Are you brilliant at marketing for your clients but fail at marketing your own agency?
It’s not uncommon for agencies, or any business for that matter, to struggle to market themselves, whether it’s through fear of cold calling, a reliance on recommendations or something else.
In this episode I talk to Dan Englander, the CEO Sales Schema, a lead generation company for boutique marketing agencies.
You’ll learn practical steps towards marketing your agency and discover that it’s not as scary as you might think. Plus Dan gives us his thoughts on what marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 5, 10, and 20 years.
listen to this episode
- Looking beyond referrals and going after sales
- What the hell are cobblers children are and what do they have to do with marketing?
- How agencies can resolve the problem of their own marketing
- Recognizing clients that are no longer a good fit for your agency and how to deal with that
- The importance of doing your homework before pitching to a new client
- Being proactive in your own marketing
- Turning case studies into a story
- Using live digital placements to your advantage
- How to tell a story that will get you noticed
Louis: Bonjour bonjour and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com, the no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast for marketers, marketing consultants, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host Louis Grenier.
Louis: In today’s episode, you’ll learn how to market your marketing agency when all you’ve been doing is client work. I guess today’s the founder and CEO of Sales Schema, which is a lead generation company for boutique marketing agencies.
Louis: He’s the author of mastering account management in the B2B sales blueprint, and he also hosts the Digital Agency Growth podcast is a fellow podcaster and we have two things in common. He also practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, which I’ve started actually recently, so I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to do a few things that I can’t do, but still we have two things in common. So Dan Englander, welcome aboard.
Dan: Thank you for having me. Yeah, I think we can just do the whole show about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu now if you want to.
Louis: Yeah, it’s not going to last long. I know nothing about it. I can only submit you in one or two ways that I’ve learned so…
Dan: That can work. It could be enough sometimes.
Louis: So why do marketing agencies do good work for their clients from most of them, but suck at marketing themselves, what’s going on there?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a good question I think there’s oftentimes different things happening. I think the biggest thing that happens is that people get into the marketing and they get into the agency space because they have some sort of creative specialty, right? So, they may be good at building websites, or they might be good at social media or copywriting and they never really fashioned themselves as having to be a sales person, and they’ve never really understood that, that has to be an ongoing job that somebody at the company is doing every single day. It’s not like it’s something you get to pause on. It’s like going to the gym. You don’t get to just stop doing it because you lost your five pounds, it’s something that you do because you feel good and you’re healthy and same goes for making your business healthy basically. So I think that’s probably the biggest reasons that people haven’t really understood that, that’s their job and somebody has to be doing it. And there’s lots of other reasons I could get into, but I’ll start with that.
Louis: Yeah, thanks all starting with just one. So, just to repeat it, to make sure I understand, they are creative people. They’re not sales people. So they start an agency for the love of the craft in a sense, they could be a copywriter, expert designers or whatever, but download, like starting an agency to say, you know what, I’m so good at selling to people that I’m going to start a marketing agency and then I’ll figure out the marketing stuff later.
Dan: Exactly. And I think that it’s worth pointing out that sales can really suck. Some people love it. It’s a rare person, a rare breed to love it. So it’s very easy to say, “Well, okay, I’ve got my clients for the next X months. We’re doing good work. I don’t really want to get on sales calls.” But yet you must because it’s going to take time to tee up the deals that happen after those clients are done or they leave or whatever bad thing happens or which will happen because it’s just what happens to the space clients leave. So, I think that it takes building the mindset that this is something that you do. And then eventually, there can come a time where you hire someone to do that. But if this were going on a different topic, but if that happens too early, the problems could happen. Could come up some.
Louis: So before I ask you about more reasons why agencies suck at this, you actually named this problem the cobbler’s children problem. And so, I didn’t Google it on purpose because I want to know what the fuck is that?
Dan: Yeah, it’s one of these old timey American idioms and it’s not even my invention and using it in this context I have to give some credit to Drew McLellan who’s a big agency thought leader as well. Not as well as more so than me. But I would say that basically the idea is the cobbler’s children have no shoes. Agencies are very good at doing work for their clients and they treat their clients with very special attention. They’re shipping on lots of compelling stuff when it comes to marketing themselves, they’re often dropping the ball and this plays out in a lot of different ways where the agency’s website is from 20 years ago and… or the most common way, even if the website is old looking, I’ll talk to agencies where I’m like, “Who are your clients? What sort of business are you doing?” And they’re like, “Well, 80% of our clients are travel tourism.” And I’m looking on the site and I’m like, “Why are there 500 verticals here? Why do you guys have food and beverage when 80% of your clients are in one particular area?”
Dan: So I think that lot of the times agencies aren’t heading the age old copy and marketing and psychology best practices, which is really the idea that your prospects need to understand that they’re in the right place, whether they’re on their site or they’re talking to you or they’re reading your proposal or whatever.
