Category: Agency


Why I Walked Away from a $20M Business

Three months ago I had what could only be best described as a mental breakdown.

After seven solid years of focusing all my energies on the growth of my business, everything sort of caught up with me and I reached a point where I couldn’t even get out of bed.

I couldn’t see it at the time, but the reality is that I was making myself busy for the sake of being busy.

This may sound strange to some, but growing up – like many – I was raised with the idea that success could only come on the back of hard work and that money was for the lucky or well connected.

After a lot of work on my mindset, I finally cracked the money game but deep down inside, there was still an idea in my head that I needed to slave away in my business – regardless of the role – in order to be deserving of that success.

So I hustled away and it all went pear shaped.

I made a decision at that stage that, for the sake of my own well being, I needed to step down as CEO and take some time off. I walked away from a $20M business and it felt like the most insane idea ever.

I couldn’t see it at the time, but the reality is that I was making myself busy for the sake of being busy.

I was prepared to lose it all and I felt disheartened that all my hard work would be laid to waste because of a war that was essentially being waged in my head.

Except, it didn’t.

My team stepped up and took control of the reigns.

Revenues stayed exactly the same.

I was both shocked and relieved. Here I had been all along thinking that I was the secret sauce to my business and that I could never be replaced.

The truth is, I got into business so that I could not only have the financial freedom but also the freedom of time. I pushed through the face plants and failures so that one day I could have something that would run without needing me. That had always been the goal, I just struggled to accept that it was possible.

In a way, the meltdown was the push needed to force me into the level of expansion I had always sought. Faster than a kid declining an incoming call I found myself suddenly with the breathing space needed to heal.

Even better, I soon found that our client base and students were also thriving in the wake of my absence, hitting revenue figures that would make some choke on their morning cereal.

The point of all of this is: chasing the dollars is fun, it’s rewarding, but there is no joy in having a six figure income when you’re burnt out and on the verge of self sabotage.

Sustainable success happens when you build something that provides you not only with fluidity in your financial status, but also in your ability to choose your role, workload, and responsibilities. That is ultimate freedom.

The truth is, I got into business so that I could not only have the financial freedom but also the freedom of time.

And foundational to all of this is your own belief system around what you are deserving of and able to create for yourself and the right team and processes in place to allow you to move inside your business like the impulsive entrepreneur you likely are.

That’s it.

Easier said than done right?

The problem is most of us are masters at trying to reinvent the wheel. Masters at making excuses for our circumstances and masters at trying to change matter with matter (sweat equity).

I understand the world is going through a bit of a crises right now, I understand these are uncertain times for many and panic and fear may be making you feel like you should just be grateful for whatever scrapes you can get… but take a closer look and you will see entire industries that are thriving, entrepreneurs creating their own economies, agencies booming.

Perhaps, the recent global events have served to push you towards more clarity in the same way my mind drove me to the verges of sanity in order to find stability.

If so, then treat this as your big break. To create the version of success that you always dreamed of.

Success IS NOT a direct correlation to the amount of pain and sweat you invest. Time is relative and only really needed if hustling is your main ingredient.

With the right processes & systems and enough conscious awareness around the possibilities of what can be created, creating freedom (whatever that may mean for you) – even during uncertain times – is not only possible, it’s inevitable.

It doesn’t require massive overheads or a big team. It doesn’t require a trade off of your younger years. It doesn’t require an investment of pain and blood.

A very difficult concept for most of us to accept.

Working smarter, not harder.

This is what I have always preached, and finally, in the most unusual of ways, have been forced into embodying.

If you’ve made it this far then it’s likely that you have some of your own blockages happening in your business.

Maybe you’ve spent years paddling away furiously and yet feel like you’re hardly making any progress.

Maybe it feels like your business is sucking you financially and mentally – for every new client you take on, you lose two.

Maybe you’re stressed about expenses and feel like you’re fixing all the work of a team that was supposed to help you.

If so, then know that I understand all of these frustrations – I’ve been through each one (sometimes multiple times) through the years.

It’s easy to overcomplicate things and to feel defeated by it all when you’re in the throes of it.

But it’s not rocket science.

A marriage of conscious intention and the right system (truthfully, if you nail the first part, it really doesn’t matter what kind of system you have, which is why all and any kind of business model or agency structure can work or fail).

And so here I am popping my head out from hibernation to share with you and hopefully impart some hope – whatever move you choose to make next – that even hardships can be turned into blessings.

Through the years my team and I developed a training and support program for agency owners specifically designed to help those spinning their wheels reclaim control.

