Why You Need to Export All Your Knowledge to Grow Your Agency
Manuel Suarez is the Founder and CEO of AGM. Founded in 2015, AGM is a full-service, social media marketing agency that focuses on helping brands acquire the most valuable commodity today: attention. Manuel is sharing how he rapidly grew his agency over $3 Million in the first five years. He attributes a lot of his success to being the face of his agency and exporting his knowledge both to build authority and to train his client.
3 Golden Nuggets
- Provide value aggressively. Earn trust and build authority by providing through social media, podcasting, speaking publicly.
- Successful agency owners are the face of the agency. That means you do not service accounts or work on deliverables. You are vision and strategy. You are the "what" but not the "how." Think Gary Vaynerchuk, who is CEO and the face of VaynerMedia but is not working with clients.
- Your #1 job is to continually learning and training. Stay on top of your game and export all your knowledge to your team. Surround yourself with the right people and put them in the right seats while also making sure they have access to the right training
Sponsors and Resources
Oribi: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Oribi. Check out Oribi.io/smartagency for a free trial. Plus when you sign up for Oribi get 20% off the first three months with promo code: Smart Agency
Jason: [00:00:00 ] On this episode, I talk with an agency owner. Who's grown over 3 million in revenue in three years, and we talk about. What you need to do as an agency owner in order to really have rapid growth and how you need to get and be that front face for your agency. I know a lot of you want to sit and back, but what his strategy is and why he has people knocking down his doors.
So it's a really good episode. Yeah. I hope you enjoy it.
Hey, Daniel, welcome to the show.
Manuel: [00:00:33 ] It was great to be here, Jason. Thanks for having me, man.
Jason: [00:00:35 ] Yeah, I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?
Manuel: [00:00:39 ] All right. My name is Manuel Suarez. I'm the CEO of a marketing agency called AGM Marketing stands for Attention Grabbing Media. And I've been doing marketing for probably about seven years now, accidental like many of us agency owners over the last four years. That led me to, I had a lot of success with a couple of businesses, uh, and that led me to create an agency.
When I got bored with the ones that I was having success with and said, you know what, maybe it's time to explore disability and help some other companies out there.
Jason: [00:01:08 ] Awesome. So how did you get started? Like what were your first couple of businesses and walk us through that story.
Manuel: [00:01:15 ] First business, I come from a pretty dark background of no career, no path, no future, no potential, a small little Island in Puerto Rico, a lot of criminality, drugs.
That was my environment. I got lucky along the way. And I discovered opportunities. Um, I, I think that like all of us, we have a lot of, uh, stories. Uh, in my case I was a part of the subprime mortgage market in the U.S. So in 2007, bought my first property somewhere around the peak of the markets.
Lost the house and, um, had three children already. So I had to figure something out that led me to try and try and try things out, fail, fail, fail. Uh, and at one point, somebody talked to me about my first ever business was my brother-in-law coming to me and telling me, you know, there's this thing called FBA fulfilled by Amazon.
And you can sell your own products on Amazon. And that was like a big wake-up moment for me. And, my first official business was launched in 2013. Uh, so that was seven years ago as of the time of this recording. And that particular business became a really, big powerhouse that, um, it's a great story for a lot of people that I can summarize in just a few sentences.
I saw the opportunity on Amazon. I looked at, uh, one of the guys that work with me, uh, on my 9 to 5, and I saw him that he was selling bedsheets on the road, on the weekend. A brand called Clara Clark. I said, let me look at your bedsheets. I opened them up. I saw no labels attached to the bedsheet and I said, perfect.
We're going to create our own brand. I created an idea of a brand it's called Cosy House Collections, c-o-s-y. And I printed a horrible design, which we're still using today on the bedsheet. And, um, I started selling my own private label and within 18 months, a lot of work, a lot of obligation. We were doing $6 million a year and it became a big wake-up call that, Oh, wait a second. I have potential in marketing.
And at the same time, I started helping my father, which is basically my it's a big part of the story is, the special side of my story that I worked on making my father a social media massive influencer, and one of the biggest ones in the world of Latin America.
So those two things were happened concurrently, uh, along the way.
Jason: [00:03:41 ] Awesome. And so then people started asking you to do this for their business and that's how kind of the agency?
Manuel: [00:03:49 ] Yeah. So from 2014 or so. Uh, until 2017, I took my dad from complete unawareness of the health industry world to generating 50 million views a month across social media channels.
