifying the offer. How can you make things simpler for you? First of all, don't just take a good deal. This agency had the advantage of having a group of companies whose product they trusted. Even then, our guest says, they took people who were so product-focused that we were going to get the content and the angles they needed. People who knew they needed to be told how to market this product. They also let clients use the work they were creating and focused on the 10% that drove revenue. However, there are some things they would do differently a second time around: setting a flat fee and, instead of complicated spreadsheets just telling the client “here's the number that came in, this is our cut,” would save a lot of time. Finally, figuring out how to set expectations of timeline, having a written document with a timeline that the client can reread instead of emailing you questions. Pulling from other industries. Hollis believes in taking knowledge from other industries into your own. He makes sure to have participants from different types of businesses in his masterminds and sustains there's always nuggets that you can pull from other industry practices that might not exist in a niche that you're opening, like what he has learned about hiring from the hotel space. He encourages others to give themselves a chance step outside what they know and learn something new that they can implement in their business from an unexpected source. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Growing an Agency Fast to Over $4 Million and Selling Quick Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here. I have another amazing show guest. We're going to talk about how when COVID hit, they formed an agency and ramped it up to over $4 million and sold it, during COVID. So it's a really cool episode and you're going to enjoy my guest. So let's go ahead and get into it. Hey, Hollis. Welcome to the show. Hollis: [00:00:29] Hey, man. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:30] Pleasure to have you on. So for the people that have not heard of you or met you at one of your cool events, tell us who you are and what do you guys do? Hollis: [00:00:39] Yeah. My name is Hollis Carter. Living in Boulder, Colorado, but originally from Georgia, where I kind of got my first start in internet marketing stuff. I was like early in college and built a couple of online businesses and luckily had one that did pretty well and sold that. And then I moved to Colorado and did this skiing thing for a while and, uh, living in the mountains and it was great, but I could only talk about skiing and snowboarding and mountain biking with people. So, I'm now a front ranger living in Boulder and enjoy it and got back in the mix of things. Our main business is called the Baby Bathwater Institute. You've come out to one of our events that we had at out mountain. And, uh, I started, my other businesses based on the thing that I use to learn… Like no one was really teaching relevant stuff in the late nineties, early two thousands. So to do it, I thought let's sit at the bar and a lobby at a conference and got most of my nuggets. And so when we had some free time, me and my now business partner who were lobby con buddies for like a decade… We started hosting these events and the whole idea was curating nice people who are in the grow and scale phase and the actual founders of their business. And in a lot of different industries that we could draw knowledge from different places, less of a kind of echo chamber mastermind of people doing the same thing. Cause there's a lot of value in those, but it's very linear. This was more of organic group meetings to have fun and, um, draw things from other industries and stuff. But we have agency people, we've got guys from hotels, we've got guys from e comm businesses… I guess I say people, not guys, cause we have plenty of girls too. We've been doing it for about eight years and I love it. Compared to the businesses I've done before, it's probably the dumbest business model. Cause it's overhead-intensive, time-intensive, relationship intensive. But I actually like it. So we're doing it for years and we'll probably do it for a very long time and really enjoy it. Jason: [00:02:37] Very cool. And COVID hit you guys really hard because your whole thing is about live experiences and that kind of stuff, uh, which are a lot of fun. And so tell us about like… cause we were talking a couple of weeks ago, you were like, man, I couldn't do these live events and that's really what the membership was for. So we gave all this money back to the members because we couldn't do live events. But I started an agency kind of by accident and it quickly grew. So talk about how did you grow the agency so quick? What did you do? Because a lot of people are looking at going, and I've seen a lot of growth in agencies over during COVID, but yours was really pretty, pretty good. So tell us a little bit more about that. Hollis: [00:03:18] I think it was, it was different because much of it was born out just starting that momentum sort of grew versus sitting with a very particular plan. Where Baby Bathwater came less out of need more out of want, this came out of need. And so there… Also, we are locked in our house and I could stay focused on, cause I wasn't doing… Going to conferences or traveling or doing things. But I think the main frame was okay, just postpone slash canceled, who knows a handful of events. We basically lost about two and a half million bucks in that decision. Which happened before people in the states even believed that this COVID thing was gonna affect us because our president was in Italy. And so we saw it a little early. We knew we didn't want to let people go. There was no PPP stuff yet. And me and my partner, Michael, we always knew we could always fall back on our marketing skills, which is kind of what got us to a place to even know what people wanted from a mastermind. So our personal interests has been in the health and wellness sort of space. We see lots of stuff that's crap. And we see lots of stuff that's good. And we happened to know a few people who have amazing products that are members. But they're product guys, they're not marketing people at all. And so we kind of went in with the thesis of how do we enhance the people who are already members value and we can't do anything for 'em, but also don't run any risk of screwing up the relationship if we get in bed with them and do something different than what we already have a good relationship with. So, I mean, it basically started with four products. I knew we had people in the group who had platforms. That love the products, cause they give them out at events. They love them. And I know they have a lot of traffic and I knew these people have great products. Didn't even know what I'm talking about. Like you should just set up this campaign and get them on the podcast and set up an email. You can track it with affiliate links… And all like, can you just do that for me? Kind of thing. So, I mean, it was actually super, super simple. Essentially, out of a network license for post affiliate pro so that we could track all of the clicks and conversions and build it very slowly, not a lot of overhead. It costed maybe like five grand or something we spent getting set up and all that automation and tracking. We did have a really hard time finding someone to help us run that once it worked. We ended up finding the guy who made the tutorial videos for the original version of it and tracked him down. And it was the first hire because it was complicated and how he set up the company structure. But the basics of it was we had people get podcast, email lists and content sites. I mean, people have great products that had a unique hook. It couldn't just be like, like we did have a CBD, which is a crowded market with a bunch of people at all look the same. But this had clinical trials, some studies, so I could go get functional medicine doctors to say something unique about it and they could write a real piece of content. So really we just took the friction out of the middle, which was, it's hard for the product owners to focus on these things that are ancillary. Then buy an ad that are not doing very diligent tasks that can scale these like one-off promotions and managing people is hectic. Like if I had a brand, I wouldn't want to do stuff we were doing because I know the costliness of managing all these relationships and getting it on the calendar and getting all the stuff they need. But in our unique situation, we had time. We… the money. We wanted to serve the people who we wanted to have back when things came back online. And so it made sense to keep calling them chatting and working it out and figuring it out. So our deal is that we took... it's very minimal, it's just an average, about 10% of the revenue for 12 months of the customer. And we would do a, you know, a multi-tiered campaign where, you know, perhaps the person to get on a podcast and do an interview about the product that was very educational and content-heavy. So it didn't just come out of the blue of this promotion. It was like ease into with good questions and then we'd do an article. And then eventually kind of like an email with a special offer and a landing page just for that person. And like something I've been back in early on was when one big person promotes the rest. So we usually just go for, you know, one or two people we have a good relationship that have a big audience and then their affiliates would see it happen. And we'd get a few more of those. But we did, because it was so hands-on, mess around with people who could send, you know, thousands and thousands and thousands of clicks and had an audience that already trusted them. So very boutique, very niche, but where it worked, very effective. I'd say the biggest bottleneck was calendars. You could lock in a deal and they might not have three months so they could do it. But we hit a point where we were going to have to start hiring more people, we had a tech guy, an administrative helper in an industry that me and Michael were putting together. Then we hired someone to go start recruiting more promoters, and then we need to start hiring writers and creatives. At that point, we actually ended up selling the business so that we didn't have to build an agency. The hard part of building an agency, managing the creatives, training, we never really hit that point. Although it looks like I'll go back to the trough and do it again. But I mean, really it was about that simple. It was like performance-based so we couldn't mess up relationships. And also we didn't want anyone to ever tell us, hey, you have to do this for me. Uh, it usually mostly came from the merchants with the products. They'd be like, hey, where are the traffic? And we're like, hey, we don't, we don't work for you. We're not on a retainer, but it's coming, it's coming. Then we'll get paid. Well, we only get paid when we make sales. So that helped us not get stress out. Jason: [00:09:32] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and backing in, in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports that scale. Now Ninja Cat cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place, freeing you up from manual data wrangling. And it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your business. And for a limited time, my smart agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit. When you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo. That's Yeah, I see a lot of people going the performance route. You know, one of our mastermind members, David, he was always constantly under the million mark and just trying to figure out how to get over it. And he switched to this model and got a million dollars last year during COVID, just from one client for the performance deal. Kind of like what you guys are doing, or you guys did or about to do again. I guess we can talk about that. But I liked how, when you're the performance model, they can't tell you what you can and can't do, or a timeline. You're just like, I'm putting a campaign together on our own dime, our own resources. This is what you're agreed to pay. I really like that. But I also like too, that, you know, this is a home run. Like it's a good product. I want people to not kind of overlook that and just don't go up to anybody and go give me 10% of all your sales. And plus too, you guys had relationships with them so you knew you could trust them. Because it gets really tricky sometimes when you're like, yeah, give me 10% of sales and they could the books however they want. Hollis: [00:11:54] Yes. So that was an interesting piece of... The one thing that I guess is there is we did have these relationships we've built over almost 20 years now. Which, if you just do it on the street, we couldn't start from scratch with that. So that was like our one… competitively used to do something here, but the book side of things, we actually knew how bad that can get. So we control that this was a bottleneck and business model, as far as administration and just workload. I kept everything clean, but we were starting to get super risky. So we invoiced the merchant for the payments and wrote to the affiliates. We did everything. So we essentially became a bank taking the money, moving the money versus paying out of their own affiliate program. It started to get pretty hectic. You get one monthly payment. We're trying to keep the relationships paying on time. We never ran into any issues, but you could see it coming as things got more complex. Jason: [00:12:52] Well, I'm sure the IRS probably set up red flags of all the money moving around. Hollis: [00:12:57] Oh, it was crazy that was passing through and yeah… And so like in hindsight, if we do this again, won't do the complicated equation where we have 12 months tail customer. We also calculated a refund risk thing. You know, now it's going to be one time upfront with a small fee for us that continues, but like the calculating the refund piece to try to mitigate risks. Like I think we went into it wanting to be like a no-brainer where it's like, hey, we've taken all the risks where X, Y, and Z, that you won't have to do anything for. Our contract is like the nicest thing in the world. If this was the only thing we were doing, and we were focused on it that thing would have sort of bit us in the ass, as it started to grow. But it worked well. It was boutique small. And we only did this from March to October. So it was like a significant period of time, but you can see all the forethought we didn't put into it with, oh man, the amount of time to calculate these things if I would've... There's a bunch of things we do if we really want to scale it simpler. If we do this again, you know. Jason: [00:14:05] What are some of the other things that you do simpler. Because most people listening here, this is their full-time gig. They weren't just looking at like, well, let's just try this project out, which that's really pretty cool that you guys are able to do that. Hollis: [00:14:19] Yeah. I think, you know… fed the horse because we had all the relationships and we knew this I'd stayed up drinking wine with every person in the thing all night. I knew we could do well with good products, which you highlighted, is like products that kind of sell themselves. And then the owner of those products, I think this is the simplest thing is don't just take a good deal. We only took people who were so product-focused that we were going to get the content and the angles we needed. All they cared about is being the best. But they didn't care about was telling us how to market it, that they actually wanted us to tell them. They would use the campaigns to inform all of the rest of their staff. One thing we did do well and make it easy was, hey, use the work we're creating. We don't need any cut of it. You can take our landing pages, reuse them. If you get your own affiliates, you can run them through your program. You know, just do that. Cause we only focused on that 10% that drove our revenue. The things we probably would have done different or not such a complicated calculation of the things. I remember when I first started in some of the affiliate stuff, people would hold back a percentage for refunds. There was like a whole equation. But we made everything else so simple for them. We didn't need to go, that… We could have just said here's a flat fee. Here's a number. Honestly, it would have saved one employee 40 hours a month in weird stuff. And in places where ambiguity… where also the customer on both sides has to read a spreadsheet that's complicated versus like here's the number that came in and here is the cut… over. I think simplicity would have helped a lot in that sense. And then other simplicity things, I think just figuring out how to set expectations of timeline. Even though we didn't work for those people, said it on the phone, in the conversations of like, hey, we might get a campaign locked in that's going to be out this far. But then they get in their own world. Like, where's the stuff? And I'm like, no, we already told you this. And so, one outline. Here's how this works, one the phone. Before you email me any questions, reread this. This is the rules of engagement and how it works. But that I would say once it worked and had momentum, changing the relationships from I work for you to we work together changed the whole dynamic of it versus, you know, just collecting a flat fee. Jason: [00:16:49] Yeah. I love that of like we work together rather than you're the dog barking orders to me. And even if you don't do a performance model. Hollis: [00:16:58] Yeah. It feels like you kind of got to do that sometimes. Cause I feel like that's how we like learned. If you worked in a restaurant going up or we… Whatever, like that's how it was. When you're getting paid, you just got to say yes, please, and as you wish. Which honestly doesn't even serve the client that well. Sometimes you're doing shit that they don't even need to get done. They just wanted to show that they tell you to do something. But we're only going to focus on brings in dollars. It doesn't bog down either of our teams. And that's why we switched the contract that you can leave whenever you want. You know, the psychology there was great because it was like, we're paying equally versus that, you know, walked into some long retainer and some big set up fees and things like that. Obviously you have to have some results for that to be worth it, um, for the relationship to stay. But if you know you can deliver on it, then it's probably better to be in a, a mutual relationship where either party can leave in 30 days notice versus trying to lock in really long-term deals. Jason: [00:17:58] Yeah, exactly. Well, awesome. Well, this is amazing, Hollis. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Hollis: [00:18:05] Listen, I mean, it's funny just because it's a friend of mine that just got off a call with one of our members who, who set them up on like a little dinner in the same town. And I forget the book references basically it's about taking knowledge from other industries and bringing them into your own. So what I saw was great was a lot of the product companies who were here like some of them were in retail and other things. They just didn't know how to pull stuff from other areas. There's always like these levers that you can pull from other industry practices that might not exist in a niche that you're opening that you're trying to mark it as that in. And so I was really, all we did was just start reaching into other tools that there's no way they're ever going to get to this. So obviously we can take over this part for them and we're not also dealing with the dynamics. So there's someone in the house already being paid to do this or anything like that. It's pretty clean that way. But I think we just learned that from sitting in these events from people like, you know, we have some hiring stuff we've learned from guys in the hotel space, which I never would have thought to learn that until I sat into that at one of these events or whatever. So I've never seen through blinders. Like it's good to be focused and linear, but I think there's just so many cool nuggets in different industries you can pull and bring in that we all just kind of forget to take a glance at. Jason: [00:19:30] Awesome. Well, cool. Well, what's a website people go and check you guys out? Hollis: [00:19:35] Just Jason: [00:19:37] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you go to their website. They have really cool events. I went to the one in, in Utah. And it was really pretty amazing. And if you guys want to really grow and scale your agency faster, what got you here is not going to get you to the next level and you need to do a number of different things. Because probably what got you to this level is from referrals and word of mouth, or maybe you selling, or maybe one salesperson. The biggest thing that you need is systems in place in order to grow and scale faster and get to the point where you can pick and choose. If you want to do that, I want you guys to check out our agency playbook. Go to and check it out. And it might just be the thing that will get you to the next level. So go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How to Land a Major Brand Client and Kick Start Your Agency Growth

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 10, 2021 23:36

    Do you want to know how to land major brands? Bill Durrant had been working for a big agency for years when he decided to leave and work freelance for a while. That's when opportunity knocked and old Nestle client asked him to work on his new account, Clif Bar. This is the client that really started his agency Ex Verus, which helps brands develop a paid media strategy that drives visible sales growth and merchandise those results to leadership. In today's episode, he sits down with Jason to talk about how good timing has as much to do as being good, what is it like to work with major brands like Coca-Cola, why it is so important for him to develop a relationship with clients, and 3 Golden Nuggets How to get in with the major brands? For Bill, getting a major brand's attention was all about timing and also making a good impression. He had been working at a big agency and worked on the Nestle account. He eventually decided to leave and start working freelance when an old Nestle client called him to handle the marketing for his new account, Clif Bar. What tells people who want to land a major client is that within these same organizations there are many brand managers in charge of growth stage brands that need creative input and are willing to work with smaller agencies that can bring some new and interesting input. Work on your relationship with clients. When his agency got their first client, they set the goal to start building relationships with as many people within the organization as possible. They also started getting introduced to people from other departments and other products, with the possibility of working with them too. Also, the same people that he worked with during those years eventually went on to other companies and called them to start growing those brands. Good clients will take you everywhere they go. This is why Bill values his relationship with them and even makes it a point to fly out every once in a while and touch base with his most valuable clients. The three-tier approach. With client relationships being such a core element of business, you have to make sure that clients build this relationship with the agency more so than with a key member of the team. Team members will leave sometimes for different reasons, and the client shouldn't feel like their communication with the agency will change for the worst because of it. This is why Bill has established a three-tier approach where there's a senior leadership level, junior planners, and associate planners. In case someone in one of those levels leaves, there's still two other points of contact that have developed a relationship with the client. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Landing Major Brands and How Good Clients Will Take You Everywhere Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. I am excited I have another amazing guest on the show. We're going to talk about the landing big well-known brands. Because a lot of you have been reaching out, how do we get these big brands? Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and all these major brands? Well, on today's episode, we're going to talk about that with this amazing guest. So let's go ahead and get it. Hey, Bill. Welcome to the show. Bill: [00:00:34] Hey, thanks so much for having me, Jason. Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So for the ones that have not heard of you yet tell us who you are and what do you do? Bill: [00:00:47] Alright, I am Bill Durrant and I'm the president and founder of Ex Verus Media. We're based out in Los Angeles and we are a paid media agency focused in that space, uh, really designed to create culture, creating growth-stage brands. Um, to work with those brands, to build them, to grow them from a media standpoint. Uh, and not just their brands, but also immediate demand as well. So the performance side of the world as well. Jason: [00:01:12] Awesome. Well, tell us, how, how did you get into this space? I'm always curious and like, what was your first project or deal? Bill: [00:01:20] Yeah. You know, I think our origin story is a little… You know, it's a little funny. It shows you how important it is to be a lucky and good, not just good. Um, I had worked for a number of years at a big agency and worked on, uh, the Nestle accounts. I worked with a number of grants from Nestle and, uh, I had decided to leave, um, just start doing some freelance work. And while I was doing that, I got a phone call from a former Nestle client who said, hey, I'm running a part of the marketing organization at Clif Bar now. And we'd love to know if, uh, you might be able to be a one-person media agency, um, for us. And of course I had no idea how to do that. But found myself saying yes. And, uh, that turned into an incredible and a very long run with Clif Bar, um, which started the agency. So from very small projects, um, to consolidating all of their media and advertising across the organization and using that as the launchpad for what we are today. Jason: [00:02:24] Well, shit, dude. You went and straight to the, a huge brand. Um, yes, that was, uh, that was good timing and, uh… I don't know, luck, but I think that was just good timing. Bill: [00:02:39] Yeah. You know, I, I think so. And, and I think, you know, like I said, it shows you it's important to be good. It's important to be ready when opportunities come up. But it's also important, you know, at that point in time, Clif Bar was not investing very much money into paid media. So it wasn't a stretch for me to do the work and to bring on one or two team members. Um, the real stretch was I think, in people's imaginations when they understood like wait Clif Bar, I mean, that they've got to be a billion-dollar brand. And, you know, taking advantage of, you know, essentially the credibility that that gave us. I didn't have to tell anyone, you know, hey, they're not necessarily spending $10 million a year in media. Um, they're not a massive account, at least right now. And being able to do that and to leverage that credibility, um, is ultimately what started to land us our next relationships. Jason: [00:03:31] Yeah. And I, and I think really kind of… Talk a little bit about, cause a lot of times people think these big brands are so intimidating. Like they get so nervous and I'm like, they're just people like you and me. They just got, but they got to get a thousand different approvals and they make decisions on committees, you know, and all that kind of stuff. But like, talk a little bit about that. Like I remember when we landed our first big one, I was just naive. And I didn't even, I didn't even know they were big. Like I remember, and I even lost it a really big account cause I didn't even know who they were. Which I always tell on the show Berkshire Hathaway. I was like, who are you guys? Bill: [00:04:16] Yeah. It's um, I can't believe you told Warren Buffett to screw off, but that's a, um, that's definitely a story. I, you know, I think you're absolutely right. These are people who put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us. And particularly if you're a creative agency or an agency where, you know, everything isn't continuously trying to be consolidated, like it is on the media side. Um, there's a lot of opportunity for them to, you know, really want to stand out and break through just within their organization, let alone to consumers. So, you know, there are folks that are going to be more willing within those organizations to work with an agency of any size, uh, if it brings them the right, the right kind of breakthrough work. And what we also found is that within those organizations, these large organizations, there's a Coca-Cola and sure everybody would want to work with Coca-Cola or with Sprite, or, you know, even with minute maid or some of the larger brands. But from our standpoint, you know, working with Coca-Cola doesn't necessarily mean working with those massive brands and trying to take on the largest agencies in the world. Um, there are folks that are brand managers on really interesting growth stage brands. They really need our help and creative thinking. Um, and there's huge opportunities to not only do great work with brands like that, and then have the benefit of saying, you know, I get to work with, with a fortune 100 company. Um, but to actually get work out of that, that then becomes part of your calling card to future opportunity. Jason: [00:05:49] Yeah. Yeah. I remember I did an interview, our Four interview. So if you guys want to go check it out, it's The number four, it's a pretty long URL. And I interviewed, uh, Del Ross of IHG International Hotel Group. And at the time he was director of... He's not there. So don't hit Del up anymore. And, uh, I asked him, I said, how can smaller agencies that haven't worked with bigger brands get into bed with bigger brands? And he was like, look, just like what you said, be innovative, call me up and tell me something that is new. That's changing. Don't just say, hey, I take you out to golf or send me a stupid, you know, puzzle that I have to solve in order to get, get his attention. And he's like, look, just say, hey, I was wondering like… And this was as example when Facebook was coming out with his pay-per-click and saying, hey, have you heard of power editor? And the remarketing possibility that you can do in the hospitality space? I'd love to do a test project for you. And that's, that's what we did with Lotus Cars. And that's what we did with Hitachi Power Tools and a number of different, bigger brands. And once you got in there, I want you to tell us about this too, about, especially with Clif… You know, uh, the Clif Bar. There are so many different side businesses or divisions in those. So how did you start building relationships in order to grow that account? Bill: [00:07:18] Well, I think the point that you just made is a really important one. And, uh, you know, I think our success is a testament to this strategy and the strategic approach, because it, it really is a win-win for everyone. And when you can show that client how they're, they're winning by doing something or learning something that they wouldn't have experienced or been exposed to before, um, your business is going to grow, right? And I think with Clif Bar, you know, we were kind of… It's funny, I came from Nestle where, you know, there's typically one agency group that runs all Nestle brands regardless of where they are in the country. And so portfolio management was very important. And so we came into the Clif Bar relationship really saying, you know, this is going to be about portfolio management. Even if there's one or two brands that spend the most. And this is going to be about building relationships with as many people within the organization as possible. Now, an organization like Clif makes that really easy, just great people, uh, all the way through. And what we found was that not only were we, you know, picking up and, and working with additional brands within Clif, which, which ultimately I think helps the bottom line. Um, what we also found was that those folks would then progress in their careers and move outside of the walls of Clif and move to other organizations. And in fact, that's, that's exactly what happened and we've kind of evolved our relationship. We now work with, uh, Premier Protein and PowerBar and Supreme Protein, which is literally down the street. But as people progressed in their careers and moved to other organizations, um, we then had new startup brands and new opportunities to work with. So it raised the tide of the boat and it helps us diversify as well away from one kind of main client comprising the bulk of our revenue. And so we saw that strategy paying off, not just right away. Um, hey, could you introduce me to such and such at such and such brand we'd love to chat with them. You know, you're already an insider, so you've already got trust and a reason to be there. Um, so you're not just a cold call, uh, when you're asking for introductions to the other brand managers. But even when you're not necessarily getting work from them today, you may be getting work from them tomorrow. It's still important to continue to build those relationships Jason: [00:09:47] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions, compliance. None of it it's easy. Unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto's help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to that's for three free months. Yeah, one of our mastermind members, um, does a lot of work with Facebook and some of the key people at Facebook. She was telling us this and some of the other members are like, oh, that means you're going to lose Facebook? And she was like no, no, no. And I was, I knew it was coming. I was like, I'm getting new business from all these other companies. And it was like, you build relationships with these people, you know, they take you everywhere. We saw that as well, but it's about building that relationship, not just being transactional. And I think so many, like one of our other mastermind members, we always have a digital agency experience in Colorado. And I remember I'm already talking about we always make it one of the things in the first month we have to go physically, this is pre-COVID… Go visit them and just build rapport and help them out. And always, rather than just sending stupid reports, like, why do agencies just send reports? Like, you know what happens to your report? It just… They look at it first month. They might ask the question and then all the other ones it goes in the garbage. And then they forget about you. Bill: [00:11:58] Oh my goodness. That's exactly right. And you're right to talk about how to differentiate yourself and creating that personal communication is, is, is really one of the top ways to do it. We still have a very limited client base, uh, here in Los Angeles. We still only had one or two clients over the last six years that we could actually drive to. And we made it a point to fly and to be in person with people. So I've had status with Southwest Airlines for 10 years Because of that, because it's so easy to fly from, from Burbank to Oakland and to be there in person and to continue to cultivate those relationships. And, and to do that with people that I genuinely like and genuinely consider friends now Jason: [00:12:52] What, um…? Switching focus just a little bit, because you have about 30 people that you were telling me in the pre-show, your people will leave sometimes. They build relationships with your clients. Um, I know one of the hard things that people have an agency, let's say you have a project manager, account manager leading like a major account, and that person decides to leave. How do you maintain that relationship going forward with that client as a key person left? Bill: [00:13:26] That's a great question. You know, I think what we do is we try to make it like a three-tiered approach. So you've got folks that are at a senior leadership level. You know, we've got 30 people and, you know, maybe four or five people kind of fit that, fit that descriptor. And that's even a growth from where we were just six months ago. Uh, so we've got a senior leadership level. We've got, you know, uh, an associate director manager kind of media planner core team. And then you've got your kind of junior planners and associate planners, and that's kind of how our structure works from a client relationship standpoint. We're I think continuously thinking about where's the relationship at all three levels. So that if a person who's core, especially this day where there's been so much turnover just in general across the industry. You know, there's still going to be someone at the other two levels with whom the client has a strong relationship. And then we know that mission one, once we get a new person in to replace who's left, is for them to build that relationship with the clients. That's just as important as it is for them to build a relationship with the folks internally as well. Um, we take that very seriously. So the first thing we do is we look at what are these three levels? How can we always have two strong points of contact at different levels? Uh, regardless of who's left, um, because you'll find that sometimes clients just really love a particular associate planner or someone who's at a more entry-level role, because that's the person that's getting them, the information that they're asking for on a daily basis and doing a great job. And not just showing up every week or every month, um, for other things. Uh, the other thing that we like to do from a relationship standpoint is, again, to prioritize those relationships. And to understand that this really is a relationship business uh, first and foremost, and a results business as a very close second. Um, we always have to be mindful of results and the innovation that we're bringing to clients. But we know that we don't have a business long-term if we're not cultivating relationships and keeping those strong. So it's very important to us as an organization to hire properly. We're not just going to hire someone who's got the particular skillset that our client is looking for. We're also going to hire someone that we think that they're going to blend well with and to work well with and to enjoy on a personal level. Um, and somebody who's articulated enough to maintain that level of relationship with them and not just a technical expert. So that's the other big piece that's so important and foundational to everything is that if you're hiring correctly, you're really setting yourself up to be successful in that. Uh, without even necessarily having to have a strategic approach after that. Jason: [00:16:21] Yeah. I mean, we're in a people relationship business, both hiring, like you were saying, and, and managing those relationships. I love that. And I love that the three points of contact and always having two points. It's kind of like climbing a mountain. You never want just one point of contact. I mean, you know, I watched that free solo in my hand still… you know clam up when I'm thinking of him just holding on with one hand. I'm like at least two points and you, you're, you're going to make it. Uh, well, depending on which mountain you choose, I guess. Bill: [00:16:56] That's the perfect analogy I'm going to steal that analogy. Yeah, exactly. Jason: [00:17:00] Well, we, we love mountains here, right? So that's why I live in the mountains. Well, this has all been amazing. Um, tell us a little bit about the book called Digital Stone Age. Bill: [00:17:11] Yeah. So Digital Stone Age was a book that was designed to, uh, essentially have a conversation, um, at more of the readers pace that we found ourselves increasingly having with brands over the last couple of years. And that conversation was really around this idea of… Uh, you know, I'm a growing brand, I may have a decent media budget. Uh, I may not, I may, you know, be kind of bootstrapping, uh, with a smaller budget, at least compared to my peer set. And as a result, everything that I do has to be digital. And we found a lot of brand managers coming in with this mindset or everything that I do has to be social. And, you know, they weren't necessarily wrong in wanting to be in those places and to utilize those tactics. But what we found is that they weren't being neutral about it, and they weren't truly understanding what is going to truly grow my brand based on where consumers are now. And, you know, essentially the thesis of the book is you have to take care of generating that immediate demand. But you also have to take care of building a brand simultaneously. And as important and critical as digital tactics have been, you know, tactics that were kind of native to the digital space. Uh, what we also found was that people are still watching TV. People are still viewing… Now post-COVID, hopefully, post-COVID doesn't even make sense. But people are still viewing, um, out-of-home advertising. So we're seeing that grow again in 2021 and then beyond, um, people are still utilizing tactics that might feel old-fashioned to a very modern digital marketer, and they're using them very successfully. Um, simultaneously you've got folks who are doing the same thing of, uh, you know, I I've always been in TV. I've always been on a radio. I've always been an outdoor. And I would like to just continue with what's worked and we know that that's not what works best either. There truly is a synergistic effect by taking different kinds of media channels and different approaches, um, and using them simultaneously than trying to double down on one particular approach or tactic. So writing a book about that and essentially laying out the evidence that proves that over studies that have been done by people far more, far more intelligent than I… Over thousands of brands and over the last 10 years, it's really powerful and exciting to see that and to know… Hey, I now have a blueprint or a path forward and a strategic framework on how to be successful in growing a brand in this modern era where even if a particular channel isn't a digital channel. It's still becoming more and more digitized. And being able to lean into those trends and be modern, but also simultaneously driving, uh, results with your budgets. Uh, that's a very powerful thing to be able to say you can do as a marketer. Jason: [00:20:15] Well, I lied. Last question. Has the book gotten you a lot of business with some of the brands that you want? Bill: [00:20:22] You know, I think what it does is two things. Um, number one is it immediately drives credibility that we know what we're talking about. Um, so we don't use it as a lead magnet per se. We use it as a compliment to, uh, our introduction process and our proposal process, um, with clients. And so it's a little bit harder to quantify. But we know that, um, the book and some of the work that we've done as extensions of that from a PR standpoint, just getting our message out to the press, um, have generated interest and inbound leads. And have generated clients for us. That's, I think, the most satisfying thing to know is we were able to obtain a client by doing things the right way and leaning in on thought leadership. Not just having to rely on referrals of course, which are important, but you can't just rely on them, uh, or other channels or tactics that might've felt less, um, true to who we are. Jason: [00:21:23] Well, I, you know, we have a lot of mastermind members that have written books and what they'll do is they literally send it out to their top 100 list. And they'll actually have like a bookmark and a special note on the page they want them to read. And it's customized to them, right? And then they get this book. If they like reading, then it's gold. If they're like me and they're like, ah, kryptonite throw it away, right? So you got to make sure you know your audience. Um, but, uh, yeah, some mastermind members crush it on that. So if you're not doing it, try that part out. Bill: [00:21:58] I love that. I love that idea. Uh, the idea of shipping out a hundred packages is a little scary. But the, I, the idea of physically getting something into their hands is so powerful. Love it. Yeah. Jason: [00:22:09] Awesome. Well, cool. Um, what's the website for the agency? And then obviously, you know, the Digital Stone Age, I think you can get on an Amazon Barnes and noble all over. So congrats on that. But what's the website address people will go and check the agency out? Bill: [00:22:25] Yep. It's just E X V E R U S means from the truth in Latin. Jason: [00:22:31] Awesome. Glad you spelled that out because I bet a lot of people would have messed that up. But thanks so much for coming on the show, uh, loved having you. Um, and if you guys liked this episode, you'll make sure you get subscribe. Uh, however you're listening to it. And if you want to be around other amazing agency owners that can really elevate you faster. And these are experienced agency owners that are pushing you and they're growing at a rapid pace. I'd love to have you guys go to and go apply. Um, we make everyone go through an application process, interview process just to make sure help you out. And that you're right for the group, but these are the best of the best agency owners sharing what's working and be able to see the things that you might not be able to see. So go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day. Related:

    Can You Use NFTs To Create More Engagement For Your Digital Agency?

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 6, 2021 19:20

    Are you thinking about the ways you could use NFTs for your digital agency? After working in nine agencies, Kent Lewis decided to start Anvil Media in 2000, which is nowadays one of the oldest search engine marketing agencies in the Pacific Northwest that specializes in analytics, SEO, paid media, and organic social media strategy. Last year, during the NFT boom, Kent wrote a not so serious press release about this phenomenon and got the attention of companies wanted to learn how to use these one-of-a-kind digital assets. Just like that, he got into the NFT world and is developing some projects around them. Today he joins Jason to talk about what are NFTs, how some companies started using them, the possibilities to further develop their potential, and how can digital agencies get in on the action too. 3 Golden Nuggets What are NFTs? There's been a lot of talk about non-fungible tokens since their boom last year. In essence, it is is a unit of data stored on a blockchain that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. We've seen sold for hundreds of thousands, but how can companies use them? Some early adopters saw success from selling digital items to create brand awareness (Pizza Hut selling digital pizzas, Pringles selling a golden chip). But there's still much room to continue innovating. How brands are using them. If the first step was brand engagement the future of NFTs for companies includes brand engagement and brand perception management. In this post-pandemic world of much more remote work and remote communication, it makes sense to add digital products to your offerings. The future of NFTs includes its gamification, meaning tokens, rewards, exclusive access, and more. How can agencies get in on the action? As we've seen, agencies can help their clients jump on the NFT trend to create brand awareness and engagement. But some agencies are themselves starting to use NFTs. Access to exclusive rewards is a good way to create interest in your brand. Some agencies are starting to do this by the tokenization of their time. For example, someone that gets a good deal on one of your agency's tokens could get a good deal for an hour of your time. Kent also recommends paying close attention to how Gary Vaynerchuk is innovating with NFTs. 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 Using NFTs Like Gary Vee To Create Brand Engagement Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and have another amazing guest for you. We're going to talk about how your agency can use NFTs. That's right. And we're going to tell his story and so you can do that. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode. Hey, Ken. Welcome to the show. Kent: [00:00:25] Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:27] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who are you and what do you do? Kent: [00:00:32] So my name is Kent Lewis. I am based in Portland, Oregon since 95, you know, marketing PR background. But in 96, I got involved in the internet, started optimizing websites before Google was a thing. And I've been a part of nine agencies, founded two, co-founded two. But when I was fired the second time from an agency that I was a key manager in, I decided I'm probably unemployable. Better do my own thing. So started out in 2000 with Anvil Media, as a consultancy and started bringing in employees in 03. And have been active and keeping it a relatively boutique-sized digital marketing agency since then. And when I'm not doing the agency thing, you know, I'm trying to get outside. That's the great thing about Portland, we're an hour and a half from the ocean, from the mountains from rivers, you name it. Jason: [00:01:20] Awesome, so are you a fly fisherman? Kent: [00:01:23] My first ever fly fishing experience was on the Deschutes River in Central Oregon, about three months ago. Gal, one of my friends, she gave me the rod and said Kent, and one just keep throwing it. And I caught a least solid three and a half-inch steelhead. So I didn't eat it. It was probably good for a pizza. And I guess you could say I was maybe hooked. So I think I might try more of that later, but I'm mostly like bike cycling, snowboarding, skiing, kind of guy. Jason: [00:01:50] Very cool. We'll get along very well. That's, that's all me. That's why I live in the mountains. But, um, we're not here to talk about the mountains. Let's talk about… I'm curious, because I've been fired from almost every job. Why were you fired from that one agency? Kent: [00:02:05] Well, so the first time I was fired was an agency I co-founded in 99. And by fall of 2000 we had a disagreement about equity and our role. There were two junior folks. I was like 25, 26 at the time. And there was the founder who used his 401k to fund it and we helped grow it to three and a half million, 35 people in less than two years. But, you know, we had gone in… much as I should ran of myself, my other young partner who ran the PR side and I ran the internet side. She was like I'm going in to get more equity. Are you in? I was like, I guess, yeah, because I helped build this thing. And he was offended by that and instead of firing just her he fired both of us. And by the next week, uh, October, 2000, I created Anvil as a, as a placeholder. Interestingly, the name Anvil Media comes from an easy I'd been running for four years. I thought I'll just sell the easy for a million dollars and retire. It's still archived at, but I haven't touched it since 06. Not worth a dime now, but that team that I left in late 2000 was acquired by another agency. And then my boss, who was my mentor and, you know, it was tragic to me that we had a falling out. He died of a massive heart attack at 42. So they needed somebody to run my own team. So this old school agency asked me to take my team back over and I tripled revenue. Then, in the end, my girlfriend decided the Creative Director was more interesting than I was, even though he was married. And since he was on the board and had been there 20 years, he had a little more juice than I did and canned my ass. And then I decided I better do my own thing. So it was about a girl the second time. Actually, it was about a girl both times. The other was my business partner and she was very amazing and also made a lot of bag mistakes. And I got lumped in when she and I united. So there's a whole book there somewhere when I have the time, but it was never about my performance. It was never about my abilities. It was always about bad judgment. I'm not innocent in it so much as I picked the wrong horses. Jason: [00:03:56] Yeah, gotcha. I do want to get to how you tripled revenue later on, but I do want to get into the NFTs. So explain for some people that have… I mean, if you've been living under a rock, what an NFT is and then how can agencies use NFTs to really benefit their agency? Kent: [00:04:15] Yeah. So it's actually a great story, but I'll just answer your question directly. If we have time, I'll go into the backstory because it exemplifies the timing in my career. Um, I'm not that smart. I'm just tall male with a short name and I'm not unattractive. And I think that's been as much of my success as hard work and smarts. So NFTs. So I'd been reading about, you know, what Pizza Hut and Pringles and all these brands were messing around doing these little PR stunts, basically. Creating these little non-fungible tokens, being their little digital assets that you can own. And, you know, buy, sell, trade. And because they're probably of blockchain, you can have a whole history of that item. So brand we'll get into, you know, why it matters to marketers. But to back then, we're talking March, 2021. I was like, this seems like second life. You remember second life, the virtual world. I was consulting with HP on that like however many, 14 years ago. And I realized for the first time in career, I could be one word ahead or one sentence ahead in the book. I didn't have to write the book. I didn't have to write the chapter, I just needed to spend a little more time on it and think about it just another 30 minutes longer than my client, and then help guide them through how to create a second life experience. Same thing with, uh, it's all over again, right? The world repeats. It's a spiral and a circle, historically speaking, even in tech. I read about these non fungible tokens. You create this asset, like these virtual tacos or virtual pizzas, like Pizza Hut or these Pringle gold chips. And then people get excited because you're an early adopter, even if there's a fairly worthless asset. But it wasn't because people were reselling these on the secondary market. They got them for free and they were selling them for 10, 20, $30,000. And I was like, this sounds a lot like Bitcoin for brands. And so I wrote a press release April 1st, as I've been doing the last 15, 18 years. I write a fake press release on April every year, and this one was about NFTs and, you know, NFTs, you might know as most famous things, digital watches from Jacobson and Company or digital sneakers. And so I took the idea of a digital sneaker because we're in the backyard of Adidas America and of course, Nike and I said that these other agencies are building digital sneakers. We're 10 steps ahead where building virtual shoe boxes to story of virtual sneakers to put in a virtual closet and a virtual house that we build you just to store your digital sneakers. Just totally full of it, right? Totally riffing off of a core concept. And low and behold, a very large social media platform with a blue logo reached out to me and said, hey, we need help. We've got… We're getting a virtual sneaker build for one of their communities. And we can, would, they could tell that we're very serious about it by reading that press release. So they didn't read the press release that closely, bless their hearts. And that led to another conversation. So basically what I did is I would hopped back a second and I was like, shoot, if they're serious, then I'm serious. So I read up on it. I wrote an article that's on a website called It's a big ad networks for the West Coast, Portland, San Francisco. Uh, about what is NFT and why does it matter? And we can talk more about that in a second, but in the end I've been talking to three large brands, including a sneaker brand about how to use NFTs. Including one of the brands that's a big technology company with a black and white logo that basically is trying to use it for B2B. How do you get into the tech community? And can we use NFTs to incentivize behaviors for deep tech clientele. Even the OEM channel reseller channel, very complicated, convoluted, not theoretically as sexy. And I love the challenge. So I'm talking with them in an hour, then try and see if we can finalize a project. So long story short, we took this, what was a press release joke into a reality of an offering to clients. And we're having these multiple discussions with larger brands. So in the past, I've evangelized mobile marketing, video marketing, podcasting, voice search, Amazon marketing. And I evangelize it as a, with my PR background, speak about it, write about it, and then develop through my articles, a concept or a structure for a service, and then sell that service. I've done that for most of my career. And the NFT happened to start out as a joke, skeptical, healthy skepticism, that it was really something. As I did the research, I realized it's extremely powerful. Because it solves… NFTs, non-fungible tokens, unlike Bitcoin, where if there's equal value, one Bitcoin equals one bitcoin. I own one, you own one. It's the same value. And a non-fungible is a one-off item that you can pay me for with Bitcoin, but it's non-replicable. Non-scalable. And so the idea is you're, you're owning an asset for something. And that's why you can say that's 30 grand to own this. Or the meme of the fire girl, the little girl with the blazing fire out of her house. And she's staring at the camera and they sold… That gal, now that she's going into college, sold it for half a million dollars and helped fund college and gave some to charity. Just for some rich person to own the digital rights to that, right? Beeple's $69 million collage. Um, he's arguably not a good artist, but he's a first-mover developed a lot of credibility in the space and had enough of a following that some very wealthy art collector, using the term loosely, decided to get a bidding war and spend crazy money. But how does that relate to brands? So there's a couple things to keep in mind for NFTs. And that is there's, because it's blockchain, it's trackable, defensible. There's no fraud, theft, or manipulation possible with an NFT, you can create as many copies as you want. You can sell them, you can give them away. But it allows… In the end, it allows for a few different things for brands. One is just general awareness. So the things that you've seen in the, in the press related to these predominantly quick-service restaurants or manufacturers and retail, lifestyle brands, Pringles, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut… Charmin has an NFT-P as in "TP." So they're just creating brand awareness. And if you like the brand, you might love them for that, if you're technologically savvy. But what I think is the next phase, because that's really what's happening in the last year. What's happening in the next year is brand engagement brand perception management. So luxury brands are getting into it. Hoochie, Jacob & Co., like I said, Jacobs & Co. are obviously a very expensive watch brand and sold an NFT watch for $100,000. Again, fairly worthless other than to the buyer, right? So brand engagement. Uh, what I think is really the secret sauce is, and this is where it gets into the B2B world, where it can apply is in the engagement for the customer. And customer retention is using it for gamification and incentives. So tokens, loyalty reward programs, earn certain tokens. Those tokens can be exchanged for things, art, music, whatever. And so it's just a clever way to up your ante and see, be seen as a forward-looking brand or an agency that creates this stuff for clients. Because a lot of like the top shot, NBA, virtual trading cards of the top 10, most expensive trading cards of all time up there with Honus Wagner is the Dallas Maverick, right? And his car traded for almost $3 million and it's a digital card. But in my backyard, Damian Lillard with the Portland trailblazers, he's added special access to groups, discussion groups, VIP access to certain events, or just access to him. So you're getting, you're paying a premium, but you're getting something that's very exclusive. That's really what NFTs are about right now, or now is exclusivity. I think also that the next phase, which will be one plus years out would be the product extensions. Agencies helping brands create products that are natural extension of their current offerings, especially in a post pandemic world. There's a lot more of this remote work, remote communication. So creating products that are more digital and interactive, it's particularly interesting right now. And then the last component would be the tokenization of time. So as an agency, you could tokenize your time where it can be bought and sold on the secondary market. Why people might do that? Hard to say. But, uh, there's a Reuben Bramanathan who's with IDEO CoLab Ventures. He's tokenized his time. And one token is equal to one hour of his time and the guy might trade his time. He might, I might have to pay him 500 or a thousand dollars. But if I get a good deal on a token, I might save a ton of money more than likely to pay right now, paying more for a token than it's worth. And then relate to that is just creating that digital ecosystem. So when I mentioned second life, there's a new version of that. And that is, there are many of them actually, but one of them is popular. It's called Superworld, where you can own the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel tower in a virtual recreation of the world, the planet. Using satellite imagery, you could add things into that world. You can develop things like second life, but mainly if you want to say I own the Eiffel tower, you can go in Superworld and buy it. If it's not already been purchased since I last looked. The Great Wall, Taj Mahal, etcetera. Those are just some of the ways a brands are using it today. One that I glossed over that's product extension. A good example is gaming. So you've got Ubisoft has a game called Rabbits. F1 has Delta time. So what, what F1 has done well with their reality show on I think Netflix. And then this, uh, F1, uh, Delta time NFT assets related to kind of gamification of F1 is they're extending out what is a very elite wealthy following. Most people don't fly to Monaco to watch the race from a yacht, but there are other ways to interact with the brand. And F1 has mastered that. Uh, and then even Microsoft has a fairly ghetto Minecraft-like game called Azure Space Mystery. That is, um, kind of remedial, but it has, it's in the NFT world. So, um, how that relates is Fortnight, if it stays relevant for another year or two, or other games like it, you could buy and sell armor and weapons and other customizations. That's one way you can buy, sell, and trade your gear within the games would be through NFTs because of the trackability that you need to do the anti-fraud protection. And then brands can obviously create assets and then know that they've protected that asset through NFT. Jason: [00:14:41] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry, leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7. So you can reach your goals and start setting new. See for yourself, head over to And re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Now my head's spinning, which I… with ideas. And I mean, it's just to comprehend all of this is a, a little overwhelming figuring out. But that's, it's really pretty fascinating that's where a lot of the world is actually going. And, uh, those are some great examples, you know, from F1, Microsoft, and even how some of the agencies are selling their time for NFTs. It's crazy. Kent: [00:16:02] Yeah. For now it is and it will settle down. It's, it's more profound, you know, Gary Vaynerchuk has doubled down. So if you want to figure out how does an agency monetize NFTs just look at what Gary Vaynerchuk has done with NFTs. And I've had the luxury to seen him speak twice. And I thought he was just a grade-A douche bag and nothing better. And he's far more than. In fact, I firmly believed that it's, his, his character his act and he really has a huge heart and does a lot of good things. You just wouldn't know it because he has a potty mouth, which I have no problem with. And, uh, just the way he kind of yells and preaches at people. But he has a lot of good things. I never disagree that he's a smart guy and he's on point, but he's doubling down on NFTs in ways that make me look like a troglodyte. Like I'm, you know, like, I don't get it. And he's built a whole marketplace and a bunch of assets and that's cool. Cause he can do that. Cause you know, he shouldn't even be working anymore, but he's never going to stop. So look at what he's done. If you want to see what a true agency pioneer that started out just as a small wine dealer has done, it's pretty remarkable. Jason: [00:17:00] Give us one example of what you really liked that he's doing in his agency using NFTs. Kent: [00:17:06] Well, I like that he's giving back. So with his NFT agency and I, we're going to apply cause we're doing an NFT mural fundraiser here in Portland, in September. But we can apply once we build the NFT and what do you call mint it, then we can apply. If we put it on the right, uh, marketplace and use the right technology, he can use some of the proceeds and resources he's developed with his NFT company. You know, like it basically an NFT agency to help you build something better, especially if it is for a nonprofit or cause-driven social responsibility sort of thing. And, and you can get some horsepower. So he's already built giving back into his model, which I really appreciate and admire. Look at what he's doing there. So he's not just riding the money train, he's pivoting that to provide opportunities to do social good in the process. Jason: [00:17:55] Awesome. Well, this is been very educational and, uh, and really pretty cool to listen to. What's the website people can go and, uh, check the agency out? Kent: [00:18:04] Uh, you can go to or just Google Anvil Media. You'll find me with Anvil, Portland, anvil, Kent Lewis, whatever. And then if you just Google Kent, Kent Lewis NFT, or just go to and their blog, you'll find my article, NFT Marketing: How brands can use NFTs to engage consumers and generate revenue. I think that's a great read. And then just also look at what Gary Vaynerchuk and NFTs looked that up and news and, um, Google search generally, and you'll find a lot of great information. Jason: [00:18:36] awesome logo. Everyone go check that out and thanks so much, Kent, for coming on the show. If you guys liked this episode, make sure you guys subscribe. Also, if you want to be around other agency owners who are on the cutting edge and they're sharing the stuff that's working and be able to see the things that you might not be able to see. I'd love to invite all of you to join our exclusive mastermind. It's called the digital agency elite. So go to and apply. And then if we feel that you're right for the community and the community is right for you. We'll have a conversation and see if it's, uh, uh, double-check that. And so make sure you go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why an $80 Million Agency Owner Had to Recalibrate Ambition to Grow

