Episode 354:

As agency owners, we’re often dedicated to the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves and can get very comfortable serving our clients within those parameters. It’s easy to become highly committed, and stubbornly so, to that one niche. When it stops working for us the way we want it to, deciding to pivot can be difficult.

Today, the CEO of PredictiveROI, Stephen Woessner, came on the podcast to share his experience with this exact situation. His agency had been working in a niche for many years as a podcast shop that helped clients produce content. After some time, it started to become clear to the team that there was a better way they could be approaching business. Thus, a new agency niche was born, which began their great pivot to becoming the authority in teaching clients how to be the authority of their industries.

Stephen shares with us what led to the decision to pivot, the decisions he and his team made during the shifting process, and how they re-established their cornerstone content to align with their new niche.

If you take nothing else away from this very transparent and open discussion today, you should at least know that you have permission to think differently about how you want to position your agency to potential clients and that it’s okay for your agency niche to not be permanent. Sometimes, to build better, you need to pivot.

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 Niche

What You Will Learn in This Episode:

  • Why choosing your agency niche doesn’t have to be a permanent decision
  • How Stephen Woessner of PredictiveROI knew it was time to pivot to a new niche
  • Why sometimes throwing out the playbook and rebuilding in a different direction is a better move for your agency, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first
  • What pushed Stephen and his team to rethink their agency niche and the value they were providing to their clients
  • How to know which types of clients you’re already serving the best (this could be your new niche)
  • What is cornerstone content, and why is it so important to establish?
  • The importance of building a community of people wanting to learn from you and others to make more effortless sales
  • You have permission to think differently about your agency and how you want to position it in your industry

“We want to be seen as the authority on how to become the authority.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet“I hadn't quite come to the realization yet that by stepping further into the helpfulness around this niche that it does not diminish the work that our team has done.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet“One night, we had a really candid conversation about being a one-trick pony. And, honestly, at that point, PredictiveROI was.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet“You do help them be better and then plant your flag of authority, but you don't do that in such a way of like, ‘Here I am, the authority.’” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet“We had kind of a safe harbor and we knew that if we were going to continue this next level of growth for Predictive, we needed to get back out into the quasi rough waters, but making different decisions and changing the business.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet

Ways to Contact Stephen Woessner:

Resources:

Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community, where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money, and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ is packed with insights on how small to mid-sized agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25+ years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McClellan here from Agency Management Institute. Welcome back to another episode. This episode, I’m bringing back a guest to talk about how they went down a path after the Sell with Authority book and then how they ended up pivoting to a different niche and the thought process behind that. So, I’ll tell you more about that in a second. Before I get into who the guest is in the conversation, I want to remind you that registration is open for Money Matters. Money Matters is a workshop we teach every year. We teach it in December. It’s down in Orlando, on Disney property, which automatically makes it awesome. It’s probably my favorite workshop to teach.

It is the workshop where agency owners come up to me and say, “I’ve owned my agency for 20 years. Why didn’t I know these things? Why didn’t I understand how to take full advantage of the tax code? Why didn’t I understand how to price better? Why didn’t I understand the financial metrics that in an instant will tell me whether or not my agency is healthy?” I love teaching this content because it’s not anywhere else. And it just gives me great joy to arm agency owners with the knowledge they need to run the business better, to make more money and keep more of the money they make. So, that workshop is December 5th and 6th in Orlando, Florida. We would love for you to join us.

You can go to the website and register and soak up all of that content and hang out with a lot of really awesome agency owners and probably go into an after-hours event with us, where I will lead a parade of agency owners through the magic kingdom. And I promise in three or four hours, we will hit every ride. So, that’s a little bonus. If they have an after-hours event, we always like to host that. So, not the reason you should come to the workshop, by the way, but a cherry on top of the Sunday, for sure. All right. Let me tell you about this episode, because I’m excited about it.

So, my co-author in Sell with Authority, Stephen Woessner owns an agency called Predictive ROI. And interestingly, you would think as the authors of this book, we have it all figured out. And I mean, we wrote the book. We should be the authority on it and no doubt we are, but on the other hand, that doesn’t mean we don’t keep learning and we don’t keep making adjustments and enhancing what we’ve learned since we wrote the book. And so, Stephen’s agency has gone through this really interesting metamorphosis of shifting from one niche to another and serving a completely different audience in completely different ways.

And so, I asked him to come on this show and talk with transparency and candor, which he always does, about the decisions they made, why they made them, how it’s working, because I think a lot of you worry about picking a niche and then feeling like you can’t ever change your decision and you feel locked into something forever. And that just isn’t the case. And so, I thought hearing the story direct from him, from one of the authors would be super helpful to you. And so, that’s what we’re going to do. So, let’s get started.

Stephen, welcome back to the podcast. It’s been a while.

Stephen Woessner:

It has been a while, and as always, thanks very much for the invitation. You know I always love being able to spend time with you and your community. So, thank you very much.

Drew McLellan:

So, when you and I were talking about you coming back on the show, one of the things we were talking about is in the book, in our book, Sell with Authority, we talk a lot about niching down and not trying to be everything to everybody and really understanding who your community and your audience is and then serving them well.

Your agency, Predictive ROI, was rocking that. I mean, we certainly used your model as an example in the book. And we talked about how you had built a huge community around the Onward Nation Podcast and that you guys were very niched and focused in the beginning on being a podcast shop and being a podcast producer for clients and helping them create that cornerstone content that they needed to really kick off their position of authority. But over the years, you’ve done some pivots.

