Agency Smarts

The Biggest Challenges Agencies Face Today with Michael Farmer

Running or owning an agency is not easy. And it seems that these agency problems and challenges are getting tougher to face every year. Many agencies are watching their workloads grow while their fees and profits seem frozen in time. My podcast guest Michael Farmer has been tracking the evolution of agency work for the past 25 years. He says that the challenges of modern agency owners can largely be traced to the industry turning a blind eye to the issues of scope creep while at the same time, not evolving their fees or payment structures. While this issue can seem overwhelming, Michael has a proven model that will show you how to get a handle on your scope creep and a way to figure out the appropriate charges for that work. Michael and I will walk you through it all as well as: Some of the big problems and challenges agencies face today Why the future is bright for small to mid-sized independent agencies Why your agency needs a uniform approach for working with clients and an example of what that looks like The documented scope of work document: what should this look like? Why it’s harder than ever for agencies to make money Michael’s “price for the work” metric Creating accountability with client heads Why agencies probably will have an easier time fixing scope of work than they think What agencies can do right now to start fixing some of these mistakes Michael Farmer grew up in the Midwest and was the first child in his family to go to college. He went to Princeton on an NROTC scholarship and worked at various jobs to pay the difference. After that, he spent 5 years [...]

Building Your Business for the Future with Jason Swenk

One of the goals of many agency owners is to build a business that has enough value that someone will want to buy it from them down the road. If you got a call with a cash offer for your agency tomorrow -- would you be ready? Would your agency be? That’s exactly what happened to my podcast guest, Jason Swenk and because he had a plan -- he was ready.   He calls himself the defender of truth, justice, and effective business practices and he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to agency value. In his opinion, the only difference between an eight-figure agency owner and someone who is struggling is their systems. It's not about how smart they are or their experience. It all comes down to having the right systems in place. This is just one area that Jason’s expertise can help you in building your business/agency with the future in mind. Learn more as Jason and I explore: How Jason prepared his agency for sale The importance of systems inside an agency What to do when the systems you put in place make you nonessential for day-to-day operations Lead generation: why this is the biggest pain point for agencies and what can be done about it How agencies can deliver exceptional value to clients willing to pay a premium price and how to get those clients in the first place How to recognize which clients to seek out and which to avoid Jason’s Agency Playbook Things agencies do to get in their own way Agencies and niche: why you need to start very, very small What can agencies do right now to take action on the ideas in this [...]

Understanding Agency Finance and Business Valuation with Donya Powell

A lot of agency owners are accidental agency owners. Do you remember the day that you looked around and realized that you were running a business? For many agency owners, that wasn’t really the plan. And even if it was – we’re not prepared for it. We grew up in either the account service world or the creative world and avoided anything that even smelled of math or agency finance. But now, as agency owners, we need to have a handle on what is going on in our agencies from the financial side. Where do I stand financially and how can I improve my agency’s financial health?   My podcast guest, Donya Powell is a CFO who works with agencies both big and small, helping them with everything from succession planning and selling their agency to financial dashboards, budgets and tax strategies. In our conversation, Donya and I cover a lot of ground, including: Misconceptions agency owners have when valuing their business Donya’s spreadsheet for assessing your financial picture during retirement Understanding agency finance your agency’s normalized EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) Factors that severely impact your agency’s value in a negative way What you may need to change in your agency’s books Things on the financial statement that agency owners often ignore that they really need to pay attention to What financials agency owners should be looking at every week, month, and quarter Budgets: can modern, project-based agencies use them? Mistakes agencies make in regards to taxes and tax strategies to take advantage of How to know if your agency is structured as a corporation in the correct way Things to think about when planning the selling of your agency Factors [...]

