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

Author: Jason Swenk

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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 running successful businesses, and will provide you the insights you need. Our podcast is just over 3 years old, and have reached more than a half million listeners in 42 countries.
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Do you feel like your agency has reached a plateau? Do you want to speed up your agency's growth but not sure how? Are your clients looking for more? An acquisition can be a great way to diversify your agency's offerings and bring new life into the business. In today's episode, we'll cover: 2 Ways a merger or acquisition can help you grow your agency faster. #1 component of a successful merger or acquisition. Why your partners should always agree on an exit strategy. Today I talked to Jim Hawker, co-founder and head of sales and marketing at Threepipe, a digital marketing agency based out of the UK. Early on, Jim realized the value of mergers and acquisitions to not only grow his agency but also streamline internal processes. He's here to talk about what's worked (and what hasn't) along the way. 2 Ways a Merger or Acquisition Can Help You Grow Your Agency Faster It's hard to grow a successful agency without reaching a point where you hit a plateau. A place where it seems like no matter what you do, your agency's growth is just kind of stagnant. A merger or acquisition is a great way to give your agency a kick start and mix things up. But just how exactly does this work? Streamlined hiring: Jim says it has always been a part of his agency's strategy to go out and acquire talent. While you can find success when you hire and train, this process can take a long time and you'll often end up spending more money in the end. When  you merge your team with another existing one, you expedite the process. Greater reach: Jim says he was finally able to expand his agency's service offerings after he went through his first merger. When he connected with like-minded owner-managers who complemented his service offerings, his agency was able to attract and land clients quicker than they had before. #1 Component of a Successful Merger or Acquisition Jim says ultimately he chose the right agencies to work with along the way. That said, it took three or four years for the two newly merged agencies to learn how to work with each other. The number one mistake Jim says his agency made was forcing people to work together and figure it out on their own. I've talked about it before and I'll talk about it again — when you merge with another agency, you have to consider whether it's a culture fit. Take some time to get to know the other agency, what their vision is, and if they align with your own core values. Skip this step and you're going to have a hard time finding success. Want to truly get to know who you will be partnering with? Spend time in the office and see if their team is happy. Or as Jim puts it, "Go on a few dates before you pop the question." Why Your Partners Should Always Agree on an Exit Strategy You never want to enter a partnership without having a plan for how it will end. What happens if one of the partners wants to leave the agency? What if there is death or illness? How will you determine the value of the business? An unexpected dissolution can destroy an agency if there isn't a plan in place. If you agree to all the details ahead of time, you'll have a legal document to go back to in the event the partnership ends. You can't build a successful agency without taking risks. Sometimes the right risk is merging with another agency. Remember why you started your agency and don't be afraid to keep taking chances that can help your agency grow. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish. If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.
Have you ever felt embarrassed by the size of your agency? Do you think success is wrongfully tied to the size of your team? Have you been worried about how the current economy is affecting your business and your clients? Change is a painful part of growing, but it's one of the best teachers when you're looking to build a great agency, not just a big agency. In this episode, we'll cover: How to move forward during an economic crisis. Why your ego could be holding your agency back. Why fast growth isn't the best solution. I talked to Mark DiMassimo, Chief Creative at DiMassimo Goldstein, an agency he founded in New York in 1996. In the early years of the agency, Mark hit the ground running. By 1997, DiMassimo Goldstein was the fasted growing agency around. Within a couple of years, the agency had offices in San Francisco, and New York, and Mark was featured on the cover of a magazine. And then the dot com bust hit, forcing him to take his staff down from a peak of 114 to 30. Mark shares the way he learned that a big agency team doesn't always correlate to the agency's level of success. How to Move Forward During Economic Crisis "One of the most important things I learned is what a pleasure and an honor it is to do this business. What a pleasure and an honor it is to be able to think, dream, learn from great business leaders, daydream, write, have visions, have a chance to get visions produced to work," Mark said. Even though the industry pain points of deadlines, uncertainty, competition, he still feels a little sheepish calling it work. Mark has had the unfortunate experience of letting dozens of good employees go and yet he says those difficult times are all the more reason to do what needs to be done to help the business survive them. You loved the agency when you started it and when you started to grow it. The challenge is continuing to love it and carrying over that sense of pride you have even during the dark times. Why Your Ego Could Be Holding Your Agency Back Have you noticed that agencies are judged by the size of their team? But judging success level by size isn't accurate. After the dot com bust, Mark found himself in therapy and learning to meditate. He learned to leverage his skills to take advantage of any skill he could use to help ally the vision he had of his agency with where he was. One of the lessons he learned during this phase of his life and his agency was his ego only really matters to him. "People don't really care. They care about you as a person, but they don't care if you grew and sold your agency. They don't care if you didn't."  Letting go of your ego and the need to feed your ego by growing your agency whether you need to or not helps you gain freedom. And that freedom allows you to make your agency into what you want it to be. Letting go of your ego is also important during your agency's tough times. Having the ability to reach out to others for advice, without worrying about what they might think another tool for achieving your vision. Why Fast Growth Isn't the Best Solution Change is what makes us necessary, Mark says. Dealing with the way change impacts clients is probably one of the reasons you started an agency. Mark says it is equally important to be upfront with your clients when you're dealing with changes within your agency. Because your clients are in the world of business, they understand the need to be lean and focused. While creating a solution to whatever problem your agency is struggling with, communication and transparency go a long way in building goodwill with your clients. The best solutions generally have one main ingredient: time. Mark learned the hard lesson that fast growth is not good growth. No business can really be successful running on high speed forever. If you're growing too fast, you likely haven't come up with contingencies if the industry inevitably changes. And if you're currently in the midst of a changing industry and only now trying to chart a path to the future, you will not have it perfectly figured out right away. But you can certainly have fun while you figure it out. Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams? Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform. SharpSpring helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue. For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies. Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.
Are you really fostering your client relationships? Are you going beyond the transaction and getting personal? People prefer doing business with people they know, like, and trust. Connections not only help you find and retain clients but place a greater value on the services you provide. In this episode, we'll cover: The most important ingredient in your hustle. Why is branded content so effective? Why client relationships are so important. Richie Kulchar is the Co-founder, Producer, and Director of a branded film content agency called Junk Films. Richie and his partner actually met in 2014 while they were both undergoing substance abuse treatment at a rehab in the Los Angeles area. The two finished their treatment and ultimately began an agency together in 2017. Among their first clients were substance abuse treatment centers. These businesses, as Richie explains, had a mission of hope but "their marketing materials were trash." Junk Films now boast a client list that includes some of the biggest brands in the nation. Richie is on the show to share how he turned his life around and built an amazing agency. The Most Important Ingredient in Your Hustle "The idea behind Junk Films is that you're dealing with ex-junkies," Richie says. "We have been hustlers in our lives. We're used to hustling to get what we want." He and his partner's substance abuse is something they're both very transparent about. They use their backgrounds and their stories to help tell the stories of other people. The leap from local substance abuse treatment center clients to well-known brands like Adidas "was lucky but it was also a hustle," Richie says. He had a friend with an agency who had done work for Adidas' original YouTube channel. The friend reached out to Junk Films for video content for the client, and Richie was able to use the work he did for that company to attract more clients, both through the quality of work as well as word-of-mouth. Starting with very little capital, Richie and his partner brokered deals in which the advertiser paid for their costs -- such as rented camera equipment -- and would, in turn, receive a high-quality video. After some time and successes, Junk Films began finding clients who were able to pay a standard rate. Why Is Branded Content So Effective? The industry of film advertising has changed, Richie says. In the past, a company would hire someone to shoot a commercial and then pay for media spots, whether they were the right audience for that product or not. Data analytics tools and targeted advertising online has changed the game for the better. Brands choose the demographics they want the ads to be displayed to while also measuring the impact of their advertising reach. By reaching the targeted audience, brands are better able to connect to those who would be most impacted by their products. "Branded content is so important because there is no quicker way to tell your story," Richie says. The vast majority of online content these days is, in fact, video content. For people who don't like to read, he explains, video content is a way to grab the attention of the consumer and provide them with a balance of information and emotion. One of the challenges conducting video interviews is many of the interviewees do not have experience on camera. This is where Richie is again able to use his own personal story to connect with them. He helps them feel comfortable telling their own stories. There are also a number of camera techniques, including the use of a longer lens so the videographer is at a greater distance from the interview subject. Why Client Relationships Are So Important Relationships are key when it comes to agency growth. When client-side contacts change jobs, they often go to another well-known brand. They take their connections with them, including their connection to Junk Films and the ability to obtain quality video content. This results in an opportunity to work with new brands and showcase their work in new ways. In an industry saturated with agencies, providing film content helps your clients connect more with you and with their customers. But it all begins with the ability to share your own story and let your clients connect with you. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard! It allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish. If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.
