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Build a Better Agency Podcast

Scale and grow your agency with better clients, invested employees, and a stronger bottom line, with Drew McLellan of Agency Management Institute.
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Oct 14, 2019

In the agency world, there are days where it seems like tomorrow will never come. It’s easy to get fixated on what is broken or what else needs to be done. There’s always one more tweak and THEN things will be good.

Actually, no matter where you’re at in the ebbs and flows of agency life, it’s all pretty good.

Even on your worst day, you have it better than most. The problem is, we often fail to realize that. We get tunnel vision digging ourselves out of holes and preparing for the next fallout when things are going well.

In this solocast of the Build a Better Agency podcast, I share the story of a conversation I recently had with a friend who just sold his agency. His perspective was so telling and for me, so inspiring.

My hope is that it will give you a fresh look at how to approach agency ownership, no matter what the day brings.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why some agency owners fail to enjoy the ride
  • How to show gratitude and the impact it will have on your agency
  • How to recognize the privileges of being an agency owner or leader
  • Why it matters that you slow down and appreciate your role
  • Different ways that you can improve as an agency leader
  • How to articulate what your clients and employees mean to you

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Oct 7, 2019

Our agencies and the work we do will inevitably be impacted by artificial intelligence in the next 3-5 years. That’s just a fact. Odds are, it’s probably already changing the way you do business every day. There’s a lot of hype and buzz about jobs going away and most agencies are struggling to figure out how to keep up.

Questions of what data to use, how to analyze it, what tasks can be automated, and what AI can do for clients pop up all of the time. And it all shifts on what seems like a daily basis.

Fortunately, the agency space has a beacon to light the way into the uncharted territory of AI. His name is Chris Penn, and he is an authority on analytics, digital marketing, and marketing technology. A recognized thought leader, best-selling author, and keynote speaker, he has shaped four key fields in the marketing industry: Google Analytics adoption, data-driven marketing and PR, modern email marketing, and artificial intelligence/machine learning in marketing.

Chris is a generous guy who frequently shares his knowledge over his own podcast, Marketing Over Coffee, as well as through books like “AI for Marketers: A Primer and Introduction.” I was thrilled to welcome Chris as my guest for episode #208 of the Build a Better Agency podcast.

I barely scratched the surface of questions I had but we got a good start, talking about data analysis, keeping up with the flux of AI, and the tasks that agencies can automate to save time and money. The conversation was fascinating and I’m excited to share it with you.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • What data actually looks like in the agency environment
  • The importance of hiring people with analytics and software skills to an agency
  • How to keep up with the ever-changing field of AI in an agency setting
  • Common mistakes agencies make around data and analytics
  • The most onerous tasks that can be automated using AI
  • The capabilities of machine learning and where humans come in during the process
  • What Chris does to keep current with technology in the agency space

Ways to Contact Chris Penn:

Sep 30, 2019

I’m a big believer in love. Sure — romantic love or the love you have for your family is awesome but that’s not what I am talking about. I am talking about loving the people on your team and your clients. It’s amazing the level of connectivity you can create when you lead with love. It may seem odd, but I think love is especially important in the workplace. Agencies lead with love towards their employees and clients will likely keep those employees and clients and enjoy the fruits of those relationships for many years.

That’s why I knew I’d love Steve Farber’s new book Love is Just Damn Good Business. Steve has decades of experience as a leadership trainer and expert, he’s an internationally sought out speaker and best-selling author. (He was my guest on episode #46 and we mentioned love a few times there too!)

In episode #208 of Build a Better Agency, Steve and I talk about the impact of love on a business’ ROI, employee retention and employer satisfaction. This is one of my favorite conversations I’ve had, and if you only listen to one episode of the podcast, I hope it’s this one.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why Steve’s message is so important in today’s world
  • The benefits of building a work environment based on love
  • Building love and relationships with clients
  • How to demonstrate love to employees
  • The powerful message of being fully present with people
  • What empathy really looks like in action
  • Showing love and kindness in the most difficult times
  • Serving your employees by being a “strong frame”

Ways to Contact Steve Farber:

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Sep 23, 2019

Many agency owners are struggling to not only understand laws like the CCPA and GDPR, but more important — determine what your agency has to do to be compliant and avoid liability. What laws apply to your shop and your clients? What does compliant even mean in terms of practical do’s and don’ts? What is the chain of responsibility if clients make bad choices? What are mistakes we should avoid?

My guest Ruth Carter is an Arizona-based business, intellectual property, and internet attorney; a best-selling author who literally wrote the book on the legalities of blogging; has been living and breathing the new CA privacy law and works with agencies every day to help them manage the hype and interpret the laws accurately.

