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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Apr 22, 2020


More than ever, uncertainty from economic conditions caused by Coronavirus/COVID-19 has many businesses frozen in fear. Some for good reason, and others irrationally. Today we are breaking down those obstacles to taking action and sharing how we’re trying to “un-freezing” current and potential. We’re also talking about how we are marketing our own services in this time. Although there is enormous uncertainty- there is also enormous opportunity for Agency leaders to lean into their expertise, reestablish their passion, provide a unique perspective of experience for their customers, and train their eyes on the future. Let’s dive in!


Resources Mentioned: 


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:

  1. While it is incredibly difficult for businesses to think past the immediate fears that they have regarding the pandemic, agencies are uniquely suited to position themselves as a source of education and guidance. Experience with hundreds/thousands of clients, hundreds/thousands of different projects with different variables and pain points… there is a deep well of knowledge in that work and you should be educating your clients from that knowledge across all of your channels. 
  2. Don’t focus on WHAT you deliver. Taking the time to reset your “why” regarding your business can help reset your creative spark and allow space for new ideas to come to the surface. Focusing on your “why” means that the “what” of your business can be more resilient and allows you to pivot more successfully. 
  3. Rather than “selling” to your potential customers, consider it as just “helping them make the right decision”. And do that with great passion.


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:

[4:00] We reflect on the reality of our new way of life. One positive side effect is that people are becoming more gracious, forgiving, and sensitive to others’ experience. We see tv stars and news casters in their home with their children, we see the behind the scenes of things that are usually very produced. This is going to impact the way that all productions are executed in the future, even after Covid-19 is over. 

[4:45] Bob speaks about this week’s guest: “Her words were ‘This is going to change how we do business going forward in that they’ve always allowed someone to work from home a couple of days a week, but she said they are seeing such high productivity out of their team during this time there’s very little distraction, for the most part.”

[6:25] Ken adds that some businesses probably are realizing that their big expensive office  building may not be a necessity, which is great. But also there are people whose personality type is not’ conducive to self-isolation. And there is suffering in that for some people.  

  • “I’m considering a hybrid model where we can keep the pros of both… I’m hoping to blend this back into what our normal is.”

[7:15] Bob: “Well that’s a perfect segue really… we’re talking about productivity when it comes to sales… how to thrive in this time, how to reinvent, re-imagine yourself. How are you guys doing with existing clients?” 

[8:07] Brad speaks on the struggle of filling up your sales pipeline during this time. “We probably won’t see the effect of that for 3, 4, 5 months. Typically in our sales cycle, onboarding a new client typically two, three, four, five months. And leads that we did have put things on hold. They may start back up again, but there’s a lot of uncertainty right now.”

  • “Most of our energy has been trying to keep the boat afloat for not just our core business, but helping our clients over hurdles that they’ve had to get over. A lot of them are rethinking the way they do business right now.” 
  • It’s a common experience right now to struggle to develop new leads. 

[11:00] Brad: “All this time has created a lot of thought patterns- people think about their businesses deeper, they think about their values. They reinvent themselves at this point… so they might have a lot of great ideas.”

  • As we get more news about when things will open again, there is a ramping up of ideas and readiness to dive into the next phase.

[12:31] Ken: “The idea of serving current clients and making that successful then finding new business that you company needs to thrive- you need to run on both. That’s the challenge,” and it applies to every day business life, not just this situation that we’re currently living. 

  • Marketing your own company is something that Ken has focused on aggressively for the last few years. And it is bearing fruit now!

[14:37] Ken: “Some of our clients are struggling because of certain fears and certain threats to how they do business right now. But I don’t think it’s going to last for too long.” 

  • Helping clients make the right decisions for their business inside of the uncertainty is something that can really be lead from the sales end. “It’s almost like selling them hard on what they need to do, with or without us, but saying ‘We really think you need to do this for this reason… Despite the environment, here’s why it’s important for you to continue with this project or investment.”

[15:45] Ken continues: “So helping people make the right decisions has been our sales strategy now more than ever, but it’s become really clear for us… speaking those words, helping people make the right decision, we’re starting to see that freeze mode loosen up a bit.” 

[18:45] Bob adds: “I’ve noticed with some companies that March started off with a strong dive- specifically ecommerce businesses, and now that’s actually going up because I think… people are stuck inside and their only way to connect, research, buy, to have any contact with their outside world through the internet and ecommerce.”

[20:25] Brad chimes in: “There’ll be some new companies in the next three or four months hopefully that will convert the way they do business. And they’ll be looking for companies like us to work with… so that’s kind of where I’m looking.”

  • Reflecting on the explosion of new ideas and thought after the 2008 recession started to swing up again.
  • “I find myself looking forward, to not letting the grief and loss breed anxiety, I’m trying to keep my head afloat and look to the future and say ‘Okay all of this time right now that is being disrupted… hopefully in the next 6 or 8 months all of that will be returned to you with even more.”
  • “My business exists and I participate in this business because I love helping companies build great things and provide great products to customers that are really needed.”

