The 5A Framework For Escaping Your Referral Trap

Brent Weaver

Email and ask him to send you the field guide. It’s worth it.

Read the transcript

Jan Koch  00:04

Hey, everybody. Thanks for joining me at the WP Agency Summit again. Today I’m here with a good friend, by the name of Brent Weaver who runs Ugurus and Brent, I met through another mutual friend Matthew Lee Jackson, who then brought us together on a cloudways metrics webinar, where I first got to experience what Brent has to share with us when it comes to building agencies and scaling agencies. So, Brent, I am super excited that you made the time got up early, it’s 4:30 am for Brent, so big kudos to that. I really appreciate that. And tell us a little bit about who you are and what you’re doing in this space. 

Brent Weaver  00:43

Yeah, for sure. So we, my name is Brent Weaver and I run a company called Ugurus, Jan just mentioned that. I’ve been running this business now for about eight years. And we coach and train digital agency owners on how to grow their business. And prior to that, I owned a digital agency and did that for 13 years, I exited that business in 2012. And started to work with agency owners pretty much full time since then.

Jan Koch  01:11

That is super cool. And you have a presentation for us today that I cannot wait to dive into because I know the content. So if I can ask you to start your screen share, and then you take the lead from here, and I get to ask some stupid questions along the way.

Brent Weaver  01:29

Well, I’m pumped. Yeah, and I had fun with you guys, when when we do this with the cloudways team. And, and I’m really excited to be back, hanging out with you guys and talking about this topic is I’d say this is as close to my manifesto or thesis as you can get in terms of the last couple of years of my life working with agency owners, we’ve been helping them with marketing and sales and operations for many years. But specifically, this problem is such a challenge for people to overcome as agency owners, because they’re so busy doing the work that a lot of times agency owners don’t have time to market, their own business, and they don’t have time to figure out kind of what their niche is and what their specialization is. And so helping agency owners do this has been my big focus in the last couple of years. So I’m excited about this

Jan Koch  02:23

Love it.

Brent Weaver  02:26

So you want me to just we’re gonna dive in?

Jan Koch  02:28

Yeah, let’s do this. I’m super excited because it is kind of like the strategy you need to understand to break through the feast and famine cycles that so many people struggle with. So I am super excited to have you here.

Brent Weaver  02:44

Nice, nice. Thanks, Jan. So, so look up, as a lot of you agency owners know out there, right, um, you’re in, I’m in a room of folks. And I say, hey, how many of us get most of your clients to referral word of mouth, I mean, almost the entire room raises their hands, something like 96% of agencies gets most of their clients through referrals, word of mouth, which is a big problem when you think about it, because it pretty much means that you’re depending on kind of hope, you know, you’re hoping that people are going to talk about you. And a lot of people were this whole idea of referrals as a badge of honor like I do such great work. The only reason that I, you know, the only way I get clients is through referrals, I don’t need to go out and market myself because my clients love, love me so much they refer me. And here’s my position on this, I think doing great work is table stakes, I think it’s permission to play because eventually, somebody else is going to be out there doing great work. And they’re going to be the authority in a niche. And your client is going to go work with them because they’ve got a proven track record of getting better results for the market that they serve in. And I’ve got tons of examples for how that works. But that’s the basic idea here is that you need to overcome your dependency on referrals, word of mouth, create some proven marketing engines. And we’re going to cover five really basic concepts today, five A’s, I kept them all the same letter of the word. So you can we can keep it really easy. So you can implement this in your business, whether you’re posting something, a blog post, or whether you’re going to go speak at a conference or whether you’re going to go get on a podcast or advertise. There’s five A’s that you really need to be thinking about when it comes to your marketing. Um, so I mentioned this Jan gave me a great introduction. My name is Brent Weaver. I work with digital agency owners that are struggling to attract and win high value high paying clients. And we’ve been doing this for quite a while we have helped over probably over 1500 agencies graduate our boot camp program over the last few years. We’ve helped 10s of thousands of agency owners every single month through our podcasts and other free content. We’ve got our really popular YouTube channel, lots of great content out there helping agency owners of all walks of life with these problems. So if you have an issue around attracting high-value high paying clients, then you guys are in the right place. I mentioned this my agency is it was called the hot press web, we ran this business for 13 years had over 300 clients under active management work with clients like Anheuser Busch InBev Dish Network to name a few plus tons of local small businesses in Denver, Colorado, we were operating in probably about two or three kinds of primary niches when our business got acquired, and one of the main reasons our business was able to get acquired was because we had, you know, really strong marketing engines, we had really strong systems and processes in recurring revenue that actually created a business. So if I walked away from the business, you know, there was still something there and another business was able to go in and operate that company. So a lot of fun running that business. But in all reality, the first seven or so years was kind of like this crazy rollercoaster of ups and downs, sideways. And like, I had no idea how to run a business, right, I started designing websites when I was, like 15 years old, decided that I wanted to start doing that for money. And that was it, right? Like I knew how to build websites. And I didn’t know how to market I didn’t know how to sell, I didn’t know how to balance a p&l right or, or look at a balance sheet. I didn’t know how to run an actual business. So it was this roller coaster ride where it’s like, we’d be busy. And then we’d be not busy, we’d be busy, it’d be not busy. And it kind of came to this. headwind, when I was literally going to get a coffee one morning. Every day on the way to work. As you guys can see, I’m not home, I have my home coffee. But on my way to my office, I stopped by Starbucks, and I was about to order my coffee. And I realized that the normal coffee order, which is a venti trip $3 and 13 cents, I couldn’t order it that day, because I had $3 in my bank account. And it’s kind of crazy to get that situation. When you have a downtown office, you have you know, almost a dozen employees, you’ve got the cool conference room, the leather chairs, the cherry oak wood, you know, conference table, the flat panel screen on the wall, it looks like you have all this stuff and all this obligation. I mean, our payroll is $20,000, twice a month, right? Like, that’s a lot of money, right. And here I am with three bucks in my bank account. And it was at that moment, around 2007, that I had to basically say, Look, I’ve got to figure out a better way to do this. You know, up until that moment, I had spent most or all of my time working on what I call the technical soup. I was into the craft of building websites of you know, writing code of designing stuff. When I really wasn’t paying attention to my business, I wasn’t hiring consultants or coaches. I wasn’t investing in myself in terms of my own marketing. I pretty much never marketed our business, like we had a website. And we didn’t invest some time into that, because obviously, we built websites. So we’d like nerd out and like we’d spend huge amounts of time. I remember one time we spent eight weeks building a flash intro for our website, like that was gonna be the thing that got us kind of, of course, we like to roll this thing out. And you know, do we get any clients from it? Like, no, right, nothing changed, right? We felt better, right? Because the project was finished. But the other day, you know, when you get to that moment where your rock bottom three bucks on my account, it’s not a good situation to be in. Now I did some things. After that. I started investing in myself as my number one asset in the business and I started to make some changes. And I’ll tell you a little about some of those changes today. But really, that’s the lead to this, this mission. This why Ugurus is to help 10,000 agencies achieve freedom in business in life. Because when we were in that moment, right, for seven years, we kind of didn’t have freedom, that feast and famine cycle it was killing us. And we had to make a decision. We, you know, in that conference room that day, we said look, are we gonna stay in this business and learn how to run this thing? Or are we gonna close this thing down and walk away, and we decided to stay in it. And every year from that day, we doubled our business, we were able to create a really profitable, lean agency, was able to you know, buy a house, create investment account for me, for my employees, get health insurance I mean all those types of things that we don’t want. For me, that was what freedom was in business in life. So that’s what our mission is here. Ugurus a little bit of my why behind that. I always ask this question. And I know you guys are hanging out with us. If all goes well, I’ll be hanging out with you in chat when this goes live. But, you know, the hardest part for people around growing and scaling their agency. I mean, when I asked this question, I hear a lot of different answers. You know, for some people, it’s finding the time to market their business. For some people, it’s trying to deliver the work on time and on the budget for other people, you know, choosing a niche, right, they know they need to niche down but they just don’t have the time or the know-how in terms of doing that. Maybe it’s finding the right people There are all sorts of challenges around growing a digital agency. But here’s how I look at this problem, right is there are really three main buckets with kind of a bonus fourth, Agencies either are struggling to attract leads, win deals, or delight clients and how those things interact with one another creates scale problems. Let me give you an example. Attracting leads. If you’re not attracting the right customers, to your agency, well, what happens in your sales system is, you’re not able to charge enough, sales take way longer than they should. Maybe you don’t actually end up winning the deals. Let’s say you get a bad lead-in, but you don’t have very many leads. So you have to underbid or take on a client that you really don’t want to do. Or maybe it’s doing something that you’re not excited about, right? Well, then what happens when it comes to delivery is you’re not excited about it, or you get burned out, or it’s taking you 10 times longer to do the work than you thought it was. Because you’re having to learn all sorts of new stuff, right? And when you’re totally bogged down in delivery, and you’re not delighting your clients, you can’t go out there and build authority or market your business, right, it becomes this kind of a vicious cycle, where, because your marketing strategy is struggling, everything else suffers. I heard Jan say yes, right. 

