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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Wondering if it's time to hire an agency president? If you're feeling like the burden of the day-to-day is holding you back, it might be time! Are you being stretched in too many directions? Are you wondering how to find the right person to help run your agency? Every agency reaches the point of choosing to stay on that plateau or hire a leader capable of reaching the next level. In this episode, we'll cover: Signs it's time to hire an agency president. How to find an agency president. Onboarding an agency president. I talked to Doug Joseph, the Founder and CEO of Serif Creative. Serif started as a video production company, before adding additional services including brand strategy, creative storytelling, and digital marketing. There came a point in Doug's journey of founding and leading Serif when he realized he needed help with certain aspects of the agency. He is here to talk about why he chose to hire a president and how he found a great person for the job. Signs It's Time to Hire an Agency President Doug's strength and desire have always been creative storytelling. This is what led him to create an agency in the first place. However, "I'm a big picture guy," he says. "I'm not good with the day-to-day details."  It's that self-awareness that led Doug to the conclusion that he needed to bring on a president. What Doug realized is by finding someone with strengths opposite of his, each of them was able to focus their time and attention on the aspects of the business that they were passionate about. Meanwhile, there is peace of mind knowing the other parts of the business are being taken care of by someone who is equally passionate about what they do. How to Find an Agency President When Doug decided it was time to hire a president to allow his agency to grow, he was looking for someone to handle the aspects of the agency he was less passionate about. A large part of hiring for the position was giving the person flexibility to create his own position based on the needs they identified. Serif Creative's President brought a keen ability for acquiring new projects and a strength in providing digital services. Both were welcome additions to the business. "It's all about desire," Doug explains. "If a person is passionate about the work they are doing, then there is less management of that position required. When there is less desire, more management and more accountability are required." A great resource for finding someone to help lead your agency is through your professional network. However, Doug says to use caution when hiring friends or friends of your team members as it can create awkward situations if they're not a good fit. Onboarding an Agency President Your Team Will Love Serif Creative's President had mutual friends with Doug and was doing freelance work at the time the two met. Doug hired him to provide consultation on certain agency issues. This resulted in an increase in business, including a retainer from a Fortune 500 client. Doug felt comfortable offering the consultant the permanent position because he was confident in his skills and ability. Additionally, it allowed the team to all become familiar before adding him on at a management level. Bottom line, Stop being Chief Everything Officer. Find a way to do what you're good at, whether that involves acquiring work or producing work. Find someone who shares your goals for the agency and passion for clients but brings different strengths. This can help your agency land new clients, produce new service offerings, or otherwise grow and thrive. Related: https://jasonswenk.com/digital-agency-ceo/ Would you like a 90% close rate on the deals you want? It took my agency years to develop a solid foot in the door offer that converted at a high rate. And, Ian has spent the last 10 years developing his too. That's why we decided to collaborate and create the FITD framework to share with other agency owners. If you want to learn more check out FootInTheDoorFramework.com. You can discover the exact framework that Ian and I created so you can be successful. Close deals faster, stop giving away strategy for free and win the deals you want. When you have the right framework, you will find your sales process is scalable. You can even step away from sales and so you can spend your time working on the best.
