Episode #47 | Answering the Internet’s Most-Asked Agency Owner Questions

Featured image for episode 47 of Designing Growth featuring Motion.io Co-founder Sam Chlebowski. At the top of the image, a title for the episode reads "Answering the Most Common Agency Owner Questions on the Internet." A picture of Designing Growth podcast host Sam Chlebowski is displayed in the bottom right of the image. All text and pictures for the featured image of Episode 47 are displayed on a dark blue background.

In episode 47 of Designing Growth, Sam Chlebowski answers the most common questions he’s seen agency owners ask over the last few months in the online communities and discussion boards he’s a part of.

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Answering the Internet’s Most Common Agency Owner Questions | Designing Growth #47

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[00:00:00] Sam Chlebowski: Happy Thursday, everybody. Sam Chlebowski here, host of this podcast and Co-founder of motion.io.

[00:00:07] Sam Chlebowski: If you are watching this live, you may notice that I just gave myself a fresh haircut. I have now been giving myself a buzz cut basically every two weeks or so. I used to have long hair and if you go back to any of our previous episodes, you might notice that. But once my son was born, I got two months in and I was basically like, this is too much responsibility. I have other people I need to take care of and I gotta simplify things. It was one Saturday morning. I just got back from a run and decided today’s the day and just took a pair of buzzers, and basically cut it all off.

[00:00:43] Sam Chlebowski: And it’s been really short ever since. This is the shortest hair I’ve ever had. But honestly, really love it. It’s so easy to take care of. It doesn’t require any products or anything like that. And I can cut my hair myself at home. 

[00:00:55] Sam Chlebowski: In case you missed it, put out a really fun episode last week where I talked about how we had just released the full version of motion.io 

[00:01:04] Sam Chlebowski: in this latest release, there are a ton of really cool features. tasks that you assign or create for clients. You can set up automatic reminders for them in a single click. You basically just enter their email, write a name for the task, you can choose to send no reminders, daily reminders or reminders every fourth day or every other week.

[00:01:23] Sam Chlebowski: So really simple. You don’t have to fiddle around with any manual follow up emails or workflows And automatically follow up with clients to ensure that they are providing you what you need to ultimately fulfill the service that they’re paying you for.

[00:01:37] Sam Chlebowski: In addition to the automated reminders, we have a really cool visual feedback tool basically you can upload any image, whether that is a website mockup, whether it’s brand guides or design files, and allow clients to pin comments directly on that file we also have really powerful software integrations that you can set up within tabs of your client’s portal that allow you to connect tools like [00:02:00] Calendly Dub, Sodo, HubSpot, Panda Docs,

[00:02:03] Sam Chlebowski: bonsai, you name it. And you can basically embed the software tools that you’re already using into custom tabs within motion.io so your clients can get access to all of the other software, all of the other tools you use in a single place. And on top of all of that, the client experience of using these portals is completely login list for your customers. it doesn’t require them to create an account or log in, none of that. it’s as simple as email comes to their inbox. They click that link, boom, the right in their client portal. They can complete those tasks. access the tools that you are using that allow them to sign a contract or make a payment, or schedule a time to speak with you.

[00:02:43] Sam Chlebowski: the emails that they receive are all gonna be branded to your business. So we’re really excited about this latest release and would love to have you try it out. Head to our website and sign up for a free account. You can do that by going to motion.io and just click the button that you’ll see plastered all over our website, inviting you to try it out for free.

[00:03:02] Sam Chlebowski: What I’m also excited about is this week’s episode I have been in the marketing space for about a decade, 

[00:03:09] Sam Chlebowski: but what I’ve also been a part of for a large part of my career is kind of the agency space. And I kind of define that as anybody who does creative work in some fashion with clients. So that includes things like website design, Digital advertising graphic design, things like that. And a part of staying involved in the space has been continuing to. Get involved in various online communities focused around the agency world, 

[00:03:35] Sam Chlebowski: so what I’ve been doing over the last six months or so is anytime I see a good question come up, I’ve been taking a note of that, saving screenshots of those posts in a folder on my desktop. And I was excited this week to finally circle back around on those 

[00:03:54] Sam Chlebowski: so I’ll answer these questions from real life business owners to give my thought and maybe share some [00:04:00] new perspectives that you might not have heard before.