Louis: Thanks for the explanation. So apart from this first reason, which is most agency founders, principals or people who are part of this agency funding team are not sales people by nature are mostly creatives, what are other reasons in your experience for this problem?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think some other ones are, there’s a lot of head trash around sales in general and the idea that the work should speak for itself and all of the stuff that if I’m not just getting my clients through referrals and people getting warmly introduced to me, if I have to go knock on somebody’s door and convince them to buy, it somehow it puts me in a worse position. And that’s not going to work. And by all means, like if your agency has a compelling enough story where you can sustain yourself from referrals forever, by all means if you’re happy and you’re confident about that, that’s fine. But I think what we’re finding is there’s 120,000 marketing agencies in the U.S. today, and more and more abroad so…
Louis: Just before we move on, by marketing agency, what do we describe, what do we mean? What’s the difference?
Dan: Marketing service company. And let’s be honest, 120,000 you’re not competing against every single one of those. If you’re listening to this. But suffice to say, anybody that has an internet connection can become somebody that could solve your client’s need, whether that’s an in house solution or consultant or another agency or whatever. So the idea that even if you’re doing great work, you’re going to have the infinite supply of inbound business, I think is a little overconfident. So it really takes being getting used to the hard problem of being able to knock on a door and convince somebody to work with you basically.
Louis: Right. Okay. Any other reason why marketing agencies struggle with this?
Dan: Well, I think a lot of it is just a time and planning as well. I think a lot of it is created by consultants and people in my business, trying to sell them all the options under the sun. There’s lots of shiny objects that make it really hard where it’s like buy the software products, set up your CRM perfectly, invest thousands of dollars into this massive CRM that’s meant for consumer marketing.
Dan: There’s all these different tactics you can do. And I think there’s just a lot of wheel spinning as opposed to simplification and time. I think a lot of it’s people are thinking too much about the how, as opposed to the who, like who’s handling this, who’s motivated to handle this, who are we assigning to fix this problem? So I think that’s another big reason.
Louis: Okay. Any anything else before we move on to actually solving this problem?
Dan: Probably there’s probably other things, but yeah, I think the main thing is just agencies aren’t thinking enough about who is focusing on the sales issue. And if you’re an owner and you’re looking around, you can’t identify that person that should be doing it, it’s probably you.
Louis: Yeah, usually it is. Okay. So I think you’ve nailed the problem pretty well, and that’s something I can see. I live in Dublin, Ireland, it’s probably the same for any major city, but the number of digital marketing agencies or marketing agencies in the city center is absolutely crazy insane, right? And they offer relatively the same thing, and their website is just it’s outdated. And I used to have my own agency and it was the same. It’s so incredibly difficult to actually get on top of your own segmentation, as you said, who in terms of the customers to have a clear positioning that you keep up to date and all of that. So how do we make sure that we don’t make this mistake? Right? Let’s go through that. So, when you advise agencies, when they struggle with this problem, where do you start? What is the step number one?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a good question. And the first thing is, we’re never creating the value proposition for an agency. We’re never creating something for them. They’ve already created it, they just cluttered it a lot. And a lot of the times what we’re doing first is peeling back the layers and figuring out where their value actually lives and they know it.
Dan: They just need some help getting rid of the stuff that doesn’t matter. So that can mean different things to different situations, but usually means we’re getting it packaged in a way where we can put it into a Cold Email or put it into a LinkedIn message or a pitch to podcasts like the one we’re on right now to get our clients on there.
Dan: So what that often means is we’re starting with figuring out where do you guys have a true niche? Where do you guys have a specific market that you have a real agile over? Now that creates a lot of anxiety for lots of agencies because they have clients that are all over the map and they’re scared that they’re going to alienate some people and there is risk.
Dan: Let’s be honest there is risk in deciding over time that I’m going to focus on this one area. But there’s risks that it’s not going to work, but there’s almost a definite certainty that it won’t work at all if you don’t do that because the whole agnostic agency forever run model from all the data I’m getting in there because there’s definitely exceptions out there, is fading.
Dan: So I think first and foremost it’s about figuring out who you’re focusing on and what problem you’re solving. And for our purposes, it’s doing what the agency already has and just packaging it the right way, if that makes sense. And I’ll start with that. And I don’t want to get too far ahead of us [inaudible 00:10:26].
Louis: Yeah, so let’s dig into that, right? Because that’s an interesting thing. This self doubt, I can see, to me, this problem of niching down or positioning agency is not a rational problem in a sense that it’s not something that they don’t know. They completely get it when you explain it rationally.
Louis: They completely get it then when you ask, when you need a plumber to fix your water system, water filtering system. You just don’t get a handyman. You get a plumber who deals with water filtering system, right?
Louis: I’m thinking about this example because I had this problem a few days ago, right? And so, it’s the same for agencies. So they understand that rationally, but when it comes to the emotional side, the little brain, the reaction it’s like, “Oh no, it’s risky. Not for us. It’s good to give this advice for everyone else, but for us, no.” Right?
