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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

Creating an Online Programme with David Miles

Have you ever dreamt about earning passive income, (i.e. earning money that isn't directly connected to selling your time)?

Have you ever thought about taking what you deliver for your clients and turning it into an online programme, a course, or a membership site?

A number of my clients have so I thought it would be a great topic for a podcast.

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am joined by David Miles, CEO of The PPC Machine.

The PPC Machine is an agency that helps mortgage brokers generate high-quality leads from their website using PPC and website optimisation. 

David shares how he's taken his PPC services and developed an online membership programme. We explore why he choose a membership programme over other online models, we look at some of the tech he has in place to run his membership, and the challenges and pitfalls he experienced as he developed his programme.

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[2:37] 

What was the catalyst to begin exploring and creating an online programme?

[4:43] 

How to explore different online models- from membership programme to one off courses. 

[5:37] 

The reasons for choosing membership model over a standard course 

[8:05] 

Understanding the structure of an overall online programme

[13:04] 

How to encourage members to take action for online learning success

[14:04] 

What is the current status of David Miles’ PPC online programme?

[14:50] 

The biggest challenge in creating an online programme

[17:40] 

The component parts and tech tools that best work for The PPC Machine

[21:06] 

Tips in selling membership programme

[23:38] 

What advice to give to the listeners who plan to take their business online?

[27:21] 

Tips in pre-selling an online programme

[29:20] 

What are the things that David Miles would have done differently if he were to start over again?

[30:41] 

How to determine the pricing for an online programme

[34:16] 

What would David Miles’ advice be to his younger self?

Quotations

"Moving your 1-2-1 services to an online programme makes your business more scalable. You can reach more people." - David Miles

“I think a really good bit of advice that you don't need to have everything ready at launch. In fact, if you're launching a programme yourself, you need to create a minimum viable offer..“ - Rob DaCosta

“..no one is going to judge how good your programme is by the quantity of content. You don't need content about everything. You just need to have good quality content.” - Rob DaCosta

“Launch with a minimum viable product so that don't don't feel you've got to spend six months or a year creating something huge before you launch, because the big risk if you do that you might be creating something that nobody wants and then you've wasted a year of your life, so decide what your minimum viable product is.” - David Miles

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

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 Full Episode Transcription

If you've ever dreamt about earning passive income by money that isn't directly connected to selling your time, then this episode's gonna be one that you don't want to miss. Now, if you've ever thought about taking what you deliver for your clients and turning it into an online programme, or course, or a membership site, then that's what we're talking about today. I'm excited to have David Miles from The PPC Machine, who is actually our second repeat guest, and we're talking all about how he's taken his PPC services and turned them into an online membership programme. We'll talk about why he decided to do this, why he picked a membership programme over a different model, and some of the tech and things that he's had to get in place in order to make sure that he can run the programme and talk about how he launched on how successful he's been in some of the pitfalls on some of the things that he would do differently if he were starting again. So, as I say, if you've ever thought about taking what you teach and turning it into an online programme, then this episode is one that you won't want to miss.So, let's get on with the show. 

Accelerate your agency's profitable growth with tools, tips, and value added interviews with your host agency owner and coach, Rob DaCosta. So, welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I'm really excited to have back with me; in fact, David Miles from the PPC. David is a long standing client of mine, and he runs, as I said, the PPC Machine, an agency that helps mortgage brokers generate high quality leads from their website using PPC and website optimisation.

Now David was actually one of my first guests on the podcast in episode 6, where we talked about niching, and David shared the benefits he's seen since niching into the mortgage broker sector. So welcome, David. Welcome back David. Is there anything else you wanted to add to my introduction? No, I think you already know me quite well up to something, something a lot quite nicely. So, good to be back. Excellent. Well, it's well, it's good to have you back. Now, you've been running your agency for a number of years in its current form and today we're talking about taking kind of like the bricks and mortar work that we do and moving it into some kind of online programme. So I was really interested to hear from you what the catalyst was for you to begin exploring creating some kind of online programme, online community for your audience. Yeah, I know this is one of those things I'd I'd talked about I thought about doing for years and lots of people said to me over the years, or you should take your training and, you know, move it online. It's more scalable. You can reach more people and all that kind of thing. And, I suppose, as with a lot of people, the catalyst for doing something that you've talked about for a long while was when the pandemic hit last year. Because obviously that two things firstly, in that initial for six weeks, when the business world just kind of stopped, you know, regardless of what kind of business you're in, everyone seemed to stop and now want to commit to anything in the world ground to a hole that always he gave people like me a lot more time to think about.

Okay, well, now I've got the time to do it. X once said that I've talked about for years. Um, because the other thing was, I physically couldn't deliver one-to-one  training to people anymore, which, you know, that wasn't solely what business was about. It was a significant part of it. So those things together really gave me the opportunity and the kick up the bum, to actually get on and start thinking like, how can I take what I've been doing in training rooms and one-to-one with people over the years and turn that into an online offering.

Yeah, I guess it's a soft panacea that many people see with an online programme in that they are limited by their time when they're doing what you and I do, which is typically one-to-one work with clients, whether that be training or coaching. Actually doing the work for them is a consultant like you do when you're running a PPC campaign for a client. And if we take it online than this promise of kind of making money in your sleep and, you know, being much more scalable And I guess you and I both know that promise a bit of a misnomer really. So I think the first thing I would say to people to our listeners is that if you've ever dreamt about creating online programme that absolutely go for air but realise that you know, it's a different kind of effort and work that you need to put in to get the revenue as opposed to the one-to-one work. So now you settled on a membership model in the end. So I'm interested to know why that was on what other models you explored. Because I guess if someone is thinking about taking their consultative what they do and creating online programme, then they will be thinking about these different models. So, how did you explore and conclude that a membership model was the right thing for you? Yes. Obviously there's two ways you can. You can sell online training on my courses. Yet that's the selling is a one of thing. Here's my course, give me £1000, have my course all this the membership model, which is what I went for. But as you know, Rob, you initially I went down, the more traditional sell it as a stand alone course. And a few reasons for our transition to the membership model ready. Firstly, the biggest reason I think is it. But a membership model allows me to offer more support and ongoing help to the people who buy by the court or by what is now programme that includes for courses is one of its elements. And the reason why I think that's so important is one thing I learned very early on when I was doing face-to-face training and you know if mining public training courses, where on things like Google Ads and social media and staff, and we have 10 to 20 delegates on each call. And the busiest point in the day for me is the training on a full day course was always the lunch break, because the lunch break was when the people who had a question that perhaps they were too sharply to ask in front of walls or, you know, they have reflected on something while they were having their sandwiches. Actually, I didn't understand that bit. That will be when they all come over and want to talk to the trainer. So you know, if anyone listen to this is ever run public training, you're now as well as I do. You don't really get to eat lunch. That's your full on part of the day. You can relax when you get back into the training room. Well, that's something that the online courses, you know that it doesn't exist. But lunch break doesn't happen. And so what I didn't want people to buy a course on, then never do it or never finish it because, you know, I suppose you could argue. Either way, I've got their money. So why do I care? Well, actually, because my reason for doing this is I want to actually have people learn new skills and be able to do this stuff themselves, and so I actually want people to finish. But yes, I want the money, but I want to finish the course as well. And that's why if I turn into a membership, then I can offer that ongoing support, hand holding, and coaching to help them through the courses. That was one reason for it and the other reason was I felt if I sell it as a standalone course, it's kind of set in stone that this is what you get. Whereas I know that the nature of what I trained on your traditional marketing world is always changing, involving and new things are coming along. So I wanted to be able to say, Well, this is This is the training you get as a bare minimum, but I'll be adding new stuff as time goes on as new things happen and I learn new things and new things come out. Whatever. Because that only works if people are gonna membership model club, just giving people new content for free or time. Yeah, that were reasons.

And to share with the listeners the sort of structure of your overall programme. So when someone signs up, what do they get? What are the various component parts? Yeah, so is aimed at mortgage brokers and financial advisors who want to generate more enquiries, more leads from their own websites basically. So, when someone first joins the programme, they get what I call a road mapping call with me where it's a half hour call to work out. You know where they're at the moment. That's the other thing. People joined the programme. You know, some have done no on my marketing. Some have done a fair bit. And that's why again, with the membership, you can flex it around what fits each individual. So I helped him work out, whether at the moment, what their priority should be. And then they've got access to a whole library of online courses covering all the different things on the road. Mapping core allows me to recommend to them you should start with this course or that course, because I don't expect people to work through from course number one to course number 20 whatever necessary in that order, it might be. But I talked to one person, and it's clear that they don't have a good value proposition on their website. So I would say things like going to do the course on value propositions. Or maybe, you know, they've got a great website, but they're trying to run some Google Ads also right, going to start with this course. I'm glad so I can point people in different directions. They got that whole live your courses. But the most important thing is that they get us apart. The programme is once a fortnight. They get a group coaching call on line with me and the other brokers, and the idea of that is, each time, their hour long call. And each time I have a sort of start to topic. But I talk about for 20-25 minutes about live training. So, like the one we did a week or so ago, I was talking about how to use email marketing. A couple weeks before that, we were talking about how to write a better copy for your website, and then the second half are the People asking questions either on what I've just spoken about or whatever they're working on that moment. So, you know, we had someone recall last time who had been setting up some Google Ads campaigns wasn't getting as much traffic from it as I thought they should do, and I looked at it, live on air with them and said, Right, if you change this and this and this gives you all the others are learning from that as well, and that's what I think sets it apart from just paying £1000 from online course, and there's a community is, well online community who can ask questions, get support and answers from me and other brokers and everything.