Are you losing clients and talent to other agencies? Are you wondering what the secret recipe is to keeping happy clients and a happy team? Are you looking for that one thing to make both clients and talent want to stay? The loyalty you are seeking from your clients and team members is directly related to the value you place on them. In this episode, we'll cover: How to build client trust How to build employee trust and morale 3 questions every agency owner needs to answer I talked with Tom Johnson -- Partner, COO, and CFO of Southport Marketing, an experiential marketing agency based in California but with clients across the country. Tom and his two partners began the agency just as the 2008 financial crisis was coming down the pike. Since then, the partners have put a lot of sweat equity into the success of their venture. Tom is sharing the strategies he has used to maintain many of his original clients and team members all these years. How to Build Client Trust When asked what attracts clients such as Chevy dealers, Alaska Airlines, USC, and the Los Angeles Rams, Tom says his answer might seem a little cliche. "People come to us because of our customer service. Because we care about our clients and we want them to succeed. We hire people with a lot of passion for our clients and we have earned the right to say we provide very good customer service. We go the extra mile. We pick up the phone." Tom believes customer service is often regarded these days as "old school." The big agencies often lose the personal touch they offered when they were new agencies. Everyone seems to place more importance on other facets of success beyond simply doing the best you can for your client. "The client is the one who is paying your bills," Tom says. "Agencies often forget that." How to Build Employee Trust and Morale You want agency team members who are passionate about your clients, and who -- ideally -- look forward to coming to work each day. Tom said his team members tend to stay for years because they know they are valued. Some of the ways Southport Marketing communicates significance to the team: A diversified training model allowing the opportunity to grow in the agency as well as the industry. An investment in training and development programs. A decent pay rate that is competitive in the industry. Other perks, such as annual retreats, Costco cards, and holiday parties. An open-door policy for employees to provide feedback and share their innovative ideas. 3 Questions Every Agency Owner Needs to Answer While valuing your clients and your talent seems simple, a lot of thought must be given to ensuring that you communicate that value to them through your actions and developing new ways to do that. Here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you proactive when dealing with clients or are you reactive? Tom suggests being a bit of both. Being proactive means hiring people who are able to put out high quality work on a short deadline. Quick turnaround is sometimes part of the agency business. Hiring people with that ability means you are better able to meet those short deadlines because you have anticipated them. Would you want a job at your agency? Look at the perks you offer your employees. If you were being offered a job for your agency, would those perks be enough to keep you from looking elsewhere? Would they make you feel valued as a new hire? Would you want to hire your agency to work for you? Just as you need to put yourself in your employees' shoes, also put yourself in the shoes of your client. What do you bring to the table that no other agency offers? Is your agency a fun, cool, and interactive place? Are you able to inspire client's trust by meeting their needs? Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams? Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform that helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue. For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies. Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.
Have you reached a point where you're not sure what comes next for your agency? Are you looking for new ways to grow or afraid your agency is growing too fast? Hitting a crossroads is normal, but when you set yourself up with a solid base, you'll find it easy to choose the right path for your agency to take. In today's episode, we'll cover: 2 ways to set your agency up with a solid foundation. 2 key performance indicators your agency needs to watch. Why running an agency becomes easier as you scale. Today I sat down to talk with Mae Karwowski, founder, and CEO of Obviously, an influencer marketing agency. As a young social media manager, Mae quickly saw the value for brands when it comes to using influencers to promote a product. Since then, the agency has surpassed the 8-figure mark and works with some of the biggest brands across the globe. Mae's here to discuss some of the decisions she's made to get her agency to where it is now and what she looks forward to as her agency continues to grow. 2 Ways to Set Your Agency Up With a Solid Foundation A successful agency is built on a culmination of decisions. Everything from what you offer, how you price it, and the people you bring onto your team can affect the longevity and the profitability of your agency. So what can you do to help set your agency up for success? Be thoughtful about your first hires: One of the most exciting milestones for an agency is when you need to make your first hire. A strategic hire can add value to your agency and allow you to continue to grow. Think about what skill sets your agency needs to retain your current clients and expand your reach. Now is a great time to bring on individuals who are good at team building, operations, and hiring. Know your worth: From the very beginning, Mae knew she wanted to be a full-service agency who provided a premium product. This meant charging a premium price. Don't be afraid to charge what you are worth. When you do, you'll find you're more likely to attract the type of clients you want to work with and you're less likely to burn out. 2 Key Performance Indicators Your Agency Needs to Watch Key performance indicators tell you how your agency is doing and where your agency is headed. And while various industries may weigh different KPIs more important than others, Mae thinks there are two main KPIs agencies need to monitor: Retention: The first few contracts are great, but if you can't keep your clients happy and keep them around, you're going to see a lot of turnover. In the beginning, return clients (and subsequent referrals) are critical to your agency's success. If you've noticed your retention rate isn't where it should be, dig deeper and find out why. Take a look at the contracts, your services, and don't be afraid to ask your clients how you can improve. Revenue streams: Do you offer complementary services? Is your team prepared to upsell or cross-sell? Do your clients even know about these services? Look for opportunities to build packages for your clients and sell them as solutions. Take a close look at where your profits are coming from and where you should invest. Why Running an Agency Becomes Easier as You Scale A lot of agency owners come to me and say, "But Jason, I don't want to grow anymore. I can barely keep up as it is. "It may seem counterintuitive, but the more you scale, the easier it becomes. Why? By establishing a regular client base and growing your team, you have more people and resources to get things done. And the bigger you become, the more you can delegate, which in turn allows you to brainstorm, create, and focus on ways to expand your agency's vision and reach. When you figure out who your clients are, what they want, and what you're worth, the possibilities are endless. It may not be easy, but most of the time it's worth it. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard and allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish. If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.
