230 episodes

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.

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

    • Management

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.

    Should You Acquire an Established Agency or Start Your Own?

    Should You Acquire an Established Agency or Start Your Own?

    Would you like to be your own agency boss but not hesitant to start a business from scratch? Tired of having a boss? Think you can do it better? Ready to run things yourself? Most times these are the reasons most agency entrepreneurs start their own agency. But that doesn't mean it has to be the way you do it. Another viable option is to acquire an established agency to give you a jumpstart.
    In today's episode we'll cover:
    How to find the agency that's right for you. 2 tips to make sure you don't pay too much to acquire an agency. 3 keys to finding success at with your new acquisition. Today I had the opportunity to talk to John Kadlic, CEO and owner of Parallel Path. Parallel Path is a digital marketing agency focusing on the health, wellness, and lifestyle industries. John worked his way up in the agency world, eventually becoming president of a large digital marketing agency. After 22 years in marketing, John was ready for his own agency. But John didn't take the conventional approach and start one — he bought one! Discover why John took this approach, and what he learned along the way.
    How to Find the Right Agency for You Why buy an agency when you can start your own? John wanted to take advantage of the hard work someone had already put into their company. John bought Parallel Path on his 50th birthday. He says at this point in his life, he was willing to spend more money, in exchange for not having to invest the extra time. John didn't have to spend time finding clients or hiring staff, they all came with the acquisition.
    Buying an agency is a great option for people who don't have the time or desire to start an agency from scratch or who are looking to grow their existing agency. The downside is, it requires a larger investment.
    So how do you find the agency that's right for you? John says his process started with a little soul searching. He took some time to figure out what he liked about work, what he didn't, and what energized him and got him excited about his job. Then, he made an outline of all the things he was looking for in an agency. Having a clear vision of what he was looking for not only helped John narrow his focus but also made it easier for his team to suggest potential agencies.
    2 Tips to Make Sure You Don't Pay Too Much for Your Agency Okay. So you've found your dream agency. How do you make sure you don't pay too much? Buying an agency is like buying a house. Owners take pride in their "baby" and often ask for more than what it's worth. Buyers, on the other hand, are looking for a deal ~ the acquirer's idea of fair valuation is often much lower than the sellers. How do both parties find common ground?
    Surround yourself with a good team: John had a strong team working with him throughout the entire process. His team included an experienced lawyer, a financial adviser, and a private equity expert. Make sure you hire the right professionals who will give you honest, sound, financial advice. Data, data, data: Buying an agency is an emotional process for all parties. While you may not be able to eliminate the emotions altogether, the less they are involved, the better. Stick to the facts and always have benchmarks, figures, and numbers to back up your offer. 3 Keys to Finding Success at Your Newly Acquired Agency You've bought an agency, now it's time to make it your own. But wait! Now is not the time to go in and change things up. John says new owners often want to jump in and get their hands dirty. But this is almost always the worst thing you can do. To find success, you need to appreciate what you are getting into.
    Take it all in: We get it; you're excited and ready to make big changes. But you have to respect the process and team already in place. If you go and change things up right away, you're likely to upset your team and clients. Implement structure: It's important your tea

    • 20 min
    Could Hosting Agency Events Be the Key to Growth?

    Could Hosting Agency Events Be the Key to Growth?

