62 episodes

The Agency Leadership Podcast provides insights for agency owners and executives. Co-hosts Chip Griffin and Gini Dietrich share practical advice and industry news relevant to PR and marketing agency leaders.

Agency Leadership Podcast Chip Griffin and Gini Dietrich

    • Marketing

The Agency Leadership Podcast provides insights for agency owners and executives. Co-hosts Chip Griffin and Gini Dietrich share practical advice and industry news relevant to PR and marketing agency leaders.

    How to spot red flags in agency prospecting, hiring, and more

    How to spot red flags in agency prospecting, hiring, and more

    Learning how to spot — and handle — red flags can make a big difference in your agency business. Knowing what to look for, what not to ignore, and what action to take can mean the difference between getting saddled with a difficult client, bad hire, or otherwise challenging situation.
    Chip talks with Gini about an article she recently wrote for Spin Sucks that explored red flags in new business conversations. The co-hosts then looked at other situations that might generate red flags and offered some practical advice for agency leaders in addressing them.
    * How to Spot Red Flags In New Business Relationships (Spin Sucks)
    The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
    GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich.
    CHIP: And I’m sorry, I was distracted there because Gini was like dancing,
    GINI: dancing in my chair.
    CHIP: It was it was a little disconcerting. Those of you who are listening, have no idea what I’m talking about. Because, again, no video, and we’re not going to start
    GINI: well, and I wouldn’t be dancing in my chair, if we were going to be on video for everybody. So it’s only for your entertainment.
    CHIP: Well, I’m not sure how to will simply move on. And perhaps perhaps I might see that as a red flag,
    GINI: maybe it is a red flag, which is what we are going to talk about today. So I wrote about on spin sucks, red flags and how to notice them and in any situation, not just client relationships, but you know, if you’re interviewing for a new job or looking for a promotion, or whatever happens to be but for this purpose, we’ll talk about red flags with prospects or existing clients and what to do about that. them. And somebody commented on the Instagram post that we did on it that he needed to hear it. And I was like, Yeah, me too, which is why I wrote it. Because I’m not always so good at it. And I see red flags, and I’m like, Oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine. And then I ignore it. And then it’s not fine. So, yeah, I wrote that just as much for me as for everyone else.
    CHIP: Here’s the problem as entrepreneurs, we all believe that we are so good that we can overcome those red flags there. And so you know, we sit there and or at least I know I do. I won’t speak for you, Jenny. But I sit there and I look at a problem like, I can solve that. Yeah, I know. Other people have gone before me and tried to solve this and they didn’t know why. I can do it. They just don’t be me, wasn’t me. I have to tell you, most of the time, I’m not nearly as good as I think I am. And if several others have failed before me. The odds are
    GINI: probably a pretty good sign. Yes, pretty
    CHIP: good science. I need to pay more attention to red flags too.
    GINI: Yeah, I think it’s a well, it’s an innate human thing. But also, I mean, there have been movies written or made and books written about fiction books written about this, because we think that we can fix things. And we cannot, in most cases,
    CHIP: yeah. And and in the agency space, there’s the added level of nervousness over the traditional feast or famine cycles. And so you know, you you have an opportunity to work with a client or you have an existing client, and they’ve got red flags all over the place, and yet you’re like, wow, but with their check clear, because the only red flags I’m worried about are their checklist. I’ve seen agencies who don’t ignore even that red flag, and and then are surprised when the money doesn’t actually hit their accounts. And yeah,

