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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Are you considering starting an agency but worried now's not the right time? Are you afraid of failure or the added pressure of these uncertain times? It's totally understandable! Starting a business is scary, but especially during an economic downturn. So you might be surprised to learn now may actually be one of the best times to start an agency. In this episode, we'll cover: Should you start an agency during an economic downturn? Does your agency have a challenger mindset? Why self-awareness is key to your agency's continued growth. Today I sat down for a timely conversation with Scott Cullather, co-founder and CEO of INVNT, a live-branding storytelling agency. Scott started his agency right at the start of the economic downturn in 2008 and says doing so helped define who his agency is today. He's here to talk about how his agency thrived during a poor economy and what agency owners need to know today. Should You Start an Agency During an Economic Downturn? There's no doubt we are in one of the most volatile economies in our lifetime. Stocks are in flux, businesses are closing, and realistically, we have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. But did you know now is actually the perfect time to grow an agency? Scott says one of the reasons his agency found success in 2008 is because there was literally nowhere to go but up. They had no employees, no overhead, and yes, no clients. But this meant every account they gained was one to be celebrated. And each one after was a sign they were moving up. When you have nothing to lose, it takes away your crutches. You don't think about what a certain decision might cost, but rather, what you have to gain. Does Your Agency Have a Challenger Mindset? Scott says starting during an economic meltdown set his agency up with a challenger mindset. Where larger, slower, flatfooted companies were making cuts and avoiding risks, INVNT was able to develop messages, strategies, and campaigns that were not only on brand but were designed to shake things up. Scott says this challenger mindset isn't one the agency has simply moved on from. Instead, it is what pushes the agency to grow. Being scrappy is everything. When you become complacent, that's when you're in the danger zone. Why Self-Awareness is Key to Your Agency's Continued Growth An agency owner must be self-aware of the decisions they make and their approach to business. Naturally, you should change your processes and systems as your agency evolves.. While you should always be willing to adapt and grow with the market, never lose that spark and drive you had when you first started your agency. It's like a football team who is up 21-0 that decides to change their strategy. If they lose their drive, they'll quickly find themselves down 28-21. Scott says he's always challenging his team to stay focused and grounded to the core principles that got them to where they are today. Often the ones who find the most success are the ones who aren't afraid to take a risk. When everyone else is stepping back, this is your opportunity to step up. Be scrappy, take chances, and don't be afraid to make big moves. When you start with a fighter attitude you'll discover it's likely a mindset that will stick around. Ready to See How Your Agency Financials Stack Up? Agency Dad is the accounting and forecasting solution designed specifically for agencies. And for a limited time, Smart Agency listeners can get a FREE AUDIT so you can compare your agency's financials to the industry benchmarks. When you know your numbers you can make smart decisions in order to grow your agency. Agency Dad will take you to the next level with bookkeeping, financial dashboarding, and forecasting built specifically for agencies. Head over to AgencyDad.money/freeaudit/ to receive a free audit on your agency's financials.  
Has your agency recently experienced major changes? Is it time to transition away from how you used to do things? Is it time to promote key employees or buyout a partner? Being able to adapt to the market and the needs of your individual agency is one of the best ways to find long term agency success. In today's episode, we'll cover: Why your agency should always be open to change. Should you promote a key employee to an agency partner? Does your agency have a succession plan? Today I sat down for a talk with Cherie Hebert, owner and CEO of BBR Creative out of Lafayette, Louisiana. Cherie has owned her agency for over 23 years now and has naturally seen her agency experience a lot of change. She's here to talk about how she's found longevity and why it's important to be open to changes as they come. Why Your Agency Should Always Be Open to Change We've always heard that one person say, "But this is how I've always done it." This, for me, is always the kiss of death. If you want to be successful, whether you're running an agency, or just in life in general, you have to be open to change. Cherie says she started her agency as a creative. For the most part, they offered design creative and eventually PR. But as things do, the agency realm began to change. When BBR lost a major client and gained another who focused more on digital outreach, they knew they needed to make a change and evolve with the times. Cherie hired a digital strategist who was able to train the team on the basics of SEO. SEM, and paid search. This new person was also instrumental in helping the agency launch into the digital arena. He was also the right person to hire more digital marketing talent and be the catalyst for the change the agency needed. Should You Promote a Key Employee to Agency Partner? The answer is, maybe -- it all depends on timing. Cherie says she has never lost an employee to another local agency. Where she loses team members is to other markets and bigger agencies that offer more opportunities. That is why Cherie regrets not offering her digital strategist a partnership role in the agency before he left. Here are 2 reasons why you might want to offer a key player a partnership role: You can't always compete with the bigger fish: BBR is located in a relatively small market. While they don't have much local competition, they have lost a number of employees to out of state agencies. If someone holds an instrumental role in your agency, sometimes giving them ownership can promote loyalty and investment in the agency. Adding on a partner is an investment: BBR's digital strategist played a big role in vetting and training new employees. He helped the firm transition to a broader scope and work with new clients. When you bring on someone that adds this type of value, it's an investment into your agency's future. Does Your Agency Have a Succession Plan? In the beginning, we have a tendency to focus on the short game. Thinking about who will take over the agency or how your legacy will live on isn't something that typically comes at the early stages. But at 56-years-old, figuring out a succession plan is something at the top of Cherie's mind. Cherie has bought out one partner, with another soon to follow. She's soon to be the sole owner of the agency. What comes next? That's something Cherie is trying to figure out. As an agency owner, it's something you should always keep in the back of your mind.  For starters, Cherie has decided to offer her VP's a partial stake in the agency. I usually suggest a Key Employee Program -- which protects your key employees with some profit-sharing yet prevents you from giving away ownership. (There's more detail about this in the Agency Playbook.) Whether you have been in the business for 5 years or 25 years, one of the best ways to find success is to be willing to adapt and make changes when necessary. Don't be afraid to try new things, but be true to yourself. If you do this, you're more likely to be satisfied with how everything turns out in the end. 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. Building Your Agency I have advice for challenges you will face building your agency including recognizing common agency mistakes, how to keep great agency employees in your team as well as fostering the connections made with clients. If it’s challenging growing your business, I have agency growth hacks, the best ways to improve management of your business as well as why building a remote team can be beneficial in the long run. Learn more about my experience, as well as tips, tricks, and insights by checking out my blogs that cover a wide variety of topics. You can learn more from my experience from my Ask Swenk series and my videos on my Youtube channel. Check out the advice and learn even more from other successful agency experts featured on Smart Agency podcast twice every week.