[22:08] Ken: “Internet usage as a whole is up 35% right now... and there is a new focus on education in a new way.” First of all, because kids are being educated at home but also because there is a pressing need for some to make sure that their role is invaluable- some are getting education because they’re switching industries after getting laid off. So it would make sense that some industries are thriving now- education is incredibly valuable right now. 

  • Agencies are well-positioned for that shift. “As an agency, you’ve got experience, more than anyone could teach in university- probably across hundreds of brands across so many industries. So you are uniquely positioned to teach people.”
  • A lot of companies are probably experiencing the same struggle with how to split marketing funds. Five weeks ago the growth hacking movement was in full swing, but things have shifted dramatically. So it can be a challenge to figure out how to maneuver through this. 
  • Agencies are uniquely suited to this shift due to the education they can provide. 

[24:48] Bob speaks on the question of purpose and how this is a valuable time to start re-assessing your answers to those questions. 

  • It’s easy when things are normal and you’re chugging along in day to day life, to lose sight of why you began your business in the first place. And this eventually can lead to a lack of inspiration, a lack of creativity. 
  • “These times push us to asking existential questions like ‘Why am I here? What’s important to me?’”
  • “This is a great time to really go back and just ask teh hard questions with yourself, with your partners, with your team, whatever it may be. Why did we start this company to begin with? What was our passion at the time? Can we retrace our steps to remember why we started in the first place? And then let that inspire new direction, let that refill your tank with passion. Let that create new ideas… it sounds simplistic, but I think it’s so important during this time.” 

[29:45] Ken speaks on the importance of noting the difference between your “what” and your “why”. 

  • Mentions: Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” talk and Storybrand. 
  • Centering your business around the “what” is dangerously common- If you’re marketing your business as a Facebook Marketing Agency...  what happens if Facebook goes away? Your entire business is gone. If you take the time to define the Why of your business instead of what it is that you do- there is enormous potential in that.
  • “So I look at our business as ‘We sell  experience and knowledge. That produces results through systems and formulas… and one way we do business is working with you. Another way we do business is through you purchasing that knowledge some other way with us leading you to do it.”

[34:00] Brad speaks on working with legacy companies that have been around for a hundred years or more. They survive not by doing the same business for a hundred years, but by keeping their ‘Why’ at the top of mind. When their why is strong, the what can shift and change over time, and that means longevity and success. 

[36:25] Brad talks about how the companies that do the best have a strong why- “A company doing their job just because it’s work will never be able to compete with a company or business owner or employees that understand WHY.” 

[41:00] Bob: “One of the things I’ve said for years… it doesn’t apply to every agency owner… you need to start seeing yourself as a media company because what you do is you create and produce, you enhance and market media… it’s all pixels, it’s content, it’s helping clients tell their story.”

  • If you’ve been having really great ideas to get your clients in front of people, now is a great time to do this for yourself!
  • A lot of brands give the keys to your customers… They didn’t necessarily need to reinvent themselves, but they reinvented the way they communicated. And thus, they did reinvent themselves by allowing their customers to collaborate, to use digital tools to design… everybody’s at home so now is a good time to figure out how to give people the keys.” 

[44:35] Brad speaks on the desire to create contentment in change for himself. Reaching a  point where you’re comfortable enough with change that you can pivot quickly. Learning to be more flexible and allow the customers to own more of the decisions. 

  • It feels like we’re relinquishing control, but really control was an illusion to begin with. It was always the market that determined how you did your business. But this is a time to really settle into that perceived loss of control. 

[46:30] Ken talks about how before this happened, many would have thought that working from home was an impossibility, but within just three or four weeks that has been proven untrue. We can adapt and adjust, so now it’s a matter of “challenging norms that we would usually take for granted.” 

  • Taking that mindset of innovation into your business will only help!
  • “We’ve gotten so into… return on ad spend, investment conversation to where we are unwilling to even let a dollar go if it doesn’t return another dollar. Which is insane because how do you ever explore new channels and invest in them?”

[49:55] Bob: “If you are relying on one channel that you don’t own or that you don’t have control over, then you are just waiting for disaster… A good exercise for anyone during this time is what are the sources of traffic and revenue… Could I survive without it? And if I couldn’t… start to diversify and be like… okay we’ve got Facebook nailed. Now let’s figure out how to do the same thing on Google.”

[52:15] Ken talks about the technology/delivery model of Fast Food giant Chick-fil-A and their online delivery system and app technology for online ordering. 

  • “That must have been tons of money invested into that… they must have thought ‘Why would anyone stop coming in to pick stuff up?’ But I’m sure right now that that entire system that they invested into 2 years ago is the thing that is pulling them through this time…” 

[55:00] Brad tells us about his upcoming webinar: “We’re doing a 60-minute webinar about 3 topics: how to protect your financial viability, how to use this time to strengthen your brand, and we’re going to look at case studies of how companies have reinvented themselves in the past through different challenges in society.”