[00:04:02] Sam Chlebowski: And basically answer the top questions that I see creative business owners asking on the internet 

[00:04:09] Sam Chlebowski: so let’s go ahead and dive in to the first question. this question. I will preempt this by saying is probably one of the most common right behind how do I find clients? For my X, Y, Z agency, and this question is all around how you scale from being a solo owner operator of a business.

[00:04:29] Sam Chlebowski: so in the post that this person shared, they gave some additional details. They mentioned that they made a hundred thousand dollars last year Their first year was a six figure year, And they love the type of clients they work with.

[00:04:41] Sam Chlebowski: It’s primarily nonprofit and social impact related businesses, but at the same time, they’re feeling maxed out every single week and they wanna bring someone on. Whenever you’re thinking about scaling up a business and you’ve been running it by yourself, you’ve been doing everything,

[00:04:56] Sam Chlebowski: the first thing that you need to consider is, how can I remove myself from at least. A part or a few small parts of this business. And If you understand that it’s gonna give you a lot more insight into who you should hire and what you should hire for and I would say that if you are feeling maxed out, you need to first understand where that pressure and where those time commitments are coming from. There may be things that you can eliminate right now that’ll help you feel a lot more relaxed and like you have time to breathe during the day without necessarily hiring somebody.

[00:05:34] Sam Chlebowski: And it sounds counterintuitive, but it can be so easy to think you do less in a day than you actually do.

[00:05:41] Sam Chlebowski: So my first recommendation would be to document all of the parts of your business and everything that you’re doing across them. You don’t have to estimate how much time everything takes each week, but start by just writing it down. Take half an afternoon off from doing any client work or client management.

[00:05:57] Sam Chlebowski: You can even set up an autoresponder if you’d [00:06:00] like, and just jot all of this stuff down. Write down the things that you’re doing for marketing, the things that you are doing for client management, the things that you are doing to produce the deliverables and the things that you are doing from an admin standpoint within your business, like the billing and the legal work, and sending contracts to clients and also get specific with it.

[00:06:20] Sam Chlebowski: Create a basic outline for your processes, especially when it comes to working with clients. For example, client comes in, okay, what’s the next thing that happens? Do you send them an email or do you have an automation setup that does that for you? Great client. Has that phone call with you, they’re ready to work with you.

[00:06:35] Sam Chlebowski: How long does it take you to create that proposal for them or send them that contract? Do you do this manually each time, or is it being managed for you How many conversations are you having with customers? Are you having to go back and forth with them a lot because you don’t understand their feedback?

[00:06:51] Sam Chlebowski: For example, are you having to make a lot of revisions to things that you create for them? Because you’re not asking all of the questions, you could be ahead of time in the client onboarding process. By understanding that piece of the puzzle, what it’s going to allow you to do is find areas where you can save time right now without necessarily hiring someone.

[00:07:15] Sam Chlebowski: There are all sorts of ways that you can automate parts of your business for example, set up a system that is going to help with the onboarding form, help with the contract, help with them scheduling their initial call. It seems sometimes like it’s faster to just make that an email, but the reality is it’s not.

[00:07:34] Sam Chlebowski: And then when you get to the point in this documentation where you’ve run out of things to automate, it comes down to doing things like client walkthrough calls or producing deliverables. that is the point when you need to be thinking, okay, great, I’ve done everything that I can to save as much time possible and I’m still maxed out.

[00:07:52] Sam Chlebowski: Then it’s the time to hire. I just finished a book, it’s called Rework. It’s by the folks who [00:08:00] built Basecamp and some of the information that book, you know, it’s a little fluffy, it’s a little focused on product and startups, but I did find a lot of it really, really helpful and it was pretty inspiring.

[00:08:11] Sam Chlebowski: Even for an older book that was published in 2010. One of the sections is talking about how you should only hire to alleviate pain. hire when it’s painful. go on to explain why they say that you should only hire when it’s painful.

[00:08:26] Sam Chlebowski: And it’s basically that if you are not hiring when it’s painful, you’re probably hiring too soon. For example, if you wanna bring someone on just to go down from working eight hours a week to two, the chances that you are gonna have to subsequently fire that person. There’s a really good chance of that.