So, one of the things I want to talk about today in the show, because I think I get this resistance, I’m curious if you do too, and people talk to you about the book and they admit what they’re afraid of doing or why they’re not following our advice in the book or why niching scares them is that it’s the permanence of it for them that they feel so obligated to make the right decision because it’s forever. So, do you get that as well from your side?

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. I think the resistance is absolutely similar. So, not only the permanency, but then also, because you and I have talked about this, this has happened in the workshops that you and I teach. And that is the, “Well, if I make this decision today, Thursday, does that mean that I need to go and meet with my team on Monday and by Tuesday at noon, we fire all of our clients and we start over?”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. The ones that aren’t in the niche, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Right, which of course is not what we’re talking about. That is a progression. And I think the way that you’ve answered that of it’s a two- to three-year thing makes a lot of sense. The reality is the biggest pushback that we get is yes, permanency. Yes, this needs to happen tomorrow, which of course, it doesn’t. And that all of a sudden, I’m going to step into scarcity instead of abundance. Actually, the reverse of all of those is actually the truth.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. I think a lot of people think when they niche down, they have to say no to everybody. And what it really does is it opens the door to say yes to more people who are in that narrow lane.

Stephen Woessner:

Okay. That reminds me of something that you actually talked about at the March workshop in Chicago, because somebody asked you a question about that like, “Okay, let’s say that I niche and then said client comes along. We can do good work for them. It’s aligned with where we can be helpful. Should we still take that back of money?” You answered it great. So, that would be helpful for this conversation if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. What they were saying is, “But they aren’t in my niche,” right? So, I made this decision, I’ve chosen to only serve butchers and they’re a bank. So, should I take the money? And of course, our answer is, “Absolutely, you should take the money in the beginning. If you can do great work for them and you can be of service and you’re early in the niche development, just like always, you would take clients that you know you can help and you can make money helping.” But there is a moment in time as you evolve into the niche and you drill down deeper where you actually say no to the bank, because there are so many butchers coming to you that you don’t have to step out of the niche.

The longer you’re niched, what you find is you’re so good at that work because you do it all the time and you have such depth of knowledge that you actually can make more money and it’s so much easier to keep serving people in the niche and it’s harder work to do people who aren’t in the niche to take care of them. So, you and I both often say, “It’s not a revolution. It’s an evolution and you have to be patient with it.” But all of that said, you are well on your path to being very niched. You had written a book about podcasting. You were serving a lot of clients in the podcast space.

Your podcast was really well received and had built quite a community around it and was doing all the things we talk about in the book in terms of having prospects be guests on the show and then getting to know them and creating a relationship which opened the door to sales opportunities. All of those things were aligned beautifully with the book and then you and your team decided that that wasn’t the right niche for you anymore. So, I think one of the things when people read our book or talk to us or attend our workshops, the sense that their decision is so heavy because it’s permanent. It reminds me of the conversation I had with Kelsey when she was trying to decide what college to go to many moons ago. She was feeling such pressure to make the decision.

And I said, “Help me understand why this is creating so much anxiety for you.” And she was like, “Well, because I’m going to be there forever and it’s going to influence my career.” And I said, “Kelsey, you can go your freshman year and decide it’s not for you and pick a different college. It’s not permanent,” which relieved a lot of the pressure for her, I think. So, I think that same sense of this is this huge decision that is going to influence me for a really long time and maybe not.

So, one of the authors of the book who’s teaching all of this stuff decides, “The niche that we picked isn’t the right niche and I’m going to pivot,” I think that’s worthy of some conversations. So, let’s talk a little bit about what led up to you shifting from being a podcast shop to doing what you’re doing now. So, let’s, A, talk about what you’re doing now, but B, let’s talk about the shift.

Stephen Woessner:

The path was an interesting one, and the cool thing about this conversation is that you were walking alongside us on that path every step of the way. And so, I think it’s really valuable, incredibly valuable, because I don’t know that we would’ve had the courage to make that decision. And I say courage, because I’ll share some numbers here in a second, but I say courage because you were a great thinking partner, a great strategic partner for us, a confidant, somebody who we knew had our best interests at heart and also could be unbiased.

Even though we have this depth of relationship, obviously, and we’ve been in the AMI Community for 10 plus years, even that, you could separate yourself from any personal connection and say, “Wait a minute, guys,” and ask us some really difficult questions. That was immensely valuable through the process.

But as you know, we launched Onward Nation in 2015 candidly and I wrote about this out of desperation, because we were looking for that next business development thing. You helped us develop the Trojan Horse of Sales. Things were clicking along. After a year or so, the podcast Onward Nation had listeners in 141 countries. To your point, we built a cool community. We had an email list of 28,000 people. On the surface and looking at those numbers, we felt good about it, but also, I got some personal satisfaction out of that.

Drew McLellan:

Sure. Of course.

Stephen Woessner:

Right. I’m not saying that that is a good thing, but I started feeling a little bit prideful about that. I don’t think I’m egocentric, but maybe that was getting a little bit stroke too. And so, we talked about this actually during our Q&A yesterday.

