Rob Da Costa
Author Archives: Rob Da Costa

How to train your clients

Account management

OK so that sounds like a weird title for this blog but trust me it’s not, so please read on. I want to share with you some of the client management mistakes I made when I ran my agency, and my key learnings over the years (so you don’t make the same mistakes!).

So there are 3 key reasons why we want to manage our clients effectively

  1. To retain them for the long term and be as profitable as possible;
  2. To earn additional revenues by selling additional services;
  3. Create a strong happy relationship between us and the client

Fundamentally this means we need to be great at managing their expectations.  We all know its way cheaper to retain and grow existing clients than it is to find new ones.  Yet sometimes our best efforts to keep a client happy leads them to be dissatisfied and leave us.  Read on to find out why.

To effectively manage client expectations, we need to have clearly understood service levels that are well understood both internally, with the team delivering the client work and with our customer.

To achieve this, we need to get our service levels right from day one.  How often do you feel: “I need to do an amazing job to impress this new client, so they stick with me for the long term”.  This tends to translate to:

  1. Doing whatever the clients asks so they ‘love’ me
  2. Creating a rod for your own back since we have set the benchmark high and need to keep delivering at this level – even though we are over servicing!
  3. The client keeps asking for more but without wanting to pay additional fees for it

Sound familiar?

I remember when my agency (CIT PR) won its first few clients.  We were super excited and since we had the capacity, we did whatever we could to keep them happy (i.e. always say YES and over service them).

Ironically, we actually achieved the reverse of what we were hoping for.  By continually saying YES to the client, they didn’t really respect our time or what we were doing for them and this led them to not always being happy with our levels of service – they had completely forgotten what we had agreed at the outset and how much they were paying us.  This also made it really hard to raise our fees with them and guess what, as we won more clients and got busier, we started to resent these early clients because they were our lowest fee payers but took up more of our time in order to keep them happy!  Something had to change……

So here are 5 tips I learned (and share with my clients)

  1. Create a clearly understood, documented and agreed scope of work with the client and ensure all team members understand what is and isn’t included
  2. Be willing to over service plus or minus 10%
  3. As soon as the client asks for something outside the scope (or +10%) then have discussions with them about additional costs OR dropping something that has previously been agreed in the scope
  4. Talk VALUE and OUTCOMES with the client rather than TIME (download my free eBook on value pricing and selling to learn more)
  5. Report and communicate regularly (ideally monthly) with the client about progress against agreed scope of work (and discuss any deviations)

And a bonus 6thtip…..

  1. Don’t bury your head in the sand if something isn’t going well – address it as soon as possible and work with your client to find a solution

This is a big topic and I am super excited to be launching a new mastermind course on client & account management in February.  This is a hybrid online course, delivered over 4 weeks and gives access to me via an exclusive closed members group. If you would like to be the first the hear more about the course, and how it can help you and your team then enter your details below and be the first to hear about the launch of the course and exclusive offers.

100th Episode Milestone: 40 Pieces of Advice

100th Episode Milestone: 40 Pieces of Advice

Welcome to the 100th episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast! This is a huge milestone and I am super excited we got this far.  And we have only just begun!

Two years ago I started this channel and I promised myself that I would commit week in and week out to record episodes, and it’s amazing how far we got.

For this episode, I wanted to come up with something special.

During this journey over the past 2 years, I had over 40 guests on the podcast and, at the end of our conversation, I always ask them what piece of advice they would give to their younger selves starting out their business. So I decided to collate 40 of the best answers and give you an episode full of expert and valuable advice.

Grab a pen and paper and get ready to take some notes because you’re going to be taking away so much from this episode.

Time Stamp

[1:01] 

My idea for the 100th episode

[3:09] 

Don’t be intimidated when you go to meetings. Sally Alexander from Episode 4

[3:52] 

Market to your niche. David Miles from Episode 6

[4:31] 

Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. Sophie Walton from Episode 8

[5:15] 

Be yourself and understand your identity. Lee Jackson from Episode 10

[5:57] 

Commit to a niche immediately. Roland Gurney from Episode 12

[6:28] 

Focus on what you’re good at and have fun. Steve Bustin from Episode 15

[7:29] 

Be clear about your outcome and be honest with yourself. Ian Laurie from Episode 17 

[8:28] 

Develop a healthy relationship with failure and lay down strong foundations. Miha Matlievski from Episode 19

[8:44] 

Learn from your mistakes. Laura Evans from Episode 21

[9:10] 

Speak to someone who has done it already. Pietro Ranieri from Episode 23

[9:42] 

Invest in learning how to run a business. Susan Boles from Episode 25

[10:40] 

Believe in yourself and listen to other people who have gone before you. Jez Kay from Episode 27

[11:02] 

Be patient. Dan Englander from Episode 29

[11:22] 

Remember that people are at the core of any good business. Grant Jennings from Episode 31

[12:14] 

Don’t be too regimented in your thinking. Chico Chakravorty from Episode 33

[13:33] 

Be as informed as possible: knowledge is power. Marc Convey from Episode 35

[14:21] 

Have enough capital to get through the first 6 months and do your research about your audience. Tracey Burnett from Episode 37

[15:31] 

Get a customer first. Jim James from Episode 39

[15:58] 

Start earlier. Brad Smith from Episode 41

[16:42] 

Focus your efforts on the things that only you can do. Darryl Sparey from Episode 43

[17:46] 

Be strategic when approaching your business. Lindsey Pickles from Episode 45

[18:03] 

Focus on what you love and what you are good at. Remeny Armitage from Episode 47

[18:46] 

Know what sets you apart from the competition. John Ashton from Episode 52

[20:22] 

Just do it, go for it! Lucy Snell from Episode 54

[21:08] 

Good enough is good enough. Miranda Birch from Episode 56

[22:07] 

Don’t procrastinate. Steve Slotow from Episode 58

[23:19] 

A good job doesn’t always speak for itself.  Don’t wait to be tapped on the shoulder. Melanie Coeshott from Episode 60

[24:40] 

Find some people that you look up to and follow them. Sam Wright from Episode 62

[25:23] 

It’s okay to say no to things. Brent Weaver from Episode 64

[26:23] 

You can be or do absolutely anything you want. Piccia Neri from Episode 66

[26:41] 

Everything is going to be alright. Romans Ivanovs from Episode 68

[27:20] 

Say ‘yes’ to things that scare you. Marcel Petitpas from Episode 70

[27:52] 

Keep up with tech and know that it’s ok to seek help from others. Michelle and Christian Ewen from Episode 72

[30:22] 

Trust your employees more. Ugis Balmaks from Episode 74

[31:18] 

Niche your business and start building your email list. David Miles from Episode 76

[32:08] 

Focus on one thing at a time. Richard Kennedy from Episode 78

[32:42] 

‘Try fast and fail fast’. Adam O'Leary from Episode 82

[33:35] 

Go with your gut feeling. If it doesn’t work, there are always other options. Anthony Burke from Episode 87

[34:42] 

Be braver, take action. Katie Street from Episode 89

[35:21] 

Be more confident. John Horn from Episode 91

Quotations

"Don't let people intimidate you. You're there for a reason." - Sally Alexander, Managing Director at Ambleglow

".. you're going to make mistakes, so get out there. Start making some mistakes and use that process to learn from." - Laura Evans, Creative Director - Video and Podcast Producer of Let's Talk Video Production

"..try fast and fail fast." - Adam O’Leary, Co-Founder of TrustScout

"be focused on what you love to do and what you're really good at, then go for it. Never give up. " - Remeny Armitage, Co-Founder of Brilliant and Human

"Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth." - Sophie Walton, Owner of 3twelve

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Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Introduction

Over the past two years of having guests on the podcast, I always ask them what advice they would give their younger selves, just starting in business.

There have been some fascinating and varied insights, and I thought to celebrate episode 100, we would put all of their answers together into one episode.

So below, you will find the answer from 40 guests grouped into categories.

If you don’t want to read the whole document, these are our guests' core messages.  

Just these 23 pieces of advice, in themselves, are super valuable:

  1. Work on a winning mindset

  2. Listen to your instincts

  3. Be brave

  4. Be authentic

  5. Be inquisitive

  6. Be willing to fail and make mistakes

  7. Play to your strengths

  8. Don’t be a perfectionist

  9. Get advice from an expert

  10. Develop yourself

  11. Enjoy the journey

  12. Build strong relationships

  13. Have enough capital

  14. Win a customer/proof of concept

  15. Get a customer and proof of concept

  16. Learn to say NO and stay focused

  17. Everything will be OK!

  18. Stay abreast of the latest technologies

  19. Trust (your team more)

  20. Chose a clear market position

  21. Get your pricing right from the start

  22. Don’t underestimate the value of a plan

  23. Build Your Email List Sooner!

Work on a winning mindset

Sally Alexander, Managing Director at Ambleglow:

I think I would say to myself, don't be intimidated when you go to meetings. I've sat in so many meetings in the past, but certainly when I first started in my career, when I was talking to clients and thinking, "Do I know enough?" "Am I good enough?". Actually, the very fact that they've requested a meeting is because we're the experts.

Then, I'd say, "Don't let people intimidate you. You're there for a reason." I guess the best analogy is if you've got a dishwasher that's broken, I'm not going to come and fix it. I would get an expert in. So, don't be intimidated by people in meetings. You're there as the expert. Have fun, enjoy it and own it.

Lee Jackson of Agency Transformation:

It's to understand my identity and stop trying to be something that I'm not. That guy who was in my years ago stood in front of that camera wearing a suit. Trying to be something that I wasn't, which was therefore attracting the wrong type of people.

I would just go right back there and say, "Do be yourself and pack your identity." Because it all starts from identity, everything else just naturally flows.; this is pretty much no rocket science at that point. That's the one thing I really wish I'd nailed years ago. I've built websites for years for anyone, and it's only when I worked out who I was, who I wanted to attract that things really started to change. 

Steve Bustin, Award-winning Keynote Conference Speaker and Event MC & Compere:

What I would say to my younger self is to play to your strengths. Know what you're good at. Don't be scared, or don't be ashamed of what you're good at. I've always been somebody who enjoys standing up in front of an audience.

I was that kid in the assembly at school who wanted to stand up and do things. I was always doing readings at church and mastering things. I've always enjoyed it, but it took me a long time to recognise that it was actually a useful sellable skill. I would say to my younger self that to recognise your strengths, play to those, and have more fun. Have fun with it. I'm a big believer in particularly running around business, and it needs to be fun.

If you're not enjoying it, do something different. We're going back to what we said earlier about Sunday night blues. There has to be enjoyed. There has to be satisfied and not just monetary satisfaction. If all you're doing is to generate money, I think that's a problem. You're not going to get a chance to rerun this career. You might enjoy it while you're doing it. Absolutely, greater strength and have some more fun. That was what I would say to my younger self.

Lucy Snell, Founder, and Creator of Lucy Snell Online:

I think it would just be, just to go for it. As in the old kind of Nike slogan, “Just do it.” Because I first had my idea for my online teaching and the Agency Growth Academy years ago. I even started it years ago but never finished it. What was holding me back? If I'm honest with myself, it was fear. 

Fear of putting myself out there. Actually,  I think that now a lot of businesses and moving this way. Aren't they? In terms of If they're looking to launch something. They will look just to launch an MVP rather than get something really polished just to test it. I definitely just think that don't be afraid to take those little leaps because there's no harm in failing. We can only learn from the mistakes that we make along the way. 

Piccia Neri, UX expert, focusing on human-centred design:

I would definitely say you can be or do absolutely anything you want. Do not believe anybody that gives you limitations, that says you can't possibly do that, or that's going to be too hard.No, just don't. This is the main thing that I would tell myself and anybody else. 

Listen to your instincts

Anthony Burke, Social Media Director at Brits in Dubai:

I've tried a couple of different things, and I'm quite pleased that I have. I'd always say, Go with your gut. If it works then, it's fantastic. If it doesn't, then more options.

I think that the younger me would have maybe, have lots of doubts. I mean, eventually, I've done things, but I think I would have done it a lot easier and a lot earlier. I would say, "Just go with your gut feeling if it works from tough. If it doesn't, there's always other options." I think you're a long time dead as well, so you kind of got to live your life because the possibilities now are endless. I wish we had the opportunity. 

Now you know me at 50, what I had when I started doing my own thing because I've worked in various industries, and my first business was 20 years ago. It's still alive and well today. Sometimes I wish it stayed within that. Yes, I just think it's nice to have choices, and a good feeling is a massive one. If you think it's a good idea, get the right advice. Speak to the right people, don't just maybe go hang out with them.

Be brave

Katie Street, Found and Managing Director of Street Agency:

I think the biggest thing that I've probably learned is just to be braver, I am very action-focused, and I'm very much someone that goes with my gut feeling in life. But I think when I was younger, I would look to other people for reassurance and maybe hold back and wait before I took action. 

Then, I would say the biggest thing is just to try things. Your worst thing is something might not work quite right. But you will learn very quickly that it's not going to work, right? Take action as quickly as you can, and doing things would be my advice to my younger self.

Be authentic

Lee Jackson of Agency Transformation:

I have been bullied all my life at school, and it was hell. I hated school. I was always scared. I always felt like I had to try and become somebody that I wasn't. So this is very easy for me. That is to be yourself and to recognise who you are. I listened for a very long time to who I thought I had to be because of these bullies. I created a persona that wasn't real. That wasn't the real Lee. I did the same in business as well and clients believers as well.

I tried to create this whole persona of Lee. The guy in a suit and tie, who's very professional, who's very confident, and just created this entire persona. I did it in my career and moved my way through businesses. It works, don't get me wrong, but the entire time I was miserable. I was working with people that I didn't resonate with; people who were horrible and who I didn't like. All of the above did it in business, attracting clients that were not right.

Then, a few years ago, when I launched the podcast and finally decided to just show up like me, a goofball who loves Star Wars. I love programming. I love old machines, like programming in basic and doing stuff on the raspberry pi. I like to wear a cap, skinny jeans, and a hoodie. Rack up, just be me and all of that sort of stuff. The moment I started being myself, everything changed. We began to attract really great clients.

I've signed hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of contracts in skinny jeans and a hoodie in big corporate London offices. Nobody batted an eyelid. Then, I would say be your freaking self. I would tell myself that over and over again. Be true to yourself.

Be inquisitive

Chico Chakravorty, Founder and Managing Consultant of Doing Diversity Differently:

I think the first thing I would say is don't be too regimented in your thinking or your approach. I had a very solid career path that I was following, and I had a certain job title that I wanted by the time I was 30. I got there at 26 and absolutely hated it. But that enabled me to completely change who I was and what I found my passion for again, which was really critical.

I think doing that by combining that with not being too regimented with the concept of being inquisitive or curious. Trying to learn as much about the world as possible or about processes in the office as possible was something that took me a while to get to. I think if I'd had that mindset first off, it would have been really useful. 

But, it was something where I then later questioned when I was working for a health insurance company. Why do we do it this way? Then, I was able to do things such as reduce our timeframe to enter into new geographic markets by 70% or exceed our business case expectations by 250%. 

Be willing to fail and make mistakes

Laura Evans, Creative Director - Video and Podcast Producer of Let's Talk Video Production:

I think one piece of advice would be that you're going to make mistakes, so get out there. Start making some mistakes and use that process to learn. The opportunity with my own marketing is to make some of those technical mistakes.

That's where I get a bit more experimental or stuff that I produce for myself that isn't necessarily released. It's just an experiment but just be prepared to make mistakes. Don't beat yourself up about it. Use it as a point of learning.

Miha Matlievski, The Fail Coach - Business Mentor & Adviser to Entrepreneurs:

The number one thing is, develop a healthy relationship with failure. It's a logical one, not an emotional one. Then, lay down strong foundations, first in yourself and also in everything you do. 

Marc Convey, Managing Director of 23 Digital:

I'm very much like a forward-thinking person, so I often think that if I could go back and tell myself something, you know, would I?

I think sometimes you have to allow your younger self to make mistakes. I think it's through those mistakes that you make that you learn the most. If I went back and talked to my younger self when just starting our business, I wouldn't really give any specific advice. What I would just say is, just be as informed as possible. 

Knowledge is power. I'm just a sponge for any new information. It's just to make sure that that was properly instilled in me a few years ago because they're getting more and more like that as I get older. We would like that to have instilled in me a little bit more when I was younger.

Adam O’Leary, Co-Founder of TrustScout:

What I would definitely say is try fast and fail fast. That has become one of the main building blocks of my business. Because if I go ahead and when I first started in business, I would work on projects for six (6) months at a time or nine (9) months. Even if it wasn't profitable, thinking that it takes so much effort to go out and start a business that it makes sense to kind of work for free for six (6) months or twelve (12) months.

Then, the reality behind it is that if you can just get it in front of enough people and see what the conversion rates are and how much you're making from it. In 24 hours, you're going to be way better off because you're going to have all those misses, and then you'll be able to find those couple of winners that will allow you to scale at that kind of exponential rate. 

Play to your strengths

Darryl Sparey, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Hard Numbers:

To answer that question, if that's OK, the first is to buy stock in Apple, Google, Microsoft and Netflix. When I was 20, 21, or 22, I had my own business, right fish out of water. I had no idea about anything, and I had to learn. 

They talk about being a startup. You're kind of building the plane while you're trying to fly it. Well, like, imagine learning what an aeroplane looks like while you're trying to build a plane and while you're trying to fly it. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way when I was that age. I think the one big lesson that I learned is still trying to teach it to myself today. I still have to remind myself, and I still don't get it right every day.

It is focusing your time and your effort on the things that only you can do and that no one else can do. If you find yourself spending time on something that you know someone else could do, but you just fit. Think that you haven't got time to show them or that it would just be quicker for you to do it or anything like that. You're wasting your time. Have a word with yourself and get some help from someone else to do it.

Don’t be a perfectionist

Miranda Birch, Director and Founder of Miranda Birch Media Ltd :

I am a recovering perfectionist. I can spend ages doing things. What I've learned and what I wish I'd known when I started in business is that perfection is illusory. You can spend hours tweaking, dotting I's, crossing T's, and trying to make it perfect. But actually, as far as your client is concerned and your deadlines are concerned. Good enough, really is good enough.

Even if you're doing something rough, if you're putting your expertise and your knowledge down on paper, video, or whatever. Actually probably is good enough, and perfection can waste your time. It can delay deadlines. In the end, it's just a source of frustration. So, if you're building a business around expertise and knowledge, the chances are you already have a head start. You already are meeting standards that will satisfy your clients. Then, please don't strive for perfection. 

Steve Slotow, Chief Operating Officer of Globital Marketing:

I would say, don't hold back and don't procrastinate. Back in those days, the state 10 or 15 years ago, procrastination was bad. In the world we live in today, procrastination is tenfold worse because the world is moving away quicker. Then, any procrastination I reckon you put in now and you actually do now affects you 10 times worse than it would have 10 years ago. That's something I would say to myself, "Listen, get off your ass. Stop thinking about doing it and just do it." Because I believe that if I had taken that advice all those years ago, I'd be in a very different place. Definitely, on social and social media, I think that's 100% true.

You can't sit around waiting. I think another piece of advice I'd give is don't care too much about what other people think. Thankfully, I've never been that hung up on what other people think. But even with that said, I could have cared less, a little bit less. People aren't really that interested in what you're up to. Only you are interested in what you have to do. Just do it because I think that the more you try and put into it, like you say, persistence.

Get advice from an expert

Pietro Ranieri, Executive/Group Managing Director of Ranieri Agency:

If I was going to ask someone for advice or advise myself, the first thing I'd get them to do is to make sure they spoke to someone who had done it already and just so that they know the thing that they're trying to do.

Make sure they speak to that person that's already done it and succeeded or failed at it. Because I think the one who fails at something probably has more advice to offer than the one who succeeds. Because if you've only ever been successful at what you're doing, it's great, but you're still in this bubble of whatever you touch works. At some point, you're going to make a mistake.

Jez Kay, Remote Communications Consultant from Just Jez:

What do you think now is true? Keep believing it and listen to people who are on track with you all the time, and focus on what they're saying. I think it is. I think I would have certainly learned a lot if I'd had a bit more self-belief and been open to more advice.

Sam Wright, Managing Director of Blink SEO:

I will probably say to find some people that you admire. Some mentors that you look up to and follow them. I think that's something I kind of really lacked earlier on in my career.

I've done most of this stuff by myself without someone else involved. I think I could have learned a lot more and quicker if there were people around with that kind of expertise. Looking back, I think I would have seen some quite big improvements quite quickly if I had gone and sorted that out. I imagine this is something that lots of other people would say as well. 

Christian Ewen, Director of Write on Time Ltd:

It's OK to put your hand up and seek help from experts within any chosen field. 

What I mean by that is, we were very guilty, right at the beginning, of trying to do everything on our own. Not only we'll be trying to run the PR agency and show up in a way that we knew that we were experts in, but also we were trying to do a myriad of other things as well. We were not so great at things which we didn't particularly enjoy doing so.

