300 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
    • 4.8 • 103 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.

    Why Location Matters to Your Agency Clients & Team

    Why Location Matters to Your Agency Clients & Team

    Does your agency location determine its growth potential? How important is the location of your digital marketing agency? Do location and culture impact the talent you're trying to attract for your team? Can your clients expect better service if you're "local"?
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    Why clients like a local agency. Why culture matters to your agency team. Tips for relocating your agency. The explosion of digital options has clearly changed the world, taking in everything from how you get your news to where you buy your products. However, in spite of all of the changes from digitizing the world, some things remain the same. One of those things is the old adage about location, location, location. I sat down to talk to Kaushal Kakadia, Partner and CTO of Birmingham-based marketing agency, SociallyIn, about the importance of your agency's location, for your clients as well as your team.
    3 Reasons Why Clients Like Having a Local Agency SociallyIn started in a small Mississippi town, Kaushal explained. However, they decided moving to a larger area still in the same geographical region helped attract better clients. Some of the additional benefits clients receive from having a local agency include:
    Focus on the local market. We live in an era where brands can choose to work with agencies anywhere in the world, but in some cases, the local digital agency is going to better understand the local market and how to reach it. Building a network with local talent and vendors. One thing SociallyIn did once they relocated to Birmingham was to begin an annual conference called the Southern Social Summit. The conference attracts local talent and builds a network between marketing agencies and creative freelancers. It also provides networking for others involved in the equation, such as advertisers and vendors.  Avoiding time zone issues. There are times where a client needs to contact its marketing agency immediately and needs a quick response. This can be difficult if their agency is several time zones away. Why Culture Matters to Your Agency Team Culture is real and it is important, particularly if you're growing an in-person team. Providing a positive work culture for your team not only keeps your team members happy but inspires them to work harder. While there are many virtual agencies with fully remote teams, if you want to create an office-based team, it's important to establish roots in a location where you can find amazing agency talent.
    In addition to culture, Kaushal says there are other benefits to having an in-person team versus having a remote team, such as:
    Faster communication. Time zone communication doesn't only affect clients. It is generally easier to reach your team if they're in the same space than if they're in a different state or country. Reducing burnout. Work-from-home employees are at higher risk of "over-working" since there isn't a start and stop time. In an office, there are established hours and break times that keep creative minds fresh and allow them the ability to step away. This helps your team be more productive during their work time. Increased flexibility. Office workers can go remote easier than a remote team can go to an office. Your in-office team will consider it a benefit to have the option to work from home on an as-needed basis. Tips for Relocating Your Agency So, if you're planning to set down roots for your agency in a new city, what are some considerations that need to be made? Kaushal offers a few tips:
    Be transparent with your team, particularly if your relocation is going to result in the need for them to move themselves and their family. Plan the move in phases so that everyone has the time to make arrangements necessary for a smooth transition. If you're looking to grow your team in your new location, be sure to take the time to learn about the local cre

    • 18 min
    How to Succeed By Ignoring Your Agency Advisor

    How to Succeed By Ignoring Your Agency Advisor

    Are you questioning whether you should choose a niche? Do you know your why and your passion? Have you gotten some great agency advice but rather go with your gut? Sometimes you just have to disregard the advice in front of you and answer to your true purpose in order to succeed. Even if it means ignoring your agency advisor.
    In this episode, we'll cover:
    How can an agency survive an owner's personal tragedy? When is ignoring your agency advisor OK to do? Is it time for an agency rebrand? Does your agency have Clark Griswold complex? This week, I had the opportunity to chat with Brantley Payne, Partner/Creative Director at Uncommon a rebranded version of the agency where he started his career in 1999. Over time and a series of life-altering events, Brantley’s role at the agency evolved from art director to copywriter to creative director and eventually owner. He’s on the show to share what he’s learned about finding the agency’s North Star and why he chose to totally ignore his agency advisor’s advice. (Don’t worry, the advisor wasn’t me!)
    How Can an Agency Survive an Owner's Personal Tragedy? In 2010, after 11 years at the (then) Glass Agency, Brantley was doing well in his creative positions but then thrown into something completely different and unique. The agency owner was diagnosed with a terminal illness and part of his legacy plans. Do you have a plan in place for serious injury, illness, or death?
    At the onset of his illness, the owner set a plan in motion for the agency to put into a trust and become an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). The heads of Media, Accounts, and Creative (that’s Brantley) were to lead the daily operations of the agency. So they had all the responsibility, but just equal share of the rewards.
    How did the agency survive and thrive during this time?
    Preserve what’s already in place. Brantley said their first goal was simply not letting the agency collapse. This meant continuing the same quality of work and meeting with all their clients to explain the situation and assure them of their future. Their first goal was to stabilize and maintain. Define what the future looks like. What will they stand for? What do they believe in? How will they grow? What does the growth trajectory look like? Above and beyond maintaining, they needed to think about how to achieve next-level growth. After 5 years running the agency as an ESOP, Brantley and his now partners decided to start buying out the employee ownership. Brantley and his two partners haven’t looked back.
    When Is Ignoring Your Agency Advisor OK? After making the agency their own, Brantley and his partners hired an agency advisor to help them grow their business. Nope - it wasn’t me but I won’t hold it against him :)
    Ultimately, the main piece of advice they received -- one I don’t disagree -- is to choose a niche. How many times have you heard me say it, right? But ultimately, Brantley and his partners decided to ignore it. That was 4 years ago and Uncommon is killing it everything from retail to safety to transit and more.
    What they learned was their niche wasn’t a specific industry, it’s simply the underdogs who need their help. But, the real lesson was the exercise of going through the process. They learned who they are and who they aren’t. They discovered their passion -- and having passion is the only way to succeed.
    Now when taking on new clients, they asked themselves these questions:
    Is this something we want? Can we actually help? Will we treated as partners by this client? Are we passionate about this? Is It Time for an Agency Rebrand? Agencies are great at helping their clients with rebrands. But when it comes to helping ourselves with one it’s really hard!
    In 2016 Brantley and partners decided it was time for a fresh start for the agency in order to reflect their passion. They change

