In this episode, I talk with Brent Weaver (Twitter) of uGurus. Brent built a multi-million dollar web agency, sold it, and now works with other web professionals to help them build their own successful agencies.

He developed a system to dramatically increase your chances of success and learned a few lessons through 12 years of trial and error. Brent covers everything he learned the hard way so that you can skip a few of those difficult years and jump-start your agency’s growth.

.@brentweaver distills 12 years of lessons from building a multi-million dollar web agency (PODCAST) Click To Tweet

From the start of the interview, it’s clear how much thought Brent has put into all of the aspects of running a digital agency, and I was blown away by how he was able to distill his 12 years of learning down into simple, straightforward lessons. You don’t want to miss this one.

Download a full transcript of the interview with Brent: Get it right here.

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Key Takeaways

Get your business strategy out of your head [19:00 – 22:00]

Most agency owners keep their business strategy locked up in their head, which means it’s changing month to month, and it probably hasn’t been vetted by somebody who really understands where the market’s at, what works, and what doesn’t.

Brent says one of one of the biggest mistakes he made was operating as an island for so many years. He eventually put his strategy down on paper in front of a trusted group of advisors. They gave him feedback that helped him avoid mistakes and taught him lessons that would have taken years to learn on his own.

Set your strategy and execute it with reckless abandon for at least 90 days. You’ll learn about execution, and afterwards, you can come back and answer; “based on our experience, what should we tweak for the future?”

Look for ponds, not oceans [24:00 – 31:00]

Most agencies simply don’t need 100 new clients in a year. In fact, if most agencies got 100 new clients, it would crush their business. They would end up with clients who are unhappy and angry. They’d be totally swamped with opportunity and their business would be swallowed up.

So if the reality is that most agencies don’t need tons and tons of new clients, then why do so many agencies try to go after huge markets?

If you’re trying to sell to small businesses, that is an ocean. The agencies out there fishing in those markets successfully have fleets of boats, satellite imagery, underwater sonar systems, and massive multi-million dollar investments. The average guy is going out there in a little dinghy and one fishing pole. He is just as likely to catch a fish as he is to be eaten by a shark.

If you’ve got a rowboat and a fishing pole, find a pond. Find something that you can make your way around and get the lay of the land so you can see all the different aspects of the pond and find the hot spots within a month. Once you’ve mastered fishing that pond, then maybe it’s time to go somewhere bigger, but start small.

Avoiding commoditization [35:00 – 48:00]

If you communicate in dimensions, colors, and features instead of the end result that your project drives, then you’re playing the commodity game. The commodity game is always a race to the bottom on price, and if you want to avoid that, you need to change the way you sell.

Instead of focusing on features when selling your clients, talk about the results that your project will give their business. You need to apply that mindset to how you’re communicating about what you do, your value proposition, how you’re creating a specific offer, and how you’re incorporating story and analogy.

If you don’t really understand what problem you’re solving, it won’t matter what cool widget you build.

Here’s the full transcript:

Andy Baldacci:Brent, thanks for coming on the show.
Brent Weaver:Good to be here.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, so you’re the founder of uGurus, where you help web professionals earn what they deserve, and for the listeners who aren’t that familiar with you, though, can you share a bit of how you ended up where you are today?
Brent Weaver:

[00:01:00]

Yeah, absolutely. I founded a web agency in 2000 and built that business over 12 years from $0, 0 investment, no financial backing, to a really successful digital agency here in Denver, Colorado. We had 14 team members. We had about 300 clients under management and eventually got acquired in 2012 and I think we were ranked top fastest growing in Denver for 2 years in a row and we were on the top 25 web developers in Colorado for 5 years in a row, so we had this really, really fun and cool story that we could tell about this awesome, amazing agency and nothing ever went wrong and it was the perfect business and it was just amazing the whole time.
Really, that’s not the full story, though. The full story is probably for the first 7 of those years that we were running that business, we had no idea what we were doing and it probably took us 10 years to really figure out how to run that business successfully and then 2 golden years where we were really rocking it before that became attractive for another company to come in and actually acquire the company.
What I founded uGurus on was the premise that I didn’t want other people to have to spend a decade learning how to grow a successful business. I don’t think it should take that long. Most of what I learned ultimately that we were using to grow our agency into a successful business was a handful of simple processes that you can follow and I think what we finally learned after creating many, many complex processes was that having a handful of simple processes in key areas of your business is really all you need to be successful.
[00:02:00]It took us 12 years to really create those processes and now we teach those to other web professionals in as little as 10 weeks and so that’s really the foundation of uGurus is we don’t want entrepreneurs to have to suffer for a decade in order to grow a successful business. We’d like for them to be able to do the same amount of impact in as little as 10 weeks.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, that’s an amazing story but I like what you kind of touched on at the end with the processes of having a few simple core processes as opposed to dozens and dozens of overly complex processes that ultimately either weigh you down or you don’t actually follow, so I want to make sure we get into that a bit down the road, but I want to kind of dive into the basics of what it was that got you those golden years at the end, where things were clicking, where things were really running smoothly. What did that look like? Was it just steady leads coming in, projects going off without a hitch? What was that like?
Brent Weaver:

[00:03:00]