    Play Episode Listen Later Oct 3, 2021 31:57

    Are you wondering how to go beyond the six or seven-figure mark and continue your agency growth? After graduating college with a Liberal Arts degree and an interest in advertising, Ben Wiener jumped at the opportunity to work at Wongdoody, an advertising agency that specializes in UX, as well as customers experience and employee experience. He continued to work there for 28 years and is now the CEO of the recently sold agency. He sat down to talk with Jason about the importance of the pipeline to keep your agency going beyond the million-dollar mark, how he goes about building the leadership at his agency, how to recalibrate your ambition to keep going after reaching eight figures, and his current role at the company. 3 Golden Nuggets Beyond the million. Many agency owners that reach the million-dollar mark have a hard time going beyond that level. In Ben's experience, this entails a mind shift. It's a point where you will need your new clients to be as big as your biggest client. Making the decision to stop taking small clients may be difficult and requires a lot of confidence on your next step, but you need to recognize that small clients take as much time as big clients and keep you from reaching that next level. This pipeline piece is key and you need to have a clear vision of what you want your client roster to look like. Building leaders. Hiring is one of the most important things agency owners do once their agency starts to see a certain level of growth. Once you've hired people t start doing the things you used to do you will need to start hiring people that do things you can't do? How can you ensure they really know what they're doing? Our guest believes sourcing talent from companies that are ahead of him in the growth curve is the best way to go about it. It provides credibility and, at the very least, they will be well trained. After you hire your leadership and empower them to make decisions, your job will become clearing the path for them to be able to focus on their jobs. Recalibrating your ambition. Getting to seven figures is the number one goal for many agency owners, and it might be so overwhelming to get there that you just think “I can't believe I got here”. Ben argues that continuing your growth will require recalibrating your ambition, thinking how do I use eight figures as a platform to get to 10 figures? And what are the next set of changes that we are going to make? Of course, not everyone has eight or nine-figure ambitions and that's ok. The things you love about your agency at $5 million will definitely not be there at $50 million. You have to be very clear on what you want going forward. YOUTUBE AUDIO LINK Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Building Leaders and Recalibrating Your Ambition Will Help You Continue Your Growth Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and I have an amazing guest on today's show. We're going to talk about what is the milestones that you'd go through in order to build an over $80 million agency. Yes, $80 million. I want you to sink that in because a lot of you are trying to get to the eight-figure mark or the nine-figure mark. So we're going to talk about the milestones that you go through. And I have an amazing guest who's been in the industry and been with Wongdoody for over 27 years. So let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Ben. Welcome to the show. Ben: [00:00:45] Hi, how are you? Jason: [00:00:47] I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do? Ben: [00:00:52] I am Ben Wiener. I am the CEO of Wongdoody, which is, as you pointed out a 28-year-old at this point, um, former advertising agency that has evolved into a global experience design company. Jason: [00:01:09] That's incredible. And so we were talking in the pre-show that you were employee number four. So talk about the progression and you know, how did Wongdoody get started? And first off, just tell people how you guys came up with the name. Uh, cause I'm sure people, you know, I was very interested before. Ben: [00:01:31] Um, it's a really funny name. It's a really boring story. Um, Wongdoody was founded by two people. Mr. Wong and Mr. Doody, otherwise, why would you ever call a company that? And for the most part, you know, we've survived the credibility problem that we start with. But there's still a couple of clients that we've had over the years that have said, you know, there's no way our board of directors is hiring Wongdoody. Can we just call you WD? And we're like, sure. Whatever it takes for you to get Ben Wiener from Wongdoody employed. Jason: [00:02:09] That's just so great. Um, well tell us, uh, when you were employee number four, like how did you start? And kind of walk us through your progression through the agency. And then we can jump into kind of the different milestones that you've seen over the years. Ben: [00:02:25] Uh, in college, I was a big fan of the show Melrose Place. Which dates me and dates anyone who gets that reference. Jason: [00:02:31] Oh, I loved that. Yeah. I think we're the same age. Ben: [00:02:33] I graduated from… I graduated from college with a useless Liberal Arts degree and a short attention span. Um, advertising seemed like a really fun, interesting thing to do. And yeah, through a friend of a friend of a woman who was in book club with my girlfriend's mother, which is how all good things happen. Uh, I happened to get introduced to this guy, Pat Doody, who had just started this agency. We had lunch, we hit it off and he offered me this amazing opportunity to come work for him for free. So I, I took him up on that. Um, and, uh, you know, 15 years later or so I became CEO of Wongdoody and then three years ago we sold the company. But it was a pretty interesting evolution from, uh, Pat, Tracy, and two other people and me in one room to over a thousand people. Um, and I guess the biggest evolution is going from doing kind of every job in the agency, which you do as an intern, to having no clue what half of the things we, we do today are. Um, yeah, which I guess is management. So it's really, how do you go from a business where your fingerprints are literally on everything to thinking more about structure, thinking more about strategy, to thinking about how you deploy resources. As opposed to how you just get everything done yourself. And that's probably the biggest evolution and continuing evolution of a company is it's a gradual process of figuring out what you can let go of. And more importantly, how you can find the people to let go to, because at a certain point you definitely come up against the limits of your own knowledge, intellect, and ability. Jason: [00:04:16] Yeah, let's talk about kind of the milestones, right? I find a lot of agencies can hit the million mark, but they really can't maintain that. Or they can't figure it out how can we get to the multiple million mark? And that's kind of the first milestone I look at. Um, what, what do you think, what, what's the shift in your mind? Because I really kind of think it's a mind shift, more than anything else to getting to the two, three, $4 million range. Ben: [00:04:52] It comes down to I think two things. One is pipeline and the other is people. And both of them require a leap of faith to get to where you want to be. When you're an entrepreneur and you are hustling and you were trying to make payroll and pay the rent every month, revenue is revenue and it's really hard… All revenue is good revenue. And at a certain point, what you want is more clients that are bigger than your biggest client. Not more clients that the size of your smallest client. What you start to recognize is that the small clients take as much time as the big clients. Um, and what's holding you back from focusing on big clients and bigger clients is confidence or a lack thereof. And so as entrepreneurs, when you were living with that nightmare of today's the day when my phone rings, all of our clients, fire us, and that never rings again, it's very, very hard to say, you know what? We're not going to talk to local businesses anymore, or we're not going to talk to regional businesses anymore. Or we're just going to say a hard no to any client below a certain revenue threshold. No matter how nice they are as people, or they don't have any money this year, but man, next year, next year, they're going to budget. There are all these stories we tell ourselves as agency people to rationalize, doing things that we know deep down, we shouldn't be doing. If we want to grow our business. Jason: [00:06:26] Or they say, give me a discount and I'll refer you to all my other businesses. Ben: [00:06:32] Who'll also expect a discount. Also don't have enough money to change your business. That's what you get. Absolutely. Absolutely. So these are, so, I mean, that's the pipeline piece. It's really, how do you have a clean vision for what you want your client roster to look like. And how are you actively making decisions that shape that roster and how are you making the painful decisions to not pursue things that don't fit that? Uh, so that, and the other thing that you have to recognize is that, you know, clients have aspirations as well. They look at the other clients on your roster and they say, do I want to be in that club or do I not want to be in that club? And so, you need aspirational clients to find aspirational clients. And by the same token, you know, of all if your clients are discount seeking small scrappy companies… They may be a blast to work for, but they're never going to provide you with the stability and the growth that you need to get to the second point, which is people. And at some point you got to make that transition from doing things yourself, to sort of doing things by delegating, to doing things by bringing in a next tier of leadership. And that's very, very different. Because I think the first step is you hire people who can do your work for you, or can do the things that you do, but more of it. And at a certain point, you've got to hire people who know things that you don't, who do things that you can't and need to be empowered to take some responsibility for the business. So it can't all sit on your shoulders for better or worse. Those people are excited. Those people are taking a leap of faith by joining you and those people are going to make you uncomfortable. But you're never ever going to scale your business until you can start to not just delegate, but assigned true leadership responsibilities that people who can build your organization. Jason: [00:08:28] So I think a lot of people struggle with, I can hire for someone to do my job because I can evaluate them if they can do it. So when you get to that point and you're building your leadership team and you're hiring people that know how to do things you don't, and you're kind of clueless on those. How do you evaluate and how do you make sure they're not blowing smoke up your ass? Uh, right? Like, I mean, I hear that all the time. Ben: [00:09:02] Um, it is hard. And, you know, as far as things that create discomfort. Absolutely. Because we've all been sold a bill of goods by people who claim expertise in the emerging realm that you have to be in. You know. We need a, who's going to own our influencer marketing strategy? I don't know that person's seemed to know what YouTube is, perhaps they can. Um, hiring is the hardest thing that we do. It's the most important thing that we do. There is, um, you know, to me, there's always a value in pedigree, you know, there's that saying no one ever got fired for hiring IBM. So generally if people have come from bigger, better places and have been there for a while, um, at the very least they'd been well-trained. So, you know, where are you sourcing your talent from? And, you know, we generally look to the places that we want to be, you know, for our talent. Places, you know, companies that are five years ahead of us on the journey that are a few hundred million dollars ahead of us on the growth curve. And so that gives you some element of credibility. Um, some of it's got… Look, I mean, we all get conned from time to time. But the longer you've done this, the longer you can separate the, okay, you just threw every single jargon word at me, but what have you actually done? And go, where is the work product and where are the references? And the other thing is, yeah, who have, who have people worked with that you can get to that you know and trust. Or that know and trust someone that, you know, that can give you a real reference. As opposed to the, uh, I fired this person and feeling guilty about it, reference that you'd get some times. You hear great things about a person that you're not sure about. Jason: [00:10:59] Oh yeah. Well, I, you mentioned one thing, your gut. Usually your gut's never wrong. Um, you know, because you, you feel it, whether you take on the wrong client and you're like, like my gut just told me to run, but I needed that money. Or, you know, you hired that amazing… I remember doing this. I, I got so close to hiring this amazing 3D artist. I mean like the most amazing 3D world I've ever seen, he built, but he was the biggest jackass. And my gut was like, do not hire that guy. And, and the rest of my team was like, man, there, he's amazing. Well, we'll put up with any shit. I'm like, no, we're not going to do it. Ben: [00:11:43] Yeah. So we spend a lot of time rationalizing decisions that go against our gut, whether it's clients or people. Um, part of that's also a mindset shift, you know, as I think we're all naturally optimistic. As entrepreneurs, you need to be, because the only way you can dust yourself off whenever you have a setback. So what I've found is people… You know, the assumption is every candidate's amazing and every client is perfect. Versus, yeah, why should we take this client? Why should we really be hiring this person? So if your default is always, they're great until proven otherwise, um, you know, your, your mind overrides your gut more often than it should. Jason: [00:12:28] Yeah. So let's talk about building leaders, right? Like we talked about, we got to build the right pipeline, so then we can pick and choose, right? And, and I think. You know, you've got to get to a point where, like, I think when we first start, we're building our business on referrals, really. And then, then it, you're building it on marketing. And then you have to build it on a machine that's producing two sales, and then you talked about your, the people. So how can we build better leaders? Because what I find is a lot of agencies I chat with, and I remember going through this in our phase as well. We can get to a certain point and then everything kept flowing through me like a tollbooth. And I'm like, no, no. Like we have to build a leadership, the right leaders in order to take over the stuff. And like my, my goal, and, I'd like… Answer this and then I got a question for you to follow up, to be like, what do you do every day, now that you have a thousand people and a big leadership team? I want people to know like, what, what that looks like too. Ben: [00:13:33] So, um… In the first phase of the agency, everything I did really boiled down to sales. It doesn't really matter what you're doing on any given day, your focus is driving revenue in the door. I never had sales in my title. I never had business development or new business in my title. But everything I was doing was in service of how do we get more clients and more revenue flowing in this place? Um, at a certain point that shifts and now I'd say everything I do is HR, which is not in my title. Another thing I've never really formally had a job in, and I've never been trained in. But I spend my day trying to get things out of the way of the leaders that we have hired to drive the business to the next level. So they can do… I want them to be able to do their jobs. So there are spear that I need to catch. There are obstacles that need to be eliminated. There are sources of confusion that require clarity, and it's really about clearing the path. So there's no glory in it. And some days you feel like you're doing absolutely nothing. Yet what you're doing is the most critical thing. Because it allows the people that you care about and the people that you empowered to drive your business, to do what they need to do to be successful for themselves and for you. And so all the most unpleasant tasks, uh, are the ones that fall to you and all the really good, fun business building stuff that you used to do falls to them. And that's a difficult but necessary adjustment. Jason: [00:15:19] Yeah. Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions. compliance. None of it's easy, unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus with Gustos help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to that's for three free months. So when I was, um, when we started really getting traction in the first agency, I started realizing there was kind of like four or five roles, right. One, setting the vision and communicating it to the team. Uh, coaching the leadership team. Understanding the financials, I hated spreadsheets, but I needed to understand like here are the KPIs that we're going after. You know, support sales. Um, and then, you know, be the face of the organization. Do you find that now, like have those roles changed? Because I bet you probably had those roles or do you still have some of those roles? I know, you know, like me, I'm always trying to like, like you, I'm trying to take away stuff so my guys can have a clear path. But do you find that those roles still fit what you do? Or does that change at a certain level? Ben: [00:17:26] You've summed it up pretty nicely. Um, what I've found is that the balance changes over the course of decades, but also on a day-to-day basis. Yeah, the financial piece is interesting because somewhere between you, you do sales and you do an HR. The other thing that I've discovered is half it's also accounting. Um, and it's not just, you know, because how do you recognize revenue? When do you want to recognize revenue? Where are you actually profitable versus where you… where you're earning revenue and where you're actually profitable are very, very different things. There's a whole understanding of the business that you need to have that goes beyond… Early days, is there money coming in to cover expenses? We got payroll and rent done, uh, is there enough left over that? I can take some money out of the business? Is there enough leftover that we can think about, you know, investing in more senior leadership who could theoretically help us grow the business? Now that's the basics. And then at a certain point you realize, okay, I'm not sweating the basics anymore. Now, what do I need to know about my business? Because I want to grow the profitable parts, not the unprofitable parts. I want to fix the unprofitable parts so I can grow them. And so it's not just about what's coming in and what's going out. It's where we really truly making the money? Where, where are the leaks in our business? And that's the other thing that people don't really understand, which is what's all the stuff that they're doing that's um, producing activity, but not results? So you got three or four lines of business. One of them is probably a great. One of them is probably a loser. The other two were in the middle. You know, if you can figure that fast and stop doing the stuff that's losing you money… flows right to the bottom line, finds your growth. But you need to have a level of insight into your numbers before you can start to look at it that way. Jason: [00:19:23] Yeah. So, I mean, basically you're just still a problem solver for your team. Uh, and, and just saying here's, here's the direction that we want to go. You guys figure out the, how. I'll support you however. You just tell me what you need, is that right? Ben: [00:19:41] Yeah. It's a lot of what, you know, figuring out what's missing. And also, um, just because you want to take the business in a certain direction, doesn't mean everybody wants to go with you. And so then you get faced with a far more difficult set of choices, you know. Um, how do you persuade the people that you need to come with you, that this is the right journey? I know that what we're doing and where we're going seems weird or sounds scary, or isn't what you signed up for, or it's not at all what you saw on Melrose Place. And that's okay. Um, because here's where we're going and why. And I have… come on board. Uh, it's finding people who, you know, can come in and understand that vision and help make it understood inside the organization. Uh, change is scary and difficult, and we've got people at Wongdoody have been there since 1994, 1995. Um, and so part of the balancing act is we have changed radically in that time. We've, we've reinvented ourselves multiple times and that's great. And then there are some fundamental things about the business that cannot, should not, and will never change. And those need to be protected. And that's, uh, figuring out what, figuring out what the real core of your businesses versus what's just sort of comfortable or habitual. That's another challenging thing because you want to, you want to know what's up for grabs and there should be more things that are up for grabs and you're probably comfortable with, but you can't sell your soul for anything. Jason: [00:21:19] Yeah, well, yeah, you have to, you have your beliefs and the beliefs of the company and, uh, that, that always stays true, I find. Even though your services, your solutions, who you target may change. Um, but, uh, talk a little bit about… Because you guys have been around, I mean, I started solar went out in 99, so you guys are, you know, a couple of years ahead of us. And we went through a lot of different changes. I mean, I remember going through the yellow pages going, you want a website? And they're like, what's the website? And I was like, I'll put it on Netscape composer. Um, so talk about how do you know when the company outgrows an employee that's been there for so long with you? And how do you… How do you get past that? Because I think people hold on to people too long as the agency outgrows that individual. Or how do you bring those individuals along? Um, you know, make them better. Ben: [00:22:28] Oh, I mean, these are hard, hard things, particularly when, you know… My goal has always been to have the agency changing faster than our clients so that, you know, changes never being dictated to us and that we're ahead of the market. And by that same token, I need people who can change as fast as the agency. And so when you realize that people have a fixed mindset or they are nostalgic for what the agency was. Um, or they can't contribute to the growth. It's a very, very difficult decision to help them find a place where they're going to be better off and happier, but ultimately they're going to be better off and happier. We've had people who came to us and said, we want no part of this digital thing. And we're like, that's great. Uh, I don't agree with you, but I value everything that you have brought to this company for the last X years. How do we find you a better place to be together? What's our plan? We have an obligation to the careers and the growth and the progression of the people that choose to work with us, whether or not that work happens in our company. And so our responsibility to mentor and find opportunities doesn't stop when people start getting a paycheck from us. So I think if you take that attitude of you want the right people in the right place, whether or not that's inside your organization. Then it becomes a different conversation than sorry, Suzy, you know, we're moving on and you're not. Jason: [00:24:11] Yeah, I liked, I liked that approach and I think that's the right approach. Um, because look, I always joke around. I've been fired from every single job. Uh, I've ever had other than two and my best friend owned the company, own the businesses. That was when I was little. But, um, but yeah, like at the end of the day, I, and I figured it out. I just never liked quitting. But when someone would come along and say, no, you need to go do this, I was like, oh man, thanks. That's very freeing. And the lesson I learned there, I was like, you know, when you have the people that are not the right fit, find them the right fit. And there'll be so much happier rather than thinking that their life is over. Um, and it's, it's a good mentality because like agency changes so many times it's gonna outgrow a lot of people, including owners. Um, it, I see that a lot at times happen and the owners have to stop out. So it's great. Um, last question, uh, before we wrap up, talk about what is it like, to like, how did you get from the eight figure mark to where you're at now? Like what… If you had to pick two things outside of people and the right clients, because we've already covered those. Is there anything else? Um, or is it just boom, boom, boom. Ben: [00:25:35] You have to recalibrate your ambition. Jason: [00:25:40] How so? Ben: [00:25:44] When you get to seven figures, you think, oh my God, you know, here I am at seven figures. And many people think I never thought I was going to get here. Wow. Isn't great? Versus, okay, how do I use eight figures as a platform to get to 10 figures? And what are the next set of changes that we are going to make? It's like a, you don't want to be George Bush on the battleship. You know, there's no, the mission never accomplished, which is not to say you can never step back and enjoy where you've gotten. But you need to be looking at all of it on a path to where you want to be. And not everybody has eight-figure nine-figure ambitions. We had a… Wongdoody was a great lifestyle business until we realized it was unsustainable and that we were not going to keep our good people challenged. We were not going to be able to attract and retain the best talent as a lifestyle business because ambitious people want growth. So massive amounts of growth… It's a choice. And you need to be ready for that choice and recognize that it's not the only valid choice. But if you want to get there, it's also believing that it's possible. You know, we would often look at bigger, better agencies and say, how can we be like them? And you go to, oh, we can't be like them. And they've got this and that and this and that and whatever. And you make this list of why it can't be you. That's another example of our ability to rationalize ourselves into bad decisions or no decisions, uh, or selling. So I don't want to be like an inspirational poster and be like it's 99% attitude is not, um, it's attitude is luck. It's hard work. It's being smart. All of those things in equal combination and don't discount luck. Um, you know, and you have to make sure that you want to get there because the other thing is a lot of what you love about running a $5 million business. Is not there when you're running a $50 million business, there are different things to love, but it's not the same job with more zeros at all. Jason: [00:28:02] I like that you said be careful what you wish for. Because you know, uh, and we're even going through that right now, for us, personally, in this consulting and education business of like, man, life is good. We're serving all these amazing people. And we're like, do we want to blow it up and, and take it to, you know, a gazillion dollars and, uh, you know, it's, it's a challenge. Um, and I think it just takes some time to think about, and I think you can kind of constantly change your mind. But I, I do believe what you said is like don't um, don't show shortcut yourself of what's possible. Just really kind of dream it and then just start figuring out who do you need to hire? What do we actually need to do in order to get there? And, uh, you know, once you get there, then, then you live in the bed that you made. Ben: [00:29:00] Well, I think the other thing is, you know, generally starting a company is a culmination of your career. I worked for a bunch of other people. I worked for a bunch of other people. I learned this, I learned that I saw all this stuff I could do better. I saw the opportunity my last boss was missing. I started the company and now I'm done. And I think that's also a dangerous attitude or thought. Because you don't stop growing and evolving, like you have the same obligation to yourself as you do to your employees, which is how do we keep getting better? How to keep getting smarter? How do I keep learning new things? And how do I keep challenging myself? And so whether, you know, you don't want to go blow up a business for the sake of blowing it up. But once again, if you're not continuously trying to reinvent yourself, you're going to get reinvented by the market, by your clients, by forces, beyond your control. And that's nowhere you ever want to be. Jason: [00:29:46] Yeah, I love it. Well, this has all been amazing, Ben. Is, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Ben: [00:29:57] that is not the conversation I was expecting. This is like, this was a people conversation and a leadership conversation. Much less a, you know, what is the future of UX and touchless retail experiences and, you know, what are you seeing about global trends? Which is great, um, because. Yeah, for better. The people are kind of why I show up every single day that the work is incidental. Pat and Tracy and I always said that we, whether we're running an agency or running a carwash, we would do it the same way. So thank you for letting me think about and focus on what really matters. Jason: [00:30:28] Yeah, definitely. Well, thanks so much for coming in. Uh, what's the website people can go and check you guys out? Ben: [00:30:35] Uh, Uh, and we have a zillion open roles. So any disgruntled employees from other agencies that are watching this, please go see if there's a fit for you here. Jason: [00:30:48] Awesome. And you date yourself by going www. No one does that anymore. Ben: [00:30:53] HTTP. Jason: [00:30:56] Uh, I love it. I love making fun of my friends that do that. Cause I used to do that until someone razzed me. I was like, oh my gosh, www. Ben: [00:31:05] I am, I will own that. Jason: [00:31:10] Well, awesome. Ben: [00:31:10] I got that going for me. Jason: [00:31:14] Well, awesome. Thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you subscribe. Make sure you comment. And if you want to be around amazing agency owners who are constantly pushing you to be better and sharing what's working for you and are sharing what's working for them. So you can actually build on that foundation and grow and scale your agency faster and be around amazing people. I want to invite all of you to go check out This is our exclusive mastermind that only a select few get in. So go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How One Agency Increased Revenue By 4X in Under One Year

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 29, 2021 17:47

    Are you willing to start saying no to wrong customers to see real change for your agency? Kerrie Luginbill is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Old Town Media, a Colorado-based agency that since its beginnings offered a unique and agile approach to web design, development, and marketing by providing customers a business-driven approach. Now they partner with companies to create and implement marketing strategies that connect with their audience and inspire action. Kerrie discusses how she increased revenue by 4X in under one year. And now, after 15 years in the business, her agency crafted a "no-fly" list for customers, identified their target client, and the growth that resulted from this move. 3 Golden Nuggets Saying no to wrong prospects. Kerrie and her team really noticed a difference once they identified the right target customer for them and started to say no to the ones that did not fit that target. It was what catalyzed the growth, she says. Of course, it's not easy turning down business, but they found that saying yes to the wrong kind of customer really reduces the amount of space you have for the right ones. Especially when it comes to clients that are disrespecting your team. Learning to say no can be a way for you to protect your team and a catalyst for growth. The no-fly list. With that in mind, Kerrie and her agency began creating a no-fly list, writing down all the similarities that made some customers not fit in the target customer model. They started identifying red flags, like referencing another company's vision to explain their own. They wanted to work with companies that had a clear vision of where they wanted to go. Their biggest focus was value, because ideal clients must have a lifetime value customer that can afford them the margin to have an engagement with them that's large enough for them to drive value. Shifting to value-based pricing. It's very hard to get to value-based pricing when you're working with a small margin. Once you start saying no to low-margin clients you will start to identify people that share your values and with which you can form a strong engagement and a strong relationship. You can find that those clients are even easier to work with. This way, you start to reduce stress on your team, which helps reduce turnover. This is when you can start shifting to value-based pricing. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Saying No to the Wrong Customers and Shifting to Value-Based Pricing Jason: [00:00:00] Welcome, agency owners. I'm Jason Swenk and here's another episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass. And on today's episode, I have an amazing guest who went from $500,000 in revenue to over $2 million in just under a year. And we're going to talk about the one thing that she actually did at her agency in order to accomplish this. Now, before we jump into the episode. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to take a screenshot of the podcast. And then I want you to upload it to social media and tag us so I can give you a shout-out for listening to the show. Let's go ahead and bring Kerrie on. Hey, Kerrie. Welcome to the show. Kerrie: [00:00:43] Hello. How's it going? Jason: [00:00:45] Awesome. I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do? Kerrie: [00:00:50] Yeah, my name is Kerrie Luginbill and I am a partner and the Chief Strategy Officer at a creative agency in Fort Collins, Colorado. So just about 45 minutes North of Denver. Jason: [00:01:03] Awesome. I'll uh, we, we just moved to Colorado in Durango, so I'm starting to just try to figure out where everything uh is, but, uh, uh, I'm… Let's go ahead and jump into it and talk about what's the one thing, you know, that took you from 500,000 to over 2 million in less than a year? Because there's a lot of people that spend years, sometimes decades. Um, and they hit that plateau and they can't figure out what do they actually need. Kerrie: [00:01:34] Yeah, and full disclosure. It was more than one year. It was a couple of years, but there was a really distinct difference that we, we took a different direction that we took with the agency that really catalyzed a lot of that growth. And it was really identifying the right target customer for us and saying no to the customers that were not in that target. It's really hard as an entrepreneur to say no to business and to work. But what we found over the last couple of years is that when you say yes to the wrong kind of client, you are really creating, you're reducing the amount of space that you have for the right client. And that was really inhibiting us. And so we had to kind of fight ourselves. Our, the ownership, there are three of us that are partners and, you know, so we'd have to question each other and serve as checks and balances for each other so that we could stop taking in what was not helping us grow. Jason: [00:02:34] What were some things that you did in order to kind of really narrow it down? Because I always look at, you know, when you start an agency, you're just reactionary. Like you got a pulse, you got some money, like I'll take you on. And then you, you know, there's a, there's a switch like you guys went through, like, how did you start evaluating going this is the people I need to say no to? Kerrie: [00:02:58] Yeah, absolutely. It's funny you say that. I remember the first couple of years, uh, trying to launch the agency and literally taking anything. Um, and I think you're, we're all there at a certain point. And I think there's a level of professional maturity that comes with being an entrepreneur for a specific amount of time and starting to get things under your belt, bigger clients that give you a little bit more confidence to say no to some of those smaller clients. But what we did was we actually started creating a, like a no fly list and we would write down the similarities that would cause, you know, clients to maybe not be that ideal target customer. And started to find a lot of correlations between them and then started to build out the correlations between the clients that were really strong for our company and really fit with us well, and then between those two, we started to create essentially a target persona for our client list. And the biggest thing that we focus on is our client's customer value. So when you hire an agency, you as a, as any kind of business product or service, you must have the amount of margin that allows you to work comfortably with an agency. So, you know, businesses with really tight margins, uh, independent restaurants, salons, things like that are actually really challenging for us to work with. Because they don't have the margin in the day to day to be able to have a large enough engagement with to create a lot of value for them. So we started to tease that out and it really comes down to our ideal client is a client that has a lifetime value customer that can afford them the margin to have an engagement with us that's large enough for us to drive value. Jason: [00:04:51] Yeah. I love that. What are, what are some of the criteria? So obviously that's probably one of the criteria is of the no fly list. And I like that. I've never heard of that. I, I always treat it as kind of like a Vegas buffet. Like you try everything out and then the stuff that you were like, ooh, I don't like that. Like, you're not going to go back to that section anymore. But, and then by the time you come back to the, well, I guess a smaller buffet, the time you come back, the second time, you probably be like, ooh, I like this stuff. So what was some of the criteria on your no fly list at first? Kerrie: [00:05:25] Yeah. So I think at first it started, it wasn't very sophisticated. It was, you know, the little things that we were identifying. Um, typically one of my big red flags is if a client comes to us and they, they want help, you know, defining their brand messaging, creating, you know, creating a place for them in the market and they reference other company's visions to explain their own vision. That's usually a pretty big red flag because I start to, you know, it's almost like, well, is it your idea? Or did you see somebody else had a great idea? And now you're trying to replicate that. And so we really look for that strong vision from the client, whether we're working with the business owner, operations director or marketing director, it's really important that they have a vision for where they want to go so that we can work together to tease that out and really hone it in. But if they're referencing someone else's vision that has been successful, that's usually one of those red flags. Jason: [00:06:27] Oh yeah. Like I, I remember getting all the time, hey, I want to build… I get this great idea that no one's ever thought of, it's Facebook, YouTube, and Google put together. But I have a budget of like a thousand dollars. And I'm like, holy cow. Like, get me off the phone. Kerrie: [00:06:45] Yeah. You know, um, we, we were known for building websites in the, in the beginning. Because Old Town Media started creating websites before WordPress was, you know, really taking over the market. It was a much higher barrier to entry. And so everybody had to go hire a professional for their website. It wasn't something you could kind of go figure out yourself very easily. And so that created a reputation for us where we were known as a web shop for a lot of years. And people would come to us wanting a website for an idea before they had a business plan for that idea. That was another one of the big red flags on that list is if you don't know how you're going to operate business and you want a website because you think that that's going to solve all of your problems, that's typically not the answer. Jason: [00:07:42] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and backing in, in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports at scale. Now, Ninja Cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place, freeing you up from manual data wrangling. And it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your business. And for a limited time, my smart agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit when you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo. That's Yeah. Yeah, I know I, I love that you make sure that… I love the criteria because I think a lot of agencies we take on certain industries that have a low margin. And then they're like, hey, I'm at my cap. Like they can't spend anymore. I'm like, well, are they really? Like, how can you actually add value? And they're like, and they keep their pricing the same. Like, there's so many mastermind members that we, we, uh, they come in in the very beginning and they're like, oh, I'm at my cap. And then by the time we're like, no, no, no, this is who you actually need to go after… And as we're raising our prices and, and you tell me when you actually did this, when you actually started kind of implementing the no fly list and then your target persona that you're going after. I presume that you were able to probably charge more, which meant probably that you could hire the right people, which meant you had more freedom. Am I on the right path? Kerrie: [00:09:48] Yep. Absolutely. You know, and people still get through the no fly list every once in a while. And we actually we've broken out, you know, our ideal target to incorporate a percentage of clients that we'll take on that don't have the margin that we work with a little bit differently, but they have to be passion projects for us. It has to be something that we're really passionate about as a team. Um, but you are exactly right. Once you start saying no to those low-margin clients and, you know, you'll start to identify that the people that you have a really strong engagement with and a really strong relationship with, they're usually easier to work with too. And so you start to, you know, reduce some of the stress on your team, which increases, you know, how long your team members stay with you. You're reducing turnover. You're reducing that chaos in the company. And you can start shifting to value-based pricing. That's kind of the buzzword, I think, in the agency world is everybody's like, you know, time and materials versus value-based pricing. And it's really hard to get to value-based pricing when you're working with such a small margin. You're really, you know, serving as more than just a like brand or creative partner, but also a sales partner and like an advocate for smaller businesses. And I think it's just a very different relationship. Jason: [00:11:11] Yeah. How, uh, what are some things that you guys do in order to demonstrate, you know, the value in your pricing? So you can charge on value-based pricing rather than time and material. Kerrie: [00:11:24] Yeah. So it really comes down to making sure that you have really, really clear objectives and key metrics for your clients. And so it's actually kind of interesting. We use KRAs for our employees. So key result areas where you basically, you define an objective, you have actions that then will help you achieve the metrics that achieve your outcome. So, you know, you start with an outcome actions metrics. We've taken that KRA approach to actually how we look at our client engagements and we define them the same way. We say, okay, we're working with a client. We're doing content creation for them. What's the outcome we're trying to achieve? What are the actions we're taking? And what are the metrics we're looking at? When you can tie it into the data for them, and you can say, hey, when we pull this lever, you have more sales. And you can start to look at what outcomes you're achieving based on the actual actions that you're taking. That time of material dollar amount is not as relevant because there's such a strong value to actually achieving those outcomes. Jason: [00:12:36] I see a lot of agencies, they really don't focus on the results or they don't focus on kind of the leading indicators that will actually get the results. And, and like, and it amazes me because a lot of times when I'm chatting with an agency owner that wants to scale faster, um, it really kind of, and like I was chatting with an owner not too long ago, they had resentment for their clients. I was like, well, let's get to the real problem. And I told him, I said, the real problem is you're resenting your clients because you're too dependent on the clients. He's like, well, what do you mean? I was like, well, you're dependent on the wrong types of clients that aren't paying you the right amount. And I asked what's the value that you deliver to them? He didn't know. And I was like, well, how could you ever charge value-based pricing if you don't know the value? Like how are, how are they? So, um, I'm glad there's, there's agencies that are focused on the results. Cause I, I see when, when our mastermind members and the people that go through our frameworks, when they start kind of understanding the results that they deliver. And that's the key part is you gotta be able to deliver the results to your clients. There's so many people that go well, I took a course on how to start an agency from Joe, Joe. And I'm like, well, they taught you Facebook ads, but did they teach you like how to deliver the results and all that? Like, and they're just learning on other people's dime, which always frustrates the heck out of me. Kerrie: [00:14:05] Yeah. You know, and I think in those earlier days where you're working with smaller clients that maybe it's a solo preneur or some, you know, small margin kind of business, a lot of times they don't have their own data figured out. And so it becomes even more challenging for that agency to tie their outcomes to their results, because they're not getting the same kind of data back from the client. And that is… That's something that we've started working on. How can we actually help our clients get to more sophisticated reporting internally so that we can tie our, our actions to their results and start to get a little bit farther into that? But it's a lot of client education too, you know, a lot of times, um, it's explaining the difference between lead and lag indicators and trying to help them see that, you know, by the time you're looking at this number, it's already too late. And we should really be looking at these lead indicators and some of these numbers over here, because they're ultimately going to influence these lag numbers. So I think it's, it's really just marketing, especially in today's age, is getting a lot more sophisticated when it comes to data and being able to correlate activities to actual outcomes. And it's something that I think agencies are, are really, they need to be more responsible in getting there and focusing on that. Jason: [00:15:31] Totally agree. Well, this has been amazing. Is there anything Kerrie that I did not ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Kerrie: [00:15:40] You know, I think the biggest thing I wish that somebody would have told me like three or four years ago is it's okay to say no. It is okay to say no. If it doesn't feel right, or if you know, a client is not respecting your team or your time, it's okay to say no. Because when you open up that space, you are creating space for something better and a better fit and a better relationship. And that's what will grow, grow your agency. Jason: [00:16:08] Yeah. And, and those troublesome clients that you should say no to, like, if they're treating, mishandling your team, you're not making money on that end. Like, and I don't even care if you're making money on that. It's going to cost your team and your employees, which then just makes you have to do everything all over again, which is a complete nightmare. Um, and you go back and then you're just… Then you get to a point where you're selling for penny on the dollar to someone that's going to take advantage of your client portfolio. And I don't want that to happen. So awesome. Um, what's the agency website people can go and check you out? Kerrie: [00:16:45] Yeah, We're on Facebook and Instagram, but we probably put the most of our, uh, fun stuff on Instagram, so… Jason: [00:16:56] Awesome. Well, everyone go check out their website and Kerrie, thanks so much for coming on the show. If you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners that are on a fast growth pace and really scaling their agency fast and they want to be surrounded by other amazing people. Um, so you can scale your agency faster, go to This is our exclusive community our mastermind, uh, members where we just have so much fun together going through, you know, the frameworks that are working for other agencies. So go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Create a Profitable Agency Machine That You Can Eventually Sell

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 26, 2021 25:18

    Do you want to create a machine that ensures agency growth? David Butler was working as a special ed teacher when he decided to try his luck in the real estate business. He later created an agency looking to reinvent himself during the 2009 financial crisis. With Jason's help, he was able to grow and ultimately sell his business. David now enjoys a new lifestyle and focuses on his family. He joined Jason on the podcast to talk about how he implemented the "Netflix model" to prevent client cancellations, how he streamlined the company's hiring process to put the right people on the right roles, and how making a white label agreement with a larger company was the key to really grow his agency. 3 Golden Nuggets Creating a machine. Once David started to see his agency grow organically from his first apartment management company client, he implemented the “Netflix model” where he charges a very competitive fee to make sure the agency won't lose customers. How did he keep it profitable? “I figured property managers would be so busy they wouldn't utilize us all the time,” he says, “But they would still need us.” Of course, he made sure to estimate how many clients they could handle. Streamlining the hiring process. Being a big believer on the principle of hiring your weaknesses, David hired a local company to take care of the customer service and clients are continually amazed by how quickly they get a call back. He also believes in the importance of putting the right people on the right positions and made sure to create a hiring process that would eliminate unfit candidates. “It's stupidly simple,” he told Jason. The big change. The Netflix model failed when it came to hiring a highly paid sales team. This is when he started considering a white label agreement with a larger company. It was not easy, the entire process took about two years. However, this company had 350 sales agents and this was the key to the growth. Now, his agency was taking 100-200 new clients each month and he could continue to focus on hiring the right people. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM White Label Your Sales Team to Create a Machine and Streamline Your Hiring Process Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. And I got one of my friends that ran an amazing agency for a number of different years. Now he went from being a special ed teacher to owning apartments, to owning an agency, to selling it. And now he's financially free and just travels and does what he does and has a ball doing it. And today we're going to talk about his journey. So possibly you can learn a couple of little nuggets from him and do the same thing. So let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey, David. Welcome to the show. David: [00:00:38] Hey, Jason. Good to see you. Jason: [00:00:39] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on and uh, and tell your story. So, you have a pretty fascinating story that always amazed me and everyone else that heard it. So, and I'm not going to give you justice on telling it. So tell us kind of who you are and tell us a little bit about that trajectory from special ed teacher, apartment, to owning an agency and then selling it. David: [00:01:02] Gosh, I'll try to keep it into a nutshell. I was a high school special ed teacher for about 10 years and coaching high school sports and then a good friend of mine gave me the, um, the really famous old infomercial Carleton Sheets… Uh, how to buy real estate with no money down. And, uh, I listened to it on cassette tape in my car as I drove to work and I use the basis of that to buy my first house in England of all places. And it was a real, uh, let's just say fixer-upper. And, uh, so we fixed that up and we sold it, I was teaching special ed there. Came back to the US and bought my second house and bought another three houses with that and a fourplex. And I was still teaching high school. Then my buddy said, hey, think you got some skills here. Let me introduce you to some people. So I got a couple of angel investors together and, uh, we start buying apartments in 2004 or five. Bought apartments for about three years, all in Arizona. Bought a few thousand apartments. And that's where I, through the process of buying and owning and asset managing the apartments I kind of... Well, and then the 2008, uh, downfall, right? 2009. You know, we were doing amazing until then and then, uh, everything crashed. I distinctly remember 2009 with my friend who got me into everything. He was like, man, I'm really sorry I got you into all this. As we were talking about our loan workouts and stuff. And I said, yeah, I said, I got to make some other lemonade, man, because this lemonade isn't working for me. That's when I looked around and I just really kind of discovered… Websites were kind of new for apartment buildings back then. Not everyone had them. And so I started getting into the technology world of apartments and that industry of managing and operating and operational of apartments. And I was like, I kept on asking our, um, my own property managers and stuff to manage our social media. And, uh, they would just never do it, right? Like they couldn't do it. They're too busy to do it. I was like, I got to hire someone to do this for me, right? And so I looked around. I looked at other agencies and you know, they were going to charge me like a couple thousand dollars a month or something to manage the social media for my parcel. That's like nuts, right? Like I can do this for better and cheaper. So that's how I started my first marketing agency, right? Like, I didn't know anything about owning an agency or anything. I just started to do it myself. Jason: [00:03:49] Yeah. And talk about how it progressed. And I loved what you used to charge. And I used to kind of get onto you. But obviously, I mean, I literally would try to make an example out of you of how little you actually charged, and then you were a volumes game. So talk a little bit about that. David: [00:04:07] Yeah. So I had one employee and we were running the social media, you know, Facebook mainly for my six apartment communities. And the property management company that had about a hundred apartment communities under their management said, hey, can you start doing this for our other clients? And so that's how it kind of started to organically grow. Was, you know, then we went from like, you know, 10 clients to 20 to 30, 40, and I just said, you know what? I'm just going to make it so cheap that people will sign up and they'll just never cancel. That really was the play. It was just straight-up Netflix type of play, right? It's just like, so we charge $99 a month, right? It was just classic. Under the hundred. So that anytime anyone would think about canceling they'd be like, wait, the property manager would be like, wait a minute… That means I gotta do it, then? Like for 99 bucks, they probably paid out of their own paycheck for us to do it for them, right? Just so they wouldn't get in trouble with the owners and their bosses for not keeping it up to date, right? So that was the play. I mean, it was just a straight-up $99 play. Yeah. Jason: [00:05:23] Yeah. And I remember just being like David, if you could just raise the prices and then obviously, you know, you're like, dude, we're a factory, we're a machine. We just have all this. And, and now knowing you like, it would be stupid for someone to cancel, which is such the opposite. That's why I wanted to have you on like talk to you about like... What was that mentality around it? Because there's a lot of people listening that may be in the same boat of going I want it to be like, I'd never want to lose a client because it'd be stupid. But I also want it to be like, I want to create a factory like this machine. So how did you make sure that it was profitable? And how did you create this machine? Because you had a lot of people too. David: [00:06:06] Boy, that's a good question. I mean, again is kind of based on the Netflix kind of play, right? I knew that property managers in that were just so overwhelmed that they probably wouldn't utilize us as much as they thought they would, but they still needed us. And so I knew some people would, it's just like Netflix. There's probably some people that binge Netflix, you know, a hundred hours a month. And there's probably people that don't watch one hour a month, right? But the people that don't watch one hour a month don't ever cancel because they just want it there. So when they do want to watch it, right? So it was like that. I mean, I never went to business school and never got an MBA, you know, any of that stuff. So, I mean, it was really kind of back of the napkin, just like, hey, how many hours, how many clients do you think someone can manage? Like, it was really, you know, it was not fancy and the, hey, is this profitable or not? It was just like, yeah, I think I can make it work. Jason: [00:07:09] What were some of the things that helped you build the agency and get it to a level where… in a little bit, we'll talk about, you know, the process of selling it and what's life like now. But what were some of the things that helped you along the way? Like from the different people that you've hired on the management team that kind of stuff. David: [00:07:28] Yeah. So I would say there's a few, really big things. One was, uh, I've been a member of Entrumpeneurs organization for since, uh, 2007 and being a part of that organization has been life changing, right? Being around the other entrepreneurs and learning from their mistakes and learning to build on my strengths versus tackling my weaknesses. That's been like... Hire out your weaknesses, do what you're good at and hire out the weaknesses. Like if they only taught that in school, right? I think that was a key. And then also one of the foundational pieces of my company was building what we did around Wow Customer Service. So the Zappos model, also a Ruby receptionists, a local company. We amaze people by answering the phone when it rang, like with a live person. And we responded to emails like… Our customer service, our ticketing. We would respond within 20 minutes, right? And in the apartment industry, that was just unheard of in the vendor piece. Like you would send out an email to people's customer service and not hear back for a week. And so people would hear back from us within 10, 20, maybe five minutes, right? And they would like, when they called, like, they'd get a live person. Like they were just amazed. And we were actually hopeful. We hired people that love to help people. Like it was stupidly simple. Jason: [00:09:10] It's kind of like, like, you know, people ask, I think like Walt Disney was like, how do you get people to smile all the time? He's like, well, I hired people that were happy and smiled all the time. Like we didn't train them to do that. We just… we did it. David: [00:09:25] Yeah. I became a huge believer in the Jim Collins, you know, get the right people on the bus and put the right people in the right seats. I really, really focused on streamlining our hiring process. And my key to hiring was we hired recent college grads with degrees in journalism and communications and media, and we screen the heck out of them on writing, right? We made them write and write and write like the initial application had like 10 questions that they had to write answers to. And because the job entailed a lot of writing on the behalf of clients, I knew the clients wanted people that could write in like full sentences and spell and… again, really simple stuff. But that screening process of screening out the people that would, you know, write like two word answers and, and their punctuation and like, and then, you know… Young college graduates that were just hungry for their first job and wanted to be involved in the field that kind of, I think they had to learn a little bit in the hard way that there's not a lot of paid jobs in journalism, and it's very hard to make it on your own as a blogger. I mean, hard to make a living, right? I'm sure some people do but most people, uh, have a difficult time. So the hiring piece was another piece. Yeah. For sure. Jason: [00:10:56] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions compliance. None of it's easy. Unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gusto's help, you can offer benefits like 401k's health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free. Once you run your first payroll, go to That's for three free months. Awesome. And then let's talk about the selling process. How did that come to fruition? Because you sold to one of your big clients and a lot of people don't realize that, that you could do that. And it's also kind of dangerous sometimes too. David: [00:12:13] Right. Right, it's definitely walking the tight rope. So what was interesting was I built a company up to, I think about four or five, 600 clients. And we built our systems and that, and what I realized was at $99, it was not, where it was not profitable was it was not profitable to hire a highly paid sales team. And I would say out of all the things that I failed at, that's what I failed miserably at was whenever I tried to hire a salesperson and get them to perform. And just make what I'm paying that, like, it was just like, it never worked, right? So the big change there was, you know, I'm a big Costco shopper and Kirkland Signature and this and that. And then with entrepreneurs organization, I was like, hey, I think there's something to this white label thing. I think that might even been learning some from you. And I partnered with a larger company to do a white label agreement with them, which took probably gosh, maybe two years to put together and formalize and all the, you know, it was a big company and all the legal and this and that. But that was the key to the growth was because they had 350 sales agents around the country that I didn't have to pay for. That was the biggest thing, right? And I still got to charge them what I charge my regular clients on the wholesale side. And so my profit margin was still there, but that's where the magic happened, right? I mean, we started adding a hundred, 200 clients a month and all I could do was focus on hiring great people and increasing our systems and scalability and everything. And we got to a couple thousand clients with them. We're about 65 employees about at that time, right? Just like you said, it was a factory. And, um, that was when they came to me and just said, hey, we're, you know, we're interested in buying your company. And I said, well, that's not really why I built it, but I said, sure, I'll listen. And I also knew that if they didn't buy me that, you know, they were probably going to recreate it or do something else. Like you said it's a dangerous spot to be in when you're… That's the whole piece is when you, right? When your client concentration goes to 60 and 70% of your clients come from one source, you know, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, right? Jason: [00:15:00] I've known people where they've done this, where they'll outsource to an agency. And they'll become 90% of their business and say, I want to buy you. And they'll say, if you say, no, we'll just go away. And then you're like, crap. Now that didn't happen to you. You're the lucky one. But, uh, walk us through the process of like, so they say, okay, well, here's what we're thinking. All this kind of stuff. A lot of people are thinking, how long did it take in order to come to a deal? In the due diligence phase, maybe to, you know, the, the term sheet and all that kind of good stuff. David: [00:15:41] Oh boy. You know, when you're dealing with a bigger, bigger company. That has a board and everything from them saying, hey, we're interested to actually getting serious. You know, I think was probably three to five months probably? Which that gave me enough time to kind of like, kind of get my head around the process and start talking to people. And I hired an M&A consultant at that point to kind of represent me. And I think that was, looking back, that was a huge piece of it because it took me out of being the direct guy. And so when we did get to term, he, and on into due diligence, he got to be the middleman and he got to be the, you know, he got to be the bad cop and I get to be the good cop. Because the other piece was, they were still my client, right? So if everything fell out, I still needed to have a good relationship with the company, right? And so it kind of allowed us to play that good cop, bad cop piece. But I think it was probably, you know, 10 months or so. But the piece that made that go a lot quicker was, you know, they were a majority concentration in my company. And so they kind of knew the backend financials and due diligence kind of, because they knew all the moving pieces of that. And so that took a lot of the uncertainty out from their side, I think, and helped move it faster than normal. Jason: [00:17:20] Very cool. And it's always a kiss of death. I always tell everybody going until the check is deposited and the paper is signed. Sometimes people go, oh, well, my life's going to change and I can kind of kick back and, and kind of relax. Did you just go, hey, if this happens great. If not, I'm good. David: [00:17:42] I've been through some big real estate deals before. So I think that helped. But the other piece is I knew I needed to make it to the finish line for this to happen. Because if it fell apart, like you said, they were gonna be the 1600 pound grill and take some drastic measures against me, that would not have ended up well, right? I mean, is this classic North Korea, right? Like you don't want to be the first person to push the button and send the missile. So you're just kind of waiting and you're just your head down, making everything perform, you know, they're looking at your metrics, like crazy as you're getting ready to close, and you're just trying to. And you're trying to keep your team together, right? I think that's the other piece in the sale piece is... So who do you tell, when do you tell them? Who knows? Right? Jason: [00:18:38] And when did you do that? When did you start telling people. David: [00:18:40] So when I sold real estate apart, big apartment buildings what I learned was to not tell people. When you tell people for whatever reason, I think it's just human psychology, they tend to jump ship. I mean, they're just like, oh, this boat is sinking or not going to my direction. I'm going to go look for it or something else. And you start losing key people left and right. So I learned not to do that. I only told one person in my company, which was my CFO, because I had to, because I relied on her for all the financials and there's just no way that I could keep it from her. So she was my inside person up until we needed to negotiate key employee contracts for the upper management team. Because that's… in a acquisition, they want to secure all your top-level management to make sure they come over on the transition. And so that was a big piece was… I mean, part of that sale processes is that you have to tell people, tell the executive management team at the last minute what's going on and get them to sign employment agreements with the new company, to make sure that there's going to be a smooth transition there. And a lot of times that's a key piece to closing the deal, right? Because at the very end, if all your top-level management walks off the job and the company… I mean, if you're selling a service company, right? I mean, that's what you're selling is the people and the processes. You lose a lot of that, and you could be subject to a whole renegotiation at that point. So that's a really stressful time. And then also you got to make sure that those people don't recognize the leverage they have in that situation and over leverage their position and to extracting what they would like to extract from you during it, right? So that's really stressful point. Jason: [00:20:44] Yeah. I remember going through that as well, and that is not fun. And am in the same vote of going only tell when you need to. Uh, because yeah, when, when we made the announcement, some people don't like change and they just, for whatever reason, they don't like change, even if it's going to be better for them. Because that's how I judge, when we sold it, I was like, look, same type of culture. Not much is going to change. They're going to have a little bit more resources. I think it actually is better for everyone. And a lot of people advanced, but there were some people that were like, nope, I like the mom and pop mentality, even though we were kind of the middle, you know, we were not small. But, um, they still like, you know, kind of the, they can come to me for anything and they knew everyone, so… It makes some things. So what's life like now for you after selling? Because I see your Facebook, you're just traveling around the world. David: [00:21:45] Yeah, it's been kind of interesting. Uh, I volunteer, I'm the president of the PTO at my kid's high school now. Really involved with my kids' lives. You know, I got a freshman, a university and a sophomore in high school and a seventh grader. And so a lot of focus has turned to them. I try to really provide a lot of really unique, fun travel experiences for them. That's my go-to thing is I just love travel and stuff. I mean, with the pandemic, it's been kind of a bummer. But at the same time, I've kind of rediscovered, you know, traveling in the United States to national parks and hiking and river rafting. We rafted the grand canyon this last year. Due to the pandemic, they had openings, right? When's that ever happened? So taking advantage of that lemonade piece, right? Taking advantage of what life gives you when it does and figuring out what that is and going with it. Jason: [00:22:42] That's awesome. So, well, I'm so happy for you to see, where, where you started and where you ended up. It's very well-deserved with, with all the hard work. So congratulations for that. David: [00:22:53] Thanks. Thanks. And I got to put a plug in here too, with you, Jason. Because gosh, we met at, uh… What was a social media…? Jason: [00:23:02] On the aircraft carrier. David: [00:23:04] On the aircraft carrier. And we were in line for the virtual ride and we just started a conversation, right. So I was like, who are you? Who are you? And what do you do? And we started the conversation and I hired you as a consultant, uh, over the last couple of years of the company, you know, it was just really, really helpful to have you and your experience in selling your agency in the background to be able to bounce things off of and ideas and like, hey, this is happening now. Like kind of, you know, or things with employees or just that. Your experience with the agency, uh, selling your agency and being able to, um, have your guidance in that was a big key, I think those last couple of years. So, uh, I don't think I've ever really gotten a chance to thank you formally for that. So thank you for that. I appreciate it. Jason: [00:24:01] Well, it was my pleasure, you know, I just wanted to be the resource I wish I had, right? So, that's all we can do is keep paying it forward and that kind of stuff. So well, thanks so much for coming on the show. It was, it was awesome having you. Can't wait to have you come out to Durango and be ski bums together and go explore because I love the experiences too. So awesome. Well, if you guys enjoyed this episode, what I want you to guys do is share it out with your fellow agency owners. I would help them out and help us out. And if you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners and you want our help to really kind of see the things you might not be able to see, so you can navigate and get to the places where, you know, uh, have the opportunities to do what David has had, I want to invite all of you to go This is our exclusive community and mastermind, and it's just amazing people. So go to and until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Convert More Proposals Without Doing a Ton of More Work

