Episode 353

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We all know the phrase, “what we don’t know, can’t hurt us.” But, it also can’t make us any more money. That’s why this week, we’re kicking things off with another solocast episode where I’ll be discussing the two agency growth secrets that are guaranteed to put more money in your pocket and bring clients to you effortlessly.

To demonstrate this, I’m using Flying Camel as an example of how a few small tweaks can up-level you from an A– to an A-grade agency. They’ve already established themselves as an agency that has honed its expertise within a niche, they’re sought-after to speak at events all over the world, and are overall doing everything right. But, they knew they could be doing more, and they contacted me to help them figure out how to tackle it.

While we didn’t need to change much, we still gave them two areas to work on that will almost instantly make their agency even more attractive to potential clients. And on today’s episode, I’m going to break down those topics so that you can start up-leveling your agency, too.

A big thank you to our podcast’s presenting sponsor, White Label IQ. They’re an amazing resource for agencies who want to outsource their design, dev, or PPC work at wholesale prices. Check out their special offer (10 free hours!) for podcast listeners here.
agency growth secrets

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • The agency growth secrets that can uplevel your agency, even if you’re already doing everything right
  • Two ways that you could easily improve your agency’s profitability and bottom line every year
  • The value of understanding the money metrics in your agency, even if you’re not a numbers person
  • Why carving out a niche and honing your expertise will establish you as a leader in your industry
  • The reasons you should not be dismissing your own expertise, but rather, magnifying it
  • How to be sought-after specifically for your expertise with very little change to your day-to-day operations
  • Why being a thought leader matters when running an A-tier agency
  • How to carve out time to create content that sets you apart from other agencies
“You dismiss what you know, and you go, ‘Oh, we started to write it. But you know what? Everybody knows this stuff.’ And honestly, that's not true. You just know it so well that you assume that everybody knows it.” @DrewMcLellan Share on X “It is not about hitting a home run every time. It is about consistently hitting singles and doubles and being a little helpful, helping your prospects be a little better at their job every day.” @DrewMcLellan Share on X “Being thought of as a thought leader and being findable as a thought leader, because you're consistently producing content that is helpful and that teaches, that's at a whole different level. That's at the top 5% of all agencies level.” @DrewMcLellan Share on X “You don't have to write white papers that are tomes of never before seen information. What you have to do is be helpful, and you have to share what you know, generously, and you have to do that consistently.” @DrewMcLellan Share on X “The two things that most of you can do to elevate your agency by a letter grade is running yourself by the numbers and being purposeful in your thought leadership content creation.” @DrewMcLellan Share on X

Ways to contact Drew McLellan:


Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take the risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institutes, Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ. Tune in every week for insights on how small to midsize agencies are surviving and thriving in today’s market. We’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you make. We want to help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want, down the road, sellable. With 25 plus years of experience, as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody Drew Mcllellan here from Agency Management Institute. Thanks for coming back for another episode of Build a Better Agency. I am super excited to actually hang out with you today, I want to tell you about this agency that we’re working with, before I do that though, I want to remind you that we’ve made some changes. So we had some struggles with our workshop venue in Chicago, so we’re wrapping up our cycle with them with the AE Bootcamp, which is coming up August 1st and second, we still do have some spots open if you want to send your folks there, but after that, we’re going to be moving the AE Bootcamps and the Advanced AE Bootcamps to Denver, we have a new venue there that we’re excited about, and so we’re going to have another Advanced AE Bootcamp in September and another regular AE Bootcamp in October, and those dates are on the website if you are so inclined to check those out.

But anyway, we’re moving some of our workshops from Chicago to Denver, because the venue that we used for many years, which we loved, lost their ability to cater, and so we have to feed you all, and so we had to shift. So that’s why that happened. So anyway, check that out on the website if you’re interested, we’re going to start offering each of those twice a year now, I’ve only been able to fit one a year in my schedule, but now we’re able to do it twice a year, so it’ll be September and October, and then again in the spring, I think it’s March and April. Denver’s lovely in both of those seasons, so we hope you’ll come see us or send your folks to us. All right.

So let me tell you what’s up with this episode. Normally I would have a guest on this episode, that’s the cycle that we’re in, every four episodes or four episodes with a guest and then one episode with just me and I deviated from that last week with the 4th of July here in the states, and I’m going to deviate it again this week with the holidays, finding and scheduling guests was a challenge, and so instead, I have permission to tell you about a visit that we’re in the middle of right now. So we flew to Toronto Ontario and then got to Burlington, Ontario, which is a beautiful city right on the lake. And we are working with an agency called Flying Camel. Sometimes when we get called into agencies, it’s because they’re in crisis or they are really struggling with something, and other times we get called in, and this is the case with our friends at Flying Camel, where everything’s going great, and they just really want to level up, they just really want to tweak.

