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Business Development with Katie Street

Business Development with Katie Street

How effective and efficient is your business development? Do you have a process in place that generates a consistent flow of ideal clients?

If not, then listen to today’s podcast interview with my guest, Katie Street, the Founder and Managing Director of Street Agency. 

As you will hear, successful business development starts by getting your agency’s positioning clarified then building robust marketing plans that deliver outreach campaigns and leads.

Katie explains that we need to lead by solving our client’s problems and by providing value in our marketing (‘serve not sell’).

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:51] 

How Katie landed in the business development world 

[6:17] 

The key differences between successful and  less successful agencies in the aspect of growth and new business

[11:47] 

Reasons why sales and marketing are important for your agencies growth

[14:14] 

Tips in developing easy, consistent and reusable content

[20:24] 

How to learn the language of your target audience

[23:48] 

The best practices in winning new business opportunities 

[28:15] 

How to attract high-quality leads

[32:36] 

The biggest impact of the pandemic for new businesses 

[37:23] 

Katie’s advice to her younger self

Quotations

“ I think initially, most agencies go wrong because they don't actually reserve the time or give the new business the time, respect, and money that it needs to really flourish.” - Katie Street

“Doing something is better than nothing. Do things that are going to be. You could say we're all different. Do something that's going to be easy for you and think about how you can reuse that content.” - Katie Street

“The biggest piece of advice that I can give is to think about your audience and what their problems are (and you'll know this because your audience is your clients). If you're solving problems for your clients all the time, you'll start to see trends because that is what we agencies do. We do solve problems usually.” - Katie Street

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 Full Episode Transcription

Today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast is sponsored by Cloudways. Loved by agencies around the world, Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform that takes care of all the web posting related complexities leading users free to focus on growing their businesses and clients. The platform offers unmatched performance, reliability choice, and 24/7 365 support that access an extension to your own team, making Cloudways the ultimate choice of growing agencies. 

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Ok, on with today’s show. 

So welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Today we are talking all things about business development, and I'm really excited to be joined by Katie Street. 

Katie runs the Street Agency helping agencies with their new business. More than the typical agency, it helps to get their positioning right, building marketing plans, outreach campaigns and lead generation. Also, Katie runs her own podcast, ‘The Word On The Street’ helping agencies win more business.

I am really excited to have you on the podcast because you and I share similar thoughts on this topic. I'm excited to dig into it with you today. 

First of all, welcome Katie and why don't you give us a bit of a potted history of how your journey has developed in the agency world? 

Thank you, Rob and what a perfect introduction as well. I am so shocked that I haven't spoken to you before. But now, I'm really excited to dig into all things new business and a bit of agency growth stuff as well today.

My history, where do I start? My goodness. Right. Okay, actually I was lucky enough to be thrown away at a very young age because I didn't take the traditional route to life as I don't wish for anything. When I first started work, I was only 17 years old and one of the youngest. It’s the reason why I'm still so young now. I went straight into work fresh out of doing a kind of GMVQ in business because I didn't really know what I wanted to do and needed to earn some money. 

I wanted to get a mortgage at 18 because I was getting some inheritance. Then, I landed on my feet in a job that I just absolutely love. My first ever job was for United Advertising and I worked for Exchange and Mart. I was actually their first-ever field salesperson.  They sent me out to go and meet all the traders. I moved very quickly up the ladder where I started. I was managing the evening sales teams at the grand old age of about 19, probably a salesperson of the year, all that kind of stuff.

It was a great introduction into the world of sales from which I had some fantastic training. I then ended up moving up to London, stayed in the world of publishing and went to work for FHM and started working with agencies selling advertising space, sponsorship deals for things like the High Street Honeys and various other things which are great fun at a young age. Then I actually went client-side and got some funding from an employer that I was with at the time, Penny Ricard, to do my post-grad in marketing, even though it wasn't a grad.

But I had enough work experience under my belt by that point to be, I guess put on the course and spent a few years there, then had a child. By this age, I'm only about 25 by the way, doing ever so well in kind of sales and marketing, then moved back down from London and went into the agency world because down in Bournemouth there was a really fantastic creative hub. I think I've spent the last now. I'm going to show my age now, 12, 13, 14-ish years leading new business and marketing for agencies. 

I've been really lucky and have gone back up to London, although I’ve been living in Bournemouth. I've been really lucky to work with agencies of every size from sitting on the board of some quite small independent agencies with very high growth targets. That's agencies with sort of 8 staff, and also some were sort of 40-50 staff where I kind of led the new business and marketing strategy and also big networked agencies. So I had a really good view of what worked at every single scale.

And then, after years of being poached by lots of agencies to help them run their new business and working with lots of lead generation and new business agencies that I guess got frustrated with, I thought, ‘You know what? I'm going to take the leap and I'm going to go and do it myself.’ I got myself a good contract with my first client and off I went and here we are today, a very fast-growing agency ourselves, I guess because we, Street, is an agency for agencies. It's very exciting. 

I'm sure loads of people, including me, will relate to your journey of how you got to the agency world. Thinking like the thing that got me started in my agency back in ‘92 as a young, arrogant marketing manager for a software company was the fact that I felt like we couldn't hire a decent agency that really understood what we did. I thought, I know I'm going to do it myself. I think for a lot of us, that young, naive innocence kind of helps us because I can't help but think now that I'm old and grey. I wouldn't be brave enough to do some of the things I did back then. But like for you and I sort of worked well, and here we are today. 

I just wanted to sort of start off by asking you the question of what you think are some of the key differences between successful agencies and less successful agencies when it comes to growth and new business and so on? 

That’s a big question. There are probably lots of things that obviously derive success. But from a new business and marketing point of view, I think there are two things that I personally think are really important. First of all, it is just doing things. There's so many agencies, the biggest struggle that most agencies have and all of you guys listening out there will hopefully empathise with. This is just making the time for new business and marketing content, activity, outreach, whatever it might be because as soon as your clients are shouting and you're busy delivering client work, that is the priority, and it should be the priority. It’s what's paying the bills. But what tends to happen is that the new business and the marketing activity, whatever it may be, gets pushed to the back, and it's very easy to get forgotten. You really need that. Because from my point of view, you really need that always-on approach. It's agencies that respect that. I think initially that you invest time and money into developing an in-house team, usually, and I, although we are an agency for agencies, I don't know, most of our clients do have a team.

Also, it's not always just us. Some clients do just use us, but the majority of them do have an in house team as well. I think initially, most agencies go wrong because they don't actually reserve the time or give the new business the time, respect, and money that it needs to really flourish. Then often agree more off the back of that become a whole load of other things, the biggest thing is also giving up too early. 

It's frustrating for me and you, anyone out there who's listening, who's been involved with either hiring a new business person or is a new business person themselves. I think often that new business person is looked upon as the kind of solution to all their problems, and I'm sure people feel the same about agencies like us, and I'm not saying that person isn't going to be the solution to your problems, but to my mind new business and marketing for an agency is everyone's business within the agency. It is not one person's job to deliver all of the new business. It's a team effort, you can't put them and we do. I felt the weight of it on my shoulders many a time thinking, ‘Oh, my goodness, if we don't win this big deal that we've got coming in, I'm going to my next on the line. I'm going to lose my job.’ That's not a nice way for anyone to film. It wouldn't have necessarily even been my fault if we didn't win it. There's a big team involved usually and coming up with the strategy, quoting the job here and then you're selling all of your people, not just your business person. I think that's also something and not giving them enough time. I guess so. That's the third extra. 

One is, it's expected that within six months you'll see fantastic results, and a lot of new business people turn up with a fantastic little black book. I've got one. I've had one and they will hopefully get some leads through and opportunities in early doors that hopefully you'll be able to convert. But the reality is, new business works best when it's always on, and it's been running for over a year. I just think agencies don't give the new business people, person, agency or process enough time sometimes because once you've been doing it and it's consistent and you and I both know this, Rob, I'm sure we're going to talk about it today because I do actually practise what I preach. It works beautifully and it just gets easier and it shouldn't become mature anymore. Hopefully, we can share some ideas around that today. 

I mean, listen, you could. It almost looks like I've given you a script of what to say which trust me, everybody happened because otherwise what happens is agencies lurched from feast to famine right there in that place of a feast. They've got absolutely no time to do anything but service clients. They're trying to juggle 20 different demands. Business development goes out the window, marketing goes out, the window projects come to an end often through no fault of your own, because things happen.

Then suddenly you're looking at an empty order book, and you panic at that point because you need to pay your bills. That panic leads to, as far as I can see, two things that often happen: one is that you take on any kind of client. If you take on the wrong kind of client that doesn't fit in your core niche then or your sweet spot, then they are really difficult to keep happy. You end up over-servicing them, which creates more stress in the agency, and the second thing people do is they discount because they're desperate to win business, so they discount their services.

Now I'm filling our time with less profitable work, and again that leads to stress. I talk about being stuck on the client service hamster Wheel of Doom, and I need to trademark that term because I talked about it all the time to my clients, and this is the thing. Like, if you're stuck on that client service hamster Wheel of Doom, you've got no time to do any marketing or any business development. As Katie says, you have to protect that time and it doesn't matter how busy you get. You just have to think this is how much time I got for servicing clients. 

I really like this expression that you used the always on. It was a kind of mentality towards your sales and marketing. 

Yes and I think you've got to look at it like that now, I know your audience tends to be between smaller agencies from one person all the way up to 25 and we sit bang in the middle of that. I think we've just recruited our 14th member of staff and will probably be about 20. Hopefully, we’re. I mean, we're probably by the end of our financial year will probably be at about 25. The reason that we're growing is that from day one well, I say they want that's a fib. I am a new business and marketing person, and I know the importance of it. Maybe not from day one, but within the first six months, I had recruited someone to solely do our marketing, and I know the importance of that and it feels risky. At one stage there were only four of us, and this person is 25% of my agency’s staff costs going on someone that isn't delivering work for me. But it has been absolutely essential to us growing. Now we have a team of two if you exclude me. We're just moving one of the other staff actually into a new business role to support me on the new business. We're recruiting another digital marketing exec. We will actually be a relatively small agency for employees dedicated to our sales and marketing, which is absolute for me.

Most agencies that we work with are three times the size of us and don't have four people in their team, but it does work. There are smart things. We do work using digital marketing, apprentices, etc. I'm not saying that we're spending thousands, but clever about how we're doing it and I'm certainly leading that team. But I think, if you don't recruit for that team, it will always happen that client work will come first. Even if you're trying to segregate partial time from one of your staff members.

That's what a lot of people do, right? Let’s say, one of your clients is us. Then, of course, that client goes to the back of the queue. I know loads of people are going to relate to this, and they're probably shouting at the computer or their phone and they listen to this while driving along. That's all very well in theory. But I'm stuck on the client service Hamster Wheel of Doom. What do I do to get off? What would be your tip to someone, an agency who's really busy, who's super stretched, who is not thinking about this because they've got enough money coming today and they're not thinking about the future enough? What advice would you give them? What would be your words of wisdom? 

I think one is to do something. Always doing something is better than doing nothing. I talk a lot on my podcast about solving and not selling again. One of the big reasons that agencies often don't do well is they don't think about the needs of their audience, and they just start pushing out, like doing cold calling or recruiting lead-gen agencies that's gonna bash the phones and basically sell to them going, ‘Look at us. Look how great we are.’ Totally the wrong approach. I'm not saying that you won't get some potential leads from that, but they won't be quality leads.

The biggest piece of advice that I can give is one, think about your audience what their problems are, and you'll know this because your audience is your clients. If you're solving problems for your clients all the time, you'll start to see trends because that is what we agencies do. We do solve problems usually. 

You know what key topics and things that you should be talking about. First of all, I think about your content strategy. ‘What are the problems of your audience? How can you help solve them and develop content around that?’ But that doesn't have to mean you are waiting for your next project to go live and going. ‘Well, I can't write case studies. You don't need case study content.’ 

I have built my whole agency without having a single case study on my website. I'm not saying that we're not doing our website at the moment and about to publish studies, but I have got to this stage without publishing any case studies on my website. 

Sorry to interrupt, but it's funny how people put these roadblocks in their way because I can just hear people saying, ‘Oh, I can't start doing this because I don't have the case studies to back it up,’ which doesn't really matter, does it? It's like you say if you understand the pain that someone is in that you can solve and that's what you talk about, then people are going to be interested in listening to you.

That is it. If you can start developing and think about the way that I have structured our content is easy and manageable for us to develop. I mean, I don't think my marketing team would agree with this, but it feels easy to me, maybe not much to them, because it's a full-time job for them. However, what we have done is made sure that we develop content that is reusable and that we can shatter down. Try and think of something that's going to be easy for you as a business owner or someone responsible, or leading the sales and marketing or responsible for getting new clients in. Think of the things that you can do that are going to be easy and repeatable because you want to have consistent content that's continually being pushed out to market. 

Think about what you can use or what you can do to help you develop that. For some people, that's writing content and insights posts, recording a podcast for some people that are hosting Webinars, hosting physical events, recording YouTube videos, or whatever it might be or creating some form of social content, whatever it is, just start. And if you start small, then that's absolutely fine. You test it, you see what the engagements are like and you just start doing something. 

Doing something is better than nothing. Do things that are going to be. You could say we're all different. Do something that's going to be easy for you and think about how you can reuse that content. 

Another thing that I see agencies do. I'm going off on the right tangent and have got many things I want to touch upon that whole what you're about to go into now. Let's go with that. Because just before we came on there, Katie and I were talking about some of the webinars that Katie runs every month and how well they're doing. And Katie was talking to me about how they took that content and reusing it. Then, just talk a bit about that and inspire people how they can do the same thing with their content. 

Yes, the webinar is something that we do once a month, but it probably produces us at least 10 pieces of content a month. It's a live event itself, we host it on Zoom as a Zoom webinar we usually have. We've got 1200 people signed up. Now it's just an amazing boast about that. But we recorded live. We usually now probably have around 25% attendance, and then we push it out via YouTube and on video and people go back and watch them. But that produces us a live event. It produces a video that we edit and put onto YouTube, there are two different assets. We then use that video and cut it up into social clips that we will push out throughout the month and to promote next month's webinar. We might do three or four video clips.

We also, in fact, one of the most valuable pieces of content that we have found in the past few months in terms of growth and engagement, are the really nice value SlideShare, you'll see them on LinkedIn and Instagram where you're giving a statement or extra piece of information or some value add on each slide we create a value post out of it, and we also write up the whole webinar itself and pop that on to our website now. 

We also don't just leave it there. We then use email marketing, and we'll pull things out in the email to push that out to our engaged data set. We use one. We do one thing, which takes me an hour to record, and then I'm not saying that it's not the easiest thing to do to cut up all that content. But there are many great platforms out there like I don't know if lately, that enables you. I think that Gary Vaynerchuk and I are going to check that lately is the right platform, but that enables you to cut that content up and produce you. It will actually, even it will learn the language and the things that your audience wants to hear about, and things that remarketing perspective are going to help get you noticed, and it will then pick out the right time codes for you. It will write your post for you, and it will cut the video into the section that you want it all. You've then got to publish it. I mean, there are many things out there, and what we do is try to make it easy for ourselves. We're always on the lookout for cool new tech like that as well.

It's amazing. Listen, if people are feeling overwhelmed by this, you need to take Katie's advice, which is to do one thing. Do it really well and then think about how many different ways you can cut it. I mean, in a more simplistic way. 