Ruth and I had a lively conversation about privacy laws and what they mean for agencies. Ruth is a wealth of legal and privacy information for agencies and a brilliant navigator for this tricky subject.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • What determines which privacy laws an agency and our clients need to follow
  • How agencies can protect themselves if clients don’t follow privacy recommendations and get into legal trouble
  • Privacy disclaimers, policies, and declarations needed for an agency’s website
  • Whether your agency has to abide by the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and/or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
  • Privacy mistakes that get agencies into hot water
  • The importance of transparency when adding clients to your email list
  • Why most agencies can take a deep breath – they’re probably already complying with the law

Ways to Contact Ruth Carter:

Sep 16, 2019

There are people who are considered leaders because their title says they are and then there are people who lead, no matter where in the org chart they may be. Agency owners can’t afford to be leaders in title only. We have to step into true leadership if we want our agency to thrive and grow.

David Wood, founder of Play For Real, is my guest on this episode of Build a Better Agency. David is a pro at spotting what it takes to be a strong leader in the workplace.

David was a former consulting actuary to Fortune 100 companies like Sony Music and Procter & Gamble. When he left his Park Avenue job, he began to explore the world in a different way in terms of helping high-performing entrepreneurs, executives and leaders play the game of personal development as well as it can be played.

In this episode of the Build a Better Agency podcast, David and I talk about what it means to show up as a leader who is not afraid to be daring, authentic, and vulnerable. We talk shop on how to encourage employees to be better leaders, how to build an environment of trust, and how true leadership can make all the difference.
A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Ideal traits and practices for leading people
  • The differences between relational and posturing leadership
  • How to recognize leadership flaws and train employees to keep you accountable
  • The importance of incentivizing employee contributions and collaboration
  • What being an authentic and daring leader looks like
  • How your leadership skills translate directly to running a more profitable agency
  • The power of listening to people’s problems rather than giving advice or trying to fix them
  • Action steps for becoming a more vulnerable leader

Ways to Contact David Wood:

Sep 9, 2019

As agency owners, we all want to hire the mystical, magical salesperson that will allow us to hand that task to someone other than us. Can it be done? Yes, but probably not the way you think or wish it would happen.

Sales is a challenging activity no matter what you’re selling. Selling for agencies, even more so.

In this solocast, I will walk you through the make-up of that unicorn of a salesperson so you can spot one out in the wild. I’ll help you identify some prime places to search what traits are non-negotiable, and how to build a compensation package, if you happen to find one.

Even if you find this unicorn of a salesperson, you won’t be able to walk away completely. I’ll also discuss the agency owner’s role in the biz dev process. With the right people, the right assets, and the right communication, you’ll be well on your way to a successful sales operation for your agency.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • What makes agency owners uniquely qualified to be the best agency salespeople
  • What an outside salesperson has to understand about your niche to sell for your agency
  • The traits of a good salesperson
  • The different kinds of agencies and how that impacts salespeople’s success rates
  • A compensation model for outside salespeople and how long it will take them to start making sales
  • What assets salespeople need to set them up for success
  • Why salespeople need access to the agency owner

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year, Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Tools & Resources:

  • Get 10 hours for FREE for a Project with More than 50 Hours with White Label Here.
Sep 2, 2019

Lawyers, financial planners and insurance salespeople. You joke about avoiding them at cocktail parties, but they are definitely not who you should avoid as agency owners. Many owners think of attorneys as an expense. I can tell you – the preventative investment you make with a lawyer to get a good contract and other tools is a pittance compared to what I have seen agencies lose when they don’t have those good tools.

If you are a high-risk gambler – grab a contract off the internet and use that.

That’s why I invited Jamie Lieberman, founder of Hashtag Legal LLC, to be my guest on this episode of Build a Better Agency. She has over 15 years of legal experience and specializes in helping agency owners protect themselves before they get into hot water.

Jamie brings extensive experience in contract creation and negotiation IP issues agencies face, web and mobile app terms and conditions, and influencer marketing legalities.
Settle in – she’s ready to give you a free hour of legal counsel!

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why you need to find the right attorney for your agency
  • The absolute necessity of drawing up the right contracts for your agency and some characteristics of the ideal contract
  • How agencies can (and should) protect themselves from potentially hazardous legal situations caused by clients
  • The ins and outs of independent contractors and how to avoid legal headaches and fines
  • Navigating non-compete and non-solicitation agreements for employees and contractors
  • The importance of confidentiality agreements and defining what constitutes confidential information
  • Claiming domain names while avoiding copyright or trademark infringement
  • Why agencies owners should stay abreast of popular trends in the industry, especially in areas such as influencer marketing

Ways to Contact Jamie Lieberman:

Aug 26, 2019

One of the most expensive mistakes many agency owners make is leaving too much money in the business. It’s too easy to forget that the retained earnings in the agency’s checking account is actually your money. You’ve earned it. You’ve paid taxes on it. It should be in YOUR bank account.

But, when you leave it inside the agency you often spent it on bad financial decisions, like staying overstaffed rather than making the tough call to downsize if business shifts.
You need to build your wealth outside of your agency. I dove into that topic in detail in episode 115 if you want to go back and review it.

For many agency owners – when they think about building that wealth outside their agency, they think about real estate I’m a big fan of this strategy and it’s been my go-to for years. But it’s easy to make big mistakes if you aren’t well educated (I wasn’t) or don’t have a good advisor. In the early days, I made some costly mistakes that I’d like to help you avoid.

