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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Jun 3, 2020


Now that everything everywhere has changed, let’s ask one of the burning questions: do you even need an office anymore? Would that huge expense be better placed elsewhere? Many companies are abandoning the office completely, so what exactly has changed? Why is it ok to not have an office now where it wasn’t 3 months ago? And is fully remote a good thing? Sure, it sounds great to work from the beach everyday, but is that really a reality that is sustainable? Today we debate these questions as we determine the new work conditions of our own agencies. We also discuss another hot topic - what services are ACTUALLY selling right now? 


Resources Mentioned: 


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Rethinking the way you run your day-to-day business, including where you physically do that business. The stigma once attached not having an office is probably gone for good. 
  2. In rethinking the way you run your internal business, rethink the way you provide value to your clients! Seriously, rethink it from the ground up. If prospects are closing, you need to adapt.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ACT. Providing that feedback and helping a client find a solution allows YOU to gain new experience and even proof of success for future clients.


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:

[1:45] The Guys talk about the new feelings of slight freedom that we’re starting to experience here in Nashville- though many are still quarantined, there isn’t as much anxiety about being out in the world as there was three months or so ago. 

[3:00] Brad: “There’s been good and bad during this quarantine… but I don’t want to take for granted the freedom that we have and the ability to just be human.”

[3:40] Bob asks Ken about new data from Hubspot.

[4:00] Ken: “One of the things I would like to know is what agency services are selling these days? What kind of leads are we getting and… how has that landscape changed?”

  • Hubspot’s data has been aggregated from thousands of clients, separated by industry and sorted into deals created vs deals closed. Charted from January through to May, the number of deals created and closed were as low as 40% below baseline. That number is gradually increasing, which is telling and encouraging. 

[5:56] Brad asks if the guys think that part of that uptick was because of the stimulus checks that were handed out. 

  • Overall, Americans are saving more and spending less, but also seeing light at the end of the tunnel because of the stimulus. Even still, with that glimmer of hope there is a lot of uncertainty from a consumer side. 

[6:46] Bob asks: “Is this rise that we’re seeing… of business coming back going to happen quick enough to coincide with the end of the payroll protection plan, which was 90 days…. 8 weeks from however you got it.” 

  • Recently changes were made recently that will allow an extension of the ability to use your PPP past the 8 weeks initial date. Limits to spending still apply. 

[8:15] Bob clarifies: “So the question is from the time that that starts to end- the payroll protection plan… to the point where business comes back up… are things going to get better?”

[8:31] Brad talks about how many encourage others to buy in the stock market right now, while things are low. But we don’t know how long these benefits are going to last, right now people are getting a little bonus for their unemployment but that won’t last forever. 

  • There is fear that this summer is where the recession will truly hit. In many economic spaces, the attitude is that this hasn’t happened yet, attitudes are high and positive. 

[10:15] Bob talks about how this type of uncertainty and change will naturally lead to certain industries being more hard-hit than others. For example, the real estate industry is being disrupted and may be in store for even more disruption, as many companies are asking themselves if office space is really necessary for their business. 

  • Companies like Twitter are moving to 100% work from home, opening up a LOT of real estate availability. 

[11:15] Ken: “I think reexamining the things that you do just because you do them every once in a while is healthy. And I think the way we work is definitely one of those things.” 

[11:30] Brad talks about how in recent months and years, there has been a natural movement towards more open spaces and allowing employees to come and go as necessary, and this change in style of work has just sped up the process of moving towards mobile and remote work across the board. 

[13:25] Ken talks about how many agencies have probably felt for a long time that they don’t need an office space, and how there has been social pressure to be ashamed if you don’t have a physical presence- almost as if you’re not a real business until you have an office. 

  • “Rethinking that… is a healthy thing.”

[14:45] Bob talks about how that need to save face exists in other industries as well. New real estate agents are told to not drive a car older than 3 years, because then it would tell the client that you’re selling a lot of houses. 

[15:30] Ken mentions the mindset shift that has happened recently- that to some, having an office may actually appear wasteful and not a sign of health. Physical office spaces may have offered credibility in the past, but other things have taken the place of that. 

[16:45] Bob talks about the “phases” of leveling in business- the internet was the first leveling. And now a second leveling is happening and has been expedited. Currently, the focus is more on the work, the message, and the result. 

[19:19] Brad speaks to this “leveling.” 

  • “The honeymoon’s over and the environment doesn't matter anymore… it just works.”

[21:15] Ken speaks on his experience of having a physical space that isn’t a huge, elaborate office or the standard “wow” factor that many agencies go for. Metacake has a small, 1920’s house that has many original features and is historical. It’s impressive, but not typical, interesting without being imposing. So there is a way to “wow” without being showy or grandiose about your workspace. 

