Category Archives for "Blog"

Navigating your agency through these uncharted waters

agency growth

We are in fight or flight mode right now. You either sit back and wait and see what happens and let the world happen to you or you get into action mode: regroup and replan. I am hoping you are choosing the latter.

It's a stressful time. We are all in a period of collective mourning: of the people we are losing, of our loss of freedom and all the things we take for granted and in many cases, loss of our clients or worse still, our businesses.

In these uncharted times, we need to focus on what we can control and not on what we can't (which is why I am limiting my exposure to the news and social media to only once a day). We need a plan and it's probably a different plan to the one we were working on 2 months ago. We also need to be listening to our market and ensuring we are truly serving them - and pivoting our businesses, if appropriate.

The businesses who do this and are nimble, are the ones who will survive this uncertain time and come out the other side thriving.

Each year I run a group online coaching programme, in the past it's been a big success. For the last 6-months I have been planning to open the doors to this year's programme today.

But as you know A LOT can happen in a few days in this crazy time we are currently living in and today is definitely very different to how I imagined it would be.

In the spirit of listening, I asked my community what their views were on whether I should still go ahead, and whilst some said I should delay many others felt that with the isolation and uncertainty ahead, getting some external help as well as being able to work with other agency owners, is exactly what they need.

So I have decided to go ahead and that means that the Agency Accelerator Programme for Agency Owners is officially open for registration. BUT I am going to do a few things differently because of Coronavirus:

  • Extend the enrolment period from 8 days to 13 days
  • Offer a 15% discount off the programme (just use '15DISCOUNT' at check out)
  • Offer more flexible payment terms (you can now pay for the programme in 1, 3 or 6 monthly payments)

Read more about the programme here.

Let me explain why I think I can help.....

I started my marketing agency back in the early 1990s during a challenging time (the gulf war) and rapidly grew (before selling up). I started my agency coaching practice in 2007 and then the world hit the financial crisis in 2008 .... and my business thrived.

Now I appreciate we are in completely unchartered waters with current challenges including:

  • Clients cancelling and retainers reducing
  • Moving the office to home working and ensuring staff welfare
  • Clients wanting more for less
  • Challenging cash flow
  • Immediate needs v long term planning - where do you focus your time?

I realised that now more than ever, getting some external support from me and from other agencies is really going to help you navigate these next few months, and that is why I decided to go ahead with the launch.

I am also running a series of free webinars (the first one is tomorrow), so please come and join me online to learn how to navigate these uncharted waters.

Agency growth & transformation with Lee Jackson

I am super excited to be joined by Lee Jackson of Agency Transformation and the Agency Trailblazer Podcast. This episode is jam PACKED with actionable tips and advice to help you with your agency’s growth.

We are going to be looking at the 5 stages of growth and transformation every agency needs to go through in order to grow. So grab a pen and paper because you’re going to be taking away so much from this episode today.

[1:09] Doors are finally open to my 12-Week Agency Accelerator Mastermind Programme! If you’re serious about growing your agency in a profitable & sustainable way, this is for you. Doors to enrolment are only open for one week so be quick, since there are limited places available in 2020.

[1:52] Lee Jackson has been a very busy guy for the past few years with multiple projects including the Agency Trailblazer podcast, The Event Engine and his brand new podcast The Event Martech. How on earth does he manage his time and keep on top of it all?

[5:18] With so much going on, how does Lee determine what he’s going do and what he’s not going to do? Lee actually closed one of his groups recently and he explains the reasons behind this. Focus on what moves the needle forward for you.

[7:42] Let’s look at the typical journey someone takes when they go out on their own. Like many agency owners in the early days, Lee used to work 18 hours days. However, long hours and passion isn’t enough to succeed and grow (indeed it can actually be detrimental to your to agency’s growth!). Lee discusses the 5 pillars of transformation and how every agency owner needs to go through each stage in order to grow their business.

[12:47] The first pillar of transformation – Know Your Identity

You need to know your identity. Be the authentic version of you and commit to your niche. Lee flashes back to when he used to show up to meetings in a suit and tie (totally not how he likes to dress) ….which would attract the complete opposite types of clients he wanted to work with!

[17:29] The second pillar of transformation – Value

So many agency owners still don’t value themselves enough and they regularly find themselves in the feast and famine cycle. We need to recognise that we are amazing at what we do and make sure we charge our worth.

[21:47] The third pillar of transformation – Messaging

Getting the first 2 pillars nailed will make it much easier to understand your messaging and choose the best platforms to get your message across to your audience e.g. Which social media platforms are best for what you do? Lee shares with us how he found his perfect platforms and how you can find yours.

[28:19] The fourth pillar of transformation – Nail Your Output

Be amazing at what you do! We need to make sure the quality of what we deliver matches our pricing.

[32:40] The fifth pillar of transformation – Future

If we haven’t worked out the last four pillars, how can we work out our future? This is all about scalability.

[35:02] How long does it usually take for an agency owner to go through each of the five stages?

[38:06] Why agency owners need to align themselves with someone that talks their language….

[41:24] Lee tells us about his next amazing event for agency owners – Agency Transformation Live on 6-8th May 2020. Read more about the event here.

[44:08] I ask Lee “if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?”

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it’s also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Book Links:

Mike Hyatt, Free to Focus

Lee Cockerell, Time Management Magic

The E-Myth Revisted

Business & life lessons from my month in South Africa

Hello from South Africa! I have been fortunate enough to have spent the last month here and I’m recording this podcast from Cape Town, during my last week in this stunning country.