Exploring things such as:

– How to run a highly profitably business with a small team and keep your overheads low…

– How to attract high paying and high quality clients and how to make sure you’re agency stands out amongst the hundreds of thousands of other marketers and service providers flooding the space…

– How to prepare your business for a buyout, mental breakdown, or mini retirement (whatever tickles you)…

– How to reduce your software expenses each month and deliver exceptional service without a million tools you need to subscribe to…

And especially…

– How to get from point A to point B by tapping into a part of your mind that knows no boundaries

And while I won’t be holding your hand through this process (I am honoring this new space I have created in my life), my team have worked with over 700 agency owners since 2017 and are the best in the world to get you there.

To find out more and see if this is right for you, the next step is to speak to my team to discuss your bottlenecks and goals – from there we’ll able to assess if we’re a good fit and if you’re even ready to hear the kinds of things we’re all about.

This isn’t another plug and play get rich quick scheme full of smokescreens and pirouettes, this is about creating a business that serves you, not the other way around.

To find out more and register your interest, click here: https://agencyfunnels.eightloopsocial.com

Here’s to your success

Cat

 

Secrets of A Successful Agency Who Achieves $1.6M Revenue

 

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of a seven-figure agency?  The staff and team pulling the levers and the organizational structure and strategies driving growth?

 

I know when I first started out as a freelancer back in 2013, there was virtually nothing online about the topic. I had to figure everything out for my own and this meant I made some pretty epic and expensive blunders along the way.  Was I meant to hire before cash flow could sustain it or wait till I had enough clients and then hire quickly? How did the big boys land the million-dollar contracts and what sort of margins should I be working towards?

With the boom of the internet and pure online markets, it’s been a gold rush for agencies and now the opposite can be said – there is almost too much information online about how to grow this type of business that it can be overwhelming.  Not surprisingly, most of this information comes from “gurus” who have never actually built or managed agencies themselves – leading many down a costly road of misguided advice.

So for the curious who care to know what the set up of a seven-figure agency looks like,  I wanted to take a moment to share some insights that I wished I had gleamed during the formative years of my business in the hopes to help give you clarity on how to structure and grow the machine that is your business.

Some important distinctions:

  • You don’t need investors or large startup capital to make this work (although disclaimer, growing business will always require an investment of either time or money, the benefit of a service-based business is that you only really need $5K-$10K to get yourself going as long as you’re willing to reinvest profits back into your business)
  • You don’t need inside connections or a huge audience
  • Your agency is a gateway to other ventures. For example, if you start working with eCommerce clients it will probably make sense for you to invest in your own ecom shop and use your own strengths and internal resources to grow another income stream for yourself.

Here’s what I’ cover in the below:

  • The organisational structure of our agency and the team behind it…
  • Core viable final products, and how these are costed…
  • How leads and referrals are generated and tips to keeping clients on for longer…

At the core – growing to seven figures isn’t very complicated, it actually boils down to three key parts.  The beauty in this “keep it simple” system is that you don’t need to incur massive staff overheads, you won’t be required to micro-manage every aspect of your business and you will be able to position yourself in a way where you never have to get into process wars with other agencies again.

 

Overview of Eight Loop

Ok so before I dig into the juicy stuff, a quick intro of Eight Loop (my agency).  I founded the agency in 2014 and initially, I was offering all kinds of services – from social media content through blogging and email marketing and Facebook ads.  This lead to burnout and I quickly realized this wasn’t going to work so I refined our core offer towards Facebook ads.  Through the years we have changed our niche from coaches to ecom and now specialize in building out marketing systems for other agencies.

Another big mistake I made at the beginning was to fall pry to the desire of having a big team and office for the sake of having a big team and office – call i9t ego and pride.  I quickly realized this was going to make me bankrupt and – in light of the pandemic and current economic conditions – many agencies have come to appreciate that running a small and lean ship is far less stressful than having massive overheads.  This, of course, is only possible if you refine your service offer and positioning.

 

Our Team & Structure

We currently turn around $130K/mth in revenue and work with about 20 clients max at any one time. 

Surprisingly, we only have THREE core offers in the agency:  a done for you funnel and lead generation ad campaign management. We offer additional bolt on services such as promotional video creations and email nurture sequences but these only represent a small fraction of our revenues and some of this is outsourced externally.  We also work with brands (usually lead generation or awareness campaigns) but this is only 5% of our client base.

Although we are based in NZ – local clients only represent 2-3% of our client base.  Most of our clientele is overseas and the average lifetime value of a client is about $9,000. International clients and deals from even the most remote place on earth.  So the thought of – “my town or city is too small” is no longer a viable excuse.

