412 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

    • Business
    • 4.8 • 115 Ratings

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.

    How an Agency Grew Fast to Over $4 Million and Sold Quick

    How an Agency Grew Fast to Over $4 Million and Sold Quick

    Hollis Carter is an entrepreneur and avid skier who, after founding many companies in his career, recently became the co-founder of the Baby Bathwater Institute, a membership-based community of entrepreneurs with a focus on cultivating natural, mutually beneficial relationships. Since his business relied on many in-person events, it was quite affected by the Covid 19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. During this time of cancellations and being stuck at home, Hollis thought of a way to add value to the members during this new situation and started to offer a series of services with a performance-based model. This model quickly grew and he ended up selling it before actually having to fully build an agency. In this interview, he talked about the process of building and growing an agency to over $4 million and then selling it, all during a pandemic.
    3 Golden Nuggets Growing an agency during Covid. Before the pandemic, Hollis was organizing many in-person events. Once they were canceled because of this new situation, he realized he had a perfect opportunity to offer a new service that would offer value to members of his mastermind. There was already a business relationship and he knew their products and believed in them. So he got ready to work under a performance-based model. “It was really very simple,” he says. The offer included podcast interviews, email lists, and content sites. He spent on setting up all the automation and tracking and found someone to handle that. And of course, under this model he was working with clients, not for them. Simplifying the offer. How can you make things simpler for you? First of all, don’t just take a good deal. This agency had the advantage of having a group of companies whose product they trusted. Even then, our guest says, they took people who were so product-focused that we were going to get the content and the angles they needed. People who knew they needed to be told how to market this product. They also let clients use the work they were creating and focused on the 10% that drove revenue. However, there are some things they would do differently a second time around: setting a flat fee and, instead of complicated spreadsheets just telling the client “here’s the number that came in, this is our cut,” would save a lot of time. Finally, figuring out how to set expectations of timeline, having a written document with a timeline that the client can reread instead of emailing you questions. Pulling from other industries. Hollis believes in taking knowledge from other industries into your own. He makes sure to have participants from different types of businesses in his masterminds and sustains there's always nuggets that you can pull from other industry practices that might not exist in a niche that you're opening, like what he has learned about hiring from the hotel space. He encourages others to give themselves a chance step outside what they know and learn something new that they can implement in their business from an unexpected source. Sponsors and Resources
    Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to ninjacat.io/masterclass to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.
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    Growing an Agency Fast to Over $4 Million and Selling Quick Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here. I have another amazing show guest. We're going to talk about how when COVID hit, they formed an agency and ramped it up to over $4 million and sold it, during COVID. So it's a really cool episode and you're going to enjoy my guest. So let's go ahead and get into it.
    Hey, Hollis. Welcome to the show.
    Hollis: [00:00:29] Hey, man. Thanks for having me.
    Jason: [00:00:30] Pleasure to have you on. So for the people t

    • 20 min
    How to Land a Major Brand Client and Kick Start Your Agency Growth

    How to Land a Major Brand Client and Kick Start Your Agency Growth

    Do you want to know how to land major brands? Bill Durrant had been working for a big agency for years when he decided to leave and work freelance for a while. That's when opportunity knocked and old Nestle client asked him to work on his new account, Clif Bar. This is the client that really started his agency Ex Verus, which helps brands develop a paid media strategy that drives visible sales growth and merchandise those results to leadership. In today's episode, he sits down with Jason to talk about how good timing has as much to do as being good, what is it like to work with major brands like Coca-Cola, why it is so important for him to develop a relationship with clients, and
    3 Golden Nuggets How to get in with the major brands? For Bill, getting a major brand's attention was all about timing and also making a good impression. He had been working at a big agency and worked on the Nestle account. He eventually decided to leave and start working freelance when an old Nestle client called him to handle the marketing for his new account, Clif Bar. What tells people who want to land a major client is that within these same organizations there are many brand managers in charge of growth stage brands that need creative input and are willing to work with smaller agencies that can bring some new and interesting input. Work on your relationship with clients. When his agency got their first client, they set the goal to start building relationships with as many people within the organization as possible. They also started getting introduced to people from other departments and other products, with the possibility of working with them too. Also, the same people that he worked with during those years eventually went on to other companies and called them to start growing those brands. Good clients will take you everywhere they go. This is why Bill values his relationship with them and even makes it a point to fly out every once in a while and touch base with his most valuable clients. The three-tier approach. With client relationships being such a core element of business, you have to make sure that clients build this relationship with the agency more so than with a key member of the team. Team members will leave sometimes for different reasons, and the client shouldn’t feel like their communication with the agency will change for the worst because of it. This is why Bill has established a three-tier approach where there’s a senior leadership level, junior planners, and associate planners. In case someone in one of those levels leaves, there’s still two other points of contact that have developed a relationship with the client. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.
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    Landing Major Brands and How Good Clients Will Take You Everywhere Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. I am excited I have another amazing guest on the show. We're going to talk about the landing big well-known brands. Because a lot of you have been reaching out, how do we get these big brands? Like Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and all these major brands? Well, on today's episode, we're going to talk about that with this amazing guest. So let's go ahead and get it.
    Hey, Bill. Welcome to the show.
    Bill: [00:00:34] Hey, thanks so much for having me, Jason.
    Jason: [00:00:36] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So for the ones that have not heard of you yet tell us who you are and what do you do?
    Bill: [00:00:47] Alright, I am Bill Durrant and I'm the president and founder of Ex Verus Media. We're based out in Los Angeles and we are a paid media agency focused in that space, uh, rea