Drew McLellan:

Well, honestly, endorphins are released when you help other people, right? I mean, when you serve a community and you are helpful to clients and you’re helping them move the needle, I think one of the coolest parts about our work is that we do get to be helpful and we do get to change the trajectory for clients, which maybe feels egocentric, but really, it’s just satisfaction in doing your work well and being of value to someone and we should feel good about that. So, A, I don’t think you’re unique in, as you say, feeling prideful when it’s working and the business is going well and you’re serving clients well, but I also don’t think it’s really ego in a bad way. I think it’s ego in a great way. It’s knowing that you’re doing good work for good people, which should feel good.

Stephen Woessner:

Thank you for that. But even through that, we started noticing this clustering, right? And we were having all these conversations in our quarterly leadership team meetings that you were leading for us and we started seeing this clustering, just like the sweet spot client filter that you advise people on. It’s like, “Well, wait a minute, 30% of our clients are agencies. We’re spending a lot of time with agencies.” Drew and I are now batting around this book, which is obviously designed for agencies. Where this started was actually instead of deciding, “Okay, we’re going to go all in with agencies, coaches, consultants,” where this started was us getting really aligned from a service perspective with the book.

Because we wrote the book, released the book, and then I came to you, and I said, “Even though this is our book, I don’t feel like Predictive ROI is 100% fully aligned with the book from a service delivery model and we need to adjust that.” And then through that process, we had even deeper conversations about, “Well, what would it look like if we were fully aligned from a niche content perspective and so forth?”

In fact, I think you and I were walking through EPCOT one day and you said, “Help me understand the infamous introduction to the difficult question from Drew. Help me understand,” and then we talked about Onward and how the content was aligned. But yet for as much as it was lined, it was also misaligned. And then what would it look like if you had a podcast with a different name and it was more appropriate aligned? But even still, as you know, that was a two-year evolution for us.

Drew McLellan:

Well, again, it’s working, so why rock the boat? Interestingly, your original niche, we talk about niche doesn’t have to be an industry. You don’t have to serve an audience. You can be an industry. It can be you have a depth of expertise in an audience like millennial moms. It can be a line delivery like you’re a PPC shop, or in your case, you’re a podcast shop.

I think one of the interesting parts about your pivot is that you went from the service line niche and recognized that you were attracting people who had alignment in their profession and made the move eventually over to serving a certain group of people, but then you layered it with, I think, a twist on the service line with this whole idea of, “Look, we’re going to help agencies, coaches, and consultants sell with authority.”

And so, you align both an industry and you can argue that agencies, coaches, and consultants, there’s a thread that ties those together for sure. So, you then shifted to an industry and then layered on top of it a methodology that you and I obviously believe in. That was how you were going to serve that industry. And so, you got super specific in two of the categories and said, “If people can check both boxes, then we can be super helpful to them.” So, an interesting pivot there, I think.

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. I think you really hit the nail right on the head when you said super helpful. Because as you know, because we talked about this during our planning process, we’re certainly not there yet, but we are moving toward our goal. And I don’t know that this goal ever is accomplished, because there’s always room for improvement, but we want to be seen as the authority on how to become the authority. That takes a whole lot of helpfulness. If you’re going to do that, that’s difficult to do when you’re spread out and your content is not as focused as it could and should be.

And so, part of living that out and being of greatest service as possible, you cited the Edelman Trust Barometer in, I think, chapter one or chapter two of our book. You talked about the two biggest things or two biggest attributes, if you will, that really develop trust and empathy with an audience, according to Edelman and their worldwide study of surveying 30,000 people on an annual basis and they’ve been doing it for 20 years, is that industry expertise like you just talked about. Second is someone who looks like me, not literally, of course, but someone who shares attributes, experiences, those types of things.

And so, when you put those two together, that is pretty powerful when we think about niche, because it gives you an opportunity to be helpful at a completely different level and earn and develop trust, empathy, rapport, all of that. And that just makes the business development process easier, but you can be of greater service.

Drew McLellan:

No doubt. So, talk a little bit about some of the conversations that you and Eric, your business partner, had as you were considering making this move, because this was not a small pivot. This was a huge pivot and it was walking away from a lot of things that were really working that had already gained you guys some notoriety and was already attracting good clients to you. So, this wasn’t a move out of desperation. This wasn’t what we’re doing now isn’t working decision. It was really I’m ready to walk away from something that’s working and then we can go from there.

Stephen Woessner:

I have to give a lot of credit too to Katherine Baessler, who I know that you know really well, because she was on our team for eight years, member of our leadership team. So, this again started several years ago when I thought the niche was B2B professional services firms, which of course is not very narrow.

Drew McLellan:

In our workshop, if somebody said, “If somebody’s in B2B service, there are our clients,” you and I would have both gone, “No, that is not a niche. That’s an entire world of industries.”

Stephen Woessner:

Just like healthcare.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Just like healthcare is not a niche. So, I thought that that would pacify the conversations. To her credit and just like you, you guys were dogs with a bone and not in a bad way, in a way of like, “Are you sure? Are you sure? Could it go a little bit?” And so, this is where that progression was. Again, I was resistant, because I felt like at that time, which was not the reality, but I thought at the time, it was blowing up everything and starting over. Not the case.

Drew McLellan:

Well, in some ways, it was blowing up everything and starting over. You just were starting from a different starting point.

Stephen Woessner:

That’s fair.

Drew McLellan:

You had walked all far away on the path. You had built a reputation. You guys had built a lot of systems and processes to serve people. The book had been written. So, you had been on this journey, but at a certain point in time, what you decided was rather than continuing to walk straight, I’m going to take a left here.