Are you tired of losing time and money on RFPs? Do you want to start charging for creative strategy? There's a long-standing debate in the agency world about whether or not we should pitch for free. It all comes down to knowing when and how to position a paid strategy. In this episode, we'll cover: Pitching new clients vs. organic agency growth. How your agency can get paid for the pitch. Should your agency ever work for free? I talked to Aleena Mazhar, Vice President and Managing Director of the Experiential Division of Fuse Create, a marketing and ad agency based in Toronto. Aleena is a self-admitted addict to the fast-paced nature and constant problem-solving of the agency culture. Aleena has experienced both organic growth in her agency as well as growth fueled by pitching the agency's services through the traditional RFP process. She is here to talk about both methods and when it's ok to give your ideas away for free. Pitching New Clients Vs. Organic Agency Growth Aleena says she and her partners at Fuse were fortunate that when they created their agency, they each brought clients with them. This fueled a lot of organic growth, as the agency leaned on these existing clients for input on how to expand their services to meet their needs. This helped build a stronger relationship with their clients. By being responsive to their needs Fuse was willing to grow alongside their clients. It also brought new business through word-of-mouth from those satisfied clients. How Your Agency Can Get Paid for the Pitch Aleena feels you should not be pitching for free. Pitching for free is essentially giving away your creative vision to a company that could ultimately decide they don't want to work with you. Your time and your agency's creativity deserve compensation. How do you get paid for the pitch though, particularly in an industry where free pitches are commonplace? One way involves assisting an existing client in developing a strategy for their RFP on an upcoming launch. By getting your team involved in strategizing with the client on what they are looking for, you ensure your team's work isn't being given away. You also position your agency to win the proposal since you have been involved from the early stages and have helped develop the proposal requirements that you must meet. Additionally, there is comfort for the client in working with a team they have already become familiar with. Should Your Agency Ever Work for Free? While the preference is getting paid for creativity, Aleena says there are projects the agency will pitch for free because they are simply so enthusiastic about the work. They're willing to take the risk just to be involved in it. As a smaller agency, very selective with the clients they work with, Fuse can't afford to do free pitches often. However, if it's the right fit; the right size, the right niche, and the right service needs - it's a no-brainer. "In your heart, you know when it's the right thing to do," she says. With those unicorn opportunities too big to risk putting the client off with a paid pitch, Aleena says it's important to involve all levels of the agency team. This reinforces the feeling of transparency that builds trust between the client and the team and helps the client feel that his or her needs are of the greatest importance to the agency. Would you like a 90% close rate on the deals you want? It took my agency years to develop a solid foot in the door offer that converted at a high rate. And, Ian has spent the last 10 years developing his too. That's why we decided to collaborate and create the FITD framework to share with other agency owners. If you want to learn more check out FootInTheDoor.com. You can discover the exact framework that Ian and I created so you can be successful. Close deals faster, stop giving away strategy for free and win the deals you want. When you have the right framework, you will find your sales process is scalable. You can even step away from sales and so you can spend your time working on the best.
Are you struggling to attract new clients with your outbound marketing? Do you need to build deeper connections with your prospects? The key is creating an outbound strategy that is worthy of prospects' engagement. In a time when we're all bombarded with multimedia and social media, what are you doing to make your agency stand out from the rest? In today's episode, we'll cover: How to send emails your prospects actually want to open. How personalization can help your agency win clients. Should your agency outsource outbound sales research? Today I had a really fun chat with Jonathan McFarlane, Director of Strategy at Hybrid Marketing Company. His agency deals almost exclusively with cannabis and hemp companies. The agency hasn't experienced a lot of the challenges many other agencies are facing during the economic downturn. That said, Jonathan still works hard to look for opportunities to grow his agency. He is sharing what he's done to reignite his agency's outbound marketing strategy and how he's using humor to connect with prospects during this difficult time. How to Send Emails Your Prospects Actually Want to Open Hybrid Marketing Company started three years ago. During that time, the agency has relied heavily on referrals to bring in new clients. But while referrals are great, they are not a scalable approach for continued growth. Recently, Jonathan decided to switch things up. Now, the agency does a lot of LinkedIn networking and cold emails to build up their network. The problem with email campaigns is most people won't even open an email unless they already have a personal connection with the sender. Yet Jonathan averages a 55-60% open rate. How? Jonathan says his goal is to create funny, witty emails. His emails feature his new work-from-home "assistant" — his two-year-old daughter who says, "it's time to build new connections." Each email features a link to a case study and a picture of his assistant doing something cute and irresistible, like "sleeping on the job" :) Jonathan's advice is to get creative, have fun, and try to connect with prospects on a personal level. You also want to do some research and personalized the email. Be relatable and unique so your emails are read instead of ignored. How Personalization Can Help Your Agency Win Clients Even if you can get a prospect to open an email, it can still be a hard sell to get a client to reach out to you, especially in today's climate. This is where personalization can set you apart. Every now and then, Jonathan will check out the websites of prospects who he thinks might be a good fit. Then he'll email them with specific ways his agency can help. Obviously, most agencies don't have the time to personalize every email they send out. Focus on prospects who align with your agency's strengths or those with an existing connection. Even if they don't need you yet, when they do decide to hire an agency, they'll remember the extra work you put in. Should Your Agency Outsource Outbound Sales Research? If personalized emails are so effective, then wouldn't it make sense to outsource your research so you can maximize outreach efforts? The choice is up to you, but Jonathan says he likes to keep the research in-house. When you bring in a third party to gather information, there's an extra level of communication. Think of it like the game of telephone — you risk losing valuable information with every layer that stands between you and your potential client. When your team is doing the research, you'll have a better idea of what makes your agency best suited to meet the client's needs. When you're trying to build new connections, it can be difficult to get people to pay attention. Find ways to stand out and show you're invested. Even if a prospect doesn't reach out to you right away, there's a good chance you'll leave an impression. 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.
