Tag Archives for " agency success "

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…


How Katie landed in the business development world 


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


Reasons why sales and marketing are important for your agencies growth


Tips in developing easy, consistent and reusable content


How to learn the language of your target audience


The best practices in winning new business opportunities 


How to attract high-quality leads


The biggest impact of the pandemic for new businesses 


Katie’s advice to her younger self


“ 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

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!

Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 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. 

Now at present, Cloudways is offering an exclusive discount for The Agency Accelerator listeners, so visit cloudways.com and use the promo code AA20, that’s A-A-20 to get a discount of 20% off of your first three (3) months on the hosting platform of your choice.

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]eet.agency. 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 Committed Are You To Your Niche?

How Committed Are You To Your Niche

How niche is too niche? And, how niche are you? 

I know that's a lot of niches in one sentence! But it’s such an important topic that it deserves that many ‘niches’!

Any of you who listen to my podcast regularly or read my content will know that I am a massive fan of niching.

But it strikes me that a lot of people think they have a clear niche, but when I check them out, they don't.  They tell me about their niche but when I check their website or social media content, they don’t show up as clearly focused on the niche they claim to be in.  Why is this?  Well I think  they are hedging their bets

So, let me remind you why I think having and commiting to your niche is so important.

Here’s a glance at this episode…


What does it mean to have a clear niche?


Why understanding your niche is important


Advantages of having a clearly defined niche


Tips in figuring out your niche


How to stand out from the crowd to more easily reach your target audience


Reasons why you must stay committed to your niche


The impact of broadening or narrowing down a niche


The difference between a generalist and a specialist


How my niche has ebbed and flowed over the years


Four ways you can segment your niche


What is Anthony’s advice to his younger self 


“When you have a clear niche. It means you can produce products and services that you know your audience wants, rather than making a huge mistake of selling products that you think they need.” - Rob Da Costa

“When you have a clearly defined niche, you can also REALLY understand your ideal target customer and their specific needs, challenges, pains that your product or service can solve.” - Rob Da Costa

“..niching is definitely one of the ways where you can minimise the pool of your competition and get much more laser-focused on 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 niche is too niche? And, how niche are you? 

That's a lot of niches in one sentence, but that's why I want to talk about them in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

In running my Agency Implementation Group Coaching call this week, we had a conversation about how committed everybody is to their niche. It's a really interesting topic, so I thought I would dive into that in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. 

So grab a pen, think about how niche you are,  protest your niche 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 Da Costa. 

Any of you who listen to me regularly or read a lot of the content I post through my email list on my blog and on social media will know that I am a massive fan of niche or niching if you are in the U.S. 

But it strikes me that a lot of people think they have a clear niche, but when I check them out, they don't. This often happens at the prospect stage when I'm preparing for that call. They've answered some questions in advance because they follow the qualification process that I teach my clients. I've got some information about them, including their niche. But then when I go and check them out on their website or on social media, they're not really showing up clearly in that niche. 

So it got me thinking, how committed are you to your niche? This was a discussion that we had in The Self-Running Agency Implementation Group call this week, and it was a bit eye-opening for quite a few people. That’s why I decided to record a podcast about this today. 

Now, I've recorded podcasts about niches in the past, but let me remind you why I think the mission is so important. So right now we are in late 2021 and the last couple of years have been really challenging, and I think those agencies that have done well have managed to keep serving their audience. 

But my question is, how can you really serve your audience if you don't understand them really well? And if you don't have a clear nation in more of a generalist, then it becomes much harder to really understand your audience. When you have a clear niche. It means you can produce products and services that you know your audience wants, rather than making that huge mistake of producing products that you think they need. This is that whole. Are you selling painkillers or vitamin pills to your clients? A painkiller is something that's going to get rid of their pain right now, while a vitamin pill is something you know will be good for them, but it won't get rid of their pain. It might stop them from having that pain in the future. But right now, what the client wants is a pain killer, and that means producing products and services that you know your audience needs rather than the ones that you think they want, either vitamin pill.

An obvious point here is that a niche provider will always be able to charge more than a generalist. If you needed knee surgery, you would go to a knee surgeon and not your GP. Then, if you had to pay for that surgery, obviously, the knee surgeon would charge a lot more money. When you have a clearly defined niche, you can also clearly define your ideal target customer, your customer advertises your customer persona and really understands their specific needs, challenges, pains that they have that your product or service can solve.

When you understand that you can create truly differentiating USPs, unique selling points as opposed to those cliches such as ‘We go the extra mile,’ ‘we really care’ and so on, which, of course, everybody would say. Then when you've done all of that, it means that you can create really clear marketing messages and powerful content that really hits home. Your goal with your outbound marketing is for your ideal target customer is ‘To read it and go blind me,’ that person is reading my mind. That's exactly what's going on for me now, and that leads them to think, ‘Tell me more,’ which looks like reading the content, clicking on a link or even booking a call with you.

Now I'm not going to go into too much detail about how to create your niche. You can download a copy of my book, which I put in the show notes, which digs into an itching in more detail. 

But broadly speaking, your niche is the intersection of where you're most profitable, what type of customers do you get the best results for, and what work do you most enjoy doing. Then when you've worked out that niche, you need to be really committed to it. This is the question that I asked and brings me back to the kind of core title of today, which is a lot of people say their niche but they don't really 100% show up about that. All the outbound communications don't necessarily show that niche. As I think that it's because people are kind of hedging their bets. Intellectually, they get the idea and the value of niche ng but at the same time they've got this little voice in their head going, ‘Yes, but if you niched you're going to lose opportunities.’ But if you believe niching will make you lose more generalist’s opportunities, then let me tell you that quite the opposite is true. Because when you have a clear niche, your ideal target customer will be able to more easily find you. And of course, as the specialist, you're going to be able to charge higher fees as I've already said.

Most of us operate in a really crowded market, whether you're a PR agency wherein you provide SEO or PPC services, you're a web design developer or a graphic designer or a content marketer or full-service agency, or even a coach like me, we are all in really crowded markets. We have to find a way of standing out.

Now, standing out can't be because you're cheaper than everybody else or because you promise ridiculous levels of service. Unless your completely online based company has no interaction with customers because being cheaper is never going to make you profitable. So you have to have other ways of standing out and standing out by saying ‘we go the extra mile,’ ‘we really care.’ 

As I said earlier is just cliches because I always think when you're trying to work out your niche, you need to ask yourself when I'm coming up with my proposition: ‘Would everybody else say this with all my competitors say this?” And if the answer is ‘Yes,’ which certainly they would be too, ‘we go the extra mile’ or ‘we really care,’ then it isn't something that makes you different.

Therefore, niching is definitely one of the ways where you can minimise the pool of your competition and get much more laser-focused on who your ideal target customer is. So, as I said, they can actually find you which is the best way for you to be able to reach your target audience.

Then, outbound communications providing value, demonstrating that you know what you're talking about, being very clear about who you serve to enable those people in the pool that you're fishing in to find you and reach out to you.

And that means once you've worked out your niche, being super clear very quickly on the first page on the home page of your website, being really clear in your LinkedIn profile, social media content, email marketing, blogs, guesting, webinars and all the myriad of many things that you can do. Are you always showing up as that specialist niche agency or are you hedging your bets because you think there might be some other fish that you can catch outside of your pool?

Let me tell you this when you win a business that is not in your core niche, it is always much harder to service because you don't really understand them as well as your ideal customer, and they don't really understand you. In order to service, those customers often lead to over-servicing which leads to stress and lack of profitability and no time to go and win those ideal clients. 

So there are 100 reasons why getting clear on your niche, being committed to it is super important. Now you've got to work out how broad or narrow your niches are, and my advice is always to go as niche as you can and then broaden up over time. But obviously, there are some limits to that.f you were 

If a web design agency and you might work with SME businesses, or marketing agencies doing their websites, you wouldn't want to go so niche to say that ‘We’re a web design agency that works with marketing agencies in Brighton,’ because you're going to limit your target audience to sort of maybe 10 companies. But you also don't want to be so broad by saying, ‘We're a web design agency that focuses on WordPress development,’ which is not a niche. That's just being a generalist in a very large pool. So that's a clue that you need to go more and more narrow. 

When you have worked out your niche, how easy is it for you to find your ideal target customer? If I'm a WordPress website design agency, I'm not sure that it's that easy for me to find my ideal clients because they could be anybody and everybody. Now I know that I sound like I'm standing on my soapbox and being really passionate and preaching about this, but I can't tell you how important it is.