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 22, 2021 19:38

    Drew Hendricks was a philosophy major who started in the agency world after building his first website in the 90's and never looked back. Today, he owns Nimbletoad, a full-service digital marketing agency that specializes in website design, SEO, and PPC. Recently, Drew expanded by founding Barrels Ahead, an agency where he adapts his love for wine and developed an organic growth marketing framework to address the unique needs of the wine and craft industry. Drew's conversation with Jason is filled with useful tips from all his years as an agency owner. He shares his secret to convert more proposals as well as why you should be quick to respond when potential clients reach out to you. Agency Owner vs Entrepreneur. The mastermind has really helped Drew understand the difference between being an agency owner and being an entrepreneur. Most agencies come to be as the result of a problem and he has seen that many agency owners focus on being an authority on that problem, instead of being an authority on your agency. Too many people are stuck in actually doing the work rather than kind of treating the agency as the project, he says. If you want to be a business owner then that needs to be your top priority. You can't do both. The secret sauce for proposals. Over the years of writing proposals, Drew has learned something that worked really well to help position the proposal, defray the pricing, and justify it through very objective terms. In the pre-talk process, you will usually ask the client who their competitors are. Then use tech tools to assess competitors' spending on SEO or PPC. When you show this data to your clients you can say, this is how much you need to spend to compete with them. And if they don't want to spend that amount? Then you let them know that maybe they should be playing in a smaller pond. Show enthusiasm. In a world where showing genuine excitement over something is supposed to make you uncool, dare to be different. If a potential client contacts you, call them as soon as you can. Don't be afraid to look too anxious. They'll appreciate the quick response. And that goes for other aspects of the business too. Our guest says he has interviewed many people and forgot the last time someone mentioned they were excited to work with the company. 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 Become an Authority on Your Agency and Use This Secret Sauce for Proposals Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Uh, excited to have you listening to the show today. I have one of our long-term mastermind members who has grown several agencies over the years, and really has taken… Today, we're going to talk about the amazing things that he's learned over the years and applied them to his current agency that he's doing right now. I think you're really going to love this episode, so let's get into it. Hey, Drew. Welcome to the show. Drew: [00:00:35] Thank you, Jason. Thank you for having me on. Jason: [00:00:37] So you're the first guest to, uh, actually be in the intro on the mountain, waving back to the drone. So I was just watching that. I was like, oh, there's Drew. So well I digress. Yeah. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Drew: [00:00:58] Yeah. I'm Drew Hendricks. Right now I'm running two agencies. One's Nimbletoad, which is a generalist agency. And the other one is a brand new venture called Barrels Ahead, which is sort of the culmination of everything I've learned over the last 30 years of running agencies. Jason: [00:01:12] Yeah, that's awesome. Uh, and you actually started an agency before me. So tell us kinda how did you get into it? And, uh, it tells us kind of the origin story. Drew: [00:01:24] Yeah, it's, uh, it's, it's kind of an interesting story. So in college, I majored in philosophy and ancient Greek with the goal of becoming a professor of philosophy. And upon graduating, I ended up, um, finding myself in San Francisco and, um, kind of biding my time until I could go get a PhD. And ended up getting a job as a stock boy at a winery and realized I had a really good palate for wine. And from then on, I just sort of started reading everything I could about wine and learning everything I could and figured out that, um, it's super interesting, and there was just so much knowledge that could be done there. So I ended up sticking around for 10 years in that wine store, revamped it to, um, change the name, rebranded it. Wrote one of the first, um, websites back in '90, '95 or so. Wrote a wine auction site. And from there in '98 started the first, um, agency, which was, um, Intellect; which helped independent wine stores compete with, um, better-leveraged chain stores. Like right then BevMo had just started launching, Trader Joe's was coming up in the ranks, and then Total Wine. So we helped wine stores with their marketing. Jason: [00:02:33] Wow. That's incredible. And especially going back to '95. Hell, man, I remember back in 95, we were all getting the AOL CDs for the free internet. Drew: [00:02:44] No, it was, it was, that was definitely the time. Jason: [00:02:47] What was it? Progidy? Drew: [00:02:52] Oh, wow. Pardon? Jason: [00:02:23] Or, or it was Prodigy, right? Like if… Drew: [00:02:56] Oh my God. Before that, no, in college it was Prodigy. I had a Prodigy account that was, you know, there was… In college, I remember the first day that I, that we actually got connected to the internet and I found it so interesting. I went to the school library and I was able to connect. I went to Gonzaga… went to Gonzaga and I was able to connect to the UCSD library down in California. And from there I could get out to a library in Europe and it blew my mind that I was able to go from Gonzaga, to UCSD to Europe. And from then on, I kind of caught the bug and right then HTML, it just started coming into it. And we actually wrote one of the first, um, one of my first philosophy, um, presentations actually at hyperlinks in it back in '92. Jason: [00:03:38] So Front Page or Dreamweaver? Or just plain text editor Drew: [00:03:45] Dreamweaver. It was Dre… but it was, this was precursor to Dreamweaver. Jason: [00:03:47] That's true. Yeah. I guess it was like Netscape Composer. Drew: [00:03:51] Yep. Yeah, it was making… My mind doesn't go back that far as far as the tools, but yeah, it was a lot of, um, Pearl scripts and CGI scripts. Jason: [00:04:01] Yeah. Well awesome. Well, let's, let's talk about kind of the journey or what are, what are some of the lessons, since you've had several agencies over the years. What are some lessons that, um, you'd like to share with the audience listening in? Drew: [00:04:17] I think one of the biggest ones that, and this is one that I only recently have come to the realization of... And it's actually been through this mastermind group, your mastermind group that really helped me realize the difference between an entrepreneur and an agency owner. And the importance of what an entrepreneur is. Because we usually start… most of the agencies that I've founded were the result of a problem. Like, I'd see a client would come in, they'd have an issue and I'd figure out how to solve it. We'd build them a site. We build them like a web platform. And then I figure, man, well, I can sell more of that. And then I become an authority in their problem, but not really even an authority on the actual agency. So what happens is we end up building, we have 10, 12, 15 clients, all, all very different problems, authority in all these different problems, but not an actual authority on running the ads. And I think this last iteration, we took the best of what we knew about and what our skillset is at Nimbletoad. And we're finding experts now to actually perform the processes that we do. Whereas I can now sit back as an entrepreneur and solve the problem of what actually can make that agency grow. And I think too many people are stuck in actually doing the work rather than kind of treating in the agency as the project. Jason: [00:05:36] Yeah. I mean, isn't that so true with, you know, I look at running an agency and kind of like six stages of climbing a mountain, right? So from the staging part, before you embark on, you know, making the climb to base camp; to the climbing, the crux, you know, the crest all the way to the summit. And right in the middle, right? Like it's kind of right in the middle is where you actually start working on the business. Like, that's how you can kind of get to the next level rather than in. And, uh, like I was saying in the mastermind, it's like in the very beginning you're constantly, always thinking about the what and how, and I'm like, no, no, no, you should be focused on who, who can do it? Who do I need to hire? … everyone else but you. Drew: [00:06:24] Yeah. That was a huge learning curve for us and, and for our agency. Figuring out actually that I, I, although I can do it, I'm not the best person to be doing. It was, it was a huge, huge step. Jason: [00:06:36] So how did you get over that? Because there's a lot of people listening right now that they struggle with that. Like, they're literally like, well, no one could do it as good as me. Drew: [00:06:48] You know, it was learning. It was learning to say no. And learning about where do you want to go? Cause really, like you said, would that plateau, if you're trying to be the authority in everything, you're an authority in nothing. So you really have to pick your battle. And if you want to be the best web developer out there, or the best SEO person, go get an in-house job at another agency and you can be the top dog for SEO. But if you want to run a company, that needs to be your top priority and you can't do both. Jason: [00:07:17] Exactly. Yeah. I, I tell people too that like 80% is better than you doing your full thing on it. Because cause you're doing a thousand different things, even if they're not at your a hundred percent, they're still ahead of you because you're doing so much, so many other things. So I'm like just, if you can find someone to do 80% that you know, to get there. Or I was interviewing someone not too long ago, um, who was also the mastermind Canopy guys. And, uh, he was struggling with, you know, delegating, um, and everything had to flow through him. He was like the toll booth of everything that had to go through on operations. And finally, uh, Brian, his partner went to him. It was, his name is Brian as well. So I was like, how did you guys start an agency, Brian and Brian? And he goes, look, I just need you to document 50%. And then that's a good foundation the team can take and build. And it's changed everything for them. And now they're, you know, their, their agency is well, you know, into the summit and beyond. Drew: [00:08:23] Yeah. Those guys are rocking it. Jason: [00:08:24] Yeah. Um, one thing I want to ask you and you, you talked about this, uh, I was just thinking about it. I know, I didn't tell you to pre preplan for it, but you did a incredible what's working now. Um, you know, at the digital agency experience, not too long ago, about proposals, um, of what you've learned. So tell, tell the listeners a little bit about that. Because I thought that was brilliant. Drew: [00:08:49] You know that I'm glad you brought that up. So we, over the years of writing proposals, we, I have figured out, now I don't want to say it's a secret sauce. But it's something that's worked real well to help, um, position the, um, the proposal and defray the pricing and justify it through, um, very, um, objective terms. So what happens in the, um, pre-talk and this is the secret sauce guy. So, you know… Jason: [00:09:17] Listen in. Drew: [00:09:20] So what happens in the pre-talk is you always ask who are your biggest competitors? So if it's an SEO person you're going to ask, um, who do you want to outrank? Or if it's a, um, pay-per-click or if it's even a local business, you need to get a list of the top three or four people that they want to actually outrank and compete against. So then in the, in the proposal stage, you take those three competitors and you run them through your tools, whether it's SpyFu or any of those business intelligence programs; which will give you a good idea of what those competitors are spending on SEO or spending on pay-per-click. This allows you to come up with a proposal and a pricing of that proposal with instant justification. So then when I walked in person through the proposal, a list of the competitors is the first thing. I'm like ok, we went back to our desk, put pencil to paper, you guys want to compete against these people. They're spending X on SEO. This guy's spending X on SEO. And this other third competitor is not spending anything on SEO, but he's spending a ton of paper. So, if we want to compete against these three people, this is where you need to be. And instantly, suddenly the… if the retainer is 10 grand a month, that may be what it is. And if they go, whoa, that's way too much. The instant objectification is, well, you may need to play in a smaller pond cause these aren't your competitors. Jason: [00:10:46] 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, you know, 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. You know, 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, you know, 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 Dad can tell you that you know how to do that. A lot of my listeners have already gotten their free audit from Agency Dad. If you haven't yet, go to before August 30th and get your free financial metrics. 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 that's I think it's so brilliant. It's such punching him in the mouth. Uh, you know, I feel like, well, you know, it's kinda like shit or get off the pot. Um, you know, it's like, do you really want to compete against them? Because, and it's, and it's really compelling. Like I never thought about when you, when you shared that, like, that's really interesting. Like, I wish I did that on their proposals. Like if you really want to compete against them, because at the end, like I used to, like, I don't care who your competitors were because, you know, we were in the design business, right? Like, I didn't want to be sidetracked with designing something that looked like someone else. But like with the SEO or the pay-per-click, like you're talking about, like in comparing them… And then hitting them in the mouth going you know what? Maybe, maybe you need to go play in a smaller pond. Like that's fine. +Drew: [00:13:30] No one wants to hear that either. So it's, it's the best objection saying well, that's our pricing. Or it's the best refusal or rebuttal? Jason: [00:13:38] Oh, yeah, no, I, I love it. I mean, uh, we can end the interview now. I think everybody would be happy. Um, what's, what's another strategy, um, that, that you've learned over the years, uh, that you want to share with the audience? Drew: [00:13:54] You know, I would say be quick to respond. So many people worry about, oh, if I'm too quick to respond they're gonna think I'm too anxious. Or let's set up another date, I want them to know that I'm busy, but that's never worked out for me. I think you gotta be genuine. And if you really want it, show your enthusiasm. And actually the other thing is, and this ties into anybody outside of the agency, even applying for a job. We've been interviewing for an operations manager right now. And I've been through so many interviews, I cannot tell you the last time someone actually ended the interview saying I'm really excited about this position. I feel like I'd be a great fit. I can't wait to work for you. And the same thing when you're seeing a proposal or you're talking, everybody plays hard to get. If you're excited about winning the client, be honest and be enthusiastic. Let them know that you are stoked to be doing this. And I don't see that too often. Jason: [00:14:47] Yeah. It's such an easy thing. And like, if I wish we could actually have the permission to use, uh, the cut from Vince Vaughn in Swingers, when, you remember? When, when the one guy gets the girl's phone number. And he goes through his friends with how long should I wait? And they're like seven days, eight days, two weeks. And he's like calling her like over and over again. Like we've all seen that. And, uh, you know, I took, I took the approach you took, Drew. So if someone reached out on our website, I literally would call them while they're still on the website. And I would always call and I would say, hey, this is Jason from Solar Velocity. I'm so sorry. It took me so long to call you back. They're like, I just hit submit. I'm like, well, that's how pumped we are. Like, we really want to chat with you. And like, thinking back, we won so many deals. Like we are almost a quarter way done the deals when they actually would be like, hey, you know, we're still getting proposals. Like the first proposals from reaching out to people. I'm like idiots, you guys watched the movie swingers. Drew: [00:15:57] Yep. Yep. That is definitely did show enthusiasm and ask, ask for the sale. Jason: [00:16:03] That's an important thing too. Ask for the sale, you know, um, I'm doing training for you guys coming up, uh, around sales and like one of the parts that as I was doing this training, I was like, when we're auditing our salespeople, um, which you should be doing weekly. You know, one of the things you should be looking for is, is your sales person asking for the sale? Like that's the most important part. That's kind of like giving away everything and then going all right, well, chat with you later. Like ask for the freaking sale. Brilliant, awesome. Drew, this has been amazing, man. I don't know. What's taken me so long to get you on the podcast. So I'm so glad. And I'm glad that we actually saw you on the podcast on the mountain waving. Drew: [00:16:55] Oh, yeah. That' not….for listeners that don't know Jason's got a mountain's house, Swenk mountain. It's quite the climb, but beautiful view looking over the, over the lake and that's awesome. Jason: [00:17:10] Yeah, it was, it was fun. Especially the first year, you've been out there twice. And the first year it was kind of fun. No one really knew what to expect hiking up and at high elevation. And, uh, it was kind of fun watching… Drew: [00:17:23] Yeah, cause you were at like 10,000 feet or no? Jason: [00:17:25] Uh, no, the, the, the top of the mountain is, uh, 8200. Drew: [00:17:31] 82? See, I get the elevations all messed up. I was talking with another member of the mastermind about going over engineer paths on, on, on my podcast. Jason: [00:17:39] That was 13,000. Drew: [00:17:42] On the podcast. I talked about how we went over a 10,000-foot peak. I think it's a little higher. Jason: [00:17:48] Yeah. So the one we took the ATVs? Uh, yeah, that was 13,000. Um, so you were way up there above the… Drew: [00:17:56] That was an incredible experience. Jason: [00:17:58] Yeah. I'm so glad I can't wait for you guys to come back out. Um, is there anything I didn't ask you, Drew, that you think would benefit the audience? Drew: [00:18:07] I would say just figure out what you don't know. Figure out what you don't do and start there. I think there's a TV commercial that… maybe Matthew McConaughey was talking about that, but. Don't say yes to everything and figure out what you don't want to do, and then find a referral partner to refer that out to. That's so important because you don't have to actually lose the business. You can get the business back with a referral to another agency. Jason: [00:18:33] Yeah. Awesome. Or I'll say all right, all right. Um, where, uh, where can people check out the agency? Drew: [00:18:41] Go to and you can find me on Twitter at @DrewHendricks. Um, Facebook @DrewHendricks. Jason: [00:18:50] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Drew, for coming on the show. You've rocked it. You killed it. A lot of really good, uh, information and strategies that people can go execute now. So if you guys liked this and you want to hear more of this and be surrounded by really cool people like Drew and so many others. Uh, I'd love to have you guys all check out the Should be scrolling up or for the listeners. I mean, it's pretty easy name. That's why we picked it: Go there, check it out. And it's an amazing group of people growing and sending the mountain faster together rather than all alone by your lonesome self. So, and until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why a Solid Recurring Revenue Stream is the Key to Agency Growth

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 19, 2021 24:56

    Are you creating a solid recurring revenue stream for your agency? Dan Sundgren has been involved in the digital marketing industry since he became one of the first employees at Google around 2003. After years of witnessing the rise of that tech giant, he eventually started his digital agency, FreeGren, which specializes in SEM, SEO, SMM and Website Development and Maintenance. He sat down with Jason to talk about the lessons he learned at Google about breaking the rules and how there's always a different way to look at things. He also talked about his decision to work with contractors rather than having employees, and why recurring revenue is the goal. 3 Golden Nuggets Breaking the rules. Working at Google for many years since its beginning Dan had the opportunity to witness how that company grew, broke many rules, and created a new paradigm for corporations. One of the lessons he carries with him from that time is that you don't necessarily have to follow hard and fast rules. There's always a different way to look at things. And it's good to remember that you can flip things on their head and think about it differently. Working with contractors. Another learning experience with Google was the way they took care of their employees. However, Dan and his partner decided early on that they would work with independent contractors. To do this, Dan spent years building a network of trusted partners that have now worked with him for years. He relies on them to do the heavy lifting. It has its own complications, as Dan admits, but he exclusively works with people he can trust. After all, it takes years to build a reputation and a name and he doesn't want to sabotage that by doing crappy work. Recurring revenue is the goal. Like Frank Kern a few weeks ago, Dan talks about how he chose to scale slow and make sure his agency had solid recurring revenue streams for PPC, SEO, website maintenance, etc, where it is very repeatable. Now this gives him the tools to make pretty accurate forecasts, to the point that he can tell where his agency will be in 12 months. 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 Contractors vs Employees and Remember that Recurring Revenue is the Goal Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, agency owners. Welcome to another episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass. I am Jason Swenk and I have an amazing guest, Dan. We're going to talk about his building his agency over the past four years. But also what he's learned. He's one of the very first employees at Google. Um, I think he was telling me back in 2003 or 2004, he can correct me in a, in a second. Um, and we're going to talk about really amazing things. So I can't wait. Um, but before we get into the episode, I want you to do something. I want you to take a screenshot of the podcast and then upload it to your favorite social media. Tag us, so I can give you a shout-out for listening to the show. And let's go ahead and jump into it and talk to Dan. Hey, Dan. Welcome to the show. Dan: [00:00:53] Thanks for having me, Jason. Jason: [00:00:54] Yeah, man, excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Dan: [00:00:59] Uh, my name is Dan Sundgren. Uh, I started an agency over four years ago with a partner of mine, Scott Freeborn. The Genesis of our agency is FreeGren. After a long and laborious naming process, we mashed our names up at five o'clock and decided to call it good. And we named our company FreeGren because we're a 50-50 two-headed beast. And we've just had a blast last four years building our little agency up here in the Northwest. Um, Scott came from Dexcom Media. Um, my experience was with Google, and AOL, and Merkel. Uh, worked in-house and built teams for 20 plus years. Done quite a few things. And, uh, managed, in my estimation, over a billion dollars in paid advertising. Which at the very least gives me some scars on my back to figure something out, uh, you know, in the future. So, so that's what we're doing. Jason: [00:01:58] So I have one question that I have to ask, are you the one that would send out the AOL CDs to us? Dan: [00:02:04] Yeah, no, I, I think, I think, yeah, those were the… Jason: [00:02:09] For all the old people. Uh, for us to get on the internet, AOL literally used to send out CDs so we can get on the internet and they give us like 50 hours. Dan: [00:02:18] Yeah. The stacks of CDs, just carpet bombed in, in the mailboxes. Yeah. Jason: [00:02:24] I love it. Well, um, tell us, uh, you know, what, what did you do for Google? Um, and tell us a little bit about the early days. And did I get it right in the intro? Was it 2003 or four? Dan: [00:02:39] Yeah, I started, um, towards the end of 2003. Jason: [00:02:43] Wow. It must have been crazy seeing all that growth. Dan: [00:02:48] It, it was wild. Um, we were, obviously, we weren't public yet. Um, we would go down to campus in Mountain View because we started the Seattle office, a handful of us to really support the sales operation. The engineers weren't even here yet. And, um, we have these global sales summits down there every year for the first three years, I think. Which were, we would like rent, Google would rent the village of Lake Tahoe and just run wild and engineers would be running around with bottles of booze and it was a, it was a wild time. It was a very wild time. Um, got to meet chef Charlie who's, I don't know if you know the backstory, but Larry and Sergei hired The Grateful Dead chef. So chef Charlie was the guy who invented the entire food ecosystem at Google with just this gorgeous spreads and sushi bars and, you know, the works, right. That was his Genesis of, of like taking extra good care of people with their, you know, their stomachs. So it was really crazy to watch them reinvent the way companies even think about employees. Really, that's what they were doing. Jason: [00:03:56] I love the movie Internship that features Google like pre-show. Is it really like that? And you're like, no, it's just a lot more drinking. Dan: [00:04:07] I was, again, I was in the sales team, so, yeah. Um, so there was definitely, there was a definitely a class system at Google. Um, and I think there's still, it's very engineering-run. Um, sales is sort of, I think in the big picture at the company sales and marketing and sort of a nice to have, I guess we've got to have those folks. But really the brain it always has been is with engineers. It's an engineering-driven company. Um, not all tech companies are though, right? Some are very sales rooty. You know, um, some are a little of both. But they're still the hardcore… The engineers are running it. We know what's best for the user, blah, blah, blah. And I, you know, I don't know what it is today because it's so big, but… Jason: [00:04:53] Yeah, well, I remember, um, my dad was my stockbroker for many, many years. I remember when Google was about to go public and I said, I want to buy stock. I want to buy a lot of stock. Um, and he goes, no, no, no. $45 is way too much. Dan: [00:05:12] Reverse Dutch Auction. Yeah. I remember they came out with that and the engineers again decided, and Larry, and so you're like, we're smarter than the market. We're going to do a Reverse Dutch Auction and all the brokers were like, you can't do that. Like why not? And they did, they've constantly done things that are contrary to what you're supposed to do. Which I always found super refreshing, especially when I was working there. But I've watched them for the last 17, 18 years… geez. Continue to do things that sometimes you scratch your head and like… There's always something, right? Like Jason, like, oh, no broad match modified is going away. Or there's a big algo(rithm) change. I'm like, yeah. Okay. They're, they're just going to keep, I mean, of course, they're constantly…. Jason: [00:05:58] So, what, what have you learned from them and your years at Google? And did you guys call each other Googlers? Um, what did you guys…? Dan: [00:06:08] Googlers, yeah. I got my… Right behind me is my hat. See the new that's called a Noogler hat. Jason: [00:06:11] Oh, it is true. Dan: [00:06:16] You had to wear it your first day. It had a propeller. Jason: [00:06:19] Oh, that's funny. That's… Dan: [00:06:21] Yeah. Around campus. So it's, it's a real thing. Um, I think what I've taken away is that you don't necessarily have to have hard and fast rules. There's, there's always a different way to look at things. Um, there's always a different way to flip things on their head and kind of think about it differently. But, um, they inherently do obsess over their employees. They, they take ridiculously good care. And again, now it's 150,000 people, definitely different company, but it was clear from the get-go that this was a new paradigm of corporations. Of… We want to take care of every need you have. And your personal life as well. I mean, nursing station and dry cleaning and like… All that stuff, it all kind of adds up to you feel like you're in a very comfortable environment that you don't have to worry about a lot and you can just do great work. And really they have the 10, was it the 10 per 10% time or 20% time? Sorry, 20. Which again, one of those little Google things like take a day every week and just spitball stuff. Like, you know, that was unheard of, really. HP and Dell weren't doing that. Jason: [00:07:31] No, no, they were too corporate. Dan: [00:07:36] Yeah. It, you know, and so we, we try to like, with our little agency, we don't have any employees, actually. Um, we built a virtual agency from day one, Scott and I, um, have very, very deeply in, in trusted partners. And we rely on them to do a lot of the heavy lifting and the nitty gritty. But that's for, with 20 years of vetting really good partners that we've entrusted those people as part of our company. But they're independent contractors. Jason: [00:08:07] Yeah. Well, let's talk about that because I mean, you're, uh, a couple of million in revenue. And it's just you two, but you guys use contractors and strategic partners. And a lot of people are like, well, how do you do that? Right? Like what, like walk us through that a little bit. Dan: [00:08:27] Yeah. That's probably the hardest thing to do and also the most important. Um, luckily I've been very involved for 20 years in, uh, marketing, uh, networking groups. So, um, we have a group up here in the Northwest called Seattle Interactive, and, uh, um, I've been on the board of that since the inception. There's another group in Portland that's fantastic. It's um, they, they throw a search fast every year. It's SCM PDX, and I'm sort of the Seattle liaison there. So over the years. Um, I've slowly built this base on, you know, LinkedIn for instance of four or 5,000 people that I've met and talk to and, you know, kiss babies and shook hands and work the floor and how it got out there. And, and through that Genesis, you start to build, um, a couple things, a big, big network. But also, B, uh, sort of the spidey sense of people that you would want to work with and you can inherently trust and, um, you can feed off each other in a positive way. So you can kind of weed through a lot of that. And the metamorphosis of that great network is when we started this, I had just started calling people and I was like, so-and-so is really good. We should talk to them. And putting those p… those building blocks in place, and those partners are with us today, four years later. So, yeah, but it's hard and there's challenges, right? Not having employees versus outsourcing. Um, I'll be the first one to admit that when we were looking to scale a little bit and, you know, when people tap out, as far as their time and what they have to give you, because they have other clients too. We have to find some bench strength and that's, you know, we were very, very careful and meticulous about that. Jason: [00:10:21] Um, so how are you always recruiting that talent then and making sure like you can fill…? Dan: [00:10:30] Yeah. Uh, it's through, through my network, um, asking, you know, just literally asking around and talking to different folks, remembering people. Oh, you know that, I remember that guy was a WordPress developer. I met him. He was solid. Kind of, we interview and vet them like you might an employee, but for what they do as a contractor. And we have some hard and fast rules. We are myopic; I'll admit it, like we are US-based. We, uh, we just are myopic that way. I want… and even selfishly I'd like them to be on the West Coast. And even more, it would be great if they're in the backyard in Seattle or Portland. Because there's just so much great talent and good people. And then, you know, there's sort of that affinity. And, um, when you build a big network, you have a reputation to uphold and you know this as well as anyone, right? Um, your, your name is your brand, is your worth, uh, to sort of the greater… thing out there, which is business. And, uh, I take that pretty seriously. Like you, you know, if you spend 20 years nurturing a career, you don't want to sabotage that going, you know, by going out and doing crappy work and not taking care of clients. And, you know, because the word kind of gets out and you just don't want to be that person. You just want to continue to keep that bar high. Jason: [00:11:56] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you want unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need. Along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix Industry, leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7. So you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to And re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Well, it takes what? 20 years to build a brand? And one second to tear it down. Dan: [00:12:56] Yeah, right? Yeah. Good adage. Jason: [00:12:59] Right? Like, we've seen that with many, I mean, I used to work for Arthur Anderson out of school. Right? And so we saw, you know, that was one of the biggest brands out there in the consulting practice. And then foom! You know, gone. So it's, uh, it's, you gotta be very, very careful, um, at that. Um, what is, this has all been amazing. I love to kind of see the origin story and how you kind of tapped into that. Is there anything else that I didn't ask you that you think, you know, the audience would benefit from of what you've learned over the past four years of have grown your agency, and congrats, very quickly? Dan: [00:13:45] Thanks. Um, well, a few, a few nuggets. I think that, um, and again, uh, I'm super transparent and love to share like you, so nothing's sort of off the table there. Um, but some nuggets that we picked up, um, from the get-go and still hold true are… Like the recurring revenue piece to me is the goal. Um, I just don't, I don't know how these web development shops go out and build their book every year. I, it's a head-scratcher it just seems like a nightmare to me. That's just my 2 cents. Um, so we built, um, really solid recurring revenue streams in for PPC, SEO, website maintenance and hosting. Um, where it's very repeatable it's, um, we can, we can forecast with it pretty well. Um, let me, I can tell you probably in 12 months where we'll be, you know, in the big picture and, um, it continues to build on itself. And we built our agency purposely pretty slow where I, I call it like we're, like a snake, right? Like we'll eat a big mouse and then we'll just, we'll take some time and digest. And, you know, we won't worry about getting a new client until we get that one dialed in and really plugged in and make their phone ring. Then we'll move, we'll move into the next, next mouse. And so we built it really slow on purpose with that recurring revenue in place. So that we have a predictable business model and that's, that's kind of been something that's been really critical to our success, I think. Um, and then do, you and I were talking before the show, uh, one of the best things you can do is figure out what you don't know. Like what are your blind spots? Um, and what's, and what's coming, right? Because, um, I was selling 88 x 31 banners in 99. And that was it. And 468 x 60s. So clearly things have gotten a little different Jason: [00:15:40] A little bit. Little change. Dan: [00:15:43] A little bit. Uh, yeah, it's always changing in, in social media and like, um, all the new flavors of media. You're still trying to reach an audience, but there's just different ways to do it. Different platforms, what's up and coming? Um, You gotta break some eggs to make an omelet. And you know, if Pinterest is something that we should try for our clients, let's give it a chest. Let's not be afraid to just, I don't want to stay like, this is what we do. These are the four channels we, we only know. Um, but also not, you know, spread yourself too thin and try and stay in your lane a little bit. So it's that balance, right? Jason: [00:16:16] Yeah, it totally is. Yeah. I mean, I totally agree with you on recurring revenue. Like it's… We all want, like, we all get into the agency space or create a business for predictability and freedom and money. But a lot of times we create this kind of prison around us and we don't have predictability. We don't have freedom, we don't have money. Right? Like, and we keep hiring more people. Um, but, uh, you know, when you actually start figuring out some of that. Like our, our agency, we were 80% project-based. And how we got through it and how we create a predictability is we just created a huge pipeline. Like I was chatting with a good buddy of mine a little while ago, and he was talking about how he's starting to resent some of his clients. And I told him, I said, look, buddy, like you're resenting your clients because you have a lead generation problem because you're too reliant on the existing client base. Rather than having a over abundance of people coming to you. And then you just pick it up. And then charging what you're actually worth. Um, so, but I, I agree with you on the recurring revenue. And also too, like, if you're not always learning… Like that's always been a core value in our agency and our business now. Even when we bring on people in the mastermind I'm like, you have to always be like, am I, what am I learning today? What are the lessons that today taught me? Or what are the lessons that the mistakes that I made last week or two seconds ago? Which happens a lot. That's what my team tells me a lot. Dan: [00:17:56] No, absolutely. And knowing when to say no and stay, when I say stay in your lane, Jason, is like… If a client came and said, hey, do you guys do TV and radio? We just, we trust you implicitly with the digital. I would be the first one to go. You know, we absolutely don't have any core expertise. That's just that staying in your lane, you know, that's, it's hard enough to stay on top of what we do do. Um, but maybe I could find a partner or, you know, maybe I could, I could vet, ask around that around town, whatever. Um, I think a lot of you get in that trap of no, let's do everything, you know, let's do 15 different disciplines. Um, and if you do want to get into that, you know, subject matter experts, either employees or contractors and get someone good to really do the work. Don't pretend you can, you know, learn on the fly sometimes if you're going to slot that in. Jason: [00:18:50] Yeah. And when you go to your clients that like, they give you that great honor, and be like, we trust you explicitly to do this and you go, hey, we don't feel comfortable with it, but let me connect you to two or three people. Like you, like, you're the connector. Like they will always come to you and they're coming to you for a problem and they'll keep coming rather than you take on a project that you just totally botch. And then it's just, it's over. Dan: [00:19:20] Yeah. Yeah. And then you're setting yourself up really, if you, if you take that, that other path, I think. Um, and trust, is it, I mean, that's, I guess if one, I mean, that's the big one, right? That's the cornerstone of everything is, is trust. And you probably hear time again from the best client relationships are that just it's like relationship. Like you've gone through the fire, you've broken some eggs to make the omelet. You've, you've fixed things that have broken. But you know what? That's good because it's like the Nordstrom thing, right? When, when you go to Nordstrom, I dunno, I haven't  been in Nordstrom for years. But their whole mantra was you don't like it? We'll, we'll take care of it. Like we're just going to take care of it, and you just know that when you go in. Um, it's that white glove service, you know, things are going to go haywire, but we will fix them. We'll make it right. We'll, we'll answer our phone. Um, I can't tell you how much negligence we continue to run into in the agency world. It's kind of, it's kind of disturbing, still, to take a client from an agency off the road and… They have no idea what they're getting. They just been stroking a check for 10 years. The guy won't call them back. They don't, they don't know where their Google analytics and their data is. They have no idea what's going on and they're paying like eight grand a month for 10 years. And the guy that won't courtesy call them back and it's still happening. And that's kind of why we started our, our shop because, um, Scott, uh, worked at a company and a lot of that was happening and you're just like, that shouldn't still be happening. Jason: [00:20:59] Yeah, I, it's amazing. So many people go to me as they're starting out and they go, uh, what's, what's the secret to scaling fast? I say, you have to be better than everyone else in the service that you deliver. Like, because I see so many, uh, these people will be nameless, but there are so many people that are really good at marketing themselves and selling. But then on delivering they fall down. And they're like, why can't we grow? But then they keep putting out content to show people that… I'm like, good gosh, like, your model is broken. Like, take that dog behind the shed and shoot it, like stop. You're not built for this, so… But, uh, yeah. It's uh, yeah, so it's a, it's always a breath of fresh air when I find people that can deliver results and that actually care, you know, uh, about that. So congrats on your success. Um, what's the website address where people can go and check out the agency? Dan: [00:22:05] It's free. Jason: [00:22:09] Awesome. Dan: [00:22:09] Or, or Jason, you can go to Jason: [00:22:14] Oh, I like that one better. You should lead with that one. Dan: [00:22:18] And, and you'll, and you'll end up on our, on our homepage. Jason: [00:22:21] There you go. No bullshit dot agency? Oh, I love that. Yeah. Go there. Use that URL. That's way better. Dan: [00:22:29] You know? Um, it's, it's, it's a little, I guess, you know, it'd be a little bit, yeah, you know, in your face. Jason: [00:22:36] No, no. Like, like the people that you want to work with, just since you said that, like the people that you don't want to work with, they'll be the ones that get offended. It's kind of like what I say on the mastermind, like on our mastermind page, like our first core value is no douche bags. And if you're offended by it, well, you're probably not going to do well. Dan: [00:23:03] Yeah, yeah. We use the Tommy boy quote, you know, I will, you know, I can trust the butcher and put my head up cow's ass, but I might as well trust the butcher, you know, that, that old quote. Jason: [00:23:12] Exactly. I can quote that whole movie. Guarantee it's the best part. I got time. Dan: [00:23:23] Yeah, the movie quote. I can talk and movie quotes probably for a good five minutes. Jason: [00:23:27] Um, I think we should just come up with a podcast just to talk movie quotes, do it. Dan: [00:23:33] We should do it. We should do it. That'd be a challenge. Can you, how long can you talk and movie quotes? Jason: [00:23:36] Oh, I could do it for a long time. I mean, I just go back to the eighties and nineties movies that I grew up on, you know, exactly Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison. Dan: [00:23:49] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Jason: [00:23:51] All those. Sorry. We're so derailed. What about hosting? Dan: [00:23:56] I like derailing. Derailing is good sometimes. Jason: [00:24:01] Well, awesome. Well, everyone go check out, um, I love that URL. See, I even remember it. I don't even remember the other one. So, yeah, that's memorable. So go check that out. And um, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, because look… We all have blind spots like we talked about and other people can see them a lot better. I want to invite all of you to go to the and, uh, see if you qualify to be with the best agency owners all over the world, sharing what's working now. So you guys can grow your agency and scale it a lot faster and create that predictability, that freedom and the money that you want, and really the impact that you can have on the world. So go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How to Build an Eight-Figure Agency by Training Your Competition

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 15, 2021 31:59

    Brian R. Johnson has served as a leader in online advertising and conversion rate strategy for nearly two decades. He had been offering professional training courses in the Amazon ad space for years before opening his own agency with his partner. Now, Canopy Management is an eight-figure agency and the leading A-to-Z, full service Amazon agency. He joins the podcast to talk about how he built his platform and community before being an agency owner, how he learned the importance of documenting processes and giving new team members access to them from day one, and how he encourages everyone in the team to build each other up. 3 Golden Nuggets Building a platform. Many agency owners start their business by offering training courses, advising others on how to solve problems in their niche. This was the case for Brian, who admits he has trained some of his biggest competitors, but also says that this is what helped his agency grow quickly in the first year. People already knew him and wanted to work with him, either as clients or as employees because he had spent years building up a reputation and a community. Learn to get out of your own way. Agency owners can get in the mindset that they can do everything. In reality, you are crippling your team if they don't have access to a documented process. It's no good to the agency or the team if you only have it in your head. You need to document it and you'll be surprised to see how the team can then take that and improve it. Encourage your team to build each other up. Our guest recommends doing “daily huddles” to build a more united team. These are 10-minute daily minutes where he will ask “who had a win yesterday?” “What are some problems that we should all be aware of?” And “who got caught being awesome?” This way, he encourages the team to celebrate their own wins and highlight their teammates' successes. It is a highlight of the week at this 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 Create a Platform and Build an Eight-Figure Agency Jason: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? Jason Swenk here. And I have an amazing episode with Brian who runs an eight-figure agency. Um, and we're going to talk about what it's like to run operations for an eight-figure agency. Cause I know a lot of you are trying to get to the summit to get to that next level. And so we're going to dive into this in this episode, so let's get into it. Hey, Brian, welcome to the show. Brian: [00:00:30] Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So, uh, tell us briefly who you are and what do you guys do? Brian: [00:00:37] Of course. So my name is Brian R. Johnson. I throw that in there cause there's a lot of Brian Johnson's out in the world. So, um, yeah, Brian Johnson out of, uh, based here in Austin, Texas. I am currently traveling on the West Coast with my family. So I am in the Amazon space, uh, running an agency, actually co-running an agency, uh, that handles, um, multimillion-dollar sellers brands that are brick and mortar brands, as well as, uh, sellers who sell on the Amazon sales channel. And so we handle all their advertising and, uh, quite a bit of their marketing that goes into moving more product for them. So, that's kind of the short version of what I do. Jason: [00:01:24] That's awesome. And so why would you partner with someone else named Brian? It's got to be so confusing. That's the first question I got for you. Brian: [00:01:34] Yeah. He actually recruited me. Because he tracked me down because I happened to be, um, I was the subject matter expert in, in my subject, you know, in the advertising space, within Amazon. You know, the niche within the niche, right? And, um, he tracked me down a number of years ago and hired me to consult for his own account. And he says, okay, you obviously know a lot more than you think you do. I want to partner with you and work on… We originally came out with, cause I had already created like a community and… software. He's like okay, next thing you need to do is produce, you know, a professional training course. We did that. And that eventually evolved into the agency because everyone said you guys obviously know what you're doing. You've got a huge success record. Just do it for me. It's like, okay. Obviously that, you know, that kind of begs the need for the agency level of service, which is, as you already know, a huge learning curve by itself. Jason: [00:02:35] Yeah. Well, I love how you guys, I didn't know, um, how you got your start that way. And that's actually a really good… Thinking about a lot of other agencies in the mastermind and people I've worked with. Some of the most successful ones have actually started from a training course. People like want to know how to do something and then they're like, just do it for me. And then it just kind of takes off. Brian: [00:02:59] Well, I got to tell you just that, the… I've created a lot of my own competitors. Jason: [00:03:04] Of course. Me too! Brian: [00:03:06] Because of my training. You know, but I mean, that's just kind of a by-product of, you know, just, just giving to the community and just, you know, sticking your neck out there. And just saying, look, here's, here's what people need to know. If that creates competition, so be it. Jason: [00:03:19] Well, and the thing people have to realize. And it took me… Man, and sometimes I still try to figure it out, right? Like, literally people, you can put out everything that you're doing, but it will never be the same as you. Because we're all unique. We all have our own personalities and we're constantly, always, I know I am, I'm always thinking of new stuff. So even if you copied my old stuff, I'm like, oh crap. That stuff was two years ago. Like… Brian: [00:03:48] Exactly, exactly. Yeah, you got to keep moving. You got to keep innovating. That's something where I've done that before. I did that in the software side, where if I didn't innovate within six months, everybody caught up to me. I was like, oh there, hold on, you know, they're there, they're all your tail lights, you know, constantly. And so if you're not continually moving, continually innovating, then you're gonna get past. Jason: [00:04:10] So let's talk a little bit about the operations, right? So an operations of a bigger agency. You know, let's talk about kind of the structure that you guys have, uh, within the agency. Because, you know, a lot of people listening, you know, some people, or most people trying to crack the eight-figure mark, some people are just trying to crack the million-dollar mark as well, right? So, talk about the different stages that you guys have gone through on an operations front. Because usually most people I bring on, they're always kind of the, the ones doing sales and marketing and that kind of stuff. So I'd love to get your perspective on the ops. Brian: [00:04:48] So, yeah, so, so, um, the, the relationship that my partner and I had was that he was the sales and marketing guy, right? He had all the Russell Brunson experience and all the funnels and the, you know, the, the two commas and all that kind of stuff, right? And he, he obviously had that side of it. I had the technical knowledge. I was a subject matter expert. And so, we kind of blended those two together. Now, just because you've got sales and marketing and you've got expertise, you know, you can fill the roles. Doesn't mean you can execute on those roles. People need to recognize that as like, you need to recognize when you need to step out of your own way. Because you might be holding the company back because you think you can do everything. Which is, in my opinion, foolish. But I know only know that because of hindsight, not because I didn't think the same thing when I was there. Um, and so certainly the first year, um, it was, it was pretty easy because of the reputation I had built up over the years. It was, it was pretty easy, actually, from the sales and marketing standpoint. We just had to let people know that, hey, we were available and we, you know, got out there. That's not a common challenge I think among a lot of agency owners who are like, I have this expertise, but nobody knows who I am. Because they didn't spend years and years and years, um, to become an overnight success. Um, they didn't, they didn't put in the time in order to build up a reputation and a community and an audience and those kinds of things to then translate that into, okay, here, here are my leads. So the part that was the easy part was like we had, we had new clients that were coming in. The problem we had was we didn't have everything pulled out of my head as far as the processes. As far as like here's the checklist, here's how somebody, I can hand it off to a team of people. Um, and they can just execute and they can execute consistently, okay? So is that consistent execution of a laid out plan wasn't there. And so we constantly, we stumbled. We, you know, we hit our face on the wall, you know what I mean, whatever analogy you want to use on this. It was a, it was a struggle. Caused a lot of pain. It caused a lot of tension between my partner and I, and so, um… Well, I recognize that like, first of all, I had to get some kind of documentation. I was trying to, you know… In my head, I had, okay, I can solve a hundred percent of all problems on Amazon when it comes to advertising. But really what the agency team needed was, you need, they need like 50% of that, Brian. You need to get that documented. And you're the only one who has that knowledge. And so once I got that first, first iteration, I guess, of the, the process, the documentation, the checklist out, then they looked at it and say, well, can we do it this way better? It's like, then they start innovating on their own because now they have control and you kind of like… You know, for me, I had to let go of the, the, I guess the feeling that, that I wanted to say, no, no, no, we can do all these other things. And it wasn't until we acquired another agency, brought in somebody who had a lot more experience on the operation side and said, okay, we're going to actually have you do run operations. That's when we made a huge shift between, uh, between here's all of the knowledge that we can do. Here's all the things we could do, versus here's all the things we need to do in order to run profitably as an agency and consistently as an agency, because that's what our clients expect of us. Jason: [00:08:26] Yeah. You know, I see so many times, you know, people for the longest time they go in, like, I'm glad you explained it and be like, look, I can just do it. Like I can solve anything, just give it to me. And you pull it back from people. And you're really crippling them. Like you're giving like huge crutch that if you take away, they're screwed. But I love how you put it and go if I could just get them 50% there. It's kind of what I call like, and also learn, I'm not delegating tasks, I'm delegating outcomes. And like when you learn that, that is so freeing, because I love the story that you were like, hey, I gave him 50% and then they were like, well, let me innovate on top of this to make it better. And then the, and then how much pressure did that take off your shoulders? Brian: [00:09:13] Oh, it was good because, because I was in a state of, you know, full on just overwhelm. You know, where you wake up and you're kind of like, you wake up panicked, like, oh, what do I need to do today? It's like, oh, you know, I mean, there was conversations where I had, um… Jason: [00:09:26] Did you have a full head of hair like me before? Brian: [00:09:34] Yes. Yeah, unfortunately, that was, uh, yeah. That, that was gone long time ago. Yeah, the um… Yeah, it caused a lot of stress, uh, for sure. Um, you know, of course that kind of stuff always translates back to your family. Sometimes as entrepreneurs, we don't even recognize that. And we, we do need to, uh, because it creates it, echo creates an echo stress and echo attention from your family. And that's exactly not what any of us want, but I think it's a by-product of trying to take on too much, trying to not hand the reins off. Mostly because I had enough ego there, I was like, well, I'm the one who knows all these things. And what it took me… it probably took me a good year and a half before it finally sunk in. Like that long. Is we don't need your a hundred percent of knowledge, Brian. We need your 50% of what's executable. You know, and consistently and applies to everybody, not, not all these fringe examples of, uh, here's an exception, here's the advanced tactic and all this kind of stuff. It's like, that's all great and everything. We'll pull you in when we need, we need that. But to run the agency, you got to get that you got it's Pareto, it's even 20%, you know, of that. You know, is what we need in order to, uh, have a functioning agency that doesn't just burn through clients and staff. Jason: [00:11:03] So what was the, what was the mindset shift? Because I remember when I transitioned from an owner to, you know, the CEO, there was a huge… Like for a while, I was depressed. Because I was like, all right, I'm not needed anymore. Like, um… And I did have an ego back then. Uh, and I was like, no, I know more than everybody, which is the dumbest thing. Like, literally, after I learned what I learned, I was like, man, I want to be the dumbest person in the room. Brian: [00:11:38] Yeah. Well, and we think that we, it was like, oh, well, I'm so clever. I'm going to hire people smarter than me. But ultimately if you're the one who came in with the knowledge came in with the experience, the tendency, uh, certainly I experienced the same thing as, as you and many others, is we still have a certain amount of control. We're just like, I'm not a controlling, well, yeah, you kind of are, you know, when it comes down to it because this is your baby. This is your, your, your expertise. And if somebody comes in or a team comes in and says, hey, we could execute on this better than what you taught us, you're kind of like wait, what that's not possible, you know? And it's like, it took me the first two years to finally step back. When I finally actually stepped back and said, okay, I'm going to completely let go of… Like, one of the things I did recently, um, late last year is I completely stepped away from the software that I had invented years ago for this space. And that was extremely difficult because that was my baby, you know? Um, and so while I still have plenty of value to the team and to clients and to, you know, audience. As far as, hey, here's the latest tactic than, you know, the, the advanced tactic, here's the exception. You know, also I can step in and do coaching at that point. But I am not the thought leader within the, I might be a thought leader within the community, but I'm not necessarily a thought leader within the agency. And that's exactly what we should get to. Because if you're that one person that gets hit by a bus and the whole agency fails, that's your fault. That is your fault because you let it happen. And at this point, like I could disappear and honestly this agency will continue to grow and succeed. Because of the teams that we have in place because of the knowledge base that we have in place. Um, and the pool of experience and the, and the level of collaboration within the, the culture of our, of our agency is very important. Jason: [00:13:44] 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 reinvesting and, you know, 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, you know, 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. You know, 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 Dad can tell you that you know 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 before August 30th 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 That's Well, you mentioned something important there too. You, your role really kind of shifted to from, uh, you know, coaching and, and really kind of coaching the team. And then as, as I found that we stepped into that, well, now you're not as emotionally attached to a lot of the decisions that they may have. Where then you can actually help them out a lot more. Whether, you know, being from when you were coding, I used to be the world's worst coder, just cause I outsourced everything in college, right? So, but, but that's why I could lead development teams because I wasn't emotionally attached because I didn't care about the syntax. Like literally I was like, I just understand the logic that needs to happen. Brian: [00:16:19] You could design it. You saw, you saw the direction it needed to go, but it's like, yeah. Don't make the code, because I'm just going to slow you down. Jason: [00:16:26] Oh yeah. I'm like, there was no semi-colon there. Like I used to have people sitting over my shoulder and be like…They would yell at me. I'm like, yeah. I'm like, I don't give a shit about your stupid semicolon. You hire some joker that wants to put the damn semi-colon there. I don't give a shit. I would get so mad. And that's when I, you know, we voluntarily, uh, or maybe forced out Arthur Anderson, uh, to start this. So, but, uh, all good. What…? On let's, let's switch to kind of the team, like a building a team around you, right? You talked about, uh, going through a lot of people, right? Probably because you were maxing them out. Um, and we talked about, you know, that 50%. What other things did you do and what type of people… Was there a different type of people that you look for as well? Brian: [00:17:21] Well, so the, the. And initially it wasn't a case of like, we had a lot of, uh, we, it wasn't like we had a lot of turnover as far as our staff, we had a lot of people who were stuck with us for a long time. It was more a case of, you know, the client turnover and that creates stress, you know? Um, but ultimately there was a couple of things. One is, again, the training that I put out there trained not only some competitors, but also some of my best employees as well. You know, and so they had started their own practice where they applied it to their own business. And so they already knew of me. So when they saw that we were hiring… that seems even better because now I can actually get in with the team that I have respect for. And that's the best way to interview. You're not going to tell. Yeah. You know, it's like, you know, they could be. You know, they could be a fan of whatever, you know, we've, we've taught in the past or whatever, but really it's like, what, at what value can you add? What experience do you have coming in? Um, and we continue to get that to, to the, you know, to this day. We have people that we have to turn away and say, okay, get a little bit more experienced before you come in. Because our bar is pretty high. But that also helps us to hire smarter people than us. You know, people who have got their own ideas of their own experience executing on, uh, on my training and saying, hey, I'm going to do something a little different. That's totally cool you know, they don't have to conform to everything because I want them to contribute to a growing innovating team, a team and culture. Rather than, you know, cause otherwise I would just hire a bunch of, you know, VAs that were task-based out of the Philippines or something. And then just say like, okay, they're going to do it, but I have to manage each and every one of them. I don't need that. I don't want that. Don't want to have to manage every single person. I want to have people who manage their own teams. And within that team, they've got a culture of collaboration and support and innovation and they get the job done and then they, then, then we celebrate their success every single day, every single week. They charge themselves, you know, I don't need to be constantly propping them up. That is a drain on me. And that's something that, you know, once we have, um, I'm not sure what, what our, uh, what our total headcount is at the moment. I want to say it's probably north of 60, probably. Um, but you know, it started out where we were just hiring people who were specialized in here's the service. Here's the first service we provide and we started building out teams like that. Um, and we had a very low employee-to-client ratio starting out. And part of that was like, oh, we're, you know, we're boutique. And, you know, we were very specialized and we're expensive and that kind of stuff. That was all great and everything until you got to the point where like, okay, we can't grow. We can't scale because we can't find the people that we need because all these other competitors that we created or, or popped up in the environment, they're also out there recruiting, you know? And so then you start having a knowledge glut in your training, you know? So that's when you have to really refine your training to make sure that each employee has access right from day one of the onboarding and they can shadow somebody and they can learn, how do we do things? Where do I get the information? So that they're not sitting around on their hands going, like, I don't know who to ask or where to go. You might as well just, just shoot them and send them out the door, you know? Cause they're gone if that's the case. Jason: [00:20:43] Yeah. I'd love too that, and it sounds like you have your employees go through the ones that haven't started for. Like, I love how you recruit from the training course. That's brilliant. That's worked for a lot of my clients in the past. They were like, we just take the best. And we're like, you want, you want to, like, you want to do this, but you don't want to do it on your own. Like, we'll sell everything. So that's brilliant. But do you also, and I also like how you have, it's a training program for them to follow the process of going through it. Um, talk, lastly, let's talk about… What is the kind of the requirement for building bringing in people that will lead their own team? I think some people listening are struggling with that rather than going, like you were saying, hire in the Philippines. Brian: [00:21:33] Right. Well, I mean, you know, we looked at, we look at other agencies not for their book of business, not for the clients or the revenue that they have, but the people they have. And so we, that's the acqui-hire model, you know, where you basically are looking for, like, what kind of talent do you have in your company that is worth us investing in or acquiring? And so I think that was where I, one of the early best decisions we made. Is we picked up, um, an agency that, um… Like I said eventually became our director of operations and then eventually our COO. Um, you know, because the owner of that agency had so much, they weren't sales and marketing. They did it, but theirs, their, their, their best skillset, their best talent was everything has got to be a process. It doesn't exist unless it's in a process. And then everything needs to be compared against what, how, what does that provide as far as a, a profit margin, you know, or a revenue per employee, and what's the efficiency of it. You've got to have somebody who looks at it from an engineering mindset like that. But can look at it along with the numbers, with the financing to say, this is correct. This is not correct. We need to change something here. And constantly just be, um, the quite aggressive. You can't have somebody who's running operations. Who's a passive like, hey, I'm a team player. Like, is that? No, no, you need a driver. You need somebody who knows how to, like, how do we make this into a machine? Um, let somebody else worry about sales and marketing and HR and, you know, whatever. Jason: [00:23:11] Yeah, I love it. I love that you, uh, that they said, uh, or that you said, uh, it doesn't exist unless it's kind of written down. Like I remember one guest was saying, um, we didn't do it unless we communicated it several times to the client. Right? It's kind of that same mentality. Uh, you know, I love it. Um, well, Brian, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Brian: [00:23:38] You know, there was two things that we, I do. Yeah. There's, there's two things that we do with than our agency that, um, I think that give us an advantage. One of them is, um, uh, what we call a daily huddle, which is basically like a, like, like a 10 to 15 minute call with all hands on a zoom call. We literally have everybody on a zoom call for like 10 minutes, 10, 15 minutes every morning. And we don't get into the business. We basically say like, Hey, who had a win yesterday? You know, and people go around like half a dozen people will say, hey I had this win and that win and whatever. Um, and then we say, okay, are there any critical issues that everybody needs to know about? Nope. All right. Who got caught being awesome? You know, that's something I learned from, uh, from a CEO coach. You know, who got caught being awesome? They shout each other out to build each other up and say, this person helped me help me succeed yesterday or last week, this week or something like that. And, uh, you know, every single time we do that, every single weekday. And we, we leave and we're charged up and people feel good and people look forward to the calls. It's not a drag on them because they know it's like, hey, you know what? I might get shot out. Cause I did some awesome yesterday and I really helped somebody and I get a little kudos. You know, I get a little bump, you know, from, from the group. And everybody gets to see, you know, that there's a collaborative environment. Especially when you've got new people who come in and their first week and they see that. They're like, oh yeah, I landed in the right place. And that, that, that turns out great. Jason: [00:25:06] I love that. You know, I've never. You know, that's kind of what we do on our mastermind calls. And a lot of times what I'll do in my coaching calls, I'll always talk about what's your past wins since we last chatted? Because you have to, you know, a lot of times when the reaching out to a coach or they're coming to their meeting, they want to solve a problem. And they're not in that resourceful stat. They're in that stress state. And when you switch it to something positive, it switches that state to make them more resourceful in order to figure it out. But also too, I love that. Who did, what was it? Who did something awesome for you? Brian: [00:25:42] Who got, yeah. Who got being caught? Who, who got caught being awesome? Jason: [00:25:46] That's. Oh, I never thought about that. I'm so borrowing that. Brian: [00:25:50] Yeah. We first do it. You know, when we first did it, it felt a little bit cheesy. But you know, we've done it for, uh, you know, at least two years now. It's like, it's expected. You know, and people love it. And on Friday, you know, we usually like try to bump it up and we'll play some funny videos like that. And just get people just excited, you know, like, hey, it's Friday and it's fun, you know? So those kinds of things, um, are, are certainly great. Um, if we have time, I have a second one too, if you'd like. Jason: [00:26:14] Go for it, man. Brian: [00:26:17] So the second one is, um, I will go through and I will talk to, uh, employees that, you know, starting obviously with the people it's like, okay, I don't want to lose this person, right? I want to make sure that they are, you know, firing on all cylinders, pointing the same direction. They're happy and they're, they're fired up to wake up each day and do the job. Um, but one of the, there's a couple of things that I'll ask and that is, you know, what is it, if that energizes you in a day? What tasks do you do each day that give you energy and it builds you up that you're happy about, you're excited about doing? Now on the flip side of that, which ones drain your energy? Which ones do you try to avoid? That kind of stuff. Because there's somebody else on the team that is excited about the tasks that drain you. Shift some things to make sure that every single day you're going, there's going to be an awesome day. This is cool. A lot of, a lot of times, as, as an agency owner, we want to, you know, we look at the money and we think it's like, oh, I need to give people, you know, bump a little bonus, you know, a little more money. It's like, no, reduce the drag on their life so that they're not drained. So they're happy, their family is happy. You know, they feel energized every single day. And you can do that simply by saying, you know what? This particular thing is part of your job description. But if it's not right for you, if somebody else over here is excited about doing that, then let's move it over. And then every, then both of you are happy. Jason: [00:27:45] Yeah. You know, I, I learned that lesson the hard way. I remember when I would bring in project managers, cause I originally used to manage projects, right? And I hated it. Like literally I didn't want to talk to a clients ever. And I'd go to him in the interview process. I'd be like, hey, you're going to sit in this job for about a year and a half. It's going to suck and then I'll move you up. Well, what I realized was some project managers love repetition. And they love the same thing over and over again. And they're like, I just want to stay here. Like, why are you pushing me to the next…?  Just be, and I portrayed, like I figured, like everyone's like me, like everybody wants to move up. So I love that you go to them all the time. Like which one you get extreme, a lot of energy, kind of like looking on iPhone battery, right? Which one drains you, you know? Cause I do a… Coming up in the mastermind, I'm going to talk about like auditing your time and really getting rid of those, uh, things that just suck your energy. Because then if you have no energy going into a meeting, like, especially from the top, like, like don't you realize, like if you, if, if you come in and bad mood, your whole team… and it just propagates all the way down. Brian: [00:29:03] It absolutely does. Yeah. I love the idea of time auditing. We've done that a few times and it's one of those things that needs to be done more often. You know, it feels like micromanagement. It's like, no, no, this is not for me. This is for you to know what you're doing. For you to recognize that you spend four hours every day doing something that is painful to you. It's like, that's not correct. Don't continue to do that. Jason: [00:29:27] We had a mastermind member that, uh, always would talk to their employees every week and going, they wouldn't ask the energy level, but they always said every time we chatted, hey, if you ever have anything that you do in the agency that puts you off that I guess they may be said, drains your energy. Like, like, like literally come to me and we'll solve it right away. Because what happens a lot of times with your team, if they're constantly that way, and they don't feel that they can come to you. And you're not constantly saying that, they're going to go get another job. And then if you're trying to save them, it's already too late. Brian: [00:30:05] Yeah. Well, yeah, you could broadcast that out and just say, hey for everybody, um, that's probably a good idea, but ultimately it's the one-on-one conversations is where you get people, to be honest. You know, and they're like going well, there's this one thing, you know, maybe, you know, since nobody else is listening. I'm not going to come to you as I, you you've got an open door policy, but, um, you know, like I still don't feel comfort. I feel, I still feel like you're up on a pedestal somewhere. It's like, no, I don't want to be on a pedestal. I want you to hear as they come to me, but they don't. So go to them. Jason: [00:30:38] Yeah. I love it. Awesome. This has all been amazing. Um, where can, uh, what's the website people go check out the agency and maybe even check out the training too? Brian: [00:30:48] Yeah. Well, so the, uh, focus on the agency I guess, is, um, you know, it's We do focus in on the, uh, the Amazon space, but love to see how, you know, you know, if you kind of want to see as far as like how we lay out, how we present our team and you know, our success stories and that kind of stuff. It's a good little format that we're using that works for us. Uh, yeah. That's Jason: [00:31:13] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. That was a lot of fun and I learned a lot as well as all of you. So make sure you guys subscribe to the podcast, leave a comment. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners on a consistent basis, I would love for you guys to go check out the Digital Agency Elite. This is the mastermind that we put together. Put the most amazing agencies together that are sharing what's working for them right now. And then be able to see the things that you might not be able to see, um, in your, uh, in your trajectory. So until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How to Build the Best Agency Culture by Attacking Ideas, Not People