I’ve learnt some really great lessons during my time here and I wanted to share my thoughts about Cape Town and South Africa in general and how they can relate to the way that we run our agencies (and our lives!):

[1:37] The Importance of Branding - “yes but Rob, is it safe?” is exactly what so many people asked me before I came here. This is my 4th trip to South Africa and to be honest, in my opinion it’s as safe as any big city I have been to! It’s clear that South Africa needs to do some serious rebranding to shake off its past reputation and this highlights just how important branding really is to your business. Once you are known for one thing, you have to work super hard to rebrand to become known for something else.

[5:12] Living In The Present - We seem to be a lot more present and ‘in the moment’ when we’re on holiday, which is a shame because most of us only tend to spend a few weeks of the year away (if we’re lucky enough), and the rest of it is spent working. Stop wishing time away. Life is too short and if you hate your job, try to find something you love doing because before you know it, 20 years would have flown by and you’ll never get that back.

[8:00] Be Efficient With Your Time – Know what your goals are and organise your time properly. During my last two weeks here, I made a plan to work from 7am-3pm each day. Knowing I could be exploring the beautiful sunny Cape Town at the end of each day meant I didn’t waste any time throughout the day, and I achieved so much because of this. Giving yourself a reward, (even something small like a cup of tea or a nice 30-minute walk) can help you get super focused throughout your day.

[10:39] Morning/Evening Routines – Following on from the last point, having a consistent morning and evening routine helps me to be really efficient with my time during the day. I highly recommend you check out Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt if this is something you’d like to work on.  

[11:39] We All Have Choices – I’ve been told by various people that I’m so lucky to be able to go on trips like this, but to be honest it has nothing to do with luck. It was all simply in the planning and this is something you could do too, if you really wanted to! Stop constraining yourself. Stop telling yourself stories that you believe as facts. Step outside of your comfort zone and into your learning zone, and remember, it’s all about choices and planning. Listen to my episode Starting the Year With A Positive Mindset for help with this.

[13:51] Sun Is So Good For The Soul! - Seriously, doesn’t everyone seem so much happier when the weather is beautiful?

[15:06] It’s A Small World - So much of business operates on a “who you know” basis, so always make sure to keep networking and making sure the world knows who you are. 

[15:43] Practise Gratitude - There is a lot of poverty in South Africa and it reminds me just how lucky most of us really are. We need to remember to be grateful for what we have and stop moaning about such small things.

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Facebook ads with Sophie Walton

Facebook ads

Welcome to The Agency Accelerator’s eighth episode, hosted by agency coach and online educator, Rob Da Costa.

In today’s world, advertising on social media is a very competitive sport, so we need to ensure we’re doing it correctly, otherwise, we could end up wasting hundreds, or even thousands of pounds.

In this episode, we are diving into the world of Facebook advertising and I am joined by a very special guest, Sophie Walton of brand and social media agency, 3Twelve.

Don’t miss this one because Sophie shares some incredibly valuable tips that even I didn’t know about until this episode!

[0:45] Exciting news from The Agency Accelerator!

[1:37] Sophie discusses her background and what led her to run her own agency, 3Twelve. When 3Twelve was first created, they offered everything from SEO to Google Adwords and web design. They tried to offer something for absolutely everyone! However, they recently niched down to mainly focus on lead generation through Facebook and has already proved to be a great move for the company.

[5:48] Traditionally, Facebook was seen as a platform for B2C companies only. However, if you know what you’re doing, this can be a great platform for B2B companies too. Sophie discusses how this is the case.

[7:26] Many people use Facebook for personal reasons only (i.e posting pics of their cute dogs), but they could really be missing a trick here! Facebook Ads, when done correctly can be a great lead generator for your business. Sophie gives an AMAZING re-marketing tip here and recommends installing a Facebook Pixel into your website. This bit of code will track your website visitors (warm leads) and then show your ads to them on Facebook!

[10:30] One of the main questions people ask is “how exactly do you find your target audience on Facebook?” Sophie gives another brilliant tip here (amongst others!) and explains how we can use Facebook to find a “lookalike” audience, where a new audience is created by using the info from your Facebook Pixel made up of people with similar ‘likes’, interests, demographics and more.

[13:22] So, how do we go about building an ad that resonates with our target audience?

[15:19] Let’s look at where in the sales funnel Facebook Ads fit in. Facebook is definitely great for brand awareness, but is it useful for further down in the funnel?

[16:52] Facebook Ads isn’t as cheap as it used to be and it’s a LOT more competitive! This is why it’s more important than ever to test different campaigns (using a very small budget) before going all out and potentially throwing lots of money down the drain. Sophie explains the best ways of doing this.

[19:35] In the world of advertising, you are basically fighting for real estate and unfortunately it’s not free. What is the minimum amount of money we should expect to spend each day before seeing some real results?

[20:17] Facebook Ads can be a bit of a pain to get approved, and thanks to Facebook’s not-so-great support, we are sometimes left in the dark wondering why! Sophie gives us some tips to help ensure your ads are approved every single time like avoiding making unrealistic claims (e.g “lose 10 stone in a week with these magical tablets!”).

[24:59] What are the benefits of outsourcing Facebook Ads management when you can do it yourself? Is it really so complicated?

[26:45] If you’d like to contact Sophie or simply find out more information about her services, visit the 3twelve agency WEBSITE or send her an email at: [email protected]

[27:35] Before we go, Rob asks Sophie “if you could go back in time what advice would you give?”

For a step by step guide on how to identify and define your ideal customer click HERE.

What does it take to run a successful, growing & profitable agency?

If you run your own agency or are a solopreneur and want to grow your agency, or aspire to start one, then this blog will give you some really useful insights in how to grow your agency in a sustainable profitable and perhaps most importantly, enjoyable way.

Back in the early 90s I decided to start my own marketing agency.  I made tons of mistakes (more on that later) but I did have some really clear reasons as to WHY I wanted to run my own business.