And I think that’s the position that a lot of you are in, that things are fine and going well, and you’re running a good shop and I’ll tell you a little bit about them and all the things they’re doing right, in a second, but for all of you, regardless of where you’re at, there are tweaks you could make, you can just make some adjustments and go from an A-minus to an A or a B-plus, to an A-minus. And that’s really what we found when we got here to the folks in Flying Camel, they’re doing so many things well and right, they have brilliantly, over the last 10 or 15 years, niched themselves really tightly into an industry where there’s not a lot of competition, where they have a depth of expertise and they have really honed that expertise, they’ve gotten involved with trade associations, they speak at conferences, they are often sought after by the media to talk about the industry.

And the depth of knowledge really resides in all of the employees, but particularly the agency owner, Leanne Woods. And so Leanne as a person, not only just as the agency, but as a person, is really well known in the circles that they stay in, to stay in their niche and is often asked to moderate panels and do other things because of her expertise and because she’s famous inside that circle. And so again, that’s something I’m harping on all the time, find a niche, and all of the advantages of niche-ing they are enjoying. So they are often sought after by right fit clients, they get referred a lot of times from other people in the industry.

So their sales cycle is much shorter, because they are referred by trusted resources inside the industry, and then when they show their case studies and they demonstrate their expertise, it’s an easy sale for them typically, but this is one of the places where they could level up. Let me tell you about another aspect of their business. So, super profitable agency, making good money, they grow a little every year in terms of finances, but honestly, they’re leaving some money on the table, we’re going to talk about why in a minute. So they’re doing a lot of things right, they’re making money, they’re taking good care of their people, they have very little turnover, they are well known in their niche. So when I think about the things that I keep asking you to do and telling you are signs of a healthy agency, they check a lot of those boxes.

Leanne has a right hand person, kind of a COO, head of digital, named Kim and she’s rock solid, they have a really rock solid management team. So check in the boxes, we’re making money, we’re growing, we’re in a niche, we have a strong team, we don’t have a lot of turnover, we have a great management team, we have a strong leader in Leanne. So all of those things are great, if I was grading them, I would probably give them an A-minus. They are doing just about everything right. But part of what we’ve been talking about since we’ve been here are the little things they could do that actually would have huge results, that would have huge outcomes for them. The first one does get down to the money that’s left on the table.

So Leanne is like many of you, she will self profess that she doesn’t like the math, she doesn’t like the number, she doesn’t like paying attention to the metrics, she can look at a PnL and see that she’s got money in the bank, and she knows that she ends up with money every year at the end of the year, but the tweak I would make, and that we’re making with them is, they really do need to start running their business by the numbers, because instead of X profit, they could have X times two profit easily in their shop simply by really paying more attention to the numbers and paying attention to the metrics and the data.

We’ve really simplified that for all of you, and we talk about it for two days straight in the Money Matters Workshop, but I certainly have talked about it in videos and podcasts. All of you know that there are three or four metrics that if you run your business based on those metrics, there’s no reason why you cannot put 20% profitability to your bottom line every single year, whether you’ve had a great year or not a great year, because the numbers tell you what to do.

And then you obviously get to decide if you want to follow what the numbers are telling you to do, but at least you know you have an informed decision to make around what to do. So that’s tweak number one that we want to make at Flying Camel to take them from that A-minus to an A. And the other thing is, I was telling you about the niche that they have, that they’ve developed and the expertise that they’ve developed, and they literally get invited to fly all over the world to participate in events that are tied to their niche, but what they’re missing is, and again, this is a tweak for them to go from that A-minus to an A, what they’re missing is, they don’t really magnify that expertise.

So they have earned the privilege of being sought after by right fit clients, they have earned the privilege of having a roster of clients that anybody in the industry would recognize the names and be impressed by, but they have not taken advantage of everything they know by actually creating content and becoming and positioning themselves as a thought leader.

What’s ironic, and this is ironic for a lot of you, this is not just about Flying Camel, you are, I’m assuming, hearing and seeing yourself in the mirror, as I’m talking to you about this specific agency which, by the way, I have permission to talk about, they are so smart and they are so well known in their industry, but they don’t take advantage of that by creating content that positions them as a thought leader. So inside the industry, if somebody is in the know, they’re known, but there are a lot of people in the industry who don’t know about them, or who are just getting into the industry, or marketing directors change, all of those sort of things that all of you experience no matter who you serve or what industry you work in.