Jan Koch  11:25

So familiar. 

Brent Weaver  11:28

So yeah, so like, the way I look at this is if we can, if we can solve the market problem, right, of positioning your business better and choosing, intentionally choosing the types of clients that we’re going to work with, and we can attract the right people and enough of the right people, right, because that’s the other problem is that we’re not attracting enough consistent leads, right. So then what happens is, is like sales become this kind of lumpy experience, right? But if we can solve the marketing problem, what happens is, is this whole cycle instead of being a vicious cycle, becomes a virtuous cycle, right? We instead we attract the right people, we then win deals for the amounts of money that we want, we’re winning them, you know, it’s easier to sell, right? All that kind of stuff. And then also, when it comes to delivery, right, if this isn’t the first website that you’ve delivered, or marketing project, or whatever, for, let’s say, a restaurant, right, if you like our agency had built dozens and dozens of restaurant websites, I could build restaurant websites in my sleep, right? It was so easy to delight my clients, like I always knew 10 steps ahead exactly what they were going to say what they wanted, right how they wanted it because I had won many of these deals in the past, right? So I was it was really easy for me to delight my clients because I had some repetition. Whereas if I’m working with a client that I’ve never worked with before, is not really in my specialization, right? I’m having to learn a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of risks, right? I’m not sure if I can delight my client, right? I’m like, I don’t know, maybe I can like I know I can because I’ve delighted clients in the past. But this is like a brand new, you know, snowflake, I’m not sure if we’ll do it. So what we want to see with any kind of agency is a consistent strategy to where we can nurture all three of these systems. And in the middle, what we get is we get to scale, right? So when we can attract win and delight, we start to see the businesses grow in a more sustainable, scalable way where we can build the right team and create a profitable agency for the business owner. Today, and my clicker was kind of going back and forth there. But we’re going to talk about funnel leads, right we’re going to talk about this first thing. This is where I teach the five A’s is how to basically funnel more leads into your agency, right? So we’re looking for better leads, we’re looking for more leads coming into your business. So let’s talk about the problem. And we know there are lots of problems around this dependency on referrals and word of mouth. I’ve already talked about them a little bit, but let’s go a little deeper, surviving on referrals. I call this hope marketing or waiting by the phone hoping that it’s going to ring referrals. I mean, there are people there are some of you out there that have what I call active referral engines, where you have done things to actually proactively create referrals. Maybe you have a list of clients that you routinely check in with, maybe you specifically ask for a referral. Hence, the best time to ask for a referral is not at the end of the project. The best time to ask for a referral is literally the moment that your client says yes to you because everybody wants their friends to buy the same stuff that they just bought. And so asking for a referral, right when your client has literally the most confidence in you as an agency owner is right after they’ve signed the check and they’ve you know, literally signed the contract, right. So some people do have active referral systems, and I commend you for that. That is a type of marketing engine. If it is something that’s proven repeatable, predictable. The problem is, most times referral engines are not scalable, it’s very difficult to create a scalable marketing engine from referrals. But if you do have an active referral system, I commend you for that. For the 99% of us that don’t survive on referrals, and word of mouth is not a good place to be in, right, we don’t want to be exercising hope marketing. The second thing is no market authority, um, you don’t have an audience, you don’t have a list, you don’t have a following. And this became really apparent for a lot of people when COVID hit, and I’m not gonna spend a whole lot of time talking about COVID. Today, I think the principles that I’m teaching have been working great before COVID. And in the last, now, I can say six months, we’ve been working really hard in COVID, with our clients. And the same all these principles hold true. But this one, this problem showed up really big for people, because of COVID, which is, all of a sudden, they had a lot of cancellations or pauses, or the referrals stopped because people were so freaked out about what’s going on with their own business, right, they didn’t even have time to refer people. And so if you didn’t have a list, if you didn’t have a following, didn’t have marketing engines built up, right, all of a sudden, you could not pivot, like you could tell yourself that you’re pivoting you could tell yourself like, Oh, I need some clients, but you’re not able to send out emails, you weren’t able to change your advertising, right? There was nothing that you could do to really get people to you. Plus, in every niche. What happened in COVID is that people look towards the experts, right? Whether you’re in restaurants, or doctors, or dentists, or gyms, or whatever, right? People were like, holy crap, I’m about to lose my business, right, who can help me and they went, and they looked for the highly-trained specialists in their niche that knew how to pivot those businesses. They weren’t looking for the generalist web designer to go and make some updates. They needed to launch online courses, they needed to get their delivery or curbside marketing engines going. Right. So having market authority is a super important thing that you need to do and the lack of it creates a big problem. Third problem working way too hard. When I talk to people about what they’re going to do for marketing, I was just talking to a new client of mine the other day, and I was like, well, what do you do to market your business? And actually, I have the list here. He had technical SEO, local SEO, content marketing, blogging, offers, and promotion, paid search, Google ads, paid social Facebook, visitor retargeting, Google display advertising, Google Display Network email marketing, through HubSpot, marketing automation, webinars, they haven’t done this for a while not sure if it works, right. So that was a big list, right? If that was my marketing engine, like if that’s how I…I’d be exhausted, right. 