When we began to learn the value of outsourcing, and we had a lot of people telling us to do that who have been in business for a lot longer than we had, that started to open our eyes. It gave us a massive energy boost. It allowed us to focus on what we knew we needed to be doing to give the most value that we could. Also, just trust other people to do other aspects of the business that are so important and let them take care of that.

It's sort of one of those things where you can pass it over. Trust that person, people, or organisation to do it for you. Then, it just frees you up to really get enjoyment and fun, as we talked about earlier. Look at the things you are open to that you want to focus on. So, I wish that we had taken that step earlier to have outsourced quicker than we did. That's more of a recent thing for us, to be fair. 

Develop yourself

Susan Boles, Virtual CFO & Operations Advisor of ScaleSpark:

I think the best piece of advice, the thing that's been a game-changer for me, is a willingness to dig in and learn. Being willing to understand what is happening behind the scenes really empowers you to make better choices, make different choices, and understand why you're making a choice. 

My best advice that has been pivotal for me all the way along is to invest in learning about how to run a business. Most of us spend time. We come into the business. We know that we want to do the thing that we want. 

Maybe we come in, and we like doing web design. Then, we should start a web design agency. There's not a great methodology to learn how to run a business. Well, they don't teach it in school. They don't like handing you a card when you become a business owner that says, "You're a business owner. Here's what you need to know." Spending time learning how to run a business will really pay huge dividends. 

Enjoy the journey

Dan Englander, CEO and Founder of Sales Schema:

I would just say be patient—a marathon, not a sprint sort of thing.  Try to enjoy yourself a little bit more; trying to be less stressed all the time about trying to make some super successful business within a week or whatever. I think that's probably the main advice I give myself. 

Brad Smith, Director and Founder of Succeed Digital Consulting Ltd:

Start earlier. 

I'm currently almost 39, and I joined the digital world when I was 20. It took me a couple of years ago to think I should just be doing this for myself. I'm so busy.  Kind of helping everybody else, I actually love what I do every day.

I genuinely get up, and I love making a difference. I love working with agencies. I love tackling their problems and their challenges and helping to solve them. My simple summary is that if you've got an idea in your head and think it can work, make it happen. Be willing to fail fast. Learn from it, pick yourself up and go at it again.

Remeny Armitage, Co-Founder of Brilliant and Human:

I think, be focused on what you love to do and what you're really good at then go for it. Never give up. 

When I start setting up on my own, I was probably a bit too broad. My background in marketing business has done that for 20 years for agencies. But then when I went out on my own, I sort of thought, Well, I'll do everything. The more I did it, the more I realised that what I wanted to be doing was nurturing and building those relationships with clients—looking at how to engage better with clients to turn them into advocates and friends. I think it's being as focused as possible on what you want to be doing instead of trying to broadcast everything you can do.

Build strong relationships

Grant Jennings, Managing Director of Creative Blend:

The piece of advice I would give would just be to remember that people's relationships are at the core of any good business. I don't mean that just your team is the core of the business. Of course, they are also how you conduct yourself at a networking event. How do you speak to people? 

The fact that you don't have to run a business to be successful or be sales all the time. Just helping people is enough and is a sign of your character. Sometimes putting people together because you see a need in a sort of demand. There is some sort of benefit for that individual. I think it's quite common that when businesses start out, they're quite closed. They don't like to share at all. We were certainly like that at the beginning. Just to be a little bit more open, remember people at the heart of this and enjoy.

Have enough capital 

Tracey Burnett, LinkedIn Strategist of Leads To Success Global:

That's an easy one because I think the biggest number one tip is to have enough capital to get you through the first six months and enough to get you some experts' support. Because there's nothing worse than thinking, "Oh my God, I need a client. I'm not going to pay the mortgage next month." or "I'm not going to feed my kids." It just kills your sales, and it kills your mindset, which kills your sales.

If you've got enough capital in the bank to last you through six months. Also, enough to get some expert support because we have to wear many hats as business owners and we're not experts in all those areas. You need to be able to identify what your strengths and weaknesses are. Where you need help right from the get-go. 

The other thing is, do your research in terms of the audience. I understand what's going to encourage them to spend money with you. What results do they want to see as a result of working with you? Because if you haven't cracked that, you're not going to go anywhere. That's why I call it my unshakable business foundation. You should do all those things right in the beginning to give you the best chance of success. 

Win a customer/proof of concept

Jim James of EastWest Public Relations:

I would give myself the advice that I took to get a customer first. A business doesn't exist without a customer. It's a vanity project, otherwise. Before I went to Asia, the first thing I did was I got a customer. That is the advice I'd give myself and anybody looking to start a business because, without a customer, you just got an idea. 

Get a customer and proof of concept

Melanie Coeshott of Blue Diamond, Award-winning Career Coach & Mentor:

I believed that a good job would speak for itself for a long time. It took me a long time to realise that a good job doesn't speak for itself. You can do the best job in the world. If nobody knows that you're doing it or if the right people don't see that you're doing it, then you can just sit there doing a good job for a long time.

Look for ways to make sure that the right people know that. That doesn't mean that you've got to be going away around blowing your own trumpet all the time, but I think there are ways where you can make sure that you're getting the right exposure or informing the right people of what you're doing. The other thing is, don't wait till somebody comes in, taps you on the shoulder. Yes, it happens sometimes. I've been in that fortunate position, and I've also been frustrated by other people who have been tapped on the shoulder.

But actually, the biggest movements for me have been when I've got off my bottom out of my chair and gone actually and found those opportunities. Sometimes they were there waiting to be discovered, and sometimes I created them as well. A good job doesn't always speak for itself. Don't wait to be tapped on the shoulder. 

Learn to say NO & stay focused

Brent Weaver, CEO of uGurus LLC:

I think it would probably be this quote I read in a book called Essentialism, "I still am not doing a great job at living this value, but the idea of less the better." That there's so much opportunity in getting good at fewer things. Also, it's OK to say no to things. If anything is not OK and the path to success is turning down opportunities and taking the opportunities. You do have that you commit to and go all-in on that idea.

Sooner, I think that was one of the biggest limiters to us scaling that I just didn't have that discipline to say no. Then, when I finally said no to a really big shiny object, I started saying no more often like we saw the business grow. That's something that I think if I had learned that lesson sooner, I think it could have accelerated something a little faster. 

Richard Kennedy, Managing Director of Arken Digital:

Other than buying as much Bitcoin as I possibly could, I think I would say just to focus on one thing. There are so many different elements to it; it's not just link building, it's not just technical, it's not just content, there are so many things. I would just focus on one aspect of it because as the industry is growing, you have specialists in all these different areas. I would just say just to focus on one thing and one market. 

Everything will be OK!

Romans Ivanovs, Founder of RIU Media:

I haven't had any regrets or disappointment, to be honest. I've made the right decisions, and it's been great so far. I guess the only thing I would probably reinforce is believing that everything will be alright. 98.99% of things that I've been afraid of, never realised. It's just been in my head, and knowing that it's most of the things you worry about, whether it's business or how it's going to affect your personal life, will never become a reality. It's just a bit of illusion and imagination, I guess. 

Marcel Petitpas, Co-Founder and CEO of Parakeeto:

I think one of my biggest fears, when I was younger, was choosing the wrong thing and wasting my time. Looking back, nothing that I did over the last decade ever made sense while it was happening, but it makes perfect sense in retrospect. I can see every single project I've worked on. Every single business I've been involved in is serving me today. That's probably the word of advice like, "Don't worry about it." Just say yes to things that scare you, and you'll be fine. That playbook has worked pretty well for me so far. 

Stay abreast of the latest technologies

Michelle Ewen, Director of Write on Time Ltd:

Well, my advice would be to keep up with tech. I remember being a journalist fresh out of university, and at that point, we were still pitching to the nationals on a fax machine. We were still using yellow pages and the telephone directory to ring round and bind story leads. The curve that journalism has gone on since I graduated in 2001 has been huge.

The number of new technologies that have come out and social media has obviously revolutionised everything. Also, I think a key strength has always been to evolve with that. When anything new comes up to be an early adapter, you can help all the people coming down the line to upskill. 

For me, I would say always be at the forefront of new tech. Even if you are not a technical person, use it as a user to understand how it operates, and then you can leverage that to push your agency forward.

Trust (your team more)

Ugis Balmaks, Founder of Recruiter Mill:

I was thinking about that, and the answer I came up with is that I would want to trust my employees more. That's something. Actually, I'm still struggling with and working my way through. Because it always feels like I'm the person that knows how a business should run. I started it. Of course, I can only help them by being involved. 

When I take a step back and reflect that it's not always true, I'm just saying that it's not always true. I'm also conscious that I need to let my employees grow and put them in a position to grow the business for me. Not necessarily; I'm always the person that's doing the growing. Then, that's something I wish I'd started earlier. I've now started, and I'm still working through it. I think many people have had a similar problem, but I think that is a good fight to fight. That's what I'm trying to do. 

Chose a clear market position

David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine Ltd:

Be very clear on who it is you want to market to. If I had found it, I wish I had discovered the niching concept many, many years ago. Because since I started doing that, it's definitely changed the business for the better.

It makes the work more enjoyable. It means I can charge higher fees. It means I'm not so stressed running around trying to service lots of different clients. I think that would be my advice to my younger self. Find a niche and market to that niche. 

Roland Gurney, Found and Senior Copywriter of Treacle - copywriting for agencies:

I would go back and tell myself to commit to a niche immediately. Because although we had lots of fun doing lots of jobs and meeting lots of people, they're being lots of variety. We actually were probably more stressed and more underpaid for the work that we were capable of at the time.

I know, it feels like I'm slightly labouring the point, but we would have just gone in at the point where I had an inkling that I wanted it to be an agency for agencies. To just have gone in there and saved the 12 months of coming in our ring. 

John Ashton, Founder of Write Arm, The KitchenTable Community and Freedom of Information Ltd:

It would be to work on your proposition to really know what you are, what sets you apart from the competition, and why clients would want to hire you. I didn't do that when I set out. 

When I set out with the proposition, we write, "Oh, by the way, we can also do your website, and we can also do your photography," and so on. Because I knew a couple of people who could do that, it was useless as a proposition. It was only when I began to think about the culture that is all part of this and what I was about, why I was doing this, that I developed this proposition. We are a flexible writing resource for marketers, and as soon as I say that to clients, they get it.

The light bulb goes on, and they want to talk. Whatever you do, maybe people listening to this are at the start of their agency journey. There might be a designer, a video maker, or a web developer, and they will say, "OK, well, I'm a designer. That's what I'll offer." "I'm a web developer. That's what I'll offer." But you've got to think more about what you are and what you do. That might be something sector-specific rather than the way you do business.

It has got to be at the core of your identity; it has got to be easily understood. It's going to be the reason that people will pick up the phone for you and answer your emails. It's going to be easily comprehensible. There's no point in saying that we just do this; name the skill that will get you nowhere. That's the single most important thing that I would tell myself. 

Get your pricing right from the start

Sophie Walton, Owner of 3twelve:

A couple of things very much harked back today niching concept, Rob. I wish I had done that colour from day one rather than come across as an agency that offers something for everyone and also huge things.

Don't be afraid to charge what you're worth. That is something that I have struggled with since starting my agency. Certainly, I was afraid to charge XYZ-ed in the early days because I had massive imposter syndrome. I wasn't confident enough to charge the fees that I wanted to, which in short, attracted some clients that were great for me or great for my agency. Then we're; be strong, be confident, and know your worth.

Don’t underestimate the value of a plan

Ian Laurie, Founder & Creative Director of Snow Digital Media:

There's a couple of pieces of advice. The first one is just to try and be clear about your outcomes. I think starting a business is an incredibly exciting thing to do. I think you immediately get wrapped up in just trying to make money. I think once that starts happening; it's just so exciting. You just sort of carry on doing that without necessarily looking to the future. I think the other thing is I certainly looked around me, my sort of peers, and thought that what they had was exactly what I should have or should strive for.

For example, an office with 20 people, being empty and sitting in the office on my own. It took me quite a few years to realise that it really wasn't me. I think you've got to be able to sort of take time out and be honest with yourself and honest with the skills that you've got and say," Am I where I need to be?" "Am I really happy doing this?" Because you're going to be doing it for a long time, and it's something that you've made yourself. So If you're not happy doing it, then there's something wrong.

Lindsey Pickles, Director and Co-Founder of Bright Dials:

I tried to do too much too soon in my career and wanted to have my own business. I would tell my younger self to be a bit more strategic about approaching that because it's taken several attempts to have my own business and where I want to be. That would be my advice. 

Build Your Email List Sooner!

David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine Ltd: 

Start building your email list because, again, that's something that I only really started focusing heavily on a few years ago. I'd have an even bigger if I started doing that ten or twenty years ago. I mean, my email list is a massive asset, and as I said, it was where the majority of my members have come from my membership programme. Imagine if I'd started building that 15 years ago, then it would have been even bigger and better.

Be a Little More Confident

John Horn, Managing Partner at StubGroup:

I would say be a little more confident. What I mean by that is, when you're just starting out in business, as I'm sure you know, It's so easy to have that imposter syndrome.

I have no idea what I'm doing. All of my competitors, they have it all figured out. They're doing a fantastic job and how do I get into this space? Just realising that everybody is figuring it out everyday. The market is always changing. People look like they got it together but we're all we're all figuring it out. If you invest that time, that energy and that intelligence into what you're doing. If you're truly meeting a market need, caring for the businesses you're working with and the clients are serving then, go forth, do it and things are gonna work out. 

My Best Tools of 2021

15 Tools To Help You Be More Productive

It’s that time of the year when I share with you the top 15 tools that have helped me run my business more efficiently, get more organised, and provide a more professional image to the world.

So in the article below you will see the tools/apps/software, links, a short review and current pricing.  These have had a big impact on me so I hope they will help you.

To get a printable copy of this guide, click on the button below.

I’m curious to know which are your favourite tools and if they made a difference in your business?

If you prefer to listen rather than read, click on the link below to listen to the podcast version of this blog.

All-in-One Integrated Tools

 

1

kartra logo

$1 for a 14-day trial and then from $99/month

Kartra is completely foundational and fundamental to running my business. It is an all-in-one platform that enables me to do all my email marketing; store my emails, create emails, send them out and create sequences. I also host my membership programmes: The Self-running Agency, The Agency Selling System and The Build, Nurture, Convert Blueprint Programme on this platform. It’s easy to create 'products' like these, take payments online and deliver the contents to my members.

It also hosts and stores my videos and you can also create web pages. You can also create forms, use the inbuilt calendar booking system, run surveys and quizzes and much much more!

Since all these components are all integrated, they play well with each other and you can create sophisticated sequences based on specific user actions and behaviours.

Kartra is a fantastic all-in-one platform. Now the question is: do you want to buy a suite of best in breed individual products and then connect them all together, or do you want to use an all in one platform like Kartra?

Kartra is the platform for me; I've been using it for a couple of years, and it works well. It cost me approx £1,320 / year (it's not a cheap product) but considering I don't have to pay for video hosting, I don't have to buy a separate email marketing platform, I don't have to host my website anywhere else, and I don't have to get a separate calendar booking system, if you add it all together, it's cheaper to buy Kartra than buying all the independent products. Also, I won't experience the headache of trying to get them to ‘talk to each other’ works well. It cost me approx $2500 / year (it's not a cheap product) but considering I don't have to pay for video hosting, I don't have to buy a separate email marketing platform, I don't have to host my website anywhere else, and I don't have to get a separate calendar booking system, if you add it all together, it's cheaper to buy Kartra than buying all the independent products. Also, I won't experience the headache of trying to get them to ‘talk to each other’.

Broadcasting tools

 

2

$468 per year

I use WebinarJam to host my live webinars (which makes up a major part of my marketing). When running a masterclass, a workshop, or a webinar, I will host it on a WebinarJam. It is a great platform where you can deliver your presentation, chat with your audience, deliver files, offers, and other things that make running a webinar so much easier than using another platform like Zoom.

 
 

3

EverWebinar

$498 per year

EverWebinar is similar to WebinarJam but I use it to deliver on-demand or evergreen webinars. A good tactic when running a live webinar is to run it several times (to refine it and use feedback from attendees to perfect the content) and once it’s proven to work, then you can turn it into an on-demand or an 'evergreen' webinar, which means people can watch it at their leisure, and it can stimulate the same behaviour as with a live webinar.

Webinars are a really important part of my marketing strategy, and I'll be doubling down on them this year. Having products like WebinarJam and EverWebinar make my life an awful lot easier. I never have to worry about the registration method and delivery because WebinarJam and EverWebinar take care of that and are reliable and robust.

 

4

Zoom  

Zoom

FREE for a personal plan or from £119.90/year for teams & business plans

In the remote working world we have been living in, Zoom has become one of the major communication platforms. I personally use it for both my one-to-one coaching with my private clients, and for my monthly group coaching call. It’s reliable and robust.

The Self-Running Agency
 
 
 

5

LOOM

FREE up to 100 x 5 min videos then $8 / month

I also recommend Loom as a way to build even more engagement with your audience.


It enables you to record your screen (with or without you in the recording) and then share a URL of the recording (with an option to download it).


I use it for communicating with my clients. There are two reasons why I do this: firstly, it saves me a ton of time since I can give feedback in real time (rather than having to craft an email response). And secondly, from my client's perspective, a video (rather than email) is more engaging; it's a great way to build relationships. I even use it with my prospects.


Loom is free up to a certain number of videos/limited functionality, but you buy an annual subscription (with unlimited videos) for $8 per month.

Design and layout tools

 
 
 

6

Final Cut Pro

FREE for 90 days, then £222 for a 6-year license

I have launched a new website and a new YouTube channel focusing on my campervan adventures as well as doubling down on the Da Costa Coaching YouTube Channel.


Since I'm editing more videos every week for my different platforms, I decided that I need to step up from iMovie and get better at video editing. I invested in Final Cut Pro, a grown-up version of my iMove for a Mac!

It has made my videos more professional with much more functionality available (than iMovie).


With all these platforms like Final Cut Pro, there's a steep learning curve, so one thing I would advise is to take notes (and of course, I do that in my ReMarkable 2). So every time I learn something new, I write it down (because otherwise I think I'll remember it, and then two days later, I'm think, "How the heck did I do that?"!!).

 
 
 

7

Canva

FREE for single-use or from £107.88/year for multiple users & additional functionality

Another important tool for creating content is Canva. It helps me create more professional Youtube thumbnails, social media posts, guides (like this one), and much more.


I highly recommend using Canva because you don't have to outsource a designer to create good-looking documents. Also, Canva keeps improving its functionality - you can now import a PDF and then you can edit that PDF within Canva.


Canva gives you many pre-designed templates and access to hundreds of royalty-free photos. You can also create simple animations. Canva is a super important piece of software in my tool kit, and for the cost, it's been a big game-changer in the industry, so I highly recommend it.


We use a paid version, but you can get it free if you wish.

 
 

8

convertkit

£380 / year

It is one of the best in breed examples (compared to Kartra's email marketing function). ConvertKit is an email marketing platform. It enables you to capture people's email addresses, send emails, create sequences, automations and broadcasts - all the while ensuring you are GDPR compliant.


ConvertKit is a simple tool, and it's free to use (with limited functionality and up to 1,000 subscribers). This is the platform I used before I moved to Kartra.

There are also other platforms like Mailchimp, Mailerlite and ActiveCampaign.


ActiveCampaign is great if you want to be more sophisticated (for example, do lead scoring where you can start identifying your top prospects with the highest scores).

 

Finance

Now, let's move on to finance. I can't complete this guide without sharing the two tools that help me manage my finances. Xero and Dext (formally ReceiptBank). 

 

9

xero

FREE for 1 month, then from £10 / month

Xero is an online financial accounting system. I really like the fact that it's cloud-based so my accountants have real-time access.


It is also intuitive and easy to use for non-finance people like me!

 

10

ReceiptBank

FREE 14-day trial then £120 / year

The next tool that works seamlessly with Xero is ReceiptBank (now known as Dext) for capturing your receipts and piping them through to Xero.


I don't know about you, but in the past I have been terrible at submitting all my receipts. Dext removes this issue by making it very easy to simply take a photograph of a receipt, which it then digitises. You can then submit these receipts directly to Xero - making the process very straightforward. This one saves me a ton of time and a ton of money!


One of the functions I also love is that when I receive an invoice by email I can just forward it to my personalised Dext email address and it will automatically be piped into Dext and then to Xero; all of these things are just about making your life easier.

Planning and organisation tools

11

reMarkable 2

£299 (plus subscription for cloud storage)

The reMarkable is an e-ink paper tablet that allows you to take notes as if you're writing on paper. The feeling is so similar to writing on paper that it’s amazing. It is a good example of a piece of kit that does just one thing, but does it really well.


As a result, I have completely gotten rid of all my papers, resulting in a truly paper free office. I can't remember the last time I bought a printer cartridge!


I use the reMarkable to write and store all my client notes as well as everything else (that used to get scribbled on a piece of paper that I would invariably lose!). When you write something, you can translate it into text and email it to yourself. You can also sync your reMarkable with your computer.