    • 25 min
    How to Be an 8-Figure Agency Without a Huge Team

    How to Be an 8-Figure Agency Without a Huge Team

    Are you worried you can't grow a successful agency without a large team? Are you looking for a way to provide a better, more efficient experience for your clients? When it comes to running an agency, bigger isn't always better.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    Does agency team size matter? How to grow profits without growing your team. Why project-based agencies shouldn't take retainers. Today I sat down with Jon Paley, owner of The Vault, an ad agency/production company based out of New York City. Jon's agency runs off a fairly small team (10 people), yet manages to bring in 8-figures. He's here to discuss why he chooses to keep a smaller team and how he has used it to his advantage.
    Does Agency Team Size Matter? When I talk to agency owners, there are usually two metrics they use to measure success — profits and the number of people on their team. There's a common misconception that as you grow, you need to increase the size of your team. But if you've been listening to me for a while, you've probably heard me talk about the way a small team can work to your advantage.
    When Jon created his agency, he had one thing in mind, to remove the typical agency bureaucracy. With larger agencies, it often feels like you have to go through layer after layer just to talk to the right person. Jon knew if he hired the right people, his agency could do a lot more with less. Without all the layers and red tape, Jon can quickly determine if a client is a good fit, and if his team has what it takes to take a project on. In the end, the team is more productive, the clients are happier, and Jon can be confident his agency delivers what the client expects.
    How to Grow Profits without Growing Your Team I hear you, "but what if my client needs something my team can't do?" This is when it makes sense to work with freelancers. In most cases, the quality of work is great and you aren't stuck with the overhead of a permanent employee. So how can you make freelancers work for you?
    Determine who's essential on your team. Your account managers and team executives should be full-time employees. These are the people who know your brand, understand your vision, and help you build important client relationships. Build a database of preferred freelancers. Just because a person's not on your payroll, doesn't mean you can't work with them frequently. Create a database of freelancers who consistently knock it out of the park so you'll know where to turn first when you have a specific need. Why Project-Based Agencies Shouldn't Take Retainers Jon says he's noticed some agencies claim they are a project-based firm but structure their relationships based on a retainer. When you do this, you're not operating from a place of success. These relationships have very different demands.
    Many agencies move to a retainer structure because they want more predictability. But if you focus on building the pipeline full of projects, you'll find you can have the same type of success. Plus, you'll find many of your clients are referrals from previous project clients.
    You don't always need to focus on building a bigger team to find continued growth. Much of the time, it's not about how many people are on your team, but rather who is on your team. When you focus on quality instead of quantity, everything else will fall into place.
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    For a limited time, Gusto is offering a deal to Smart Agency Master Class listeners. Check out Gusto.com/agency for 3-months FREE once you run your first payroll with them.

    • 15 min
    What Do Brands Really Want From Their Agency?

    What Do Brands Really Want From Their Agency?