Are you having trouble scaling your agency? Considering a merger as a growth plan? Have you been approached about merging with another agency? A merger can be a great way to scale up faster by adding a new, complimentary service or a bigger piece of the niche. On the other hand, agency mergers are just as risky as starting the business the first time. If you're considering a merger, there are ways to ensure it is successful In this episode, we'll cover: Three plans you need to make your agency merger successful. Why your some team members might not follow your agency merger. Creating team trust through vulnerability. I talked to Lisa Vielee, who merged her small, 4-person team with a larger full-service agency 15 years ago. Initially, she was seeking a mentor to learn how to scale. He agreed, but also asked her to consider merging the agencies and succeeding him when he retired. The two now have a team of 30 people, and Lisa is President of Well Done Marketing. She is here to explain how the agency has thrived since the merger. Three Plans You Need to Make When Merging Lisa agreed to merge her agency with Well Done Marketing because she had reached the point with her four-person team where she either needed to let them go and return to freelancing or scale into something bigger. She chose a mentor who had successfully grown his own full-service agency. Instead, the two decided to merge agencies. This isn't a simple process, however. It involved developing plans and getting on the same page in three different areas: The 5 to 8-year plan: It is one thing to combine two teams into one. It's another thing figuring out how to move the newly created team forward. You need to find a way to retain their unique connections with clients and provide a greater number of services for all clients involved. The divorce plan: Just as in marriage, most people don't want to think about their brand new merger not working out. However, businesses that merge sometimes fail for any number of reasons. Developing a plan for how to "unmerge" - a sort of prenuptial agreement - is as important as the merger itself. The team plan: One of the mistakes Lisa made in planning a merger was failing to let their teams completely experience all the emotions. Emotions over a merger can range from anxiety about working with new people to sadness over change. Why Some Team Members Might Not Follow Your Agency Merger One of the scary things involved in a merger is the notion that your existing team may not agree with the new direction. Part of Lisa's own growth was learning the importance of giving her team the information they need and letting them decide to stay or not. When Lisa's agency merged with Well Done, she did lose some team members. However, because she was able to realize they had a responsibility to choose their own career path, she continues to partner with those former employees on projects. Lisa turns to them when she needs freelance work and has the opportunity to see them continue to grow and contribute to the creative community. Creating Team Trust Through Vulnerability But wait, the work isn't finished once the merger itself is complete and the teams are working together. Lisa explains you must create cohesion and a unified vision for the team. A few years ago, some young team members requested to add empathy to the team's culture. However, what Lisa realized, was in order to receive empathy, they needed to first become vulnerable to one another. Vulnerability, she says, is the act of letting go of control of the outcome and trusting others in their role. It involves talking to people, not just about the work but about outside things that impact their work. This was something she learned as President of the merged agency -- a role that allows her to step back, view how the agency is functioning, and create a culture without micromanaging the work being done by the team. Would you like a 90% close rate on the deals you want? It took my agency years to develop a solid foot in the door offer that converted at a high rate. And, Ian has spent the last 10 years developing his too. That's why we decided to collaborate and create the FITD framework to share with other agency owners. If you want to learn more check out FootInTheDoor.com. You can discover the exact framework that Ian and I created so you can be successful. Close deals faster, stop giving away strategy for free and win the deals you want. When you have the right framework, you will find your sales process is scalable. You can even step away from sales and so you can spend your time working on the best.
