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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Jun 9, 2021


Today we’re discussing how to start an agency and the 3 key components to be successful. These fundamentals are relevant to even verteran agencies. But first, what is an agency? Many businesses in this space are stereotyped as agencies but in reality, these “agencies” are not agencies at all but rather, teams of specialists. The three essential components to building a healthy and successful “agency” are to become specialists in your field, hire passionate and experienced people to manage your clients, and finally, you need a proactive organizational staff. We will talk about all of this and expose more agency secrets in this week’s episode.


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode: 


  • Develop clarity on your business model - “Maybe you are an agency, but maybe you're not.” “I think that most people aren't running an agency that say they're running an agency”. If you don’t do this you risk being perceived as a generalist or a commodity which is a dangerous business path.
  • Translate your philosophy into a benefit for the client. Don’t shy away from doing something differently than others. If it’s better, it’s called innovation and while it may be disruptive, it’s necessary. “If you're doing something better for your business, would it not be something valuable to your client? Even if it's just a simple: Hey, we're doing this because it makes us healthier, and if we're healthier, then we're a better partner for you.” 
  • Understand the agency non-negotiables
    • Having a skilled business leader with experience that your client will respect is a necessity. Everyone must be a value add. “I personally think that strong experience and leadership as far as just the main contact with their direct client is key.”
    • “You have to be really good at something.”
    • Typically you are the specialist so  “one of the first hires should be organizational staff, communications, or project management.”


For more tips, discussion, and behind the scenes:

About The Guys: 

Bob Hutchins: Founder of BuzzPlant, a digital agency that he ran 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:

[0:36] Ken opens this week’s episode with a brief chat about Dolly Parton.

[2:57] Bob asks the question, “How does someone even start an agency?” which leads into a conversation about agency basics.

[3:54] Ken “I think most people aren't running an agency that say they're running an agency”

[4:05] Brad talks about the changes within agencies and how the word “agency” carries a negative connotation.

[5:17] Brad asks “What constitutes an agency?” and “If you’re starting an agency, what are the key roles you need?”

[7:30] Ken draws a comparison between agencies and general contractors.

[9:32] Brad says “I prefer the word marketing partner versus agency.” which starts a conversation about the differences between a marketing partner and an agency.

[11:09] Bob talks briefly about the history of ad agencies and asks “How have traditional ad agencies changed?”

[11:59] Brad explains why Anthem Republic more of a marketing specialist than an agency and how strategy plays a role. “I would say that we're lean and mean, where some agencies get fat. And, and a lot of, you know, it's all about the billing at that point.”

[15:59] Bob talks about how agencies have changed over time. “I think it's romantic to think of yourself as an agency... that is kind of a romantic idea.”

[16:41] Ken continues to chat about change and how it can be a challenge to businesses. “As the landscape evolves, businesses have to evolve.”

[19:31] Bob talks about how businesses are stereotyped as agencies and what the public considers an agency. 

[20:52] Ken asks the listeners to consider what they are in light of this episode. “Understanding the specialty that you're in creates a valuable thing for business.”

[21:48] Brad asks how the public perceives marketing companies that are labeled as agencies. “are people searching for agents, the word agencies, are they searching for a marketing company?”

[23:41] Brad inquires how much of a business’ resources should be dedicated to new business.

[24:43] Bob gives a brief rundown on how his business manages its resources concerning new business. He also talks about client managers and client directors and the difference between them.

[27:10] Ken points out that although some clients like the proactive approach, others can feel overly managed. “There's no right or wrong way, but I do think there's a type of client that likes that, and there's a type of client that doesn't.”

[28:54] Bob talks about client management and how it also involves managing the client’s time. 

[30:52] Ken talks about how to make your philosophy and intentional choices as a business a benefit to your client. “think about how you uniquely deliver the value that you deliver in that philosophy and then communicate that.”

[33:23] Brad talks about some of the fears agencies have and suggests some ideas that can resolve them. “that's always the fear of business owners is can I keep my staff busy, because if I don't, then I'm letting go and when I let go, I lose resources.” 

[35:48] Ken talks about how agencies struggle with the idea of scale.  

[37:35] Ken uses billing as an example of how to maximize and amplify a specialist’s time.

[40:13] Brad talks about when people who start agencies focus on trying to fit the mold of an agency, they lose sight of what’s best for their business. “They're trying to fall into a model that makes them feel like they're doing what agencies do. The problem is, they're not looking at it, what's best for their business?” “The past is the past, this is the future. And the agencies or the businesses that are going to succeed are going to do something different.”

[42:15] Bob begins the discussion about non-negotiables in an agency.

[43:10] Brad says that having a savvy business leader with experience that your client will respect is a necessity. “I personally think that strong experience and leadership as far as just the main contact with their direct client is key.”

[44:57] Ken adds that you also need to be a specialist at something.

[47:54] Ken talks about the importance of hiring an organizational staff to keep communications clear and clients happy.

[48:42] Brad wraps up and says that an asset to your team would be someone who, “love their (the client’s) business or their brand more than they do.”