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Building an Agency with Kevin Urrutia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time Stamp

[2:30]

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

[3:11]

The importance of having the right mindset

[3:28]

Understanding how and why Kevin started various businesses

[5.29]

Overcoming hurdles at different stages of growth

[6:46]

Why having your systems in place is essential for sustainable growth

[7:10]

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

[9:20]

Dealing with the shortage of great marketing people

[11:33]

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

[13:09]

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

[16:08]

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

[18:56]

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

[20:56]

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

[24:06]

The deciding factors and key advice in selling an agency

[26:25]

How to achieve a ‘good entrepreneurial mindset'

[30:10]

The biggest trends and future predictions of digital marketing 

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

Quotations

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

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

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

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

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 Full Episode Transcription

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Rob. Thanks, guys. 

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

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

Outbound Business Development with Christian Banach

Outbound business development with Christian Banach

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:03] 

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

[4:17] 

Working with giant brands such as Allstate and Toyota 

[5:12] 

Christian’s perspective about word of mouth marketing

[6:48] 

Tips in dealing with new clients

[8:12] 

Why it is so critical to identify your niche

[10:04] 

How a cold calling outbound communications strategy works

[12:04] 

Why multi touch points and channels are important

[13:07] 

How to use personalisation marketing strategies

[15:11] 

Understanding clients’ businesses and the best lead generation practices

[18:54] 

The importance of nurturing your own network first

[20:33] 

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

[23:47] 

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

[28:35] 

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

[30:36] 

Christian’s advice to his younger self

Quotations

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

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

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

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 Full Episode Transcription

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Generate Leads from Your Website

how to generate leads from your website

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

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

The answer is that it should be the latter.

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

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:09] 

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

[2:01] 

The importance of quickly building empathy with your readers

[2:46] 

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

[5:03] 

Tips on how to drive traffic to your website

[8:58] 

How to convert leads

[9:23] 

Four stages to drive traffic to your website

[10:51] 

Tips in creating your ‘killer content’

[11:46] 

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

[12:14] 

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

Quotations

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

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

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 Full Episode Transcription

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Escape the Agency Feast or Famine Cycle for Good (Proven Steps + Actionable Advice)

Feast or famine

Most agencies go through the “Feast or Famine Cycle” at some stage in their development. But it’s only through learning to break free of this cycle that you can take your business to the next level, scale it to greater heights, and reduce the stress you face every day as an agency owner. 

That’s why this month, we’re going to dive deep into how you can put a strategy in place to break free of the Feast or Famine Cycle for good.

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business development

Let's start with a definition of “The Feast or Famine Cycle”: 

When you don’t have a full order book, you’re compelled to try everything you can to win new business. If you do the right things (a topic for another blog) then the process of focusing on biz dev eventually brings you to a place where suddenly, all your time is taken up with delivering work to clients. For a little while, things are going great! 

This is the Feast part of the cycle - where you have plenty to eat with no clear end in sight. And because you have enough work to keep you occupied, you stop pushing quite as hard in the area of biz dev. You have no time and right now it’s more important to service current clients than to look for new ones.

But there’s a cyclical rhythm to all things in life, and your business is no different. Big projects end. Unexpectedly, you lose a client through no fault of your own and your order book depletes. Before you realise what’s happening, you’ve been hit with a business famine.

Wondering how you’re going to pay your mounting bills, you take on any work you can get (even if it’s with the wrong kind of client, or heavily discounted). And through your rekindled dedication to the process of winning new business, you eventually put yourself back on the path to feasting once more… 

And thus the cycle begins all over again. 

You’ve probably experienced this before: it can happen at any stage of an agency’s growth. Many solopreneurs/new businesses are hit with this in their first year or two of business… but honestly, it could strike at any time if you’re not careful about avoiding it.

It’s something I’ve seen many agencies struggle with in my time as a coach. And to be super honest, it’s an issue I’ve faced too. 

My first “famine” hit when government funding my clients had relied on disappeared overnight, taking over 50% of my monthly revenue with it.

After that happened, I had to have a tough conversation with myself. This feast and famine cycle with my coaching business was much too stressful to sustain - something had to give. 

I dug deep and committed to a more strategic approach to business development… and using that, I was able to build much-needed stability into my business. 

I know that consistency of business is a key issue of challenge for agency owners everywhere: 

  • Some of my coaching clients have lost their 40% of their revenue when 2-3 big clients all leave without being replaced
  • I’ve worked with some solopreneurs who have lost 80% of their clients in a short timespan (easy when ‘all your eggs are in one basket’ and you have less than 5 total)

These kinds of setbacks can completely derail your business if you’re not careful. And although you can recover from them, there’s no good reason to subject yourself to this stress on a repeated basis, if you can avoid it!  