Louis: So, how do you go about it, how do you peel back the layer? How do you convince them listen, this is probably what you need to do?
Dan: It’s a good question, and I think the first thing is that a lot of the times, we have to get our clients used to the idea of this is going to sound like cliche, like personal guru schlock but abundance, the idea of abundance because they’ve been dealing with referrals and the people that they might happen to get introduced to.
Dan: They might be have worked with a few clients for years and the idea of their client seeing their site and thinking, I’m not going to be a fit for them anymore is really anxiety inducing. So the very problem that they have with not being able to proactively generate their businesses is what’s causing the anxiety because every business has to make the hard choice of deciding who they’re going to focus on longterm and then, you can’t make everyone happy.
Dan: So I think there’s also a lot of liberation in that idea. A lot of comfort and knowing that you just can’t make everybody happy. Your agency isn’t going to be for everybody and you might have to have an uncomfortable conversation with the client that doesn’t want to, isn’t happy with you anymore.
Dan: But here’s the other thing is a lot of this is just psychological. It’s just people’s fears and the clients that don’t fit the homepage aren’t firing you necessarily right away. A lot of the times it’s not even coming up because you’ve done great work for them and if you haven’t, that’s an issue in itself, you’re going to have to deal with that anyway.
Dan: But if you’re doing great work, you’re probably going to have this junk drawer of clients that don’t fit where you’re going. And that’s okay. They still could stick with you for awhile. So, I’m not sure if that answers the question, but that’s the first thing we’re doing.
Louis: No, it does. It does. So practically speaking, as to use your own words, how do you peel back the layers? Like, how do you go to the core? What is your method for this?
Dan: Well, I wish there were some, fancy, incredible method. A lot of the times it’s just obvious. It’s more so that our clients can’t see the forest from the trees because they’re stuck in it. By the way, it’s nothing against them because I’m sure I’m like that too in my own business.
Dan: But I would say that, we talked to them, we’re like, “Where’s your business coming from?” And they’ll say things like, 80% of it is this type of client. And that’s usually what’s what’s going on. But yeah, but sometimes when there is stuff we need to peel back, the way that I like to think of it, this is going to sound like makes the whole process sound less magical, but I think it’s a lot about keywords.
Dan: Because when we’re thinking, when we’re reading emails or we’re looking for provider, like you mentioned plumbers, we’re thinking in terms of keywords, we are busy, we want to get stuff done. And same goes for the CMO of a big company that’s might be hiring an agency.
Dan: They’re like, “This is interesting. I want somebody that understands travel tourism and I’m interested in social media and for other things. And I’ll have that conversation now.” But then the problem is we have to get it to what is that tangible thing, what is that tangible service. So that’s the first thing.
Dan: The other thing is just the classic stuff that is worked in marketing that our clients should understand, but they forget about, which is a social proof scarcity, like do you have a track record in our space? You’ve worked with this other company, that means I want to talk to you because that’s our competitor in that or whatever, or they’re in our world.
Dan: So a lot of it is thinking in the same way as somebody that might be scanning through an inbox or LinkedIn or whatever, and what’s to really make them say, yeah, this is in our world, they’re using a terms of art. There’s a lot of jargon in particular industries that’s really important. And people will talk to you.
Dan: These CMOs are getting fired faster than anybody else in the C-suite. The tenure’s like shorter than a GI case on. And they’ve got to innovate. They’ve got to come up with new ideas all the time. And they want specialist groups of people to help them. They really are starving for help.
Dan: But the problem is the bar is very low for getting their attention. And the problem is agencies talk about themselves. It’s always we, we’re really great, we’re really smart as opposed to you, here’s a problem you might be dealing with. Here’s our experience where we can help, we could talk.
Louis: We are award winning we are all of this.
Dan: All the start, it’s all we, we, we. Here’s what I want. Sorry, go ahead.
Louis: No, no, no, what I want to serve what do we want absolutely. Instead of what the clients wants. So talking about P words, right? Let me backtrack a bit and make sure I understand.
Louis: So, we are actually talking about SEO keywords like you do actually cue the analogies to understand what people search for and therefore the depth of services, the way you need to name certain things. Right? or did I miss some stuff?
Dan: Not quite. No worries. I was thinking of it more in terms of how we think, right? As opposed to SEO or something. SEO is its own animal. I think that we could get into that. That’s probably a rabbit hole, but I would say that, that’s probably less likely than the way I meant it was the way that we think when we’re scanning through somebody pitching us is this hitting the right notes?
Dan: That sort of keywords is more of the way that we’re making decisions.
Louis: Okay. So you identify the things that the client expect to read from an agency that provides certain set of sense, yeah?
Dan: I’m sorry you say that once more.
Louis: You identify like keywords, the type of words that the clients that decisions you want to attract. You identify those words and try to make sure that it makes sense for those.