Does your agency have the right people and the right systems in place? Do you want to work smarter, not harder? If it seems like no matter how much time and work you invest, you just stay stagnant, it may be time to review these four basic things. In this episode, we'll cover: 4 things successful agencies are doing right now. Why you shouldn't compare yourself to larger agencies. How do you measure your agency's success? Are you planning to sell your agency someday? Today I sat down to talk with Robert Craven, founder of GYDA Initiative and author of Grow Your Digital Agency. Robert works with digital agencies to help them figure out what they want and the life they want to live. He's here to talk about what he thinks is working right now (and what's not) and why so many smaller agencies struggle. 4 Things Successful Agencies are Doing Right Now There's no doubt many agencies across the globe are struggling right now. While the pandemic has hit some industries harder than others, Robert says there are a few things he has noticed some agencies are doing right to stay afloat in today's economic climate. So what can you do to grow your agency today and when the economy gets back to "normal"? Start with strategy: Where are we going? Do you have a vision? Do you have a plan for success? Focus on marketing: Are you struggling to convert prospects? Trouble generating leads? Don't let your own marketing take a backseat. Make time to work on the business, instead of just in it. Build your team: Hire the right people in the right seats. Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and be smart about how you grow your agency team. Understand the finances: How is your cash flow looking and how can you improve the situation? Consider: changing payment terms, raising prices, or even firing those PIA clients who aren't profitable. Naturally, Robert has also noticed things that don't work, regardless of the economic climate. This includes: Hiding your head in the sand — just because you don't want it to happen, doesn't mean it won't. Thinking just because you can create a good product/service people are going to buy it. Focusing on you instead of the client. Let them be the hero -- you should be Alfred (the advisor) and position the client as Batman. Why You Shouldn't Compare Yourself to Larger Agencies Robert and I have both worked with many smaller agencies that attempt to replicate the success of larger agencies. They'll go in and copy the website or a marketing campaign because "if it worked for them, it will work for us." This simply isn't true. The successful agencies are the ones who take time to do the boring stuff. They measure time and profitability and have long-term contracts in place. But they're also the ones who are able to be a solution to their client's problems. Remember, your client doesn't want to hear about how great you are or what awards you won, they want to hear how you will make their life easier. How Do You Measure Your Agency's Success? How does your agency define success? Most agency owners look at margins, EBITDA, or how many clients they have. But profits are variable and can depend on a variety of factors. As such, they aren't always the most reliable indicator of success. At the end of the day, most of us got into the business to be able to do what we want and pick and choose who we work with. But you can't just skip to the end and have a million-dollar agency. To find success, you need to go back to the basics. Understand how to manage a business and people and figure out how to get the right systems in place. Success doesn't just come down to the numbers. It's about fulfillment and significance. Are You Planning to Sell Your Agency Some Day? I tell agency owners I work with, start with the end in mind. What do you want to get out of your agency and how do you plan to get there? A lot of the time, the end goal is to sell the agency for a profit. But what if you didn't? If you run a successful agency, selling it isn't your only option. You may be tired of the day-to-day grind now, but as agency owners, we're creators. While the idea of selling your agency and living off the proceeds may seem great, in actuality, it can quickly become boring. Instead, why not take a step back and bring on someone to run the agency while you continue to pull a paycheck? Then when you are ready to sell, you have allowed your agency to grow even bigger. The agencies that have the most success are the ones who have a good understanding of the basics. Understand your agency and make yourself a trusted advisor. When you do, you'll find it easier to have the freedom to pick and choose 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.
Worried about your agency's future? Do you second guess every decision you make? There's no doubt, things are uncertain right now. But what if you took this moment to focus on the opportunities available right now, instead of the challenges that could get in your way? In this episode, we'll cover: 3 tips to help your agency survive adversity. Why you should build relationships with fellow agency owners. Can your agency grow during an economic downturn? Today I sat down for an informative chat with Rudy Fernandez, CEO of Creative Outhouse. Rudy started his agency in October 2001, right after 9/11. Less than 10 years later, Rudy faced another challenge, the death of his partner during an economic crisis. And now, Covid-19. He's here to talk about how his agency has survived when many people would have given up and what you can do right now to protect your agency's future. 3 Tips to Help Your Agency Survive Adversity Rudy has seen his share of adversity over the past 20+ years. But through every twist and turn, Rudy has managed to push through and grow his agency into what it is today. So what's his secret? Just keep moving: When life hits you in the face, sometimes the only thing you can do is just keep moving. Rudy says this is how he survived the death of his partner in 2009. Focus on what you know you are supposed to do and what you can do. Think about the clients you serve and why they hired you. Above all, keep making the calls and getting out there. Celebrate the little wins. When you're dealing with adversity, the big wins can feel few and far between. When things get tough, don't forget to recognize the simple things. Did you have a great phone call? Connect with a potential prospect? These little wins can build momentum and push you to keep going. Surround yourself with the right people. None of us make good decisions when we let our emotions lead the way. But when you're going through something, it's hard to separate yourself from what is going on. This is why it's important to work with people who aren't afraid to tell you the truth. Why You Should Build Relationships with Fellow Agency Owners When I first started