Uh, we took a brand called Natural Slim, which my dad and I are partners in. And we turned that into from a small little, um, business in Puerto Rico doing a few hundred thousand dollars a year to now, um, do other in '20, we're probably going to break $50 million a year. Um, so somewhere around 2017, that was already rolling.
It was established. Uh, my dad had a YouTube channel with, we had just crossed, I think at that point, a million subscribers, uh, Facebook millions of followers that were doing great. And people were asking me questions and I was invited on a few stages to talk about what I had done with the bedsheets brand, with my dad.
And that led me to, okay, I got people that want to get some help. I don't know anything. I know there's something called an agency, which means that I'm supposed to service people and show them how this thing is done. I seem to have a marketing mind. I know how to position a company and create a strategy and okay, let's do that.
Let's open up the doors. And I got together with two, two of my family members, friends. My brother-in-law who's the one who presented to me the Amazon opportunity to begin with and another friend of mine. And we said, let's build an agency. Let's go. And that's how we started.
Jason: [00:05:15 ] What were the steps, because as we're recording this right now, you guys around 65 people in a three-year period, is that right?
Manuel: [00:05:24 ] Yeah. We officially got structured beginning of 2017. So we got we're on our fourth year right now.
Jason: [00:05:31 ] So if someone's listening now, because, you know, obviously we just kind of jump into the fire and we just start servicing people, but we're not really being proactive, we're being more reactive. So what were some of the things that you did that made a difference that you may think some other agency owners are not even seeing?
Manuel: [00:05:52 ] I think the most important thing, Jason, that, uh, I don't, I don't think it's clear enough, even though it's obvious and we all talk about it. Uh, it's what you do. It's what I do. We are out there communicating all the time and we're out there positioning ourselves. In my case, I delivered seminars and webinars nonstop.
I just gave value. Aggressively. If you look at my agency right now, I have a lot of, um, I have a lot of clients, we're at 70 staff as the time of this recording right now, and we're growing fast. I'm still looking for more talent, always adding more talent to the team. And also we have an ever-growing list of clients.
I have celebrities, I have social media influencers, I have e-commerce brands, I have Amazon brands. We have all kinds of different clients around different niches, but I can tell you that if I wouldn't have done what I have done of getting on all these stages. I will be like a lot of different clients, a lot of different agencies, which are struggling, trying to find clients. And, I believe, and this is something that I'm really, really adamant about. Jason.
I insist the difference between a successful agency and a failing one or one that has a tough time finding clients, being able to scale and get new accounts is that the successful agency has a leader. That's out there putting themselves in front of the world as much as possible. In my case, I do a lot of content.
I am in social media and I have been in social media, for several years now. I created a personal brand out during the world of social media. I call myself the Facebook marketing Ninja. I have a podcast around that subject. I have, um, getting deep into the world of social media advertising and I teach people and I have a group of people and students, and this is basically what I'm known for.
So whenever people think about, okay, I think I need an agency now to help me, we have that positioning. So I think the main thing that everybody has to if you're trying to build an agency, you got to let people know that you're an expert. That you do want to push forward and helping people first, just giving value, that at some point, if they need to get services, you're the first one that they think about.
Jason: [00:08:02 ] What do you think holds some agencies back that, that you see? Because obviously, you know, like many agency owners, we always chat with other agencies and we're like trying to figure out what's working. And I know when I'm talking to agency owners on a consistent basis, a lot of them are like, I don't want to be the face.
Right? Like, I like the behind-the-scenes because I don't want everybody always coming to me and then I won't be able to sell my agency and I go, have you ever heard of Gary Vaynerchuk? And they're like, yeah. And they're like, do you think he actually does people's social media posting and all of that?
I'm like, no, I was like, he's built this brand. And you know, it's just following their methodology.
Manuel: [00:08:42 ] Right. It's built on his own name, but he has nothing to do. Like he says, Gary says himself that he's still the CEO. And I believe that because I have a similar way of operating my organization. The last time Jason, we have a social media advertising agency.
We do a lot more than that. We do a lot of strategy and do many different things like Google advertising, etc... But the last time that I created a campaign myself. Myself. Like I went into the Facebook business manager and I clicked on create and I selected an audience and an ad easily two and a half years ago, Jason.
I stopped doing that quite a while ago, but you know, if, if you don't want to do that route, if you feel uncomfortable with, uh, putting yourself on camera and talking to the world, you got to figure out your marketing strategy because my marketing strategy, it's not the only one. It's a successful one.
It's the quickest path to expansion and social media has presented that opportunity. Having a podcast. It's another opportunity because you get a chance to position yourself like back in the year, 1997 or whatever, you didn't have the ability to communicate to the world for free. And now we do, like with these platforms.