This is just revolutionary for me, and I can't say enough about how fantastic this product is. Although it is number 11 in this list, it is really my top tool!

12

vidIQ

Free for Basic or $7.50 / month for Pro

If you use YouTube in your business then having vidIQ is a great tool to get smart advice on improving the SEO and the performance of your videos.


VidIQ is a Chrome and YouTube extension. Once you upload a video, it will give you an SEO score. It will enable you to track the competition and search for keywords and include those keywords as hashtags into your video. It will give you an overall score of the performance of your video so you can keep improving.


You can use vidIQ for free, but I use a paid version which costs me £5.54 a month. They offer different levels of subscription, but the basic version that I'm using is good enough.

13

Amazing Marvin

$8 / month

This tool has helped me get myself much more organised by helping me plan my day, my week, and my month, in detail.


You can assign alarms, use stopwatches and so much more. I use it to help me get laser-focused and ensure I deliver the priorities that will move my business forward each day.


My goal is to plan my day (during my morning ritual) and make sure that by the end of the day, every single task is crossed off. Marvin is a great productivity tool for helping achieve this.


Marvin works across my phone and my computer, which means whenever I have random thoughts, I can easily capture them into the app and it syncs up with my desktop computer.


I really encourage you to start every day and every week by planning your priorities.


I can't tell you how good it feels to see a list with everything crossed out at the end of the day because I have overestimated how long tasks will take rather than overestimating how much I can get done in a day.

14

google drive

FREE for 15GB storage, from £1.59/month for more

Like many of you, my team is working remotely, and therefore, having a central place where we can share and access all of our documents has been super useful. 


It's really easy to add a document and create a link to share and set permissions accordingly. I tend to put all of the files I share with my VA team as well as the past call recordings for my Self-Running Agency Implementation Group.


You can quickly invite others to view, download, and collaborate on all the files you want (no bulky email attachment needed!). It ensures that both you and your clients are collaborating on the same version of the document.


You can keep photos, stories, designs, drawings, recordings, videos, and more. You can access these docs anywhere, so wherever you go, your files follow.

It also protects you against a hard disk drive dying and losing all your data.

 

15

TOBY

Free to use Chrome extension

Toby made it onto the list last year for the first time. It is a free Google Chrome extension that I would highly advise you to use because it makes my life so much easier.


I don't know if you're like me but during the day I open way too many web browser windows and tabs. I then struggle to find what I'm looking for so I end up opening yet another tab!


Well thankfully I have found a solution to this and now I am much more in control and have way fewer tabs opened.


And that's all thanks to this chrome browser extension called Toby (another rather stupid name!).


This enables me to create a frequently used library of tabs and put them into various categories. Now when I open my chrome browser the first thing I see is the library of tabs.

In Summary

My Top 5 Favourite Apps


  • reMarkable
  • Kartra
  • WebinarJam/EverWebinar
  • Canva
  • VidIQ
 

In Conclusion

I spent (wasted!) a lot of time researching and playing with tools and apps and I have shared with you my top 15 best productivity and time-saving tools - so you don't have to waste time searching the web and trialling 100s of tools to find the ones that work for you.


If you have any of your favourites that I did not mention, I would love to hear from you, so please drop me an email at [email protected]

To get a printable copy of this guide, fill in your details and we will send it right over

My Year in Review (the good, the bad and the ugly)

My Year in Review (the good, the bad and the ugly)

It's that time of the year again, where I stop, take a pause to look back on my year and evaluate what went well, what didn't go so well and what I have learned. So that’s the focus of today’s episode.

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share all the things I did in my business that worked well, the not-so-good stuff and the key learnings.

Based on these learnings, what am I going to do differently next year?. 

I know you can listen to lots of gurus online who claim to have all the solutions and paint an amazing picture of themselves and their business. But I wanted to be really honest in sharing this: the things that I screwed up with, the money I spent on things that I shouldn't have, the things that I did well, and the plans I have for next year.

Time Stamp

[00:55] 

What went well for me in 2021?

[4:00] 

The importance of assessing metrics

[4:34] 

My 4-day working week

[06:00] 

What didn't go so well for me in 2021?

[07:50] 

Fixing my website!

[08:44] 

The importance of having a strategy and plan before jumping into execution

[09:25] 

What are my key learnings for the year?

  • There are no shortcuts!
  • Do your due diligence before you work with any suppliers 
  • Keep focused and avoid shiny objects
  • Keep a record of all your software subscriptions
[11:23] 

What I am going to do differently in 2022

  • Launch a new website
  • Streamlining and measuring my marketing
  • Focus on YouTube content
[14:00] 

Keep distractions at bay!

[14:30] 

Use more batching

[15:00] 

Keep focused and do less!

Quotations

“...there are no shortcuts. Every genuine, robust business development strategy delivers in the medium to long term, and so if you're looking for instant gratification, you're always going to be very disappointed...” - Rob Da Costa

“...you need to keep focused, have a plan for the year as there are lots of shiny objects competing for your time and there are no quick fixes.” - Rob Da Costa

“Remove all the distractions and keep focused on the task at hand.” - Rob Da Costa

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 Full Episode Transcription

It's that time of year again, where I want to stop and take stock and share with you the things I did in my business. What went well this year? What didn't go so well? What are my key learnings? And, what am I going to do differently in 2022? 

I know you can listen to lots of gurus online who claimed to have all the solutions and paint this amazing picture of themselves. But, I want to be really real and honest with you guys, so I want to share the things that I screwed up this year, the things that I spent money on that I shouldn't have done, as well as the things that I did well and, as I say, my plans for next year. That's what this episode is all about, and let's get on with the show.

So let's start with the positives. What are the things that went well for me in 2021? I already have one online group coaching programme as well as my private coaching. The group coaching programme is called the Self Running Agency. It's like a mastermind group where they have access to online content. We get together once a month as a group; answer questions and network. Then, we have expert guest trainers come into the group and we have a discussion forum. That typical sort of mastermind set up and it's been really good.

We've got thirty (30) plus members in there at the moment and we get new members every month, which is fantastic. But I realised that the programme wasn't serving the entire agency world that I wanted to target. There are a bunch of people who are smaller or freelancers who may not want to be part of a programme like that, but they still want some support. 

Then, I took the business development aspect of the Self Running Agency and I created a self, standalone programme called the Agency Selling System. This has everything to do with business development; positioning, niche marketing, sales, client retention, growth and everything to do with that.

We launched that programme this year. It went really well and It's still going well now and. Then, most recently we've launched another programme called the Build Nurture Convert Blueprint. This is all about list building and email marketing because I am such a believer, as you will know, that building your email list is so important and it's the best way to win clients over the medium to long term. We recently launched the Build Nurture Convert programme, which creates a suite of three (3) online programmes plus my private coaching, so that's gone really well.

Another thing that went well finally this year is the fact that I managed to hire a really good virtual assistant. I've had a whole bunch of false starts with virtual assistants. Either they over-promised or under-delivered as they got really busy and they stop providing the service levels or have just disappeared. I've tried working with VAs which is in the UK and India. 

Now I'm working with a VA team where they have a model of like a project manager who reports to me and then she manages some other people who might have specific expertise. For example, in editing podcasts or videos, writing or creating social media.

It's a really good setup. I mean, I only have one person, then she picks the other best people for the job, and that has worked really well. I think the thing I've learned there is you need to communicate really regularly. We have a call every Monday and you need to document your standard operating procedures or your working practices so that you can expedite the learning process for them. 

Get them up to speed quickly and make sure they are consistently doing the work, no matter who's doing it. I documented all of my standard operating procedures. I did not only write them but I also used Loom, as a way to video something, so I could show them as well through video what is in my written documents.

Finally, the next thing that I've started doing in 2021 is measuring more of my marketing activities. I tell my clients that this all the time, but I don't always do it for myself. I just have a simple Google sheet. I'm measuring every email I send or social post so I can see how well it's doing. Therefore that helps me do more of what's working and stop doing the things that aren't working rather than just doing them because I always do them. We are all time-poor, so we need to make sure we are as efficient with our time as we possibly can be. 

The next thing I did was a big thing for me this year. From the beginning of September, I started working four (4) days a week and this has been a goal for several years. I've had several false starts with this where I sort of promised myself. It's lasted a couple of weeks, then a client has said, “Rob, can we talk on Friday?” Of course, I say yes and then immediately that fifth day has gone out the window. But the difference this time is that I know what I was going to do with that fifth day. 

If any of you know about me outside of work, I'm a campervan owner. I decided to document all that I've learned with buying my camper van, owning it and travelling in it. Also, as a newbie, what did I learn? Then, we created a YouTube channel that's been going well; growing steadily and growing a mailing list.

Ultimately, I'll be able to monetise that. That's the thing that I have been doing on my fifth day. Also, to be quite honest, I could do with more than just one day because it takes me five (5) or six (6) hours to edit a 10 to 15 minutes video every Friday. I get at least one video out a week, but that's the difference. Because I know that's what I'm gonna do on my Friday, and I need to keep it free. It's meant that I'm saying no to people who want to book Friday with me, and I'm really consolidating the four (4) days a week.

That means you also have to be very efficient and very organised because I'm basically trying to do five (5) days of work condensed down into four (4) days. It is possible, and if that's a plan that you want to follow, then it's absolutely possible. I'm sure I will record more content on that in the future. That's some of the highlights of what, really well for me. Let's spend some time talking about what didn't go so well. 

First of all, when I launched the Agency Selling System, that's the business development online programme. I used webinars to launch it, which I think are a great strategy and I still use them. I also hired someone who was supposed to be running Facebook ads for me. I've tried and failed in the past regarding Facebook, Google and YouTube ads. 

I've hired people that haven't worked and haven't really listened, but this time I was recommended this person. I looked into them and they looked pretty good. They had these things they said made a lot of sense. They had some good recommendations on the website and things started pretty well. They were quite expensive, to be honest, but things started pretty well.

Though, there are a few little red flags early on, like they missed a few deadlines. They weren't good at communicating and I'd have to chase them. Then we got close to the launch and the campaign just wasn't delivering new people into the webinar, which was the purpose of it. Then, I sat down and had a debrief with this person, they were like, “Well, Rob, we've done this with so many clients. We've used the exact strategy with you and it hasn't worked, so I don't know why.”

Which is very frustrating to hear, right? As a customer, you don't want to hear that. You want them to give you some solutions and not just only say that it didn't work. Of course, they weren't interested in refunding any money. That was an expensive exercise in trying to shortcut a way of getting people to sign up for my webinar. That just didn't work. Also, I think on that note you just have to remember that there are no magic solutions and no quick wins. All these shiny objects are trying to distract us, but actually, they tried and tested things to work. 

The next thing I want to talk about is my Frankenstein of a website. My website has evolved over time. It's partly hosted on WordPress and partly hosted on Kartra and sort of cobbled together, so the look and feel aren’t always consistent. Then, the sort of knife in my heart regarding the website was that I recently was talking to a prospect who was a referral and they said to me, “Oh, yeah, X person referred me and they said Rob is really good but don't look at his website because that's not a very good representation of him.”

I was like, ok. The client didn't tell me this, but the prospect did. Then, I dug a little bit deeper and by the way, the prospects become a client. I went and asked a couple of other people who I knew would be honest and they gave me sort of similar feedback that it's perhaps looking a bit tired and not consistent. That's something that I have got sorted out, which I'll tell you a bit more about as we get into plans for 2022.

The last thing that didn't go so well for me is that I started several projects that I was absolutely convinced with the right thing to do at the time, but then they sort of 40% of the way through, I realised this was not going to work, and it was a waste of my time. I think that reminds me and you of the importance of having a strategy and a plan before you jump into execution. Because I think a lot of time we need to make mistakes to remind us of what we already know.

I knew that's the case, but on these couple of projects, I just jumped straight because I was very eager to get going. I didn't really think it through, and then it sort of petered out and it didn't go anywhere. That was a waste of time and a bit of money as well. Those are some of the things that didn't go so well for me in 2021. 

Then, let me just talk about the key learnings that I've got from that experience. First of all, there are no shortcuts. Every genuine, robust business development strategy delivers in the medium to long term. If you're looking for instant gratification, you're always going to be very disappointed even though people will promise you that. You need to invest the time so that you get the delayed gratification further down the road, and I've been reminded of that this year.

I also think another key learning is to really assess any vendors that you work with and any suppliers that you work with. Don't just take their word for it, or take the written testimonials on their website or a couple of videos they've got. Instead, do your due diligence and dig a bit deeper than that. Go and try and talk to some of their customers. Try and talk to more than one, if you can. I know that doesn't guarantee anything, but it means that you need to slow down speed up, my favourite expression. Due diligence first to get the right person on board.

The third thing is related to the first point, which is you need to keep focused and have your plan for the year. There were lots of shiny objects competing for our time, and there are no quick fixes. So, if you have a plan for the year, you focus on executing that plan and you really thought that plan through, then that's what you need to focus on. Anything that comes along that provides opportunities elsewhere, think very carefully whether you want to pursue them or not.

The last key learning, which is never a surprise for me, is that you should really keep a record of all the software and the app subscriptions that you have because I decided that I want to consolidate some stuff. I started trying to work out how much I'm spending on various annual subscriptions and It was really surprising. 

I created my list and then a couple of other big costs came up of recurring subscriptions that had completely missed off that list. As you buy things, keep a list because sometimes you end up paying for two different services that are very similar, and you'll be surprised at how much money you're spending every year. I certainly was. 

Let me share with you some of the things that I am going to do differently for 2022. Not surprisingly, one of them is I'm going to launch a new website. I've commissioned a web developer who started on the project now. I'll be moving the whole site back onto WordPress and creating a much more up to date look. Making it functionally easier to navigate. Also, consolidating some of my pages because I have lots of free e-books and guides.

I'm on a project at the moment to review and not update them. Decide whether some of them are still relevant or not. I'm not giving too much content out to the world. Not because I'm worried about giving too much away, but because I know when you offer people too many choices and options, they don't know and they don’t choose. 

Then, you need to be much more guided. Look out for the new website and hopefully, people will look at it and go. Yeah, that's really good rather than saying to not look at Rob's website. That's one of the strategies that I am implementing in 2022. 

Another one is streamlining my marketing. Keep measuring, monitoring and more streamlining. I'm going to be focusing on three (3) key areas in 2022. Cutting out some other things. First of all, I'm going to keep focusing on building and nurturing my email list because I get 80% of my business from that, and you should be doing that too.

I'm going to be focusing on my podcast. This is Episode 98 and I believe we're nearly in episode 100 which is a really exciting episode to lookout for. Also, I've been running the podcast now for two (2) years, and it's now got enough momentum that I'm getting 10,000 downloads a week of the podcast. It is a good reminder that you have to be in it for the long run. Slow and steady wins the race. We’re in a hundred episodes in 2 years, and it's taken that long to build that kind of audience up. So keep at it, is the message for all of these different marketing activities.

Then the third thing, I'm going to double down on creating and promoting YouTube content. My YouTube channel for Da Costa Coaching has been around for a long time. The contents are pretty good, but I haven't tried to optimise anything. I haven't really promoted the YouTube channel, and hence I haven't got a tonne of subscribers at the moment. But we're hoping to change that by making sure we're creating really focused content that's useful. Getting our tagging and our searching right. Also, promoting the channel as well.

Those are my three (3) focuses; the YouTube channel, my email lists and my podcast. I'm going to try and stop doing a lot of other things that I've been doing. The next thing I really want to do is to try and keep removing all the distractions and keep focused on the task at hand. I'm getting better at that and that’s definitely a journey that I need to go on. I need to practise all the things that I preach. Turn off the distraction to keep your email off when you're doing things like this.

Finish a task because it's quicker to do that than it is to get distracted. Remember, there's no such thing as multitasking and so on. To that end, one of the things that help with that is batching. That means, like setting up the studio and recording four (4) or five (5) videos or podcasts or writing three (3) or four (4) emails in one go. It is much more efficient. If you can spend the time planning that rather than do one then go and do something else. Then come back and do another one. I'm going to try and batch more in 2022.

Then the last thing, which isn't so much done differently but more of a focus. I want to make sure that I keep working on my four-day working weeks. I keep the Monday to Thursday time really efficient and get everything I need to get done in that time.

For me, as I say, my focus for next year will be on the mailing list growth, the podcast growth and YouTube channel growth. I will be focusing on just selling my three (3) programmes plus my private coaching. I won't be launching any more programmes because that's more than enough. I want to make sure I'm keeping adding content that is valuable to my audience in those programmes and keep members engaged, so they complete them as well.

Finally, I'm going to keep using webinars as a really good way of building credibility and authority with my audience, and making sales as well. Those are the kind of focuses for 2022. That's my honest review of my year. I'd love to hear what worked well for you and what didn't work so well for you. Also, what are you going to do differently next year? 

I love hearing from you guys, so please do drop me an email and let me know. I hope this episode has inspired you. In fact, I hope all of the episodes throughout this year have been really useful in you; growing a sustainable, profitable and enjoyable agency. 

As ever if you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review because that helps the algorithms show it to more people, which means I can help more people just like you. But other than that, have a great rest of your week and I will be back with you for the 99th episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

LinkedIn Content Strategies with Tracey Burnett

LinkedIn Content Strategies with Tracey Burnett

What are the latest trends in creating compelling and engaging content on Linkedin?

In this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I’m joined by one of my repeat and popular guests, Tracy Burnett. Tracey is a LinkedIn marketing expert, who helps business owners generate more business using LinkedIn. 

In this episode, Tracy shares the latest trends, ideas and tips in creating content strategies for LinkedIn. 

Make sure to grab a pen and paper for note-taking because this will be another action-packed episode.

Time Stamp

[2:15] 

Is it worth switching to Creator mode?

[3:11] 

The key ‘new things’ in using LinkedIn

[4:41] 

Why has LinkedIn limited the number of connection requests you can make each week?

[6:09] 

How to publish newsletters on LinkedIn (new function)

[7:36] 

The four (4) pillars in creating content

[9:48] 

Understanding how to make the algorithm work for you

[14:01] 

The importance of getting debates in your posts

[15:03] 

Why are hashtags important and how many should you use?

[15:38] 

How to research your hashtags

[17:09] 

Why you should create your own hashtag

[19:12] 

How many times a week should you post on LinkedIn?

[21:10] 

Are Pods worthwhile?

[24:58] 

The importance of creating high-quality content rather than any old content!

[26:11] 

How to create content that your audience cares about

[26:53] 

Being authentic & human in your posts

[32:19] 

Tracey’s advice to her younger self

Quotations

“...every single, robust, deliverable business development strategy takes time.” - Tracey Burnett

“I think that asking yourself this question when you're writing a post of ‘Will my audience care about this?’ is actually a really good benchmark to decide whether it’s a good post or interesting.” - Rob Da Costa

“Don't feel you need to be everywhere... Keep your marketing simple.” - Tracey Burnett

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Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Hey, everyone. First of all, I hope you're having a fantastic productive week and welcome to this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

Today, I'm really excited to have one of my repeat guests, Tracey Burnett, and we're talking about all things LinkedIn. As you'll find out in this episode, I learned a bunch of things that I have started to implement in my LinkedIn strategy. I know that you're going to find this really useful as well. So let's get on with today's show.

Welcome everybody to this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator, and I'm really excited to have my second guest, who's been on the podcast twice. I'm really excited to be talking about all things LinkedIn today with Tracey Burnett. You'll know Tracey from a previous episode, and I'll put the link to the show notes in that. 

Tracey is a LinkedIn marketing expert who helps business owners just like you guys, generate more business using LinkedIn. As I said, Tracey has been on the podcast before and actually, she is looking at the stats before I jumped on here, it was one of our most popular episodes.

I know that LinkedIn is clearly an important business development at all for our listeners. So, how are you? How have things been since we last spoke? 

Yeah. Good, It was about a year ago since we spoke. 

It must be yes, I don't know exactly what episode is that about a year ago. 

Yeah. So, lots of changes in a busy year for me. Lots of changes on LinkedIn. It continually sorts of changing algorithms and people are more and more interested in LinkedIn.

Good. Well, let's start with that. Our focus today is going to be predominantly on what content should we promote or should we be posting? But let's just start with what's new on LinkedIn. What’re the latest things that they've changed? What’s the latest kind of tricks and tips that we should be thinking about? Then, we'll dive into the kind of getting your content strategy, right? 

Okay, So I mean one of the biggest changes as being what's called creator mode. If you look at your profile, you can either have the regular flavour, or you can go into creative mode, which a lot of people have switched over to. It was meant to really increase your visibility on LinkedIn, from the research that has been done, and people that have tried and it hasn't now. I haven't moved over to creator mode because I was sceptical about it. Though, I'm just about to change because I need to do training on it.

Then, I need to do a video, and I'm gonna try it for a month or so and just see what happens. But the consensus out there is that it does absolutely nothing for your visibility or the engagement on your content. So, for those of you who don't know, the key things to it really are, instead of having a connect button on your profile, you have a follow button. You're not going to build your connections on LinkedIn necessarily, but you might build your followers. 