[00:08:43] Sam Chlebowski: But if you hire only when it’s starting to get painful,

[00:08:47] Sam Chlebowski: That means it’s the time to bring someone on and probably by this point you already have a good idea of the role that you wanna hire for. So in the case of this person, if they had gone through the process of documenting kind of their day-to-day work and they had at least some systems that could handle some of their day-to-day busy work, I would tell them that, yeah, it is probably the time to hire if you are feeling maxed out.

[00:09:11] Sam Chlebowski: Because Later in the post, they ask the question, is it better to hire a contractor with a wider variety of services so I can provide new offerings? Or should I hire someone to basically take some of that work off my plate so we can work with more clients at a time, but I don’t have to continue to feel maxed out.

[00:09:28] Sam Chlebowski: And this question is honestly a really good one. Because I think it can be really tempted when you’re talking about scale, to immediately consider adding on new services. But the reason why I would say that that is not the right call is that implies that they also have to launch new services and that’s gonna create just as much work for them.

[00:09:49] Sam Chlebowski: Because now they have to find out, okay, how do I support these new services? What are the questions that clients are gonna ask about these services? What’s my workflow for that? When they’re already feeling [00:10:00] maxed out by the current services that they’re offering? So my suggestion would be hire somebody with skills that are similar to your own that can compliment your own, but they can also slot in for a specific aspect of the business 

[00:10:14] Sam Chlebowski: and it doesn’t have to be ownership of everything, the person that they hire doesn’t have to be able to run a project from beginning to end. But could they own at least one small part of that process?

[00:10:25] Sam Chlebowski: Could they be the person who is responsible for all of the new client inquiry calls? Could they be the person that’s responsible for 50% of the deliverables, but they’re creating those deliverables from beginning to end without any outside help or assistance? I think if you are considering hiring somebody and bringing them on, that’s a pretty key piece is hire somebody who can take away at least one major part of your day-to-day work.

[00:10:52] Sam Chlebowski: Give away your Legos, as I’ve said that quote in previous episodes, it is hard to trust somebody. But if you hire the right person, that trust shouldn’t have to feel forced. You know, things always take time. Relationships take time. But if you ask the right questions during the interview process, you’re gonna find somebody that you can trust wholeheartedly

[00:11:12] Sam Chlebowski: that doesn’t make it feel like you have to look over their shoulder constantly. If you’re looking for some great interview questions to help you do this, my co-founder Perry and I actually covered our favorite interview questions all the way back in episode five, I believe.

[00:11:27] Sam Chlebowski: I’ll link it in the show notes if you want to go check that out. But that should be really helpful in bringing on that right person who you trust.

[00:11:34] Sam Chlebowski: So our second question that I’m gonna be answering today is from the r slash agency sub Reddit, and this one is a really interesting one. The person who posts this asked, how do you deal with clients constantly wanting bad design? Is there a client management strategy that I can do?

[00:11:51] Sam Chlebowski: And in the post this person goes to describe that clients want bad design work, or they want to even design the whole thing themselves, [00:12:00] then asking, is this normal? Or could there be something that I am doing here that I’m doing wrong? And the reason why this one is so interesting is because on the surface you might be attempted to say, no, who cares?

[00:12:13] Sam Chlebowski: Get this bread. But I gotta say, this is something that we dealt with. At Brighter Vision. And when we were building websites in those early stages, the clients we were working with were non-technical. They were therapists, they were psychiatrists. And all of the time they would offer suggestions that were just terrible design choices.

[00:12:32] Sam Chlebowski: And we would do them no questions asked. We would do the things that they wanted to do. And then what started happening over time is we would design these things for them, and then they would show the website to other people, friends, family, colleagues, you name it. And these colleagues would say like, that doesn’t look good.

[00:12:49] Sam Chlebowski: They were, being totally honest with them. And our clients would then come back to us and say, why did you design this this way? Of course we had a paper trail and we could, you know, pull up the receipts. But nobody wants to do that. Like, it doesn’t create a good working environment with anybody.

[00:13:06] Sam Chlebowski: Saying, I told you so, like, that’s just not good for anybody. There’s some exceptions where you can do that, but this isn’t one that I’d recommend and the way that we solve this problem at Brighter Vision was in a way that you might not expect. 