Stephen Woessner:

Right. There were just a lot of different decisions that we’re going through those couple of years about niche, about Eric, deservedly so having a greater face in the content. If so, how were we going to focus that content and make it better? Katherine asking us difficult questions around B2B professional services firms, probably not that. You and I were in the process of writing the book.

So, all of that led to us questioning many different things with the essence of, “Okay, if we’re going to do that, that might be helpful to this group, but that’s going to leave out this other group.” So, we are asking ourselves questions about that every Wednesday and then every quarter with you. Even still, it took us a while, me really, to catch up with everybody else. But yes, as you know, that led to some very, let’s call that, dynamic conversations. Candidly, I made this more difficult than it needed to be.

Drew McLellan:

Why do you think that was?

Stephen Woessner:

I think it was because at that time, so this was years ago, but at that time, I was still learning. I still needed to do some research. I still needed to have some additional proof points that this wasn’t permanent and this truly did actually give us an opportunity to step into abundance and truly be helpful at a whole another level. Once I saw that, once I understood the data points, once I had the conversation with myself, that it wasn’t throwing this body of work out the door and now saying, “Well, that was meaningless and now we’re starting over in this way.” No, actually, that body of work that you did for years and years actually helps you jump off this next or up to this next summit in an even faster way. And so, once I made that connection, it was like, “Oh, okay, this is not that big of a deal.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Going back to the B2B service and the podcast, in some ways, the podcast was a super narrow lane of this huge highway that you were on and the huge highway was anybody who’s in a B2B service industry, right? But what you really did was you didn’t get off the road really, but you just changed lanes. And what you did was you chose a more narrow road in terms of audience, but then you broadened the offerings. What you said was, “Well, you know what, everybody’s not a podcaster, but as our book talks about, everybody needs to have some cornerstone content that begins to establish their expertise and their position of authority.”

What you did was you flipped, right? You said, “Okay, rather than the service offering being super narrow, we’re going to help our clients do podcasts and research and write a book and do the other thing, video series, courses, whatever that is. But rather than all B2B service, now, what we’re recognizing is we’re most aligned with agencies, coaches, and consultants, because we’re like them and we can really connect with them. So, that’s the lane that we’re going to narrow down.”

Stephen Woessner:

Yes, 100%. What is the axiom or line of when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail?

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right.

Stephen Woessner:

So, we had essentially told ourselves that unless you had a podcast, you couldn’t be an authority, which of course is ridiculous. But the hammer that we had in our hand was a platinum, gold, silver package that was all about creating a podcast for somebody. So, we had dynamic conversations around that too. Again, if we’re going to be helpful, we have to be fully aligned with the book. Thankfully, we’ve gotten there. And then this other really interesting thing started happening. It certainly didn’t happen overnight. But as we started getting traction and started really doubling down on how we could be helpful to this audience and we call it ACC, this really amazing thing happened.

We started getting calls and we started having conversations with clients who wanted to sell through to that audience. Now, they were still aligned with the niche. Their audience happened to be our audience or their perspective audience happened to be our audience. We could be helpful to them, but they started saying, “We’re really interested in how well you know agencies. That’s who we can be of help too. Do you think that you could be helpful to us because you know that business so well?” It was like, “Oh, my gosh. Yes, yes we can.” That’s worked really well.

Drew McLellan:

All right. I want to take a quick break. And then when we come back, I want to talk about the decisions you made, like ending a popular and successful podcast, and really beginning to shift your offering. So, I want to talk about the decisions you made to realign with this new niche in a second, but first let’s take a quick break.

Hey, everybody, I promise I would not keep you more than a minute, but I want to make sure you know that at AMI, one of the things that we offer are virtual peer groups. So, think of it as a Vistage group or an EO group, only everybody around the table figuratively in this case is an agency owner. So, you have to be an agency owner to belong. The virtual peer groups meet every month for 90 minutes on Zoom. This was not a COVID creation. It was pre-COVID. You see the same people in your cohort every time. So, you get to create relationships with them.

And it is facilitated by AMI staffer, Craig Barnes, who has owned his own agency for 25 or 30 years. So, plenty of great experience both from Craig but also learning from each other. So, if you have any interest in learning more about how that works, head over to the AMI website and under memberships, you will find the virtual peer group and you can get all the information there. All right. Okay. Let’s get back to the show.

All right. I am back. So, normally, when Stephen and I are on the podcast together, we’re co-teaching from the book or the workshop we’ve developed out of the book or things like that. But today, what we’re really talking about is the evolution of Stephen’s own agency, Predictive ROI, as he actually began to think about and run his own agency’s decisions through the filters in the book and decided that they wanted, didn’t really need to, but wanted to make a shift and narrow their audience and serve them in a variety of new ways. So, okay.

So, you’re chugging along. Granted, 25 or 30% of your clients were already in the agency, coach, and consultant space, but the other 70 weren’t. The Onward Nation was a huge success. You had built a huge audience. How many episodes? You had over 1,000 episodes, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah, 1,032, right.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So, normally, you and I talked to people about podcasting. We’re like, “Well, if you can get the first 10 episodes in the can and you can still go, then odds are you’re going to go for a while.” So, you had clearly done that, 1,000+ episodes. That’s a lot of inventory and history and reputation to step away from. So, talk to us a little bit about the decisions that you and Eric made around how to shift the business’ focus and what you had to walk away from, what you had to change.