Dan: Yeah, and maybe the keyword thing has sent us off on a slightly confusing angle, which is my fault, but it’s more so about making what the agency does, condensed and really highly understandable in a short amount of time is what I’m saying.
Louis: So what do you typically what type format or how do you typically do you like to do this? Is it, do you like to put everything in one sentence, two sentence, one paragraph, one slide? What’s your method for this? And I know it’s maybe not cookie cutter, every single thing is the same, but overall, what other things that have seemed to work in that past for you?
Dan: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a good question. And I think that a lot of it’s about conveying that you’ve done the work, that you’ve done the homework and sometimes that means using multiple channels and doing stuff that’s harder because that shows that you understand a particular market more and that you’re willing to put in the time and effort.
Dan: So that doesn’t mean that there’s no room for automation. But to answer your question, sometimes we’re pre nurturing people on LinkedIn. So we’re connecting with people first. We’re putting a face to a name for our clients before we ask them for anything.
Dan: And then when we’re doing email outreach, we might have a short intro message. It might be super casual. We’ve had messages that use profanity before and they’ve worked really well. Generally, shorter is better but longer could work too.
Dan: And then we’re asking for the meeting on email because that’s generally where we’re making decisions, right? If you’re in your inbox, you’re not in your inbox to go have fun or read articles, you’re there to get stuff done and make decisions. So that’s usually the best place to do it.
Dan: So from there, for doing like multiple emails or reviewing a drip sequence or whatever, then in the followup sequence might be where we link to other things. Now it used to be that we would just link to case studies. Here’s our work, here’s what we’ve done for other clients, blah, blah, blah.
Dan: Now because there’s so many agencies and everybody can make a case study, I think they’ve lost some of their power. So what we’ve been doing now is linking to interviews and linking to placements and publication appearances and stuff that our clients have gotten.
Dan: If they don’t have those then we’ll do campaigns to get them those interviews basically and to get them to those placements. And that just goes a lot further. If you’re focusing on travel and tourism, and then you’re on one of the top travel and tourism blogs and if you don’t think you can be on that, you probably can because I’m sure you have crazy interesting stories to tell just like we’re doing right now.
Dan: Then there’s definitely an opportunity there. So typically we’ll link to that sort of stuff in terms of thought leadership, and then that’s going to give us a much higher conversion rate. But the idea is that, there’s buying cycles. Even if somebody is getting the message and everything’s perfect, they might not be ready to talk to you right now. And that’s okay. That’s going to be, even if we’re doing really well, that’s still might be 90% of the people we’re reaching out to. But what we want is for them to say this was targeted, this was good. I want this person in my inbox. I’m not mad at it. And then, we go on from there and we engage later.
Louis: So I feel we’re missing a few steps. So we’re going to go back to those, right?
Louis: Step one, as you said, yeah, we’re basically picking the niche that is obvious, like we’re not overthinking that the agencies know in that heart of hearts, this is what this happened, but they haven’t had the guts to do it. And then you jump into actually cold emailing. I need to ask you a few questions on cold emails.
Louis: But before that, you actually need to have a list of people to reach out to, right?
Louis: Now, where there are no GDPR or CCPA or whatever you’re calling it, comes into play, sending an email on unsolicited to someone is a no-go, right? How do you approach this?
Dan: I don’t think it’s a no go. I think that if you’re targeted enough… and oftentimes what we’ve found is, we’re doing smaller batch campaigns, right? So we might be reaching out to 20 people in a day and we’ll do that a few times a week.
Dan: If we have a client that’s worked in a particular industry, there’s not all that many people in it. They need to be connecting with these people. In terms of compliance, in terms of no-go, in terms of legal and stuff, you can do that in full compliance very easily. U.S. has canned spam laws. That’s very easy to comply with. Yeah. GDPR, there’s a lot of gray area there. I would say that if you’re worried about GDPR, stick to LinkedIn, do outreach that way. You can still use a lot of the same approaches.
Dan: But the idea is, whether your reaching out to podcasts to get in front of your audience or you’re reaching out specifically to CMOs there, you’re being proactive. You’re getting in front of your audience.
Dan: And the fact is when we’re talking about busy marketing leaders and C-level people or wherever they are in a mid to large company, they might not want to have the same experience as everybody in the digital marketing space is telling you to do. The people that are saying, set up webinars, do this, do that. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that necessarily, but we’re dealing with people that have a very short amount of time and they want to know, “Are you in my world, are you doing something interesting. Do you have a track record? And if so, I’m happy to talk to you.”
Dan: I would say it’s worth reaching out to them. As long as it’s done in the right way and you’re not just mass blasting people in a non-targeted fashion.
Louis: So how do you reach out to them in a non spammy way? What’s your approach there?
Dan: It’s a good question and I wish there was a one size fits all template. But it’s really contextual, but I’ll get as far into it as I can. Again, I think it helps to put a face to your name. If you can connect first on LinkedIn, we found that to work better as of late.