    Do you feel like a "me too" agency, but you're not sure how to break the chains? Do you want to create a differentiator you can use to grow faster? The agency space is changing. With Facebook pushing business owners to create their own campaigns and hundreds of new agencies popping up monthly, it can be tough to grow. You probably feel like your trapped in a small room and in a rut. Don't worry! There's a way out.
    In this episode, we'll cover:
    3 traits every agency owner needs. Why your agency needs to create a differentiator. 4 steps to creating and hosting agency events. Today, I talked with Mike McCloud, President & CEO of MMA Creative and founder of the World Food Championships. Mike is a tried-and-true entrepreneur with agency DNA. Not only has Mike been in the agency space since 1991 (that's 29 years now!), but he leveraged his agency to help him create the hyper-successful World Food Championships event. That event now generates 95% of MMA Creative's revenue! So, how did an agency owner create a renowned food league with its own TV show and top-tier sponsors? Like this!
    3 Traits Every Agency Owner Needs Mike says these are the three traits every successful agency must have:
    Contrarianism: Is everybody selling Facebook ads? Then you shouldn't be. Winning as an agency owner requires lacing up your boots to go on the road less traveled. Opportunity is everywhere. Sure! You can be a "me too" agency and settle for the crumbs. But why wouldn't you want the whole cake? You have to think outside-of-the-box. What is everyone doing wrong? What is everyone ignoring? Figure that out, and use it to grow. Optimism: When tough times come knocking, you better be ready to answer. We all know that an economic downfall is on the horizon. It may not be today, but it's coming. And when it does, you need to be able to smile, sit down with your team, and figure out how to use that recession to your advantage. Never give up. Always have a trick up your sleeve. And persist through the good times and the not-so-good ones. Every agency owner is going to face situations where giving up is easier than pushing through. Experimentalism: This is a big one! You need to be willing to try new things. All of these blog posts and marketing podcasts aren't going to tell you the next big thing. Once others have figured it out, it's no "the next big thing" anymore. It's just a thing. You have to experiment and find those amazing growth hacks yourself. Why Your Agency Needs to Create a Differentiator There are two big threats to agencies.
    Business owners can live without you. As an agency, you're the middleman. Business owners can run Facebook ads without you. They can make creatives without you. And they can generate leads without you. They're probably not as good as you are, but they can. And as long as they can, some will. There are thousands of other agencies offering what you have. If you're a "me too" agency, you're a commodity. If your pitches revolve around price, you're racing to the bottom. Your strength shouldn't be your price tag. But it often is. Creating a differentiator eliminates those threats. What can you do that no one else can do? If you don't have an answer, find one. Mike created an event. But you don't have to. You can create an experience, a product, a service, or anything else your competitors can't. I've interviewed agency owners who use strategic gifting, promote their freak factor, and even build tech, just to name a few.
    They all share one thing in common. They do something unique in order to stand out.
    4 Simple Steps to Creating and Hosting Agency Events Use your agency to catapult growth. While your agency is generating revenue, use some of it to experiment and create an amazing differentiator. Here's how Mike was able to create a massive food event using his agency as a springboard.
    Be profitable: Creating

    • 26 min
    How Niching Down Equals Big Digital Agency Growth

    How Niching Down Equals Big Digital Agency Growth

    Are you worried your agency is too small to compete with the big dogs? Are you exhausted trying to provide everything for everyone? The marketing world has changed over the past few decades, but a lot of the concerns and approaches have remained the same. As an agency, knowing your strengths and marketing to your niche can be a huge advantage. The sooner you realize this, the better.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    Why agencies need to combine branding with direct marketing. How segmentation can take your agency to the next level. #1 reason to dominate your agency's niche. Today I got to talk with Grant Johnson, founder, and owner of Responsory. Responsory is a direct response digital marketing agency focused on measurable results. Grant started his agency in 1999 after leaving his job as VP of a marketing agency. Grant didn't like the direction the agency was heading, so he started his own. Grant felt nobody was really doing measurable marketing the right way, so he took on the challenge on his own. 20 years later, Grant has grown Responsory into a multi-million dollar agency. Let's dive in.
    Why Agencies Need to Combine Branding with Direct Marketing Many agencies put all their effort into building their brand but fail to focus on direct marketing. Or, they do the opposite, and put their efforts on direct marketing, with no real idea about their brand identity. But the truth is, you'll get the best results when you combine the two.
    That's what Grant did when he started his agency in 1999. He says when he started his agency, you had brand marketing on the left and direct marketing on the right, and the two weren't converging. Today, it's all about ROI — what am I getting out of what I am putting in?
    Grant believes when you combine branding with direct marketing, you have the ability to enhance and grow your brand in a measurable way. Direct marketing helps your agency grow faster, while branding helps you establish trust with your audience.
    How Segmentation Can Take Your Agency to the Next Level The bulk of the clients Grant works with don't do segmentation. This has been a problem for as long as advertising has been in existence. Some agencies prefer to reach as many people as possible, instead of focusing on specific sectors. It's important to realize your customers are going to have a variety of wants, needs, and ideals, even within the same niche. You can't just send out a blanket marketing campaign and call it good. You have to understand the individual component. Today, SEO and paid digital make marketing to specific sectors and analyzing the results easier than ever. You have to remember to look at your audience as a whole vs. individuals.
    #1 Reason To Dominate Your Agency's Niche When you're starting an agency, the temptation is to provide everything to everyone. This is the quickest way to fail. For the bulk of agency prospects, they're not looking for an agency who can do a lot of things okay, they want an agency who can do what they need really well. Know your niche and own it! Grant says he's always upfront with his clients. When they come to him, he tells them what he is really good at and what he's not.
    In the same regard, if you're a small agency, own it. There's been a shift towards smaller agencies who know what they are doing vs large agencies who do it all. If you have a team of five, don't hide the fact that you're small, announce it to the world! It's all about quality vs. quantity. Most importantly, you have to believe in your brand and believe you're the best. Like Grant says, if you don't think you have a niche, or a difference, or are the best at what you do, then why do it?
    What's that saying — the more things change, the more they stay the same?
    A lot has changed in direct marketing and branding over the years, but many of the same basic principles remain the same. When y