It's interesting when I asked this question to my 30 Self-Running Agency Implementation Group members and I said to them, ‘How committed are you to your niche?’ Then I work through some of what I'm sharing with you. A lot of people kind of raised their hand and said, ‘Yeah Rob, you've got a point.’ One of the other questions I got is, can you have multiple niches? And yes, you can, and sometimes they can even be disparate niches. But what you need to do is find a way to present that on your website, and you also need to find a story that links your disparate niches together.

But what you can't do is have so many disparate niches, like five or six disparate niches, because that just makes you a generalist again, and that sounds like you are hedging your bets. 

What you can do is start narrow and flow over time. I’m in year 15 of running my coaching business, and I started out as a generalist coach. I failed spectacularly in the first two years of running my business. I really struggled. I didn't have compelling stories to tell big corporates. If I was talking to a small startup and I told them I work with a big corporate, they think, ‘Well, you can't help me, you won't get me.’

So I then realised I needed to niche. It was easy for me to work out my niche because I previously run my own agency. I decided to focus on the marketing agency sector. Over the next few years, that worked really well. That's my business took off. Then I was doing some work with a non-exact director who works with recruitment companies, and he started referring a lot of recruitment agencies to me. Suddenly I found myself with four or five recruitment agencies in my book, but it didn't kind of make sense to just say that I worked in the agency sector. And broaden out to say I work in the service-based business. 

I'm just gonna put a time out in that story there to jump in and say that when you are niche, it doesn't mean you can't take on companies and clients outside of that niche. It just means that you need to make a very considerate decision if you can help them. If you think you can help them, they get you and you enjoy working with them, then take it on.

Back to my story, I had one of these recruitment clients. Then, I started repositioning myself to say, ‘Hey, I'm Rob Da Costa Coaching works with service-based businesses.’ After a year, I realised that I actually don't enjoy working with recruitment agencies that much. Sorry, any recruitment people who are listening to this. So, I stopped taking on work through that channel, and I refocused my efforts on the marketing agency sector. Then I narrowed it a bit more and said, ‘Actually, the place I really enjoy working and the place I feel like I can get the biggest impact.’ The quickest is working with smaller agencies. 

So my target market now is creative marketing agencies with between one and 15-20 staff. That is where 95% of my clients that I do have 5% on the other side. Outside of that, there are the bigger agencies or even they're not in the agency sector at all. But as I said, I made a very considerate decision when I took them on. That is really how you should approach your niche. 

Then, my question to you is if I went on your website right now, would it be really clear to me about your niche and your specialism? One of the points to say here is to remind you that you can actually split your niche in four ways. When we think about our niche, we always usually think about it by the sector that we serve, e.g tech or finance, but actually can split it in four ways. 

Again, if you grab my copy of my book at the show notes, it digs into this in a lot more detail, but you can dig into it by the geography that you serve. So if I'm a web design agency, I would say something like, ‘We create websites for businesses in London.’ You can cut it by the industry or sector, which is the obvious one, ‘We create websites for gaming businesses.’ You can cut it by the deliverable, ‘We create e-commerce WordPress websites.’ Then you can also cut it by the problem that you solve. This is focusing on the outcome. We generate new business leads by improving your online presence through web development and SEO services. 

Now it's very likely that you would combine one or two of those together, but I've tried to be clever here and combine all four of them just to show you how you can do that, and you would never do. This is a bit of a mouthful, but I'm making the point. ‘We generate new business leads by improving your online presence by developing e-commerce WordPress websites for gaming businesses in London.’ 

As I said, that's a bit of a mouthful, and you wouldn't combine all four. But I just want to remind you that when you're working on your niche, you can cut it in a number of ways. Back to my question, how committed are you to your niche? If I went and checked out your website, would it be clear about the niche that you're in? And if the answer is no, which I think for a lot of people it will be. Then I really challenge you to go back to the drawing board, redoubled down on your niche, be really committed to it and make sure that your website. Also, your outbound calm, such as your LinkedIn profile all show up as that specialist. Trust me, when you provide your niche you can charge more money, it becomes much easier to win clients and you stand out from your competition. Then, you shouldn't be shy about finding a niche. As I said, what you should really do is go as niche as you possibly dare and then think about broadening out over time.

Another point to bear in mind is that when you try to appeal to lots of people because you really want to hedge your bets, as you don't want to be a niche you try to appeal to lots of people. You actually end up appealing to nobody, and then the niche provider comes along and beats you in all the different areas that you are trying to win in. 

So if you're frustrated that you're not winning business or you're going in to pitch, but you're not always winning it. If you're frustrated that clients that you're winning don't really understand you, then I could say double down on your niche and do some work on it. 

Grab a copy of my book because it talks you through the steps of creating your own niche, and if you have any challenges with it, reach out to me. I guarantee that the niche agencies always do so much better than the generalists. I've very rarely seen any kind of agency. That's a generalist doing as well as the specialist agency. As I said, if you needed knee surgery, you would go to the knee surgeon specialist, not the GP and the same is true with your agency.

So I'm going to get off my soapbox now. I hope this episode has been food for thought for you. I challenge you to go back and check your website out, double down on your niche, and I'll see you next week for the next episode of the podcast. 

By the way, if you enjoyed this episode, please consider leaving me a review on Apple Podcast. Also, please think about sharing this with your colleagues as well and really trying to reach more people. It’s one of the best ways I can do that is with your help to get the algorithm to show this podcast to more people. But other than that, have a brilliant rest of your week and I'll see you next week.

Building Communities with Anthony Burke

Building Communities with Anthony Burke

How can building online communities help your agency’s marketing strategy? 

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by Anthony Burke, the Owner of “Brits in Dubai”, as he shares his journey building and monetising online communities as well as his story of living in Dubai and what inspired him to start  his community.

Brits in Dubai is a private Facebook Group that originated in 2014 and is dedicated to helping British expats settle and thrive in the UAE. A great place to get advice, support and network. 

Since then, the group has grown into the number one British expat group with more than 25,000 members and over half a million posts in the last six months alone! 

How can you apply what Anthony has learned and achieved in your agency business?  That is what we set out to explore in this episode.

Here’s a glance at this episode…


Anthony’s journey to building a number 1 Facebook community 


Tips on how to build momentum in your group


How much time is needed to invest in managing an online community?


Why delivering great value is important in monetising a Facebook Group


What is the best and cost-effective way to build professional partnerships


Why you should ‘go unique’


Building landing pages and searching the best keywords


How to find the balance in delivering the value and selling your products/ services


The importance of building your email list


Tips in marketing your products/services to the members of the group


The impact of Covid in business decision making


Living the ‘digital nomad lifestyle’


What is Anthony’s advice to his younger self 


“The thing that I always tell my audience is that when you are creating outbound communications, whether it be through a Facebook group, email marketing, social media, videos or whatever, you need to get this balance of 80% providing value and only 20% selling. ” - Rob Da Costa

“It's about being human, and it's about being real and authentic. If you have a community, listen to what your community needs, then you make sure you produce products and services that they want as opposed to thinking about what's better for them, and you're going to create something that nobody ever buys because they don't actually need it.” - Rob Da Costa

“I'd always say, ‘go with your gut. If it works fantastic, if it doesn't, there are more options.’” - Anthony Burke

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!

Useful links mentioned in this episode: 

 Full Episode Transcription

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

Welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast I am really excited to have with me today, my latest guest, Anthony Burke.

Anthony Burke runs a business called Brits in Dubai. Way back in 2014, Anthony created a Facebook group to help Brits settling into Dubai. A place to get advice, support and network. Since then, the group has grown into the number one British expat group with over half a million posts just in the last six months and about 25,000 members. So I thought it would be really great to have Anthony on the podcast today to share his experience of growing a community like that and then also how to start monetising that community. 

So, Anthony, welcome to the podcast. Is there anything else you want to add to my introduction about where you are and what you do? You've actually done quite well there, Rob. 

Hi. How are you? Are you Well, I'm really good. Thank you. Yeah. Good. Because he has been shining, so that always helps isn't it. It always helps too.

Just kind of elaborate on the group. As you rightly said, this was purely when I'll go back a couple of steps. I was in the UK and I on coffee shops had three coffee shops myself on my now wife, who was the governor of the time again, a little bit stalled. We wanted a new challenge, wants to do something completely different and shall decide I'm going to the device. And I went, why? In my mind, no culture, no history, no anything like that. Basically, I didn't know anything about it. 

So the idea was to go over for weeks. We've enjoyed it and if so kind of look at option thereafter. Then, we went for a week. I didn't come back basically. Gemma did some finalising. She went off and she joined me. Probably six weeks, it makes 22 months later, and I was basically working for a publication called Construction Magazines. Obviously, Dubai is just building and building and building. It was a good place to be.