If you take this podcast, well, we're recording this podcast, all go on onto the podcast channel and distributed via the various channels like Apple Podcast. But we're also recording a video of it, so we can post that on YouTube. We will also cut up some of this video to promote social media, create an audio gramme that we can use to promote on social media and so on. 

Even with a simple thing, it's not simple, But a thing like this, we are finding five or six ways of reusing the content and I think what I see is I have my group coaching programme showing them this diagram.

Last time we had a group which was a circle with a big warning sign in the middle of it. At the top of the circle, it says ‘new marketing or business development idea’. The second box was, ‘trying it for a while and implementing it.’ The third box was ‘Well Rob it might work for you, but it's not working for me’. Then it goes back to the top and moves on to the next shiny new object. I think this goes back to your point earlier, which is you have to be consistent and persistent with stuff.

There is almost no despite what crazy people on Instagram and Facebook will tell you. There is no magic bullet to this. You have to do a few things, do them really consistently and stick at them even if you feel like you're not getting anywhere. As long as you're being smart, looking at analytics, refining things and understanding your audience, you have to be persistent with it. 

Yes, it's true. In fact, I had the lovely Lucy on my podcast recently, and she said something that I can totally resonate with. You speak to agencies that we did a webinar, but we just didn't really get anything from it. Yes, because you did it once. You didn't reuse the content, you didn't let it live and breathe and you did it once. Then you're hoping to get, what, 10 leads and 10 meetings and it looks. I mean, obviously, we have had occasions where we've done that. We did a webinar for a client, and we've had 4-5 meetings straight off the back of it. Luckily, they've had two opportunities that they've managed to convert.

But you've got to look at the whole of your new business, funnel and cycle and pipeline. If you've got half a brain, you'll realise you're doing that one thing. It might take you six months to a year to convert any actual paid work from that. It might not do, but you can get lucky. We've done some fantastic physical events for clients where within a few months, they've converted three or four clients, but you've got to give it the time, and it always works better if you're consistent and you've got that always-on approach.

I guess people want a shortcut. We live in a very sort of impatient society now, an immediate society and they want that gratification immediately. You're not going to get it. 

Let me just ask you a bit of a controversial or it might not be a controversial question, but this is sort of my experience and my view with my clients around the new business often they try to outsource the completely new business problem as they see it to someone else, and they might hire a new biz agency or lead-gen agency. They might even try something like telemarketing, which I'm not sure works at all anymore, or they might hire an expensive business development manager, and it often ends up costing them a lot of money and a lot of time, but it doesn't deliver the results. I always end up telling my clients that the best people to sell your agency are you, the agency owner or the senior team. I'm sure that's a bit of a polarised black and white view, and I'm sure there is a lot of greys there. But what's your view on that? What, your response to that? 

Well, do you know what? It's why I set up my own agency because I always did better at leading new business than any of the kind of lead gen newbies agencies that we recruited. I knew that there was a better way to do it. I'm not saying that we are the answer to all of the agency's new business problems. You do have to look holistically at the new business process from beginning to end and make sure, for instance, I think a lot of agencies and I hear this all the time, ‘We just need leads, we’re fantastic at converting. We just need qualified, good leads.’ 

If you can get some leads, I will smash them. Some of the agencies do that. But more often than not, there needs to be some work done on the conversion process as well. Actually, we've started doing some consultancy with a lot of our clients on that and helping them with that opportunity to win the process, the attraction side of things. 

I think 100% you cannot rely on someone like the Street Agency or the various other newbies, consultancy fees, marketing agencies, technologies that are out there to come in and solve all of your problems. You've got to give it enough time, love and respect internally as well. Also, I think certainly, some of the smaller agencies that we work with will be starting to get some fantastic leads and opportunities but then they're like, ‘Oh, we're really busy. We can't have that meeting until next week’. 

That's why you're going to lose the opportunity because you're not giving it the love we've worked really hard to get you these meetings and opportunities, and then you're going, ‘Oh, we're really busy.’ I might be able to have a call with them next week. Well, they have gone to someone else by then. You have to give the new business the respect it deserves. If you've got the wrong attitude to it and I think your new business sales, whatever you want to call what we do I often refer to what we do more is actually marketing than I do sales. It does achieve sales. 

At the end of the day. It's what we're working towards. If you don't give it the time or respect at any stage of the journey and you don't treat it right, you won't win because there will always be an agency that is faster, smarter, working, and harder. You've always got to think, ‘What is the extra that I can deliver? How can I be asking better questions, delivering a more exciting response to an RFP or a more elaborate pitch that really shows that I care?’ You've got to go extra at every stage in the journey, and if you don't, then there'll always be someone else's.

Yes, it's true. I really liked it when I was sort of prepping for today's podcast. I'm just looking at your website and LinkedIn profile and so on. I really like your holistic reproach and it's funny, as you were saying, holistic. I was writing that word down on my iPad because you don't just look at the lead gen piece. You look at the whole thing from the agency's positioning, and I guess often you must see the situation where a kind of an agency asked you to go and solve Problem A, like generating more leads for us. But when you look under the hood, you realise that actually, they've got Problem B that needs solving. Like, for example, they don't have a clear proposition. They're trying to be a generalist. They don't have a clear niche there. They think they're special, but they're not, and you've got to burst their bubble. I guess you just have to look at all of that stuff before you can actually start implementing anything. 

Definitely, so much I want to talk about. But definitely, that first piece is really important. If strategically, you don't understand who the audience that really needs you is, they need you more than any other audience, and you don't understand the problems that they have. The whole thing's going to fall flat on its face because you're going to be talking to the wrong people and attracting the wrong kind of leads potentially. That’s the initial strategic piece, I guess, is where we focus so much more time and energy, and a lot of our clients will say to us, ‘Gosh, you said you were different to the others.’

A lot of them have often worked with the others and they're like, ‘Gosh, you really are!  You really do treat this differently,’ because you have to understand the right messaging and approach right up front because if you don't know what you're going to do and where I believe you are, a lot of agencies will attract the wrong leads. That's going to waste you a lot of time, but also your agencies that often haven't done this before. They don't have that kind of nice big. I always refer to it like a snowball when we start.

We start small and the agencies that we've been working with for two years do so much better with us than the ones that have been working with for six months, and I'm quite honest with our clients about that. The longer and the more you do this, the better it will get. But also it enables them to not qualify in on what you were talking about earlier, which are those really terrible leads and opportunities that aren't the right fit for them. Or they're going to have to heavily discount because they're desperate for work as they haven't got a strong amount of or a hot pipeline of leads, people that they can talk to. They don't know where their next leader is coming from, they get desperate. The discount, they work with the wrong kind of clients that maybe haven't got the right attitude or aren't the perfect fit for them. 

But if you do this right and I can't say this enough. If you do this right, you invest the time and you approach it strategically, it will just get easier. It's no effort for us now. We get 20 to 20-30 new business inquiries a month. We do qualify out, obviously the majority of them. Otherwise, I would be a millionaire. But we do qualify out of a lot of them. However, it does mean we can do that really quickly, and we can refer those leads to the right kind of partners for them. But I have many leads because we've been doing this consistently for a long time basically.

There's nothing like practising what you preach. I guess you have to find the right kind of client that gets this that is willing for you to take a broader view of their business rather than just coming in and generating some leads.

I've got just a quick story of a client, the London agency I worked with years ago, and they contacted the original and said, ‘Hey, can you come and do some sales training with us?’ I'm not really doing sales training, but I went and chatted to them, and they said their problem was that they had a sales team of about four people who were getting a lot of leads and they weren't closing them. They thought they needed some sales training for those salespeople. I said, ‘Look, before we do any of that, what I need to do is do a fact-finding look a bit broader around your agency,’ Then, the issue turned out to be not that the salespeople weren't any good, but their qualification process further up. The sales funnel was really poor. They were handing really inappropriate leads to the sales team, of course, they couldn't close them. I said, ‘Actually, what you need to do is have a better filtering process, a better qualification process that your sales team have left fewer leads to deal with, which when they're not flying all over the place, but they're close at a high rate.’ It was the issue and that we were able to figure that out because we look broader in the agency, which I guess is what you need to do at the beginning of your engagement with clients. 

Definitely. We've onboarded a lot of clients. Especially recently, they have been doing exactly that. They've actually been doing some new business activity and developing content, but maybe it's just not quite right, and therefore they're not getting the right type of leads. They're either qualifying out of them because they're not right for them. or they're going for them and not winning them because they're not right for them. Then, that strategy piece is super important.

Yes, I just want to dig into one other question. I'm conscious of time today, but you and I could probably talk for another two hours. What changes did you see during the pandemic? What was the attitude towards new business? And how did agencies respond? And how did it impact you? 

Good question. Well, it's impacted my business personally, brilliantly. Because I think quite early doors, I knew that lots of agencies had a problem or we're going to have a problem. Then, we started producing helpful content and of course, I did think this is going to be good for us from a new business point of view.

I want to help as many agencies as I can because I know that it will come back tenfold. But we've never been on the Street, and I'm not saying this is going to be forever. We will change this. We've never had to do any sales outreach. All of our marketing means that the right kind of opportunities actually come to us, it does make life very interesting. I'm not saying we don't do any outreach. We do outreach, but we only push out our marketing and help. 

I tell everybody that's the best way of getting new business and it's exactly what I do. I put my marketing out there and I get inbound inquiries. I do very little direct outreach to people. Good for you, that completely concurs with that. 

It works. I'm not saying that we'll do that forever because we will probably start to transition now and we know the type of agency that we can work really well for. We are going to have a bit of a step change, I guess, in that direction. But I think the biggest thing that I saw is the agencies, where many of them turned off their sales and marketing early doors and stopped doing anything because they thought it was the easiest thing to cut. 

Some of these agencies I actually used to work with or for are really struggling now. Their teams have shrunk because there have been other agencies out there that have continued with their marketing outreach. Then, they have continued like we have done to push out helpful content that now their share of voice is much bigger than the ones that didn't.

I think that's something that I saw and, of course, doing what I do. I guess that that would be the case. I mean, it's obvious if you look at any historical stats that those that you have kind of marketed themselves through, whether it be a recession, World War II or whatever it might be, have come out on top because their share of voice was bigger, especially because there were fewer people talking. Therefore, I think that for me is one of the biggest things.

Actually, It took a little bit longer at the beginning of the pandemic for deals to come through. There's been quite a flurry of your agencies that we've been working with over last year. That stuck with it and maybe didn't win as many opportunities last year because it was slower for people to make decisions. Everyone was within the brand world that we're usually marketing our agencies to. Everyone was taking longer to get there or the CFOs were getting involved. Everything was taking all of those that stuck with their marketing. We've got clients that have already won just from their work with us five or six clients this year because this year everyone's taking action. 

I think the market out there a bit like the property market at the moment seems to be very buoyant. There seems to be a lot of positivity out there. This is why I say the biggest thing is to just do it if you can start, you'll do it brilliantly.

Yes, I completely agree with that. I've got a really interesting client who is part of my group coaching programme, and they do PR for health, beauty and scars and that kind of thing. Then, the minute pandemic hit, they literally lost all their clients by one, which was the body that looks after spars. We sat down and put a strategy together, and it was exactly like that. ‘Keep serving your audience. Keep providing value to your audience. Keep inspiring them about how they can keep serving their audience’ Then as things came out of the pandemic, her business is flying now. Because of that, she's also much business. 

I just want to. I really love your solving, not selling. I might have to say that because I always talk to people about ‘You have to get the A. You have to get the 80-20 rule.’ Apply to all of your marketing, which is 80% provide value, 20% sell, and you have to get that balance right but if you don't, then you're either going to be seen as a fantastic resource. As no one will ever buy from you or you're going to piss everybody off, or they're going to unsubscribe from you because you're just trying to sell, sell, sell, which doesn't work.  It's great to have someone who's kind of singing off exactly the same hymn sheet. 

I’m unconscious of time. Katie, I really appreciate your time today, and we should get together again, and there's lots more we could have talked about. But the question I ask all of my guests at the end of an interview is if they could go back in time and give their younger business self a piece of advice, what would it be?

I think the biggest thing that I've probably learned is just to be better, I am very action-focused, but to be braver 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.

Yes, I think it's a really good piece of advice. It was a place for all of us today and being brave, I think as well and putting yourself out there, whether that means, getting on the podcast interview or doing all the webinars and all that kind of stuff for standing up and talking. Get out and do stuff. 

Katie, thanks so much for your time today. If people wanted to reach you, what would be the best way for them to get hold of you?

Yes, put me in an email. Quite easy. My email is quite easy, it's [email protected] Or find me on LinkedIn, Katie Street. 

We'll share both of those links in the show notes. Also, if we can find that recent platform invention as well. Then I'll list that because I'm gonna go have a look at that as soon as we get off here. 

Thank you so much for your time today. I really appreciate the advice that you're providing our audience, and I'm sure lots of people will hopefully take action after today's episode. 

Brilliant! Thank you for having me, Rob.

How to Generate Leads from Your Website

how to generate leads from your website

Let me ask you a question: What is your website for? 

Is it just ‘brochureware’ (a place to learn more about your business) or are you aiming for it to be something more, such as a way of generating a consistent pipeline of new leads?

The answer is that it should be the latter.

So in this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast,I share my thoughts around some of the fundamental do’s and don't about getting your website to work more effectively for you and also some key strategies to consistently generate leads from it.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:09] 

Why you should make sure your website isn’t full of ‘we’!!

[2:01] 

The importance of quickly building empathy with your readers

[2:46] 

What is the anatomy of a successful website, what does a great website look like?

[5:03] 

Tips on how to drive traffic to your website

[8:58] 

How to convert leads

[9:23] 

Four stages to drive traffic to your website

[10:51] 

Tips in creating your ‘killer content’

[11:46] 

Killer content Myth #1: ‘I need lots of gated content on my website’

[12:14] 

Killer content Myth #2: ‘It needs to be long to deliver value.’

Quotations

“..remember that your ultimate goal with your website is to generate leads. The way you're going to generate leads is by getting people to sign up to your email list, and then you're going to nurture them through the buyer's journey.” - Rob Da Costa

“..drive traffic from all your different channels, where your target audience hangs out, to your website and then, once they are there, get them to take action, which means them giving you their email address (in return for your killer content).” - 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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 Full Episode Transcription

Let me start this episode of the podcast by asking you a question and that question is: ‘What is your website for? Is it just brochure-ware, so somewhere or someone can learn more about your business or you’re aiming it to be something more, such as a lead generation machine?’ 

Well, firstly, it definitely should be that something more. But there are some fundamental do’s and don't about getting your website right and also some key strategies to making it generate leads for you. So that's what I am going to cover in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

Now, this is a super action-packed episode, and I'm going to be covering a lot of bases. So go and grab yourself a pen and paper. Or, if you're like me, you're remarkable to take notes so that you can leave with an action plan from this episode. But without further ado, let's get on with today's show. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob da Costa. 

So the first thing I want to talk about is making sure that your website isn't full of wee. Yes, you heard me, right. Making sure your website isn't full of wee. What I mean by that is so many websites start off by saying we do this and we do that. As we were founded in 1974 wherein we have these amazing, great clients, this is what we've done for them, and this is what they say about us. But fundamentally, when your reader arrives at your website, they just don't care about that. You haven't built any no, like and trust yet. 

Then, your first job is to start building empathy with your reader, and you're not going to do that. If you start off by telling them all about you. What you need to do is show them that you understand them and you understand some of the challenges they have, so that you immediately starting building some rapport and empathy because then the reader sits there and thinks ‘this is interesting, tell me more,’ and that tells me more translates into the action of them scrolling down the page or clicking on some links and digging deeper into your website. And as they dig deeper, that's when they're going to be interested to learn more about you.

