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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Jul 8, 2020


We all want new streams of new business, and today’s guest shares how they were able to build a healthy business serving other agencies. We’ve talked about the value of partnerships and collaboration with other agencies as a source of new business before and Oyova is a prime example of that. We also discuss the pros and cons of having business partners. And we get another look at how an agency is dealing with the effects of COVID-19. Tune in as Jon shares his experiences (good and bad) with business partners, talks about the impact that technology has had on his career journey, how Oyova has held up during the last 6 months of extreme disruption, and what he expects of the remainder of 2020. 


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Consider other agencies as potential partners rather than competition. If the character is high, then risks are low.
  2. When determining whether someone is a good business partner for you, ask yourself if you’d mind getting a call from that person on a Saturday morning. If you don’t LIKE your partner in life, a business relationship is sure to fail. 
  3. Maintaining steady business growth through any disruption means applying Positive, Persistent Pressure in sales scenarios. Speak to the heart of your client’s business, and remind them of the services you offer and how it would benefit them. 


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:


About our Guest: 

Jon Tsourakis: President and co-owner of Oyova, a Florida-based, full-service technology and marketing agency. He is the leader of a Mastermind for Digital Agencies and host of “The Climb”, a podcast where agency owners and marketing leaders tune in to get growth tips and strategies for growing their businesses. 


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:

[1:08] Ken introduces our guest, Jon Tsourakis. President and co-owner of Oyova, a technology and marketing agency. John is in charge of sales and marketing while his partner handles the production and operation of the business. They’re based in St. Petersburg, FL. John also leads a digital mastermind group for agencies. 

[2:52] Bob asks John to tell us about his agency. 

[3:01] John responds: There are about 30 people on their team between two offices. They focus predominantly (60%) of their business on development. They also do marketing services for companies that are over $2 million, all shapes and sizes above that. In addition they work with a lot of agencies and help with their overflow work.

[3:38] Bob: “Is it full service? Do you specialize in anything specifically?”
[3:46] John responds that they are full service, although that pains him because there are so many great arguments for specialization. 

  • Biggest strengths are understanding the mechanics of technology and  marketing. 
  • On the marketing side, “we can create some really impressive lead growth through  third engine optimization.”

[4:20] Ken: “It sounds to me like you are specialized, it’s just not industry specialization… one of your specialties seems to be this relationship with agencies.

[4:50] Brad asks if the work they do for other agencies is mostly dev work. 

[4:58] John responds that 90% of what they do is dev work. “A lot of agencies will have one or two developers on their staff… but that’s just not in their wheelhouse, so we come in a fill that gap.”
[5:25] Brad asks what John thinks the percentage is of agencies out there that don’t have deep dev in-house.

[6:05] John: “I would say it’s probably 85% of agencies that don’t have a super deep tech bench. They’re very focused and specialized and they have a developer that can wear some other hats…” but ultimately most of them don’t have the experience in development that his agency can add. 

[6:28] Bob: “I’m curious to know of the agencies that you work with- are they typically traditional older agencies? Are they digital agencies that don’t have the depth? Are they hybrids? What does your client makeup look like?”

[6:47] John: “Some of them have just moved away from paper in the last few years and have embraced what the internet is… other are very advanced platinum HubSpot partners that just run into situations that are outside of what they’re great at… there are others that are amazing design agencies that have really good front end developers who run into overflow that they will send to us because they know we can take care of it.” 

  • Other than that, many want to take on an ERP (Enterprise Resource Management) based project because they can see the revenue in that and they can bring Oyova on at the partner level.

[7:45] Ken talks about recent episodes about cost and pricing. Oyova serves agencies, and one of the things they have to accommodate for is cost. Agencies are selling at a certain price that you have no control over, so cost has to be below that. “How do you make that model work?”

[8:07] Jon responds- cost is definitely a factor. They sell everything in blocks of hours, so the more hours you purchase then the lower your cost will be. Some agencies buy a LOT of hours, just to have access to their team. 

  • “Others will just do it on a project basis… when agencies are white labeling someone else, the really smart ones get sick of that because they realize the inefficiency in it.” 

[9:26] Brad asks about billing- do they bill the client directly, or do you bill through the parent agency you’re working with?”

  • Jon responds that it depends on the agency that they’re working with, they try to be respectful of how they want the relationship managed.

[9:55] Bob asks if they have built this model intentionally and whether they aim primarily for agencies or individual clients. 

[10:09] Jon gives a brief history of how he and his business partner met. It was an accidental discovery at first, they were a marketing agency with two developers, they’d get overflow from other agencies and then after 8 years realized it was a great business model. 

[11:57] Ken asks Jon for a deeper history of his business relationship with his partner and the pros and cons of that relationship. He also asks about what Jon expects for the next few months within his company. First, Jon’s story.

[12:28] Jon: His father was a master carpenter and builder, so he was part of the family business. He met a guy at school that had a marketing company that worked in the healthcare space. He worked with this guy for a while, and in 2009 he decided to start his own agency. 