These included:

  • Wanting to be in control of my own destiny;
  • Wanting to grow something and make an impact;
  • That feeling that I could do it better than what was currently out there (naïve arrogant youth can sometimes work in your favour!).

What I didn't realise (at age 24)  is that you need to be able to do more than just be good at delivering the service (in this case PR and content).  Since then I've learned that every successful entrepreneur has skills in the following 3 areas and if you want to be successful you need to make sure you are focusing on all 3.

 So these are: 
  1. Be good at delivering work today (revenue).  
    • This is working in your business of today
  2. Be good at focusing on the future of your agency (strategy). 
    • This is working in your business of tomorrow
  3. Be good at running your business (admin)
    • This is working on the administration side of your business

Let’s dig a little deeper into each of these:

1. Be good at delivering work today (revenue).  

I call this one, ‘money today’ and it is perhaps the easiest one to understand - after all we started our own agency because we were good at doing this. This includes everything to do with delivering ‘work this month’.  It will incorporate client and account management, producing copy, design, web build etc. and generally keeping existing clients happy (whilst also ensuring you don't over service them!). 

As a rough rule of thumb this is probably going to account for 60 - 70% of your time.

2. Be good at focusing on the future of your agency (strategy). 

I call this one ‘money tomorrow’ and it can easily be overlooked when you are super busy delivering client work.  Strategy includes everything you will do to get new clients in the future.  So that will include your marketing, business development, networking, pitching, proposal writing and so on.

As a rough rule of thumb this is probably going to account for 25 - 35% of your time.

3. Be good at running your business (admin)

This is the lifeblood that keeps your business going and is usually a cost. Whilst this area can be quite tedious for entrepreneurs nevertheless it is vital that you allocate enough time to focus on the admin part of running your business.  This will include finance, invoicing, credit control, HR, paperwork, filing etc.  You will want to delegate or automate as much of this area as possible.

As a rough rule of thumb this account for no more than 10% of your time.

So it's clear that if we want to be successful at running and growing our agency we need to be disciplined about how we allocate our time.  This is especially true if you want to avoid those nasty peaks and troughs that many businesses go through.  I.e. A peak happens when we are super focused on delivering great client work.  However, as great as that is for current cash flow, it also causes us to not focus on the future and that ultimately leads to projects coming to an end and an empty order book - so we decline into a trough.  I went through this 3 times in the 11 years of running my agency and trust me, it was not pleasant so if you want to avoid this, make sure you are allocating enough time across each of the three areas as outlined above.

If you want to read more about creating a scalable agency, grab a copy of my free eBook

5 traits of a successful entrepreneurial agency owner

Over the past 14 years I have worked with over 350 agencies and I've identified 5 traits that every successful entrepreneurial agency owner possesses, so let me outline them for you.

1. Has a clear vision

If you don't know where you are going you'll never know whether you get there and that simply is why every agency should have some kind of documented vision!  This vision should motivate and excite you. 

If you have a team then make sure you bring them along with you, so they are equally motivated to get to the destination.  When you share your vision with your team you need to acknowledge the reality that some team members will feel like it sounds like a lot of hard work so remember to make it clear to them “what's in it for me?” if you reach the destination.  This could include opportunities, new exciting projects, training, promotion, bonuses, pay rises etc.

What does a vision look like?

A vision needs to document the destination that you want to reach, and it needs to describe that destination in terms of the sales, the type of customer that you want to win, the staff that you need, what systems and processes do you need to support that vision and how you will measure the steps along that journey.

Once you have this vision (it should be on one page), you then need to turn that into quarterly strategies and then turn those quarterly strategies into monthly plans.

If you want to be successful with your vision, you cannot create it once a year and then cast in stone and not be willing to change it. This is a sure-fire way of making it fail and is one of the two reasons why so many businesses fail to create a vision, and this stops them doing it in the future (the second being that the vision is overly complex). So, make sure that you revisit this vision frequently. Your vision needs to be a dynamic document that you are constantly updating based on what you know today.

2. Has a clear niche

I have written about niching many times before (you can grab my FREE ebook on niching here) so you'll know I am a big believer in finding your niche and showing up in this niche as an expert.  

Why? 

Because it helps you stand apart from your competition and show up as a specialist rather than a “jack of all trades”.  A specialist will always win against a generalist and a specialist agency will be able to charge higher fees and finally, when you have a clear niche you can identify your ideal target customer much more easily and build sales & marketing messages that really resonate with them.

Remember your niche will be the intersection of where you get the best results, where you have previously delivered profitable work and where your passion lies.  Read more about niching in my detailed blog on niching.


3. Builds a strong team 

A successful agency owner who aspires to grow their agency knows that a crucial part of this is building a strong team.  Now I’m not a big believer in building a business using freelance staff because that's like creating your agency on quicksand (understandably, freelancers have their own agenda, will not necessarily share in your vision and often, whilst doing a good job, will not go the ‘extra mile’). 

Freelancers are good for bringing in specialist skills and coping with capacity issues, and certainly can be used in the early days to build your business (until you have enough sustainable revenue to hire a member of staff) but ultimately you will want to hire your own team.

Now a successful agency owner will be willing to hire the best they can afford (and sometimes challenging people), and delegate down as much as possible.  This approach not only frees up your time but also develops your team members.

4. Is laser focused on how they spend their time

Talking of time, if you can delegate down as much as possible it will leave you to focus on the things that only you can do.  These tasks will include developing the vision and focusing on the strategy i.e. the future of your agency.

Don't get caught up in the belief that all clients want you to work on their account and you don't have time to delegate or believe it's quicker to do it yourself.  These beliefs are a sure-fire way of you becoming the bottleneck to the growth of your agency.