Jan Koch  17:45

He’s all over the place. 

Brent Weaver  17:48

Yeah, and wasn’t getting results, right, because it was like, he was just working way too hard. There wasn’t a proven marketing engine. What I do for my business is I market my business, my agency, or my, for Ugurus about two hours a week, two hours a week, in the month of August, we generated at 65 qualified leads 1500 people on our email list, right, with two hours a week, because I just have these three marketing engines that I nurture, every week, I just put a little bit more fuel in them, like a little bit more energy into those engines and the engines run, right. And I know that they run and because they’re proven and predictable. So that’s what we want to have for people, right, we don’t want you to be working with too hard. And I just mentioned this right now predictable. So when you don’t have those marketing engines that are proven repeatable and scalable, then your business is unpredictable, you don’t know when are your next leads coming in, right? Like, and that’s a bad thing, right? If you don’t know what to do next leads coming in, you don’t have a proposal or prospect pipeline, and then that becomes difficult becomes difficult to hire becomes difficult to know when to expand, hiring feels risky scaling feels risky, like oh my gosh, I’m gonna hire somebody. But I don’t know if I’m gonna get any, you know, any clients in the next month. So not being predictable is a really big problem, too. I don’t want to just hang out on problems today, there is an opportunity for everyone that’s hanging out with us today, which is having a full prospect pipeline. And I define that as you’re at capacity, whatever that means for you, whether you’re somebody who’s got an eight-person agency, and your team is running on all cylinders, or whether you’re a solopreneur virtual agency with a limit of 25 hours a week, right, whatever your capacity is that you’ve set for your business, that you have a full prospect pipeline, and a waitlist. So you have people that want to work with you and ideally, you’re booking them maybe a month or even two months out, right? You’ve got a waitlist for people and you’ve basically you’re lining them upright that’s my goal for all my clients. We want you to start signing raving fans. I love referrals. Right referrals are slam dunks, right? there. It’s so great. Like, we all know what it’s like to sign a referral, right? Somebody says, you know, oh, so and so-referred, you did such great work, right? It’s like, Oh, it’s great. It’s all warm and fuzzy, right? But then there are raving fans, right? And if you haven’t ever signed somebody who’s a raving fan, here’s what it sounds like. They’ll say, hey, Jan, I’ve been following you for five years. I’ve watched all of your webinars, I’ve listened to all your podcasts. I’ve read every email that you’ve ever sent out to your list. I am ready to sign up. I can’t wait to work with you. Right. I mean, referrals are nice, but as that person has, you know, has drunk the Kool-Aid. They’ve drunk the Jan Kool-Aid, right? They’re like, all in right there ready to go? Right?

Jan Koch  20:43

You know, what’s funny? That’s exactly what I tell most speakers on this event when we get to first chat and I invite them onto the summit. It’s exactly the same thing.