Followers are still good because followers will see your content. They will be one of the primary audiences that LinkedIn shows your content. Though, I quite like to build my connections for various reasons that I haven't got time to go in there. You still can connect with people. But you have to go to a more menu and then drop down and click connect and all that sort of stuff. 

The other thing, the sort of the sexy bit which really makes people move over, I think, is where you've got your photograph. Instead of having a photograph, you can have a little video, so I think it's 30 seconds long. That's quite nice. If you're a LinkedIn live person, if you're going live on LinkedIn, as soon as you go live for the duration of the live recording, your banner on the LinkedIn profile is basically showing your live video. That's the crux of the sort of change.

Well, I learned something because I didn't know anything about creator mode so I’ll look into that.

What I found is, I've set all my clients that don't change, especially if you've got a small number of connections. I just think it's just better to connect. And of course, this has all come in with another change, which is linking in and limiting the number of connection requests you can send out so you can only send 100 a week. Partly that's in response to all the people that are using automation, sending out hundreds and hundreds of connections or not hundreds-hundreds, but a lot of connection requests every month. 

Those two things together create a mode where you just follow and limit the number of connection requests you can send concerns. That's limiting the number of connections that you can have on LinkedIn. That’s a good reason to have connections.

What LinkedIn is doing on creative is emailing members and just saying, “Hey, switch to creator mode.” You just click a switch and off you go. A lot of people just haven't really thought through or really understand what all that means, but I  am going to do a video on that and I am going to test it out myself. I've got my figures for normal mode and then I'll give creative mode to go and see what happens.

I will be really interested that it sounds like Linkedin trying to become a bit more like Facebook in terms of following people and so on. But I guess it will be interesting to see you never know what their bigger game plan with this is, do you? Then, they’re creating things like this. They must have some bigger result in mind of what they want everyone to do.

Yes. Well, they've also got newsletters now. You are invited and you can join the newsletter crew. That's creator orientated. Basically, the newsletter gets published in the publishing section where you put your articles. Then LinkedIn, if you subscribe or like to that particular newsletter or that person's newsletter then, LinkedIn will email you and notify you when there's a new one. 

That's good if you're on their newsletter team. That's a creative thing. The other thing is to people in the US, doesn't apply to us in the UK, but in the US they're offering I think it is $10,000 to certain creators. They’re giving that money to do better creation if you like on LinkedIn. They are going more down this good quality creation. 

That sort of leads us well onto the content conversation because I think a lot of people think, ok, I've just got a post on LinkedIn three(3) or four(4) times a week, but they're not always sure about what they should be posting. Let's talk about the kind of content that gets attention. If you were mapping out a content strategy for LinkedIn, over let’s say, a six (6) month period, what would you do?

Okay, there's a number of different questions there. If I'm doing a content strategy, then I would, first of all, decide what my content pillars are. What is the sort of main pillars that you want to talk about? For instance, for me, I have a three (3) step process I take all my clients through. Those are three obvious pillars to me. That's like an unshakable business foundation, which is the marketing message, an audience, product and pricing or basic stuff for you, Robin, your audience,

Then the middle bit is all about visibility and credibility. Learning LinkedIn and how you actually get your voice heard and part of that is content. Then the third pillar is about boosting sales. Once you've got somebody interested, you've got them on the phone. How can you increase the number of sales to meetings, basically? 

Those three pillars for me that they're my three pillars and they're based on my process. I've got the fourth pillar, which is general marketing because my background is called corporate marketing, Unilever and goodness. What else? I'm not just a LinkedIn expert, I'm a marketing expert.

Then, they are my four (4) pillars and then underneath that I will just map out the sort of things that I want to talk about under those pillars and then that gives me something to go back to. So if I've got four (4) pillars, it makes sense that a quarter of time; month, year, one week or however you split that out, you would be talking about each of your pillars.

That's how I do it. Then, I just go into that plan and just think for example next week, what am I going to be talking about? Specifically, what am I going to say? That gives you the theme if you like, or the content does it that way.

Also, there are obviously several different posts you can put out. You can put a straight text post. You can put out a text post with an image. You can put out a poll. You can put out a document, so in the image, you can just click through. Then it's just a pdf: document post or carousel post. Also, of course, there's a video. 

There are many different things you can do on LinkedIn. It is notorious for not telling you what they're doing. They don't announce really any changes they make, so you don't really know what's happening with the algorithm, for example, until you see your views on the plummet or something.

At the moment, polls are getting a good contraction. They never do as well on views, but the document post does well. One of the reasons for document posts doing well is that there's longer what they call dwell time. So people spend longer on a post that's got a document because if they're scrolling through four (4), five (5), six (6) or ten (10) pages on the document, then obviously you're staying on that post longer and LinkedIn will mark you up. 

The current research says that you get an 80% uplift in the engagement of score reviews. If you went on a poll: a document, you get 10% and video, you get 5%. Then, that's the increase in the reach. That's generally the views and the views of things. 

A view is counted in two different ways. One is they're scrolling through the news feed and they see your posters they're scrolling through, that's a view. But on a video post, a view is counted as somebody that's playing the video for three seconds or more. You would always get fewer views on a video post, but in theory, the quality of the view is higher.

Would you say that someone should be doing all of those things or picking a few of those things that you just mentioned? Then, that's the text, the text with image, poll, document and video. That's five different types of media posts that we could put. 

Yes. What I suggest is, if you want to test it out, because what works for me? Posting images don't generally work for me. But the other thing, that other caveat there is just because it didn't work for me last month doesn't say it doesn't work for me this month, so I don't I've always testing things out on LinkedIn.What I would do is I would do a mixture of those posts for, let’s say, six (6) weeks minimum and just keep a note. 

The best way of doing that is on a piece of software called Shield. If you actually have the paid version, which I think is about £16 or £20 a month. It will analyse all of your posts, so it's absolutely brilliant. That's a good way of just seeing what's working, what isn't. Also, you can go back over a year or so and look at what's the highest performing posts or top five posts and then rehash them or do something similar and see if the same thing applies. 

Yes, sorry to interrupt you. It's useful to know about Shield because my question was gonna be to you. Otherwise, how do we measure? 

The other way of measuring is just you have to do it manually. I just don't want a spreadsheet, so I just put each post of mine on a Google document. Obviously, I don’t usually do this because I got a Shield that I would just put on a spreadsheet and then just put views. I just put what type of post it was, views, likes and comments. 

All right, so those are the three things we should be measuring, just kind of being basic keys. 

Yes, sorry to interrupt. People always talk about views. I just think they don't really matter that much. They do matter, but they don't matter as much as engagement. What you're really aiming for, which is actually not easy to do, is to get a debate going in the comments. 

If you've got a debate going in the comments; people are answering, you’re answering their comment and so it goes on and there's some sort of debate going on. Or, people are offering their opinions then that the algorithm will actually show it to more people. But of course, we all get comments, which is a nice post mate or I agree with this or whatever it is, it's a real art.

It also depends on the people that see your post. Also, the people that see your post are going to be your first connections, your followers and also the followers of the hashtags that you put on the post. Let’s say, the first three hashtags are the most important. What LinkedIn will do, will prioritise, showing your content to the people that follow those first three hashtags. Does that make sense?

Everything does, indeed. 

Then, the sweet spot on the hashtag in between was used to be more, but it's now between three (3) and five (5). If you do less than five (5) you will reduce your reach. If you have more, you're probably reducing your reach as well. I actually do test this out and I see what people do. They have hashtags and they've got absolutely no followers. That's a completely wasted opportunity. 

Yes, can I just butt in there because that's a really important point and the simplest way of figuring out whether that hashtag that you're thinking of using has got any followers? It’s just opening a post on LinkedIn and clicking on the hashtag things.

Start typing the word and it will tell you the top hashtags for that because I've made this mistake before I figured that out. But I just thought that, okay, I'm writing about email marketing for agencies, so I'll write, #emailmarketingforagencies. But of course, no one's following that hashtag, whereas if I typed an email marketing, there are probably lots of people following that one. Then if you just put the hashtag and start typing the term LinkedIn, it will show you right the top-performing hashtag. 

It does but there's a chrome extension and it's called LinkedIn hashtags. Just an extension and it will actually show you so you can sort of play around with that. It doesn't cost anything. That's definitely worth getting.

Excellent.

Also, you can always see the people that have just taken a Facebook post or an Instagram post, and they just copy and paste that. They've probably got somebody that's not very experienced, just basically repurposing the content across different platforms. Also, they've got three million hashtags on this, a complete waste of time.

You would create your own hashtag. I've got, #linkedinwithtraceyburnett. Always ideal to put your name. It takes time to build that, but it sort of creates some sort of community. I've got people that I follow and I just click on their hashtag and I conceal their posts and so that they can create a community that can give people a chance to engage with multiple posts because they've got all your posts in one feed. It will take time, certainly for me and probably most of us to get to over 400 followers of our hashtag. That will definitely give you a lift in your post engagement too. 

How do you create a good hashtag just by simply typing it into your post and then using it every time in all your posts? 

I just put on my post something like please show me some love and follow my #linkedinwithtraceyburnett. For any hashtag, all you need to do is click on the hashtag and then click follow. It's really easy to follow any hashtag and you just create your own. But obviously, it's of no value if it hasn't got anybody in there. I've put that on every post, probably for two or three months, and I don't know how many people have got 20 or something. It does take time to build it. 

It's like every single, robust, deliverable business development strategy takes time. As I always say to people, if you don't start it today, you won’t get the results you want tomorrow. Whether that be the number of followers, connections, leads or whatever it is. It’s really good that you've given me an action as soon as I get off this podcast course, create my own hashtag because I haven't done that. But guys listen to the advice Tracey Burnett is giving you because this is really robust concrete practical stuff that will make a difference for you.

Let me ask you this. We've probably asked you this before, but it's worth asking again in this conversation. How many times a week do you think someone should be posting on LinkedIn? 

Okay, so I try and post every day. It can be a real struggle sometimes, and it's better if you do it in advance. Ideally, I post three times a week; Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They're the best days, really. Try what works best for you. For example on a Saturday. Few people are on LinkedIn on a Saturday, but the ones that are do have more time.

I think it's something like 60% of LinkedIn members check in on the weekend or on a Saturday. Only 20% of people on the feed that normally post actually publish anything. In theory, there is a little bit more opportunity, but again, it's something to test. If you're going to post then post in your local time.

They say between eight (8) and ten (10). I just never can manage that, because I've always got meetings late. I'm just not an 8:00 am to 10:00 a.m. person. I know you are, Rob. Then, Tuesdays and Thursdays are good. I would do Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and I would try and set aside time to actually write those posts in advance. It's just so lovely when you've got a week's worth of posts written, you just need to literally get them posted five minutes. 

Yeah. Let's just touch on one other subject, because I think you and I have spoken about this offline, and we're both part of this, which is the use of pods as a way of increasing engagement. For the listeners, could you just explain what a pod is and what your views are on it at the moment?

Okay, a pod is a group of people that get together. They just dropped their link into a LinkedIn group, Telegram, Slack or wherever. It's a group of people where you just drop the links and then each of you comments on the other people's posts and they'll comment on yours. It's just a way of how it all started.

Was that the algorithm? Once you post, the algorithm will show your post to a small percentage of your first connections. Then, if they engage, if they like or they comment, then the algorithm will deem that post to be a good quality post up. Show it to more of your first connections. Then, if it still gets engagement, they'll show it to more of your first connections and their first connections, which are your second connections. That's sort of how it works.

How that pod started was, okay, we can beat the algorithm, and we could all post within an hour. Then we'll comment within that, an hour period. Then we should get that lift, and we could trick the algorithm into thinking it's a great post. Then, that will show it to a wider audience. I think LinkedIn doesn’t like pods. They absolutely don't and I do wonder whether or not they can identify people that are in the pod.

Where the pod is very strict, so it's a certain day of the week and it's a certain time frame like the hour that I said. It's always the same people commenting. The algorithm is going to pick that up. I just wonder whether it's detrimental or not. I've got no evidence for that. 

In theory, it's a good idea and there's a couple of external companies that basically that's their business. You join a pod that seems to have where the people have also got your audience. You just drop your link, and then the software automatically puts the comments in of the people that have heard that pod. 

It automatically drops in comments under their name. But that is just so false. You can spot it a mile off because I'm not the sort of person that says right on or whatever. I just wouldn't do anything like that. So it needs to sound like you. I mean, it just totally ruined your credibility. I definitely stay away from those. I think people are moving more away from pods.

Yeah and I think I would concur with that because I know Tracey and I have both been part of another pod before. I've actually just stopped posting in that pod now for all the reasons that you just said. First of all, quite a few, there were 30 or 40 people in it, right? 

Some of those people just were not my target audience. You’d be thinking, why is a salesforce or salesman commenting on my agency post? It didn't make any sense. Having been investing that time, which is sort of an hour or two hours a week on it, I have just concluded that the return on investment isn't worth it. Then, I stopped in that part now. 

Yes. So then, return to the original question about how often you should post. Post as often as you can, but make sure if the idea behind posting is to get as many people commenting on that post as possible. Then it follows that it should be high-quality content. They don't bang anything out for the sake of it. 

Many people say that I'm attending this event today and just put the event details. I mean, who cares? I don't care. I want to learn something or I want to sort of have a different point here, a different point of view on something. That's a sort of, I personally would engage with the people that I would follow. 

Somebody is going to enrich my life in some way. I think I would concentrate on the quality and really hone in. That's why again, Rob, you and your audience on this. You've got to be very clear about your audience, very clear about the challenges they have and very clear on where they want to go in life or in their business. Once you know that, then the content of your post is going to be so much higher quality. 

That's like one of your three pillars, right?

Yes.

I completely agree. I think asking yourself this question when you're writing a poster, which is, will my audience care about? This is actually a really good benchmark to decide whether this is a good post because it's interesting. I did post a personal post this week that you probably saw.

But actually, that posted it really well. Then, you could argue that I'm contradicting what I'm about to say. If you're clear of your audience and you're asking yourself, will they care about this? Will they be interested? Does it actually add any value to their lives? Then the answer is yes, it's a good post. If the answer is no, then perhaps it's a bit too of an introspective post, or you need to revisit the idea that you have. 

Yeah, but I think people need to see the real person as well. Also, I think the post that you did, Rob just showed another aspect of your life and just added a different dimension to you as a person. I'm an introvert. I don't really like posting what's going on in my life, and I didn't necessarily think LinkedIn was really the right platform to be doing that all the time like Facebook is. 

I've been thinking obviously video is quite good. I mean, this week I went totally out of my comfort zone and posted and you probably saw it, Rob. Do you know the bloopers video which showed a completely different side to me? I didn't put any sound on it because I swore in a few times. It's exciting to do that with off-brand, but it's taken me four years to do that. 

Maybe there's a lesson for both of us here because maybe that point about showing you are human and the whole forceful version of you is really good. Just for the listeners’ point of view, in case they're wondering what I posted. I just simply posted the fact that we, my partner and I, have launched a new YouTube channel and new website, which is documenting our travels, and that's not an agency thing.

I wouldn't do a podcast about that, though I may do one day, actually. But I was surprised at how much engagement that got organically because I kind of was just doing it because I want to get some more YouTube subscribers, which has been good. Anyway, I think like with your bloopers, really that it's just showing us as human beings and letting people have a little look at another aspect of this, which is perhaps it's good should be part of our strategy for our content.

Yeah, and what I've been thinking about in the recent week or two, because the personal posts if you're talking about grief or something like that, I've got a client who is a group grief coach. She got hardly any followers and connections. She writes this post and they seem to get a load of engagement, which you're talking about feelings and something. Not that it's her personal grief necessarily. 

I think like you. Just so the listeners know Tracey is very fortunate to be living in sunny Spain while I'm sitting in rainy England and we'll send some of it our way. The fact that you can make your business work in Spain on your terms and you've probably got clients in the UK and all over the world. I think that's something that people are really interested in. 

Part of my goal with my travel stuff is that, like you, I can actually work from anywhere.  I'm really excited that I've just booked five weeks in South Africa next year. Now we're allowed to travel again. I think things like that you can let people know a little bit about as long as it doesn't look like you're bragging and because people perhaps, aspire to that or are interested to know.

But I agree with you, someone who's a grief coach. That is tough. I have a hard time sometimes with my clients. Let alone someone who's having that grief coaching all day long. That must be a tough one and also a tough one from a social media perspective. 

Yeah, it can be. I think talking about me and Spain or you and travelling in an RV or camper van. I often talk about the genius zone. Obviously, you can say my genius zone is LinkedIn marketing, but what other genius zones have I got? That has to be food for me. I'm a complete foodie, a very good cook and got 350 cookery books. I love entertaining. I've been sort of playing with how I can mix that in with LinkedIn marketing. 

Yeah, there's definitely when this is a really interesting podcast, I think. Because like for me, travel is a big passion which is ironic in a couple of years, we just had and, I've written about spending time in South Africa before. The life lessons and the branding because playing it back to my audience. But I think there is a whole conversation here about having these passions that we can interconnect with our business and that we don't always have to totally keep them separate. Just ways of figuring that one out. I need to come and visit you and you can cook for me. 

Exactly.

Well, Spain is much more campervan friendly than the UK or England. I've also just come back from Scotland and they are super friendly. You can park and wild camping aggressive. In England, you can't but in Spain, you can. Listen, unconscious of time and we having a chat about all sorts of things. 

But let me just ask you the same question that I've asked you before. But I'm going to be really interesting to see if you answer it the same way because I can't remember what you said. If you can go back in time and give yourself a piece of advice to your younger self just starting in business, what would it be? 

We're just starting in business that was like 30 years ago. We would like to remember that far back. I tell you what, I'll answer that question from the perspective of going from driving around, binding proposals and presenting proposals to agencies. Funny enough that's where I started. I then obviously decided to go online about 14 years ago, and I think the advice I would give to myself then is, “Don't feel you need to be on every social media platform and have your finger in every single marketing tool, pie, technique and whatever.”

Because I think and I still see this today as people feel that they need to be everywhere. The thing is a solopreneurs and certainly are a very small team. You don't have the time or the money to do anything well. If you're going to pay somebody $5 an hour to do social media, then yes, you might be able to be on all the platforms, but you're never going to do it well.

Don't feel you need to be everywhere. What's your marketing strategy? Focusing on what you think the best one is going to be. You can always change later. The other thing with me is don't listen to all these gurus who say that you just need to buy the Facebook appetising calls. Then, you just need to buy and have to do a webinar course and so on. Then, they say is by this course, you're gonna be swinging on a hammock in the Caribbean on your laptop 30 minutes a day and earning a million pounds month.

I would say, just ignore all of those people. Don't feel that you need to consume all this information because the chances are enough right now to start, so just keep it. Keep your marketing simple. 

Good advice. I think that would be particularly true for anyone that's starting their business now, where they are bombarded constantly with all these supposed gurus, like you say, standing in front of a fancy yacht that isn't theirs. Claiming that they can make you a millionaire overnight for doing nothing. We all know that's not true. You've got to put the graft in. So good advice, Tracey. If people wanted to get hold of you. What was the best way for them to reach out? I'm assuming by LinkedIn. 

Yes. LinkedIn would be really good. You can find me on LinkedIn. It's at linkedin.com/in/traceyburnett. 

And what was your hashtag in case people want to follow that? 

It's #linkedinwithtraceyburnett. 

Right. Well, I will go and follow that, and I'm gonna go and create my own. Thank you so much for joining us again. It was really useful. I know when you come on the podcast, the listeners are going to leave with lots of really practical, tangible advice, which is kind of what we're trying to do here. If you want to know more guys, then go check Tracey out. Thank you so much for joining us today and enjoy the sunshine while it's still last.

I will. Thank you, Rob.

Wasn't that an interesting episode? I hope, like me, you've got a few tips of things that you can do different, like one of the things I've got. I'm going to create my own hashtag and see if I can start building our following using that. But there were lots of other really actionable tips that Tracey shared with us. So I know you're going to find this one useful, and if you did, please consider leaving a review. Have a fantastic rest of your week.

A brilliant relaxing weekend, and I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Planning for the New Year

Planning for the new year

As we head to the New Year, I wanted to share a few ideas with you to make sure that you start the new year in your agency or your freelance business on the right foot and with a robust plan.

So in today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I dig into what you should be doing with your business's long-term vision and how to break it down from a year to quarter, quarter to monthly, and then weekly set of goals.

Time Stamp

[1:37] 

Am I a believer in having New Year’s resolutions?

[1:58] 

The importance of having a plan

[2:36] 

Tips to creating your vision

[4:09] 

Why it’s vital to connect personal aspirations and goals with your business vision

[5:57] 

Understanding finance, people and external factors in your planning

[9:34] 

The importance of creating a dynamic business plan

[11:28] 

How changing your environment can help you create an inspired business plan

Quotations

“You need to have a plan because you need to have a sense of where your business is headed.” - Rob Da Costa

“Be in control rather than letting external factors dictate your direction.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

"I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode." If that sounds like you, please consider the rating and review my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select "Write a Review." Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I'm adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you're not subscribed, there's a good chance you'll miss out. Subscribe now!