Stephen Woessner:

So, let me connect this back first into again, the word helpful, but then also retention. Here’s what I mean by that. As you know, we as agency owners are always talking about, “Gosh, I wish I had a strategic seat at the table.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Right. I want to advise not just sell stuff.

Stephen Woessner:

Right, or worse yet, like Robert Rose and I were talking about the other day, where you used to have a strategic seat and now you’re a vendor. You got pushed out of that seat. So, one of the things that we noticed is, again, the cluster. And as I mentioned before the break and following the sweet spot client filter, we saw about 30% of our clients were agencies and that made sense. We were hanging out with a lot of them and all of that, but also, the other 70%, candidly, we didn’t really have a strategic seat at the table. The relationship sounds like a yucky word, but transactional.

It was basically X amount of scope of work for X amount of dollars. It was profitable work. Yes. But yet then the clients, the 30%, we actually did have a strategic seat at the table and they did ask us more things and they did invite us in for those conversations. And it was like, “Huh. Okay.” So, part of that was okay, could we do more of that? We really enjoyed doing that.

And then I found from a business development perspective and having a Trojan Horse conversation, it was faster to develop rapport with that next agency, because the commonality and the things that you would talk about and all of that, all of those things stacking together finally were data points that I could say, “Yeah, gosh, that makes so much more sense.” It’s just easier. There’s less friction and I don’t mean friction in a bad way, but everybody knows what it feels like when you walk into a session, a new business meeting, or whatever and it’s just like the chemistry hits right away.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, and the buyer is so much further down the buying cycle. It’s really a chemistry check more than it is prove to me you know your stuff check. We talk about that in the book. We talk about that in the workshop that the advantage of selling from a position of authority is that you eliminate a lot of the upfront sales process because of the credibility you’ve created, because of the rapport and relationship you’ve created with this audience without you even knowing they’re out there, because they’re consuming your content that’s helpful to them. They’re learning from you.

So, they create an affinity and an affection really for you and a respect that just moves things along. So, it makes perfect sense that your sales meetings were lubricated, because people already felt like they knew you, they knew your stuff, they knew you knew your stuff. And so, it’s really a matter of really, “A, what’s it going to cost? Do I have the money to do it?” But I’ve already decided if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it with you. And so, you just are much further down that conversation.

Stephen Woessner:

As you like to say, that’s a beautiful thing when that happens.

Drew McLellan:

It is. Yeah.

Stephen Woessner:

So, I think going back to your question about decisions, I do believe that Eric had already decided that if we were going to truly plant our flag of authority and we’re going to be aligned with the book from a service delivery model, then of course, it made sense that we’re going to also go all in and being helpful as we possibly can or as helpful as we possibly can with that niche from an industry perspective and then some of the other filters that you mentioned.

I believe that Katherine had already decided and we had very open conversations with you. I was the last one to decide because I was so wrapped up in the 1,032 episodes that I had recorded. And I hadn’t quite come to the realization yet of by stepping further into the helpfulness around this niche, that does not diminish the work that our team has done.

Drew McLellan:

That’s right.

Stephen Woessner:

So, I know that it sounds simple, you and I laugh about this all the time that sometimes it takes me a little bit longer to get to where everybody else is. But once I had figured that out-

Drew McLellan:

We patiently wait for you.

Stephen Woessner:

But once that clicked for me, I’m like, “Okay.” And then going back to the story with Kelsey that it isn’t this like permanency thing, nor does it diminish the work and the helpfulness and everything that our team had done, so then it was actually in my mind a relatively easy decision because I was just catching up to everybody else.

Drew McLellan:

Right. But again, you had built this amazing foundation and then built a business that sat on this really solid foundation. So, it’s not like we were saying, “Hey, you always eat grilled cheese for lunch. Why don’t you change to peanut butter and jelly?” It was you and your team had built something that was rock solid and was serving you well and was making good money. And so, it is a little counterintuitive to go, “You know what? I’m just going to not do that anymore and I’m going to do something different.” And again, you didn’t just launch a new podcast. I want to talk about what the new model looks like and the decisions you made around that, but you didn’t just launch a new podcast, which was basically starting over. Yeah.

I mean, you’d also develop some other ways to connect and build a community and create an audience that, again, seemed like it was starting from scratch and not in some small ways. So, talk about once you got on board with the decision with everybody else, then you and your team very quickly went into production mode of creating a new foundation of content that was very much based on the book and really just takes elements out of the book and blows them up in terms of detail and how to and why to and talking a lot about each aspect and element of the book, but in ways that were very tutorial for people.

It was very much like you had created this living course that was just going to be ongoing with the book as the foundation. But obviously, you’ve now escalated far beyond the content in the book. So, talk a little bit about how you thought through how to reposition yourselves and what you could create for your cornerstone content that would be super helpful to the agency, consultant, and coach audience.

Stephen Woessner:

Okay. And there were certainly a lot of decisions and progression along that path. A couple of guideposts, if you will, one, chapter 10 that you wrote in the book, which is titled The New Business Blueprint. With the exception of chapter two, where you go through the 10 truths, chapter 10, in my opinion, of course, it’s my favorite. So, if I say in my opinion, duh. I guess that makes sense. But anyway, chapter 10 is my favorite. And the reason being is because it truly is a blueprint as the title says. You walk through each of the stages, macro, micro, nano, existing, and break all of those down and give examples. That’s where the deer analogy is.