[00:13:19] Sam Chlebowski: The way that We solved this was leaning really heavily into our previous work and our favorite examples of websites that we had built for previous clients. And what that started to do over time is by showing a potential client just a handful of sites that we thought are, were our best ones ever.

[00:13:39] Sam Chlebowski: They wanted something similar.

[00:13:40] Sam Chlebowski: It fell very much in line with our design principles and the websites that we wanted to build that we knew would perform for them, and that they wouldn’t hear feedback from people they showed it to, that it was, you know, a terrible job or whatever. was kind of the first part, is is adding our favorite examples of websites [00:14:00] to things like our responses to new inquiries from potential clients, showing them around these sites on a live walkthrough call. Of course, you will occasionally have the bad design requests. In those cases, I say, just do it. But make sure you’re at least trying to promote kind of your best work and highlight why that design works and why it will help them get results. Because if you’re not doing these things and you’re not laying sort of any design foundation for your clients, what’s gonna happen is they’re gonna see things from all sorts of industries, all different types of websites, and they’re gonna come in and start working with you wanting to draw inspiration from all of these individual places.

[00:14:42] Sam Chlebowski: especially if you have a niche, there’s gonna be some design styles in other industries that are outside of your niche that don’t work for that And if you can explain that to clients and show them examples of really good websites that perform well over time, they’re gonna want those things.

[00:14:57] Sam Chlebowski: If you do that and try it out for a couple months and it’s still not working and you’re constantly having clients that want what you would consider bad design, well, I am sorry to say this, but it’s probably your niche.

[00:15:11] Sam Chlebowski: If you already have a niche and are getting requests for a ton of bad design work, it may be time to reconsider that because there are certain industries where commonly held design practices that work really well in other industries are not accepted or really cared about at all.

[00:15:29] Sam Chlebowski: One of the niches where I’ve seen this come into play a lot of times is a little bit more specific, but it is general contractors. This is not to say that this profession is unskilled or anything like that. I have several friends who are general contractors. They’re amazing. But what I have seen is that many of these general contractors or contracting businesses, they don’t have websites.

[00:15:52] Sam Chlebowski: They are in homes, they’re doing renovations, things like that, and they get so many clients from referrals that they’ve never really felt the [00:16:00] pressure to have to go out and seek more clients. A lot of times the fact that they’re building a website is simply because somebody told them that they need one, not because it’s actually critical to their business or their growth.

[00:16:11] Sam Chlebowski: but if There isn’t that consistency, at least a little bit of consistency from business to business it’s gonna make it really hard to work with those clients and develop sort of a style for them. So that’s how I would answer that first up, make sure you highlight previous work that you’ve done, highlight why it works, the result that work has gotten from a design standpoint and why it was built this way.

[00:16:33] Sam Chlebowski: Explain all of that, provide details. and the next step is if you do that and it’s still not working, after a couple months, probably time to reconsider the niche that you’re working in. And if you don’t have a niche, it may be time to get more specific

[00:16:46] Sam Chlebowski: in who you work with.

[00:16:47] Sam Chlebowski: Our third and final internet question that I’m gonna be answering in this episode is a really great one. If you have a well-established business and you’re looking to scale up, basically your client acquisition, your marketing efforts, and you’ve kind of explored all of those other strategies, the common ones like, creating more blog content or doing things on social media.

[00:17:08] Sam Chlebowski: And it’s this question of best practices around running ads foreign agency.

[00:17:14] Sam Chlebowski: And in this question, the poster asks, Hey, is anyone running ads to their agency? What does your lead gen funnel look like?

[00:17:21] Sam Chlebowski: I think that Paid digital advertising can be a really tough nut to crack when it comes to creative businesses, and oftentimes paid advertising might not even be a good strategy for your creative business. It could very well end up just being a money pit, especially in the cases where you don’t have a niche and you’re not targeting one specific industry or one specific type of business or person

[00:17:46] Sam Chlebowski: It can be really hard to get in front of people.

[00:17:48] Sam Chlebowski: Because the way that you are going to make pay digital advertising effective for your agency is by being specific. Because if you create a Google Ads campaign, a [00:18:00] Facebook campaign, and you are just plugging in the terms, for example, digital marketing or website design or graphic design, you are going to be competing with people who have much bigger budgets than yours, who are well more equipped to spend the kind of money that they need to, to get the results from that end.