Specifically, here’s what we’re going to talk about:

1. The #1 sign of an impending business famine

2. The three fundamental areas of business you need to pay attention to as an agency owner

3. A simple exercise you can use to figure out exactly where you’re spending your time each week

4. The most important tasks to focus your attention on to break free of the Feast/Famine Cycle for good

5. My favourite resources for simplifying this process & applying all the information in this article, starting today

How much easier would your life be to know that you wouldn’t have to suffer through this Feast or Famine Cycle anymore?

I can tell you it’s possible to stop this cycle repeating - and in this article, I’ll show you how in five easy steps. 

P.S. Want to download this whole post as an eBook? Just click the picture below to get instant access (plus an exclusive One-Page Action Plan to help you put this information into practice right away).

Step 1: Get Clear On The #1 Sign Of An Impending Business Famine 

famine or feast

As we covered in the introduction to this topic, the Feast or Famine Cycle is an issue that plagues agency owners everywhere... 

But through working with hundreds of agencies over the past 13 years, I’ve learned that there are certain telltale signs that point to the Feast/Famine Cycle being in full effect. And in helping my coaching clients to identify these signs, they were able to solve their problems & build some much-needed stability into their businesses. 

Remember, I’m not delivering any of this advice from up on my high horse. I suffered through a few business famines of my own before getting to grips with these concepts - but believe me, this is worth the effort.

The Feast or Famine Cycle is characterised by an agency that fluctuates between fully booked and completely under booked. When things are good, they’re great! But when times are bad, their agency is in serious danger of going out of business! 

In my experience, I’ve learned that a business which fails to keep a consistent focus on biz dev (even when they’re fully booked) is one that’s in danger of experiencing a stressful famine if some bad luck should happen to come their way or just through the natural life cycle of a client. 

This is Risk Management 101. We’ve all heard the old adage that we shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket. If something happens to those eggs, or a few of them fall out while you’re carrying them, it just makes good sense to have some spares to replace the broken ones. 

Similarly, an agency with its back against the wall is at risk of making very poor decisions. The cash flow issues that arise from a few big clients parting ways with your firm (for whatever reason: successfully completing a project, the client needing something different than what you can provide or just feeling it's time for a change) incentivise you to go out and chase after any business you can find. Even if the client is a poor fit, or you have to discount your rates, you might justify working with them as necessary to your survival - after all you have bills to pay and mouths to feed.

But because you’ve taken on work that’s not a great fit (or because it’s not very profitable), it’s difficult to please those clients. So you have to focus extra-hard on delivery… 

And naturally, you’ll start to reduce your biz dev efforts, as all your time is needed to satisfy these existing (and potentially, wrong type of) clients. And before you know it, the cycle has begun anew. 

When I begin working with a new client, I immediately look to see what kind of business development processes they have in place. Even if things are going great, they need to pay attention to this: I’ve seen too many agencies suffer needlessly because they neglect to keep their pipeline filled. 

That’s the single most telling sign of an impending business famine - a lack of focus on good diz dev practices. But of course, there are many things that demand your attention as an agency owner. With everything you have to do in the day, it can be hard to find the time to keep inquiries coming in. 

That’s why you should familiarise yourself with… 

Step 2: Learn About The Three Fundamental Areas of Business Every Agency Owner Needs To Spend Time On

Feast or famine

If you take a step back and look at what you do in the business on a day-to-day basis, you’ll probably find that all your tasks relate to one of these three areas:

1. Delivering your service 

  • Delivering client work

2. Growing the business 

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Customer growth

3. Running the business 

  • Finance
  • Admin
  • Managing your team
  • HR

And when we dig in to where you’re spending most of your time (using the time-tracking exercise I’ll outline in just a minute), you’ll probably find that you’re spending far too much time on activities you don’t really need to be doing (e.g. client work that could be delegated, time-consuming admin, etc.)...

And not enough time on the vital tasks that will help you to break free of the Feast/Famine Cycle once and for all. 

We have to spend a certain amount of time tending to each of these areas of business each week to keep things running smoothly, of course - but it’s the question of how much time that makes all the difference. 

Now, you might have read the above and realised that you’re not quite sure where your time is going each week. If so, that’s fine! Because I have a very simple solution, while we’ll cover in the next section. 