    • 23 min
    Can You Use NFTs To Create More Engagement For Your Digital Agency?

    Can You Use NFTs To Create More Engagement For Your Digital Agency?

    Are you thinking about the ways you could use NFTs for your digital agency? After working in nine agencies, Kent Lewis decided to start Anvil Media in 2000, which is nowadays one of the oldest search engine marketing agencies in the Pacific Northwest that specializes in analytics, SEO, paid media, and organic social media strategy. Last year, during the NFT boom, Kent wrote a not so serious press release about this phenomenon and got the attention of companies wanted to learn how to use these one-of-a-kind digital assets. Just like that, he got into the NFT world and is developing some projects around them. Today he joins Jason to talk about what are NFTs, how some companies started using them, the possibilities to further develop their potential, and how can digital agencies get in on the action too.
    3 Golden Nuggets What are NFTs? There’s been a lot of talk about non-fungible tokens since their boom last year. In essence, it is is a unit of data stored on a blockchain that certifies a digital asset to be unique and therefore not interchangeable. We’ve seen sold for hundreds of thousands, but how can companies use them? Some early adopters saw success from selling digital items to create brand awareness (Pizza Hut selling digital pizzas, Pringles selling a golden chip). But there’s still much room to continue innovating. How brands are using them. If the first step was brand engagement the future of NFTs for companies includes brand engagement and brand perception management. In this post-pandemic world of much more remote work and remote communication, it makes sense to add digital products to your offerings. The future of NFTs includes its gamification, meaning tokens, rewards, exclusive access, and more. How can agencies get in on the action? As we’ve seen, agencies can help their clients jump on the NFT trend to create brand awareness and engagement. But some agencies are themselves starting to use NFTs. Access to exclusive rewards is a good way to create interest in your brand. Some agencies are starting to do this by the tokenization of their time. For example, someone that gets a good deal on one of your agency’s tokens could get a good deal for an hour of your time. Kent also recommends paying close attention to how Gary Vaynerchuk is innovating with NFTs. Sponsors and Resources Wix: Today's episode is sponsored by the Wix Partner Program. Being a Wix Partner is ideal for freelancers and digital agencies that design and develop websites for their clients. Check out Wix.com/Partners to learn more and become a member of the community for free.
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    Using NFTs Like Gary Vee To Create Brand Engagement Jason: [00:00:00] Hey, what's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here and have another amazing guest for you. We're going to talk about how your agency can use NFTs. That's right. And we're going to tell his story and so you can do that. So let's go ahead and jump into the episode.
    Hey, Ken. Welcome to the show.
    Kent: [00:00:25] Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.
    Jason: [00:00:27] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on. So tell us who are you and what do you do?
    Kent: [00:00:32] So my name is Kent Lewis. I am based in Portland, Oregon since 95, you know, marketing PR background. But in 96, I got involved in the internet, started optimizing websites before Google was a thing.
    And I've been a part of nine agencies, founded two, co-founded two. But when I was fired the second time from an agency that I was a key manager in, I decided I'm probably unemployable. Better do my own thing. So started out in 2000 with Anvil Media, as a consultancy and started bringing in employees in 03. And have been active and keeping it a relatively boutique-sized digital marketing agency since then.
    And when I'm not doing the agency thing, you know, I'm trying to get outside. That's the great thing about Portland, we're an hour and a half from the ocean, from