Then, I've actually done some work on that previously, probably about 20 years ago, and I knew the owner, so I decided to jump in with them. So they'll be there for a year, just see what I wanted to do. And in social media, which was very, very lucky in the back at that particular time. They haven't really caught on. It's usually about 10, 12, 5, 10 years behind. I would say the Western World. It's got a massive now, as you can imagine, But at that time in 2000 and I think he was 14. With that,  I thought that this is my market. This is what I'm going to go after. Let's sit back and develop them. So I built a company called Stepping Social, which is still today and when I first moved by this to use Google, but it just wasn't the tools for really specific questions like,  ‘Where can you live? Where's the best place to come and meet like-minded people and all this kind of stuff?’ So I thought Facebook Group before they were popular with that will be good things soon.

I invited a few friends, people can ask questions. I can just give myself some guidance and what’s not. So it starts with a handful of friends. They are friends, obviously, and they started blooming and blossoming before it, a few 1000 when it's 10,000, and from 10,000 is now 25,000. It just keeps escalating. It's people who recommend the group just because of the help. Readily, the information is that it's very active. People are genuinely very good at giving advice. It's worked out quite well.

So basically, if you want to debate that is the group to join. It’s gonna give you all the information that you need. I'm quite proud of that and I think. 

Sorry to interrupt you. It's interesting that I was doing a bit of research prior to our interview today, and so I was looking at other kinds of groups like that, and any other groups that have fought are way lower in terms of the numbers. So your group has obviously become the number one kind of place for expats to go and learn the network and ask questions and so on.

Right, it's I mean, there's about three or four. I would say that I've seen what I've done to try to mirror that to a degree, not quite successful, but usually disgruntled members from the group that I've tried to have their own thing, and that's fine. If there's a market for others, enough paper and well. Good but ideas to make sure it was all-inclusive, as in there's no such thing as a silly question. There was no such thing as troubling or anything like that and were heavily monitored.

What I would say is because it is a niche group were very keen not to be the latest or anything like that. But we want to say, right, if you are a Brit and you are living and working, but I mean, this is a group for you, we get many other nationalities, wants you to join, but chances are they're wanting to join to sell goods and services. We’re very strict, and we have one person that looks after basically admitting people, and so we do background checks on literally everybody that comes through. 

Just on Facebook, we want to know if there are provisions from the U. K. They are living and working in the boat, and they're not just going to come to the group to sell, because if it becomes just a sail fest and it will absolutely kill your group, that is for sure. The way we've done is, we've been quite creative, and we've been very strong and the management of who actually gets to partner with us within the group.

We'll probably talk about how we monetise up. Throughout this year, I'm interested to ask you this is kind of for a personal reason because I've been really unsuccessful. If I'm honest about growing my own Facebook group, which I've tried on and off over the years and kind of put it parked it really? How did you start from scratch? And I know you said like you invited a few friends and colleagues, but how did it kind of build momentum from that point onwards? Because I guess at the size you're at now, it's sort of easy to organically grow it because so many people are seeing it and sharing it. But when you just got 10 or 20 or 100 members, how do you get from that point to the next sort of next level? 

Well, the other thing is, it's been crazily active within the group, not just leaving it up to other members. Start by building conversations again. People actually talking once you get to talk and the people kind of join them out with the algorithm out to Facebook. Its lots of conversations are going on here, and then they start. You've been to be seen in kind of search engines and whatnot. That's when Britain to buy where I think that the top when it comes to anything, British experts and advice. We were quite elderly people who just joined the group with that based on the number of conversations, but I would say you've got to lead it. You've got to drive it. You've got touch some conversation there that people are going to kind of enjoy doing with us because it's a nation because it is the Brits group.

Then, we started doing events. We get together and got to a venue to meet like-minded people. We even a single night which is strangely enough, because a lot of people just moved to the by there on their own. It's a big, wide world if you like. They tend to be on the younger and the biggest if you like demographic is probably 21 to 35. These people kind of fresh out of uni and whatnot and that they're just trying their feet elsewhere, and it's a great way to do it with.

So having these get-togethers has really helped, and obviously, they start talking. We're going to this event during this group because they would say, and invite your friends. So then they would get other people to join the group. I would do webinars, seminars, and some people that fragment tax seminars. 

A couple of years, but did I was completely tax-free. And a little while ago, they decide that they're gonna start introducing some. Sometimes it's very small, but people need to know. So we started doing seminars and webinars based around that and that you've got very popular.  Again it just drives people and without necessarily wanting to sell, because I think it's probably sailed in a group. It's a big fat turn off. It's all about giving massive value. And that's what we did in the initial stages today. 

Yes, it's interesting because the thing that I always tell my audience is that when you are creating outbound communications, whether it be through a Facebook group, email marketing, social media, videos or whatever, you need to get this balance of 80% providing value and only 20% selling. And because you've got to build that know like and trust with people before they're ever going to buy from you.  So you're sort of singing off the same hymn sheet as me of really focusing on providing value. 

Let's just talk about I know that most agency owners and probably most business owners are super short on time, so they might be thinking about building a community. But how much time do you have to invest like in those early days? Now, if you make a comparison, how much time are you spending actually monitoring, answering questions and marketing the group?

We're more in the initial stages. I'll be honest. It was a lot of hours, and it's not a 9-5 thing. Now, people asking questions all sorts of times. I think if you're really active and you do give these people the good advice as much as you possibly can in the initial stages, then that's a good thing. Eventually, you get your own champions within the group and people with the skill sets. So when somebody's asking about tax kind of questions, that’s going to help them instantly. If someone is looking for property in the marina, right and say, someone, 's gonna tell him where's a good place while our good towers please avoid this tower and whatnot. 

Then, you start eventually, just get me on champions. But yet in the initial stages, it is a lot of work. But it just evens out now, like they were 25,000 adult posts nearly as much as conversational because it’s held on there for me. Lots of people are asking the right questions. I guess the building is ill but I think it's fairly niche as well. 

I think that's key to make sure you're looking at a niche market rather than a generic one, because so many other groups, I absolutely demand is huge. 78 to 200,000 members and then I joined a couple just to see how well they were doing. And there's just no interaction. It's basically people going on there just trying to sell anything and everything. It's a big turn off. People just do not want to go in there to be sold to on on on a regular basis. So it's how you even monetise that and how you kind of manage it. I think that's the key. 

Yes, I think that's perhaps where I could have done better with my group because I was just targeting agency owners but I could have probably notched it down a bit more, so I think that's a really good piece of advice for me and anybody else that's thinking of creating a community is to be as niche as you can, invest lots of time upfront and then make sure you're adding value to the members and getting them to engage. 

One of the reasons why our listeners might be thinking about creating a group is because they think that's the way of building an audience that they can ultimately monetise. This is a silly question for someone who's built an audience of 25,000, but just talk a bit through the value of building that community and in terms of how it supported you, earning revenue and doing business development. 

Okay, Again I'll put some background and I was in Dubai for seven years, and then we moved back to the UK. So everything I'm doing right now is in the UK. We came back to our first child. We haven’t managed to get anything about,  such as life, Covid came around and it's kind of lost. A lot of things were not going to be out there, but it's irrelevant now, to the digital world that we live in.

Anyway, sorry to interrupt you again, and I want to touch upon that whole digital nomad thing at the end. We'll definitely come back to that because I got a shared interest there, Yes, I think the point I was probably alluding to is I'm kind of trying to start now.

We were talking about monetising the value of building that community and how you can use it as a business development platform. Right, we lived up to the UK and I was going to be doing photography that that's why I was getting to then has a full diary full because I was going to be doing wedding photography because that's kind of my past as well. I had a social media company in The Bible, and we did a lot of hotels, restaurants. I use photography from that. So it was a skill set I was using, and I thought I can easily get back into the UK and develop that now that collapsed. There are no weddings going when I had a year full of weddings gone instantly and some other than I'd start thinking, right. ‘How am I going to get myself out of this? This mess that we're potentially in? The circumstances in it?’ And I thought I am spending so much time on this group and my wife, we have somebody else working in that.

We've got about five men knowing the group. Spending a lot of time and I'm talking initially 12-14 hours share between us on a daily basis. It’s nowhere near as much like that now. But the fact is, we needed to get something from this rather than just being these nice people upset this group, and I didn't want to inundate it. So we started working with partnerships. 

Now, what I mean by that is I wanted to work with one specialist that works in any one particular area. If I can say a property developer and themselves and rent houses and wanted that I wanted one specialist, I wanted him to be our champion. Anybody talked about properties where to live, they can give some good, solid advice and that's worked out well. We work with some specialists that do use cars, expert motors, and they do 60% of their business through our group. It's huge, and that's because we give them value out. They talk to people they explain about how they can get finance, that they can sell cars all the registration because it's much different to what is in the U. K. So it's value out. 