Step 3: Use The Three Time Pots Exercise To Retake Control Of Your Day And Break Free Of The Feast/Famine Cycle

Time management

As I outlined above, there are three main areas of your business that you have to pay attention to as an agency owner. Simply put, these are: 

  • Revenue (Delivery)
  • Strategy (Growth)
  • Admin (Maintenance)

No matter what kind of complicated labels we try to apply to our work, pretty much everything we do falls into one of these three categories. But while each of these areas matters, they don’t all matter equally. Particularly not for you: as the agency owner, your time needs to be spent in a deliberate manner for maximum impact. 

When I ask my coaching clients what their weekly schedule looks like, they’ll often point to their calendar and show me a list of appointments they’ve kept. But there are lots of gaps in that kind of system, and it’s easy to think you’re spending time in one way, when in reality, it’s completely different.  

To overcome this problem, I like to have my clients complete a simple (but highly effective) exercise to track their time. 

I don’t need you to track every minute detail of your day. Instead, I ask my clients to reflect on how they spent their time at the end of the workday on a daily basis for 2 weeks. 

As for what I ask them to track - I get them to think of their work as being made up of three main types of activities: 

  1. Strategy (everything you do to make money in the future - sales, marketing, pitching, etc.)
  2. Revenue (everything you’re doing to make money today - all the client projects you are currently working on/are already booked) 
  3. Admin (the cost of running the business - finance, invoicing, HR, etc.)

Once per day, they deliberately cast an eye back over their work and see how much time they spent in each area of their business. I’m looking for either a rough ratio (e.g. half a day spent doing x), or a rough number of hours per day (e.g. four hours spent on admin)... 

And once we have a decent picture of how they’ve spent their time, we can figure out the proportion of time they dedicate to each area of their business. 

This is an enlightening exercise for many business owners. If you think you have no time to spend reaching out to new clients, but then learn that you’re spending 30% of your time on admin tasks, it’s easy to see what you should focus on fixing. 

Odds are that your current ratio isn’t as good as you’d like it to be. So how can you go about improving it?

Step 4: Improve Your Time Split Ratio

If your agency isn’t where you want it to be, it’s probably because you’re spending too much time on Revenue or Admin activities, and not enough time on Strategy. 

No matter how busy you get in these other areas, it’s important to remember that, as the agency owner, you have a responsibility to spend your time wisely. The growth of your business depends on it.

The ratio of time you spend in each area will vary depending on your particular situation. However, as a rough rule of thumb, I’ve found that a 50%/40%/10% split between Revenue, Strategy and Admin is a good goal for most agency owners to aim for. Whatever your ratio is, the exercise above will probably show that you’re not quite there yet. Luckily, there are a few different things you can do to improve it. 

One of the biggest things overworked agency owners struggle with is delegating work. Learning to give up total control over the day-to-day stuff (like client deliverables, managing finances and more) can be painful, but it’s a necessary step if you want to free up more time. 

You have some different options at your disposal for delegating work: 

  • Pass tasks off to your staff
  • Work with a freelancer 
  • Hire a VA
  • Reduce your workload through the use of various automation tools (which we’ll discuss a little later on in this article)

Fundamentally, it comes down to figuring out (and being honest with yourself) as to what only you can do. For anything else… you need to consider whether you let someone else do it, or if you’re just holding on because you’re afraid to let go of it. 

A mindset shift many of my clients find valuable is to consider their target hourly rate. For instance, if they value their time at £100 per hour, there’s no good reason for them to do work that they could outsource for £25/hour.   

Look at your schedule, and identify how you can start moving towards your ideal Time Pot Ratio. Automate, delegate, or stop entirely - do whatever it takes to get closer to your target. Getting disciplined at sticking to this time split will help to ensure your limited time is being put to its best possible use.

To make tracking your time in this manner as easy as possible, I’ve created a simple template for you to use (see the Resources section below for more info). 

Of course, figuring out your ideal time split is just the first part of the equation. The second part is to then figure out the best things to focus on in those given time periods. 

Step 5: Identify The Most Important Tasks To Focus On In Each Area Of Your Business

Focus

Once you’ve determined your ideal time split, it’s time to focus on the most important activities you can complete in order to maximise your impact in each area of your business. 

Revenue

When it comes to Revenue activities - this is all about client delivery. This is probably an area you excel in as an agency owner. After all, you set up your own business because you were so good at delivering great work to your clients. 

As you already have a good grasp of these activities, I’ll just give you one takeaway tip... 