So that homepage, that starting point when someone arrives at your site has to be about them, you have to show them very, very quickly that you understand them and the challenges they face day in and day out. Now bear in mind, someone might have found your website via Google, and therefore they would have found thousands of other websites as well. They'll be quickly scrolling in, and you've got to stop them from scrolling on to the next search option and stay with you. Then, you're going to do that by showing them that you understand them.

Let's just spend a few minutes talking about the anatomy of a great website, and it starts by getting the above the fold part right now. What I mean by above the fold, if you're not clear about that terminology is everything that they see before they scroll down. You need to be mindful about what they'll see on a mobile device as much as a desktop device. In that above the fold real estate, you have a matter of seconds to get someone's attention, so show them you understand them and build start building empathy and then also in the above the fold section, you need to offer them some value. You want to be really clear about what action you want them to take, and I'll talk more about that in a moment. 

So, the first part of the website needs to identify the challenges and pains that they have, and then you can offer them some value to start to solve that pain or challenge. Then as they scroll further down, you want some social proof. This is who you've worked with so that they want to align themselves with some of these great names that you've already worked with.

If you have some names that will be recognisable to your potential reader, then list them, put their logos on and so on. Then a bit further down the page, you're going to start to detail more about yourself and also more about the services that you offer. Lastly, at the bottom of the page, you're going to have the next action steps that you want them to take. 

Of course, you're going to have other pages, such as an about us page, the services you offer, how they can contact you and so on. But let me just kind of contradict myself a bit here. Because if you have an about us page, well, guess what it's all about you. It's not about them. So rather than having about us, I often say to people, why don't you list something like how we can help you as the reader. Again, you're making about them. Then, you're gonna have those typical pages and I'm not going to dive into them too much today. 

What I really want to focus on is how you're going to generate leads from your website. If you get that initial homepage design right, then it's gonna make your website sticky, wherein someone's going to want to learn more, read on and click on the other links as well. So those are the key kind of anatomies that you want to focus on on your home page. 

The next thing you need to think about is how you are going to drive traffic to your website because it actually doesn't matter whether you have an amazing website or a terrible website. If you're not driving traffic there. No one's going to see it anyway, so having a great website is one part of the journey. But of course, the other part is driving your ideal target customers to your website, and obviously, you want to make sure that you have optimised it for all the search terms that your ideal target customer will type into Google. You might invest in some SEO services so that you are driving that traffic, and I would highly recommend people at least have an SEO specialist look at your website to make sure it's optimised, even if you're not working with them on an ongoing basis. 

You may also choose to run some ads, will that be Facebook or Google or YouTube Ads to drive traffic to your website. You're going to use social media, so when you're posting on your social media platforms, make sure that you are driving traffic back to your website because you want people to take action. 

A really important point here that I've talked about many times is to remember that your ultimate goal with your website is to generate leads. The way you're going to generate leads is by getting people to sign up to your email list, and then you're going to nurture them through your list.

And one of the key reasons for doing this is because you own all of those names on your list. Whereas if you're just relying on social media to generate leads and drive traffic to your website, you need to remember that you don't own those social media contacts, you're renting them if you like, and they can be taken away from you at any time. 

I've told the story before about a client who had I don't know what it was. 10,000 followers on Instagram and then their account got hacked. So Instagram's policy was to shut them down and say, create a new account. Then, of course, recently Donald Trump had I think about 90 million followers on Twitter, then he had his account closed down, and he immediately lost those 90 million followers. Now, if we'd been smart enough to try and encourage them to join his mailing list, then he'd have been in control of that list. 

So social media is a fantastic platform. You want to drive traffic from all your different channels where your target audience hangs out, drive them to your website, get them to take action when they get to your website, which will mean giving you their email address so you can then continue to nurture them through your email list.

Now, another way to drive traffic back to your website is through partnerships. So it could be that you are a guest on a podcast like this. Or it could be that you writing a guest blog for someone. Or it could be that you've got some kind of agreed freebie swap with somebody. But if you have partners that are targeting the same audience as you but with a different offer, then that is your ideal partner. If that partner happens to have a much bigger audience than you, then they're even more of an ideal partner. If you can get them to put you in front of their audience by offering their audience and value, such as being a great guest on the podcast and actually teaching something of value. Then that's how you will drive traffic back to your website and when they get to your website of course because you've got the design of it right. You're going to be really clear about what next step you want them to take. 

So that's just a few ideas in a really quick nutshell to give you some thoughts around how you can drive traffic to your website. Of course, you want to be doing all of these things, and you want to be doing them on a continual basis. Everything I talk about that every solid marketing platform takes time, and you have to be committed to doing it on a regular basis. If you want to see results. As there are very few kinds of getting rich quick schemes where you just do a little bit of marketing and suddenly you want to get loads of these. It just doesn't work like that, despite what some people might try and lead you to believe. 

Now, in Episode 79 of the podcast just a few episodes ago, I talked about how to create a lead magnet to generate new subscribers to your list, then I'm not going to go into that in too much detail because you can go back and listen to that episode. But obviously one of the key ways that you are going to convert website visitors into leads and then convert those leads into prospects and clients is by having a piece of killer content a lead magnet, which I'll talk more about in a moment that you can offer your audience on your website in return for them giving you their email address, which then goes into your email automation system and you nurture them through that.

So there are four stages you want to focus on with your website, first of all, driving traffic to your website. Second of all, once they're there, build empathy with your readers so that they want to stay on your website and learn more. Then number three, you're going to offer them a piece of killer content, a lead magnet that they are going to download, and then that puts them in your email list. And the fourth stage is to nurture them through your email list so that you can convert them into a prospect and then a client.

Now, talking about understanding the conversion process for you, I have a really good talk all the time about conversion tools. I'm going to put a link in the show notes, and you can grab a copy of this, and this will basically help you analyse how long it takes a lead to come into your world. I someone who's just found about you, visited your website, downloaded something, and you nurture them to the point of them becoming a client. ‘What is that time to conversion?’ And you'll often be surprised at how long it takes.

I've done this work for myself, and it takes on average, about 12 months for someone learning about me to buying from me. It's really useful to know what that time to conversion is for you so that you can make sure that you have to nurture content to help move people along that buyer’s journey. With that, I'm going to put a link in the show notes to a time to conversion tool that you can download and do some analysis and work out what that length of time is for you so you can make sure you have a really good marketing content that will nurture people along with the sales funnel.

So let's just focus on the third point I mentioned in that four-step process, which is producing a piece of killer content. Now, if you really know your audience and you've done your work on defining your customer avatar your customer persona again, I'm going to put a link to my e-book on that. So you haven't done that. Go grab a copy of it and go and create your customer avatar, because it will be really helpful, and you will understand the pains that they suffer from the challenges they have. That piece of killer content that lead magnet you're going to create and you're going to promote it on the above the fold part of your website is going to address one of the core pain points that they have. And so you're going to create this e-book, this guide, this cheat sheet. There's top tips, this video training, whatever is something that your audience is going to digest and something that you feel comfortable creating. That's your piece of killer content. 

Now let me dispel two myths at this stage. First of all, you only need one piece of great killer content. When I created my website, I created loads and loads of pieces of killer content, ebooks and guides that you can download. In fact, if you go on my website, you'll see there are probably 20 different things that you can download, but you don't need 20 things. You need one piece of content, so that's myth number one. Like I said, if you understand your audience, then this piece of content will address one of their core pain points. 

While the second myth I want to dispel is that it doesn't have to be long. I think what puts a lot of people off is that they think it needs to be the best thing since sliced bread and needs to be 20 pages long or 40 pages long because people would judge me based on how big this thing is. Actually, the opposite is true because most of our target customers, i.e. people like you for me are time-poor, so they don't have time to read a 20-page thing, and they won't be judging how good it is based on the length they'll be judging it on the quality of it. Does it help them solve one of their core pain points? And that's the second myth. It doesn't have to be long. In fact, it could just be one page. It could be top tips on optimising your website or top 10 tips on how to implement your own SEO or top tips of what a journalist is looking for in a good press release. So doesn't have to be long. It just has to be good and address some of their killer points 

Now, kind of a bonus thing here is that you probably think I need to create something that's truly original. Yes, of course, you should definitely not played your eyes. And if you can create something that hasn't been done before, then brilliant. But the chances of the thing that you're going to create, not existing in some form or another on the Internet already is very remote. 

So your goal is to package it up in a way that your ideal target customer will find really easy to digest. Those are the two myths I just wanted to spell about your killer content, so you're going to create this piece of content. You can make it look pretty by outsourcing it to a designer or designing it yourself and then you're going to embed it on your website now. The key here is that they have to give you their email address in order to get it's like this transaction. I'm going to pay for this thing with my email address, and I'm going to tick a box that confirms I'm happy to receive emails from you in the future so that your GDP is compliant. And in return, I'm going to give you this piece of great content.

Then, that's the deal that you are making with your reader. Now, once they have given your email address, it's going to go into your email automation system. I've talked about email before Episode 55 so you can go back and listen to that so I'm not going to go into picking an email automation system. But a really key point here, really good tip is to make sure that you deliver your killer content to your lead magnet via the first email that you send the subscriber. Don't deliver it on your website. The reason for that is because if you deliver on your website, I could just put any old bad email address in. I still get access to it, whereas if you deliver it via the first email, then the reader has to give you a good email address, and you want to make it clear that in your form that they fill in that you want to ask them to give you their best email address, so you will deliver the lead magnet via an email. 

So that's a tip that's worth noting and something that I see a lot of people get wrong where they just embed the fact file of the ebook onto their website. Don't do that, deliver it via your email system. Then, once you've got them in your email, you're going to create a sequence of nurturing emails that dig into the guide a bit more or talk about some other things, and your goal is to get them to take the next step on the buyer's journey. But again, I don't want to go into that into much detail today. I've got other episodes about that because today the focus is on making your website work for you and how to generate leads from your website. That's the purpose. 

Anyway, create the content, deliver it by your email system and nurture your reader through your email system. You will start moving them from cold lead to warm lead to prospect to customer to raving fan, which is obviously your goal. If you've done your time to conversion, you know how long that journey takes typically, you'll be then thinking about well if it takes me 12 months. ‘What kind of content can I use to nurture people, keep building that no like and trust with them to the point that I'm still in their face when they're ready to buy because humans are kind of like sieves’. If we don't constantly stay in front of mind with them, they'll forget about us and they'll buy from someone else. 

This all starts with your website. I always view my website as the centre of my universe, and I want to drive traffic through all the different means that I've talked about today to my website, then when I get my reader to my website. I want to quickly build empathy with them by showing I understand them and then get them to take action. 

Now, this takes action needs to be on that top of above the folding stuff. You can't afford to have it buried somewhere deep in your website on the assumption that your reader will actually ever get to that page. Because, remember, as I said earlier, they might just be searching on Google. You might be one of the thousands of results they've come up with, they quickly visiting your website, then you have literally a few seconds to grab their attention, and it's not clear what you want them to do next. Then they will probably leave and remember that to do the next action is to get them to download your lead magnet or your killer content, and that has to evidently very quickly demonstrate that it has some value to them.

So those are my tips about making sure that your website is generating leads for you, making sure that it's not full of we, i.e. it's not just about you, but it's about your reader. Then as they dig into your website and they're thinking, tell me more. That's where you start talking about you, who you are, what you do, how long you've been around, who you've done it for sharing some testimonial sharing, some case studies and so on. But that needs to be further into your website once your reader has got some connection with you, so I hope those tips are useful.

As I said, this is a bit of an action-packed episode. I hope you've taken some notes. I hope that gives you an action plan of things that you might want to review your website or get changed. Or maybe some ideas on creating that lead magnet, that killer content for your website and also perhaps working out exactly who your ideal target customer is if you're not clear about that.

I hope that was useful as ever. Please make sure you've hit the subscribe button. I would love you to leave a review on Apple podcasts because, as you know, that helps the algorithms show me to more agency owners just like you. But other than that, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your week, and I will see you next Thursday for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast

The Risks of Relying on One Big Client

The risks of relying on one big client

What happens when you win a big client that makes up a significant proportion of your monthly revenue, and consequently demands a disproportionate amount of your time?

Well, excitement can quickly turn to long hours, and that, in turn, can detract your attention away from your other paying clients. 

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share some of my thoughts about the pros and the cons of winning and relying on a large client for your agency. 

If you are in this situation (and many have been) then I will also explore how to mitigate your risks.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:06] 

The excitement of winning a big client

[1:26] 

How to avoid over-servicing your clients

[2:11] 

Importance of getting your team clear about service levels

[2:33] 

Tips in handling big clients

[3:28] 

How to win new clients (so you are not just dependent on 1 or 2 big clients)

[4:13] 

What is the biggest challenge in running an agency?

[5:12] 

Importance of identifying the risk as early as possible

[5:40] 

How to anticipate famine on your agency

[7:39] 

The importance of having your business development and plan in place

[9:12] 

Why you should not focus on one big client

Quotations

“..my advice to anybody that is thinking about putting all their client eggs into one basket because they've won one really big client is you need to spread your risk one way or another. And I would ask you to ask yourself what would be the impact to my agency on my business if I lost this one big client..” - Rob Da Costa

“Something else to bear in mind is that larger clients can often be worse payers and can have a significant impact on your revenue and your cash flow. Just make sure that you are getting really clear around payment terms.” - Rob Da Costa

“Just remember that having the lion's share of your business tied to another company also means your fortunes are tied to theirs if their business flounders, if they change tact or they decide to move supplier, you could find yourself out in the cold through no fault of your own without sufficient alternative sources of revenue.” - Rob Da Costa

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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

What happens when you win a big client that makes up a significant proportion of your monthly revenue, and consequently it will demand a lot of your time?

Well, excitement can quickly turn to long hours, and that, in turn, can detract your attention away from your other paying clients. 

So, what are the pros and the cons and the risks of winning a large client? That's what we're going to be covering in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach Rob DaCosta.

We had some interesting conversations in The Self-Running Agency Group call recently, where we were discussing the pros, the cons and the risks of winning a big client that ends up accounting for a large percentage of your revenue. 

I'm sure you can relate to this because it's probably happened to you, too. So I thought I'd record a podcast episode to share some of the thoughts that we shared in the group with you today. 

It's super exciting when you win that really big client, and that excitement quickly turns to well, now we've got to service them. ‘How are we going to cope?’ And this can lead you to hire new team members juggling things around and, of course, making sure that you deliver what you promised this new client. 

But one thing to be mindful of is if you win a big client that might be 2 to 3 times the size of your next biggest client. Then there's a tendency in the agency to give that new client carte blanche access to you and your team. After all, you want to do a great job, and you are super happy that they selected you over perhaps bigger agencies. But if you're not careful, this can really quickly lead to over-servicing, working long hours and getting lots of stress in the agency or to keep this new client happy. 

So even if their fear equates to a lot more of your team's time, we still need to be really mindful about putting clear boundaries in place and making sure that we don't end up over-servicing that particular new big client. 

You also need to make sure that your team understands this, and that means that there's a clear scope of work that they're working on. That you've broken that down into time allocation. Everybody's self managing their time. And obviously, everyone in the team knows what they need to focus on, but also that they don't take other clients for granted as well. 

Now winning this big client might be one step on your agency's journey of growth. So know that when you've won this big client, you've got two choices. You either use it as an opportunity to take the next step in your agency, hire more people, set more systems and processes in place and then work super hard to win more clients of a similar size. Or you recognise the risk that this large client brings because you are putting all your eggs into one basket, and therefore you work super hard to spread that risk by winning more slightly smaller clients.