Yeah, good structure and obviously that's a similar structure to my coaching programme, the self running agency. I think people buy courses and people buy books with great intention of reading them all, completing the course. And then life gets in the way and they never do. And there's this whole group of kind of course collectors that probably you and I have both been guilty of. And I know lots of listeners will relate to that. And so whatever we can do to encourage people to actually, you know, follow the content, and implement the content, and participate in the forums and the group cause and so on the better.Because at the end of the day, this is about, you know, like you save people, making a difference in their business route, content you that you offer. The way I do it is, if you've got those fortnightly coaching calls, if all you do as the bare minimum is come to those at least means once a fortnight. You're spending an hour working on your business and working on your marketing. But, you know, so having much life gets in the way, you've got that kind of lock in the diary and often you only have to do one  thing. We did a coaching called a couple months ago about the importance of social proof and online reviews. One of the guys on the call. One idea that I've given I actually went away, implemented it and got an extra 80 old reviews on his Google reviews within 24 hours, you know? So where if he hadn't come to that call, he could have done that at any time, and the idea I gave wasn't rocket science, but if he hadn't come to that call, he'd never have never gotten around to doing that.

Yeah, that's fantastic. And of course, you know, we do this like you say. We want to make money, but we do what we want to make a difference. And we know that we can help people. You know that for me, the catalyst of creating my courses self running agency implementation group was because I was having so many of the same conversations over and over again with my private coaching clients that I thought, Is there a way we can expedite this? And we can actually save some time on our private calls by me saying that I should go watch module three lesson for, because that you can dig into that in your own time at your own pace.

There's lots of associative downloads, so that was my catalyst and I call my group and implementation group because it is all about doing. It's not just about watching that. I don't want people to watch these programmes, Mehta said. Because a lot of people do watch courses. For what Mehta said, they have great intentions of implementing what they've learned and then they don't implement it. So I'm much more like watch a 10 minute less and get stopped, go implement it, and then we go on to the next thing. So tell me so you've launched this, so I go on, you know that that's not unique to be online world.I get back to the days when I vanished, additional training company. We found something that people would come on a cause, and they would leave with all good intentions. But they would have what we call F.T.I,I failure to implement on one of the things actually there to try to address that was I would be doing it with a Google Ads course and saying like, you come on, if you come on my full day good glance training calls. If you want, you can upgrade and come back for a half day implementation workshop a few days later, a week and that people found that really useful because they turned up to our offices with the laptop and I spent half an hour putting into practise what we learn. You did two things that made them got that time blocked out to do. If it also crucially, I and the other trainers were on hand, so if they got stuff we needed reminding something you could do it. And that's kind of what I'm finding recreate here really in the online world.

Yeah, that's great. I think you know anything we can do to encourage people to take action not just learn is really good. So now I think you've been running this programme for about what, six months now. So tell us how it's going. Yes, we launched beginning of November and it's going really want the numbers of the numbers, members growing months by months with no as yet done huge amounts of marketing around. I'm just starting have a bit more because I pushed to get more people on board, but primarily the people who've joined so far being people who were already aware of and when I do, we're already on my emailing list, comes out my free Facebook lives and stuff like that. And yet the people have said Yes, we you know, we'd like more of this basically So they're the ones who've joined right. And what would you say by reflecting back on the last six months? What would you say the hardest part of putting this kind of programme together, launching it and then marketing is? Funny enough, I don't think creating the content is the hardest part, even though that 40 what most people you have people listen to this thinking of doing this. I bet the thing was putting them off is thinking, Oh, my God, I've got a whole lot online courses. I can't possibly do that. I don't have the skills at the time. I don't have whatever. Um, I don't think that is the hardest part again. Another beauty of the membership, you don't have to launch with everything completely finished if you've got your core offering of course is there, and again if it's a membership like mine. But it's not all about the courses. It's more about the fortnightly coaching. Then you don't need to have this huge finished product before you launch. So I think that's one of the other is the thing I thought would be the biggest challenge for the biggest hurdle that she wasn't. I would say that the hardest thing is probably, you know, it's getting people to engage, getting themselves, joining the community, and come to the things because I know that those who do turn up to the coaching, I love it and get great value for it. But as we always think, there's always some who you know, unable to make it or don't turn up and you know, that's the hardest thing is you could take a horse to water. And I know from completing preach owners they have similar problems. 

So yeah, I completely agree. I mean, it always makes me laugh that the hardest thing the way I run my programme is like people have to submit the questions in advance of our group calls, and it's sometimes like getting blood out, always get the questions and they always come in at the last minute. But sometimes they're literally coming in and nine o'clock when the cause of 10, even though I stopped sort reminding everybody the week before, I think a really good bit of advice that you just shared there is that you don't need to have everything ready. In fact, if you're launching a programme yourself, you need to create a minimum viable offer, which is something that you can start selling and is the bare bones of your programme. Because the input you get from your members is really gonna help you shape what the future of it is and what new content you need to create. So like you said, a lot of people will be thinking I've gotta create this massive compendium of 80 said of will. This content is gonna take me months and months and months and therefore they never get going. But the truth of it is you don't need to have everything ready. And actually, you know my programme isn't a membership programme. It's sort of like a nine month programme. And, I still imagine content and I've been running my programme for a year and a half now and are still adding new content as I feel it's relevant. I think another piece of advice I would give is that no one is going to judge how good your programme is by the quantity of content. You don't need content about everything. You just need to have good quality content. 

Talk to us a little bit about the tech because I think the other thing that puts a lot of people off is all of the component parts that they need to put in place to make this work. So tell us a little bit about the tech that you're using and what you explored. You know, I think that can be because there's somebody from choices of tech that I think part of the problem can be is not even getting your head around how to use it. It's that potential overwhelm off. There's just too much, too much choice. The system that I'm using is probably not the most straightforward, to be honest, because I'm one of those people who likes to kind of take the best bit of software for this job and combine it with the best bit of software for this job. I liken it. To back, back in the days when, when before MPs reason, people listen to music and proper for a high five. But there were some people who would like to go out and just buy the Amstrad all in one system because it was simply plug in that worked on. Then there were others like me who would like to go out by, you know, the Marantz CD player in the name and per normative and then connected altogether and similar with software. So my set up is not the most simple, but it works for me, so I use a system called Thrive Apprentice, because part of the Thrive suite of products that my whole website is built on. So Thrive Apprentice, is their module for creating online courses. All my courses created on that I I use Vimeo for my video hosting. So if I want to create a cause, basically I create the PowerPoint slide deck to go with it like you would for a real world training course, and I go through that screen recording it. I use a philosophical Screencast-O-Matic for doing the screen recording. She's really great. It's a low costing. It cost me. I don't know, something like £70 a year, I think if I had to guess. But it is not a significant amount of money, and that does all the screen recording it's got video editor built into afterwards. After, if you could take the recording you've done you can tap and tail it, you can edit out the arms and the ours. If you've, I screwed up a bit, and you could recall innovation over the bit that you've messed up. It's dead easy to use. It's not got tonnes of video editing features, but that's nice, because then it's not confusing. It's got all the ones you need for doing a course creation. I then under that video, and then I could create my lesson in. So I've apprentice and saying, Pull this video in.I can put the lesson notes in there. So that's what I used to creating that kind of online content. My group coaching calls, no fancy tech involved there. It's a paid Zoom account. I set up the Zoom meeting and the link out on the agenda is people beforehand and may join the call, and what I do with all of those coaching calls is because they themselves are, you know, whenever growing library of useful stuff. So I record them all via Zooms record function, and I just turned those into a video but available to the members afterward, and for my community I use platform called Mighty Networks, which is kind of like is basically where you can create your own private version of Facebook really. And yes, I use that to host the community. So that's sort of how I did with all different components, better on the other. The other main component is to actually sell the membership and take people's monthly payments. I use Strivve Card and my plug in forward press that runs the member database is called WishList Member. That's what it's called. So I'm using different bits of everything I know. I know, the other extreme. But I know you use Kartra, which basically has almost components all in one package.

So if people like fiddling with the tech, you know, then you could do what I have done. If you just want an off the shelf, thinks I'm in a car trouble. I've heard people speak highly of MemberMouse as another thing, but kind does the whole lot. Um, But one of the one of the things I did, you know early on, was quite a reading member of membership systems and then I think that's it's important to get that right, migrating for one membership system for another is quite a pain. So I would definitely get that right. But with the other stuff, you know, if I suddenly decided I didn't like video anymore or I wanted to put my courses are different thing. It wouldn't be that difficult to move the videos from one platform to another or something like that. But moving all your members off one check out system one member into another. That's a bit more of a headache. So put the time and effort into getting that. 

Yeah, good advice and I will put links in the show notes to all of the tools that David just mentioned. In case you want to look at them, and as David said, you know, I think we both went through a fairly thorough assessment. In fact, prior to me moving to Kartra, I used to host some in the individual training courses on Teachable, which is a specific of course platforms. That's a really good platform for taking payments and delivering the content. But it didn't do enough from membership perspective, I guess. So. I decided to move to Kartra and as David said, cultures and all in one platform. So I host my videos. There are hosts of my course programmes there. I will take all the payments there. I have more female marketing's hosted in one platform. The advantage of that is it integrates really well and it's more straightforward. The disadvantage is it's not as flexible, so the way what David ,so talk about was like picking best of breed tools and then collecting together on what I do is making the connection piece really easy, but perhaps compromising in some aspects. Although place things like Kartra getting better all the time.