That’s why I wanted to talk with a true expert in real estate investing so we could all learn from one of the masters.

My guest, Chris Prefontaine, has been creating wealth through real estate and teaching others how to do the same for years. This conversation is going way beyond flipping houses. There are so many ways to make a profit in real estate, and the barriers of entry are much lower than you might think.

Chris has always been a big advocate of constant education which is why he’s written Real Estate on Your Terms: Create Continuous Cash Flow Now, Without Using Your Cash or Credit. He’s also the founder of SmartRealEstateCoach.com and the Smart Real Estate Coach Podcast.

He’s been in real estate for over 25 years. His experience includes the construction of over 100 single-family and duplex homes (mostly 1990’s and selectively to date) as well as ownership of a Realty Executives franchise (Massachusetts 1994-2000) as a broker, where he maintained high per-agent standards and eventually sold to Coldwell Banker in 2000.

Chris runs his own buying and selling businesses with his family team, which buys 2-5 properties monthly, so they’re in the trenches every single week. They’ve done over $80 million in real estate transactions and help clients do the same thing around the country.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why you need to start building wealth outside your agency today
  • How real estate can become a source of income beyond your agency
  • How to use tax liens as an instrument to earn income via real estate
  • The wide variety of ways you can earn through real estate
  • Why you don’t need a massive cash reserve to get started in real estate
  • How to minimize the outlay and risk in real estate
  • When to consider remote real estate transactions, and when to work on transactions closer to home
  • How to ride out market fluctuations to make the most of your real estate investments

Ways to Contact Chris Prefontaine:

Aug 19, 2019

You’ve seen all the stats and you’ve personally experienced the explosive growth of video in the last 5+ years. It is not a channel we can or should ignore for ourselves or for our clients.

But unless you or your client have a skateboarding cat – producing a compelling video that will attract and connect with viewers is no small task. (If you do have a skateboarding cat – can I borrow him?)

In this episode, we’re going to deconstruct what it takes to create a compelling, engaging video that connects you with your ideal audience. My guest is an expert who has spent over a decade exploring and perfecting the art of the marketing video.

Beyond learning how to best our own hang-ups about being on camera, there are even broader questions. What are some best practices? What elements need to be in place to have an effective video? What does effective video even mean these days?

My guest Gideon Shalwick is a serial entrepreneur who has been creating businesses in the online video space since 2006. He’s been experimenting, studying trends and making plenty of money off video for over a decade.

Today, his focus is on his business Splasheo which is a video captioning service where humans manually transcribe your videos and then burn those captions right into your videos using a variety of engaging layouts. They’re perfect for social and if we’re connected on LinkedIn, you’ve seen my weekly video’s new look, thanks to Splasheo!

Gideon also occasionally offers private coaching and training to help people grow their businesses using video marketing.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why video content is not primarily about transferring knowledge
  • How to connect with your video audience so they want to engage with you
  • How to structure your video content for maximum engagement
  • Tips on how to look natural on camera
  • Why audio is just as important as imagery in creating a video
  • How to use social proofs both as a novice and after you gain traction in video
  • Creating video out of your audio content
  • Why captions make such a big difference in video engagement
  • How to slice and dice your existing content into valuable video nuggets
Aug 12, 2019

Millennials (people born from 1981-1996) comprise the largest and most diverse generation in American history. Most agency owners are either older millennials or Gen X or Boomers. When it comes to leading the team — sometimes those two worlds collide. They’re coming at the world with completely different expectations, wants, needs and goals. Whenever I talk with agency owners, they almost always talk about the frustrations that come from that disparity. Who are these people and how do we manage and motivate them?

In this episode, I ask these questions of agency owner and millennial whisperer Chris Tuff. After living it, researching it, and then literally writing the go-to book on the subject, Chris has some wisdom to share.

The perception is that millennials don’t have the same work ethic that we had at their age. However, the reality is we aren’t from different planets, despite the fact that the world and the work environment today is vastly different from what many of us experienced when we were breaking into the business.
Chris and I dig into perceptions and misperceptions of hiring and leading millennials with the goal of understanding what motivates them, the role of culture, and the fact that we are all people in different stages of life. Hopefully, this will give you some tangible takeaways to help you engage with, inspire, get inspired by, and work with millennials – to everyone’s benefit.

Chris Tuff is a partner at the advertising agency 22squared in Atlanta, GA, where he successfully attracts, motivates, and whispers to Millennials every day. When Chris isn’t working, he kiteboards, mountain bikes, runs and spends quality time with his wife and two daughters.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why managing Millennials doesn’t have to be so challenging for older agency owners
  • Why transparency is so important for Millennial employees
  • The kinds of leadership that Millennials are seeking
  • How to make promoting culture and company goals the job of everyone in the agency
  • What to look for in Millennial candidates
  • How to make a contract-to-hire “test drive” worth the risk for both the candidate and you
  • The benefits that Millennials are seeking
  • What the Millennial-owned company of the (very near) future will look like
  • Why diversity and inclusion are not optional with Millennials

Ways to Contact Chris Tuff:

Aug 5, 2019

During the spring gatherings of AGI owner peer network members, I walk them through a presentation on trends that I’m seeing in the industry. Then I devote two solocast episodes to these findings later in the summer.