Dan: It doesn’t mean that, that’s the only way, but that does help. So then that way, what do you do if you get a Cold Email from somebody like us, you probably did at least a minute of research. You go Google their name, you search on LinkedIn, check out their site. We all do this before we assign a half hour. So if you can already cover your bases there before you reach out, that’s probably the best way.
Dan: In terms of the mechanics of this, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. We could get really far into that, but there’s list builders you can hire. LinkedIn sales navigator will tell you a lot so you can look from that.
Dan: Depending on the scale which you’re doing this, you can go try to guess the emails and there’s various online tools that will try to figure out if it’s Bob Smith and impactme.com or whatever. And that’s pretty straight forward. I’m sure that a Google search can get people pretty far there.
Dan: And then from that if we want to get more technical, there’s a lot about deliverability and I think that we could get really far into the tactical stuff, but the main thing that’s happening is that deliverability is moving in the right direction, in my opinion. And it’s like SEO. Do you remember when they were like, “SEO hacks.” And you could do a bunch of keyword stuffing and rank your page? Outbound used to be like that too. And now it’s not. And now the robots are getting smarter, so if you’re sending the right message, generally speaking to the right person, it’s going to get through. And if your mass blasting and a bunch of people are marking you as spam, they’re going to shut down your domain, you’re going to have to start over, like impact me basically. So I think overall it’s good. I think it’s moving in the right direction.
Louis: So you’re number one go to a number one advice for when agencies reach out to you and they did not have a niche, they are struggling. If they reach out to you, they struggle to get leads, right? They struggle to get more clients. They are in a position where it’s a bit of an urgency for them. I’m making an assumption here.
Dan: Yeah. It’s sometimes an urgency. But oftentimes, we won’t take that business if there’s too much urgency.
Louis: Okay. Understood.
Dan: We want our clients to be focused on growing as opposed to scared of failing. If they’re scared of failing, then we do training and coaching and stuff and show them how to do some of what we do in house, but generally, it’s going to take motivation to be getting on sales calls to grow the agency basically, and to get our clients where they can see anyway.
Dan: That’s the first thing.
Louis: So they’re in this situation, and so your first advice is really like, “Let’s do some outbound marketing. Let’s reach out to people in the niche that you’ve chosen, in the position that you’ve chosen.” You need to make friends with those people. You need to connect with them, right?
Dan: Generally speaking, yes. If our clients have a track record in a certain space, we feel good about outbound. If they’re moving into a new area or we’ve had clients say, “Yeah, I know we have a lot of track record in legal, but we just really just do not want to work with lawyers anymore.” We’ve had that happen before. And we’re like, “Okay. That’s fair enough.” Then what we often suggest doing is getting authority. So going on the right circulars, the right podcasts, the right publications and then we’ll watch those campaigns for them. .
Dan: It’s still outbound, but it’s outbound for the purposes of getting in front of a live digital audience. Exactly what we’re doing. So I would say that what’s cool about that is, it’s some work you got to be interviewed, but it’s less work than writing content. And you’re going in front of a live audience. You’re going in front of the right people. And then when you’re done, you have content. You can use that content sending the host or whoever’s cool with it. You can repurpose it. Oftentimes if it’s a new area, we’ll start there. .
Louis: Okay. So let’s talk about that a bit more. How do you typically identify those opportunities? And then maybe let’s take a real example. You don’t have to name the client at all. I don’t really care about that. Does seem more like the actual practice of doing it.
Louis: So you can pick the niche, if you want. Talk me through the way you would actually go about finding those opportunities, whether it’s podcast, publications, whatever? .
Dan: There’s lots of online resources now. But a lot of the times, it’s honestly just Google. Google tells us a lot and there’s not an infinite number of these placements. It could be the thing we’re running campaigns for six months. We get clients on everything that they’re going to get in that niche, and then we move on to a different tactic or a different approach. And then from there, we’re less concerned with the overall reach. Although reach certainly does matter, we’re more concerned with the quality of the content, the quality of the audience.
Dan: And this is getting to bigger philosophical stuff, but our whole approach is that everything’s moving to the long tail. Everything’s moving to niching. And our clients should too, and same with what we’re doing. Having a media entity, it’s focused on a particular area and solving a particular problem.
Dan: And the fact is, most of our clients, it’s not we’re starting them fresh. They’re sitting on a gold mine most of the time. They have all sorts of great stories to tell. They’ve worked with some of the biggest brands on earth in some cases, but they just haven’t really thought to go out there with that.
Dan: Some of that is because I think it’s just irrational fear. They’re like, “Oh, I can’t tell them to my client’s stories. Okay, maybe they have to anonymise some things, whatever they’re on a non-compete or something.” But usually they’re just haven’t had the time or the energy to go out there to the world with their stories. That’s something we’re looking to help with.