Don’t be the bottleneck in your agency.  Make sure the brand is not YOU! Otherwise every client will want YOU to work on their account and you will never be able to delegate work to your team. I have seen this issue time and time again. What helps you get your agency going and growing (YOU) because the very thing that stops you growing.

How do you overcome this? Introduce team members early on, let them build credibility with the clients. And in the end, push the client to that member of your team (don’t think ‘it's quicker to do it myself’), even if they are asking for you.

Admin

Admin is an area that many agency owners dislike, but most understand its importance. However, there’s more to Admin than just signing paperwork and conducting weekly staff meetings. 

In my experience, the three most important Admin activities you need to attend to are: 

  • Ensuring invoices are sent on time

  • Monitoring your cash flow to spot any potential issues arising

  • Managing staff effectively, so you retain top talent in your agency

We’ll cover each of these areas in more detail in future articles and videos. For now, let me make a few quick & easy recommendations relating to the above. 

First - there is a huge number of software products on the market that will help you to get invoices out on time. Accounting packages such as Xero and Quickbooks are fantastic apps that are easy to use and integrate directly with your bank account. And when you combine them with a powerful CRM like those offered by Pipedrive or Zoho, you can easily streamline this process for good. 

Aside from this, make sure you set aside a block of each month to send out your invoices, and have auto-reminders set up so you can chase late payers. If you are so busy delivering client work that you have no time for invoicing (yep, i have heard this before!) then you are setting up future cash flow issues for yourself. 

Managing your staff effectively is a huge topic, but one principle I’ve seen many successful agency owners abide by is to touch base with their staff every week. Ensure everyone is on the same page as to objectives (and ensure they are SMART objectives) and they all know the agency’s (and client’s) priorities.

Of course, this is more doable in a smaller agency. If you have a lot of staff, then make sure to delegate it to a manager. Either way, making sure someone has their finger on the pulse will go a long way towards keeping top talent and clients happy at your agency. 

Strategy

The area of Strategy covers everything to do with how you plan to make money in the future. It includes sales and marketing, but it also includes planning, business strategising and time spent getting clear on your vision. On a day-to-day basis, the Strategy activities you focus on are geared around winning & retaining new clients, as well as selling additional services to existing clients.

Sadly, there is no magic bullet when it comes to winning new business (despite what you might read on the Internet!). Ultimately, it all comes down to focus and hard graft - building processes, then consistently working to implement them. 

Finding the perfect business development strategies for your agency is not an easy process, but it is a critical one. You might find it helpful to think of your activities in terms of whether they’re short-term, medium-term or long-term. 

Short-term activities include networking, reconnecting with old clients, and identifying opportunities to upsell current clients to higher levels of service. 

Medium-term strategies could include building and maintaining strategic partnerships with other businesses. For instance, a good partnership might result in three or four extra clients per year - much easier than having to go out there and win those customers yourself!

Long-term strategies include activities you complete to boost your standing in the marketplace. These activities include creating videos, producing blog articles, building up your social media profiles, and more. These methods take longer to have an effect, but when done right, they’ll help you generate many more inbound leads - a great asset to your business! 

As for the specific strategies you should employ? That comes down to: 

  1. What has worked well for you in the past

  2. What works well in your sector in general

For instance, a content marketing agency might find that their audience responds well to in-depth articles, whereas a graphic design firm could leverage “behind the scenes” style videos to great effect. Ditto for short and medium-term options, too. If you’ve previously had success pursuing strategic partnerships with a particular type of business, work on identifying opportunities for more of them. If you find that all your clients in a particular niche are easy to upsell after three months of regular service (as opposed to the six months it takes to upsell other clients), then double down on that.

Whatever you do, remember that it’s better to do a small handful of activities really well and consistently than to do lots of things poorly. Falling prey to Shiny Object Syndrome will do nothing but waste your time, so avoid this.

My final comment on business development is this:


build your list. 

Having a list of subscribers you can build a strong relationship with is invaluable for any agency, so if you’re not currently doing this, start immediately. 

This doesn’t pay off instantly. You first need to ATTRACT new subscribers to your list, then you need to build authority with them by TEACHING them something useful and then and only then can you start to SELL to them.  Maybe only one person in 100 is ready to buy when you email out an offer. But you can still engage the other 99 by adding value to their businesses with useful content. And when the time comes for them to buy? If you have communicated with them regularly with value added content then you’ll be the first agency they think of. 

Spend the time now to figure out what business development processes will work best for your agency. Doing so is a critical part of escaping from the Feast/Famine Cycle once and for all, so any time you spend doing this won’t be wasted. 

