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Marketing Agency Exposed Podcast

Feb 5, 2020


Bob Hutchins, Brad Ayres, and Ken Ott are talking about how to innovate, grow and serve fast-growing clients in an agency world that is both ever-changing and also static. Hyper-growth is idealized, but the truth is scale isn’t always good. You need healthy scale. How do you help businesses see the forest through the trees? How do you inspire some to think bigger? How do you get clients who are moving too fast to slow down and pay attention to what will create healthy growth? There is a delicate balance to establishing a strong, influential role with a client, regardless of the type of business they are in. 


Resources Mentioned: 


Top 3 Curtain Pulls in this episode:

  1. Serving fast-moving, viral clients means providing advice and guidance for them, creating an alignment with their leadership and encouraging healthy scale and growth from an “advisor” role. This takes slowing down and creating systems and processes, which takes experience.
  2. When serving older, larger clients it is important to focus on innovating and making sure they understand that innovation is a requirement for growth. 
  3. Growth in your agency means those same things: innovation, systems, and processes.


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:

 [1:26] Bob asks: "There's this new business model of failing fast and scaling quick and getting stuff out. It seems like the fastest wins. What does that mean for agencies who try to lead that charge?"

[1:56] Brad: “we do have clients that are over a hundred years old… they built such a strong legacy, but they can’t move as fast as they need to.”

  • Technology makes it hard for larger, older companies to keep up and pivot appropriately.

[2:49] “So they’re looking at acquiring companies who could scale faster.”

[3:17] “We can talk more about how, as an agency, how you can prepare your infrastructure, and your processes to move that quickly and to understand that things pivot. And sometimes that’s really hard.”

[3:39] Bob asks Ken: How have quick pivots and “failing fast” impacted Metacake and their clients?

[4:05] Ken: “We preach innovation to our clients because ultimately, that is something that is never urgent and always important.... Innovation needs to happen whether you’re a big company or a small company.”

  • “As an agency, you have to innovate and innovate quickly, and maybe even in the agency world more so than some of your clients because you’re in a world that is typically stagnant. There’s not a lot of innovation happening in that world.”

[5:34] Ken: “Just because other people are doing it [innovating] doesn’t mean you should be doing it NOW, but you should be doing it, you just have to figure out when.”

[6:46] “Just like people have personalities, agencies and businesses have personalities. Knowing what your strength is is important.”

  • “Are you good at coming behind a founder of a company that has a really giant vision and you’re really good at helping them get there?”

[7:30] Brad: “We have companies that we lead, and companies that we serve. The fear with companies that we serve is that we become a commodity… if we’re not leading and innovating they won’t work with us… and sometimes they’re just not a good fit.

[8:45] “Even those companies that don’t give you a seat at the table… maybe you can still add table value by indirectly giving them suggestions and helping them to ‘see the beach’.”

[9:05] Ken: “Even in a role of service… the way you avoid becoming a commodity is by being a really great advisor to them… We work with viral entrepreneurs as well as global brands. With those global brands they need to be led with innovation, with those viral entrepreneurs we want to advise wisely.”

[10:13] Brad speaks on having a strong understanding of your client and being aligned with them and an extension of their leadership.

[12:10] “How as an agency do you follow the culture of a client when they are averse to pivoting, change?”

[12:45] Ken “Even an industry that your agency doesn't have experience in, the reason that you’re brought on it because you do have a speciality in some other area… if you don’t have that, maybe you shouldn’t be there… but you should be able to use your specialty to push that innovation.”

[13:27] Bob: “I think a good agency… gets over those humps is with data.”

  • This day and age allows instant results and data that you can lead with. And if a decision maker chooses to not respect the data, there’s not much else you can do. 

[14:30] Ken: “that implies that you’re investing in acquiring data… could mean getting experience outside of client work. Being in eCommerce, we have several product companies that we run the stores of and so we can learn from them.”

  • If you’re only always working in your speciality for someone else and don’t do things that let you test, then you don’t have that data to present that gives you an edge.

[15:56] Brad: “You’ve got to be open to agile testing…. You've got to be able to think outside of the box and 

[28:00] Brad: “... one of our clients… only works his business plan 3 months out. That’s it. And what he told me is that he’s going to pivot if he has to… either you’re with him and you are running right beside that pivot, or you’re going to get left behind.”