Are you looking for a way to keep your clients around longer? Are you ready to focus more on client retention? Do you struggle for clients to see the value of your work? Client retention is one of the most important parts of finding success, but it's often one of the things agencies struggle with the most. In today's episode, we'll cover: 2 ways to drive up client retention. Why it's important to benchmark client progress. Does your team understand agency pricing and value? Today I sat down for an informative chat with John Horn, CEO of Stub Group Advertising, a digital advertising agency out of Fort Worth, Texas. John was one of the agency's first hires, and as such has really seen what works and what doesn't when it comes to growing a pay-per-click agency. He's here to talk about why it's so critical for your clients to understand exactly what they are getting. 2 Ways to Drive Up Client Retention It's no secret — in the agency realm, there is a lot of client turnover. And while you may be able to bring in new clients to replace some of the ones you've lost, if you constantly have a revolving door of clients, you're going to experience excess costs and a lot of instability. One of the best ways to grow an agency is to not just bring on new clients but to keep the ones you already have. How? Start out with realistic expectations: Every client will come in with a list of what they want for their company. It's your job to help them understand what is attainable and what just isn't. Sit down with your client and discuss what they want and compare it to market realities. When you do this from the start, your client is less likely to be disappointed. Help your client measure success: What should your client see when a campaign is working? Will there be more traffic? Higher revenue? Less spend? Understand how the client will measure the success and be able to report on what you are delivering. Why It's Important to Benchmark Client Progress Clients are fickle. And there will always be other agencies trying to lure your clients away. So how do you make sure your clients are happy with the services you provide? Benchmarks. Clients will always forget what you did for them yesterday. That's why it's important to regularly sit down and say, "This is where you were then and this is where you are now." This helps your client understand the value of your services and will help them justify a continued relationship. This is also a good time to look at what's working and what's not. Look at the data. Are things getting better or worse? Benchmarks can help you and your client decide when it may be time to mix things up. Does Your Team Understand Agency Pricing and Value? Stub Group Advertising has gone through a lot of different pricing models to figure out what works. But one thing that remains the same is the need to understand value and worth. If you don't understand why you're pricing your services at a certain point, your clients won't either. If you are an expert in the field, don't be afraid to charge those premium prices. Sure, you'll attract new clients with lower pricing, but generally, it won't be the type of clients that will help you build your agency. Use pricing as a qualifier for the type of client you want to bring in. Keeping clients happy isn't rocket science, but it does take work. The more your clients understand what they are actually getting and the value of your services, the more likely they are to stick around. Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams? Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform that helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue. For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies. Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.
Do you struggle with client retention? Are you worried you aren't providing what your client needs? Client retention is a problem many agencies deal with. But think about it, how well do you really know your digital agency clients? For most agencies, they just need to get back to the basics. In today's episode, we'll cover: #1 mistake new agencies make. 2 simple tips to increase client retention. How to better understand your client's needs. Today I sat down for a really informative chat with John Florey, president of Sama Labs, a digital marketing agency based out of Boca Raton, Florida. John comes in with a little bit of a different experience than many of the other guests on our show. While he runs a successful digital agency, he also has several brands of his own. He's here to share what he has learned about what it means to run a successful agency, from the perspective of an executive, as well as a client. #1 Mistake New Agencies Make When you're running an agency, it can be difficult to recognize what you're doing wrong. So I asked John where he saw agencies failing from the client perspective. John says the number one thing agencies fail to do is understand the infrastructure. What does this mean? Too many agencies don't take the time to understand the basics of the brand they are working with. How does the business run? Does a particular type of marketing make sense? Why are you doing what you are doing? This is one of the main reasons I tell my clients you need to niche down. If you understand the market better than your client, only then can you provide the right type of guidance. If you go after everyone, you might be able to get a few shiny retainers, but how long will those clients stick around? 2 Simple Tips to Increase Client Retention When I talk about client retention, I always think about the words of Joey Coleman — What you do in the first 100 days can increase client retention. Think about it, if your client isn't happy in the first 100 days, chances are slim you're going to successfully turn things around. John says there are 2 things he does to focus on clients during this time. Know what type of clients are right for your agency. It's not just about making sure you are right for the client, it's about making sure the client is right for your agency. What type of client will help your agency grow? Focus on the relationships that are mutually beneficial and stop wasting your time on the rest. Keep the client excited. If you've got a good sales team, they've already done their job and got the client excited to work with your agency. But the momentum can't stop here. The fulfillment team has to keep up this same level of energy. If you sign a client on and they quickly realize they are getting the same level of attention and excitement they were expecting, any mistake you make along the way (because we're not perfect) will stick out like a sore thumb. How to Better Understand Your Client's Needs We often look at the big picture and skip over the more granular things. This is a mistake. If you don't know what makes a brand tick or where they are spending their money, you're going to have a hard time finding success. Take expenses for example. If your client's expenses are really high and their ad budget is really low, chances of profitability are probably going to be really low as well. Ask a lot of questions. The more insight you have, the better chance both you and your client will have at success. Client retention is all about relationships and relationships are built on getting to know each other. The more effort you put in and the more time you take to learn what your client needs, the better off you both will be. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard and allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish. If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.
Are you looking for a way to grow your agency through strategic partnerships? Do you struggle to understand what type of partnership might be right for you? There are so many ways you can build and grow your agency — the trick is creating a partnership that aligns with your prospective clients' needs. In today's episode, we'll cover: Technology agencies use to grow revenue. 2 ways to be a successful strategic partner. Understanding where your agency's value truly lies. Can a digital agency be good at SaaS? Today I sat down with Rick Carlson, President of SharpSpring. As a marketing automation software company, SharpSpring works with hundreds of agencies, building strategic partnerships that build on the strengths of all parties involved. He's here to talk about how agencies can grow revenue by finding and being a good strategic partner. New Technology Agencies Use to Grow Revenue As a marketing automation expert, Rick has seen the evolution of the various platforms out there. He says there has been a major shift in the way marketing automation has developed over the years. Instead of just traditional email marketing and landing pages, it now integrates with the full sales cycle. He refers to SharpSpring as not just marketing automation but rather a "revenue growth platform." Rick says there has been a lag between the innovation of marketing automation platforms and agencies' adoption of the full scope of the platform. No longer just limited to email automation, SharpSpring includes intelligent forms, CRM, social post scheduling, and even a chatbot tool. When agencies harness the full potential of a tool like SharpSpring it becomes a true "black box" and can exponentially escalate the agency's value to their client. As Rick says, agencies are only limited by their imagination -- the capabilities are there and ready to deploy. 2 Ways to Be a Successful Strategic Partner I always tell my clients there are three sales channels you need to focus on in order to grow: inbound, outbound, and strategic partnerships. Strategic partnerships is the one that is often neglected or misunderstood. It is not just a referral partner (those are great too, but not reliable for growth). To align with the right strategic partner, figure out which technologies make are natural companions with your core service. Then, leverage that partnership to help your agency grow. Once you find the right partners, there are two main ways Rick sees agencies become successful with those  relationships: The cookie-cutter approach: Agencies who utilize the cookie-cutter approach typically spend a lot of time perfecting one strategy. However, they are then able to replicate the same model over and over again. This method is highly efficient and highly profitable, focusing on volume over contracts. Personalization: With this approach, the agency looks at the unique needs of the client. This approach requires more strategy and often more time commitment. However, the trade-off is typically a bigger retainer and longer engagement. Understanding Where Your Agency's Value Truly Lies One of the problems with strategic partnerships is agencies find it easy to pass on their partners' work as their own. The main issue with this is it can cause the client to overlook the value your agency actually provides, which is strategy. Look at it this way, when you get your taxes done, the accountant doesn't expect you to believe they developed QuickBooks. When you go to a tax professional, you expect them to review your finances, find tax breaks, and file your taxes. The same holds true for digital agency clients and the tools you use to be great at the results you provide. Remember, most of the time technology is nothing more than a tool if it is not placed in capable hands. Make it clear where your agency's value truly lies. Can a Digital Agency Be Good at SaaS? Have you developed a technology you think would help others? Maybe you want to create another profit stream. There's nothing wrong with branching out, but once you start marketing a new SaaS tool, you become a software developer and not just an agency. Sure, you can do both, but if you choose this route, you need to separate the two. Trying to do both will become a distraction and one of your ventures will suffer. If you're going to create tech, you need a clear separation — different teams, different presidents, etc. Strategic partnerships are meant to benefit all parties involved. They should not be a one-way street. Focus on what you can provide and what your agency really needs. When you find the right match, you'll find more time to devote to other areas to help your agency grow. Struggling to maintain consistent project work and revenue streams? Check out SharpSpring. They’ve built a low-cost, comprehensive marketing, and sales platform that helps agencies increase their margins and build consistent monthly recurring revenue. For a limited time, you can get a live demo of SharpSpring and see what it’s like to use a platform built specifically for agencies. Also, be sure you check out SharpSpring's FREE Agency Acceleration Series featuring presentations by some of today's best marketers -- including the one and only Seth Godin.