And that's what we were saying to people. ‘Look, you are champions. I want you to start speaking to our group, really explain what is you can do for them.” I can make their life a little bit easier. I've gone down this route, and we have one eye care specialist. Basically, with people, I want some money back to the U.K. It was the best way to do it. We must cost of works. The best cost-effective way of doing it through the banks is the same expensive, using an eye FX broker because of some money to and grow so that that helps. That helps our members massively. Because I've got now somebody that goes to and then accountable because they're in the group. So, we know that these people are gonna give good side device and really help out.

So I would say me working with just a specialist in any particular area has worked massively with baggage people sending baggage home. We've got one specialist. I do that now. How we've actually done that is rather than just leaving it to chance and putting on an advert, because if you've been in the group you'll see there's a post it's gonna drop down and we use, like, the feature posts. But we do multiple pulses about that. We do video interviews very similar to what we're doing, asking a business and then they are where they come from, and it's more conversational. Like how they started in the by the weather came from what their background is. 

It's on a personal level. That's what I tried to get through, for our champions of speaking, I do call them champions because, the other people are the best of what they do, and I'm like, I'm heavily focused on looking for those right people, and we don't just let anybody do it. So let's have systematically start looking right. ‘What do you want to our members’ needs? Where do they need to help on a regular basis?’ I mean hotels and restaurants, the 10,000 of them in Dubai, so we can look at lower the different venues for that. But when it comes to specialist advice, I always say, ‘Go unique, go with one person and, let's see how they can help the members.’ So that's how we've done that. And I basically look at people and say, I want to work with you for three years. his is how much is going to cost, and this is what we're gonna do for you.

So that's probably the next thing that we do. Not just a case of post and on the group. And as I know, you're a massive fan of build a list as far as an email list. Yes, absolutely crucial, massively crucial. What we do is build a landing page for any particular business. Anybody wants to talk about any particular product or service, I want them to speak to them directly, but we collect the data. 

Then, it is initial and right. Okay, ‘X Y is asking for properties in the Marina, can you help them out?’  Well, then steer them. Obviously, we've got the data, and we can then talk to them about properties further down the line. Do some added work for the clients. And we also use keywords. The keywords are fantastic in the group. So if anybody is saying I want to again, I'm just gonna use property for now. But anybody who wants to move to the Marina or downtown or to wherever in the city. 

As soon as I mentioned I get pain, and then I put a link straight through. You need to be speaking to such and such is linked to some more information. It can be a brief synopsis of who they are and whatnot. They know who they're speaking to do some debt collection of the phone number. Well, it's usually an email and the name, and now and again, we get a phone number for, like, mortgages. People want to speak to them very quickly. So we collect this information for my list is building all the time. You don't have to give me your email just really joined the group. But people are very willing to give you an email address because it's something that they want. We don't spam them, that's ever so important. We understand the information that's pertinent to what the original query was. It's building up that you've got far more of an open right if you do that as well. 

Yes, there's so much in there that I just want to pick apart a bit. It sort of reinforces the 80-20 rule that 80% add value. But then there is a way of selling as well. It's interesting that I have a client that has been really successful at building a Facebook community, and it's growing, and it's very niche. I won't say who it is because I don't think they're listening. I don't want to know who I'm talking about. Then one day they're a marketing agency and then one day, someone in that community because I'm part of it as well, said. ‘Can anyone recommend a marketing agency that can help us do this thing, which my client could?’ And then someone else went on and said, ‘Oh yeah, go talk to this company,’ which wasn't my client. 

So here's my client running a community with someone asking for their services and someone else recommending another. That is because they were just focused completely on adding value and never letting people know who they are and what they can do. And that's a good example of only, like focusing 100% on adding value but never the 20% on selling. So you've got that balance right. 

I really like the point that you made. It's about being human, and it's about being real and authentic and all that stuff. And I also think one of the great things about community, which again you alluded to, which I think is so important for listeners. If you have a community in whatever way it is, whether that be an email list or Facebook group or something else, and you listen to what your community needs, then you make sure you produce products and services that they want as opposed to thinking about what's better for them, and you're going to create something that nobody ever buys because they don't actually need it.

So I think it's really smarter for you to listen to your audience and then bring in partners that can solve some of the problems and challenges that they have. And of course, the building of an email list.  As you said, I'm a big fan of that. The listeners will know that because I talk about it all the time. But a really good example is like I think building a community online like this is a brilliant strategy. But it's also smart to try and get those people to come to your email list. Because, as I know Donald Trump gave me the best example as he had 20 million Twitter followers, and overnight he lost them. Of course, that's very extreme. 

But these social media platforms can change their teas and sees, and that can have a big impact on you. A good example of that is that a few years ago it was very easy to export your LinkedIn connections and get their email addresses. Then LinkedIn changed their terms and conditions so you can no longer get their email addresses. So encouraging people to move into your list in whatever way is a smart thing to do. 

If you think about your social media agency in creating a community to support the growth of your social media agency or to win more clients, which is obviously what a lot of the listeners would think about, what advice would you give those people? Like it for me, if I was going a group to support my business, and I wanted to turn to find a way of actually turning some of those members eventually into my customers, which is a bit different to what you're doing, what have you got? I know I'm putting you on the spot here. Have you got any advice for anybody that's thinking about embarking on that journey? 

Well, I would not say I must have kind of going so that the community groups, rather than I mean niche is great, but it's quite difficult to target these people to get into a certain group because we're all busy kind of professionals, aren't we? It's spending a lot of time in groups can be a bit counterproductive. So, it's having that fine balance.

Most people are just basically looking to get clients, aren't they? It is tough because I say everything I've done. I've not gone down that route. I've always talked to the community groups. I do think there's a tonne of value, a tonne of business within, so maybe not the right person to spend give advice about lights of the newsgroups supporting agency. 

So you've not thought about doing that for your social media business, then? No. I mean, what I thought about doing is doing more community groups what I've done now looking down at the regional, or, whether the damage that route again in different parts of the world, because they have proved very useful.

Why don't you get the numbers and the people as opposed? But now I just thought about it. I could in reality if, at the time, the crowd, the manpower, these people are coming to me now. Now, my clients, I could potentially outreach them and do their social media, the PR, and maybe you can build a business out of that. I haven't touched that. That could quite easily do that. So, building opportunity groups where people have come in and they've fragments. 

I get this a lot. The drawing, a tonne of groups and all I've done is ever put a post on there. And its hepatitis has been taken down. We've been asked to move away, or it's just not the same kind of impact. That's down to again, down to the age of 20 things. So if you could potentially build up these quality niche groups, as far as the community groups that mentioned in, these groups say there is a business I can get through there because people just don't understand the power of social media, whether or not going to be selling adverse, they're doing PR doing marketing coming to you and chance that they want to advertise in the group is just because they haven't really got much of a clue outside of the group.

So there is a market there. I haven't touched it because I have another partner who basically does web creation and social media presence. which comes to me for that I have set up. I'm quite busy doing what I do that I don't necessarily need to do the other side. But I would do. I build up the community groups because you're going to get people who want to advertise, and if they're doing that, chances are you don't really know what they're doing. Then, you can be their guiding light. I would say, 

Well, that's the thing I guess it’s like any way you can build your tribe, whether it be through these community groups or email this or anything else gives you an audience that you can demonstrate your credibility to build that no like and trust so eventually you're there when they're going help. I get this, but I haven't got time to do it myself. ‘I need some help’ and you're like, ‘Hello, I'm here that I would have?’

Yes, and I think I've seen some really successful business groups you can call in communities the same thing, really, where they've built their tribe using a Facebook group. And then they've been able to really market to that when they're focused on that 20% of the selling. Of course, those people already know, like and trust you, so they're much more likely to buy. 

I'm just going to say that there is one thing that I could have possibly added to that a little while. But again, like a pre covid, basically put out questions saying to businesses, ‘Look, there's a lot of business owners in here. Do you want a networked group?” It is where we can read regularly, almost like a, b and I just for our members and that 400 people sign up a lot. So, if I was that way inclined that could have been a really nice platform for me to say, right? ‘No, I can help you on the X, Y and Z.’ And hindsight, maybe I should have done that and it’s not. I can't do it now. But I think building up that group, you're going to get these natural people coming in anyway. Then you can touch that. I’m not saying. Then you can say you want to set up your own kind of network professional within that. You've got low hanging fruit potentially and it's not a big leap, isn’t it? From having the community to then saying ‘OK, well, now we're creating a networking group and you're going to pay £20 a month or whatever for that.’