[00:18:19] Sam Chlebowski: That it could very well be disastrous for your business. Now, if you do have a niche or a couple of niches, You are at this point of scale where you’ve explored some other strategies and you’re ready to do this paid digital advertising testing. I do have quite a few tips

[00:18:39] Sam Chlebowski: and I will talk about what this exact funnel looks like in a little bit. But my first tip is, if you are this type of agency that has a well-defined niche before ever getting into the funnel,

[00:18:49] Sam Chlebowski: I think that you should be crystal clear That the Content on your website supports this niche so let’s say that you are a social media marketing agency for Shopify store owners who sell products to consumers, 

[00:19:04] Sam Chlebowski: before even going into like what a funnel can look like for an agency, make sure. the content on your website supports this niche the case of a social media marketing agency that provides services For Shopify store owners, if that client submits that lead form, they enter their email, even if it’s on a separate landing page, they’re gonna go back to the website. And if they come to that website and they don’t see information that’s about them, they don’t see information about how you support Shopify owners, why you understand the industry, the things that you’re gonna do to support them, it’s very likely that you are not gonna win that work.

[00:19:42] Sam Chlebowski: So that’s step one. Before you even get into producing the funnel, make sure to button up the content on your website. Make sure that it is aligned with the niche that you are going to be targeting through your paid ads. with that all set, I do want to get into my funnel The [00:20:00] timing is actually really great for me to answer this question because I’ve been spending just a ton of time in paid advertising. As I’d mentioned the episode last week. We set up some paid ads and they perform super well, to advertise motion.io in our customizable client portal software.

[00:20:17] Sam Chlebowski: And our niche for the record is creative businesses. Any type of business that does creative work with a client, whether that’s website designers, graphic designers, brand strategists, you name it.

[00:20:26] Sam Chlebowski: And I will mention that this is a funnel that works really well for me. It’s almost the same exact type of funnel both of my co-founders have used in previous businesses. And it’s one that I have enough proof that it works, that I feel good recommending. 

[00:20:39] Sam Chlebowski: So the first step begins with the ad creative. And that creative could be a number of different things. Nowadays, videos can work really well for ad creative images are still tried and true and hear it from me personally. They work, the campaigns that I just set up are all image-based and they performed really well for us.

[00:20:58] Sam Chlebowski: But one mistake that I think here when it comes from setting up a funnel for paid ads is not using a campaign or a format or a platform that allows for ad clicks. There are all sorts of options these days where you can have people submit leads directly into a form that could be on Facebook, that could be on Google AdWords, and have them collect it basically, and then they report it back to you.

[00:21:26] Sam Chlebowski: In the example of Facebook ads is don’t use Facebook’s like embedded lead form. I like to send people to a landing page. And the reason why I say that even if you have the ability to use a platform like Facebook or Google Ads embedded lead form is that sending somebody to a separate page is a better signifier of me for intent.

[00:21:49] Sam Chlebowski: Meaning the person who’s clicking on that ad, they were willing to click on that ad and then enter their email or schedule that call with you. And I think that if you aren’t [00:22:00] doing it that way and you aren’t going from ad creative, click to landing page, what. Can happen is you can get a lot of really bad leads and you can get people who are just on their phone and they click the auto fill button, they submit that lead form and you never hear from them again.

[00:22:17] Sam Chlebowski: I think it’s okay to introduce that very small piece of friction and make a, and make somebody who’s interested go to a separate landing page Now on that landing page, 

[00:22:30] Sam Chlebowski: meaning don’t send them directly to the homepage of your website. Send them to a page that is focused. On a conversion action, meaning this page provides information about your services and it has one action. That action could be to enter their email to receive more information. That action could be to schedule a call.

[00:22:50] Sam Chlebowski: Whatever it is, focus the entire page around getting them to do this one action. And the reason why I recommend this is it is a just a proven way to increase your conversion rates. If you send somebody to your website, they’re gonna have a ton of other things to click on, ton of other things that they can do, and now is not the time you want to capture their interest and basically capture that demand that your ads have created by getting them to do this action that can allow them to follow up with you.