So, literally, using chapter 10 as the initial blueprint as this intended and picking pieces out of that if I’m an author of this book, then I need to make sure that when I step into a conversation with somebody, they say, “Well, can you show me how Predictive does that?” If that makes me uncomfortable because we haven’t done that, then that needs to be fixed. So, literally, we started teaching the book to our team and started having great conversations as you know around the book and wanted to get in total alignment so that we could be a great representation of living out the book. And then also, we knew that if we did that well, we were going to be raising the bar of being helpful in a great example and all of that, which certainly came to fruition.

But also, I will say that the one trick pony chapter, which I think is chapter five, you and I had a lot of candid conversations back in 2018 as we were prepping for that workshop. And then later, it turned into a book. One night, we had a really candid conversation about being a one trick pony. Honestly, at that point, Predictive was. So, yeah, we had a book and yeah, we had the Onward Nation Podcast, but we weren’t maximizing the value of that content. We were a one trick pony, and that was a tough pill for me to swallow.

So, knowing then if we’re going to get an alignment with this book, we were not going to be a one trick pony. We were going to be a true, living, breathing example of doing it with excellence. Do I think we can still make improvements? No doubt, but that has really opened our eyes of how we can be truly helpful with our audience. I think it really is doing that, being helpful.

Drew McLellan:

No doubt. I mean, look at the community you’ve built. So, you ended the Onward Nation Podcast. You started the Sell with Authority Podcast, but that was actually much further down the decision tree. You didn’t do that right away. What you really started with was really teaching content. I don’t want to say courses, but they were courses, but they were really video tutorials and you packaged all of that inside a vessel that people could become members of or enter into and get all kinds of content around how to sell with authority, right?

So, that was your first step was to recognize you wanted this online library, if you will, of teaching content that people could consume at their own pace and depending on where they were at in their own journey in terms of developing content or developing a position of authority or working on a cornerstone or picking a niche, whatever it might be. You were creating content that in essence brought all of that to life, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. What was fascinating about that is the lessons that we learned in doing that. So, when we built the first eight modules of that, that we called The Fast Eight, that in of itself was cool. But to your point, those are video based. Do I think the videos are helpful? Yes. But then going back to the book, it’s like, “Well, wait a minute, we can take that video and we can slice and dice it in different ways.”

Then all of a sudden, we started doing the Q&As, and it’s like, “Well, wait a minute. We can take those and slice and dice those.” Because I think part of the lessons out of Sell with Authority that you really championed was… Every agency is doing this either consciously or subconsciously. … they’re out creating what could be cornerstone content. They’re delivering presentations. They’re delivering speech from stage. They’re writing a thing or whatever, but then that’s where it stops.

Drew McLellan:

Right, so close.

Stephen Woessner:

Right. I think through that creation process, we learned that it was like, “Well, it wasn’t just about the membership program that you talked about,” but then it was like, “Well, wait a minute. We can take some snippets of content out of this and then share that publicly and that’s super helpful too. Maybe at some point, they might want to join, but we’ll see.” But it was just another level of how we could take something, create it for the right audience, and then slice and dice it to other levels of being helpful.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think and I’m curious if you think this is true too, I think it was really the live Q&As that you started doing every week that was the gasoline on the fire for you. So, you had all the video content. At that point, you hadn’t started the new podcast yet. So, it was really driving people to video content.

And then you and Eric started doing a live Q&A every Wednesday, and you opened up a Facebook group for the folks who attended the Q&A and were, if you will, members of the Predictive Community in some way. I think it was really those live interactions, those live teaching, which again, you then realized you could slice and dice and create video content and other things, where you really began to create connection. The reason I think that is that’s what accelerated the growth of the agency, but also, I do believe one of the things we have to think about when we create content is at the end of the day, people still want to know and be able to communicate with the creator of the content.

They really do want to understand who the authority is and feel like they have a connection to them. And when they can actually have that connection in person, even if it’s on Zoom but it’s at least live and they know that you see them, you hear them, they can ask you a specific question. I believe wholeheartedly in our Sell with Authority model. I absolutely do. But at a certain point in time, the thing that is the catalyst to the sale is them actually meeting and talking to the person they’ve been learning from.

Stephen Woessner:

You and I have talked about this a bunch and I’ve seen it happen time and time again, where somebody from across the country or in some instances around the world, fly to where you are at teaching a workshop and they walk in and they’re on the periphery first and then they come up and introduce themselves to you. And they say, “You’re exactly the person who I thought you would be.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, right. They want that reassurance, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Right. Because every time they turned around on a dog walk or a jog or the treadmill or the whatever, there you were being helpful in some way, shape, or form in some form of content. So, I think you’re 100% right. I mean, we’ve seen this litmus test a bunch of times that you’re exactly the person that they thought and hoped you would be, because that isn’t always the case. Sometimes we meet somebody in person. We go to a thing or whatever. You’re like, “Oh, actually, they’re completely incongruent with who I thought they were going to be.” That is not the case with you. The other day, Eric said something to me. So, big props to you. We stepped out of Right Fit clients back on June 22nd.

