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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

May 27, 2020


In today’s episode, we are digging deep into the idea of maintaining a mindset of abundance when scarcity is all around. Ecommerce is growing steadily every day, products are being sold online at faster rates than ever before. Online sales alone are up 150% - that’s 10 years of growth in just under three months, yet still for most businesses and agencies these times are very difficult. The even harder part is, a scarcity mindset is essentially a slow death and you need to avoid it at all costs. In order to win new business you must be in a winning, abundance mindset. The TRUTH is, clients have more of a need for experienced agencies and specialists than ever. It’s simple - a more complex landscape means expertise is more important. There are actually more opportunities than ever before, but unlocking them isn’t easy and requires changing our thinking. How do you know how to adjust your services for the new normal? How do you convince an uncertain prospect to start a project? Where is the line between “just enough” and “too much” transparency with your team? All of these things are issues that agencies need to wrestle with to survive and grow in the new future, and it starts with the right mindset. Today we dive into how we are dealing with these issues in our businesses. So let’s dive in!


Resources Mentioned: 

  • Reach out to us if you need help:
  • Connect with Ken at ken AT
  • Connect with Brad at bayres AT
  • Connect with Bob at bobwhitchins AT


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Scarcity will force you into making short-term poor decisions. Don’t take a client just because they’re going to pay you. It’s ok to adjust your standards, but don’t take projects that will leave you worse off.
  2. As often as possible, be transparent with your team about disruption and changes. “The more information good people have, the better they can solve problems.” 
  3. Do not follow the herd! Following the herd inherently means you will always be behind the opportunity. You must find YOUR path. Take calculated risks that you believe in based on your own facts. 


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


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:

[2:15] Bob introduces our episode, speaking about the current state of ecommerce, asking Ken what his perspective is from Metacake as an ecommerce-exclusive business. 

[3:31] Ken: “Ecommerce is sustaining a ton of businesses, and we’re in that industry. The industry is up tremendously… but we still have the same challenges, we’re no different from what others are going through… You’d think business would be through the roof… certain areas are doing really really well, others are struggling.” 

[4:56] Ken: “The ability to take action is still very hesitant.” 

[5:05] Brad says he’d be interested in seeing numbers on the companies that have gone online in the last couple months.

[5:38] Bob speaks about the forced habits that people have acquired. “No matter how old you are… there’s a good chance that twice as many people in the country are ordering online now, and they’ve been doing it for two months.” 

  • There has been a massive change in the way that we all do business, and this isn’t going to go away any time soon. People have formed new habits, whether they realize it or not. 

[6:38] Ken speaks to the change in other industries. Brad works with clients in the education space, and those companies have had to change faster than ever before. Where they were hesitant to go online, now it’s a necessity, so change has happened quickly. 

[7:00] Brad: “For a lot of companies, going online is all or nothing. They have no other choice but to… create online value… That can be challenging.” 

[7:32] Bob speaks to the importance of value now- being forced to do the same business online and being forced to create the same value and results is a challenge.

[8:08] Bob asks about some guidelines to follow to prevent lowering our standards or settling for less. Taking a client that wouldn’t be a great relationship because you need the cash influx, etc. He asks what some of those “fine lines” have been for Ken and Brad, and whether they’ve been tempted to cut those corners. 

[9:17] Ken responds, speaking about the broader implications of disruption on a large scale. The Metacake team did a lot of talking about the psychology around that and figuring out how to position themselves for not only survival but success. 

[10:25] Ken speaks about the idea that as you specialize and hone in on what you’re good at, the opportunity for what you can receive gets smaller and smaller. This is healthy, and it’s important to not lose that in adjusting for disruption. 

[11:21] Guideline 1 from Ken: Do not lose money! Don’t take clients/deals that will result in loss of money, regardless of where you’ve been in the past. 

  • Offer a temporary “trial period” with clients- not because you don’t trust them or you can’t be trusted, but because there is so much natural uncertainty in the air. Having that space to “try it out” and then reassess in a month or two to see if you want to continue is a great way to keep both parties comfortable. 

[12:34] Brad speaks about assessing risk. Sometimes clients are more willing to take a bit of a risk and will work with you based on your past work. 

  • There is a feeling that there may not be work in the future, but it’s a challenge to fight that pressure and maintain a mindset of abundance. 

[16:20] Brad gives Ken a “for instance” situation. If a client asking for a project right away that was out of the wheelhouse of Metacake’s specialty, but there was a promise of work 6 months from now that is exactly what Metacake does, would you take the work or not? Would that have been different 6 months ago before this happened? 

[17:00] Ken says they would take it! “If what the client needs is package design through the lens of an experienced ecommerce direct-to-consumer strategy, and we have the skillset to do that, then we would do that.” 

  • If the client was purely looking for art and creative assets, the answer would likely be no. 

[19:10] Ken continues by saying that if a client comes through asking for something that is totally out of Metacake’s wheelhouse, if they don’t think they can truly achieve the end result they would say no. 

  • If it doesn’t fall inside of your processes, if it means a lot more work for you as a business owner, if you're going to have to build a system from the ground up to accommodate, that should be a clear no. 

[21:22] Bob talks about something Ken said in the early episodes of the podcast, that it’s helpful to see challenges as happening “for” you instead of “to” you. That perspective shift is invaluable and SO necessary during this time. 