Brent Weaver  20:56

Yeah, yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s having, you know, is doing stuff like this, right, like, getting to be introduced to new fans and warm people up, right. It’s, it’s cool, right? It’s better than cold leads, and in my opinion, is better than referrals, right? We want you to work on more fun problems. A lot of people think when they think of niching, they think I’m gonna be designing websites for dentists for the rest of my life, and they get cold feet, they’re like, I could not I can’t do the same work over and over and over again. The real the reality of niching is that you just start working on more fun problems like it’s just like human nature, you start doing the same thing over and over again, guess what happens, you start looking for easier ways to do it, you start to build systems, you start to build frameworks, you start to build methodologies, maybe hire people to do that work for you. And you start to work on more interesting and fun business problems. Maybe that’s working on your intellectual property, as an agency, maybe it’s working on creating more leverage through courses or programs. Maybe it’s working on your authority in the niche, maybe it’s working on getting your clients better results, right? Because nobody, I’ve said this for a long time, right? Nobody wants a website, they want what the website gets them. So if you can get more of the things that your clients are looking for, like leads or clients or donors or volunteers, and you can get closer to that end result that they’re looking for, then they’re going to pay you more and more people are going to come to you, right. And that creates scalable momentum when you have systems and you have processes. And every time you get a new client, you’re not doing 90% new stuff, you’re doing 5% 10% new stuff that creates scalable momentum, right, you’re able to hire, you’re able to spend more of your time working on your business, which is what’s gonna actually get you results at the end of the day. So why would scaling in a niche help your agency? Why would scaling in a niche help your agency? For some people, it’s that they want more income? I mean, that’s the most basic answer, right? Like, I want to make more money, and that’s okay. Right? If that’s you why, if that’s why you’re you want to solve this problem in your business, then that’s, that’s awesome, right? That was a big why for me was I wasn’t, you know, at $3 in my bank account, and I wanted to figure this problem out. For other people, it’s time, they’re spending way too much time in their business, right, they’ve got the kind of the dark circles under their eyes, they’re working, you know, 60-70 hours a week, they’re working their weekends they’re responding to emails from their clients at night, and they want that freedom back. And that’s what that comes from systems, better prices, and scalable momentum. For other people, though, its impact, they want to deliver better results to their clients, they want to make some kind of change in the world. And, and that’s also an awesome cause. Those are kind of the three that we focus on it at Ugurus. It’s money, time, and impact. So we want to help you to work on all three of those, depending on what your situation is. And sometimes they change over time, right? I’ve had a lot of clients that they come in, and their number one problem is they want to make more money, and then all of a sudden, they’re making a lot more money. And then they’re like, well, crap, I want to go do other stuff with my tongue, right? Like, what am I one of my clients that’s been with me for a while? He’s become very financially successful. And he’s been able to reinvest that money into some investment properties and stuff. And now he’s like, what do I do? I was like, I don’t know, man, like, pick up a hobby. So I started weightlifting, right. He’s like, he’s like weightlifting and his Instagram now is like him going out and getting super fit. And he’s having a good time with it. Right. So like, that’s huge, too. So, money, time, and impact, I think are the three most common things. This is a little story about one of my clients. Um, you know, I think this is pretty common right? Before working with Ugurus, he had no strategy, no niche. There were they were waiting on referrals. And one day, they just stopped, right, they probably didn’t stop forever. But they stopped for a couple of months, and that couple of months decimated their business. And now they have a system using these five days to teach you. And for the first time, he could duplicate this year. And this actually happened as Scott was because when COVID hit, they were hugely impacted. A lot of their business happened through physical in-person events. And so they had to reinvent their business. And so when COVID hit, they literally reached out to me like, Brent, we’re freaking out, we’re gonna lose all of our business. I said, Hey, guys, what did we do last time? What was the strategy? How did we approach this? They said, well, you know, we have to start over. I’m like, Well, yeah, kind of, but guess what, you know the drill. So you’re gonna move 10 times as fast. And just a couple of months into COVID, they’ve been able to pivot their business in a massive way. And they have replicated their year and they’re on track to actually hit the revenue goal that they had set pre-COVID, which is super cool. So five keys to owning your market. So we’re going to cruise through these, these are the five A’s that you’re going to want to implement. This is the how, right we’ve talked a lot about the why, why we want to own our market, what kind of benefits we’re going to get from this. Now we’re going to get into the brass tacks of how to make this happen. Number one, the first is the audience. We want to find our high-value audience that’s easy to reach. When I was a kid, I went fishing for the first time. And near I went to a pond near my house, it was literally down the street. And we walked around for hours. I lived in Texas, it was hot. It was like I was sunburned. For hours, we walked around this pond trying to fish and we caught nothing. And finally after like five hours, a few minutes before we left, I caught a fish and I was so excited. I pulled it out of the water. And it was about two inches long. Not very exciting, right? I was like, This is such a waste of time like the thrill wore off, and I’m like fishing is late, right? And so I just like swore it off for years, like I’m never gonna go fishing again. And it wasn’t till years later, I was at a family reunion. And we were up in the mountains. And some of my cousins wanted to go fishing. And I was like, I don’t want to do I don’t want anything to do with this. And they convinced me it’s like, alright, I’ll go fishing. So we go out there. cast my lower, and within minutes to catch this 18-inch mountain bass. catch another one. Another one. We’re there for maybe two hours. And I caught close to half a dozen fish a little bit over a half dozen fish, right. And I just couldn’t believe it. I go back. I’m telling my dad about this. And he’s like, Well, yeah, that’s, you know, it’s a stocked mountain pond. What does that mean? Like? Well, somebody’s job is to go out there and to put fish into the pond, they have a big truck, and they unload all these, you know, mature, and some young fish into the pond all the time. They’re always putting new fish in the pond. And I was like blown away. I was like, That’s crazy. There’s like a little kid, I’m like, my mind is racing. I’m like, you know, how they stock, you know, a pond or whatever. But the reality is, it was somebody’s job. Now we had to pay a small fee to go fishing there. And we’ll talk about that in a little bit. But that’s what you want to look for in your business when you’re out there. And your marketing is you want to find audiences not that’s at the local pond, right? I thought I was really smart early on in my agency, and I started doing these classes for the Chamber of Commerce, and it was for brand new businesses, businesses that were you know, they were brand new, and they needed to figure out how to launch a website. And I thought I was super smart, because I’m like, oh, they’re all brand new businesses. None of them have a website, they all need websites. Well, guess what? None of them had any money, right? So every year the people that didn’t want to do DIY, they wanted somebody else to do it. They’d come up to me and be like, Yeah, can you build me a website? Like cool? How much can you spend, 500 bucks? And I’m trying to sell $10,000 websites, right? wasn’t working very well, right. And the reality was, is it wasn’t a high-value audience. These were brand new businesses versus established businesses that had real revenues, right. And the second caveat here is it needs to be easy to reach. So you should not be convincing your market who they are, they should already know who they are. And we’ll talk about some ways to identify that here in a second. There are about 28 million businesses in the United States. If we just take the constraint of businesses with employees versus without employees, there’s 23 million employees, non-employer firms, and there are 5 million employer firms. Roughly speaking, this was a little bit dated data, but it’s generally true today. 80% of non-employer businesses have annual revenues of $50,000 or less, this is your solopreneurs, your contractors, your freelancers, your, you know, personal trainers, right. They’re just businesses that don’t have employees, and most of them are really, really small. If we look at businesses with employees, there’s a lot fewer of these but still 5 million in the United States huge amount. On average, these businesses have three and a half million dollars a year in revenue. Now, why is revenue important? Well, there’s this thing called the 7% rule that says that businesses should spend or typically spend about 7% of their annual revenues on marketing advertising. If you’re building a website, to help a company grow, get leads and clients, you’re coming out of the marketing budget. If you’re building an app for clients, right, maybe there’s a different type of budget you’re coming from, but generally speaking, there’s probably a 7% rule equivalent for that, too. So this is important, right asking your clients, your prospects, how much revenue they do. is a really important qualifier. When you’re looking at what types of events, blogs, publishers, you know, places to go to advertise or the language that you use to attract customers, you know, where they are at in their business, the size of the business plays a huge role in this. Which business has a budget? The 50K your business or the $3.6 million a year business, right? I think we inherently know this, right. But the 50k business, three and a half thousand a year, all everything that they do all their marketing, all their advertising. So when you go to a client like that, and you say, I’d like you to spend $10,000 on a website, 

Jan Koch  30:37

They love your outlook on this. 