5. Is resilient

Agency owners often believe that they are superman or superwoman and are the sponge to absorb all the stress and pressure that surrounds them.  However, ensuring you take care of your mental well-being is crucial to the longevity of your focus & energy, and ultimately your agency. Being mentally tough means putting really good boundaries in place and not letting things that happen on a day to day basis derail you from your vision.  Good boundaries, learning to say NO and getting your priorities right also enable you to stay focused and motivated.

So finally, here are 8 areas you should focus on in 2020 to ensure the successful, sustainable and profitable growth of your agency:

  1. A clear actionable 12-month plan
  2. A clear niche
  3. A definition of your Ideal Target Customer (your ideal avatar or persona)
  4. A sales and marketing strategy and plan
  5. Some financial planning including cash flow forecast
  6. A value-based pricing policy
  7. A method for managing clients in a profitable way
  8. A staff plan (even if you are just using freelancers)

So how are you doing implementing all of this?  What is the one area you are struggling with?  I am running a series of FREE LIVE webinars on the topic of Growing Your Agency in 2020.  Learn more here: find a time that works for you and save your seat.

Latest Agency Accelerator Podcast: Running & growing a successful marketing agency

Agency Accelerator Podcast

In today’s podcast, I will be discussing exactly what it takes to grow a successful marketing agency and I’ll be giving you some great tips on areas to focus on as well as some common mistakes agency owners make.

Now, I’ve experienced the challenges and growing pains both when I ran my own agency as well as with countless other agencies I have worked with (both start-ups and established).

So, if you’re running an agency or you’d love to start your own agency, do not miss out on this episode. 

[1:21] – Why did you start your own agency (or why do you want to?) Maybe it’s because you love the freedom of having your own business brings? Or maybe it’s because you think you can do it better than others? Whatever the reason, you must ask yourself if you have these 3 crucial skills to build a successful business.

[06:02] Let’s now look at the 5 traits of a successful entrepreneurial agency owner. How many of these traits do you have? If you don’t possess all of them, what will you do to develop them?

[13:16] A very quick announcement that my 12-week Agency Accelerator Mastermind Programme is starting again very soon! If you want to create a successful and profitable agency, this programme is for you. You’ll receive 1-2-1 coaching from me at a fraction of the normal price as well as group coaching, accountability, your own unique roadmap and LIFETIME access to over 40 hours of online content, tools and templates. Doors for enrolment open on 26th March 2020 and are only open for a few days with a maximum of 20 participants. Click HERE for more info and to register your interest.

[14:16] Finally, I share with you my top 5 dos and don’ts of running and scaling a profitable and successful agency. If you can follow all of these, you will be on your way to creating a successful (and sustainable!) marketing agency.

Other links mentioned:

Agency Sales Pack

Agency Growth Pack

Subscribe & Review

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it’s also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

PS BIG NEWS! After 3 months and lots of positive feedback, it’s time to ramp things up. So from today onwards, The Agency Accelerator Podcast will be published weekly!

Slow down to speed up

time management

Anyone who knows me will hear me often say “slow down to speed up’. It’s one of my favourite business expressions. 

We are all running along at 100mph, doing what we do, putting fires out, trying to juggle many priorities and of course keep our clients happy.  I am sure you can relate to that – I certainly can.  I have been that person – it’s exhausting, and sometimes it feels like we are just running to stay still.

Here is something else I bet you can relate to… I was with a customer last week who has an issue with ‘scope creep’ which results in project overrun, stress in the team due to long working hours and ultimately less profitable work.

The problem is that clients don’t always know exactly what they want at the start of the project, so the give a brief or outline that is a little too vague. My client is then forced to make some assumptions to ‘fill in the blanks’ and invariably, some of these assumptions are wrong.

It’s only when they deliver the first version of the solution/design that their customer’s give a more in-depth brief (based on seeing what they don’t want!).

This is a really good example of ‘slow down to speed up’. If my client had a more thorough briefing process and was more assertive in saying ‘no we can’t start until we can complete this brief’ then they would get to the end result (a great design or a great solution) much more rapidly, with less pain internally and ultimately, with a happier customer.

Getting your briefing process right at the start

I always tell clients you need a set of questions that must be answered and a set of questions that ideally you would like answered BEFORE they begin any piece of work. I call them your 5 non-negotiable questions (and I am going to blog more about this in the future since it’s such an important topic).

Doing work before you get the brief

Let’s take a few steps back –  you’re now in the prospecting stage and the prospect has asked you to write a proposal and in that proposal they’ve also asked you to provide some sample ideas of designs, graphics or web pages (or whatever you are pitching for) as part of the pitching process. 

How on earth can you deliver your best work if you haven’t taken the client through your briefing process and have them answer those 5 non-negotiable questions? 

In the end if you agree to pitch in these circumstances and invest lots of time creating designs, it becomes the luck of the draw and you have to hope that one of your designs really resonates with the prospect!

Now I know I’m not going to change the world because for a long time prospects have asked for strategies or layouts / designs without briefing the client fully but when you have an ideal target customer as a prospect it becomes much easier to apply this thinking and get them to agree to either brief you properly or not to have to do these designs as part of your pitch.

You’d be much better off selling them the briefing immersion process that you will take them through when they buy from you.  This is another example of ‘slowing down to speed up’ by explaining the logic of your thinking to your prospect and getting them agree to buy into the process rather than a vague outcome or random pretty picture!

As busy entrepreneurs there are so many areas of our life and our work where we would do well to heed the slow down to speed up mantra . Sometimes just taking a breath, standing back and seeing a situation with some objectivity enables us to ensure we are focused on the right things that move our agency forward and it also helps us push back or even say NO more often.