That's great. Now you touched upon this early earlier that you're now back in the U. K. and just for listeners Anthony, any sort of achieving the digital nomad status of currently travelling around the UK while his son is still young enough to be able to do it in there in their motor home and having lots of adventures but still being able to work. So just tell us a bit about that decision. Obviously, Covid had some impact on it, but tell us about that decision and, what it's like, right?

Okay, well, against me being me, if I have an idea, I kind of go with it. Paul, Jim, I should just go. We're gonna have coffee shops, Okay? We're going to go to want to live in a different country, okay? We'll come back. And then he said, Well, ‘I'm getting stalled.’ We've all been locked up for such a long time. I've lived in the UK for numerous years. Obviously, I spent seven years in the divine. We came back and I said, I've been literally everywhere in this country, and I cannot tell you anything about it, because wouldn't it be nice to just go from one town to another town and really kind of enjoy and explore and just trundle around?

So we said, ‘Right, let's get a motor home, and do a two-year trip,’ which is what we're on now. Been doing it since April. Well, so far we've been as far as Carlisle all were done to then to Cornwall, which is amazing. Unfortunately, we caught Covid and, in the common wheel, myself and my wife, isolated in a van with a two-year-old. Yes, through its challenges that was quite difficult when we eventually could. We weren't contagious. We managed to get back to our base in Cheshire. That's good. Yes, well, so we came back out again a couple of weeks ago.

But the idea was one just enjoys the kind of digital nomad lifestyle to up to two years old. I'm an older dad. I'm 50 now and I wanted to spend as much time with him. This is why I love the digital kind of frame. Why you don't need to be anywhere. 

So he's going off, and he's having the best time of his life. He's seen so many cool things were going so many nice places. I can work from the van. I'm gonna set to help. I've got a WiFi setup pack of solar panels so I can just work here. We also built, but we've got these pop-up areas. So when it's raining, he's got play areas to play outside can still work. We bring our car with us as well. Then, Gemma can just go off for the day. I do my work, do whatever I need to do.

And then, we've got family time, and it's not just a case of coming home and just watching TV, we've got a new backyard every other night, and it is such a nice way to live. It really is. I'm going to have this helps out it down. They're trying to go from a four-bedroom detached house to basically a small box. It's quite difficult, but we're managing it, and we're doing well because of it. It's just open up your eyes and you meet so many nice people and you get to see so many beautiful places that you probably passed through and not giving it a second top. And to be able to do the exploring to be able to work, just live which everybody's dream life. To be fair, we're living it. It's quite nice, but I think it's because we thought a few years ago about this digital world, and to be fair, it wasn't covid. I probably wouldn't have done this out of setting up an office that I just kind of developed, and I don't think we would have developed as quick as what we have done.

Because of Covid, everything's going online. My Zoom meetings. I have three or four of these days sometimes, and it's opened it up for me. I'm paying so much you used to do in the Zoom something so you don't need to do. You don't need to jump in. You can go to a meeting two hours away for a half-hour, 45 minutes and then do another two hours drive. You are much more effective doing the way you're doing now in digital, well again, doing it in a space I just love, and I like to have a new backyard every other day. It's just a really nice way. 

So I'm sure lots of listeners will be listening with envy. But it's completely possible, and I think we put a lot of our own roadblocks in our way that keep us in a comfort zone and stoppers doing these things. It's completely possible, and as you say, if there's anything positive to be taken out of the coronavirus situation. It's meant a lot of us have had to move online and proved that we can work remotely and also proved that travelling is not a very effective way of running the business.

Last Friday, I had to go to London. It was the first long sort of trip that I've done. And so I was in London for a two-hour meeting and it probably took me six hours in total. I drive there, have the meeting and come home. I mean, it was a necessary meeting because I needed to meet this person face to face. But it does remind you that it's just not efficient. At that same time, I could have done a 32-hour meeting. 

So if anybody is listening to this with envy about what Anthony is done, then just remember that it's completely possible. You just have to get out of your own way and make those decisions. 

Okay, so before we wrap up, I just wanted to ask you the question that I ask all of my guests, which is if you could go back in time and give your younger self a bit of business advice when you're just starting out, what would it be? 

I've tried a couple of different things, and I'm quite pleased that I have. I'd always say, ‘Go with your girl if it works, if it works fantastic, if it doesn't, there are more options.’ I think that the younger me would have. Maybe I did a lot of self-doubts. I mean, eventually, I've done things, but I think I would have done it a lot easier a lot earlier. I would say, ‘Just go with your gut feeling if it works from tough, if it doesn't, there's always other options.’ And I think you're a longtime dead as well, so you kind of got to live your life, because the possibilities now are endless. I wish we had the opportunity. 

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

I just get a good bit of advice. I think I always say to people, back in ‘92 when I started my first business, and it was my young, arrogant, naive, innocence that probably enabled me to do it because I didn't know anything else, whereas now I'm old grey and cynical. So I think listening to your got such a good bit of advice, I think it's an I've got instinct. That flight or fight is a thing that keeps us safe. And there are so many scenarios, including that one where we need to listen to our gap.

Anyways Anthony, I really appreciate your time today. If people want to get in touch with you or learn more about Brits in Dubai and so on, where would they go? That's something usually two but I'm assuming Mafia readers are not in Dubai or of any interest in going there. But if they want to reach out to me personally, I'm more than happy to do that so they can send an email or they can follow me on Facebook, it's Anthony Berg. The email is [email protected], and I'm happy to field any questions. 

I'm even thinking about creating a training package to show people how to develop a good straight-faced constructive and talk about other things more in-depth than what we have done today and build out can build it as a business. So I'm in the process of thinking of doing that. If there's enough interest and also a great idea. 

We'll include will include the links in the show notes, including the Brits in Dubai, because people might want to just have a look at what you're doing. And if anyone wants to reach out to Anthony and have a chat with him about building your community, then he's just giving you that office, please do. 

But other than that, I want to say a big. Thank you for giving up your time today. I know you're in that. I think you're in the Lake District at the moment, so there's probably lots of beautiful things to see, but you're sitting here with me instead. 

So sad. I've got 11 o'clock and 12 o'clock meetings. I'm not seeing much of Kendall at all today, but yes, I'm in the Lake District is beautiful. I don't work Fridays. Friday is the weekend. That isn't Saturday for me, it’s my complete two days off. Yes, we're going to win the man that kind of thing, but brilliant, Rob. Absolute pleasure. Thank you so much for having me today. Welcome. Thanks for joining us.

How to Achieve Flexibility and Freedom in Your Agency, Without Losing Control

Let's face it, many of us started our own business because we're control freaks - we want to be in control! 

We may have worked for a business before where we didn't like the way they ran things or thought we could do it better. And that's often the catalyst to start our own business. 

But what happens when control comes at the expense of the flexibility and freedom that we hoped we would get when we started out on our own? 

In today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I share my thoughts about achieving flexibility, freedom AND control, why creating a plan is so important and some of my own personal successes and failures in my entrepreneurial journey.

Also, I talk about the importance of efficiency in how you use your time, my future aspirations to work a 4-day work week, and how I am achieving this by hiring the right team.

Here’s a glance at this episode…


Early struggles and challenges in my marketing career


How to be in control of your own destiny


What’s my belief about success and failure? 


Tips in achieving flexibility, control, and freedom as an agency owner


The importance of creating a plan


Why you should start hiring (the right) people


Three (3) ways on how you can spend your time


The importance of having solid foundations in place


How to focus on your marketing strategy


Why I believe creating a succession plan is important


What are my future aspirations


How to work a 4-day quality work 


How the pandemic removes roadblocks from our plans and stories


Importance of delegation and having the right team


Why you should always keep going back to the reason you started your business


“I still believe that my successes are my successes, and my failures are my failures, and that's one of the reasons why I love running my own business.” - Rob Da Costa

“..If you're very intentional about your direction, you have much more chance of retaining control but also getting the flexibility and freedom in place as well.” - Rob Da Costa

“You have to put the infrastructure of the foundations in place to grow to the next level and then put the next set of foundations to grow to the next level again.” - 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

Let's face it, many of us started our own business because we're control freaks. We want to be in control. We may have worked for a business before where we didn't like the way they ran things or thought we could do it better. And that's often the catalyst to start our own business. 

But what happens when we start losing all the flexibility and freedom that we hoped we would get when we start our own business? Because we wanted to retain control? 

That's the topic of today's podcast. So another action-packed episode and let's get on with the show.

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 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. 

I remember in my early twenties when I was the marketing manager for a small software company and we really struggled to find a good PR agency that understood the tech that we sold, and therefore I found myself rewriting most of what they did and felt like they were just a glorified admin resource. 

So that was a kind of catalyst for me to leave and start my own agency, and that's what I did. I thought I could do it better, and I had young arrogance, naivety on my side because little did I know what the next 11 years were going to bring for me.