    • 19 min
    Why an $80 Million Agency Owner Had to Recalibrate Ambition to Grow

    Why an $80 Million Agency Owner Had to Recalibrate Ambition to Grow

    Are you wondering how to go beyond the six or seven-figure mark and continue your agency growth? After graduating college with a Liberal Arts degree and an interest in advertising, Ben Wiener jumped at the opportunity to work at Wongdoody, an advertising agency that specializes in UX, as well as customers experience and employee experience. He continued to work there for 28 years and is now the CEO of the recently sold agency. He sat down to talk with Jason about the importance of the pipeline to keep your agency going beyond the million-dollar mark, how he goes about building the leadership at his agency, how to recalibrate your ambition to keep going after reaching eight figures, and his current role at the company.
    3 Golden Nuggets
    Beyond the million. Many agency owners that reach the million-dollar mark have a hard time going beyond that level. In Ben’s experience, this entails a mind shift. It’s a point where you will need your new clients to be as big as your biggest client. Making the decision to stop taking small clients may be difficult and requires a lot of confidence on your next step, but you need to recognize that small clients take as much time as big clients and keep you from reaching that next level. This pipeline piece is key and you need to have a clear vision of what you want your client roster to look like. Building leaders. Hiring is one of the most important things agency owners do once their agency starts to see a certain level of growth. Once you’ve hired people t start doing the things you used to do you will need to start hiring people that do things you can’t do? How can you ensure they really know what they’re doing? Our guest believes sourcing talent from companies that are ahead of him in the growth curve is the best way to go about it. It provides credibility and, at the very least, they will be well trained. After you hire your leadership and empower them to make decisions, your job will become clearing the path for them to be able to focus on their jobs. Recalibrating your ambition. Getting to seven figures is the number one goal for many agency owners, and it might be so overwhelming to get there that you just think “I can’t believe I got here”. Ben argues that continuing your growth will require recalibrating your ambition, thinking how do I use eight figures as a platform to get to 10 figures? And what are the next set of changes that we are going to make? Of course, not everyone has eight or nine-figure ambitions and that’s ok. The things you love about your agency at $5 million will definitely not be there at $50 million. You have to be very clear on what you want going forward. YOUTUBE
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    Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.
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    Building Leaders and Recalibrating Your Ambition Will Help You Continue Your Growth Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, agency owners? Jason Swenk here, and I have an amazing guest on today's show. We're going to talk about what is the milestones that you'd go through in order to build an over $80 million agency. Yes, $80 million. I want you to sink that in because a lot of you are trying to get to the eight-figure mark or the nine-figure mark.
    So we're going to talk about the milestones that you go through. And I have an amazing guest who's been in the industry and been with Wongdoody for over 27 years. So let's go ahead and get into the episode.
    Hey, Ben. Welcome to the show.
    Ben: [00:00:45] Hi, how are you?
    Jason: [00:00:47] I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?
    Ben: [00:00:52] I am Ben Wiener. I am the CEO of Wongdoody, which is,

    • 31 min
    How One Agency Increased Revenue By 4X in Under One Year

    How One Agency Increased Revenue By 4X in Under One Year

    Are you willing to start saying no to wrong customers to see real change for your agency? Kerrie Luginbill is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Old Town Media, a Colorado-based agency that since its beginnings offered a unique and agile approach to web design, development, and marketing by providing customers a business-driven approach. Now they partner with companies to create and implement marketing strategies that connect with their audience and inspire action. Kerrie discusses how she increased revenue by 4X in under one year. And now, after 15 years in the business, her agency crafted a "no-fly" list for customers, identified their target client, and the growth that resulted from this move.
    3 Golden Nuggets Saying no to wrong prospects. Kerrie and her team really noticed a difference once they identified the right target customer for them and started to say no to the ones that did not fit that target. It was what catalyzed the growth, she says. Of course, it’s not easy turning down business, but they found that saying yes to the wrong kind of customer really reduces the amount of space you have for the right ones. Especially when it comes to clients that are disrespecting your team. Learning to say no can be a way for you to protect your team and a catalyst for growth. The no-fly list. With that in mind, Kerrie and her agency began creating a no-fly list, writing down all the similarities that made some customers not fit in the target customer model. They started identifying red flags, like referencing another company’s vision to explain their own. They wanted to work with companies that had a clear vision of where they wanted to go. Their biggest focus was value, because ideal clients must have a lifetime value customer that can afford them the margin to have an engagement with them that's large enough for them to drive value. Shifting to value-based pricing. It's very hard to get to value-based pricing when you're working with a small margin. Once you start saying no to low-margin clients you will start to identify people that share your values and with which you can form a strong engagement and a strong relationship. You can find that those clients are even easier to work with. This way, you start to reduce stress on your team, which helps reduce turnover. This is when you can start shifting to value-based pricing. Sponsors and Resources Ninja Cat: Today's episode is sponsored by Ninja Cat, a digital marketing performance management platform where you can unify your data, create beautiful, insightful reports and presentations that will help you grow your business. Head over to ninjacat.io/masterclass to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.
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    Saying No to the Wrong Customers and Shifting to Value-Based Pricing Jason: [00:00:00] Welcome, agency owners. I'm Jason Swenk and here's another episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass. And on today's episode, I have an amazing guest who went from $500,000 in revenue to over $2 million in just under a year. And we're going to talk about the one thing that she actually did at her agency in order to accomplish this.
    Now, before we jump into the episode. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to take a screenshot of the podcast. And then I want you to upload it to social media and tag us so I can give you a shout-out for listening to the show. Let's go ahead and bring Kerrie on.
    Hey, Kerrie. Welcome to the show.
    Kerrie: [00:00:43] Hello. How's it going?
    Jason: [00:00:45] Awesome. I'm excited to have you on, so tell us who you are and what do you do?
    Kerrie: [00:00:50] Yeah, my name is Kerrie Luginbill and I am a partner and the Chief Strategy Officer at a creative agency in Fort Collins, Colorado. So just about 45 minutes North of Denver.
    Jason: [00:01:03] Awesome. I'll uh, we, we just moved to Colorado in Durango, so I'm starting to just try to figure out where everything uh is, but