Do you know what separates your agency from competitors? Are you looking for a way to attract new clients and hold on to the ones you have? Clients have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing an agency. So how did a fourth-generation, 90-year-old marketing agency continue to adapt and thrive?  In today's episode, we'll cover: A 90-year-old agency and why your story is important. How to use a podcast for agency lead generation. 2 ways to protect your agency's future. Today I had a really fun talk with Jamie Michelson, President and CEO of SMZ, a digital advertising agency. SMZ was founded by Jamie's grandfather in 1929 and has made it through the great depression, numerous wars, and of course the challenges we now face with COVID 19. As a third-generation agency owner, Jamie has seen a lot. He's here to talk about how his agency has persevered and what they are doing now to continue to grow. Why Your Agency's Story is Important I always tell agency owners I work with, you have to have a unique story that separates you from everybody else. For SMZ, they have been around for over 90 years and have been able to leverage that history to build and foster relationships that last for decades. But it's more than just their history. Jamie's philosophy is to do all the stuff their clients expect of them and then throw in a little extra. Not taking anything for granted and focusing on people first is what helps SMZ maintain energy and keep clients around. Your story doesn't have to go back 100 years. You simply have to figure out what makes you different. Are you a small firm? Use this to your advantage. Do you provide a service most agencies don't? Showcase it. Find what connects you to your clients. How a Podcast Can Help Your Agency Find New Clients I am always surprised at how many agency owners don't have a podcast. A podcast is one of the best ways to expand your reach and gain authority. Jamie started his podcast just over a year ago and is still learning the ropes. But he's already reaping the rewards. Jamie says, some of the people who appear on his podcast wouldn't even give him the time of day if he approached them from a business development angle. But with the podcast, these same people have become great prospects. When you create a podcast, it's so much more than vanity metrics. Focus on your audience and the relationships you can create and foster. 2 Ways to Protect Your Agency's Future If you're wondering how many agencies have been around for three generations, the answer is, not that many. Jamie says this type of longevity is extremely rare. So what can you do to create an agency that can be passed down for generations? Always build your pipeline: Always keep your foot on the gas. I've always made it a priority to be able to look three or six months down the road to see where my agency is at. When you do this, you gain clarity, make better decisions, and can be proactive instead of reactive. Be willing to adapt: The sign of a great agency owner is to be able to adapt and constantly grow. Even if something doesn't seem worthwhile at first, as the data comes in, you need to be willing to change your mind. Longevity isn't something that comes by accident. It's a lot of resilience and hard work. Keep your foot on the gas and continue to foster relationships. When you do this, you'll find it easier to find long-term success. Ready to See How Your Agency Financials Stack Up? Agency Dad is the accounting and forecasting solution designed specifically for agencies. And for a limited time, Smart Agency listeners can get a FREE AUDIT so you can compare your agency's financials to the industry benchmarks. When you know your numbers you can make smart decisions in order to grow your agency. Agency Dad will take you to the next level with bookkeeping, financial dashboarding, and forecasting built specifically for agencies. Head over to AgencyDad.money/freeaudit/ to receive a free audit on your agency's financials.