So if they don’t have a referral source or they don’t already know about Flying Camel, if they went to their website or they Googled the industry, Flying Camel wouldn’t really show up in the way that they could or should, because they’re not producing content that allows them to be seen as a thought leader, and when we talked about that yesterday in the meeting, I got the same excuses that all of you give, “cobbler’s children have no shoes. We’re super busy”, and the other one is, and I hear this every single day, the other one is that you dismiss what you know, and you go, “oh, we started to write it, but you know what? It sounds, everybody knows this stuff”, and honestly, that’s not true. You just know it so well that you assume that everybody knows it.

But the truth is that every single one of you listening has a depth of expertise and knowledge that your audience, whoever your prospects are, don’t know or need to be reminded about. It’s no different than this podcast, sometimes I’m telling you something you’ve never heard before, sometimes I’m telling you something that confirms something you’ve believed, sometimes I tell you something and you’re like, “oh right, I got to remember to do that.”

Hey, there just a quick interruption. I want to make sure that you are aware that you are cordially invited, not just invited, but cordially invited to join our Facebook group, our private Facebook group. All you have to do is go to Facebook and search for Build a Better Agency, and you’ll find the Facebook group. You have to answer three quick questions, you have to put in the agency URL, you have to talk about what you want to learn from the group, and you have to promise to behave yourself and that’s it, and then we’ll let you in. And you can jump into the conversation with over a thousand other agency owners and leaders, and there’s a robust conversation happening every day. People are sharing resources and best practices and discussing everything from work from home policies to paternity policies, to biz dev strategies. So come join us and jump into the conversation. Speaking of conversations, let’s head back.

So content and thought leadership doesn’t always have to be the Mona Lisa of content that somebody is like, “you know what? I have never seen or heard anything that amazing before my life, I didn’t know it, it changed my life”, that’s not the way it works. It is not about hitting a home run every time, it is about consistently hitting singles and doubles and being a little helpful, helping your prospects be a little better at their job every day.

And I don’t care how well known you are in your industry or in your town or in your field, I don’t care how famous you are, if you will, amongst that small constituency that matters to you, being famous to some of them is lovely, and it is a hard earned spot, but being thought of as a thought leader and being able to be findable as a thought leader, because you’re consistently producing content that is helpful, and that teaches, that’s at a whole different level, that’s at the 5% of all agency level and Leanne and her team absolutely could get there. And so yesterday, when we were talking, they were like, “oh, we don’t have time, and what would we say?” And then we got on a different conversation and they started rattling off all of the topics that they’ve spoken at conferences about and all of the things that they are teaching their own internal staff, they have some younger staff that is just getting into the industry, and so they’re teaching them.

And by the time they were done, it was like a year’s worth of an editorial calendar, it was like, there’s your content right there. You don’t have to overcomplicate this, you don’t have to, again, write white papers that are tones of never before seen information. What you have to do is, you have to be helpful and you have to share what you know, generously, and you have to do that consistently, and it’s far better to do bits of that every week or every month than it is to do it once a year at a conference. And so honestly, with these two little tweaks, by paying a little more attention to the numbers, and by actually committing to a editorial calendar and consistently producing content that positions them as a thought leader, they can take their agency, which already is a rock star among agencies, they can take their agency to a whole different level.

And what I want you to hear is, what I’m talking about is a little bit of time, a little bit of focus, I’m not talking about some drastic change, what I’m talking about is, really committing to running the agency in a tighter way financially. So looking at a couple reports every week and every month. So, a couple hours a month is what that’s going to take, but you can double your profit to the bottom line by doing that, and by spending, let’s call it, 10 to 20 hours a month producing content, and that’s probably extreme, if they’re writing blog posts or they’re shooting videos, it really is not going to be that long, but let’s just say, let’s say it’s 10 to 20 months, 20 hours of someone’s time on the staff a month.

So what is that? Five hours a week at the most, they could be the thought leader, they could be findable on search engines, they could be even more sought after to speak at conferences, they could level up some of their smaller clients into larger clients, because they’re positioning themselves as thought leaders. And again, all of that contributes to employee satisfaction, employee retention, profitability, client retention, client satisfaction, all by doing something that honestly we’re talking about, we’re asking them to spend five or six hours a week doing some things that they’re not doing right now. And that’s it, those are the tweaks that they need to make, to go from that A-minus to an A, and my guess is, that as I’m talking, a lot of you are saying, “You know what? Those are the exact same tweaks that I need to make. My agency is running well, I’ve got a good team, we’re smart, we have narrowed our focus and our niche in a place where we are beginning.”