Interview with David Miles of The PPC Machine

Da Costa Coaching Podcast

Welcome to The Agency Accelerator’s sixth episode, hosted by agency coach and online educator, Rob Da Costa. 

In this episode, Rob is joined by guest David Miles of The PPC Machine and they cover the world of PPC marketing and how it is changing.

David also discusses how and why he niched his agency.

So make sure you tune in, because Rob and David have some incredibly valuable tips to share with you in this episode.

 

[1:07] David discusses his background and how he ended up creating and building The PPC Machine. SEO and PPC (pay-per-click) have changed significantly over the years and The PPC Machine has to ensure they keep up to date so they are able to help their clients the best they can.

[4:58] How can you as an agency use pay-per-click to generate more leads? David shares some very handy tips and different approaches you can take to save money but keep results coming in. He also reminds us of the importance of sharing value-added content with your audience to help ensure that they come back to you, when they are ready to buy.

[08:11] Is it a good idea to stop running PPC when your site’s SEO kicks in?

[11:46] Why should we outsource PPC when surely we can just do it ourselves? David discusses some interesting points about Google and how setting up a campaign can look easier than it actually is (more money for Google, less money for you!)

[14:42] Rob and David discuss the value of delegating and the different approaches you can take with this, including delegating internally to junior members of staff.

[17:15] How can we compete with our PPC competitors without paying out ridiculous amounts of money each month?

[19:30] Businesses need to remember that PPC leads can be very different to more traditional leads, as they tend come in at the very top of the sales funnel (i.e they don’t know anything about you). David tells us how he helped a Dental practise change their approach with PPC leads to turn more of them into new clients.

[21:30] The PPC industry is always changing. David predicts what he thinks is going to happen in the next few years.

[24:24] How and why did David and PPC Machine choose their niche? 

[34:01] How can we find out more about the PPC Machine?

Subscribe & Review 

Are you subscribed to my podcast yet? If you’re not, please do so to avoid missing out on any episodes!

You can subscribe/ follow on iTunes, Spotify or directly from my website.

I would be very grateful if you left me a review over on iTunes, too as they will help other people to find my podcasts and it's also great to read your comments!

Thanks so much,

Rob

Find out more about David and The PPC Machine

How to ensure you don’t inadvertently become the bottleneck to growth

Staff development

I want to write about this topic since it is an issue a great many of my clients face. 

Picture this: 

You have built your agency up to a certain size where you have a good team beneath you.  You had hoped this would result in spreading the work load and taking some weight off your shoulders.  But you find yourself still being run ragged, clients still want to talk to YOU and you're frustrated that team members beneath you just don't seem to step up and fill the gap between you and the rest of your agency. This is compounded by the fact that new business still seems to sit on your shoulders and as much as you would like your senior team members beneath you to step up and take on more proactive business development they just don't seem to do it.

If you can relate to any of this then please read on…

You're the brains behind your agency.  You're the reason why it has been flourishing for the last few years. Clients love you.  So much in fact that all key clients want you to be working on their account and before you know it you've become the bottleneck to growth.  Whilst exhausted you finally recognise this cycle and are determined to do something about it.

So now you're turning your attention towards developing the next layer of leaders in your agency.  You recognise that you need to ‘get out of the way’ to enable your future leaders to flourish and for them to become a key contact point for clients.

Stepping aside so others can step up

I am sure the above scenario is familiar to you.  Yet sometimes its easier said than done, to create space for your senior team members to step up.  In the early days of running your agency you may have not been able to afford to hire the best staff and overtime this results in a big gap appearing between your skillset and the next tier of team members skillset, so make sure when you are hiring staff, you get the best staff you can find (and don’t be fearful of them challenging you!)

Let’s look at 4 actions YOU can take to get your team on board with you and stepping up.  

1. Articulate your vision

  • It’s amazing how many owners believe that telepathy exists or what's in their head will automatically be transferred to others via osmosis! So you need to make sure that your team are as excited by the vision that is in your head as you are. It's also worth noting that the owner is always several steps ahead of the rest of the agency in terms of the development of the agency, so it's crucial that you communicate your vision clearly and get them excited to come on the journey with you.

  • If they don’t understand the vision for the company it’s going to be difficult to get them to act independently or make intelligent decisions.

  • To solve this problem, you need to take the time to articulate and document your company vision to get everyone in your company moving in the same direction. Depending on your leadership style and agency size, you can do this by yourself, or involve your team in the process - but either way, you will need a process for communicating these things to your team once you have them articulated.

2. Set your company structure up to complement your strengths

  • Most visionary agency owners are ‘knowing’ people.  This means they hate the minutiae and can easily get annoyed by having to manage the details and repeating themselves. An Integrator (the person in charge of day to day operations) is a person who sits between you and your team to make sure that any friction is smoothed out and converted into energy that will power the agency forward. This person needs to love managing and resolving day to day issues, have a passion for clear communication between teams, and must have a tolerance for repetition and process.  Now I appreciate in a small agency you may not be able to hire an Ops manager/integrator but you will be able to give this as a functional part of someone's bigger role.

  • As the owner, you need to focus on the things that only you can do, and delegate the rest.  To that end, make sure you ask yourself the right questions. Not “will they do it as well as me or as fast as me?” but “will they do it well enough?” and if the answer is yes then you should be delegating.  If you delegate down then this will encourage others to do the same.  However, if you hang onto all the tasks you will encourage others to role model that behaviour too.

3: Implement a system for communication and decision making

  • Chaos can reign in a small business. Frequently, these entrepreneurs (myself included!) hated all the meetings, processes, and systems they had to follow in their previous world before they started their own business - so they resist creating these things in their own agency. Unfortunately, non-entrepreneurs (i.e. almost everyone working for you) like and need process - they want to know what is expected of them, and they want to be able to make decisions and get work done without having to run to you all the time (more on this later).