How well do you connect with your clients? Do you know what your clients really need? Do you have a system in place to solve clients' problems? Sometimes we automate things to be more efficient, but we lose connections in the process. Personalization can bring back the human element, make your clients feel valued, and help you get to the heart of what your clients need. In today's episode, we'll cover: Why agency automation needs more personalization. 2 reasons to treat your agency like a client. How systemization can help your agency grow.   Today I sat down for a chat with Anthony Baxter, owner of Firefly, a performance digital marketing agency based out of New Zealand. Anthony started his career in telemarketing sales and has implemented a lot of what he's learned from his past position into how he runs his agency now. He's here to discuss how agencies can benefit from getting back to the human connection. Why Agency Automation Needs More Personalization In an age that's highly digital, it's easy to automate everything. Chatbots can answer questions, email systems can send out automated replies, and CRM's can make it simple to manage clients. So it's easy to ignore the human element. While these tools do make things easier, they often don't take into account what matters the most — your client. Anthony says he's a big fan of picking up the phone and having a conversation. When you have that one-on-one connection, it's easier to understand what your client truly needs. Don't just go all-in with one way to reach out to your clients. It's important to have multiple touchpoints. I suggest using automation to make routine tasks easier but not to replace personal interaction. Have automation but also have personalization. Do your own marketing, but don't be afraid to pick up the phone. By testing and trying out various strategies, you can figure out what approach works best for your clients and your agency. 2 Reasons to Treat Your Agency Like a Client When Anthony first started Firefly, his team spent 50% of their time working on internal projects and creating strategies to help the agency grow. Anthony says, if you're a digital agency, you're good at digital. So why not use your own resources to grow your agency? Firefly has seen two major benefits from this approach: Strong culture: We talk about the importance of agency culture all the time. When you spend time focusing on your internal processes and ways to grow your agency, it shows your team your business is just as important as the ones you are working with. Better leads: Anthony says pain points are one of the fastest motivators for sales. If a prospect has a problem and you can solve it, they're more likely to become a client. When you work on your agency, you'll find it easier to understand your vision, recognize these pain points, and be the fix. How Systemization Can Help Your Agency Grow Anthony says systemization has been the key to growth. In the beginning, he held all the agency knowledge himself which created a bottleneck. But over time he has learned the importance of systemizing processes in everything from operations to fulfillment and even sales. In fact, Firefly's systemized sales process has created efficiencies and sped up their sales cycle. This helps them deliver a predictable result every time. This results in happy clients and an efficient agency team. Change is inevitable. And as agencies, we are competing against talent. So Anthony says we must take our systems and bottle them in order to adapt easier and grow faster. To be a successful agency, you have to figure out what works. A lot of that comes from looking within. When you focus on your process and building those key relationships, you'll find it easier to have the freedom to focus on what you want to do. 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.
Do you use your bank balance to gauge how well your agency is doing? Do you know and understand your key marketing agency financials? Or are you making business decisions blindly? A solid handle on financials and forecasting is one of the best things you can do not only to see where your agency is at but also to make decisions for the future. In today's episode, we'll cover: Does your agency make proactive decisions? 5 financial benchmarks every agency should maintain. How to use benchmarks to plan for the future. [smart_track_player url="https://traffic.libsyn.com/secure/jasonswenk/Do_You_Know_Your_Key_Marketing_Agency_Financials_.mp3" ] Today I sat down for an informative discussion with two men who really have a handle on agency finances. Adam Stoker is the president and CEO of Relic and EKR. Nate Jenson is partner at an outsourced CFO agency and the founder of Agency Dad. Agency Dad is an accounting solution focused on helping marketing agencies make better decisions based on their financials.  They're here to talk about the key numbers your agency should be looking at and how you can use this data to help your agency grow. Does Your Agency Make Proactive Decisions? When Nate started working with Adam, his agency was struggling. He had a revolving door of bookkeepers who could barely keep the books straight, let alone help him plan for the future. Nate says one of the biggest flaws agency owners have is making reactive decisions instead of being proactive. He says when you understand finances and what you are actually looking at, you can make better decisions. You have to establish benchmarks. This way you know what you should be spending, where you are actually spending, and where you have room to make cuts. In the same line, you need to stop making decisions with your gut. Say, for example, you notice one of your teams is running a little ragged — they're obviously stretched thin. The gut-jerk reaction is to hire more people to take on some of the extra work. But is this the right choice? With metrics, you can see whether your team is busy because you're not charging enough, people are misusing their time, or if you really do need to hire more. 5 Financial Benchmarks Every Agency Should Maintain Nate says having cash on hand is an important metric to look at, but it only tells you where you are at this exact moment. Benchmarks and KPI's help you plan for the future. In general, there are certain benchmarks all agencies should work towards. If you are way off, it's time to make a change. According to Nate, these are the percentages you should be hitting in each business expense category. 25% profit (EBITDA) 55% compensation 5% marketing 5% rent 10% other general admin costs Sure, there's a little wiggle room. But you really want to stay as close to these numbers as possible. This is why having a good bookkeeper is really important. These numbers mean nothing if the data entry is not accurate. Don't skimp in this area. How to Use Benchmarks to Plan for the Future A lot of the time, agencies think they are at a certain level. When, in reality, they have no idea what will happen tomorrow. When COVID hit in March 2020, Adam and Nate sat down and looked at where they had room to cut. The sudden change in economic conditions greatly affected the agency's clients.  They made the decision to cut employee wages (and their own) by 10%. But because they had this foresight and were able to track their metrics, at the end of the year, the employees got all this money back, plus profit sharing. Proper forecasting helps agencies make proactive decisions, rather than reactive ones. Without planning, you can't make good decisions. Sit down, look at your metrics, and see how close you are. And don't be afraid to invest in a good accountant. Knowing where your money's going is the best way to help your agency grow. Ready to See How Your Agency Financials Stack Up? Agency Dad is the accounting and forecasting solution designed specifically for agencies. And for a limited time, Smart Agency listeners can get a FREE AUDIT so you can compare your agency's financials to the industry benchmarks.  When you know your numbers you can make smart decisions in order to grow your agency. Agency Dad will take you to the next level with bookkeeping, financial dashboarding, and forecasting built specifically for agencies. Head over to AgencyDad.money/freeaudit