And as you said, there's other tools, like MemberMouse and Kajabi is another well known to all. So what advice would you give to somebody else if they were thinking about their listening to this and they're listening because they thought about how can I stop selling one toe, one work? How can I take what I know and put it online? What advice would you give them? 

There were two things I would say. One you've touched on already is go with the minimum viable products that don't don't feel you've got to spend six months or a year creating something huge before you launch, because the big risk if you do that, if you might create something that nobody wants and then you've wasted a year of your life, so decide what your minimum viable product is for launch, and commit to launching when you have that level of product that level of membership available. And the second thing I would say it's really important is create a waiting list and this is something that I did when I launched mine. If I were going back in time, I would maybe spend longer launching the waiting list. But I'm impatient, so I didn't but the beauty how you're waiting it is so wonderful about here. If you start telling people you know, people on your existing mailing list PPL existing clients contacts, prospect whatever your database of contact is, you start telling them this is what I'm visible I'm working on, this is coming. Are you interested? You want to join the weight of this? And I I did that. It's totally an obligation I have said to people for a number of occasions I'm creating this programme. This is the outline of what it's gonna look like, what the components and if you're interested in being one of the first to know when it launches, you know, and getting in a special founder, members price and all that kind of thing. Then just click here. And that added on the waiting list on that meant that at the time when I actually launched, I forget how many I had on the waiting list. But it wasn't a vast number was up 50 to 100 people. Maybe it meant I had that call of people who basically already committed. Then you did it by new rough. It was gonna be in the programme. May knew what it was gonna cost them. And so I said anything that the same, right? It's launching on this date, and that was like a week beforehand. So you're building up the anticipation and when I actually opened the doors that was right. This is it. I, you know, got me my 1st 10 sign ups, like within the first hour. And beyond, that is what you know. It's good from the commercial point of view, but it gets some money coming in for the membership straightaway. But more important in that it immediately validates that you've done something good because you've told you what it is you're gonna be selling. Okay? Not part of the money yet, but they've said we're on the weight of this. We will do as soon as you launch it, and then a decent percentage of those actually do. Do it when the time comes. You think? Yes, I have got something here, which is why I've got a viable product and that gives you the impetus of inside right now. Interface of how to do. How to grow membership, how will get more people into it. You know, whatever. I think it's really important that we don't want is a membership where you've got two members. But if you're doing things like group coaching calls or whatever because no, it doesn't hurt that much energy does it. If actually it's only hit you and two people. 

Yeah, I'm really good advice that I think the thing I would say to anybody that's thinking about doing this is do your research and do your validation and the only way you really validate that programme is by someone buying it because someone might tell you that they're interested. But telling you they're interested in parting with their cash are two different things. So, as part of your research and your validation, you need to pre-sell your programme using a minimum viable offer. And at that stage, you probably don't have any content created, you just mapped out what it will look like. I'm gonna put a link in the show notes to guide that I've created on validation and research to help people go through those steps because, you know I've launched at least seven programmes in the past without doing this, and they've all been failing to one degree or another. So it was only after literally seven courses here over the last probably 6-7 years that I realised I needed to do this validation properly before I launch. Of course, there's a big difference between you thinking you know what your audience wants and your audience actually wanting something, so I think that's really good advice. 

So, I think something else to say is that, that validation idea isn't unique to just memberships. So if you were doing the more traditional launching of one online calls, you can still do that validation and at minimum viable product. So if you say you were doing, you know, of course, that was ultimately going to have 30 lessons in it. You could launch it and start selling it when you've created, say, the first 5 or 10 lessons. And you decide to most people, you know, the other lessons will be delivered over the next two months or something. Because again, that means you can actually, you know, test out the actual idea about getting some people onboard and if you know, if you've created your first 10 lessons and you're starting to flag a bit and think it always is hard work for nothing motivates you like having a load of people who've paid for the other 20 lessons and who are waiting to receive them. So don't don't think about those things as just applying for membership to be transferred to ordinary one of the courses as well. 

Yeah, for sure. And like you say, there's nothing like putting something in life to motivate you to get stuff done. Is there anything you would do differently if you were going to start again? Would you do anything differently that you've done so far? I think the thing I said about making the waiting list period a bit longer. Probably would really do that differently next time, and I suppose another thing I would do would do differently by the one thing that might I suppose I did try and create. This is a one off course and then transitioned into a membership. So, knowing what I know now, I would have done it as a membership from day one on. That would automatically have made the waiting list period longer because the waiting list would have been building up while I was creating Well, all the courses and scratch. Whereas by the time I did my waiting yes, I already got a lot of the stuff I needed ready to launch. So, yeah, I think extending that phase would be something I would do differently. But other than that, no, I think that that's the main thing, that's the beauty remembers you could. You could tweak it and change it as you go through. You know, it's something that you've got members saying, Oh, be really nice. If the programme included this or, you know, this hasn't happened to me But if people said, Oh, we'd rather only have a coaching called once a month once a fortnight or you can make those changes as you go. So I don't think you have to have everything set in stone like from day one.

Yeah. No, absolutely. Let me ask you a massive question and see if you can answer in one minute. Just I’m concious of time. One blast. And maybe this is a separate poor castle together. But one aspect that we haven't discussed is pricing. Like, how on earth do you work out? How much to charge, whether it be a one off fee, several payment fee like I have in my programme or monthly recurring membership fee? How did he start figuring out the pricing? 

I've no idea. This's a short answer.It's a a massive, massive question. And, I've read so many different theories on pricing and what you should do, it shouldn't do with it. The route I've gone for with it is to try and keep it as something where it's a low monthly amount because: a) I don't want people to be thinking too hard about whether to join in the first place, or b) whether to keep their membership going. I don't want price to be a barrier to them, to them coming on board. What I would say is, don't get obsessed with what each individual person is paying. Because if I looked at you know what someone on my membership gets for the monthly membership they pay, I'm setting myself way too cheap. What I do instead is look at what is my total revenue from the membership on DH there? Actually, we had that work. So you know, when I look at the time it takes me to go and do to group coaching calls per month, for example, I think, Yeah, that's actually I'm content with that as an hourly rate or whatever, you know, whatever you want to call it. So I would say, price it such that people don't have to think too hard about joining and don't have to think too hard about staying. Think about the value that they're getting for it. But the problem with that is you have memberships cover a huge range of things. Some people run memberships and online courses where what you're teaching someone is somebody with their hobby, you know? So maybe you've got a membership about how to play the guitar better. Well, that's mostly only gonna be their hobby. Will never get a return on that investment. Other than the pleasure I get from playing the guitar better with something like my membership, I can price it at the higher end because if you're a mortgage broker joining this, if it gets you just one extra client per month from what you learn from this, you know that's put another £1000 a month on your on your bottom line. So I think that's what you think. You're pricing thing. What's the actual value to the kind of people are joining this? How much could it change their business or change their life and therefore, what will be willing to pay for it? But I would rather than you have a lot of people paying a low amount of money than have you know, 10 people paying me £500 a month because I want that, I think. I guess I grew that. 

And of course, one of the ways you can and get some sense of pricing for whatever your programme is going to be in whatever topic it's gonna be for whatever market is, just to do some research and find out what other people are charging. That's a good starting point. I also think in the early days, I know both you and I did this is that you have assault founders rate and you almost use that as a way to get people through the door early because you tell them the price is going up. And, what you need to do is start a low rate and then increase the price until you reach a point where you've hit that soft, sweet spot, which is the right fee for you and the right fee for your market as well. So, like so it was probably an unfair question to ask you right at the end, but I just wanted to get that one in. 

So as you know, the last question, I ask all my guests, and I deliberately asked David not to go back and listen to episode 6 to see what he said before but I'll do that after this. If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be? Well, I haven't been back and checked, but there are actually two bits of advice because I think since you asked me that in episode 6, I think I got asked on someone else's podcast and gave a different answer. So I'm going to give both okay. Advice I would give to my younger business self are niche your business because I didn't do that until about six years ago, and I wish I'd done it sooner. And the second piece of advice would be start building your email list because again, that's something that I only really started focusing heavily on a few years ago. If I'd started doing that 10-20 years ago, I'd have an even bigger at me. My email list is a massive asset, and, like I said, it was where the majority of my members have come from for my membership programme. Imagine if I started building that 15 years ago, it would have been even bigger and better. So start building a list, too. 

Yeah, two great piece of advice and, you know, my listeners will know that I bang on the drum about both of those. And sometimes it's really hard to get people to figure out that you're building your email list is gonna be one of your most valuable assets, and it'll be one of the most valuable asset. So if you want to sell your agency and it's certainly going to be the sort of pool that you swim in and fishing and if you can make that pool's biggest possible. And of course, as we all know, nitching your agency means high price is easy if your clients to find you and easier to look different to your competitors. So good piece of advice. I will go back and check out what you said on episode 6 to see if it's the same works on a different. But I'm not sure if I don't think we've ever had either of those two piece of it as advice before.

That's always great, David. It's people listening to this, and they want to find out more about you and particularly check out your programme, where would they go? If you go to the website, which is ThePPCMachine.co.uk. Always stuff said if they specifically about the programme. It's ThePPCmachine.co.uk/PPP  because the programme is called the Predictable Part Mind Programme (PPP). And obviously they want to connect me, I'm on LinkedIn and Twitter was updated miles, you know, all the usual places. Yes. 