One of my thought was that I can do it better and I can be in control of my own destiny because if I'm honest, the company I was working for was kind of going nowhere but downhill and I had little ability to infect that direction. 

So leaving and starting my own agency, I thought, are being controlled. My successes are my successes, and my failures are my failures, and I can do it better than what's out there now. There is a lot of arrogant youth in that thinking.

But actually, I still believe today my successes are my successes, and my failures are my failures, and that's one of the reasons why I love running my own business. 

If we are not careful, we can end up working for a much tougher boss than the one we've just left because we are so demanding on ourselves and we may lose sight really quickly that the reasons we started our business are yes, to be in control, but also to have more flexibility and freedom. So flexibility in what we work on, how many hours we work, the kind of prices we charge and freedom to maybe have some time to focus on other things and certainly get good work, life boundaries. But of course, we all know that that can really quickly go out the window. 

So it's kind of the premise of what I teach my paying clients these days is how to retain flexibility and freedom without losing control. It's kind of the premise of what most people aspire to but really struggled to achieve. 

One of the first things that we need to have in place is a sense of travel. You can call that what you like a plan or a vision or mission statement, but it just needs to say Where are you headed?

And I always like in this to a journey. Do I want to go to the south of France or do I want to go to Scotland? Because of the way I am going to get there, the strategy and then the detail of how I'm going to get there, which is the plan. Look very different, depending on where I want to be heading. So you just need a sense of travel about where you want your business to be over, say, the next five years. And then you want to break that down into a three-year plan, a one year plan and then turned that plan into a strategy.

So this is how we're going to get to the south of France. We're going to take a ferry. Then we're gonna take a train, and we're going to hire a car, and then you need your monthly plan, which is specific. ‘What do I need to do? Which ferry do I need to catch? Where are we staying overnight? Where do I buy the ticket for the train journey? And which car company are we going to rent?’ That's still the plan. That's your monthly plan. And if you have this and you're very intentional about that sense of direction, you have much more chance of retaining control but also getting the flexibility and freedom in place as well.

The next thing you need to do is start hiring great people. One of the common issues I see with so many growing agencies is that they have an amazing leader and then a big gap between them and the next tier of staff. This is often because the only people who can afford to hire when you start out are more junior people. And if you're not careful, you end up having a big gap, and that means you, the owner, is totally entrenched in all the client work. All the clients want you on their account. Everybody's looking at you to solve problems. And again, if you're not careful, you can end up being tied to the business more than ever. 

If that rings true for you, well, you're certainly not alone. And a lot of people come to me because they're frustrated that they're sort of stuck on what I call the client service hamster wheel of doom and that they wish people would step up. But they don't know how to. 

So one of the things you need to do is make sure you're hiring the most senior people you can, and when you're able to hire people that are better at doing delivery work than you because that will free you up to do the thing that you the owner can do best, and that is working on the strategy for your business.

So let's just take a step back here, and I've spoken about this many times before, but there are three ways you can spend your time. There are three pots that anyone can spend their time in. You can spend it on revenue. This is doing client work and revenue is simply defined as money this month. So it's all projects that you have on the books you are currently delivering. Then you can spend time in strategy and strategy is simply how we are earning money in the future. This is marketing. This is sales. This is business development, and this is planning. So that's creating that plan to the south of France. 

Also, you are the best person to do that. If you don't do it, nobody else is going to be doing it. So you need to make sure you have enough time to spend in that second part, which is strategy, and then the third part is admin, and this is everything you do to run your business, and it's usually a cost to your business. These things like HR and finance and systems and processes and things that give you that infrastructure on that platform to grow your business. That might be really boring as the agency owner but are nevertheless vital just to use another analogy. 

If you want to build an extension to your house, you have to put solid foundations in place. First of all, otherwise, that extension will fall over, and the same is true for your business as well. You have to put the infrastructure of the foundations in place to grow to the next level and then put the next set of foundations to grow to the next level again. 

If you think of a typical diagram that you'll see about a growing business, they'll show you a curve. But the reality is that any business grows in a stepped way where the horizontal part is the infrastructure, and then the vertical part is growth. 

So you need to be hiring a team to delegate as much of the revenue and the admin to as possible, freeing you up to focus on strategy. And if you're not able to spend at least 20 to 35% of your time in that strategy space, then, ‘Hey, guys, there's a big iceberg up ahead and you're not seeing it. And your business is just going to kind of go round in circles at best or hit that iceberg at worst.’

Again if you want to put succession planning in place or if you want to work on side projects, you have to be really intentional about this, about putting the plans in place and putting in the people in place to deliver that. 

I just wanted to share with you a little bit about what I'm doing myself, because I need to make sure, of course, that I practise what I preach, that I'm not just telling you and my clients a bunch of theories that I actually don't implement myself, or I don't even know if it works.

So I'm 56 years old, yet I know I don't sound anything like 56 but I'm 56 years old and I want to work into my early sixties, I'm starting to think about a succession plan now. One of the things that I always tell my clients who want to have a succession plan. Whether that be, sell their agency or have a management buyout or just be less involved in the day to day is that they need to know what they are doing next.

For me, my goal is to next year work four days a week, and I think I can be just as productive and do just as much work, if not even more work in four really focused days, then I perhaps can do in five where sometimes I'm not so focused.

With that, I'm planning to stop working on a Friday. But of course, in order to make that happen, I need to have an interest because otherwise, I can really see myself just kind of thinking, Well, I haven't got much to do and what as well work. Certainly, I had that mindset during the pandemic and I ended up working long hours and weekends because there was nothing else to do and I realised that that just isn't healthy for so many reasons, and I'm sure some of you can relate to that.

We recently bought a camper van, and whilst this has been something that we've been talking about doing for a number of years. The whole decision was expedited because we were so frustrated at the number of foreign holidays that we couldn't go on and waiting and waiting and waiting to see if and when we'll be able to travel and even when other countries will let us in. So we decided to bite the bullet and buy the camper van. 

Now, a second reason for me personally doing this is because I've always dreamt about becoming more of a digital nomad and some of you know who follow me that when I've been allowed every year from mid-January to mid-February. I've spent a month abroad, usually in Cape Town, because it's the middle of their summer and I love it out there and I've been able to do my vacation but then also work just as efficiently as I can back home. It's sort of dabbled my toe in becoming a digital nomad.

Then, we've got the camper van. We've been able to put WiFi into the van and on a number of occasions already. I've been able to work from the van and be based wherever, so it's sort of proving that concept.

And now, on my Fridays off, I am planning to share my story with a whole new audience of camper van campus and motorhome enthusiasts. I know that sounds a bit nerdy, but, hey, there's a whole world. But I've discovered and I want to share my story with them. So we are creating a new website. We're also launching a new channel. It's going to be called ‘On The Road Again,’ and I am going to be documenting our journey of choosing the van, of buying the van, of getting the van, of going to sites, and working as a digital nomad and hopefully sharing our stories as we go around Europe as well. So that's what I'm gonna be using my Fridays for.

Actually, I can plan what videos to shoot, blogs that I want to write on that Friday, By having that day filled with these activities of interest that I'm really passionate about, then I know that I will make sure I focus my four days on delivering my coaching business and having the Friday free to focus on ‘The Camper Van Project’ whilst not feeling like I've forgotten to do something in my coaching business.

Now, don't worry. I've got no plans to stop doing my coaching. I really want to focus on the two key things that I do, which is my private one-on-one coaching and my group coaching programme, The Self-Running Agency. 

So there will be lots more new content coming out on that. But as I say, I really convinced that I can deliver the same amount of quality work in four days. Then I am currently doing in five days without working longer hours in those four days and certainly without working weekends. And by having this knowledge of what I'm going to do with that fifth day, then I'm pretty sure that it's going to happen.

It's funny. Having the camper van is a fairly small thing, but it just reminds you that there are many adventures to be had now, and it also reminds you about living in the present a lot more rather than constantly planning for the future. 

Our goal, we hope, is to still go do foreign vacations is to go on one big trip a year in the winter, but also to be able to take the van into Europe as much as we are allowed to or when we're allowed to. And as I said, I've managed to get WiFi in there I've actually done a few calls from there already, and I know that I can work from there just as efficiently as I can from my desk in my office.

I guess it's funny in a way that the pandemic has kind of removed some roadblocks to expediting some of our plans and actually removed some roadblocks into the stories. We tell ourselves that stop us from doing these things because I guess, if anything, the pandemic has also taught us that we never know what's around the corner. 