Do you struggle to get agency clients to understand your value? Wish you could be paid what you're worth? Have you ever considered a value-based or performance pricing model? The simple fact is, some clients need to see performance results in order to appreciate value. So if you want your agency to get paid what it's worth, you need to present your agency as an authority. In today's episode, we'll cover: Do you have to niche down to grow your agency? Why it's important for your agency to build authority. Are you leveraging results to gain trust? Today I sat down with Todd Juneau, co-founder of Vuja De, a digital media agency. Todd got started in the agency world during the dot-com era and has subsequently seen a lot of change in the industry. But at the same time, he says, a lot of things have stayed the same. He's here to talk about what this means to agencies today and why his agency is so focused on results. Do You Have to Niche Down to Grow Your Agency? If you have listened to my podcast more than once, you've probably heard a recurring theme — niche, niche, niche. It's no secret, it's my belief you have to specialize to grow your agency. But does that really mean you can't be a full-service agency? In our discussion, Todd says, the main thing he has seen over the past 10 years is specialization. The funnel is becoming narrower and narrower. Clients want an agency that is the best at what they do and to put it simply, it's hard to be a jack of all things and be great in any one area. Start with one thing and become the best in your field. Then, as you grow, you can build different practice areas, bring in new people, and move towards being a full-service agency, if that's what you want. Why It's Important for Your Agency to Build Authority Today, Todd says many agencies have transitioned to a more specialized, highly skilled model of service. But one of the biggest challenges agencies face now is things haven't evolved as much when it comes to how clients view agencies. In the 60s, traditional media agencies could get away with 15% commissions because there was less work to do. But now, campaigns require more technology, more specialization, and more human capital. The 15% model just isn't feasible to be profitable and find success. So how do you get your clients to see the value in your work? It's actually pretty straightforward —build your authority. Start a podcast, create videos, or just go out and speak. When people see you as a trusted advisor instead of just another "me too" agency, they're more likely to pay you what you are worth. Are You Leveraging Results to Gain Trust? Todd's built his agency on results. In fact, his agency is so confident in their results they even have a performance-based pricing model. He says clients don't spend money because they want to, they do it to acquire customers and sell their product. When a client can look at the P&L and see, "Wow, we actually did sell more product," they typically have no problem paying you more. The key is to get your clients to stop looking at the vanity metrics and focus on how you are actually helping them achieve more. The good news is, agencies are beginning to shift in this arena and communicate the value of human capital and expertise. At the end of the day, clients will get what they pay for. It's not your job to undervalue your services to attract new clients. When you narrow your focus, build your authority, and produce results, you'll have no problem getting clients to see how much your services are worth. 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.
How do you make decisions when there are multiple agency partners? Can you truly grow without second-guessing the big decisions? How do you grow an agency with multiple partners? Should you build from within or use acquisition as a growth strategy? When there are many decision-makers at an agency it can be a challenge to agree on the best way to grow. But with mutual respect and a yin-yang of strengths, it can work. In today’s episode, we’ll cover: Can things really work with multiple agency partners? Using acquisition as an agency growth strategy. Deciding on when and which agency to acquire. How to get through an economic recession. I chatted with Peter Bishop, Partner and Director at ZGM Marketing Partners in Canada. He has been in digital marketing for over 20+ years and, as it turns out, we share a ton of old-school experience on the evolution of design software. But, now as a partner at ZGM, he is on the show to share what he’s learned about sharing partnership with four others as well as how they use acquisition as a growth strategy. Can Things Really Work with Multiple Agency Partners? Having one owner can be great or it can be awful. We all have biases but when it comes to agencies, they are led by creative souls and that is usually the backbone of an agency. As Peter points out, creatives aren’t usually awesome at finance or other business skills. Having a partnership that balances each other out is usually beneficial. Peter’s agency partnerships include a creative person, financial person, an accounts person... so everyone brings something different to the table. There are rarely problems among them, but when there is a problem it’s a big problem. How To Get Through Partner Disagreements Peter says the agency partnership is like any relationship. When there’s mutual respect you can get through anything. Although ZGM has five partners, there is one partner who has stepped away from day-to-day involvement and is more like a silent investor. The partners involve him in the bigger decisions and Peter says, he’s become like the wise grandfather figure. He is more objective and also calls bullshit on them when necessary. Every partnership needs this type of unbiased person, board of advisors, or even a mastermind who is looking out for the best interest of the agency. We can’t do it all by ourselves, so having others helping and guiding is the best way to build and grow. Holding things close to your chest is no longer the way to do business. When we all share, we all develop and grow. Providing advice to others can also provide clarity for yourself. Using Acquisition as an Agency Growth Strategy ZGM has used acquisition as a growth strategy and Peter attributes much of their growth to this decision. They've acquired three agencies so far, and each time there’s an acquisition he feels significant growth in clients and staff, as well as in top-line revenue. Culture is key and it’s one of the first things ZGM looks at before considering an acquisition. It sounds cliche it’s true - culture is everything. Agencies can’t pay top dollar for talent but culture is where they compete. Top talent can be drawn to the right culture. And, your agency co-workers usually become like a second family. So a culture that fits is key in making sure the family functions. So when merging or acquiring another agency, culture fit is one of the most important aspects. How to Decide When and What Agency to Acquire ZGM has been very strategic about its acquisitions. They have found that when they want to go into a new direction -- more product-based accounts, for example -- doing it organically isn’t realistic. So their growth strategy has been focused on acquisitions that can help them break barriers that afford them growth in new areas. Getting Through the Current Economic Recession Now more than ever, our clients are leaning on us to be creative and solve their business problems. Peter and partners have told their team, instead of looking for bigger spends or more money, ask how can you help clients get through this crisis. We need to help clients figure out ways to pivot their business and survive the economic recession. Bottom line, money isn’t everything. Now is the time to be human.