Now without being the bearer of bad news, history says that at some point, probably through no fault of your own, you're going to lose this client even if they're a retainer for you and you're doing a great job. That's going to happen. 

So let me quickly tell you a story about when I ran my agency. We grew over time. As you know, we had 25 staff in the end. But maybe about three or four years into the agency, we won our first super big client. This client was probably three times the size of our next client. Then very quickly, we won our second big client. As I've already said, we worked super hard to do a great job for them. We were kind of punching above our way in terms of the size of agency that we were versus the size of agencies they've been used to working with in the past. That made us want to work even harder to prove that they've made the right choice. We kept these clients for quite a long time. But within about a space of six months between the two, each of our clients got bought out. One of them got bought by IBM and the other one got bought by Adobe. 

And guess what? We really had the rug pulled from our feet because we didn't really get a chance to re-pitch, because obviously IBM and Adobe had their preferred agencies and they just wanted to roll all of their marketing services into them.

Therefore we didn't even get a look in and our client contacts were really sorry, but that we were let go. So with a space, we kept these clients for maybe five or six years. But then, within a space of six months, we lost both of them. 

Now, fortunately, during that time, we had put some of the advice I'm giving you today into practice, and we started mitigating our risk, and we started increasing the average order value of most of our clients. 

So whilst they weren't as high as the two clients we lost, they were much closer. This meant that when we lost these two clients, it wasn't the end of the world, and we didn't have to make some bad decisions, which I'll talk about in a moment. 

So my advice to anybody that is thinking about putting all their client eggs into one basket because they've won this really big client is you need to spread your risk one way or another. And I would ask you to ask yourself what would be the impact to my agency on my business if I lost this one big client, and often the answer is fairly significant. Then start focusing on spreading your risks so that if you do lose your large client, it won't be catastrophic and you won't have to make some really difficult decisions as you lurch into that space of famine, such as being desperate to win some business to replace that revenue, which often means discounting. Or it could well mean taking on the wrong kind of client or even worse than that, it could be letting staff go. You need to anticipate all of this and plan for it. So, as I said, the question to ask yourself is ‘What would be the impact on my agency if I lost this client?’ and then start planning as though that's going to happen.

So that means making sure that your time isn't being sucked up into this new client and you actually still have time to focus on business development to win more clients. Obviously, you need to make sure that you are putting the right structures and infrastructure in place to support this new client and giving yourself the capacity to support more similar clients or making sure you're winning more small clients. 

As I said, this was a conversation in our group coaching call this week that someone asked, and a lot of people could relate to that particular challenge. The member of the group has just one, this large client, and they're already thinking about this. They're already worried about the impact on their agency, both from a positive sense in terms of growth, but also a risk as well. So I just wanted to share with you my thoughts on that today. 

Something else to bear in mind is that larger clients can often be worse payers and can have a significant impact on your revenue and your cash flow. Just make sure that you are getting really clear around payment terms. And if their payment terms are not favourable to you, then you want to really think carefully about whether you want to take them on. In fact, one strategy might well be in your agency to deliberately not win a big client because of the risk it puts and the strain it will put on your agency. 

Of course, another risk is that you get so consumed with servicing this client that you have no bandwidth in your own time or your agency's time to focus on business development. And it really can cause you to lurch from feast to famine. Because, as I said, if you lose that client, you just don't have anything in the wings to replace it. 

So this is something else that you want to think about, and when you're working on your vision and your plan for your agency, think about the size of clients that you want to win. ‘What should the average order value be? How does that increase over time?’ And, yes, winning a big client may well catapult and speed up the delivery of your plan. But you also need to be cognizant of the risk that it presents as well and not just get flattered by having an ego stroke that someone wants to pay that much money but actually say, ‘Does this fit in the strategy of our growth? What is the risk to the agency?’ And, of course, ‘What's the fit for them as a client? And do we think we can do a great job?’ 

Just remember that having the lion's share of your business tied to another company also means your fortunes are tied to theirs if their business flounders so much yours, if they change tact or they decide to move supplier, you could find yourself out in the cold through no fault of your own without sufficient alternative sources of revenue.

And that is a really risky place to be. Okay, a short and sweet episode today. But I just wanted to share my thoughts with you because, as I said, I've been in this place before, winning a large client and being very excited by it, and I'm sure you have as well. But you need to look beyond that. You also need to be thinking about how this aligns with our vision and be planning accordingly and planning for what happens when you lose that client at some point in the future.

If you do that, then you will be able to win these clients. You’ll be able to service them really well, but you also have the time to focus on backfilling with more clients in the future so that you are not just relying on one client and putting all your eggs in one client basket. So food for thought.

I'd love to hear about your experiences with this, so please do feel free to send me an email. My email address is in the show notes, but other than that, I hope this was thought-provoking. Have a fantastic weekend and I'll see you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

How Long Does it Take You to Convert a Lead?

How long does it take for a new lead that comes into your agency to be converted into a client? 

This is such an important number to know (yet few do) so in this episode, I'm going to explain why understanding this time to conversion is so important and what you should do once you know this number.

I think that you're going to be really surprised at how long the typical sales cycle is so I'm going to give you a tool to help you work this number out for your agency.

So, in today’s episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I will answer one of the most important questions to know: How long does it take to convert a lead to a loyal customer? And what are the tools, techniques and marketing strategies that you can implement to help move people through your sales funnel?

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:08] 

The most common marketing mistake for agency owners

[3:18] 

Why you need to nurture and educate your leads

[4:01] 

The importance of knowing your time to conversion number

[4:59] 

Using your marketing to stay front of the mind with your target audience 

[6:54] 

Three stages in developing a relationship with your leads

[8:09] 

Why building your email list is important in reducing your time to conversion

[8:57] 

Rob’s advice to his younger self

[9:37] 

What is education-based marketing?

[10:41] 

Tips to focus and add value in your content

[12:29] 

How to come up with ‘killer content’ for your agency

[13:39] 

The real reasons why clients come to you

Quotations

“You need to have a way of consistently being in front of your target customers so that when they have a need, they know that you're the person to talk to because they understand who you are.” - Rob Da Costa

“80% of your content should be all about providing value. And, of course, to do that you need to really understand exactly who your ideal target customer is” - 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

How long does it take for a new lead that comes into your agency to convert into a client? That's the topic of today's conversation, and I'm going to explain to you why understanding this length is so important.  And I also think that you're going to be really surprised how long the typical cell cycle is. I'm going to give you a tool to help you figure this out. 

So that's what we're talking about in today's episode. How long does it take to convert? And what are the tools, techniques and marketing strategies that you can implement to help move people through your sales funnel? So another action-packed episode. Grab your pen and let's get on with today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach Rob DaCosta. 

Before we jump into the phase episode of the podcast, I want to really quickly tell you about some free value pack training I'm going to be delivering in September. This training is entitled ‘How to easily fill yourselves pipeline with high-quality leads in the next 90 days.’ 

Now, this is a 60-minute training, where I'll be talking about why referral based clients are actually setting your agency up to fail, the importance of niche in your agency and how to go about the niche in that to discover your zone of genius, and how to create compelling marketing messages that instantly build credibility with your target audience. I'll be talking about the importance of building your mailing list and making sure that your agency is aligned across the market, product service and price. 

So this is a real action-packed 60-minute training with some exclusive bonuses, and all you need to do is head over to training.dacostacoaching.co.uk/salespipelinewebinar and you can save your seat. I'll put a link to this in the show notes, but let's get on with today's show. 

One of the mistakes I see so many agencies making when it comes to their marketing is that they focus really hard on building new contacts into the top of their sales funnel, and then they sort of expect those people to convert at some point, and they really don't think about the activities they need to focus on in the middle of the funnel. So let me kind of explain what I mean by that. And then I want to talk about working out how long it takes you to convert your leads, and I'm going to share with you at all that I usually give my paying clients to help you work out what the time conversion is. 

So many agencies are good at doing their own marketing. Well, of course, you'd hope they would be right. But what they tend to be good at is generating new leads. So they're good at their social media. They are good at putting content out there on their blogs, SEO PPC, and all that kind of stuff, and that brings new leads into their business. Then they sort of hope that those new leads will automatically convert themselves. And of course, some of them will, because maybe one in 100 have absolutely the need that you can solve there and then so they will reach out to you. But what you are doing for the other 99 new leads that have come into your business to nurture them. 

As I said, what I think a lot of agencies are good at is generating new leads at the top of their funnel. Then they're good at the bottom part, which is the prospect meeting and the conversions of writing proposals having those initial meetings. But what they're not good at is that middle portion of the sales funnel, which is what I call education-based marketing. And this is where you're building your no like and trust with your audience. You're building credibility with them through providing more detailed marketing support with things like e-books and guides and tools and templates. And then you get them into the prospect meeting or the phone call, which is where you can move them further down the sales funnel. So we really need to get better at doing that middle part. 

Now, one of the ways that I highlight to my customers is the importance of this is to help them work out what is the time to convert. So what I mean by that is when a new contact learns about your agency, how long does it take from that point to them becoming a customer, and I think you will be surprised at how long it takes. Like I've done this analysis for myself, and it can typically take up to 12 months. That's 12 months from someone learning who Rob Da Costa is to them actually becoming a paying customer, either through their private coaching with me or through one of my online coaching programmes. 

So if it's going to take 12 months, I better have some great marketing to stay front of mind with those people during that 12 month period. Because I always feel like every time you engage with a potential contact someone who knows about you but hasn't bought from you, you are refilling the sand timer. And if you don't engage with them again before that sand timer runs out, then they forget about you and they'll end up buying your product or service from somebody else.

So it's super important that you have a bunch of ongoing marketing activities that keep you front of mind with your prospective clients, so this could be through weekly emailing. It could be through the content you post on your blog or social media posts or videos that you post on your YouTube channel or other kinds of outreach. But you need to have a way of consistently being in front of your target customers so that when they have a need, they know that you're the person to talk to because they understand who you are. They know like and trust you. You build empathy and credibility with them, and they also understand what you do. And you're going to achieve that through the middle of the final activities through that education-based marketing. 

It's really useful for all of us to know what the typical time to conversion is, and I'm going to share with you at all in the show notes that you can use to simply capture how long it takes and all you need to do is look at your customers, hopefully in your CRM system or in your email marketing system or some other database. You will have a date of when those people first came into your world, and then you need to also put in the date they converted into a customer, and this will automatically work out what the average is over time. So make sure you grab that tool in the show notes and you can start working out your time to conversion. 

I think you will be surprised, as most people are when they do this piece of work, how long it takes. Either they didn't have a clue beforehand or they thought the cell cycle was much shorter than it actually was. As I said, mine can be 11 or 12 months. So that means I need to have great marketing content to nurture these people, to stay front of mind so that the sand timer doesn't run out, and I'm there when they're ready to buy. 

Another way to think about this is that there are three stages that someone can be in when they come into your world when they first get to know about you and your agency further. So the first stage is ‘I didn't know you before, now I know who you are, and I'm interested in what you've got to say.’

The second stage is ‘I know who you are and I'm interested in what you've got to say. and one day I will buy from you, but I'm not ready right now.’ And then the third stage is ‘I know who you are and I like what you say and I'm ready to buy from you now.’ And we need to make sure that we are nurturing our contacts through each of those three stages, and not just assuming that when a new contact comes into a world, they're immediately in that third box of I know who you are and I'm ready to buy.

This is a mistake that I see so many agencies and people generally who do marketing missing out. I would really encourage you to go and look at the time conversion tool that I've put in the show notes. Do some analysis, maybe over the last two years of your clients and work out what your time to conversion is and then start thinking about, “Well, OK, if it's six months or its nine months or it's a year, what marketing can I put in place to nurture these people?”

And of course, this goes hand in hand with building your email list, because email marketing is one of the best ways of staying front of mind with your prospects. 

Now, I've spoken a lot about email marketing in the past, and if you go back to Episode 5, you can learn about the introduction to email, marketing and email automation. And if you go to Episode 79 I talk about how you can use a lead magnet to get new subscribers onto your email list. Then, I don't need to dig too much into email marketing today. But certainly, for me, email marketing is one of the best ways of staying front of mind with my audience. 

I am nurturing them and providing value, and I'm there when they're ready to buy. And I get a lot of my clients through that approach. So everything I teach I do for myself, so I know it works. I'd really encourage you to do the same thing. And it's interesting. Many of you know that when I have a guest on this podcast, I asked them what advice they would give their younger self.

Last week someone turned their tables on me and said, Well, Rob, what advice would you give your younger self just starting out in business?” And although it's very pragmatic, the piece of advice I would say, is Rob start building your mailing list because I probably only really started focusing on a mailing list maybe 7 years ago. But I've been in business for a while. I've been running this business for 15 years, and I've been in business for a lot longer than that since the early nineties. So that's the piece of advice I would give myself, which shows how important I think building your email list is.

So I'm talking about education-based marketing here. But what exactly do I mean? This is the middle of the funnel activity. When someone has decided that they want to be in your world. They found some of the things that you say interesting, and now they're in your email list or in your community. What does education-based marketing mean? Well, it means providing more in-depth value to them, to demonstrate that you're credible and that you can help your potential client or your contact solve some of the problems and pains that keep them awake at night.

This might be a more detailed ebook. It might be some kind of guide. It might be sort of a top 10 tip. It might be some video training or webinar or even some kind of quiz. So there are a whole bunch of things that education marketing can be. But you really need to think about what it is that you can put in place to keep nurturing your contacts through the journey from them, becoming a contact to a hot prospect to a customer and then a loyal repeat customer.

Now a really important balance here is to make sure that when you're creating this content, you're focusing on providing value. So 80% of your content should be all about providing value. And, of course, that means you need to really understand who your ideal target customer is, and I'll put a link into my customer avatar workbook. If you haven't done that already, that guides you through defining exactly who your target customer is, and then 20% needs to be selling. So that balance of 80 value 20 selling is really important. And let's just take a moment to explore why?

Well, if all you ever do is provide value, then people will see you as a fantastic resource, but they will never think about you as someone that they would buy from and of course, if all you did was sell, sell, sell in your outbound calls, then people are gonna get fed up and they are going to leave your community unsubscribed from your list and stop following you. Then, we want to get this balance right of 80% of the time. We're providing value through our education-based marketing and 20% of our time we are selling now.

One thing it's worth saying because I think a lot of my clients suffer from this is that they realise that they need to produce this content. They keep putting it off because they think it needs to be a really detailed 20-30 page document, and they think that they need to produce lots of these pieces. 

So I just want to bust a couple of myths here. First of all, which does not have to be 20 pages. No one is judging this on the quantity. In fact, most of your clients are going to be really busy, and they won't have time to watch it. Then, literally could be a one-page cheat sheet or a one page top 10 tips, or it could be a five-minute video. It does not have to belong, so that's the first myth I want to bust. 

Then the second myth again. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self this because I know better now is you don't need tonnes and tonnes of these education-based marketing tools. In fact, what you need to do is just produce one piece of what I call killer content. Then, what's that one document that's going to be really, really valuable to your target audience? Those contacts in your world who were not yet customers? What's that one thing that is genuinely going to provide some value to them that is going to demonstrate? You know what the hell you're talking about and that you understand your clients and it's going to help them, and that's the piece of content you need to produce. 

Like I say, if you're going to my website, you'll find lots of examples of this content, this education-based marketing which I produced over the years and it's still useful. But if I were starting again, I would just focus on one thing. 