I think one of the main things that we finally learned was that inventing your own way of doing business is way too arduous and unnecessary and I think a lot of entrepreneurs that don’t know how to run a business or have never done it before, you’re faced with these problems everyday and you get into this problem solving mode where you’re personally thinking about oh, I don’t have enough clients, so how could I get clients? Then you read a couple blog posts and then you’re like okay, cool. Now I have a roadmap to getting clients and that’s really not how it works.
[00:04:00]What I eventually did, I think probably around that 2007 spot in terms of timeline, was I started to just hire expert consultants and coaches and also I built a team of advisors of companies that were at the level of where I wanted to be, so it was kind of this combination of having really strong sales, marketing, project management, operations, finance, a consultant where we’re paying them a lot of money to help us to just implement proven processes that are already working for their businesses, and then also having a really strong set of advisors that essentially were the company that I wanted to build.
When I had that in place, it probably took a year or so to actually put in place, it was like I would tell somebody, “Oh, we’re having a sales problem,” and they were like, “Well, tell me how you sell,” and then we’d explain how we currently sell and they were like, “Okay, well here’s the 6 places that you’re doing this just ‘wrong,'” and I put wrong in air quotes because I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or a wrong way to do business. There’s just different ways that give you different outcomes, so when somebody teaches you a process that maybe takes a lot less emotional overhead, there’s a lot less guess work in it, and the outcome that’s created from that process is significantly better, why wouldn’t you adopt that?
[00:05:00]So we just started taking people that had existing proven processes and we apply them to our web pro business, maybe put a little window dressing on there cause our business was different. Everybody’s different and everybody has their own thing but there are some fundamental truths about what works in the different areas of your business and so once we started to adopt those, invent less of our process, and use proven processes, I think that that really started to change the game for us.
Andy Baldacci:At that point, how big were your average projects when things were really clicking after you’d had these systems in place?
Brent Weaver:

[00:06:00]

The funny part is when we started our business, we actually did larger projects than probably when we were at the lowest point in our business and we’re earning more gross revenue, but we were taking on a ton more small work and I think what happened was is we got really lucky out of the gate and we got some decent sized clients and then we started to pursue some really terrible business practices, like we didn’t really understand who our ideal customer was and we really tried to chase every single opportunity that came through our door, so we had these really big 5 figure and 6 figure clients and then we’d get the project opportunity for $3000 or $4000 who was probably just a bad fit for our business and we would fight tooth and nail for that business because I wanted to win every deal and I just didn’t really understand some of those core truths about taking on a bad fit for your business, the damage that that can do overtime.
So our average deal size actually from probably 2005-2007 went from mid 5 figure deals down to probably $5000 deals over just a period of 2-3 years, cause every time we pursued these smaller projects, it just seemed like our appetite for small projects just got even bigger because they were really easy deals to close, but they just were terrible budgets and we were losing money on them left and right and we started building our business around this idea of volume and getting everybody as a client and then that eventually pretty much led to us almost closing our doors.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:07:00]

Oh, wow. Then at that point did you then kind of revamp it and just go back after the bigger projects or what happened when you almost closed the doors?
Brent Weaver:I remember this. I was coming up for packages for websites that were like $1500, so imagine going from I’ve sold the $50000+ client and then all of a sudden, I’m selling $1500 projects and the types of clients that are buying those $1500 projects are really high maintenance, low experience. They don’t have a lot of resources to work with so they’re really stressful on you in terms of they just don’t have enough resources to write their own content or do things that you need them to do. Even though they didn’t hire you to do those things, they just expected us to be able to do all that stuff.
Hold on a second here, Andy.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah.
[00:08:00]

Brent Weaver:

When we had these $1500 clients one after another and we started thinking to ourselves we need to play the volume game and what ended up ultimately happening was it just didn’t work and I don’t think it works for most web professionals that I talked to, is trying to go after a high volume of commodity type deals. The amount of time it takes you to acquire a customer, the time and money it takes you to acquire a customer at $1500, is actually insanely similar to the amount of time and energy it takes to acquire a customer for $15000 and if you’re spending $1000-$2000 to acquire a customer and at the end of the day, you’re getting $1500, even if you don’t really understand how to come up with those numbers yourself, the reality is is that the fundamental business model doesn’t work unless you’re able to achieve some kind of massive scale, so what that looked like for us was a wake up call, $0 in our bank account.
[00:09:00]I think on one of my origin stories, I talk about how I had $3 in my bank account at one point in time and I was riding my bike to the office. My employees thought I was trying to get in shape and I literally could not afford gas and that’s what it looked like to basically try to compete on the commodity playing field, was that eventually the business itself was emptied out and there was no revenue to work at that level cause it just doesn’t work. If you’re trying to compete on the commodity scale, the margins are so razor thin that eventually we had this really, really unhealthy business.
[00:10:00]It kind of started out of a need for us to reboot the company. We said, “Look, if we’re gonna make this work, we need to change some things.” I tried talking to some people about the real value that we were delivering with the websites were building, started to learn how to sell and qualify. That was a huge eyeopener for me, that not every single person that contacts you is a good fit. How do you evaluate that? How do you tell them no? How do you sit in a room and strategically decide who is an ideal fit so that when you’re on the call with somebody, you’re scoring them against something that you’ve created, not in the moment?
Those types of things was how we started to rebuild from there and we just started kind of ratcheting back up our prices and I started to realize that I was spending as much time selling a $1500 client as a $20000, so I just stopped. It just became so painfully clear that I just stopped working with people that had $1000, $2000, $3000 budgets and just started saying no, sending them other places, and then what happened was is my time opened up for much bigger opportunities.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:11:00]

I think one issue that people run into is that they’ll get even above the $1500, like in the $2000-$3000 project range. It’s still taking up a ton of time, margins aren’t great, but it’s not always, at least in the moment especially, easy to say no, especially when you only have a few dollars in the bank account, and so how do you get out of the rut when you still need money coming in?
Brent Weaver:Yeah. I adopted a saying from one of the former CEOs of SendGrid, Jim Franklin, and he calls it SFM, so Stuff For Money.
Andy Baldacci:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent Weaver:

[00:12:00]