Brent Weaver  30:40

Yeah, they’re like, Yeah, he’s so ridiculous, right? It’s not because they’re mean. It’s just because you’ve just proposed an impossible proposition to them. Whereas the business has to have three and a half million. If you pitch a $25,000 website, with a $2,000 a month marketing retainer, you’re still maybe at 20% of their annual budget, they can go spend, you know, $200,000 with other people and work on other stuff to market their business. You’re not the whole show, right? So it’s a much different conversation. And when we started to shift our focus from the businesses the left, right, that chamber commerce meetup type stuff, to the businesses on the right, I joined a program called EO entrepreneur organization, where it’s there’s a requirement that you have to be a million dollar a year business to be a part of that organization. All of a sudden, I’m hanging out all these businesses that are, you know, you know, $2 million a year, $10 million a year, or $50 million a year 100 and $50 million a year, right. And when you’re talking to them, they have the same problems, right? They just have them at much bigger scales, right. They’re still struggling to get clients, they’re still struggling to create efficiencies and sell products, but they have a lot more money to work with when it comes to hiring you. So choosing upon a fish, right, we talked about one constraint employers versus non-employers, but there’s a lot of different ways that we can slice and dice the pie. A lot of people when they think of a niche, they think of vertical. And verticals are really easy because they’re obvious, but there’s a lot of other ways to slice and dice the pie. A lot of you out here today are specialists in WordPress, right? WordPress is horizontal, you can use a horizontal like WordPress, and you can use geography like your state or your country, right? I can say, hey, I want to be the number one WordPress developer or WordPress agency in the state of Colorado, right. And that’s, that’s a punt. I can find events, I can find meetups, I can find conferences, I could advertise to that right. And that’s choosing a pond to fish. Now we also want to choose a pond to fish. That’s a super high value. And I’ll be totally honest, I attended a lot of WordPress meetups trying to get clients, and sometimes it’s really hard because a lot of people that attend WordPress meetups are people that are trying to use the technology themselves, right. And so it can be really difficult. Now there are really big WordPress conferences, where they attract a lot of higher-end businesses that aren’t just agency owners. And those worked really, really well for me. But like the local meetup where we got to hang out like it was fun, it was people in my industry, it was like we all knew each other, right? But it was harder to get like high-value clients. Whereas if I went to like a big restaurant trade show, and it costs, you know, $10,000 to have a booth, all of a sudden you have a lot of businesses that are making, you know, significantly more money in that room that are also in kind of our sweet spot. So we want to choose a pond to fish that’s easy to reach. Here’s some A’s, right? These are literally niches that just start with the letter A right especially this removal, architects armored car services, automobiles, accessories, aviation, advertisers, aerial photographers, right, there’s a lot of different niches out there. And some of them are underserved and kind of unsexy, but they are profitable, they are profitable. So we can look at our audience and we can make changes. This is one of my clients, their typical client now is 60K, a year in revenue for their agency. before us, they were focusing on health and wellness coaches. So just think about that. How much revenue does a typical health coach make? I mean, they’re probably in that 50K a year category, right? Like on average, definitely 50 to 100 K, we change their targeting to health and wellness influencers. So now all of a sudden, they were working with a top 10% of the market versus the bottom 90, right. And their clients started having a lot more money. And they started getting a lot more revenue a lot more demands like now their clients are people that are running seven-figure businesses that need a team that they can rely on. And so that just changed one word right in their audience targeting they changed one word, and they started to do you know, go different places and put that out there and start attracting totally different clients, right. So that’s what it means to find your high-value audience. It’s easy to reach. Sometimes it’s as little as changing one word from health and wellness coaches, to health and wellness influencers, right finding that market, that that’s easy to reach that also is high value. Number two, we’re going to build awareness. Okay. This is the second awareness of existing market infrastructure. If you guys know the famous band, the Beatles, you probably know that they didn’t get famous playing in their garage. Okay. They weren’t a garage band, right? Huge fan base. Most people don’t know this. But for two years before they came to the United States, they gig seven nights a week, sometimes three times a night in Liverpool and Manchester and a lot of other surrounding areas. They went out there and they gig with existing market infrastructure. They didn’t think, Oh, you know, we should do we should create our own bar. We should create our own club. No, they went to clubs that existed that already had audiences. And they played and they refine their message, and they got their audience out there. And that’s what you need to do. You define one too many marketing channels that are in your audience, whether that’s blog stages, podcasts, webinars, social partnerships, associations, publishers, influencers, people that you perceive as your competitors could actually be promoters for you, or looking for pay to paid traffic, right. So content partnerships and paid ads are the three main one-to-many channels, and you need to find existing market infrastructure. So this doesn’t mean go and blog on your own website. This means going and finding people that already have traffic and blogging on their sites writing articles for them contributing expert authority articles, you know, getting on their podcast, don’t go start your own podcast like that’s there is I’ve been like, I’ve got a podcast, it’s a lot of work. It’s hard. It’s a super long tail, it took us like a year before we ever got like a client from it. Um, but go get interviewed in those podcasts, every time I’m on a podcast, we get clients, right? So so go do that for a year, build up your audience, then launch your own owned media, write your own blog is going to be a lot more interesting. When you’ve written, you know, 30 blogs for other people. And you’ve had to meet their publishing requirements, and you’ve gotten, you know, you’ve been put in front of their audiences, and then those people come back and start following you. Right, very much like what I’m doing with Jan and you guys right now, right? Like, you’ve done all the hard work, dude, you’ve built up the audience, right? And I’m just here, like, I get to kind of show up, right? Yes, it’s early. But dude, I’d rather show up at 430 and do a little presentation for you guys that have to go and run your event. Right? That sounds really hard work.