    • 23 min
    How to handle nonprofit pricing and discounts

    How to handle nonprofit pricing and discounts

    From time to time, every agency gets approached by a nonprofit about discounted pricing. Many vendors of other goods and services extend these types of special deals, so these organizations aren’t crazy to ask.
    Chip and Gini discuss how agency owners should handle these types of requests. It is easy to get caught in a bad situation by providing what seems like a small 10% discount, only to see that erode all of the agency’s profit margin on the work.
    There’s nothing wrong with doing pro bono work or even offering a discount. The key is to understand all of the ramifications of what you’re doing and the impact on your agency’s finances.
    In this episode, you will hear some tips on how to make relationships with nonprofits a win-win scenario for agency and client alike, as well as pitfalls to try to avoid.
    * Guide to Project Budgeting
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
    GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich.
    CHIP: And we’re here today to talk about discounting what you pay to listen to this podcast, you will get a full 50% discount this week from 000. Now, but it as agencies, we do give discounts. And in this particular case, we want to talk about nonprofit pricing to include discounts but other scenarios as well, because it’s a topic that a lot of agencies are approached about. It’s it’s commonplace in other environments for businesses to offer nonprofit discounts. And so nonprofits in some respects have sort of come to expect them. And so naturally, they asked their agency for a discount as well. And so what do you do when you have someone come to you and say, do you have a nonprofit discount?
    GINI: I think there are a few ways you can handle this. You know, I think as a small agency, it’s hard to offer a discount, right? You can’t say to your team, okay, well, I’m only going to pay you half of your salary for this, but then I’ll pay your full salary for that. So I think it’s a little bit of a challenge. You certainly can do it. And I would argue that you should do it if if you want to do it, that it should be with nonprofits that are aligned with the other kinds of work that you do, not just any nonprofit that asked, but I think there are also some other ways that you can get around offering a quote unquote, discount. For instance, I saw that in the PR news Slack channel that there’s a PR firm in on the East Coast that offers free communications training to nonprofits servicing their area, which I think is really interesting. So they do. They do applications, they have an informational session, and then they choose from the applications they choose who will go through that it’s six months, and they walk away with a communications plan for their nonprofit but they’re the ones who created it. So they have some ownership in it too. So I think there are some ways that you can work with nonprofits that don’t require you to slash your prices and not you know, get paid for your value, but also give a lot of value to a nonprofit, especially if it’s something that you believe in.
    CHIP: And I think that’s a, that’s a good point you make it’s not, I think it’s a bad idea to have a straight across the board, nonprofit discount policy in your agency that is highly unlikely to work. And it’s, you know, it’s really fraught with problems because as you say, you can’t just pay your team less. So, you know, if your, if your costs to implement the work remain the same and your revenue comes down, all of a sudden, you know, killing your profitability, which, if you’re not careful about it, you’re not doing it thoughtfully, you know,

    • 17 min
    Performance-based compensation and other creative pricing tactics for agencies

    Performance-based compensation and other creative pricing tactics for agencies

    One of the toughest things for agencies to get right is pricing. If it is too high, you scare away good prospects. If it is too low, you sacrifice the profitability and sustainability of the business.
    Agencies and their advisers have come up with all sorts of creative approaches. Performance-based pricing. Value-based pricing. Equity-based compensation. It goes on and on.
    Chip and Gini talk about some of the options, as well as the underlying motivations of both clients and agencies in seeking new models and approaches.
    * Pricing and sales question (Reddit)
    The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin,
    GINI: and I’m Gini Dietrich,
    CHIP: and we’re getting creative today. Very creative about pricing. Pricing show itself, the show will be the same bland, boring thing that it always is.
    GINI: We’re not bland and boring.
    CHIP: True, we’re more of a train wreck than anything else. Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes. But what we will try not to be a train wreck for the next 20 or 25 minutes or however long we run with this. But we are going to talk about pricing and this is yet another one of those questions that’s come that comes from Reddit. You know, I think we need to get off of Reddit Gini and look at a another source for questions. Because
    GINI: I mean, to be fair, even though I don’t like it, that agency thread is pretty. It’s pretty good. There’s some pretty good, there’s some bad stuff in there too. But there’s some pretty good stuff in there.
    CHIP: There are very good questions and a lot of very, very bad. Yes,
    GINI: yes. Very bad answers. Yes.
    CHIP: Somebody answers something fairness, some good answers. But yeah, some Yeah, really careful what so hopefully, we’re giving you better advice than you would get on Reddit. But the questions do come from there. And in this case, it is a pricing and sales question. And it starts out it’s common knowledge that performance based compensation or guarantees are logistically a bad idea for the vast majority of agencies, but pricing related sales tactic tactics work from any other industries. I’m curious, any of you mentioned or push things like no commitments, cancelled any time project based versus retainer, minor free trials or services limited or partial refunds, etc, etc, etc. So this is really a question of how do you price and and how do you make the prospect feel like there’s minimal or modest risk in seeking you out as an agency? I think that’s really what the question is getting at.
    GINI: Yeah. And I also think that we’re in a world of instant gratification and software as a service where you get free trials and you handle refund and you know all those things. But for the most part we have, we’re selling our time. So giving a refund or providing guarantees on things that are outside of our control, probably not the best idea
    CHIP: for free trials, bad bad idea, Bad idea don’t do work for free. You know, guarantees I’m a little bit softer on I think it’d be very careful with them and and minimize them. But at the same time, I’ve offered guarantees in both software and service businesses in the past. And I have to tell you, I have had clients cash in on them exactly zero times and over two decades of running businesses. So I think that guarantees can be something that you could use but I think really the question here that was a little bit more interesting to explore is how do you are there more interesting ways to price more creative ways to price that can help you make more money as an...