my agency, I had the mindset of 'seek and destroy.' If I won, that meant somebody else had to lose. But this isn't how it has to be or how it should be. In fact, your fellow agency owners can be some of your biggest allies, mentors, and friends. Other agency owners have the same unique perspective and it benefits you to build those relationships, not destroy them. Rudy says the agency owner community is a unique one that is always looking out for one another. Sometimes we compete for a client, but ultimately we want to see each other do well. Rudy and I agree, we're all in this together. If you're facing a challenging time, chances are, one of us has been there. Learn from the mistakes of others. I've grown so much by working with those around me. Create those win-wins and build your network. When you do, they'll be another person there to support you when you need it. Can Your Agency Grow In An Economic Downturn? Believe it or not, you can grow your agency during an economic downturn or challenge. Now is the perfect time to self-reflect and evaluate your agency. Your number one client should always be yourself. Figure out the stuff you like to do (and the stuff you don't). Take a close look at your vision. Are you working with the type of clients you want to and doing what you love? Do you have a clear vision? Your vision is the foundation of everything and yet it is a step so many of us skip. If you expect to have any sort of longevity as an agency owner, inevitably you will face adversity.  When that happens, challenge yourself to do what you love and focus on the wins, big and small. When you do so, you'll find it easier to keep moving forward, and not just survive, but thrive. Would you like a 90% close rate on the deals you want? It took my agency years to develop a solid foot in the door offer that converted at a high rate. And, Ian has spent the last 10 years developing his too. That's why we decided to collaborate and create the FITD framework to share with other agency owners. If you want to learn more check out FootInTheDoor.com. You can discover the exact framework that Ian and I created so you can be successful. Close deals faster, stop giving away strategy for free and win the deals you want. When you have the right framework, you will find your sales process is scalable. You can even step away from sales and so you can spend your time working on the best.
Is your growing team in need of more structure? Do you feel like you're too caught up in the little stuff? Or does the small stuff turn real big, real fast? Too often, as owners, we hesitate to give up any sort of control out of fear. The truth is, when you are willing to delegate and bring in support, you free up time to focus on your agency's growth. In this episode, we'll cover: Does your team have the tools to succeed? Is it time for your agency to hire an HR person? How transparency builds trust with your team. Do you need to learn how to trust your leadership team? Today I sat down with Ben Askins, owner and managing director of Verb, a full-service agency based out of London. In the six years since Ben has been with the agency, Verb has gone from a project-based structure to a retainer-based model. The agency has subsequently grown from a small team to a team of about 65. Ben's here to discuss how he keeps such a big team motivated and what he's doing now to make sure they feel comfortable about the agency's future. Does Your Team Have the Tools to Succeed? Any good leader knows, your team is your biggest asset. So it makes sense, if the team is unmotivated or disorganized, you're going to have a problem. Ben says one of the best things his agency did was create an HR department. Here they were able to develop their brand pillars and create incentives to keep their team motivated. While individual programs like peer-to-peer recognition and limelight awards help build morale, one of the biggest investments has been in manager training. Ben says, no one ever sits down with you and tells you, "this is how to be a manager, this is how you train, and this is how you can increase morale." So, when it comes time for annual reviews, there's a disconnect between what the manager expects and how the employee thinks they are actually doing. Verb devotes half of their training budget for the employee to spend on enrichment programs of their choice and half on what the manager deems necessary. This helps everyone be on the same page and allows for self-improvement and re-investment. Is it Time for Your Agency to Hire an HR Person? Not enough agency owners recognize the value of a strong human resources presence. While we often look at HR professionals as paper pushers who deal with insurance and employee discipline, HR is actually a vital part of any organization. Think about it this way, as an agency owner or CEO, you may have two, three, or even four layers between you and your lowest level employee. This makes it hard to know what's going on in your agency. Something may start as a minor problem, but by the time it gets to you, it's too late. The purpose of HR is to sort out these problems and identify them before they become something bigger. So when is the right time to bring in HR? Ben says if he could do it all again, he'd bring on HR as soon as there was more than one layer of seniority away from the team. How Transparency Builds Trust With Your Team Like so many other agencies and businesses right now, Verb has furloughed several members of its team. And while this is never easy, Ben says one of the things that has really helped is transparency. Everyone at the agency has complete access to the business financials. At a time like this, there is no benefit to hiding information. Your team needs to make decisions just as much as you do, so knowing a layoff may be coming can help them prepare. The same goes when you hire people back on. When you support your decisions with margins, your managers can better understand your decisions and what benchmarks they have to meet. Margins become less arbitrary, allowing your managers to appreciate these guidelines are designed to promote agency growth, not pad profits. Do You Need to Learn to Trust Your Leadership Team? Bringing in HR and being transparent only go so far if you are constantly being a toll booth for your team. I've worked with many owners who think everything needs to go through them for approval. Give your team autonomy and let your managers run their departments. When you do this, you'll have time to focus on growing the agency and doing the things that will help your agency succeed. Trust in yourself and the team you've built. When you do this, you'll find everyone is more motivated to help the agency continue to grow. Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency? Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.