Are you struggling to find your purpose in the marketing agency world? Do you find yourself doing all the work, taking all the risks, and feeling like you should have all of the early rewards as well? Are the clients you're taking on reflecting the vision you have for your agency? There is a lot of joy to be found in owning your own marketing agency, and it is most often found when values are aligned. In this episode, we'll cover: Why being prepared and reinvesting are important. Identifying your marketing agency's purpose. Three ways to find joy in your agency again. I talked to Sean DallasKidd, Partner and Chief Creative Officer of Demonstrate, a boutique agency that provides public relations and creative content. At just over one-year-old, Demonstrate has two offices and close to 20 people on its team. Sean talks about the ways he was able to find such quick success with his agency while continuing to enjoy the work and the atmosphere he has created. Why Being Prepared and Reinvesting Are Important While Sean and his partners only started Demonstrate a year ago, they were hardly newcomers to the agency industry. Sean worked for a number of agencies and in the marketing departments of large companies before taking on the endeavor. "We got lucky by being prepared, willing to invest in the business, and not letting greed get in the way." He adds that other components he and his partners brought to Demonstrate were a strong network, good momentum, Often, new agency owners find themselves doing the bulk of the work and making the bulk of the investment. So, it is not uncommon for an owner to decide he or she should keep all of the early rewards. This is often a mistake, as it gets in the way of investments that should be made in order to help the business grow. Further, if the single focus of the business is to make money, it prevents an agency owner from building the team and attracting the clients that will help your agency succeed and grow. Identifying Your Marketing Agency's Purpose Sean and his partners spend a lot of time helping their clients identify the purpose of their brand. In order to do this effectively, the team at Demonstrate had to identify its own brand purpose. Sean says, in order to do this, they started by asking themselves two questions: What would you like to do every day? What do you never want to do? "On your slowest week," Sean says, "You're going to be focused on your work at least five-sevenths of the time. If you don't like your work, you won't enjoy your life." Three Ways to Find Joy in Your Agency Again How do you make your agency something you enjoy, rather than something that merely pays the bills? Sean offers the following tips. Is your team on board? Use the same filter when choosing team members as you do when choosing clients. For Demonstrate, that filter is whether the individual or company's beliefs and desires align well with the vision they have for the agency. Who is in control? Sean says there is a decision to make: You can choose to define your agency by selecting the type of work you want to do and the clients you want to work for. Or, you can let your clients define what type of agency you are. Staying in control of who and what you're willing to take on is an important part of enjoying the work you do. Don't get stagnant. Losing passion for your work is a quick way to lose your grip on the agency culture you're trying to create. Sean believes that continuing to grow, learn, and develop relationships with your team and clients is the way to create a more dynamic business. 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.
Do you have the right systems and processes the will allow you to work only with your ideal agency clients? Have you identified your ideal agency clients and niched down enough for them? Are you concerned about turning away clients that aren't the right fit? Being the best in the business requires discipline, but it also helps you determine whether a client is right for you. In this episode, we'll cover: Why determining your niche helps you land ideal clients. How discipline is crucial to your agency's success. Why it's important to put people over profit. I talked to Lindsey Groepper, President of Blast Media, a B2B SaaS PR agency she and her two business partners started 15 years ago. Lindsey and partners decided the agency's goal is enriching people's lives. From there, they set out to determine a niche to achieve that goal. Lindsey is here to talk about the discipline needed to grow a successful niche agency. She also shares how your niche can be used as a tool to develop a well-rounded and resilient client list. Why Determining Your Niche Helps You Find Better Clients While many agencies struggle to determine their niche, Lindsey says that Blast Media knew early that they wanted to provide PR for tech companies. However, over the fifteen years in business, Blast Media has distilled its client offerings down to just one specialty. This began five years ago when they realized offering a little bit of everything was not as successful a path as providing one service extremely well.  Refining their focus required some tough decisions. It meant the partners had to say goodbye to some clients they enjoyed working with, as well as the revenue from the clients that no longer fit their model. On the other hand, though, it led to the creation of a 30-day onboarding process all Blast Media's clients are required to undergo. During this process, the client learns about how the agency works and the entire team learns all about the company before they begin doing work. The theory, Lindsey says, is "you come to us with a goal and we can tell you how to get there. But the client can't do both. If you want to tell us how then you will have to have a different goal." Clients who can't stick to the process are not the right clients. Why Processes and Discipline Are Crucial to Success The client onboarding process is required for all clients, with no exceptions. The result of that process helped the agency find and land ideal agency clients. It also helped that agency retain amazing team members. Last year, Blast Media had zero turnover. Team retention "really goes back to staying disciplined with the clients you're bringing on," Lindsey says. "If your main goal is profit, then your culture suffers because you're too busy scaling to champion the culture that brought your team to you in the first place." Discipline means not making decisions based on short-term situations. Your policy for determining which clients to work with should not have any exceptions. If you're worried about losing a client, remember what Lindsey tells her team: "Every client will someday no longer be a client. That is the life of an agency. As long as they didn't leave because of a failure on our part, we are OK because we have a pipeline of clients to bring in to replace them." Why It's Important to Put People Over Profit Knowing when to say no to a prospect doesn't mean you can help in other ways. Lindsey says Blast Media regularly refers prospective clients to other agencies who are better able to meet their specific needs. The ability to place people over profit helps build relationships. It helps another agency and a client to find each other. That good karma always comes back around. By developing a relationship with other agencies, you will find they will reciprocate.