Jan Koch  37:31

I do have another example that directly drives home your point. And that is two days before this recording my first guest blog on went live, and just meeting their requirements, like producing this really high-value piece of content. And I think the draft was around 6200 words or something like that. And just going through that process made me so much better in creating the content that it’ll be much easier much quicker to write the second post for them.

Brent Weaver  38:03

Yeah, yeah, totally. And dude, 6000 words like that you’ve written like, the first third of the book, right? That’s, that’s a big feat in and of itself. But you know, when you think about, like, back to my Beatles analogy, you know, they’re, they’re like, the club owner. And there, you know, you’re auditioning for them. And they’re like, you know, they might be like, well, hey, you know what, I like your general sound. But for our people do it like this, right? Like, they’re gonna give you that super-powerful insight. So this is like, I mean, very similar, what you’re just talking about, right? This is an article where my clients wrote, here’s why you don’t need a website for your MSP business, doesn’t even matter what an MSP business is. This is his niche. He’s publishing on a website called smarter, MSP. They’ve been around for a long time, within three months of choosing this niche, he had been published multiple times the niche, and people were already emailing him and calling him and saying that he was the expert. Because basically, he had, you know, three months, right? Because he had leveraged existing market infrastructure, right? If he would have gone to his own website and started blogging, right. And a lot of people do this when they niche, right. They go to their website, and they change their homepage. They’re like, Oh, we now build websites for restaurants. And then they’re like, wait, and nothing happens, right? So you got to go out there and get a gig, right? No, my clients, they give presentations one or two days a month, and that’s how they get all their clients. So their marketing engine, they always know, hey, as long as we have, you know, two presentations a month, and they’re typically booked out six months. So they know like, every presentation they give, they get five to 15 leads. So like they know that they’re solid on the lead gen site for at least six months. And so they’re always booking their next presentation for like month seven, right? And they’re always booking that next one out there. And it takes them less than an hour a week to get that presentation booked because now they have a network of associations that have done presentations for and now it’s like super easy for them to do this, which is super cool. I personally use ads a ton I if you can see here. I’ve spent over six hundred thousand dollars last few years on ads, I think that number is now well over 7000 or 700,000 since I did the screenshot, which is an insane amount of money, but we’ve been able to generate over $10 million in business from this advertising. And this is a lot of people like five and a half million people, right? Like, I don’t know, Facebook figured that out, like I don’t know how to get in front of five and a half million dollars, five and a half million people except for you know, putting a lot of money in the Facebook meter. But that’s a really complex problem to find five and a half million people that are interested in like web stuff, right? So I use their platform, it’s pay to play. But it’s really powerful to put my message in front of a lot of people in my market. My client, Nate been published 17 times this year, he gets published about once a week, right. And so he typically is booking anywhere from one to seven strategy calls in a week. And what’s really fun about this is it’s so consistent. He’s been able to bring somebody else in to do the sales for him. So he gets his one article a week, he gets the leads in somebody else’s does sales, right. Another one of my clients attends to three events a year and every event gets him about 50 clients 50 leads, and that’s enough leads for him right the hundred 250 leads he gets per year for his business based in Malta is plenty of business, right? So we want to build awareness with existing market infrastructure be the Beatles, not the GarageBand. Jonathan had no idea where his clients were coming from now he has a consistent set of leads. Every week booked out for a couple of months, it’s been a while back Pam self and creates that waitlist that we’ve talked about. Alright, so our first two days audience awareness, right audience and awareness are those first two days, the third day is to attract your ideal clients by speaking their language attract and I’ve got a six-year-old. And when I tell him to clean up his Legos downstairs. It’s like it falls on deaf ears like I could I have to like yell at the top of my lungs. Like, please clean up your Legos. This is insane, right? And he just like goes about his business. right? And, and you can critique my parenting all you want. But if I say to him, Hey, Phoenix, if you clean up your Legos will go to the store and buy you another Lego set, right? All of a sudden, he’s like, Yeah, right, because now I put what I want in the context of what he wants, right? I’m whispering the right thing in the right place. I don’t have to say it very loud. All of a sudden, I thought he couldn’t hear I thought he had like ear wax plugged in, plug in his ears. Now all of a sudden, you know, he could hear like a pin drop when I mentioned that he could buy some Legos, right? That’s what you need to be doing with your clients is whisper the right things in the right places. customers don’t care about your solution. They care about their problems. That’s from Dave McClure at 500 startups. So we can just start talking about your client’s problems. Don’t ever talk about your services without talking about their problems. And a lot of people think they know their client’s problems. And here’s what I challenge you to do is do a day in the life of your client, right? This is called a diary exercise where you sit down and you write a diary entry as if you’re your ideal client. And chances are you probably think they think about their website way more than they actually do. Right. Like they probably think about their website about point 01 percent of their day, right? Like it’s like that annoying thing that they have to everyone’s will interact with. They’re thinking about a lot of other stuff, pick up the kids from school, making dinner, you know how they’re going to get some new partnership done their manufacturing deal from, you know, a company in China or they’re thinking about how Coronavirus has decimated their business, right? There’s a lot of stuff that’s going on for them in the reality. And so you need to become a student of that. You should get, a master’s in your client’s life where you can literally spout off what their worldview looks like what language right what are the words that they’re using? Right, the diary exercise is really important. Another one we use is called the authority content grid. And this is where we basically say, Look, don’t ever talk about your services without context for the problems that they solve for your clients. So we never talk about WordPress, we never say WordPress, and geek out on all the cool technology, unless we’re talking