    • 18 min
    How to Attract and Keep Millennial Agency Employees

    How to Attract and Keep Millennial Agency Employees

    Struggling to attract and keep Millennials at your agency? Do you want to learn what motivates Millennials in the workplace and how you can become an inspiring leader? Millennials are slowly taking over the workforce as the largest group, which means learning how to attract them and keep them around is critical for the success of your agency.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    New trends in incentivizing agency employees. 4 things Millennials want from their leaders. 2 ways to keep agency employees engaged. Today, I talked with Chris Tuff, Executive Vice President and Partner at 22squared and best-selling author of The Millennial Whisperer. Chris has achieved great success as a digital marketer and is revered for his thought leadership and boldly blazing new paths in the digital space, including working with companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Chris shares some golden nuggets of information about motivating and leading Millennials to help you build an amazing agency team.
    New Trends in Incentivizing Agency Employees Today's workforce has different values and traditional incentives might not be the key to keeping good employees at your agency. Instead, consider adapting to the go-getters. Chris believes in the importance of giving your employees a stake in the company. You can do this in a few different ways:
    Phantom Stock. Sometimes called "shadow stock," you don't actually give your employees stock, but you give them the same financial benefits as stockholders. ESOP. Implementing an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) gives your employees shares in the agency towards their retirement. You can either give employees shares or money to buy shares. Partnership. The largest stake you can give your go-getter employees is to make them a partner in your agency. Typically, you offer this to employees as an opportunity for them to buy into your company and become a partner. 4 Things Millennials Want from Their Leaders You've probably heard comments about Millennials like "entitled, needy, dumb, impatient, naive." Chris argues these characterizations simply aren't true. In fact, his favorite quote is "Millennials aren't the problem, they just expose all the problems." Many agencies are doing it wrong because they don't understand what Millennials want from their leaders. According to Chris, you need to provide the following things as you lead your team, so you can retain quality employees:
    Inspirational leadership which includes coaching and goes beyond simple motivation. Autonomy such as remote work or flexible work schedules. Transparency like sharing information and communicating the vision. A sense of purpose which fosters employees' passions and interest. 2 Ways to Keep Agency Employees Engaged Attracting and keeping Millennials isn't only about incentivizing and understanding their leadership needs. You also have to adapt the way you promote them and really learn how to bring out leadership traits. Chris says this is really about making a connection with your team and you can do that in two ways:
    Follow your team on social media. Some agency owners and bosses assume following your employees on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. is a big no-no. This isn't true. In fact, you can create a stronger connection with your team, foster friendship, and show empathy by keeping up with what's going on in their lives. Be open to your team's side-hustles. So, you might think it's counterintuitive to encourage your team to have a side-hustle because it distracts them from their work at your agency. Yet, it's these side-hustles that fuel your team's passion and purpose. When you are open to supporting other projects that aren't in direct competition with your agency, you help your employees feel engaged in work and in life. This can fulfill their desires and keep them from moving on to other employers or projects.