Are you a female agency owner struggling to grow? Ever wonder if a friendship can survive the daily struggles of agency life? Women are underrepresented in agency ownership and management, yet producing a lot of the work agencies are doing. The industry can use more female-owned digital agencies, don't you agree? In this episode, we'll cover: 2 basic foundations of a successful agency. Can friendship survive agency partnership? 3 tips for succeeding as a woman-owned digital agency Erika Waters is a Founding Partner for Bright Spot Creative, a marketing strategy and creative agency in Texas, which she started with her best friend nine years ago. The two met while working as the only in-house employees at a 30-year-old boutique agency. Initially, Erika and her partner were set to acquire the small agency but when that deal fell through, they decided to start their own. 2 Basic Foundations of a Successful Agency "The first thing we were focused on was putting foundations and processes in place," Erika says of Bright Spot Creative's beginnings. One of the first tasks on the list was hiring a good accountant. "We knew we didn't want to do our own books, but we wanted to know enough to be able to talk about them if someone asked." Next, the two women needed to figure out what type of agency they wanted and the type of services they wanted to provide. While they recruited some old clients to the new agency, Erika says they tried to be intentional and truly focus on the type of clients they wanted to attract. Can Friendship Survive Agency Partnership? Erika and her business partner don't just work together. They are best friends outside of work. Their children are friends and their families spend time together. Through the first several months of the agency, they worked with a business coach. His advice was to focus on more than just the legal aspects of setting up their partnership. What did they want the agency's legacy to be? What is their vision for the future? The answer they always came up with -- no matter what happens to the agency, they always want to remain friends. Vision is crucial to your agency's and your partnership's success; when conflict arises, both individuals must be able to work together for solutions that retain their original vision. Erika and her partner determined they're more comfortable working with a collaborative business model in which they do not manage a lot of in-house employees, but instead have a group of trusted experts they rely on to provide services for their clients. They learned the type of clients they wanted to work with. "We are nice, friendly people," Erika explains. "We want to work for nice, friendly people." 3 Tips for Succeeding as a Female-Owned Agency The segment of female agency owners isn't as big as it should be, Erika says. When you think about it, so much of the productivity on the client-side is done by women yet the CMO's and agency owners aren't email. She offers the following three tips for those who wish to start a successful agency: Embrace being female. Erika started an agency not only as a female but a young woman in her mid-twenties. She says she got a lot of pats on the head in the early days, and she says it used to really get under her skin. But she decided to claim it. To lean into it. You are a woman who owns an agency, and that is something a lot of clients will see as a benefit. If it's not a yes, it's a no. This is advice that Erika received early on from her business coach. It's something she reminds herself of even to this day. If you are speaking with a client and your gut feels like the fit is not quite right, trust it. Back up and do what does feel right, because having the wrong kind of clients can take your agency down. Don't forget your passion. Erika says she loves the work of the agency -- the gritty, business aspect of it. She never wants to get to the point where the team is doing all the work and she is merely managing. However, while she still holds special products and clients close. She prices her time higher. This way the client demands do not take away from the time she needs for other responsibilities. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? Our sponsor, BuyerTool is a new tool agencies use to manage more ad accounts and clients. BuyerTool automatically builds your dashboard and allows you to manage all of your ad accounts, team members, and clients from a single UI. Your team can do in minutes what used to take experts hours to accomplish. If you want to drastically streamline your media buying operations visit BuyerTool.io/Swenk and get a free 2-week trial just for Smart Agency podcast listeners.
Agency life has always been very dynamic but now more than ever. Today's agency employees have different needs in order to have a work-life balance. Many don't want or need traditional office hours and prefer to work as contractors. Have you ever wondered how to adapt your agency to fit those changing needs? Are you interested in strategies to transform your team? A team full of contractors is a great way to decrease overhead and increase your profits. In this episode, we'll cover: What is the "upside-down" approach to recruiting agency talent? Can an agency be successful with a team full of contractors? How you can keep your employees focused. Today I chatted with Scott Gillum, the founder of Carbon Design, a marketing services organization. He is also its sole employee. Carbon Design has adapted its agency's services to meet the changing needs of today's economy and today's professionals in a way that provides them with efficiency and positive growth. He's here to share the way his employment strategy reduces overhead, improves function, and leads to greater degrees of team loyalty. What is the "Upside Down" Approach to Recruiting Agency Talent? Scott is proud of the "upside-down" approach he has had for finding potential employees. He started by looking for the top talent and hiring them, then built his agency and service offering around their skillset. Instead of filling a specific role at the agency, he hired the right person and then created the job for them. He when he started, he wasn't just looking for traditional employees. When Scott's wife was looking to re-enter the workforce, they discovered major challenges--and she wasn't the only one struggling. Today, many people are eager to be stay-at-home workers. They're freelancers. They're people with small children or people working as caregivers for elderly parents. These employees want and need a place to work, but they can't work in a traditional setting. Carbon Design makes it possible for them to have it all. By providing flexibility, the agency also provides purpose and meaning, allowing people to live their lives while still maintaining a fulfilling career. They set their hours. They choose the projects they can accept. And it works. Can an Agency Be Successful Without Permanent Employees? Scott is the only full-time employee at Carbon Design. He has team members. He has a person who runs his operations and two individuals who are taking over specific lines of business. Those team members are responsible for pricing, delivering, and putting teams together. However, all those roles are filled by contractors. This strategy offers several advantages. First and foremost, the agency carries little overhead. Scott doesn't have countless employees he needs to keep busy. A traditional agency has to "make it up somewhere" when business is slow. Eventually, that means a client will take on some of those costs. At Carbon Design, however, that's not the case. Instead, the team gets paid based on the work they complete: a solid, deliverable model. The average tenure of people on the Carbon Design team is around 15 years. They're trusted partners. They deliver on time, know the client's business, and have earned the right to represent the company. They're team members--and more importantly, they want to be there. How You Can Keep Employees Focused When dealing with contractors, it's important to keep them focused on the agency.  "I worry about it every day," says Scott. He knows his contractors are definitely working with other organizations. Keeping mindshare and building culture is incredibly important. They want to work with the agency, not for them. As a result, it's critical to keep people engaged. What he's doing, however, works. "You're more likely to not have the same people there when you're dealing with an agency than you are dealing with our people," he shares. His team doesn't want to go back to a full-time agency unless they have to. "Our people don't leave because this is the lifestyle they want," Scott points out. At Carbon Design, they offer mastery, autonomy, and purpose. Reinforcing those factors for the team is critical. They are also well-compensated for the effort they put in. On average, if these contractors were working as full-time employees, they'd be making an average of $200K. They also don't have to feel as though they are in competition with each other. Carbon Design builds projects and teams: the teams who have the right skills to complete the projects and deliver on the clients' expectations. It's a unique model--but it's also one that is becoming increasingly common. Can your agency grow with this model? There is an increasing number of employees going remote or looking for ways to connect with the office without returning to a traditional work environment. Looking for a Content Creation Solution? Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.