[00:23:23] Sam Chlebowski: For creating landing pages, there’s all sorts of ways to do this. You can create landing pages using whatever built, whatever website builder you’re currently using, and just set up a sub-domain. I personally like to use a separate landing page tool for this. One of my favorites is Unbounce, and I like that because it’s really quick to basically duplicate pages that I’ve created, make a couple changes, reuse them for another campaign.

[00:23:47] Sam Chlebowski: But you don’t have to pay for a separate tool. You could very well just use the current website builder that your primary website is set up on. I would suggest using a separate sub-domain, just to split [00:24:00] those things out a little bit. So that covers step two of the funnel, taking an action on a landing page. And step three, what I recommend is redirecting them to a thank you page.

[00:24:11] Sam Chlebowski: and the reason why I suggest this is this is a really great opportunity to take that action of sending them back to your primary website with the landing page. You want them to take that one specific action, enter their email, schedule that call, but with a thank you page. That’s your opportunity then to give them a little bit more insight into the other aspects of your business once they’ve taken that action, and you don’t have to worry about losing their attention and never having a way to contact them again.

[00:24:41] Sam Chlebowski: And that’s why I love the thank you page for that. So I actually just redid our thank you pages on our motion.io website this week for whenever somebody schedules a call with us. And what I did is I looked in Google Analytics at what the top pages people would visit after they scheduled a demo.

[00:25:01] Sam Chlebowski: Basically seeing what kind of information do people want after they schedule a call with us that we could maybe provide them with ahead of time, so they go into the call more informed and we can make the best use of everybody’s time because no one wants to spend a long time talking about things that they were willing to read or check out themselves.

[00:25:20] Sam Chlebowski: Of course they can ask any type of information they want on the call. But in general, I find that people really appreciate it when you provide the answers to common questions they’re gonna have upfront. So for example, on our thank you pages, we have information about motion dot, iOS pricing as well as the various tools that you can integrate with motion.io.

[00:25:40] Sam Chlebowski: And we have that right there front and center. The first thing they see after they schedule a call so they can go check out that information.

[00:25:47] Sam Chlebowski: So that is step three. Redirect them from that landing page to a thank you page on your website.

[00:25:53] Sam Chlebowski: Step four is gonna be to input them into at least some kind of C R M.

[00:25:58] Sam Chlebowski: And when I say C R [00:26:00] M I don’t mean you have to pay the $800 a month or whatever it is for HubSpot. You can be using a much simpler tool, something that costs 40, $50 a month. I’ve used pipeline deals before, which was I think only like 40 or $50 a month. but you could even be just using a spreadsheet for this and using Zapier to basically zap those leads that you get from your ads into a spreadsheet.

[00:26:22] Sam Chlebowski: So you can track them there and you can kind of set up a system that allows you to know who you followed up with and who you haven’t. But that’s the real reason behind why I say that.

[00:26:30] Sam Chlebowski: as your last step of your paid advertising funnel, it’s really important to send them to a C R M. Of some kind, because if you’re not keeping track of that information and you’re just looking through your inbox for it, the chances that you get around to following up with those people are zero to none.

[00:26:47] Sam Chlebowski: It’s never gonna happen. You need to be tracking that, and even better, you should be automating that. So this is kind of a bonus tip and a bonus step in the funnel, but if possible, set up a sequence of emails or actions that automatically follow up with this client. 

[00:27:03] Sam Chlebowski: Sending them things like samples of your latest work or results from previous clients Can really help push them through to that point where you are either speaking with them on the phone or they are ready to basically sign the contract and begin work with you.

[00:27:18] Sam Chlebowski: So that does it. . I had a lot of fun answering these questions and I’ll probably do another one of these again in the future.

[00:27:25] Sam Chlebowski: I actually still have I think, a backlog of like 20 more questions that I’ve saved that I can answer in subsequent episodes. But even better, if there’s questions you want me to answer, I’d love to have you send them in.

[00:27:37] Sam Chlebowski: Feel free to send me an email directly. You can do that at [email protected] and ask any questions that you’d like to know about creative businesses, entrepreneurship, about growing or software.

[00:27:50] Sam Chlebowski: With that, my name is Sam Chlebowski, signing off. Hope you enjoyed this episode, everyone, and see you next week. Have fun, good luck, and go crush it.

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