529 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 • 121 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 to Charge More by Increasing Confidence and Implementing the Luxury Model

    How to Charge More by Increasing Confidence and Implementing the Luxury Model

    Do you have the confidence to charge what you're worth? Do your clients understand your agency's value? Understanding your value is an important part of growing your agency. It requires strategy and attracting the right clients. Most of all it requires a lot of confidence. If you truly believe in yourself and your pricing, the right clients won't think twice about paying it. Today’s guest specializes in taking her clients to the very highest levels in the market. She believes agency owners need to stop charging mainstream prices and start charging luxury prices in order to scale faster.
    Kathryn Porritt is the owner of Icons Incorporated, a boutique agency that helps personal brands make the transition from mainstream pricing to luxury offers. Their clients land multi-million dollar deals in one transaction! They usually have big consulting gigs and commercial deals. Icon's job is to create connections for people for the sake of leveraging their personal brands at the very highest level.
    In this interview, we’ll discuss:
    Growing your agency by starting at the top. Positioning yourself as the best at what you do. Why niching down is an important part of finding confidence. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
     
    What Are You Left With if You Don’t Build Your Brand? When they start their business, agency owners tend not to put enough into growing their own brand. The thinking being it is essentially to not get too involved so the agency is more attractive for potential buyers upon the owner's eventual exit. For her part, Kathryn has gone through a similar process where she created, grew, and sold an agency. After the sale, she thought “what am I left with?” Without another business, advisory gigs, or book deal to fall back on, she had to take the lessons learned and start over.
    After that experience, she advises agency owners to work on both their personal brand and the agency’s marketing in parallel. In the end, it takes time to build a personal brand into something profitable -- and now is the right moment to start. Even if you ultimately decide to sell, if you’ve protected your personal brand, you probably have a list of people who will follow you on other projects. That’s freedom. It allows you to explore other things once you sell. This way, you’ can build a profitable brand and have a legacy.
    Starting at the Top and Growing Your Agency With a Luxury Pricing Model  At some point, agency owners wanting to grow their business need to increase prices. Most of the time, they don’t even have a reason to justify their current prices. For Kathryn, part of the problem is most have experience with charging mainstream prices. Mainstream business strategies teach an ascension model, where you start from the bottom, build an audience, increase your offers, and eventually find people who will pay high ticket prices.
    The core problem is most agency owners are not aware there’s a different way to get to the top. They don’t teach you the luxury strategy. The main difference between the mainstream and luxury models is that the latter will start at the top and then works its way down to still create an impact.
    In essence, with the luxury model, you understand you have a true leadership position in the market. These are trendsetters and are not looking to the market for answers about what they’re building.
    When you start at the top, you’re in the #1 position and work with fewer clients. For agencies, this means working really deeply with a handful of clients. Kathryn finds clients who work at this level are easier to work with.

    • 24 min
    How to Create Work-Life Balance With Anti-Hustle Culture at Your Agency

    How to Create Work-Life Balance With Anti-Hustle Culture at Your Agency

    What do you think about hustle culture? Do you have a healthy work-life balance with your agency? Does your team? As the owner, you set the tone for the agency's culture. And what is important to you by extension becomes important to the team. Today’s guest owns a boutique agency she started after quitting her job in the tech space after feeling exhausted from 80-hour work weeks. She started fresh in Belize with a new mindset about the type of work-life balance she wanted and the culture she’d create for her agency.
    Jeanna Barrett is the founder and Chief Remote Officer of First Page Strategy, an award-winning remote growth marketing agency. She has 17 years of inbound marketing experience working with venture startups, digital agencies, and fortune 500 companies.
    Six years ago, Jeanna left the US and built a business in Belize. What started as freelancing grew into a full inbound marketing agency with 40+ experts across the globe. Beyond the success of her agency, she’s most proud of the culture she was created with her remote team. Jeanna encourages different passions outside of work and promotes a healthy work-life balance. She shares her journey of creating an anti-hustle culture for her agency.
    In this episode, we’ll discuss:
    Recovery from the hustle culture and burnout. Prioritizing boundaries to create healthy agency culture. Embracing your team’s passions and hobbies. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.
    Podcast Takeover!! Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host: John Corcoran is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.
     