We have five key team members behind the agency:  an account manager, a business developer (sales), funnel builder, media buyer, and copywriter.  As we grow of if sales are up we have trained account managers and copywriters we bring on to support as required on a client per client basis. This keeps our overheads low. 

 

How to Avoid Micro-Management

This is something that took me a very long time to crack! I am a perfectionist at heart and couldn’t figure out how to hand over the production of services without getting anxious over quality or needing to come in and fix everything (doubling up my workload!). It all came down to processes.

I used to hate processes and systems – “I’m a creative, the strategies I come up with are intuitive and can’t be taught” is maybe a line you’ve used yourself.

This type of thought pattern is the fastest way to burnout and bankruptcy.  You will never be able to scale your revenues if you are keeping yourself as the main person behind the production side of your service offer.  Think about it – there’s only one of you, how many clients can you realistically look after before you start to lose the plot.

The good news – processes are VERY easy to build once you refine your core offer and positioning.  And when you have solid processes in place, the scale can be achieved very rapidly without it doubling down your own workload and stress on your plate.

 

The Final Piece

Finally, the most important part of any business is arguably it’s the ability to generate new business.  Your leads and clients are the life-blood of your business and if you’re like most agencies out there you’re likely completely dependant on referrals or word of mouth and this is essentially stunting your ability to grow at the rate that you would like to.

After running lead generation campaigns for clients in the agency I began to realize that I too could automate my marketing.  Instead of having to attend conference after conference or have to cold call or harass people on LinkedIn I figured out a way to drive interested prospects straight into my calendar using paid ads to drive interest into an online funnel.

These would be highly qualified and vetted leads in the market for the services we offered. 

What I never expected was just how quickly and effective this strategy would be for growth. Within two months of automating the agency’s lead generation we had scaled from $10K revenues to $100K/mths. 

To this day, this continues to be our main and most reliable source of lead generation for the agency. 

Now, cracking one of these funnels isn’t as easy as it sounds – and maybe you yourself have experienced the frustration of spending thousands with little to nothing to show for it.

The key comes down to your positioning and messaging as well as the UX of your funnel and quality of the traffic you’re buying. If any one of these parts is off the whole thing is broken.

Another big issue we encounter when agencies try to run their own funnels and fail is that they are often too close to the source. When it’s your client ads and campaigns you crush it, and yet, when it’s your own it’s like nothing works. This is really common and is the same phenomenon of a writer trying to edit their own copy – they are too close to see the spelling mistakes and their brain fills in the gaps. 

 

RECAP

Ok, so as a recap, here are the three essential parts of a seven-figure agency:

  1. Having the right team and organizational structure
  2. Positioning yourself around a core offer(s) and building processes around these
  3. Having a reliable and consistent way to generate leads

With these three things in place, growing to seven figures no longer becomes rocket science or luck of the draw and you’ll be able to:

  • Increase your profit margins, reduce your workload, AND pay yourself more…
  • Retain clients for longer and generate more testimonials and happy customers…
  • No longer need to rely on word of mouth and be able to put a plan in place for growth…

If you’ve made it this far hopefully its because all of this is making sense to you and resonates.  Likewise, it’s probably because you yourself are hungry to grow your business and ready to start implementing systems that are actually proven and tested by agencies. 

Over the years, my team and I have helped over 700 agencies and freelancers implement the exact same system above by:

  • Refining your core offer(s) and pricing these correctly
  • Building processes to guarantee quality for each and every client (without you needing to micro-manage everything)
  • Nailing your messaging and positioning
  • Closing your leads and sales calls scripts & processes
  • Your lead generation pipeline and automating your marketing with paid ads and funnels

All of this for less than the cost of building your own agency website!

So instead of trying to continue to trial and error everything on your own, spending thousands of recruiting the wrong staff or team members and tanking thousands on lead generation efforts get a structure and marketing system in place for your growth to take you into the future!

To find out more about the system and if it’s a good fit request your free discovery call today: https://agencyfunnels.eightloopsocial.com/form-application

Cat

Why even bother hiring an agency?

My palms were sweating.  I could feel the lump in my throat tighten as my fingers clenched the corners of my blouse.

Keep it cool, Cat. 

I straightened my back with the clearing of my throat and eyed his profile as he was reviewing the proposal.

I had had the front of it laminated to try and make it look as professional as possible – because, well to be honest I really didn’t know how this whole process worked but felt like that’s what the bigger agencies would do.

They’re going to ask me, I silently cringed.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to respond if they did, despite the fact that the question had been plaguing me from the moment I set up my freelancing business.

In my mind, I couldn’t understand why a business would bother spending $7K/mth on my services when – really – they could just hire someone in house for probably less than that.