So it is a marketing strategy. It's not the only one, the example of something that's not an agency. My father he's, his name is Frank Suarez. We have a YouTube channel and a Facebook page called MetabolismoTV. His content is what drives the engine. If I take it away, then I have to get really smart about coming out with a new marketing strategy.
It's not the only strategy it's the quickest path to expansion. That's all it is right now. So if you don't feel comfortable doing that, then you got to find something that makes you feel comfortable, but you got to know that it's going to be a struggle more than in my case. Like if I look around my agency, uh, and the staff that I have going on in my day to day operations of my clients, I am servicing people that are my followers that are my fans.
Whenever I jump on a call, they're doing a zoom call, like a strategy session or whatever. And I jumped on it. I see their excitement and their emotion because they're actually in my world because they follow me. That's the road. If you don't go down that road, if you don't present yourself as an expert, then many times you're met with skepticism.
Like, people don't know if you're for real, because they haven't traveled a journey with you. -People that are at my agency. They traveled the journey. So they're there and they trust me and it's pressure on me because they have a certain expectation, but they went through a series of steps before they presented themselves in my organization.
And they gave us a big fat paycheck that included retainers and set up fees and all those things because they trusted me. If you don't have that in place, you're going to be met with skepticism or the best-case scenario, uh, when it comes to, uh, building an agency, if you'd done a job really well done it for a couple of accounts, then those accounts like old school, traditional word of mouth is successful.
And you, you can get other people that say, Hey, I went with X, Y, Z agency, and these guys were awesome. And they helped me out a lot when they come, you're not met with the same skepticism. So that's the challenge. So you either go the traditional route, doing a high-quality product for a couple of clients that allows them to start spreading the word about you.
Or you go down building your own brand with a podcast, with social media, with a YouTube channel that is going to leave people to, Hey, can you guys help me with my marketing? And that's an important positioning right there because people will trust you more.
Jason: [00:12:27 ] I love it. Now let's kind of go back toward. Maybe a couple of months into it, because if you haven't like, if you've been around for three years and two and a half years, you've stopped doing the, who were the first couple of people. Cause there is a lot of people are going like, all right, what do we need to do?
Like, what's kind of the structure. What was, kind of, the steps that allowed you to get to the point where all your job is really is the vision, creating content, being the face of the organization, and probably a couple of other little things.
Manuel: [00:12:56 ] Well, I don't another not-that-little thing, Jason will be training.
One of the main things that I've done. I have a weekly training of my staff and I haven't dropped back for one single week. For years, every single week I keep them trained. So even though I am not creating campaigns myself, I know exactly what's going on. And I'm always clicking around sometimes, I get surprised as social media platforms change so fast that I'm training something.
I'm like, well, they changed it on me this morning. Oh no, they changed it four months ago. Oh, wait a second. You know, so that happens quite a bit, but if I had to, I could probably go back and break down the most successful things because I can tell you, Jason, I've probably done more unsuccessful things than successful ones.
So it's an interesting thing to go back and figure that out because, um, it's been a lot of random disorder. Like, give me, let me give you an example. So when I started, I had a team of virtual assistants that were on my previous brand, uh, that I was selling bedsheets on Amazon. Uh, I sold that company in 2017, and that's the money that I used to start creating this agency.
But you don't really need much to build an agency. In all honesty. You don't really need a lot of money in this world. You need an internet signal. Uh, you need a lot of knowledge, intellectual properties, like the number one most important thing. But I actually use that money to bring in some talent. And, um, some of the first things that I did was that I brought this team of like six virtual assistants and I brought them with me and I said, you guys are coming with me.
And I started just getting going with like, the accounts that I had, that I had, what I had, I had my dad's account, which was my business. And then I had also another big influencer reach out to me because of my dad's recommendation. And that's, this guy is still a powerhouse. He's one of the biggest influencers on the subject of the ketogenic diet, which is Dr. Eric Berg, four million subscribers on YouTube, a big powerhouse.
So he came in shortly after I formed the agency. It was six of us back then. And now it's 70 of us and we're grown with him step-by-step. The major thing that I had that was different. I didn't really have a connected team, Jason, like we will not meet consistently and everybody was operating on their own.
One thing that I implemented along the way was daily staff meetings. So every day it's 9:20 AM. as I'm recording this right now. At 9:30 AM we have a staff meeting every single day. And, uh, we have a lot of people that are local, about 25 of us right now. And then we have the rest of them that are all over the world.