[29:05] “In this case, this individual knows exactly where his business is going… and how does an agency support somebody like him that is running that fast?”

[30:15] Brad: “Some clients want to make money TODAY, and some… care about their market share and they want to be leaders in their market… they’ll have a technology that noone else has.”

[30:40] Bob: “How do you get your staff to see and to develop that mindset [of quick pivots and change] when they might be people who are creatives or they’re perfectionsists… that you need to function well.”

[31:45] Ken: “In this type of example where companies are moving fast and you as a founder may not even realize what their full vision is.”

  • In this case, when this is happening and they start failing fast, that can burn your team out. It de-motivates them. 
  • So your job as the leader is to become the thermostat- regardless of how hot it gets on the outside, inside the temperature is all the same.

[34:50] Brad: “For us, #1, I think constantly talking about business practices with your team...allows them to go Okay there’s multiple ways to get a business off the ground.”

  • And #2, “If something does pivot where three months of your employees work goes out the door, it’s still being aware that for us, that’s still a win. Maybe not for the client, but for us, it’s a win. 
  • “Showing them that our client now has made a jump and that somehow we were a part of that is always beneficial because that that work isn’t for nothing. That’s companies being successful.”

[36:00] So even if we do pivot, it’s all about communicating… that our goal is not just to serve a customer, it’s to see that customer’s objective met and their business objective met… trying to bring value to that leadership and have a seat at that table.”

[37:00] Bob asks: What do you guys feel like the value is for Agencies moving forward in the near future, in the next five years, 10 years? Because I think what we’re talking about is everybody's moving at the speed of light.

[37:43] Ken: “I think it’s experience and driving results… if you look at the trajectory, you’ve got agencies that were hired in to do everything and they were responsible for figuring out how to do this thing. Everything from strategy to implementation.”

  • Bringing those things in-house is becoming a better and better option for companies. “I think that if your strategy is purely implementation then your value is going to be challenged… the biggest benefit to having an outside agency is experience that you don’t have as a company.”
  • “The thing that no one else can rip off is your experience… so if that is valuable to somebody, that is the biggest barrier to entry.”

[41:00] Brad: “For us, learning to balance the bent towards perfectionism is a challenge… we want really high-end success and I think that’s why we’ve kept a lot of clients.” 

  • But balancing the slow down that perfectionism brings with the speed necessary for quick pivots is the biggest challenge we try to manage.

[42:50] Bob reflects: “In the past, it was a liability (putting out a less-than-perfect product)... so now if you release something that is a little bit imperfect just to get it out there, you have more room to improve and shift the focus later on.”

  • The guys talk about the new Tesla truck and Elon Musk’s presentation. The idea of him testing the glass and it breaking during the presentation actually shows that he is human and that his ideas aren’t perfect. Everyone is aware of this, but he gets a pass because that is the standard he has set for himself. Quick but imperfect delivery.
  • Companies like Apple do not get a pass like this because they have already set the standards so high for themselves. They have a glitch during a presentation and suddenly it’s “Apple’s going downhill, they’re gonna fail.” They don’t get a pass for imperfect products at this point. 
  • So the lesson here is if you’re gonna fail, fail fast, and be transparent about it. 

[45:37] Brad: “What Elon Musk has done is he’s created a culture, not only with his company, but the brand and his loyalists that say ‘I’m going to be first, but you’re going to have to give a little time. Forgive me, cause we’re not going to hit it. You’re not going to hit a home run every time, but I’m going to get you on third base and then we’ll sneak in into homebase and we’ll get it fixed.” 

[54:03] Ken: “Don’t blitz scale or innovate or feel like you have to be a  high risk taker just for the sake of doing it because these other companies do it. What you really need to figure out is what is the why behind where they need to go and where you need to go.”

[55:50] Brad “Sometimes educating your client on the lifetimes values of your customers so that we’re no here just to make a dollar today, but we’re actually looking at the future of your lifetime value and going okay we’ll spend money right now to acquire a customer because we know that the lifetime value is X, and you’re going to make that up in a year from now.”

[57:40] Brad: “The customer needs to know that you’re running with them and you’re right next to or right beside them. Otherwise you don't’ have a seat at their table. And if you can’t get a seat at their table, it’s really hard to convince your clients to do anything.”