Louis: Okay. And so usually sign off when you’ve picked actual good niche, good position in the market, something that is specialized enough, you don’t have an infinite list of publications or podcasts you can reach out to. Right? It shouldn’t have millions in front of you. Big ones at least. .
Dan: Yeah. What I would say is to think of it in three different categories. The first is niche or industry areas. Yeah. And that list is not going to be infinite. So that could be whatever, medical travel, tourism, whatever you’re focusing on. And it helps if you can have your site, or even if it’s a personal brand site, something that is geared towards that area. The agencies decided and so on.
Dan: The second category is, marketing and advertising, thought leadership in general. Perhaps, your podcast or mine, others that are bigger, the ad weeks of the world and that sort of thing. If you want to go a bit bigger. And that’s really good for conversion rates. Say you have a proposal and you have clients that are asking about a certain thing, then you can link to this authority piece you’ve done over in on a particular interview or something. Or even recruitment, all that stuff feeds into there.
Dan: And then the third category is, referral partnerships. A lot of our clients and agencies are stumbling onto people. They can refer business as opposed to thinking really deliberately about it. We’re often doing campaigns to other noncompeting agencies, to software companies, to event producers. Maybe those are people that have their own media entities and you can use that as a way to help them out and get in or have them on yours if you have a media or if you have a podcast or something. So that’s the way to think about it.
Dan: And I think that, if you’re going into a new area a really great pitch is, “Hey, we’re moving fresh into this new area and we’re taking the lessons we’ve learned from here and moving them over there, and there’s lots of parallels and so on.” And that can be a good angle to take.
Louis: Okay. This is really about doing some content swaps and all of that, right? Like partnering up with them. You invite them on your podcast but on their podcasts, that kind of thing. Right? You lean on their audience to lean on yours.
Dan: It could be that or it could be just telling the stories that you haven’t made the time or energy to tell. A lot of our clients have just really cool case studies, but they’re sitting on some page somewhere collecting dust. And I don’t mean case studies on literally the PDF, but the story of what they’ve done for a particular client. But they’ve just haven’t gone out there with them. I think that’s the first thing.
Dan: And there’s other ways to do this. You could do it live, you could do it through speaking engagements. You could host events or breakfasts and that sort of thing. I think that if you’re really busy and you’re with a small agency, the most bang for your buck is live digital placements, is basically getting on other people’s shows. We both host podcasts, getting guests on. We get pitched a lot, but we don’t get pitched that much by people who have a track record in a particular space. And if you’ve got an agency, you’ve got that track record basically.
Louis: Live digital placements. Apart from podcasts, what else are we talking about here? .
Dan: It could be guests roundups. Like, textual guests roundups. What else have we done? It could be YouTube channels and that sort of thing, although that’s a little bit more B2C. And it could be actual more media stuff, more towards the PR realm, answering reporter queries. And there’s probably other things I’m forgetting about. Yeah, potentially live speaking engagements, that sort of thing. But yeah, podcasts and publications and online publications are the main focus.
Louis: Live webinars potentially?
Dan: Yeah. That’s another thing on joint webinars. I think that I haven’t seen amazing applications when we’re talking about bigger scale, B2B deals. That tends to skew a little more… At least in my experience and I’m sure there’s exceptions that tends to skew a little more towards software and towards smaller engagements and that sort of thing. But it definitely can work. There’s definitely a great way to get exposure.
Louis: Okay. To go back to what you said, which is interesting. When you’re a smaller agency, when you don’t have a lot of time from your experience… And again, it’s your experience and we need to be careful not to make huge blanket statement, but from your experience doing those type of, as you call them, live digital placements, so like podcasts, and all of the stuff that you can do quite quickly, as you said, textual roundups or YouTube, even though it’s more B2C tends to work better than because it’s more bang for your buck. It’s less time invested, therefore, and good results, right?
Dan Yeah. I think so too. And like I said, you’re absolutely right. I don’t want to say our playbook’s the only way to go. I think that if you’re starting from the right level of like, “What problem am I solving? Who am I solving it for?” You might find that there’s all sorts of other things that work a lot better depending on your audience. In medical, one of our not a client, but an agency that we work with a lot or talk to you a lot is focused on health and life sciences and they host an event where doctors can come network and they essentially own that event. They’ve made it something they do every single year. We have another, one of our clients is focused on cybersecurity and they host a Taco event focused on just cyber security companies, and then they’re hosting that every single year and that they’ve gotten countless deals from that thing.
Dan: All these things are on the cards. I think that if you’re starting fresh, there’s a lot to be said for podcasts and live publications because yeah, again, that’s the last time.
Dan: And also, I think there’s a bit of an early mover advantage because we’re still in the earlier stages of podcasts, and we’re building up our repertoire here and there could come a day where podcasts are in every single car. And yeah, you can easily listen to podcasts in your car now, but people that are a little bit older might not be doing that as easily. I think that once that’s embedded, once everybody has a new car with internet technology, drive time podcasts are going to become much more of a reality than they are now. So that’s another thing to think about.
