Today, on Hubstaff’s Agency Advantage Podcast, I’m talking with Jason Swenk who shares how to use systems to grow your agency.
Jason built his first agency, Solar Velocity, into a $13 million/year business before selling it, and now he shares his expertise with other agency owners.
Having a system-oriented mindset is one of the most important traits you need in order to build a successful agency, and today we dive into exactly what that entails. In this episode, Jason shares why systems are so important, what specific systems matter the most, and how you can set them up so that they are actually followed.
If you think a 20% margin is as good as it gets, then this is the episode for you.
Want to read the interview? Click here to grab the transcript.
Why systems matter
According to Jason, you need to look at the structure of your business before things start getting complex. If you continue to grow and hire more people without concrete processes in place, everyone will be looking to you for a thousand answers they could get themselves if you just had that structure set up for them.
At that point, you’re stuck putting out fires instead of growing your brand or fulfilling your dreams. You’ll also start hitting a sales ceiling, because you don’t know what to improve or change in order to go farther.
If you have a set of processes, then you can look at what’s working and what’s not and do what’s needed to land bigger clients.
8 Systems to help you build a better agency
Jason’s process for improving your agency involves eight systems. The first is clarity.
When Jason started his first agency, he was just throwing stuff at a wall without planning for what they were working toward. He reached for whatever money was offered him instead of figuring out if it was right for the business. This really bites you in the butt when you grow large enough to get employees.
Without the benefit of a clear vision, employees will focus on what’s best for them instead of what’s best for the company, because you haven’t told them what’s best for the company.
As always, Jason emphasizes the importance of finding your niche. If you focus on a specific type of client, you can really figure out a way to be successful.
Instead of blindly copying other businesses and hoping it works, you can look critically at how they grew and apply that to your own business, seeing how they started with a small niche and moved outward. More importantly, once you’ve chosen an ideal client, you can really get to know that client’s needs and pain points.
Then you can speak specifically to them instead of shouting into the void and hoping it sticks. Finally, once you’ve figured out your client and their needs, you can really demonstrate empathy for them, because you can point out that you’ve been in their exact situation and you have a process to get out of it.
The next piece is your offering. Jason emphasizes the importance of finding the right initial size. Starting with a new client and pitching them a retainer right away is like meeting someone for a first date and proposing marriage.
Instead, you want to find the right opening offer so you get a chance to demonstrate your expertise and prove that you are a cut above the competition. Jason refers to this as the offer ladder.
Find a piece of your core business model, like paid discovery, and focus on selling that to first time clients. Once they’ve gone through that piece and they see how good you are, they’re going to pony up more money for an ongoing relationship because they know you’re the best.
It also builds trust with the client. Instead of dumping everything on them at once, by taking it slowly, you’re demonstrating your aim is to provide value instead of just selling a product and moving on.
For prospecting, Jason stresses the importance of diversity. It’s great if you’re super attuned to the ins and outs of Google’s current algorithm and have a system to instantly put your client first in the search results, but what happens when Google changes the algorithm?
Then you have to start from scratch, and that can devastate your business. So choose a bunch of different ways to do inbound marketing. Find a form of rich media that you like, such as videos or podcasts, and then figure out a way to turn that into additional content, like blog posts. That way the pipe never dries up.
Second, make sure you’re doing outbound as well as inbound. Jason has a system for making outbound outreach less frightening: figure out your ideal service and client. Then reach out to clients who fit that profile.
Pick a strategy that works for you, whether it’s cold emailing, meetups, or even just picking up the phone. Anything is better than nothing.
Jason utilizes two shortcuts to make the sales process simpler.
First, he looks at NBAT: need, budget, authority, and timing. Make sure you’re providing what your prospect needs; make sure your prospect has the budget to hire you; make sure your prospect has the authority to hire and pay you; and make sure the timing is right on both sides for your relationship. This makes sure you choose the right kind of client to pursue at the right time so nobody wastes their effort.
Then, once you’ve qualified the prospect, look at what Jason calls the Three I’s. What is their biggest issue? What is the impact on their business? And how important is it to them? This serves two purposes.
First, it gives you much needed information to start your own process. Second, it sells the client on your worth. If you can establish they’ve got X problem and it’s costing them X much and you have a solution to it, you’ve closed the deal.
Now that you’ve got your ideal client in hand, be sure the delivery lives up to their expectations. Jason wants you to think of one question: how can you wow your clients?
After all, the client’s going to be nervous. They’ve probably dropped a significant sum on you, and they want to be reassured that they’ve made the right decision. Now is your chance to go above and beyond and make sure they come back to you.
This might sound daunting, but you just have to find what works for you. Personalization is always a good choice. For example, Jason sends a custom video to everyone who buys his book or joins his classes. It’s quick, simple, and shows how he shines. Find your version and go from there.
The next step is making sure you’ve got your operations in order. From Jason’s point of view, you should never be the smartest guy in the room. Find people who fill in your gaps.
For example, if you’re great at sales but less great at account management, find the best account manager for your team. Have accountability systems in place, so everyone knows how the business is doing and where it’s headed.
The final piece is leadership. Jason says that agency owners really need to transform their mindset from an agency owner to an agency CEO. You’re steering the ship, but you’re not responsible for bailing out every bucket of water.
Instead, you’ve got a handful of primary roles. First, you’re setting the vision and direction of the agency. Again, if people don’t know what they’re aiming for, then they’ll focus on what’s best for their own bottom line instead of the agency’s. So make sure you’re communicating what your business is about to everyone in the pipeline.
Second, make sure you’re coaching and mentoring your leadership team only. You cannot be responsible for everyone in your agency. Instead, your focus should be on your top people, making sure they’ve got the tools to turn around and make their own teams better.
By concentrating your efforts on a smaller target, you’ll be able to influence your whole agency without burning yourself out.
Want to learn more?
You can find more about Jason’s systems and strategies on his website, theagencyplaybook.com. You can also check out his weekly show, which he posts on iTunes, YouTube, or anywhere else you like to get podcasts.
For the podcast, check out his personal website, jasonswenk.com. Finally, if you’d like to get in touch with Jason personally, check out his contact page, which takes you straight to his Facebook Messenger so you can chat.
Work the System by Sam Carpenter
Good to Great by Jim Collins