In episode 195, I covered what’s happening with agency money and finance, along with some trends in ownership, decision-making, and how you and your peers are managing the pace of change in this industry.

In this episode, I talk about employees, clients, and some tactics with which agencies are having great success in terms of winning clients and serving them well.
If the topic of employees gives you a queasy feeling, you are not alone. It’s a big source of concern for many agency owners. I discuss trends I’m seeing in why retention is such a challenge and what you can do to make your agency the best option for employees you don’t want to lose.

What’s happening on the client-side? There are some really interesting findings. I discuss creative ways in which agencies are gaining more clients and more billables from existing clients.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why freelance work is becoming more common and more of a draw to your current employees
  • How to increase diversity in your agency
  • What employees are looking for in agency culture
  • How to set up an attractive incentive program
  • What agencies are doing to counteract clients doing more work in-house
  • The most in-demand work with which agencies are engaging clients and for which they are being well-compensated
  • The four traits that will get you on a client’s radar
  • How agencies can help clients take a stand on the issues that are important to them and their customers

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Jul 29, 2019

Influencer marketing isn’t new. Remember Joe Namath in pantyhose? (If you don’t Google it)

But what is new is that anyone can harness the power of the internet and attract and monetize an audience. The value to our clients in that new twist is that there is an influencer for any subject, budget, or audience.

This is an area where many agencies are crushing their financial goals. But if done wrong – you can lose your shirt. That’s why I knew we needed to talk to Shane Barker.
Getting to the tactical heart of effective and profitable influencer marketing is what episode #199 is all about. My guest is Shane Barker, who has been doing influencer marketing since before the term was even coined. We talk about finding the right person, the proverbial needle in the influencer haystack, and how to determine the real reach of that individual who calls him/herself an influencer.

Maybe you or your clients are still questioning the ROI of influencer marketing. Shane and I discuss how to do it right from start to finish, so you and your clients get the most bang for your influencer buck.

From working with agencies and brands on influencer strategy and with celebrities on digital reputation management, to obtaining a #1 national ranking with PROskore as a social media consultant, Shane has built an impressive list of accomplishments. As a regular contributor to publications like Salesforce, Yahoo Small Business, Marketing Profs and others, he continues to grow and share his knowledge.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to vet influencers so you and clients get what you pay for
  • Why you should interview influencers to find the right fit beyond the metrics
  • How to A/B test in influencer marketing
  • What goes into developing a solid influencer marketing strategy
  • How to be the best choice for the influencers you want to work with
  • Developing Scope of Work terms with an influencer
  • The best tools to use to start your influencer search
  • How to fine-tune your influencer search with the “eyeball test”

Ways to Contact Shane Barker:

Jul 22, 2019

In all the years that I’ve been an agency owner (almost 25) and worked alongside agency owners (15+) there is a common pain point — biz dev. We love getting to the table and talking with a potential client about how we can help them. However, getting to the table feels like a slog.

That’s why, if we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t invest as much time and attention as we should to prospecting. The situation becomes a real Catch-22. Sooner or later, that bites every agency owner in the caboose and the bank account.

In episode #198, I talk with Dan Englander, who was on the show a while back (episode #76) and what I appreciate about Dan is that he’s been a student of this challenge. Not only has he analyzed the reasons why we avoid going after new business, but he has developed a process with tangible steps you can take to break the pattern. He’s the proverbial “man with a plan.”

We dig into what makes a good sales team, the right roles for the right people, and how to get and stay on the right biz dev tasks as owners and principals.

Dan founded Sales Schema in 2014 to help marketing service companies reach new heights by aggressively focusing on new business. Previously, he was the first employee business development lead at IdeaRocket. Before that, he was Account Coordinator at DXagency. He’s the author of Mastering Account Management and The B2B Sales Blueprint. In his spare time, Dan enjoys developing new and exciting aches and pains via Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to set up a biz dev team for success
  • How to create a 3-person sales pod
  • The role of a B2B biz dev strategist in your shop
  • Specific tasks that owners and sales leaders should be completing
  • How to create a transparent process that leads good-fit clients to a buying decision
  • How to find enough confidence in your pipeline to be choosy about clients
  • Ways to back up an abundance mindset with solid strategies and tactics
  • How to build momentum through your biz dev efforts
  • How to avoid perfection paralysis in biz dev

Ways to Contact Dan Englander:

Jul 15, 2019

The customer journey, UX, customer experience: buzzwords or actually points of value we can offer clients? I think in the hands of the under-informed and without good data, a process for gathering that data, and a genuine understanding of what the customer journey can tell us, it becomes a matter of hearsay and guesswork.

That isn’t good enough for this week’s guest, so we’re taking the guesswork out of it. I talk with Heidi Trost, owner and CEO of Voice + Code, about how to gather the right data and what to do with it to make that crucial connection between the goals of the customer and the goals of the company.