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 12, 2021 20:12

    Chris Leone was playing drums in Japan trying to figure out his next step in life when a keynote by Gary Vaynerchuk inspired him to enter the agency world. He ended up working an entry-level position in a small agency and worked his way up to being president and CEO of WebStrategies Inc, a multi-million dollar agency that focuses on mid-low funnel, lead generation, SEO, PPC, social advertising, and inbound marketing. Chris sat down with Jason to discuss how he worked his way up from the bottom of the totem pole. He also shares his experience with an agency acquisition just as he was named CEO and how he built a culture of learning. Chris's team is encouraged to speak up and take ownership of their ideas, which goes a long way. 3 Golden Nuggets The power in saying someone's name. Our guest is not afraid of a challenge. His first day as CEO came right after an acquisition and he was asked to handle the first meeting between both teams. This is an important moment, as the first impression on a new team is critical and may determine whether or not the acquisition is a success. He decided to spend time before the meeting making sure that his team knew everyone by name before they arrived. That way, they would feel welcome and less hesitant to give the new company a chance. Attack ideas, not people. Chris has worked hard to create a work environment where employees feel safe to speak their minds and be themselves. “It's not a performative culture” he says “It's a learning culture”. He builds on the belief that leaders who are open to test an idea, observe and then implement from there greatly outperform the ones who are much more rigid in their thinking. Adapting to the online office. The past two years have brought many changes and, right now, many are still not ready to go back to the office. Regarding his agency's decision to go virtual, Chris says he continues to learn and adjust to the situation. But does not consider this will be a permanent change, nor one that will work for everyone. In his case, it made sense to go virtual if his team did not feel comfortable going to the office yet. For the future, he does not dismiss the idea of going back to an office. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Rise to the Top of the Totem Pole By Building a Learning Culture for Your Team Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing show where we're going to talk with an agency CEO and also owner who started out at the ground level couple of years ago as an entry-level employee. Worked all the way up to a CEO. And we're going to talk about what they did. How did they become a multi-million dollar agency? Lots of amazing things. And also talking about how they went virtual in the past year. So it's packed, it's packed and let's go ahead and get into it. Hey, Chris. Welcome to the show. Chris: [00:00:38] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:40] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what you do? Chris: [00:00:44] Yeah. So my name is Chris Leoni. I'm CEO of WebStrategies. We are a digital marketing agency based out of Richmond, Virginia. We focus on kind of mid-low funnel, lead generation stuff, SEO, PPC, social advertising, inbound marketing, that sort of thing. I got about, 30 employees that are located, uh, both in central Virginia and, uh, increasingly scattered throughout the world as we start to shift towards more of a full remote model over here at WebStrategies. Jason: [00:01:15] Awesome. So let's kind of back up to where, when you started with the agency. You know, as probably the low guy on the totem pole, it sounded like, and walk us through how you went from that to CEO. Cause it's fascinating. Chris: [00:01:29] Yeah, it's been quite a, quite a long journey. So that was, we're going back 13 years here, so 2008. I was actually a year out of school. I was playing drums in Japan in a marching band, as kind of crazy as that sounds, trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. And I stumbled across a keynote that Gary Vaynerchuk was giving. This is 2008. This is like Wine Library days for anybody who follows Gary V. And I was like, yeah, that's what I want to do. Jason: [00:01:55] I remember that. I remember going to see stuff that he did. Chris: [00:01:58] Yeah, I was at, I was at web 2.0 in, in like late 08 when he kind of made his big break onto the scene. But I found him on when that was like the place to go to find interesting things on the internet. And I immediately clicked. I'm like internet marketing is place I want to be. And so I started kind of figuring out what I was going to do and I was interviewing, uh, I set up interviews at like Ogilvy in New York city and a couple other agencies up there. I thought I wanted to be up in New York, do all that kind of thing. But then one of my former neighbors living down the street from me in Central Virginia, come to find out that he started internet marketing company. And so I reached out to him with the plan of talking to him and just as a learning experience and maybe even use it as like practice to go and interview at the big places. But after talking to him, he was like, hey, I want to offer you a job. And he explained it and I'm like this actually sounds really interesting. So I kind of abandoned my original vision of going to New York City and I stayed in Central Virginia, which is not what I had planned to do. And I was like bottom guy on the totem pole. I was really only full-time marketing person at the agency. We were primarily web development back then. And we kind of realized that the recurring revenue model was a really nice one and we wanted to get more into the lead generation side of the equation. So I was the first one coming on, doing that, making like, you know, nothing a year, but it gave me some ownership over the position and what we were doing. And I really had a passion for this kind of work. So as we shifted more towards, uh, digital marketing and, and, you know, retainers with clients, I was always kind of the person there at the top. And the team kind of came out from under, uh, built out from underneath me, I should say. Went up, uh, director of digital marketing and then CMO, COO, president. And eventually CEO with a, with an acquisition kind of sandwiched in there as well. Jason: [00:03:49] That's fascinating. Let's kind of skip ahead to the acquisition, right? Because you were telling me when, when the acquisition happened that's when the owner was like, all right, you're now the CEO of both entities. So we'll just do that. Chris: [00:04:04] Yeah. And, uh, the founder and CEO at the time, he's been a mentor to me and he's never been afraid to throw me into the fire. And I'm the kind of person who thrives in that kind of situation. He very much did that on my first day as kind of being president CEO and it was the day that our two teams met for the first time. So our existing team, and then the team of this company that we had acquired. And as anybody who's been through an acquisition before knows, that first impression that you make on the new team is so critical, right? Cause they're coming. I mean, put yourself in their shoes. You know, a lot of these acquisitions don't work out for several different reasons, right? And one of which is the team, the new team comes in, they look around and they're like, yeah, I don't like this. I'm out. This is, I was maybe already on the fence or I was considering going somewhere else. And they just kind of need that exposure to a new culture, new people to be like, yeah, it's time for a change. So, yeah, those teams coming together in the same room for our quarterly retreat, which is like a full two day immersion thing. Which is already kind of tough enough to manage, especially for an introvert, like me was exceptionally difficult with the teams coming together. But I just kind of kept my mind on the most critical thing at the time, which was, I need to make sure everybody believes that this is the right place to be going forward. Jason: [00:05:23] And so how did you do that? Right? Because I feel that agency owners need to do that on a consistent basis, honestly, right? If you think about it, like, and I'm glad that you had that vision going in, of going, like, this is the main goal, right? This is all that matters. So what were some of the things that you did in order to make sure you kept the right people in the right, you know, on the bus, really? Chris: [00:05:44] Yeah. Yeah. And we were just talking about this before we went live, as well as you know. In an agency, hopefully, you have processes, hopefully you have these things in place so that you're not dependent on any single individual for any of the services that you sell. But nevertheless, I mean, you still need people to do all this work and good people are hard to find. So it's not like we have machines running and we can swap people in and out and the machines keep running. Like you need people to do this stuff that they're critical, right? So to answer your question directly, you know, the first thing that I did was actually kind of a small thing, which is we literally spent like 20 minutes of putting faces up on the screen and having everybody memorize the name of everybody in the company coming in. Because I wanted every person in my company to be referring to people on a first-name basis immediately. And there's so much power in just saying somebody's first name. So, that was like something I thought of at the last minute. Is like, everybody's got to know everyone's name here. And so when they walked in the door immediately shaking hands saying names. And then all of our retreats since are very much built on this. But especially in that particular retreat. It's not necessarily a company strategy stuff or whatever. It's, I want to spend a lot of time. Building trust, having vulnerability with each other. There's so many studies out there that say that teams that are willing to be vulnerable with each other are closer and tend to perform better. And so there was a lot of awareness building, a lot of trust-building in those first meetings so that people could immediately see, hey, this is not a performance culture where we're stepping on each other's throats. This is a learning culture. This is a place that's psychologically safe to express your thoughts and opinions. And we attack ideas. We don't attack people. And we just really exemplified that in the first two days. So people could see, this is a place where I could be myself. I can be open and I can be honest, and I'm not going to be penalized for that. So I think that set the tone right away and maybe created a sense of relief for some people who are looking for something a little bit different. And, you know, we've just been building on it since then. Jason: [00:07:48] Taking care of your employees has never been more important than right now. And while paydays are great, running payroll is a major pain, calculating taxes, deductions compliance. None of it's easy. Unless of course you have Gusto. Gusto is a simple online payroll and benefits built for your small business. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Plus, with Gustos' help, you can offer benefits like 401k's, health insurance, workers' comp, and a lot more. And because you're a smart agency masterclass listener, you're going to get three months free once you run your first payroll. Go to that's for three free months. I like what you said. We attack ideas, not people. And I like that, you know, the vulnerable. When I'm interviewing agency owners for the mastermind, one of the biggest things that I'm looking for is are they vulnerable? And are they transparent. If they can't be transparent with me? Like, I don't want someone coming in thinking they know everything, right? And same thing with employees. I want someone to say, look, I want to learn every day, I want to help people, right? I want to be surrounded by amazing people that inspire me. And especially if all of us have a similar belief, right? Like when I was hiring people, you know, in the agency, I'd be like, here's where the ship is going and here's why we're doing it. And then people believed in that and so they would stick around. And then especially if they could show their vulnerability to the team… I see this with the mastermind members, as soon as they're like to, man, man, I just want to quit. Things are down. I really don't know what to do. And then they're able to get help, then other people can open up and they'll be like, yeah, you know, I actually have that too. Then they can work together on it. And it's almost kind of like, I've never been in, in war. I've never been in the military, but I love watching those things. Like, you'll see the comradely of people when they're in intense situations. And the bond that they create. And I even remember that too, when we're working on really extreme projects, like with tight deadlines when we're in the office, like we still remember that stuff. Chris: [00:10:23] Right. Well, and, and I wonder too, what the last 14 months have done for teams that really had a buckle down together. When everybody was feeling the pressure of their job. There was an existential threat outside. There was the kids being at home. And there was, we were all kind of going through something pretty heavy together. And I sense that that has created stronger bonds within our teams. I would imagine it's happened in several other places. But just to just go back on that 1.1 more time, I had, so I just finished reading this great book “Think Again” by Adam Grant and I really liked how he framed this, which is there's like two ways of having a discussion. One is you have somebody who immediately becomes a preacher, a prosecutor, or somebody who's politicking for a certain idea. So preaching, prosecuting or politicking, right? That's really trying to impose your idea and your mindset onto somebody else versus more scientific thinking. And the studies that he cites in that book show that leaders who think more as scientists. Here's a theory. Here's our hypothesis. Let's test it. Let's observe and then implement from there, way outperform people who are much more rigid in their thing, right? So going back to attacking the idea, not the person when we attack the person, obviously that starts to become pretty personal. We're really clinging the ego. We're clinging to our set beliefs on something. But when we're looking at the idea and we separate ourselves from that, now we can just say, hey, let's test this. Let's run it. Let's look back what happened. And as long as nobody feels like I'm going to be looked down upon, because my idea didn't pan out. If they don't feel that way, then everybody's continuing to contribute to the next stage in the process. But if somebody feels like they're going down with that ship, that's going to do a lot psychologically to them, morale, everything like that. And you see that in performance cultures especially because everybody is looking for an opportunity to stump on somebody else. And as soon as that campaign didn't work and that idea didn't work, they stump on them. That's a really toxic culture. And so we really, we want to avoid that and be more in a learning culture where we look at ideas where we test ideas, where we give people ownership over ideas. That's another thing that our team really likes. And we see this in the surveys that we run. When somebody comes to me and they say, hey, Chris, I have this idea for this new thing, or there's this new service, or we want to test this thing. I say, go for it. Let's test it. And look at what happens. They get a sense of ownership over that. And they're not afraid if the idea is not going to work out. They like it. Having that sense of ownership and then be able to see if it actually contributes to something in the long run. So yeah, the book is Think Again by Adam Grant and it talks about how we eliminate biases in our own thinking and the openness and the scientific method that could be applied to basically anything. And ultimately how that affects long-term performance. Jason: [00:13:17] Yeah. Well, and too, when you attack the idea, not the person you're taking out emotion out of it. And that really just screws us all up as human beings, if you think about it. Like I tried my damnedest to not make a decision based on emotion, but it's easier said than done. Chris: [00:13:37] Oh, sure. Yeah. Jason: [00:13:38] I probably fail at that 99% of the time. Chris: [00:13:42] But, hey. At least that 0.1% is maybe the awareness that you shouldn't, right?  One of the other books that I've been really into lately, cause I'm, don't always read business books is so Eckhart Tolle has a great book, A New Earth that was pretty hot in the last maybe 10 years or so. He talks a lot about identification with form and he explores it from a lot of different angles. But we have too much personal identity attached to our ideas and our opinions on things. And we've seen that no more than in the last 12 months with everything going on, right? So any attack on the idea automatically becomes a personal attack, right? And that's going to bring us all down and it's going to make us a lot more combative and it's going to make us a lot more miserable. So we have to find a way to separate ourselves from our opinions and our ideas. Um, and I think we're going to be a lot happier if we do. Jason: [00:14:30] Yeah. Let's switch a little bit of focus and let's talk about how you guys have gone remote. And how do you keep your team inspired? I won't say motivate because I always tell people if you have to motivate your team, you have the wrong team. Like you should be worrying about de-motivating them. So like, how do you keep people in this going in the same direction? Because you had a physical office, you've gone virtual, and lots of people are doing that. So, you know, how are you going to kind of replace some of that in office culture, going to lunch that kind of? Chris: [00:15:06] Yeah, this is the question of 2021 right now. And we're seeing a lot of opinions on it, but they're just opinions. And, you know, to be honest, if this was a podcast where we were advocating, or you guys were like advocating fully remote. I would be bringing up the ideas of why you might want to consider an office. So I'm not overly committed to any setup here. I'm committed to kind of learning from what we have in the last 12 months and figure out where do we go from here and what's the best thing to do for our team. Jason: [00:15:35] Yeah. Well, what was the decision that made you guys go virtual? Chris: [00:15:39] Okay, so some of it was just timing. We had an office and the lease was expiring in end of April, 2021. And I closed our office in March of 2020. So people were not coming in. And then at some point in the summer, I said, if you want to go and you can just communicate so we don't have too many people in there at once. But people really were not going into it. So I was thinking, all right, why rea… I didn't want to stay in that space anyway, so I knew that we were going to let it go. But why sign onto something in March of 2021 when people still can't go into the office or still don't want to go into the office. So part of it was timing to say, hey, let's let it go. Let's reinvest what we're saving from that into the team with benefits and people and the like, and I could talk about that if you'd like. Then wait to see what happens and how does the team adapt to being fully remote. And by the way, this is something that they overwhelmingly said they wanted to do. And two, you know, what happens to the commercial real estate market? Because I think anyone can piece together it's, you know, rent is going to become a lot more affordable. So if we feel the need to go back, that's something that we're going to have to learn over several months. Then let's kind of take advantage of the market situation at that time and get something that could be even better for us than I could find right now that would be a lot more expensive. So that was the original impetus to going fully remote, at least at this point in time. Jason: [00:17:07] And so how has it been going? Like, is there anything that you would change? Chris: [00:17:12] I mean, there's certainly going to be things that I change based off of what we learn as we go, right? At this point, I can't say that there's like, oh, I wish I could have that back. I mean, we gave away our office furniture. Like we raffled it off just out of a hat, gave it to people, you know, we gave them a thousand dollar home office allowance, which at this point, like is the equivalent of like three years of rent. So it's to anybody saying this is like a cost-saving move, it ain't. Trust me. It's not. So, no, I wouldn't take anything back. It's just kind of learn and adjust and get better. The next decision you have to make. Jason: [00:17:50] Very cool. Awesome. Well, this has been amazing, Chris. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Chris: [00:17:58] You know, the one thing I say, Jason, at this point is we all have to be in learning mode right now. Because I'm sure there's a lot of people out there looking at how all 2020 went and how 2021 has gone so far and probably believe this is what's best and this is what we should do from here. But all the remote work that we experienced in 2020 and into 2021 was not happening in a normal setup for anyone, right? There was a lot of pressures, external pressures and lack of social interaction that we had just with our friends and family. So I don't know that we can look at everything proceeding, everything, opening back up and say, hey, we were better that way. Or we were not better that way. We just have to be in learning mode and accept that the rest of 2021 and going into 2022 is going to be maybe the real test of how well remote work can really perform for your team. There's no right answer for everybody here. Talk to your team, communicate, observe, do all the things a good leader has to do to make sure that the people are coming first. But you're also taking care of the company so that you can continue to employ your people. And then, you know, make the right decisions from there forward. Jason: [00:19:08] Yeah. I love it. And what's the website. People can go and check out the agency? Chris: [00:19:13] Yeah. Yeah. We're WebStrategies Inc, I N C, Jason: [00:19:18] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Chris, for coming on the show and make sure you guys all go check out their agency website. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, and you want to be around people that are transparent, sharing, growing open to new ideas, having a lot of fun. I want to invite all of you to go to and see if you qualify for this exclusive mastermind. And if you do, we'll actually have a conversation. And, uh, talk a little bit more and make sure you're the right fit for it. But, uh, it's an amazing group of individuals that run agencies and, uh, we'd love to invite all of you to go check it out, go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Grow Your Agency By Filling Your Sales Pipeline

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 8, 2021 16:05

    After working on his own using his experience in the agency world, Chris started specializing in the project management side of the business. Eventually, he decided to form Genius Digital Marketing with a partner and they have been growing ever since. Now, they work with growth-focused companies to accelerate their digital marketing strategies by operating results-driven campaigns. He talks a bit about how to make the jump from being a freelancer to having his own agency, how breaking sales and breaking operations is a normal part of growth, and how sales fix everything. 3 Golden Nuggets Making the jump. Like so many agency owners, Chris worked in the agency world for a while before deciding that he could do the job on his own. After working together on some projects, he and his partner decided to "make it legit" and he went from freelancer to agency owner. By this point, he knew that his expertise was on the project management side of the equation and was clear about what he was bringing to the table and how his partner complemented that, which made the transition a logical next step. Sales fix everything. You never want to talk about losing a client. But if you can just get more sales, then you can afford more people and you can afford to potentially lose something. It's about being confident in trying new things while you grow. Sales will fix everything while you solve your next bubble of growth. Don't be afraid to increase prices. Sales will fix everything, yes. But don't forget to raise your prices. Bringing on more sales, you're going to have to bring on more levels, more people. And if you do that and don't raise prices, you may find out at the end of the year that you worked a lot more and still earned less.  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 Keep Growing While Sales Bring New Opportunities Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here and I got another exciting episode about how an agency owner went from freelancer to bringing on a partner to a thriving agency. So it's a really good episode and I hope you enjoy it. Hey Chris, welcome to the show. Chris: [00:00:26] Hey, Jason. How's it going, man? Jason: [00:00:27] Yeah, man. Excited to have you on, um, and, uh, talk about, you know, your journey as a freelancer to agency owner, to, you know, successful agency owner. So tell us a little bit about who you are and what do you do? Chris: [00:00:41] Yeah, sure. So, uh, my name's Chris. I work out of, uh, our office here in, uh, the Dallas area. And, uh, I didn't always live here, actually. I just moved here six months ago. And the reason I moved here was, is for this business and for this partnership. I had been living in Las Vegas before that it's kind of where I'm from and where I grew up. But, uh, Aaron and I, Aaron's my business partner, we formed an agency about a year and a half ago. And have been working on the agency this whole time, you know, kind of forming the partnership, getting all the business stuff going, and earning clients and new business. And, uh, eventually it got to the point where we were like, hey, you know, let's actually own a building. Actually, we bought a building and let's run our, our office out of the Dallas area. That's where he lives, where his family's at. And I moved down here. So, um, yeah, that was about, you know, like I said, about six months ago and you know, we've been, we've been doing pretty good work since then. So it's exciting times, you know, moving around doing different stuff and trying to grow the agency and, and deal with all those hurdles and, and having fun while doing it. Jason: [00:01:46] Yep. What, uh…? Kind of take us back kind of… what made you think about transitioning? Cause there's, you know, we have, uh, quite a bit of probably, I would guess, you know, freelancers that listen to the show that want to go into creating an agency one day. Um, where were you at? Like in like going well, let's, let's make this legit. Let's, you know, let's kind of like, let's start hiring people. It's like bring on a partner. Where were you at? Chris: [00:02:18] Yeah, sure. Great, great question. Um, you know, we were… Well, I was, recently out of the agency world. I had worked for a couple of different marketing agencies, a few different people. And realized that, you know, I could do all this stuff on my own and, you know, get to keep all the money as opposed to splitting it with somebody else or only getting paid a commission or something like that. So I, I did, I did freelance for a couple of years after, uh, my agency world. You know, it got to the point where you kind of start to feel like you've niched up a little bit. You have a few little bits of expertise and mine was kind of the project management side of the equation. I was really good at coordinating efforts. I was really good at finding, you know, subcontractors to do certain bits of work. Uh, Aaron had actually been one of those people. So I had a client that needed, you know, really expert level paid search management. And that was not me. Um, I've gotten better as a result of working with Aaron, but, uh, that was not me. So I actually contracted him and he does a fantastic job. And I was like hey, man, I have other projects that I need help with. You should totally check these out. And we, uh, kind of just kept working together. And he did the same for me. So it was like, hey, you know, I have a few projects where coordination is really needed. Uh, you know, why don't you hop over here? And we started communicating with each other's clients. It kind of happened, you know, by osmosis. But the problem we were running into is scale. You can only do so much as an individual and you want to try to make more money and you want to try and scale and have more freedoms and the more and more we talked, you know, our answer to that scale problem was hey, why don't we work together? You know, we'll both kind of champion these different sides of the business. And, you know, if we need to subcontract that more, we will. But then, you know, we have a brand we can put behind, it will look more official. We'll have a couple of people, maybe we'll spin up a website and we'll earn more business that way just by kind of pretending to be an agency, so to speak. And then it became, hey, this is actually working. You know, if people are buying into what we're doing, hey, we need to hire someone. Let's do that. And then when you start hiring people, you actually have to legit, you have to file with the state and, and all that stuff. So, uh, we went down that road and, um, it's been working. So it's just been kind of a road of, hey, if it keeps working, let's keep doing it. Jason: [00:04:31] What's been like, if you could look back at last year, right? Like as you guys were getting going and that kind of stuff, what was the main focus of starting the agency that you felt like you had to kind of get over? Chris: [00:04:49] Um, I mean the main focus, you know, big thing we've had hurdles with is like delegation. You know, feeling that you don't have to do everything and, you know, trying to be okay with that. So, you know, getting tasks out, trusting that, you know, there's somebody else that can do some of that stuff. Uh, really operational, you know, internal things are challenging. Because you have a relationship with a client. And if you come from the freelance world, you're everything to that person. You're the relationship. You're the fulfillment, you know, you're the invoicing person, you know, you're, you're everything with that. And it's almost like your, your children or your pets or something like that and dealing with. So, trying to step away from that and focus on like, you know, what your true expertise is inside of the team is, is a challenging bit. I think it's, it's oftentimes overlooked a little bit. But once you break through that, then, you know, scale comes a lot more easy because now you're doing your thing and other team members are doing other things. And, uh, that was a big part of it. Also, you know, earning business was, uh, was a tricky thing too. Um, because you know, we're lean, right? So you don't have a ton of money to be advertising and, uh, you have to try to really leverage your relationships and try to make that stuff work. I mean, I can't tell you how many Upwork, uh, you know, proposals I've put out in my lifetime. It's, it's an ungodly amount and same with Aaron that you grind up, you earn new business, you earn your relationships and then those roll into other relationships. Then you, you know, be part of cool groups like, you know, uh, the one we're a part of where you learn even more tricks and tactics and strategies, which is cool. Jason: [00:06:32] 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 reinvesting. And, you know, 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, you know, our financials 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. You know, 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. You know, 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 Dad can tell you, you know, 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 before August 30th 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 That's Yeah, I look at it as kind of, as you're starting the agency, that really the main focal point is. Because you have to get to a point where you can actually afford people a lot of times. And I look at it as you need to focus entirely on lead gen and converting sales. Then I look at, you know, then, then you get to a point where… and, and tell me if you guys have gone through this, where now marketing and the lead gen or the, I like to kind of say, especially in the very beginning, you're creating this automated lead generation, right? You have this pipeline coming to you. And then you have to start going, man, I can't handle all these sales calls. I can't handle, you know, the follow-up. You know, like literally marketing's breaking sales. And, and I, I find like, as you kind of keep going up, you know… marketing's job is to break sales. And then sales' jobs is to break operations. Then your job as like the owner is really to kind of fix the stuff that the teams are breaking constantly. And it's a constant like, boom, boom, boom, boom. Because as you just keep going up and up, you know, what got you, there is not going to, you know, get you to, to the next part. Have you guys found that yet? Chris: [00:09:39] Yeah. So, you know, it's something we, we deal with constantly, you know. You have to have the pipe running and you have to have, uh, new opportunities coming through. And, you know, I was in sales for a long time and sales really do fix everything. It's kind of the motto is if you can just get more sales then you can afford more people and you can afford to potentially lose something. And you never really want to talk about losing a client. But, you know, it's always a fact of, uh, running an agency and being in the industry is that, you know, you, you lose clients and it hurts when you don't have a pipe coming, you know, feeding new opportunity. It hurts worse. So if you can have sales coming in and the potential loss, because maybe something wasn't fully optimized, somebody didn't have the time to move to something or, you know, you know, something, the relationship just didn't work out. Or you have a toxic relationship that you've been hanging on to because you need it. Now you have the confidence to say, well, you know, I don't have to spend my time there. I can, I have confidence in the pipe. And, uh, that's like really the key. So we're actively in that process right now and trying to optimize the funnel. A lot of our growth has been because of our relationships and our ability to kind of grow those clients and do more work in those areas or get referrals. Uh, you know, so the pipe now. Like a lot of my focus actually is on that right now. So we have things we're going to try to bring those in and it's working, you know, and sales will fix everything and then we'll solve our, our next big bubble of, of growth. Jason: [00:11:07] Yeah. Yeah. The, and the, the big thing I find is pricing. And so a lot of times you go, well, let's just do more sales. But we don't think about raising the prices and increasing the pricing and looking at going, well, if we bring on more sales, we're going to have to bring on more levels, more people. And so they bring on more people, but they didn't raise their price. And then at the end of the year, you look back and you're like, holy cow, I made less than I did last year. And we actually were. Chris: [00:11:40] You did more work. Jason: [00:11:42] Yeah. We were bigger, we did more work. Like… I'm so confused. And it really comes, you know, to the pricing and, and that's one of the easiest things. I find that when agencies really can kind of get from one level to the next level. I look at it as kind of like climbing a mountain, right? Like you got base camp, and then you get like the climbing level, and then you get to the crux, and then you get to the crust. And then the summit. You know, most people kind of, as they're building and climbing, they're not laying the right foundation or putting kind of the safety nets on, in order to hold you up because, you know. It just like, I remember I went through this many times and maybe you're going through this now. It seems like, were like, you'll self-sabotage yourself in sales because, you know, uh, and this is why you need to bring on a salesperson. Because they don't care about operations. They just they're like, I just want to sell. But you're, psychologically as the owner of the agencies actually selling you're going, holy cow, I don't know, like I don't want to break operations. But it's a natural progression. You've got like when you're working out, you're constantly breaking down the muscle in order for it to rebuild. And you know, in the very beginning, I look at turnover as a good thing because your original clients are not going to be your, you know, probably the clients for you in the next couple years. Do you see that as well? Chris: [00:13:08] Yeah, you kind of have to run before you walk in a sense, you know, bring people on and break operations. I think that's a great way to put it, uh, cause you, you have to force yourself into that position. Even though, you know, it's not going to be comfortable. And it goes back to the pipe too, is having confidence that there's going to be another opportunity. And I think that relates to the sales thing as well is, is that you can be confident in the pricing and the higher pricing you need to be charged. Even if that person says, no, you're confident you have another opportunity. That's going to happen soon so that you can afford to be picky and say, look, but this is what we charge. And by the way, when you have more team members in your, your, you know, having a more robust team, you're doing better work, you're providing a better service. So you should charge more for that service. It's not just you individually. And hopefully, by this point, you've learned a lot and you've become, you know, an expert in your field. You should be charging more for that because it's, it's value. And that's one of the, that's another really big hurdle we've faced over our start here is pricing. What we were charging a year ago for services is not even close to what we're charging now. I mean, we joke about all the time. If you remember, when we used to just be happy for like 500 bucks a month? You know, for a client now, it's like no way we would even, we wouldn't even be in the room to talk to that person for that much. It's, you know, it's, it's not really an ego thing as much of it as like a recognizing that you really do have value and you really do provide a great service. And having confidence in that. Jason: [00:14:36] That's awesome. This has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Chris: [00:14:44] Um, no. I would just say, you know, keep at it, you know. If you are one of those freelancers that's trying to grind up, you know. There is light at the end of the tunnel and there are plenty of niches out there for you to find something to work on. There's lots of problems to solve. So keep at it. Uh, keep listening to Jason because he's full of great info. Jason: [00:15:01] Aww, thanks so much for coming on the show. What's the website people can go and check the agency out? Chris: [00:15:07] Yeah. So we're Genius Digital Marketing. The website is Jason: [00:15:13] Awesome. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. You guys, uh, you provided tons of value to, uh, you know, our listeners. If you guys enjoyed this episode and you really want to kind of step up your game in your agency and really understand what exactly you need to focus on, what are the systems in place? Or what are the systems that you need to actually build in your agency to actually get to the next level and to get underway where the whole business is not depending on you. My whole goal is for you not to be, you know, in the business. I want you to work on the business and if that's the case, I want you guys to check out the agency playbook. So go to Request the invite to it and we'll break down the eight systems for you to go check out. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    What Did Frank Kern Learn from His Failed Agencies?

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 5, 2021 28:07

    Have you had a few failures in the agency world? Everyone is afraid of failure. But when you change perspective and treat it like a lesson instead of a defeat. That's the lesson from today's guest, Frank Kern, a well-known marketing consultant and agency owner who has ventured to start several agencies over the years. In this episode, Frank discusses some of his failures from these past businesses, the lessons learned, and what he would do differently. He offers valuable advice for anyone starting a digital marketing agency. He offers an honest and upfront take on every stumble, from starting in the advertising world without really knowing the rules, not listening to his own advice, and taking on every client, even the bad ones. Don't be afraid to start over. Frank shares the knowledge he has gained over the years starting different agencies and learning from the mistakes made in each new venture. He has never been afraid to start over. “That's what I love about the advertising business,” he says, “it's never going away”. So there's always a new opportunity waiting for the ones who dare to take that step and learn from past mistakes. He is now enjoying his most successful venture and is very glad everything happened as it did. Don't try to grow too fast. This is the first lesson Frank has taken from his past agencies. Where in the past he used to take as many clients as he could get, now he sets a target. Five clients a week. This enables him and his team to not be reactive and build out operations. It's been a learning curve for them. Drilling into the process, making sure there are checklists, getting better at inner team communications. But Frank says it's been worth it and that he's definitely seeing the results. Take accountability. Having a business partner is not easy and takes serious commitment. Some prefer to not even attempt it. Frank has been lucky to have a few amicable separations from past partners. The secret? He doesn't really know, but he shares the importance of taking accountability for your mistakes. “If things are your damn fault, you have to realize they're your fault”. YOUTUBE AUDIO LINK 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 Don't Be Afraid to Start Over in the Agency World, Just Like Frank Kern Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and I have another amazing guest, Frank Kern. If you guys haven't heard of, uh, he is amazing. I've learned so much from him over the years on writing copy and marketing and direct response. Kind of the godfather of direct response marketing. A lot of you guys know Frank Kern and he's done a bunch of agencies in the past, so we're going to talk about his experience with marketing and his agency. Let's go ahead and get into the show. What's up, Frank? How's it going? Frank: [00:00:40] Dude, I was just watching the intro roll. I love the just two seconds of pensive staring off into the distance. Jason: [00:00:47] Well, I don't want to lose anybody's attention. Especially people with ADD like us. So, you know, you got try to keep them there. Frank: [00:00:55] I didn't tell you this pre-interview. So if I don't make any sense today it's because I have dyslexia and ADD and I woke up at 12:52 and… No, or 12 something, and my dyslexia… I mean, I have the biggest font size ever on my watch. And I thought it was, I thought it said 4:52. So I took my ADD meds, which I keep right beside the bed. And they kicked in. I've been awake since 2:00 AM I'm just like… so stupid right now. Jason: [00:01:24] There you go. Well, that makes it fun for a podcast. Frank: [00:01:28] Yeah, that's my disclaimer. Jason: [00:01:30] Awesome. Well, um, for the people that have lived under a rock for a little bit… Tell us kind of a little bit of your origin story about how and why you've wanted to create an agency over the past couple of years. Frank: [00:01:45] Uh, okay. I'll be mercifully brief because this isn't even remotely interesting for anybody. Um, sold credit card machines door to door. Hated it, very bad at it. Um, Googled or there wasn't Google back then, it was 1999. Did a search for how to sell credit card machines on the internet cause I didn't wanna have to talk to people. They were all mean to me because I was going door to door and interrupting their, uh, place of business. Discovered direct response marketing and advertising that way and started selling courses. Sold one that got me in trouble with the government. Um, it's important to learn the rules of advertising if you want to do advertising. I did not learn them, but, uh, after that I did. And um, then, sold stuff about dog training and kind of cut my teeth on that and sold a lot of marketing-related information. And always felt like… It's going to sound really weird, but I always felt like it didn't count, you know? Like that's… to use my, uh, my late grandfather's term it's Mickey mouse BS. And I was like, I need to do it for real. I need to actually build campaigns and do stuff with real businesses. So it was for that reason and because I absolutely love advertising and I get to hit refresh on other people's stats besides my own. Um, that's why I did it. Jason: [00:03:00] Yeah. Well, um, you, uh, like I told you a couple of years ago, you kn… I found you and Jeff Walker and a couple other people through a Tony Robbins event I went, where they sent out the, I guess the money masters or something. And that's right when I was coming off selling the agency and I'd never heard of direct response at all. And I was like, wow, if I could put this together with what I know here… I was like, man, this could be a pretty good machine. Uh, so I want to thank you for, for, for doing what you've done over the years. And, and, uh, you've been… Someone that has really figured out how to make someone kind of respond to you. You know, especially in the marketing front. What what's kind of like, how did you go about figuring that out? Or was that just kind of intuition? Like I know you were saying, well, I just hated getting kicked out of strip joints and all these kinds of restaurants I was going into. I needed to get them to come to me. You know, how did you figured it out? Frank: [00:04:05] Well, I started by making horribly egregious unsubstantiated claims in advertising because that's what I responded to. And of course, I didn't realize there were things like regulatory bodies. This is again in 1999. And then I learned that you really can't do that and it's frowned upon. Um, so I wanted to see, well, what, what if you don't do that at all? And, um, I kind of stumbled over the whole philosophy of results in advance, which is the easiest way to convince somebody you can help them is to actually help them in advance of asking for their business. So that's always been my big secret, you know, and it was just doing that. Jason: [00:04:43] Yeah. And so when, when you started the first agency, what were some of the challenges that you experienced? Uh, and how did you overcome them? Frank: [00:04:57] Dude, so the first one… I think this is number four for me. We've got it right now, finally. But I've been attempting this since 2010, all right? So we're 12 years into your boy, Frankie, trying to make, trying to work 30 times harder for way less money, basically. When you, I know, but I like it. I can't help it, you know, and I would rather do this and make less money than do the other stuff. I don't know why. But anyway, the first one was a partnership between my cousin, Trey Smith and I and Jordan "Wolf of Wall Street" Belfort. And we had a plan, Trey and I mainly had this plan, which was we would create lead gen pages for home services companies and then manage their Google PPC accounts. We would charge a flat fee and then like, you know, let's say it was 600 bucks a month or something. And we'd spend 400 bucks on traffic and we'd keep the $200 bucks. It, uh, we did roughly 15 seconds of research, you know, and were convinced that we were geniuses. And Jordan's job was to, uh, hire and train salespeople. Cause neither Trey nor I are qualified to do that at all. So, um, that failed spectacularly, you know? So we, uh, by we, I mean, I leased a bank building in, uh, on Prospect Street all the way in California that… You know, we hired, I wanna say 40 people off of Craigslist. You know, and Jordan was training them up and then he had to go on tour to sell his stuff. And then like, nothing really happened. I got to, I got to have a lease on a bank building for a couple of years. So that was fun. Jason: [00:06:41] So why did that fail though? Like what, looking back, what could you have done to make that work? Frank: [00:06:48] Um, I could have, uh, used ads to get them, you know. So for whatever dumb reason, uh, I oftentimes fail to heed my own advice, which is all right if you want to grow the business, take the thing that's working real good and do a whole lot more of that. And then find a way to systemize and automate and scale from there. So we had this method of getting customers, which was internet ads. But when we partnered with Jordan, we were like, nope, we're not going to do that, we're going to do something we have no idea how to do, which is to call them out of the blue and then, uh, try to sell them something, you know, and so that was dumb. Uh, I mean, I'm sure people make it work, but we didn't know what the heck we were doing. And of course that model, I think would probably have ultimately doomed us because there wasn't enough margin in it. Jason: [00:07:42] Yeah. So what was version two? Frank: [00:07:46] Uh, let's see. Version two was current branding. It, that was so close to working. That's where, uh, we would do video campaigns for people. So we'd script their videos. They would shoot the footage. We would have it edited. We would run them. Excuse me, I'm losing my voice already. That's what happens in the wake up at two. Um, we would run their Facebook media for them and everything. And that actually was going pretty good. Um, I did what, uh, what I think a lot of people who are creative types do is I immediately outsource the operation. And I outsourced it to someone who didn't understand advertising. Really good understanding of operations, but didn't understand advertising. And all of this is on me because I never sat down and said, here's how the business works and here's how all the moving pieces work. So we ended up over-hiring tremendously and didn't make any money, you know, but that was, that was pretty close. Jason: [00:08:46] Okay. And then what about option three or version three? 3.0. Frank: [00:08:50] So version 3 was, uh, we tried, um, in-house again, uh, current branding once again. But instead of doing all that production for people, we were like, you know what, man? We're just gonna run their media for them at a pretty decent price. I just arbitrarily pulled 2,800 bucks off my butt. You know, like seems like an easy yes. And, um, that was going great. And then I decided it would be a good idea to partner with Grant Cardone and, uh, form Cardone Kern. I did that because I made a lot of assumptions that I'd never discussed with Grant. Uh, so again, I, I want to take full responsibility for this. I'm not here to say Grant is a bad guy or anything. So I partnered with him thinking that they would have the infrastructure that we needed to grow the agency. Cause you know, you go down to his operation, it's pretty impressive. They got meetings and stuff and… you know, meetings and stuff and people wear suits and they, they really look like they know what they're doing. And they do, but not for an ad agency. So when we partnered together, oh, and I also thought his audience was primarily business owners like brick and mortar people. So my vision for that, and this was incidentally, a conclusion that I drew after going to one event and talking to one attendee who was a roofer. And I was like, this would be the easiest client to win forever. This must be what all of his customer base is like. We should partner up, you know, and so zero foresight on, uh, on my part. So we, it, it blew up. Um, well it blew up in a good way. We got to walk clients really fast. We grew it to damn it, it was $895 a month, just under $900, a grand. And then, uh, we started hemorrhaging because the operations were bad. We, uh, by we, I mean, I, uh, had to hire a team. And then I had one dude to help me manage them. And he was good, but he was inexperienced too, in terms of trying to manage a team that big. So we just did a bad job, ultimately. Mainly is a result of operations, like missing calls, you know, like dumb things that operations people know how to do. Jason: [00:11:04] So what were some of the… I don't want to put words in your mouth about some of the assumptions, like thinking about, you know, if you were going to partner… Because a lot of people listening on the show, they, they reach a, a plateau or they're, they're kind of an inner plateau and they go, I need a partner because I can't, I don't, I feel like I've reached my max and I need to work with someone. And then they were like, well, let's just join together. So, you know, so many people are doing this and then it blows up in their face. So what would, what would have been some of those questions or assumptions to check with your partner and go, and then be like, oh, well let's kind of try this out or no, this is probably not going to work out that you could have avoided. Frank: [00:11:48] Yeah, I probably should have said, okay, I'm operating under the assumption that you're going to provide this team. Is that a true assumption? And he would have said no, because he doesn't lie. You know, he's not a bad person. Just, I've never had the damn sense to ask him. And Grant so busy he's like, all right, cool. Don't mess it up. Sounds like a good idea. Let's go. You know, so it was, we didn't really talk it out. So that probably would have been the first question was, you know, here's my assumption is this accurate? And, um, that would, that really would have been it. I think we could have overcome everything else. You know, he would've said, no, dude, I don't have that. And I'm not going to give you that you got to go build your own. I would have said, oh, I could do that on my own; I don't need us to partner together for this. We would rather keep all of the money and… You know, if I'm going to have all the headaches anyway, I might as well keep all the money. Jason: [00:12:38] Yeah. And so what, what are we looking like at version four now of, you know, post, you know, kind of making that partnership go away? I think this is the version you're on right now. Is that right? Frank: [00:12:53] Yes. Yeah. So we're looking great. What I learned is number one, don't try to grow too fast. So our target is five clients a week, you know, where it used to be as many as you can get, let's just hire more people, right? Nope, five a week. That's it, you know. So that was lesson number one. And that enables you to not be reactive and building out your operations. And lesson number, whatever number we're on is most of this stuff, I mean, I don't know about you dude, but ads are easy, you know? It's not, I mean, don't, don't tell clients it's for God's sake, but it's not really that hard. But the operations behind it, especially when you do it, we do, which is we're full service. So we'll, you know, the first thing we typically do is go fix their email. Cause that makes everything work better and they get immediate sales and then they're happy, you know? So that requires so many tiny little things to go right. That, um, that's just been a tremendous. Um, a lesson it has been that big of a learning curve, really. It's just more. Okay. Let's just keep drilling into this process, you know? And make sure there's checklists and yada yada, yada, yada. So it's been good. And then inner team communication is still we're good at it, but we could really be better at that. Um, but with clients we're good. But between ourselves, you know, we're doing… Jason: [00:14:28] When you're an agency partner with Wix, you unlock an entire digital ecosystem for creating, managing, and growing your agency. Get the full coding and design freedom to create anything your clients need, along with the tools to manage and collaborate with your team seamlessly from anywhere. And when it comes to growing your agency, you can get matched with new leads every day and earn revenue share for every website you guys create. They're backed by the Wix industry, leading security and site performance. You'll also have a dedicated account manager on standby 24/7. So you can reach your goals and start setting new ones. See for yourself, head over to And re-imagine what your agency can accomplish. Yeah. When I, when I look at kind of the stages of agency owners that go through, they go through, there's like six. And I look at kind of the first stage is like, figuring out, like, how do I get the clients? And then the next is like, how do we get the right clients? The next is like, like, how do I replace myself from not being the salesperson or being the account manager for the clients? And then it's like, how do I build the team? And it's just like all these little stages you have to go through or systems that you need to actually set up in order to kind of, you know, get you to a point where you can pick and choose and do the things that you love doing. Like, cause I was telling you years ago it was like most agency owners are accidental. They don't want to get into it. They just, they knew how to do something really cool in marketing. And someone's like, hey, do you do this for me? And they're like, okay, you're going to give me money to do this? Like, all right, let me go do more of that and, uh, you just kind of fall into it. And then, like you're saying you're being reactionary. Um, one thing I, I have a question and probably a lot of people have a question on is, let's say you have a partner now. You got in, we didn't go over the assumptions that we figured out. Um, how can they actually go to their partner… Like how can we make a pleasant split up? Uh, you know, in order for us to go our own ways, because a lot of people, even including me, I had a partner and I looked at it like, if you don't know the bad partner, you're the bad partner. Um, that's kinda how I looked at it. And that's one of the reasons why we sold, um, you know, it was a good offer, but still I probably would have been still doing it. Um, I'm lucky that I had did have a partner that we disagree. But like what, what, what would you suggest to these people listening? Like how can you do a, a good breakup? Frank: [00:17:17] I have no idea. Um, I just ended up giving everything to the partner. I'm like, okay. Like, well, our very first one, you know, it was clear that it wasn't working and everything was in my name. So I was able to be like, all right, guys, this isn't working. Um, I'll keep paying the lease. It's in my name. See y'all later. And nobody, you know, no one cared, uh, because they're like, oh, thank God we have to mess with this anymore. This was way harder than we thought. With Grant, I just gave him the agency. I was like, we were still doing, um, I can't remember, maybe half a million a month or something in billings? At the time, I was like, you can have it. And I never talked to him, actually. I talked to other people in the organization. I voiced some things that I needed and I wasn't able to get them. And I was like, well, this isn't really gonna work for me. Um, y'all can just have this, if you want. We can just be cool. And they're like, alright. Jason: [00:18:18] So how do you get to a point where… I love that, because a lot of people would spend years and years fighting back and forth. No, I did this, my name is on blah, blah, blah, all this kind of stuff. And like tons of resentment versus you're like, fucking take it. Like, let me restart. Like, how do you do that? How do you, how do you get rid of those emotions that a lot of us would struggle with? Frank: [00:18:46] Well, if things are your damn fault, you have to realize they're your fault. And so like if it was a different scenario and Grant had misled me. And said, yeah, we got this, dude. Here's everything I'm going to do to the letter and then just didn't do it. And then it was like F you Frank. Then I would be mad, you know, we'd have a really serious problem. Um, but he didn't, I just didn't ask. So I had to, it was my damn fault, you know. It wasn't his. So what am I going to do? But you know, pitch a fit? If some dude, you know… he's got other stuff going on. He's gotta roll on out. But also in our business, it's like, it's easy to just to start another one. There's this, this is what I love about the advertising business. It's, it's never going away. You know, it doesn't matter what the economy does. It's like we ain't going anywhere. It could be world war three, you know. I've always made this joke and it's old by now that the world war three could happen and there'd be like seven people left. One of them selling cockroaches or something. And he's going to go to the guy with a bigger cave wall and be like, hey, I'll give you five cockroaches. If I can advertise my cockroach sales on your wall there, you know, like in, it'll take off from there. It's just never going anywhere. So I have no scarcity around it. Jason: [00:20:10] Well, you know, that's how I look at agencies is, you know, when we had the big gold rush, right? And the people that got the richest were the ones selling the stuff to make gold. That's kind of how I look at agencies. Um, especially as when COVID hit and everything started shutting down, I was like, you know, hey agencies are going to get a lot of business because people can't do what they used to do anymore. And, uh, and I, I guessed right on that. But I love how you, you say take ownership in your own mistake. It's like, it was my fault. And I, I think too many times, including myself, probably, I mean, that's a hard thing to do. Admitting, going, hey, I could have avoided this. This is my mistake. Let's just move on. And hit the reset button. And it's kind of like monopoly, let's play another game, here we go. It's like, I screwed up that one. Frank: [00:21:05] Yeah. I'm glad I screwed up that one. Cause this one's great. And I get to keep all of the money. So like, okay. You know, this actually worked out pretty good. Otherwise, it'd be giving most of the money to Grant. Nice enough guy. But, um, I'd prefer that I keep it. Jason: [00:21:22] I think he's got enough money too. Frank: [00:21:25] Oh, yeah. I think he, I hope they're doing well. Jason: [00:21:28] Yeah. Well, awesome. Well, Frank, this has been amazing, man. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Frank: [00:21:37] No. I want to ask you something. Because you said something that really hit me at the beginning. You were like, I've never even heard of direct response until after I'd sold the agency. And I think me and you were joking around about this by email. I was like, if I didn't have this damned, uh, I guess like moral compass and inability to sell something that is not measurable. I would be a zillionaire, you know, but I just can't do it. And I don't even know how to attempt to do it. Because I know there was some value to it and like having cool stuff and well-branded things. I don't know how to make those things, but that's why God made other people, you know. Um, how do you sell that kind of stuff? Not with a clear conscience. I, I don't think there's anything wrong with doing it as long as a client knows the game going in, you know.  But how…? Jason: [00:22:25] Well, we… Yeah, our agency, we developed, um, user experiences, you know, from websites and then we built applications. So if you think of sites like Legal Zoom, we built that, uh, you think of Hitachi Power Tools or Lotus Cars, their website, like none of those websites back then had really caught actions other than find my dealer, you know, Legal Zoom did about getting in, but we never really ran ads. Um, so we always said, you have to have this amazing, like when someone comes to your website, you have to have this amazing experience and tell the right story in order for them to, um, you know, build an trust you. You know, we never really, we, we, we didn't get their people's email addresses; even though looking back at the agency, we were one of the first to build e-commerce stores. We were one of the first to build an email marketing system. So our clients could broadcast to their clients. Like, and we were one of the first to build a CMS system, but we did what typical agency owners did was we kept working on our clients that kept paying the bills and we couldn't keep up. And then we, uh, started using other partners, like MailChimp. Like, we started all that before MailChimp. So, you know, everyone, uh, misses the boat. Uh, I think we missed the boat, but at the end of the day, I'm right where I'm supposed to be. I'm loving life and doing everything, so… Frank: [00:23:54] You get to have the pensive view off the balcony in your opening for the Podcast, man. The only way is like, we will make you more than you pay us or we'll refund the difference plus 20%. I mean, the company is called Grow Ads for God's sake, but that's like hard work. I mean, it's actually not because you just choose the right clients, but you know what I mean? It seems to me, hey, the grass is always greener, but I'm like, man, these dudes that are getting paid half a million bucks to make a commercial. Those are the ones that are the smartest people in the room. Jason: [00:24:24] Yeah. Well, I mean, it's, you got to do what you enjoy doing, right? Like you said, the grass is greener on the side that you water. So, you know, whatever side you want to water, like it's going to be, you know, you're going to enjoy it. I always just hate when people do something that they don't want to do in the agency just to make money. I think that's a big, big mistake. I'm like the money will come. Like all the, you know, the mastermind members and the clients I've worked with over the years that have had, you know, the best lives, it's the ones that they, they didn't care about the money. They just cared about doing the right thing and doing what they wanted to do. And that made all the difference. So… Frank: [00:25:03] Well, you've made a whole boatload of it. And I've made, spent a whole boatload of it. At the end of the day. That's really it, you know, am I going to have a good time today? Jason: [00:25:15] Well, I look at it as like you make money to save time in other things. So you have time to, um, you know, one of the things when, when I ask our mastermind members… I probably shouldn't tell people listening because now you know my trick question, but I ask them the first question usually is what do you do for fun? If they say I work all the time, I don't let them in. Frank: [00:25:37] Oh, dude, you wouldn't let me in then cause I really do all the time. But I love it so much, man. But because it's because I'm finally doing. Jason: [00:25:44] Yeah, but you surf and you do all… or do you still surf or no? Frank: [00:25:49] Seriously. Like, I'm in this little room right now and it's my pool house.And so I get up kind of pool house, go back. Um, I've gotten that routine, you know, during COVID and everything. But really, I really like it, you know, like to me, it's so cool. But I'm an addict. Like I'm a hard core ad person specifically with direct response. So I get to hit refresh a whole lot of other people's stats all the time. I get the dopamine hit constantly. You're like, ooh, hit, refresh on this to see how this is going. Okay. Is it refreshing over there? Hot damn. Moving on. What else can we do? You know? So to me it's not work, really. Jason: [00:26:27] Oh, yeah. Well, I mean, that's, that's the whole thing. But I still, I do want you to take some time off. Gotta have some time. So... Frank: [00:26:37] Well, you know, weekends and stuff. I'll sit around and walk over to the other house, the main house. Hang out there. Jason: [00:26:44] Well, awesome. Well, what's the website people go in and check out? Is it or…? Frank: [00:26:49] It's .org. I didn't have the money for Actually, I never even looked to see how much costs cause .org seemed cooler to me. Jason: [00:26:58] Well, I think .org usually ranks higher anyway .org ranks higher in Google anyway. Frank: [00:27:04] Oh, I don't even know about that stuff. Jason: [00:27:06] Claim that. Frank: [00:27:10] I have no idea about SEO because I have ads. You know, it's like, you want to get known? Run ads. Yeah, or go to Both of those sites will cure your insomnia pretty well. I think if you have it. Jason: [00:27:26] Whatever. Everyone goes, check out both those sites. And thanks so much, Frank for coming on the show. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners where, you know, we have a lot of fun, we're going over constantly what's working, what's not working. Sharing and being able to see what you're not able to see because we're too damn freaking close to it. I want you guys to go to This is our inclusive mastermind. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Manage the Future and Skyrocket Agency Profitability

