Episode 229

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I have long preached the concept of being a specialist versus a generalist to my audience, so it should come as no surprise to you that along with my co-author Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI, I have just written a book on the subject.

Sell With Authority is a playbook for agency new business efforts that will allow you to shorten your sales cycle, increase your pricing and profitability and actually attract your ideal customers to knock on YOUR door, rather than the other way around. In this week’s episode, Stephen and I talk about some of the core principles of the book and why we’re both so passionate about the approach.

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: https://www.whitelabeliq.com/ami/

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • The inspiration and core concepts behind our new book, Sell With Authority
  • How to be seen as an authority in your industry
  • The biz dev decisions that will help you achieve rapid growth
  • Why you should narrow your agency’s focus
  • How to differentiate your agency by having a unique point of view
  • How to use cornerstone content to build authority across multiple channels

The Golden Nugget:

“Agencies can get prospects more effectively, efficiently, and profitably if they sell from a position of authority.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “62% of the time, business-to-business buyers are making purchasing decisions solely based on whether or not the seller has a thought leadership position.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet “Narrowing down gives you the opportunity to present yourself as something different; something other than the general agency.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet “You want to differentiate yourself from agencies that have chosen the same niche by having a unique point of view.” @DrewMcLellan Click To Tweet “If an agency is positioned as a thought leader in its market, selling is not about ‘selling’ at all.” @stephenwoessner Click To Tweet

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Ways to Contact Stephen Woessner:

Speaker 1:

It doesn’t matter what kind of an agency you run, traditional, digital, media buying, web dev, PR, whatever your focus, you still need to run a profitable business. To Build a Better Agency Podcast presented by White Label IQ, we’ll show you how to make more money and keep more of what you made. Let us help you build an agency that is sustainable, scalable, and if you want down the road sellable bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey, everybody. Drew McLellan here, with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Thank you so much for coming back, if you are a regular listener and also if this is your first episode, welcome. Our goal is pretty simple, I want to help you run the business of your business, which is an agency of some kind better. I want you to make it more sustainable, most scalable, more profitable, and if you want to down the road something that you could sell. And so every week we come back to you with a guest or every fifth week, as some of you know I do a solo cast, but normally we have a guest on the show who is here to help you think differently about your business, because that’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to help you grow and learn and evolve your business so that it is everything you want it to be.

One of the things I know as an agency owner, so my agency is actually 25 years old in 2020, and I’ve learned a lot. But one of the things I have learned is that one of the beautiful things about owning the agency is you get to make decisions and choices. And so we can really craft our business to be what we want it to be and allow it to serve us in the ways that we want it to serve us. But every one of those choices and decisions that we make comes with opportunities and consequences, doors open and doors closed. So there is no right or wrong in how you run your business. There’s some best practices. There are some financial metrics. I certainly am going to teach you as best I can, what I think are the right, smart ways to run your business.

But inside sort of those, the bowling lane bumpers if you have kids and you know that they put those little bumpers up, so you don’t bang outside of your lane. With the bowling ball inside those bumpers is a lot of room for you to navigate your business the way you want to. There are certainly some things you absolutely shouldn’t do like robbing Peter to pay Paul, like using media money to pay operating expenses. There are some things that are sort of absolutes, but other than that there’s a lot of choices. And so a lot of the education that we do is around helping you navigate those choices. And that’s what this episode is all about. So before tell you about our guests and what we’re going to talk about, just a couple of quick reminders. We, every month during my solo cast, so every actually five weeks technically, we give away either a seat at one of our live workshops or a seat in one of our on-demand courses. And both of those retail for around $2,000 a piece.

If your name, I remembered is closer to 15 or $1,600, but nonetheless, it’s not a small amount of money and we give away one every single solo cast. And here’s how you have the opportunity to get into the drawing to be one of our monthly winners. All you have to do is go to wherever you download your podcast. And so whether it’s iTunes or Stitcher or Google, or wherever you go to get, iHeartRadio, wherever it is and leave us a rating or review. And what I need you to do is I need you to take a screenshot of that rating because a sad Vikings fan 1962, which actually could be my username, is not indicative to me of what your real name is or what your email address is. So I need to know who you are so we can match up the review with a real person. So send me a screenshot and tell me where you left that rating or review. And that’s it. That’s all you have to do. You’re in the drawing.

And if you’ve already done it, thank you very much. First of all, I promise you we do read all of them and take them to heart, but number two, you don’t have to do it again. You’re in the drawing until you win sooner or later. So we will just leave your name in the drawing until you are a lucky winner. But if you haven’t done it really for three or four minutes worth of effort, you can win a $2,000 course. So why not take the time, get your name in the drawing and hopefully gain some new knowledge, some new insight, make some new friends at one of our workshops. All right. So back to the topic of choices, consequences, teaching. So, that’s the premise of AMI. So we will not surprise you probably to learn that one of the ways that, along with the podcast and some of the other things we do, one of the ways that we teach is I am a writer by trade that was how I started my career in advertising and I still love to write.