There’s your strategic business plan, which would be what customer [inaudible 00:11:26] are you going after? How are you going to reach them? What channels are you using? Who is your ideal customer? What are some of those parameters that you’re saying is somebody that you really, really want to work with? That’s your strategic efforts that you need to start putting investment into, whether that’s time or money. You need to start making some measured steps towards that goal. Maybe it’s 2 hours a week where you’re like okay, I’m going to work on my ideal customer marketing plan for 2 hours a week or one day a week or however much time that you can invest in that, and then the other amount of my time I’m going to basically fill with SFM so that I can make sure that I can put food on the table, that my bills will be paid, etc, but I would highly recommend against saying well, I’m just going to dedicate all of my time to SFM to keep food on the table.
There will probably have to be some short-term sacrifices there. Out of the 3 inquiries you get, maybe you take 2 of them instead of 3 of them or maybe you take 1 of them. Figure out what that baseline is for yourself, but I think people will probably surprise the heck out of themselves if they set a completely different goal for themselves and they pursue they goal. How fast they usually achieve that goal is usually way faster than they actually expect.
What people usually do is they operate out of fear that they’re not going to achieve that goal, so they continue to invest their time in the things that they know and they just delay the inevitable of happening in their bigger goal.
[00:13:00]We’ve had people go through our boot camp program where literally we’re having a conversation and they’re like, “I’m going after these microbusinesses that are doing $50000 in a revenue,” and I’m like, “Why don’t you go after businesses that are doing $2 million in revenue and find one of those because I promise you, it’s just going to be a different type of conversation and they’re going to really value your skills and they’re going to want to hire you and pay you really what you you’re worth,” and there’s a lot of fear around, “Well, I don’t know where those businesses hang out,” and I’m like, “Well, just do me a favor. Spend the next week asking people you know if you can find those types of businesses, doing research, and let’s just talk in a week and your goal is to have one conversation with somebody who’s running a business that’s doing $2 million or more,” and they come back next week and they have had the one conversation.
[00:14:00]They’re like, “Woah. Brent, you’d be so surprised. My friend Joe knows this guy who’s a CEO of this manufacturing company and they’re doing $10 million a year and this guy answered the phone and he would talk to me,” and I’m like, “Okay, cool. So, we’ve gotten that out the way, right? Now you know that you can find these types of businesses, so go do that because every second that you spend talking to tire kickers and time wasters and penny pinchers is an hour that you’re not potentially developing a relationship that’ll turn into a much bigger job.”
We had one of our graduates, she went at it full force. She closed $90000 worth of business in about 45 days of working this stuff, so yes, she might have forgone a $3000 project or a $4000 project. Maybe she had to skimp a little bit on her monthly finances for that amount of time. Maybe she even put some stuff on credit cards, like I don’t know, but at the end of the day, those problems are pretty easy to solve when you have much larger checks coming in the door.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:15:00]

Right and it seems like first is the mindset that one, it doesn’t need to be an on/off switch and I think with any changes in a business, people just assume all right, I need to change everything overnight and you’re not saying that. I like the way you said find the ratio where you still are going to do the stuff for money x percent of the time, but you need to find that y percent of the time to do the things that are really going to grow your business, but then beyond that it’s just kind of having the faith, I don’t like calling it faith, but believing in yourself and knowing that if you do put in that effort, the results will come.
Brent Weaver:

[00:16:00]

One other thing I want to tell your listeners on this topic is that there are so many times where these “$3000 bad clients” that people get, I mean they’re not bad people or whatever, but they’re just low paying clients, but there are so many times where those are actually clients that have the potential to be much higher paying clients and I’m not saying this as a hard and fast fact, that every client that’s paying $2000 for a website is a client that could pay $10000, but there are so many times where if we just teach our students how to speak a different language, how to take their clients through a different process, the same people that they were selling yesterday, and because they’re going through a different process and they’re showing up differently, the outcomes are fundamentally different, so while there is an aspect of what we teach in how to help people set a strategy for a business to find these secret high value clients, the crazy part is is that so often our students just change their process and language with their existing clients and they get a different outcome.
Sometimes that outcome is maybe 2x, so they go from selling the same client that they would’ve sold a $3000 project on, they sell them a $5000 or $6000 project or they sell them an $8000 project, so those types of things happen potentially really quickly.
[00:17:00]I just got an email from a graduate of our spring program. She was a hard student to get to come over to the light. She came kicking and screaming and she engaged in our process and she emailed me and said, “I went through the process. I ended up closing a $15000 deal. The client told me in the first interaction that they only had a $5000 budget,” so here we have a perfect example of where if she would’ve gone her usual process, this supposedly $5000 client would’ve been a $5000 project. We changed the way she operates her business, changed the language that she uses, the steps that she takes. That same client’s a $15000 client, so some of it is business strategy, who you’re going after, how you’re marketing yourself, where you’re pursuing people, where you’re investing your time there, but part of it also is just changing how you actually do business and you might see a significant result there.
In that scenario, there wouldn’t necessarily be any taking the gas pedal off on your low value projects. You might actually be able to use that same project and lead flow to just extract more value and deliver more value to your clients frankly while you’re building up towards maybe some bigger more interesting business.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:18:00]
Mm-hmm (affirmative), right. It’s like there’s 2 sides to it. There’s one, it’s first look for the better clients, you’re starting at a level above the $2000-$3000 range, but even in the clients you’re dealing with now, find the ways to provide more value and capture more of that value.
I want to kind of dive in a bit more to the specifics of this. I know you laid out 3 phases to this where it’s first the strategy to find the ideal customer and target specific markets, then the sales process, and then actually delivering the project successfully. Do you mind if we kind of just dive in?
Brent Weaver:Yep.
Andy Baldacci:All right. For the strategy, I’m guessing you’re not telling people, “All right, you need to look at $2 million businesses. That’s where they’re gonna have enough money to start paying you so your market is now $2 million businesses.” I’m guessing there’s a bit more process to it than that.
Brent Weaver:

[00:19:00]