 Full Episode Transcription

Hey everyone, I hope you are having a fantastic week. Now, before we jump into this week's episode of the podcast, I just want to share with you some really exciting news as we head towards episode 100. Can you believe that we are now nearly at 100 episodes? That's something I'm really proud of. When I started my podcasting journey, I'd read that the average number of episodes of podcasts recorded before they give up is seven (7). I was absolutely determined that if I was going to go on this journey with you guys, I was going to keep doing it.

And here we are, nearly two years later, and we are approaching Episode 100. I have something really exciting in store for you to kick off the New Year, which is when we'll be releasing Episode 100. Then, you don't want to miss out on that. It's taken us a tonne of work to put this episode together, and I'm super excited about it.

I know it's going to be really valuable for you, so make sure you have hit the subscribe button so you don't miss out on that. Also, talking of as we head into the new year, I wanted to share with you on this episode a few ideas to make sure that you start your new year in your agency or your freelance business on the right foot and ensure that you have a robust plan. That's what today's episode of the podcast is all about, and let's get on with the show. 

I'm not a big believer in New Year's resolutions. It strikes me that they are things that we create to fail out. But I am really keen that we have a clear plan for our business and that we have some really clear goals that we can measure. Also, we can celebrate our successes along the journey.

Then, I wanted to talk a little bit about that today in the podcast. Now every business, it doesn't matter whether you are a one-person business like myself, who works with a few freelance people or you run a twenty (20) person agency. You need to have a plan because you need to have a sense of where your business is headed. I always like a vision of a journey. We need to make sure that we all agree on where the destination is.

Let's imagine that we want to go to South France. That is our vision. Then, our strategy is how we're gonna get there. Are we going to take a boat and a train and so on? And then our plan is exactly which boat we're gonna catch. Have we put the tickets where we're going to stay overnight? Where do we need to eat and so on? 

But if you don't have clarity on where you're trying to get to. In other words, in this case, the South of France. That destination, which is the longer-term vision for your business, then you're just gonna go round and round in circles. Maybe you'll get to the South of France, but maybe you'll end up in Skegness instead. 

Not everybody in your business will be aligned with you to get to the South of France. If you haven't clearly explained that that's where we're headed and sold it to them, get them excited about that journey as well. Then, you really want to make sure that you start with a longer-term vision, which is South France, and then you break it down into your year plan, and then you're quarterly plan, and then you break that down into your monthly plan, and then you take your monthly plan and you put it into your diary.

That is exactly the way a vision gets delivered rather than creating something that looks great and sounds exciting, but no one's got any idea of how you're going to get there. If you want to turn that vision into practical actions that mean that you actually get to the South of France. Then you have to take this concept of big vision, break it down into years, break those years into quarters, break the quarters into months and then take the monthly goals and translate them into your diary to make sure that you have achieved this.

Now, as I said, you should be doing this whether you're a one-person business like me, or you run a twenty (20) or two hundred (200) person agency. Kind of what spurred me on to record this episode is that I'm knee-deep in doing this for myself so that I've got some sense of where I'm headed and some excitement about that direction. On that note, you want to make sure that the goals that you're setting for yourself or your business, our goals that you want to achieve rather than kind of judging a business like yours, this is the next step it should take. Also, you're sort of judging that 

I've done this work several times with private clients where they've gone away, and they reflected on what they said they wanted for the longer term. Then, they've come back to me in the next coaching session and said, “Hey, Rob, look, I'm really sorry we wasted our time last time because I said, I want to go to A but in fact, I thought about it and actually want to go to B,” And I say, “No, of course, we didn't waste our time because sometimes you have to say you want to go to A to realise that you want to go to B if that makes sense.” 

Make sure that your vision is something that really excites you. Also, make sure that you connect your personal aspirations and your personal goals into your business vision because we are entrepreneurs. We run our business, and that's one aspect of our life, but we need to tie in all of our personal aspirations as well. 

I'll give you an example of that. One of my goals this year was to start working four (4) days a week. Now if all I did was have that as a kind of a dream that I'd like to work four (4) days a week, it was never going to happen. Then, I needed to have a strategy to get there, which meant getting more efficient. Focusing on the things that move the needle for me and stopping doing other things. Most importantly, know why I only want to work four (4) days a week. 

The reason why is because I've got a kind of a side project, which is all to do with my camper van and creating a YouTube channel on a new website. Also, I wanted to have a day a week to focus on that. That's what I've managed to do, but it was only because I put a plan in place. That gives you an example of how I've tied my aspirations and my vision into my business vision.

Now, when you create your plan for next year, which hopefully you're thinking about doing at the moment. Remember that a plan is much more than just a finance plan or a people plan. I think most of us get used to doing that because our accountants tell us to do that. Banks tell us to do that, so we might be quite good at creating financial forecasts for the next year, estimating our costs, looking at our profitability and working on margin percentages of twenty (20), thirty (30), forty (40) and whatever.

Great, that's good but it's not the only thing that goes into making up a business plan. Then, yes, you want to have a financial plan and you want to have a people plan, but actually, you need some things before that. You need to have clarity on what your core products and services are going to be for next year. How are they evolving? You want to have clarity on who your target market is and who your ideal client is. 

Again, is that evolving? You want to get your pricing right for those products and services. Then you want to have a sales and marketing plan in place so that you understand how you're going to win that business. 

Then you can take all of that and only turn that into a finance plan. Start considering what kind of resources I need to serve this level of client, product, revenue. Also, you're thinking about your team. Will that be an in-house team, a remote team or a virtual team? Once you've done this work, you can start to figure all of that out. Now that sounds overly complicated, isn't it? 

I would really encourage you to keep it simple. When I do the vision work with my private clients, we get the whole project done within probably two (2) to three (3) coaching sessions. We create a thing called a three (3) page plan: page one captures that longer-term vision which might be five years and three years, page two captures the one year vision and the quarterly plan, and then the third page is the monthly plan. You want to work on keeping it simple. You don't want to make this a massive list.

I'm going to give you one tip here that you should never have more than seven (7) projects. Seven (7) projects for the year, seven (7) projects for the quarter or seven (7) projects for the month. Seven (7) of your magic number, you might only have two (2) or three (3), but you certainly can't have more than seven. If you're finding that, you're creating a massive to-do list. Then you have to start grading these tasks in deciding which are the seven (7) that are going to move the needle forward. Make sure you adopt a keep it simple strategy and approach to doing all of your planning for the year.

I would encourage you to sit down and kind of visualise yourself in a year and say, “Where do I want to be personally? Where do I want to be with my business? What would success look like for me? What do I want?” You want to do that because you want to make sure that you are in control of the direction that your business is heading rather than letting external factors dictate your course of travel. Trust me if you don't create a plan, if you don't have a vision for the year and if you're not constantly reviewing that plan, then you will be letting external factors dictate your direction.

Of course, sometimes those external factors are massive, such as a pandemic or a recession. But most of the time they're smaller external factors that if we don't have a plan, will have a bigger impact on the direction that we had. It might be simply that you take on completely the wrong client because you don't have clarity of who your ideal target client is, and that client takes your business in a different direction. 

They're really difficult to service. You have to invest an inordinate amount of time managing them, so have a plan. On the note of external factors, you want to make sure that your plan is dynamic so that you can look at it every month and say, “What do we know today that we didn't know last month?”

Also, you should be willing to change your plan accordingly. That doesn't mean you're failing, it just means that your plan is reflecting the reality of now. As opposed to creating this beautiful plan, a three-day away day with audio of your senior team casting it in stone and then using it to beat yourself up as it becomes more and more out of date because you're not willing to keep it up today. Make sure that you get into the rhythm of allocating some time every month to spend in the strategy space, which is looking at your plan and saying, “How do we need to amend it?”

If you have a team, then that's great. Your senior leadership team meeting. You should be using this plan as the basis of your conversations. But if it's just you, then just simply allocate an hour in your diary once a month where you're getting all of your kind of tactical distractions away and you're just looking at your plan and saying, “Where are we? What do I know today that I didn't know last month? How did I do with the goals I set for last month? And what goals do I need to set for this month?”

If you keep finding the fact that the tasks and goals that you set for last month keep getting transferred into this month, then you are overestimating how much you can get done. You need to be much more practical, honest and realistic with yourself and say, “Based on my kind of client service, day to day workload, how much of these working on the business projects can I do this month?”

 As I said, it could just be one or two projects, but it definitely can't be more than seven (7) projects. Then, use the number seven (7) as a way to filter what you should do and what you shouldn't do. What sits on your waiting list until you've got those other seven (7) projects completed. 

Now it often helps to do this work, both in terms of actually setting the vision for the year but also reviewing the vision by getting away from your desk. Try either if you work at home, find a different room to work in, or even go to a coffee shop or a hotel. Or if you're in the office, try and get out of the office and be somewhere inspirational so that you can literally remove yourself from the day to day as well as mentally.

Removing yourself from the day to day and gives you the sort of space to think longer-term and put yourself in the position of where will we be in a year? What would great look like? What do I want to achieve? And how does that tie into all of my other personal stuff that's happening outside of my work as well? 

So that's just a few tips and reminders of what you should be doing as you head into the New Year. If you want any help with this or you have any questions, please do reach out to me. I always get back to people who do reach out. 

My email address is in the show notes today, and if you have any questions about your vision or the process, then do reach out to me. I'm also going to share a link to one of my free guides called “Creating a Sustainable and Profitable Agency”. This digs into what we've talked about today in more detail. Again, I'll put the links to that in the show notes and go take a look. Download that and use that to help you guide your planning for the next year.

Other than that, I hope you have a brilliant rest of the week. As ever, if you've enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving a review on an Apple podcast. That helps the algorithms show more people just like you this podcast and that helps me reach and help more people. Other than that, have a brilliant weekend, and I will see you next week as we head towards episode 100 of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Building an Agency with Kevin Urrutia

How can having the right mindset affect you when building an agency?

In this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by Kevin Urrutia.

Kevin started out as a software developer and moved into eCommerce, starting Chester Travels (selling suitcases), growing to $1.5 million in 18 months. He also started a home cleaning business which he grew to $3 million in 18 months. He now runs a digital agency, Voy Media.

And if that wasn't enough, he is also the co-author of 'Digital Marketing Made Easy: A-Z Growth Strategies and Key Concepts of Digital Marketing.'

In this episode, Kevin shares his journey from entrepreneur to growing and selling a business. We also explore what drove him to transition into the world of digital marketing, the best tips he could give aspiring entrepreneurs, and how having the right mindset will help you grow your agency.

Make sure to grab a pen and paper for another action-packed episode with Kevin Urrutia.

Time Stamp

[2:30]

What drove Kevin to transition from technology and entrepreneurship to digital marketing

[3:11]

The importance of having the right mindset

[3:28]

Understanding how and why Kevin started various businesses

[5.29]

Overcoming hurdles at different stages of growth

[6:46]

Why having your systems in place is essential for sustainable growth

[7:10]

How finding the right people has changed in midst of the pandemic

[9:20]

Dealing with the shortage of great marketing people

[11:33]

The battle of keeping your clients happy without overservicing - don’t be a charity!

[13:09]

What are the early stage hurdles for start-up agencies? 

[16:08]

Why having a sales process is so important for a growing agency

[18:56]

Sales strategies to win more clients (without relying on referrals and word of mouth)

[20:56]

The importance of building your brand: ‘Am I building the brand as me? Or am I building the brand as a bigger business?’

[24:06]

The deciding factors and key advice in selling an agency

[26:25]

How to achieve a ‘good entrepreneurial mindset'

[30:10]

The biggest trends and future predictions of digital marketing 

[31:58] Kevin's advice to his younger self

Quotations

"I've always wanted to do my own thing, and that has always driven me. It's like that concept of 'Hey, I'm my own boss. I have my own things and building my own like products or companies.'" - Kevin Urrutia

"I always say that clients are the spark that gets their business going, but they also become the roadblock to growth in the end because they kind of have to get out of their own way. And they've got to realise that other people, they need to let other people do the work and other people may not do it as well as them or in the same way as them, and that's okay." - Rob Da Costa

"To have an entrepreneur mindset, you have to be willing to just try new stuff." - Kevin Urrutia

“Don't be scared of failing, because we all fail in order to move forwards.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

"I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode." If that sounds like you, please consider the rating and review my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select "Write a Review." Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven't done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I'm adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you're not subscribed, there's a good chance you'll miss out. Subscribe now!

Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

Hey, everybody! Welcome to this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. First of all, I hope you are having a fantastic, productive week. Also, I hope this episode is going to help you do that even more. This is a bit of a winding episode because we're talking about everything to do with being an entrepreneur and all about having the right mindset. Thinking about succession planning and selling your agency.

I'm excited to have Kevin Urrutia with me. He runs for the media but as you will hear, he has his finger in many pies and has started a whole number of businesses. We’ll explore what drives him. Some of the lessons that he's learned and some of the advice that he’ll give to you to make sure that you maintain that winning mindset. So, let's get on with today's episode. 

Welcome to the latest episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. We are getting inside the mind of an entrepreneur today, and I am really excited to have Kevin Urrutia with me. Kevin's done lots of things, so my introduction is not going to really do injustice. 

Kevin started out as a software developer, then he moved into e-commerce starting Chester Travels, which I believe sells suitcases. He grew that business to $1.5 million in just 18 months. He also then started a home cleaning business, which grew to $3 million. Now, he runs a digital agency called Voy Media. If that wasn't enough, he's also the co-author of “Digital Marketing Made Easy” and key concepts of digital marketing and a podcaster, too. Welcome, Kevin. That sounds like that you don't have enough hours in the day to do all of those things.

Hey, thanks for having me. Yeah, so exciting. I've done a lot of stuff, but mostly I kind of what we were talking about earlier. It's just in the beginning. It’s just, that's what I wanted to do. Be an entrepreneur and make things. That's sort of like the mindset I've always sort of had when I was younger. Sort of doing things.

Yes. Just before we jump into this question. Let me just tell you, I've just got a new cleaner. The new cleaner has started her business during the pandemic, so she's being a bit of an entrepreneur. I was telling her about my typical day because, like you, I've been self-employed for a long time and she said, “What drives you?”  “What motivates you?” Then, I thought that was a really interesting question. I thought I'd start this interview off by asking you, what drives you? What motivates you? 

At least for me, what drives and motivates me is, it was always like I've always wanted to do my own thing, and that has always driven me. It's like that concept of I'm my own boss. I have my own things and build my own products or companies. 

At least for me, growing up, I would always like to see people and I'm like what makes them different from me? And, I was like reading about them like this person is a normal person and I was like I can be that person. I've always thought I could do it. That sort of always joins me where I always thought like this person must be super smart.

I like reading it. I'm like, no, this person just doesn't. He knows a little bit more than me, but I could do it, too. That's sort of in my mindset, if they could do what, I could do it too. It's as simple as that. That's sort of what always drives me. 

Are you running lots of businesses at the moment? Or, is that story I gave you just a bit of your sort of linear timeline?

It depends. What I'm focusing on right now is mainly Voy Media, which is my marketing agency. But back then, when I was sitting by other companies, I had all those things that I was thinking about like, the Maid cleaning company was first. I started that one right after I quit my job in San Francisco. I was there for about two and a half years and I got to go do my own thing.

I saw the cleaning company and while I was doing it, that's kind of when I thought of the idea of doing the outdoor gear company, which is momentum and that spun out of still running the cleaning company but using the resources that I had. The income that is coming in for the cleaning to get the inventory to hire the staff.

Then from there, that started the out the luggage company and that sort of all these sorts of things kind of were built around the same time with, like, five years. However, in the beginning, everything was a mess. While working on things at the same time, and then as things get bigger, we sort of like spun out people. For example, when this guy works for me at the cleaning company, he's pretty good. Let him just run the outdoor gear company because I just don't have time. 

That's kind of how it happened eventually, staff that split. And then you're saying that separate Slack channels or separate email channels like we can't have employees doing this and this because it makes people confused on what is the responsibility. But in the beginning, I tell people like we just did everything at once because the cleaning company is providing a lot of the cash flow to fund stuff.

Yeah, and I guess when we're starting and we're younger and naive, perhaps, a bit more naive, we probably are more willing to take those risks. Let's just talk about some of the hurdles to growth because a lot of our listeners are, it's sort of in one of three phases that are in startup mode there in growth mode, or they may be in advanced growth. What are some of the hurdles that you see real currently for smaller businesses and to growth? What are some of the things that our listeners should be mindful of in that journey of growth? 

Journey of growth, I think one of the biggest things it really depends on is service-based businesses like mine. I always tell people like my companies aren't too complex or service-based. Honestly, one of the biggest hurdles to growth, at least for the cleaning company and even for employee media, is just having great employees that are trained up to do the work that you want them to do.

I think that's very hard on the industry that you're in, cleaning for example. Cleaning is very easy, so we would get a lot of people saying, “Hey, I'm a cleaner. Anybody can clean, I could clean, You can clean. I'm not the best cleaner. Maybe you are a great cleaner.” But that sort of quality of cleaning is hard to sort of getting right. I think cleaning is even harder because everybody's definition of clean is different. Like a bachelor's cleaning is different from a married person's cleaning.

It's like we got to account for all these things. At least for us making sure that we have a checklist in place and getting them trained up. We know for at least for the Maid company. We know the role of making mistakes, so you should always have that mindset. So for us, if something's not right, here's how you can contact us so we can make it right so they can get that great experience because I think a service-based company is all about the experience.

Even though you might not like it. Hey, here's how to get a refund. Here's how we're gonna come back the same day to fix mistakes for you. I think having that sort of system in place, allows you to grow because you have a great experience. Now, at least for us here in the U. S, we have a lot of help. Yelp and Google reviews are so important for growth that that's sort of how you build momentum. That's how you get more people to come. Again, that applies to a lot of industries as well.

Yes. I think that's good. Reviews online are so important, and you obviously don't want to have a bad one but have a good one if you can get it. What's your feeling like right now we're recording this in October 2021. We are all kind of hoping that we are coming out of a pandemic. We've all learned to work differently. How do you think finding people has changed because of that? 

Oh, that's very tough. At least for us, It's been interesting because my background Rob is like programming, so I always kind of did remote work. Even when I was in college.

I had one tiny bit which is like a software company. We were developing apps for people in places like New York, California. When I was in upstate college in Binghamton. It's like nowhere. Then, this remote concept was always similar to me. When I went to work in San Francisco, it kind of went away because we just worked in an office and then there was a pandemic. It was like, this is how I was working and I was like, 18 or 19 right in college like this makes sense.

Then, for me and Wilson, who’s the other founder, we thought it was very similar. But I think for other people, at least for us, and we've been hiring for at least for Voy Media. It's been like a hit or miss for both people. We've had people joining in like a week, then quit because they just can't do remotely. I'm so used to the office and we could see that they are struggling like hey, again on camera. Like I don't want to be on camera but you just have to. This is how you look like you can't change it. You're like, 25 years plus you can't change your look.

It's at least for us. That's been difficult to find. These people that we know can work autonomously without having to be like I don't want to. I really don't want to have a company where I'm tracking you. That's not what I want. I don't want to be doing that. Some people like, okay, maybe we do time tracking but that's not fun for me. I don't want to check in time logs. I just want to trust you to say like you're gonna do your work and finding those people was tough.

I believe that when you work for something, people will want to do their best work. No one wants to go to work and be like, I'm gonna want to do anything today. Of course, there's some, but not like in some fields, industries that were probably in at least the programming you want to be the best programmer out there. You want to make the REST code. You don't want to go to work, like writing nothing. 

Yes. It is in the UK at the moment, there's a real skill shortage in the whole marketing agency field, and so it's tough to find people. It's been that way for a while, but it's even worse than ever at the moment. Is that true in the US that you’re finding the pandemic has actually meant you can look further into a field for people? 

Yeah. I mean, for us, we have such a shortage of finding great marketers. I think one thing that people realise is that everybody can do marketing. It's kind of like any skill or not like any skill. But like there are people that you know, you go to Google ads, you get certified on your Facebook as you get certified and people like you on my Facebook as a marketer. That's like the basics of Facebook ads.

But then some people truly understand how marketing works. As in when you're talking about growth. How to understand growth? How to understand your profits and margins? How to understand hiring? How to understand inventory? That is all part of marketing, and you're sort of seeing this mesh of things that actually make a growth market.

Someone who truly understands the business. At least for us, one of the hardest challenges that we find is people that can understand, like, yes, this is how you upload on Facebook but that doesn't make you a marketer.

You understand how to read the data. What's the click-through rates? How do you optimise the images that have to be copied? That's still a shortage of people truly understanding the fundamentals of marketing, and there are only a few people that can do that because they actually spend the time to go back and read like, Oh, glory to read these great books of authors that have done it before.