  • Even Metacake will eventually switch to a majority remote schedule and some time/days/projects at the office. 

[22:45] Bob mentions that although an open workspace is a great idea in theory, “... it doesn’t take into account the uniqueness of every individual. And I think with an open workspace… some people are miserable… some people need to be sequestered. A closed door, need to be in silence. They can’t be interrupted or else they don’t function at a high level.” 

[23:39] Ken points out that that also depends on the task at hand- more creative tasks sometimes thrive in that co-working environment. 

[24:17] Brad says that even in his open-air office, most people wear headphones. Doing so is a way to isolate yourself, and tell everyone that you’re busy. Sometimes he wonders if they had their own office, would they be wearing their headphones? 

[26:05] Ken speaks to the down side to people working from home exclusively- when there is no teaching or mentoring around staying responsible for yourself, keeping a schedule, being disciplined, being taught some of these things can err too much on the side of irresponsibility.

[25:55] Brad: “I think great mentorship happens through observing… I don’t know that through Zoom calls I could get that… being in a physical space with them, seeing how they interact with their employees, the way they keep their desk, etc…”

[29:00] Ken speaks to the challenges of bringing new people on to the team, and how a new culture of working remotely will bring new challenges to the idea of building team culture and onboarding people to the systems for success that a company already has set in place. 

  • Previously Metacake has embraced the “working remote” concept with team remote work days at cafes, wine bars, and even a Vineyard in their area. 
  • In quarantine this has translated to virtual happy hours and more intentional one on one interactions. 

[29:41] Brad talks about how easy it might be to “get lost” and isolate themselves even further from the team… things that go on at home, dynamics that they can’t control… isolation for them might become even more difficult.

[30:27] Bob speaks about how giant companies with huge overhead are changing the overhead costs to create team-building for these people. That team-building budget has now been allocated to a weekly or twice-monthly team bonding exercise. 

[31:49] Brad: “I don’t often feel the need to connect deeply with people… it’s a deficit of my own that struggles because that’s not the case of my team… it doesn’t come naturally as a need or desire to me.” 

[33:05] Ken talks about how Metacake had been moving towards remote work days and being in relationship with each other even before the pandemic, so now things are moving towards that even more. 

[34:55] Ken continues: “In some ways, I found that it was easier to make these deeper connections… because you had a reason to ask how someone is doing.” 

  • The focus is productivity and work, but more so how the person is doing, how life is going, how they feel about their position and role. 

[37:15] Bob mentions that his wife has talked about new business opportunities for those who can help get home offices organized, get things set up for those who are moving towards remote working. This led to deeper thoughts about new opportunities for services that we can offer our clients. 

[38:50] Brad talks about employees asking for stipends to support working from home, and expresses that there is some hesitation about the challenge of maneuvering that with employees in the future. 

[39:25] Ken says that Metacake has been coaching their customers to ask how they can repurpose their knowledge. “You can naturally help with those skills and that provides value.”

[41:00] Brad speaks about a live event that had a lot of RSVP’s prior to quarantine happening, so they created solutions to that virtual RSVP problem, which opened the event up virtually to a lot more people, and in turn provided more value that it would have otherwise. 

  • “Now we have proven results and successful stories, and so we could easily do that for other companies.” 

[44:33] Ken talks about new opportunities within other industries to change how you do business. Gives example of an architectural firm running in a very antiquated way, and with the pandemic that has shifted massively, the governing body of that industry has been forced to change. 

  • Drive-in concerts are happening, drive-in theaters are becoming popular again. 

[47:20] Brad talks about a client who has just recently been forced to pay via ACH instead of a handwritten check, because quarantine makes getting signatures on checks very difficult. Forced change has been great for his company! 

  • Some companies have been surprised by how many new opportunities are opening up because of that forced change. New ideas are coming to the table that are progressive and give everyone confidence. 

[49:30] Ken asks again: What are the services that your clients want? 

[40:50] Brad responds: There has been a mixture of freezing up with a lack of action, and being overzealous and taking action without thinking things through. 

  • Being a thought partner with clients is valuable- thinking through the benefits and costs of the different options they see in front of them. 

[52:30] Ken: While there are clients who say they don’t know what to do or how to take action, there are more that are looking for specific solutions and thought partners to think through problems that are similar across multiple industries.

[54:20] Bob: “The opportunity now is for those of us in an agency who have done ecommerce, who have done social media marketing, who have done branding, who have done digital strategy… there’s going to be a lot of people pop up… and so to be able to separate ourselves and say that we are the experts.”