Does owning your agency give you a sense of significance? Do you ever wonder or worry about what an acquisition might feel like? Will you know when it's the right time to sell your agency? The marketing agency industry is always evolving. Selling your digital agency doesn't mean your journey is over; it might just be another step in a longer journey. In this episode, we'll cover: Leveraging your strengths in an agency acquisition. Are you learning and growing with your agency? One major key to working with contractors. I talked to Adam Weil, Partner and Creative Director for White Rabbit Group, based out of Seattle. Adam started his own agency several years ago. He eventually sold it to White Rabbit. Adam is here to discuss the communication and mindset necessary to deal with dramatic changes that often occur by having your agency acquired, obtaining a new partner, or deciding when to outsource work to a third party. Leveraging Your Strengths When You Sell Your Agency Adam started an agency focused on designing websites and mobile sites for clients. It was very much an opportunity he grew into, as he journeyed from simply wanting to own his own online business to knocking on the doors of potential clients and learning new ways to connect with them. Over the course of several years, he surrounded himself with people who were smarter in various aspects of the business than he was and learning as much as he can about the industry. When it came time for Adam's agency to be acquired by White Rabbit, a development agency that was servicing a number of creative agencies and bringing their designs to life, he brought those years of experience and learning to the table. "One important lesson I learned is that you really have to play to your strengths," he said. He realized what he is good at and likes to do was intersecting with the opportunity to grow something much bigger than himself. Adam knew the acquisition was the right opportunity for growth because it would take the agency he started to the next level. As he began to deal with the emotional aspect of no longer having his own agency, Adam avoided letting those emotions derail the deal. Rather than looking at his agency's acquisition as the end, "I just kept thinking about future opportunities," he says. "I viewed it as the next step in my career." Are You Learning and Growing With Your Agency? One crucial piece of agency growth is liking what you do. If you enjoy the work, you will look for ways to improve your skills and continually improve your service offerings. Liking what you do offers a second benefit, as well: The ability to learn from those around you. "Agencies are unique because they are such good vessels of growth. You get to try so many new things, and you will never know it all. You have to connect with people who are way ahead of you and smarter than you," Adam says. "There is so much competition and such an opportunity of growth that you have to stay on the cutting edge." One Major Key to Working With Contractors Even if you aren't planning a merger or acquisition, the marketing agency industry is one that never stops evolving. While this evolution is the key to future opportunities, it is also the catalyst that requires many agencies to outsource work. Working with contractors is also a step forward in the progression of an agency, Adam explains, and one that should be entered just as cautiously. Check at least three references for any contractors you are considering working with, and also check their work. "Don't just take their word for it," Adam warns. "Make sure you actually look at their portfolio and make sure it's pixel perfect." He stresses it is also important to be sure the contractor you're considering is strong in the area of communication and they have the tools necessary to do the work. 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.
Do you ever wonder what the big guys with over 100 agency employees are doing to be successful? Wonder what it takes to truly be a full-service agency? In order to have a successful agency, do you have to live in a large city like New York or LA? Careful planning and an understanding of your clients' needs is vital to building an agency and a large team able to provide a variety of different services. In this episode, we'll cover: Having a long-term plan for your agency. Mentoring your agency team. Why technology is more important than physical location. I talked to Reid Carr, the CEO of Red Door Interactive, a full-service agency headquartered in San Diego that works with a number of well-known clients. Eighteen years ago, Reid decided he hadn't found a place where he wanted to be, so he created one. Since then, he learned a thing or two about growing a successful agency of 100 employees. Here are some steps he learned from the experience of providing full-service in an age of rapidly evolving technology. Step One: Have a Long-Term Plan According to Reid, the most important thing he did for Red Door happened before the business even began. He took a business plan writing class and developed a business plan workbook. And the plan wasn't just what he was going to do in the time immediately after starting the business. It was a 10-year plan, and while it did address revenue and how many team members he planned to have, it focused on other aspects of the business: Ensuring that the team members who were hired to work for the agency were properly trained and given the freedom to excel in the service area where they were hired. Also ensuring resiliency in each service team by cross-training.  This makes recovering from a team member leaving easier for those who remain. Creating value for clients by integrating services and hiring experts in each service area. This broadens out the overall strategy for each unique client through an emphasis on communication between the service teams. Develop a portfolio of work to show prospective clients. Reid said this is often difficult for an agency just starting out because they have to get jobs to show work. In the early years, Red Door did a lot of pro-bono work for non-profit organizations as a way to develop a portfolio of work. Step Two: Mentor Your Team "I love having a bigger team," says Reid. "Foundationally, with a bigger team, there are a lot of people helping each other out, as long as that is the culture you have developed." Reid says developing a culture of teamwork and success is a matter of hiring smart people and giving them reasons to want to stay, as well as helping them to progress to each new structural level. A lot of individuals who work in the marketing agency industry tend to be young and often show great leadership skills but little managerial experience. "So you're working with managers," he says. "And you're managing managers and you're managing managers who are managing people."  So what is the secret? "The relationship you have with your managers is the relationship you have with your company," says Reid. Step Three: Technology Matters More Than Location There's an old adage in the real estate industry: Location, location, location. That adage is often heard in the marketing agency industry, as well. Reid believes many clients are hesitant to work with agencies located in other markets. Small town agencies are particularly at a disadvantage. Likewise, there are many agency owners who believe they can't offer all services or attract large clients because they're not in a big market.  "Location doesn't make you more valuable," Reid says. "It doesn't offer any value other than exposure and access to certain things. Specializing and being the best is what makes you valuable." There is also a lot of value in people living and working where they feel most comfortable. The technological evolution provides the opportunity to offer more services, as well as the opportunity to be successful from anywhere. This means you can hire amazing remote talent to work from anywhere and service clients from all around the world. 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.