My Most Powerful Resources for Breaking Free of the Feast/Famine Cycle

To give yourself the best possible chance of overcoming the Feast/Famine Cycle, there are several different things you can focus on. And in this section of the article, I’d like to share with you some of my favourite resources for simplifying each part of the process. 

Client Retention

Improving your client retention is a fundamental part of breaking free from the Feast/Famine Cycle. When you increase retention rates and decrease churn, you reduce the likelihood of another business famine coming your way. 

In last month’s article, I broke down the topic of client retention in great detail. If you’d like to read that, just click here

Additionally, I’ve also written some other powerful materials on this subject before. If you’d like to get access to a powerful five-part framework you can put to use in your agency right away, you can get a free copy of my Client & Account Management eBook here

Winning Highly Profitable New Business

As well as learning how to retain your current clients for longer, you should also focus on winning new (highly profitable) business. But that’s easier said than done. Many agencies struggle to consistently sell their services at rates that support their growth moving forward. 

Hands-down, one of the single most important skills you should master is communicating and selling based on value. In my experience, I’ve seen that agencies who sell based on value consistently enjoy better profitability, stronger client relationships and a less stressful workload - all highly desirable! 

If you’d like to learn more about this topic, you can read an article I wrote on the topic here. And for additional info, just get a free copy of my Value Selling eBook here

Using Your Time Wisely

Getting focused is crucial.  Knowing what is important and what you need to consistently do, no matter how busy you become (e.g. business development) will ensure you avoid drop offs in client revenue. One book that had a big impact on my focus and productivity is Free to Focus by Michael Hyatt, so I highly recommend reading it.

If you want to get a quick summary of ideas from the book plus my top time management and productivity tips then download my FREE eBook on “Winning back time”.

No matter what system you end up choosing, learning to batch tasks is an easy way to skyrocket your productivity. For example, if you need to record videos, draft some emails or write blog articles, batching them into groups will be a lot faster than doing them one at a time. If you’re interested in learning more about what this means, give this podcast by Amy Porterfield a listen (I love her positive but practical advice - she is a regular on my iPod at the gym!).

Automation Tools

While there are many tasks you’ll be able to delegate (or just stop doing entirely), there are certain things you might want to keep doing. 

  • Posting on social media
  • Creating great content
  • Writing emails to your list
  • Tweaking the design of your website (to create new landing pages for example)

These tasks can be time-consuming, but luckily, there are several tools you can use to automate them to a large degree. 

For social media posting, you can use tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite, which integrate with all the major platforms. I also use Dux Soup for automating posting on Linkedin.

You can use tools such as Designrr to create eBooks (I love this tool) and Canva to effortlessly create graphics. 

Email marketing solutions such as ConvertKit (my personal favourite), Infusionsoft and Mailchimp all streamline the process of keeping in touch with your subscribers, segmenting your list, and automate your outreach. 

Thrive Architect, Divi and Beaver Builder are all simple, flexible WordPress builders that let you tweak your website and set up new pages with relatively minimal effort and without the need for programming skills - perfect for getting new offers out there quickly!

No matter what time-consuming task you choose to keep performing, there’s sure to be a tool out there that will help you to automate it.  

Getting Your Priorities Right (short video)

To run a successful agency, you have to wear many hats... 

But switching between these hats too often can cause problems, making things drag out far longer than they need to due to the cognitive switching penalty - apparently when we get distracted from a task it takes 23 minutes to get our “heads back in the game”!

To avoid being hit with this penalty, you need to create and maintain a good schedule: one that gives you ample time to do everything required of you as an agency owner.   If you are brave use a tool called Freedom that locks you out of apps and the internet (e.g. Facebook)for set periods of time to help you focus your mind!

Batching tasks is a great help, as you can avoid switching contexts more often than is necessary. Another thing to keep in mind is the Three Time Pots Model we discussed previously. 

Of course, before you can allocate time effectively, you need to know how you’re spending it at the moment. That’s why I shared a specific time-tracking exercise earlier in this article: it’s very effective in helping you do this. 

To make completing this exercise as easy as possible, I’ve created a simple downloadable template you can use to start getting a grip on your schedule. You can get a free copy of the template here

Finally, here is a short video I made shot on this subject.

Your Free Download

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article... but if you can put this information into practice, it’s practically guaranteed that you’ll be in a better position than ever to escape the Feast or Famine Cycle once and for all. 

If you’d like to have a permanent copy of this article for your easy reference (plus access to an exclusive One-Page Action Plan to help you put this information into practice right away), just click the image below. 

Feast or famine
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