Heidi Trost has built an agency around those kinds of fixes. Heidi started Voice+Code in 2010 after working at other agencies and being an adjunct professor. She has a passion for helping clients build technology that actually serves their customers and delivers on the experience the customer is seeking. We’re going to dig into all of those topics.

Heidi’s obsession with usability and the user experience began with her award-winning graduate research at Rochester Institute of Technology. Today, her passion is to help businesses measure and optimize the user experience while making the digital realm safe, usable, and accessible.

As a user experience researcher and designer, speaker, and usability expert, Heidi has helped startups and Fortune 500 companies develop digital product strategies that align customer needs with business goals.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The data and metrics to use in understanding the customer journey
  • The best methodologies for getting input from your clients
  • How to test your assumptions about a customer persona
  • How to set up usability studies
  • How to map out the customer journey
  • Getting realistic about the customer journey
  • What prevents a product or service from achieving a great user experience
  • How to convince clients to invest in research

Ways to Contact Heidi Trost:

Jul 8, 2019

I know a lot of agency owners think about selling their shop. But do they think about it strategically? Or soon enough? Do they execute on a plan that will set them up for success 5-10 years before they’re ready to sell?

Usually, the answer to those questions is no. And on the flip side, how many agency owners think about growth through acquisition? Selling is a big part of the conversation but buying should be on the table as well.

In episode #196, I talk with Terry Lammers, who has been buying and selling businesses since he sold his family fuel company. We talk about the monetary and non-monetary aspects of getting the most from your agency or being a smart buyer if you’re on that end of the transaction. Most importantly, we dig into how, why, and when to start planning your exit strategy as an agency owner.

Terry Lammers grew up in a little town of 600 people. His family owned a wholesale fuels and lubricants company and when Terry took over as president of the company, he had some big ideas for growth. Out of that experience developed a fascination with the process of buying and selling businesses.

Since then, Terry has formed a business brokerage that helps people who want to buy and sell businesses. He also has his designation as a certified valuation analyst, accreditation through the National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts. He is the author of You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know: Everything You Need to Know to Buy and Sell a Business.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why it’s never too early to plan your exit strategy
  • How to value a business (like an agency) with little regular recurring revenue
  • Who to have around the table to plan your exit strategy
  • Nonfinancial elements of your agency that add or subtract the value
  • Why culture is so important and why blending two company cultures is so difficult
  • How agency owners can start thinking about the acquisition as a growth strategy
Jul 1, 2019

How’s your year going so far? I might have a pretty good idea already. We work with and see how 250+ small to mid-sized agencies are doing every year and there are always patterns that emerge.

Every spring, I give a trends presentation to all of the agency owners in AMI peer groups. Together we explore how those trends are showing up in our world and how they’re impacting the industry.

Then, in the summer – I share those same rends with my podcast audience. If you’ve been listening for a while, you know this is an annual feature of the show.

In this episode, I share the financial picture that is emerging from the data. How are clients spending their marketing dollars? Is this a good time to be an agency owner? I’ll share what the numbers are saying. We’ll also talk about the mood among agency owners and whether or not they’re bullish on 2019 and 2020.

There are too many trends to cover in one episode, so this is part one. Check it out so you’re ready for part two next month.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Top agency trends in 2019
  • Understanding the rise of project work
  • How to manage after a gorilla client suddenly breaks up with you
  • Why transparency in markups and commissions is so important
  • Why agencies are earning more dollars, but those dollars are harder to acquire
  • How to regain that spark when agency work makes you weary
  • New trends in agency succession planning

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Jun 24, 2019

My entreé into agency life was as a copywriter. I loved digging around and finding the story underneath the story. That love was the foundation for my belief in the power of a strong and smart brand. For decades my agency has helped clients define, develop, and deploy their brand both internally and externally. It’s still some of my favorite work to do.

Understanding your unique story is a powerful competitive advantage for our clients and our own agencies. Without understanding what makes us unique – we have to swim in the sea of sameness and that’s definitely swimming upstream!

In this episode, we’re digging into storytelling by understanding it at the root level. There is an architecture to stories and I have gone to the expert to learn more about that structure and how, as agencies, we can better use it to build our clients’ brands – and our own as well.

My guest is Park Howell. For 25 years, Park ran an agency in Arizona called Park & Co. At a certain point in his career, he pivoted his agency to become a storytelling consultant, helping clients learn how to tell their own story. Park founded his consultancy, The Business of Story, on January 1, 2016, so he could partner with leaders of purpose-driven organizations and help them clarify their stories, amplify their impact, and simplify their lives.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How the hero’s journey has been with us since the beginning of storytelling
  • Why story is one of the most powerful tools in your brand building arsenal
  • How to help clients live into their most powerful stories
  • Who should be the hero of the story (the answer might surprise you)
  • Why it is so hard for agencies to discover and tell their own stories
  • How storytelling connects with something so primal in all of us
  • How to use storytelling to help customers fulfill what they wish, will, and want

Ways to Contact Park Howell:

Jun 17, 2019

The challenge with digital trends is that they are moving so swiftly, it’s hard to keep up. There are so many shiny objects flying around our heads, it’s dizzying. How do you know which ones are worth tracking and learning?