  • If you have the right Integrator/ops person in place, he or she can help you create and manage a robust set of systems and processes your team needs to function efficiently - and minimise the number of processes and meetings you are involved in. When meetings run efficiently, decisions are made quickly and processes actually speed up your business, your culture and bottom line will begin to improve dramatically.

4: Get stuff out of your head so you can get out of the way

  • This is a SLOW DOWN TO SPEED UP moment in the development of your agency.  If you want to delegate tasks to others then you need to do it effectively!  Take the time to articulate what you want and what success looks like.
  • Also, acknowledge where you don’t have skills and bring those skills in-house (even if you are using a freelancer in the short term)
  • If you want to delegate something (like marketing) to someone else, but don’t understand what it really takes to set the marketing team up for success, you need to take the time to educate the person or team who will be taking things over, and then regularly receive updates on results so you can stop worrying.

If you would like to read more about staff retention and growth then grab a copy of my free e-book.

recruitment & retention

Learn the 9 strategies to finding and keeping the best talent


Don’t make assumptions!

Let's paint another picture: 

you have a superstar team member who is doing really well and clients love them and you now put them into a managerial leadership position. You've done this as a reward for their hard work and you see it as a natural part of their career progression. However, you quickly realise that this person is not a natural manager and is failing to motivate and direct their team.  As a result team morale is at an all-time low so you are forced to make a difficult decision that could result in this (previously superstar) team member exiting the agency.

Why is it that we invest a lot of time and money training our team to have great technical skills (e.g. web development, design etc.) but we don't invest the same time or money in giving people managerial skills whilst somehow assuming that as their career progresses they will naturally be a good manager (because maybe you were)!  Crazy!! Don’t be THAT leader. Instead have a clear career development path that includes leadership and management training as well as technical training. Remember these skills are useful for not only managing team members but also for managing clients and suppliers.

So now you have these steps in place lets look at how you can get your team members to take responsibility and be accountable.

Here are 9 steps to getting managers to step up:

1

Create clear roles & responsibilities and set clear expectations

When a team member is clear about what their role includes (and doesn't include) they are much more likely to take ownership and step into delivering that role.

2

Set time-bound SMART objectives

Make sure you are setting regular (e.g. quarterly) SMART objectives that are owned and delivered by each team member.

3

Get them a mentor or a coach - give them the tools to succeed

If you have a team member that you want to develop then a great way to expedite and broaden their development is to get them an external mentor or coach. You could set finding a mentor as one of their objectives. The mentor should be someone who is several steps ahead of where your team member is and ideally, are external to the agency and therefore they bring a different set of experiences.

4

Form your leadership team

As your agency grows and you develop more leaders beneath you, you should plan to create a leadership or management team who can collectively own aspects of delivering the vision and take more responsibility from your shoulders.

5

Give them responsibilities in addition to their ‘day job’

I spoke about this earlier when I talked about the Integrator or Ops Manager. Your leadership team will have their roles & responsibilities but you can also give them some additional functional responsibilities such as Operations, New Business, Marketing, IT etc.  This not only takes responsibilities from you but also further develops the team member.

6

Give them ownership of the quarterly business strategy 

As we discussed earlier, each year you will create your agency vision and communicate this to the rest of the business.  In order to deliver the vision (and it not just stay as a dream!), you need to break it down into quarterly strategies and have the leadership team take responsibility for delivering these strategies.

7

Support don’t rescue

This is a classic one that deserves a blog post of its own but as a leader, you need to separate the difference between being a supportive manager and a rescuing manager. A supportive manager will coach someone through a problem whilst a rescuing manager will think it's quicker to do it themselves and take the problem away.

8

Be a great delegator and give feedback

This is another example of slowing down to speed up we don't spend enough time giving our staff constructive feedback (both positive and negative) yet according to this study, 65% of employees want more feedback.

Get into the habit of giving feedback at the end of a project and ensure that the feedback includes an action plan so that the team member learns.

9

Slow down to speed up

I've said this a number of times throughout this blog and it is really an overarching summary of this whole post - which is slow down, invest time giving feedback and developing your team members in order to ultimately move forward more rapidly.

The entrepreneur, leader and agency owner who recognises as early as possible that they need to make themselves dispensable, are the ones who will rapidly develop a flourishing, growing profitable agency full of eager motivated team members.  However, those who believe it's quicker to do it themselves and that they don't have time to develop team members will quickly find themselves the bottleneck to growth and under a great deal of stress. Make sure you are opting to be the former rather than the latter.

Why email marketing should be at the top of your agenda in 2020

Did you know that email marketing is one of the most effective, if not the most effective way of delivering new sales for your agency?  So, if you don’t have a list, this should be the top of your marketing priorities in 2020.

Email marketing has been around for a while, it’s not some trendy marketing fad that will come and go.  And it promises to continue growing even further in the future. If you happen not to have tapped into its wealth of possibilities already, then let me give you a few reasons why you should do so in 2020.

Why Should You Invest In Email Marketing

Setting up the systems and running your own email marketing campaign certainly is an investment, so should you bother?

Well, let’s have a look at a few key stats provided by Campaign Monitor and HubSpot:

  • The ROI of email marketing for every $1 spent was $44 in 2016. That’s a 4,400% return on investment!
  •  Automated emails generated 320% more revenue than non-automated emails in 2016.
  •  Email marketing delivered 174% more conversions than social media marketing in 2016.
  •  73% of millennials prefer email for communications with business.
  •  Over 50% of respondents check their personal emails over 10 times a day.
  •  99% of consumers check their email at least once a day.

