Today’s guest on the Agency Advantage Podcast is Travis Northcutt, co-founder of MemberUp. Travis and his partner Michael Steele are optimization and marketing experts who guide membership sites to higher profits.

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Travis first started freelancing only 5 years ago, and while he and Michael were able to grow their business and make a living, they often felt like they were barely keeping their heads above water. That wasn’t what they had in mind when they set out on their own.

Today Travis shares why they went from being yet another design and development shop into an agency that focuses on growing WordPress membership sites, and how that transition got them out of the feast or famine routine and on to the path of building a real business instead of just another job.

If sometimes your work feels like a race to the bottom on price, then Travis’s tips on standing out from the crowd will be invaluable to you.

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Key takeaways

Becoming true experts [2:25 – 11:15]

At the time, Travis’s agency was called the Bright Agency, and they were doing OK, but had nothing to differentiate themselves from other design and development shops out there. They couldn’t increase their rates when there were 50 other agencies out there that could promise the same exact thing for a lower price.

With the help of Philip Morgan and his book The Positioning Manual, they were able to come up with a clear positioning statement that truly resonated with their market and helped them stand out from the competition.

Select a narrow specialty to build expertise and stand out from the competition Click To Tweet

On top of that, by picking a narrow specialty, Travis and Michael were able to quickly build real expertise which allowed them to not only solve their client’s immediate problem from a technical standpoint, but also charge a premium because they were able to offer strategy consulting on top. No longer were they another commodity.

Making content marketing easy and effective [14:40 – 21:35]

Your clients don’t care about another roundup of the latest and greatest design tips for 17 other designers, but as a generalist there isn’t much else you can write about when your clients have such different problems that need solving.

Having this focused expertise made it easy for them to create relevant content and grow their audience. They weren’t writing yet another blog post on design tips that only other designers cared about. Instead, they were using their expertise to create content they knew their clients would care about.

The results of MemberUp’s content marketing were so promising that Travis decided to kick it up a notch and create a book they could offer their audience, and the result was the self-titled book MemberUp. Their book acts as a starting point for them to sell something that isn’t their time, making it scalable. Secondly, it helps establish MemberUp’s credibility because they literally wrote the book on membership sites.

Creating a captive audience [21:35 – 24:30]

Travis and Michael took advantage of this audience by using it to build a mailing list that they could reach out to whenever they wanted. By continuously educating this list, they built a captive audience of people that truly see them as experts. Now whenever MemberUp has something to offer, no longer are they selling to an empty room.

This is something that they only started doing in the past year, but it has already provided dividends. Building a list is something that intimidates a lot of agencies because they feel like they will never build some huge 32,000 person list. By educating your audience on something that can materially improve their business, you establish credibility, and if you are solving a real problem for them, then it doesn’t take a large list to make a difference in your agency.

His best business decision [42:10 – 46:00]

I’ve made it a habit to talk to as many successful people as I can on and off this show, and nearly every single person I’ve talked with has had a group of mentors that have helped them along the way. In Travis’s case, this was a formalized “mastermind group” with other freelancers and agency owners, and he calls this his best business decision.

Having experienced people to bounce ideas off of is invaluable to your personal success Click To Tweet

While creating a formal commitment helps, it doesn’t have to be so regimented. Just having experienced people you can bounce ideas off of is invaluable to your personal success. While we try to be innovative in what we do, the vast majority of what it takes to run a successful agency has already been done before. Find the people who have done it or are doing it now, and ask them for advice, share your own, and help keep each other accountable.

Just for Agency Advantage Listeners

Travis and his mastermind group share these lessons and many others in their new book, The Independent Consulting Manual and he was generous enough to offer our listeners a 25% discount when they use the coupon code “Hubstaff”

If you want to learn more about MemberUp, Travis also set up a special page for our listeners at where you can sign up for his free email course.

Resources Mentioned

Travis Northcutt
Michael Steele
Philip Morgan
Nick Disabato

MemberUp the book
The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms
Independent Consulting Manual


Thanks for listening!

Do you have peers you can talk with to help push your business forward? Practically everybody I have talked with so far has had some group of people that acts as a sort of informal board, but I know the average agency owner doesn’t have this. Who do you typically bounce ideas off of and get advice from? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!