It felt so good to be for three and a half hours just sharing stuff and experiments, good, bad, the otherwise. It’s like, “This work. This didn’t. This blew up in our face. Please don’t do that, but do this,” and just the full transparency of what works and doesn’t. Anyway, so it felt so good. And Eric and I during our debrief said, “That felt really, really great.” It felt like the community was there and it really felt like they were helpful to one another. The chat transcript, we turned it into a Word doc, turned into 27 pages of people helping one another. It wasn’t just Eric and I answering questions. It wasn’t just Eric, Megan, Hannah and I answering questions. They were all answering each other’s questions.

So, we step out of this in the debrief and Eric says to me, “It felt like a great community. It felt like we’re starting to do what Drew does and how Drew builds this community.” We’re just coming back from summit, right? That was three weeks before that. He was in awe and many of us are obviously of how you stand in front of this community, the AMI Community, this packed community with amazing, awesome, wonderful, beautiful, incredibly smart agency owners. You talk about grace and you talk about generosity. You talk about giving.

And he said, “I felt some of that.” And he goes, “There are worse people to model after, Drew.” And he is like, “This is really, really feeling good.” And I think that’s what happens. When you are really pouring yourself into helping a community be better, you do help them be better and you then plant your flag of authority, but you don’t do that in such a way of like, “Here I am, the authority.” You are doing that through being helpful. It’s amazing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah, it’s gratifying to know that you are truly helping someone. And again, all of this is to say, and then you get rewarded with opportunity to serve in the way that your business serves, right? So, it’s not all altruistic and it’s not all kumbaya, build a community. Do you give some service? Absolutely. Do you give away some of your knowledge? Absolutely. But make no mistake about it, you’re doing it to earn the right to earn someone’s business and to make good money doing that. And so, that’s the other part that honestly feels good is it makes the sales process easier and actually pleasant, right? Because people are just going, “Hey, tell me again how you can help me,” and you tell them. They go, “Great. I’d like to do that.” I mean that really is often the entire sales process, right?

Stephen Woessner:

I think one of the lessons that we have also started following, and again, being fully aligned with the book, it’s something that you say all the time. At the existing and nano levels or stages of the sales funnel and that is you should do a thing, get everybody together, your prospects and your clients where the only thing they have in common is you. That works even better when they’re from the same niche.

Drew McLellan:

Absolutely, absolutely.

Stephen Woessner:

We’ve started seeing that. As opposed to, “Well, I run this type of firm and I run that type of firm like a professional services firm,” and they’re trying to find the commonality of why they’re together, instead you set that aside. You bring the niche together, and then truly, the thing that they have in common is you. And then what ends up happening is this really amazing community starts being formed and then you’re at the center of that. That’s a beautiful thing.

Drew McLellan:

Right. I think agencies don’t think about building a community or building an audience. They think about sales as all these one-to-one conversations. And I think that absolutely can work just fine, but I think your sales process and the connections around authority exponentially grow when you gather them together and they can not only see how they’re learning, but they’re watching how other people learn. And they’re not only learning from you, but they’re learning from each other.

Because at the end of the day, I think every business owner, regardless of what your niche is, at the end of the day, while they all think they are unique and you can’t understand anybody like you can understand them, when they see that there are people who are struggling with the same things and that you can help and they’re watching you help other people and they’re going, “Oh, well, wait, I have that issue too. My employees ask that question or this. Our clients do this thing. Oh, okay. I can learn from this too.” And then they start sharing back and forth.

They get something that they didn’t realize they wanted, which was a group of people who understand their world, that they can commiserate with, celebrate with, communicate with, and you get the credit for bringing them together. And as you are teaching individually or into a group, which every agency and every agency owner can do, everybody who’s listening to this podcast has something to teach your core audience, whoever that may be.

Now, what you’re doing is you are instead of doing it one-on-one, which is fine and we still do some of that too. Instead of doing it one-on-one, you’re killing a lot of birds with one stone. You are able to serve a lot of people at once and you get credit for the service even when they’re teaching each other, right? So, because you brought them together, even when you’re not teaching at all and you’re not the one being helpful, when they’re being helped inside a live Q&A or at an event or whatever it may be, you and your agency get the credit, which is crazy but lovely.

Stephen Woessner:

100%.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah.

Stephen Woessner:

And you said something from stage at the first Build a Better Agency Summit last year and it rang true then. It rang true this year. We’ve seen that in action. We’re like, “Okay, that’s an ingredient we need to put it into our recipe.” And you stood from stage and said, “Hey, everyone. Yes, grateful and all of that of everyone being here. And yes, the people on this stage are smart and they have got a lot to share with you. And I hope that you learn from them. But here’s what I also hope is that you teach each other, is that you learn from one another in this really amazing, awesome community.” It was like putting gasoline on a fire. It was like so combustive. And because everybody did that, there was no competitiveness. There was none of that.

Everybody truly jumped in the trenches to be helpful with one another and to teach and share and share experiences, the good, the bad, the other, and all of that. When we started seeing that come into our community because we subscribe to that, we’re like, “That makes total sense. That’s amazing.” And when we see our community feeling that same thing too, then it’s not about giving somebody a capabilities presentation at Predictive ROI. They just know we get them and that’s a beautiful thing.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. Yeah. It really is. We could talk about this for another hour, I think, because I feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. So, we’ll have to come back and maybe we’ll do a deeper dive into the mechanics of what you did and how you did it, because I think that would be helpful. Because again, you’re an agency and I think a lot of people are like, “Well, agencies don’t do Q&A or agencies don’t do half-day teaching events or agencies don’t create video tutorials.” I think all of that is a misnomer.