So I hope those two pieces of advice kind of remove some blockages that you might have to produce this content reminder. It doesn't need to belong, and you only need one piece of content to start promoting. And, of course, you need to understand who your ideal target customer is so that you understand the pain points that keep them awake at night so that your killer content addresses some of those pain points. 

Now, if you're thinking well, Rob, if I do this and I give it away for free, aren't I giving away all my value? The answer is “No,” because clients come to you because they want you to solve the problem and they want their hands held through you supporting them, not because they can learn about this somewhere else. 

I mean, let's face it. If you listen to every single one of the last 80 old podcasts I've recorded, you're going to learn a lot about running your agency. But do you really have time to untangle that and then make notes and actually implement it? Or do you want a coach who's supporting you through that?

So I never worry about giving too much value away because I realised the reason people come to me is that they want my support, they want my accountability and they want my experience to support them through the journey that they were on. And so it doesn't matter whether I give away a lot of content. And for me, that's one of the reasons why I do this podcast because I really enjoy recording podcasts, and I know I can provide value to you guys, whether you become a customer of mine or not. But one day you might become a customer, or you might refer me to someone else who has a need that you know I can help with because you've listened to a podcast on that particular topic. 

So let's just summarise the actions from today's podcast because this is an actionable episode, so you need to go into the show notes. You need to click on the file, make a copy of the link that I'm sharing for the time to conversion calculator. You then need to spend maybe an hour filling this in by looking in your CRM system or your database to see when people came into your world and at what point they bought from you and then you will see a hard number that tells you how many months it typically takes.

Then, once you understand that, you then need to think about producing some content that's going to nurture them through your sales funnel and use some education-based marketing to really help build no like and trust to show that you're credible and you understand your audience. Those are your kind of two actions from today's episode. 

And as I said, you need to understand your audience really well in order to do this. So going. Also, grab a copy of my customer persona workbook, which takes you through the steps and gives you a template to fill in so that you can start to find exactly who your ideal target customer is, and the pain points that they have to keep them awake at night.

So I hope that was useful as ever. Please make sure you've hit, subscribe and please share this with your colleagues. And also I really love you to leave a review on Apple Podcast because that helps my podcast to reach more people like you, which means I can help more people. 

But other than that have a great weekend. Go and work out your time to conversion. And I will see you next week on the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

6 Tips To Quickly Qualify New Enquiries

I was sitting with a client last month and we were discussing business development. They are in the fortunate position to be generating between 20 and 30 new inquiries each month because they've really worked on making their website generate new leads. 

However, whilst some of these inquiries looked promising at the start, they seem to follow a similar pattern that results in the client working long hours to get the proposals written and then the prospect disappears! 

So this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast focuses on the topic of qualifying leads BEFORE you spend a ton of time on them. This means that you're investing your limited time on the hot prospects and rooting out those enquiries that are just information gatherers. 

Also, you will learn six (6) tips and strategies that you can start applying immediately in your agency to implement a faster lead qualification process.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:54] 

Funnel marketing activities

[3:18] 

The consequence of focusing your time on the wrong prospects

[6:45] 

#1 You must get a sense of a prospect’s budget and if they won’t give you that, then it’s a good indication that it’s early in their buying process and they might just be on a fact-finding expedition!

[7:35] 

#2 There are some techniques you can use to ‘encourage’ them to give you a budget or at least an idea of their budget range (this is something I teach my Self-Running Agency Implementation Group Members how to do)

[9:04] 

#3 How to know if it's time to walk away from a prospect 

[10:35] 

#4 For most of us, time is our most valuable commodity, so you want to invest as little time as possible in early discussions with prospects – use pre-written email templates to quickly follow-up leads to filter them ‘in’ or ‘out’

[10:44] 

#5 The further down the sales funnel the prospects go, the more time you should be willing to invest

[11:54] 

#6 Once you agree to a meeting and then agree to write a proposal, get a date in the diary (during that meeting) for the follow-up conversation.  This gives you the best chance of keeping momentum once you’ve sent the proposal

Quotations

“If your prospect won't give you a budget or won't give you a sense of what a range of their budgets my advice to you is to walk away because you will never be able to give them a proper quote, and it is a big red flag to say that it's too early in the process, and they’re probably just in information-gathering mode.” - Rob Da Costa

“..there's nothing wrong with people who are in information-gathering mode, and they may well one day become your perfect client, and they're not ready now. But you should not be using your time to educate them.” - Rob Da  Costa

“..the secret here is to identify the hot prospects that you're going to invest your time in and get rid of those others as quickly as possible..” - Rob Da Costa

“This is why having these pre-written email templates is a great idea because they may not be a fit for you today, but they may be the right kind of client for you in the future..”- 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

I was sitting with a client last month and we were discussing business development. Now they are in the fortunate position to be generating between 20 and 30 new inquiries each month because they've really worked on their website to generate new leads and are clearly working. However, while some of these inquiries look promising at the start, they seem to follow a similar pattern that results in the client busting a gut to get the proposal written and then the prospect disappearing. 

So in this week's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I want to talk all about qualifying leads so that you're investing your limited time in the hot prospects and rooting out those inquiries that are just information gatherers.

Now I'm going to share with you six tips and strategies that you can start applying immediately in your agency. So grab your pen and paper for another action-packed episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob Da Costa. 

Before we jump into today's episode of the podcast, I want to really quickly tell you about some free value pack training I'm going to be delivering in September. This training is entitled how to easily fill yourselves pipeline with high-quality leads in the next 90 days. 

Now, this is a 60-minute training where I'll be talking about why referral based clients are actually setting your agency up to fail, the importance of niche in your agency and how to go about teaching that to discover your zone of genius, and how to create compelling marketing messages that instantly build credibility with your target audience. I'll be talking about the importance of building your mailing list and making sure that your agency is aligned across the market, product, service and price. 

So this is a real action-packed 60-minute training with some exclusive bonuses, and all you need to do is head over to training.dacostacoaching.co.uk/salespipelinewebinar, and you can save your seat. I'll put a link to this in the show notes, but let's get on with today's show.

Although I want to keep my business predominantly online, and I've proven over the last 18 months that I can run my business and be as useful to my clients working via Zoom. There are still times where it makes more sense to meet a client face to face, one such client. I spend a whole day every month working on their agencies strategy, and that can be pretty intense work, so it's much better-done face to face.

Now, part of the strategy discussion always revolves around marketing and business development. Now, this client has done a brilliant job at the top of the funnel marketing activities, which means they've been getting lots of people joining their email list and a consistent flow of between 20 and 30 new inquiries every month. This sounds brilliant, right, however, when we dig a bit deeper into the numbers to look at how many of these inquiries over the last quarter are moving down the sales funnel and becoming warm prospects and then, ultimately, customers. We established that a lot of the inquiry seems to follow a similar pattern that results in them having in-depth conversations with the prospect.

Now, these conversations usually result in the prospect asking for a written proposal, and they often give them really short deadlines to do this. So the client works long hours to get the proposal written by their deadline. Sends it off, tries to follow up with the prospect, but they just can't get hold of them. And the prospect disappears. So there seems to be the typical steps that happen in this pattern and see if you can relate to this. So an inquiry comes in and they either request to call or they book a call, depending on what the setup is.

The client has a look at them, and they deemed them to be a suitable lead, so they let that call happen now. By suitable lead, I mean that they match their ideal target customer or their customer avatar. And if you haven't done the work on defining your customer avatar or ideal target customer, I'll put a link in the show notes of one of my free guides that show you exactly how to define your ideal target customer or customer avatar. So they deemed them appropriate. 

So they booked the call in and on the call, the prospect first is always hesitant about sharing any kind of budget but requests the proposal nonetheless and, as I said, they often give them very short time scales, which is all very crazy when you say it out loud. But this is the pattern that seems to happen to this client and a lot of other agencies as well. 

So the client works hard late into the night to get the proposal written to meet the prospect short deadline and then fast forward a few days or a week. And my client is struggling to get hold of the prospect, and despite chasing several times, they give up in the end and hope that maybe the prospect will get back to them when they're ready.

But they really do so if you can relate to this, raise your hand and you could see me right now you would see that I am raising my hand as I say this because this has happened to me a number of times in the past, and it's a familiar story that I hear happening to this client and other clients and no doubt you as well, because, let's face it, we have all been there. But there are a few red flags in the story that I've just shared with you that should have halted the process sooner.

So let's pull it apart a bit and let me share with you six-piece of advice or six strategies that will help you philtre out the time-wasters or the information gatherers so you can focus your time on those hot prospects and do a really good job. 

Now we're all really time-poor. So there is a double negative whammy if you're inundated with leads and you're pursuing lots of those leads because you're investing your time in leads that maybe don't go anywhere. And second of all, that means you're limiting your time on focusing on those hot prospects. Which could mean that you're not doing as good a job. Which, of course in itself means that you give yourself less chance of actually winning that hot prospect client. 

So you want to get this right so that you're investing your limited time in the hot prospects because they're the ones that are most likely to convert now. And they're also the ones that are best suited for your business. And, you know, you can do a great job for so as I said, here are six tips if we sort of play that scenario back of things that you should do, and this is the advice that I gave my client in our coaching day.

So first of all, you have to get a sense of your prospect’s budget. And if they won't give you that, then it's a good indication that they are really early on in the buying process. And perhaps they are just on a fact-finding expedition to get a sense of what agencies could do for them and how much it might cost. 

So there are some techniques that you can use to encourage them to give you a budget or at least give you an idea of the range of their budget. This is something that I teach him myself, running an agency implementation group on exactly how to do this. But at least give your client a range of prices and have them tell you where they sit if they won't give you a budget. Now, if you've done all of that and they are still unable or reluctant to give you a budget, then my advice would be to walk away. 

Let's just imagine that you are at home and you've got an architect who's come around your house to discuss having an extension to your home, and you're refusing to give the architect any sense of the budget. So how on earth could they quote? Are they quoting for like a single-story lean-to? Or are they quoting for a three-storey extension with a massive master bedroom on the top floor along with a suite bathroom? They just can't quote and imagine how crazy it would be to sit with an architect and say, ‘’Well, actually, I'm not going to give you a budget. I don't know what it is.” So exactly the same is true for you. If your prospect won't give you a budget or won't give you a sense of what a range of their budgets my advice to you is to walk away because you will never be able to give them a proper quote, and it is a big red flag to say that it's too early in the process, and they’re probably just in information-gathering mode. 

Now there's nothing wrong with people who are in information-gathering mode, and they may well one day become your perfect client, and they're not ready now. But you should not be using your time to educate. These people have content, download freebies, videos, guides or whatever on your website that they can download that will help educate them. So you keep them in your world, but you're not using your time to educate them. 

And often I don't quite know the psychology of this. But often, if you're the person that's helping someone set their budget and define their brief for a project, they'll often end up going somewhere else to get that piece of work actually fulfilled. So you don't want to be that person. So my advice, tip #3, really is that if you've tried to get a budget out of the prospect and they won't give you one, then walk away because it makes no sense. Actually, you know what, share that architect story with them because everyone can relate to that idea of having an extension on their home and how crazy it would be not to give them an idea of your budget.

So for most of us, time is our most valuable commodity, as I've been saying, you want to invest as little time as possible in those early discussions with prospects. Do things like use pre-written email templates to quickly follow up leads to philtre them in or out. Then, think about what other pre-prepared content you can create that you just need to tailor slightly to send off to those prospects that you think are not well enough qualified and bear in mind that the further down the sales funnel they go, the more time you should invest.

If you think of a sales funnel is like a triangle with the wide part of the triangle at the top and the narrow part of the bottom, your time needs to be the complete inverse of that. So if you through another triangle next to it the other way up with the point at the top, that's your time. So at the top of the sales funnel, where you've got people coming in your world, but they're cold leads, you do not want to be spending a tonne of time, so your email marketing, your website, your freebies, your content, your blogs and videos, podcasts and so on can be the content that helps drive people into your funnel and move them down the funnel.

And as they get towards the bottom, you spend more time with them. And, of course, the secret here is to identify the hot prospects that you're going to invest your time in and get rid of those others as quickly as possible, which is obviously what we're talking about today. 

Now my next tip, which I think is a really good one. The one that I use all the time is that once you agree to a meeting and then you agree to write a proposal. When you're on that phone call, Zoom call, meeting with that prospect. Get a date in the diary during the meeting for a follow-up conversation. You actually want them to literally get their diary out. Say, look, I'll get you this proposal by Friday and let's give you a week to review it, and let's put a date for the following Friday at 10 AM to have a chat. Now, of course, that doesn't mean that they won't cancel that meeting, but you've already kind of created an expectation with them that you are going to be following up and let's get a specific date, and it also creates a sense of timeline and urgency for client needs to review your proposal and then have some feedback for you. 

Because isn't it crazy and frustrating how prospects will often testers by saying, “We've got really short time scale and then if you do get hold of them,” say a week afterwards, they say, “I haven't even had a chance to look at it yet.” And you're thinking it worked late into the night or the weekend to get this done to your crazy short time scale and you haven't even looked at it. So that was my sixth tip, which is when you're in that initial prospect meeting or that conversation and you are agreeing to write a proposal. You want to get a day in their diary for a follow up so that you have set that kind of expectation that you will be following up. 

So these are six tips that I shared with my client on that coaching day, and we worked through all of this. We also looked at some other methods for speeding up the process, such as, as I've said, creating a set of pre-written email templates that can be used and tailored for different responses to like, “Thanks but no thanks.” or “Thanks, but I need more information.” They're not writing these from scratch every time. But they are having a starting point that isn't zero, but it's maybe, like 70 and then they just tailor it slightly to get it to 100%. Because the goal of this is to philtre in the hot prospects, where you going to spend your time and philtre out just those fact finders or those people that may not be a right fit, but that doesn't mean you should ignore them. This is why having these pre-written email templates is a great idea because they may not be a fit for you today, but they may be the right kind of client for you in the future, so you do want to follow them up in a political way possible, but it isn't always going to be by spending lots of time on the phone with them.

Now, if you're listening to this and thinking that the client I was with is really lucky because they're generating that many new inquiries per month and your challenge might be that you need more leads at the top of your funnel in the first place, and you're actually not getting anywhere near 20 to 30 inquiries a month. You may not be getting one or two or not even that. Then my recommendation is to go back and listen to my mini-podcast series on business development, which is episodes 41, 43, and 44. And again, I'll put links to those episodes in the show notes.

So I hope this gives you some food for thought because once you're at the stage of generating a consistent flow of inquiries, you really quickly need to separate the info gatherers from the genuine hot prospects and invest your time in the latter rather than getting sidetracked and distracted by following up every lead that often takes you down a blind alley in a dead end. 

As I mentioned, there are some useful links connected to today's podcast in the show notes. And as ever, if you found the episode useful, please make sure that you hit the subscribe button and also consider leaving a review on apple podcasts. Since it really helps the algorithms show the podcast to more agency owners just like you, which in turn helps me help more people just like you. Other than that, have a great rest of your week and I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

SEO & Backlink Strategies With Richard Kennedy

Does your agency have a robust SEO and backlink strategy in place? 

If not you should, and in this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by one of my clients and one of The Self-Running Agency Group members, Richard Kennedy, who explains why SEO and a backlink strategy is a must.

Richard runs an e-commerce SEO agency, Arken Marketing.  Arken helps SME e-commerce businesses grow and compete against the big players in the market, by utilising effective SEO.