That’s where this week’s guest comes in. Tom Webster is the senior vice president at Edison Research. Edison is probably best known outside our world for being the sole provider of exit poll data during United States elections. But from our agency vantage point, most of us know Edison for their annual study, the Infinite Dial. The Infinite Dial remains the longest-running study of consumer behaviors around media and technology in America, and serves as the digital media trends bible for many since its inception in 1998.

The work that Tom and his team at Edison, along with partner Triton Research, have done for decades is highly anticipated every year and provides mission-critical information to agencies throughout the world. We’re going to dig into the data and find some surprises for you.

Tom Webster has nearly 20 years of experience researching consumer usage of technology, new media, and social networking. In addition to The Infinite Dial, he is the principal author of a number of widely-cited studies, including The Social Habit and Twitter Users in America. He is also the co-author of The Mobile Commerce Revolution, and a popular keynote speaker on data and consumer insights.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How the social media landscape is shifting
  • Why podcasting is becoming more popular
  • What works – and what doesn’t – in podcast advertising
  • The ins and outs of brand lift
  • Why being a ‘capital S’ show is important in terms of podcast popularity
  • A deep dive into the data from The Infinite Dial 2019
  • Why starting with the audience is critical for all good content
  • The work ahead of us in entering the voice assistant space
Jun 10, 2019

Speaking engagements can be a great way for agency owners to connect with their sweet spot prospects and be immediately perceived as a subject matter expert. Wanting to book speaking gigs and being successful at making that happen are two very different things. Even if you have some speaking engagements under your belt, getting chosen by a conference planner is another challenge to navigate.

Even seasoned pros must keep their eyes on the prize. I have always used speaking as one of my primary biz dev strategies (for both my agency and AMI) but I learned early on that it’s easy to get discouraged, distracted, or dismissed if you don’t have a smart strategy in place.

How do you build a speaking strategy that serves your agency business development objectives?
In episode #192, I talk with Steve Markman, who offers some hard-earned, straightforward advice on preparing a speaker proposal and getting it noticed by decision-makers. We also talk about how to determine whether a particular speaking opportunity is the right strategic move. We even tackle the age-old question of “should I speak for free?”

We’ll dig into all the nitty-gritty details of how to take full advantage of the right speaking platforms and when to stay home.

Steve Markman started Markman Speaker Management, LLC in 1994. It’s a speaker’s bureau with access to an international network of speakers in all fields and industries. He also coaches business owners and professionals on how to best speak for the right reasons to the right audiences.

Steve has over 30 years of experience in the conference, event, and speaker business, working with groups like the Conference Board and Society of Professional Consultants. Having been a conference producer working with some of the world’s largest events, Steve understands the importance of quality speaking engagements from both the speaker and conference planner perspectives.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The key components of a speaker proposal
  • How to respond to a call for speakers
  • How to ensure the audience is your target market
  • How to establish a connection with the conference organizer
  • The difference between formal and informal speaker submissions
  • Best practices for organizing your conference presentation
  • How to measure the value of presenting, even if need to pay your own expenses
  • How many speaking engagements is too many

Ways to Contact Steve Markman:

Jun 3, 2019

Whether we articulate them or not – we all have dreams. One of mine for me (and for all of you!) is to visit every Disney theme park in the world. Not that I want to mandate your dreams but who doesn’t love Disney?

The truth is, a serious business case can be made for agency owners to help their team members achieve their dreams. I know this from first-hand experience. More than a decade ago, I read the book Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly and began to implement it in my own agency. I believe it’s one of the reasons I have the employee tenure (17+ years on average) that I do. So when I met Dan Ralphs and learned about his company/mission, I knew I had to get him on the podcast.

Dan is the founder of Dream Leadership Consulting and is one of the world’s foremost experts in unlocking the power of dreaming inside a workplace. We often think that someone’s personal goals and dreams should be separate from their work life but that’s so short-sighted when you think about it. Your goal is to create an environment where your rock stars can flourish, be happy, and stick around for a long time. Why not help them achieve their dreams?

Before founding Dream Coach, Dan was the facilitator of the Dreaming Program at Infusionsoft, where he helped its employees identify, articulate, and accomplish their dreams – all based on the work by Matthew Kelly’s book.
Dan has the amazing ability to help people discover their dreams and learn how to go after them. His realistic approach toward dreaming recognizes that dreaming is not a ‘magic pill’ but, rather, a new way of thinking about our ability to create.

