Preview Mode Links will not work in preview mode

Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Apr 8, 2020


Disruption is fast becoming a theme of our daily lives. As we seek out information to make decisions that will impact our businesses, it is more important now than ever to be in communication with our clients. To not only have a seat at the table, but to be taking charge of those relationships and offering stability to our clients in this time of incredible uncertainty. Brian DeMarco has been through the wringer of uncertainty in his life- and he has taken that willingness to adapt into the agency realm as well. In today’s episode we’re diving into the opportunity to deepen relationships during this time of crisis.


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:

  1. It’s important to step up and provide leadership with your clients and prospects. Make sure they know you are invested in their brand now more than ever. Give them the confidence that they can follow your leadership!
  2. Brian drops some truth: “In every crisis, there’s opportunity. To be honest with you, you have to be courageous enough to seize the opportunity.” This is a time to rise up to the challenge of not only maintaining status quo during this disruption, but to bring others up with you.
  3. More so now than ever, making decisions from a place of fear is NOT the way to go. As we’ve discussed in previous episodes, fear-based decisions almost always have negative results. So during this time of change, it’s important to find stillness and quiet for yourself, to not give into the panic. 


About our Guest: 

He’s an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, a retired NFL player, and now an agency owner.  He’s built two multimillion dollar businesses in both the physical therapy and fitness industries, and now he’s with the fast-growing marketing agency DRAFTR, where they serve clients like Uber, Universal Music, Ram trucks, and Easterseals. Based in Austin, Texas and joining us via Zoom call, we are so thrilled to welcome Brian DeMarco to the Podcast!


About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran from from 2000 -2017. He is also the author of 3 books. More on Bob: 

Brad Ayres: Founder of Anthem Republic, an award-winning ad agency. Brad’s knowledge has led some of the biggest brands in the world. Originally from Detroit, Brad is an OG in the ad agency world and has the wisdom and scars to prove it. Currently that knowledge is being applied to his boutique agency. More on Brad:

Ken Ott: Co-Founder and Chief Growth Rebel of Metacake, an Ecommerce Growth Team for some of the world’s most influential brands with a mission to Grow Brands That Matter. Ken is also an author, speaker, and was nominated for an Emmy for his acting on the Metacake Youtube Channel (not really). More on Ken: 


Show Notes:

[1:00] Bob introduces this week’s guest, Brian DeMarco. “He’s an entrepreneur, motivational speaker, and he’s also a retired NFL player. He’s built two multimillion dollar businesses in both the physical therapy and fitness industries, and now with the fast growing market agency Draftr, where they serve clients like Uber, Universal Music, Ram trucks, Easterseals, on and on. He lives outside of Austin, Texas- Brian, welcome to Agency Exposed!”

  • Brian came into agency ownership the way many do- by accident. He started a business that was successful and became an agency owner out of that. 

[3:00] Brian gives context for building his company. Coming out of the NFL he had a severe spinal injury that resulted in fractures in 17 places and 90% loss of function in his right leg. By ‘05 the injuries had gotten worse and worse.

  •  “I was dying in every way a man can be dying- physically, spiritually, financially. Totally destitute, spent every dollar we made in the league on surgeries, rehab, raising our family.” 
  • Amidst poverty and homelessness, he and his wife hinged their hope for his healing on two of the best spinal surgeons in the world, but were devastated by their terrible prognoses. 
  • As a couple, he and his wife prayed together for a miracle, and a short time after that prayer they were inspired to design a machine that would help him learn to walk again.
  • Through a series of miraculous meetings, events they were able to get this machine built, he learned to walk again, and they set out to make it a business. They raised over $4M and built a company from the ground up.
  • They won the top 2 design prizes in the world.

[7:05] Brian: “What I loved was the strategy behind building a brand and building community around a brand that was meaningful… I very passionately was just in it every day and building this up, so when the time came around and we got to a certain point, it was obvious that it was just time for me to go.”

  • His passion led him to help other people experience what he was experiencing, and he had a very good idea of what didn’t work for him in an agency.

[7:51] Brian continues: “I knew all the things that I didn’t like about agencies, I didn’t like the fact that they would never work with me to talk about revenue, using revenue for KPI, for what was being built on the marketing side. So these tough conversations that not many agencies want to have, but that all went into the building of Draftr Media.”

  • He found a partner, Aaron King, who already had an agency, which became Draftr Media. They were on the same page as far as branding and were able to pursue their passion to be a better agency than what they had experienced. 