Richard shares how he started Arken Marketing and how he helps SME e-commerce businesses grow and compete using SEO and backlink strategies

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:11] 

Backstory in building an SEO agency and Richard’s future aspirations for Arken Marketing

[4:24] 

How to figure out your niche when starting up an agency

[6:36] 

Tips in niching down your business

[9:17] 

Defining SEO in a broader context

[10:37] 

What are the advantages of using SEO over PPC?

[11:56] 

The importance of being ranked organically

[12:24] 

Why SEO is an effective strategy for your business

[13:05] 

Benefits of link building for your website

[14:14] 

Understanding link building, domain authority rankings and backlinks

[17:21] 

How to implement link building strategies

[19:11] 

How to distinguish a good backlink from a bad backlink

[22:21] 

What is the deciding factor if a link is worth pursuing or not?

[22:50] 

Tips in creating SEO strategies for your business

[24:11] 

What is the ‘dream 100’  system?

[26:19] 

How to build good quality and trustworthy website

[29:26] 

Why ‘focus’ is important for your business’ SEO strategy

Quotations

“I don't want to be too big, but I've always wanted it to fuel my other projects.” - Richard Kennedy

“...not every business defines its success by how big it is or how fast it grows.” - Rob DaCosta

“We only work with people that we want to work with and they want to work with us and it's made it a whole lot easier in the long run in the short term.” - Richard Kennedy

“..the website needs to be trustworthy… approachable... Having good content makes everything so much easier.” - Richard Kennedy

“..you just can't replicate success through copying.” - Richard Kennedy

“..building your dream 100 list is actually one of the systems that we teach in The Self-running Agency Group.” - Rob DaCosta

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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

To rank on Google, you need a few things, you need a technically sound website, you need to match with the intent. So if someone's looking for SEO services, you have to have SEO services and you have to have authority and authority, you get mostly from links. So links count as votes and votes aren't all equal.

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value-added interviews with your host, agency owner and coach, Rob Da Costa.

So, welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I am excited to be joined by one of my clients and one of The Self-running Agency Group members, Richard Kennedy. Richard runs an e-commerce SEO agency, Arken Marketing. Arken helps SME e-commerce businesses grow and compete using SEO and backlink strategies.

Welcome, Richard! Is there anything else you wanted to add to my introduction and talk a little bit more about who you are, what you do?

No, well thanks for having me and you kind of got it, got it in one really help small to medium-sized e-commerce businesses. Try and compete with the big boys in their market. Fantastic. How long have you been running Arken? Five or six years now. I actually remember when I started, but it kind of started off as a freelancer and then it just kind of happened naturally that I could bring it into the agency brand rather than just being a freelancer. So, it just kind of happened naturally. I think that will be a very common story to many listeners and indeed that was the same as my journey that I started out freelancing on my own, and then got the opportunity to grow my agency and had to make that choice from being a freelancer to actually growing a business. What are your aspirations for Arken? So, I don't want to be a too large agency, a very small agency at the moment, but I don't want to be too big, but I've always wanted it to kind of fuel my other projects. I have an interest in plenty of other things. I'll kind of use this as a way to explore my other passions, but that's kind of how I hope it goes or envisioned it going. But no, I don't have aspirations to be a huge SEO agency. I see some of them, especially on LinkedIn and it just seems like an absolute nightmare to manage to me and it's not something I have personal aspirations to be, to be honest with you.

Well, if you have a clear plan and this is the stuff that we talked about in the program if you have a clear plan and so you know where you're headed, then you can kind of create controlled growth, whatever that means. And of course, not every business defines its success by how big it is or how fast it grows. So I think it's really interesting that you say you want Arken to be a vehicle to enable you to explore your other passions because getting that balance as an entrepreneur right in your time can often be a challenge and we can all get very consumed by our business and that becomes our life rather than you know it's supporting our life. I mean when I say the pattern, I don't mean like not going to be a professional golfer which is the only hobby I have outside of work, but I just feel like there's a lot of opportunity with the skill set of SEO and done marketing to explore for avenues and I don't think people should necessarily pigeonhole themselves in it for forever in that sense.

No, sure. I mean I'm a good example of that, this is career number three for me. So I started out as a bad programmer at IBM, and found my way into marketing, became a career to really become marketing manager for a software company, then started my agency around that for 11 years before selling up and then re-training to become a coach's what I do now. So I've actually had four pretty different careers, so absolutely. And just a little bit of a side track before we jump into talking more about SEO and backlink strategies and all that stuff. Arken has a very clear position in a very clear nation that provides SEO services to SME e-commerce businesses. And listeners to this podcast will know that I am a big fan and a big advocate of agencies getting a clear niche. So, I'm just interested to understand how you chose that nation, and what you see some of the benefits of working in that particular area are.

Yeah. So like I imagine most not almost all the agencies they start and they service everybody anyone who wants SEO. Their service to them we noticed a clear pattern of who we can help best and who we can track the results best on. So it's like we still do have clients that are within that certain market. But it's like I had a call the other day with a B2B client that they only need a couple of costs or conversions a year to make it absolutely worth it. And as great as that is, it's not something that we can track that well. So when we know it was big e-commerce, when we do good work we can see the results quickly. So it's nice for this, most of us to see the benefit we're having. It's easier for us to track it's something we enjoy working on. It just made it a lot easier niching down. We still do have clients outside of that, but it does make it easier and we can hone our skills better if we are dedicated to e-commerce. It's been really good for us.

Yeah. Absolutely. And a good point you make there is that just because you are niched into a certain sector doesn't preclude you from taking on clients outside of that nation. That's something I always tell everybody. And that's true for me. I have a couple of clients that are not agencies, like having architects that it's not an agency or so you just take those clients on a case-by-case basis. But you market yourself as being in that niche. What advice would you give to an agency and SEO agency that is scared of a niche because they think they might lose business opportunities if they don't niche down.

So I think it is very good for numerous reasons. But by how I think you should do it before I get onto the benefits is don't go into it in niching before you've actually worked with. What you think is your ideal client because it may not be what you think it is. So we were quite lucky that we had a range of clients and we kind of naturally fell into the saw clients that we will be like working with the one that we can get the best results. So I wouldn't just decide before you've actually worked with them. I know that it can be quite difficult to understand, but difficult to get these clients if you're not in a niche. But it's something I was scared of at first and I'm not scared of. But since we've done it, we've been able to hone our services to our select clients. Not only can we give them better results, but we can also charge more and more of them who are ideal clients. There's no or there's a lot less stress involved with dealing with clients that we kind of don't really want to work with. We only work with people that we want to work with and they want to work with us and it's made it a whole lot easier in the long run in the short term.

And that's a really good piece of advice actually, that I should use more with people, which is to get clients in your target niche. First of all, to prove that you can win them, to be proved that you can do a great job for them and to show that you actually enjoy working with them, because that may well impact your niche, where your niche is. Yeah. Yes, exactly. Right. I just think it's important to know you like working with them before you commit to, you know, all your branding or being. For example, dedicated to e-commerce and then once you've got any commas to climb, you really don't enjoy it. It kind of seems a bit backwards, but it's definitely been a positive move for us. And of course, there are some sectors that will get the services that you offer more than other sectors, so that's a part to play in it. Like if you were, I don't know how good an example of this is, but if you were trying to sell SEO services to say manufacturing businesses, you might find that harder because they don't really get it. I mean I might be completely wrong here of course, but they don't really get SEO and they don't really understand the value of it.

Yeah, there's not many established e-commerce businesses that don't know what SEO is and the value that can bring doesn't necessarily mean they're implementing it. But they do understand the value of it. They do understand you know what it is for a start there not, you know, it's not smoke and mirrors to them, they are aware of it. And of course, they're going to be very dependent on it too, to generate revenue for their business.

So let's move on to talk about SEO. Which is kind of the topic of today's conversation. Can you just start out by giving us and the listeners a broad definition of what SEO means? So search engine optimisation is optimising for search engines, most commonly everyone refers to Google, but that doesn't necessarily mean just Google. So you got Amazon from an e-commerce standpoint, you've got YouTube, you've got Bing, it's all different search engines and you can do stuff like if your content creator you can optimise for like gum road and stuff like that. So it's basically optimising to get your listing higher in a specific search engine. I try and describe it like I help people find what they're already looking for because they're not going on a search engine looking for trees and then they come up with, you know, I'm not trying to get in front of those services, they're already looking for the business, which is why it probably converts a lot higher than anything else because you know, you don't go on Twitter to look for us. You said, well you can do it, but if they're using Google, they're already looking for your business. So, that's kind of a broad definition of SEO.

And if there was you sitting in one corner talking about SEO and then someone else who was a big fan of PPC like paid advertising, what would you say the advantages of using SEO? Excuse me, it's not paid traffic, right? It's traffic, that's the right term. So what advantage would you have using SEO versus PPC or should I use both? Well, I think you should use both. I think any successful business won't just rely on one source, but the biggest difference or the biggest selling point is organic traffic is if you turn off your ads, you know your traffic doesn't go off overnight. It's something that you've earned. It's something that you have for a while as long as you've done it properly. So it's not something that you know costs X and you get Y from it. It's yeah you earn it and it stays with you for a while if you do it properly.

So that's an important distinction to make. I just want to emphasise, you're basically saying if you pay for advertising, the minute you turn those ads off your traffic is going to disappear because you don't have that source anymore. Whereas if you put a good SEO strategy in place, it's going to last for a while and it's going to keep working beyond the time of initially putting that strategy in place. Exactly. There's an inherent trust as well, like when you Google for a business or a service that if they're ranked organically there's an inherent trust you get that the number one. So you kind of know that you just assume that the best but there is a trust factor involved with ranking organically as opposed to being a paid ad up there.

So have you got any other thoughts on your sort of answer anyway? But why is SEO such an effective strategy? Like if I'm a small agency and I'm putting my marketing in place, why should I put SEO as one of the top strategies that I invest in? Well, it's just to remember that with SEO you're targeting people that are already looking for you. It's not you're not forcing something on them that they're not interested in. There. already interesting your services to some degree where they are in the funnel, depends on what sort of contact you build this, they're already looking for you. You just got to be in front of them at the right time, because they're already looking for you.

Okay, let's talk a bit about link building and then I'll come back to using it broadly. Now, I've seen the benefits myself of doing link building, but can you just explain a bit about what link building is and why people should be doing it? I'll give you a quick kind of explanation. So to rank on Google, you need a few things, you need a technically sound website, you need to match with the intent. So if someone's looking for SEO services, you have to have SEO services and you have to have authority and authority, you get mostly from links. So links count as votes and votes aren't all equal. So, the benefit with link building is well, without link building it is very, very difficult to compete in the competitive markets. It's normally the difference-maker. So it's important for certain markets. It's not vital for all markets, but anything competitive, a difference-maker is more often than not link building. So if you want to overtake a big player, it's usually a lack of links. Not always, but it's usually a lack of links.

So let's just take that, that's a good explanation. But let's just take a step back for anybody that's listening to this and going, that's fine. But I don't understand what link building is. All right then, the link is essentially when you go on a website and you have the blue hypertext and you link from one site to another. That's a link you can have. So there's a difference between referring domains and backlinks. The backlink is the individual link. So if your website, if you link to my website 10 times throughout your website, that's one referring domain and 10 links, that's what the differences are. And there are various different types of links. You can have image links, you can have no-follow. You can have the following links, you can have redirects and I won't explain all of those because I will be here forever. But some links are worth more than others, which is mostly what people can't when they're talking about. You know, I need X links. It's not mostly a follow links sign.

And how does this all come into play with domain authority rankings and what the hell does that mean as well? So the main authority domain rating, trust, flow and citation, I think citation player from majestic, are all numbers that tours give you, so they don't mean anything. The problem with relying on those as well as they can be easily manipulated. It used to be a paid rank. All these numbers don't really mean anything, to be honest with you. They used to report on domain rating, but it doesn't, it's as if I had to explain the overall power of the domain in five seconds, that's what I would use. But it's just a real kind of vague look at how powerful a website is. It doesn't mean a lot on its own. You know, you gotta look at the links that they're getting. This domain rating is from traffic relevance. It's not just so I wouldn't just rely on those metrics but it is kind of a good quick indication as to the value of a link. But there's a lot more to it than just domain authority or domain rating. So, that's useful for me to know because I've always looked at my domain authority or rating and think it's always too low and look at my competitors and it's a lot higher. So I've been striving to improve that. But as you say, that's only one way of ranking how your website is performing. Google doesn't rank websites based on their domain authority or domain rating. It's a good indicator but it's something that could be an easy meal. It is. You can just go on fibre and type in domain authority and there are so many gigs that you can artificially boost that provide absolutely no benefit other than associate your website with their potentially bad neighbourhood.

So it talks us through some strategies for link building, like if I was doing myself, what would I be doing, what would I be trying to achieve? So there's, I mean there are hundreds of different strategies that you can implement. We try to focus on a few core ones depending on the client, you've got images. If you've got great imagery, that's a fantastic way to get links. You can get the top websites the world isn't going out and create their own images for that of course. They will source them from third parties, which is a great way you've got guest posting, although it's typically got our worst name now because it's people associated with the spam techniques. I'm sure you get it as well, you know, offering you a guest post, you've got digital PR which is something we're doing more and more lately. You've got the thing that we love, what I love to do the most is build assets that build links. So think of it like it could be useful like it could be a calculator, it could be a, you know, a link tool, it could be anything that's useful to your industry that has a search volume. Statistics pages are great because you can build it, you can promote it and then it will naturally build your links over time. That's what we focus on. But the easiest way to get into it would probably be the guest posting group by essentially putting your content on other people's sites. But it has to be good and don't fall into the trap of buying the links that people will email you and the massive excel sheets because they are 99% absolute junk and you don't want anything to do with that. That's kind of the easy way into it. And I guess there's a danger there that the whole point of link building is that you want a high performing, high ranking website to refer people to your website or use your images or usual tool as you said. And if you've got lots of backlinks coming into your website, but the actual quality of the websites they're coming from is not very good. I guess that can damage your own SEO. Yes, but to be honest, the link penalties are far less common than they used to be. Google's a lot better at just discounting them so you're wasting your time and effort in the first place. I just would set your expectations or set your standards higher than what may be typically people do just because if you do if you're not setting your standards high, could just be wasting your time. Putting an effort into the sights set isn't worth anything. You know, if you submit crap content to a crap website, it's not going to do your business any good. It's just a waste of time.

So, this is a message of quality over quantity. Better off building one backlink a month from a good website with good content. Then you would be doing 10 or 20 or 50 or 100. All right. I don't know about those. It depends. It's very subjective what is a good or bad backlink. But yes, for example, you wouldn't go on fibre and have 100 automated links that just get no value from it whatsoever. And I would rather spend my time and money on creating a good piece of content that I would naturally build links over time. But you do have to, you have to promote that content as well. It won't just, you can, unless you're a large established business, you know, you already have a search presence, it's not a case of build and they will come, you do need to promote these assets as well, but I would rather spend my time and money on one piece of great content that can build links over the next 6 to 12 months then blasting links from rubbish websites.

A couple of years ago I pursued HubSpot to write a guest blog for them and they had lots of hurdles that you had to jump over. But eventually, I wrote an article on client and account management for their blog. HubSpot is a really good active marketer and obviously a good product, but they are great at marketing I guess their website ranks really high and I could see when it went live I could see a significant increase in traffic to my website and most importantly because I was allowed to promote one download in that guest blog, I could actually see the number of people that were downloading the piece of content as well and you know it isn't it's hundreds. Of course, as you said earlier on that was probably two years ago and it still delivers results for me today because it's still alive and it's still there. So that is a good example of I guess a good quality website and good quality content as well.