    Do you know what brands want from an agency? What do they look for when deciding to work with an agency? Are you looking for a way to stand out in a world of "me too" agencies? Often, the best way to get noticed is to embrace who you are.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    The biggest disconnect between brands and agencies. #1 reason brands prefer working with niche agencies. 3 ways your agency can stand out. Today I sat down for an enlightening conversation with Robby Berthume, CEO of Bull & Beard, an agency collective based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Robby works with agencies and brands to help them come together to find the perfect fit. He's here to discuss what brands are looking for in an agency, and what you can do to win brand contracts.
    The Biggest Disconnect Between Brands and Agencies There's a lot of disconnect between brands and agencies. While the end game is the same, typically, there is a lot of disagreement about how to get there. Robby says, one of the biggest disconnects he sees is in the area of pricing.
    When a brand comes in with a set budget, agencies tend to just accept it as is. If we push back and say we need a little more or the budget is unrealistic, the brand may choose to go somewhere else. But what if you look at it from a different vantage point?
    Robby says pricing can help you gain credibility and earn a brand's respect. Sure you can tell a client you can come in at a certain price point, but you're not doing yourself any favors. When you're straightforward about the cost of a project and what your services are worth, you'll earn the client's trust.
    #1 Reason Brands Prefer Working With Niche Agencies We've talked about declaring a niche endlessly. I'm a strong believer in declaring a niche in order to separate your agency from generalists. And Robby says has found the clients agree. Yes, there are some brands that like to work with full-service agencies, but Robby says the split is about 80-20 in favor of niche agencies.
    Think about it this way. When you hire someone, you want to know they are the best at their job. You don't want a jack of all trades. When you build a home, you want a contractor, not a handyman. Brands invest a lot into agencies. That's why they prefer to choose experts over generalists.
    3 Ways to Your Agency Can Stand Out There's no getting around it — brands have a lot of choices. If you're not careful, you can become just another "me too" agency. So what can you do to make sure you get noticed?
    Put in the work: If you're lazy, it's going to show. Before you talk to a client, do your research. Audit their website, look at their pain points, and be prepared with a plan. Let your personality show: By reviewing Bull & Beard's website you'll notice is it doesn't look like your typical agency website. From the colors to the typeface and even word choice, everything about the site lets you know who Bull & Beard is. When you let your personality show, clients are more likely to remember you when it comes time to choose an agency. Become a trusted advisor: Let's be honest, there are a lot of agencies out there that offer the same services you do. That's why you don't want to sell yourself as just a doer, you want to be the expert resource. Ask questions, figure out the client's problem, and provide a strategy for resolving it. This is your number one differentiator. The ultimate goal is to pick and choose who you work with. But often, we work with clients who aren't a good fit when we feel we have no other choice. When you put in the work to separate yourself and gain trust as an agency, that's when you'll discover you have true creative freedom.

    • 27 min
    Is Your Agency Prepared for Illness, Injury, or Death?

    Is Your Agency Prepared for Illness, Injury, or Death?

    Do you have a plan to protect your agency and team in the event of illness, injury, or death?? What would you do if your partner died? What if you were hurt or sick and unable to work? How much of your agency is dependent upon you for the day-to-day operations? As agency owners, we often think about our exit plan, but it's also important to plan for the unexpected.
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    2 things to protect your agency from the unexpected. The key to protecting your agency's acquisition. Today I sat down for an interesting chat with Eric Meyers, former CEO of a $40 million digital marketing agency. Back then, Eric found himself trying to navigate a pending merger as well as a transfer of ownership after the sudden death of his agency's founder. He's here to talk about what he learned through the process and what you can do to protect your agency from the unexpected.
    2 Things to Protect Your Agency from the Unexpected Take a minute to think about what your agency's future looks like. Where do you want to be in 5, 10, or 20 years? Is that future still possible in the event of a sudden illness or injury of an agency leader? What about the death of your business partner? These things aren't fun to think about, but the truth is when you own a business you have to consider and plan for the unexpected.
    When Eric took the role of CEO at an agency, he never expected the founder would be involved in a tragic accident after only three months on the job, but that's what happened. As a result, the owner's family took control of the agency. From there, a pending merger fell apart and the agency went up for sale within six months. So how can you protect your agency from unforeseen changes?
    Create a Buy/Sell Agreement. If you have a partner, a solid Buy/Sell Agreement is critical. It protects both partners' interests and keeps things simple during times of uncertainty. You signed up to work with your business partner, not his or her family. A Buy/Sell Agreement helps ensure you have the funds to buy out your partner's family so you retain control over your agency. Purchase disability insurance. Would your agency survive if you had to take a sudden leave of absence due to an injury? Would you be able to pay your own bills? This one may seem obvious but it's often overlooked. It's a low-cost way to protect your business and your family. The Key to Protecting Your Agency's Acquisition One of the major problems at Eric's agency is the acquisition fell through at the last minute. This could have been prevented by a rock-solid Letter of Intent. A Letter of Intent helps all parties understand what they are getting out of the purchase of the agency. Eric says you shouldn't assume you can do it on your own. You need someone guiding the process and helping you navigate the unknown. It's even a good idea to make sure you have legal representation to look over paperwork and contracts.
    Another way to protect yourself is to set up an escrow account with the Letter of Intent. The amount in escrow depends on the amount of the sale. Then, if everything before the Letter of Intent turns out to be true and one of the parties backs out, the other party receives financial compensation.
    Don't forget, an agency sale is not the time to slow down. You need to keep your foot on the gas. You need to excel servicing existing clients and continue to fill your pipeline. That way, in the event the sale falls through, your agency is in a good position to thrive.
    Nobody likes to think about the worst-case scenario, but as a business owner, you have no choice. When you take the time to make sure you have the necessary precautions in place, you're investing in your agency's future.
    Looking for a Payroll and HR Solution for your Agency? Payroll and benefits are hard. Especially when you're a small business. Gusto is making payroll, benefits, a