  • Around 2013, 2014 he realized that partnership wasn’t working and they had a disastrous breakup, Jon was left high and dry. 
  • He decided to work with his current partner and over the years they developed a great working relationship. 
  • Jon says the best part of that relationship is that they can fill in the gaps in each other's strengths and weaknesses. Where Jon sees shiny things, his partner sees dull things and can bring him back to earth when excitement takes over. 

[15:16] Jon continues: “For years, we’ve just been fighting the good fight, trying to be an agency in a world of sameness, create differentiation… a merger sounded like a really good idea based on the technology depth and the strategic advantage of being a strong partner.”

[16:13] The guys ask for details about that bad partner relationship. 

  • Jon responds that he was a brilliant developer but just not on the same page about a lot of communication things, there were some psychological differences in the way they thought about professionalism. The client called and strongly advised that unless that partner went away, there would be serious problems for their company. 
  • There was a huge vulnerable, humble moment that allowed him to realize that the relationship was destructive.

[17:22] Bob asks for some advice based on those learning experiences. 

[17:37] Jon: “The direct and gentle communication… he just couldn’t deal with people.” Do business with someone who you wouldn’t mind getting a phone call from on a Saturday morning. You have to LIKE the person you’re working with. 

[18:12] Ken confirms that concept of direct and gentle communication- even in the face of disrespect in return, you always have to respond in a direct and gentle manner. It’s really about basic respect. 

[18:40] Brad asks for advice for how to approach things in a direct and gentle way while things are heated or when there is stress in the company. What does that mindset shift look like?
[19:20] Jon: It’s about setting a foundation, and asking if you’re being logical and not emotional. It’s great to have those conversations with partners and asking yourself constantly what the logical next steps are. Be aware of your own tendencies and allow for those weaknesses in logic that you may have. 

[20:13] Brad asks how they manage clients who are very reliant on them, who are more attached than an agency would be. 


  • Jon: “We have an agreement that’s evergreen with our client, so they’re continually getting a percentage for essentially not doing anything just based on the engagement that they helped us create.” 


[22:25] Bob asks about the longest contract they have that an agency brought to them. 


  • Jon responds that it’s 8 years- that’s a great contract!


[23:06] Brad talks about how the more you’re in bed with technology that drives revenue for your client… “there’s always a fear that you’re going to get canned… because you become a commodity.” 

[24:32] Brad asks “What kind of stuff do you do in the development world?”
[24:50] Jon responds: Mostly websites, some entire technological infrastructure for some companies where it’s essentially their ERP. “Ranges from little website integrations, all the way to the entire technological skeleton of the company.”

[28:00] Ken asks how the last few months have been managed for Jon. What was it like in the beginning of quarantine, what was it like through that process, and how has business gone since then, and if any of these things have changed how they run overall.

[29:10] Jon: The theme of 2020 was going to be The Climb, and it turned out to be more true than they thought. They came up with a plan over Zoom, and decided to stay focused on clients, closing business as much as possible. They realized very quickly that their team could definitely perform and provide results from home, and have surprised themselves with their productivity. 

[31:52] Brad affirms that it’s been hard- and congratulates Jon on their success through Covid. 

[32:40] Ken: “What area of your business grew? Was it new business or existing business? Is there a difference there?” 

[34:14] Jon talks about how they were able to extend or increase their marketing packages, they really talked up this being “the time” to invest in online business. If you come to the table with logical, competent people and a plan, you’re set up for the highest chance of success!

 [36:12] Jon talks about what the next 6 months might look like. “The path forward and the recession is going to be different for everyone. There’s going to be pocket recessions based on specific industries. And some aren’t going to feel it at all.” 

[37:00] Ken asks how this may change going forward, and what sort of opportunities he might see.

[37:12] Jon talks about how the challenge of Covid is actually exciting for him, although he feels guilty about that at times. Business owners have been really lucky over the last 10 years, so now you really get to see what you’re made of. 

  • There will likely be a lot of acquisition happening, but ultimately he feels positioned for the best chance of success.

[38:30] Ken asks “How can you package up what you actually are selling in different ways?” This is something that Metacake has done well through the quarantine. 

[39:42] Brad asks if there are any new products or service offerings that have come up during Covid for Jon’s company. 

  • Other than rapid messaging via popup websites or email blasts. 

[40:20] Brad asks what sort of packages of services other than development Oyova offers. 

[40:39] Jon:  Other than the mastermind group, one event per year that is a collective knowledge base. “I think creating that space for all these agencies to come together and just be open and share and be transparent is important.” 

  • Oyova spends a lot of time helping agencies scope out projects, helping them win those projects and making it an enjoyable experience to work with them. 

[50:44] Ken: “You’ve built really high quality relationship with agencies that you get a sustainable business model through… how do you do that?”

[51:28] JOn: “If you connect with somebody and build relationships that are genuine, you can go a long way.” 

[52:31] Brad asks about generating new business, and their business development process. 

[52:38] Jon talks about the three P’s: Positive, Persistent Pressure. If you have the right message and continually follow up with the people on that list, you’ll find them.” 

[53:27] Brad asks what Jon has done to become a thought leader in his space. “What kinds of things do you do to promote yourself to new clients?