And so, I have a brand new book out it’s called Sell with Authority. I co-wrote it with agency owner, Stephen Woessner, who was on episode 131 of our podcast. Many of you are probably very familiar with Stephen. He owns an agency called Predictive ROI. It’s an AMI agency and Stephen and I have taught some workshops together. We’re very good friends. So he’s a friend, he’s a client. And he’s a thought leader. He is really very intelligent on this idea of how to sell with authority. So a couple of years ago, we taught a workshop on this topic. And after the workshop, we said, you know what? We could add some additional content, some additional context, some examples, and we could really drive home the main points of this workshop through a book.

And so two years later, the painful gestation period of a book, two years later, it is out, is it available on Amazon? Stephen And I want to just sort of walk you through some of the core concepts in the book so that you can begin to think about whether or not again, because it’s a choice. If this would be something that you should be thinking about in terms of how to think about Biz Dev for your shop and how to sell your agency, should you be selling from a position of authority. So let’s get into it. So welcome back to the podcast.

Stephen Woessner:

Well, thanks for having me back. Drew, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with you and your audience, our conversations are… You always ask great questions and thought provoking. So I’m really looking forward to this round as well.

Drew McLellan:

Well. Hopefully in this case, there won’t be a lot of surprises given that we wrote the book together. So if I ask you a really hard question that you can’t answer, then that’s going to suggest to the listeners that I’m lying about the fact that we wrote the book together. So-

Stephen Woessner:

Well. [crosstalk 00:07:21]-

Drew McLellan:

… don’t have any really long pauses, maybe.

Stephen Woessner:

We may have written the book together, but you know me well enough to know that you can still stab me. So I wouldn’t be surprised that.

Drew McLellan:

Right. So as I was saying in the intro writing the book sort of felt like almost a calling, like it was something we had to do that this is something that both from Agency Management Institute point of view, and Predictive ROI point of view. Although we come at it for different audiences to a certain extent, although you certainly work with a lot of agencies. That the book was really a result of this stuff that we’re teaching our clients every single day. And after teaching the workshop, it just sort of seemed like a… Well, of course, we need to write the book about this as well, because people need to have this is information in front of them. So as we were starting the book, did it feel to you like it did to me, like it was just sort of a natural next step and almost we had to do it scenario?

Stephen Woessner:

I think so. And well, I shouldn’t say it so tentatively. I know, so yes, it did. And I think one of the things I really have enjoyed over the years in working closely with you, you working closely with my team at Predictive and how you’ve helped us improve and whatnot. I think lessons that we’ve learned from you, but it was in our kind of fabric if you will, but you really helped us tease that out. And that is to be helpful. And so the book was kind of that next level, in my opinion of, okay, how can we be helpful to a group of agency owners who really want to be able to future-proof their agency, or however you want to describe that. And so it was great to come at it from the same philosophy as you have, of being generous trying to pour everything that we had into the book, trying to leave nothing left like behind a secret curtain. It was a great next step from the workshop and to make that content even more accessible.

Drew McLellan:

Well. And the other things that I liked about sort of the synergy of the book and us writing it together was that at Predictive your unique point of view, the way you sort of approach your work is that most business owners or businesses approach selling the wrong way, and I certainly come at it from that same point of view from an agencies. I think agencies work so hard to get a new prospect that they could do it so much more efficiently, effectively, and profitably if they are selling from a position of authority. That I think our philosophy is also aligned nicely, although you articulated differently than I do to sort of the spine of the book, sort of the cornerstone intent of the book.

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. Because when an agency owner truly has their agency positioned properly as the authority in their market, whether that’s a geographic market or an industry, a niche or whatnot, which I’m sure we’ll talk about, then that isn’t really selling. That really, if they’ve come at their macro audience in such a way that it’s about being helpful to their audience and being generous and teaching as a true thought leader would, then really it isn’t about selling. In the typical, “Kind of sales vernacular.” It’s not about tactics and so forth. It’s about truly meeting somebody for the first time, and that person is saying to you, as I’ve heard so many people say to you. You’re exactly the person who I thought you would be in every time I turned around there, you were being helpful. I think that’s the next level of truly where we’re seeing sales go. And that’s why it was so fun to write this book.

Drew McLellan:

Well, one of the things that for me was gratifying was we were able to pepper. So I think a lot of people here, what we’re going to talk about, which is sort of this three pronged definition of what it means to be an authority. And they say it’s too time consuming. I’ll never have time to do it. It’s too hard. I don’t know how to niche down narrow enough. One of the things I loved about writing the book is that we were able to populate book with all kinds of examples from AMI agencies who are doing exactly this, who have defined. And we’re going to get into sort of the three elements that are required to really be seen as an authority.

Have really defined themselves as an authority by building out these elements and are seeing incredible results as the after effect of being able to sort of stay the course. And now they are selling in a completely different way where their prospects, their best fit prospects, the prospects they would kill to have, are literally knocking on their door and asking to be their clients.