    • 14 min
    What Is Driving Your Digital Agency Growth?

    What Is Driving Your Digital Agency Growth?

    Have you ever stopped to really think about what is really driving growth? What inspires you to keep doing what you do? Do you know your agency's purpose?  Are you driven by something more than just profit? Research shows businesses with a purpose often fair better than those that don't. 
    In today's episode, we'll cover:
    How to determine your agency's purpose.  The value of authenticity.  2 tips to become a trusted partner. Today I talked with Brian Powell, managing partner at Matchfire, a brand design and digital agency. Matchfire focuses on purpose-driven marketing and helping brands embrace who they are. Brian's here today to discuss why all agencies should have a purpose and how your agency can find its own. 
    How to Determine Your Agency's Purpose Open up a book or turn on the TV and chances are, you'll find something about purpose. There's a growing movement to do everything with intention and create with meaning. From an agency standpoint, having a purpose doesn't just help your clients understand who you are, it helps you and your team be better at what you do. When you understand the why, it's easier to come up with the how. 
    For me, my purpose to create a resource I wish I had when I was running an agency. If you don't know your agency's purpose, consider these questions:
    Why do you want to make money? Why do you want to create your product or provide your service? What makes you different?  What kind of void would there be if your product didn't exist? Talk to your partners and stakeholders and really dig deep. Why do you do what you do? When you can answer this, a whole new world will open up.
    The Value of Authenticity For some, the word authentic may come across as hippy-dippy as the word purpose. But trust me, consumers can spot phony a mile away. When you choose your agency's purpose, it has to be authentic. Authentic, purpose-driven marketing can drive business and social impact. 
    Along the lines of authenticity, it's important to know what you're good at. When you know your areas of strength, you can specialize and be the best at one thing. Specializing doesn't have to mean exclusivity but allows you the ability to say no. You can't be all things to all people. 
    When you take a step back and say, "This isn't where I excel," or "Let me recommend you to someone who can help," referrals, goodwill, and word of mouth will come back to you tenfold. Don't try to pretend you're something you're not just to win over a client. When you're honest, you'll earn the client's trust and they'll be more likely to call you when something else comes up.
    2 Tips to Become a Trusted Partner As an agency, the worst thing you can be is an order taker. You don't want to be treated like a commodity. The ultimate goal is for clients to view you as a trusted authority and an expert in your field. Purpose and authenticity will take you a long way in earning a client's trust, but there are two things to really focus on if you want to be a go-to resource:
    Have an opinion: There's a misconception that marketing is the business of ideas. When in fact, what we do is give people our opinions. Clients want to hear what they should do and why they should do it based on your experience and market knowledge.  Ask questions: What is your client's purpose? Why do they do what they do? From the very beginning you need to ask your client questions like: what do you want to do, what do you want to accomplish, and what are the challenges getting in the way? Finally, end with: how can I help you get there? What is it that separates you from everyone else? Why should clients see you as more than just a "me too" agency? Answer these questions and be true to who you are and both you and your clients will reap the benefits. 

    • 21 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
103 Ratings

103 Ratings

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!

Buddhaa22 ,

Valuable For Agency Owners

Jason brings great topics and value to owners. Definitely worth your time to grow your agency.

Tony Pec ,

BEST podcast for agency owners

This is by far the most detailed & value packed podcast for an agency owner just wow ! Constantly mind blown by the information he delivers every single episode ! I love a few podcasts but if Jason were to stop his - it would be the only one I truly missed because it delivers me real value to implement in my agency that is just starting !

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