Have you ever wondered what steps you should take to keep your finger on the pulse of your agency? Are you concerned with finding employees who can help fill open roles and keep your agency running smoothly, all while adapting? Finding, hiring, and retaining agency employees doesn't have to be as hard it as it may seem. In this episode, we'll cover: Characteristics to look for when growing your agency team. How to motivate your agency employees with more than money. How to measure the pulse of the agency. Melissa Shaw is one of the three partners at ARC Media, which has a very niche market in communications and legislative relations for electric utilities, specifically in rural America. A military spouse herself, she has been through multiple military moves, added three children, and even adopted another dog while helping to grow and scale the ARC Media organization. Characteristics to Look For When Growing Your Agency Team The ARC Media headquarters is located in a small town in rural America: a less-than-ideal location for recruiting team members who have the skills and talent needed to help grow and scale the organization. The three partners found themselves wondering how they could find the top talent they needed to fill those vital roles in the business. They wanted employees who were content to relocate to small-town America and who were willing to go the extra mile with the team. The answer? Military spouses. Melissa herself is an active duty military spouse. She had just moved back to the United States after being stationed in Germany, and noticed it was difficult to find clients. As a result, she was very aware of that need, and she knew military spouses would help fill those roles. Employing military spouses offers a number of advantages to the organization. When you're trying to grow an agency, you need people who are able to adapt to change. They need to be self-starters, to be able to juggle all those tasks. They can handle the challenges at home and get work done at the same time. Military spouses are the ideal solution. They know change. They're used to functioning in a range of conditions. Their spouse may deploy or have to go on training, but they have to keep going, even when it's not ideal. In a growing agency, you're constantly changing and restructuring. It may look like changing the way teams work or developing new and more competitive products. You're always sharpening your sword. That means you may need to modify positions over time and find ways to use their skillsets differently. Military spouses are ideally positioned to adapt and grow. For ARC Media, this is one of the keys to success: hiring employees who already have those vital adaptive skills. How to Motivate Your Agency Employees with More than Money Retaining employees is a challenge for any organization. One big question many employers have: If we can't offer them more money, what can we offer them? Whether it's a new experience or advancing their skill set, these priceless opportunities often mean more than a raise or a bonus. You have to identify what your employees are looking for and what's important to them. One key strategy for identifying those needs? Keeping your finger on the pulse of the agency. How Do You Measure the Pulse of the Agency? Communication is critical. Agency life is often very fast-paced. It's easy, Melissa says, to decide it's not worth the time to jump on the phone and have a conversation. Those little things, however, can make a big difference. She also uses Google Hangouts to routinely connect with her employees. They have weekly meetings set up, broken down by the two key subgroups at ARC Media. One key? Team members don't have to dress up. Baseball cap and a hoodie? Cool. Got you sick kid at home? It's fine, as long as you're getting your work done. The hour a week taken to meet with each team, however, can make a big difference. She also encourages employees to work together and communicate through their regular platforms to address any problems they might have. Finally, she has a digital open-door policy. "I always invite employees to connect with me one-on-one and schedule those meetings whenever they need to. I keep my calendar open and visible to them," Melissa shares. A combination of these strategies--hiring the right employees, listening to them, and offering solutions that work for them are the best way to grow your digital agency. Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster? If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency. For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.
Think skillsets are all that matter? Need help building a team aligned around your mission? Skills and experience are important, but it's your culture that will really make or break your agency. It's that culture and your attention to healthy cash flow that can make or break your agency's growth. In this episode we'll cover: Why your digital agency's culture is so important. What to consider when hiring new team members. How to create a healthy cash flow for your digital agency. Today I had the chance to talk with Jim Flint of Local Search Group, a Houston-based marketing agency in the automotive industry. Jim began his career working with agencies from the corporate side at brands like Nike and Toyota, before ultimately deciding he wanted to help clients through an agency of his own. He shared what he's learned along the way so you can create a successful agency culture and increase your cash flow. Why Your Digital Agency's Culture is So Important Before Jim realized the value of culture, he was hiring smart and capable people who weren't necessarily aligned with him in important areas. This created challenges within his agency, and he quickly learned the importance of building a team of people who are on the same page and headed in the same direction. "It's not about the company and the person—it's about the company and the person and the client and the job," Jim says. If the fit doesn't go both ways, and if an employee isn't passionate about the purpose of the agency, you'll end up holding each other back. Poor fits can lead to toxicity, which can take longer to undo than it takes to start. When toxicity takes hold at a company, the good employees will end up leaving, making it even harder to turn the ship around. What to Consider When Hiring Agency Talent Creating culture starts with your team, and your team starts with the hiring process. Instead of only looking at a resume, try to learn who the candidate is as a person. Learn what they do outside of work and get a sense of where they are in life. Does it align with where your agency is headed? Another consideration is whether a candidate has a side-hustle. Side-hustles used to be considered a red flag. However, Jim views them as indicators of ambition and initiative. They also tell you what a candidate is truly passionate about—and, if it's an area related to your marketing agency, it's a good sign they may be a great fit. How to Create a Healthy Cash Flow While culture may be the more overlooked aspect of agency success, it's not the only piece of the puzzle. Another important component of digital agency growth? Capital. Your cash flow is the lifeblood of your agency, and when it's running low your forward momentum can grind to a halt. What are a few ways to boost your agency's cash flow? Change payment terms, so clients pay you pre-month instead of post-month. Beware of "scope creep" on your deliverables. Make sure you're charging enough for what you're providing. Be diligent about getting paid on time. Another way to benefit your cash flow is to get rid of the high-maintenance clients. They cost you more than you know — and beware of bringing on those clients from the outset. "A high-maintenance skinny deal is a really poor vanity play," Jim says, "and it hurts the company in ways you don't really understand until you come to actually experience it." By cutting those clients loose, you'll free up your resources for more of the clients that are actually helping your agency turn a profit. Looking for a Content Creation Solution? Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.
Want an 8-figure agency? Tired of the hassle and cost of managing employees? Want an entirely new, innovative business model? The answer for one agency owner was in the cloud. In today's episode, we'll cover: What is the no-employee model? Why not freelancers? A unique way to compensate your team Today I talked with Julian Stubbs, co-founder and CEO of Up There, Everywhere. Since our last conversation in 2015, the cloud-based marketing agency has continued to grow and is now approaching 8 figures in revenue. What is the No-Employee Model? The problem Julian had with the traditional agency business model is that you can never downsize or upsize as quickly as you need, so you are either missing opportunities or wasting resources. Combined with the high overhead of offices and employees, he knew there had to be a better way. He and his business partner decided to take advantage of cloud-based tools to build a truly global agency. Instead of employees, they now have a network of members in 20 countries around the world. Members work on projects remotely for clients, and all their work is backed up online. Why Not Freelancers? Often, when an agency chooses to go lean, they have a slate of freelancers they work with instead. As Julian says, though, freelancers don't scale and they aren't a long-term solution. Up There, Everywhere needs professionals who work consistently, which is why they opt for the member model. To make sure it's a good match for both sides, potential members go through a series of interviews before joining the agency and learning how to work with their particular tools and clients. Because it's such a unique model, the agency isn't for everyone—and members need to be able to deliver. Members don't pay to be a part of the agency, but they do donate their time to the community based on their skills, such as writing for the agency's blog. In addition to the pay they get from projects, members also have a reward system based on their earnings, their engagement, and other charitable endeavors the agency encourages. As with employees, keeping members engaged and motivated is crucial for the agency's success. While they are free to pursue other work as well, Julian works hard to make sure the agency's projects are the most interesting—preferring members to choose their work rather than forcing it on them. A Unique Way to Compensate Your Agency Team One of the most applicable takeaways from Up There, Everywhere's model is its fixed-rate structure. Instead of billing hourly and paying its members per hour of work, it has fixed rates for its clients and its members. Julian points out that when people are working on their own time, they're much more productive—a lesson for any agency owner. Consider how you can structure your team's pay around deliverables rather than time spent. Other stats from the cloud-based agency's continued success? Networking accounts for approximately 50% of sales, while content marketing brings in the other 50% Churn rate among members is under 5%, while at Julian's previous traditional agency that number was between 10-15% As in any agency, having a plan and direction is paramount. The various teams get together on a weekly call to talk about clients, members, and the agency. Think about your own agency and what you can do regularly to check-in across your team and make sure you stay aligned on the same goals, whether you're in the same office or fully remote. Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster? If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency. For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.