Would you like to close deals faster? Are you tired of giving away strategy for free and only getting paid for execution? If you want to convert more prospects into agency clients you need a solid foot in the door offer to make it an easy decision to work with you. In this episode, we’ll cover: 4 Benefits of selling a foot in the door offer. Components of a great foot in the door offer. 2 mistakes to avoid with your foot in the door. Successfully selling a foot in the door offer. On today's show, I chatted with my friend Ian Garlic who founded Authentic Web and StoryCrews. Ian is on the show to talk about how his foot in the door framework has helped him grow and scale both businesses. If you want to get a 90% close rate on working with the clients you choose, this is the guy to learn from. 4 Big Benefits of Selling a Foot in the Door Offer 1. Speed up your sales cycle. A foot in the door is a no-brainer. It’s an easier “yes” and therefore, doesn’t take as much time for a client to decide on. 2. Future pacing. It’s like dating before proposing marriage. It gives both parties the chance to see what it’s like to work together on a small project before committing to a longer-term project at a higher cost. 3. Charge more in the long run. The key is finding the sweet spot for your FITD price point. You want to charge enough that it keeps the time-wasters away, but also charge enough that serious prospects can easily commit. 4. Set up your team for success. When you sell the foot in the door offer it is easy to get your team involved right off the bat. The client can see how awesome they are and will be ready for you to hand them off for the bigger stuff later on. What Are the Components of a Great Foot in the Door Offer? Ian says the best foot in the door (FITD) is a small, low cost, no-brainer offer that provides something of value and is a splinter of your agency’s core service. It’s an easy and secure decision. The key is keeping it simple, valuable, and affordable. When it is easy to understand the benefit and there’s little or no risk involved, it’s much easier to say ‘yes’. Plus, you get a sense of what it’s like to work with each other on a small project before you take on something much bigger. And if they’re a PITA client, you’ll know sooner than later. ( PITA = pain in the a$$ :) Don’t just do an audit and review it with them. You need to build something for them that demonstrates your agency’s strengths and makes them want more. However, it needs to also be easily repeatable so you're not reinventing the wheel every time. 2 Mistakes to Avoid with a Foot in the Door Offer 1. Starting a new service. Your FITD offer needs to be a slice off of your existing services. It should be an obvious continuation to the next project with you. If your offer is not a natural lead-in to the rest of your offering that defeats the purpose. 2. Not being hands-on. The point is to give the client a taste of what it’s like to work with you. You need to interact with them during the foot in the door process so the client can feel and see what it’s like to work with you (and you with them). How to Sell a Foot in the Door Offer that Converts Here’s the thing, you can’t just go sell a FITD offer. You need to have a solid process in place. You need to help the client build something. Think about how you can get their answers to these questions: Where are they now? Where do they want to go? How can we get you there? I like to tell prospects, there will be one of three outcomes from the foot in the door. Hate it and get their money back. Like it and choose to execute themselves. Like it and want to work together on execution. They literally have nothing to lose. Ian says a successful FITD provides alignment with your prospect’s end goals. You need to position it as a small step toward their goals and when you are successful at that small step, there is a natural tendency to continue onto the next step. This positions you as a strategist instead of just an order-taker. Would you like a 90% close rate on the deals you want? It took my agency years to develop a solid foot in the door offer that converted at a high rate. And, Ian has spent the last 10 years developing his too. That's why we decided to collaborate and create the FITD framework to share with other agency owners. If you want to learn more check out FootInTheDoor.com. You can discover the exact framework that Ian and I created so you can be successful. Close deals faster, stop giving away strategy for free and win the deals you want. When you have the right framework, you will find your sales process is scalable. You can even step away from sales and so you can spend your time working on the best.