So we are scribing this down, we will add all those links into the show notes, so people can check out what we've been talking about today. See what yourselves page your programme looks like get some other ideas but wanted to thank you today for joining us David, this has been a topic that I haven't talked about before. But it's interesting. And I think like you said, the catalyst has been the pandemic that more people are starting to think about taking their agency work and moving it online in some form. But they often don't know where to start. I feel such a huge task. So I hope that the advice you shared with people today will help them make that journey a little bit more pain free for them. Hopefully, thank you very much. for has been a pleasure chatting to you as always. And, yeah, I hope it's giving people some useful advice. We'll see you again soon. Bye!

Profits, Margins and Pricing with Marcel Petitpas

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I am excited to be joined by Marcel Petitpas and we are discussing everything to do with your agency’s profits, pricing and margins. Another action-packed episode so grab a pen and paper and be sure to take notes!

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[1:02] 

Let’s start by welcoming Marcel Petitpas, our guest for today’s episode. He is the founder of Parakeeto, which aims to help agencies become more profitable. Parakeeto is a software platform that helps users to create data-driven estimates.

[1:40] 

The importance of focusing on agency pricing and profitability.

[4:11] 

At what stage of an agency’s growth should they start implementing time-tracking systems? 

[7:06]  

The importance of understanding your business processes.

[8:05] 

Pitfalls and tips to early prospect discussions

[14:02] 

How to maximise profitability of a project?

[16:27]

How to calculate Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)?

[19:07] 

What are key metrics for agencies to look at? Differentiate between Gross Margin and Average Available Rate.

[25:20]

How to make team members more commercial

[28:51] 

How to implement the Agency Profitability Flywheel in your agency?

[33:32] 

A business paradox: Slow down to speed up

[34:14] 

What are the best strategies to raise your prices?

[35:58] 

The ideal approach for value-based pricing.

[36:34] 

Word of advice: “Say YES to things that scare you!”

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Useful links mentioned in this episode:

  1. • www.parakeet.com 
  2. • Agency Profitability Flywheel
  3. • The Agency Profit Podcast  

 Full Episode Transcription

Marcel Petitpas
Their ability to subsidize misquote projects over servicing with their own evenings and weekends is basically maxed out at that point and that's usually the forcing function that starts to get people reaching out to us and looking for a solution to this because they're going, I don't understand. I'm busier than I've ever been the whole team is busier than we've ever been and yet I'm afraid I won't make payroll next week, what the hell is going on and that's where we have to start digging into the numbers.

Rob Da Costa
Hey, everybody and welcome to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now not only do we have a great guest this week, but we have an action packed, actionable episode all about finance profitability and everything to do with making sure that you are not being a busy fall but growing a profitable agency. So without further ado let's get on with today's episode.

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

Rob Da Costa
So welcome everybody to today's episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast. Now, I'm really excited to have with me today, Marcel Petitpas. Marcel helps agencies become more profitable and he's also the CEO and Founder of Parakeeto, a software platform that helps agencies create data driven estimates using the time tracking data that hopefully they record. Now this is music to my ears because it's something I'm always telling my agency clients about that they must track time and I guess that's something that we'll dig in to more in this episode. So today, we are going to focus on agency pricing and profitability and this is such an important topic if you want to grow your agency in a profitable and sustainable way and you don't just want to be a busy fall. So welcome, Marcel. Can we start off by you telling us a little bit of background? And how and why you started Parakeeto?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, great question! So my first ever business was an agency. I was doing virtual reality services for real estate agents so going into houses creating virtual tours and it's funny I actually just did one this weekend because we're planning on selling our own house next week. So that was a bit of a flashback to those days and that was kind of the first time that I was exposed to these challenges of trying to scale a service business on thin margins and you know how much risk there is in scope creep and this is one of those things where you go into a house and you try to estimate it based on square footage and then all of a sudden, you know, a shot doesn't come out right or the lighting isn't good and you know, what you plan to take four or five hours to shoot ends up being an entire day and I ended up leaving that business because there was a lot of price pressure in our market at the time. Real estate was very flat it was a buyer's market and agents were being very stingy with how much they were willing to invest to sell their homes and I realized very early in that business that there was not enough margin of my services to hire other people to do the work. And it just so happened that I hated the photography and stitching and creating of the virtual tours. I prefer like running the business that was what was interesting to me. And so after kind of doing that I became interested in tech and I want to start a tech company and then a friend of mine who ran a software company or software development agency out of boise came to me one day and said hey, I can't answer simple questions without building spreadsheets, and I can't find a solution to help me with this problem. You know simple questions like did we make money on our last project and did we scope this right? And can we take on this new work? Do we have enough capacity? When should we hire right questions that we're all asking ourselves in the agency every day that require data from different places? And so I you know I resonated with that having experienced this and that's what kind of set us down this path of saying, how do we make it easier for small agencies to have the same access to important information that big agencies have so that they can make better decisions and ultimately scale and grow without running into all the cashflow problems and margin problems that we see so often?

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, so it's such an important topic Lee, before I jump into my first question, you've made me think of another question which is, what stage of an agency's growth do you think they should start thinking about putting systems like this and even like basic systems like time tracking but then those dashboard systems to help you understand you know how profitable you are and you get off the I talk about clients being stuck on the client service hamster wheel of doom where they're just constantly servicing clients and they have no time to ever look at this data and actually think about, are we being profitable? Can we do this in a more efficient way? Did we get our quoting right, or do we need to do differently in the future and sort of what stage in an agency's growth should they start thinking about this?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, I mean, so there's a should and then there's when they usually end up doing it, as early as possible is my answer like even if you're just freelancing but you have a vision to start hiring other people. You should start modeling what it would cost you to hire other people and start tracking how much time it takes you to do things so that you can project. You know to some reasonable extent what your margins are going to look like when you start outsourcing and you start hiring other people to do that work for you so even if you're a solo person right now. I would say it's important to start thinking about these things. So as early as possible is the answer but when do I see people start to do this it's usually when they're closing in on double digit staff numbers. And the reason for that is usually a person can't be really effective with more than about 8 reports 8 direct reports and that's usually the agency owner. You know when you're up to eight 9-10 employees the agency owner is the person that everyone directly reports to. They're capping out, and their ability to subsidize misquote projects over servicing with their own evenings and weekends is basically maxed out at that point. And that's usually the forcing function that starts to get people reaching out to us and looking for a solution to this because they're going I don't understand, I'm busier than I've ever been the whole team is busier than we've ever been. And yet I'm afraid I won't make payroll next week. What the hell's going on? And that's where we have to start digging into the numbers.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah. So I think it's great answer. And I think if I'd been asked that question, I would have a client was asking me that question, I would say exactly what you just said which is start putting these systems in straightaway I always tell my clients you need to start behaving like the company you want to become. If you want to make that transition in that journey as easy as possible and I think systems and processes are a huge part of that I think sometimes people think they're cumbersome and they can get in the way. But of course, the absolute opposite is true, right? If you get the right systems and processes in place.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, absolutely. I get that pushback all the time of like I don't want this to hinder our creative process or all of our projects are so different from one another that like how can we ever create a process around this and then the reality is that having some rails down, really help you become more consistent with the creative output. And every experienced creative that I've spoken to the thing that really sets them apart from some of the younger. You know more eager creatives is that they've realized that they have a process. And I think you kind of deny that when you're early on in your creative career. And you, you want to believe that it's some kind of like divine inspiration that comes to you in these moments but like that's not really a sustainable business model. Your clients aren't waiting for you to have like a lightbulb moment in the shower they need you to deliver this thing on Friday. So you need to understand what is your process we're getting in that space where you can start to have this output. And it's in your best interest to start to document that and start to set up the way that you and your team works so that you can do this on command as opposed to you know just waiting for the right moment to have a you know, an output come to you so to speak.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, and I think you know if you want to build an agency that is not completely dependent on you. As the agency owner, then you have to put these systems in place and the sooner you do it the less stressful you're going to have in your agency's growth. Otherwise, all eyes are on you and you know all the weight sits on your shoulder and every single client will want you in their approach and their project as well.

Marcel Petitpas
Absolutely.