about it in the context of the problems that we know our clients have. We never talk about responsive web design, we never talk about, you know, you know, even like your some of your process stuff like mood boards, or managing the project or, you know, your project management tool like teamwork, or Basecamp, or whatever, right? Don’t ever talk about that, unless you’re talking about the context of the problem that solves for the client, right? If it’s a problem that’s solved just for you, like, don’t talk about it. And that’s really hard, right as tech pros, right, like, it’s really hard, like, I love to nerd out on this stuff. And I used to do this, I used to give my clients these demos where I would walk them through the content management system, right? And walk them through every feature and look at all these cool things that it could do, right? And they’re like falling asleep and dozing off, right. That’s not a good way. So always talk about the context of their problems. Every piece of content you publish should have a hook, a build, and a payoff. Right? Make sure that you’re grabbing somebody’s attention, getting them to listen to you first, then we’re going to build we’re going to teach, we’re going to create tension. And then we’re going to make sure that we have a payoff, make sure you have a call to action, some kind of next step. All right, here’s an example of what that looks like, serve on helped us double our property management business in six months, we help property managers who use our online scheduling call now generate more leads become a more profitable landlord, right, I don’t use Arthur online, I’m not a property manager. But if I was, this would be appealing. And it is, this client of mine now gets leads every single week from his marketing engines. It’s hilarious talk to him, he’s like, every time I get an update from him, he’s like, well, got a bunch more leads much more property managers to have already visible those, like, it’s kind of crazy, right? Cuz he’s speaking their language. Uh, you know, you just published a 6500-word blog post, Jan. So props to you. If you’re just getting into blogging, here’s a quick framework you can use also give you know, I’ll give you instructions on how you guys can get these worksheets later. But this is what we want to have in every blog post that you publish, we want to follow a framework that basically operates in a miniature sales letter about your authority. And make sure there’s always a call to action, right? The best call to action is Hey, book, a strategy call. The second best call to action is, hey, reach out to me and get this you know, free resource guide. Another call to action is Hey, leave a comment below. And then guess what happens? People leave comments and then you could interact with them, you can engage with them, you can follow up with them, you know, hey, follow me on social media is okay. But we just want to have a call to action, a next step, a clear line of sight to a book deployment. One of my client’s webinars, a hundred attendees, seven audit bookings before they left, right, why? Because they’re attracting their clients by speaking their language, they’re talking about actual problems the clients have not stuff that they care about. What my clients getting featured on the industry-leading podcast wouldn’t happen without us, she crosses six figures working 25 hours a week, right, because she’s the expert in her niche. She does UX consulting. And so she’s created a whole platform on UX consulting. Another of my clients works with authors and consultants who have a book. And she now has systems in place, she has champions, she has early adopters, she has people that will promote her business. Number four, so we were on a number four, which is authority, you need to crown yourself, if you’re waiting around for somebody to tap you on the shoulder and say, Jan, you’re an authority, please go out there and run a WordPress event. Right? If you’re waiting for somebody to ask you to do like what Jan’s doing, you’re gonna be waiting a really long time, right? You have to crown yourself and say, I’m gonna do this, I’m going to be the authority for this niche. And, you know, I’m, this is why they should listen to me. Nobody’s gonna do it for you. You know, I do a lot of this stuff, right? I mean, I’d say 95% of my marketing energy goes to things that I choose to build authority around. And every once in awhile awesome, people like Jan tap me and say, Hey, can you do a webinar for us? And I’m like, Oh, that’s great, right? But it’s like icing on the cake. Right? When you do when you have enough authority in the niche that people ask you, like, it’s great when it happens, but you can’t depend on it. Right? Every, I’d say 95% of podcasts that I’ve been on, which is at this point, dozens and dozens in my niche are because I reached out to the host and I built a relationship and and and I suggested that I could be a good guest, right? It’s not because you know, they have a scouting team out there, you know, finding great people, every once in a while somebody says, Oh, you should be on so and so’s a podcast, or they invite me but I’d say 95% of the time, it’s because I build my own authority. One way to do that is by unpacking your proof points. So these are all some brag points, you’ve heard me mentioned some of these things like having over 300 active clients educating over 100,000 digital agency owners generating over $10 million in revenue. You know, some of these I didn’t mention today, because maybe they’re not super relevant to this audience, right? Like completing my impact Denver Leadership Program. But if I was talking to an audience about leadership, I definitely talk about the impact and leadership program. Or if I was talking to people about doing pro bono work, right, I talked about some of that stuff. So having this authority, these proof points are super valuable because I can kind of pull from this and riff on this, these topics. I’ve shared with you guys a couple of worksheets over the course of today. If you’re interested in this that that would be helpful for you guys to get this field guide. shoot me an email and just say, hey, I want the field guide. So that’ll include. Let me see if I can. Is this shown in the field guide? Yep. am I sharing the wrong screen? Yep. Cool. So this is a field guide. So if you guys want this as a little choose your niche exercise, identify your ideal customer. Write a day in the life a market map. So some of the stuff we didn’t talk about proof points marketing engine, the cornerstone topics, topic multiplier, universal content planner. So if you guys want this workbook, just drop me an email and I’m happy to hook you guys up because friends of Jan are friends of mine. So yeah, and say I want the field guide. So here’s an example of some proof points, in a blog post. So you have like, you know selling my web agency typical projects 20,000 bucks, close several million dollars and web deals, success stories on our websites, if you go to our website,, you’ll see literally pages and pages of success stories, right? I’m crowning myself, we are the authority, here are the results that we get for our clients. Here are the endorsements that we have, right? Like if you’ve been endorsed, if you blogged on websites, right? Take those logos and create a little endorsement soup here on your website, because it’s gonna build that.