Should you start an agency or buy an existing one? Do you have the right skill set for owning a successful agency? This isn't really a clear path on the right way to start an agency. Sometimes you just have to do what today's guest did and jump right in. In today's episode, we'll cover: Leveraging your skillset when you acquire a marketing agency. 3 ways to invest in your agency's talent. Why agencies must educate clients on value. Today I had a really interesting conversation with Joycelyn David, owner of AV Communication, a multicultural digital agency based out of Toronto. Joycelyn recently purchased a 7-figure agency after spending over 10 years as that agency's client. She is sharing what's worked, what didn't, and why she decided to take the leap to acquire an agency instead of starting from scratch. Leveraging Your Skill Set for a Successful Agency Joycelyn, like many of us, didn't plan to own an agency, she just kind of fell into it. But when she was presented with the opportunity to acquire one, she decided to dive in. And, like most of us, she says, if she could do it all again, she'd do it in a heartbeat.  So what gave her the confidence to know she had what it takes? An understanding of her basic skill sets. Running an agency is very much skills-based. And it's using those skills to produce results for clients. Before you think "I don't have enough experience to run my own agency," take some time to look at the skills you already have. For Joycelyn, she had spent over a decade on the client-side of the agency space and built solid relationships. She also had a degree in multicultural communications which ultimately helps her understand the needs of her clients better. Recognize what you have to offer. Surround yourself with a team that believes in your vision. When you do, you'll find owning an agency isn't as overwhelming as it seems. 3 Ways to Invest in Your Agency's Talent Joycelyn says the most important part of her agency is the people who work there. But soon after she acquired AV Communications, she realized there were legacy employees who had been there since the beginning and then a revolving door of new employees. So what did she do? She spent time developing a better culture for the agency. Her tips: Invest your time: Joycelyn says she spends 45-60 minutes with each team member every week to check in and work on employee development. She has observed that something that may come natural or seem obvious to her may actually be a challenge for a newer member of the team. Mentorship: One of the great things about investing in your team is providing them with the skills and the confidence to pass on to junior team members. When you create this culture from the top, learning becomes organic. Formal skills development: This includes guest speakers, hands-on workshops, and even travel opportunities. There are some skill sets that can come only from engaging with other clients and getting out in the field. Why Agencies Must Educate Clients on Value AV Communications works with a very unique niche. They work with brands to understand and connect with multicultural audiences. So what does it mean to fight for your niche? You have to understand your value. For Joycelyn, this means helping companies understand one out of every three Canadians has a multicultural background. By ignoring this, they are missing out on a big share of the market. What unique value does your agency bring to the table? Start with a question. Do you want to grow your market? Do you want to miss out on this opportunity? When you start with a question, you turn the focus on your client and make it about them, instead of you. Your job, as an agency, is to offer a solution to your client. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to using your specific skills and your team to deliver. Invest in the basics and surround yourself with like-minded people. When you do this, the rest becomes so much easier. 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.