Rob Da Costa
So. So let me just let's just go back to the beginning. So I'm just interested to get some thoughts from you on some pitfalls and tips that agencies should be mindful of when they are sitting with that prospect. And they're discussing a project and then they're being asked to go away and scope it out and put together a proposal. What are the kind of pitfalls and tips that you see that you could advise people on at that stage?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so I think one of the immediate things is not understanding that you start training the client on how to treat you in the sales process. And if your posture in that sales process is going to essentially set the agreement on what the relationship is going to be. So of course, early on in your agency you might not have a lot of authority in the space. You might not have people coming to you wanting to work with you because they see you as you know the thought leader in the business problem that they're uniquely trying to solve. So you might not have quite as much leverage but understand that there's a difference between a client that reaches out to you to work with you that's referred to you or you have authority in that relationship. So leverage it be very deliberate about. Hey, this sounds like the problem you want to solve. Let me walk you through our process for how we solve that. Here's the first second third, fourth step, start setting the expectation that you're going to take the lead and clients like that a lot of the time. You know like they don't want to have to tell their agency and micromanage their agency to tell them what to do but I think a lot of agencies fall into that kind of dynamic with their clients which immediately puts a lot of risk on scope. Because if the client is the person that's determining the scope and they get to change it whenever they want, then it's almost impossible for you to do what you need to do to have operational efficiency on the back end. So start with understanding your posture and where your leverage is in the sales process and start coming to the client with confidence and with the process, even if you're making it up on the spot. At least you're training them that you're going to be taking the lead and then the second thing is start to separate pricing and scoping from one another. They are related but they're not the same thing scoping is about what it costs you to deliver work to a client pricing is about what the client is going to pay you. And I think a lot of times even like time and material shops that are not really time and material shops are lying to themselves when they say like, you know I asked this question all the time how do you structure a contract with the client? They go, Oh we estimate how many hours it's going to take and then we build them on time and materials. And then I go, Okay, cool. Well, what if it takes you you know an extra 200 hours to get the thing done that you thought you were going to? Are you billing all those hours back to the client? No. So okay, so you're really pricing a flat rate you're just using scoping as a way to come up with that flat flat rate is and you're not giving yourself any additional compensation for the risk that you took on by doing that. So start to learn how to separate scoping from pricing and understand that the pricing conversation with the client really doesn't have to be related to the scope at all. And in fact, if your services are of high relative value to that client. For example, if they're hiring you for your specific expertise in an area or if the relative value of solving that problem is very high for that business. For example, if they have a million dollars in sales a month on their e-commerce website and you can double their conversion rate. Well, that is significantly more valuable than you know the other company that's doing $10,000 a month in sales on their e-commerce website. So understand what the relative value is use that to drive the price up and you scoping to make sure that there's enough margin there that you're hitting your goals. But don't put yourself in a position where you're taking on all of the risk with very thin margins. And then you know, eating that on the back end which is where we see a lot of agencies fall into cashflow problems.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, it's really interesting, I talk a lot with my clients about value pricing which is kind of what we're talking about here. I think in that you know when you're doing the scope you're working out like you say how long it's going to take. What resources you need, and all the rest of it but that's not really what the clients buying client actually doesn't really care how long it's going to take except in terms of delivery. They don't care how long the agency is going to take. And I always use a dentist as a as a good example of this, like when you go to the dentist and you know, you've got really bad toothache and the dentist gets rid of your toothache and you walk up to reception and they say that's 300 pounds please! You would very rarely say Wow! that's a lot of money for 15 minutes work. And if you did the dentist would probably turn around and say, well if I took three hours to get rid of your pain 100 pounds an hour would that make it more valuable to you and you go. No, of course not because I'm thinking to get rid of my pain as quickly as possible. That's value value pricing and it's kind of what you're what you're talking about here. And I think it's it caught those two things that you talked about are really intertwined because if you meet a prospect and you show up as an equal to that prospect then you can have conversations around how the piece of work you're doing ties into their business bigger business goals what's understanding what the value of it is to the business and then of your pricing against that even though you're working out the scope as well. Then you are much more likely to be you know happy with the amount of time it takes versus the fee that you're charging. I had a really good example of this a couple of weeks ago I have a PR client and they had they want a new client and when they spoke in this process about some of the key goals to measure that project the client said we would really like to get our CEO on radio, blah, blah, blah, whatever the radio station was. And because one of the PR people in the agency used to work at that radio station she was literally able to pick up the phone. Make a phone call within 10 minutes achieve this massive objective that other agencies hadn't been able to to deliver. Now if all they charged the client was the time it took that person to deliver that they'd make no money. So you know, they obviously didn't and they put the what's the value to the client. So I think there's some really good nuggets in in what you just what you just said. So, let's just move that on to now we've got the scope of work and we've agreed the brief with the client. What are your thoughts around? How do we make sure the project we are delivering? Is process profitable? Again, what are the mistakes you see agencies making? What advice would you give to an agency to make sure they can maximize their profitability?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so the first thing is making sure that you're designing the project to have enough margin from the start. And I think this is the first place where a lot of folks get very confused. And there's a lot of mud in the water in the industry about what the best way to even calculate this is. So in our mind the best practice around this is focus on gross margin at the project and client level. So what does that actually mean? Well, essentially what you're looking at is you're going to have a total amount of fees and then depending on what kind of services you're offering maybe some of that is passed through revenue, right? It doesn't actually belong to you. It belongs to other vendors that you're partnering with to get this solution done. So that might be Facebook for ads. It might be some print company to do print. It might be some video production company for video production, right? So take all that money out because that doesn't actually belong to you it's not your revenue it's just passing through you as an entity and then look at what I refer to as agency gross income. So that is the money that belongs to you that you're responsible for earning with your team's time and effort by getting deliverables done and delivering them to the client. So take that AGI number and then what you want to do is subtract your direct labor cost and the way that we want to calculate direct labor cost is not including overhead in that number. And so I just want to pause and double click on this for a moment. I think a lot of people try to get to a net profitability number when they're scoping projects or trying to estimate project profitability. And I think that that's kind of a huge waste of time. It's not really easy to do, it's a lot of additional effort. And what insight does that really provide for you not much your overhead doesn't shift at the same rate that your gross margin does the things are not really truly related. So what you want to do is think about what is the gross margin target that you need to hit consistently, so that you can afford 25 to 30% of your AGI going to overhead and still have a margin that you're happy with and then just start focusing on that gross margin number because it's way easier to calculate. And it's going to be way easier to compare projects to each other. If you're not including overhead because that's a variable that's going to change at a different rate. Whereas if you homogenize everything on gross margin then you can compare all your projects over any time horizon and understand you know how things are moving compare services to one another compare clients to one another and understand where you make more money. So with that said how do you get to the gross margin number you take your AGI against that's revenue minus pass-thru. And then you subtract your direct labor costs. Your direct labor cost is very simple to calculate. It's your team's salary plus whatever benefits they have health, dental stipends for equipment, etc. so they're fully loaded costs divided by the amount of time that you bought in their employment contract which for most people is 2080 hours of their year 40 hours times 52 weeks. And yes we are including their vacation time in there. We're including their paid time off we're including all of that stuff it's a gross margin. We want to remove all the variables that are going to change from person to person from agency to agency so that we have a nice flat metric to track our earning efficiency on so that we can use it horizontally we can compare it to the industry it's a nice useful metric that's simple. That's how you get to gross margin your target should be above 50% 50 to 70 is a good range. If you can shoot towards the top end of that 70%. You know if you have more risk in the project if you feel like there's a contingency there of 10 to 20%factor that in. So you know, if you're consistently hitting 70% margins on your projects. You're probably going to have a gross margin across the whole agency at the end of the year of 55 - 60%. Because you'll lose a little bit on pay time off and vacation and gaps in utilization and slow times. And then you'll be able to carry 25-30% overhead and you should still have 25-ish percent margin left at the end of the year to put in your pocket to compensate you for the risk you took for starting this business. And then everyone's happy. And you should be able to achieve that at. You know 65-70% utilization for your entire team annually. You don't have to work everybody, you know 60-70 hours a week to make that happen. I think that's a misconception in the industry. And a playbook that a lot of bad actors have run for way too long. That is not valid and really bugs me.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, that's so interesting. It's, you know I run a group coaching program with about 30 SME agency owners. And I get asked this question all the time. And I really like the way you've simplified that I'm gonna have to steal that and use it with my clients because they say to Rob, what what should my margin what should what should buy IBM in my margin today? And you know sometimes clients are working on such that although their margin might not be calculated exactly how you've outlined but they're working on such low margins. They're working like 20% margin and then they end up being a busy fall because it just takes one thing slightly to go wrong and they've lost even that 20% margin and then they become a charity because they're doing the work for free so they're really useful really useful to know. And then when it comes to like I don't know your system really well. But what would you say some of their key metrics that agencies should be measuring on ongoing basis? I mean you've already alluded to some of them in in the margin that you just explained but any other kind of key metrics agencies should be looking at so they can measure all this stuff.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so the way I look at it is there's kind of like two levels of the business that you're going to pay attention to. There's the client and project level which you're usually going to look at on a much tighter time horizon. You might look at that weekly bi weekly or monthly that just kind of depends on the rate of change in your agency. So if you do a lot of like small quick turn projects you're going to look at this more often if you do bigger projects that take you know a longer time to mature. You'll, you'll have a longer time horizon to look at this on but on the client and project level really what you want to have as an earning efficiency metric. And you want to pay attention to like utilization or effectiveness for your team. So essentially what that means is we'll start with earning efficiency. It's a metric that allows you to understand And how efficiently does your team earn revenue and you want that again just like gross margin to be a nice flat homogenous metric that you can use to compare across all of your projects or across other agencies as well. If you have the opportunity to do that in a peer group in a coaching program so on. So there's two metrics that I like for that the first is gross margin. Gross margin is a little bit harder to get to it's a little more costly because you have to factor in the individual cost rate of every person that worked on that project. So you know if you have some technology to help you with that like a time tracking tool that has cost rates included in it then that's great you could probably do that fairly automated. If not, another option that I like that's very very easy to track is what I call average billable rate. And that's really just taking your AGI number your agency gross income and dividing it by the number of hours that your team worked against that project. And that gives you essentially your actual hourly rate at the end of the project. And what you can do with that is look at your average cost per hour for your team. And that'll give you a rough sense of what your margin actually was in that project. And then you can easily start to compare all your projects to one another. So you might look and say like hey! you know, when we do website redesigns. We average $180 an hour but when we do like the content retainer on the back end. We average $153 an hour, and you can start to get these levels of insight of you know. Where are we more or less efficient? What projects were more or less efficient? And that's where you can start to have really insightful conversations with your team about why, why are we way more efficient over here and way less efficient over here? Is there something about our processes or something about the way that we scope that we need to adjust. And those process improvements that come out of those conversations is what really starts to close the gap from both sides. You know, you're going to have the data which tells you did we do what we thought we were going to do on this project. And then you're going to have the process which is going to start to help make things more predictable. I think that's a misconception about scoping is that the data can fix everything but the reality is sometimes we're trying to scope things that are just hard to scope because our processes are very well defined for how we do it in the first place. So efficiency is the first thing you want to track again that either gross margin or average billable rate. Utilization is the second thing you want to pay attention to and that's really just how much of your team's time is being used for earning revenue in your business. And it's important to look at those two things at the same time because I think traditionally a lot of people have focused way too much on utilization. And that comes from being in the time and materials world. If you don't run a time and materials agency utilization is not the most useful metric for you to be paying attention to because it doesn't actually indicate it's not a great precursor for your success. Your utilization might be through the roof but your average billable rate is tanking. That just means you're over servicing clients. So you want to look at those two things next to each other. And the way we calculate utilization is it's really objective. This is another thing that's got a lot of money in the water, what is billable time? Right, is it just time that your team is being productive? know the definition in our case for the purpose of these calculations is time that your team is spending earning revenue for the business doing work on client projects. So if they're working on your website that's productive but it's not billable time. And some people start to get upset with that. And it's like well, if you're upset about that it means you're holding your team accountable to utilization. And you should just stop doing that because it's not useful. It's not useful for them, it's not useful for you hold them accountable to earning revenue hold them accountable to being efficient. And if they don't have enough billable work to do that's your fault not theirs. So try to make it so that you're giving your team enough work creating enough clarity for them managing projects and and resource planning people effectively enough that they have the opportunity to hit 70-ish percent utilization on a net level on an annual basis week to week, that's probably 80 to 90 on the high end. If you can do that pay attention to utilization pay attention to your average mobile rate and those two numbers are good. You're averaging 65-70% utilization and your average billable rate is 2.5 times higher than your average direct labor costs then your P and L should look fantastic at the end of the year. And you probably don't even really need to look at it that often for being honest because you've got lots of gross margin there and you're being efficient. So that's at the project and client level at the agency level that's where you're going to go to your accountant your bookkeeper and it's going to be P and L stuff. So that's where you're looking at gross margin targeting about 60%. You're gonna look at overhead spending you want to keep that below 30%. And then that should leave you with a good. You know net margin at the end of the year to pay yourself and then overhead. You want to generally be paying attention to how much you're spending in each area administrative costs that's usually 8 to 12% of your AGI sales and marketing eight to 14-ish percent. But you can over invest there of course, if you just want to grow fast and then lastly, facilities so that's like your rent or if you're at remote team it's how much you're giving your team for stipends. Basically whatever costs you to put in a working environment over your team's head 4 to 6% of AGI so when you add those up 25 maybe 30% on the high end. If you run a remote team you might be able to get that down closer to 20. And that includes your salary as the owner. By the way, if you're not doing client work then you're you fall into admin or sales and marketing because that's probably what you're doing with your time. So yeah, those are some metrics and benchmarks to look at but I would encourage everyone to don't overthink or over invest in the P and L and the financials. If you're early on start paying attention to your client and project metrics the P and L will take care of itself if those numbers are good.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, brilliant advice. So good. So many really good, great nuggets there. I find it really interesting that a lot of the time agency owners are not making their teams commercial enough. So the team members just don't have access to so much of the information you've just talked about. So what they're tasked with doing is doing a great job for the client with no sense of how many hours it should take and, and behold they over surface the client. The client might be delighted with what they've done. But now of course they're created refer their own back because the client asked them to do more work and has this expectation that it will be delivered at this high level. So is that something you see as well? And would you agree with me that we need to make all our staff commercial because they need to be in control of these numbers?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, I mean I think this is how you change the entire dynamic around time tracking. And there's, there's this is a bit of a double edged sword, right, I think a lot of employees resents the idea that they have to track their time. Resents, you know a lot of this stuff because they don't see how it's being applied to making their lives better and making the agency better for them. And a lot of times it's not being used in that way. So that's part of the problem but really if you think about the the flywheel here that makes your agency more profitable it has to involve your team. And that flywheel is we estimate how much time it's going to take us to do something. We measure if it took us that much time or not. Then we talked to the team about why there are gaps between our expectations and reality because the team is the best you know set of resources to like surface actual granular insights from the ground floor. I'm like what happened during this project. And then that should inform process improvements that in turn make things more predictable. And if we do all these things, well, the end result for the team should be when we schedule you to work 40 hours on a project. It takes you that long and then you go home in the evenings and on weekends. You don't have to because like the deadline is rarely the elastic part of a project, right? So when we under scope something who pays for that the team does and they pay for it with their evenings and weekends. So that's part of the conversation of like, we're gonna engage you in the process of using this data to make the agency better and this is what you're going to get in return. We're gonna be more profitable that means we can pay you better. It means we can have cool perks for the office. It means we don't have to lay you off the second that we have a dip in utilization or new business loads up. It means that you know, you get home on time more consistently. These are all the benefits to them. And that part of that is getting them involved in the conversation of here's the data that we're seeing here's how it's impacting us. And we'd love to learn from you what opportunities exist for us who you know make this better?