That, at least for me, is a shortage of those people. I always tell people, those marketers, they're great and they're how they probably have their own business or they have their own company. They're not gonna be working for me. It's like, harder to find, like those great people. 

That is a good point that you make, which I always feel like everyone in the business needs to have a bit of a commercial head on their shoulders. They need to understand the difference between and delighting the client and over-servicing. They need to understand the difference between profit and loss. 

I always facetiously say to my client, so you're running a business or a charity because if you're over-servicing your clients by more than 10 or 15% then you're running a charity, and don't think often it's because the team, the younger team members, just want to do a great job for their clients. When the client says jump, they say, How high? But they don't have this commercial nouse about them. 

Yeah, and it's so true. And it's something that we always struggle with the agency. It's probably to rub that, okay, a client wants an extra thing. It's like, do you want to charge them? Do you want to delight them? It's like a battle between should we charge them because we need the profit? But should we just, like, get them upset? 

As an agency owner. You always want your customers to be happy, and it's always a battle of like, all right, fine, we'll do a free landing page because I know it's gonna make them happier and know they're going to stay again. But I think it's so important to realise, okay, how much money are you making? It's funny because I always said that I'm not running a charity, either. It's so funny because I always say that like we said, we're not running a charity. We need to make one here. 

Yeah for sure. I think this is a whole other topic that we could just talk about. I think one of the things is that if you make a conscious decision to over-serve a client because you want to delight them and you want to help them. The key to that is to make sure the client understands that it's an extra on top of what they are normally paying for so that when you don't do it next time, they're not disappointed because they understand you were kind of helping them out.

It's so funny because we always try to say that too. You were just like, I hope they understand that this cost us money. I don't know if they will understand that because they think it's free, right? Every client is like, ok, this is just free. But when you do it once they expect free every single time. 

I wrote a blog or email, Kevin, before called “Can you just”, that dreaded term that clients use. Hey, Rob, can you just do this for me? Can you just do that? And in their mind, it's five minutes of work. But of course, it's two hours working. So we just have to be really mindful about that. 

Any other hurdles? We talked about just starting an agency and got to the point where might want to hire some people and we discussed that is a big hurdle to finding the right people if they've got any other thoughts around, like those early-stage hurdles to growth if you cast your mind back to your agency or your cleaning business or travel and so on.

I think the biggest hurdle again is still what I think people get over people. Sometimes that's stuck with them. They think that they need to be doing all the work, all the service. I think that is something that early on. For me, I don't want to be doing that because if I'm doing all the work, all the servicing, then I'm never gonna grow like a business. That’s where a lot of people get stuck.

For me, the realisation was when you look at a bodega or like a street corner. You see, the owner of that business, they're doing the cashier and stocking. It was like, these people are quote and unquote running a business, but it's actually like a full time, harder job. I don't want to be doing that. 

Getting out of that mindset. I think it's so important and very helpful for businesses, at least for me. People come to Voy Media and they see me.

I'm on a podcast, YouTube and everywhere and he was like, Oh, I thought it was kind of gonna work with me going with my team, but they've been trained by me. They've been doing stuff. I think that's sort of a big hurdle that people need to get rid of because again, I understand that you want to do the service. You want to do the work because you're the one that knows everything, but at a certain point, you just can't scale and grow the business.

I think ultimately you want to grow your business and you don't want to be the one managing the marketing, but again, it really depends if you do want to do that, great. However, still, find somebody who's gonna be like a COO that's going to help you actually grow the business, because it's too hard to do. At the same time, when you think about growth, you also need to think about servicing your clients.

Yes and, interestingly, an entrepreneur is, I always say, the spark that got their business going, but they also become the roadblock to growth in the end because they kind of got to get out of their own way. They've got to realise that they need to let other people do the work. Other people may not do it as well as them or in the same way as them. But that's okay. 

Yeah, that's so true. And that's something that you are always going to have to at least find a process system for how we're going to do things. Even for us. I think that we should always update our internal system or internal processes, depending on the employees we hire. Okay? It seems like this person made this mistake. How do we avoid that? That way the client isn’t upset next time. Okay, let's do a roadmap call. Let's do a bi-weekly call. Let's do this. 

Have a cause. Invite them to Slack again. Again, as a business owner, how do you optimise your company? You can actually bring on these people to serve more clients and again keep delighting them with a great experience that you want to provide them?

Yes, as tedious as it might be for an entrepreneur document your business processes so that you can replicate yourself and replicate the service that the client gets. The experience that the client gets is so important. 

Then now this agency has grown, they maybe you've got say, they've got 10 staff. I keep putting you on the spot by asking the same question. But I'm just interested to hear your experience of being there yourself. When I get to that size where I have delegated, maybe I've got a COO and I'm getting stuff off my play. What are the next hurdles to get to that next size? That sort of $1.5 million revenue target.

I think the biggest one for us to get that has gotten us over that hump it was having, at least for me, was a great sort of sales process. I think as small business owners entrepreneurs, I never want to do sales. I was like, sales are scary and it's not for me. I'm a programmer. I went to school for computer science.

I always thought that sales are a weird thing, but then I read tonnes of books and realised that sales are just a process for your project to understand what you're truly selling or have to deliver. And I think for us like in the beginning it was very just me talking to them. But then once I document that process. This is the email we will send out. This is the follow-up email. This is the calendar link.

You set an agenda in the first call. Here's what I talk about, making sure that the prospect knows that, ok, this guy is a professional. We're not gonna just randomly talk about stuff. I think that sort of helped us. Another big one too, honestly, is just having a salesperson. I say that like my friend calls that, he might be part of this too, Rob, it’s like as a founder, you always gonna inherently close more than like a salesperson.

My friend calls it a founder bonus where you just talk to the founder. They're gonna like what? They're attracted to you. You're probably charismatic. Talk to them about your service in and out, so any questions they have there are none of like, Hey, let me go talk to my founder. Hey, let me go talk to the boss, and so we can do that, right? I never knew about that until I hired a salesperson. 

That's sort of like a big one is having a great sales process and always updating it. I think again our sales decks probably update maybe every three or four months. Even our salesperson, why are we always up to them? Because every month I listen to your calls. This is how we can make it better. I was like, ok, we didn't close this month. Then this is how we're going to close again. 

It's always having that entrepreneurial spirit inside your business too. Grow each part of it. We literally just updated our deck. Yesterday, it was good to go. Let's pitch this right now. 

Yes, and who is ever going to tell you to give you the best feedback about improving things like your clients and your prospects. Then, we should all be constantly listening to the feedback that we get, listen between the lines and help those improvers. It's really interesting. I don't know about you, but I met a lot of my clients and I asked them how they get their business. They all rather proudly tell me that it will come through referrals and word of mouth. 

But as I say to them, that's not the sales process. That's just luck. That’s an opportunity. That's only going to get you so far. When you want to grow beyond what you know a certain size, you've got to have a sales process in place. 

I think that's so true. Like people always say referrals and word the mouth. That's so unpredictable. At least for us, we're doing cold outreach. We're doing cold calls. We’re doing podcasting. We're doing YouTube videos.

It's everything to get people to know our agency and then, great, you found us one way. Now let's sort of slip through the way to work with us doing your marketing, your Facebook ads or Google ads, whatever it might be. Again, that's the only way to have predictable growth and revenue essentially for your company. Especially as you get bigger. You have twenty (20) - Thirty (30) people. That payroll is just like we need business.

Yes. Like you say, the problem that referrals and word of mouth are you have no control over when they come in. You also have no control over the quality or the fit for your business. You've got to do something more than that, right? 

Yeah, for sure. Even for me, we've got a lot of referrals. Multi-referrals, they're kind of not looking for it. Then, it's like the sales process is always a little longer for referrals.

Even though people think it's easy. I'm like when someone searches for it, they’re like the market is there. The demand is there. In referral, it's kind of, let's go connect another month and I'm like, all right, are you working with me or not? Right? 

Yeah, I always sort of teach my community that you don't want to be qualifying those people with your time because your title is the most precious commodity. You need some other processes to qualify people in or out because you want to. You want to be talking to the people that have demonstrated they've got a need. They understand what you do. They've got a budget. They've got a time scale. They've got a problem that you can solve. Those are the people you want to invest your time with. 

I just want to pick up on one point that you said a bit earlier, which I think is worth reiterating. That is when you're growing a business, of any kind, you have to make a choice. At some point is, am I building the brand being me, or am I building the brand being a brand? Therefore I can replicate myself through other people and through the service that we deliver. I think that that's an important judgement that people need to make. Otherwise, they stay in a sort of freelancer space forever, more kidding themselves that they're growing their business. 

That's so funny because it's something that we always fight. So much of Voy Media is based on my personality, Kevin, everybody knows me. But again, I also have Voy Media setback. 

For me, I like someone like Gary Vee,  where, hey, you have Gary Vee, which is the guy. But then he also has vain and media, which is everything that runs behind him. That's really the way I emulated it. Where some people are just like kevin.com. Everything's the brand, right? Something like yourself which is just like everything is your name. For me,  I'm like the face of the company but everything still goes to the branded Voy Media. I think that's super helpful to sort of distinguishing that.

Again, it's not perfect. It's something that I think about too. Something my co-founder, Wilson, and I will think about too because you got to think about it. Let's say five (5) to ten (10) years from now, you want to sell the company. What are you selling? Am I selling Rob? Am I selling Kevin? Or, am I selling the brand? That's something that early on you're not thinking about, but you know anything from ten (10) to twenty (20) years, and you never know what could happen. You want to sell it and that's something we are thinking about.

Again going back to my original businesses. In the beginning, when you have, every company has one bank account. One penal, that's a nightmare. Then when we want to sell it. You ask yourself, is this expense for this company or this company? Then, you realise, when you want to sell a company, you don't make these mistakes anymore. 

Everything is a little bit separate now, but I think for any sort of business, I still personally think that having your brand is great in the beginning because that's going to get your clients. It's going to get your referrals as you become bigger. Okay, start separating it. 

That's what we did. At least for us, you kind of separate. If you separate those two again with the sales process, they come in for Kevin. They email me but I’ll tell them that they may talk to a salesperson. For them to realise that it's not just Kevin but it's the company of Kevin has and Wilson has, and that sort of help establish.

We've gotten a lot better at that within the past year because, as I said, I just really got a salesperson a year ago. I was doing all the sales calls and it felt very like, Yeah, I work with Kevin’s company. Then once I see Kevin, the salesperson, it's very weird. I joined sales and they kind of like, Oh my God, the CEOs here. I'm like, Hey, what's up?

I'm not saying anything, but they get so excited. This is so weird because it's me. I was so used to just these calls and talking to these people. But again, in the beginning, that helped the growth of the company because they didn't want to come for work with void because they did talk to me. That was super beneficial to growth. Though, eventually, this isn't sustainable for me. I'm on call six times a day. I'm exhausted and I can't be doing that.

Yeah. I really like the concept of the founder bonus. That's a good one. I haven't heard that before. The next question I wanted to ask you which you've already answered in the first part actually. If someone hopes one day to sell their agency, what advice would you give to them? Besides what you just said, which has built a brand and don't build it on you. What other advice would you give them? 

I haven't told the agency yet but some things that I've sold a previous company before. Again, have a separate bank account. One thing I think that's important for people to think about, too, is to sell your company when it's on a high versus on a low. That way, you can just get the highest valuation possible. You're not questioning these numbers. 

What does this mean? Why isn't it as low? That's what I've learned from my other companies where you want to sell it when it's its peak. Yep, even though you're not ready and again, if you want to sell a company, it's something you need to think about for at least a year because you're not going to find a buyer instantly. Especially if you have an agency doing anywhere between five (5) to six (6) million because an agency is like a lot of people.

I've heard a story. My friend Josh sold an agency and he said he sold it within six (6) months. The founder was unable to run this because he had never run an agency before so he took it back. It's so weird. Like mix. Ideally, you want to work with a company that has bought an agency before, so they know the struggles. They know what it really is. When I talk to other agency founders, I might say, since you've done an agency, you know the struggles, the good and the bad. I think it's so important to think about. 

I can relate to that story. When I sold my agency, we sold. We actually sold a big U.S company in Minneapolis and they weren't a marketing agency. It was not poor. It was not a good match. After two years, I was tied in for two years. They offered to sell me the agency back for a pound but I said, no thanks. Because they killed the brand. They just wanted me to take the people and the responsibility.

I also think another really good point that you made is set on a high. I would extend that to say, sell when you, the owner, are feeling really positive and not feeling burnt out. I sold my agency when I would say I'm tired and burnt out and I'm sure that would have impacted the value that we got for it rather than that you say, selling up or selling it on a high. 

Let's just do a couple more things. I just wanted to get your thoughts on what makes a really good entrepreneurial mindset. What's kind of right thought processes someone needs to have if they want to have the sort of success that you've had?

 I think for an entrepreneur mindset, I think it's being willing to just try new stuff which sounds easy. I mean, you all have friends that you tell them a new idea and they're like, this isn't gonna work but you haven't even heard the idea yet. It's like, I was talking to a friend recently and I said that it should be like a security guard for people.

She's said, no, this is why it's gonna be. I was like, why are you so negative? I think it's so simple but being open to ideas and stuff and willing to try things, it's so important for an entrepreneur mindset. I have tonnes of friends. I told them that I wanna start a cleaning company. They’re like, what are you thinking about? you’re a computer scientist. For me, this could be fun to do but they’re like, why would ever do that?

You don't even clean. Meanwhile, I just said that it’s fine and I think about something else. 

Another thing that entrepreneurs get stuck in, at least the people that want to do business, is they think they have to do that job. That they're like signing up for cleaning. I've never worked for a cleaning company. I've never cleaned before. My hiking company. I hiked like everybody, quote and unquote hikes but not an active hiker. But, I can research, what are tracking polls?  What are backpacks? What are people looking for?

My luggage company. I’m not a traveller. I never sold luggage before, but I knew about manufacturing. Again, it's you. Hear it all the time. Follow your passion, which is I think it's great if you're super-rich because you can do whatever you want. But as an entrepreneur, you're just looking for opportunities to make money and then go ahead.

Once you make money, then go follow your passion. Then go do whatever you want and waste money. Even for me, marketing, I never went to school for marketing, but I understood how to market because of my business. This is actually interesting to me.

Being open to stuff I think is super important. I like reading about entrepreneurs, at least for me. I personally love reading about startups and a lot of things about Elon Musk and Marc Andresen. Early entrepreneurial guys. That stuff excites me. 

When I'm feeling kind of low, I gotta read an entrepreneurial book because it's gonna be exciting. I really like reading about these journeys from building stuff. I don't really read fiction, but that's sort of like, at least for me, what I think is important and what helps me.

Yes. I think that piece of advice about not having to be able to do the job is a really important one. I think a lot of time people think I have to be able to do everything. I can’t possibly delegate as I could do it myself. That just isn't true. I think the other thing I would say, be open-minded and try new things. Don't be scared of failing because, you know, we need to fail. I can tell you. 

I've been running this business for nearly fifteen (15). Well, I'm in my 15th year now. In terms of me getting into the online world. I can't tell you how many failures I've had. I've had a lot more failures than I've had successes so far. That's part of the journey that gets you to the next stage, right? 

That's so funny because after I tell people all the things that I wake up and take for the agency and take the cleaning company and you think of all the failures, you're just never gonna get done.

You probably had this to where you wake up, you're like, Wow, that was crazy. That's a crazy thing that's gonna happen today because, like, someone just quit out of nowhere. This client just complained about this. I'm like, Oh my God, you can't possibly think of everything but your response is, let me try to figure out how I'm going to fix this today. Just having that mindset of let's get it done. Again, a big thing, too, is working with teammates or having a co-founder. Because that's going to make it so much easier than again having someone stressed out or freaking out. 

Yeah, for sure. Really quick question before we end because I'm conscious of time, but I know Voy Media works in the digital marketing space. I was just interested to ask you, what kind of trends do you see coming down the line in the whole digital marketing world? 

The biggest trend that I see, at least for me, is that marketing is getting harder, which is good because the entrepreneurs are getting savvier. They just know more. They understand where before, you probably know Rob, dropshipping was so big where anybody can go online. 

That made markets easy. But again, the quality of products was down. Now, with everything being much harder, much more difficult, I think the quality entrepreneurs are getting there where it's like they're truly understanding everything now from business to marketing to having a great quality product. At least for me, it reminds me of 15 years ago, when there's all this great product, and then there's this weird space in e-commerce time where drop papers came in. Everybody was in a market and like you have all this weird stuff online. Now that's going down. 

I'm seeing great quality products where I was astonished that this is actually a new invention.  Where before it was like another person selling a T-shirt. Another person selling another mug. I'm like, when is new stuff going to be out there again? I'm seeing that happen again, which is exciting because it’s great for us. As marketers, we can work with innovative products again. 

Yeah. The success of anything like that is the ability to market it right. Because almost no one's operating in a vacuum with no competition, whether you're running a business like your agency or coaching practice like mine. We're all competing where there's a lot of noise, and so we've got to be good at finding ways through that noise.

So, Kevin, if people wanted to reach out to you. Find out more about your, your journey and Voy Media, where would they go?

They can just email me [email protected] or just go to voymedia.com. You can find me there, but that's pretty much the best way. 

Okay. I need to ask you one question. I've forgotten to ask you which I ask all my guests. This is really important because we're just heading towards a hundred episodes and in one-hundredth episode, we're collating all of this into one episode. If you could go back in time and give your younger self one piece of advice when you're just starting out in business, what would it be? 

One piece of advice. What would I give? I would say again, “Just go and do it.” Don't be scared of failure. I think that's the biggest thing that I would give myself. In the beginning, I was very scared, even kind of being on camera. That was very scary for me. I was like, oh, my God, people are going to judge me for how I look, how I talk.

Eventually, once you get out of that mindset, it's over. You can do whatever you want. You can't change yourself. Just go and do that. That's one of the biggest things where I see people. For me, it took me a while. I get a coach and everything to do. Mentally prepare yourself for this stuff. I think that's probably the biggest advice I would give myself. 

Yes. Feel the fear and do it anyway. That’s a good piece of advice. Great. Then, we will include your link with your email address and your website in the show notes. I just want to end this by saying thank you so much for joining us today. I know that the listeners will have got some good nuggets from that. Also, I learned this term of founders bonus, which is really good. I’m gonna use that again. Thanks for running us today, Kevin.

Thank you, Rob. Thanks, guys. 

Kevin is an interesting guy, isn't he? I hope you found that episode useful and you've got some ideas and thoughts. Maybe ways of looking at your business slightly differently.

If you did enjoy it, please consider leaving a review on the Apple podcast and share this with your colleagues. And as ever, I hope you have a great rest of the week. A brilliant, relaxing weekend and I'll see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast

The Anatomy of a High-Converting Email

The Anatomy of a High-Converting Email

What is the anatomy of a high-converting email?

If you are a regular listener to this podcast, then you know I am a massive fan of using a mailing list as a central part of your business development strategy. 

A lot of people buy into the concept of building a list and regularly emailing that list but then they get stuck because they don't know what to send or their open/engagement levels are disappointing so they get disheartened and quit!

So in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I dig into what makes a great email and how to structure an email to maximise engagement.

This episode is brought to you by my brand new programme: The Build, Nurture and Convert Blueprint, which is the A to Z of building a complete email marketing machine to attract new subscribers, nurture them and then convert them into loyal customers. 

I'm providing a special offer for podcast listeners. 

Join my brand new email marketing & list building programme, The Build, Nurture, Convert Blueprint. Use 'PODCAST20' at checkout to get a 20% discount.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:50] 

The importance of building an email list

[2:28] 

Understanding the three (3) crucial parts of a successful email 

[3:07] 

#1: Getting the subject right

[4:16] 

Different types of subject lines

[5:52] 

Tips in writing emails

[6:21] 

#2: Using P.S as a way to sell products or services

[7:46] 

#3: Writing the body of an email

[8:37] 

How to add value to your readers

[9:27] 

Which is better: text-based email vs well-designed graphic email?

[10:16] 

The concept of “Pain, Agitate and Solve’ to structure a high-converting email

[12:21] 

The ideal frequency in sending emails

[13:10] 

The average benchmark rates for conversion, click-through rates and engagement

[15:25] 

NEW! Email Marketing and List Building Programme: The Build, Convert and Nurture Blueprint

Quotations

“..no matter how powerful the content of your email is, the subject line determines whether your email is going to be opened, ignored or just thrown straight in the trash.” - Rob Da Costa

“I think you should send emails at least once a week or twice a month, but certainly no less frequently than that, because people will forget you.” - Rob Da Costa

“Try and get 1% better every time you write an email. Remember, doing something imperfectly is much better than waiting till you can do it perfectly.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

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Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

If you are a regular listener to this podcast, then you know I am a massive fan of using a mailing list as a central part of your business development strategy. In today's podcast, I want to talk about the Anatomy of a Great Email because a lot of people buy into the concept of building a list and regularly emailing that list. Then they get stuck because they don't know what to send or the engagement levels they're getting with. The emails that they are sending are not as high as they hoped.