Many of them in the United States, many of them overseas, the Philippines, uh, Europe, etc. And then we all get together at 9:30 AM. So it's almost like getting everybody on the same page every day. One of the challenges of building a remote team in this new environment, especially in the COVID-19 world is the fact that you have to make sure that everybody is connected as if they were operating in the same building.
You try to replicate the feeling of having people next to you, desk by desk. So you can have an eye over their desk or their computer. So you know what they're doing. So systems like that are very important to build within your organization. So you can monitor the activity at all times and not let people run their own show.
Because that's not what you're trying to do, because if you own an agency, let people run their own show, it's going to just stain in your brand because people are going to want to think that they have freedom to create whatever the heck they want. Instead of you, as the leader, as the founder, you are guiding the strategy and you're telling them what to do, what not to do.
And what is the correct sequential steps to take on a particular account for them to have success? There are many things that we've done wrong Jason, but I can tell you definitely there are a few key points and that's one of them is training staff, for sure. Very important. Keeping them trained and yourself trained, never thinking that, uh, you're already extremely proficient in the world of advertising or whatever, because that attitude is going to lead towards a decline.
So just stay in yourself at top of the game, but then export that knowledge into these people. So they can also themselves increase their own skill along the way. Awesome. And what are some other things that help catapult you outside of training, staff meetings, that kind of stuff. So, so I've never done lead generation ads for agency clients.
Uh, what I can tell you that I have done is that I have done a lot of lead generation for my own personal brand and education. Of these people in my own world. So what I have been doing over the years is that for example, I have a series of mini-courses, mini trainings on subjects that are important.
I have a mini-course on building your business with Facebook ads and also finding your ideal audience on Facebook and Messenger marketing, uh, which is another big deal. Which is my agency just won the award for the top-performing agency for ManyChat 2020. So this is something that we have gone really deep into, uh, over the last few years.
So I take very specific training, let's say four or five lessons, and I say, I'm going to show you about this. This is an opportunity, and I'm going to detail you the roadmap to be able to have success. With ManyChat, for example, with Messenger marketing, with chat marketing, or whatever the case may be. So I do ads to promote that.
So Facebook ads, LinkedIn ads, Instagram ads, whatever to bring them into my world. And once they come into my world, uh, Jason, I, I have a sequence of nurturing and, uh, I just keep on presenting the opportunity and I keep on enlightening people along the way. And this helps me create, uh, people interested in what I have to offer and many times how a lot of these people are not qualified as you, as you probably know, Jason, I would say that I'm out of a hundred leads that I have potentially I get one or two people that are qualified to be an agency client. And that's okay. Because the qualification process is very, very important for your organization.
There are, I think you're the one that says something as there's not. No such thing as a bad client?
Jason: [00:19:10 ] No, there's only a bad prospect or a bad process.
Manuel: [00:19:13 ] Exactly. Right? So that's 100% a fact, guys. It's a, it's true because if you have a good process in place, you can make sure that these people are not coming into your lines.
And that happens on the way. So you're, you're desperate at first as an agency and you taking everything like I started with no contracts and that's okay. Hey, I'm going to, you're going to call me, you're going to get results the first month. Overselling yourself, like crazy, which is absolutely a mistake.
Uh, if you ask me, Jason, what is the, what is one of the biggest mistakes that I've made in my career as an agency owner is overselling, over-promising people, over-promising. Now I go in the opposite direction and if they don't like it, I shake hands. And I say, I wish you, well, go ahead and kill it you're not in my agency.
Currently, we're at a really good level right now. We are really profitable as an organization. We do great. So I can actually be more selective as to what comes in and what doesn't come in. But right now we have a six-month agreement. So somebody has to be willing to agree to six months.
Now I want to get rid of that and I want to go towards a year. As, as you do that, but I'm not that, that ready yet, Jason, because that really scares people off. Like a year, especially if you're not ready, but you know, it's pros and cons, right? Cause you want to have people scare off like, as an agency owner, you want to have people that are with you.
And if you have people that are too tight that if they give you a few thousand dollars a month in my make or break them, and they might not be able to feed their families. You want to try to skip that and just hold on tight because otherwise the branding nightmare that can occur for your organization and the effects that it can cause, go way beyond that cycle.
So one of the biggest lessons that I've learned. And I, and I apply that one, 100%. I sometimes I get on a call and I said, are you sure you want to do this? It's you gotta be willing to grab the money and put it in the garbage bin. All right. Because marketing is, is an ever-growing landscape. It changes fast.