A very easy way to decide if it's worth it or not, is to try and imagine if Google didn't exist, would you still want that link? And if you would then that's not the only indication, but it's a good indication that it might be a link worth pursuing.

Let's just more broadly speaking from an SEO strategy. So I am a small agency owner, I don't have the budget at the moment to outsource my services to an agency like you. What kind of advice would you say to me if I wanted to do my own SEO, or what are the sort of 3 or 4-5 tips you would give? I think his name is Brendan Hufford has a good strategy for doing stuff like this. You would find, I think because his dream is 50 years dream 100, I'll have to double-check. Basically, you find the top 50 or the top 100 people or sites that you would most like to have dealings with and then just start building relationships with them. That's how I would do it, because it's not only the, you know, the SEO. The benefit of that, but there are potential partnerships as being a guest on the podcast, there's a whole different host of things that can transpire from that rather than just implementing a strategy that's how I would approach it is to find the sites I really want to be a part of. For we were linked to from, sorry, see what they post and just start a conversation with them. That's how I would start. Yeah, absolutely. So, building your dream 100 list is actually one of the systems that we teach in The Self-running Agency Group. Have you seen that bit? But there are actually templates because it's a strategy that I've used myself. So where you literally sit down and brainstorm every single partner that you would work with, love to work with from the ridiculous aspirational kind of partners down to the more realistic kind of partners who are maybe one or two rungs bigger than you up the ladder. Then, you start an outreach program. And as you said, Richard partnering can mean a number of things. And actually, before we went live on this episode, we were talking about guesting on podcasts being a great way of building your profile, building your audience, and getting traffic back to your website because obviously in the show notes the list was linked to a marketing website. So no doubt you will get some traffic from this website. Sorry, from this episode. So building a dream 100 list could be in all sorts of things from guest blogging, guest podcasting and running a joint event together, doing a speech for their audience. You know, all sorts of things. So that is a good strategy and I guess that's sort of a broader part of an SEO strategy. I think there's potentially massive SEO benefits and others and that's the way I would approach it with not just an agency site, but any site really is. If you're starting a brand new site and it's not it's not a case of they have 1000 makes you need 1000 links, but if you look at it in that terms, it can really seem insurmountable. And that's how I would start or recommend. Any business to start is to find the 100 sites where you would love to get links from, see what content they post and build out similar content. That's how I would recommend any business to start.

Right, good advice. Any other tips to someone who's thinking about doing SEO and link building themselves. Anything else you would advise them? People often forget about their actual website, so the website needs to be trustworthy. You need to be approachable. If you're after a pestle band, you need to have information on yourself on your website. People don't link to nameless faceless sites anymore. They used to, but I would spend a lot of time getting my site to look as trustworthy as possible and have as good content as possible. Having good content makes everything so much easier. So I really can't emphasise that enough, that having good content. Just makes things a lot easier. And it does start with having a good site as well. I guess you're sort of saying that there's no magic bullet to this, there's no magic solution as much as some people will try and tell you otherwise, and that it's the sort of fundamentals that are so important, like having a good quality website that has good content that's easy to navigate that is clearly talking to me, and that functionally works is a great basis to start with. Yeah, it just makes everything else so much easier. You can outreach to a higher standard site if you've got a good site yourself or if your content is useful, it makes the conversations you're having with these people so, so much easier. I think every client we work with, we work on their site before we work off their site just because it makes our job so much easier. That's a good point. And I guess sometimes it must be frustrating for you because a client doesn't necessarily think that should be your starting point. They think they've got a website there now, and want you to drive traffic to it. But actually, you kind of have to say, hang on a sec, let's look at your website first. People fall into the trap of X posts having 50 links, for example, we can just recreate that and get 50 links that don’t work like that. So you need to, if you want to go down that route, you need to have something that differentiates you from it. It needs to look better. It needs to talk to the user better. It needs to do something better. Otherwise, you just can't replicate success through copying. Absolutely good.

Any last thoughts on any other advice that you would share before we wrap up today? No, but I'm always happy to help if any of your listeners want advice and I think I can reach me on, it's just [email protected] Always happy to help or point them in the right direction. Sure. And what's while we're talking about links concluding the show notes, we'll also include your website link and your email. Is there anything else you want us to include? No, that's absolutely fine. Just my website and just my email, [email protected] If they have any questions they can reach out on LinkedIn or anything happy to help.

So the final question that I ask all my guests is if you could go back in time and give your younger self just starting out in business, one piece of advice, what would it be? Other than buying as much Bitcoin as I possibly could. I think I would say just to focus on one thing, whether it's because there are so many different elements to it, so 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 s because as the business is growing or the industry, sorry, it's you have specialists in all these different areas and I would just say just focus on one thing, and one market.

It's a good piece of advice and we should all start narrow and broaden out. It's much easier to do that than it is to start broadening. Try and fail at that, and then we have to go narrow. So yeah, I think I would tell my younger self to buy more Tesla shares. A great, good piece of advice, I always love asking guess this because I almost think in 100 episodes we've never had the same, think twice, even tested a few people who've come on the podcast more than once to see, to challenge them not to listen to what they said before, and then to check if they said the same thing or not.

But I don't think I've had that bit of advice before, So Richard really appreciates your time today. There were some good nuggets of advice in there and I was just thinking as we were talking that we need to call this episode titled build it and they won't come because I think sometimes people think if I build a lovely website and put it live suddenly I'll get loads of traffic to it and of course that is far from the truth and I think you've highlighted that point today.

Yeah, you think it used to work more like that but now as blighted companies are in there they the bar is so much higher. Absolutely. So we all need to be applying some of the advice you have given today. So great thank you so much for your time today and I will see you soon. No problem. Thank you very much.

Staying In Control Of The Direction Of Your Agency

Why do so many agency owners aspire to build an agency that is less dependent on them (i.e a self-running agency) but completely fail?

They end up building a business that they work for (instead of working for them) with the worst boss in the world!

So in this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I explore how to ensure you build an agency on your own terms: one that you stay in control of and one that ultimately could be running itself.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[0:00] 

The 4-day work experiment from Amy Porterfield’s Online Marketing Made Easy podcast

[0:45] 

The concept of running a self-running business

[2:26] 

Staying connected with your mission and vision statement

[3:18] 

What does real success look like?

[3:53] 

How to reconnect with your ‘why’ in running an agency

[4:29] 

Transitioning from face-to-face coaching to online meetings

[6:00]

Why I can spend my winters in South Africa

[7:43] 

The importance of focusing on the journey and not just the destination

[7:57] 

How I am moving towards becoming a ‘digital nomad’

[9:05] 

What are the technical equipment I need 

[9:59] 

Understanding how to best use a VA and the structures I use

[11:47] 

What I am doing this year to take control of how I want to run my business

Quotations

“We are surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions and are trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing - it’s almost as if - if we don’t aspire to that then we are failing.” - Rob DaCosta

“..growth in a financial sense doesn’t always mean success.” - Rob DaCosta

“..wait for some future point when everything will be better and forget to live my life within the constraints of what we are able to do now.” - Rob DaCosta

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

 Full Episode Transcription

I was listening to one of my favourite podcasts last week, which is Amy Porterfield’s online marketing made easy, and she was talking about an experiment that her business has been doing to move the whole organisation of about 20 staff down to a 4-day working week without losing any revenues in their business, and indeed ensuring that they met their ambitious growth targets. It was really interesting to hear about the positive and negative aspects of the experiment, the things that they've had to change, e g. moving all their meetings down to a maximum of 30 minutes rather than an hour or more, and indeed whether they will keep doing this after the 90-day experiment is up.

It got me thinking back to the concepts of the self-running agency that I've been talking about and teaching for the last couple of years, and the importance of making sure that we are running an agency on our own terms and not just chasing the next shiny new object or the next revenue tear, because that's what we feel we should be doing to be successful. We're surrounded by stories of super successful entrepreneurs who make it sound so easy and have supposedly made their millions, and then they're trying to tempt you to strive for the same thing.

It's almost as if if we don't aspire to that, we are failing. It's crazy when you say out loud, right, and it seems to take you so far away from the key reasons of why you would start your own business in the first place. So in this episode of the podcast, I want to remind us about that. But I also want to share my personal story of some of the things that I'm doing to make sure I'm running my business on my own terms. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DeCosta.

I'm not sure where this is instilled in us, but it's almost as if we don't aspire to grow our agency by, say 20% year on year, then we're not being successful and indeed others. But perhaps more ourselves, if I'm honest, judge our success based on this growth. But that might well not be what you want. You might want to create a lifestyle business and focus on maximising profits, or you might want to focus on being a social enterprise and making a difference in your community. There's a whole myriad of reasons why we run our own agencies and why we started our own agencies. And it's super important that we stay connected with that mission. And we create a vision every year so that we know we're headed in the right direction rather than just being pulled by external factors or by the things that we tell ourselves we should be doing. The problem is, as I mentioned in the introduction, that we're bombarded with social media posts and ads of Instagram people standing in front of expensive yachts that probably aren't even up. There's telling us how they built their agency and how they can help you do the same.

But it's important to remember that this might not be what you want, and growth in a financial sense, doesn't always equal success. Let's face it, if you were growing your revenues, but you're hating what you were doing and you get really stressed and working long hours and perhaps even getting physically ill, then would you deem that as success? I know I certainly wouldn't. And sometimes, you know, we have to learn that lesson the hard way by going down that route to get to a certain point where we say no, having more money isn't necessarily the thing that makes me happy.

So in the spirit of openness and sharing, I want to talk about some of the conscious choices that I'm making in my business and my life as we are coming out of the pandemic. And I'm sharing this in the hope that it might inspire you but also give you permission to reconnect with the why like, “Why did you start your agency?” What do you want to be?” and, “How can you do it on your own terms?” Because, let's face it, one of the reasons we start our own business is because we want control. But we're not careful, and we're not making these conscious decisions and choices. Then suddenly, one day we can wake up working for this monster that we've created and having a much harder boss than we've ever had in any kind of job that we had in the past. So anyway, here are some of the things that I am doing and choices that I am consciously making. So first of all, prior to lockdown on the pandemic, I would spend probably three or four days a week travelling to head to clients in London, on the train or driving up the motorway or even getting on a plane. And it was a super ineffective use of my time because let's say I was taking a train into London, which would take me an hour and a half, and then I would perhaps coach one or two clients and then I would come back in a very crowded trainer and probably standing up most of the way for another hour and a half. And that would be my day. Whereas the pandemic force, of course, was all online. And now I do my meetings by Zoom, and that means that I could possibly do 3-4 even 5 meetings or coaching sessions in a day if I chose to.

So I made the conscious decision to not go back to that face-to-face coaching life because I think coaching online can actually be more effective because you can do shorter sessions and more frequent sessions. I have a couple of exceptions to that where I will travel to a client because they're either very local or because I really need to be sitting face-to-face. So, for example, if I was doing some strategy work with a client for the day, it would be very difficult for both of us to concentrate that long online, so I would then go and sit with them. But that's probably the exception and not the raw. And it probably happens once every two or three months rather than two or three times a week. So that's my first conscious choice I'm making not to go back to doing face to face coaching now. Prior to the start of the pandemic and indeed, at the start of the pandemic, I used to spend every January-February of each year in warmer climes, typically in Cape Town. And, of course, the pandemic has paid for that. In fact, I only just got back in 2020 before lockdown happened, so I was fortunate to not be stuck in South Africa during the start of lockdown. But having done this two or three times now, it's really shown me that I can completely viably go to another country and spend an extended period of time. So I'm not just there on holiday and actually get into the rhythm of working. And of course, one of the great things about South Africa is not only that their summer in January-February, but also they only have a two hour time difference to the UK, so that really makes the working day viable. You can rent pretty cheap. Airbnb is out there. The cost of living is much lower than the UK, so that is something that I aspire to do every year. But of course, as I said, the pandemic has put paid to that. But that will be something I'll be doing again. But in the meantime, I find myself sort of marking time and waiting for this fictitious point in the future when we might be allowed to travel again. And then I realised that I'm doing exactly what I outlined in the introduction, and exactly what I advise my clients not to do, which is to wait for some point in the future when you think everything will be better and forget to live your life right now and enjoy the journey.

So you know, when we're talking about vision, Sometimes clients tell me that when they hit this milestone, things will be great and they're busy with their business. But of course it might take them a year or so to get there, and they don't think about that journey. So I want to encourage my clients and myself to make sure I'm focused on the journey and not just the destination. Of course, right now there are lots of constraints on us. I can't go and spend my time abroad. But another thing that I've been working towards is becoming more of a digital nomad, which is a term that lots of 20 year old Instagrammers bound around while they live their lives on an opioid in Bali.

But as I said, I've proven for the last few years that I can work in a different country and be just as efficient and continue to serve my clients and my audience when I'm sitting at my desk in the UK or sitting at a desk in Cape Town. Now, we are taking one step further because we've just purchased a motor home. And whilst I'm not quite ready to become a socks and crocs, I am excited to be able to find some beautiful places in the U. K. And then hopefully in the near future in Europe where I can travel, explore, and work. And you know, technology really does make this easy impossible to do now because you can get great mobile WiFi setups that you can get solar panels and all that kind of stuff so I can run my computers and record these podcasts and edit videos, and all that stuff whilst being in different locations.

So I haven't taken delivery as I record this podcast, but we're just about to. So we've been busy researching all the tech that I'm gonna need, like mobile WiFi and off grid energy solutions such as solar panels and lithium batteries and all that kind of rubbish. And who knew that there was a whole world of tech and terminology to learn? And right now I'm revisiting my physics level by reminding myself the difference between amps, watts, and volts. Now, by the time you listen to this episode, I will have been away for the first few weekends. So if you want to know how I got on, just reach out to me and I'll let you know. So that's a really exciting project and a new adventure for us. And, you know, I have no idea what the outcome will be. I might hate it, although we've done it a few weekends before, but I'm hoping that I will enjoy it and I can explore parts of the UK that I haven't seen and do it in a pretty inexpensive way. 

Now, the next thing that I have been working on because I've made lots of mistakes with this is getting my kind of team structure in place. So I've tried various virtual assistants. I've tried using a virtual assistant to organise my diary, someone else to do my audio podcast editing, someone for video editing, someone for copyrighting. And it's been really difficult to project manage and they've been really different qualities. So sometimes I find myself trying to delegate and then having to rewrite it, and telling myself those stories like it's quicker to do it myself. So I finally got a structure in place that is really working, so I'm working with a VA company, and my main point of contact is the project manager there. And then they have a team of people that have specialist skills. So they have someone who is really good at creating artwork for social media, someone who is good at editing audio for podcasts, someone else who is great for video editing, and someone who is good for writing content. And I'm only dealing with the project manager. And then she is managing all these other people, and so far that is working well. And that is enabling me to pump out a lot more content and also for me to be able to focus on my superpower, which is creating the content, not necessarily editing this podcast or writing the show notes. So if you are a freelance personal or one person agency, then really think about how you can delegate to a team of people, even if they're just virtual people that you hire for a few hours a week, and I'm going to be recording more about my VA structure and I'm going to actually interview my via on a future episode. So look out for that because, like I said, I think I've got this concept of having a project manager, and then a public publisher and editor working well for me. So I want to share that with you. 