    Play Episode Listen Later Sep 1, 2021 18:59

    Is your agency as profitable as it could be? Are you successfully forecasting agency finances? Nate "Agency Dad" Jenson has built his business around helping agency owners drive profitability. Nate is a certified management accountant and internal auditor who focuses on offering the tools and accounting practices necessary for a thriving agency, with his business Agency Dad. On his second visit to the podcast, Nate talks about forecasting and the importance of managing the future, instead of wishing you could change the past. He explains why you, as an agency owner, are very in tune with your business and can make a pretty good forecast of where it will be in three months. He also offers valuable advice on how you can take that first step to start managing the future. 3 Golden Nuggets Having a plan is the 1st step. One of the questions Nate gets the most from agency owners is “when should I hire a new team member?” You need to do your forecasts, he says. What are your sales going to be in the next 3-6 months? There are a number of methods you can use to make that forecast, like linear regression. He recommends the Dilbert method, where you sit down and write down what do you think sales will be in the next months. Most agency owners are pretty in tune with their business and can make a pretty good estimate of what a few months in the future will look like for their business. You'll never be exactly right. The important thing is to be looking forward. Have a line of credit. Even with forecasting, you can find one month you don't have enough money for payroll. Of course, no one wants that, but you have a lot more options if you catch it weeks in advance. You have more time to make some adjustments, reduce expenses, or take a loan. Jason always advises mastermind members to get a line of credit, even if they don't need it, for those cases. You may think you don't need it, but things may not be that good a few months ahead. It's better to have it than to go through the embarrassment of missing payroll. Your team may start jumping ship, and finding the right talent is not easy. Fixed vs. variable. You should really understand the difference between fixed costs (payroll, rent) and variable costs (sales commissions, direct media spend). Nate advises moving your fixed costs into variable costs. The more you do this, the easier it is to be profitable. Basically, if you can change those fixed costs to variable, your breakeven number goes down. And so as soon as you hit this number, you're going to hit that profitability sooner each month. So your sales can be lower and you're still going to make more money. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Stop Focusing on the Past and Start Managing the Future Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. I am excited for another episode. On today's episode, we're going to talk about why it's important for you and how you can actually forecast your agency so you can actually be more profitable. I have a repeat guest, Nate, who is amazing at all of this, and let's go ahead and jump into it. Hey, Nate. Welcome to the show. Nate: [00:00:29] Jason, thanks for having me on again. I appreciate it. Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah. I'm excited to have you back. Uh, so for the ones that haven't checked out, the, the first episode that we had you on, uh, tell us a little bit about who you are and what do you do? Nate: [00:00:43] All right. So I'm Nate Jenson, uh, the owner and founder of Agency Dad. Our, we're an accounting firm. We focus on helping, uh, marketing agencies become more profitable. That's really, that's really, our niche is how do we, how do we drive profitability? Uh, we don't do any tax work. We don't do anything like that. We do bookkeeping. We do, uh, financial reporting. So everything we do is geared to make you more profitable. Jason: [00:01:06] Well, we all want that, right? Because I think too many agency owners always focus on, you know, just top-line revenue. Hey, Jason, I want to make it to the million mark. Then I want to make it to the eight-figure. Mark. I'm like, well, what's the profit? Nate: [00:01:20] Yeah. If you could work less and make more, I would rather just have a lower top line and more profitability. So… Jason: [00:01:28] Exactly. Well, let's, let's talk about like, are there, like, how can we create forecasts? Because, you know, I think a question I get asked often, and I think as you do as well, like, can I afford to hire someone? Or what does it look like when I need to hire someone next? Like how do I figure that out? Nate: [00:01:47] Yeah. That's, that's probably the question I get more than anything else. Can I hire somebody to, when do I hire somebody? And if somebody asked me that my, my response is, well, what are your sales going to be in the next three to six months? And if we can't, if we can't answer that, then we really don't know if we can hire somebody. So, so for me, the forecast is where you start. Jason: [00:02:06] And so if that's where we need to start for, like, what is our sales look like for the next three months? How can we forecast that out? Nate: [00:02:14] Okay. So there's, there's a lot of methods, right? Uh, if you're like me and you're really into accounting, you can use linear regression. You can use exponential smoothing. There's a lot of, kind of analytical tools like that. If you're an agency owner and I say linear regression, you're probably tuning out and... Jason: [00:02:33] Yeah. I kinda, I kinda almost passed out when you use those big words cause I've never heard those before. Nate: [00:02:39] Yeah. So there's, there's a method that, that… If you're an agency owner and you just want to sit down by yourself and, you know, do your own forecast there's a method I would recommend. And I've, I've heard it called different things, but the term I like is the Dilbert method. So if you're familiar with Dilbert the comic strip, uh, there's a lot of, uh, let's say questionable business practices used in that comic strip. Uh, but the idea is you sit down and you basically say, hey, what do I think it's going to be? You know, what's my best guess? And so I've actually found, Jason, most agency owners are pretty in tune with, with a lot of the ins and outs of their business. You know, so I can do, I can do the linear regression, but if, if someone says, hey, I happen to know that every December our sales go way down, because you know, the seasonality of the business. Uh, a business owner or an agency owner, they can, they can say, well, my, my sales were, you know, they're 500,000 in November. I'm expecting them to be, let's say 400,000. Just because that's what happens. And for a, for a simple kind of first pass, I think that's a totally appropriate way to set up your first budget or your first forecast. Jason: [00:03:51] True. And then now that we kind of set out the future forecast for sales for the next quarter. What's the next step in order to, you know, making sure we're profitable or when we can actually hire? Nate: [00:04:04] Uh, similar again, if you're using the Dilbert method already, uh, the next step is… Think of a forecast, like your profit and loss statement, right? You look at your PNL for the prior month, what did I sell? What are my costs of goods sold? What are my expenses? And so you're setting up a PNL, but it's in the future. What about, what am I going to sell? What are my costs of goods sold? What are my expenses? Okay. Get your rent, get your payroll and get all that in there. And what am I expecting my profit to be? And it's hilarious, Jason. A lot of people will say, hey, well, I'm, I'm, I'm not good at this. I don't really know how to do this. Uh, having a plan is, is, is the first step, the, the number of times that I've actually set up a forecast for a client and I've come back to that client and said, hey, if everything goes according to plan, you're going to lose $10,000 a month, right? Uh, that it, that happens all the time. And the one thing that we know about a forecast is it's going to be wrong. No matter what it is, it's going to be wrong. You're going to be high. You're going to be low. But if you, if you do the forecast and your plan is to lose money, you know, you've at least got to take some action, make some changes. Jason: [00:05:17] Yeah. You know, one of the things that we did, uh, that I think is really easy for all of you guys listening, is we had our bookkeeper export out all of our expenses on a spreadsheet. And literally, you know, like, like you were saying, and then we had, like, we basically put out 12 months, so he said January, so here's what it is fixed. And then we copied that all the way through December. Then we added a couple of columns to the spreadsheet above and said, well, here's what we think we're going to bring in revenue. Kind of like what you're saying for the quarter. And then we could play with the model, uh, because then we did all, you know, we put in the easy formulas, you know, minus income minus expenses, and then, you know, divided that by, you know, to figure out our profit margins. So if we wanted to hire someone in the future, let's say three months from now, we would put in their salary under payroll. We would add them in there. And then it was really easy to figure out going, well, man, okay, we can afford this person because we look like we're bringing in, you know, a million more dollars this quarter and we can afford to do this, this and this. And it still keeps our profit margins at X. Is that what you're saying? Nate: [00:06:37] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Um, you can always go deeper, right? You can always go and say, hey, we can't afford it, but should we afford it? Should we maybe look at raising our prices before we do it and so forth? There's all that stuff. But just for a first pass. Yeah, exactly what you said as you build out your model, say, it's say it's only three months, right? Maybe it's the year, but maybe it's just a few months. And you say, hey, we're making this, you know, this net income at the end of the, each of those months. Like you said, play with the model. What if we add one person? What if we reduce expenses here? What if we can get one more client? And again, you're never going to be right, right? It's just a forecast, just a guess anyways. But if you're looking forward and you, you can play with that model and say, can we hire, can we, uh, you know, can we, should we reduce our rent? You know, should we not renew our lease? All these kinds of things. Uh, you've just got to look forward. So many, so many people manage just historically, right? They see how did we do last month? Oh, we didn't do as well as we thought we would, well, what are we gonna do different this month? Well, let's just, let's work harder, right? That's not a plan, you know, you, don't working harder is well… You're gonna just gonna work yourself to death. And that's when you say let's get more revenue because we don't really know why we're profitable or not profitable. Jason: [00:07:52] Yeah. I, I remember one time I came into, you know… we used to do our budgeting and our forecasting really not existed. And I remember coming, looking at the bank account right before I went into a leadership meeting and I was like, holy cow, this is the lowest it's ever been. And I was like, we're not going to be able to make payroll in the next two weeks. If nothing changes. And we were able to, we made payroll for all 12 years. Um, we just made it that one. But after that I realized I needed to do forecasting and build a performer out to really show me, is it like… Because you're always going to have in the future. Like if you do this modeling, right, you're going to see where you actually start losing money where you don't have money, right? And it's just about how far out is it, and then it gives you that time of going, wow, man, I got six months to get my act together in order to make a major change. Especially if a big contracts about to end. And that's going to take a really big dip in your income. You know, let's say, Nate, you probably deal with, you know, these, this all the time where some clients have a huge contract, that's like 40% of their revenue. Nate: [00:09:16] Yeah. Yeah. For sure. And, and when, uh, when business comes in kind of in a lumpy way like that, uh, that's much harder to, that's much harder to deal with. Um, like one of the things as I was preparing for this podcast, and I was thinking about… Is there's really two kinds of, of revenue that I see and predicting the revenue for each of those kinds takes a different sort of mindset. One is the retainer revenue. If, you know, if you have a book of clients and you're like, hey, I know who my clients are and how much they pay me. Your revenue forecasting is actually pretty easy. And if you have, uh, you know, if you have, your, you know what your payroll is, uh, it's pretty easy to say my retainer is enough to cover my payroll, my other expenses, and so forth. If you're a more project-based, you know, say you're a web developer, uh, you're, you're much more reliant on, hey, how much business do we think we can pick up in a given month or a given quarter? And it's interesting, Jason, I've actually seen, I don't know if, I don't know if I'd call it a trend yet. But I've seen quite a few of my clients who are on that, uh, in that project-based kind of revenue. They've actually, as they're doing their forecasting and I'm helping them with their forecasting. Some of them have actually moved from a, uh, traditional employee type model on the expense side to contracting a lot of that. Because… Yeah, well, yeah, predictability. When your revenue is so lumpy, it's very nice to have your, your, uh, cost be a lot more variable, you know? Even if a contractor is more expensive per hour… Might be cheaper overall if your revenue is, is way up and way down. Jason: [00:10:59] Yeah. You know, the, the other thing, I have a lot of mastermind members that… In the past couple of months, and even right now, they're going through acquisitions and they're getting bought. Uh, like I'm thinking of one of our masterminds Dean that just sold maybe three months ago and… uh, you know, very successful business, you know, in the multimillion-dollar range. And he never really did forecasting. He never put a performance together. And when they actually, and this is why it's good too…  Especially if, if you guys are listening both, it's good for predicting out and profitability when you need, and to make yourself a little more relaxed rather than that volatil… volutary…? Nate: [00:11:41] Volatile. Jason: [00:11:43] Yeah, there you go. Big words I can't say. I went to Florida State, guys, come on. Um, but uh, all the people that are looking to buy you are going to look for the future cast. And they want to know because that's what they're buying sometimes. And if you don't know it, that's going to send up red flags. So for your sanity, for your predictability, and especially for, if you want to be able to potentially sell one day, please make sure you do these on a regular basis. Nate: [00:12:17] Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's again, it's driving that profitability right? Managing to the future instead of just wishing you could change the past. Um, but, Jason, there's something you mentioned a few minutes ago that I wanted to get back to. You talked about that time when you were almost out of money for payroll, right? We actually, and I recommend this as well, but we actually do for our clients, uh, multiple kinds of forecasts. So the first one is the PNL forecast, but we do a separate cashflow forecast. So we'll usually have that, like a rolling eight week forecast. And the payroll is a perfect example…. Is if it's, if it's Monday morning and that's when you run your payroll and you're out of money, you're like, do I have personal money I can throw in the business? Do I have a really good banker friend that can somehow can be aligned really fast? And even if you do, you know you're going to pay through the nose on that rate to get the money. Uh, it's, it's a totally different experience if you're looking ahead and you're like, oh my gosh, eight weeks, our bank account goes negative. Uh, what can we do? Well, if you need to get a loan, you have eight weeks to get it. But you can say, hey, maybe we can reduce expenses. Maybe we can not take that owner distribution I was planning on. You have a lot more options. So the PNL forecast is where it all starts. Uh, but you need to take that and go to the next step and say, how's my cashflow going to change based on, you know, based on my expectations of sales and expenses and so forth? Jason: [00:13:43] Yeah. You know, um, that reminds me, I tell our mastermind members and I tell people in agency playbook, the first thing I want you to do is get a line of credit. And they'll be like, hey, Jason, I'm good. Like, I got a ton of cash I can operate for over three months. I'm like, things are not always going to be that good. Um, and so get a line of credit when you don't need it. And so if you ever do come into hard times, you don't have to miss payroll and you don't have to be embarrassed. Because if you miss payroll and you tell your employees and your team that, or your contractors, they're jumping ship. And finding the best talent is very, very hard. And I always say, get a line of credit. I don't care if you don't need it. Like, I think we tapped into it one time when we actually need it. And then here's the other trick with the line of credit. They will cancel it all the time if you never use it. So every month I would just take out like 5,000 for one day, put it back in so they see some movement. Because it doesn't cost you anything, if you don't use it. Nate: [00:14:49] Absolutely. Totally right. So it's, but the point is, I think you, you have that use it when you need it. Uh, have, you know, get it before you need it, like you say. But just, you've got to look forward, again, the number of times I've seen people who they just, they have no idea where they're going. They just know where they've been or where they are. And, and then they want to know, hey, should I do this? Should I do this? And should I do this? You got to look at the future. And I, I know this can be an overwhelming thing for people. And that's why I say, hey, if you can't do a 12 month forecast to a three month forecast. You know, look at your sales for three months and then once a month, sit down and add on that next. That's gonna, that's gonna get you way ahead of where you are if you're not even doing that. And it's just a great place to start. Jason: [00:15:35] So awesome. Well, Nate, this has been awesome. Is there anything I didn't ask you before you tell the listeners about this cool, special offer? Nate: [00:15:46] Uh, let's see. I would have one thing I guess, and this isn't just with forecasting. This is with, you know, kind of bookkeeping and reporting in general. One thing I wish my clients understood more, uh, when they, when they became clients, was the difference between what a fixed cost is and a variable cost. Uh, if you have a lot of what we call it, fixed costs, and that's a cost that just you pay every month, it might change, but it doesn't change because you sell more. So you have rent, you have insurance, uh, you have your payroll and things like that. A variable cost is a cost that does change with sales. And so if you have sales commissions, that's going to go up the more you sell. Any direct media spend obviously is going to go up the more you sell. Uh, so if you're contracting your work, that kind of stuff's going to go up the more you sell. Uh, the more you can move your fixed costs into variable costs, the easier it is to be profitable. Because the more fixed costs you're like, I've got to sell this much every month just to break even. And then when I go above that and that's my profit. If you can change those fixed cost to variable, uh, your, your breakeven number goes down. And so as soon as you hit this number, you're going to hit that profitability sooner each month. So your sales can be lower and you're still gonna make more money. Jason: [00:17:06] Awesome. Yeah. You know, I, I didn't really learn that until kind of the very end and, uh, you know, it, it makes a big difference, so, uh, great advice. Well, Nate, this has all been amazing. Um, if people want to know more and you know, possibly work with you and, uh, because they they're like me, they look at numbers and they go, uh, dizzy. Um, what can they do to reach out to you? Nate: [00:17:32] Oh, thanks. Uh, first of all, one thing we actually do is we... We take most of the numbers and we put them on charts, graphs, and we make them really easy for people to just see a picture and understand it and move forward. So that's number one, but if they want to get a hold of me, uh, is our website. We do have a free offer for your listeners. It's And what we do is we actually do an audit of their financials, uh, comparison, compare their financials to some industry benchmarks. Jason: [00:18:03] I like that. Yeah. You guys better take Nate up on that offer. That's uh, that's crucial. I mean, because we all want to know where we stack up and where we actually need to go. So make sure you guys go there. Say the URL one more time. Nate: [00:18:16] It's And, just because of the topic of this podcast, I'll mention  that's a third, a forecast that we do is we actually forecast people's metrics. So they can see in the future, if their metrics are getting out of whack, based on what they should be. Just another way to give us a red flag on something. Jason: [00:18:38] Awesome. Well, everybody go check out that and get that free audit. And until next time, have a Swenk day. Nate: [00:18:45] Thanks, Jason.

    Is Getting Back to the Basics the Boost Your Agency Needs?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 29, 2021 16:09

    Can you identify some services that might be holding your agency back? Maybe it's time to consider getting back to the basics. Phil Blackmore and his agency Create Health are really passionate about bringing back something the world of health marketing was really lacking: creativity. Recently the pandemic helped him reflect on the agency's true core and what they should be focusing on. This is how the agency recently re-launched with the motto “creativity is the cure”. Phil joins the podcast today to talk about how that move reenergized the team and made running an agency much easier. 3 Golden Nuggets Getting back to the basics. We tend to fall into the trap of going after what's novel and trying to come up with something cool that hasn't been done before. That can get you a bit of exposure, but it's not the backbone of your business. Phil explains that the pandemic gave him a chance to really reflect on what it is that his agency was really good at. To think about what they enjoyed doing for their clients. Get rid of what may be holding you back. It became clear that his agency shined the most when it came to bringing creativity to the health care sector. And so, they made the decision to shed other services, like tech, to focus on what really mattered to them, and what they were best at. The entire process took about six months, but Phil says it was definitely worth it. They could now focus on what they were better at. Clients were delighted at the results and the team seemed happier. Fewer HR headaches. According to our guest, another advantage of having a very clear focus for your agency is that it makes some things much easier. It has allowed the agency to change culturally and clearly identify the opportunities for growth in the future. Also, this simplifies the task of knowing exactly what sort of talent to look for to make that happen. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Getting Back To The Basics And Figuring Out The Backbone of Your Agency Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited for another episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass. Now, before we get into it, I want you to do me a favor. If you're listening, obviously you're listening to the podcast, take a screenshot. Upload it to your favorite social media channel and tag us, so I can give you a shout-out for listening to the show. Today we're going to talk to an amazing agency owner across the pond over in London. Um, because that's the only city I actually know over there. He said he was outside of it and he was trying to explain it to me. But we're going to talk about getting back to the basics and a lot of things that we're ignoring and we're not doing for ourselves, but we're doing it for our clients. So let's get it to the episode. Hey, Phil. How's it going? Phil: [00:00:54] Really good. Thanks, Jason. How are you? Jason: [00:00:55] Hey, man. Awesome. Well, I'm excited to have you on, uh, so briefly tell us who you are and what do you do? Phil: [00:01:03] Yeah, so my name is Phil Blackmore and I'm one of the agency owners of Create Health, which is a specialist advertising agency that, uh, yeah, by the name, as you can probably guess, does everything in health care. Jason: [00:01:14] Awesome. And so in, in kind of pre-show we were talking about really, you know, getting back to the basics. And so what, what have you found in scaling your agency? You guys have been doing it for a while, um, and... You were telling me a little bit beforehand about when COVID happened, it kind of made me rethink something. So what happened? Tell us that story. Phil: [00:01:41] Absolutely. So, I mean, we obviously spoke, I think, about 14 months ago. And, um, I think we felt we were doing pretty well as a business. But obviously COVID, I think is certainly the most, testing period of time I've ever been through as an agency owner. And, you know, as I'm sure anyone listening to this can empathize. You know, a lot of things, I didn't think I'd have to face I have. With regards to decisions on staff, services, all kinds of things. But I suppose, through all the darkness, there was a real opportunity to actually reflect on what it is I'm trying to build and what it is we're trying to do as an agency. And I think one of the things I found really interesting was I've always believed that we're really good at what we do. Um, but actually we were probably guilty of hiding that by trying to come up with a clever way of explaining that to potential clients and prospects. So yeah. The, the pandemic and the last 12 months has given me a real opportunity, I suppose, to reflect back on what is it we like doing? What is it we're respected for? And how on earth do we just kind of simplify the story and get that back out to existing clients to expand them? But also to new clients we want to work with? Jason: [00:02:48] Yeah, I think we all kind of fall into that trap. Especially the ones of us that have been doing it for a while, right? Like it's, you know, we just get reactionary to everything. And then, uh, you know, I remember doing this when we were building an e-commerce platform back in 2001. You know, like, clients would call and we'd be like, okay, like they're paying the bill, let's take our foot off this. Or when we were developing a CMS system in 2002, like I was like… Go on. Phil: [00:03:22] Absolutely. And I think the really funny thing, if anything is, in some ways you… I don't know, I think you'd get so obsessed with the novel, trying to come up with something new and cool that hasn't been done before. And actually as much as that's wicked, that can get you a bit of exposure. It's not the backbone of your business. It's good for that awareness, but actually it's not what you're going to be bought for. Um, you know, people want a good solid foundation and want to know that you've got the goods to back it up. Jason: [00:03:48] You know, one of, one of my favorite movies is Moneyball. Now I'm not a huge baseball fan. Um, but I love, you know, sports stories and, like, what you just explained is kind of like us getting up to bat and trying to hit a grand slam every time. And what's going to happen is we're going to strike out more than we're going to score. And what you know, why I loved Moneyball was they were like, we just need to get the right players that can get on base. I don't care if they get hit and they get on base or if they get walked or whatever it is. I just want them to get on base. And I think agencies really need to focus about how can we just get on base? Like stop over-complicating it. So what were some of the things that you did to make it not as complicated? Phil: [00:04:42] So I think, um, we fundamentally went back and looked at, firstly, what is it that are, why did I set the business up in the first place? In terms of why did I and my partner Bill, why we started and it was because we believe that in our sector creativity was massively underrepresented. Um, in the healthcare space, it's a very safe, conservative kind of sector as you'd expect because of the subject matter. But it's also the most, uh, emotionally rich from, I suppose, a story perspective, you know, health touches us all. And what I thought was interesting was that, looking back at all the pitches we'd won. Looking back at kind of the business, historically, the one thing clients kept saying about us is that they love was just how creative we were. And how we were bringing, I suppose, broader thinking into a sector that they hadn't seen before. So we went back to basics and was like, well, you know, what's wrong with this sector? And then came up with this kind of, I suppose, positioning that I'm very pleased with, which is creativity is the cure within healthcare. And we then, having got that basic kind of sentiment, went out and found scientists who specialize in behavioral psychology and other such areas to really help back up our belief that creativity is the cure. So yeah, we have this really lovely line, but then we made sure it was grounded in the science. And yeah, we stripped back our services. Um, actually got rid of certain departments so that we could focus and invest more on, I suppose, the creative and the planning side of things, which is really resonating with, with our clients. And the team and the energy is just so much better now. Jason: [00:06:16] Oh, and you probably do things a lot more efficiently too, if you started stripping away some of the things. And a lot of times I find agency owners have a hard time of getting rid of some services. Um, so what was kind of the step or like, especially if you're doing some services for legacy clients, did you just say, hey, we're not doing this anymore? Or did you just stop marketing it for new ones coming? Phil: [00:06:42] Yeah. So I think one of the biggest, I suppose, shocks was we turned off building tech internally. So we used to have a department that, that built the apps and the websites, the CMS is all this sort of stuff. And we made really good money off it, historically. But we got to that juncture where it's like, you're either going to be a tech agency or you're going to be a creative agency. You can't really be both and didn't have the, I suppose, capital to, to try and do both properly. Um, so as I said, we realized that we preferred creative more, that we were better at it. So we turned off those services for tech. We still think digitally and techno, technology, but we've partnered with agencies that are really good in that space. So they do the build and the maintenance and all the stuff that we quite frankly, weren't that good at. We have the upfront strategy and ideas. Um, and yeah, and that's for the clients that we had on board. Uh, and we went to great lengths to make sure that we handed them off to partners that we, we felt had the same values as us. So they didn't feel like we'd, we'd kind of left them high and dry. We'd done the right thing. And we sell, felt immensely kind of cleansed and relieved that we had one less thing to focus on. Um, as I said, creative is what we're good at. And it's what clients… what's lovely when you talk to procurement, you know, you go in with a really niche offering of, this is what we do, and this is why we're great at it. This means, again, you, you get rather than being a generalist, being that specialist really does get you higher up the list. Jason: [00:08:10] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and back again, in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports at scale. Now, Ninja Cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place. Freeing you up from manual data wrangling. And it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your business. And for a limited time, my Smart Agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit. When you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo. That's And when you do that too, I mean, you can demand so much bigger on prices. It's kind of like if you just go see a general, your general doctor and they're checking the oil and checking your temperature, they get paid so much. But if you need to have brain surgery, you know, they're going to be getting paid so much more than, uh, someone that's a generalist. Um, so when you started peeling back some of the services and getting rid of those, how, how quick? Cause a lot of people listening are like, well, how quick did you start to see a change and growth and profit and also revenue? Phil: [00:10:05] Yeah. So, I mean, it was obviously a frightening to have to turn things off. Because as I said, we've made historically good money. But then when you start to turn off all the other things that you don't need to have suddenly, you know, all the different platforms, the hosting. Everything else that actually was, unbeknownst to us costing us tons of money behind the scenes. In terms of, and not necessarily being recharged back as it should be. There were a lot of clients that we weren't charging the hosting. On to, you know, silly little things that I think a pandemic certainly sharpens your eye on. Um, but yeah, I mean, in terms of a change, it's certainly taken about six months for it to kind of wash through. Um, but yeah, the last sort of six months have been tremendously good in comparison to the others. Because, yeah, we've, we've just had more time to focus on the stuff that we enjoy doing. And because we enjoy it, we do it better. Jason: [00:10:51] Yeah. Yeah. I almost look at it as you're climbing a mountain and you realize the trek to the summit is really like… you could die by going this one path. But if you backtrack, you can get on an easier path. And then you can get up there, um, you know, eventually without little risk. I, I kind of look at it as like, that's kind of what you've done is like, all right, this is the risky pass is going up there. And then when you start again you're like, man, this is really pretty easy, a lot easier, you know? And now you probably see a lot faster growth too. Phil: [00:11:30] Well, I think it also just makes it so much easier for us thinking about staff in terms of who you're hiring. Um, having that clarity of focus has meant that we've been able to change culturally in our kind of our processes. You know, creativity is very much at the heart of everything we do. Um, we're really clear on where the opportunities are and things like CGI now and other areas to amplify what we do creatively. So yeah. Uh, in some ways it's just made it really, really simple for us. It's also meant, I mean, we're, we're based in Bristol. It's a big tech city. So we were always competing against people who could outbid us for the best talent anyway. So yeah, in some ways it's, it's nice not to have those kinds of HR headaches either. Jason: [00:12:10] Yeah. Well, I mean, you know, when, when I'm talking with our mastermind, we're always talking about recruiting, right? Because we're at levels. You know, everyone in the mastermind is at a level where they're getting tons of business. But it's, it's harder to keep up. And they're trying to get out of the day-to-day operations and really build the leadership team and really transform from an owner to a CEO. And it really comes down to talent. But now if you've stripped back a lot of the services you know exactly what you need. Because a lot of times I find agencies hiring people to do things that they have no clue about because they want to add more services. And I actually think that's actually a mistake in most cases. Because how can you measure someone on something you've never done? Like you're going to be a horrible manager rather than look, I've done millions of websites. I can measure. And I know if someone is BS'ing me in the interview or BSing me for the first six months. Um, you know, it'd be like, you're gone in the first week. Phil: [00:13:19] Yeah, absolutely. And as you said, it's, it just, I'd say, I think that the thing I struggled with is probably the biggest shift in terms of becoming a, an owner is the, your time is, it's so precious. And you can end up doing tasks, which, you know, are not really reflective of the, of the value that you have on the business. So, yeah, the more you can do to, as I say, get back to basics. Strip away the things that you think are doing you favors... But really aren't and actually just, just focus on, on, on the bits that you enjoy. The business is going to do so much better. Jason: [00:13:50] Yeah, exactly. Well, this has all been amazing, Phil. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Phil: [00:14:01] I think, uh, the key thing would be whatever your point of difference or proposition is, just make sure that it's something that really runs through the core of the business. Not something that just sounds nice on a flyer or a website. As I said, creativity is something I'm very passionate on. And so, you know, having that as a driving force for the business means that it's infectious. And others pick up on it because it's coming from the top down. Um, and I think the key thing then is to nurture it. Uh, and just make sure that it then comes back up towards you in more interesting ways as well. That's, that's how the business will grow through the, the great people that we hire. Jason: [00:14:34] Well, I think, you know, the reason why it's worked for you so well is you have such passion and the belief in it. Versus choosing it based on, well, I think we can do this to make more money. I think the make more money as a byproduct, right? I think when people start just focusing on the money, I think they start making bad decisions. Um, and, uh, it gets a little bit more challenging. So, awesome, uh, what's the website people go and check out the agency? Phil: [00:15:03] Uh, is Jason: [00:15:06] Awesome. Well, everyone go check that out. Thank you so much, Phil, for coming on the podcast. It was a lot of fun and yeah, we just got to go back to the basics. And if you guys want to be able to really kind of see the things you might not be able to see in front of you and you want to be surrounded by the best talent. Uh, from all the agency owners all over the world, I want to invite all of you to go to This is our exclusive mastermind just for agency owners that are going through a rapid scaling of their agency. And they want to get to a point where they have the opportunity to sell it one day or to exit in the things that they don't want to do anymore. And have that freedom that we all really wanted. So make sure you go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How to Negotiate Successfully and Stop Lowering Your Agency Prices

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 25, 2021 31:43

    Every agency owner needs solid negotiation skills to feel more confident when dealing with clients. Mori Taheripour is an executive and award-winning educator who focused her career on negotiations. She currently teaches at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and works privately with entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations, and universities. She wants to make negotiations more accessible and help people realize it's a skill we all have and are better at than we realize. In this episode, she discusses why negotiations make people anxious and how you can get better results by being prepared and understanding motivations and your values. Mori also explains why you should be curious and avoid just wanting to be right, plus her new book, and much more. 3 Golden Nuggets Making negotiations accessible. Most people get really anxious about negotiating and think about it as a mere transaction. Somebody wins, somebody loses and that's it. Mori believes that is just a small slice of the pie. Negotiations are more than that. People maybe link them to negative experiences or think they are not combative enough to be a good negotiator, but we actually negotiate every day. It's a skill that we all have and could get better at if we change our perspective. And the first step is to be prepared and understand yourself, your motivations, and your values. Be curious. The fact that most people think about negotiations as a win or lose scenario means they're not thinking about long-term solutions that focus more on the relationship. Think about a divorce or a separation from your business partner. Those negotiations don't necessarily have to become a conflict. You need to be able to clearly explain your why's and be curious about theirs. Don't assume that you have all the answers. Don't come to the negotiation just expecting to be right. Especially if listening can lead to a solution that benefits both parties and preserving a relationship. Not all about prices. If negotiations were just discussions about pricing, Mori says she wouldn't be teaching it. It's not fun, it's dreadful. It should be about educating your client about what you can offer them and why you do what you do. Tell them how passionate you are about your mission. Make it a conversation so you can also get to know their motivations and their whys. At the end of this, now it's time to discuss pricing, and by then your value and the benefits they will get from contracting your services should be very clear to them. If it's not, it doesn't mean you should now start lowering your prices. It's ok to not want to negotiate that point. Sponsors and Resources HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Learn to Negotiate Successfully and Never Have to Lower Your Prices Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, agency owners? I'm excited to have you back for another episode. I have an amazing guest and we're going to talk about negotiating, which is always a fun topic, and I'm really excited to get into it. So let's go ahead and start the episode. Hey, welcome to the show. Mori: [00:00:25] Hey, Jason. How are you? Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:27] Yeah. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Mori: [00:00:32] Um, so Mori Taheripour. I teach at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, uh, for part of my life. I teach in legal studies and business ethics department, and largely I focus on negotiations. So, um, apart from Wharton, which is where I do most of my teaching, um, I've worked with entrepreneurs and, um, corporations and foundations and universities. And spend most of my time focused on teaching people how to negotiate successfully, um, and, and doing so from a very different perspective than most negotiation classes. So that's, that's really the focus of my work. I do some work in sports. I'm also focused on teaching, um, working with athletes and, and helping them as they think about transitioning out of the sport. And some diversity and inclusion work. Jason: [00:01:22] Very cool. Awesome. Let's talk about negotiating and kind of, you know, everyone listening is obviously done negotiating, you know, their whole career. Um, so talk about kind of the first step in negotiating. How can you set up where you're positioned better? Mori: [00:01:41] So let me go back just a little bit. I think it was funny when I heard the intro and you said we're going to talk about something fun: negotiating. Most people don't think about negotiations and think it's fun. Um, in fact, a lot of people are very anxious about it. And that's because, um, they have bad experiences. They think about that one negotiation that they had, that they thought they did really poorly in. Or a divorce or whatever negative experience that they've had around negotiations. And oftentimes they think about it as such, because they, they think about negotiations as being a mere transaction. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Black and white, that's all it is. And so people who, a lot of people are this way, they're not very combative, right? They don't really want to argue and bicker. So they think, oh, I don't want to negotiate, right? Whatever they can do to avoid it, get an attorney, whatever it is. Um, but the truth is that that's really not what negotiations is. I mean, it's a small slice of the pie. But negotiations is something we do all the time. And each and every person who's listening to this, or, you know, parents, um, daughters, sons, uh, teachers, right? These are individuals, all of us who negotiate from the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we get to sleep at night, right? So the reason I want to start there is because I want people to understand that this isn't a skill that they're not familiar with, or they have a bad memory of. It's a skill that they use daily that they're probably a whole lot better at that they even think they are, right? But they don't think of those conversations as being negotiations. And so what, you know what, I just wrote this book that I terribly launched, um, right at the beginning of the pandemic. So not the best time to release a book. But putting that aside, um, the, the reason I decided to write this book was really sort of at the heart of this conversation was to make negotiations something that's really accessible and, and a lot of people are really good at. And so they're using this opportunity to just become better, um, and, and doing so by better understanding themselves. So long answer to your question. Fundamentals are important. One of them is preparation. And, um, most people who learned about negotiations, read a book, see an article, listen to a podcast are taught, you know, that you are best when you prepare really well. That's absolutely true. What we often don't talk about, though, is the sort of the earliest step in preparation, which is the better understanding of yourself. Taking some time before every negotiation. And thinking about things like your values, things that you don't want to compromise. The things that are really important to you that if you did so then there is not doing well because you've sort of left on a table the very things that are really important to you, your convictions, right? Um, and, and to create those sort of personal boundaries. And remember how is it that, you want people to remember you after this conversation, right? What's, what's most important to you beyond just an outcome that you want? I feel like because a lot of people don't talk about that in preparation, I'd love for your listeners to understand that it's actually, the very first step is a very personal step. And everything after that is so like, what I'm sure most people have learned. What do you want to get out of the deal? What do you want the deal structure to be? And all those things are really important and there's ways to do it and do it well. I just wanted to sort of drop that in there because it's a part of the conversation that a lot of people leave behind. And I think it's fundamentally one of the most important parts. Jason: [00:05:20] Yeah. I totally agree with that. And I, and I, um, I love that you pointed that out. You know, I've always looked at negotiating is it's in most, I, I think maybe a little bit different and maybe not all the time. But as I got later in my years, I started realizing that both parties need to win. It's not a winner or a loser, right? I think if you go into it that way, then it's even harder to negotiate. Um, you know, like case in point. I remember when I was building my house in Colorado. If I just kept beating them up, literally they're not going to want to work with me and they're just going to watch it and just get it. Versus I want you to make money and I want to get a good deal and I want to get a good end result, you know? And, uh, do you see a lot of people look at it that way? Mori: [00:06:09] Well, I see a lot of people who think about it and that sort of win-loss scenario, right? Because again, it's transactional for a lot of people. But, but the, I mean, that's a perfect example that you just gave because you want to incentivize your counterpart, right? So if it's a house that you're building, um, a project that needs to be completed by a certain date. So it's the negotiations with your employees or contractors, um, negotiations with your client. Because, you know, if, if you don't take it away to account that this is more, uh, sort of a collaboration or a partnership, then you stop thinking about the value of this particular client or business relationship in the long-term. So I think about it from a long game, right? I think about every interaction being part of something that becomes more of a journey than just like the sprint to the end. Because, you know, people like doing business with people that they like, right? They don't pick a business, they pick people that they like. So, you know, I think that the less we focus on the end game. That the, you know, whether you win or lose a focus more on the process, then I think there's a natural extension of this relationship. That's based on collaboration, problem-solving, um, creation of values as opposed to extracting values. So we don't use the term winning in my class too much, because it almost gives us a sense of competition, that's not necessary. Because it's not about competition. You're really only competing with yourself, right? To maybe get the better deal than you did the last time. Or what can we do better? But to think of your, your counterpart, as competition eliminates the opportunity for you to come up with sort of innovative, um, long-term deals that's focus on anymore our relationship. Jason: [00:07:57] What are you… And maybe, um, I want to ask you this cause there's a lot of people this way. Um, and even with, with me, and I want to know if I'm missing out. Um, so when someone comes to me and they go, Jason, I want to join the mastermind. And, uh, and I tell them, hey, this is the investment. And they go, and then they try to negotiate with me. And I say, the price is the price. Like if I didn't give you enough value then, you know, and then I try to tell them. And, and at the end of the day, if it's not right, it's not right. Like I never negotiate on the price. Am I missing out with that? Like… Mori: [00:08:40] I don't think so. Um, because part of that is to understand your own value, right? And, and to know that in some ways, when people negotiate, things like that. And this is sort of, I'm going to take this somewhere I wasn't planning, but I see it a lot in people that sort of enroll in courses, athletes, whoever like these self-development self, um, sort of help type of courses. They don't always sort of jump in with that investment. And it's so strange to me because it's an investment in yourself, right? We're quick to buy a car to buy a house, but this is sort of where you can reap the rewards of this journey for years on end, right? And so part of what you are doing with mastermind is to create an opportunity for, for people to sort of make the investment, but they reap the rewards of that investment in perpetuity, right? So what's that worth to people? That's usually the question, right? First of all, why are you here? Right. So what was your why? And if your, why is his success evolution development, then what's that worth? And I would, I would like to think a lot, right? So I don't think that there's anything wrong with that. I think that that part of where people go wrong is that they want to go right to the price point. They want to know somebody's budget, which I inherently disagree with. Um, or they want to list out their pricing. And the truth is that that immediately makes it a transaction. The sort of the piece before that. There's like four steps to the negotiations process. So it was like the preparation then when we call information exchange, which is when you first get to know somebody, right. That building rapport. Understanding more about them. They get to know you better. You're building sort of affiliation or connections. And it's during that time where you want to understand their why, right? So why are they even here in the first place? What are their long-term needs? Well beyond just the transaction, right? And you want to sort of explain to them your why, right? The reason why you do what you do and why you think you've been successful. And so to move it away from a black and white sort of somewhat superficial, visual, transactional conversation. And it's also during that time where you talk about your value, right? Why you were so to the people listening and like their agency is, is better positioned to, um, you know, help this client than their competitors. And, and these are what we offer, and this is why we stand by our product and, and here's some of our success stories. But you've not yet talked to anything about pricing, right? So this is this sort of long educational process. That's demanding sort of connectivity and really human connection, human connections. It brings, it brings humanity into the conversation. So by the time you're done with this piece, when you arrive at that next stage, which is the bargaining that transaction, right? Then you're your client, your counterpart is, is far more educated at this point, right? They, there shouldn't be any surprises. Usually, if you do this well, an opening offer is not like, oh my God, how did we get there? Because you've spent the whole time sort of educating them and vice versa. And so I would just say that, that it's important to put off the money conversation as long as possible. It's the most painful part of the process anyway, but you put that aside and then you educate and then you educate and then you answer questions. And you get them on the same page as you, and you better understand their wants and needs. So going back to, or are you doing something wrong? I don't think so at all, because I would, I wouldn't assume that by the time somebody gets to you in that point. Where they're wanting to sort of enroll and be a part of, they've learned so much about it. Uh, but, and so at that point, you're not taking that piece for granted. You just feel like you've done enough to, you know, sort of explain and express your value. It is no longer your job at that point to undercut yourself, right. Because if they haven't understood what this can do for them, then it's the reeducation as opposed to the okay let me drop my pricing. Why, right? So I think that there's a lot to discussions that are far more enjoyable to end the pain of talking about pricing. If that's what negotiations was, there was no way I'd be teaching it, right? Because it's, it's dreadful. It's, it's not fun. It's uncomfortable. Right? So you just put it off as long as you possibly can. Jason: [00:13:22] What's the fourth step? Is that the decision? Mori: [00:13:25] No, that's when you come basically to a deal, right? So either you come to a deal or you don't, right? That's sort of the commitment and implementation of the contract with deal. Or if there's no deal at all, then that's really sort of that decision point. And then, you know, for a really great, um, negotiations that end up being something long-term, then that end become sort of very fluid. Because every time you go back to the table, you're thinking about how do we make this better? How do we enhance this opportunity for one another? Let's revisit it. We're both in a better position now. And so if the first three steps go rally well, now that end is no longer the sort of as hard end. It's sort of this very fluid ever evolving opportunity. Jason: [00:14:14] Hey there. Quick question for you. Is your agency paying a fortune for software? Do you have to stack multiple softwares together to deliver success for your clients? You know, if so there's a new platform called HighLevel that you should really check out. HighLevel is an all-in-one marketing platform for agencies that has an insane amount of features. And really replaces tools like click funnels, active campaign, Infusionsoft, Calendly, Kajabi, CallRail, and a lot more. The best part is you can white-label, HighLevel and sell it to your clients as their own software. Opening up a new super sticky revenue stream for your agency. Normally high-level offers a 14-day free trial. But as a member of my community, you have access to an exclusive 30-day free trial, which can you take advantage by going to So head over to to save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year on software costs. Love it. Um, let's switch gears a little bit and let's talk about… Let's say you're in, you're in bed with this person and you really can't get out of it. And you need to try to go, well, it needs to be this way because, you know, hey, you're paying us for, to being the expert, but they want to do it their way. How can both parties win or like, and these guys are stuck. You can't just, sometimes you can't fire them. Like it could be, it could… Well, let, let's, let's use it as this example. Cause I think, let me, let me switch this. You have a business partner, right? In your agency and you guys are not seeing eye-to-eye anymore because the agency has grown at a different pace. What steps would you take? And let's say their lives are not matching anymore. What steps would you take in order to fix that? Mori: [00:16:23] Um, so I've never been married, but the one divorce I've had is one from my business partner. So I, I get that example really well. Um, and I think that… First of all, you have to have the courage to look at yourself and figure out why it's not working anymore, right? Is it that you are, you know, not looking at growth and they are? Your long-term goals have changed, or you have to understand your own why first, right? And, and because these decisions are not easy. And worse yet, they're sort of like become, you know, little knicks, but you keep sort of pulling out and then now it's a scar and it's really bad and you can't get rid of it, right? So you sort of want to just confront the situation the earlier the better. And you want to know very clearly what it is that's not doing for you anymore, right? Because if you're not happy, and I think we undervalue personal happiness and gratification, especially in business, right? There's a lot easier ways to make money than to be an entrepreneur. So, so for the blood, sweat, tears, the work that you put in, the no vacations, the no sick days, right? What is it that you want to get out of it? And sometimes we realize that we've gotten into, out of touch with the things that we have wanted originally. Maybe even burnt out. Maybe there could be a variety of reasons, right? Or I don't see eye-to-eye with this person anymore. And what seemed like, um, a real match just doesn't really work anymore, right? We're so going into very different directions. The point behind why people, and I include myself in that, why comes up to this head that it doesn't need to get there. Is that people A put out the conversation and they keep putting it off. And then in that case, it comes out some other way, right? There's anger, there's animosity, there's disrespect, whatever it is. So you don't want that because, I would assume, unless your partner is a horrible person, right? They're, they're dishonest or whatever it is. You don't want to blow up this relationship. And you kind of want to avoid all the lawsuits and all that kind of stuff, right? So the earlier you start having these conversations the better. You may find that they're exactly the same place and that now the negotiation becomes how to untangle this relationship? So that nobody's losing and in fact, you are now both well on your way to finding your own fulfillment and happiness, you've outgrown this. But when people don't talk or they avoid the conversation, in the long run it builds resentment. Resentment in yourself because you didn't have the conversation and resentment of your counterpart, who you are now blaming for everything. And I, I just, I just think that because there's such a depth of relationship involved. The worst thing you can do is actually to not have a conversation. And it doesn't have to be one conversation. Generally, it won't be. If you've been in business for a long time, you could be friends. You could be family members, you could be, I mean, there's so many other aspects to consider that this isn't like, okay, I'm going to build up the courage to go happen to one conversation. No, it's, it's sort of a process that has to be revisited over and over again. I feel like there's a great opportunity actually in untangling these relationships in a way that could be beneficial to both parties. When it doesn't ends up that way, it's because there's A sort of ethics issues become involved. Or B that people have put off the conversation and now there's anger. So there's less emotionality when you treat it as, you know, we've been around the block a few times. I want to go a different direction. How do…? I sense maybe you're not happy either. Can we talk about this? Maybe, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's something else, but this is sort of what I've been getting from you. So let's talk. And I think that's, it really, really simplifies a very complicated issue. But because I've gone through it, I know that it would have been far less complicated had I had the courage to actually talk about what was bothering me a whole lot earlier than I did. Jason: [00:20:55] Yeah. I, I've, I've found over the years I've done it sometimes good. Sometimes very bad. Um, whenever you push, I think we're just like, if I'm pushing on you, your human nature is to push back. And then it's just a constant battle. Unless you can do something like you were talking about kind of pull them along a little bit. And then there's not that friction or that angst. Um, but what do you do if you're at a point where, hey, you're pretty tangled up. I mean, it is a ton of knots and, uh, there's not much like… Is there certain things you can do to try to untangle? Like if you've gotten, just, let's say you, you do want to work it out. But like, you've both been building up. You both hate each other right now. Is there a way to kind of come out the other side and both people win. Mori: [00:21:49] So you can always get an attorney, but I never think that people when they get attorneys, but it just sort of escalates everything. Especially if there's a relationship. Um, we can kind of talk about this. We call it going to the balcony, which means that sort of you know, you almost… Jason: [00:20:55] Push one person off. Mori: [00:21:49] Yeah exactly. No, not quite. But you do create a third person, right? You get sort of this imaginary third person. And all it means is that when we're on the heat of debate and conversation our egos don't allow us to be curious anymore, right. We're sort of drive hard. And then when they disagree, we drive harder and then harder. And we want to be right and we can't really hear the other person. And so you have to allow yourself to stop and be like, well, like… This is, not only is this not getting better, but what are we doing? Right. So why is it that we can no longer even have a conversation? And what they mean by going to the balcony is that you actually have to sort of lift yourself out of this conversation and become almost like a third party that's saying, okay, let's start again. And you go back to the why's, right? Why are we here? What is it that you want? What is it that I want? Let's press reset. This is becoming only harder if we doubt. And if you can do that, then what it means is that you're now, first of all, you can hear each other, right? You're not sort of talking over each other. But that level of curiosity can allow you to see somebody's perspective that you've been so blind to, right? You know, a lot of studies show that, that, first of all, being curious as is not an easy thing for a lot of people, right. We want to come into conversations without minds already made up. When we know people really well, we're even less curious, right? We're sort of filling in the blanks when they talk. I know them so well, I don't have to ask. This is what they want. Truth is people grow, people change. So if you can then change that mindset from I'm right, they're wrong. To that's not getting us anywhere. But maybe turning it to how about we just, we engage in this discussion from the place of… What if we started from zero? What if we just better understood each other? Because in that situation that you mentioned, you're not changing somebody's mind, right? This isn't like I'm right, so let me make you understand how right I am. It's neither of us is frankly trying to be right. We're just trying to untangle, which requires understanding. And we're not getting there because we're too far into this from an emotionality perspective, right. Taking breaks in those conversations is so important. Um, it doesn't always have to be done. And like I said, these conversations aren't normally addressed and fixed in like three hours, right? It's over time. It's many times. When things get heated, you take a break. Um, because if you don't, again, then I would say you need that other party, that's going to keep you sort of, um, level-headed and less emotional. But now you've removed the very thing that made you business partners in the first place, which was your relationship. Jason: [00:25:07] Yeah. I love that. And I, I want to point out kind of the, what you said on curiosity. I think if we do have curiosity on what that other, how that other person sees it. And kind of almost like a lot of times too, because emotion just clouds judgment. And it's very hard for me. I get very, very emotional when people come after me, um, to a point where I'm like death to you all, right? And so, I'm talking mainly about my HOA. Maybe you get me, right. Um, but you know, if I think if you kind of step back and go, if I was going to give this advice, to my friend that was going through the same situation, what would you give? And I, and I always felt like you can kind of take emotion out of that. And especially too, if you're curious about what's their point of view. And then look at it kind of like what you were saying is like, how can both, all parties win and we just come out. Versus… Mori: [00:26:09] Right. It's hard, by the way. It's really, to be curious, it's not easy, right? Because we want to be right. And so to have the humility, have the confidence to say, I'm very prepared for this conversation. I know what I want, but the humility that says, but I can't know everything. There's no way that I know every part of what's going to sort of fix this, this issue. And I don't want anybody to think like, oh, she's just saying, oh, she makes it sound so easy. It is the last thing from easy, right? Starting at what would appear to be easy, which is just being curious because you have to take your ego out of it. I will tell you something about emotions though. I'm not that person who thinks there's no room for emotions in negotiations. We're human beings, right? Not robots and emotions inform us, right? They can, they can tell us what's important. What's worth fighting for? What makes us unhappy should be addressed? What makes us happy should be embraced, right? Emotions go wrong when they get ahead of you. Right. And so, again, don't disconnect, just be super aware so that you know, what's happening. And like you said, when you get angry, you can just say, hold on a minute. Okay. I just need a little break. Let's, let's just let me go walk around the block for a minute and, um, and I'll be back or it let's just move this to Friday. Cooler heads prevail. We'll come back to this. And so I think just to understand that, that you don't want to shun emotion because they inform you. You just don't want your emotions to get the best of you. Jason: [00:27:49] I love it. Well, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Mori: [00:27:58] I think that, um, and you know, I talked about my book, um, the, another reason why I decided to write a book in the midst of a million other negotiations books that are out there is that I didn't want to write something that was prescriptive. I don't want to say, do this, do this. And you're guaranteed a good outcome because that's not how things work. And I don't want people to memorize formulas. How to say a certain thing. Um, I think that, that the, the best outcomes come when you're completely authentic. Both to yourself, as well as your presence in that conversation. And whether it's a client or a relationship, um, when, when you really have worked on showing up as the best of you, right? Who you are and you honor that, then there's no reason to memorize how to's, right? The only thing that you have to navigate is, first to be really prepared and that sort of one the most important things. But also all you really have to do then is first of all, show up as you want to be remembered, right? And as you want to be treated so with kindness and dignity and respect. But also to know that in order to be really, um, true to, to your presence as well as theirs, to kind of disconnect from the outside world. Get rid of all the distractions and just be really present in this conversation. Because you'll get emotional cues, you'll get information about your counterpart. You'll better know how to answer questions, right? So in a world that we're distracted all the time, this is even harder and yet more important. So I would say to people sort of celebrate yourself, right? Be confident in who you are and what you do. Nobody does it better than you. Nobody knows it better than you, right. So to come in with that level of confidence. Have the humility to be competent, to be curious, engage in a way that is humane, right? Is, is, is, is empathetic and kind and open. Then, you know, I don't see anything but success at the other end of it. Because even if that one deal doesn't work out, you so enjoy process and maybe they have as well that this will be a relationship that they can go back to when they do get more money or when the economy changes. So you leave an indelible mark on people and it could be good or it could be bad. And so your value proposition comes when it's really, really good. Jason: [00:30:28] Awesome. Well, this has all been amazing. What's the name of the book again and where can they go to get it? Mori: [00:30:35] Let me show you so that you can see. It's called “Bring yourself: How to Harness The Power of Connection to Negotiate Fearlessly.” Do you see that? Jason: [00:30:42] Yup, we do. Mori: [00:30:44] Not your ordinary negotiations book title. But yeah, it's on Amazon. It's on every online retailer. But it's, it's all about stories. It's like an autobiography, actually. So it's not academic. It's just, about human connections. Jason: [00:30:57] Very cool. Well, thanks so much for coming on the show. Mori: [00:30:59] Thank you so much for having me. Jason: [00:31:00] Exactly. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners who can help you navigate through emotion and make sure you're prepared and really set you on a path for scaling your agency faster, I'd love to invite all of you to go apply at the So, go there. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How to Overcome Isolation as an Agency Owner So You Can Grow