When we were creating our boot camp program, which its inception was 2 years ago, I did an incredible amount of customer research in the web pro market. I had hundreds of conversations with web professional over about a year and a half period of time. When you talk to most web pros, you’re just simply saying, “Hey, what’s your strategy?” Either they are honest and they say, “I don’t have a strategy,” or they literally start to verbally, not make up their strategy on the spot, but kind of, right? They take thoughts that maybe they have had over the last few months or even years and they start to actually formalize those thoughts to you. About 1 in 100 actually hands me a piece of paper that says here’s our business vision and strategy. The other 99 are literally keeping their business strategy locked up in their head, which means it’s ever evolving, it’s changing month to month, and it probably hasn’t been vetted by somebody who really understands where the market’s at, what works, and what doesn’t work.
[00:20:00]Back to what I was talking about earlier, one of the biggest mistakes I made was I basically operated as an island for so many years and eventually, when I get smart, I started to take my strategy and I put it in front of a trusted group of advisors. I put it in front of experts and consultants and they gave me feedback on that so that I could avoid mistakes that potentially cost you years. Part of our process and program is just having our students actually put their strategy on paper for the very first time in their life and this is a learning experience. When they see it in front of them, they see it on one piece of paper, they’re like oh. They start to think about it. It got out of their head finally.
It’s like the people that are pursuing $10000 projects but they’re going after clients who are doing $50000 a year. You look at that on paper and you’re like, “Oh, well that kinda doesn’t make sense so either I have to pursue people that are making more money or I need to charge less money,” and we try to push them away from that line of thinking. It happens every once in a while where somebody says, “Oh, I’ll just charge fewer dollars and I’ll do the scale thing,” and I’m like, “No, no, no. You don’t have the marketing investment to do scale, so let’s focus on increasing your prices.”
[00:21:00]The strategic process, it does take time. It’s about a third of our boot camp. We answer questions about who’s your customer segment that you’re going to go after? What pain and problem are you solving? How are you going to reach these people and communicate to them? What is your value proposition? We get them to start thinking about these types of questions and actually put that on paper for the first time in their business and strategic thinking is ongoing, but what you shouldn’t do is set a strategy for your business today, come in tomorrow, overhaul that strategy, come in the next day, overhaul that strategy, come in the next day, overhaul that strategy, and that’s a mistake that a lot of people make is that they keep shifting their strategy and most of the time what’s better to do is to set a strategy.
Even if it ends up being not the best strategy, set the strategy, execute it with reckless abandon for a period of like 90 days, and learn a ton about executing, and then come back and say, “Okay, well what could we do? What could we tweak to do this a little bit differently?
[00:22:00]We really push our 10kers, what we call people in boot camp, to set a strategy in that first week or 2 of the program and then execute for the remainder of the program, and then come back at the end and say, “Okay, what parts of this are working and not working?” And then kind of rinse and repeat from there.
Andy Baldacci:Right. It’s the iterative method where it’s instead of over-engineering things at the beginning, you’re saying get something good down there but get out there, test it, learn from it so that in the long run you can improve faster.
Brent Weaver:It’s not always about going after big businesses, $2 million companies, $10 million, or whatever. I mean, that is a way, to say you’re probably more likely to get a better budget from a company that’s doing multiple millions of different revenue a year, but sometimes there are other niches where you’re working with solopreneurs that are doing really, really well.
[00:23:00]There’s a lot of internet marketing, information product coaching type businesses who are selling high margin programs, like group coaching or something like that, where maybe their margins are 70 or 80%, so they’re doing a quarter million dollars a year and they have $200000 or $300000 or whatever, they have a lot of bandwidth to work with and their business is 100% online, so that’s kind of why I say that strategy is different for everybody and I’ve seen people get high value projects, insanely high value, like get paid 6 figures or more, and the business that they’re working with is only doing $500000 because depending on their business model, they might have more to work with, so you have to intelligently approach that conversation and think about all the different angles and also go out there and ideally talk to those customers.
That’s another thing that we push our members to do as fast as possible, is have conversations. I think as web professionals, we get very comfortable and cozy behind our keyboard and behind our monitors and in the basement and pushing pixels and we try to get people out of the building as much as possible.
Andy Baldacci:How narrow do you usually push students to go with this strategy, with identifying their ideal customer?
[00:24:00]

Brent Weaver:

I actually push them to go as narrow as humanely possible and then go wide from there, so my line of thinking is define your target market in a focused enough way that you can build a list of people to actually go talk to. That would be my ideal first step, whether that’s targeting a specific association and saying I’m going to use their membership as my customer segment, that’s a way to do it. Let’s say they’ve got 100 members. Well, guess what? You now have 100 prospects that you can go target in a specific niche. Now that would be focusing on a vertical or an in-street.
[00:25:00]There’s other ways to focus that, too, around problems sets and positioning. Let’s say, for instance, you’re a web professional who wants to help people build amazing opt in funnels. Maybe there’s a Facebook forum for people that are building opt in funnels, like click funnels, that you can go in there and you can help and provide tons of helpful assistance and advice every single day and potentially get leads out of that. I try to recommend people to get narrow and focus down to as little people as possible and then once you gain some traction in that market, then you can sort to open up a little bit and look at broader marketing tactics.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah and cause one, I’ve used that and heard people talk about using that as a thought experiment, like WordPress for small businesses is not a reasonable market, like small business is tens of millions of businesses and if you service WordPress sites, there’s hundreds of millions of those, and so I’ve heard about positioning based on the potential market size and being one you could potentially attempt to serve, but I like how you go the next step and you say, “Once you have this list, start contacting them.” You’re saying get a list of 100 people and then talk to them.
[00:26:00]

Brent Weaver:

Most web pros don’t need 100 clients this year. From those web pros, if you got 100 clients this year, it would crush their business. They would actually end up worse off. They would end up with customers who are unhappy and angry. You would be totally just swamped with opportunity and your business would be swallowed up. You’d deliver terrible work and all that kind of stuff unless you’ve got a lot of experience scaling a business like that extremely quickly.
The reality is is if you’re a solopreneur and you’re talking about $10000 projects and also some maintenance ongoing, like let’s say they do a $10000 project with you and they’re doing $3000-$5000 in maintenance or marketing, if you had 12 clients this year, one a month, you might have a $200000 year and for a lot of web pros, that could be a really big deal.
[00:27:00]If you’re a small agency that’s doing $300000 or $400000 and you are servicing 40 or 50 clients a year and you were able to up that to 75 clients but also increase your average ticket, that’s where you start to get into some interesting conversations around, “Hey, our customers on average are spending $20000. What if we were able to do some things that help them spend $50000?” Most of the time, those type of adjustments would have a profound effect, so you have to approach your marketing strategy knowing what your end goal is.
If you’re going after WordPress businesses, which is probably a couple million person market of everyone’s using WordPress and running a business, the reality is you’re just not going to be able to get your message in front of them very much and you’re not going to be able to be really, really targeted and focused into who you’re going after. You’re casting this really, really wide net and even though you’re casting a wide net, the market is so massive, if you go and cast that net in the wrong area, it might sink your business because you just don’t know that the market’s so massive.
[00:28:00]In one of our lessons in boot camp, I talk about this analogy of looking at the ocean. When you’re talking about small businesses and market, that’s an ocean. If you’re talking about WordPress businesses, that is an ocean. Those are massive markets. The people that are out there fishing in those markets successfully have fleets of boats, have crazy satellite imagery. They have underwater sonar systems. They have these massive multi-million dollar investments. The average guy is going out there in his little dinghy and he’s rowing out with his one fishing pole. He is just as likely to catch a fish that he can take home and eat as he is likely to be eaten by a shark, so you have to think about that analogy.
[00:29:00]If you’ve got a rowboat and a fishing pole, find a pond. Find something that you can make your way around in a day, in a week, you can get the lay of the land and you can see all the different aspects of the pond, you can find the hot spots in that pond within a month. You think about if you would’ve gone and fished the same pond every month, you might be able to learn that.
Andy Baldacci:True. You’d know where to go.
Brent Weaver:You would know where to go pretty quickly, like within a month or 2, but when you’re talking about the ocean, the landscape changes so vastly every single day that you’re just going to get swallowed up. Too many web pros go out in their rowboats and they try to swim with the big boys every single day and they come back and they complain about Wix, GoDaddy, Squarespace, WordPress. They complain about all of these really, really big companies and what they think is, they think that they’re getting crushed by market forces.
[00:30:00]What they’re actually getting crushed by is a terrible business strategy, so when we teach them how to actually isolate a market that seems much more approachable, people often say that it takes 7 times for your message to get in front of a business, for them to actually read your message, see your brand, see your value proposition, 7 times for them to see that before you’re going to get that kind of contact saturation, so if you’re trying to market in an ocean, the chance that you’re going to be able to get your brand in front of the same group of fish 7 times is just so slim.
Whereas if you’re in a much smaller pond, you just joined a Facebook group that has 100 members, even though it doesn’t seem like that’s really that exciting, 100 people, who cares? But if you can get your message in front of that 100 people 7 times in let’s say 3 weeks, then you’re going to have so much better results than going out and trying to get your message in front of the ocean 7 times. I mean, that might that might take you 3 or 4 years or 10 years versus doing it at a much smaller scale.
[00:31:00]Those are just kind of some of the thoughts that we share and then teach people how to apply that stuff in their business when it comes to that strategic component. Getting them to think small, and small market doesn’t necessarily mean small opportunity … Focus doesn’t necessarily mean small opportunity.
Once we get them to see that and see the immense opportunity there are in these really small ponds, then they start to build that confidence and maybe one day we’ll see some of those folks go out there and fish in the big ponds, but we’ve got companies that go through our company that are building thriving agencies on insanely small customer segment targets, like less than 100 people and they’re building 7 figure business on that because you just don’t need that many clients.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:32:00]

Right. This ties in really well to what I want to talk about next and as so on Jake Jorgovan’s podcast a while back you were on and you said something that really stood out to me. If you read blogs, if you follow a podcast, anything like that, you see so many people talk about specializing a specialty in terms of outreach, so they’ll say cold email works and then the next one will say cold email doesn’t work and they’ll talk about kind of more creative methods, but they all talk about a single method and what you said that really stood out to me was that, “Often what works best is finding 5 or more ways to creatively get in front of customers and then executing on all of them for everybody in your list.”
Brent Weaver:If you have a well-defined target.
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Brent Weaver:

[00:33:00]

If you have a well-defined target and you figure out the different areas that you can get in front of them, I absolutely recommend multiple channels. Going to a conference, building up an email list, sending them emails, getting them to your website, pixeling them, and then retargeting them, going and talking to a person that’s already servicing the market and doing some kind of JV email or webinar. There’s a lot of different things. You can run your own podcast, but as long as you’re consistent in your strategy then a multi-channel approach can be extremely successful and help you to reach the same group of people from multiple angles because that’s probably the reality of our digital ecosystem now, is there’s so many different channels out there, no single customer is only hanging out on one channel.
So absolutely. If you’re focused in your strategy, multi-channel approach can work great. If you’re not focused in your strategy, multi-channel approach to trying to get clients will kill your business.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, that’s true.
Brent Weaver:If you’re going out there and you have no idea who your market is and one day you’re on a podcast for agency owners and tomorrow speaking in a digital marketing summit and the next day I’m at a conference for dentists and the next day I’m in a local WordPress meetup and the next day I’m at the Chamber of Commerce, there’s no overlap and then that’s going to be killing my business because I’m not going to get my message in front of those groups 7 times.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:34:00]