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. Exactly what you just said is one of the big outcomes is, because I shared it with you, one of the big outcomes in the ROI, a thought leadership study that we just finished with Susan Byer, AMI research partner. And that was 62% of the time business to business buyers are making those decisions, those purchasing decisions exactly, solely based on what it is that you just said. The position of, is the company that we’re selecting to do this thing, is that company, or does that company have a thought leadership position? So are there other factors in the decision making process? Sure, of course there are. But to think or to now see in quantifiable data that 62% of the time the purchase is driven by thought leadership alone, Holy bananas.

Drew McLellan:

Well, and one of the other sort of takeaways from that research, and I know you’re going to do a deep dive with your audience, and I want you to come back on the show and really drill deep down into the research with us as well in a later episode. But one of the takeaways that I noticed when I reviewed the research results was, that when someone made a B2B purchase from someone they perceive to be a thought leader and an authority, an expert, whatever language you want to use, that they tended to spend more and be a client for longer. So, when I think about what is the gravy train for agencies, it is, if we can get through the first couple of years of a client and keep them for year three or four or five, that’s when the profitability gets really significant, because now we know them, we’re over the learning curve.

We’ve got to groove together, we’re in a rhythm, we have their trust. And so the idea that we can keep them for a longer period of time and that they will spend more money with us the whole time that they’re with us. That’s pretty significant.

Stephen Woessner:

It is. And it completely changes the conversation is, and I know that what’s the word that I want to use. I don’t want to say that it makes me sad, but it’s the, and it drives me crazy when you hear agencies introduce themselves for the first time. “Hi. We’re the full service integrated marketing and advertising agency.” It’s like, “Oh, for Pete’s sake, you sound like everybody else, you look like everybody else.” And in that, that goes to the point of you having to compete on so many other things and using creative sales tactics to try to win the bid or whatever. And so what you just said really changes the game. It gives them a unique and different way to describe themselves in the amazing, awesome, wonderful, awesome things that they do every single day for clients.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And you know what, there’s nothing wrong with being a full service integrated agency. You just need to tack something onto the back of that sentence that works with fill in the blank. That all of a sudden starts to narrow you down. So let’s dive into the three elements that in the book and in the workshop we defined as mandatories for being seen as an authority. So the three are, that you have a narrow focus, that you have a unique point of view and that you’re not a one trick pony. So can you explain to the audience what we mean or some of the options, because I also think when we say narrow focus, everyone immediately assumes we’re talking industry specific and that certainly one of them. But can you explain a little bit about what you think and how you defined in the book, what that means?

Stephen Woessner:

Yeah. And it was interesting we were having a conversation on our podcast just yesterday with one of our clients. And they made a really bold decision when they decided, and they’re in the healthcare space. But this is a relevant example for all of us. So they were classically trained or clinically trained or should say not classically trained, clinically trained to be chiropractors. And then they decided, you know what, we’re going to niche down. And the future of healthcare is not being a general practitioner and we’re going to niche down and focus on being functional medicine. And we’re going to build a functional medicine practice. And at the time, 20 years ago, no one had even heard of this thing. So this was a big risk. And what they found was they had been general chiropractors for two years and they were just kind of slugging through and aimlessly wandering through the wilderness.

And when they decided to zero in on functional medicine and that’s all that they would do, and they focused on three different treatments or elements, I should say, like diabetes and a couple of other things. But the connective tissue, as you like to say, was functional medicine. They grew their business, double digits, month over month. And these were not things or treatments that were covered by insurance and so forth. So when we talked about niche in the book, yes, it can be going narrow on a particular industry. It can be going narrow in a particular geography, being seen as the local, the regional expert, but having a deep knowledge about a particular audience, perhaps or a combination of those things.

And so really narrowing down in a service area, a specialty in a Smith. So all of those things combined give you the opportunity as the agency to be able to present yourself as something unique and different than just the general practitioner or the general agency.

Drew McLellan:

So industry could be, we service the pharma industry and specifically pharma products that are targeting women over 50. So that would be an industry niche. A geography niche would be we understand the Pacific Northwest better than anybody else. So if you are from the Pacific Northwest and you want to be seen as sort of the local choice or your guys, or if you want to bring your product or service to the Pacific Northwest, we understand that marketplace can make those introductions. The audience could certainly be, we have an AMI agency that focuses on millennial moms and says, we understand that audience better than anyone else. And the service offering would be what many agencies do, which is, we’re a PPC shop or an SEO shop or a content shop.

The challenge with that one is that no matter how cutting edge you are today, everybody’s going to catch up. So if you’re going to choose the offering, the service offering as your niche, you have to know that that’s got a limited shelf life.

Stephen Woessner:

Indeed. And when you and I were just recently teaching a few weeks ago, the way that you knitted that together for attendees, I thought was really smart because it was combining certain elements of several of the things that you just mentioned. And so it was this particular agency example. They wanted to be known nationally. So they really wanted to be able to develop a national presence. So how do they go about doing that? And so we built this example of, okay, they’re going to have deep industry expertise in this particular industry was HVHC, but then they also brought deep audience experience in this case moms. And so how can they help HVHC related companies, properly position themselves, and because mom doesn’t want to be sold to, how can they properly influence and position themselves within front of that audien