Have you ever wondered if the grass is greener for big agencies? Or is it easier to be a small agency that is more nimble? Are you struggling with prioritizing growth strategies? Does size matter when it comes to growth trajectory? It all comes down to perspective. Size only matters in relation to your vision of growing your agency. In this episode, we'll cover: What are the big agencies missing? Hurdles to overcome when growing an agency. 3 ways a small agency can grow faster. I talked to Steve McCall, a partner in a branded digital strategy agency called Carbon. Formerly, Steve was the general manager of a large agency in Boston. However, as he explains, life happened a few years ago. The death of a loved one gave him clarity on his career goals. So Steve took a risk by partnering with two former colleagues who had already begun Carbon. Steve is here to share the differences between big agencies and small agencies and how Carbon provides the best client experience, best product, and best work-life balance. What Are the Big Agencies Missing? "There is a lot to like about big agencies," Steve explains, adding that the benefits of a big agency include: The high level of brands that look to large agencies to deliver their services. The ability to grow your skillsets across different client categories and disciplines. However, Steve and his partners realized something was missing from their experiences with big agencies. Focus is placed on making sure the client experience is equal to the output, even if it cuts into profitability. "We are not always profit-focused," he says. "It's more about ensuring a great product and developing a relationship with the client. In a larger holding company model, that is challenging to do." Hurdles to Overcome When Growing An Agency Growing an agency that offers a work-life balance and is devoted to delivering quality products and client experiences isn't easy. The primary challenge was finding out where their product and level of service needed to be in order to be successful. Other challenges included: Profitability without sacrificing service. "There are a lot of investments you have to make when you start an agency." Even while the agency was determining what products to offer and how to satisfy clients, they also had to learn how to be profitable. Creating forward momentum. Growth takes momentum and it's easy to become complacent or get bogged down in the trenches. Carbon built momentum through providing as many in-house services as possible. 3 Ways a Small Agency Can Grow Faster Carbon places emphasis well-roundedness and Steve attributes their rapid growth to these 3 tactics: Cross-train. Steve said the ability to provide multiple services in-house with a small team requires each member of the team to have a base level skill set on as many tools as possible. This eliminates the bottleneck when only one person has the ability to perform a certain task. Use your client's data. Data will not only manage expectations but also help identify additional services to meet specific needs the client might not even know they have. This provides new revenue opportunities for you but also new business opportunities for them. Keep exploring what is possible. Just as you analyze your client's data, analyze your own data. Develop a grounded path forward in the firm understanding of where you are now as well as what it will take to get where you want to be. Looking for a Content Creation Solution? Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendor we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content.
Are you feeling overwhelmed by client demands? Struggling to choose the ideal clients who are right for your agency? Have you lost a major client and you don't understand why? There are a lot of factors involved in growing your digital agency. But the most important factor is how well you serve your clients. In this episode, we'll cover: Why determining and communicating agency focus is important. Setting goals and making sure your agency is on the right track. 3 ways to use communication as a catalyst for growing your agency. On this episode, I talked to Tyler Dolph, the President, and Partner at the Wisconsin-based digital advertising and marketing agency, Rocket Clicks. Tyler joined the agency in a business development role about 6 years ago, after a chance meeting with the agency owner on an airplane flight. Shortly after joining the team there, the President of the agency resigned and Tyler stepped into the role. Since then, the agency has grown from a team of 12 to 39, and the client list has grown from about 15 to 85. Tyler is here to offer some insights about the emphasis his agency places on client services, and how it has helped them grow. Why Determining and Communicating Agency Focus is Important "We're not a full-service agency, we're not everything to everyone," Tyler says of Rocket Clicks. Once the agency was financially stable, they discovered it was OK not to take on every client. Instead, they learned to focus the agency's service offering and narrow down to what they're best at. Another important part of this process is determining who the right client is. The best way to accomplish this is identifying your ideal clients' service needs and the necessary budget. By establishing these parameters, you can target potential clients and quickly detect the ones that aren't right for you. Developing the agency's focus is only part of the challenge, however. The other part was in letting everyone -- including the clients and the team -- know what that focus is. Tyler compared this to navigating a boat. When you communicate the focus it allows others to decide if they want to stay in the boat, jump off, or alter the course of the boat just a little bit and still reach the destination. Setting Goals and Making Sure Your Agency Is on the Right Track Once you've developed the focus of your agency and distilled your offerings down to a few specialties that you do really well, it is important to set goals to ensure you are keeping focus. This isn't a one-shot deal. Goals should be set and revisited on a frequent basis. Each goal needs to be measurable. Rocket Clicks uses software that enables the process of setting these goals and gathering data needed to measure progress efficiently and with little effort required. 3 Ways to Use Communication as a Catalyst for Growing Your Agency The key is communication in order to provide superior client service. Tyler recommends the following steps in using communication as a catalyst for agency growth: Avoid FOMO, fear of missing out. Many agency owners are honestly afraid of saying no to a client because they don't want to miss out on the opportunity and the profit the client has to offer. Unfortunately, this often provides the hard lesson of taking on a client you can't handle and subsequently losing that client. By clearly communicating with potential clients what services you are able to offer rather than approaching the relationship thinking about what you can get from the client, you build stronger relationships. Remember clients are people too. "At the end of the day, clients just want to feel like they matter. They want to know they're being taken care of." Rocket Clicks enforces this realization by eliminating the client services management role. Instead, the team member doing the work are the ones to communicate with the client. Empower your team from day one. Tyler prefers hiring new employees from other agencies. Every new hire undergoes a two-month training period. During this time they learn the Rocket Clicks way. However, right from the start, they're encouraged to question everything. Feedback on processes and suggesting new methods are encouraged. This not only allows team members to play an important role but it gives the whole agency an opportunity to learn and grow from their experience. Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster? If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency. For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.
