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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Oct 15, 2020


Today we’re diving into the topic of selling yourself vs selling your business, and the challenges that come with that transition. Passing the baton of getting work done on to your team can be confusing for your clients if not done well, especially after you’ve been so involved up to that point. Whoever is the front face in the sales role needs to be intentional about how they transition relationships so that you can scale and utilize the full benefit of having a team. Today we share a few strategies we use to ease this transfer and create deep trust between your clients and your team, helping to shift the focus away from you and towards the services you can offer that will improve their business. Building intentionality around this means your business can scale beyond what you alone can offer- and you can bring deep, lasting value to your customers and clients. 


Top 3  Curtain Pulls in this episode: 

  1. Your company, your brand needs to have a unique pedigree. You can’t just be generic. The challenge lies in scaling the things that make people come to you: your beliefs, your talent, your systems, and even your personality in a way that gets results. 
  2. There are likely 1 or 2 things going wrong that work against this challenge: Either you need to step back and let go of your need or impulse to control, or you don’t have a team or quality of staff that clients trust. 
  3. As you manage this scale in an effective way, you begin to build notoriety and social equity in your company, and people will start referring to you instead of your company name. This is part of that intentionality and allows you to sell yourself (and your business/ the services you offer) in a very natural, authentic way. 


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:

[1:30] The Guys reflect on 2020 so far, on how much resilience has been built up this year. 

[1:45] Ken talks about being intentionally thankful for every season and challenge life presents him with, and how that has been an enormous challenge this year. While the year has been really great as far as business goes, as far as entrepreneurial growth is concerned. But then there has also been huge tragedy and enormous loss.

[2:10] Bob shares that he and Brad lost a friend due to Covid, and how that sadness has felt different this year. 

[2:39] Brad talks about how a past boss often responded to his employees panic about work with “It’s just advertising,” and that statement is more poignant now than ever. The year has created very clear lines of perspective in that way. 

[3:22] Bob brings the conversation around to the topic of today- that clients need to buy your business and not YOU. In many cases, when clients buy into your business because of you specifically, they get unnerved when you then pass off the project to a Marketing Manager. 

[4:17] Bob asks: “How do you sell your business, i.e. make your business the focus, the entity that is valuable to your clients, and not sell yourself? Because you can’t be in on every call, doing the work yourself.” 

[4:50] Brad responds: He has a few proactive things he does to prevent this from happening. Incorporating scale and growth into your sales pitch is incredibly important- learning to step out of the role and pass the baton efficiently. 

[5:47] Ken says that starts with knowing what that looks like as well as being upfront and transparent about it. Most clients don’t want a one man show anyway, they want a team. 

  • Brad asks clarifying questions- does Ken specifically say that the client won’t see him again? Not necessarily- but in his experience, bringing in people during calls and introducing people in that way. Help build those relationships before you hand them off. 

[8:15] Brad says that oftentimes, he makes an effort to keep his mouth shut and lets other members of his team answer questions. In this way, the client begins looking to others for answers and input. 

  • There are times when he can read between the lines and tell what the client is saying versus what they mean, while younger employees on his team can’t. And it takes a lot for him to hold back from that clarification and allow them to communicate and figure it out. 

[10:54] Ken says that it is more convenient to intentionally and purposefully hand it over and explain who’s going to do what. “I think it’s more realistic to hand it over to your team, your team executes 90% of the work but you’re still involved from a check-in relational standpoint.” 

[11:40] Bob says that it’s really about your process. Whether that be a kickoff meeting with the team, introduction to the business in a fun way… something that allows your employees to build trust from the start so the client can be solid in their decision. 

[12:53] Ken clarifies- should you be completely out of the project? 

[13:15] Brad says yes- if you can take a certain portion of your clients who don’t need your input. “I think there are certain clients that you will need to be involved with… You only have so much time. And so I do believe that if you can take a certain portion of your clients and hand them over to a smaller team… you can take that risk.” 

  • This could also be a great way to build trust with your team, if you have space to take a small calculated risk of letting your team deal with smaller clients from beginning to end, that’s a great way to grow the competency of your team. 

[14:50] Bob talks about how difficulty in doing this means you likely have 1 of 2 (or both) problems going on: Either you need to change your behavior as the business owner and reel in your desire to control everything, or you don’t have a team that is capable of handling that kind of responsibility/ doesn’t have the leadership skills that you need. 

[15:35] Brad says that he often feels too available to clients, and gives an example that he answered a call for a client in the morning and it wound up turning his day upside down. They wound up looking really good at the end of the day, but now their expectation is that he will step in and make things happen for them. 

[17:25] Ken says that having that availability to clients can really turn things around for him, and don’t allow him to fully be present for the really valuable role that he serves in the company. Having a partner that deals with clients face to face really helps mitigate some of that, and they’ve figured out a really great balance. 

[18:19] Ken: “Delivering your product at an excellent level and growing your company often pull in different directions, and there’s a tension there and you have to figure it out.” 

[18:45] Brad talks about how clients having access to him often gives him anxiety. But now at his age and with his experience he’s gotten better at handling those stressful moments. Helping the client feel confident in the fact that they can help and handle their “crisis” is powerful, and doing so intentionally without the anxiety is an art. 

[20:45] Bob says that there really is something to Ken speaking about having a partner. There is power in selling your business and not yourself- there is tremendous value in differentiating the difference between being the face of the business and being the “person” that everyone calls. 

  • Being a solo owner of a business makes it hard to step away from being “THE” person that clients go to. Just because you’re the face of the company doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the client’s main point person, and that doesn’t feel authentic unless you have the systems in place to manage that transition of trust and power. 