    • 24 min
    How to Get Your First Few Digital Agency Clients

    How to Get Your First Few Digital Agency Clients

    Are you still struggling to score the first few agency clients? Or maybe you've scored them, but now you feel like you're stuck handling them and not growing. Making it past those first few agency road bumps is difficult. And finding your first clients and figuring out how to use them to springboard your growth is the biggest initial road bump. But finding those clients doesn't have to be a nightmare. You just have to get a little creative. He's on the show to talk about a cool strategy for landing the first five clients and how his agency took off from there.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    Why sometimes even the best agency team members quit. How to score your first few clients. #1 thing to do after you secure your first digital agency clients. Today, I talked with Benjamin Arabov, Founder and CEO of Pure Digital — an agency specializing in PPC, ad design, and influencers. Benjamin is passionate, hardworking, and above all, dedicated. When his brother told him about an agency internship while he was in college, he pounced on the opportunity. From there, he moved into full-time while taking night classes.
    Why Sometimes Even the Best Agency Team Members Quit Keeping your agency employees can be the hardest part of your initial growth. Replacing team members isn't cheap. In the past, I've talked about how you can dominate employee retention using a variety of methods like profit-sharing and killer training processes.
    But here's the thing. Even if you give your team members big chunks of cash, it doesn't mean that they're all going to stay. There's no way to prevent employees from leaving. Some people just want out. And I'm not talking about those poor performers you should be firing already. I'm talking about some of your best workers. They may want out.
    In Benjamin's case, he was crushing it at his first agency job, but he wanted more. Born from a long line of entrepreneurs he decided to chase his own dream and create his startup agency. You should be prepared to lose anyone. And you should have a backup plan in case your most valuable employees up-and-leave.
    How to Score The First Few Agency Clients The hardest clients you'll ever land are your first ones. You need incoming cash to fuel agency growth. You may have clients in mind. But you don't have past client results to show off and win them over. Why should they even look your way? Benjamin says his agency's early growth was largely due to referrals and a super successful email campaign.
    If you want to grow early, you have to get scrappy. You need to flex some of those creative muscles. Back in 2015, Benjamin sent out an email campaign offering a performance review (audit),  that scored him 5 BIG clients. Let's be honest — that may not work in 2019. Audits have been done to death. But you can identify your own Foot in the Door offer and create a winning email campaign surrounding it.
    #1 Thing to Do After You Secure Your First Agency Clients When you finally figure out that magic formula to get a few initial clients (call in some favors if you have to!), you need to do something ASAP. You need to hire some people. You don't want to be the person making all the creatives for this account.
    Because you'll get stuck and unable to scale your agency to the next level. When you spend all your time on those first few clients you put yourself in a prison and you're chained to client work. But when you hire creatives or project managers, you are free to work on business development. You want to scale. We all have different agency goals. You probably want more than just those first few clients. And you need people to make that happen.
    What role should you hire first? The role you're worst at! Eventually, you want to move away from creatives unless you have an agency partner who can handle the business side.
    Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your

    • 15 min
    How to Create an Agency Business Plan That Works

    How to Create an Agency Business Plan That Works

    Are you thinking of starting an agency, but are not sure where to start? Do you have a business model but are struggling to find your core values? In today's market, starting a digital agency can be an exciting and prosperous opportunity. Knowing your brand's message and how to share it with others is the key to standing out and not be another "me too" agency.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    How to find and retain agency employees. #1 key to creating an agency business plan. How to find your agency's true north. Today, I got the opportunity to sit down with Jonathan Peischl, co-owner of SPLICE Agency. Jonathan started his career as a medical writer, but quickly realized he was destined for the digital ad agency world. After a couple of moves (and a major move across the United States), Jonathan and his business partners realized the companies they were working for were missing a few key components necessary for the industry to survive. Together, the four men created a business plan that has transformed SPLICE from a four-man operation to a company of over 30 employees in just three years. Find out Jonathan's keys to success here.
    How to Find and Retain Agency Employees When you are creating a business, your employees are going to be one of the key components of your businesses' success. It doesn't matter how great you are at everything else, if your employees are constantly jumping ship for the next bright and shiny opportunity, your agency is going to sink, fast. So how do you make your employees want to work with you?
    It begins with culture. Promote a culture you want to live by. Jonathan says he wants his employees to have time to pursue their passions. Whether this means letting your employees work from home or leave early to pick up their kids, show your employees that you value their creative input, as well as their lives outside of the business. Really live by this culture. Don't just put it on a whiteboard and be done with it. Creating culture employees want to work in requires care and feeding every day. It begins with great leadership promoting your company's values.
    #1 Key to Creating an Agency Business Plan The thing about digital agencies is many begin without a solid business plan in place. They start the business and then five years later create a business plan. If you are going into a startup trying to create a business plan from scratch, you want a plan that sets you up for success. The number one way to do this is to develop a plan that works well for both your clients and your team. Once you have your philosophy, you surround it with a set of core values for which you want your company to stand by. When you balance your vision of what you what for your business with what you provide your clients, you will always be able to find your true north.
    How to Find Your Agency's True North Your true north is where you want your business to grow — where your vision should be focused every day. But how do you find your true north? How do you know what direction is the right direction? It all begins with soul searching.
    Cleanse yourself from the processes of past employers: It's so easy to get caught up in values and ideas from previous companies and leaders. To find your true north, you need to really sit down and think about what's important to you. Find what makes you stand out from your competitors: You won't always be able to compete on price or cash flow, so it's important that your values and offerings stand out from the crowd. What can you provide that no one else can? How can you position yourself beyond just a commodity? Gut check yourself: You don't want to come up with a vision or idea that is so lofty that nobody can pull it off. That's a way to set yourself up for failure. You have to keep your feet on the ground to some degree. Your true north and guiding values will be a key to you

    • 25 min

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