Are you searching for more ways to attract new agency clients? Have you considered starting a podcast for your agency? Are you searching for new ways to spread the word about the services you offer? Are you wondering how to encourage your own team to be thought leaders? Now more than every, content creation options are endless. Take advantage of them all by asking for help so you can focus on growing your agency. In this episode, we'll cover: How content marketing is changing with the times. When should content be written vs spoken? 3 things to turn your team into thought leaders. I talked with Steve Pockross, the CEO of the content creation marketplace, Verblio. Verblio currently has 3,000 writers who create 70,000 pieces of unique content each year, with a focus on delivering content to more than 500 digital agencies who count on the company to supply content for their clients. Steve is here to talk about how content creation is changing with the times and how agencies can keep up with these changes. Today, Verblio's writers need to go beyond writing simple blog posts to transforming audio and video content into written work and refreshing old content into something new. How Content Marketing Is Changing With the Times At the beginning of 2020, Steve noted the trend in content creation was long-form content creation. Clients were seeking content that was 1,000 words long or more. Additionally, clients were beginning to ask for written content created from video. However, when the pandemic hit in March, the requests for content changed again. "Since the pandemic, we have seen a move toward instant impact content," Steve says. "We are getting requests for content refreshers. We are re-purposing audio content as written content." Additionally, Steve adds, there is a micro content trend in which larger pieces of content are broken up into smaller pieces that provide a quick, easy read for the client's audience. With all of the changes experienced through technological advances and world events, one thing Steve has noticed is clients are going bigger. Verblio has experienced a 25% increase in content requests since April. When Should Content Be Written vs Spoken? Digital agencies are looking for a way to reach their clients in a world that offers many different channels and platforms. Steve says to use them all. "Podcasts are a DVR for audio," he says. "They're so accessible, you can listen anytime you want." He adds that there is a natural viral aspect to podcasts: they're interactive, they're engaging, and they are a way to build your audience. On the flip side, though, Steve stresses making a podcast involves preparation. You can't ask every guest the same questions, and with 800,000 podcasts available, it's important to know what you're trying to create and who you're trying to reach. As effective as a podcast can be in reaching your clients, "many people still love to read," Steve said. Providing your podcast content in written form is a more complete way to present the content and reach different listeners as well as readers. Writing is time-consuming and not everyone is confident in their ability to do it. Steve encourages agency owners to perform the work they're strong in seek help from outside sources or others on your team in order to provide content in other formats to reach a larger audience. 3 Things to Turn Your Team Into Thought Leaders Being a thought leader is difficult to manage when you still have a day job, Steve notes. This is one of the reasons that encouraging your team to be thought leaders can provide you with advantages. Some of the things you can do to encourage this thought leadership in your team include: If you do a podcast, include your team. One way to start this process is to ask team members what questions they are repeatedly asked by clients. Then create a podcast around those commonly asked questions. This extends to everyone from operations to creatives to the account team. Getting the team involved not only takes the burden off of you in creating all of your agency's content but also opens the doors to their own ideas on how to create fresh content. "Great content isn't written, it's assembled," Steve says. Commit to the process. If you want to offer a company blog, commit to a schedule that allows you to create blog posts. If you aren't a writer, commit to finding a writer who will work with you. Instead of stressing about creating 100% of the content for your agency, have someone else create 80%. Be clear with your expectations. Commit to sharing your thoughts about content creation and getting feedback in return. Remember, your thoughts are not going to telepathically transfer to your team or to your outside content creator. They have to be clearly communicated. Looking for a Content Creation Solution? Verblio has been a long time supporter of the Smart Agency Masterclass and a trusted vendors we've been using for over two years. They are an amazing content creation solution designed specifically for agencies; their writers can help with all your content creation needs across a variety of industries. If you're interested in trying Verblio for yourself check out Verblio.com/smartagency for 50% off your first month of content. AND... if you want to provide input about what works and what doesn't take a minute to participate in Verblio's agency survey.
Do you feel like you've made so many mistakes at your agency you may never be successful? Do you find yourself trying to be someone else for your clients? Are you willing to accept any client and any project out of desperation for cash flow? Truth is, you can learn from your mistakes and grow your agency because of those experiences. In this episode, we'll cover: Why bigger clients aren't always better clients. How relationship-building helps retain clients. 3 tips for healthy agency growth. I talked to Theo Fanning, the Executive Creative Director and President of Traction, a digital marketing agency in San Francisco. Traction was started in the ruins of the dot com bomb of 2001. At that time, faced with few opportunities, Theo and three friends decided to start an agency of their own. "It was blind fury," he recalls. "We had no idea what we were doing. Many of us had not had management or operational roles. We just assumed everything would come our way and we made a lot of mistakes. We are an agency built on failure, but we're always failing up." Theo shares some of those mistakes and lessons learned so he could grow his agency to a team of 50. Why Bigger Clients Aren't Always Better Clients Traction was built on a freelance-based model, "because we had a lot of friends who were freelancers," Theo explained. However, this business model led to some of the agency's earliest mistakes: "Freelancers are flaky and you can't build a business off the backs of friends." What followed were several years of a truly organic agency experience that began without operational tools and timesheets. Along the way, however, the agency managed to break even and the team began to grow. In 2005, after having just relocated to new office space and with a team of 12-15, Traction lucked into the opportunity to pitch Apple. "We sort of jumped into it with no true strategy," Theo explained. "All we had was grit and good nature, and some good relationships that we had built." Theo points out that landing this first big client taught the team something very important. "When you're the smallest agency working for the largest client, you really don't get to run your business the way you'd like." He said the experience with Apple helped them learn to focus on clients of all sizes. Traction still works with Apple 15 years later but has a greater appreciation for fostering relationships with decision-makers of all-sized clients. How Relationship-Building Helps Retain Clients One of the most important things an agency can do is build relationships. Traction's relationships with the business owners they work with has taught the team to better articulate their value. Gaining the trust of the client through the relationship opens the door to offering additional services to help the client succeed. Traction prides itself on being able to show clients "new ways to do old things," -- which can include the adoption of new technologies as well as new ways to look at their business. Theo says the relationships you build with your team also go a long way. The agency started by friends focused on doing quality work and providing the ability for staff to have a good quality of life, as well. What they got in return was a team that is both strong as well as loyal. 3 Tips for Healthy Agency Growth Theo embraces the learning process that comes from making mistakes. Some of the tips he offers to other agencies who are struggling to find their place in a competitive industry include: Stop trying to be what you're not. In the beginning, Theo notes, Traction tried to position itself as a full-service agency. "We wanted to play with the big kids," he says. What happened instead was the team couldn't compete. While they looked like they were able to provide the same level of service as larger agencies, they did not have the resources to back it up. Let go of the fluff. Standard agency models offer a lot of unnecessary things, such as customer journey maps and the development of an overall strategy for every potential client. A better way to operate is to distill your offerings into something the client can actually use. Use being small to your advantage. One of the benefits of being a small agency is the opportunity to develop relationships with your clients. This establishes trust and authority as well as nurtures forgiveness for the mistakes you make along the way.
What will it take for your agency to be successful? Do you think it's landing one big, game-changing client? Are you impatiently waiting for your big-break that's going to put your agency on the map? It's hard to be patient, but understanding the importance of planning and focusing on the basics lead to success. In today's episode, we'll cover: What's the key to longevity for your agency? Does your agency have a business plan for success? 3 basic industry principles you need. I talked to Tom Sullivan, the president and co-owner of Lead Marketing Agency. Tom and his partner started Lead about twelve years ago. At the time, they were both working for another agency, and they were the two guys who were a bit more data and media-oriented than the rest of the agency. So they decided to start their own agency, originally focused on certain aspects of the business. Twelve years later, they have a full-service agency that employs a team of 20 people. Tom is on the show to talk about the importance of being patient while growing your agency. What's the Key to Longevity for Your Agency? You likely share the dream of nearly every agency owner: landing the big deal which allows you the freedom to do whatever you want with your agency. However -- while it is entirely possible you will do that -- Tom says there is an importance to being patient. "Everyone wants to hurry up and get there," he tells me. "We are so impatient as a society. Be patient. Owning a business sounds cool, but there is going to be failure. Impatience makes it difficult to get through the hard times." These days, Facebook gives us everyone's highlight reel of their best moments. It's easy to compare your success to someone else's, but it isn't fair to you. It's easy to get caught up in these advertisements for marketers, promising to show you the secret to earning six-figures in ten days. Those offerings are not rooted in the reality of the industry though. The reality, as Tom explains, is time gives you the opportunity to focus on the fundamentals of your business, hire a team, and learn enough to know you don't know everything. There is always more to learn. Does Your Agency Have a Business Plan? Another thing patience buys you is the opportunity to create a business plan, and to develop actionable goals to help you enact that plan. Additionally, Tom encourages, you should develop ways to measure yourself in order to determine if you're following the path you've set for yourself. Then you can decide how you need to adjust your plan to fit your vision. "Understand the percentage you want and why you picked that percentage," Tom says. Figure out how many inquiries it will take to generate the leads that will convert to sales and enable you to accomplish your goal. Tom warns, however, to watch out for the pitfalls of working in a service-related industry. A lot of times, marketing agencies get so caught up in taking orders and servicing people it gets wrapped up in the business plan. This causes the agency to become order-takers and blurs the line between serving and succeeding. 3 Basic Agency Business Principles You Need While you're being patient and learning more about the industry, Tom encourages new digital agency owners to also remember the basics of business: Work hard, and do what you can to improve a little bit each day. Some of the suggestions he offers include: Hire the right people. Lead Marketing Agency is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan -- a place that Tom describes as less than a Mecca of creative talent. However, when it came time to hire a team, Tom and his partner looked for people who had experience from marketing agencies in big cities such as New York. They wanted people to bring to the agency experiences that they, themselves, did not have. Don't represent yourself to clients as bigger than you are. Remember there are things many clients prefer about working for a smaller agency. If your digital agency is small, use it to your advantage rather than blindly pursuing clients whose needs are larger than your ability. Keep learning and keep focusing on your own path, which is unlikely to be exactly like anyone else's. And it's okay to be different. The agency world is filled with niches and specialties and there is no one true path to reaching success. There's only hard work, time, and the ability to trust your skillset. Tom and his team have a motto that keeps them focused and inspired: "Be good, don't suck. Every day." Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster? If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency. For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.