    • 17 min
    How to Create a Profitable Agency Machine That You Can Eventually Sell

    How to Create a Profitable Agency Machine That You Can Eventually Sell

    Do you want to create a machine that ensures agency growth? David Butler was working as a special ed teacher when he decided to try his luck in the real estate business. He later created an agency looking to reinvent himself during the 2009 financial crisis. With Jason's help, he was able to grow and ultimately sell his business. David now enjoys a new lifestyle and focuses on his family. He joined Jason on the podcast to talk about how he implemented the "Netflix model" to prevent client cancellations, how he streamlined the company's hiring process to put the right people on the right roles, and how making a white label agreement with a larger company was the key to really grow his agency.
    3 Golden Nuggets Creating a machine. Once David started to see his agency grow organically from his first apartment management company client, he implemented the “Netflix model” where he charges a very competitive fee to make sure the agency won’t lose customers. How did he keep it profitable? “I figured property managers would be so busy they wouldn’t utilize us all the time,” he says, “But they would still need us.” Of course, he made sure to estimate how many clients they could handle. Streamlining the hiring process. Being a big believer on the principle of hiring your weaknesses, David hired a local company to take care of the customer service and clients are continually amazed by how quickly they get a call back. He also believes in the importance of putting the right people on the right positions and made sure to create a hiring process that would eliminate unfit candidates. “It’s stupidly simple,” he told Jason. The big change. The Netflix model failed when it came to hiring a highly paid sales team. This is when he started considering a white label agreement with a larger company. It was not easy, the entire process took about two years. However, this company had 350 sales agents and this was the key to the growth. Now, his agency was taking 100-200 new clients each month and he could continue to focus on hiring the right people. Gusto: Today's episode is sponsored by Gusto, an all-in-one people platform for payroll, benefits, HR where you can unify your data. Gusto automatically applies your payroll taxes and directly deposits your team's paychecks, freeing you up to work on your business. Head over to gusto.com/agency to enjoy an exclusive offer for podcast listeners.
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    White Label Your Sales Team to Create a Machine and Streamline Your Hiring Process Jason: [00:00:00] What's up, everybody? Jason Swenk here. And I got one of my friends that ran an amazing agency for a number of different years. Now he went from being a special ed teacher to owning apartments, to owning an agency, to selling it. And now he's financially free and just travels and does what he does and has a ball doing it.
    And today we're going to talk about his journey. So possibly you can learn a couple of little nuggets from him and do the same thing. So let's go ahead and get into the show.
    Hey, David. Welcome to the show.
    David: [00:00:38] Hey, Jason. Good to see you.
    Jason: [00:00:39] Yeah, man. I'm excited to have you on and uh, and tell your story. So, you have a pretty fascinating story that always amazed me and everyone else that heard it. So, and I'm not going to give you justice on telling it. So tell us kind of who you are and tell us a little bit about that trajectory from special ed teacher, apartment, to owning an agency and then selling it.
    David: [00:01:02] Gosh, I’ll try to keep it into a nutshell. I was a high school special ed teacher for about 10 years and coaching high school sports and then a good friend of mine gave me the, um, the really famous old infomercial Carleton Sheets… Uh, how to buy real estate with no money down. And, uh, I listened to it on cassette tape in my car as I drove to work and I use the basis of that to buy my first hou

    • 25 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
115 Ratings

115 Ratings

malfoxley ,

Great show!

Jason highlights all aspects of growing a business and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!

Aidan Sowa ,

Awesome Podcast

Loved being on the show!

Clarisse Gomez ,

Awesome Podcast!!!

Jason, host of the Smart Agency Master Class podcast, highlights all aspects of management and more in this can’t miss podcast! The host and expert guests offer insightful advice and information that is helpful to anyone that listens!

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