    • 22 min
    Growing your agency through an acquihire

    Growing your agency through an acquihire

    Buyers purchase agencies for all sorts of reasons — to expand geographic reach, extend capabilities, grow revenue, or pad profits. Since it’s a talent-based industry, the other reason that agencies may be sold is for their people.
    When the primary reason for an agency purchase is the team itself, it is often referred to as an “acquihire.” It’s something that has been popular for many years among tech companies in Silicon Valley who often buy small, struggling startups to quickly augment their engineering teams.
    But even without a fancy name, these types of acquisitions have been taking place in the agency space for a long time, too.
    Chip and Gini talk about how acquihires work, when they are a good idea, and how to structure it by looking at both sides of the transaction (buyer and seller).
    * Scaling Creative Agency with Freelancers Client Book (Reddit)
    * Agency M&A Transactions List
    The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
    GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich.
    CHIP: And we’re here today to hire you you the listener we are going to acquihire you bring you on board and make you the third co host of this podcast
    GINI: as it well I was gonna say as if it could use a third co host but we do that on inside PR so I guess
    CHIP: yeah, and and you know the in that acquihire, we will gladly pay you exactly what we pay ourselves. Nothing. Yes.
    GINI: Big Fat zero.
    CHIP: Yes, that hand gesture did absolutely nothing, Gini because this is not a video pod. I said yes. Yes. Those of you in listener land, which is all of you because again, we don’t make the video available for really good reasons. She held up a zero.
    GINI: And I said
    CHIP: yes. So this is yet another in the topics that comes from Gini’s favorite websites in the world. Nobody She would rather be other than read it. In fact, she hangs out there even when she’s not in the agency, or the agency subreddit.
    GINI: That is not true. No, there is no read it for me. No, no read it for you. It scares the crap out of me. People are mean, I don’t like mean people. I’m not good for me. It’s bad enough. I have to read about our president. I do not need to be anywhere where people are me.
    CHIP: There we go wandering down the political land. I know. Stay out of
    GINI: we’re about to go to war. So
    CHIP: yes, and for those of you listening, hopefully, we have not already gone to war. This is being recorded in early January, but will not broadcast until I don’t know late January only because we’re actually ahead of the game for changing and recording the shows we are we’re not recording and then having me try to rush it out the same day. So look
    GINI: at us getting ahead. Even with the holidays in there, we got ahead, look at us.
    CHIP: Well, in fairness, it’s probably because of the holidays. We took two weeks off from recording and republishing over the holiday. So it allowed us to get a little bit ahead of the game. But any case, so this post on Reddit is it was about scaling creative agency with freelancers in their client book. And so the question is, I’m curious if any of you who have experienced hiring a smaller Freelancer in the same field who already has a book of clients, and so while this post doesn’t use the term acquihire, this is about acquihires and acquihires are something that are being talked about more and more frequently in the agency world.

    • 22 min
    Managing agency employee utilization and capacity for profitable growth

    Managing agency employee utilization and capacity for profitable growth

    Many agencies struggle with how to flex their capacity up and down as clients and projects come and go. Capacity planning, effective employee utilization, and building flexibility into your business model are all topics covered in this episode.
    Chip and Gini stress the importance of elasticity to be able to take on new clients and handle emergency projects. Leveraging contractors and freelancers in addition to in-house staff is one approach, but there also needs to be effective resource management of your employees to manage workload.
    Finally, the co-hosts look at how to set expectations, both internally and externally to get the most out of your efforts to maximize capacity and profitability.
    * Project-based Capacity Planning Woes
    * Guide to agency project budgeting (with free Excel template for staff utilization)
    The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
    GINI: And I’m Gini Dietrich.
    CHIP: And we’re going to see if we have the capacity over the next 30 minutes or less to discuss our topic of the day. And what is that topic, Gini?
    GINI: Our topic of the day is capacity and utilization of our team.
    CHIP: And our team is just the two of us. We are you are stuck with us for however long you decide not to hit stop on this podcast
    GINI: after that introduction. I might hit stop if I were you.
    CHIP: Except I think this is a very important topic. So hopefully people will get value out of it despite corny entry point.
    GINI: Yes.
    CHIP: You know, it is what it is. So let’s talk about capacity utilization because that really goes to the core of whether you can build a build a profitable and grow agency.
    GINI: Yep. And I think it’s one of the probably the one of the biggest challenges that we have, which is how do we figure out not just capacity planning and utilization for retainers, but project work as well. And think about okay. If somebody you know, and at different levels to right, it’s somebody who’s Junior levels, are they supposed to be billing 40 hours a week? 47 and a half hours a week, 35 hours a week? What does that have to be? And then all the way up how many hours a week should we be billing? So figure out from that perspective, and then you have to throw in the wrench of well, we don’t build by the hour me, Bill. We, we do again, we usually have retainers, and we, you know, of course, we track our time, but we don’t build by the hour. So then you have to throw that into and figure out okay, what if I have this person doing this and this person doing this? And you know, how do I figure out when we can bring projects in? Do they have some downtime where things are cyclical with retainer clients. You it’s, you know, you have this big huge Google spreadsheet where you’re trying to figure all this stuff out. And it’s not an easy undertaking.
    CHIP: I mean, fundamentally, agencies are a people business. And yes, every agency says our differentiators are people know, first of all, it’s not because it says it’s not a differentiator, and everybody has people. But the reality is that every agency is selling time, you may not build by the hour, but you’re you’re selling hours. And it’s very, you know, this is not like widgets, you can’t just call up Amazon and have them send you another 10 widgets so that you’ve got them in stock or whatever you have to, to really manage your team’s time because if you’re over utilize...

