The new SharpSpring Agency Growth Series features an awesome curated lineup of the top influencers in digital marketing. We could not be more excited about the group of great minds we were lucky enough to pull together for this awesome agency-focused series.

The free series is made up of 14 unique web sessions, all with a livestream Q&A segment, and all focused on helping agencies accelerate their growth.

Sessions feature digital marketing superstars speaking candidly about the industry topics they know best and are most passionate about. And we want to make sure to share the love – so, in addition to providing recordings of the sessions and live Q&As, we’ll also be posting key takeaways here following each session.

Here’s a look at a few key highlights we pulled from our recent Agency Growthh Series session “Grow & Scale Your Agency” with digital agency expert and host of the The Smart Agency Master Class Podcast, Jason Swenk.

Jason Swenk on the two questions that led to clarity

So I started interviewing for a company called NASCAR. And at the time, I raced cars so I was like, this is going to be a perfect fit. And they asked me two questions that really changed everything for me. They said, “What do you want to do every single day? And what do you never want to do ever again?”

And by answering these two questions, I gained clarity. I gained clarity for, you know, what was my North Star, how I could make decisions. Because I was just being reactionary to whatever was coming to us because of referrals. And I kept getting referrals from the same types of businesses or lower, never above. So I was just stagnant. Does that sound familiar? Probably does. And I also needed to get clarity for what did I believe in? What were my core values to make sure I had the right people on, you know, on the team.

Jason Swenk on the five roles that transform agency owners into true CEOs

So what I realized is, there’s five roles that I needed to do within the agency to transform from the owner to the CEO. The first one was, and I just told you this, set the vision and communicate it often, and that’s the most important part.

The next is, I needed to coach and mentor my leadership team. I didn’t need to coach everybody in the agency. I don’t need to have everybody reporting to me. You shouldn’t have over five direct reports. If you do, that’s overwhelming. You can’t coach and mentor them. You also needed to be the face of the agency. And a lot of people say, well, I can’t be the face of the agency, then everybody’s going to come to us for all kinds of stuff. I said, Have you ever heard of Intermedia? Yeah. You know who. Gary Vaynerchuk is? Yep. He’s the face of the organization. But do you think he actually works on the projects? No. Ok, so that proved that model.

And then the next is assist sales, not do all the sales. You don’t want to be that doctor that’s giving out the insurance forms and walking people into the room and checking their temperature. You want to be that trusted advisor. We’ll talk more about that in a little bit. And then you also need to understand the financials.

Jason Swenk on positioning your agency as a trusted advisor

Now, there’s so many different agencies out there that all look the same, right? When you go to their website and there’s tons of “Me Too” agencies is what I call it, because they’re just modeling everything off of what everybody does. But you have to understand, companies don’t buy from agencies. They buy from agencies they trust and they understand.

Let me explain. Because they’re telling a different story in the journey of the client or the prospect actually coming to you. So let’s say that we’re at a conference right now in person. And I come up to you. I’m like, “hey, Bob, how’s it going? My name’s Jason.” And I’m like, “what’s your name?” And you say, “Jack.” And I go, “okay.” And then I just go into talking about how cool I am, like, “I’m the best agency advisor in the world. We have the number one podcast, blah blah blah”, you’re literally going to shut off and you’re gonna be like, “how do I get out of here?” Right? And I’m positioning myself as the focal point rather than positioning you as the focal point.

So, let’s switch it up. If I came up to you, I was like, “Hey, Jack, how’s it going? Why did you come to the conference? What’s your biggest challenge? Is there anybody I can introduce you to?” What I’m doing is I’m asking questions. I’m asking questions for putting that focal point on you. And I’m positioning you as Batman. Okay? And I’m positioning, you know, myself as Alfred. I’m not positioning myself, like, if I make myself Batman, that makes you Robin. And I’ve never seen anybody want to wear those ugly green tights. Right? You need to position yourself as Alfred, that trusted adviser.

Jason Swenk on the power of podcasts

I was in New York not too long ago before before all this crazy pandemic stuff. And I was in a room of eight hundred and fifty agency owners. I asked them “how many of you have a podcast?” And literally there was like four or five. And I was like, “oh my God, look at the opportunity there.”

So I started telling them, you know, the opportunity that they could do in their agency and really escalate and really knock off all these channels. I said, what if you actually were able to call all these people and invite them on a podcast? So this is your outbound strategy and then have them on your podcast, interview them, create amazing content for your inbound efforts. But it’s also an outbound. I have a couple of Mastermind members and clients that close 50 percent of the people that actually come on their podcasts! And as soon as agency owners commit to doing a podcast, it knocks out all these channels. 

Jason Swenk on hiring the right people

Always hire people smarter than you, right? There’s too many people that feel if you hire someone smarter than you, than people won’t look at you as the leader. But like, you should be the dumbest person in your company! It’s not hard for me. But like, literally, you should be the dumbest. And if that’s the goal, then you’ve done a good job.

And here’s another telltale sign to see if you have the wrong people in place. If there’s someone on your team that came to you tomorrow and was like, hey, I’m going to work for another agency, would you be happy or sad? And if you’d be happy, that’s a telltale sign that that’s the wrong employee and you should actually make an adjustment fairly quick.

Jason Swenk on using marketing automation

Well, it’s everything. And I just don’t use it for marketing. I use it for everything. Right? So, I look at, we’re in the process of the onboarding, of getting people on the podcast. What are all the repetitious things that I can automate? And I look at that. So let’s say someone applies to be on the podcast. Okay, cool. How can I automate that? The response. The approval. How can I automate when I actually finish the recording. Right? What happens? The thank you message, all of that. In order to start that conversation or make sure it’s not human error.

And then on the marketing front. So, you know, it’s all about how my main goal is how can I get people aware of me, right? Of what we’re doing and get their attention and then keep it. And so we use marketing automation for that.

Jason Swenk on working with the right clients

Too many people, too many times, you take on the wrong client and they’re just barking orders to you. You’ve got to remember in the very beginning, before they’re even a client, you’re training them or they’re training you. If they’re training you, then you’re gonna be an order taker and you’re replaceable and you’re a “Me Too” agency. But if you come in from this trusted adviser space and you’re listening to what they want, you’re asking the right questions. That’s the key, is ask the right questions to help them determine the value that you’re going to deliver. 

Interested in watching Jason’s entire Agency Growth Series session? You can find the full recording on our website.

If you missed our previous Agency Growth Series sessions, you can check them out here:

Optimize Conversion Rates for Clients with Neil Patel

Positioning Your Agency with David C. Baker 

Turning Conversations into Clients with Tom Martin

Driving Momentum for Your Agency and Your Clients with Shama Hyder

How Agencies Can Successfully Sell in 2020 and Beyond with Drew McLellan

What SMBS Want From Agencies with Chris Brogan

Influencer Marketing & SEO with Rand Fishkin

It’s not too late to sign up for all of the rest of our Agency Growth Series sessions. You can still catch top influencers like Ann Handley, Ann Smarty, Seth Godin, and many more!