There's a number of morals in this story. It's not just about me trying to sort of tell you my story or brag about what I'm doing, which is not my intent at all but is to say it's so important to have a plan so that you can retain the reasons why you started your agency and you can have that flexibility and freedom if that's what you wish.

Having a plan gives you a sense of direction and also thinking about getting a team around you that you can delegate more work to. I want to give a shout out to my VA Team of Cess because they have been fantastic and they do so much of my work. Like I record obviously this podcast. But I just hand it over to them, to edit, to create show notes, to create the social media, the graphics and so on. And it's been a revelation for me in that it means I can focus on what I'm good at doing or enjoy doing, like recording these podcasts, but I don't have to spend five times longer editing and creating show notes and so on, which isn't so much fun. 

So even though I'm a one-person business, I still have a really good team. I have, like a project manager, and then she manages a number of other specialists who have video editing or audio editing skills or social media skills or graphic design skills and so on. 

And so I really encourage you to do that so that you can delegate down as much as you can, and again that gives you the ability to retain control of what you like doing and what you're good at doing and making sure that you allocate enough time to that strategy. Remember, you want to be spending sort of 20 to 35% of your time in that strategy space. 

So I guess the purpose of today's podcast and recording this topic is perhaps to remind some of you guys to remember why you started your business to make sure you stay connected to that, to get good boundaries in place. So that you are not to start permanently on the client service hamster wheel of doom with no way of getting off of it and with no light at the end of the tunnel. 

Make sure that you are creating a plan. Make sure that you are building a really strong team. Make sure you're training your clients to expect that team to be their main contact and not you. And make sure you're focusing on your superpower, which is usually in that strategy space, focusing on what's next. If you have some thoughts around succession planning and what you want to do in the future, then make sure you know what you're going to do with that one back time. 

So I hope that has been useful for you today. If you're interested to work out how you're spending your time between those three pots between admin strategy and revenue, then connected to this podcast you'll see in the show note links a link to a tool that I use, which helps you analyse how you spend your time in those three pots over a two week period so that you can then say, ‘OK, I'm really stuck in the revenue space. But I know I need to allocate more time to strategy,’ and then you can start to work out how you can move that. 

I think you'll be surprised if you use this tool to work out how you're currently spending your time. Most of the time I use it with my clients. They're always surprised that they thought it was but it turns out to be. So go and grab a copy of that tour. It's really simple to use and, you know, get back in touch with me if you've got some surprises when you've analysed it.

But other than that, I hope that the brilliant week I hope you stay in control and I'll see you next week for the next episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast.

Using A Lead Magnet To Get New Subscribers To Your Mailing List

Any of you who listen to my podcast regularly will know that when I have a guest, I ask them what advice they would give their younger selves just starting out in business if they could go back in time. 

Now some of you have asked me, “well Rob what would you say to your younger self?” So, the piece of advice I would give my younger self is to start building my email list as soon as I started my business. If I had figured that out earlier, I would have a much bigger list now. And more importantly, I would have a much bigger pool of ideal target customers to nurture and ‘fish’ from. 

So in today's episode of The Agency Accelerator podcast, I want to revisit one of my favourite topics because it's one of the most valuable things you can do in your agency and talk about the importance of building your mailing list, and more specifically, how to get new subscribers to join your list. 

Now I've spoken about the importance of building your list before (in episodes 5 and 30), but today I want to dig in to specifically discuss how you can get more subscribers.

Here’s a glance at this episode…


What advice would I give my younger self if I could go back in time?


The importance of building a mailing list


What is the best structure for an email?


How to win new clients


Understanding the value of a ‘lead magnet’


What is the best place to get people to start engaging with your lead magnet?


An overview of how a sales page works


The components of an email automation system


How to set up a sequence of emails in an email automation system?


“Every business will have two or three marketing activities that work well for them and deliver good results.” - Rob Da Costa

“..the bigger the list, the more value you will get from it. And communicating regularly with your list means that you're keeping your list clean and you are keeping them connected with your agency.” - Rob Da Costa

“Remember, your goal with these emails is to nurture them through the sales funnel so that you can identify your five-star prospects (your hot prospects) and start having a more personalised engagement with them.” - 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

Any of you who listen to my podcast regularly will know that when I have a guest on, at the end of the episode, I asked them what advice they would give their younger selves just starting out in business if they could go back in time. Now some of you have asked me, well Rob what would you say to your younger self? So, the piece of advice I would give is to start building my email list as soon as I started my business. I know that's a sort of really practical piece of advice, but if I figured this out earlier, I would have a much bigger list now. And more importantly, I would have a much bigger pool of ideal target customers to fishing. 

So in today's podcast, I want to revisit one of my favourite topics because it's one of the most valuable things you can do in your agency and talk about the importance of building your mailing list, and more specifically, how to get new subscribers to join your list. Now I've spoken about the importance of building your list before in episodes 5 and 30, but today I want to dig in to talk about how you can get more subscribers.

Now hopefully, many of you will buy into the concept of building a mailing list. You'll also know that it's not really worthwhile buying in a list or building a cold list by people that don't know you and have given permission to be emailed by you. So you need to get people to opt in to join your list so that they are a warm, receptive audience. But how do you go about doing that every day so that you're getting more subscribers? Well, that's the topic of today's podcast.

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value-added interviews with your host agency owner and coach Rob Da Costa. This episode of the podcast is sponsored by my own programme, The Agency Selling System. The programme provides you with a resource library of video trainings, tools, and templates for everything to do with new business from your positioning, your marketing strategy, including everything you need to know about building your email lists and creating engaging nurturing sequences to convert your subscribers into loyal customers. Everything to do with selling and client retention and growth, just to name a few of the topics. You can see more about the programme by checking out the link in the show notes and as a thank you to my listeners for following me on the podcast. If you use Podcast10, that's podcast number 10 at checkout. Then you're going to get a 10% discount off the programme.  Okay on with the episode and this particular episode is action-packed, so it's well worth you sitting down and grabbing a pen and paper so you can take some notes. 

Every business will have two or three marketing activities that work well for them and deliver good results.

And these were based on the type of content their audience likes to digest, and also on the things that you're good at doing, whether that be making videos or recording a podcast like this or writing detailed blogs. But one of the things that are non-negotiable that every business should be doing and underpins so much of your other marketing activities is building your mailing list. Consider that every warm lead that you add to your list is worth £10 a month in revenue, Then hopefully you would be motivated to want to add more contacts to that list, and secondly, you would want to communicate with them frequently so that you can convert those contacts into revenue. Now, of course, you want to make sure that you're adding value when you send emails and you're not spamming your audience. And you also want to make sure that you are getting the structure and the content of your emails right, so that you're focusing 80% of the time on value and 20% of the time on selling. But that structures a topic for another podcast. Basically, the bigger the list, the more value will get from it. And communicating regularly with your list means that you're keeping your list clean and you are keeping them connected with your agency.

Now, if you want to win new clients, not only do you need to demonstrate that you're good at delivering your service, whether that be web design or writing or SEO strategies, but you also need to be showing up as the expert and the trusted advisor, and your email marketing strategy is a great way of doing that consistently by showing up in your prospects inbox and providing them with small bite-size pieces of value whilst demonstrating your expertise. Remember that we have to take our prospects through that no like and trust funnel and email marketing is a great way of building all three of those stages. 

But another way of providing even more value and positioning yourself as that trusted advisor and expert is by offering a more detailed lead magnet. So you may well have heard of this term before, but let's just take a step back. For those who haven't and explain exactly what a lead magnet is. As the name implies, a lead magnet is something of value that is going to attract your ideal target customer to part with their email address in return for receiving this lead magnet. Now it needs to be something that genuinely provides value so that it demonstrates your credibility and understanding of your client’s challenges. So what could a lead magnet be? Well, it could be a number of things from a detailed 10-page guide to a one-page template or top 10 tips. It could be a video lesson, or it could even be something like a quiz that provides some insights for the reader once they have answered the questions, and, of course, they received those results fire an email once they've submitted their email address. It just needs to genuinely impart some value to your reader. It's going to focus on the ‘why’ and the ‘what.’ And of course, when the client works with you, you're going to be delivering the ‘how.’ 

Now one of the questions that people often ask me when I'm talking about this with my private clients are my group coaching programme is, they say. But, Rob, I'm worried about giving so much information away that they won't actually want to work with me. But the reality is that clients come to you because they are time-poor and they don't have the time or the resources or the skills in house to solve the problem. And so they just want you to take the problem off their hands. So let's remove that as one of the reasons why you don't want to produce a detailed guide or you fear giving too much value away. Remember, people are time-poor. They've got time to go and figure this out for themselves, and they want you to solve the problem for them. So the lead magnet is just going to be providing them with some value and showing them via this value that you are the right person on the right agency to help them.