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 22, 2021 24:21

    Having your own agency and the responsibility for people's livelihoods can be an isolating experience. Darren Fox says he fell into the agency world unexpectedly. After a while of offering freelance web design services, it became clear he could not continue solopreneur. So, Darren founded Idea Marketing Group. and started building a team. Even though he loves building relationships with his team, as the agency grew, he had to separate himself to maintain his leadership role. “You definitely feel like you're on an island,” Darren says. In this episode, Darren is candid about the loneliness of agency ownership. He also talks about ways to overcome isolation in order to grow a successful agency. 3 Golden Nuggets It can be very isolating. Something that is not discussed much but agency owners should be prepared for is just how isolating it can be at the top. As your agency grows, so will your team. You may find that, as the leader, it's better for you to put some distance to maintain respect and avoid favoritism. You can't be everyone's best friend because you may be in the position of firing them at some point. It's difficult and it will leave you excluded from fun lunch outings with everyone, but Darren agrees it's for the best. Turn to people that can relate. Darren and many other mastermind members have agreed that one of the best remedies for the loneliness of agency ownership is sharing in a group of people who relate and offer advice. As an agency owner, you can feel burdened with the pressure of being responsible for people's livelihoods and the future of your business, which you can't really discuss with your team. However, other agency owners will understand those concerns and offer new perspectives. Find the right pace. We're all impatient about the success we want to see for our company. We want to scale fast and take on every project we can get. But, that kind of thinking can lead to burnout for you and your team. You don't have to take on every client. Learning to say no is an important part of the process. Our guest recommends talking with your team to be sure that they can handle the workload. Set expectations for each project and be realistic about deadlines. After all, you're counting on them and they have to know that you've got their back. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Learn to Deal With the Isolation of Agency Life and Find the Right Pace to Grow Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. And I have an amazing guest coming on the masterclass to talk about the doom and gloom of owning an agency. The things that not many people really talk about that you need to be aware of and to make sure that, you know, look, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. So we're definitely going to have a lot of fun. Um, but let's go ahead and jump into it. Alright, Darren. What's going on, man? Darren: [00:00:33] Hey, thanks for having me. It's awesome to be here. Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. I was, I had Drew on last week and he was one of the other ones on top of the mountain with us. That was in the intro. So you're the second guest on the intro. Tell us, uh, before we jump in and talk about, you know, all this amazing stuff that we wish we knew about, tell us who you are and what you do? Darren: [00:00:58] Sure. So, uh, Darren Fox, president and founder of Idea Marketing Group. Uh, we're a full-service agency that is known for custom web development. So that's been our core focus and we work with all types of industries, but we've really been, you know, narrowing that down to food and beverage within the last year or so. Jason: [00:01:19] Awesome. Well, I'm excited to have you on, so let's, um, let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about what are some of the things that you didn't expect, you know, creating an agency. Because a lot of times we come in and we think, you know, creating an agency there's low barrier to entry and we're going to have all this freedom, uh, you know, to do whatever we want and have all this money. So let's, let's talk about what did you not expect? Darren: [00:01:45] Oh, yeah. So, I mean, I guess a lot of it is time initially of like how much time it really takes. Everybody thinks that, you know, because you have your own business, that you're just going to be, you know, going out, doing whatever you want, getting the work done. And I feel like when I first started, I was probably working almost double the hours that I was previously for like a fraction of the price. Probably like my first job, like pushing shopping carts at a retail store is essentially what I was making, but working so much harder and longer. And, you know, I kind of fell into the agency role unexpected. I was really just going to kind of do it as like this freelance thing and do it on the side. And it all just kind of happened. Then, you know, it started to snowball and I was getting bigger and I was like, I can't do this by myself. I need to start hiring. And, you know, just learning about the challenges of hiring and trying to bring on the right people. And I think, you know, I obviously learned some mistakes early on that the best thing to do is, you know, spend that money and hire the best talent that you can early on. Um, so that was probably like one of the biggest mistakes out of the gate is I was just trying to hire like what I could kind of afford. And just learning early on that, you know, that's not the right type of mentality that you need to have to make the agency successful. Jason: [00:03:14] Yeah. I, um, I see a lot of times, and I even did this as well. Like in the very beginning when you're hiring someone, you're hiring them to do something that you don't know how to do. That you're really trying to sell them on working with you versus the opposite. And I look at it now looking back and I think you do too of going, if I could go back again, I would actually hire someone to do something that I already know how to do really well. So then I know how to manage them and they're actually doing the things that I don't need to be doing anymore. So I can go on to the next. Darren: [00:03:51] Right. Yeah, because I mean, every agency owner should constantly challenge themselves to, you know, do professional development and just keep growing. Because as soon as you stop, you die. Like, yeah, this is just kind of the nature of the beast, especially in this industry with how fast everything changes. Jason: [00:04:10] Yeah. What about like, when things go wrong? Like, what's your, what's your thoughts of, uh… You know, can you go to your team? Can you go to your employees? Like, I mean, it's pretty, I remember it was pretty isolating. Darren: [00:04:25] Yeah. Yeah. You definitely feel like you're on an island. Like, you know, you want to share these things with people. But at the same time, they're putting their trust and faith in you as a leader. And you don't want to jeopardize that either, because then they start to question what you're doing. So, yeah, it's an extremely lonely position to be in. And it's tough too, because I'm the type of person like I like to develop like really solid relationships with my staff. And then there's also that fine line too, of like, well, you still have to be the boss. You can't be somebody's best friend because you may be put in that position to where you'd have to fire them. And I've had to do that and, you know, it's, it's a hard position to be in. So I think just kind of knowing that fine line of like, wanting to bring on people that fit from a culture standpoint, because they share the same values as you do. But you also have to kind of, you know, keep that line in between of not becoming friends. I mean, you can be, but it's like, it's a different type of friendship. Jason: [00:05:32] Yeah. How have you gotten around that? Because, you know, I've, I've struggled with that in the past. And even on this go around, you know, it's, it's really, it might, like with Stacy and her team, like they're, they're like family now. Um, and I know what you're saying about like, you know, if you get to a point where you have to fire someone because they're not doing something, it makes it that much harder. But I guess elaborate a little bit more about, because most people don't realize this and it does get very, very difficult. Darren: [00:06:11] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, when you say family, you look at it and the people that you work with are probably the people that you see more often than your actual family. So in essence, they are your family because, yeah, you're around them so much. And, you also, like, as you've grown, you add staff, I remember, or a smaller, we would do everything. It was like a, a tight little group too. We would do like launch outings and everything. But then as you get bigger yeah, it's like, oh, we can't really just bring everybody out to lunch or we can't do this. And then you have to start to be selective of like, well, if I go out to lunch with this person, is it going to piss off the other person? And people start to see that you're playing like favoritism. Um, so that's also hard too. So, you know, a lot of times like the team would go out on lunch outings and I'd be like, yeah, I'm going to sit this one out because you guys will be able to bond more without me there and present. So those are some of the challenging things too, is just pulling back and sometimes it puts you or paints that picture of like, oh, you're this guy that, you know, doesn't want to be around the staff when really you do, you just have to like… Yeah, it's, it's hard to say. It's like, yeah, you've got to kind of just separate yourself. You can't do after hour get-togethers or those types of things. Jason: [00:07:33] Yeah. I remember when I had, I think we're about eight people at the time and a lot of the people at this level, um, I remember having them over at my house, like a bonfire behind and I just treated them as like friends. And then I remember the culture really started shifting a little bit in the wrong way, um, for like listening to us. It was kind of like, they didn't look at you as the leader anymore, but like, oh, I can do whatever. I remember having to get rid of a lot of those people. And I remember coming back at it going I can't do that anymore. And it's like, one of my favorite movies is miracle right there about the 1980 hockey team. If any of you have watched or hasn't watched it, you got to go watch it. It's really pretty amazing. And, uh, Herb, I think it was Herb Green was that w was that the coach's name at the time? And the whole, this whole committee wanted to put all these a, a, you know, all these, a, um, star people on the team. He was like, no, I want the right people on the right position. Um, it's not, they're not the best player, but the best player for the team. And I remember him separating himself from his team. Like… and I remember the doctor and his assistant coach was like, has he ever done this? It's like, no, never, but there's always a reason. And, uh, it is, you know, it is pretty lonely at the top. Um, what are some things that you've done to kind of make you sane because you are on an island? Darren: [00:09:15] Yeah. Um, so actually probably the best thing was joining the mastermind group too. And just being around other agency owners and just being able to share with them directly. Because those are the stories that we haven't been able to share internally. And then you have somebody that's in the same boat as you, that you can be like, all right, I get it. Like, let's just talk through this. So I think that's really valuable too, because, yeah, I see it with every agency owner where they start to have second thoughts of like, do I get rid of the agency? Do I keep going? Is this the right thing for me? Um, so yeah, I mean, we all battled depression too, which is an unfortunate thing as a business owner, but, it's something that everybody should be aware of. Jason: [00:10:03] Well, I think, I think the depression comes because we do feel like everything's on our shoulders. And there's, you know, there's, it's like these people are going to eat or they're going to die, you know, with us. And that's, I think we put too much pressure on ourselves. You know, I've always joked about, I've always been fired from every position I've ever had, other than the ones I create. Um, and it's always been the best thing, right? So I can go on to the next, and I could eventually find this. And I look at, look, even if you make a wrong decision as an agency owner. That's okay. Like you get a reset, even if it does take down and you have to lay people off. That's okay. People are going to be fine. They're resilient. They'll actually go do it. So it's not a life and death situation. Um, yeah. And you know, I hear so many stories, kind of like yours. I was many points in my agency where I just wanted to throw in the towel. I was, uh, I was looking through some of the stories and old emails, um, to kind of look at some of the successes that our clients have had over the years. And, you know Jack well, and I remember Jack, he sent me an email many years ago. He goes, should I shut down the agency or push on? And like there's so many times, and I remember sending him an email. I was like, uh, no, you should push on. And I said, whenever you feel it you're at the max kind of the Navy Seals have this motto that you're only at 40%, you still have 60% to go. I'm so glad he continued, cause now is a multimillion-dollar agency, uh, you know, owner. And he's picking and choosing doing what he wants, but it's just like, sometimes you have to disconnect and get the emotion. Like how do you… in your agency, I think a lot of times I would, even in my company now, uh, you make emotional decisions. So how do you take emotion out of it when you're making a decision? Darren: [00:12:04] That's the hardest thing, because I feel like I make a lot of decisions based on emotion too. So I think the best thing to do in that case is don't decide right at the moment. Like, digest it, take, uh, take time. Um, like I think another thing that agency owners fail to do is they don't take vacations. Like, especially early on too. And that was something that I started to do, because just as you said, it's kind of like a reset to get away and be like, all right, recharge, think about it. And really just like reflect on where you're going, what you're doing and think about it. Because I've had those moments too, too, where it's like, all right, what do I do? And sometimes that is it's like, you just need to get away. Jason: [00:13:01] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data, jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and back in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports at scale. Now, Ninja Cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place, freeing you up from manual data wrangling, and it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your business. And for a limited time, my Smart Agency podcast listeners will receive $500 ninja credit when you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo. That's I love that you said take a vacation, get away, because especially for the first couple of years, or decade for some people… You work around the clock because you're like, this is my time I got to grab as much as I possibly can. But it's almost kind of like, you know, my son, um, he runs the mile at track and a lot of kids take off just sprint the first two, and then they die at the last two. You got to pace yourself. And I find, I found, you know, especially in doing this business… You know, I, I felt like I wanted to get all the market share, but I knew I was like, well, why, why, why do I need that? And I said, I need to have some time to self-reflect to do my own thing. That's why I only work Monday through Thursday, you know, from a certain time to a certain time. And that's the firm's goal of each quarter is around my time goal. And that's a rule. I don't break it. I think so many others, if they did that, then they enjoyed a lot more. And yeah, you might not grow as quick but who cares if you grow a thousand times, you know, every, every year, if it's going to get you a shitty life? Darren: [00:15:22] Exactly. Yeah. I mean, if it's consistent and you're still seeing that growth, even if it's small, I would much rather have that than… You know, early on we did some significant growth and scaled up, probably too quickly, and had it take some time back and just like, all right, we, we need to work on process. We have to do this, get this set up. So yeah, I think that's the other thing too. Everybody's always so impatient to like, just as you said, cover everything. And it's like, you don't have to. Jason: [00:15:56] Yeah. What, um… one of the things like, how did you kind of change the impatientness, uh, of kind of giving yourself more time, because I see so many agencies they rush. Like how did you know…? Because everything in your company is designed to break, I look at right? Like think about, uh, marketing should break sales. Sales should break operations, right? And so how did you know what's the right pace for you to grow? I think not many people really talk about that. We just talk about 10X, 20X, 2X, whatever it is. Like, how do you find the right pace for your growth in order for it to work for you? Darren: [00:16:42] Um, really, it was the ability to learn, to say no, which is like one of the hardest things too. Because you can look like, just, as you said, you had access to production schedules, like, you know what's happening. You could easily take another job on top of it and kill your staff or you can say, all right, you've identified this, you, you mentioned a couple of red flags and it's probably not the right fit. So even though you have the money and you're ready to go, we're not going to take on the project. So that's been like the biggest thing to like slow it down. And just make sure that, you know, selecting the right type of work. That took me years to figure it out. Um… Jason: [00:17:30] Was it because of process, process of elimination? Or why do you think it took you many years? It took me many years as well. Darren: [00:17:40] Yeah. It's really, it's just, um, saying no to the money, because just as you said, early on, it's like everything's on our shoulders to make sure that we're paying salaries. We're making sure that we're providing. So when you have the money there and you see it and like, okay, this is going to help everybody out. But at the same time, you start to look at it, is it really going to help everybody out or is it going to put them in a different type of mental state that you don't want them in? Um, so yeah, it was challenging because yeah, when we first started, we were taking on any project that we could get because it was just a project to put in the queue. Um, so I think that was probably one of the biggest things and it's hard to learn and to, you know, say no. Jason: [00:18:25] How… last thing I want to ask you, um, is your team is always going to say you're maxed out or they're maxed out. So, and I don't think many people talk about this either of going, how do you really truly tell if your team is maxed out or not in order to figure out when to say no? Like I know you're saying when to say no to the wrong client, or when you can say I need to bring on someone else to help. Because that's a, I think that's an, that takes, you know, years and years to figure that out too. Like, cause I remember my team going. Man, we're, we're maxed out. We can't take on any more work. Darren: [00:19:08] Yeah. Now you hear that a lot. And, you know, there's things like time tracking that you can look at and everything, but really the best way is just to sit down with your team one-on-one and just ask them outright. Like, how are you feeling like you want to go through it together? Like, let's talk about it. Because the other big thing too is like, you know, we're in the agency life, we're not in the ER. Like we have projects that, you know, sure they may have a deadline, but it doesn't mean that somebody is going to die because we can't get it done on that day. Like, so that's the other thing too, is like just setting expectations and going through that. I think that's, you know, another hard lesson for agency owners is, you know, they do one project at this time and then figure that's what it's going to take for every other project. But every client's different, you don't know what it's going to like, be like to work with them. Um, so really setting those expectations and letting your staff know that you've got their back and be like, all right, here's the deadline? What can we do to hit it? Can we pull in other team members? Or is this even a realistic deadline? Do we have to stretch it? So yeah. It's just really that transparency and just, you know, talking to your staff, like they're humans, because really they are the most important piece of the agency. Jason: [00:20:31] Too it's, it's relying on them, right? Like I always tell everybody it's like delegate the outcomes you want, not the tasks. And a lot of times too, you can delegate the problems to them. Um, without divulging that you don't have a clue about it, right? So if you went to your staff going, uh, I don't know how to grow this damn company, can you guys help me out? They're all going to do, they're all going to jump ship. But if you can kind of go, hey, what do you guys think? I want to get your input on, you know, what do you guys think we need to do in order to get to this point? They're going to be like, wow. You know, Darren's asking me for my input. So I feel significant. I can contribute. I can be a part of something bigger than myself. It's just about reframing that. So just, and the other thing too, and I think you've realized this, you know because look running an agency's tough and you're going to have a lot of days where you wanting to quit. How you come into the office, if you guys have an office or how you show up, when you chat with your team, directly impacts them and their mood. I remember when I would show up to the office, if a client screwed us or whatever happened, uh, or if I was mad at a business partner. If I showed up pissed or in a bad mood, it, it rained down. Did you see that as well? Darren: [00:21:56] Yeah. Yeah, because my team knows me well enough that they can tell as well too. And I'm the type that likes to do shenanigans and pranks at the office to keep everything light. And cause really it is… it's like, we're all supposed to have fun. Like, just take it easy and just do good work and rely on each other. I mean, it's just simple rules. Jason: [00:22:22] And Darren really means that like he showed up at the digital agency experience with, uh, what was a balloon launcher? Um, he was the first one when we found that creepy tunnel in the old mines. I was like, I pulled like literally guys, we found this old mine when we were on these ATVs and it wasn't locked. And I opened this and I look at Darren, I go, you want to go in? And before I knew it, he was in and we kept one person out in case we all died, like an avalanche happened, but, uh, it was so much fun. Darren: [00:22:54] Yeah, exactly. I mean, we only get one shot, so just make it count. Jason: [00:22:58] That's right. Well, awesome. Darren, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the people listening in? Darren: [00:23:06] Um, I would just say just, if you start to doubt yourself, just you know, talk to family and talk to loved ones, take a break. Um, because you're going to be able to push through it. Like, don't feel like it's all on you that you do have a support line that's out there Jason: [00:23:24] And what's the website people can go and check, uh, check the agency out? Darren: [00:23:28] Yeah. So it's an Idea Marketing Group. And then, then it's Jason: [00:23:36] Awesome. Everyone go check it out. And if you guys liked this episode, you'll make tape. Make sure you take a screenshot. Shut us out on Instagram saying, hey, got a lot of value from it. Thanks for sharing your perspective. We'll give you a shout-out back as well. And uh, if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners like Darren and come to, uh, the mountain to have an amazing time and just be able to talk about the stuff you can't talk about with your crew. Um, I'd love to invite you guys together to and see if we're the right fit for you and if you're the right fit us. So make sure to go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Can a Pay-Per-Performance Pricing Model Work for Your Agency?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 18, 2021 17:59

    Ever wondered if you could make money on performance-based pricing? Kyle Sulerud was a Google ads expert with many years of experience in the space. He even had a training program teaching others his Google ads methodology. That was until he was presented with the challenge of running YouTube ads. Today he runs AdLeg, an agency specialized in this niche. Kyle joins the podcast to talk about his experience with the pay-per-performance model, how it has worked for him, how he refined his criteria to work with clients that he could ensure success, and the hurdles he has found in his learning experience. 3 Golden Nuggets An unbelievable model. The pay-per-performance model may not be for everyone, but it has worked for our guest, whose model has evolved to charging a percentage of the profit. Clients jump at the chance of getting the service and paying only if the ads work and bring the expected results. They may not be as eager once they start sending the payments, but Kyle trusts his model and is confident that it gets the best results. Refine your criteria. At first, this agency didn't necessarily know what the criteria for working in this niche had to be. They thought that working with companies that showed promise was good enough to ensure success. But with time and experience they have adjusted that to working with companies that have a certain monthly revenue from the product that they want them to advertise and have a sales team. Now clients practically audition to work with them and not the other way around. Maintain communication. Each client thinks about things a little differently and some may not understand why it's better for them to pay an agency an amount that they would gladly pay to Google. To address this, Kyle and his team realized the importance of maintaining communication with them to present the progress they had made and how they stay on top of things. Hence, the email-only communication with clients turned into monthly or bimonthly meetings. Sponsors and Resources HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Refine Your Client Criteria and Profit With Pay-Per-Performance Pricing Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? Jason Swenk here and I have another amazing episode for you. An amazing guest coming up, he's in the mastermind, Kyle. And his agency is all based on pay for performance, you know. And we're going to talk about how you can do it. What are the benefits? What are the disadvantages? And let's go ahead and get into it. Hey, Kyle. Welcome to the show. Kyle: [00:00:29] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:31] Yeah, man. Excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? Kyle: [00:00:37] Yeah, so, uh, the names Kyle Sulerud and I live in the great sunny state of North Dakota. Um, and I run an agency called AdLeg. We, uh, did Google ads for a long time. About seven and a half years, um, in the space. But for the past couple of years, I've really been focused on YouTube ads. And, as you mentioned in the intro, we focus on pay for performance, meaning we only get paid when our clients get paid. And, um, it's been a great model. I've been able to grow the team pretty quickly with that model. So I'm excited to talk about that today. Jason: [00:01:15] Yeah. So tell us kind of… How did you discover this model? Or why did you choose this model? Because there's a lot of different models that, you know, you could have done, you know. What was… What attracted you to the performance model? Kyle: [00:01:33] So, when we were just doing Google ads, it was all retainer-based. And I'd kind of always wanted to do performance-based. I've heard Dean Jackson talk about thinking about if you only got paid for results, what would you get paid for? And I've always thought about my agency that way, but when you're running Google ads for roofing companies, that's, that's pretty hard to do. Um, obviously there's certain pay-per-lead models that can work for that, but. Um, it just never really worked out. Once I got into YouTube ads, I found that it, it could work out. For starters, because I didn't know what the results were going to be. And I really didn't want to get paid for my first couple of clients unless I was bringing them results. So they knew that, they knew that I was, I was fresh with YouTube ads and they were willing to give me a shot. Um, especially since they weren't going to have to pay me if it didn't work. They just had to pay for their ads. So we worked out a percentage of profit and because they are selling digital products, that was easy to track. And, um, from there it worked, the profit was there. My percentage was there. Everyone was happy. And that's the model that I've stuck with. Jason: [00:02:51] That's awesome. Tell us kind of a couple of scenarios to watch out for, like, if you had to go back, right? And take on some clients. Cause I've, I've seen it work extremely well, and I've also seen it blow up in people's face. But it's blown up there in their face because of certain criteria. So can you talk a little bit more about that? Kyle: [00:03:10] Absolutely. We really refined the criteria. And that has been extremely important. And at first we didn't necessarily know what the, what that criteria had to be. So we would take on clients that looked really promising. It looked like they had a product that was going to sell well through YouTube ads. And if we just sent traffic to that, then it would be profitable. And it didn't work for, for a number of reasons, either their product wasn't quite ironed out or they were in the middle of pivoting to something new, or they didn't have the sales team in place to handle the leads. Um, for the most part, it came down to, to newer products. People that didn't really have something that was proven out fully. So our criteria now is you have to really be proven out. You have to have, um, we have a pretty high threshold for monthly revenue from the product that you want us to advertise. That doesn't mean from your whole business, but from the specific product that you want us to send traffic to, you need a certain amount of monthly revenue coming in. Um, you need a sales team in place. If you're, if you're selling something with sales calls and we've found that that's pretty reliable. Because it's at that point and you have a machine. It's well-oiled and we just need to send more traffic to it and we'll make you more profitable. And then we can, we can actually take our cut. Jason: [00:04:46] I love it. What is the, what's the typical kind of you think of a good percentage to have, or do you have a sliding scale? Cause a lot of people are like, well, how much should I ask? And I think sometimes people ask for too little. Kyle: [00:05:03] Yeah. Um, that's something else that that's evolved. Um, the, the very first client got a really sweetheart deal. Um, and since then I've learned the value that my agency can really bring and… It varies, but it goes as high as 25% right now. And maybe, maybe that can go higher, but I don't know. I think 25% is a pretty high number. Not everyone is on that level. It kind of depends on the client. Um, but yeah, anywhere from 20 to 25% is pretty reasonable for, for this. Especially with the types of clients we have, where they already have everything going on, all we need to do is send more traffic to something that's already working. So it's pure profit for the client at that point. Jason: [00:05:52] Yeah. And, and I would, I would gather and especially, you know, from, from hearing from you in the mastermind talk about it. It it's more like they're auditioning for you rather than you auditioning for them. Is that true? Kyle: [00:06:07] Yeah, it, it really is. Um, we don't even talk to about 90% of people who apply to work with us. And, uh, once we talk to them, that's really just our way of verifying the numbers of going really deep and making sure that it's something that we think will work with our model and that it's something that we want to work on. So yeah, we, we reject far, far more people than we accept it. It really is them applying to work with us. Jason: [00:06:41] Yeah, it's, it's just an unbelievable model, you know? Cause a lot of times we're all, you know, the thing about… There's a lot of people listening that are at a point where they're like, and I came to this realization a little while ago of going, I remember chatting with… There was like maybe three agency owners I chatted with in a row and they all were like, I resent my clients. And I'm like, I was like, well, you're in the wrong business. Like, why do you resent your clients? And they couldn't really tell me. They were just like, well, they always ask for these dumb requests, all this kind of stuff. And I, and then I, the last person I said, you know, actually you probably have a lead, um, a lead generation problem. Because you resent your clients because you depend too much on them. And I said, if you had a ton to come in and you could pick and choose from them, that basically eliminates that. Then you're only working with the ones that you truly want. And they're like, yeah, that kind of makes sense. And I love that you discovered that through this. Um, tell us the story about, I'm sure you probably had… where there's a client that they probably keep sending you checks and you're like crap. They're, they're probably like they start looking and going, how much money am I sending to Kyle? Kyle: [00:07:55] Yeah. So the, the pay for, pay for performance model sounds really great to a client before they send you any money. You know, this, this sounds amazing. Um, this agency they're putting their money where their mouth is and, um, great. I'll sign up. I'll pay them a percentage of profits. Where that starts getting questioned is when is when a client is paying you 20 times more than they paid someone to run ads for them before, you know? Because yeah, people are out there willing to, to run ads for whatever, whatever kind of business you have. That's not really what we do. We don't run ads. We partner with you. We're, we're in this as much as you are to try to make it as profitable as possible. Um, so yeah, once, once they start sending those, those bigger checks, five figures, multiple five figures a month. Now they're thinking, hey, I used to pay my Facebook ad guy $2,000 a month. Um, maybe I can find someone to do it for that. So, yeah, it, uh, I can think of a specific situation where that happened. And the client was actually very transparent with us. They said, you know, we're, we feel like we're paying you a lot. And we're actually testing out a different agency right now who's just willing to charge us on a flat retainer. And, you know, we said okay. I'd seen that happen before where, uh, a different agency came in and results just weren't there. And you know, that's not to brag, but I've, I have a really great system here and we're able to bring in results for YouTube ads like no other agency I've seen. So in this case they were testing this other agency. Uh, they were about a month in with them. It, it wasn't profitable with them. Uh, they were told they just need some more time, you know, need more time to optimize. That's always the story. Um, even though we had been profitable in month one. They got a couple of months in and it still wasn't profitable. And with the retainer they were paying the agency, they were losing money. And, um, finally they, they said, all right, you know, we're getting rid of this other agency. We're just going to go with you. Um, we get it now. And that's… think, they have to think about it like it they're paying the money somewhere, right? A lot of people don't think twice about doubling their ad spend and paying Google twice as much money. But what we can do is actually save a client that money that they're paying Google. We get some of it, they get the rest of the savings and, overall, they just are way more profitable. And once they realize that they're happy to stay with us. So it's very, very rare that we lose a client. Jason: [00:11:01] Hey there. Quick question for you. Is your agency paying a fortune for software? Do you have to stack multiple softwares together to deliver success for your clients? You know, if so, there's a new platform called HighLevel that you should really check out. HighLevel is an all-in-one marketing platform for agencies that has an insane amount of features and really replaces tools like ClickFunnels active campaign, Infusionsoft, Calendly, Kajabi, CallRail, and a lot more. The best part is you can white-label, HighLevel and sell it to your clients as their own software. Opening up a new super sticky revenue stream for your agency. Normally high-level offers a 14-day free trial. But as a member of my community, you have access to an exclusive 30-day free trial, which can you take advantage by going to So head over to to save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year on software costs. I think too, like, it's about the client not realizing that the time, time is more valuable, you know, especially going to a new agency. Now I want to know, and I, I hope you did, but you're too nice of a guy, so I don't think you did. Um, did you charge them a pain in the ass fee for coming back? Kyle: [00:12:32] No. No, they're actually, you know, they're good clients. And like I said, they were, they were up front with us. They, they told us. They asked for a discount. Um, we, we stuck to what we were charging, you know? Um, yeah, well, I guess I'm too nice of a guy. Jason: [00:12:50] I already knew the answer. Kyle: [00:12:52] They're still getting the same rate they were. Jason: [00:12:54] I know I was like, I'd been like, all right, well it's 30% now. Um, suckers. What, uh, what have you learned from them leaving that you would have been like now that you have in your head, would you recall this story to them and saying, hey, you can go try them. But look, you're more than comfortable paying Google, but why not us? Like it's a cer… it's a percentage, like we never make over this percentage. Kyle: [00:13:21] Yeah. There's different ways to frame that. And I think each client kind of thinks about it a little differently. One thing we've really learned is to be just really involved in communication. Um, for a while we were rarely meeting with clients. Uh, we mostly communicate by email. Now we're meeting with clients once a month or once every couple months, at least just to talk about, okay here's where you were. Here's what we've done. Here's where you are now. Here's the plan going forward? Uh, here are some new changes that Google, um, that from Google, you know, that we're on top of, don't worry, we're taking care of this kind of stuff. And just kind of over-communicating so that they know that we're, we're on top of it. We're their partner, and it would be almost silly for them to look elsewhere. Jason: [00:14:17] What about…? I know some people are listening in are going… All right so you set up this great system on YouTube. I presume this is under your account that you control or is that under theirs? Kyle: [00:14:30] Yeah, it's, it's under our account that we control and we do get some pushback on that. Uh, we've lost some clients, um, who probably would have started working with us if that wasn't the case. But it's been really important for me. Um, partially to just preserve our system. I don't want an outside party, even if it's a client having access to see everything that we do. Um, and then partially just because a lot of it is in the setup, I'm sure someone could take a campaign that we've set up and that we've been running for a few months and run with it and it would do fine for a while. So we need to really just preserve our work. Uh, we don't require contracts, so that's just one way that we ensure that our work is protected. Jason: [00:15:23] Yeah. I love it. Cause I know a lot of people are thinking, well, we'll set up everything on the client side and they have access to everything. And then like, like you were saying, a lot of the work is upfront. And then, and I like how you overcame that objection to them as well of going I don't want you guys going in there and messing it up. Like we got to protect what we're doing. Rather than saying, if you leave, then you can run with it too. It's like how you, how you frame that. Well, this has all… Kyle: [00:15:50] Actually, we invested some money in, in building out a portal that clients have access to so they can see some data in real time. They can see how their ads are performing in real time. It's linked directly into the Google ads account. It's software that I hired developers to build for me. Um, so they can see the, the data, the performance data. They just can't see how everything is set up and how everything's being run. Jason: [00:16:17] I love it. I love it. Kyle, this has all been great. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Kyle: [00:16:25] Uh, no, I think we pretty much covered it. I think pay for, for performance is great. If you can work it out, there's huge upside. It'll probably take you a wild and some downside to kind of figure out who you want to work with, who you don't want to work with, how much you needed to charge. Um, but it's, it's been great for me. I'm definitely not going to be changing it anytime soon. Jason: [00:16:50] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kyle. Um, oh, before I forget, what's the website people can go and check you guys out? Kyle: [00:16:58] Yeah, it's That's A D L E You can also find me on YouTube. I have a pretty active channel. Just search my name on YouTube and that'll come up for you. Jason: [00:17:10] Awesome. Well, thanks so much, Kyle, for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, make sure you take a screenshot, upload it to Instagram, tag us and say, hey, I really. The episode. Thanks so much. And we'll give you a shout out back. Also, too if you want to be around other amazing agency owners on a consistent basis, I'd love to invite all of you to go check out the Digital Agency Elite. This is our exclusive mastermind where we're constantly ascending all of our members up to the top of the summit so they can get to a point where they can exit, whether it's sell their agency or exit of doing all this stuff that they hate doing. So make sure you go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    How One Agency Grew to $5.5 Million By Investing in Leadership

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 15, 2021 26:36

    Do you have the crystal clear vision needed to take your agency to the next level? John Quinton-Barber describes himself as a visionary and accidental entrepreneur. He had 30 years of experience in the media and communications industry when he decided he wanted to set up his own business. After eight years, Social is now a top 20 UK agency. He joins Jason to talk about how he remained focused on the future and the crystal clear vision needed to continue growing your agency, some of the hurdles he has found along the way, and the importance of investing in leadership to focus on the key aspects of your agency's past, present, and future. 3 Golden Nuggets Invest in the right people. The first years of a digital agency are about survival. John focused on keeping the agency running but, after hitting one million pounds, he realized it was no longer necessary or efficient that he took care of every aspect of the business. He started to invest in people to take care of yesterday (the processes, HR, IT, legal), someone to take care of today (making sure the agency creating great quality campaigns, working with clients, giving them the best service), and then focused on taking care of the future, which is about strategy, vision, and where you want to go. Crystal clear vision. After deciding that he was not running a lifestyle business and getting serious about making something really special, John said he never looked back and never experienced doubts. A crystal clear vision will help your business thrive in hard times. If you don't have that vision, you won't get to the next stage. John admits he made many mistakes and that, by year four of his agency, he was barely making any profit and plowing every penny back into the business. But now, in year eight, he is reaping the rewards of investing in his dream. Build up leadership. Finding the right people was key to keep the business running, but empowering them was crucial to keep the business growing. John's mantra is “if you weren't in the business for three months, would it run? And would it grow?” Recruiting can become difficult when you're searching for leaders that can make this mantra happen, so John focused on building leaders within his organization. He makes sure that every director completes a year-long leadership course and has the tools to succeed as a leader. He no longer is the only one focusing on the future, on the vision, and that is the key to continue growing. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Trust Your Crystal Clear Vision Begin Investing in Leadership Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? I'm excited to bring you another episode of the Smart agency Masterclass. I have an amazing guest all the way across the pond in the UK. And he's going to talk about how he's been scaling his agency over the past eight years and some of the trials and tribulations. Now, before we jump into the episode, I want you guys to take a screenshot, tag us on Instagram. And we'll give you a shout out, um, when the episode, uh, when, when you actually do that. So we can, uh, recognize you. So let's go ahead and get into the show. Hey,  John. Welcome to the show. John: [00:00:42] Jason, pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me. Jason: [00:00:44] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what do you do? John: [00:00:49] My name is John Quinton-Barber. It's quite a posh name. It's a UK name, John Quinton-Barber. And I'm the founder and chief executive of a marketing digital agency called Social, here in the UK. Jason: [00:01:00] Awesome. And so how did you get started? John: [00:01:04] Well, I've always… I'm 50 years of age. So about 30 years in media and communications and PR. And when I hit about 43 years of age I had this urge that I wanted to set my own business up. And probably quite a few of the listeners will be relating to this quite now. I had this urge but in the back of my mind I felt, I can't do it. I can't do it. And I just took the leap and did it. So eight years ago I set up Social. Um, and what I wanted to do was just bring a different type of agency to the UK market. Because the agency world had gotten a little bit stale. It was offering PR, but it wasn't offering much else. Social was just about social media was just about emerging as the next big thing, next best thing. So I took the plunge and set up the agency, um, with not, not, not a lot of money in my pocket, to be honest. Um, but a whole scope of confidence. And yeah, eight years on, we've gone from what I said about, talking about the dollars, about $10,000. To now about $5.5 million dollars after eight years. So it's been one journey from two people to 48 people right now. And there's a whole host of learnings. Jason: [00:02:11] Oh yeah, definitely. I mean, it's… I remember kind of doing that jump, uh, you know, and there's many stages that you go through. Uh, if you think about it. And I always look at it as kind of like the stages of like climbing a mountain. Like at first you're kind of like surveying of like, do I really want to climb that mountain? Or, you know, which mountain do I want to climb? Um, what were, what were the stages that you went through over the past eight years that, um… were a point where you were like. I mean, were you ever at a point where you just was like, nah, this is not for me? Like, I want out. Or what… like describe some of the hard parts and how'd you get through them? John: [00:02:51] I've never had that. Never, never had that moment, Jason, where this is not for me. It's always, I've always felt it's for me. It's quite, almost like a mission, really a zeal within me to make this work. Um, the pain points. So as we know, when you set an agency up, it's about survival. You know, I've got family, I've got two young children. They were two young children at the time. It's about survival. I need to bring the income in. And you find yourself doing everything, you know, planning the business, servicing the clients, uh, wiring the, uh, the IT of the desk, sorting out the HR and the finance. So, um, in the first two years, that's what life was like. And we hit a million, a million pounds, so about $1.5 million, in about a year three. And that's when, for me, um, not the fun… Well, it was no longer, it wasn't fun anymore. But it was just like, oh my God. When it was about 10 people in the agency and we're bumping along about 1 million, life was good. You know, we could, we could, we all knew each other. We all knew each others' strengths. We could work together. But as soon as we hit that million-pound mark, that was it. We then had to refocus on actually, this is a business. And I had to make some decisions. Because I decided then it wasn't a lifestyle business. I was plowing back every bit of penny, every penny, back into the business. And taking a very modest salary. Because I had this vision that we can make this business into something really big and really special. And that's something I carry within me all the, all the while. And I'll keep all the while until the end until the big events at the end. Jason: [00:04:19] Well, I think… Yeah, no, I, I think you're, you really hit something I want to point out. You had a crystal clear vision. A lot of us, when we get started in the agency, it's kind of accidental and we really don't know where we're going. We're just reacting to all the work coming to us. And, but when you… and then I remember going through a pivotal point too, like you did of going all right, wow. It's like, you make this certain threshold and you're like, man, it's kind of not fun right now. Because the whole business has changed. But if I, if you don't have that vision of where you're going, you can't make it to the next part. It's kind of like, if I want to reach the summit and you kind of get up to like what I call, like, you know, the, the crux, right? That's kind of like in the middle, right? You're in the climb and you're like, well, I kinda liked it back at base camp. Like that's where the party was. But, uh, you know, talk about, you know, when you're at kind of that crux and you're going to like, Brett the million and a half, or, um, dollar mark. What did you have to do? Was it about building the team or…? John: [00:05:31] It was, I mean, my, my kind of like epiphany came when who is my chairman now, and he's in his sixties, late sixties. And he's not a PR man. He's a, he's a financer. And he said to me, he said, John, you created something special here. And you could, you could actually float this in years to come. And I was like float with it? I mean, I had to Google float it. What's that? Float it? You know, man, I'm trying to survive here. And that probably sowed the seed for actually the ambition I got. The belief I got in myself. So what I decided to do was okay, we, we, we're hitting the million mark. I'm now going to have to invest in a team around me to do the HR, to do the finance, to do the day-to-day. And I describe it like this, Jason, it's a… It's my, I always, when people say to me, I want to set up a business I say, okay, you need somebody to look after yesterday. You need someone to look after today. And you look after tomorrow. And what I was doing, I was doing yesterday, today, and tomorrow. What do I mean by that? Yesterday is basically someone that can sweep up after you. So basically all the kind of processes and the HR, the IT, and all the legals that on a business side becomes all consuming. Find somebody to look after yesterday. The today is about ensuring you're creating great quality campaigns, working with clients, giving them the best service, and ensuring that clients are happy. Clients are alright. And the tomorrow is about strategy. It's about a vision. It's about where you want to go. And I just, again, as I said by year three, when this hit me and my God between a million and probably 2 million, the pain hit me. It hit me where it doesn't hurt. I mean, made loads of mistakes, loads of mistakes. We're in the UK, I'm in Manchester, which is in the north of England. And you know, the, the eye on the prize was let's open a London office. You know, why? But, you know, we, we, we need to open a London office. And we opened a London office in year four and we shut it down in year five because we got it all wrong. We got the wrong people. We didn't have the right business strategy… We just approached it completely wrong. Delighted to say today in 2021, we now have another London office and it's doing really well. So we live in those lessons. Jason: [00:07:40] Yeah. I, I look at it as if you look at kind of three lines that an agency can be on, right? The first line… especially, you know, it happened what lasts last March, right? A lot of people panicked and they kind of went into, you know, a fear-based mentality. And I look at those businesses. They're barely surviving. Like they've just gone straight down. And then I look at other agencies, and I've been in this spot in the agency world for a couple of years of running the agency. You're kind of on this unfocused line and it's kind of the rollercoaster line…  Let's call it the rollercoaster line, right? And these are the preppers, uh, you know, these are the preppers of like saving up all the money and all that kind of stuff. And then you have, and I'm glad you mentioned focused on the strategy to the tomorrow. Let's call that the strategy line. These are the people that are in kind of positioning mode of going, like, how do we, um, how do we take over, uh, you know, more market share? How do we, um, acquire more talent? How do we acquire, which we've talked about in the pre-show acquire more agencies, right? And you're really kind of taking up another level. So I want everyone listening or watching to go, what line or have you been on and what line do you want to be on? And hopefully you guys want to be on the strategy line, but you may be like, you have to be honest with yourself of going, are we on the rollercoaster line? Because the only difference you said was leadership. John: [00:09:17] Yeah, no, we all, Jason, we're all on that. We all, we're all, you know, we all default back to those positions. You know, it's not, it's not all rosy and that's a model world, but I have to, you know, you have to dig deep. You have to dig deep in, in three things, in confidence, in your reserves, so your own health and wellbeing, because it's a big journey. But then you have to dig deep into your pockets and you'll have to invest in people, the right people. And I, you know, my, if you looked at my business about four years ago, you'd go, John, you know, you're barely making a profit. You're growing quickly. You're making it. You're spending quite a lot of money on the setting, so, business development team, finance, team, HR at a really quality number two guy. But you know, is costing me, uh, you know, it's a decent salary. Um, but that was that investment is now starting to pay off. We have got in our business now, eight PNLs. So we've had to really bolt on PNL's and you know, we're now starting to see the world. But the, the mindset for that is, you know, is sacrifice. You have to make the sacrifice. It's almost like when I hit year four, it felt like year one again, because I was having to kind of on this cycle of sacrifice. And now I'm on year eight and I am reaping the rewards. And so my, my message to anyone listening is if you've got a growth journey and growth plan, just go for it. Get the right talent. No, not the talent, not necessarily gonna deliver, you know, the, the, for the clients. The talent that is going to deliver for you sitting by your side to help you grow and scale your business. Jason: [00:10:50] Yeah. I love that. You said kind of invest in your company. And, and a lot of times people will misunderstand me a lot of times when I say, hey, the only thing that matters in your agency is your profit margin. And are you making money? That matters when you get closer to having an exit or, you know, liquidity event later on. But in the middle or in the beginning, I'm like, invest as much as you possibly can because you totally control everything. Like you can put money in the stock market, and I encourage you guys to do that as well, but that's you don't control any of it. It's like literally bet on red bet on black, you know, it's, I mean, it's a little more calculated. But with your agency, you can totally control the situation way better than anything else. So if you're listening, make sure you're investing heavily. You don't have to have 32% profit margins year over year. I know a lot of people reach out and they're like, I'm worried I'm at 15. Like, well, you're not even close to selling, so don't worry about it. John: [00:11:56] Awesome. No, it's true. It's true. And it's, um, you know, I, I do a lot of reading, obviously around some of the most successful companies. And you know, the successful companies didn't make a profit until, I said, you know, two years for listing or, or selling. And profit isn't really important if you… and I keep telling colleagues if you want to makes it grow. But you know, my, my mindset when I, it's interesting, my, my pits, some peer agencies in the UK that I… I would have a drink with and we chat too. And, um, sometimes I look at them through real kind of like, uh, envious glasses because you know, they're out having holidays four or five times a year, pre-COVID and… And that's great, you know, I'm all for that. I'm all for the lifestyle business. I think that's fantastic. You made a decision. But for me, it's just, as I said before, Jason, is quite a mission with me. I've got a mission and I'm going to make it, it's going to happen. I will scale this business and I'll take it to the UK A market. Uh, because I believe with that we've got a great proposition for investors. The one thing that, um, Jason, again, you'll be, you'll be so familiar with this is that culture of people. So while this is all happening with today, tomorrow and yesterday and invest in the center, um… we ha, I had to make sure that that Social probably has to be one of the best agencies to work for. Um, to say we invested a lot in the culture is wrong. It sounds like it's forced. We nurtured the culture that we were creating and we've got fantastic culture now. And I know every business owner says that and that, you know, generally have. And we continue to invest in that now with our people. Um, so the pandemic, uh, for, for us, didn't really hit us. You know, we, we grew through the pandemic, both financially… and we added nine new people during the pandemic year. So, but kind of how I think the… all that, all that groundwork in the first five years helped us through this tricky year. 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When you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo that's Why I know some people, like, you know, they're on the strategy line and usually you can accelerate your growth in a time like this. And they're literally, like, we don't want this to end because we're like, we're just reaping the benefits, uh, you know, for it. So let's talk about kind of like the transition from building the right team, right? So I look at that as kind of when you're building the right team, you're, you're in the crux. But then, kind of the next level up, I look at the crest and you're starting to build the leadership team. So let's talk about that because not many people do. Um, what are you, what… what does your leadership team look like? And, and how did you go about building it? Like what was, and would you go in the right order? The same order? So a lot of times people go marketing sales or do sales and marketing, you know, operations, that kind of stuff. John: [00:16:03] Well, for me, the first, the first kind of… the first again Eureka moment or epiphany moment for me was, uh, the operations side of it. Um, and so I brought in who is my number two now, Rob, managing all of the operations side of operations side of the business. And that was the, the first kind of key hire in this space. We are now a leadership team of nine across the business, um, head solve and directors. Um, and you know, that that team has taken time to build. And that team is, you know, we're a trusting team. Um, we work well together. We also get friction, which is, which is healthy I see. Uh, and I believe in, but yeah, the, for me, it was very much about operations, operations, you know, the business had to operate, um, and had to operate effectively. So bring that person in. I had a mantra about, and this is a really good test for anyone who's listening, the mantra is if you weren't in the business for three months, would it run? And would it grow? B. And obviously your priority is it has to run, so get it right. Make sure. And it's a good exercise to do is visualize. But just don't be happy with it running, it's got to grow. So what do you need to make it grow? So to make it run, I brought the right people in and then to make it grow, I've empowered the people in the business. They need to make it grow. Not just me. Um, and again, I'm off after next week for a whole month now. I'm taking a sabbatical. My phone is off. My everything's off. They can't get ahold of me unless it's burning down and that's the first time in eight years. But again, um, and again, I really want to reach out to anyone who's listening who's in that, in that probably two, three, four year phase. Just stick at it, because you get the right people and the right counsel and advice as any business, you can make it. Jason: [00:17:55] Yeah, I look at it as… And, um, and I'm actually showing a lot of our mastermind around this now of going, what are the things, if you audit your calendar for the past couple of weeks… What are the things that totally drain you? Which are the things that give you energy? And then when you look at the ones that drain you, because that's the things that like, you have too many of those that's when you're like, screw it. I'm outta here. Like, I don't want to do it anymore. All right. Or let me sell for this low valuation. I'm just, I'm done. Um, which you benefit from when buying. You know, you're like, oh, you've got low energy? I'll buy you, right? So if you guys are in the UK, obviously, go check them out. Um, but what I tell people is look at the low energy and then outsource or delegate or hire for that stuff. Like, I, I don't know why we always hire for things we don't have any clue on… like on. It doesn't make any sense. I mean, I've been guilty of this. I'll be like, I know nothing about pay-per-click. Let me go hire someone to do pay-per-click. Rather than like, I know everything about UX so let me hire UX, because I can manage that. And then figure out a process like it's just, it's just goofy. Um, what are some things… switching focus a little bit, what do you do in order to build your leaders within the organization? Because you know, at our top level masterminds, we're always talking about that. And also recruiting, recruiting is a really big thing. Like we cannot find enough people, it seems like. So how are you building leaders and then is recruiting your biggest issue too? John: [00:19:34] Uh, on building the leaders. It's, uh, it's important that we've got the program. So if you there's a few ways, we went with an external provider who does a year-long leadership course and I send… I, I want to say congratulation to my leaders that I'm dead proud of them. Uh, got the card here… the cards are there.  Um, so I went through it, I went through it, uh, three years. And now quite a lot of my, well, all my leads will be going through it. Um, and that's a day, month commitment for them. And they have, you know, they, they, they, all the topics are from culture to finance, to leadership, to behaviors. Um, I make people go through that process and I see them during the year just grow and blossom which is fantastic. And then I encourage them individually to find a mentor that's not me, someone that I can confide in probably about me, you know. If you want to moan and groan about me and they need someone external so they can have that. Again, we have identified a person for them in their life. Um, and you know, the, the company pays for that, it, it's a paid thing. So that you can never get enough, all the external kind of like counsel. Myself, I have a mentor, I've had one for five, six years. I belong to a board, the top of the alternative board, which when I was in America, I sit on the alternative board every month. And I just sit there and cry about people and money, cause that's always come up. But, um, but yeah, so leadership for me is I want to just, you know, embrace that. I said to my, one of my colleagues today, my strategy here is to get you working less and your reward going up every year. And that's what we've got to get through as a leader. And if you're working less in the business, then you know, you're, you're winning for me. Jason: [00:21:24] Yep. And then what about recruiting? Is that a, a big challenge for you guys like finding enough talent? John: [00:21:30] Absolutely. It really is. It's a, you know, to the point where it depends on the, it depends on the, on the area you're recruiting. So imagine digital social that's really, really sought after for obvious reasons. And that's challenging to recruit in them areas. So we want to, we want to do a blend of three things. We want to grow our own, um, so grow our people that we've already got into business. Because, you know the're very valuable to us, not just in monetary terms, but, just in, in their futures. We want to, I think mentioned before we were looking to acquire an agency. So we're looking, you know, where we can't, where we can't build a team because the talent pool, looking for jobs or employment isn't there. We're looking now just to, to hire, to, to acquire a boutique agency, particularly in the digital space. Um, and the third, the third area is looking at apprenticeships. So we're looking at bringing kids out of school and instead of kids going to, we call it school, university straight to us and we'll run a program with them. So that's something we're looking at for the next, for the next eighteen months. I I'm glad to hear, or we shouldn't be really glad to hear, that it's the same in America. But the talent is just strange. We're going through a strange time. Jason: [00:22:45] Well, uh, what we found, you know, in our agency and, and all the other agencies in the mastermind is when you get to a certain level… And it's around about 3 million you're you're cause you've, you've built an amazing team, you're building the leadership team. But it's hard to continue to find really, really good people. And it takes them a while in order to adapt to all the processes that you have. And so a lot of times what we'll do is we'll say like, kind of like, we'll bring someone in on the junior program and show them a couple of tracks. You can go kind of the skilled track, or you can go the manager track and then show them the different layers or levels that they can go up, you know. And it makes a huge difference because you know, like I'm thinking of, of Zach's agency now, like to train their account strategist, it usually takes about two years. Right? Like, so you got to start thinking two years prior, like how do we get all these people up? And it makes a really big difference. So, yeah. It's, I always love when I chat with people all around the world. And they're like, yeah, it's very different over here. I'm like we get all the same issues. John: [00:24:02] Good to know. Yeah, it is, I imagine. And it's about to how much, I mean, one of the things is obviously pay reward is very important. Isn't it? Of course, but actually culture again, progression L&D. If I'm honest, you know, our lead in development is just catching up, you know, we've, we've got, we've made huge strides in the area. We've got so much more. So we working on that, so we're just, we are catching up the, this the, you know, the, the high growth of the last eight years, um, to make sure we've got all that in place. Jason: [00:24:30] Awesome. Well, great. Well, um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? John: [00:24:37] Um, I think, I think for me it's about looking after yourself, you know, and I think again, just, just it's really part resilience is really, really key. And nothing more has been mentioned, so I, what's been mentioned a lot more of the last 12 months is wellbeing. Um, second is acknowledging that, you know, you are human. Acknowledging that you are… You know, you haven't got all the answers. Acknowledging that it's lonely then, and obviously you've got a mastermind course, which is fantastic, Jason. And, and again, if, if you can find something like that, or find something where you can find a buddy or a mentor for yourself, absolutely take it on. Because it, you know, you've got to have that in your, I think, in your life, if you want to grow, grow big, because it is a challenge. Jason: [00:25:24] Yep. Well, John, where can people, uh, what's the website address people can go? Especially if you're in the UK and you're going, hey, I want to, I want to be a big, bigger part of a team and you can buy me, John. So where can they go? John: [00:25:36] Oh, knock yourselves out, if you will. Um, well it's very simple. It's Jason: [00:25:41] That's great. That's awesome. I mean, that's a very easy URL. I've had some guests on that literally they spell it out like five times and you still wouldn't even get it. So congrats on getting that. And thanks so much for coming on the show. And if you guys enjoyed this episode and you're in the UK and you want to possibly sell, go check them out. And know this is sponsored, uh, but he did drop a lot of amazing bombs. So go check that out. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing people on a consistent basis, I would love to invite all of you to go to This is for agencies all over the world. Where we share the strategies that are currently working and little shrink moments, right? Like we can like cry on each other's shoulders to get us through. But go there and until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How To Prepare For a Smooth and Successful Agency Acquisition