Louis: Yeah. And I do receive a lot of emails from listeners saying, “I’m listening to a podcast in the car.” And then because it’s actionable, they tend to-
Dan: [inaudible 00:35:36].
Louis:… to have to stop on the side of the road and actually take notes and all that. Can you hear me? Hello.
Hey Louis, can you hear me? Hey Louis, are you there? Anything. .
Can you hear me? Hello? Hello?
Louis: … which fine. I’m…
Dan: Let me make sure I have the 80s hookup. Okay, cool.
Louis: I need you to bring to…
Where did we leave…
Louis: I need to go back to the area we were talking about and I’ve kind of lost it by looking at… Do you remember where we were?
Dan: We were talking about podcasts, we were talking about the different targets that you could go after, whether the type of podcasts versus publications, versus audio. I was talking about events, other things you can do. I was talking about my clients hosting events.
Louis: Okay. I know what to say.
Louis: Okay. We’ve covered the things that you would do when you don’t have a lot of time. We’ve got a smart agency, small size, et cetera. Digital life placement, live digital placement, that’s all good. But then what I’m wondering is, honestly, it seems like most agencies tell the same story in some ways, right? Like always kind of hear the same, the center, like digital transformation and all of that. How do you advise agencies to actually, when they get placed, when they actually have a story to tell, to tell a story that makes sense that people would actually notice?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a good question. The main thing is, at the risk of sounding cliche, is just the humanity of it, focusing on what you actually went through to build the agency, what your clients have gone through, why they hired you, what were they worried about when they hired you, what did you… How did you help them? What were some times you screwed up? What were some times where projects, what did they look like when they didn’t go well? Then also success stories. In addition to the success, what do you like to do in your spare time? What kind of culture are you building in the agency? These are all things that are really interesting to talk about. I just got off the phone with an agency today that owns a fight league. They bought an amateur MMA league.
Louis: What’s the industry? What do they do?
Dan: I don’t want to go into too many details yet because it’s still kind of early on, but basically they do lots of social media, lead generation for consumers. Through their travels they bought a fight league basically.
Louis: Yeah. So that’s something worth sharing, right?
Dan: Yeah, exactly.
Louis: You would advise instead of just going in it very, what should I say? In a sexy way, we just say you should buy from us, like we are the best in the world, we want this a worlds, and those are all of our clients. It’s more about telling a story from a vulnerable, like a vulnerable standpoint. Right? The origin story, the struggles that they’re reality behind the business.
Dan: Yeah, exactly. The origin stories. The tactical stuff does matter too. Obviously we’ve gone to a good amount of tactical stuff on this episode and I think that the more that you can talk about in that regard, that can be really helpful. So just the sort of things that… I think that a lot of the times everyone assumes that there’s like a standard best practice for everything. The fact is like we’re all kind of navigating this for the first time, all of this world of digital marketing and what does it look like when you hire an influencer agency versus this other agency? And a big company is now juggling several different agencies, sometimes like a small army of agencies they’re dealing with. They don’t really know what should or shouldn’t happen.The stuff that you take for granted, the stuff that you just assume everybody knows is probably black magic to them, you know? So I think the bar is probably lower than a lot of your listeners think to getting on different shows.
Louis: Yeah. And it’s all about, I think imposter syndrome and self doubt and all of that, right?
Louis: It’s like this diagram of what you think other people know and what you know and your story is always worth sharing. You internalize a lot of stuff, a lot of knowledge throughout the years that you take for granted that everyone knows, but it’s not the case. Right?
Louis: So even telling what you think is basic works. Just to give you a quick example with this podcast, right? I used to be worried about, well what if I interview someone who’s talked about a similar subject and a prior guests? I want to cover every topic, but then what if I repeat myself or whatever. But it should never happen because every guest brings his own story, there’s always something new, a different angle. More than that, repetition is key as well. Even if you repeat something that you’ve heard before, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. Right?
Louis: Foundations are as important as anything. I connect with that a lot. That’s what you found to be very effective, yeah?
Dan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Even for my own podcast, I used to have a fear, oh, this person’s competing with me, our clients could hire them too. More recently I’m sort of like, ah, so what, they should hire both of us and if that happens at least they’re investing in themselves and investing in marketing. I certainly get a lot from having people on that approach the same problem in a different way. I definitely agree.
Louis: Yeah. It can be quite selfish on this. You can learn from them by interviewing them. But more than that, I think making friends with your quote unquote competitors, like it’s not a fucking war at the end of the day. A lot of people would make you think it is, but it’s not. The world is big enough. If you have a strong positioning, the world is big enough and it’s okay. I have multiple examples of freelancers or agencies partnering up with each other, solving the same problem, partnering up. They’re here, they received the pitch from the same company and they just partner up. Whoever wins, it’s, it’s win win for everyone.