He closed the proposal with a nod, “Alright, so just to confirm this would include the copy as well? 

After clarifying the details and agreeing to a non-compete with competitor brands, we shook hands and the deal was done.

“In my mind, I couldn’t understand why a business would bother spending $7K/mth on my services when – really – they could just hire someone in house for probably less than that.”

Just like that.

If you’ve ever landed your own clients you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s one of the best rushes on this planet – a validation of all your efforts and work!

I was on cloud nine the whole rest of the day.

But – to be honest – it took me a few more years before I full understood why businesses would even bother hiring agencies when, oftentimes, the cost are much higher than trying to hire internally.

Why Don’t Businesses Just Hire Internally?

The truth is there are different motives, depending on the size of the business. And there are pros and cons for both situations. 

For large brands – you know, the Coca Cola’s of the world.  The reason they outsource to agencies is mostly due to something called Opex, which stands for operational expenditure.

These are basically funds used by a company to cover expenses such as wages, maintenance services, rent and utilities and brands.  Directors are given budgets around these and – while you may think your agency costs the brand a lot more more – many of these brands don’t have the budget bandwidths to add more staff to payroll due to Opex and CapEx (capital expenditures) restrictions.

A reminder here – as an employer myself – I have come to learn through the years that staff are actually very EXPENSIVE.  They get sick, they take time off, they need training and go on maternity leave.  A $5K/mth employee will cost a company a lot more than a $8K/mth agency – who can fulfil work year round and around the clock – will.

But surely in the long run hiring internally is a much smarter idea?

Perhaps, but let’s have a look at why smaller businesses choose to recruit agencies vs internal staff.  PS – this isn’t a scientific study with a thousand data points, it’s based of my own experience (and from working with hundreds of agencies & clients).

Firstly – most businesses have no idea what they’re doing when it comes to anything digital marketing – let alone specific marketing activities such as Facebook advertising.  The platforms and tactics are so new and ever changing that, unless you’re on top of it all the time, you get left behind.

And the reality is that in order to manage staff, you need to have a concept of what needs to happen or how to know if they’re even doing a good job.

So for most entrepreneurs and business owners – trying to become an expert in something that would just consume a lot of their time makes no sense.

They simply don’t have the knowledge to even know how/who to hire for such a role nor do they have the time/patience to try and train/manage said individual in their business.

Secondly – for most digital marketing services offered in the market – the skillset needed to complete the full picture often requires a whole range of skills.  There’s a saying in the industry of “looking for a unicorn” and it’s not far off.

Take FB marketing, for instance,  in order to be a good FB marketer one must be able to:

  • Write copy
  • Have an eye for creative
  • Understand funnels (and potentially even build them)
  • Have an analytical mind able to interpret data
  • Be a strategic and adaptive thinker

So you’re needing someone that can use both their left and right brain!  Not an easy feat as most of these people are already doing their own thing!

When a startup or small business wants to grow fast and has needs for competence, tapping into an agency means they essentially get the whole package – all the skills required – in what would otherwise oftentimes require three people internally to complete.

So – plain and simple – businesses just want the headache taken off their plate and want results. And they want a solution NOW.

Pros & Cons of Hiring An Agency – Why Bother?

Pros

  • Less headaches
  • Faster results
  • Access to bigger suite of skills
  • “Round the clock” service
  • Oftentimes cheaper than internal staff

Cons

  • Long term, once Opex stabilised, wiser to hire internally
  • As business scales, can get costly
  • Human resource not “owned”

So What’s Right For You?

Every business has different needs and will require different solutions based on where they’re at.  As a general rule of thumb:

If you’re still in a start up phase – hire an agency or contractor. It’s the same premise as why you would lease vs buying a building, doesn’t make sense to put that overhead on your shoulders when you’re in a volatile and/or active growth stage of your business.

If you’re well established business that has had great results from your digital marketing activities already and are spending more than $15K/mth on an agency it may be time to start shopping for your unicorn.  Use your agency to train said person (they will obviously charge this for you) to help save you time and you can even set up a solution where the agency comes in to help our with strategic direction until your “unicorn” can get off their feet! Please note, to hire a competent Digital marketer you’re looking at roughly $70K-$120K per annum – so it’s not cheap either!

How to Find Your Own Agency/Contractor or In-House Employee

If you would like to get matched with a FB Marketer or Agency Partner use the form below.  We will match you with up to three suitable candidates based on your needs (no cost to you), please allow up to 5 working days.

Find Your Unicorn, Agency, or Contractor:  https://goo.gl/forms/3JHwdaW2Jd5iml1H2