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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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Now displaying: Page 6
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:

Apr 22, 2019

The results are in, and 2018 was clearly a good year in agency life.

On this episode, I unpack and dig deep into the findings of our most recent Salary and Benefits survey. Employees are reaping the benefits of the continued tight labor market. Agencies that want to attract and keep the best and brightest are paying better and providing some robust benefits.
We all know it’s hard to compete against the lure of a corporate paycheck, but agency life has so much more to offer than corporate life. Many of you are finding ways to express that to your employees, and my advice is simple: keep going!

There are many more trends to unpack and some considerations for what the road ahead may look like. The salary and benefits survey always gives us a lot to talk about, and this year is no exception!

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • What similarly sized agencies in your market are doing with salary and benefits
  • How the focus on content is favoring writer creatives over art creatives
  • The state of entry-level starting salaries
  • What agencies are doing to keep their staff from seeking greener pastures
  • Why agencies tend to be so generous with benefits
  • How to attract and retain top employees when you can’t compete on price
  • The intangibles that make agency life so rewarding, and how to emphasize them

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.”

Helpful Resources from this Episode:

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

Apr 15, 2019

Let’s admit it. Agency owners are reluctant salespeople. However, biz dev should be a significant part of how we spend our days.

When I hear agency owners say that they don’t have to prospect because they get so much business via word of mouth, I always ask, “Are those the clients you would choose to work with or are you simply working with them by default?” When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth can sting a little.

I get it – no one likes to be told no. That doesn’t make selling any easier. But how do we change our mindset? Hearing no (or deafening silence) feels like a failure, so we avoid it at all costs. But what are the costs of fearing the “no” and settling for whatever comes our way?

In episode #184, I talk with Andrea Waltz, co-author of the best-selling book, Go for No. We have to re-think the word no. A “no” is one step closer to a “yes”.

Andrea and I talk about the no, not just in sales, but also in the creative process. Sometimes we phone it in because big, bold ideas have been rejected in the past. So we play it safe, even though we know that’s not in our clients’ best interests.

Andrea Waltz is a keynote speaker, author, and sought-after sales strategist. At the age of 8, she called George Lucas to see if she could work with him on future movies. She was the youngest general manager in eyeglass retailer Lenscrafters’ history. At the age of 24, she launched her own training company.

Hubspot named Andrea one of the “25 Sales Experts You Should Follow on Twitter” while Salesforce.com named her one of the “25 Sales Influencers to Follow on Twitter.” She was also named among the “Top 100 Sales Influencers” and “Top 65 Women Business Influencers” by Tenfold and one of the “47 Top Sales Speakers and Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by SummitSYNC.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to retrain your brain to accept more “no’s”
  • Why setting “no” targets is as important as setting sales targets
  • How going for “no” translates beyond sales
  • The power of actually wanting to fail
  • Getting ready to fail bigger and fail faster to get to “yes”
  • Why celebrating failure is so important
  • How to encourage the effort and not just the result 

Ways to Contact Andrea Waltz:

Apr 8, 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.

Unfortunately, they’re not always the right clients for our agency.  What if they aren’t a good fit? What if they are the furthest thing from a sweet-spot client for who you are and what your agency does? We have to be more intentional about referral and word of mouth.

That’s why my conversation with Steve Gordon arrived right on time. Steve has developed processes and systems that you can use to leverage word of mouth, qualify referrals, and scale your efforts so you don’t have to spend more time in one-on-one meetings than you have hours in your already stretched-to-the-limit day.

Steve Gordan started the Unstoppable CEO in 2010. He has invested nearly two decades into studying, implementing, testing, and proving the strategies that work to sell professional services.

Through Unstoppable CEO, Steve shares this knowledge with growth-minded professionals who are ready for world-class help with their marketing. He has become an expert at leveraging and scaling referral systems and word-of-mouth marketing techniques.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to leverage your word of mouth and referrals
  • Why you must vet referrals to ensure they are a good fit for your agency
  • How to use presentations as referral machines
  • The many ways to leverage technology in gaining referrals
  • Why human nature creates points of interaction that don’t change over time
  • How to become a successful journalist
  • How to turn podcasts into referral engines
  • What it means to gain total business freedom

Ways to Contact Steve Gordon:

Apr 1, 2019

When you think about or define a global agency, do you think of those giant conglomerates that started on Madison Avenue and have mushroomed into marketing behemoths? Well, that’s one model – but certainly not the only one. What if your global agency was set up more like a series of regional micro-agencies still under one banner?