Does your team come to you for every little decision? Not sure how to empower your employees to take more initiative? A lot of agency owners find themselves in this frustrating position. There's actually an easier fix than you think. The answer may be as simple as setting a clear vision. In this episode, we'll cover: How to build a cohesive agency team. How to create and fulfill your agency's vision. How important are core values during an acquisition? Today I sat down with Luke Kempski, president and CEO of JPL, a marketing communications agency based out of Harrisburg. Luke started at the agency 30 years ago as a production employee and took over the agency roughly 15 years ago. He's here to talk about some of the mistakes he has made along the way and how he has created a team that supports the agency vision. How to Build a Cohesive Agency Team When I asked Luke about some of the mistakes he has made at JPL, one of the first things he brought up is his team. Luke says when you run an agency, you have to be careful about creating hard lines and segmenting departments. Instead, you want everyone on the same team, working towards the same goal. When you divide goals and incentives by department, you inevitably create competition. While a certain level of competition is healthy, it becomes a problem when it interferes with the agency's goals as a whole. Luke says he uses profit sharing based on the agency's profits (not each department) to incentivize his team. This way, each department is more apt to work together instead of against each other. How to Create and Fulfill Your Agency's Vision Do you have a clear vision for your agency? If not, you're not alone. Luke says it took him about 5 years before he realized he needed to create a vision his leaders could follow and buy into. One of the main reasons so many agency owners put off creating a vision is they don't know where to start. The truth is, it's a lot easier than you think. When your team knows and believes in the vision, it will be easier for them to make decisions without you. Luke decided to look at multiple resources to create his agency's vision. Not only did he involve his team, but he also talked to his clients. Luke meets bi-monthly with his team regarding initiatives and progress. Every two years, the agency brings in a third-party to interview the clients about what they expect from the agency, what their experience has been, and how JPL stacks up compared to other agencies the clients work with. Luke says this insight is invaluable because it gives the team a different perspective and makes the agency's vision less arbitrary. How Important are Core Values During an Acquisition? Core values and vision go hand-in-hand. To grow as an agency, everyone has to be on the same page. This is easy when you're building your own agency, but what happens during an acquisition? Do core values of the two agencies have to align? Having gone through several acquisitions, Luke says there does need to be good alignment between the two. When you're bringing creatives together, it can be difficult to find cohesiveness and build collaborative relationships. The more your values align, the easier this process will be. Your success as an agency will be based on the strength of your team and their ability to follow your vision. But your team can't do their job if they don't know what the agency's vision actually is. When you take the time to create and share your vision with the people in your agency, you'll find everyone's job becomes a lot 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.
Are you looking for a way to stand out as "the choice" instead of "a choice"? Do you want your agency prospects to view you as more than just one of the "me too" agencies? In a space where everyone's the same, you have to figure out what makes you different. Then leverage that difference to win more agency clients. In this episode, we'll cover: Stop being one of the "me too" agencies. How your agency's vision can help you land more clients. How you can position your agency as a trusted advisor. Today I sat down for a really important discussion with Robert Pepper, strategy partner and co-founder of PSLondon, a 13- year old digital marketing agency based out of London. After nearly 20 years working on the client side of projects, Robert and his partner decided to start an agency of their own. He's here to talk about what his agency has done to stand out in such a competitive field. How to Stop Being One of the "Me Too" Agencies When Robert and his partner started their agency, they knew they needed to find a way to make clients choose them above everyone else. There's no shortage of options for clients when it comes to choosing an agency. And often, price is the only thing that separates one agency from the next. So what can you do to make your agency stand out from the rest? Be authentic: Robert says he and his partner agreed they had to do something authentic to who they were. They both knew they were interested in client outcomes and wanted to be measured by what keeps their clients up at night. From his years on the client-side, Robert knew he wanted to create a way of existing so clients knew the agency was on their side and focused on the results they wanted.  