[9:22] Bob asks Brian about what life is like for Draftr amidst the current shift in the world with Covid-19. 

[9:38] Brian reflects on the initial shockwave that everyone had to deal with, and the process of reassuring clients that they could go on. 

  • “Some of them we had to talk off the ledge, so to speak. It’s up to us, as Agency Owners during this time, to help them creatively understand how to re-imagine how they do business and how they meet their clients. Because that’s the effect of the Coronavirus, it’s going to be long lasting in our society. These things aren’t just going to, you know, flip a switch and go away when it’s over.”
  • “Truth be told, we were all migrating there anyways… living more digitally. So that’s been a big part of the conversations with our clients… reassuring our team that we can reimagine how you do business digitally and how you meet your clients digitally.” 

[11:38] Brian continues: “Relatively speaking, it’s easy to be a leader or a CEO when the market is just absolutely booming and you can do no wrong. It’s difficult to lead in times like this, when we’re in a massive trial in our lives, the entire nation. This is when it’s hard to lead, but it’s most certainly needed.” 

[12:15] Brian: “There’s no way to sugarcoat this, it’s decimating a large part of our economy for now. But you have to have the courage to look boldly at the future and be determined to win.”

  • “There’s an old saying in football, ‘Find a way to win.’ Whether that’s a guy stepping up, or the team coming together, whatever that is- find the way to win. That is most certainly where we are now.” 
  • “Every crisis, there’s opportunity. To be honest with you, you have to be courageous enough to seize the opportunity.”

[13:49] Ken responds: “Whether you’re coaching and leading clients or you’re leading your own team- you’re going through something too. And you’d be naive to think that it doesn’t affect you… this is not a passing thing that just goes away. You can’t just hunker down for four weeks and hope that it goes away.” 

[14:35] Ken continues: “I believe the better approach is what you said, to assume that this is the new way or a portion of this is, and if you’ve got to do business that way, how can we figure out how to do business that way and thrive. It’s not easy- if it were easy, everyone would do it.” 

[14:55] Brian: “That’s why you see brands, like I Heart, stepping up with the concerts and people are going to remember the brand that stepped up during this time to provide them something- entertainment. The one advantage is that people are now walking to the internet in droves to socialize, to be entertaining, to educate, which is another interesting side component of this time… we can educate our kids from home. Our school systems fell in line, our kids are learning. You kind of saw the writing on a wall with schools as we knew them, growing up.”

[16:15] Brad asks Brian: “Tell me some of the things that you’re doing with your agency that are practical that other agencies maybe can glean from it and actually do themselves as well, whether they’re large or small agencies.”

[16:35] Brian speaks on his efforts to “run lean” and never lose the startup mentality as far as resources and spending are concerned. They’ve had to ask themselves where they can pull back where it won’t impact clients- extracurriculars for staff, parties, etc. 

  • “We’ve been very fortunate to date to not have to cut staff. We’re in this situation because we were so proactive with our clients, we weren’t waiting for them to call us with the situation… as soon as it got to the point where people were whispering about a pandemic, we were calling our clients, our leadership teams. We’re calling clients and dealing with this, letting them know that this is something we need to deal with right now. We don’t need to wait, how are we going to react as a brand?”

[19:05] Bob presents: “There may be a temptation to take on clients out of desperation, to take what you can get to backfill things you’ve lost. And I think there’s some wise counsel here.”

  • Don’t just take the scraps that you can get, you’re going to regret it and it will hurt you down the road.

[19:57] Brian affirms that there is a shift that is happening for companies without a vision. For so long it was easy for people to throw ads up on Facebook and call themselves an agency. He suggests:

  • “If I were a smaller agency, I would really hone in on what I do well, overstretch your sales pitch and speak out of bounds… Focus on your specialty and what your strong points are.” Stay in your lane!

[21:55] Ken adds: “For the last 10 years or so, anyone can throw up a website and get clients… and no one will know the difference. Experience is really being undervalued.”

  • Focus on getting highly specialized- that’s the anchor in ALL times, especially now. 
  • In meeting with peers in the venture capital community, Ken has heard that now more than ever, they are realizing the value of strategic people in agencies. “Not just the person who knows how to spend money, but where to spend it.” 

[24:52] Brad adds to Ken’s point- “What you’re talking about is, Is your business a commodity or is there something unique about your business that is harder to find? And so a lot of these, if you build your business around a commodity, then you’re just competitive in price. But if you build your business around something greater than that, where you’re the best or the only, then you’re a lot more valuable.”