How do you find your ideal clients that are a good fit for your agency? How do you avoid taking on clients who aren't a good fit? Often times we take on the wrong clients because we're too eager for the work or because we didn't screen them thoroughly enough. Learn how to avoid these mistakes and the questions you need to ask before you even begin working with a new client. In today's episode, we'll cover: How do you keep your agency the right size for you? 3 questions to ask prospective agency clients. How do you deal with clients who just don't fit? On today's show, I talked to Erin Bailey, partner at the digital marketing agency, Matrixx. Erin has spent the past eleven years at Matrixx, first as part of the team and later as a partner. She has seen the agency evolve from a team of three people designing MySpace pages for clients to one that works with common household brands such as Coleman, Zest, and Hefty. While other agencies have a vision of becoming the biggest and most well-known, the Matrixx partners choose to stay the size they are. Erin is here to share why and how they made this decision. How Do You Keep Your Agency the Right Size for You? Erin says, in order to keep your agency at its current size, you have to be selective about who you choose to work with. Some agencies want to grow and add to their team. But if you're happy where you're at you need to know your team's bandwidth and then be more selective about what clients you choose to work with. "Everyone makes mistakes," she explains, and usually one of the biggest is taking on the wrong clients out of desperation. When you have a clear vision for your agency and you understand what clients want from you, you'll find the right balance between size and success. The best way to accomplish this is: Be honesty with yourself about the capacity you and your team have to take on new work. Have a clear understanding from the clients about the type and amount of work they need. Honesty with yourself about your ability to meet the client's expectations. Erin encourages agencies not to rush into large contracts with new clients. Instead, agree to work on a specific project for the client. This gives you and the client the opportunity to each evaluate the fit before entering into a contract for additional services. "There is a fine line between making sure you keep the business healthy and spreading yourself too thin," she says. 3 Questions to Ask Prospective Agency Clients So, if you are being selective about the clients you take, what are the questions you should ask them? These questions are an important part of the qualification process at Matrixx: What's your goal? This is the first question to ask, as the client may be seeking services beyond your normal scope of business. What's your timing? Does the client have a deadline that will pull your team away from the work for other clients? Is it feasible with your current workload? What's your budget? Erin says this is often the most difficult question for clients to answer. If the client claims they don't have a budget, usually providing a range will get them thinking. You can also try this tactic for getting the client's budget in order to make sure they can afford the solutions you offer. How Do You Deal with Clients Who Just Don't Fit? As Erin says, mistakes happen when selecting clients. Sometimes it's overeagerness, and sometimes it's being afraid to say no. And yet, in other cases, the person you were working with leaves the company, and their replacement doesn't have the same vision. "Don't be afraid to say no to a client," she says. "There are other companies out there that you can work with." If you find yourself in a contract with a client that isn't a good fit, Erin suggests: Ride out the contract, but don't pitch a new contract. The loss initial loss of revenue might be hit but reframe your thinking and remember the loss also frees you up to work with more of the right clients. It's OK to fire a client -- it can be very freeing. Continue being honest and transparent; and encourage the same from your clients. Erin explains when the fit isn't good, usually, both parties know. If you're communicating often and identify it early on it's easier to work through. Use your time and energy wisely. Don't target small businesses with the notion that smaller clients mean less work. A lot of times the small clients with small budgets often have big expectations and demands. Want to Help Your Team Be More Efficient and Scale Agency Faster? If you want to help your team work smarter and scale your agency faster you need to check out the artificial intelligence software created by our friends at Morphio. It instantly alerts your team about digital marketing errors before they become problems, saving a huge amount of time. Their AI manages and analyzes data, so you can focus on growing your agency. For a limited time, Morphio is offering Smart Agency podcast listeners a special deal to get you started. Sign up at Morphio.ai/Swenk and get 25% for a limited time.
Uncertain on choosing a niche for your agency? Have you ever considered specializing in multicultural marketing? Are your clients losing customers by omitting multicultural messaging? Multicultural marketing is rapidly becoming an important growth strategy for businesses. It might be time you consider specializing in this marketing area in order to grow your agency. In this episode, we'll cover: The importance of multicultural marketing. How can you learn more about your clients' audiences? Are your agency clients drowning in data? I had the opportunity to speak with Eric Diaz and Natasha Pongonis, partners at Nativa. Their agency specializes in multicultural digital marketing agency and works with brands like Charmin, Castrol Motor Oil, and Arizona State University. Several years ago, Eric and Natasha noticed a lack of ads targeted to Hispanic audiences. Realizing these advertisers were missing out on a substantial demographic, they set out to not only help clients expand their reach but to help make the world of marketing a more inclusive one, as well. How Important is Multicultural Marketing? According to Eric and Natasha, the growth of the Hispanic population is just one example of the importance of multicultural marketing. In addition to Hispanic and Asian consumers in the U.S., multicultural marketing targets other growing demographics, like African-Americans, Native Americans, and others who fall outside of the mainstream marketing reach, including the LGBTQ community. Natasha also points out, as the country becomes more diverse, the numbers of individuals in the Millennial and Gen Z generations who identify with more than one ethnicity are also increasing. We have growing numbers of young consumers in this country whose buyer preferences are impacted by more than one culture. Failing to reach this growing group of consumers means leaving their money and their business on the table for one of the bigger companies to grab. How Can You Learn More About Your Clients' Audiences? How do agencies know what a certain demographic will want? The answers are in the data, Eric explains. Determining the data to identify potential consumers by cultural identity takes some digging, however. Many years ago Nativa developed a website that gathered data in a spreadsheet on what Hispanic buying habits, trends, and attitudes. Unfortunately, the data they gained only identified Hispanics based on whether they spoke Spanish. Thing is, many Hispanics don't speak Spanish fluently but still consider themselves of Hispanic descent. The team had to discover new ways of learning about Hispanic consumers by studying their profiles for information to indicate a Hispanic ethnicity. They looked at names, the commonality of products the purchased, and geographic information. Eventually, Nativa turned this site in a more valuable and all-encompassing SaaS tool that helps their prospects and clients learn more about all their multicultural consumers. This solution has proved to be invaluable to prospects and clients alike. Are Your Agency Clients Drowning In Data? Most brands have the data, but what sets Nativa apart is how they analyze and interpret the data. How can a company organically reach multicultural audiences by being part of their conversations? The best way is to just be quiet and listen. Learn what is driving those conversations, where are they taking place, and what are is the ethnicity of the users. Watch strategic partnerships of competitors and learn how different ethnicity's use different products. Our society is overwhelmed with data. We are drowning in data, but we're starving in knowledge. If you can interpret the data that is a superpower. And today, with machine learning Nativa is even testing out AI usage to predict behaviors of multicultural audiences. Eric made reference to Walmart and their 25-year relationship with their multicultural agency. The multicultural niche isn't going anywhere in fact, it's evergreen as the market continues to evolve. Natasha says it's not necessarily about the native language anymore. It's more about cultural awareness. It's about communicating in a very cultural and appropriate way to the demographic you're trying to reach, whether Hispanic, Asian, African-American, or others. Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency? Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.
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