[23:05] Ken says that if you don't have a business partner to help split those responsibilities, think about investing in other stakeholders or people under you that you feel safe investing in and handing power/influence over to- ultimately it comes down to team and your ability to delegate. 

[23:50] Bob talks about the importance of having a really, really, really good product; a product that shines and attracts clients to you. Asks Brad- are they coming to you because they know YOU or because they’ve heard Anthem does great work? 

[24:30] Ken says that sometimes people come to Metacake because of one thing that Ken said on a podcast or something else. “They built a company that scaled their belief, their systems, their personality in a way that gets results.” - and Dave Ramsey Solutions based in Franklin has done that well. 

  • Started as a service business, one-on-one advice. It’s scaled through a variety of products, but “if you talk to anyone at that company, you feel the pedigree of Dave Ramsey, and he’s scaled that.” 

[26:01] Ken continues, “Part of your uniqueness does come from… the founder because otherwise it’s not really genuine. That person, their soul… how they get results.” 

  • This way even if a client does sign on because of Brad, they also like everyone else on the team and the processes because Brad has taught them how he gets results and the team is able to mimic that. 

[27:15] Bob: “You begin to build notoriety and social equity in your company.” 

[28:00] Ken: It’s vital that you figure out how to scale YOU. What’s your system? Whats your secret? How can you scale that in your organization? 

[28:49] Bob shares that even Tim Cook at Apple always gives credit to his team for their new products, always “our team” or “we did this.” 

  • In this way, the client/customer immediately begins transferring trust to the team and not just the figurehead. 

[30:03] Brad speaks about another struggle he has. Often a client will ask to speak “in the next couple days” and his calendar is almost always full a few days out. Should he be taking the time to rearrange plans (work related and non-work related) or should he be saying “I’m the owner of the company, I have a lot of responsibilities so it’s going to be tougher to get on my schedule than somebody else.” 

[32:04] Ken says that being honest is where the sweet spot is in trying to get to the healthiest relationship. Be honest and not arrogant, and it’s respectable. But the second there is arrogance it’s no longer okay. Offer them a “give”, tell them a coworker or team member can talk to them today/ take care of things at this moment, but if you need the owner’s time it’s going to be a couple of days. 

[33:45] Bob talks about the personality differences in company owners/ managers. If you find that a client is a “now now now” person who jumps on everything as if it’s a fire, there will be more effort and difficulty in cutting those ties so be intentional about process. 

  • Ultimately, you have to train the clients in the way that you do business. “If we’re going to work together, here are the ground rules.” 

[35:00] Ken speaks on drawing intentional boundaries and how you need to be the long-term thinking leader. The majority of emergencies in the agency world are often just a result of poor planning, and aren’t really even emergencies.” 

[37:40] Bob says that often there is opportunity to coach the client towards your way of doing things. This is training in a way, but also there is a level of empathy and intuition to recognize when it might make the relationship better. 

[38:45] Ken says that some organizations thrive on chaos, and that may not work well for you. It’s difficult as an owner to say no to people sometimes, but if they’re going to cause more chaos in the process of doing business with you it’s important for you to draw that boundary line. 

  • Shares that he overheard a marketer at an award show years ago talking about how burnt out they were because of a client, and how right after the award ceremony they had to go back to the office to finish something up. That sense of being overworked is so normalized in the agency world, it’s expected of you to take on that energy. 

[42:53] Bob says “So much of what we do is subjective… digital marketing is still a new industry… we don’t always know what the results are gonna be.” 

[43:32] Brad talks about how 30% of agencies are inventors, they’re creating new stuff an new ways of doing things. He asks Bob about his best practices regarding client involvement and interaction. 

[44:00] Bob says that beginning an agency today would be a totally different experience for him, but that he always tried to hire good project managers that he could pass things off to. 

[44:29] Brad asks if it’s helpful having someone a bit older to filter through clients, someone who is closer to your age. 

[45:05] Bob says that he works with a lot of younger people who are lightyears ahead of where he was at that age, because the industry has changed so much. 

  • Bringing things back around to practicality- you can invest in a team of people getting paid $40K or two really seasoned people that get paid more- there are options.

[46:11] Brad asks about having an assistant that could cover emails and be very helpful for you, but there are also instances where assistants can come off as rude or not quite on point. A gatekeeper in a way, but not necessarily a bulldog. 

[47:00] Ken says having an assistant to be nice/kind but also assertive in the way they communicate is the sweet spot. He suggests that Brad look into hiring an assistant. 

[48:10] Bob says he’d love to hear listeners thoughts on this! Please leave us some reviews and give us some feedback!

[48:50] Ken says that ultimately, you need to decide for yourself how involved you want to be with clients. And make a plan that will allow you to maintain the contact that is helpful and brings value while also focusing on other things that you are truly passionate about in the business. Be INTENTIONAL about it so that clients know what to expect from you. 

[49:15] Brad adds that Anthem includes some details of this in their Master Agreement, including details on services, fees, who will be taking care of what in respect to different parts of the project. Sometimes clients will assume that your enthusiasm means you want to be involved in every step, so be sure to clarify that so they know what the boundaries are. 

[49:49] Bob sums it up: “Don’t sell yourself unless you have the system in place to do it right.” He asks for examples of agencies that have done this really really well, who have sold the visionary and scaled in a great way. 

  • The Guys mention Tesla and Ramsey Solutions, and talk about how difficult it was for Apple to make the transition to visionary after Steve Jobs passed. Tim Cook was always the one making things happen, and Steve was the visionary. But now things have shifted and it’s been a struggle. 

[51:36] Ken: “Everyone I’ve ever talked to- mentors, coaches, other business owners that do this successfully- all say you need to have someone who’s Visionary, and you need to have someone who’s getting it done on an operations level.”