Looking Ahead into the Future of Business for Agencies

As agency leaders, we’re as good as our last idea. So we’re always on the lookout for fresh thinking and emerging trends to take to our clients. But how do we do that in today’s overloaded information age where there is never enough time and so many other distractions? And how can we look into the future of business as it relates to the agency space? “Open your eyes, get out of your comfort zone, and learn about the world around you.” These are the words of wisdom from my podcast guest, Rohit Bhargava.   Rohit is a non-obvious trend curator and an expert in helping brands and leaders be more influential. He helps agencies re-think their role when it comes to what they're supposed to be doing for their customers. In his mind, it all comes down to understanding a customer's true business need, rather than what they think they’re asking for. It’s looking around, being curious and finding the non-obvious in the everyday.    Some highlights of our conversation include: Working as a solopreneur vs. working in an agency Rohit’s trend report that started as a blog post Habits for being a trend spotter Big trends for 2016 What lies ahead for the future of business for agencies VR: How Virtual Reality can become important to agencies Data overload: what will happen when all the data available to different parties eventually gets pooled together? Understanding your clients’ true needs and becoming their true partner Architecting an Innovation Day to open up your clients’ wallets How to teach trend-creating thinking to employees coming out of college Rohit Bhargava is a Wall Street Journal bestselling author of five books on topics as wide ranging as [...]

Painless Prospecting for New Business with Tom Martin

As times change, so must agencies. AMI does some research every summer and in talking to CMOs across the country, it's been very clear that clients are no longer interested in only working with just one agency anymore. In fact, our study showed that over 50% of them want to work with multiple agencies, allowing each other to do what they do best but not letting them run the show. In learning how to be a part of that blended family team, there is opportunity. That’s just one of the topics that I chatted about with my podcast guest, Tom Martin. He helps agencies take advantage of that opportunity. He gets them to the place where the client sees them as the ultimate partner, a consigliere, if you will, versus the guys that just execute ad strategies. He finds that the real money is in becoming a partner who can think, ideate and grow a client's business.   But how do you find those partner clients? He does all of this through his system of Painless Prospecting where you wake up, open your inbox, and there's a lead waiting for you instead of having to go create that lead. It’s investing in your agency to build not tomorrow’s lead, but the lead that’s six months or a year down the road. Tom and I dig into the nuts and bolts of this with: How prospecting for new business has changed over the years Why clients no longer believe in hiring just one agency How to define your value to your clients when delivering ideas instead of “stuff” Correctly positioning your agency in the days when your client first discovers you Painless Prospecting: how to get [...]

Tips for Creating, Sustaining and Building Your Agency with Mitch Joel

Throughout the entire process of building your agency, you have a lot on your plate. Depending on where you’re at in the life of your agency, you may be struggling to eat something other than ramen noodles or on the flip side of the spectrum, you’re spending all your time servicing your clients and trying to keep up with the demand. Ideally, you are working towards being able to step away from the day to day and focus on big picture of working on your agency. You may have aspirations to sell your agency some day and really reap the reward of all your hard work. No matter where you are at, my podcast guest Mitch Joel can probably relate.   He has taken his Toronto based agency from a small three-man shop to a global juggernaut by doing all the things that AMI preaches to agency owners every day. He quickly moved his agency to specializing in a niche, he focused on what it took to be acquired – growth and margin, he found his sweet spot client filter, and on top of it all, he kept on learning and growing and gave his team the time and space to do the same.   Try to keep up as Mitch and I take you through all of these phases of agency life by showing you: Mirum’s unique structure Generalists vs specialists: the philosophical and financial reasons agencies should specialize instead of generalizing Building your agency so that it is sustainably specialized How to figure out if a client is a good fit for your agency Mad Men vs. Math Men: how to blend creative and data Why it’s more important than ever to stay [...]

Why the Written Word is More Important than Ever in Business with Jody Sutter

Words matter. They’re often an agency’s go to tool for clients and biz dev. Your prospects spend time on your website, follow you on social media, and read your content long before they ever reach out to you – so your written word is critical. It’s the first thing that your prospects see, so it better be up to snuff.   My podcast guest, Jody Sutter has a long history with the written word. Jody works with agencies helping them develop a more proactive approach to growing their business, with a special emphasis around how they communicate - getting jargon, generalizations, wordiness, and sloppy writing out of their proposals and everything else they use to promote their agency. Through your writing, Jody helps you to differentiate yourself, so that your work stands out from the others by being clear about who you are and what you do best. Jody and I help you find your unique voice by showing you: Why strong writing is more important than ever in our digital age The major mistakes that agencies make when presenting themselves in writing How to avoid making the big mistakes agencies make when responding to RFPs Why editing is so important for improving your team’s writing, how to get good at it, and what you should keep in mind if you are outsourcing the editing How agencies can differentiate themselves through storytelling The Pixar pitch The “5 things that you can do to make your writing better right away” checklist What you need to do to assess whether or not your writing needs improvement Jody Sutter started her career in sales and ended up working in agencies leading the new business teams. Today she runs [...]