Figure out what your agency stands for. Create a vision, know your values, and understand what type of clients you want to work with. Look forward, not back. PS London created its strategy based on a proposition called future thinking. This means their agency focuses on what their clients want to achieve at the end of the day instead of the obstacles that have stood in their way in the past. Robert uses the analogy of driving a car. You spend more time looking ahead of you in the 6-foot windshield and occasionally look behind you in the 6-inch rearview mirror. Proportionately, that is how PSLondon helps their clients look forward and not back. How Your Agency's Vision Can Help Land More Clients You can go into a pitch meeting promising the world, but guess what, other agencies are doing the exact same thing. However, when you tie your agency's vision and purpose into the pitch, you will stand apart. This is why it is so important to understand who you are as an agency. Robert says he's never had a problem getting clients to buy in at the early stages because everyone is interested in the future. When you can go into a meeting and tell a client "this is what we do and this is how we can help you," they're going to have an easier time signing on. How to Position Your Agency as a Trusted Advisor The real challenge comes when you sign on a client and have to figure out a way to measure and deliver results. A lot of clients don't know what they want or how to define it so it's your job to help them figure it out. The most important goal of an agency is building a relationship which helps your client achieve their goals. You provide a service, and ultimately, it's the client who makes the final decision. Too many agencies focus on themselves when most clients just want to know you share the same goals. When you make the client the superhero and not you, they're more likely to stick around. There are so many ways you can help your agency stand out from the crowd. But ultimately, the most important thing you can do is know who you are. When you understand what makes you valuable and different from anyone else, it will be easier for your clients to see it as well. 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.
Do you want to know what pricing model is right for your agency? Do your clients understand the value of the services you provide? Are you doing enough to make sure your clients stick around? Performance-based pricing can be a great model to help grow your agency, but only when clients understand the real value your agency brings to the table. In this episode, we'll cover: Is performance-based pricing right for your agency? How to help clients understand value compared to performance. Why your agency needs to set big goals. Today I sat down for an informative chat with Justin Buckley, partner at ATTN, a performance and growth digital marketing agency. After spending years working in affiliate marketing, Justin and his partners realized they were spending too much time and money building other people's brands. Two years ago they decided it was time to make something of their own. Justin's here to talk about how their unique pricing model and aggressive goal setting helped grow ATTN fast. Is Performance-Based Pricing Right for Your Agency? One of the most important decisions you'll make is how to charge for your services. Whether you charge on value or performance, there a few things to consider: What type of services do your clients expect of you? What type of time commitment does this mean for your team? How much control do you have over your client's results? When ATTN chose a pricing model, they chose to go with a hybrid approach. What this looks like is a combination of a flat fee and a percentage of ad spend. ATTN chose to build a performance model into their pricing structure since they are a performance agency. Ultimately, when they perform well, their clients perform well and want to spend more. The more their clients spend, the more the agency makes off the ad spend. This helps balance out the lack of control the agency has on the backend of operations as well as offset the cost of working with clients who aren't as focused on growth. As you grow, you'll quickly learn what works for your agency. Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth and be willing to put the measure of your agency's performance on the line. How to Help Clients Understand Value and Performance There's a risk that comes with performance based pricing. If the clients don't get the expected results based on your performance, you aren't going to get paid what you need to. At the end of the day, it's up to you to get your clients to see the value of your services and make sure your agency can achieve the right outcomes. Justin says the number one thing they rely on to help their clients understand what they are getting is communication. If you don't show your clients what you are doing and the results you're achieving, how else are they going to know? While it's important to have regular meetings to review benchmarks and create goals, it's also essential your clients know you're invested in them. Talk to them about what they want to achieve and get a real understanding of their vision. When you know what your client wants and what they are working towards, you'll have an easier time delivering results. Why Your Agency Needs to Set Big Goals If you're not setting goals at your agency, you have nothing to work towards. Whether you're creating an exit strategy, improving cash flow, or building your team, you need to have goals. Don't be afraid to set goals that make you uncomfortable. The best way to meet your goals is to break them into manageable chunks. Want to be at $10 million in profits after 10 years? Where do you have to be at year five to make this achievable? Now break it down even more. What does year three look like? Year one? Finally, figure out what each quarter, each month, and each week looks like. When you do this, not only do you have a way to hold your team accountable, but you can also start putting the right pieces into place and deploying the resources you need to hit your goals. As an agency owner, your job is to provide a service. And with this, you continually have to prove your worth. Talk to your clients, create benchmarks, and schedule regular check-ins. When you and your client are on the same page, you'll both find it easier to find success.   Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency? Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team. For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them. 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.
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.
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