Maybe you’re beginning to start getting referrals, or maybe you’ve been getting referrals for a while, and I’m not talking about garden variety referrals, where it could be the butcher, the baker, the candlestick baker, I’m talking right fit clients. And so, again, this is a position they have worked hard for and earned, and all we have to do is just make a slight tweak and they could be just exponentially more successful than they are, and you know what? Many of you have and will continue to ignore both pieces of advice that I’m giving you today about running yourself by the numbers and about really being purposeful in your thought leadership content creation, but those are probably the two things that most of you can do to elevate your agency by a letter grade, to take your profitability from X to two times X, to increase the satisfaction and retention of your staff and for you, as an agency owner or leader, to make more money.

So it seems to me that, that’s a minor investment for a lot of benefit for agencies that are running well, doing well, great foundation, and it’s just about an opportunity for you to get even better and to level up, and so I’m just going to encourage you, like we’re encouraging them, to consider making that time investment on both sides of the equation on the financial side and the thought leadership side, to take what you’re already doing really well and put yourself in the elite of the elite class of agencies, top five percent of all agencies will behave in the ways that I’m talking about today and those agencies, by the way, both of those things will make your agency much easier to sell either internally or externally, because you’ve added such intrinsic value, A, you’re running the business by the numbers, and so you’re adding more profitability to the bottom line.

And B, you are positioning the agency in a way that allows you to be an expert and allows the agency, when it changes hands, if you sell it, to maintain that expertise, because right now a lot of the expertise sits in Leanne’s head. And so by creating content and positioning the agency as an expert and continuing to hone the staff skills, now the entire agency has a depth of expertise, which is true now, absolutely, with the AEs and people like that who’ve been with the agency for a long time, but in the industry, it’s really that Leanne is known as the expert when, in fairness, there are lots of people under their roof that have expertise. So, they really need to transfer that position of honor from Leanne to the entire agency, and that way, when Leanne’s ready to wrap things up someday, she’ll be in a better position to sell the agency and to keep that coveted position in the industry with the agency, no matter who buys it.

So lots of good reasons to tweak your agency a little bit. And I’m grateful to the folks at Flying Camel for letting me talk about them, a lot of our clients are more reticent for us to talk about them, so I appreciate Leanne’s permission to share all of this with you, and again, for some of you, you aspire to be where Flying Camel is, and you need to keep working towards that, that depth of expertise, known in your industry, profitable every year, growing every year, but many of you are in that same position, you’re doing a great job, and with some minor adjustments, you can be the best of the best, and that’s what I want for you, is for you to be the best of the best and make as much money as you can, and build an asset that you can sell and shorten your sales cycle, and actually change the way you sell, because, again, as a thought leader in that top 5%, the right clients are knocking on your door every day.

So is it referral business? Yes, but it’s also clients seeking you out, because they found you at a conference or they found you on the internet, or they heard about you through a colleague and they know that you have a depth of expertise that they want to take advantage of, that’s ideal, when people are knocking on the door and asking if they can give you money and the right people are knocking on the door and asking you if they can give you money. And so it’s not that hard to position yourself that way, if you put in the time and you are consistent in honoring the deadlines and you don’t use, “we got super busy, so we couldn’t keep doing it”, which is what I hear from all of you every day.

And it’s what I hear from the Flying Camel folks too, “we’re swamped, we’re a small shop, when we have a huge event or a client has a big campaign going on, it’s all hands on deck”, and I’m here to tell you, there are ways for you to systemize your content creation so that doesn’t get in the way of you being the expert that you are and positioning yourself that way. So couple lessons from here in Burlington, Ontario, which by the way is lovely, really beautiful town, you should get here if you can, but couple lessons from our friends at Flying Camel, and that I hope are useful to all of you. All right. That wraps this up for today. Thanks for listening. Want to thank our friends at White Label IQ, as you know, they are the presenting sponsor for the podcast. So they do white label design dev and PPC for many AMI agencies and agencies probably that are not affiliated with AMI, but I hear all the time how they are an extension of the team and how helpful they are, and how the product that they produce makes clients happy.

I know my agency has worked with them and they knocked it out of the park for us as well. So super grateful to them and their sponsorship as always, and super grateful to you for listening, for hanging out with me every week, and I promise I’ll be back next week with something new for you to think about. In the meantime, if you need me, you can reach me at [email protected] and I’ll see you next week. Thanks for listening.

Speaker 1:

That’s all for this episode of AMI’s, Build a Better Agency Podcast. Be sure to visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to learn more about our workshops, online courses, and other ways we serve small to mid-sized agencies. Don’t forget to subscribe today, so you don’t miss an episode.