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, it's interesting because I think time tracking fails so often because people did the team members are not given a clear context. So they think, oh, you're want me to do time tracking? Because you want you don't trust me, and you want to, you know, keep an eye on exactly what I'm doing and making sure I'm not on Facebook or something. And actually, that's completely the wrong context. The context is everything you just outlined. And if people just slow down a bit and spend time, it's kind of selling that and communicating that to their team, then they would be much better. I mean, Blimey, when I ran my agency, we're talking 15 years ago, we we did many things wrong, but one of the things we did right was time tracking. But in those days, time tracking was an Excel spreadsheet. And that was much tougher than the tools that are available now that make it so much easier. I mean, a lot of my clients use tools like harvest, and I think your power key to connecting with harvest, doesn't it? So you can, you know, take that information and use it in a really kind of smart, intelligent way. And I think you sort of talked about this already. But how do we get smart about feeding that back into future work? So I've done this project, I've done this analysis, I've talked to my team, I'm, what do I do to take those key learnings and then help not make the same mistakes when I talk to the next client about a project and I, you know, over promise and all the rest of it.

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, so we have a four step framework on how to implement what we call the agency profitably flywheel into your agency so this is the in the consulting work that we do this is we're just basically helping people implement this. If you want to learn how to do it on your own for free. We have a video course that you can grab absolutely free, and it includes all the templates and spreadsheet templates that we use for reporting and stuff like that with our clients so you can grab that at piercy.com forward slash toolkit, and I'll make sure to send you the link, Rob in case you wanna include that in the show notes.

Rob Da Costa
But we'll include that in the show notes for sure.

Marcel Petitpas
The high level of it is there's two feedback loops we need to create one is about data. It's about what was our estimate and what was our actuals and the reason that a lot of folks don't even get that part installed is because when you hold up their estimate for the project and you hold up a timesheet they look completely different. And so reconciling those two things together requires massaging the data figuring out like okay, well this task for wireframing, the design, UX, copywriting, whatever is, is that design as a copywriting like, what do we estimate this against. And so because there's so much resistance, we don't do it. So the first step is actually auditing the way that you structure your assumptions of a project and your scope document. And the way that you structure your time tracking data and making sure that they match up so that the resistance to answering that questions as low as possible. That creates your first feedback loop that you can within a minute or two go in and run a report at the end of the week and say, did we spend as much time on these projects as we thought we would? And break it down at in very high level buckets? Generally, you want to align those buckets to how you resource plan. So they're generally going to be functional roles, design development, project management, account management, etc. If you can do that well, that creates your data feedback loop that's the objective part. Now, I think where people get steered wrong, is they get excited about this idea of having data help them answer questions and then they start to try to rely on the data to answer all the questions. And that's a recipe for disaster because what that does is it pushes you to start adding way too much complexity to your data schema. So now you're asking your team to track time on a sub task of a sub task of a deliverable within a phase within a right and now your data schema is just totally unmanageable. All these problems about reconciliation come up again. So the the right answer there is keep that simple, keep it high level, and then use it to inform where you spend your time talking to the team, about the areas of the business that need attention. And it's in talking to the team about hey, this project was way more efficient than the other ones we did last month. What did we do differently on that project that allowed us to do it? And you know half the time that we expected? surface the insights. Oh, we did this thing it worked out really well. The handoff between Dev and design was different this time. And that was like awesome. It's like, cool. That's an amazing insight. Do you guys think you could create a process, we could do that again next time? And now the team is bought in because they came up with the idea they're immediately seeing how that process would benefit them. And then it's about carving out the time for them to actually build, maintain update processes. And it's in seeing the data. And then having the processes get more and more defined that we gradually close the loop and get to a place where we can very confidently scope projects. And what we've realized and the you know, the almost four years now that we've been doing consulting in the spaces, without accurate assumptions about the scope of a project. You can't really build efficient operation systems for your agency. You can't resource plan effectively. You can't plan for profitability effectively scopes of work are the foundation of almost all of your operational systems that are related to forward visibility. Which becomes more and more important, the faster that you start to grow. And the faster you need to start hiring people. So if you can install that process, get a data feedback loop, and then a people feedback loop and have that essentially just bake into the way that you run your business credit cadence around that. So it's always happening then you should start to see your scopes of work get to within 10% of what you thought they were going to be that is a perfectly acceptable level margin of error. And that will, you know create so much more predictability so much more for visibility for your agency. And hopefully, it'll get everybody back to a regular 40 Hour workweek. And it'll also allow you to plan time to work on the business and not have it just constantly get cannibalized by client work which. Of course, is what we see happen all the time. Yes, great!