  • Oftentimes, companies hire agencies and the agencies don’t really have a seat at the table. But for those that do give you a seat, you have to step up and help them figure things out and provide solutions for them. 
  • Psychologically, there is a huge difficulty in decision-making right now, so if you can get in and provide valuable insight and say “Let me think for you right now.”
  • “How do you help them get over this hurdle?”

[27:15] Brian responds: “From that standpoint, when we position ourselves early with the brands that we’re working with, that we’re really integrated.” 

  • If you’re not in a position to be integrated with the leadership team at this point, it’s still important to put yourself in a position where you can offer advice and guidance, and let them know that you’d love to speak with them. 

[29:25] Brad: “I’ve heard old war veterans say there’s no bond like those that you go to battle with on the front lines.”

  • It is valuable to take that mindset into consideration in this circumstance- this is a battle that we can equip ourselves to win. 
  • “When there’s a recession, people start to hoard their money and start to pull back their ad spend. That’s sometimes the time where they need to be spending more, but it’s just nature to start cutting, right?”
  • How can we help our clients during this time and encourage them to resist that feeling and instead reinvent themselves into something great. 

[31:13] Brian quotes Henry Ford: “Those that try to save money by stopping marketing are those that stop a clock to save time.” 

  • The first gut instinct for a lot of entrepreneurs is to hold back on marketing- this is a massive fundamental mistake. 
  • Brian made this mistake for himself and had to learn that the correct response is to pour MORE into their budget  to get through the hurdle. 
  • Stay proactive as an agency to soothe your employee’s nerves as well. 

[34:32] Brian: “We did this with our team, having very real and candid conversations…  I didn’t want them working from a place of panic.”

[34:50] Bob asks what Ken and Brad have done to be proactive in their own offices. 

[35:02] Ken responds: “We’ve talked about this a lot, acting from a place of fear… this produces horrible results every time.”

  • What is really valuable is helping someone make the right decision for themselves. 
  • “We’re in a really fortunate position in that our industry isn’t feeling a fundamental shakeup right now.” 

[40:00] Brian adds that helping your clients with their perspective is valuable as well. Perspective on other difficult times when you’ve made it through and excelled. 

[41:05] Bob speaks on previous podcast episodes: “We talked about funds, do you keep a years funding in the bank, how prepared are you truly to lead?”

[42:31] Brian speaks on the good that will come from this: “The folks that truly understand what it means ot build a brand will be the ones that last through this.”

[44:59] Brad recalls a message from Mark Cuban, who says that he was talking about how after this is all over, he sees our country exploding with new innovation and ideas and energy just because we’re all pent up and we’re all excited and it’s like after a war is finished- our economy will rise.

  • Sometimes when things are so good for so long, it takes a sharp turn of events to challenge you again, and that’s where growth happens. And that’s something to be excited about.

[46:00] Brian agrees, and tells a story about a recent discussion with a partner. He asked his client at the beginning of a meeting to just sit in stillness for a few minutes to assess his feelings and thoughts. 

  • “It’s important to realize that this is when the best of us comes to the top. So you need to be your best self more now than ever.”

[48:07] Brian asks how we will be impacted by this, as our grandparents were impacted by the Great Depression. Will we hoard toilet paper the way they hoarded canned goods and buried their money in the backyard?

[50:05] Ken adds: It’s important during this time to be present, to value the time you have on your hands. It is more valuable than most things in life, so don’t let this pass with you just holding your breath waiting for it to be over. 

  • Inside of yourself, in your business, in all areas of life!
  • “You have a choice- come out stronger or don’t. You won’t be the same regardless.”

[52:25] Brian: “You’re dealing with a fundamental human problem, and for a lot of folks, the fear is paralyzing. So this will be a time where the truly smart agencies will rise to the top.” 

[53:30] Ken asks one final question: “What are some things from your football days that was ingrained into you that you use when leading and running your agency these days?”

[55:38] Brian shares a piece of advice from a former coach of his, “I’ll trade an ounce of athleticism for an ounce of integrity any day” and “United together with a singleness of purpose.”

  • The idea of being united by singleness of purpose has stuck with him through it all. At the end of the day, that unity you have with your friends and family is all that matters. Don't just do the job for the unity of the team, but also be encouraged from that team for yourself.