    Recovering from the Hustle Culture and the Burnout it Causes In 2016, Jeanna was living in San Francisco and felt burned out by the non-stop work hustle and grind culture. She realized the “dream offices” popular in the tech world, with free lunch, snack bars, entertainment, and laundry service exist only to justify 80-hour work weeks. Jeanna was ready to leave the perks behind.
    She was eager to live a life where she didn’t have to work all the time. She wanted time and freedom to focus on the things that make her happy.
    Building a business in Belize may not be what she originally intended, but it is exactly what she needed to have a work-life balance. It is an opportunity to create a work culture valuing and encouraging different passions and pursuits outside of work. Her agency focuses on employee performance based on tasks completed and not on the amount of time spent in front of a computer.
    A Lesson on the Benefits of Doing Content Marketing Right Fortunately, after 15+ years of working in marketing, Jeanna had a network she could tap into. She was looking to work as a freelancer and started by calling old clients and colleagues. Eventually, her freelance business evolved into an accidental agency.
    Getting her first big client was a lesson in content marketing. At one point, Jeanna wrote an article about how she left her career and moved to the Caribbean. It offered advice for people looking to do something similar and work remotely. In the article, she mentioned the company she used to establish her business as an LLC. Ironically the company had fired their SEO partner and contacted her to take over the role. She had not yet formed an agency but decided to give it a try.
    She started with a small entry-leve

    • 25 min
    How to Break Through No Man's Land & Grow Beyond a 7-Figure Agency Revenue

    How to Break Through No Man's Land & Grow Beyond a 7-Figure Agency Revenue

    Do you feel like you're in no man's land? Growing beyond the $1 Million mark and beyond 7 figures can be a very gray area where the agency is making more money but the owner is working more than ever. This is no man’s land and it's a sign you need a strong leadership team to get the agency to the next level. Today’s guest is an accidental agency owner, like most, who found the transition to Agency CEO reignited her interest in the business. She now runs an agency that serves its clients and aims to have an impact on the community.
    Ruth Bernstein is CEO and co-founder of Yard NYC, a New York-based creative agency that helps turn brands into cultural beacons. They’ve worked with brands like Amazon, and Walmart with the belief that purposeful brands can both drive cultural relevancy and good business. After growing as an agency and getting past certain milestones, they have also worked to turn themselves into a brand that creates change.
    In this interview, we’ll discuss:
    How to raise prices and charge what you're worth. Why culture misfits that can cost your agency big opportunities. Navigating no man's land by hiring a leadership team. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
     
    Starting a Female-Led Agency During the Industry’s Mad Men Era Ruth and her partner Stephan worked on the client side in London and had never worked at an agency. At one point, while working with media companies, they started looking for agency partners in the fashion, wellness, and beauty space. They were looking for partners who could bring strategy to the table, were female-led, and really understood how to work with in-house teams. It was the '90s and still the “Mad Men” era in the agency space and none of the candidates met these requirements.
    This is how they became accidental agency owners. They had never worked for an agency or run one but their search on the client side revealed there was a niche for this type of agency. Coming from the client side, they already had credibility and went for big-brand clients right away.
    How Culture Misfits Can Cost Your Agency Big Opportunities Mistakes help us grow. And one of those from Ruth's early agency days was delegating negotiations with a prospect to a consultant. It wasn’t right for the agency and nearly made them lose their first really big project. At the time, Ruth was in charge of strategy and Stephan was heading up the creative side. Neither of them had negotiated an agency deal. Since it was a big client, they figured it would be best to delegate negotiations to a consultant who could help make sure it was solid.
    Unfortunately, the consultant’s tone and manner of handling the deal nearly made them lose the client. In hindsight, this person did not align with the agency's culture or vision. The client approached Ruth and Stephan because they knew and trusted them.
    As a result, they learned communication is a key piece in showing prospects what it's like working with their agency. There’s nothing wrong with getting help in areas you don’t have experience. However, in this instance, they just needed the confidence to handle it themselves.

    How to Raise Prices and Charge What You're Worth Pricing is not easy. You have to do your homework and understand competition and what the client is willing to pay, as well as your own value.
    As a smaller agency working with both bigger and smaller clients, Yard NYC geared prices toward smaller clients. However, it got awkward when those clients started growing and it was time to raise prices. For a lot of agency owners, this is a really difficult conversation

    • 26 min
    How to Make More Money Using AI Tools to Create Content for Agency Clients