  • You can find plenty of other fascinating stats like this, but the points listed above should give you a solid idea of why email marketing is worth considering as a key sales & marketing strategy in 2020.

    With that said, doesn’t all this sound too good to be true?

    The Challenges Of Email Marketing

    The catch with all the figures above is that such results do not come overnight. A successful email marketing campaign requires financial investment, plenty of time, and a clear plan, not to mention that you have to deal with a couple of challenges.

    Firstly you need to choose an email marketing platform to work with. While not the most difficult step, choosing the right automation platform is key to having a successful email marketing campaign since it alleviates many of its challenges.  If you are not clear about what Email automation is you can learn more here from this excellent guide from Campaign Monitor.

    Then you also need to be mindful of privacy protection laws like the GDPR in the EU or the CAN-SPAM in the US. Such legal acts actually require that email marketing be permission-based – that is, your subscribers need to grant you explicit permission for sending emails.

    Thirdly, you have to actually build a list of emails to send promotional emails to. You can find online sellers offering email lists for what seems like a good price, but these often come from questionable sources and with very low return on investment/engagement since they didn’t sign up to your list (so they will feel they are being spammed). So I don’t recommend this approach but instead, recognise that the best email list is the email list that you’ve built with your own efforts.

    A crucial point that many beginner email marketers do not realise is that you cannot successfully promote your blog, services, products, or whatever you want to promote with just occasional emails. Those business owners who claim that email marketing doesn’t work most likely haven’t had a systematic approach toward their email marketing campaign.

    Consistency Is Key

    So to be successful you need to be consistent and systematic in your approach.  It’s safe to say that the lack of consistency is the main reason why people fail to build a list of engaged and enthused ‘fans’.

    Your email list is one of the most valuable internal assets so you should invest time in building it and engaging with it.

    And the key here is consistency.

    Think of the sales funnel of your email marketing campaign as a KNOW – LIKE – TRUST process. Simply put, you need to create awareness first (KNOW) and then need to get your audience to LIKE and TRUST you before expecting to make a sale. It’s highly unlikely that someone will buy from you immediately upon appearing on your email list and receiving one email!

    You can find plenty of other fascinating stats like this, but the points listed above should give you a solid idea of why email marketing is worth considering as a key sales & marketing strategy in 2020.

    With that said, doesn’t all this sound too good to be true?


    If you send an email once a year or once a quarter, your sales funnel will not work. As I said earlier, the lack of consistency is the main reason why people fail with email marketing. The three-step funnel works only if you regularly send educational, value-add and helpful emails to your subscribers. So you need a content plan and a calendar of value-added content that you know will engage your audience.

    Stuck for ideas for your content?

    Click below for a free 'content twister' to help you develop a range of content for each theme

    Aside from building trust, you should be sending emails regularly because your audience’s needs change over time and only a tiny percentage of your audience will have a need for your service when you mail them.

    Keeping Your 'Sand Timer' Filled

    sand timer

    To highlight this point, let’s say you have 1,000 subscribers. If you send them all 1 email you will be fortunate if 5 of your leads happen to need your services when they receive the email.  So you could expect to eventually win 5 sales. The remaining 995 subscribers will be indifferent to your email because they don’t need your services now (i.e. they are not suffering from the ‘pain’ right now that your services can solve for them). So, what are you doing to stay engaged with the other 995?

    Now because you are building a TARGETED list of your ideal clients in your email list (read all about defining your customer avatars here) the other 995 will undoubtedly need your services in at some point in the future. This means that you have to be in front of your target customers when they have ‘pain’ that you can solve!  I liken this to a ’sand timer’: every time you communicate with your audience you refill the sand timer yet if you haven’t communicated with them before the sand timer runs out then they will forget about you.

    So if you are consistent and send out emails regularly, then you will hit 5 other people, and then 5 more. Furthermore, your older customers who have purchased from you already will become repeat customers and advocates.

    This is what the power and challenge of email marketing are about. Email marketing isn’t merely about winning one-time clients – it is about building trust, nurturing your customers until they are ready to buy from you, and establishing long-term connections that are much more valuable than one-time interactions.

    Delivering Value - Don’t Sell

    Finally, one serious mistake email marketers often make is pushing too hard on sales-oriented emails. Needless to say, your goal IS to make sales, but you will put people off if you make your emails too sales oriented. Think about the person who sends you a connection request on LinkedIn and immediately you have accepted you get a sales email from them. I don’t know about you, but I would never buy from this person and I usually remove them as a connection.  The same applies to email marketing. Nurture first and build trust before trying to sell.

    Instead of pushing your products, tell your customers personal stories and share case studies.  Give them useful tools, tips and approaches. Encourage them to chat and share their challenges with you. Trust me, if you build customer relationships this way, you will be at the top of your subscribers’ mind when they need a solution to their problems.

    What’s The Role Of Email Marketing Platforms In All This?

    It’s a challenge to manage an email list with thousands of people and regularly deliver educational or promotional emails to them.

    This is where email marketing automation platforms come into play.  

    If you are trying to send out your emails manually, your time is going to get sucked up focusing on the wrong things and there is little chance you will do it consistently and regularly! So, here’s where email marketing automation systems are a must.

    In part 1 of this series, I’ve talked about the reasons why you should be focusing on email marketing as part of your 2020 marketing strategy. And if you recall, the key to success (and a significant challenge) is consistency and regularity of content.

    If you are trying to send out your emails manually, your time is going to get sucked up focusing on the wrong things and there is little chance you will do it consistently and regularly! So, here’s where email marketing automation systems are a must.

    As promised, in this follow up post, I will share with you a few email marketing tool options to consider (with a focus on beginners and SME agencies).