Dan: Yeah, exactly. That’s one way to do that. I had a agency consultant in Karl Sekas on her show that’s going to be coming out soon. But he basically made the point that that’s kind of where things are moving in the agency spaces is the idea of like a front end and a back end agency. So if you’re a front end agency, you’re doing all the sales and marketing and client generation and you’re dealing with the client service, the relationship. You have a backend agency that’s executing. I think that that’s becoming much easier to manage because there’s a lot less holding risk. You have fewer employees and you really get to specialize on either selling yourself or actually doing the work instead of having to do both of those things, which can be a whole lot to keep up with. That’s a big trend that we’re seeing these days.
Louis: Right. Dan, thanks so much for getting through this kind of step by step. I have a few more questions I always ask at the end of the episode, but before that, was there anything I should have asked you I haven’t on this process? Is there anything in particular you’d like to talk about?
Dan: Oh man, I actually liked the questions that you put there, so maybe we can go to those cause I don’t have a great answer. I think we covered a lot.
Louis: Great. Okay. The first one I love asking is, what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years? 20 years? 50 years?
Dan: Yeah, it’s a really good question and I think in the next 10 years it’s going to be about survival, honestly, survival and, and doing well, because of the internet and because of everything globalizing and because of the language barrier becoming less of an issue and all of these things. They already happened and are happening, but they’re just going to get even more so. I think in the next 10 years it’s going to be about finding an niche on some level, doing the work, investing in getting yourself out there and so on, even more so then the agencies have had to in previous periods.
Dan: In 20 years I think it’s going to be about innovating around the how while keeping the who and the what consistent. I think it’s going to be about being specific about the problem you’re solving and who you’re solving it for and figuring out how to navigate the technology and the people you need to hire and all of these things that are going to be changing even faster than they are now.
Dan: 50 years is a long time. I would say in 50 years it’s going to be about looking at what’s worked historically and going back to basics and not losing sight of that. That’s going to be the best practices of psychology and all the philosophy and all these other areas that aren’t so tactical. It’s going to be about not losing sight of those things.
Louis: Agreed. What are the top three resources you recommend our listeners?
Dan: For top three. I like to… I’m kind of going more towards older books these days and kind of keeping it in the sales and marketing realm for this. There’s one that I really liked called Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz and he was an ad agency copywriter. This book’s kind of hard to track down. You can find PDFs online, it’s probably the best way. It’s not too… You could find it though if you look. It’s a really great book. It talks about the different stages of market awareness and the different levels of skepticism. Every time I’ve re-read it’s just even even more real than it was a few years before. That one’s really good.
Dan: I think that in terms of sales, the Challenger Sale, which is by CEB has been really good. I think that it’s sort of just a good sales book for our era because it’s much more about teaching, tailoring, taking control. It’s less about, I’m going to ask you a million questions and sculpt my offer to your needs. It’s more so about like we solve these specific problems in this specific way. I think it dovetails with everything that we’re talking about.
Dan: And the third one, I’m honestly looking at my bookshelf right now, you know, I think at the risk of leaning into a cliche Silicon Valley book Zero to One by Peter Deal has been really valuable. He has a single chapter on sales that I think is more interesting and more true than 90% of the sales books out there. He basically goes into different… The idea of how to price things, the idea that there could be a no man’s land where you’re not charging enough to actually cover your costs of acquisition, the idea of sales being hidden, the best sales in the world are not right out in front of you, it’s happening without you knowing it. Also the idea that’s that sales and marketing and all this stuff isn’t like a bad thing or a good thing, it’s just a tool like anything else. It’s like a knife can be used for cutting a steak or for hurting somebody. It’s just that those three have been pretty good for me.
Louis: Yeah, I agree. The book is great. The guy himself is… That’s another story. I think there’s a lot of stuff he’s doing, it’s really shady and I would understand why he would say that a knife could be good or bad on this occasion.
Dan: Well, I… To be fair, those weren’t his words. That was kind of my…
Louis: Yeah, I know, but the idea behind it. I’ve read the book as well and it’s rude actually in the sales chapter. You made me think of re-reading it. But yeah, I love the recommendation. I have never heard of the first one. So I shall try to find a PDF online as you said. We’ll see what happens.
Dan: I wish they’d republished it. It make things easier.
Louis: It’s weird. It’s weird. It’s such a good book. Where can listeners connect with you, learn more from you?
Dan: Yeah, the best place is our podcast if they’d like to check that out and again, it’s just the Digital Agency Growth podcast. We are putting out episodes each week with agency leaders, with people on the brand side, software and so on. Our company, if we can help anybody out there or you just want to talk, learn more about what we’re doing is salesschema.com sales as in sales schema as in schematic. I always read and answer emails, just firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louis: Awesome. All right, Dan, thanks so much, especially for sharing your kind of step by step and the stuff you recommend your own clients and thanks also for your resource recommendation. It’s been a pleasure.
Dan: Yeah, likewise. Really appreciate it. Thank you.