Rob Da Costa
Such great advice. Again, I think one of my favorite expressions I use all the time is slow down to speed up. And this is definitely one of those examples because what I see happening is clients lurching from one project to another and they may do like a project wrap up call with the client and get some feedback from the client about what went well and what didn't but they probably don't do that whole feedback loop both on the project time and also the team input as well. So I would really encourage people to listen to this and, and apply it and figure out. You know, it's a vicious circle isn't it because if you don't get all of this right, then you're over servicing clients and you've got no time to do anything. And then you're over servicing clients. And you've got to find a way of breaking that cycle.

Marcel Petitpas
So and I want to double click on this, because there's a lot of folks that are listening that might be stuck between a rock and a hard place on this. And this, this might resonate with you as well Rob. Like, maybe you're doing retros now for you try to do retro, sometimes you get them in sometimes you don't. And then the team surfaces all these ideas of a processes that should be improved. Everybody agrees that they should be implemented. And then every time you try to schedule the time to allow somebody to space to work on this it gets bulldoze by client work. It gets bulldoze by and it's just constantly getting pushed back, push back, push back. If that's happening to you then that's a sign that it's a sign that you need to do this even more because what it means is the time that you plan for client work is not the amount of time that it's taking and of course, you're going to cannibalize the 40 Hour workweek before you start eating into evenings and weekends. So any scheduled time for work The business is gonna get taken away. The way that you create a little bit of space for that is you raise your prices. And that is like an easy way you raise your prices that allows you to, you know, ideally start spreading projects over a little bit of a longer time horizon. But the mistake I see a lot of people make is they just raise their prices. And then the pain is kind of alleviated. It's like taking a painkiller. And then they think, okay, the problem is gone now. But that problem that you, you don't know how long it takes you to do work, it's still there, and it still needs to get solved. So use the space that that creates to actually start getting these processes in place. And that's how you kind of get over that hump, and get to a place where you can actually start working on this consistently. So if you find yourself in that kind of trap, that would be my advice is like, just raise your prices by 15 or 20%. Use that breathing space that it creates to just start attacking this scoping and process problem. And you know, by the end of this year ideally, you'll be in a place where you're like. Wow! I can't believe we ever run our business that way.

Rob Da Costa
Yes, great. Another great piece of advice. I find especially clients that don't take a value pricing approach and they sell on day rates or hourly rates are really fearful about raising their prices. And so I spend quite a lot my time trying to get people over that so that they can do that. But here's another reason to do that. Because it will give you that breathing space to look at your, your systems and processes and get some of this stuff, right. So listen, this is such a great conversation, we could go on for hours. But this episode is packed with really useful advice. I really appreciate that myself. Now, a couple of things. Let me ask you the question I ask all of my guests. Which is if you could go back in time and give your younger self just starting out in business. One piece of advice, what would it be?

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

Rob Da Costa
Good, good advice. Your fear sometimes keeps us stuck, doesn't it? So feel the fear and do it anyway. Last thing, so I will make sure I include the link to the toolkit that you mentioned in the show notes, but people wanted to find out more about Parakeeto, well get in touch with you, Marcel, where would they? Well, the best place for them to go be?

Marcel Petitpas
Yeah, absolutely! So head on over to parakeeto.com. There's lots of information on the product there. And if you want to connect with me directly find me on LinkedIn, Marcel Petitpas, PA, there's not a lot of us and I'm wearing the same shirt and all my social profiles are easy to find. And if you download the toolkit you'll get emails from me. So you can just reply to those if you want to have a chat, get on a call. I love to nerd out on agency profitability. So if you're hearing this, and you just want some advice on how to better implement these systems, I'm always happy to find some time. So don't hesitate to reach out and make sure you check out if you're you know, listening to podcast consistently check out the agency profitability podcast or sorry, the agency profit podcast. I can't believe I just messed up my own podcast, the agency profit podcast where we talk about stuff like this all the time. And it's, you know, I think a great outlet for talking about this side of the business that doesn't get as much attention as new business, unfortunately but it's equally as important in my mind.

Rob Da Costa
Yeah, and I confess. You know, this isn't a sort of deep understanding of financials isn't my area of expertise. But this is so insightful. And I've certainly learned a lot. And you've helped me answer some of the questions that my clients ask me. So I know, listeners will find this really useful. I'll also put a link to your podcast in the show notes as well. So just want to say a huge thank you for giving up your time to share your wisdom with us today on the podcast.

Marcel Petitpas
My pleasure. Thank you so much for having me.

Rob Da Costa
What a great conversation and what an episode action packed and full of useful tips to help you make sure that you're getting your pricing right and you are as profitable as possible. And I don't know about you but some of the stuff that Marcel shared with us today got me thinking a bit differently about how I run my business. And I hope that that has done the same thing for you because that is what this podcast is all about and having fantastic guests like Marcel. So if you enjoyed the episode, please make sure you hit the subscribe button, share it with your colleagues and please consider leaving a review as it helps us we'll reach a wider audience. But other than that, have a fantastic rest of your week. And I'll be back with you next week for the next episode of the agency accelerator podcast.

If you would like to learn more about how to increase your agency's profits, margins and pricing then sign-up for my LIVE workshop.  Click here or the image below to save your seat.

7 Strategies to Avoid Feast or Famine in Your Agency

In this episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast, I want to talk about how to avoid feast or famine in your agency.  I’ve been through it twice myself and was determined there not be a 3rd time! So I developed a series of strategies that I now share with my coaching clients and am sharing some of them with you today.  

So in today’s episode I share 7 strategies to avoid feast or famine.   

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[02:00] 

Let’s start by painting a picture that you will no doubt recognise.  It’s all about being stuck on the ‘client service hamster wheel of doom’! But how do you break this cycle and get off the CSHWOD?

[03:17] 

The bad decisions we make when we are in a space of famine. 

[03:45] 

My experience of being through the feast or famine cycle twice!

[04:45] 

7 Strategies to keep a consistent pipeline of new clients coming into your agency

[05:35] 

Strategy 1:  Ringfence time to work on business development

[07:00] 

Strategy 2: Get clear on your ideal target customer

[08:36] 

Strategy 3: Get your pricing right

[09:49] 

Strategy 4: Build a robust biz development plan – do a few things and do them consistently well.  Work out how to move them through the sales funnel of KNOW-LIKE-TRUST

[12:40] 

Strategy 5: Focus on building your mailing list

[14:50] 

Strategy 6: Build your brand so it's not just you (Your Self-Running Agency)

[16:00] 

Strategy 7: Delegate as much client facing work as possible

[17:18] 

A quick recap of the 7 strategies

[20:04] 

Outline of how The Agency Selling System can support your business development

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

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

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

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please hit the subscribe button below to be sure you are alerted when new episodes are published.

Useful links mentioned in this episode:

Is your agency an iPad or a reMarkable?

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

Here’s a glance at this episode…

[01:50] Distractions

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

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

[02:26] What is a reMarkable tablet? 

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

[02:40] Reason for Purchase

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

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

[03:45] reMarkable vs. iPad

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

[04:27] Generalist Agency vs. Niche Agency

How does this relate to your agency?

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

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

[07:12] Thoughts on your Niche

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

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

[09:13] Using reMarkable

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

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

[10:04] Translating notes into text

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

[11:42] Be like a reMarkable

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

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

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

Rate, Review, & Subscribe on Apple Podcasts

“I really enjoy listening to The Agency Accelerator Podcast. I always learn something from every episode”<– If that sounds like you, please consider rating and reviewing my show! This helps me support more people — just like you — move towards a Self-Running Agency. Click here, scroll to the bottom, tap to rate with five stars, and select “Write a Review.” Then be sure to let me know what you loved most about the episode!

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

Links mentioned in this episode:

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

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

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

Listen to more episode of The Agency Accelerator Podcast on:

Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Website

Email marketing: the unsung hero of your marketing strategy

Email Marketing

Are you tired of hearing about how email marketing can bring you huge returns and never seeing the results? Would you love it if your customers bothered to react to your carefully worded pleas and bought something, just once?

Well, the truth is, email marketing is one of the most widely-used forms of marketing used today. Statistics tell us that the ROI on email marketing is a staggering 44 to 1!

Chances are that if you aren't seeing great results from your email marketing, you're doing it wrong.

Do you want to know how to turn your email marketing around by using email funnels? Of course, you do! Keep reading.

If you would like to learn more about list building and email marketing then sign up for my FREE Masterclass 

Email marketing

What Are Email Funnels?

Like a sales funnel, an email funnel involves ushering prospective customers along the buying journey until they succumb to your many charms and end up buying something from you.

Email Funnel

It all starts with collecting as many email addresses as you can from your ideal target prospect. Once you've got your foot in the door, you can start to woo these prospective buyers with a sequence of nurturing emails that piques their interest and convinces them to they need your product. With the right sequence, you will be front of mind when your prospect is ready to buy and they will 'raise their hand' and tell you so.

Sounds simple enough, yet nothing lands your email in a spam folder faster than harassing people with emails they don't want. So what makes email funnels so successful?

Email Is Not Dead as a Marketing Tool

Email marketing may have been around for a long time, but it’s still very much alive and kicking. Although many people communicate via apps and social media nowadays, email is still the top form of business communication.  And consider that your social media following is “rented real estate” and could be taken away at any time whereas your email list you own.

Every day this year almost 294 billion emails travelled around the world. That’s proof enough that email as a means of communication is far from dead.

What’s the first thing you check when you logon to your pc morning, noon or night? Your email, right? Your prospective customers do the same thing. Why? Because of curiosity or FOMO, to use a modern-day term.

It’s that same fear of missing out that persuades people to open your first email communication with them. That’s why it has to be good; good enough to get them to read the next one, and so on and so on.