Have you struggled to find the best way to find and hire new agency employees? Are you overwhelmed by the thought of growing your team? Do you want to make sure the people you work with are devoted to the success of your agency? It can be really hard to find the right fit for your agency. But when you take the time to make thoroughly vet new hires and streamline processes, you'll set everyone up for success. In today's episode, we'll cover: 2 tips to help your agency perform strong from the start. Why streamlined processes helps your team succeed. The 5-step process for hiring the right agency employees. Today I sat down with Ray Sinlao, founder of Standard Conversions, a conversion rate optimization agency. Thanks to his background as a developer, Ray was able to develop in-house processes and even his own software, Buyer Tool, to help his agency surpass the six-figure mark in less than one year. He's here to talk about the innovative hiring process that helped his agency grow to 7-figures. 2 Tips to Help Your Agency Perform Strong From the Start It's not unheard of to reach the 1-million mark in under a year as an agency — but it's not exactly an everyday occurrence. So what tips does Ray have to help you find similar success? Performance-based pricing: Ray says performance-based deals helped him scale his agency at a rapid rate from the get-go. But it wasn't without a few hiccups. The key, he says, is always working with clients you trust. If there is even 1% hesitation, walk away. Hire a team early on: In the beginning, Ray was working 16-hour days and was quickly burning out. But then he realized the whole reason he started his agency was to be able to spend more time with his family and have more control over his life. When you bring in the right people to support you, you'll find you have more time to devote to the things that matter the most. How Streamlined Processes Can Help Your Team Succeed It's one thing to be able to scale an ad account. It's even better if you can scale a team to scale the ad accounts for you. But as agency owners, there's often a reluctance to give up some of the control. This is normal, but it can easily hinder growth. Once Ray decided to grow his team, he set himself up early to make sure he was bringing on the right people and that they had the tools to succeed. As a former developer, Ray started documenting processes from the beginning. This way, everything is repeatable. When a new person joins the team, they have a playbook filled with processes and a knowledge bank to help them deliver results. The more you can document what your agency does and why then the easier it will be for your new hires (and existing team) to deliver the results you expect. 5 Steps Process for Hiring the Right Agency Employees It's not unusual for agencies to experience a high level of turnover. Early on, Ray developed a process that helped him turn inexperienced media buyers into devoted, long-term employees. Selection: Ray says about 10% of people who apply to work at his agency actually make it through the end. And most of them drop out at the first step. Why? The initial application requires applicants to read a 200+ page book and write a 2,000-word copy. While Ray says the actual assignment doesn't really apply that much, it lets him know how much work someone is willing to do to get the job. Observation: Here the potential new hire gets teamed up with an experienced media buyer. They're not ready to do any work on their own, but they get to see what it takes to do the job day in and day out. Hands-on experience: Ray considers this a minimal risk step. Here the potential employee gets to do some work (uploading projects), but they don't have any account management responsibility. More independence: At this point, the new employee essentially has the job. They are given more freedom and can manage one campaign under an account manager's supervision. Full immersion: Here, the new hire finally gets to do the job they initially applied for. While some people may think this process is a little much, Ray says the people who make it to the end are the ones that stick around long-term. Your success as an agency largely comes down to the groundwork you lay at the beginning. If you take time to develop processes and carefully vet your team, your agency is more likely to find long-term success. Want to Scale Your Agency's Media Buying? If you really want to scale your agency's media buying power, check out BuyerTool. This 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 making the right hires for your agency team? Do you feel like your best agency employees don't stick around long enough? Most of your agency's success comes down to the people you surround yourself with. Hiring a team that supports your vision and grows with the agency is the key to success. In today's episode, we'll cover: Does your agency foster career growth? 3 strategies to help your agency succeed early. How to find the right team members that will stick around. Today I sat down with Tom Yawney, director of business development at The Influence Agency, a digital marketing, and creative agency. After realizing there was no longer room for growth in his previous agency, Tom and his partners decided to start an agency of their own. He's here to talk about why he left his previous agency, what he's doing differently, and key strategies he has learned along the way. Does Your Agency Foster Career Growth? Have you ever spent time and money building a team, only to watch them one by one walk away? Are you struggling to understand why your top-performing team members don't seem to stick around? Tom says he never dreamed of being an agency owner, but he reached a point where there was no longer room for growth. As an agency owner, you need to provide opportunities for your team to bring new ideas and value to the agency. Your team should never feel like they are, as Tom felt, "stuck in a dead-end job." Too many agency owners have this hierarchy where they feel they know everything and just assign tasks. If you have ever uttered the phrase, "This is how we've always done it," it's probably time to make a change. Good employees get bored if they aren't given opportunities to challenge their evolving skills. If you hire the right people, it's your job to make sure you don't demotivate them. 3 Strategies to Help Your Agency Succeed Early Starting an agency is hard and those who don't know what they are doing can quickly fail. Tom says his agency's success is part strategic, part circumstantial. So what went right? Knowledge in sales: Obviously sales are important to agency growth. At The Influence Agency, all four founders had a background in sales. It is possible to succeed without a background in sales, however, and most of the time an owner's passion is enough to create the sales hustle necessary for success. Complementary skills: Tom and his partners quickly learned they had skills that would complement each other. This meant they could take care of a lot of the work themselves instead of contracting out. This allowed the agency to save money and start some financial momentum. The right team: Your first few hires are one of the most important decisions you will make when you are first starting out. It's easy to get enamored by unique skills or an impressive resume, but Tom says you should hire for culture first. Is the person supportive? Do they bring good energy? Are they the right fit? When you bring on the right people, they can help take some of the pressure off your shoulders. How to Find the Right People for Your Team So how do you know if someone is a good fit? The most important thing to look at is character. This can be a little tricky, especially at the interview stage where the goal is to impress. At this stage, you want to look at thought-process, mindset, and attitude. Ask questions that will give you insight into someone's character: Tell me about a manager you enjoyed working for; what worked? How would you handle certain situations? What do you like to do for fun? (I like to start with this one because it helps the person feel more relaxed). It's important to find a fit that is good for the agency and for the employee. This means you need to be transparent about the position the person will be entering as well. Culture and growth can have a big impact on the happiness of your team and your agency's success. When your team members feel valued and are given opportunities, they'll be more motivated to 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.
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.
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