Jan Koch  50:41

Yeah, you need to know what’s super cool. I’m sorry to interrupt, but I just said yeah, I’m good. The thought of what I’m doing on the WP Agency Summit. You can also, if you don’t have these endorsements yourself, use your endorsements of your customers. So what I’m doing on the WP Agency Summit website is I highlight the brands the speakers work with, not the brands that I have worked with, and that it’s so much more authority because I have never been able to work with MTV or Skype or Microsoft or Audi or what have you. But I can still list them. Because all the speakers or some of the speakers have worked with these high-level brands.

Brent Weaver  51:21

Dude, that’s some ninja endorsement voodoo. Right? Because it’s not being I don’t think it’s, it’s being represented. Right, you’re hyping up, you’re telling your audience why they should listen, which is really important. 

Jan Koch  51:34

which is everybody wants these big brands to be the most of the people watching, I would assume one big brand to work with, because that comes with so many benefits of more revenue, greater revenue, long term contracts, and all that good stuff. So it does make sense to find an angle to highlight the brands that the speakers have worked with, to boost the authority of the event.

Brent Weaver  51:57

Yeah, totally. And you’ll get lots of gray hair like myself, so some stuff that maybe you don’t want with the big brands, but a lot of stuff you do want, right? I did so but Yeah, dude. It’s, it’s, uh, this is important, right? Because telling people telling your audience and telling you, you know, as soon as they’re listening to us, why they should listen to so important, right? It’s like the headline-grabbing someone’s attention saying, Look, I’m a credible source to solve these problems. One of my clients is in the financial advisor space. And you’ll see here on the bottom of this website says advisor perspectives and Those mean nothing to me. But if you’re in this niche, they mean everything. Right? They are trusted names. And he blogs for them. He is a strategic partner of both websites. And he gets a ton of leads and clients through those channels, right. So in his market, those are the authorities, right? He has to put that on his website. He doesn’t he can’t assume that people are going to know that he has to say, look, I am an authority. Here’s why he builds his own authority, he crowns himself. My client, Siata says it would have taken her twice as long to get this point if she didn’t have those five A’s that she worked for her business, right and in her market. She works with this content, marketing for agencies. She’s a white-label content reseller. So that was a huge breakthrough for her. She was building content for all sorts of different businesses. And all of a sudden, she was able to create a strategy where she understood who her client was, it was other agency owners and that became a kind of jet fuel for her business to grow. over my clients. best year ever. I love talking about my clients. As you guys can see, I want to get to our fifth and I want it because it’s important, acquire leads within the appointment funnel. So we’ve talked about our picking the right audience, we’ve talked about building awareness by gigging in our market, we’ve talked about attracting our client by talking about the things that they care about, not the things that you care about. And we’ve talked about building authority. So there’s that trust and credibility. Now, if you have all four of those and you do not build a path for your prospects to actually book a conversation with you, then it’s all for nothing. Right? It’s a half-built bridge, you’re doing almost everything, right? But you’re forgetting that last piece, which is building a fully built bridge from your audience and the awareness channels to your calendar. And it looks something like this. We call it a marketing engine. And the marketing engine is where you’re building authority traffic through content partnerships, paid ads, you’re pushing that traffic inviting them to book a strategy call with you your website’s job, your website has one job, not a portfolio, not you’re about page but to get traffic to convert into scheduled appointments. That’s it, right? Your website should do nothing else. You have the ability to take a qualified prospect and sell them on showing them your portfolio your results, walking them through case studies doing discovery all that good stuff, right? Your website’s only job is to book appointments. If they aren’t ready to book an appointment, your website’s second job is to get them to sign up for your email list. Your website’s third job is to pixel them so that you can retarget remarket them, right. But those are in that order. If you can’t book appointments, then get their email address, get them to get pixeled, right? Then move them through your marketing engine. So this is an example of one of our clients a tech pro marketing, their website, it doesn’t talk about building websites, it doesn’t talk about LinkedIn, it doesn’t talk about a lot of the tools and tactics that they use. It talks about the results of their clients want. And all roads lead to a strategy call every one of those navigation items start here about blog and strategy call are all pitches in various different ways right there about page still pitches, a strategy call, their start here pitches, an email course that pitches a strategy call their blog post has content that talks about specific problems that pitch strategy calls. Okay, so all roads lead strategy calls, this is what it looks like to have a book lead funnel on your calendar, right? Where appointments are just showing up on your calendar, qualifying appointments, and strategy call appointments. You know, hopefully, your inbox looks something like this where you have, you know, 20 2015 off, and you have four new prospects coming into your calendar, right. So your calendar becomes your lead funnel, where you can literally look at your calendar, and this is what I do with my sales team, I pop up in the calendar, and I just look, do they have appointments or not? Should we run a webinar? I don’t know. Let’s see if they have appointments. Like next week. We’re good. So I’m not running a webinar next week. But I’m gonna run a webinar the following week, right? Because I always am looking at that appointment file and see how it goes. So let’s recap five A’s. Audience awareness, tracked authority, and acquisition. If your marketing activities don’t meet that requirement, then you are definitely you’re on the roller coaster, right? You know, I had to learn those five days, it took many years for us to master that. But now we’ve been able to teach a lot of agencies. And I told you about my coffee story, the beginning of this session. And I don’t want any of you to ever find yourself in that situation where you have three bucks in your bank account, and you’re literally having to choose different sides of coffee or make even harder decisions in your life. Because of those financial problems. We call this our three stages to agency freedom, gain traction, and markets become the authority of that market and scale in that market. When you do that, you’re gonna achieve agency freedom. And for us, that meant becoming one of the fastest-growing companies in Denver, Colorado two years in a row, having a cover story written about our agency, ultimately, being able to sell our business for a really big check and go do some really cool things that we have had a lot of fun doing. So what would your business look like if you owned your market? I want every one of you to kind of think about that. Take that question. You know, journal on that. What would it look like for you if you owned your market? Would you feel like you’re still you know, stuck in the mud, spinning your wheels not getting the traction that you want? Or are you going to have more fun in your business right is niching is specializations going to create more fun and opportunity for you and your business. We talked about one of these areas today. Obviously, we have a lot of other areas that we support our businesses on. If you guys want to learn more about you Ugurus drop me that email says that you want the field guide. And I’m happy to jump on a call with you guys and help you out any way that I can in any of these different areas. So like I look at there’s this line in the sand, there’s the old way of doing things. And then there’s a new way. The old way is you’re a generalist, anybody can be your clients. The new way is you’re a specialist highly paid authority in your niche. And we’d love to have an opportunity to help you out on that. Jan, thank you so much, man, for giving me this platform today. Really appreciate it. And this has been a lot of fun.

Jan Koch  58:44

You bet you nailed a brand and everybody watching I think now you know why I’m so excited that Brent woke up early to give us this presentation. There are so many slides that I would just have screenshotted myself and then I am obviously you would get the field guide with branded But man, thank you. I’m blown away. I’m not sure what to say other than thank you and encouraging everybody watching this to get in touch with Brent and to rewatch this presentation during the summit in the sessions vault to get really the most out of this content. Thank you so much, brother.

Brent Weaver  59:19

Yeah, yeah, Jan pleasure to be here, man, and really just excited for everybody to implement, right take these ideas, start implementing them and if we can be of any help, we would love to do that.

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