In this episode, I want to talk to you about, “What is the Anatomy of a Great Email?”. Now, this episode is brought to you by my brand new programme, The Build, Nurture and Convert Blueprint, which is the A to Z of building a complete email marketing machine to attract new subscribers. Nurture and convert them into loyal customers. 

Right now, I'm providing a special offer for podcast listeners. If you type in PODCAST20 at checkout, you will receive a 20% discount off the price of the programme. All the details are in today's show notes. I really hope that I will see you inside the programme. But meanwhile, let's get on with today's show and let's break down what the Anatomy of a Great Email is. 

Hey everybody! Welcome to today's episode of the podcast. Today we're talking about email marketing again, but specifically what makes a great email. How do you structure an email to maximize your engagement?

I know a lot of you guys listening will buy into the concept of building an email list. I've talked about it many times before. I've talked about why building a list is one of the most valuable assets you can have in your business and how it's one of the most cost effective and consistent ways of getting more people into your world. Nurturing them so that when they are ready to buy, i.e. there is enough pain and they're clear that your product or service can solve that pain. They reach out to you to start engaging.

I hope you buy into that but I know a lot of people struggle to consistently create emails and consistently create emails that convert. That's what I want to focus on today. Fundamentally, there're three (3) crucial parts of an email, and they are crucial in this order. The first thing you need to get right is the subject line. The second thing you need to think about always is the PS at the end of an email. Then, the third thing you need to think about is the body of the email.

Why are they important in that order? Because often people will obviously read the subject line. That's the thing that gets them to open up the email in the first place. Then, they might well scan right to the bottom of the email. If you don't have a really good call to action in your PS, then they may well just leave because they don't read the whole body of it. That's what we're going to focus on. 

I'm going to start off by talking about getting the subject right. The subject line is the first piece of your email that a reader interacts with. It shall really be your only chance to grab your reader's attention and then entice them to open the email. 

Now, a great subject line creates curiosity. It might highlight the benefits of opening the email. It might touch upon a pain point that you know your reader will be suffering from. It needs to be short enough to convey your message without revealing too much. Not so long or so complex that the reader really has to think about things because by then they've moved on to the next email in their inbox.

You want to invest a bit of time in thought in creating a really enticing subject. Because no matter how powerful the content of your email is, as I said, the subject line determines whether your email is going to be opened or ignored or just thrown straight in the trash. Therefore, it's essential that your email subject line stands out from the zillion other emails that are sitting in your readers' box. Then, you really want to spend as much time and effort creating an engaging subject line as you do writing the email itself.

There's a whole range of different types of subject lines that you can use, including questions, kind of a concept of missing out or creating curiosity. As I said, touching upon a pain point or even making it a personal subject. Let me just give you a few examples. If you were creating one that was a fear of missing out, it might say something like, “Urgent. You've got one day to watch this.” Or, “Your plan goes away by midnight. Get it now before it's gone.” and so on.

The next type of subject line would be a curiosity one, and this can often be where you ask a question. For example is this, “The best career move you could ever make 10 bizarre money habits making millennials richer?” Or, “What's the one common trait that you and every agency owner suffers from?” Those are examples of curiosity subject lines.

Then, the other type of subject line I’ll mention is touching upon pain points. “Get more kitchen space with these easy fixes.”, “Stop wasting time on things that don't matter.”,

“Learn a new language in only 15 minutes a day.” and, “How to delegate in nine (9) easy steps.” Those are examples of pain point subject lines. 

The last category I’ll mention was using something personal. This could be something like, “A piece of adviceI wish I could give my younger self.” Or, “How I doubled my revenue in 12 months.” 

You obviously have to make the subject pertinent to your reader, and to that point, you need to make sure that you really know who you're talking to. A good tip here is that when I write my emails, I'm always picturing the person I'm talking to sitting opposite me. Thinking about having a conversation with them. It's super important to have a clinician. You understand exactly who your ideal target customer is.

There's lots of other examples of subject lines you can find on the Internet. You might think some of what I gave you is too salesy for your audience. Then, you've got to get that balance right between being interesting and enticing versus being overly salesy. The latter turns people off as well. Those are some examples of your subject line. 

Now, the second most important thing I mentioned was the PS at the end of your emails. You always want to be thinking about what PS can I add in? I talk about the focus or the balance of 80% adding value and 20% selling. I will often use my PS as my 20% selling. You'll see emails from me that say, “P.S. Here's three other ways I can support you” Or “Here’s four (4) ways we can work together.” Then, I'll list out what they could be. For example, I could offer them to book a strategy call with me. I could promote this podcast in an email.I could tell him about one of my programmes in my PS. 

Think really carefully about your PS because people will often go straight from the subject straight down to the PS. Like I say, I often use my PS as a way to talk about how I can further support the reader. You could also offer. For example, a free pdf that's connected to the subject of your email. Then, it's kind of like the call to action. It's like, what do you want the reader to do next?

Of course you can put them in the body of your email. But, let's just think for a moment that a lot of people will look at the subject line and they'll skirt straight down to the PS. Then, if they never read the body, are you clear what you want them to do next? I'll always highlight my PS, and they'll always be bold so that they stand out. That is the second really important point, which is the PS. 

Let's move on to the body of the email. Of course, a lot of you will be thinking that the body is actually the most important part because that's where I get my key message across. It is, but the point I'm making is that if you don't get the subject right, you'll never get people to read the body of your email. Even when people open your email, they may still go straight down to the PS, which is why those two points are super important. 

Your readers opened your email because of your enticing subject line. Now, you need to have an opening introduction, just like the first couple of sentences and that is the thing that's going to trigger someone's interest to keep them reading. My advice here is get to the point quickly, but keep the first two sentences of that first paragraph short to the point and maybe create more curiosity, ask a question or make a statement that they will be able to relate to so they carry on reading.

Whilst in the body of your email, you might want someone to take action. Remember that we are trying to add value to our audience. We are trying to build know, like and trust through these series of weekly or however frequent your emails are. You're trying to build that know, like and trust. 

What we want to be doing is adding value, demonstrating to our reader that we really understand them in the pain that they suffer from. They look forward to receiving your email. Also remember, it's only when we've built know, like and trust that we can then start really selling to them.

You really want to focus the body of your email on adding value rather than making it too salesy. Because that will just switch people off, especially if they don't really know you yet. So use your body to build value, to offer some solutions and some ideas without giving everything away of course. 

My next piece of advice is make sure that your email and the body of your email is about one topic. I'm not a big fan of newsletters. I don't think people have got time to read them. I also think that people feel like if they're subscribing to a newsletter, then it's just an opportunity for you to sell where, if you're sending one topic emails that are going to hit home and hit that pain point with your customer. Then they're much more likely to read it.

I think the ideal email is going to be somewhere between three hundred (300) to six hundred (600) words. I think text based emails are better than designed emails because they get through the spam filters much more easily. Also, people tend to see a text based email as something that isn't salesy whereas, a really well designed newsletter is obviously sort of salesy. Unless people are really signed up to that newsletter, it's hard to interact with them.

A good structure for your emails is following the PAS approach and that stands for Pain- Agitate-Solve. The first part of your email is you're identifying pain. The second part of your email, you're kind of sticking the knife in and making it even more painful. And then the third part of your email, you're giving them some solution to that pain.

If I was writing an email about delegation, for example, the pain part of it would be talking about how perhaps you're not good at delegating. You like to be in control. You're not good at letting go and giving other people opportunities.  

Then, the agitated part of it would be the consequence of that. Like, if you don't delegate, you're going to work really long hours. Your team is going to get really demotivated. People are going to leave and you're gonna get stressed and have mental health issues and so on. That's the agitated part.

 Lastly, the solved part would be, “Here's my nine step plan to help you become a better delegator.” In fact, if I was doing something like that, I might only share the first three (3) steps in the email and then say, if you want to read the rest of this, download my free e-book on the “Nine (9) steps to Great Delegation”. Then, taking this Pain-Agitate-Solve  approach to emails is a really good structure and one that you know will hit home, provided you understand who your ideal target customers are, of course.

I mentioned that you might put your call to action in your PS, which is something I often do. But of course, you might also want to put the call to action at the end of your email. So, we're following that delegation email and following the Pain-Agitate-Solve approach. Then the call to action would be, “Hey, if you want to learn about the full details of these Nine (9) Steps to Great Delegation, then download my free guide.” that would be the call to action. 

Hopefully if you stuck with me to this point, you've got some ideas around creating really curious and interesting subject lines.You've got this great body in your email following that Pain-Agitate-Solve approach. Also, you've got a really good call to action in your PS and next steps. 

Let's just talk about a couple of other things while we're here and talking about emails. First of all, frequency, which is a question I get all the time. Just bear in mind that if you are sending value added emails to your audience, why wouldn't you send them frequently? I send an email at least once a week. I know sometimes when I tell some of my clients or my audience about that, they kind of feel no.I can't send an email every week.

Yes, you can if you send value added emails. At the end of the day, if a subscriber is getting really fed up with it, they can always unsubscribe. That's the first thing. I think you should send emails at least once a week or twice a month, but certainly no less frequently than that, because people will forget you. You'll go with your emails to move people along the buyer's journey and get them to know I can trust you. Then, they buy from you when you're ready to sell and when they're in enough pain. 

The second thing is, what are good open rates? If you’ve got my email list and created these good emails following my structure, what's a good open rate? Well, somewhere between 20% and 35% is pretty good. If you're heading towards 35 higher, then you're doing really well. Then the second question is, will the click through rate be where I've got links in my email. What expectations should I have about click throughs?

This is obviously going to change massively, depending on what the click through thing is. But if we were following the e-book on Delegation, for example, I would expect somewhere between 3% and 6%. Then, that's 3 to 6% of the people that opened my email would click through. If I got a thousand people in my list and I've got a 30% open rate, that means 300 people have opened my email and then 6% of those click on a link in the email. That means I'm going to get 18 people clicking through and then hopefully downloading my free guide.

Those are just some kind of rough benchmarks and kind of approximately what I get with my emails. Of course, it depends massively on the mood of the person in how busy they are with the desk when your email pops in. Also, what's going on for them in terms of their current pain points. 

The other thing that you want to do is experiment with both the time of day. The day of week that you send your emails to find out what is the time that's going to get the most engagement. Again, that is different for different industries. 

Also, if you can, you can try some A/B testing on your subject line. Some email automation systems allow you to try different subject lines. It will send the email, let’s say 15% to one subject and 15% to another. It will wait for four hours, see which one gets the most engagement. Then send the other 70% of the list to that winning subject line. That's A/B testing. That's something you can do if you want to get a bit more advanced.

Anyway, I just wanted to talk about the Anatomy of a Great Email today. I hope this has inspired you both to keep writing emails but also to keep improving your emails. Try and get 1% better every time you write an email. Remember, doing something imperfectly is much better than waiting till you can do it perfectly. 

Of course, if you want more help with this, please do check out my brand new email marketing and list building programme, The Build, Nurture and Convert Blueprint. I will put a link to that in the show notes. I'll also put a link to the voucher code that you can use a check out to get 20% off.

Other than that, have a great rest of your week. As ever, if you found this useful, please make sure you hit the subscribe button. I'd love you to leave a review about the podcast because that really helps the algorithms show the podcast to more people, which means I can help more people. But other than that, have a great weekend and get emailing.

How Much Is Bad Client Management Costing You?

client management

Scope creep: when you just can’t say no.  

The answer to today’s question about client management should come as no surprise to you if you’ve been in this agency space for any length of time:

It’s costing you a lot.

Of course, your understanding of “good” and “bad” client management could be very different to mine, or that of my clients. But in my experience – both as an agency owner for over 11 years, and now as a coach to 350+ agencies – I’ve seen the same few errors being made by businesses all across the world.   

These errors aren’t always huge, obvious mistakes that are easy to fix. Sometimes they’re hard to spot – like a culture of just trying to please a customer at all costs.. And sometimes you think things are going just fine (despite all evidence to the contrary).

The most common trap I see agency owners & staff falling into – time and again – is thinking that you have to supplicate to clients in order for them to be satisfied. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth… and in this article, we’re going to unravel this insidious lie and expose it for what it is: a limiting paradigm that holds your agency back from being all it can be.

When Saying “Yes” Now Means Saying “No” Later On

One of the most commonly trotted-out business cliches is “the customer is always right”. We’ve heard this a thousand times from a thousand people, all repeating what they believe to be true: in order to make your clients happy, you have to give them whatever they ask for.

While that kind of mentality might fly in the retail or hospitality industries, it doesn’t apply to your agency. In fact, thinking that it does will leave you stressed out, underpaid, and even starting to resent the work you’re doing – all because you lack the ability to say “no” when it really matters.

In my work as a business coach, I’ve often found that there’s a disconnect between the vision of the owners/managers and the actions of their client-facing staff. For some reason, managers just assume that their account teams will know how to deal with clients properly, and so don’t offer them any substantial training on this subject (the kind that they need if you want your agency to flourish).

The basics of customer service are easy to pick up. They’re beaten into every call centre rep, retail employee and waiter/waitress in the country. But what about something more advanced? Something more appropriate for a high-value business like yours? It’s harder to come by.

Specifically, I’ve seen this disconnect between top-level vision and bottom-level implementation play out in the way employees handle client requests. Without being explicitly told how they should deal with a given situation, your employees will often defer to doing what they feel is best – abiding by the rule that “the customer is always right” and giving them whatever they want.

So when that client rings up and needs a particular piece of work completed on a short deadline, your employees agree to it, thinking that they have to say yes. They don’t think about whether this request is included in previously agreed fees, the fact they’re over-servicing this client, or that they’re creating unrealistic expectations moving forward. They just say yes because they were taught that the customer is always right – and no one told them any different.

And saying yes to this client’s demands mean that you can’t say yes when it really matters – when better opportunities come along, or when your dream client walks through the door. Instead, your answer is a no by default because you are already at full capacity with underpaying projects.

That’s what bad client management is costing you: the chance to build a better business, to serve your ideal clients, and to scale your agency into something that works for you (instead of the other way around).

And if you’re a one-person-agency, you’re not excluded from this discussion. As a solopreneur, you’re responsible for both directing your business with a big-picture vision… and for actually doing the hard work required to service your clients. The disconnect between how you want to handle your clients and how you actually treat them can often leave you stuck in a place you don’t want to be: working too long, for too little pay, with too much stress involved.

These same lessons apply whether you’re a solopreneur, leading a small team, or running a large agency – unless you learn to handle clients effectively, you’re going to limit your business and make life much harder than it needs to be.

Of course, over-servicing isn’t a big deal if it only happens once… but in my experience, these things don’t happen just once. Clients can get used to having work done on demand, so they start to send in similar requests more often. Gradually, their respect for your processes, your business and your time start to erode.

After a while, you’re not two partners working together on a mutually beneficial project anymore. Instead, you’ve been forced into a supplier/customer relationship, where you have much less power than your client.

While supplier/customer relationships work in certain industries (i.e. if your local supermarket only allowed you to shop by appointment, you’d soon find a new one), they’re bad news for your agency.

The work you do is valuable. It takes time, and you have many different clients to service. You can’t afford to let one client dominate your business – unless they’re big enough to warrant this attention, of course (although the dangers of ‘putting all your eggs’ in one basket is a topic for another blog post).

Instead of merely being seen as a supplier, you want to be seen as a partner: a trusted, professional expert that delivers valuable work from a place of equal respect. If you can successfully establish this position for yourself, then you’ll be able to get paid what you’re worth, waste less time racking up unbillable hours, and stop stressing out about the mounting obligations you never should have agreed to in the first place. The scales will be balanced, both sides perfectly equal to one another.

Establishing this position is easier said than done, however. There’s a number of different moving parts you need to consider.

  • And (most importantly) you need to make sure that your team are on the same page. If you position yourself as a respected, professional agency, but your staff constantly supplicate to clients, giving them whatever they want with no respect for their own time… what does that tell your clients?

It tells them you don’t deserve respect. That you’re not worth a premium price, and that you’re there to work for them – not with them, as equals.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this basic mistake cause problems for agencies aspiring to achieve more. Driven, ambitious top-level managers are a powerful asset – but without staff that are properly equipped with effective client management practices, they’re worth far less.

This is such a big topic and common conversation that I am excited to offer you some free on-demand training entitled The Client Management Masterclass. Based on my experience in the agency space (first as the owner of a 7-figure agency, then later as a coach and mentor to 350+ agencies across multiple sectors). I’ll reveal my Three Pillar Approach to effective client management, teaching you how to get paid what you’re worth, manage client expectations upfront (to avoid conflict and negative situations), and boost retention rates to supercharge your profitability. So if you would like to watch the free training, you can register here.

I’ve accumulated these client management best practices over the past 30 years, based on my observations of what creates the most impact for my coaching clients. Anything you learn here is proven to work across a variety of industries, and will likely be of benefit to your business too.

Outbound Business Development with Christian Banach

Outbound business development with Christian Banach

How agencies use outbound marketing and business development to accelerate their growth.

That’s what we’re talking about in this week’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

I'm really excited to have Christian Banach to join me today on this episode because he has a different view from mine about lead generation and business development. 

One of the reasons why I love having guests on the podcast is because I don't always agree with them or I don't always have the same viewpoint. But at the end of the day, their viewpoints are valid and clearly working for them and their customers.

So today we are discussing and debating outbound lead generation, cold calling, cold emailing and more. So, make sure you grab a pen & paper since there are some great advice and action point takeaways.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:03] 

How Christian transitioned from being a concert promoter to the agency world and how his businesses have developed throughout the years

[4:17] 

Working with giant brands such as Allstate and Toyota 

[5:12] 

Christian’s perspective about word of mouth marketing

[6:48] 

Tips in dealing with new clients

[8:12] 

Why it is so critical to identify your niche

[10:04] 

How a cold calling outbound communications strategy works

[12:04] 

Why multi touch points and channels are important

[13:07] 

How to use personalisation marketing strategies

[15:11] 

Understanding clients’ businesses and the best lead generation practices

[18:54] 

The importance of nurturing your own network first

[20:33] 

Is hiring an in-house business development person for SMEs necessary?

[23:47] 

How the Pandemic has affected the business development landscape over the years

[28:35] 

Three (3) business development tips to improve your relationship generation

[30:36] 

Christian’s advice to his younger self

Quotations

“One of the first things that we do with our clients is to audit their body of work and try to understand what we call a ‘pivotal problem’.” - Christian Banach

“You need multiple touches in order to really start to build awareness and get people to respond. So, multi-touch multi-channel is very important. ” - Christian Banach

“It's interesting that sometimes people are looking for the juicy fruit at the top of the tree for their new clients. But meanwhile, there's some ripe fruit that's fallen on the ground that they could be nurturing.” - Rob Da Costa

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

“I enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode.” If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency.

Scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

Also, if you haven’t done so already, subscribe to the podcast. I’m adding a bunch of bonus episodes to the feed and, if you’re not subscribed, there’s a good chance you’ll miss out. Subscribe now!

 Full Episode Transcription

Hey, everyone! Welcome to this week's actionable episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

This week we are talking all about lead generation and specifically, Outbound Lead Generation. I'm really excited to have my guest, Christian Banach, with me. He has a really different perception and a different view of lead generation to the one that I typically have. That's one of the reasons why I love having guests on the podcast because I don't always agree with them or I don't always have the same viewpoint but their viewpoints are very valid and clearly working for them and their customers.

We're talking all about outbound lead generation, cold calling, cold emailing and so on. Make sure you grab a pen and let's get on with the episode. 

This week's episode of the podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that is loved by agencies around the world. With Cloudways, agencies can focus on growing their clients whilst Cloudways takes care of all the hosting related complexities. 

Now, Cloudways is offering an exclusive discount for The Agency Accelerator Podcast listeners. So, visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AGENCY15 to get 15% off for three months on the hosting plan of your choice. 

Hey, everybody! Welcome to this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator. We are talking about business development, which is a topic that we've visited a number of times but is probably one of the most important topics that we can cover.

I'm really excited to have him with me today, Christian Banach. Did I pronounce your surname correctly, Christian? Christian has been an agency owner, a sales team leader and a new business development. His passion is reinvigorating agency leaders and empowering them with confidence in their future. 

Now, I also noticed Christian that you were a concert promoter before that. So, I'm really interested to learn how you made the leap from concert promoter to the agency world. 

Well, thank you so much for having me first and foremost Rob. I am really looking forward to chatting with you here today. My career which I think is not too different from a lot of people in the agency space. It wasn't something I necessarily set out to do. I started a business as you had mentioned in high school, which really came out of a need that I thought. I was 16-17 years old and going to some of what we call here juice bars or teen nightclubs. Then, I was really just not happy with the music that was being played at these venues.

I was always entrepreneurial. The latest incarnation of my entrepreneurialism, even at that age, was that I'm gonna do one of these events on my own. I gathered a bunch of friends together. We rented a banquet hall. We booked the DJs that we thought you know were interesting and exciting. The result was, we had 1000 people show up and the event went incredibly well. That led to the idea to do another one.