    How to Make More Money Using AI Tools to Create Content for Agency Clients

    If you’ve been paying attention, then you know this is the year for AI content creation like ChatGPT. (Even Ryan Reynolds and Mint Mobile know it  :) Should your agency be using it too? Are you worried about turning off clients over this technology? Or could you make more money using it?  There are drawbacks, which is why agency owners need to know the best way to leverage AI for content. Today’s guests are experts in content creation as they talk about pros, cons, and how agencies can use AI like ChatGPT to be more efficient and grow their business.
    Ryan Sargent is the Director of Content Marketing at Verblio, the world’s friendliest content creation platform. Verblio builds content marketing for other marketers at scale by pairing specialized, niche writers with marketing agencies and marketing professionals. Verblio is a preferred partner of the show and Ryan is a repeat guest who brings amazing insight.
    This time, he is joined by Megan Skalbeck, the content marketing manager at Verblio handling strategic initiatives.
    The team at Verblio are experts at content creation and have done a ton of research on how agencies can leverage the power of Artificial Intelligence and AI tools.  You can check out their survey results at verblio.com/ai. With those results in mind, they shared some of their conclusions on the best ways to use AI for content creation while keeping high quality standards.
    In this interview, we’ll discuss:
    How agencies can make more money by integrating AI tools. Weaknesses of AI and a hybrid plan for using them effectively. Why aren't more agencies using AI? 3 tips for making AI more effective for your agency content. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.
    Links to other episodes featuring Ryan Sargent:
    https://jasonswenk.com/creating-content-for-clients/
    https://jasonswenk.com/content-creation-team/
    How Agencies Can Make More Money by Integrating AI Tools Where do content creation experts stand on whether or not to use AI? Basically, if your agency isn’t planning on using AI at all in 2023, you are making a mistake. On the other hand, if you think AI is going to replace freelancers, fool Google, and you’ll never need a writer again, that's also a mistake.
    The reality is, agencies need to be using AI as soon as the next few months. We should all learn to use AI not as a catch-all, but as an actual tool. To this end, work with people who really understand AI.
    Find the balance. As it stands right now, AI tools can produce a lot of words. However, there are a lot of weaknesses:
    Factual accuracy. There’s actually no guarantee the content produced by an AI is correct. Sentence structure. A blog post created by AI does not necessarily have a logical structure or make sense at all. Weakened SEO. Google knows AI-generated created content apart from what is human-written. It is tempting for agencies to look at AI as a way to produce content at a much lower cost. However, with these weaknesses, the best alternative is a hybrid approach. Take content created by AI and improve it with human editing.
    We shouldn’t view AI as a service or a finished product. It can do great work in saving writers from a blank page. With the right prompt, AI is great at generating ideas and continuing thoughts. As long as the writer is there to review and (probably) make significant edits, it can be really effective.
    First Steps to Integrate AI as Part of Your Strategy in 2023 Curious about AI? Try a free version of any of the existing tools. This way, you can get a sense of their potential and learn how it works. If you’re not interested in exploring these too

    • 13 min
    What are the Top Priorities for Building a Strong Agency Foundation?

    What are the Top Priorities for Building a Strong Agency Foundation?

    If you're in the early stages of your agency, what should you prioritize in order to grow? With so many things to track and so many hats to wear, how do you know what's most important? What deserves your time and attention? As a solopreneur with a startup, building relationships and establishing values for your are crucial for growth. Yet, some owners are not equipped to maintain these parts of the business. So, how can you prioritize these factors when growing your agency?
    Today's guest, Christy Pretzinger, understands that solopreneurs are not in a position to oversee relationships consistently. That's why she hires compatible talent to help her develop and sustain team-building programs and workshops. These initiatives cultivate a supportive culture and ensure her team embodies their values. Christy talks about maintaining a positive company culture and explains the importance of relationship building, how she attracts like-minded people and her strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships. 
    In this episode, we'll discuss:
    Why it's important to build relationships when seeking opportunities. Strategies for maintaining client and employee relationships.  Growing an agency during uncertain and challenging economic times. Christy Pretzinger is the President and CEO of WriterGirl, an agency that helps hospitals and healthcare organizations create patient-friendly website content to grow their brand and strengthen their position in the marketplace. Since 2005, Christy has grown WriterGirl from a freelance writing business into a nationally recognized healthcare content consultancy. She is passionate about building environments where people can thrive and strives to reinvent how we view the work world. As an experienced entrepreneur, Christy shares her experiences with younger agency owners to help them grow.
     
    Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources E2M Solutions: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by E2M Solutions, a web design, and development agency that has provided white-label services for the past 10 years to agencies all over the world. Check out e2msolutions.com/smartagency and get 10% off for the first three months of service.
    Podcast Takeover!! Get to know your Smart Agency Guest Host:  John Corcoran is the co-founder of Rise25, an agency that helps companies launch and run podcasts profitably. He followed Jason’s podcast and eventually joined the mastermind and has been a guest on the podcast before. Today, he’s helping Jason bring something new to the Smart Agency podcast audience by interviewing a special guest and bringing a new perspective to the show.
    Episode transcript: John Corcoran  0:00  
    Hey, I'm John Corcoran taking over for Jason Swenk in this episode of The Smart Agency Masterclass, and I run Rise25 and Rise25. We are an easy button to help businesses get more clients and referrals with done-for-you podcast and content marketing. And for over a decade, we've been helping companies to give to their best relationships and partnerships through a podcast. I also am a longtime podcaster and have done Smart Business Revolution Podcast since about 2010. And I got to know Jason by listening to his podcast, and then we joined his Digital Agency Elite Mastermind, we've attended his events. And we wanted to learn from someone who grew in multimillion dollar operation with over 100 staff and then sold it. So if you are an agency that wants to grow, contact Jason and his team because they can help go to digitalagencyelite.com. But you can also email support@Jasonswenk.com.
    And so I was also honored when he asked me to take over the show as a guest host. So check out today's episode with an amazing agency owner. Today we've got Christy Pretzinger, and Christy is the owner and CEO of WriterGirl. It's a fast-growing organization that creates content and provides strategy for hospitals, and healthc

    • 32 min
    Proven Strategies for Maximizing Margins and Improving Cash Flow

    Proven Strategies for Maximizing Margins and Improving Cash Flow

    Looking to improve agency margins and profitability? Which key metrics are important to track? Are you paying yourself a salary? How much cash should you have in reserve? If you’re hoping to sell soon, you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of starting to pay yourself a salary. Potential buyers will pay attention to this and many other details you could start to work on right now. Today’s guest owns a CPA firm focused on helping agency owners scale by getting their finances in order and avoiding the biggest mistakes in agency finances.
    Chris Hervochon runs Better Way CPA, a CPA firm that specializes in virtual CFO services for agencies. Over the past eight years, his company has provided services to marketing agencies and nonprofits all over the US. He provides some insight into the key metrics you should be measuring, why you should pay attention to your gross margin, and more.
    In this interview, we’ll discuss:
    Avoid the biggest mistake in agency finances. How to increase your margins. Why you should pay yourself a salary. Key metrics to manage agency cash flow. Subscribe Apple | Spotify | iHeart Radio | Stitcher | Radio FM
    Sponsors and Resources Verblio: Today's episode of the Smart Agency Masterclass is sponsored by Verblio. Check out Verblio.com/smartagency and get 50% off your first month of content creation. Our team loves using Verblio because of the ease of their process and their large pool of crowd-sourced writers.
    The Biggest Mistake in Agency Finances The biggest and most common mistake Chris sees agency owners make with their finances has to do with cash management. Usually, they fail to understand how cash moves in and out of the agency. Also, how it’ll move into and out of the agency in the future. This is critical because it’s how you can really understand how to grow in the future.
    As an owner, you must understand the way cash moves within the agency impacts clients, the work you do for them, and how you collect payments. This impact the people you pay to work for the agency. All of this helps you get a clearer vision of how you’re going to scale and bring in the next client.
    Pay Attention to These Key Metrics Profitability. When it comes to profitability, you need to be over 15% or 20% to be good. 15% or less is when the alarm starts ringing and you need to pull some levers to figure out what’s going on. Net income. If you’re using some sort of accounting software and looking at P&L, net income is your bottom line. Gross margin. This varies wildly across agencies because every agency operates so differently. In this particular case, measure yourself against yourself and track that over time. Make sure you’re maintaining or increasing margins over time. Cash reserves. Every business should set aside cash reserves to fund growth. They help pay for unexpected costs that occur throughout the year, and they're often kept in your business account. Pipeline. Make sure to have a process to measure your pipeline. This bleeds into your forecast and indicates what roles you need to hire, when, as well as who you need to fire and when. Why You Need to Pay Attention to Gross Margin Gross margin is your revenue minus variable expenses (cost of sales). This is the percentage of revenue you can keep in order to pay fixed expenses and then pay yourself. In short, the costs you’re going to incur every time you generate a dollar.
    If your margins are very low, it's hard to pay for fixed expenses needed to operate the agency and deliver your services. If you don’t have enough money to pay your team, for example, you might start making bad decisions, like cutting staff, expenses, and software. At that point, you don’t even have enough to pay yourself as agency owner, which is definitely a problem.
    This is why you need to pay attention to margins and make sure you have enough money every time you generate a dollar of revenue to pay those expenses. In the end, having revenue is

    • 19 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
121 Ratings

121 Ratings

Adarcus ,

Must listen

Jason brings so many thought provoking insight on growing a business! He and his guests offer so much to all listeners!

Real Jedi 2011 ,

Awesome content

Tactical content with a purpose. I enjoy every show. Thanks for sharing your industry expertise 🤩

Bryan SD B ,

Thanks Jason!

As an agency owner I have received such amazing and useful advice 🙏

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