Mm-hmm (affirmative). I think that all makes perfect sense because you’re right. The first step is getting that strategy, getting a clearly defined market so that you’re able to do these things effectively, not just efficiently. You want them to have the results you’re looking for, but when you’re talking about the actual message-
Brent Weaver:Before we go on-
Andy Baldacci:Yeah?
Brent Weaver:I bet there’s somebody who’s listening to this right now who heard maybe Jake Jorgovan’s podcast, which is part of my vetting process for what I look for so I’m very consistent in who we market to and I would put money on the fact that there is somebody listening right now that’s heard something else or consumed some other piece of [inaudible 00:34:22] content, so that’s kind of like that idea in motion.
Andy Baldacci:Exactly, right. You don’t want to go on multiple podcasts and have each audience kind of be independent. You want there to be overlapping audience, otherwise you’re probably not doing a good job targeting.
Brent Weaver:I want my customer to email me and say, “Brent, you’re everywhere.”
Andy Baldacci:Yeah, exactly.
Brent Weaver:When you’re not. You’re not really everywhere, you’re just everywhere they are.
Andy Baldacci:
[00:35:00]
Exactly, exactly. Go to the next step. Once you have that clearly defined ideal customer, once you’re reaching out, what is the message you’re reaching out with? How do you view sales? How should agencies be thinking about approaching their customers? I’m guessing not just saying go on podcasts, go on whatever else and just say, “Hey, if you guys need a website, I’m your guy.” What is your thought process behind constructing a good message to drum up sales?
Brent Weaver:There’s a lot there, so when you’re talking about messaging, I definitely am in the school of thought of finished story, benefits, what is your customer really after, and aligning your messaging around that, the problems that you’re solving, and the deliverable, or the artifact, is usually the least amazing way to communicate that.
[00:36:00]Let’s say you literally are the animated GIF button factory. Imagine that you position your business just around we create animated GIFs that are every pixel size imaginable, every color. We make animated GIFs that are 100 pixels by 50 pixels, that are 120 pixels by 75 pixels, 300 pixels by 700 pixels, and some of them green, some of them are blue. That is the typical web pro, obviously a little hyperbole there, but that’s a typical web pro in terms of how they’re marketing their business is they’re basically advertising themselves based on pixels and colors and dimensions.
[00:37:00]How much can you sell an animated GIF button for? Let’s just put our imaginary hats on. I know they’re for free all on the internet, but typically you’re selling this animated GIF for $1, for $3. Maybe you’ve got like your ultimate special dancing cat is like $19.95 or something or maybe you’re bundling them for more than that. That is the commodity play and if you communicate like that, in dimensions and colors and things like that, things that really are about the artifact, not the end result that that artifact drives, then you’re playing the commodity game and the commodity game is always a race to the bottom.
Now change that way of communicating a button and let’s say you have, and this has happened big in the internet marketing world, but you have the button. You’ve got the upsell button. This upsell button helps you increase your conversion after sale by 150%. You currently, let’s say you have 100 sales, you upsell 20 of those people with your current button, you buy my button and you’re going to sell 35 upsells.
[00:38:00]What impact is that going to have on your business? How much value is that going to create for you? Now granted whoever you’re talking to, in their head they’re imaging completely different numbers. If you’re me, if you could help me increase my upsell conversion, maybe that button is worth $50000. If you’re Frank Kern or Jeff Walkers and these big internet marketing guys, maybe that button is now helping you to add $2 million to your revenue this year. I’m not going to show you that button. I just know that my button guarantees, 30 day money back guarantee, we’re going to charge you $10000 for my button, 30 day money back guarantee if it doesn’t help you increase your post-sale upsells by 150%, you get your money back, so same product, same deliverable, completely different way of communicating it.
[00:39:00]Finished story benefits, results, guarantee. You’re in the mind of your customer. What does your customer care about? You customer doesn’t care if it’s 30 pixels wide, 500 pixels wide. Quite frankly, they don’t care if it’s a dancing cat or a bouncing snowball or whatever. If it helps them increase their conversions by 150% post upsell, and this is a very, very specific case. I’m using a very specific case set here, but they don’t care. They don’t care if it’s red, blue, green. They might have a curiosity, like why is it a green button with a red circle that looks like a marker drawn around it, like why is that? And you can tell them, “Look, scientifically our retinas respond,” who cares? The average CEO won’t care. Maybe 1 in 10.
Andy Baldacci:No, at the end of the day, they care about the money. They want the results.
Brent Weaver:Exactly, so when it comes to how web professionals communicate about what they do, we help them transition from talking about dimensions and colors to the results that they provide their businesses and that’s why I talked about earlier about a different way of communicating, a different language, a different process, a lot of it comes down to that, is helping them to think like that, and it really is, for a lot of designers and developers and creative professionals, it is a little bit of a different way of thinking and it takes a little bit of time. It takes some knocks over the head to change that way of thinking, but then they get those results or they get a taste of those results and they’re like, “Oh,” and you start to see them kind of take off in a completely different direction.
[00:40:00]There’s that part of it, how you’re communicating about what you do absolutely, your value prop, how are you building story and analogy into that, how are you creating that specific offer, that solving that problem that your market has. If you don’t really understand what problem you’re solving, then it doesn’t matter how cool the widget you’re building is.
Then there’s the actual process. I’ve gotten a lead, they are interested in what I’m doing, they have contacted me and they say, “Hey, I’m interested in doing business,” so you’re moving now from marketing to sales. You’re moving from getting somebody’s attention, getting them interested in the problem you solve, and now you’re actually talking about how do we turn this from a make believe idea between 2 people to real business with a contract and a check.
[00:41:00]There is a very specific mechanical process to that and depending on how much credibility and trust you have in a market, this process could take a lot of meanings. If you have a lot of trust built up in a community and people have had many interactions with you already before they ever actually contact you, the process can be a little bit sped up, but it really comes down to a, qualifying, step 1, qualifying, having a piece of a paper that says who am I looking to work with, and you have parameters.
Look at it as a target and as you talk to somebody in that very, very first conversation, you’re asking them questions that help you to evaluate whether they fit your target, so you’re trying to take the emotion out of this process. It’s not do I like this person? Do they like me? Do I think they’re going to be a good client or they’re going to be a bad client?
If somebody fits your profile, even if they have a different personality than you typically like to work with, but they fit your profile, they’re probably going to become a great client because you know how to service your ideal client. You know how to turn them into a great client, so you compare them to your ideal client and if they’re not a great fit for you, you should turn them away. If they’re a raging bad fit, you should definitely turn them away.
[00:42:00]If they’re like a mediocre, kind of like well, if I blur my eyes a little bit, maybe they could fit into this and I need some SFM, so let’s go ahead and take this opportunity because it’s going to put money on the table or food on the table …
So you qualify and everybody thinks that first time they’re talking to a client that they are trying to win the business and that’s just the wrong mindset. You shouldn’t try to win the business until you’ve actually gone through discovery with that client, until you know without any doubt exactly what that business’ top 3 problems that you’ve identified with them, what those problems are worth to that business, whether you’re the right fit to provide the solution for that, and what the solution is. When you get to that point, sell, pitch, go after their business, create an offer, close it.
Andy Baldacci:Do you wait until that point to discuss price as well?
Brent Weaver:I try to talk about ballpark early.
Andy Baldacci:Okay. That’s part of the qualification process?
[00:43:00]