Throughout college those events grew from banquet halls into concert venues. Eventually grew into working with artists like Lady Gaga, Pitbull and T-Pain. Some really great award winning artists. That's what the business was for the first, five (5), six (6) or 7 years.

I was then approached by an experiential marketing agency who had a local activation. I'm based in Chicago and they had something going on in Chicago. They got into a jam and they needed some people to feed on the street to help with the activation.They knew we had concert promotion capabilities which lended itself well to this particular activation. Then, we give it a shot. 

We went out. We did it and executed it flawlessly for them. That led to another activation and others. Also, other agencies found out about us ,so we're working directly with agencies for a while. The light bulb went on and we thought, “Why are we working with the middleman here? Why don't we try to go directly to the brand ourselves?”

Fast forward, we ended up working with some great brands like Allstate and Toyota. Eventually, half of our business became the concert promotions and the other half was more of the corporate experiential in event marketing. That's something I set out to do. Just sort of fell into it but I really loved it. It was really exciting especially when you're a concert promoter. You're putting your money on the line for all these events. It was certainly a different way of going about things when you're using some more corporate dollars to produce some events.

Yeah. I reckon a lot of people will be able to relate to your story not as a concert promoter but just how circumstance and opportunity leads you in one direction. I think a lot of people end up running their agencies because they might have started freelancing and it's grown. They thought that they needed some extra resources and so on. I just want to start with this question. We're talking about everything to do with business development today, and I just said that I suspect you and I have very similar outlook. Then, it'll be interesting to see if this is the case. 

So see if you can relate to this. When I meet a prospect, an agency prospect, and I asked them, How do you get your new business? Invariably, they tell me they've got all their business through word of mouth referral, and they're quite proud about that. Puff up their feathers. Of course, we all know there are some fundamental flaws with that and they probably hit a brick wall, which is why they come to talk to you or me. Is that something that you commonly see? That's how they've relied on growing their agency up until the point they engage with you? 

Yes. I would say the same thing as you. 95% of the agencies that I speak with have grown through word of mouth or referrals. It's gotten them to a certain point. However, they inevitably do hit that brick wall and they're looking for other options on how to grow. Also, they may be looking for growth in a certain direction, a certain type of client or they just need more leads. But inevitably, at some point, that well of referrals and word of mouth isn't sufficient any further.

Sure. As someone said to me the other day, which I thought was so true. The word of mouth and referrals is not a strategy but it's just an opportunity and it's great. Also of course, we want to nurture that and all the rest of it. Though there's a whole bunch of pitfalls with it, including the quality of the leads and when those leads are going to come in.

So, you've met this agency. That's their starting point. What do you do with them next? What's your advice and what journey do you take them through, to work out what they should be doing? 

I think again and I'm in the same boat. I think word of mouth referrals are a bonus. It is the way I look at it but it's not a strategy. One of the first things that we do with our clients is really take a look at an audit, the work and body of work that they've had and really try to understand what we call a pivotal problem.

What are the challenges that these companies have been coming to you, for you to solve?  We try to find commonalities between those challenges. From there, identify what are those pain points? Are you doing anything different in the marketplace with the way you're solving those challenges in those problems?

Usually, it's tough sometimes for most agencies to articulate that because they've never really thought about the challenges that they're actually solving; they know how they're solving them and the work that they're actually doing, but they don't really know or they don't think about, what is that challenge? 

That's the first thing that we always do to start off with. Do that audit and try to find some common themes. From there, we could really start to build out a strategy around those pain points that clients are experiencing.

Yeah, also what's your view on how niche an agency should be? When again, you might meet them and they might say, “We're a WordPress development agency, and that's our niche.” Is that really niche enough? But what's your view on that? 

I think when you're implementing more of an outbound, proactive strategy for new business, it's really critical to have a niche specialisation. That might be a sector like you’re great at food and beverage. That could be a discipline of marketing. It could be regional. You're great in a certain market but usually it's a combination of all of those.

There's just so many agencies that are out there all vying for the same level of business. To really kind of breakthrough these days, you really have to be an expert in something or even a couple areas. I don't know if you have to put all your eggs in exactly one basket but you need at least two (2) or three (3) foremost special areas of specialisation, to really cut through because these clients are not going to want to work with the generalist agency in most situations.

Also, maybe that was sufficient when you're doing more of a word of mouth referral strategy because there's some level of trust. They know you through the referral, so they're more willing to maybe give you some of that work. But, if you're trying to get business from a cold prospect, you really have to demonstrate you're an expert at something or else they're not going to give you the time of day. 

Yes and also, if you're a generalist, then how do you differentiate yourself? Well, you differentiate yourself by being cheaper or by promising ridiculous levels of service. Then, both of those are a recipe for disaster, right?

Also, talk to me about some of the outbound communications that work for agencies that you work with, or some of the things that you see working well now. What kind of tactics might you use? 

It's really what we're seeing is a Multi-Channel Multi-Touch Based Approach. We really are big on cold email. We're still big on cold calling. Both used together because it's so easy these days for anybody to fire off an email. Through that, these executives' inboxes are just flooded. So, we'd also like to use the phone as a strategy. 

A lot of people say cold calling is dead and that has not been our experience.When working with clients we are and they're setting for themselves, a large volume of calls still from the phone.

But in addition, it's just another touch point for more of an Omni-Channel type of approach. They may even respond to you via email. However, that voicemail that you left may also influence them because it makes you stand out from the hundreds of other emails that they may have received from another agency. The other thing is, it's got to be multi-touch as well. I talked with agencies a lot that said that they’ve experimented and worked on some outbound programmes before, but  just didn't get anything out of it.

Then, when I kind of start peeling back the layers of the onion, I find out, they may have fired off one email and they sort of just expected business to just flow in from there. We're generally doing fairly aggressive sprints of seven (7), eight (8) or nine 9 touch points over the period of 30 days or less. What we're seeing is, that's just what it's going to take because there's just so much noise in the marketplace. I think agencies should recognize that. You would never just buy a TV ad and run it one time and just assume business is going to flow in, right?

You need multiple touches in order to really start to build that awareness and get people to respond. So, Multi-Touch Multi-Channel is very important. 

Yeah. I think there's obviously lots of different stats on this, but you need to have, like, seven touchpoints with someone before they're going to engage with you. Like you say, if you're doing that from multiple ways, then you're much more likely to be heard. 

I think we live in an immediate world at the moment where we want immediate results. We want immediate, immediate gratification and we're distracted by all of these things. I see as well that someone's tried something and they've given up really quickly rather than recognising that. 

Actually, I really need to stick with us. I always say, why do you think Coca Cola's continually advertising coke on the TV? They don't just need to run one ad that you see once in your life and you buy coke. They need to be front to mind at the exact moment you're thinking I could really do with a coke, and that's when you're going to see the adverts.

We need to apply that same sort of strategy to our marketing as well. There are any others so that you talk about cold emailing, cold calling and any other strategies that you're using with your agencies? 

Yes. I think a couple other things that have really come to light over the last couple of years. Especially, personalisation in your outreach where I think when I was really starting to get heavy into outbound, five (5) or six (6) years ago. It was okay to kind of send out more of a mass email.

Maybe you might tailor it to an industry, but you weren't tailor innocently down to the company or the individual. However, that's what we're seeing in order to cut through these days. Kind of piggyback off your example of Coca Cola. If you're looking to win a soft drink company, you might have a general email kind of who you are, what you do and what the offer you bring. 

But, when you're reaching out to Coca Cola, you need to research them. What the CMO said? What the CEO said? What are some of the challenges they're experiencing? You need to personalise it to that particular company. If you're then going to reach out to Pepsi, it is going to have slightly different challenges than Coke is having. 

You have to do the same level of research and then customise that message to Pepsi. It has to be unmistakable that your message was written directly for that company. Otherwise, all of these emails that executives are getting from you are just gonna be deleted.You've got to really look like it's a human sending a message.

Really interesting. I'm running a workshop in November with a partner, and we're still working on it. The theme of the workshop is “How technology can help personalise your marketing?”. I guess on the one, if we think of one extreme of completely cold calling or cold contacting and the other extreme of very personalised researched emails or contact as you're talking about. What does that middle ground look like? And, how can technology help you expedite that? Because there's a lot of great tools out there to help you personalise this in a sort of pseudo way rather than spending hours just crafting one email that you might want to write. 

Then, you meet a client. What do you say to a client when they say to you, “Hey, Christian. We want to work with you but we really need business now. We need some help from you right now because we've got this empty order book and mouths to feed.”

Well, those types of clients I like to try to stay away from. As much as I wish I had a magic wand that was able to win business tomorrow, that's just not the case. There is, obviously, a little bit depending on the deal size that you're chasing. Though, we're typically working with agencies that are working and trying to get six (6) and seven (7) figures opportunities. There's a sale cycle involved.

Even if I was to get the CMO of Coca Cola on the phone tomorrow.You're talking three (3), six (6), nine (9) or maybe more months before they're ready. There's nothing you can really do to speed that process up. Some of the lower ticket items, there's a lower sales cycle involved in that. So, I think you have to go into a long term strategy. To relate it, if you were taking an SEO strategy, you would never engage in an SEO programme and expect the next day that you're going to close the blog. Then, business is just gonna fly in and your Google rankings are going to go to number one. It takes time. 

Now, with that being said, I think compared to other strategies, because outbound is more of a direct response, you can really start generating those meetings, very quickly. But in terms of converting into close business, that's something that's going to take, little bit longer time. We also advise our clients to really think about it.

We think of it almost like a baseball analogy. Try to get the first base first, and that's really the first meeting, that first conversation. Then, you have to go into that with second base in mind. The second base might be a smaller consulting project. Something very easy for them to buy. Don't expect to go from the first meeting to an AOR opportunity right out of the gates. That's probably not going to happen but if you can start with smaller engagements and then build trust along the way that's a really great strategy to speed up that sales cycle to at least get some revenue. Incoming quicker than later. 

We're working a lot of times with our clients and really trying to think about, what? What is that second base offer that you could be putting out there? 

Yeah. That's a great way of looking at it. Sometimes I do an interesting piece of work with my clients where we use the time to calculate conversion to help them work out. How long does it take from a lead coming into their well to actually converting into a client?

When they work that out, most people are really surprised. Like I did it for myself and I worked out that it was about 11 months. That means, if it's 11 months from someone figuring out learning about who I am to buying from me, then what am I doing in that 11 month period to keep nurturing and moving that contact through the buyer's journey? 

Again, I think people live in an immediate world. I kind of laughed when I asked you that question. You answered it like we try to stay away from them because I kind of do as well. Probably quite quickly that they don't have very realistic expectations or they think you have a magic wand to suddenly solve their problem.

I always say to people, If they have that problem, the best thing you can do is reach out to past clients. Reach out to people you've worked with in the past and see if you can re-engage with them because that's probably your best bet to get some business quickly. 

Yes. That's a great point. I think what we are often doing now with some clients, it's still a very much an outbound proactive way to nurture your own network.

What we see, a lot of clients have done a great job building their networks. Let’s say on LinkedIn, they are connected with a lot of great decision makers. What happens with those contacts, right? You might have people that worked at your agency that went client side, you might have junior people that were your day to day that have now been promoted into more senior decision making roles and you have other clients that have moved on to other agencies.

I think with referrals and word of mouth. You're kind of hoping that they come back to you. You can still keep in mind that network of your own. Proactively reach out and try to start conversations with that. You would really be surprised at the movement that has probably happened in your network that most executives are not very good. They're so busy doing client work that they're not nurturing their network. I think if you want to do something quick, I think that's probably the best way.

It's still not gonna probably be tomorrow. However, because they have some level of trust. They like you and they know you already, the sales cycles are truncated compared to a really true cold outreach. 

Yeah. It's interesting that sometimes people are looking for the juicy fruit at the top of the tree for their new clients. But meanwhile, there's some ripe fruit that's fallen on the ground that actually is at their feet that they could be nurturing. LinkedIn is a really great example of that.I think many of us don't do that very well and consistently. 

Let me ask another question, because you might have a different view to me on this one. Sometimes the client says to me, “Rob, we're thinking about hiring a Business Development person in-house.” What do you think? How would you respond to that question if they're, like an SME agency size? 

I think if they are a small agency, it could be a dangerous proposition. If I really think about a small agency size, the principles really need to be in charge of new business. They're going to sell the agency the best. I think we've run into a lot of situations where they kind of go out and they expect this Business Development Director, I call it kind of the one with the magic Rolodex, that supposedly has all these contacts. Rarely, do I see that work out very well? I can't tell you that there's a certain size that I would recommend.

I would say if you're maybe twelve (12) or more people, it might be a good place where you might want to start thinking about a new Business Director. Below that, I think it really needs to be spearheaded by the Agency's Senior Leadership, probably, the Principal. Not to say that they aren't other resources or other outsourced types of companies, that you might want to think about to help at least generate those leads because we understand the principles wearing a lot of different hats.

Prospecting may not be their skill set or  may not even be something they have the time to do. However, at the end of the day, they're going to need to be the ones to kind of real in, nurture that business and close that business. Once you get a little bit bigger, I think you can start thinking about bringing someone else from the outside in to help on a full time basis. What is your perspective on that? 

To be honest and for the listeners, I didn't prompt Christian to say that. By the way, this is really  interesting to hear your perspective. To be quite honest, I've heard more horror stories of people hiring Business Development people who buy their own nature of probably, good salesman when it comes to the recruitment process.

Then, they become a very expensive resource and they don't deliver the results. I often see there becomes a conflict between the Marketing person that they might have and the Business Development person. Because the Business Development blames marketing for not having given them all the tools or the decks that they need.

I say exactly the same thing. Only you are the best person to sell your agency. You can sell it with passion. You can sell it with belief. It's not one of those challenges that you should be outsourcing. My advice to people is to hire Marketing people before you hire Business Development people because you need to have all of the marketing tactics and assets in place to support that. I completely agree with what you said. 

Unfortunately, I've seen more examples of where it hasn't worked. Where it cost the agency six (6) figures to hire and get rid of them then they brought very little in.

Let me just ask you a question, changing tact a bit. How have you seen the business development landscape changed over the last couple of years with Coronavirus, remote working and all that how things changed the way we do? 

I have seen some differences. I think one of the things that is interesting and we'll see how this plays out over time. There was a belief by a lot of companies and agencies that you had to work with someone that's within driving distance basically from where you work. Now with everybody working remotely and improving that model could work in most situations. 

There's just a general sense that it is not as important anymore. If you're really great at something, it doesn't matter if you're one down the block or one thousand miles away. I think it will be interesting to see how that plays out. I think that also lends itself to that specialisation even more because they're willing to seek you out no matter where you're at, versus, maybe they were working with generalist agencies just because they were close to them before. 

That’s one thing that we're certainly seeing now. Again, we'll see how it plays out over time. I think another thing that's been interesting as well is just because at least for what we do, a lot of it is working with agencies to kind of start that top of the funnel build the relationships. There was just so much travel going on before with executives travelling from meeting to meeting. Speaking at conferences, we've actually found it to be easier to get on their calendars now because they're at home more.

It's easier for them to jump on a 30 minute zoom call because they're not on a plane somewhere or they're not meeting with other clients. Again, we'll see, as travel starts to pick up more how that plays out over time as well. Those are a couple different things that we're seeing.

I agree. Personally, my work has changed so much. It must be the case for you as well. Whereas before, I would spend two hours driving into London. Spending a couple of hours with a client. Maybe seeing two clients that day and then heading home. 

Now, I can have a day where I can see six (6) or seven (7) clients. I need to know that I want to do that in one day. It just reminds me of how much more efficient we can be. But as you say, when we're recording this episode, we're just at the point of the world, sort of opening up again. It will be interesting to see where it lands when the pendulum swings back to wherever it's going to swing.

Though, I don't know how it is in the US at the moment, Christian. Over here there's a massive skill shortage. One of the most frequent conversations I'm having with my clients, if it's not around sales, it's around people and recruitment. It's just tough to recruit people at the moment. That’s why hiring remote workers just opens up a whole new opportunity. 

Yes. We're seeing that’s the number one challenge we're actually seeing right now. This huge talent shortage. Here in the US, quite frankly, that 's putting pause on some new business efforts because they can't service the current clients that they have, right now, because they're running out of team members to work on the work.

However, they also see the future that they need new business to keep growing. It's kind of “darned if you do and darned if you-don't” type of situation here. Though, hopefully that changes.

With remote work as well, that's a whole another kind of worm there about agencies. I speak with some that are very traditional and want to go back to the office. Then, once everybody working in the office, others that have decided we want to go fully remote.

I think there's a general sense from a lot of  agency staffers that they would want to work remotely. Then, those companies and agencies that don't do that, I think might be at a disadvantage. Those that do embrace it could get access to talent that they never could have gotten previously because they weren't in that region. It’s  interesting to see how that plays out. 

Yeah. I think people just need to open their eyes to solving the challenge in different ways. I was talking to one of my clients whose SEO agency this morning. They're hiring a lot of people from Eastern Europe now. Since they can pay the same salary as they pay in the UK, they can hire the absolute best people in Eastern Europe. Whereas in the UK, they are hiring kind of started to mid-level people. That's a strategy working well for them. Obviously, they can be based wherever and we have technology like this to communicate more effectively.

Let's just wrap this up. I just want to put you on the spot for a moment to ask, if you were talking to an agency and they're trying to do Business Development themselves, have you got any other tips for them? Besides the things that you've already shared with us today. Any advice to them about Business Development? 

I think there's really three (3) things that are critical. First, like I mentioned earlier, getting really clear on the problems that you solve for clients. 

Second, getting clearer on the type of clients that we call, the right to win, Not to say, “Do you want to win?” but, “Do you have a right to win them?” Really getting clear on the types of companies, the size, the locations and whatever it is, it means for you.

Third, which is often kind of overlooked, if you're really again trying to do a more proactive approach like we've been talking about. These executives are very busy. Think about how you can leverage your thought leadership and your subject matter experts. If you have proprietary research or tools, how do you use that in order to open up a door? 

We talk about leaving a deposit before you make a withdrawal. How do you reach out and offer your prospects something that will help give them value and use that really to start a relationship?I don't like the term lead generation for what we do.

I really think about it more in relationship generation. For me, if you think of it in that regard,more long term, you'll see a lot better success than trying to be really transactional. 

There's a couple of really good quotes I need to steal from you there because I really like that idea of making a deposit before you make a withdrawal. It's so true. It's like value first, right? Lead with value. Deliver something that demonstrates. You know what you're talking about, that actually can help your prospects since they are much more likely to engage with you rather than just thinking of, selling is selling. I've got to sell to them because you're never gonna get anywhere with that.

Let me just ask you the last question. If you could go back in time and give that younger Christian who's just starting out in business a piece of advice, what would it be? 

That's a great question. Funny and interesting enough. Actually, my parents, who are getting older now, we're in town last week and I asked them that same question. What advice would they give themselves?

They turned around and asked me after they answered. I didn't have a ready answer at that time. I had to do some thinking about it. Funny that you ask me this question because I literally just went through this. What I had shared with them and I'll share here today, for me it's really keeping more of an open mind. 

I think when I was younger, I felt maybe I knew everything. I think that maybe I didn't need to have as wide of an experience that I see today. I think that's what I would teach or tell myself.I think there were some opportunities that I just completely overlooked or dismissed because I thought I had it all figured out back then and obviously, I really didn't. That's the advice that I would give but I don't know if I would have listened to myself.

That was going to be my next question. This is a question I started asking everybody, Do you think your younger self would have actually listened to that? But, that was a really good bit of advice.

I was just saying too, Christian, before we went on the show that I'm collating all this feedback into ready for 100 episodes to include all the feedback from all the guests. And almost, I don't think anybody has ever said the same thing. I can gladly confirm that no one has said that before, Christian.

That's really interesting, but a really good bit of advice. Because when we're younger, we can be quite cocky and quite cocksure. Sometimes that kind of youthful, ignorant arrogance serves as well because we just blindly go on and do things. I sometimes think now, being old and grey, that I wouldn't have the courage to do some of the things I did when I was younger. Also, being a bit more open minded and listening to those who have got a bit of grey hair is probably not a bad idea.

Christian, we need to wrap things up now. I really appreciate your time today. If the listeners wanted to find out more about your get in touch, where would they go? 

I think the best place to go would be my website christianbanach.com. From there, we have a free agency growth master class. We could subscribe and get weekly updates on different CMOs that have been recently appointed, so that's a great resource. Obviously, there's links to all the different social channels that I'm on there but I think that my website is really the hub where I think would be the best place to start. 

Good and that's what I tell my clients. Your website should be the central hub of everything. We'll include that link into the show notes so people can find it. I just want to say a big thank you for giving up your time today to join us on The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I know our listeners will have found that really useful because I got a few really great nuggets from it as well. So, Thanks for joining us today. 

Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's just a lot of fun.

There you have it. An interesting take on lead generation. I really hope that you get some practical ideas that you can start implementing.

As ever, if you enjoyed the show please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcast and also share this with your colleague. Other than that, I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

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