But the takeaway, I think, from today’s episode is it’s okay if the niche you picked isn’t the niche forever. Now, I’m not saying you should change every month or every year. What I’m saying is when you define a niche, you don’t have to go into it with the fear that you have no ability to change. But again, changing was painful. Changing was expensive. Changing took you time. It was all for the right reasons, but it wasn’t something I believe that you would do wholesale over and over again, right?

Stephen Woessner:

Right. And 100%, this just occurred to me, as you were saying this, as we’re wrapping up and coming in for landing, I think this conversation hooks into what you shared from stage at summit this last time in your keynote. And that is we’re at a time that we’re about to step into this amazing renaissance. Yes, we did need to seek the shelter of the safe harbor because of all the things that have happened over the last several years, but now, it’s time to actually go back out into the storm, the rough water, whatever it is to find that next thing. So, that gave a lot of courage to the people in the room and niching down for some people does require courage. It did for me. What you shared at summit, I think, gave everyone in that room courage. And that was a really powerful thing.

And so, as we’re thinking about this decision, that is that for us. Yeah, we had a safe harbor and that we knew that if we were going to continue this next level of growth for Predictive, we needed to get back out into the quasi-rough waters, but making different decisions and all of that and changing the business. Sometimes that’s not easy, but we did that. Now, we can see that the business is on a different path and trajectory and yay for that. But that keynote that you shared was so heartfelt and really super appropriate for this conversation, I think.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It all does connect together for sure. So, it’s okay for your niche not to be permanent. It’s okay to think about different ways to communicate and teach and be helpful. And by building a community and actually letting your prospects and your clients come together in some way, you can speed up the process of sales, because they feel beholden to you that you have exposed them to these other people that they can learn from not just you. And I think those are some of the big takeaways from today.

Stephen Woessner:

Amen.

Drew McLellan:

As always, it’s great to have you on the show. It’s fun to watch you evolve your model and obviously be a part of it. I know I’ve been a guest on a bunch of the Q&As and on the podcast and other things. So, it’s fun to be a part of you and Eric and your team really doubling down on this new vision of what Predictive can be for clients and how you can grow your business and all of it’s working. I mean, it’s playing out exactly the way we would’ve predicted it played out. Yeah, there have been some misses and we would’ve predicted that there were going to be misses for sure, as none of us get it right all the time, but we get it right most of the time.

The good thing is our audience also understands we’re human and recognizes that we’re not going to have a home run every time, but we’re so valuable most of the time, there’s a lot of grace around that. So, I think hopefully this inspired folks to think a little differently about how to apply the content of the book and think about it. So, thanks for being on the show again. Nobody can tell this, but we got up at the butt crack of dawn to record this. So, thank you for getting up early and doing this with me. I know it’s less painful for you than it was for me.

Stephen Woessner:

I was going to say that.

Drew McLellan:

Right. Never mind, I’m not thanking you for that. You’re up anyway, but thanks for being back on the show and thanks for being transparent about the decisions you made and the paths you took and the paths you almost took, because I think it helps people. I think it’s a living example of here are the two guys that wrote the book and they didn’t get it all right either, right? And so, they’re still learning from their own content and their own experiences, which is a good reminder to everybody that this is all a work in progress and we’re learning together and we get smarter together. And fortunately, we get it right most of the time, but not always.

Stephen Woessner:

Amen to that. Thank you again for the invitation. It’s always a pleasure to be here with you. And so, thank you very much. It was great.

Drew McLellan:

You bet. All right, guys. This wraps up another episode of Build a Better Agency. Hopefully, it was helpful. Some episodes give you recipes of things to do. I think this episode gives you permission to think differently and to think more about how you want to position your agency and how you want to serve and build an audience. And so, hopefully, it inspired you to think a little more about that path and how you and your agency can pick a path and walk down the path with confidence that there are all fruits to the path and you’re not stuck on the one path forever. And in fact, odds are for most agencies, you’re going to do some pivoting along the way as you learn more about the people you serve and the content you create.

So, really great conversation, and hopefully, it was really helpful for you. Before I let you go, a couple quick things. Number one, huge thank you to our friends at White Label IQ, as you know, because I tell you every single week, they are the presenting sponsor of this podcast. So, they make this possible for us to keep doing this work and sharing with you every week. Learn more about them at whitelabeliq.com/AMI. If you’re a brand new client for them or with them and you want them to do either White Label PPC dev or design, they’ve got a discount. You get some free hours off your first project. So, check that out. I will be back next week.

So, I know the cadence has been a little weird. You’ve been hearing a lot more from me as an individual rather than with guests over the holiday weeks. So, actually, next week is a solo cast. So, sorry, no guests. You’ll be stuck with just me. And actually, what I’m going to do is I’m going to share with you the content that came out of my keynote from the summit. So, if you were not at the summit, you will get a flavor of the keynote that I gave, that Stephen referenced. And if you were there, I suspect you’ve probably have forgotten most of it. So, hopefully, it’ll be helpful to you to hear again.

So, all right, guys. Thanks for listening. So, grateful for all of you coming back every week. If you need to reach me, I’m [email protected] and I will talk to you next week. That’s a wrap for this week’s episode of Build a Better Agency. Visit agencymanagementinstitute.com to check out our workshops, coaching packages, and all the other ways we serve agencies just like yours. Thanks for listening.