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 11, 2021 27:54

    After the life of digital nomad led to the failure of his first company, Dean Dutro started Worth eCommerce. Since then, found the Digital Agency Elite mastermind, learned the importance of having a mission and values, and grew an amazingly successful agency that helps eCommerce stores drive new and repeat sales with email & SMS marketing.  He recently sold that company and today he's here to talk about how his early failure led to having a strong belief in the agency's values and mission, the process of getting ready for an opportunity to sell your agency, and what he advises everyone to do in order to enjoy a successful agency acquisition. 3 Golden Nuggets It can be lonely at the top. One of the things mastermind members learn is the importance of having a mission and values, in order to surround yourself with people that you want to work with. This a foundational step to elevating your business. You can succeed with a self-centered business, but it can get lonely at the top. It's better if you're thinking about elevating your team and having an end goal with your mission. Prepare yourself for acquisition. The end goal for every agency owner should be to exit at some point. If you're thinking about selling your agency, Dean shares some key parts of the process, including how he discovered some accounting and business terms that were key to the process and he had never even heard of before. He mentions that the two most important pieces that buyers look for is EBITDA and the age of the company. Get a Broker. With so many things to consider and prepare before even being ready for buyers, Dean recommends a broker. It may seem expensive, but they will get better deals and find good fits. A good, broker, lawyer, and accountant working as a team will get you through this process successfully. Sponsors and Resources HighLevel: Today's episode is sponsored by HighLevel, an all-in-one marketing platform that will give you the tools, support and resources you need to succeed with your agency. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive 30-day free trial. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM How to Prepare for the Opportunity to Sell and Enjoy a Successful Agency Acquisition Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up agency owners? I'm excited to have another great episode. I have a good buddy and a Mastermind member, Dean, who just recently sold his agency. And we're going to talk about the process of how to get there, how to get to a point where you have the opportunity to sell. And then also, what is the process like and what is life like after? Uh, so let's go ahead and get into the episode. Hey, Dean. Welcome back to the show. Dean: [00:00:36] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:38] Yeah. Well, for the people that haven't checked out the first episode, uh, tell us who you are and what do you do? Dean: [00:00:44] Yeah. Um, my name's Dean and I am the CEO of Worth eCommerce, which is an email marketing and SMS marketing agency for e-commerce companies. Jason: [00:00:56] Awesome. And let's kind of jump into it because I was so excited for you. You know what… You know, I know we were chatting for a long time about the opportunity to sell and the process there. Let's talk about kind of getting to that point. What do you feel…? What's the level you are? What are were the things that you had to do in order to get you to the point where people wanted to buy you? Dean: [00:01:22] Yeah, that's a great question. I think there's a lot that, that went into it. And a lot that's happened over time and, you know, kind of going all the way back to the start of my agency career. You know, the first agency that I started in and kind of co-founded with my current business partner, um, was a UX design agency. And we had this idea that we were going to be like digital nomads travel worlds. Go to Thailand and Australia and Asia and all these places and make a lot of money and live on beaches and drink beer. Uh, and we did that for like a year, but then we ended up just essentially broke and in debt. And both of us ended up living at our parents, or in my case, my grandparents' house for about six months to a year, um, on and off afterwards, cause we just failed. And at that point that's actually when I discovered you guys, the Jason Swenk masterclass. I ended up stopped, stopped doing business with Ryan who's my co-founder and went on my own path. And one of the things that you guys taught was you got to have a mission and values, right? To get people to join you in order to work with the people that you want to work with. And that, to me, it was like the first foundational step. You know, before it was like very selfish and self-centered, and there was no sense of like community anywhere I went. So when I moved back to Oregon and kind of decided like, hey, I want to build something where I can have a team around me. I have a mission, there's people I want to impact. And my mission was very personal. It came from, uh, you know, my family, like my parents and grandparents were both small business owners and entrepreneurs. Uh, my grandma had a kitchen design business and ended up selling it when she retired. And my mom had a, a vintage clothing business before Shopify, like when Etsy was blowing up. But that didn't go well for her in 2008 hit and, you know, kinda hit them hard. But, so I kind of had this vision of, I wanted to do something where I could help small and medium-sized businesses grow. And I want to do that with a group of people that I loved hanging out with that I thought were superstars and wanted to do it locally at first. Um, and just kind of grew that over time Uh, fast forward. That company is called Instant Email Copy, which is what it was called when I joined you. And Ryan approached me and he was doing e-commerce himself. He was actually building stores and I was doing email for e-commerce. He's like, hey, like, why don't we join forces and use our skills to like grow again? And by that time, like our skills have leveled out where, when I first joined, he had all the digital experience and I, I was doing like enterprise sales. So we kind of felt like a power balance and we went and created Worth eCommerce. And we did like two weeks in my hometown of Bend, Oregon. Uh, where we just like, figure out, like, what are our values, like who we want to be? What kind of people do we want to bring on? What type of people we want to work with? And setting that was like the first step for us, um, to, to continue to grow over these last few years. Two years actually. Jason: [00:04:24] Yeah. Well, yeah. I mean, I love that. Uh, I love that story and I love that, you know, there's so many people that talk about being a digital nomad and doing agencies. And I'm like, Yeah, that's good to kind of start and I'm sure that was a lot of fun. Dean: [00:04:41] Oh yeah. Jason: [00:04:42] But it's like you said, it's just centered around you rather than like… When you start realizing, and I think what you guys realized was how can I elevate my team? Which will, right? Like you get to the top of the mountain, but it's kinda lonely at the very top. Like it's more, I actually had more significance of growing our team than actually growing the agency. And you have to have a purpose, like you were saying behind that. A lot of times it takes people a while to figure that out. Um, because you're just like, well, what am I good at? Like, what do I like? What, what do I believe in? And how do I surround myself with those, those people? What were some of the other things, now that you had a purpose and you were building the right team, um, you know, that you felt that you had to do in order to get to the point where you had the opportunity to sell it? Dean: [00:05:36] Yeah. So I think it was really important, and one of the things I figured out was that at least in my space, in e-commerce, you know, I started working in a vertical niche, both from a service perspective, a client perspective, and software perspective. And it's a little bit of a risk from the software side, but basically I chose a software company that I loved working with. Who had great customer service, great customer experience. They weren't the best at what they did at the time, but they had a similar vision of wanting to help similar types of customers and clients. That company is called Klaviyo and I joined them when they had like 400 customers. Um, now they have like 60,000. And so we got to really ride that wave, uh, and become experts in that specific skillset, that specific software, helping specific companies. Uh, which led us to be able to charge a premium, uh, created better processes systems. We're kind of like first, first, maybe not first to do email marketing, but like first to market using Klaviyo. And now we're, we're a platinum partner. We're on the advisory board. We're connecting with their leadership, learning about email, learning about SMS. Like it's this very like positive relationship. They send us clients, they help us with marketing. And that itself has been a huge boost, uh, in terms of sales and revenue. Um, it all started with a simple system, like I built a basic system that worked. And over time it's, it's like, whenever I bring on new employees, I'll show them, hey, here's the first original document from Worth… for Instant Email Copy of like what we use to serve clients. And then it's like, here's what it is now. And it's like, holy shit. Like it's crazy. How much it evolved. Jason: [00:07:24] Pretty big difference. Dean: [00:07:26] Pretty big difference. Yeah. Um, but what's really cool about it is as like, going back to building the team, is like most of the changes to the document weren't done by me. They were done by people on the team who started to become better at what they do or, or more experienced in, and kind of committed to that. Which is, which has been really cool to see. Jason: [00:07:46] Yeah. Over the past couple of years in the mastermind, I've seen you really kind of transition from the owner to the CEO. Um, and you know, I talk a lot about that to all the agencies, right? Like, because ultimately the end goal of every agency is the exit in some way. Whether it be like you selling the agency or like, you know, other members that exit their current role, right? They exit to a chairman so they can go do other things. That kind of stuff. Um, what, and it's sometimes difficult when people actually on your team start getting better than you. And you feel really done, right? Like, and the goal I tell everybody the goal is for you to be the dumbest person in the room, um, for your team. Did, was that a challenge for you? Um, I'm not saying you're dumb obviously. But, uh, you, you, you sold for a lot of money, so obviously laugh, laugh on me if I'm calling you dumb. But I remember going through that going, oh my God, the agency doesn't need me anymore. Because everyone else is better, that the things I used to do. Did you struggle with that at all? Dean: [00:08:58] Yeah, I think, I think initially, you know, like I had positioned myself as like the email marketing guy, right? Like people would come to work with me. People would come, clients would call me. Like everyone would, would want to work with me, right? And I got, it just wasn't, I even built like a course or like I was like advertising email marketing, and I was the main face. And that was great. Um, but it didn't allow other people to flourish. And so when we, when I ended up merging what happened, and this is actually feedback I got from my team was like, Dean, we feel your presence too much. Like you're in here, like throwing curve balls to like a process we're trying to build. And it's kind of messing things up cause we feel like we have to listen to you. And I remember like taking that feedback and being like, well, this is like, like, is this like what ideas better? You know, is it better to do it this way or the way they want to do it? And there's times where it's like, I have the experience. And I kind of like, as a business owner, like, you know, I don't know if that's going to work, um, because I've tried it before versus like, hey, I think you should just do it this way. There's like a, like a, a difference there. Uh, like a, a fine line to kind of cross where you're giving advice versus like commanding. Um, and something you don't know about. Uh, and so I always tell people, and I even tell my leadership team, like, there's a point where you go from like, becoming the email marketing expert or the XYZ expert to, like you said, the CEO or to a leader and your responsibilities and roles change. And that's something I learned from you and from the Mastermind group, different agencies and something I'm teaching to my leadership team as they're going from like copywriters or designers or, you know, admin, even to leadership role. It's like, hey, like your main job isn't to always do email, like you gotta grow and help build the team, just like you've grown and built. And, um, totally different skillset. Jason: [00:10:50] Oh yeah, definitely. And some people can't do it. Um, you know, it's a, so I applaud you for being able to do that. So let's talk about, now that we've kind of talked about getting there and, and that, uh… Let's talk about what was it like when people started coming to you, offering you money for the agency? Dean: [00:11:10] Yeah, it was, um, it was interesting. Like it was a long process and my mindset on it was I just kind of want to know what the market's like, see what's out there. And see, like, what are people purchasing for? Like who is selling? Why are they styling? Like, I, I kinda wanted to soak that knowledge up. So we actually ended up working with a broker and, uh, I think you referred him, Todd Tasky, uh, over in DC. And, you know, when I first connected with him, we were, we were still pretty small. You know, my main fear was, hey, like, are we too early to do this? And he was like, no, like just like, get to know people, get to know what's going on. And you know, you'll kind of figure out what you want. Are you still there? Jason: [00:11:57] Oh yeah. Yeah. I just put you on solo. I was featuring you. Dean: [00:12:04] Featuring, ok. And, and so, you know, we started the process early and started connect with companies and, and usually it was like, hey, you guys are too young. You're less than two years old. Like, we don't feel comfortable with it. It was a lot of nos. Right. Um, but a lot of like, hey, come back to us in a year or two, because we see your growth curve. We see the potential. E-commerce, you know, blew up during COVID. It's still blowing up. So a lot of people saw it, but we are just a little bit too early, right? But by being too early, we kind of learned, okay, what are they actually looking? Right? Because every company before they would do like a letter of intent or anything like that, they would send like a list of items they wanted to know about. So over time I built up this list. And by that point we were ready and our EBITDA was high enough and people were more interested, uh, I had everything ready, right? And EBITDA is obviously one of the most important pieces. Um, the age of the company is important. So that was a hurdle for us because we'd started worth in 2019. And we had to justify our experience, you know, before that was built. Um, and at that time, it was just a matter of like, okay, these guys are growing. It's very clear. And my, my worry was still, hey, we're a little too early. Like if we wait six months, maybe we'll get a lot more. So that became kind of a part of the negotiation piece was just like, just look at the growth curve and tendency of things and, you know, we'll get to a number that makes sense. Um, so I feel like I'm missing your original question. Jason: [00:13:30] No, th that was perfect. Um, what were, what were some of the important things that people were asking for outside of EBITDA? Dean: [00:13:39] Yeah, they, they wanted to know like our forecast and budget and model and like what that looked like. Um, they wanted to know our, uh, like our leadership team. It's like, who's in place and who's at the helm. And like, what's their experience. That was super important. Um, they wanted to know our plans if we were going to expand in any other market sets or stay niche. Uh, so that was an interesting one. And we started doing SMS marketing, which helped with a lot of things. Um, and they wanted to know like, was our shipping order. Like, did we have valid contracts? A big piece we learned about was like, if you have contracts with customers, are they transferable or not? Right? Because if they're not, that kind of changes the entire setup of the deal structure and takes a ton of time. So we get to like a hundred customers or partners or clients, and it's, non-transferable like you're in for a lot of extra work. It kind of things like that. Like our employment agreements, they want to kind of look at some of those things. But the biggest one that they always focused on was EBITDA and age of the company. Jason: [00:14:51] Hey there, quick question for you. Is your agency paying a fortune for software? Do you have to stack multiple softwares together to deliver success for your clients? If so there's a new platform called HighLevel that you should really check out. HighLevel is all in one marketing platform for agencies that has an insane amount of features and really replaces tools like click funnels, active campaign, Infusionsoft, Calendly, Kajabi, CallRail, and a lot more. The best part is you can white-label HighLevel and sell it to your clients as their own software. Opening up a new, super sticky revenue stream for your agency. Normally high level offers a 14 day free trial, but as a member of my community, you have access to an exclusive 30 day free trial. Which you can take advantage by going to So head over to to save yourself hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year on software costs. Yeah. No, it's, those are all real important. And especially, you know, like I always tell you in the mastermind members. When you signed clients and in your agreement, make sure they are transferable. Um, or because a lot of times when agencies are bought, most people don't know this is it's an asset purchase. So they're buying your contracts. And if you, you know, I've seen some master my members in the past where they've actually had to go back to their key clients and go, hey, and they have to share their hands saying, hey, I'm about to be bought. I need you to sign this. So it allows you to transfer the agreement over to the new agency. And then if the new, if you, if the client doesn't sign it, the deal may not be done. Like it's literally so many loops. Which if you could just throw that in the agreement saying, hey, I can transfer this clause just with written notice to you. Dean: [00:16:52] Yeah. And to be honest, I think we just got lucky. Like we just happened to have that in the beginning and we didn't have to worry about it. I don't think I would have ever thought about that before. Jason: [00:17:03] No, no one does. No one does until someone tells you, so it's crazy. Well, let's talk about, um, let's say after you get the letter of intent. What was that like? What did you go through and how long was that process? Dean: [00:17:20] Um, man. So get just getting the letter of intent was pretty, pretty tough. From like… another thing they wanted to know is like your market position and what are sort of the areas where you feel you're weak? Because they really want to know where they can add value, right? So they want to know, like they don't want to find something that's broken. They want to find something that's working, that they could put fuel on and create a bigger fire, right? That's kind of the mentality. So they would ask these questions where I felt very exposed. And like very naked in the business. Like I, like, I don't know these things or, you know, we don't really do that much marketing. It's more outbound sales. And so they're like, oh, we're a marketing agency. We can help there. So they're really like, they're not picking you apart, but they're trying to like identify, is this a worthwhile time investment? Because once you get the, the LOI, something comes in called schedules and it's like, it's hell. Uh, for us, they were ready to close quick. They were ready to make a deal. So it took about 45 days or 50 days, actually. Usually take, can take anywhere from three to six months. But what schedules are is this document you get from lawyers, that's like 50 questions, right? But it's not just 50 questions. It's like, give me every single contract you've ever signed with every client, right? And pull it up and list any that are missing. Um, give me every single employment agreement you've signed with every client, with every employee you've ever had. Give me every single complaint any employees ever made against you. Give me any single complaint any former client has made against you. All your, your liabilities and insurance documents. Give me your financials, you know, for the last five years and all of your tax returns. Um, it's just like... It's hell. And then they want to know your, your projected forecast, right? For the next year. So you have to build a budgeting model, which I'd never done before. Um, and I ended up hiring a CFO. Who was referred by someone in the mastermind, Matt food truck, who had built out this budgeting model. But then every, every week they'd want an update. It's like, oh, where'd you hit this week? And you're like, Jesus, like, I don't do this till the end of the month. You want to know every single like hour? And then the lawyers get involved, right? And they're battling stuff back and forth and like, is it an asset sale or a stock sale? Where do you want to be incorporated? Are you registered in every state that you hire correctly? Which we weren't. Um, so we had to like go back and do all this stuff. And negotiating, you know, price points. Um, you know, the LOI they give you what the, what they want the offer to be. So a lot of the cash sort of conversations happen, pre LOI. Then they give you the LOI. And then all the legal negotiations, which I had no idea what most of it meant, right? Like what is an asset sale? I had no idea. Um, how are you going to set it up so you can get taxed, you know, like a crazy amount? Uh, and they have to battle that back and forth. So it was, it was hell it was like a second job. Um, to be honest, it really took my eye off the ball of growing the agency, um, in retrospect. Because most of my day was focused on gathering this information. Like living a double life of like, I'm not ready to tell employees I'm not ready to tell clients. I'm stressed out of my mind and no one knows why. Uh, you know, and, uh, keeping it under wraps was, was kind of strange. But, uh, yeah, it was like, you gotta be prepared to basically work another 20 hours a week, just gathering information. Um, and then phone calls after phone calls with your broker and your lawyer. And, uh, being ready to invest in a lawyer who's good. Who can... Jason: [00:21:00] Yeah, you mentioned two really big things. One, don't tell anybody, right? Like, if it gets out, people jump ship. People don't like change. They'll like change after they kind of witnessed it. And a lot of times when you're looking for the right person to buy you as you're evaluating, you got to make sure the culture fits there. And is it right for the team as well, right? Cause you know, they're the ones that got you here. You wouldn't be here without them. Um, the other thing is, is you mentioned is you kind of took your eye off the ball. So a lot of times what I've found is, I mean, this happened to Justin, one of our members. He took his eye off the ball, he was going through an acquisition. Uh, they pulled out the last minute and almost went under. Because they were like, oh, I'm going to get all these millions of dollars. I don't have to do anything. It'll be your problem in six months, who gives a shit? Right? Because everything we do is a li you know, a lag of a quarter or six months out. And then the deal doesn't go through. Or, and I think too, I think when agencies go and buy other agencies, I think they do this on purpose to be like, then they can change the deal at the last minute. And be like, I gotcha. Dean: [00:22:22] Yeah. That was my big concern and cause right... So the deal was supposed to close on a Friday. Didn't close. There's some legal issue that the lawyers were battling about and everyone was getting deal fatigue, like on both sides. Everyone was like, fuck, I'm tired. Excuse my language. Like, sorry, I'm tired of talking about this deal. It's been, you know, 45 days of this every day. Um, and so I always felt like at any point the deal would be done and I just wasted, you know, 45 days. At the same time, I felt like I got a masters of business, you know, in 45 days. Because, like the private equity guys… And I think what was really nice about this deal is like the, just like you said, the culture fit was huge. Like we just got along so well that even with the deal fatigue and the stress and like the money at stake. Like we can get off, like we could have a private conversation with no lawyers, no one else present and it was like, like we were in this together. That was a super important to me. And, uh, those guys are, are, are awesome, but they taught me all these things about accounting. For example, a lot of larger companies, they use gap accounting, uh, which I never even heard that term ever in any sort of business article I've ever read. And, uh, and none of my bookkeepers ever told me about gap accounting. And it's a pain in the ass, like it sucks to do, and it takes a lot of time, but it's really important to see like, you know, an accrual method versus a cash method and how that affects the deal, especially when you sell. Um, cause there's things called. Uh, deferral. Revenue deferral, right? It's like, if you get paid up front, this is another huge learning lesson for me, which is like, so hard to get around. If you get paid up front for work, in gap accounting that's not counted as revenue until you do the work, right? So all of a sudden, you think you have all this cash in your bank, you go to sell. They're actually like, no, you actually are less. Uh, and you're like, what the hell? Like, I don't understand this at all. Uh, so the lawyers and the broker had to in the PE guys had to walk me through. Like, I'm not actually being screwed, it just feels like it. Um, Jason: [00:24:28] Yeah, and usually, and that's a good point. I'm glad you brought that up because that happened to us as well. Um, because I mean, hell I always tell the story on the podcast of one client that, you know, we, we changed our payment terms. And one client came to us eight years later. But we… and we're like, hey, I'm ready. But they paid up front, right? Like, you know, so, you know, we all think of agencies getting paid upfront is awesome. And it is, and you should continue to do that, um, as much as you possibly can. But when you do go to sell, there is going to be a reckoning and you're going to be like, whoa. And that, and usually they do that right at the end. They know it's coming. The bastards know it's coming and they do it at the end and go, oh no. And then you're like, fuck it. Awesome. Um, well, Dean, man, I'm so happy and proud to see how, how have you've grown over the, the past couple of years. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? If they're thinking about doing something like you've done. Dean: [00:25:42] Yeah, I would say, definitely get a broker. You know, it feels expensive, but they get better deals and they find good fits. You know, and, and Todd, to his credit, like we probably spoke with 10 or 15 companies and most of them were not the right fit. And, you know, he told me early on that, like, we're gonna, we're going to talk to a lot of people. It's gonna be a lot of time and you get a lot of like deal ideas. And then all of a sudden you'll be presented with the deal and your gut will tell you if it's right or not. And that's kind of exactly what happened was, you know, there, there are always companies I was like, this is not the right fit. I don't like these guys. There's something off for they're too huge and I don't want to be like just a cog. And with this one, it was like, met them, got the offer, felt good, felt good to my partner and we went with it. Um, to get a broker and get a good lawyer and a good accountant. Hopefully they're all a team together. And they've worked together. Uh, I couldn't imagine doing it without, you know, acquisitions experience. Jason: [00:26:40] Yeah, I know having a good broker is key and all the other assets as well. And if you guys want to know more about Todd, just hit me up and I'll do an introduction for you guys. Uh, well, Dean, I'm so happy for you, man. Um, and this has all been great. And for everyone listening, if you guys want to be in a point where you can scale your agency to a point where you have the opportunity to exit. And have a number of different agency owners, including me, you know, helping you get to there and, and advising you to get to the next level. Hopefully, that next level is to sell for the number that you actually want. I'd love to invite all of you to go apply for the Digital Agency Elite. Go to This is the mastermind that as Dean has been in for the past couple of years and is still in, make sure you go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How To Grow Your Agency With A Laser Focus Niche and Exclusivity

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 8, 2021 19:49

    Would you consider having a laser focus niche in a way that you create such a demand you have a waiting list? This agency did just that and has grown more than they ever imagined. When Ryan Redding and his agency DP Marketing.Services built a website for a plumber who suggested that he should only work with other plumbers, he could have never guessed how that would change his business. Today he joins the podcast to talk about how having a laser focus agency makes everything else easier. Ryan also shares why he has felt bad about turning away business and the customer loyalty that has helped him grow his agency. 3 Golden Nuggets Laser focus. Once Ryan's company found its niche thanks to a client's suggestion that they focus solely on plumbers, they've only become more and more focused on this particular side of the industry. Ryan even mentions that a lot of his fellow agency owners freak out at that level of exclusivity. However, in his opinion, that very streamlined laser-focus, even with the way they do referrals, absolutely makes everything else easier. Benefits of saying no. When it comes to being niched the way this agency is, you'll probably end up turning down companies that want to work with you but don't fit into the model of business you've committed to. How to say no? Ryan explains that taking those clients at this point would break the agency's process and momentum. He's never found that turning away business is bad and argues that it actually gives him the clarity to maximize that momentum moving forward. Taking care of clients. Exclusivity has become a very important part of his agency's model. The agency only works with one contractor per service area. This has created a waiting list of people wanting to work with them. In many cases, they have to reject candidates and they cite their clients' interest as the reason. This creates a sense of respect for the way they do business and loyalty from their clients, who get notified when a competitor in their service area contacted the agency and reassured that the agency will not work with them. This has resulted in more referrals for them. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Improve Client Loyalty With a Laser Focus Niche and Exclusivity Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? I have another amazing episode coming your way. We're going to talk about how one agency owner had a pivotal moment where a client actually told them something changed everything for him. Where, you know, he was kind of figuring out no one's opening up my emails. But now everyone's calling them, which is pretty cool. We all want that. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode. Hey, Ryan. How's it going? Ryan: [00:00:33] Hey, man. It's going good. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:35] Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show. So, uh, tell us who you are in. What do you do? Ryan: [00:00:42] Dude, I am Ryan Redding. Most people probably don't know or care, uh, but I, uh, have founded and run DP Marketing.Services. We are a full service digital agency that specializes, uh, for home services companies. Jason: [00:00:56] Awesome. And so take us back about how did you start the agency and why did you jump into running an agency? Ryan: [00:01:04] Yeah, it was entirely not on purpose. So I, uh, I have a background working at a big boutique advertising agency in St. Louis. Did that for a while and learned a lot of experience, but kind of got out of the marketing world for almost a decade. Um, it was just kind of out of sight, out of mind and moved on to a different life. Got more into business consulting and in the process started realizing that all these guys were like main street, small businesses. And so think of any main street USA, you know, bakers and chiropractors and whatever. They all had really crappy websites. They were like awful. And some of them just didn't have the knowledge. Some of them didn't have the budget. So originally it was, hey, we'll just do websites that don't look crappy for a really affordable price for these guys. And so it started off doing web design, um, and trying to do like super, super low, low dollars. And frankly, I'm embarrassed to say it out loud. Like, our, our, we still have some of these guys in the book at a hundred dollars a month to get… Jason: [00:02:07] For, for hosting or for maintenance. Ryan: [00:02:09] For, well, there's not really much maintenance cause these are guys are gonna like set and forget. So it essentially becomes hosting and nothing? Um, but yeah, a hundred bucks a month and these guys got a website that didn't look awful and just really basic, but it's something for them. Um, so yeah, for a while, that's all we did. Jason: [00:02:31] And so how did it, how'd you kind of pivot and, and start doing more and more outside of websites. You know, because, you know, that was kind of my start. Like I started designing websites and then we started adding on other services. Ryan: [00:02:45] Yeah. So, this is kind of crazy and it's actually, it kind of dovetails into how and why we're niched like we are. So, uh, we early on did any main street small business. So literally think about bakers and chiropractors and self-storage places, and… We, to this day, have a lot of those guys still on our books paying a hundred bucks a month. One of the guys who picked up in this time was a plumber. There was nothing special about him. He was just another one of these guys. But in a matter of about six months, um, he went from a guy working out of his garage, making 150 a year to the first page of Google in his target market. Um, I think right now he's got 16 trucks on the road. He spends his time golfing and on his boat with his, uh, on the lake with the boat, with his family. And he doesn't work anymore. And he, he was literally the first one to say, uh, Bro. you only need to work with people like me because we don't know what we're doing. We're comfortable paying for it. Uh, you can obviously do what you say you're gonna do. You should totally do it. And he kind of lumped in HVAC. But the crazy part is, is as he grew, he literally started paying me more money without me asking for it. So we start off with a hundred bucks a month and then he's like, bro, I made whatever I made $80,000 off you this month here, here's 300. And I'm like, well, crap, here's 300 bucks. What am I going to do for 300 bucks? And then it turned into here's 1,000 and it turned into here's 2,000 and just kept paying me more. Without asking for more. And so as he kind of raised his voluntary contribution for the impact it made on his business, I started having figured out ways to add value to the services that we were doing. So then it came into like real SEO, real social, real reputation. Like all the things you think of like a full stack digital agency would. So that kind of became the way that we… Well, I started building out our services that we do now. Jason: [00:04:57] How long did it take you to, because there's a lot of us that struggle with, well, I don't want to turn down all this other work. You know, if I'm just going to dedicate it to this particular, you know, market. Um, how long did you struggle with it and what were some of the things that allowed you to kind of make that decision and go all in? Ryan: [00:05:20] So I, yeah, there's a couple of layers on that. Because early on when, when this plumber was like, bro, just work with plumbers… It it's not a, you know, I keep saying it, it, it wasn't sexy. It wasn't appealing. It was like, who wants to walk around being like, yeah, I do marketing for plumbers. Um, and it, it maybe took three months of me just kind of wrestling with is he crazy or is he onto something? Um, once he, once I kind of swallowed the pillow. Okay. I think he's onto something. It was kind of all in. So we kind of rebranded. We started like building out collateral for that specific niche. Um, and then that made it where it was much easier for him to refer plumber number two. Because when plumber number two came and visited our website, guess what? All he sees is language that he identifies with. Um, when he sees our social and our reputation, all he sees are guys like him, like sharing their own personal experiences. And so it, it really quickly came from, and I say quickly, maybe within six months came from something where we're trying to talk to anybody who wants a website on Main Street, right? You get crappy ones and you get the weird ones and you get the crazy ones and whatever. And guys who think a hundred bucks a month is too much for their budget.To in most markets in the US we have guys on our waiting list, because we work with one contractor per service area. So we've got guys wanting to work with us who we can't, cause we've already got someone there. And they come to us, we don't go to them. So it's, it's kind of in a really fundamental shift. But to, to answer the question about like, how do you say no? If we, at any point would have said, hey, we're going to start taking on this chiropractor or whatever in a meaningful way to build it out. It would absolutely break our processes. It would break our, our strategy for actually attracting new clients. It would be a significant, um, it, it would disrupt the momentum that we have in a really difficult to describe way. I've never found that turning away business is bad. In fact, I feel like it gives you the clarity to maximize that momentum moving forward. Jason: [00:07:36] Yeah. And talk about the waiting list. What I found is when we've created waiting lists, it literally makes them want you even more. And they're constantly, always like, hey, you guys, you got any opening? Got any opening. Hey, I want in, I want in. So, and obviously it's, it's real too, right? Like you can't fake it. You know, a lot of people are like, oh, I'll just fake that part. But, um, talk a little bit about how do you do that? How do you remember that? Because a lot of agencies will be like. Oh, yeah, who reached out to me in this particular marketthat now we have an opening? Ryan: [00:08:13] Yeah. So it starts with like scarcity and exclusivity, right? Because we have really big competitors who will work with anybody. They don't really care. So you can pay someone $3,000 a month and you're like, man, this is amazing. And then you realize, well, they're working with the guy right across the street. And then the guy two buildings down. And it takes, it makes a lot of friction for these guys because they feel like who's getting the best efforts? What we've learned about this particular niche is these guys are very jealous and very territorial. Um, so, okay, cool. So when we say, hey, we're going to protect their service area. We're only going to work with one contractor per service area,  that gets us a lot of loyalty from them. When guys in their market reach out to us. We notify the guys we're already working with, hey, so-and-so reached out. Don't worry about it. We're not going to talk to them. We just want to let you know, you're getting noticed that creates a sense of loyalty with the guys we're already working with, which strangely results in more referrals to other markets and all these trade groups. But the guys who would say, hey, we can't work with you. And they're like, well, what if he did this, this and this. Sorry, we, we really want to protect our client's interests. We hope you understand. I know it's not fun to say, but that's the reality. It absolutely creates a sense of respect and integrity with these guys coming in that everywhere, everyone else feels like second place, right? Cause they don't really have that sort of value in the client. So we I'm, I'm a digital hoarder. So I literally track all this in just Gmail. So when someone comes in, it gets logged into our system. But when I talk to them, I note that the email record that has all the chat, the lead information, and I say, hey, waiting lists for whatever the city is. And so I just kind of can search my Gmail archive pretty quickly to find whatever's there. It's. And it just goes back to me being a digital hoarder. Jason: [00:10:11] Now a lot of people may be thinking to be like, well, Ryan, why don't you set up a separate brand? You know, in order to do the others, what do you say to them? Ryan: [00:10:22] Uh, that's a good question. And it's something that we've actually are actively debating doing. Probably what we would do, uh, is not a separate brand. Just to kind of do the same model, but just with a different logo and design and whatnot. We'd probably subdivide our niche even further. So, uh, into like an enterprise level or somebody that actually is a franchise. That now we're going to have different rules because we do have to cross markets. So we've had like alpha tests in the work of how do we actually structure it, where we can cross markets? Uh, we'd probably work without the appearance of conflict. Um, but part of it comes up to even, how do we structure our teams? Like how do we let her SEO guys be separate and not share practices or insights?How do we let our PPC guys be separate and not share insights on who's doing what? Um, yeah, but it's, it's a legit fair question that we're trying to figure out how to do. Jason: [00:11:24] Do you feel like you have to comb through mountains of data jumping between multiple platforms to spreadsheets, to slide decks and back again, in order to create performance reports for your clients? It's a constant drain on your agency's time and resources. And that's where our friends at Ninja Cat can help. Ninja Cat is a digital marketing performance management platform that really unifies your marketing data and empowers your agency to automate insightful, beautiful client reports at scale. Now, Ninja Cat keeps your marketing performance and presentation tools in one place, freeing you up from manual data wrangling. And it really gives your team more time to focus on strategy and growing your base. And for a limited time, my Smart Agency podcasts listeners will receive $500 ninja credit. When you go to to claim your offer and schedule a demo. That's You know what we talk about in the mastermind that you're part of too, that you may want to look at, or people listening in. If you get this exclusivity and you have this, this opportunity is find strategic partners that can help with these people. And so you refer them, the business, since you have exclusivity, but you also get a commission from it. So you're not losing anything. So let's say, you know, like, uh, Chris in the mastermind, he'll refer out. He'll get 20% and he's like this is awesome. Like, and he just any refers it to, you know, let's say three people. And, you know, he always would talk about it,he'd be like, hey, we don't want to refer it just to one. Because if they have a bad experience, then it's on them because you referred them. But if you refer to them more than one, you know, more than one, well, it's their choice. If they picked the wrong one, well, they can't really blame you because you gave them options. So I always thought that was pretty neat when some of the members were going through that strategy. You may want to, you may want to steal that too. Ryan: [00:13:39] Yeah, we do that to a certain degree. Just not quite, uh, it's more selective. It's like the ones that we refer, we, we really believe like, hey, these are really great clients that we want the people referring to have good success with. Uh, the ones that were like, this is a problem client, like nobody wants them. We really don't pass those on. Jason: [00:14:00] Yeah. Oh yeah. Definitely. Definitely. Yeah. I remember when, uh, when we got to a point where we couldn't take on some calls. I would always just be like, look, here's what to look for. Well, we even came up with a packet that we were like, here's all the questions to ask people that we're referring to. So then when we would, you know, um, you know, whenever they kind of made it upscale and they would come back to us, then we would crush it. Uh, cause they were always like their goal was to get back to us. Ryan: [00:14:30] Yeah. Interesting. Jason: [00:14:31] Kind of like what you, what you set up because you're like you elevate them so high. Ryan: [00:14:37] Yeah. It's, um, it really is crazy how I know a lot of other agency guys, when I talk to them, are they freak out at the exclusivity. They freak out over like being very niche into it. You know, when we say, hey, we're home service. It's like, okay. But we go, yeah. But right now we don't do landscape. We don't do pest control. We literally do plumbing, HVAC, we have a handful of electrical. But usually the electrical is part of plumbing. To have that sort of like very narrow, very streamlined laser-focus um, even with the way you do referrals, like it absolutely makes everything else easier. Jason: [00:15:15] And you can charge a lot more too with exclusivity. I mean, you could charge really whatever you want. Do you find that sometimes, um, people come to you and then you're just like, oh man… Like this happened to me one time, we were doing, what was the client? I won't say the name, but they did the buses to the airport. So they would re restructure all the buses, you know, like with the TVs and all the things. And we were working this with this one client, I think they were paying us like 5K a month. And I remember the big competitor came along and was like, hey, uh, we want to work with you. So then they were like, we'll pay you 10K and we want this. So what we did was we went to our original client, said, hey, if we can grow your account to 10K and we'll do this, this and this, we'd like to help you. Um, but if not, we're going to have to cancel and go this way. And we were able to kind of keep elevating, you know, doing that, you know, over and over. Um, which was always a, you always had a backup, right? Ryan: [00:16:25] Right. Yeah, and that's something that we're, we're also trying to figure out how to do. Even like, uh, like one of the weird complications too to that point is, as these companies grow, these are not literally all the time, but their service area businesses, right? So they have a physical brick and mortar, and then they have a service area that they do their work. If we do our job well, their service area expands, right? It gets bigger and bigger. So if they're in Denver and they get bigger and bigger and they go, you know what, let's go up to Fort Collins. And they start another division of the company, or they go down to Colorado Springs. So their territory, it keeps expanding too. And it's creating weird logistical things of guys growing into our competitors, right?Of guys we already work with, but now they're competing. Yeah, so we're trying to figure out, like, how do we even start threading that needle? Jason: [00:17:14] It's good, it's a good problem to have. Ryan: [00:17:17] It's a good problem. Jason: [00:17:17] Right? Like, you know, a lot of times I find that the different stages of where people are in their agency. It's like in the very beginning, it's like, how can I work on lead gen and close as much business as possible? But then it starts switching to, you know, kind of like operations, like, how do we deliver? You know, how do you know, how do we pick and choose? How do we get selective? And all of that, which is a, a testament of, uh, scaling and growing in the right way. Well, this has all been great, Ryan. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience listening in? Ryan: [00:17:52] No, other than… this sounds really dumb. I'm, I'm really old school with like the value of exceptional experience with the clients. Because I would say, I think in 2020, 92% of our growth came from our clients referring us to other people. Like, so it's just kind of nuts sort of thing of… Yes, we charge a lot. Yes, we're proud of what we do. But taking care of our clients to the degree at which they feel like they want to help us in return.It's, it's pretty crazy. Like the amount of social proof that's available for us anywhere these guys look. I mean, it's, it's a lot of fun. Um, yeah. Yeah. But I think this is a really cool opportunity for me beyond here. So thank you for the invite. Jason: [00:18:42] Oh no, I'm thrilled you came on. Um, well, uh, what's the website people can go and check the agency out? Ryan: [00:18:50] Yep. Jason: [00:18:52] Awesome. Well pretty easy. Well, everyone go there and check it out. And if you liked this episode, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to do a couple of things. I want you to take a screenshot of it, upload it to Instagram or any of your favorite social media. And just tag us and say, what you liked about that episode is what we'll give you a shout-out back and thank you for listening. And then other thing is, is if you want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners like Ryan and so many other mastermind members, I'd love for you guys to go to Request an invite. And, uh, we'll, we'll put you through the paces, make sure you're the right member that we're looking for and that we can actually help you out. So go to And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Can Adding SaaS to Your Agency Reduce Churn Rate?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 4, 2021 12:49

    Shaun Clark is the co-founder and CEO of HighLevel, a company that offers an all-in-one sales and marketing platform for agencies and marketers. HighLevel gives the tools, support and resources marketing agencies need to succeed all in one place. Today, he joins the podcast to talk about how marketing agencies can reduce churn rate by becoming an all-in-one solution. And, how the future for agencies will be to tack on software to the services they already offer. 3 Golden Nuggets Tack on software to what you're already doing. If you're an agency working with small businesses, no matter how great of a job you do, your clients will often have a problem with the price point. Working in this space, Shaun has found that there's a massive opportunity for agencies to tack on software to they're already doing. That way, you can add to your revenue and also reduce your churn rate. Because what if they decide to fire you? Now they have to find someone that can implement what they need using your software. So it's incredibly sticky. Offer an all-in-one solution. Think about it. Your clients are looking for you to solve a problem and make their lives easier. Not to learn how to use their tools. As an expert, you can come in and say, I can solve your problem, and these are the tools that I use for that. What if you could say that you can offer all the services your clients need in one spot? No need to go outside your agency. The future for agencies. Our guest believes that agencies are the ones who should be offering this technology because the agency can not only provide the expertise they need on that software, but they also can provide all those other services that client truly needs. So now you can have a price point for the services and a price point for the software. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Tack on Software to Your Solutions and Reduce Churn Rate Jason: [00:00:00] What's up agency owners? Jason Swenk here. I have another amazing guest today, where we're going to talk about how can you add more revenue to your agency as well as improve the churn rate of your clients? Because, look, if we lose clients, you know, it's going to be harder to scale your agency. But it's going to be a lot of fun episode. Let's go ahead and get into it. Hey, Sean, welcome to the show. Shaun: [00:00:34] Hey, thanks for having me, Jason. It's great to be here. Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who you are and what you do? Shaun: [00:00:40] Yeah, absolutely. So I'm Shaun, I'm a co-founder and CEO of a company called HighLevel. Um, so we work with over 10,000 marketing agencies and we have a software platform that's sort of a combination of marketing automation, CRM, uh, calendaring. Pretty much every, uh, sort of, if you're stitching together six or seven different apps for your agency, we kind of bring them all together into one platform. So that's, that's kind of what we do. Jason: [00:01:03] Nice. Awesome. Well, let's go ahead and jump into it. Let's talk about how can agencies and implove…? Implove? Did I make up a new word? I think I made up a new word. How can… It's been a long day. How can they improve their churn rate? Shaun: [00:01:21] Yeah. So, um, I think that we've, you know, working with so many agencies now, what we've discovered is churn is often a function of, uh, of, of price point. You know, if you're working with a lot of small businesses and you're trying to run on a retainer model, for example, and you're charging thousands of dollars, every month. What we find is no matter how great of a job you do, oftentimes the client just can't get over this perceptional problem of, hey, wait a second, two or $3,000 a month is a lot of money to us. And so what we did at HighLevel is that we looked at all of the different companies that are out there serving the same space. And we looked at it from a software angle, cause that's the kind of people we are. What we realized is there's this massive opportunity out there for agencies to tack on software, to what they're already doing. What I mean by this is if you think about the types of tools that exist out there. And it could be, there's like the Podiums of the world, the Bird Eyes of the world. These are functions like reputation management, two-way text messaging, all of this stuff. Imagine that you tomorrow could add a $300 a month software-only product to what you're doing. And you would, you would very quickly find that as an agency, you're going to be able to sell this into your existing client base. So if, and when they decide that they're no longer going to be using your services because they're, they can't get over that price point issue, you're not going to lose them as a customer. And then you're going to add a $300 a month recurring software product to your revenue stream. And the effect is really simple. Let's say I'm running Facebook ads for you as the dentist office, and I'm running the software and I've got the Facebook ad service. And I decided, you know, those Facebook ads, I'm not sure they're kind of expensive. Let's quote unquote, pause them, right? In the past that means like, sorry, Jason. You're a nice guy, but we're going to have to fire you. That's what that means. But now with the software, the software is incredibly sticky. So what it turns out is that the Facebook ads still get turned off. But then two months later that when they realize how silly they were doing that, and they watch all their leads fly out the door and vanish, they'll go. They'll just call you back up and turn it back on. Because they didn't let you go as a vendor, they don't have to feel so bad coming back to you. So it's an incredibly good way to add revenue to the agency and reduce churn kind of all in one step. Jason: [00:03:31] What um…? When we were running our agency, we created our own CMS system. Long time ago before, uh, WordPress and all of these. And one of our selling propositions back then was, hey, you can manage your own website on our unique platform because there's no one really doing it. And it really did create such a stickiness where even if they wanted someone else to design the website, they would lose that functionality. And it was just such a huge, like, like we would hardly lose any clients because they knew they were going to lose that functionality. And they'd have to pay thousands of dollars to some other agency to manage all the changes that they're actually doing. Um, and so it just made it really sticky. And I found, you know, over the years, too, of looking at some of our clients of our mastermind members. When they're able to find tools and software and case it into their offering, a lot of times I tell them don't like, especially if they're white labeling and I think what you guys do, I'm like… Siri: [00:04:41] I'm not sure about that. Jason: [00:04:44] Siri is talking to me. I don't know. It's not, Siri. I can't say her name from Jeff Visa's company, but weird. But, uh, she actually agrees with me. But, um, what, uh, what I've found is just like, don't tell them who you're using and it just creates a really sticky and be like, hey, if you leave... Shaun: [00:05:07] Yeah, absolutely. In fact, I really think this is the future of agencies. So if you think about it from a practical sense, you know, if you're the dentist, the doctor, the whatever, you, you want somebody to help you market and grow your business, right? And if we're realistic about it that means that there's going to be services that need to come in and help with that. But there also needs to be technology. And today, if you think about how this is offered, that small business owner has to kind of like go find you as an agency or you have to find them. Then they have to go off and find software and they have to try to glue it all together. It's a real pain in the neck and all this time, they're also trying to like run a business, right? And oftentimes operate that business because they tend to be the people doing the thing, whatever that may be. So as an agency, imagine tomorrow you could walk in and say, hey, listen, we have all the services you need. We have all the technology you need all in one spot. So you don't need anything else outside of my agency, right? And you have, you have a price point on the software side and you have a price point on the services side. I think you're going to find that those small business owners breathe a big sigh of relief and are thankful that you're there. Because now they don't have to go off and figure this all out for themselves, which what they already weren't doing very well. And it's only getting harder every day. As we know technology on the marketing side only continues to expand and get bigger. Jason: [00:06:17] Yeah. There's I mean, there's the easier that you can make it for your customer and your clients the better. Because that's what they're really coming to you for. Look, I think all clients can figure out what you're doing, right? Like you figured it out, so they should be able to figure out. But it's just saving them time and saving them the hassle. So if you can make it really easy to be like, look, I got you covered here, here, and here. They'd be like, great. Cause a lot of agents like, like you were saying, they come in and saying, uh, you know, hey, you need this tool, this tool, this tool go here, go here, go here. And then it, and then it's just so it's like, I'm overwhelmed, man. Like you've lost me. Shaun: [00:06:58] Well, totally. And in fact, this is how we got started. You know, when we first started working with agencies, um, and we see this still everyday today, it's hey, what are you currently using your agency? Well, I'm using this over here for calendaring and this over here to build a funnel and this over here for my CRM and this over here for my analytics. And it's like, okay, great. Well, what if we gave you an app that it took all of those functions and put them on one spot? So that was kind of where we got started and that's how we got to 10,000 agencies. They're like, oh my gosh, that'd be amazing. I could see it through Zapier. It's all in one spot. And then what we realized is, wait a second. If we, if we look at the agency's customer, they have that exact same issue, right? It's like, oh, well, uh, I have, you know, I have this text messaging platform and I have the CRM platform and I have this website over here. And now you're coming in as an agency to help me. And I need you to learn all this stuff as well. Um, and it's like, wait a second. What if the agency could come in and say, look, we have an end-to-end solution. And these are for things that every business needs, like, think about it two way, text messaging, Google my business messaging, web chat, um, you know, reputation management, text to pay. Like these are the types of technologies every small business will have. It will be table stakes five years from now. And my position is the agency is the best person to come in and provide that solution. Not some venture-backed software startup calling, you know, calling their phone day and night, trying to get them on a demo. It should be the agency, because the agency can not only provide the expertise they need on that software, but they also can provide all those other services that the actual small business owner truly needs. If we're talking about a 360-degree view on what they need to grow and market their business. Jason: [00:08:26] Yeah. And the, and the more that you control the strategy and the software and the implementation, you just really surrounding that account. Um, and especially if you're going after small business. Because like, if you're going after enterprise-level like I understand like it's, it's totally different. Or if you're going after bigger clients, totally different. But if you're going after small business, they want a very simple. They want one bill. They really want to just be like, hey, I want more leads or I want more sales. Like, can you help me with that? Like, yeah, we can do it all. Shaun: [00:09:02] Exactly. And that, and that is the idea, you know, and you, and honestly, as an agency, you need that, right? So like, where we got started with HighLevel is we're working all these people generating leads and they're putting them on spreadsheets. They're handing it to their customers and their customers are like, what the heck is this? These aren't, this isn't what I wanted. I wanted more business. I wanted more people buying. Well, turns out the problem is clients don't follow up with leads. So HighLevel automated the entire lead follow-up process. And that is what really fundamentally changed the game for anybody running Facebook ads or Google ads. And so this is what your clients need, right? They need a system where they can bring it in. It does everything they need end to end. And the great thing is that they have a problem or a question or an issue they can lean back on you as the agency, as the expert, right? Because a lot of these questions, aren't just technical. They're also strategic and you're the best person to answer those question questions. You're the best person to help them with those issues. So I think being the one-stop-shop, you get more revenue and you, you gain a lot of expertise dominance, and they're like, oh great. Why would I ever get rid of this person? They're amazing. They provide all the tools I need and all the service I need in one spot. Jason: [00:10:08] Yeah. That's awesome. Well, this has all been amazing, Shaun, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience for increasing their, uh, or decreasing their churn rate? We don't want to increase it. Shaun: [00:10:22] Well, I think that just trying to find ways to create these, to put systems in place for your customers and make it really slimline and easy and scalable for you as an agency. Those are the ways that you're going to win because you don't, you don't want to be running all around all over the place, learning six or seven different tools. Trying to learn your clients tools. You need to come in as an expert and say, hey, listen, we solve the problem you need solved. And these are the tools we do, we use on the job. Um, so that's why you're hiring us. You're not hiring us to learn your tools that you're hiring us to solve a problem. And that's what we do. Jason: [00:10:54] Awesome. Tell us a little bit more about HighLevel. You know, briefly about, you know, how you guys take, you know, kind of an all-in-one solution and how it works for agencies and then tell us the special URL and, um… Shaun: [00:11:08] yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, so HighLevel is awesome because we only sell to marketing agencies. That's the only people we sell to. So as a result, it's all white label out of the get-go. So you get your own URL, you get your own, you know, all of your own branding. Um, we even have custom white-label, mobile apps. So all of a sudden, imagine tomorrow as an agency, you could be like, oh yeah. And just pull out your iPhone there and go to the app market and you can download our mobile app and you can do two-way texting with your clients and contact management and CRM. It's a pretty powerful offering. Um, and then, so, um, and then as I wanted to put out a special offer here, if you go to You will find that you get a special offer for signing up by listening to this podcast. Um, and so definitely go check that out. It's Jason: [00:11:54] Awesome. Well, everybody go check it out. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Um, but you know, it is, you know, if you can combine technology with the strategy and the limitation, it really connects that small business market to you. And it really can't go anywhere, which is always pretty nice. And that's how you can decrease your churn and really keep and grow those accounts. And then if you ever do get to a point where you do have the opportunity to sell your agency, you can be like, hey, we don't lose that many clients. So… Shaun: [00:12:26] And you'll have that revenue stream that just grows every month instead of coming up, going up and down so much. Jason: [00:12:31] Exactly. So go to a and until next time… Shaun: [00:12:36] Jason: [00:12:39] And until next time, Have a Swenk day.