He is also the creator of the Dream Leader Certification course, through which he has helped more than 100 leaders from across the world become Dream Leaders to those whom they lead.
Together, they have helped their people accomplish dreams like buying a first home, riding elephants in Thailand, and starting a foundation to help mothers facing infant loss. Due to the efforts of Dan and the Dream Leaders he has certified, thousands have been awakened to their dreams and their ability to achieve them.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The power of helping employees achieve their dreams
  • Why investing in employees leads them to invest in the agency
  • How to advocate for people’s dreams without simply writing a check
  • Why helping employees achieve dreams must be more than a means to an agency end
  • How to establish systems around dream fulfillment
  • How to help people understand the price tag attached to their dreams
  • Why agency owners experience greater fulfillment in their work when they encourage others to fulfill their dreams
 
May 27, 2019

Figuring out which prospects align with your sweet spot and then doing the work necessary to earn their business are the difficult tasks of agency ownership. It starts with understanding what your sweet spot is. Who do you serve best? Where do you have a specialized knowledge that gives you a competitive edge?

As you have heard me say time and time again, for most agencies, being a general practitioner is neither desirable nor practical. It’s tough to compete on anything but the price when you look, sound and act the same as all of the other agencies out there. The brain surgeon is always more sought after and gets paid more than a general practitioner does.

That’s why I talk so often about positioning your agency. It’s how you find the right clients and focus on the right activities to attract and best serve those clients.

In this solocast, I spell out some of the options you could consider as you think about how to niche your agency. I walk you through the steps to take and areas on which to focus so that you can position your agency as a standout leader in whatever niches you are best suited to serve.
How do you discover your sweet spot clients? How do you hone in on your point of view? How do you demonstrate subject matter expertise that will win the business? In this episode, you’ll get some answers and perhaps come away with a few questions to ask yourself and your team as you move towards that goal.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The importance of defining who you serve and whom you don’t serve
  • The 4 ways to think about niches
  • Ways to narrow your niches
  • How to position your agency by solving a particular problem
  • Why POV is so important in positioning your agency
  • How POV helps you stand out and focus on activities with the highest payoff
  • Why you must not only claim but also demonstrate subject matter expertise
  • Why walking away from a big bag of money is sometimes the right call

Drew McLellan is the CEO at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated his own agency since 1995 and is still actively running the agency today. Drew’s unique vantage point as being both an agency owner and working with 250+ small- to mid-size agencies throughout the year gives him a unique perspective on running an agency today.

AMI works with agency owners by:

  • Leading agency owner peer groups
  • Offering workshops for owners and their leadership teams
  • Offering AE Bootcamps
  • Conducting individual agency owner coaching
  • Doing on-site consulting
  • Offering online courses in agency new business and account service

Because he works with those 250+ agencies every year — Drew has the unique opportunity to see the patterns and the habits (both good and bad) that happen over and over again. He has also written two books and been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Fortune Small Business. The Wall Street Journal called his blog “One of 10 blogs every entrepreneur should read.”

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

May 20, 2019

Artificial intelligence generates lots of interest and more than a little bit of fear among agency owners. How will machine learning, AI, and all that super-technical stuff change agency life? Will it make agency work irrelevant?

Not according to my guest, Paul Roetzer from PR 2020 and The Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. In this episode, Paul shared how his agency is leaning into AI because of the power and possibilities he sees in terms of agency efficiency and profitability. He makes a strong case that AI has the potential to make agency work more intelligent and even more human.

AI is one more way agencies can leverage new technology and new tools to serve our clients better, to help them grow their businesses, and to more profitably, efficiently, and effectively grow our own agencies.

I’m sure that some of you find this a little scary to even contemplate. But just like we’ve embraced all of the technologies before AI (the internet, mobile, programmatic media buying, etc.) we’re going to have to wrap our heads around this one too.

One of the best aspects of owning an agency is that we constantly get to evolve and re-invent ourselves to better serve our clients. AI gives us all the opportunity to scale and grow in ways we couldn’t imagine. AI isn’t about robots stealing jobs. It’s about the potential to eliminate the boring, repetitive tasks so we can spend more time thinking creatively.

Paul always sets his eyes toward the horizon. He’s continually wondering what will happen next in our industry and how he and his agency can be at the forefront of that. So, I wasn’t at all surprised when Paul and I were talking a few years ago and AI started to creep into the conversation.

In the last year or so, Paul has doubled down on that, not only in terms of what he’s doing with his own agency but also through his new organization, the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute. Later this summer, the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute is presenting MAICON, an AI convention for marketing leaders (use discount code McLellan19 to save $100 off the registration fee). Its mission is to make AI approachable and actionable for modern marketers so they can use this technology to build a powerful competitive advantage.

Paul has also written two books that I highly recommend: The Marketing Agency Blueprint and The Marketing Performance Blueprint.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

 

  • How intelligent automation will continue to make repetitive agency work easier
  • Why AI isn’t after your agency job
  • How machine learning can help you share data with clients in a cost-effective way
  • How agencies can understand AI and be a learning resource for clients
  • How to develop use cases for testing AI in your agency
  • Why small and mid-sized agencies are well-positioned to pivot into AI

Ways to Contact Paul Roetzer:

May 13, 2019

For 95% of all agencies, referrals and word of mouth are the #1 method of gaining new clients. On the one hand, that’s great. It means your clients, friends, and peers love and trust you enough to introduce you to their friends and colleagues.