Discussing Marketing-Led Innovation and Strategy with Gavin Heaton

Everyone talks about digging into your clients’ issues and discovering “ what keeps them up at night.” But are you really doing that? Is your staff trained to do that? Doing so makes your agency better at innovation and strategy – which is what clients are hungry for, according to the research AMI does with CMOs every year. When you can deliver on this need – you get to charge a premium and those clients stick around. In my podcast conversation with Gavin Heaton we dig into this topic and talk about how to make it a reality. Gavin works with agencies showing them how to build value and create opportunities by really listening to the client’s wants. He provides agencies with ways to implement creative and innovative thinking in their businesses to become a true strategic partner for their clients. Gavin and I explore many of the ways you can become a more valuable asset for your clients by: Focusing on the things the client wants, rather than what an agency wants to push to them, which ultimately creates more value for the client. Grappling with a problem that is worth solving, rather than pursuing an idea of interest.  Taking a lesson from the start-up point of view and focusing on the audience and their wants first, and then building your product. Solving your client’s problems and as a result, becoming less of a vendor, and more of a business partner.  Getting your team to think creatively and innovatively. Gavin is a marketing technologist, strategist, and advisor. He is the founder of the Disruptor’s Handbook, a network of entrepreneurs and innovators that help businesses innovate like startups, which Gavin calls “marketing lead innovation.” He has led new venture [...]

How to Develop a Compelling Value Proposition and Differentiate Your Agency from Others

A potential client asks you to describe your agency. How do you communicate your compelling value proposition to the client and differentiate your agency from others? Quick – what makes you stand out in the agency crowd? Do you find yourself using words like full service, strategic, creative? Or maybe you say, “We partner with our clients.” “We've been here for X number of years.” “We’re not a traditional agency.” “We don't do digital, we are digital.” Unfortunately, the truth is, whether you like it or not, you sound just like every other agency out there. Even if we think we're standing out in a crowd, we tend to sound very much the same. We all believe that we sound distinct but the truth is our words all blur with the same phrases that every other agency uses. So how do you truly develop a compelling value proposition and differentiate your shop when the competition is getting tougher and tougher and we sound and look more and more alike? By clearly defining your mission, vision and values. In this solocast, I help you flesh that out by exploring: How to communicate a compelling value proposition to your clients by telling your own story via content. How to put a stake in the ground and say this is what we do and how and why we do it. How to answer the following big questions: Why do you do this work? What is your why? What would happen to the world if your agency simply faded from existence? How to specifically define your mission, your vision, and your compelling values. Drew McLellan is the Top Dog at Agency Management Institute. He has also owned and operated [...]

Integrating Marketing and Customer Service with Jay Baer

Integrating both marketing and customer service is extremely important to effectively running your business. But do you know exactly how important it is? I’m not sure you do. Imagine working for a company that actually has a position called your Director of Customer Experience. Now that’s a company to watch. Now, imagine if the Director of Customer Experience’s job was to triple negative feedback. All for the purpose of revolutionizing the customer experience. That’s today’s version of customer care and it will have huge impact on the work agencies do for clients. The customer service game as we know it has been turned on its head and there’s huge opportunity for your agency. You all know Jay Baer from Convince & Convert and his work in marketing, content creation and all things digital. You’ve probably read his best selling book Youtility. But Jay’s latest book – Hug Your Haters is a research based look at the customer service climate in today’s 24/7 wired world. In this podcast, Jay and I delve into how important customer care has changed and what companies and agencies need to do to answer the demands and expectations of today’s customers. Among other things, we cover: How agencies can capitalize on the next wave of customer service How to turn negative feedback into tremendously invaluable help The importance of the honesty audit and how to get hired to do this The challenges of moving from doing marketing work for clients to doing marketing and customer service. Jay Baer is known for many things. He’s the world’s most retweeted digital marketer. He is also a renowned business strategist, keynote speaker, and The New York Times bestselling author of five books. He also [...]