So that's what I'm doing in 2021 to take control of how I run my business. As I said, I think I was starting to fall foul of this idea that when the world opens, I'll be able to start doing things I used to do and pick up where I left off. And I think many of us felt that would start to happen at the beginning of 2021, but here we are halfway through the year and whilst the vaccination is rolling out well in the UK, things haven't really changed in terms of being open and travelling. And to be honest, most countries are not opening their doors to us right now. So rather than continue to mark time and wait for some notional point in the future, I'm creating the kind of working environment that I want based on the constraints that exist right now, and who knows what the future holds. But this whole situation reminds us to live more in the present, and I guess that's sort of the theme of my podcast today, which is to stop marking time and waiting for things to happen in the future. But take control of them now and realise that you have choices and you can make whatever you want happen. And remember that success isn't determined by you growing your revenues 20% year on year on year on year. And so make sure you stay connected to the reason why you run your agency. So I hope this episode has given you some food for thought, and if so, please make sure that you leave a review. I agree. Be eternally grateful. Hit the subscribe button to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes, and I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Is your agency an iPad or a reMarkable?

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share my insights, experiences, and comparison between a reMarkable tablet vs. iPad – specifically what we can learn about their marketing and how it relates to your agency?

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[01:50] Distractions

Like many, I can easily get distracted, so I try to allocate solid chunks of time to focus on specific day-to-day tasks such as working on my group coaching programme content or future strategies.

The problem is when you’re working at your computer, notifications can distract you and there is the temptation to just jump onto the Internet.

[02:26] What is a reMarkable tablet? 

I’m going to do a full review in a future episode (due to lots of people asking me about it!) but basically, it mimics the texture and feeling of writing on a paper without all the distractions of a multi-functional iPad.

[02:40] Reason for Purchase

I had 3 three reasons/goals for purchasing the tablet:

  1. To get more organised
  2. To get rid of paper & become paper-free
  3. To be more efficient

[03:45] reMarkable vs. iPad

I have an iPad and love it. It is a great device – it does many things & does them pretty well. On the other hand, the reMarkable tablet only does one thing & tries to be the best in the market at doing it. It is a replacement for a notebook for taking notes.

[04:27] Generalist Agency vs. Niche Agency

How does this relate to your agency?

Well, the comparison between a reMarkable & iPad is very similar to the age-old debate about a generalist agency vs a niched agency.

The price of a reMarkable is the same as an iPad, so why would you spend the same money on a device that does less? Well just like a niched agency, it does it better than a generalist. The niched agency understands its client’s pain & provides solutions to solve that pain – backed by tons of experience.

[07:12] Thoughts on your Niche

As I outline in my book (link below to grab your free copy).  When you think of your niche, you can cut it in four ways:

  1. By geography
  2. By industry
  3. By deliverable or service
  4. By the problem you solve

[09:13] Using reMarkable

I use the reMarkable to take notes, e.g.

  • When writing a podcast
  • Client notes
  • Working on strategy
  • And to get something out of my head!

[10:04] Translating notes into text

As long as your writing is not like a doctor’s scribble, you are good to go. The reMarkable will translate your handwriting into text.

[11:42] Be like a reMarkable

The reMarkable is a device aimed at people who want to focus on one thing, and it enables you to do that really well. Just as your agency should!

If you are niched and tempted to broaden your services, only do it once you have dived deep on the core product that you already have—unless you bring the skills, systems, and a new area that can be scaled, you will never grow your agency, just dilute your focus.

So be like a reMarkable; focus on one thing, do it well, and be the market leader before you start diversifying!

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Links mentioned in this episode:

Website: https://www.dacostacoaching.co.uk/

Grab a copy of my book (for free): The Self-Running Agency

Buy the reMarkable: https://reMarkable.com/

Listen to more episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast on:

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When Clients Just Keep Wanting More – Managing Client Expectations (part 2)

managing clients expectations

Welcome back! In the previous article, we talked about one of the most common problems agency owners face – managing clients expectations when they keep asking for more. We went over how having a rock-solid service level agreement in place is a huge boon, as it gives you an easy way to handle delivering extras and unforeseen changes.

In this week’s article, we’re going to dive deeper into the things that influence your client’s expectations, and what you can do manage them. Even before you first create that service level agreement, you have the chance to influence how they perceive you. And once you’re working together, you need to ensure that everyone on your team is on board with your methods.

Let’s turn first to how you win their business.

Sell Based on Value, Not Time

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you might already know that I’m a big proponent of value selling & pricing. Rather than figuring out how much time something is going to take you and then quoting prospects based on this time, you should instead figure out how much value (outcomes and impact) your work can create for them and price accordingly.

Getting crystal clear on the value your work brings to the table will allow you to charge higher prices, win better business, and build better relationships. Think about it – when your customers understand you’re solving problems for them that are saving them (or making them) far more money than it costs to keep you on retainer, they’ll be delighted with your arrangement.

Learning to pitch & sell based on value (and not just time) is a game-changing shift for your agency. If you’d like to learn about it in more detail, you can download my free Value Selling eBook here.  

We won’t examine the topic in exhaustive detail here – just the bits that are most pertinent to our discussion about how to manage demanding clients.

First things first…

Selling Commodities is a Difficult Business

It’s normal to price based on time. Particularly for internal control purposes, it’s good to have an idea of how long a particular project is going to take, or how many man hours will be required to get something over the line. However, when it comes to pitching, basing your price on time (and not value) is a critical mistake.

Commodities do not command large prices. When the fuel gauge in your car is teetering towards empty, you probably don’t seek out the station that charges twice the price of all its competitors. You probably don’t like paying a premium for your phone plan or business cards.

All of these are commodities. We judge commodities based on price, nothing more. And if your clients should view the work you do as a commodity, then you’ll be judged relative to other agencies in your industry. If competitor X can get the job done in half the time, they’ll seem more attractive. Even if your work is better, more tailored to their needs, or you’re far more reliable… when you pitch solely based on time, you’ll be trapped in a race to the bottom.

When you give a time breakdown to clients upfront as part of your pitch, you leave yourself open to the extremely common question of “why will x take so long?” – and when faced with this criticism, you’ll often react by discounting your price, which starts you off on the wrong foot and sets the tone for the relationship.

The real issue with pitching based on price is symptomatic of the underlying issue… focusing on outputs instead of outcomes.

Focus on Outcomes, Not Outputs

An agency that wins in the long-term is one that delivers great work to clients. Reputation is invaluable for client-facing businesses, and a reputation for doing great work is one of the most powerful assets you can build as an agency owner.

But to deliver outstanding results to your clients, you have to frame your relationship in terms of outcomes, not outputs.

The outcome is what your client is really buying. The output is what they use to get there.

Think of it like this:

  • A content marketing firm’s outputs might be blog articles, social media posts and general strategy consulting sessions. The outcomes that their clients are chasing are more engaged customers, more leads, more profitable relationships with clients etc.
  • A PR firm’s outputs include press releases, features and media coverage articles. The outcome their clients want is to have a better public image and increase market awareness.
  • A branding consultancy might deliver a new logo and brand identity documentation to their client – but what that client really wants is a refreshed brand, one that lets them capture more market share than before.

“Outputs” are commoditisable. Plenty of other agencies can deliver the same outputs you can. But outcomes are harder to copy. If you build your business on helping clients achieve their outcomes, you’ll have stronger and longer-term relationships.

If they want to expand the scope of your project beyond what you’ve already agreed on, you can politely remind them that you’ve already decided on a direction for the project. If something is to be added, something else must be removed – or else an additional fee will have to be agreed for the extra work.

Three Quick Tips To Help You Deal With Demanding Clients

I’d like to finish off this article by giving you three quick tips that I’ve seen work wonders in agencies of all shapes and sizes. These practices are distilled from my years of experience coaching 250+ agencies in various sectors, so don’t be fooled by their simplicity.

  1. Agree to a contingency fee with clients upfront. Have them set aside an additional 10% of your retainer fee for extra work that might arise during the period. If you don’t do anything extra, you don’t charge them for it – but if you do, you’ll easily be able to get the payment for the additional work and won’t feel awkward asking for it.
  2. Make sure your staff are well-trained in handling client requests. Junior members in particular need to be watched, as they’ll often conflate customer satisfaction with just saying yes to everything that’s asked of them. This can cause problems for your agency as you scale, so don’t forget to ensure that everyone is on board with your way of doing things.
  3. Furthermore, make sure junior staff members don’t respond to clients too quickly! Ensure they’re getting the level of service they’re paying for. Don’t respond to their emails within an hour unless your service level agreement entitles them to this privilege (TURN OFF YOUR EMAIL DIALOGUE BOX!). Doing this is counter-intuitive for some, but will help to prevent unreasonable client expectations in the long run.

And finally… if you’ve done all the above and clients are still asking too much of you, it might be time to consider whether you’re a good fit to work together. Working with your ideal clients is crucial to running a stress-free business in the long run.

The filtering process starts back when you’re first considering them as a client, so if you gut tells you they are not a good fit – listen to it and move on to the next prospect.

In the eyes of your ideal clients, you’ll be seen as a partner, not just a supplier. In the eyes of the non-ideal ones, you’re a supplier – a provider of a commodity, there to be used as necessary. Seek out those clients who see you as a partner.

For more information on how you can determine who your ideal client is, you can get a free copy of my Customer Persona eBook here.

Conclusion

In this two-part series, I’ve addressed one of the most common questions I’m asked in my coaching practice: what do you do with clients who keep asking for more?

These kinds of clients are often unclear about what to expect from your service because you haven’t adequately explained your terms upfront. To counter this, you can create a rock-solid service agreement at the start of your relationship. Include specifics as to the deliverables they’ll get each month, charges applicable for extras, outcomes you’re working towards, etc.

Another reason why clients seem unreasonably demanding is that you sell based on outputs, not outcomes. When you frame your work in terms of how much it costs or how long it will take, you make it easy to compare your proposal to that of many other agencies.

If you pitch based on the value you bring to the table instead, you’ll have less issues with clients demanding more from you (for no extra pay). When you’re both clear on the outcomes your work will deliver on, clients are less likely to request incongruent changes or take up your time with other requests.

Finally, it’s simply good business sense to do certain things (e.g. agree a contingency fee upfront, train your staff to handle clients correctly, and enforce response times to manage expectations). These tips can have a significant impact on your business if implemented, so don’t hesitate to give them a go.

When Clients Just Keep Wanting More. How to avoid the overservicing epidemic (Part 1)

overservicing

If you’ve read any of my other material, you know that I believe that learning to manage your clients effectively is the key to building a successful agency and avoiding the overservicing epidemic. Client management is a complex, multifaceted process: it can’t be explained in one blog post. If you’re interested in taking a more in-depth look at the topic, you can download a free copy of my Client Management eBook here.

In this two-part series, we’re going to focus on one particular aspect of client management that I’ve encountered very frequently in my coaching practice – how should you handle clients who keep asking for more?

Surprising, it’s often our good intentions that cause the most problems for the agency.

When Good Intentions Come Back to Haunt You

Let me know if this sounds familiar to you……..

At the start of any new client relationship, we want to impress them. We’re eager to do everything we can satisfy these clients because we know that the real money is made in repeat business, not short-term contracts.

We sit down with them, figure out what exactly they’re looking for (based on their brief, or by following our own processes), and give them a deadline for the work. Depending on how important this new client is to us, we might place ourselves under some pressure with a deadline that’s a little too close for comfort – but we’re confident we can pull it off.

That is… we’re confident until that client comes back with additional requests (how often do you hear from a client “oh by the way, can you just add this in, it won’t take you long”  Famous last words!  Maybe they want to amend the original project or have some separate work completed. Whatever it is, we’re setting out to satisfy this client, we agree to their request and complete the extra task.

Suddenly, you’re in a position where the client has now got something for free. This starts to create an expectation on their part that they can call you up or fire off a quick email and have their problems taken care of at no extra cost.  

And when you deliver on the main project, they’ll probably be thrilled with the quality of work – and at all the extras they got along the way. But when they return with more requests for the following month, they expect that you’ll continue to handle all these “little extras” for them… even when they add up to a significant time commitment.

If you try to pull back and stop delivering all these extras or try and charge them for them this time, the client can become dissatisfied. They’ve been conditioned to expect one thing, and are receiving another. Because it’s less than what they wanted, they’re unhappy. And unhappy clients are rarely long-term ones.

The Problem With Over-Servicing

Over-servicing is a common way agencies try to achieve customer satisfaction. That’s because it works for the client – by constantly over-delivering on client projects, you can pretty much ensure that they’ll be “wowed” with the service they’re getting – but not for your bottom line.

A tough situation, to be sure – and one I’ve encountered all too often in my coaching practice.

“Going the extra mile” (which by the way, I was telling a client yesterday is NOT a good value for their agency) can be a useful tool for your business, but only when it’s strategically deployed. I always tell my coaching clients that over-delivering by 10-15% occasionally is fine, as they’ll probably be able to make up that difference another month when there’s less to be done. But constant over-servicing in the name of greater client satisfaction is a losing game, not one you should play if you’re trying to build an agency that wins in the long-term (not just today) and remains profitable.

Handling clients that are always asking for more is difficult, but there are certain best practices you can follow to make it easier. Let’s look at the first of these now in more detail.

Create a Rock-Solid Service Level Agreement

First impressions count. If a client’s first impression of your agency is that you’re simply there as a tactical supplier, it’s unlikely you’ll have a frustrating short term relationship with them. However, presenting yourself as a competent and consultative partner from the outset (not just a supplier), results in a stronger long-term relationship based on respect from both sides.

One of the most important things you need to get right is your ‘service level agreement’. You likely already have standard terms of engagement/standard scope of work documents in place – if you don’t, make this a priority!

A really solid service level agreement will outline the scope of work to be completed for a particular project, relevant deadlines, outputs, outcomes, and response times etc. But it’s not just a case of including everything that the project entails… it’s also about figuring out what’s not included.

If you recall the example we discussed earlier on in this piece, you’ll remember that many little client requests add up over time, to the point where you’re losing out on significant amounts of billable hours. This undercuts your agency’s profitability, leaving you with a difficult decision to make – should you keep over-servicing that client to keep them happy, or renegotiate the terms of your arrangement (and risk losing them), or just walk away?

This dilemma can be avoided by setting out:

  • A clear scope of work for what’s included in the monthly retainer
  • The rate you charge for extras (you know I am not a fan of selling hours so try and keep to project fees when pricing additional work)

With this in place, you’ll have an easy out when clients come along with additional requests outside the scope you originally agreed upon. Ensuring they understand that ‘extras’ cost extra from the outset will only be of benefit to your business in the long-run… but if you fail to put this in place upfront, you’ll suffer. Part of this is getting your MINDSET right from the start and ensuring you constantly communicate the VALUE of what you do rather than just the OUTPUTS (more on mindset in a future blog).

Conclusion

In this week’s article, we talked about one of the most common problems I’ve seen in my work with agencies of all shapes and sizes… not being able to to say NO to clients who keep asking for more.

This is a problem for your agency because it puts you in a position where you’re running just to stay in place. When you eventually want to slow down and return to the original terms of your agreement with a client, they’re dissatisfied with a feeling of getting less value for their money.

Starting off on the right foot is very important. With a well-drafted scope of work and agreed service levels, you’ll be able to avoid delivering increasingly unprofitable work and getting backed into a corner by client expectations.

In the next article, we’ll talk about the crucial difference between outputs and outcomes, how you can avoid your work being seen as a commodity, and some quick solutions you can put to work in your business right away to solve this problem. Meanwhile, I would love to hear back from you about your experiences with managing client expectations so please leave a comment, or if you have a specific challenge drop me a message and I’ll give you my best advice.

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