    If you are trying to send out your emails manually, your time is going to get sucked up focusing on the wrong things and there is little chance you will do it consistently and regularly! So, here’s where email marketing automation systems are a must.

    email automation

    Strategic Email Marketing that Gets Results

    If you want to learn more about email marketing then grab your FREE copy of my indepth guide

    Best Tools For Email Marketing

    MailerLite


    MailerLite is pretty a good option if your budget is limited and want a free email marketing tool. There are some limitations, of course, but MailerLite provides an easy way to get started.

    As long as you have fewer than 1,000 subscribers and are sending out fewer than 12,000 emails per month, you are eligible for the Free plan. Above these numbers, the monthly cost of MailerLite goes from $10 to $1,915, depending on the number of contacts and monthly emails (this is the model that most email automation systems use).

    What I like about MailerLite is that you are getting the same features in all paid plans. In most other email marketing tools, you usually have several price tiers with varying features to choose from. With MailerLite, you only have Free and Premium tiers, with the Free plan offering the necessary functionality for automated email sending – most importantly, email automation, interest tagging, and segmentation based on behaviour. 


    Mailchimp

    Mailchimp is also a great option if you want a free email marketing tool. In fact, Mailchimp allows you to use its services for free if you have up to 2,000 subscribers!  This is the tool you may well have heard of.

    However, Mailchimp segments its services and features into 4 tiers, meaning that you have less flexibility than with MailerLite. With that said, you won’t be paying for features that you don’t really need.

    While Mailchimp and MailerLite offer the same basic services (automation and segmentation), Mailchimp is superior in a few departments. One of these is reporting – aside from raw numbers, Mailchimp provides tools for testing, send time optimisation as well as comparative reports.

    Mailchimp also offers social posting features with scheduling, which may be just right for you if you are also active on social media.

    ConvertKit

    Next comes ConvertKit, which is the tool I use personally. While ConvertKit’s plans aren’t designed for tens of thousands of subs out of the box, it has got a few things for which I absolutely love this service.

    What I really like about ConvertKit is that it doesn’t impose any limits on the number of emails sent per month. This definitely makes this service more flexible. Other service providers typically start to do so at some point – MailerLite, for example, starts limiting monthly mails once you get over 50k subs.

    I also like that the features in all plans are nearly identical, meaning that you won’t miss out if you have only a few subscribers. The only thing that’s not available in some plans is the Free Concierge Migration feature that allows you to migrate for free if you have over 5,000 subs.

    ConvertKit may not be the very best email marketing platform when it comes to reports or the sheer number of features, but it’s been working great for me. I don’t really need the additional features of the other platforms on this list, which is why I give my vote to ConvertKit.  I am not paying for stuff I won’t use. ConvertKit also integrates with most other tools I use (e.g. Teachable).

    What Should Your Email Marketing Sequence Look Like?

    In part 1 of this blog, I emphasised the importance of not just sending sales emails but actually building trust with your audience by sending value-added content. This could include top tips, case studies, how-tos, cheat sheets and many other things. Since each agency is very different, it’s fairly difficult to give specific tips on how you should layout your email strategy.

    With that said, here are 5 points to consider (including how to start your email marketing sequence):

    1.     Welcome Your New Subscriber

    Send out a welcome email to new subscribers. In this email, give the subscriber the promised incentive (if that’s the reason for subscription), let them know how often they should expect emails, tell them more about yourself, and point them in the direction of other useful content (e.g. your blog, podcast or YouTube channel).

    2.     Communicate Regularly

    Then send out bi-monthly emails. Remember that while your goal is to make a sale, you should deliver value with your messages. Provide tips, how-tos, useful information, share stories, encourage replies, and let the subscriber know about important news in your field.

    3.     Be Consistent

    Send out emails consistently. Keep an eye out on stats provided by your email automation tool. If necessary, make corrections to your templates and track how they work out.

    4.     Test to see what works best

    Try A/B testing subject lines to see which ones resonate best with your market (tools like ConvertKit make it easy to do this)

    5.     Ultimately make the sale

    Once you sell something to a subscriber, you may send out a trigger-based email that would provide the customer with specific tips on how to make the best use of their new acquisition.

    Now I dive into a ton more detail in the accompanying eBook connected with this blog, so make sure you grab your FREE copy.

    How Often Should You Mail Your Audience?

    How often should you email your audience? Well, not too often and not too infrequently. Anywhere from once or twice per week to once or twice a month would probably work for you.

    But depending on your business, you may want to get in touch with your subscribers more or less frequently. For example, if someone has purchased from you, you may want to send daily emails to ensure they are using your tool correctly and successfully.

    How often you should send out emails also depends on your ability to generate unique and original content.

    With this in mind, it’s a good idea to plan ahead for a few weeks or even months (I work with a content plan of 9 months).

    You need to create a content calendar. Here are three-steps to help you get started:

     
     
     
    1. Stand in your customer’s shoes and think about 6 challenges they have (that you can solve)
    2. Approach the structure of your content by
      • Stating the problem
      • Agitating the problem to emphasis the pain
      • Presenting your solution (to that pain)
    3. Create your content plan, considering keywords and creating engaging titles (and a/b test where you can)
     

    In Conclusion

    Planning ahead and having a clear strategy is vital if you want to make email marketing work effectively for you.  It is one of the most cost/time effective ways to engage with your target audience yet there are a number of pitfalls you need to avoid, as outlined across these 2 blog posts.  Select the best tools, have a plan (and plan ahead), send engaging and regular content and you will soon start seeing ROI with an engaged audience ready to buy from you.

    I have captured a ton more information about best practices for email marketong & automation in my brand new guide, so click on the link below to grab your FREE copy.

    Subscribe & Download

    If you prefer to listen to Podcasts, you can listen to the episode on email marketing

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