Now one mistake that I've made in the past is producing so many pieces of content for my lead magnet, and thinking that I need to have lots of these mitt lead magnets, and that's the right way to generate more email sign-ups. But the reality is that you only need one or two pieces of really great killer content to act as your lead magnet to start getting regular subscribers to your email list. So let's dispel another myth, which is I need lots of these lead magnets. No, you don't just start with one. And again, if I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice, I'd say, Rob, you don't need to have 20 or 30 lead magnets on your website. Start with one. Make it the best piece of content that you can promote the hell out of that, and then over time, you can add more to it. But just start off with one and market it really well. Oh, and by the way, let's dispel. Another myth here is that you don't need to spend thousands of pounds getting it beautifully designed pdf. Obviously, if you're a design agency, it needs to look like and you might have those design capabilities in house. But if not just used canvas and create a nice template so that it's easily readable. Remember, people are judging you based on the quality of the content. They're not judging you on the design. 

Okay, so now you've got this one piece of killer content for your lead magnet, and you've created a nice PDF or you've shot a video. Well, you've written the quiz. Where do you promote it? And how do you get people to start engaging with your lead magnet so that they can access it in return for their email address? Well, the best place is going to be your website, and what you want to do is create a specific sales page or landing page on your website so that when they arrive, they're seeing some really engaging and enticing content. It's almost like an ad if you like, to encourage them to download the lead magnet. Now, this sales page needs to lead with your client’s pain and then show them how your lead magnet will help them start transitioning away from being in pain to not being in pain and how to do that as quickly as possible.

Now I'm going to do a future episode on the anatomy of a great sales page. But a quick overview of a sales page needs to start with a really engaging headline, which typically looks like how to achieve a desire without getting stuck on an obstacle. So a recent headline for one of my cells pages using this formula was: “How to increase your profits without fear of losing clients?” So take that approach to your headline and then promote the freebie. The killer content is the lead magnet.

Now you're also going to want to include some testimonials or which could be written. Or there could be a video of people that have used your freebie and get value from it. So that's something to bear in mind to get some feedback from people, and a really important point is that you want to make it really easy for your reader to access your freebie. So make sure that right at the top of the sales page, almost below that headline and what we call above the fold, you've either a form that they fill in, which might just be their first name and their email address or a button to click on, which will open up a pop-up form. And you want to make sure that that's not buried somewhere at the bottom of the page. In fact, you're probably gonna want to include this but formal button at least twice on the page, once at the top and once at the bottom. And if you're using a long-form sales page and you're probably going to have it in the middle as well. So don't be afraid of putting that several times and making it really easy for your reader to access it. So, as I said in a future episode, I'll go through the anatomy of an ideal sales page. But that just gives you a kind of quick snapshot and have a look around my website to see some examples of sales pages. In fact, I'll put some links into the show notes. 

Okay, so you've written your piece of killer content. You've created this amazing, engaging sales page. Now we need to link it all together using the right tech. Now, sometimes this can feel really overwhelming, and actually, it's a barrier for some people to start building their email list. But at the end of the day, it's pretty simple. So let me outline the tech, and the process is you need to connect all of these pieces together. So basically you need three things. A website to host yourselves a page, an email automation system to send out the killer content and then subsequent follow-up emails and a form that people fill in to request the piece of killer content in the first place. So let's break these down, and we're going to start off with the email automation system. So you want to start using something like convert it or Mailchimp or ActiveCampaign. And I've personally used all three of these over the years. But now I host all my emails in Cartwright, which is an all in one system, and my websites are also hosted there. My email automation system, my forms, my videos and so on. But I would start simply by using one of the systems that are just off for email automation, and I'll list all of these in the show notes. Now, of course, you can also need a website, and I hope that with the website that you have you can easily create new pages yourself, rather than having to go back to your web development agency every time you need a new page. And certainly, if you use a platform like WordPress and a design system that sits on top of it like Thrive Architect, it will be very easy for you to create a new page. In fact, tools like Thrive Architect and Kartra that I use give you lots of pre-designed templates for sales pages, which are a great starting point. 

So now you've designed ourselves page. You need to connect the form to the email automation system, and you'll be able to do this in one of two ways. You either create the form in your web development platforms such as Thrive Architect, and then you link it through to your email automation system, or you create the form in your email automation system and embed it on your website. Now I know that might sound complicated, but trust me, it's not. It will take you 10 or 15 minutes now, of course, to ensure that you are GDPR compliant. You'll also want to make sure that you have a tick box confirming that the reader allows you to send them further emails. And your email automation system will make this very straightforward to add that in. In fact, usually, it's just part of your settings to say you include GDPR compliance approval. I hope that doesn't sound too complicated because it is really very simple. 

So the final piece of the jigsaw is the emails that you're going to send once they've given you their email address and requested to receive your lead magnet. And the nurturing sequence of emails that you send after they've downloaded the lead magnet is really important so that you can start to move them through the sales funnel and build that know-like and trust journey with your ultimate goal, being a meeting to discuss a potential project that you could help them with.

Now, one piece of really important advice here is that make sure you deliver your lead magnet via email. Don't just redirect someone to another page on your website where that PDF appears because that will encourage people to give you bogus email addresses. Whereas if they know that you will send the lead magnet via an email, then they have to give you their correct email address, so that's a really important tip. Also, by doing this, you force or highly encourage people to tick that GDP our compliance box. So word it carefully, such as in order for me to send you the guide you have requested. Please confirm you’re happy to receive further emails from me and tick the GDPR compliance box. Now the sequence of emails you send once they've requested your lead magnet deserves a podcast episode in itself. But I put together a lead magnet of my own, which is a welcoming sequence of emails that you would send to somebody once they've subscribed to your list. So if you want to grab a copy of that lead magnet, I'll put a link in the show notes.

The first email you're going to send immediately upon them completing the form is going to be the email that delivers your lead magnet or your killer content. And you can store that, for example, on Google Drive and then put a link to that in that email. Or you can send it as an attachment and that both of those approaches have pros and cons, and this will largely be dependent on the email automation system you use in terms of which allows you to do what? As I said, both have got their pros and cons. But again, just a reminder. Don't deliver your killer content directly on your website unless you want to receive loads of bogus email addresses. 

Okay, so you then want to send them further emails over the next week or so, which digs into certain aspects of the lead magnet that they have downloaded in more detail. So, for example, in my case, if you download my self-running agency book over the next five days, you're going to receive a series of emails that include videos of me diving into certain aspects of the book in more detail. Now, this is a really good idea because some people like to read and some people like to watch videos and so on so I'm covering all the different variations of different readers. Then the follow-up emails will become less frequent over time. But you probably want to end up with a sequence of about 10 to 15 emails sent over the next 30 to 60 days. Remember, your goal with these emails is to nurture them through the sales funnel so that you can identify your five-star prospects who you're hot prospects and start having a more personalised engagement with them to discuss a potential project. You shouldn't fear sending that many emails over that period of time, because remember what we said at the beginning. Your subscribers are worth £10 a month, and you need to identify those hot prospects that you can start engaging with. And if they have requested to receive your lead magnet, and in the emails you send, you continue to delve into that particular topic. Then they're going to be receptive to them, and your open rates should be high. Okay, so I feel like we've covered a lot in this episode, and as I said at the beginning, I hope you grabbed a pen and paper and took some notes.

I hope that it makes sense, and most importantly, I hope it inspires you to start building your email list if you haven't done so already. Now don't forget I've put the links to the email automation systems in the show notes. I've also put a link to my lead magnet, which is a welcome sequence of emails. You can grab that for free, and you can just see how all of that works. But other than that, go forward and create your email list. I hope you found this useful. Please hit the subscribe button. As you know, please leave a review if you enjoyed it, because that really helps me reach more people. But other than that, I will see you next week for our next guest interview on 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…


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


How to figure out your niche when starting up an agency


Tips in niching down your business


Defining SEO in a broader context


What are the advantages of using SEO over PPC?


The importance of being ranked organically


Why SEO is an effective strategy for your business


Benefits of link building for your website


Understanding link building, domain authority rankings and backlinks


How to implement link building strategies


How to distinguish a good backlink from a bad backlink


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


Tips in creating SEO strategies for your business


What is the ‘dream 100’  system?


How to build good quality and trustworthy website


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


“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

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!

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…


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


The concept of running a self-running business


Staying connected with your mission and vision statement


What does real success look like?


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


Transitioning from face-to-face coaching to online meetings


Why I can spend my winters in South Africa


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


How I am moving towards becoming a ‘digital nomad’


What are the technical equipment I need 


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


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


“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

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, please hit the subscribe button below to be sure you are alerted when new episodes are published.

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.