And I wish I could tell you that I will always succeed, but I don't always succeed. If you're coming into this game, we are both sacrificing. And I'm putting myself on the line. You're putting yourself and we're going to add this. You have to be willing to shake my hand and say, okay, it didn't work out, and walk away.
If you're willing to do that sign. If not, let's walk away from each other.
Jason: [00:21:30 ] Yeah. I always love when people ask for the guarantee and I always tell them a couple of things. I go, well, I can guarantee you if you keep doing the same thing, the same way you're going to get the same results. But I can guarantee you I'll give you our best effort and that's all I can promise you.
And I like, you gotta be willing to throw in the garbage. I always felt uncomfortable because it is always, it's not a guarantee. Like if I'm working with someone that this is their last dollar, it's just too much pressure on me because then I start making decisions based on money and it's just too stressful.
And then you kind of, kind of screw it up. But you, you unpacked a lot of amazing things in there. You know, the other thing too, like. You know, when we were, I think you were speaking in New York when I was doing the same thing and I remember asking everybody there, I was like, how many of you agencies have a podcast?
And it was like 850 people in the room. And there was like 10. And I think you were one of them that raised the hand and it's like, we have a podcast. And you know, I look at the amount of value that people podcasting put out. Like even when I look at the numbers of our podcasts, we're filling a stadium every month, a stadium.
Just to let that sink in. Like, I keep like holy cow, that many people are listening?! And then like you were saying, then you have a waiting list or people they like and trust you. Now here's something I'm going to tell you, Manuel, how you can get the year contracts.
If you actually structure the deal where you have like a foot in the door, like some easy service to build trust, they go into a project, and then you'll see how, like, if you like working with them and then commit them to a 12-month deal.
It would change everything if you do that, we'll talk offline on that.
Manuel: [00:23:10 ] I could, I could probably steal that. I like your guarantee also. I will, I will probably steal that, Jason, and won't give you any credit.
Jason: [00:23:17 ] There you go. Is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would benefit the audience?
Manuel: [00:23:22 ] I think that, um, one important question is. Uh, what does it really take to succeed as an agency owner? And that's a pretty deep question. And, because I, I believe Jason, therefore for every. I dunno if you have better numbers than me, but I have seen a lot more people fail at it than succeed. And when I look at the ones that have made it, that's the ones that succeeded.
They work aggressively on building a process and a system. And they were, uh, building a team around them that they can export their abilities to. If you stay too concentrated on you doing every single task yourself and not training your staff along the way, then you can't grow, you can't scale. So that's one thing.
What, what does it take? It's determination. It's uh, persistence it's working hard. You know, if you, if you wake up every day and you put the energy on it, and even though you fail and you stand up and you keep going, I mean, that's the way to go. Like eventually you will be able to breakthrough. It's not always pretty.
There's a lot of downs. There's some ups. And downs and that's all part of the game and its part of the business. But at this stage, you get to a point that you can experience freedom. And I have a lot more freedom. I have a lot more staff now and, they run the show. And at this point where I'm at right now, I'm the visionary.
I call them and I get them to execute a vision. And as simple as that, I'm not doing the micro details of my day-to-day operations, but it wasn't always like that. So it takes a lot of hard work. You know, every successful entrepreneur will tell you, but staying yourself on top of the game and pushing hard and, building a team around you and, uh, exporting your own abilities with training.
That's what it's all about.
Jason: [00:25:03 ] Yeah. I saw a stat. There was, I think somewhere at 9% of agencies survive six years.
Manuel: [00:25:10 ] Wow. 9%
Jason: [00:25:12 ] That people just go call it quits. And like you were saying, it's all about the systems that they put in place and making sure that they're communicating that vision and putting the right people in the right seat is everything.
So that's awesome. What's the agency website people can go and check out?
Manuel: [00:25:29 ] AGMagency.com. AGM stands for Attention Grabbing Media so you guys can check it out.
Jason: [00:25:35 ] Awesome. I love it. Everybody go check that out. And if you guys liked this episode and you guys want to be surrounded by amazing agency owners, that can show you their systems and be able to show you or see the things that you might not be able to see within your agency.
I want to invite you guys to go check out the DigitalAgencyElite.com. This is our exclusive mastermind where we have tons of fun. There is no egos in the door. These agency owners have all become my really close friends and have grown at a rapid pace because they've put in the right systems and they have a support network to help us through all the crying that we do as agency owners.
So go to DigitalAgencyElite.com and until next time have a Swenk day.