Email Marketing Is Not Just for Sales

Email Marketing helps SEO

Your website is likely one of your businesses’ main sources of leads, and it’s a good one. After all, you can track which pages people have visited to figure out what they’re interested in. You can track their buying behaviour, and you can ask them for their email addresses before they leave (in return for some great content).

The more times people visit your website, the better it ranks on the search engines. The better it ranks on search engines the more people are likely to find it and visit it, and the more chance you have of getting new leads. It’s a never-ending cycle.

So, why not use email marketing to direct people to your site? The more of your existing customers visit your site regularly, the better it ranks. The better it ranks, the more new customers are likely to find it in a search.

Bottom line – email marketing can be good for SEO too.

Email Is an Excellent Top Funnel Tool

The top of the sales funnel is where you convince new customers that you’re the good guy. It’s a warm, fuzzy place where no sales jargon may ever go.  It’s the perfect place to engage customers, provide some genuine value and in return, gain exposure for your company, and get them thinking about your brand.

Now as a marketer, when you think of engagement, social media is the first medium that springs to mind. Why would you want to reach out to customers on a platform that’s filled with other businesses trying to do the same, and as I said above, one that you don’t own!!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t be using social media to ‘build your tribe’ but with email, you have your customer’s undivided attention. If you continue sending them engaging and value-added content, you’ll keep it that way.

How About That ROI?

Email_ROI

Email marketing is cheap but it’s not easy. Sending the mail itself may be almost cost-free, but the time it takes to craft it can become costly. That’s why many businesses get a marketing professional to do the work for them – because time is money.  Use email automation to create a sequence of emails sent over a period of days.

While these initial set up costs can add up, you’re never going to send every customer a unique email. Once you’ve hit on an email marketing formula that works, you can use it for every first contact. That’s where the savings come in.

Personalisation Par Excellence

People can’t help notice correspondence that addresses them directly, but the other side of personalisation is customising the offers you make to your customers according to their interests.

The supermarket loyalty card has mastered this.  By tracking the groceries associated with each swipe of the card, they can offer their customers only the goods they’re interested in.

This has a double benefit. Firstly, their customers look forward to their weekly emails promising savings on the things they need. Secondly, they appreciate the fact that the supermarket is treating them like an individual.

As long as the offers stay relevant, they’ll stay happily subscribed to this kind of email marketing.

What’s more, supermarkets use this kind of email to promote links to recipes which leads to another double whammy. The customers click through to the website to see the recipe and they’re enticed to buy extra ingredients to create the dish.

This is the kind of personalisation that works. Simply adding someone’s name to the subject line of an email won’t win you any friends. So consider what info you need to get when someone signs up to your list (for example, when you join my email list I will ask you how big your agency is or are you a 1-man band/freelancer – and that helps me personalise some of the emails I send (e.g. no point sending an email about managing staff if you are a 1-man band!)

Do You Want in on the Email Funnel Action?

email marketing

You can carry on letting customers drift away, or you can learn how to use email funnels to get results.

Once you’ve mastered the art of the email funnel, your marketing efforts will become the most anticipated thing in your customers’ inboxes.

Next, I’ll show you just how to do that.

How to Change up Your Email Marketing With Email Funnels

Now that you’ve come around to the idea that email funnels could work for you, there are a few ways you can use them to maximum effect. But first, the basics.

Every email sales funnel has three stages:

1

Value Stage - To Nurture a Relationship with Your Email Contacts

In this first stage, you want to welcome them to the fold.

You can thank them for signing up or for downloading something from you. You can offer them something further for free – either a free download, a video series or some useful and interesting information.

It’s all about building trust.

2

Authority Stage - To Educate Potential Customers About Your Products and Services

Next, you want to convince them that you know your stuff. You can do this with some examples of how you’ve helped customers, a few positive reviews, or articles and case studies. All sprinkled with a little low-key self-promotion.

3

Call-To-Action Stage – To Persuade Subscribers to Buy Something or Do Something

Now, it’s time for some action. Here’s where you start to introduce your products and services.

If you’ve done your job properly in the first two stages, your customers will trust that you’ve got their best interests at heart.

Apart from these three key steps, you can get a lot more creative with your email marketing and here’s how.

Types of Email Marketing Funnels

Take a look at these examples of the ways you can use email funnels to win customers and get sales.

Building Anticipation

To coin a phrase, ”curiosity catches the customer”. When you’re launching a new product, it pays to build up anticipation before the event.

Don’t be vague, go all out to get them guessing.

You can tell your readers that there’s a new product coming and it’s something they’ll all love. 

Back up your mail with links to social media posts with images of the new product that don’t fully reveal what it is. Invite them to try and guess.

Finally, tell them to keep an eye on their inboxes on a specific date to hear all about the big news. When you finally announce your new product, drive it home with information about the benefits it has for them.

The Option to Opt-Out

Unsubscribe

Amazon has an unusual way of getting their workers more committed to their jobs. Every year, they offer them $5,000 to quit. The catch is if they take the package, they can never work at Amazon again.

Would you take that deal? Nobody does.

When presented with an option with finite consequences like this, it’s human nature to think long term. Suddenly, all the benefits of staying employed come to mind.

You can use this principle in your email funnels to keep customers engaged. You do this by being honest. Tell them how often you’ll be emailing. Tell them you’ll be sending special offers now and again, then tell them they can opt-out right now and never know what they’re missing.

Another approach to this kind of message is telling them why they should opt-out upfront if they aren’t interested in saving, improving their business, or winning at life – depending on your niche.

Sure, you might lose some subscribers, but the vast majority would rather stay subscribed for fear of missing out. For the same reason, they’ll also check every mail you send them.

Rewarding Good Behavior

Reward

It’s a no-brainer that people love to feel special and you can use this to your advantage in email funnels. This type of funnel hinges on the concept of giving only customers who do one thing exclusive access to another.


This may seem like you’re turning business away, but niching your business like this can bring huge rewards.

How it works is by providing a link to something in your initial email. This could be a product page, a video, or a blog post. When the customer clicks your link, they receive a reward that they weren’t expecting.

For example, you can email them straight away and offer them an exclusive and related reward if they take another action. Here’s an example:

Ian Stanley, a master of email marketing, started his email funnel by commiserating with his readers about how busy they were. Then he invited them to watch a short video about how time is unmanageable.

Those who clicked through to the video received a follow-up from ‘Time’ to say they needed to talk, with another video about how to improve their relationship with time.

Finally, those subscribers who watched the second video received an invitation to take part in a time-management workshop at a discounted price.

Now, these workshops weren’t cheap, but Stanley managed to grow his business to seven figures using tactics like these.

With a little imagination, you could do the same. How do you get started?

Putting Email Marketing Into Action

Are you overflowing with ideas about how to use email funnels to boost your customer engagement and sales yet?

Now, all you need is a mailing list…

Unless you know how to find awesome qualified leads on your own, fill in the form below and download my eBook about creating an automated lead generation system and let’s get started.

If you would like to learn more about list building and email marketing then sign up for my FREE Masterclass 

Email marketing

Why do some companies offer their clients pain killers while most try to give them a vitamin pill?

selling

If you had a really bad headache and you could buy a pain killer or a vitamin pill, which would you buy?  The painkiller, right? Obvious!

Yet in business, I see time and time again, agencies trying to sell their prospective clients a vitamin pill.  This is not a good way to sell.

Imagine going to your best friend’s wedding and having too good a time and waking up with an almighty headache the next morning.  Would you reach for a pain killer or take a vitamin pill? Well a pain killer of course!

Clients who are in pain have an urgent need to solve that pain (with your solution). Yet many agencies are trying to sell their prospective clients a vitamin pill (something that is nice to have but not urgent) rather than a pain killer!

So when you are marketing & selling your product or service, are you addressing the client’s pain or are you telling them your product is something that would be great to have in their business?

Getting this positioning wrong will have a massive impact on your agency.

A real bugbear of mine is that many websites make this mistake by starting out selling the vitamin (which looks like telling the client how great YOU are and what YOU do on your home page) rather than recognising the pain (which looks like building empathy with your client by showing you understand the pain they are in).

This could well be the case with your own website?  

They are trying to sell the client something they may not be aware that they currently need (the vitamin pill) because although it might enhance their business, it doesn’t solve one of their major pains right now (the pain killer).

Let me give you a real example of this – something that happened to me last week.  I got a cold call from a company that can track visitors to your website and give you detailed info on them.  

Sounds great right?  

The issue is that this isn’t one of my current pains.  A current pain for me (regarding web traffic) is that I would like to get more traffic to my site.  Only then would it be worth investing a monthly fee on visitor tracking software. Meanwhile, that product is just a vitamin pill for me, so I am not going to buy it!  The guy on the phone wasn’t really listening to me and just tried to tell that spending £500 / month on their software was a good investment.  Not if it doesn’t solve one of my key pains!

They needed to better target by understanding who they were calling first.

If we start by identifying the client’s pain then we ‘stand in the client’s shoes’ and demonstrate we understand them (which builds empathy, a crucial part of the sales process). The language we use when we discuss our product or service will then be geared to show the client how we solve that pain rather than just discussing the features of our product (which we can do later).

So 3 things we can all do better in our agencies:

  • Know your customer persona/avatar and specifically what the top 3 pains/issues are in their business
  • Understand the language they use and build our solutions using this language, showing how our solution can cure their pain
  • Make our initial communications (via email, blogging, your website) all about the client and their pain (so they want to read more) BEFORE we talk about our solution and how great we are

If we do this we are much more likely to build empathy with a client which will lead them to say ‘tell me more’ and then you have started a dialogue that can more easily lead to a sale.

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.

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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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