From staffing challenges to constant client demands, agency life can be bumpy. Our industry is in a state of constant change and that’s not going to let up anytime soon. For some owners, that’s exhilarating and challenging. For others, it just makes them bone tired.

Right now, most agencies are enjoying healthy profits, lots of new business opportunities, and a very difficult hiring season. Our employee base is changing and many owners struggle to find and retain talent that will help them grow and strengthen the agency. Clients are demanding more on tighter timelines and budgets.

How do we thrive in this ever-shifting environment?

In this episode, I talk with someone who has seen it all – Nancy Hill. She is a veteran of big box agencies, former president and CEO of the 4As, and, more recently, has started her own consultancy, Media Sherpas. This broad range of experiences has given her important insights into the current climate – the challenges and opportunities we face every day, especially when it comes to staffing and client relationships.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to think differently about your agency’s staffing challenges
  • How to get more creative with your benefits package so that you retain younger employees
  • How to establish mutually beneficial expectations with agency employees
  • Negotiating with clients about scope instead of lowering prices
  • Managing just-in-time staffing
  • Why independently owned agencies need to be nimble in their decision-making
  • How to boost your agency’s ability to say no
  • How to thrive in an environment of constant change

Ways to Contact Nancy Hill:

May 6, 2019

This has happened at my agency and I’m sure it’s happened at yours.

You start a huge client project and are excited to keep things rolling – both to protect your agency’s production schedule and to exceed the client’s expectations in terms of delivering on time and on budget. But then, you hit the roadblock. The cold silence you hear when you ask your client for the assets you need.

Whether it’s images, video, or copy points – you’re stalled until they cough it up. So much for on time or on a budget!

On this episode, I talk with James Rose about how to streamline the content collection process. Back when he was running a web dev shop, this was a major frustration for him and his team. So much so that his company developed what is now its core business: a content collection platform called Content Snare.

As content increasingly becomes central to much of agency work, solving the content collection conundrum is often the difference between profitability and charity work. Take a listen as James offers many no tech, low tech, and SaaS solutions to help us stay in the black.

James and his business partner, Mark Beljaars, started a single-product SEO software company in 2010. As they networked with other business owners, they heard countless stories about website projects that have gone wrong. They thought maybe they could help things go right.

With a passion rooted in software, they identified a few bottlenecks in the web design process. The worst one, which resonated most with other designers, was chasing down clients for their web content. That’s when Content Snare was born.

Clients don’t think about projects the same way we do – they don’t mean to be a bottleneck, even though they often are just that. Finding ways to keep content flowing ultimately helps us deliver an end result worthy of our efforts and our fee.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why gathering content from clients is such a universal pain point for agencies
  • How agencies can set content expectations as a part of the terms and conditions in a service contract
  • How to give clients a firm content deadline and make the stakes very clear
  • Why content collection is more than just setting up reminders
  • How to stop wasting time chasing after clients
  • How agency owners can help clients avoid overwhelming deadlines
  • Why you must manage agency expectations about how much data to expect from clients at one time
Apr 29, 2019

Every agency has a culture. The question is – is it intentional? And when I say culture, I’m not talking the beer thirty or holiday party aspects of culture. I’m really focusing in on the shared beliefs and agreed upon “rules” of engagement in terms of how we work together, deliver for the client and push towards our goals.

In too many agencies, this is not as intentional as it needs to be. The agency’s vision, mission, and values may exist somewhere, in a file folder, or at best in an employee manual, and then agency owners check off the box, hoping that their team picks up on it. It’s culture by default, not by design.

I’ve become increasingly convinced that culture isn’t just a nice idea. It’s not simply a day out serving the community or a potluck lunch held the first Tuesday of every month. Those things can be good and a part of the culture but the concept goes much deeper than that and it has implications for the bottom line.

In this episode, I talk with Tristan White, who early on in his business realized that intention and methodology were necessary to build a strong and healthy work culture. He soon realized that culture isn’t a distraction. It isn’t peripheral to business. Culture is everything.

Tristan White is the CEO of a company called The Physio Co. in Australia. Its core purpose is to increase the physical wellness and activity levels of seniors to keep them healthier, happier, and more mobile.

In the process of building The Physio Co., Tristan did a lot of learning and a lot of experimenting with respect to culture and its influence on company performance. He ended up writing a book called Culture is Everything. Inside that book, Tristan lays out a system for building a foundational culture inside your organization. We explore that system and dig into why culture is so critical to running a long-term successful business.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • Why it’s never too late to grow and foster a healthy work culture
  • How to live the corporate values you espouse
  • A methodology by which to operate from your core values
  • Why culture can equal cash
  • How to design a culture that withstands challenging times
  • How to develop a culture of substance
  • Why a healthy work culture must go beyond a day of service and Taco Tuesdays
  • How to bake things like empathetic connection into your culture
  • How to interview for alignment with your culture
  • Where to start in shaping or reshaping your agency’s vision and values

Ways to Contact Tristan White:

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