On episode #182 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with Josh Steimle, who has developed a unique business model that is really working for him and the growing team at MWI.

We dig into it all: how to develop a cohesive culture across multiple locations, how to hire well, and how to niche down. What they are doing is still very unique in the agency world but seems to have the potential for replication – as many successful ventures do.

Josh founded MWI in 1999 while a college student at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In 2013, he moved from Salt Lake City to Hong Kong to open MWI’s first international office.

Josh is the author of Chief Marketing Officers at Work: How Top Marketers Build Customer Loyalty, a TEDx speaker, and regularly presents at marketing and business events. He has written over 200 articles on marketing and entrepreneurship for publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Time.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

 

  • Why there is more than one way to scale a business
  • How to rethink the global agency
  • Why hiring the right person is such a critical decision
  • How a niche service can land you big clients
  • Why even small events can pay off with good business opportunities
  • How to build credibility in the marketplace through strategic partnerships
  • Using credibility to sell your services
  • The ROI of giving away advice
  • Challenge and opportunity in building a global group of micro-agencies
  • Building an agency that is both virtual and face-to-face

Ways to Contact Josh Steimle:

 

 

 

Mar 25, 2019

We talk to clients about positioning every single day. We walk them through differentiation strategies. When they don’t take our advice, we walk away shaking our heads. However, guess who is lousy at taking our own medicine!

I say this all the time, but it bears repeating: Being a generalist is not going to cut it in today’s marketplace. Getting clear on your subject-matter expertise – the heart of your differentiation – has never been more important. I don’t think there is a way to overstate that point.

On episode #181 of Build a Better Agency, I talk with David C. Baker, who has seen it all as a consultant, often working with design firms and agencies. It’s why he wrote the book “The Business of Expertise.”

He speaks regularly on more than 70 topics relevant to entrepreneurial expertise and also appears as a guest on many entrepreneurial focused podcasts.

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The most egregious mistake agency owners make
  • Why “seats on the agency bus” does not always equal success
  • Why establishing subject-matter expertise is more important than ever
  • The ideal numbers of prospects and competitors that define strong differentiation
  • How to measure and demonstrate your subject-matter expertise
  • Why your geographic reach is an important metric
  • Why employees are not as interchangeable as they once were
  • How to elevate training in agency culture
  • Why 85% of agencies are niched vertically

Ways to Contact David C. Baker:

Mar 18, 2019

Agencies have an accountability problem and it starts at the top.

Every day, as owners and team members we make promises to our team. I’ll get the copy to you by 5.” Or, “I’ll have my part of the RFP done by Tuesday.” You’ve heard yourself making those commitments and then you hear that voice in the back of your head say, “I hope.”

If we as owners can’t honor our promises, how on earth can we expect our team to honor theirs? As owners and principals, we overfill our schedules. We overpromise – and guess what? The natural outcome of that is we under deliver, let down our team and set up a pattern where pretty soon, they take everything we say with a big grain of salt.

Everything we do, internally and externally, is deadline driven. If you’re wondering why your employees don’t seem to worry about deadlines or other commitments, like budgets, look no further than your mirror. Odds are, without knowing it, you’ve taught them that the promises we make are “fluid.”

We must be accountable – and hold our teams accountable – for time commitments.

This episode of Build a Better Agency is a solocast. It’s all about providing more leadership in our promises to deliver projects (or answers, or whatever the deliverable may be) on time. We’re all incredibly busy, and too often we use that – and accept that – as an excuse.

You don’t want your agency to be a place whose staff members don’t respect each other enough to keep their promises. And you don’t want your agency to let down or embarrass clients because you didn’t deliver something on time. These are the games we play when we don’t take our time commitments seriously, and they have to stop. Accountability is the key to honoring our word and earning our team and clients’ confidence.

Dig into this issue with me and let’s examine a culture that is reluctant to say no. Let’s look at how we track (or don’t track) our time and our employees’ time. Our goal is not to micromanage or pad billable hours but to get a clear handle on whom and what it really takes to deliver on a project so that we are putting enough time in the calendar to get it done on time and within budget.

What You Will Learn on This Episode:

 

  • The difference between expectation and agreement
  • Why accountability for deadlines starts with you
  • How to put more breathing room into your calendar so you can honor your agreements
  • The life-changing magic of timesheets
  • Why internal deadlines are at least as important as client deadlines
  • How to build a traffic management function into an agency of any size
  • How to make accountability a lived core value within your agency

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.”

Helpful Resources from this Episode:

 

 

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:

 

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