    • 21 min
    How to hold agency employees accountable

    How to hold agency employees accountable

    Agencies are fundamentally a people business, but managing people is always a challenge. How do you get the best performance and the right results for clients? And what do you do when an individual falls short?
    That’s topic that Chip and Gini explore on this week’s episode. It all stemmed from a post on Reddit asking about “consequences” for agency employees. While the hosts don’t like that term, the concept is still an important one to explore.
    * Seeking advice on creating consequences (Reddit post)
    * r/agency
    The following is a computer-generated transcript. Please listen to the audio to confirm accuracy.
    CHIP: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Agency Leadership Podcast. I’m Chip Griffin.
    GINI: And I am Gini Dietrich.
    CHIP: And if you do not listen carefully to this episode, there will be consequences, won’t there, Gini?
    GINI: Yes, indeed, you might get a timeout or have to spend time in your room or grounded but yes, there will be consequences for sure.
    CHIP: Grounding. I think grounding is a very good idea. And, and the actual topic of the show is indeed consequences, but it’s not for you. The listener is for agency employees. Yes, and it’s yet another topic that comes from Gini’s favorite website in the world
    GINI: favorite Reddit site. reddits. But I have to say So after you make fun of me, which, you know, I it scares me, I still little spent a little time digging deeper into the agency subreddit. Is that correct?
    CHIP: That is it’s a subreddit. Very
    GINI: good. Thank you. Thank you. And I found some really great content. I mean, there’s some good stuff in there. So I am wrong, I’m still not going to go to the homepage. And it’s still not going to be my, my social network of choice. But the agency subreddit is pretty interesting. So one of the things
    CHIP: it’s a nice place for finding people asking questions that the answers oftentimes are not very good. So I’m not sure that I would encourage folks to go there read the challenge or and run run with what they get out of the four or five answers that are there. Some of the suggestions are really really horrible advice. But it but it is it gets you thinking and for the purposes of this show, yes. That’s a great thing.
    GINI: Yes. So one of the things I found is seeking advice. I’m creating consequences slash accountability within our company. I kind of like accountability better than consequence, especially with employees because you know, you are working with grownups.
    CHIP: Yeah. And you think Yeah, consequences is I think it’s a really harsh term and, and probably suggest with this particular individual is coming from in their management style, which is probably not the best place to come from.
    GINI: So pretty much what they said was I’m part of a leadership team at a small agency, and we’re struggling to find the best way to help our accountability while maintaining classic positive culture. We all have a lot on our plates with work since we’re so small, so oftentimes to do’s will not get done, or people will not follow through with what they said they originally could handle. We’ve identified that we need to have better accountability as well as consequences if things aren’t done properly. However, unlike big companies, we can’t just afford to fire people if they make a few mistakes.
    CHIP: I think that’s I think we’ve got the gist of the journey. And and it is it is a good question because it is it is a management challenge that you have in agencies is, you know, trying to figure out,

    • 22 min

Customer Reviews

Ken Schulz ,


This is a program I look forward to each week. With each episode I'm learning new things or being reminded of things I know but should be paying more attention to in my day-to-day. It's a terrific guide for any agency owner looking to grow revenues and build stronger businesses.

RoninMarketeer ,

The Insight You Need To Run an Agency

I'm biased, I've followed both of the hosts' work so I know what they bring to the table. Worth listening to.

MatthiasV1976 ,

Great podcast

This podcast really fills a void. There are so many best practice marketing & comms podcasts out there. Great to see a show that focuses on the business side of running an agency. This will now be one of my must listen to podcasts.

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