  • If you’ve played with the idea of expanding your services to include something new in the past, now may be a great time to hone in on those skills and expand what you’re capable of as a company. 

[22:12] Brad talks about a client that is an event planning company. They have had to pivot to becoming an online event company, and now Brad and his team have become very familiar with that and their skillsets have expanded. 

[23:05] Ken speaks on the difference between forcing something to work versus there being a need where you’re rising to the occasion and fill it because you should. 

[25:00] Ken talks about how “contactless delivery” is changing the landscape of business. Local pickup options are becoming more and more popular, as the need increases the processes will become perfected. 

  • Retail stores have thrown together curbside pickup options and there is enormous room for improvement and scalability there. 

[26:50] Brad talks about local mom and pop stores in Franklin, TN that have a seamless online delivery/curbside pickup option. “If that service had been available last year, they would have dominated the market.” 

[27:33] Ken mentions Chick-fil-A and the system for curbside pickup that they developed before the giant disruption from Covid-19. 

  • They were deeply invested in the technology of this long before anyone else- true innovation has really paid off.

[29:40] Ken talks about the buildup and preparation that Metacake has done previous to this disruption, and how efforts to diversify internally have paid off now. 

  • The “down months” in Q4 of last year meant more focus on content creation and video production as a result of asking “why” when business was slowing down. Investing in that diversifying process last year is now hugely beneficial to Metacake. 

[31:20] Brad: If you do decide to take on business that you haven’t necessarily done before, how do you talk to your team about it to get them to see the vision and not get nervous about something they haven’t done before? 

[31:45] Bob speaks about how you have to cast the vision wholeheartedly- if you don’t believe it, they won’t believe it. 

[34:01] Brad asks about drawing boundaries between yourself and your employees, how much transparency is too much transparency. Ex: Telling them that if you don’t do well with a particular client, the company will go under. 

  • Ken speaks to the amount of shame attached to failure. There is a higher tolerance for failure these days, because everyone is trying new things. This gives you the ability to be more honest. 
  • Struggle is inevitable these days, so you can share more without being seen as weak or incapable. 

[36:48] Ken: “The more information good people have, the better they can solve problems.” 

[37:12] Brad speaks about how times of perceived failure are when he has grown the most and learned the most. Taking on risk may not go as well as you’d like, but be cognizant of what you’ve learned and that is sometimes more valuable than the money. 

[38:00] Bob talks about looking at things with an abundance mindset versus a scarcity mindset. We have seen directly what happens when a scarcity mindset takes hold. 

  • He admits that even he succumbed to the toilet paper stress, a true example of “what you focus on expands”

[40:20] Brad talks about true uncertainty, truly not knowing what choice to make. Often this means making the best of the wrong choice. You have to learn to trust yourself and look at your true track record, accounting for what you’ve learned from mistakes. 

  • Saying yes to an unknown client that excites you and drives you to motivation and movement towards growth is definitely a better bet than saying yes to those that don’t excite you. 

[42:30] Ken urges against “following the herd.” If you’re always following the herd, you’re always behind someone else or behind where you need to be to truly be a leader. You’re always stuck asking why you can’t see out ahead of where you’re at. 

  • Difficult to innovate, less willing to take risks that they believe in. 
  • Sometimes doing the counterintuitive thing is what’s best for you, depending on what you believe in. 

[44:35] Bob talks about how this is a time for thinking about things that you may have been too fearful to truly assess before. Things like overhead via an office space, working from home, scaling back to smaller versions of what worked before. 

  • The world- and expectations- have changed. So this is the time to start making those hard decisions and leaning into the change. 

[46:00] Brad: “Sometimes the easiest way to make revenue is to cut expenses.” Basic but also necessary. 

[47:15] Bob asks: “What’s the biggest pivot or change that you’re seeing with some of your clients? Are you seeing your long-term clients making massive changes or are they fearful and inching ahead?” 

[47:45] Ken speaks on the fear-based mentality that is pervasive for good reason. Those who aren’t succumbing to that fear are obvious. 

  • Not a whole lot of major changes either way, for Metacake. But they are looking to encourage clients to make major moves that will create long-term health and growth. 
  • A “deer in the headlights” response is common, so Metacake is trying to massage that fear away and encourage small steps toward action instead of freezing up in fear. 

[49:30] Brad: Existing customers with large businesses probably felt more of a frozen response than other smaller entrepreneurial clients who are more optimistic and energized about finding solutions. 

  • For the most part, clients have gotten into a routine and have begun to see the end a bit more clearly. 
  • Seeing small “wins” for clients who have successfully pivoted has been encouraging as an agency as well. 

[52:23] Bob talks about how agencies need to start seeing themselves as producers and psychologists. “When it comes to marketing, consumers are smart… and  when it comes to media, you’ve got to create it.” 

  • You have to understand the mind of the individuals as well as the product. 

[54:11] Ken talks about how in the past, the client was demanding things from the agency, but these days the agency is the expert and it’s the agency job to educate the client. 

[55:15] Brad, Ken and Bob give their email addresses, so if you’re looking for an agency to partner with, reach out to them! BAyres AT and ken AT and bobwhutchins AT