Brent Weaver:

If you’re qualifying somebody and they’re giving green light, green light, green light, green light, they’re hitting all the factors and you know the market and they were referred to you or whatever, you’ve met them before at a conference or you know, maybe budget never comes up.
Andy Baldacci:Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Brent Weaver:If you’re getting green light, red light, yellow light, green light, red light, red light, red light, red light, and you kind of go you know what? I don’t think this guy has any money. I don’t think this business has any money. We need to have that ballpark conversation.
Andy Baldacci:I see, right.
Brent Weaver:

[00:44:00]

It doesn’t have to be a part of every opportunity. Now people are going to ask. Probably more likely than not that your client is going to say, “How much is this going to cost me?” Imagine you’re going to a baseball game and you have $50 in your pocket and you try to go to a major league baseball game, you can maybe for $50 get a regular season, 2 tickets that are not very good. You’re going to be sitting in the outfield, up high, and you can maybe buy a hot dog and one beer. That’s the reality of a $50 in a major league game in today’s prices.
Andy Baldacci:Yeah and that might be stretching it.
Brent Weaver:Yeah, right, and $50 at the World Series, you’re not even going to get in the door. You might get a parking spot 2 miles out from the stadium on a one piece plastic chair where you’ll watch the game on the TV with the parking attendant. $50 in a minor league game can get the whole family in, free parking, 4 hot dogs, 4 beers, and enough money to buy your kid a t-shirt.
[00:45:00]Having a conversation with your client around your ballpark, right? “What ballpark do you play in? Look, most of my clients that hire me, our minimum project usually starts around $5000 and goes up to $50000. Hey, we don’t start our engines for anything less than $100000 because we put 2 dedicated people on every project and they work on that client for a minimum of 3 months to hit that. We put a designer and a developer and then a part-time scrub master. We don’t start for anything under $120k,” or, “Hey, we only do this type of a project. We do a $10000 pack and play website with a SDL audit and this is our product,” so having that ballpark conversation to make sure that they’re at the right ballpark.
If you’re a $5000-$50000 player and they’re like, “Well, I was planning on putting this on my Mastercard with $1800 limit and I also wanted to buy business cards and a brochure,” then you can say, “Well, look, you know what? I think your best option right now is to go to Upwork and 99Designs or Fiver and that would probably get you where you need to be faster and better than with me because our minimum is $5000 and honestly we just can’t get the engine going for that much.”
Andy Baldacci:Right.
Brent Weaver:
[00:46:00]
It’s not that going to the minor league stadium is bad, but if that’s your price range, you might get a much better experience with your $50 at a minor league game than $50 at a major league game. Now, if that budget changes, then call me or we can kind of go from there or maybe you can arrange some kind of one day VIP consulting thing to help them but again, the amount of time that you spend trying to close a $1000 deal or a bad fit for your business, you could’ve been spending that time marketing to some higher value people at the top of your market, so I try to advise people away from if they put a ballpark on the table, stick to it.
Andy Baldacci:I see. No, and I think that’s honestly a really good balance of the more like Alan Weiss value-based fees where he’s like, “Never mention price until the very end,” as opposed to just giving your prices up front. I think that’s a good middle ground where it helps you feel them out. It helps you save your time ultimately and also not waste their time, too.
Brent Weaver:

[00:47:00]

If you’re a rockstar marketer and you have an amazing process at identifying your ideal clients and you’re laser focused on exactly who you are going after, you basically have already vetted them, then I think you could do that. You could hold that price back.
Andy Baldacci:Because you already know they have the money roughly.
Brent Weaver:Yeah and I don’t recommend quoting upfront, but at least knowing hey, are they in my ballpark or not, because we advocate a sales process that you invest time in and a lot of our graduates, they actually start to charge for this and turn this into a prototype service, which is awesome. Where we really want to get people ultimately is billing for 100% of their time using their sales time.
Andy Baldacci:Yep.
Brent Weaver:In terms of being able to invest 8 or 9 hours into pursuing business, if at the end of the day, you knew in that first meeting that there was a high probability that they didn’t have the budget that was fitting your ballpark and you still invested 8 or 9 hours, then you’ve totally just missed everything that I’ve talked. We want to get rid of those people in 15 minutes or less.
[00:48:00]

Andy Baldacci:

Right. That makes perfect sense. Honestly, there’s probably about 1000 other questions I could ask you cause I’ve been loving your answers and it’s clear how deeply you’ve thought about all this, but just in the interest in time, what I do want to focus on there to start wrapping up a little bit is it’s clear you guys have a very clear process of framework of thinking about these things that you teach in your boot camp, so can we talk a little bit about how uGurus, with your 10k boot camp, can kind of help agency owners get to this sort of place where the agency is running smoothly, where margins are great, where they don’t have to worry constantly about where the next client is coming from? Can you talk about how you work with people to get there?
Brent Weaver:

[00:49:00]

Absolutely. When people enroll in our boot camp, we take them through a 10 week program. Some of it is teaching you and providing some of that baseline education, so a lot of what I just talked about today, we kind of help expand and widen deep on some of those ideas, not just giving you the 30000 foot view, but how does this actually play out in my business? What’s the checklist? What’s the process? What’s that 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?
We provide that as part of our program curriculum, but me, like a lot of people, I find it’s hard to take action off of just watching some videos, so that’s where really our special sauce comes from. We have web pro agency owners that are mentors in our program, so we assign you to a mentor who’s above a level where you’re at, who is basically going to be able to help you to get where they are, just like my own experience. That was extremely valuable for me, is if I want to get to a million dollars, then let’s have you be in a group where your mentor is already at that level or if you’re at 100000 and you want to do a half a million, let’s put you in a group where people are at that level.
[00:50:00]So we put you in a group with a mentor and you’re in with other people, so those are our 2 other uniques, community and mentorship. When you’re with other people that are like you, all of a sudden you realize you’re not alone, you’re not the only one that has these problems, and sometimes we learn better when we see somebody else learn or go through a transformation or get told something, like when somebody comes to us and says, “Hey, Brent. You’re doing this and this wrong and you should do it like this,” sometimes we shut down. We’re like, “Ugh,” or we’re like, “Yeah, it’s just more advice,” but if somebody comes up to you and says, “Hey, Andy. You could do this and this and this better,” and I, Brent, am sitting over on the side watching that transpire, I actually, because it’s like this third person thing, I start to think about oh, Andy’s doing this and I kind of am doing that, too.
[00:51:00]You see it differently, so we put people in groups. There’s some magic there that happens and then we have some formulas for accountability and goal setting and what ends up happening is people start the program with a lot of fear and scarcity and uncertainty about where their business is at and by week 10, they are beaming with confidence. Hopefully, if things have gone well, we convince them to try, not learn, try and execute a few new things, a few new processes in their business and hopefully over those 10 weeks we’ve actually had an opportunity to see them and the outcomes that they’ve created, so what happens is you learn something, you then go and do that thing, and then you come back to your mentor and your group and you get to talk about that thing, about your results or what worked, what didn’t work, how you can do things differently, and that iterative process over 10 weeks transforms people.
[00:52:00]I mean, there’s just no other way to say it. We have people that come into program that within 10 weeks they have tripled their average monthly income. We have people that come into program where they have 10x’d their margins over 10 weeks. We have people that come into program who have sold $2000, the biggest project they’ve ever sold, and they think $3000 or $4000 just seems insane and by the end of the program, they close 2 $60000 projects.
Andy Baldacci:Wow.
Brent Weaver:We have these amazing transformations and a lot of it just happens with the multifaceted approach. We don’t just say, “Hey, go watch some videos and hope for the best.” We have one-on-one time where you work with your mentor. We have one-on-one time where you work with other peers. We get the entire group together. We have additional supporting programs people get access to once they graduate program and it’s just a much different approach to educating professionals and I think it works better than other companies’ approaches because of the real personal touch by people that are in the industry, that are out there doing this stuff everyday. It’s not like I sold my company, mapped out my blueprint, and then just sell that all day. We’re actually changing and evolving the program and the contents with every cohort that comes through and all of the different mentors’ specific experience and background.
Andy Baldacci:

[00:53:00]

Check out the success stories, but especially for me, just talking to you and hearing just how deep your knowledge is on it, but also just how much you’ve clearly thought about it and how it all fits together. I think there’s a ton of value there and so if listeners want to go hear more about this or just even just hear more of some of the free material you’ve put out there, where is the best place for them to go?
Brent Weaver:They can check out our website, uGurus.com, but I think for your listeners, I know you guys are all running agencies and you’re in this, I want to connect you guys as soon as possible. Shoot me an email, Brent@uGurus.com, that’s uGurus.com, Brent@uGurus.com, and just say, “Hey, I was listening to the podcast,” and I will give you guys a free copy of our web design sales kit. It’s a $200 course. No, $197. I don’t want somebody to call me out on that.
[00:54:00]It’s a $197 course. I will give it to you for free and we’ll set up a 60 minute strategy call where we actually run you through what we call our business reality organizer, which is an amazing worksheet and process for you to actually put on paper what’s going on in your business right now, and then you get 60 minutes with one of our strategists to actually run through that, get a picture of where you are in your business, where you’d like to get to, and how you’re going to get there. So if you guys just drop me that email, Brent@uGurus.com, free course, 60 minute strategy call, I think that’s a pretty good call there.
Andy Baldacci:I think that’s pretty amazing. Thank you for that, Brent. No, that’s amazing and honestly, take advantage of that please. There’s so much value here and there’s so many things that just getting an outside perspective and getting somebody to help hold you accountable is huge in actually applying these things. I know a lot of people listen to these podcasts and read the different blog posts, but it’s actually acting on it that is tough and so having kind of the multi-media approach, having the more accountability, the more personalized approach really can make the difference.
Brent, thanks for sharing all that today. Thank you very much for that amazing offer and I just want to say thanks for coming on today.
Brent Weaver:Andy, my pleasure.

Want to learn more?

Brent went above and beyond for our listeners by not only giving away a copy of the $197 uGurus Web Design Sales Kit but also offering a 60-minute strategy call to run through their Business Reality Organizer system.

To take advantage of this generous offer, all you need to do is shoot Brent an email (he gives his email address at the end of the podcast) and say you heard him on our show, and he’ll send over the kit and schedule a time to chat.

Resources mentioned

uGurus
Jim Franklin
Jake Jorgovan’s Podcast

Thanks for listening!