    How Do Agencies Create a Data Story to Show Value and Charge More?

    Play Episode Listen Later Aug 1, 2021 19:08

    How can agencies prove value to their clients and eventually charge more? That's the solution Paul Deraval offers in this episode about founding NinjaCat. After entering the agency world later in his career as a software developer and finding the competition was everywhere, Paul shifted his focus. As Paul says: Who makes money in a gold rush? It's the guy selling the pickax." So he decided to offer his unique data reporting technology to agencies and created Ninja Cat in 2014. They are a digital marketing performance management platform built for agencies, media companies, and brands and help agencies create a . He joins the podcast today to talk about how agencies can prove their value to retain customers and the benefits of having automated reporting. 3 Golden Nuggets The crack in the fortress. Paul found that many agencies were using big black box algorithm platforms for reporting capability that was very limited in scope. Not really designed for that use. And paying a ton of money for it. He decided to focus his business on solving this problem and be the best in the world at helping agencies prove their value to clients by knocking their client reports out of the park. Deliver a story. Know your clients and know their appetite for data. More data isn't always better. So, before delivering an 80-page report that they may not even read, ask what they would like to know and then deliver to them on a silver platter a data story that says here's what we did for you, here's the impact that had on your business. And don't forget to be clear on the point “here's why you should continue to do business with us.” Focus on the meaningful. What do agencies get from using Ninja Cat for their client reports? They get to focus on the meaningful instead of the monotonous. Instead of data chaos and data wrangling and client reporting they automate that process and spend more time actually optimizing campaigns and building client relationships. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Using Data Reporting to Tell the Story of Your Agency's Value Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Got another great, amazing podcast interview coming right up. This guest has a really interesting story and we're going to talk about how can you really prove your value, prove your worth, your ROI? So you can actually charge more and hold onto your clients better. Because a lot of times, if you don't know the value your clients don't know the value and you're probably not going to hold onto them. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode. Hey, Paul. Welcome back to the show. Paul: [00:00:36] Hey, Jason. Thanks for having me. Jason: [00:00:37] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So, uh, tell us who you are and, uh, tell us a little bit about your background. Paul: [00:00:45] Yeah, sure. Uh, my name is Paul Deraval. Um, currently I'm the CEO and co-founder of a company called Ninja Cat. We help, uh, large scale agencies and media companies prove value to their customers through, um, automated and highly effective, um, data stories as we call it dashboards as well as, uh, automated PowerPoints and PDFs that really help you as an agency prove value to your customers. Jason: [00:01:11] Awesome. Very cool. And so tell us, how did you come about starting this? And, you know, I know it's an interesting story. Paul: [00:01:21] Yeah. So, long story short. Um, my background is a software entrepreneur. Prior to this, built a SAS company called uh, Easy Facility, an all-in-one platform for health and fitness clubs, like a YMCA or yoga studio. The one tool you needed to get all your different jobs done from member payments to personal trainers, scheduling, mobile apps. Everything. Very big product. Um, was fortunate enough in, did that from 2003 to 2009, uh, when we got acquired, and that, enabled me to do some angel investing. And, uh, one of the investments I made through a, a referral from a, a family friend was, uh, to two brothers starting, um, a digital marketing agency primarily focused on auto dealers. Uh, I'm a software entrepreneur and was looking to make software investments. I was like, ah, you know, I don't understand the agency business. Um, you know, really shouldn't invest in what you don't know, but, I'll take the meeting. Um, but what caught my eye during the meeting was, uh, a digital marketing agency focused on auto dealers, but had their own unique selling proposition, which was two parts. One was an ad creation technology that would scrape an auto dealer's website, find out what inventory they had in real-time. Take that 2010 Honda civic and create a Google ad for it and take it down when the, when the, um, car was removed from the site. I thought that was pretty nifty. Um, and another component of some technology that they built to help them differentiate was, uh, some really nice reporting dashboards. Uh, that basically offered transparency to these auto dealers. Showing them exactly here's where your dollars are going and here is here's the impact it's having, right? Here's how many map views it's driving, how many phone calls it's driving. Um, so that got me excited to the point where I said, all right, I don't understand the agency business, but, um, I'll make a small bet. Um, from there, the agency for about two years, uh, they grew, it was a boutique agency with, with a handful of clients and just run, run by two brothers. Um, the things that we learned in that journey of those first two years was a couple of things. Some of the challenges we faced, uh, was one the segment we were serving, um, back then around at that time that the 2011, 2012 was, you know, customer education. Working with auto dealers in the Northeast who were, you know, more traditional used to advertising in print and, uh, you know, radio and TV. And convincing them they should be putting dollars into Google and Facebook, uh, was one thing. Then the harder problem was convincing them to do it again, right? Retain, expand, and spend more on these digital marketing channels. So, um, we, we were making progress, and definitely, our unique technology helped us. Uh, but another challenge we faced was, um, that was pulling us back it's just how competitive, um, we, we found ourselves in the markets that we were in. And so many agencies out there, right? From, you've got your enterprise agencies, your mid-market. And then you have your solopreneurs out there, you know, slinging, PPC, SEO services, some very qualified and some very unqualified. And we were battling all of them and would just go walk into a dealer or for cheaper clicks. The dealers wouldn't know what that meant. And then there was a battle to like, retain that customer. So it was okay. It just wasn't going, it didn't seem like it was on a trajectory to scale into anything, um, meaningful of an agency. Thankfully, um, around the end of 2013, a competitive agency actually was trying to push one of our auto dealer clients. And, uh, our clients show them the dashboards that we were providing to them. Um, and that agency, uh, actually came to our team and said, hey, would you ever consider white labeling those dashboards? Um, I've seen them, you know, I'm in the business, but have you ever thought about that? The team came to me and said Paul, what do you think? And that was really, uh, one of those true light bulb moments for me. It was like kind of everything going on at once. Like what's our challenges here, right? One of our biggest challenges is, um, that the agency space is, is so competitive, right. And we're fighting with, with everybody out there and the thought was all right, well, we have this unique technology, this reporting ad creation. Who makes money in a gold rush, right? It's it's the gal or the guy selling the pickax. So instead of fighting with everybody, what if we became the arms dealer, right? And sold our unique technology to the agencies out there, giving them a chance to, to compete, uh, and thrive. So, um, I got really excited about that thesis, went home, uh, executed a textbook execution of a lean market validation experiment. Created an Unbounce landing page. I just tested the reporting first, automated reporting from the ad creation. While it was cool, it really wasn't delivering on all the promises of some of that, um, you know, automated ad creation. So I wanted to test out the value prop of, you know, automating report improved value to your customers. One week I came up with a ridiculous name. Created the Unbounce page, uh, got the leads. And then I just did a bunch of discovery calls and found out where the market was being underserved. And what I kept hearing was like, the Acquisios, the Marins, these big black box algorithm platforms helped automate. But the biggest challenge I kept hearing was they were using those platforms for the reporting capability. You know, they weren't so much delivering on some of the promises of campaign automation optimization. But they were not… they were still paying for those tools, using it for reporting capability that was super limited in scope, not really designed for that use case. And paying a ton of money for it, like a large percentage of their media spend. So I was like, wow, there's, there's an exciting opportunity here. There's a crack in the fortress, right? For somebody to come in here and focus on a specific problem, be the best in the world at helping agencies prove their value, uh, to, to clients by just knocking client report out of the park. And then from there, there's a grander vision of helping them take over some of the other jobs from reporting to monitoring, to contribution and such. And we've grown since, but that's, uh, I just made a long story longer. But that's, uh, that's our founding story of Ninja Cat. So we've been at it since 2014. Uh, we pivoted, I came on as CEO. After that experiment, we, we sold off some of those customers and have been, uh, just running, running for that sense. Jason: [00:07:37] So I, I love that story. And I do believe that, you know, proving your worth is showing your clients reports. Now, one of the challenges I've seen over in, in the past is, you know, you're… You know, we've all had these clients, like you're giving them amazing results and then they come to you and they're like, I'm switching. And you're like, what the heck? Right? And you're like, I've been sending you reports. And they're like, well, and what I've seen is they'll check out the report for the first week and then they'll ignore the rest. So what's the best way that you've seen agencies present the reports? Or how do you, how do they, how does, how does the client understand the reports and the first off? Cause a lot of times I've seen I've, I've seen reports from a lot of different tools and I'm like, man, I'm confused. So, what have you seen work for agencies? You know, that are using your platform for really kind of showing the client the value and then really taking it up a notch? Paul: [00:08:46] Sure. So some general things, uh, we've seen and we've done to help our customers elevate their client reporting so that they can achieve the objective of a better proving value. So they can retain and expand within those customers. I'd say the ingredients, the key ingredients is like… First and foremost, I would say, know your audience, right? Um, know their appetite for data, right? Uh, and then deliver it to them on a silver platter a data story that says here's what we did for you. Here's the impact that had on your business. And here's why you should not only continue doing business with us. But here's why you should do more business with us. Look at all these opportunities. High-performing campaigns limited by budget, whatever it might be. So it is not a one size fits all solution, but I think those ingredients of like knowing your audience and their appetite for data and delivering on a silver platter. And if I, if I break that down, what does that actually translate into from like best practices is. You know, um, everyone thinks dashboards first for client reporting because we're data geeks, right? We love dashboards. They're sexy. They're cool. I can access them on my mobile phones, whatever. We've been doing this since 2014 and we have stunning dashboards. Like you can recreate any dashboard on our product. One of our first finding than we thought we were screwed as a company, cause we started off dashboard-only, was like, oh my God, less than 10% of clients ever logged into these dashboards on a given month. We're screwed. We can't sell this, right? We're selling snake oil. You shouldn't be doing reporting dashboards. So I think that's a reality. I think even Google is this data studio blog post published something similar. Like, you know, 10% of clients or something, uh, on average, uh, ever log into dashboards, right? So, one, it's a mix dashboards are critical and kind of table stakes. They offer a sense of comfort and transparency that I can access my data whenever I want and see where my dollars are going and you're not doing anything shady. But the reality is while you might be able to win them with a dashboard. With the transparency and building that trust that's so essential to any client relationship. To truly then retain and expand it's that deliver on a silver platter, right? It's push methodology versus a pull methodology. Which means a push report, some form of a PDF or PowerPoint or web presentation that is less dashboardy, right? Dashboardy is more kind of exploratory. Like data vomit, as I call it, meters and gauges and stick your clients into that and they'll probably misinterpret that data, which I think is one of the big problems. So you give them a dashboard with meters, gauges, data vomit, leave it up to them, to interpret the data for you. To say that you're doing a good job for them. And, you know, probably at least eight times out of 10, they're going to misinterpret that data, uh, in that data vomit. And it's not doing you any, any justice. So it's finding that balance of a dashboard that gives comfort and transparency mixed with on a silver platter, a data story that covers those bullet points. As I said earlier, here's what we did and why you should continue doing business with us and more. And it looks different, right? As an agency, you got to figure it out. You might have different, um, sizes of clients. We have some agencies and media companies that have thousands of very small span clients. And you've got to invest the appropriate amount of time to your client reporting for that segment versus your, your high spend, you know, uh, enterprise clients, right? And what we've seen is you need to automate on the low end, right? But make it feel high touch. If it's just a dashboard and expect them to log in, that doesn't feel as high touch as I can log into a dashboard. Oh, and I also get this beautiful weekly, monthly PDF or PowerPoint with a very digestible story. And then at the high end, right? Walk your customers through it. Or at a bare minimum, don't just send a report. Like in Ninja Cat, and I'm sure you do this and other products, we have workflows that is either set it and forget it, fully automated. Or set up a don't forget it, where the teams can come in at the agency, look at the data and then add their insights, their recommendations, and next actions. And then send it to the client. So those are just some of the best practices. Don't lean… My first biggest suggestion, be aware of data vomit, right? Uh, to be aware of dashboards as your primary, medium of communicating value to your customers. When statistics just over overwhelmingly show that, you know, they hired an agency because they want it to be white glove full service. Don't make them go find the data and expect them to tell you why they should continue doing business with you. You need to be the one telling your customers why they should be continuing to do business with you. Jason: [00:13:09] Yeah. Yeah. I love that you said you got to know your audience too, right? Like really read them and be like, is this person really analytical? Is this person visual? Does this person just be like, I just care about the results. I don't care about how you do it. Just go do it. Or like, you know, do they want to know all the details? Like I think that's so important. A lot of people skip that. And you should really concentrate on that, on the onboarding process of your clients. Like, because I had a, we have our digital agency experience, which is at our house in Durango where our mastermind members come in. And I had, um, a keynote speaker come in, Joey Coleman and he talks about how the first hundred days is the most important if you're going to keep this client for a long time or not. And if you could put that in your onboarding process and really figure out that, like, do you want to know all the intimate details that we're doing? Do you just want to know the results? Like how do you want me to show you that we're working for you? And I think if you just do that, then you could use a cool tool, like Ninja Cat, where. You know, if they want just a basic report, automate the crap out of it, or if they want to meet every week. Okay. Do that. You know, whatever it is. I think that's so important that I think too many of us miss. We have a huge tool. Paul: [00:14:29] One hundred percent. Yeah. That's that's, it's like a report should have, yeah, layers to it, like an executive layer, more strategic layer than a more tactical. And if you're excited about that tactical, but your, your audience isn't, you show up to a meeting and you start overwhelming them with the details. You know, and, and they are like CML or somebody that's high level that doesn't care. They're not actually paying attention to the thing they cared about the most. Why did I spend time on that executive-level first page thing when I should have spent time on the first page? Did I sell more cars? Yes or no? Uh, should I continue doing this? Yes or no. Don't spend an hour talking about negative keywords with me if I don't care about that, right? So, uh, more data isn't always better, and it really…  Just ask the customer, what is the best way? What, what level of detail do you want? Uh, and then just, you know, deliver that to them. Jason: [00:15:13] Yeah. Well, I think we covered a lot of the mistakes. Did we miss any mistakes that agencies do with reporting and upselling and growing those accounts or keeping them? Paul: [00:15:25] No, and just… you know, aggregation. Um, it's a really important thing, right? Is, uh, looking at things, making sure you aggregate. I know it's hard, uh, when you have so many different channels. But making sure you really nail that, um, executive layer of a report, that should be the, the answer to the question that they're, they're seeking. The so what. And then backed up by the, the details under it. But, um, we've seen that too common and it's like, wait, you're giving your client this 80-page report? Jason: [00:15:49] Oh, my God. Oh, that hurts my head just thinking about it. Paul: [00:15:52] Really, really. I, I, no. We, we've had a hundred plus, uh, and some of our clients today still do it. But you know what? They're actually, to your earlier point, my earlier point, there are some audiences that need and want the hundred-plus page report, right? Because they need to see the data broken out. Hospital system by department, by all these different things. If that's what they need, that's what you should deliver to them. So it's not a don't ever give a hundred page report. It's, it's know your audience, but, uh, tell that holistic the holistic story, right? I think when you, you can't fill in the blanks and you show up to a call. And you can't connect, you know how all these different channels are impacting other channels. It's not as good as if you can, clearly. So do your best, find tools, solutions that can really allow you to tell that holistic story and show how every channel impacts, um, each other, even channels that you might not manage, right? Like, why am I ads not performing? Well, look at your reviews, like your reviews on Google. If people saw your reviews, they people probably aren't clicking on your ads. So what impact are your reviews having on your, on your adwords performance? Jason: [00:16:50] That's awesome. Well, Paul, this has all been amazing. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience before we tell them about where to go? Paul: [00:17:00] Uh, geez. Good question. Um, that you didn't ask. No, I mean, that's… I think that's, uh, uh, I think we covered at least what we're most used to helping agencies, right? There's lots of jobs to be done. But, you know, the thing where we've focused on being the best in the world that is helping prove value through your client report. And I think we hit a, at least the, the cliff notes and hopefully there's a couple of actionable takeaways that everyone got out of this. Jason: [00:17:27] Awesome. Uh, where can people go to learn more about Ninja Cat? Paul: [00:17:32] Yeah. So, uh, we have a dedicated landing page for, for this podcast. Uh, you can go to Jason: [00:17:42] Awesome. And, uh, and tell us, what's the number one thing agencies love once they switch over to you guys? Paul: [00:17:52] Uh, that they can focus on the meaningful instead of the monotonous, right? So, instead of data chaos and data wrangling and client reporting. When you can automate that at an effective level then that's meaningful. Really, let's spend more time actually optimizing campaigns and building client relationships. But when you don't have automated reporting and you spend 60 to 70% of your time, which we've seen is common, right? On client reporting because you need to do it. Well, what if you can automate that? What then will you do with that time shifted from, from the monotonous to the meaningful and, and see what impact that has? Jason: [00:18:32] Awesome. Well, Paul, thanks so much for coming on the podcast. We really do enjoy. And, uh, for all of you guys that want to really improve the value that you're doing and really streamline the reporting and just be able to run a better agency. I want you guys to all go to Go do that now. And until next time, have a Swenk day.

    How to Position Your Agency as the Solution Clients Need

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 28, 2021 15:17

    Vasa Martinez is the founder and CEO of Growthbuster, a remote marketing agency that has helped food and beverage brands reach new heights with community, creative, and innovation. After years of CPG experience working with many brands, Vasa started building his own company focused on the outsourced marketing department. Today he joins us to talk about his experience with brands, how he positioned his agency as the solution clients need, and why you need to follow your north star. 3 Golden Nuggets Bet on yourself. A lot of times a company might be really attached to “vanity metrics” and turn to buying followers. This is a really ineffective measure, as they usually find out when they hire an expert. Trying to steer clients away from shady practices like bots or buying clients, this company started making bets that they would grow their social media in four months. Trusting their methods has helped them win many of those bets. Follow your North Star. As a rule, Vasa and his team make it a point to work with companies that are solving a problem in the world. This aligns with their core value of “human first, business second”. That has led to saying no to brands that could bring in a lot of revenue but don't really fit with the agency's values. For his part, Vasa says their north star is not growth if it comes at the cost of his values or his team's mental health. Don't compromise your team's mental health. This is a very demanding industry but running a solvent business, working with some really cool brands, and scaling your agency shouldn't come at the cost of your team's mental health. Respect people's rest time. As agency owners, we sometimes end up working weird hours but don't expect everyone on your team to do the same. Follow Your North Star and Position Your Agency as a Solution Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up everybody? Jason Swenk here, and I'm excited to have another really good episode, a really amazing guest. He's going to talk about how did they position their agency as an outside marketing solution for companies coming in. So let's go ahead and jump into the show. All right, Vasa. What's going on, man? Vasa: [00:00:25] What's up. What's up? How are you? Jason: [00:00:27] I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do? Vasa: [00:00:30] My name it's Vasa Martinez. I'm the founder and CEO of Growthbuster, an outsourced marketing department. I'm also the CMO of Outer Aisle, which is a food brand that creates cauliflower sandwiches and pizza crust. Jason: [00:00:43] Very cool. And so with the agency, how'd you get your start? Why did you guys jump into this world? Vasa: [00:00:48] Well, I found that I had some ideas that I wanted to see brought to life, and working as an employee wasn't the best way to do that. So in the back half of 2017, I started consulting rather than being a full-time employee. And that turns into, uh, you know. At the beginning of 2018, I incorporated what became Growthbuster and started building from there. Jason: [00:01:06] Awesome. And talk about kind of, why did you choose to kind of position? Or why are you guys going after the outsource marketing department? Vasa: [00:01:17] For me, it's, it's nice to have a group of specialists and a group of generalists all on the same team when we work with different brands. I'm typically running point on, on the account. So we never pass it off to an account manager that's just out of college or anything like that. So having that team behind you, that support, is the most helpful. You know, having the graphic designer or having, you know, an email marketer or a copywriter, uh, rather than just focusing on being a paid agency or a social media marketing agency. It just wasn't enough for me and part of it was, you know, I treat GB as a CPG company. We work mostly with CPG companies, food and beverage, and I was listening to a lot of our potential clients, what they wanted. And wherever we could, we solely tacked on, you know, those, those resources. Jason: [00:02:00] So, how do you position yourself different than all the other agencies out there? Vasa: [00:02:04] Well, I don't really look at too many other agencies, to be honest. I, I focus on what we do and what we do best. Um, you know what my background is at Quest Nutrition and creative and community was one of our main focuses in the marketing department. We also, you know, as my first stint in marketing, I left a previous industry. Really enjoyed it, and we had our own creative department as well. So we never worked with any agencies. So I've kind of learned like the project management systems, you know, all the copywriting, everything as a generalist at first. And I went into content marketing for one of the arms. That's kind of why we went in that direction, is simply because it's what I started with. It was nice to have and I love it. Jason: [00:02:40] Very cool. And so what are some things that really you guys do really well that you've figured out over the past couple of years of running the agency? Vasa: [00:02:50] So we've always been known for our creative. Uh, we work with a couple awesome brands like Magic Spoon. In the past, we've worked with just some of the coolest CPG challenger brands out there. So we're definitely known for our creative. But early on we used to be known for how quickly we can escalate social growth. We don't buy followers, we don't use bots. We don't do anything shady like that. So we would literally have bets with new clients that we would double their social within the first four months, one month onboarding three-month execution. And we won a lot of bets that way. Since then, you know, everything's always changing on IG and Facebook. So we've really made adjustments and evolved along the way. So, um, back then, community and creative, 100% we were known for, we still are, but since the pandemic, we really dove into our innovation department. What that is, is basically acquisition and retention with an emphasis on SMS. Jason: [00:03:37] So when you would go to your clients and you would bet them, hey, we can double this. What were some of the things that you did that would help get more engagement, double their, you know, numbers and all that? Vasa: [00:03:50] I can think of one good example. And we're still currently with them three years later and that's Outer Aisle. They have 18,000 followers when we first started and 93% of them were in Rio de Janeiro. Interesting part there, is that Outer Aisle doesn't ship to Rio de Janeiro. And we really had to displace those followers that cannot be buyers and bring in a lot of folks who could be buyers. So what we did was run our playbook on the content marketing, identifying what the RTBs are, our reasons to believe. For Outer Aisle that's low-carb, gluten-free, grain-free bread that's delicious. And easy. So, and it's virtually of pretty much anything. So the goal of ours was trial. Our influencer funnel, we work on just constant trial. We call it targeted trial. And from there, we bring them down the funnel to five different ways to win. That's, you know, sentiment. What do they think about the product? They hate it. Hey, thanks. We'll see you later. They love it. Well, what else can we do together? Can we send you more? Um, do you want to be an affiliate? You want to be activated for our next paid campaign and retail rollout? Uh, do you want to be an ambassador? Things like that. So the trial, like product in mouth, was 100% a main focus for us. Um, really honing in on what the messaging was at that time. It was a little bit different. We did a rebrand in 2019 and the messaging at that point, was always focused on low carb, grain-free gluten-free. That's what people care about. And we focus our influencer efforts there. People started seeing it. We started attracting the social proof using that on the back end, using that in ads. The other component of that was, um, brand partnerships. We worked with a lot of different low carb keto brands, grain-free brands. And what we did was by, I think it was, was actually like two months that we doubled out their following from 18 to 36K. And when we looked at the displacement where the original was 93%. It was now closer to 40, 50%. And at this point today it's 93% US for the 142,000 followers. Jason: [00:05:38] Oh, wow. Yeah. You know, not too long ago or maybe, maybe this? I don't know. I keep losing track of time. Two years ago, I had Facebook reach out and was like, hey, we're reaching out to influencers in this space that we want to grow your account. I was like, sure, you can grow it. And the next thing I knew, I had like 40,000 more whatever likes on Facebook. And then I started looking at the names and I'm like, what is going on? It was all like, I couldn't even pronounce the names and I couldn't believe Facebook would do something like that. And so, yeah, that kind of perked me. I really like your, your strategy of how, uh, how you've grown it. Vasa: [00:06:18] Yeah. The tough part about that too, is what stakeholders don't realize. And we don't work with brands that buy followers or have bought followers. We've done it in the past. We've literally switched their accounts and started fresh. What they don't realize is that what to them is a vanity metric like, oh, investors need to see a hundred thousand followers or my peers need to see a hundred thousand followers and know I'm legit. When you start passing your accounts off to a paid agency and they, they believe that these are real. There's not much for them to work with. But on top of that, let's just say that they're, they make it look like audience for engagers and you just bought engagement. They're making it look like audience of people that are ghosts that just don't exist. So, um, that's one thing that people don't realize when you, when you tell them, hey, you're wasting money and this is why then they're like, oh, buying followers isn't that cool. Jason: [00:07:05] Oh, yeah, definitely. Well, I'm still trying to, I'm so complexed at what Facebook did. I'm sure they probably outsourced it to someone to do that, but I kind of laugh. I kind of leave it because everybody kind of uses me as the lookalike audience. I'm like, oh, you're going to target to the wrong people, suckers! Vasa: [00:07:22] Yeah. That's very true. Jason: [00:07:25] Awesome. Well, what's your guys' North Star? Like what, what really kind of drives the agency for, uh, you know, getting to the next step? Vasa: [00:07:33] Yeah. So our north star is being human first business, business second. Always has been, always will be. There's a lot of times in my history where my career, where ethics, weren't the number one thing that I've come across. So for me, I learned a lot about how to be from learning and watching people and seeing how I don't want to be. So that's how I run the agency. What our north star is, it's not necessarily growth. Yeah. Growth is nice, you know, to be a $10 million agency instead of one half for 2 million. Yeah. That's great. But at what cost? You know, employee, um, mental health is important to me. Like we worked 40 hour weeks. I never had hit people up on the weekends. My, my signature literally says, hey, I work weird hours. If you see this at the time, when you're not working, just reach out to me when you are working, don't think about responding to it. So for me, the north star is running a solvent business, working with some really cool brands and not sacrificing employee's health as a result, I can tell you this, I didn't look like this when I first started GB. So I I'm like the first-hand experience of what I don't want my employees to feel like or turn into. But at the end of the day, you know, another, another north star of ours is, uh, we don't work with brands that don't solve a problem. We've said no to a lot of brands that, yeah, we could have done so much more in revenue. But we love working with brands that are solving a problem for people. And that really starts, again, going back to my experience at Quest Nutrition, we solved the problem there. Not me personally, but it was solved before I got there. And that was creating a bar that was actually good for you. And we've turned down lucrative offers with brands where they just weren't as… we'll say, just their north start was a bit skewed, you know, there's ingredients in there that, that weren't very good. So that's our second north star is working with brands, helping brands grow that are really solving a food problem. Jason: [00:09:18] Did you start off that way? Because a lot of times it's hard to, you know, especially when you're getting, getting started of go or really kind of figure out who you actually want to go after, right? To gain that clarity. So what were some things that did you just take your past experiences at sound like, and be like, I don't want to do this, this, this, and kind of process of elimination, to figure out the north star? Vasa: [00:09:40] Well, yeah, so I working with, with a low carb company and… My last role at that company was senior influencer marketing manager. So I had a lot of relationships that influenced the world, brands that were reaching out or, you know. Once I left, um, you know, there was another, vegan low-carb protein bar that reached out. Consulted for them for a little bit, a low-carb vegan chip reached out. So having the experience with the product, but also the influencers I would reach out to. Couple that with being a one-man show then. And also having just a really focused laser precision on I'll help run, you know, like social and I'll run an influencer, I'll put the content calendar together, um, and we'll grow your social. Those are the really like the box that I put myself in as a consultant. As we've grown and as I've grown, I'm working more as like the outsourced CMO, whereas my team serves as the department. So, um, how I worked with those brands is just... Again, I, I picked and choose. There was, I think my first two brands were those, no carb, but they were called Dee's naturals back then, K Shake, which is a keto shake. And they were all very second nature to me because I was just working on all of those products at the time I was there. Jason: [00:10:47] Very cool. And when you started, you know, obviously when you were, when you started, it was just you, so how'd, you decide who to hire as you were growing? Vasa: [00:10:59] Yeah. So I worked with a couple of freelancers at the time I brought on one of my other closest friends. He was freelancing and just helped me out with influencer, what we call influencer partnerships. Organizing the influencer calendar. His name's Simon. But the first, first hire hire was my friend, Danny, who I brought on his VP of growth. And he helped Halo Top really hit that next level as a unicorn. And that was a really intentional choice because I needed another me in the field. He was previously an engineer before he got into marketing. So he has that engineer mind where he can really set the structure of things. And that was important to me because it was very complimentary. But we also had similar skill because we literally sat next to each other at quest. So that was the first hire. Once that happened, you know, the next thing I brought on was a creative director. Maybe it was a bit early, but we quickly started hiring in 2018. We brought on a, a retail marketing manager in 2019, which is different for an agency, you don't typically see those. But when we start working in our innovations, um, tactics, you know, manufacturing, coupons, digital coupons, those sorts of things that all helps. So bringing on that one, anchor that could support me was the priority. Jason: [00:12:06] Yeah. I always tell, uh, all the people I'm coaching of like, hey, well, you got to kind of hire based on the things that you're currently doing now that you don't want to do anymore, rather than hire though things that you have no clue about. I'm like, no, no, no, you'll do that later on. But in the very beginning, you need to replace yourself. Not your exact twin, but you need to replace kind of those smaller things that you're doing, that we all have to do when we're first starting out. Vasa: [00:12:37] Yeah, a good place for me to be eventually that I'm working towards is really focusing on the finances personnel, some, some higher-level strategy for similar brands, but fully cognizant. Eventually, I shouldn't be the, the reason that the business kind of runs and stays afloat, you know? Jason: [00:12:53] Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, I always tell people, you know, as you're building the business, you're in it. And then, uh, and you're going like the what and the how, and I'm like, no, no, no, no. All you have to do is be like, this is where we're going. And this is the who who's actually going to go do this. Who do I need to hire? And then that kind of transitions to, you know, working on the business, which then you have that freedom to do what you want. Because I can promise you this, um, we're not all about hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle, hustle. It's like, hustle, have fun hustle, have fun, right? So, uh, and a little bit more in between. So is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit audience? Vasa: [00:13:36] Not that I can think of. Jason: [00:13:38] Perfect. Well, what's a website people can go and check you out? Vasa: [00:13:41] That's, There's no S at the end. Dan Akroyd and all those guys, aren't part of the team. Um, so that's Growth Buster, singular one word, .com. Jason: [00:13:56] Well, I was going to be like, hey, we need to create a really good theme song, you know. Because while I was in the agency I wanted to create an app that eventually turned into an iPhone app called Goldberg. The first name was called Chubby Busters. And we used to, we had a theme song that I would sing. We'd be like, when you're feeling fat and your pants don't fit. Who are you going to call? Chubby Busters. But then we were like, no, one's ever going to say we're going to be with Chubby Busters. Vasa: [00:14:22] Yeah. That sounds like, that sounds like an agency I would own right now, too. Jason: [00:14:27] Awesome. Well, go check out the website and, uh, if you guys liked this episode, so, and you want to hear more of it and make sure you actually subscribe so you don't ever miss out on a new episode that we're pumping out all the time for you guys. So you guys can scale faster. And also, make sure you guys leave us comments or review the podcast that will help us reach more people. And if you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners on a consistent basis where we're constantly talking about what's the strategies working. So you can scale your agency faster and not work all the time and have that freedom that you really want. Make sure you guys go to That is our exclusive mastermind go there now. And until next time have a Swenk day.

    Why You Shouldn't Forget to Treat Your Agency Like a Client

    Play Episode Listen Later Jul 21, 2021 18:45

    Jason Yormark realized the job stability he always hoped to find behind a desk was waiting for him as an entrepreneur. That's when he decided to take the risk and founded Socialistics, a B2B social media agency. Three and a half years later his agency, based in Seattle, helps tell businesses stories in ways that not only drive audience and engagement; but more importantly, real business results. Today, he joins the podcast to talk about how you should treat your agency, the benefits of long vs. short-term contracts, and more. 3 Golden Nuggets Don't be afraid to disrupt. When Jason started thinking of ways to disrupt and help get his new agency noticed, he thought about offering clients an option that would get rid of something that they typically hate. Long-term contracts came up as something that clients don't usually love about their experience with marketing agencies, and so he started offering monthly contracts and got good results. In time, many of his clients have opted to change from a monthly contract to a long-term contract. Treat yourself like a client. A lot of agencies don't dedicate enough time to building their brand. They get so busy with business development and clients and that it is the first thing to get pushed aside. Building your brand takes time and consistency when it comes to putting out new content, blog posts, social media, etc. Jason's advice is to make sure that somebody in your team is responsible for treating your business as a client. You can still outsource if you're doing the content. Are you a good writer, or maybe a natural in front of a mike when it comes to recording a podcast? Great! However, that doesn't mean that you have to take care of every step of the process. Get an SEO editor or a video editor that will take on the heavy lifting. This way, you can focus on your expertise and putting that content out there. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM Don't Forget to Build Your Brand and Treat Yourself Like a Client Jason Swenk: [00:00:00] What's up everybody? I have another amazing guest coming for you in just a second. We're going to talk about why you should treat your agency as the number one client. As well as we're going to talk about long-term or short-term contracts, the benefits, the disadvantages. We're going to argue back and forth. This is going to be a really good episode. Now, before we get into chatting with Jason, our guest, I want you to do something. I want you to take a screenshot off your phone of listening to the podcast and upload that to Instagram and tag us because I want to thank you for listening to the show and do a big shout-out to you. So let's go ahead and get into the episode. All right, Jason. Welcome to the show. Jason Yormark: [00:00:44] Thank you for having me. Jason Swenk: [00:00:45] Yeah, man. I'm excited. So let's start fighting. No, I'm just kidding. No, tell us who you are and what do you do. Jason Yormark: [00:00:53] My name is Jason Yormark. I'm the owner and founder of Socialistics. We are a B2B social media agency. Jason Swenk: [00:01:01] That's awesome. And so how did you get started? How'd you fall into this crazy-ass world? Jason Yormark: [00:01:06] Well, I thought, I mean, I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit my entire life. But, uh, I was always searching for stability in my life professionally, and I always thought that that was, you know, a nine to five or sitting behind a desk with my paycheck and my benefits. All that good stuff. But, uh, marketing is a pretty volatile career path, I learned. And once I started to kind of see other folks experiencing the same thing I wasn't. So I didn't feel so bad about myself, you know, jumping around job to job, whether by choice or not. So that's stability I was always looking for was right in front of me all the time. Which was doing my own thing, controlling my own fate. And I just reached a point in my life. You know, I was a little bit later for me, where I could make that leap, take that risk. And get it right. And that happened about, uh, three and a half years ago. Jason Swenk: [00:01:52] Awesome. I love it. Well, let's talk about long-term contracts and short-term contracts. Tell us kind of how you started, where you're at now and what have you seen work? Because, you know, I have my own point of view and we'll see is we come together. If not, that's good. That's probably… that builds interests. Jason Yormark: [00:02:10] I've always been hesitant to admitting this to my other agency, friends. But, and this is going to be a little bit cringy, but, uh, we predominantly up to this point, we've done month to month contracts. And for me, it was a couple of things out of the gate. Number one, everybody's got a different agency story in terms of how they start and what they have to work with. I, you know, I had nothing, you know, I had to. And a lot of folks, I'm not the only one, a lot of folks, you know, start with nothing. You have to scrap and you have to get, you know, some clients up in the beginning and kind of make some decisions that maybe you otherwise wouldn't later on. But, you know, I just wanted to disrupt, I was always fascinated by companies like Uber, who just disrupted transportation. All they did was create this awesome piece of technology to connect drivers and, and people that need rides. And all, you know, I can imagine them sitting in a room and thinking like, what, what are the things that people hate about this? And I thought about that from an agency perspective. Like, what do clients really dislike about what they experience with agencies? And I thought, you know, long-term contracts and I knew this would be a way to disrupt. And I knew it would wait to create some momentum. I knew there'd be some risks with it. You know, the value of an agency is obviously can be dictated by that. But at the time I was like, I didn't care about that point. I just wanted to create something that would allow me to never sit in a car for two and a half hours, three hours every day and sitting behind a desk. I just wanted to create something with some momentum. So we launched with month to month, and it definitely created some instant momentum for us. We were able to maybe win some, some projects that we otherwise maybe wouldn't get. And my theory, my philosophy with it has always been a couple of things. Number one, if you do great work, if you treat clients well, if you deliver results, they're going to stick with you. And if they can't, it's going to be for reasons out of your control. And the pandemic was a perfect example, right? Some clients, look, I don't want to be the reason why an agency has to let go of some of their employees. Like, if they have to press pause on something, then I'm okay with that. So it really worked for us out of the gate to kind of create the momentum that we needed to build a foundation to stick. And to be able to have a business that I could have for the rest of my life. So it worked in the beginning. Jason Swenk: [00:04:11] I see that point and I really do agree with it because at the end of the day, like, think about it this way. Selling agency services is very different than like coaching someone, right? So a lot of times when I'm actually going to someone and saying like, well, you got pretty big goals, right? Like over the next year, it's going to take us awhile in order to accomplish that. Because I'm always looking, like I want to be what I call the chasee or the, I want to be the one getting chased, right? Rather than pushing sales, I want them to be pulling me towards you. And a lot of times what I'll do, and agencies can do this as well. Going, all right, well, we want to make sure you're the right fit for us. And for what you need to do, we believe it's going to take a long time to do, a year. We want to see your commitment level in order to do it. And so that's why I've always talked about doing longer term, and then it's more predictable, right? But I also agree with you. You know, it's easier to sell something that's out. Because it's less risky, right? You can make a decision. All right, I blow a month, two months here. Okay. But like you were saying, if you deliver amazing work, they're not going to want to leave. And then if they get in a situation like we just went through with COVID, right? Let's say you're going after the restaurant industry. The whole industry was shut down for months. Are you really going to stick it to them because you have a contract? No, you're going to let them out. At the end of the day, it's kind of like. You're just trying to figure out, do you really have that commitment level to me? Because I have a commitment level to you and I need to know that. That's the biggest thing I look for. Jason Yormark: [00:05:54] Yeah. And for us, I just feel like. We're growing, you know what? Even at the time, it's like, look, if somebody doesn't want to pay you, they're not going to pay you. Like, even, even the best contract language in the world doesn't mean you're going to see that money. And like, you know, in the beginning, especially the first year, like where are we really in a position where we're going to hire somebody, a lawyer and go to court? I'm like, no. If somebody doesn't want to pay you, they're not going to pay you. And I think in the entire history of our business, one client didn't pay, uh, an invoice. I, you know, I tried going after it and it, we didn't get it. So at the end of the day, it's not, it's just semantics almost. Because, again, if you do great work, they're going to stick with you. And if they can't, then they're probably, they weren't a good fit to begin with. We've had plenty of clients that would come into a relationship with us and I vetted them out the best I could. I think they've got good potential, but they get in and either they treat my team like crap or they weren't ready. And we didn't know that. And there w it wasn't a good fit. I'd rather grow a scalable business with the clients that makes sense for us then just trying to trap people into long-term contracts. Because even if they do sign a long-term contract and they're not a good fit, I'm just the kind of guy that's going to be like, look, this isn't working and we're going to go our separate ways anyway. So it really hasn't impacted our agency not having that. And certainly, you know, it's evolved for us, you know. Now we, my, it was funny, an interesting story. My, my team came to me and they were a little bit frustrated because some clients left because they weren't a good fit. And they said, well, what if we, you know, we think maybe we need to reconsider this. We kind of had a back and forth with the team. And ultimately what we decided is why don't we just create options, right? Let's give them the option of, okay, here's, here's your month-to-month price. And here's a long-term contract price discounted. It's your choice. We give the client the choice. What do you care about most? And a lot of what's happening a lot is some of them will take us up on the month, a month. And then after a couple of months, oh, these guys are awesome, actually deliver results. I like these guys. Hey, could we switch to a long-term contract? And then we kind of move into that. So we give them the option. So that has really actually worked really well for us. And now our balance of clients is shifting. Whereas like, you know, a hundred percent of them are month to month. Now that those numbers are changing. It's becoming like 70/30. I expect it to be half and half, which is good for us because, you know, I want an exit strategy. I'm not ready yet. I'm a couple of years away, but I know by the time I'm ready for that. I think that a good percentage of our clients will be long-term contracts. Jason Swenk: [00:08:18] We'll get you there quicker than you think. Or so you have the option. I mean, it's, it's kind of hard to interview, cause I know so much already I'm being in the mastermind. But that's a great point, Jason, too, of what you were saying about we give the option. Because at the end of the day, you got to think about how can I remove friction from them, making a decision? And then whatever, if, if they're like, hey, I still don't trust you yet. That's kind of why, you know, like in the mastermind and the playbook, we always talk about the offering ladder. Do the foot in the door, then a project. Show them value, and then they're going to want that retainer, but I like how you have, hey, if you want short-term contract. It's kind of like a SAS model, if you think about it, like on a technology, it's like, it's this, if you pay month to month, it's this. If you pay, you know, if you commit to a year… And I like to hear that a lot of clients are going to that, because that was going to be my next question for you. For people listening, going well, do you have an exit strategy? Because I know as a buyer of agencies, that's one of the things we look at. Because we need that predictability. Jason Yormark: [00:09:31] Well, plus, I mean, for me it was, I felt like, well, if they look at the history, if they see. Because honestly I could go back to a good percentage of our clients right now and say, hey, you know, I want, uh, for the, you know, I want to kind of solidify our agency a bit, build the valuation up. You've been on month to month for a year or two. You okay with just sliding into a year-long contract? Most of them are going to say yes. So I think that it's just building those foundational clients over time. I'm not worried whatsoever that when I start thinking seriously about an exit strategy, that I'll be able to transition a good percentage of the ones that we have. And this new approach that we're taking, you know, we'll get there. But as a, as a young hungry… If you're just starting out and you don't have anything, that's a great way to disrupt because it eliminates a lot of the barriers to saying yes. And what's interesting is it's almost kind of like a foot-in-the-door offer by itself. Because the whole idea of in my opinion, the foot-in-the-door is to get them to say yes, more easily. Like the commitment's lower, they get a taste of who you are. And that month a month approach… I mean the first month is strategy. So they're in essence getting a foot-in-the-door offer in some capacity. But ultimately I'm just trying to get them to yes more easily and more quickly. Jason Swenk: [00:10:39] Yeah, I love it. Well, I love that strategy and there's so much to take away. So if you guys are listening, we'd love to know your comments on that. You know, because I think all of you should do that offer if, uh, if you're charging month to month now. See about giving them the option at a, I wouldn't say at a discount, I would just say, we're going to charge you more if you're on month a month, right? Jason Yormark: [00:11:00] Exactly. Jason Swenk: [00:11:01] Let's change, focus a little. Because I feel a lot of agencies don't dedicate enough time to building their own brand, their own marketing, treating themselves as a client. So what have you found working for yourself? Jason Yormark: [00:11:14] Yeah. So I, you know, it was interesting. Every agency it starts out and like, you're just, you're so busy with like business development and selling and getting clients. It's, the first thing to get pushed to the side is your own stuff. And it's very easy to do and most do that. And we did, to a certain extent, we didn't take it serious. We just kind of dabbled, oh we'll put a blog post out. Then, you know, a month later, oh, we probably need to put another blog post out. And it just doesn't work. I found that. You know, we were… as a startup, I didn't have a tremendous amount of money to just throw out stuff. And I knew I had the luxury of creating a runway. I created the brand when I had another job. You know, I, I knew that it was going to take a couple of years for the name and our website to permeate on the web and kind of start to get some organic reach. That takes time, you know, it just takes a long time for that to happen. And I just consistently made a commitment to putting know blog posts out and putting content out and putting social media content out. And it gets frustrating because it's like, it's the sum of all that effort over time that really eventually gets you to a good place. Then, now we're three and a half years in or so, and we're getting about 20 to 30, you know, inbound, organic leads. Just from people searching. And that doesn't happen overnight. You have to treat yourself like a client. You have to prioritize. And the, the minute that we realized that, you know. I just, you know, I got someone on my team, Socialistics is their client just like anybody else. The accountabilities are there, the expectations are there. We don't let it slide no matter how busy that we get. We do not, you know, we just don't move away from what we need to commit to. And now that consists of, you know, weekly blog posts, right now, bi-weekly podcast episodes. Certainly social media every day. But it's just, it's just the sum and the consistency of that. Or, I mean, yes, it's got to be strategic and you need to pick keywords and phrases and work that in and, and be smart. But it's just that consistency that you have to kind of stick with it. And the best advice I can give is, you know, if it's just you, then it's gotta be you. But when you start to build a team, make sure that somebody is responsible and accountability is around your business, as a client. That's the best thing that you can do if you're serious about, you know, building a pipeline for yourself that doesn't require you shoveling money on paid ads all of the time. Jason Swenk: [00:13:34] Yeah, I look at it as if it's just you or you're going all right, Jason and Jason. Which, uh, we'll call it the J&J show, I guess. Then we'll be like, all right, that's all good, but I'm already too damn busy or anything. And I always go back to my motto. If you're saying you're too busy, you're not charging enough. It's the leading indicator for most challenges. If you can charge enough, then you can start hiring the right people. And most of the time we hire the wrong people. I want you guys to start thinking about you in the center and thinking about all the stuff you do, right now. The $10 tasks, the $100 tasks, the really cheap tasks. And think about who can you hire to do that stuff, to get some stuff off. And do only like, you know, Jason's talking about like he's doing content development. He can only create that if he's doing the podcast, right? That's what he should be doing and that's what I want all of you to focus on. Because it has to be like three pillars, inbound, outbound, strategic partnership for building a sales system or a lead generation system for your agency. So hopefully you guys get that. Jason, this has all been amazing. And I actually agree with you. I was hoping we would disagree. So I guess I hooked people in on the intro, but, um, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience? Jason Yormark: [00:14:58] You know, just based on what we talked about and you kind of touched on it just now. You know, just because when you're doing the content, that doesn't mean that you can't outsource, whether it's somebody internally or whether you hire somebody. And a perfect example of that is like the podcast, which I love doing podcasts. It's easy. It's easier to me, right? You're just getting in front of a microphone and blab for 20 to 30 minutes with somebody. Not to mention it's awesome to just to meet other people in that way. But I don't do the editing. Like I don't do the editing. I don't, you know, I don't want to do any of that technical stuff. I did it at first just to kind of get a feel for it. But you know, a couple hundred bucks a month. There's plenty of resources out there that'll take on all the heavy lifting. So literally all you have to do is put the microphone in front of your face. Talk for 20 minutes, send it to somebody else they'll edit it. They'll publish it. It's fantastic. You know, it's a really low investment in time. The same thing with blogs. Like if you're a great writer, then write it, then send it to somebody to edit and SEO optimize it and publish it on your website. Like don't spend your time doing all of those extra things that make it feel too heavy. Like you can outsource a lot of that and really just focus on your expertise and putting it out there. And the minute that we kind of got those systems in place, it becomes a repeatable process and we're able to make it work. Every day, every week. And it's worked really well. Jason Swenk: [00:16:07] What's a website people can go check the agency out? And what's the podcast name that they can search to go, uh, listen? Jason Yormark: [00:16:13] Yeah. Well, our name's unique, so just search for Socialistics. But you can find us at The podcast is called Socialistics, social media agency stories. And, uh, you know, just type in the name, you'll find us. Jason Swenk: [00:16:26] Awesome. Well, go check that out. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, I would love for you to do me a favor. We haven't asked for going to iTunes or whatever platform you have and review it. And then also, if you want to be surrounded by other amazing people, I want to invite you guys to go to our free Facebook group called the Digital Agency Owner Insiders. You can go to So that should direct you right there as you a couple of questions and only agency owners are in there. So go do that. And until next time, have a Swenk day.